Blue Rose

The following is extra-canonical setting information for my Blue Rose campaign. 

Origins of the Sovereign’s Finest

The roots of the Sovereign’s Finest are in the scouts set to watch along the Icebinder Mountains in the aftermath of the Kernish invasion, and the tradition of royal envoys sent out to negotiate or investigate on the Crown’s behalf. Established by Queen Alia, the two halves of the Finest weren’t truly merged until the reign of King Rikin.

As a result of King Valin’s corruption, more than half of the Finest along the northern borders had refused to follow the King’s Orders. In the aftermath of Valin’s fall, King Rikin expanded the mandate of the Finest beyond the border watch. With their fidelity to the ideals of Aldis proven, he expanded the role of the Finest into a mandate to look out for Aldis and her people, wherever that duty might take them. It was at this time that the term Envoy was applied to the Finest, although it has become common to refer to even the earliest members of the Finest as envoys.

The Making of an Envoy

With the increased responsibilities, the training and selection of the Finest become more rigorous. Originally composed of scouts, adepts, and warriors willing to serve along the border with Kern, the Envoys were now charged with broad ranging and often nuanced duties. What began as an informal request by the King to senior members of the Finest to send qualified candidates to the city of Aldis for consideration as envoys rapidly became custom, and eventually law.

Any member of the Finest may choose to sponsor candidates for membership. The next steps depend on the candidate; in the time of King Issik one candidate was sponsored in the morning, and inducted later that same day. Some candidates remain with their sponsors for years, training in the field, and only travel to Aldis when their sponsor believes that they are ready for induction. Others may be sent directly to the Hall of Envoys to study while their sponsor continues their duties. There are still stories told of the Rhy-horse Dellaran who chose to travel across Aldis looking for troubled adolescents in need of a challenge, and routinely would arrive at the Court to drop off a young student, and then head out again, leaving the rest of the training in the hands of the Director. Whatever the path taken for any candidate, by the time they are considered for induction they have a solid understanding of both the laws of the Kingdom of the Blue Rose, and of the cultures and subcultures that are part of it.

Candidates must have a sponsor at all times. Should their sponsor reject them, or otherwise be unable to continue, a candidate will be removed from consideration if no other Envoy is willing to step in as sponsor. Candidates are considered for induction when any Envoy is willing to put them forward, even if their sponsor disagrees. The final determination was originally made by the Sovereign, but towards the end of the reign of Queen Larai, that responsibility was passed to the Director. Queen Jaellin restored the original policy, and at this time Envoys are inducted after review by the Director and the Queen.

Thorns of the Rose

If the Sovereign’s Finest are the voice and hands of the Crown, the Thorns are the eyes and the ears. These agents of the Kingdom work in secret, reporting only to the Director of the Finest. Their identities are secret even from the Crown, and revealed only when absolutely necessary.

There is a small garden just outside the Hall of Envoys, with an empty mausoleum, and a simple marble altar in front of it. Whenever a Thorn returns to the Wheel, a single rose is placed on the altar. White when the agent died from natural causes, or in the line of duty. Red, if the agent was inadvertently slain by an agent of the Crown. It is said that the Director plants a rose bush in the name of each agent, and that each plant only flowers once before dying.

 

Easy Rolls (Gluten-Free, Low Carbohydrate Quick Bread)

This is a fairly simple recipe for a quickbread, but it does require one unusual ingredient.

The base of this is the curds from clabbered Kefir. Simply let a live culture Kefir (the final liquid, not the mother colonies that you use to make it) sit out at room temperature for a day, and clabber up. Then drain the whey from the resulting curds.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup Golden Flax Meal
  • 1 cup clabbered Kefir curds (loosely packed)
  • 2 cups Almond Flour
  • 1 tsp Sea Salt (fine)
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 TBSP Double acting Baking Powder
  • 1/4 cup (one stick) unsalted Butter

Instructions:

Oil a pan (either of these works well) with a little bit of a neutral oil. Heat the oven to 325 degrees (300 if you are using a Convection oven).

Combine the flax meal, curds, almond flour, eggs, and salt in a mixing bowl, and mix well.

Melt the butter.

Add the Baking Powder to the batter, and mix well. Then immediately, add the melted butter, and again, blend well.

Divide the batter equally into the wells in the pan (this recipe will fill either of the two pans listed above).

Bake for 45 minutes. Remove from the oven, and immediately remove from the pan and onto a cooling rack.

A somewhat traditional untraditional Hanukkah gift…

Just before Thanksgiving in 2013 (which was, in a fit of calendrical oddities, also the start of Hanukkah in 5774), we took in a Final Refuge dog from Old Dog Haven.

gracedogbed

We lost Grace to cancer in September. She had a rough life for a long time, but she had a good three years at the end.

This afternoon, Old Dog Haven posted a plea for another Dachshund in need of a home. So, for Hanukkah 5777, tomorrow morning we’re off to the shelter again.

—-

Old Dog Haven exists to ensure that dogs do not end their lives in shelters for the crime of being old. There is no shelter, the dogs are all in family homes, and almost all of the dogs in care (more than 300 at last count) are, like the dogs in this post, considered Final Refuge Dogs. They will not be adopted out, they are instead placed in permanent homes, and Old Dog Haven pays the veterinary bills for them for the rest of their lives.

Old Dog Haven foster homes are limited to Western Washington, but the organization depends on contributions from around the world. I urge anyone interested to do what we did, and what I would recommend doing for any charity, and request a copy of the 990. You will find the overhead costs are extraordinarily low, with almost all of the money going to pay for veterinary bills and medication for the animals. As I said when we got Grace, “The line of people at the shelter saying ‘That one, the sick neglected one with the four figure vet bill, that’s the one I want’ was, well, Old Dog Haven.”

Old Dog Haven was recently featured on The Today Show.

Hot and Sour Soup

Hot and Sour Soup

I was surprised to see that I had never migrated this over from my old web site. In 1997, we were living in rural Central Virginia, just outside of Charlottesville, and I had not been able to find any place that had a decent Hot and Sour Soup. So I scoured the Internet for some ideas, and then spent the weekend mixing and matching and tweaking until I ended up with exactly what I wanted. A complex sour soup, with a slow building relatively mild heat.

Base Ingredients:

  • 40-42oz of Chicken Broth
  • 1 lb Extra Firm Tofu
  • 3 oz sliced bamboo shoots or sour bamboo shoots
  • 1/2 oz (approx) dried Cloud Ears
  • 1/3 cup sliced cooked meat (optional)
  • Lotus Buds to taste (optional)

Seasonings:

  • 1 TBSP Sugar
  • 1 TBSP Dark Soy Sauce
  • 3 TBSP Red Wine Vinegar
  • 3 TBSP Lemon Juice
  • 3 TBSP Fish Sauce
  • 3 TBSP Chinese Black Rice Vinegar
  • 3 TBSP Corn Starch or Tapioca Starch
  • 1/2 – 1 TBSP Salt (to taste, and depending on the saltiness of the stock)
  • 3/4 tsp Ground Roasted Sichuan Peppercorns
  • 1/2 tsp Ground Black Peppercorns
  • 1/2 tsp Sesame Oil

Garnish:

  • 1 large egg (beaten)
  • 3 TBSP minced green onions (optional)

Instructions:

Set the cloud ears in luke warm water for 30 minutes to rehydrate. If you are using Lotus Buds, rehydrate them with the cloud ears. Once they have rehydrated, slice them (I find it easiest to hold them in a bunch, and then just slice across the mushrooms) if they are too large to eat comfortably. Slice the tofu (half an inch wide and high, and the length being half the width of the Tofu block works well), and combine the tofu, cloud ears, bamboo shoots, and the lotus buds or meat if you are using them, and put them aside in a bowl. You may find you have a little too much, if you do just set it aside for another batch or another recipe, and make a little less the next time. This is the place to experiment, all sorts of vegetables or meats could be added here.

In a bowl or liquid measure, combine all of the seasoning ingredients, and stir well. These are the most important ingredients, they are what give the soup its flavor. Do not substitute.

Bring the chicken stock to a boil over high heat, in a pan capable of holding about three times the volume of the chicken stock. Once the stock reaches a boil, add the bowl of chopped vegetables and meats, and again, let the soup come to a boil. You want to leave room for the seasonings and the garnish, so don’t overfill your pan. Once the soup again starts to boil, add in the seasonings (being sure to stir first, so that the corn starch doesn’t clump). While the soup again moves towards a boil, beat the egg in the same container you had the seasonings in (to get that last bit of flavor stuck to the sides) and mix in the green onions if you are using them. When the soup again reaches a boil, slowly spoon in the egg mixture. Turn the heat down to simmer, and serve.