DYNASTY! Thoughts on the Stanley Cup Champions

Corey Crawford

Corey Crawford after the win.  In games 4-6 he had a .976 save percentage and a 0.67 Goals Against. He tied Tony Esposito for the most Playoff wins in Chicago Blackhawks history and has now won two Stanley Cups. He is an elite goalie. No one should think otherwise.

best tradition in sports

The Best Tradition in Sports.  The Handshake.

Conn Smythe

Duncan Keith in 23 games played 715 minutes and 37 seconds.  The next highest total?  Tampa Bay’s Victor Hedman with 622:58 in three more games.  The Blackhawks were dominant when he was on the ice.  Unquestionably the Conn Smythe winner for MVP of the playoffs.

3rd time is the charmcaptain seriousCaptain Serious Kiss

For the third time in six years, the best Captain (and possibly player) in all of hockey lifted the Cup.  Toews (and Kane) will be entering their prime next season.  Despite that, they have already won the Cup three times.  Toews also has two Olympic golds.  They’re 27.

Congrats Kimmo 

Kimmo Timonen played for a Stanley Cup in 2010.  However his Flyers lost to the Chicago Blackhawks.  He lost last season and much of this season due to blood clots and announced that this season would be his last.  A trade brought him to Chicago and a chance to win a Cup before he ended his career.  After 16 seasons, 1108 regular season games, and 105 playoff games, Kimmo lifts the Cup.  Perfect way to go out.

“I leave this game a champion.” – Kimmo Timonen

Blackhawks

This is what a Dynasty looks like.

Stanley Cup Thoughts: Game One

Not the most exciting game of these playoffs so far, for sure (that distinction could go to about five of the Western Conference Finals games), but a very exiting last seven or so minutes as the Hawks began to use their superior depth and experience to steal game one.

Here are a few of my thoughts after the Blackhawks took Game 1 2-1 in Tampa Bay.

CRAWFORD WAS CRAMAZING

With 22 saves on 23 shots (more on the one that went in in a bit), Crawford is the sole reason this game wasn’t out of hand in favor of Tampa early.

The Blackhawks had hardly any puck possession in the first period, were soundly outshot early, and the scoring chances in the first period were hugely in the Lightning’s favor,

scoring chances game one

via War On Ice

although that changed as the game went on.

With the huge scoring chance advantage and puck possession advantage, without the stellar play of Crawford, this could have been over early.

And late in the game, Ryan Callahan for Tampa had a breakaway chance that could have put Tampa Bay up 2-0 over halfway through the 3rd, but coming way out of his net, Crawford made the save, which you can see here.

After that save, the game changed, but Crawford made sure that the Hawks held the lead once they got it.

TEUVOTIME IS NOW

There has been a huge amount of attention given to the first two lines for the Lightning, the Stamkos line that came through big in the Eastern Conference Finals and the Triplets line led by Tyler Johnson who leads the NHL Playoffs in scoring.

However, in this game, it was the fourth line and third line that came through for the Hawks while the top two lines for each team were relatively silent.

Teuvo Teravainen, the 20 year old rookie for the Blackhawks, was out there with Kruger and Shaw, who (along with Desjardins) are fourth liners, when Keith (who I think is going to win the Conn Smythe, the playoff MVP) made a great play to get the puck to Teravainen who put the puck through the traffic and past Bishop who didn’t see it at all.  (You can watch the play here).

Less than two minutes later, Teravainen makes a great steal and gets the puck to Vermette in front of the net. (Watch it here).

The Hawks needed both those great Teravainen plays and goals because before that, it was 1-0 Lightning, and that goal was a beauty.

KILLORN KILLED IT

Jun 3, 2015; Tampa, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Lightning center Alex Killorn (17) redirects the puck past Chicago Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford (50) for a goal in the first period in game one of the 2015 Stanley Cup Final at Amalie Arena. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

Alex Killorn had one of the greatest goals I’ve ever seen.  A backhand redirect of the puck in midair was the first (and only) goal for the Lightning in game one.

Crawford didn’t have a prayer of stopping this, as it appeared that it was destined to go far wide of the net.  It would have if not for the amazing hand-eye coordination of Killorn.

You can see this goal here.

One of the best goals in Stanley Cup history, but a 1-0 lead wasn’t enough to beat the Mighty, Mighty Blackhawks.

DID TAMPA LOSE IT OR CHICAGO WIN IT?

Which brings us to the final point I have after Game one.  Many people, including the Lightning players themselves, are blaming Tampa Bay’s taking the foot off of the gas towards the end of the game for the Blackhawks’ ability to get back in this game.

However, I think we need to give more credit to the Blackhawks.  They were completely unable to win puck battles early.  The Lightning opened the game winning the great majority of the face-offs.  However, after the first period, both of those things began to shift.

I don’t think that the Lightning were letting up so much as the Blackhawks were finally able to turn things on themselves.  The Hawks dominated face-offs as the game went on and began to win puck battles.  Every time there was a loose puck as the game went on, the Blackhawks managed to get it on their stick, sometimes even when the puck wasn’t loose as Teuvo did on the game winning goal.

Not enough credit is being given to the Hawks for how the end of the game went.

If the Lightning think that they just need to do something different at the end of the game, rather than recognizing that the superior depth and experience of the Blackhawks played a huge role in the end of this game, this series could be over sooner than most people thought possible.

We’ll find out Saturday.  Game 2 is scheduled for 7:15 EST on Sat evening.  I think it is a must win for the Lightning.  If the Blackhawks are headed back to Chicago up 2 games to none, this series will be over.

Our Trek thru Season One of The Original Series

Captain Kirk

So, I’m pretty sure this blog has covered this before, but some of us here at the Longest Wind (along with myriad friends of ours) are in the midst of a “Great Trek Watchthru” starting with The Original Series and moving on from there.

We recently finished Season One.

With each episode, we discuss what we thought about the episode (and sometimes live tweet the episode with the hashtag #TrekWithUs if you’d like to follow along and/or join in), and rate each episode.

Therefore, with the completion of Season One, I thought I’d run through my own personal Top Ten from Season One, the groups collective Top Ten based on the rankings, and how those top tens compare to the Top Ten based on the rankings of each episode on IMDb.

First, my season one Top Ten with looks at the grades from myself, the group, and IMDb users, as well as where each episode ranks (if it does) on the other Top Tens:

10.  NAKED TIME (My Grade 80%, Group Grade 80%, IMDb Grade 80%)

Naked Time

An episode that would get a sequel from the Next Generation, I really think this episode shows off how much fun Star Trek can be, while also often highlighting serious philosophical issues and tackling social issues oftentimes way ahead of its own time.

Group Ranking: 5

IMDb Ranking: NR

9. ERRAND OF MERCY (My Grade 81%, Group Grade 80%, IMDb Grade 83%)

errand of mercy

The first instance of the Klingons in Star Trek, but even more interesting to me is how the problem of the episode is handled.  While both the Klingons and the Federation are both somewhat blinded to any other possibilities to their encounter beyond war, the people on the planet that the Federation was ostensibly there to protect (although, you could easily argue they wanted the planet for the same reasons the Klingons did) were interested in trying to show them both a better way, and this episode set up the fact that in the future, these two enemies would one day work together.

Group Ranking: 9

IMDb Ranking: 6

8. THE ENEMY WITHIN (My Grade 82%, Group Grade 80%, IMDb Grade 78%)

the enemy within

A fascinating (as Spock might say) philosophical discussion on the nature and importance of our baser sides.  While “evil” Kirk features William Shatner’s classic over-acting style, the subtle takes in “good” Kirk shows off how good an actor Shatner really can be.

Group Ranking: 7

IMDb Ranking: NR

7. TOMORROW IS YESTERDAY (My Grade 84%, Group Grade 67%, IMDb Grade 80%)

tomorrow is yesterday

I’m a sucker for Time Travel episodes.  This one works for me, even if others in the group had some problems with it.  It has almost two separate episodes inside of it, first as the crew try to erase their appearance into the timeline, then as they try to go through with the plan that can get them back to their own time (which sadly makes the first part of the episode completely unnecessary, but they didn’t know that would be the case as they were doing it).  This is the only episode on my Top Ten which doesn’t occur in at least one of the other two Top Ten lists we’ll be discussing.

Group Ranking: NR

IMDb Ranking: NR

6. WHERE NO MAN HAS GONE BEFORE (My Grade 88%, Group Grade 80%, IMDb Grade 79%)

where no man has gone before

The first episode filmed with Kirk as the Captain, but the third episode aired.  I think it suffers some with fans due to the similar storyline to the episode that aired before it, Charlie X.  However, for me, the way that this episode and that episode work together say some interesting things about the allure of and desire for power.

Group Ranking: 6

IMDb Ranking: NR

5. THE CORBOMITE MANEUVER (My Grade 89%, Group Grade 75%, IMDb Grade 82%)

The Corbomite Maneuver 1

Sure, the resolution might feel a little easy (although for me it is a twist that I love and which I believe works), but the episode has some incredibly tense moments, and the ideal nature of humanity begin to become clear with this episode.  We are more than just the high idealized words we use.  We have truly moved past the violent nature of our predecessors and are attempting to be something more.  That was the vision for the future that Roddenberry had, and that is what the crew epitomizes in this episode.

Group Ranking: NR

IMDb Ranking: 7

4. THE GALILEO SEVEN (My Grade 94%, Group Grade 80%, IMDb Grade 78%)

galileo seven

I love the episodes where others doubt or openly deride Spock. While he acts as though he doesn’t care what others think of him, Nimoy’s performance gives that hint that Spock does care, does have emotions and feelings, but desires to rise above what he sees as something lessor than who and what he aspires to be. The actions of the humans around him often show that to be a worthy desire. And yet often we get the sense that there is somewhere in between pure emotionless logic and simply allowing our feelings to dictate what we do, and that somewhere in between is where we should all attempt to reside. It’s an amazing performance that Nimoy gives, especially considering the entirety of the character, as Spock ultimately finds that place, thanks in part to his time among humans. And this episode is a great moment along that journey. Did watching it so soon after the death of Nimoy affect my judgment on this episode? Perhaps, but it has always been a favorite of mine.

Group Ranking: 8

IMDb Ranking: NR

3. THE DEVIL IN THE DARK (My Grade 95%, Group Grade 90%, IMDb Grade 85%)

devil in the dark

Its a common Star Trek (and sci-fi for that matter) storyline, a being so alien it seems incredibly monstrous, but then it turns out that in actuality, the monster is us.  That storyline was first introduced and immediately perfected in this episode.  It is no surprise that this is a consensus top Star Trek (TOS) episode.

Group Ranking: 3

IMDb Ranking: 4

2. BALANCE OF TERROR (My Grade 97%, Group Grade 90%, IMDb Grade 90%)

Romulan Commander

This is the episode that introduces the Romulans, but also the first moment that any human sees a Romulan.  The striking resemblance they have to Vulcans (in fact, the Romulan commander looks exactly like Spock’s dad!) would be more fully explained later in Trek, but it lead to some intriguing points about how we judge others based solely on appearance (bringing up images of how Sikh’s were treated in this country right after 9/11 despite having no connection whatsoever to Islam much less al Quida).  The episode also brings up intriguing questions of how much we really have in common with those we fight.

Group Ranking: 2

IMDb Ranking: 3

1. THE CITY ON THE EDGE OF FOREVER (My Grade 100%, Group Grade 90%, IMDb Grade 93%)

city on the edge of forever

Quite simply, the best episode of Star Trek ever and among the best episodes of television ever. Fantastic questions raised about war and peace, and a moral situation that tugs at the heartstrings while also posing serious philosophical issues for discussion.  This is Sci-Fi at its best as well as Star Trek at its best.  Of course, as I told you earlier, I love time travel episodes!

Group Ranking: 1

IMDb Ranking: 1

So, with my rankings, you get a pretty good idea of the Top Ten of the Great Trek Watchthru group as well as of IMDb users, but here are their Top Tens

Our Group’s Top Ten (ties in rankings were broken first by number of votes, then by who had the higher score on IMDb)

10. The Return of the Archons (IMDb Ranking: NR/My Ranking: NR)

This is the only episode that is in the Group Top Ten that isn’t in either of the others.

9. Errand of Mercy (IMDb Ranking: 6/My Ranking: 9)

8. The Galileo Seven (IMDb Ranking: NR/My Ranking: 4)

7. The Enemy Within (IMDb Ranking: NR/My Ranking: 8)

6. Where No Man Has Gone Before (IMDb Ranking: NR/My Ranking 6)

5. The Naked Time (IMDb Ranking: NR/My Ranking: 10)

4. Space Seed (IMDb Ranking: 2/My Ranking: NR)

I really think the view of this episode is inflated because of how incredibly Wrath of Khan is.  If the second movie hadn’t brought Khan back, I don’t think this episode would be as highly thought of.  Other than the incredible performance by Ricardo Montelbon and the intriguing premise of genetically modified humans causing a World War, the episode itself is actually pretty weak.

3. The Devil in the Dark (IMDb Ranking: 4/My Ranking: 3)

2. Balance of Terror (IMDb Ranking: 3/My Ranking 2)

1. The City on the Edge of Forever (IMDb Ranking: 1/My Ranking 1)

IMDb Users Top Ten (ties were broken by number of votes)

The IMDb Rankings (unlike the group’s and mine) often have episodes that don’t appear in the other two top tens.

10. This Side of Paradise (Group Ranking: NR/My Ranking: NR)

9. A Taste of Armageddon (Group Ranking: NR/My Ranking: NR)

8. Arena (Group Ranking: NR/My Ranking: NR)

This has one of the most iconic scenes in Star Trek history, the hilariously bad fight between Kirk and the lizard-like Gorn, but beyond that iconic moment (which is iconic in part because it is so horrible), I don’t know why this episode gets the notice that it does.

7. The Corbomite Maneuver (Group Ranking: NR/My Ranking: 5)

6. Errand of Mercy (Group Ranking: 9/My Ranking: 9)

5. The Menagerie Parts I&II (Group Ranking: NR/My Ranking NR)

4. The Devil in the Dark (Group Ranking: 3/My Ranking: 3)

3. Balance of Terror (Group Ranking: 2/My Ranking: 2)

2. Space Seed (Group Ranking: 4/My Ranking: NR)

1. The City on the Edge of Forever (Group Ranking: 1/My Ranking: 1)

Finally, I thought I would list all of the first season episodes with the IMDb user rating as well as what the group rated the episodes with occasional comments, but mostly, I’ll let the numbers speak for themselves.

The Cage – IMDb Grade 77% (Group Grade 68%)
The Man Trap – 73% (52%)
Charlie X – 72% (69%)
Where No Man Has Gone Before – 79% (80%)
The Naked Time – 80%, (80%)
The Enemy Within – 78% (80%)
Mudd’s Women – 70% (47%) (by far our group’s least favorite season one episode.  However, IMDb users had an episode they ranked much lower, this was their 2nd lowest ranked season one episode)
What Are Little Girls Made Of? – 77% (55%)
Miri – 72% (53%)
Dagger of the Mind – 75% (60%)
The Corbomite Maneuver – 82% (75%)
The Menagerie: Part 1&2 – 84.5% (53%) (this was no doubt hurt by our group’s decision to watch the original pilot, so this episode was in many ways an early repeat for us, which probably resulted in some lower scores)
The Conscience of the King – 73% (60%)
Balance of Terror – 90% (90%)
Shore Leave – 77% (53%) (perhaps a product of the smaller sample size, a negative ranking by a few in our group can radically drop an episode’s score, I rather liked this episode)
The Galileo Seven – 78% (80%) (The Group and IMDb users rate this fairly similarly, despite making the Group’s Top 10 and missing IMDb’s, but I have it ranked substantially higher)
The Squire of Gothos – 76% (67%)
Arena – 81% (60%)
Tomorrow is Yesterday – 80% (67%) (while this is the one episode in my Top 10 in neither of the others, IMDb users do rank it fairly high)
Court Martial – 74% (60%)
The Return of the Archons – 73% (80%)
Space Seed – 90% (85%)
A Taste of Armageddon – 81% (67%)
This Side of Paradise – 81% (50%)
The Devil in the Dark – 85% (90%) (while on the whole, IMDb users rank episodes higher, they don’t rank individual episodes extremely high, even the best ones)
Errand of Mercy – 83% (80%)
The Alternative Factor – 59% (80%) (the only episode we ranked radically higher than IMDb)
The City on the Edge of Forever – 93% (90%)
Operation – Annihilate – 76% (70%)

Overall, this has proved to be an interesting experience as we went through season one, and hopefully it will continue to be throughout season two.

Let us know what your top ten episodes are from Season One of TOS as well as where you would grade any of the episodes.  Are there any where IMDb users are way off, any where are group are way off, any where both are wrong (I would argue Space Seed)?  Feel free to let us know in the comments.

And don’t forget to #TrekWithUs each week!

Stanley Cup Playoff Tiebreakers

While Major League Baseball opens its season tonight (Go Cubs! Next Year Is Now), the world’s greatest sport is wrapping up its regular season, getting ready for the best playoffs the world has known or will ever know, the Stanley Cup Playoffs.  You might notice, if you take a glance at the standings this morning, that the Dallas Stars (favorite team of our very own Justin) are not officially eliminated from the playoffs as of yet.  That very likely will change Monday night, but since it is Easter and MLB Opening Day, two bastions of Hope in the normally dreary and dark world, let’s take a look at what it would take to get the Dallas Stars into the playoffs.

Stanley Cup

Well, the Winnipeg Jets currently sit just out of the playoffs with 92 points, and the San Jose Sharks are also currently ahead of the Stars with 87 points, so the Stars (with 86 points) would have to pass both of them.  As well as the current holder of that last playoff spot, the LA Kings, with 92 points.

Here’s the kicker.  The Stars only have 3 games left, so the most points they can finish with is 92, the same number the Kings and Jets already have, and the Kings and Jets both still play 4 more games.

So, clearly, best case scenario is the Stars, Kings, and Jets all finishing the season with 92 points, which means tiebreakers will come into play.

Before we get to those, let’s go ahead and play out the last remaining games for the four teams in this conversation, the Kings, Jets, Sharks, and Stars.  (Note: This is not my prediction for how things will turn out, I don’t believe things will go this way, but to get to the interesting tiebreakers, we’re going to have some fun with these as of yet unplayed games).

Monday – April 6 (Home team last)

Jets 2 Wild 5 F

Kings 1 Canucks 4 F

Stars 6 Sharks 1 F

Tuesday – April 7

Jets 1 Blues 3 F

Kings 0 Oilers 3 F

Wednesday – April 8

Stars 7 Ducks 2 F

Thursday – April 9

Jets 4 Avs 5 F

Kings 3 Flames 6 F

Sharks 3 Oilers 2 F SO

Saturday – April 11

Flames 2 Jets 1 F

Sharks 3 Kings 0 F

Preds 3 Stars 8 F

Alright, with those games in the books, there is a three way tie for the last playoff spot.

The first tie breaker is games played, but all would have played 82 games.

The next tie breaker would be ROW.  Regulation and Overtime Wins.  Shootout wins don’t count for this metric.  Currently, the Kings have 37.  They would finish with 37 under this scenario, since we have them losing all three remaining games in regulation.  The Jets have currently (and would finish with) 33.  The Stars, having won their three remaining games in regulation, would have 37 as well (they currently have 34).

ROW would eliminate the Jets.  Sorry, Winnipeg.

The Kings and Stars, however, would remain tied.  Therefore, we must move on to the next tiebreaker, head to head.

Now, the Stars and the Kings played in three games this season, twice in Dallas, once in LA.  So, to make it where neither team has a home-ice advantage, the first of the two games played in Dallas doesn’t count for this tiebreaker.  Unfortunately, LA won in LA and Dallas won in the second game played in Dallas, so the two teams remain tied.

We move on to the fourth (and final) tiebreaker: Goal Differential.

Currently, LA is a +17 while Dallas is a -10.  Of course, there are games to play, so those numbers will change.  You get the goal differential by taking the number of goals your team scored and subtracting the number of goals your team has given up.  Shootout wins result in a plus one to Goal Differential.  Since we came up with scores for the remaining games, we will retabulate the goal differentials to determine which team in this scenario will make the Stanley Cup Playoffs…

Okay, we have LA losing four games by a combined 12 points.  So we’ll subtract 12 from their Goal Differential of +17 and come up with +5.  Okay.

We have Dallas winning its last three games by a combined 15 points.  Remember, they’ll need a +6 or higher to move on in the playoffs.  Recalculating… they now have a… huh… +5.

They would still be tied…

There is no further tiebreaker.

Under this scenario, I have no idea who would make the playoffs.  I asked great Hockey Blog Puck Daddy what would happen under this scenario, and they also said they were unsure.

They suggested maybe a Rock/Paper/Scissors match to determine the winner.

Sounds good to me.  Let’s have the Captain’s battle it out Rock/Paper/Scissors style.

Jamie Benn and Dustin Brown, start studying strategies.  It might just come down to this.

Game 7

I’m a huge Hawks fan, having grown up in Chicago, and these last few years have been a stellar time to be a fan of the Chicago Blackhawks.  In the last five years, the Hawks have won the best trophy in sports twice and are still alive for a third in the last five years.

In order to achieve that third Stanley Cup Championship in the last five years, the Hawks will first have to get past the Los Angeles Kings in a Game Seven Sunday night in Chicago at the Madhouse on Madison (also known as the United Center)

image

Here are some numbers to get you ready for the final game of the Western Conference Finals to see who will play the New York Rangers in the Finals

LOS ANGELES KINGS

are 6-0 in elimination games this postseason so far, tied for the second most wins under those circumstances ever in a single postseason (the 1975 New York Islanders won 8 elimination games).

CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS

are 2-0 in elimination games this postseason, but are 5-0 in the last two seasons when their backs are against the wall.

The LA Kings are 7-1 in the last two postseasons in games in which they can be eliminated.

That one loss?  To the Blackhawks last season.

The LA Kings own Game 7s.  Current LA Kings players have played in a combined 77 Game 7s.  The Kings players are 70-7 in those Game 7s.   Gaborik, Williams, and Richards are each 6-0 in Game 7s in their career.  Carter is 4-0 and Quick is 3-0.  The team is 2-0 in Game 7s in this postseason.

The Blackhawks own Games 5-7 lately.  In the last two seasons, the Blackhawks are 13-0 in Games 5-7, 6-0 this postseason in those games.  This is the first Game 7 for the Blackhawks for this postseason.

The Kings are the third team to play all 21 possible games in the first three rounds.  The 93 Maple Leafs played all 21 games and lost to the Kings.  The 02 Avs played all 21 possible games and lost to the Red Wings.

Prior to this season, no team had ever faced two game sevens in the first two rounds and made it to the Stanley Cup Finals.  Now, only the New York Rangers of this season have achieved this, and they did it by facing a Montreal team that lost its best player (Carey Price) in the first game of the series for the entire series.

The Kings struggle in the postseason in Chicago.  They are 1-8 in Chicago in the playoffs with the one win coming this season in game 2.  The Kings are 5-11 all time against the Blackhawks in the playoffs.  In the last two seasons, the Kings are 1-5 in Chicago in the playoffs and are 4-10 against the Hawks the last two playoffs against the Hawks.  The Hawks were also 3-0 against the Kings in the regular season this year.

The Blackhawks own their home ice this postseason (as they did last year).  This year, the Hawks are 8-1 at home in these playoffs.  They are 18-3 in the last two seasons at home in the playoffs.

Jonathan Quick comes up big in big games.  This season when facing elimination, Quick is 6-0 with a 1.33 GAA and a .957 save percentage.

Crawford is big when the lights are brightest as well.  He is 9-2 in his career when the Blackhawks are facing elimination.

When he has a chance to eliminate the other team, Crawford is otherworldly.  In those situations he is 6-1 with a 1.4 goals against and a .950 save percentage.

Crawford at home in the playoffs this season is 8-1 with a 1.89 GAA and a .936 save percentage.

Quick in Chicago in the playoffs in his career is 1-5 with a 3.16 GAA and a .888 save percentage.

Sure the Kings have been great so far this season facing elimination, but the Hawks don’t usually let the other team up when they have a chance to close out their opponent.  In the last six seasons, the Blackhawks are 12-1 with a chance to finish off the other team.

Obviously, as a Hawks fan, I believe Chicago will win, but the numbers seem to be in their favor as well.  However, the game isn’t played on paper, it’s played on the ice.  It should be great.

Go Hawks!

Campaign Stories: Waiting for the One Who Comes

Jean Baptiste sat with the githzerai.  The crimes he had committed, the crimes his son was committing, were grave.  Without question, they were worse than any that Jean Baptiste himself had ever committed, but the druid’s past was not clean.  Far from it.  Staring into the fire, Jean Baptiste’s mind traveled back, far, far to his own past.

 

The moment of happiness is always so fleeting, Jean Baptiste thought to himself as the whore took his money and exited the room. It was good while it lasted, at least. But as soon as it was over, he again felt unfulfilled. He leaned over towards the bedside table and picked up the tankard that sat there, hoping to find fulfillment in a glass, but when the tankard is empty, fulfillment is impossible. Jean sighed.

Jean was young, not even fifteen yet. His father had money, and so Jean Baptiste spent it. His father believed that one day the business would pass on to his son, yet Jean was unsure if working for a living was something that appealed to him; though to be honest, as of yet, nothing really appealed to him. Jean wondered if the woman was so far from the door that he couldn’t call her back to fetch him a refill from the bar downstairs so that he wouldn’t have to go himself. He glanced towards the door and nearly fainted in fright and surprise.

Standing at the foot of his bed was what could only be described as a monster. Its torso looked like the fiercest of minataurs, yet it stood tall on a horse’s body. Sheathed (thankfully) at its side was the largest and longest sword Jean had ever seen.

“Greetings, prophet,” it rumbled in a deep voice.

“What…. who…. wh….”

“Be not afraid. I am not here to harm you, prophet. I am Ravpos, a member of the Great Hunt of Trithereon. I come to tell you that my god, Trithereon requires your services. Indeed all the gods require your services. You have work to do.”

“I’m just a child,” stammered Jean, trying to get out of this without the monster drawing that ginormous blade. “I work for my father.”

Ravpos laughed. It was horrendously frightening.

“You only work at spending your father’s money on things that do not last. The work you have ahead of you will offer you true fulfillment. Go to the Shining Citadel. Go to the Monastery of Trithereon. Tell the guard at the gate that you have cake to deliver to Herp.”

“Cake?” This might well be, thought Jean, the strangest encounter with a monster that had ever occurred.

“It’s just a code, prophet. You don’t actually have to bring cake.”

“So, the cake is a lie?” Jean asked, confused.

“Who knows, maybe someday Herp will get his cake.”

And with another frightening laugh, the monstrous creature disappeared. It was as if he was never there. Jean looked into his tankard wondering if somehow his drink had conjured such an odd vision, yet it remained as empty as it had before.

“What the hell…, it isn’t as if I had anything else to do.” Jean Baptiste rose from his bed and began to dress himself, resigned to the journey he had before him.

 

The guard was young, as young as Jean himself, younger in fact. He appeared to be unarmed, unless the flute strapped to his back was a weapon. He stood before the door. If he was going for menacing, he was failing.

“I am here to see Herp.”

The guard, if indeed that’s what he was, looked at Jean with a sad and confused look on his face. “Then I fear you are five years too late, traveler. The dragon born has left this plane of existence.”

“But the bull-horse thing told me….”

The guard, or perhaps door-man, put his hand out to stop Jean Baptiste from continuing. Excitement, wonder, and disbelief warring across his young face. “You saw Ravpos!?”

“Yes, that is the name it gave. It told me to come here and say I had cake for Herp.”

The young boy’s eyes opened wider. The disbelief was gone. “Well, that isn’t what you said. You should have started with the cake! Then I’d have known what you were talking about. Going on and on about Uncle Herp like he was still here when in actuality you were supposed to be using the entrance code. Herp isn’t really my uncle, you know. I just call him that. He and my Grandpa were best friends. The Champion sure picked a strange person to send a message through. Did he have Ginormo with him? That’s his sword. Well, it’s the heavenly representation of his sword now, I guess. The real one, the one he used when he was mortal is in Grandpa’s office. Grandpa! You gave the entrance code. I’m supposed to take you to Grandpa. Well, really he’s my great grandfather, but that’s awkward to say. Neither my grandma, who is his daughter, or my dad, who is his grandson, joined the Trithereon order, but I did. Almost as soon as I could talk…”

Jean Baptiste stood there as the young boy continued to go on about things that made absolutely no sense to Jean. He looked longingly at the door behind the boy as the journey had exhausted him. Luckily, the young boy seemed to notice that exhaustion.

“Oh, listen to me prattling on and on while you wait to get inside. Stupid, Douglas, stupid.” The young boy slapped his own forehead. “Come on in, and let’s get you to Grandpa so you can tell him whatever Ravpos wanted you to tell him and then we can get you some refreshments. Uncle Herp always wanted cake, but I like ice cream. What’s your favorite flavor of ice cream? Have you ever had ice cream? Grandpa says ice cream is rare and that not everyone has actually had ice cream. I can’t imagine not ever having had ice cream…”

As Douglas continued to prattle on about gods know what, he opened the door and led Jean into the monastery, past the elaborate entry chamber, and through a small side hallway. Finally, they came through an ordinary looking door into an office that was almost sparse. Sitting at a desk was a very old man. He looked to be in intense thought, although his fingers absentmindedly played a hauntingly beautiful melody on a lute. He stopped playing and looked at the door when Douglas ushered Jean into the room.

“Hi, Grandpa. This is…. Um, I don’t know his name, but he said he had cake for Uncle Herp! Also, he saw Ravpos! Isn’t that incredible!”

The old man smiled at the insufferable young man. He raised a finger and the boy, blessedly, stopped talking. “Thank you, Douglas. That will be all for now. Head back to the door for the rest of your duty.”

Douglas gave a serviceable bow and, as proof that there are miracles throughout the world, departed without another word.

“Hello, Jean Baptiste.”

Jean’s jaw dropped in surprise.

“My name is Zayne. Although I might not look like much, I am the Abbot of the Trithereon order. Well, most of it, anyway. After Kylantian died, not everyone approved of my appointment, but that’s neither here nor there. You’ve travelled a long way. Have a seat.”

Jean set in the comfortable, if worn, chair that Zayne had indicated.

“Comfy, isn’t it.”

As Jean nodded in response, an apparition of a dragon-like humanoid drifted through the wall. “Cake?” it asked longingly.

“Soon, Herp. Soon,” the old man answered. The apparition nodded and continued through the other wall. Zayne watched the ghost depart with a smile, “Even though he’s dead, he still has work to do, as do we all, and he wouldn’t get anything done if we actually gave him that cake.” Zayne looked back at Jean Baptiste, who no longer felt that his encounter with Ravpos was that odd. Things had only gotten stranger since then, after all.

“Um, sir, why am I here?”

“Yes, you must have a lot of questions, Jean. For instance, how do I know your name. Well, that’s simple enough. Trithereon told it to me. You’re also probably wondering how old I am. 94. I probably don’t have much time left on this plane, but I still have work to do, and like my friend Herp, might still have work after I pass on as well. As to why you are here, that is part of the work I still have to do. I am going to let you know your purpose, Jean. You’re young. Younger than I was when I discovered my purpose, which happened the first time Herp died, but that’s another story.” Zayne smiled. “You’ll have to forgive me, telling stories is something I’ve always been rather fond of, so getting to the point can occasionally be a little difficult, although I’m much better at it than my great grandson. Anyway, you have a great purpose. Your purpose is important and so it wouldn’t surprise me if you have probably felt a desire to get to work on that purpose, even if you weren’t sure exactly what it was.”

Jean looked up at the old man in wonder, as the truth of that statement made itself known to him. “I have always felt that nothing I did was what I should be doing. Everything I tried left me wanting.”

“That is it exactly. It is because you have a destiny. You are meant to prepare the way for a great hero. A great messiah, a teacher, a revolutionary. Someone that the world sorely needs, or at least, sorely will need once this person arrives. You will mentor this person, help to guide this person towards their destiny. History might not place as much importance on you, if they remember you at all, but the person that history recognizes, that person will always be indebted to you. And as a person that stood alongside, or at least got to watch the people history remembered, that isn’t a bad destiny to have, I can tell you.”

“How will I do this?” Jean asked, wonder and acceptance coursing through him.

“First you must learn, then you must wait. Your training can begin here, although other gods desire you to study amongst them as well. Ultimately, I have no idea where this task will take you. I’m sure I won’t be around to see how it all turns out, but I will be there at the beginning if you will accept this task.”

“Where do we start?” Jean asked, standing, feeling the stirrings of what might just be fulfillment. It felt like a long desired piece of cake.

 

Jean Baptiste looked at the forlorn man next to him.  He could almost feel the pain that radiated off of him.  “Redemption can be yours, Willikin.  The gods want us to change; they want to redeem us.  My life was one filled with sin, perhaps not to the extent that yours was, but I can not claim to have led a blameless life.  The gods had a purpose for me, and they have one for you as well, if only you are willing to give yourself to them.  I have seen you in action.  You are trying to atone.  Let the gods help you, guide you.  Let them grant you that redemption you desire.  It isn’t too late, my son.  Trust me, the gods don’t let time stop them from having you work towards the good.  They don’t even let death stop it.  Work towards your redemption, my son.  The rewards will be vast.”  Jean Baptiste smiled, “Even better than cake.”

Campaign Stories continues in Wiliken 16.