no war between nations

And the Heavens Wept

Gather around my children and you shall hear of the most terrible, most implacable, most improbable friends ever met by our people. They came from the third planet of a tiny system, surrounded by desolate space. Not one sentient species for hundreds of lightyears, and they managed to propel themselves into space.

We watched from afar as they developed slowly. We watched as they warred among themselves, brutal and savage. We watched as they rendered regions of their planet uninhabitable to themselves, a hardy species able to adapt to even the most hostile of environments. We watched as suddenly and without warning they united under four banners, the rest falling by the wayside. We watched as they expanded into what we had begun to use as a buffer zone, to allow these humans to burn themselves out in.

But they did not burn themselves out. Despite their warring among themselves. Harsh people. Humankind is a race of warriors, do not be fooled by the eloquence of their diplomats. In their own words, “All diplomacy is a continuation of war by other means”. Their greatest artists and philosophers were born from blood and conflict. I had the privilege once to view a painting by one Pablo Picasso, entitled Guernica. It was a savage piece, with not a drop of color. It showed the horrors of war, and the irony of it all was that the painting hung in the office of one of humankind’s generals.

It was sudden, when they burst from the containment zone. When they realized they were not alone. And we, with heavy hearts, prepared to fight them bitterly and to the last. Imagine then, our surprise when humanity embraced us among the stars as long lost brothers. They were overjoyed to discover they were not alone in the darkness. Despite their brutal and warlike culture, despite their glorification of death and violence, their people do not seek out combat. An ancient general of theirs once put it thusly “Although a soldier by profession, I have never felt any sort of fondness for war, and I have never advocated it, except as a means of peace”.

For centuries humanity worked to better itself. They unified under a single Interstellar Empire, the Empire of Man, the Human Empire, however you called it. They enjoyed art and music. They became leisurely at home, exploratory in the field. Their weapons of war were long gone, beaten into plowshares as they say. Humanity was finally at peace. There was no conflict among them, a few border skirmishes for certain, and they kept a small standing military, but nothing more than that. We considered them domesticated.

At first we were surprised at their transformation, then overjoyed. We welcomed them into the fold of the cosmos, embraced them as they would embrace us. We thought we knew humanity then, that we had seen them at their best and their worst. We were wrong, so very wrong. We did not truly understand humanity until the Texar-Hakara came into the void between the stars.

Seemingly more brutal, more bloodthirsty than even the humans, they swept into our region of space like conquerors. They smashed whatever feeble resistance the Yungling managed to put up, took their planets, enslaved the survivors, and pressed on. The Junti were next, utterly destroyed. The four great races left, ourselves, the Itaxa, the Kukrama, and the Illnaa, banded together to try and stop them. In our arrogance, we did not include the humans in our pact. Too few in number, too weak in frame, too backwards in technology we thought.

The Texar-Hakara hit our borders like the great wave that sweeps life from the beach. We hardened our hearts and prepared for the worst. Seeming without pause they crushed our border defenses. They obliterated the first fleets we sent to them. The Itaxa fell to the Texar-Hakara, enslaved, killed, scattered to the corners of the galaxy. Then the humans sent us an offer, a request really. They asked to fight alongside us.

Bemused, we accepted. What else could we do? Deny them the right to fight with us for their very survival? We thought to assign them as rearguards, to ferry our people to safety after our fleets fell. We thought wrong.

Humanity swept into the stars with a fury unmatched by any other. Their fleets were not the heaviest. Their guns not the most accurate. Their soldiers however. Their sailors. Their warriors were unmatched by any others in the cosmos. I remember the first battle in which the humans fought the Texar-Hakara like it was but a single solar cycle ago. Our forces were on the brink of breaking and fleeing. Our ships were gutted ruins. Our fighters exhausted and out of missiles. Then humanity fell upon the flank of the enemy, and the full force of the Human Empire was unleashed in a single moment of utter fury. Landing craft spat across the distance in an instant, slamming into enemy hulls and disgorging humanity’s greatest weapon, their Marines. In close combat humanity is unstoppable, and so they took the vast distances of space combat out of the equation.

Their ships belched fire and plasma. Lasers crossed the vast distances in the blink of an eye. Half the Texar-Hakaran fleet was obliterated in minutes. The other half turned to face this new enemy, only to be wracked by internal explosions as the Marines did their work. Their greatest ships turned on the rest of the fleet, a handful of humans holding the bridge against waves of enemy attackers to turn the tide of battle.

The Interstellar War came to a screeching turnaround. The advance of the Texar-Hakara halted, like it had hit an immovable wall. In many ways that is what humanity is, an immovable, implacable wall. Then, with the ferocity humanity is alone capable of, they routed the Texar-Hakara. Not from that lone battle. They pushed them out of Itaxa space, liberating the slaves. The space of the Junti and the Yungling was swept clear of invaders. Then the Texar-Hakara committed the gravest of sins in humanity’s eyes. They warped a fleet to Earth, jewel of humanity’s empire. They burned that blue and green world. They destroyed it, and the trillion people it housed.

Humanity is a forgiving race my children. Even their most terrible of wars have resulted in lasting friendships between nations. When they left millions dead and broken on the muddly fields of their world, they rebuilt the aggressors. They raised them from the mud, dusted them off, and welcomed them back into the fold. But there is one thing that humanity cannot, will not, tolerate. It is abhorrent to them my children. To strike at their home, to strike where they raise their young ones. Where they leave their mates and non combatants. To strike there is to raise the ire of the human race, truly.

Humanity raged. Their attempts at obtaining the surrender of the Texar-Hakara halted. The war turned from a righteous war of liberation to a furious and hateful war of retribution. We begged the humans to stop, to leave what few planets the Texar-Hakara had alone. Our pleas went unanswered for months, until a single human ambassador came to us. His face was cold and emotionless. He told us, in no uncertain terms, that the Texar-Hakara had doomed themselves and that any trying to aid them would suffer the same fate. Quietly we watched then, as humanity wiped the Texar-Hakara from the stars. The Texar-Hakara pleaded for mercy. They offered their unconditional surrender. They came to us and begged on bent knee for us to reign in the mad dogs we had unwittingly unleashed into the universe. Humanity had for so long repressed their warrior culture. Tried to become better. Then we had given them back into the fires of war, and humanity had awakened it’s warrior past.

The Texar-Hakara ambassadors were taken from our halls by grim human Marines and thrust out airlocks. Finally there was but one planet left, and we came to the humans, we pointed to our own losses, our own dead friends some of whom had lived for longer than humanity had been among the stars, and we begged the humans not to take the last of the Texar-Hakara’s lives.

I watched, children, I watched as the Texar-Hakara’s world burned. As humanity left but one of their planets alive, a simple backwater colony of no more than ten million. Ten million, out of the trillions. Then the leader of the human military turned to me, and with no emotion in his voice, told me that humanity accepted the unconditional surrender of the Texar-Hakara, and walked off the bridge of my ship.

My children, the lesson here is that a warrior past is never truly gone. Only buried, mayhaps even wiped from living memory. But gone? Never. Humanity showed us that.

Y'know what I love about AtlA?

What I love most about this show is that it isn’t like regular kid shows which gives us a good and bad side

In those “regular” kids shows, they’re the good guys, the others are the bad guys, not necessarily with a good reason
In those “regular” kids shows, war is portrayed as they are evil and we are good and we must defeat them cuz then they won’t be evil anymore

In AtlA, this isn’t the way they portray the war
Yes, the war is between the “evil” fire nation and the good other nations
BUT
in this show, there are bad sides about the good other nations, and good sides about the bad fire nation

Because when they get to ba sing se, in the “good” earth kingdom, they immediately figure out the corrupt ways of the dai li to keep the city in their control
They see the dai li teaming up with the enemy, they see betrayal

When they get to the fire nation, of course they’ll see the bad people eagerly supporting the fire lord, but they also see normal people living their daily lives while there’s an all out war going on

The fire nation wasn’t necessarily evil, it was the fire lord, and the people that followed him, that were the true poison of the nation

The earth kingdom wasn’t necessarily good either, because it was corrupted by a few tirants trying to control everything and everyone around them

This is what real war is
There isn’t just good and evil, there isn’t just black and white
It’s all just grey, and by making allies and enemies you try to see the real colors of certain people

Anyway I just love that this show taught me all this, that I never see black and white, I see shades of grey (no not fifty)

I just love this show and I’m definetly gonna have my kids watch the heck out of it

Legend of Korra: Cold War AU

The main idea of this AU is essentially to extend the plot of Book 4: Balance, about the Earth Empire and Kuvira, into the entire series. With 3 seasons and a full 60 episodes run.

The main plot revolves around Korra trying to deal with the cold war between the United Republic of Nations and the newly formed Empire of Steel, and prevent the breakout of a second Great War.

Episode 1 Opening (narrated by Tenzin)

70 years ago my father, Avatar Aang, and his friends, ended the Hundred Year War, and brought peace to the world.

Together with Firelord Zuko, he formed the United Republic of Nations from the former colonies of the Fire Nation.

For decades, Avatar Aang kept the peace between the nations, old and new. But then, he died.

In his absense, the nations were thrown into chaos. Revolution swept across the Earth Kingdom, leading to the death of the Queen, and collapse of the nation.

Kuvira, a metalbender calling herself the Great Unifier, used her technology and resources to reunite the fractured nation under her leadership.

Now it’s my turn to help guide Avatar Korra, the successor to my father, in helping bring back peace and prosperity.

Though she’s young and lacks discipline, I believe Korra can save the world.

After that, the first episode of the series is very similar to the beginning of both Book 1 and Book 4.

Korra wants to go to Republic City to see Kuvira’s public appearance as she supposedly is about to hand over power to Wu, the crown prince. Tenzin is against this, so Korra sneaks in on a ship and goes anyway.

Of course, Kuvira denounces Wu and the Earth Kingdom, and declares herself the ruler of a new nation, the Empire of Steel. She makes a speech about how the rulers of the old nations failed their people, and how the United Republic of Nations is rightfully part of her empire.

Kuvira’s people attempt to assassinate Wu, and the rest of the episode is about Korra and Tenzin trying to save him as well as drive Kuvira’s forces off of Republic City.

Regular Episode Opening (narrated by Korra)

70 years ago my predecessor Avatar Aang and his friends ended the Hundred Year War and formed the United Republic of Nations.

For decades, Aang had kept the peace between all nations, old and new.

But with his death, chaos spread. The Earth Kingdom collapsed, and the Empire of Steel rose.

Now I, Avatar Korra, must take on Aang’s legacy, mend together a broken world, and prevent the breakout of another great war.

The rest of the series follows Korra’s training and adventures as she tries to balance the rising tension between the Republic and the Empire, and help quell the chaos that’s been spreading all over the world since Aang’s death.

Humans are space orcs

Had this bouncing in my head for awhile now, thought I might share it.

Dr. Glavion'uevuev; Xenoanthropologist
Known to humans as Dr. Smashing!

I have spent a great portion of my life studying humans within their own territory, an honor by no small feat I would say. But during my studies I would regular come across a human concept that when asking for details about it I was usually referred to distant relatives, friends of friends, and foreboding facilities containing organizations whose purposes was more alien to me then the people I was studying.

Of all the unique and wondrous species within the know galaxy that I’ve had the pleasure of studying. There are none as strange and, (perhaps more aptly put) as frightening as humans. They have as many cultures and languages as you can expect from any other species. The rumors of their extraordinary physical capacities and empathetic nature do them no justice.

Being the one in a billion death worlds to produce intelligent life that went beyond its homeworld could be considered a miracle. Even their population being only in the millions during first contact was unusual. Experts originally speculated that it would have been in the tens of billions. However, though humans may appear to be as docile as any other species it was not without sever hardship that they reach beyond their world.

With in my studies I discovered a universal subculture among the many nations within the whole of humanity. But before I can even speak of this culture I must instruct the reader of a peculiar human concept. War: large scale conflict between nations. Not simply a fight with a ferocious beast, not a conflict between small factions, but entire nations at conflict. Due to primitive human behavior war was actually commonplace for their world in all ages of human civilization.

Nations, once large and organized enough, created organizations with the sole purpose of waging war. These organization they created are known as a military. Nations collected large groups of individuals into armies that would make up this military, and the military would be utilized for defending against other nations or attacking them at the discretion of the people, or the ruling faction of the nation they belong to.

This military (due to it being an organization usual segregated or completely disconnected with its parent culture) develops a subculture in almost alien ways from its origins. The parent culture has significant influence on the military culture, simply because military members are produced primarily from the nations own people. However as I said before, this subculture is universal, so certain trends can be utilized to identify this military subculture. Most notable are discipline, obedience, physical fitness, uniforms, unusual training with simulators and real-world practice, durable equipment and weaponry, and (something I find most notable) dark humor.

Though humans have not actually engaged in the practice of war in centuries, they maintain their militaries to this day, the numbers of which making up approximately 0.001% of the current human population. Most of these military organizations are utilized to police trade routes, provide rescues, emergency aid, and other services one would expect from most any other human vessel.

Though more physically imposing then their civilian counterparts (especially when wearing their combat suites and carrying more weight then a tazoid family shuttle) these career warriors are still the empathetic humans we’ve grown to begrudgingly love. However these particular humans are able to change into a completely unrecognizable being. They become the representation of grim death, instantly triggered by unknown forces that give them motivation to do tasks that even normal humans would think impossible to accomplish.

Thankfully these terrifying beings simply help those endangered by unfortunate fate. Like those poor souls of the Necrotic incident of Gorlom 5 late last galactic cycle. Where the humans first revealed themselves to the galactic community. And confusingly when we mistook their military for a second unknown species.

The difference in behavior and technical appearance led to this odd mistake. Their military technology at the time had been perceived as over engineered because of how deadly every part of the vessel had been. It was quite some time after communication was established that they finally convinced us they were the same species.

When I questioned any human why they continue to maintain military forces after so long without their original purpose they most often became quiet, but an old man (a veteran of the military) was willing to speak to me about it. “First contact with an alien species for us wasn’t at Gorlom 5. No… that’s where first contact had finally ended.”, he said these words as he looked at a picture of him and his squad mates. The picture showed them smiling with their various weapons held casually while they wore their damaged and dirty armor, posing on top of a hulking mound of burnt and rotting meat. The picture was from before his unit was sent to Gorlom 5, before his right arm and leg were made of metal, and before he was the only soldier at Gorlom 5 not to be posthumously awarded his Medal of Honor.

That feeling when...

…you’re tidying up some paperwork and you stumble across a novel proposal that you had completely forgotten about, including outlining, notes, and detailed timelining for the six main characters…

(here’s the text if the image is unreadable for you:)

LIGHTNING IN THE CUP tells the story of the deadly culmination of a three-hundred year war between two mighty nations, and the end of the world…all caused for the amusement of an angry god and goddess.

The world is in its Renaissance:  art, literature and magic are flowering as never since the great Triple Empire was destroyed in mysterious catastrophe, three thousand years before.  Poised at either side of the great continent which surrounds the Central Sea are the nations VOROSHEN and MIROKH, provinces of the old Empire, now finally grown into their pre-eminence as rulers of the known world.  Their ancient rivalry—Voroshen is the more populous nation, Mirokh the greater naval power, controlling the Sea—has been flowering, too. For the better part of the last millennium, they have practiced war against one another as another kind of artform, a violent and lucrative one, using the armies and territories of their various client nations as their battleground.  

Now this graceful, amused, habitual aggression is growing into something more deadly.  Each country has begun to feel it has the right to be the most powerful in the world. The old mindset, which would have seen life as not worth living without the existence of the essential, noble enemy, is passing away.  The new rulers coming to power—a less poetic, more opportunistic lot—believe that it would be better if there was only one “greatest country”.  And the only way to manage that, each side now feels, is by wholesale destruction of the other….

 People on both sides—powerful lords, wizards, politicians—are beginning to realize that the means may be within their grasp.  Mastery of the theory and technology of magic is growing by leaps and bounds, fostered by the patronage of Voroshent and Mirokhel lords for great theoretical sorcerers like ARDAN and ELIEGRI.  Things which would have seemed great wonders even a hundred years ago—cloudcastles, soaring-ships,  scorchfire—have become commonplace:  magic has been turned to the service of man in peace and war, and makes the exchequers of both countries fat by its taxation and control.  Riches and prosperity are more widespread than ever: on the surface, at least, because of magic, peace reigns in both the Great Lands.  

But each nation secretly is looking to magic for the answer to the question of how to get rid of its great rival…and one of them is on the brink of finding it.  Mirokh’s genius-mage ARDAN has learned of the existence of a sorcerous relic so potent that, properly altered and manipulated, it could cause the earth to open and swallow a whole country down to ruin.  Eagerly, Mirokh’s lords send an expedition into the Debatable Lands to find this thing and bring it home, for their glory and the final destruction of their enemies.

What none of the Mirokhel suspect is why this relic has now been found.  

…And then things get interesting.

Note to self: import into Scrivener. Add to ToDoIst project list. Schedule for more research after completion of YW#11 draft. Possible scheduling: spring/summer 2018.

(sigh) Just what I needed before I’d even had my tea. Another novel.

WHY TRAILS IS MY FAVORITE RPG SERIES

What comes to mind when you think of a good RPG series? Often times people will say Final Fantasy, Dark Souls, Skyrim, and Witcher 3. Others will say Pokemon, Fire Emblem, Xenoblade, or Tales. But very few will mention the Trails series, otherwise known as the Kiseki series in Japan.

The Trails series is actually a larger part of The Legend of Heroes franchise, which has been around for a long time. There are 5 other Legend of Heroes series just like Trails, but we will be focusing on just the Trails series, which is the 6th installment.

It is by far the best RPG series pound for pound in existence; very few games can rival the quality of this series such as Witcher 3 and the Xenoblade series. So why doesn’t anyone know about it outside of Japan? The biggest problem that stands in the way of the Trails series is localization.

Trails games have the largest script size of any video game series, which means they come over that much later when localized. For frame of reference, Trails in the Sky came out on PC in 2004 and PSP in 2006, but it was localized in 2011. Its sequel was localized 3 years later. The script size isn’t the sole reason for the discreprancy between Japanese and Western release dates, but it makes quality testing, debugging, and programming much more time consuming.

Long localization times mean that the game will feel dated to Western players by the time it reaches them. Couple that being in the unpopular JRPG genre, and it’s no wonder why Trails is under the radar in the West. Even in Japan, Falcom’s decisions to make most of their games on PC backfired. At the time, console gaming was more popular than PC gaming, the reverse of today’s trend.

As a result, console RPGs received more attention which was further amplified by the heated console wars between Nintendo, Sony, and Sega. What’s more unfortunate for Falcom was the decline of the JRPG genre, which earned a stigma in the West, therefore striking the global market off their list of considerations. So even by the time Trails in the Sky came out, it was already too late for them to capture a widespread audience.

If you go back in time and change a few things like platform choice, localization, and maybe going 3D, then Trails would have the popularity it deserves today. If Trails was as well known as Final Fantasy or Witcher 3, it would have dramatically changed the landscape of the JRPG genre.

But enough about that… So what makes the Trails series so worthy of praise? When you pick up an RPG, you’re probably doing it for its story and characters. The battle system is secondary to you but of course you still want that to be fun. The Trails series does all of the above and more, to the greatest extent.

The best way I can describe the Trails series is that it’s an RPG made for RPG fans. You have some of the best worldbuilding of any fictional work, profound story and characters, massive amounts of content, and an ingenius battle system. It does everything you want an RPG to do, and more.

WORLD BUILDING

It’s easy to create a fictional world but difficult to create one that has a coherent geography, ecology, history, and politics. It is essential to telling a story because it’s the setting, the driving force of the plot, and the groundwork for character motives. But worldbuilding can also destroy the storyline if it’s bad.

Let’s take a look at Final Fantasy XIII and its world of Cocoon, a floating planetoid-shaped continent floating above Gran Pulse, a wilderness of monsters. While on Cocoon, your fugitive characters are constantly on the run from the entire human race. You never have time to take in the sights and in fact, you barely get to explore any of the wondrous cities in the game. Outside of deities and the military, you know nothing about its citizens, cities, politics, economy, or what life is like for the average person. You have no reason to care about its world.

Which I guess is the point because your characters are fugitives who plan on destroying it. Except that halfway through, your characters don’t want to do that anymore but Cocoon almost gets destroyed anyway. In the end, Cocoon is saved but to what end? The players have no way to care about Cocoon even if they wanted to, so why does it matter? Its safety has no emotional impact on the player.

By the way, you can read much about XIII’s lore and background in the game’s database. But that’s not the same as storytelling or worldbuilding. Reading about something is not the same as experiencing it. The game can have amazing characters and look as pretty as it wants, but with such awful worldbuilding its story becomes the least memorable thing about it.

Now let’s talk about Trails, which takes place on the continent of Zemuria. The Trails in the Sky trilogy takes place in the Kingdom of Liberl. Zero no Kiseki and Ao no Kiseki take place in Crossbell State, and are thus known as the Crossbell duology. Trails of Cold Steel 1 & 2 takes place in the Erebonian Empire. All of these regions are within the Zemurian continent, each with their own culture, people, ideas, economy, and politics.  And there are many more countries on this continent that play a role in the Trails series, we just don’t travel there- yet.

They sign treaties, trade with each other, and go to war just like real world nations. The relationship between these regions affects the overarching events of what happens within their borders, and thus become the driving forces of their respective games.

In Sky, you have an extremist who doesn’t believe the current seat of authority has what it takes to protect Liberl. In Erebonia, you have a country built on the annexation of many other states in an expansion for power so that it can compete against its long-standing rival, the Calvard Republic. With the way Trails does its worldbuilding, you can see that everyone has a motivation behind their actions. You can see why the story unfolds the way it does. And you can also see how they intersect and affect each other.

But Trails is not simply a bunch of countries vying for resources or superiority. There are so many forces and organizations in play that make the story even more interesting. You have the Bracer Guild, a politically neutral organization whose purpose is to maintain peace and protect people. They don’t alway get along with the military, but they are loved by the people for solving their everyday problems.

On the other hand, you have the Jaeger Corps, mercenaries for hire. They are often employed by corrupt officials and evil organizations to carry out their dirty work. They operate outside the boundaries of laws and do whatever it takes to get the job done. There are different Jaeger Corps in the Trails Series, such as the Zephyr and Red Constellation, who have a bad history together. The Jaeger Corps and Bracer Guild are not necessarily rivals, but their line of work and ideals are often in opposition.

You also have Septian Churches established all over the continent in dedication of the Sky Goddess Aidios, otherwise known as “She who dwells above.” Ordinarily, these churches are insignificant to the main storyline. But in Arteria, the High Seat of the Septian Church, there is an operation of Holy Knights known as the Gralsritter. They operate with the utmost secrecy and are therefore unknown to the public. Their goal is to recover artifacts and ensure they are kept away from human hands. They have other important missions but they are a central focus of the Trails series, so there is not much we know about their Holy Knight operations. 

Also operating in secrecy is an evil society known as Ouroboros. They are the ultimate masterminds in each of the Trails games. Their intentions, members, and powers are all shrouded in mystery. Often times, their plans revolve around obtaining artifacts and manipulating influential figures to carry out their grand schemes.

The amount of detail that goes into their worldbuilding goes down to even the microscopic levels. Each city and town has its own economy, culture, and people. The main reason for Trails’ large text is because almost every NPC in the game is a named character with their own story. You have a couple traveling the world together, a hopeless romantic and his best friend, and family members living in different cities wondering about each other.

These aren’t your average generic NPCs that exist to fill up a town and make it feel alive. These are actual characters with their own stories with different dialogue lines throughout the entire game. What you get in the end is a living, breathing, organic world. It’s something you can appreciate while traveling, something you can fall in love with, and ultimately something you want to protect.

STORY/CHARACTERS

Even with amazing world building, the writers can still drop the ball on the story and characters. In Sword Art Online, the worldwide hit MMORPG anime, you have a wonderful fantasy land and an intriguing UI for players to use. Couple that with top notch animation and attractive character designs and you have a great-looking anime. Unfortunately, that’s all it is.

The show is basically being run by a Gary and Mary Stu, two leading protagonists who are perfect in every way and get what they want in the end. It’s painful and annoying to watch. The show does a great job of catching your interest but an equally good job on ruining it. SAO’s worldbuilding has great potential but it’s ultimately wasted on poor writing and terrible characters.

On the other hand, Trails does an exceptional job with their story and characters. Their storylines have actually good plot twists and their games know how to wrap up and ending better than a Chipotle burrito. Their characters have deep histories and well-written development.

Writing a good plot twist can be difficult, because it needs to have the element of surprise, impact the storyline, and make sense all at the same time. The story has to lead up to that point without giving it away. In other words, the foreshadowing needs to be just enough so that players guess something will happen but not too much so that they don’t know exactly what WILL happen. This is something Trails has done every single time.

Secondly, plot twists will change the tone or pace of the game, for better or for worse. Often times, writers just have this amazing twist in their mind but they don’t know what to do afterwards. So what you get is a sloppy ending that makes no sense.

This is a problem Trails does not suffer because you can tell that they meticulously plan out their writing from beginning to end. Their plot twists properly accomodate for everything affected so there are no plot holes or inconsistencies. And because their storylines occur over several games, their endings wrap up the current arc but end with a cliffhanger to start the next arc.

Trails does an equally amazing job with their characters. Good characters are always memorable and it just so happens that nearly all of the Trails characters are memorable. They go beyond your typical archetype because of good writing, original histories, and meaningful development.

When delving into a character’s past, Trails goes deep. You see their upbringing, what happened to each of the characters, and how those events shaped the person you see today. These flashbacks are brief and happen at the crux of a character’s development. What you get in the end is a development that flows nicely, ties in with the story, and helps you appreciate the character more.

Speaking of development, Trails has some of the most meaningful character development in the genre. Each of these characters feel very human because they have relateable flaws, flaws that they know they have difficulty coping with. And by adventuring with companions, they are able to own up to their mistakes and make amends, which pushes their characters towards completion.

For example, there are a pair of characters who dislike each other because of their personalities and social standing. They are unable to work in a team and as a result, a mutual friend of theirs gets hurt. They are forced to realize that they are the problem and begin working together. They still get on each other’s nerves, but now they are more like squabbling rivals rather than two people who hate each other’s guts.

Moreover, each of them have their own realizations as individuals. The noble realizes that he shouldn’t try to do everything alone. There are times when it is okay to rely on other’s strengths. The commoner realizes he’s too hotheaded and that he needs to be more open-minded. It’s endearing, it’s charming, and it’s entertaining. This is the kind of character writing you will come across in the Trails series.

BATTLE SYSTEM

At the end of the day, video games are video games. It can have a great story but if the gameplay doesn’t attract the player, then they might drop the game before finishing the story. So sometimes, players are forced to play a bad game to finish a story or go through a bad story that has good gameplay. With Trails, the quality of their story and characters can also be seen in the gameplay so you get the best of both worlds.

The Trails series is one of the most satisfying strategic turn-based RPGs in the genre. It’s simple enough for newcomers to understand without referring to a guide but complex enough for hardcore players to have fun with. Basically, your characters battle on a field and perform regular attacks, special attacks, or cast spells. And naturally, there are other commands such as defending, using items, or running away. But there is much more to this.

First of all, positioning. Each character has a movement stat which determines how far they can travel on the field. This is important for weapon users who need to be close to the enemy to attack. During battles, you and your enemies will be all over the battlefield attacking each other, and this is where position comes to play. In this game, spells and special attacks have an area of effect that allows them to hit more than one target. For example, a linear AoE or a circular AoE. This also applies to buffs so if your characters aren’t close enough together, some of them may miss out on beneficial effects.

Secondly, Trails’ turn-based combat has an additional factor called Delay. In most turn-based RPGs, turns are determined solely by the speed stat. In Trails, it’s based on both speed and delay. Delay is the amount of “lag” of each action, and this “lag” determines when the character’s next turn will be. For example, when unleashing a powerful spell or attack, the delay may allow the enemy to take an extra turn before your character can act again. This kind of balancing allows different levels of attacks and spells to become relevant throughout the entire game.

Third, we have spells which are known as Arts in the Trails series. These spells can be offensive or supportive. Supportive spells can buff your characters or debuff the enemy, depending on their immunities. Offensive spells are separated into different tiers of spells. Stronger spells have higher costs and more delay, but they deal more damage and often have an area of effect. Certain offensive spells also have a chance to inflict a status ailment such as freeze or burn.

Fourth, we have Crafts which are the special attacks of the Trails series. These are character-specific skills that can have any number of effects. They can deal extra damage, have an area of effect, provide a buff, inflict debuffs on enemies, heal HP, and more. They consume a resource called CP, which can only be accumulated during battles (with some exceptions).

Fifth, we have Status Ailments. Yes they exist in every RPG but Trails’ status ailments play a larger role in the outcome of battles than any other RPGs. Defensive buffs are significant enough to prevent character deaths and save you from wasting a turn on healing HP. And ailments such as Petrify or Freeze can completely turn the tide.

On top of that, Trails has a plethora of unique ailments unseen in other RPGs. AT Delay pushes back a character’s turn. Faint prevents a character from taking a turn, and any attacks that land on them will result in a Critical. Vanish temporarily removes a character from the field. The complexity of ailments adds more layers of strategy that must be considered when battling in a Trails game.

And finally, we have Orbments, yet another defining part of the Trails system. Every character has an Orbment with several slots. Players choose what elemental Quartz goes in each slot. Quartz will affect both the character’s stats and what spells they can use. For example, an Attack Quartz (Red) will increase a character’s physical damage and give them access to Fire Bolt.

Orbments work differently depending on which Trails game you play, but universally you get to choose what Quartz goes into each slot. Because of this freedom, there is a high degree of customization in outfitting your party members. You can shape characters into different roles to suit your needs.

These are the defining components that make up the Trails system. Each of these adds a layer of depth and strategy to the battle system. In most turn-based games, you’re essentially managing damage and healing. But in Trails, you’re doing so much more than that. Its sophistication allows the satisfying experience of finding multiple solutions to the same problem and playing however you want.

A battle system can have the most interesting concepts and mechanics but it’s useless without an array of enemies that take full advantage of it. In Trails, you have many different kinds of enemies that require different strategies to take down. You have enemies with high evasion or high defense, so you need to use spells to take them down. Then there are enemies who are immune or even reflect spells, so they need to be handled physically. There are enemies who explode upon KO, so you have to take them out from a distance. These are just few of the many types of enemies that you will run into in the Trails series.

You can get by on brute force, but you’ll be using more healing items and spells along the way. If you play with strategy, your battles will be more efficient and satisfying. That’s the beauty of the Trails’ battle systems. There is no single way to win a battle. There are no useless characters that get outshined by the rest of the cast (okay… I can think of one poor girl). The battle system is your playground. 

MUSIC

When people talk about amazing video game music they often refer to Final Fantasy, Legend of Zelda, and Mega Man. But the Trails series is a real contender and personally, I enjoy their music more than any other video game series (except Zelda). You have really catchy battle tunes, perfect ambient music for dungeons, and the music for cutscenes are spot-on. Most soundtracks are 50% recognizable, but Trails music is so good, I remember 80-90% of their tracks.

CONTENT

Like I said before, Trails is an RPG for RPG fans. RPG fans love a game they can sit down and play for endless amounts of hours. They love having a ton of sidequests to do as long as they are fun and interesting. They enjoy exploring every nook and cranny of fields and dungeons for hidden treasure chests. Trails caters to all of this and more.

This holds especially true for their storylines. As mentioned before, the Trails series span several games to tell the complete story. Their story isn’t dragged on or inflated for the sake of having multiple games. The scale of the stories are so grand and epic, that each arc needs to be told on its own. When playing the sequel, I want to find out badly how the story ends and what happens to the characters I’ve grown attached to. I don’t feel like the series is being milked or that they are just reusing assets to cut costs of making a new game.

CONCLUSION 

I’ve always found it difficult to explain to someone else why Trails is so good. It’s easy to say “This RPG has good stories and characters and it’s fun to play” but that’s not enough to convince someone to pick it up and play it. This is a series that cannot be summed up with a few tag lines in a 30 second commercial. I wish I could hold a lecture at a campus to describe the Trails series to RPG fans.

Also, the Trails series comes in so many different flavors but they’re universally amazing. So it’s not just one game or a duology I am trying to sell to people, it’s the entire series. I find myself saying to people “Just give it a try, you won’t regret it” and then typing in all caps to emphasize my desperate excitement. But I think in writing this essay, I’ve done a good job making it stand out from other RPGs. 

I hope you guys give Trails a try. 

Deep Listening

’Deep, compassionate listening is essential to the creation of peace - personal, interpersonal, community, national, and international peace. In this practice you listen with all your mindfulness and concentration in order to give someone who is suffering a chance to speak out. Even if his speech is full of condemnation, bitterness, and blame, you still listen, because you know that to listen is to give him a chance to move in the direction of peace. If you interrupt, deny, or correct everything he says, he will have no chance to make peace. Deep listening allows the other person to speak, even if what he says contains wrong perceptions, bitterness, and injustice.

The intention of listening is to restore communication, because once communication is restored, everything is possible. I have seen many couples practice deep listening and loving speech and restore difficult or broken relationships. Many fathers and sons. mothers and daughters, and husbands and wives have brought happiness back to their families through this practice. They have practiced mindful breathing and walking to calm themselves. Then, with the practice of deep, compassionate listening and loving speech, they have reconciled.

Listening to someone with compassion can turn her into a friend. It may be that no one else has been able to listen to her; perhaps you are the first one capable of listening to her and giving her the relief she needs. You become a bodhisattva, a being who ends suffering. You lose an enemy and win a friend.

During the war in Vietnam, both sides operated and reacted out of fear. During any war - the war within you, the war with your parents, partner, children, the war with your neighbors, a war between nations - we act and react out of fear. When you act out of fear, you cause harm and destruction to yourself and others. Fear is a product of ignorance and lack of compassion, which are the very atmosphere of war. Fear feeds off ignorance, whereas compassion and lucidity flower from understanding. Deep listening and loving speech can stop new anger and fear from arising as well as transform long-held misperceptions and suffering. With mindfulness, we can protect ourselves from danger.’

Thich Nhat Hanh, Creating True Peace: Ending Conflict in Yourself, Your Family, Your Community and The World.

I’ve never seen the modern fascist movement discribed so perfectly, this is truly a work of art

Gravity Falls: The Last Airbender Edition!

Before the 100 year war, there were two twin boys born in the Earth Kingdom, named Stanley and Stanford. Stanley was a boy of the earth, and his earthbending was visible from an early age. Stanford was intellectual, insisting that he learned how to read while his brother was content to help in the field, and he was not an earthbender. After time, it became clear that Stanford was, in fact, an airbender. 

At the time, this was not unusual. Air Nomads were, necessarily, nomads, and sometimes their blood was mixed into different families and airbending talent rose after any number of generations. Stanford couldn’t help in the field like Stanley could, and there was no one around to teach him about being an airbender. 

Then, one day when the boys were grown, an Air Nomad passed through town. Knowing that the Air Nomad would take Stanford away to an Air Temple if she found out what he was, Stanley lied to her, telling her there were no airbenders in the town, and he told himself that Stanford would want it that way. When Stanford found out, he was enraged, feeling himself cheated from a chance at a better life than that of a farmer, and he ran away to find the Air Nomad. Their father was enraged as well, feeling that Stanley had not only betrayed his brother, but had betrayed the family by denying them an opportunity to give Stanford away to people more suited for him at a time that they had a new baby and little to no food. 

Stanford never came home, Stanley fled to Ba Sing Se to make his living in crime, and their family was left behind with a nonbending baby named Shermy. 

Many years later, the Fire Nation attacked the Air Temples. When their initial assault didn’t succeed in finding the Avatar, Fire Lord Sozin proclaimed across the world that the Fire Nation would pay for every Air Nomad head given to them, with a bonus for Air Nomads about the age of the Avatar. It became open season on Air Nomads that had not been present for or had escaped the massacres at the Temples, and wholesale genocide began. 

Stanley joined a hunting party, only to kill them so that he could help the Air Nomads they found, largely children. Stanley Pines became a major smuggler of Air Nomad children, catching them so he could hide them, train them to speak with an Earth Kingdom accent and to act like an Earth Kingdom kid, and pair them up with Earth Kingdom couples who wanted children. He couldn’t do much for the adults he found, since they all had tattoos that called the hunters like a beacon, but he taught them how to cover their marks with makeup and smuggled them out of the worst hit areas. 

Eventually, by a stroke of chance, one of the adults he found was Stanford. Stanford wanted to go to the south pole, refusing to explain why to his brother and refusing to acknowledge all the things left unsaid between them. Unwilling to let his brother be murdered by gold-hungry earthbenders, Stanley took him to the South Pole, where war between the Fire Nation and the Southern Water Tribe was beginning. They went to the center of snow and ice, where there was a constant storm and the spirits roamed. There, the men got into a fight, and Stanley pushed Stanford into the spirit wood, where he disappeared. 

Stanley stayed in the South Pole, researching how to regain his brother, and meanwhile, life moved on. The war became worse. Shermy Pines fell in love with a waterbender, and the daughter from this union, a non-bender, fell in love with a Fire Nation soldier stationed in the Earth Kingdom. From that union came a pair of twins: one, the boy, could waterbend. The girl could firebend. 

Stanley agreed to let the new twins come live with him, understanding their mother’s fear of what would happen if the locals of the Earth Kingdom realized they had a firebender amongst them. At least in the South Pole, the boy could learn how to waterbend, while Stanley taught the girl how to hide her firebending. 

The Air Nomads, for all intents and purposes, are all gone when Stanley finally finds Stanford in the spirit wood, and eventually the Southern Water Tribe will learn they have a firebender among them. Who knows what will happen when they do? 

Okay, you know what aggravates me the most about Star Wars discourse?  When people talk about the First Order like it’s a foreign nation.

The heroes do not have to “make peace” with the First Order, because the First Order is not the fucking Fire Nation.  

There is no “war” between the First Order and the Republic, because the First Order is not a sovereign nation and has no power to declare war.

This is not the result of a misunderstanding.  The First Order is made up of homegrown domestic terrorists who want the return of the Empire.  They operated in secret, abducting children to raise as their shock troops and building death weapons.

There’s a point where diplomacy and “making peace” simply isn’t feasible.  And that’s when you have fucking Nazi-allegories enslaving children and murdering billions of people!

Why hasn’t the Russian establishment been hit by a right-wing populist opposition? 

There are enough war dead that Russia’s establishment should be having real problems. The Russian establishment has put the country under enough strain that Russian voters should be looking for an alternative.

Russians might be conservative nationalists, but they, more than anyone, should be weary of military adventurism, diplomatic confrontation, corruption, and the cynicism and casual brutality of their political class.

Now, it’d be easy to paint liberal cosmopolitans as foreign puppets. That’s fine. The Russian opposition doesn’t have to be liberal or cosmopolitan. It can be conservative and nationalist. It just needs to be anti-establishment, anti-corruption, and anti-militarist. 

So why hasn’t that happened?

I don’t know much about Russian politics, but I think that Vladimir Zhirinovsky is the problem. Zhirinovsky occupies the right-wing populist space, where a better politician could effectively challenge Putin. Unfortunately, the man himself is … a bit much.

There’s some of that muchness below the jump. It’s worth reading. But consider this your content warning.

Keep reading

광복절 [Korean Independence Day]~

[Brief Historical Background]~

August 15th (8월 15일) is one of the most significant dates in Korean history. On this day over 70 years ago, Japan surrendered to the Allied forces marking an end to World War II, and the end of 35 years of harsh Japanese imperial colonization and occupation over Korea. During the period of colonization, many Koreans faced vast limitations on their culture, language, and history imposed by Japanese provincial governments that destroyed/removed artifacts, banned Korean culture and customs, and imposed laws that rendered Koreans as second class citizens in their own nation. “Gwang Bok Jeol”, or “The Day the Light Returned” is a national Korean holiday that commemorates Korea’s emancipation from foreign rule, the reestablishment of cultural and linguistic independence, and the recovery of freedom.

[Customs and Traditions]~

Today, August 15th is a holiday where families get together for a nice meal and an evening watching fireworks. Tae Guk Kis are flown from many homes and buildings, and there is a lot of festivity and fanfare. In effect, Korea’s August 15th is very much similar to July 4th celebrated in the United States.

[Korea and Japan Today]~

Despite the passage of many decades since the end of World War II and Japanese occupation, political tension remains high between the two nations (as well as by other Asian nations affected by Imperial Japan). Political/Governmental fumbles revive old wounds and continue to create new ones, but there is hope that the two nations will one day be more at peace with one another and come to a settlement that satisfies both parties.

[Korean Independence Day Vocabulary!]~

독립 (dok rib) independence
자유 (ja yoo) freedom
해방 (hae bang) emancipation
유리 (yoo ri) liberation
태국기 (tae guk gi) South Korea’s flag

광복절
(gwang bok jeol)
Korean Independence Day

Hope this helps and happy studying! Stay safe everyone!~

“대한민국 만세!”

Shuri’s Greatest Adversaries, #1: Namor

First Encounter with Shuri

Black Panther Vol. 5 #11

Background

Ruler of Atlantis, mutant, and the very first Marvel character ever created.

Abilities

-Amphibious physiological adaptation

-Superhuman strength

-Superhuman speed

-Superhuman endurance

-Superhuman reflexes

-Extended longevity

-Aquatic telepathy

-Flight

Importance

When it comes to Shuri’s greatest adversaries, Namor couldn’t be topped; not even by someone as dangerous as Proxima Midnight. What sets Namor apart from most characters is his political position as ruler of Atlantis. This position, combined with Shuri’s position as ruler of Wakanda at the time, resulted in a political clash that we don’t often see in mainstream comics.

Namor’s relationship with Shuri went from starting off on the wrong foot, to entering a phase of détente, to deteriorating very quickly, to becoming irreparable. Considering the personalities involved, it was perhaps inevitable that they would clash in a major way.If it wasn’t for the common relationship they both shared with T’Challa, they would’ve been at each other’s throats much sooner.

Their relationship ended up being costly not just to themselves but also their respective nations, causing a major amount of destruction and loss of life via the Wakandan-Atlantian War.

The war also showed that Namor was as big of a threat politically as he was physically. Shuri and Namor had both their nations enter a cold war phase prior to the escalation of hostilities, with both sides sporadically clashing in various parts of the world.

The issue of Namor even managed to severely strain Shuri’s relationship with T’Challa. At one point, the siblings’ relationship, which has always been very strong, nearly reached the “irreparable” stage as well.

Overall, the Shuri-Namor relationship ended being one of distrust, hostility, disrespect, and outright hatred. Once the war went into full gear, whatever chances of these two rulers easing tensions between each other disappeared.

Conflict

It all started with a misunderstanding.

Shuri was investigating who was responsible for nearly T’Challa during the events of “Deadliest of the Species.” Thanks to false evidence planted by the Desturi, Shuri concluded that Namor may have been responsible for the attack. Shuri confronted Namor about it and Namor—in a rather dismissive manner—denies being responsible. Shuri wasn’t convinced and after several insults towards each other, they fought.

Thanks to an intervention by the Fantastic Four, Namor and Shuri stopped fighting. Once things calm down, Namor insisted that he had nothing to do T’Challa being harmed. Reed Richards not only agrees, but provides evidence that shows that Namor indeed wasn’t responsible. Shuri, Namor, and the Fantastic Four decide to work together to go after a lead to someone who may actually be responsible, or at the least know who was.

Shuri and Namor worked effectively together and they eventually find Walter Declun in a secret facility. Declun, in turns out, was directly to the Desturi and Dr. Doom.

During the events of Avengers vs X-Men, Namor was possessed by the Phoenix Force, which greatly enhances ones abilities and possible reveals one’s true personality. Angered by Wakanda harboring the Avengers and seemingly holding the mutant Transonic captive (we have no idea if Transonic was captive or not, as it wasn’t shown in later issues), Namor decides to attack Wakanda with Atlantian forces. Namor drew first blood via a deadly, biblical flood.

Whatever phase of détente between Namor and Shuri went away that instant. Thousands of Wakandans were killed and a great amount of the Wakandan capital was destroyed. Namor became public enemy number one and the Wakandan people demanded retribution.

In the midst of these high tensions, T’Challa discovers an end-of-the-world phenomenon called “incursions.” Unsure on how to solve the problem, he decides to invite the Illuminati to the Necropolis. Namor was a part of the Illuminati and his (secret) presence in Wakandan soil caused tension between T’Challa and the Dora Milaje.

Tensions between Wakanda and Atlantis continued to grow, with Wakandan and Atlantian forces clashing despite not being officially at war. Namor decided to approach T’Challa with an offer for Shuri: a cessation of hostilities between both nations and a promise by Namor that he would offer favorable terms. T’Challa warns Namor that Shuri will refuse the offer, but Namor feels T’Challa can convince her to accept it.

It’s also during that conversation that Namor reveals that there are elements within the government that want Shuri out of power, and have been colluding with Namor and the Atlantians during the cold war between both nations.

Namor’s offer for an end of hostilities, in reality, was him trying to get his cake and eat it too. If Shuri were to accept his offer, he no longer would have to worry about Wakanda while working on solving the incursion crisis. However, Namor likely sensed that the majority of Wakandans wanted war with Atlantis. Shuri accepting the terms could’ve resulted in public opinion and the Wakandan government turning against her and supporting a new ruler to take over. Clearly no love was lost between the two.

Shuri gathered a meeting to decide whether Wakanda should go to war. She was in favor of war; so were the majority of the Wakandan government and the Wakandan people. T’Challa pushed for accepting Namor’s offer. After a back and forth between T’Challa and a Wakandan general, Shuri makes her decision: Wakanda will go to war.

Namor learned via Wakandan diplomatic channels that Shuri had apparently considered his offer and was thinking about it. That was a lie: Shuri actually deployed Wakandan forces to Atlantis while Namor was still in the Necropolis (Namor’s actual location wasn’t known to Shuri). By the time Namor arrived at Atlantis, most of it was destroyed.

Soon after, Proxima Midnight and a portion of Thanos’ army arrived at what’s left of Atlantis, seeking the infinity gems. Finding a destroyed Atlantis, Proxima offered to spare Namor in exchange for his loyalty to Thanos and information on the location of the gems. Namor decides to answer with a lie of his own: that the gems was in Wakanda.

Proxima lead the charge against Wakanda, with the full might of Thanos’ army. Caught off-guard by the scale of the attack, Shuri orders Wakandan forces to retreat.

Noting that T’Challa was missing from the battle with Proxima, Shuri decided to look for him and eventually found him in the Necropolis.After confronting him about his whereabouts—and T’Challa not revealing the truth about where he was—the Dora Milaje arrived at the scene, revealing to Shuri that Namor has not only been at the Necropolis, but has been there many times while Wakandan and Atlantian forces were clashing. Shuri presses T’Challa more for an answer, but T’Challa decided to adhere to his pact with the illuminati: do not reveal anything about the incursions to anyone. Thus, he refused to answer her questions, at a great cost.

Despite T’Challa making major sacrifices for what he felt was the greater good (not killing Namor, not revealing the incursions, getting exiled by Shuri and disowned by T’Chaka, and so on), it all seemingly backfired when Namor revealed to T’Challa that he was the reason why Proxima Midnight attacked Wakanda. To make matters worse, Namor showed absolutely no remorse for his attack during AvX or for sending Proxima to Wakanda under false pretenses.

Namor left the Illuminati soon after and gathered Thanos, the Black Order, Black Swan and Maximus the Mad to tackle the incursion crisis via destroying worlds. They formed a cabal and procured the anti-matter bombs the Illuminati once held in the Necropolis.

The Cabal eventually blackmailed the world’s governments: either they gave up Wakanda or the Cabal would not save their world from the incursions. The world government’s obliged and Wakanda was attacked by Thanos’ Black order and his army. Still recovering from the two previous attacks by Thanos’ army while having no government intervene in their behalf, Wakanda couldn’t resist this time and the nation was destroyed, with all but less than 2,000 of its people dead. T’Challa and Shuri tried a last ditch effort to steal the anti-matter bomb, but the intel given to them was faulty, resulting in a set up by Proxima Midnight and Maximus.

With no hope left for Wakanda, Shuri decided to stay back and hold off Proxima while T’Challa escaped. In her final act as queen, she tells T’Challa to “finish” the job and transferred the rulership back to him. That “job”, it turns out, was Namor and one T’Challa intended on following through.

7

After the fall of Yugoslavia in the early 1990’s, the Balkans descended into a bloody ethnic and sectarian conflict. Although there were roughly six discrete Yugoslav conflicts, the first major war was the Croatian War for Independence. Starting in 1991, when Croatia declared its independence as a nation-state, the war was fought between forces loyal to the Croats and the Serb-controlled JNA (Yugoslav People’s Army). The JNA initially tried to keep Croatia within Yugoslavia by occupying all of Croatia. After this failed, Serb forces established the self-proclaimed Republic of Serbian Krajina (RSK) within Croatia. After the ceasefire of January 1992 and international recognition of the Republic of Croatia as a sovereign state, the United Nations Protection Force (UNPROFOR) was established and combat became largely intermittent in the following three years.

However, on August 4th, 1995, the last battle of the Croatian War for Independence, named Operation Storm, was launched. At the time, Croatia was divided by the UN into sectors: North, South, East, and West. In Sector South was Knin, the capitol of Republic of Serbian Krajina (RSK), but a Croatian city. Operation Storm proved to be a decisive victory for the Croats, uniting geographic Croatia under Croat control, decimating the RSK, and tipping the military balance of power heavily in favor of the Croats.

This week, Croatia is marking 22 years since its troops surged back into Knin, putting Serb rebels to flight and securing the country’s territory and independence from a Belgrade poisoned by Milosevic’s bloody dream of a “Greater Serbia”

thecybersmith  asked:

(Assuming that The Elder One hadn't interrupted things) Do you believe that the Conclave could have achieved a long-term compromise, or would it have been the Thedosian Versailles Treaty, a stop-gap prelude to another inevitable conflict? I liked the story of DAi, so I understand why we couldn't see the end of the peace negotiations, but I do wish it had been explored more.

I appreciate what you’re trying to say about the Treaty of Versailles as a representative of things that really did not help in the long term. I do. But I think it’s always important to remember that this wasn’t that kind of war.


World War I was, for all its horrors, a war fought between nations. Nations that had land and resources and money. They didn’t have all of these things in equal measure, obviously, but they had them. When you’re talking about the problems of the Treaty of Versailles, you’re talking about the problems of the details of that agreement. A conference to discuss who was going to take disputed territory and who was going to pay for all the damage is not an inherently absurd idea. That’s how you end a war of nations, if you don’t intend to end it by invading and conquering your opponents.


This was not a war of nations. The mage-Templar war is more rightly named the mage rebellion. The mages are people who have been kidnapped, largely as children, and held against their will. That’s at bare minimum – any number of other abuses may be heaped on top of that.


They seem to be stateless persons: in dialogue Vivienne says:


“I am from the Circle, my dear. One’s country of origin rarely matters there.”

Vivienne dialogue


She herself was sent from the Ostwick Circle in the Free Marches to the Montsimmard Circle in Orlais; Karl Thekla, likewise, was transferred from the Fereldan Circle to the Kirkwall Circle. Once taken to a Circle they no longer belong to their homeland and can no longer rely on their government – or any government – to protect them.


In Dragon Age 2 an Alistair who was made king is apparently trying to protect the mages:


Hawke: You were having an argument about mages?

Alistair: Yes, well, apparently I don’t feel the same way about mages as the Chantry does. So we’re in disagreement. That means they get nasty. They’re like that.

Hawke: Sounds like the Circle is better off in Ferelden.

Alistair: You’d think so, wouldn’t you? Sadly, I don’t control the Circle. I can only deal with mages outside the Circle … of which there aren’t many.

Hawke: Aren’t they in your kingdom? Why not just kick the Templars out?

Alistair: Ha! Easier said than done!

Alistair Dialogue


He apparently has no legal authority to intervene on behalf of the mages in the Fereldan Circle, even though most of them were likely born Fereldan citizens. The only way to really help them would be to attack and evict the Templar Order from Ferelden. While it’s implied that idea isn’t entirely off the table, it’s clear that Alistair is just barely keeping Orlais at bay and can’t afford to kick the military arm of the empire’s official religion out of the country right now.


These people are Chantry wards. They own nothing. At most, those from wealthy families, and those who have acquired wealthy patrons, will have a bit of portable wealth: fine clothes, jewellery, books, wine, art – that sort of thing. Assuming some of them had time to pack when fleeing the Circles, that’s the most wealth we could expect them to have to negotiate with.


Except … they’re not negotiating about land or a mine or a strategically placed river, are they?


So when you ask whether I think the Conclave could have produced a ‘long-term compromise’ I think it’s worth remembering exactly what they’re negotiating here. The Templars have held absolute power over the mages for centuries. The mages have fled from that, seeking the same freedoms that any other Thedosian might expect (maybe not all that many freedoms, depending on which nation we’re talking about, but still better than what they had). We are now negotiating how much power the Templars should be allowed to have over any poor bastard who happens to be born with magic.


The Templars are a religious order, enforcing their particular doctrine – their particular view of magic. They aren’t guardsmen or police officers, protecting people from criminals – on those occasions that they do accomplish that, it is incidental to their true purpose. They have murdered people simply for practising their own faith, because that faith included magic that is not accepted under Chantry law.


Chantry law says it’s okay for:

  • children to be abducted from their homes, and potentially dragged off to a completely different country never to see their parents again
  • people with magical ability to be incarcerated indefinitely, without trial, with any ‘release’ (be it short or long term) to be contingent on receiving official permission to be absent from the Circle
  • people to be permanently surveilled, with phylacteries allowing Templars to track and kill them if they try to leave without permission
  • people, usually young people, to be forced to fight a demon to the death
  • people to be mutilated and given what is functionally brain damage to make them compliant and destroy their magic should they refuse that fight
  • people to be summarily executed for ‘blood magic’ or spirit/demonic possession without either trial or any attempt to assist the person in question
  • entire communities to be wiped out on the authority of a religious official (usually a grand cleric) without trial on the entirely vague grounds that they ‘rule it irredeemable’.


All of that is completely legal and normal before we even get into things like people being kept in small cells or solitary confinement, being starved to death, flogged, raped, or made Tranquil once Harrowed.


Which of these things would you say that the mages should have to agree to, to end the war? I would say none of them. There can be no long-term compromise between mages and Templars, because the only reasonable amount of power a Templar should have over a mage is none. A religious institution should never, ever be allowed to have any legal power over a person’s life. The Templar Order is not, under any circumstances, the right group to be handling magical crime.


We, the mages of Ferelden and Orlais, do hereby dissolve the Circles and renounce our sworn submission to the Order of the Templars, effective immediately.

We reiterate Andraste’s assertion that magic was made to serve man, not rule over him, and state unequivocally that we will use our abilities only to defend ourselves from those who would see us relinquish our lives and freedoms under the presumption of guilt for crimes we have not committed.

We condemn those practitioners of magic who, through illness of mind or understandable but misguided anger at those who oppressed them, would use their Maker-given powers to threaten innocent lives, and we pledge to aid any legitimate and impartial government in bringing these lawless apostates to justice.

We look earnestly to a future of cooperation between all peoples of Thedas, free from persecution and prejudice, and hope to build a better world alongside all who approach us with friendship instead of fear.

Rebel Mages


That’s part of the mission statement of the rebel mages. I would say that, right there, they have already agreed to every reasonable condition. They have agreed that offensive magic should only be used in self-defence, and committed to cooperating with secular law-enforcement in dealing with magical crime. Are there details still to be hammered out? Sure. But with the governments if the lands in which they take up residence, not the Templar Order.


The Conclave is an absurd and inherently evil thing. It’s happening for two reasons, one in-universe and one out:

  • In universe, because the mages are not an army – they are refugees with children and elderly people in tow, and many of them will have no idea how to fight or plan a battle. The Templars are an army, and thus can terrorise these people into a position where they may agree to any damn thing to make it stop.
  • Out of universe because Bioware overreached themselves in Inquisition and needed to simplify the scenario in a hurry. They therefore pretended that the mages had no option but to negotiate with their oppressors. I genuinely do not think the Conclave should have happened, but I understand why Bioware really needed to ‘end’ the conflict by blowing most of these people up.


So … I think it’s possible the Conclave might have created a ‘compromise’ that lasted decades or centuries, depending on how badly the mages’ spirits were crushed by its results. But an unjust system will always lead to anger and despair, and as long as Templars have power over mages, another conflict is inevitable. As long as the ‘compromise’ persists, the mages will continue to suffer.

Zutara Fic Recs

I’ve always wanted to make a rec list so here’s a super short one. I’m only listing fics that I think need more attention and might not be on other lists.

Completed

Polar Nights by crystalline talisman, T, +75,000 words, 24 chapters

In order to arrange a treaty for the long standing war between the Water Tribe and Fire Nation, Prince Zuko is sent to the South Pole to arrange a truce by Fire Lord Lu Ten, where he is greeted by subzero temperatures, sea prunes, and quirky customs. This of course, is a cake walk compared to the revelation he’ll be marrying the stubborn spiritual leader, Katara. AU. Zutara.

Inspired by the question, “Why does Katara always have to go to Zuko in an arranged marriage fic?” I thought this fic handled the idea of the struggles Zuko would have in the South Pole and you really root for them to work it out.

Slow Heat by CultOfStrawberry, T, +214,000 words, 39 chapters

The Avatar continues his quest to master the elements and defeat the Fire Lord, with Zuko teaching him Firebending. The heat builds up between everyone as the end of summer approaches… especially Zuko and Katara… :includes Blue Spirit!Painted Lady Zutara and Ninja!Zutara!: Set during Season 2 and 3 of the show, with some canon included, but with some really fun twists.

This story has probably been on a few other lists, but I had to include it. There’s obviously a lot going on in this fic, but it’s a really good one!

Call Me Katto by ShamlessLiar, M, +272,000 words, 45 chapters

The Avatar awakens two years late, when only a token resistance still struggles against the Fire Nation. Katara disguises herself as a boy to follow Sokka into war. Not only must she hide her gender from her comrades, she has to help the Avatar while also dodging the creepy prince who’s taken such an intense interest in her. AU for timing.

I don’t know why this isn’t on more lists, maybe it’s implied that everyone knows about it? IDK, but man. So it’s a mulan inspired fic that’s crazy in all the good ways. I will say, Zuko isn’t my favorite, he just really needs to have his Ba Sing Se transformation scene in the sequel The King’s Pet or The King, which is at +126,000 words and I’m still itching for more. I can’t quite explain the series. Just read them, they’re definitely worth it.

WIP

I’m only including fics that were updated last year. While I have others that I love and might not be updated, I figured in a rec list to only go so far back.

Jasmine by Yorushike, T, +287,000 words, 70 chapters

AU, Katara, traveling companion of the Avatar, had always dreamed of the day the war would end, but she had never thought that she would be forced to marry Firelord Zuko, who was said to have killed his own father, for this to happen. Zuko had no other goal than to repent for his sins and bring peace to the world, even if both his allies and enemies feared and hated him.  

This fic is almost finished and at first things are fairly slow, but man, once you delve in and start bingeing things get crazy. The plot is very thought out and I don’t think anything was unintentional. My chest literally hurts during some of the scenes due to Zuko.

Enslaved by sharkflip, T, +109,000 words, 36 chapters

A triumphant war party returns with an exotic slave, a gift for the ruling house. Katara and Zuko AU

My love for this fic knows no bounds. Seriously. Zuko is captured by a water tribe war party. He’s originally a slave but slowly becomes an important member of the tribe. The settings is super realistic in a real world setting. Yes, the author doesn’t update often (she has a real life) but it’s not a forgotten fic. It’s a good fic to reread too.

Cursed Kiss by alwaysZutarian, M, +63,000 words, 10 chapters

Cursed to live with the body of a fearsome beast, Zuko hid from a cruel world that would not hesitate to destroy him, consumed with rage for those who had betrayed him, resigned to a lifetime of solitude. But then a ray of hope came in the form of a beautiful, blue-eyed woman. Could she look beyond his physical appearance and break his curse? Or would he forever remain alone?

As the author mentions in the prologue, this is a take on Beauty and the Beast. I’m SUPER intrigued to see how things play out because 10 chapters in and Zuko is still the dragon. But it’s not weird. And don’t let the M rating scare you, I believe that’s set for future chapters.

One Shot

The Best of Me by Lariren-Shadow, K, +2,000 words

The night before his eighteenth birthday Zuko wraps a bandage around his left wrist. He has a country to run and no time for frivolous things. It will make everything easier if he waits. Zutara Soulmates AU

I love me some soulmate AU. It doesn’t really go past the soulmate reveal, but it’s still a fun short read.

This burden you bear by cowlicklesschick, T, +7,000 words

Word travels, and war stories will be told round campfires and on freighter ships until every person in the world knows what Master Katara did for the new Fire Lord. She fights the burning in her throat at the thought of people knowing why she had to heal him in the first place. Post-war Zutara.

I will say, I never thought about what Katara went through after the war. Good writing with a nice build up to Zutara.