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819 I Make This Look Easy

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About BKWildenberg

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  1. Yup, what CassieQ said. We use it today to specifically talk about the period of history between Revolutionary War and Civil War. It’s therefore pretty much impossible to separate it from slavery, as that was the reason for most of the South’s economy. If you’re specifically looking at Antebellum architecture, remember who built those houses, and why the owners had the money to do so in the first place.
  2. This and Everwild were the games that caught my attention the most during the showcase. That magic animation was NEAT
  3. It’s been a while since I’ve drawn anything. Still working through some tutorial videos, still trying to figure out my style. I wanted to try and make some different shaped faces today, so here’s Ronnie & Taran! It occurred to me that I’ve given Taran 90s heartthrob hair, but I have no regrets. EDITED: I got some coloring done today, so I thought I would include that as well!
  4. Thanks for catching! I fixed it in my master file, but it must not have made it over when I copied into the editor.
  5. Taran started pretty young, so he was kind of a Robin to Nightwing situation. And people still get his wrong!
  6. Thanks for reading, I really appreciate it!
  7. Interesting Tidbit: The name “Rampart” and the force field powerset have been rattling around in my head since a college Mutants & Masterminds campaign in 2007. Various iterations were also created in the RPG City of Heroes (RIP, what a great game). I first attempted/abandoned a story about a character with the same powers back in 2010, but he had different first name and backstory. Ronnie came to be in 2017, and has slowly formed into disaster you all know and love It’s been *13 YEARS* since that tabletop campaign, and I finally got to write the name down. Crazy!
  8. The next two months flew by as Ronnie fell into a routine as a member of the Syndicate of Heroes. Training became more structured, and he spent every weekend at headquarters learning how to better use his powers. Taran had once told him that superpowers were strengthened by routine exercise. However, Ronnie was still surprised at how rote and repetitive the process often was. Every morning started with guided meditation alongside a Syndicate trainer, all with the goal of teaching Ronnie concentration and greater mastery over his powers. It was a struggle for him to sit in the quiet room without having his mind wander, and while his progress felt aggravatingly slow at times, it was certainly noticeable. Reaching for his power became second nature, allowing him to call up small force fields with ease. Defensive maneuvers that once took time and focus rushed from his body like flipping on a switch. As it turned out, superpowers are more of an art than a science, and Ronnie was continually learning new things through trial and error. Taran had a hypothesis that Ronnie's force fields were stronger with physical contact, which lead to him facing off against a myriad of attacks. Thankfully, Taran had been correct. Doctor Peters excitedly documented everything for the case file and was kept up to date as his power readings advanced. She was also meticulous in strategizing around weaknesses in his skill set. Though Ronnie had discovered a degree of telekinesis during his first lesson with Maya, there turned out to be some considerable limitations. As long as an object was already airborne, he could throw a force field around it for easy manipulation. However, Ronnie couldn't form full constructs around anything with too much contact with the ground or another surface. He was able to pick a tennis ball up off a table, but something like a cinder block was nearly impossible. And then there were the energy bolts. Right away, Ronnie was assigned to projectile lessons with Coldsnap, a veteran hero with the ability to form weapons out of ice. She encouraged him to experiment with the size and shape of his constructs. "Vary your tactics," she told him, "And you'll be able to adapt to any situation." This had led to hours of study in a room that looked like a futuristic shooting range. Silver robots followed paths drawn on the floor, moving targets for heroes practicing ranged attacks. Taking Coldsnap's advice, Ronnie learned to fine-tune his techniques for the situation at hand. Thin, narrow constructs could hit targets at a high velocity, punching through armor and stout defenses. On the other hand, wider, blunt force fields were capable of knocking down enemies or breaking walls. These fast, distant constructs still required an immense amount of concentration, and Ronnie wasn't able to fire off very many projectiles before he had to fall back and rest. In addition to working on his power set, Taran had assigned Ronnie to athletic classes every day. He had stressed that no matter what powers a hero had, they also had to rely on physical strength. Especially if they found themselves in a situation without their abilities. The trainers kept the routines varied, and whether it was hand to hand combat, weight training, or endurance drills, Ronnie was pushed to his limit. All the hard work had its benefits, though, and he was excited to see improvement in his fitness and skills. His muscles were getting toned, and he really liked the physical changes that he saw. There was still a long way to go before he won any fighting competitions, but Ronnie was happy to feel more hardened and capable than he had on his first day. Ronnie's favorite assignments were the twice-weekly group sessions he had with other Syndicate trainees. In these classes, the small groups learned different battlefield tactics and needed to work together to meet an objective. The exercise varied each class, but all reflected different scenarios they could expect to encounter in the field. One day it involved infiltrating a secured location to capture a flag; the next, rescuing hostages and evacuating them to a safe area. In these exercises, Ronnie learned even more about his strengths and weaknesses. He always scored well when protecting civilians; his force fields utilized in a variety of ways. In stealth missions, however, he lagged behind. All of his powers generated too much light, which quickly gave away his location. Ronnie found himself relying on his other skills, as well as his teammates in order to succeed. Ronnie's team consisted of three other people. One of them was Maya, who jumped back into field training with enthusiasm ever since the failed mission with Taran at the museum. Ronnie loved watching her work, using her beaded necklace as a sort of utility belt. The departed souls trapped within allowed her to tap into incredible power. She could melt into shadows, summon shadow monsters, and manipulate magical energies. Magic could be finicky, and complicated spells left her vulnerable. Ronnie was always there to make sure she had cover. If he was a fortress, she was the cannon. As Maya grew stronger, the more unruly spirits locked in the necklace began to give her a begrudging level of respect and were more willing to lend their aid. Also on his team was Ari, a younger boy who had the strength and speed of a tiger. He also resembled one with shaggy dark orange hair that striped to black around his face. Ari was sharp and angular, with pointed ears and yellow eyes. His divergent appearance left him shy around new people, but he quickly warmed up to the group and was soon telling jokes with a toothy grin. Ari was seventeen and spent the summer in Liberty City training at the headquarters. Like Taran, he was also a legacy student. His father was a retired Syndicate hero, and many members of his family had similar feline characteristics, the result of a genetic mutation that stretched back generations. It left them with exceptional hearing and vision, as well as enhanced strength and agility. Ari was fast, fought with sharp claws, and his natural gymnastic abilities allowed him to leap high into the air. He served as the team's primary physical fighter, and they depended on his brute strength to overcome many obstacles. The team's final member was Carmen, who had the ability to focus and project waves of heat and light. These blasts could be used to disable enemies with dazzling light displays or be concentrated until they became white-hot lasers. Carmen was tall and blonde and liked to spend her time chatting with the group of boys that seemed to follow her everywhere. In her former life, Carmen had been something of a starlet — a pop singer with a handful of popular songs, well on her way to a life of fame when a tour bus accident awakened her powers. Suddenly possessing abilities, Carmen threw herself headfirst into Syndicate training, determined that if she wasn't going to be famous as a pop star, she would be a superhero. So far, she had been hugely successful in her endeavors and was the most talented hand to hand fighter on the team. Ronnie knew he was in trouble any time he had to spar with her. Manipulating the light around her as she fought, he often found himself blinded as well beaten up. Carmen's fame when she arrived at the Syndicate made it hard for her to connect to others, but Ronnie found that she was a fiercely loyal teammate. She had also taken the time early on to check in and see how he was adjusting to Syndicate life. As someone who also discovered her powers through trauma, she related to the dark experience. Ronnie was touched at the gesture, and they became fast friends. Every trainee team needed a sponsor, and Taran had stepped up to the challenge. In that role, he oversaw their daily exercises, managed individual training plans, and tracked their progress. As a leader, his expectations were high, and the team did their best every day to meet them. Ronnie often found himself pushed to the limit, but ultimately able to reach the goals that Taran was setting. The team was gathered in a small classroom after another successful training scenario. Taran liked to take this time to debrief the exercise: highlight what went well and always had a list of things that could be improved. Ronnie slumped in his chair, exhausted from the day. In true cat fashion, Ari was already asleep in his spot, a hoodie covering his face. Maya and Carmen chatted excitedly about something, but Ronnie wasn't able to make out the whispers. Taran finally arrived and walked to the front of the room. His amber eyes twinkled with excitement, and Ronnie wondered just what he was up to. "You all did well today!" He started. "I've been reviewing the reports, and I'm happy to say that I've been given the green light for your next assignment, and it's a big one." He had the attention of all four trainees now. What did he mean, exactly? "Your next assignment is to register your official codename in the Syndicate roster." The team exchanged surprised glances. This was a huge deal and something they had been wondering about for some time. "Now, I don't want to stress you out, but please take this seriously," Taran continued. "The name you pick will become your public identity, and rebranding yourself is hard. There's no guarantee your new name will catch on, and you don't want to be stuck answering to Weather Boy your entire career." Ronnie stifled a laugh, but the message was clear: Don't pick a lame superhero name. Maya was the first to have a name, one she had already been using on missions with the Magic Division. "Sister Shadow," she told them. "The necklace spirits have been calling me that for a while, so I figured it was appropriate." "Call me Battle Cat!" Ari had announced the next morning at breakfast. "Uh, you know, on account of the battling and stuff." He flexed his fingers, sharp claws extending from the tips of his fingers. "And I'm Phosphra," Carmen declared. "It's thematically appropriate, and will also look killer on merchandise! Branding is essential, after all. "The group turned to Ronnie, waiting for his announcement. "I, I need more time to think about it," he stammered. Ronnie had spent the night wide awake, thinking long and hard on a name that he wanted to use. He needed something memorable, that reflected the hero he hoped to one day be. Unfortunately, inspiration was slow to come, and his indecision was starting to cause anxiety. The weekend passed with no ideas, and on Monday night, Ronnie found himself lying in Taran's bed and staring at the ceiling. City lights peeked through the closed curtains while Taran snored softly next to him. Ronnie lazily reached up towards the ceiling and created a construct. Spreading his fingers wide caused the shimmering energy to flatten out and slowly rotate in the air. After weeks of projectiles and heavy-duty force fields, he found it relaxing to just slow down and play a bit. Ronnie's narrowed in on the bottom of the construct and shrank it down to a point. A shape that reminded him of an old knight's shield floated above him. Ronnie smiled, pleased with his precision, but also at how the image felt right. His dream as a hero was to protect the innocent. His powers literally shielded others from harm, and it was what he was best at. An idea sparked. "Babe, I got it!" He nudged Taran, too excited to wait until morning. "Wha? Got what?" Taran rubbed his eyes and rolled over groggily. "Ack, that's bright!" "I've got my name. It's Rampart." He looked over with a smile, watching in earnest as Taran mulled it over. "Like the wall of a fortress?" "Exactly!" "Honestly, it's a perfect fit."
  9. Now he just needs to get his parents in the same room!
  10. Ronnie has trouble with letting his mind wander, and has never had a reason to ‘conceal, don’t feel’ in his life, haha. Hopefully something he can learn to work on! Of course, Maya being sober might help too...
  11. It wasn’t a long walk from the trainee dorms to the permanent apartments, but Ronnie took his time. He had even planned to be fashionably late. “You’re still annoyed with him, remember?” He told himself. “It’s not cute to come off desperate.” Was it petty? Absolutely. But Ronnie decided that Taran could cool off a bit. The rest of his day had been a bit of a blur. He was wiped from the flight training, but he had also been preoccupied with replaying the morning’s events with Taran again and again. One moment they were making out — Taran even initiated! — and the next, he was pushed away to watch his boyfriend run out of the room. Everything was hot or cold, and Ronnie found that he was having a hard time keeping up with it. So when Taran called asking him to come for dinner, it was a surprise. He hadn’t expected to hear from him for the rest of the day, at least until he had time to recover from his panic. “Maybe he’s getting better about this after all,” Ronnie thought. “Besides, it’ll be nice to have an evening alone.” He pushed the buzzer at Taran’s apartment and was startled when Maya opened the door. “Ronnie!” She called excitedly, voice echoing in the hallway. “I’m so happy you could make it!” Taran noticed that Maya’s cheeks were a bright red, and she was even more animated than usual. “Um, Hi, Maya. I didn’t realize you’d be joining us…” “Taran is taking care of dinner because he owes me for sticking up for him at the debrief today. I brought wine! You should have some.” She stood away from the doorway and gestured with a grand flourish. Ronnie stepped into the apartment, immediately struck by how cozy everything was. He hadn’t been invited over yet and had been dying to see what the place looked like. It fit Taran’s personality perfectly. Everything seemed to have a home and was orderly, but not sterile. The warm scent of garam masala wafted from the kitchen area. Taran looked up from the stove and gave a wave. “Make yourself at home! Please have some wine, if only to keep Maya from drinking it all. Dinner should be ready in just a bit. This has been simmering all afternoon.” He threw a couple more things in the pot and resumed stirring. “Yes, come, Ronald, have a drink with me.” Maya patted the spot next to her on the couch. Ronnie laughed. “It’s Reynold, actually. If we want to get technical about it.” “Hold up, really?!” Taran looked up from the stove. “I would have never guessed!” “Ooooh, you’re so fancy! Well, REYNOLD, let’s catch up.” Ronnie shot Taran a look, but he only shrugged. Maya was on her way to one hell of a hangover, and it was pretty hilarious. He settled in on the couch with a glass and listened to Taran and Maya banter back and forth. The atmosphere was warm and friendly, and his irritation about the morning was melting away. Ronnie couldn’t remember the last time he had just hung out with friends. Ignore the fact they all had superpowers, and it was downright ordinary, the most normal teenage thing he had done in ages. His eyes landed on Taran as he moved about the kitchen. He was wearing a crisp white apron over a deep red button-down, sleeves rolled neatly up to his elbows. It was clear he had put in some effort to look nice for the evening, which Ronnie thought was sweet. He watched Taran’s angular face break into a smile, brown eyes sparkling as he laughed at something Maya had said. Taran had had his fair share of wine as well, and a flush was settling into his cheeks. Ronnie couldn’t get over how adorable he looked. Maya made a choking noise into her wine glass. “Okay, I gotta say something,” she placed her glass on the table and turned to face him. “Ronnie, you are an absolute sweetheart, and definitely a welcome relief from Mr. Emotionally-Stunted over there,” she gestured dismissively towards Taran. “But we have got to do something about the way you broadcast your emotions for everyone to hear.” Ronnie instinctively glanced at Taran, suddenly tense. Oh shit. “Relax pal, I already know.” She smiled and tried not to look too flustered. “You know?! How?” “I’ve had my suspicions for a bit, but your tangle of thoughts from this morning confirmed it.” “Woah, that’s kind of invasive, isn’t it?” Ronnie complained. “Believe me, I’m as thrilled about it as you are. I try really hard to keep from poking around in other people’s thoughts. It’s polite, and it keeps me from getting grossed out. That being said… extreme emotions tend to find me before I can block them out. You,” Maya put a hand on his arm, “You, Reynold, are psychically the loudest person I’ve ever met.” “Oh god, I’m really sorry, Maya, I didn’t know.” She waved his apology away. “No, no. Don’t ever be sorry for wearing your heart on your sleeve.” She turned to glare towards the kitchen and declared pointedly, “Lord knows we could all do a little more of that!” Ronnie smiled into his wine glass. Taran sighed as he lifted the large pot from the stove. “As much as I hate to change the subject, it’s time to eat!” Ronnie approached the table and peered into the pot. The yellow, spicy-smelling stew was steaming. “This smells amazing!” “Thanks! It’s an old family recipe. It’s also Maya’s favorite, so I have to make it when I owe her a favor.” “Which is often, because I am a steadfast and loyal friend!” She replied with a cackle, pouring more wine into everyone’s glass. They got situated around the small dining table. Taran dutifully served the curry over piles of fragrant rice. Ronnie noticed that instead of digging in, he was staring into his wine glass, brow furrowed. “Everything okay?” Ronnie nudged him. “Hmm?” Taran snapped back to the present. “Oh, sorry. I was just thinking…” he cleared his throat. “I wanted to thank both of you for sticking with me as I work through all of this. I’m sure it hasn’t been easy. And I’m sorry if I ever made you doubt yourself.” Ronnie felt a flutter at the words. This was the side of Taran he had been missing. The side that didn’t feel the need to take on the world’s problems all by himself. That had room for other people to help shoulder the load in an equal partnership. “I still need to be able to tell my parents on my own terms. My family is scattered, not to mention messy, so it may take a while. But as far as I’m concerned, the most important person in my life already knows.” Maya tried to cover up a sniffle. “This isn’t fair!” She whined, her chin quivering. “You’re finally being real about your feelings, which just makes him even mushier than he already was!” “Hey, you said that was a good thing!” Ronnie stuck out his tongue at her. Maya waved him away as she dabbed at her eyes. The conversation turned to lighter topics. When dinner was over, Taran and Ronnie sent Maya on her way with a to-go container. “See you tomorrow, drink some water before bed!” Taran called after her. The door slid shut, and he sighed. “What a night, huh?” He wrapped his arms around Ronnie’s waist. “How are you feeling?” “Honestly? Like a weight’s been lifted.” “I’m glad to hear it. Things will only get better from here, I promise.” “You know? I think you might be right,” Taran leaned in and gave Ronnie a light kiss. “Stay with me tonight?” Ronnie took a step back, quizzical. He had fully expected to sleep in the dorms tonight. After all, failing to return to his room would only raise questions. “Are you sure?” “I’ve never been more sure about anything in my life.”
  12. BKWildenberg

    The Story

    Oh Thorn, this was so great. All of the iconic themes of HP Lovecraft, but with none of the gross baggage. He would have HATED that you made gay characters, and I think you should be really proud of that. The island is obviously bleak, but still beautiful in a sad way. I had a feeling there wasn’t going to be a happy ending, but it fit perfectly. Well done!
  13. Gay Lovecraftian horror! The classic themes and inspirations for this story are instantly recognizable, and Thorn’s done a great job of steeping this story in a specific time and place. Bleak imagery and a haunting build-up.
  14. Maya has done this song and dance before. But she might be starting to get her way a bit.
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