Archive for the ‘news’ Category

This isn’t Avenged Sevenfold’s best album. That honor will always be held by City of Evil (one long guitar solo) and, to some extent, Nightmare. 

But it’s their smartest, most ambitious, and most unique album to date. Think “The Wall” by Pink Floyd…but metal.

It’s a concept album, centering around the ideas of artificial intelligence and the implications its misuse has on humanity. Sort of like the Matrix, but less sci-fi and more genuinely scientific. This was the first thing that surprised me about the record. I never would have guessed that these metal giants would make a disc based Around scientific philosophy. Computers become the new God of society, people replace their body parts with mechanical implants so much that they aren’t human anymore, and the world gets destroyed. In my mind, this record is even an allegory for Facebook, social media, and the internet in general taking over the souls of the human race. I don’t really despise social media – but I do think our obsession with it is a bit excessive.

You would think with this concept that the album would sound digital and electronic – and once again, A7x surprise us by making it sound like their older metal core efforts, particularly on tracks 2-5. Instead of going full on 80s metal like they did on their last record, the disappointing “Hail to the King”, the band seems to have gotten back to their roots. It’s a blend of City of Evil and Waking the Fallen, especially where the guitar riffs are concerned. And while it doesn’t sound electronic, it certainly sounds cosmic. You feel like your up in the stars when you listen to it, and the cover art is a very clever play on their beloved logo, the death bat. Stars make up the skull and lightning energy makes up the wings, as you can see for yourself. 

The chorus on “Paradigm” hits mercilessly hard with speed and melody, the riffs on “Sunny Disposition” explode in your face (there’s a really pretty melody in there though at a few points), and “God Damn” combines black metal tremolo picking and drums with clean vocals to a very pleasing effect. 

The final track, “Exit” is primarily instrumental with smart time changes that go on for over ten minutes. There’s more music than lyrics on this one, but when those vocals come your ears will be blown away. This song is basically a narrative for the creation of our universe, the “Big Bang”, and it’s quite possibly the group’s most innovative song. Famed cosmologist Neil Degrasse Tyson even does a spoken word part at the end which he apparently wrote specifically for this album. I wouldn’t have ever pictured him working with a hard rock band, so this was another surprise. 

Yes, the album is full of surprises. It recaptures the brutal sound of their older albums while still remaining fresh and new to the listener. 

The only two problems I have with the disc are M. Shadows’ vocals and Synyster Gate’s guitar playing. Don’t get me wrong – both musicians still sound excellent and totally professional, but their work on this one just doesn’t capture me in the same way their previous material always did.

I award this album a 4 out of 5. If you love metal, go listen to it. Like, right now. 

Advertisements

About a week ago, I logged into my wordpress. It wasn’t a busy day for me – work was over and my wife and daughter were at my mother in law’s house, so I had a free day to check my stuff and read as many blog posts as I could. I didn’t expect anything special to be on there specifically about my own blog (though I did expect, as I always do, to read fascinating posts made by those I follow), for I hadn’t made a new post in like two weeks.

But something cool was about to happen.

My good ol’ blog pal, piezoradeon(The Enthralled Cloud of Thought) nominated me for a blogger’s recognition award. Now, I’ve only had followers on this blog for literally two months, have made only a few posts (and even fewer posts about things the populace would be interested in), and when it comes right down to it, I’m the biggest NOOB of them all when it comes to word press. So how do you think I reacted?

Ecstatically.

It feels so good to have people like Piezo and everyone else actually reading the things I write, and I’d like to thank EVERYONE who has ever read anything I’ve posted. Outside the internet, I don’t really have anyone who appreciates my art other than my family. At least not yet 🙂

But my excitement didn’t stop there.

3 days later, A Thought, a Word, and an Eternal Bliss nominated me for this very same award.
A lot of people would say, “Oh its just a blog. Who cares? You didn’t win a real award.”

Not so.

We bloggers are artists(but I’m so inexperienced that I barely have the right to say that!). We all thrive on our art and opinions being viewed and appreciated by somebody. ANYBODY. Because BLOGS START CONVERSATIONS PEOPLE! Intelligent conversations, across thousands of miles, with people appreciating each other’s creativity through an outlet which for some is the only outlet they have to express themselves. At least at first. Blogging gives a person confidence, and it also greatly helps their credibility when they try to send their work, be it poem, sketch, or novel, to a publication company. So for anyone who wants to succeed, blogging is an excellent starting point.
(All that being said, I’m still in no way under any delusions about my blog being great or anything. I wasn’t in a competition, and I didn’t actually win anything, but it just feels good that a couple of people enjoyed my blog)

Let me just say before I type the rules that those nominated for this award are supposed to type that it is an absolute treasure to be recognized by other bloggers, but especially by ones who are as talented and engaging as A Thought, a Word, and an Eternal Bliss and Kushal Gorti(Piezo Radeon). I love both of their blogs so much, and I strongly recommend that you check out their pages.  Now, time for me to post the rules, and then to follow those rules.

The Rules

*Write a post to show your award

*Tell your blog’s origin story – how did it start?
*Write two pieces of advice for new bloggers
*Thank whoever nominated you and share a link to their blog
*Select 15 other blogs that you want to nominate

The Domain: Origin

A little over a year ago, I started my blog for a single purpose – to have my first completed mythical novel read by as many people as possible. Well, that was the MAIN purpose, but I also had one that was far less selfish, albeit only possible if the blog ever became a major success…..to be a place where people all over the world and even in my own humble hometown could post their works of art without fear or criticism, regardless of the medium(by the way, if anyone wants their stuff posted and doesn’t have a blog yet, you can contact me and get your stuff out there through the domain). My idea was for it to be something sort of like the Community Pool, the only exception being that it would specifically be for people like myself who are horribly self conscious and terrified of sharing their thoughts and ideas with the world. Hence my blog slogan: Let’s Slay the Minotaur, One Idea at a Time. This refers to the Greek myth of the slaying of the Minotaur by Theseus, but more poignantly to my own little tweak on that myth which plays a huge part in my novel, “The First and the Last”, which when all is said and done is about nothing more than overcoming life’s many struggles. Well, to this day, that grand dream of idea sharing hasn’t yet come true. But I’m still hopeful. However, the other thing that I wanted actually did happen, surprisingly. A few noble souls have read my posts, and more specifically, chapters from my book. Let me say again that I simply cannot stress enough the amount of gratitude that I feel towards you all. Anyone who has ever even clicked the Like button honestly made my day and gave me strength. But something important to mention is that it took my blog a literal year to be read by ANYONE, at least regularly. I’ll explain more of that later under the Advice heading, but suffice it to say – perseverance. That’s the magic word. But I have learned something very important from blogging that actually overshadows my own desires for success – How to CONVERSE. I have had more conversations on wordpress than I can count, and they were all very intelligent and enjoyable. I don’t really get to talk about things that interest me face to face, because I don’t really know anyone personally who would be interested. Of course I have friends and family – but I’m a loner when it comes to my interests, hobbies, and passions. Hence, the beauty of blogging.
2 bits of advice

1. Take a genuine interest in others. This is a tried and true approach that is crucial to any successful blogger, and, at the risk of me sounding like a barren platitude, is essential to daily life as well. When I first started my blog, I was desperate for attention. I kept posting chapters from my book as well as music and movie reviews for weeks, but it was all for naught. No one even clicked any of it. Then I did what would have been obvious to me in the first place if I had possessed any common sense: I searched through tags and categories and started following people. I really just wanted to get my book read by people, but I discovered something even better. CONNECTION. I stopped fretting over my vacant blog posts and instead read the posts of others. And they were great. They were all just great. Every single person I have followed on wordpress has made at least one post that had me absolutely engaged. Poetry, artwork, books, short stories, reviews, even paragraphs about every day life – its all amazing to me. As I believe I had mentioned previously, CONVERSATIONS are the best thing about blogging. You can easily find people who share your own interests, as well as other people who may spark your interest in other things. I did this for a few weeks and, lo and behold, my blog actually grew from nothing into something. So, suffice it to say that if you take a genuine interest in other blogs and give them feedback, your own blog will inevitably prosper. And don’t just click the like button or comment without reading the actual post. I know its sometimes a temptation to just scroll through and click like a few times, but I have read through every single post that I have ever liked or commented on. You’ll find enough thoughts, ideas, and true works of art through blog posts that you’ll forget all about your own page. You’ll just wanna start some conversations 🙂

2. Community Pool. Post a comment introducing yourself and your page. Then, go through the introductions that others have posted and click on some blogs that look interesting to you. Give them some feedback, and you’ll get some in return. The pool really is a blessing. I found so many awesome people to follow through this, and my own blog almost doubled in feedback.

The Nominees

First, let me introduce the two bloggers who nominated me. The Enthralled Cloud of Thought was the first one to do it. Now I don’t wanna play favorites, but really, who else is as awesome as he is? Nah, I love so many blogs equally, but this guy really is amazing. Every word in his posts is just saturated with wit. You can tell that he’s really intelligent, creative, and has a great sense of humor. He writes all of his posts like a pro, and is just an incredibly nice person. If I knew him face to face, I’d wanna hang out with him all the time.

The second person who nominated me is A Thought, a Word, and an Eternal Bliss. She’s just as awesome and amazing and Kushal and all of my other followers. Very obviously intelligent, very gifted, and very poetic. All of her posts regarding short stories or poetry are just fascinating. She really has a way with words, and she knows exactly how and exactly where to just freakin lace stuff with metaphor. Reading her posts are very good for your imagination, for the imagery she conveys through the words is just stunning

Now, onto the fifteen nominees. This was the hardest part of this post, because all the blogs that I follow are just fantastic. It took me two days to sort through them and make some tough decisions, but if I ever do any other post that recommends people I’ll be sure to talk about everyone else. But literally every blog I follow is already very successful, so a NOOB like me recommending them might not even make much of a difference for them lol. Here are the fifteen I’ve chosen, and with the list I am also going to very briefly explain why you should check out each of their pages and follow them

1. PoeteX
Poetry with a lot of heart done beautifully and professionally. She really knows what she’s doing. A lot of it is very classical and sophisticated. I look forward to reading every new one she so skillfully writes.

2. loveletterstoaghost
Hauntingly beautiful poetry that I believe can connect with ANYONE and speak to their heart. Every single line is excellent. And I just LOVE that name.

3. The Creative Works of James Harrington
The storytelling is just fantastic. He writes exciting books detailing epic struggles between good and evil. He is also very kind and willing to give writers of any kind extremely helpful advice.

4. Relating to Humans
There are all kinds of cool posts on this author’s page, but what’s really exciting is that he is making a war movie with a very well thought out premise that speaks out against misogyny.

5. ericTknight
His book, “Watching the End of the World”, is extremely unique, thought provoking, and exciting. When I’m able to get an Amazon account, his book will be the first one I purchase.

6. Rebecca Elysium
Very dark, fantastic, and unique artwork. But it doesn’t stop there. The poetry that goes along with it is practically perfect. I’ve never come across a page quite like this one. Really engages your mind.

7. (Over)Analysing Literature
If anyone wants a site where you can talk about books, check this out. The content is great. She is quite a skillful writer, and her personality shows through very nicely. She is very well read and has some nice book reviews. Her short stories are fantastic as well.

8. La Audacia de Aquiles
I love mythology, and it was so cool to find a page like this that had such a wealth of information about it. Aquileana really knows her stuff, and she presents it all in a very thoughtful and informative way. She also speaks about a number of great philosophers, including my favorite, Friedrich Nietzche.

9.Gospel Isosceles
The main vibe I get from this blog is intelligence. Passion too. Every post is really top notch, and deals with a wide range of subjects. Awesome poetry, opinions, faith, and so much more. The whole blog is really like a big work of art.

10. Corasteel
Beautiful poetry. The cool thing about it is that it is not only well done, but also REAL. True words from a true heart. Cathartic. I’ve always said that I don’t like any art(especially music) unless it has an edge. And this page has it. Also plenty of other stuff that is just really well written.

11. Writing Dragons
Posts a picture of a dragon every day. And it’s freakin awesome. She always posts pictures of dragons done by fantastic artists, and I haven’t seen a single dud to date. Dragons(dinosaurs in my opinion) are my favorite animals. And this site DELIVERS for a dragon fan boy like me! She’s also working on her own dragon novel, which I look forward to reading.

12. Benjamin Fisher-Merritt(Author)
This blog, among other things, has a fantastic book/saga called “The Starvdale Adventures”. I read one chapter and was hooked. The fight scenes in this story are excellent, as well as the character development, the humor, and the basic story. If you like mythical fantasy, then check out this page immediately.

13. Ultimate Solace
First of all, I’m sure you all agree with me that that name is just tops. Second of all, what terrific poetry! The whole layout of the blog is just excellent, as is the wealth of fantastic, spiritual, and just simply well done poetry! You can read through a LOT of cool things here.

14. Dirty Sci-Fi Buddha
Practically everyday, a post is made that inspires myself and countless others to new heights. Overcoming struggles, breaking free from stagnation in your creativity: you can find anything here. There are also samples from his scifi book/saga, “Echo”, which I wanna buy when I get an Amazon

15. Invisible World

There’s an extremely well written book on here called “The Hashna Stone”, and I highly recommend you check it out. The story arc, characters, creatures, everything is cool. It reminds me of Tolkien in a very good way, but is still a completely original and creative work.

I awoke to the smell of freshly fried eggs. The smell of cooked food will always be something I relish remembering from my past life, though it always seems to me to be somehow tweaked in some form or another. For instance, the eggs I was about to consume had a sweeter, stronger scent than what I would expect to come from regular bird eggs. And this, this, NEW smell is something that will eternally remind me of the beginning of my journey. For this day was truly the beginning; the past few had only been a contemplation of the beginning. As Alpha had told me the night before, the next few days would be full of danger, difficulty, distress, and an ever increasing feeling of doom. But for now, I would focus on the eggs.
I rushed out of my chamber, helmet in my arm, following the aroma eagerly. After a few twists and turns in the dimly lit tunnels of our resting house(there were no windows, only torches), I was greeted by one of the frog princes. He spoke to me, and his words made my heart sink and my stomach rumble.
“Eggs not ready yet. They take a long time to make.”
His enormous eyes must have permitted him excellent vision, for though I could scarcely make out his upright amphibian form, much less his facial features, he could definitely see my disappointed facial expression. His silhouette stuck out two long arms to offer me something. It was a large platter. I took it and breathed in the smell of horse steak and vegetables. Not quite as inviting as the eggs, but it would have to do. I was starving.
“Have some of it if ya’s want, mista warrior,” he croaked. “And don’t ya’s eat it all. Carry rest down steps for me.”
I took a bite of the steak and followed him down the steps, shrugging off his rudeness and stupidity. The way he spoke sounded very unintelligent. Much less intelligent than Alpha, Steer and myself. Karma must truly exist, for after but a few short steps I tripped over my own feet, dropped the platter of food with a loud clang, and tumbled all the way to the bottom of the steps. I should not have judged the frog.
Landing on my knees, I looked up and caught a brief glimpse of Alpha and Steer laughing at me. My glance was brief because my own helmet came falling after me and hit me in the back of my head. For a moment all I could perceive were stars and the sound of my two companions laughing even harder. Then, as I started to regain my vision, I could hear the frog behind me. Turning to face him, I saw that he was running quickly with a wild sort of dance about him. He pushed me out of the way and began to pick up the food that I had dropped in my clumsiness. He got it all onto the platter in about two seconds, gave Steer and Alpha a quick gesture with his head, and said one more thing to me before scampering out of sight.
“You is stupid.”
My friends, of course, were still laughing. I even began to laugh myself. Oh how I love to recall these sweet, sweet memories. Before the wreckage. Before the pain.
We were all three standing on a stone balcony outside. The sun was beginning to rise, and by its light I could finally make out the place of my training. I shall describe it. There were reddish building everywhere, stretched out for what may have been at least a mile. They were circular in shape and appeared to be made from some sort of red clay. Each was connected to another by the stony balconies. These were all uneven, with some twisting, some slanting, and some suspending horizontally between the buildings. Despite all this and the fact that some were crumbling, as if they had all been constructed without much thought or regard to geometry, they all possessed a look of simple beauty. Very simple, but very beautiful nonetheless.
Under many of the balconies was an ever flow-less river, twisting and turning throughout most of the area. In some parts it merged together and split apart like a cardiovascular system. Every stream branching from it went uphill into the center of the area and fell into a lake with the same sort of beautiful, still waterfall that had protected us from Vengeance. Beside the lake and the streams were dead looking shrubs without leaves. Off into the distance, the early sun’s rays cut through tall jungle trees that surrounded the entire perimeter. They looked small from a distance, but for the first time I could make them out in full. This jungle was made up of many trees that were shaped like animals, though not all of the trees were like this. I could see elephant trees towards the right, dragon trees towards the left, and even the balcony we were standing upon had a single white tree with branches on top that shaped the head of a unicorn. It reminded me of how strong my desire to see them was, for the night before Alpha had greatly stressed their wise and beautiful qualities.
“You very much desire to see them, don’t you,” he said.
“Reading my mind again, friend?
“No, no, no,” he laughed. “I do have eyes you know. I can see the way you look at this tree. I as well hope that you see them, but thanks to the rhinocydonts, I haven’t even seen them in centuries, and I explore this jungle frequently. Don’t get your hopes up, except for your hopes for Happiness.”
How had I not thought of her yet that morning? The crimson lips, the hair of gold, the soft looking skin…how could I actually not have been thinking about her yet? Especially because much, indeed, very much had already changed in one night about my love for her. I actually knew in full what she looked like now.
This is because, during my deep and peaceful sleep the night before, I had dreamt of her. But it was one of those odd dreams that has all the wonder and attraction of your greatest fantasies, yet still retains the vicious and cruel quality of a nightmare. It was a nightmare because of the way she had appeared to me.
The dream began with just her eyes. Her eyes and nothing but darkness surrounding them. I knew from the beginning that she must have been terribly saddened, because her eyes were the brightest shade of blue I had seen them to be. In fact, they were the brightest shade of blue I had ever seen anywhere. Unfortunately, with this adventure, I would have to have to get used to this color, for they would stay this way until I saved her. If I saved her.
This maddening, crippling doubt of myself and my destiny was constantly on my mind in the dream(I would later see, with devastating effects, what doubt can do to the soul). Those eyes are what did it to me. The way they looked at me, with so much hope and love, and yet still so much melancholy and doubt, utterly burned me to my soul.
And then it got even worse.
Slowly, the darkness around the eyes lifted, showing instead a beautifully formed face with long golden hair. The darkness gradually lifted away to reveal her full body. She was wearing an emerald dress with both large and small diamonds stitched throughout. The shoes on her feet seemed to be made entirely of diamond. And atop her head was a crown with the most beautiful ruby red stones that you could possibly imagine.
But you couldn’t possibly ever hope to imagine the most beautiful thing…her smile. It was beautiful and terrible at the same time, because in those soft red lips I could see the joys and sorrows of all the world combined into one. It made me want to look away, made me feel unworthy, made me feel like I had failed already. How much worse it would have been to hear her voice! At that moment I knew that it would be unbearable, for with this mere sad yet joyful smile of hers alone I could barely stand.
I was standing in complete darkness other than her beautiful form. It still surrounded her. I knew what this meant. This was the darkness of Omega.
The dream was almost too real to be a dream. The only reason I know that it was is because when it was over I woke up in my bed with my heart pounding and my sheets soaked with sweat. This was because she reached out her hand to touch me, but was stopped immediately by a sheet of sparkling glass that shot up out of the darkness. I took in every single thing I could with my eyes, even the detail in her fingerprints I could now see pressed against this cruel trick of Omegas. That’s what he’ll always do, just like with the plants. Trick you. Entice you. Show you beautiful things and then take them away. But stopping me from embracing my love was the cruelest thing imaginable.
Her mouth began moving. She was speaking to me. I yelled from the top of my lungs to the bottom of my heart in a hoarse, desperate tone that I loved her and that I couldn’t hear her. Cruel, cruel Omega! And this cursed glass of his…I would actually later learn that it didn’t just come from Omega. It shot up from the darkness within myself, darkness that no one trying to rescue a princess should have in his heart. Darkness that I would come to find…
“Still dizzy from that stumble my friend?” laughed Steer. He was apparently still very amused with what had just happened. But Alpha was not. His face was grave, for he could see what I was thinking. I looked at him and then looked away in shame.
“Breakfast will be finished momentarily, Warrior,” he said.
I was ashamed because my recollection of this dream had brought much doubt and fear into my heart. “Yesterday,” I thought to myself, “I was ready to cut through this entire forest to get to her. Now I am terrified. It seems so hopeless.”
Maybe I was thinking this thought so that Alpha could encourage me, sort of like when one says bad things about himself to fish for compliments. No, that couldn’t have been it, for I did not like Alpha knowing about these doubts I had. He always seemed so sure of me, so proud, so encouraging. But that glance he had just given me was almost as bad as the smile of Happiness. It seemed in his expression that even he was doubting me. I kept thinking like this but tried with all my strength to stop. It felt like he was going to give me a rebuke, but in the seconds that kept passing, which felt like years to me, he did something worse. He gave me silence. Was he truly ashamed of me?
Steer must have sensed this tension, for he tried to break the silence but couldn’t. He kept stuttering and getting choked up, which made things even more uncomfortable. Finally he blurted out a question.
“Friend, can you help me with something?” I nodded a yes and walked towards him, trying to avoid Alpha’s gaze. His eyes followed me. Then, Alpha said, “See you at breakfast,” and walked across the bridge between our two resting houses, disappearing into his door. I wasn’t looking at him. I only saw him from the corner of my eye.
Steer, bless him, got my mind off of this for a while with his once again lighthearted presence and speech. He had a knack for cheering someone up without saying one word about what was bothering the person he was talking to. He wanted me to dig through a brown cloth sack beside him for something. It was a pipe filled with sweet smelling tobacco.
“You can smoke some too if you’d like,” he said. “It does wonders for stress and fills your lungs with absolute ecstasy. It’s my favorite thing to do after a long days walking, as well as every morning before and after breakfast.”
The tobacco smell and the mention of breakfast helped me to forget the troubles I was having with my doubts, as well as with my shame in the presence of my mind reading guide. I was still incredibly hungry, and the aroma of the meal enticed me. It must almost be finished. But I was actually even more eager to taste this tobacco. I held the pipe to the sunlight and inspected it. It was shaped like a dragon. The crushed and torn leaves within were brown in color and they had a smell that reminded me for some reason of pine trees. Steer motioned towards the bag. I reached in again and pulled out a lighter also shaped like a dragon, though much smaller.
“I like this,” I said to Steer. “And the tobacco smells lovely. Do you always have to have someone light it for you?”
With a laugh, he replied “Well of course warrior! I have no hands. It is a bother, no, a curse really. I can run fast with these hoofs of mine, and I am very proud of them for that. But because of them I can’t even enjoy my favorite luxuries. That’s the good thing about friends. Here, I’ll let you take the first puff. Go ahead and light it.”
The dragons mouth was the pipe’s bowl, so when I lit it, it appeared as though the dragon was breathing its deadly fire. The look of it really grabbed my interest. But as I put the tail end of the dragon to my lips, I forgot all about the way it looked. It tasted even better then it smelled. I felt the smoke go into my lungs and give them an enjoyable tickle, then exhaled the smoke. This smoke took on the shape of a dragon as well, this one winged. I watched it fly off gracefully into the sunrise.
“You like it?” Steer said.
“Like it indeed! I love it. Very, very much so my friend.”
He smiled with satisfaction. “Delicious, delicious leaves, picked right from the smoke pine.”
“Yes, yes, very delicious,” I said as I took another puff. Then another. Then a few more. “I feel rejuvenated. This can’t be healthy though, can..?”
“Who cares,” he interrupted, annoyed. “This is a vicious world; we can die at any time. We may as well enjoy ourselves. Now, my friend, quit hogging it to yourself.”
I laughed and put the pipe into his mouth, realizing that I had been smoking his stash all to myself. I couldn’t help it. It was lovely. But it made my mind wander to other things. Like the flowers. Like how they might taste smoked….
“The smoke pine,” Steer said between puffs, “Was all but obliterated by Omega and his drones. Filthy scum! When we good creatures cut down the trees, we replant them so that we may harvest them again next season. The scum have no regard for life at all. They only steal. Take, take, take, and never return.”
He let go of the pipe. I took it and continued smoking, glad to have him start a subject to remove my mind from those seductive plants.
“Tell me,” I began. “What are these Omega drones? Where do they come from?”
“Ah,” he said with a scowl. “The filth. You see, they were once a benevolent race known as angels. They were second in spirituality only to Alpha. They fought against the Minotaur constantly to defend Happiness. This was before he locked her away. They were–and still are—armed with the best of weapons. Clubs, maces, bows, axes, and swords. They even developed a cannon much like that of the Kappas. Their greatest weapon however, has been lost in their evil. Pure hearts. Now, only blackness. Alpha tells me that their evil is not as strong as their former goodness….but I sometimes don’t believe even him about that. The way they mercilessly slaughtered men and frogs, the way they tortured Kappas into joining them. The way they…….”
He stopped speaking for a moment and it looked to me like something was wrong with him. I even may have seen a tear come from his eye, but at that time I wrote it off to a trick of the light or something. He continued.
“The way they…never mind. Yes, I believe their power is only matched by that of the rhinocydonts.”
He paused and looked me up and down.
“And hopefully yourself.”
“How did they become evil?” I asked. Steer lowered his head in dismay.
“Omega,” he began, “realized that possessing the body of the Minotaur wasn’t enough to turn souls. Some were too strong willed; too hardheaded. So he possessed something else….”
I became stiff with uneasiness.
“The plants? The ones that affect me so?”
“Yes,” he replied. “The plants. They enticed most of the angels centuries ago. And then, shortly before you came, the last few were also turned. Now there are no angels left. I wonder…”
“What?” I interrupted, fearing he might say what I was thinking he would say. “What do you wonder?”
“He wonders if you are an angel.” This voice was not from steer. It was from Alpha, who was once again among us. The joy of the tobacco had now completely been extinguished within me. But Alpha smiled compassionately.
“Don’t let your heart be troubled,” he said. “You are not an angel. You are a man, but unlike any other sort. You are greater than all the other men in this jungle, myself included. For though I am willed by the ultimate good, I am still merely a man. But you are something greater. You are the warrior. Do not let your heart be troubled. That goes for you as well Steer.”
Now joy again. As I was looking at Alpha, who was still smiling, with gratitude, I once again heard his voice inside my mind. It was only two words, but they were words that a noble soul such as he should never have had to utter to anyone. I still hear them echoing in my head to this day.
“I’m sorry.”
Next his audible voice. “Come my companions. Breakfast is ready.”

**********

We entered the vast breakfast hall to a sight of many beings bustling and mingling their way around. There had to be at least a hundred of them. Kappas, frogs, dragons, and a few of Steer’s own kind. Even the fairies, who I was a bit annoyed to see, were flying over our heads, cackling together with glee. They seemed to have only been there for amusement, for as soon as they saw me, they swooped down upon me, licking me with their sticky tongues, then flew out the open windows. They wouldn’t have cared for this breakfast anyway. As Steer had said before, all they liked eating was fruit. Oh, and themselves too.
In the middle of this chamber were two long wooden tables with tall chairs for seating. The wood had carvings of a language that I didn’t know scattered throughout. Some creatures were sitting at these tables, but most were off in crowds towards the sides of the room, heaping stack after stack of horse meat onto their plates. The night before, everyone seemed so eager, so expectant just to see me, the warrior who was said to bring order and justice to their home. Now all they seemed to care for was food. I will never forget the way they all looked, smacking their lips and eating without silverware and dropping bones all about the floor in a gruesome and greedy way. Some of them, however, appeared to be merry and lighthearted, passing food to all the others sitting at their respective tables. The frogs seemed especially courteous. After two had sat an immense platter of eggs and steak on an empty table, one called out, “Eggs are ready!”, and then another one handed me a little sample plate with a single egg on it, which is what all the other frogs were giving out to everyone else in the room with a smile. I devoured mine with pleasure. It tasted just as amazing as i had thought it would. Yes, I thanked that frog very much for giving me my first taste of heaven from a skillet. My opinion of his race became nothing but admiration. So they were not all stupid and rude like the first one I met. They really were very courteous and generous.
But not the kappas. No, these creatures looked terrifying, even more so because the meat that they were eating dripped quarts of blood all over the place. They must have liked their meat raw, fresh, almost still alive. I even saw a few of them carrying large baskets of dragon eggs with the shell still on. They shoved them into their fanged beaks and cracked them as if it was the most natural thing in the world to do. I knew they were sentient, so I wondered how they could be so vicious. The night before, I hadn’t even really seen them properly. Even with the lanterns of the ceremony and the road of purification, they had only been immense, dark silhouettes. Now I could see them in full.
They were mottled green, shelled, and as spiky as my helmet. Large claws like meat hooks were on their fingers, and their teeth looked just as fearsome. On the chest of each was an apparatus that seemed to grow out of their bodies as my sword did mine. They were cylinders with large holes in the middle. These must have been the cannons that Steer had told me about. Yes, these creatures seemed to be living weapons. I was afraid of them and disgusted at the same time, but now, as I look back, I realize that I was in a sense being hypocritical. Was I not much different than them with my grotesque armor of death?
Though all the kappas looked identical, save for some having larger cannons, one in particular stood out to me. He was sitting at the far left end of the table furthest from me. His head was lowered over the table, apparently in deep thought. Hot, sticky saliva poured from his gruesome mouth. I knew it was hot, because it did a curious thing. It produced smoke and melted away the wood on the table as if it was some form of acid. As far as I could tell, none of the other Kappas did this. He was very different from the others. I could hardly see his face, but I could see that he had an ugly scar going vertically down the right side of his face, right through his eye. Suddenly he looked up, directly at me, as if he had sensed my presence. He gave me a look of pure malice, matched at that time only by the looks Vengeance had given me. “How could he be like this,” I thought to myself “Is he evil? I thought all these Kappas were on my side?”
I looked at Alpha, hoping he would answer my thoughts. He didn’t. He just kept gazing at the Kappa with a look of dread, anger, and disappointment. It didn’t look like he was afraid, but it looked like he was as confused as I was about this creature.
I looked back towards the kappa. All the others in the room, the sight and sounds of them, seemed to fade away like a dream as I looked into his eyes. It felt like he and I were the only ones in the room, no, the only ones existing in the whole world. And I did not like it. I thought then that it was some sort of hallucination, but I could see clearly that within his eyes was what appeared to be blue flame. A flame that gave me the same feeling of hopelessness that the blue eyes of Happiness had given me. Then, as quickly as it began, the vision faded. I could once again hear and see everyone in the room. The flame in his eyes was gone. Only a regular blue remained. But he was still gazing at me, and I could still feel the malice. It didn’t matter that the vision was over. I still felt the same.
Another kappa came to his side with a basket. It contained only one egg, which was shaking back and forth all on its own. It then abruptly stopped and began to crack. Out came a baby dragon. It was hard to tell, with its lack of human features and all, but it looked like it was smiling, happy to be born. Then it saw the Kappa that was gazing at me. Its squeaks of joy were replaces by shrieks of fear as it tried to crawl out of the basket. But the Kappa was too quick. Not taking his eyes off me once, he grabbed the poor, defenseless creature with his clawed hand and brought it towards his mouth. It was silenced as his teeth sank into its skull, crushing it with a crack that silenced all who were in the room. Everyone was looking at the Kappa with the same sort of fear and disgust that I felt. Even the Kappa that brought him the basket was shaking with fright.
Alpha began marching towards him in anger. Only then did the monster’s menacing gaze leave me. It was now directed at Alpha.
“Snapper,” said Alpha, “One more grotesque display like that and I will have your head on a platter. These people,” he motioned towards the others in the chamber, “Know me to be peaceful. But you know that I can be even more savage than you and your race if I need to be. You know this more than anyone.”
The Kappa, Snapper, gave a low snarl in reply that sent chills down my spine. He then looked back at me. Alpha’s expression changed. He now bore an almost wicked smile.
“Ah,” he said. “You have a problem with the warrior. Well, Snapper, after he gets his food, he and I will sit with you. Then you can get to know him better. Or perhaps you can come to know his sword, if you give him any trouble.”
Snapper reared his head back and roared with laughter. Most of the other kappas did the same, save for a few who were seated with a look of embarrassment upon their faces. Ignoring their laughter, Alpha stormed off with a scowl on his face. He disappeared into a dark corridor. Inside my head, he said to me, “Don’t worry about him. As soon as you get your food, sit across from him. Have Steer join you. In the meantime, converse with the other guests. Stay away from the bad kappas…you’ll be able to tell which ones I’m talking about. The other ones you should speak to, as well as the frogs and dragons. I’ll be right back.”
Stay away from the bad kappas. What could Alpha have meant? “I thought the bad ones were in the possession of Omega,” I thought in reply to him. He gave no answer. The crowds were once again bustling and talking amongst themselves as if nothing had happened, continuing to eat and make a mess of the place. Snapper continued to disembowel his prey.
As Steer muttered something about needing to see someone in the other room, told me he would be back by the time I sat down, and walked off, I decided to take Alpha’s advice and grab some food and speak to some guests. Besides, the aroma of the eggs had once again enticed me, but only for a moment. I tried not to think about the baby dragon, but I just couldn’t shake the thought. I just couldn’t eat those eggs. So I just attached my helmet to my belt, put some steak on my plate, grabbed a glass of wine, and began conversation with a frog prince who looked at me with admiration. In his speech I could tell that he was nervous to be around me, for he kept stuttering. He didn’t seem afraid; he just seemed like he thought it was an honor to be talking to me.
“I’m…v-v-v-very excited that you are here sir,” he croaked. “I-I-I’ve had the opportunity to speak to all of those who came before you. And…I can tell that you are different. You have kindness and…l-l-l-ove and….bravery in your face. I can read people well. It is a gift all us frog princes possess, but more so with me, f-f-for I am the reader.”
My preconceptions about the frog race had been shattered entirely. This one seemed fair minded, and very courteous and respectful as well. He was the third true friend I met along this journey. I asked him what he meant by “reader”.
“I have a gift,” he responded, “of understanding people. All species. I-I-I-I can tell instantly about them, every single one. My job is to report to Alpha those who are falling into the dark abyssal shadow of Omega. The past few days have been the worst in centuries, so many have slipped. And…” He gave the kappa, Snapper, a quick, frightened glance. “I can see it amongst us. But that one takes no reader. I only wonder where he got a fertilized egg from. Only dragon eggs without souls can be eaten ethically. They give plenty to us all…it is only Omega filth who desire to eat the children. Robbers, they are. Destroyers of innocence and joy.”
So this is what Alpha meant. Not all of these guests were on my side. I wondered with fear if perhaps a few could even be evil unnoticed, like double agents, reporting information back to the Evil King. I felt a sinking in my stomach. Could I trust anyone in this world? What of Steer? What of Alpha even? Was anyone my true friend?
I suddenly remembered Alpha’s words to me from the ceremony. Doubt is an illusion, my friend. A tricky one. It robs us of our hopes, dismantles our dreams, and can blacken even the purest hearts. Surely, the man who uttered these words could not be evil. He even warned me that doubting people, including one’s self, can be your downfall. But what if he had only said that to throw me off? I shudder now in my seat, remembering these doubts I had of my guide. For I can assure you: nowhere in the following chapters of this story does he even do something mildly bad, not even impolite (well, on second thought, he did do something very rash at one time). And Steer…how could I have ever doubted that kind, wise face of his?
The prince noticed that I was in deep thought. He had still been talking and I wasn’t listening. “A-a-are you alright mister warrior?”
“I’m sorry,” I said, “Very sorry. Mister…?”
“Oh, goodness! Please excuse my manners. My name is Emanuel. What is yours?”
That was unexpected. Up until that point I hadn’t wondered what I was called. Everyone always just addressed me as “friend”, or “Warrior”, or, as is the frogs’ custom, “mister”. This bothered me greatly, but I just laughed and told him I didn’t know what my name was.
“Ohhh….” he said. “You ARE different. All the others knew their names. But why you don’t know yours…I haven’t the slightest idea. Maybe it’s just one more clue that you may be the true one for Happiness.”
“But aren’t I? I-I-I-ve…I thought it was obvious. Everyone else f-f-f-ailed…”
“Oh,” he laughed. “Now YOU are stuttering. Don’t worry, I know you are the one. There just need to be certain signs for the people, as it says in the prophecy.”
“What signs?” I asked.
His look became serious. “Only Alpha can tell you that. His lips alone are the only ones that have been blessed with the energy’s knowledge. And only he, Steer, and I have read it. All others are forbidden. That is because when you warriors first began appearing, while we were building this facility, most of the others native to this world were so full of doubt. One warrior fell, another arose, and so on, just like that, for centuries. Many just gave up trying to help save Happiness altogether and joined Omega. They thought that they may be able to reach out and feel her grace by joining him and hoping to participate in torturing her for pleasure. Yes, even the most evil things imaginable can start out from the best intentions.”
“That’s horrible!” I said.
“The best intentions,” he continued. “Yes, yes, the best intentions….they can become poisoned if one thinks more of his own pleasure and self satisfaction than that of the beloved he is enjoying. Many have turned out this way. It stopped for a while, but only because it has been such an unusually long interval between you and the last warrior. That is why many, such as myself, are so full of hope. No, no….I say many…but in actuality the only ones who I believe haven’t had a single doubt about you are Alpha, Steer, and myself. We are the only ones who could never possibly turn. It’s simply how we are made.”
I asked him if he knew beyond doubt that I was the one because he could read it with his powers.
“No,” he smiled. “I can’t see the future. There were many in the past who I was so sure of. I kept thinking that after some time, their helmets would connect. I just have faith that you are the one. Yes, it is true that you are different in many ways. But even if I didn’t have my gift, my heart would tell me that you are her only hope. Our only hope.”
The hunger was returning, so I offered to Emanuel that we continue our conversation while eating. We walked through the crowds, bumping into grunting Kappas and jumpy frogs. A few of Steer’s kind were conversing about the best kinds of tobacco (which he would have laughed at, for he was strict about smoking only pine), and as we were beginning to sit next to them I remembered what Alpha had told me. I was supposed to sit by Snapper.
The filthy child murderer.
The excellent warrior.
The monster.
I got up from a sort of half sit at the table with the ones of Steer’s kind. Emanuel noticed I was behaving strangely. In truth, I was frightened half to death.
“Well,” he said, “where are we sitting? And are you feeling quite alright?”
In this training area I had felt completely fine without my mask, that is up until this point. I wanted to put those spikes on so bad. I didn’t want anyone to see the look of fear upon my face. Enough of them were doubting of me already. And the ones who did doubt I felt I could intimidate with my mask. I wished I had a free hand to cling to it (the sword, however useful, has proved many times to be a curse). Sweat seemed to pour from me like the ocean spilling off of the edge of the earth. I wondered why the waters of fear should flow while the waters of the rest of existence should remain eternally still. I have seen this often in battle, the stirring up of the waters of one’s own inner being by powerful emotions, so my answer is that in emotions such as fear, we are most truly alive. life disturbs the waters, disrupts the peace. Even so, after all the combined fear and doubt that i have experienced, sweat has become a comfort for me.
As we approached Snapper, however, sweat was not a comfort. It was especially bad because it made me look nervous, and I wanted to look as intimidating as I possibly could to the monster without my mask. I still couldn’t possibly have looked as afraid as Emanuel. He knew where I was going.
“How are we supposed to carry on our conversation about good and evil,” he squeaked, “by sitting next to the most evil thing in this room?”
“Trust me!” I said.
I didn’t even trust myself. My only trust was in Alpha, who I hoped would join us soon. We were getting closer to Snapper. Blood still dripped from his fangs. And shades of blue fire were once again erupting from his eyes that were now locked onto me like I was a target.
I started to feel faint but I ignored it. I had to show this beast that I wasn’t afraid of him. Emanuel, I could tell, was even trying to conceal his fear. It comforted me that such a small and frail creature could be so brave in the face of evil. Frogs truly are amazing creatures.
Suddenly, two kappas that were sitting closest to Snapper got up and charged. I thought they were trying to attack me, but they weren’t.(it is hard to tell, for they always look so fearsome and bloodthirsty) They were rushing to speak to me.
“Look, ” one began as Emanuel began shaking again, “Not all of us are like Snapper. We all have some doubts about you, but none of us are as consumed by it as he.”
I opened my mouth to speak and to my surprise, Emanuel beat me to it.
“Then w-w-w-hy are you sitting so close to him?”
The kappas exchanged glances.
“Snapper isn’t completely on Omega’s side,” the other one said. “Within all his doubt is the belief that all us Kappas must stand united for happiness. He has wanted her safe more than perhaps any other of our kind. Its just that he’s been traumatized by all the failure of…”
“Well this one is no failure!” exclaimed Emanuel, this time bold and stutter free. His inner strength put a smile on my face. Snapper continued to glare menacingly at me. “He is the one. And you know as well as I do that there is no hope for Snapper. Yes, yes, he calls you friends alright. But he will abandon even those closest to him in the end.”
“He is our brother,” the Kappas said together. I felt a sort of draining in the air. What would it be like to lose a brother to madness? Alpha? Steer? I cannot imagine the pain.
“I am sorry for his behavior,” said the one who spoke first. “Just don’t sit by him. You make him get crazy.”
“Well then,” I said, “It looks like I’ll have to shatter all of his doubts now won’t I?”
I walked towards them and they moved aside for me. They had a look of surprise on their faces. Emanuel followed close behind. I approached the seat, looked back at my friend, and sat down. I was a mere three feet away from those bone crushing jaws and soul crushing eyes.
As I sat down, the demon turtles facial expression changed drastically. The look of malice was still there, but beneath it, beneath the fangs and blood and baby dragon flesh, was a look of surprise, almost a proud sort of surprise. He didn’t look intimidated, but he looked at least impressed by my boldness. I think I even saw the beginnings of a grin, though it was hard to tell with his turtle beak.
I looked him in the eye for a few seconds, fear leaving my spirit with every passing second(I have found that acting as if you were unafraid and continuing to practice it really does take away the fear). Then I said hello and began to eat. He gave a low grunt. I got the feeling that he thought I was arrogant.
Emanuel was now shaking again. I didn’t blame him, for despite his bravery he was still just a frail frog physically. Snapper could have easily devoured him in no more than two bites. At least I possessed a shell, so I did possess some confidence. I wanted to put on my helmet, but the horse steak was delicious. I ate it sloppily and voraciously, as to appear ruthless to Snapper I suppose. I could see Emanuel looking disgusted, whether with me or with the Kappa’s breath I am unsure, for most frogs are very proper creatures who abhor the sight of a mess.
The other two Kappas sat on opposite sides of Snapper, who still had his gaze fixed upon me. These brothers of his looked almost as frightening and intimidating as he, but not evil. They didn’t give me a bad feeling. I could see by the looks on their faces that they felt the same thick air of dread and uncertainty that accompanied their brother as I did. They seemed as if they didn’t want to sit by him, so I believe that the sole reason they were there was to restrain him if he tried to attack me. It gladdened my heart that they didn’t doubt me as he did. Well, everyone probably doubted me to some extent, but at least these two didn’t want to rip off my arms.
Alpha appeared out of nowhere, as if he just materialized at the table. I didn’t even him sit down. Steer came trotting along shortly afterward. I was amazed that a quadruped such as he could actually sit down on a chair. He looked very comical. Alpha however looked the complete opposite. he was focused on Snapper, with a furrowed brow and a serious facial expression. He began to interrogate Snapper, who was still looking at me.
“Where did you get the fertilized egg, Snapper?” he asked.
I was about to hear the brute speak for the first time. I already knew it would be a terrible voice, but I maintained composure and held back my shaking.
“That’s my business, Alpha,” he said. Every word sounded like a growl. “Not your business.”
Alpha smiled.
“I’m making it my business,” he said. “it is weak beyond comparison for a warrior to devour the defenseless. Where’s your honor Snapper? I wanna know. Maybe you left it back at the place where you stole the egg-”
“I didn’t steal it,” growled Snapper in reply, now looking at Alpha.
“Why not? If you are wayward enough to murder, what would keep you from stealing?”
Snapper started looking even more vicious, which I had thought to be impossible.
“The mother sold it to me,” he said. “Said she didn’t wanna have any kids in this rotten damned world without a hero.”
“I don’t believe you,” Alpha laughed. “A dragon would never sell her baby, even if she felt she couldn’t raise it.”
“Are you laughing,” snarled Snapper, “because you believe me to be a liar?”
“No, no, no,” said Alpha calmly. “I’m laughing because you said this world is without a hero. Look across from you. He is our hero.”
Snapper reared his head with laughter, joined in by some other Kappas at the other table. But Alpha wasn’t finished speaking.
“I am also laughing because you are so weak and pathetic.”
The reptilian laughter ceased abruptly. The whole hall was quiet. As everyone in there knew, if there’s one thing Kappas hate, it is being called pathetic. The ones who laughed got up and rushed towards us. they stood behind Snapper, a mob of teeth and claws. All the remaining Kappas, his two brothers included, were still sitting, looking down at the floor with in shame.
“Listen here,” began Snapper. “You know how bad things have gotten. What the hell are we supposed to be hoping for? Happiness is in chains, the plants are enticing everyone, and this so called warrior is gonna die before he takes two steps into our jungle.” He looked at me.
“You have spirit, I will give you that. But it will fail you. You don’t look like you know how to fight to me. I’ve been watching you. I’ve seen how you struggle with that arm of yours.”
Some of his friends sniggered. He paid no attention and continued speaking. “Guts ain’t enough. All the others failed. So shall you. I don’t know why the Energy is so unintelligent…can you tell me, all knowing and wise Alpha?”
As the others continued to laugh, Alpha sat calmly with a small smile on his face. Even with the smile, he looked for the first time to me like a fully fledged warrior. His face paint stuck out undeniably as macabre war paint. I hated that these foul Kappas were laughing at him, a noble man worthy of respect. I wanted to say something, but the filth continued.
“Tell me, Alpha,” he said. “Why doesn’t the energy choose a powerful warrior like a Kappa to restore happiness? A warrior, like myself, and not a mysterious and unknown man from another dimension?” He looked at me again. Rage bubbled up from the deepest part of my soul.
“A frail man,” he hissed. “Beneath all that armor, you are still just a mere weak man. Like the men of the forest, the cowards that do not fight. They care only for their material possessions. All men are weak. Just like your friend Alpha, the fleshly incarnation of the energy’s vast stupidity.”
I lost my cool. I jumped up and put my sword to his throat. No one was going to talk like that about Alpha in front of me. Sword to his throat, I reached for my helmet. In a flash, the demon pushed my sword away, stood up, and knocked my helmet from my hand. Then he laughed. A maniacal, victorious, arrogant laugh. His friends, as usual, joined him. His brothers got up and grabbed ahold of him.
Alpha stood and began to laugh as well. His cackle was confident and mischievous, as if he had just gotten a crazy idea. He did, in fact, have a crazy idea. Insane.
“Snapper, Snapper, Snapper,” he began while clapping his hands together. “You mean to challenge the warrior? you got it. You two are gonna fight. Then, we’ll see who is laughing. You’ll also be cured of your doubt.”
Snapper’s expression became vicious once again.
“I will drink his blood. I will peel the shell from his flesh and the flesh from his bone.”
His friends were roaring with laughter.
“Blood!” they howled. “Blood! Death! The weakling is afraid!” They were correct. All my fear rushed into me like a pack of wild animals.
“I’ll explain the rules,” shouted Alpha under their laughter, “When we go outside. But for now, I will tell you the most important one. Its not gonna be mortal combat. There shall be no death. The first with a sword to his throat loses. Let’s go.”
He walked over to me and tugged on my arm. I picked up my helmet and put it on immediately. Many were laughing at me, and I know that this was because my face was soaked with sweat and had no color. Steer looked afraid too, afraid for me. Emanuel looked the same.
The crowd rushed out of the chamber into the open sun, following the twists and turns of the river. Snapper spat in my face as he walked past me. I felt his saliva searing into my helmet, which I had luckily just put on. He grabbed an egg before going outside and devoured it. His friends followed, after he ordered them to fill their baskets with eggs for him. “I haven’t finished my appetizer yet boys,” he said.
Alpha, Steer, Emanuel, and I were the last ones to walk outside. I just knew we were walking to my doom. The smile never left Alpha’s face.
We followed the curvy road for what seemed to be an immensely long time. I suppose this is in part because it was already beginning to look like a walk of shame. This Kappa had experience, stronger armor, and better weapons. though he didn’t lack confidence, as I did, he still had a flaw of doubt in his character. The doubt was still poisoning the both of us from within. He doubted the outside world, I doubted what was inside of me.
After all the dead leaves and still river streams we came to it. A place that already begun to feel like home to me. I knew I must partake in many a battle in my quest to save my love. One thing I have always loved about the war is the arenas that surround us and reflect our very selves within the bloodshed. The energy of violence is sculpted into every environment within this world. My first battlefield was no different.
There were walls standing everywhere within the courtyard. They were of colossal height and has many strange markings that I now know to be the language of the Omega drones. Alpha has told me since that its very letter carvings produced a spell of uncertainty and mental decay, which one must inevitably face if he is learning to fight. Though the words are beautiful, I have never learned them, for they are an evil albeit genius invention. You could feel the evil conjured by the words within the walls. Alpha, Snapper, and I were the only ones to step inside these walls. I wondered if it also looked like death and evil to the spectators; for outside of the walls, they could not have possibly seen the extent of symbol that I could see.
We entered. It wasn’t exactly like a maze. None of the walls were connected so it was easy to navigate through. We stopped behind the second wall and Alpha began to speak.
“Here is your protection,” he said, addressing only me. Snapper already had his. All Kappas carry their weapons at all times.
I looked down and saw a sturdy shield resting against the wall. Upon inspecting it, I could see it exactly for what it was – the carapace of a Kappa, an almost perfect defense. It was only almost perfect because I didn’t possess enough strength to lift it very high. Snapper lifted the one he possessed with ease.
“That shield,” said Alpha, “will protect you from anything but a good solid hit from a Kappa cannon. Snapper, you are only to use your sword.”
The beast hissed with disappointment and drew his blade. It was fearsome looking, with permanent stains of blood upon it from many previous kills. I knew for certain in my heart that I would lose this battle, but I was ready for it. I would walk right up to death itself for Her already. Why was Alpha offering me up to this vile creature? I didn’t expect that the first part of my training would be to fight against a walking weapon that despised me. I was even more afraid of Snapper than I had been of Vengeance.
In my head I kept thinking hard, trying to reach Alpha’s mind for consolence. I had been doing this ever since we had begun walking to the battlefield, and he still hadn’t answered me. The only thing he said to me before the fight was to pick up my shield. I expected encouragement. I have found sinse in all my training with Alpha that sometimes the best way to fight is to have no encouragement. The fear of blood, the rush of the blade, the sting of self doubt – these were all things I must conquer on my own.
After Alpha explained the rules (that there was to be no bloodshed, no cannons, and no stepping outside the walls), the fighting began. Snapper treaded fast with his colossal feet and disappeared behind a wall. I approached it with my lifted sword and got a nasty surprise. From behind the wall to the left of the one I was approaching came Snapper charging at me with a wicked roar. He or the Omega writing had somehow fooled me into not seeing him change walls. Our blades clashed. I was already surprised with myself, because though this Kappa had experience, he did not possess the speed that I did. I blocked every strike and rolled about the ground. I also discovered a strength that I did not know I had. It was jumping, and I was very skilled at it. Amidst all the action I could see Alpha smiling ear to ear. We must have been equally impressed with my ability. I did several leaps and bounds over Snappers’s head. I could get behind him easily without him knowing it, but every time I struck the sword he eit,her spun around and swiftly blocked it or else it collided with his carapace and sent off a shower of sparks.
“Don’t hit his belly, warrior,” Alpha shouted. “Remember, no bloodshed.”
But I wanted to kill the turtle. I wanted to with every fiber of my being. I don’t know if Alpha could see it, but I could tell by my opponent’s expression and fierce war cries that he meant for there to be bloodshed. His sword, early on, even made a small slash into my shoulder at one point when I wasn’t quick enough. Don’t hit his belly indeed!
I rolled behind a wall, pausing to catch my breath. I could hear Snapper. He was breathing hard as well, but I kept getting turned around with my senses and could not make out exactly where he was. The wall that served as my refuge as well as all the others were looking more like a death prison with every passing second. Just a few seconds before I had felt a swell of confidence, but these walls had drained out every bit of it. Their spell pierced into my inner being with the suddenness and destructiveness of a cannon.
This cannon was not as bad as the one I was about to experience. I heard Snapper scream violently and then I was blasted backwards against the next wall. The shattered stone pounded down on my body as I stood up, struggling with pain, to see that my refuge had been completely obliterated.
What replaced it was Snapper, the blue fire in his eyes burning more brightly than ever. The apparatus in his chest that swiveled in a circular motion was scorched black with smoky embers falling out of its hole.
“Snapper!” Alpha cried desperately, “You mustn’t use your cannon!” He was running towards us, waving his arms in panic.
The demon turtle looked completely different than before. Every spike was bigger, every tooth was longer, and his acid saliva literally foamed from his mouth accompanied by the stench of death.
“YOU ARE NOT THE ONE! he shrieked, running towards me. “YOU WILL NOT SAVE HER!”
Fire erupted from his chest. If i I had lifted my shield but a second later I would have been the next shattered wall. Instead, my shield exploded into a thousand pieces and I felt all of the bones in my arm crack and splinter. Bone was sticking up through my armor. Wailing with pain, I watched in horror as the monster rumbled towards me, When he came upon me. I lifted my blade and had it struck down in an instant. Towering over my crippled defeated self, the monster raised his weapon to slaughter me.
Alpha arrived between us just in time, with a sword in his hand that clashed against Snapper’s. He was standing in an elegant fighting pose, feet planted firmly into the ground. For the first time I saw my wise companion for what he truly was – a flawless warrior full to the brim with energy.
“You know what i must do Snapper,” he said, his sword still pressed hard against Snapper’s. “flee the Omega’s evil ways. Save yourself. Let go of the doubt.”
Snapper’s cannon began to make noise. It was about to fire. In my head I heard Alpha tell me to roll. Before I did so, I saw Alpha jump onto the cannon and climb over Snapper’s face and onto his shoulders. Then I rolled and felt fire burn my side as the shot narrowly missed me. Curled up in pain on the ground, I looked up briefly to see if Alpha was alright. He was standing on Snapper’s shoulders, who was now on his knees. Alpha’s sword was stabbed all the way through from Snapper’s neck into his abdomen. I could only see the sword’s handle. Snapper’s eyes now had neither fire nor life. The most powerful of the Kappa’s was dead, and I was unconscious.
I awoke an hour or so later to find myself in a vast circular room full of huge bookshelves and long wooden benches. I was laying across one of these benches, feeling immense pain. My head felt dizzy from the fight as well as from the bright blue light that came from oil lamps floating above the benches. I could smell them burning, as well as what seemed to be the aroma of powerful herbs and spices. Alpha was at my side, with a smile I knew to be a proud one. Next to him was Steer, who was shaking violently. At my other side were two princes. They were pushing wet white plants into my wounds and pouring cool oil over my burns. I wondered where Emanuel was. I looked towards my hand and saw that it was sitting of a liquid filled stone basin. I couldn’t feel my arm at all.
“Alpha,” I grunted, “Where am I? What is this place?”
“You are in the infirmary, which is also the library,” he said. “This is where the prophecy is to be read.” He was still smiling. Everyone else was somber, and I knew the reason, for I could already tell that my wounds would take days to heal. But Alpha looked absolutely ecstatic.
“Are you ready,” he asked, “to better know your destiny through the reading of what was foretold many millennia before you?”
I didn’t understand. I was in immense pain and needed to rest. Why was Alpha so adamant about the prophecy at a time like this? I could have died.
“You’ll have plenty of time to rest your body,” he said, answering my thought, “during the next phase of your training, which is meditation by the way. I am sorry friend, but the prophecy must be read now. It even says so itself. Your fight with the traitor was in every detail matched with what the prophecy said about you. the jumping, the readiness to face danger head on, the sheer energy of it all! You did magnificently?”
“But I lost,” I said, not believing at all that I had succeeded, but hoping all the same for Alpha to tell me how I did.
“Yes, yes, you lost,” he answered, “But you showed fantastic courage. And no one in this world has ever had that kind of skill during his first battle.”
“It’s true,” mumbled Steer with a smile. He was still shaking, but he seemed to be excited in a good way. “You truly are the one, Warrior…I thought we had lost you though! I am honored to be your friend, and I want to torture every living Kappa for what Snapper did to you…”
“Come now, Steer,” said Alpha. “Don’t talk nonsense. It is not the whole Kappa race’s fault for Snapper’s fate. In fact, it may not really be his own fault. He was a victim of doubt, one of Omega’s greatest tricks.”
I shuddered when he said that. Could doubt poison me the way it did Snapper? Even self doubt?
“Now no one should ever doubt you,” exhaled Alpha with satisfaction. “I know you are in pain, my friend, but we must go on with the prophecy. Are you ready?”
I said yes. A frog prince scampered over to Alpha and handed him a scroll. He unrolled it. I tried to sit up to get a better look at it, but I couldn’t. The pain was just too great. I wheezed with pain and laid back down. Alpha cleared his throat and began reading.
“From a world where men
Think they can own the energy
And condemn
Each other to hell,
A warrior shall come
Encased in shell.
Dressed in machine.
Machine that gleams.
Carrying a sword without a sheathe.
His helmet must connect
Only he who can be united to it without
Looking at himself with pride.
Only he who will face danger
And shall not be afraid to die.
Many will come.
Many will fail.
Omega undone,
The warrior shall make him crawl.
A ceremony will welcome him
And then he will be trained.
He’ll face another shell
And be for days maimed.
A traitor will fall
And many more will rise.
Deep within the walls
His soul shall be confined.
But it shall burst forth
and with it the traitor.
They must fight again
But a few days later.
Leaping within the walls
The second time with victory.
The warrior shall see further
And much more clearly.
He will have but one strong vice,
The name I do not know.
But in his training he shall prevail,
Reaping what was sown.
he will travel through the jungle
Facing many deaths.
All for the hopeful glory
Of his only Happiness.
First the drones
Then the unknown
Then at last the Sphinx.
But only if he guesses right
May Happiness be reached.
Alpha is the revealer
The only revealer
Of what I have foreseen,
If the warrior wins the final battle
He shall find his queen.
He may fail if…”

Alpha paused for a few seconds. His face showed that he was uneasy.
“He may fail if what?” I groaned, still feeling the pain of my battle with Snapper.
“It doesn’t say,” answered Alpha. “The witch who wrote it, Amoris, was killed by a drone before she could finish it. We are very fortunate that it did not fall into the wrong hands.
“How are we fortunate?” I asked. “All I know now is that something in the final battle will cause me to fail.”
“May cause you to fail, my friend,” said Alpha, his smile returning. “But you won’t fail. It is obvious that you are the destined one. You fought the traitor, “the other shell”, Snapper. And you leapt over his head many times, and the prophecy said that you would be leaping within the walls. And, Warrior, you know much more than that. You know what path you must follow and you know that you will overcome your weakness for the plants. You should also be proud of your strength. You come from a world where people destroyed each other to own the Energy. As if God, the creator, could be a possession! I cannot even begin to imagine the horrors you must have seen in that world. Kurtis, remove his mask please. He needs the wine.”
He was talking to one of the frogs, who did as he was told. He held a flask to my mouth and I tasted a glorious wine that I hadn’t yet tried. It gave me ecstasy, but not of the same sort as the plants. It didn’t taste evil like they did.
“I think,” began Alpha, “that I can make some sense of one of the “unknowns” of the prophecy. Before it was written, the rhinocydonts had not yet entered our world. This may be a problem, for they are very powerful. Even stronger than the kappas. But it is not today’s problem. Yes, today’s problem is one I must solve. Namely, how to train you to overcome your one strong vice. That wine you drank may help in the next few days. Anytime you desire the plants, drink the wine. It still isn’t good to be a drunkard, but hopefully you won’t need it too much. At any rate, it is a safer poison than the plants. They could completely consume you. So tonight, while you get your well deserved rest, I shall study on how to best prepare you against the plants. I’ll see you in the morning.”
“But…” I began, but he had already disappeared out of the room. I was angry and worried about the unfinished words of the prophecy, but the wine, which Kurtis kept pouring down my throat as Alpha spoke, was making me sleepy. Within moments, the worry, as well as the sight of Steer and the frogs, had faded away from my perception.

imageI have heard it said before that 1993’s “Jurassic Park” is to the nineties generation what Star Wars was to the 70s generation, introducing kids to the magic of TRUE filmmaking by TRUE directors(not the new releases of CGI celebrities explosions and bullshit that plays weekly at the theaters of today). Yes, Jurassic Park(and Star Wars for that matter) features A list stars and plenty of reliance on computers and action sequences, but there are two differences. One is that despite all the groundbreaking computerized special effects(which still look amazing 22 years later), much of the dinosaur Classic was about practical effects. REAL robotic dinosaurs, REAL SETS, and REAL stunts, which in my opinion haven’t been used very much, or as much as they should be used, on the films of today. The other difference is that despite the massively exciting moments of the jurassic park movies(especially the first one), the action was well paced and seemed to happen magically at just the right points in the film. We can thank the Jaws and ET mastermind Steven Spielberg for this. So, despite all it’s scientific inaccuracies(which can be forgiven because no one knew at the time that Deinonychus, the true name for the movie raptors, had feathers and no one can know for sure whether they were as smart as chimps or not) and it’s fun but lackluster first two sequels, the franchise beginning in 93 had the power of captivating audiences everywhere and generating a true introduction to the public’s interest in dinosaurs(and scifi in general). In my opinion, every movie tries to capture the same essence of wonder portrayed in jurassic park. I’ll leave the question of whether they succeed or not open to all of you kids born in the nineties. So how does this year’s Jurassic World fare in comparison? Well, it has become the third highest grossing motion picture of all time, has gotten great reviews, and has been seen by me in the theater three times(about ten times at home). This article is intended to simply be about how good jurassic world is as a movie, but I will mention really quick that I LOVED seeing the film in theaters with my two year old daughter, who absolutely loves it and still begs to watch it with me. It’s amazing how this movie will be as special to her as the original jurassic park was to me. Anyway, what makes this flick so great? The CGI dinosaurs(which were overused in my opinion with only one robotic dinosaur) look better than they ever have before. The colors and the movement of the velociraptors, which are portrayed with motion capture actors, are literally beautiful. And yet, despite the upgrades, they are completely faithful to the original 93 designs. I think this about all of the film’s creatures, but especially the raptors. In a sort of paradox, the special effects are to me both a good point and a bad point of the movie. Good because CGI has never looked better, but bad because of the lack of robotic creatures actually moving around in the frame. The robots in Jurassic Park still look better than the CGI in Jurassic World, albeit with less color and detail. Practical, real effects will always top digital effects, even 200 years(or 65,000,000) years from now. The next good point is the actors themselves. While not as memorable as Dr Grant, Dr Malcolm, or even Lex and Tim, Chris Pratt’s and Bryce Dallas Howard’s characters are portrayed in a very fun and convincing way. I’ve read that some people thought that their romance was bland and lacked depth, but I disagree. The actors and makers of this film never try to make this movie more than what it’s supposed to be. It’s not meant to be an Oscar winning drama or even a tear jerker(aside from the heartbreaking and ROBOTIC apatosaurus scene). It is meant to be a FUN movie about dinosaurs chasing people. However, that being said, there is actually quite a bit of depth to this picture, such as sticking close to Crichton’s nearly prophetic apprehension of the dangers involved with genetic engineering, the plot point that alludes to how audiences today aren’t “wowed” so much anymore(we have been spoiled by CGI), and the ability of Chris Pratt’s relationship with the raptors to actually convey genuine emotion to the viewer. Also, the pacing of the film is very well done, coming very close to the pacing and the tension of the original. This film is better than both of the prior jurassic sequels put together, and is an honorable homage and testament to Steven Spielberg’s original 1993 masterpiece. My mother actually cried when I saw it in theaters with her the first time. It really does bring you back to your childhood, and brings parents back to their now grown children’s youth(which will happen with me and my daughter in the future as well). So is there anything about this movie that I don’t like? Well, two things keep it from being quite as good as the original: the lack of robotic effects and the music. Yes, John Williams’ original score is still used to great effect, but the new music by Michael Giacchino doesn’t quite get to your heart like John Williams always can(jurassic park, Star Wars). Still well done music though. I guess that probably no one can ever capture the magic of John Williams’ original themes. Jurassic world is a movie that will, just like Jurassic Park, stand the test of time for decades to come. I rate it ten out of ten(MAYBE 9.5 because of my two problems with it). I guess that wraps up this grown up kid’s opinion, but if you want a HUGE spoiler, read on. If you don’t want the movie to be spoiled, you can stop right here with me saying that the last twenty minutes of the movie are pure cinema gold. Thanks for reading!(if you want the spoiler then scroll down)

Attempting to increase tourist attendance, the park’s geneticists combine the DNA of several different dinosaurs as well as a few modern animals together to create the Indominus Rex, an attraction guaranteed to “give the PARENTS nightmares”. It’s appearance, movement, and behavior truly make it like a devil out of hell. What’s amazing about it besides the fact that it looks cool and escaped from it’s enclosure is that in spite of being the film’a antagonist, it is still a character with which you can feel sympathy towards. It was raised in captivity all alone(although it did kill it’s sibling, so maybe the DNA combination just made it evil to begin with), so when it escapes it can only respond to it’s environment by killing everything that moves. After it kills a few helpless apatosaurus for sport, Hoskins and his INGEN military group come up with a plan to use Owen Grady’s(Chris Pratt) “trained” but still quite ferocious velociraptors(THEY ARE REALLY DEINONYCHUS!!!!!!) to track down and kill the abomination. Well, the thing is actually part raptor, so it communicates with the raptor posse and gets them to be on it’s own side against the humans. The three remaining raptors and indominus chase down Grady, Claire, zach, and Gray until they reach the park’s visitor center. The raptors decide that their real loyalties lie with their Alpha human, Owen Grady, and they proceed to trying to fight off the Indominus Rex, which is so reminiscent of the raptors jumping on the T. rex in the first Jurassic Park that it almost seems spiritual. As the brave raptors are being defeated, Gray tells Claire that they “need more teeth”. So she runs to the Tyrannosaur paddock, has fanboy Lowery open it from the control room, and leads the T. Rex to the indominus. There’s a great nod to Jurassic Park 3 here as the T. Rex crashes through a mounted Spinosaurus skeleton and charges the Indominus(T Rex RULES, not that sail backed fish eater). Unfortunately the long arms and thick hide of the Indominus give it the ability to outfight our kingly childhood hero. But not for long. For the last fifteen minutes or so the film has been able to put a huge grin on all the nineties kids’ faces. But from here on out, the audience can quite possibly laugh out loud for pleasure. In a sequence that really tugs on your heart and your memories, Blue, the last surviving raptor, comes to the tyrannosaur’s aid by pouncing on the Indominus. The down but certainly not out T. Rex then gets up and assists the raptor into driving the Indominus towards the water. Then something happens that I don’t think anyone expected, especially myself. The aquatic lizard Mosasaurus leaps out of the water, crashing on the Indominus where an electric fence once stood, and drags the monster down to a watery grave. Now comes the greatest moment in the whole movie. The t. Rex and the raptor stare each other down. Could another fight be brewing? No, for it seems that the two dinosaurs have made their peace that was so maligned in the first movie, and the animals now have a mutual respect for one another. The Rex walks away, king of the island. exactly how we all wanted it. image