Worldbuilding Wednesday 1/24/18: Useless Magic Items

(Artwork by Dchan)

There are those magic items that are very helpful to a character, and those that aren’t. Here are some that did not make the grade into regular adventuring use.

Useless Magic Items

Ashestes’s Garrulous Ass: Renders an ass or donkey capable of speech. Unfortunately, the animal doesn’t stop talking for the duration of the spell.

Harpoon of Flea Slaying: This cumbersome weapon allows the wielder to slay any single flea.

Soft Nose of the Hawk: Enables the caster to smell as well as a hawk. (Note that hawks are not known for their keen sense of smell.)

Wand of Zestful Folding: On direction folds clean laundry to be stored in a closet.

Backward Saddle of the Unicorn: Enables the possessor to ride any unicorn in reverse.

Tome of Deadly Breath: Contains formulas for creating halitosis in the reader.

Ceirba’s Hirsute Flowers: Causes flowers to grow hair instead of petals.

Ring of Gnome Vibration: Causes all gnomes in the immediate area to twitch rapidly.

Manual of Wondrous Bubbles: A tome for the creation of artistic soap bubbles.

Staff of Ophidian Fashion: On a command word, this item clads the user in clothing made of snakeskin.

Tanad’s Sneezing Bellows: Instead of forcing out air normally, this item sneezes it all over the place.

Ballista of Squirrel Attack: Pelts the target with dozens of small, hard nuts.

Jar of Dragon Amputation: Magically preserves the amputated body part of any dragon, as long as it fits inside.

The Toad Straps of Twicknaut: These enchanted straps enable a toad to be securely fastened to any conveyance.

Cedrobel’s Insidious Rainbows: Creates continual rainbows around the user or target as long as the spell lasts.

Hammock of Invertebrate Napping: When any insect, mollusk, or other non-boned creature enters this hammock, it immediately falls asleep. Applies also to giant amoebas, jellies, puddings, etc.

Chimeric Bowl of Catnip: A large bowl full of catnip that continually changes its appearance to thwart household pets. Note, however, that most felines will be able to detect it by smell.

Folio of Fairy Leather: Details how to skin and tan the hide of small creatures like fairies, pookas, etc.

Clownish Fart of the Kitten: Causes any young feline in the area to emit an amusing fart. Also effects feline monsters such as chimeras and weretigers.


Let’s puzzle this one out, shall we?


Worldbuilding Wednesday 1/17/18: Germanic Names

Returning to Ruritania, Germanic names, and fictional European countries again…

There are really a lot of them, evidenced by this list on Wikipedia. I was blown away, actually.

Some highlights:

  • Animation has its share, evidenced by the fictional country of Cagliostro, in which Lupin III: The Castle of Cagliostro, Hayao Miyazaki’s debut anime movie is set. The Disney movie Tangled is set in a Germanic country as well, called Corona.
  • The ex-communist country of Novistrana serves as the arena for the political strategy video game Republic: The Revolution.
  • Marvel comics have, of course, Dr. Doom’s fictional of kingdom of Latveria and its neighbors Transia and Symkaria.
  • Vulgaria is the name of the European country visited by the flying car in the film Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. The Marx brothers’ Duck Soup features the country of Freedonia, and Charley Chaplin’s The Great Dictator had Bacteria, Osterlick, and Tomainia. The 2004 Tom Hanks movie The Terminal features a refugee from the war-torn fictional nation of Krakhozia.
  • Romance novels have Jude Devereaux’s Lanconia and Nora Roberts’ Cordina.
  • And let’s not forget the real-life tiny countries of Monaco, Andorra, and Lichtenstein.

Who are the inhabitants of these make-believe, little-known nations? Some of them I list below.

Germanic Names


Adlbold Schaedark

Karlyn Wolfbalde

Erwan Barreich

Alfrick Stuttpinch

Reginmer Rammden

Manhard Scheinstellz

Raimus Kunstharz

Ronul Schimtass

Kiefich Dohritz

Jurgman Karlseinz

Reinzgund Neischstellz

Medhardt Aschblat

Berkmund Volkitz

Gandhardt Rammkarst

Jurger Aschstrich

Franzwyn Hoffclast

Sigdorn Dohrstein

Ursbrekt Karlswurg

Jurgalf Volkvann

Alphian Eichenden


Erberta Rammstellz

Ethlina Palzau

Elsaffa Eissenphadt

Heidelene Eissenhost

Ernsa Dogbrau

Magnetna Sprangfells

Friedwig Volkuch

Hilga Geiswald

Stephriele Strichtsen

Betmina Trilhard

Livka Palzhard

Uthilde Rons

Minitta Volkdurst

Gertberta Badkann

Liselise Barinch

Gerdburga Panzkann

Elsaida Kunstclast

Virgna Schweindau

Elisalese Schimclas

Violleth Vandhard

Well Packed

Because Soylent Green is PEOPLE!


(Art by Dongwook Lee)

Worldbuilding Wednesday 1/10/18: Germanic Towns

Wouldn’t you like to live here?
(Art by John Stevenson)


Fantasies set in Germanic cultures, like those based on Italian ones, have not been published much in recent years, yet in past decades there were enough of them to have their own subgenre: Ruritanian Romance. These novels were set in imaginary Central or Eastern European kingdoms and were full of G-rated intrigue, mystery, and passion. Lost heirs, arranged marriages, double-dealing chancellors, and spies figure prominently in them. In the books these kingdoms were depicted as existing in the contemporary world alongside France, Switzerland, and Russia and not in their own alternate universes. The most famous of them was Ruritania, in which the novel The Prisoner of Zenda was set, but there was also Graustark, Laurania, Syldavia, Grand Fenwick and, more recently, Zubrowka, from the motion picture The Grand Budapest Hotel. Ursula K. LeGuin jumped on the bandwagon in the 1970s with her nation of Orsinia, and more recently, Jacqueline Carey featured a Germanic nation known as Skaldi in her Kushiel’s Dart series (which can be considered an R-rated Ruritarian one.)

Here’s some Germanic — or Ruritanian! — sounding towns for a similar setting in fiction or gaming.


Imaginary German Towns































The One Gold Slave
[Reading Challenge 2018]

The One Gold Slave
(Atlaind Book 1)

by Christian Kennedy
Waitingstar Publishing, New York, 2011

[Challenge # 5: A Free book]

Ah, my first finished read of 2018, by which things are starting smashingly well.

First up: A Freebie, in this case, an Amazon giveaway by the author. I knew full well what kind of book it was by the word slave and the well-coifed beefcake on the book’s cover (which, incidentally, did nothing for me: I like skinnier, angstier types, with cigarettes and dreadlocks) that stood as a pictorial representation  for BDSM and other kinky stuff. In past years fanfic and original yaoi archives satisfied my appetite for slavefics like these, until there was just too much of it and it became too time-consuming to sift through. Self-publishing rose to fill in the gap, until that, too, became too tedious to sift through, so now, when it gets dropped into my lap I take a look. Anne Rice’s Sleeping Beauty Trilogy and Pauline Reage’s  The Story of O continue to be my benchmarks for a good kinky read, balancing stylization, the sensual, a driving, overarching plot, and hardcore, varied sex acts that aren’t too belabored.

The One Gold Slave follows the Sleeping Beauty model that takes place in a fantasy world removed from our own. This unnamed kingdom consists of small fiefdoms ruled by magically-talented Kings and Queens who owe allegiance to an Emperor. The estates are staffed by slaves, and they are happy to be slaves, as the snippets of slave instruction manuals before each chapter suggest. There are no commoners, no middle class. This is, economically, kind of whack-a-doo – after all, who’s in charge of the slave business? — but after all it is an erotic fantasy, and if sufficiently differentiated from the mundane world, it could work.

Unfortunately, it never did for me, and this lack of… authorial investment at otherworldiness, I guess… made the read lightweight for me and, for want of a better word, silly. At least in Sleeping Beauty we knew we were getting a fairy tale by the language and structure, and subject matter, and stylizations, but the writing of this one was far too casual. The slaves behaved less like peons under threat of life and death from their masters than a bunch of dim college students dormered together at some not very demanding summer job. Their dialogue was way too modern for this mythical world, as was their romantic banter, a lot of which I skipped to get to the action.

The hero of the book is a pleasure-slave named Zsash who, at the ripe age of 30, graduates slave-school and goes up for auction in the first chapter. Aside from that horrible name he’s completely unremarkable, so no one bids on him. In desperation he starts yelling, which incites a beating; but he’s also bought by a powerful Mistress, Queen Isavayne, for the gold piece of the title, and at age 30 he begins his slave career as her bath-slave. He narrates the book, and he’s the worst offender as far as the colloquial dialogue goes. He also seems to have had no life before the story begins. Assuming he’s started his lessons at puberty, surely it wouldn’t take 15 years to learn how to have sex? While a newbie to the estate was needed for the purposes of the plot, he comes across as way too ignorant of the world to be 20, let alone 30. He’s beaten a lot throughout the book, too, his physically hurts described in a long winded way, and I wonder if the author was purposely trying to make him a Beta, as opposed to the Alpha males that are in vogue these days. (Note: I’m not fond of Alphas myself, in fact I detest the very concept of males split into Alphas and Betas. I mention this only in the context of contemporary romance novels.)

If she was going for a Beta, she went too far in the other direction. This didn’t stop me from reading, as I wanted to see what scrapes he got into. But it did strain credibility for me in that I just didn’t believe in him as a character. That is, from the first pages, I saw him as a young, not too bright acting student trying to improvise his way through a sword-and-sandal epic and not convincing anybody of anything.

The first 2/3 of the book was mostly setup, and though it didn’t strain me too much to read it, I also skimmed a lot because it wasn’t too interesting and didn’t have much bearing on the plot. I guess the hero slept through slave-school because in these chapters he did all the things a slave shouldn’t: flirting with the household staff, mouthing off, asking the wrong questions, keeping a dangerous weapon, and stealing his Mistress’s panties, wine, and drugs. Why Queen Isavayne, who is actually the most epic and kick-ass character in the book, let him get away with it is beyond me. Why masters would allow their slaves sharp weapons is beyond me. On an estate full of able-bodied slaves, who or what is keeping them in line? My mind kept wandering to questions like this, and it’s safe to say I’m probably not part of the audience for this kind of erotic romance… there was a lot of going on about nothing.

To be fair, the story picked up 3/4 of the way through when, after an umpteenth beating, the hero is sentenced to fight in the Emperor’s gladiatorial contest against his nemesis and rival, and the fight and aftermath, including a return of romantic attraction between the hero and the Mistress’s right-hand slave did get my blood racing. After that there was a nice revelation of the book’s villains and a few nicely perverted sex scenes. Finally, things were moving. If the whole book had been like that, I would have been happier.

Snake Eyes

She took the term “snake eyes” too literally at the gambling den.


(Art by Alex Gross)

Worldbuilding Wednesday 1/3/18: Mythic Animals

Kirin-Sleipnir-Dragon-Butterfly thing

Mythical animals include the unicorn, jackalope, sea serpent, hydra, sasquatch, and many others… such as these. All randomly generated by me for inspiration and to get your creative furnaces going.

Mythic Animals

Yauzink: An aquatic lion with webbed paws, fins, a fish’s tail, and a mottled green and brown coloration. It is the favored steed of mermaids.

Basimurgh: A huge beast resembling a rhinoceros, but with eight horns on its long, square snout and white bristles on its head. It lays eggs in a nest of bones and meditates quietly until they hatch.

Nidbets: Monkey-like creatures with three tails and sweet smelling breath.

Yammovern: A dangerous mountain-dwelling wolverine whose forelimbs have mutated into batlike wings. It has an alert, watchful stance and poisonous spurs on its ankles.

Varlumph: A strange mixture of camel and lion used as a mount by steppe nomads. It spits at those who anger it.

Tatsa-Opel: A strange beast of the north that looks like a hippopotamus-headed musk ox covered with brown and tan stripes.

Wyvaroon: A rare animal that resembles a camel with eight humps and hairy tonsils. It has cloven hooves and foul, rancid breath.

Peganix: A legendary animal that looks like a fox with bird’s legs and wings. It has a single eye in the middle of its forehead and an insatiable appetite for human hearts.

Gallinemph: A rarely seen animal halfway between an armadillo and a hare in appearance. It is covered with shaggy fur and has scarlet nostrils.

Winkjereen: Tiny finger-sized ferrets with dragonfly wings. They flit in clouds under appleberry blossoms.

Reading Challenge 2018

Little girl and big dog reading a book It’s January again, so it’s time for another reading challenge courtesy of Authors Water Cooler. The Challenge consists of a list of 50 categories/subjects for a book, 12 of which we can choose with the option of extra credit if we finish early. Some categories are new, some were carried over from last year. Last year’s challenge was a lot of fun but also required discipline on my part, as I tend to be a lazy reader unless on a schedule I can habituate to. I was able to find that sweet spot during my lunch hour, however, and luckily a habit for me, though it takes a while to establish, distresses me to break it.

Cobalt Jade’s 2018 Reading Challenge List

1. Get on with it already: A book that’s been on your TBR (to be read) list for over a year.
Hermetech, by Storm Constantine.
I’ve been trying to read this one forever.

2. Freebies: A book you (legally) obtained without paying for.
The One Gold Slave,
by Christian Kennedy
A giveaway from the author.

3. Setting sail: A book taking place mostly or all on water.
City of Fortune, by Roger Crowley
A history of Venice.

4. I remember that!: A book about a historical event that took place in your lifetime.
Where Wizards Stay Up Late, by Katie Hafner and Matthew Lyon
About the creation of the Internet.

5. My hometown: A book by a local author.
Reamde, by Neal Stephenson
A fellow Seattleite.

8. Bits and pieces: An anthology (poetry, short stories, whatever).
Undead Worlds, A Reanimated Writers Anthology
Zombie stories.

24. War is hell: A book about war, on the lines or the homefront, fiction or nonfiction.
A Delicate Truth,
by John Le Carre
Never read him before! Looking forward to it.

34. Who was that, again?: A book about a person you know little about.
The Other Boleyn Girl, Philippa Gregory
Who is she? I dunno.

29. Keep up with the Joneses: A book by someone everyone else seems to have read but you have not. T
by Stephanie Myers; Wicked, by Gregory Maguire
This one is a toss-up. If I can’t find my thrift-store copy of Twilight, I’ll do the Maguire.

38. Coming to a theater near you: A book made into a major motion picture.
Albert Nobbs, by George Moore
Been meaning to read this one for a while, too.

48. The butler might have done it: A mystery.
Antiques Swap, by Barbara Allen
I credit this one to my cousin’s wife, who had been trying to get me to read cozy mysteries for years.

49. Pixies and Dryads and Elves, oh my!: A high fantasy. T
he Worm Ouroboros,
by E. R. Eddison.
That’s as High Fantasy as it gets.

(Note that these will not be read in the order they appear here, but according to my whim.)


Black Queen VII

Black queen and child

She was renowned for her love of children, though that love had sinister qualities.


(Artwork by Vania Zouravliov)