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Radost: Solace Among the Spruce


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Title inspired by some wintry fantasy ambient/dungeon synth by Snowspire, check it out here!


It's hibernation time, but I'm gearing up to trudge across the frozen wastes.  I must make it to Alice Lake by  April 15!  When I arrive, I will join in the ritual ascent to the peak, so I must prepare my body and my mind through the coming months.  There will be adventure, surely, but also the discipline of repetition.  One foot in front of the other. 


Physical Discipline

All in a day's march - run at least once per week.  Walking is acceptable if snow/ice makes running dangerous, but otherwise I will be hitting the trails every Saturday, or making time on another day if I know Saturday is too busy.

Combat training - do at least one workout per week.  The past few weeks I've been meshing together the Zombies!Run Dragon Flight workout story with the Darebee Hero's journey.  It's working pretty well to get me active and not bored, but I don't like that I can't set the Dragon Flight workouts to run less than 30 minutes, so there will probably be some weeks when I do my own thing instead because let's face it, December is a busy month.


Mental Discipline

Strengthen the shine - celebrate immediately every time I choose a veggie or movement snack instead of junk food. In Tiny Habits, B.J. Fogg makes the case that while long-term goals are important to motivation and help us discipline ourselves, humans are overall built to prioritize immediate reward.  We need to know our Big Why and see how our moment-to-moment actions connect to it, but we can train ourselves to start new, healthy habits by celebrating - by creating the feeling that Fogg calls "shine" - immediately, the second we do the thing.  When the reward happens right away, it connects the behaviour and the reward in the lizard brain as well as the thinking brain, whereas long-term reward systems only work for the thinking brain.  My celebrations include: singing the Final Fantasy fanfare (with a li'l dance if I'm feeling super happy and not too shy), imagining the feeling of cresting a mountain peak in cool drizzle and looking out across the cloud-shadowed conifers on the surrounding hills, or just simply saying, "Hey! You just did the thing!"



There is no adventure inside the box - do something creative every week. Writing (game prep counts!), knitting, painting, decorating the house, crafting, taking photos. 

Say 'yes' to Plot Hooks - schedule two fun winter activities for this month. I have a few things already planned (seeing one of the kids I nanny dance in the Nutcracker! Family & friends sing-along Christmas party!) but I want to make sure I actually get out and do some things with my special people.  Possible plot hooks include: Christmas light wander with Mr. Radost and Sibling B; carolling with my vocal ensemble; coffee and/or a walk with a friend; run at a park on the outskirts of town instead of the golf course right by my house.

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Title immediately took me back to my super atmospheric folk phase...



Totally digging and vibing out to Snowspire now though!

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[Level ??] Rurik, Templar-Marshal

Class: Paladin of the Order of the Sacred Flame (Conquest Paladin/Champion)


Equipment: Leather armor, questing longsword, and adventurer's pack with alchemist's kit.


"Rangers have to at least give up on pants. It's a special rule we enacted after Rurik became a Guild Leader.” – DarK_RaideR

"Did I just get my ass kicked by a member of Metallica meets History Channel's Vikings?" - Wild Wolf

"By the Well-Oiled-and-Meticulously-Groomed Beard of Rurik!" - Tanktimus the Encourager

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Weekly roundup: slow going in thigh-deep snow but still making progress


All in a day’s march : success! Bumped my run to Friday since Saturday was chockablock. 

Combat training : success! And I felt less sore than last time I did that many squats 😅


Strengthen the shine : this was the thigh-deep snow. Rough work days plus menstrual blahs meant I went out of my way to add junk food midweek. There were other days when I chose not to, but not much shining was done. 

There is no adventure inside the box : did some work on Ye Olde Mappe that my players may find soon, and designed a couple custom monsters for the catacombs they’ll likely enter today. 

Say yes to plot hooks : went to SIL’s vocal ensemble concert and started lining up a movie night with a friend. Might turn down the plot hook that just arrived last night, we realized our every-second-Saturday Mage game would typically run on New Year’s Eve, and I got excited bc I do like when a thing I was already going to do lines up with an event that I was otherwise not going to celebrate. But our GM has other plans and I don’t know if I want to make a board game night happen just for the other group member who doesn’t live here and then feel like we should really give her a ride home or let her crash here…and then wake up the next day to run D&D for the in-laws. Of course, I’ll probably be coming off a week of vacation, so I might feel differently by then. 

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This week is going okay so far. Fit in my workout on Tuesday, and @Ike Eldrazi, I finally had a win on choosing a healthy snack instead of cookies or chocolate and did my best to shine it up! Yesterday I made the good choices but didn’t celebrate like I should. Tonight I will be baking shortbread for my family Christmas sing-along! Oddly, I don’t snack that much while baking, but there is also a 0% chance that I’ll drop and do push-ups instead of snagging a hot cookie fresh off the rack. 


We had a lovely time out at the Nutcracker on Sunday. It was a beautiful production and my work!kid had a pretty important part for a 10-year-old. The dancers in her group even got to interact onstage with one of the principals! And I got us seats only five or six rows back, so we had a great view. We went out to dinner before the show, and I mentioned my plan to “say yes to plot hooks.” The next day my partner G was musing “I wonder if anywhere in town offers ballet classes for adults who are complete beginners…I know I need to get in shape and I haaate going to the gym, but this sure feels like a dangling plot hook!” Anyway, he’s registered in a class that starts in January! At the Rec centre a ten minute walk from our place, even!

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Oh wow, has it really been almost 2 weeks?  Whoops.


I wrote a microfiction about it, haha.  Spoilered because microfiction is still a wall of text on a forum.



Winter wisps

Radost jogged on in the deepening dusk, boots shushing through the afternoon’s light snowfall. A spruce needle worked its way into her sock, and she paused a moment by the bole of an enormous mother tree to dig it out. It was hard to keep her direction in these woods but when she glanced over her shoulder she could just see the setting sun winking between the trees. Up ahead its watery rays glinted off something silvery. “It can’t be the ocean yet,” she mused. “Maybe it’s a stream; I’ll camp near it and have fresh water. Fish too, if I’m lucky.” Shifting her bearing ever so slightly she made for the flickering reflection.
A half hour later, Radost began to wonder if she was seeing a stream. It was still winking and flashing before her, but it seemed to have gotten no closer. She inhaled deeply, smelling snow and the pungent mix of fresh and decaying spruce needles that characterized this forest, but she could find no hint of the boggy rot she expected along waterways at this sodden time of year. “What is it?” she muttered aloud and picked up the pace.
She first noticed that there were now three lights before her. And then realized that the sun must have set a quarter hour before. Night had not fully fallen but there was no way this was sunlight sparkling off water. “You idiot! I know you’re trying to catch some Shine, but will-o-wisps is not the Shine you’re looking for!” Radost looked around her to see how far the wisps had led her from her path, and noticed a rise just a little to the north. “I’ll make for the hill and camp there tonight. In the morning I’ll see where I am.
It was easy going towards the rise, easier than the afternoon had been. Suspiciously easy. But then she saw the unmistakable yellow light of a campfire. A moment later the wind shifted and she could smell the smoke and something delicious cooking. Of course it was easier going: either there was a path, or she was unconsciously following the person ahead’s trail. Her clenched jaw relaxed and as she climbed, she sang a solstice song about warmth and good company, and was gratified to hear a thin but tuneful voice join her on the third chorus.
Stepping into the circle of firelight, Radost added one last verse about welcoming strangers on a cold night. She thought she was making it up as she went along, but perhaps it was something she’d heard at a long-ago feast, for the tiny, ancient woman sitting by the fire joined in as though she knew this one well.
“Welcome, child! Come share my fire!” creaked the woman. But as Radost dropped her heavy pack, she added, “Only, be a dear and gather a little more firewood for me, won’t you? It’s cold tonight!” Radost looked critically at the old woman, evaluating whether she should leave her things with the stranger. In the end, she decided her pack was more heavy than it was valuable, considering the woman had her own tent already set up, and food too, judging by the smell from the fire. “Of course, grandmother,” she said, and turned back to the dark forest.
Two, three, four armloads of wood and the old woman kept saying, “Thank you, lovey, but I do think we need just a little bit more…” As she circled the hill looking for wood, Radost glanced towards its base and saw more will-o-wisps hovering among the trees. She counted at least nine now, though it was hard to be sure as they danced and winked in and out of sight. Radost hurried back with her fifth armload of wood and drew breath to warn the old woman about the wisps, but the stranger spoke first. “That’s perfect, dearie. Now come stoke it for me. It’s a chilly night and we need a big blaze.” Somehow every time Radost began to speak, the old woman gave her another task: stirring the pot full of thick, savoury porridge; sweeping a path through the snow to her tent; scooping snow into water skins to set by the fire for morning. “Now go set up your tent, child, the porridge is almost ready and my friends will be here soon.”
Mystified, and yet certain any attempt to seek clarification would be met with another task, Radost did as she was told. As she pegged out the heavy canvas, she realized she’d been hearing a sound like distant bells, for how long she couldn’t be certain. With a shiver that had nothing to do with the cold, she turned around slowly. As she’d suspected, the will-o-wisps had made it to the top of the rise, but what made the back of her neck prickle was the way they had clustered around the stranger. There were dozens, more than Radost had seen in years. The old woman was chuckling affably and nodding as though in answer to a question, and to Radost’s surprise she said to the swarm of glowing orbs, “well, pull up a log, the food’s about ready.” She turned towards Radost. “Don’t stand there with your mouth open, child,” she wheezed, as the glowing creatures began to coalesce into humanoid forms hovering by a nearby log, “come get something to eat!”
There were four or five wisp folk - it was hard to say because wisps kept floating from one to another, and the forms shifted like mist in the wind. But as Radost tensely lowered herself onto a log, bowl in hand, they greeted her in musical voices that tumbled over one another like a peal of tiny bells. “Well met, friend!” “Yes, well met, traveller!” “Well met, singer in the frozen wood!” “Well met, helper on the hill!” “Well met, lake seeker!” “Well met, storyteller, weaver, warm-hearted listener…” Although the wisp folk’s nearly featureless faces were uncanny, they seemed so earnestly friendly that Radost relaxed a little. Meanwhile, the old woman gestured for Radost’s bowl and ladled some of the thick gruel into it. As Radost tasted the first hot spoonful, one of the wisp folk snapped a shimmering finger, sending sparks across the fire that seemed to fall right onto her bowl. Instantly, the flavour in her mouth changed, from a tasty but simple stew of dried grains, jerky, and root vegetables, to a complex, savoury potage with hints of familiar and unfamiliar herbs and a delightful tang that complemented the mellow grains perfectly. “Magic!” she thought, and then laughed at herself. “Of course, they are magic folk! But what kind and pleasant magic.”
As they ate together, Radost’s tension and distrust melted. The wisp folk were telling stories about the creation of dryads in a time when mountains tended to roam about and the trees needed frequent resettling. The old woman, Grandmother Holly, shared gossip about which stars were scheming behind which constellations’ backs. And Radost shared a few tales from her home village and her own adventures. Between stories, they sang. Around them the air grew thick with heavy, wet snow, but somehow the space around the fire and the path to the tents that Radost had swept clear with a spruce bough remained picturesquely dusted yet snowdrift free. Long into the night they talked and sang, sharing tea and the most delicate sweet treats Radost had ever tasted, spun sugar snowflakes with moonlight caught in their glistening crystals. Eventually, her eyelids became heavy and she retreated to her tent, dozing cozily to the tinkling voices of the wisp folk and Grandmother Holly’s creaking wheeze.
The early morning chirps of a flock of robins woke Radost as the clear sky was beginning to brighten. She took her time dressing under the still-warm blankets before braving the chill air. Stepping out of the tent, she greeted the robins and looked around for last night’s companions. A thin curl of smoke still rose from the banked embers of the fire, but that and the cleared area around it were the only signs of the night’s gathering. No wisp folk, no old woman, no tent. Just the snow piled high in drifts that stopped precisely where Radost had swept, the abandoned logs around the fire, and the spruce bough resting against one.
As she stirred up the fire to brew tea, Radost looked around. The hill was taller than it had seemed in the dark and she had a clear view of the land around. Not far off track after all. She could see Mt. Shkewetsen just north of east, perhaps a little farther than she had hoped, but not even a half day’s travel beyond what she expected. But something seemed off about the position of the rising sun. Radost scrabbled through her pack to find her navigator's quadrant and compass. She checked her bearing, confirmed her estimate of the distance to Shkewetsen, and then sighted the sun. She checked her measurement three times before she could believe it: days had passed. It must be Solstice by now! Had she slept so long?
Radost looked around the site again. The high, crusted snowdrifts under a clear sky, the thin tracery of ice around the spruce broom where it had sunk into the snow, these signs did hint that she had slept long. But the fire! She could still see a branch she remembered putting into it, a forked limb that looked a little like a snake rearing up. The fire had burned almost up to the snake’s tail, but surely if the fire had been burning for days it would have been consumed entirely. What was she missing?
A creak of laughter startled Radost and she spun around. “Grandmother Holly?” she called, voice rising in an undignified squeak. But it was just a raven who had landed on a branch of the holly tree whose berries the robins had been enjoying. As the branch swayed, its creak and the raven’s croak had sounded like a laugh.
“Don’t startle me like that, friend!” Radost called, and fished a little jerky from her pocket to toss to the raven. That’s when she noticed the mushrooms. The first one she saw was tiny, a delicate gold-brown cap the size of her pinky. Nearby was another, half the size of her palm. And more, barely visible, bearing up impossibly under the snow, growing around the hilltop…in a perfect ring. Radost turned to run, but remembered her tea. Surely the fairies had already decided to free her, no harm in going back for it. And she would need its warmth and fortifying power for the long march ahead.
A little while later, belly warm with tea and singing one of the wisp folk’s songs, Radost started down the hill. It was worrying to be so far behind schedule, yet she could not truly regret a night spent in good company, no matter how long.


In sum, a lot of things were on hold while I prepped for our family's annual holiday party, a drop-in Christmas sing-along.  I was baking and cleaning all week, and then on Sunday had the joy of decorating and actually hosting the party.  It was my first time hosting in MY space - this party is something I grew up with, but in 2021 my mom, partner, and I bought a house together with a suite for her in the basement...that is not large enough to hold a gathering.  It was a bit stressful, but also so much fun.  And now we have SO MANY COOKIES.


So Many Cookies is usually a plus, but on Monday night we had a big dump of snow.  Nothing like what folks deal with in many places, but we got probably 8-10" on top of the 2" that had fallen on Sunday and Monday, and because we only get this kind of snowfall about every second year here on the Wet Coast, we don't have the kind of ploughing infrastructure that exists in places where heavy snowfall happens a few times every year. Buses were completely cancelled for a day, and significantly restricted for one more, and driving remains pretty sketchy, so my usual Tuesday RPG session was cancelled and might be cancelled again next week.  No one to show off to share cookies with!  And Saturday game won't meet either of the next couple weeks due to holidays.  Worst of all, there's a massive rainstorm predicted starting Friday and continuing for at least the next week, so we don't even get a picturesque white Christmas, womp-womp.


Anyway, here's the goals update:

All in a day's march: 50% - skipped my run last week but went out yesterday for a slow but beautiful snow run. Zombies!Run had a new Christmas themed story and I made a playlist with some Christmas music and some of my slower running music from the snowy-weather playlist I made a few years ago for a most festive experience. Pics under the cut!


snowy path lined with bare-branched bushes


The snow-heaped sweeping branches, lowest hanging right down to the ground, of a huge conifer


midday solstice sun cradled in the branches of a twisted Garry Oak


pink-cheeked snowy selfie


Bonus Solstice candle!

a candle burns in the foreground; behind it are a jewelled pomegranate, an enormous spruce(?) cone, and an ornamented Christmas tree



Combat training: success! Did a 20-minute Darebee workout. I should do one this afternoon too, I'm off work for the next ten days but tomorrow I need to be presentable because we have a plumber coming to fix our water heater.

Strengthen the Shine: so-so. Not that many shine-worthy choices, but one that stood out because I made the desired choice, but I was feeling kinda silly about actually celebrating and did a halfhearted mental "woohoo." Then I said, no, that's not what you're supposed to do, and tried again with a full FF Fanfare and little dance and yeah, it instantly brightened my mood.  Shine is hard but I can keep working on it.

No adventure inside the box: Success! See above for creative challenge! Today and tomorrow I'm gonna bust out my paints too, and I will spend an hour or two prepping FamD&D for our Boxing Day session.

Say yes to plot hooks: I'm calling snow run a plot hook!   We also did our annual Christmas pub date night...the downtown streets were kinda grim, dirty slush everywhere and the icy wind blowing snow off the drifts and into our faces, but the pub we like has a lovely view of a pedestrian square that was beautifully decorated and absolutely picturesque in the snow. 

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