[ARCHIVE] The Way of Moderation
Posted Jul 7, '13 at 4:39pm
The Bells are Ringing
The great peals of the cathedral bells rang far and wide over the whole of the Armor Lands, heralding the most long-awaited event in the nation's history. From all over the city people came, streaming towards the cobblestone courtyard that lay before the heavy wooden doors of the cathedral. They walked past saplings that started to sprout from between the cracked stones of the old ruins half buried by new buildings and half-finished foundations, and the old trees that lined the walk of Index Road. High above, flocks of birds took flight, the feathers of their wings lit up by the sun shining high above a cloudless sky. The daylight cast a myriad of dappled shadows upon the streets, filtered by the swathes of green leaves that now adorned the branches, swaying gently in the light breeze.
As the people congregated, the concentration of excitement grew, until the atmosphere was buzzing with it. Murmurs were mixed with shouts of recognition and greeting as friends and colleagues who had not seen each other during the frantic times of war and rebuilding finally met once more. Differences were set aside, relationships were restored, and trespasses were forgiven. It was a time for joy, of reflection, and it was a perfect day to get married.
The moment one stepped inside the Cathedral, an immense calm that belied the frantic last-minute preparations befell the proceedings. Unlike the rising heat of the summer outside, the stone walls of the Cathedral cooled the air, and the light was replaced by a serene dimness, the grand interior illuminated purely by the stain-glass windows, rebuilt to depict the values of dedication, sacrifice and teamwork that had built the community.
Streams of petals descended as the royal bride, her Royal Highness the Queen Carlie glided up the aisle, smiling at her captive audience, then, as she ascended the stairs towards the pulpit, at her husband to be, one of the original developers and friends of the founding fathers of the nation, John. Hearts swelled as they stood together, gazing into each other's eyes as the pastor began his speech.
"Dearly beloved, we are gathered today..."
Dank, seated amongst the other moderators on the first row of benches, struggled not to burst into tears. "It's just... too much..." he sniffed. On the far end, Voidy was doing the same.
"...witness to one of the great fairytale stories of our time. Today marks a beginning and an end. The end of a chapter that began in college, was marked by long separations and heartache, but throughout all love endured, and love flourished. Thus we now come to the beginning of another chapter, where two become one."
Ninja horse Strop snuck a glance at Cenere, next to him. Predictably, he was stone-faced, or almost, but he had the traces of a smile at the corner of his mouth. Strop wondered what was on his mind, whether it was the discomfort of the grey suit Strop had made him wear for the duration of the Way of Moderation, but had little choice but to wear today as he had literally no other formal clothes... or whether he was thinking about how he, arguably, had been one becoming two, or whether he was just not thinking about any of those things and letting the joy of the day wash over him. Strop, for his part, yet lacked the experience to value these occasions, so sat there twiddling his thumbs, wondering when the first socially appropriate occasion to remove his tie would be.
"...and do you, John, take Carlie for your wife, for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, through health and sickness, 'til death do you part?"
"I do." John's answer was firm, without hesitation.
"Then by the power vested in me, as God is my witness, I hereby declare you man and wife. You may kiss the bride."
And with that, John and Carlie were wed, and the Cathedral exploded in cheers, applause, confetti, and Mendelssohn's Wedding March.
As day turned to evening, and sky blue turned into yellows, oranges and purple, the crowd then converged on the Castle, for the reception was to be held in the (re-)re-restored ballroom. The fire burned fierce and strong thanks to a certain dragon's vigilant tending, filling the place with warmth. A grand banquet had been laid out, and laughter echoed to the ceiling as waiters and waitresses wove their way through the guests, purveyors of wine, meals and merriment. Then the music started, and the lights dimmed, and Carlie and John took to the floor for the first dance. The sparkling of Carlie's dress was nearly as dazzling as the smiles they wore, as they regally spun across, and back again. Then, as their number ended, the floor opened to all, and those who were either brave or simply intoxicated by the event enough to get carried away rose and began to dance the night away.
"...such a hurry we just picked up everything from the Alley and assimilated it into the golem. I later realised that it was his house we were using as a left fist!"
"Oh, no way, so that was Pixel's mansion? It sure packed a punch, hahahaha."
"Shut up guys, not funny! That house was really... quite... nice... and uninsured..."
"Come to think of it, I believe I was the one who dismantled it. I'm really sorry about your fireplace, Pixel, but I'm sure its sacrifice was not in vain."
"Crimson, remind me to kill you later."
In one corner of the room, Frank, Pixel, Chill and Crimson all sat, eating and talking together, reminiscing about old times, speculating on new ones. On the opposite side, a crowd had formed around Manta (still wearing his Fists of Fury belt), who was excitedly retelling the story of the Charge of the Fishman Brigade, except with a lot more pow and uppercut. Meanwhile, another, decidedly less meat-headed crowd had formed around Gantic, the rabbit confusing as much as delighting his audience with wild stories that broke the barriers of meaning and comprehension in the process of his word smithing.
Leon, however, was curiously absent, but then again, that perhaps wasn't so much of a surprise, because, like, it totally wasn't his thing.
Strop smiled to himself as he paced up the length of the hallway, for once keeping himself inconspicuous. If nothing else, it was good to see the bonds that had been forged through laughter and trials, ones he hoped would last and nurture. At the same time he could not help but feel that most of them would be lost, as everybody moved through their various stages, but that was how things progressed, and it was worth it if anyone could consider themselves all the richer for their experiences. And since his own time had passed, it were for the best if he could simply fade into the background and let the limelight fall on oth-
An unnaturally large, burly hand grabbed him by the shoulder and spun him around. "Heya horsey, aren't you gonna dance?" Asherlee started steering him towards the center of the room while holding a bottle of grog in the other.
"Uh, I-I wasn't planning on doing so," Strop stammered. "This isn't quite my kind of-"
"Oh don't be silly! You'll do great!" Asherlee scoffed, fairly manhandling him before winking at the other modly ladies over her shoulder, which drew a giggle. Strop took this moment to cast his eyes around the crowd, before he realised most of the other mods were watching with glee.
"Save me!" he mouthed at Nemo, who responded by flashing him a flagrantly pseudo-oblivious thumbs up. Must be revenge for turning him back into a guy.
Similarly, Dank was revelling in schadenfreude, maybe as payback for forcing him to destroy his academy. "Go get 'em tiger!" He shouted.
And with that, Asherlee grabbed his left hand and his waist, and his fate was sealed.
Several minutes later, Strop stumbled off the floor, muttering something about how there was no rule in the book about a man leading if the man was a horse and the woman was more manly than the man. He slumped into the first conveniently empty chair he could find, only to find a grey-suited man wearing a blond ponytail sitting in exactly the same posture, right next to him.
"Cen, what are you doing here! You should be up dancing and enjoying yourself!" he exclaimed, completely ignoring the last ten minutes of his memory.
"I was. You must have missed it," Cen said curtly, folding his arms. If Strop knew better, which he did, he would have noticed that Cen's eyebrows were furrowed in a decidedly annoyed expression. If Strop had known better, he would have not pushed it, but he didn't, so he did.
"Didn't Sai promise to dance with you tonight?" He pointed to the girl with a single pink lock who was currently twirling around on the dance floor. "It sure looks like she's dancing with just about every other dude in the room."
"She said she'd save the last dance for me, so I thought I'd just, you know." Cen shrugged as nonchalantly as he could manage. "Wait until then."
Strop made as large a show of mashing his palms into his face as possible. "Can you see this Cen?" he said. "This is how exasperated I feel, that you actually believe her. Isn't this the same girl who promised you a 'happy hour' at your place, then slept at hers because she totally forgot?"
Cen didn't flinch, but Strop swore he saw the eyebrows lower just a millimeter. "I don't even want to know how you know about that."
Refusing to back down, Strop stared at him. "The point is, if you don't go up there, and tell her that you're having this last dance, right here, right now, she's going to continue to toy with you, like she has all along. This is her game, dude. Either you play her game and beat her at it, or you don't and end up playing with yourself."
At this Cen stiffened noticeably. "You're a ****," he muttered, before rising and glaring at Strop, his eyebrows saying, "I'm going to do what you want me to but I'm not going to like it, so thanks for nothing."
"Be a man!" Strop clapped him on the butt and propelled him to the floor. "Do the right thing!"
Sai paused as her last partner drifted away, and she saw the young man approaching. Always looking so earnest, so serious, with his hair tied back in a ponytail and his thick eyebrows frequently furrowed in thought. Now that he was wearing his shirt and framed by suspenders, he looked... almost dashing, a class above the pimply faced teens that clamoured around her like... dogs around a... hunk of meat. At this a mixture of emotions rose up in her, part fondness, part regret.
"Hi." Cen looked decidedly awkward. Darn, was it supposed to be this difficult?
"Hi." Sai folded her hands on her lap, her innocent look belying a certain expectation, a challenge.
"ASK HER FOR THE DANCE YOU WIMP." Even standing far from the sidelines, Strop was the worst wingman. Ever. Cen squared his jaw and made a mental note to strangle him with that stupid tie of his later.
"May I- no. Not may I. We are going to have this last dance." Far away, Strop flashed him two thumbs up.
Sai blinked and stared at him for a moment, before she resumed her natural air and giggled. "Of course, Cenny. I saved the last dance for you." Then she smiled. Not her usual ditzy smile, but one that showed restraint, preoccupation, and Cen found himself gazing at her again, before they came together, and the music began.
As the final dance wound to a close, they lingered in each other's arms for just a moment too long, not wanting to look at each other, for then they might be compelled to speak. All that mattered was a moment that had to end, but they could at least try, in vain, to grasp it for a moment longer.
Suddenly, there was a massive crash, and the far wall of the ballroom exploded in a cloud of mortar and dust. Instinctively, Cen whirled around, shielding Sai as a stampede of screaming guests rushed to the other end. Then as one, the moderators stepped forward, forming a wall, as a long figure picked its way across the debris and tables upturned by the force of the intrusion. Then the figure stood to its full, eight foot height, a broad hulking menace wearing a full suit of armor that completely obscured its features. It looked suspiciously like a certain Stark invention, with its crimson and chrome plating, except for the fact that it had a bulging midriff. Then it spoke, in a growling, demonic voice.
"Ha, puny mortals, I have come to claim what is rightfully mine!"
Several people shrank back at the horrible sceptre, but the mods stepped forward again. "Is that a voice modulator?" Nemo asked nobody in particular. Voidy took another step forward again, and matched his voice, plus several magnitudes of volume. "Is that so, puny mortal? Would you like to find out if you can match a dragon?" He was about to let loose with a burnination before he was pulled back by the other mods. "Easy, 'voidy, people are watching!"
The armored figure let loose a ****y laugh. "You think you can defeat me? It is painfully obvious that nothing has changed, and all of you have learnt nothing! Even if you defeat me today, I can come back again and again as I please, and you can't stop me! You will never stop me!"
Strop felt his blood boil as he recognised the culprit.
"Klaus, have you no respect!? This is a wedding! Give it a rest already you stupid bear!"
Iron Klaus laughed again. "Ah Stroppy, you guys have gotten soft. I crashed your funeral too, but you guys were too busy crying into each others' shoulders to notice! And now that you've foolishly let me into the castle, I'm going to wreck it, and wreck everything!"
Iron Klaus held up his palm and an ominous whining noise started emanating from it, rising in pitch and volume. "Oh, and by the way congrats John and Carlie, nothing personal you guys."
Strop sighed as he poofed his banweapon. Around him, the other mods were doing the same. Along with Administrator Cormyn, they stood together, Cenere, Gantic, Devoidless, Nemo, Zophia, Asherlee, Dragonmistress and Moe were at the ready to perform their duty.
"Ha, the way of moderation never ends, does it," Strop huffed, and leapt into the fray.
Posted Jul 13, '13 at 8:28am
Posted Jul 13, '13 at 8:39am
Time To Go
It wasn't as much what she said or how she said or when or what it meant. It was the look on her face when she said it, the way she looked away and wouldn't look him in the eyes at all, how she had been avoiding his gaze since the left the reception for the cool, clear air of late summer with its smell of rich grass and dusty paths and the distinct whiff of new going on, despise the autumn waiting around the corner.
Some things change, and some things don't; the trick is knowing which is which. In the years gone by, the events of the Way of Moderation faded from memories, yet they stayed as vivid as ever in the minds of those who held them. Rather, it was the changing of faces, the gradual exodus through which the collective consciousness which apprehended the spectacle of an age ago was attenuated. The coming and going of generations of users and moderators alike inexorably progressed, until only the faintest of remnants in the form of wizened veterans were left.
Strangely enough, for all the posturing and intention to leave things at a suitable juncture, just one wizened veteran remained, that troublemaker, the eye of the storm, the wannabe-ninja horse Strop. Without intending to, he ended up being the longest residing citizen and moderator in the city (in any contiguous stretch, that was), having stumbled across it just weeks after the city had been declared open, and never abandoning his address within it in the years since. Even after he had lightened his duties to the point of being completely irrelevant, he was still around to witness the mod hurricane that was Cenere and Gantic, the resignation of Cenere after working himself way too hard, the almost militaristic regime that Cormyn established, Cormyn's sudden resignation for the sake of his family, the coming of the second dark age of lawlessness and frequent invasions of spam armies, of darkened and empty streets at times resembling a wintry ghost town, and finally the filling of the Community Administrator position by a small, slinky ferret. And while Carlie and John's happily ever after had only just begun, John had sent shockwaves of disbelief through the community when he tendered his resignation as Developer to Dan, and moved to a newer city. All this, while the promised new land drew closer, but never quite materialised to the public eye.
As peculiar as the details were, the cycles turned like the Earth on its axis, or even the Earth in its orbit around the sun, like the seasons. And in the tentative spring time of the land of ArmorGames, the moderation team had both almost completely switched around and come full circle, for the old guard in the form of his predecessors Asherlee and Moegreche had returned, but the rest of the lineup had changed to include a barbarian (whom Strop thought looked like a giant, jolly version of Dank), a Texas Ranger (who was also a monkey), and an eccentric European (or two, in fact, but one of them looked more like a log of wood wearing a hat, was this some eerie reprise to Estel's people?). Along with them, the laws had changed, the unspoken mystique of moderation so irrevocably altered, that Strop found himself out of touch, as if looking at his title as a foreigner, yet at the same time glad that things had moved on almost without him. The land was in safe hands, and better yet, he didn't have a hand in it.
The biggest difference was, his existence was no longer as solitary as the dubious honour of being practically part of the furniture of Armor Castle suggested. Mod or not, he had friends, and friendly faces which greeted him wherever he went. It was a far cry from the Strop who scurried through the city gates under the cover of darkness, clad in all black. And so it was today that he was walking up the Main Street, bags in hand, and-
"You're not in your ninja clothes today," Cenere said from out of nowhere.
Strop barely managed not to startle, then turned to look at Cen. "Yeah no, I'm not." Now suddenly conscious of the fact, he started smoothing his hands over his vest and dress shirt. "This is my working gear. You know, for doctoring."
"Haven't you already been doctoring for two years?"
Strop glared at Cen. "You could at least offer to carry some of my bags."
Cen actually smiled at this, although it was more like an evil smile of taking candy from a baby: "I'm not strong like you. I don't know if I could carry what you've got in there given you've been packing them for like three ye- oof!"
The "oof" was because Strop had just thrown one of his bags at Cen. A lack of crater with Cen sprawling at the bottom of it was proof enough that there wasn't really all that much in it.
"Anyway, I guess you'll be going now." Cen readjusted his glasses. Strop blinked.
"Yeah. Actually, that reminds me." He fiddled momentarily:
With that, he hoisted his bags over his shoulder and started walking again, before he paused. "Anyway, how come you're back? You quit ages ago."
Cen waved dismissively, "Oh, I was just dropping by. Seeing how things were going. You know."
For some reason, Strop found himself chuckling. "Yeah. I know."
The gate clanged shut behind Strop, and declared him logged out. Was it for the last time? Surely not, like Cenere, and many of the other veterans, there would always be something drawing him back. This place was, at least at some point in time, a place that they all called home, even if they had originated from yonder, and had moved on or even gone back to said yonder. Whether they too would return to visit, like Cenere had, was up to them. In his case, an occasional visit really didn't represent much of a change at all from the usual programming.
No, the real difference was that his ninja suit was in one of the bags at his side. Maybe someday, he might don the mask again and soar over rooftops once more in the quest for great justice. But he didn't know when, nor did he need to, because right now, more than ever, he knew where he was going, and what he had to do, and the very first thing out of all of those, was to put one hoof in front of the other. And in his heart of hearts he hoped that maybe a seed of this same determination had started to sprout in the lives that had been touched, or rather, sucked in, chewed up and spat out by the madness that was the Way of Moderation.
After all, one could always hope.
The Way of Moderation Epilogue: Team Edward or Team Leon?
“Hey Ed.” Leon said, stepping into the clearing. His shining armor and dark blue cloak stood out against the green-brown backdrop of the forest. Beneath a tree sat what one could only describe frankly as Bruce Lee with an octopus for a head. He wore black pants and kung fu shoes with a black and red sash. His muscular chest was bare, rising and falling with his breath.
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