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An image I found that has the right feel as "Morning on the Iskamandy River" that runs past the capital of Kassanthica.

AUTHOR'S FAIR WARNING!

Although everything looks and sounds like a science fictionalized Lord of the Rings, and to some extent it is definitely in that genre, it is only fair to say that The Wild Earth is LOTR ... on steroids and Viagra. The Wild Earth is ADULT entertainment while LOTR is definitely kiddie candy not far beyond Harry Potter in content. The Wild Earth is gritty, no, downright psychotic in places not just for the violence, but for the language, sex and adult situations as well. In fact there is at least one scene in Episode 2 - Soldier of the Empire which is one of the most violent I have put down on paper, and I am hard pressed to think of a comparably violent scene anywhere, and it is only the beginning. So, let the potential fan beware, this ain't no Boring Earth, this is The Wild Earth... Please, Enjoy!

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Miscellania

The Wild Earth is one of THREE projects that Ye Yuan and I (Prof. Brian K. Robinson) are currently developing. The Wild Earth as a science fantasy does fit into our future timeline although we placed it far enough into the future that it can evolve its outcome relatively safely. The Wild Earth story begins in roughly the year 5500 A.D. The next project we had originally planned to release first is our remake of The Tomorrow People, a 70's show about a new generation of people being born with psionic capabilities. Unfortunately our preliminary development accidentally came so close to what was done in the movie "Push" (highly recommended by the way) that we shelfed it for now.

The next series that we plan to release if all goes well with The Wild Earth will be called "Rise of the Empire." This will be a 100% Sci-Fi (OK, there will be more than just lasers and warp drive) and begins in the year 2100 A.D. with the discovery of the "Faster-Than-Light" technology that will allow mankind to send ships to the stars. "Rise" should cover at least 100 years, I am wondering how to do it since our characters will grow old and die off during the "Rise of the Empire." This series will be dedicated to a very gritty realistic future far closer to Battlestar Galactica 2003 than to Star Trek and its gleaming Queen Elizabeth 2 dining rooms and corridors and aliens consisting of humans with a glob of rubber stuck on their noses and ears.

NEW! (added 11/30/09)

Sneak Preview of "Rise of the Empire" The Sequel series to The Wild Earth

Rise of the Empire will depict mankind's exploration of star systems, his own geopolitical problems as extensions of what is going on right now and make stunning scientific/astronomical discoveries, but always there will be NSOL - No Sign of Life, not even a freakin' amino acid molecule, until Episode 1 - A New Universe, in which an object is discovered by amateur astronomers on Earth passing the orbit of Jupiter and it changes course against what gravity would allow it to do. Upon further review and close flyby by an asteroid mining ship it will be confirmed as artificial in origin and the science ship will be sent to make contact, we hope, with the occupants of an impenetrable (by any known technology or energy) 17 mile in diameter nearly black and 100% perfect sphere...

NEW! (added 11/30/09)

Sneak Preview of "Rise of the Empire" The Sequel series to The Wild Earth

 

The Goal of The Wild Earth

Of course our primary mission is to entertain the audience but we have set some specific parameters of our story writing and presentation objectives in order to accomplish this task. They are:

  • Bizarre: We want to put unusual beings and creatures great and small into the story with the understanding that it may well be impossible to actually invent something new (everything has already been done, over and over)
  • New treatment of old ideas: Since everything has already been done, we would like to think that we can do "same old, same old," in a new and unique way.
  • Extremes: This concerns the censors and sex, language, "adult situations" and violence. Basically everything and anything is on the table, nothing is taboo in The Wild Earth because Ye and I are sick of living in Victorian England ... she's dead already, may the western civilization please begin to acknowledge this and move on now?
  • Philosophical Message: Many stories have that ultimate goal or message that the writer wishes to convey to the audience. For example, in the movie "Knowing" (excellent and highly recommended) the writer wants to say that despite what ultimately happens 1) There is hope and man will survive and 2) The E.T.'s have been watching and do care indicating that to a vastly superior and more advanced civilization we are worth saving. The Wild Earth also has its grand philosophical messages and subtle ones strewn throughout the series.

Premise and Background

The Wild Earth is set in the distant future (thousands of years from now) on Adhara 5-9, the 9th moon of the fifth planet. The planet's name is Concordia and it is a pale banded blue/green/turquois gas giant larger than Jupiter with a pale yellowish white banded ring system that rivals Saturn's. The moon was terraformed millenia ago and is called Kybernisee (Ky-bern'-ih-see, last two syllables said like Tennesee)

There are 117 known races on the planet. According to the Ancient Scrolls, the Talwa (the word Tall and "wa" as in water) gods ruled the heavens for 1500 years and in that time established "The Empire of a Million Suns" in which they reshaped dead worlds (terraforming) and reshaped themselves (bioforming) to fit the environment of the worlds orbiting the stars in the skies and countless more too far to be seen.

One day, the Talwa awoke the "elder gods" from their tombs where they lay dead for vast timeless eons and the Empire and every world in it was destroyed that day. As they gathered their fleets above Kybernisee to defend the last world, the elder gods decimated the fleets and at the last moment allowed the Talwa to leave their legacy on that world, but they must sacrifice themselves.

Each of the surviving Talwa landed and created 28 children in his/her(/its?) own image, then flew their ships into the fiery eye of Adhara (Epsilon Canis Majoris, the opposite in the trapezoid from Sirius) These children would found the races on "The Grand Continent"


How to find Adhara in the evening sky.

It is now the year 1789 Y.O.T (Year Of the Talwa, although the natives should call it the Year After the Talwa!) and many nations are reaching medieval to renaissance levels of technology. The vast majority of large lifeforms were created by the gods although there are many generic plant lifeforms (i.e. coniferous or pine trees, grasses, deciduous or aspens and maples, etc.)

The Races of The Wild Earth

There are 117 "known" races on The Continent. And this number is subject to change during the course of the series. Most have their territory clearly defined, but not all of them do.

The Known Races
The Map of the Continent (Not complete yet!)

The Episodes of The Wild Earth

For now we have tentatively planned three "seasons". Each of these seasons consist of roughly 20 episodes and would very nicely become annual animated television shows (Our ultimate sinister plot.)

The Current and Planned Future Episodes Guide

The Characters of The Wild Earth

We have assembled quite a mix of characters in their physical attributes based on their races, as well as their generally expected personalities or racial stereotypes also based somewhat to extensively on what they are, but our characters are not by any stretch of the imagination stereotypical not even of their races which are in and of themselves interesting. In fact, they are usually misfits and oddballs from those societies which in turn is what makes them far more human in that they are not stereotypical and that in turn is what makes them interesting. All of our characters have very deep and very long biographies. They have involved pasts, they have fears, hates, secrets they don't want revealed, hopes, ambitions, dreams, and passions. In other words, I have given them lives and yes, they make mistakes too, and that I believe is what makes them alive and interesting. Another secret for aspiring writers is that each character is me, or an inner secret me, and I imagine what I would do and say if I were this character as I write their lines and actions. To that extent almost all of the characters have a deep interior, a soul if you will, because most of them are alternate personality forms or myself.

The Guide to the Characters of the Series

More Secrets of The Wild Earth

Theory of Nondivine Origin
Known amongst the natives as the Federacy of the Grand Queens, Gumbrilland is a medium sized nation in the southern half of the continent north of and bordering both Urocyon and Krocyon. The Gumbril have the singular distinction in that they do not have a clearly defined patron Talwa god in the Ancient Scroll titled "The Book of the Talwa." Theories abound amongst them although the Queens tend to favor the notion that the other races were all envious and jealous or even fearful of the Gumbril and so struck the chapter concerning the Talwa god named Gumbril from The Book of the Talwa. Gumbrila, what many other races call them in plural general form, do appear in the later scrolls like the Ides of Winter leading to speculation that perhaps the Gumbril are a mongrel race. Mongrels are known in The Wild Earth, hybrids from mixed race marriages. Almost all of them are born sterile, and most are unsuccessful in that they naturally abort or are stillborn. The exceedingly few that can reproduce are usually outcasts from both societies, but a few births have been documented, most yielded unviable offspring. So the question remains, are the Gumbril a successful mongreloid species originating from some species breeding with a specimen of the Great Northern Snow Rat? We may never know ...

A New Theory Out of Gumbrilland
One of the latest theories making the rounds of The University for Ethnic Studies in Lyrakesh (Capital of Gumbrilland, Farazonda Province) incidentally where at one point in the story Fennic claims to have graduated, purports that 50% to as many as 90% of the original races were wiped out in the year 1 Y.O.T. - the first year after the fall of the Talwa. Of those that survived this massive decimation, it is also believed that somewhere between 50% to 90% were wiped out in the following 10 year period. The theory, Exponential Ethnic Extinction, goes on to indicate that 50% to 90% of those surviving races vanished in the following 100 year period and 50% to 90% of those surviving races vanished in the following 1000 year period. And therefore predicts that 50% to 90% of the races that survived past the year 1000 Y.O.T will be wiped out, become extinct, over the next 10,000 years. We'll see... Based on the conservative 50% decimation numbers the EEE theory also indicates that the current 117 races, and add the 4 known to have vanished since the year 1000 Y.O.T. including the Jordak yields 121 races which are half of the number of races that existed in the year 100 Y.O.T. which would be 242. Which is half of what existed at the end of the year 10 Y.O.T. or 484. Which is half of what existed at the end of 1 Y.O.T. or 968. Which is half of the starting number of 1,936. This at first seems outrageous until one considers that the Talwa called their dynasty "The Empire of a Million Suns." If only 1% of the Talwa were left when the elder gods offered them the opportunity to leave their legacies on Kybernisee, they would have numbered 10,000. The theory is gaining popularity on the haunches of the Master Flintog's archaeological expedition into the southern West Arbanikesh Mountain range, north of Jabwaronda where he and his team discovered a series of caves where he believes no less than 40 different races, many previously unknown, lived together possibly around the time of the first century.

Tragedy in K'Pok
Everyone by now has heard of the tragedy that occured last summer to Kot's Caravan (Bantu Trader Caravan #45) while visiting the nation of K'Pok, but to quickly recap: All military personel including 104 non-officer Skyguardsmen, and 5 officers, Mayor and Ambassador of the Bantu King and Court Kotmobgutled and four other civilians were murdered, the Bantu King and Court's Vault was emptied of all money estimated at around 43000 ounces of gold equivalent and most cargo of any value was looted. The K'Pok military did arrive an hour or two after the alleged raiders departed. It is a fact of record that the K'Pok deny any complicity in the affair and witnesses identified a rag tag collection of well armed and well trained raiders from at least 9 different races as the perpetrators including no member of the K'Pok. It is also a fact of record that the Bantu King Dan the Fourth was highly dubious of how such a large and well organized and trained force could assemble unnoticed in the capital of K'Pok or any other nation and then conduct a raid of a caravan that lasted approximately one hour and yet go completely unnoticed and ultimately get away without a trace. To wit, he issued a Writ of Cessation of Commerce, the first to be issued in over 200 years, levied the Economic Impact Fine of 100,000 ounces of gold, also the first in over 200 years and ordered a full embargo of K'Pok by all nations with whom the Bantu trade.

A Traveler's Guide to The Obok Empire
Don't.
But in the event that for some reason you don't have a choice and must enter the Obok Empire you will likely be confronted by the following sign:

The Empire still has 4 capital crimes.
You will be strung up from the nearest tree if:
1-You Deny an Obok a Meal
2-You Deny an Obok a Drink
3-You Deny an Obok a Fight
4-You Deny an Obok a Fuck

While this might be alarming to most traveler's, you should bear it in mind that the only law that is actually real in the sign is the first, it is against the law in their country to deny someone food, if you have some and they smell it, and if you have some, they will smell it and then they will want it. The other three laws were added to their border signs as an inside joke from all of them to all of us. Being aware of the fact that it is a joke will not necessarily save you from being demanded a drink, a fight, or ahem ... worse, but it's a start. If you let an Obok intimidate you in any way, it is a sign of weakness and their respect for you will evaporate like gasoline and you will be expected to live up to all 4 capital laws and the gods help you as to the order in which they demand them from you. But being too boisterous or worse intimidating toward them could get you into trouble even faster since the ranking men in their communities cannot show weakness in front of their underlings. Dealing with them requires all of the skills of a foreign ambassador for sure. In fact, the more I think about them, the more I am prone to return to my original piece of advice concerning traveling through the Obok Empire: don't.

A Tale of Two Nations
As far as The Wild Earth Season 1 is concerned, the two most heavily explored nations, especially in the first half (up to Episode 14 - Into the Southern Half) will be the Gumbril of which we have two main characters: Flissy, a 79 year old female infertile (don't be fooled she's nimble and quick and physically equivalent to a human around the age of 35) and Fennic, a 37 year old "Sokan Zafara" or "Master of Concealed Death." The other will be the Obok represented by 3rd Sgt (of their military) Maab. The two nations are polar opposites if there ever was such a situation.

The Gumbrils are infertile and small, about 4 feet tall and about 60 lbs (that would be soaking wet.) Being infertile, they have very little hormonal emotional influences toward love, and that includes romantic or parental. To that end we expect them to be on the selfish, cold and cruel side and for the most part they do not disappoint in that regard. But we are highly interested in Flissy who is definitely a "one percenter" an emotional and behavioral aberration from the Gumbril norm and we find out quickly that Fennic is also considered by their society a 1%'er as well. The Gumbril society does not like "free thinkers" or "misfits." They do like people who quickly learn how to stand in line and quietly accept their miserable slave-like existence as the property of the queens and for the most part, the infertile population, unencumbered by reproductive hormones will stand in line and quietly obey.

We will learn tidbits about the general character of the Gumbril's from episode to episode along with interesting personal tidbits about both Flissy and Fennic and the strange society from which Flissy seems to have expertly escaped freely while Fennic seems to be embroiled in a never-ending battle to be free as a "rogue agent" on the run and being more and more fervently pursued as time passes.

The Obok on the other hand are totally devoted to their "5 W's" way of life. They won't wait for you to ask and immediately explain that they are: Women, Wine, Weed, War and Food. And you will be insulted immediately if you point out that Food doesn't start with a 'W'. Here are a few examples of their favorite responses, the level of insult reflects their regard for you (i.e. the nastier, the less they like you and would prefer to get straight to the fourth 'W' with you):

  • "Well, food has a double oh and that's close enough." (Many believe this is the real reason they say the 5 "W's")
  • "What do you want us to say? The four double "U's" and an "F"?"
  • "True, but it starts with 'F' like fight and fuck ... get ready for both ..."
  • "OK genius, the four W's and the four F's ... (other person "What are the four F's?") ... What we do to geniuses who can spell: Feed as in eat them, Flush as in down the cesspool, Fight as in beat the crap out of them, and Fuck as in their orifices."

As hedonistic and socially morose as one might think they would be, they are not actually even as bad as say, Star Trek Klingons in that they are intelligent beings and do grasp the concept that not everybody -er- not anybody has their ethics or social morays and so they do generally hold back outside of the Obok Empire. But the hungrier they get, the more this disintegrates and they are always hungry, so rephrase, the longer ago their last meal was, the worse they get and this can start even less than an hour since their last meal. The drunker they get and they drink to a man, woman and child, yes they are a 100% alcoholic society, the worse they get. Please do not get them drunk enough to forget to eat, they may not remember, but their stomach and their subconscious will remember they haven't eaten and they will get uglier at the squared rate (drunker and hungrier simultaneously will multiply together, not add) And their mood definitely gets edgier as their numbers grow, to wit, a single Obok is generally speaking manageable, but two will not back down nearly as easily in a shouting match. Three almost never back down. Four will get their way or there will be trouble, etc.

The Obok people and their nation will be well explored since we have one riding along with the team and the caravan will actually land in Khadmoog (the Capital of the Obok Empire and the Kh is pronounced as a loud back of the throat hack like someone attempting to eject mucus from the back of their throat) and get a very disturbing close up first hand view of how these beings live and all that can be said is that they make the orcs of Lord of the Rings and the Klingons of Star Trek look like Sponge Bob Square Pants ... period and I am sorry. (For fans of all of the above and those who dare enter the Obok Empire with us in Episodes 7 and 8 ... please keep you head down ...

NEW! (added 11/12/09)

Bukneltorbot's Latest Auction (Excerpt from the Nyeth Continental Scribe, a newspaper in the capital city Nyeth, of the Bantu Kingdom)
Held at the height of the last Winter Solstice Festival featured amongst many interesting items more than three hundred lots of Shuuntuul rare wines. Amongst them were the Kuwana Kuwada Shebiolet 1622, the Mindique Lammata Afan 1630, and the Kuwana Ponzheef Etienne 1648. Only one bottle of each of these species is known to exist on the Continent. Prince Gom the First, second son of King Dan the Fourth, is known to have purchased the Mindique and is a well known collector of rare 1600's Afans. An Antibwan is known to have purchased the other two vintages of the fabled Shuuntuul winegartner Kuwana. His "Kuwada type" Shebiolet's are still considered to be some of the best wines ever prepared and bottled for consumption as are his almost crystal clear "Ponzheef-type" Etiennes. Prince Gom the First got away with a steal, winning his auction and purchasing the only known bottle of Mindique Lammata Afan 1630 for 1,155 ounces of Bantu gold currency. Barron Ngoabaz Kwala of Antibwa however had much more competition and ended up having to shell out 1,850 ounces of Bantu gold for the Kuwana Kuwada Shebiolet 1622, an all-time official record price for a single bottle of collectible wine of any type or origin, and then broke that record within minutes outbidding another affluent Antibwan for the Kuwana Ponzheef Etienne 1648, considered the superior class of wine, ending its auction at a whopping 2,205 ounces of Bantu gold. (In the Wild Earth an ounce of copper has the buying power of roughly $1, a silver ounce coin with a conversion rate of 20 coppers to 1 has roughly $20 to $30 in buying power and at a conversion rate of 20 silvers to 1 ounce of gold the gold coin has roughly the buying power of $400 to $600 dollars, but most of the Wild Earth nations have economies that are somewhat depressed such that while most folks have enough to eat and get by, very few have the ability to save up 1 ounce of gold much less the amounts discussed here, so the ounces of gold here are effectively similar to our gold in buying power; about $1000 an ounce which means Barron Ngoabaz Kwala - "ng" sound as in sing begins the name so "Ngo-ah-bahz Kwah-lah" paid in our world's equivalent $2,205,000 for the Kuwana Ponzheef Etienne 1648)

Master Bukneltorbot, one of the few Bantu men who prefers to be referred to by his full and complete name (first syllable is pronounced "buck"), notified the scribes, both commercial and official, later in the day that he believed the auction set a record for a single day's volume concerning truly collectible bottles of Shuuntuul wine in particular numbering 304 lots including 276 lots consisting of individual bottles and totaling 393 bottles. He also dared to speculate that it might be the largest single day's auction total for Shuuntuul wines totaling 138,891 ounces of Bantu gold changed hands between buyers and sellers. Shuuntuul wines are classified as Afan, Shebiolet, Finodé, Etienne and Incenza. Afans are completely opaque and contain fruit solids that settle out over time. Shebiolets are very strongly colored but translucent and maintain their color and consistency over time. Finodé's are medium translucent, Etiennes are very lightly colored to completely clear and Incenzas are sparkling with carbonated water in the base. Master Kuwana invented the concept of mixing the principle fruits and spices in making his wines rather than using a single fruit like the lammata fruit used in the Mindique Lammata Afan 1630 above. Some of his most famous and revered varieties were the "Kuwada-type" and the "Ponzheef-type" the actual fruit and spice contents of which have never been successfully identified or reproduced, though he had at least two dozen other secret formulas of which another five are considered by many to be as desirable and about six are considered to be inferior, even undesirable in taste though many species are potentially expensive rarities as well. Those who are interested in collecting rare Shuuntuul wines would be wise to consult Bukneltorbot's Definitive Reference of the Collectible Shuuntuul Wine Species. Another equally valuable book would be Mot's Guide to the Shuuntuul Wine Vintages. Mot's reference is more complete in that it covers all known Shuuntuul wines, not just the rarities as well as explains what they are made from, specifically he translates the Shuuntuul names of the fruits and/or spices when they are known and provides a complete student's guide to the types, classes, and the Shuuntuul wine making process and bottlers past and present. Mot also explores the subject from the connoisseur's perspective giving general as well as a local Bantu opinion and grade of most species as well as their care and preparation.

NEW! (added 11/20/09)

Excerpt from unknown source (original mechanical type press language is Gumbrilese)
...never should have done it" Despite [the] error, Koma Sola's superior defense held and Fenner managed to score later and [they] won. [This] Does not guarantee [a] play off selection or more important[ly] [a] favorable opponent. Many, of course, are hoping to see Koma Sola versus Lyrakesh again to see if [they] can overcome [the] debacle of last year.

SEASON TO NOW
Farazonda Province
Lyrakesh  20 9
Okalinon  16 12
Koma Sola 16 13
Joondiga  15 15
Byati     14 15
Zindus    13 16
Mangka    13 17
Karadkesh 10 19
Fionelle Province
Kan Kan   22 10
Aiyan     18 13
Simboo    15 16
...

NEW! (added 11/20/09)

A Stroll Down The Avenue of Queens (Downtown Lyrakesh, Farazonda Province of Gumbrilland)
As you pass through the single great archway in the wall that surrounds the Bantu caravan landing site, which is by the way conveniently positioned near the center of the sprawling metropolis, you find youself at the southern end of this famous road easily sixty feet wide and made of smooth Gorgotraggan concrete. About a half a mile away, at the northern end of the road, stands Palace Farazonda, the tallest above foundation constructed edifice on the continent gleaming brilliant golden even blinding when the sun hits it just right. One is taken aback at the angle one must lift ones chin in order to sight the summit of the tall relatively thin pyramid, and yet upon traveling up the Avenue of the Queens, it continues to take ones breath away with each step closer to its ground level, aside from the additional wings added by many Queens down through the ages including Queen Farazonda herself, well over a full square acre in size.

But, before one takes that first step, one will be instantly struck by the liveliness and the bustle all about, for Lyrakesh is not simply the seat of power, the center of the government, of one of the "Big Twelve" nations on the continent, but it is also home to an estimated 400,000 Gumbrilese (although they certainly know the exact population numbers and its easy to see why most think this is a very low estimate.)

Colors abound, bright purples, greens, and oranges seem to be favorites but there are plenty of reds, blues and yellows as well. From clothes, to signs, to hand pulled carts, to tapestries, to the sides of structures brick, wood and cloth all combine in a kaleidoscopic explosion of visual overload. But your eyes won't be alone in begging for relief, there is a constant clamor from all about as well, surprising in a city of people with the sharpest hearing of all. Bangs, pops, gongs, chimes, whistles, as well as the beating of drums, the braying of trumpets, and a the buzzing cacophony of loud to shouting to screaming voices and a host of completely unknown and most bizarre sounds all merge into an outlandish din over which one must practically shout to be heard by anyone standing next to you.

Each breath you take will carry the waft of a distinct aroma, few are actually foul, some are delicate, but most are surprisingly robust and range from nauseating to intoxicating, sweet and delicious, to eye stinging and bitter, to nose tingling and sour. What is all of this? Let's find out.

We approach what appears to be a small girl perhaps 9 or 10 years old with a broad fuzzy nasal bridge that proceeds upward in a triangle over her forehead to meet her hair, a long wavy dark brown windpuffed mess though it falls long down her back. She is wearing a bright orange robe, a poncho really, which accentuates her medium grayish skin and big widely spaced coal black eyes. She is raising a metal mallet, the size of the average hammer straight up revealing that she is wearing nothing beneath the poncho and bringing it down as hard as she can on a curved piece of metal that could be the side of a 55 gallon drum (face down so it would not collect water) repeatedly at a rather fast and very loud pace. As we notice her she yells at us "Kindoo mana! Aiyo! Kindoo mana!"

By now you need be informed that she is of course no child, but an infertile female and she could be anywhere from 15 to 60 years of age and you would have a very hard time making even a close guess. She is at work for the establishment she is in front of and her job is to get your attention and then tell you what the establishment sells, in this case, Kindoo mana, a form of spiced, dried, raw, freshwater fish meat. There is no way to judge it, each place has its own preparation, some of them have a hearty almost steak-like flavor, others are lemony/salty, others are gaspingly hot as if prepared with chili peppers and cloves. We'll pass.

As we bustle and jostle our way through the almost stifling crowds ebbing and flowing in every direction we realize that we are in an intersection of a main road crossing the Avenue east-west - in other words, prime real estate. On the north west corner, ahead and to our right there are six infertile females. We can see them head and shoulders above the crowd circling about, rising and lowering in a completely odd manner. They appear to be completely naked and shaved completely hairless as well. As we get closer we can see that each one is standing on a large ball or spherical object about three to four feet in diameter and brightly colored, one for example has latitudinal alternating orange and purple stripes, another has longitudinal green and red stripes, and they run on these in order to propel themselves within a relatively small area perhaps 22 by 22 feet square. It becomes apparent at once that their intent is to knock each other off of their respective balls either through collisions or the barbells ending in padded spheres that they are wielding at hip height.

Now we are close enough to see that there are other completely shaved females milling about offering brightly colored strips of thick stiff paper about an inch wide and eight inches long holding them up and out at people in the crowd like paper fans. Each strip has a different Gumbrilese symbol written on the end. We are approached by one of these females and she holds the fan of five strips up in your face and shouts something in Gumbrilese. At this point I will lean close to you and explain that each strip has the colors that match one of the balls and the symbols are a number representing a wager on that female's success at being the last to remain atop her ball. Taking the strip obligates you to honor the bet, having to pay the amount written on it to the winners and a percentage to the establishment. They are numbered one to ten, taking the ten is the highest risk to you, but only pays 10 percent to the establishment, taking the one has the lowest risk to you but obligates you to pay a huge percentage like 70 to 90 percent. Either way, however, you will be paid by all of the holders of all of the other strips and in a game this size, it could be lucrative. Should you be concerned about a fixed game? Not really, the house takes the same amount of money no matter who wins, and the participants are paid according to how long they stay up, with the winner taking more than the rest combined, so each one has plenty of incentive to win.

Nevertheless I will point out, scattered all around us going almost completely unnoticed, there are plenty of Gumbrilese wearing silken black short sleeve shirts and shorts and black bandanas and they are apparently the only people here who are not having any fun whatsoever based solely by the look of consternation to outright anger and contempt on their little otherwise childlike faces: The Indrazi Rykee, roughly translated, The Police Force. And skipping out of your bet, you should know, would be more than a little regrettable. First, these people have legendary memories and attention to detail, so the girl (lady) will remember you and at least one of the Indrazi will notice and remember that you took the bet. Second, you will pay up either now to the winners and the establishment hosting the game, or for the rest of life, or as long as she fancy it, to the Queen whose tax was shortened by your foolish choice.

We hasten away to avoid any misunderstandings and step up to a small cart almost completely hidden in a thick light gray miasma of smoke that has both a burnt smell as well as a mouthwatering meaty aroma. The wind pulls most of the cloud back and we see an obviously old and gray haired, hunched forward creature whose skin resembles dark gray tree bark. There are a tangle of various shaped chunks of meat sizzling in the licking flames sitting on what looks like a black fine mesh window screen. Some are bright red and pink, others are coal black, and others are the various stages of cooked from pink to brown. I ask the ancient Gumbril what creature is it and he responds with the word "krotee." I nod in agreement and point to a darker brown chunk. He spears it with a long thin piece of wood, about ten inches long and less than half the diameter of a pencil and hands it to me. I take the skewer paying special attention not to touch his fingers as I do, then hand it to you. Reach into my pocket and kick my nose up and he responds "One passentee." He does not speak Kybrinhi well, probably because he does not use it very often, because he means "One percent" which is a division of a Korun, their standard currency, an 1/8 ounce of gold. It takes 25 of their small silver pieces to equal one and 24 of their small copper pieces equal one of those. Careful with that because the silvers are 1/8 ounce of silver or 8 to a Bantu silver coin and the coppers are 1/8 ounce and 8 to a Bantu copper coin. It means that they have locally devalued silver against gold and copper against silver, but that's only a worry when you change Bantu to Gumbril Korun or vice versa. One percent of a gold Korun is six of their little coppers almost exactly the size of a penny. I have already exchanged some Bantu money into their money because carrying Bantu money in their country is illegal and I pay him his 12 copper Koruns and ask if he knows where the Loo-Kan is. He gets very excited and starts prattling in Gumbrilese and gesticulating in quite an animated fashion as I smile and nod. He stops himself and says "Im-yoke anda Man-ya" and points down the street. I thank him and we head in that direction.

You would be wise to enjoy your very hearty tasting lunch without inquiring as to the phylogeny of its origin. But you insist as you exclaim and proclaim its superiority to almost everything else you have ever eaten and so I am forced to explain to you that it is the meat, usually from the legs, although from what I saw I couldn't be sure of that, of a kind of frog or toad which when poised in the seated position range from two feet in diameter to a species up to five feet in diameter weighing well over 100 pounds. Presently I ask a passerby for "Im-yoke and Man-ya" but before he can answer another yells over him "Aiyo! Aiyo! Imyoke anda Man-ya!" The other barely evades him as he pulls up with a rikshaw type of cart capable of seating two locals comfortably facing each other one facing forward and the other facing backward. I ask how much and he announces happily "Eight copper for one, fifteen for two! Long way to Loo-Kan! More than mile! You go before start! Very fast!" I reach into my pocket and he shakes it off "Get on now! Hurry! Hurry! Pay there!" Now I am sure we are not far. You may have noticed the way their law works: paying prior to the service or product which turns out to be unsatisfactory allows the customer to demand a refund, but delivery of the good or service before payment nullifies any chance of the customer's opportunity to demand a refund in most cases, and the case of the poor cart man hauling us to our destination is a nonrefundable service if the price has been clearly stated first, which he has done. I wave him off with a smile and he twists his face in disgust and protests "OK! OK! Bantuman smart! Five copper now and I take!" One would think that with all the Indrazi around that he would not take the money and run and you would be sadly mistaken. This guy runs, pulling a heavy cart, for a living. Even without being in that kind of shape a local could disappear like "The Flash" and should we protest to the Indrazi that one of their countrymen broke the law against us, they would find it a most distasteful, denigrating accusation since none of them saw it, if any of them can actually speak Kybrinhi at all. I offer him seven when we get there and clicks his tongue letting it snap from the roof of his mouth down with a loud "plock!" sound turns forward and hisses "Aiyo!" which is Gumbrilese for "yes" or "alright."

Within moments we make a few turns down a few blocks and the cart halts as if it hit something and our cart man yells "Aiyo! Imyoke anda Man-ya!" Before I even appear to get up I glance around and bark angrily "Where's the Loo-Kan!" He sets down his handles and spins and begins shouting and gesticulating profusely. An Indrazi steps up immediately "Ah! Seven copper Korun Bantuman!" he barks with a bitter curl to his eyebrows. "Agreed! For Im-Yoke and Man-ya!" Our man starts a protest and the Indrazi gives him a sour look and a raised back of the hand and he instantly freezes. He looks back to us "Sure?" I nod and emphasize "For the Loo-Kan." He grits at our man through his teeth and hops onto the two handles, poles that emerge forward from the cart and parallel to the ground, standing on them, straddling them facing forward with his arms folded. Our man hefts them up and begins to slog forward as if taking us through quicksand while being horsewhipped. The Indrazi shouts at his back and he livens up the pace quickly. He now looks over his shoulder down at us with a smirk, "Bantuman, this guy not so good. How long you watch the Loo-Kan, huh?" I inform him that you have never been in the Queen's Province and we just want to see the first period. He nods his approval "Wait for me - come back for you - not long time." It's choppy but he is translating the grammatically correct Gumbril sentences directly into Kybrinhi. I respond with "Toe-shee Yond-zay" (thank you.)

We arrive and the Indrazi again turns over his shoulder and nods at me then at the front of a smooth concrete wall with a single open archway about 12 feet wide and as high. The wall is an explosion of colorful wavy lines that flow across the face of the building and cross each other haphazardly along the way. We hop off the cart and as I reach into my pocket the Indrazi shakes his head and shoos us away "You pay him next time." He then barks in a surprisingly gruff voice at our man who gives us a very brief sinister side long glance as he hurries off with the Indrazi still straddling the rikshaw's handles and his arms still folded over his chest.

We join the crowd quickly funneling through the archway and find that we are in a smallish stadium. There is a concrete court about 200 feet long and about 80 feet wide with a high wall about 60 feet high on the right side but the wall is not vertical it leans away from the court at about 20 degrees. While the court is light gray it has lines painted across it from left to right and up the wall spaced about two feet apart. Each end of the 200 foot long court has a vertical wall which we see as we pursue the crowd up a wide set of stairs to our left which lead to open concrete bleacher-like seating facing the sloped away from us righthand wall of the court. Now we see the sheer vertical end walls and the solid white space on the floor at the ends of the courts in front of those walls about 8 feet out from them. Then the white stripes marking off the distance across the court to the opposite end where there is another white region about 8 feet deep and the vertical end wall.

I must quickly explain to you now that we are about to watch a game of Loo-Kan. Notice the white surface of the court in front of each end wall and at the direct center of each end wall about three feet off of the ground there is a hole in the wall about two feet in diameter and there is also a half circle marked off by a bright red line on the white surface with a radius of about eight feet from the hole in the back wall. The white surface is the score zone and this hole is the goal. The game is played by two teams of ten players each and there is a ball about three and a half inches in diameter made of very hard but very springy rubber. It is a solid bright color unique from the uniforms of the two teams so it can be clearly seen by all players and the spectators. Players are equipped with paddles about a foot in diameter, perfectly circular with a one hand grip. They look like flat wooden frying pans. They have a soft rubber edge to prevent injuries from being hit by the edge of one. Players have these paddles tied to their hands so they cannot let go of them. Another item that a player might possess is a rubber and cloth padded cylindrical tube slightly larger in diameter than the ball. The player actually inserts his forearm into the tube, grabs a handle within it and then has it tied up as well. Other players wear large padded gloves over their free hands (very much like boxing gloves, but they don't pretend to look like a hand, they are just leather spheres with a hole for the hand with a handle inside for the player to grab, they are then tied and wrapped so they can't be released during play. Players wear padded leather helmets, shoulder pads, elbow pads, chest pads, back pads, knee pads and boots. The long sleeve tunic and long pants under the pads are the team's color(s) as are the helmet and pads.

This narrative is no place to present the Loo-Kan rule book, but at a glance, the game resembles:

  • Football - There is a line of scrimmage from which each play begins, hence the lines all the way across from the left side (where the audience is) to the right side (where the outward sloped wall is) The ball may be advanced by running with it by any player who catches it in his arm tube. These are called "runners" and they may be "stopped" which would look to us like an NFL tackle.
  • Tennis - The ball may be advanced by hitting it with a paddle, but there are a lot of rules concerning "the passing game." Players with paddles are called "passers."
  • Boxing - Players with the big gloves on are permitted to punch others with them as a part of their assignments as "escorts."

To avoid a lot of grinding details, a team stands in their white "end zone" and will be on the offensive in that one of them is given the ball by the referees. The defense must line up no closer than five "yard lines" away from the offense's end zone. When the line referee clashes his pair of cymbals, the play begins and all players may move to any place on the court they wish. If any player on defense successfully knocks the player on offense who has the ball down to one knee (or worse), in other words a football style tackle of any shape or form is permitted, then the next play will begin from that scrimmage line. Only a runner can start the play, with the ball in his tube, he may either run it forward or sling it from his tube parallel with his position or backwards, never forward, to any other player except a "full escort" who is wearing two boxing gloves and can't catch it. If the ball exits his tube forward, it is "illegal advancing," if the defense reaches it with a tube or a paddle (can scoop it into the tube or swat it up with the paddle), they take possession of the ball at that spot and go on offense. A passer is allowed to swat the ball to anywhere on the court with the following understanding: Forward Passes: an offensive player may not touch it until it bounces one time and if it bounces twice, the forward pass failed and the ball is dead at the yardline where the last runner had possession of the ball (that is the line of scrimmage to start the next play.) The defense may intercept a forward pass directly out of the air, or after the first bounce. The defense is not allowed to physically make contact with a "Full Passer." This is a player who has two paddles on his hands (no tube or boxing glove) or a "Full Runner" who has two tubes. The defense may not knock a "Half Passer" to the ground during a play. This is a player with one paddle and one boxing glove on. The defense has no restrictions on their actions toward a "Half Runner" (One tube and one glove) or an "Escort" (two boxing gloves) A "Full Player" wears one paddle and one tube and counts as a "Half Passer" for this rule. Backwards Pass: the offense may touch the ball directly out of the air or after one bounce. The defense may make any contact they wish to any offensive player. The ball dies at the spot of the second bounce.

The team on offense must have at least one escort, one full player, one full runner and one full passer on the court for each play. Personel may not enter the court during a live play, but the "director" (i.e. coach) may change personel between plays. A team on offense is allowed three plays to advance the ball past mid-court. As long as any of those three plays results in this, they get three new plays to attempt to score. Here's the scoring: a team on offense gets 1 point if a passer is standing in the opponent's end zone and passes (swats) the ball. They get 3 points if they possess or advance the ball into the opponents end zone: someone with a tube either carries the ball across the front border or catches a forward pass with the tube. They get 8 points if they pass it into the goal hole in the wall, but may not attempt this if their body crosses the red circle surrounding it (legal scoring distance) and this can only be done with a legal forward pass (swatting it with the paddle.) If the team on defense intercepts the ball in a play, they are free to attempt to score: a team on defense gets 2 points if a passer standing in the opponents end zone passes (swats the ball.) They get 4 for possession (runner crosses the front border or catches it in the tube) and 8 points for passing the ball into the goal (while not violating the legal scoring circle.)

This is a significantly rough, full contact sport though injuries are relatively rare mainly because of the Gumbril's general physical disposition being thin, fast and nimble and all of the protective padding they wear. Few players, for example, are actually punched full force in the face by another because they will avoid that, ducking it completely or partially making it at best a glancing blow. Because multiple forward passes are allowed in a play and the Gumbrils are all naturally nimble and quick and Loo-Kan players are the best athletes in their population, the game action is intense and fast paced. The Line Referee sets the ball with a runner (guy with at least one tube) and backs away along the scrimmage line ten paces, at the end of which he will crash his cymbals signifying the start of the next play. Teams are responsible for being ready for this. Any player on the wrong side of the scrimmage line is "offside" and the scrimmage line is adjusted in favor of the other team by ten "yard lines" and the same play number in the tri-set will be restarted. Any team that gets two penalties during a "tri-set" (set of three plays) may either concede the set (give up the ground, i.e. if team A is on offense and because of failed forward pass plays are still in their own side of midfield, but the defense has committed a second foul may opt to give them midfield and a new tri-set from which they now attempt to score. Or they concede one tri-set play and continue the set short by one player. If team "A" is in the tri-set on the near side attempting to score the defense can't concede the ground which puts the opponent on the "1 yard line" from which they could easily try to score an 8 point goal. So if the defense committed the second infraction on the second play, the offense gets to enjoy the result of the play AND the next play will be considered the first one again (the penaalty would have made it the second play again but the defense has to concede one additional tri-set play) and the defense must play it short by one player which the offense can choose. Naming the offender to sit, he may not return until the end of the tri-set and the defense must remain short handed for the duration of the tri-set.

Change of possession during the period is handled if the team fails to score during their tri-sets. For example, if Team "A" has successfully advanced the ball to the "opponents 30 yard line" (although the court is 200 feet long there are 50 "yard lines" from their end zone border to midfield thus they are about two feet apart) and fails to advance it any further on the third play then the team on defense goes on offense at that yard line. The game has four periods in which Team "A" will start an offensive tri-set from their own end zone 7 times regardless of the outcome, that is, play will continue until one team or the other scores and this is Team "A's" offensive period. Then in the next period, Team "B" will get 7 fresh starts after whichever side scores. In theory then we know the maximum score of a Loo-Kan game: 7 x 8 point goals = 56 points x 4 periods = 224 points. This has never been done in the recorded professional history of their game although over 90 percent of their games feature at least one 8 point goal with the average game enjoying about 2.6 eight point goals. Remember you are trying to hit a tennis ball to another member of your team so that it bounces once (must bounce once and only once) in front of him, and he must then swat it through the goal hole in the wall. In the meantime defenders may intercept the ball at any time including in midflight prior to the bounce, and may crowd (run alongside and push and shove) Half Passers (like first five yards contact between defensive backs and receivers in football, remember they have boxing gloves on so there is no such thing as a holding penalty, even if the defender bear hugs the offensive player he can't clasp his hands so the offensive player should be able to shrug free or ... he needs to find another profession) So scoring eight point goals is not common, but not absent from the game either. They are exciting and usually made in specifically set up fast plays or freak opportunities like a defender who fell down.

Wielding either the tube or the paddle to strike the opposing player is a "foul" and concedes the tri-set and the player is ejected, and the team remains one player short for the next seven play sets. If the game has fewer than seven fresh play sets left, the team must play the remainder two players short handed. Generally speaking, with the kind of speed and skill we are talking about, this almost guarantees scoring for the other team, so players as a rule never intentionally use the play gear as a weapon, it will get them in trouble with the team, potentially losing the game for them, the director, for the same reason which will likely get him fired and no other director will want a troublemaker like that either.

We sit down as the teams stroll out in full gear, we are about to watch Team Joondiga play Team Lyrakesh. As luck will have it, we sit next to an old infertile male dressed in flowing purple robes attended by many shaved infertile females. He notices us and introduces himself in perfect Kybrinhi and is delighted that we have come to see the game. He explains that he is a retired teacher from the University of Lyrakesh, but is originally from a small place near Joondiga, another large city of Farazonda Province. He quickly fills us in that Team Lyrakesh has the best record in the province and they have a very good passing offense and an exceptional passing defense while Team Joondiga are much more of a running team. He explains that Lyrakesh hits 8 pointers better than anyone, but hopes they won't be able to slow down Joondiga's running attack.

The home team always chooses whether they wish to start as offense in the first period or as defense. Our guide explains that Lyrakesh has chosen to go on defense first. Since there are four periods in which they alternate playing offense or defense, this means that Lyrakesh will be on offense in the fourth period, a distinctly wise choice for a team that relies more on their offense than their defense, they will prefer to know how many points they will need to score in the fourth period as they go on offense with 7 offensive starts given to the offense in each period. Then it will be a straightforward matter for them to set out to make that score.

Presently Joondiga, wearing solid silken maroon colored long sleeve shirts and long pants with a single white stripe down the sides and white helmets and pads and each has a large complex maroon Gumbrilese character on his white baseball-catcher-like breast pad and the same character on his equally large white back pad. We are told these are stylized two digit numbers from "00" to "39" as each team has 40 players although they field only 10 on each play. I ask what are the line up rules as the referees shout endless streams of announcements to the crowd. He explains each team must field one escort, a full passer, a full runner, and a full player and teams are now limited to a maximum of two full players. You decide to interrupt us and ask why that is, and our kind guide explains to you, "Skilled full players can quickly swing a game strongly in their favor since they are both runners capable of advancing the line of scrimmage and passers capable of taking advantage of passing the ball down court or even scoring 8 pointers. A full player can run up to the edge of the red arc," he points at it painted like a three point perimeter of a basketball court, "Flip the ball up in the air and pass it into the goal, and that entire series of events is legal. Now a team," he continues, "With seven such players on the court would be literally unstoppable." You nod but he realizes that you really don't quite understand and so he adds, "Don't worry, Joondiga has two of the best running full players in the Farazonda league..." he points at the white painted rectangular end zone down on the right end of the court, "... that's Finnibee in front of the goal and he is one of them."

We locate Finnibee who has a maroon paddle attached to one hand with what looks like white gauze bandages, and a maroon tube extending straight out beyond his left forearm also secured below the white elbow pads with a heavy white bandage. As we nod our friendly host explains, "And they are both right paws." You of course don't realise it, but most Gumbrilese are left handed and left handed players will have the paddle on their left hand and while playing offense from our far right to our far left puts the tall side wall on their right hand side and the near side line without any wall with us, the audience, behind this on their left. So left handed passers on offense are much more likely to hit the ball out of bounds when passing overhand (the strongest forward pass), while right handers are much more likely and perfectly capable of using the side wall as part of their forward passing attack.

Suddenly our host forgets we exist and jumps to his feet along with the rest of the crowd. We do the same but you notice that I crouch forward so I can see over the little four foot tall people in front of me and the same height crowd behind me can see over me as well. You decide to oblige the people behind you too and we see that ten maroon uniformed white padded Joondiga players are scattered across their score zone and eight deep blue uniformed, bright yellow padded Lyrakesh defenders are lined up across the 5 "yardline" and two flank the centerline of the court about another 5 yards back. The crowd is now getting loud as the Line Referee holds a bright orange softball sized ball straight up and now drops it into a half runner's tube who is standing right on the front edge of the white score zone facing backwards toward Finnibee standing half way between him and the goal hole in the wall.

The Line Referee backs away from the half runner with the ball along the front edge of the score zone directly away from us while facing us and the crowd begins to shout in unison a barely perceptible roaring two syllable chant that sounds to us like "Ahhhh-eeeeee!...Ahhhh-eeeeee!..." I lean close to you and yell over the crowd that they are already chanting in their own language of course "Defense! Defense!"

The Line Referee stops and raises two large silvery cymbals high over his head and pauses, milking the home crowd's anticipation that collapses the chant into a crescendo of a roar and then suddenly clashes the cymbals together. The Joondiga half runner spins quickly to face straight up the center line of the court as Finnibee leaps high and to his right and pretends to try to catch a wild high overhead pass of the ball, but the defense is not fooled and the two central defenders shoot forward as the runner does the same angling toward the one on his right. He glances back to his left and sees a defender between him and his teammates to that side and he realizes he already does not have time to check to his right and lowers his head, tucks the tube next to him like a football and caps the end with his spherical glove in preparation for the collision with the two gloved defender.

The defender leaps forward horizontally and spreads his arms like wings, but the runner takes a very quick and slight step to his right and raises his head as the airborne defender's left arm glances off of his chest to complete the diving land flat on his chest pad behind him. The Joondiga runner suddenly explodes straight forward up the court and the entire crowd "Ughs" loudly in disgust. Of the two defenders who had been hanging back, the one to this runners right is still back and therefore in front of him and closing fast so he angles his run sharply out to his left as he dashes up the court, but this defender has adjusted his angle and is still closing fast. He looks back over his left shoulder and sees three out of four defenders closing fast from behind him as well and turns his scamper farther to his left and away from the closing defender on his right and putting him closer to those three who redouble their effort to close on him.

At the last possible moment he flicks the tube attached to his left arm upward and out to his left and the ball sails high over the three defender's heads and back toward the score zone and the left sideline. Two of them leap high into the air and try to swat the ball but he tossed it perfectly over their reach. The third defender, a half runner himself goes airborne and horizontal chest high and collides with the Joondiga runner as the other two gloved defender that had been pursuing from the far right arrives as a horizontal airborne missile as well splashing the two of them out sprawling on the surface of the court to a gasping happy "Ooooo!" from the crowd.

Presently the ball takes its obligatory one bounce as the fourth Lyrakesh defender on this side of the field, a half runner, is leveled in a vicious take down by one of the Joondiga offensive players illiciting an even louder, but more impressed and horrified "Ooooooo!" from the crowd. The Joondiga player, a half passer, calmly standing near the left rear side of the entire court calmly scans the entire rest of it to his right, reaches his left handed paddle back like the initial back swing of a bowling ball and as the ball arrives coming toward him, he takes a vicious upward swipe at it across the front of him to his right.

The ball is popped loudly off of his paddle and takes a lazy high soaring rainbow arc forward and hard right clear across the court toward the right hand side wall as Finnibee who had been held up by two escorts pushing, punching, and shoving at him, suddenly breaks free of them and dashes forward and to the right. The crowd "Ughs" in horror and watches in silence as he streaks in the general direction of the potential impact point of the ball into the side wall. A single Lyrakesh player turns about face and runs at full speed directly toward his own goal at the Lyrakesh score zone, he is the one full passer on defense and the only one allowed inside of the red arc and who has a good chance if he gets there of blocking a shot on goal. Our host chuckles and we glance at him and he explains "10 on 9 now!"

The ball carems off the far side wall about eight feet up and bounces forward but not down as hard as one would expect, due the outward angling of the wall purposely to support such a pass and since the side wall has the scrimmage lines marked on it, it is part of the court and the forward pass has taken its single obligatory bounce and grazes off of the horizontally airborne Finnibee's tube as he made a spectacular attempt to catch it 10 "yardlines" into the Lyrakesh side of the court and he rolls up into a head over heals cartwheeling crash and finally stops tumbling lying flat on his back and splays out his arms and legs feigning death from the failed effort.

Our host barks a profanity in Gumbrilese thankfully as the crowd sighs in relief with scattered weak cheers amid much stronger murmurings and moanings from the scare they got from the play that was only a foot or two away from hitting him on the run, in stride, and possibly opening an eight point scoring chance. The cymbals smash loudly announcing the end of the play and we see the Line Referee standing on the line where the original runner had been smeared by the two defenders vicious spearing tackles although all of those players involved in that collision had already jumped up and run up the left side of the court to continue pursuing the play. He is at the exact spot now where that runner had been when he had made the backward pass and it is the spot where the last Joondiga player had acually possessed or held the ball during the play.

The Lyrakesh full passer scurries out to the ball bouncing roughly toward him and traps it between his two paddles and flips it toward the Defensive Referee who stays ahead of the ball (as much as he can!) and watches the defensive players for infractions. He catches it and lobs it lazily to the Line Referee who has deftly hung one of the cymbals on a hook on his hip. He easily snatches it out of the air and points at the spot where the runner last had possession of the ball for Joondiga. The same runner who started the first play scurries up to the spot about two thirds of the way toward the midfield line and offers his tube to the Line Referee as the rest of his team scurries to form a line across the court, and Finnibee circles at a run to get a few yardlines behind him and the defense scatters to form a line 5 yards back from theirs. The Line referee begins backing away from the Joondiga "center man" as players are still shouting and pointing and fidgeting their positions on both offense and defense. As the Line Referee ends his backward step off, again away from us and facing us, he raises his cymbals and clashes them, but this time with no delay, and the next play bursts into action ...

NEW! (added 11/23/09)

A Stop at Mub's with a Dear Friend
"Oh! Hey! Kid!" a looming, lurching dark figure barks in a loud gravelly voice as it approaches you and the 4 foot tall, thin - almost emaciated-looking, infertile Gumbril male standing beside you.

A dark gray skinned herculean six and a half foot tall man with straight what would be shoulder length hair except that it is so thick that it stands outward and upward in a haphazard and completely unkempt crows nest from his head steps into the torchlight grinning pearl white teeth between a thick jet black mustache and beard. His yellow eyes are as piercing and vibrant as they are disconcerting.

"Yes, Maab?" Fennic chimes politely with a bit of a sigh, fearing that he will respond.

"So you two are headed to ... what's that jackasses name? ... uh ... hmmm ..."

"What does that jackass sell Maab?" Fennic now heavily sighs, his worst fears having been realized.

"Alcohol, pup! What the hell else did you think I'd be wondering?"

"Food."

"True."

"Killing."

"Right."

"Intimacy with something closely resembling a female."

"Ohhhh yeahhhhhh."

"Stuffing Sed's pipe with any form of stuff as long as it is illegal somewhere."

"Goes without saying- Damn kid! You really know how to fuckin' party! OK. Let's go."

Fennic's eyes narrow to slits. He decides it is not worth trying to explain to him that he was listing the other things that Maab might be inquiring about and gets back to the original - and least likely to cause a catastrophe - issue, "Mub is the jackass who runs the bar."

"Mub!" Maab howls at the sky laughing, "That sorry wimp! Hey!" He lowers his grinning face both of you, "What a great idea! Let's go! I'm buyin'!" and he turns and struts off into the darkness of the late night caravan grounds. Fennic turns to you, folds his arms over his chest and taps his chin with his finger. After a moment you hear Maab in the distance, "Hey ... kid? Uh ... which way is it? Hmmmm ... where are you?"

Fennic calls over his shoulder as he strides off in the opposite direction from the way Maab went, "It's this way Maab!"

"Yep!" Maab chirps curtly from the distant gloom and you can hear his approaching rapid foot falls. He rumbles past you at a jog and calls back, "Best keep up with Fennic. His folk can hide by jumping inside your own pocket in broad daylight!" Fortunately, you realize, he has to keep his eye on Fennic slinking through the caravan late at night, you on the other hand could locate Maab in downtown Lyrakesh even if you were desperately trying to lose him.

More tidbits to come ...

More tidbits here!

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