16 July 2014

30 Things (Update & Revisions II)

No doubt, dear reader, you recall my MASSIVELY POPULAR list of 30 Things to do before I turn 30 and the BLOCKBUSTER SEQUEL where I updated it to reflect. Now that I have reached the halfway mark of my 20s, it is time for a MASSIVELY INFERIOR THIRD INSTALMENT.

Totally Incomplete (11/30)

  • Propose to a woman: Binary, and haven't yet, but definitely picked out a type of ring
  • (Still missing one - suggestions welcome)
  • Learn to play an instrument passably well
  • Eat at a 5 star restaurant
  • Visit every continent: 5/7 (missing Africa and Antarctica)
  • Learn to ride something with 4 legs or less than 4 wheels (bikes don't count): Really just need to apply for my Australian motorcycle licence ASAP
  • Travel to Uluru
  • Swim naked in the Pacific Ocean: SOON.
  • Purchase some land
  • Fly in a helicopter
  • Grow and eat my own food
In Progress (10/30)
  • Still Omitted:  Progress slow and boring
  • Get a tattoo: Now that I am in the ADF, want to check my design with them to make sure it gets approved
  • Write a novel: Written an outline for one, not sure if this will be my first yet though - I should decide for sure by the end of this year
  • Get a PhD: In progress!
  • Cook my way through a cookbook: In progress!
  • Become proficient in a martial art: Nothing besides my prior training, but as soon as I have time/$, I'll start researching options - important to get started by time I turn 27 to allow a few years for training!
  • Read at least half of 'The Great Books': STILL on Book 4 of Gateway to the Great Books, need to step up my reading game
  • Become fit enough to pass this
  • Spend a week in the woods: This will occur at some point during my ADF training
  • Put together a GOOD bag and BOAT: Sadly have dismantled these, so need to reconstruct!

Completed (9/30)
  • Become a member of the ADF (Reserve): As of a fortnight ago!
  • Save (in some form) at least $15,000 (AUS)
  • Go on a date without regard to cost (Thanks Margie!)
  • Give blood (Also Thanks Margie!)
  • Omitted and completed: With bonus subsequent mountain climb
  • Give away or sell all my excess junk after graduation
  • See a country music act live in concert
  • Have a research paper published: Still here!
  • Drive a car faster than 100 mph
I'd argue that this spread puts me at halfway, which seems fitting - I reckon the next year could see a few of my totally incomplete goals completed or started, and I'll definitely have filled in the missing one before July 17, 2015!

25 April 2014

Cold War Beer Pong

Cold War Beer Pong
I got a chance to design this game for a Cold War themed shindig, and I'm too proud of the rules not to share it. Please drink responsibly (or don't, I'm not your real dad).
    •  2 players = 16 cups, 3 beers (1 for proxy wars, 1 each side for Homeland and NATO/Warsaw)
    • 4 players = 32 cups, 7 beers (1 for small proxy wars, 1 each side for large proxy war, 1 each side for NATO/Warsaw, 1 each side for Homeland)
    • 8 players = 48 cups, 12 beers + 8 shots (or 8 more beers) (1 each side for each proxy war, 1 each side for NATO/Warsaw, 2 each side for Homeland, shots/extra beers for presidential/secretarial cups)  
  • HOMELAND: Your final Homeland cup can't be sunk until all your other cups are lost (a hit still counts for Espionage)
  • NATO/WARSAW PACT: Can be placed anywhere on your side
  • PROXY WARS: If you sink a cup on your own side, it is still removed (and does NOT count for Espionage)
  • NUCLEAR WAR: When your last cup is removed, your team launches a first strike on the opposing team, each of you shooting until you miss. Each cup sunk removes all adjacent cups as well. If the opposing team runs out of cups, victory is settled by one cup sudden death
  • ESPIONAGE (4/8 Players): When all members of your team sink cups in a round, you may 'steal' any non-presidential/secretarial cup from the opposing team and add it to your Homeland rack OR remove one use of the opposing team's presidential/secretarial cup (opposing team must drink it)
  • ASSASINATION/SUCCESSION (8 Players): Each team picks a presidential/secretarial cup in their Homeland. This cup contains either a shot (bourbon for USA, vodka for USSR) or a full beer. When this cup is sunk, it is drunk but replaced as long as your team has remaining leaders (4 total, suggested lists below)
    • USA: Truman → Eisenhower → Nixon → Reagan
    • USSR: Stalin → Khrushchev → Brezhnev → Gorbachev
4-Player Setup
2-Player Setup 
8-Player Setup
Final Thought: WOLVERINES!

13 February 2014

Liberty on the Rocks brings together freedom lovers around the world

Article originally published in the Indian Economist.

Interview with Co-founder and Executive Director Amanda Muell

Amanda Muell, a founder of Liberty on the Rocks, found herself disappointed with the limited options for socialization within the libertarian community. “The idea for the organization came about in 2008 when two colleagues and myself questioned ways to find younger libertarians in the Denver area. We all worked at the Independence Institute at the time, which is a free market think tank in Golden, Colorado. We were used to seeing people sixty and over at a majority of their events, which prompted us to consider organizing a happy hour rather than another lecture-based event.”

Starting with just fourteen people in a single bar in Denver, Colo., Liberty on the Rocks now boasts dozens of chapters across the world.

“The driving purpose is to connect and inform anyone interested or enthusiastic about libertarian principles,” says Muell. “We believe that a strong liberty movement requires passionate people, and to keep them involved you’ve got to make it fun. Relationships are also essential, as they can act as the glue that keeps someone coming to events and rethinking issues. We know that becoming a highly informed libertarian occurs over time, and usually after myriad books, videos and conversations. Liberty on the Rocks aims to keep people on that path of exploration until they feel fully comfortable talking to others about the philosophy of freedom.”
While most events are simple social gatherings, the scope of LOTR has grown with its success.

“Between 2012-2013, Liberty on the Rocks hosted nine educational workshops around the U.S. that focused on economics, philosophy and communications,” says Muell. “Local networks have also hosted speakers and guests like Larken Rose, Jeffrey Tucker, Robert Murphy, Radley Balko, and Stephen Kinsella, among others.”
Starting a local chapter of Liberty on the Rocks is a simple and rewarding process, Muell explains, “any libertarian-minded individual who wants to set up a [chapter] can start by going to www.libertyontherocks.org. From there they can get started creating their group online and organizing their first event. The national organization can help by providing an email address, and website along with a strategy call and/or email- based assistance where needed. From there it’s as simple as finding a local bar or restaurant, setting up a Facebook page, and marketing your events.”

The spread of Liberty on the Rocks has mirrored wider acceptance of ideas of liberty.

“There is no doubt the movement has grown over the last few years,” Muell explains. “It also seems to be younger generations that are the most enthusiastic about libertarian ideals, which is extremely positive. It used to be a small minority of mostly anti-social individuals, and was essentially devoid of women. Today those in the mainstream, both male and female of all walks of life, are flocking to this cause. And the beauty is that a majority of them just want to be left alone! This is refreshing to see, as political movements of the past tended to focus on imposing new rules and orders on the population.”

While Muell recognizes that government remains a major obstacle to the free market, she is enthusiastic about the Snowden leak, the increased popularity of Bitcoin and 3D printing, and the increasing push toward ending marijuana prohibition. “All of these present challenges to the government for different reasons,” says Muell. The first revealed to the American people just how much power the government has, and that it isn’t just used against discernible enemies. Secondly, technological innovations and services rivaling public monopolies, like 3D printing and Bitcoin, can make government a thing of the past by rendering their services obsolete. Finally, when it comes to marijuana legalization, the big win is the innocent people who won’t be going to jail for victimless crimes”

To capitalize on the expanding base of young libertarians, Muell emphasizes that “it’s important to stay connected to others who have similar values.”

“That doesn’t mean drop all your friends who aren’t libertarians, but please be sure to find some who are,” continues Muell. “It can be difficult to stay passionate about something you only hear others discuss on television or podcasts. To continue learning new ideas and discovering ways to live free, it helps to have friends who are doing the same. This also may be important one day when you decide to have children and want good role models in their life outside of you and your spouse. So go to events when you can and don’t be too shy to say hello to someone you haven’t met.”

There are countless opportunities for those interested in spreading the ideas of free markets and individual liberty. “As the movement grows, so do the ideas surrounding its advancement,” explains Muell. “Gone are the days when your only option was to join a campaign or run for office to be a liberty advocate. More people are finding there are other avenues they can take to be free. These can include educating the public on pertinent issues or inventing a new product or service to rival public monopolies. This is partly why more are joining the movement, because it’s not just about politics. Many libertarians are entrepreneurs, or everyday advocates who share ideas with friends and family, influencing those close to them. While short-term political victories can be positive and important for our freedom, so can technologies that may one day make governments obsolete. So if you love liberty, find what it is that you are most passionate about and go after it. We all have a purpose when it comes to advancing freedom.”

06 September 2013

Australian Federal Election 2013

WARNING: This post contains copious amounts of freedom and should not be consumed by the weak of heart of spirit! It should not be interpreted as how to vote material because I think that could get me into trouble? Authorized by Austen, Sydney (just in case)

Tomorrow is the 2013 Australian Federal Election, and the first time I will be voting in Australia! Here we do preferential voting, so you get to rank order the candidates from most to least appealing, and then one of the two major parties (the Liberal party and Labor party, which have spent the last few weeks trying to show the electorate how similar they can become without Tony Abbot merging with Kevin Rudd into some sort of chimerical Tovin Abbudd) gets elected anyway.

My first vote cast is for the lower house in the seat of Wentworth (a safe seat for the Liberal Party candidate Malcolm Turnbull) and my intended preferences are as follows:
  1. Sheil (Independent and all around fantastic candidate, not to mention preferencing an independent keeps electoral funding away from the major parties)
  2. Turnbull (Liberal Party - LP)
  3. Foxman (Palmer United Australia - PUP)
  4. Smith (Australian Labor Party - ALP)
  5. Robertson (The Greens - GP)
  6.  Beresford (Christian Democratic Party - CDP)
My second, and far more fun vote goes for the upper house and is a state wide election for six representatives (although my vote will only count toward one). It seems like the best above the line vote would be for the Republican Party of Australia, which will flow through some very pro-freedom parties before it hits the majors, and will not be likely to end up with any awful fringe group who have a shot at slipping through to a senate seat.

Of course, voting above the line is lamesauce, so I will be voting below the line - meaning I get to rank order all 110 candidates. My first attempt at preferences received a number of gushing accolades from some of the fine folk over at the Australian Libertarian Society's facebook group including:
"You did pretty shit."
"Awful list."
Not.that great really"

After some revisions, here is my latest list - if you seen anything strange or have any changes to recommend I'd love to hear them (but time is running out)!

  1. Layonhjelm (Liberal Democratic Party - LDP, Group A)
  2. Pettett (LDP, A)
  3. OBrien (Outdoor Recreation Party - ORP, V)
  4. De Lima (ORP, V)
  5. Beiger (Smokers Rights Party - SRP, W)
  6. Whelan (SRP, W)
  7. Hunt (Drug Law Reform - DLR, AD)
  8. Trimingham (DLR, AD) 
  9. Futter (Help End Marijuana Prohibtion - HEMP, G)  
  10. Olbourne (HEMP, G)
  11. Higson (Voluntary Euthanasia - VE, E)
  12. Mulhall (VE, E)
  13. Muirhead (Shooters and Fishers Party - SFP, AJ)
  14. Dunne (Australian Sex Party - ASP, P)
  15. Raye (ASP, P)
  16. Molloy (Pirate Party - PP, AO)
  17. Campbell (PP - AO)
  18. Koutalianos (No Carbon Tax Climate Sceptics - NCT, B)
  19. McDowall (NCT, B)
  20. Jansson (Future Party - FP, K)
  21. Haggerty (FP, K)
  22. Tranter (Wikileaks Party - WP, I)
  23. Broinowski (WP, I)
  24. McNally (Republican Party of Australia - RPA, AL)
  25. Blake (RPA, AL)
  26. Myers (Australian Motoring Enthusiast Party - AMP, AQ)
  27. Kirkness (AMP, AQ)
  28. Lowe (Fishing & Lifestyle Party - FLP, Q)
  29. Dean (FLP, Q)
  30. Sinodinos (LP, Y)
  31. Carr (ALP, M)
  32. Stevens (Australian Voice Party - AVP, O)
  33. Francis (AVP, O)
  34. Black (AVP, O)
  35. Thompson (Non-Custodial Parents Party - NCP, AN)
  36. Thompson (NCP, AN)
  37. Ferguson (Senator Online - SO, D)
  38. Barry (SO, D)
  39. McKinnon (SO, D)
  40. Villaver (Australian Democrats - AD, AF)
  41. Wallace (AD, AF)
  42. Bryce (Secular Party - SP, AP)
  43. Owen (SP, AP)
  44. Cameron (LP, Y)
  45. Cameron (LP, Y)
  46. Williams (The Nationals - NP, Y)
  47. Hay (NP, Y)
  48. Rossiter (Family First - FF, AH)
  49. Hurley (FF, AH)
  50. Payne (LP, Y)
  51. Chhibber (ALP, M)
  52. Nelmes (ALP, M)
  53. Kolomeitz (ALP, M)
  54. Adamson (PUP, S)
  55. Wrighton (PUP, S)
  56. Mailler (Katter's Australian Party - KAP, N)
  57. Maka (KAP, N)
  58. Stephens (ALP, M)
  59. McCaffrey (Democratic Labour Party - DLP, C)
  60. Hanna (DLP, C)
  61. Bohm (Bullet Train for Australia - BTA, X)
  62. Glick (BTA, X)
  63. Whalan (F)
  64. Cooper (F)
  65. Wang (AG)
  66. O'Toole (AG)
  67. Brown (Building Australia Party - BAP, T)
  68. Symington (BAP, T)
  69. Carter (Carers Alliance - CA, H)
  70. Buckwalter (CA, H)
  71. Tanks (Australian Independents - AI, AC)
  72. Hirst (AI, AC)
  73. Bourke (Stable Population Party - SPP, AI)
  74. Spike (SPP, AI)
  75. Pearson (Animal Justice Party - AJP, AA)
  76. Vickers (AJP, AA)
  77. Cameron (ALP, M)
  78. Houseman (SFP, AJ)
  79. Clifford (Christian Democratic Party - CDP, L)
  80. Spies-Butcher (GP, R)
  81. Fraser (CDP, L)
  82. Findley(GP, R)
  83. Rahme (CDP, L)
  84. Ho(GP, R)
  85. Lions (CDP, L)
  86. Blatchford(GP, R)
  87. Peebles (CDP, L)
  88. Ryan(GP, R)
  89. Faehrmann (GP, R)
  90. Ash (Ungrouped)
  91. Nathan (Ungrouped)
  92. La Mela (Ungrouped)
  93. Poulsen (Ungrouped)
  94. Johns (Australian Protectionist Party - APP, Z)
  95. Grech (APP, Z)
  96. Dean (Stop CSG Party - SCP, AK)   
  97. Fraser (SCP, AK)Wallbridge
  98. Plumb (One Nation - ON, AR)
  99. McCulloch (ON, AR)
  100. Hanson (ON, AR)
  101. Watt (Uniting Australia Party - UAP, U) 
  102. Simonds (UAP, U)
  103. Somerfield (Rise Up Australia - RUA, J)
  104. Bishop (RUA, J)
  105. Dare (Socialist Alliance - SA, AM)
  106. McIlroy (SA, AM)
  107. Hambides (Socialist Equality Party - SEP, AE) 
  108. Beams (SEP, AE)
  109. Fraser (Australia First - AF, AB) 
  110. Wallbridge (AF, AB)
And there you have it! Ranging from the libertarians at the top to the national socialists at the bottom. Happy voting everyone!

11 June 2013

An Occurrence at Coogee Beach

I wrote this moderately fictionalized 'descriptive personal narrative in my Year 10 English class. I think its an (albeit primitive) example of my 'silly' voice which I tend to use fairly frequently - its a lot of fun to write in, and hopefully at least comparably enjoyable to read.

The day started like any other summer day in Australia. I awakened from my log-like slumber and yawned. Pulling myself to my feet, I peered out the window and was greeted by the inviting sight of the ocean. Still partially asleep, I called my friend Dimitri and mumbled something vague involving the beach. Obviously just having woken up himself, he grunted in return, expressing his reaction, possibly positive, to the idea. An hour or so later we met at the nearest beach, Coogee, clad in bathing suits and ridiculously oversized wetsuits.

It was early in the day, so the water was still a little cool for swimming in. Instead we proceeded to cover every exposed square inch of skin with at least a tangible layer of sunscreen. After this ritual had been completed, Dimitri suggested we build a sand castle. I agreed, all the time knowing full well that our own feeble attempts of constructing a sand castle could be more adequately described as 'digging a rather large hole' or possibly 'building a big mound.' Following the completion of our veritable masterpiece, we assessed our efforts. "That thing there looks a bit like a wall, and that hole could be a moat," Dimitri stated.

"I think it sorta looks like when they blew up New York in Independence Day, only messier and less organized," I replied. Dimitri indicated his approval of my appraisal and we decided it was tiem to enter the water. Little did I know what a terrible fate awaited me inside the murky depths of the ocean.

We experimentally waded into the water, it was warm enough to satisfy us, and so we jumped in and started splashing around like enraged hippos. We were in the water for less than fifteen minutes when an unthinkable calamity occurred.

A lance of agony shot up my leg as the horrid monster struck. I gritted my teeth and, showing calm cool judgement in the face of danger, screamed like a baby. Hobbling back to the shore, I grabbed a handful of sand, using it to rub the fiendish aberration's groping arms off my mutilated shin. As the creature expired form the exposure to the alien environment, I sighed in relief. Peering down at my vanquished foe, I paused to think of how dire the situation could have become had I lost my head. Then I remembered my crippled leg and resumed my frantic spasms.

Looking back, I may have overreacted slightly, considering that my enemy was a three-inch long bluebottle. It may actually have been dead before it latched onto my leg, but it still burned like hell. The best way I can describe the pain is like having a line of beestings wherever its tentacles touched my bare flesh. The 'bluey,' as many Australians call it, had become wrapped tightly around my right leg from the knee down; its body was trapped between my toes. This was the first, and last, time I have experienced pain to this extent, but the occurrence will neither be forgotten nor, I hope, repeated.

The pain continued in full for about half an hour. I spet this duration with my leg buried underneath the sand, as this is supposed to help relieve the suffering, but if it did I could not tell. The area soon after subsided into a dull ache, and by that evening it was gone, replaced by a persistent itching sensation around the affected area. The next day my leg was criss-crossed by a series of reddish welts, lined up wherever contact with the devilish beast had occurred. The welts became scabs, the scabs become scars, and eventually these too disappeared.

Soon after the fiasco was over, I looked up the Bluebottle on the Internet and found out some interesting facts, not least of which was that I had done everything in the situation wrong. Rubbing the area will actually cause the pain to increase, as will attempting to remove it using wet sand, both of which I performed under the ever helpful instruction of my friend's mother, who claimed to be an expert in the area of Bluebottle Sting Treatment.

Today I am left with no visible physical signs of the event, but it will be seared into my memory as one of my most intense experiences ever.

What fun we have together, you devoted readers and I. Join me next time when I reveal which House I have been sorted into (HINT: Its Slytherin)

27 May 2013


Chess was, without a doubt, my elementary school magnum opus - and though the original document is still in my possession until a sufficiently sophisticated collector makes me an offer, I have reproduced it as faithfully as possible here to share with my fans - who are as adoring as they are figmentary. So while reading keep in mind that the genuine copy is adorned with word art and exciting fonts (Comic Sans! Papyrus!) - now let a young Austen take you on a journey of adventure!

 [Ed. Note: My handwriting has not improved since I scrawled out these maps]


Prologue - "To Arms"
"But you know I won't win, why do you keep playing me?"
"Well Andrew,"  answered Paul "I just like winning against you."
"One of these days I'm going to beat you Paul."
Paul laughed, "Of course you will Andrew, but anyway, lets play." They took out the chessboard and began setting up...

Meanwhile in a distant land, two armies, Wite and Blac, prepared for battle, suddenly an urgent cry of "To Arms" broke the peaceful silence of the countryside.

"Call it," said Andrew "Heads or tails."
"Mmmm... Heads."
Andrew flipped the coin "Yes, it's tails, I go first. I'll move here." Andrew moved a pawn forward...

The Wite army stepped into battle first. A lone peasant received his orders and began to advance.

Chapter 1 - The Battle Begins
For many cycles in the Island of Ssehc (pronounced Sek) the Wite and Blac kingdoms had lived in peace. Then, as if being controlled from above, war broke out.

All the peasants seemed to be the same, all except one, Shawn. Shawn was a peasant from the Wite kingdom, on the outside he seemed the same as the others, but he had noticed something different. All the others seemed incredibly willing to sacrifice themselves just so a knight or a priest could survive. But Shawn thought differently, he was incredibly independent. Although sometimes it got him in trouble, he thought it was for the best.

As Shawn marched forward the first word he ever read popped into his head, they were the lyrics to a puzzling rhyme:
When the Queen has been captured
And all hope seems gone,
Steps forth a lone traveller
A brave peasant named...

The end of the poem seemed to have been lost somehow. When he found the book the corner of the page was torn out.
"Oh well" Shawn said aloud "I guess it really doesn't matter."
"What?" asked his friend Jonah from the neighbouring field.
Startled, Shawn replied "Huh? Oh, nothing. Sorry, I didn't see you come."
"Yeah well, you oughta' pay more attention if you want to make it through this war."
"Hey, lay off. I was just thinking out loud!"
"OK, OK, I didn't mean to upset you."
"I'm sorry; I guess the war is getting on everybody's nerves."
"I know how you feel."
"So, what were your orders?"
"Never mind."
"C'mon tell me."
"No really, it doesn't matter!"
"All right, all right, so..."

Shawn's words were cut short as a messenger on a beautiful white stallion rode by. He reared to a halt in front of Jonah.
"Urgent message from the King, I'm afraid your moving to the front."
"What?" A surprised Jonah exclaimed, "I was told I was backup."
"Well, orders have been changed, you gotta' problem with that?"
"No," Jonah said defensively "Not at all, I was just surprised."
"Good; now move out!"
As the scout rode back to the main city of Bordsege Jonah sighed. With unexpected anger Shawn exclaimed, "Why did you let him push you around?"
Sheepishly Jonah answered, "I didn't want to get into trouble."
"That's no reason why you should go and willingly sacrifice yourself!"
"Look, just because I'm going to the front doesn't mean I'll get captured."
"Why else would they send you, think about it!"
"I...I...I don't know."
"Exactly, so why didn't you ask instead of blundering right into it?"
"Stop it, I can control my own life you know, I don't need your help!" And with that, Jonah stormed off, fuming.
"I was only trying to help..." Shawn's voice trailed off into nothing as the swirling mists of the swamp surrounded Jonah with emptiness. As he turned away a strange voice drifted over to him through the fog, "The poem."

Chapter 2 - The Crazy Hermit
Shawn ran fearfully through Sentersquare desert. It was incredibly large, covering most of the centre of Ssehc. Many strange creatures lived in the desert, like the quetzls and the quogs. They left you alone for the most part, but if you got one angry you were in deep, deep trouble. That was why Shawn was running; he had accidentally stepped on the tail of a quetzl while he was pondering the words he had heard in the swamp. Eventually he outran it and sat down by a tree. Suddenly a strange high-pitched voice filled the air with song:

Slippery, Slippery, find,
I seem to have lost my mind,
Diddily, Diddilym, dumb,
An oak tree bit my thumb,
Loppity, Loppity, ding,
My cat knows how to sing.
Wobbly, Wobbly, daisy,
I've gone the slightest bit crazy.

In wonder Shawn gazed upon the colourfully dressed figure approaching him. As he came to his senses he realized whom it was; "The Crazy Hermit" his true name was Yldarb (pronounced yuldarb) Notlim, although everyone called him the crazy hermit, even to his face. It was rumoured that he had psychic powers; of course Shawn didn't believe a word of this. He had a pet quetzl and it was said that it taught him his psychic powers (it was a well known fact that the stalk on its head acted as some kind of psychic transmitter/receiver).

"Hello Shawn." Yldarb said quite suddenly.
"Hey, I thought you were crazy, and how did you know my name?"
"I know everything and no, I'm not crazy, I just sing that song for atention."
"I can believe you're not crazy but I don't buy that you know everything."
"Well, how could I sway your opinion?"
"Prove it!"
"All right, your name is Shawn and the first words you ever read were a rhyme with a corner torn off. Your best friend is Jonah, who you just had a fight with."
"Wow, I guess you really do have psychic powers."
[Ed. Note - assume non-italics inside brackets are written in Papyrus font for the full effect. I beat Avatar by at over a decade]
[Well, I could have told you that.] A third voice joined the conversation, although rather than hearing it through his ears, Shawn heard it inside his head.
"Who was that?"
[It was I.] An orange and white striped quetzl hopped out from the scrub. Of course, thought Shawn, Yldarb's pet.
[Not pet, companion, you better gets that right if we're coming with you.]
"Hey, how'd you do that?"
[I'm psychic, haven't you already guessed that?]
"Well yeah, but... Hey wait a minute, what did you mean when you said 'coming with you'?"
The previously silent Yldarb spoke up, "If you must know we are here to help you wiht your quest."
"What quest?"
"All in good time Shawn, but first you must train to become a warrior!"

Several weeks after their first meeting Shawn had progressed greatly under the instruction of Yldarb. He was even being trained in the art of pschic powers by Waldorf (the name of Yldarb's 'companion'). By now he could speak in people's heads and was beginning to study mind reading. He had asked many times about what his so-called 'quest' was but his only response was the cryptic 'the poem.' One day exactly one month after their first meeting Yldarb spoke. "You are well trained in the art of the warrior, and are also well accomplished in mind reading; you are now ready to begin your quest."
"But what is my quest?"
His words were cut short as a piercing shriek echoed from inside the forest!

"Oh no, you captured my queen, I have absolutely nil chance of winning."
"Don't quit now Andrew, it's no fun playing with a sore loser."
"Yeah, I guess you're right."
"Anyway it's your turn, move."
"I don't see any good moves I can do."
"Heh, heh, that's too bad, I guess just this once I'll let you forfeit."
"Weeellll... wait a minute, I'll move here."
Andrew moved a single pawn, capturing the horse that captured his queen.
"Drat, oh well, it's my turn now" [Ed. Note - bonus original Comic Sans text in this section's illustration!]

Chapter 3 - The Dying Queen
Shawn rushed into the forest. With horror he gazed upon a knight preparing to kill a wounded queen.
Shawn's cry of anguish caused the knight to look up. With uncontrollable rage Shawn drew his sword and rushed into battle.

For a few seconds it seemed the knight would win, but Shawn got a sudden rush of adrenaline and made one quick thrust forward. It was not very strong but it worked. The knight fell off his horse. He was dead even before he hit the ground. Suddenly from the scrub rushed Yldarb and Waldorf.
Seeing the knight Yldarb shouted "Good job, your first battle"
[Yes, three cheers for Shawn!]
A sudden moan broke the celebrations. Through his happiness Shawn had forgotten completely about the queen. He rushed over and kneeled by her side. Weekly she said in a voice hardly above a whisper, "Is it you Shawn?"
"Yes it is me, how did you know my name?"

The queen coughed, "You were born to a royal family, your destiny was to save the kingdom. A soldier from the Blac kingdom took you away; if it were not for Yldarb you would have been killed. Not recognizing you he brought you to a peasant village and left you on the steps of the town hall. THankfully a passing couple who had no children adopted you."
"If they weren't my real parents who are?"
"Your father is the king and... and I am your mother."
"We have to get you to a doctor."
"No, no, it's to late for me, you must save the kingdom."
"No, I have to stay with you."
"Listen to me Shawn my son, you must save the kingdom or all will be lost."
"I can't do it."
"Yes you can, listen," with the last spark of life in her, she recited the poem from Shawn's youth:
When the queen has been captured
And all hope seems gone,
Steps forth a lone traveller
A brave peasant named Shawn;
Then the queen died.
"Mother" Shawn said, his voice barely above a whisper.

It had been three days since they had found the Queen. The party of friends moved in grim silence through the forest of Draob. Suddenly Shawn's voice broke the awkward silence, "Why didn't you tell me?"
"I'm sorry Shawn, I just didn't think you were ready, I was just trying to help."
"Fat lot of good that did me, in fact, I think I could do better without you!"
"Yeah well if I didn't save you as a child you wouldn't even be here!"
[Please you two, do not fight, we will need all the energy we can get for the coming battle.]
"I'm sorry, I guess I'm just edgy today."
[We all are, Shawn.]
"Oh well, we've got a long walk ahead of us."
They exited the forest only to come across a barren snowfield that stretched as far as the eye could see.
[Well boys, welcome to the northern ice flats.]
His voice dripping with sarcasm Yldarb cleared his throat, "Hooray."

Chapter 4 - The Mysterious Rider
The sun beat down upon the tundra. But even this did not change the temperature of -7C. The three weary companions were down to their last food supplies. To save energy they had begun to talk only with their minds. It was the worst for Waldorf who was used to hot desert conditions, [I'm so cold, I don't know how much longer I can stand it.]
[Don't worry Waldorf, I'll carry you.] Shawn, as helpful as ever; hefted Waldforf upon his back.
[Thank you Shawn]

Suddenly, the sound of hooves filled the air. Yldarb, forgetting the no talking policy, shouted, "Quickly, hide." They all dived into a snow scrub and peered out with anxiety.
"Its no use hiding from me, so come out."
Silencing the others, Yldarb answered, "Who is it?"
"A nameless friend"
"Why should we, uh I mean I believe you?"
"Because I have a sword, and you dropped yours on the way under the shrub"
Yldarb ushered them out of the bush. The mysterious rider laughed, "I thought there were more than one of you."
"Why are you here?"
"To help you of course."
"Help us? I think you've been misguided"
The rider frowned, "You are Shawn, aren't you?"
"No, he is" Yldarb stepped aside and gestured at Shawn.
"But, but, he's so young."
"I'm old enough to beat a Knight"
"I'd like to see you try it."
[Both of you stop fighting. Shawn, be less boastful. And you, mysterious rider, take off your helmet and tell us your name.]

The rider took off her helmet and her hair swirled about her head like a fire, "My name is Eleanor."
Yldarb coughed, "Well Eleanor, it's very nice to meet you, now we must go and save the kingdom."
"What, so I suppose you're just going to go up and knock on the gate. Fat chance your going to get in that way."
"Do you have a better plan, Eleanor?" He said Eleanor as if it were a swear word.
Shawn jumped to her defence, "I'm quite sure she does, and I propose for one that we hear it."
"Thank you Shawn, I like you already." Shawn blushed as Eleanor continued, "If you go up straight ahead and turn right you will come to a secret entrance that leads to the armoury. Once in there we can go directly to the main chamber. The only hitch is that only one of us can go through, the rest will have to distract the guards at the gate. I propose Shawn does it."
[I second that.]
"I'm for it, what about you Yldarb?"
"Fine, but remember what I taught you, OK?"
"All right, let's do it!"
Slowly, the intrepid travellers, now with a new friend, prepared to storm the castle.

Chapter 5 - The Final Battle
'KNOCK' 'KNOCK.' Two dark figures stood at the door of the castle. A face appeared in a small hold in the door, "Who's there?"
The first figure answered, "Well, um, you see,"
"Well, um, you see who?"
The second figure elbowed the first in the stomach, "It's Pizza Hut Delivery."
The surprised guard answered, "That's not funny at all. Besides I didn't order no pizza."
"I'm afraid you did sir."
"No I didn't!"
"Well... What's your favourite type of pizza?"
"Mmmmm... I hate pepperoni," the guard said helpfully.
"But what do you like?"
"That particular question requires some thought. Cheese is good, but seafood's better."
"So it's seafood?"
Ignoring them, the guard continued, "Although on the other hand my mother wanted me to be a vegetarian. So I guess it'll have to be vegetarian supreme."
"What a coincidence, that's what we have."
The guard looked around suspiciously and snatched it out of their hands and closed the hole.
Outside the doors Yldarb and Eleanor threw off their robes and gave each other high fives.
Inside the castle Waldorf broke out of the pizza box and gave the guard a thud. He soundlessly fell to the floor, [Diversion time.]

Shawn crept silently through the tunnel leading to the armoury. He reached the end and opened the trap door. After silencing the lone guard he peeped out the doorway. A long hallway stretched out to a set of big doors, 'The throne room' thought Shawn. On his left was a staircase. Suddenly several guards burst out of the throne room and began to run towards the armoury. With no choice Shawn doubled back into the armoury. Thinking quickly he put on the guards armour and tossed his body down the secret trapdoor. Just as he had done this the guards burst in, "Where is he?" the leader said breathlessly.
"Down there." Shawn gestured to the trapdoor.

As the guards ran down the trapdoor Shawn closed it and dragged a crossbow rack across it. As he grabbed some weapons he heard angry shouting from below. With no time to lose he ran up the staircase he had seen earlier. At th e top was the queen's chamber. Thankfully she was not there. He ran to the balcony overlooking the throne room and peered cautiously over the edge. The King sat there but he was surrounded by at least five guards of various ranks. He was pondering what to do when a shout came from the other room. Almost on cue all but one of the kings guard rushed to the courtyard. Shawn lifted his crossbow to his shoulder and targeted the king.

Suddenly Shawn heard a voice come from a cage in the corner. At first he thought it was an animal but then he realized it was Jonah! The king raised his head, "Ask him one more time, if he refuses to answer, kill him."
The soldier answered, "My pleasure, so where is your friend, Shawn?"
Suddenly Jonah peered up and caught a glimpse of him. With a start Shawn realized he had been promoted to a Duke.
"I don't know," stated Jonah defiantly.
The soldier advanced menacingly upon him. Shawn readjusted the sight on the crossbow and fired. The guard fell to the floor with an arrow in his back. Shawn leaped over the balcony and tossed a spear to Jonah whose cage had been opened by the guard.
"So, you're a bishop now."
"Yeah, when I got to the castle I found out about my promotion."
"Lucky you."
Suddenly two more guards burst through the door carrying Waldorf. The king's voice sounded, "Ha, ha, ha, I have finally defeated you both, guards, get them!"
[On the count of three: one, two, three!]
The 'guards' lifted their helmets to reveal Yldarb and Eleanor, "Thought you might need some help Shawn."
"Thanks, Jonah, meet my friends."
Jonah gawked and answered, "The duchess, your friend?"
"Eleanor, the duchess?"
"Sorry, I didn't want you to think I was too stuck up to want to help you."
Suddenly the kings voice broke up the reunion, "You can never defeat me!"
He leapt at Shawn, knocking him to the ground. The sword fight was short and swift. The king had no chance. As he fell to the floor a vocie from above uttered a single word, "Checkmate."

Epilogue - The End of the Beginning
"Yes, I win, hooray!"
Paul sulked, "I would have won, if I hadn't let you win."
"Hey, I won by myself. Remember, nobody likes a sore loser."
"All right, all right, you won fair and square..."

The celebrations had lasted one week. His friends had all been given medals for their feats. Although the war was over he knew his adventure was just beginning...

"Oh well, it was fun while it lasted."
"Yeah, now I'm bored."
"Hey, I've got an idea, let's play Magic!"
"Yeah, good idea..."