Dear Diary….special snowflakes every one of us

Alert: Contains spoilers for the adventure “The Temple of Elemental Evil”

We have rescued another inhabitant of the nodes.

When we got back to the fortress after all the dragon stuff, there was a guy knocking on the fortress door. His shield had the green dragon of Sir Robilar, but he says he just found it somewhere in the node…along with his chainmail and weapons (which explains why it doesn’t fit him well, and looks so beat-up).

We introduced ourselves, and turns out his name is Ashrim (former priest of the Air Temple)…says he was betrayed by his brother, Alrim (priest of the Fire Temple, I think – now dead) and sacrificed to the nodes.

We told him we were invaders of the nodes, and Ezekiel said we could get him out – for the price of telling us what he knew. Ashrim says there’s a vegemoyd in the Water Node (whatever that is), also some sea-hags (Ezekiel seemed intrigued…maybe they have the key-fragment?).

He also said there’s a bodak in the Fire Node, plus some red dragons; Earth Node has basilisks and black dragons. So sounds like we’ll be fighting more dragons…though I’m not looking forward to the basilisks, either. Ezekiel’s told us too many freaky stories about them.

We gave A. food and drink inside the fortress, and Lydia told him that as long as he behaved himself, what he did wasn’t our business…unless he did something that made it our business. I still don’t trust him, but he says the Mushroom Queen has abandoned him, and we all know what a cleric with no spells is worth (!). Ezekiel and Mikael encouraged him that maybe he should serve a deity who actually cared about him – like maybe Obed-Hai, who actually showed up at Mikael’s prayer when Ezekiel was being stupid and trying to get himself killed.

**

When we returned from the node, most of us returned to the Welcome Wench (Lydia has her room at the tower, of course, and Ashrim went with the “nice people” Sir Rufus sent).

Raven ran up to the room to get something, but he came down almost right away – looking kind of green. He’s supposed to be immune to disease, so we asked what the matter was, and it sure was creepy…

He found the special horse dagger (that he’s been saving in case he meets his Tzigani friends again) was taken out of his locked chest (even though the sheath was still locked up in the chest) and pieces of brie cheese laid out on the table to spell a word: ORPOST. The dagger was stuck in the table (made all the more mysterious since the room door was still locked, too).

We asked Master Osler if he’d seen or heard anything suspicious – but he said, No. He did remember that the young lady monk who used a scythe (the one with short black hair) came from Orpost, so that told us it was a place-name.

We hunted around town to find someone who could tell us how to get there. Apparently it’s past Verbobanc, on the other side of the Iron Wood (which apparently doesn’t have a reputation for being safe or friendly).

When we met up again for supper in our rooms, Raven explained that the cheese came from his family’s dairy back home – which makes it even weirder (I guess he can tell from the smell or the shape or something?). He seems to think it’s a challenge or some monk-ish thing like that, so Ezekiel says we’re going to Orpost. Master Elmo says he has to stay here (it is kinda his job) but the rest of us want to see a real monk-on-monk fight.

****

Still on the right road. Still feels so posh to be traveling by horseback, instead of our own feet. The people at the inn here say the path through the Iron Wood is about one day shorter than taking the long way around, but you have to watch out for the werewolves – and don’t be out after dark!

Somebody here was talking about setting up a fort to fight back the lycanthropes — sounds cool!, but we have our own job to do back in Homlette. So Ezekiel agreed we could head through the wood, and if we push it we should reach the safe inn before dark.

**

Safe and sound in the Fallen Timber. As Raven says, maybe we’re too loud and shiny for anything to want to attack us. Which I guess is fine, since we’re going somewhere, and we don’t like werewolves (although we have buckets of Keoghtim’s Ointment with us just in case).

****

Raven asked around the inn for monks of Merikka, and found out there’s a monastery on a hill not far away. He also bought some cheese, but so far he’s just sitting and staring at it, not eating it. Monks are so weird.

Can’t wait to see him fight his superior tomorrow.

****

We have a new Lamest Fight Ever.

Yep, we got to the monastery (which is a log building with a fenced training yard in front) and the lady seemed to be waiting for Raven there. She looked pretty grumpy, and at that point Raven decided to tell Ezekiel that he’s been thinking of leaving the Order of Merikka to join the Order of Ao (which there isn’t one, as far as we know knew). He said he told Merikka, and Ao, but apparently the lady monk found out, too, because she looked ready to twist Raven’s head off.

Raven took off his magic rings, and his magic rope, and his robe and all the rest of his gear. Mikael looked strange, and asked him if he wanted to borrow the jar of wasps (he said he was glad he didn’t have to fight anyone to advance in his order, until Ezekiel pointed out that really powerful druids totally fight each other, and then he looked even paler).

Raven breathed in and out a few times, and swung himself over the fence. Mikael sat on a haystack, and Lydia and Heiron and I all stepped forward to see better (we couldn’t help ourselves).

The Monk Master (her name is Balgalar, by the way) chatted with Raven for a minute, and then she called out, “I swear I have no magical aides on me, and I will prove with my body that Superior Master Raven will stay such until he repents of his folly.” (Or something like that…it sounded impressive.)

Raven drew a breath, like he was going to make a speech, too, but then he said, “I – Let’s just do this!”

Master Balgalar hit him so fast I could barely see it – and then, just when I thought it was going to get good, Raven knocked her flying so she sprawled on the ground. And that was it.

So we all stood and watched her for the five minutes it took her to stand back up, and boy, she looked even madder than before.

She started yelling at Raven that he wasn’t supposed to use any magical help, and then there was another man in the ring. Not like he jumped the fence and joined them or anything — he was just there. I checked with Lydia — she saw the same thing I did!

This old fellow in the white robes talked with the two of them for a minute, and then I think he patted the lady on the shoulder or something (apparently she’s still Merikka’s Master of Dragons…wait, does that mean Merikka has dragons??) and then he and Raven started walking toward us.

Ezekiel was leaning halfway into the ring by this time…good thing his armor doesn’t weigh hardly anything while he’s wearing it, since those sandals he wears aren’t any kind of counter-balance at all.

“Did I hear right?” he yelped. “You’re one of us?”

Apparently – Yes, this strange man (he has a nasty scar on his neck, and red, runny eyes) is one of…”those.” Sounds like he’s the “monk” Raven met the first time he went to the Air Node — the time we lost him by accident, and “Someone” intervened to get him back.

This “Brother Paul” fellow says he’s “not from this world,” but because Raven’s need was so great (in the Air Node) he showed up.

Oh, as for the fight – apparently that was the Blessing of the Tzigani showing up. Brother Paul says Raven can’t be faulted for “using” it, since he didn’t know about it…and not even Ezekiel knew that when the old Tzigani blessed Raven, this is what they meant!

Brother Paul kind of patted Raven on the shoulder, and told him to “train hard” and “follow the path” (all teachers say that, I guess), and Mikael said, “Hey, Ezekiel – actual proof your God exists!”

(The spells and zombie-dusting were one thing, but I can see Ez’s excited to not be the only person in the Church now.)

Some kids in grey robes ran up (one of them huffing and puffing) and asked to be Raven’s disciples (one of them was stammering and gushing about Raven’s big kick…are they going to tell him it was Tzigani magic?) so we took the two of them back to the inn with us. As Heiron pointed out, they’re not really suited to invade the nodes at this time…but they seem star-struck with Raven, so I guess it’s his problem.

Kinda adorable the way they try to run just the way Raven does, holding their hands just so. Reminds me of Heiron for some reason…although it’s not nearly as unsettling when they do it.

Raven’s writing a letter to his family now. I’m sure they’d like to hear about his success…although he says they were getting a discount on their religious duties or something as long as he was with the order (the monks of Merikka do like to help out local farms and such) but now that he’s the one and only Monk of Ao, that will be different.

I wonder what other weirdness will be happening now?

****

Dear Mother and Father,

How are you? I am fine.

Well, actually —

You might remember that Ertulli was invaded by goblins? Well, it’s fine. Actually, it’s not fine, but we evacuated all the people to Hochoch, so I guess they’re fine.

Then we got a name for a gnome scholar who might know why the goblins invaded…but that’s not really important, because when we got to Orlane (which was where the gnome was supposed to be), we half-accidentally killed the priestess of Merikka because there was an Evil cult of people charmed by a Spirit Naga, so we had to kill her (the Spirit Naga, that is).

Actually, that makes it sound like not as big a deal as it was — after all, Ezekiel (that’s Ezekiel Sentinel who was running the old clinic of Father Lloyd) actually got killed by one bite from her!

Then a priest of Velnius raised Ezekiel in Orlane, and told him there was something dark and Evil happening in some place called Homlette, in south Veluna. So we trekked over there (meeting some Tzigani along the way), and at first we weren’t sure exactly what to do…but then this super buff ranger (who was pretending to be stupid) gave us a lead.

So after we killed a bunch of cultists, and I got assassinated, we found ourselves invading the Temple of Elemental Evil! (Yes, that one, that Old Master Baron Drygoth was always talking about when nobody was listening.) We also met a bunch of new friends, including Heiron, who is a man-at-arms we rescued from the cultists. We hired him, and I’ve been teaching him some dodging and weapons techniques, and we’ve been sharing the magical gear we find with him to help him be a help (and he has been a great help!).

Part way through the Temple, we detected a secret room that radiated magical Evil (with Tressarian, my new magic sword, which I forgot to mention…he says hello, and he’s very pleased to meet you…oh, and yes, he can talk, although reading he’s not so good with).

Inside the room we found the missing Prince of Furiundy! Although we thought he was a vampire at first, and Ezekiel bashed him in the face with his mace – but he says his magic mace knew better, and held him back — and besides, he’s a cleric, so he fixed the prince’s face so no one knows but us who were in the room.

Anyway, once Heiron carried him out of the room, he woke up – and we could all see that he wasn’t a vampire like we thought…so we followed the prince back to town, and saw him safely off on a horse. We figured that was that, so we went back to the Temple, killed more cultists and monsters, bashed the Old One (that was Ezekiel), got killed by the Old One (that was me and our monk, Raven), and a lot of other stuff. I’ll have to write more details later.

Anyway, we took a trip so our monk could fight another monk (wasn’t as cool as I hoped – they pretty much just hit each other once each, and then the lady monk was unconscious for a bit) and when we got back, there was a battalion of knights waiting for us at the inn (also several priests of Rau and some magic users). Their horses were all decked out in the colors of Veluna, and I started to get nervous.

They started asking for each one of us by name, and I got really nervous, and they told us that Prince Thrommel required us in Mitrik at once! – but they said it was all friendly, and that we wouldn’t need our weapons…and they took us on the week-long trip to Veluna.

(I have a horse now, by the way…he’s a present from Mikael – yes, Mikael from the Grove, who is a really powerful druid now, and made friends with lots of animals, only they have all died except his giant snake by now – and this horse is one he bought, not one that he befriended especially.)

They put us up in super fancy rooms in the citadel, and this morning pages came to “escort” us to breakfast (although all of us were a little too excited to eat much, even Lydia, who is our magic user). They gave us fancy, expensive clothes to borrow (although Ezekiel and Raven were still wearing the special robes of Ao — we told them when they met us that Raven had just changed deities, which I forgot to mention, but it’s really complicated. Bottom line, apparently there really is a God over all Gods, and he seems to have noticed Ezekiel – but in a Good way, like giving him power to turn undead and stuff – and anyway I will have to explain that later).

A bunch of important knights, with their armor polished to a shine, led us to the throne room, and there we met Prince Thrommel his actual self! (and his face looks just fine, by the way) and his lady-to-be, the Lady Jolean of Veluna.

He thanked us all for rescuing him from the Temple, and we were about to say he was very welcome, and needn’t mention it, but then he drew his sword (that’s the special magic one that everyone talks about) and told Heiron to kneel.

Heiron looked like he was pretty happy to lower his center of gravity, and the prince knighted him a Knight of Veluna and Furiundy, and some pages brought out another magic sword to give to Heiron – plus a potion, and a magic ring, and a whole big bag of platinum pieces. For real.

We all sighed and smiled and were feeling so proud of Heiron (and maybe thinking out how the platinum would divide six ways) when he told Heiron to stand up and told me to kneel.

I think I did manage to without passing out on the floor, but really I don’t remember much of what he said. He pinned a silver star badge and a gold crown badge on me, just like on Heiron, and now I am a knight of Veluna and Furiundy and he gave me treasure just like he did to Heiron, also.

Mikael he kissed to make him an Elder of the Land, and he also gave him a warhorse (I think Mikael tried to give him his jar of wasps, but the prince just moved on with the ceremony. Apparently druids don’t understand that if you give something in return for a gift, then it isn’t really a gift).

By the time he was done with Raven (his attendants helped remind him that Raven was now a monk of the God of Gods, not Merikka, although we’re all getting used to that still) Lydia was recovered (if she was ever shocked) and made a lovely curtsy to him. She got to be an elder, too, and got treasures just like the rest of us.

Ezekiel got the same, plus a necklace of prayer beads that he’s been drooling over ever since (he still has something funny with his spells, like his magic mace casts spells or something, and he was trying to explain to me how these prayer beads worked, but honestly I have no memory of what he said).

Finally they let us sit down, and a bard came out a sang about how we rescued the prince from the Temple (leaving out the part about bashing him in the face, of course, because that part is our secret) and then the princess came and thanked us all and tomorrow we get to watch the ceremony where they confirm their engagement. (Part of me thinks, with the enemies the kingdoms have, they should go ahead and have the wedding as soon as possible, but it’s none of my business really.)

Anyway, I thought you would like to know how your “little boy” is doing lately. So I am an honest-to-goodness knight now, and Ezekiel pointed out that if they ever get into a war or something, they might be calling on me.

Ezekiel says we (the six of us) should be ready for war in any case, since the Old One (yes, really, that one) will be kinda mad at us after Ezekiel bashed his face with his magic mace (it’s what he does). But that’s not the point right now.

As you can see, I am doing fine. I am doing my best to kill Evil and protect Good, and I hope you are all proud of me.

Please give my regards to Alpheus and Dexter and Wolfgang and Aunt Elaine, and also I guess to Tomlin and Archy if you see them. And if Reginald and Bartholomew have somehow managed to avoid prison or being killed by this time, tell them to keep it up.

Sincerely and affectionately yours,

Elwyn


Find the previous entry here.

Dear Diary….first ever dragon fight—impressive??

Digging through my pack (and the bag of holding) I realized I have a potion of heroism (it might be from the sticky cloth that makes a storage hole, but I’m not sure…). According to Ezekiel and Lydia, it makes you stronger and tougher, and “unlocks” something-something-lets you attack more efficiently, or something.

Bottom line, I gave it to Elmo, in case he judges it would be useful. (I mean after all, he chopped a giant in half last battle, and I barely did anything. Besides, Heiron and I are planning to go in with our bows, and more muscle wouldn’t really help us there – except maybe break the bowstring by accident (which would not be helping).)

Ezekiel says we’re heading into the Air Node tomorrow…

****

Arrived safely at Taki’s old campsite and set up the fortress. (Forgot to ask how he was doing last time we were in town…maybe Raven has heard from him??)

Lydia “set” the portal inside the fortress, and then stepped through. Hope no slimes find it while we’re gone — that would be awkward.

Ez cast his “Endure Cold” spell on her — he says it should last several hours, so even if the dragons get the jump on us, she should be protected (not just because she’s a girl, but because she has the best chance of any of us to toast the enemy with one gesture – and rescue our bacon if need be).

Heading out to follow the wall of the main ravine now…heading “south.”

**

[rough sketch]

Boring, boring, boring caves. Even Elmo can’t find traces of anybody/thing living here – or at least not recently. There sure is a lot of room back in here…you could house an army (though I don’t know why you’d want to, in here).

We did find something interesting, in one of the caves tucked at the southern end of the canyon: a faintly glowing triangle, drawn on the floor. So now we don’t have to trek to the Water Node to travel to the Earth Node.

**

Finally found a ridge that led us up to a plateau overlooking the ravine, and the last couple caves that we haven’t mapped.

Ezekiel “warded” us from cold as we came up the ridge…and then there wasn’t anything up here.

If we tie all the ropes together, I think we can climb down the cliff-face faster than walking the long way down the ridge (Raven says, “Especially with Elwyn’s short legs,” but I know I’d never land a hit on him). Maybe we can reach the cave at the cliff foot before these shorter spells wear off.

**

Well, it was in the last cave…the very last cave. Because naturally.

As we were about to enter, we noticed a huge pile of lizard-like dung – splatted, as though it had landed there front a great hight, and at great speed.

With that indication, we passed around a flask of invisibility potion, and entered as quietly as we Ezekiel could.

The first dragon swooped toward us from a crag high in the cave wall ahead of us…(contrary to the squat little burrows we’d spent the morning in, this cavern was expansive and high-ceilinged.) I don’t think it could see us, but it might have been coming forward to investigate the sounds of clanking armor.

Heiron got his shot off first – and winged it so that it shimmied away from my shot.

Mikael lit it up with faery fire, and Lydia gestured – and the dragon yelped and skewed into the ground, its body popping and smoldering.

Two more dragons broke from the shadows and charged us. One of them was comparatively small…I must have landed an arrow in a chink between its scales or something, because it flipped over and fell dead almost before I saw it.

The final dragon was almost our undoing. It gave a roar of rage, and blew icy breath all over us.

Raven jumped behind Lydia. Ezekiel and Elmo got their arms up to shield their faces or something, and of course Mikael was wearing the Ring of Warmth.

For Heiron and I – it was like diving into an ice-locked lake…naked. Ezekiel has told me about some people, way up in the mountains, who play a game like that in winter: you sit in a room full of fire and water, then run and jump into the icy water. Some people don’t have their heads on quite right.

Heiron still managed to draw his bow without his fingers falling off – and nailed the last dragon through the throat.

Ezekiel and Mikael came around, giving everyone magical anti-frostbite, and the battle was over.

So I don’t know what to make of my first encounter with dragons. On the one hand, they went out like punks…and on the other hand, if Ezekiel had been a little slower putting his hand on me, I think I might have shattered when I tipped over and hit the ground. I’m only just now getting the feeling back in my fingers, as I write this.

(I NEED to find a way where Heiron stops almost dying all the time. Like better armor, or more dodging practice, or something. I’ve told him it won’t do…his arm is all scarred up from the giants’ boulders, and now he’s nursing frostbite. If he weren’t such a teddybear, he’d up and quit on me.)

We explored the rest of the cave, and found the dragons’ treasure stash. Mostly money, with a couple magic goodies – including a short composite bow. Now I have an excuse to practice short bow.

We also followed a ramp along the side of the cavern and found a little cave with the eight-sided fire symbol glowing on the floor…which means we now have entrances to all three of the other nodes, once we’re ready for them. As Ezekiel would be quick to point out, we also want to find the magic gems for all of them…but one thing at a time.

While the others check out the potion, scroll, and wand we found, “some” of us are gonna try skinning dragon! Elmo says we should have a race. I’m not sure I want to lose at something else today.


Find the previous entry here.

Dear Diary….die, learn, win, repeat

13 Wheelsun

Nice party last night. Raven made the most extraordinary cookies. (He made up a box to leave with Lydia, I guess to keep her company while we’re busy.)

Wonillon found a caravan traveling in his direction, so he’s joining up with them this afternoon. (He did let me buy the necklace of adaptation.)

We’re going over to Lydia’s at the tower so he can say good-bye (and so we can do some planning…meaning Ezekiel and Lydia do planning, and the rest of us look pretty).

**

Lydia has adjusted her face! She looks more-or-less the same, just without the burn scars. I thought it was funny that she had her veil loose in the tavern last night, but I couldn’t put my finger on why it didn’t bother anybody (especially her). I guess she’s forgiven us and consented to wear the hat.

Elmo came to the door while Ezekiel was laying out our next order of attack, and said it was “really boring” around here lately, and could he come with us for “even shares.” Wonillon talked him into buying his ring of fire-protection (guess he figures he won’t need it in the Chron Hills), even though Elmo says that’s “a lot of drinks'” worth of money.

After Wonillon left, Elmo started using his real voice – which kind of confused Heiron, but we reassured him about it (“basically Master’s master”). (Kinda sweet that Master Elmo is treating Heiron like an “inner circle” person.)

Apparently Lord Otis tipped him off that we’ve been exploring the nodes of Air and Water, so Ezekiel gave him the run-down on the key-gems (at least what we know so far).

We’re heading back to clear out the nest of water-hobs, if possible, and from there, Ez wants to Hunt Demon-rays.

**

[the following contains many water-marks and smeared sections]

(Guess we were so excited we left half-cocked. We realized we have several potions of polymorph, and a couple of water-breathing, so we passed those around to whoever needed one – just in case the Airy Water gets dispelled while we’re underwater. I meant to leave myself a note, but obviously I forgot – because we also didn’t bring the Cloak of the Manta-Ray (is it in the chest, or was it hanging in Lydia’s room?), so Elmo wrote her a note to please send it through when she gets the chance.)

We inspected the underwater cave with Airy Water – it’s basically a passage that slopes up to a cave with an air-bubble, and then slopes down to the “sea” on the other side. We killed another of the marine gargoyles there, but I’m not sure it lives there exactly. (It rammed its horn into the rock wall, making it easy pickings.)

Climbing up the beach into the cave, we found something more interesting: a big triangle rune on the floor…glowing ever so slightly. According to the notes, this should transport us to the Node of Earth…when we’re ready to go there, of course.

Ezekiel wanted to continue on the sea floor for a bit, so we tied the raft to my depth-buoy and kept following the wall of the node.

There’s no seaweed, no algae, nothing that looks alive down here. You could tell it irritated Mikael.

When the spell was about to give out, we climbed the rope to the raft – then pulled Ezekiel up when he signaled (if the raft got into the spell-radius, it would sink).

Time to paddle for a while…we’ve heard some splashing, but haven’t seen anything yet…

****

Well, we found something, all right. And we learned some lessons, too.

Following the sound of something large splashing and bellowing, we paddled around a promontory and spotted a cave-mouth, about ten feet above the water (nothing in the water, though).

Ezekiel decided he would go first, since he had the best armor and such, so he slung out a rope of climbing and started up. No sooner had he reached the top than a boulder bounced off his shield and sailed over our heads.

He yelled, “Giants,” so there wouldn’t be any ambiguity – and I arced an arrow up and past him while Elmo leapt up the rope with his battleaxe.

Raven sprang up the rocks like a spider, and once the rope was free I started to follow the others. Mikael rushed past me in a flurry of wings, and landed above as himself.

By the time I reached the top, it looked pretty ugly. The cave was spacious, but giants still packed the space…and a suspiciously dragon-ish white lizard stood on one side, breathing frost in our faces.

My arrows did absolutely nothing…and while Raven was dodging boulders with a monkish little dance or something, a giant caved Ezekiel’s head in with a club – and another one bowled Mikael right off the edge of the cliff.

I did see one thing – Ezekiel dropped a little black cube as he fell. I knew it must be the fortress…and if I could get it, I could enact his plan and block or squish the enemy (it would at least cover our retreat, though that’s a word I’m not fond of).

Raven grabbed Ezekiel and jumped off the cliff — I heard them splash in the water.

Heiron had joined us by now, and put a couple arrows into a blue and white lizard snarling in the corner – then called to Elmo that we were safe to retreat.

Elmo chopped a giant in half and dove out of the cave. A boulder caught me in the shoulder, but I was all ready to grab the fortress and practice Discretion.

Then a raven buzzed through the cave and flew off with the fortress in his claws.

I admit, I got frustrated at having to change plans…but I wasted no time. The giants had pummeled Heiron to his knees. By the time I staggered across to him, grabbed his elbow, and jumped off the cliff, he was barely conscious. (Raven says the impact of hitting the water is what pushed him over the edge, but I’m just glad we got out of there.)

Raven and Elmo helped Heiron onto the raft. Ezekiel(‘s body) was lying on top of a chalk circle…but it’s not like we had time to wait for Lydia (she can hate me if she wants). Nothing would stop the giants from reaching the edge of the cliff, and the dragon/lizard things had wings.

A dolphin was tugging a rope to drag the raft away, but I didn’t wait for that.

I popped one of my magic rings into my pocket, pried the ring of spell storage from Ezekiel’s finger…and remembered I don’t know how to cast spells. But I guess just wanting to cast Airy Water was good enough – because the next thing we knew, the raft was fluttering to the sea floor (jerking Mikael on the rope a little, but I think he forgives me).

We panted for a moment – processing. Faint bellowing came from above our heads, but we had lost our enemies.

Elmo had time to tell me “good job” (I made a note of that!) and then Lydia appeared – pretty mad. She ordered us through the portal, and after everybody else made it (either supporting someone, or flopping, for the most part) I followed.

Turns out, Lydia was most angry because she couldn’t do anything. Good thing she was watching us, though…even if it irritated her to watch a fight she couldn’t participate in.

I rubbed Keoghtim’s Ointment on the worst of Heiron’s injuries, and then Father Yra showed up – summoned by a man-at-arms – to take care of Ezekiel.

It’s still quite impressive to watch someone start breathing again. Father Yra told us not to worry about the fee, since we’re kinda sorta working for the tower anyway…he should know by now we’re a party who needs our raises.

The cleric types passed around healing…and under normal circumstances, that’d be enough excitement for one day.

But Lydia was not done by any means.

She snatched the ring of spell-storage, tossed some sulphur around, and handed to Ezekiel. She told him to drink a potion of invisibility, and go through the mirror and throw two fireballs at the giants.

Raven gave him a potion, and we heard the *clank-clank-clank* of him walking through the portal. Moments later, he reappeared – but Lydia did not look well pleased.

She said something that sounded like “pathetic,” and in the end we all got a swig of the potion. Lydia would drop most of us in the back of the cave – invisible, and with Ezekiel’s silence on us – and then move the portal around to the front of the cave for Ez.

When we saw her drop a light-marble through the portal, that would be the signal…Mikael and Raven would use their ropes of entanglement from the sides, and the rangers and archer would unleash a hail of death.

Well, this time the battle went much differently. When we no longer had to climb up one by one to reach the enemy – and when we surprised them with invisibility on top of that! – it was like…shooting fish in a barrel.

Mikael summoned Rocky the Earth Elemental, but I don’t think he even got any of the action. Heiron and I did indeed “unleash a hail of death,” and Elmo dashed into the fray with his axe.

As the smoke cleared from Ezekiel/Lydia’s second fireball, the last giant dropped to the ground.

It almost seems unfair. Almost.

Turns out they were hoarding a whole lot of gems and coins, plus a ring of protection that Elmo is wearing for now…Also a couple scrolls, one of which is definitely for Lydia.

We set up the fortress, and no sooner had we drawn the circle than Lydia joined us. Before we could panic, she explained that she’s been doing some studying, and found that she can “fix” the portal or something, so she can step in and out of it without trapping us all. Makes sense we wouldn’t want to leave it sitting open where something dangerous might blunder in (like a slime), but as long as we’re in the fortress, everything should be dandy.

With this new information, Ezekiel is much more confident about killing the dragons in the Air Node. We all talked for a bit about how we might do that, especially if Lydia loads up the ring of storage with fireballs and lightenings – and then all of us followed her back through the portal so she could rest and study up.

Before she shut down the mirror, though, Ezekiel had her drop him at Taki’s old campsite in the Air Node so he can practice his protection spells. He says the bandit cleric we rescued last gave him some hints that the spells could work differently in the nodes, and he wants to experiment. I’m not sure how you can “experiment” with divine spells (it’s not like it depends on word order and pronunciation, right?) but anyway that’s what he’s up to. And if he just sits in the fortress and stays off the battlements, he shouldn’t be too vulnerable all by himself.

I think Mikael also wants to prepare some things. He’s had a bundle of sticks shoved in his back pocket for the last few days, and last I saw him, he said something about “collecting a jar of wasps”. I’m…not sure I want to know.

The rest of us prepare in our own ways…sharpening weapons and restocking arrows. Raven’s been in the back yard swinging around one of his magic daggers.

Elmo said he was impressed with my work, even though I didn’t get to do much. He says I know more about giants than he does now, but I figure that’s just practice and exposure…and besides, he’s the one who diced a giant into pieces, so it all evens out. We did have fun showing Heiron the difference between a hand-axe and Elmo’s battle-axe.

Mister Whisker said he missed me. Technically, I guess, he missed my cookies, but broadly he missed me. Maybe if we go back to the Node of Air, or finally get to the Node of Earth, he can come with me again.

What a day. Good to have Ezekiel alive again, though.


Read the previous entry here.

Dear Diary….Wonillon’s grand finale

We had just sent the bandits off through the mirror, and Ezekiel had just spotted what might be a raft on the coast-line, when Raven reappeared – right about the spot where the bandits disappeared. He says he got our last two rescued prisoners safely on their way home…and, of course, picked up some cheese (which he passed around).

We talked a bit about how we could get the Dragon-Turtles out of the node and into the Near Div. It might be possible with a couple potions of Diminution, a spell of Mikael’s, and the river near Nulb…but we should definitely check with them first. And anyway it should be a while before we’re ready to collapse the nodes.

We also talked about ways to fight the Demon-Rays (or Ixixaktl). Ezekiel says it’s going to be harder, because some of them have the abilities of clerics (like casting spells and stuff) and others of them even have the ability to suck your life-force (he says it’s like vampires, but none of us have ever met those, either – thank goodness!).

Demon-rays are water-breathers, so Wonillon suggested casting “Airy Water” on them, making them at least sink – and maybe suffocate. Ezekiel isn’t sure he can use the spell on something other than himself, though.

Naturally, shooting my bow underwater would be basically useless – even inside the Airy Water.

****

We investigated the raft – and sure enough, it floats. Looks like it was cobbled together from bits and pieces of everything, with a couple rough paddles that might have been carved with a battle-ax. It looks rickety and uneven…but it does float, even with all of us on it.

We paddled toward what we’re calling south until we hit a new island (small and uninhabited), where Mikael tried to “Commune with Nature” or something (it’s supposed to make him one with the environment and tell him useful things about the surrounding countryside or something). He’s been sitting with his eyes closed and humming a little for almost ten minutes.

Ezekiel took the time to look for any hidden caves near the shoreline. He didn’t find any, but he did find a pretty shell.

****

Mikael didn’t learn anything…I guess this place isn’t much like the “natural” outside. (He doesn’t seem to like Ezekiel’s new shell.)

We continued south until we reached the wall of the node. I assume that’s what it is…it’s a wet, glinting wall of rock that rises up and arcs toward the fake stars overhead. We took care not to get too close with our raft.

Something attacked us shortly after we turned east. I just know it had wings and dove out of the water very suddenly. Wonillon and Ezekiel killed it (with Mikael’s help).

**

Well. It’s been an afternoon.

We were following the rock wall “east” a rocky formation rose up ahead of us. There must be an underwater cave entrance, because next thing we knew, humanoid things with fins and gills started swarming us.

We were a bit taken aback when Ezekiel hit one and his mace didn’t light up or anything (though it was also amazing that he’d hit two things today), so Mikael called out to ask them if they were Evil…though they never stopped attacking us long enough to answer.

Then I hit a couple with Tressarian (he was in my hand since we were sniffing for magic and Evil) and I could tell by the way their skeletal structure came apart – they’re related to hob-goblins somehow. I’m not sure exactly how the fins and gills came into it, but at least I didn’t have to guess where the major arteries and organs would relate to each other.

Not like it mattered a great deal – the others were chewing through them, even without my know-how. Heiron was shooting down two or three of them every minute or so…and they noticed. They gabbered in their own ugly language, and charged through the water to get at him (by the way, the raft is sturdier than I gave it credit for, and I’m very grateful that it didn’t tip us all out during the battle).

Things were going peachy…Mikael and Raven both used magic ropes to catch prey, and Ezekiel kept touching Heiron with healing whenever a weapon caught him. We were stacking up the bodies in the water all around us. And then the giant sting-ray things showed up.

Ezekiel tells me they’re “demon-rays,” but of course we never saw them real clearly while fighting them. They just jumped out of the water, took a bite out of something, and dove back down. Most of them seemed most interested in the dead marine-hobs (koalinths, I guess) and would take off an arm or foot as they passed a body. So I guess they’re not all that bright.

Others were more effective. One of them charged up and took a bite out of Wonillon – and he staggered back, looking pale and green.

A couple water-hobs knocked Heiron’s bow away and struck him to his knees. Although that made me see red, switching to my bow would take too long (even though I could kill more of them that way). Besides, Tressarian was having such a good time.

Ezekiel stepped over to Heiron and put his hands on him, and I tried to look dangerous by killing even more of them.

The stars disappeared for a few moments, and the fog around us seemed to intensify…Ez tells us that was a darkness spell, but I guess the continual light on our two shields was too much for it (thanks Elohnna!).

I slashed a ray in two, and realized the water-hobs had fled back to their cave (those who were still alive, obviously).

Ezekiel waved his sheep-symbol around, and I guess a few bubbles floated to the surface or something (of course in all that chaos it’s hard to tell)…he says there were some water-ghouls that noticed the power of the lamb.

I’m just wondering how many other things feel the need for a water-gimmick. What’s next, water-squirrels?

We were finishing off the last of the moving ixixaklt when I saw Raven holding his hand in front of his eyes and throwing a dagger.

At first I thought he was just trying to make it look more impressive…then I saw his dagger imbed into a…

[partial sketch]

Floating eye thing. So that’s a thing, too.

It bubbled and dropped into the water, and Heiron and Wonillon shook their heads and rubbed their eyes a little. (Heiron asked me, “How could a giant eye just float like that, Master?” and I told him to ask Lydia.)

Wonillon still looked kinda shriveled and green (and he’s just naturally small anyway) so Ezekiel said we had to get him back to the world to find a healer.

Not fancying the idea of sitting right outside the koalalynths’ front door, we paddled for about ten minutes until we found another bare island that would fit the fortress. We had time to bandage Heiron before Lydia waved us through.

He seems in a bad way. Even with the dodging and push-ups he’s been practicing, there’re only so many bites and stabs a man’s body can take. It’s not fair that just because I’m not as tall as he is I somehow seem less intimidating. Ezekiel says I shouldn’t tempt fate.

Ezekiel has also been talking with Father Yra and some other people at the tower…and the news isn’t good for Wonillon. As Ez said at first, it looks like the demon-ray sucked a bit of his life away. Not sure how that works, but I guess it means Wonillon forgot a few things…and isn’t as healthy as he used to be.

There is a spell that could help him…but it would take someone in Verbobanc to cast it, that they’d probably want a lot of money for the trouble (according to Father Yra). Like, a lot of money – even more than Mikael has (and he doesn’t have to pay Master Geru to share the “secret druid knowledge!”).

Wonillon’s done some thinking, and he thinks he’ll “quit while he’s ahead”…he got his revenge on the temple, and he says he’s richer than anyone in his hometown could ever dream. So he might as well retire while he’s still a young gnome in his prime, and enjoy his earnings.

Ez made a big speech that basically meant, “Good to know you; stay in touch.” We’re going to hang out for a few days (Heiron has to rest up anyway) and throw a farewell party. (Lydia will be happy…she says it’s super boring just watching us flex through the mirror.)

I want to ask Wonillon if he’ll sell me the Necklace of Adaptation. After all…he probably won’t need it…and it would come it super handy in the water node (and possibly in some of the other ones, too). Lydia and Ezekiel tell us that the elemental grus can’t cancel the effects of magical items, so having that would make me much more confident about being able to breath.

Tressarian says it was a worthy fight, but would have been even better if they were Evil fire creatures. He’ll just have to wait until the fire node.

(Lydia skeptical that Ezekiel turned some water-ghouls…she says the Demon Prince that the demon-rays serve is usually bitter enemies with the Undead King. Then again, maybe they weren’t working together? They just happened to be hanging out in the same area? The demon-rays sure weren’t “working with” the sea-hobs in any sense that we would recognize…)


Find the previous entry here.

Dear Diary….Ezekiel is trigger-happy and Mikael is a dolphin

We talked with our rescued slaves while waiting for Lydia to answer our chalk circle (good thing we’ve never used it for an emergency evacuation).

One of them (Dwr) says he was captured from a merchant caravan, and thrown into the pit as a sacrifice. Says he’s the only one left of his group.

The other one (Dirat) was a bit more evasive…says he came to the Temple for work, but displeased one of the leaders and was “given” to the giants in the node (the Temple gave him tools on the other side, and the giants were waiting for him when he arrived).

Wonder what the giants needed slaves for? Digging out a cozier cave in the rock? Continue reading

Character Perspective—Jerk Is in the Eye of the Beholder

When an author chooses to write a story in a certain character’s point-of-view (POV), it’s because the author wants the audience to bond with that particular character – and see events from his or her perspective.

As the old saying goes, “a villain is the hero of his own story.” The choice of which character is in charge of the telling will play a vital role in how the rest of the story plays out.

We will examine this more closely using two examples: the opening of Ten Thousand Thorns, and the “Yellow Trailer” for the RWBY web series. These two pieces of fiction affected me in very different ways, and I think it all comes down to perspective.

Case 1: Sleeping Beauty is a Martial Artist Princess in China

Character Perspective: Jerk is in the Eye of the Beholder — Kimia WoodThat’s Ten Thousand Thorns in nine words. (Check out the “Look Inside” feature on Amazon.)

On page one, we are introduced to a secretive young man hiding in the corner of a tea tavern. (He thanks the serving girl politely when she pours him some tea.)

On page three, a delicate young girl kicks a hole through the wall. She snaps at the tea the waitress gives her, generally acts like a terrible customer, and ends by kidnapping the village elder.

The author has one perspective on this scene:

Character Perspective: Jerk is in the Eye of the Beholder — Kimia Wood

“there are many, MANY reasons why I so deeply love Ten Thousand Thorns, my kung fu Sleeping Beauty baby, but the first scene in which my heroine blasts a guy through a tea house and then gets snobby about tea is one of them” [via Twitter]

And I have another perspective

Namely, that I feel sorry for this mysterious young man, sorrier for the tea establishment who’s out both a free cup of tea and a wall, and utterly unimpressed with this cocky little “Iron Maiden” who seems to have the manners of a whirling dervish.

I’m certainly not prepared for the young man to fall in love with the Maiden over the course of the story (which is what happens). In fact, if someone came along to kick this chick’s butt, I’d be okay with that. Put it down as a gesture to retail associates everywhere.

Case 2: Mz Punchy McPowerhouse on a Power Trip

Now let’s check out RWBY: “Yellow” Trailer…our grand introduction Yang Xiao Long, one of the four main characters (disclaimer: this wasn’t really my first time meeting Yang, so that might have colored my reactions a bit):

What a jerk! What a pompous bimbo! What a…What a cool character!

I don’t like Yang – but I like Yang!

Who’s Head is This?

In my own over-analysis, the reason I like “Yellow Trailer” when I feel I really shouldn’t, and why Ten Thousand Thorns struck me as so very “meh,” is…perspective.

In TTT, the first person we meet is the male wanderer protagonist. Our baby chick brains “imprint” on him…so when he’s stunned and nervous about this sassy little girl kicking through walls, so are we.

In “Yellow Trailer,” our first image is of Yang on her motorcycle. We’re “in” her head. Through the whole rest of the scene, she’s the character we’re psychologically tied to and identified with. Yeah, she’s beating up people for no reason…but it’s a power trip we can have fun with.

In TTT, the second person we meet is the unnamed tea waitress – who never appears again! We see things from her perspective before we even meet the “Iron Maiden” – let alone understand her point of view.

Just who’s going to pay for that wall, anyway?!

Author Responsibly

It could be I’m just weird. I get that a lot. But the responsibility of “who tells the story” is a heavy burden, and a choice we as authors must make deliberately.

Not to brag – but, yeah, totally to brag – my choice to tell Transmutation of Shadow in first person is a big part of what makes it work. Trying to make Eric Kedzierski “Mr. Tall-Dark-and-Mysterious” would kill the tone, and distance readers from his thought processes… In a book that already starts with Eric murdering a senator for the mob, that kind of distance would destroy author-reader trust.

And that’s pretty much the one thing that’s absolutely fatal to a work of fiction.

Comment! Is there a book you’ve read, or a movie you’ve watched, that would work way better for you, if it just followed a different character?


Character Perspective: Jerk is in the Eye of the Beholder — Kimia WoodKimia Wood lives somewhere in the American Midwest with her family – including the brother people mistake for her girlfriend.

She’s bracing for the collapse of society by knitting, baking, writing, and other excuses for not gardening.

Dear Diary….something something giants

I suggested that, since Lydia apparently used Taki to home in on the Air Node, that we could draw a picture or something on one of the cliffs here to help her find it, if we ever need her to send us back here. So this morning, Mikael asked for stone-shape, and made a statue of Nori on the side of this cliff here.

[sketch]

We had a little excitement early this morning. Ezekiel and Mikael were on watch, when Mikael suddenly started poking us and shouting us awake. Heiron and I grabbed our bows and followed him up to the battlements. There, we saw a huge blue man-thing (actually a Cloud Giant) clutching Ezekiel with one hand and trying to climb down the fortress.

A moment later, Raven’s rope snaked out of an arrow slit below us and wrapped around the giant. Heiron and I let loose into him, and he dropped like a stone – still clutching Ezekiel. Continue reading

Dear Diary….one wild morning

Alert: Does contain spoilers for the adventure “Temple of Elemental Evil”

We had barely finished our conversation when there was a knock on the door.

This derni’s magic fortress thing has a roof you can access, with battlements and everything…so they sent me up to the roof to scope things out. An old man in rags was knocking at the door, wearing a battered hat and cloak.

Ezekiel opened the door enough to ask him his business, and the old man dropped to the ground and started whining. When Ezekiel brought him inside the fortress, I came down from the roof.

The old man had about three brain cells left, it seems. He kept calling us “Great Master of the Abysal Fires” and begging us to send him home “to the Orth”…and offering us “thousands of gold pieces and my eternal service” if we would help him.

When he said his name was Sargin, Ezekiel winked at us, and I guess he was mentioned in the little book from the High Cleric’s room as a Temple official who got condemned to the nodes.

We did get kind of uncomfortable at him calling us “demon or devil,” and Mikael tried to explain that we’re not Evil (“I’m a Master of Trees, not the Abyss!”) but it was like talking to a sneaky child…Sargin just kept agreeing with everything we said, and insisting that he would serve us faithfully – no matter what kind of monster or weird being we were.

Even after Raven fed him (he gobbled it so fast he crumbs in his beard, which was full of twigs and stuff anyway), Sargin didn’t make much sense. Ezekiel tried asking him about the Air Node, but he just gabbled about “no way home” and the dragons were “guarding, guarding, always guarding something – maybe a way home? – but I couldn’t…couldn’t…” He couldn’t even face the puddings (says he hid from them) which makes sense, being a magic user with no spell-books.

Wonillon asked him where this gold was that he offered us, and Sargin said “back home,” in the Kingdom of Erdi. Wonillon and Ezekiel kind of rolled their eyes at each other…I gather it’s something to do with the Great Kingdom, which at least tells us that the Temple gathered acolytes from all over the place – but nothing more useful than that.

Finally, Ezekiel seemed satisfied that nothing useful would come of prolonging the conversation. Raven convinced Sargin to give up his weapon – a dagger was all he had left – and then we signaled Lydia (Ez told Sargin to “carefully obey everything Mistress Lydia says”). A few minutes after Raven drew a chalk circle on the ground, a wooden crate popped out of the air.

Raven stepped into the magic spot to explain everything to Lydia – and offered Taki the chance to leave the node, but Taki said he had some things to collect first.

While Raven was gone, we opened the crate and discovered enough flasks of oil for each of us to take a couple…which is nice, because it felt like I was the only one who prepared for that. Also nice to know Lydia can help us out with supplies — having an on-demand portal back home is sure useful!

When Raven came back, he said some men-at-arms took Sargin off. S seemed calm enough, so maybe he can get the “help” he needs.

Sobering to see what could happen to a man in a place like this…without Taki’s strength and skill, and without the back-up of the bandit band (whom we haven’t seen yet).

Taki says he’s willing to spend the night in here with us…an impenetrable fortress sure comes in handy. In the morning, Ez says he wants to work around the feet of the central spire, exploring as we go, and try to find the way-point to the Water Node that Taki mentioned.

****

One cave down. Taki took off on his own not long after we started. We spotted a cave mouth above us as we headed north (what I’m calling north) along the ravine floor, and went to investigate.

At the first fork, we headed right, and found a couple spacious caves. The strangest thing about them was the glacier walls along the north side — don’t know if the cave butts up against something icy, or if something covered those walls with ice.

We did meet a half-dozen ice toads – so maybe they covered the walls with ice (but then, why only the north side?). Mikael and Wonillon held the front line (Mikael was wearing the ring of warmth, after all) while Heiron and I peppered them with arrows. I’m getting faster on my draw…if Father could just see me now.

Once they were all dead, they didn’t suck in heat so viciously – so we could approach without being hit with biting, finger-numbing cold. Ezekiel patched up the wounded (he gets such a kick out of that) while we searched the bodies.

Apparently some other travelers weren’t so lucky, as we found some remains inside – mostly gems and jewelry, that wouldn’t digest, and a couple magical items (Tressarian confirmed that they were magical). One was a decanter with a stopper – though Ezekiel couldn’t figure out how to work it. The other was an ordinary-looking hat…but once Raven put it on (he didn’t mind all the toad juice, I guess) suddenly he could look like me – or Ezekiel. I’m not sure I’m comfortable with this…but Heiron pointed out that maybe Lydia would like it, and I suppose if she wanted to assassinate us, she doesn’t need to disguise herself as us to do that. (I think we all agreed that the hat would be safer with her than with Raven.)

Ezekiel did some poking around the ice wall, but couldn’t find out anything else. He said maybe the different nodes “border each other paraphysically” (whatever that means), but from what I see, that doesn’t change our strategy much.

(Speaking of strategy, Heiron whispered to me to ask if maybe he should have used his flame-tongue sword on the toads instead of his arrows, since they were ice, and so would have been vulnerable to fire. He made it sound like he was at fault for what he did, but I pointed out he’d be risking frostbite in his fingers to get that close to them, and even though that’s what Wonillon did, there’s no accounting for gnomes…Anyway, I told him that next time we face something like that, he can try a new approach if he wants. We’re the archers of the party for a reason, but it’s true we have various different tools for a reason.)

Exploring the cave near the entrance, we found something weird. It’s a metal tube with some kind a lever mechanism on one end, but it doesn’t seem to do anything (Tres says it’s not magical, though of course he didn’t notice Druid Kela’s shape-shifting periapt).

Raven and Ez think they hear some kind of whirlwind on the other side of the wall – which Ezekiel is convinced means some kind of air elemental, so we’re going to check that out next.

(At the cave mouth we met a huge, grey ball – taller than Mikael! – rolling past. When it started rolling toward us, Heiron peppered it with arrows, and it started deflating like a giant bladder. Mikael calls it an “askamoyd,” and says we should stay back until it finishes deflating so we don’t get hit with any spores. Apparently it’s some kind of mushroom, and pretty poisonous.)

****

New journal. Hope the old one dries out all right. Some of the pages are kinda smeared…Lydia says my handwriting could hardly get more illegible, but she’s just in a mood.

It all started with the second cave. Shortly after leaving the toad cave, we found a slope leading to another cave that we assumed would abut to the last one (and contain the elementals Ezekiel was sure he heard). When we got about forty feet above the ravine floor (Wonillon said that’s what he figured), we reached a plateau in front of the cave mouth.

As we cautiously approached, we spotted a cluster of foggy clouds drifting about inside. With their strange misty tentacles and their three glowing red eyes, they fit the “Wind Terror” name that Mikael gave to them (I guess it’s a druid’s job to know all about the things that go on in nature, and what can go wrong).

With the howl of a windstorm, the elementals charged us – and battle was joined.

Mikael threw faery fire on them right away. Heiron launched an arrow – but when it passed right through one of their misty bodies, we both switched to our magic swords.

I think Tressarian liked getting some action. I don’t know if “sliced” is the right word, but he sliced right through one of the beasties (he says “beasties” isn’t the right word) and it vanished with a shriek.

Mikael whacked one with his rod (I saw the fog or whatever billow and recoil) but Ezekiel wasn’t having the same luck, and his mace seemed to whiff right through the Terrors without dispersing their bodies at all.

Heiron moved up to the front line – and he must have been a really attractive target, because the Terrors kept flinging sharp debris at him and lashing him with their cold, clammy tendrils. They hurt more than you’d think, so Ezekiel kept busy touching Heiron with healing spells.

Wonillon stabbed a Terror with his dagger, and when Heiron and I carved up enough of the others, the last two fled over our heads, sounding like a blizzard on a mountain or something.

Mikael stopped Heiron’s bleeding (he really took the brunt of the battle) while the rest of us looked around. First thing we noticed was that Raven was gone – but then his voice told us that he just drank a dose of his invisibility potion, so everything was all right.

Next thing we noticed was the nest of trinkets in the corner. I wouldn’t have thought elemental fog clouds were interested in collecting treasure…and I guess it could just be the remains of other unfortunate travelers who have come this way. We looked over the pile while Ezekiel scrutinized it for traps, and Tressarian sniffed for magic.

Magic axe (which is mine now), magic mace (which Ezekiel pounced on, as a “back-up,” he says), magic ring, magic potion, magic scroll in scroll tube (protection from all elementals – now Mikael has a second one), and…a pile a gems, one of which was magical.

Ezekiel declared the pile safe from traps, and picked up the magic aquamarine.

And then – I spluttered as I found myself underwater.

I was holding Tressarian, of course, and good thing he understood that I wanted to levitate, because then we were out of the water (turns out it was only ten feet deep), hovering above some kind of sea.

A rocky, coral-covered island lay not far away, so I used my feet to paddle toward it. By the time I got there, Ezekiel and Heiron were pulling themselves ashore, coughing and spluttering. Raven, of course, wasn’t wearing any armor, so he leisurely tread water along behind them, and helped Wonillon find the island. Moments later, a seal flopped up onto the island, and turned into Mikael.

Naturally, we assume this is the Water Node. The whole place was dim, like moonlight on a humid night, and mists rise from the water in all directions. There are more islands scattered everywhere, and the water tastes brackish. Mikael supposes that both fresh- and salt-water creatures could live here, though the salt-water beasts might not be super happy about it…and from what Taki said, the node has been stocked with the most dangerous and deadly creatures.

Ezekiel set up the fortress, and we all went inside (well, all except Mikael, who turned into a dolphin and made laps around the island, just to show that he could, I think. He does say there’s a coral ridge a few yards away from the island that plunges into deeper water, so I guess we can be grateful we didn’t pop into the node over there).

When we got into the fortress, we found the crate that Lydia gave us still sitting where we left it – which I guess means it got shrunk along with the fortress, so that’s nice! It means we can stock the fortress with a little furniture and stuff – or at least with some dry firewood – and not worry about it getting atomized when we shrink the fortress. (That’s a fun word Ezekiel used…”atomized”…)

Wonillon built a fire from the crate and we all huddled around it while Raven drew his chalk circle (he says the chalk was a little smeary, but it worked). Mister Whisker wasn’t too happy about going swimming without warning, but I think he was pretty well protected in his special traveling pocket, and his attitude improved after I gave him some cookie (soggy cookie, but he didn’t care).

It took quite a while for Lydia to answer us, and Ezekiel spent the time swinging our new weapons around. He seems to admire the axe (which makes sense when I remember that he grew up in a temple of Heironious), but he’s not allowed to use sharp weapons anymore…and besides, it’s mine. One of us has devoted his life to dealing pain with all manner of weapons, and that one is not Ezekiel! I don’t care how many disciples he thinks he’s going to get one day, he can’t just hoard all the magic weapons. One of us spent weeks banging on an anvil to build the muscle tone necessary to wield a hammer or ax in combat (that one is not Ezekiel).

Anyway, Lydia finally poked her head in through the floor, and she seemed mighty ticked. She demanded to know what we did, and after we all blamed Ezekiel, she told him to “put the stone in something,” then get rid of the fortress.

Ez put the magic stone inside a pouch in his backpack, and then we left the fortress and shrank it. Mikael joined us as himself, and when Lydia’s arm waved at us through the ground, we all stepped over to the spot – and stepped out into her room in the tower in Homlette.

She shooed us into a corner where there wasn’t carpet, and lectured us a little bit about how hard it was to find us again after we all disappeared. Raven tried to soften her a little by giving her the hat of face-changing, and Ez asked if she could send us back to the Air Node, now that she’s seen that.

She grumbled a little, and sat in front of the mirror, and I used the time to check my bowstring. Looks like I’ll have to switch to my spare one, but fortunately that one was wrapped up well enough and buried deep enough in my pack that it wasn’t bothered by our momentary dunking.

After a bit, Lydia gestured us toward the spot to the side of the mirror that I guess would let us pass through it again (I don’t know how it works, but it does work, so that’s what matters).

We filed out, and eventually recognized the brisk air and chiseled rocks of the Air Node…and Taki, who looked kinda startled at first. We’d never been to this particular part of the node before, but I guess Taki gathered up his other belongings (he has an extra backpack now) – and seemed amenable to joining us in the fortress when Ezekiel set it up again.

Lydia’s still a little grumpy, because as Ezekiel stepped into the fortress, he tripped over a crate that appeared in the air underneath him…but it’s full of firewood, so it’s plain she’s looking out for us.

Mikael distributed all the healing he had left for today, and Ezekiel explained our morning to Taki (not sure why he feels the need to go into so much detail, but there you go).

As he was explaining the mysterious node-transferring gem, he pulled out the pouch and opened it – just enough so that we could see what he was talking about…and Mikael and Wonillon both spoke up and said it looked like the depressions in the skull!

Don’t know how much Taki knows about the Key – or wants to know, or needs to know – but Ezekiel is very excited that it seems we’ve found one of the rocks-in-boxes on our first day inside!

I can’t imagine the rest of the Key-stones being this easy… Of course, “easy” is a relative term, since we had to kill half-a-dozen fog fiends that could easily have killed Heiron in return, if we didn’t have clerics to back us up.

It’s barely noon (in our biological time – not in node-time, since it’s always the same in this fake-sky) but both Mikael and Ezekiel have used up their healing for today. It seems a shame to wait out a whole afternoon, but we don’t need to take unnecessary risks. Besides, we have to dry out our gear, and I have to swap out my bowstring…and I think Taki is still deciding if he wants to help us on our “mission” for a while, or if he’s had it with the nodes, and wants to make his escape while he can. He seems at ease enough, since Raven was so nice to him…but we sure seem like a crazy party to people outside.

Also, I’m not sure Ez should explain everything about what we’re doing, and what we want in here. Rescuing trapped people is good enough…the whole “Key of the Fungus Queen” is complicated, and even I don’t understand all about it. It still seems like “repairing the Key so we can get to Her and kill Her” is, like, giving Her exactly what She needs to be free and wreck havoc. Maybe that’s just me…


Read the next entry here.

Find the previous entry here.

Do We Trust God?- Patriarchy, Abuse, and a Radical Call to Biblical Christianity

Does abuse make it okay for women* to divorce their husbands?

That’s the question of the day…and it’s a toughie.

(*This post is framed in terms of female victims and male aggressors, because it’s easier to speak specifically that way – and it’s more common for physical abuse. But we all know women are also dirty sinners who need Jesus, and can be abusers just as easily.)

God hates divorce.

Do We Trust God? — Kimia Wood — patriarchy, abuse, Biblical Christianity

Image credit: Pixabay

Jesus told us that He allowed it because of our sinfulness…but He also made it clear that He designed marriage for something better.

“And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.” (Matt. 19:9)

So, short answer:

I don’t see “abuse” mentioned here.

But that’s a hard thing to say to the woman whose husband beats her, verbally destroys her, or otherwise degrades her body, mind and heart. That’s not how it’s meant to be. God’s heart breaks with ours for her.

But what does God’s word say we should do?

Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus

Jesus is God (John 1:1-5), created the world (Heb. 1:1-4), and is the exact radiance of His Father.

And yet – he suffered abuse! Isaiah 53:3-11 describes the “Man of sorrows” who suffered cruelty, mockery, and literal whips and nails.

Your husband abusing you does not mean you’ve done something wrong!

God says men should be the leaders of the family (1 Cor. 11:3) and love [their] wives, as Christ loved the church” (Eph. 5:25). But they screw up. A lot.

Big surprise. Adam, the very first man, the first human, and the perfect creation of God, chose to reject his Creator – and doomed us all.

Yes, you are a sinner. But you are not responsible for others’ sin.

Do We Trust God? — Kimia Wood — patriarchy, abuse, Biblical Christianity

Image credit: Pixabay

Jesus – perfect, sinless God-man – suffered and died…for us.

Job – faithful servant of God – suffered horribly. He went from the rich owner of many herds, happy father of many children, faithful benefactor of orphans and widows, and devoted worshipper of God, to:

Penniless father of dead children, whose own wife advised him to “Curse God and die!”, sick and sore-covered worshiper of God. Remember: his own “friends” came over while he was treating his boils with ashes and accused him of the equivalent of “running a pedophile ring” or something…

And “In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong” (Job 1:22).

Shelby (I’m going to call this theoretical abused woman “Shelby”) – your husband is doing horrible, wicked things. That doesn’t mean you’ve sinned! Are there choices you made in the past that could have led here? Absolutely! But suffering is not always a punishment! (see Acts 5:40-41)

So…”how then should we live?” How can we honor God in the midst of these sinful circumstances?

Be Imitators of God

Do We Trust God? — Kimia Wood — patriarchy, abuse, Biblical Christianity

Image credit: Joseph Martin Kronheim/Kean Collection/Getty Images via SCPR.org

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. (Eph. 5:1-4)

Ephesians 5 is a classic passage for talking about marriage…but do you see how the chapter starts?

“Be imitators of God…” That’s how you start. Don’t let yourself be controlled by what your husband is doing…you keep your eyes on Jesus.

“Be pure and free of coveting…watch how you walk, so as to separate yourselves from the sons of darkness, and submit to one another out of reverence for Christ!”

God never promised it would be easy. In fact, He promised we couldn’t do it – not without His help and His Holy Spirit living inside us. But take comfort from the words of Paul:

If any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, and he consents to live with her, she should not divorce him.

For the unbelieving husband is made holy because of his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy because of her husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy.

But if the unbelieving partner separates, let it be so. In such cases the brother or sister is not enslaved. God has called you to peace.

For how do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife? (1 Cor. 7: 13-16)

I don’t see from this that Shelby (our suffering wife) can leave her husband. But if he wants to leave, she has no obligation to stop him, or pursue him. If she found Jesus, and he refused Jesus – she is to live at peace.

This is the adornment of the daughters of God: quiet spirit, humble attitude, a servant’s heart (see 1 Peter 3:1-6). You will stand out from the women of the world, and display the truth of God’s word by living this way.

What does that look like when you’re scared to go home? I don’t know. But I know God will be with you.

“What Can Man Do To Me?”

Do We Trust God? — Kimia Wood — patriarchy, abuse, Biblical Christianity“Abuse” takes many forms. Some British politicians suggested expanding it to “economic abuse.”

But a husband who beats his wife is obviously sinning. He is not being considerate of the fact she’s a delicate flower compared to him (1 Peter 3:7), nor honoring her as he honors his own body (Eph. 5:28-31).

“Shelby” can’t make him care about that, of course. So –

What can Shelby do? And what are the possible outcomes?

  • Shelby might die.

Okay. If Shelby belongs to Jesus…then she just graduated and shot to her place under the altar before the throne of God (Rev. 6:9-11)!

Yes, death is serious, and we shouldn’t be flippant about it…but let’s be real about Who we serve. Jesus, the Grand Executor of Death.

No, I don’t think we should go around advising the Shelbys in our lives to hope her husband kills her – but we need to get a grip on what we’re really afraid of.

Suffering is bad. Pain is bad. But they’re not something we can’t face – and in fact, even death is something Christians have faced throughout history…often gladly. Singing hymns as the stones flew, or the lions ate them.

This is where Shelby’s response to her husband is going to be crucial.

Now, God’s not going to disinherit her if she responds badly (gossiping, backbiting, disrespecting him, etc.)…but think of the glory when she is faithful – patient, peace-making, respectful, gentle-hearted! When her neighbors and relatives look at her life and death, they will say, “How could she put up with that? Why did she submit to him without enabling him?”

The answer, of course, will be: only through the POWER of Jesus! (Matt. 5:43-44)

(Besides, life in prison might be where Shelby’s husband finally breaks and turns to Jesus.)

  • Shelby’s kids might die.

This is a more serious consideration…but again, if they belong to Jesus, that just means they’re home free.

And besides, on what basis do we want concerned individuals taking children away from their families? God gave these children to this family…and even if we can’t understand His logic, it’s our duty as Christians to do things His way – especially when it’s hard.

With that in mind, should Shelby send them away (to her mom’s, to foster care, etc.) – while staying in the house to witness to her husband? See the 1 Cor. 7 passage above…I’m not convinced from God’s word that we should break up this family as our first option – but more on that below.

  • Shelby’s husband may be convicted, turn from his sin, and surrender to Jesus.

Hallelujah!

  • Shelby may sin.

Either by leaving him, responding in kind (evil for evil), or some other response that’s contrary to God’s word.

Sure, God can forgive her…but –

…if through my lie God’s truth abounds to his glory, why am I still being condemned as a sinner?

And why not do evil that good may come?—as some people slanderously charge us with saying. Their condemnation is just. (Rom. 3:7-8)

As much as it breaks our hearts, as Christian brothers and sisters to the Shelbys in our lives it is our duty to remind them of God’s truth and help them live it out.

  • Shelby may break under the strain, and abandon her faith in Jesus.

This is even worse than outright death. As Christians, we know that physical death only affects our bodies – but Jesus gave His own blood to the whip and to the cross to rescue us from spiritual death.

When we put our trust in God, believe what He did for us, and claim His death as our own, we become part of the refugee-party.

If Shelby turns her back on this, saying something like, “I can’t believe in a God who would make me suffer like this,” then what else could possibly save her? God literally already gave His Only Son for her…what more could be given? What other blood could wash away her sins and seal her for the New Earth?

  • Other people may see her suffering, and decide that God doesn’t care.

I don’t have to explain this one, do I? It’s a classic atheist excuse for ignoring God:

“Well, if God is real, why does He allow X, Y, or Z?”

Real Christians know the answers to this: “Are you able to drink the cup I drink?” God allows us free will – and since Adam, we have chosen suffering and oppression – but He also made a way to fix things…through the blood of His own innocent Son, Jesus.

If the people of the world still won’t understand…that’s on them. Not on Shelby, and not on her friends nor the other Christians in her life.

But – this does give us the opportunity to ask: what can we do about it?

How can we show the world the great compassion of God – without breaking His word?

To Comfort Widows and Orphans in Distress

Do We Trust God? — Kimia Wood — patriarchy, abuse, Biblical Christianity

Image credit: Kate Remmer on Unsplash

We know God cares about women. Just one quick example: while Jesus was hanging from His wrists and the shredded muscles of His back were sticking to the wood behind Him, He still took the time to make sure His mother had a designated person to give her a roof and meals and protection (John 19:26-27).

As Christians, we’ve faced what we’re really afraid of about abuse…and we’ve reminded ourselves of how God calls us to live. So what does it actually look like, in the physical world? What does it look like to live like God – pleasing Him and helping the hurting?

We Can’t Start By Trusting Ourselves

I know what my very first response is.

If I saw my good friend “Shelby” being punched and yelled at by her husband, I would storm over there with a pitchfork, load her and her kids into my car, and move them into my house until her husband agreed to counseling, or went to jail.

And that – is not from the Bible. That’s from my own heart and head.

Why does God allow evil? Because He allows us a choice — He gives all of us free will…that means Shelby’s husband and Shelby.

Kidnapping Shelby because it’s “in her best interests” is denying her the free will and responsibility she has before God! She has no chance to submit to a sinful husband if I jump in and interfere! She has no chance to confront her husband with Scripture and pray over him as he abuses her.

My heart breaks for those who suffer – and that’s as it should be! But I must never, ever say “I have to do X, Y, or Z, otherwise P, Q, or J bad-thing will happen.” When I do that, I’m not trusting God.

Just like Shelby is not responsible for her husband’s choices, I cannot be responsible for her choices. I can pray for her, tell her what I think is best, and offer all the help I can give…but the decision has to be hers.

Love One Another

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. (1 Cor. 13:4-6)

So how can Shelby love her husband – while obeying God’s word, showing the world the beauty of a humble and submissive spirit, and warning him of the consequences of his sin?

Well…God tells us to “be subject to governing authorities” (Rom. 13:1-4) and “render to Caesar what is Caesar’s” (Matt 22:16-21).

Do We Trust God? — Kimia Wood — patriarchy, abuse, Biblical Christianity

Image credit: Mike Popovich on Unsplash

And spousal abuse is – illegal.

Penalties and definitions will vary depending on where you live…but beating your spouse is Assault and Battery.

Shelby, you have a duty to the civil authority to report that. Maybe you don’t want to, maybe you’re afraid what will happen if you do, but your husband’s sin hurts his relationship with God. As his wife, you have a duty to respect him by not gossiping to neighbors and friends, not talking behind his back, not lashing out in anger or using foolish speech, not retaliating or losing your temper yourself…but you also have a duty as his spiritual partner to encourage his relationship with Jesus.

Does he claim to be a follower of Christ? Remind him of God’s word, and discuss his behavior as his concerned sister and soul-mate. Don’t sugar-coat sin…but don’t use personal disagreements as an excuse to attack his spiritual walk. Remember: your goal is to ingest, live, and breathe out Scripture so both of you can draw closer to your King.

Does your husband not have a relationship with Jesus?

Then he doesn’t have the Holy Spirit living inside him, raking him over the coals of conscience every time he loses his temper.

Either way, Shelby, you won’t help him by misrepresenting his actions (lying), making excuses for him (like shifting blame to yourself), or helping him escape the consequences of his actions.

When my brother and I were little, our parents regularly prayed that, if we snuck around to do something we shouldn’t, that we would be caught! Pray the same for your husband (and children)!

If your husband physically attacks you, call the police! File a report, and send him to jail! God gave the government the “sword” so they can punish wrong-doers.

You can still visit him, and speak God’s truth to him. Maybe facing real consequences for his bad behavior will finally teach him some restraint.

Easy? Of course not. And it’s all the harder because this is a choice only you can make. Don’t ask your sister or Sunday School teacher or pastor or neighbor to file a police report for something that happened to you. You are the one with a duty to your husband, and your children…honor the “emperor” and allow him jurisdiction over your abusive husband.

Trust and Obey

Do We Trust God? — Kimia Wood — patriarchy, abuse, Biblical ChristianityMaybe you’re a different Shelby — your husband doesn’t beat you, but he does verbally hurt you and belittle you and stomp on your emotions.

This is also a hard road, but that’s no excuse for leaving the path God has drawn for us.

Eat His word. Not devotionals, not other human’s advice – God’s actual inspired word in the Bible. If you are a Christian, then His Holy Spirit lives inside you, and He will give you strength to follow where He leads.

Even if He leads you to the Valley of the Shadow of Death.

The LORD is on my side; I will not fear.
What can man do to me? (Psalm 118:6)

He will even surround you with brothers and sisters in Jesus to encourage you and testify when you are walking the hard but straight path.

What About the Rest of Us?

How can we “comfort widows and orphans in their distress” (James 1:27) – without breaking God’s word, and without trying to be responsible for everyone else’s choices?!

Do We Trust God? — Kimia Wood — patriarchy, abuse, Biblical Christianity

Image credit: Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. (Eph. 5:15-16)

Recognizing that we will never “change the world”…that we will never create a utopia where every man is perfectly loving and kind to his wife and children, and every wife is respectful and supportive of her husband, and all the children obey their parents with good attitudes the first time…*takes breath* in spite of our weaknesses and the broken state of the world, what can we do?

Point Everyone to Jesus

Only when they fix their eyes completely and exclusively on Jesus will husbands—

  • shun porn and satisfy themselves with their wives;
  • sacrifice their dreams and career ambitions to disciple their children and spend quality time with their wives;
  • love their wives enough to tell them the hard truths of God, so their womenfolk can grow into the fully mature princesses they were created to be;
  • give gentle and patient answers to sarcasm, ridicule, passive-aggression, manipulation, and bullying;
  • stand between their daughters and the world, letting their precious girls know that nobody will hurt them and live to tell about it;
  • other things God calls men to!

Only when they fall head-over-heels in love with Jesus can wives—

  • let their husbands do the “men” jobs, even when they’re bumbling around and not doing it well;
  • trade the world’s measure of success (based on education, money, achievement, and social standing) for God’s measure…and then devote themselves to training their children to love God, love others, have humble hearts, and trust Him alone;
  • trust God completely, and let their children make the mistakes that God will use to instruct them (you can’t live their lives for them, after all!);
  • do all that, and still have time to host strangers in their homes, donate time and resources to the poor, share the Good News with their neighbors, etc. (Titus 2; Prov. 31);
  • basically show the world what a woman ruled by the Spirit of God acts like!

We are called to be a distinct people – a kingdom of priests – set apart and holy.

So “…in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy…”Do We Trust God? — Kimia Wood — patriarchy, abuse, Biblical Christianity

Which comes from 1 Peter 3:

Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good?

But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.

For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil. (vv. 13-17)

Confront Sin

Does Shelby’s husband claim to be a Christian? Well, then, men of the church – you have a God-given duty to march over to his house and ask him, “Whut?!”

Let’s do this right, though. Check out Matthew 18.

Jim, you saw the bruises on Shelby’s face. So, you take Alex with you as a witness, and go over to the Shelby household. Sit her husband down and ask, “What the heck, man?”

Get his side of the story. Get at the truth.

Tell him, “husbands should love their wives as their own bodies.

“He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of His body.” (Eph. 5:28b-30)

“You don’t go banging your head into the wall, eh, man? So stop defiling the name of your Lord and sinning against His daughter and our spiritual sister, and straighten up.”

Do We Trust God? — Kimia Wood — patriarchy, abuse, Biblical Christianity

Image source: ThisFragileTent

If he doesn’t listen to you, the next step is to talk to the elders of the church. But you don’t need me to read Matthew 18 to you…you can figure this out. The point is, there’s a God-honoring way to do this.

And if Nadab and Abihu taught us anything, it’s – sad things happen when we don’t follow God’s instructions! AKA two wrongs don’t make a right.

(Check out Paul’s letters to the Corinthians. Some guy was living with his step-mother – and in his first letter Paul chewed them out for not dealing with it like the sin it was. From the second letter, we can glean that the church kicked the guy out until he straightened up…and Paul encouraged them to repair their relationships because the guy had repented. In the house of God, discipline always longs for repentance and reconciliation…because the goal is holiness.)

Open God’s word. Pray. Do it right.

Don’t try to make their choices for them…but point them to Jesus and His word.

My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins. (James 5:19-20)

Stop Shaming Singles

Shelby got into this marriage somehow, right?

Do We Trust God? — Kimia Wood — patriarchy, abuse, Biblical Christianty

Photo credit: Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

Okay, frankly, I’ve been really blessed…I’ve only had one really painful conversation, and it was with my grandparents, who I know love me dearly.

But…

We all know youth group is for the teenagers to pair off. A lot of our seminars and “retreats” are geared towards husbands and wives…which, y’know, is great ‘cause that’s a large percentage of the population…but it kinda leaves us singles out in the cold.

I’m not the only one feeling this, either. The idea that singleness is just a “stage” on the way to marriage (and that marriage is the great end goal of our lives) permeates our unconscious attitudes and word choices. If you’re pushing thirty and still not posting baby pictures on Facebook, what’s wrong with you?!

Obviously, marriage is a fantastic gift from God. GK Chesterton said something like, “Don’t complain that God doesn’t let you enjoy all the women. Marvel that He allows you to have one.”

I think I’ve already discussed in this very post how a sanctified marriage, forged in imitation of the God-Head and His Church, built on the foundation of His word and for His glory, is a beautiful thing.

But here I am, late twenties, never been on a date. Never been asked on a date.

And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Yes – I dearly, passionately wish I was married by this time! I have friends in my small group just a few years older than I am, whose third kid is already a year old!

But God has not led me to marriage. I’ve been too busy working at the job He gave me, visiting people He wants me to minister to, learning spiritual lessons He wants to teach me, and sharing His Good News with the people He sent me to.

Yes, a God-honoring marriage is glory and blessing.

But God-honoring chastity and celibacy and patience in the face of alone-ness is also glory and blessing.

Do We Trust God? — Kimia Wood — patriarchy, abuse, Biblical Christianity

Image credit: Unsplash

Let’s teach our young people to be satisfied with Jesus! Show your young women and girls they have a church family that will always be there for them and protect them.

Then, maybe they won’t be so desperate and vulnerable that they fall for the first smooth-talking abuser-in-waiting who makes them “feel” special. My great-grandpa had a saying: “Better to be single than wishing you were.”

(Yes, to Shelby this might feel like “closing the barn door after the horse has escaped,” but there are other future-Shelbys out there we need to protect!)

In the world out there, you can’t swing a cat without hitting a romance novel, or a movie with a romantic subplot, or an advertisement with sexual undertones, or a person with a broken heart and a string of failed relationships.

Church, let’s teach the whole council of God.

Let’s teach people the high and holy duties of a Christian marriage, yes…but let’s also teach our young people that they are not defined by a romantic relationship!

If our children and grandchildren belong to Jesus, that is the only relationship in their lives that matters! And if a seminary professor, or an angel from heaven!, were to take a knee and ask for your daughter’s hand…a 1000 times better for her to say, “No,” than to violate God’s will for her life!

And even if he’s a “nice” “Christian” guy – if her eyes are on his hot body, or her own loneliness, or financial security or people’s opinion of her or anything other than the Incarnate God-Man our Master Jesus Anointed-One, then SHE IS DOING IT WRONG.

And with a start like that, who’s surprised when their marriage is full of selfishness, manipulation, bullying, deception, and suffering?

Can God redeem a fallen relationship like this?

Is Jesus descended from King David, whose grandmother Ruth was a Moabitess, whose founding ancestor Moab was the son of Lot by Lot’s own daughter?

(In case you’re wondering…yes. The answer is yes. Matt. 1 and Gen. 19.)

Buuuut…do we want to create situations for God to redeem?

As Paul said to a similar question, “By no means!…” (Rom. 3:6).

So…teach our young men and ladies to be satisfied with Jesus.

If Shelby is a Christian…she really, really shouldn’t marry a non-Christian. No matter how polite, rich, or hot he is. Even if he’s a delightful man who never abuses her at all – this is not the will of God for His daughters (1 Cor. 7, among others).

And teach them the red flags to look for, to detect potential abusers before the fact.

But that’s going to require something else:

Be More Than Sunday Acquaintances

Actually involve yourself in Shelby’s life. She could be your sister, your mother, your daughter…or your neighbor, your coworker, or someone in your church.

Do you smile and nod and ask, “Hi, how are you?” without really listening to the answer?

Do We Trust God? — Kimia Wood — patriarchy, abuse, Biblical Christianity

That’s a problem.

Do you invest in Shelby’s life, know her kids and what they’re busy with, take casseroles over to her house when she’s sick, know what her husband does for a living, etc.? Obviously you can’t be this involved with every family in the church…but you’re not called to be. You’re only called to get involved with the families God has placed in your life.

Is Shelby in your small group or Sunday school class? Are her kids in the same class as your kids? Is she your neighbor? Your sister?

The Good Samaritan didn’t go up and down the land of Israel looking for robbery victims to help. He just happened to be on his way to work, when God put someone in his path…someone in need. And the Samaritan helped him…regardless of how late it made him, or how expensive the medical care was, or whether people walking by would think mean things about him as he lifted the man onto his donkey.

If you are a part of Shelby’s life, then you’ll notice the signs that something isn’t right. And you’ll have the moral cred to step in and help when she needs it. She’ll know you’re not just there to tell her how to run her life…that you actually care.

Because you’ve been there for her.

Shelby – do you have mature Christian women in your life to do this? If not – go find some! Don’t look for women who will just cry and feel bad and hug you (although you will need that sometimes)…look for women who love Jesus more than they love you, and will show you in His word when you’re doing something wrong.

Flag the Wolves

I think the reason a lot of people are uncomfortable with this topic is that, too often, everything has been handled the wrong way.

Do We Trust God? — Kimia Wood — patriarchy, abuse, Biblical Christianity

Image credit: Unsplash

Shelby’s husband puts a good face on it, and the situation devolves into “he said, she said.”

Or…let’s face it. Sometimes Shelby is an emotional wreck, with no proper spiritual head in her life, and runs damage control for the very person abusing her! Her husband is supposed to be her head…but if he’s not doing his job, it’s easy for her to lose her moorings. Especially when he’s abusing her emotions on top of that.

How do we lovingly tell her that she’s enabling her husband’s sin, and it’s okay to confide in her older Christian mentors? Without, y’know, taking over her life like all her abusive boyfriends? (That’s another hard truth to face: some women gravitate to men who abuse them.)

Or – prepare for a big surprise – sometimes church elders are sinners, too. *audible gasp!*

They have too much invested in the status quo, in how outsiders perceive their congregation, or in their relationships with Shelby’s husband that they ignore the abuse or cover it up.

The recent scandals of the Catholic church and Southern Baptist Convention are easy examples. In these cases, it was actually the church leadership “us[ing] the name of Jesus to prey on” vulnerable people in their care; Russell Moore (head of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention) called this “horrific depravity” (quoted by Kent Covington in WORLD Magazine).

How did God call us to respond to this situation?

Do We Trust God? — Kimia Wood — patriarchy, abuse, Biblical Christianity

Image source: ThisFragileTent

Read Matthew 18 and 1 Corinthians 5…and stand firm on God’s word. If these creeps (Jude 4) running your church building don’t really know Jesus – then you need to share God’s Good News so they can repent and escape hell!

 

If they are members of Jesus’ body – you need to share God’s Good News so they can repent! Sin interferes in our relationship with God (Matt. 5:23-24) and harms our witness to the unbelieving world… Don’t worry about them facing here-and-now consequences for their wickedness (like prison) if it helps them sort out their hearts before God (1 Cor. 5:3-5).

(Again – allowing the “emperor” the authority that God gave him to punish evil – like sex and child abuse. We’re not running off to form our own inquisition here.)

Some people use Scripture to batter their women-folk into subservience.

But did Adam doom us all by following the advice of his wife and a snake and seizing by conquest the one thing God had not given him?

(Yes. Yes he did.) And ever since, every one of us has been a twisted sinner, fighting God’s law and striving to rule the world ourselves.

Does my sinfulness (or Shelby’s, or her husband’s, or Joel Osteen’s) invalidate the word of God? Stark verboten!

What if the elders at your church are on the take?

Do We Trust God? — Kimia Wood — patriarchy, abuse, Biblical Christianity

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Corrupt church leadership? Shuffling sexual predators from church to church to protect our “reputation?” Using the Bible like a club to tell women to shut up and make me a sandwich already?!

*gasp!* It’s not like the religious leaders of Jesus’ day were twisting God’s word to satisfy their greed and lust, and leaving their elderly parents and disfavored wives out in the cold (Mark 7:9-13)!

“Elders” just means “old dudes,” okay? So, if you’re a mature believer and “little Christ,” then it’s your responsibility to get involved!

My family hasn’t taken our church problems to court in the past, because it wasn’t worth the trouble for us (and “don’t you have any learned men to decide cases in the body?”)

But if there are serious sin issues going on – treat it seriously.

I don’t care if they’re your next door neighbor, or the president of your denomination, or your own brother – these creeps should be behind bars! They haven’t gone beyond the reach of God if they serve a prison sentence. Maybe this is the only way He could reach them! After all, when they’re full of themselves, they might think they don’t need anything…when actually—

For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. (Rev. 3:17)

Ignoring their deeds and covering up the sin isn’t “loving” to these creeps…and it isn’t “loving” to their victims, either.

Jesus didn’t come to make us feel warm and fuzzy and affectionate toward each other (Matt. 10:34-39).

He came to pay the penalty of our sin and give us His righteousness.

God is in the business of fixing broken things.

Just go read James, people. In fact, go read the rest of your Bible. It’s the only way to really make Jesus your Spiritual Head, and ensure that you’re walking in His will…not using “abuse” as a get-out-of-jail-free card every time the road gets tough. Marriage is supposed to be hard…that way we lean only on Jesus, not our own strength.

And that’s the bottom line…do we trust God? Trust Him enough to obey His word? Even when there’s something nasty involved, like abuse?

Do I trust Him enough to let Him run Shelby’s life – instead of me?

As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful. (James 5:10-11)


This post is approved by my spiritual head.

Kimia Wood currently lives somewhere in the American Midwest with her family – including the brother people mistake for her boyfriend.

She’s bracing for the collapse of society by working, baking, knitting, writing, and other excuses for not gardening.

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Dear Diary….the elemental node of air

Alert: Contains spoilers for the adventure “The Temple of Elemental Evil”

Ehlonna has given me a little friend! He’s a weasel named Mister Whisker and he should be very handy in following scents and such.

(Also, I’ve wanted a pet since I was six years old, but just because Wolfgang dropped his puppy out the window or something before I was even born! the rule was no pets. Besides, Lydia and Mikael both had lots of pets, and it just doesn’t seem fair that I couldn’t have one, so now I do.)

He’s still having trouble coming when I call his name, but we’re working on that (he really likes little crumbs of honey cake, which is handy). Lord Otis says I could have spent that time doing push-ups, but at least he’s happy with how my sword work is coming. (I think the smithy is getting a new roof in the near future.) Continue reading