From The Jackals To The Shepherds 40: Nine of Spades


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The poet this week is Paul Laurence Dunbar:

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Battlebards Tracks used:

Elven Dirge – Farewell – Score Music – Philippe Payet

Forgotten Chamber – Chamber of Voices – Score Music – Andrea Marras

Dark Elf Temple – Supplicant to Demons and Web – Source Music – Phil Archer


For a long time, we were at war with The Jackals. But now, we’ve driven them off, and we have this – a year of relative peace. In this moment, there is an opportunity to build something.

A week has passed.

More than a week has passed.

Time passes.

Forever passes in the quiet still of a snow that falls onto the mining village as the sickly trees break brittle their ice covered boughs.

Eileen who has been with us a long time had not known before forever was so long a word. The slow stroke of the clock of time she had not heard. ‘Tis hard to learn so late; it seems no sad heart really learns, but hopes and trusts and doubts and fears, and bleeds and burns.

The night is not all dark, nor is the day all it seems, but each may bring her this relief— her dreams and dreams. She had not known before that Never was so sad a word, but wrapped in desired forgetfulness— she wishes to not have heard.

Again a morning comes and we are less. The bandit leader, strong and cunning, having brought her marauders in to our community for warmth and home, does not sit at our breakfast table this morning. Footprints in the snow lead from her shack out to the circle of pines and disappear in snowy drifts from the nightly winds.

The night before, she stirs. Drachs voice growling in the night, prowling close to her window with animal longing or a stirred remembering of past life. Snow falls to collect on a hairy shoulder, and breath condenses from a toothy maw. As the Beast walks through the mining camp with Drach’s eyes, the bandit leader wakes to see. She grabs her knife and her coat and opens the door to the wind, stepping out into the night. She follows Drach unseen until he disappears into a circle of pine trees, strangely close to the camp, not there the night before but thick and tall as if they’ve been there for all time.

She walks into the circle of pines and into a mountain cave filled with sprites flying throughout the air wearing masks made of ice. Before she loses consciousness she hears them rasp out verses of a faerie poem:

We wear the mask that grins and lies, it hides our cheeks and shades our eyes,— this debt we pay to human guile; with torn and bleeding hearts we smile and mouth with myriad subtleties, why should the world be over-wise, in counting all our tears and sighs? Nay, let them only see us, while we wear the mask. We smile, but oh great shepherds, our cries to thee from tortured souls arise. We sing, but oh the clay is vile beneath our feet, and long the mile, but let the world dream otherwise, We wear the mask!

The bandit leader learns the debt we bear just for one quiet year, times of regret and grief, sorrow without relief. Pay it we will to the end— until the grave, our friend, gives us a true release— gives us the clasp of peace. Slight was the thing we bought, small was the debt we thought, poor was the loan at best— and now the Frost Shepherds prepare to collect the interest!

As the last footprint of the bandit leader drifts over with winter snow, and Eileen who has been with us a long time helps Ezekiel remove his frozen boots, we look up to the mountains where a great fog is forming, rolling slowly down to our community, and we discover yet another phenomenon of our new home. As the fog freezes overnight we wake to thick layers of frost that seems to twist into floral patterns, petals of ice growing everywhere we look.

And a week passes.

Thank you for joining us for the fortieth episode of From The Jackals To The Shepherds. If you like this show please give us a rating on iTunes, tell a friend, or share us on social media. As always the intro for the show was read by Dave Lapru, who is also our mapkeeper. You can find Dave on twitter at plantbird, and I’m at leviathan files. This week’s poet is Paul Laurence Dunbar. Please consider visiting our website at Riverhouse Games dot com, or supporting this show and other Riverhouse Games work on Patreon at patreon dot com slash Riverhouse Games. Music for this episode was provided by Battlebards dot com.

Listeners, I have a favor to ask of you. In these times there’s a lot that needs doing in the world, and we have to stand up as a people and make our voices heard. I ask that you make a few phone calls to your representatives about issues that matter to you. I’ve been using a great website at 5 Calls dot org which provides critical issues, background information, contact info, and even scripts to read while on the phone. Thankfully my representative’s offices have been polite and personable when I call, but if you’re worried about it, or if you experience phone anxiety, there’s an app you can download called Stance, which allows you to pre-record your statement, which it will then deliver straight to the representative’s voicemail. You can also use ResistBot, a free service that emails or faxes your representatives based on text messages you send through the service. Calling makes the biggest difference, but it’s a smart strategy to cover your bases. A polite and persistent approach across multiple mediums is the way to go. Today I’m calling to urge my representatives to OPPOSE WORK REQUIREMENTS FOR MEDICAID BENEFICIARIES

On January 11, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) released new policy guidance that allows states to impose work requirements on working-age, non-pregnant, unemployed adults in order to receive Medicaid coverage. States must specify how they will help Medicaid beneficiaries find work by connecting them to services like job training. However, CMS prohibits states from using federal Medicaid money to fund these services. CMS also allows for some exemptions to work requirements, e.g. for people who are ill or disabled; however, qualifying for these exemptions will be difficult, and many who should be exempt will likely lose Medicaid coverage anyway. Also, people who already meet the work requirement would need to demonstrate their compliance or risk losing their benefits.

About 60% of non-disabled adults on Medicaid already work. Thirty-six percent of those without jobs are too sick or disabled to work, 30% are acting as caregivers, and 15% are students. Imposing work requirements on this population will not decrease unemployment. An evaluation of work requirements in the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program found that 5-year employment rates among TANF recipients with and without work requirements were the same. The study also found that the overwhelming majority of people who got jobs remained in poverty. By contrast, a study of Medicaid estimated that the program kept 2.1 million Americans out of poverty and 1.4 million out of extreme poverty in 2010.

Medicaid is designed to be a safety net program that helps protect low-income people from disabling illness and medical bankruptcy. Imposing work requirements is inherently at odds with Medicaid’s core mission and will penalize thousands of Americans simply for being low-income and struggling. Congress must challenge this dangerous decision by CMS to limit access to Medicaid.

Please make your calls to help make our world a better place. Thank you, I love you, and I’m proud of you in advance.

And until next week, I hope your week goes well.

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