Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Christmas Gifts for Pinoy Gamers - Part III : The PDF option

So time and distances are issues, and sending something physical might be a problem?  Then you can always stick to the simpler and at times more economical option of sending your friend PDFs of the games he loves, or of games you feel she should check out.


Online-based servicesWhether it be role-playing game system books, modules, thematic background music, map tiles, and the like, you can easily look through thousands of options (with many of them being either free or Pay What you Want!) at DriveThruRPG.com as well as its family of links, DriveThruComics, DriveThruFiction, DriveThruCards and RPGNow.  I've used this site many times to get the games I want, as well as gift to others the main rulebooks of game systems that I thoroughly enjoyed and want them to check out.  Choosing a game is tremendously simple, and keeping track of new updates quite convenient as well.  You can even find a lot of out of print books ready and waiting to be played here.  Sending someone a gift however does require that person to give you her email address.

Then there's websites of some creators who did not opt to have their works on DriveThruRPg, such as Ben Lehman's These Are Our Games  which showcases fun options such as Hot Guys Making Out  and Bliss Stage.

You also have places like Storium.com which allows multiple authors to work on a fictional story together, or even run narrative focused games in the site.   I personally have run a few games there myself (one based on Jared Sorensen's Lacuna, one based on White Wolf Gaming Studios' Exalted, and even one based on Neil Gaiman's The Endless).  The site takes some getting used to, but playing is free (only the person running the game needs a paid account).

Finally, if your friend is a huge fan of certain creators, you might want to fund them in supporting that creator's Patreon account.  Many of the prolific creators such as John Wick and Evil Hat Productions are there and you can support them and help finance future creations.

The PDF Option
In terms of actual PDFs that I highly recommend the following as gifts.  Which ones best go to which friends I will have to leave you to decide.

Houses of the Blooded (John Wick Presents)
If playing immortal nobles who live to celebrate life with Style is not your liking, the chapters on gaming advice and tips on approaching story are well worth the read.  Add to that the book's unbeatable economic price (free as of this writing!) and you have an awesome winning gift option here.   Take it from me, this game can be life-changing.

Dungeon World (Sage Kobold Productions)
As much as I would probably be the target of a lot of boulders (and magic missiles) for saying this, I will say it: You can forget about Dungeons and Dragons and its complex tome of rules and dive in to Dungeon World instead.  Dungeon World captures the adventure and magic of D&D without frightening away new gamers who aren't too keen on reading hundreds of pages of rules just to understand how combat works.   And even better, even first time players can get into the fun without having to spend more than an hour on character creation.

Our Last Best Hope (Magpie Games)
Whatever the coming cause of the world's end, it is up to you and your friends to stop it.  And even more awesome, all of you are playing.  The game does not need your traditional GM and throws in new ideas on how to approach characters and challenges.  I've run this game with non-gamers and they still had a lot of fun.  Definitely worth every cent (as of this writing, $9.99).

Play Dirty (John Wick Presents)
Yes, this is the second John Wick product in the list.  I am not ashamed to admit that.  If you have yet to try reading his articles on gaming, you probably would wonder why I'm sold on his approaches.  But I promise you, Play Dirty was a tome that made me realize a lot of the things I did in my games were not just cool, but actually revolutionary given most didn't realize that approach could be done.  It validated for me the idea that game balance is an illusion and that fun as a group does take a huge seat over personal fun.

Hamlet's Hitpoints (Gameplaywright)
We've all had our times where we watch some movie or read some book and feel its like a role-playing game unfolding before our eyes.  This book helps explain that even further and throws in a huge bowl of ideas on understand the beats of a story and how to make the most of them in your games.

Odyssey: The Complete Game Master's Guide to Campaign Management (Engine Publishing)
Veterans share their ideas and tips on how to run campaigns and how to make them work.  A must read for people who want guides and advice on how to approach games that are meant to last a long time.

Hope you find this list helpful!
Merry Christmas to you and your gamers form me, Rocky and Yoshi!





Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Christmas Gifts for Pinoy Gamers - Part II : Game Shops

So distance and time are proving to be hindrances to spending time with your geek friend and you still want to find a way to give a Christmas gift somehow?  Then maybe the powers of the internet can help you out. While most gaming cafes and shops do allow you to buy great gift options, let's face it.  Sometimes you just do not have the freedom to visit the shops in Greenhills or SM to get the gift you want to.  Thankfully, we have more options now to give our geek friends the gift we really want to.

Online Shopping With Delivery Options/Or Reservations
Find the perfect gift for your friend by visiting any of these online options and having the gift delivered.   Abubot.ph is a young yet growing source for fun geeky items and gamer needs.  In fact, among the many dice options out here in Manila, Abubot.ph has risen to be the most price competitive in sourcing these including the very popular and hard to find 30-sided dice!

The site stocks everything from board games, to toys, to collectibles and even home, electronics and beauty items and allows multiple ways to pay for the merchandise.   So even if you are not sure what to get your friend yet, dive in and see what cool stuff you will find that would be a perfect gift.

For more board game and related needs, however, you cannot go wrong with The Gaming Library, with a huge selection to choose from.  I haven't tried using the service to purchase and have something delivered to someone else, though, since the time I tapped on The Gaming Library for gifts I gave the friends receiving the gifts the cash to get the board game I wanted them to have.    But I do believe they are even having a Gencon/Essen party soon through restaurant establishments they've tied up with and have slashed a lot of their prices for the Christmas season.

A third service my friends swear by is Fortress Games which has a shop in Greenhills but does actively take the time to answer questions posed to them via their facebook page or in response to updates they share in various groups.  I know I've checked this place out a few times for board game stuff, but I am not quite sure what role-playing options they can offer beyond dice and the occasional books.    But I will again admit, having not yet purchased anything online through them, I am merely including this shop since friends let me know its a good source to check out.

Now let's say actual board games, dice, or having something shipped is still far too much for your budget, or you really want to keep the gift focused on role-playing games?  Check the next article for options in that direction.

(In case you dropped in here without seeing the first part, check out Christmas Gifts for Pinoy Gamers - Part I: Game Cafes to see the different Gaming Cafes and shops I recommend you try taking your friend out to hang with.)





Monday, December 8, 2014

Christmas Gifts for Pinoy Gamers - Part I : Game Cafes

So Christmas is coming up and most of you have probably gotten around to buying presents for your family and loved ones.  But in case you're in the mood to spread the holiday cheer even further among your geek and gamer friends, here are a few suggestions that you might want to look at.



Have a Game Night with Them
Drag your friends out for a game night before the year comes to an end.   Let's face it, the best gift you can give would be your time and spending it doing something you both love.

For those who live up North, there's Ludo: Boardgame Bar and Cafe which can be found at the corner of Scout Fuentebella and Scout Torillo, near Tomas Morato in Quezon City.  Open from 4:00 p.m. til a little past midnight, you can get your gaming fix there while enjoying some delicious meals, not to mention a host of geek-themed events and offerings to check out.  I'm a sucker for their wasabi gyoza.


Further down, closer to Shaw would be Tobey's Games Cafe Manila which is at 65 Mariveles Street, corner Sultan. Unit S at Highway Hills, Mandaluyong.  A lot of friends have even teased me, asking if I am the owner of this place simply because of my name.  The geek gods know I wish I was (oh to have my own geek shop and cafe..)  The place has awesome salads and burgers and is even hosting a Holiday Mixer White Elephant Gift Exchange.   So even if going might be your first time ever to do so, the event is sure to help break the ice and allow you to make new friends.


For those closer to Makati, there's Makati B&B Boardgames and Beer which is located on the 2nd floor of Languages Internationale Building, 926 A. Arnaiz Avenue in Makati.  The place is open every day from 3:00 p.m. til 10:00 p.m. and hosts a lot of gaming fun be it Heroclix Tourneys, Warhammer 40k clashes or role-playing sessions.  (I believe my remarkably talented friend Marc Reyes runs games there too).  There's even Club Membership there, which can be a pretty cool gift you can give to your friend if you think about it.



Then for those down south, there's Puzzles: Board Game Lounge at Paranaque (Where were you back when I used to live in that area?!?) at 287 Aguirre Avenue, BF Homes.  They are open every day around 3:00 p.m. til midnight, but go as late as 2:00 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights.  Tables can also be reserved for those groups that worry about showing up and not having a place to hang out.  Parking can be a challenge, however, so be warned.  I was happy that the day I was there, the guy at the counter was very accommodating and seemed genuinely interested in talking to me when I asked about how long the place had been in operations.  I can only wonder if he remembers the game designer he chatted with if he ever chances upon this blog post.

Time not a good option?  Distance a painful factor?  You actually are only web-based friends with the other?  That's fine and completely understandable.  One of the biggest lessons any gamer learns as they get older is time becomes a precious commodity indeed.  So if spending time to game with your buddy isn't quite a possible gift you can give, keep yours eyes posted on the next update which will show other options you can choose.  Check out Part II which discusses online shopping options.  And the last part, Part III, will feature places to order rpg pdfs as well as a recommended list of stuff to give your friends. (Link to be added once its online)



Friday, November 21, 2014

After the Rain ep19 : Houses of the Blooded

10/05/2014
After the Rain

Episode Nineteen
"Celebrity"

A dear friend of ours, Aina, had been wanting to play a role-playing game for a while.  We scheduled a session and had her try Fiasco (The Letter) and it was a blast!  We then got her gaming feet wet with Doctor Who: Adventures in Time and Space (Cat's Eyes), with Rocky handling the game mastering, and that was pretty fun!   After those two sessions, Aina asked for the big leap forward:  Houses of the Blooded.  So what could I do but grant her wish?  And best of all, tied the story to the ongoing saga of After the Rain.

Today's cast:
Oandur Bowen, Baron of Westlane, Blooded of the Bear.  A Builder of Dreams.  His skill with design and structure has crafted moving stages, transforming staircases and more.  His sister, Amaras Q'n, at times teases him for doing the hard work while she embraces the limelight.  But he does not mind.  He is not one for adulation.    His former lover, Cheska Valar, plays the role of Scarlet in the coming Operatic masterpiece, Love Is Crimson.  He hopes his Hammers (Valet) can help him deliver the most magnificent stage yet.   

Amaras Q'n, Baroness of Eastroad, Blooded of the Fox.  She deserves the limelight (or so she believes) but Cheska Valar, the woman who broke her bother's heart, has taken the lead role of the Opera.  It was the role Amaras wanted to play.  She desires revenge, but she is aware that her brother still wrongly yearns for the usurper.  Even worse, a new talent named Vyktor Krev plays the lead.  She desires to poison Cheska but has no Herbs to concoct such a thing.  Her brother, however, may have.  She owns an Ebon Knife, a gift from Ikhalu, who whispered yes.  The knife transforms any sliced Herbs into Poison.  

Ecco Uvan, Baron of Heindig, Blooded of the Elk.  Ecco and Cheska Valar have been together for three Seasons in a vibrant Romance.  Unfortunately for this Opera, however, Cheska's former lover, Oandur, is working with him.  Ecco knows Cheska left Oandur for him before.  He fears she may leave him now to return to Oandur.  He knows he will punish them all if it were to happen.  Ecco is the creator of the music of Love Is Crimson and has plans to ensure Amaras Q'n never steals the spotlight from his beloved.  Ecco has a tiny spider as a Familiar and a Bloodsword.   The spider roams silently in the Opera House to do his bidding.

Cheska Valar, Baroness of Solitar, Blooded of the Serpent.    Now the shiniest star on stage, Cheska seeks to maintain her fortune.  Her former lover, Oandur Bowen, is working with her in his opera and she knows he still hurts for the heartbreak she had dealt him (when she left him for another man he never met.)  Few realize that other man was Ecco Uvan whose shining talent provides the songs and music for this piece.  She is still with Ecco but does now feel the desire to leave him for Oandur, who always showered her with attention. Cheska plays the lead role and hopes that Amaras Q'n never upstages her in this grand moment.  She has brought  with her a vial of Hemlock, and has been a favored Actress by the Earl, Dalvinosh Steele.

And finally,  Vyktor Krev.  Blooded of the Horse, posing as a Falcon.   A grand young actor with unparalleled skill.  Few realize his acting prowess is empowered through sorcery: he has a Blessing called 1,000 Faces which allows him to perfectly embody the personality, mannerism, body language and appearance of anyone he has never personally met.  He does not recall to which Devotion his Blessing was gained. He also owns The Solace Compact, an artifact which when closed containing something of another Ven, allows the stripping of one specific moment from that Ven's memory.  He does not know who gave this to him as well.  His muse is a red-haired beauty named Liliandra.  She whispers sweet things to him, and in exchange for promises which she grants takes away the terrible moments and memories of his life.

There are so few memories left.

The scene opens with the lovers not quite... meeting eye to eye.  Cheska Valar feels the need for attention, but Ecco Uvan is too lost in the composition of a new piece for the Opera.  Ecco pens the Song of Sapphire, a vengeful, passionate song of blood and danger and so lost in his thoughts is he that Cheska feels slighted by the lack of attention.

Dalvinosh Steele has asked for a fateful adaptation of the original story, The Riddle of Blood, and Ecco Uvan has been pushing the limits of his creativity to compose it into Love Is Crimson, distilling the stories to the key events of the tale: the love and death of Kithranus Yvarai.  The Opera was to be grand, with real weapons used for all the fights (especially the key passionate duel between Scarlet and Sapphire that leads to Kithranus' demise), and even the strange guests - the Ork Ven from beyond the Mistweir - were to be invited to watch.  

Little did the actors know how things would turn out on stage.  The props which Oandur Bowen prepare somehow seem to favor Amaras Q'n more, giving her much more light and visibility during every scene.  Ecco Uvan would be so obsessed over the music, he would completely overlook these details, infuriating Cheska Valar more.

Schemes would combine with other schemes, and a spider would whisper promises.  Poison would drip from threads that Spiders then position over sleeping mouths.  And as the dance of drama and danger unfolds, the nature of Liliandra becomes exposed as the wicked temptations she lures Ecco Uvan and Cheska Valar with are resisted, and death comes to the stage.

The Storm comes.

And with the strong winds, Ecco Uvan finds himself tasting death... but not before Liliandra, in a moment of pure confidence and pride whispers to him her Secret Name just to spite him.  "It wouldn't matter.  You are already about to die.  My name... is Thalia."

Cheska Valar escapes the collapsing Opera house with Vyktor Krev, as they fall from the heights of the grand city to find themselves hooked by the infamous Madelyn Yvarai.  She demands from Cheska service which she relents to survive.   Vyktor, surprisingly embraces the identity of Kithranus Yvarai, her dead son-in-law, but the act convinces Madelyn to provide him shelter as well.  As the raging winds and water tear the city asunder, Liliandra appears before Madelyn Yvarai with a deal to make:  Protect my corporeal form and in return, she will deliver Madelyn to where she desires.  Madelyn chooses to find refuge in the Shanri the Ork ven spoke of.  And to make matters even swing more in her favor, asks to arrive there two Seasons earlier than she should have.

But sadly, these facts and whispers are truths which Galeo Silja, Nia Jalan, Jaric Thayl and Seran Thorne would have loved to have known, but they would be secrets that they would never ever uncover.  For as the Storm rages, elsewhere in the City, Galeo and Seran find themselves thrown back into Shanri in fulfillment of a wish requested by Lukas Q'n.  While the others brave the waves and soon find shelter as the orks of the Fenris House guide them to safety.

Of the theater troupe, Oandur Bowen, Amaras Q'n, and a host of other Ruk find themselves surviving the brunt of the Storm, but trapped within the Grand Opera House, to beg for food and pray for their Patrons to send them what they need to survive.  Even Liliandra, a red-haired servant of Vyktor who laments losing her Baron, fears how they will fare - will hunger or exhaustion come to claim them first?  Will the Orks stalking the lands?

And this they will remain in, for the many Seasons to come.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Barely more than a month left to go

I'm still one game behind my 12 new games for 2014 and I realize I might actually FAIL to hit it unless I find a way to squeeze in a game session using a new system soon.  I guess I got way too busy with my two day jobs that I neglected making time for the final game.

1) Demon the Descent
2) Spirit of the Century
3) Tremulus
4) Wicked Heroes
5) Storium games
6) Fiasco : The Search for the Golden Panda playkit
7) The Letter: Fiasco Medici playkit
8) Dresden Files
9) Doctor Who : Adventure in Time and Space
10) Cthulhutech
11) Mouse World
12) ???

My partner has been helping me map out gaming schedules with the many groups we have games with.  No longer being the kids we used to be, mapping out game schedules are very important nowadays in order for sessions to work out.  Currently, this is what the next few weeks are starting to look like:

Nov 22 - Dollhouse (Orpheus)
Nov 23 - After the Rain (Houses of the Blooded) [Tentative]
Nov 29 - FTC RPG Night (Scion)
Nov 30 - After the Rain (Houses of the Blooded) [Tentative]
Dec 06 - Metro Manila LGBT Pride March [Tentative Attendance]
Dec 07 - Chicago (Matinee) [Evening Game Possible]
Dec 13 - Quezon City LGBT Pride March (Attending) [Late Evening Game Possible]
Dec 14 - Scrooge (Matinee) [Evening Game Possible]
Dec 20 - OPEN
Dec 21 - After the Rain (Houses of the Blooded) [Tentative]
Dec 27-28 - Tentatively Open

Thankfully, it does show that there are still slots we can use to have a one shot game or two.  the trickier question is finalizing what game it will be.  I've been reading Jim Pinto's King for a Day lately, as well as sneaking in time to read Atsuhiro Okada's Ryuutama which some describe as Miyazaki - Oregon Trail the RPG.   And there's always the urge to run Companions, but that would mean finding a group of Whovians who'd be free for a game session soon  Oh, the choices.

Gaaah so many choices I tell you.
I'm so blessed to be in a relationship with a guy who loves gaming.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Threads and Fate ep01 : Scion

10/19/2014
Threads and Fate
Episode One
"From Above"

Scion

After the successful Monsterhearts one-shot and the Mouseworld one-shot I ran for Lanchie, Miguel and Jonathan, Rocky and I were excited to learn they were all itching to try another game.  Perhaps, they said, one that lasts longer than a single session.  So we were more than eager to comply.  Digging through the various books and systems we had to offer, both Rocky and I realized we wanted them to at least try something that used the Storyteller system of White Wolf games.  But given the varying interests, the trick was finding was system would be best.   Mythology seemed to be the easiest niche to match up, and so we went for Scion.

The cast of characters:


Jonathan plays  Morgan Huntington
An Anthropologist whose work explores the cultural echoes existing among the fairy tales of the world, with emphasis on the concept of a Prince Charming.  Morgan's work was one of passion given he was also the heir to a massive real-estate conglomerate.   
Virtues: Duty, Endurance, Intellect, Valor






Miguel plays Max Black
Assistant to the librarian in the university library, Max is a college student studying Literature.  She comes from a foster home and is currently searching for her biological parents.  Sassy and angry at the world, Max approaches things with a no-nonsense attitude and a determined desire to find the truth to why she was abandoned at such a young age.
Virtues: Conviction, Courage, Duty, Loyalty







 Lanchie plays Gareth Malone

Despite being much older than most in the music industry, Gareth continues to express his love for his craft and find others who seek to learn from his experience.  Gareth is an International chorale conductor who is currently doing master classes all around the world. But as public he is a personality when it comes to his love for music, he remains a man of mystery when one considers his attentions towards the more passionate and sensual things in life.   Sexually ambiguous, Gareth hides a lot of mysteries behind an approachable and kind face.
Virtues: Expression, Intellect, Valor, Vengeance

Rocky plays Annika
Tough, perceptive and brave, Annika is a Reality TV show host  with her own brand on survival tactics.  Following the paths tread by shows like Man versus Wild, Annika's show pushes the boundaries of what women can achieve and fearlessly shows that ingenuity and grace can come hand in hand.
Virtues: Conviction, Harmony, Order, Piety

Our story begins with each of the scions going through their lives, unawares of the coming twists of Fate.  

Max was at the library digging up for more dirt about her family and found two possible search results when the same power outage hits.  She hears a shriek somewhere inside the library, telling her someone else is stuck in the darkness with her.  And worse, the sight of something furry moving deeper into the darkness.  She rushes to help the trapped student find her way out when they realize there is something stalking them in the darkness.

Gareth was at the concert hall, conducting a chorale and orchestra to perform a piece he knows by heart.  He sees a woman in the far side of the audience hall, staring at him unflinchingly.  Unlike everyone else, she seems to be staring intensely at him without any care for the music.  As the song hits the highest note, lightning flashes and the power cuts out.  He pushes forward, however, tapping his feet to keep the tempo and bringing the performance to reach a majestic finish.  Lighting flashes and a winged shadow is cast upon the wall.   The audience breaks into applause, perhaps thinking Gareth timed the performance to have that shadow.  However, Gareth excuses himself and heads back to his own dressing room before the last song.  While there, however, he sees a black shape upon the window which incites him to break into a run to leave the room.  He bumps into Sheryl, one of his assistants, who tries to help him in the darkness.  Gareth feels a cold breeze and finds an open window in the adjoining room.

Annika is talking with Gary about the footage showing her wading through the mud as she pushes between the fallen trees and talks about keeping a steady pace and not staying too long.  Gary had fallen backwards, tripping on a fallen tree, that moment.  When the lights go out, Annika (who keeps calling Gary something else: Jerry, Gerald, Greg... etc) even blames him for the power going out.  Gary heads to the other office to check if there's anything he can grab to fix the power outage, given even the UPS had gone out.  Annika looks out the window at the coliseum and sees some kind of shadow on the roof when lightning flashed for a moment.  Something with wings?  When Gary finds a possible light source, Annika catches sight of the hint of some movement at the far end of the corridor.  She runs to that area to check who is there and finds herself face to face with a cloaked figure with glowing eyes. 

Morgan was having an argument with his father about his plans in life and about the need for him to focus on the family business (for the next four months in South East Asia) when a power outage strikes the city.  And just when one would think things could not get any worse, a winged thing crashes through the window.   The thing is a naked woman, but wings protrude from its back and talons replace her feet.  Scales seem to cover its skin.  Strangely, Morgan's father does not seem to see the woman.  While his father complains all about the loss of power and the wasted money, Morgan sees another figure at the broken window.

Giant spiders, each the width of two open palms, are stalking the two girls.  Max and the girl smash books at them, trying to force the creatures back whenever they can.  At times the things vanish in the darkness, only to reemerge with the flashing of lightning.  Max discovers her body impossibly somehow begins to move with unexpected speed and grace, which helps her evade most of the incoming spiders.  But as they find their way to escape, the doorways they find are blocked by spider webs.  The two start tearing pages off the nearest books and lighting them to build a fire to try and ward the things back.  Max easily swats most of the spiders away, even flinging one to smack into others.  But the other girl panics as the threads of web begin to entangle around her body.  She is unable to light the books in time.  That moment, a shriek tears through the night and Max turns towards it to see a winged feathered thing emerging from the corner charging straight towards them!

Gareth sends the assistant to check the open window in the other room.  As Sheryl check the window, the door behind her slams shut leaving Gareth in darkness.  Sheryl returns, wondering why Gareth closed the door, and tells him the window is closed now.  That moment, time seems to move so slowly as Gareth's brain snaps into focus and review the details he had seen.  The shadow at the window... it was a monkey.  A monkey shape?  And Gareth suddenly understands for certain that today is one of the most important days in his life.  And true enough, a chimpanzee walks into the light of Stacey's flash light.  Stacey hurries to call for security, but this pulls the light away from the chimp.  Gareth feels a tugging sensation against his leg, and when Stacey shines the light towards it, they see the chimpanzee there.  To their shock, the thing suddenly asks, "Are we really playing this game, Gareth?"  The two stare at the talking monkey but the chimpanzee teases them and replies, "Well, you're all talking monkeys too!"    When Gareth wonders what's going on, the chimpanzee digs a mite from its hair and offers it to him, telling him that if he eats it everything is going to make sense.  The mite offered turns out to be a stupid joke which makes the chimp laugh its ass off.  The chimp then explains that "she" is looking for him and seems amused that he really does not recall anything.  When Gareth pushes to ask who "she" is, the chimp explains his wife is looking for her.

Annika finds the cloaked figure addressing her as Annika and asking for her help.  The woman explains that if Annika does not do as she says, she will not be able to save "Jareth" from dying.  And if Jareth dies, then Jareth would not be able to save Annika in the future.  A paper levitates out of the cloak to reveal a flier to Brahms Concerto E at the coliseum.   The figure asks Annika to hurry, given there is less than an hour of time left before it is too late.   Gary calls for Annika, and when Annika asks "Jerry" to wait, she turns back to find the cloaked woman gone and the flier falling to the ground.   Annika tells Gary to wait and rushes towards the concerto across the block.  She sees the winged things in the sky, surrounding the Huntington tower above.  An explosive sound erupts from above followed by the tinkling sound of falling glass.  Annika looks up to see a winged horse silhouetted by the lightning.  She rushes forward, sliding across the hoods of cars and leaping over benches as she rushes towards the coliseum.  Oddly, she notices there is a cat running alongside her. Deep down she feels if she does not help this Jareth person, she will regret it for the rest of her life.   She pushes the side door open and slides inside to find the cat there beside her, staring at her.  Questioning her sanity can wait.   Annika quickly moves through the grounds, avoiding security and making her way to what she knows is the backstage area.  Having held a meet and greet event here before, Annika remembers the route easily.

A winged horse.  The thing by the broken window is a winged horse.  And on the horse, a beautiful pale woman, naked save for a helmet with eagle wings and a spear.  The father starts complaining aloud about the damaged window, again seemingly blind to the newcomers.  Morgan tries to shush his father to go quiet and explain that something weird is going on, and it takes a while before he starts to make sense to his father.  As they crawl towards the door, keeping low, Morgan starts to hear squirming wet sounds as the woman seemingly crushes the head of the winged woman in the other side of the room.  She then asks the horse if it had found the trail of her husband and it neighs in response.

Hoping to distract the woman, Morgan flings a glass shard into the opposite direction.  But the woman detects the movement and flings the spear at the shard with just enough precise strength that it impales the glass shard against the window.    She turns and faces Morgan's direction and asks why he can see her!  Morgan stands up, imposing himself between his father and the woman.   She asks if he is one of those bound to Jareth by Fate as she reaches for the spear.  When Morgan's father stands up, asking what the hell Morgan is yelling about, Morgan rushes to his father in hopes of tackling him to the floor.   The woman shakes her head and launches the spear in their direction!  The metal of the spear seems to twist and shift mid-air, tearing into Morgan's shoulder and unfurling to act like a hook to pull him back towards her!   All Morgan's father, however, can see is his son flying backwards as if pulled by some invisible force.

The winged serpent charges, attacking the spiders that have surrounded Max.   Max watches at it swoops close, gobbling up any spiders that are too close.  The serpent gives Max some breathing room to move closer to the other girl and try to help.  The other girl has been cocooned by the webs of the spiders.  Max starts ripping off the webs that have trapped the girl, worried that she had suffocated inside the prison.  Freeing the girl, Max turns to the winged serpent and thanks it for its help.  She notices its wings flutter extremely quick, like that of a humming bird.  To her surprise, it bows in response.

"So.. you know me?"

The girl starts thanking Max as well for helping her, an odd moment given Max never introduced herself to the girl.  Somehow, the girl knows Max's name and even starts to know things about Max which she has yet to share with her.  The girl doesn't really know why she knows things about her.  It is a voice in the darkness that helps explain the events.  Just like earlier with Annika, a cloaked woman tells Max that the winged serpent is named Left Wing, which she had raised from her last incarnation.  She tells Max that the girl knows her name because she is fate bound to her.  When Max asks who the woman is, the cloaked woman admits she cannot answer who she is yet, but she does know who Max' parents are and that she should rush to the coliseum within the next thirty minutes to save Annika.  And only by saving Annika will she be able to save her own parents.  "Her hair is the color of the sun setting on the first dawn."

Max unlocks his know-it-all Knack and realizes the girl's name is Lucy.  It isn't quite clear to her, however, why Lucy knows Max's name.  They have never met before, after all.   Max tries burning the web to free Lucy but the fire spreads far too quickly!  Worried for Lucy, Max reaches into the flames to touch Lucy and a brilliant rainbow hue of light envelops around her, protecting her from the flames.  Max realizes it would be best to head to the coliseum at once.  Lucy, however, starts wondering if Max is some kind of an angel.

Regaining his breath after a long bout of laughter, the chimp starts explaining to Gareth that his wife, the woman he has sworn to love under the Eternal Tree and carries her children, is searching for her.  A shriek pierces the darkness and Stacey emerges with a fire axe in her hands.  She swings it at the chimp, who dodges to the side and yells at Gareth to keep her pet under control.  Stacey swings the axe again, clearly intent to protect Gareth from what she thinks is a rabid animal that escaped from the zoo.  Gareth asks Stacey to calm down and takes the axe from her.  The chimp admits he never understood why Gareth chose to go back, and starts explaining that Gareth had chosen to try to live a human life again, and dipped himself in some River somewhere to forget things.  Stacey, however, thinks she is merely having a mental breakdown since she is having trouble coping with her boyfriend having cheated on her.  Gareth tries to calmly explain to her that the chimpanzee isn't really talking and that she's the only one who can hear it.  He tells her it would be best for her to relax and calm down and that he will handle taking it to the zoo later.  Gareth unlocks his old powers of Epic Charisma and convinces Stacey to head to the cafeteria and get some water to drink.   He reminds her to take her time.  Alone with the chimpanzee, Gareth asks what is really going on and the chimp asks for a cigar, knowing Gareth always carries one for luck in his pocket.  He agrees to give one if she says who the wife is.  "Helga.  She is one of the Valkyrie."  The chimp however finds it odd that he got married given they would always spend time in private dressing in women's clothing and celebrating dance and art.  Gareth cannot believe this chimp knows about that secret of his!  The chimp says the aren't lies though, cause if they were... Gareth would be the first to notice.

Lightning flashes and something with wings smashes through the glass.

Annika runs past a dazed assistant towards the sound of shattering glass.  A man's voice is now screaming ahead of her.  She turns the corner and sees a professor pinned against the far wall.  There is a winged woman with taloned feet pushed against him.  One of her wings seems broken.  A chimpanzee is leaping from one side to the other, holding a cigar in its hands.  The thing flings Gareth to the far wall, and what would have been a crippling blow snaps a bone in his body but much to the old man's surprise, the fracture almost instantly begins to repair itself!   He feels the broken bone mend itself and while the pain remains intense, the damage practically fades away into nothing but a bruise.   The chimp grabs the nearby axe, and threatens the harpy, distracting it and inadvertently giving Annika an opening she needs to rush forward and strike an open palm against the Harpy's chest.  Annika feels the first touches of her Epic Dexterity allowing her to move faster than expected!  As the chimp checks on Gareth, and asks for a lighter, Annika kicks the harpy one more time in the head and snaps its neck.  The harpy dissolves into golden ashes.

"Are you Jareth?"
"Yes," Gareth responds.
"Okay..." Annika gasps, "And you're supposed to save me?"

A door slides open and Max and Lucy emerge.  Max calls out asking if the woman with the red-hair is Annika.  Annika strikes a pose and confirms her question.  All can see the feathered serpent hovering near them.  Lucy blurts out that they came to save her from something and the moment Annika asks if she looks like she needs saving... the lights go out.

"Who are you people?" Gareth calls out, confused.


The ceiling crashes open.  Glass falls around them as a body falls to the very floor in front of them.   Morgan recalls the naked woman using her headdress as a ricocheting weapon that knocks his father unconscious before bouncing back into her hand.  Morgan remembers how she pulled him to her face and demanded he explain how he could see her.  And he last remembers how, angered by his inability to explain, she threw him out of the broken window to get rid of him.

Morgan opened his eyes to see the strange gathering around him.   An old man with a chimpanzee.  An orange-haired woman with a flash light pinned to her chest.  And two women under the shadow of a feathered serpent that hovered above them.   He could barely understand how he survived the fall, given the distance he had fallen.  Or the impact to the ground.    Everyone is confused how he could have survived the fall.  Or how the animals can speak.  Or why the weather has gone crazy.  The chimpanzee admits he is only here to help Gareth head back home.  Morgan wonders if Gareth is supposed to be someone popular.  Lucy recognizes Annika as the celebrity on television.  Max tells Lucy to shut up.  Annika notices one of them is covered in blood.  Morgan thanks her for noticing, but Gareth interjects that Annika likely meant him.

Gareth shakes his head and stands up.  "I have a concert to finish.  I am not involved in this!" He begins to walk away and the chimpanzee calls out after him, "Oh come on, Jareth!  Don't do that!"

*

In the sky, a Valkyrie hears the winds carry the name to her ears.  She turns the winged horse towards the building below with the hole in the ceiling.    

*

"We have to discuss how we will hide you from your wife," the chimpanzee continues.   That moment, an impossibly long spear strikes the ground beside the chimpanzee.  As it shortens back to a normal length, the group watches as the Valkyrie descends to the ground using the spear to guide her slide.   The naked woman yanks the spear free from the floor and asks, "Jareth?  Pretending you don't recognize your own wife won't save you. Let's settle this once and for all."

"This is a domestic dispute?" Annika gasps.

*

The scene unfolds within swirling water.   A second woman in robes with an older face and a pregnant belly asks the younger one, "Sister.  What have you done?"    A third woman, old and wizened, responds, "This was not my doing!"

The youngest, with the glowing eyes, chooses not to respond.





Saturday, November 15, 2014

After the Rain ep18 : Houses of the Blooded

09/29/2014
After the Rain

Episode Eighteen
"Insult"

Houses of the Blooded

Spring arrives.
But with the coming of spring, the Ven from the other Sharni can be seen beginning the streets, hoping for food.  Some that Galeo Silja encounters on her journey to Maja Thayl actually even beg her to name them.  When Galeo catches the fact that the two are hiding a Child, she decided to adopt him seeing the opportunity to both save a child, and gain a Vassal.   When Galeo asks for the child's Secret name from the mother, however, she learns the Child's turns out to be "Dara" which means the Balancer of Shanri.  The father becomes an Apothecarist.  The mother becomes another possible Vassal.

Jaric Thayl and Szaz Ashken inspect the Injuries she had sustained from the destruction of the Castle of Sorio Rusu.  The wounds seem to be healing, but her sight remains impaired.  Szaz feels she lost her usefulness but Jaric believes it will provide her a new perspective towards things.  He reminds her that her network was the main usefulness she had to offer towards his Province.  "One Spider is useless without a web."  Jaric spies a Roadman waiting by the door to be acknowledged and opts to ignore him for now, focusing his attention on his Spider.  He reminds her it is an opportunity to expand her network but she is to never have them visit his castle.  She will never leave the castle, to be the center of the web and to be well protected under his care.  She is to run Catan as the Mayor, and he admits he already has his own Spy Network.  When they discuss how she lost her vision, she tells him there was a woman as the castle fell around them.  The woman told her to worry not.  Jaric suspects the woman was the Demon.  Szaz shares though that the woman said, "Today's pain is for tomorrow's Transformation."  He tells her to care for the man dressed in yellow in his City.  He reminds her he is important and must be kept safe.

Maja Thayl looks unhappy, having been made to wait.  When Jaric finally steps out to meet her, she dismisses him, "Next week," and walks out of the Castle.  Even as Jaric rushes after to speak to her, she leaves.

In Catan, Jaric revisits the man in yellow and finds he has made the very chamber a tome: names fill the walls including statements relating to the names.  Kithranus, Circe, the Sword talks, Made to Forget, and more.  The man asks Jaric if he wrote it and panics that Jaric might be trying to drive him crazy.  The man claims to be a Fox, but then hesitates and thinks he is a Serpent.... an Elk.. His sense of identity is muddled.  Jaric calls him Gaius and claims he is trying to help him.  The man asks for Herbs to know if Jaric speaks the truth, but the man still seems to not register the name.  "A Mirror... give me a Mirror!  A Quill!  A Feather..." When Jaric jokes Galeo has the perfect Quill, the man refers to Galeo as "the name of the one who.... wait, it has not happened yet..."  Jaric tries to call him Kyocera this time but the man points at the marking of dead bodies on the walls.  He begs to know why he is held in the room, and even asks who is Artemisia.  Even when Jaric says Artemisia is Galeo Silja, the man admits it does not make sense.

"Maja.. Maja would know.. this is all a dream... this is all would pass... the airship.. the sky pirates.. the stone cutters... the land sharks.. the storms..."

Jaric realizes these things were in the Dreadfuls, supposedly penned by his namesake.  "I ended them," the man proudly boasts, "I formally ended our Compact."  Then descends back into nonsensical statements.  Jaric leaves, heeding to his wife's call.

At Kalien, with the intention to visit her mother's temple, that of Althea Thorne - Suaven of Journeys, Seran Thorne is unable to visit the grounds.  The queue is four-days long.  She realizes she should have opted to visit Jessie Jalan, Jaric's daughter and now Countess of Kalien first.  She turns to ask a nearby Roadman if the lines are typically this long.  The man informs her that they were longer before when the Temple wasn't built yet.  The Countess of Kalien is said to be currently indisposed which worries Seran if she is injured or just busy.  As she considers her options, one of the Merchant House, a man named Shalan, approaches her and offers his services.  The Merchant House it seems now offer to stand in line for the Ven who are willing to make a proper exchange.  He even can secret Seran closer to the front.  Seran finds it amusing that the Merchant has Permits marked by the Countess and of the talks of strips/rips as the currency.  The man reveals a leather case with strips, pieces of a Contract, and it seems to be the currency used by the Merchant House to make dealings with others.  They do, however, notarize the Contracts using a pinned ring, as well as a Ritual of some sort to "copy and send" a duplicate of the Contract to the Merchant House Scribe in the Senate.  Seran is told that any Merchant House can collect the payment.   With someone holding her place in the line, Seran opts to visit the Castle.

There, she finds her mother's Seneschal, the Caretaker, offering her condolences for Seran's loss. She tells the Staff to prepare the good wine and explains that Jessie is preoccupied in the basement levels of the Castle.  Servants seem to be bringing her Herbs, as well as what seem to be corpses.  Whitish, greenish fluid seemed to drip from the bodies.  The Caretaker refuses to explain what she is doing, however.  They discuss instead the popularity of Althea Thorne and learn she has gained a lot of Devotion from the Merchants.  Each region in the Province is to contain a Shrine devoted to her.   The Caretaker leads her to speak with someone else who can better explain things, and Seran is escorted to a structure being built.  The structure, turns out, to be a Business Holding:Port Station and here she meets the Merchant Lord, Murid Reinhold, brother of the late Rajid Reinhold who perished in Sorio Rusu's castle.  Murid is thankful to have inherited everything.  She learns the Merchants are planning a business that connects various Regions from different Provinces to allow passengers to take Voyages between them.  She asks Seran to consider being part of the connected chain. As a present, he gives her a spyglass crafted in orichalcum, uncovered from the ruins.  It is sealed with markings in Old Realm.  Seran hires another Merchant to stand as an alibi, visible in line, while she is to be secreted into the Temple itself.  She finally visits the Temple to find a moment to visit her mother.

Back at Nia's Province, in one of the unexplored Regions, the Orks are agitated.  In the camps of the Ork Tribe, five people are chained to the ground.  An Ork Hunter notes Nia's arrival.  An Ork Witch continues to curse the five on the ground.  Nia realizes neither are her vassals.  Bowen explains the five have intruded upon their lands and killed five of their people.  Nia recognizes them to be an Unblooded adventuring party.   Nia inspects the five and recognizes one turns out to be Blooded but has taken steps to hide his nature.  Cloth covers his ears and forehead.  A full beard and lack of grooming makes him look more unkempt.  Nia calls for the one in charge and the Hunter comes forward.  Nia recognizes him to be one she had met during the Festival.  The Hunter wishes to avenge the death of his sons, but Bowen has reminded him they are near Nia's lands.  Nia is handed a blade by the Ork Hunter for her own safety.  The Ork then crushes a black catterpillar upon the blade, causing it to sizzle.  Nia identifies the goo as a poison, and upon seeing the Ork lick his fingers clean, realizes it is clearly a Ven-specific poison.  Remembering Jalani was once a Tavala, Nia approaches the adventuring group.  She focused on the Ven and is curious to see the man is the group's Q'val.    Nia talks to them and tries to learn why they have done what they have done.  She learns the group came upon a lair, killed a monster within it, set camp inside to rest, and the Orks came and attacked them.  They retaliated and killed five of the Orks, forcing the rest to flee.  Bowen explains the Orks' side, of having returned from a long journey to the mountain and smelled the smoke.  As they inspected the monster, they saw the adventurer's camped in the lair.  Turning to leave, the group bumps into the Shalvar (the Warrior) who then attacked them immediately. He killed four of their number, and the Q'val slew the fifth Ork.   The Q'val is astounded that Nia would side with the Orks. She reminds him she speaks to him out of courtesy since she knows what he truly is.  If he wasn't Ven, she would have just left them to suffer what the Orks desire.   The Blackhand surround Nia with weapons drawn as the Orks pounce upon the adventuring party, massacring them, now that it is clear that she does not cast her shadow upon them.  The Q'val cries out for help, taking injuries from the Orks.  The Orks stop their assault for a brief moment when Nia asks the Q'val which Suaven he serves.  The Q'val spits out Manna Rennay's name, but Nia feels that's unlikely given he is not protected by her Blessings.  Nia pushes past her guards, holding the poisoned knife in her hands, and asks the Q'val once again whom he is devoted to.  The Q'val claims this time to be devoted to Thalia Yvarai.  Avendi.  He throws out more names but these heighten only Nia's suspicion.  "Shan'ri take me," the man suddenly intones and an earthquake comes.  Trees suddenly sway.   The blackhand close around Nia to protect her.  The orks panic in the shaking.  And as they look back at the Q'val, he is gone.  Where he was earlier, a fissure now exists.  Deep down below, Nia can see flowing water.   None know of any Blessings that invoke Shan'ri.    Of the remains, Nia collects the parts of the ork that the adventuring party had slain.  She gifts them to the Ork Chieftain and from this act, the Witch attempts to gain some ground against Nia, with claims of Nia having failed to keep promises in the past.  The Chieftain, however chooses to side with Nia, and the Witch leaves warning them of curses to come.   Nia asks the Chieftain if he would like to serve her as her Warlord.  Before a decision can be made, veth on horseback emerge escorting one of the Ven.  They surround the camp, and the Ven addresses Nia in what clearly is a clear bid to establish that this is his Region.

The new arrival asks if Nia is lost, and the two clearly are at odds to establish whose Region this belongs to.  The man even wonders if Nia's Blackhand is some Secret Army.  She identifies them as her Personal Guard, of course, and learns his name is Illudyl Q'n.  As they throw reasons to prove claim on the region, Illudyl brings up that his Adventuring Party was even sent to this location to establish his hold on the land.  Nia then reveals she did encounter the Adventuring Party and shares how the supposed Q'val could not clearly cite a Suaven he was devoted truly to but in the end how the man called for the enemy to help him.   He insults her as a Ven who sleeps with Orks.  But Nia simply deflects that he seems to have mistaken her for Dranna Ru.  As the Q'n leaves and promises to raise this to the Senate, Nia gives the Warlord freedom to attack the Ven of that man's land if they seek to attempt any invasion upon it.

Nia smiles, knowing she now has an Ork Army under her control.

Jaric arrives at Kalien and sees the long lines and Quarter houses forming to allow people to wait for their turn at the Temple.   He remembers his meeting with his mother Maja who held against him the fact he made her wait.  When Jaric arrives at the Castle, the Caretaker informs him that she is indisposed.  Jaric walks past her, and heads straight to the basement to visit his daughter.  With the Riskmen and all other Vassals made to wait, Jaric heads below and finds his daughter Jessie throwing commands upon a gathering of pained and terrified prisoners.  The prisoners she commands do not seem to be Ven nor Veth.  The things are fusions of beast and other things.  Jessie proudly shares that she had mastered the Ritual of The Corpse.    Jaric was hoping Jessie to help him identify a certain person of interest, but Jessie confuses this with another man whom she supposedly has been seeing. Jessie admits that she and the man like each other but they are not in a Romance.  Jaric tells her more about Kyocera, his fragmented memories, and his claims to be Gauis Mwrr.  He wonders if there is a way for Jessie to confirm his identity.  They discuss secret names, and Jessie suggests that her father use "the pearl" and call out the name of the man he believes him to be. If it is him, then he would answer.  As they talk, however, Jaric recognizes a scroll case among her things.  It is the same scroll case among the many they used back when they saw Isolde practicing the strange occult practice about some Transformation of Thalia Yvarai.  Jessie admits she had found them among Jaric's things.  She had been studying these at well it seems.    Jaric does not recall, however, how these scrolls reached her.  He does tell her that she should tell her mother all about the boy he is seeing, as well.

Galeo works on the marble sculpture she feels would represent her family in honor of Casselanter's adulthood.  The marble statue shows the family facing an unseen assailant at all sides, armed with roses and quills.   Hero knows better than to interfere with her during the first few days of work.  She finds Maja Thayl coming to visit her, and the two quickly discuss what she calls to be more pleasant things.  Hero and Casselanter excuse themselves to give them some privacy.  Maja immediately notices the statue is for four people, and Galeo does admit they are adopting a child.  "I feel the need for my child to have a sibling."  Maja correctly assumes Galeo adopted one of the ork ven.  Maja shares her worry that Jaric does not take her seriously, and their conversation quickly heads back to Madelyn Yvarai.  Galeo realizes Madelyn is both Maja's Court Scholar and Seran's vassal.  She asks Galeo to fulfill a task for her: to befriend Jaric Thayl and become close friends, and to strip him of his rank as Marquis.  In exchange, Maja offers to make the rest of Ven society forget about Galeo's Secret Name.  All this, supposedly, to ensure he has time to see her when she visits.  Maja then waves the whole conversation away and starts over, having Galeo then ask her for help with Casselanter.  Maja admits that to erase her secret name, she will need some time and the help of Cherno.  Maja stresses the implications of the help given only Galeo will remember this favor being granted.  Not even Maja will realize it had been granted for her.  She stresses how Galeo is to be there for Jaric even if she knows she will fail, for Jalani can only defeat the threat she has to face if she abandons him.  Maja admits she knows that Galeo is the only one she can trust because Galeo is someone who will grow up to be like her.  Maja tells Galeo how Cherno was inspired by her work and how everyone suspects Errol to be Cherno, but Maja admits she knows he is not.  Maja admits she is the one sponsoring Cherno.  "Some people seek to be in-the-know.  I create the know.  Every party is my party," she reminds Galeo.  Cherno supposedly had begged Maja to let Galeo know the truth, but Maja feels it is better to let Galeo learn of Cherno on her own.  She leaves.

Seran stares at her mother's body, suspended by the white webs that manifest upon becoming one of the Suaven.  After her prayers, she turns to look around and easily finds Havar Mwrr among those present in the Temple.  The man stands alone, unaccompanied by any Vassals, and Seran opts to walk to him and stand beside him. She confronts him, asking if he is doing anything to sully her mother.  He asks if she is sincere, and she reminds him that he threatened him in the Althua.  She asks if he had done it already, and he refuses to answer.  She demands he step out, but he reminds her he has no power to force her without breaking her own rules - given the land is not Seran's.  At first, Seran attempts to pull him outside, but he resists.  She then forcefully drags him out, declaring to all nearby that the man has threatened to sully Althea Thorne, but Havar continues to show no signs of violence.  She drags him outside the Temple, and even the Roadmen nearby who recognize Seran stand ready to help.  She demands answers from him, asking him to admit what he had done, but he refuses to answer given she has already made the choice to treat him in such a manner. Seran calls for the Roadmen to take Havar prisoner and to present him to the Countess.  Havar, however, also tells them to arrest Seran for attacking an unarmed visitor of the Temple.  

They soon arrive at the castle and have both placed in the Castle's cell.  Havar makes it a point to raise that Seran should not have special treatment for being raised here, given his imprisonment are merely words while hers were acts of violence.  In the cell, Seran reminds Havar that she will kill him and even muses he probably is some tulpa.  Havar, on the other hand, admits he does anticipate her acts of violence will escalate.  She muses he probably predicted everything she would do, but he confesses he didn't - for had he done so, it would be the wife still alive and not him.  The conversation moves towards Havar seeing Seran as someone "Not ven" given her lack of interest in many things ven normally do.  She takes offense in that, and reminds him she will kill him in time.   Havar keeps talking, stating how Seran things she had lost everything that matters to her.   When he mentions Lukas, however, the topic stings Seran - who warns him further not to talk about him.   When he continues to do so, Seran stands up and draws her Bloodsword and stabs him in the throat.  The Serpent falls, blood gushing through the wound.  Seran stares and watches as the body stays on the ground.  The hours pass.  Seran continues to watch, wondering if the body would dissolve and reveal its Tulpa nature.  Guards arrive, bringing Seran bread for dinner as well as a cloth curtain to conceal the body from Seran's view.  Seran however insists for the body to be left exposed.  She asks for word to be sent to Galeo Silja of her situation.    Letters were sent out to Haroun as well, hoping to inform him that her return would be delayed.

Dawn comes.  The body remains there.  Seran still wonders if it is just some special kind of Tulpa.  The body has not vanished.   The body remains dead.  His face, however, seems to be locked in a smile.   Seran paces around, recalling the words Havar last gave before dying - about thinking she had nothing left in life - and she realizes he may have been talking about himself.

Haroun Q'n finally arrives.  He informs Seran the Vashna are outside, keeping watch in case he were to attempt to escape.  They are not aware of her actions yet, however, and Haroun sees the body.  All he knew was that she had manhandled the Serpent.  Seran explains how Havar had threatened her mother and made fun of her losses.  Haroun, however, simply sees an act unsanctioned by the Senate.  Seran reminds him that he is not recognized yet, and that it was an action in a state of great passion.  She admits to never having killed ven before.  And that she will deal with the repercussions of the act.    Haroun however raises to her attention the actions she had taken have.. ruined her.  How the ven will not remember her as the daughter of the foremost explorer of Shanri, but instead as someone who committed an act of violence in a Temple.  And worse, she had committed the act within her mother's senses and had made her mother feel the most useless entity in Shanri - helpless to help her very daughter.   Seran asks Haroun to check if the thing is a Tulpa or not, and he shakes his head. Haroun realizes he is helpless to help her too right now.



Seran takes one of the paper nearby and writes a letter that Haroun and Errol can be vassals to serve under either Galeo or Nia.  Haroun simply tells her he will do as she says, not wanting to discuss the incident more for now.  They decide to leave the Countess of Kalien to handle informing the Vashna.  By the time Jessie returns and hears of the events that transpired, she sends word to the Senate of the incident.  She feels this shouldn't be an issue.  She feels she had failed in her duties however given it has not been a season yet and there has been a death in her lands.  When Seran wonders what will be done with the body, Jessie admits it will be her's to deal with.

Nia learns that there have been attempts upon the security of her Provinces.  It is not quite certain whose actions they were, however she suspects the Foxes of the Q'n behind them.  There is wonder if the attempts were by people like Dalvinosh Steele... scavenging upon the land.  Nia feels if it is others like Dalvinosh, they should find them and give them something productive to do.  Nia actually wonders aloud if perhaps they ate one another, they would be stronger.  Dalvinosh opts not to comment on that.  He does raise that he heard Havar made an appearance.



He asks Nia why she has him serve him and she admits its partly whim and partly use.  She even mentions even his tulpa was agreeable company, though she did not expect his earnestness.  He asks if she questions his service, and he admits he would like to share a promise with her, one she may opt to share back.  The promise is that when either of them come to a point they would rather have the other dead, they are to let the other know.  With the absolute knowledge of such a confession is to be made, then can temper their fears better and function as more efficient.  He admits as an Elk he understand the usefulness of an individual and so he would like to accomplish that better - and in many ways feel less concerned that his very existence is may be in danger.   A chance to be spared of being fearful of their very lives.

Nia finds the offer acceptable, and the two promise that if either of them feel the need to kill the other, feel the urge to harm the other, and even the urge to give the other land, the other shall be warned of it beforehand.  The two swear the vow to one another and this promise is set using the Elk Blessing: The Vow.

Dalvinosh and Nia's discussion then shifts to the matter of Havar.  Dalvinosh shares how Havar seems far different from what he remembers the man to be, given the Havar from old Shanri was a coward who never could even ride an airship to attend Senate hearings.  He was an absolute pacifist and valued life so much he showed no true capacity nor strength to inflict murder.  Dalvinosh wonders if Havar had seen the Dragon... and if it had changed him so much.


Finally, they discuss the matter of Dalvinosh's tulpa.  Dalvinosh was curious to how many were created and stresses that his tulpa's last longer than others.  When Nia admits that she would like to know how, Dalvinosh warns her that she may be breaking Senate law given Sorcery is illegal. Nia counters that talking about it is not illegal.  In exchange, Dalvinosh would love to have a bed.  Nia agrees she can have one made before winter.  When Janine calls out from below, reminding Nia that it is time for dinner, Dalvinosh asks if he can share with her the things they have discussed.  Nia admits she trusts Janine and that she has been visiting him in secret.  Dalvinosh hopes she was aware of this.  

Nia heads down to the dining hall and joins her wife for dinner.  The staff prepare the table while the two prepare to feast.  Nia notices the staff bring in sweetened juice instead of wine.  When she asked if there is a shortage of something, Janine Mwrr ushers the stafff away and admits to Nia there is something she wants her to know.  There is no shortage of wine.  Instead, Janine had been speaking with Dalvinosh Steele in private and confesses that she had been considering that it was time for another child.  Nia is confused, asking if they had not spoken of this topic the previous winter, and that Janine was okay with it.  Janine shares how she feels Dalvinosh might stand as a suitable donor, given his standing and how his age would ensure the lack of any Romantic notions in the act.  Nia admits it is a disquieting image.  Janine admits she was worried more that Nia might have ended up doing it with Haroun, but thinks she may have been just paranoid.  Nia then admits she remembered Janine saying it was okay... and now it seems it would be three children not two for them. "You said I should return to who I was and let go. And so I did."  The two pregnant ven stare at each other from across the table.   The two simply try to enjoy dinner and both stick to water and juice for now.









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