Restful Eventide

There is a disfigured cemetery caretaker with pruning shears, shovel and rake.
His name is said to be Sholto McCabe.
It is the left side of his face that draws the eye.
The wrought iron fence around the graveyard is never overrun by ivy or weeds.
The dried leaves never pile up around the headstones in the fall.
The iron gate facing the village is oiled after every rain.
The lawns and pathways are neat.
The lychgate which opens onto the corpse road leading from That place is painted every spring.
The eager young priest Reverend Young does not pay for a caretaker.
The village council does not pay for a caretaker.
Sholto McCabe lives quietly in a little shack on the edge of the graveyard.
He maintains the cemetery.
He seldom speaks.
He tips his hat to passersby.
He prunes and rakes.
Snip-snip. Scrape-scrape.

Crossroads above Eventide

There is a murder of crows that perch in the dead tree at the crossroad.
They go oddly silent whenever Letitia Thatch walks by.
She is a young woman and lives by herself in the shadow of the big wood north of the village.
The crows, usually raucous, changed their demeanor the very first time she walked by.
She goes into the village proper every week or so for groceries and the post.
They do not caw, they do not squawk for as long as she is within earshot.
The murder watches Letitia Thatch.
They do not take flight or even hop along the ground.
While she walks by, they barely move at all- lining the stripped branches of the lone tree.
They know better than to attract her attention.

There are two churches in Eventide Village

There is a burnt out church on the hill that locals shun and refer to as That place.
It has been shunned for over forty years.
The newly arrived Reverend Young intends to clean it up and hold mass for the first time in decades.
In the weeks leading up to All Saints Day the older townsfolk begin gathering at dusk at the foot of the hill.
They stand in a line along the low stone wall. Their eyes are fixed on the crest of the hill.
They stare into the pitch dark and wait for dawn.
Each morning Reverend Young arrives to continue restoring the old chapel.
Each morning Reverend Young is confounded by fresh scorch marks on the recently scrubbed stonework.
Despite scrubbing and polishing the stone and wood the previous day, each morning the scorch marks have returned.
The townsfolk can honestly report no signs of fire in That place.
Not for over forty years.

Welcome to Eventide

There is a deserted hollow in the woods where no wildlife goes, no bird stops in flight, no insect makes a sound.
Only fungus grows.
A biologist went there once to take samples.
She came back through the village of Eventide and returned to the city.
The samples she keeps to herself.
She never reported her discovery and discussed it with no one.
Sometimes she takes off her shoes and watches the slow and inexorable progress of the grey mold along her toes.
Only one is still recognizably human.
She has dreams of returning to the hollow; communing with what lives there again.
First the dreams were nightmares.
Now she is beginning to like them.

the Riddle of Wood (part 2)

So the kids have Viking fever.

Part of child-led parenting (and homeschooling) is letting the children figure out what they are interested in and encouraging it. This often leads to some funny and weird rabbit-holes of study. But overall, it works well for us.

“I want to be a warrior princess, like Astrid from How to Train Your Dragon.” Grace told us.

Well then, I told her, you want to be a Viking.

shield faces

So we’ve been working on shields. The outer-layer is single-ply cardboard. The shield boss is a biodegradable paper bowl. The rear layer, grip, and edge are still being constructed. But there will be more pictures shortly.

Sam thinks Vikings are cool- “they are like Pirates, but they don’t have cannons.”

Grace likes weapons training.

“I am really good at blocking,” says Grace- and she is. She is fearless. She yells out entreaties to Thor when she fights. Not sure where she got that from. She also likes to kneel with her sword in front of her and put her forehead on the pommel. “Don’t I look so tired from the fighting?” she asks. She is very dramatic. “Thor, give me strength.”

I ask both kids what is more important, the shield or the weapon. They both tell me it is the shield.

“Also, I can hit you with my shield,” Sam reminds me. “So even if I don’t have a sword, I can still fight.”

“Axes are better than swords, because you can break shields with them,” Sam adds. “And then you are gonna lose.”

We spend a lot of time talking about the farming, sewing, knitting, mending and sharpening that would be the daily life of any Norse family. But c’mon, they are 4 and 8 years old. They really love the fighting.

the Riddle of Wood (part 1)

I think Sam was about three when we got him his first lightsaber. One of the 9.99 (or 11.99? It was five years ago, I dunno) collapsible flick-yer-wrist lightsabers. No light up, battery powered noisy stuff. Plus, with the economy model it was affordable to get a 2nd one. This was pre-Grace. The 2nd one was for me, so I could fight back.

We had neighbors with a little boy roughly Sam’s age. He seemed like the average little boy to me- loud, boisterous, sort of mindlessly destructive. A lot of his play seemed to involve things crashing. Once, they threw out a lightsaber- nearly identical to Sam’s. Except this one was battered, bent, and half-destroyed by violent play.

It bummed me out. I rescued it from the trash, used hot water and more or less straightened the plastic blade. Good thing too, because soon Grace showed up and we needed a third lightsaber.

We don’t use the lightsabers much anymore- wooden swords have replaced them. But they are still in a bin, and with the exception of the rescued one, neither is battered or bent of broken from destructive play.

I am not humble bragging. I am full on bragging. I’m proud. My kid’s haven’t shattered their toys. They haven’t crashed their cars together or thrown their airplanes into walls. I think a large part of this is because I never taught the kids/showed the kids that these were “JUST” toys. If they break their toys, the toy stays broken and ceases to be- so why be destructive?

We gave Sam and Grace wooden swords when Sam was- I dunno, six? GL was three? They’ve played with them A LOT since then. But we’ve taken the time to explain to the kids that while they are toys, they are toys with potential consequence.

High horse time- I think giving kids “safe” swords, soft-cell foam swords that “they can swing till they are tuckered out, little buggers can’t really HURT anyone!” is a terrible idea.

I don’t say this like: “We Made the BEST parenting choice and you all suck!” because I didn’t make this choice and my wife didn’t either. It sort of happened.

But now, looking back: why are my kids so good with their wooden weapons- how is it we have had no bloodshed, no broken stuff, no broken swords, no tears and very few minor (knuckle) bruises? Because we taught them to respect their weapon play.

Give a kid a foam weapon, and the hit HARDER. We gave Sam & Grace weapons that they learned to respect.

That last part sounds creepy. I promise I don’t chase after them, swiping at their little legs and arms screaming: “NO PRISONERS!!” in my worst Peter O’Toole impersonation (it sounds like a confused Lance Henriksen).

Still. I’m proud of them. This weekend we are making viking shields. I’ll let you know how that goes.

Skyrim Letters #4

7th of Morning Star, The Bannered Mare Inn, Whiterun

Most revered mother,

I am a Thane, yo! I met the Jarl, who keeps calling me “my friend” and giving me enchanted weapons and armor, and I have a housecarl and… and I’m titled! I’m a Thane! Tell Jorunn she should move to Skyrim quick, I can totally get her a job here in Whiterun.

Ah, Whiterun, where the guards all kiss my ass and the locals are kind of polite when they aren’t venting to me, a total stranger (and thane!) about all their petty annoyances!

The world is truly my Nordic oyster, and I am a pearl. Or something.

Ok, to back up:
I came to Whiterun to ask the Jarl, on behalf of all the busybodies in that provincial little Riverrun, to send some guards- because dragons.

So the court Wizard, Farengar (I think he could be cousins to that archer guy from that little pisswater town, Riverrun or whatever), he was all impressed because- Boom, he wanted me to find him this legendary piece of rock and I was like, boom, check it out- BAM, and I already had it!

The Jarl was still sweating Dragons, because a lot of locals believe in them. Well, now I do too, since one attacked us and… I guess I helped kill it. Then I had another one of my fugues, everything got kind of hazy (I swear, ma, I haven’t been drinking much) and everyone was congratulating me!

Hey ma, have you ever heard of a “dragonborn” before? Just curious.

There are TWO inns in Whiterun, ma. TWO blacksmiths, a temple, some feuding families (not real clear on what is up with that), all kinds of intrigue, some hot redhead who has asked me to hook her up with a mammoth tusk, and a bunch of mercenary heroes called The Companions. Might check them out, I mean, if they aren’t too grubby for the THANE of Whiterun to be seen with!

Your exalted son,

Oslowe, Thane of Whiterun.

Letter from Skyrim #3

4th of Morning Star, the Sleeping Giant Inn, Riverwood
Dear mother,

Well, I guess I am an adventurer!

Fandral turned out to be a real jerk, he was trying to talk me into killing Camilla!

I gave her Sven’s letter- she doesn’t seem too impressed with either of them, and I don’t blame her.

I took Sven with me to try and get this Gold Claw that she and her brother are obsessed with- it was in some bandit-infested ruins up in the snowy mountain north of Riverwood.

It went ok!

Fought some bandits, and these undead zombie Nords! Sven called them Draugr- but then the halfwit started playing his flute while I was picking a lock (tell Jorunn it is easier than she thought) on a treasure chest.

Bandits, ma, I was liberating wealth from bandits. And Draugr, I guess? Don’t tell dad I was looting an ancient Nord tomb! Please ma!

Tired. Face still dirty. I need to offload some of these weapons and treasures I picked up in the bandit fortress/tomb. What the heck were those bandits doing living in a tomb anyway? With Draugr wandering around? Seems like a terrible idea. Oh well.

Found a cool necklace in the tomb too- I think it is tied into one of the local Gods, Mara? I put it on when I gave Camilla and her brother their golden claw back. I think Camilla is a big fan of jewelry on men! She was flirty with me. Haha, take that Sven and Fandral!

Oh yeah, Sven didn’t make it out of the tomb. There was a Draugr- like a really tough one with horns on his helmet, and he killed Sven. I got him though. The bad guy. With this cool axe, it is enchanted or something! I used up all the magic on Draugr though.

Oh, and I found a weird curved wall that sang to me! Chants, all “Oooh, foos, ooh”. Wow, you must think I’m hallucinating again.

Don’t mention that to dad.

Your son, “adventurer”, Oslowe.

Letter from Skyrim #2

2nd of Morning Star, Sleeping Giant Inn, Riverwood

Dearest Mother,

Happy Scour Day, I guess. They don’t seem to go much for holidays here in Riverwood, not that I felt like partying much on New Life Day, I was just plain bushed.

I spent yesterday playing cupid for Sven, the mediocre bard, and Fandral- or however the hell he spells it- this pushy elf. Both of them are in love with Camilla Valerius, the sister of the guy who owns the general store. I thought she was his wife! Turns out, nope, brother and sister. Anyhow, both the bard and the archer are crazy about her. She is okay, I guess, in an Imperial sort of way.

Anyhow- hey, remember how when I was a little Nordling I used to tell you and dad stories about dragons? And he thought it was proof of my Nord heritage, and you thought I was just telling tales? Funny, because I sort of thought I hallucinated something the other day in Helgen- Gorfelbrug the Wise always taught me and Jorunn that shocks and traumas could cause a sort of mental detachment, remember?

Not to worry you, but I sort of thought maybe I survived a rebel attack (I didn’t mention it because Ma, I know how worked up you get about the civil war) and went a little crazy- but it wasn’t a rebel attack, everyone keeps saying it was a dragon (except for the people that don’t think it was a dragon). But…

Well, anyways, maybe I am a little high-strung to be an Adventurer, like dad has always, always said.

Anyways, Camilla and her brother Lucan have asked me to go find some family keepsake for them, up in the mountains. I need to figure out how to handle this Sven/Fandrel/Camilla triangle thing, both guys are pushing me to help them hook up with her. Maybe they want a share in the store? Is this a financial thing? She isn’t even that pretty!

Before you ask, I am keeping my boots dry. Now that I have boots. I sort of lost all the stuff you and Dad and Jorunn loaded me up with when I left home- I got here in looted bandit clothes and with a dirty face. Embarrassing start!

I ended up carrying just under 300 pounds worth of bandit gear into Riverwood to trade in at the general store so I could buy some decent adventuring gear- only to find that I could make it all at the blacksmiths! Ma, your little boy looks good in leather armor, helmet, boots and gauntlets. Don’t worry, the armor comes with pants. Now if I keep practicing, I can make the armor “Fine!”

Tell Dad… well, tell him I’m adventuring anyways. Please don’t tell him about the high-strung or the hallucinations, ok? Oh, for the sake of the Gods, it isn’t like he already doesn’t think it.

Tell Jorunn I’ll send her a present soon- I’ve earned up a little gold.

Much love ma, to you and Jorunn. If dad asks- which I doubt- tell him I still think a sword is more elegant than an axe. Actually, better not.

Oslowe