Veilreach: Chapter Twenty-Two

[ And the story continues as we check in with Jen’Rar and the Mage’s College… ]
The auditorium was filled with students chattering and bickering with each other while they waited impatiently in the tiered seats surrounding a fancy ornate stage. Most seemed bored and restless. Some appeared to be taking bets. And perhaps a few were doing some other questionable behaviours.

Very few mandatory assemblies were ever called, especially out of the blue with no apparent reason. Each seat seemed filled, and a few restless souls were even standing in the aisles. Even the large spread out form of Professor Jeramiah took up a small row of seats to himself as he crammed into the hall.

On the stage sat four simple chairs rather then the usual huge mage council seating that normally looked out onto the crowd. Among the four chairs sat Cleo and Jen’Rar. It was Jen’Rar who cleared her throat and stood.

“Hush now!” She waited as the chattering petered out and eventually quieted down. “I am sure you are all rather curious why I have called this meeting so… abruptly. As some of you will know, Prime Dean Marthis has been called away on rather important business. As such, I have been placed as Acting Prime Dean.”

Among the crowd there were plenty of whisperings and chattering which struck up once again. She gave them time to get the gossiping out of their system before she cleared her throat once more and eyed the thousands of beady looks.

“Since I am now in charge, there will be some… administrative changes that will be taking place. Some that will have a great impact on the college as a whole. In fact, within the coming days I will be meeting with each teacher and we will be going over student progress. Those who have not showed progress or interest in study will be asked to leave. Immediately.”

The bored curious interest now shifted to very uncomfortable concern. There were audible grunts and worried sharp inhales. Followed by the sudden rise in voices arguing with each other in disgust.

“Well that went an’ stirred dem up good!” Cleo chuckled under her breath.

Jen’Rar raised her arms and with it her voice. “Enough!”

After a strong and stern glare out into the audience the silence fell again.

“I will say this only once. As long as you have proven to want to be here, and to be capable of being here – you have absolutely nothing to worry about. Those of you who may be given.. a less then stellar report from your professors will still have a chance to prove your case. But I will be very clear. This school will no longer sully itself with those merely wishing to pay for the prestige of a magic degree. There will be no student who graduates these halls by coasting through or purchasing their way to success. That ends today. If you have any complaints? You may speak with our Diplomatic Relations representative, Cleo Denwater.”

The Koonem woman nearly choked as Jen’Rar motioned to her and winked away from the unruly crowd. She was certain Cleo had mouthed something rather inappropriate but luckily couldn’t hear it over the gathering dishevel of the room.

From the fourth chair which was closest to the edge of the stage a large male stood. He pounded his right foot on the stages floorboards which caused a deep thud to resonate in the room and he boomed out in a huge voice, “Silence!”

The room practically stood to attention with an electric jolt.

Seated with his cloak around him, the huge man had seemed rather normal and easy to overlook. But standing at his full height he was certainly a sight to behold. His skin was dark and deep, and his eyes were a strange and piercing grey. He was human, and seemed to be in his late fifties, but was chiseled and war-torn. His face was accented in white inked spell-work that seemed to extend from around his eyes into his bushy salt and pepper hair.

“Ah, yes… thank you Duke.” Jen’Rar patted her chest, clearly rattled in one way or another. Her cheeks were slightly more flushed then she intended them to be. “I doubt most of you remember Professor Duke, he was… retired quite a while ago. Luckily it seems he has graciously accepted a position back with the College! I hope you all can welcome him back with some applause?”

Very nervous clapping started as the man sat down and pulled his cloak around himself again. It was a pathetic amount of applause, but at least it was something.

“Alright, I believe that is enough excitement for one day. You are dismissed.”

“What twas that about me bein’ some diplomatic nonsense?!” Cleo hissed at her while eyeing the various unhappy students who were quickly getting out of the room to complain in safer quarters.

“Look, you have the best natural talent of being hard to find. Let them bore themselves with trying to track you down – we have bigger fish to fry. So to speak.”

Looking over to Duke, Jen’Rar couldn’t help but notice the quiet third chair was already vacant.

“That was quick.” The large man grunted.

“Vesper isn’t one for small talk. I’m sure he’s had other things on his mind.”

“I dun trust that one much.” Cleo scratched her cheek and peered suspiciously at the empty chair. “Sneaky elf he be.”

“Vesper is the least of our concerns. We run this school now, and between us three we have a -lot- of work to do. There are going to be a lot of them who do not take our authority lightly. I can see a lot of the rich snobs already writing angry letters to their rich snivelling parents. It’s going to be quite the political uproar I’m afraid.”

“You sure dis will be worth it?” Cleo sipped on a flask that she had somehow slipped from some hidden recess of her shawl. “Gonna be lotsa trouble for us, ‘specially in pretty fly boy comes back.”

“It’s necessary. I grow very tired of seeing good students with excellent potential being turned away because they can’t afford schooling. Or seeing students doing well only because they’ve helped fill the Dean’s personal coffers. That isn’t what Magic is about.

As for Marthis? Don’t you worry about him. I’m sure he has his hands quite full.”

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Life, in all its twisted splendor…

Hello everyone,

I just wanted to give you a quick update on projects and life in general.

The writing is still on my mind and stories are still being thought out. The world of Veilreach and many other long term projects are still alive and kicking – just haven’t quite been written down just yet. I promise I’m working on it!

So no worries. I haven’t abandoned the blog.

Without boring you all I did want to talk about something a bit more personal however.

I believe I’ve mentioned before that I live with Chronic Migraines. It’s one of the persistent health issues I’ve dealt with for quite a long time. Unfortunately however the Migraines have caused me to develop some other issues as well. One being a general Anxiety disorder which causes some panic attack like systems.

They figure that it could be the constant state of tense “flight or fight” from my head always hurting causing my body to suddenly freak out into a full on anxiety event off and one. The Migraine gets too sharp or painful and it just causes a bit of a shut down.

These episodes have been terrifying, but I’m getting a handle on them. New meds are in the works and it helps to at least have an idea what is going on so I can try to work through it as it goes.

I also have been diagnosed with PDD. Persistent Depressive Disorder. Now this was something I hadn’t quite heard about before, but it’s a somewhat minor form of clinical depression. Which I’ve had my fights with before.

The reason why I bring this up is because there is such a stigma about mental illness that it’s hard to overcome the diagnosis. Literally when I got the report from my doctor I just felt like groaning and hiding in a deep dark hole. It’s not that I didn’t -believe- it. I know I’ve had some major issues (that is why we’ve been doing a lot of tests to try and sort things out). These panic attack episodes have been terrifying and have nearly caused me to black out a few times now. I honestly though my Migraines were developing into actual small strokes they were so bad.

But it seems like so many people are waving their hands in the air shouting about mental illness and anxiety and etc.… I just didn’t want to feel like I was being swallowed up in the crowd. I felt like the world was going to just roll their eyes and say “well there is another one jumping on the anxiety bus”.

So the reason why I write this is for those of you who feel that same sense of shame and frustration. Look… it’s not your fault. You didn’t ask for this. There is no shame, and no guilt in going out there and doing what you need to in order to improve your quality of life. If getting a diagnosis helps you to manage, treat, and understand your health problems? Then to hell with what the world thinks about what that diagnosis is.

Take care of yourself. Push for answers. Work on improving things. Life only gets better if you actively work on making it better. They can’t find you in the dark if you don’t make a sound or light a spark.

So yes, I’m getting myself sorted out. It is bound to be a long process, but I promise to keep working on it. Until then, I also promise that I will work on getting more writing up here soon.

I’ve missed the literary worlds I’ve created thus far.

Who knows what manner of trouble Krill could be getting herself into…

 

Keep safe,

Crowskin

 

 

Grimoire: Shamanic Journey Guide

[ For something a little different, I’m going to pop up an old Shamanic Guide walkthrough I wrote for meeting your spirit animals. Enjoy! ]

Meeting your animal guides: Travelling to the Lower planes.

Animal spirit guides are helpful when watching over rituals, needing advice, or just companionship (or a good swift kick in the butt). They are similar in many ways to familiar, and sometimes not at all you expect. To find them, you must have a shamanic journey, where you travel down into the lower planes to make your first introduction to them. You may find that this animal has been with you a lot longer then you realized. Or that it’s been watching you without notice for a while. Either way, there are some important things to know first..

The Lower planes is hard to describe is simple form. Most consider it the same as the Astral, but it is slightly different to those who experience it. In shamanic belief, there are three planes. The Higher plane. The Middle plane, and the lower plane. The higher plane is a place of ascension, of higher beings and those powerful but hard to conceive energies and entities. The Middle plane is this world. The physical and the etheric. The world we live in here. And the Lower planes are the area of the spirit.

It is a world of spirit, of guides, trails and learning. It is more primal and old. Ancestral grounds, a place of old magicks and the dead, and yet not. It’s a vast area which can be complicated and yet very simple at the same time.. A person could travel to the lower planes by different routes and every time step into an area which is completely different from the first time they walked there.

A shaman has one foot touched by this world, and one foot in the Lower planes. They walk between the lines. As long as you are respectful and are careful it is a great place of shamanic learning and innerwork.

When doing this ritual remember three things.

Guides in the end are the ones that choose to show themselves. You can’t force them, or pick them. They are what they are and come to you when they need to. Remember that just because you love a type of animal does not mean it’s the one that is guiding you at this moment. There are many guides which come in and out of your life when the time is right.

You can’t just bring in then ignore guides in your life, they don’t work like that. When you are open to working with them, there is a sacred responsibility with that. Your time with them is there until you accomplish what it is they are helping you accomplish. Yes there are guides who are with you through your whole life. Totems which are extra special to you, but some are teachers who come for specific reasons. Pay attention to them.

And third and most important, guides don’t know everything. As one of my most trusted ones has told me, they can make mistakes, everyone can. They offer advice to help you learn, and hardly ever give you the easy answer. They can be annoying, confusing, frustrating, but also the best of friends and teachers. Make sure you are up to learning from them if you are really ready to call to them.

Setting up your area:

  • Set up an area where you can easily lie down. Make sure you aren’t tempted to nap.

  • Create a sacred space, through opening a circle, shielding the area, or smudging.

  • Then light a candle – preferably only one so light doesn’t distract your eyes. Also if you are prone to falling asleep – perhaps change out the candle for the smudge or incense as it is less of a fire hazard. And just as a precaution make sure they are in safe holders and not around anything which could be flammable.

  • If you have a drumming tape or soft nature music put it on low. Make sure it isn’t distracting. I also suggest if you have your own personal drum, start the ritual off with your own drumming, to meditate and slow your heart rate.

  • When you are ready to continue, set the drum down at your side, and get comfortable.

  • Make sure there is a notebook or something to record the journey after near you.

The Ritual:

  • When ready turn off all the lights except for the candle and lay down. Make sure you have a good while alone to yourself where you will not be disturbed.

  • Relax your body and let your mind wind down some. Start the meditation by relaxing your body, start from your feet and move all the way up. Remember your breathing. To your knees, your hips, your stomach. Up your chest arms and shoulders. When you get to your head breathe and relax.

  • When ready close your eyes and visualize yourself in a forest, rich woods and tall trees.

  • Let the forest develop and grow around you. Know that time isn’t exactly what it seems and it can grow and change within minutes. Maybe there’s a waterfall or a stream nearby. Just spend time making that place in the forest completely real to you. Are there stars? Is it night or day? Listen, feel and experience this forest. There may be objects around you, a bonfire, a blanket. Is there movement in the trees or around you?

  • When you feel its real enough, or are just getting uneasy with staying in one place, start walking.

  • You aren’t exactly ‘looking’ for anything but feeling. Let your instincts guide you.

  • Eventually you should come to some sort of hole in the earth. Whether it is a hole in a tree, a foxhole, or just some sort of crack in the earth. Remember it and the things around it because this will be ‘your’ spot for going into the lower planes.

  • Will yourself to travel down the hole, if something blocks you and you can’t get past maybe your not just yet ready to seek your guides. Pull back and try another night and ask yourself why you are holding back.

  • If you can manage to travel down, continue to. For as long and as winding as they way may be.

  • When you arrive at the end of the tunnel you could be at one of many places. The Lower planes are diverse, a wide vast area. Depending on where you need to be, your surroundings could be any environment. Remember to stay calm, and watchful. It is an old world in the Lower planes. It is a sacred space, and one that needs to be respected. There is never all good or all bad there, It is neutral grounds.

  • You came to seek your guides and don’t let yourself be distracted. Relax and look around you. Take in everything you feel, see, hear, or sense.

  • There will be animals around you, watching and waiting. Not all of them are your guides. Instead walk and feel. One will be apart from the others, it will make itself known to you. And may not always be the one you would expect would..

  • If you see one waiting there for you and it has made itself known. Watch them, and then respectfully give them your name. (if you have a magick working name use that. Its common that guides will give you a personal name later in workings anyway. Your ‘Shamanic name’. Don’t be alarmed if they start calling you repeatedly by this new name. It will be how you are known in the lower planes. Just make sure you keep that name sacred to yourself.)

  • Tell them you seek your guides, and are now ready to pay attention. Now comes the part where you wait. Depending on how ready you are and how ready your guides are to work with you will determine how the rest of the ritual goes. Some people just snap out of the walk right then because for some reason there is something more they need to learn / deal with before their guides are willing to accept them.

  • And sometimes, they will accept that. And your journey working with them will truly begin.

  • After you are greeted you can spend some time getting to know them. And they, getting to know more of you. Don’t expect to get many answers or to start learning anything at this time. Instead, be glad of the opportunity, take very sharp notice of anything and everything they show you or tell you, then when you are ready you can return up the same opening you came down.

  • Now that you have met your guide, if you ever run into any troubles while walking the lower planes, call directly to them by using your voice or mind to reach out to them and ask for help. Build a trust factor with them and learn from them as they learn from you.

  • When you are fully out of your meditation then you can relax, sit up, and clear your mind a little.

  • You’ve just had your first shamanic journey.. write down all the details you can remember

Journal: My project…

 

So as I’ve posted recently, I’ve been working on a secret project. I’ve finally decided to let you all in on what exactly this secret project is and some of the things I’ve learned along the way.

I’m teaching myself some traditional style animation.

Really it doesn’t seem like much, and it’s not this huge earth-shattering thing – but it’s been something that I can invest some personal energy into that isn’t for anyone else but -me-.

It’s been wicked hard in some aspects. Traditional animation is a hand-cramping, frustrating, exercise in both your patience and sanity. It is a lot to learn and a heck of a lot of work for mere seconds of actual film time.

But it’s been good for me.

See I’ve been dealing with some health issues lately. This isn’t something new for me really, I’ve had health issues pretty much all my life. But lately it’s been taking quite a toll on me mentally. This new endeavour has been good for me. It breathes a little life into my artwork and creative projects.

Being a crafter and artist during my work day life, it means I end up putting a lot of time and effort into projects for everyone else. Once you get stuck in the same cycles of only creating projects that you need to do for other people – you start forgetting about why you love the art form as a whole. You start to forget what drives you to love creating things for the mere point of creating.

So this is why I decided to take up learning a whole new set of skills. It won’t being me notoriety, fame, or money – but that isn’t why I’m doing it! I’m doing it for the creative outlet that is art at it’s basic core.

This is also an excellent way of merging the fantastic release that the world of writing has been for me, into my other love – artwork. Weaving storytelling with visual ideas is going to open up some exciting ideas for me. Some of the past story work I’ve done may translate to animation or graphic styles better then others. Who knows?

It’s all an experiment. It may end up that the joy of it doesn’t take and I decide to let it go and just continue to write and draw the way I always have. But if nothing else happens with it – I’m proud that I set up to learn something, and managed to at least accomplish what I set out to.

So here is the rough animation work. My first animation.

I know it’s rough, imperfect, and certainly needs a lot of polishing (heh, I could almost be describing myself…) but I’m still proud of it.

-Crowskin

Journal: UPDATE!

Journal Entry: Update.

So I haven’t posted anything for a little bit and I wanted to leave a quick update as to what I’ve been working on and why things seem a little slow.

I have a secret project that I’ve been spending plenty of hours on in the middle of the night. Although I don’t want to go into much detail (I did say ‘secret’) it has been something that does involve Black Quill Blog and also involves learning a whole new skill set… which takes some time.

I hope that this project will be the start of others similar to it. Since I am having to teach myself this whole new skill set as I go… it’s been taking a long time. Longer then I thought! And it also means putting in plenty of hours making mistakes, looking up tutorials, and plotting things out.

Eventually once I’m further along then I am now I’ll be able to let you all in on what I’ve been doing. (I really hope to have it done before Halloween! Hint hint..)

Anyway, I’ll post when I can but please be patient. Hopefully it will be worth the wait! *toothy grin*

 

-Crowskin

The Cluster: So it begins.

She sat staring at the screen as it crackled. White noise, then blackness.. white noise, then blackness. It seemed to be struggling to kick into life but couldn’t quite manage it. For a long time she simply watched as it struggled. Over and over again.

How long had she been sitting there? She couldn’t quite remember if it had been just a few moments or if it had been hours. In fact Shelly had a hard time remembering exactly what she had been doing before this moment.

It was an unnerving sensation.

She slowly struggled to gather her thoughts just as the monitor struggled to stay lit.

The room was dark, save for the bright flashing in front of her every time the light would click on. It must have been sometime in the middle of the night. The usual red glow from the snake tank in her room was off, which was strange but not impossible. Power outs knocked it out occasionally and the specialized heat bulbs were beyond delicate to blowing out.

Is that what happened? A power out. Had to be.

In the distance she could hear the occasional popping and crackling of fireworks. Perhaps there was also the hooting and hollering of people celebrating. In the further distance – the howls of unhappy dogs having to listen to the ruckus.

She breathed deep as if waking from a dream, rubbed her sore dry eyes and shifted her head to the side until a joint popped and relieved it’s pressure.

If only all pressure could be relieved that way. A little pop, snap, and crack to end all the build up pressure.

She ran her fingers back and forth against the laptop sensitivity pad waiting for her little white arrow to appear. She couldn’t really afford to get this fixed right now, not on top of all the other expenses plaguing her.

Another deep breath as the screen finally kicked to life. Whatever had seemed to cause it to glitch out had seemingly fixed itself.

With a more constant light she glanced around her cluttered cave of a bedroom. The slither of her snakes in the cage beside her laptop desk (which was really just one of those plastic drawer storage bins) reminded her that she’d have to grab another bulb at some point. She could vaguely see their shadows digging around in the substrate unhappily.

The laptop rebooted with it’s typical boring Windows login screen.

“What am I doing with my life?” she muttered to herself as she stared at the random screen shot of some night mountain scene displayed on the background. “I could be there, doing something important with my life.”

It wasn’t really a crushing self-deflating blow… it was more like a slow crumpling of her self-worth.

She’d been feeling it for a while. It built it stages but over the past few years the stress and pressure had made it seem to grow monumentally faster.

She’d be 35 this year. Now she understood why most people seemed to hate their birthday after about the age of 30.

Shelly typed in her login name and password with well worn cellular memory. Her fingers just knew the general pattern by now. She barely had to think about it. After all, most of her life seemed to be on this personal black box of hers.

Up popped her workspace. The background picture was relatively boring, she hadn’t changed it for about a year now. It showed the night sky with an artistic depiction of the TARDIS on the right side of the screen. Neatly stacked up on the left were her icons.

It was weird, but she held some sort of pride in how neatly they were arranged. It made her obsessive compulsive disorder happy to see them all neatly in line… which is why the new icon stood out so strongly to her.

Among her familiar little icons like Krita, Skyrim, Chrome, and LibreOffice was another one. It looked simple enough, a black triangle with a blue circle in the centre. There was no label text with it. No little name to go by. Just a weird little icon sitting out of place of the neat tidy rows. It was slightly smaller then the other icons, and if it wasn’t for the weird space it took up in the line she may have almost brushed over it. OCD to the rescue it seemed.

But what was it? Shelly had no recollection of downloading anything lately. Certainly not installing anything new anyway. Was it a virus? Certainly could be. There seemed to be a massive amount of data-mining, new viruses, and weird hacking programs to contend with online lately so she could only imagine what new brand of virus her older laptop might have caught. She wished doctor visits for computer systems were covered.

She dragged her cursor over to it, hovered it and the right clicked. She browsed down the list of options until she reached ‘Scan with windows defender’. She had been tempted to just hit open – but she wasn’t a complete idiot. She had no desire to willingly help out whatever hack this thing led to.

She waited.

Normally a teal bluish ‘Windows defender’ program would have opened by now. It usually opened, checked the file, and she could figure out what to do with it then… but nothing.

She right clicked again on the weird icon. The options opened up but this the option of scanning it was gone. Was that normal? She couldn’t remember. When was the last time she had to scan anything this suspicious?

She looked over the other options while biting her lower lip as she thought. Open was less tempting now. But Properties was at least safe. She clicked it and waited.

Now she got a brief anxious shiver up her spine and wiggled her cursor pathetically around the screen. It must have been a virus because her laptop just wasn’t wanting to work with her. Had it froze? A quick double-click on Crome brought up Google. That was working just fine. What was going on?

She closed the window then right clicked on the Chrome icon. Up came the list which also included the option to scan with Windows defender. She moved back to the weird triangle and tried again.

Now in the option list there was no tab for scanning, and no tab for Properties. In fact there was only one option. Open. It repeated itself down the list multiple times. Taking up the spaces for any other option.

Shelly didn’t like to curse. It was something she didn’t do very often, even though growing up it wasn’t exactly forbidden. Her brothers used to swear like sailors and her mother and grandmother could throw down some interesting F-bombs when they were partial to. Still, she didn’t like to. She did come close to it now however.

Instead the noise that escaped her was more reminiscent of a hissing kettle.

She moved her cursor desperately to the task bar she should could manually open her virus software and deal with the problem directly only to feel sick to her stomach as the options came up.

Everyone of the normal icons that would be displayed on the left hand side of the task bar was the eerie black triangle with the blue circle in the centre. Every option going down the list was simply titled “open the file”.

Her laptop was obviously infected bad. She reached out to the far left corner of her keypad, pressed and held the off button. She’d have to restart and hope like hell she could manage to fix this problem when the laptop rebooted. If this was one of those viruses that got worse when you restarted she’d be completely screwed.

The laptop went black. She waited a few seconds as a shaky finger hovered over the button. She counted out in her head the ten seconds that she normally waited before turning it back on after a hard restart. She only got to four before the laptop turned back on of it’s own accord.

This time the ceiling light and fan above her head flickered to life for a moment as well. It scared her to her feet causing her to this time utter a quick “Fuck!” before she could even think to hold it in. She stared at the flickering bulbs as the slight breeze from the slowly spinning fan blades subsided.

Shelly wasn’t sure why she was so jittery. What did she expect the whole bloody light to come down on top of her? What was she going to do if it did? Still her flight-or-fight reflexes were now making her feel like she’d somehow swallowed her own heart and was now choking on it.

The laptop screen was blue. Blue screen of death it was… or not.

She sat back down carefully and stared at the blue screen. The script on it was not the traditional blue screen of death script. There was no Windows error script. There was no uniform basic text block. As strange as this was it also had a deep feeling of familiarity to it. Had this happened before? Why did it feel… so familiar?

There were words written in white in some sort of handwritten grunge font set.

We tire of waiting in the shadows.

You had your time.

We are the Cluster.

We are in control now.

Everything went dark. It all came crashing down.