11 Pop Songs That Changed My Mind About Pop Music

DISCLAIMER: This article was originally posted on Odyssey.

Although I was introduced to classic rock through the radio, as I got older, my mother switched to the pop music stations more often. Ever since I moved back to New Jersey, I seemed to listen to iHeartRadio on my mother’s radio in her Pontiac. I did not like Pop music, but there were some songs that dismantled any stereotypes I may have conceived about pop music.

This article was inspired by the 10 songs that amazed me and Idea #17 from my 30 article idea questions article. Here are the 11 pop songs that changed my preconceptions of the genre.

1. Animals (Martin Garrix).

Just like Average White Band’s “Pick up the Pieces,” this song proves that you do not need to have lyrics to produce a good song that can walk with you throughout the day.

2. Break Free (Ariana Grande ft. Zedd).

Ariana’s vocals are definitely strong in her music, including this song.

3. Clarity (Foxes ft. Zedd).

It confuses me as to why this song has not already been used in a movie trailer. The chorus of this song really does make it powerful as there is the perfect balance between Foxes’ lyrics and the instrumentation.

4. Come & Get It (Selena Gomez).

I used to think that all pop music had the same generic sound. It turns out that pop music can become cultured. In this case, the genre of this song is bhangra which is originally Punjabi, as evidenced by the back-up vocals and the drums.

5. Evacuate the Dancefloor (Cascada).

If you were to approach me about voice manipulation in music, I probably would have joked “Oh, like T-Pain? How original!” But this song immediately put that to the test, since the voice manipulation has a form of cadence, whether it is Cascada’s vocals or the back-up vocals.

6. Pompeii (Bastille).

I cannot say any more other than this song is wonderfully catastrophic. There is a sadness in the vocals that is juxtaposed by the beautiful descriptions of the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius all around him.

7. Prayer in C (Lily Wood and the Prick ft. Robin Schulz).

This song is proof that folk music and pop can coexist into a unique combination of sounds. The guitar swooshes in the calm, midnight stroll that this song evokes.

The lyrics are pretty depressing–in a beautiful way of course. They can definitely turn anyone off, but there is a sense of mystic pleasure that comes from these lyrics. It is an unusual juxtaposition that makes this song worth listening to.

8. Somebody that I Used to Know (Gotye).

Upon first hearing this song, I thought I was back to listening to an 80’s radio station. But as it turns out, just like Song #3, there is a sense of timelessness to this 2011 song, in which case it involves the orchestration and the vocals.

9. Something Just Like This (The Chainsmokers ft. Coldplay).

I could not think of a song that was Pop and superhero-themed that tried to be as deep as this one. Yes, maybe to some people out there this song is the perfect example of “whiny bull-crap,” but I cannot think of anything whiny about wanting to become close to a superhero. While the “doo-doo-DOO-doo-doo-DOOOOO” might appear corny and cliched, it is easy to overlook with the rest of the lyrics which tell the story of anyone who wants to succeed in the world.

10. Waves (Mr. Probz ft. Robin Schulz).

I am noticing a common theme among these pop songs that impressed me. They all have a DJ, whether it is Zedd or Robin Schulz. It made me realize that it is not just the band itself or the vocalist himself, but the person in the background who creates the unique orchestration and beats. In this song, it really adds to the R&B rhythm of Mr. Probz.

11. We Found Love (Lindsay Sterling ft. VenTribe).

This song is definitely an example of a cover song that can provide an entirely new context to the lyrics. Where in Rihanna’s original song, the lyric “We found love in a hopeless place” has a more abstract meaning; in this version, it provides a profound in-sight into the living conditions of Africans which can appear hopeless.

AOG Short Story | Drizzling A Castle From Neptunian Limestone

DISCLAIMER: This article was originally posted on Odyssey.

 

Harken, as the epic poem Beowulf began. Harken allows me to share the legend of a sand castle in the Florida Keys that I built before it was consumed by the ocean. My little principality thrived amongst the beach and between the city, with the black paved highways and the whooshing cars that travailed them, and the ink-blue Gulf of Mexico that would occasionally brush up and inflate my swim-shorts.

The sun beamed and blinded down as I scuttled the sand that sifted and burned between my toes. The sea-gulls that flew in the light blue sky chanted Kree-Kree-Kree-KREE-KREE-KREE. The early morning expanse of muddy sand provided enough material for me to build my castle, making my legacy in the Florida Keys.

It was always a spot for vacations since my earliest name-days. My parents and I came from a lower middle-class stock, with a shrimp wholesaling company to sustain us and our migrations. When my parents weren’t busy with talking with one of their most valuable customers from Chinatown, they sat in elastic, foldable chairs on the burning sand, basking in the sun.

I set out on the muddy sand not consumed by the afternoon tide. The mushy, brown Neptunian limestone drizzled from my somewhat enclosed hand as I made my place all around the pit from which I mined the material. This became my newly made estuary where the seeped seawater mixed with the sand. Within one area, I managed to drizzle a tower, perhaps to keep watch for any hermit crabs, turtles, or barbarous children that threatened its survival. This kingdom was forged from sand, seawater, and a young boy’s hand with no need of any sandcastle molding tools.

The architecture that modeled this castle cannot be replicated in any other part of the Earth, whether it would be the domed Ottoman palaces of Turkey or the spherical kremlins of Russia. This style of the building seemed native to the sands of the Florida Keys, forming a blobby foundation and a roof defined only by tiny droplets of muddy sand. Sticks become flag-poles, as they puncture into the towers baking with a crisp finality under the sun. Any cloth-like seaweed that was washed about were used to declare allegiance.

Beauty can be found in finding and scrapping materials already built within nature and remolding them into your own design. This is not an example of the environment serving Man, but coexisting with Man. I did not set out to create an empire founded on exploitation, but on amusement. I knew that finality would pronounce my little kingdom decayed, as soon as the ocean reclaimed it. I would love to live in a time when we would all make castles constructed from sand. If we no longer needed them, we could just let the ocean waves claim them, just as much as an abandoned house can be claimed by the woods.

Then, there were four brown legs that hovered over the castle. Two, small Hispanic boys commented in Spanish to each other about my castle as they looked down upon it. There was evident awe in their trilly, nasal babblings.

It was unexpectedly tasked to me, with very little knowledge of Spanish and the last lesson en Español from 3rd grade. I wanted to return to the masonry that merfolk would be experts at. That small span of time captured an eternal lack of patience at being interrupted, however, I was not offended by it. It just made me uncomfortable with ANY giant that tumbles up to the castle. Not knowing what they said, I politely asked them in English, “Do you like it?”

Their mother came forward and said with a smile, “Yes, they said they liked it.”

Then they walked away.

What the history books that I sojourned within as a former History major cannot deduce is the joy that comes from actually building the civilizations that are read. I no longer build sand-castles, at least I choose not to go to the beach. Although the cyclical nature of humans fascinates me, I still consider my productive time on the beach to be among my most treasured memories of my childhood. Even as a grown adult, I would rather spend time continuing to plant a stick-hoisted seaweed flag on a plot of sand rather than bask in the sun or soak in the water. At least, when I photograph it, that little kingdom by the sea would rest within my memory and perhaps even provide inspiration for a story.

There was only one time in my adult life when I actually reintroduced my sand-castle masonry inherent in my childhood habit of converting the boredom that came with spending hours in a hot, sweltering beach into a fanciful time. It was around that time that I recently became a History major. My mom, cousin, her son, and I went to a small beach that was open to everyone.

Eventually, as the day grew old, so did the kingdom as the ripples crept up and crashed and battered itself against the gates, consuming it as it returned to the sands. The vhoooosh-ing of the ocean lapped after my creation and I could not stop it. I did not feel sadness or regret at not capturing this pseudo-civilization on a camera while it thrived. I merely went back to the Holiday Inn that my parents and I stayed at, knowing that I would do it again next time we came back to the beach.

My only regret in this instance of my childhood was not writing upon the sand beside it, “In a castle made of sand, there lived a hobbit…” Such spasms of imagination can inspire entire worlds into being, just as I would engage with my amusement for this temporary moment. Within those historical annals of my imagination, I could finger-write upon the particle-jumbling sand how there existed an entire tribe of crustaceous creatures, of hermit crabs, of turtles, perhaps even of fish that could walk on land and the legends of the giants and merfolk that built it.

Language Play In The ‘Jabberwocky’

DISCLAIMER: This article was originally posted on Odyssey.

 

In my 7th grade English class, I remember doing an assignment that involved reading “The Jabberwocky” and trying to translate the fanciful words in the most discernible ways. What I did not know at that time that I know now is that Lewis Carroll’s poem has gained the attention of linguists for not just the use of these made-up words, but in what contexts they are used. It would appear that my middle school assignment was part of the uncovering of this strange piece of literature.

It can be very easy and fun, since all you really need to do to translate this poem is by seeing which of these words are located within the semantics; in other words, by seeing what is happening at that moment and which words refer to what. As a group of researchers in the Computer Science Department of Madrid University said, the verbs they analyzed in “The Jabberwocky” concluded that they “…are consistent with the contextual meaning of the text.” The word “frabjous” can be translated as “joyous” since it appears just after the Jabberwock is slain and is used to describe the day when it happened.

Another clue that helps when examining this nonsensical poem is the use of suffices already used in English, such as -s to indicate plural meaning, as well as -y, -ous, and -ish. There are determiners (the), auxiliary verbs (did), conjugations (and), and prepositions (in) that also come from English, which helps the English speaker to understand where the fictional words they refer to rest within the sentence, not just in a chronological sense but also understanding whether they are the subject or the object, or if they are the noun, adjective, or verb.

Of course, the meanings of the words can only be understood through context, but they might also derive meaning based on sound. Where the meanings can be deciphered is by breaking the words into phonemes that have their own individual meaning and combine to create a unique meaning. This is typical in real-world languages, like Spanish which has the o suffix indicating the modification of a word into an adjective, specifically one that describes a defect or limitation; and even English in which the wr at the beginning of a word usually indicates a twisting sensation, with words such as wry, wrong, and wrest. In the fictional language that seems to permeate Carrell’s poem, the method of extracting meaning from the same sounds in the same contexts of English words was used. In the case of a gyre, it can easily relate to the word gyrate.

As for where the made-up words come from, the etymologies have been speculated by linguists as well as told by Carrell himself. The name Jabberwocky itself may have derived from the word “jabber.” There are also combinations of known words into a new word–otherwise called a portmanteau–with slithy being the combination of lithe and slimy. There are occurrences of not just English as we know it but also Old English, with the -wock coming from wocor meaning “offspring, fruit.” The poem itself is a relic of modern English as words from it have entered into the English lexicon, with the words galumph, chortle, and even Jabberwocky itself.

I definitely think that “The Jabberwocky” is a mind-twister for anyone willing to test their syntactical ability. It definitely no longer makes linguistics into a boring school subject, but rather a creative adventure that forces anyone to think outside what they previously conceived of the very language they use on a daily basis.

7 Tips For Finding And Creating Unique Cover Photos

DISCLAIMER: This article was originally posted on Odyssey.

 

In the early 20th century, the directors of film noir and their B-movie predecessors were met with tight budgets and rigid censorship. This allowed them to circumnavigate those limitations by making implications with cinematography and taking advantage of the subtleties in the dialogue. Martin Scorsese would describe the latter group as smugglers of the film industry, stating “They cheated and somehow got away with it.”

What was the lesson behind this information? It mainly has to do with the paradox of finding freedom within limitations. If you are not given an easy access, then it forces you to think outside the box and become crafty. In the case of being an Odyssey writer, you are probably aware that Facebook often does not promote the same stock pictures used repeatedly, especially if the picture you downloaded is from the very first page of a free stock website’s search engine; so that would mean that the less your article appears in a friend’s newsfeed, the less traffic there is to your article. Cover photos are especially important when attracting potential readers because they are the first thing they see.

1. Use personal photos.



It does not have to be just ordinary pictures of you and your BFFs out in the club, rather it can be pictures that are worth a thousand words (in the context of your article, quite literally); nor do they have to be confined to your phone, computer or photo album. They can also be uploaded to your Flickr account, which you can link your cover photo to. Your photos can also be optimized in terms of basic editing, such as lighting and coloration. This can be done on software built into your computer, software that is installable, as well as websites like PicMonkey.

2. Search social media.



Since pictures on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Flickr, and YouTube are publicly available, they are free for use. Although you can use personal photos, you could also use other people’s photos that they willingly upload to their accounts.

3. Use any of your personal artwork.

This applies if you are an artist and use an artistic software or draw and paint by hand. The picture above was an assignment I did for a painting class. This tip would not only expand your literary talents, but also your artistic talents.

4. Search using the “labeled for reuse” tool.



Although this can usually lead you to free stock photo sites, generally it showcases you pictures that are free.

5. Press “print screen” button on your keyboard.



Notice I did the same with the picture from tip 4.

6. Make a collage.



Even if you do have pictures you think are bland (as explained in Tip 1), you could experiment by bundling them into a pile or make cut-outs and see how much the colors, figures, objects, and locations juxtapose into a unique cover photo. It is for the same reason why I fascinate myself with the different arrangements of book spines on my bookshelves.

7. Be mindful of image size.



This is not simply about image size (though there is a minimum size limit), but about the image size dimensions. As such, not only can you not have a cover photo with less than 1060×555 pixels, but it would need to be the right proportions if it needs to be perfect if you want the picture to remain intact. I would say that you need an image that has a 2×1 ratio, in other words, an image where the width is double the amount of the length. If you divide 1060 by 555, it comes out to 1.9099099, which would be safe to say that it rounds out to 2. If the ratio is meddled with, the picture does not come out right, for either it gets zoomed in or most of the background disappears.

Say you have an image you want to use, but it is 1500×3000. Before finding another image, I would suggest experimenting, by cropping out any parts of the image that you feel do not need to be included.

George R. R. Martin Should Not Be Pressured To Finish Writing The “Song of Ice and Fire” Series

DISCLAIMER: This article was originally posted on Odyssey.

 

The two installments of this series should not be the sole focus of everyone’s minds. Although I don’t like the false extension dates of the publications of the two final installments, I still hold the opinion that George R. R. Martin should not be pressured to finish writing the “Song of Ice and Fire” series. He owns his personal work and obliges to no fan’s selfish desires.

The tragedy within this controversy is that George R. R. Martin wrote the “Song of Ice and Fire” series as a means of escape from his hum-drum career as a Hollywood screenwriter. Now two decades later, it became business as usual for him with the management of constant interviews, managing the newly restored Jean Cocteau film theatre, script-writing for the HBO television series based on the book series, and other writing projects, such as editing the “Wild Card” series and creating the encyclopedias for his main work adding to his constant delays.

News of his possible death resorted him to flip off everyone who entertained such worries. Although watching his interviews can be as fascinating as reading his book series, he would not develop such a response if his life was not stressful. Obviously, there is the concern that Martin could follow the path of Frank Herbert and Robert Jordan, who were world-renowned writers who left their unfinished series to be posthumously written by other authors.

However, Martin told David Benioff and Dan Weiss, the show’s directors, the crucial points of the last two installments in case any unexpected occurrence happens. Although the show became its own beast, I would expect Daniel Abraham or Gardner Dozois to finish the series since they have a history of collaborating with Martin in such works as “Hunter’s Run.”

I could just tell all of the fans pressing him to finish the series to “grow up,” but I want to suggest taking alternative paths when exploring Martin’s writing. My recommendation to those who are complaining is to read his earlier work, such as “Fevre Dream,” which takes place in the steamboat industry in Mississippi in the 1800’s…also it includes vampires. If you want to walk a step further, read the authors who inspired George R. R. Martin, such as Robert Heinlein and J. R. R. Tolkien and imbibe what material Martin could have taken from as inspiration.

While the First-World problems of some fans can be worthy of placing a hand over the eyes, it can be agreed by all fans that the “Song of Ice and Fire” series is a phenomenal work of literature. The point I try to convey is that an author should not be judged solely by his best-selling work, but by his entire bibliography and by his empathetic nature as a human being with needs. Yes, we can make jokes about George R. R. Martin not “writing like the wind,” but remember that “The Winds of Winter” and “A Dream of Spring” will eventually come out, sooner or later.

Why Shakespeare Is More Relevant Than A Course Requirement

DISCLAIMER: This article was originally posted on Odyssey.

 

As an English major, I can definitely say that William Shakespeare applies to life outside of the classroom. He is not some subject of a boring class, but an active contributor to both English- and Non-English-speaking cultures.

Beyond the textbooks, Shakespeare’s influence extends beyond academia and into media, common speech, and the human condition. The purpose of this article is to shift the groaning into pondering, which was a task that I had to do as part of my curriculum.

I had to enroll in a seminar class as part of my final semester which focused on a specific work of literature or an author. In my seminar class, the main theme was Shakespeare’s play “King Lear” along with the works that were inspired by it, as well as the anonymously written Elizabethan play “King Leir” that inspired Shakespeare’s well-known version.

A more obvious reason why Shakespeare is relevant is because his plays explore the human condition, either through comedies such as “Much Ado About Nothing” and “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” through tragedies like “Macbeth” and “Julius Caesar,” or through a play that fits into the WTF category like “Titus Andronicus.”

Within those plays are characters that are relatable and identifiable with the audience, including prisoners when displaying humanity. The audiences’ fascination mainly has to do with the conflicts the characters have that involve death, passion, and love that they might be tasked with in their own lives.

As for the works that were inspired by Shakespeare, such as the novels “A Thousand Acres” and “Fool” and the films “Ran” and “Throne of Blood,” they are what are formally described as the term nachleben, which is German for “afterlife.” Within the context of media, the term applies to Shakespeare’s literary afterlife, in other words how novels, films, and other forms of media have re-adapted Shakespeare’s plays to fit a particular setting or time. There are plenty of examples, such as Akira Kurosawa’s “Ran” being a Japanese “King Lear” and “10 Things I Hate About You” being an American high school version of “Taming of the Shrew.”

Shakespeare’s influence seeps into modern media, whether it has to do with the tropes, plots, characters, or even titles that directly come from Shakespeare’s plays, such as Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World” which its title derives from “The Tempest” and the television series “Star-Crossed” which comes from “Romeo and Juliet.”

For these reasons, Shakespeare may have future importance when his works are translated into languages that have decreasing numbers of speakers. If he can be relevant to English-speakers, then why not include speakers of Irish Gaelic, Breton, or Lakota? Shakespeare’s works would be important to language revitalization and would bring in new fans to Shakespeare. Indeed, there already existed a Maori translation of “The Merchant of Venice,” where Shylock is not depicted as a bloodthirsty Jewish merchant, but as a sympathetic minority character. Alongside that play, there is also a Maori translation of “Troilus and Cressida.”

While different languages can re-adapt Shakespeare’s works, the very English spoken in Shakespeare’s time period provide a common connection between English speakers all over the world. Indeed, Shakespeare left his mark on Modern English. This is how we have words like bedazzled, new-fangled, and uncomfortable, and phrases like “being in a pickle,” “being tongue-tied,”wild goose chase,” and “all of a sudden.”

Also, while the plays are typically performed in British English posh, scholar David Crystal argues that it was not the case in Early Modern English, which was the type of English spoken in the early 1600’s. He states that there are remnants of Early Modern English found in many English dialects around the world, including the American accent which may have evolved from the Early Modern English spoken by the Mayflower Pilgrims.

Originally, I did consider Shakespeare as one of the main innovators of the English language. After completing my seminar class, I can say that I would be willing to add William Shakespeare as one of my literary inspirations, and I would like to explore more of Shakespeare’s plays. If a Master’s Degree in Shakespearean Studies exists, I would immediately apply to the university that offers it. If Shakespeare can be relevant to me, than he would become relevant to anyone else.

100 Questions To Ask All Struggling Writers

DISCLAIMER: These articles were originally posted on Odyssey in January 20th, May 12th, and July 25th.

 

Since this article marks an entire year that I have spent writing for Odyssey, I will say that I never ran out of ideas. I have found that I myself have answered some of these questions during the process of writing this listicle. Either I answered my own questions, or I already had the answers before they inspired the questions.

The point of these questions, as mentioned in the sub-headline of my first series of questions, is that ideas are not always internal, rather they are everywhere and can be materialized into written form in a wide variety of ways.

1. Where do you see yourself years from now?

This is the typical job interview question which you can ask in article form.

2. If you could take a magic carpet ride, where would you go?

You might either go to the Isle of Man or, as referenced in the headline picture, the top of the Roraima mountains.

3. What do you look forward to in a mate?

This can have to do with physical looks or personality.

4. If your life changed, what would be your alternative plans?

Perhaps you thought of a Plan B in case anything happened.

5. Is there an issue where you see hypocrisy?

Perhaps it is a political issue or a favorite TV show.

6. Is there something that can only be explained in poetry form?

How else would you use grandiloquent, elaborate words?

7. What have you written in your notes?

It would either be a hint as to what you should write your article about or it might be about the article you planned to write.

8. What would you name your own children?

Maybe you wanted to name them after the people who made a significant impact in your life. Maybe you might name in your native language if you are member of the indigenous community.

9. What movie/TV series/book did you watch/read as a child that you would like to introduce your own children to?

It might even be a birthday present.

10. Have you written articles that have “who,” “what,” “where,” “when,” “how,” and “why” in the titles?

This may cause you to think about how to write out your headline title.

11. If you were to pursue an independent study course in your university, what would be the subject?

It would have to be a subject that is not available in the courses and yet is something you want to explore in-depth.

12. What would your one YouTube video be about?

Or if Odyssey Video actually becomes a thing, you could start off with a video you put a lot of faith into.

13. Have you wanted to satirize something?

Perhaps you have the need to turn typical tropes, customs, or character traits on their heads.

14. Is there an upcoming holiday?

This does not always have to be your favorite holiday, rather just a day in a year that can be examined.

15. What are your experiences in work and education?

In my case, I was an editor for the literary magazines of the colleges I attended.

16. How much do you know about your own identity?

This could involve your birthplace, ancestry, culture, or heritage. You do not always have to insert yourself in the articles, but you can make analyses through personally driven articles.

17. What songs would you put in a playlist for what purpose?

I have done the same in my articles about amazement and sadness.

18. If you could ask yourself more than one of these questions, what would be the same answer that ties them together?

This would help you in more ways than merely asking questions.

19. If there was one thing you could change about Odyssey, what would it be?

Although there has been major changes to Muse, that does not mean that there are no more problems.

20. Is there an embarrassing fact about yourself that you would like to share?

Maybe the article will get it off your chest.

21. Which props would you use for a photo for a headline picture?

Whatever would make your cover stand out.

22. If you could rename [blank], what would it be called?

In my university, there was debate whether to change the name of an administrative building.

23. What is one of your biggest virtues?

This is one of the questions from the Proust Questionnaire.

24. If your name is the same as many other people, what makes you different?

Story of my life.

25. What skills/interests did you bring to your university/workplace?

It might be an interesting way to share tips that are employable.

26. What languages do you have proficiency in?

You might use some words and explain how you learned them.

27. What number would you consider important when writing a listicle?

It could be 11 or 50.

28. Where would you like to work/intern?

This would make you think more about your future career path.

29. What are your favorite colors?

Notice I wrote color in its plural form. This is the type of question that would get you to think of both an article topic and a basic color scheme for your headline picture.

30. Have you ever hyperlinked your previous articles on your new articles?

This was always a habit of mine and can be traced back to #15, considering how the article you are linking inspired your new article.

31. Have you ever looked at the “Acknowledgements” page of your favorite book?

The author would not have written the book without the help of editors and family members.

32. What do you find unreachable?

This could include an ambition you once had.

33. Is there a serious topic you want to discuss?

Perhaps it would act as a catharsis.

34. What are the indigenous nations in your state?

In my case, I researched the Lenape. It would not only help you write a topic and give the indigenous community modern relevance, but Odyssey might piqued any interest from the reservations.

35. Do you have any home remedies?

If it helped you, it might help everyone else.

36. Have you surveyed a group of people the same question?

I see articles like this on Odyssey that have the headline “I Asked [Blank Demographic] About [Blank Topic] And These Are What They Said.”

37. If you had one million dollars, what would you spend it on?

This is a million dollar question (no pun intended) that we were all asked at one point.

38. Have you written an article for every Category?

This includes 500 words and Listicles.

39. Is there a mystery that you cannot put a name on, but would still like to explore it?

There are some mysteries out there that make us seem small, so small we cannot even put a name on it. For example, I do not know what the font in this picture is called and yet I see it everywhere.

40. Do you have access to academic databases?

These include Academic Search Premier and JSTOR. Or if you just use Google Scholar.

41. Have you looked through search engine results but found a topic you found more interesting than the originally typed-in topic?

It usually happens to me when searching for a cover photo.

42. For your thesis, what subjects do you plan to research on?

This may help you when you are not sure if you should pursue it.

43. Or a thesis topic you originally intended to write about?

You do not want all that research to be in vain.

44. Which demographic would you be an ally of?

Based on the articles I wrote, I would choose the indigenous population, but it is not out of some SJW agenda, but rather as a means of academic exploration and personal interest (and the fact that indigenous people are intrinsically tied to their land).

45. What over-the-top topic can you think of?

It could break the ordinary article ideas that typically are found throughout Odyssey.

46. How do you get out of boredom?

The topic itself might break your writer’s block.

47. What food would you like to recommend eating?

Perhaps it is for health or just enjoyment.

48. What different topics can you juxtapose into a new one?

This is definitely what makes topic articles unique. It certainly enriched my article portfolio and helped me to never have writer’s block on Odyssey.

49. What is the longest headline title you found on Odyssey?

This one is a candidate for me, but I would recommend making a headline title that does not look like one combined with a sub-headline and the first lines of your article; especially if you want it approved by your editor.

50. What are some of the most interesting metaphorical words or phrases you can come up with?

This may seem useless, but remember that all of us use metaphors all the time in order to magnify the significance of anything we talk about. In fact, my own titles have metaphors, such as using the name of a Roman sea god as an adjective, the use of “consumption” to refer to an addiction, and the phrase “love-hate relationship.”

51. Have you wanted to write a direct letter to anyone?

It is pretty much the norm to write articles like this on The Odyssey Online, specifically when they begin with “To…” and follow that with whoever they are addressing. I have done the same for humorous and more personal purposes.

52. Have you already had articles written prior to writing for Odyssey?

You may have wanted to share them but never found the opportunity prior to signing up to write for The Odyssey Online. You may have even planned to write a blog but never got around to doing it but already had possible posts written. Originally I wanted to post my critique of the pre-Disney Star Wars film series and my literary review of “Heart of Darkness” on my blog “Abandoning Old Gods” before I decided to post them on The Odyssey Online.

53. What is popular right now?

This should be a fairly simple question since you can always look at The Odyssey Online homepage to see the “Popular on Odyssey” section.

54. If there was an Odyssey article that fascinated/enraged you, would you respond to it?

You would have to have the emotional attachment to the issue that an article was discussing that caused you to respond in some way.

55. Who do you aspire to be like?

This could include anyone in your personal life or a famous person.

56. What was your favorite class lesson?

It may have caused you to think differently about the subject that it was teaching.

57. Have you tried writing an article for experimental purposes?

You may have wanted to go beyond just the ordinary article and decided to play with the conventions of article-writing. You never know. You might end up with a list of article ideas and you might end up changing them from statements into questions.

58. Was there a place that you went to?

Whether it has to do with a national landmark, a park, or a different country.

59. If you could direct a movie based on history or classic literature, and star on “Game of Thrones” as actor/actress and the main lead, what would the movie be?

This one is not as generalized as my other questions, but I have thought of writing an article like this. I have noticed that even before “Game of Thrones” was aired that there were actors/actresses who starred in movies that closely resembled “Game of Thrones,” whether it is Sean Bean, Liam Cunningham, Michelle Fairley, Lena Headley, Kit Harington, etc.

60. Have you looked at other Odyssey writers’ article idea suggestion lists?

This is sort of a contradiction from the purpose of making an article like this, by not offering article ideas, but questions that lead to article ideas being created independently. However, I have written an article based on one of these types of article idea suggestion listicles with a unique stance.

61. If you cannot find the right headline picture for your article from a free stock photo website, where else would you choose your picture?

There are ways of deciding where to find headline pictures outside of a free stock photo website.

62. Have you tried anything new?

In my case, I tried two Udemy online courses and wrote my reflection on them.

63. Do you have a creative fiction short story that you have no ambitions to expand?

If you have no plans to submit to a literary magazine, it might have a place on The Odyssey Online.

64. What is your biggest wish?

Speaking of the headline picture, it would be interesting what your highest aspiration you would place within a coin to be dropped into a wishing well.

65. Have you used an idea generator?

Although it said six, I decided to make it seven videos I wrote about. It is entirely your choice of what to make with an idea generator, which not only include Portent but also Hubspot and Inbound.

66. What [blank] made you so amazed, it shattered your preconceived idea of its [blank group]?

This could be a scientific article that made you think twice about your disinterest in science as a subject or a song from a music genre you do not particularly like.

67. Is there anyone you would like to interview?

This may include someone you know who has a fascinating lifestyle.

68. Can you explain any form of action, life stage, or event using your favorite movie/TV series as a recurring example?

I definitely find a lot of these on The Odyssey Online, with articles containing the phrase “…explained by…” or “…as told by…

69. Why should anyone care about your favorite movie/TV series/book?

You may hold it to heart, but it is up to you to convince everyone else to feel the same way that you do.

70. Who would you want to give a shout-out to?

You may take advantage of The Odyssey Online in order to give a voice to artists, designers, photographers, writers, musicians or anyone who does independent work.

71. You think you could write an article about each of all of the Category Sections?

There are category sections within the Muse dashboard, ranging from Dating to Lifestyles and Sports.

72. Are there any stereotypes, propaganda, or any general use of misinformation you would like to disprove?

I set out to clarify Irish indentured servitude as different from African slavery and the Gullah language as not broken English.

73. What theories do you have?

There might be an issue that you would like to discuss while backing up your argument with evidence.

74. If there is an article with a question as a headline, have you wanted to answer it?

This question is merely Question #20 in my previous questions article in reverse. I did the same when looking into colonization of Titan.

75. Which side would you take on a particular issue or interest?

This can have to do with politics or any other issue.

76. What is one of your childhood memories?

For me, it was probably what a lot of other Millennials can relate to, which is riding in my parents’ truck, listening to classic rock on the radio. This inspired me to write my article about some of the more saddening songs.

77. What does this hashtag mean?

Whether it is #OwnVoices or any other hashtag, it would be worth examining the meaning behind it and who uses it.

78. Can you share some quotes by famous people in history?

They could be used in your sub-headline or be the entire focus of an article.

79. Have you wanted to write an article based on the picture you wanted to use for its headline?

They say a picture is worth a thousand words and perhaps they are right.

80. What has been occupying your mind every single day?

This nagging thought may be an article waiting to be written.

81. What is relevant right now?

This could involve any round-the-clock news or your area of interest.

82. Why do you write?

One of my articles attempts to answer this question and is even named after it. Of course I needed to have a unique slug and metadata title. You would also know that it is my article when the headline picture consists of Jon Snow finally coming to the realization that he really does know nothing.

83. What makes life worth living?

This may not always have to be your favorite dessert dish, rather it may be a topic that would require serious introspection. This question and the previous question could provide the same answer.

84. If you are pursing a college major, what have you learned from it?

Since I am an English major, I wrote about how analysis is an important skill. It does not just have to answer what you learned from the curriculum, but how your worldview was shaped by it.

85. What makes you mad?

This is a fairly easy topic to write about and does not need any explanation.

86. How can you identify a major problem in your life?

In an article like that, you could write about how to pinpoint it and how to remedy it. The answer may include confronting any mistakes you made or regrets you have.

87. Do you have any unique experiences?

I chatted with one of my Group members about how her experience from brain surgery, to going to a Ravens game was an article in of itself.

88. What topics haven’t you written about?

Before I wrote about an article about sexual health, I wrote mainly about linguistics, film, and literature.

89. What film/book/ character(s) fascinates/irritates you?

These topics provide an incredibly important part of popular culture as well as attract possible readers who might be searching for what piece of media fascinates or irritates them. This was what made me write about my overall experience reading the “Song of Ice and Fire” series, as well as a character whose psychology fascinated me.

90. Are there any articles or videos you enjoy that can be hyperlinked?

A YouTube video of an Irish Gaelic translation of Avicii’s “Wake Me Up” inspired me to write my first article for Odyssey Online.

91. How attractive is your article to a future employer?

Always remember that your article could catch his attention if it is resume-friendly.

92. If not, how can you MAKE it so?

What argumentation are you trying to make and why is that? Even if it is a ranting article, how can you convince the reader to agree with you? What kind of perspective are you taking?

93. What topics can you think of when looking at the headline picture?

Perhaps you thought of traveling to Roraima?

94. Can a detail in an article you already wrote and published be expanded into its own article?

This was where I gained the inspiration to write about the link between consumption of pornography and misogyny, since an article I wrote dealing with pornography addiction mentioned that briefly. This answer may require more introspection and writing down many possible titles based on that single topic.

95. If you could co-author an article with someone in your group, what would be the topic?

Whether you share the same topic ideas or differ, what really matters is how much you can incorporate collaboration into your portfolio.

96. What is a topic that you think is rarely discussed?

In my case, I feel like people confine endangered languages into some National Geographic special and not as a daily reality for a lot of people in this world.

97. What articles can you write to cover an entire month of deadlines?

Not only is this a way of keeping up with the deadlines, but it may help when you are struggling to conjure any more topics or you’re preparing for an elaborately long article that might consume an entire month’s worth of research.

98. What “how-to…” tips do you have?

This article could involve instructions that are either simple or complicated.

99. And most importantly, what kind of questions do YOU want to ask any readers?

The articles you write might be the answers to your own questions. You could even make your questions into the headline titles, just like I did when pondering whether Pocahontas’ language could have new speakers or engaging the reader’s curiosity of a location they may not be aware existed.

100. Have you thought of putting all of these questions into strips of paper, putting them into a closeable jar, shaking them, and randomly selecting one out of 99?

If you are struggling to write any of these topics, you could just randomly pick one.

Shakespeare Was Not As Original As You Think

DISCLAIMER: This article was originally posted on Odyssey.

 

As an English major, I was taught that plays written by William Shakespeare borrowed from other authors. In fact, as part of my seminar class for my final semester as an English major, the curriculum revolved around William Shakespeare’s play “King Lear” as well as the Elizabethan play that it was inspired by, which was “King Leir.” Although the differences go beyond the “i” to “a” in the title, Shakespeare still had to repackage this play into a darker, more tragic one.

It would not be considered blatant plagiarism, but Shakespeare merely wrote within a system of literary ownership completely different from today. It was not a recent phenomenon to question the authenticity of Shakespeare’s plays since they go all the way back to Shakespeare’s time. For revising a part of Robert Greene’s play “A Knack To Know A Knave” for “1 Henry IV,” he called Shakespeare an “upstart crow,” as well as a lot of insults. One in which was a mockery of one of the lines from “1 Henry IV” which was “tiger’s heart.”

When it comes to all three parts of “Henry IV,” it was revealed that William Shakespeare co-wrote them with another famed playwright, Christopher Marlowe. This was deduced by finding similarities between those plays and Marlowe’s writing style found in his own plays. To quote Hanspeter Born, the author of the article “Why Green was Angry at Shakespeare,”

“Every author has his own compositional and linguistic habits, making up a verbal fingerprint or DNA.”

Technology plays an incredibly important role in examining Shakespeare’s works and not in a literary way. It was revealed through an anti-plagiarism software that George North’s English translation of “Plutarch’s Lives” not only served as an inspiration to the plots of “Julius Caesar,” “Antony and Cleopatra,” and “Coriolanus,” but he also used the same words such as “glass,” “proportion,” “feature,” “fair,” and other words within the same context of ugliness and beauty. Among other authors, Shakespeare borrowed from were Montaigne, George Gascoigne, Saxo the Grammarian and Leo Africanus.

So, it would not be the case that all of his works, besides “The Tempest,” which was his only original play, are illegitimate. Although Shakespeare recycled plays, he offered his own unique interpretations that make the characters more dynamic and complex. He also answered the question that Ron Rosenbaum, author of the “The Shakespeare Wars,” asked, which was “What makes Shakespeare Shakespeare?” In “King Lear,” he made Lear into a rambling old man suffering from senility and made Edmund into a complex villain. The fact that Shakespeare can create truly human characters is definitely what makes his work Shakespearean.

What can fellow English majors or young people who want to become an English major take from this fact? It basically involves understanding the complex relationship between the author, his/her work and other author’s works. On the one hand, inspiration can provide a starting point for writing, but the rest cannot be derivative. Otherwise, it actually would be considered plagiaristic. Not only that, but these discoveries of Shakespeare’s sources could provide a gateway to studying those works he was inspired by.

In Opposition To Cordelia’s Death In “The History Of King Lear”

DISCLAIMER: This article was originally posted on Odyssey.

 

There is complication pertaining to the answer as to which ending among the versions of “King Lear” is best, as the stories in their entireties that lead up to the ending, when it concerns Cordelia, would also have to be taken into consideration. So what will be written would be a comparison of the roles of Cordelia in various versions of the play and seeing which works best as a tragedy and ultimately which ending is better. If it can be postulated that Cordelia would live in the original Quarto version, then it would be just as appropriate to postulate how Cordelia would have to fit in to that what-if storyline.

In King Leir, Cordella’s voice is quite witty which adds to the head-strong personality (Anon 352, Scene 3, Line 631). She is also willing to pressure her husband, the Gallian King, to disguise themselves as pilgrims in order to return to Leir and seek his approval (Anon 351-2, Scene 7, Lines 582-620). She also seems to have more adaptability by assuming the roles Edgar and Kent would have in Shakespeare’s King Lear of being in disguise. It is when she is finally reunited with a forgiving Leir that her sub-plot continues to proceed (Anon 389-90, Scene 24, Lines 2142-59). Although the language in King Leir is superfluous, it comes at the expense of the dialogue, which consists of winded speeches.

For Shakespeare’s part, he turned King Leir on its head by morphing it from a fanciful adventure to a tragedy. It also would have indicated a change in national identity as England viewed itself as part of Great Britain (Shapiro 38-9). This is why France is treated in a lesser role in the Shakespearean version than in the King Leir version. He also decides to make it grittier, with violence and misanthropic meanderings. Shakespeare may have intended for Cordelia to die in order to surprise the audience, who were originally used to Cordelia, or Cordella, living in the original play (Shapiro 62).

There is credit to give for Tate’s version for giving Cordelia a more expansive role in the story. A crucial role for her in Tate’s version is when she has the intelligence to persuade. She pleads and persuades Gloucester to take in Lear (Tate 48). She also tries to persuade an officer to not kill Lear (Tate 110). Her role is also shown as being attempted to be kidnapped by two ruffians before Edgar scares them off, which shows Cordelia in danger (Tate 58-9).

Where Tate and the authors of King Leir did not give Kent his characterization is when they downplay his character. In the original Shakespeare play, he provides a critical role in communicating between two countries and about Cordelia. There are brief scenes of Kent and the Gentleman receiving news about her, which can pinpoint how Cordelia is affected by the dukes’ civil war (Quarto 96-7, Act IV.3a, Lines 3-33). Although a minor character without even a name, the Gentleman is the important link between France and the British kingdom, as he has the monopoly on how people receive their information which Kent receives. When he discovers Lear, he even expresses grief at the sight of a former king who had only one good daughter, which was Cordelia (Quarto 110, Act IV.5, Lines 194-7).

Although Shakespeare did use the Kent-Gentleman scenes to explain where the information comes and goes, it came at the expense of giving Cordelia her own scene in the middle of the play where the reader or observer in the audience might actually see her side. We do not actually witness her crying profusely upon hearing of her sisters’ tyranny, going so far as to state that she will not pity them (Quarto 97, Act IV.3a, Lines 26-33). This was Cordelia’s reaction to seeing the culpability of her sisters in banishing their own father.

For a story that gives Cordelia a voice, it can be argued that Tate’s version would be the best play. However, as far as the ending, it would have to be Shakespeare’s version. This can only be possible when Lear’s reconciling with Cordelia and its build-up finally happens in the worst possible moment. Lear admits to Cordelia that it is not she who wronged him but her sisters just before getting captured (Quarto 118, Act V.1, Lines 70-4). He would have to have lot of regret at chastising Cordelia, sending her off, and giving her portion of the land to her sisters (Quarto 98, Act IV.3a, Lines 39-48). So the tragedy would have to involve the family dispute that becomes beyond irreparable.

Though, Cordelia does attempt to repair her relationship with her father in her “special cause” (Quarto 111, Act IV.5, Line 206). She was even willing to leave France in order to find him (Quarto 100, Act IV.4, Lines 23-9), showing that the love for her own father outweighs her marriage to a powerful monarch. Although Lear does spend much of the play ranting and making obscene jokes, he still seems to have warm considerations for his youngest daughter. When visiting Regan, Lear declared in a fit of anger that he would rather kneel to Cordelia’s husband than dismiss his own knights (Quarto 59, Act II.4, Lines 187-90). His outburst may have been not just out of spite, but an indicator that he would choose Cordelia as the daughter he prefers to live with while his other daughters can barely tolerate him. This preference would answer where exactly Lear would live now that he relinquishes his power, since he is left to wander with his Fool, Edgar, and Kent (both of the latter are in disguise). When Lear is discovered by Edgar and Gloucester, he has more grievances with Goneril and Regan and would even legitimize Edmund since, as he sees it, he loves his own father more than Lear’s daughters love their father (Quarto 106-7, Act IV.5, Lines 96-113).

The machinations that exist between family and government become a blurred mess, when the overthrow and blinding of Gloucester was directly incited by the fact that France is married to Cordelia and can now enter her family’s lands by accessing ports through “secret feet” (Quarto 83, Act III.7, Lines 1-5). Although France is barely heard from in the play, his role is important in escalating the war between the husbands of Lear’s daughters. Part of Edmund’s plan in delegitimizing Edgar in the letter was claiming that he wanted to kill his father on behalf of France (Quarto 77, Act III.5, Lines 8-12).

Although it is important to detail how there are consequences to war, it would be interesting to analyze how “The History of King Lear” would continue to function as a tragedy without Cordelia dying. For this to happen, Edmund’s captain would have been prevented from assassinating Cordelia by Edmund, which he attempted to do in his final moments, by sending Kent and Edgar to stop him (Quarto 134-5, Act V.3, Lines 251-5). In the Tate version, Lear does manage to kill two bodyguards (Tate 111), whereas in the Quarto version, he kills one but not before Cordelia dies (Quarto 135, Act V.3, Line 273). What if he manages to kill sooner?

Since her death is one of the reasons that causes Lear to die from heartache, it could be argued that if Cordelia continues to live, Lear would also. It may even be possible that they would both live, without their power however, in France’s kingdom, slightly similar in the original King Leir (Anon 402, Scene 32, Lines 2649-64). Lear does attempt to comfort Cordelia while they are held as prisoners of war, so there would also be the chance that father and daughter would settle their disputes by the time Albany is the only competent duke left to rule (Quarto 124, Act V.3, Lines 8-19).

Cordelia and Lear would have to adjust themselves to live in this new world. Their tragic roles would be emphasized by their witnessing of the destruction of the kingdom they knew and took advantage of for so long. Not only would they be powerless, but would have been traumatized by a civil war excited by foreign powers. They would also be weary of trust since even if Cordelia lived, every character that is involved in the civil war would still be “murderous traitors all” (Quarto 135, Act V.3, Line 268).

Considering how Cordelia and Lear would live, the issue of the love test could be brought up in order to bring a sense of closure to this reformed play. Lear would have to live with the consequence of implementing his love test on his three daughters, who, considering how well-versed and rehearsed their praises are, would have already been squabbling amongst themselves to begin with (Quarto 5, Act I.1, Lines 48-72). He would realize, through his regained sanity, that his abetting of this interfamilial problem destroyed his entire kingdom.

In the case of Cordelia, by default she would have won the love test. However, what would make this Pyrrhic victory tragic is not what she did not win, but what she did win but is not worth anything in the end nor all of the people who were killed or maimed. She would be the only living daughter of the fallen king and would have to remember with “clamor-moistening” recollection the reality that not even a foreign power but her own sisters destroyed the family and the kingdom (Quarto 97, Act IV.3a, Lines 26-33).

It is possible for “The History of King Lear” to remain a tragedy even if Cordelia lives, however it would require serious alterations in the ending. Although compared to the other versions of the play, it did not have as much detail about Cordelia and how she grapples with the civil war, but the ending of “The History of King Lear” does give a very bleak outlook on the future of her kingdom and is the direct consequence of what war creates. It also requires a close examination of how the other characters play into this narrative leading up to the deaths of Cordelia and Lear and how they are altered.

Teaching What NOT To Do When Writing

DISCLAIMER: This article was originally posted on Odyssey.

 

Not only as a creative writer but as an overall human being, I always find it helpful to circumnavigate what not to do in terms of avoiding any mistakes or flaws. In the case of creative writing, those flaws can come in the forms of clichés, bland characterization, and self-aggrandizement.

J. P. Beaubien is an author of the “Aeon Legion” book. He also has a YouTube channel titled “Terrible Writing Advice” where he makes sarcastic videos detailing the “importance” of how to write in all the wrong ways. His videos consist of still animations, with himself being inserted as a character with the happy face emoji. His background as a highly rated author is enough to convince anyone to watch his videos.

He does not narrowly discuss one genre, rather he includes all literary genres. Whether in fantasy, post-apocalyptic, war, or science fiction, no book is safe from the dreaded love triangle, which is one of many clichés that Beaubien discusses. The pitfalls that can come with writing in any genre can undermine the protagonist’s legitimacy and seriousness of the conflict.

Another theme that Beaubien sets forth within his sarcastic series is for writers to distance themselves from their protagonists in order to remain impartial to the struggles that they may endure. This is especially important when establishing that the protagonist is not an avatar for the writers to insert their moral righteousness upon the other characters as well as the reader.

In fact, not only does he focus on the writers’ stories, but on the writers themselves. Making the writers set their priorities is important for their own writing, whether it has to do with writer’s block or spreading the word about their work. Beaubien gets into detail about the relationship the writer has with potential readers, beta readers, and everyone else. A notable part of his videos, which I found my favorite, is when his own personal animation, stands next to a giant, green question mark, puts his hand upon his chin, and goes off-character and ponders about the consequences of writing a particular theme or character. Such as, making orcs inherently evil, attending a magic school as a period of learning experience, or making the Dark Lord see himself in the hero.

He has directly talked to the audience in one serious video about how to handle clichés and how they are interpreted. It mainly has to do with the writers’ relationship with the reading audience and about how to turn their expectations on their heads and keeping them interested in the story.

Along with appealing to the creative intelligence, Beaubien also appeals to the humor of the audience. I think that any writer is going to take a lot of information of what NOT to do from Beaubien’s videos. Indeed, I myself have noticed a major flaw in my own writing routine. In order to enjoy the “Terrible Writing Advice” means finding the meaning within the sarcasm of J. P. Beaubien’s videos.

AOG Short Story | Praying For A Coin-Rain

DISCLAIMER: The name “Robert-Scott Hemhowzer” is a pseudonym I use for speculative fiction works

Praying For A Coin-Rain Cover

Feeling the tremoring chill of the winds, Ennor bundled himself with the lion-skin cloak he earned in Naluknipa that he always kept during the cold, Bulobiahu nights. Beyond the resting camp and the fire, he could see only purple-and-black with the glimmering lights effusing from the stars and the moon.

He drank sour camel’s milk from his olive green vessel blown from the Emalf sands and shells. While the camels that did the driving were male, the female ones provided milk. He also chewed on an orange from the chest of provisions.

His companions wore the same red, worm-silken tunic he did, which was deeper in color than the Lobia Desert before them. They also wore hoods and facial veils; light armors; wooden, single-handed shields; and leather baldrics wrapped over their shoulders bearing gladiuses, knives, and axes.

Ennor looked at the guards, donned with leather armor and helmets, who had wooden shields and kept their whips and blades ready on their waist. Their only means of bond with him were bundles of copper coins. If they were given bundles of bronze coins, then they would turn on him and steal his merchandise. Father Usumi taught him that coins only buy the services of a stone-building guild and a band of guards. He grasped the baldric, almost as though making sure that his weapons were not taken.

He took out his rectangular figurine of his god Konsegmog and watched the shiny etchings of a figure with a coin in one hand and a sword in the other reflect the bright swirliness of the flames. Ennor saw Sokoxo lifting his hands towards the fire. He asked quietly, “Would it be just as acceptable by Konsegmog for our guards to turn on us for plunder’s sake? Or even non-believing bandits?”

“Well, we are prepared in case such a thing happens,” Sokoxo answered.

Svasoriam grunted and chucked a stick from a lone tree nearby into the fire.

Continuing to grasp his golden figurine, Ennor stared at the caravans that contained the chests guarded by the servants who wore simple tunics and hoods and unadorned belts containing basic tools for animal-carving. His stomach churned at the possibility that an unsavory servant or sailor from that port town took some for himself. Last time he lost a piece of merchandise, he was thrashed; but he was no longer an apprentice of his father, rather he was fully responsible for his own loss.

Are we hypocrites? Ennor thought of the implications of a chief purchasing metals, most of which were armors, when he didn’t allow stealing it. He felt numb inside, thinking about what would happen if he really did pay dearly for acquiring metals that were plundered by Bhokoig when he raided Ioupa galleys that once enriched the Khusoei Empire.

Pakhankasp and his people carved a homeland in the Khusoei colony in Bulobiahu. They were recognized as an allied Kingdom by an Emperor in exchange for killing and chasing away any enemies of the Empire. What a tragic mistake.

Instead of asking Does the Chief know that these metals include stolen armor? Ennor said to Bosuah, “Is the Chief concerned about where these chests come from?”

Bosuah was the guide who navigated them to Chief Norliik. He wore the same customary attire which concealed his black, bushy beard, with the exception of leather armor and a belt slung around his waist containing a light sword. Bulobiahu warriors were known to retain lightness to what they wear and wield, in order to increase their equestrian speed, even on camels. “He’s desperate and needs the metal for armor. He has assured me that he is following his own tribe’s law by buying armor he himself has not stolen.”

“I also wonder.” Ennor changed the subject. “If we’re selling the metals to be forged for the warriors, only for them to die in the battlefield, then what’s the point in even selling them?”

Although he had experience in leading expeditions ever since he was seventeen, he was not monolithic. Not only did he want trust from his band, but also their convincing arguments.

“Well,” Sokoxo interjected, “We still get coins as payment.”

“Maybe we ought to take the armor from those poor, dead bastards and give them back to the Chief,” Svasoriam smirked.

“And have your hand removed as well?!” snapped Bosuah. “It is against the Chief’s law to steal armor, from the living or dead.”

Gutaso, one of the veteran companions, tugged at his grey beard. “I never bled for a man who forbade salvaging enemy armor.” Adopted from their Tispag forbearers, the Onkoglohm did the exact opposite of forbidding taking dead enemy armor and weapons. Every spoil was given Konsegmog-blessed value, whether it would be a helmet or an entire island.

Ennor remarked, “This goes back to the legend of Sonohs and Skiasig.” He only believed in legends when there were restrictions involved.

Bosuah recounted the story passed on in Chief Norliik’s tribe. “There were two Chiefs a long time ago. One led a desert-tribe; the other a mountain-tribe. One day, the desert Chief, Sonohs, sent a group of his personal warriors to sneak into the mountains and steal the armor of Skiasig. When they returned, Sonohs put the armor on and it immediately burned him into a charred corpse. What happened was Skiasig had a spell put on his armor in case anyone were to steal it.”

“Who would believe some superstitious armor?” Svasoriam said. “It’s not like their gods were ever there to begin with. Otherwise they wouldn’t be fighting.”

Had Svasoriam mentioned Konsegmog as one of those gods, Ennor would’ve ran his ax down his throat. Although he was engaging in business, it did not absolve him from war, especially miles away from Onkoglohm jurisdiction; and it was how the very Kingdom was founded.

Sokoxo asked Ennor, hoping to prevent a fight, “How do you know so much about the Bulobiahu?”

Ennor always known Sokoxo as being pure in his actions and words. He was the son of another retainer of Spoil-Sharer Bhokoig. One trading expedition, both of their fathers were brought to the same Naluknipa chief. While helping to secure a deal, they decided that Ennor and Sokoxo would make great sparring partners for their trainings.

“Well, I learned it from my father,” Ennor pointed at Bosuah. “And from Bosuah.”

Gutaso sneered, “Well, how does he even know how to get us to the Chief?”

“I have travelled through these sands since boyhood. My family has known this path for generations.”

Ennor interjected, “I can remember you told me that when my father introduced me to you.” It was only one time that Ennor ever got to be in Bulobiahu, which was at one of the port towns, never deep within the Lobia Desert, though he was made aware of the cold desert nights from the accounts of his father. He also told Ennor that he would accompany him on his desert expeditions when he was older, which never happened. He pulled back his hood and move his fingers through his rough hair as blood-red as his irises.

His own family name came from the cognomen of the son of one of the Spoil-Sharers who fought alongside Pakhankasp, who inherited rule over forums and villas taken from the Khusoei. This Spoil-Sharer’s name, Sansimo’im, came from the words of the newly molded Onkoglohm tongue meaning “blood-red,” in order to describe the colors of his eyes and hair. However, it would not describe the family’s reputation. Ennor’s family were more traders than warriors, only preparing as the latter when it was needed; like if they were plodding through the Lobia Desert accompanied by an inexperienced band.

Before he could finish his vessel, he dropped it when something dropped in the sand nearby and his vision became obscured by a sandstorm. He clung his hood and veil and blocked his entire face from the wind and the oncoming sand. Shouts from men and whinnies from barb horses were heard nearby. Ennor could see shadowy visages galloping through the sandstorm and pulled out his ax.

He blocked a downward attack from one of the bandits with his wooden shield, only scraping the metal boss in the center. They wore the egg-white hooded robes habitual to the Bulobiahu and Naluknipa desert-tribes. Ennor called upon his companions to attack, but the overwhelming blows of the bandit and the receding storm made it hard to even hear himself. The bandit swiped from his blade again, with Ennor preparing to block with a rapidly beating heart, with his feet edging to dodge the horse’s sprint, but the bandit was unmounted by Sokoxo and Gutaso.

The servants flew from their caravans and ran about, only for some of them to be cut down by the bandits. The guards slashed at them as they laid their hands on the metals. Ennor reached them and hoped to prevent their plunder. As he and Gutaso continued parrying the strikes from one of the horseback bandits, Bosuah echoed a Bulobiahu chant for the sandstorm die down. As it did, the remaining bandits got atop their horses with their bags of metals and fled.

Since he was experienced in fighting off bandits, his encounter didn’t shake him, rather it was the sight of the desolation around him. The servants, guards, bandits, and their horses alike lay dead; while the chests were burst open and spread indiscriminately; and some of the caravans contained the straining cries of the wounded, including Svasoriam cursing every god in the Onkoglohm and Ioupa faiths.

Ennor found a glass pot containing small bits of purple dust. He picked it up and, from the smell of it, concluded that it was a concoction of sand, shaman’s blood, and juice from the rarely grown, tangy onazhm.

“Sand magic,” snarled Ennor. “I should’ve been aware.”

The tribes of Bulobiahu Island, the Naluknipa continent, and the Trivzul Deserts have been known to use this type of power. Ennor heard it from the tales and legends told by the tribes, including one with Sonohs and Skiasig, but he didn’t expect an ambush like this nor witnessed it. There was no way for him to indicate they were real outside of fire-gatherings. Even in his own expeditions, the transition from a galley to any chief never involved war magic.

During his apprenticeship with his father, he was never known to travel through a desert with a fleet of caravans. Ennor nearly dropped the smooth, pebble-polished pot as he remembered that the conditions of the Lobia Desert caused him to never return. Ennor never went on that expedition but he did recall his father’s being afflicted with an exotic disease.

He threw the pot as far as his remaining strength allowed him over the purple horizon, and swung his ax at an empty caravan. With the outrage of his incompetence, he continuously hacked the chipping wooden frame until Sokoxo restrained him. His anger turned to sadness, as he realized that all of the camels were slashed corpses.

“We weren’t the main targets,” Bosuah said, looking alongside Ennor at the slaughter.

Ennor anxiously confirmed the real reason the bandits rode. It was based on his father’s accounts. He said coldly, “This was what Bulobiahu have been known to do in raids. You kill an enemy caravans’ camels…”–He could see two of the remaining bandits riding away on their horses in the distance–“…then you kill the enemy with the desert.”

#

The caravans were no longer driven but pushed and pulled by the servants, including the guards who kept an eye on them. The remaining chests were put into two of the caravans while the wounded were put in the last. There was no time to provide proper burials for the dead. Ennor and Sokoxo were left to walk ahead of them while Bosuah continued to lead the way alongside the veterans, who only lost one.

Ennor was thankful that he didn’t bring Oarant into the chaos and the bandits didn’t steal his golden figurine in his pocket. He grabbed it, as though his life would be preserved by every intensity. Konsegmog. Please darken the sky and pour your coin-rain.

“How would I explain this to the Chief?” Ennor referred to the remaining chests to Sokoxo. The milk and the fruit he ate last night started bubbling in his throat. Not even knowing Chief Norliik’s reaction felt worse than expecting a harsh one; and the longer it took to reach him, the more the urge to vomit grew.

“Perhaps, it would depend on the number of dead,” said Sokoxo.

Ennor managed to decipher what he meant. “If Chief Norliik was successful with little casualties on his side, then he wouldn’t have to worry about needing lots of armor.”

“Exactly.”

“But, what if he was losing?” Ennor reverberated the tutoring from his father in the art of persuasion, by including into the discussion all avenues of possibilities and coming to conclusions for them.

Sokoxo thought of this. “Maybe he might make us his warriors.”

Ennor snickered, “You know that we aren’t the Onkoglohm of Pakhankasp’s time. We have the savvy to make trade and escape.”

“Which type of savvy, then?”

“Well.” Ennor pondered on how to convince the Chief that there was a shorter supply than anticipated. “We could tell him that the Ioupa no longer have abundance since the Khusoei Dynasty are no longer in control.”

Bosuah disagreed, “He is familiar with the demise of the Khusoei Empire.”

Ennor struggled to keep walking through the sand constantly sinking his strapped boots. He could also feel his trousers tighten around his legs due to the heat of the sand. He noticed that there were no game nearby. He determined this because he developed animal detection from when his father sent him in the jungle to become a man. He found no footprints or noises of foxes, birds, or gazelles. There was only the winding trail behind him and red sand, a few wildflowers, and the oak meadows and mountains mockingly positioned beyond.

Guiskal chuckled, “It was said that Logabhog pissed all over this island and the lush lands were turned into sand.”

Although he didn’t want religion to become used obscenely, it wasn’t Konsegmog who was mentioned. Trying to keep appearance, he both declared and threatened, “You’d best start praying towards the god of fire”–He turned to Ulittak, who was shorter than Guiskal–“What can you tell me about the nearest village?”

Ulittak peered forward, “There doesn’t seem to be any within our distance.”

“A shame,” said Gutaso. “We would need a place to make ours.”

“If we wanted to do that,” Lom grunted. “Then we’d be riding horses instead of camels.”

“Not only that.” Ennor wasn’t too concerned with pillaging and forcing unwelcome villagers to provide them hospitality. His focus rested on getting the metals delivered to the loyal Chief. “But where there’s a village, there’s a well.”

His throat dried at the thought of water nearby. He turned to Bosuah. “Is there any camel’s milk left?”

“I’ll check.” Bosuah ran towards the remaining caravans.

Ennor turned back to the horizon to find nothing, not even the meadows or the mountains. His heart and stomach contorted at the thought of being lost with hunger. He was startled by Gutaso. “I hope that I’m not struck with heat dreams.”

“No,” Ennor said. “There doesn’t seem to be anything beyond us.”

Bosuah rushed to Ennor, “There’s nothing left.”

Just those mere words caused Ennor to stagger, only to be supported by Bosuah. He wrapped his arms around him. “Please come into a caravan.”

Gutaso clenched his spear. “The servants probably kept it to themselves”–He stomped towards the caravans–“I’ll slice it out of them.”

Guiskal blocked Gutaso with his own spear. “Do not act this way!”

“What are we going to eat then?!”

Guiskal swung his spear at Gutaso’s shoulder. “Maybe you!”

Bosuah set Ennor on the ground and joined the companions in restraining them. He and Lom kept Guiskal locked in their grip along with Gutaso in Ulittak’s and Sokoxo’s. Ennor picked himself up without falling and confiscated both of their spears, with Gutaso refusing, only for him to comply with Ennor’s knife pointed at his callused knuckles.

“I will not tolerate such behavior!” Through his raspy whinny, Ennor went from a weak expedition leader to a scion of a once-prideful family of Spoil-Sharers. “I am still your Prince, and anyone who acts like this will be left to rot! Understood?!”

Then he realized that there was only one of him.

“And what right do you have as a young Prince?” Lom let go of Guiskal and walked slowly towards Ennor. “Never mind a son of a disgraced family?”

Lom was a young, roaming warrior before he came to the service of Ennor’s great-grandfather, Sansimo’im, prior to his exile. Lom only came back to the service of the Sansimo’im family after the return of Vantanjao’ia because the retainer he served didn’t pay him well enough. Ennor always understood placing wealth above honor, but now that understanding might kill him.

Ennor readied the spears. “I’m the one who’s leading this expedition…”

“To what purpose? So Bhokoig can fatten himself?”

“So we can have another Chief as an ally.”

“Just like how the Khusoei wanted allies to take them over?!”

Although he had two weapons used by elite warriors, he still felt weak, especially since he was never trained to fight with a spear. His fear kept him from dropping his newly acquired weapons, even as his arms shook with a hungry trembling. Ennor stepped back as Lom got closer and pulled out his ax. His glaring eyes materialized into a sickly purple.

He no longer feared the wrath of Chief Norliik or even from Spoil-Sharer Bhokoig. Ennor Sansimo’im feared the Lobia Desert herself.

He struck at Lom, who managed to dodge both of the strikes. Since the spears felt heavy, he couldn’t react quickly enough to Lom cutting his ankle. Ennor landed in the ground with a gash that caused him to scream. His body felt compromised by pain and couldn’t get up to dodge Lom’s final blow.

Before he could finish Ennor, Sokoxo managed to cut down Lom, whose corpse landed just beside him.

Through his foggy vision, he could see that there was carnage like the bandit raid; only now it involved the expedition band killing itself. Some of the veterans developed purple eyes while the sane ones fought against them. The servants and the guards were killing each other underneath the sweltering, blinding sun.

“Where are you, Konsegmog?” Ennor moaned. I want a coin-rain not to enrich myself, but to catapult metals from above with fiery speed upon every warrior around me! He couldn’t reach for his figurine, since his entire body numbed. His consciousness, his hope of bringing the Sansimo’im family out of shame, and his ambition to carve a Spoil for himself were fading.

While he felt dizziness in his sight and mind, Ennor only contained hate within his heavy breathing. His hands weakly trembled with the desire to plunge an ax into Bhokoig’s heart. It was he who wanted Ennor to go on this expedition. Bhokoig just didn’t want to do it himself! How cowardly! A real man takes and gives at his own expense! He fought to stay awake even as everything around him blackened. I’m not going to die! I’m not going to die…!

#

Ennor found that his foot was bandaged. He could barely move his toes with painful exertion. His head felt nimble due to not wearing his hood. Just above him hovered an old Bulobiahu woman whose copper skin was wrinkly and tattooed on her chin with a triangle and her cheeks with crossed lines. She not only fixed his ankle, but she also presented him with a leg of mutton.

He didn’t feel the need to devour it, since he felt a strange sense of dislocation.

Ongho-agh?” he told the woman. Where am I?

She replied that he was in the territory of Chief Norliik.

Realizing he didn’t have his figurine, he searched through his pockets until he found it. He was relieved that it wasn’t stolen. There was a soft smile on his face, as he reaffirmed his faith in Konsegmog. He answered my prayer.

He got out of the bed with newly found energy, straining to remain standing without any assistance. The old woman picked him up when he almost fell back. She dressed him in the clothes and armor he wore and gave him a stick to support himself.

Covering his eyes, blood-red in the irises and sclerae, with his gloved hand, he could see that he was in a Grarosliik ruin. There were streets where the foliage grew from between the cracks, including palm trees overtaking some of the stones. The houses were made of ashlar stone redder than the desert, baked by the sun, and inhabited by the Chief’s warriors. They looked from the houses, and up from the burial chambers that were carved into the earth.

Ennor could see inside there were workshops making their simple armor from furnaces. He knew they were a smelting culture, since Bosuah told him while leading him through the street, “Since Sonohs’ armor was cursed, the Chiefs after him believed that if they purchased any pillaged armor or swords, they would melt and forge it with a shaman’s servant to bless it.”

He walked, using his stick as a new leg, towards the town gates and looked at the collection of holes. At the fortress entrance, he could see that there were descending steps into one of the pit-towns. Some of the dead and wounded were either in the courtyard within or taken into the carved-in chambers. The pit-towns were interconnected, since he saw one woman enter a hole in one pit-town and came out in another. Ennor could see that the caravans were brought down through use of ropes that dangled from their corners.

Ennor turned to Bosuah. “What happened to the others?”

“Some of the servants and guards are left. Only Ulittak and Svasoriam are left.”

“What about Sokoxo?”

Bosuah said, “He was killed by Guiskal.” He put his hand on Ennor’s shoulder. “I’m sorry.”

Ennor, nearly collapsing from held-in breath, nudged Bosuah to sit him on the ground, with his back resting on the side of a house.

“How could Guiskal do this?” It wasn’t just the killing of Sokoxo that deeply troubled Ennor, but also the fact that Guiskal, his most trusted warrior, did it. Ennor knew him as a frequent companion of his father on his expeditions, including the Lobia Desert.

“He was overcome by a spirit,” Bosuah said matter-of-factly.

Ennor trusted his every word, but he still could not believe that a magical force overtook them. “What can the Chief tell me about this spirit?”

Ulittak came out of one of the houses, where he was surveying a smelting workshop. He walked over to Ennor and Bosuah with his newly polished armor.

“These metalworkers here can really bite some coins off you,” he said. “Anyway, I’ll come with you to see this Chief.”

“I will say that you should always expect any chief to be void of propriety,” Ennor told Ulittak. He knew Ulittak as being more skilled in the battlefield than a throne. “I can remember walking in while a chief was opening up an enemy chief’s torso for offerings to his god.”

Ulittak huffed, “I would expect that from King Pakhankasp.”

At the center of the town-turned-fortress rested the Chief’s house with walls surrounding the courtyard. It had an entering stairway of the second floor. Inside the main room, the walls were lined with Grarosliik pottery made from alabaster and glass that reflected off the sun outside. It had two stories, including a third carved into the bedrock. Even this temple dedicated to the Lokhayk gods had its exterior ravaged by stone bandits.

It had been a week since traveling from Onkoglohm to arriving at Chief Norliik’s fortress. It reminded him of traveling with his father to the Tugt’dzai Kingdom within the interior of the Ioupa Island, the breeding and burial ground of the Khusoei Empire; though the difference was that her desert wasn’t unbearably stretching.

The guard leered down at him, with his spear clutching in his hands, yet lowered it at the sight of the merchants.

Ennor stepped forward to address the guard “Et tghoam nwon.Please let us through. Ulittak was jolted as he heard Ennor speak the throat-clearing eloquence of Bulobiahu.

The guards raised their bushy eyebrows at the fluency of an Onkoglohm Prince.

He concluded, “Ghoahat…”–He pointed at the gates–“…nOnkoglohm nessozhl.” We Onkoglohm bring metals.

The guards stepped aside to let Ennor, Ulittak, and Bosuah into the throne of the Chief. The sunlight from outside brought clarity to the throne room which exhumed a red tint from the walls and white from the cement floor.

They beheld Chief Norliik, who had elderly frailty, shriveled and pruned skin, and foggy-eyed blindness, sitting on his throne fashioned from a horned altar. About the top of his throne were an interconnected line of skulls of all the Chiefs he personally killed. His royal garments had intimidatingly bright colors of purple, green, and yellow; which made it clear to all who crossed him that he was the Chief.

Just behind the throne was a façade of an elegantly contoured woman. She was braiding her dark hair, which circled around her naked, olive breast. Once it was beautifully decorated, now it was browning and peeling away into obscurity. Age may have been kinder to the painting than the woman herself.

They landed their knees on the piercingly hot entrance. However many times he had to kneel on hot surfaces, Ennor still bit his lip. This time, Ennor needed Bosuah to pick him up.

In Bulobiahu language, he introduced himself as Ennor Sansimo’im of the Bhokoig Spoil of the Onkoglohm Kingdom. The Chief smiled with what remained of his crooked, brown teeth, and lifted his bony finger, gesturing them to rise.

While Father Usumi taught Ennor a language, Vantanjao’ia had a peculiar way of testing him, by making him translate his every word as his intermediary. He learned that the Bulobiahu tongue was peppered by the Grarosliik, with “Chief” being given by the Grarosliik conquerors to the Bulobiahu kings who swore their allegiance. Just like how the Khusoei called their loyal Chiefs their King-Generals.

Through Bosuah, who’s translation was more trusted, Chief Norliik bragged that the Grarosliik were an older civilization than the Khusoei. He also talked about how his race’s father was the Grarosliik conqueror Kluravoa and their mother was the Lobia Desert.

It’d be a daring image to conjure of a warrior sticking his manhood into the sand.

Ulittak sat down on one of the chests and glanced from Ennor to Bosuah to the Chief. It was common knowledge that the Grarosliik were a decadent people from the Lokhayk Lands who brought dyed fabric to the Ioupa and the Bulobiahu–which was why the Chief wore a purple sash from his lanky shoulder to his pot-bellied waist.

Ennor reverted back to his own Onkoglohm language. “I want to talk about den iasnen.The metals. His heart ached and uplifted. “We have the chests of metals, but some were stolen by a group of bandits.” It was a straightforward statement, which Chief Norliik understood well as he stated in his throaty language. Bosuah interpreted, “His brother, Ehaoh, may have sent those bandits to purposefully kill our camels.”

Ennor knew Bosuah as only speaking Onkoglohm for business, while reserving Bulobiahu for royal correspondence. The last time he met Bosuah, it was when he served under his father in negotiating with a Chief that Bosuah served before Chief Norliik.

Ennor was confused. “Has he been known to do that?”

Chief Norliik said, through Bosuah, that his power came from the desert. Ennor’s mind halted. The suspicions he held bore truth, that there really was magic involved.

“I assume he actually means that? Not in a boastful way?” Or both.

Ehaoh can make his enemies see only a never-ending desert and leave them to kill each other within the possession of a spirit. This was the reason why Chief Norliik’s warriors stayed close to the fortress. It also applied to Ehaoh’s warriors, since Chief Norliik was also assisted by a spirit.

It made Ennor shiver, thinking about how evil spirits could control people in their most savage state. Although he was aware of his Tispag beginnings, he didn’t think that supernatural forces could play a role outside of the great crossing from Tispag to Ioupa to Onkoglohm Island.

“Was it how you found us?”

Chief Norliik nodded. Following the trail of Ehaoh’s spirit, he sent his warriors to bring the band into immediate hospitality and his only shaman to ward away the demon, which flew from Chief Norliik’s tribe to the band. Ennor felt disheartened, hoping that Konsegmog really did answer where he really was, but he also felt calmer as he was finally given answers to the murders he saw.

Ulittak, upon being told the translation, asked, “Why couldn’t he just kill us with his magic?”

Ennor raised his index finger, biding for silence. Bosuah translated the sentence. Had he translated everything Svasoriam purged from his mouth, it would’ve cost the band more than just their metals. Bosuah turned from the Chief to Ulittak. “Ehaoh wants to maintain his mystique and only allow a few number of survivors to tell.”

Chief Norliik said that he didn’t know if Bosuah told them, but Chief Skiasig was his ancestor. At that point, Ennor was not as surprised as Ulittak. It actually continued to make Ennor calmer inside, since he was no longer ignorant of a power beyond his control.

Chief Norliik recounted through Bosuah, “Skiasig was a Lokhayk name, but the magic he used was from Bulobiahu Island. After having killed Sonohs, he exacted revenge by conquering Sonohs’ desert-tribe and becoming the new Chief. Then, he conquered this Grarosliik town and killed its general.”

Although Ennor wanted to hear more, he didn’t want to waste the Chief’s time, seeing him adjust himself on his throne. “I want to talk about the price for the metals.”

With a chuckle, the Chief said he could not have the approximation when the metals were already being melted.

Or I could just shove that molten sludge down your throat? Ennor would’ve said–and done–this in his villa, but if he said it here, it would be his throat that would taste the metal. Although he had the trade savvy of a Ioupa, he still had the violence of a Tispag and a Bulobiahu.

“We still need to be able to return to our Kingdom with your proof of loyalty.”

Chief Norliik suggested that the rest of the band could serve to fight against his brother’s warriors.

We are not mercenaries.

“I will remind you that my father is a member of the Sansimo’im family and is a very important man,” Ennor slightly lied. “If you harm me, I promise that there will be a group of warriors that will want to meet you. And they won’t be selling metals, but wearing them.”

Considering how Chief Norliik had magical powers like his brother, it was a futile threat. But Bosuah explained, “He is old and blind and only has his shaman to rely on for drawing his blood in order to conjure his inherited magic. He also doesn’t want to start a war with Spoil-Sharers from another island when he is already fighting his brother.”

So the Chief promised to send Ennor and his band back to Onkoglohm Kingdom with the shaman’s escort. Ennor promised that he will return to Onkoglohm with a payment smaller than the original amount.

Chief Norliik called out a servant to bring a chest. The servant came from the room behind his throne bearing a chest as wide as his shoulder blades, placed it before Ennor, and opened it to reveal copper coins. Ennor took one of them to reflect on its authenticity. On one side was a figure bearing a spear. King Pakhankasp. He turned the other side to reveal a horse’s head. On the Pakhankasp side, he found a legend which was engraved Onkoglom Edsos, which was Ioupa for Good Onkoglohm.

Any Tispag warrior would’ve accepted the task of killing his brother and getting a bigger reward from Chief Norliik, but Ennor knew not to fight against magic. I’d rather be cowardly and still have my villa.

#

From inside the forecastle of the Prince’s Fire, Ennor could see the theaters, baths, shops, taverns, inns, and apartments that were made from the mixture of volcanic sand, lime, and sea-water. Vines and trees grew on their exteriors.

Above, the sionangl flew over the Onkoglohm Kingdom. They were known in the Onkoglohm tongue as “berry-wings,” so called since they were relied on by the king-general Pakhankasp as he and his horde of 10,000 Onkoglohm ancestors crossed the waters, by following the flocks of these birds as they flew around an island that grew a certain berry they ate. The sionangl served as survival, now they only serve as annoyance by spilling white droppings all over the deck and the oars.

He was usually taken to piloting a ship himself and looking down at the Salaga Sea, but his ankle and his experience prevented him. Instead, he sat on his feathery bed. Ennor wanted to take his knife and slash it repeatedly to vent his rage from his powerlessness. Instead he clenched his fists.

He heard a knock on his door. Ennor answered whoever it was to come in. Svasoriam staggered with the bandaged wound on his side. He slumped onto a chest near the door and looked at Ennor.

“I-I came to apologize.” Svasoriam was burdened with these types of words, which was why they came out in a weak shiver. Ennor expected nothing more than a snappy remark about how the gods of the Onkoglohm, the Ioupa, and the Bulobiahu had forsaken him.

“Is that right?”

“You remember how I said I wanted a warrior’s death?” Svasoriam lowered his head. “I thought it would be quick.”

“It was painful?”

“Yes, very, very painful. I also remember feeling only anger.” Svasoriam struggled to say anything. “I’m thankful that Bosuah helped me into a caravan when the bandits attacked, as well as being restrained by him when everyone was killing each other. I remember wanting to kill someone in that mood.”

He looked directly at Ennor with his blue eyes. “You.”

That simple word would inspire nightmares in Ennor. Not only did he nearly experience death, but there were other people in his trust who would’ve done it. The crumbling of that bond was what fogged his eyes and ached his head while on the Prince’s Fire sailing back.

Was it really that spirit that tried to kill us? Or was it our own madness?

“So you’re aware of Ehaoh’s evil spirit?”

“Bosuah told me everything while I was recovering. I didn’t believe him at first; nor did I believe that Sokoxo and a lot of the front guard died.”

Throughout his time aboard, when he wasn’t writing his report, Ennor mourned to Konsegmog for the dead, including his dear friend, Sokoxo. A death of a friend was a basic reality among the Onkoglohm and the other hordes. Ennor would try to adapt and find other companions. I want to name my heir after him.

“I didn’t know you cared about Sokoxo.”

“I didn’t think that anything could kill him or any of the veterans.”

He still did not expect Svasoriam to change his own personality. Ennor had plenty of brushes with death, but he already received intense training from Guiskal. What left him in disbelief was that even his mentor succumbed easily to supernatural forces. All of the hours and years spent could not withstand that. Would all of my bravery become wasted? If only Father Usumi was alive to answer.

“Do you pray to Konsegmog?”

“Sometimes. Do you always pray to Him?”

“For all things I need…”–Ennor pulled out his figurine–“…And want.”

“Why for matters outside of wealth?”

Ennor harkened one of the lessons about the Onkoglohm wealth god from Father Usumi. “Konsegmog offers prosperity outside of wealth. In my case, I pray to prosper from this pain.”

#

The marble streets, made from heat-crystallized limestone quarried from Ioupa and Emalf, which once decorated the surface with shiny scatterings of yellow, white, purple, ivory, red, and pink now crackled with green from the grass that poked through. The forum populated with white togas worn by the Spoil-Sharers and the King at the colonnaded entrance of the basilica; and by Ennor and the warriors. Ennor stood in the front of his band and alongside the other Princes. Only the King wore the purple sash. Just like the Chief.

The Spoil-Sharers, their retainers, and their attendants bowed in a wave of obedience as King Sgoyaso I waved his hand. He was a middle-aged man with wrinkles on his face. Upon his peppered hair were golden wreaths. Pronouncements in the stentorian Ioupa tongue were rung out throughout the city by him. “Ub ep Idaosoi visaompom…May the Gods bless us…

He started his speech, celebrating the great crossing of Pakhankasp and the making of the Kingdom. Ennor memorized every single word with a bored desire for it to be over.

He looked at the apartments surrounding him. There were flags wreathed from the windows signifying the tribal groups who pledged loyalty to Pakhankasp during his half-century rule. The flags containing rams, baboons, olives, and camels represented the Bulobiahu and Naluknipa traders; the galleys, helmets, spears, and horses were used by the descendants of the Tispag migrants; and the papayas, iguanas, and maize symbolized the Rutan tribes. There was also evident intermingling, with flags containing two sigils juxtaposed to create a new sigil such as a spear-grasping warrior riding a giant pig.

Among the Spoil-Sharers was Bhokoig, who was noted by his weight. He wasn’t as large as Oarant, but his size was noticeable even underneath his toga. He had red, pouty lips and white hair that continued to fall off the top of his head. He definitely looks more Ioupa than Onkoglohm.

He sent his attendants to give each of his retainers a share in the form of a silken bag of coins–silver, bronze, copper.

It was also normal for Ennor to join this process since he took over his father’s position as retainer; but right now it felt eternal, not just because of his throbbing ankle. With intense focus, he watched the attendants, dressed in simple togas, come to each of the retainers with their bags. This was the first time he worried deeply about failure.

Before one of the attendants reached Ennor, Bhokoig, who observed him the whole time, walked from the steps and approached him. He spoke to Ennor in Ioupa, “Diaomos pom…”–You cost us…–“…our elite warriors, gave us less than expected, and left Oarant to the galley.”

Although every Onkoglohm, rich and poor, spoke Onkoglohm to their parents, landowners, Bulobiahu traders, and companions; they also spoke Ioupa to their Spoil-Sharers and Kings–and their Emperors when they ruled.

“There were agsakhosaios sadosaoi, uhi Telnigog.” Unexpected events, my Spoil-Sharer.

“I am aware of what you reported. You allowed the superstitions of some Bulobiahu tribes to ruin the transaction.”

He has clearly never been to the Lobia Desert. “Ulittak and Svasoriam were witnesses.”

Ennor pointed behind to Ulittak and Oarant, who merely stared forward like the rest of the retainers and didn’t offer their accounts.

“Yes. Witnesses to a bandit raid and a sweltering desert. Basic realities of the Bulobiahu.”

“That was why I felt it safe to command Oarant to mind the galley.”

“You were told to bring Oarant with you on your expedition.”

“There is something more sinister involved, uhi Telnigog.”

“What is sinister is your legacy.” It was not the first time Spoil-Sharer Bhokoig made mention of Ennor’s family’s disgrace; and as always Ennor resisted the urge to strike his Spoil-Sharer across the face in front of the King.

“You didn’t damage the Prince’s Fire,” Bhokoig sneered. “That’s edsos at least.” He walked back to the steps.

Ennor was only given a handful of silver coins.

#

He staggered to the table, supported by one of the villa servants. On the oak surface were dishes of bass, mullet, squid, olives, figs, mangos, papayas, and a bowl of bacon stew. Draped from the ceiling crucks above him hung the flags of the Sansimo’ims, represented by a silver coin on a dark red background; the Uzbogts–Ennor’s maternal family–had the grey flag with a green olive; and the Luobaeru servant-tribe had the brown background with a white ocelot.

Give the ocelot a coin and an olive and it’ll serve you.

Taneisma, Raozleis,” Ennor thanked with a forced smile. “You always are the kind face of our estate.”

Raozleis showed her crooked teeth in reply. She sat him on one of the chairs next to his father. Vantanjao’ia wore a simple white robe over his complexion paled and pox-marked by the same Bulobiahu disease that afflicted Oarant’s father. When he was younger, he avoided his father in order to not see him cry. Instead, he always made getting into his studies and recording the merchandise sold on his own expeditions both priorities and excuses. Perhaps Oarant feels this way as well. Then again, his family never had to redeem themselves.

“Do you need anything else?”

“No,” Ennor simply said. Raozleis walked back to her duties.

When Vantanjao’ia and the exiled Sansimo’ims returned from the Rutan lands, they brought the Luobaeru’s labors and cuisine, including their agricultural practice of ugilkleis, which consisted of burning rotten vegetation and using it as fertilizer. Ennor was always thankful that the storehouse wasn’t actually on fire, but the pungent smoke smell permeated the fruits. Although he never visited the Rutan lands, his father told Ennor of its jungles and how the word ugilkleis entered the Onkoglohm spoil of words as a verb meaning “to farm.”

I want Luobaeru Island to become the Ennor Spoil.

Ennor limped up, reached into his pockets, took out the rewards of his expedition, and slammed them on the table.

“This is all I was paid! How am I supposed to pay the collectors with these?!”

“They always let you pay extra next time. There are still Ioupa landowners left to tax.”

“And what if they all return to their island?”

“Your ankle would’ve healed by then.”

“What about right now?”

“Please rest yourself. Your mother and Raozleis are helping me just well; including Svasoriam, as is our custom.” According to Onkoglohm law, any companions of a Prince injured in an expedition would be treated at his Prince’s villa.

“It’s not that I can’t take care of you. It’s just…” Ennor slid back into his seat, but still had the energy to jump. He always found possible answers to a common problem, but now his ankle greatly limited his answers. “…I don’t want this to affect my future expeditions.”

“There’s more to life than expeditions.”

The feelings of the ocean air brushing against his face, sleeping wherever he went, and not having to rely on his family and servants were not fig skins to be burned. In some ways, they connected him to Pakhankasp’s warriors, not Sgoyaso’s. His injury, his powerlessness against Ehaoh’s supernatural madness, and the ownership of the Prince’s Fire being ceded to Spoil-Sharer Bhokoig dried his throat. They unmanned him and reduced him from a proud Prince, with the Salaga Sea as his large-breasted, wide-hipped bride, to a spayed pet. What will Amkoskorog think of me now?

“Why was I born into a family of cravens?!”

“We are not cravens! We are a saint-tutored race!”

While Bhokoig had the strength of his retainers, the Sansimo’im family had the guidance of Father Usumi, a famous Ioupa monk known for purifying the Luobaeru Island of her demons and bringing her back to the ownership of the Rutan and Ioupa gods. He taught Vantanjao’ia and his son how to write, which became crucial for the former’s loyalty under Bhokoig’s.

“Father Usumi’s education can’t buy back the villas and the forums taken from us by Bhokoig’s father.”

“With time it will. And with time, your ankle will heal.”

What made the experience at the Lobia Desert sharpen the pain in his ankle was that Bhokoig didn’t even believe him. Normally he would not expect him to heed any suggestions, but the fact that he did not entertain the thought of not carelessly sending his warriors into a desert that might hold magical danger–and that he had the authority to send them anyway–made Ennor so queasy he forced back his tears. I’d rather die righteously than menially.

Vantanjao’ia looked directly at Ennor with his own red-irised eyes. Although Vantanjao’ia became calmer after the disease, his eyes were the only lively part of him. Ennor knew that his father could read him, because he himself taught him such a skill on his journeys.

“You’ve thought of killing Bhokoig?”

Ennor nodded. He knows me too well.

His father sighed. “That Tispag fire-blood is within you. I would suggest you use it to restrain yourself.”

Ennor harkened one of Vantanjao’ia’s lessons. “I never act on impulse. That was what made this family lose their lands.”

“When you kill a figure of authority, we’ll lose more than our lands. One of your brothers, Toanast, keeps that in mind as he serves the King of the Tugt’dzai.”

“Sweet-Tongue.” Ennor recalled the Onkoglohm etymology of his brother’s name with a slightly snarling intonation. It was a name he was not born with, but one that was earned. In that expedition to the Tugt’dzai Kingdom, his father sent Toanast to be trained by one of Tugt’dzaw’s grandsons. He remembered that a lot of the sons of Onkoglohm warriors were sent to the Tugt’dzai to be trained as part of an alliance after the two Kingdoms were carved from the dead Khusoei Empire.

He desired his brother’s savvy, for it could have helped his talking Lom out of his possession. It brought a cold shiver to his back knowing that his band, once bound by a common destination, would hunt each other down. Ennor himself couldn’t tell his father about it, since he would be reminded that he was a weak Prince and still needed proper guidance. Instead, he said, “I understand why you never went back to the Lobia Desert. And why the Ioupa didn’t conquer further into the island.”

“I wouldn’t go back if they made me Chief of all Chiefs. It was also the reason why we preferred to conduct trade in the port towns and the underground villas. In the eyes of civilization. What was left of it. And let the desert-tribes do the ruling for the Kingdom.”

“I’m also sure you heard about what happened to Guiskal?”

“I’m truly sorry. He was a good friend of mine. I’m glad that Bosuah was with you. He at least knows how to tame Bulobiahu magic.”

I can’t bear to tell him the truth of what really happened. Ennor looked out of the window at the remains of a grey-green Ioupa aqueduct. In the age of the Emperors, it provided drinking water to the villa’s wealthy owners and their servants and guests. It could only decorate the villa in the age of the Kings; with oak and heather trees thriving in the spots and cracks where rainwater accumulated; with piles of crumbled debris due to lack of maintenance; and with parts that were carved by bandits.

“I also saw the ruins of the Grarosliik. They resemble the ruins of the Khusoei too much. So I have to ask…”

Ennor mustered the strength within him to speak the tongue of Sansimo’im’s father himself, even though his throat clogged as he tried to speak the words. “Veen kanser khaspa gikh an ultus angtun?” Will our power really live forever?

Vantanjao’ia tugged his grey, drooping moustache. Ennor felt nervous after he said that, since he always used the Tispag mother-language whenever he wanted a serious discussion with his father. It wasn’t hard for him to speak it, but it was no longer valuable when the alliance of the native Bulobiahu, the Rutan canoers, and the Tispag horde flourished into a Kingdom and a language.

He reverted back to Onkoglohm. “Van a?” Will it?

“Our power will be maintained not with the sword or the ax, but with coins.”

“Coins did not buy great-grandfather’s clemency.”

Ennor flinched, since a comment pertaining to his great-grandfather would have resulted in a slap. Instead Vantanjao’ia said as though forced, “Onkoglohm law is not something to be purchased. That’s why we never mistreat our servants and why we reward the industrious ones with their own plot of tilling land. Your great-grandfather, this family’s namesake, always made do with his servants as he pleased, which was what damned this family.”

Ennor changed the subject. “Concerning our power, it should be maintained not through the coin alone. The Uraxoi and their sea-lords were conquered by Khusoe; then the Khusoei were conquered by the King-General Tugt’dzaw. Who will conquer the Tugt’dzai? Just another barbarian horde. Not bought; but conquered.”

“We wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for those barbarian hordes.”

“If that is the case, if we really are destined to eternally scrap up dead civilizations, then I want to scrap up what’s left of the Khusoei Empire.” Which I’m sure is what Toanast is doing.

Then Ennor referenced Father Usumi’s comment on Pakhankasp’s carving of Onkoglohm Island. “Civilization is the colorful armor and ornate weapons scavenged from the naked corpse of a prideful warrior with no further use of them.”

Upon remembering the cities Ennor once saw that were converted from ruins, it was clear to him that prosperity was not limited to intricate baubles, but the bone, muscle, sinew, and marrow of the prideful. So long as the Khusoei, the Uraxoi, and the Grarosliik were to die, some other group would just consume their corpses. However shaken he was by his expedition, Ennor would be willing to trudge through hundreds of Lobia Deserts and fight hundreds of traitorous Svasoriams–if it meant carving himself a new Spoil or even a new Kingdom. It was not a coincidence that the Chief’s maniacal brother would keep me alive.

He told his father, “I only want Konsegmog to hear my prayer for a coin-rain, even if it drowns this forsaken island.”

END

What’s Fascinating About Metal-Beard’s Humanity

DISCLAIMER: This article was originally posted on Odyssey.

 

Normally, I do not write about any animated film or television series, but it is a common topic on Odyssey Online and my cousin really enjoyed this film when he was five-years-old, and that’s how Metal-Beard’s tale of woe elicited interest from me. Because “The Lego Movie” is a phenomenal film that appeals to people of all backgrounds, young and old, liberal and conservative, and has nearly a 100% approval rating on the Tomatometer, I wanted to write about one of its most fascinating characters–Metal-Beard.

Basically, this is a man (or, well, a Lego figure) who literally rebuilt himself upon being nearly destroyed after a failed attack on Lord Business. This is the character, the archetype, who we all aspire to be like, who adapts to any disaster that might occur, no matter how traumatic and life-altering. Metal-Beard shows his resilience by making his last stand against the micromanagers as Finn’s father, played by Will Ferrell who non-coincidentally also plays the voice of Lord Business, glues every Lego set in its proper place accompanied by the Gregorian chants in the background music. Nick Offerman himself felt empowered providing the voice of Metal-Beard.

Although he becomes an imposing Master Builder with cannon-fingers, he continues to harken back to that event with Vitruvius remarking, “Here we go again.” It caused him to relive it through his relatable self-loathing when he referred to this new body as a “useless hunk of garbage,” even though his new body would be useless if it could not sustain itself against an army of robots and micromanagers on top of Benny’s spaceship. Of course, the transition into this new form would not exactly be a pleasant experience. The shaping of an identity can only be eloquently described by Jane Ripplemeyer from Bharati Mukherjee’s novel “Jasmine,”

“There are no harmless, compassionate ways to remake oneself. We murder who we were so we can rebirth ourselves in the images of dreams.”

Perhaps Metal-Beard’s dreams consisted of his vengeance against Lord Business. No matter how powerful or successful any of us might become, it just might not be enough for some.

This sense of helplessness causes the other Master Builders to feel ill at ease when being around him, along with his narcissism when he talked about his former “strapping virile pirate body.” Being a captain over a hearty Master Builder crew may well require a certain amount of ego and charisma. That type of ego may also convince Metal-Beard to avoid engaging in any lost causes if there is no way of effectively defeating Lord Business, which is why he does not help Emmet and his friends for the first time. Of course, as Dutch psychologists in their study about narcissism in leadership roles might deduce, Metal-Beard’s assistance would be desired in circumstances like when Emmet and his band hide in a double-decker couch and they are uncertain about how to infiltrate Lord Business’ tower, which leads Metal-Beard to ask Emmett to come up with a plan.”

Metal-Beard’s modification also represents adaptation, since Legos, even parts of the figures, can click to any other Lego surface. This would allow anyone to expand his/her imagination beyond what the instruction manuals dictate (or what the Kragle can glue together). In the directors’ and actors’ commentary, it was stated that building from Legos was like putting together a sandwich with any foods that are available. So, Metal-Beard could represent endurance as well as the lesson that Offerman took from Metal-Beard, which is that it is acceptable to be weird and to creatively interpret the rules. This becomes an important key to Metal-Beard’s character since he can transform his “useless hunk of garbage” into a singing head or a copy machine.

Creativity would also require a lot of intelligence, and it did help the actors that Offerman used brilliant command of the English language in his emails to them; and one usage needed for the characterization of Metal-Beard was his knowledge of nautical terms. Metal-Beard’s own form cannot be classified in any other way, which is what makes him unique. Even Finn’s father remarks “Is that a robot-pirate?” If you ask me, Metal-Beard can be anything.

The directors did state that Metal-Beard was originally supposed to be Wyldstyle’s boyfriend, which would have been a weird combination, but it would have been interesting to position Metal-Beard as a more central character. I will say that if there can be a “Lego Movie” spin-off focusing on Batman, then there might also be an interesting study of Metal-Beard. His “tale of woe” could be the main plot for “The Lego Metal-Beard Movie” or just calling it “Metal-Beard and his Tale of Woe.”

There is definitely a close link that Offerman has to Metal-Beard which made his performance believable. Although he does not figure prominently in “The Lego Movie,” children and adults can see how Metal-Beard’s narcissism, helplessness, creativity, vengeance, and endurance are attributes of a conflicted and relatable character.

 

Sources:

Maier, Steven F. and Martin E. P. Seligman. “Learned helplessness at fifty: Insights from neuroscience.” Psychological review 123 4 (2016): 349-67.

Nevicka, B., De Hoogh, A, et al. “Uncertainty enhances the preference for narcissistic leaders.” European Journal of Social Sciences 43 (2013). 370-80.