Nariel’s Station Archives – Multiverse 163 – The Legend of the Wailing Oak

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(Author’s Note – If you’ve ever heard Peter Hollens’ version of The Hanging Tree from Hunger Games, that’s what semi inspired this legend. I’ve also been reading a lot of folklore about vengeful ghosts and mourning lovers who died without getting any peace in life. So that’s where this bit came from. And this is NOT a nice story, and I’ve told it in exactly the same way a blunt old sage would. So there’s no softening of any of the events.)

Manas looked at Lilavati. “Are you certain you want to hear this tale, my dark scholar?” he asked. He was pale and shaking. “It’s not a pretty story, and it has to do with my parents’ crimes against the people of Phiri Hu.”

“The mere mention of the tree has sent you into a near panic, my living flame,” Lilavati said. “I feel I must know.”

“Manas, you’re still not recovered from your fever,” Ludger said. “I know the story as well as you do. Let me tell her while you try to rest a little more.” Manas nodded and Ludger moved closer to the pair.

“Great Lady, has Manas told you about his parents?” Ludger asked.

“A little,” Lilavati said. “Enough for me to know that I am grateful they no longer exist in this world.”

“All right,” Ludger said. “Then I won’t need to explain the whole of it. The Wailing Oak is a massive tree, far more ancient even than the stone walls of the barrier wall that surrounds Phiri Hu. It was used for many purposes over the years, but the most common was to hang condemned prisoners.”

“Hanging is a terrible way for anyone to die,” Lilavati said.

Ludger nodded. “I agree. Now, this tale actually comes from before Manas’ great-grandparents were born. This was during a time when magic users walked freely among the people of Hiilguus, before they all vanished into the temples.”

“Or worse,” Manas muttered.

Ludger ignored him. “There was a sorcerer whose power was feared in the land. He could summon the dead from their graves and command them to do his bidding. He would twist the minds of those around him until they practically worshiped him. Everyone was frightened of him and refused to stand up to him until the day he decided that Lady Princess Renata was his predestined bride.”

“What did he do?” Lilavati asked.

“He used a spell to get one of his servants into the castle. That servant drugged Renata and carried her back to the sorcerer’s citadel,” Ludger said. “There he used all manner of methods to break her mind until, at last, she became his most devoted follower. Now, the king and queen knew where she was and were plotting with their court magicians to get her back. Then the sorcerer walked boldly into the palace with Renata on his arm. She proclaimed loudly that she loved him and had wed him so he was now the heir to the throne.”

“That could not have gone down well,” Lilavati said.

“The king declared that he wouldn’t recognize the marriage and then named Renata’s younger brother Gerhard the true heir in front of the entire court,” Ludger said. “The sorcerer reminded the king that he’d been able to get an agent into the castle to take Renata, and that young Lord Prince Gerhard would be an easy victim of his assassins since the boy was barely five years old. This pushed things too far. The court magicians, the Royal Guard, and several noblemen attacked.”

“What happened?” Lilavati asked when Ludger paused.

“Renata was pulled to safety, though she kept screaming for her husband,” Ludger said. “The sorcerer killed several people before a nobleman – Manas’ ancestor, in fact – managed to get in close enough to knock him out. The court magicians bound him in so many spells the man could barely walk on his own, let alone use his magic. He was pronounced guilty of multiple crimes, including the torture and mental manipulation of Renata. He was sentenced to die, but the king couldn’t do it in the capital. He was worried that the man’s death would destroy property. It was a valid concern, given how much magic the man was rumored to have.”

“So what did they do?” Lilavati asked.

“They took him to Phiri Hu,” Manas said, his harsh voice full of anger. “They took him to the great oak and hung him. He swore he’d never rest in peace and that his soul would forever live within the tree, turning the spirits of all those executed there into demons. My ancestor and his house magician took him seriously even when no one else did. They put their heads together and found a way to bind the tree so even if he could do as he claimed, no evil spirit would ever leave.”

“That isn’t the worst of it,” Ludger said. “The Wailing Oak gets its name because of Lady Princess Renata.”

“What do you mean?” Lilavati asked.

“Renata went mad with grief,” Manas said. “She escaped her watchers one day and somehow made her way to Phiri Hu. The sorcerer was still hanging from the tree even though it had been nearly a month since his execution. No one wanted to pass through the barrier placed around the tree to retrieve the body. Renata did. She laid his body on the ground, took the same rope he’d been killed with, and hung herself.”

“It is her spirit that wails in the branches of the tree,” Ludger said. “She refuses to leave, to relinquish her mindless haunting of the oak tree. There have been many preesters who tried to release her. Some went mad. Others left the tree with scars on their minds. And there were some who took the rope – it still hangs off the branch and is as strong as the day it was first woven – and hung themselves in despair, adding their souls to the number collecting in the tree.”

“What does this have to do with my lord’s parents?” Lilavati asked. Ludger shared a grim look with Manas before explaining exactly what had gone on so many years ago.

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Station Status Update: The shop got another update

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Yes, the Amberwoods Station shop got another update. This time I pulled most of the stuff off of it and focused primarily on steampunk.

Yes. You read that right. I’m focusing on steampunk for now.

I do have a couple Middle Aged Simmer items in there, and I will be adding a few more from that later on. But mostly it’s going to be steampunk related stuff. Why? Because I love steampunk and I know a lot of my friends/possible readers do too. Not to mention I’m trying a few targeted ads ideas and decided to target steampunk fans for some reason this go around. So I figure I need to make sure I get more steampunk items into the shop.

Yes, I will be adding more stuff for my books and fantasy/sci fi worlds as time goes on. Right now I need money for the move, money for necessities, and money to facilitate my writing career. And that means marketing and targeting certain groups. Since I’m currently targeting my ads to the steampunk fans…well, you see why I’m doing it this way.

So, if you love steampunk – or know someone who does – head on over to Amberwoods Station! New things are added in every day and you never know what’s going to show up.

(Plus by following the link below you get 15% off of all purchases $40+ until 6/30/18, so it’s a pretty good deal.) 😉

Amberwoods Station is AWESOME!

Nariel’s Station Archives – Multiverse 163 – Valeska arrives in Phiri Hu

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If you remember way back, you got to meet Ludger. Valeska is his servant/student, and you meet her in the first book of my current series as an already established member of the household. Here is how she arrived at the keep and met both Manas and Ludger – and how she made it clear she wasn’t going anywhere.

Valeska stared at the rugged stone edifice in front of her. She swallowed past the lump in her throat and rubbed the back of her neck. She tossed her braid back over her shoulder and tucked the few strands that had escaped behind her ears. The spirits guiding her faded from her sight and the sense that the Fates loomed over her shoulders vanished. This wasn’t what she’d wanted to do with her life, but as her first teacher had said – “When the Fates say walk this path, you obey.”

She took a deep breath and started climbing the path. She shuddered at the sight of the bloodstained stone. She could hear the screams of the dead as she moved along the well-kept cobblestone road. They were old, these deaths. Far older than the young lord who now ruled Phiri Hu.

The chill morning air didn’t help the feeling of foreboding as she approached the blood soaked keep. She finally reached the main gate. Two soldiers dressed in crisp uniforms were standing at the entryway. They stopped her, hands on their blades. “What is your business with our lord?” one of them asked.

Valeska took a deep breath. “My business is not with the lord of these lands, but one of those who serve him,” she said, her Hiilguusi heavily accented.

One of the guards frowned. “Who would that be?” he demanded.

“Ludger Vilhjalmsson,” Valeska said.

“And who are you?” the guard asked.

“I am Valeska Groos. I have come from his homeland to speak with him,” Valeska said.

“I’ll go see if he’s willing to talk to her,” the second guard said.

“Will you pass on a message for me?” Valeska asked.

“I suppose so,” the second guard said.

Valeska pulled a small note out of one of her pouches. “It’ll be easier if you give him this to read. It’s in our language and I don’t know if you can repeat what I’d have to say or not,” she said.

“Since I don’t speak the Northern tongue this will make it simpler,” the second guard said, taking the note. He walked inside the keep.

A short while later he returned. “Ludger says he’ll see you,” he said with an amused smile. “Don’t be surprised if he sends you packing immediately though. He’s not in a good mood after reading that note.”

“I was not expecting him to be,” Valeska said. “Where will I find him?”

“I’ll take you to him,” the second guard said.

He led Valeska through a few winding corridors until they reached a room with a heavy wooden door. She could sense the power within it even as the guard left her there. Valeska took a deep breath and knocked.

“Get in here, girl,” came the gruff reply. Valeska opened the door and entered the room. It looked very similar to a room she might find in a shaman’s hut in her home village. “Don’t bother putting your pack down because you aren’t staying. I don’t care who sent you. I don’t need a servant or a student.”

Ludger was a mountain of a man, broad of shoulder and chest, with white shot through his black hair. His agate gray eyes were hard as stone. He glared at her from his chair.

Valeska dropped her pack on the floor and put her hands on her hips. “You’ve definitely lost your sense of courtesy by living down here all these years,” she said bluntly. His eyes narrowed. “And you can stop trying to impress me with your powers. I’m well aware of your strength. I could feel it long before I ever reached the keep. I’ve been ignoring your presence for a while now.” She was proud of the fact that her voice remained steady in spite of the fact that she was shaking inside. “Let me be plain. I was told by the gods, the spirits, and my former teacher there there was nothing I could be taught back home. I was also told that my teacher would be the only shaman to leave our homeland. My teacher did a Sending and found out it was you. He wasn’t thrilled with sending me down here because you were essentially exiled, but he and I agreed that if the gods and the spirits were screaming at me to be down here I had better get my arse on the road and down here immediately.”

“You really expect me to believe that?” Ludger asked.

“Why else would I have left my family, my home, and my status as a shaman?” Valeska asked. And my daughter, she added silently, a stab of pain running through her.

“What else did you sacrifice when you left our homeland?” Ludger asked sharply. “I can sense your pain.”

“I left behind a three year old daughter,” Valeska said. “She now lives with my sister, who will raise her as her own daughter. My child will never know me as her mother because the gods willed me onto this road.” Her temper flared and the fear she felt vanished. “Do you truly think I’d have left Elfriede there, alone, without me if I’d had a choice? What mother abandons her child on a whim? My teacher, my parents, my sister – they all tried to talk me out of it. At least they did until my former teacher did his Sending. Then suddenly everyone was fine with me leaving.”

“I see no marking on here as to who your former teacher was,” Ludger said, looking at the note in his hand again. “Who was he? And why didn’t he sign this?”

“He didn’t sign it because he knew his name would prevent me from even being allowed to see you,” Valeska said.

“Who was he?” Ludger asked again.

“My former master’s name was Halvdan,” Valeska said.

Ludger turned red. “That old man is still alive?” he asked, his voice deadly quiet.

“Unfortunately yes,” Valeska said. “And I was forced to become his student in spite of the fact that he has the penchant of raping his female students. He was the only shaman in the steading.”

Ludger blinked. “You are from Nosktens?” he asked, fingering a fire opal lynx hanging around his neck.

Valeska pulled her token from the spirits – a stylized feline shaped from an ice opal – out from under her tunic. “Yes, I am. I was born and raised there, and heard much of you.” Her lips quirked. “Halvdan didn’t have many kind things to say about you until my token appeared. Then he got very…quiet for several days. When he recovered he started teaching me again but he treated me with less care than he did his other students. When he had the Sending that brought me south I was thrilled, even if it meant leaving Elfriede behind.”

“Why would you leave your daughter behind?” Ludger asked. “She’d be safe here.”

Valeska looked down at her spirit token. “My path is not one a child should walk, though I will be forced to walk it at the side of a girl-child not my own,” she said softly. “I don’t know who this child is, why I will follow her, or who the other person who wanders that path with us is. But the ice spirit who gave me this showed me that a great lynx will give me the knowledge I need to walk with them.” She looked up. “You are the Great Lynx, Ludger. You are the only shaman who holds the aspect of a lynx, and you are the one I was commanded by the Fates to find.”

Ludger got to his feet. “Then I suppose I have a servant and student rolled into one,” he said. “Come. You need to meet the lord of these lands. He is a good friend to me, and one I am soul bound to protect.” He met her gaze. It was refreshing to stand almost eye to eye with someone instead of being taller than most. “You too will be bound to that same promise, though not to the same degree I am.”

“Then I will be bound to protect him and his bloodline,” Valeska said.

Ludger beckoned with one thick fingered hand. “Then come, let me introduce you to Manas, High Lord of Phiri Hu.” He led her out of his room.

Manas was in a library seated in a very shabby looking chair. He looked up from a book he was reading when the two of them entered. Valeska bit her lip. He was attractive enough for a Hiilguusi, but she saw the curse sitting over him. She couldn’t see what form it took but the darkness was there.

“Old friend, who is this?” Manas asked in a rough voice.

“This is Valeska Groos,” Ludger said. “She’s come this far south to be my servant and student. I thought I’d bring her in and introduce her to you.”

Manas raised an eyebrow. “Do I need to know the whole story?” he asked.

“No. There’s nothing to worry about. She’ll serve me and stay out of your way,” Ludger said. He paused. “I’ll have to tell her about your difficulty though.”

“I can see it, though I don’t know the whole of the situation,” Valeska said. “Great Lord, I will serve my master but I am bound now to serve you as well. My gifts, minor though they are, are now yours to command – so long as my master approves.”

Manas looked at Ludger. “You can explain the whole thing to her,” he said. He went back to his book. “As well as figure out if you want to risk trying to get the Grand Arbiter to approve her use of magic in Hiilguus.”

“I’ll take that into consideration,” Ludger said. He looked at Valeska. “Come, girl. We have much to talk about.” He led her back out of the room and down to his chambers.

Station Status Update: Moving info update

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Okay, so I promised this last week but…stuff happened.

Let me start out by saying this – no, the situation with the roommates isn’t any better. We’re at a stalemate right now and just trying to co-exist without stepping on each other’s toes. We’re at least back to being civil so that’s a good thing. Actually I guess that is making it a little better, though our landlord is still a giant jackass who needs to get the stick out of his ass.

We’re managing to stay sane enough, but that wouldn’t have been the case if we’d gone ahead with our plan to be out of here by the 1st of this month. In fact, we’d have been in a world of hurt if we’d tried to be out of here by the 1st of this month. Life didn’t play out in a way to get us out of here by then and I think I’m glad for that.

We were depending on my husband’s commission check to help pay the deposit on a roommate situation and he hasn’t gotten it yet. He won’t get that paid out for another week or two. So that would have hurt us. Trying to find a roommate situation who’d take a couple, a cat, and a dog was nearly impossible so we were going to leave Whiskey (my puppy) behind. That was breaking our hearts and making Tims feel horribly guilty. Me too, but I was trying to dissociate myself from my feelings. I do that when I can’t handle life anymore and it was becoming a real problem.

In the end, we were both super close to breakdowns. Tims was afraid if I went up first – alone – I’d get raped, mugged, killed…all the worst things imaginable were going through his mind. I can’t say they weren’t going through mine as well, because they were. I couldn’t find someone to stay with and was facing the reality of having to live in a homeless shelter, which would have been even worse because since they’re first come-first serve there was a chance I’d have been sleeping on the streets.

So we decided to push our move out until August, when we’ll have had time to save up money to get into our own apartment instead of needing a roommate. This will also give us a chance to work things out with the asshole landlord to see if he’ll not screw us over and give us the 3 year rental history we need to get into our own place. This means job hunting again in July, but for now, that’s something we’ll deal with when we come to it.

We’re also going to have to put Tims’ commission check into repairing Red Chief, our roommate’s mini SUV that we’ve been using (since we don’t have a car of our own – which is the OTHER reason we’re not moving just yet). We plan on getting our own vehicle before the move, which is another reason for delaying it.

So that’s where we stand right now. I’ll update everyone as things progress.

Oh, if you want to see what else I’m doing with my time – other than writing – go check out my Tumblr. I’m doing a lot of Sims 4 related storytelling there as well as posting my Middle Aged Simmer YouTube videos.

Middle Aged Simmer Tumblr Blog

There’s also a few new things in the shop, so go take a look and maybe buy something? It’ll help go towards funding the move.

Amberwoods Station

Station Status Update: The Amberwoods Station Shop is UP, LIVE, AND STOCKED!!!!

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So, if you’ve been around for a while, you know I’ve been trying to get a shop up and running for the Amberwoods Station. Well, that day has arrived. IT’S UP! IT’S STOCKED! IT’S READY FOR CUSTOMERS!

Follow this link for a 15% discount on purchases over $40

Seriously, come support me and my fellow artists and help me get some money to put towards my move to Portland. (I’ll update y’all on that bit of news tomorrow.)

*points to the link*

Go! Shop!

Oh, and while you’re at it, if you’re feeling curious, go subscribe to my YouTube channel to – Middle Aged Simmer.

Station Status Update: Memorial Day memories

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Hi everyone – and to all in the US, Happy Memorial Day.

I say “Happy Memorial Day,” but let’s take a moment to consider what today is really about. Today is the day where we honor our fallen military. All those lives lost in violent conflicts all over the world in defense of our country, or at the very least the ideals of our leaders.

These men and women made the ultimate sacrifice for the country they loved, many of them boys and girls of 18 – not old enough to drink, smoke pot legally in the states where it’s legal, or even buy cigarettes in some states – and yet they still gave everything to do what they thought was right.

So while you’re enjoying your day off from work – if you’re getting a three day weekend – and having a day of fun with your family, doing household repairs, or having a lazy day…remember who gave you that freedom. And the next time you have a problem with someone protesting something, remember again that those same soldiers died to give them that right.

Calling all artists, poets, and clever people! Help a desperate shopkeeper here!

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Hi everyone!

This is a follow up to the “I’ve gone nuclear” post.

Let’s cut to the chase here – housing everyone in Oregon sucks. Everywhere you go you’re looking at anywhere between $2500-$4000 just to get into an apartment, and that’s if you’re lucky. And rent isn’t cheap either. Many studio apartments – and we’re talking 300-400 sq ft here – will cost you upwards of $800/month (yes, I know, in some places this may seem cheap…but it’s not out here.)

Now, my husband and I can afford up to a certain amount for rent and still pay our bills and set money aside for savings. We’re looking at anywhere between $900-$960 for a one bedroom that’ll let us have Whiskey and Reidar – and we can’t leave them behind and I WON’T send them to the shelter. Reidar would be euthanized almost immediately because he’s 9 and Whiskey…I have a bad feeling he’d pine away because he’s so attached to me.

So, onto the reason for this post. I’m building the Amberwoods Station shop on Shopify. I’m creating swag like t-shirts, cups, mouse pads, cell phone cases, etc. with stuff to promote Amberwoods Station, The Tiger’s Keeper, various other writing projects, and I’m even tossing up some sayings my husband and I live by for variety. I’ll be working with a print on demand service to actually create the things so there’s no upfront cost to me to make the stuff.

Now, for how you can help me and I can help you. I’d like to offer all my artist/poet/witty saying friends a deal. If you want, I’ll put your stuff up in my shop. I’ll give you the base price for each item. You tell me how much you want for it. I’ll get you that price. I take care of shipping. Yes, I will get some money off of it too, but I’ll still make sure you get paid what you ask me for. My husband is very good at marketing and will be handling that side of it.

So, if you’re interested, email me at amberwoodsstationATgmailDOTcom.

Station Status Update – Why I need to move NOW!!!

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I woke up angry, probably because of my roommate situation imploding. And the worst thing is the particular roommate who caused the situation? Won’t ever admit the fact that they’re the cause. They’ll blame US for everything. Yet they are the one responsible for every bit of stress caused to both me and my husband for the past three years.
 
Let me explain –
T1 – the roommate that we don’t care for but don’t really have a problem with
T2 – the roommate we despise and no longer want anything to do with
 
We arrived in Lincoln City, OR in 2015. We were invited by the Ts to help set up a business. My husband had already survived TWO FAILED BUSINESSES with them but this one was a gold mine waiting to happen. Why? It was a cannabis farm in a burgeoning legalized cannabis market. Who wouldn’t jump at the chance to be a full partner at that? At that point in time it really was a multi-million dollar business opportunity.
 
So on May 11th, 2015 (my birthday, by the way) we packed everything into our little truck and drove the 531 miles (854.5 km) to Oregon. We knew this was going to be a one way trip for us. We also knew we were going into something interesting because we have no family and had no other friends – because they were still friends at that point – up here. We were coming in blind as well because the house we were coming to was owned by one of the two’s parents, who’d retired up to the coast.
 
We got here and our truck became problematic. It was smashed in the back, we’d gotten it that way, and really not legal to drive here. So we parked it and left it there. My husband was eager to get started. The Ts were glad to see us – as were T1’s parents. The deal was I’d provide groceries as our form of rent while my husband and the other two worked on the business. However, the first of the imbalances became very obvious at this point. The other two weren’t required to do ANYTHING to provide for the household. They weren’t required to find jobs to produce financial aid. They weren’t really required to do any housework, though T1 did some of the cooking. T2 played at gardening and mowed the lawn ONCE in a while. That’s it.
 
As soon as my husband got here, he pretty much got handed the duties of taking on the bulk of the hard labor on the farm as well as working on the cannabis business. Except there was no movement on the cannabis business. There was some personal medical growing on the property, but the most that was done was some half assed attempts at getting a few things for the commercial grow while my husband did about 95% of the farm work. The Ts sat on their asses and played video games.
I was the only one with an income, other than T1’s parents who owned the property. They had their retirement savings and their Social Security payments. I had (and still have temporarily) my disability. So the deal was I’d help pay for the groceries for the six of us. Within a few months it evolved into me paying for all the groceries with my limited $750/mo. It was really hard, but I managed to feed 6 people on my very limited income. I managed with some clever budgeting and SNAP for food for my husband and myself. But I was still paying over half my disability for the other four.
At that point I also was pretty much forced to take over the cooking by T1’s mom. She was very sick with multiple health issues and T1 had a bad habit of not serving dinner until 8 PM or later. She couldn’t eat that late and would get sick. So I started cooking dinner. Then I wanted breakfast, as did everyone else, at a reasonable hour. So I started cooking breakfast. Then lunch. At that point I was pretty much relegated to house slave.
 
Why do I call myself that? Because all housework, other than the living room which belonged to T1’s parents, was dumped on me. I would ask for help and the only one I could rely on was my husband. He was the only one who did anything around the house with any regularity. The others would half ass things and nine times out of ten, I’d have to go back after them and fix shit. Also, it didn’t matter if I was sick or injured. I’d have to be in the kitchen if I wanted decent food at a decent hour. In fact, I could count on not being allowed a full recovery from anything – including fucking SURGERY – because I couldn’t trust the Ts.
 
It took my husband (in mid 2016) taking things into his own hands to get the cannabis business going. He did the bulk of the work himself, yet T2 took all the credit for everything. T2 claims THEY pushed my husband into it when they did nothing but play video games until my husband guilted them into getting involved. They did as little as possible, other than demand money from T1’s parents. When T1’s mom died on Valentine’s Day 2016, said roommate pushed even harder to get money because the wife wasn’t afraid to stand up to T2 and tell them no.
 
T2 drained our landlord’s retirement to the point where he’s down to maybe a year or two’s worth of money left. T1 let T2 do this, and even helped T2 by pushing their dad into paying out for things when he didn’t want to. T1’s dad expected to be paid back in full by the cannabis business, but T2 made it clear they had no intention of paying him back. Instead, they were going to do some shadowy, half imagined “improvements” to the 10 acre farm we all share. My husband was then expected to give up a portion of his share to pay back the actual retirement money. This is yet another example of T2’s narcissistic attitude.
T2 has said many times that they see people as pawns. They have no emotional connection with anyone. They’re only “friends” with T1 because T1 gives them everything they want. T2 claims to be a grand strategist, yet T2 couldn’t get off their ass to save the cannabis business when it became obvious that haste was needed over laziness.
Even now T2 treats us like shit. They demand that we do more work in the house than we are, even though we’re the ones with viable jobs. We provide the only income – STILL – in the house. We pay rent by paying rent to our landlord. How rent is calculated is bullshit and the fact that they aren’t being forced to contribute is bullshit as well, but that’s another vent for another post.

On Thursday things finally came to a head. T2 made the mistake of getting in my face over something stupid, accusing me of “stealing money from <landlord>, demanding treats we don’t deserve.” This coming from the person who is constantly taking money from him for stupid, trivial things even though they don’t have a job or a viable home business to bring in money to repay our landlord. I lost my temper. I hit the Big Red Button. I went nuclear.
I ripped into T2, calling them an ungrateful leech, a burden on me and the landlord, a useless lump of flesh, and many other things I’ve kept inside for the past 3 years. T2 just stared at me, eyes wide, and when I stopped talking, bolted from the kitchen where we’d all been getting lunch. T1 followed them out. Now, here’s what pissed me off even more. T2 convinced themselves – AND T1 – that the blow up never happened. They convinced themselves – AND T1 – that everything was still status quo and we were all still good friends.
FUCK THAT!
I told my husband the whole story over FB messenger and told him I no longer cared if he lost his temper and went off on them. He’s been holding back because I asked him to. Well, he got home from work and we talked a bit about the day, and I told him about the fact that the Ts were acting like I’d never lost my temper at all. This irritated him as much as it did me. Then he went in and took a shower. Then I took a shower. We have to pass through T2’s room to get to the shower the four of us share. Before I went into the shower, T2 messaged my husband and asked him to come to their room to discuss business.
I got out of my shower and they were still talking. I got back to the room and was trying to upload stuff to YouTube when I heard shouting from across the hall. I turned my music up because yelling is still a trigger for my PTSD but I was still half listening. My husband came into our room, slammed the door, and told me he’d finally let his temper go. He said T2 had a look of shock and fear in their eyes because my husband actually got into T2’s face when he blew.
T2 knocked on our door a few minutes later and wanted to talk. T2 started demanding things of my husband, saying they felt disrespected, that my husband was being rude, that my husband had gone off for no reason, etc. My husband got up, got in their face again, and yelled at them to get out of the room. It took three times before T2 got the hint and left. T2 was very pale when they left. I don’t think they expected my husband to react that way. He’s never even shown he had such a temper in the six years they’ve known each other.
So now we’re looking for a place to rent up here. We can afford, at most, $1000/mo and still pay all our bills. We’ve also in the market for a car. One of my coworkers is bringing one in today for us to look at. If it isn’t for us, he’s already put in a word with the local car dealer to talk shop with my husband – and try to work out something so we don’t have to put down a down payment.
In 4 hours of internet searching I found THREE potential options for housing in this place that’s shit for rentals. In 8 hours of working as a cashier yesterday I ended up with something like SEVEN options. Plus a good suggestion on how to go about our search. I have customers AND co-workers watching in their small towns (that are within a 30-45 minute drive from here) for rentals popping up.
My roommates can barely function socially. My husband and I, through our constant contact with the public, are building up quite the social credit in this town. We are well liked, always meeting new people, and always having people asking about how our lives are going. My husband’s job is to schmooze people. He’s in good with the Chamber of Commerce, many high ranking members of our community, and is even connected with people at the casino that essentially owns a good chunk of this town. I’m familiar to many of the local restaurant owners who come to the grocery store I work at to get stuff when being busy runs them out of supplies. You’d be surprised at how often that gets me some interesting conversations and tips.
We need money. We need a vehicle. And we need our own place. We’re NOT doing the roommate thing again for a very long time. If ever. It’s just going to be me, my husband, and our fur kids. And realistically? That’s all we really want in life now.

Nariel’s Station Archives – Multiverse 163 – Ludger’s first meeting with a spirit

System Admin Note: Documents in this series come from translations drawn from the pre-technological societies in Multiverse 163, or the world from the station core’s Inkosi Tiikeri books. Please make certain you notate the date of retrieval, the initials of the data collector, and the date of publication.

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Ludger settled down onto the hard packed dirt floor near the hearth. The rest of the steading was gone – the men on their hunt and the women doing whatever it was they did when the men left. The only ones still inside were Ludger and his master, the broad shouldered shaman Halvdan.

The two sat facing each other in silence for several minutes. Finally Halvdan looked at him. “It is time for your first test,” he said in his deep, gruff voice. “To prove to me you are still a worthy student.”

“What is it you wish of me, Master?” Ludger asked. He knew he must sound a little sullen. The seventeen year old didn’t want to be stuck inside with the shaman. He’d been planning on joining the hunt until Ortwin stopped him.

Halvdan’s eyes narrowed. “Your test is to call to a spirit and see if you can coax it into answering,” he said. “If you can’t do that at your current skill you are worthless as a Shaman and will be sent back to your mother’s hearth.”

Ludger cringed. His mother was already displeased with him over his lack of progress. “Lazy, useless lump,” she often called him. Even when he tried to step into his missing father’s place, as the eldest son should, but Agathe wouldn’t let him. She was always pushing him away, trying to get him into trouble with both his teacher and the leader of the steading.

Ludger knew becoming a shaman was the only thing that would save him from banishment from his home and family, if you wanted to call this band of people who were, at best, disinterested in him a family. He took a few deep breaths and tried to settle himself into the calm that was supposed to come with summoning a spirit.

Ludger tried for several minutes but nothing happened. Halvdan sighed. “Perhaps you do not have the potential I thought I saw in you,” he began.

Ludger wasn’t paying attention to his teacher’s words. In the distance, he heard childlike laughter. He began casting around with his magic, seeking the source. A log in the fire broke and sparks flew out into the room.

One tiny, nearly invisible spark flew over in front of him. Ludger’s eyes were fixed on this tiny dot of light. He watched as it grew to the size of a small bird. It laughed again at him and introduced itself as a fire spirit.

“I have never seen anything like you before,” Ludger said, his voice barely above a whisper behind the tangle of his newly grown mustache. His thick, stubby fingers twitched as his desire to touch the spirit momentarily overwhelmed him. He knew better though and tried to settle down into some semblance of calm.

The spirit laughed again. “Fire” and “calm” were hardly synonymous with each other. “True,” Ludger replied with a smile. “However, if I cannot control myself I cannot speak to you like a reasonable person.”

The spirit inclined its head. It asked him what he was trying to accomplish. Ludger explained what his test was. He told it about how his future was no longer his own because the Fates put his feet on this path, and he didn’t want to disappoint the gods even though he’d never wanted to be a shaman to begin with.

The spirit asked him why. Ludger found it hard to put into words, so he allowed the little spirit into his mind. As it – she, Ludger realized, the spirit held a female aspect – rummaged around she made several unhappy noises at the way his mother treated him. She also gave him a good scolding for his thoughts on Halvdan, who was a mighty shaman and deserved more respect than he actually gave him.

Finally, the spirit withdrew. She was quiet for a moment, and then asked Ludger if he knew something of his future importance would he consider being a shaman a worthwhile position? Ludger snorted. “I’m the unwanted son of a foolhardy man who abandoned his wife and children. I have no status, and even as a shaman it’s doubtful I’ll have the kind of authority  you’re talking about,” he said with some bitterness. “How can my future be anything but one step above pure revulsion from those in my steading?”

The fire spirit asked him again if he wanted to see wanted to see a glimpse of his future. Ludger finally said yes. Images washed over him – pictures of a flame haired man and a woman with skin the color of coal; a towering set of gates that so repulsed him he felt like vomiting; a snowstorm that seemed fit to bury more than just the steading but everything in the whole land; a strange looking feline far more massive than even the largest wolves in the territory around the steading; and finally, the impression he stood beside that same flame haired man as an advisor and a friend.

“This is what the gods have in store for me?” Ludger whispered, awed by what he’d seen. The spirit told him they were possibilities, but only if he embraced the path the Fates put him on to achieve them. Ludger closed his eyes briefly and then opened them, the crystal green full of determination. “Then I will accept this path. I will see these people and do these things. I’ll be a powerful shaman and earn the respect of those around me, even if the steading never accepts me fully.”

The spirit told him that she was leaving him a gift and that he now needed to return to the Overworld. It took Ludger a moment to realize he’d been conversing with her in the narrow strip of existence between the realm of the gods and the mortal plane. He nodded and, with her help, sent himself back to his body.

“…Really don’t think you deserve to be my student, Ludger,” Halvdan was saying. “You cannot even summon a spirit.”

“Are you so certain, Master?” Ludger asked. He felt something in his hand and looked down. A fire opal the size of an egg rested in his palm. It was twisted by fire – the only way these stones could be formed – into the shape of a lynx roaring. He held up the token. “I have seen much, Master. I now know why the gods gave me my gift and the Fates put me on this path. I will not fail those who will come to depend on me. I will be a powerful shaman, and those who doubt me can rot in Helvete’s halls.”

Halvdan stared at the lynx in his hand. “You were granted more than just a vision, my student. You’ve been bound to a path by the gods and the spirits I do not think you’re prepared to walk.”

“That is why you are here, Master,” Ludger said. “To give me some guidance. Else I will falter and fail, and bring dishonor to myself.”

Halvdan raised an eyebrow. “Don’t you mean to yourself and your family?”

Ludger shook his head. “No Master, I don’t,” he said. “My mother considers me less of a man than my father, no matter how hard I try to help the family. So I will now no longer allow her to influence my life. I am a shaman, and as you’ve said on numerous occasions, shamans walk alone among mortals but in good company among the spirits.”

Halvdan nodded. “You are ready,” he said. “Tie that stone around your neck as a reminder of that path, of your oath to the spirits and the gods, and we will continue our lessons.”

“Yes Master,” Ludger said. He went back to his sleeping area and retrieved a long piece of leather thong and some smaller fire opal beads. It didn’t take long to wrap the stone securely in a web made of leather and beadwork. Agathe would most likely try to take it from him, but this was his first gift from the spirits. Only death would take it from him.

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