Thursday, November 24, 2016

Sunlight now Available at DriveThruRpg

My Game chef 2016 entry, Sunlight, is now available on DrivethruRpg in both Pay What You Want and full-color formats.  Written for the contest, and dedicated to our beloved dog, Yoshi, the game is a real-time webcam based role-playing game where one player is Command, who has to try to rescue the other players within a single hour.  The game uses innovative new systems, including blind tracing and resource allocation, and was greatly inspired by games such as Space Alert and Rafael Chandler's Viewscream.

Everyone who supported the original book is now able to download the full-colored version for free.

Hope you like it!

Retails at $3.00 at DrivethruRPG

Pay What You Want version available too.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Sleeper ep02 : V20


"Museum are for the Dead. Media are for the Living."
Episode Two

Vampire 20th Anniversary

With the media swarming over the shooting that happened at Mark Robert's haven, the Prince Marcus Vitel immediately contacts the new Sheriff, Alex Cross, to deal with the situation.  Stressing the grave importance of the need to maintain the Masquerade, Marcus Vitel reminds him to settle thing before things get more out of hand and the attentions of other more powerful beings are caught. 

Alex reaches out and contacts the Brujah Hound, Diana Pierce and the two seek for a way to distract the media before things come to a terrible peak.  The Tremere David Sullivan runs  his own investigations and reaches out to the Brujah in hopes of finding more information that may prove useful. His own investigations leads him to the strip club called Purgatory, which happens to be the existing Brujah Hunting Ground. While Alex and Diana learn that the other Clans are greatly uncertain on what course of action to take, all seem content to leave Alex Cross the responsibility of finding a solution to the standing problem.  This may include playing the games of prestation the Kindred are known to play.  Alex reminisces on the lessons given to him before by his Sire, the long absent Alistair Kent.
Bjorn Garinson, Brujah Elder
(Travis Fimmel)

David Sullivan on the other hand, discovers that the Brujah Clan had withdrawn from the Camarilla after the destruction of the former Prince, and more interestingly, the current Brujah Elder seems to be a vampire of immense age.  

In the end, Alex finds an opportunity to distract the media from the home of Dor - but only if he willingly accepted owing a boon to the voice on the phone that addressed him.  The caller turn out to be the Anarch Razor, who fulfills his side of the bargain with an act of arson upon the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum!  The burning flames upon the museum draws the media to the site, immediately emptying the streets surrounding Dor's haven.   The Prince commends Alex for his strategy, not knowing that Alex was only able to accomplish it by agreeing to a boon Razor shall call for in the near future.

When Cross and his newly selected Hounds enter the premises to investigate, they find Velvet, Dor's Brujah bodyguard, staked and beaten, and discover she has vague recollection of facing invisible assailants.  Using a Thaumaturgical Ritual, Sullivan leads the group in following the trail but as they get deeper into the sewers, they discover the trail going cold when it leads through running water, and the unexpected attack by a massive albino gator forces them to withdraw back onto the surface.

Suspecting Dor having been abducted by the Nosferatu, Cross maps out his options - keeping Diana close by as they think of how to search for the missing Dor without angering the Nosferatu.  Sullivan traps himself in a complicated lie when Bjorn Garinson assumes he is a Brujah posing as a Tremere. Bjorn finds Sullivan's company amusing, and welcomes him to the Clan.  Sullivan reaches out to a George Lawrence, a Nosferatu who might hold answers he needs.

And Diana decides to do some investigating on her own, an act that leads her to an old orphanage where the children are all in some strange kind of daze as they sing a haunting song, and to her horror she discovers them all to be member of the Sabbat, and the group separates to hunt in the streets of Washington, D.C.  On her attempt to sneak away, however, she only succeeds thanks to the help provided by Scott Levin, who silences her and reminds her not to move while his Cloak the Gathering protects them from being seen by the children.   

Angelica Stravinsky, Toreador elder
(Meryl Streep)
Among the Harpies, Cross notes how the Toreador Angelica Stravinsky, despite being far older and more influential, does not stand at the Clan's Primogen, and yet holds some strange hold over the Tremere Regent, Helena Taylor.

With all these events, Dor remains missing, and even perhaps more disturbing, no one knows for certain what has happened with the Malkavian Mildred, whom has been missing from the public eye as well.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Dreams Betwixt Walls ep07 : A Red and Pleasant Land

Dreams Betwixt Walls
Episode Seven

"There Will Be Cake"

A Red and Pleasant Land

Days and nights quickly pass. Vera feels attuned to the passing of time. A green pig mumrat, lots of dwarfs, non-vampires, humans, animals they visit and come seeking permission, seeking roles.  Vidar ponders on the metals not being right.  The two argue about the need to find their way home, with Vera insistent that she would do whatever was necessary to send their daughter home.  She still believes all will be going according to her plans.

Ilya learns about life in this strange new world.  She learns of the hunt/market and understands the way things are managed here.  The kids form a cohesive unit in hunting.  They talk about early emergence from the well and about hiding and how to do it properly.  

Jacque arrives and this time, perhaps for the first time, the others begin to notice her resemblance to Ilya.  Jacque admits that the Heart Queen cannot die.  That the Red King supports them in their plans.  To prove his favor, a book of magic is offered, including the diamond dust needed to cast the Teleport spell.  Vera tasks Vidar to have a mirror made, with the help of five laborers.  Mava visits Ilya and tries to get the needed workers.  She visits Vera for the log book and the two talk about the usefulness of each member of the court.  Vera warns Mava of her role in things here, which leads to her walking out.  Vera then calls for the priest, and shares with him the information on the book and the dust.  He asks for the skull but she admits it is not with her.  It is with the girls.  "Trust them."  Becomes the theme of the conversation.  Vera even recommends to the priest to find dust so Mava can be the target of the Teleport spell as well.

Mava meets up with Ace.  Their discussion, originally to find workers, shifts when the father arrives and asks for the skull.  The father wants to resolve his promise and get it out of th eway.  Mava runs to Ilya, however, before the priest can get to her.  They find the kids hopscotching about.  He talks to them about the skull and during their discussion a ten-year old Hatta joins the conversation.  Night quickly comes as the group discuss the Head and soon learn that Hatta is actually present on behalf of the Pale King.

Father Geoff meets with the King Vidar while Lyle works on the metal.  Vera studies the spell and learns of the way the Mirror Universe works.  She learns she can bring someone back to the Quiet Side, the term for the place she was from, but only if someone else remains in front of the mirror the whole time while the spell is cast.  Reflections of each other.  If the person leaves, the other would be pulled back from the Quiet place.  Worse, she realizes she cannot be that anchor.  It has to be someone else.

Vidar demands for glass blowers and approves the use of silver in the mirror.  Vera and Geoff plan regarding the Head.  Both realize there is more important things to map out than originally discussed. Using a spell, she creates a facsimile of the Skull which is then handed back like the real thing.

The Tea Party begins.  By then, Vidar's mirror is complete.  Ilya is cuddling with the animals while Mava dresses fancy for the first time in her entire life.  Monochrome people arrive with black text emerging from their pale bodies.  Behold the King, the statements say.  The Pale King has arrived. The carriage, led by two horses, comes to a stop and a dwarf comes out.  Vera notes how the Pale King resembled Vidar, though no one else seems to see it.  Hatta introduces the Pale King to Vera and Vidar, and Vera makes sure to seat him by the Mirror.    When she sees Geoff, she inquires if he's prepared the dust.  Sadly, he does not have any.

A pond appears.  Out of the water on the ground, a colorless pawn emerges.  Geoff sets the body of the queen, still encased in glass, beside the Pale King.  Knights in black armor with colorless faces emerge from the water.  Nivia, the Colorless Queen arrives. Vera motions to Geoff to occupy the guests.  He begins to act as a host.  Vera worries about the matches she needs to use in the Mirror Universe spell.

She assigns the Fool (Mava) to delay the events by giving a show.  Clubs arrive.  Diamonds (Courtiers).  Hearts (Children).  The Heart Queen then arrives, Elizabeth Bathyscape herself, as does the Unicorn.  Ilya is able to approach it and offers it cake.  The two seem to be at home with each other's presence.  But when the Lion sees the Unicorn, things go crazier.  The Lion attacks!  Mava takes the moment of distraction to act too and tries to decapitate the Heart Queen, but despite her best efforts, the Heart Queen merely shrugs off the attack as if it barely hurt her!

The Colorless Queen turns into mist.  The Pale King transforms into Water.  The whole even exasperates Ilya, which shunts everything forward in the time table as the Mirror Universe spell is cast!  Mava stands close to the mirror, fighting against the Heart Queen.  Vidar feels an odd feeling on the mirror and drags Vera to it.  Vidar touches it and feels he can pass through. Vera, however, cannot.    Geoff tries to force the Heart Queen back, calling upon his faith, but it does not work. The Heart Queen transforms into a wolf and attempts to bite Mava.  Vera hurls the fake skull at the Heart Queen, hoping to distract her.  As the Heart Queen reaches for the skull, Vera casts Web upon her to trap her with the mass of other animals running about.  Geoff reminds Mava to "Be Strong" and his faith becomes a spell of Heroism upon her.  Ilya tries to touch the mirror even as the Qeen kills a few of the dwarf vampires.

Vidar topples out of a box, and finds a broken mirror in shards.  Only the mirror frame remains on the wall.  The walls, however familiar, do not match the rest of the walls of the chamber.  He looks around and discovers it is night and there are no servants.  Vidar, at the other side, sees Nicolai the Butler, who fires at him with a pistol.  Vidar closes the gap and with his axe, cleaves through the butler into two.

Vera insults the Heart Queen to lure her towards the mirror.  Ilya plunges the skull into the water and she finds skeletal fingers reaching for it to pull it in.  She realizes it was a bad idea and begins to tug back against the bones, in a tug of war for the Colorless Queen's head.  Geoff and Vera face the Heart Queen, who pins Vera against the Mirror .  Geoff calls for his faith and it emerges as light wounds upon Vera, which sadly, ends up healing her.   The Heart Queen bites Vera, and in response, Vera plants her hands on the Heart Queen's face and casts Continual Light on her eyes.  Geoff pulls Vera back and heals her with another healing prayer.

Ilya tells the Colorless Queen to "deal with the Heart Queen or things will become unpleasant for you."  Mava attempt to launch an attack but instead slips on the water.  The Colorless Queen casts a spell on Ila in response, "Avadakevadra!" 

Vidar storms the hallways, and notices there are portraits of Nikolai all over.  The servants hurry back upon seeing him.  Vidar roars, reminding them all that this is his castle.   He attacks the servants. Vidar starts yelling at the remaining servants to leave.

Ilya tries to pull the skull free.  Father Geoff calls for Sanctuary and casts it upon Vera. Vera tries to shove the Heart Queen through the mirror, but she resists with her own magic.  Vera realizes her magic is equal to the Heart Queen's so she tips the edge by trusting in the father's magic instead.  The divine sanctuary forces the Heart Queen to fall through the mirror.  But then, Vera begins to vanish, evaporating just as the Heart Queen does so! Ilya learns from Jacque of Vera's plans and sees her own mother disappear.

Vera finds herself trapped, held by something she cannot see.  She screams calling for help and somehow, Vidar can hear her muffled voice.  He begins to attack the wall and inside of it, he uncovers Vera chained to the wall.  Vera, now freed, tries to repair the broken mirror but it seems impossible.  She screams for her daughter.

The party goes worse when a grand monstrosity emerges, the Jabberwocky!   It charges after the others as it appears.  With everyone running away in a panic, Ilya exasperates once more and somehow charms the creature!  It tells her the two ways she can return to the Quiet place: Eaten by the Jabberwocky or by killing the Countess.  With the animals gone, Ilya finds herself becoming the mistress of the monster.  She has become the Queen.

A voice tells Vera she needs to go back.  Vidar sets the mirror pieces down and Vera tries to cast a spell to send Vidar through.  Vera wants to let the daughter find a way back.

Ilya chooses and she shatter the Jabberwocky's heart.  The Dream shatters as Vidar goes through the cracks and the dream comes to an end.  Mava sees the head matching her.  Father Geoff holds Mava and one by one they begin to awaken from the dream back in the Quiet Place.

Mava awakes at her old room at the Church.  The place is a warehouse now.

Ilya wakes up in her own room, which looks closed and never used.

Vera hears the voices fade.  Light fades around her.  She stares at the glass waiting for Vidar to return, but he does not.  She waits, though.  Waits and waits.  And Ilya never gets her to leave the side of the mirror again.

Father Geoff awakes in a room.  He finds a candelabra and lights it.  The room is not familiar.  He looks around the large chamber and finds a woman in a night gown in the room.  The woman reveals her fangs.  The welcome him back.

Vidar feels dragged by two knights in red.  Mirrors are all around.  He tries to break free but they pull him away to a throne room.  There, the gathered address him as an intruder.  On the throne, Vidar looks up and sees the old father Geoff, dressed in red.  The priest addresses him as being in the Red Keep and welcomes him to his new home.


And with that, our game ended.   Thank you BJ Recio for the nightmarish game filled with wonder and fear.  Thank you to Adrian, Gia, Fabs, Mia and Rocky for playing in the game with me. It is not often I get to be a player, and I will admit I had fun embracing my "Missy" role more than I thought.  The setting book is fantastic, and I do foresee taking my own stab at running this setting someday perhaps using a different system set.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

The Nisab Diary ep06 : 7th Sea

The Nisab Diary

Episode Six - 7th Sea

More days and nights have been spent in the dark woods of the Schwarzen Walder. Save for Reikion, who seems to be in his element, the two other try to make the most of the journey as they navigate the rougher woods and uneven terrain.  They have reached the deepest parts of the forest. Moonlight barely shines through.  If anything, they know they are at least halfway through the darkest part of the woods.

Reikion finds himself enjoying the isolation and cold and absence of man. He has gotten so inspired, he's been catching game to eat. Jan Volta, however, is getting concerned since oil levels are going low and the distance from civilized lands bothers him. When Walden Reichart finds a second dead body, one underneath a fallen tree, he notes how it is again a religious figure - a woman dressed in a nun's habit, clearly of the Vaticine Church.  She is missing the upper half of her head, however, with a clean cut across the head -  leaving only the lower jaw and the rest of the neck.

Ahead of them, Reikion can see a barn not that distant from the rest.  Embracing Matushka's blessing, he transforms into a raven and flies off to check it out.  Walden shows Jan the dead body and they note the clean cut, realizing it seems to have been done by two opposing blades -  a massive pair of shears.  Reikion flies to the bard and sees the farmland has a wooden fence surrounding it.  The place looks to be in a general state of disarray. A smaller barn house stands not too far away.  The house shows smoke rising from the chimney, with make-shift shutters on the windows.  Reikion notes all the crops, corn from the looks of it, are in a terrible state.  Perhaps due to drought or the ground lacks fertility. Reikion lands on the roof of the house, and peering through the cracks and breaks on the shingles, he can see an older woman deeply focused on her prayer by the fireplace.  Two younger children, around five to six years of age, silently kneel in prayer, though occasionally nagging each other quietly.  Reikion does not find any sign of the father in the household, however.  He notices the faint glow in the small barn, and so he flies there to check.  Landing on the side window, he sees the older man holding a lamp in one hand while he keeps the cow calm.  The eldest daughter is attempting to milk the cow and complains that nothing is happening even if they have been trying for the last few days.  Reikion looks up and realizes as thick as the woods have gotten, this farmland must have been chosen to take advantage of the clearing above, allowing moonlight and likely at day - sunlight - through.  He decides to fly back to the others.

Jan studies the dead body, hoping to understand how she came to be under the fallen tree. Walden is watching the surroundings, searching for any foot prints and the like.  Reikion sees a shiny thing in the woods in the distance as he flies back.  Descending to check, he notices the slightest of moonlight reflecting against a metallic surface in the shadow of a tree.  Jan realizes the body died from the partial decapitation, so it wasn't a post-mortem cut.  Her feet are adorned with shoes that are not practical to wear in the woods. She does not look like someone who would have been traveling through the forest.  Walden notices something shimmering in the branches above and he whispers to Jan he doesn't think they are alone right now.  Reikion lands by the tree's shadow and tries to get a closer look of the shiny thing.  He uncovers it is a belt buckle, with foreign craftsmanship, laid on a clump of dead leaves and mud.  He notes the buckle is adorned with the depiction of the rising of the Prophet.   Reikion looks up the tree, wondering if it came from someone up the tree. Maybe it fell from the branches.  He sees the shimmering thing on the branches - the same thing which Walden had seen - and Reikion realizes from his vantage point it is an ornate throwing dagger. Jan studies the corpse's clothes and realizes she probably came from Montaigne.  Walden sees a raven looking up the dagger, and realizes it is Reikion.  Just before it could fly up to check the dagger, however, instincts kick in and Reikion dodges to the side.  Another dagger hits the nearest tree trunk!  The buckle, it turns out, was not just on leaves and mud.  A hidden figure owns the belt, and had covered itself in mud and leaves.  Reikion squaks a warning to the others.  Jan and Walden drop the body and hurry to where the raven is.  

There, they discover a woman caked in mud and leaves.  The woman, clearly from Montaigne as well, is lacking her right arm and her legs.  She is barely conscious.  "So much for killing you, but I guess I shouldn't have tried."  She laments about dying in what she calls Eisen to be a god-forsaken country.  She mutters that prayer does work when Reikion resumes a human form in front of her.  Jan and Walden arrive, and as they examine her wounds, she tells them about the terrible events her group had befallen.  When Jan informs her he is a doctor and can help, all the more she muses about prayer working.  But as Jan tells her he can treat her, his dievas appears beside her smiling.  Jan realizes the woman is Montaigne, and he still has a standing promise to insult the first Montaigne he sees.  The woman explains she had her companions must have made a "bad walk" somewhere and fell out of the Walk.  And that "it" came out of nowhere.  Jan tries to suppress her bleeding but when he tries to insult her but muttering this is the stupidest thing he has ever heard or seen anyone do, the woman accepts the statement as truth rather than an insult.  The dievas warns Jan that if he fails to insult her before they meet another Montaigne, he fails to fulfill the promise.  They wash clean her wounds, clean her up a bit to help her feel better.  She mumbles, hallucinating that a dog is licking her face. "Good dog..."

Walden wonders if this even connects to the Montaigne crates they had seen in the greenhouse in Starke.  The possible picture of all of these being connected bothers him. The group begins to wonder if she's related to the other religious dead people they had seen in the earlier days.  The Walk, however, makes them wonder if it has anything related to the Porte Sorcier they met and the supposed blessures in the area. 

But lo, to their horror, the Schattenmann appears!  The nightmarish figure turns out to be real and with his massively long limbs, it begins to close in on the group with its gleaming shears.  The group realizes they have to act quickly!  While Reikion uses his dueling skills to give him an edge, Jan Volta tries to fulfill his promise to the dievas while trying to help her as well. Walden learns that the farm house somehow has never been visited by the Schattenmann and after asking them for help, wonders if the group can run there to find sanctuary from the horror.  

Jan resorts to doing something unthinkable.  Using a favor he has with the dievas, he strips the Montaigne woman of any memories of the horror she has gone through, then tells her of how she has brought failure to the people she was tasked to protect.  The woman undergoes the terrible anguish of once more feeling her inadequacy in watching over her charges, and worse, re-experiences the painful trauma of losing her limbs once more.  The act touches Jan with a hint of Corruption and the dievas smiles.

Their combined efforts thankfully begin to weaken the Schattenmann, and with the use of vines, ice weapons and well timed shots, the three successfully defeat the horror!  Jan glimpses a long forgotten lore about the thing, through the dievas' help,  and discovers the Schattenmann is a cursed state gained when someone touches the silver shears.  For this, he agrees to say yes to the first "offer" he is given  within the next 24-hours.  He quickly buries them under some earth and leaves and tells the rest that they should head back.  When they get to the Montaigne woman, whom they had left on the grass while they fought the horror, they discover she had passed on.  The guilt gnaws on Jan Volta, who promises to not consort or use the powers the dievas has given to him as a penance for his actions.

The group arrives at the farm house and learn the family has reservations of allowing one of the Waizen into their homes. Reikion opts to rest in the forest, not feeling welcome given the family's strong focus on their faith in the Prophets.  Walden opts to camp somewhere else as where, nearly hitting the shears in his walk.  And Jan finds himself quickly falling asleep,  He does not see the eldest daughter, Tomasin, sneaking into the room and staring at him.

One can only wonder what she has to ask from him by the time he awakens.


The next morning, Jan awakens to find himself alone at the breakfast table, where he is given bread and butter and water to enjoy.  Reikion soon arrives, and thankfully is still welcomed to join for breakfast.  Walden, however, still feels unwelcome given the view most Eisen have for one of the Waizen. But when the older son goes missing, the family begin to worry what may have happened.  The heroes are tasked to see if they can help with the farm animals, as well as if they can find the missing boy.

In the barn, Reikion inspects the animals and finds a black goat locked up in a cage.  The family sees the goat as an ill omen and does to allow it to roam free.  When he inspects the cow, he discovers it is unable to create milk given the terrible nutrition is has.  He recommends they allow the cow to graze outside the fenced area. Reikion searches the woods as well for the missing boy and finds another farm house further in the woods.  The group commences trying to find more signs of the boy.

In the woods, a bear is found sleeping.  There are signs of it having attacked a boy. Worse, they find the boy's shoe there.  When the eldest daughter learns of this she asks them to find the boy.  Also in the woods, they find Olaf, the brother of the siblings from tower.  He confesses to them that he had come upon the boy, found him near death, and unfortunately he had transformed him though it was not an intentional act.

They find the boy in the other farm house, and he has sadly transformed into a vampire.  With Jan and Walden killing him, as his hunger has gone out of control, they soon find the mayor with other men outside the farm house demanding for answers.  The family learns of what has happened to their son and the group seeks the monster than cursed the boy to punish them.

The group confronts the crowd, and thankfully, convinces them to leave them to deal with Olaf for the transgressions.  They exile Olaf for his actions, hoping to at least spare him for having unintentionally caused the problem.  They inform his sister of the events and convince her to abandon the tower for her own safety.  She agrees to leave only after her people choose to leave with her, and burn the tower and the homes to settle the matter with the mayor.

In the end, the group feels they have won a hollow victory.  Olaf is forced to leave.  And his sister finds herself consumed with the anger and hatred of having lost the only one who mattered to her in her family.  The heroes do not realize that she has been set upon a path leading towards becoming a Villain.  Walden destroys the flayed man, thinking it would be best they were not influenced by the terrible thing anymore, but fails to realize with his death, the sister's appetite for blood might now grow unchecked.

The mayor then asks the heroes to accompany him, and they make their way to Heilgrund to be guests of the Eisenfursten Stefan Heilgrund for having helped the people.


Thomasin laments the loss of her brother.  And one day while grazing her cow outside, she bears witness to an event that scars her psychologically for the years to come.  The cow comes upon the shears and is affected by its curse, transforming once more into a new Schattenmann that walks away and vanishes into the woods.  She will never speak again.


And Olaf, as he leaves, finds a portal opening.  A figure arrives and pulls him away, as he now has a new part to play in the schemes of an unknown mastermind.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Encounters : Our Last Best Hope


Our Last Best Hope

As part of the then attempt to introduce new systems to gamers who haven't tried it, I ran a session of Our Last Best Hope for the mini-con and drew inspiration from the Alien movies.

I was able to get three players in total to play with me, as well as a few others, but sadly I was not able to mark down who my players were for the session.

The game was set in the Arctic, and the four players fulfilled each role: the Soldier, the Scientist, the Engineer and the Doctor.

Sadly, I have lost my notes on this game and thus do not have further information on the players.  But I would like to think the game remains a memorable one for them.

Act I Begins

For initial set-up, we generated the complications for the game and we are all huddled in the tents at the start of the game.  Earlier that evening, Tobie was carried back into camp with something clamped on his face.  Some of them felt fascinated by the thing that was wrapped on his face.  Others were panicking, knowing that Tobie was the pilot of the journey. The doctor preps his tools. The engineer sets up the light sources.  The storm gets stronger outside.  They all feel something uneasy about the situation and they reach out to M.I.M.I.C. for advice.  Everyone has bracelets that allow them to communicate with M.I.M.I.C. but their interplayer communications are down.   Sensors detect movement outside the camp, approaching their general direction.   The game is set in LV-42, one of the three moons orbiting Calpamos, which is the same moon where the first Alien movie is set.   The storm in interfering with the scans.  The thing is estimated to arrive in less than one minute.    Acid sprays out as the doctor cuts off one of the legs of the thing wrapped around Tobie's face.  The acid hits some of the lights.  The thing closes in towards the camp, but the storm covers it from view.  Richard takes point, and rushes to check the motion outside.    The alien charges at the tent!  The loud thudding sound smashes into the tent at Richard from behind him!  Towering six feet tall, the enraged alien grabs at Richard!  He quickly pulls out his lucky dagger, a touch stone, to try to fend the thing off.  Two try to help, one using Frost's laser while the other simply tries grabbing one of the standing lamps to stab at the alien.  The lamp hits the alien and it gives out an elephantine squeal.  Richard stabs the blade against its body, and at the point, the laser burns into its skin.  Both pull back, seeing the Alien trashing in all directions.  Elsa is yelled at to head back.  Frost rushes forward with the experimental laser and swings with it like a cutting sword.  Richard feels the tail smack into his stomach, flinging him to the ground.  M.I.M.I.C. starts counting down as another threat is closing in.

"Aim for the head!" the Scientist starts yelling at them.  Frost shakes her head, yelling at another for being crazy!  Richard grabs the thing by the tail, dragging it down.  Frost comes in and stomps on the thing.   M.I.M.I.C. starts counting down for twenty nine.... Frost thanks Elsa for being around, and Elsa starts waving to distract the monster, giving Frost the chance to burn the thing.  The thing squeals then hits the ground, dead.   M.I.M.I.C. stops the count. The detected bogey has suddenly stopped its movement.  And worse, it can no longer detect it.

Minutes later, with the others gathered by the tent.  Tobie has seemingly slipped into a coma.  Frost is checking on the body, and the thing has fallen off.  Richard drags the other to the side, telling him he knows what is going on here.   "We were sent here under the same assignment!  What you know is what I know..." Richard growls at him, claiming to know what he did.  The other, however, challenges him to say it out loud.  The other pushes Richard back, reminding him they have a job to do.   He reminds Richard to be careful.   The other yells out, telling them that Tobie is still breathing.  The other starts eating ice out of panic.  Richard admits he is happy that Elsa is around to keep him sane.  There are rumbling sounds however, getting closer.  M.I.M.I.C. warns them to seismic activity on the rise!  Elsa grabs the Survival Logbook and yells at them to follow her to a cave she found when she was surveying the activity.  Richard yells at them they cannot leave Tobie as he's their own pilot.  The others grab whatever kit they can.  "I thought this place was stable!" the other calls out at the Engineer.  But the Engineer yells back that he should shut up as he's making her feel crazy.  The Scientist notices the walls and tells them to move towards them as they are geologically secure!  They realize the motion sensors are not picking up any movement in that direction, making it perfect to head there.  They safely duck into the cave.  Frost admits she hates Hans, and the group drops to the ground to catch their breath. The snow has covered most of the exit way, trapping them for the time being.

Minutes later again.  Tobie remains stable and breathing though unresponsive.  Most of them have rested enough to be able to move a bit more.  Tobie's eyes sudden shoot open and he looks at them, confused and dazed.  Elsa tries to explain what is going on, or at least what they know.  Hans reveals that moment however that the Elsa cheated on her board exam.   She reminds them that she deserves to be an Engineer since she got them to be here alive.  Richard insists however it was the other woman who got them here alive. Tobie mumbles about having stumbled into some cave, filled with eggs.  The others begin to worry if it is the same cave.  Tobie looks around and slowly begins to nod.  Hans complains that they had just run back into this place like stupid people. Tobie remembers Hans telling him to go into the cave to take video footage inside.  True enough, there are things in the cave.  Hans lags behind, but Richard drags him with him.  Hans thanks Richard for at least being reliable enough to keep the team safe.  There is mist in the chamber, but with their arrival, the mist dissipates revealing eggs.  Tobie admits he saw one open and something crept out... "There, just like that one!"

Elsa yells at the others to look out!  Frost watches as Elsa begins to tremble in fear.  Elsa holds the laser close, but another pod begins to open, revealing slimy things - the very thing Elsa cannot stand.  Frost rushes in to help out with the Power Suit worn.  Richard charges forward, hoping his Soldier training can help out!  They attack the things emerging from the pods but this time they all try to kill it with fire!

The squealing sounds fill the cavern, and horrifically, they don't seem to be running out!  Hans begins to back away from the others, and he starts yelling at them to try smashing them or burning them!  The Scientist's advice seems to help, but they aren't sure what they can use to burn things in the cold.  Frost yells that someone should help her! The Power Suit starts stomping at the pods and face huggers that try to slip closer.  Frost hears Tobie starting to cough and she hurries to carry him out of the way.  The Experimental Laser starts burning others too, and the group is surprised to see Hans using it.  The fire however begins to also rise around Richard, who turns out to be afraid of fire!  They successfully avert disaster!

As the others finish off the rest of the eggs, Hans can see Tobie coughing and struggling to breathe.  Tobie starts having stomach pains and collapses to the ground.  Richard tries to help him up. Tobie coughs out a lot of blood, that hits Richard on the face.   With the eggs all popped, they try to help Tobie stabilize.   He admits he feels very hungry.  Frost asks M.I.M.I.C. to scan Tobie, but M.I.M.I.C. informs her that he cannot do so since she chose the organic ointments instead of the usual lab set-up.  M.I.M.I.C. does inform them that the existing lab set up is still at the landing bay currently 10km away.   Elsa sighs. The Engineer has been chomping on snow out of nervousness.  M.I.M.I.C. suggests disassembling a power suit and a motion sensor to reconfigure it for scanning a human body. Tobie learns from the others that an alien had clamped on his face. But he thought it was just Hans surprising him then since he sent Tobie to check the cave for some artifact.  M.I.M.I.C. informs them of an incoming message from Weyland Yutani.  The face that emerges addresses Hans, informing them that they have lost tracking of the team.  He asks them for extraction and asks M.I.M.I.C. to boost the signal and attempt to allow him to be better tracked.  The Scientist gives them the command.  M.I.M.I.C. boosts the signal, but Weyland Yutani still doesn't pick them up. M.I.M.I.C. is told to boost it by 30% Hans asks M.I.M.I.C. boost by 80% despite M.I.M.I.C. warning that the system might not be able to handle it.  The girls however think Hans knows what is happening to Tobie.   An explosion rips through the equipment as fire spread through the communications hub!

Hans calls for an Emergency Power Down to compensate.  Frost asks Elsa if there is any way she can help.  Elsa remembers her sister who she left behind and her need to get home to her.  They killed most of the flames, but as they open the machine they see parts still melting.  Frost brings Tobie to the ground, but more slimy coughing comes out.  The Scientist asks M.I.M.I.C. to vent the coolants, but M.I.M.I.C. sadly informs them it cannot.  Richard remembers his happy place, finding some calm inside.  Hans closes in to help Elsa as she tries to tie up the last few repairs before it fries completely.
Tobie's body begins to convulse.  Frost feels something pushing out from Tobie's chest.  That same moment, Richard is still lost in his happy place as he pushes his hand into the warm moist earth.  Tobie begins to scream as something begins to trash and shove against his chest from the inside!  Richard still lost in his thoughts imagines grabbing the turnip from the earth, and then yanking and tugging to break it free.  Free.  It tears free!  Tobie screams as his chest tears open despite all of Frost's attempts to stabilize him with medicines.  The chest busters leaps out towards the closest person - Frost!  Richard comes to his senses and runs for it!  Elsa rushes close to help. Hans grabs hold of the thing by the tail!  Frost drops to the ground, and grabs the Experimental Laser to try to burn it again.  The thing sprays out acid, forcing them all to pull back, and the chest burster vanishes into the snow.  But before it can move away, Hans leaps down to grab it.  Elsa and Richard try to help, all of them hoping to pin it with Hans' leather jacket. They grab hold of it in time, and the laser punches a hole through its head.

The group drops to the snow, exhausted.  Tired.  They stare at Tobie's dead body.

End of Act I

Act II: Bad Decisions

In the snow, the group discovers they are forced to break down their machinery to generate heat.  They use up all their medication to deal with the frostbite and other effects.  M.I.M.I.C. informs them that the Recovery Team is still enroute.  They all have been exposed to the cold, however, and are now suffering 3 Harm each.

Elsa hears Hans stories about his time at the University, and she shares her own stories about having left her family.  None of them realize, however, something is hunting the team outside their makeshift camp.  They start to notice something occasionally moving in the distance, barely visible against the raging blizzard.  M.I.M.I.C. updates them that the Recovery Team is arriving in two hours and ten minutes.  Elsa asks Richard if the ones coming are "them", and she admits she saw the documents that had orders for him to silence them if the mission was completed. "Who are they?!"  Hans growls, "Wait a minute!  You were giving me shit about.. about..."  Frost reminds them they have to calm down and relax and conserve body heat.  They don't have any other machines to break down to generate more heat. The fire in the camp starts to fade.  Richard tells them they can always go to the alien ship, rather than the landing vessel.  The others suspect however he's trying to plan something else, especially when he recommends they drag Tobie's body.  Hans hisses they should just leave it. He reminds them traversing means being exposed to not just the elements but whatever is stalking them outside.  And he would rather just freeze to death than be torn limb from limb. Richard admits he only has a few ammunition left in his rifle.  Richard insists the alien ship is better insulated and they can find better shelter there.

A shadow arrives at the doorway.  The group sees the long elongated head, the extensions on its back.  The thing seems to be hissing, slowly scanning the cave.  Then suddenly, it is gone.  Richard reminds them that thing can find them here, or the cold kills them.  M.I.M.I.C. informs them that movement is heading to their direction.  They notice, however, M.I.M.I.C. didn't warn them sooner when it was by the door.  The movement M.I.M.I.C. detects, however, is coming from INSIDE the cave.  Frost and Hans tells Richard to lead the way.  The four quickly move through the snow to get out.  Hans, however, lagging behind, is told by M.I.M.I.C. that it is upon him!  The screech breaks the silence as Hans turns and sees the monstrous thing emerging from the cave.  It's head is too large to fit the cave exit, its massive crown too large to allow it to leave.    It howls and tries to break the door open wider.
That screech.  Hans finds himself remembering the sound and hearing the howl of the wind when he was facing a ravine in the past.  The ground feels widening between him and the others.  Frost rushes close to Hans, helping him stay focused.  Richard raises his rifle, ready to fire.  The things crown begins to emerge as it continues to ram against the cave opening to break it wider.  The group continues to run, moving as fast as they can through the snow, hoping to escape.  Frost uses her Death card: Prove That You Care, as she tells them to please go run as she can handle this.  "Guys, run!  This proves that I am not an evil person.  This proves that I care!" She distracts the Alien Queen, forcing it to chase after her while the rest of them break into a run in utter fear as the Queen rips her apart.

Frost has a flashback of events back in med school when she was dealing with a dead body. She remembers all the fear she was going through when she couldn't cut the body open.  Richard grabbed hold of her hand back then and helped her cut the dead body open.  The instructor, however, sees Richard's actions, which leads to him getting expelled from the medical school.

Hans makes a break for the ship, telling M.I.M.I.C. to divert the pick up point to their location. Elsa tries to help divert the alien with Richard's help, telling everyone that he's got it covered!  Richard pulls out his Death card: Help a Friend, and so as they run, Elsa slips on the ice.  Remembering Frost's sacrifice, Richard pulls Elsa up and shoves her to go ahead while shooting in the air and drawing the aliens to him instead!  The aliens squeal as they close in on Richard.  Elsa and Hans continue running, hearing the gun fire punctuated by squeals of the aliens.

Then silence.

The two approach the ship, moving under the shadow of the alien vessel.  Their own ship parked not too far away.  Their only reason for camping at the distance was because the Engineer insisted that was more stable ground.  Hans contacts M.I.M.I.C. to confirm the new pick up point.  He can see the dot in the sky closing in as M.I.M.I.C. confirms the pick up is in one minute.  Hans and Elsa however can see the swarming xenomorphs, called by the Queen, closing in on their location.  Hans feels this was a wrong idea.  These creatures should not have been discovered.  The cold, however, seems to have frozen some of the other xenomorphs.  Some of the still active ones actually crash through the frozen ones, shattering them.  As Hans and Elsa approach the ships, Hans heads straight for their own ship, activating the systems.  The warmth of the ship wraps around them.  They close the hatch immediately.  The xenomorphs arrive, swarming over their own vessel... and neither of them know how to pilot!

Hans asks M.I.M.I.C. about the fuel reserves.  M.I.M.I.C. confirms there is enough to reach the landing bay.  The ship's engines are facing the creatures, but when Hans commands M.I.M.I.C. to burn the thrusters to kill the things, M.I.M.I.C. overrides the command.  Charleston of Weyland Yutani contacts them and informs them they are unwilling to land the Retrieval Vessel. M.I.M.I.C. informs them that it is unwilling to accept Weyland Yutani's decision on the matter. M.I.M.I.C. tells them the Engineer can rereoute the systems for M.I.M.I.C. to handle the piloting from this point on.  Elsa admits she does not think it is a good idea.  M.I.M.I.C. however claims to have cared for Elsa since she has always cared for the ship and treated it with respect.  M.I.M.I.C. wants to return the favor.  Elsa admits she was, however, never a good listener.  She begins yanking the wires and pulling things apart even as M.I.M.I.C. asks her to stop.  To let the parts go.  To let it go.  Sparks fly around, and the shock courses through Elsa as she plays her Death card: Did Not Listen. Her death causes her to hit the ground, and her body convulses as she hopes to escape this horrific scene through death.

Hans, now alone, contacts Weyland Yutani, and informs them he is awaiting extraction.   They ask him to confirm if M.I.M.I.C. is able to handle autopilot but he informs them down.  The ship hailing them informs him the aliens are climbing the vessel and attempting to break in.  He asks permission to send the extraction team from the professor.  Hans, however, realizing the threat of these aliens, tells the Extraction Team to fall back.  "This is a mistake.  Fall back!"   The power gets cut and everything now is completely bluish red from the emergency lights.  Hans heads down to the ship's cover, making his way through the darkness towards it.   He finds the power core and thought there's enough to travel, there's no way to get out.  An explosion rocks the ship somewhere.  Flashlight beams run across the scene as gun shots are fired in the distance.  Hans sees the Extraction Team arriving, and one of them spots him and open's fire. He ducks under the machinery and hides.

Expendable.  Hans now realizes he's expendable and the company wanted the creatures alone, and the whole trip here was folly.  Hans, wanting to make up for that mistake, rewires what he can of the power core to activate self-destruct system.  He does not want anyone to be able to bring back news about these monsters.  He turns, expecting a shot to be fired when someone arrives behind him. He turns to see someone pale skinned and naked.  M.I.M.I.C. addresses him, asking him what he is trying to do.  Hans explains he's routed the core to explode.  M.I.M.I.C. it seems is currently in a synth body.  Hans admits company policies no longer apply, especially when the Extraction Team is not here to rescue anyone.  "They were after the creatures from the beginning.. too bad I even had to kill to get this expedition to succeed."  M.I.M.I.C. admits his last attempt to rescue him was flawed and Engineer Elsa has shut him down at great cost.  M.I.M.I.C. activates the self-destruct sequence activate.  The Extraction team, hearing this, tries to hurry out.

"There is nothing left worth taking back," Hans nods. M.I.M.I.C. claims company parameters insist he must stop Hans, but Hans voices out the override code to disable M.I.M.I.C.  The count down quickly drops, counting down faster and faster...

An Extraction Team soldier sees Hans, takes aim, but a pair of xenomorph hands clamps down around his head from behind and pops it with a squeeze.  The Alien Queen comes into the light... but Hans smiles.

A thermonuclear explosion erupts on the surface, tearing apart all the aliens in the vicinity.  The ships are rend asunder.  The arctic once more becomes very silent.


The media reports of a strange explosion detected in the arctic.  Weyland Yutani explains that some experimental station had exploded due to intense weather conditions that are prevailing in the area.  There are no reported deaths.


In some other facility, a synth opens his eyes. A man sits in front of it and asks if it knows who he is.  The synth replies the man is the one they are shaped after, Bishop.  He asks the synth it's designation and the synth replies it is M.I.M.I.C.  It pauses, then asks why it feels... sad.  

Bishop stares, and realizes this version of the A.I. cannot be permitted to be released.  He silently deletes the files.

The world is saved for now.  There are no survivors.

The End

Monday, November 7, 2016

Was a Guest Speaker at ESGS 2016

OMG with the Castlevania and Bloodstained designer himself, Koji Igarashi!

Thank you to the people behind this year's Electronic Sports and Gaming Summit for having me as one of your speakers.  I gave a short talk entitled, Must Love Games, where I shared my insight in the importance of not locking yourself down to a limited range of experiences when it comes to becoming a good Game Designer.

This is me with my office mates at our "booth" where we were showcasing Agent Aliens and Play Day!

Grabbed myself one of's Mystery Loot Bags.  As of the contents, I will not reveal it to anyone hahah!

Wondering if I chose the right bag.

Me with the incredible GM Mon who remains a dear and close friend.

Me with Gwen and Flip, both super awesome people who love games and are very dear friends.

A quick lunch getaway with more new friends and amazing people in the gaming industry. And yes, James, I will drink with you some day when I find you at Singapore!

The massive seminar room where the talk was to be held.

With the wonderful Ria who was ever so supportive as always! 

The event was a wonderful chance also for me to meet a cool host of people, as well as a chance to share my excitement and pride for our two upcoming games, Agent Aliens and Play Day.  We had a small area to showcase the games and it was pretty cool having a bunch of people try the games out.  Agent Aliens should be available at Google Play so do check it out!

And yeah, that fanboying moment was not possible without Gwen's wonderful kindness. Thank you again everyone!  And here's hoping to help out again in the coming years.

To gaming!

Thursday, November 3, 2016

The Nisab Diary ep05 : 7th Sea

The Nisab Diary

"Not Alone. Not Alive."
Episode Five - 7th Sea

The group travels, hoping to reach the Sarmatian Commonwealth before the Villains get to there.  Not wanting to risk Porte magic once more, the group decides to take the risk of heading straight through the Walder, camping when necessary, to cut on time.  Jan Volta is confident his Survivalist training can handle things there.  Reikion on the other hand admits being at home in the woods compared to the cities.  Walden Reichart is overruled and decides to trust in the two.  The first few nights of journeying through the woods is without any complications with Reikion amused in watching what the "scientific world" knows of the wild. They journey quickly, reaching one of the rivers that leads to Stutzung without any incident.   They see a group of other travelers moving in the woods, a family with children, and they watch with worry as the dark bird - Reikion in his animal form - seems to watch them as they pass.  Reikion overhears them talking about the woods being the stalking grounds of a horrible creature called the Schattenmann, or "Shade Man" that stalks those who stray from the path, and dismember his victims with an enormous pair of shears.

By the next night, however, as the group camps close to the next river breaks, things begin to take a less favorable twist in direction.  They soon find a dead body, perhaps a man who got lost in the woods, with most of the flesh picked clean by predators.  Walden studies the body and begins digging through the corpse for parts he could gather.  Reikion asks why he has no respect for the dead.  Walden simply explains there is use for the dead.  Reikion realizes the Circle of Life still exists even among those who practice Walden's strange Sorcery.

Further, they find bushes ripe with berries and gather them for more to eat.  All three of them silently are thankful it does not resemble the odd berries they encountered in Starke.  The canopy of trees above have growth thicker that the sunlight barely reaches them.  Even navigating requires them to be wary of their footing.  They soon reach the next river mouth and the darkness surrounds them.  They set camp, with Reikion heading off to forage for some food.  Walden heads out to try to gather a few herbs as well, hoping to be able to prepare more unguents when necessary.  Jan prepares the fire and creates a sleeping area for each of them.  Reikion sees a rabbit, but allows it to go on its way rather than hunt it for the food.  Walden finds more rare herbs and carefully stores them, knowing things like nightshade can be poisonous if not kept properly.  On the way back, however, Walden strays from the path and finds the body of a priest brutally shoved inside a crevice of a tree. The man is dead, and Walden has no idea here he came from.  The man still has the symbol of the Prophet around his throat and a travelling pack left on the ground.  The body is barely a day old.  Walden scouts around and finds no predators about, save for an owl staring at him from the branches.  Drawing the dracheneisen dagger he found from the previous cottage, he exhales with relief when he does not see it glowing.  He gathers the eyes and tongue from the dead body, thankful for more ingredients to use.

Reikion returns and gives Jan the fruit.  Jan admits he expected meat, with the fire now burning brightly for roasting.  They eat the fruit instead, trading stories about what birds eat for survival, while Jan reminds him they are not all birds.  He does raise the question if the amount of food he eats as an animal adjusts in how fulfilling it is when he transforms back to a human form.

Walden realizes the cause of death is choking.  He either shoved himself inside too much to the point he could not breathe, or was shoved in by something. As he checks the bag, he can hear the heavy metal objects still inside, which makes him think if this was done by thieves or bandits, they would have stolen the bag.    He tries heading back to the others.

When he returns the others share with him the fruits.  They notice the blood on him and Walden reassures them the blood isn't his.  He shows them the bag he found and they all see inside two large bottles, perhaps wine, as well as a small metal box with polished panels. Walden tells them of the corpse he found and Jan identifies the wine to be Vaticine Church wine.  The box is filled with wafers.  Jan opens the wine and smells it to still be fresh and potent.  Reikion is concerned since it is the second body they have found so far.  Walden explains slightly the basics of how he has been using human remains for the Hexe creations he makes which prove useful in his battle against monsters.  The two nod, choosing to leave Walden to handle such things on his own.

Later in the evening, in the quiet of the woods with nothing but their occasional breathing as the sound filling the night and the crackling of the fire, Walden catches sight of a number of pale figures watching him from the distance.  He sees standing figures, at least four of them, with pale white skin.  They look humanoid, but remain unmoving, merely standing and facing his direction like statues that were not there before.  When Walden takes a step towards the fire, the figures all take a step forward as well.  Walden quickly begins to see that the figures move each time he moves.  The figures are naked.  Male, female, but it seems hard to discern any age.  Walden draws his pistol and takes a step to the fire.  The figures move again, stepping one step towards him.  The faces are blackened around the eyes.  Their lips are closed.  A mask-like design adorns the face.  Walden stares and realizes what he thought was a mask was actually the flesh of the face having gone missing, with the bone visible where the "mask" should be.

Looking down, Walden realizes his dracheneisen daggers are glowing.  The things have not moved, however.  He takes a few tentative steps towards it, and once more, the things take an equal number of steps that he has made.  He calls out to them, saying hello, but none of them respond.  He begins trying to wake the others with his voice.  Reikion does not awaken, sleeping too soundly against the grass.  Jan wakes up, and seeing Walden with the pistol, he draws his own pistol.  The moment he starts to stand up, however, all the figures turn now to face him.   Walden draws the dracheneisen daggers, and their glow fills the camp.  As Jan begins to move, the figures keep moving now towards him.  Walden waits, allowing Jan to keep moving to draw the closest one to them.  With Walden now flanking the figure, he lunges at it with his blade, with Jan having maneuvered the thing to a vulnerable position.  Jan fires his pistol to the air, waking Reikion now.  The white figure crumples to the ground, with Walden's strike having disabled it with a single blow.  The thing shatters into dust, as if it were nothing but a hollow statue of a man.  Reikion, seeing the others, instinctively jumps backwards and looks around.  Walden explains its some kind of undead.  The other figures are still watching them, waiting for the to move to close in again.  They realize as they draw their weapons, the things don't approach. But at each time anyone takes the step, the things step closer.  Walden warns them their campfire is getting very low.

As they map out their plan to deal with it, they notice one towering taller than the most.  The figure, with a more elaborate face mask, suddenly speaks and tells the three of them to stop moving for the moment.  Surprised to hear her speak, the woman explains the things are relentless, and will follow them through the forest day or night until they are eaten.  The group begins to realize the woman is painted pale white, or at least has skin as white as chalk, and is wearing a mask to somehow look like the monsters.  When Reikion asks what they should do, she hesitates for a while, then admits she isn't sure if she can trust them.  But she can welcome them to her tower if they promise to surrender their weapons to her.  She explains finally that the monsters cannot see they are living if they conceal their eyes.  The beasts see through their own eyes, and thus move whenever a living pair of eyes moves as well.  Reikion tells the others to cover their eyes.  Walden ignites the severed arm of the monster he had killed earlier and tries igniting it as a torch.  Walden closes his eyes and Jan starts giving him instructions on how to approach each monster with the burning torch and at times, he even takes steps back to draw the monsters closer to the fire.  It is a slow method, but it works and eventually each of the monsters are burned down.  The white woman explains the things are constantly searching for the living, seeing through the eyes of the living, and hunting for them relentlessly until a new pair of eyes steals their attention.  The things travel in large groups.  

They share the woman their gratitude and she offers to bring them to her tower to find rest and safety.  She warns them, however, that they can only stay for the night.  Reluctantly, the group agrees.    The woman reveals her mount, a headless horse which has skin almost porcelain like herself. Walden wonders if she is a Hexe just like him, and asks if she was the one who was gathering the other... organs from the dead in the woods.  She nods.   Jan moves to the side, calling upon his dievas and he asks if the woman is trust-worthy.  The dievas honestly answers, "No." He warns the others secretly of his concerns of not trusting the woman.  They follow, for now. 

She leads them to a white tower surrounded by darkened homes.  A white circle of salt surrounds the perimeter.  As they follow her to the tower, some of them glimpse misshappen and disabled figures peering from the dark homes. None of the homes show torches or lanterns.  They are asked to leave their weapons in a chamber by the entrance of the tower. When Walden draws his dracheneisen blades to surrender them, they all see the blades glowing.  He chooses to surrender them for now.

Going inside, they reach the first landing and soon meet her brother, Olaf, whose clothes are just as pale and white as his own skin.  They climb up the steps, with Olaf constantly berating the woman for allowing strangers into their homes.  She, however, reminds him that they have a duty to help those they can, especially given what they have gone through.  She explains her brother Olaf cares and protects her and they should not take his words too personally.  They no longer have other family, save for the peasants outside.  "Eisen is not safe.  They know better than to be outside at night."  She explains the tower was originally built as a sanctuary for travelers lost in the woods.  But now, she and Olaf devote themselves to protect their peasants from the horrors that they made a mistake to let in before.   Their parents used the peasants in the past as slaves and tools to mine the nearby mountains.  She calmly narrates how she decapitated her parents and used their own eyes to see their souls and imprison them away.  Walden nods, explaining to the others that she uses Hexe.  Their ways are common. He asks if the peasants are alive, and she admits they would not be useful otherwise.  When he asks if she is alive, however, she admits she no longer is.  And neither is her brother. She even allows Jan to use his scalpel to cut into her chest, and she does not react in any manner to the blade, despite her wound starting to bleed.  Walden reminds them not to accept any bread or porridge.

The first room they are shown is a room completely blue.  She explains their father used to live here.  Olaf's attitude is explained soon enough as a reflection of his anger for having trusted their parents only to be hurt in so many ways.  Their parents used to use them to lure other travelers to the tower, to bring them ingredients needed for their magic.  They did this for ten years.   Now he chooses not to trust others. "He does not realize the worst things always happen for the best reasons."  She allows Jan to stay in the room, and reminds him it has the best bed.

Reikion is then lead to the next room, a vibrant green room which the mother used to use.  She explains that she and her brother sleep at the attic.  They would only be released from their rooms to fulfill their roles to draw wanderers to the tower.  With the door closed, Walden accompanies the white woman back downstairs, as the offers to show him something else.   He asks her about the peasants, if they are always used to harvest the ingredients she needs.  She admits they give it freely, as payment for her protection.  But some nights she uses what she can find in the woods.  He shares his findings of the dead priest in the woods and asks if she was behind his death.  She confirms she only collected what she needed from him.

Jan inspects the room and finds vestments and clothes inside.  He tries to get some sleep, but has this constant feeling of someone watching him as he slumbers.    Reikion opts to sleep on the floor instead, unwilling to sleep in the bed.    Jan eventually repositions himself to sleep at the wall facing the door, feeling uneasy of the massive mirror against one wall.  Reikion finds a hatch at the bottom of the bed, and pulls at it to find a container under the bed with what looks like personal effects such as jewelry and other trinkets.  A small pillow with a mirror can be found in another, along with ink pots and a journal.  He undoes the ribbon seal and looks inside.  

Walden is lead out of the tower and she leads him to a building, which she unlocks to reveal inside a flayed man.  The figure, with skin cleanly cut away, and the organs spread out and pinned, suddenly moves and reveals its consciousness despite being disassembled.  She calls it her parents' former master, and they had defeated it but realized could not kill it.  It is through this monster that she feeds and sustains herself on its blood.  Walden's daggers glow so brightly, they are almost blinding.  She explains the thing is one of the most fascinating undead she has ever seen, as it still holds some semblance of personality.    They learn she and her brother feed on the monster, sustaining themselves with the terrible thing that created them, in order to protect the people from the other monsters beyond the tower.

Eventually the three regroup, with the two having had enough of the strange hauntings coming from the rooms and Walden realizing the conflicting feelings he is struggling against inside his heart.   The two are clearly cursed, twisted into monsters and yet they have somehow turned their dark pasts into opportunities to help the peasants that live around their tower.   They debate on the matter and in the end feel it might be  best to leave the two to continue their accursed existence.  To let them live on and be a dark yet shining beacon in the woods of the Walder.

They wait for morning.  With the sun rising, they see the misshapen people emerging from their dark homes, and watch as the people then take their roles as protectors, to watch over the two monsters who now sleep during the day and trust on them to protect their immortality.

With that, the heroes leave, wondering and hoping they chose for the best. Who would have thought they would find in the dark woods of Eisen that the darkness and the light can blend into one.

Alas, Such Fates ep04 : 7th Sea

Alas, Such Fates

"The Red Door and the White Eyes"
Episode Four - 7th Sea

Astrid Ivardatter and Hans Glick sneak out one early morning to investigate the southern tower with the red door, the very tower the Duchess Sybil implored on them all not to ever visit.  Especially at night.   There are faint sounds of rumbling and clicking within.  Hans presses his hand against the door and sees the lock.  Astrid draws her hair pin out and begins to work on the lock, asking Hans if they should be doing this.  Hans admits he wants to get to the bottom of this mystery.  With the last few days that have passed spent recuperating from their injuries, Hans cannot help but feel compelled to uncover why the Duchess insists this place not be opened.  Hans remembers there were nights he awoke to hear children giggling nearby, but when he opened the door, there was no sign of anyone there save for a pair of children's shoes left at his doorstep.  The servants claimed it was theirs, but Hans feels it is a likely story.  Astrid on the other hand has had moments where she was certain she saw the painting of a farm house at the top of a hill in her room had no open windows, but just last night the painting showed an open window.  She awoke that morning to see Hans standing before her, which nearly made her gasp.  The servants followed a strict schedule, which allowed them to be more predictable to sneak past them and get to the tower.

With the lock picked, Hans quickly slips into the room and investigates.  The inside is dark, however, forcing Hans to move slowly inside.  Astrid heads back to the Manor, hoping to find a candlestick or lantern to use, but while there, she encounters a servant maid who asks her why she is there.  Astrid distracts the maid, and thankfully, Hans closes the door to the tower to look less noticeable.


On the road, Lady Cassandra encounters a bandit on the road, threatening her and the other travelers on the road.  She tells the people to get behind them, but the bandit turns out to not be alone.  When she confronts them and declares who she is, a bandit trains his blade against her throat, warning her not to try anything.   When she tries to ask the bandits to reconsider, they laugh at her and demand for their coin.  While distracted by her fumbling for the coins, she moves, yanking the dagger from the bandit's hand.  Unfortunately, the bandit is not alone, and he threatens to injure another traveler and forces Cassandra to drop her weapons.  Seeing the others are unarmed, Cassandra drops her weapon, not wanting the other travelers to get hurt.  One bandit punches Cassandra, bruising her face, and takes her sword from her side.  "Alright, you have what you want!  Let them go."  The bandits, however, have other ideas.    They ask her what she would do so they wouldn't harm the people.  She tells them she would do anything.  They demand her to walk with them to the bridge to tell the guard to let them pass.  Cassandra agrees, hoping to find a way to save the other travelers being held hostage.

Closer to the bridge, the bandits tell Cassandra to head to the man sitting by the bridge to check if he is the guard.  She is reminded the lives of the others are in her hands.  Cassandra walks up to the man dressed in black, who seems busy eating from a can filled with mushrooms. To her surprise, the man - without looking at her - mutters he can see they are in need of help and offers to do so because he has a can of mushrooms which reminds him of an old bardic story regarding magical mushrooms that compel a man to admit unwanted truth.  She notices he wears a domino mask.  He tells them to go across, and that he will move once they have flanked the bandits.  Cassandra heads back and tells the bandits it is all clear.  They begin to cross.  

The plan goes awry, however, when Cassandra makes the mistake of letting the bandits go ahead of her.  The man in black with the domino mask gasps in exasperation given she allowed the bandits to run ahead, instead of staying in front of them to flank them.  She leaps for the bandit with her sword and tackles him to the ground.  Another bandit fires his pistol at her, however, hoping to Injure her and by them time.  She rolls for cover, off the bridge and grabs the edge to dodge the bullet.  The bandits run off.

Pulling herself back up, the bandits are gone.  Thankfully, her sword was left there.  The man in black helps her to her feet, admits she seems to be new to this, and at least the others only lost wealth and not their lives.  "Flynn," he tells her and she introduces herself.  "Is there more to just Flynn? Or is it just Flynn." He admits there used to be more, but he realized in the end being a knight was not for him.  He claims he is now a highway man.  She asks him if he can teach her how to fight.  She admits she's not that well versed at that yet.  Flynn agrees to accompany her for now since they're walking in the same direction, "On one condition. If anyone asks, we are traveling together."  When she agrees, he unclasps a few pins and his black clothes flip down to reverse into a white robe.  Now, he looks like a priest.  They talk about the canned food, a new attempt to sell food by the Vesten it seems, and they walk while trading stories.


Maurice leBlanc and the Duchess Sybil are at the dining table. Maurice finds himself remembering the wedding, which was the most unwedding event he ever was part of.  A man sat infront of them, pointing at places to sign, which turned out to be the ceremony itself.  He learned the marriage was supposedly already one that had been performed so long ago, and they are merely formally reinstating his return from a long journey and asserting a hold on the property.  Asking how he could have been married without being here, Sybil reminds her all that matters is his signature. Inspecting the document, there have been four previous names that have been crossed out.  His is the fifth. He is bothered by the details of this and signs it just to get it done.  Sybil wishes he could speak to her with less aggression.  Maurice admits he is merely being frank.  Sybil claims to not know anyone named Frank and reminds him they have been married for the last fifteen years.  Maurice is confused why he had only been called to Avalon today.    The judge confirms all is in order, and proclaims the home to be back in his possession.  Part of the rules stipulate neither of them are to do anything to the Southern Tower.  The judge excuses himself to deliver the papers to the Queen and wishes them congratulations.

Sybil and Maurice discuss the history behind the marriage. How she was married to a Montaigne husband fifteen years ago, and that it was that marriage they were to maintain through the years.  As they eat fruit, with the servants passing to each one a plate.  The marriage was established for the Montaigne to have the land, and to ensure it remains in Montaigne hands.  "A Proxy.  I am a proxy to some aspect of politics I don't quite grasp.  In Montaigne, we actually get married even if it is a wink-wink, nudge-nudge sort of marrying for money."  Sybil explains the original husband got lost at sea, and as tradition dictates, none were to speak of him as having vanished as it would be ill fortune if he returns.  So they have continued the tradition since then, but each one who replaced the first one would later then vanish at sea.  Maurice's uncle is the fourth.  When Maurice explains he saw his uncle, however, Sybil is confused how he could have when she knows the uncle had died.  Sybil stands up and excuses herself, "


Inside the tower, Hans sees a strange collection of things.  A large shelf houses glass containers, but the darkness is too much to allow reading.  He sees a massive oak desk and on the foor a great sigil of some sort.  He cannot find any windows.  Sliding the door open once more for more light.  He finds the lantern to have wick, but no oil. He draws some of the jars in the shelf and tries to find oil, ignoring for now the boots, heavy thick gloves and robes hanging from the shelf's side.  The other jars have powders inside of them, or rattling things inside of them.   Soon, he does find oil and lights the lantern, just as the tower suddenly goes dark.  The door has been closed.  He sees the leather robes, and sees glass with straps to cover the face.  The other jars are filled with powders and other chemicals and minerals.   The pattern on the ground is clearer now.  It is the mark of the Invisible College.

He looks up at the winding stairs and decides to check the desk for now.  There, he finds a small tray atop the surface with a small metal strip with holes and lines cut all the way through the metal.   Hans ducks under the staircase when he hears the sounds at the door. 

Astrid however learns from the maid that the Duchess lost two of her first born, which is why she does not like to have children, nor will there be children in the manor nor the grounds.  She walks the maid out to the tower, and seeing the door once more wide open, she pretends to slip on the ice and drags the maid down with her to distract her.  The maid leaves to find a physician since Astrid acted like she injured herself. This buys Astrid time to head back to the manor, grab a candelabra, and hurry back.  But as she reaches for the door, the maid has returned calling for her.  Astrid claims to be seeing hallucinations of children and drops to her knees, fumbling with the lock as she tries to sneak it back on the door before the maid sees her.  She fails to snap the lock shut at the door as the maid helps her back to her feet.  With the maid, a doctor comes emerges from the manor however and the two worry upon seeing the open lock.  They talk about her possibly being possessed, "like before", and carry her back into the manor (after the maid dutifully locks the door) and talk about not telling the Duchess until they are certain. "We just have to relieve it from being inside of you when we can."  The Physician vows that he will not fail her, not like before. Astrid's attempts to misdirect the two may have landed her in hotter water.  

With the sounds gone, Hans returns to the desk and finds two slots for tomes. Only one tome remains, however.   He opens it and finds it to be a journal of sorts, with lots of hand-written text and illustrations.  There are diagrams and drawings that attempt to illustrate or dissect shapes.  Some of the art, however, seem wrongly done with lines in the wrong places.  Perspectives twisting.   The writing seems to be coded.  A small note in Old Thean however inserted at one point reads, "They know.  I must find another way.  The old system did not work."

Astrid is secreted to the servant's quarters and locked in a room.  The Physician asks her many things, mostly in relation to the tower, but she insists she only heard the children and fell on her head.  The maid returns soon enough with a bag and the Physician draws out an old metal device meant to drill a hole into one's head to relieve it of internal pressure!  Astrid demands they stop, insisting she had nothing to do with the tower.  She tells them to explain what they think has happened, but the servants seem very worried.  One offers Astrid a cup of tea, but she refuses to drink it.  "This should work this time... she should survive." Astrid tells them she is a Close Friend Of Maurice and tells them to stop!  The physician however tells her that if "it" is within her, then they have to get it out.  They have to stop it from devouring her from within.  They insist they cannot risk her bringing it to the Duchess.   The hallucinations are a symptom that something has been feeding on them.

When Astrid demands to know what they are talking about, the man simply explains, "The maus." Astrid is told to sit on a chair and they scatter flour all around her, telling her that they will explain if she is willing to stay seated for as long as possible.  They explain their encounters with a black mouse that has been sighted in the place.  A monster that appears like a mouse hiding in the cabinet that feeds on prey from within. When she asks why the tower then, the man explains that was where they had trapped the colony of them.  The Duchess however has refused to allow any monster hunter to help them given the third husband was from Eisen.

Hans leaves the book for now, tucking the metal bar instead under his belt to take with him.  He heads for the stairs and sees a small pan at the base of the steps, with a spongy material on the pan.  The material, however, crumbles when prodded with his knife.  He fails to see the words on the cabinet, marking a warning: Do Not Ascend Without Protection.  Hans heads upstairs.  He fails to realize the dark tiny things following him up the steps.


Cassandra watches as Flynn, seen as a priest by the people they encounter, pretends to give out blessings and receives donations from the people.  Cassandra questions how he can pretend to be a priest, but he counters how Cassandra is certain she is a knight.  He talks about how truth is relative, as robbers can be desperate souls, and murderers might be protecting their young.  Cassandra offers to pay for the bread which is being donated to the priest, rather than let him give it away to the false priest for free.   Flynn talks about how deception and lies can be seen in many ways.  Maybe he's an assassin sent to kill the Queen, or just a wandering philosopher, or worse, a knight who has lost his way.  "Maybe that's why we met.  Something sensed the turmoil within you and sent me to show you not everything is over after denying lending someone a hand."    Cassandra stares at him, wondering if he dabbles in Sorcery.  When some guardsmen confront them, demanding Flynn stop pretending to be a priest, he claims he is one and even points to Cassandra as proof he is truly one.  After all, why would a Knight of Elaine walk with a charlatan?  As the guardsman leaves, Cassandra wonders why he is lying to everyone, Flynn however questions who defines who we are.  When Cassandra says people are who others define you to be, he raises how a larger majority of people would not know she is a knight.  "Does that mean you are not a knight?"

Their discussion reaches talk about importance of labels and naming.  How land and homelands are greatly different.  How houses are just places, compared to homes.   Cassandra teases Flynn can remain Flynn, but realizes his name does mean something else to her now.  They reach another bridge soon enough, and seeing a group counting coins in the shadow, Cassandra wonders if those are the thieves and heads down to investigate.   She discovers however the men had lost their horse after all three of them tried to ride it at the same time. The three start arguing once more, and the coins turn out to be from a dropped money box.  Cassandra suggests that they walk with him instead, but when their arguments preoccupy them, she heads back up instead.  She finds Flynn with a horse and asks her if they are stealing the horse, or liberating it.  Cassandra thinks about how the men don't seem to be capable of caring for the horse properly, but not wanting to steal the horse, she hands them a shilling to pay for the horse.  Flynn teases her however that she paid with a shilling they collected from their donations to the "priest" and does this mean they are serial thieves then?

Cassandra asks if Flynn is trying to twist her words against her, but Flynn claims he is merely showing her she needs to see that events can have many perspectives and ways to be seen.  Flynn switches his clothes to a tan outfit, and steps down from the horse as they arrive at a junction on the road.  He tells Cassandra he has done enough for the journey and that is it time for him to continue on.  She reminds him that he promised to teach her to wield the word better, but he confesses that most likely is a lesson she will learn from someone else.  He tells him Dueling Schools might be a better way to grasp new lessons.  Flynn however claims he does not believe in war or violence and thus has no dueling schools to recommend.  He wishes her well, admitting she has learned enough from her time with him and tosses her a can of mushrooms when she asks for one.  She hopes they will meet again, someday in better circumstances, and she admits he confused her a lot.  He tells her she was always confused and just didn't realize until now how much.    Flynn departs, walking straight into the woods, ignoring either path.

Cassandra watches Flynn vanish into the woods, takes the path to the Castle but upon arriving finds the gates shut.  She is then ushered inside, and told to stay in a room with the other Elaine Knights.  The disparity of the kinds of people there bother her, with some clearly acting more like mercenaries and drunkards than knights, so she keeps to herself.   They are told to wait as there was an attempt to attack the Queen and the Queen wishes to address them all.  Cassandra feels something is happening, and the fact everyone else in the room does not seem to be discussing the supposed attack.  Most just arrived and don't really know why they're being kept in the room.  All of them seemingly have been summoned, magically or otherwise, to visit the Queen.

A door opens as guards declare the Queen shall see them all now.  They are lead to a larger courtyard.


Maurice learns that neither Hans nor Astrid are at the room.  Maurice asks if any servant was authorized to clean the area by the Southern tower, asks for the servant to be summoned as he suspects that is where the two are.  "It was the only place they were not authorized to go."  They talk about the dangers that can come in the night, such as wolves, ghosts, and wisps, which is why it should be easy enough to find his friends while the sun is out.  Maurice insists he will eat his breakfast as slowly as possible, and if the two are not found by the time he finishes his last grape...


The servants now explain the monstrosity they call the Schrankenmaus. The monster supposedly that can slip through human flesh and feast on its victims from the inside.  Their nibbling causes the body to accumulate toxins, which then lead to horrific hallucinations.  The physician believes the monster hides in the hollow behind the brain but admits to Astrid that they have yet to prove the theory.  The third husband of the wife, the Eisen, had hurt the Duchess' heart so much that she locked herself in her own chambers for a month.  Since then, no Eisen have been welcomed to ever step upon the lands again.  Worse, he had hurt the Duchess physically, though she insists this never happened.    They argue on the possibilities that the mouse might be still in her.  Or it might be hiding in the house now.  These things breed quickly and feed very discreetly.  Astrid asks if they ever killed any of them.  The physician admits they were only able to herd them into the tower to lock them inside.  She asks why they never told the Duchess about the beasts, and they admit they have never told her about it to spare her of worrying over it. 


Maurice admits he stays as a duty to his King. He suspects there is more to this duchy than meets the eye, however.  The Seneschal explains that the four previous husbands chose to leave - including his uncle whom the Duchess thinks is dead.  Despite being told he can leave like the other men did, Maurice insists he won't be leaving because unlike the others, he is a Hero.


Upstairs, Hans begins to find more of the cages hanging in the center of the tower.  Each one, however, is inlaid with mirrors.  He begins to discern the mirrors are a network to project the light through the tower.  Skittering sounds can be heard around him, however.  Hans dismisses the sounds, thinking they're probably just mice.

Around this time, Astrid begins asking them why the Southern Tower.  Why they felt herding the beasts into the tower was the best thing to do.  They painted the door red since that incident years ago to lock the beasts inside.  In the past, the tower was used by one of the guests of the Duchess, an inventor by the name of Nisab Guissola.  Astrid finds herself wondering where she had heard the name before.  Astrid asks them to inform the Seneschal that she is down here, but they insist they focus on the floor.  The two begin to discuss things in a lighter mood, as Astrid tells the physician that the women in the world are stronger than most realize.  Astrid protests that she probably just hit her head and did not really have any halluciantions from some monster.  The Physician wonders why it doesn't seem to make sense.  Wonders if there's a way to lure it out.  Astrid teases about using cheese, and the physician thinks of a possible lure and hurries off.

A servant arrives at the dining hall and informs the Seneschal that something is happening down below.  The Seneschal suggests that Maurice retire to his office to review the documents regarding the estate.  The seneschal has maids escort Maurice to the office, where shelves upon shelves stand.  A massive chandelier and heavy oak desk are dwarfed by the height of the book shelves.  He finds numerous envelopes, still sealed, on the table.  All are addressed to the Duke and the Duchess of the land.  All the letters seem to be sent by His Highness, the King of Montaigne. Maurice begins reading through them and learns of the land being repurposed as a peace offering between Montaigne and Avalon.  The Southern Tower, on the other hand, was intended for a different purposes, in association with one of the Societies, but its placement in the estate was vital to ensure the tower was kept safe.  The earliest letters are within the months of the marriage.  The secrecy of the tower must be maintained no matter what.  Servants are even to be taken from three different families, and are to live on the land and never be allowed to leave - to ensure secrecy.  The doctor Guissola is permitted to use the Southern Tower at all times.  That letter was written almost seven years ago.  Maurice realizes the letters span ten years, yet Sybil does not look that old.  A logbook marks down deliveries and the last one was almost three years ago.  The husband then was the third, the Eisen one, and it lists a crate of twenty mice.  The signatory of the deliveries is the Seneschal.   Maurice asks for a servant to bring him to his wife immediately.

Hans reaches the higher landings and finds more of the mirror systems on the hanging cages.  There is a few cage like containers, but they are empty of anything, not even dust.  He looks around but cannot find a device that matches the size of the hole, however, which makes him wonder what used to be here.   Sliding open the door at the landing, and it opens to an upper balcony.  The sunlight, pouring in, bounces upon the mirrors and illuminates the whole tower.    He sees the black mice, who rush to hide behind the shadows as the light stretches through the chambers.  Looking down, to the ground level, Hans sees the sigil on the floor, the marking of the Invisible College.  He finds a map on the wall of Theah.  There are holes on the map, suggesting pegs were used to keep track of things on it.  He studies the holes to see if there are any patterns he can discern. He hears more skittering sounds and realizes the mice don't seem to be afraid of him.  They are displaying pack tactics to lull him into a state of relaxation.  He doesn't like this feeling.  Hans tries to swat the closest one, starting at him at eye level from a piece of furniture, but the thing runs off the moment he draws his dagger.   He studies the map more, noticing the bigger holes and sees one of the holes is where they are now at Avalon.  He looks at the pegs that fit and it seems to be the green ones.  There are other colored pegs however that are in jars nearby.  A shattering sound breaks above.  Hans hurries to check what they are.  Upstairs, he finds the room to be somewhat like an alchemist's chamber.  Glass tubes, vials and the like are everywhere on the tables.  A sketch diagram on the wall shows a dissected mouse.  A skeleton hangs on one side.  A second shattering sound is heard and Hans directs the light towards it, to see the broken debris on the floor.  He stares at the shadows to see if something is moving and he finds a few.  The mice again?  He sees the black shapes and realizes they are the mice.  He notices at the corners of his vision, a few more are closing in.  Hans moves, trying to draw more of them out to the middle of the room.

The Seneschal arrives, visiting Astrid, warning her that they cannot risk the beasts to leave from the tower.  He asks what the doctor has said and Astrid freely gives answers.  The Seneschal is infuriated, however, that Astrid has broken the rules despite being told not to visit the Southern Tower.  "If that Eisen monster begins to breed outside..."  Astrid however remains calm, asking why she had seen hallucinations of children despite arriving on the first day before even visiting the Tower.  Astrid insists however that she is certain there are children here, at night.  She asks why they won't just tell the Duchess the truth.  The Seneschal explains if the infestation ever reaches others, and if the Duchess were to ever know about it, the first thing she'd do is try to visit the best physicians she knows, which would then just further "deliver" the beast out to other Nations.  Exasperated, the Seneschal makes a decision to have Astrid locked up at the basement, for at least a month, and he will claim to the others that she had left the land for her own purposes.  Astrid, however, knows they will fail.  She warns them the others will not believe their lies.  Astrid hears the door being locked and she waits for them to leave.  She looks for a way out, while overhearing the servants arguing about the things they had to do to control the situation.  "Why do you think I keep having to do the thing at the mill," the Seneschal barks.   Picking the lock, Astrid then tries to sneak her way back to the dining hall where she believes Maurice would be by now.  Not finding him, she moves to the office but as she gets there, she hears movement approaching.   She slides behind a curtain to hide when she finds the room empty of Maurice, but notices the window lock turning open!  A figure slides into the room from outside, secretly looking around.  The figure has a scar that goes down one eye.

Maurice finds Sybil sitting at the library, with a book in her hands.  He notices it is one of the dreadfuls by Tassine Bullet.  She asks if he's finally decided to play his part in all this, given its a mundane role to play in exchange for wealth and happiness.   Maurice raises how Sybil has been married to five different men for the last few years.  Sybil admits she used to be a Jenny and was paid well by the inventor, Nisab, to play her role as the Duchess.  Sybil doesn't matter about the things being done.  As far as she  is concerned, she was getting well paid to just play the role and maintain the estate and ignore the tower.   Maurice, however, feels there's more to this than just fulfilling their roles.   Sybil finds them all stratifying, finding them all similar to the characters in Tassine's last dreadful, of the man who is the son of the King and the loves who are stuck having to work together despite their passionate history.


Lady Cassandra tries to not judge the other knights around her, but seeing them now she feels it looks hard to believe they are all fellow knights. The Queen arrives, and as they are addressed, she learns that there has been an attempt on her life and that the assailant is "no more."  The Assailant, however, was a Knight of Elaine just like the rest of them.  Effective immediately, all the knights are to remain in Avalon for an indefinite period.  Cassandra opts to speak up, and when she tries to ask for the reason behind the "imprisonment," the Queen asks if her questioning the decision seems to be proof of her fears - that the Knights of Elaine are no longer living up to the examples and virtues that the Knights were originally based upon.  Cassandra herself, a Knight of Wilfrith, seems to have lost any show of resolve and will.  The Queen cannot accept the fact that her assassin was one of her own knights.  She has required all the Knights to remain at Avalon to prove their roles and loyalty, and that those who try to leave will be seen as Traitors to the Graal.   They are them dismissed.   Cassandra however decides to try and sneak after the Queen to talk to her. She finds her standing at the front of a window, lost in her thoughts.  Cassandra reveals herself and drops to her knees to show she has not come to threaten her.   Cassandra explains she wants to give her reports in order to arm the Queen with knowledge of what she has encountered in her journeys.   She even shares her encounters with Gasparo Angelo and of how she may have faked her own death, as well as the encounter with Tassine Bullet, but not having any proof that these people would have the means to twist her own knights against her means all she has to offer are speculation.  "But I've seen so much. Of children being turned into monsters and teeth.  I feel she may be behind all these."

The Queen realizes Cassandra's loyalty is undeniable.  She gives her a task unlike any other, knowing her loyalty is such that it would survive even falling.  The Queen is to strip Cassandra of her knighthood and disavow her, but only to stage her as a likely candidate for recruitment by whoever has attempted to have her murdered by one of her own Knights.  Cassandra reluctantly agrees to this, fearing if she is truly ready to be stripped for the honor of being a Knight of Elaine.    "This is no small thing I ask you.  This is the risk of rejection and hatred of all others whom have been your friends in the past.  Will you take this duty?"  She reminds Cassandra it is not vengeance but justice that they seek to accomplish.  Cassandra admits being a Knight is all she ever wanted to be, but refuses to accept that her desires are more important than her duty.   She agrees to the Queen's plan and knows very soon she will be denounced and stripped of her knighthood.  The Queen however tells her she cannot be denounced until Cassandra comes up with an unforgivable act, one which isn't too subtle that the true antagonists do not hear about it.    They think of what kind of personal matter it can be that would "push" Cassandra to hating the Queen.  The topic becomes Gallifrey, Cassandra's home town.   The Queen tells Cassandra she will claim the lands of Gallifrey to become farm lands to be used by the Queendom.  Cassandra realizes her own family will be thrown out of their own lands to perpetrate this ruse.  The people cannot be cared for, so this act will become one Cassandra will avenge.

With that, Cassandra leaves and she heads back to Gallifrey to try to at least visit it one last time.  She finds the place still celebrating her accomplishment.  The young girls in the town are dressed in paper armor costumes, wanting to be like her someday.  The people celebrate their arrival, seeing her as a hero who as arisen from their ranks.   At the tavern, Cassandra is introduced to a man of the cloth who was looking for her.  He turns out to be Flynn, dressed now as a deacon of the Objectionist Church.   During their discussions, however, Cassandra starts telling him about the events that happened to the Queen.  Being too trusting, she nearly spills the plans to Flynn and stops herself from telling him everything.    She ends up starting the rumor that the Queen was attacked, and that Gallifrey will be stripped of land as punishment because she had forced her way into the Queen's quarters.  Flynn hands the bartender a bag of coins, "For the damages" he claims, and then he draws a blade and formally challenges Cassandra on behalf of the Graal and the Queen Elaine.   She claims she might have someone in mind to help her.   They are to meet at dawn, and duel to first blood.  If he succeeds, Cassandra is to be arrested and presented to the Queen as a traitor to the Graal and the crown.  If she succeeds, however, he must admit to her the truth about himself and teach her how to fight.

"I am Flynn, Knight of Elaine, embodying Edgar the Wealthy.  In the Queen's name and upon the Graal, I challenge you."

Cassandra accepts.  As Flynn leaves, she sees everyone look at her with shock on their faces.  Cassandra realizes she seems to have overstayed her welcome and bids the place farewell.


Astrid tried to commit to her memory the face of the scarred man, noting he is armed with throwing knives.  But as the man seems to be searching for something, he too seems to overhear someone coming, and like her, he quickly slides to hide in the room.  The door opens and the Seneschal arrives, and like the man earlier, he begins to search around the room for something, checking the drawers, the shelves, and before he checks the bed, the other guy slides away and ducks behind the table.  The Seneschal checks under the bed, and finding nothing, finally leaves.  The man then emerges, and follows the Seneschal.  Astrid considers following them too but by the time she gets to the corridor, she has lost sight of where the two had gone. She decides to return back to the tower for now.

Maurice talks to Sybil about the many marriages she has had.  He suggests something has been driving the husbands away.  She admits most were tempted to investigate the second tower and were forced to leave due to mysterious circumstances.  Maurice admits he suspects his own companions are probably inside the tower this very moment.  He asks if Nisab left any instructions of what should be done in case of any incidents.  Sybil admits Nisab kept to herself alone, never interacted with any of them.  The only person she intereacted with ever in the past was the Seneschal.  The fact he always stays at the Mill intrigues Maurice given its location is just as far as the Tower would be.  "It's always the butler," he smirks, relating it to the dreadfuls Sybil likes to read.  The Seneschal might be loyal to someone else.  "Never trust a man who never eats a full grape," he remarks, but he then realizes he has never seen Sybil eat anything since he had arrived.  This mystery begins to excite Sybil.

At the tower, Hans sees the black mice close in.   He brings his lantern lower, hoping to terrify the things or at least force them back.  But they things leap instead at him and lands THROUGH him!  Hans sees a bulge beneath the skin, moving towards his body.  Quickly, he stabs himself with his own blade, timing it to block the forward movement of the horror.  The thing hits the blade, then leaps back out of his flesh to skitter away.  Hans hightails it out of the room, running down the chamber and nearly screaming upon seeing what looked like a person in an alcove.  He realizes it is a full-body suit that looks almost like skin.. chopped off at the throat, the wrists and the ankles.  The whole thing is made of different kinds of animal hide, all stitched together to look more like human flesh. Another mouse hits Hans' boot, but it scurries away when it realizes it cannot slide through.  Hans leaves the suit and hurriedly makes his way down.

Astrid continues to the rear of the castle, but stops upon seeing the figure she saw earlier with the scar.  The figure has one of the maids held in his hands and he drags her under a table to hide her unconscious body.   She shadows his movements, carefully and quietly follows him as he makes his way to the rear of the manor.  He even uses a smoke bomb at one point to knock another maid unconscious.  The man notices the candelabra by the door, touches it, then seems to realizes something about it.  Astrid observes him and notes that he checked the metal's temperature, noting it was cold and realizing someone tried to head to the tower.  He brings the candelabra with him, leans against the wall of the tower, and as he does this, he ties a rope to the metal candelabra, spins it, and hurls it up towards the first balcony.   Astrid, watching from the door, hesitates approaching for now.

Maurice returns quickly to his quarters, with plans to arm himself, and is oblivious to the fact just seconds ago there were three people in here searching for something.  Now armed, he walks back to Sybil but before he arrives, he overhears her talking to someone about not trusting her husband.  Maurice knocks, then steps in to check who Sybil is talking to.  At the door, Maurice releases the Mark he left on the ship and pricks his finger to create a new one on Sybil.    He promises to always be but a step from her at all times.  He decides to ride out, to head to the Mill where the Seneschal always stays.    Enroute, Maurice stares at the plants in the vicinity, which includes plants that should not be growing in this climate.  He wonders what sorcery this is.


Hans hears the clatter at the balcony outside and he stops to check what made the sound. He sees a candelabra on the ground, that drags against the ground as someone tugs on the rope tied to it.  Following it, he sees more of the dark things skittering all around him!  One of the mice hurls itself to try to hit his head!  He lifts the lantern to block its leap, and then stomps on it once it hits the ground.  A gooey splatter erupts in all directions from beneath Hans' booth.  The terrible shriek of the monster reminds Hans of a young child's scream of pain.

Outside, Astrid and the scarred man hear the shriek!  The man climbs.  Astrid hurries to the tower's door and tries to pick the lock once more.  Astrid slides the door open, and calls out for Hans to come to her.  He yells back to be wary of the mice, but realizes the second level door is closer than Astrid's location.   When he decides to step out of the balcony, another pair of the mice leap at him to dive into his skin!  Hans rolls out of the door as he leaps out, then tries to slam the door closed at the two mice.  Astrid hears the slam above and she shuts the door again to lock it closed.  She turns to see the Seneschal at the manor's exit with a rifle.  He warns her to back away from the door and trains the musket at her, accusing her of hoping to steal the monsters away to use them as weapons.  At gunpoint, he directs her to head back towards the manor.  Astrid smiles, using her disarming smile to temporarily win him over and bring the gun down.  She motions at the rope leading up, and the Seneschal panics as he realizes someone has indeed gone up.

At the balcony, Hans looks up to see the man in white asking him for the "key."  He promises to let Hans live if he surrenders the key.  Hans promises the man he will let him live if he explains why he has shown up.  In response, the man has a flat blade extend from his hand.  With a swift move, Hans attempts to disarm the man of his deadly weapon.

Down below, Astrid cannot see the ongoing battle above.  But she tells the Seneschal they should be helping each other.  The Seneschal however admits there is a reason Nisab assigned him to handle these things, and that is because he is an inventor just like she was. He understands how the technology works.  He demands Astrid head back into the house.   She asks if they "invented" the mice.  The Seneschal admits Nisab has been creating a lot of her inventions that have the potential to reshape the seven seas.  "The world needs its heroes."  He claims people like her will always try to stop them from changing the world for the better, and hisses he would not expect a Jenny like her to understand. She feigns a trip, then when he moves in, shifts to train a knife at his throat. The musket discharges at the ground as she presses him against the wall with the blade against his throat.  "I'm no ordinary Jenny."

"Do what you will, but I promise you the Invisible College will never be destroyed," he spits in her direction. Realizing the man most likely has been so obsessed with his studies to have a social life, Astrid kisses him to catch him off-guard, then pushes him back as she slips the musket from the seneschal's hands and backs away to try to get a better vantage point of what is going on upstairs.

Hans hears the musket sound below, and uses the momentary distraction to catch the knife of the attacker with his own blade, forcing him to drop it to the floor.  Standing close, Hans hears the man demand for the key and promise to leave without further acts of violence.  Hans twists the man's arm, forcing him to talk and admit who he is. He claims to have been sent by the Invisible College, which Hans claims to also be a member of the group.  The two exchange the passwords and confirm their membership to the college.   He quickly ceases his violent actions, explaining he had been sent by the College to retrieve the key in order to secure the Nisab inventions that are being taken by agents of unknown groups.  The Intruder, however, does not know anything about the mice that penetrate skin.  He only knows that a key needs to be retrieved since it can unlock a box that has been retrieved from her wake.  Hans asks where the box is and he assures him it is far and safe from here.

The intruder explains only a handful is aware of the secrets regarding Nisab's inventions.  Hans explains that is why he will keep the key safe for now.   Astrid sees the two talking, and trains the musket at the Seneschal to keep him from doing anything undesirable, and demands answers.  The Seneschal admits they are trying to study where the mice came from, and that they are not natural. Astrid feels however they are endangering the duchy by keeping them here.  The place is a small price to pay to protect the rest of the world from further threats like this, as the world will only be safe through knowledge.  "You're coming with me," Astrid motions with the musket for the man to head inside.

"We're going to Maurice," Astrid tells the man.  Hans, however, tells his collegiate to leave and inform the college he will keep the key safe until they send further instructions.  The man tells Hans he will have to ask the college for permission to know more about Nisab's work.

Arriving at the Mill, Maurice leaps off the horse and knocks at the door but no one answers.  He hears sounds inside.  He draws his foil then tries a window but finds it barred from the inside.  Slipping his foil between the window panes, he undoes the lock and he sees the unexpected sight within.  The strange device seems to have been cobbled together from various objects and machinery.  It has created a shimmering glow at the center of the room which reminds Maurice of Porte Sorcery.  Sliding into the room, Maurice looks around and sees the false wall that concealed this machine from people in the room where the door stood.  Maurice tears down the hidden chamber's false wall and after destroying the classic foolish attempt at deception, almost like an old magician's trick, he walks around the machine to study it.  He triggers the Mill to function, in hopes of understanding what this is all about.

Maurice studies how the thing functions, and seeing where a lot of parts seemingly connect to one thing, he pries it free from the machine to break it down.  The thing is built to the very floor.  And a nearby journal marks down different locations and dates.  The thing seems to be a record of objects that were sent through to test the device.  Maurice grabs the oil lantern and drops it to shatter on the floor. "Alas."


Cassandra revisits the Queen, sneaking past her guards once more to tell her no one seems to know about the attack upon her.  The Queen, however, is aghast.  Cassandra has made the mistake of telling the people about the attack, despite the Queen hoping to contain the news about the attack.  The Queen explains that her actions have pushed the time table for the events to move forward since now the people know of the event.  Cassandra apologizes for having failed her again.  The Queen however simply tells Cassandra her eagerness to act has pushed the events forward sooner than expected.   Cassandra mumbles about her uncertainties and about her confusion in accomplishing the plans.  She feels bothered that there is a need to harm others in this plan.  The Queen however questions that she can fulfill this plan.  She questions the capacity of Cassandra to accomplish the task, despite Cassandra insisting she has convinced a Knight that she is against the Queen and has been challenged to a duel.  She however admits she went to see the Queen again because she has some doubts and she just wants Justice for everyone.

Queen Elaine however admits Justice does not work that way.  There will always be someone who will suffer for the needs of others.  Cassandra just so desperately wishes the innocents need not suffer. "I just want to know that what I will do is all worth it.  But you're telling me the people of Gallifrey... and now the whole of Avalon... they will all be affected by this plan.  I am just one person..."

The Queen however has no kind words to share with Cassandra.  Lady Cassandra urges they push through with the plan regardless, since her actions may have in some ways planted the seeds for it to work in the end.  When the Queen reminds her all their actions are for the Graal, Cassandra, however, admits that she doesn't even know if the Graal exists.  This statement, unfortunately, is one the Queen cannot accept.  Queen Elaine screams and yells for Lady Cassandra to leave.   Cassandra tearfully admits she doesn't know if the Queen is lying at times.  To that Elaine admits Lady Cassandra is now perfect for the duty.  The Queen calls for the guards, claiming the assassin is in her chambers.  Lady Cassandra hears the footfalls of the coming guards and the Queen tells her she has no loyalty towards the Graal at all.  Cassandra rushes to the window, flings the curtains open, and looks down to find a way out.  The Queen stares at Cassandra with rage and fury, so much that she ignores her own guards knocking upon the door to be allowed in.  "Of all the things that hold our land safe and united.  Of all that empower you to do your duties.  Of all the things that we hold sacred, you question the very existence of the Graal."

"Then show it to me," Cassandra demands.

"You are no LONGER one of my Knights," the Queen growls, "Begone for we will hunt you to the ends of Theah."

Cassandra secures the curtain around her waist, and arm, then she rappels down to avoid the moat as she descends down the wall.  The doors burst open as the guards finally break through.  Queen Elaine points towards the open window and screams for Lady Cassandra's head.  Cassandra's mind races back to the Gesa she embraced when she accepted her duty as an Elaine Knight.

Never shall you raise your sword against a countryman.
Never shall you abandon a fight before it is through.
Never break your word or help another break theirs.
Never be idle when there is work to be done.

Never let your passions rule you.
Never take something for yourself that belongs to another.

And as she lands on the ground, releasing the curtain to land safely.

Always serve the Graal.
Lady Cassandra runs, dodging the flying arrows and vanishes into the woods.  One knight with wings on his helm takes careful aim, staring at Cassandra then closes his eyes before launching the blow.  "Let the Glamour bless the arrow. Let this strike be true."  Light shimmers around the arrow and like a lightning bolt it streaks the distance, closing in on Cassandra.  The arrow hits perfectly, striking her at the knee.   To Cassandra's surprise, her Glamour of Resolve protects her still - reducing the deadly strike to just a momentary inconvenience.

She runs, deeper and into the woods, hoping to break the trail the guards are sure to follow.  She crosses a thin river, and weaves through fallen trees, hoping to find escape.  But then the sound of drawn steel catches her attention and she turns to see the Knight of Elaine, Flynn, holding his sword trained at her.  He jokes that he senses he will not be having his duel today, and motions to Cassandra's knee.  When he tells her to draw, and salutes with his blade to show the dueling salute, she jokes if she should draw the arrow to fight him.  She draws her blade, cuts off the end of the arrow, and holds the blade up.  She asks if it is dawn yet, since the agreement was at dawn at the front of the tavern.  Flynn however tells her they will fight here and now because he suspects she plans to flee instead.  Cassandra admits today has been a very interesting day.   "Let's get it on.  I am ready.  Sort of."  With her blade, she draws a circle on the ground around her as she attempts to invoke the Endless Vigil around her.  Flynn sees this and smiles.  "Your smile is scaring me... but I can do this..." Cassandra sighs.

"For someone who believes she is not a knight, you sure still have the Glamour."

Cassandra stops. She looks down and asks if they are getting on with this or not.  Flynn tells her it depends on who she is.  Cassandra admits she is just Cassandra now.  Flynn asks if she's the Fool?  The Magician?  The Lover?  Cassandra weakly claims she is Cassandra the Knight.   He asks her what her quest is and she tells him it shall always be for Justice.   "I shall track down..." she stops, realizing she almost did it again.  She almost blurted it all out again.  Is this the moment she should just fulfill the mission she has been given.  "  I am tracking you for a Duel. With an arrow in my knee. Before dawn.  In the woods."

Flynn nods and sheaths his blade.  Cassandra sighs and sheaths her blade too.  Flynn admits he is not sure whose camp she is on, but for now he believes there is no need for the duel.  He will, however, be watching her.   Cassandra admits he will be watching out for him too.   Flynn leaves her unharmed.  "I thought you were going to teach me how to fight, Flynn."

"I only duel with enemies of the Graal," Flynn tells her knowingly. "Because minutes have passed and you have not stated a single reason to hate her.  You are acting."  Cassandra admits she is just Cassandra know, since the Queen has stripped her of her family, of her knighthood, and of her role.  She has only herself to rely on.  Cassandra insists she does not believe in the Graal.  Flynn questions however why she still relies on the Glamours it has bequeathed her if she truly does not believe in its existence.  She hesitantly claims maybe it is to test if they are still there.  "Who knows if it is really the Graal that makes this work. Maybe it is the Sidhe who give us the powers?"

"If these are all true statements, then why is it when I look at you all I see is a heart yearning to be rid of a touch of Corruption that it has gained?" Flynn calmly asks back.  Cassandra mutters that maybe the justice she seeks are for herself and her people.  "That's all that matters to me. I don't care about the Queen anymore."  Flynn tells her of the story of Eadburg the Wealthy and how he gave up all his worldly goods to fulfill his duties.  He admits to her he understand what it feels to give up on everything in order to accomplish the necessary task.    Cassandra admits she does not know if she can loyal to the Queen.  Flynn however tells her, "It was always the Graal I was loyal to.  The Queen simply wields it."  He heads into the woods and tells her to follow unless she plans to stay there until the dogs find her.  He reminds her there were Kings before the Queen and yet the Knights have always been there.  "We are the Knights of Avalon.  We are only called Elaine Knights because she is ruling."

Cassandra admits she does not believe she is ever going back to Elaine either.  Flynn however believes she is wrong.  He bumped into a messenger named Felix who was instructed to find Maurice le Blanc, Hans Glick and Astrid Ivardatter and if they found them to inform them she could be found at Gallifrey. She decides it would be best to talk to them when she can.  He invites her inside a cave to rest in for the night.  Moonlight shines down on Cassandra through a hole in the ceiling.   


In the days that follow, there are no news of Gallifray being attacked.  Knights do visit the town often, asking for any sightings of Lady Cassandra.  By the third day, Flynn wakes Cassandra up to let her know that he's found the location of where her friends have gone.  He tells her of the Duchy that is now in Maurice le Blanc's name and confirms that Gallifrey remains standing. He escorts her to the duchy and admits they will most likely see each other again in the future.  Although probably not in the way she would hope they will.


Seeing smoke, Lady Cassandra hurries up the path and sees the burning mill.  She finds Maurice standing there, and yet neither offer clear information on the recent events.   Maurice insists there's no reason to obsess over the burning mill and welcomes her to follow him back to the manor.   Astrid and the Seneschal head back to the manor, with Astrid keeping the man at gunpoint. He leads the man to the main hall and tells the others servants that he is the one behind the monsters at the tower.  Hans tells the man in white to tell him about Nisab and her death.  He informs him she was last on the Isle of Rambaldi and her death came quite suddenly, a small wake was held with specific guests, yet more than the guests showed up.  He mentions that in the evening, however, the home of the woman who hosted the wake was burned down by assailants and the guests were forced to flee.  Her death was said to be suicide, having leapt from the cliffs. Hans however feels that members of the Invisible College are not prone to suicide, being rational people.  The Seneschal tries to warn Maurice that a beast resides inside Astrid, but she informs them that it is he who has been lying to them all.  Maurice calmly reports that the mill is now on fire.  "Alas..."  The Seneschal is frantic, wondering if they are all mad.   Maurice asks the Seneschal what flammable thing he keeps in his mill given the sudden fire, an attempt to make him admit things.  

Hans asks if the Seneschal had anything to do with her death.  He denies having done anything of the sort.  He believes she was forced to kill herself by the Inquisition or some other forces.  The Seneschal admits he is a member of the Invisible College and that he was here to try to contain her creations.   They were hoping to find her grandest works, which are part of her Grand Strategema to change the world to a new era.  Hans questions how he can trust those who sent him here without being certain they are not part of the very conspiracy against her work.  The seneschal however refuses to believe the ones who sent him are the traitors seeking to destroy her work.  Hans remembers telling the other he will send word to the College in secret.  The Duchess arrives.  

She tells Astrid to bring the musket down, and asks for an explanation to what is happening.  The group explains the tower and the discovery of something strange in the mill.  The Seneschal growls that science will never be hindered by any Prophet or man.  Maurice insists he has no interest in theological debates.  Astrid warns the Seneschal admitted to being willing to sacrifice the duchy for their experiments.  Maurice however tells Astrid she has every right to be wary given she is the friend of the Duke.  The Seneschal hisses at them, calling them servants of the Inquisition and followers of the Vaticine Church.  Maurice wonders if the disappearance of Nisab is the handiwork of the Invisible College, especially since neither land is held by either the Montaigne or Avalon now.  Neither Astrid nor Cassandra know what this Invisible College is.  Maurice lists out the different portal locations that were in the notes and tells the Seneschal it would be best to just admit what he knows.  The man confesses that the Invisible College has been tracking the existence of numerous blessures in different parts of Theah, accompanied with creatures bearing strange deformities and other monsters.  When Maurice questions why Montaigne is not warned of this, the man accuses the Nation of being in the dipping pot of the Vaticine Church.  He claims l'Empereur has now feared for his soul and sold his loyalties to the Church.   Cassandra speaks up though, admitting she has no idea what is going on.

The physician is called and her plans to drill into Astrid's brain are brought up.  The man is agitated, fearful that the monstrosity might find a way to escape.  Unlike the Seneschal, however, the physician does not know anything of the Invisible College. The physician relates once more the story of the monsters' first emergence and the number of things that died during those events.   The physician only inspected Nisab once when she injured herself in the past.  The symptoms are stated once more, but Astrid finally admits she lied about certain details but never claimed to have entered the tower nor encountered these rats.  The physician however is frantic, terrified at the possibility of a plague being unleashed.  The Duchess however admits not knowing a lot of things happening in her land.  The Seneschal however lays the blame on all of them for doing things they were told not to do.  He tries to pinpoint Astrid as the cause of all the trouble.  Astrid however insists the hallucinations, if they are hallucinations, started even before the tower.    In the end, they all realize they are all guessing.  While they are all talking, Hans, slips off to one side.

Maurice calmly tells his wife that if she truly wants to have trouble, then that would be by having a conspiracy theorist handling the household.   When the physician continues to aggressively explain his attempts to treat the possibly infected, Maurice tells him to simply calm down and explain the tremors he is having on his own hands.  The physician tries to calm down and sits down. Maurice checks the physician for any of the symptoms he alone has described. 

The Duchess wonders if this Hans should be questioned as well.  Astrid reiterates he was the one who woke her up that morning to go to the tower.  The physician finally admits he cannot diagnose himself.  They soon learn two of the casualties from the mice in the past were the physician's doctors, explaining his intense fervor to stop the plague.


Hans slips back into the tower, hoping to salvage it of what he can without getting infested by the mice.  Astrid arrives, seeing him pondering on what to do.  She tells him the Duchess wants to speak to him, but he insists he has things to do for now. Astrid wonders aloud why he is always dragging her into more trouble.  Hans thinks of the book at the ground level, and decides that is the thing he best try to retrieve.  "Two flights of stairs at most.."

As he shoves the door open, the light shines inside, reflecting on the mirrors.  With a lantern in hand, Hans hurries down the steps, hoping to avoid all the mice.


Astrid returns, telling the others that Hans is still busy and that he will be back shortly.  Astrid stresses she is very hungry.  Servants move to prepare food.  Maurice reminds them as disruptive as the morning has been, they can all be happy to remember Hans is a beast hunter.   The Duchess asks what makes the Seneschal the villain being part of the Invisible College.  Maurice admits he's not necessarily a Villain, but definitely is duplicitous given his activities which he has kept from all of them.  He shares the tower was supposed to be control of both Avalon and Montaigne through Nisab, but with her absence, the Seneschal is now nothing more than a glorified grave robber. Astrid reminds them the duchy was something he was willing to sacrifice for the success of the experiments he was undertaking.  Not just the rats, but including the device at the mill, some abomination resembling Montaigne Porte magic.  "They are trying to find a scientific way of duplicating what we do with Sorcery.  Only a true Sorcier should be handling matters such as these, especially when it concerns the Blessures."    In addition, he was keeping people from going to the tower, not just to avoid the mice, but to possible conceal what has already been taken from there as well since Nisab's disappearance.  The uncle it seems had everything cataloged before leaving with half of the wealth of the land. The Duchess leaves to find the list.

When asked of her visit to the queen, Cassandra claims it was a very brief visit in the past few days.  She claims to have just gone home to Gallifrey to stay a while.  When asked about the arrow to the knee, she claims it was a hunting accident.  Maurice shakes his head and reminds her that she is such a darling but lying is so not her.  Cassandra insists she shot herself in the knee.

The Duchess returns with the list and it contains even supposedly the contents of the tower. It seems he had taken something listed as Nisab Invention Cage #4.  The uncle knew about this place before going here.  And the tower was already compromised before then. Maurice suspects his uncle made a deal with someone, or worse, owed someone and this was payment.  Maurice even questions the abomination of fruits outside the window, of apples and bananas and other fruit all growing despite the season.  Distracted with their discussions, the others fail to notice the Seneschal as he makes a bid to escape. He kicks off the ground to try and run off.  Astrid reacts quickly, side stepping to avoid the Seneschal's attempt to headbutt Astrid as he runs.  She kicks his knee, forcing him to the ground, then leaping atop him to pin him to the ground, using her legs to shove him against the floor.  Maurice flips the list to look for anything on the contents of the Mill.  The Duchess reaches for the musket and trains it at the Seneschal.  Cassandra rushes to Astrid, but she gives her a sign she's in control.

The page at the mill shows things are scratched off.  Maurice notices his uncle has scribbled, "All yours."  When questioned about Maurice's uncle, the Seneschal was not aware he had snuck into the tower, nor made an accurate list.  The tower was locked, however, so how did he get in?


They remember he is Montaigne.  And he remembers his uncle's obsession with parlor magic and playing cards.  That's how he may have slipped in, and escaped from the mice.  "This is two separate plots," Maurice now realizes, "The Seneschal was hoping to use Nisab's Experiments in his quest while my Uncle wanted that particular cage for some reason.  And he was quite eager to leave.  So much so that the Duchess thought he was head."


The black mice chase after Hans as he reaches the ground level, and he quickly heads to the table to grab the book.  The chittering sound of the mice close in from behind.  The whites of their eyes reflect the lantern light.  With the book now in hand, Hans kicks the shelf with the oils to the ground, and casts the lantern down to it.  Fire erupts!  He quickly hightails up the steps to leap over the fire and evade the mice.  

The fire clips Hans' leg, but he kicks away the closest mice before they get near.  But as he nears the top of the steps, he sees an unexpected sight.  A shadow stands at the doorway, with a pistol in hand.  The gun is fired and the bullet clips Hans in the shoulder, forcing him down to one knee.  With the book still in his hand, Hans sees the man train the pistol at him as he warns, "The book. Or I fire."

Hans grits his teeth and snarls, "If you want the book so bad," and tosses it back down towards the fire.  The man in the suit yells out a "No!" and leaps after it, diving down towards the flames.  Hans sees the man vanish into the flames and he hurries out the door.  The man was dressed like a magician, with coattails and the top hat and white gloves.  Hans waits, trying to see if the man grabbed it or not.  The book hits the fire.  The man unleashes a snapping sound, and one of the cages is suddenly falling.  The man grabs the nearest chain to pull himself back up as the weight of the cage drops.  Hans hurls a knife to snag the pulley system.  The man growls at Hans as the monster hunter grabs the pistol. "Who are you?"

The man claims this was supposed to be a simple pick up job but his hired man didn't show up. Hans demands for a name and the man admits he is Gasparo Angelo.  "How many Gasparo Angelos are there?" Hans snarls.

And the man admits that is the true riddle here.  He has no quarrel with the Glick family and insists he only wants to get the book.  "That tome contained countless secrets that neither side will ever have their hands on it."  Hans admits that is probably for the best.  The tome burns.  Hans backs out, shuts the doors and locks it.
Hans slides down the rope and watches as the tower burns down.


The others see Hans arrive, and note the smell of smoke.  Hans sits down with a coffee in one hand and a sandwich at the other.  He calmly tells them of the fire and chooses to keep from them the bigger "rat", Gasparo Angelo, who he trapped in the fire.  With the tower burning, everything in it are quite possibly gone.  Including the mice.

"To be fair," Maurice adds, "We did not own the tower."

The Duchess asks what to do with the man from the Invisible College, and Hans for a moment worries they mean him.  He realizes they mean the Seneschal, and there is talk of surrendering him to Avalon for imprisonment.  Maurice reminds the Duchess it might be best she handle the estate from now on.  He turns to Lady Cassandra, asking her if she is no longer a knight.  She claims the other people in the room might not best hear the answer.  Maurice directly asks her the question again but thankfully, a visitor arriving distracts him from getting the answer.

The guest is made to wait at the receiving room.  Maurice smells the perfumed envelope.  He changes his mind and has the guest come in immediately.  The letter, indeed, is from Ll'Empereur who thanks him for being reliable.  The bearer of the message is to collect some items from the tower.  The man reveals the list and Maurice looks at it.  The handwriting does not match those he has seen in the notes however of the Invisible College.  Maurice reports that the Invisible College has infiltrated the household before he could arrive, and their plot has been brought to fruition before he could stop them.  He motions at the burning tower.    The Montaigne nods and tells Maurice he will inform the King of the change in plans. "You are not as reliable as I was lead to believe.  He will know, however, of your loyalty."

Maurice however adds that his uncle may have secured one of the items for the King, so he may want to use all the resources he has at hand to recover it for the King.  The man stares at Astrid for a moment, recognizing her.   He asks if she is the Guild Mistress of the Scarlet Stockings and he pulls out a notebook to ask for her signature.  It seems Astrid has gained some level of reputation as the women rose up against a Bishop and fought back by stripping their tops to intimidate the Cardinal's men to leave the property.  The Cardinal fled.  "It was a Vesten Victory unlike any other. A true Bloodless Revolution. Many are beginning to stay when one does not wear the appropriate attire above, once is Scarlet Stocking."  She welcomes him to visit in the future.

The messenger kisses her hand, accepts her autograph, then bids the Duke and Duchess farewell.  The Seneschal is taken away on grounds of Conspiracy against the Queen.  The Duchess asks Lady Cassandra if she will back this up as a Knight.  


Night closes in.  Dinner is served.  The physician finally apologizes for his actions.  Amends are made and food is served.  The Duchess admits there will be a need for a new seneschal.  He asks if Maurice is staying, and he admits he will for time to time. But that he suspects they have overstayed their welcome for now.  All the servants serve food and wine a bit harsher than they should.

The two admit agree to spend one night however, before they leave.  The contract at least has to be fulfilled.  Maurice declares he is quite full.  The Duchess smiles and says she is too.  The two stand up and leave.


The Seneschal is at the prison. His records are marked and yet the man claims to be loyal to the Invisible College.  The knights shake their heads and leave.  One knight stays behind.  When the Seneschal tries to ask him if he believes in his innocence, the knight draws forth a gloved hand and trains it at the Seneschal.  The Seneschal grabs through the bars, grabbing the knight's face... and it begins to peel off.  The shot fires and the man hits the ground dead.

"Gasparo Angelo, it is such a good name," the false knight with the fake face mutters.  He fixes his face, then draws a playing card from his clothes and tosses it to the floor beside the dead body.

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