6 Legendary Places (That Are Actually Real)

1. Armageddon

As I’ve mentioned before, the name “Armageddon” technically refers to the place the Final Battle will occur, rather than the battle itself. The word appears only once in the Bible, in Revelation 16:16:

Then they gathered the kings together to the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon.

“Armageddon” is the Greek name for Tel Megiddo, a hill that still exists in modern-day Israel:

Tel Megiddo

2. Bedlam

Like Armageddon, bedlam is something we consider a thing, not a location. It’s become a noun meaning a state of uproar, chaos, or confusion. But “Bedlam” is an old nickname for a real place: the Bethlehem Royal Hospital, in London. It’s the oldest psychiatric hospital (or insane asylum) in Europe, and it’s still around today.

The place was founded in the 13th century as a priory and converted to a hospital about a hundred years later. It has since moved around, occupying several different buildings in London, but the nickname has stuck.

Bethlehem Royal Hospital

Bethlehem Royal Hospital as it stands today. Link

3. Mount Olympus

The mythical home of the Greek gods is quite real. Today it remains the highest mountain in Greece, it’s part of a national park, and mortals are permitted to hike to its summit with minimal retribution.

4. Troy

The city of Troy, site of the Trojan War and star of Homer’s Iliad, was long thought to be mythical. But in 1865, archaeologists uncovered a site in western Turkey that is now widely considered to be the place that opened its gates to a horse full of soldiers (even if the horse itself may be a bunch of bull).

5. Gehenna

“Gehenna” has long been a byword for a place of fiery torment. It is one of several terms translated as “Hell” in the Old and New Testaments. Jesus mentions it as a place of “unquenchable fire.” In the Quran, Jahannam is likewise a name for Hell. Rudyard Kipling, too, treated Gehenna as the opposite of Heaven:

Down to Gehenna or up to the Throne,
He travels the fastest who travels alone.

Before it became a metaphor, however, Gehenna was a real geographical location: the Valley of Hinnom, south of Jerusalem. It gained a reputation as an accursed place of fire, apparently because of ritual child sacrifices that happened in the area.

6. Xanadu

In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure-dome decree:
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
Down to a sunless sea.

So begins Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s “Kubla Khan,” one of the most famous poems in the English language. Largely due to this poem’s influence, “Xanadu” has come to mean a place of physical delight, opulence, and luxury. It was the name of a mansion in Citizen Kane, and “Xanadu 2.0″ is the name of Bill Gates’s mansion in real life.

But just like Kubla Khan, Xanadu was very real. It was located in modern-day Mongolia, and it was the capital of Khan’s China before he moved his throne to the city that would become Beijing. The exact location of the city is still known today, though nothing remains.

Others

Other real places that have achieved legendary status include:

  • Transylvania
  • Timbuktu
  • Arcadia
  • Sherwood Forest

I’ve never been to any of these places. But I’m leaving for Texas tomorrow to visit family for a week. Texas counts as legendary – right?

The Witch and the Dragon – Chapters 29 & 30

Standard Disclaimer

This is fan fiction of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, which were created by Joss Whedon. If you like, you can read my thoughts on the ethics and legality of fan fiction.


[Start reading story from beginning]

[Go back to chapters 27 & 28]

Chapter 29

The rain stopped. Gradually, the stormclouds separated, and a little sun returned.

Spike and Illyria were helping tend to the wounded. Buffy and Dawn had never left their mother’s side, while Xander and Giles had gone back to search in the crowd of souls.

That left Willow and Tara. They held hands, sitting on the ground together so as not to hurt Willow’s leg.

“I’ve wanted this for so long,” said Willow. “But now that I’m finally with you…”

Tara waited, studying her.

“I can’t imagine what you must think of me. First Warren, now this. I don’t know if I’m good or evil, Tara. I’m not sure I know the meaning of the words. All I know is, when anything happens to you, I go a little bit crazy.”

Tara touched Willow’s hair. “I’m lucky, in a way. I’ve never had to make those choices. If someone had ripped you away from me, if I’d had your power…? I don’t know. It could’ve been me all black and veiny.”

“Don’t say that,” Willow whispered. “Even if it’s true. I’d rather think about what you actually did. You were so brave today.”

“Well, I learned it from you.”

“I learned it from Buffy.”

They sat together, savoring the sheer fact of each other’s presence.

“Illyria thinks the rift will close after today,” said Willow. “This is probably the last time I’ll see you until…you know.”

“Shh.” Tara squeezed her hand. “Don’t think about that. Be with me now, okay?”

Willow ran her thumb over the back of Tara’s hand. “It’s funny. I want so bad to say the perfect thing, to be profound and meaningful. I tried so hard to think of the words beforehand. But there’s nothing. And Xander, when he finds Anya, you know what he’s going to do? Just hug her, say ‘I love you,’ and cry. Can you believe it? I mean, how lame is that?”

Tara smiled. “Pretty lame.”

Willow hugged her.

Hot tears spilled from her eyes.

“I love you.”

“I love you.”

She pulled away…and Tara was gone.

“No,” she whispered, looking around, as if Tara might just be nearby.

She sagged to the ground, curled up tight, and sobbed for a long time.

Then she got up, dried her eyes, and felt the sunlight on her skin. She set out in search of the friends she still had.

 Chapter 30

The final death toll from the battle was seven. Five slayers, including Dana, whose real name was Charlotte. Olga had survived. Two witches: Marissa and Svetlana. Young, relatively new. With more training, maybe they could have…

Willow promised Emily she would tell their parents.

They called in a helicopter for the seriously wounded. The Slayers gave first aid to everyone else. It turned out they had a lot of practice with that sort of thing.

The witches piled the bodies of the demons into a great heap over Abaddon, and set the whole thing ablaze. It burned blue, and the flames licked far up into the afternoon sky.

By 6:00 everything was ready, and they filed back into their respective vehicles for the ride home. This time, Buffy rode the bus.

The mood was somber. Willow wondered if anyone else felt as uncomfortable as she did. Nobody talked for ten minutes or so.

Finally Spike broke the silence. “Good seein’ Joyce again,” he said. “Sweet lady. Not like you lot, forever runnin’ off to skewer one bogeyman or another. Shame about her dyin’ and all.”

“Really, Spike?” said Dawn. “My mother dying, is that a shame, in your opinion?”

“Don’t have to get snippy,” said Spike. “I just mean that was a right proper reunion for you Summers girls. Lot better than mine. Never knew how much I liked vampire Harm till I met human Harm. Eh – vampire Harm is dead, right?” Buffy stared at him in disbelief. “All right. Silly question.”

“I met Principal Snyder,” said Xander.

“No way,” said Willow. “Did he say anything?”

“Mostly he yelled a lot. Seemed to think there was too much lollygagging in general, and there was concern that some delinquent had pulled the fire alarm. He’s not a happy man.”

“What about Anya?” said Dawn. “You found her, right?”

“Yeah.” Xander smiled. “She said her afterlife was – and I quote – ‘acceptable.’ The pros are eternal bliss, the end of suffering, and no rabbits. Cons include the absence of any financial markets – she describes heaven as ‘Communist’ – as well as a complete lack of any special powers, demonic or otherwise. She was pretty vocal about that last one.”

“Did she say anything about me?” said Spike.

“Um, let’s see…yeah. Not by name, though. She called you ‘That vampire who did it on a table for about eight seconds.’”

Spike made a face. “A simple ‘no’ would have sufficed.”

“Giles?” said Willow. “Did you find Jenny?”

“Indeed.”

They all waited. He glanced up.

“Oh. I suppose you want details of my emotional, deeply personal, incredibly private experience?”

“Yes, please,” said Dawn.

“Well, she was happy to see me,” said Giles. “She told me to be careful. And she said, ‘Rupert, it’s 2035, so tell me you’ve figured out how to use a computer by now, because if not, I’ll haunt you till the day that you die.’” He looked thoughtful. “And then she described me as a ‘silver fox,’ which I can only presume is a term of endearment.”

“Well, you are pretty foxy,” said Xander.

“And with that sentence,” said Giles, “my life is complete.”

“Giles,” said Willow, “I have to ask. About the Almada spell. You never told us. Did I – did we – make the right decision?”

He didn’t answer for a while.

“All of you,” he said, “you went against my express wishes. You violated the sanctity of my mind. You interfered with the natural order of things.”

He sighed.

“And I am deeply grateful.”

They smiled. Willow said, “So you don’t think I’m a ‘rank, arrogant amateur’ anymore?”

“Well, you’re asking the question, so I don’t think you’re arrogant. And after today, no one could possibly mistake you for an amateur.”

“What about ‘rank?’”

“You know, I used that word because it had a certain gravitas, but I confess I’m not entirely sure what it means.”

He turned serious.

“When I was walking amongst all those dead souls,” he said, “I happened to come across Ben, the young man I killed in order to do away with Glory. He ran off when he saw me. But afterward, I couldn’t stop seeing his face whenever I closed my eyes.”

Giles took off his glasses, cleaned them.

“Willow,” he said, “if you’re looking for reassurance, or forgiveness, or redemption, or anything of that sort, I think that’s quite natural. But don’t look to me. I’ve just as much need of it as you do.”

She wanted to say something, but the warmth inside her refused to be translated to words. She only nodded.

Silence returned for a long while. Then Dawn reached for her sister’s arm.

“Well, Buffy? What are we gonna do now?”

Buffy looked at her, and smiled.

[Chapters 31 & 32 coming soon…]

Friday Link

One of my favorite poems: Philip Larkin’s “Next, Please.” I find it wise and sad.

Which is, you know, just what you want on a Friday. I’m a lot of fun at parties, let me tell you.

Have a great weekend!

30 for 30

30 for 30

Betsy’s thirty presents included:

  • A subscription to This Old House magazine
  • Flowers
  • Thinking in Pictures by Temple Grandin
  • A poem
  • DVDs of The Iron Giant and Slumdog Millionaire
  • A mixtape, opening with “Ship Happens” (warning: contains strong language)
  • Action figures of Spike (from Buffy) and Thor
  • Wine
  • Chocolates, a lei, and a very thoughtful birthday card, sent by her old friend Jessica in Hawaii
  • An “About Betsy” Powerpoint, which includes such fun facts as: Betsy is the same age as Princess Peach (Super Mario Bros. was released in 1985)
  • A box of sealed envelopes containing fun date ideas
  • And a poster of this:

osores oderint

The woman is Ada Lovelace, the world’s first programmer (because Betsy is in IT). “Osores oderint” is Latin for “Haters gonna hate.”

Afterward we had dinner at Texas Roadhouse, where the waiter said he had never seen anyone eat that many ribs in his five years of working there. Not even joking.

Birthdays are fun. :-)

Happy Birthday to Betsy!

candles

Betsy turns thirty today! She has a big birthday surprise coming, and (as often happens with surprises) she has no idea what it is. Very exciting. Full details tomorrow.

In the meantime, if you have any well-wishes, congratulations, pieces of advice, or anything else for Mrs. Betsy Buckley, leave ’em in the comments. :-)

The Witch and the Dragon – Chapters 27 & 28

Standard Disclaimer

This is fan fiction of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, which were created by Joss Whedon. If you like, you can read my thoughts on the ethics and legality of fan fiction.


[Start reading story from beginning]

[Go back to chapters 25 & 26]

Chapter 27

Willow slipped between moments.

Billions of galaxies halted in their ponderous motion. The Earth stilled its race around the sun, the black clouds froze, the raindrops hovered mid-air. Tara’s face became a snapshot, a study in courage and resolve. Abaddon, a slavering wolf, paused on the brink of attack. All around, statues of a battle, memorials to warriors not yet fallen.

Slowly, deeply, Willow breathed. In, and out. In, and out.

Here, in this space without time, she was perfectly calm: neither angry nor afraid, neither hateful nor proud. It was not dark magic, this energy she held. It was power, pure and simple, distilled and purified, undiluted by feeling, the raw light of Creation itself.

She looked around at the anger and the pain, the weapons and the heroes, the stark desperation of bloodshed. And she thought: violence is such a clumsy way to kill.

Physical combat was arduous and risky. Guns could miss. Bombs and missiles were costly, complicated, imprecise. Even subtler violence, like poison, could be detected or survived.

Magical violence was no better. Telekinesis, lightning, turning blood to ice – she knew all the tricks. But chant the wrong word, use the wrong kind of crystal, and the entire thing could fail or backfire. Even if it worked, there were wards, counterspells, defenses. The whole affair was dubious at best.

It had taken her most of her life to learn the manifest truth. Violence was a child’s game.

If you wanted to kill someone, just kill them.

Willow reached out with her mind.

Embraced Abaddon and his warriors.

Gathered their life-threads.

Caressed them tenderly.

And snapped.

Forgive me, she thought, to no one in particular, and shifted back into time.

Chapter 28

Abaddon’s body crashed into the mud just in front of Tara. At the same moment, all the demons – the entire army – crumpled like discarded marionettes.

The cries and yells faded to murmurs of confusion. People looked around at the corpses, trying to understand.

Willow helped Tara to her feet. “Are you okay?” she asked. But Tara only gazed at her with an unreadable expression.

The witches migrated to Willow first. They had sensed the magic and its source. They gathered around her, staring – some in horror, some in revulsion, some in awe. Several of them wept. One girl knelt down and threw up quietly.

Emily said softly, “What did you do?”

Willow didn’t answer. The question was, she guessed, rhetorical.

Following the witches’ lead, everyone else congregated around. All of them looking at her.

“You did this?” said Dawn.

“Willow,” said Xander. “You got your power back!”

“No,” said Buffy, in a voice hard as diamond. “She never lost it. Did you?”

Silently, Willow shook her head.

“You didn’t burn out when you killed the Senior Partners,” said Buffy.

“If anything,” Willow said quietly, “it made me stronger. The limit on my magic was…self-imposed. Like a nozzle on a pipe. I could remove it anytime. And I did.”

“Anytime,” Buffy echoed. “Anytime, you could have ended this.”

She was stained all over with blood and dirt. Most everyone was.

Buffy laughed, dark and dangerous, and held out her arms to encompass the battlefield. “Well, aren’t we a bunch of idiots, huh? Fighting for our lives like it actually mattered. At least three of my Slayers are dead, Willow. At least two witches. And the twelve Slayers from the Watchers’ Council.” Another wild laugh. “Boy, I bet they feel stupid now!”

“Buffy…” said Dawn.

“Hell, twenty years of chasing down vampires. Crawling in holes, marching through jungles and swamps, freezing in the Arctic. Keeping a list of every Slayer who gave her life for the cause, to be sure I’d never forget. God, isn’t it nice that you let me spend a third of my life on that, instead of snapping your fingers to do it instantly?”

“Buffy,” said Dawn. “Shut up.”

Buffy glared at her. “Excuse me?”

“Let her talk,” said Dawn. “Let her tell us the reason.”

“Oh, by all means,” said Buffy. “Y’know, I’m curious too. What was the reason, Willow?”

Willow looked around at all of them, searching for the words. She felt empty.

“The power that I have,” she began, still quiet, “is absolute. There are no barriers. No counterspells. No limits but my own conscience. I can kill anyone, anytime, anywhere, for any reason, instantly, without consequence. I can sit in judgment on the whole planet, dispensing life and death, without leaving my house. That’s what this power is.”

She shook her head.

“I won’t be that person. I won’t walk that path.”

Willow brushed some wet hair out of her face.

“I promised myself I would never do this, and I never will again. Today, I broke my promise, and that was wrong. I’m sorry. But I couldn’t…I just couldn’t…”

She looked at Tara, and her voice broke.

“She’s my girl.”

Buffy was unimpressed.

“So I guess you just would’ve let Abaddon kill me, huh, Will? I guess I don’t qualify for this special protection program. Apparently it’s only people you’ve made out with. Oz, I suppose he qualifies. What about Xander?”

“Buffy,” said Xander. “It’s not that simple, and you know it.”

“It is that simple!” Buffy yelled. “Don’t you get it? This is over, and you’re going home to your nice little house with your nice little wife, and I’m going back out there with Zeta Black, risking my life, to do what I have to do. All because her morals are too precious to let her hands get dirty. We’ll be hunting for decades – ”

“No.”

It was Giles. No longer glowing. Holding a rag to the wound on his shoulder.

Buffy turned on him. “I’m sorry, did you say ‘no?’”

“You shall not hunt vampires ever again,” he said.

“Are you seriously giving me orders? Now, after everything?”

“It’s not an order,” he said. “It’s a fact.”

“Is that right? And please, Mr. Giles, do tell me just one single reason why I should give up my life’s mission.”

“Because there are no more vampires,” he said.

She stared.

“What?”

“That one you killed yesterday night. He was the last. It’s over.”

She marched up close to him. “You can’t possibly know that.”

“There is a flame in the Watchers’ Catacombs,” he said, “that has burned as long as anyone remembers. It symbolizes our fight against the vampires. I got a message just now. It has gone out.”

“So?” she said. “So a draft came through the window. Who cares?”

“It’s true,” Emily said in surprise. “I just did a spell to point me toward the nearest vampire. There isn’t one.”

“Yeah,” said Buffy, “because witches are right at the top of my trust list right now.”

Spike was staring off into space. “Tetelestai. ‘It is finished.’ He knew. Somehow, he knew.”

Buffy frowned. “No. That doesn’t…that doesn’t mean…”

“Commander.” A Slayer approached her. It was Alice, from Sri Lanka. She was holding the Scythe. “Look. The wooden stake on the end. It broke off during the battle. The spell to protect it has lifted. It isn’t needed anymore.” She wore an expression of weary triumph on her face. “Ma’am, it’s over. We’ve won!”

“No. No.” Buffy was shaking her head. “It can’t be over. I can’t believe…”

Everyone was talking now – some arguing, some excited, most just trying to figure it all out.

After a minute, Dawn came up to her sister, leading a woman by the hand.

“Buffy,” said Joyce.

“Mom?” Buffy looked startled. Hurt. “No, I…I wasn’t going to see you.”

Joyce kissed Buffy’s hair. “Sweetie. I am so proud of you. I always have been. You’re so strong, and you have a good heart. I love you and your sister more than anything.”

She gathered her up in her arms, and Dawn hugged them both at once.

When at last they let each other go, Giles put his hand on Buffy’s shoulder. “And I am proud of you, Buffy. I have never stopped being proud of you.”

At long last, bleeding and overwhelmed, she broke down. She buried herself in his arms, and he held her tight.

“Giles, I’m tired,” she said in a small voice. “I’m so, so tired.”

“It’s all right,” he told her. “It’s over. You can rest now, Buffy. You can rest.”

[Go on to chapters 29 & 30]

Friday Link

Dorothy Kenyon was one of the first people who McCarthy accused of being Communist in the 1950s.

Sixty-two at the time, she responded by calling McCarthy a “liar” and a “coward,” and stated publicly: “I am not, and never have been, a supporter of, a member of, or a sympathizer with any organization known to me to be, or suspected by me, of being controlled or dominated by Communists.”

She got support from the New York Times as well as Eleanor Roosevelt, and was soon vindicated by the Senate subcommittee investigating McCarthy’s charges. McCarthy soon backed off.

Kenyon was also a judge, lawyer, and civil rights activist. She served on a UN commission and was, for a long time, the only woman on the ACLU board. She strongly influence future Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

No point here except that amazing people should get recognition. Have a great weekend!