Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Medicine

            It is odd to go on medication and realize how long you have been unable to properly feel things.  That for so long you were hollowed out like a melon rind.  I don’t know how long I was hollow.  I don’t know how long the color was turned down on the screen of my life.  Maybe I just thought the slow decline was part of getting older.

            I remember being happy in the past.  Able to laugh to myself about some joke that came to mind for no other reason than I wanted to make myself laugh.  I have been doing that again as I pace around my apartment.  I have gotten silly songs stuck in my head and then remixed them with dirty lyrics.  I have messaged people nonsensical silly images.  I have managed to be witty or perhaps just enthusiastic.

            My sleep schedule is all over the place.  It is something to work on with exercise, which doesn’t help, and with supplements, which hopefully will help.  But even then my dreams are different.  I remembered two dreams over the last few years, and both were nightmares.  They weren’t the worst nightmares I had ever had, but they were bad.  Now I have had fun dreams about helping Dwayne Johnson run for Congress or getting into an argument with a school of fish who were in my shower.

            And when I wake up from dreams both aspirational and strange I have the strangest sensation.  I can feel so much more intensely.  My fingertips feel more.  I don’t want to describe it as tingling, but there is no other word for it.  My fingers feel so much more that they seem to be tingling.

            I let myself daydream.  My daydreams used to be a blending of frustration and grey resolve.  I used to buzz with anxiety.  That was the words I used to describe it to the doctor.  I was constantly buzzing.  Other times it felt like something alien was within me.  Drinking me.  That a vine was growing or creeping up the length of my body just beneath the skin and sapping my blood.  I don’t feel that anymore.  I am not buzzing.  I am going un drank.

            Instead, my daydreams let me think of aspirational things that will probably never happen but make me happy.  They let me reminisce about missed opportunities.  And rather than lament those misses they let me turn the event around in my hands like a crystal bobble to see all the angles to it.  I understand my past better and can envision my future better.

            I can lay in bed and feel relaxed.  I can listen to music. 

            I can daydream about silly things.  As I listen to music I can picture myself talking to the singer in a casual environment and being the 10,000 person in their life who was nice but got nowhere with them.  I can think back to the various women in my life that I felt for and learned from and how I wasn’t ready to be anything for them because I was somehow hollowed out.

            I feel more alive and awake than I have in a decade.  And let’s ignore the irony of my saying that during a global pandemic.  That was the thing that finally pushed me over to try something.  The buzzing had reached new levels and I just could not focus.  Looking into the future was a blur.  The only thing I could see looking into the past was my mistakes, that glowed like lighthouses in the haze.  Couldn’t dwell on those, the light told me to steer clear.

            Why did I let myself be sick for so long?  Why did I let this get so bad?  Maybe I was worried that what I was feeling was as good as it could be.  Could you imagine a worse diagnosis than, “That is just how things are”?  How damning would that be?  That there is nothing wrong and that is just how bad it is.  The buzzing will never stop, the vine will keep drinking, the haze will not lift, and that is as good as it will get.

            That must have been it.  The thing that kept me from trying to fix it.  I worried about hearing the words, “Nope, that’s normal”.

Kind of wish this website did a better job of labeling which images they would charge for.
This one was free.

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Sunday, May 31, 2020

Dungeons and Dragons, "The High Arcana"


Gods of Dungeons and Dragons
            I have over the years put out several entries on the topic of fictional religions.  I never really went anywhere with my discussion of Religion as an aspect of settings that I wrote about years before that, but since then I have tried to come at the topic in ways that would make it interesting for someone who had been playing for a while or someone new.
            In each instance I have tried to either go in an entirely new direction like with my unique take on Orcs a while back.  I then did a short follow up to that with a pair of orc characters in that context.  There was also a more traditional pantheon of deities that act in concert with one another, "The Five".  I did a follow up to that one in which I created a team of characters that each serve as an exemplar of the various members of The Five.  My last entry was “The Preserver” which was my attempt to graft a messianic style belief system onto environmentalism oriented religion.
           To continue with this I am going to write up more of my stranger and off the beaten path religious aspects of my own campaign world and see what people think.  This will kind of be a series, much like my attempts to write characters for all the class and background combinations it is something that is informal and rarely done… I am a surprisingly busy person…

It is important when making a symbol for a fictional religion, to keep the iconography simple enough for people to draw.

The High Arcana
Holy Symbol:
            Lines on either side of a pentacle above a curve, the “Wand, Sword, Pentacle, and Cup”
Cleric Domain:
            Arcana (Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide) or Knowledge (PHB).
            There are also some sects that ascribe different domains based on how they worship.

World View & Mythos:
            The universe is chaos.  From that chaos emerged the Arcana.  The Arcana is the living energy that empowers all things.  It is knowledge and imagination.
            The arcana is a concept beyond mortal reason and cannot be perceived or understood by mortals and instead is perceived in various facets.  22 “gods” form a sort of pantheon, when acolytes seek to understand the arcana or see the future they evoke these gods and attempt to divine the answer to their questions via which gods appear and in which order those gods make those appearances.
            Linked below are the 5 blog entries that give names and identities to all 22 of these “gods”.  This is more an overview to see the religion from more of a birds’ eye view and the idea of them being gods in the traditional sense of a pantheon of beings with genders, goals, and personality.  (COMING SOON; turns out writing 22 of these things takes more time and creative energy than I realized, and I stalled out in the middle of the pack).
            Part 1: The Leaders: Empress, Emperor, High Priestess, Hierophant, and Magician.
            Part 2: The Adversaries: Fool, Hanged Man, Death, Devil, and Wheel of Fortune.
            Part 3: The Virtuous: Strength, Temperance, Justice, and Judgement.
            Part 4: The Cosmos: Star, Moon, Sun, and World.
            Part 5: The Others: Lovers, Charioteer, Hermit, and Tower.
 
For those who don't know what this is a reference too from this opening, here is an additional clue.
Beliefs:
            The High Arcana does not listen to prayers.  They are not a “they” but simply many different faces of a higher form of knowledge and energy that exists beyond the mortal ability to perceive time and space.  It is mercurial, uncaring, random, and often capricious… from the point of view of mortals.  Followers seek foreknowledge and truth by channeling the arcana, but the replies come in such a cryptic manner that divining what they mean is often an exercise in futility.
            As a religion they are (at best) something a “worshiper” tries to listen intently to and decipher in hopes of gaining some kind of edge on the tumultuous circumstances that constantly assault people’s lives.  They might reveal the key to casting a spell, a coming storm, or simply hint at the mood and focus that will be needed in the coming days.

Practices:
            To the world at large the most common practice associated with the High Arcana is prominence of oracles and divination utilizing cartomancy, the use of cards to predict the future.  Each of the 22 images of High Arcana are dealt out and the meaning associated with each of the images is interpreted based on where it falls in the chain.
            As the cards never deal out the same way twice, a common criticism of this practice is, “if I were to ask the same question twice in a row, why would I receive different readings?”  This question has created the main schism with currently divides the religion based on how they answer this question discussed in “Churches and Denominations”.
            The Holy symbol represents the Lesser Arcana, the meaning varies depending on who you ask within the faith.  The most common answers to tend be some variation of, “They represent positive actions taken in the material world based on the guidance of the High Arcana.”  That is to say, attack, cast, heal, or learn… But even that varies and some people in larger churches think that the symbols should be discarded.
 
Thank you to Lucas Pezeta for the free stock photo from Pexels.
Superstitions and Taboos:
            The faith has a 22-month calendar, 9 of months having 16 days, the other 13 having 17 days.  They do not have weeks or weekends and see the calendar strictly as a means to keep track of holidays.  Each of the months is associated with 1 of the gods and it serves as a zodiac.  There is division in the faith between those who believe that one’s birthday can influence one’s persona or one’s relation with the arcana, some holding so true as to not associate with people who are born in certain months because they assume those individuals have conflicting personality traits.

Social Organization:
            Generally speaking there is no prescribed social order in the belief systems of the High Arcana.  Implicit in the belief system are certain virtues and social roles, but they are descriptive rather than prescriptive, that is to say, the reason one of the gods is “The God of Emperors” is not because there should be emperors, but because the word “emperor” best describes his role within the pantheon.

Churches and Denominations:
            The two largest groups were split over the question, “if I were to ask the same question twice in a row, why would I receive different readings?”  The first group are called Refractory Readers, they have the easiest explanation to understand and as such are the more widely understood.  Their explanation is, “The first reading was the ‘correct’ reading, and as it has not resolved itself another reading cannot be taken yet.  The second time you asked the question you were just getting psychic noise from the High Arcana.”
            The Second group is more esoteric and are called Infinite Readers.  Their explanation is as follows, “whenever you ask a question you are only seeing a small amount of an answer, the first few cards, in reality the answer is not cards but an unknowable glimpse into the High Arcana.  You could ask the question an infinite number of times and you would get a different answer each time, but they are all the same answer, one long stream of information that is simply too much for you to take in and interpret.”
            Essentially they are giving the same answer, “too much information for the person to process” but there is a nuance to each’s explanation that has spawned their own canon to be explored and contrasted by the various followers.
            As for formal organizations, there are two exceptionally large churches that have formed, and they are in tension with one another.  The first is the Order of the Oracles, which focus on trying to see the future of the material world and provide such services to communities.  The Oracles have their own missionaries and often study other forms of divination in addition to cartomancy.  The Oracles ascribe to the Refractory Readers explanation and are more generally accepted by the public at large.

            The other group is the Church of the Highest Arcane and prescribe more to the Infinite Readers explanation.  They do not feel the material world is of interest and spend most of their time seeking out a greater understanding of the higher dimensions.  The Astral Plane, the Ethereal Plane, and the Dream Plane take special interest them.  They are favored by Wizards, Warlocks, and others that value Knowledge perceived to be beyond ‘typical’ people.  They are seen as elitist, aloof, and as unproductive intellectuals.
            There exists a third group which is growing in size and influence called the Pantheists.  They believe that the High Arcana should be seen and worshiped as a traditional pantheon of gods with temples to each, pilgrimages, holidays, and each having their own holy symbols.  This group tends toward traditional cleric practices of picking one god to follow with a domain suited to that god, these clerics are often call themselves “Embodiments”.

Cults & Heretics:
            The “Literalists” are a small faction of the faith do believe that these concepts should be applied more literally to the world and have tried in small utopian communities to create a social order based around the various symbols, appointing people to fill each role which can be seen as a person, codifying ideas like Temperance and Judgement into the law, and creating actual Wheels of Fortune that people may gamble upon.
            These groups are viewed by the larger faith as missing the forest for the trees to a comical degree and derided as misrepresenting the faith to the outside world.
            Another group are the “Charlatans” which is a term used for anyone who pretends to practice the art of divination with a set of High Arcana cards but does so without faith or purpose.  They are seen as false prophets and are shockingly common because the cards are often sold or given away as tokens of the faith.
 
And thank you to Scott Rodgerson on unsplash.
Heretical Symbol:
            The Literalists use the same symbol, the “Wand, Sword, Pentacle, and Cup” and see themselves as the true faith.
            The Charlatans also use the “Wand, Sword, Pentacle, and Cup”, it would dispel their ruse if they used a different symbol.

Heretical Domain:
            The Literalists tend toward Order (Guildmaster’s Guide to Ravnica) or Knowledge (PHB) while Charlatans use the Trickery (PHB) domain.

Heretical Texts:
            Often these small groups will be founded by a leader or group of leaders who wish to set themselves up as the Emperor of their own community.  They will frequently write their own holy text which serves as a supreme and final word on how the high arcana should be interpreted.
            Often times they will rename the gods, create dozens of new gods, or make themselves the 23rd god.  Ironically, none of this behavior can be called “heretical” in any meaningful sense.  The existing names of the gods are placeholders for larger inscrutable concepts.  More gods are just as likely and 22 that exist currently were part of previous generational efforts to codify various ideas, the last to be added was the Charioteer, and there are still debates on whether that god should be split off to a 23rd in the form of the Paladin, to say nothing of splitting the “Devil” into multiple devils representing sins as they are commonly understood.
            Even the idea of adding one’s self as another god is strange, as that is what the card “World” is often interpreted as.  Not the literal world, but the world as a person perceives it. 
            The larger religion is flexible and contains no supreme “Evil” that can be called to as exists in many other faiths, the closest being those who wish to worship the Devil as a means to gain power thru misdeeds, but even that is atypical, because the Devil is rarely seen in those terms by others within the faith, instead seeing him as a source of knowledge (often forbidden) or the embodiment of personal drive (often leading to self-destructive ends).

Inspirations
            This is going to be pretty obvious, but the big inspiration here is Tarot Cards and their presence in the pop culture as a form of divination.  I find them somewhat entertaining in the same way I find all real-life expressions of the occult to be entertaining.
            This was also inspired in Dungeons and Dragons by two things the first is obviously The Deck of Many Things, an iconic magic item which… inexplicably is not just a Tarot deck in spite of it having 22 cards in it.
Love this art style for the third party publisher trying to release this as a game supplement.

            Seriously, if you look at the list of tarot cards they suggest using for the various Many Things they suggest using numbers from the cups, swords, pentacles, and wands.  That is just weird.  Why not just make the Deck of Many Things the Tarot cards?  Just straight up make them the same things.  It is all nonsense anyway…. What is really weird is one of the suggestions they use is for the “Idiot” in the Many Things deck should align with the “Juggler” in a normal tarot deck…. There is no “Juggler” in a typical tarot deck!  It is the Magus or Magician, both things that belong in DnD more than a Juggler.
            Also, why does the Deck of Many Things need an Idiot, a Fool, and a Jester?  Those are too close together.  It is dumb.
            The other inspiration was the Tarokka Cards which were an add on to the recent Ravenloft “Curse of Strahd” adventure for 5e Dungeons and Dragons.  Having looked thru the cards I found a lot of their theming to be off and weird.  They are clearly ordered with the basic fighter, rogue, cleric, wizard arrangement in mind, but aside from the wizard I think that the archetypes on the others were not entirely right.
            This is another instance in which they could have just used a Tarot Deck and published a Dungeons and Dragons themed deck.  It would have been much more accessible and sold to people who don’t play DnD, instead it was so niche as to be a waste of money.  I will say that I LOVED the art in the Tarokka deck, as the black and white portrayals are cool enough that it could have easily served as a sort of Gothic/retro style for some kind of collector’s edition of the Player’s Handbook.  And I will say, that if they were to do some kind of “Ravenloft Player’s Handbook” with this style of art thru out, and adding a half dozen new options for players (maybe just a beefed up version of the Innistrad options they put on the internet), I could imagine the thing selling a lot better than the decks.
Seriously now, the art looks moody and great.
Check out each.
            In regard to the church denominations, the Order of Oracles was inspired by the Oracle of Delphi, the most famous organized practitioners of divination in Western history, and there were many other oracles both in Greek myth and in the real Greece, to say nothing of all the shamans and oracles that exist in nearly all cultures.
            The other, Church of the Highest Arcane is a sort of parody of any religion that keeps secret knowledge for the highest of their members.  In general I am not a believer in any supernatural power, but I find those groups which deliberately keep information hidden from worshipers to be particularly insulting.  If you think your mythology is too silly or strange for a layman to just not “get it” you may have to rethink whether you believe in it at all.
            The idea of utopian cults forming is pretty easy to find in real life, but they are most often centered on doomsday, this video by Jack Rackam explores one such group, and this video by Crash Course European History discusses one such “utopia” founded on Calvinism.  I am sure that you reader can conjure in your memory any number of groups and communities that have been created by an exceptionally literal or particularly esoteric interpretation of religious text.
            Charlatans really require no great explanation.  There are any number of false prophets back thru history and in the modern world.  Those who perform a religion for profit to bilk the trusting of their money and futures.  And those who turn such performances into industries unto themselves, when they are not scheming people in other ways.
            There is always a danger in pulling inspiration too directly from real world sources, and I have talked about that before in my creation of the “Wild Elves” which I based on the Sioux Indians, and specifically looked at via the lens of racial bias.  However… there really is no other way to make things.
            We exist in the real world and our personal perceptions of the world, what we learn, and how we learn it, limit our ability to understand greater concepts.  The best we can do is take those elements we “know” and remix them into something that feels familiar but is still original.  Dungeons and Dragons, and genre fiction in general allows us to explore concepts like this and I feel allows us to understand something better via such distortions, by shuffling disparate elements together we see their similarities and contrasts all the better.
            Maybe, when I finally finish this series of entries it will ultimately be seen as entertaining, and even something a person might want to include in their own game.  Regardless, I hope it was entertaining to read.  Have fun.
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Wednesday, April 8, 2020

My Sad and Frustrated Acceptance of Joe Biden


            A few weeks ago numerous people were calling for Senator Bernie Sanders to drop out and fall into line behind Biden.  Because contrary to them saying they want to be the Democratic nominee (Democrat being taken from the word “Democracy”) the idea of everyone voting just struck them as a pointless ritual before appointing Joe Biden as the nominee.


            To understand a few things about Joe Biden I would recommend this video from last year that actually called on Joe Biden to primary Donald Trump, as Joe was actually more of a liberal 80’s Republican than a Democrat.


            Regardless, it was during the calls for Bernie to stop running that I wrote a little diatribe on some news article, or a comment section, or wherever.  And anticipating someone dropping out I decided to keep the text and just tune up that instead of writing something entirely original.

--------------------
            Even if Bernie does not get 1 vote more, you should still want the process to run its course completely.  It builds engagement, calling on people to do their part, and have their voice heard.  Even if Bernie does not win, him winning delegates illuminates how different demographics feel and signals to Democrats what they should prioritize in the future.
            A primary that is run to completion puts information out into the public, so the public has time to process and find the nuance to it.  For instance, Bernie saying that Cuba has good healthcare and literacy programs being twisted to say he was praising autocracy in the most bad faith horseshit I can recall happening in my lifetime.  Or… You know… The rumors of deteriorating mental health and Rape Accusations that have come out about Biden.
            Beyond anything else... In a democracy you want people to VOTE.  It creates legitimacy for the candidate and the system.


Yeah, I would not have expected the position of "Voting is Good" to be so controversial.

            The more Bernie talks about his policy stances the more normalized they become.  The more likely they will be mainstream in the future.  Every day he is in the race is another day getting us all closer to universal healthcare, living wages, and many-many-many other important reforms.  It was why I liked Andrew Yang running on Universal Basic Income, and why I wanted Pete Buttigieg to run if for no other reason than having a Gay Man doing so well in this contest does crack these sorts of glass ceilings.
            People talk about how the Democratic debates were crowded.  They would call them clown cars.  But they were also diverse.  Full of candidates with a variety of perspectives, personal histories, and (in many cases stupid) ideas (seriously, Kamala Harris’ plan for debt forgiveness reads as a parody of means testing in America).


            Joe Biden is the sort of boringly “competent” old elected official that is running entirely on a return to the pre-Trump world.  He is and would be better than Trump.  I will begrudgingly vote for him.  I will allow this regressive and boring message that basically boils down to “Make America Great Again” in blue font.  So that now both major political parties in the United States will be crowing about some pre-lapsarian vision of America.  One hailing back to when whites ruled it, and the other hailing back 4 years to when whites ruled the country, but a black guy was president.
            You know what we got out of the pre-Trump world?  Trump.  You know what we will get out of a return to the pre-Trump world?  Another “Trump”, and the next time it will be someone who is canny enough to know what being president can really do.  It won’t be some dullard who just wants to spend his days playing golf knowing he is making a killing selling ball-caps and bumper stickers.  It will be someone with real sinister motivations and it is not something that can be thwarted by Joe Biden’s plan of conceding to the Republicans before the debate even begins.

            Bernie was running on more than that.  And you all should be glad for it.  He is not pulling the party apart.  He is not leading an army of trolls.  He is doing what he has been doing for decades.  He is advocating for programs that are good for people.  He is being mostly right on most things, which is a hell of a lot better than Joe.

            I am legitimately sad that Joe Biden is going to be the nominee.
            If you aren't, then from my perspective you live in a world where gruel is a full meal.
            That is what Joe is offering.
            Gruel.

            And hell… Trump may still win.




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Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Edgar Allan Poe's "The Masque of the Red Death"


                In the Past, I have done small rewrites of the words of HP Lovecraft.  This is a minor writing exercise that I chose to do because… I don’t it is something to do.  Considering the world wide pandemic I figured I would do a slight redux of Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Masque of the Red Death”.  It is a pretty good story.  If I had any real criticisms they would be he uses too many instances of “and” or “but”, and he definitely uses the phrase “to and fro” far too often.  Really long paragraphs and run on sentences… Edgar, buddy, I love the semi colon too, but maybe just rework things… Just give my mortal eyes a break in the text please.

                I kind of wish he had worked this all into a poem like “The Raven”, and I am uncertain as to whether he intended any symbolic motif with the color rooms.  I could look up some interpretations, but I did not want to spend more than a couple hours on this as a break from doing actual work.  If you haven’t read the story before, please enjoy.  If you have read the story before but found the language choice a little off for a modern reader, try mine and see if you like it.  I mean it is still English, it is not that hard to touch up.


The Masque of the Red Death


The "Red Death" had long devastated the country.  No pestilence had ever been so fatal, so hideous.  Blood was its Avatar and its seal—the redness and the horror of blood.  Sharp and sudden pains, dizziness, and then the bleeding from the pores.  The scarlet stains upon the body and face of the victims, were the mark of death shutting him out from the aid and sympathy of their countrymen.  From seizure to termination, took as little as half an hour.

But Prospero, the happy Prince, when his dominions were half depopulated, summoned to his presence a thousand vigorous and light-hearted friends from among the knights and dames of his court.  With these revelers retired to the deep seclusion of one of his vast manors.

This was a magnificent structure.  The creation of the Prince's own eccentric and august taste. A strong and lofty wall girded it all in with gates of iron and the visages of angels, muses, satyrs, and nymphs gazing down on the revelers.

Having entered, the courtiers brought furnaces and hammers to weld and clasp the bolts. Resolved to leave no easy ingress nor egress to the sudden impulses of despair or of frenzy from within. The Manor was amply provisioned. With such precautions the courtiers would prove defiant to the contagion. “The external world will take care of itself.”  “They shall learn cleanliness and godliness.”  “And those with faith will be kept pure.”

In the meantime it was folly to grieve, or to think. The Prince had provided all the appliances of pleasure. There were buffoons, there were dancers, there were musicians, there was Beauty, there was wine. All these and security were within. Without was the "Red Death".

It was towards the close of the fifth or sixth month of this seclusion, and while the pestilence raged most furiously abroad, that the Prince Prospero entertained his thousand friends at a masked ball of the most unusual magnificence.

It was a voluptuous scene, this masquerade held in 7 rooms of the manor.  An imperial suite allowed passage to each.  Unlike those found elsewhere, as in many palaces such suites form a long and straight vista with folding doors sliding back nearly to the walls on either hand, so that the view of the whole extent is scarcely impeded. Here in the manor of Prince Prospero, the case was very different, as one might have expected from the host’s love of the bizarre.

The apartments were arranged irregularly that one’s sight embraced but little more than one at a time. A sharp turn every twenty or thirty yards made each view its own contained vision.  Each turn promising a novel effect.

To the right and left, in the middle of each wall, a tall and narrow Gothic window looked out upon a closed corridor which pursued the windings of the suite. These windows were of stained glass whose color varied in accordance with the prevailing hue of the decorations of the chamber into which it opened. The eastern extremity was hung in blue and vividly blue were its windows. The second chamber was purple in its ornaments and tapestries, and here the panes were purple. The third was green throughout, and so were the casements. The fourth was furnished and lighted with orange, the fifth with white, the sixth with violet.

The seventh apartment was closely shrouded in black velvet tapestries that hung all over the ceiling and down the walls, falling in heavy folds upon a carpet of the same material and hue. But in this chamber only, the color of the windows failed to correspond with the decorations. The panes here were scarlet, the deepest color of slow flowing blood.

In not one of the seven apartments was there any lamp or candelabra.  No tool to shed light was part of any profusion of golden ornaments that lay scattered to and fro or hung from the ceiling.  But in the corridors that followed the suite, there stood, opposite to each window, a heavy tripod, bearing a brazier of fire, that projected its rays through the tinted glass and so glaringly illumined the room. And thus were produced a rainbow of gaudy and fantastic appearances.

But in the black chamber the effect of the firelight that streamed upon the dark hangings through the blood-tinted panes, was ghastly in the extreme.  It produced so wild a look upon the faces of those who entered, that there were few of the company bold enough to set foot within it.



It was in this black apartment that there stood against the western wall, a gigantic ebony clock. The pendulum swinging with dull, heavy, monotonous clang.  When the minute-hand made the circuit of the face, and the hour was to be struck, there came from the brazen lungs of the clock a sound which was clear, loud, deep, and exceedingly musical.

That musical sound struck each hour was so peculiar a note and emphasis that, at each lapse, the musicians of the orchestra were constrained to pause in their performance.  Just for for that moment to harken to the sound.  The waltzers ceased mid step, conversation hushed, and there was a cold pause.  

While the chimes of the clock rang, it was observed that the giddiest drained of color, and the more aged and sedate passed their hands over their brows as if lost in thought or waking from a dream.  And when the echoes had fully ceased the warmth of light laughter returned the assembly to life.  At once the musicians looked at each other and smiled as if at their own nervousness and folly and made whispering vows to each other that the next chiming of the clock should produce in them no similar emotion. 

And then, after the lapse of sixty minutes, 3,600 seconds that flew by, there came yet another chiming of the clock, and then were the same paleness on faces, the same stillness, and the same meditation as before.

In spite of these things, it was magnificent revelry. Prospero’s peculiar tastes on full display. He had a fine eye for colors and effects and disregarded mere fashion. His plans were bold and fiery, and his conceptions glowed with barbaric luster. There are some who would have thought him mad.  But those he had gathered there for so many months in his pleasure palace.  His island in a sea of plague, they did not see him as mad.  They could see him move from guest to guest, with jokes and pleasantries, drawing in close the girls and ladies for kisses, clasping hands with the men and boys.  He was not mad to them.  He was alive.  Radiantly alive.

Prospero had conducted the embellishments of the seven chambers, more couches, more beds, more blankets to facilitate this great fĂȘte; and it was his own guiding taste which had given character to the masqueraders.

There were delirious fancies such as the madman fashions.  There were much of the beautiful, much of the wanton, much of the bizarre, something of the terrible, and not a little of that which might have excited disgust.  Be sure they were grotesque, but with a strange sense of humor to them. So much glare and glitter and piquancy and phantasm.  And so much flesh on display, as guests shed garments till little aside from mask, boots, and maybe a matching hat and belt.

Thru the seven chambers there came a multitude of dreams, writhing in and about taking hue from the rooms, and causing the wild music of the orchestra to seem as the echo of their steps. And then it came, the striking of the hour by the ebony clock which stood in the hall of the velvet. And then, for a moment, all is still, and all is silent save the voice of the clock.

Frozen stiff are the dreams and the echoes of the chime die away. They have endured but an instant when the giggles and nervous laughter floats after them as they depart.  Now again the music swells, and the dreams live and writhe more merrily than ever, taking hue from the many tinted windows through which stream the rays from the tripods.

But to the most western chamber of the seven, there are now none of the maskers who venture.  For the night is waning away; and there flows a ruddier light through the blood-colored panes.  The blackness of the sable drapery appalls; and to him whose footfalls upon the sable carpet, there comes from the near clock of ebony a muffled peal more solemn and emphatic than any which reaches their ears who indulged in the gaieties of the other rooms.



But these other apartments are densely crowded, and in them beat feverishly the heart of life. Debauchery goes whirlingly on, until at length there commenced the sounding of midnight upon the clock.

The music ceased.  The movement of dancers paused.  There was an uneasy cessation of all things as before. But unlike before there were now twelve strokes to be sounded by the bell of the ebony clock.  And in that time it happened.  Perhaps with that moment more, thought crept into the meditations of the thoughtful among those who stood masked and naked.

Thus too, it happened that before the last echoes of the last chime had utterly sunk into silence, there were many in the crowd who had become aware of the presence of a figure who had gone unnoticed before.  A murmur of rumor of this new presence whispered around.  A buzzing of nerves as many in the party drew back from this figure.   At first it was curious surprise, then unease then, finally, of terror, of horror, and of disgust.

In an assembly of phantasms such as I have painted, it may well be supposed that no ordinary appearance could have excited such sensation. In truth the masquerade license of the night was nearly unlimited; but the figure in question had out-Heroded Herod and gone beyond the bounds of even the prince's indefinite decorum.

There are chords in the hearts of the most reckless which cannot be touched without emotion. Even with the utterly lost, to whom life and death are equally jests, there are matters of which no jest can be made. The whole company, indeed, seemed now deeply to feel that in the costume and bearing of the stranger neither wit nor propriety existed. The figure was tall and gaunt, and shrouded from head to foot in the habiliments of the grave. The mask which concealed the visage was made so nearly to resemble the countenance of a stiffened corpse that the closest scrutiny must have had difficulty in detecting the cheat. And yet all this might have been endured, if not approved, by the mad revelers around. But the mummer had gone so far as to assume the type of the Red Death. His vesture was dabbled in blood—and his broad brow, with all the features of the face, was besprinkled with the scarlet horror.

Prince Prospero’s eyes fell upon this spectral image which glided with a slow and solemn movement, as if more fully to sustain its role, stalked among the dancers.  Prospero was seen to be convulsed, at first with a strong shudder either of terror or distaste, but then his brow reddened with rage.

"Who dares," Prospero demanded hoarsely of the courtiers who stood near him. "Who dares insult us with this?  This blasphy?  This mockery?  Seize him!  Seize and unmask him!  That we might know whom we are going to hang!"

It was in the eastern or blue chamber in which stood the Prince as he shouted these words. Causing the guests to shrink from him.  The words rang throughout the seven rooms loudly and clearly.  The Prince was a bold and robust man, and the music had become hushed at the waving of his hand.    

It was in the blue room where stood the prince, with pale courtiers by his side. At first, as he spoke, there were halfhearted movements in the direction of the intruder, who turned with deliberate and stately step.  The guests fell back as the figure made closer approach to the Prince.

From nameless awe the intruder had inspired the whole party, there came none who would or could put forth a hand to seize him.  Unimpeded, he passed within a yard of the Prince's person and then stood with their back to the Prince and then strode deeper into the party.

While the vast assembly, as if with one impulse, shrank from the centers of the rooms to the walls, he made his way uninterrupted, but with the same solemn and measured step which had distinguished him.  Thru the blue chamber to the purple, the purple to the green, the green to the orange, on to the white, and even then to the violet.

There in the violet room a decided movement had been made to arrest him.  Prince Prospero, maddening with rage and the shame of his own momentary cowardice, rushed hurriedly through the six chambers.  While none followed him, he snatched up a dagger, and approached with all the courage being armed afforded. 

The figure was on the cusp of the black room as Prospero approached with rapid steps to within three or four feet of the figure.  Then the intruder turned suddenly and confronted his pursuer. There was a guttural cry and the dagger dropped gleaming upon the sable carpet, upon which, instantly afterwards, fell prostrate in death the Prince Prospero.  The Intruder stepped backward away from the body of the Prince and into the black room.

Summoning the wild courage of despair, a throng of the revelers at once threw themselves into the black apartment.  The figure stood tall and motionless within the shadow of the ebony clock.  They grasped at him and then in unutterable horror found the garments, the grave cerements and corpse-like mask pulled away in their hands and where a man should be, there was nothing.

And now was acknowledged the presence of the Red Death. He had come like a thief in the night. And one by one dropped the revelers in the blood-bedewed halls of the manor they died each in the despairing posture of his fall. The life of the ebony clock went out with that of the last of the gay. And the flames of the tripods expired. And Darkness and Decay and the Red Death held illimitable dominion over all.

This illustration is over 100 years old.  Honestly it is kind of crummy.
The entire damn story is about color, this is black and white.
I have no idea what is happening with the design elements here.

Here are some links to the HP Lovecraft stuff I mentioned at the top,

Stock photos from Pexels by Zach Jarosz and photo shopped red by me.
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