Episode #209: Empty Hands Reading – Elemental Alignments


This week, I’m reading a short excerpt from the martial arts novella, Empty Hands, as a follow up to last week’s episode on the Dungeons and Dragons influences.  This section touches on the five elements in nature (more back in episode 151) and how they fit the characters:


Jake and Aurora both fell into a character class Wally the wizard had called the “earth type.”  As the guys had mentioned, we’d done a little presentation detailing our strengths and weaknesses early in our training (I had to do mine twice since I didn’t understand the assignment the first time and had instead talked about Aurora).  Wally used that assignment to go into something he called “The Elemental School of Personality Assessment,” which he said was an important part of not only our magical studies but our training in general.  There were five main personality types corresponding to the five divisions of elemental forces in nature – earth, water, wind, fire, and space, as well as an infinite combination of blends.

Pure earth types were grounded, practical people who, like strongly rooted trees, were good at weathering the vicissitudes of life but could be a bit stubborn at times.  Dependable, practical, and steady types like Jake and Ben fell into that category.  Pure water types were kind of the opposite – adaptable and fluid, like water conforming to whatever container it finds itself in, though they could be a bit all over the place.  Phil, an easy-going sort who tended to go with the flow, fit this category.  He was not, however, a fickle person, prompting Wally to categorize him as an earth-water blend.

“You mean like mud?” Phil had said when Wally passed him the sheet of paper containing his alignment and its characteristics.

We’d laughed, but then Wally shrugged.  “Water is flexible, but it can be hard, if the force is right.  Earth is not fluid but mixed with a little water, it moves easily from one place to the next until it dries.  Too much, though, and it just becomes dirty water.  Do you get my drift?”

“Um … no,” Phil had said after a long pause.

“You will.  For now, it basically means you have the best of both worlds.”  Then to all of us, he said, “Keep in mind these are just predictions.  It’s up to you to figure out if they’re accurate and how to apply the knowledge to your training.”   

Like Phil, Aron also ended up a blend – part water and part wind.  Pure wind types, like Allan, were open-minded and peaceful.  Like birds soaring above the clouds, the day-to-day troubles of the earth-bound held little meaning for them.  They craved freedom, which fit Aron, but could be a bit impractical and out of touch with reality (definitely Aron and sometimes Allan, who preferred to think everything through prior to acting on anything).  Pure fire types, like Lance and Blake, were no-nonsense folk who believed the best defense was a good offense.  It was pretty clear that dynamic, straight-forward weapons like the bow and sword fit guys like that.  The downside of fire, of course, was that not all problems could be solved in direct ways. 

That left the last category, which Wally had initially called “empty space.”  Aron had burst out laughing at this, muttering something about it being the one that fit me best, and the others had joined in.  Wally silenced them, then paused and said that, actually, Aron might have been right for once.  This caused me to redden in anger and disappointment as Aron went bug-eyed and laughed hard enough to fall out of his chair. 

It wasn’t like I was especially taken with any of the previous categories, but as the youngest and physically smallest of the Rangers, it would have been nice to not be different at something – anything – for once.  I didn’t really care about not being able to run, swim, climb, fight, navigate, or use magic as well as the others.  Unlike some, I couldn’t imagine myself “a career man,” so excelling at soldiering skills (assuming I lived long enough), seemed a bit irrelevant for me and my life in the long run.  Frankly, I couldn’t have cared less whether I fit earth, wind, water, fire, or some blend of the four – but “empty space?”  Come on!

As if reading my thoughts, Wally frowned and said, “Empty space is perhaps not the right term.  The magic books sometimes use the word void (which produced a burst of hoots from Aron), but that, too, has always seemed a poor choice.  It’s …” he frowned, sighed, then continued.  “At some point in the future, science will catch up to what we wizards have known for eons – that all matter is composed of tiny particles too small to see.  They are the essence, the anima, that gives substance and life to all things in the natural world.  And, as such, particles from the void can become any of the four.  Add enough of them packed together, and they become earth.  Space them out far enough, they become wind.  Push them a bit closer together, they reform as water.  Add a bolt of lightning or some other energy source, and they become fire.”      

Allan nodded, saying, “Most interesting.  So this is the essence we harness when we generate magic.”

“Exactly!  You are pulling directly from the void,” Wally said.

There was silence for a time as we mulled this over.  Finally, Jake turned around in his seat and looked at me with his steady, cool brown eyes.  “I’m sorry we laughed, Logan.  It was wrong of us.”

I reddened further and stared down at my notebook, doodling with my piece of charcoal.  “It’s okay,” I finally said, still avoiding Jake’s eyes.  When I look back on that experience, I wish I had met and held the man’s gaze to let him know I appreciated his apology.  But … there are some things I suppose that only come with age.

After a moment, Aron asked quietly, “So … do you think there’s maybe a little void somewhere in me?”

Wally rolled his eyes and said “Aron, be grateful for what you have.”  After the lesson finished, Wally handed me the piece of paper containing information on my alignment.  On the side, he had written:

Read this over, and see if you think it fits.  Find me if you have any questions.


P.S. The woman you told us about from your town – the one you grew up with – sounds like more of an earth type, though at least from your description, she sounds like an earth – void blend.  I can see why you would enjoy her company.  Hope that gives you some more information about yourself that will be helpful in the coming months.

To be honest, it wasn’t then, but looking back years later, it sure has been.

Here’s a little character sketch I did about a year ago (a little different from their final iteration) when I was coming up with the ideas presented above:



This page formerly had what I affectionately dubbed a “starving artist” section on little side hustles you could do (mostly on the internet, often with a phone) to make a few bucks here and there, often in gift cards.  Well, now you can listen to this show (as well as other podcasts) and get paid to do so!  Check out https://www.podcoin.com/ to listen to the show and start earning points that you can redeem for gift cards (Amazon, Target, Starbucks, etc) or donations to a number of charities.  Use the code “Thirteen” when you sign up to get 300 extra points.  The Thirteen Hour Podcast is now on BONUS this week, so you can earn more than normal (1.5x).

Empty Hands, the synth EP soundtrack to the novella, Empty Hands, is now out for streaming on Bandcamp.  

empty hands ep cover_edited-2.jpg

Follow along on Spotify!  There is also a growing extended Thirteenth Hour playlist on Spotify with a growing number of retro 80s songs.

Check it out!

As always, thanks for listening!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s