Modesties Retreat

It was soon time for the Dogs to leave Bridal Falls, and they set off towards the next town on their list, Modesties Retreat, to see if they can find out what is happening there.  As they head out of the city they see no sign of Temperance, as she is already taken and the wheels set in motion for her beginning journey in to the world of a Dog.  Once again it is only the three Dogs that ride.

The journey is an easy one, with most of the road well travelled, and many areas well guarded.  Fortunately the destination is not a long journey away, and within a few days they see the top of a holy building standing high nestled amongst the craggy peaks of the mountains.

The Dogs find Modesties Retreat nestled with its back against the mountains, with its only opening leading from a crevasse.  The Dogs carefully cross the bridge spanning the narrowest part of the crevasse, with the trail most of the rest of the way following along side a clear stream.  They find the town walled and gated with some sort of black ashen material, with symbols of the King of Life carved upon.  The walls are more for a symbolic, voluntary isolation from the surroundings, than any sort of fortification.

Upon seeing the three watch Dogs ride up, an apprentice steward quickly un-bars the gate and allows them in to the grounds of Modesties Retreat.  A few fields of hardy crops can be seen growing within.  Apart from the obvious large monastery building in the centre, which is unusually constructed of bricks, there are a few other smaller buildings scattered about, some living quarters, or for live stock.  From what can be seen, this place would not be reliant on its own supplies alone, it could manage if pushed, but it must take in supplies from other towns.

The simply dressed apprentice steward in his brown robes bows, and asks if he can help the Dogs as they enter.  Ambrose asks what news there is from this outpost town, and he is informed that the eighth debate will be commencing the following evening.

The Dogs ride on in, and as they get closer to the monastery building they can see the different bricks that it is made from, which goes with the tales that are told of how this building was created.  It was created from each person that came to worship back in the very early days from the east, bringing with them each a brick that they left behind to symbolise them leaving behind their old sinful ways.  The wooden doors to the building look the newest part, formed from a different coloured wood to the rest.

Upon the step to the monastery they see a dark figure sat, a large black Stetson hat upon his head, pulled low over his face, only his mouth and chin visible, his mouth busy chewing on something, the guy wearing a rough brown jacket and leggings with a pistol lying across hip.  Ambrose nods his head in greeting at this stranger, and the guy tips his hat in response, “Watch Dogs eh!”

Ambrose asks this strange if he is here to study the faith, but gets a straight no, then after a pause a follow on stating that he does his bit for the faith.  Ambrose asks what this bit would be, to which the response is, “Getting paid at the end of it.”  Ambrose asks another question wishing to know his name; the guy chews on whatever in his mouth for a bit then spits it out into his hand, “They call me Will.  Why do you ask?”  Ambrose tells him that he has an attitude that doesn’t fit around here, asking if he is a mercenary.  Will replies that he prefers the term independent operator.  Will goes on to explain that not everyone has a watch Dog to watch over them, and the sister here needed someone to bring the judicator, the problem was that the judicator was preaching to “us heathen.”  And he was told by the judicator that if he could get him here without any bandits touching him, that Will would get a nice bonus.  Will tells the Dogs that he will be happy to get back to a place that will sell him liquor.  Jesse asks him where he is from, and after a few quick exchanges of macho banter Will tells them the place is called New Amsterdam.  Before departing Will asks the Dogs their names, which they each give him.

Within the monastery the building has a big open space with pillars running down the sides and wide arches in the ceiling.  There are a fare few people busy within, one of which comes over to them as they enter, asking if they need any assistance.  Ambrose asks the man who must be in his early twenties and is dressed in black robes, a Book of Life clasped in his hand, who is in charge.  Ambrose is told that Arch-steward Archibald would be the person to see.  Ambrose thanks him for the information, telling him that it would probably be best not to disturb him for now.  The guy then asks Ambrose if he would like to see the Priory steward or the Priory sister, they are probably busy getting themselves ready for tomorrow’s debate, but he is sure that they will give them their time.  Ambrose asks the guy about this debate.  He is informed that it is a debate over an interpretation over some text regarding the aspect of the Watch Dogs, and that it has been going on for some time, and that now they have had to have a judicator come in on the debate.  The guy also informs the Dogs that due to having so many apprentice stewards still staying, that the only space available for the Dogs to stay is within the guest quarters.  Ambrose reassures the man that it will be fine, however the man does stutter warning them that they do have a poet staying there.  The man then checks with the Dogs who they would like to meet with before he heads off.  The Dogs confirm that they would like to meet with the Priory steward, who they are told is called Priory Steward Derek.

The three Dogs wait within a small alcove near the monastery; it has a small rock garden with simple plants growing.  Soon a figure waddles in to view as quickly as he can, a bald clean shaven man in grey robes, the robes dragging across the floor with the edges all frayed from constant contact with the ground.  As he nears and stops before the Dogs, he pulls out a hanky and wipes his brow, his breath panting as he calms himself before speaking.  The man apologises for taken so long before coming, he didn’t know straight away that it was watch Dogs waiting for him.  He then introduces himself as Priory Steward Derek, and informs them that he is in charge of the day to day happenings within this monastery.  Ambrose reassures Derek that there is no need to apologise, there is no need for urgency right now.  Derek asks them if they are there about the man that sits out front, not happy with him being there or having to hang around to take Abraham back.

Ambrose addresses him with the problem of having no stewards leaving here.  Derek gets quite worked up on hearing the name Bridal Falls, telling them how lucky they are to have been there and how lovely the place is, before Ambrose cuts him short.  Derek informs them that none of the stewards have left Modesties Retreat for many months now.  They discuss what if any problems there are with the steward leaving, to be told that the Arch steward had made an announcement that none of the apprentice steward shall leave until the dispute has been settled, and they can leave with correct knowledge.  He tells them that his understandings of the texts are correct, and that she is trying to pervert the text. “It has been a couple of months now, and once Priory sister Cleoplas agrees with the interpretation then things can go on once more.”

Joshua asks Derek for how long the debate has been going on, and he is informed that it has been over a year now.  However the announcement regarding the stewards was two months ago.  Derek tells them that he hopes that now they are there, that this debate can be put to bed and her opinion on the matter corrected.  Finally Derek asks them why they are there, to which Ambrose informs him that it is with regards to the stewards, and that his has helped inform them in this.  The Dogs allow him to go back to his research and re-reading of the texts ready again for the next debate.

Soon after Derek leaves, the man from before comes back to them and asks if they would like to be shown to their room or perhaps to the library to read over some of the early texts they have.  However Jesse suggests that it may be a good idea to meet with this Priory sister Cleoplas before the evening arrives.  Ambrose agrees with this idea and the man thinks that an Apostle steward Newton would know where she would be right now as he doesn’t.  So off runs the man to ask Newton.

A young, barely out of his teens, steward, his head freshly shaven, run up to the Dogs, the robes he wear look like they have been worn by many before him.  Slowly bringing up the rear is an elderly lady, her face lined with age especially around the mouth, giving an impression that she is permanently smiling.  Her movement is considerably slow as she walks with an aid of a stick, her hair tied up under a head scarf.  As she approaches she smiles at the three awaiting her as if apologetically.

Ambrose moves to meet her part way, and the others follow suite.  The young Newton beams with pride asking them that they wished to meet with Priory sister Cleoplas, that he had found her in the garden talking with some friends and had asked her to come.  Cleoplas lowers her head in greeting, unable to move herself in to a curtsy.  She excuses herself to find some stone or bench to sit upon.

Cleoplas notices the stern face on Jesse and asks if everything is alright, that she is not in any trouble.  Jesse informs her that there is nothing wrong.  She states more to herself than to anyone there listening, that the Dogs seems to becoming younger each time they visit, or that she must admit that she is getting older.  Cleoplas confirms with Ambrose that she is in fact Priory sister Cleoplas, and that they are the three watch Dogs, Joshua, Jesse, and Ambrose.

They talk about the debate; Cleoplas brings up the subject straight away telling them that she has been informed that they are concerned.  She assures the Dogs that she has tried to suggest to the Arch steward that the apprentices could leave, being sent the correct information later.  Cleoplas corrects Ambrose stating that she had not instructed that the steward should stay, that she or Priory steward Derek only have the power for the day to day running of things, but this authority would be up to the Arch steward Archibald.

Ambrose asks Cleoplas her side of the debate, what her thoughts are in this situation.  She tells them that she believes the watch Dogs reflect what are currently the wishes of the King of Life, and dictate the changes to the new situation to which the world finds itself.  Ambrose asks her if Derek is more of a rigid believer.  Cleoplas tells them that he believes that the Dogs announce what has always been, and any contractions seen are others complete misunderstanding of the King of Life’s wishes.  Cleoplas warns them that to have a proper thorough investigation and understanding could take a few more months.

Cleoplas answers Ambrose that Arch steward Archibald has remained unusually quiet on the matter, telling them that it is up to them to sort the dilemma out.  Jesse asks her if they had gone to Bridal Falls for any help in the matter, but she informs them that Modesties Retreat had the largest collection of old texts, and that it would be ill formed for them to approach Bridal Falls without proper conclusion.

Ambrose tells her how dire the situation is, that they need to have the stewards leaving again.  Cleoplas implores that the watch Dogs to not treat the debate lightly, and she offers that she could show them the texts in the library, and could probably give them a summary in a week.  Ambrose thanks her and suggests that she could do that at a later time.  He then thanks her for her time and offers that she could get back to her research.

The three Dogs head to the guest quarters.  The room they are going to stay in is a very simple small room, with only four plain wooden beds that have a thin blanket stretched across.  A single barred window that allows thin shafts of light to shine through.  Upon one of the beds is a wiry figure dressed all in black, the bed clothes pulled up around him as he is sat on the bed in the corner of the room.  He has an unkempt beard with some writing upon his arm, and seems to be making odd noises as if trying to gnaw off his own arm.

“Ah…be gone, be gone you foul visions, do not haunt me.  There are no watch dogs haunting me, but of my own mind.”  Mutterings come from the corner of the room.

“Evening.”  Jesse offers.

“Ah they talk now, the vision they talk.  I am going mad, it is like the demons are digging in my skull.  Be gone, the King of Life casts you out.  Cast you out once more!”  Jesse walks towards and passes the figure, giving a glancing touch as he goes before sitting opposite the man.

“Ah! Eh….are you angels?  Are you muses? You’re my new muses.”  The guy blabbers on about having a new muse to give him words that can roll from his tongue like the light descending from heaven.  Once he has finished his diatribe Ambrose asks the man of his name, to which he offers the name Poet, “First name The, last name Poet. Mr Poet is fine.” Addressing the three Dogs as muses still, but Ambrose reaffirms to him that in fact they are actual watch Dogs.  The Poet begins to blabber on again about muses and watch Dogs, but then stumbles and goes quiet, stands up and walks over to them, poking them with his out stretched finger.  Ambrose warns him not to do that again.  The Poet walks over to Jesse, his fingers stretched out, but Jesse pushes him away.  Finally he walks over to Joshua and pokes him too.  “Oh! Your actually here.” The Poet slumps down on to his bed, moaning to himself that he has been left alone without no muse, but just three watch Dogs.  Jesse slaps the Poet across the face, and moans of pain come from the poet’s cursed mouth.

Ambrose cuts short the Poets complaints of his poor life, life without a muse or the demon drink, asking him what his thoughts are on the coming debate.  But the Poet only asks in reply what debate!  Jesse asks the Poet why he is there.  He tells him that the stewards here help him with strength to keep away from his muse the demon drink.  The Poet asks the Dogs if they would like him to give verse to their deeds, but Ambrose cuts him short once more telling him to get a proper job, that there are plenty of people that need feeding.  Again the Poet begins to moan of his life and suffering, however Ambrose has none of it and suggests that he uses his legs while he talks.

The three Dogs, now on their own in the room, discuss the situation that has developed here with this debate.  They all agree that they need to get the stewards back out in to the towns again as soon as possible, and secondary they can worry about the situation with this debate.  The stewards can be told about the finer details of the writings after.  The Dogs decide to see what this Arch steward Archibald has to say on the situation.

Within in Arch steward Archibald’s study they find him sat at his desk, an old globe of the world on a stand beside the desk.  Archibald is a very old man, his head shaved just like the rest, but has a very long greying beard that sits down at his waist.  Aged hands rest upon a book that he places upon his desk as he looks up at the three Dogs.  Archibald greets them with a loud booming voice; he welcomes them in to his room.  The Arch steward asks them about them seeing his Priory steward and sister.  Ambrose confirms this telling him that they seem to have a problem with the interpretation of the faith.  Archibald agrees with this saying that they can’t seem to sort it out amongst themselves.  He asks them to come in and close the door behind them, instructing them that it would be good to discuss this in private, his voice booming out.

Archibald asks the Dogs of their thoughts upon what they have seen since they have been here.  Ambrose complements him on his fine town he runs, but tells him his concern of the stewards that are trained here, and not given the chance to go out in to the world to spread the word.  Archibald explains that he wished that the two Priories would have come to some agreements and sorted things out themselves, he thought that putting this weight upon them would give them impudence to resolve the issue and deal with the conflicts between them.  However it only seems to get worse, even after bringing in a judicator the situation has only got more complex and them more residence.  He explains that it is vitally important that they sort this issue out.  Jesse asks him how he feels about town not having a steward of their own, and Archibald is very sorry for his statement and wishes that he had never made the standing, however the wheels are in motion and it would be wrong to go back on his words now.  Archibald explains that he has been told that he has not got long left in this world, then it will pass on to Priory steward Derek to become the Arch steward, the problem is that Derek and Cleopas has never been able to get pass their issues.  He feels that if they can not sort this problem out before he has to go, then this monastery will go to rack and ruin.  All of this was set in motion to strengthen what is to come, but now regrets the action he has taken.  He also tells them of an incidence that has only just happened, of an accident to the caravan that fell in to one of the gullies.  There are more people at the monastery and less food now more than ever.  He shares his fears that having the judicator here was a bad choice, it has only gave them more excuses, using him like a political pawn.

The Dogs tell him that they will listen to their debate and see if they can come to a decision, if not then they will have to help them, and then hastily allow the stewards to leave for the towns that are in need of their help.  Archibald agrees only asking that they do it in such a way as they come to an agreeable compromise themselves.

Back at the guest quarters the Poet is lying on the floor with the bed clothes over his head, mud covering his hands and arms.  The Dogs walk in to find him like this.  Ambrose asks if the man before them is indeed the Poet.  The Poet answers with confirmation bemoaning his lot once more, claiming to tilling the earth with his hands feeling nature around but only being stared at.  Tells the Dogs that the man Abraham had asked him to leave them alone, then a woman asked him to leave, that they wish to discuss tomorrow’s debate.  Ambrose asks the Poet where he had last seen Abraham and Cleopas, and is told that they were in the garden.

The garden is located within the centre of the monastery with a few pillars up around the edge.  A young man walks out whistling to himself, mud on his shoes, wearing a long steward’s robe with many pockets, all with different quills and writing implements.  He stops upon seeing the Dogs walking towards him, he tells them that he had heard that there were some watch Dogs here, and he introduces himself as Abraham.

Ambrose greets Abraham and informs him that they have come to see him, which they wish to know his view on the debate, and what his position is on the debate.  He assures them that he is there to try and listen to their sides of the argument and help eliminate any discrepancies.  He tells them that how things are going that there is easily another month to go.  Jesse asks him how long he has been here, Abraham tells him a month, and Jesse asks how many debates he has sat on, to which he is told four.  Jesse asks where he comes from, and Abraham tells them that he stewards down in Clement Reach, but he was on a pilgrimage amongst the heathens when he was called upon.

The Dogs and Abraham discuss the problem with the debate, Abraham asking them t hat it would be good for them to stay and confirm the out come of the debate, but Ambrose assures him that they do not have the time to spend, to which Abraham looks some what relieved.  Ambrose tells him that they may need to speed up the process, and this time Abraham looks somewhat pained by this.  Jesse asks him what he plans to do once he has finished with this debate.  Abraham tells them that he will probably go back to Clement Reach, to purify himself back with his flock, a smile on his face.

Abraham also believes that the steward should be allowed to leave, and he feels that this debate is very important, that needs to be seen to its end.  They all bid their farewells for the evening, and Abraham heads off to his quarters, while the Dogs go back to the guest quarter and the resident Poet.

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One thought on “Modesties Retreat

  1. If you like strategy games, even in a vague, general sense, then Go is a great game. The rules are simple enough for kids to understand, but the strategy CAN be complex enough for people to spend their whole lives working on it. I say CAN be that complex, because it really depends how seriously the players want to take it.

    If you’re looking for a lifelong hobby, this is the game for you. OR, if you don’t want to take it seriously at all, and don’t really care about deep strategies… well, this is STILL the game for you. Whether or not you’ll have fun playing go, really only depends on whether or not both players have more or less the same mindset (otherwise the person taking it seriously will simply slaughter the person not taking it seriously, every time, which probably won’t be much fun for that other person.)

    Go is a great game for most ages, and pretty much people of all levels of “taking it seriously”. Go is very flexible that way. In fact, since you can actually study this game, you can even work out go problems all by yourself, making it a possible solitary activity for people who like brainy things. (You can get books of go problems to work out on the board, or re-play the games of professionals to improve your own understanding, both of which are solitary activities.) Some strange ducks even like playing against themselves. ^_-

    THAT BEING SAID…

    For some people, about half or three quarters of the enjoyment of playing a game (especially an ancient game like this) comes from the quality and looks of the equipment, and the ease of use, such as comfort of the size of the equipment when playing. If you don’t care about stuff like that, then this board might do for you. For others, playing on something much smaller than “the real thing” can really cut down or ruin the experience of the game itself. (And you really do not have to be rich to get a “nice” set, either. If by nice, you mean something simply something full sized and not embarrassing to look at.)

    What about a set like this?

    Sets like this are typically very, very small. The board is small, the pieces are small… so basically, it’s “ladies and gentlemen, find your tweezers.” The experience playing with a set like this, therefore, is really something quite different from sitting at a full-sized board with full-sized pieces… even if you put aside the quality of the full-sized equipment. Keep in mind a “REAL” go board is a really fat, short TABLE, made of wood, designed with even acoustics in mind! Compare that to something like a travel set or this set, and it’s going to feel like a totally different atmosphere.

    If you can’t stand it when the pieces are even remotely small, then this, and sets like it, are probably not for you. If you don’t care about size, then this may suit your needs. But for someone like me, who is keenly aware of the equipment being used (even if I don’t HATE small pieces, per se), it may be the difference between feeling like you’re playing with a toy, or like you’re playing a respectable old game for all ages.

    Now for something beginners may not know.

    There are also actually THREE sizes of go board that are pretty much universally recognized: 9×9, 13×13 and 19×19. The 19×19 is the “real” size… the board professionals play, but the smaller boards are more suitable for beginners, and probably for young children. More standard-sized pieces could also be less of a choking hazard, and easier for kids and adults alike to handle. But the 9×9 and 13×13 boards are often used by (and recommended for) beginners or children… who, even if they take the game dead-seriously, would then need to work on their basic skills before starting on broader strategy (full board).

    ALSO, consider what you really want from this game. Is it for you, or for your kids? Is it something you’ll take seriously, or just use to pass the time? … then consider your other options than this set:

    1. smaller grids (9×9 or 13×13)… which are cheaper than the 19×19 boards, even when made of wood.
    2. plastic rather than glass, marble or shell pieces. Plastic pieces come in regular size, but may be better for kids to play with than say, glass pieces. also less breakable!

    OR, if you don’t care about size or quality at all, what about…

    3. Roll-up boards, or printed and laminated paper boards… You’d only have to buy good pieces then!
    4. travel or magnetic sets, which would be cheaper than this board, albeit smaller. Yellow Mountain Imports sells a nice 11″ magnetic set for $11.99 without shipping, last time I saw it.

    FINAL CONCLUSION:

    Sets like these are a cheap, “hassle free” way to get everything you need to play or try the game… but then so are magnetic sets for nearly half this price.

    However, if you are sensitive to aesthetics and quality, and you want something that feels and looks nicer to play with, or that gives something more of the “real” experience of the game, then you might want to consider buying the board and pieces separately. There are fairly cheap wooden boards (albeit thin and sometimes unfinished), that are full size, and offer a pretty good experience, even if they’re far from top-of-the-line. And I’ve seen pieces for $7.99!

    Really, though, the bottom line is the matter of what will suit your personal needs. The answer will be different if it’s you or your kids, if you’re picky or not picky, if you’re poor or rolling in cash. In at least some of those cases, this kind of set is not exactly the best you can do, even for the money. Go “sets” in general, tend to be smaller scale, with smaller pieces. A set like this is “quick and easy” … but experience may suffer for it’s smallness, and kids may loose the smaller pieces easily. Smaller children may even be overwhelmed by the size of the board, and the freedom of the play on a full-sized board. So whether or not this set will do for you will depend on what you are looking for personally, how much you can spend, and what, if anything, you’re willing to overlook.

    I’m not trying to bash this set at all, really. Just saying that size may be an issue for some people, and that there are many things to consider in one’s choice. But as a go set, I’d give it three stars, ONLY because it’s both smaller than normal, and obviously also a low quality set (as they go in the full range of equipment). For some people, it may be absolutely fine to suit their personal taste or needs. Low quality doesn’t always mean a bad experience. For many people, after all, wood is just wood, and pieces are pieces, and size doesn’t matter at all.

Hope you enjoyed the post & please feel free to add a comment.

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