2.22.2019

BRIGHTEST AFRICA

By Godfrey Blackwell


The Venusian lizard they’d forced him to ride stank. Doctor Edgar Hargrave looked down from his miserable perch at the leaf-covered ground below and wondered how he’d ended up out here in the middle of a green African jungle so dense he felt as if he were trapped inside a sarcophagus. He hadn’t immigrated to Lagos Colony to take up adventuring, but to make a respectable living as a professor at the new university. Then he’d somehow let himself be roped into that séance at Lord Stanhope’s and now he was out here looking for Martians, of all things!

“Keep up, Dr. Hargrave,” Major Sir Jonathan Burns, the military officer leading their expedition, called from the front of the column. “There’s a good gentleman. Don’t want to get lost in this place, old man.”

Edgar smacked a mosquito that was trying to take a chunk out of his neck. “That’s a fact!”

The jungle thinned enough that Edgar could see the darkening magenta sky surmounted by fluffy pink clouds – that beautiful African sunset sky that had so captivated him while still back in his flat in Birmingham. As he wiped his brow with his handkerchief, he wished for that old grey flat in the British Empire’s new capitol.

A large clearing opened ahead and Maj. Burns stopped his own Venusian mount at the edge of it. Edgar’s lizard nearly collided with it.

“Smelly, oafish beast,” he grumbled.

“Shush,” the army officer whispered, pulling his multi-barrelled hand-cannon from its holster. “We’re not alone out here, old man. Lord Stanhope was right.”

About a hundred yards ahead, silhouetted against the crimson disc of sun creeping to the horizon, was a tall, skinny figure. Edgar first thought it to be a man, then noticed the abnormally long, conical head.

Burns said something in Awori to their native guides. They disappeared into the trees. He then nodded to the other soldiers in their party. The men, in their dark red tunics, spread out and advanced with Maj. Burns leading the way on his Venusian steed.

“You, there,” the veteran officer called. “State your name and purpose for being on her Britannic Majesty’s land.”

Their quarry did not answer and tried to run. It had long legs but was sluggish and the chase ended quickly when the nimble Awori blocked its path.

“Dr. Hargrave, what are you doing back there?” Burns shouted. “Come give us a hand.”

“Well, what am I supposed to do? I’m not a soldier,” he called back, but his mount started forward.

“You speak, Xanthean, don’t you old man?”

Xanthean was the dominant tongue of the Martians who now occupied Russia and British North America. Edgar hadn’t spoken it since his days in Oxford and never with a native speaker.

He was now close enough to get a good look at their captive. It had the head of a Martian for sure, similar to the skulls in Lord Stanhope’s study that they’d used in the séance. It had a hard bone beak and glossy black eyes. It was tall, over seven feet he judged, but slender. The soldiers called Martians glass giants.

“Ah, are you sure he’s a Martian? He’s no fur.”

“Of course he is,” Burns said. “He’s just been shorn for the tropical climes. I saw the same during the Transvaal Campaign. Ask him what he’s doing here.”

“Uh, right,” Edgar stumbled over the tongue-twisting Martian words which were difficult at the best of times. The creature answered back with reluctance.

“He just keeps begging for water, poor wretch.”

“Right. Clapperton, give him some of the water.”

“Well, then,” Edgar said, wringing sweat from his handkerchief. “We’ve found what we were looking for, let’s be off back to Lagos, shall we?”

“Not quite, old man,” Sir Jonathan said. “What’s a Martian doing staggering about out here?”

“Can’t we discuss that back in Lagos?”

“No, best to follow his trail while it’s fresh. Alright, back at it, chaps.”

They set out once again into the jungle, now with the bound Martian in tow. Edgar ducked a vine and cursed the saddle sore forming on his ample posterior. Fallout or no, he’d have been better off staying in England!

The Martian had come here aboard a lighter-than-air flyer, they discovered, when the Awori guides uncovered the propellers that had been hastily hidden under palm leaves. Edgar hung back while the others investigated the wreckage. The Martian pilot sat miserably on the ground under the nervous eyes of two of the young soldiers. Edgar could sympathize with the alien’s plight.

“Dr. Hargrave,” Sir Jonathan called. “If you’d be so kind, there’s something I’d like you to take a look at.”

“What do you need me for in that coffin?”

“Just come along, there’s a good gentleman.”

A couple more soldiers helped Edgar lower his not insignificant girth to the spongy jungle floor and he hobbled into the flyer. It was surprisingly large inside. He saw a console covered in blocky Xanthean script. He’d always found it beautiful.

“Over here, doctor.”

“What? Oh, yes …” In the next compartment was Sir Jonathan and a very large bomb that looked like an overstuffed football with two rings around it and a number of gears and dials near the middle. “Good gracious me, an atomic bomb! Why on earth would the Martians be bringing an atomic through Africa?”

“Going to the Congo, I’d warrant,” Sir Jonathan said, lighting his pipe. “Perhaps our Martian friend was a courier to the Belgians. The Martians may be trying to stir something up again.”

“Whatever the politics, I’d better make sure this thing is safe,” Edgar said. Carefully pulling a multipurpose tool from his bag, he removed the screws that held the main panel in place, revealing more tubes, wheels, cranks, and gears.

"Oh, bullocks." He threw his pith helmet down and pulled at his hair with both hands. "It's been armed. The Martian activated a delay-detonation timer and there’s only thirty minutes left!”

"Sounds like plenty of time for an expert such as yourself, old man," Sir Jonathan said.

"I-I can't do this!" Edgar felt anxiety welling up in his chest. He wanted to run out of the flyer, run as far as he could. Those Venusian lizards were terribly quick. In half an hour he might be able to escape the blast radius of the bomb.

"I'll hear no such nonsense," Sir Jonathan said. "You're an expert in atomics."

"But I can't! I've never done this before ... even if I could, half an hour's not enough."

"Are you telling me you're not a physicist?" Sir Jonathan sounded incredulous.

"I-I am, but I’m an academic ..." Edgar wiped his face with the handkerchief which was already soaked. He began to shake. "I came here to teach at the university! I write papers --"

"Now I’ll hear none of that sir; you can disarm this bomb. You'd better, or ‘Darkest Africa’ shall soon be ‘Brightest Africa’. Now I’ll hear no more defeatism. There’s a good gentleman."

A terrible, otherworldly wailing tore through the jungle outside and Edgar fell to the floor. Sir Jonathan ran to a porthole.

"Now what’s this then? More local tribesmen, unfriendly it seems, and lord knows what else." He looked down at Edgar and drew his hand-cannon. "We'll hold them off, old man, to give you enough time to disarm to bomb. See you in half an hour?"

Edgar pulled his flask from his waistcoat and thought to take a sip of brandy to calm his nerves. Then the wailing came again, and outside, moving past the portal, he saw what looked like another Martian, but grey and smoke-like. He threw the flask down. This situation was getting more bizarre by the moment and the last thing he needed was to besot himself.

A sound like tearing canvas erupted from outside as the Cyclic Fire Guns opened fire. Bullets travelling the opposite direction shot through the walls of the flyer and passed not too far over Edgar's head.

“Ghosts, now soldiers? Séances and adventures! Bullocks!”

He scrambled over to the bomb and examined the clockwork gears of the timer turning and buzzing. He looked over his shoulder as several of the soldiers started screaming. A howling wind buffeted the flyer and a stench like faeces and sulphur struck him. The bomb suddenly seemed less horrifying. Desperately he worked with the bomb. As he went, he discovered that he hadn't forgotten quite as much from his days in Oxford as he thought he had. Clapperton stuck his head in the door.

"Please hurry, sir. We can't hold out much longer!"

Edgar didn't respond, but kept on with his work, carefully moving aside a weight he’d removed. All he had to do now ... he choked on his breath. What sort of bomb making did those Martians do? Instead of the tubes he’d expected, there were strange wires. He glanced at his pocket watch. Three minutes.

He fought back panic. It would do him no good. He was British, after all, and the Empire had been built by her soldiers and explorers’ ability to overcome such dilemmae. Yes, he could overcome this situation, too. Biting his lip, he reached for one of the wires with his mechanical clippers. Surely if he clipped the right wire, it would cut the power to the device. He closed his eyes. No, that wasn't the right one. He moved the clippers without opening his eyes. Yes, that was the one.

“It’s done! The bomb’s disarmed!” Edgar shouted triumphantly.

He realised all was silent outside. Hesitantly, he moved through the door. The soldiers and Awori were huddled around the flyer facing outwards. Fallen trees and bodies, some black, some in red British uniforms, filled the clearing all around. Steam hissed from the Cyclic Fire Guns on their tripods.

“They’re gone,” Sir Jonathan said. “Just like that, they’re gone. They must have been trying to stop us from disarming the bomb, and when you did disarm it, they scarpered --”

“Who?” Edgar asked.

“Don’t ask. What’s important is that you did it, Dr. Hargrave. Three cheers, lads!”

“Hip-hip, huzzah!”

Edgar stuck his chest out with pride. “You know, I think I could get used to this adventurer bit. Good gracious me! What am I saying?”

2.20.2019

Movie Review: Ultramarines (2010)


Title: Ultramarines: A Warhammer 40,000 Movie
Director: James Mather and Stephen St. Leger
Distributor: 20th Century Fox
Starring: Terence Stamp, John Hurt, Sean Pertwee
Excellence: 2.5 stars (out of 5)
Rating: R; I am really not sure why this film is rated R, I think that teenage boys can watch it fine; there is some science fiction violence of guys in big metal suits shooting at each other or fighting demons with chainsaw-swords, but no profanity or "adult subject matter" at all.
Summary in a Sentence: An enjoyable venture into the "grim darkness of the far future" where power-armoured space marines fight demons.

As a testament to how ridiculously "time flies", this film is almost a decade old, and given its age I would probably not bother with a review but for the fact that (a) it's the only official Warhammer 40,000 movie produced thus far (and we are fans of 40k) and (b) there's been so little in theatres that piqued my interest, I've not seen a new science fiction film since Interstellar!

I give the film 2.5 stars ... it's not great, but it's far from awful. Fans of Warhammer 40,000 are deeply divided over the film and it generally did poorly which is why I think Games Workshop has not made further attempts. But I thought it had some interesting characters and some good action, and lots of cool very 40k stuff like the skull-helmeted chaplain shouting "burn heretics" as he takes down a group of Chaos Marines (basically devil worshipping bad-guys in the 40k universe).

The film is very short, at barely over an hour long, so it felt more like an episode of a TV show than a movie. As a TV series it's something I'd watch again and I find this film to be pleasurable enough to watch ever once in a while when I was a pure "popcorn" type of film that is not deep but has a decent basic adventure story and some demon-fighting action.

2.15.2019

A WIFE TO BE PROUD OF

By Barbara Blackwell (December 2018, Age 8

Once there lived a prince,  and soon he would be married but there were many women so that he did not know who to marry. Many were very pretty, some were polite, some were wise, and some were dignified. But one day he caught his eye on a lady -- she wasn’t stubborn or suspicious but very reliable and jolly. One day he went over to talk to her and asked her a few questions.

 His first question was, "How do you do madame?"

 "Very well thank you."

He was doing this to see if she was polite and patient in answering him. Then he asked her “I hope you are in good health madame."

 “Yes I am in good heath,  thank you."

"Very well then," he said. "Madame would you like to be my …”

"Excuse me,  madame,  may we have a moment." oh great -- it was the prince's brother.

The prince  turned around, but before he took another step the ground shook and the glass cracked. All the ladies started running away . He din't know what was going on but then a big claw smashed right  through the wall.  It came coming at the prince but thankfully he jumped out of the way. But then he heard someone scream ...

 "Aaaaaaaahh !"

He couldn't  believe what he saw . It was the lady he'd been speaking to  being pulled out of the window from the beast. He ran and got a bow and arrows,  a dagger,  and spear. Then he ran in front of the monster and said, "Let her go you monster!"

Then he pointed one of his arrows at the monster and shot it right into the monsters eye socket and two others in the knee then he  threw the spear into its heart. Then the beast fell dead.

Then the lady went to him and said, "My hero thank you, brave prince. What is your name,  sir?” 

"Franz.  What's yours ?"

"Cate."

"Cate?"

"Yes."

"I am asking you to be my loving wife."

"Of course I will."

So then they both got married and lived happy ever after !!!

2.13.2019

Quartus Paints

As noted, young James has a real talent for miniatures painting. At age 7 he's as good as some adults just starting out with the "toy soldier" hobby. We'd like to share with you a step-by-step review of his technique and maybe some readers could try this with their own children who want to start painting models ...




We use the Citadel line of paints here at Swords and Space. There are many other fine lines of paints, but we really like how easy Citadel paints are to wash off the brush, and the very wide variety of shades and colours. Also, the Citadel shades are just fantastic.

Here we have Lewis painting some of his Orks (I think Games Workshop now calls them "Orruks" or somesuch to protect their jealously guarded IP). James wanted to paint them to look more like Uruk-Hai so he chose a red skin tone.

First step is a base of "Khorne Red":


Then a wash of "Carrobourg Crimson" ... you can see how the wash instantly gives the models depth and makes them look great.


Then he paints the armour "Warplock Bronze":



And then another wash, this time of "Nuln Oil" over all the metal bits.



We could stop here if we wanted, but since he has a father who loves tabletop wargames and who likes to see models be the best they can be, James enlists Dad to do a final highlight of "Wazdakka Red" on the skin for a bit more depth, and "Runefang Steel" on the raised bits of the armour to give the look of the rust being rubbed off on those parts through use. Then we've got models that look fantastic and were about 85% painted by a seven year old!



2.11.2019

FLAMES OF WAR: T-34

"Crush the Fascists" painted by James Blackwell



"Victory" painted by Albert Blackwell



The latest "toy soldiers" foray we've entered into is Flames of War, a 15mm scale World War II tabletop game. 15mm is proving to be a lot faster and easier to paint than the 30mm Warhammer and Star Wars: Legion stuff. Albert and James accomplished these great paint jobs with just a bit of "liquid skill" (Citedel shades) and some dry brushing.


2.08.2019

SMALL OF ALL

By Anna Blackwell (Summer 2018, Age 10)



One day, it was the day before I went to camp, a time came when I did something wrong. As I sat on the couch Professor Jax put down his bottles.

“Ok, Rose, I am putting my stuff here. Is that all right?”

“Sure.”

But I never knew which drink I took til it was too late.  “Wha…at?” I looked. Ahh, I wanted to scream! I just drank some of the proffessor’s stuff. I ran to him.

“Don’t worry if you drank the purple one, you’ll be fine. You’ll just feel jumpy, nervous and you know…”

“Well, I did drink from the purple bottle!”

But I never noticed the symbol – SHRINKER FORMULA X74Z1A. As the evening went by I felt like I was shrinking. That night I slept in the living room because I had to get up early for tomorrow.

The next morning I almost screamed! I was the size of a mouse! I looked around. 

“Help!” 

As I walked around I noticed my bags were small, too. Guess I spilled some of that stuff on them. As I walked I ate the food in my bag. I felt sleepy and took a nap but when I got I up I heard something – was it a wasp, a fly? Soon I knew what it was – a vacuum cleaner. I ran as fast as I could , no sooner could I felt it sucking me in. 

“Help!” I yelled. 

Suddenly Snoozer, my dog, came. Not knowing where I was he turned his tail swiping me off my feet and onto the vacuum cleaner. I don’t know what happened then because when I fell on the vacuum cleaner I hit my head. I must have passed out from the shock. I woke up in the basement still on it because my backpack got caught on it. As I walked around I felt a chill, in here was the King of the basement, Mask. He was a black spider who moved in here. I don’t know when but he ruled or rules here still and any bug that came down like Buzzy, Angelas fly, never returned. 

I looked around – no sign of him. I saw a pipe or hose whatever it was. I went in it. I was too small to see it clearly. There wasn’t any sign of Mask. I read a book, thought and rested. Suddenly I felt like being picked up…help…was I in the vacuum cleaner? No. Suddenly air came in pushing me back. I knew it, air mattress! Thankfully the pipe flowed in the queen size air mattress. I held on tight but it was useless. I was pushed back falling into a dark room. As the room inflated I sat there pale as ever. It seemed like being in a cave that grew wider and wider ready to swallow anything inside it. When the mattress was finally inflated I watched in horror as the cap closed off the entrance. I was too weak to run and jump through. As I got up I noticed how lucky I was to get stuck in there and not in the vacuum cleaner. I knew that here was enough air for one or two days.

As I laid out my sleeping bag I heard something. I turned to my right and then to my left then I saw it – a small beetle settled in here, too. I didn’t know what to do. If I left it might attack me during my sleep and if I killed it the dead body would stay there staring at me til I got out. But as I walked toward it, it was already dead. I saw it had died of starvation. I sighed heavily as I walked away. 

I heard my brother and sister…”so Dad we will be sleeping here for one night.” ONE NIGHT…it kept exploding in my head. Would I survive for one night?

As night came I got sleepier. I wanted to stay awake in case I figured out how to get out but it was no use. I looked around to check for bugs then I fell into a deep sleep. 

I was huffing and puffing. I felt like I ran a 100 meter dash. “Rats!” I said, there was less air in here. I had to bear it until I got out. It must have been 10:00 when I was really getting hungry. I ate my last egg salad sandwich and two carrots. 

Soon by the afternoon I gasped in joy to hear they’re going to deflate the air mattress. Suddenly I knew I had to be ready otherwise if I don’t I’ll get squashed in here when they fold it up. I went to the cap opening. I breathed heavily as it turned, then it popped open and air flowed out rapidly. Before I could jump out I was blown off onto someone’s foot. I felt so lucky not to break any of my bones.

Unfortunately Mariana never felt me because I fell on her slipper. I spent most of my time there, soon I began to say to myself, “this isn’t too bad, it’s fun actually” but no sooner did Mariana go outside.

“I’m going to check the temperature, OK?”

I had to get off as soon as she stepped out. I jumped off nearly dodging her right foot. I gasped. My yard was huge. As I took a step the door opened. I darted legs that were trotting around me. When they went I picked up all the courage I had and started forward. Then I saw George’s stick, it led from the pavement to the bicycle path. I crossed the pavement without any problem. As I walked across I saw movement in the grass. I saw it was two crickets playing a game of tag.

Suddenly a shadow passed over me before I could notice that it was George. He flung the stick up sending me onto the track into a small puddle. As I started babbling about my misfortune as I slugged out of the puddle, I stopped myself from babble then I saw my worst fears – a bicycle!  I jumped up, ran here and there dodging wheels. I jumped out of the way to prevent myself from getting squashed then I lost my footing. I fell down rolling into the ditch. 

When I woke up I felt warm and dry. Again I was laying on a quilted mattress next to a large candle.  Yawn…”where am I?”

“Oh, evening, Misszy.”

“Ahh!”

“No need to be frightened. You’re among friends,” said the small man. 

“Oh, sorry.”

“No need to be, quite a lot ya been through.”

 “Yes, but anyways is there food around here? I’m starved.”

“Oh ho, there sure is. Come right this way.”

I hurried right after but I kept wondering who these people were. Soon I saw an entire small town, the ditch was more of a river. Men were rowing  in it, boys were playing with their boats, on the cobblestone paths were ladies going to and fro buying food, their older daughters knitted back at home, poor children played with the town folk and the most wonderful were butterflies and small sparrows carrying people on them. Soon we arrived at a mound of mud which had been turned into a house. Inside looked very cozy and smelled amazing, then a small woman walked up, “Oh hello, Misszy, you look famished. Come have dinner with us.”

I saw a large table with twelve seats. There was lots of chatting, the meal was terrific – honey glazed ham with Greek salad, mashed potatoes and chocolate pudding with blueberry pie for dessert. was terrific – honey glazed ham with Greek salad, mashed potatoes and chocolate pudding with blueberry pie for dessert. 

“So can I get any transport to a grey house?” I asked. 

“Well, you can take my butterfly, “ offered a woman. 

“No, take my sparrow, is faster than a butterfly,” said another. 

There was a huge commotion – “My bird is better” “Butterflies are terrific” “No. my humming bird is better” “Coltide is perfect for the job” “No, take my butterfly, they are better than sparrows” 

It was getting on my nerves. It didn’t matter what I took. Finally it ended when someone yelled, “A blackbird!” Everyone stared at the person. Suddenly someone squeaked out, “Did it save you?” It was in fact a little girl dressed in yellow. Everyone agreed with her and asked the same question. 

“Yep, happened about a month ago. I was taking my blackbird across the river and it just froze. Next thing I knew two green cat eyes were staring but my bird made a cry of warning and the cat ran panically away. I don’t do hand to hand combat so I am glad I have a bird with a way of warning.”

“I think it is the perfect transport I need. I start in two days”

There was a sudden gasp…”Oh gracious, Misszy, you’re not leaving” cried one. 

“What’s wrong about that?”

“A figure wearing stood saying, “It’s because our river is being raided by…”

I just thought I knew the answer, “I know the answer – mosquitoes”

“No, not just suckers, C-A-T-S!”

They took me to the ditch..er..river. They told me to wait there til evening when it came. I saw a yellow cat, Honey, we called her.

“So what? It’s just Honey.”

“ (gasp) why call such thing? That is Tasmina!”

“OK, Tasmina, but what is that to me?” I asked puzzledly.

“We see you don’t know who Tasmania is,” said the one wearing white (his name is Clovis) sadly, “Come on ya lads, let us fetch some grub and tell ye all a tall tale.”

We went to a huge campfire where plenty folk flocked around to listen to fairy tales and tall tales. As we gathered he began the story…

The Season Folk
Long before the Season Folk made this town Lord Bark planted the seeds of the earth, the petals of roses, the plants of rain, the seeds of winter and the seed of the rarest. When he passed away his two sons vowed to protect the seeds but the oldest was struck by evil and attempted to steal the seeds. Then the fight between the two brothers began. The oldest was thrown away to an unknown realm. Peace returned and the younger brother hid the seeds. Knowing his brother might return he placed a guardian near each seed and made a map which he came to his cousin.

When the story ended in cheers, gasps and ohs. I too gasped for this was one of the most amazing stories I have heard of! 

“Well, I still don’t see what that had to do with Hon….er…Tasmina.”

“Well, years later he returned but was powerless, in his anger he attacked anyone he met. Tasmina was the only one who could defeat him. Knowing her strength he made a treaty and at the dark of night he praised her. So there,” he finished. 

“Oh, so is it just her?” I asked getting very interested.

“No, there are two other cats, one brown and one…”

Suddenly horror came in me and before he finished I shouted, “No, not Pippin and Mary!”

Suddenly a paw whacked me in the head and everything went black. 

I woke up next to the ditch. “Oh, my head…” I felt a bruise on the back of my head then I thought, “why am I near the ditch? I thought I would wake up with eyes everywhere?” As I got up I was shocked to see the town in a wreck with prints everywhere stuck in the ground and house flattened and to my horror I saw Jack’o flat on the ground, too. He must have got knocked down, too. I ran over. 

“Jack’o, are you alright?”

“Oh my poor acken head…no worry, I’m fine…ooh”

“What happened, Jack’o? Where is everyone?” I said, helping him up. Soon I saw what stress he had and stopped the questions. I sat him on a bench and found him some bread, apples and water. 

“Ah, much better, thank ye so much, MIsszy.”

I nodded.

“You asked about what happened. Well, I’ll tell ye. When you were knocked down we say her, Tasmina, and on her back Dread (that is the older brother). It was a terrible raid, houses crushed and many fought bravely including myself. Women and children ran to safety. We fought til dusk but I know not of what happened next for I got wiped clean out!”

Then everything came out, “Now I see it – we’ve been raided!”

“Yes, I know how you felt but we musn’t just sit here. We ought to be looking for everyone. They might be stuck.”

We spent a lot of time helping people out of cellars, unburying people who were stuck under the houses. But by the afternoon we finally found Clovis covered in blood, an arrow stuck in his arm and he had a terrible bruise on his head. Only then I decided to do something about Dread. Jack’o, Mac, Bella and Clovis and the others knew it was the right thing to do. They told me to get Egypt (who is actually Bear, the cat) here for he will help us in the battle. I was given a blackbird named Raven and also a powder which would make Egypt follow us back to the town. 

I went off at around 4:09. Raven was a pretty smart blackbird for he knew every spot Bear went. When we finally spotted him I braved myself for one of the most dangerous tasks ever. Raven brought up his head, looked both ways, then I held my breath as he darted forward. I prepared my bombing run then, in seconds I dropped the powder sending it fluttering into Bear’s eyes. Raven rested on a tree as I caught my breath. Then Bear looked funny at us then suddenly Raven took off. As he did Bear pounced after. As I opened my eyes I turned around – Bear gracefully ran through grassy plains as Raven flew gently through the air. It looked like my troubles and risks were cancelled. 

As we flew back Bear raced after us. When we got back I saw two dogs standing by the town – it was Snoozer and Buddy! When we landed I saw at least five sparrows surround Bear. They dragged him away. Bear didn’t react, he probably was given a sleeping powder. When I got down I was greeted by friends. 

“Oh, I never though ye could do it” said Moego. 

“Well, I thought so too but I did.”

I was told that Rock and Spotted Hill (actually Buddy and Snoozer) were going to help us in our battle against Dread. It must have been 6:53 when everyone started running everywhere bringing armor to the soldiers, putting metal plates on the birds which were for the soldiers to ride. They gave me an outfit made of snakeskin, leather boots, a helmet (it didn’t have a visor) and light garments over the snakeskin. Soon by 7:52 the army was ready. Egypt (who is actually Bear) was brought to me. 

“Boy, have you deferred!” A little girl told me that the markings on his face were battle marks. Soon I mounted Egypt, fastened myself to the saddle, got ready my bow and marched forward. We walked quiet and silently. Suddenly Snoozer began to whine. 

“They’re close,” warned the captain who was riding him. As we advanced we got more cautious. Then with a crack of a twig, a cat jumped right in the air at Snoozer.

“Ambush!!”

Three cats shot out charging at the captain and his troops and at least twenty evil sparrows attacking me and the soldiers. Egypt fought wildly at the enemy as I shot several arrows through the air. I caught my eye on Tasmina and I urged Egypt to her but the enemy ordered by her trapped us from getting to her. I slashed my arrow at the filthy birds. I heard the cries of the troops fighting bravely. As I looked up I saw Tasmina. Dread was hauling her away from the battle field, then a spark blew inside me…

“Coward, she is retreating, just running away without notice!”

I thought then I couldn’t hold myself with a burst of energy. I turned Egypt around and smashed through the enemy. As we rushed I noticed that some of the enemy were beginning to retreat. As I ran Dread noticed and bolted like a rabbit. I couldn’t let him get away. I jumped in front of him.

“Coward! Come and face us!” I shrieked at him. 

Suddenly Tasmina leaped and before you could say ‘Bob’s your uncle’ both cats charged each other and began to fight. Rapid claws ripped at the other, teeth snapped wildly as they kicked and bit each other. I don’t know about you but I was horrified. Both cats were weaker than ever but dear reader in this part is one of the bravest things Bear has ever done. Soon we were even range from each other and suddenly jerked me almost out of the saddle. Bear jumped at Tasmina flinging her into the ditch. 

Suddenly a bright light shot everywhere. Tasmina screamed loudly and jumped. Then in the ditch we saw something like mist float out of the ditch. It turned into the figure of a man, then nodded and floated away never to be seen again. In fact it was Dread’s ghost. My eyes fixed on Tasmina. She had suddenly changed, her evil eyes were now kitty eyes, her anger turned into shyness, her strict face changed to her normal Honey face. Bear gazed at her, she only whined then shyly crawled away. 

Suddenly a loud howl came then another then cries of joy.

“We have won! Dread is dead!”

I smiled widely. We went back to the village all in smiles and were greeted with cheers. I fell asleep just suddenly (someone told me I passed out from exhaustion).

By the second day I had to leave. There were bits of tears and joy. As I mounted Raven I was given a medallion.

“Guard this well, wear it always and don’t let any evil take it.” Clovis warned me. 

As soon as I gave my oath I heard a loud honk. Dr. Jac’s car – time was running out. If I didn’t get to him in time I’ll stay small for the rest of my live. Raven burst into the air at top speed. Raven sped in the air as I saw Dr. Jac’s car. 

“Faster, Raven, oh, do please hurry.”

But soon the word buzzed in my head like a fly – “too late”. The car door shut, the engine started and soon all my hopes fell into a dark hole. Just as soon as I was going to go back to the village there was a sudden crack in my head – “when hope isn’t lost we still have hope” I thought. 

I gave Raven the signal to fly forward. 

“We have to get to the front of the car,” I called to Raven.

“Cree, Craw, Cree!” he replied and knowing what dangers it would bring we charged in front of the car.  

Raven clawed at the windshield creeing and crawing…it didn’t stop him. I felt what I had in my pocket – an arrow head – I must have put it in my pocket during the battle. Without wasting time I grabbed it and threw it at the windshield. 

Dr. Jac looked stunned but he pulled over. He got out to examine the arrowhead, when he finally turned his head to us, he caught sight of me. He pulled out a magnifying glass. He gasped so loudly I had to cover my ears (ok, when I was that small it was that loud).

“Rose, is that…that…really y-you?”

“Yes!” I shouted for him to hear me. 

He gently picked me and Raven up. He went back at high speed and when we got there he went in and showed me to my family. They were terribly shocked and asked, “Is there a way to fix her?” Thankfully he said yes and I was bigger in no time. 

“Rose, what happened to you? Are you alright?” everyone asked. 

Soon I was dressed in my normal clothes. My family celebrated my return. Everyone had a question to ask but the question I wouldn’t answer was “how did you survive?” I only shrugged. 

When I went upstairs I went to my room. I felt something cold against my chest. I pulled out the medallion – “yes, it wasn’t a dream!” I said to myself. Just then a bird flashed by. I saw that it was Raven. He flew and landed by the ditch. I could just barely see the town lights and there was a big bonfire there. I could hear the folk sing old songs and tales and listen to ancient legends. I smiled to myself and whispered to the air, “I will see them again.”

And then that was THE END. 

2.06.2019

Lord of the Rings (Boardgame Review)


Name: Lord of the Rings
Game Designer: Reiner Knizia
Publisher: Fantasy Flight Games
Rating: 5 stars (out of 5)
Summary: A wonderful family game with unique co-operative-play ruleset based on the Lord of the Rings novels, wherein the players take on the roles of the hobbits as they attempt to take the Ring of Power to the Cracks of Doom

For any family with children, and fans of the Lord of the Rings (without it, the game may not be as fun/meaningful), this is a game that we highly recommend. At the Blackwell residence we've played it with children as young as seven. The younger ones need help but children around 10 or older can handle the game without difficulty. The aspect that we really like is the fact that it's a co-operative game rather than a competitive one, where the players must work together against the game itself to avoid the corrupting influence of Sauron and destroy the Ring of Power.

The rules are very unique to support this concept, but work very well. Be warned, however, this game is very tough to beat, even once you've "figured out" the "tricks" to it. Even when the players work together, victory is far from assured, and disaster guaranteed if they don't cooperate.

The game is played on two game boards, one that tracks the progress of the Fellowship and monitors each member's level of corruption, and the other is in fact a series of four boards that represent the four "scenarios" that must be traversed -- Moria, Helm's Deep, Shelob's Lair, and finally Mordor. Below is a picture borrowed from Board Game Geek showing the two boards, the one on the left being what we've called the "scenario board" with white markers showing the fellowship's progress on three different tracks (only one of which must be fully traversed to beat a scenario, strictly speaking, but with important items to be collected on the others). On the right is the board showing how close to succumbing to Sauron the hobbits have gone.



The game mechanics involve the use of tiles and cards. Each turn, each player in sequence must draw a tile with a symbol on it that corresponds to one of the three tracks on each scenario board. This will then allow the Fellowship to progress one space on that track. Moving along the tracks, they will collect shield tokens which can be used to purchase special Gandalf cards (which come in very handy in a pinch), or to try to counteract some of the events that can occur whenever someone draws one of the dreaded event tiles -- which general involve bad things that happened in the novel. The secondary tracks also provide heart, ring, and sun tokens which must be collected by each player before the end of a scenario otherwise they will take "corruption" and move closer to Sauron. They are also dealt a hand of cards which may be used to progress further on these tracks. Special cards received at various  places in the game bring non-hobbit characters like Aragorn, Boromir, Gimli, et al into play.

Each of the hobbits has a unique ability which must be used carefully to the benefit of the whole group. Players are allowed to discuss what cards they have in their hands (but may not show the cards) to decide how to try to complete a given scenario. Many of the bad events allow a player other than the one that incurred the event to take the penalty adding to the cooperative aspect. If the ringbearer is touched by the Sauron piece, the game is over as Sauron has captured the ring. Below is a scenario where the ring is very close to being taken, also showing some of the tiles and cards:



Aside from the co-operative play, another nice aspect of this game is that it can be played in about 60 minutes (rather than the hours upon hours that many of our favourite games involve). It also can be played with as few as two players which is a rare treat for occasions when there isn't a whole family or group of friends available to play. The only downside is that it may have limited appeal to people not interested in Lord of the Rings, although if they've at least read it or seen the films (which most people have) they should enjoy the game.

On the whole, we find it to be a most unique, enjoyable, and challenging game. Be sure to keep track of  your scores on the sheet that is provided for the purpose. It being so hard to actually beat the game, this adds a level of at least trying to beat your previous best score. All of us as Swords and Space give it 5/5 stars.



2.04.2019

SPACE BARBARIAN

By Godfrey Blackwell

Time for some swords AND space together -- here's an "oldie but a goodie" I drew several years ago but still quite like.


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