Wednesday, December 31, 2014

dollhouse ep03 : Orpheus


Episode Three


Shepherd is feeling the frustration while he continues to research in the public library.  Days have passed and his attempts to find information regarding the supposed "Alia Green" have not borne any fruit.  Citywide, there are around 14 matches.  The sole match connected to Orpheus he finds, unfortunately is outside his access levels.  Attempts to find information about "Bishop" lead to either the religious leader, or the character from that mutant comic book, or even the chess piece.  In an attempt to find a possible contact or perhaps a hacker who might know things, Shepherd starts posting as well in forum groups throwing in specific keywords to see if anyone would respond.  At worst, he finds some rumors about Bishop online - that he's some boogeyman agents don't mention three times in a single mission, or that he might actually be a code name for someone who watches over the agents to keep them in line.  A hand lands on his shoulder.  Shepherd looks up to see Hoyt Masterson standing beside him.  By the doorway, Chet Mason leans on his cane.  They tell him that Orpheus is not too happy that he is, in their words, stirring the pot.  Hoyt seems aware that Shepherd has posted the word Orpheus in around 96+ blog posts in the last two days.  Hoyt admits he was checking if an E-Demon was messing up the net and was actually surprised it was Shepherd doing the noise.  Shepherd questions if Hoyt really doesn't know anything about this Bishop character.  They talk about whether Bishop is a spy, or a secret agent of the company, and Hoyt asks Shepherd if he really plans to be one of those who believe such things.  Shepherd raises his hand, "You got me." Hoyt shakes his head and tells him that's Chet's job.  Hoyt then vanishes, Inhabiting the computer to wipe the posts clean. "Don't make me run after you, boy," Chet growls.  They tell him this is his last warning, and Shepherd insists he is just trying to get the facts.    Chet questions why Shepherd would focus more on this boogeyman rather than the murders happening among the homeless in Shepherd's area.  Shepherd admits he hasn't been back, but he keenly has been tracking how long he has been gone.  Chet reminds him to bear importance to the fact they still remember him.  "The last thing you want is to be forgotten."

A ringing sound erupts.  Hoyt fishes out a cellular phone and to Shepherd's surprise it is made of gauze.  Chet admits they all have one and that it was one of the first things they opts to look for.  Pays to project and have something handy.  The call turns out to be from Kate Dennison, who says Shepherd is not supposed to head back.  Chet teases that he will take care of cleaning up Shepherd, but Hoyt explains they can't bring him back because his wife is at the building.   Shepherd's wife, as it turns out, does not believe her husband is dead, and thinks some conspiracy is going on with Orpheus.  The group opts to head for one of the safe houses of Orpheus and leave Kate to handle the wife.


Kate Shepherd stands outside the Orpheus building, demanding that they bring her husband out.  A small crowd has gathered, watching her antics.  Security guards stand by the door.  Kate Dennison steps out and attempts to talk to her, but she will not be ignored.  She begins screaming for her husband, whom she believes is either alive or in some way imprisoned in the building.  Realizing she has to, Kate purses her lips and blows a loud whistle that instantly calms Kate Shepherd down. "Shall we talk inside?"   Mrs. Shepherd feels more willing now to talk and follows inside.


Fiona Parker and Wendell Pruce are having a moment talking about how the strange connection they have has seemingly simmered down now to an accessible link they consciously tap into in order to communicate with each other.  The connection seems strongest within 30 feet of each other, and possibly even allow the other to see through another's eyes.  Surface thoughts slip though as well, allowing some level of communication.  But while connected, the group realizes they feel disconnected from the world around them, having difficulty with too much stimulus.  The two talk about Ellie, about Red, and even about Misha.  The focus of their discussions shift to the other table in the cafeteria where an Asian woman seems to be busy with her cellphone between bites.  Fiona dreads the day they would have to work with someone like her.  "My guess, two to three children that are too young to fend off for themselves.  She probably works for the salary."  Wendell asks why she thinks the woman would be a mother and how, knowing their luck, they would probably have to work with her.  "At least it is not Carter."   After Red offers Wendell another bowl of food, a bowl Wendell regrets receiving, they start talking about how the projected form matches one's RSI (Residual Self Image) and how it usually is one's personal view of when they looked their best. Wendell wonders what that says about himself given he barely looks different from himself.  Fiona admits Alexander Carter seems to be very interested in Wendell's development and wonders if there is something there.  

An old woman sits alone, covering her ears.  Her cats are going crazy.  There is a repetitive sound in the background of wood slamming against wood.


Next door, Misha Rusanov and Natalie Wick have just finished another round of rough and passionate make-up sex.  Misha decides to go grab a shower to get ready for work while Natalie tries to get him to talk more about his place of work, but Misha unfortunately can keep his secrets.  While Misha showers, Natalie tries digging through his things and finds nothing but clothes inside.  There are torn clothes and snuffed out cigarettes among them, which ultimately raises more questions.  Misha finally steps out to see her holding up a dog collar.  "What is this supposed to be?"  she asks, curious to why he would have one given he has no dog.  Misha's cellphone rings and it turns out to be Kate Dennison, informing him to report to work.  He finds Natalie sniffing the collar, curious to why it hasn't been used.  Misha tells her he has to head off to work, and she reminds him that he is a terrible liar but she is happy that he has not lied to her.  Misha catches Mrs. Rosenberg outside her flat once more, and as he greets her on his way out, she doesn't really say anything in response.  Misha heads to work. 


Cellphone rings. Natalie Wick holds her phone to her ear, "He has just left.  No, he hasn't told me anything.  I know... and I will find out... but I just need a bit more time.  No... no no.. I will. I got this."  When the call ends, she then clears the history on her phone to make sure there's no record of the call.


Text messages have not stopped coming from Sophie , Natalie Kureya's eldest daughter.  She has been complaining about Natalie not being able to give a precise time when she will be home.  Sophie is anxious to still have her night out but Natalie tells Sophie to just wait.  Red is happy to see Natalie enjoyed the meal and learns she added Oyster sauce to give the dish an "Asian flavor."  Red even brags to Wendell that Natalie likes her cooking.   Another beep.  Natalie looks down and to her surprise it isn't from her daughter this time.  It is a message from Kate.   Another sound emits from Wendell's side.  He too checks his cellphone.  

The two find themselves both stepping into the same elevator, and pressing the same button for the same floor.  As they realize soon they are walking in the same direction, Wendell tries to break the ice by asking if Natalie is actually a mother.  Wendell tries to go around saying she has a resting-bitch face and asks if she is a Skinrider, and Natalie tries to make light of the situation.  They open the same door to smell cigarette smoke.  "Fiona," Natalie greets her and finds her frozen in a smile.    Natalie doesn't realize it is because Fiona is telepathically tells Wendell, "I knew it!  You're all replacing me for a younger woman."

Kate Dennison arrives, still on her cellphone and telling someone not to let someone out of the room until she returns.  She's surprised Misha isn't around and Wendell admits he is probably off site.


Misha ties his bike to the side rail and notices a car being ushered away by the security guards to avoid a "hostile guest."  He asks the security what is going on and they tell him about  the woman at the front of the building protesting about people having the right to know about something .  He hurries up the elevator to get to the meeting.


At the safe house, Chet tries to understand more why Shepherd is obsessing over Bishop.  They discuss the events of the last mission, of meeting a Spirit named Alia Green who claims to be missing her body.  Shepherd feels she came to warn them.  Chet feels that Shepherd seems to have forgotten to use his Forebode abilities to ask for the questions instead he wants to ask.  He admits he found nothing, however.    The door slams open and they see Zoe Vitt rushed into the room with blood and bruises all over her.  Shepherd realizes he has seen her a few in the building, and watches as Hoyt Inhabits the safe house to help her better, and as Mason uses his Juggernaut to hold her down.  Zoe starts spitting blood out, muttering Holy Cross... Hospital... Retrieve...


Misha arrives to see the group already studying the images projected on the screen. The term Daughters of Creusa are on the wall.  A group of self-help new agers have embraced the name.  The mission will have to be done without Shepherd.  And as it turns out, Natalie Kureya is being assigned to head the Mission in his absence, given she has the most seniority among the members.  Natalie's crucible is still mostly recovering from injuries when the apartment complex they were in during a Mission collapsed!  Fiona and Wendell aren't too happy to hear this.  Even Misha telepathically shares that he's surprised the group has another Skinrider.  The group is shown digital footage that has been sent to them by one of the members of the Daughters, a Mylene Watkins.  The footage seems to depict what Orpheus refers to as a Jason.  The group hurries to the site, with Wendell having to hurry downstairs to the Cradles to try and be brought under.  Misha summons his ghostly dog a second time, who he now chooses to name Carter to spite Alexander Carter.   Sadly, not even Ellie would be in this mission - although the reasons for her absence were not stated.  Kate's team were supposed to meet the others at the location, but given the incident with Zoe Vitt, they will unfortunately be delayed.  Fiona and Natalie were going to be the muscle for the Mission.


As the others try to stabilize Zoe, Shepherd starts hearing the radio muttering odd reports about something happening in the Holy Cross Hospital.  Zoe it turns out, was on a retrieval mission to investigate and locate the cause of what could only be dubbed as a Ghostquake.   After Foreboding for more information, Shepherd opts to head straight to the site to try and retrieve something Zoe had dropped and felt urgently needed to be retrieved.  On a bus to the location, Sheperd finds himself getting the attention of another spirit who asks him if he knows why there are no ghosts older than six years in the city.  The spirit, named Roxxon, seems to be stuck with the bus.  Two girls have stepped down from the bus as well, excited to investigate the hospital for some kind of ghost quake that hit the area.  


Wendell slips into the Cradle and feels the techs quickly shift the dosage up to bring him under.  Charlie stares at Wendell and strokes his hair back.  Wendell looks down and sees his body next to him.  The techs are checking his vitals.  Charlie Matthews is staring at him, leaning close and whispers, "I new you'd follow me..."

Wendell sits up, panicked.  The techs announce that he's under and how he looked like he had a dream.  The tech hands the map to Wendell and given his intangibility, the map falls to the ground.  Wendell tries to memorize what he can then hurries off.

The tech watches him go and wonders aloud who Charlie was, then before he knows it he fixes Wendell's hair and stops.

"Now why did I do that?"


Holy Cross Hospital is an active place, with people moving about.  Shepherd even spots a clown moving down one hallway.  He forebodes and asks for where Zoe Vitt was earlier today.  His Horror is abruptly interrupted when a ghost child bumps into him and runs off through the crowd.  As he tries to follow the child, he comes upon an unexpected sight:  a room is on code blue and the doctors are doing what they can to save a dying man.  Shepherd steps closer and finds a ghastly sight; a robed figure with a skull head.  And as the man dies, the skull-headed figure wraps its dark robe around the dead man's body, taking with it its spirit.  Shepherd sees the wife of the dead man and uses his voice to soothe her of her sadness.


Wendell starts to notice static occasionally breaking through the radio playing in the cab, with words muttered by some guy that seem to be reporting something transpiring else where.  He starts to realize the driver does not hear it.


The abandoned hotel remains quiet.  Natalie, Kate, Fiona and Misha plan their approach, splitting up into two groups.  Without a light source, however, Misha uses Carter to guide the way.  As the group quickly makes their ascent, Misha and Fiona find a strong trail somewhere in the upper floors.  The darkness grows thicker and soon, Fiona draws out a lighter made of gauze to light the way.  Kate and Natalie, on the other hand, search for the Jason.


Zoe gets stabilized.  Chet and Hoyt worry what could have beaten her up this badly, and worse, get concerned about Shepherd having run off.  They find the messages Kate sent to their phones, however, and realize the "girl" will have to wait and head on to join the others.


"Having trouble... to dark for them to see... can help but might..."  and the static takes over once more.  Wendell opts to play it cool, even as the driver mumbles about Wendell looking like the actor in some superhero movie.  Wendell is now certain the driver cannot hear the voice that breaks through the radio static every now and then.  The cab driver just jokes that New York has no real giant gators in the sewers, just rats and ghosts.

"...Contact..." the voice mutters.  Wendell as the car pull over and rushes out to start running.


Fiona and Misha, guided by Carter, continue to the upper floors.  Kate and Natalie there hear a male voice screaming somewhere above.  Natalie checks the window close to the fire exit and focuses her Vitality to Manifest fully and kicks one of the boards open so sunlight can creep inside.  The sudden light blinds them both for a moment, keeping them from seeing the figure standing directly behind them.

On the fifth floor, Fiona and Misha find the corridor with the peeling wallpaper.  Carter leads the way, sniffing for the girls.  The search continues.

Natalie is slammed against the wall as the Jason pushes him against the wall.  Kate screams for Natalie in panic, and her words transform into a Wail that tear into both the Jason and Natalie.  Natalie feels her gauze rip apart before she shunts all the pain to her body to remain intact.


Shepherd exists the room with the recently deceased and feels someone slam into his legs.  The child continues running, turning around the closest corner as he goes.  Shepherd intones another Forebode and he sees glimpses of the rooftop of the hospital as the place he should go to.  The route he takes then leads him straight through the children's ward.


Wendell runs past more people and as he makes his way past the streets to get to the abandoned hotel.  He diverts to the alleyway nearby and drops all tangibility to Storm Wend to the fifth floor fire escape.  He lands without a sound and hears the sounds of conflict transpiring inside.  Glass shatters.  "Is everything all right?" Wendell calls out in the mental connection he shares with the Crucible, but the connection is suddenly lost.  A powerful scream is heard and a hand punches through the wood.  Wendell Storm Wends a floor up.


The Jason closes in on Kate, whose Wail had clearly agitated him.  Natalie rushes at the Jason to pounce on him and force him facedown.  The two wrestle against one another, equal in strength as something empowers the Jason, while Natalie uses his Juggernaut to its fullest.  Kate waits for an opening to Wail once more.  Planting herself firmly to the ground, Natalie resists the Jason's attempt to fling her away.  The Jason tumbles to the ground, its strength misdirected.    She throws a hard kick at the back of the Jason's head and with the hit, something snaps.  The Jason drops to one knee.  Natalie motions to Kate to stay back. The Jason starts snapping its neck back in place.  Kate screams another Wail at the Jason even as Natalie begins to realize the thing has not even made a single sound.


Wendell enters the building, his Unearthly Repose illuminating the area to make it easier to see things.  Misha, Fiona and Carter continue to search for the girls, ignoring the glow in the distance.  They shove into a room and find themselves before a bed.  Misha whistles for Carter and finds it by the closet on the far wall.  Using the basics of Helter Skelter, Misha swings the closet open to reveal a panicked woman.  He quickly fully Manifests and tries to calm her down, realizing a large part of her panic is having been hiding in a completely dark room after being stocked by someone.  He asks her if she knows where the others are, and she begs them to help her get out.  Through the hive mind, Misha asks Fiona if she found the others, and she reports she found one who seems to be very hurt. "It hurts when I tried Skin Riding her."  Misha commands Carter to look for Fiona while he guides the woman he found to stay close.  


It is almost noon.  Shepherd arrives at the roof of the Hospital to find a child sitting on the gravel.  The child is wearing striped pajamas.  Shepherd calls out to the child, but it doesn't respond.  Two more kids run out from the staircase, colliding with Shepherd and stop by the figure in the striped pajamas.  Laughter erupts as more children arrive.  More and more, gathering with the figure in the stripes.  "What are these kids about to do here," Shepherd Forebodes and yet no answers are forthcoming.  Shepherd glances around for the markings that match his vision of where Zoe dropped something, and on his next glance up, around nine ghostly children have now gathered near the striped figure.  On the ground, Shepherd finds a small strange thing... a rock made purely of gauze.

A ghost rock.

Shepherd slips it back into his pocket.  Suddenly, a slight tremor hits, forcing him to try to recover his balance.  The earthquake causes the children and the striped figure to try to get back on their feet as well.  None of the gravel rocks however shifted at all.  The striped figure begins to stand, turning to face Shepherd.


Wendell hears the screams and the dogs ahead of him.  He can hear Misha somewhere in the darkness.  He moves to the sounds and eventually illuminates Misha and the others.  Misha calls out using the Hivemind and true enough, it is Wendell.  Wendell Manifests and uses his calming aura to try to comfort the rescued women as well. Misha updates Wendell on what's been happening.  Fiona, on the Hivemind, admits she thinks the woman she found earlier is dead.    Her words are abruptly interrupted however into a cry for help!  The two rush over and find a woman strangling Fiona.  Wendell pushes the calming effect of his light to a stronger level, Misha shoves the calm body off Fiona and helps his Crucible member up.  Although Fiona didn't even hit the woman, Misha realizes she no longer has a pulse.

"She Jason-ed in front of me?" Fiona gasps.

"At least we learned that if we calm the Jason down, it disappears..."

Fiona however wonders if it merely halted the change given it realized it was outnumbered.  They find the final woman standing in the center of another room.  Blood covers her clothes.  Her head hangs low.  She slowly raises her head and they all see how heavily damaged her face is.  The Jason must have gotten to hear before they arrived.  With the calming light of Wendell still maintained, the group considers backing away.  The only survivor with them gasps, "Aina..."   The woman once named Aina seems to be in the verge of transforming into a Jason as well.  Wendell starts tugging at them to start heading back.  The Jason begins to mimic the words it overhears.  Almost like something learning to talk.


Blood and flesh erupt as Kate's Wail strikes the Jason down.  Natalie and Kate watch in horror as even grievously hurt, the Jason's wounds start to close once more.  Before the wounds completely close, Natalie rushes forward and channels her will to fuel her Juggernaut, then slams it to the ground headfirst.  The floor splinters and the Jason crashes nearly through.  Kate rushes behind the thing to unleash black tentacles at it and immobilize it.   Natalie decides to try something and attempts to use Puppetry upon the Jason; maybe she can force the thing possessing the man out of his body?  Natalie begins to hear the whispered hissing and mumbling voices in the Hivemind.. a glimpse of the Spectral presence within.


Suddenly, Natalie slips easily into the body of the Jason, taking full control.   The Spectre is gone.  Kate is happy that Natalie succeeded, but Natalie admits the victory feels wrong.


The figure in yellow and white stripes stands to its full height, towering nearly seven feet tall.  Its limbs are narrow, like pipes.The thing is mostly humanoid, but its head resembles more that of an animal. It resonates an almost child-like fascination.  A fox.  The children now all turn to face Shepherd too.  They are all wearing paper cut in fox-like masks.

Impact!  Something hits the ground close to Shepherd's foot.  Another ghost rock.
The children start laughing, as they run and leap off the side of the Hospital.  The Fox remains staring.  Shepherd attempts to use DeadEyes for a glimpse on how much Vitality courses through the thing.  He finds none.  Not a single hint of Vitality.  Shepherd begins to inch for the exit.  The Fox glances at where Shepherd hoped to go... but suddenly, the door is gone.

The Fox begins to smile, revealing dagger-like teeth.  The smile reminds Shepherd of the Cheshire cat.  Did the author have DeadEyes?  Did the author see this very thing when he wrote about the Cheshire cat?  Then its gone.   Shepherd runs to the edge of the building, hoping to see any sight of where it had gone.  He can see it another rooftop.  And another even further.  Then gone.

Shepherd looks back for the staircase and finds it there, where he last remembered it.  Like it was never gone.  The rumble happens again, somewhere distant.  But something that does not disturb the gravel.    Some kind of Ghostquake.

"Where did this come from?" Shepherd Forebodes as he holds the Ghost Rock in his hand.  He sees a winding twisting tower, like a nautilus shell, spinning ever so slowly.  He hurries back down below.  In the hospital, he can see more patients being rushed in.  Mostly showing teenagers in various states of injury, the floor is alive with the doctors and nurses trying to treat the dozens of kids who need medical attention.  They all seemingly came from a singular location.  Shepherd quickly exits and rushes back to the safehouse.


At the safehouse, Shepherd arrives to find it empty save for Zoe Vitt who has now gotten stable.  She is doing better now, although she has not regained consciousness.  Shepherd takes her hand into his own and begins singing to share some comfort and serenity.  Neither Hoyt nor Chet seem to be in the room.  The tech people still present do wonder if this will delay the party that Orpheus was planning to celebrate.  When Shepherd asks them for more information on what happened, they share with him Zoe's report of a Ghost Quake happening, and of her attempt to retrieve something that she dropped.  Shepherd reassures Zoe, not really certain if she can hear him, that he retrieved the rock and of the dark black figure he witnessed in the hospital.  Sadly, she does not respond.


Descending down the staircase, Misha, Fiona, Carter and Wendell hurriedly guide the only survivor down the staircase.  They find another body of a woman on the ground.  Sadly, she has no pulse either.  Misha asks Fiona to focus on getting the woman out safely while the rest of them look for the last one.  Misha calls out for a ghost pack of dogs to help out.  Wendell wonders if any other type of animals could have helped.  The sounds of battle seem to have gone quiet.

Natalie shares with Kate that the body she has possessed still has someone resting inside.  There is someone alive yet very weak.  Natalie wonders if these were Jasons at all.

The ghostly dogs emerge through the wall and Misha commands them to find the last living person in the building.  Wendell relaxes his glow to allow the dogs to keep going.  They search and find the dogs leading them to a bathroom in one of the upper floors.  Carter barks at Misha, confirming a successful search:  the last woman is hugging her legs, fetal position, beneath the bed.  "You're not... not Lloyd," she mutters, and then asks if the others are okay.  Wendell uses once again his Unearthly Repose to calm her down.  Misha opens the cabinet doors using Helter Skelter to find what else the dogs are reacting to.  They find a woman in the cabinet, her face terrified and yet she makes no sound.  She trembles the whole time.

"Either there were more women or one of them is fake," Wendell is confused.   They were expecting one last survivor and instead find two.  Misha guides the woman in the cabinet out.  Wendell allows his calming glow to reach her as well.  The woman under the bed, on the other hand, asks Wendell if the others got out okay.  She mentions they kept finding them no matter where they hid.

The door opens down below as Fiona guides the woman outside.  Outside, Hoyt and Mason arrive.  Fiona sees them and greets Mason with a familiar greeting.  Mason and Hoyt however react with panic, as branches seemingly erupt from behind her.  Mason darts forward, Juggernaut fueling his movement while Hoyt unleashes lightning at the closing darkness.


Zoe remains unconscious.  Shepherd borrows the technician's phone and calls the main Orpheus office.  He learns of the growing protest outside the building that is being lead by his wife.  He also learns that Kate, Chet, Hoyt and the others are currently off the building's grounds.  However, the call is interrupted by static as a voice asks if he got the rocks and reminds him to keep safe.  After Shepherd confirms he got them, the static fades and the operator reminds him that something will have to be done about his wife outside who has even gathered the media.  He stresses however that there is a reason why he is dead.   He asks to be connected to Kate's phone, but the static takes over again cuts the call.  He calls once more and connects him to Kate, but she never answers.


Hoyt is thrown backwards.  Mason grabs Fiona and tackles her to the side.  The dark thing rushes for the road.  Wendell pushes the girls to Misha and tells him to take them while he runs for the fire exit, leaps through and Stormwends down.  The tree-like thing erupts out of the doorway and begins attempting to climb up the building's side to go across the street.  Hoyt is down below, dragging Mason and Fiona to the side.  Wendell wends the thing and yanks it with him as far upwards as he could.

The thing recoils at his touch, unhappy to feel the Projector.  But Wendell successfully yanks it upwards half a mile towards the sky.  Now by the roof of the building, the Spectre and Wendell are trapped for now.  The survivors regret the actions they have taken, muttering about how they shouldn't have done what they had.  Kate and Natalie rejoins the others and learns of the two dead, and of the extra woman among them.  Misha tells them that Wendell has gone out to join Fiona, when Kate wonders if a Spectre has pretended to look like one of them.  Or at least, pretended to look human.

Back above, the worm thing realizes its all the way up there and confronts the Wisp that dragged it up.  Shunting more of his will into his powers, Wendell attempts to use his Unearthly Repose once more to subdue the thing.  The power is so effective, it takes Wendell to be one of its trusted allies.  It starts telling him of a strange, unbelievable tale... how it is almost time for some grand event.  Wendell asks it to revert to the friendlier humanoid form, and she does so.  "Looks so real," it tells Wendell as it touches his face, "We make Grandma proud..."  Wendell slowly inches away from the Spectre, uncertain what to do next.

As the others exit the building, they see Mason, Fiona and Hoyt telling them that Wendell and the spectre were pulled away... somewhere.  None of them can reach him in the Hivemind either, given the hotel is just too tall.  Hoyt offers the others Vitality, while Natalie looks at Misha and Fiona and asks them where Wendell would have brought the thing given he's not really a fighter.  Kate tells them the thing wanted to leave, so Wendell must have found a way to stop it or delay it.  They look up and see the glow above.  Misha uses his Flesh Flux to grow Wings and take to the sky.  Natalie releases the Skin-ridden body, which drops to the ground, and watches as Fiona starts scrambling up the fire escape with the others.

Wendell asks the Spectre to sit and talk more about Grandma.  He tries manipulating the thing to share what Grandma wants, and learns that she is "coming."  The Spectre wraps her arms around Wendell, in an almost loving embrace.  There is a flash of light that suddenly erupts, and Wendell sees the lightning about to strike them both.  Wendell leaps backwards and watches as the lightning strike the Spectre like a miniature sun.  The Spectre begins to disintegrate with each strike.  The only remnant that states it was once there is that where it once stood, there is only glass.

The others arrive, worried for Wendell, but happy to see he is safe  Wendell is confused as it begins to dawn upon him that the lightning did not come from his Crucible nor Kate's.  And that the source of the lightning strikes was the television cable not too far away.  Wendell hugs his knees, admitting that he thought they were the ones who saved him.  "Grandma is coming... I don't know who Grandma is...  Don't wake me up.  Do not wake me up..."


Much later, Shepherd gets a ride from Hoyt and Mason back to the Orpheus headquarters.  He learns of how many of his friends were hurt in the recent Mission and shares with them the Ghost Rock he had retrieved.  Outside Orpheus, a large group of people have gathered to protest.  Even religious groups have joined the protest.  Sneaking in through the side entrance, Shepherd eventually finds the other members of the Crucible in the office.  Wendell and the others don't seem too happy to see Shepherd.  They all are puzzled as well about the lightning that struck at the Spectre which seemingly came out of nowhere.

Shepherd asks them if they've been hearing things on the radio.  Wendell turns to face him, even suggesting that there's a voice that seems to be sharing updates about what was going on.  Misha thought Wendell heard Carter.  Fiona asks Shepherd to explain where he was and he claims he was on a mission of his own.   He mentions one of Kate's members was attacked.  Fiona, however, feels the team deserves some answers on what happened today.  There has been no debriefing.  They were nearly slaughtered.  Natalie admits they didn't even know what to expect.  And Misha wonders aloud how the Spectre was able to pretend to be living.  And then, there's the mention of Grandmother.

Calls to reach Kate remain unanswered.  Fiona admits they've all been trying and she's been unreachable.  They've all been waiting for answers.  Misha warns Shepherd not to leave the team ever again, but Misha insists he was assigned to another meeting.  Misha however insists that after hearing a Skin-Rider, someone who could gain Strength, Speed and Toughness on her own, was hurt, Shepherd thought he could go there on his own and handle the same thing?  Shepherd admits he had to find out what he could, and that they were holding him away given his wife's presence outside.  Fiona remarks that maybe the least he could have done was inform them where he was.  Natalie shares that she doesn't know any of them but she does not deserve the attitude.  "You're all given jobs.  We're all protecting each other.  If someone fails to do their job, someone gets hurt.  Someone has to suck all the blame and all the attitude.  Give him a break."  She reminds them she tries her best to lead the team but she's not part of the Crucible.   She apologizes that she was busy saving other people.

Kate arrives.  Fiona tells them all she's back and they all sit down to hear what she has to say.  Kate tells them in very few words that she apologizes that she cannot say more, but according to the hgher ups, in order to recuperate from mental and physical trauma, they are all on indefinite leave.  Wendell complains if it has anything to do with the board member who was friends with that sisterhood.  She also stresses that they are all also not to attend the upcoming inter-department celebration.  Wendell complains this sounds more like a punishment than a period to rest.

Shepherd tells Kate they deserve an explanation.  But Kate tells them they do, not her.   Natalie rushes after Kate and apologizes for what happened and tells her they need to sort their shit out or someone will get killed.  She tells Natalie however that she's stuck with the Crucible.  Neither of them seem happy about it.

Outside, the Carter group is watching the events.  "Looks like we will finally have a night where you all dress up," he grins.  Wendell and Shepherd shake their heads.  Wendell grabs Fiona's arm to leave and show him how to eat while projected.  She muses that he won't even have to barf it out.  Misha just leaves.  Natalie tells Shepherd he has a serious problem, and he apologizes to her and introduces himself for the first time.  She admits she used to have her own Crucible and had members who are just as frustrating.  But things will get better.

They look at the Ghost Rock.  Neither of them are certain where it came from, but it does look like an Artifact.  Shepherd admits Forebode only showed him a building he has never seen before.  Natalie heads off to visit her kids.  Shepherd heads off with the Rock, hoping to ask Kate about it.  He gets intercepted by a man who claims the higher ups have asked him to claim it from him.  The man tells Shepherd he has clearance to accept it for them.  "The name's Bishop.  Uriah Bishop.  I'll be taking that now please."

Shepherd gives it to him.

The man gives Shepherd a wink.  "I won't tell them you have the other one.  Give Kate a break.  She's been getting a lot of flack already.  And stop looking for me.  You'll be forgetting in five... four... three..."


Shepherd blinks his eyes.  Kate is staring at him.
"Yes?  You were standing in front of my door?  Was there something you wanted?"

Shepherd looks around.  He doesn't quite recall what just happened.   There was... no.. it's gone now.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Inspiration: Ambition

This amazing short film by Tomek Baginksi with the European Space Agency to celebrate the Rosetta mission plays like an awesome episode of Mage: The Awakening, or perhaps even Numenera.  Having Games of Thrones' Aidan Gillen adds even more geek awesomeness to this short.

Friday, December 26, 2014

After the Rain ep20 : Houses of the Blooded

After the Rain

Episode Twenty

Houses of the Blooded

Lighting flashes. Rain pours.  In some hidden chamber, an oak table stands at the center of the room.  Roses are scattered around the table.  Seated around it are five individuals who regard each other quietly and stare at the roses on the table.  One turns to look at the doors and calls for the Vashna, telling them they are under attack.  None of the Vashna emerge.  "We are ready," the silhouette tells the others.  The Earls nod, now ready for their private discussion and discuss the coming Spring.


Elsewhere, a voice reaches the mind of Galeo Silja as her hands work on the marble and pound it into submission.  The voice is Quan Wei, whom Galeo for so long assumed it was Thalia.  They talk of the actions they did which they felt were necessary and of the need to find Thalia.  Galeo admits she does not know where to look.   Quan Wei shares of how Thalia was left behind when they all fled the other Shan'ri while Galeo talks of the individuals whom she met while there, including Madelyn Yvarai.  Quan Wei is puzzled that some of them still live, given it has been of so much time so long ago.  Galeo asks if she must bring allies with her, but Quan Wei insists she come alone.  No one much know of where Quan Wei hides, lest the red-haired Demon find her.  Galeo hopes that Quan Wei can explain things to her, like about the Quill.   Before she could leave however, Hero confronts her wanting to talk about Errol.  He has suspicions on who Errol is but they are off the mark.  He asks if Errol was a child Galeo had before meeting Hero.  Galeo stresses that Errol represents a variety of vested interests but is no rival for him.  Hero however admits he is certain that Galeo is keeping some truth from him.  Galeo mentions that she has changed since the other Shan'ri, having seen the Dragon.  Errol represents that Dragon.    He hands Galeo an envelope which turns out to be a letter.  Hero reveals a second one, addressed to him.  "The Elks are calling. I will be back, but I have to leave. Yours seems to be a House affair as well."

The Earl of the Foxes has declared for a gathering.  There is to be an emergency meeting before the Senate.  After a few more reassuring exchanges with Hero, Galeo considers if she will have time to visit Quan Wei.


Nia Jalan stares at the Earl of the Serpent House.   He has come to visit her at her very Castle.  Janine realizes she is not part of the conversation, being Unblooded, and leaves Nia to handle the discussion.  The Earl awaits her at the gate to the Castle.  A line of carriages, roadmen and other vassals await outside.  A carpet has even been laid out all the way to the carriage.  The area outside the gates have been prepped as "his area."  The Earl wears an Owl mask.  The four children, bald with black stripe painted across ear to ear, seated around the Earl speak for him.   Nia proclaims her loyalties to the House and asks what matter is to be discussed.  House Serpent is to be unanimous in the vote coming the Spring Serpent.  "One of our House has been Murdered.  The Serpent, Havar Mwrr, must be avenged."  Ultimately, there is fear that the Ork Ven might know secrets the Serpents want to keep sacred.   The murderer is Seran Thorne and the Elk, "Understands you are not friends.  Then there will be no problem with the vote.  Will I have it?"  Nia admits she cannot stand against her house.  The Earl asks if he will have to reassure herself of Nia's loyalty and he shows a glass chest filled with papers, each one holding three names; Oaths forcibly collected for the vote.  "The Victim is a Serpent, and if we do not protect our own, other serpents will sell their secrets for protection.  All Serpents are Serpents.  The House protects its own."  Nia sees no reason to dissent.  The Earl then calls for Nia to call her wife.  She is to be Blooded, for the votes.  The Earl goes as far as even asking if Nia's child is Blooded.   Nia claims the child is currently visiting her sister.  He even asks for Janine's brother, Justinian, who is Nia's Master of the Road.

"I will wait.  Bring them."


In the dark castle of Seran Thorne, Haroun opens the gates to have Seran come home.  The Vashna remain outside, waiting and watching.  The Staff quickly prepare food.  Errol watches from the distance in silence.  Seran dismisses everyone save for Haroun and Errol, wanting a chance to talk to them.  Seran grabs some roses on the way to the chamber to speak with the two and casts the Ritual of the Rose.  Errol's eyes widen in fascination, given this is the first time he has seen Seran cast any Ritual.  Seran talks about having murdered someone, and Errol shares that the Earl of the Wolves have called for the Wolves to speak on the vote.  They believe the Ork Ven are a Sorcerer-King's ploy: a trick of the old ones.  They are calling for the deaths of all the Ork Ven, and all Wolves are to receive a Bloodsword dedicated to cleansing Shanri of the Ork Ven.  Haroun share that the Foxes, on the other hand, are planning to speak and have the Ork Ven to be recognized as Ven.  Haroun plans to vote against it for to support it is to have Seran held accountable for Murder.

Seran considers making preparations to protect her land, and Errol offers to take it from her.  When Haroun questions if Errol is being opportunistic, Errol offers to give Seran his secret name as a keepsafe.  They end up wondering about Errol's identity once more and Haroun wonders if Errol is Galeo's child, a suggestion he directly denies.  When Haroun challenges Errol to explain how he gained Galeo's trust, Errol however tells Seran he trusts her to know if she can trust him only by looking into his eyes.  Haroun leaves the table, which incenses Seran since it breaks the ritual, and forces him to sit as she recasts it once more.  Errol is asked to make an Oath that he would hold the lands only until the true owner, Seran, is able to claim it back.  The Oath is made.  They do discuss that the letter might have been meant for a different Errol, given Errol is a Fox, not a Wolf.  And Errol then remembers there was a Spy he had captured and is currently in the dungeons below.


Jaric Thayl finds himself sharing a moment with his mother, Maja Thayl, who wonders if her son hates her... because her Court Scholar is Madelyn Yvarai.  Jaric stresses that her property is her own.  They discuss the matter of the Merchant Houses and the plan to build a road of ports for the airships - a Highway - in order to allow anyone who seeks to journey between Provinces.  Jaric refuses to participate, however, finding the whole thing irregular and non-traditional.  Jaric however recognizes that his mother does not just seek support of the Highway, but also to be recognition and be allowed to speak before the Senate.  The Merchants would then have a voice in the Senate, one Senator.. Maja herself. Jaric refuses to participate however.

The two shift the discussion to the Senate, about the actions of the Wolves, the Foxes and the Serpents.  Maja adds however the call for the Elks to absorb all Elk Ork Ven into their numbers.  And how the Bears have declared no confidence on the matter.  She then adds that Nia and Janine are possibly both pregnant.  She is surprised on who the parents are but is not in any liberty to say.  She does mention that Gaius Mwrr has suddenly become more vocal in the temple.  Maja shares that James Adrente, Jaric's son, wrote a letter to her as well, worrying over the coming Senate and the weight of the decisions he will have to make.  Jaric and Jalani are planning to assist James in the matter to come.  She also asks how Galeo is and Jaric counters he has been quite busy.  Jaric does admit he has been following Cherno sightings.

She asks if he has heard about the rumors of the Senate, given they are talking about Cherno.  Supposedly, Cherno was releasing a work in the coming Senate this Spring.  Maja Moves The Pawn, suggesting Jaric should bring Galeo to see Cherno's work.  They discuss how Cherno was once believed to be Galeo given the earlier work were very... Galean.  And how it took some time before his own work began to become much more pronounced as his own.  And the last rumor being the Storm is supposedly coming.  She is anxious to head on home given the weather, and the Court Scholar is currently waiting for her in her carriage.  This freaks Jaric out, however, given he does not want Madelyn Yvarai to be anywhere close to where he is.  Maja reassures him though that she is definitely in charge, despite history showing that Madelyn Yvarai had once outsmarted Ti'Ann Burghe.  "Foxes never outsmart Elks.  This is a chance for the Elks to finally get back at her or any of her descendants for what they've done before."

Jaric warns Maja that Madelyn only had eyes for herself and her family.    "I worry for Shanri."

"So Shanri ranks over your own mother now," Maja teases.


She shares that Galeo has also asked for her help to make everyone else forget about her true name.  But she tells her she will have everything under control.


The suaven remains suspended in the chamber.  Quan Wei asks Galeo if she would prefer to see her as she used to.  When Galeo agrees, the image of Quan Wei as the robed woman return to her sight.  They discuss the other Shanri, with Galeo telling the stories of the Count Kether in the other side, of Madelyn Yvarai, and the appearance of the city and its Senate.  Quan Wei finds the stories familiar admitting that the descriptions match the Shanri she remembers.  Galeo also shares how there are the Dreadfuls, many tomes and stories that supposedly were penned by Jaric Thayl, even if he had never written such.  The talk of Shanri falling and a red-haired demon being their opponent brings Quan Wei to name her as Liliandra.  She shares it was once her name and thus it is safer now to say that name.

Quan Wei finds it impossible that the Demon is the same one, given they had in the past imprisoned her in an orichalcum cage thrown into the sea.  Quan Wei suggests to Galeo to try speaking to Gauis Mwrr, although he does remain silent to hide from others.  Quan Wei offers Gaius' Secret Name as a means to reach him.  Galeo does so, and Gaius responds.   She tells him Quan Wei gave his name to her, and admits others claim she bears the mark of the Dara.  Gauis admits they did defeat the demon and being able to say her name is proof she remains imprisoned.  Quan Wei suggests perhaps something else claims to be the Demon.  Gaius asks if she fears Obsidian, or burn at its touch, and even raises that Liliandra has no physical form.  She can seduce, but she cannot touch.  Gaius then admits Liliandra's gifts are all illusions, desires, and lies.  He shares how was given a Province but in truth was relaxing beneath a tree and the flat rocks.  When Galeo challenges this, given she was sent back to Shan'ri through a Wish, Gaius admits this means the Demon they face is NOT Liliandra.  Perhaps not even a Demon.  

They then discuss about the mark on Galeo's forehead, and she admits she is not certain if she is the one they call the "Dara."  Gaius does wonder how is it that he can hear her, given he only hears the prayers of those Devoted.  When Galeo muses that for a time, she was the only one who had child.  Gaius shares that in his time they too had a moment when there was a lack of children, but this passed when they began to live with Volcanoes nearby.  The Sorcery in their blood is awakened by the fires of the land.  Gaius does mention how the Dara could heal, as well as repel the very presence of Shanri about her... because Shanri itself rejected her.  Galeo, the Serpent finds, is closer to the ways of the Ruk... the Talashan.  As a final discussion, however, Gaius asks Galeo to use her ability to speak to Suaven to look for Ti'Ann Burghe.  Gaius admits he remembers her dying, but wonders if she somehow beneath the waters, dreaming and waiting.  Galeo deflects that she has to focus on other more important matters for now, but will do so when an opportunity presents.


Janine and Nia consider the matter of the Earl outside their gates.  While Janine admits she was expecting more to be Blooded as a Bear or perhaps a Boar, Nia admits it might be safer to just accept it.  They decide to wait for Janine's brother to see what he would decide.    

The two meet with the Earl, who offers Janine a drink of fine wine.  She takes a sip.  The Earl smiles. "This is Hemlock," he tells them calmly, "And it is one of the Poisons that would have slain you had you been one of us.  You will feel slightly sick tonight, but it will pass."  Nia reminds him that the wife is with child, but the Earl admits it is not dangerous in any form among the Ruk.  "I have done this to illustrate to her what world she is getting into."  The Earl then tells them he is in need of a Marquese. Nia asks which Duke Janine would be under, and the Earl admits she would be directly under him.  The lands to be claimed are those formerly owned by Isolde Valar.  When both Nia and Janine hesitate on the matter, the Earl subtly threatens them by talking aloud about getting rid of distractions and non-Ven things in their vicinity.  He gives both until the end of the week to decide.

The two see one of the Earl's Roadmen standing at wait at the gate.


At the dungeon, Errol presents the man he had captured to Haroun and Seran.  The spy does turn out to be an Errol, Errol Tal to be precise.  When prodded further, he admits he was supposed to be under the black but was given the duty as an alternative.  Seran reminds him the Vashna are outside while Errol introduces pain to loosen his tongue.  The man dares them to submit him to the Vashna.  Errol admits all they would do is extend his sentence.  As being non-Ven, Seran does admit Errol has the freedom to punish him as he desires.  Errol lops off the man's arm... and as he screams in pain, he lops off another arm.  The man breaks, admitting to be in the service of Count Kether himself.     Seran stops Errol from lopping off more limbs and asks the spy what Kether has in mind.  The man confesses that Count Kether held his wife's life under threat and thus forced him to act.  Errol asks why the letter addressed to him was sent here, and the spy admits he was to be a gift from Kether to be in her Spy Network.  Haroun mutters it sounds like an overly complicated plan, given he would have just seduced the spy.  Seran has the man patched up and sent back to Count Kether with a message that the post has already been taken and to send a letter in the future rather than a spy.  Errol tells him he's keeping the arms.


Jalani and Jaric receive the letter from Seran asking for their support regarding Errol's claim on the land.  They ask Jeeves if he knows of this Errol, but the Seneschal admits he knows only of a Wolf.  Seran begs them in the letter to say yes and she will owe them in the future.   Jaric shifts the discussion at times to discuss her mother showing up to talk about things, but Jalani is more focused on Seran's letter.  The concern of the land possibly being lost if she is deemed to take the black is clearly Seran's concern.

Jalani writes a response, given she is now the holder of the land and Jaric is merely a vassal under her.  The letter does state they will offer the support if possible.   Jalani, however, does state they will vote following the Duke, James Adrente, given the Duke casts his shadow over them.  She quickly pens a letter to James however regarding the matter, knowing James is an obedient son.


Seran and Errol even visits Nia to ask her personally, and finds a fence having been built around the Roadman of the Earl currently standing outside the gates.  Seran asks Nia to sit, pulls out daggers, roses, and the like and begins casting the Ritual of the Rose to speak in private.  But Nia pushes to have the discussion elsewhere.

With the Sorcery cast, Seran explains that she might take the black - and Nia teases given the amount of cuts on Seran's arm, suggesting the amount of sorcery she's taking, yes.  Nia finds Seran is moving through the events like a boar in a thicket.  Seran cuts through the chase and wants to secure Meridian, given its the last thing she has from her mother, and needs Nia's support to have Errol take it under his care.

Nia however just responds, "It is my land now."

Seran is shocked. She is unsure if it works that way.  Nia smiles. Errol reminds Seran, "You own what you hold."  Seran chooses not to contest it.   Nia then shares with Seran that the Earl of the Serpent is most likely interested in having what she fears to happen.  When Seran asks what the Earl wants, Nia however admits the Earl would not remain Earl for long.   Seran does ask if Nia will give it back, reminding Nia that she killed someone for threatening to defile her mother's temple.  Nia however does cite that she foresees a need for a Baron in the future.  When Seran shifts the topic to Rio, Nia simply tells her that she is elsewhere and she may become a Baron soon as well.  Errol does ask what happens to them, understanding that Nia, being the one casting a shadow over them, has already stripped the land from them.  Both agree however to send Madelyn Yvarai back to Maja Thayl.

Seran is now Nia's Master Swordsman.

Nia then meets with Dalvinosh Steele, and asks if he would prefer to handle an incomprehensible murder involving a man who threatened to kill their entire kin, or a very hasty Serpent going around making many enemies.  When she asks him what would happen if others were to vie for his contributions, Dalvinosh admits he prefers to remain in the service of Nia.  Nia admits she is never sure if she is talking to them or his many Tulpas, and has thought of 38 ways to kill him, unless he has 39 Tulpas.  Dalvinosh admits he is more than willing to have Nia kill him if she ever feels he has outlived his usefulness.  Nia offers the man in the fence outside for Dalvinosh to use as a disguise.


After Maja, Jaric opts to visit Galeo.  At the workroom, Galeo is still considering a fifth child to add to the work when she overhears Jaric say, "It could be more Cherno.  It looks too static."  They discuss Maja and Galeo admits as a mother it can be sometimes hard not to see one's children.  Jaric however finds it odder that he has been seeing her often.  And adds that Galeo shouldn't get a port.   Galeo however is bothered that Jaric would be a fan of Cherno given his work of living art isn't traditional.  Jaric feels however that art should be every changing.

Galeo asks Jaric if he's happy with the way things are run in Shanri, and Jaric admits he isn't.  Even stresses that he's never happy.  He does however, at least, create Operas. The topic shifts to the coming Spring Hearing and Galeo admits he's heard Cherno is making a performance.  Galeo asks how Jaric feels about the lands and the Senate, but he and Jalani has yet to decide on matters.  Galeo wonders why Jaric wouldn't be more focused on Madelyn Yvarai, given she might speak in the Senate one day.  With the call for the recognition of the ven from the other Shanri, Galeo does suggest that Madelyn might be a powerful voice in that favor.  Lightning flashes outside.

Galeo considers what is the best way, given Gaius Mwrr is the Suaven of Secrets, to convince Jaric to go to the Senate with her.  Jaric feels the Ork Ven needs to be recognized, and he cannot expect them to affect true justice until they are seen as Ven.  Jaric doesn't even want Madelyn to walk around as one of the Vashna.

Windows slam open.  The rain pounds.  Galeo invites Jaric to stay to shelter himself from the Storm... after all, what are friends for?  Galeo casts the Blessing to seal the deal.  Through out Shanri, unstored Wood is ruined by the coming rain that falls for four days.  Six days... and the roads remain impassable.  A full week, and the rains finally stop.

Reports on the damage quickly reach the ears of the various nobles.  Maja reports to Galeo that the Senate continued despite the weather.  They've made decisions.  She is surprised to see Jaric in the same room.  The decision was made in the absence of numbers, the Earls decided to vote on the Dukes present, with 5 Wolves, 3 Serpents, and 2 Elks, and a few Falcons.  Neither Foxes nor Bears were present for the voting.  The petitions for the Serpents and Elks are recognized.  The remaining Ork Ven are considered orks.

They then discuss recognition of Madelyn Yvarai and how Jaric needs to do so.  Maja stresses that it is time to speak opnely of their plans, with her starting about her plans to make everyone forget Galeo's Secret Name, and that Madelyn Yvarai is the biggest threat Shanri faces and Jaric's whining about her is making everyone else think she's harmless.   Maja doesn't hold back her thorns.


Haroun is wearing Nia's colors.  Seran stands as the Vashna arrive.  The unfamiliar man outside calls out for Seran Thorne to surrender herself to the will of the Senate.  He asks her if she confesses to the murder of Havar Mwrr.

"He was not Ven when we had our duel.  But yes."

She turns to tell Haroun to take care of himself.  But Haroun tells her he made a promise.  She reminds him he is not harmed.  Haroun demands an hour to prepare her and pulls Seran into a room.  "An Oath," he tells her, "We swear an Oath so I will know your state.  We swear one now to each other so I will know how you are no matter where they take you."

"You want this so badly?" Seran asks.

"You rather I assume?" Haroun counters.

They swear the Ritual. The Oath is sealed.  They bid their goodbyes.  The Vashna receive Seran.  Errol runs out of the castle, calling out and asking to be permitted to go with her.  She asks for a moment, and before she could ask him what he's doing, he presses his lips against hers in a kiss.  Seran's eyes widen as she realizes she recognizes the kiss.  The guards pull Seran away.  Haroun pulls Errol away.  And a hood is pulled over Seran's head, darkness overwhelms her sight, but she knows no one ever kissed that way before.

Haroun was about to yell at Errol, however he realizes he can feel what Seran feels as well.   He realizes she feels it was familiar.  And somehow, perhaps thanks to the power of love or something greater, Errol realizes he knows feel a connection forge with Seran.


A visitor.  Janine and Nia hear that a visitor has arrived.
Cherno.   They receive the guest and find a messenger who tells them Cherno awaits in the City by the waterfall.  The two rush to the city and there, a bright orange glow shoots into the sky.  The surge of heat reaches them.  Then.. a clack.

Nia recovers.  Her eyes open and she realizes her throat is raw.  She somehow is on the ground, with bits of her own hair on her hands.  She stands up realizing she is already at the fountain.  Janine is in the fountain, waking up as well and just as dazed.  

They begin to realize perhaps their works are no longer as important as they used to be.  Perhaps taking time to do things is no longer right.  Perhaps being young is no longer an advantage.  Perhaps it is time to be more forceful.  More direct.   Nia realizes she has seen the Dragon.  She feels changed.  And the Senate is the wrong way to go.

Nia recalls seeing the Senate hall crumbling.  She sees a horn in her hand, and the last pillar of the Senate falling away.   But Nia recalls the figure of Cherno in the fire.  She finds the Softest Spot, and the clack brings her to recall the Compact, and Madelyn's picture within it.


The art shows her the world.   Then something takes it away.


She recalls the silhouette too well.  

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

And that's Twelve

I did it again!  Twelve new games in one year.  Thanks to my partner, Rocky, and to awesome friends, I was able to complete my goal of trying (whether it be playing in or running) twelve different games that I haven't tried before.

The list is as follows:
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) The Aether Sea

(As of this writing, I haven't gotten around to writing the summary for The Aether Sea)  If I'm lucky, 2015 will also be just as successful with Exalted 3rd edition and maybe a few other new editions of old time favorites (such as Wraith 20E, Changeling 20E and more!)

But definitely looking forward to an awesome coming year, such as Meg and Vincent's upcoming Dark Ages game, hopefully the release as well of The Sound of Water, and who knows, just maybe something I contributed that will be part of the legendary Mark Rein-Hagen's upcoming game, I Am Zombie.

Cheers to gaming!

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 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 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. is a young yet growing source for fun geeky items and gamer needs.  In fact, among the many dice options out here in Manila, 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)

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