This year’s edition of Royal Ascot will see some familiar faces from the United States, including Tim Glyshaw, Wesley Ward, Todd Pletcher and Bill Mott. https://www.usracing.com/news/horse-betting-101/everything-guide-royal-ascot
For those of you who didn’t play MFOMT, I have information that will help you get millions in one day of gameplay. Obvious cautions: spoilers below.
This is for SOS FOMT. I just did it myself so I can confirm. Won, or Huang is the sketchy salesperson who lives with Zack on the beach. He’s also a secret bachelor! Raise his hidden heart level and go through all of his heart events. To get to the part where you can make money do the following first: Buy an apple from him when he stops by your house. Buy the vase when he stops by. Experience the scattered apples event in the beach house. He will also announce that you can start selling to him. Finally, one day you’ll walk in and he’ll have 3 apples laid out. Play the memory game and win 10 times in a row. About the special item... Collect 10 of the flowers and toss them in to the goddess. After the 10th one she will give you a present. It says it has no value... but go back to Huang. He will buy it for a whopping 1,000,000g. If anyone wants to more tips on this topic just comment! I’d be happy to help. I have always loved this little loophole.
I Read It So You Don't Have To: Little Kids, Big City (by Alex McCord and Simon van Kempen)
Inspired by the overwhelmingly positive response to my previous 'book report' on Ramona Singer's Life on the Ramona Coaster (seriously, thank you all -- truly supporting other women 🙏🙏), I decided to try my hand at writing up yet another of the embarrassing number of Housewives books in my personal collection: Alex McCord and Simon van Kempen's Little Kids, Big City: Tales from a Real House in New York City with Lessons on Life and Love for Your Own Concrete Jungle. After reading just the title of this book, I'm already exhausted. It's pretentiously long and awkwardly phrased while somehow still managing to be entirely devoid of meaning. In other words, a perfect encapsulation of Simon and Alex. The summary on the back cover describes the pair as the "breakout stars" of RHONY, an assessment that I would charitably call 'debatable,' before going on to inform me that I can look forward to "informative and often hair-raising stories of life in the urban jungle," and that "Alex and Simon use their own hard-won experience as a springboard to discuss a host of parenting topics." I anticipate that this content will be quite useful to me, the guardian of four cats that I spoil endlessly and treat like my actual children. One of the pull-quotes on the back cover allegedly comes from our very own Bethenny Frankel. I say 'allegedly' because I refuse to believe that the following passage would ever come out of Bethenny's mouth (or keyboard or whatever):
Alex and Simon don't take themselves too seriously, which seems to be essential to parenting. Their fresh 'he said, she said' perspective on parenting is both humorous and insightful!
Please, take a moment and do your very best to picture mention-it-all, betting-on-horse-races-at-age-five Bethenny unironically using the phrase "fresh 'he said, she said' perspective." To describe Simon van Kempen and Alex McCord. Right, didn't think so. My experience reading Little Kids, Big City started on an unexpected high note when I opened the front cover to find that my copy (purchased used through Better World Books for the low, low price of $5.31 with shipping) had been signed by Ms. you-are-in-high-school-while-I-am-in-Brooklyn herself, Alex McCord! Truly a gift I do not deserve. Samantha and Debbie (whoever and wherever you may be), thank you for your service. I am forever in your debt. Unfortunately, as would soon become painfully clear to me, after starting off on such a promising note, I would have nowhere to go but down. The book, which is written in alternating passages from Alex and Simon, begins its introduction with a chronicle of Alex's "fashionably nomadic" early adulthood. Ever the proto-edgelord, she recalls, "I did all those things our mothers warned us about and had fun doing them." We switch to Simon's perspective to hear the deeply embarrassing story of the couple meeting through a dating app while Simon was on a business trip in New York City. No, there is absolutely nothing embarrassing about meeting someone on a dating app. But there absolutely is something embarrassing about using the profile name "Yetisrule" to meet someone on a dating app. To clarify, this was apparently Alex's username, and I remain hopeful that we will get a more thorough explanation of her connection to the elusive Yeti as this book continues. Alex tells us that, while she and Simon hadn't initially planned to have children, they eventually started to have "clucky feelings." I have never heard this phrase in my entire twenty-five years of life, but based on context clues and also a Google search, I learned that it means they wanted to have a baby. Don't worry, though! As Alex tells us, "You can be eight months pregnant and wear a leather miniskirt." Personally, this is life-changing news -- I had always believed that I couldn't have kids unless I was willing to compromise my 90s goth aesthetic! Maybe I'll rethink this child-free thing after all. The next bit of advice seems like it actually could potentially be sort of helpful. "No one is a good parent all the time -- nor is anyone a bad parent all the time," they reassure the reader. "You can become a parent without losing yourself." Unfortunately, as soon as I catch myself nodding along, the modicum of goodwill I'd built up is promptly trashed by a gag-worthy line from Simon: "If you take nothing away but a wry smile after reading our little tome, then we've done our job." I immediately vow not to smile until I'm finished reading this book. Excuse me, this little tome. The book starts in earnest with Chapter 1: "Does a German Shepherd Need a Birth Plan?" To be perfectly honest, I was not expecting a riddle at this juncture, but I am nevertheless excited to hear Simon and Alex tell us "why childbirth is not an intellectual activity." First, however, we get a passing reference to "Park Slope, home of the ParkSlopeParents.com message board made famous in 2007 with a so-ridiculous-it-got-headlines discussion on gender-specific baby hats and where feminism can be taken to extremes." And despite the lame alarmist allusion to ~*XTREME feminism*~, this line did manage to lead me down an interesting Internet rabbit hole, so thanks for that, I guess? Jesus Christ, I am on PAGE 4 and I am already so done with Simon. Presented without comment:
With the Park Slope OB-GYN, we had the first sonogram and saw the little blip on the screen -- our child-to-be. They say seeing is believing and as nothing was happening inside me, seeing confirmation on the video monitor that indeed my spermatozoa had penetrated and infiltrated one of Alex's ova made me aware that my days as a footloose and fancy-free guy might be coming to an end.
Y'all, I am currently working on my PhD in Molecular Biology. Which, if you were not previously aware, gives me the authority to decree that Simon is never allowed to use the word "spermatozoa" ever again. And so it is. I was about to say that Alex's passages are at least more tolerable, but it appears I spoke too soon.
The stats they quoted referenced a 40 percent cesarean section rate in the city, and I wonder how that can be acceptable? Are we heading toward Brave New World, where babies are scientifically created in petri dishes and gestated in artificial wombs? Oh wait, we're already there. Are we heading towards a Wall-E existence, where we ride around in carts everywhere and do nothing for ourselves so that our bodies break down and we're all fat, oozy blobs drinking protein from a straw? Somebody slap me, please!!
Truly, Alex, it would be my pleasure. As a Type-A person, just reading the story of Alex's first pregnancy and delivery gave me anxiety. She says that she just never really "felt the need to establish a birth plan" and that she "gave in to any craving [she] felt." Don’t worry, though -- "If I had suddenly craved chalk, ecstasy or Elmer's Glue, I'd have thought twice." I feel like there is some symbolism here to unpack (Could the Elmer's Glue be a metaphor for the childlike spirit of connection and unity???). Simon describes himself as "a learn-on-the-job guy" and tells us that he and Alex "failed to attend the last couple of [birthing] classes as by then we both just wanted to let instinct take over when the time came." As someone who has never trusted my instincts even once in my entire life, I cannot relate. Twelve days after his due date, baby François is born. Except it turns out that he actually was born right on time, but Alex "didn't keep regimented track of [her] periods" and miscalculated. What a bummer that modern medicine hasn't advanced to the point where doctors can guide you about that sort of thing. I don't even know what to say about this next bit, but God help me, I still have 215 more pages of this book to go.
Although the final stages of labor were very, very painful, I [Alex] never used our code word (tin can) for "game over, give me drugs." I definitely recommend using a code word, because it was kind of fun to scream, "I want drugs, give me drugs" through a contraction and have the midwife, nurse and Simon all know I wasn't serious. Once he [François] was finally out of my body, I experienced a tsunami of endorphins that was almost orgasmic, and I understand completely the stories other women have written about ecstatic birth. Simon was sitting behind me at the point of birth, and later when we untangled ourselves he discovered he'd actually ejaculated though hadn't felt any of the normal lead-up to that. It may seem distasteful to some, and definitely neither of us was thinking of sex at the time, but with the rush of emotion and my lower nerve endings going crazy, it's not too far a stretch to say that it's a profound experience.
Johan is born two years later, although it's unclear from the text whether either parent reached orgasm during the event. The chapter ends with a top-ten list entitled "10 Things We'll Remember That Happened During Pregnancy." These include useful tidbits like
Best advice I heard: men's genitals grow and change shape regularly, then go back to the way they were before. Don't worry about your female delicate bits being able to retract.
Which is…a lovely sentiment. But one that is slightly undermined by phrasing the first part in the grossest way possible, as well as by the use of the phrase "female delicate bits." I do like the idea that they "retract," however, because I think it's very cool to imagine the vagina as an SUV sunroof. By the grace of God, Chapter 1 comes to a close. In Chapter 2 (titled "No Sleep 'Til Brooklyn, What's My Name Again? and Who is This Alien?" -- seriously, were they padding their word count with chapter titles?), we get more questionable parenting advice from the McCord-van Kempens. They glibly dismiss concerns about co-sleeping ("Simon and I both slept with cats and dogs our whole lives without squishing them"), which I honestly would be more annoyed about if I hadn't immediately gone on to read Simon's account of "the midnight race to the 24-hour pharmacy to buy a breast pump as Alex's breasts were seemingly engorged with too much milk and she thought they were about to explode and fly off her chest." As it stands, I'm truly too defeated to care. Again, just to be perfectly clear: no shade to having issues breastfeeding, all shade to using the word 'engorged.’ And also for giving me the mental image of Alex's breasts desperately struggling to flee from her body (though to be fair, who could blame them?). Proving that she does not inhabit the same world as the rest of us mortals, Alex tells us that she expected that her state of sleep-deprivation as she raised two young children would "spur [her] creativity with graphic design." For some reason, this does not seem to be the case. Alex is puzzled. Finally, we've come to this chapter's top ten list ("Top 10 Memories of Random Things We Did While in the Post-Birth Haze"). While these lists have so far been utterly irredeemable, they also mean the chapter is coming to a close, so I can at least take some solace in that. This particular list ranges from the irritating…
We subversively took sleeping babies to as many non-child-friendly places as possible to prove the point that children can be seen, not heard and not bothersome, such as dinner at the Ritz in London, the Sahara Desert, shopping on Madison Avenue, Underbar in Union Square and film festivals.
…to the truly unnecessary.
While changing François' diaper on day one or two, we both stood mesmerized by the changing pad as meconium oozed out of him. It was really the most bizarre and fascinating thing I'd seen to date.
With the couple's general backstory and credentials now under our belts, Chapter 3 ("The Screaming Kid on the Plane is NOT Mine! (This Time)") focuses on advice for traveling with children, which Alex admits "can be a complete pain in the you-know-what." I cannot describe the rage I feel at the fact that she has -- in no fewer than 50 pages -- forced me to read about both her newborn son's excrement and her husband's ejaculate, but cannot bring herself to use the word "ass." Alex, we're really far beyond that at this point, don't you think? Not to be outdone, Simon shares a conversation he had with François that is remarkable not for its content, but for the fact that one of Simon's nicknames for his son is apparently "F-Boy." Thanks, I hate it. This chapter's list ("Alex's Top 10 Travel Memories") includes the entry:
Both boys charging down Saline Beach in St. Barths like something out of Lord of the Flies.
So, like a horde of primal sadists? I'm wondering if Alex and Simon have inadvertently confused Lord of the Flies with the hit 2007 reality show Kid Nation. I really hope that's what's going on here. Chapter 4 ("'Mommy, Johan is Gone!'") promises to teach us how to handle accidents. I'm not sure how comfortable I feel taking emergency advice from the authors of this particular book, but (in large part due to the fact that I have slept since reading the previous chapter, giving the pain a chance to dull somewhat), I am willing to at least hear them out. After relaying a story of François needing emergency surgery after a foot injury, Alex tells us that at one point, she and Simon realized they had spent "nearly $5000 on Indian takeout" in the past year. For the mathematically averse, this works out to a monthly budget of roughly $100 worth of Indian food per week, making my quarantine Uber Eats habit seem downright quaint by comparison. The chapter-ending list walks us through the "Top 10 Things We Do in a Crisis," and fortunately, the tips seem pretty benign.
Knowing what calms the children down, such as making silly faces or reciting Shel Silverstein poetry backwards.
Wait, hang on. What?
reciting Shel Silverstein poetry backwards
I'm sorry, please forgive me if I have missed some recent, paradigm-shifting development in the field of early childhood education, but what?? As in, "ends sidewalk the where?" "Sdne klawedis eht erehw?" I am truly befuddled. Maybe the next chapter ("'Is Today a Work Day or a Home Day, Mommy?'") will have some applicable wisdom for me, as I will, in fact, be working from home every other week for the foreseeable future. And, I cannot stress this enough, I am a psychotically overinvested cat mom. Alas, we are instead treated to an unnecessarily detailed breakdown of how important it is to delegate, and specifically that Simon cleans up vomit and Alex cleans up "feces in the various forms that come out of children's bottoms at appropriate and sometimes inappropriate times such as the middle of Thanksgiving festivities." As if we needed another reason to consider Thanksgiving problematic. The chapter takes a brief commercial break…
When an everyday product can do double duty such as Dawn Hand Renewal with Olay Beauty, a dish soap that seals in moisture while I'm tackling cleanup, sure, I'll buy it.
…before closing out with a list of the "Top 10 Things We Do Because We Were Here First." I am happy to confirm your worst suspicions and tell you that item number one is indeed "Have passionate sex." In Chapter 6 ("I Saw Your Nanny…Being Normal?"), I find myself actually sympathizing with Alex for the first time in this book. Which is mostly just because the chapter starts by talking about all of the awful, catty parental competitions that seem endemic to a certain crew of white Manhattan moms, and it makes Alex come off at least slightly less irritating in comparison. That is, at least until a few pages later, when she starts to complain about a previous au pair:
She was sullen, melodramatic and kept a blog about how she hated Americans, hated France, hated us and the children but loved New York. I think she must have thought we were idiots, and when she asked us to leave early we were only too happy to get her out of our home.
I would love to meet this woman. I think we could be great friends. This chapter's list is even more difficult to parse than previous ones, because while it's titled "Top 10 Things Caregivers Have Inadvertently Done to Amuse, Annoy or Thrill Us," it's not at all clear which descriptors apply to which points. When a babysitter "accidentally used a household cleaning wipe when changing a diaper," were the McCord-Van Kempens amused? Annoyed? Thrilled? The world may never know. In Chapter 7 ("'Putting To Death Is Not Nice,' a Duet for Two Boys and A Guitar"), Alex and Simon share some of their hard-earned childrearing wisdom with us. Which basically amounts to Alex telling us that, while normally misbehavior from the kids incurs a warning followed by a time-out, she has also developed an ingenious new strategy where she actually steps in to intervene when the stakes are higher. Let's listen in:
A third permutation is when there's a behavior that has to stop immediately, say if Johan has a big blue indelible marker and is running through a white hotel suite. I swoop in and grab the marker as to risk a three count [warning] would be to risk decoration of the sofa.
Take the marker from the toddler immediately instead of trying to reason with him? Groundbreaking. Side Note: At this point in my reading, I am incredibly satisfied to report that I have discovered my first typo in the book, and in one of Simon's sections no less! ("These toads secret [sic] a poison…"). This is wildly pedantic of me and proof that I am a deeply sick person. We run though a list of "Top 10 Things We Never Thought We Would Have To Explain" ("10. Why hot pizza stones do not like Legos.") before moving right along into Chapter 8, "Don't Listen to the Well-Meaning Morons." Strangely, I have a very vivid memory of Alex saying "I have a chapter in my book called, 'Don't Listen to the Well-Meaning Morons" in some distant RHONY episode or reunion. I guess she was telling the truth. The chapter opens with a series of passages in which Alex and Simon respond to various comments that have been made about their parenting over the years. I think this device is supposed to be a bit of lighthearted snark on overbearing strangers, but instead just comes off as weirdly defensive and passive-aggressive. A few examples:
"My daughter is perfect. Her table manners are excellent, she never speaks unless spoken to and we've always had white sofas at home since she was a child, with no staining." -A woman with one preteen daughter, no sons Your daughter sounds boring. I wouldn't want my sons to date her..
"Why are you outside?" - A bagel seller in Montreal, in February I'm hungry and the stroller is well protected under the plastic cover. Johan is warm and cozy, the others are asleep in the hotel and I'm going stir-crazy. Is that enough, or should I buy my bagel from someone else?
"Excuse me, your baby is crying." -- Someone said to Simon as they peered into the stroller to try and determine the cause of said noise. You don't say! Do you think, you stupid idiot, that I don't hear that? Do you think I think it's just loud music? Do you think I don't want him to stop and that I like it???
Sorry, did I say 'passive-aggressive'? Let's change that to just 'aggressive.' But despite bristling at being the recipient of unwanted advice, far be it from Alex to shy away from giving her opinions on the shortcomings of other parents.
There was a mom at another table who wore all black and told her hyperactive daughter that they had to have a family meeting to decide what to do next. The type of woman who might ask her daughter to "process her feelings" about which color to choose. The type of woman who wanted make [sic] a big huge hairy deal about including her daughter in the decision-making process and "negotiating" the next best step for the family to take in the pottery shop. Pardon me while I shoot myself.
I'm sorry, but I just cannot respect this take coming from a woman who calms her sons by reciting comedic children's poetry backwards. We next learn that there are "many websites out in cyberspace," some of which offer child-rearing advice. Simon summarizes their useless "vitriol" as such:
They say that hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, whereas for the 21st century surely hell no longer hath fury, as it's all been hurled at the belittled and scorned Internet mom.
I'm honestly not entirely sure what this is supposed to mean, and my confusion continues all the way through this chapter's "Top 10 Ways We Make Ourselves Feel Better When It's All Getting To Be Too Much." We begin reasonably enough…
Check to see whether the person offering advice has children. How old are they?
Do they have a point? Are they right? It is entirely possible.
…before quickly losing all sense of self-awareness and flying completely off the rails.
Will we ever see this person again? If not, can we get away with unleashing our fury on them? Note, if you're reading this and decide to try it for yourself, go big or go home.
The last few chapters have been a bit Alex-heavy, but never fear -- Simon pops back up in Chapter 9 ("If I Wouldn't Eat That, My Kid Won't Either") to tell us a charming story about how the family refers to his Bolognese sauce as "Dead Cow Sauce," and this is because his children are incredibly enlightened and understand the circle of life and where food comes from. Or something along those lines. This chapter also provides a lot of really incontrovertible proof that, even though you may swear that your kids say the most hilarious things all the time, you are wrong. I love kids. I can play cool aunt with the best of them. But this "recipe" for "Johan's Concoction" tries so hard to be cute and funny ("whisk violently -- making sure to spill a little out of the top") that I could barely stifle my groans. For anyone who happens to frequent RebornDollCringe, I am strongly and inexplicably reminded of Britton. A list of "Top 10 Things We Don't Like About Children's Restaurants" culminates with
Where would you rather be? A bistro devoted to race-car driving, with 1950s toy cars on the walls, or T.G.I. Friday's?
Excuse me, ma'am, you must be unfamiliar with the concept of Endless Apps®. The title of Chapter 10 is "You'll Give in Before I Do!" and although the subtitle lets me know this is referencing "the art and warfare of bedtime," it's hard not to take it as a personal taunt from the authors. Most of this chapter is just transcriptions of 'cute' things François and Johan have said to try to avoid going to bed, but we do get this gem:
Slaying the dragon is our family euphemism for using the toilet (drowning the dragons that live in the sewer) and is fun for the boys to talk about, though probably not forever.
Before giving us a chance to adequately process this revelation, Alex goes on to reflect:
Hmm, perhaps I should delete this -- I don’t want obnoxious classmates getting hold of this book in 10 years and asking the boys if they need to slay the dragon in the middle of geometry class.
Alex, I assure you, you truly have nothing to worry about. Any self-respecting bully will be far too focused on the fact that Simon ejaculated at the moment of his son's birth to pay this comparatively trivial factoid any attention. The authors shake things up and end this chapter with lists of both "Top 20 Bedtime Stories" and "Top 10 Lullabies," both of which are thankfully inoffensive. In Chapter 11 ("Children Like Shiny Objects"), we follow Alex and Simon as they purchase the townhouse we see them renovating on RHONY. Although other (read: lesser) parents might store breakables out of reach or limit children's toys to playrooms and bedrooms, Alex and Simon were blessed with two boys whose aesthetic sensibilities are already quite developed:
One kind of funny thing that I noticed recently is that the toys the boys tend to leave upstairs in our red and black living room often tend to be red and black as well. I'm not sure whether that's intentional, but it's funny that the room always seems to match regardless of its contents.
The list of "Top 10 Craziest Places We've Found Objects" is mercifully absent of any orifice-related discoveries. After reading just the title of Chapter 12 ("Raising Baby Einsteins"), I'm bracing myself for the self-satisfied smugness to come. This preparation turns out to be duly warranted. Baby sign language is dismissed as "a scheme dreamed up by ASL experts who wanted to sell classes to easily influenced new parents," Mommy and Me classes are "not really for teaching anything," and we learn that Alex and Simon have instituted a bizarre family rule that "if a talking toy came into our house, it had to speak a foreign language or speak English in an accent other than American." We learn that Simon apparently does not know what antonyms are (for the record, Simon, the word you're looking for is homophones) and that New York City is replete with "wailing, nocturnal, type-A obsessed harridans willing to sleep with persons not their spouse if they think it will help their child get into THE RIGHT SCHOOL." Uh, yikes. After a tediously long description of François' pre-school admissions process, Alex informs us:
As a former actor, I've always gotten into play-acting and dressing up with my children. Perhaps a little too much. But I've taken the opportunity to show off a few old monologues, complete with bounding around like a puppy. If you have knowledge, why not share it? If you happen to know Puck's speeches from a Midsummer Night's Dream by ear with tumbling and staged sword play, why the heck don’t you share that with your boisterous boys, who love it and run around shouting, "Thou speakest aright!"
I am suddenly compelled to call my mother and thank her profusely for never making me put up with anything like this. Maybe I'll also get her thoughts on one of the tips listed in "Top 10 Favorite 'Developmental' Things To Do": "if they want something that you want to delay giving them, make them ask in every language they can before giving in." To me, this seems like an effective way to encourage your children to learn how to say "Fuck you, mom" in French as early as possible. In Chapter 13 ("Urban Wonderland"), Alex and Simon promise to share their unique perspective on "taking advantage of raising a child in the urban jungle." But mostly, we just get a rant about how everyone thinks their kids have weird names, and that makes Simon mad. This chapter's "Top 10 Reasons New York is the Center of the Universe to a Kid" list reminds us what truly matters: "there are more songs with NYC in their titles than any other city." Immediately after telling us how great it is to live in a city (excuse me, urban jungle), Alex and Simon switch tack and spend Chapter 14 ("'Daddy, a Cow! And It's Not in a Zoo!") expounding on the importance of exposing kids to nature. Sounds great, I'm on board. Unfortunately, we almost immediately take a hard left turn into a story from Simon's childhood where he and his brother are "befriended by this old guy, Dick, who lived on the outskirts of town in a small tin shed." We hear that Dick "occasionally pulled out an early Playboy magazine back from the days when the lower regions were airbrushed out," and that "there had been pretty strong rumors of pedophilia," before promptly returning to the main narrative with no further explanation. I can only describe the transition as 'jarring.' I can tell how exhausted I am at this point in the book by how hurriedly I skimmed the list of "Top 10 Differences We've Noticed Between City Kids and Country Kids." To be honest, I'm almost annoyed when a particularly bizarre quote manages to catch my attention, because that means I have to think about it for the full amount of time it takes me to transcribe from the page. I'm beginning to think that my initial hope that I could glean some useful cat-rearing advice from this experience may have been overzealous. Chapter 15 ("You're Such a Great Parent, You Should Be on TV (LOL)") is the only chapter to directly address the family's time on RHONY. It starts with this (attempted) comedy bit in which Alex and Simon pretend to be hilariously self-aware and self-effacing (Alex: "Look up 'Mommylicious' in the dictionary and you will see a photo of me in a ball gown, breast-feeding an infant while making Osso Buco and directing carpenters to build a bookcase for my Dickens and Shakespeare."). This posture would be infinitely more believable if I hadn't spent the previous 205 pages watching these two take themselves deadly seriously. But rather than share any juicy behind-the-scenes tidbits (or, indeed, convey anything of substance at all), Alex and Simon spend exactly 3.5 pages blustering about how it wasn't harmful for their children to be on TV before giving us a list of "Top 10 Hilarious Things The Boys Have Done While Filming or at Photo Shoots." Spoiler alert: none of them are 'hilarious.' Chapter 16 is literally titled "The Light at the End of the Tunnel," which makes me feel like this whole experience may have just been Alex and Simon playing some sort of twisted game with me. Alex tells us this is "the chapter of hope," but given that she then tells us about a time when she "spent one full hour discussing why magic markers cannot be carried around with the caps off, particularly in a hotel suite with white couches and walls," I'm not sure exactly where this hope is coming from. Also it seems like this markers-in-a-hotel-room thing happens weirdly frequently. We are then treated to Alex and Simon's "Top 10 Moments of Getting It,'" which includes
Apropos of nothing, Johan said, "You give us time-outs because you are teaching us to be good grown-ups."
This is a thing I'm sure Johan said completely organically and not in response to hearing his parents say "we're giving you a time-out so that you learn to be a good grown-up" approximately seven zillion times. This brings us to the book's Epilogue (a mercifully short two pages) featuring the line "If you made it to the end of this book, we salute you." Honored to accept this hard-earned accolade, I can finally close the book and start figuring out a way to erase the memory of Simon busting a mid-childbirth nut from my aching brain. Wish me luck!
SOS FOMT - Tips to Know Before Your Play (Spoiler Free )
SOS FOMT - Tips to Know Before Your Play (Spoiler Free ) Resources https://fogu.com/sos3/ https://ranchstory.miraheze.org/wiki/Category:Story_of_Seasons:_Friends_of_Mineral_Town https://vynli.com/story-of-seasons-friends-of-mineral-town-guide-list/ Starting Your Game Unlike more recent SoS games, you will not be able to change your character’s face, hair, or skin tone after starting (you can change skin tone when you first start the game but not after), so choose wisely. You can choose any day for your birthday. It can be on the same day as a festival. If you choose the same birthday as a bachelobachelorette, their birthday will move to an alternate date. Daily Tasks Give a gift to the goddess every day! You can give her flowers that you forage. One merchant only unlocks after she receives gifts on 30 different days, so try to get that done quickly. Attend church confession 1:00 - 4:00 every Monday and Wednesday and on rainy days. I can’t find clear information on how this works, but after you confess you may get a message that you’re forgiven and get a boost to villager or animal relationships, or a reduction in fatigue depending on your confession.. Give gifts to harvest sprites to get them to three hearts which makes them hireable. They all love flour, but each have individual items they like as well. Watch the cooking channel every Tuesday to start learning recipes. You do NOT need the kitchen to start learning these recipes. Gift cucumber to kappa daily until you receive the blue power berry. Farming You can safely walk over your crops in this version of the game. Unlike recent SoS games, watering crops a second time will not make them grow faster. There is no fertilizer for crops. Crop rank is based on upgrading your field. You can upgrade it once each year so you cannot get to rank 5 until Y5. In spring, grow some cucumbers for giving to kappa. You need to give him 10 to get the blue power berry. There are no winter crops. You can plant a total of five fruit trees on your farm. You start with one grape tree. You can buy grape, apple, and orange trees. They will be full grown when installed. You can befriend the Nature Sprite to help you on your farm. Focus on having them tend to your crops, not your animals. If they care for your animals you won’t get the affection increases you get when you do it yourself. Livestock For convenience you can feed your animals in their bins or let them outside in grass, but if you hand feed them you’ll earn affection. Livestock you purchase max at 5 hearts. You must breed a 5 heart animal to get a 6 heart, and so on requiring 5 generations of breeding to max out. After you get to a 10 heart animal, all animals you buy of that type can reach 10 hearts. If you want to be efficient as possible, only get one breed of cow and focus on raising its affection and then breeding. After you get to 10 hearts, you can buy the other breeds of cow without limited hearts. Pets You can only get pets one day per season on the 15th, with a different animal available each season: Spring = cat, Summer = penguin, Fall = dog, Winter = capybara. CRUCIAL: You CANNOT get another pet until your current pet is at 8 hearts. This will take a minimum of 2 ½ seasons so plan your pets accordingly. If you want to have an adult pet for the Frisbee Contest in Summer Y2, you will need to get a penguin in Summer Y1. Villagers You can earn FP and LP in the usual ways (walking, giving gifts). Each day you don’t talk to a villager, there is a chance you will lose FP and LP so try to avoid ignoring characters for too long. Save Scumming Some players may wish to leave their fate to the RNG gods, but others seek more control. That’s where you can use save scumming, or the practice of closing your game out without saving to reload different results. Uses in SOS FOMT include: WEATHER: Weather is predetermined the day before, but you can use the weather channel to ensure you don’t have to lose an entire day’s work to change it. For example, if you need the pet merchant to be open on the 15th, save right before going to bed on the 13th. Go to bed and when you wake up immediately check the weather channel. If it says rain, close and reopen your game, then repeat until you get a sunny weather report. CONFESSION: Each time you confess there is a chance you’ll be forgiven and get a bonus. You can save before confessing and reload if you don’t get forgiveness. MINING: The ladder on each floor is loaded when you get to the floor. If you need to get to lower floors without using up your stamina, save when you get to the floor and dig until you find the ladder. Then reload the game and go straight for the ladder. Repeat on each floor. BETTING: You can save before you place bets at the horse race and then reload if you lose. Is there anything I should add here? I left off anything about specific villages or events to keep it spoiler free. If you have questions or corrections, let me know!
"Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian" may be just an okay movie overall, but true to the museum spirit, it's an amazing collection of 25+ A and B list actors and celebrities truly hamming it up as historical figures and caricatures.
I hadn't seen this one in a few years and decided to watch it again last night. And boy, 11 years later, that cast list has turned out to be something out of this world. The rate at which huge names show up is comparable to an Avengers movie. The best part is that almost every single one the big names in this movie has the chops to play very serious roles, but at Shawn Levy's direction, the whole film is incredibly over the top. I had so much fun watching it last night that I figured I'd highlight some of the roles I liked the most. I'll also list out the others so you can take a glance at how seriously impressive the cast is.
Amy Adams as Amelia Earhart - This movie prominently features Adams's moxie, and I just can't understand how anyone wouldn't fall in love with Amelia Earhart as Adams plays her. She's got this blend of romance and adventurous independence that never lets you forget that the movie wants you (and your kids) to have fun.
Hank Azaria as Kahmunrah - When I talk about hammy performances in this movie, Azaria's lisp is the shining star of them all. The lisp and his patronizing lilt manage to make any line pretty much magic. "You did all three!" In fact, Azaria plays three characters, also voicing the meathead Thinker and Abe Lincoln.
Jonah Hill as Brandon the Security Guard - Battle of the Smithsonian was smack in the middle of Superbad and Moneyball for Jonah Hill, and his one scene as "It's Brundon" is a hilarious moment in time. For whatever reason, this role and several others went uncredited.
Robin Williams as Teddy Roosevelt - "I bet he'd let his horse lick it, too."
Bill Hader as George Armstrong Custer - Not that you'd typically describe Hader as holding much back, he really lets loose on this yellow-bellied portrayal.
Ben Stiller as Larry Daley
Owen Wilson as Jedediah
Steve Coogan as Octavius
Christopher Guest as Ivan the Terrible
Eugene Levy as Albert Einstein
Ed Helms as Larry's assistant
Craig Robinson and Keith Powell as Tuskegee Airmen
Mindy Kaling as a docent/museum guide
Thomas Lennon and Robert Ben Garant as Wilbur and Orville Wright
Jon Bernthal as Al Capone - Another over-the-top performance to remember.
Rami Malek as Ahkmenrah
Jay Baruchel as Joey Motorola
Clint Howard as Mission Control Technician
George Foreman as himself
Ricky Gervais as Dr. McPhee
Brad Garrett as the Easter Island head
Carroll Spinney as Oscar the Grouch
Shawn Levy cameos as an infomercial actor running into tables in the dark
The motherfucking Jonas Brothers as fountain cherubs
All told, this cast has 17 Oscar nominations and a pair of wins, including an amazing 10 nominations and Malek's win since the film's release. That talent shines in way the cast was having fun with this movie; any one of these performances makes the movie worth a watch. More than anything, I'd say that Battle of the Smithsonian is a perfect family movie. It's got great action, humor, and a message for adults and kids alike.
GTA Online Casino Inside Track Horse Racing glitch SOLO works for PC (maybe XBOX AND PS4 as well?)
Go to Diamond Casino
Walk up to the cashier and exchange for chips if you don't have any
Go to Inside Track Horse Racing
Click on Place Bet (Single Event)
Check horse odds
Disable internet connection
Bet any amount on any horse and it will say unable to establish connection to rockstar servers
Enable internet connection and bet max on your horse
Repeat until you have enough money
This is reviving the reset horse odds glitch that used to exist before this was patched. Picture guide here: https://imgur.com/gallery/fuGSpfW Instructions are pretty simple. Use any method to disable/enable your internet connection whether it is pulling the plug or using a 3rd party program it is up to you. Just repeat step 5/6/7 until you get your desired odds. Make sure to reenable your internet connection before betting when your horse is favorable. Note: You need to disable your internet when you are about to refresh the race (horse list). Reenable your internet when you have the horse you want to bet on. DO NOT have your internet disconnected for too long or it will kick you from the game. It shouldn't take too long to cycle through the line ups. Just do it quick and use a macro or a script. For example if you see double evens (which is considered the worst lineup) bet any amount on any horse (provided that you have already disabled your internet). Cycle through the list until you find a good lineup and before placing a bet, reenable your internet. DISCLAIMER: I am only posting this as a guide and I bear no responsibility if you lose money betting. This glitch works as is and does not guarantee you a win in any way. You are just pushing the odds into your favor easier. Use this link for how to disable/reenable your internet connection: https://www.reddit.com/gtaglitches/comments/gt3vgm/pcimproved_apartment_glitch_improvement_bette If you don't know which horse to bet use this guide: https://www.reddit.com/gtaonline/comments/ekp8na/gta_online_inside_track_odd_calculato EDIT: Easiest way to block connection is through Windows Defender Firewall. If you are not tech savvy enough I or someone can create a batch file to do this all at once or even an AHK file but here are the steps to do this.
Open Windows Defender Firewall by pressing start menu and typing "Windows Defender Firewall" (without quotes) and it should be the first option.
On the left side click Advanced Settings
On the left side click Outbound Rules
On the right side click New Rule...
Select your GTA5.exe in Steam folder or Epic Games folder
Select Block the Connection
Profile can be all checked
Type in the name such as GTA block
On the right side Enable/Disable the rule to connect/disconnect
Had this conversation again the other day with another trader. Many traders don't like to be accused of gambling (which I fully understand) - yet gamblers place capital at risk on uncertain events. Traders also place capital at risk on uncertain events. We don't have any control over the outcome, and there is no guarantee that we will make money in the long run. To me this seems like gambling. Why the negativity? One reason is because of the negative connotations of a gambler. We tend to think of drunk, unkempt and unshaven old men, sitting around the bookmakers betting on horses, or feeding the FOBT machines and losing their cash. But whereas in gambling, the odds are set for you (by the house - which does always win in the long run), in trading - the odds are set by us. We have control of our entry. We have control of our exit. We have control of our emotions, control of our discipline, control of our position size. Yet most traders focuses on the one thing we can't control… the outcome! Why the outcome is not important In the long run, the outcome is of course important. If you’re not making money over an extended period of time then that’s a serious problem. But if you have three bad trades, that means little. One reason many traders struggle to make money is because they consistently system hop. They try a few things, and tinker around, and then when it stops working for a few trades - they run somewhere else and try that. I’m convinced you could give people an exact step-by-step guide to making money – and out of 100 people, ten might listen, five might give it a go, and one person might stick to it after a few losing trades. This is why 90%+ of traders don’t make any money (Barber, B.M., Lee, Y.-T., Liu, Y.-J. and Odean, T. (2017). Do Day Traders Rationally Learn About Their Ability?). It's not the competition from elsewhere that beats them. It’s the competition within themselves. The struggle to control emotions, and the struggle to remain consistent, is a struggle for many traders. If you can’t get comfortable with a few losing trades, then you’re probably trading too big. Position sizing Managing positions to a point where losses are no longer outcome dependent is a good idea. Any trader who puts 20% of their capital into a single trade will be heavily invested in the outcome. However, if this was 2% - they probably wouldn't be so bothered. Position sizing is the key to trading success. I have never heard of anyone going bust from trading too small. In every instance, the factors were either trading too large, or leverage, and huge unexpected volatility. Often, it was a combination of these factors of the people that I know that have blown accounts. Trading is gambling with an edge Trading offers unlimited freedom and expression of creativity. But the reality is that profitable trading is about following strict rules and exercising discipline. In my view trading is gambling but with an edge. The edge is something that delivers positive returns in the long run. For many new traders, who come to the market with little idea of what they're doing, and punt around on stocks without any system - that is gambling as there is no logically application and the punter is purely playing the odds. Backtesting methods to check for an edge and alpha generation, and sticking to these until it is clear there is no longer any edge, is the only way to trade in my opinion.
[Primer] The Nightmare Hive: A Five-Colour Lurrus Slivers Guide
Humans don’t have it easy in fantasy settings. They tend to be cast either as strictly worse versions of other races in all qualities that actually matter, or they’re just the jacks-of-all-trades lacking both the strengths and weaknesses of the others. In many games, this lack of specialization makes humans boring, and keeps them away from presence in minmaxed munchkin builds, but here? They do have one strength. Diversity. A band of humans from all five colours trek across the countryside. The finest specimens that the species has to offer. They come from all walks of life: noble priests, veteran soldiers, pirates with even less respect for you than for your property rights. There’s one chick who makes stuff cost more mana somehow. (Do any of the Innistrad novels explain that?) All march together for a common purpose: using their combined powers, they must exterminate a hive of interplanar rodents. The slivers have expanded their territory in recent months, terrorizing the farmers whose grain the kingdom relies on. The exterminators are well-equipped, bringing magic found in their faith, strength found in the arrival of their comrades, and giant praying mantises found God-knows-where. Discard, +1/+1 counters, ramp - they have it all. If there’s a need that has to be met, you can bet there’s a human somewhere willing to do it for enough coin. But through it all, these bipedal mammals still have one weakness. Diversity. Humans are pack animals, you see, but still individuals. Social ones to be sure, but they also appear determined to love their shortcomings more than their potential greatness, and cringe away from the pinnacle of evolution: the parasocial. Their flesh-brains have come so far, but without an omnipresent psionic link, they’re little more than their unicellular ancestors. Limited to a single life. A single existence. You can dismantle an entire army of them just by breaking down their fragile communications systems. Once that’s done, you can just sit back and watch as disorganization dissolves their ranks and their differences drive them to tear each other apart. This is the eternal flaw of the Self: it implies a lack of perfect union with the Whole. And as these humans, less of a people than a cobbled-together mass of persons, reach the top of the hill and see the outline of the Hive on the horizon, they will know the failure of their species. They will bear witness to the accomplishments of the Whole and even as they fail to articulate it in words, they will know that the Self is the Flaw. We have long since mended this Flaw. They sent their finest ones, but the fact that their finest are confined to being ones, with gifts that only apply to singular specimens, is their fatal limit. That is why their final stand against our expansion can only ever be that: a final stand. --- "bro wtf that was cringe, ur gonna lose karma" Sorry, I’m a wannabe fantasy writer on Reddit. Get used to awful prose. Welcome to a primer for my particular brew of 5C Slivers in Modern: the Nightmare Hive. It’s something I’ve been somewhat surprised to not see more Slivers players dabbling in. If you ask me, I think they have an unhealthy attachment to 3-drops. 🤮 I’m going to focus on deckbuilding/card choice and playstyle notes. It’s probably not going to be a ton of new information for experienced players, but it can call attention to some micro. I’ll throw some attention to matchup notes but that’s not what’s as fun for me to write. This is also the first time I’ve ever written an MTG primer. Well, a primer that isn’t for a deck that’s actually just a shitpost made of cardboard. (Ask me about 95-land Vendilion Clique EDH!) There’s not much I have to say for an introduction or a “Why Slivers?” in general. You guys already know it. Slivers have a certain reputation among casual players for being OP. Maybe this is because they’re the truest embodiment of what a tribal deck is. Slivers sacrifice a lot of individual power in order to maximize group power. But really the reason for this is that building a functional Sliver deck for casual is one of the easiest things in the world. As far as fair decks go, you can get a ton of mileage in terms of effectiveness out of relatively little money spent just by rooting through the foul-smelling dumpster that is your LGS’s bulk commons bin, throwing any slivers you find at some lands and calling it a deck. You also get more insight by comparing them to other creature types like Humans or Elves: plenty of those creature types will show up incidentally in more generalist decks, but the instant an opponent plays their first Sliver, you know exactly what’s going on and you know you should be afraid. Consequently, casual circles often have the one Sliver deck of the friend group whose player loves to be feared and who everyone else loves to fear. This shifts a lot once one goes into competitive environments. Slivers have clear weaknesses, and in my view, many of the common modern Sliver builds fail to really play to their strengths enough to make up for this. I don’t even know if the deck I’m about to describe to you is any different, but I can attest to this deck having a good matchup against other Sliver decks by virtue of sheer speed. Vroom vroom. Do keep in mind that while I’m hyping this deck up because it’s mine and I’m proud of it, it’s far from perfect. But you know what it is? Consistent, easy to play and fun as SHIT for smoothbrains like me. HAHA TURN CREATURES SIDEWAYS EVERY TURN, WORLD’S BEST STRATEGY GAME, NOW FREE TO PLAY ON MTGARENA Alright bois, get ready. Strap in, set aside your existential identity as a Unique and become one with the Hive. Click your talons together when you’re ready and brace yourself for some card choice analysis. Truly the funnest part of Magic, at least if you’re like me and spend hours honing a theoretical build for your D&D character without caring to ever actually play it. If all you care about is the list, here's the summary by a helpful Goyf.
In this deck, our only 0-drops are lands, and you’re probably familiar with what the best choices already are. Where this gets a tad spicy is in the land count: 18. One of the reasons this deck stands at an advantage against other Sliver decks is precisely from the pseudo card advantage provided by being able to draw fewer lands than our opponent and still have a functional deck. Curving lower than burn out here. 4x Cavern of Souls: Surprising literally nobody with this one. In the Bant snowpile meta that hasn't quite gone away with Astrolabe, your opponent will have plenty of countermagic, and this card will be pulling a lot of weight for getting you on even footing with them. 4x Unclaimed Territory: Discount Cavern. The color-fixing is just this valuable, letting us draw on Slivers from every color to create an optimized horde without stressing about our mana sources. 4x Sliver Hive: Here’s something we have over other tribal decks: Twelve different lands that can all tap for colorless as well as one of any color to spend on our creatures. Sliver Hive has a final ability stapled on, but I legitimately feel that this card would be buffed if that ability was replaced with flavor text. That would improve Slivers as a whole by adding to their aesthetic while also removing an ability that literally never gets used, at least in this build. Requires you to draw a third of the lands in your whole library to use, and if you’ve reached that point, you’ve probably already lost. 0x Ancient Ziggurat: WHAT? Yeah yeah, I know. Here’s the thing: With the above lands doing so much for our mana fixing, and a number of other lands we want, there’s little room for Ancient Ziggurat. Which is a shame, because ziggurat is an awesome word that you should strive to use at least once every day. The inability to be used on noncreature sources matters more often than you’d think, usually in the case of sideboard cards but also for a number of hands in which one would be keeping a single land and an Aether Vial. “But isn’t it better for Lurrus since it can produce any colour to cast it, unlike Sliver Hive?” Before the nerf, this was correct. However, now that you have to pay 3 generic mana to put your companion into your hand, a cost that Ancient Ziggurat can’t contribute to, it’s no longer worth it. In short, Ancient Ziggurat is good, but “good” isn’t good enough for the Hive. We demand more. 3x Mutavault: Unfortunately, playing 4 Mutavaults here is suboptimal. Five-color deck needs its five-color sources, and in a deck with 18 lands, we don’t want more than one-sixth of our lands failing to produce colored mana. A number of creatures in the deck are ones Mutavault can’t be used to pay for even if we want to. That said, the 2/2 body that benefits from all the Sliver buffs is commonly the difference between winning and losing a game. In playtesting I’ve found 3 to be the optimal number, but you wouldn’t be totally insane for playing 2 or 4. 2x Silent Clearing: Apparently 18 lands is sometimes too many. The pain from these is usually insignificant, while the card draw can help us pull a clutch win out of nowhere. This particular horizon land is chosen since out of the ones available, it most lines up with our mana requirements. Shoutout to the times you crack it at EoT, draw a creature you can drop with Aether Vial, untap and swing for lethal because of that new Sliver. 1x Snow-Covered Plains: Yes, this deck is very, very bad against Blood Moon. Good thing the Astrolabe ban makes Ponza worse, right? Blood Moon only gets less common in the meta from here, right guys? The single Plains is mostly a formality, something to fetch off of opponents’ Paths, Assassin’s Trophies and Fields of Ruin. Why Snow-Covered? Mind games. It might cause your opponent to think you run something that makes the snow quality relevant. In truth, it’s because it adds possible variance in your opponent’s mind that they might account for, at zero mechanical downside. I actually don’t like the fact that snow-covered basics are strictly better than standard basics. I’d like to see a modern-legal Snow hoser that’s good enough to use, making snow lands something to use only if your deck actually cares about them rather than making them the optimal default for every single deck. So, that’s our manabase. Nothing too surprising or exciting, but had to be done.
AND NOW WE GET TO THE CARDS YOU ACTUALLY CARE ABOUT
AIGHT HERE’S HOW YOU MURDER EVERY SAPIENT BEING YOU ENCOUNTER
One of Slivers’ main weaknesses as a tribe is their one-drops. There aren’t many, and the ones we get aren’t absolutely spectacular. No 1 mana 2/2s with haste or anything. (God can you imagine how OP a 1 mana 2/2 with haste would be?) But they do get the job done, providing the keyword soup that makes this deck favourable against other fair decks. Just to fluff this out and address some bad possibilities people might want to account for, I’ll also be rating every one-drop sliver. I know you’re desperate for my opinion. 4x Aether Vial: When I first got into Magic, I didn’t understand what was so good about Aether Vial. Sure, you can get some cards into play faster, but it also takes up your first turn as well as a card to use. You’re just kneecapping yourself in the long run. What I didn’t understand is that much of the time, there is no long run in Modern. The added speed is worth it, as is the instant timing and the immunity to counterspells. Aether Vial is our only noncreature spell maindeck and we’ll drop it turn 1 if it’s in hand. They’d better counter it then, or the combination of Cavern of Souls and Aether Vial itself will make counters useless. This card is also what lets this deck survive at all against Blood Moon. 0x Metallic Sliver, Plated Sliver: The earliest slivers weren’t that powerful. We’re not missing much from being unable to use these. 0x Mindlash Sliver: I do wish this was somehow playable, but alas, it just wasn’t meant to be. You’re spending mana to 2-for-1ing yourself, unless your hand is empty, but even then this probably isn’t worth it. You don’t want to rip apart hands, you want to rip apart FACES. Doesn’t make the cut. Maybe one day we’ll get a better version of this that’ll be useful against control. 0x Screeching Sliver: If someone manages to make Sliver Mill good, let me know. It’s certainly not viable now given all the Uros and dredge. 4x Sidewinder Sliver: Now we’re talking! Costs 1 white mana, meaning it works with any of our non-Mutavault lands. Flanking essentially makes this a lord for combat only, but there will be places where the fact it gives others a minus instead of your own creatures a plus is relevant: opposing lifelink becomes less powerful, Ice-Fang Coatls die before they get to deal damage, even 1-toughness first strikers die before getting to deal damage. Flanking only works against creatures without flanking, but the only time that’ll come up in Modern is the mirror, and in that matchup this will essentially just be vanilla since it grants the ability to all slivers, not just yours. 0x Virulent Sliver: Maybe in the past you could’ve made the case for this. Maybe you could argue that in some very niche cases like against soul sisters or decks that can continuously pick off your lords, the poison will kill before the damage. Especially if you get multiple of these out. But nowadays our selection of one-drops isn’t quite that terrible, and we don’t have to use this. 4x Galerider Sliver: The best one-drop Sliver in most cases. Little to say, makes them unblockable to most creatures. Being able to block enemy fliers sometimes matters, but usually your playstyle is just HAHA TURN CREATURES SIDEWAYS, MAGIC IS THE WORLD’S BEST STRATEGY CARD GAME. If your opening hand has multiple one-drop slivers, you might want to drop one of the other one-drops first in order to bait the removal on that one. To use Sidewinder Sliver as a point of comparison: making your opponent’s blocking choices less optimal isn’t as good as taking away their option of blocking at all. 4x Striking Sliver: Now this is interesting. Most Sliver decks I’ve seen run 2 of both this and Sidewinder, but since this deck is meant to be faster and more aggressive, we want 4 of both. Especially since both of them are equally good against one-toughness blockers like Snapcaster Mage or Ice-Fang Coatl. Let’s compare them for interest’s sake. First Strike works on both attacks and blocks, unlike flanking, and you can Aether Vial the Striking Sliver in as a combat trick after blocks. Can’t do that with Sidewinder since flanking is a triggered ability. By contrast, Sidewinder Sliver is easier to cast given our mana base, works better as a combat trick in more cases (a 2/2 sliver with first strike blocked by a 2/2 successfully turns a trade into a win, while being blocked by a 3/3 fails to turn a loss into a trade; flanking succeeds for both) and as the slight nudge into superiority for me, flanking stacks. Also importantly, many of your opponents will not know that flanking stacks until after you inform them of this once they’ve already formally declared blockers. For me, flanking stacking makes it more valuable to get multiple Sidewinder Slivers as opposed to multiple Striking Slivers, and in most matchups if I’m boarding out 1-drops, I’ll start taking out copies of Striking before Sidewinder. Exceptions do exist: against 8-ball you will be very thankful for your 1/1 first striker that totally negates their single-toughness attackers. Well I guess that’s all of them. Time to move on to- >OBJECTION!< 2x Changeling Outcast?!: That’s right folks, you heard it here first. We’re this aggressive. We’re committing so hard to our lord and savior The Fast that we’re throwing in a couple of 1-mana unblockable changelings who will benefit from all pumps given to slivers. The fact they can’t block is hardly ever relevant in a deck that intends to do no blocking, and the unblockable clause makes this a clock that gets surprisingly fast once you have a couple of the two-drops down. Costing black mana means there’s only four lands in the deck that can’t cast it, making it a reliable first-turn play if you really have nothing else to put down, and they’ll let you win through a number of board stalemates. All of that said, these will usually be your first cuts when it comes to sideboarding. Not that they’re bad, just that everything else is better - these are essentially flex slots. Try them, and if you find them underwhelming, I have other suggestions in their stead for the two-drops. Do note, however, that this can make your curve a bit too high to be truly speedy.
The reason this build works, and arguably the reason the whole tribe works, is that Slivers have such an abundance of 2-mana lords. (Basically, if you wish Rat Colony.dec was a good deck, play this. That's why I do.) They wind up buffing each other and creating monstrous attack phases in a short number of turns. The consistency is phenomenal since they’re all so interchangeable and redundant. Not all of them are created equal, but all of them will nonetheless serve you well in ripping people’s midsections open. 4x Unsettled Mariner: This time we’ll just get the one changeling out of the way upfront: this guy is good. 2 mana 2/2 makes it a reasonable rate for a body, and you can drop it early in place of a lord without actually losing much damage. Many opponents will be tunnel visioned on killing this in order to free up mana, which will also take up their removal that should have been saved for killing lords. It makes life noticeably harder for burn, 8rack, Jund as long as they have to let it live, and so on. An excellent addition to the deck from Modern Horizons, instant 4-of. Be sure not to forget that it doesn’t just prevent the spellcasting, but counters it as a triggered ability, so you won’t just have to correct your opponent that they’re unable to cast their spell given the mana they have like with Thalia - their spell is directly countered if they screw up. Also remember that the counter applies to spells that target your nonsliver permanents, such as land destruction, as well as to you! Delaying Cryptic Command for a turn is super helpful in the control matchup. Lastly, it applies to abilities as well. Planeswalker abilities, Fields of Ruin, Thought-Knot Seer ETB trigger, even Gifts Ungiven, all of it has to have extra mana paid or it does nothing. 0x Clot, Heart, Muscle, Talon, Winged, Acidic, Crystalline, Hibernation, Victual, Crypt, Hunter, Mistform, Quick Sliver: None of them are modern legal. The most unfortunate loss is Crystalline Sliver, which could be out here giving all of them shroud and thus making removal totally pointless. At least Unsettled Mariner does an acceptable impression. 0x Gemhide Sliver: WHAT DO WE NEED THIS MUCH MANA FOR? GET OUTTA HERE GREEN BOY 0x Ghostflame Sliver: WHAT DO WE NEED TO BE COLORLESS FOR? GET OUTTA HERE COLORLESS BOY (might be fun tech against all is dust or ugin, but by that point you’ve already lost) 0x Quilled Sliver: WHY IS THIS SLIVER UNTAPPED?! YOU’RE FIRED! 0x Spined Sliver: This is an interesting one to me, and I’ve come very close to running it. The 2/2 body makes it attractive, as does the ability acting similar to flanking. Two things contribute to it not being worth running: the fact that at the end of the day its ability is a worse flanking, and the fact that casting it is too awkward for the utility we get out of it. We need either Vial or two lands that can tap for any colour to get Spined Sliver out, and while we actually do meet that criteria the majority of the time, the minority is large enough to be worthy of consideration. 0x Spinneret Sliver: WHY ARE YOU TRYING TO BLOCK?! GET OUTTA HERE SPIDER SLIVER. ALSO WE ALREADY GET ACTUAL FLYING FROM GALERIDER SO WHO NEEDS YOU 0x Two-Headed Sliver: It sometimes gets close to kinda viable-ish, but the fact it’s a 2 mana 1/1 that doesn’t pump itself as well as the fact that we already have several flying sources and a few unblockables in here means that this ability is very often pointless. You will feel the pain when it’s absent, and you’re unlikely to notice the pain of it being present and wishing it was something else, but trust me - the damage is there even if you don’t feel it. It’s not good enough for the main deck, and the sideboard has much more important circumstances to concern itself with than whether or not menace would be good in this matchup. We already run over most other go-wide decks, and are unlikely to lose due to a lack of menace. 0x Cautery Sliver: You just get so much more out of any given sliver from its quality of improving other slivers than you get from sacrificing them to ping stuff. 0x Darkheart Sliver: I legitimately believe this one can be viable. If you’re in a particularly aggressive meta, you can pull wins out of the extra life from this. Against burn, each sliver can directly cancel out a burn spell. Against Jund, you can respond to all removal spells by gaining some extra life. Sac everything in response to a boardwipe to buy time for your recovery, including dodging the exile clause on Anger of the Gods. Chump and sac before damage if you manage to be losing for some reason. There was a time when I ran a single one mainboard as a better game 1 against burn decks, and I wouldn’t fault you for running it as a one-of, though I now consider the loss of consistency for doing so to be a bit too much. Especially since Unsettled Mariner is already a card that makes it more awkward for your opponents to remove your slivers, you already have some protection from this angle. 4x Sinew Sliver: And now we’re off to the races! Drop it turn 2, cast it with an extremely easy mana cost for this deck, Aether Vial it in before damage to screw over opponents’ blocking decisions, pump your Mutavault, save creatures from damage spells. Sinew Sliver puts in a ton of work, and is easily one of the best cards in the deck. PUT IT DOWN, MAKE ALL YOUR SLIVERS RIPPED, TURN YOUR CREATURES SIDEWAYS, YOU CANNOT LOSE.* \you can sometimes lose) 4x Frenzy Sliver: I don’t like Frenzy Sliver. I just don’t. It’s a 2-mana 1/1 that only adds power and only for unblocked creatures. Can’t even Aether Vial it in after blockers are declared. Sinew Sliver sparks joy. Frenzy Sliver does not spark joy. However, it’s very easy for this deck to cast and it comes close enough to being a lord for this highly aggressive list that it makes the cut as a 4-of. If you’re considering cutting two-drops for your sideboard cards, these will be among the first to go, unless your opponent plays so few targeted spells and abilities that Unsettled Mariner isn’t worth it. 0x Manaweft Sliver: WHAT DO WE NEED THIS MUCH MANA FOR? GET OUTTA HERE GREEN BOY 4x Predatory Sliver: Yes… YEEEEEESSSSS! One-sided Sinew Sliver STRONK! Costs green instead of white, but being one-sided matters more often than you think, and not just for the mirror. Sinew Sliver will also be buffing opposing Mutavaults and Unsettled Mariners. Predatory Sliver is consistently a house against decks of all kinds, being cast turn 2 or being dropped by Aether Vial at instant speed to wreak havoc on opponents. Many question why one would even play Slivers when options like Merfolk and Goblins are available, and the answer is that we’ve already touched on 12 different damage-boosting 2-drop slivers, and we’re not even done! 0x Sentinel Sliver: Similar to Darkheart Sliver, I used to run this as a one-of and I’m quite convinced it’s viable depending on meta. Easy to cast, 2/2 body, and without being able to use the 3-mana lifelink sliver, this does a lifegain impression by allowing us to threaten blocks where we couldn’t before. That said, its benefit is situational and its presence raises our curve as well as potentially the need for more lands. I leave it out, but you wouldn’t be insane for including one if you have an aggressive creature-based meta. 0x Diffusion Sliver: Other Slivers players will maul me for this choice, but it comes back to how aggressive this deck wants to be. 2 mana 1/1s really need to earn their place, and this doesn’t quite do it, especially with Unsettled Mariner already present in the deck. Diffusion Sliver is an absolute house in more midrangey or ramp-focused sliver builds to protect the big boys, but this list doesn’t lean so heavily on any individual component, and it would typically rather draw another lord than a diffusion sliver. Especially when it’s already late game or when it’s trying to recover from a wiped board. So what I’m getting at is something you probably already knew: defense is for wimps. 4x Leeching Sliver: This is a better version of Frenzy Sliver. It still has many of the same problems, but the advantages of life loss as opposed to a damage boost are crucial: the life loss bypasses effects like Worship, isn’t prevented by Fogs, still applies even if the attacking creature is blocked, and the triggers can finish off a nearly-dead opponent even if they have enough creatures to block everything. 16 2-mana lords. This is why you play slivers. 0x Venom Sliver: This can work as a one-of if the stars align and you have an extremely weird meta full of big creatures that aren’t Uro and Kroxa. But in most metas the deathtouch just isn’t going to be useful enough. Your creatures should get big enough to kill with combat damage, and you’d rather have a lord instead of this to boost said combat damage. 0x Bladeback Sliver: Slivers that are tapping to deal direct damage aren’t benefiting from the 16 lords. We don't like your type 'round these parts. 4x Cloudshredder Sliver: Oh-HOOOOH, this thing is spicy. This absolute MADMAN acts as Galeriders 5-8 for much more consistent evasion, as well as haste. This is the quality it takes to let a 2-mana 1/1 that doesn’t pump itself be viable, and it earns its place unquestioningly. Seriously, this allows for absolutely ridiculous plays. Turn 1 Aether Vial, turn 2 Cloudshredder Sliver, Vial in Sidewinder Sliver and swing for 2, turn 3 Striking Sliver, Predatory Sliver, Vial in another Predatory Sliver, swing for 15, flying, flanking, first strike. There are many decks that just cannot handle this pressure, especially if they’ve already shocked themselves. If they Anger of the Gods now, they’ll still be low enough for you to rebuild and kill with a second wave later. 0x Dregscape Sliver: This may or may not be the correct choice. It’s what I’m currently using due to trying to avoid the unearth being a nonbo with a certain nightmare cat. No question that these are good, and might actually warrant a place here, but this specific build performs just fine without them. Like the other 0-but-viable slivers, you can play around with cutting the Changeling Outcasts for a couple copies if you wish. 0x Enduring Sliver: WHY AREN’T YOU ATTACKING? GET OUT OF HERE ABZAN SLIVER
Why would anyone in their right mind play 3-drops in a non-ramp deck? This is modern. Format's too fast and degenerate for that, bucko. With one exception.
Lurrus of the Dream-Den
The benefit for the restriction, besides the lower land count. We all know how awesome Lurrus is. Format-breaking monster. “But u/Yaldev, companions got nerfed!” You call that a nerf?! Now we can pay 3 mana, the same as its normal cost, but now it’s colorless, and then put it into play at instant speed and uncounterably with Aether Vial! Combined with the fact that the hardest abusers of Lurrus are now considerably less able to abuse it themselves, while it actually got better for us specifically, and I think there’s never been a better time to play this deck! If you do feel like casting Lurrus from hand, it costs 1 colourless and two hybrid black/white, so even our non-5C lands can contribute to casting it. Also keep in mind that it’s totally viable to play your “name a creature type” lands and name Nightmare for the sake of being able to cast Lurrus, AND keep in mind that those lands will still be able to be used to pay for your changelings since they also count as Nightmare Cats. Fun! Lurrus is such a boon for this deck, despite not being a sliver. It has lifelink, working well against burn and prowess. It lets you come back from a number of different boardwipes. It frees up the space that would have been taken up by Dregscape Sliver to instead get other utility and one-mana spells while still having access to reanimation. You can recur your sideboard cards if they get destroyed. This card is just so GOOD and I can’t believe that other Slivers players are so delusional that they think it’s worth it to trade off Lurrus for cards that cost THREE mana! But what about Collected Company? Collected Company is indeed one of the best arguments against a Lurrus build, but there are a few details I want to call attention to, one of which is the impact of both the mana cost and the coloured requirement. Including Collected Company demands a retooling of the mana base, reducing consistency in exchange for potential pop-offs that have a ceiling that feels good to pull off, but is typically overkill. The other issue is one that doesn’t have as much attention paid to it: it increases how many noncreature spells you’re running. Despite the bans, we’re likely still looking at a meta with a dominant snow-pile control feel. A deck with enough Dovin’s Vetos and Force of Negations to spare. By making these cards practically useless by sticking to almost entirely creature spells, we deprive our opponent of resources. All of that said, you actually could still play around with including Collected Company as well as Lurrus. Remember, Lurrus’s restriction only applies to permanents, not to instants and sorceries. It’ll just require retooling your mana base a bit, probably including another land or two and dropping some of the any-colour producers in favour of green lands, Silent Clearings go out for Horizon Canopies, and it makes you more vulnerable to Grafdigger’s Cage, a card that opponents will already be boarding in against you if they have it in order to deal with Lurrus. You also won’t get maximum value since you have no 3 drops to get. This is essentially 4 mana for 4 mana at most. Slivers isn’t a solved archetype. Feel free to be a scientist, do your own experiments, add to collective knowledge of the Slivers Player Hivemind.
For this sideboard, I’ve opted towards going hard against specific decks rather than having few cards for everything. This is in part out of necessity, since our options for diversifying legitimately are limited: the Slivers that are worth including in sideboards are 3+ mana, and that leaves only colourless spells that cost 2 or less. We can’t go wide, so we have to go deep. 4x Chalice of the Void: BEHOLD THE FUNSLAYER. Chalice on 1 is your answer to all the decks you already know are reliant on 1 drops, including but not limited to:
Various Soul Sisters variants
To account for this, you’ll typically be boarding out some 1-drops to account for strong likelihood of them being uncastable, though even then, there’s still a good chance you’ll get to use them anyway. Aether Vial turn 1 will let you get them in without casting, while Cavern of Souls will make your 1-drops uncounterable by Chalice. Also keep in mind the super spicy Chalice on 0, which makes life difficult for UR Free Spells, Cascade, any cheesy strats trying to be Cheerios in 2020, Prime Time (NO PACT 4 U), and once again, Ad Nauseam. 0 stops them from casting Lotus Bloom from exile! Overall, I think Chalice is the deck’s best sideboard weapon. Do not run less than 4. It’s too valuable. 4x Dismember: Sometimes there are creatures you genuinely have to worry about. Stoneforge Mystic fetched Batterskull and you can’t handle it being played on turn 3. Goyf needs to die before it gets massive. Against other tribal decks, taking out a key lord can be more valuable than yet another 1-drop sliver on your own side. 4 life is a lot to pay, but often this card will save you more than 4 life, or prevent more than 4 life gained for your opponent, or just secure a win that could have otherwise been thrown into question. Also keep in mind that because your Silent Clearings tap for black, they can contribute to the Phyrexian mana cost to save a teensy bit of life. 4x Soul-Guide Lantern: This can easily be substituted for Tormod’s Crypt if that’s your preference. I just like the Lantern for the ETB exile so that it doesn’t have to be cracked as early just to get rid of a single problematic card in a graveyard. In any case, this answers dredge, Uro, Jund and so forth. Can also be sacced to draw if you simply must win the game before your opponent’s next turn and desperately need to hit something to secure that. As a bonus, it can be recurred with Lurrus as both repeatable grave hate and card draw. 1x Damping Sphere: In all likelihood you’ll want 2 of these if Tron has relevant presence in your meta, but for my own deck I prefer to keep it to 1. Nothing special here, it hits all the same stuff you’d expect, such as Tron, Storm and Prowess. The annoying thing about it is that you also happen to be one of the decks that wants to put out several spells per turn, meaning that Damping Sphere will be slowing you down as well. 1x Torpor Orb: In all likelihood you’d rather drop this to double up on Damping Spheres, but I find that in longer games, you’ll get a ridiculous amount of mileage out of this bad boy. Your deck has exactly zero ETB triggers, so you’ll miss out on nothing, while simultaneously gimping Snapcaster Mages, Ice-Fang Coatls, Soul Sisters, Squadron Hawks, Rangers and Ranger-Captains of Eos, Seasoned Pyromancers, Silvergill Adepts, Harbingers of the Tides, Merfolk Tricksters, Thassa’s Oracle, Champions of the Parish, Thalia’s Lieutenants, Detention Mages, Freebooters, Thought-Knot Seers, those god-awful “turn your lands into artifacts and then Reclamation Sage them” decks, and need I even mention blink strats?
Piloting the Deck:
BRRRRRRRRBRBRBRRRRRRBBPLTHPBLBWRBPWBLGPTH VRRRRRRRRROOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOMMMMMM In many games, this deck plays out in quite similar ways: Turn 1 sliver, turn 2 lord and swing, turn 3 another lord and swing with second mainphase one drop, turn 4 play 2 more lords and kill. May take an extra turn or two depending on their removal and how painful their manabase is. Seriously, it’s impressively fast, while also being impressively consistent. Because the creature spells in your library curve out at 2, you’re perfectly fine with keeping a hand consisting of a single land and an Aether Vial. You can leave the Vial at 2 charge counters for the whole game, and even if by some freak of probability you never draw a second land, you can cast your 1-drops with the single land. At the same time, drawing more than one Aether Vial isn’t redundant for you, since there are a number of times when you’ll want to tick a 2-counter vial up to 3 for the sake of dropping Lurrus. Note that in most games, Lurrus won’t even come out. Deck is 3FAST. It’s more of a possibly-turn-losses-into-wins sort of card. In games you were going to win anyway, it’s rarely necessary. Deck’s fun. Sometimes you do actually have to think about the attacks you’re making. Sometimes you have to play around your opponent’s open mana meaning they very likely have something to pick off a lord. That can impact whether you’re still willing to attack with your 3/3 that’ll be brought down to a 2/2 into their blocker. Sometimes you have multiple lords in hand and you play the weaker one first to bait removal. I can’t realistically cover every situation, but I can offer some general advice:
One drops other than Galerider Sliver are typically better first-turn plays, unless you think their very early plays are actually relevant blockers. Oftentimes you’re better off waiting until the first turn that your opponent would actually want to block things in order to drop Galerider, since your opponent will have made strategic decisions around the assumption that they’d be able to block - an assumption you’re now going to punish them for.
Ramping up creatures’ toughness ASAP can be viable against red decks. Lightning Bolt causes problems. So does Wrenn.
CHANGELINGS CAN BE CAST NO MATTER WHAT YOU NAME WITH CAVERN
I prefer saving Leeching Sliver until the lethal turn, since similarly to Galerider Sliver, opponents could make decisions relying on the assumption that they’ll be able to stop damage by blocking. You can kill them with attack triggers before they even get to block. This can tilt people. Tilting people is fun. You know this in your heart.
Pay attention to how your lords could be buffing your opponent’s Mutavault.
Pay attention to how your lords could be buffing your own Mutavault! We run 3 for a reason. They win games.
A fun move is to Aether Vial in Unsettled Mariner while your opponent is clearly holding up exactly enough mana for a removal spell. You tap Aether Vial, ability goes on the stack. Opponent does nothing, wanting to save the spell in case the creature played is worth killing more than something already on the board. Your ability resolves, Mariner enters, your opponent never gets priority between seeing Mariner and its ability functioning.
Your opponent’s Lord of Atlantis gives your changelings islandwalk.
Glorybringer can’t hit your changelings, neither can Victim of Night.
Thanks for reading this, ModernMagic lurkers! Apart from wanting to give back to all the primer writers who've helped me smash face in Magic and other games through the years, I wrote this in order to get my writing in front of people's beautiful faces. If you like my style, feel free to check out my fantasy/sci-fi writing project at Yaldev. It's got weaponized cyborgs, undead dinosaurs, sentient paper airplanes, Horse Meat, lots of pretty art, and if you're a Vorthos flavour-geek you'll definitely be seeing how MTG influences the worldbuilding. Hopefully that's a good thing. Feel free to post comments and discussion, I should be around to provide responses of questionable value.
[The Extramundane Emancipation of Geela, Evil Sorceress at Large] --- Chapter 5: Onward to Spirebrook! (Fantasy, Comedy)
First Chapter ||| Previous Chapter ||| Next Chapter Patreon ||| TalesByOpheliaCyanide “You need more sleep. You look like a ham sandwich left out in the sun for three days.” Darkos rubbed at his eyes, not sure what part of his face was particularly hamlike, but Geela wasn’t wrong in that he looked pretty terrible. He’d caught his reflection here and there, in pools and cooking utensils and the odd large shiny piece of jewelry flaunted by Geela. Hours of staying up at night hadn’t done him any wonders, nor had the fasting or extra runs in the hot sun on their lunch breaks. Maybe the sunburn contributed to the ham similarity. Maybe. But Alerion, though just, knew that affection and contact must be hard-fought for. Darkos had taken for granted his patronage. He found himself able to fix the scrapes, bruises, twisted ankles, burned fingers, or concussions suffered by the pair (Geela, Geela, Geela, Darkos, Geela) but otherwise the God had been silent. So Darkos had been doing whatever he could to starve himself of the pleasures of the mortal realm. It’s what he’d always been taught to do when his faith wavered, but it didn’t seem to be working. It was also pissing Geela off. “Did I ever tell you about my last Patron?” she asked. The two had been traveling for three days. Their success in Galeshire was a memory right now, tainted by travel fatigue and Darkos’s ‘slavish nature’. “Noire?” “No. No, that one was definitely worse, but I tried another after it.” She shifted on the back of Shawn the mule. “This was after I graduated. I was maybe 24. A lot wiser.” At 24, Darkos had finished his first pilgrimage to their sister temple, a month’s travel away. He too had thought he was wiser back then. Now he had some misgivings. “I did my research this time. I found a Patron I thought really got me, one whose goals aligned with mine.” ~~~ Geela stands covered in her own blood in the middle of a circle drawn with a lamb’s blood, reading aloud from a book inked in something ancient’s blood that Geela took no credit or responsibility for. This was just what it looked like when you vied for the attention of a blood witch. Geela had done her fair share of drugs at the Academy, typical to any student in their teens or young adult ages, but nothing had come close to the euphoric high of this level of blood loss. She’s not entirely sure whose strength is keeping her standing; it’s certainly not her own, so it must be- “Who has summoned the Blood Witch Berta Sanguine to this plane.” The voice is inhumane to an extreme, more like the sound of a spider’s legs uncurling and creeping down the slimy bark of a swamp tree. “Speak now or breathe your last.” “I am Ja’Eel Scilatia, enchantress, illusionist, and mistress of the void!” Her voice has a high ring to it, unnatural to Geela’s ears, but she’s so dizzy that nothing really sounds or feels right. “I wish to serve your interests and submit to your wishes.” “And what do you want in return, Ja’Eel Scilatia? Answer carefully for what is written in blood cannot be taken back.” She’d wished for power, something vague enough that either of them could revoke the promise if they weren’t satisfied with the partnership. Berta cackled at the wish for a moment, before contemplating it, and then nodding. “Then our deal is sealed, little human.” ~~~ “Seems like she got what you were going for. Blood magic sounds pretty awful but I guess you got what you wanted.” Darkos couldn’t imagine bleeding for his God. Yes, he’s had to run up stairs or go days without food, but causing intentional harm instead of passive… Was that really better? Geela nodded emphatically. “Yes! I did. That wasn’t where it went wrong. I converted some students, mostly apprentices though a few acolytes too. Within a year I had a very healthy cult. We partook of weekly bleeding rituals, undertook some revenge plots, cursed our enemies in return, classic occult stuff.” “So what ruined it?” Darkos asked, panting slightly and dizzy from lack of sleep. “Mmm, well we always sacrificed a member of the cult every year-” She broke off at Darkos’s look of horror. “Look, I know, that always turns people off. But it was a really respectful affair. Everyone was down with it, I didn’t push it on anyone. If they didn’t like it, they quit.” “Really? People are allowed to just leave cults?” Darkos stopped to catch his breath and Geela looked down at him disdainfully. “This one, yes. The signup sheet was enchanted. You were mindwiped if you left. Look, do you want to- why don’t you ride the horse?” “Mule. And I don’t want you to get tired.” She pulled Shawn to a stop before sliding off his back. “I’m plenty able to walk on my own.” The idea was tempting but he still felt bad. It was his fault, after all, that he was so exhausted. “Go,” she said, “or I won’t finish my story.” “Fair enough.” He climbed onto the back of the mules, muscles immediately relaxing tension. He pulled the map out of the saddlebag. “How far out are we from Spirebrook?” “Last I checked we were on target to get there tonight.” He nodded, scanning the map. “Ok.” Then an idea hit him. “Do they have temples there, do you suppose?” She wrinkled her nose, patting the back of the mule to get them moving again. “I mean, I suppose. It's the capital of the Swampy Region. Most capital cities have at least shrines to every holy God.” “Thank crow.” “I hate that.” “What?” “God followers swearing on animals.” “It’s a habit-” “And why does the God of healing and peace use such a creepy animal?” “Geela…” “I mean, aren't crows associated with death? There are so many better animals for healing and peace. You could even go, like, a snake if you wanted to stay edgy…” she trailed off, catching his deadpan stare. “Hmm?” “You said you’d finish your story.” Her lips pursed, but she didn’t badger him further. He reached into the bag to get out a small handful of nuts and berries. If he was going to a temple when he got there, there wasn’t reason to continue starving himself. “Right. So. Berta.” Geela grimaced. “The thing you have to know about serving a Patron- well you kind of know but you follow a holy Patron, it’s a little different. We give her payment and she gives us power. But if we give her too much, she starts expecting that, and then what a couple cups of blood used to earn now requires a gallon. So when I learned the acolytes had been sacrificing each other willy nilly-” “They were what?” Geela squinted at him. “Do you really need me to repeat that?” Darkos didn’t, but he was shocked and horrified all the same. “You didn’t know? How?” “I was working a full-time job! The cult leader thing was a side gig for extra power. I didn’t keep tabs on every member. Just attributed the losses to attrition.” She sighed. “I shut it down. Was more trouble than it was worth.” “Is that what made you swear off Patrons?” “Honestly? Kinda, yeah.” Darkos didn’t blame her. Sure, he’d never sacrifice a living human to a God, but if his faith commanded it and the followers went from a rare, consensual sacrifice to a dozen forced ones... He shook his head, violently. No, that was a stupid thought. He wouldn’t have been ok with any sacrifices. The thought made him ill and regret the handful of nuts he’d eaten. Was working with Geela rubbing off on him? Was he becoming more desensitized to cruelty? And if so, why did Alerion grant him favors but refuse his prayers? --- They hit the entrance to the Swampy Region at about half-past three. One moment the ground beneath them was crisp with tall, scratchy grass, the next the grass had turned to marshy cordgrass and the dirt squelched under their feet. Geela froze, face wrinkled in displeasure. She slowly looked up at Darkos, a pleading smile pulling her lips to the corners of her face. “How are you feeling? Still tired?” He slid off the mule’s back. It had been several hours of rest and he’d been refreshed by the hearty snacks. Plus Geela looked as though her face might melt if she had to walk any further in the swamp. “Here, let me help.” He lifted her up onto Shawn. “Thank you,” she said, a still-haunted note in her words. Swamps were not her thing. They detoured at the town of Friendlyham by the Swamp, to gather intel. A stout woman at the tavern pointed them towards the town clerk, where they’d find the regional directory. “Arlington, Arlington,” Geela murmured, running a finger down the addresses. “Where are you, Jane?” Darkos admired the interior of the clerk’s office. It wasn’t anything like he’d expected from the Swampy Region, but the architecture among the buildings in Friendlyham had been pretty consistent; little stone huts with numerous chimneys, filling the homes with warm glows. “It’s cozier than I’d expected,” he said. “You’ve never been to the Swampy Region, huh? They’re all like this. Stiflingly warm and cramped.” She went back to her book. “You would call that cozy.” He would. And it suited him just fine. The homes in the Second Mountainous Region weren’t nearly as nice. They were cold and stark, made from the white stones they mined. In a sunnier region, the marble and limestone may have shone, radiated back the light, but in the cloudy mountains, it was just cold. Kinda like a tomb. “Are you-- oh for all that is holy and sacred!” Geela’s outburst pulled Darkos back to her side. “There are eleven Jane Arlingtons in Spirebrook. Damn boring name. I bet Barney picked her just for that reason.” Darkos doubted that Barney chose his friends based on how easily they’d blend into a regional directory. Then again, maybe the man truly was that cunning. “How long do you think it’ll take to check them all out?” he asked. Geela flipped the page back and forth, as if hoping the words would change if she fiddled with them enough. “I mean, we can stop by each of their houses and interrogate them but our conviction will be damaged. We wouldn’t even know if the Jane we’re talking to knows squat.” Darkos winced at the irreverent tearing noise as Geela ripped the page from the book. “I’ll think of something,” she said. “I’ll come up with a plan.” Geela spent the bulk of their journey sulking. She snapped at any attempts on Darkos’s part to talk, so he spent the travel taking in the murky swamp around them. They first saw the city lights peering through the misty gloom of the swamp about half a mile out. Darkos’s spirits soared, a reaction likely intended by the city planners who’d known that all travelers would have just been concluding hours of trudging through the bleak swamp to get there. “We’re going to find an inn first,” Darkos said. “No, we really ought to track down-” “You’ll be better suited to investigating in the morning.” Darkos didn’t usually take a hard stance counter to Geela’s but this time it was warranted. Her face was so deflated after hours of travel in the muck, to the point where she’d stopped wiping the moss that fell or hung from trees off her dress and face. Covered in goop and lacking the energy to even swipe it off, well, she needed rest. “Darkos…” “Shower and a real bed sounds better than dragging ourselves around town like marsh monsters,” he said. “And I really haven’t been sleeping much so I need it.” This did it. Her face softened even as it took on an exasperated eye roll. “Your own damn fault, but I suppose, looking like we do, no one is going to take us seriously.” --- The rooms inside the Broken Drum Inn were just as nice as he’d expected. Two fluffy beds, a crackling little fireplace, soft towels at the foot of each bed, and a little bowl containing two mints on each pillow. “Now I see why the innkeeper said this place couldn’t be beat!” Darkos inhaled the woody smell of the fire and the scent of clean sheets. “That isn’t why he said that. Ugh, it’s so domestic.” Geela stood in the doorway, shifting her weight from one damp foot to another. He tossed her a towel. “You shower first. I’m going down to the restaurant to get some food. Want me to see if I can get some pheasant casserole and lilac tea?” “Be a dear?” He nodded and her face relaxed, a grateful smile on her tired lips. He pulled out her dressing robe and slippers from the bag and set them on her bed. Then he headed downstairs to the tavern. “Ah, hello there, master Darkos,” said the innkeep. “How can I be helping you? Food? Drink? Our swimming pond is closed for the evening but you can still find relaxation in the sweat baths.” This place was practically a resort compared to the seedy hovels they’d slept in on their first quest to Geela’s castle. She’d admitted later that she hadn’t paid for nicer accommodations because she didn’t want him to find her endless cash flow suspect. “In hindsight, I probably didn’t need to hide it. You probably wouldn’t have noticed.” Darkos shook his head. “Just some food for now. A beef stew will do for me but can you make a pheasant casserole special for my companion?” The innkeep’s chest swelled. “We’ve got some of the top chefs in the southern corner of Spirebrook. Try us.” The man’s face grew less proud and more concerned as Darkos painstakingly relayed Geela’s complicated specifics and needs for her meal, but by the end, he nodded confidently. “We can get that done, keep your lady friend happy.” “Thanks.” Then Darkos lowered his voice. “Also, since we’re staying here for a few days, I was wondering if maybe you could point me towards one of the shrines or temples?” “We’ve got quite the selection here! They don’t call us Spirebrook for anything.” He gestured to the dest, containing several stacks of brochures. “We’re the pilgrimage capital of the Swampy Region for a reason.” Darkos took the most robust brochure first, scanning the first page, with all the A deities first. “Uhm,” he said, reading and rereading the page, “you wouldn’t happen to have a temple of Alerion here?” “Hmm. Can’t say I recall… what’s he the patron of? Is that the God of stars?” “I think that’s Aurelion.” “God of flowers?” “Algernon. Alerion is the God of healing and peace.” The innkeep picked up one of the brochures and leafed through it himself for several minutes. When he put it down, he looked disappointed. “I’m sorry, good master, but all I can find is Scarpala for Goddess of healing and Rita for Goddess of peace. There’s another God, Potto, who kind of fits but I don’t have anything here on an Alerion.” Darkos’s chest tightened. “And if you had a shrine for him, it would be in these?” The innkeeper scratched his stubbly chin. “Not entirely, no. The library would have the fullest selection and you can also ask folks around. There are plenty of Gods, as I’m sure a holy man like yourself knows. We can only afford to print out brochures for the most popular.” The knot loosened slightly and Darkos nodded. “Alright, good to know. I’ll set out to the library tomorrow.” The innkeep pulled out a sheet of parchment and a quill and started scratching. “I’ll draft you up a set of directions on how to get there. It’s in a brochure but, between you and me?” He lowered his voice. “I didn’t write that one and I’m not much a fan of how it was written. Bad directions. Keeps sending our scholars to the candlelight district and most of them aren’t accustomed to that kind of show.” He straightened up and blew on the ink. “This’ll get you there better. Want me to send up your food or will you be dining down here.” “You can send it up?” Darkos asked. “Our servers’ got legs, don’t they?” the man asked, laughing. “Your lady friend looked as though a night in might be the thing she needs.” Darkos let out a long breath. “Yeah, not wrong. Ok, send it up if you can. That’d be great.” He bid the innkeep a farewell and took his directions upstairs. He’d head there straight in the morning and ask anyone he met on the way if they knew where the shrine to Alerion was. Someone would have to know. --- “Sorry, no, don’t have any of that?” “Hmm? What you selling? Nah, thanks, I’m good.” “I’ve never heard of him. Maybe you heard wrong? There’s an Illidan I think.” “Get away! Bloody converts, always pushing on ya, for pig’s sake.” The morning had not gone well. Darkos dragged himself into the library, weary and discouraged. Behind the desk, a bespectacled young man fixed him with an eager look. “Sir, can I be of assistance?” The building had the classic swamp architecture, long rows of oaken shelves, warm armchairs with tables stacked high with worn leather tomes. It melted some of the weight off Darkos’s back and he walked to the desk, chin held high, like Geela had shown him. “Yes, actually. I’m looking for information on where I might find the shrines for some lesser-known Gods.” “Oh!” The young librarian’s thin eyebrows immediately creased. “How lesser-known?” Darkos threw up his hands. “Apparently very. God of peace and healing. Something really fringe. I can see why no one’s heard of him.” The librarian held up a long fingered hand in a soothing gesture. “Alright then, no judgement. We’ve had folks seeking much worse, so we just have to be careful. Section C, rows 4 and 6 have all the information on local shrines, going out to the surrounding towns up to fifteen miles away.” “Alright, Section C, rows 4 through 6.” “4 and 6. Row 5 is cookbooks. I didn’t design this place.” Darkos nodded. “Thanks.” Many promising titles were thrown aside after proving unhelpful. Dissatisfactory. Useless. Useless. Useless. After reading through the local shrines and temples and finding nothing, Darkos began researching further. Surely one of these texts would have something on Alerion. The Gods of Health and Safety, 4th ed. yielded no results. Peace or War? Which Patron is Right for You? held not a single mention of Alerion. A Convert’s Guide to The Mystic Arts had nothing. Disgraced, Defaced, and Deleted, A List of Gods You’ve Never Heard Of had so many names of Gods, Beige the Goddess of algae, Fortuna Goddess of gambling, Jerry God of postal workers… but no Alerion. Not a single mention. Nowhere. “Sir?” The young librarian poked his head in the aisle. “We’re closing soon and- holy sheep, what have you done!?” Darkos sat surrounded by dozens of books in haphazard piles, some upside down with split spines to hold places, some thrown across the row. The librarian looked ready to cry. “I have to close. I have to- I’m supposed to be home by 8. I can’t-” “I’m sorry.” Darkos’s voice was hoarse. “I’m sorry, I just had to know. I have to know.” Two books fell from his lap as he stood, tumbling into a stack of ten books and causing it to collapse. The librarian cried in dismay. “I’m sorry,” Darkos said again, before pushing past him, down the aisle, through the lobby, and out into the night. It had started raining, the air just warm enough to prevent it from freezing but the icy fog that hovered over the ground chilled him all the same. The drops of rain stung his face as he ran through the emptying streets, shivering. Nothing made sense anymore. He burst into the Broken Drum, panting and gasping. The innkeeper turned to him but Darkos spared the man none of his time as he rushed upstairs, boots muddying the plush carpet as he ran. He threw open the door to their suite, hard enough to make Geela jump. She held a hand to her chest. Lounging in her dressing robe and slippers, hair tied up into curling rags, she cut a shocking contrast to his desperate gasping and soggy attire. “Now you look like the swamp monster.” She shooed him to the washroom. “You look upset. Take a shower.” “No. No,I need to-” “Daaaarkos.” She turned back to the parchment she’d been scrawling on. “We’ll talk when you’ve calmed down a bit. But you need a shower.” Geela wasn’t wrong in that the shower calmed him down. The frantic panic was replaced by a quieter but equally uncomfortable depression. He tromped out of the warm, foggy room back into the cozy bedroom where Geela was still scribbling, her long looping letters taking up more space than was warranted, which forced her to use up far more parchment than was needed. “Have you considered,” she started, placing her quill in the inkwell and blowing, “that maybe you’re just magical? Maybe you’re just a sorcerer with healing powers and the whole God thing is made up.” Darkos hadn’t considered this but it didn’t make him feel better. “I surrounded my whole life worshipping Alerion.” “Right, so now you’re just free to do what you want. No more starving or running up and down hills. I don’t see the problem. Made you some honey lavender by the way.” She gestured at the piping mug on his bedside table. Inhaling the steam calmed his tremors a bit and he took a sip. Enough honey to sweeten it, enough lavender to keep it fragrant. Just how he liked it. “He guided me, gave me moral direction.” “Well not everyone serves holy deities and we’ve all turned out just fine!” “Geela, you are quite literally the evilest person in the realm.” She waved a hand, dismissing this. “Alright, alright, well everyone else manages.” He crossed his arms. “Anyway, I have some results. We can talk about your crisis of faith or identity but-” “Don’t wanna talk about it right now.” “-I figured. So, anyway. This might take your mind off things. I had a bit of a breakthrough.” “Ok. Ok good. What did you find?” She definitely heard his tone, a bit too much like a puppy begging for food, but obliged him. He was grateful because he really really couldn’t talk about himself right now. He’d always prayed in times of trouble but now he felt like a man who had knelt at a statue a thousand times only to finally look up and find the statue missing. He was left wondering where it had gone or whether it had ever existed at all. What do you think? Are they gonna find Barney there? Will Darkos's faith last that long? Also, how are you all liking the chapter lengths? I'm afraid they're too long... what do you think? Next Chapter! Be sure to check out my beta reader, Vren's, serialFractured Song, if you're looking for more fantastical adventures!
Strange Roads - Ep. 8 - Session Summary and Discussion
Strange Roads Episode 8 Summary: Note: Much of this episode requires direct or near-direct transcription of the words said. There is no clearer way to put their point across. As such, it will be longer than average. Portions of the episode with notable lore will be linked to directly. Start of vod here (42 minutes in) As a quick summary of the previous episode: The waystation in Dolten has been cleared of demon children and the stones repaired. Zacharius lost Wiseguy due to Toot giving Babylon Gambler Black's head in another campaign. Arcidamus flipped a mirror and is about to cause terrible things and lore drops. Arcadum rolls a wisdom save for Arcidamus, as Jesse is late, which he appears to pass. The mirror he was turning flips and the area is illuminated in Violet, which covers the ceiling. The skin on the ceiling peels away and begins to dissipate. Arcadum asks the players to clarify who would have looked at the mirror. Gallan and Koordrin confirm they looked, Arcidamus is forced into looking, and the others did not. The violet light clears and visions flash through the minds of those that are looking.
They see things, almost simultaneously: The stars of the sky, something floating within them. A strange structure, almost like a castle floating through the Astral Sea. Visages of other individuals, people like you but not quite the same. One group holds a stone, which glows with the tendrils of connection and destiny. You then see it, Kalkatesh rising up before you. Like a bird you take to the sky and you see a path. A ringed circle, with different points of light. And then, you see a prison. A carriage, pulled by horses, approaches the mountains of Krazax. And within it there are six faces, but a seventh stands behind them, smiling in the shadows, with orange eyes. The mirror cracks and shatters, and all that remains appears to be a wand.
Koordrin and Arcidamus recount the above to the two that did not look. Zacharius looks at the larger-than-usual wand which appears to be a piece of a gnarled branch. He is able to make out words in Druidic due to his Eyes of the Runekeeper. They read "One root, three trees, replant, rebreeze." Mirage, the Lore Bard, fails to identify this, but Zacharius is able to recall a rumor that Alaheim, the ancient city of the druids, has been recovered and the Archdruid has taken up residence there. The wand is powerful but they should not use it and the inscription implies seeking a follower of Gwaina, the goddess of Spring and new beginnings, will let them know more. He will hold on to it to keep it safe. All the small mirrors remain and Koordrin looks inside one. A point of light shines on it that does not appear in reality, shifting as he moves it as if it is trying to lead them somewhere. He explains what he sees and suggests they follow it. They are wary, as many things here have been evil, but ultimately decide to follow. The light leads them to a building in the south east with a door that is somehow "off". Gallan identifies that the door is reversed, the hinges being on the same side as the doorknob. In the mirror however, the door is correct. Koordrin reaches for where the doorknob appears in the mirror and the otherwise invisible handle is gripped and turned, after much stalling and joking as Jesse finally arrives and is caught up on events. The room inside the door is also reversed, but in the mirror it is normal and the door to the east is open. Koordrin explores the room before going towards that door and opens one of the crates. While they first appear empty in reality, in the mirror it contains tiny, unfinished dolls with blank faces, which then appear for the rest of the group. Mirage takes one, fails a wisdom saving throw (5) as she grabs it, and the doll transforms into a smaller version of herself. It becomes animate, looking up at her and waving. It looks at the others then back at her and makes a shushing motion with its hands. However, she excitedly shares with the others that it is animated and it waves at the others. Koordrin points the mirror at the animated doll to an immediate "One moment please". The doll disappears and inside the mirror another Mirage appears. This mirrored Mirage looks different, with different colored hair and makeup and a sorrowful, poisonous expression. The mirror Mirage smiles, then walks out of view of the mirror. Gallan quickly leaves the room, joining Arcidamus who has refused to enter from the start, and asks them to stop interacting with the mirrors. Mirage, now curious, casts detect magic on the mirror. She detects Necromancy, Conjuration, and Transmutation magic in the mirror and a name written on it: Egarim. The group takes a moment before they realize it is Mirage's name backwards. They discuss destroying the mirror but Mirage doesn't want them to as she feels like she may be at risk if they do. They use the mirror to finally pass through the door to the east and the door disappears in reality, revealing for everyone another room filled with reversed things. Arcidamus still refuses to enter and begins to yell jokes from outside: "I believe in fate, not stupidity. If I was meant to be in there I'd be there already." Zacharius shushes Arcidamus, as they are still in a particularly scary part of Dolten. Inside a box in this new room they find carved hands, but refuse to touch them. They approach the door to the south, another open yet closed door. In this room reality appears fragmented, twisted, and cracked. Inside there is a person, Tomen. They try to identify what kind of magic may be causing the cracked appearance of the room with Arcana checks and Koordrin's 15 reveals that Cassius' teachings have talked about prisons existing in extra-dimensional spaces, or even prisons of ones own mind. Inside this room is one such space, an impossibility wrapped over reality. And inside this impossible space, Tomen is using the mill, grinding something unseen. Koordrin calls to the man and he looks up, unable to identify the source of the noise. He appears quite concerned by this. Koordrin asks him to come towards them and they are finally able to see him properly. He has red hair, orange eyes, and twin white snakes which appear to be part of his clothing. Some symbol they cannot see is on his chest. He stops, and knocks on an invisible door. The eyes make the group suspect that he may be the one they saw in the vision in the mirror. They discuss how they might interact with the man and ask him if he can speak. But when he moves his mouth, no sound is audible. Koordrin wants to enter but Zacharius warns that the room inside may be a prison they cannot escape from. He replies that "Cassius has freed me from worse" but he is still hesitant and he decides to throw a coin inside the room. Tomen picks it up, confused, and pockets it. Zacharius pulls out some paper, writes "Who are you" on it, and passes the paper and a quill through the door. Tomen is confused, picks it up, and appears to have difficulty reading it. He writes something on it, and tries to throw it back, but it bounces off the door. However, for a moment they can see that he hasn't written words on it, but instead drew a screaming man stuck inside of a mirror. Koordrin believes now that the man is imprisoned but when he checks the chain of Cassius on his axe, it is not doing anything. With a comment that they can always get another mirror to enter with, Koordrin enters the room with his own. He splits into several different pieces to those outside, but inside he is now able to see the man normally. Tomen greets him as a curious traveler and Koordrin asks if he is imprisoned, to which he responds he is here of his own choice. He would like to leave, may be able to leave, but doesn't know if he should leave. He remains within the mirrored realms to keep safe the last vestiges of what remained before. Inside this space are reflections of all that remain. Many have recently entered his domain, and he believes there is a "happening". Mirrors are turning, and creating more reflections, and his purpose may be coming to an end. He mentions that he was commanded to remain in this space, to protect it, by Lord Death. When Mirage asks Koordrin to inquire about Egarim Toman replies that she remains in this realm and that it is a shame what will happen next to her. He clarifies that it will not be from any doings of his, it is the domain of the Matron of Fate to control. When asked if something would also happen to Mirage he says something will happen to all of them, it is only the way. Koordrin is informed he is not trapped due to his mirror and quickly exits. Zacharius is incredibly relieved he is able to escape. Koordrin relays what Tomen has said and Arcadum informs them that only Mirage would be able to identify the importance of the mention of Lord Death. With Zacharius' aid, she history checks a 23 and Arcadum is able to reveal this:
When the individual references death, it is possible that the reference was not to the concept... it is believed by some that have knowledge of such things, that there are beings above the gods. Some believe that Death itself is the highest form, the greatest being, the guardian of life, the gardener of the great tree of Yggdrasil.
Zacharius convinces Arcidamus to enter after much complaint when they reveal Tomen had mentioned the Matron of Fate. Arcidamus insists up and down that Zacharius comes clean about his secrets before he is willing to do the job and eventually Zacharius says he will. When Arcidamus finally enters Tomen identifies him as a cleric of fate. They have a long question and answer session.
What is your purpose? "To guard this realm." Alright Nemot, what else do you do? "I watch, and I learn, and I lament." Why are you lamenting? "As much as the world I wish to be a part of, I can do naught but simply watch." Why is that? Why can't you leave? "It is not that I am unable to, it is that it is not yet time." Is it a prophecy? "Nothing so straightforward. It's more that... I must wait until enough eyes are opened." What does that mean? "With each turning of the mirror, and with each open eye, it means that I can risk returning." How many eyes? "Only one more." How are eyes opened? "Eyes are opened when they see the truth of things." What is the truth? "The truth of the Herald, and the power within."
Arcidamus asks what that is but when pushed if he truly wishes to know he demurs, saying he is just trying to help his friends and know why Tomen mentioned the Matron of Fate. He replies that she is one of his colleagues, and that she and Arcidamus will one day speak again. Arcidamus refuses to bring the whole group into the room but Toman says that is fine as only one more eye needs to be opened. When asked what knowledge will open the eye he replies, "What is to come." Arcidamus leaves and complains more, but he explains what he heard to the group. At the party's request he takes the wand, re-enters, and asks Tomen about it. His response is a little more clear than the one provided from the check earlier:
It is a piece of Alaheim, the city of the druids, the focal point of their power, and the root of Yggdrasil. It belongs to the domain of Gwaina. Someone of her should answer it.
Arcidamus leaves again and simply says, "It's important. Ask a druid." Zacharius puts the wand away, much more carefully than before. They discuss if they should even talk with Toman anymore if wisdom is how he escapes. Arcidamus refuses to re-enter. Zacharius decides to enter instead after looking at his hat and the symbol of Babylon, but Arcidamus refuses until he explains the dice. He clarifies finally that the dice are from his patron and when there was something the Gambler Black wanted he rolls them. Mirage tries to break the tension by giving Zacharius a massage and only makes it worse. Zacharius continues his explanation: one of the die has disappeared and his hat no longer lives. To explain why, he shows the hat and that it contains the symbol of Babylon. Zacharius does not know why this has happened and wants to learn from Tomen if he can. The group pushes Zacharius further on the details and he explains how the die has worked. There is another question and answer session:
What do you owe the gambler? "He wants to use me to gain things from this world." What was the initial deal? "I had a gambling problem. I only played games that could be cheated with knowledge about how they work. A man showed up at one the tables I'm sitting at, and he encouraged me to make a bet I couldn't win. I was compelled to do so, and in losing I became a worker for him." What does he want? "Items, things destroyed, whatever he asks, though he hasn't asked for much yet."
Gallan remarks that Zacharius has endangered the group, but he doesn't really mind that much and that Zacharius should just be careful. Zacharius insists that Toman can give him the answers he needs regarding his patron and his new potential attachment to Babylon. Arcidamus is satisfied with the reveal and allows him through, but not before Gallan makes a sandwich joke. On entering, after introducing himself to Toman, Zacharius looks around the room. He sees that in the mill Toman appears to be milling glass. Another question and answer session begins.
"What are you making glass for, mirrors?" "Look around you, there are so many cracks to fill." "They implied your job was done, is filling the cracks your job or the job of many people?" "It is one of the purposes allotted to me. My name is Tomen. I am the master of mirrors, the maker of this realm, and its defender." "You were offering knowledge or sight of some kind?" "Yes, I can show you the truth of things. And, if you look, the final eye will open, and I can yet return." "Will you be honest with me if I ask what the drawbacks are of accepting this knowledge?" "Once you receive this knowledge, there is no going back. Never again will you see the world the same way. Your purpose will be redefined, and its terrible, terrible burden will weigh upon you. And yet, it must still be so." Zacharius takes a moment and looks at his hat. "I thought I wanted out from under all of this, but now I have too many questions." "It would seem that your debt to one has transferred to another. I believe if you wish to deal with that, then I am not the one that you should be speaking to." "You think I shouldn't accept what you are offering?" "I did not say that, I am simply referring to your...personal predicament. Perhaps this knowledge will give you leverage in such a discussion. But I am not to convince you, it must your idea, your willingness, and no duress. For this knowledge will change you, it will change the fate of those around you. Already your fate has been changed."
Zacharius looks at his one remaining die, sighs, and accepts the offer: "Well, he always hated that I didn't take enough chances, so, let's do it." "As you wish." Lumina, the Song of the Seven, is played. The time for lore is upon us.
Tomen will approach. He will offer his hand to yours. Do you take it? "I'll take it." He will smile and grab one of the pieces of reality, and will tear it from the cracked mirror. He will concentrate upon it, shifting its form and twisting it until finally it shows the symbol of the Seven. The Symbol of the Seven shows six of the seven points tipped with a violet light, and now the seventh begins to burn. He will look to Zacharius and will lift the mirror to his eye. The power flows from the symbol, surging into Zacharius' eye. And as it pulses through, Zacharius begins to see the truth of things, of those that walked before, and those that yet walk beside, and an uncertain future. The shadows of the Seven, the heroes from all those years ago that stood together to stave off the end of all creation now pass their torch to you, and to six others that walk unseen. You begin to see them now, one by one. You see yourself; you see a Kenku; you see a vampiric person; you see a dwarf; you see a goblin... Further you look... The other two appear to be wrapped in shadow; you can't quite make them out. But still, the same two stand beside you. One of them will let forth a roar, and the shadows uncoil around him, and you will see an Orc. The last one remains unseen. And then, each of you lose your color, your image, your sense of self. And it fades away, until you stand like the others, shadows of power, fragments of memory, a single strand of hope. Before you, Kalkatesh opens up, creation yawns like a maw, and the Herald beckons closer. Time is broken, the way ahead is clear, the seventh eye has been opened. And as such, the endgame can truly begin. Toman will take the seven pointed star from your eye, Zacharius, which eye do you choose? "The left eye." Your left eye now burns bright with a violet light, your pupil refracted into seven points. You now see as they do, feel as they do. And you are burdened with terrible purpose. And with that, the fragment will shatter, the mirror will fade, and Toman's purpose is fulfilled.
Tomen speaks then:
And now it is done. The realm detected, and now I may... I may go where I am needed most. There are many things you will not understand at first. For now, stick to the path of your heart. You must deal with your debt. You must finish your journey to the west. And when that is done, you will feel its call. I can only hope that you are ready to answer it. Now it is time for me to re-enter this realm, and to take my place in the pantheon. The prisoners need me now. They know not what yet waits for them. What bonds that must be broken. And what price must be paid. I wish you luck, you will have many Strange Roads to walk, my friend.
And with a snap, Zacharius appears outside the room and the door is now closed. Zacharius collapses, holding his eye. Mirage asks if he is okay and what happened to his eye, holding his face. Zacharius is unable to find the words to describe what happened. Mirage describes to him how the eye looks: a star with seven points on it—the symbol of the Seven. Zacharius realizes that looking in a mirror seems like a terrible idea, given everything that has happened recently with them. Gallan jokes, "Gambler Black, Babylon, and now you have a destiny eye. You're really racking them up." Arcidamus joins in, "I thought I had a God problem." Mirage finally gives Zacharius the massage she was trying to give him earlier. Zacharius needs to recover and try to make sense of the vision, so he tries to leave and recover after remarking that he felt like he was being pulled to be part of something else—something bigger. Arcidamus grabs him, insisting that with everything that happened he will have no more secrets. Zacharius explains what he saw in detail. Arcidamus thinks what has happened is now dangerous for all of them, not just Zacharius. Zacharius replies that he doesn't want to put the party in danger and will leave if he must, but for now he just needs to rest. They all give their piece. Mirage: "Give him time." Gallan: "I am very very late to perform a wedding. But what happens happens and I'm not really worried too much." Koordrin: "As long as you're forthcoming with anything you might see out the normal, I think we can continue on." Gallan: "But you should be open and honest with us at all times about any secret messages." Zacharius complies with this demand, and Arcidamus lets him go rest. The party rests along with him at the wayshrine. During the rest, Zacharius begins to have horrific nightmares. The visions in his head, the knowledge of the seven, the presence of Babylon. One of the dreams is vivid, and is Wiseguy talking to him.
You gotta beat Babylon at his own game. You gotta roll the dice, you gotta deal with the devil and come out on top. That's the only way I can come back, the only way the Gambler Black gets free. You can't roll 7 with one dice, but boxcars will get you out just fine. Keep heading west, but when you wake up, you gotta roll them bones and deal with Babylon. You gotta talk to him, it's the only way. The sooner the better. And one more thing, there's something terrible coming, something awful afoot, you gotta watch out for...
Zacharius wakes up then, before the rest the group. He gets up and leaves the room, then walks into another. He takes out his die and inspects it. It looks the same. He sits on the floor, sighs, and rolls. It comes up with the symbol of Babylon instead of the normal pips and the room suddenly gets very dark. Babylon appears in a chair, continuing to be sexy. Zacharius is confused by his appearance, expecting something horrific. Babylon responds that many have the same reaction, but that despite his appearance he is the biggest monster Zacharius has ever seen. He explains that while Zacharius serves the Gambler Black his debt to the Gambler is now a debt to Babylon. In explanation of this debt, he informs Zacharius that the Gambler Black had done something to him, and he always gets what he is owed. While he has no intention to limit actions that serve the Seven, which Zacharius has taken upon himself, he is owed and will be paid. He proposes a new deal to Zacharius, one that will free him. What Zacharius had done for the Gambler he will now do for Babylon and once he has completed this Gambler Black will be freed. Zacharius accepts this, as it is a continuation of what he was doing already. However, Babylon informs him that Koordrin serves a "troublesome deity", one that interferes with Babylon's plans, and Zacharius may some day need to do more than just deceive Koordrin about his plans. Zacharius says nothing to this. Babylon warns he will find out eventually and that a later choice may be harder than doing something now. Finally detailing his task, Babylon explains that instead of taking small powers from shines as Gambler Black had Zacharius doing Babylon would have Zacharius build shrines for him. He provides a black rod, etched in a fiery opal, one that holds a fraction of his strength. When Zacharius approaches a designated point of power, or a cross of leylines, it will glow. He will then enact Babylon's name, and a shrine will be made. He will have to do this along the entire journey and at the end of it Babylon will free the Gambler and Zacharius will be a free man. Zacharius accepts. Yet there is one final complication, Babylon explains. Carrying the rod will cause Zacharius to emanate an aura of evil, but Babylon believes Zacharius to be clever enough to get around that little problem. Babylon then brings Wiseguy back to life, who immediately hams it up, and Zacharius silences him. Babylon insists that their agreement be bound in the proper manner, and reaches out his hand. Zacharius, in for a penny, in for a pound, accepts it after a moment of thought. Babylon laughs, and tells him it's just a bad dream. Zacharius awakes, the symbol of Babylon etched onto his right hand. The oath is made. And with that, their rest is complete, and they must guide the elves through the forests of Dolton. Thus ends the session. Session TL;DR:
The mirror flipped at the end of the last session reveals a collection of visions about the other campaigns and their own role within them. Then the mirror breaks into a large wand which is actually a part of Alaheim, the city of druids and the root of Yggdrasil. They need to show it to a follower of the god Gwaina
An bunch of lore is revealed about the nature of violet eyes, a Sevenic speech is given, and Zacharius gains the seventh violet eye, allowing Toman, a man who they found in a prison of shattered time, to leave his prison and go to assist "the prisoners" (the Broken Bonds group)
Zacharius details to the party his agreement with his patron, the Gambler Black, how it has been taken over by Babylon, and promises to be more open with them. Immediately after, he is forced to make a deal with Babylon himself to build shrines in his name, going against the wishes of at least one other party member, most notably Koordrin
Mirage gains a mirror image copy of herself, Egarim, due to interactions with things better left alone. Egarim wanders off into the mirror realm with an implication from Toman that terrible things will happen to her
Arcidamus complains endlessly, but gets a lot of information out of Toman and Zacharius
Koordrin leads the party to Toman before handing off most of the talking to the others
Gallan makes a few great jokes and asks a few very serious, thought out questions, though he claims he is only making the latter because he is hungry
The revealed lore of the Verum universe expands, and the Herald watches...
Characters and their players:
Zacharius - Dodger
Gallan Troth - Bikeman
Mirage - Kelli_Siren
Koordrin Stormbane - Timmac
Arcidamus da Silva - Jesse Cox
Apologies that this turned into more of a novelization than a summary, but lore gonna lore. Edits are various grammatical fixes, as reading it through 5 times wasn't enough to catch everything.
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