May 18, 2012

Swords of the Four Winds Cover Study

Only four more stories to finish, and the Magnum Slowpus™ is done! Swords of the Four Winds should be out by or a bit before September. In the meantime, here’s Raymund Bermudez’ initial study for the cover.

Haribon: the Lordly Philippine Eagle

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Mindanao, a young male Philippine Eagle, mugs for a portrait at the Philippine Eagle Sanctuary in Malagos. 

Walk up close to this guy – he was on a perch about chest high to me when I photographed him – and you’ll get the feeling you’re really in the presence of one of the rain forest’s ancient and terrible lords.  This guy, sub-adult though he is, already has a wingspan of seven feet, and his talons have a grip ten times stronger than the average human’s. 

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Which brings me to my Hari Ragat content for the day.  I can’t find any sources clearly identifying the legendary manaul, the sacred bird, but more than one artist has apparently taken the Philippine Eagle as their visual reference.  I’ll do the same, and there will certainly be manaul, or haribon, in the Hari Ragat setting.

Haribon, aka Manaul in Hari Ragat
This sacred bird is a large raptor, with a 6-8 foot wingspan, crested head, and plumage of  brown and white.  Vijadesan legend says that, while all other life was formed of the mixed blood of Aman Bathala and the Serpent, plus the primeval ooze at the bottom of the ocean, the haribon was formed from clay and Aman Bathala’s blood alone, without the Serpent’s taint. Thus this bird’s great spiritual power and purity, which is much harnessed by Vijadesan shamans.

Some bits of lore the Vijadesans hold true of the haribon/manaul include:

  • A manaul nesting nearby is a sign of good fortune and protection; evil spirits will not approach the nest site for a radius of several miles.  And should a manaul ever perch on the roof of one’s house, it presages death in a glorious battle.

  • Manaul mate for life, and it’s said if ever one of a pair is killed,  the other will rip its own heart out with its beak as soon as it knows, or if it has fledglings in the nest, as soon as the fledglings can fly.

  • A manaul’s feathers contain enough of its spirit essence to be useful in charms of purification and exorcism of evil spirits.

  • A manaul’s heart, when eaten, confers great spiritual power; however, killing a manaul is a crime punishable by death.

  • It is said the manaul cannot abide captivity; if ever one is captured, and not set free at once, it will rip open its own breast with its beak.  Again, capturing manaul is a crime punishable by death.

  • Eating a bite of meat from a haribon’s kill will allow one to understand the speech of birds for the rest of the day, for one day.  This meat must be eaten raw (it may be dried for future use, though; just don’t cook it).  Getting a bite from a haribon’s kill without breaking any of the laws around it should be a nice puzzle for the PCs.

As for combat stats – if your players are crazy enough to want to kill one – it should be about as formidable as a leopard, or maybe a wolf.  Well within the abilities of a capable warrior to take out.  It’s the consequences that should be scary.

How would you use a creature like this in your games?

Android Migration

I’ll be gone for a while, with a trip to the undersea wildlife haven of Coron and then to Siem Reap, Cambodia.  In between those trips, though, I’ve got about a week of nothing to do but write.  My chosen tool for it is my Asus Transformer Prime, a device I find to be the sweetest compromise between laptop and tablet that’s now on the market.

But.  Big quibble.  The Transformer runs on Android, and there are no Android apps that work well on RTF files.  None. You can convert RTFs to PDFs using online converters, or to Word.  It’s a very strange oversight on the part of Android app developers.  Don’t these guys know RTF is the go-to format for cross-platform sharing of text documents?

So, like it or not, my workflow’s going to change.  I’ve set MS Word on my laptop to save in .doc format again, and I’ll have to upload my exported RTFs from yWriter – now that is an excellent program! – to Google Docs for download as .doc files to my Transformer. 

May 9, 2012

Khorajan Ribs

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Aye, I’ll admit it – I failed to take a pic of the recipe I made, because the smell of it drove wifey and me mad with hunger! That, and the fact that I was playing a Conan the Barbarian-based M&B mod all the while that the ribs were cooking, the aroma wafting up from the kitchen stealing into and taking over my brain.

Why Khorajan? Howard, Conan’s creator, had a fascination with medieval Middle Eastern history, particularly  the Crusader States, and Khoraja was one of the settings he patterned after it.  Khoraja’s culture was thus a mix of Hyborian and Shemitish, just as the states of Edessa and the Kingdom of Jerusalem had mixed Norman-Arabic-Jewish culture.  The flavor of these ribs will likewise recall just such an interchange of influences.

Ingredients

  • 1 slab baby back ribs (about 500-800g)
  • 3 tbsp roasted bell peppers, pureed*
  • 1 tbsp coriander seed
  • 1 tsp thyme (I used dried)
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1-2 tsp cayenne
  • pinch cinnamon
  • 3 tbsp honey
  • salt to taste

*I found a bottle of roasted bell peppers in olive oil at my grocery the other day.  If you can’t get this, you can roast the bell peppers yourself until they begin to char, peel and deseed them, and puree the pulp with 1 tbsp olive oil.

Procedure
Combine the roasted bell pepper puree with all other ingredients below it, then rub into the meat.  Bake for about 50 minutes at around 275-300F.  Enjoy, preferably with a rice pilaf and some dark beer!

Go ahead, indulge.  Crom and Ishtar will approve!

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