Friday, May 26, 2017

Forty Year Old Fanboy Update#10

so manynthings happened yesterday, I've yet to mark them down here.  And today is the day I'm heading to Hilton for the Gamex 2017 convention. This should be fun. And insane. And crazy! Omg. I'm super excited and scared and thrilled.

Wish me luck.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Forty Year Old Fanboy Update#9


Rode an Uber to The Getty, and there, I got to meet Ben Lehman (these are our games) and his friend, Winnie Garet. Man, that was incredible. It was humbling and uplifting. It was awesome. It was like meeting a friend I've always had. It was like meeting an idol I have admired for so long.


We explored the Getty, and got our full of paintings and sculptures and glasswork for two hours, talked about how a thousand years from now, archaeologists might find our rpg books and mistake them as religious stuff. Ponder over why the world obsessed over this tentacle headed monster. How some of the displays were like "Kickstarter editions" of enlightened tomes (This one comes with free tiny metal pins!)  We marveled at the intense details in the works, celebrated the keen eye for so many incredible tiny works.

Then we realized we were museum-ed enough and looked at our food options.  We didn't feel like any of the food choices in the museum, so we hit the road, had an odd snafu with a gate barrier that wouldn't come down, and made our way to Westwood.


Found myself reminiscing my time at UCLA since I walked to Westwood a few times back then.  We navigated around the nippy weather and eventually located the food place they wanted to try out.


The place was called Mesa, if I remember correctly, and it had these quite filling Steak Bowls.


While there, we talked a bit about our passions. I was fascinated with Winnie's love for languages, and history, and I admit I fell silent at lot and was just marveling at how much intelligence and charisma was pouring out from the two people I was with. Part of me was wishing they'd have a panel or something and really geek out and get to chat all about the stuff they love.

We then opted to head to USC, which was like around 45 minutes away, to be able to relax more at Winnie's place, and squeeze in a session of A Single Moment with Ben.  While I have my usual recording of the session, that recording will remain unpublished forever. I shall transcribe it for future posting, though.

During our game, I opted to give Ben a copy of A Single Moment, which I added a small dedication at the back and gave him a second gift, a copy of Talecraft which I felt was a unique enough local game that he'd enjoy. I didn't think they'd be able to easily get a copy, so I do hope he likes it.


Soon enough, it was 7p.m. and it was time to head back to my brother's place.  (Yes, that bright pic above is of us at 7p.m.) Gave Ben a final hug to say thank you for traveling to see me and took a long (and expensive) ride via Uber to head back to my brother's place.  My driver for the trip home was a fun guy who had a cooler with free bottled water and chips at the back. We talked about business, about chances, about the differences of traffic in Manila and Los Angeles, and even compared ages and the national identity.



There is truly something magical in finding new friends.

Got home at my brother's place, and decided to cook them some paprika chicken, fluffy scrambled eggs, and a hearty green salad.  It was the least I can do to thank them for letting me stay over.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Forty Year Old Fanboy Update#8

Finally visited the comic shop after a meal at Denny's where I was plied probably for tall glasses of raspberry ice tea. Didn't feel to welcome when the owner asked me to leave my backpack by the door. Decided not to make a fuss but opted not too buy anything.

Made my way to try the Game Ogre at Nordhoff only to discover it was no longer at the address the strategicon site listed. So that was a few wasted dollars. Also, my uber nearly got hit by a blonde girl who didn't seem to know how to use her signal lights. Resisted the urge to join the driver in yelling at her.

Now enroute to The Getty to meet Ben Lehman. Nervous as heck.
posted from Bloggeroid

Forty Year Old Fanboy update#7

stupidly tried walking from Reseda corner Devonshire to Continental Comics which is at 17081 Devonshire plaza. Maybe when I was younger I could have hobbit-ted this walk. Nope.too old for that now.

Ended up taking an Uber. Only to realize it doesn't open till 11. So now, at 930, I'm trying to rest a bit at Dennys. Yep. Don't judge me.

posted from Bloggeroid

Forty Year Old Fanboy Update #6

Jet lag still messing with my brain. Exciting day today though as I'm meeting Ben Lehman and we will be checking out the Getty Museum. Morning is a bit colder than expected. A pleasant break from sweaty nights at Manila.

Really miss Rocky though.
But I promised him and myself that I won't be a mopey dog while I am here.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Forty Year Old Fanboy Update #5



Woke up at 3pm and I think I'm trying to battle against jetlag. Spent the most of the morning tracking the packages we had ordered and discovered that some of our purchases did not arrive. So we're gonna have to double check with the sellers on what happened there.

Was able to get in touch with Rocky and we had a nice long chat to get back in touch and share updates on what's been going on from our respective ends of the world. Pretty excited for the various Star Trek ships that I'll find a way to bring back home with me. As well as the printed copies of 7th Sea Pirate Nations, Exalted 3rd edition, the decks for Masks, and our copy of Red Flags.

Spend most of the afternoon getting the ASUS (not SNSV!) phone which Philip lent me up and running using Dokes' AT&T Sim functioning.  Now that I've loaded it up with credits, I am actually reachable online and via mobile while here in the States.  Admittedly, I'm more accessible here than back at home cause here, the phone is set to unlimited data the whole time!  And yeah, this is a nice phone.


With that, I made sure the phone has both Uber and Lyft to give me mobility options. Sadly, Lyft didn't have anymore the $50 free credits for initial sign up. I was kinda hoping that was still in effect since it would have saved me a bundle of money. But at least I can pay using paypal. Also went to the grocery with Ate Ives to purchase the stuff I can cook for the family while here. I'm looking at roasting some chicken breast for them, maybe fry some pork slices, or even make burgers.  Definitely got lettuce and stuff for a hearty salad in the near future.  Tried looking for a Tamagoyaki pan but sadly there wasn't any, so will try to make a folded omelet without one in the coming days.



Been going through work emails, and writing some game writing when I can.  Still getting the feel of the house, but I'm definitely relaxed and happy.  Missing Rocky a lot, but at least the internet allows us to keep in touch.  I'm deliberately not talking about current news events in this blog.  Gotten in touch with a lot of the gaming people I'm meeting up with and a few old friends, and cousins, whom I can make time to hang out with too.  I will admit there's a part of me that feels odd about some of these meetups. A lot of the people I keep in touch with lately has been from industries or circles I've been keeping tabs with. But some of them are friends or family whom I barely hear from save for when such trips happen. It isn't a bad thing, but sometimes I just find myself wondering why it takes a trip like this before connections are reestablished. Oh well.

Tomorrow, I'll be meeting up with Ben Lehman and we're gonna hit the Getty Museum. Afterwards, I'm hoping to run A Single Moment for him and give him a signed copy of my book to keep too!  Now there was something else I purchased... but I can't quite put my finger on it right now.



I do blame my dear friend Jovan, and Kayta, for this purchase. Its an odd duck with nine hands being Caucasian and one single hand being quite tanned.  But I'm happy to own my own incomplete set. It will prove handy in the times to come.

I've been sneaking time to read Yasutaka Tsutsui's Salmonella Men on Planet Porno and it has been a wonderful escape from the stresses of daily life. The book feels like an interesting take at metafiction and while some make comparisons to Haruki Murakami, I feel this is closer to a more sexual and Asian Black Mirror.  I've also been finding time to read John Wick's Daughter of Fate which I am really enjoying as well. It is funny how I'm finding more time to read now.  But then that's cause I'm not having my quality time with Rocky as we watch our respective favorite shows. Ah, the see-saw of things to do.

Forty Year Old Fanboy Update #4

The Forty Year Old Fanboy has landed.  I'm now safely at Los Angeles and have met up with my brother and his family here in Northridge.  Of course, our first stop after the quite lengthy period of getting cleared for entry and finding my baggage at the carousel was a dive into In and Out burger. We're looking at more options in the coming days, as well as a lot of stuff to be prepped for when our parents come by in the coming days.


The airport journey felt like a quest. The long lines, the massive waiting time, the "NPCs" waiting for you and once you approach, point you to the next plot point to trigger to move forward in your story. I was tempted to have photos of the "robot" used at some point, but there was a no cellphone usage sign that I opted to follow. So I'm afraid all I have are these other pics.



I lucked out on my seat though, despite sitting very close to the end of the plane. On web check in, I noticed a whole row at the center seat aisle that was empty.  So I chose an aisle seat there and prayed I wouldn't have to struggle with an elbow encroacher during the entire flight.  When I got to the seat, it was empty so far!  Yay!



I sensed however that with my luck, things would change. Rocky knows how I tend to have the most horrible luck when it comes to board games, winning contests and the like.  The seats came with personal screens to watch movies, play games, and even listen to music.



Oh hello Sarah Geronimo.
Gah, now I miss O bar too.



Flight was in progress. Only one other person showed up and took the other aisle seat.  So we had two empty seats between us to celebrate. I was able to sleep with my legs up at some points in the flight, giving me more circulation. Yay!  My legs feel like hell still though. More so my feet. Man a massage would have been super awesome. Maybe that will have to wait til I get back though, just to be economical about it. 



The menu looked... impressive. But in the end the taste just wasn't there.
Hence, once my brother found me, we decided to swing by In and Out.
Hmmmhmmm.  Good food.



So yeah, the Tobie has landed.
Let you all know more about the coming days.
Good night for now. I'll try to get some zzzss and sync up with this area's time zone.
It's around 6pm in Manila at the time of writing this. Gah.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Forty Year Old Fanboy Update#3

Stepped out to pee.  When I got back, seemingly started a chain reaction as the woman closest to me stepped out to pee, leaving her bag on the seat, then she returned and two others beside her then left, and so on. It was like a pee ripple. Only no one got wet.

Saw the Globe charging station too late, and the crowd of millennial sa huddled around it looks kinda amusing. Was tempted  to take photos but decided against it as that would eat more battery power. No charging prior to flight it seems. Good thing I brought a book.  Either that or make up rules to play Sushi Go solitaire some how. Had nice flashbacks of our D.C. heroes game last night. I hope Peter David forgives me for using a Madrox Multiple man story arc to enhance our game.

No particularly cute passengers save for myself today. Rocky and I always joke about seeing if there are any cute guys in the flight we are in. Today, flying solo, no one looks like a looker. I'm afraid the truth plainly is that Rocky is the magnet of good looking guys. 

He did attract me, after all. 

Still waiting. One hour to go before boarding. 

Forty Year Old Fanboy Update#2

so, still waiting at the gate. Spent fifty three bucks on sad coffee  (already missing Rocky's brew) and read a few issue some of X-Factor. Been tempted to pull out the laptop and work on game concepts but I know if I do that I'll probably end up annoying people by taking up more space.

We were asked to step,out of the gate area and once more go through a hand carry check procedure. Lots of people got annoyed that their drinks were now not allowed in the gate area, just because of this check even if they got their drinks from the shops in here. Very odd.  I'm thankful I finished my coffee much earlier.

Strangely, I can't post images from my device. And this post was deleting itself a few times. I had to retype it again thrice. Very odd.


Forty Year Old Fanboy Update#1


So yeah, I'm prepping for the upcoming trip to Los Angeles and I hope I didn't forget anything. It has been quite a while since I traveled alone and I've been very used to traveling with Rocky to Singapore. My last trip to the United States was many years ago and so I'm kinda excited and nervous about this trip.

 I've spent the whole weekend prepping for the trip, from getting some clothes, considering new luggage, and the usual other preparations.  For the convention, I mapped out pre-generated characters for the 7th Sea game, printed out cards for A Single Moment, as well as character sheets for Lacuna. I decided to create "title" pages for each game just to give them a bit more character when the games finally happen. This trip will offer a lot of opportunities for me to meet other game designers and creators, including Ben Lehman (these are our games: Bliss Stage), Ben Woerner (WunderWerks: A World of Dew), Jim Pinto (post world games: King For a Day), and even John Wick himself (John Wick Presents: 7th Sea 2nd edition, Houses of the Blooded). I'm thrilled at this opportunity and I am absolutely agog to trade game chatter with them and who knows, maybe even run something for them?


I sorely wish Rocky could be with me on this trip, but that's probably a goal to aim for in the future. Given the family plans that come the week after Memorial Day Weekend, it wasn't feasible to fly with Rocky for this journey.  Maybe some time in the coming years. Maybe even to attend some other major RPG convention in the future.  Anyway, online check it complete. Just have to head for the airport in the next few minutes. Here's hoping it won't be long line purgatorio today.  *crosses fingers*

Here's to a safe flight!

Friday, May 19, 2017

Alas, Such Fates ep06 : 7th Sea

1/28/2017
Alas, Such Fates


"Failure"
Episode Six- 7th Sea


Astrid Ivardatter had returned to Castille, to the tiny town of Penitence, after learning that the Vaticine Church had attempted to retake the land which she had claimed to form her new Guild, the Scarlet Stockings.   In some secluded room with heavy curtains covering the windows and cloth covering the furniture, a woman sits across from Astrid, with a heavy veil covering her face.  The woman's hands shuffle a Sorte deck, the cards used by the Vodacce Fate Witches.  Astrid is meeting with one of Sophia's Daughters and they talk about how she had hoped to find the Cardinal to convince them that she had gained the support of the Queen of Avalon in bringing her Guild to Penitence. Astrid shares how she found the men of the Church in the act of attempting to evict the Jennys despite their success in the bloodless revolution of walking around topless to discourage the clergymen from entering their grounds.  The sister draws a card and lays it on the table: The Hierophant.  This lead to her meeting with the Bishop Victor Heckt, a man from Rimbaldi whom Astrid first though was here to attempt to reclaim the land once more. To Astrid's surprise, the Bishop was not here for the land. The Bishop asks Astrid if she knows of Reikion of the Eventide, Jan Volta, Walden Reichart, Tassine Bullet, and of Nisab Guissola. Astrid admits she knows of Nisab and of Tassine, and the Bishop explains Nisab has died, having leapt off the cliffs of Rimbaldi. This place was mentioned as a place to find the others. When Astrid admits she does not know the others, the Bishop explains the property the Jenny's have now was owned by Guissola.  The Sophia's Daughter draws another card and reveals it: The Tower.  "We women know of Towers that exist beneath the ground."  The Bishop asks to inspect the grounds, claiming it to be the last will and testament of Nisab Guissola.  Astrid allows him, and the Bishop draws out a Syrneth device from his robes and uses it to detect shifts in temperature in the area. The two discover the presence of a hidden chamber beneath the Scarlet Stocking's Guildhouse.   The Sophia's Daughter reveals a book and asks Astrid if the device illustrated on it is the same device the Bishop had.  Astrid admits it is the same one.  The Bishop and Astrid inspected the chamber and find it to be completely empty.  Astrid asks the Daughter what could have been inside.  "What indeed," the daughter muses, "I hope you forgive the deception," she adds as she withdraws her veil to reveal her face, "My name is Adeliadis Fasequelle, and I am a friend. I have worked with your friends before, Maurice and the others. We were all at Montaigne when we fought a young boy who had gone transformed." She confesses to Astrid she needs her help.  Astrid has dressed up as one of Sophia's Daughters in hopes of finding them, but she realizes now she cannot reach them without making contact with another who truly knows of them.  Astrid agrees to help.  Adeliadis admits the Novus Ordo Mundi has formed and with a membership of seven, she believes they are using the inventions of Nisab Guissola to change the very world. Gabriella Angelo is believed to be one of their number as well. Astrid wonders if Gabriella is the sister of Gasparo Angelo. Adeliadis is uncertain, but she needs Astrid's help to contact the Daughters, and to ask them a question.  Astrid however notices Adeliadis glancing to her side and whispering, "Not know." Astrid wonders if Adeliadis is just like Maurice, self-absorbed.  "Of course not," she replies as if she could read her mind, "But you haven't asked that yet aloud have you."  Adeliadis gives Astrid the Sorte deck, admitting the cards are not hers, but those of an Inquisitor named Julianna Onestra. Astrid draws a card out and looks at the first card she saw and it turns out to be The Maiden.  Astrid thinks the Secret Society owes her favors, so the deck may prove useful later on.

Elsewhere, at the Manor with the Red Door, Hans Leopold Glick is standing at the burnt ruins of the tower.  The only remnant of the tower is the design on the floor. The Duchess Sybil stands at the shadow of the door. Hans realizes this is the first time he's seen her during the day and she admits it helps that it is overcast. Sybil shares with him that she suspects the Duke, Maurice, plans to leave soon. Hans admits he goes where he is needed. The servants have stressed to Sybil Hans is a man devoted to helping others. Hans warns her in believing what the servants say. They do say as well he is devoted to killing monsters, and Hans admits that may be more true and that it was only probably was not accurate when he was really small. Sybil eventually shares that she has a condition that forces her to avoid the sun - a side effect of when she was younger and her first husband had insulted one of the Sidhe. In retaliation, the kind one had cursed her, which Hans finds to be very unkind. The owner of the tower, Nisab Guissola, offered Sybil an opportunity to recover from the curse and while her science had worked to some degree and returning her to normality, back then the barest hint of sunlight would burn her skin.  Hans admits they have noticed she has not joined them for dinner. He admits she does not look like a ghoul, nor seem like a spectre as she seems much alive. Sybil even teases perhaps she becomes a wolf when the moon is full and has passed the curse on to Maurice. Hans admits Maurice is no stranger to illnesses passed on nor intimate contact, which Sybil takes as a crack as his being from Montaigne. Sybil admits Nisab may have played god in that tower and that she has many patrons all over Theah and that she trusted very few, even in this Manor. Only the Seneschal had a key to the tower.  Sybil shares there were two other patrons, a man who hails from the lineage of the legendary Eadric Croft.  Based in Inismore, near Coldwater Bay.  The second a seamstress, whose shop has a golden spindle not far from the castle of the Queen Elaine herself.  Sybil gives no name as the seamstress is hiding from the Kind Ones.  They head back inside upon being informed by a servant that the Duke has awoken.

Elsewhere, also in Avalon, Lady Cassandra is at a tavern. She is having breakfast and considering her options given the many events that have transpired.  She hopes to find other knights to talk to, but has dressed down to hide her relationship with the Glamour Knights. A heavy cleaver showing marks upon its blade slams down beside her.  Cassandra turns and sees a scowling woman sit on the chair beside her, with helps herself to Cassandra's eggs.  The bartender returns and is clearly shocked to see the woman who owns the cleaver. Cassandra shares her tea with the woman, who complains about her drink having leaves floating in it. Despite her rude and uncouth behavior, the woman finds herself receiving Cassandra's generosity and admits she had met a man in the woods who promised her she would meet someone interesting today. Cassandra suspects the man might have been the strange fellow, Flynn.  "So you're the one who wants to kill the Queen?" the woman asks aloud.  Cassandra asks her not to say things so loud. The woman introduces herself as Mary Galloway and Cassandra realizes she's heard of the woman's story and how she was changed by her events at sea.  Mary admits she's looking for someone to help her kill the Queen and Cassandra considers riding along with her to know what she had in mind.

Maurice le Blanc watches Hans as he stuffs bread into his bag.  Maurice and Sybil discuss their plans, and the plans of his companions, with Maurice apologizing for the abruptness of this visit. Sybil asks where Maurice's former consort is and Maurice insists nothing has happened between him and that Jenny (Astrid). Maurice however stresses he has proven to her he has not been with anyone else in quite some time. Maurice asks Hans where he is headed and he mentions he is seeing a seamstress. Hans stresses there's nothing to be concerned about as he merely plans to have a hole in his pants darned. Maurice groans about how Hans is burning a hole in his goods. Maurice asks Hans to show him his axe, which Maurice then marks with his blood to easily find him later. A clatter. Both turn to see Sybil dropping a tray and suddenly withdrawing from the room - seemingly due to Maurice's tiny wound. Hans excuses himself.  Maurice asks the staff for Lady Cassandra's whereabouts and chooses to go check on her.

Adeliadis admits to Astrid she never learned how to use the Sorte deck. As they discuss things, Astrid continues to share the story of her encounter with the Bishop Heckt.; Julianna Onestra becomes their topic of conversation as Heckt tells Astrid about her desire to reshare the Malleus Maleficarum is to be shared with everyone, she is called the Hammer as she hunts down sorcerers.  Adeliadis tries to explain the mystery of Gasparo Angelo and Gabriella Angelo and how they are actually the same person but not... When Astrid tries to press Adeliadis to explain, she admits she cannot.  "Spoilers."  Astrid contacts the actual Sophia's Daughters and introduces Adeliadis to them. They sense the War in Astrid and know she has come in friendly terms.  They recommend bringing the two to a true member of the Daughters.

Hans finds the seamstress soon enough and after explaining that he came from the manor with the red door, he admits he's here to learn more about Nisab, sharing that the inventor committed suicide. She nearly faints and Hans leaps across the barrier to catch her as he pulls a chair nearby with his extended foot.  He learns she has been a friend of Nisab Guissola for a long time. Nisab even left her a gift, a machine which functions as a more efficient loom. She claims someone was to come for something left in her care and Hans claims that be him.  The password is the name of three places where she left the key. Hans realizes it definitely isn't him, but he admits it probably wasn't meant for him.  When the seamstress excuses herself to get some air - still affected by the news of Nisab's death - Hans pokes around underneath the mechanical loom to study it and search for anything of import. While under, a newcomer arrives and the man asks Hans if this is his shop by any chance.  The man claims he is here to collect something left many years ago.  Hans asks for a receipt and the man responds saying, "Sarmatian Commonwealth, Ussura... and I cannot read this.. one moment, Tassine should have written this better."  He leaves and Hans slides back out and realizes he just heard of two of the three possible keywords. The seamstress returns and asks Hans why he is here, and he gives his word to her that he was not associated with Nisab's death.  The door opens again and a man returns, the man from earlier. He gives the keywords, adding the last one, ".. and Eisen." The Seamstress nods and heads to the loom.  Hans realizes the man is Montano le Blanc, the uncle of his friend Maurice. Montano asks Hans to tell his nephew not to get involved in this.

Back at the tavern, people hurriedly leave as Lady Cassandra has breakfast with the woman called Mary Galloway, the Butcher. Mary explains she has plans to punish the Queen Elaine for all her transgressions.  Mary even proudly exclaims that Elaine's Knights have all proven to be easily corruptible and turned - whether via rum, wealthy or sex. Mary, however admits she does not understand why she it telling Cassandra all this. She ponders if that man in the woods has caused this to happen.  Mary asks Cassandra to show her sword. Cassandra tries to keep her sword hidden as she realizes her sword still shows the markings of the Elaine Knights.  Mary admits tonight is the night she will assault the castle.  Suddenly, Cassandra smells something familiar.  A man arrives and announces his arrival.  Lady Cassandra sees it is Maurice announces himself and greets Lady Cassandra. Mary claims to recognize Maurice as one of the men on the ship that evaded the Mawth. Mary reveals a harpoon and holds it before Maurice, asking if he finds it familiar.  It is marked with blood.  "A friend of mine says hello," Mary grins, "I am Mary Galloway, Captain of the Sweetbread." Mary realizes Maurice called Cassandra by name however, and questions if they know each other.  Cassandra asks Maurice if he is looking for a "Knight" who isn't here. Mary hurls the harpoon at Maurice, who dodges the weapon with a side-step, then kicks it to land onto his hand.  He thanks her for the gift. Spying a nearby flagon of ale, Maurice dips the harpoon into it to clear away the blood mark on it.  Mary tells Cassandra they can take him, bring him hostage, and bring him to the queen.  As Mary attempts to grab Maurice, but Maurice evades the grab with well-placed panache, questioning Mary for daring to touch him. Cassandra takes this opportunity to drag the bartender out of the tavern by the back. Mary and Maurice yell at each other, as they both grab, and ungrab, each other with a flip flopping of claims of who they are and why the other has no business grabbing them. "I am a Duke of Avalon, and more importantly Friend of the King of Montaigne!" Maurice yells at Mary as she tries to pin him to the ground.  Mary falls silent and with his last statement, she realizes this man is more stress than original worth it. Mary yells at Cassandra to toss her a blade, stating it might be better to sever his tongue. Cassandra feigns having been intimidated by Maurice's words. Mary decides she's wasting time with this man and tells Cassandra it is time to head for the queen. Maurice picks up on Cassandra pretending to be someone else, but he realizes she's doing a terrible job of claiming to be no longer among the Elaine Knights, especially when she has such a sword.  As Cassandra stands up, her sword hits the nearby chair and they all end up looking at it. Cassandra tries to claim she just picked the sword up and that they might need more weapons. Mary seems unconvinced however, whispering she is starting to think she's feeling a bit more hungry.

Astrid remembers the chamber under the Jenny's guild which Bishop Heckt uncovers, and it seems large enough to contain a galleon.  Astrid grabs a torch and invites the Bishop to head down with her to look around.  She reassures him she's used to such adventurous positions in her time. The Bishop admits all he's done most of his years is kneel.  Her story is interrupted for now as Astrid and Adel learn the Sophia's Daughter has lead them to their destination. The room is filled with shelves and candles. They are all handed a veil to wear. They soon realize there are others in the room. The seeming leader of the group asks Astrid if Adel can be trusted. And the same of Nisab Guissola. Astrid shares she has a personal interest with Nisab having encountered her work in her travels. She simply feels it is her duty to see it through. The Daughter's scrying tells Astrid the trail leads to Avalon, however. Sophia's Daughters primarily concerns itself with the protection and safety of Fate Witches in Vodacce and other nations but they are willing to help with a price.  Adel reminds Astrid she has a Sorte deck.  The woman raises her hand and a card flies out of the deck into her hand.  She stares at it and gasps. "That is the deck of the Hammer!"  The leader cries that it is an abomination. She reminds Astrid it might not be wise to hold onto the deck, as the deck calls its owner.  Every person is one of the Arcana, she explains, or at least is shaped by both. Adel, however, cannot be read.  They cannot, however, read Adeliadis. "It is as if your Fate.. is not one we can perceive." The leader agrees to speak with the Fate Witches to find Nisab, but tells Astrid to keep the Sorte deck as they want nothing to do with the Inquisitor, Julianna Onestra. Adel admits it isn't everyday a person is told one is not Thean.  She is amazed, however, that Astrid and her friends are Heroes. "The world is filled with three types of people: Heroes, Villains, and Victims." Astrid offers to have Adel stay with them although she needs to consider how to get to Avalon soon enough. Astrid continues her story about the Bishop and tells Adel about the Blessure in the chamber. The Bishop wonders if they should send the girls away or board it up and tell the girls that they're living above the very door to the underworld. Astrid confesses not knowing any place to bring the women.  The Bishop offers to grant sanctuary to the girls from Astrid's guild to protect them from the Blessure, but that means not continuing business while there.   Astrid admits she's not certain yet what to do. Adel offers to help send her to Avalon but she has to promise not to tell anyone.  When Astrid agrees, she sees Adel talk to the air beside her to "send Astrid to Avalon, to the Duchy of Pontefranc".  Astrid sees a shadow expand beneath her, and she falls through.

Maurice sees the drama regarding Cassandra's sword.  Mary slashes at Cassandra with her cleaver, cutting the knight on the cheek and tasting her blood.  Mary mutters about needing to do the chopping herself. Cassandra convinces Mary she's a villain by claiming she used to be one of the Elaine Knights, which is why she still has her old sword.  She claims to have been disgraced by the Queen. Maurice slams the door open, pulling all attention to him. He claims the sword is his now and he dashes across the room towards the two.  Trailing his sword at a dramatic angle to catch the glint of the light, Maurice swoops the sword from Cassandra's side and allows his cape to drape over him gently.  Mary and Cassandra rush off, after Mary decides the man is too much trouble.  Cassandra, having won Mary over, runs with her, leaving her blade with Maurice.  "Villains!" Maurice grins, "I'll get you yet!"  The two leave the tavern and Mary mutters how for now they have a queen to kill.   Avalonian guards arrive at the tavern, and Maurice declares his name and tells them to stand down. They see him holding the Sword of an Elaine Knight and they ask them to forgive their impertinence. Maurice hopes that he helped. The guards ask if they should alert the Queen, and Maurice tells them they shouldn't bother her. The Knights of Elaine have been recalled to the castle for her safety as there are rumors of an attempt on her life.

Hands cup over Hans' face from behind, and a voice barks demanding that he explains who sent him and what he knows. The voice even asks if Hans was sent by the woman with the red parasol. Hans does not quite get why Montano would be acting this way. Montano pulls out a deck of cards and they happen to be razor tipped. He threatens Hans with it. The seamstress draws out a glass box and as she offers it to them, Hans uses the distraction to disarm the man of his razor tipped cards.  Hans then trips Montano to shove him to the ground. Hans asks him the same questions, asking who the woman in the red parasol is. Montano admits he is just doing what he was told to do.  The man claims he is doing this to keep it safe as "they" are watching Maurice. Hans asks if Maurice is in danger. The man claims to have been sent by the Invisible College and he shows the tattoo hidden between two fingers.  Montano claims he was told to get the artifact, but he has no idea who gave the order since the college works through dead drop messages. He does know the contents of the tower were not retrieved and so the item here was to be retrieved instead. The College is attempting to retrieve everything of Nisab's. Hans shows his own marking.  The seamstress asks then if its alright, that they are both allies.  Montano admits they aren't. Hans takes it from the seamstress despite Montano's cries that Maurice is in danger. "They've been watching all this time! Don't you understand?" Hans simply states he does not trust Montano and opts to take charge of the item.  "But they're watching us right now," Montano gasps.  When Hans looks around to check, he fails to see anyone else in the room but he does now sense there is someone else in the chamber.   Montano admits he was to claim the package, close the shop, and head for the southern gate. Hans tells the Seamstress that it might not be safe to stay here.  The seamstress however notes there seems to be a man in front of the door, despite it being empty. Hans looks and sees nothing. Hans tells the seamstress to head out now.  Montano begins to choke, as he claws and grabs at something that cannot be seen.  Hans realizes the assailant must be invisible. As he reaches forward to check, he feels something that undulates organically against his skin.

Then Hans is airborne as the impact throws him across the room.  As he slams against the nearest wall, the dust particles in the air outline the thing for a briefest of moments. Humanoid in shape, but bent over since it is too tall for the chamber.  Hans seems to glimpse at least three arms. Hans looks down and sees the glass box on the ground.  The thing picks it up.

Mary and Cassandra are on the Sweetbread.  Mary is grateful that Cassandra is one of them and admits she plans to strike at midnight. When Cassandra asks if other Knights are with her, Mary admits she's bribed other Knights to gain safe passage. Cassandra internally hates the truth revealed that some Knights have indeed betrayed the Queen.  They make plans, with either the two attacking in unison to kill anyone in their way, or to have Cassandra walk in pretending to have captured the Butcher. With the remaining time, Mary suggests they relax on the boat for now and just eat. She shares with Cassandra the story of how her former crew attempted a mutiny. Mary explains this better not happen on this ship. She calls for her first mate and when a man comes forward, Mary slashes the man with her cleaver and allows him to bleed out on deck. She tells the crew that Cassandra is now the new first mate.  Cassandra realizes playing villain shouldn't be something she pretends to do too long or too many will suffer.

Astrid realizes she's back at the massive chamber of the Duchess.  She asks the servants for the Duke and finds the Duchess Sybil at the top of the steps of the winding staircase.  Sybil tells her that her friends have all gone off to handle things. Astrid doesn't feel comfortable staying alone at the manor especially after the destruction of the tower and the loss of some of her vassals. Astrid stares at the portraits on the walls and mumbles about not wanting to see any ghostly children running around. Sybil insists there are no children in the castle. Astrid raises it is believed to be a symptom of the "plague" which should have been dispelled with the burning of the tower. Sybil asks Astrid to walk with her upstairs.  Sybil brings Astrid to an observatory with a darkened dome. Sybil admits she goes here when she wants some privacy and asks Astrid to close the door behind her, but she keeps her hand on the handle. Sybil asks Astrid to explain how she "popped out from nowhere," inquiring if Astrid is a master of Porte like Maurice or if she's from the Sarmatian Commonwealth with deivas that sent her across far distances. Astrid insists she's just a resourceful jenny from Vesten. Being in pitch black darkness, Astrid confesses not feeling safe but Sybil insists she had recently fed so she is in better spirits. She ignores Astrid's question on what she had eaten. Astrid explains she and Hans had seen children running around and Sybil admits she has seen them too.  The two discuss the children a bit more and Sybil admits she's seen these children here in the chamber most frequently. She's wondering if they will see the children again tonight. Sybil wonders if they are ghosts and she shares her story of having fallen asleep in the observatory when the boy appeared. The boy asked if she's a ghost and ran off when she tried to touch him.

Maurice arrives and the staff informs him his personal jenny and consort is here. He corrects them that she's an adventurer and in no way his consort. They tell him she appeared out of nowhere in the gallery. He asks to have them tell her to meet him at the gallery.

Reunited, Astrid finds Maurice examining the room.  She tells him she needs his help and he asks how she got back. She expresses she can't or won't answer. When Maurice presses, she ends up replying, "spoilers" as she realizes that answers allows her to say who helped her without saying who. She reports to him that there's a blessure at her home in Castille. Maurice shares his news of Cassandra having become a brigand and he hands her a harpoon.  Astrid gasps at the harpoon and its implications that a certain insane pirate is back.  Maurice insists however they cannot help Cassandra as she's intent on handling things on her own despite making a dreadful attempt at lying that she's no longer a knight. Astrid implores he find a way to close the blessure in her home. Maurice asks her how she intends they go there when his sorcery cannot go straight to that destination.  He cannot walk to places he has not marked. The two decide it might be best to focus on the matter of Lady Cassandra. "She was trying to dismiss me. It was terrible. She has no ability to lie. Her sincerity is far too strong. If it were not for my dashing display of stealing her sword, I doubt her most feral companion would have believed her."  Astrid wonders why she'd do that and Maurice admits he did not overhear anything about what the two have in mind. Astrid takes a deep breath in frustration.

Hans rolls against the second wall he slams into. The dust reveals the creature once more. Hans leaps to his feet and charges for the monster, ignoring the glass box  on the ground as he focuses on stopping the creature from suffocating Montano. Hans slashes with his axe at the air where the monster stands and the steel meets invisible meat! The sudden spray of black liquid makes the monstrosity more visible.  Hans begins to see more how inhuman the thing is, a mishmash of different things seemingly sewn together.  Another swing strikes Hans and hurls him out the window. Hans hits the gravel outside with his face in front of a black skirt and formal traveling boots. He looks up and sees the regal woman standing in all black, with her short blonde hair framing her square face.  "You're not supposed to be in there, are you?" she smirks.  Hans sees her holding a doctor's bag on her right hand. On her left hand, a strange device with a glass cylinder filled with a strange viscous fluid.  Hans gets back onto his feet and charges back towards the window to leap in and fight the monster.  His next slash severs the tentacle around Montano's neck and frees the man from its grasp. The thing screeches noiselessly, and suddenly the glass shatters in the room. It entangles Hans with its remaining limbs and lifts him off the ground.  The woman who was outside now enters.

"Montano, did we really have to get to this point? All you had to do was give the key," the woman sighs.  Montano coughs out a plea, but his words are broken by gasps for air. She asks who Hans is and Hans growls he is exactly where he is supposed to be.  The woman lifts the steampunkish syringe with pulsing violet fluid and tells Hans that she does not see the need to concern herself with him. She then injects the fluid into her own neck as she warns him that he shouldn't get in their way.  As she replaces the syringe into the bag, she then starts speaking in the language of the Sarmatian Commonwealth as she tells the thing holdings Hans to "break him, but not kill him."  The woman reaches down to grab the glass box.  With a twist, Hans severs the two tentacles holding him to break free.  The thing thrashes backwards in pain and it becomes visible in a split second.  Hans recognizes the hairy fanged maws they had faced in the woods in the past!  The monster withdraws and the severed limbs begin to regrow themselves back.  The woman places the glass box in her doctor's bag, then rubs her neck as if to check if the substance has been absorbed properly.  She then turns to the empty air nearby and smiles as she greets an unseen newcomer with a smile.  Hans lunges for the bag, knowing its contents will answer more questions than they currently know.  Realizing he can't grab it before she acts, he kicks it instead out the window.

The woman, with anger in her eyes, hisses in the language of the commonwealth, "Freeze him!" Hans feels ice suddenly wrap around him, imprisoning him in a sheath of ice that immobilizes him to the ground.  People stare from the streets as the woman emerges from the doorway.  Hans feels the ice continue to grow around him, but with his free hand, Hans points his axe at her.  She tells him he is lucky that she is running on a time table.  She introduces herself as Elena Grigori, the Ebon Doctor, and that she will come back for him.  She takes the doctor's bag on the ground and whispers to the air beside her to take her to the Red Parasol.  A shadow spreads at her feet and she falls through.  Hans sees Montano crawl out from the doorway, thank him, but before he can say more, the monster slams into him from behind and runs away.  Hans shatters the ice with his axe.  He crawls to Montano and he thinks hopefully Montano can give them answers.

Back at the Duchy, Maurice and Astrid are considering their course of action when the door slams open and Hans emerges with Montano in tow.  The servants profusely beg for forgiveness at the unannounced arrival. With Montano's "being alive" a surprise, Hans quickly updates the two on what happened, including how the woman whispered into the air and vanished in a shadow on the ground for a woman in a red parasol. Astrid stays quiet about the shadow travel, despite having traveled in a similar manner. They try to wake Montano up while Astrid updates them on the Nisab chamber under her brothel and the blessure still present there. Maurice laments how everyone keeps thinking Astrid is his consort. Sybil emerges from the doorway with a rifle asking Maurice if he is still her husband, as that should mean his uncle Montano should have died.  Maurice thanks her for "bringing the vintage piece down" and asks her to let go of it. Sybil agrees and walks away, proclaiming she did not see him.  To wake Montano, Maurice waves a bottle of his perfume near the unconscious man's nose.. and it wakes Montano thinking it was the l'Emperuer having shown up in his vicinity - a trait Maurice seems to share with his uncle.

Mary Galloway prepares a feast for the upcoming slaughter. Lady Cassandra wonders if Mary plans to kill someone else for this feasting. So far, however, all of the crew see Cassandra as a vicious villain just like Mary. Cassandra asks for the meat of a pig, asking for it to be cut into smaller pieces.  She had ideas of using the meat and preparing it to look as if it were the murdered former First Mate's body.  She instructs the crew to get that and spices and vegetables for her, and to leave the body of the former First Mate at the steps of the nearest church.  Mary checks on Cassandra, and she informs her the crew was instructed to get the spices she needs. To Cassandra's surprise, Mary tells her that Mary will be prepping the dinner instead of her.  She asks Cassandra to watch over the crew and keep them in their place. The two do confirm they sail for the Queen by midnight. Mary notices Cassandra's worry and asks if there is something amiss.  Cassandra lies and claims everything is fine. Her lies don't convince Mary, however, and Mary asks if her anxiety has anything to do with the prisoner below the deck... the one from whom she retrieved the harpoon.  Cassandra realizes the man pirate they faced at The Maw is most likely that same man she mentioned before. Cassandra decides to head downstairs and Mary asks her to give the man a good "smack" for her. Mary asks if Cassandra prefers "knuckles" or "tongues" and Mary hears Cassandra just remark that she prefers the belly.

Down below, Cassandra is escorted by the other men to the brig.  Once there, the two leave Cassandra behind and allow her to visit the man by herself. She finds the man chained and manacled in the brig, inside a makeshift cage that has been locked closed. The man seems to be talking to himself, muttering about not supposedly being here and how his marks are all gone.  Cassandra confronts the man and he muses knowing or recognizing her. She asks him who he is speaking to and he mutters he's talking to "the sea." The man still insists he is the Captain Reis of legend, though Cassandra has her doubts. She tells him she's heard of how Reis perished from the mouth of a great sea monster, and how he is probably just thinking he is the terror of the seven seas.  His response however does confirm Cassandra's fears that this is the same man who attacked them at The Maw.  The man's eyes widen as he mutters, "The soup," confirming that he does remember Cassandra! Mary returns that moment asking if there is anything wrong. Cassandra quickly strikes the metal to the cage to try to muffle his cries of knowing something others don't.  Cassandra reaches through the bars and slams the man against the bars to knock him out.  Mary asks Cassandra to come with her as she realizes something... Cassandra should get some rest as tonight there will be no sleep. Cassandra is relieved for there was a moment she feared Mary overheard what the man knew of her. Mary however lops off one of the unconscious man's fingers, admitting she also came down here because she needed a little bit more flavor.  For what, Cassandra dreaded to even dare imagine.  Cassandra realizes she has to either act before midnight comes, or try to find a way to contact her friends.

Back at the Duchy, Astrid shares her anxiety on where Cassandra has gone to. Maurice however focuses his attentions on Montano, who seems panicked to realize where he currently is. Maurice shows the rifle in his hands. Montano begs him to help him get out of here, even throwing promises to give them more titles or share in wealth.  But none of them agree to help him. Astrid casually stands by the door to block any exit. Hans states Montano claimed he was doing all this to save Maurice, and that they were being watched. Montano admits Maurice was not supposed to have seen him, nor was Hans supposed to have seen him there, and he explains the elaborate ruse to give Maurice the title he was already holding was because he had already accomplished what he needed to do. Astrid alludes this was in relation to Nisab's works. Montano is aghast that everyone seems to know about her and asks why Hans was at the Spindle, asking for the package. Hans admits he learned of the place through Sybil, which is related to the blessure under Astrid's brothel in Castille. Astrid admits the location of her brothel also once belonged to Nisab. Montano admits he is a member of the Invisible College and Astrid notices Hans seems to not be surprised by its mention. Montano continues and admits he was sent to fulfill the marriage in hopes of gathering material in the tower, but he was unable to access them due to some kind of threat within it. He informed the college there was nothing to be found and had Maurice take his place. Maurice admits the tower has been destroyed now which surprises Montano since he knows another agent of the College was sent to try to infiltrate the tower and even claimed to have a contact within the house hold. Hans realizes Monstano might mean him. Maurice thinks however it was the butler who was very shady with the mill by the river. Montano was then informed of a new task to fulfill the duty at the Spindle, which used the names of three locations which was some form of password gathered by Tassine Bullet - a woman she has no knowledge of. They explain she's an author of Penny Dreadfuls and has passed on. Montano mocks vomiting at the thought of reading. Hans asks who then is this Ebon Doctor and Montano claims he recognized her from the Sarmatian Commonwealth. She was recently present at the marriage at the Prince or the son of the King or something like that. Hans realizes he's heard this name a few times. The package Montano was to retrieve was to be handed to a contact later on. Astrid wonders why there are so many people looking for this Nisab Guissola, including a bishop who pretended to be a member of the Vaticine Church. Maurice however presses and asks him about the sizeable wealth missing from the property since his "demise." Montano feigns not recalling anything due to the concussion received in the fight. Astrid reminds him not to run, and offers the doctor of the duchy who specializes in lobotomies. Montano surrenders.

The discussion shifts to finding Cassandra, but not knowing where she is Astrid suggests they head straight to the queen. Maurice believes he can head straight to Cassandra, but he's not in the mood to bring them all within him. Astrid carries Cassandra's sword with her and has Hans accompany her to the castle. Maurice grants them permission to use the cart as he realizes Cassandra and that woman with the cleaver probably have plans to head there tonight. He has them use the "other carriage" which is actually the shopping cart the servants use. Maurice however insists they do not own carts. Only carriages.

Astrid and Hans arrive at the castle and the guards stare at them, amused that both have arrived to visit while riding a cart. The guards ask them to wait as they check if the two will allowed in. Hans studies the walls and the moat, checking if there would be alternate ways to get in. Thankfully they are allowed in by one of the senior guards who recognizes the cart to belong to the Duchy on Pontefract. However, they are told the queen is not seeing guests given complications with her schedule. They are shown to a receiving room and await the man who will see them. Astrid can feel they are being watched.

The seneschal that meets them informs them of the Queen having obligations that require her attention. Astrid asks to see her this night and this night alone, given the urgency of the matter.  She explains she believes their friend Cassandra might have met with some ruffians who may have plans against the Queen tonight. Astrid presents the blade of the Elaine Knights. The Seneschal assumes Lady Cassandra is dead, given her blade is no longer in her hands. Astrid explains that concerns her as well. The Seneschal explains a knight would only lose one's sword if the knight was dead or had betrayed the knight. The seneschal asks her to wait, closes the fan in her hand, and asks to be allowed to speak in Montaigne once more as she cannot deign to speak in such boorish tongues for so long. She mutters a few curses, and shifts back to Vesten to continue the conversation. The seneschal, Adeliadis, listens to the two explain.  Astrid mouths, "Spoilers?" suggesting she knows others are listening. But Adeliadis does not seem to grasp it. She merely leaves and rejoins the room after an off-camera vomiting sound.  When she returns, Astrid realizes based on her body language, Adeliadis really does not recognize them. When Adeliadis asks them to summarize their purpose of coming to the castle, Astrid states she merely wishes them to allow her and Hans to be near enough to protect the Queen if something happens. Adeliadis has an outburst, rattling off in angry Montaigne how this whole conversation has been an utter waste of her time. She harshly tells the two off, stating neither of them even deserve to be anywhere near the Queen. Adeliadis leaves the two and slams the door shut behind them. Hans however tells Astrid, "We're already in. We just need to find the Queen."  To their luck, the painting slides open and Adam Vide emerges and motions them to step inside.

Adam explains the seneschal has the political title but neither the temperament or patience to play the role. He asks them to wear cloth masks and escorts them through the secret passages to make their way to the Queen. Astrid and Hans comply. Adam explains the Daughters of Sophia informed her that there has been some crossing of paths between Astrid's group and the late Nisab Guissola. The two choose not to admit anything to Adam. Adam believes their warning however and admits a belief in Cassandra's actions, admittedly he does not agree with Fasequelle's appointment as seneschal in the last four month and hates the fact they have to respect that role. Astrid admits feeling unease. Hans worries things will get more complicated in the coming hours.

Back at the Duchy, Maurice and Sybil discuss the complication of Montano being alive. Avalonian law states since Montano is still alive, then Sybil would still be married to him. Worse, this means she had acted with "infidelity" given her actions with Maurice. Maurice believes the mitigating circumstances can still be in their favor. "Every kingdom has its secrets. No household does not have them." Sybil feels they must deal with Motano. She suggests two words, "La Bucca."  If they were to send him there, he will be "forgotten." Maurice admits no island will take him for long. Sybil does share that if he allows himself to be seen, he will be forced to fulfill his role in marriage. So Montano may be interested in playing along. Sybil shares that Catalina Morta can bring him to La Bucca. The two flirt a bit, but then are informed that the carriage man has returned. Maurice is happy the horses are safe. Sybil tells Maurice to talk to Montano. If he doesn't agree to the terms, she admits she knows a man who can make a mask of iron that he can be locked into to wear.

Montano admits he was at the Sarmatian Commonwealth and he had no plans of going back here. His appearance here was supposed to be hidden, but one of Maurice's friends dragged him into  this whole mess. Maurice insists he cannot be in Avalon again even for clandestine matters. Montano admits he cannot make such promises but he understands this has complicated the dukedom and places Maurice's role in jeopardy. Montano suddenly suggests they threaten Sybil with ideas of her infidelity being called to question so they can both claim the land. Maurice draws his sword and tells Montano that it might be best to just send him away. Montano wounds himself on Maurice's blade and warns his nephew that bars will not hold him. Maurice promises to send him to a land of opportunities and options. Montano swears on his blood he will not return to Avalon.

Back at the ship, Cassandra sees the sun setting on the horizon. She is searching for a way to start a fire and sneak away from the ship. She steals a bit of burning coal and heads down to the part of the ship where the gunpowder would be intent to make the ship explode. But she sees the Avalon ship markings on the wood and realizes she isn't certain if she wants to destroy a ship of her people. She invites one of the crew members to join her and head out of the ship for something to eat. But as she tries to convince the guy to leave, they smell the sweetest smell of something cooking on the ship.  Cassandra heads to the smell, ushering the guy to head off, and finds Mary Galloway there, offering to have her taste what she had prepared. Cassandra is told to close her eyes and focus on the taste. Cassandra's mind races, worried that she's being asked to try human meat, but finds the food to be the most marvelous mix of flavors she ever had. The meat melts in her mouth. To her joy, Mary explains it is goat meat and the rich spices made it as good as it tastes.  Mary had no plans to have others eat the same things she prefer, insisting she is no monster. Cassandra just smiles, remembering how this same woman just killed a man earlier that day without hesitation.

Hans and Astrid continue to wait, wondering if they will actually meet the Queen herself. The Queen does meet with them, in fact she states she met with Astrid before.  Astrid realizes they have... and that was when she petitioned for her help regarding her brothel. Astrid explains the situation regarding the Lady Cassandra, and the Queen responds instead by asking if her mission is successful. As it turns out, she kept it even from her friends. The Queen shares the plan for Cassandra to pose as one of the villains to lure out the ones who tried to have the Queen killed.  The Queen shares she even took actions that would cause Cassandra to gain anger towards her, to help her achieve her goal. The knights arrive, informing them of a monster having been sighted and the need to send the knights there. The Queen sends the knights away and admits she has her doubts of the monster being a true threat. The convenient timing of it happening tonight bothers her. The Queen asks Adam to stay with her and gives both Hans and Astid to stay at her side. She then directs the Knights to leave to help the people against the horror that has surfaced.  "Even if the Queen dies, the Queendom must survive. The people need the Knights of Elaine." Despite there being more secure rooms, Adam admits to Hans that asking the Queen to move more would be too much to ask of the Queen. Adam reveals the whip he has, which he claims is the only weapon he ever learned to use. Astrid admits Adam can teach her to fight better with the whip someday. Astrid suggests they give the servants a "day off" to lessen the chances they are caught in the trouble. The Queen turns to her and asks, "What is a day off?"

A visitor arrives at Maurice's duchy. The man is Valderamas, supposedly a friend from the Sarmatian Commonwealth. Maurice asks Sybil to rest and she admits with night coming, she feels she is getting stronger. At the foyer, Maurice meets the man and asks what business he has with them. Valderamas admits they have not met and he has come with his associate which Maurice cannot see. Maurice admits he is totally aware of this, although then asks if they are like... "you know." Valderamas admits he felt the need to inform Maurice he comes with a companion out of respect and to represent the Novus Ordo Mundi. Maurice is a bit shocked he'd so openly talk about this. Valderamas reminds Maurice not to be overly alarmed as this will probably be their last meeting.  He commands his deivas to unleash the darkness and it spills out like a black flood that crawls into every corner and every street and every room and every road.  The sounds are muffled in the darkness as it spills out more and more, spreading further out of the manor, down the hills, down the rivers.  It spreads towards the castle. Maurice cuts his finger, and as he prepares to create a Porte, Valderamas shoves against him and mutters to his face, "Novus Ordo Mundi will NOT be stopped!" Maurice creates the porte and leaps into in, dragging Valderamas into the open portal. The man falls inside with his eyes open and he begins to scream in panic as things close in on him and pull him apart.

At the Sweetbread, Cassandra hears the screaming outside as well, but then hears them get abruptly silenced by something outside.   Back at the castle, Adam, the Queen, and Hans approach the door and shove it open to see the hallway leading to the balcony. The roar of screaming people gets stronger. Astrid hurries to check what is causing it. Adam can hear the Queen muttering about hearing the fear of her people growing. The Queen stumbles towards one part of the room. Hans follow s her. She reaches the far side, cracks open a panel on the wall, then unlocks the second pair fo door to expose a brilliant burst of light. Even with his eyes closed and a hand over his eyes, Hans can still see it.   The grail. Astrid hurries back to the others after seeing the darkness closing in.

Cassandra heads to the castle with Mary Galloway and the other crew. The darkness rolls after them.  Cassandra screams and she hears her voice as if they were underwater.  Mary grins, excited at this turn of events. Cassandra isn't sure why this is happening.

Astrid.  Adam.  The Queen. They all feel the Grail speaking.

You.
Have.
Failed.
Me.

Sybil can see despite the darkness. An offshoot of the curse she was once afflicted with. Maurice stresses they must find a way to get to the Queen. Sybil however confesses she cannot step on hallowed ground.

In the darkness, Cassandra smells something that smells of sweat and saltwater. Realizing it is the man, she is unable to call out in time before the man pins him against the wall. The man begins to crush her throat to shut him up. But Cassandra tries to fight back but he is too strong it seems. Or is she just too afraid. The man hisses into her ear a thanks, given the injuries he sustained allowed him somehow a chance to leave.  He laughs and drops her to the ground, leaving her behind.  Cassandra crawls away, finds the wheel of the ship, and steadies herself in the darkness.  The ship is moving. It is moving and hits into things as they move. But it continues to move faster and faster following the river.

Astrid tries speaking back to the grail but it gives no response. Hans tries to find the Queen but the blinding light of the grail, where the queen last stood, blinds him from seeing her whereabouts.  They see the darkness has reached the doorway, but it does not spill into the chamber.  They all hear in their mind the grail speaking.

I have chosen another.
Another to keep me safe.
She comes.

Cassandra realizes she can see a light in the end of the darkness.  A glow despite the black. She trains the ship to sail towards it. She focuses on the light and nothing else. Sybil and Maurice continue through the World Between the Worlds.  The voices whisper around them, speaking to Sybil of welcoming her among them. Of their worlds being closer and closer with each journey. Sybil weeps, not wanting to see or hear more. Maurice brings them through, exiting from the World Between Worlds, and they emerge on Cassandra's location, the Sweetbread. Cassandra smells Maurice's perfume and knows it is him. She asks them to carefully stay behind her and tells them she is steering them to the grail.  But neither Maurice nor Sybil can see this golden light. Sybil guides Cassandra to steer in the darkness as her dark gift proves to be a boon in this journey.

From the darkness, a woman steps out of the darkness and into the Queen's chamber, with high stockings, coat tails, and short pants. She smiles as she comes into view and admits she's surprised to see body guards despite everyone else having run off in fear. Hans warns her to stay back. She shows her arms and tells them there is nothing up her sleeves. Then she brings them both behind her back. Hans demands she reveals both her hands. Gabriella Angelo brings them into view and shows him they are empty. "No hard feelings, it is all part of the show," she laughs then flicks at them a bunch of throwing cards!  Hans hurries to block them, flicking the nearest table cloth to deflect them away. Astrid plants a comforting hand on the Queen to calm her down.  She asks the Grail to help repel the darkness, but the grail still gives no reply. Only the Queen speaks and her voice suggests she cannot find the grail or see any sign of it. She only sees the darkness.

The card tear through the cloth Hans uses to deflect them. Thankfully, they miss their targets. Hans rushes forward, keeping an eye out for others who may show up in the chamber. True enough, a second figure enters the room. Astrid guides the Queen to the Grail, but she refuses to reach for it. She pulls back. Astrid realizes the Queen might be compelled not to reach for the Grail.

They.
Must.
Learn.

They.
Must.
Unite.

They.
Must.
Become.
One.

Astrid asks the Grail to explain. To help them force back the darkness.  But the Grail gives no reply. Hans lunges at Gabriella with his axe and he tries to take her out without killing her. He swings the blunt side of the axe onto the side of her head. But she pulls her head back in time to avoid it, whipping her hair onto his face to distract him. She suddenly blows a powder onto his face, which he resists despite it having special properties.

Outside, the Sweetbread closes in on the castle as Cassandra steers it with the Duchess Sybil and Maurice's help. As they sail down the channel heading straight for the castle, Maurice insists they stick together as long as they can given the darkness. Cassandra asks him if he can swim in case they fail to dock safely.  Thankfully, Cassandra brings the ship to port successfully despite the darkness. She chooses to jump to the castle, despite the thoughts in the back of her head wanting to do deal with Mary Galloway and the man they mistook as Reis first.  Maurice bids Sybil goodbye for now. She promises him she will be alright, because she will be going with them.

As Astrid and Hans try to deal with the incoming intruders, a whip cracks and Adam reveals his skill with the Mantovai dueling style. It becomes clear that the Grail calls for a Quest and is calling for its bearer to come forward.  Maurice, Sybil, and Cassandra continue moving through the castle, making their way towards the glowing grail. They encounter other knights along the route and Cassandra realizes she can no longer just announce herself to gain passage as most know her as Cassandra the Traitor. Maurice calls out to them, identifying himself as the Duke of Pontefract and tells them to move aside. Sybil continues to guide them through the darkness and the knights stand aside as they make their way past them. Adam Vide admits he can barely see their foes due to the darkness. Hans knocks out Gabriella Angelo from behind and settles her to the ground. Astrid whips at the other associate of Gabriella, pinning him to the wall. She realizes it is the man who was announcing the guests earlier. He snarls that the new order that will take over will now gain control of Avalon. Astrid knocks him unconscious too.  Sybil eventually admits she cannot go further, sensing the area is now hallowed ground. Maurice gives her a kiss and tells her they will meet back at the Duchy.

Another figure steps through the doorway. Astrid reaches for the Grail. Hans moves to stand before Astrid to protect her back. The newcomer turns out to be none other than the horror they had encountered with the Imperatrice.  With his mouth now sewn shut, Perrote bows and with puppet-like motions, stumbles into the room. Hans extends his sword to force Perrote back. Astrid pulls back her hand when a fiery burst  erupts to stop her from touching the Grail.

My bearer comes.
She shall care me.
To the one true lord.

Hans rushes forward and breaks Perrote's arm with a hammering strike of his axe's blunt end to force him to drop the shard of glass in his hand. But from the outside, another figure charges in straight for Hans! Maurice and Cassandra are reunited with the others as they stumble into the room. Astrid tells Cassandra to reach for the Grail. She hears the Grail speak to her.

Take me.
Hide me.
Keep me.
Until the three Unite and deserve me again.
Let Avalon fall until it deserves to rise again.

The group stares in shock. They cannot believe that's the Quest that has been given. Maurice worries of the innocents that will be pulled into this chaos. Cassandra realizes she has to find this person.

A gun shot rings out. They all turn to see a new person stepping through the doorway. Cassandra drops as the gunshot strikes her in the chest.  The shooter holds a red fan, which she uses to cover her mouth. "I would like to take that now, if you so pleases."  She fires a second time at Cassandra, and the shot slams Cassandra to the ground.  She calls upon the Endless Vigil to keep her alive despite her wounds. Astrid and Hans hurry to stand in front of Cassandra, to protect her. Maurice addresses the woman, "Lady Adeliadis, what are you doing?"

She asks for the cup.  Hans reaches to grab his musket, which distracts Adeliadis long enough for Astrid to hurl a knife at the woman's arm. Hans feels the shot strike at his arm. The knife impales into Adeliadis' arm! Rapier draw, Maurice rushes forward and bats the fan away from Adeliadis' face as he asks if she is really, "Adel?"  The woman hisses at Maurice for daring to shorten her name. Hans raises the musket, but Adeliadis mutters a word in the language of the Sarmatian Commonwealth.  She tells them to stop and they all halt as some power freezes them in place.  She tells someone unseen to take them all away and they disappear.   Cassandra looks up, protected by the Endless Vigil, and discovers for some reason none of her companions can touch her either. Perhaps the Vigil was empowered by the Grail?

Maurice shakes his head, recognizing the Vigil as Cassandra has used it before.  Astrid retrieves her throwing knives.  The Queen is speechless, weeping in the side. The Knights are calling for the doors to be opened, but Adam Vide is keeping them closed with Hans' help. The group is uncertain if they will let the other see that the Queen no longer holds the Grail.  Astrid wishes there was a means to help Cassandra while she's stuck in her Vigil. Adam tells them like it or not, they will be the ones to decide on the future of Avalon.

"What do we let them know?"

Adam looks at them all and admits that he does not think Queen Elaine is still the Queen of Avalon.  Cassandra has the quest now to find the need for a new ruler. Astrid fears the wars that will spark from this.  The group argue on what would be best to do. Or to say to the knights banging at the doors outside. Cassandra suddenly speaks.  She tells them all that they have to tell them Elaine is no longer Queen.  She believes that if war will break out, that is what needs to happen.  Maurice asks Cassandra to try to drop the Vigil, but she feels uncertain if she is able to do so.  The Vigil was never this... powerful before. Astrid is uncertain if she can distract all the knights by herself.  Cassandra risks worsening her wounds as she crawls and tries to leave the ten-foot radius of the Vigil. The group watches in awe at Cassandra's determination. Astrid reminds them they need a doctor. Maurice tells them they can return to Pontefract, but Astrid reminds them his doctor nearly operated on her brain. Now beyond the Vigil's radius, Cassandra falls to the ground. Hans and Astrid pick Cassandra up. Hans wonders if they should place her on the cart they took earlier. Maurice asks Adam for any alternate way out.  Of the Queen, Adam decides to handle telling the Knights that the Queen was assaulted, but she has survived it. The group hurries through the secret passage Adam opens for them to use. Astrid closes the door behind them.

Adam stares at the door and realizes the knights will break into the room, see someone from Montaigne beside their broken Queen.  "This will not bode well."

***

The group exits the castle and moves unmolested back to Pontefract.  People in Avalon are far too preoccupied by panic and fear to pay attention to the streets. The group, however, realizes the Novus Ordo Mundi has shown its face today and has successfully disabled a Nation in a single day.


Thursday, May 11, 2017

2017 2nd Update: 12 New Games

For this year, I've played the following:

Twelve New Games for 2017
1) Pugmire
2) Monster of the Week
3) An RPG Musical, using Scion
4) Black Stars Rise

I'm definitely running behind on my 12 new games each year so I'm hoping to catch up in the coming months. Maybe I can convince my friend Flip to finally run a oneshot of the Mistborn rpg.  Or maybe I can convince some groups to take a stab at an actual Mouseguard game (using the Burning Wheel) or even some of the other game systems we have such as Protocol, Praxis, and even Pendragon soon.  I wonder if I should even offer one-shot games or short campaigns in other venues to help more people get exposed to new systems as well.

Anyway, been super busy with a lot of things, least of which writing for different game lines. But life is great and despite all the bumps in the road, Rocky and I have begun to feel the wheel turning and moving in an upswing once again.   Here's to more games, folks!

Monday, May 1, 2017

Gamex 2017: See you this May!


Thank you so much to the fantastic people behind Strategicon for allowing me to be one of their guests this coming Gamex 2017 which will happen this coming Memorial Day weekend!  Gamex 2017 will be four days of gaming and opportunities to try new stuff and meet lots of people who share our passion for role-playing games and table top fun.

With me in the event will be the ever-wonderful Ben Woerner, the brains behind Woerner's Wunderwerks and a fellow member of the Indie Game Developer Network.  I'm hoping to run a few sessions of A Single Moment, as well as maybe let people try my take on 7th Sea, Lacuna: The Birth of Mystery and the Girl from Blue City, and John Wick Presents' Schauermarchen. I think it will all depend on what will be worked out in registration. I'll send updates once that is finalized.

So, to anyone who will be attending the event, do feel free to come over and say hello.  I'll try to also have some copies of A Single Moment to sign and sell if there is any interest!  See you!
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