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  1. The Dragon Reborn—the leader long prophesied who will save the world, but in the saving destroy it; the savior who will run mad and kill all those dearest to him—is on the run from his destiny. Two guesses as to whether he succeeds or not. I sorta dropped off the face of the earth last challenge. I didn't mean to, but... yeah. The job isn't really brutal, but the hours are, and I haven't been good about getting around to you all like I wish I had. Still, things are being adjusted. I unfortunately find myself in a place between talking about the challenge and doing the challenge; unfortunately, that only ends one way. And so much has happened, just in the past week! I managed to hit the Simple requirements - 100 one-arm kettlebell swings and 10 TGUs at 70 pounds in 15:10. I swung the 53-pounder 200 times without dropping it. And then today, I managed to do clapping pull ups for the first time! What a week it's been. Makes me suspicious - like sickness is hiding somewhere in the facade of my health. And yet, here I stand on the other side of these things. I do not feel weak at all. In fact, despite the lack of sleep, it all feels mental. Put me under the bar or in the ring and the body functions just fine. I suspect it's because I've been eating a lot better lately - more food and higher quality. Good stuff. It's bearing me up. And also the fact that I spend all day sitting as opposed to intermittently lifting things. "Do you have dreams when you sleep?" Rand is having a hard time having just signed up for the whole Doomed Savior of the World bit. It's a dirty job, but someone's gotta do it. But he decides he needs to test the prophecies concerning the Dragon Reborn in one last desperate try to not be the person the Creator has decreed he must be. Like Rand, I have tests that I must pass. Passing means I did better than an 80 on both of them. DDS's idea, not mine. But to hell with it - I'll take the pass. Rand's goal is about getting to work, doing the assignments and making sure that the grades are good enough every day. "A bloody hero. Thom, if I ever look like acting the hero again, you kick me." "And what would you have done differently?" "Just kick me!" So yeah, the picture from last challenge actually takes place in this book. I forgot. Oops. Still, he's all about hard living, and he's even more about that now that he's had that pesky ailment dealt with. And me, I'm learning how to get my back unwhack and it's changing measurements and playing merry havoc with the data like I knew it would. But the goal here is about staying the course - eating well and fasting and staying in control. I got this. Really. "What is your name? If I have to share this ship with you for days yet, I can't keep calling you girl." "I call myself Mandarb. I will teach you something, farmboy. In the Old Tongue, Mandarb means 'blade'. It is a name worthy of a Hunter of the Horn." "You see that black stallion? His name is Mandarb." Oh, Perrin. You have no idea how much trouble you're about to get in. But it's cool, man. You lift. Training goals are here for this challenge. Til shade is gone, til water is gone Into the shadow with teeth bared Screaming defiance with the last breath To spit in Sightblinder’s eye on the Last Day. Yesssssss. And now we get to meet some of the badasses. They're good characters, yes, but these were the badasses who inspired me in the first place. The Aiel. The Aiel have come out of their desert homeland in search of a story - of He Who Comes With The Dawn (go on and guess who that is. Certainly not the guy who everyone swears looks like an Aiel, that's for sure). And believe it or not, they represent the reading and writing goal this time around. I have a writing challenge up in August - 40K words. With the new job forcing me into a cram session every day, my work is cut out for me. But it's going to be great, I think. I got a lot of world building done and managed to gloss over the cracks in a lot of what I was doing. Now I just need to make some scenes and everything should be good. And that does it I think. I don't know how well I'll do getting around to people this time. But I promise I'll do my best. And now let us commence the next step of the journey.
  2. The Wheel of Time turns and Ages come and pass. What was, what will be, and what is, may yet fall under the Shadow. For centuries, gleemen have told of The Great Hunt of the Horn. Now the Horn itself is found: the Horn of Valere long thought only legend, the Horn which will raise the dead heroes of the ages. And it is stolen. And so we begin. Book II. In which a powerful relic is lost, and a powerful enemy is found. The last challenge went really well. A lot of things that I didn't expect to go right went... well, right. It's a series of facts and such that, to be honest, change a lot of things. I know now that I will be able to afford to travel and do the GoRuck in Boston. I know now that this training has a purpose, and a reason beyond fighting the entropy of long, long sits. And, as one might expect, however, there were complications attached to this - a change in the time I get up, and a change in my schedule, and a change in my training, and as such a change in my diet. In other words, I found something, only to lose a bunch of other things. Not really a big deal, because I can find those things again - I've done it before - but it sure does seem to fit the tone of the book, so here I go. Always something new, always something I didn't expect, and sometimes it isn't horrible. Poor Rand. He learned in the last book that he is a wielder of saidin, the tainted, masculine half of the One Power. He is marked as a doer of sorcerous deeds, doomed to madness and the worst death. But there is more to it than he knows, more than he can even accept... The Rand part of this challenge is to search for the new routine. Once it is found, I must do the new routine. This may sound like something that has a lot of the challenge as a whole wrapped up in it, but the truth is, it's really just about adjusting to a new schedule. Part of that means making the new schedule, and although I have it made up, it's not really complete yet. It will change again in a couple of weeks, once I begin the new job and see what there is to see. At present, mornings are devoted to meditation, prayer, postural practice and stretching, and handstands. I've altered the handstand training so that I'm not doing hollow-body work directly anymore. There's just no time if I mean to do this more days than not, and honestly, getting myself to the point where I'm standing in a perfect handstand will do all the same things anyway. So, what I'm doing at this point is dropping my time back down and bringing myself closer to the wall, to learn to control my kick-up and to get more used to the idea of full body tension as a straight line. Midday work will be about skill practice with the uchikomi, and shadowboxing. Maybe some skipping rope - wouldn't be hard to bring that along, but don't quite know where to fit it. Nighttime is Perrin's problem. I will wager two silver marks to two from each of you that I can beat both of you at once, just the way I said. You can't have fairer odds than that. There are two of you, and one of me, so two to one are fair odds. Mat, of course, has his own problems. He picked up an evil artifact in the last book, and it is slowly killing him. The good news, though, is that he will lose this dagger and regain his life. The bad news is that his troubles are only getting started. Part of his recovery is that he has to eat. He is surprised at how much he ends up having to eat, how much the Healing of his wounds costs him. Likewise, it is the same with me. I have been stuck at a plateau for the past three months in terms of shedding fat and getting lean, and this has been a function of a mismatch between my body's demands and my meeting them. Fortunately, I am back on familiar ground with me being mostly sedentary again. Unfortunately, I'm me, and I'm always keen to experiment with things. On days when I'm just doing handstands and S&S, I am dropping carbs and calories down low - 50-100g for CHO, about 1650+ total intake. I will be saving my carbs for the end of the day to help me feel full and satisfied. On days when I'm formally training, I will reverse everything - 30-50g of Fat, about 1950 calories for total intake. This is simply for now - if I get hangry, or if I feel like my energy is super-stinkin' low, I reserve the right to adjust. I also refuse to deny myself the pleasures of company - hence me being so low and hard on myself. Just in the past week, I've had three glasses of champagne, homemade BLT, and junk food. Please, please don't be afraid for me. I promise, it is unwarranted. And also I think my mother is going to sabotage me - I mentioned that I wanted to see if I could go lower safely and she said she didn't think I had much left to lose. I assured her that I'm being safe - and I am, really - but I doubt she believes me. Now I get to have that problem that all the other Nerds have when they live at home. Yaaaay. A young wolfhound must meet his first wolf someday, but if the wolf sees him as a puppy, if he acts the puppy, the wolf will surely kill him. The wolfhound must be a wolfhound in the wolf's eyes even more than in his own, if he is to survive. And what to say of Perrin? Poor man. He hears wolves in his thoughts. It wasn't his choice, but whether he likes it or not he too is being dragged along by virtue of who he is in the Pattern. But it's more than that too - he made a vicious axe, and he is strong with it, but it makes him sick inside and he knows not who he is. Perrin's challenge for me is all about iron - every day that I can, I want to be touching the iron. It can be S&S, or it can be strength training, but in either event it is possible to do something every day. It's a very simple, straightforward way of doing things... but that doesn't mean easy. I've stayed with you long enough, Rand. Why would I stop now? You see, I like you. I would like you even if you weren't ta'veren. Maybe I like you despite it. You do seem to get me neck-deep in hot water. In any case, I'm going with you. And I don't think you can really stop me. And at last we come to one of my favorite characters. Loial is an ogier, a gentle giant of the forest. He loves trees and growing things, but he also loves to read. He's traveling with everyone because he wants to see the world, although he didn't get permission to leave home before taking off on this adventure. But in addition to being a kind young man of 90 years, he's also a writer. He wants to chronicle the events as they unfold. He knows that being around people who literally warp reality as they go is bound to change things, and he wants to write that story. You can see where this is going. Read the next book, yes, but also write and work on my own thing. @erosan challenged me in @Starpuck's thread to write a more ethically nuanced take on the themes of Star Wars and like an idiot, I accepted that challenge. Unlike an idiot, I seem to have stumbled on some wonderfully gray ways to explore those ideas and to tie together a bunch of things that I never thought I could into a single project. Read and write. Read and write. ... I think that about does it for this round. As usual, it looks like much, but it is not really. Let the Dragon ride again upon the Winds of Time...
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