12/15/2011 StF: "Phonemes: The Molecules of Flavor"

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This thread is for discussion of this week's Savor the Flavor, which goes live Wednesday morning on magicthegathering.com.
[Disclaimer: I'm perfectly fine not having rights to these ideas. They are merely to illustrate flavor ideas.]

Ah, Blorbo. Too many have underestimated the "Mouse." This is easy, because he is very easy to overlook.

Blorbo was born to a family of rather largish Mogg goblins. Blorbo the Elder, named for his father, who was named for his father, and for his father, took pride in his name as a brute and beheld the baby who would be the fifteenth Mogg to have the name "Blorbo." However, while a normal sized baby goblin, Blorbo the Younger failed to live up to the family expectations. He grew, but very slowly, and by the age of ten, not at all. He matured, but never attained the size of any other goblin, so that by the time of his Blasting Day adulthood ceremony, Blorbo was a third of the size of his family, or any other non-juvenile Mogg.

You'd think for Blorbo this would make growing up hard. For Moggs, size mattered. They'd been engineered by the Evincars of Rath to be brutes, the size of men, and among his family the Blorbos were particularly large. His family were renowned among brutes, exceptionally savage. He'd lost most of his uncles and aunts, then eventually his father, fighting for things that Moggs never questioned when fighting. All they cared for was the conflict, and thus things not related to combat were ignored. And so Blorbo, so small for a Mogg, small even for a non-Mogg goblin, was ignored. This meant he had to fend for himself, and so he became cunning.

Blorbo the Younger took to scavenging, hunting for meals and life by himself from a pretty early age, and slipping into the cellars and keeps of Humans for the merest of meals, trinkets, and ways to fend off those hounds the Men kept around to stop things like him. He found scents and trinkets that would allow him to slip past most sentries, sentient or not, and would eventually perfect his ability slip past those things that notice the unseen.

For Blorbo, he was not simply unseen: he was unnoticeable, and his family eventually considered that he died to some malady or other on account of not being a true Mogg. No one cared for the Mogg, except for him. Taking the name "the Mouse," Blorbo the Younger would become an adept sneak, a master thief, and a cunning trap finder. Pity those who scoff at what they cannot see.

---

I now have a mental image of Blorbo, the "Mouse" --

A goblin slighter than most goblins, not qite as smart as the Kyren but not as stupid as most, a sneak whose clothes are cobbled together from scraps picked from others (for who could give fitting clothes to such a wee gobbie?), and with tiny trinkets hidden about his person. He is practically unstoppable, if he wants to get somewhere, so his clothes fit him neatly and tightly to accommodate his ability to slip into cracks and fissures without snagging, while his work at night has endowed him with keen eyesight he protects during the day with shaded goggles (all "smart" goblins need goggles). He carries two daggers, tiny pinpricks to humans, but deadly nonetheless. However, he only pulls them out when he needs to "poke fun" at someone. His skill at being avoided and probably the occasional trinket he'd picked up has made it nigh-impossible for finding spells to locate him, or the various fireballs or bolts to land on him.

In a world of Rats and Men, Blorbo has taken the role of Mouse and very keenly.

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Blorbo, the "Mouse" [manacost](U/R)[/manacost]
Legendary Creature - Goblin Rogue
0/1
Hexproof
As long as [CARDNAME] is attacking alone, he gets +2/+0 and is unblockable.


---

I also had an image of Elethia, an elf born of noble house who so reviled her name and the pretty flowers foisted upon her, that she took up the sledgehammer and joined the barbarian tribes of the north, where her reputation would make her known as "the Skullsmasher," of whom parents would warn their children would grab them at night if they didn't behave.

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Elethia Skullsmasher [manacost]BRG[/manacost]
Legendary Creature - Elf Barbarian
3/3
Whenever [CARDNAME] deals combat damage, if she's attacking and it's the first combat phase of the turn, untap her and she gets +X/+X until end of turn, where X is the damage she was dealt this combat. After this phase there is another combat phase.

Edit: I had to add a "Godo clause" to the combat step ability to prevent it from going infinite and instant win if she's attacking
"Possibilities abound, too numerous to count." "Innocent, unbiased observation is a myth." --- P.B. Medawar (1969) "Ever since man first left his cave and met a stranger with a different language and a new way of looking at things, the human race has had a dream: to kill him, so we don't have to learn his language or his new way of looking at things." --- Zapp Brannigan (Beast With a Billion Backs)
wow Qilong, that's good.

Have you ever considered submitting stuff to the Magic: Expanded Multiverse?  

We could always use more talent 
Official Speaker of the Expanded Multiverse Project, Step into Dominia-Embrace the infinite Magic of the Planes. This -> is my favorite smiley, I will use it often and without reason. You have been warned.
The Story of My Love
79035425 wrote:
BURSTING WITH VIGOR!
Trolljuju wiped the sweat from his brow as he continued his slow trudge up the snowy mountain. The wind was strong and fiercely cold, but he pressed against it. Juju knew Beast Engine was somewhere at the peak, waiting for him. But this was not a matter of confronting the forces of nature themselves; that had been accomplished long before, and was now too easy to maintain the manly man's interest. Today, Beast Engine was here waiting for a friend. Trolljuju's mind drifted from his appointment to thoughts of Beast Engine's manliness. The only man in history to punch the fossilized remains of a dinosaur back to life just to punch it to death again. The man who deflected bullets with his pectoral muscles during his daily assassination attempts. The man who cured cancer with a serum made from pure crystalized virility. The man who burst with vigor. Not just a man but a Man- the manliest of all men. A god of masculinity in physical form. Trolljuju's heart fluttered at the memory of him and lightened his steps as he pressed on. Suddenly, he was shaken from his reverie by a deep, powerful rumble in the mountain that shook him to his core. Instinctively, he threw himself to the ground just before the slope ahead of him exploded in a fiery wall of light and heat. So great was the force that the entire upper section of the mountain was vaproized. It scorched Juju's coat, then rose on the air to drift far away, a plume of white-hot ash. When Trolljuju lifted his head to see what was left behind, he beheld a wide, perfectly flat stone plateau, and in the distance he could see a muscular figure, his foot still held up from the kick. There was no doubt it was Beast Engine. As soon as the ground beneath him cooled, Juju cast his heavy pack aside and ran. As the figure grew with closeness, he could see Beast Engine was nude, as was expected. The snow that fell near him turned to a thin wall of steam, looking to Trolljuju's eyes like a barrier. Engine was too strong, too manly to occupy the same space as the ordinary universe. He lived in a world all his own. But fortunately for Juju, it was only an illusion. He ran at full speed into Engine, who caught him with both arms and effortlessly twirled with him, resting with Juju dipped low to the ground in Engine's arms. "Beast Engine, my love," Trolljuju breathed, sturck with awe at Engine's masculine beauty despite the familiarity of his face. Engine just smiled, radiating from every inch of him with incredible strength, yet gentle warmth. "It's been so long, Juju. I've missed you." "Forgive me. I lost contact with you while you were boxing with Death to win back and consume the soul of Theodore Roosevelt. But now I'm here..." Juju lifted one tentative hand to Engine's face, but he pulled away. "You know I cannot give you what you seek. Were we to make love, your body would be destroyed by the force." "I know, of course I would," Juju responded, tears in his eyes. "May I have, at least, one kiss?" "Very well. For you, my friend." Slowly, gingerly, they came closer. But the moment their lips met, a flood of unbridled manliness rushed into Trolljuju, body and soul, and every cell in his body exploded. Beast Engine fell to his knees, and in his grief, he wept. The tears that fell from his face burned deep into the rock beneath him. But slowly, his sorrow turned to conviction. He beat the crap out of Death once. He could do it again.
wow Qilong, that's good.

Have you ever considered submitting stuff to the Magic: Expanded Multiverse?  

We could always use more talent 



Well ... I'd rather there be some impact. I wrote that in order to defy an expectation, that flavor can be derived by name alone, that expectations are true. In a way, I wanted to prove the opposite by irony. That's why I posted it here.

While Magic flavor matters to me, and I like my legends to have something of a quality to them beyond the card, I'd like that there be some more effective explanation to legends. sometimes, the flavor is absent in many, where the characters are "just there" for the purpose of filling out unusual cards in the set. I'd prefer fewer legends with more impact, as in Ravnica where the legends where guildleaders and their subordinates or significant "icons" (such as "Hesperia" [Isperia] or Ulasht). Nowadays, we get characters with limited to no impact, no value, or are ganky or bizarre things (such as Gwafa Hazid or Rakka Mar), and I think the impact legends should have is missed by this odd designs. There's a sense that something should only be legendary or mythic if you only would want one of them in play ever at once, but this defies the flavor of the legend when told in card form by having impact in the sense Teferi does. I think because at this point the story-sweeping characters have become "planeswalkers," not "ordinary men." They're getting god-moded, and it's getting stomach churningly stupid. That's why I wanted legends with flavor and impact. And silly names.
"Possibilities abound, too numerous to count." "Innocent, unbiased observation is a myth." --- P.B. Medawar (1969) "Ever since man first left his cave and met a stranger with a different language and a new way of looking at things, the human race has had a dream: to kill him, so we don't have to learn his language or his new way of looking at things." --- Zapp Brannigan (Beast With a Billion Backs)
the sound of Innistrad should be a blend of Prussian with dashes of Old Germanic, Dutch, and French.



French? 
the sound of Innistrad should be a blend of Prussian with dashes of Old Germanic, Dutch, and French.



French? 



I'd prefer if they stopped using Europe as the basis for their stories and flavor. They can be a bit more invented and exploratory, go to central or souther Africa, or North America, or even Australia and Indochina, and develop some truly novel and unique stories against the expectations of the familiar. It's a trope that writers only write about that which they care about, and in this case, they only care about the Eurocentric way of American thinking. That the author is apparently from the Isles, this should come as no surprise. Defy your expectations!
"Possibilities abound, too numerous to count." "Innocent, unbiased observation is a myth." --- P.B. Medawar (1969) "Ever since man first left his cave and met a stranger with a different language and a new way of looking at things, the human race has had a dream: to kill him, so we don't have to learn his language or his new way of looking at things." --- Zapp Brannigan (Beast With a Billion Backs)
the sound of Innistrad should be a blend of Prussian with dashes of Old Germanic, Dutch, and French.



French? 



I'd prefer if they stopped using Europe as the basis for their stories and flavor. They can be a bit more invented and exploratory, go to central or souther Africa, or North America, or even Australia and Indochina, and develop some truly novel and unique stories against the expectations of the familiar. It's a trope that writers only write about that which they care about, and in this case, they only care about the Eurocentric way of American thinking. That the author is apparently from the Isles, this should come as no surprise. Defy your expectations!



Winged/Lorescale Coatl ;)

Also; Yay, Netherlands xD. But yeah, this was a interesting article.
the sound of Innistrad should be a blend of Prussian with dashes of Old Germanic, Dutch, and French.



French? 



I'd prefer if they stopped using Europe as the basis for their stories and flavor. They can be a bit more invented and exploratory, go to central or souther Africa, or North America, or even Australia and Indochina, and develop some truly novel and unique stories against the expectations of the familiar. It's a trope that writers only write about that which they care about, and in this case, they only care about the Eurocentric way of American thinking. That the author is apparently from the Isles, this should come as no surprise. Defy your expectations!



Winged/Lorescale Coatl ;)

Also; Yay, Netherlands xD. But yeah, this was a interesting article.



You're noting the Aztec influences on Naya. While certainly apt, this is limited to a portion of a plane, and did not pull from the story or mythos of the aztec, just "style of words." The closest they got were the flavoring of the nacatl, after the Aztec panther warriors, but as it turns out, those are just generic Cat people, and those derive from standard D&D fare.

I'm talking "nature spirits," kachina, the tales of Coyote and Raven, the lore of the Thunderbird, etc. I'm talking the story of the Mississippian-era mound builders, or the Plains indians, or the northern people's and their lore about the Sun, the Moon and daughter of the ice and wreaker of vengeance, Sedna. That's just SOME of North America. How much lore do you know that derives from sub-Saharan Africa? The WESTERN sub-Saharan Africa that brings us what we now call voodoo, or the EASTERN sub-Saharan Africa with its vast ancient kingdoms, south Africa and the rich cultures of Zulu and Bantu peoples. Ack. Instead, you get a Eurocentric and most certainly WHITE-centric self-culture rebranding. Tsk tsk.
"Possibilities abound, too numerous to count." "Innocent, unbiased observation is a myth." --- P.B. Medawar (1969) "Ever since man first left his cave and met a stranger with a different language and a new way of looking at things, the human race has had a dream: to kill him, so we don't have to learn his language or his new way of looking at things." --- Zapp Brannigan (Beast With a Billion Backs)
Is anyone else mildly jarred by "geist?" It bothers me a slight bit every time I see it on the cards.

I know what it means and I know why they're using it, but as someone who doesn't speak German it makes me feel like I have to do an extra bit of translation every time I see the cards. My brain goes "Geist? Oh, ghost. But that sounds funny." And every time I see it, my brain... stops like that.

It doesn't for some of the other stuff, like "graf" and "skaab." I think with "skaab" I can see that they're not just replacing the word "zombie" but coming up with a word for a very particular kind of zombie, a cool concept that meshes "undead" with "mad science" and gives you something almost like Frankenstein's monster but with a uniquely Magic feel that justifies the name.

"Geist" though -- I don't feel their uniqueness enough that I want to call them something other than ghosts. Yeah, spirits in Magic feel a little different generally than the ghosts of ghost stories. But what makes a geist unique, I don't know. They haunt their families. They're blue and white, though when they get really peeved, their magic is for some reason red. (How's that work? I don't get it.)

But none of that feels like it needs a word to me, and to have the word be so close to the English "ghost" triggers the part of my brain that wants to correct spelling errors -- oh wait, no, that's not an error -- oh darnit, why is my mind hanging on the name of a card, this flavor is so cool, I'm supposed to be having fun, couldn't we just call that thing Traft and not hurt my head?

I don't know. It may be unique to me, and if "geist" is awesome to everyone else, fine with me. But I'm wondering if anyone else has the same issue I am having and dislikes it. Anyone?
the sound of Innistrad should be a blend of Prussian with dashes of Old Germanic, Dutch, and French.



French? 



I'd prefer if they stopped using Europe as the basis for their stories and flavor. They can be a bit more invented and exploratory, go to central or souther Africa, or North America, or even Australia and Indochina, and develop some truly novel and unique stories against the expectations of the familiar. It's a trope that writers only write about that which they care about, and in this case, they only care about the Eurocentric way of American thinking. That the author is apparently from the Isles, this should come as no surprise. Defy your expectations!



They used to be groundbreaking with Mirage.  

But yeah, I would love an oceanian-themed plane, just like what FFX tried =)
It would be very Blue-centric but you have tropical forests for Green and Black and Volcanoes for Red. Can't really fit White in there yet. 
the sound of Innistrad should be a blend of Prussian with dashes of Old Germanic, Dutch, and French.



French? 



I'd prefer if they stopped using Europe as the basis for their stories and flavor. They can be a bit more invented and exploratory, go to central or souther Africa, or North America, or even Australia and Indochina, and develop some truly novel and unique stories against the expectations of the familiar. It's a trope that writers only write about that which they care about, and in this case, they only care about the Eurocentric way of American thinking. That the author is apparently from the Isles, this should come as no surprise. Defy your expectations!



They used to be groundbreaking with Mirage.  

But yeah, I would love an oceanian-themed plane, just like what FFX tried =)
It would be very Blue-centric but you have tropical forests for Green and Black and Volcanoes for Red. Can't really fit White in there yet. 



This is a long, long post. I'm hiding it for the comfort of all but the interested. There are flavor ideas involved, which I have no care if anyone wants to use for their own purposes, sans attribution. This includes WotC guys.

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Consider something interesting:

Planes shouldn't be just about one small region on a continent, which is sadly what's been happening of late. That is, it's what happens on most of the "novel" planes: You can either have a single geographic region (an urban setting or desert) and call it "the plane," but as Doug Beyer once wrote, this has no set definition on the nature of the plane itself: it isolates a section of it. What about the rest? Ravnica is not just the City, it is the wilderness and the desolation where presumably the seas were "drained" (anyone familiar with the Creationist "hydrosphere" theory knows the improbability of what to do with so much water on a viable Earth-like world and where all that water goes, and thus the problems with inferring the absence on a world of is seas while maintaining a functional weather system -- a flat world has no weather anything like ours). Both Mirrodin and Zendikar are presumably spheres, while the issue with Alara was left deliberately to question, just to allow the concept of the "shards" to segregate the areas of what was once a (presumably) spherical world; the very question of dimensional shards, in the sense of Rabiah, is left open. But this is not the case with Innistrad, or in fact Rath, Mercadia, and a host of other worlds (including Kamigawa). Instead, these are isolated regions, and they must presume an isolated territory, small set of possible cultures, etc. This is ridiculously unreasonable. Innistrad is the "plane", we are told, yet it seems to have all the complex geography of Lorwyn, a "world" situated in a Valley surrounded by mountains out of which nothing could pass. These "planes" are essentially England, or Germany, or Prussia, or some such. They have no variability.

This is made all the more improbable by Grizzled Outcasts, which implies a varied latitudinal and racially diverse complex which should span a GLOBE, yet again the regions of Innistrad are restricted to smaller than a continent, described as Provinces as in 18th century north-central Europe. We are dealing with varied biomes suggestive of far greater than the world described, and the very way this is expressed in art and flavor is hideous. The sense is rather that the artists and flavorists are restricted by their Anglosaxon biases, the sense of the familiar (themselves) than the variability that could be possible.

I'd like to think in their world-building, the Creative team should start conceiving of the planar structures as a whole, as globes or not, and world build on a Zendikar-scale, not an Innistrad scale. This allows them to do several things:

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1. It gives the ability to plausibly use an Earth-like world model for the sake of weather, racial diversity, skin color, or setting placement.

2. It erases the problems of using the structure of the night/day cycle, months with moons, or years with a revolution around a centralized sun (Mirrodin awesomely inverts this, as does Discworld); it makes tides possible; it allows earthquakes, a solution created by tectonics, and thusly also trenches, orogenic uplift and thus mountains, volcanism, and so forth.

3. It gives the ability to isolate a setting to a section of the world, and permit the ability to travel to uniquely diverse realms to evoke a sense of alienness about the single world, a feature done oddly with Alara.

4. It means it is easier to return to the world without having to encounter the principles involved in the first story, because you can be somewhere else. This was what was so great about Dominaria: It is a globe, with various continents like Jamuraa or Terisiare, places that can be visited when necessary (Mirage, Ice Age) and never tread on old design. It can allow multi-block arcs while varying the structural or cultural feel, allowing new creative elements. This latter permitted the world-spanning of Zendikar with continents bearing different cultures of different races, like the Kor or Elves, or groups of Vampires.


These are bonuses that only require a little extra time in conceiving of the world as a whole, instead of leaving the question open. Where and How and things like this become more plausible, not less.

It makes it possible, for example (and the reason this reply is to Toby's comments) to build a world based on a limited geography, or a single type of "land form", such as an ocean world. I can easily conceive of an ocean-world, where the different colors are represented:

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White is allocated to the poles, where ice forms, providing a stark contrast to the ever-flowing world-sea. Only the change at the margins inflicts on it the sense of a lack of stability, but this itself is stable change; otherwise, the world is stark and barren, and enforces a group-cooperative to survive, either above or below the polar ice.

Blue is allocated to the free waters of the mid latitudes, where the storms rage or settle, as necessary, and creatures are more likely to move between sea-surface and wind, changing between one medium and the other, and allowing masters of wind and wave ("wizards") to harness the endless territory it has to offer. Group politics can be used to emphasize Blue's "collective" feel by creating competing groups of "wizards," different schools to specialize on wind, wave, or realms just beneath the surface.

Black would be relegated to the depths, where the domain of things long dead or unfathomable remain or lurk, creatures vast and un-glimpseable. It is, in fact, my favorite feel of a "deep" type of non-hideous non-zombie black. Black here is about secrets and things that have died, true, but also about un-glimpsed-of life and survival for any cost, a Green sense of adapting to survive.

Red would have access to the volcanically active regions, either below the sea or where volcanoes break out on the surface, providing ample red mana and a burn-tolerant, extremophile biome, but diverse because these places would span the globe, and save for the Blue or Black places, would have no access to other portions of the world, or even know of other Red "clans" of volcano-dwellers.

Green, in stark contrast to anywhere else, would live beneath the wave, or at its surface, around the island-free equator, in the world-spanning Kelp Forest (there, see what I did?) allowing any manner of oceanic life to find purchase as a predator-prey environment. In contrast to other planes, Green is not about the fatties so much as about the weenies, for kelp forests tend not to harbor very large predators, merely smaller ones, because they are hard to navigate for large creatures.


And it's that simple. The Great Designer Search 2 imagined a subterranean world and found a place for all things, something that helps when you look outside the box. I do not think that world building is very hard, especially when creating a diversity of cultures, and they've proven this, but they seem to stop at the things that allow them to create creatures with bizarre names, and never proceed on to creating the world as a whole. When revisiting, we end up in the same place, with the same sense of where we were before, unlike Dominaria, and I think there's a flaw in that way of thinking. It doesn't help that it makes so that the concept artists and such are simply used to thinking in their own ecology, their own race or experience. This is largely due to having to meet the expectations of (I'm sure) their largely white audience, but Magic has been about defying expectations; if it weren't, we'd all be playing Yu-Gi-Oh, and I absolutely hate that game.

It's great that you bring up Final Fantasy. The guys who develop those games spend YEARS designing them, including the back story and world structure, features such as mythology and culture, design of clothes and what not. They pull from the diversity of mythologies and folklore in the world and use it all. They evoke the sense of the familiar in this manner. (There are other aspects, but I've talked too much to go into the problems with the Japanese approach, but anyone who knows the racial/cultural flaws in anime and manga should know what I'm talking about.)
"Possibilities abound, too numerous to count." "Innocent, unbiased observation is a myth." --- P.B. Medawar (1969) "Ever since man first left his cave and met a stranger with a different language and a new way of looking at things, the human race has had a dream: to kill him, so we don't have to learn his language or his new way of looking at things." --- Zapp Brannigan (Beast With a Billion Backs)
Is anyone else mildly jarred by "geist?" It bothers me a slight bit every time I see it on the cards.



Can't say it bothers me at all, having seen it enough in literature and other media. Sorry
"Krallen" is actually German for "Claws", so the the "Krallenhorde" (which is also a grammatically and idomatically perfect Name in German) means "Clawhorde" or "Horde of the Claw".
[c]Forest[/c] gives you Forest
the sound of Innistrad should be a blend of Prussian with dashes of Old Germanic, Dutch, and French.



French? 



I'd prefer if they stopped using Europe as the basis for their stories and flavor. They can be a bit more invented and exploratory, go to central or souther Africa, or North America, or even Australia and Indochina, and develop some truly novel and unique stories against the expectations of the familiar. It's a trope that writers only write about that which they care about, and in this case, they only care about the Eurocentric way of American thinking. That the author is apparently from the Isles, this should come as no surprise. Defy your expectations!



They used to be groundbreaking with Mirage.  

But yeah, I would love an oceanian-themed plane, just like what FFX tried =)
It would be very Blue-centric but you have tropical forests for Green and Black and Volcanoes for Red. Can't really fit White in there yet. 

That would be awesome! And white could be some kind of sky city, with angels or something like that.
Phonemes are useful for this. Here are some good ones to keep in mind for flavor:

Religious names, especially demons or angels
Dead languages
k names
th names (e.g., Yawgmoth)
Mor/ (mors, Latin for death)
Conquerors
Nameless characters (or those with just adjectives or nouns)

For instance, Elesh Norn works because Elesh sounds Semitic, and the norns were the Norse goddesses of fate. Sheoldred works similarly because sheol is Hebrew for "abyss", and "dre[a]d". Yeah. Jin-Gitaxis sounds just like an evil genius, also djinn. Urabrask and Vorinclex, I don't know.
139359831 wrote:
Clever deduction Watson! Maybe you can explain why Supergirl is trying to kill me.
---- Autocard is your friend. Lightning Bolt = Lightning Bolt
I like the German-sounding names.  It does do funny things to translations, though.  For example, Sturmgeist is a valid German name.  It was, indeed, already in use, as the German word for Storm Spirit.  That means the Sturmgeist, in German, is instead named Unwettergeist ("Bad Weather Spirit").

Also, the use of graf as grave throws me off.  Graf is also a German word; it's a noble title, equivalent to count (e.g. Count Dracula is Graf Dracula).
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