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8 Maverick Unchained Deck from my KS Pledge!

2023.05.30 04:24 LionsAndLambs 8 Maverick Unchained Deck from my KS Pledge!

8 Maverick Unchained Deck from my KS Pledge! submitted by LionsAndLambs to KeyforgeGame [link] [comments]

2023.05.28 22:28 NamelessNanashi [The Gods of Dragons: Beginning] Ch 9 - Shifting Futures

--- Table of Contents ---
Spring 4984, 9 Kuromoth, Spring Equinox
“Archmage, I thought you had already gone…” Brom’s voice, beyond Her door. She didn’t move, didn’t bother to look towards the closed portal. Had it been months or years since he'd last come to sit with Her?
“I will be leaving presently…” Archmage Morndancer’s cold voice answered. She squeezed tighter into Her little ball in the dark corner. It didn’t matter that he would be gone. He left the tower often, but it didn’t stop Her punishment. Even as the season turned from winter to spring, She'd stayed locked in Her room. With no books and no company. Occasionally being taken out to give samples in a lab completely separate from that of Her treasures. Only their yowls and barks from down the hall offering any comfort.
“It’s an important day, isn’t it, Archmage? Perhaps Sellon will pass the test.” Ran’s voice. Did he sound nervous? Her head tilted, just a little, towards the door. The half-circle of light from Her window did very little to banish the darkness of the room. She hadn’t bothered to light the candles. What was the point?
Morndancer scoffed, “Doubtful. Ronni didn’t manage it. And just as his sister before him, Sellon will join the Mages Guild whether he passes or not.” Sellon and Ronni, Archmage Morndancer’s children. She'd heard of them from Brom and Ran. So they were Mages as well. Perhaps they would be the ones to come take Her blood and cut Her hair in future. It didn’t matter. Nothing had ever mattered.
“But a Wizard-Cleric of Saint Bede might…”
“Enough.” Morndancer interrupted Brom, “Bede is no god, he wasn't even a decent Mage, he was and is a villain. We would not have this responsibility to save the world if he and his lot hadn’t doomed it.”
“Of course, Archmage, yes.” nervous feet shuffled outside Her door.
“Even now, Shaloon is trying to locate the next storm.” Morndancer continued his chastisement, “They come more frequently and destroy greater swaths of land. If we continue to be as useless as the other Talons, there will be no world left to save. So rather than waste your time on prayers to usurper gods, you had best refocus and redouble your efforts while we are away. Do you understand?”
“Yes, Archmage,” Brom and Ran said in unison.
“Good. And be sure to return those to the library when you have finished with them.” the hiss of fabric on stone accompanied the Archmage's exit.
Her door handle jingled, and Her head came up a fraction, but, “Wait…” Brom’s whisper. Silence followed, and She dropped Her head again, pressing her closed eyes into Her knees. Minutes passed, or was it hours? Did it matter? Maybe She would crawl into Her bed and try to sleep. Time passed faster that way. Or maybe She would just stay here in Her little ball in the corner.
“He should be gone by now…” Her lock clicked, and the door creaked open, but She didn’t bother to look up, “Goldy? Maybe She’s sleeping…” Brom whispered.
“Damn, it’s dark in here. Red, can we get a light?” She didn’t answer Ran’s request. What was the point? They would find Her and they would take Her for samples. She didn’t have to help them do it. “Grab the candle from the table, Brom. My hands are full.”
She could feel the life of a tiny flame beyond Her door. Felt it draw closer and enter Her room before it flickered and died. “Oh, Goldy… please don’t…” the shuffling of feet moving carefully in the darkness came closer. She tried to pull in tighter, tucking Her head against Her chest and letting Her now shoulder-length hair fall forward to further hide Her face.
They crouched at either side of Her, Brom setting the useless candle down to Her left with a soft ‘tink’ of brass on stone. Something much heavier was placed on Her right, the familiar scents of hardbound leather, paper, and ink… “We brought you some books, Red…”
She lifted Her head, looking through the tangled strands of golden hair and seeing a pair of worried faces looming in the dark. “If you light up the room a bit, we can read,” Brom slowly pushed Her hair back, careful not to touch Her skin. As though She would burn him. She might have. If She could find the energy.
“You’re not supposed to...” Her voice crackled from lack of use, making Her whisper even more inaudible.
“What?” Ran leaned closer, but She didn’t repeat Herself, “It’s been months, Red. You’re not in trouble anymore.”
She blinked silently at him.
“Look, Goldy,” Brom shuffled forward, still in his crouch, “things can go back to normal now. The Archmage will be out for a few days. We can take you to play with the animals tomorrow.” She shifted Her blank stare to him. Brom waited for a moment, searching Her face for a familiar flicker of excitement. She didn’t give it to him. He sighed, “We’ll leave these with you then. You can read them when you’re ready.”
Brom made to stand, but She grabbed the hem of his sleeve, “Stay with me…” On the candle, the smallest of lights began to flicker to life. Brom sat down with a groan, and on Her other side, Ran plopped down even less gracefully.
He leaned his back against Her bed and picked the top book off the small pile they'd brought Her, “We can stay until lunch, Goldy.”
“But we still have a lot of work to do…”
It was enough. The candle burned brighter, and She shifted Her legs down, taking the book Ran passed to Her. Things would finally be returning to normal. As they always had been, and as they always would be.
Shon woke long before the kitchen servant would come to fetch him. Everything was the same, and yet nothing would ever be as it was before. Sitting up, he ran his fingers through his hair, only to realize that everything wasn't the same. The other two boys who'd reached maturity were also awake. It looked like Gaven hadn’t slept at all, his sandy hair tousled and his dark eyes bloodshot.
“This is it then… the last morning in the dorms?” Gaven whispered the useless question. Nan, the oldest by a month, nodded in silence. Shon didn’t bother with even that much, swinging his legs off the bed and kicking something. Another difference. A final gift from the Church. A leather pack for him to carry everything he owned.
Shon dressed in silence only broken by the shuffle of the other two joining him. After tying his boots, he started packing the bag. It was large enough to fit all of his clothes and even his seven journals, though the eighth made it a very tight fit.
“Should we make the beds?” Nan whispered. Again, Shon didn’t answer. Instead, he stripped the blanket and sheets from the mattress, folding them neatly and placing them with the pillow at the foot of the bed.
“Yeah… they'll have to strip them to wash anyway…” Gaven said, following Shon’s example.
They'd just finished when the door creaked open. Normally woken by the morning bells, Gaven and Nan both jumped, looking from the dark window to the door then at each other.
The servant girl who usually woke Shon looked in on them with some confusion, then hummed in understanding before holding the door open for them, “Come on then. There may be some leftover dessert you can have while we make breakfast…”
Shon doubted he could eat anything at the moment. His stomach worked itself in knots that put an uncomfortable pressure on his heart that in turn seemed as though it wanted to beat its way into his throat. The entire sensation made him feel a strange sort of nauseous. Nan and Gaven looked no better than he felt, and they both swallowed before exiting the room. Gaven took a moment to look back over his shoulder before shaking himself and setting his eyes forward. Nan seemed to rush from the room, too afraid to look back. Shon took one last look around before following, the door clicking closed behind them.
He let the other boys walk ahead of him and wondered what they were thinking. Gaven would be taking the test with him today, but Nan had been selected to join the Masons Guild and had opted to accept the offer right away rather than try for one of the divine orders first. Perhaps Nan was the smartest of them.
“We'll miss you…” the servant girl whispered so only Shon could hear, “It isn’t glamorous, but it’s honest work... if you want to join the Servants Guild…” the Servants Guild was a loose association of otherwise privately employed cleaners and cooks. It was the last choice for orphans, but also their most common destination. She'd meant the offer as a kindness, so Shon nodded in thanks, though nothing but the most desperate situation would ever see him join.
The head cook looked up as they entered the kitchen, nodding in understanding, “Couldn’t sleep?” he asked Nan and Gaven, who mumbled incoherently in response. To Shon, the cook smiled, offering only a silent nod.
The girl who'd reached maturity with them was already in the dining room, staring mournfully at a plate of hastily scrambled eggs and a few cookies from the night before.
“Hey Lara, couldn’t sleep anymore either?” Gaven asked with a strained smile. Shaking her head, she picked up her fork and tried to force down some of the breakfast. She'd been accepted into the Tailors Guild, but unlike Nan, had chosen to take the test with Shon and Gavin. Just in case.
The cook himself brought the boys their plates of eggs and cookies, and they ate in silence until the morning bells sounded. The three unused to being up early jumped at the sound, exchanging nervous looks. Their juniors and the priests would come flooding in soon, laughing and talking and enjoying another breakfast with friends and the closest thing they had to family. It would be the last time the four of them ate with the others in this room.
Shon didn’t know if he could take the bustle today, even if it was the last. Or maybe because it was. He stood, taking his mostly full plate and returning it to the kitchen. The cook looked from the untouched food to Shon and back again, then picked up a pair of cookies and held them out to him, “You might not be able to eat now, but you can save these for after.”
Shon took the gift, meeting the cook's eyes and nodding in silent thanks. The cook returned the nod and Shon left the kitchen without looking back. He slipped the cookies into one of the side pockets of his new pack as he made his way to the courtyard. He passed the bathroom, its wall lined with low-hanging sinks and a single long mirror. He'd practiced arching his eyebrows in that mirror...
Entering the courtyard, Shon hesitated, remembering his first early morning. When he couldn’t sleep for excitement at the mere possibility of training with a real adventurer. He'd wanted to learn to fight, but more than that, he'd wanted to learn how to train. After all, he would be doing a lot of that once he joined the Temple. It would be helpful to have a head start… Or, that's what he'd told himself back then.
Shon shut the door with a click of finality that rang in the still morning air. To his left were the classrooms where the city's children took lessons. Just thinking about his last lesson, with only those coming of age, still made him blush. To his right was the door to the chapel, where he'd sat with the other orphans through the weekly sermons. Shon respected the god of life and healing, but Soleil had never been his patron. Across from him was the clinic, where the Clerics of Soleil saw to the needs of the sick and injured. He'd only been sent there once, after breaking his arm trying to climb the tree in the courtyard.
Shon would have no need to pray to Soleil specifically, and the Temple kept their own clinic... if he passed. If he didn't... There was a chance he would see the clinic again, perhaps the chapel...
Shon stepped off the walkway surrounding the central tree, and a familiar voice sounded from its roots, “Feeling up to a few exercises?” Master Veon-Zih asked, rising from his cross-legged seat in one fluid motion. Shon stopped in their little clearing and nodded, letting his pack slide off his shoulder and flop heavily to the ground. “I take it there's nothing fragile in there then?” Veon-Zih asked with a chuckle.
The idea that a thirteen-year-old would have something valuable or fragile enough to break just by dropping the bag finally pulled Shon all the way out of his contemplations. He arched a skeptical eyebrow at his master.
“There, that’s more like it. You looked like a rather well-preserved zombie.” Veon-Zih took Shon by the shoulder, shaking him, “Not a thought in your head, or skip in your step.”
Shon shook his head, sinking into his horse stance to start his drills. He punched with his left fist first, and Veon-Zih took position just out of reach, so Shon’s knuckles barely brushed the fabric of his tunic. Shon held the position until Veon-Zih also threw his first punch. He aimed for Shon’s face, sending a wave of air and ki over his skin and nearly touching his nose. Shon didn’t flinch.
They worked through their punches in unison, nearly touching but never quite connecting. Shon worked in silence for a while then said, “Too many thoughts…”
“And none of them new, I’m sure,” Veon-Zih commented.
Shon nodded, “The same ones circle again and again. Even though I can’t do anything about them... yet.”
“Not until after the test.”
Shon had to swallow a sudden lump in his throat and nodded again, unable to speak even if he'd wanted to.
Veon-Zih moved on to the next strike, and Shon copied him. He'd lost count of the punches but followed his Master's lead. “I don’t suppose you want to talk about it?” Master Veon-Zih asked.
Shon shook his head but then sighed. Most people seemed to like thinking out loud, especially when troubled. He didn’t understand why, but his usual quiet contemplation wasn’t working, so maybe… “If I don’t pass…”
“I would think of all days, today would be the one to take a break!” Father Branston called from the chapel door. He began strolling towards them with a broad smile, “Do you think you’ll be done in time to join me?”
Was it time already? Shon glanced around, noticing Nan, Gaven, and Lara approaching from the living quarter, all looking pale, their lips drawn in tight unsmiling lines.
Veon-Zih hadn’t come up from his stance, so neither did Shon, but the Monk did laugh, “Keeping a routine can be soothing in times of great change.” he winked at Shon, “Even if it’s a positive change.”
Shon tried to smile at Veon-Zih’s apparent show of faith but wasn’t sure if he'd managed it. What if…?
“Well, I don’t want to rush you. Can I trust you to get Shon to the Chapel on time if I take the others now?” Father Branston laughed as though he'd said something particularly humourous, his great belly bouncing with mirth.
“We'll be there.” Master Veon-Zih assured Father Branston, and Shon nodded mutely, resuming his drills and trying not to watch the others leave. “We have plenty of time,” Veon-Zih whispered, “Take a few deep breaths. It's the end of your childhood, not your life.”
They moved from drills to kata. Master Veon-Zih stayed in front of Shon, moving with him and matching his routine strikes with the appropriate counters. “You were saying?” it had been awhile since Shon had tried to speak, though his head continued to spin with the half-formed thoughts.
“I don’t want to think about not passing,” Shon said, kicking high and hitting Veon-Zih’s waiting arm.
“Do you believe such thoughts will jinx you?”
Shon dropped his kick and punched as the kata dictated. Veon-Zih was right; working through their regular routines did seem to help calm his pounding heart. “I don’t know… Maybe? It’s stupid, though. Whether I pass or not was decided when I was born. It won’t change just because I think about it.”
“Emotions are rarely logical.” Veon-Zih smacked Shon’s punch aside at the last moment, and Shon moved smoothly from that strike to the next, “It’s normal to be nervous. One of your peers is just as nervous, and he already knows where he’s going.”
“They all do…” Shon mumbled, snap kicking straight in front of him, confident in his Master’s speed to dodge and counter.
Veon-Zih did indeed dodge, but instead of the usual counter he hooked Shon’s foot with his own and tried to pull him off balance. Shon only stumbled for a moment, shifting his form to a different kata and counter, his body moving before his mind could catch up. Veon-Zih spoke as they continued the different form without finishing the first, prompting, “Even those taking the test have other plans, just in case?”
“Lara was accepted by the Tailors, and Gaven is going to enlist in the guard…” They had sped up the pace, and Shon needed to concentrate, now on edge in case Master Veon-Zih decided to shift the practice again. A few more strikes in, the Monk dropped below Shon’s punch and swung at his ribs, forcing Shon to block. Shon switched the kata to his most recent on instinct, using the block to redirect the punch rather than stop it as the original kata would have dictated.
Veon-Zih smiled, his eyes twinkling at the move as he picked up the pace even further, “Both of those are honest jobs and noble callings.” Shon could only grunt in response, now moving too fast for him to think of anything but the exercise. Veon-Zih continued, “The enlisted make up the bulk of Hengist’s armies, and their loyalty is admirable. The Tailors Guild not only clothes the populace but often creates beautiful works of art that serve to enhance the natural beauty of the human form.”
The Master hadn’t even broken a sweat, but Shon had to gasp out, “But I don’t-” before he was interrupted by another unexpected punch. He countered but then disengaged, breathing deep and slow, “What will I do? If I don’t pass? I thought about joining the enlisted too but…” but the idea of being so close, and yet so impossibly far from his failed dream, pained him in a way he couldn’t put into words.
When Shon didn’t continue, Veon-Zih asked, “Will you reconsider joining me then?”
Shon blinked at the Monk, his eyes going wide. He'd thought he'd lost his chance with the Monastery when he'd denied Veon-Zih for the Temple three years ago, “You mean you'll still take me?” he stammered out.
Veon-Zih closed the distance between them and placed a firm hand on Shon’s shoulder, “So long as you are an obedient and willing student, remember?”
Shon’s eyes burned and another lump rose in his throat, preventing him from speaking. He nodded, and Veon-Zih smiled, turning away from him so Shon could rub his eyes without the Monk seeing. He still wasn’t comfortable with the thought of failing, but he felt a little more at ease, knowing he wouldn’t be alone even if he did.
“Shall we go then?” Veon-Zih scooped up Shon’s pack and held it out to him, “Destiny awaits no man.”
The Grand Chapel was dedicated to all the gods of the kingdom, and though today it was closed to the public, the doors were still crowded with families from every walk of life. Merchants and craftsmen mingled excitedly with one another while their children nervously awaited the start of the test that would determine the trajectory of the rest of their lives. A smaller group of only two families stood apart from the throng. Dressed in fine clothes and protected by private guards, the nobles surveyed the commoners with a detached air as though above the gods themselves. The boy Shon often saw at the Temple was among them.
Shon stopped just outside the crowd, arching his neck to try and see the doors. His quiet dread had turned to jitters of nervousness as he and Master Veon-Zih walked through the city. He wasn’t sure if he'd wanted to run or stop moving altogether. Now that they were here, he tried to distract himself by studying the faces and movements of those gathered. Though if he tried to draw them now, the shaking of his hands would probably make the pictures impossible to decipher.
The differences between the nobles and commoners, in particular, caught his eye. One of the nobles, a man of middling years, wore long robes with a high collar buttoned tight to his neck and looked as if he would rather be anywhere but here. Shon had just finished scanning up the man’s robes when their eyes met. A shiver, entirely unrelated to the general anxiety of the test, ran down his spine.
The noble’s eyes went wide, and he started for Shon, the edge of the crowd giving way for him like the sea before a ship. “You…” his voice was breathy, and he reached out. Shon stepped back and ran into Master Veon-Zih, “They are back, truly?” the strange man asked, his eyes fixed on Shon who could only stare in bewilderment.
“My good lord Morndancer!” Father Branston’s joy-filled greeting sounded from the side, “So your youngest has come of age has he?” the Abbot seemed to snap the noble from his focus, and he turned away from Shon as Branston made his way through the crowd, Lara and Gaven close behind.
“Yes, Abbot.” Morndancer surveyed the Cleric with what Shon could only describe as contempt, though the look hardly wiped the wide smile from Branston’s face, “Will we be starting soon? Sellon and I have business with the Mages Guild.”
“Though if young Sellon should find himself capable…” Branston started, but the noble snorted. “Ah well, to each their own.” Branston finished, turning away from Morndancer to address his young charges.
From a pouch on his belt, Father Branston pulled forth three small books that shouldn’t have been able to fit in the little bag, “I present to you, your papers.” He fanned the books out before him, and each of them took the one closest to them. They were bound in leather with the seal of the Kingdom of Daanlin embossed on the cover. The knight on the kingdom seal rode a horse and held a shield with the seal of Clearhelm on it, three tall pine trees in front of a snow-capped mountain.
Their papers were proof of their citizenship and would serve as a record of their lives and accomplishments. Master Veon-Zih had shown Shon his own papers months before. It held a record of every border he had ever crossed and every teleport he had ever taken, as well as proof of all of his adventures and every job performed for any of the kingdom’s organizations. Veon-Zih’s papers were a veritable tome compared to Shon’s meager notebook. Opening it to the first page, Shon saw his name followed by his presumed place and date of birth. It detailed that he had been raised in the Church in Smildna and when he had come of age. At the bottom was a place labeled but left blank for the date and results of today’s test…
Branston was still speaking to them, but Shon only partly registered the words, “You should keep your papers on you whenever possible. You will need them to reenter the city any time you leave…”
Veon-Zih placed a hand on Shon’s shoulder, and he nearly jumped out of his boots in surprise. Leaning down, the Monk whispered in his ear, “Soon this book will be full of your adventures and accomplishments. Regardless of what happens today.”
“Abbot,” Morndancer interjected as Father Branston finished his explanation, “the test? Some of us have places to be.”
“Yes, yes, patience is a virtue, my dear Lord Morndancer. The sun will rise no faster with you tapping your foot at its pace.” he lowered his voice and continued to address the anxious children, “I am so very proud of all of you. Know that no matter what is discovered today, the light of Soleil will always shine with joy at what you have and will accomplish in your lives.” Shon wondered if any of the adults realized that their constant efforts to comfort their nerves seemed to be having the opposite effect. Shon’s palms were sweating as he closed his papers, and he had to wipe them on his pants to try and distract himself from his pounding heart.
“Follow me,” Branston turned away, walking through the middle of the crowd that had suddenly grown hush at his movement towards the door. Veon-Zih gave Shon one last pat, then slipped Shon’s pack from his back and tossed it over his own shoulder. Letting his student know without words that he would be waiting for Shon to return, one way or another.
Shon could feel the eyes of the noble Morndancer boring into him as he followed Father Branston through the throng towards the Grand Chapel. What was that man's problem? Who was back? Shon was too distracted by the test to dwell on it, but the man had made his skin crawl, and having him at his back wasn’t helping his nerves.
Father Branston turned to address the crowd as the doors began to swing open, “The testers will enter alone and present their papers to the clerks by the door. Families and friends may wait outside until the test is complete.” Nervous adolescents made their way forward, careful not to jostle one another, many accepting last-minute hugs and well wishes from their families.
Shon thought he remembered the Grand Chapel well from his visit almost six years ago, but was struck again by the beauty of its art. The masterwork statues and carvings were outshone only by the stained glass dome that painted the round floor in bright light of every color he could imagine.
Of the ten gods, eight representatives stood opposite the doors, waiting quietly while the testers handed their papers to the clerks and shuffled nervously in the middle of the majestic holy site. Neither the Temples of Horsa nor Saint Giorgos were present. Their absence wasn’t surprising. The Temple of Saint Giorgos only took those of noble birth and would give their tests separately, and the Temple of Horsa was openly shunned in Clearhelm, its only branch located in the capital city of Tarorn.
Shon handed one of three clerks his papers. She took them with only a glance, hastily scribbling Shon’s name on a long list before handing the book to one of the others who wrote the date in the spot allocated. By the time all the testers had filtered in, there were about twenty young boys and girls huddled in the center of the room.
The Cleric of Hengist, in robes of white and blue, stepped forward to address them. “You are gathered here today in the hopes of being chosen to serve. To serve the province, the kingdom, and most importantly, the gods. But before the gods can choose you to act as their divine hands and voice, you must train and study hard their tenants and virtues. And before even that, your body must be able to hold and direct their power. For a feather that cannot hold ink will never be a quill. This is not a test of your worth but of your natural, innate ability.”
As he spoke, two other Clerics, Father Branston of Soleil and a female in the colors of Lune, stepped forward, each holding something round covered with a dark cloth. The Cleric of Hengist continued, “Very few are born with the capacity to touch the divine, there is no shame in failing.” the Clerics of Soleil and Lune removed the protective coverings and everyone had to shield their eyes from the brilliant light that flared in Father Branston’s hand.
Squinting as his eyes adjusted, Shon could just make out an orb glowing in a bowl in the Abbot’s hands. The Cleric of Lune held a similar sphere, though it appeared dead beside the brilliance of the other. “When we call your name, you will touch the empty vessel,” the Cleric of Hengist gestured towards the unlit stone, “and then you will touch the vessel filled with divine magic,” with his other hand, he gestured towards the light. “Do not hold the stone for longer than a moment. If your body is unable to channel the magic it could do serious harm,” he warned.
“Trase,” one of the clerks called from the door, reading off the list they'd compiled. A tall boy stepped forward on shaking feet. He approached the Clerics, who nodded solemnly, all encouraging smiles gone. Reaching out, he touched the unlit orb, then with a deep breath, reached for the glowing vessel.
Nothing happened. Trase pulled his hands back, and Branston whispered -though all could hear in the stillness of the room- “It’s alright lad, you may go…”
“Anhala,” the clerk called, and a girl jumped before rushing forward to try.
The first six failed before a girl named Gena reached shaking hands to the orbs. As her fingers brushed the light vessel, the dead sphere in her other hand began to glow. She gasped, holding tight to both globes, now both shining brightly.
“Congratulations, my dear, you may choose an order…” the Cleric of Hengist gestured to the altars around the Chapel. Gena pulled her hands back slowly, and the unlit stone died once again. Shon watched as she walked to the altar of Soleil to await the end of the test before beginning her life as an adept in training at the Church.
“Shaclin Ebonheart,” the noble boy Shon often saw at the Temple stepped forward, rubbing his hands on his pants before reaching for the orbs. Nothing. He held on, and Father Branston gently removed the boy’s fingers from the light orb. Shaclin pulled away sharply, clutching his hand to his chest and whimpering. His skin had grown red and blistered.
“I’m sorry…” the Cleric of Hengist whispered.
Shaclin turned away without a word and strode for the door, still clutching his burned hand, silent tears staining his cheeks.
I won’t cry… I won’t… “Shon,” Shon closed his eyes, imagining himself in the Temple chapel with its calm silence and soothing scent of incense. He could almost smell it when he opened his eyes and moved forward.
Time slowed down… it took hours to reach the Clerics. Days to raise his hand to touch the dark orb. Now that he was closer he saw that they were actually crystals, tumbled into perfectly smooth spheres. His palm covered the dead stone, and it felt cool, as though it had just been dug from the ground by adventurous children. He reached for the stone bathed in light, feeling the warmth radiate off it before he even made contact. It wasn’t nearly hot enough to burn, and yet Shaclin’s hand had shown blisters.
Shon touched the stone. The warmth filled his fingers and crawled up his arm. It flooded his body like a vessel being filled with water before flowing out his other arm and down his hand. The dead stone came to life, its coolness replaced by the warmth of the divine magic, using him as its conduit connecting the two.
“Congratulations, son, you may choose an order…”
Time sped back up, and Shon let his hands slide off the stones. “Congratulations,” Father Branston echoed, nodding towards the altar of Hengist, “The rest is up to you.”
Only two others passed the test. A girl with long auburn hair and green eyes had joined the Temple with Shon, and a boy had gone to the Church of Saint Bjarki. They stood by their respective altars as the last of the failed testers left the Chapel. Gaven and Lara managed strained smiles at Shon as they left. He attempted to return them but wasn't sure if he'd managed it. The eight Clerics all breathed sighs of relief as the last left, and Branston and the Cleric of Lune returned the covers over the stones. Though still lit by the light through the colored dome, the Chapel seemed so much darker without the divine light to fill it.
“Four this year! An entire fifth!” the Druid of Cathbad exclaimed, her brown and green robes rustling as she danced in place.
“Yes, quite remarkable. Twice the average.” the Cleric of Saint Bede agreed. Though he resisted dancing for joy.
The Cleric of Hengist was also smiling broadly, though when he spoke, it was to the kids, “You may spend the afternoon with your families. Report to your chosen order before sixth bell.”
The girl who also joined the Temple of Hengist, Daisy, gave Shon a warm smile and hurried with the others to retrieve her papers. Now marked with their status as divine conduits. Shon walked behind them, his nervousness replaced with excited anticipation. He felt somehow full and empty all at once. With one door open, another had closed...
Shon stepped into the morning light to find the crowd had cleared. Only the three families of his fellows remained, hugging and kissing their children in joy. “We shall have a feast fit for the King!” Daisy’s father exclaimed, lifting her into the air as if she were no more than five. Shon’s stomach growled.
“Hungry?” Veon-Zih asked, stepping out from beside the door and presenting Shon with his pack. Shon felt his cheeks go red, and Veon-Zih laughed, rubbing his own belly, “I could use some lunch myself.”
Hastily Shon dropped his pack and rifled through the outside pockets, finding the cookies in the last one left to check. They were cracked and crumbled in some places, but he held one out to Veon-Zih regardless.
The Monk took it with a bow, “I am trying to resist being disappointed.” he confessed as Shon eagerly shoved his own broken cookie in his mouth.
He nearly choked, and Veon-Zih patted his back hard, not helping. Shon managed to swallow, then stammered, “Master, I…”
Veon-Zih interrupted with a laugh loud enough to fill the empty entryway, “Just promise me you won’t let your new studies dull your old. I plan on testing you with each visit.”
"Visit?" Something Shon couldn’t name filled his chest with warmth reminiscent of the divine light, "Test? You..." He thought he might burst with barely contained hope. No one could be so blessed... "You'll still train me?" Shon asked.
“I happen to be good friends with one of your future teachers at Hamerfoss.” Veon-Zih stated for the first time, “I’m sure he'll welcome my visits. If you'll have me…”
Shon didn’t have words for an answer. Instead, he lunged forward, wrapping Veon-Zih in the first and only hug he could remember giving anyone.
--- Table of Contents ---
All comments and communication are welcome and wanted.
submitted by NamelessNanashi to redditserials [link] [comments]

2023.05.27 22:25 Nwabudike_J_Morgan Nwabudike_J_Morgan, 100toons365days - #50: The Smurfs (2011)

The Smurfs (2011), live action, animation (CGI)

Language: English
Date started: October 10, 2022
Date watched: May 26, 2023
Directed by: Raja Gosnell
Written by: J. David Stem, David N. Weiss, David Ronn, Jay Scherick
Studio: Sony Pictures Animation
Starring: Hank Azaria, Neil Patrick Harris, Jayma Mays, Sofía Vergara, Tim Gunn
Featuring: Jonathan Winters, Katy Perry, Anton Yelchin, Alan Cumming, Fred Armisen, George Lopez
Part of: The Smurfs Series 1 / 2
Story: This assumes you already know what Smurfs are and who Gargamel is which is a deliberate choice. I think a 6 year-old might be confused. Anyway, Clumsy Smurf goes through a portal and ends up in New York City, and Papa Smurf, Smurfette, Grouchy, Brainy and Gutsy go after him, followed by Gargamel and his cat Azrael. Hi-jinks ensue.
Design: This was a well known franchise so the artistic challenge was to get the texture and movement correct, plus get the characters to match the live action environments. Up close the Smurfs seem to have felt-like blue skin and rather wiry hair. For what is being offered here, the work is more than adequate. This was also part of the 3D movie craze started by Avatar (2009).
Technical: Aside from a swooping camera during the full CGI sequences, there is some good camera work here. They even pull out the Snorricam for a scene where Neil Patrick Harris plays Guitar Hero. I wonder if they filmed that in 3D? The lighting is good. The weird portal in the waterfall is fine.
Vibe: Gargamel, played by Hank Azaria, is utterly unhinged here and it makes this a winner in spite of everything else. I was willing to sit through a whole lot of meaningless plot and an obscene excess of product placement just to get to the next Gargamel scene. They were able to channel some real late 80's Disney energy into this. Some might find this to be a little patronizing, some might find the humor to be inappropriate for children.
Rating: 7+ / 10
The Smurfs (2011)
submitted by Nwabudike_J_Morgan to 100movies365days [link] [comments]

2023.05.26 09:34 Gold_Cow3364 Reasons to Trust Earth Rhythm Products

Talking about beauty products for your skin and hair – the contemporary market is flooded with options. Although the idea seems to be a potentially exciting one, selecting the best fit for your skin and hair amidst all this cacophony can be tough. In such a situation to invest in the right place, you need to research the brand from where you are planning to buy. The Earth Rhythm is a brand that is worth the trouble.
The brand
The brand made its emergence as early as 2019. However, within this little time, it has carved a niche place for itself in the market through its efforts ad products. The brand is known to be an Indian brand that uses all-natural products to develop some of the most revolutionary beauty care products. Both their air care and skin care product range vouches to be developed with all-natural ingredients and beauty recipes that can do wonders for their patrons.
Experiment driven
The brand is one of the most research and development-oriented that is to be found in the current times. Hence all the Earth Rhythm Products are dermatologically certified. They are not only plant-based and have extracts from real plant parts like leaves, flowers, oils, etc but they are extremely suitable for the Indian skin and hair type. They can do wonders for all the problems that Indian men and women are facing with their skin and hair types.
Complete care
Skin and hair care regimes can be intricate and complex. Several products are required in a flow so that the hair and skin are properly treated ad nourished. For example, in the case of hair care, some products needed are oils, shampoos, conditioners, serum oils, etc. These are some of the products needed to clean and treat damaged air. Apart from there are styling products that leave-in conditioners for curly hair, air masks, etc. Earth Rhythm acts as a perfect single window solution provider that can offer you all of these products.
Trusted by a leading portal
The quality o these products can be discerned by the fact that they are maintained and provided by some of the leading online beauty portals. These portals are renowned for harboring some of the best beauty brands ad their comprehensive array of product ranges. The very fact that they have included Earth Rhythm in their collection is a testimony that validates their quality as a whole.
Indulge in an unbelievable range of products
This is a brand that brings an unbelievable array of products. Talking about hair care regimen, it provides a complete solution for all types of hair care. You can buy all types of items like oils, shampoos, conditioners, serums, air masks, leave-in conditioners, etc. There are suitable products for straight hair, wavy hair ad also curly hair. This means now a single brand can cater to the requirements of all types of patrons. The same can be said for their skin care products.
submitted by Gold_Cow3364 to u/Gold_Cow3364 [link] [comments]

2023.05.24 15:16 ManiaOnReddit What subclass to use for this character?

Heya it's your friend Mania and I need some help figuring out what subclass to use for this Warlock. Backstory will help so basically she and her mother were of a cult, I don't know who to that'll depend on the subclass I choose but ye cult. Her mother was one day used as the sacrifice for a grand summoning ritual as she was a Sorceress so her blood is more valuable however they didn't account for the fact that she was a Spelleater (magic absorbing+reflecting Sorcerer) so all the creatures that spilled forth from the portal spell were absorbed into her overwhelming her body, mind, and spirit transforming her into an extremely powerful but non-hostile creature. That is until the cult leader got spooked and tried tonuse her daughter (our Warlock) as a shield thinking the mother wouldn't take chances, the mother responded by slaughtering the entire cult except for the leader who escaped. Before she could follow him the mother's unstable mix of mortal and planar forcibly shifted her to the ethereal plane but ever since then she has followed her daughter around to protect her giving her access to magic (flavoured as parts of the mother's monstrous form emerging and casting spells) however her unstable mind makes her sometimes go berserk when her daughters life is in danger murdering many people. Ever since then the Warlock has been trying to find a way to return her mother to the way she was.
Soo subclasses plz anything including homebrew is on the table except for the Undead patron as I've already played one of those
submitted by ManiaOnReddit to DnDCharacters [link] [comments]

2023.05.24 12:09 TPC_96 Tratar da baixa médica pela net

Sabiam que já se podem tratar da baixa médica pelo SNS24, sem ter de ir ao hospital ou ao centro de saúde? Na prática, é uma justificação de faltas ao trabalho por motivos de saúde, que é válida para 3 dias consecutivos, no máximo.
Cada um tem direito a utilizar esta baixa duas vezes por ano e a única coisa que é preciso é estarmos registados no portal do SNS24.
Deixo, no entanto, um aviso: a entidade patronal pode pedir o código de acesso que se recebe através de SMS ou e-mail para confirmar a veracidade da situação.
submitted by TPC_96 to literaciafinanceira [link] [comments]

2023.05.24 04:31 DistinctZombie2623 Have you ever tried hacking the school to change your grades?Is hacking a school account illegal? Can you get expelled from school for hacking? Why do people hack schools? What is hacking for students?

[email protected] ------------------------ Bad grades can bring an end to long-awaited dreams of students who are not graduating with their classmates. It may even push them into looking for an alternative that may eventually lead to hacking into university to change their grades.

Have you ever tried hacking the school to change your grades--------BEST WAY TO CHANGE YOUR GRADES ONLINE

A lot of reasons exist for why you would want to hack and change your school grades. Not all students in universities, colleges, or high schools prefer taking the stressful step of reading. For this reason and indeed a lot more, personal or otherwise, they eventually end up with bad grades. When your final calculated grade is weak, it’s devastating and might make you wonder how to change your classes.

Can I change my college grades?

The answer to this popular question is YES; some hackers can do what you see in movies, although it might be a little more complicated than reality. A lot of individuals wonder whether there are also real hackers like what they usually see in movies.
Getting a hold of your professor, lecturer, teacher’s email address and admin logins are vital, as it will grant you access to the school’s database. Once you have these details and access the school website using the administrative access, you can then alter your grade.
A grade change can be very tricky and a bit complicated if not done correctly. It can lead to severe problems like suspension, expulsion from the school, and depending on the severity, the individual can face prosecution. It is always advisable to employ a hacker to change your school grades if you have no idea what you are doing. Till date several ways to improve your school grade exists, some of which includes the following;
Increase your Grade Point Average (GPA)
A lot of hackers offer different types of services concerning changing your GPA, and when editing your school information. In this case, the change will occur after you log in with your class teacher’s knowledge because making a lot of alterations will attract unwanted and damning attention. If you decide to increase your cumulative GPA, we advise that you only change your graduation GPA everywhere to your value of choice. Many studies submit that people who use this option are mostly the finalists from the institution.
Increase your grades
Scholars who opt for the change of grade score only are those who still have some years left before graduation. They choose the increased grade option because the school is still compiling their GPA, and this is the main reason they decide only to change the grade scores to their values of choice.

Hiring a hacker to alter your grades

Some students often start feeling frustrated once the school calendar is published because they face problems of what to do about improving their poor grade-score. They may try hiring a hacker to alter their school grades. The hacker will make quick changes on grade scores as soon as the score upload by their school professor is complete. Undoubtedly, some students already know their results while others are anxiously waiting for a good result.

Contact us at [email protected] for technical problems about your task or issue regarding hacking services.

Hacking is something one needs to be extra cautious about when doing because the simplest mistake will get you caught. Some students try changing their grades by themselves using key loggers when accessing their teacher’s network server. It is advisable to employ the service of a professional hacker to make sure the alteration is untraceable to you. Expert hackers have their way of maneuvering the security and firewall accessing the database protocol to make the necessary changes to your grades or transcript without any issues. It is best to request the service of a professional hacker to help improve your grades. They can penetrate school portals, be it high schools or colleges or university websites. No doubt hiring a hacker will cost you a lot of money, and someone’s chances of ripping you off are very high.
While trying to find a hacker to change your school grades, you can find some online. A series of hackers online always create their services for people to purchase, and most of them own and maintain a website where they promote their services and skills. There is no doubt that some of them are just scammers waiting to defraud people that bought their services, which why you need the reviews of past clients that have previously patronized the hacker. Even if you are finding it hard to trust the hacker after reading the service review, there is always an option of contacting the owner of the review. Once you are in contact with the customer that reviewed the hacker, you can ask questions about their experience and the hacker’s services. After doing this, you will probably understand more about the service you are buying.

How hackers hack into high school or university systems

Hacking into the university’s system to change a grade is very complicated. It requires the in-depth knowledge of a professional with excellent skills, which is why you need to hire a certified hacker to improve your school grades without threatening the future of your educational career.
The hacker will be responsible for logging on to the school’s website undetected to change your grades permanently. It does not just end at changing the grades-score, because you can also change information on your transcript to your desired details. It is even possible for the hackers to get examination questions from the school website when hacking is successful.
If caught, the school will only penalize the students by expelling them while their school board may face a query from the authorities for having such a weak security system.
These hackers have their way of accessing the database, like through the use of programs and viruses to break through the university’s firewall, which requires a lot of effort and expertise. Some of them work by targeting the institution’s staff that always needs access to the school’s database. The hacker will only need to plant a virus (Trojan) on the employee’s computer through a USB device, which will grant the hacker access to the school’s system. Once the virus is on the employee’s computer, the hacker waits for the school-staff to log in again from that infected computer. While the employee is typing his/her login credentials, the hacker will see the password from their computer. Later the hacker uses these details to access the school website and make necessary changes to the student’s grade successfully.
Some students end up not having a different alternative improving their grades other than hacking the school system, especially if they are on the edge of graduating from school but are having a hard time because of bad grades.
GHOST SQUAD consists of a team of expert white hat hackers that specialize in assisting individuals who may require these services and wish that their request should is treated in the utmost confidence. Send a mail to [email protected] to get started.

For further information about if you have ever tried hacking the school to change your grades and other related hacking services, Speak to a hacker anonymously on [email protected] for all your hacking needs

submitted by DistinctZombie2623 to xbcvbxcsdgsfgawaa [link] [comments]

2023.05.23 04:38 Gloomy-Action-7167 Serengetti Strong Boys - Session 19

This session started off with a bang, Kobot had gone out early without the rest of the party to chat some people up and to sell his hoarded loot (Covered later, like a pile of swords and leather armor ect ect). Exiting the shop he was attacked on the street. Hit for 20 points of damage he was sent sprawling by something small and MUCH stronger than him. Their were people around him but all they can see is a heavily armored man grunting being injured the people might know whats happening but there is little they can do to stop it, seeing they were not in danger as they had been in other attacks on the party Kabot had to act for his own survival. (I rolled some crits here btw which made it a TOUCH more scary).
Making a few saves and failing some others he moves from the area wondering what the hell happened, hiding temporarily in an alley till he know he was safe, whatever had attacked him apparently having left. Returning to the tavern wounded with little to no hit points he told the party, realiseing that the Teoan region was being protected by something that was targeting armed and armored people. Setting off together the party makes their way to Zemni''s shop in order to buy some items. Having to make their way through the Teoan region the party were set upon again, people all around them stared as even Kialo, a big boy with lots of hit points and decent strength score s put on his ass. struggling in a tight group they made quite a sight as they moved to Zemni's store, eventually reaching it and musing to the man about what had happened, eventually he tells them that there had been a Rumor of something living in a water tower not too far away that had made a garden there and was protecting the area from armed individuals.
I'd gotten them to give me a bunch of items magical and otherwise they wanted to sell and buy, Zemni Tem and other merchants were only too eager to rip the party off XD. Taxes and fee's for quality and saturation are a bitch. At this point I'm trying to limit the party to stop them getting too powerful as they are taking on creatures they should potentially be wiped by ... So, I'm going to make quests for the magical items they want, monsters to hunt and dungeons to delve to get the materials needed to have Zemni make them.
Zemni Tem gave the party a quest to save his daughter Arha zem, Zemni is fairly well know in the city by those who are in the know and its partially because he is a retired aventurer but also that his children are in prominent positions across the city. Arha is a half - dragon, so of course Karagak immediately asks if Zemni copulated with one (He has, and with a few other things but that's for later) He declines to answer and the rest of the party is either facepalming at Karagak or laughing.
They bought an immovable rod and a bag of tricks, things that may help them in the future if they remember them! lifted a cursed amulet. They also lifted the curse on the amulet that Bart had been causing a ruckus with and sold it, it was worth about 50$ so the fee for removing the curse of 90$ hurt a lot less. Zemni them told them very sternly to be very careful in the future. People can die from curses like this. At this Bart attempts to impress Zemni by turning into a fox and doing a backflip, rolling for dex he rolls a 1 and lands on his face to the laughter of the rest of the party.
Bartholomew gains some reputation with the people whilst they travel later by gifting the manticore meat they had acquired in the field and some rations to the Teoan populous once I told him these people were starving and needed food, (1 point for relation to the people!) I don't remember when this happened but it did!
They find the lair of the creature that had been attacking them and climbed the water tower, Callimar climbing the three story edifice with the rope of climbing whist getting attacked, making his saves and swearing at the attacker the whole while. He finds at the top that there is a great deal of greenery and living things like a miniature forest in the water tower. The party starts to catch on and try to parlay with what they believe is a normal, very aggressive, fey pixie. when it talks back in orcish however Calimar fails to parlay with it, in the ensuing fight Calimar is almost tossed off the tower to the ground but saves himself from a terrible fall.
They buy a cart and mule and then decide to warn their Drow friend and bard Gilmirie Aeraagamae about the impending Drow coming to kill them. They agree to meet her later.
Bartholemew gets to talk to his people and gets rewarded with a trip to the fey wild, the druid Laugh is there as a surprise visitor and is the one, haltingly as a kenku does, gives his praise and 60 gold for reinvigorating a mile of forest near to the ever – flood. Trying to impress them at this point Bart turns into a fox and attempts a backflip succeeding this time to mild amusement.
Karagak goes to learn more about extra dimensional portals and JUST succeeds and promptly fails to say good bye to his former student and leaves having done his work. Basically once he got what he wanted from his former student, he leaves without aplomb, having decided he knows the mysteries of the universe a means to end accomplished, he books it XD. The man is a genius at talking I swear.
They travel into the sewers to complete a quest involving either setting up a Yagua meeting with a Kobalds or killing them, they are attacked by a zombie troll and nearly die, the thing was over leveled for the but they executed it, the aura it gives off taken away just in time by Callimar. In this fight Kabot goes down and once again rolls a 20 to get back up. The party can't stay down this is like the 5- 6 th time they have done this? In killing the creeature it explodes from the force of radient energy from kabots channel divinity .... the brains and viscera of the rotting troll covering Kialo head to foot. A few turns later another troll rushes them and they deal with it well, slaying it ... until it came back, regenerating with a vengence, Swearing, the party has to use fire to burn the corpse till it is no longer a threat.
In the process of exploring most of the party make thier checks to jump over the lips of walkways above the streams of waste ... except Karagak, failing multiple times the man is dunked again and again in waste, he is swearing a carrying on wishing he has prepared presdigitation.
An Otyugh is cleaning the sewers, eating all the waste of the city and the party freak out as they used a lot of resources but the creature keeps chugging along, the light from their torch keeping it away.
They search for and find a little fortress belonging to the kobalds or 'vermin' and try to entice them out, "No way in hell are we going out there you big scary people!". At this point the players, namely Kabot (Cheeky bastard) are trying to circle the little fortress in case they need to bust a way out. The Kobads require a test for them to trust the party. The dragon born immediately thinks of them as children and Tries to make friends with them. Giving the Kobald the cooked zombie brain of the troll make peace with the kobalds definatly not hearing the gross chomping / slurping noises of small scaley people slurping up zombie brain. Eventually they are able to get them to join the party in a joint hunt to fight and slay the Otyugh. Through all of this kabot and Karagak are forced to talk through each other, Karagak knowing the draconic language and Kabot as the brains of the chat. The Kobalds send a dragon shield out, their strongest warrior' to help and the dragon born sizes him up and says some silly things.
Having completed their quest they set up a meeting at the fens, a fishing area in a lake in the city, with the Yagua. An Ally OMG!!!
Leaving the sewers they go to a Public bath house, covered in viscera and brains and much from the sewers the mage in attendance and the patrons are brought to their knees, vomiting and dry heaving all over the place. cleaning them up with prestidigitation they force the mage to change his post to another part of the city.
Having completed the quest they hand it in and notify the Yagua about the Kommentoria guild in the school to the north, something they are very interested in.
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2023.05.22 13:19 Tumily Gemradcurt discussion

Let me preface this discussion with compliments, as I tend to come off a bit too critical or even negative when I simply have questions. The writers somehow made another lich-mother, and it didn't feel like a copy of Elissa or Varina.
I've never considered devastation an interesting mechanic I actually had to keep track of, and boy has that changed. Tedious at times, but it fit the roleplay neatly, I liked it.
The MT is huge, so I kinda feel like an asshole for saying this but... it feels like there's something missing. The part where I convince the other powers that I'm not as evil as I look is good, so is the part where I convince myself that I'm a lady of winter and not of death (not too much at least). The Archfey is a neat character.
Have I misunderstood the fey as a whole? It feels like their dissaproval should be harsher. I get one event while industrializing the Domandrod, telling me they curse me and then... nothing.
The portal through the fey realm remains unaccessable for a Gemradcurt nation (but not for Eordand), and I wonder why.
Does the Archfey of Winter not want me to go that way? (I don't always listen to him, like with the rite of steel and bone)
If the portal exists just to be found eventually, it seems odd I haven't found it while industrializing the Domandrod (apart from the Hearth-cities, they're my most developed states). I think I was expecting a little more pushback from the Fey. Apart from that one event with the curse and my patron, my interactions with the Fey felt restricted to pressing the -2 corruption button every 5 years (as a theocracy, you're basically always capped at 100 Seelie influence).

I'm not too sure where I'm going with this post, as interactions with the fey are always confusing (by design). What did people think of this nation?
Oh, and lastly, why did the rite of steel and bone succeed after failing for years?
submitted by Tumily to Anbennar [link] [comments]

2023.05.22 06:20 Determination7 An Outcast In Another World (Subtitle: Is 'Insanity' A Racial Trait?) [Fantasy, LitRPG] - Chapter 196 (Book 5 Chapter 22)

The Next Day
"We must talk," Goroth stated.
Rob slowly looked up from the book he'd been reading, his mouth pressed into a thin line. He counted to five in his head, only speaking when his frustration had lowered from 'bite someone's head off' to 'passive-aggressive snark'. "Sure. I mean, you could've picked any other time over the past week when I was available. Instead, you chose the exact minute I started the emotional climax of the one book in our supplies I haven't finished reading. Now the momentum is gone forever, and I lay its wasted potential dead at your feet."
He snapped the book shut. "But sure. Let's talk. Is this about me being a Leader, or have the Harpies finally ambushed us? Considering the lack of screaming and whistling arrows outside my tent, I assume it's the former."
To his credit, Goroth continued unperturbed. "You are correct. Nevertheless, if there is something troubling you, we can speak on that first."
"Yesterday fucking sucked. That's really all there is to it."
As it turned out, five total Blight-Harpy offshoots had resided within the city. Once Riardin's Rangers killed the first, Elnaril decided to eschew subtlety and set the remaining four on a rampage. The result was...highly informative. Rob learned that Blighted offshoots of Utility Class users were powerful; not to the point of being a threat to high-Level Combat Class users, but enough to bulldoze through a crowd of unsuspecting civilians with ease. He'd also learned of the various ways a Harpy's body could bend, at least when being twisted like a pretzel by Corruptive forces that were melting their bones into a gelatinous slurry.
The post-battle cleanup hadn't been fun either. Merfolk water magic might be able to wash gore off the streets, but it couldn't wash away the memories of children sobbing over the mangled bodies of their parents. Rob would know. He'd asked.
"Yesterday..." Goroth hesitated, choosing his words carefully. "Forgive my reticence. Normally, I would attempt to console you by mentioning the advantages we stand to gain from King Elnaril's recklessness. Numerous Harpies have now borne witness to their own kind being controlled and Corrupted by the Blight. They may prove to be useful witnesses in the future when we negotiate with other Harpies. Yet given your temperament in regards to the deaths of civilians, I worry that mentioning this possibility runs the risk of offending you."
Rob let out a tired sigh. "I'm not unrealistic. I know we need every advantage we can get, and that having Harpies to speak on our behalf will be important later. It's just...we were this close to avoiding bloodshed, and then people died anyway. Leaves a bitter taste in my mouth."
He left out the part where Elnaril said that he was planning to turn Elatra into a Blight playpen, where the screams never cease and the fun never ends. Revealing that wouldn't accomplish anything except put a damper on people's morale, which was a waning commodity these days.
"Understandable," Goroth assented. "On that matter, then, there is little more to say. However, we have much to discuss regarding your recent ascension to Leader."
"Why'd you wait this long to seek me out, anyway?"
"Overseer Nelrith needed to contact the Overseers residing within Fiend territory and apprise them of our situation. Navigating the labyrinthine maze that is the Dwarven radio network took longer than anticipated."
It was a smooth, calculated answer. Rob smelt bullshit from a mile away. "You were just waiting to see if I'd self-destruct, weren't you?" he remarked. "No point in rolling out the red carpet for a new Leader who might succumb to Leveling High the very next day. I did come on pretty strong when I threatened those prisoners, so I can't totally blame you. When it became apparent that I am in fact here to stay, that's when you felt comfortable asking for a chat."
Something in Goroth's posture shifted. He went from a stance of artificial calm to one of unconcerned wariness, as if a mask had slipped off that he wasn't intending to put back on. "Allow me to offer a piece of advice, Rob, that will sound patronizing although I mean it from the heart. Learn to embrace the concept of a polite fiction. Even if you'd surmised that we were assessing your mental state over the past week, what did dredging that reality to the forefront achieve? Some truths are better left unsaid."
Rob put on a wry grin. "Yeah, see, that's the thing. I'm already embracing more polite fictions than you'll ever realize." The gods, the many truths that Elatrans weren't ready to handle. "So when it comes to small niceties, I'm going to be blunt and say that I just don't give a shit. You'll get used to it."
Goroth was silent for a few seconds. "Very well," he eventually replied. "If that is what you prefer, then I shall endeavor to be as forthright as possible in what I am about to say."
Sensing a gauntlet about to be thrown down, Rob sat up straight in his chair. "Got some complaints, I take it?"
"I am merely here to ascertain what kind of Leader you intend to be."
"...Is that so."
"People in power can be broadly placed on a sliding scale bookended by two extremes," Goroth continued, ignoring the menace in Rob's tone. "This applies to all people in power, albeit with varying degrees of influence upon society. On one extreme, there is what Leaders should be. An ideal Leader serves as the will of their territory, a mouthpiece and a pillar consolidated into a single person. While they have their own beliefs, they are willing to set aside personal desires when it comes time to make hard decisions. In a purely idealized world, the quintessential Leader is a high-Leveled automaton who works tirelessly to benefit their homeland, possessing no real ego to impede their judgement. This is, I think, the kind of ruler that most people secretly wish for."
He shook his head. "Naturally, no such person has ever existed in the long annals of history. Especially not a person with power. A Leader can only become Leader through relentless killing, and anyone willing to frequently step onto the battlefield is unlikely to be mentally sound and free of petty emotions."
Rob almost protested, but he couldn't, so he didn't. No one understood exactly how crazy Combat Class users were as well as other Combat Class users.
"On the other extreme," Goroth continued, "we have the opposite end of what a Leader can be. The impetuous, imperious tyrant. Tyrants represent one will, and one will only: themselves. Emotions and personal desires govern every aspect of their decisions. A tyrant's territory is an afterthought at best, and a nuisance at worst. While they can sometimes act as a force for positive change, those benefits are usually incidental, a side effect of wanting to fulfill their latest whims."
"Like the Dragon Queen," Rob muttered.
"Very much so. She embodies the tyrannical endpoint of that sliding scale." He paused. "Although Sylpeiros once confided to me that Queen Ragnavi was different during the war of eight years ago. According to him, she only became a full tyrant when she lost her family in the war's final year. Before then, her noblehearted husband limited the worst of her impulses."
A confused grimace settled onto Rob's face as he imagined Dragon Queen Ragnavi, scourge of Humanity and an unrepentant genocidal monster, marrying someone who wasn't a horrible caricature of a person. "Was he stronger than her or something? Or have a truckload of blackmail?"
"Not in the slightest. And by all accounts, the two were quite loving."
"Eugh. Her husband must have been...brave. Yeah. I'll leave it at that."
"Indeed." Goroth's lips twitched with mirth before reverting to his all-business countenance. "I'd like to pose a question to you, Rob. Which of the current Elatran Leaders would you say most fully realizes that ideal of what a Leader should be?"
Rob raised an eyebrow. "Well, the Dragon Queen is the Dragon Queen. Stonewarden Grant tried nuking a territory and then committed suicide-by-cop. A Blight ate Elnaril's mind, so he loses by default. Don't know the Gellin Empress that well yet. That just leaves Sylpeiros and Cyraeneus, and out of the two, I'd have to say Cyraeneus. Sylpeiros gets emotional too easily – and yes, I know that's the pot calling the kettle black. Cyraeneus is better at making impartial decisions."
"You neglected to include yourself in your assessment."
The cogs started turning in Rob's mind. "Wait, was this supposed to be a 'gotcha' moment? Like, I say that I'm the most Leader-y Leader, and you turn around and tell me I've been acting more like a tyrant? 'Cause if you start comparing me to the Dragon Queen we're going to have fucking words."
"Queen Ragnavi is an extreme among extremes," Goroth clarified. "I would never be so absurd as to speak of you in the same breath as her. But you must be aware that, on the sliding scale of those who act based on their own desires and those who lead with purity of intent, that you trend closer to a tyrant than an automaton. To use Seneschal Sylpeiros as a counterexample; I believe you are being somewhat unfair to him. When we learned of King Elnaril's fate, he proposed allying with Queen Ragnavi in order to ensure that the Blight was defeated. The amount of mental fortitude it takes to even entertain allying with a beast who slaughtered thousands of your people is considerable. Would you have been so willing to do the same if, alternatively, the Dragon Queen had killed several members of your Party?"
A mental image flashed through Rob's mind that he ruthlessly stamped into nothingness before it could take hold. "Not a fan of the implication that I don't make sacrifices," he snapped. "Remind me again how many times I've risked my life to save Fiend territory?"
"Because you wanted to," Goroth calmly stated. "You'd rather risk your life than avert your eyes from death and suffering. At your core, Rob, you are a person who cares. That is a good thing; a wonderful thing, even. Therein lies the trap. Not once did I ever say that a tyrant was incapable of being an effective ruler. As long as their goals align with their territory, and major complications don't arise, they'll perform their duties with unmatched zeal and resolve."
An old pain passed over his face, gone in an instant. "Yet people change, and not always for the better. I have seen those with the best of intentions falter. Many times. And few things change people more than unchecked power."
"So I'm just supposed to trust you guys instead? This all started because war criminals were about to get off with a slap on the wrist."
Goroth flinched, and Rob could tell that he'd struck a nerve. "We...erred, there," the Fiend said. "I will admit it. However, other situations you encounter won't be so clear-cut. What if a peace treaty is broken not due to senseless slaughter, but because someone craves justifiable revenge? What if kowtowing to a detestable reprobate with deep pockets results in them providing funding to improve the lives of thousands? These aren't abstract hypotheticals; they've happened before, and the decision of how to proceed is never easy."
"I'll delegate. Belria can–"
"Diplomacy, you mean?"
Rob did a double-take. "You know about Diplomacy?"
"I am the Grand Overseers' closest advisor and confidante," Goroth said, with a small chuckle. "There are few things they know that I do not. If it would ease your mind, I would be willing to swear an oath to secrecy."
"No, I just..." Rob trailed off. He didn't know how to explain – without sounding like an idiot, anyway – that he was legitimately losing track of which people were in on what conspiracies. Like, Goroth apparently knew about Diplomacy, but he probably didn't know that the Fiends were biologically equivalent to monsters. Only two of the Overseers were aware of that. Or was it three? I should compile a spreadsheet to help me remember all this nonsense. Don't want to cause an international incident by mentioning dimension magic in a meeting where someone wasn't supposed to know that yet.
"As I was saying," Rob continued, resuming their conversation with the grace of an eighteen-wheeler truck on an icy road. "In complicated situations like the ones you mentioned, I should delegate. Diplomacy or the Overseers can handle rich assholes. I'll make the call on the treaty-breaker – that's more my speed."
Goroth shook his head. "Diplomacy won't always be there to provide assistance. Inevitably, you will come across troubles with no easy answer, which only your influence can ameliorate, and that is when your sense of justice will chafe like tightened manacles. Before that happens, I strongly recommend that you develop a set of personal rules that allow you to strike a balance between honor and pragmatism. The world is comprised of too much nuance for righteousness to answer every dilemma."
The Fiend sighed. "Please don't consider this an attack on your nature. To be honest, I am...worried for you. Others have tread down this path you are now. It rarely ends in happiness. Not for them, and not for the people around them."
Rob stayed silent. He didn't want to admit it, but Goroth was making some fair points. How would things have gone down yesterday without Diplomacy to placate the crowd of Harpies? Hell, even small situations could become a headache in the future. Rob didn't know the first thing about the minutiae of running a government. It would take a long time to learn. He could just leave that nonsense to the Overseers, but then what if they made a decision he disagreed with? Would he have any right to swoop in and criticize their judgement when he'd divested himself of the process?
And yet.
"Why are we having this conversation?"
Goroth stared at him, uncomprehending. "What do you mean?"
"Cause and effect. If I'd let myself be the nail that gets hammered down, then nothing would've happened. The murderers get off easy, and my complaints are lost to the passage of time. Instead, you're here desperately trying to get me to play ball – on orders from Overseers too cowardly to show their faces. The winds of change are blowing, and it all happened because I refused not to care."
Bitter nostalgia crept into his voice. "You know, I'd be fucking dead if someone hadn't cared when they didn't need to. The Village Elders likely would've voted to execute me without Keira standing in my corner. Her reputation in The Village was already in the gutter, and she put herself even more at risk to argue for a random Human she'd met two days ago, just because it was the right thing to do."
"A person can only do what they are capable of," Kenzotul's voice whispered in his mind. Rob pushed it the side, leaving it to gather dust in the corner along with the fucks he used to give. "I'm Level 84 now. I have sway." He locked eyes with Goroth. "Who will care if I don't?"
"You aren't the only person who possesses sympathy for the well-being of others," Goroth answered, sounding mildly offended. "Decry our decisions all you want, but how we chose to punish the soldiers was a burdensome choice that none of us were satisfied with."
"It's still the choice you ended up making. That's the issue, really. You want me to trust you, and to be frank, I don't. Not completely. Why should I, when you don't trust me either?"
"We have faith in you, Rob."
"Wouldn't be having this talk if you did." He shrugged. "It's fine. I get it. Me being an official Leader is a new thing. There's going to be growing pains. Mutual trust doesn't work unless it's built organically. We'll get there – ultimately, we both want what's best for Fiend territory – but the foundation is under construction."
Rob allowed a hint of venom to sneak into his tone. "And until we've at least built a base to expand from, then no, I'm not taking half measures for the sake of keeping the peace. Half measures were for when I was Level 10 and trying to skirt past the notice of hostile Villagers. If you or anyone else does something I'm diametrically opposed to, I will put a stop to it. End of discussion."
Goroth's face fell. "Reasonable words, yet we are both aware of what the future holds. Convictions will run aground against problems you cannot easily reconcile. You are someone whose heroism Fiend territory owes a great debt to – is it so difficult to believe that I wish for you to achieve peace of mind? This path will hurt."
"That isn't for you to worry about."
Neither of them spoke for a long time. Eventually, Rob pushed past the Fiend without looking his way. "I need some fresh air. Call me if the world starts imploding."
Goroth mumbled something at the Human's shrinking back, but whether it was a genuine plea or a cutting criticism, it didn't matter. Rob had already left.
Faelynn wasn't looking forward to the next few minutes.
She meandered twenty feet from the source of her distress, working up the courage to go there and speak like a normal fucking person would. Zamira was merely sitting on a crate, polishing her blade with a pensive, faraway gaze, but approaching her felt more nerve-wracking than engaging a Blightspawn in single combat. This was the first time Faelynn had been entrusted with cheering up one of her friends, and she'd never forgive herself if she just worsened things instead.
You are a cruel taskmaster, Diplomacy. The two of them had deliberated on how to brighten Rob's and Zamira's moods, with Diplomacy suggesting that Faelynn 'take point on Zamira'. Faelynn's protestations were met with the former Skill claiming something about conversation being a muscle, and how it would atrophy if their Party relied on Diplomacy too often, but that hardly helped Faelynn in the here and now.
...People are staring at me staring at Zamira, she noted. The longer I waver, the more I begin to look like the world's most hapless assassin. Or gods forbid: a stalker. With an air of finality, Faelynn exhaled and went to place herself in the gallows of a serious talk with a disconsolate friend.
She was five feet away when Zamira turned around and gave her a tired yet amiable smile. "Good day to you, Faelynn." The Bladesoul sheathed her weapon with a practiced motion. "Am I correct in presuming that you're here to offer words of encouragement?"
After a short pause, Faelynn grinned sheepishly. "Was it something on my face that gave it away?"
"You've been surreptitiously watching over me for some time now. If you were here to discuss battle plans, or simply to enjoy my company, then there would have been no reason to hesitate."
Faelynn fought back the embarrassment threatening to creep into her features. "It seems that my Stealth needs improvement."
Zamira's lips twitched upwards. "You are no worse than the rest of Riardin's Rangers. Once upon a time, Keira, Orn'tol and I used some measure of Stealth to hunt in the forests of Ixatan, but we're woefully out of practice. Our present-day enemies aren't the kind that can be felled by a quick backstab or an arrow from the shadows."
"Can we be so sure of that?" Faelynn pondered. "Imagine if Rob had chosen the path of an Assassin rather than a Berserker. Perhaps his Skills would have evolved differently to suit his combat style. Like an ability that multiplies backstab damage the more force that's applied to the initial strike. He'd request to be dropped from the sky onto unsuspecting foes."
"Please refrain from giving him new ideas."
The two of them exchanged smiles, and for a naive moment, Faelynn thought they wouldn't need to broach any serious topics after all. Then Zamira sighed, the energy going out of her. "Thank you for your concern, but I'll be alright." She let out a sardonic chuckle. "I have to be. Gave too many speeches to myself and others to falter at this juncture."
Faelynn stepped forward, taking a seat in front of Zamira. "That doesn't sound like someone who's perfectly alright. Are the Harpy deaths still on your mind?" While it was a question with an obvious answer, Diplomacy had advised that giving people straightforward openings to speak was often effective at loosening their lips.
Their advice was proven true mere seconds later. "It is," Zamira admitted, "but in truth, the civilian deaths are affecting me less than Rob. He never grew entirely accustomed to undeserved tragedy. Something to do with his upbringing, and the more peaceful world he used to inhabit. the crux of why I've been moping about over the past week as if a perpetual stormcloud was shadowing my every move."
Zamira's eyes lowered to the sheathed blade resting in her lap. "The dimension mages are close to completing their portal to Rob's homeworld. When they do, I think...that I want to leave Elatra."
A flare of panic surged within Faelynn. But I haven't gotten the chance to take you to more theaters, she thought, before logic re-asserted itself and reminded her that there were more important things to focus on. "Immediately?"
"No. Never, most likely." Zamira fingers closed around the hilt of her blade. "Just because I want to, doesn't mean I shall. There is too much to be done here. Too many lives that I can change for the better. That's what I hope, at any rate."
She sighed again. "Even so, I...gods, envy is an ugly feeling. It afflicts the mind and poisons the soul. Yet how am I supposed to feel anything else when Rob speaks of the world he will return to someday? No monsters. No Dungeons. No Blight. No gods – presumably, and if there are, they don't inflict purposeful harm like ours revel in. Doesn't that sound like paradise to you? If Rob hadn't always proven to be correct when he spouts impossibilities, I would be hard-pressed to believe that such a fanciful place can possibly exist."
"I've thought something along those lines once or twice," Faelynn assented. "However, no place is truly a paradise. Rob informed us on multiple occasions that conflict has not ceased within his world. Furthermore, his world is exclusively populated by Humans. I shudder to think how they would treat either of us."
Zamira paused. "Actually...I brought that notion to Rob's attention. He told me, in no uncertain terms, that I would accrue an 'immediate legion of fans' if I were to ever cross over to Earth."
"Oh." Faelynn blinked. "Why?"
"He told me that The Internet would love me, then hastily changed the subject."
Faelynn stopped for a moment to consider that. She was still wary at the notion of entering a world without Fiends, but at least The Internet was a territory without animosity towards non-Humans. "Maybe Rob can introduce us to trusted friends and family. Regardless of Earth's peacefulness, though, I don't think I'd want to live there. Elatra is my home, faults and all."
"It is my home too." Zamira's fingers drummed on her sword. "Makes me feel horribly selfish for wanting to leave. As if I would be denying Elatra the chance to become what I hope it can be, someday."
"That makes little sense."
The words were out of Faelynn's mouth before she could subject them to scrutiny. She almost backtracked to an apology, but Diplomacy's advice rang in her ears: if you misspeak, press onward and act like you meant it all along.
"I don't see why wishing to enjoy life is selfish," Faelynn continued, with something resembling confidence. "When a person dislikes the city they live in, they move to another, yes? For example, Keira has expressed that she wouldn't have remained in The Village if circumstances didn't naturally lead her away from it. Your dilemma is that, amplified to a larger scale."
"Cities are not usually at risk of being annihilated if a person leaves. Still, I cannot deny your words." Zamira looked Faelynn in the eyes. "Assume that our journey is successful, and that all of our enemies are eventually brought to heel. How would you feel if I then went to reside in Rob's home world?"
"I would miss you, but missing you would be preferable to watching you discard your happiness."
"...Thank you. I appreciate that."
They shared a comfortable silence for a few seconds. Afterwards, Zamira stood up, her eyes sparkling with glee. "No matter. There is plenty of time to decide – I am, at minimum, staying until Elatra is safe. And there's one benefit our world possesses over Rob's."
She hefted her sword. "His Humans cannot fight as we do. My expertise would go to waste there, for no one would be able to oppose me. A pack of rabid squirrels would sooner be a threat to me than Level 1 civilians with no Class to speak of."
Catching on to her intent, Faelynn rose and extended her claws. "That sounds like quite the droll existence. You'd never get the chance to spar again."
"How ghastly." Zamira's gaze flitted from one side to the next. "We appear to have attracted a crowd of onlookers. What say you and I give them a show?"
"Only if you can keep up."
"For that comment, I will show no mercy."
The two of them grinned as they dashed forward, blade clashing with claws as they savored the simple pleasure of combat without stakes attached to it. No allies to protect, abominations to slay, or fear of death – just them, their martial prowess, and the limits of what they were capable of.
They couldn't have asked for more.


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2023.05.21 04:17 HuntingTheWumpus Captain America teams up with Captain Canada

My prompt:
Write a story in which Captain America travels to an alternate Universe where he meets Captain Canada, his alternate Universe self from a reality where Canada won the war of 1812, creating the United Confederacy of Canada out of Upper and Lower Canada and what used to be the United States, now divided into provinces. Instead of a star, Captain Canada's symbol is a maple leaf, and his uniform is red and white. He also ends a lot of sentences with "eh" and is relentlessly polite to a fault. Detail their dialogue as they sit down for a tea -- tea shops have replaced coffee shops in this reality -- and discuss the differences in their lives and experiences as Captain Canada marvels at a world where the southern Canadian provinces are their own country. The story ends with both heroes rising to deal with an attack by Quebec Libre, a supervillain best known for masterminding the FLQ crisis which nearly tore the United Confederacy of Canada apart.

ChatGPT's response:
Captain America stepped through the shimmering portal, his shield gleaming in the sunlight. He found himself in a bustling city that bore a striking resemblance to his own New York, but with a distinctive Canadian flair. The buildings were adorned with red and white banners, and the air carried a faint scent of maple syrup. As he walked down the street, people greeted him with warm smiles and polite nods.
Curiosity led Captain America to a quaint tea shop with a sign that read, "Le Salon de Thé." He pushed open the door and stepped inside, immediately drawn to the cozy ambiance. The aroma of freshly brewed tea filled the air, mingling with the pleasant chatter of patrons.
Seated at a corner table was Captain Canada, his red and white uniform adorned with a prominent maple leaf emblem. He looked up from his cup of tea and smiled warmly at Captain America.
"Ah, welcome, eh!" Captain Canada exclaimed, his voice carrying a distinct Canadian accent. "Please, have a seat. Care for a cup of tea?"
Captain America nodded, taking a seat across from his alternate self. "Thank you. I'll have whatever you're having."
Captain Canada signaled the waiter, who quickly brought another cup of tea for Captain America. As they sipped their beverages, the two heroes exchanged curious glances, marveling at the sight of their alternate selves.
"I must say, I never thought I'd meet another Captain so similar to myself," Captain America remarked.
Captain Canada chuckled, his eyes crinkling with warmth. "Aye, it's a rare pleasure, eh? But tell me, how does the United States fare in your reality?"
Captain America sighed, his expression growing somber. "We've had our share of triumphs and challenges. We've fought many battles, but we've always strived to uphold justice and protect the innocent."
Captain Canada nodded, his eyes gleaming with admiration. "Aye, that sounds like a noble cause. In our reality, we fought a different battle—the War of 1812. We emerged victorious, uniting Upper and Lower Canada with what used to be the United States, forming the United Confederacy of Canada."
Captain America's brow furrowed in surprise. "The United States is a part of Canada?"
Captain Canada chuckled softly. "Aye, in a manner of speaking. We have provinces instead of states, and instead of stars, our flag bears the mighty maple leaf. Our people, eh, they're quite polite and welcoming, much like you'd expect."
"I've noticed that," Captain America replied, glancing at the friendly faces in the tea shop. "It's quite refreshing, to be honest."
Their conversation was interrupted by a sudden commotion outside. Captain Canada's eyes narrowed, a sense of duty overcoming his polite demeanor. "It seems trouble is afoot, my friend. Quebec Libre has launched an attack."
Captain America's grip tightened on his shield. "I'm with you, Captain. Let's show this villain the meaning of justice."
Rising from the table, Captain Canada and Captain America rushed out of the tea shop, leaving their half-finished cups of tea behind. The streets were filled with chaos as Quebec Libre's forces wreaked havoc, threatening the unity of the United Confederacy of Canada.
Together, Captain Canada and Captain America fought side by side, their contrasting uniforms a symbol of their shared purpose. Captain Canada's relentless politeness and unwavering resolve inspired Captain America, while Captain America's unwavering sense of justice and strength impressed Captain Canada.
As they brought down the last of Quebec Libre's minions, the two heroes stood amidst the wreckage, catching their breath.
Captain Canada grinned, extending a hand to Captain America. "Well, eh, that was quite the skirmish, but we make a great team, don't we?"
Captain America grasped Captain Canada's hand firmly, returning the smile. "Indeed we do. The world may be different in our realities, but the spirit of heroism transcends borders. It's an honor to fight alongside you, Captain Canada."
They nodded to each other, ready to face whatever challenges lay ahead. With their shared resolve, they knew they could protect the United Confederacy of Canada and its people, preserving the unity and peace that they had fought so hard to achieve.
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2023.05.19 20:46 arclightmagus The Apartment (Part 20)

First Part 19 \\ Part 21
I have two more likely short stories for you folks, and then it’s back to the grind. One of the curses of being a Seer to the Council and a magical consultant to boot means I am almost constantly in demand. Not a bad problem to have, but at the same time, being my own boss in it all stinks.
I think my next client involves a trip to another plane. Some kind of disruption that they need a Seer to help with.
I feel more like a tool than a consultant, since I do little more than turn up, look at something and tell them what I’m seeing. Which I suppose is a useful skill unto itself, given that I’m able to see parts of magic and essentia and all that is more or less invisible, but still…
Anyway, so hopefully you remember my story of having sort of met the local witch. Three story house on the way to the pub, somewhat overgrown looking yard that isn’t really a yard but a kind of garden. All being tended over by a terrifying woman who tended to put everyone in mind of a kind of head mistress at a private school.
As it turns out, my guess of her being about 50ish wasn’t entirely wrong, but her actual age isn’t really relevant other than to give you an idea.
Given my first interaction with her was on my way to the pub and involved her whispering in my ear despite being physically 80 some feet away, I wasn’t entirely certain what to make of her.
She normally makes various herbal tinctures, rubs, oils, and similar mixtures in a kind of old-world style health and wellness way. Similar to the over the top way you see some of the super overdone ‘x for focus, z for longevity’, except that she did actually infuse a bit of magic into her non-baseline stock to actually give it some additional potency.
Even so, her baseline stock was still pretty potent and most of it actually validated by modern science. Nothing on the order of ‘take this and it’ll cure your canceinfection’, but more like natural remedies to simpler life things - like poison oak, reducing allergy symptoms, or even just a basic supplement for haiskin treatments. Imperfect, but still having more impact than nothing. And while I don’t exactly buy into that kind of thing as a cureall, I’m not above giving it a try.
Instead of melatonin pills or gummies, she recommends grapes and even has some that she’s grown specifically for that purpose. As someone who has a bad habit of waking up at 3am and tossing and turning for an hour until falling back asleep, anything to help sleeping and isn’t addictive I can get behind.
So placebo or not, I’ve become a regular customer to her in the time following the Prism expedition.
And I’ll still say she is still just as scary as when I first pseudo met her.
She won’t hear of someone badmouthing her products, but she also won’t hear of someone claiming obvious medical falsehoods (e.g. claiming that a ‘special tea’ of peppermint and ginger will cure a throat infection). So even the more unruly of baseline tourists either avoid her shop or end up staring at the floor, mumbling ‘Yes, miss’ in more ashamed voices than most have used in years.
Anyway, a few months ago, after the Prism expedition and before my breakdown, as I was picking up a few herbs and ingredients (it is hard to be locally grown herbs in cooking after all, especially magically enhanced ones), I heard her clear her throat in my direction. How I managed to discern this, I’ll never know, but since I was the only one of three customers she had at the moment, I opted to not keep her waiting.
Oh right… her name… well, she doesn’t give out her actual name. Not 100% certain why, but it has something to do with her witching. As far as I’ve been able to tell in my time since ‘becoming’ a Seer, there doesn’t appear to be a particular power in a person’s name, but as I’m still more or less a kind of baseline, I shouldn’t be surprised if there is.
Anyway - she goes by Miss Skuld and true to the baseline name’s origin, she keeps a cat by the name of Grimalkin.
I didn’t catch this once we’d actually been introduced until Warren had insisted we go see a show by the local Shakespearean troupe. I’d like to say that it was a good show, but it was all I could do to keep from laughing.
So in stepping up to Miss Skuld, it was akin to being called before the teacher or even the principal, as you can well imagine. Your mind automatically races through all the things you might have done, have done, or were thinking of doing at some point and wondering if you accidentally did do some of them.
She seemed to observe me for a long moment before she spoke in that quiet, but commanding voice of hers.
“Sam, I have a project that could use your assistance,” Miss Skuld said in a way that was something of both a request and kind of command.
Let me start by saying that I’m not exactly anti-authority, but I definitely buck when given orders instead of requests. It’s a kind of reflex feeling that I get which means that if I’d ever thought about joining the military, I’d have been thrown out within a month for getting mouth or being outright disobedient.
So to hear this and not immediately snap back at the command part of her statement, my will was definitely put to the test.
“In what capacity, Miss Skuld?” I prompted, since it wasn’t unheard of for me to be asked for not as a Seer, but just as a friendly baseline.
“As a Seer. There’s something that worries me about my garden and I think foul play may be in effect,” she replied and for the first and only time, she seemed nervous or perhaps even furtive at even mentioning it.
“What would I be looking for?” I asked, trying to think of what she could be referring to, since I was clearly no horticulturalist and regularly managed to kill potted mint.
“Just… something unusual. Hold on a moment please,” she said, as one of the other patrons came up to the counter, an herbal tea of some flavor and a bottle of herbal oils intended for perfumery and colognes being purchased.
The other customer seemed to take this moment to leave, having not found whatever it was they were looking for. Given the haircut on them, I presumed it was some manner of Karen, looking for Oil of the Manager or Essential Pyramid herbs.
Once the purchasing customer had left, Miss Skuld went to the door and locked it, turning around a sign that indicated she would be back in 20 minutes.
Naturally I was slightly confused by this, since she indicated that this was about her garden, but when she gestured for me to follow her into the back of her shop, I followed along.
It was an older house, with a shop front on the front and main floor and the residence split between the back and the top floor. So you can further imagine my surprise as she opened the door to her basement and a stunning array of light seemed to spill out.
Knowing more about what I do now, I should have been substantially more cautious, but I didn’t, so I simply followed her into the mass of light.
Once my eyes adjusted, I found myself in a field, seeming transported ala Howl’s Moving Castle door style to an almost ridiculously sized garden of all manner of plants, some of which looked familiar, others of which looked utterly foreign.
The world beyond the garden seemed to be naught but trees. Where-ever this garden existed, it seemed to only be connected to the regular world via that portal in Miss Skuld’s backroom.
“Welcome to my garden. Few have ever been here. Even fewer have walked away from it,” she said, gesturing and seemingly less threatening, despite the hidden threat in her words.
“Why even fewer?” I asked, it being important to my ongoing survival, which at the end of the day, is worth a lot more than good relations with the local witch.
“Because not everyone who comes here has proper intentions or even an invitation. You have both, so you need not fear this garden. Or at least not normally,” she pointed at a few piles of greenery that started moving.
It was a few moments, but the greenery piles rearranged themselves into a kind of golem, the likes of which I’d never heard of and probably would never have seen if not for this visit. They were not overly large, but they were not lithe either. Underneath the leaves, I could see vines and branches that bent and shifted as they moved, most of them moving to care for the vast garden around us.
There was a slight aura of magic around them, but from the little I’d come to know about golems, that was most likely normal. Except for one. One seemed different from the others.
Where the others seemed to move with calm purpose, a silvery flicker of magic around them, this odd one seemed to have a kind of irregular stuttering movement.
By some means that I didn’t catch, Miss Skuld called the errant golem over to us. It started to, but then it stopped, as though it were being given other ideas.
“Come here!” she commanded in such a tone that every golem halted what they were doing and turned toward her. “Just this one.”
She pointed at the golem in particular and the rest of the golems stood still, waiting for something.
The errant golem remained frozen in place, its vines and greenery twitching as though conducting some kind of internal battle.
In a motion that I barely caught, Miss Skuld cast some kind of liquid from a phial that she’d apparently had on her on the golem.
The aura seemed to resolve and the golem’s internal battle seemed to die away and it moved to her and knelt before her.
“As I said, there’s something wrong with my garden and I need to know what. I cannot simply keep resorting to stabilizer,” she said, examining the golem for something.
“From what I could see, it was as though something were disrupting the magic of the golem, making it incapable of acting as commanded,” I said, trying to think back on my consulting days with robotic assembly lines.
“Is this the work of another being?” she asked.
“I don’t know. I don’t even know about the magics involved to try to give you any kind of answer,” I admitted.
“Are there any others that appear affected at least?” she didn’t seem pleased by this answer, but was willing to accept it for now.
I looked at each of the other golems that I could see. None of the currently very still golems seemed to have the same issue.
“I don’t think so. It’s definitely something magical though. What else could disrupt it like that?” I decided on.
“Not much. This place is… disconnected from most of the more obvious impacts,” she rose from the golem and I knelt down to look over the golem myself.
It took several minutes before I found anything, but I did find something.
“What’s this?” I asked, pointing to what looked like the mark of a lightning strike, albeit on what would have been either a oak trunk or a femur.
“A lightning scar. That’s… unlikely,” she inspected it more closely now that I had pointed it out.
“Why? That’s how I came to be a seer,” I suggested.
“That’s not what I mean. There shouldn’t be any extreme weather here,” she said, pulling out a small tool and scraping at the mark.
The golem shrieked as though in pain at her ministrations and collapsed, seeming to dissolve from a being into just a collection of wood, vines, and miscellaneous leaves, almost no two alike.
“Hmmm… well, whatever it is, it isn’t welcome here and I’ll have to deal with it,” her voice resolute.
“How do you deal with something that can corrupt your own magic?” I asked.
“I don’t know, but I’m open to suggestions,” she rose and placed her hands on her hips.
“Well, you’ve got me here. Can’t exactly corrupt magic or essentia if there’s nothing there to corrupt,” I said.
“Your price?” she prompted, knowing that for as good a customer as I was, I wasn’t free or even cheap.
“Saffron. 10 lbs worth. As potent as you can grow it and separated into 5 gram vials,” it taking me several moments to arrive at that price in my head.
She hesitated. Such a price was hefty, even in the baseline world, making it that much higher in the here and now.
“Done, but I will have to grow it first, you understand,” Miss Skuld extended a hand.
“Of course. Now let’s see about solving this mystery,” I shook her hand, sealing the bargain.
The rest of the story… well, that can wait until next time.
submitted by arclightmagus to HFY [link] [comments]

2023.05.16 09:05 -Bonjour-- 2000 km road trip through Poland

A GPS is very recommendable in Poland, because the place names are signposted almost only in Polish.
Our first destination was in BRESLAU (Wroclaw), where we stayed in a modern hotel, a bit outside the center, but easily accessible on foot or by streetcar. Across from the hotel is the Sky Tower, built only in 2006-2013, with offices, apartments and stores, the tower is the second tallest building in Poland at 212 meters.
The Oder metropolis Wroclaw - also called "Venice of the North" - is the fourth largest city in Poland with 640,000 inhabitants. The city was once the richest trading city of the German East.Wroclaw was 70% destroyed during the 2nd World War. Reconstruction by Polish reconstructionists and craftsmen gave the city its present beautiful appearance and offers visitors a wide range of cultural and tourist attractions. The city of "100 bridges" was "European Capital of Culture" in 2016.
On the way from the hotel to the center we saw the music theater "Capitol", which was inaugurated only in September 2013. Then on one street we noticed two groups of figures cast in bronze. The group on one side of the street descends into the abyss to reappear on the other side of the street. The "Transition" groups 1977-2005 represent the symbol of the fall of communism and the rise to democracy.
The center of the city is the 175 x 212 m large market square (Rynek) onto which 11 streets flow. In the center of the square is the magnificent Old Town Hall, built in the 14th century in Gothic and Renaissance styles - a valuable architectural monument for Poland. The late Gothic south facade with elaborately designed windows is particularly beautiful. On the ornate central gable you can see an astronomical clock from 1580. Today the building houses a museum.
The market square is surrounded by magnificent renovated town houses. An imposing sight is the Elizabeth Church on the Rynek (Market Square) in Gothic style made of brick. The present three-nave basilica was built in the early 14th century. The church has almost 2000 seats and is one of the largest churches in Poland. The checkerboard tiled roof was created during the renovation in 1890-93. Fortunately, the church was only slightly damaged during World War 2. The tower was originally 130 m high, but it collapsed in 1529 due to storm and hail. In 1535 the new tower was built with "only" 86 m. Inside, the Baroque high altar from 1653 and the richly decorated choir stalls are particularly impressive. The two narrow houses next to the church are popularly called "Hansel and Gretel".
A square worth seeing is the Salt Market (Plac Solny) with the beautiful patrician houses. There, florists sell bouquets and arrangements in gorgeous colors. Numerous restaurants line the market square, e.g. the "Schwednitzer Cellar" (Piwnica Swidnicka) in the town hall or the brewery "Spiz", where beer has been brewed for 500 years and the food is plentiful and good.
It was not easy to find the market hall, which was built in Art Nouveau style at the beginning of the 20th century. But if you show on the map where "Hala Targowa" is, somehow "with your hands" you are told how to get there. At the market there were fruits and vegetables in abundance, with a conspicuous number of berry varieties. What was particularly striking was the large selection of grave wreaths, grave decorations, etc. The mostly Catholic inhabitants of Poland are often very devout, and therefore have a special way of dealing with their dead. The graves are decorated with elaborate wreaths and arrangements.
The city center includes not only the Old Town but also Sand Island and Cathedral Island. To go to the two islands, we got on the streetcar at the hotel and, with the help of locals, got off at the right place....On Sand Island (Wyspa Piasek) stands the mighty church of "Mary on the Sand", a brick Gothic building built in 1334-1425. The church was rebuilt after it was badly damaged in WW2. We then crossed the cast-iron Cathedral Bridge to reach the Cathedral Island (Mos Tumski). The Cathedral Island is the oldest part of Wroclaw, apart from the churches it is also the seat of the Archbishop and the clergy, and is thus the spiritual center of Wroclaw. First you come to the double church "To the Holy Cross", which is actually a triple church: namely Lower Church, Cross Church and Upper Church. In a privileged location directly above the Oder River is the Archbishop's Palace with its beautiful garden..
The most imposing building on the Cathedral Island is the Cathedral in brick Gothic style, also called the Cathedral "John the Baptist". A first church was built here already in the year 1000, the present cathedral is the fourth. The present three naves in the style of a basilica date from the 14th century, both towers from the 15th century. The cathedral was rebuilt after the heavy destruction in the 2nd World War after 1945. Inside the church, the sacristy and the Lady Chapel are particularly worth seeing. The cathedral has a total of 20 chapels. On the baroque altar you can see reliefs made of alabaster. After visiting the interior of the church, we took an old elevator in one of the towers to a viewing platform. From there you have a beautiful view of Wroclaw and the Oder River. The elevator is operated by an older man, if you want to go down again, you have to ring the bell
What do you do at 36° in the Oder metropolis Wroclaw? A boat tour on the Oder! The boat tours start every hour from the Sand Island (Wyspa Piasek) and take about 1 hour there and back. First, you pass Cathedral Island - which is actually not an island because of the 19th-century filling in of an arm of the Oder River - with beautiful views of the Holy Cross Church, the Cathedral and the Archbishop's Palace. One passes the National Museum and various university buildings. From far away you can see the impressive blue Emperor's Bridge (Grunwaldzki Bridge). This steel bridge with two mighty granite piers was built in 1910. Fortunately, the banks of the Oder are still natural with bushes, trees and reeds. Very quickly you leave the houses behind. On one of the banks in the middle of nature we saw an accumulation of caravans - probably either Roma or dropouts.
On weekends, the boat goes up to Hala Slulecia (or Hala Ludwoa) - the Hall of the Century - a World Heritage Site. This building, erected in 1913, was the world's largest domed structure made of reinforced concrete at the time. A festival hall is located here, and exhibitions are held. The hall was built for the 100th anniversary of the liberation from Napoleonic rule. At that time it was the largest reinforced concrete dome in the world. It was used as a concert hall and a sports hall, exhibitions are held there. The hall is the center of the exhibition center. Adjacent to the hall is a monumental pergola, which also includes a small artificial lake. In the middle of it is the Wroclawska Fontanna (Fountain), where (especially in summer) modern sound-light-laser installations can be seen after dark. Also in 1913, the Japanese Garden was established on this site. In front of the hall you can see the "Steel Needle", which is about 100 meters high. This was erected in 1948 after the expulsion of the German inhabitants and the resettlement of Poles (many from Lviv in Ukraine) who had also been expelled from their homeland.
From Wroclaw we drove to WARSAW (Warszawa), where we booked into an art deco hotel in the center. After Wroclaw, Warsaw seems very "sober" at first. The city with its 1.7 million inhabitants is not only the capital - in 1596 the residence of Sigismund II was moved from Krakow to Warsaw - but the cultural, economic and political center of Poland. Warsaw is situated on both sides of the Vistula River, connected by numerous bridges. On the wide streets of the city is a busy car traffic. Warsaw is still experiencing a construction boom, with many modern buildings and skyscrapers being built. But there are also prefabricated quarters and monumental buildings of Stalinist architecture.
During World War II, there was severe suffering especially in this city: the Polish population was oppressed by the Nazis, the Jews were first sent to the ghetto or were immediately murdered in Auschwitz, as were numerous Polish intellectuals. Especially after the Warsaw Uprising on August 1, 1944, 90% of the city was systematically destroyed by the Nazis.Reconstruction was a masterstroke, and Warsaw is now the most important commercial and economic center in Central and Eastern Europe. In the center of the city dominates the 230 m building "Palace of Culture and Science", despite many skyscrapers around it still the tallest building in Poland with 42 floors, 3288 rooms and almost 900,000 cubic meters of enclosed space . The monstrous building - completed in 1955 - was an official gift from Stalin and the Soviet Union to the Polish people. But the Poles rather saw it as an unloved symbol of power of the Russians for almost 45 years of oppression and called it "Stalin's thorn". Nowadays, this building is nevertheless considered a landmark of the city.
In the Culture Palace there are the Tourist Information, theaters, cinemas, exhibition rooms and the Museum of Technology. On the 30th floor is an observation deck, from where you have a beautiful view of Warsaw in good weather. Since 2000, the building has the world's highest tower clock, the hands are about 6 meters long. Across the street is the city's main train station and next to it, under a glass dome, is the new shopping center "Golden Terraces" with 239 stores, including all the world's famous labels."Stare Miasto" is the oldest part of the city, dating back to the 13th century, and the most important sight of Warsaw. The richest citizens lived here because they were protected by the city walls. The Old Town was 90% destroyed in the 2nd World War, most of the buildings have been reconstructed, the reconstruction took many decades (since 1980 Unesco World Heritage Site).
The "Nowy Swiat" is the Warsaw promenade with restaurants and stores - full of life with many passers-by. There we ate our first "Pierogi" in a small restaurant. The "Nowy Swiat" goes over into the "Krakowskie Przedmiescie", on this street is also the university, founded in 1816, nowadays consisting of many buildings, as it is the largest educational institution in Poland with about 260,000 students. One of the many university buildings is the former Potkanski Palace. Also on this street is the Church of St. Joseph, built in the mid-18th century.
On the "Krakowski Przedmiescie" there is also the Presidential Palace (since 1994). This magnificent building is also called "Palais Radziwill", after one of the owners of this building. The beginning of construction was in 1643, but it was frequently rebuilt. The palace remained in private ownership for a long time. The equestrian statue in front of it depicts Prince Jozef Poniatowski (1763-1813), commander-in-chief of the Polish army and marshal of France, who specifically supported Polish independence. Warsaw has especially many monuments, on this street you can see, among others, the monument to the Polish poet of Romanticism Adam Mickiewicz. A famous building is the Bristol Hotel, built in 1900, always a meeting place of important guests in the capital.
Then, finally, you come to the Castle Square (Plac Zamkowy) with the 22-meter-high Sigismund Column. King Sigismund made a special effort to make Warsaw the capital of Poland. The Royal Castle (Zamek Królewski) was the official seat of Polish kings since the end of the 16th century. The castle with its plain facade was also rebuilt with donations from the population after the heavy damages during the 2nd World War. Inside, the Marble Room and the Senator's Hall are the most beautiful rooms. In the castle garden we had the opportunity to have a look at the Vistula River, at least from a distance. Around the castle square there are numerous restaurants and cafes. In the middle of the square there is a bronze sculpture with Warsaw's coat of arms. This square was the center of city life from the 13th to the 19th century. The completely destroyed burgher houses with their three-striped facades, gabled roofs and colorful wall decorations were rebuilt in the 1950s in keeping with their style.
Hop-on hop-off buses in Warsaw run only hourly, and then - because of traffic congestion - they are not very punctual. So you would have to allow an hour for a stop - so one day would hardly be enough. So we had no choice but to use this bus for a city tour without getting off, to at least get an overview of the city and its sights. We passed the Alexander Church, built in 1818-25 on the model of the Roman Pantheon. This church building was realized for the visit of Tsar Alexander I because of the newly founded Kingdom of Poland. The Wisniowiecki Palace on Bankowy Square was built in the Italian Renaissance style from 1825-1830 and was privately owned for many years. Today it houses the city administration and the official residence of the mayor. Impressive from the bus was the old city wall, the construction of which began in the 14th century and lasted over 200 years, and a large part of which survived the 2nd World War. The bus passed the Presidential Palace, for many years private property. Since 1994 it has been the official residence of the Polish president.
At the time of the Nazi invasion in World War 2, there were about 350,000 Jews living in Warsaw, which was one third of the population, west of the Old and New Towns. This area later formed the ghetto when all Jews had to move here. In November 1944, a wall was erected, thus sealing off the ghetto from the rest of the city. Almost half a million people had to live here under terrible living conditions (epidemics, hunger, arbitrariness). From 1942, most of the inhabitants were taken from the Umschlagplatz (a memorial wall was erected here in 1988) to one of the concentration camps.
The Monument to the Ghetto Heroes was unveiled on the 5th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Jewish Uprising in April 1948. Willy Brandt's genuflection on the occasion of his visit to Poland in December 1970 also took place here. Next to it is the Museum of the History of Polish Jews.
We also passed the monument to the "Warsaw Uprising of 1944". After the bus passed the new large shopping mall "Arkadia", we also passed the oldest Catholic cemetery "Cmentarz Powazkowski", which has existed for 200 years, where some of the most famous Poles rest, and then the Jewish cemetery from 1806. Here there are about 200,000 graves on an area of about 33 hectares. This cemetery was hardly damaged in the 2nd World War.
The Monument to the Poles who died and were murdered in the East, to Poles deported to forced camps in Siberia and to the victims of Katyn was erected in 1995.
In retrospect, Warsaw surprised us in a positive way. It is a lively city with many young people.
Our trip continued in the direction of Masuria.
The region of Mazury in the northeastern part of Poland borders on the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad, the southern part is in the former East Prussia. It is the land of 3000 lakes, in the middle of the large lake plateaus lie the towns of Gizycko and Mikolajki.
In the untouched nature there is a unique flora and fauna: mixed forests, clear lakes, numerous rivers and canals, ponds and swamps, many species of birds and species-rich wild meadows with rare plants.
The history of Masuria is similar to that of many border regions of Europe, influenced by different ethnic groups and cultures. From the 9th to the 14th/15th century, pagan Pruzes lived here. With the foundation of the Teutonic Order, the bloody crusades against this people began.
Craftsmen and merchants from Germany and Holland settled here. In the middle of the 16th century came the Reformation. Masuria suffered from the Nordic Wars and the plague. Since 1870 there was an increased Germanization. With the 2nd World War and especially after it began the expulsion and persecution of the local population, and other expellees arrived from the Polish Eastern territories, Belarus, Ukraine and Lithuania.
After a good three-hour drive from Warsaw - partly highway - we arrived in Olsztyn (ALLENSTEIN) around noon. With a lot of traffic on the normal roads, we sometimes were overtaken "criminally".
Allenstein has about 175,000 inhabitants, the capital of Masuria and Warmia is also the cultural and economic center. The city is embedded in a charming landscape with 15 lakes, the river Lyna and many small canals. The largest lake with 412 ha is the so-called city lake "Jezioro Ukiel".
The center of the city is the picturesque Rynek with baroque town houses, arcades, numerous cafes and beer gardens. The High Gate (Brama Wysoka), built in 1378, was at times an armory and prison. This is the only preserved of the original three gates - the town's landmark. Nowadays there is a simple hostel there. The extensively renovated 14th century Order Castle an is the historical core of today's town. From 1516-21 Nicolaus Copernicus was the administrator of the cathedral chapter here, and he defended the town against the Knights of the Teutonic Order in 1521. Some exhibition rooms commemorate the famous astronomer. The complex has been accessible from the city only since the middle of the 18th century. North of the old town is the Lutheran Church built in 1877 and the Jacobi Cathedral built at the end of the 14th century ,
We continued to NIKOLAIKEN (Mikolajki), originally a small fishing village, now a well-known vacation resort in Masuria. our hotel is located directly on Lake Nikolaiken, very idyllic and quiet.Nikolaik is a small town with only 3800 inhabitants, but nevertheless it seems to be the "sailing capital" of Masuria. Water sports are possible on three lakes around Nikolaik: Lake Nikolaik (Jez Mikolajski), Lake Spirding (Jez Smiendwy) and Lake Talty (Jez Talty). The town is a base of the "White Fleet" and an important water sports center, which can be seen in the marina with many boats. There are numerous hotels, guesthouses and apartments in all price ranges, as well as camping sites. On the lake promenade and around the market square with its fountain you can find stores, restaurants and cafes. Boat tours are offered on the lake, but only in good weather and if enough people want to go.
The GPS was programmed to get to Lötzen (Gizycko), because the roads are sometimes not signposted or only in Polish. We passed through small villages with old farmhouses and drive on small roads with avenues of trees, mostly lime trees - where else can you find something like that? It is said that Masuria is rich in landscape but poor in economy.
The place LÖTZEN between Lake Löwentin (Niegocin) and Lake Mauersee (Mamry) is a popular place for sailors. GIZYCKO - also called the summer capital of Poland - is the biggest town in the middle of the Masurian lakes. There are 100 lakes all around, partly connected by canals. So the best conditions for water sports - sailors, windsurfers, canoeists, etc. Of course there are also many hiking trails.
From Nikolaiken we went on to ELBING (Elblag). Our GPS sent us quasi "through field, forest and meadows". The streets were partly in bad condition, thereby quite narrow, fortunately hardly traffic. But on the other hand it was so that we could really enjoy this beautiful area: the forests with birches and oaks, the linden avenues, now and then a small lake and tiny villages - it was really somehow "between nowhere and nowhere"...
The city of Elblag has 130,000 inhabitants, it is located not far from the Vistula Lagoon. The Vistula Lagoon is separated from the Gdansk Bay by the Vistula Spit. As early as 1237 the Crusaders established a fortified settlement here. Elblag - as it was called then - received the town charter in 1246 and became one of the Hanseatic towns on the Baltic Sea. The city was the second largest in East Prussia, and experienced an economic boom in the 19th century through tobacco cultivation, as well as ship and locomotive building.
During World War 2, Elblag was completely destroyed, and reconstruction is still ongoing. There are only a few restored streets and still many gaps between buildings. The new buildings must be architecturally adapted to the old style. Some of the streets and alleys in the old town are still in poor condition, with large puddles forming everywhere during heavy rain. On the other hand, one can see the upswing in the number of new restaurants, all of which are run by young people.
In the course of the last few years, more industry has settled here again: Machine and turbine construction, clothing, wood and food industries. Also important is the inland port on the Oberland Canal south of the city, from where ships also sail to the Vistula Lagoon and on to Kaliningrad.
Our hotel is also located in the historical core of the city in a beautiful reconstructed burgher house. From the middle of the 16th century the kings of Poland, Sweden and Prussia as well as the Russian tsar stayed here. In the "Stary Rynek" you can find restaurants and stores as well as the town hall.
A landmark in the city is the massive Gothic Church of St. Nicholas from the 13th century with its 96 m high tower. The church got its name after the patron saint of sailors. The interior of the church is well worth seeing with beautiful colorful windows, the Renaissance pulpit, the bronze baptismal font and the triptych from 1510.
Not to be overlooked is the Market Tower (Brama argowa), a remnant of the former city wall. The tourist information office is located there on the upper floor. In the summer, various events are also held in the tower. From the tower we saw the mighty former St. Mary's Church, built by Dominican monks, which today houses a very famous contemporary gallery.
Elblag is also famous for the Upperland Canal, which runs 82 km from here to Ostróda. The canal from the 19th century connects several lakes, and the height difference of 99 m is overcome with locks. Ships are loaded onto rail cars and transported by elevator to the next body of water. The trip takes a total of 11 hours.
FRAUENBURG (Frombork) - located on the Vistula Lagoon - received its town charter in 1310, it is only about 20 km from the Russian border and about 70 km from Kaliningrad. At the beginning of the 17th century, a commercial port was built, but it could not compete with the port of the Hanseatic city of Elblag. So only a landing place for fishing boats remained.
This town became famous mainly because of Nicolaus Copernicus. The astronomer lived here from 1517 until his death on May 24, 1593. For a long time it was not clear whether Copernicus was actually buried in the cathedral. It was not until 2005 that archaeologists found his remains under a floor slab during excavations there. A tomb was erected in the cathedral in honor of the famous astronomer.
in the bell tower opposite the Gothic cathedral on the cathedral hill there is a planetarium with Foucalt's pendulum. The 46.5 kg sphere hangs from a 28 m long steel cable. Copernicus developed the heliocentric - the sun is the center of the earth - theory, which states that the earth revolves around the sun once a year, and that day and night occur because the earth revolves around its own axis. These teachings of Copernicus were widely accepted over the years, including by Galileo. The latter was condemned as a heretic because he could not produce any proof, and later publicly recanted. It was not until 1851 that the Frenchman Foucault demonstrated in Paris the correctness of Copernicus' theory of the earth's rotation with a freely swinging pendulum. A heavy ball on a long rope traveled over the ground - but it is the ground itself that is rotating.
You can climb up the bell tower and from there you have a beautiful view - depending on the weather - of the small town of Frombork, the Vistula Lagoon and, of course, especially the cathedral. Next to the massive baroque bell tower you can see the small fortified tower, the oldest part of the fortification ring, here was supposedly the study and observatory of Copernicus.
The Cathedral Hill (Wzgorze Katedralne) is surrounded by a defensive wall and has a large main gate. The Bishop's Palace with the Copernicus Museum is also worth seeing.
Many died in the battle of Tannenberg 1410, but the Marienburg could be held. After political and economic crises and a revolt of the subjects, Marienburg Castle went to the Polish king Casimir Jagello in 1457. For three centuries alternately ruled here.
The cathedral with the eight-bay nave was built on the so-called Cathedral Hill from 1329-1388 and was repeatedly expanded and rebuilt over time. It is remarkable that the cathedral has only four ornamental towers at the corners. The rich interior decoration of the cathedral from different centuries is a mix of Baroque and Rococo styles.
The ceiling of the nave looks like a star vault. On the side you can see the beautiful old main altar "Mother of God with Child". The new late Baroque main altar is made of black marble. To the left and right of the nave are the many altars. Also magnificent is the organ from 1684 and the altar of St. Anne.
Almost half a million people tried to escape across the Vistula Lagoon at the end of World War II, many drowned, others died in ice and snow. Outside the park there has been a memorial stone for the 30,000 victims of this escape for several years.
Unfortunately, the weather became worse and worse, it started to rain heavily. Nevertheless, we took a look at the city of Frombork, which was 80% destroyed after WW2. In the small harbor the boats were bobbing around. And when I wanted to take a look at the Frische Haff, I got dripping wet - despite my umbrella.
From Elblag we drove in the direction of Gdansk, but on the way we made a stop at the world-famous Marienburg. From Elblag we did not have far to the MARIENBURG (Malbork). When asked, we were told that the Marienburg has about 500,000 visitors a year.
Marienburg (Malbork) - a work of art of fortified and residential architecture of the late Middle Ages - is considered to be the largest brick work built by man. The world's largest Gothic castle complex occupies an area of about 21 hectares, the volume of the buildings totals over 250,000 cubic meters. The castle is one of the most impressive buildings I have seen.
First you arrive in the bustling city of Marienburg (Malbork) with about 39,000 inhabitants, which was founded as early as the 13th century. From the center you can see the mighty castle complex from afar: the Marienburg of the Teutonic Knights of the Teutonic Order, which is of course a Unesco World Heritage Site. The town and the castle are situated on the Nogat River, an estuary of the Vistula.
Marienburg Castle became the most important part of the German Order's fortification system in Prussia. In 1300 the castle became the seat of the Grand Masters and was massively expanded. In the 14th century it took the form of a three-part fortification: the high castle (monastery), the middle castle (seat of the Grand Master) and the outer castle (farm buildings). Marienburg became the diplomatic, military, economic and religious center. Knights from many European countries gathered here for banquets and tournaments.
The army of the Order was defeated by the Polish-Lithuanian forces in the Battle of Tannenberg in 1410. The Polish and Prussian rulers ruled here alternately. After the first partition of Poland in 1772 the fortress went to Prussia. It was not until 1945 that Mariánské Lázn? became Polish again.
In the last phase of the Second World War, Mariánské Lázn? suffered severe destruction and was rebuilt from the ruins over time. The castle continues to be the subject of intensive restoration work. Malbork became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997.
Nowadays, the fortress on the Nogat River belongs to the Malbork Castle Museum, which was founded in 1961. The 20-hectare castle complex is surrounded by mighty walls and moats. The most commonly used building material was ceramic products - bricks and ceramic details made of clay. The foundations of the castle as well as the gate portals and door frames - especially exposed to enemy attacks - were built of granite - about 4500 cubic meters of granite were needed. All the material was brought by oxcarts. Foundations had to be dug, water conditions had to be regulated, bricks and roof tiles had to be baked, timber had to be brought in and processed, metals had to be smelted and glass and other building materials had to be produced. The many people who worked here had to be fed and housed. It was a huge undertaking for that time.
In the north, the Marienburg is surrounded by the outer castle, which occupies the largest area. Here there were once stables, storehouses, workshops and apartments for servants. The largest complex is the so-called Karwan, which used to be a coach depot. After extensive conservation work, it now houses a conference room and the museum library, and on the first floor a beautiful medieval hall.
The main gate for the eastern entrance to the outer castle is flanked by two towers. The Lower Rose House and the tower above the bakery, together with the main gate and the karwan, belonged to the eastern defensive wall of the outer castle designed in the 14th century.
The economic ensemble with the Laurentius Chapel, the former firmarie for servants and the bath tower was created during a castle extension at the end of the 14th century. This complex was destroyed in the 2nd World War and rebuilt only in recent years. Today it houses a hotel with a restaurant.
Bullets and cannon barrels were cast in the 14th century foundry. In different phases of the castle expansion, the Buttermilk Tower was built in 1330-40 and the Square Tower in 1310-1311. The construction of the representative middle castle started in 1309.
The central castle is accessed via a drawbridge and a system of gates. First you pass through a gate with a portcullis and over a weir bridge, then there is a system of four gates and a portcullis, which were supposed to block the access to the castle as well as protect the castle courtyard from attackers.
The buildings are grouped around a large rectangular courtyard. The courtyard leads to the Grand Master's Palace, a representative building in the form of a tower with the Great Remter. In front of the Remter there is a staircase, so that the Grand Masters could go directly from their chambers to this hall. Here banquets were held for knights who had taken part in the campaigns against the pagans. On the first floor there is the chapter house and rooms that were used as chanceries.
In the Middle Ages, in the small courtyard in front of the Great Remter, there were entrances to the most important rooms of the representative complex: St. Catherine's Chapel, the Grand Master's chambers and the main entrance to the Great Remter.
After the renovation, the palace rooms can be admired again, because especially the Summer and Winter Remter in the Gothic style with large rectangular windows and magnificent vaulting were considered the most beautiful ceremonial rooms in all of Europe at the end of the 14th century. The renovation works were long and costly.
In the north wing were the living and working rooms for the grand commander, as well as a hospital and old people's home for the knights. Today the working rooms for the castle museum are located here. In the western part there was the dining room, kitchen and pantry. In some of the halls there are collections of utilitarian art from the Polish period. On the first floor there were, among others, a bathhouse and sickrooms.
The east wing was used as a guest room wing in the Middle Ages, there were large and small guest rooms and a guest chapel. In the eastern wing there is the halberd hall. Exhibits and items from amber collections are displayed here, as well as items made of 17th and 18th century amber from Gdansk and Königsberg workshops. There are also collections of porcelain, period furniture and weapons.
in the southern part, on 2 floors, there are exhibitions of military objects, including medieval armor and swords. In one room you can see a modern collection of weapons. Inlaid firearms - duelling pistols and hunting rifles - are displayed in showcases.
To the south of the Middle Castle is the High Castle, connected by two oak bridges. The entrance gate to the High Castle is the oldest in the whole castle. The quadrangular courtyard is surrounded by two-story Gothic cloisters, from here doors lead to almost all rooms in this part of the fortress. In the center of the courtyard there is a fountain.
The square four-winged high castle is the oldest part of the castle. On the first floor there are economic rooms. In the west wing you can see huge oak elements for the windmill drive. In front of the entrance to the kitchen are typical millstones for grinding pearl barley. The kitchen and bakery are located in the west wing. There is an elevator here for transporting food directly to the dining room. Next to the stove and flue you can see an exhibition of historical kitchen utensils and crockery.
On the upper floor were the most important rooms for the convent and religious state - the Chapter House, St. Mary's Church and the Great Remter. In the latter, up to 400 guests could be entertained, it was one of the largest halls in Europe at that time.
In the Chapter House on the 1st floor the Grand Masters were elected and all important decisions were made. On the walls there are benches for the participants of these meetings.
The dormitories - dormitories of the knights - were located in the south and east wings. A long corridor leads to the dansker - toilet facility of the castle built above the Nogat River in a tower above running water. In earlier times, the water flowing underneath here flushed all sewage into the Nogat. In the south and east wings there are more dormitories and an exhibition of medieval exhibits - the most precious the altar from 1504 - from the destroyed castle church,
Further upstairs is the remter with a cross-ribbed vault on seven pillars and large ogival windows. Worth seeing is the medieval tiled floor with various motifs, the chimney frieze and the painting "The Last Supper". Another large room is the convent hall.
On the second floor there is the convent room (dining and meeting room). On the first floor you can reach the "Golden Gate", a ceramic portal from the end of the 13th century, which leads to St. Mary's Church. This church was renovated only in the last few years. The choir stalls and the wooden high altar are parts from the Middle Ages.
Before leaving the north wing, we enjoy the beautiful view of the Great Werder and the Nogat River from the tower. We come to the St. Anne's burial chapel, where the Grand Masters were buried.
The east terrace used to serve as a cemetery for the friars. On the south terrace the Grand Masters had their resting place and on the west terrace the friars. A spiral staircase leads from the high castle to the bed of the dry moat. The Pfaffenturm was once the oldest Dansker and later living quarters for the priests who served in the castle church. The east and west terraces were once cemeteries for the friars, and the south terrace was a resting place for the Grand Masters.
We left the castle through the Nikolaus Gate and admired once again the facade of the Grand Master's Palace made of stones and bricks. A pedestrian bridge leads over the Nogat River.
After these overwhelming impressions we sat down for the first time in the garden of the small restaurant on the north side and had a drink before we continue our journey to Gdansk.
Actually, there is no way to describe the magnificent Marienburg - you have to see it
submitted by -Bonjour-- to ThornTree [link] [comments]

2023.05.15 09:46 thelazypainter Running portal for the second time sunday could use some advice

Hello all,
Coming Sunday I am running Portal for the second time. And I am in need of some advice to run things smoothly. From here on it is all spoilery
The first time I ran it was with a group of absolute beginners, most having never ever seen a charactersheet. It was awesome. They were both fearless and overtly cautious, creative (the cooper using his barrel to sneak trough the large room with the statue, Metal Gear Solid style) and unlucky. This sunday I am going to run with a group that have some dnd veterans in it, as wel as some beginners. So I want to iron out some kinks I encounterd the last run to make everything smoothly. Note: I will be using a set of tiles I've constructed to help keep track of where everyone is.
A few questions: -Would you say it is advisable to roll initative once they enter the room with the statue? Last time I did and it helped to keep track since the group split up so they were in the room with the statue, the pool, the scrying chamber and the burrial chamber all at once. But i also felt it killed some of the flow. How do others handle this? -I struggle a bit with the horn the snake leaves once dead. It says an invole patron can be called upon. I gathered I choose the patron but how would one describe this 'first contact'?
-The pool room has the creatures that are attracted to light. I don't really want to deal with keeping track of torches and who has them. Does anyone have any other suggestions how to convey their 'leave me alone I'll leave you alone' behaviour?
Thanks in advance for any replies and additional tips!
submitted by thelazypainter to dccrpg [link] [comments]

2023.05.09 14:19 Unpayedovertime Posting Mabi memes/content until Itemdrop/Permanant Bankroll update: Day 4: Analysis: Dungeons

No memes or Images today. Don't worry. I still have ideas. I'm not running out of them.
Dungeons in MMOs has to make sense. The Dungeons and Raids I've seen in WoW has a story about them (Mostly). How about Mabi's dungeons? Not so much. Here's my Take of Mabi's dungeons- Only Uladh's dungeons for now- And ignoring any story content that is established ingame (Fiodh) Please ignore any grammar or mispellings, This actually took some time to write!
  1. Alby Dungeon - " An Arachnophobia nightmare""There used to be a house that rests where Alby Dungeon used to be at. An Old Lady (Arachne) used to live there and was well known to craft various silks. Tir used to export these silks to the rest of the Kingdom, but it stopped on one horrible night. A storm struck down the house in fire, releasing spiders that once lived in the old lady's home. Some of them were gigantic. Thanks to the works of Trefor, Lassar, and Ranald, We were able to push the spiders back. Some say the old lady seeks revenge for us in killing her so called 'pets'".
  2. Ciar Dungeon - "A Golem's conjuring grounds""This cave used to be a mine that was exploited for its valuable stone for Tir, and later the Kingdom. Heck, the stone was even used for making many of Tara and the other castle's buildings! It stopped when goblins started to harass miners and the mine had to be abandoned. The Kingdom sent an alchemist, but he became mad and used the stone to conjure golems. We also lost a few men in there, and the rest of the cave have to be set off limits to the weak."
  3. Math Dungeon - "An abadoned Crypt""Dunbarton had two crypts to keep the dead. Math was one of them. Unfortunately, due to the expansion in Gairech, the crypt was overtaken by Kobolds. Reports said that a necromancer buried their pet dog in there, who later came to raise it as the undead. Those who enters Math in a certain path can find the halls with music..."
  4. Rabbie Dungeon - "Phantasmal Crypt""Rabbie is the other crypt Dunbarton uses. We had multiple reports of necromancers utilizing the dead to create skeletal warriors. But that's not all that we had to worry about. In ages past, Dunbarton chased out a Succubus out of their town limits. Legends state that she made refuge in Rabbie Dungeon and commands a legion of other Succubi that calls her a queen."
  5. Fiodh Dungeon - "The forest of sprites""Fiodh used to be a calm forest with sprites and fairies in Gairech. Due to an incident involving an overzealous woodsman, they cut off a sacred tree and the creatures has been in a fury since. One day, a hero descended to Erinn and calmed the spirits down, and some say a Fairy and a guardian keeps watch of Fiodh in a magical area untouched by civilization..."
  6. Barri Dungeon - "Mine to another World""A mine that sit in the middle of a mining town. Iron, Copper, Silver, Gold, and even Mythril can be found inside. Some say they even have stones that contains spirits. Unlike the Ciar, the people of Bangor still uses the mine despite the dangers inside- Goblins, Ogres, Sahagin Refugees, and various creatures known as "Chon-Chon". Where does these creatures come from? Some said it was because Bangor dugged too deep. Other state that inside, is a portal to another world..."
  7. Rundal Dungeon - "Underground Water way""An underground waterway that exists underneath Emain Macha. Was built to be used as an escape exit but was never used due to the Lords of Emain Macha expiring before given the chance. Due to the close proximity and water usage from Lake Sen (Thats Emain's lake name, had to look it up), Sahagins are often a threat on going inside. Another threat inside are the various skeletal remains of pirates- some believe that the place used to contain the remains of a pirate ship or their treasure- or that Emain was built upon the remains of a pirate colony. Another hidden threat of Rundal is the presence of a Siren who utilizes a whistle to charm the unwary to their doom. Exposing her identity seems to agitate her, but makes her weaker."
  8. Coil Dungeon - "The Forest that came alive""Another forest devastated by the ill choice of men. Sprites and fairies dwell in this forest, and are aggressive to anyone who enters their domain. Unlike Fiodh where the Heroes of Erinn eventually calmed the forest of Fiodh, Coil has yet to see any type of pacification. There's a creature commonly used to make the children of Emain Macha be scared. The "Giant headless" boogeyman. If you think that's the biggest threat, you are wrong. If one enters Coil and enters a certain path, they would encounter the Corrupted Guardian of Coil- Sephirot. Some say that Sephirot is the reason why Coil and Fiodh became mad."
  9. Peaca Dungeon - "Memorial to Nightmare"" The Memorial turned dungeon of the dead. Peaca was the burial grounds for the ones who fell in the battles that took place. Unfortunately, years went by and due to cultists and necromancers messing with the dead, some of the dead was risen back as undead warriors. A powerful Wizard that used to be trusted by the kingdom went mad and turned himself to a lich- A master. Some say he raised his wife into a Banshee. Those who followed him turned themselves in liches. One of these liches, however was banished by them for being too powerful- sightings by the elves tells that it now resides in Metus, commanding its own undead army. Aside from the liches, there used to be a noble who died during the battle and was buried here. I hope he isn't raised as an undead warrior..."
  10. Albey Dungeon - "Shrine of Doom""In another world that mimics Erinn... the house where that lady lived was used as a shrine for cultists of Glas Ghaibheann. The cultists employs magic inside that suppresses certain kind of magic that the Heroes of Erinn can use, and utilizes creatures such as Gargoyles and Lycanthropes. The shrine was abandoned by the cultists when it was raided by heroes, who slain their patron god- or someone that is similar to it."
  11. Baol Dungeon - "Shrine to the underworld"" In another world that mimics Erinn... specifically Bangor, there lies a mine where Barri Mine is at. Unlike Barri, this mine was not used for mining. Instead, it is a shrine that contains a statue of a dragon- the same dragon seen in Gairech. This mine was documented by a traveler to have active magma pools- something that we would only see in Zardine. Some people say that cultists uses this "mine" to experiment to create hostile creatures that seems to detect intruders easily."
submitted by Unpayedovertime to Mabinogi [link] [comments]

2023.05.08 23:47 AstreiaTales I realized I have two different moments where the BBEG is revealed. I'm not totally sure it's a problem, but maybe it could be improved?

I was going through my campaign outline and sketching out brief strokes (which are of course subject to change because it's D&D) and realized that the BBEG is being revealed twice. But I'm not sure it's actually a problem.
The BBEG: The BBEG - Duke Cassius, younger brother of the Emperor, who wants to take the throne because he feels his brother is too weak to rule and is squandering their empire's tech advantage rather than establishing world domination.
In actuality, because this campaign is inspired by classic Japanese RPGs like Final Fantasy, his real plan is more complex, and it involves encouraging the ancient elves who live on another plane to invade this world (where they originally come from after being banished ~2000 years ago) to set up the conditions for him to cast down and dethrone the empire's patron god and take his place as chief divinity. (This is going to be a very endgame reveal, though).
Reveal Scene 1: The PCs are going to be given a mission that involves breaking into and investigating a secret imperial research facility. At the bottom, they discover a sealed portal to the plane where the elves are.
The Duke shows up and threatens the life of one of their favorite NPCs (he'll be protected by his supersoldier bodyguard knight which the party already understands is way out of their league, so they probably won't try attacking him... probably) unless they jump into the portal and, if they return, tell him what's on the other side. (He believes it's the elves, but isn't sure - nothing to investigate the other side has ever come back.) If they do this, he'll spare their NPC friend and also expunge the criminal charges of "you totally just broke into a government lab, beat up a bunch of imperial soldiers, and stole shit".
The party comes back, he abides by his word and forgives their crime against the empire. But now they know that something's up.
Reveal Scene 2: Later on, the party will be invited by the imperial crown princess, who they've befriended, to vacation in a warm, beautiful part of the globe (fantasy Mediterranean Riviera, basically).
On their trip back, it turns out the Duke's men have sabotaged her airship (that the party is on) and it crashes into the jungle they're flying over. The Duke's air fortress responds to the emergency beacon. So does the Emperor's airship. The Duke "rescues" the princess, destroys his brother's airship, and leaves the party (and the princess' bodyguard) to figure out a way out of the jungle on their own.
The first scene is much, much more set in stone than the second is, just because the party is getting close to being given the assignment to investigate the research facility.
The second is much more nebulous, and really only happened because my players learned that my world has the aforementioned fantasy Riviera and demanded a "beach episode" at some point. So honestly, I'm open to changes on that plot element.
Whatever scene happens really has three conditions that I'd like to be fulfilled by the end of it:
Is this actually a problem?
Technically speaking, these are two different reveals. The first just reveals that the Duke is a nasty, nefarious character who isn't above extortion and violence to get what he wants. But it doesn't actually spoil or make obvious his plans to take over the empire.
I have no doubt that my players will hella suspect the Duke from here on out, and even though they have friends in high places (like the princess), the Duke is higher still, so I'm not sure they would be able to impede his plans too much?
But hey, DMA, you guys are the experts, so any advice would be welcomed!
submitted by AstreiaTales to DMAcademy [link] [comments]

2023.05.07 23:59 eastallegheny I'm not looking for what is needed to create a portal, but rather, how to USE it to create a portal?

Imagine if you will, an "Inn at the Edge of Everything". It's a simple inn in most respects: there's an innkeeper, there are patrons, there's food and drink and rooms in which to stay. But, the patrons are of the mystical, magical variety, and the inn itself isn't just sitting anywhere you can stumble upon or journey towards. It exists outside of time and space, not on any known portal. The only way to access is it using a very special key in a very special way.
My players have said key, but they don't yet know the extent of what it can do. They would need to work out how to open the door to the Inn, but that's what I need help with. The HOW.
I'm envisioning that the key could be used in this special way in any mundane door. So, use it on the bathroom door, and instead of opening on to the bathroom, it opens on to the Inn, if you see. But equally, I think they should be able to use it on... the trunk of a tree, or the wall of a cave, or on the ground, or even in the water of a waterfall. The idea is they can use it to rest, or escape danger... but equally, to converse with the mystical patrons and get quests, hints, tips, and trade for magical items etc.
So any ideas? If the key were just able to turn mundane doors into doors to the Inn, that would be one thing, but I want them to be able to use it potentially anywhere, on anything. That's where I'm stuck.
Thanks in advance for any help and suggestions you can give!
submitted by eastallegheny to dndnext [link] [comments]

2023.05.04 23:56 harry-jg How to Access the Dark Web Safely

The dark web, you see, is rather like the seedy underbelly of the internet—a place of intrigue and danger that can only be reached by employing the services of certain browsers, such as Tor. Many a chap would have you believe that it is a wretched hive of scoundrels and criminals, skulking about and conducting their nefarious business away from the watchful eye of the law. And while there may be a modicum of truth in this portrayal, one must not overlook the fact that the dark web does have its fair share of perfectly legitimate reasons for a visit.
A primary advantage of venturing into the shadowy recesses of the dark web lies in the cloak of anonymity it provides. Alas, this protective veil only extends as far as the network itself—your Internet Service Provider (ISP), for instance, can still detect your foray into the dark web and may feel obliged to report your activities to the authorities, even if your actions are above board.
Fear not, for a VPN (Virtual Private Network) can come to your aid in such a predicament. This trusty ally safeguards your online privacy by encrypting your internet traffic and channelling it through its discreet servers. In doing so, it ensures that your personal data remains hidden from the prying eyes of miscreants, hackers, trackers, and the myriad cyber threats that lurk in the depths of the dark web.
Peeling the Onion: A Gentleman's Guide to the Layers of the Internet
What, one might ask, is this enigmatic Dark Web? You see, dear reader, the internet is rather like a colossal onion, composed of three distinct layers, each more mysterious and elusive than the last. Permit me to elucidate the contents of each stratum:
The Surface Web
The surface web—or, as some may refer to it, the clean web—is that delightful, sunlit portion of the internet which one can access at leisure, employing the services of mainstream browsers (such as Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and the like). Any web page that can be discovered through a casual Google search resides within this domain. Here, you are privy only to the information which the website's administrator deigns to reveal, and you shan't gain access to the inner workings, account pages, or archival materials.
To illustrate, consider perusing the offerings of an online emporium (eBay, for instance) on the surface web. Your browsing experience shall be confined within certain boundaries, until such time as you log into an account—at which point, you shall find yourself venturing deeper into the mysterious realm of the deep web.
The Deep Web
The deep web as a veritable treasure trove of private and exclusive content, often protected by passwords and hidden from prying eyes. Indeed, this vast expanse comprises a whopping 96% of the internet. The pages nestled within the deep web elude search engines and can only be accessed by individuals possessing specific links or login credentials.
Encompassing such delights as cloud drives, account pages on myriad websites, medical records, and even credit card information, access to the deep web typically requires a specialized URL and password. For instance, your esteemed company's database would likely reside in this enigmatic domain.
One mustn't confuse the deep web with its murkier cousin, the dark web—though many a misguided soul has done so.
The Dark Web
The dark web, dear reader, is the most elusive layer of the internet—a realm accessible only through extraordinary means. Its websites cannot be visited using your garden-variety browser, and they boast a rather unique URL structure, diverging from the customary surface and deep web addresses. On the dark web, one encounters URLs composed of a perplexing jumble of letters and numbers, culminating in ".onion" rather than ".com."
To venture into this shadowy territory, one must employ specialized software, such as the Tor browser, though alternatives like Freenet, Riffle, and I2P exist. Within the dark web, one can stumble upon both lawful and illicit websites and activities, as the dark web remains unregulated.
While Tor and its brethren offer a modicum of protection, they cannot guarantee complete anonymity—indeed, even your ISP may detect your forays into the dark web. These browsers merely serve as portals, granting access to a particular network while leaving your personal data exposed to potential ne'er-do-wells. Fear not, however, for an additional safeguard exists: by connecting to a VPN whilst exploring the dark web, one can ensure an extra layer of protection against prying eyes and dastardly cybercriminals.
Is the Dark Web Illegal?
The legality of the dark web is rather a delicate matter. In most civilized countries, the dark web itself is legal, and as long as one refrains from engaging in nefarious activities, one should remain comfortably aboveboard. However, in locales burdened with oppressive censorship (think China or the UAE), accessing the dark web is verboten. It would be most prudent to adhere to the laws of one's country, lest one find oneself in an unseemly legal quandary.
Even in countries where the dark web is tolerated, simply using a dark web browser like Tor might earn one a spot under the watchful eye of the authorities. You see, these fine protectors of the realm use the dark web to ensnare the criminal element, who may be indulging in such unsavory pursuits as human trafficking, drug or weapon deals, and the like. Consider these rather notorious dark web cases:
The Silk Road Case: Picture, if you will, the Amazon of the dark web. Despite its initially noble intentions, this virtual emporium devolved into a marketplace for all manner of illicit goods, such as drugs, weapons, and forged documents. Its mastermind was apprehended after promoting his website on the surface web using his real email address—a most elementary error.
AlphaBay Case: Picking up where the Silk Road left off, AlphaBay facilitated the sale and trade of drugs, weapons, and other contraband. Its proprietor was ultimately caught due to a lamentable combination of weak passwords, use of his real email address, a lack of encryption, and more.
The Ashley Madison Case: This scandalous affair (pun intended) captured the public's attention. A website designed to facilitate extramarital liaisons, Ashley Madison found itself hacked, with the private information of its users revealed for all to see. The hackers, however, remain at large.
While such sordid tales cast a rather grim shadow over the dark web, there exists a plethora of legal and commendable activities accessible therein. To safely navigate these murky depths, it is advisable to limit one's visits to reputable sites of unimpeachable character and employ additional security measures to maintain one's dignity and discretion.
What Can One Accomplish on the Dark Web?
The dark web, despite its shadowy reputation, offers a number of laudable activities and resources, so long as one maintains a suitable degree of anonymity. Navigating Tor without due care can leave one vulnerable to unsavory characters such as hackers, trackers, and purveyors of digital malaise. However, when exercising appropriate caution, the dark web presents a veritable treasure trove of opportunities, including:
The exercise of free speech: For those residing in countries stifled by censorship, the dark web offers a haven for open communication without fear of exposure.
Unmasking ne'er-do-wells and unscrupulous public figures: Journalists and whistleblowers find solace in the dark web as a secure venue for exchanging anonymous tips and investigating matters of a sensitive nature.
Procuring products at a discount: The dark web occasionally boasts lower prices for items such as electronics or security software. However, exercising prudence is paramount: use bitcoin and deal only with reputable sources.
Delving into research material: A veritable library of free resources, including digital books and research papers, await the curious mind on the dark web.
Anonymously joining the conversation: Online communities and support websites on the dark web provide a forum for sharing tips and advice without divulging one's identity.
Seeking medical counsel: For those afflicted by troublesome symptoms or private health concerns, the dark web hosts medical professionals ready to dispense their wisdom. This service proves invaluable for those seeking discretion or lacking the means to visit a clinic in person.
ExpressVPN: A Prized Protector of Privacy
ExpressVPN boasts an impressive array of privacy features designed to safeguard one's online endeavours. With its TrustedServer technology, all servers are of the RAM-based variety, ensuring that any trace of your digital dalliances vanishes with each reboot. Thus, no data is stored and consequently, none can be shared. Additionally, ExpressVPN employs Private DNS, which channels your dark web traffic securely through its own encrypted DNS servers, leaving no opportunity for interlopers to glimpse your activities.
Adhering to a strict no-logs policy, ExpressVPN refrains from storing any activity data. Furthermore, its domicile outside the 5/9/14 Eyes Alliances exempts it from sharing information with any government. But, as mentioned, with no stored data, there's nothing to share in any case.
Aside from its top-notch privacy measures, ExpressVPN comes equipped with robust security features such as AES-256 bit encryption and DNS/IP leak protection. Leak protection is of paramount importance for keeping personal information and location under wraps, thwarting hackers and cybercriminals. I put this to the test with an independent tool and found no leaks to report.
A network lock kill switch is also at your disposal, ensuring that in the rare event of a VPN failure, your internet connection is severed to prevent accidental data exposure. I tested its efficacy by engaging the kill switch while changing servers, resulting in a complete internet connection shutdown for the 15-second server switch.
Lastly, ExpressVPN's unique security protocol, Lightway, optimizes for speed without sacrificing security, proving faster than traditional VPN protocols such as OpenVPN. Truly, a trusty companion for the gentleman venturing into the digital unknown.
CyberGhost: A Haunt for the Most Discerning Privacy Aficionado
CyberGhost employs the exclusive NoSpy server collection to bolster privacy and security for its patrons. These encrypted servers reside within the CyberGhost manor in Romania, accessible only to the most trusted and certified staff members. Such an arrangement significantly diminishes the likelihood of unsolicited third-party meddling.
Moreover, Romania finds itself comfortably outside the 5/9/14 Eyes jurisdiction, rendering CyberGhost exempt from the obligation to divulge information, even to the most insistent government agencies. In this manner, CyberGhost serves as a digital butler, ever vigilant and discreet, catering to the privacy needs of even the most discerning internet connoisseur.
A Dandy's Compendium to Staying Hush-Hush on the Dark Web
While the dark web offers a plenitude of legitimate reasons to saunter through its virtual avenues, it could also render one susceptible to a medley of unsavory perils. Employing a reliable VPN such as ExpressVPN shall undoubtedly aid in safeguarding one's jaunt through the dark web. Nevertheless, prudent gentlemen should also adhere to time-honored safety measures to bolster their defenses whilst browsing. The following precautions are hereby presented for your perusal:
Arm thyself with antivirus software: An indispensable shield against the ungentlemanly advances of cyber rogues. Keep abreast of updates, for an antiquated version shall prove feeble against the latest cyberthreats.
Employ an alias email: Eschew your genuine electronic address and adopt a pseudonymous one, perhaps of the encrypted variety, e.g., ProtonMail.
Maintain the secrecy of your identity: Abstain from revealing your true visage, telephonic digits, or appellation.
Transact in bitcoin: Forsake the conventional plastic card and embrace this cloak of financial anonymity.
Patronize only reputable establishments: Perform due diligence before engaging in any commercial transactions.
Terminate nonessential applications and services: Extinguish the prying eyes that may lurk within your cloud services, banking apps, or streaming platforms.
Conceal your whereabouts: Deactivate any GPS or location services.
Refrain from installing add-ons: Tor shall automatically block certain plug-ins, but one must remain vigilant against browser fingerprinting.
Deactivate JavaScript on your Tor browser: Lest you fall victim to the tracking schemes of unscrupulous hackers.
Resist resizing your Tor window: Another pitfall in the realm of browser fingerprinting.
Shield your camera and microphone: A simple piece of opaque tape shall suffice to thwart the nefarious plans of cyber villains.
Investigate your destinations: Prior research shall ensure a safe sojourn through the dark web's labyrinthine passages.
Exercise restraint and discretion: Avoid clicking on dubious pop-ups, advertisements, or requests.
Disconnect before perusing downloaded documents: This simple precaution shall prevent the unintended exposure of your true IP address.
Utilize a security-centric operating system: Tails is a sterling example, ideally run from a removable drive, to confound any attempts at identification on the Tor network.
submitted by harry-jg to topvpn [link] [comments]

2023.05.02 03:56 Original-Boiio1 My Problem with Chapter 1

Hello, ladies, gents, and non-binary zhents.
I'd like to start this off by saying Dragon Heist has to be one, if not the best campaigns I have had the joy of running. It's so cool and does everything right as a political intrigue as well as a story in general. Well, almost everything right... One of the best things about DH is the fact you don't have one villain. You can choose your own and completely change the feel of your Waterdeep. Hell, the very structure of chapter 4 is completely different from villain to villain, it. It is a campaign that knows how to be versatile. Almost. Chapter 1 does an amazing job at introducing the city and some of the main themes and plot information to the characters, but I feel it places too much enthasis on The Xanathar's Guild rather than any other. It sets up Xanathar too much and doesn't give the other villains a moment to shine. I had one group where I was planning to run the Cassalanters. However, all the note takers had written masses on Xanathar and nothing when I tried to set up the Cassalanters later in chapter 2. It sets the stage for the party to be more focused on pursuing Xanathar rather than any other villain. My solution to this is quite simple. Change the group involved. Every villain has a guild or group associated with them and a reason to pursue the Dragon's Cache. Simply replace the Xanathar's Guild with said group. Each would have a reason to pursue the Stone of Golorr, and each wouldn't be above committing serious crimes to do so. Allow me to run through an example using the Cassalanters (as they are my favourite).
Open in the Yawning Portal with an immediate change. Yagra is in an argument with a nobleman expressing his less than favourable views on Davil Starsong. The argument escalates until suddenly, the noble snaps his fingers, and 4 Maw Demons (Volo's Guide to Monsters) appear. The noble will try to leave the scene as quickly as possible while the Maw Demons will try to tear into Yagra, only harming those who pose a threat to them or their purpose. This immediately brings up questions such as "How did this noble summon these things?". The rest then continues as normal. Troll bursts from the well, Volo hires the adventurers and points them towards the Skewered Dragon. The Blood in the Streets encounter will stay the same as it sets the scene for the brutality of not only the guilds but the city itself. Questioning patrons of the Skewered Dragon gives the same information Floon had drank with Renaer before leaving and being pursued by a group of individuals known to frequent the Zhentarim Warehouse. The party finds the warehouse to discover the Zhents are dead and Floon has been double kidnapped by the Church of Asmodeus, leaving behind Renaer. Instead of lines about the Xanathar's Guild, the Kenku may spout out lines saying: "The prince of darkness requires this one" or possibly more threatening phrases in Infernal such as "You won't leave here alive" as well as clues to the location of where the cult are. The party rescues Renaer, has a run-in with The Watch, and tries to locate Floon. Where the final mission takes place would require a spot of creativity as, depending on the group, members would not best find themselves within the dank sewer systems. Perhaps the Bregan D'aerthe would find themselves on a boat, the Church could be some form of secret passage leading to an underground ritual hall. The Zhentarim would be the most easy to run with this idea, as they would already have Floon within their warehouse. The creatures within the base may change to whatever fiendish alternative. Say the Goblins have become Imps or the Intellect Devourer is now a Hellhound, the possibilities are endless. Then that's chapter 1, Floon is returned to Volo, Volo gives Troll Skull Manor, and the party are flooded with questions as to who those demons they were fighting were. It may greatly overhaul the chapter, but it also makes it better for those trying to play with more than just Xanathar. Thank you for coming to my TED Talk.
submitted by Original-Boiio1 to WaterdeepDragonHeist [link] [comments]

2023.05.01 17:34 KillAllAtOnce29 [OC] So, I need help balancing my subclass

It's my first time homebrewing and I tried to make a weird Hexblade+Necromancer-ish subclass thingy. It already has wayy too much class features and I need to remove some, change some and balance it overall but I have absolutely NO idea where to start so here I am. The sage homebrewers of reddit, please help me...
PS: the homebrew spell I used -corpse-explosion
submitted by KillAllAtOnce29 to DnD [link] [comments]

2023.05.01 12:29 KillAllAtOnce29 I feel like I went overboard. Need help balancing subclass.

I feel like I went overboard. Need help balancing subclass.
It's my first time homebrewing a subclass and I'm afraid it's too OP. Homebrew spell used:
submitted by KillAllAtOnce29 to DnDHomebrew [link] [comments]

2023.04.30 04:55 Big_Razzmatazz2858 Stygian Gambit Cinematic Introduction

Verity Kye was a scrappy young Tiefling woman from Waterdeep that made her way to fame by way of skill in Three-Dragon Ante. Calculating, creative, and cool-headed, Verity propelled herself from a life of poverty in the Docks Ward of Waterdeep to climb the ranks as a Harper, and subsequently in the Golden Vault, while collecting information from those she preyed upon in her card games. Verity found her big break through a stunning Three-Dragon Ante Circuit upset in the last gambit at the Flaming Fist Tournament in Baldur’s Gate, sweeping the win from underneath circuit ace Quinten Togglepocket, a Gnome of minor fame of his own with victories across the Underdark and throughout the Sword Coast. After the tournament, the two found each other and immediately hit it off.
Quinten and Verity went on to travel and dominate the Three-Dragon Ante circuit through Neverwinter’s Trials of Tyr, Mirabar’s Everbright Escalation, Gantlegrym’s Battle of Bruenor, and even in the pirate stronghold of Luskan at Jarlaxle’s Jab. In each tournament, Verity somehow took the win, despite even less than honest playing practices on Quinten’s part. Regardless, each gambit of the cards brought the hearts of the two professional gamblers closer.
“Q-Ball, my love,” Verity mused to Quinten after indulging in fine lodging, wine, and Tiefling mating practices. “What do you dream of?” Quinten grew distant at the probing question and Verity felt guilty for ambushing him with such a personal question.
“I suppose,” he responded apprehensively. “I suppose I want to open a casino of my own. I want to create a place known for Three-Dragon Ante, with a tournament that would be considered a world championship of sorts, collecting only the most skilled Three-Dragon Ante players around.”
“That sounds amazing, my love,” Verity said while excitedly kissing the bald pate of the gnome.
“We should pool our winnings and save up to do this together!” As time went on, the two continued to dominate further tournaments in Silverymoon and Candlekeep, with one final tournament planned at Verity’s home of Waterdeep. The two had rented the finest room at the Yawning Portal run by famous wizard Volothamp Geddarn, and Verity had returned to the suite after collecting information on their opponents from the patrons of the bustling tavern.
“Q-Ball, my love,” Verity exclaimed. “You’ll never believe who is competing at this tournament! The last 5,000 gold dragons are practically in the bag.” As verity opened the door to their room, she found it empty except for a single playing card on the bed. Verity picked up the card and examined it closely.
“A Silver Dragon Card,” Verity said quietly to herself thinking about what it could mean. “Is he saying that this has all been a selfish silver play? Really?” Verity tore the card apart at the implication of Quinten’s timely disappearance along with the card choice and tossed the halves on the ground, tears landing on them shortly after.
Hope you enjoyed!
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