Danaeryzard & Alaria: The Restoration Center

It’s Dungeons and Dragons time! Here’s the latest installment of the epic journey of our heroines, Danaeryzard and Alaria! (If you’re new here, you can read the earlier chapters of the saga using this tag search. Read them in chronological order!)

…………..

The tragic mood hung heavy in the air as Danaeryzard and Alaria stepped into the moonlight and out of the cave. Silence surrounded them and they walked down the path to the Inn. When they entered, the innkeeper greeted them happily – obviously unaware of the tragic events that had just occurred. They didn’t feel it was their place to inform this woman about Cledus and Bengie, so they tried to act normal.

As Dany was sorting through her backpack in the main hall, she found the stein that Charlotte had asked them to look for in the caves. The stein that set off a wild Vegepygmy attack earlier that night, before they encountered Sullin. Thinking about the caves immediately sent Dany into a fiery rage. How can she act normal after what just happened? What if Charlotte had something to do with this?? It was a bit irrational, but this type of grief was not an emotion that Danaeryzard had any experience with in her past. She could feel heat rising from within and black smoke began to flow out of her nostrils. Before she knew was she was doing, Dany headed over to the innkeeper demanding to speak with Charlotte’s mother.

Rose, the innkeeper, said that she was Charlotte’s mother, and seemed a bit frightened by the approach. Danaeryzard presented the stein to her, and asked what her child was doing in the caves. All of the rage that Dany felt about what happened in the caves seemed to be deflecting onto this poor innkeeper. Alaria stayed to the side, feeling a bit awkward. 

“We encountered several Vegepygmy enemies and sustained many injuries in the caves as a result of this stein! I demand some compensation for returning this family heirloom back safely to your reckless child,” Dany said hotly, finishing with a snort of small flames.

Frightened and not wanting to start any trouble, Rose asked them to wait a moment and rushed through a side door. Dany started to feel anxious about how she was behaving and tried to cool down. After a few minutes Rose came out with a generous food platter with roasted chickens, vegetables and beer. She also gave Dany a sack of 15 gold pieces. Dany thanked her for her troubles and tried to apologize, but Rose ran off saying it was time for her to get to bed.

As they ate, Dany and Alaria bickered over if they should split the purse. “I was in that battle just as much as you were!” Alaria reminded her, thinking of how she really wanted to buy some more potions before their next big fight.

“You always pocket the money that you find when you ransack dead enemies – which I help to kill. Besides, I’m the one who discovered that cursed stein, and I’m the one who just made a scene and terrified this poor woman… I guess I earned this one!” Danaeryzard laughed a bit at herself as she finished off her beer. 

After the meal they retreated to their room. Before finally retiring for a long rest, they discussed what their next move should be. As strangers in this town, there were few people that the duo could trust. They knew that Crest and Smalls had to be on their side, having witnessed the murder of Bengie and Cledus at the hand of Sullin. There was also She’i, the friendly boat maker on the beach who had a special connection with Alaria. Perhaps they’d head for the Fishing Guild in the morning.

Unfortunately they woke up a bit after sunrise and had a slow start to their morning. Neither one of them had slept very well, plagued with nightmares from the day before. The inn was seemingly empty when they left, so the partners were also in search of breakfast. 

Walking down the path, they continued to notice that the town was very quiet. At this point, word must have gotten out about the murders. They realized that all of the fishing boats had gone out for the morning, and without Bengie the Fishing Guild would be empty. They agreed to skip the guild and head to She’i’s house up the beach instead.

She’i

She’i was easy to find. She was sitting on her front porch, looking pensively out at Lake Constant with a cup of coffee in her hands. They walked up to her and could tell just by looking that she already heard the bad news about Bengie and Cledus. After assuring them that there was no ill will, She’i invited the travelers inside for some breakfast, which they happily accepted.

Alaria decided to show She’i the building schematic that they had found on Sullin after the battle. “Do you recognize this language, written on the bottom? We’ve never seen the likes of this before,” Alaria asked her, trying to stay focused on the matters at hand, instead of She’i’s beautiful eyes. Looking carefully at the drawing, She’i flipped it upside down. Then flipped it over again.

“Just as I thought…” She’i said. “No idea.”

They chuckled and thanked her for trying. She’i cooked up some eggs and a local specialty, a seafood jambalaya, which they all ate together. The duo expressed concern about where to go next. 

“Well the Fishing Guild won’t do you much good right now, they won’t be back until the afternoon,” She’i explained. “Haven’t you visited the Library yet? It’s right next to the Inn!”

They were surprised to learn that the largest stone building in town, which they had mistakenly assumed to be a church for humans and mostly ignored, was actually the Water’s Edge Library. She’i wished them luck and set them off in the right direction so she could get started on her day’s work.

Dany and Alaria were quite impressed with the Library. The stone building was massive and seemed to tower over the town. The large wooden doors were heavy when Dany reached to push them open, and when they walked in they were momentarily amazed by the handsome vaulted ceiling and endless rows filled with books. The aisles were lit by candelabras and shed dim orange light throughout the large main hall, at the other side of which was a large desk and a librarian.

Cricket the Librarian

As soon as she looked at the librarian, Alaria suddenly had a terrible feeling inside. She got goosebumps up and down her arms and felt her heart skip a beat. Dany noticed the sudden change in her partner and looked over. 

“Why is the library so big in a fishing town?” Alaria whispered to Dany. “I’m going to check for magic with my wand.” She discreetly pulled her Wand of Magic Detection out of her bag and did a quick wave around the room. All of the books seemed normal to her… however, the librarian on the other side of the hall seemed to have a magical aura. “We should remain cautious in this place.”

Alaria decided she would not show this person the building schematic, and would instead draw out some of the characters that she could remember written on it. They would ask the librarian if she knew anything about exotic languages, instead of giving away too much information to the wrong person. They were very weary of people with false identities after what had happened to Cledus.

“Good morning, I am Cricket the Librarian,” she greeted them kindly as they approached. “Is there anything I can help you with today?”

The duo explained that they were looking for an expert on exotic languages and texts, and that they were trying to identify a particular language. Cricket seemed very eager to help and said she was a bit of an expert, since she was the Librarian. Alaria drew out some of the characters to show the woman what they were looking for, and Cricket said it looked like an ancient text from the Restoration Room. 

“We have a lot of ancient tomes in this Library, and we work very hard at curating and restoring these pieces, so we devote the lower levels of the Library to ancient writings. Would you like to come with me downstairs to see?” Cricket said, growing excited. She grabbed a torch and lead the way to a stone doorway, which had stairs descending below. 

While they walked down a spiral staircase to the lower level, Cricket asked where they discovered these ancient letters. Alaria made up a story about her grandfather showing them to her when she was young. They walked through a room that was filled with large old scrolls on display, as well as tablets and tomes. 

Dany was a little confused that they didn’t stop walking when they were in that room. Instead, Cricket led the way deeper into the back of the ancient text display room, toward another stone doorway and set of stairs. “I noticed that you two were wearing crystal necklaces from the shop next door. Did you know that the crystals of the lake were discovered by our town’s great founder?”

She began to recount the history of Lake Constant as they continued on, telling the two travelers that the town and the lake itself was discovered and established by the town’s founder, named Lovely Constant. Cricket seemed to revere the town founder, and spoke of her like she was a queen. 

“Lovely Constant was a proud protector of our beautiful town!” Cricket was almost exclaiming with prideful emotion. Alaria and Dany both began to feel very uneasy as they continued down the second flight of steps. Their crystal necklaces began to glow faintly when they reached the bottom of the stairs. 

The second lower level was a huge space with stone walls separating out small chambers in the center. The lighting was considerably dimmer compared to the higher levels of the Library, but they could still see enough thanks to the torch and some other candle-lit fixtures around the perimeter walls. 

“This is the Restoration Center,” said Cricket, turning to face them. Her face looked zany and gleeful in a disturbing way. “We keep it darker here… it’s better for the ancient… texts. There are lots of ancient things down here. Many artifacts from the time of Lovely Constant, the fierce defender of this town! Lovely Constant would have been very DEFENSIVE ABOUT STRANGERS SHOWING UP AND GETTING PEOPLE KILLED!!” Crickets eyes suddenly widened maniacally and her mouth began to open and twist in such an unnatural way that Dany and Alaria felt it was somewhat disturbing. They didn’t have long to feel horrified about it, because in a flash Cricket dropped the torch and ran off in a great speed towards one of the stone chambers in the center of this basement level. 

The Hag

They could hear her scream from within the chamber. It started as a young woman’s scream, as the voice of Cricket, but the tones began to change into a more evil, deeper, older screaming voice that echoed through the room with a howl. 

Before Dany and Alaria had a moment to think about what was going on, they were ambushed by a grotesque figure. She was not really a young woman at all, Cricket had transformed into an evil old Hag! Her hunched figure, wiry hair and pointy fingernails indicated she was as ancient as the old scrolls they had just seen – but she was clearly full of magic and speed.

Her gaping mouth was open and she screamed out at them.

“This is my town! YOU HAVE HURT IT!”

…………………..

And so ends the latest installment of our DnD adventures! Thanks for reading! I hope you like this ongoing storyline lol! If you play Dungeons and Dragons too, let’s hear about your character in the comments! 🙂

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Pokemon Ultra Awesome

You may remember a few posts back I mentioned that there were a bunch of new Pokemon games coming out in the future. I also swore to resume my quest to catch ’em all, and be the very best like no one ever was. It’s no small task!

First, I had to dust off my 3DS (and charge it, ugh) and renew my Pokemon Bank account. It’s $5 for a year, and they saved all my mons from years ago before my membership lapsed, thanks to my Nintendo account! Which they’d BETTER, since I’ve worked so hard on my Pokedex for many years now.

Throwback to when I completed the Pokedex in HG/SS!

I knew I had been slacking on Gen 7. When I logged into Bank and saw the situation, it was bad. I had none of the Alola version exclusives. I barely had any evolution chains completed for the latest gen. So I purged anything useful from my Pokemon Moon game and moved what I had onto Bank, and then transferred it to my Pokemon Ultra Sun game.

When Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon came out in 2017, I wasn’t really impressed. I bought it, because that’s just what I do, but I was like, “What is the point of this game? Isn’t it basically the same, with some weird robot looking characters added to the plot?” So I only made it as far as the second island when I got preoccupied by other games and stopped playing.

The real question everyone should be asking is, what was the point of Pokemon Sun and Moon? Because Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon are the MUCH better games! If you’re a longtime Pokemon fan, you will appreciate Ultra Sun/Moon much more than the original Sun/Moon. The Ultra post-game is really fantastic. I didn’t expect it to be this awesome.

I will concede that yes, before you reach the ending, the Ultra games are quite similar to the original Sun/Moon. GameFreak added in an additional sub-plot of the Ultra Recon Squad, a team of robotic looking people who shed some light on the Ultra Beasts, because they are from another dimension in Ultra Space! What?? It’s all very crazy and seems like a random add-on, until you get to the end of the storyline.

Honestly, the end of the original Pokemon Sun/Moon was kind of lame. You beat the Aether President and Lillie goes off somewhere on a boat to continue training or something. It’s like random and not much payoff. The post-game in Sun/Moon is minimal. This is where Ultra Sun/Moon is muchhhhhh better.

I don’t want to give away too much of the ending in case there are people out there who haven’t yet played the game. But the family drama between the Aether President and her children is resolved in a more satisfying way, in my opinion. Though I still wonder whatever happened to the father? Why aren’t they out looking for him in Ultra Space?? After you beat the Elite 4 and officially get into post-game mode, the game is so much fun. Team Rainbow Rocket takes over the Aether Paradise mansion and becomes a haven for all of the popular bad guys from previous games. Not only that – Team Rainbow Rocket also takes over the Festival Plaza, giving you the option to use their much cooler design scheme permanently if you choose!

42356814505_ac6b854eeb_k

On top of all this additional post-game, as well as the Battle Tree and the new rental Battle Agency found in the Festival Plaza for fine-tuning and BP collecting, there is also the Ultra Space post-game. The Ultra Recon Squad show you how to use the Ultra Wormhole and ride a legendary Pokemon into different wormholes and possibly encounter other Ultra Beasts! You can also use the gyro controls while flying through the wormhole, which I think is pretty fun. This also means that there are lots of Ultra Beasts to catch.

So after some more hard work and gameplay hours, now my Pokedex Completion is at 97%. I caught all the Tapu’s but still need to get Cosmog and the second evolution Cosmoem. Then there’s a list of Ultra Beasts: Nihilego, Stakataka, Blacephalon, Buzzwole, Pheromosa, Xurkitree, Celesteela, Kartana, Guzzlord, and apparently Marshadow which was only released in 2017 during a special event. And Zeraora, which I don’t think is obtainable, but is #807 in the list on my DataDex app for my phone lol. My Pokemon Bank account is also missing Volcanion, which is a legendary from Gen 6 that I missed out on. If anyone knows how I can get a Volcanion, please let me know!!

I should mention that there is no National Dex in Gen 7, which does irk me. When I do catch all the ‘mons, all I’ll get is a shiny charm. Which is awesome, sure, but I want a fancy certificate lol!

It definitely stinks to miss out on limited-time released legendaries. But I didn’t miss out on the cute Ash’s hat Pikachu that is available via QR code! Now I have to practice my Mantine Surf skills so I can earn a special Surfing Pikachu. I’d also like to complete my passport in Ultra Sun, but it’s really hard! I have to catch all those Ultra Beasts. I still haven’t completely finished beating Team Rainbow Rocket. There’s also the Battle Tree, which has an easy mode and the classic level 50 flat rules “Super” mode, and you have to win crazy streaks to get those pages in the passport.

THERE IS STILL SO MUCH TO DO TO BE THE VERY BEST!!! AHH!!

That’ll keep me busy until the next Pokemon game comes out on Switch in 2019. I’ll be ready and waiting for Pokemon Bank on Switch, because that must be happening too. Until then I’ll keep enjoying Pokemon Go through the good summer weather! Check out this cute Raichu I evolved, it’s all ready for the beach!

Danaeryzard & Alaria: Final Battle at the Crystal Cave

It’s Dungeons and Dragons time! Here’s the latest installment of the epic journey of our heroines, Danaeryzard and Alaria! (If you’re new here, you can read the earlier chapters of the saga using this tag search. Read them in chronological order!)

…………..

What scared them the most was that they were NOT ready to battle.

Sullin the Dragonborn

Meanwhile, Sullin the Dragonborn Wizard stood ready for battle with his tall staff pointed directly at Danaeryzard and Alaria. The duo were frozen in a moment of panic. Only moments before, they had stumbled upon the dead body of Cledus, who they thought to be living and had spoken to them only a day before. Now it was obvious that this body had been dead for days and Sullin had used his magic to change into Cledus’ form… and had set them up for this trap!

Before entering this chamber, Dany and Alaria had taken a few moments to heal up, but not fully. They had not taken a short rest, so Dany had no fiery breath weapon power left within her to use against Sullin. Alaria was not at full HP, and Dany had only used False Life necromancy to gain some extra HP; this left the duo at a disadvantage against this large and powerful wizard. Dany couldn’t help but feel a shameful intimidation by this strange Dragonborn foe. His confidence and strength reminded her of the red Dragonborn kinsmen bullies back home. But she also couldn’t help but wonder, how many other Dragonborn out there were powered by great magic, like herself and Sullin? How might her life have been different if she had grown up alongside an evil Dragonborn wizard who could train her? And what sort of magic was Sullin’s specialty?

The orb on Sullin’s staff began to glow, and they could see the back of the cave where there were clusters of enormous crystal slabs. Dany and Alaria knew that the crystals could be used against them by this enemy, as they had learned when they first met the Sun Wizard. They had also learned from that street urchin Charlotte that the crystal’s magic could be harnessed after charging it for one turn. Perhaps Dany could use this to her advantage! But she would have to be able to reach one of these crystal slabs first!

Danaeryzard took a few steps toward Sullin and raised her crossbow. She needed to get closer to the crystals, but she didn’t want to get too close to the enemy either. There were crystals set up directly behind Sullin which he was probably going to use for his own attacks, so Dany and Alaria decided to attack the crystals. They knew it would take two hits to destroy each crystal slab, so they would have to be quick. Dany shot at the crystal slab over Sullin’s shoulder, in hopes of intimidating him by shooting the arrow past his face.

It didn’t work. The arrow missed the crystal and the entire action made her look foolish. Sullin began to laugh, despite the fact that Alaria had darted quickly to the side and successfully embedded an arrow into the crystal. 

“I hope that wasn’t your best attack!” Sullin scoffed, raising his arm and putting his talon hand onto another crystal next to him. The duo could see the crystal slab begin to glow faintly, and they worried what would come next!

Dany moved to the left side of the cave and raised her crystal orb. Using her Firebolt cantrip, she sent a plume of fire at the Dragonborn enemy. It did a bit of damage, and Sullin used his other talon to pat down a few flames as Alaria shot another arrow at the crystal she had been aiming at – this second shot caused the crystal slab to shatter and break into several pieces. One crystal down… countless more to go!

Suddenly the crystal that Sullin had been charging up shone in a brilliant white brightness, after which the white glowing power began to be absorbed into Sullin’s talon, arm, and around the rest of his body. 

“You two have no idea what you’re getting into!” he hollered, manifesting his white magic aura into orbs that surrounded Alaria, glowing so brightly that they blinded her! She screamed out and began to stumble, obviously disoriented. The orbs faded, returning the cave to dimness. Dany shot another bolt of her crossbow at Sullin, suddenly realizing that these arrows were merely bouncing off of his strong scaled skin. “He’s resistant to piercing damage!” she cried. Danaeryzard decided there was no point in using her crossbow anymore in this battle, and made her way to a cluster of crystals that she could try to use for herself.

Meanwhile, Alaria was blind and trying not to panic. She switched to her short sword and got into a defensive stance. Sullin began to approach her and tried to strike her with his staff, but the agile Tiefling’s hearing abilities seemed to be heightened during her blindness – she heard the whoosh of the staff coming toward her, and she was able to duck just in time to avoid the hit!

Danaeryzard wanted to help Alaria, but felt the best way to do this was with a good offensive move. Sullin was preoccupied with Alaria, so Dany put her talon on a crystal slab and began to charge it herself. This time the crystal began to faintly glow red, and Dany could feel a fiery warmth charging within. 

Alaria’s vision began to come back. She could see the dark shape of Sullin before her, and she began to swipe wildly in his direction and slashed him lightly many times. He retreated back to a cluster of crystals and raised his staff to shoot a Fireball at Dany. Luckily, her red Dragonborn heritage gave her fire resistance, but the attack greatly reduced the HP she had gained from False Life. She didn’t have a moment to think about this issue, because the fire power within the crystal surged into Danaeryzard with an almost unbearable heat. She raised her orb and shot another Firebolt cantrip at Sullin, hitting him with a great blast of fire.

Alaria was relieved to have her vision restored and nimbly darted to another crystal, hacking away at it with her short sword. Both Sullin and Dany raised their talons and began to charge crystals once again. This was turning into a battle of magic! Was Dany up to the challenge? Trying to distract him, Alaria stabbed at Sullin, but his thick armor was proving to be an issue. He shrugged her off and pointed his staff in Dany’s direction once again. This time, a yellow cloud emanated from Sullin’s staff, moving to the area where Dany and her cluster of magic crystals were stationed. It covered Dany and her immediate area with a thick mustard gas and she buckled down to her knees, struggling to breathe. Her body began to heave and she started to vomit. The charging crystal connection was severed and Dany could not perform any actions as she struggled to get away from the gassy cloud.

Seeing her partner attacked this way put Alaria into a rage! She slashed at Sullin’s arms, but that didn’t stop him from hitting her with another Fireball. While he was distracted by Alaria, Dany managed to crawl out of the gas cloud and she used her final spell slot to cast a Magic Missile attack, destroying another crystal slab and hitting Sullin with a bolt as well. 

At this moment, they all heard echoed voices of men through the cave. All of them froze mid-battle, not knowing who was approaching. With a *poof* Sullin reverted back into Cledus’ form, and Cledus’ real body vanished from the entrance of the chamber. However, even in Cledus’ form, Sullin looked very beat up and was bleeding from the attacks he had already suffered. The three battlers all looked very worse for wear, so when townsmen Crest and Smalls arrived on the scene, they didn’t know what to think of the situation. In their point of view, it looked as though their friend Cledus had been beaten up by two foreigners. 

Smalls

“What is the meaning of this? Are you all right, Cledus?” asked the portly Smalls, who cautiously walked towards the three fighters. 

Sullin (as Cledus) staggered to his feet. “They – they attacked me!” he cried.

“He’s lying!” Dany implored at the two newcomers. “He’s not really Cledus! He’s a wizard!” cried Alaria at the same time. Crest and Smalls looked at each other, at Cledus, and at Dany and Alaria… not sure what was going on. Crest asked Smalls, “Why should we believe these strangers?” 

“We are official members of the Expeditionary Guard. We were sent here directly from Castle Drachen!” Alaria said, trying to sound as big and official as she could. At this, the two men raised their eyebrows.

Crest

Crest wasn’t very convinced. He scratched at his beard and said, “The Expeditionary Guard?! Prove it!”

“Everyone has been saying that Cledus has been acting strangely this past week. Even you could probably agree with that! That’s because he’s not really Cledus!” Alaria tried to explain. Just then, another human appeared in this chamber of the cave. It was Bengie! He looked shocked at what he saw. “What happened here?”

“Bengie! You must remember us!” Dany and Alaria exclaimed. “Remember, we were looking to find Cledus, and you said that he wasn’t acting himself lately? You begged us to help him? He was killed by a wizard, and that wizard is using his form! This wizard is evil, he’s a follower of the Sun Wizard and we have to stop him! Please help us!”

Bengie

Bengie looked at Crest and Smalls and said, “Would you not agree that Cledus has been acting very strangely lately? He never used to drink. And he always said he hated going in these caves.” The men seemed to nod in agreement, as though more incidents had been happening throughout the town. “These two foreigners told me they were sent from the castle a few days ago on official business. Maybe we should question -“

Bengie didn’t get a chance to finish his sentence, because as he was speaking, Sullin reverted back into his true form. At that moment, Cledus’ real body reappeared at the entrance of the chamber. And at that moment… Sullin flung a fireball at young Bengie, killing him instantly. 

Crest’s eyes filled with horror and rage at the scene unfolding before his eyes. He unsheathed a large sword from under his cloak. Smalls followed suit; he pulled out a sword and they moved in on Sullin. The fight was back on!

Alaria tried to dart to the side but her crossbow attack missed. Dany readied herself by a crystal slab and began to charge up magic power once again. Crest and Smalls attacked Sullin with strong slashes and the battle was finally starting to turn in their favor. Sullin began to retreat and cast a False Life spell on himself, giving him extra HP. 

“You will never defeat the Sun Wizard!” Sullin cried out as Smalls tried to use a sword attack but missed. Danaeryzard shot another powered up Firebolt cantrip at Sullin, and Alaria slashed him with her short sword. In a final blow, Crest fiercely skewered Sullin through the chest. “Long live the Sunnn—” Sullin managed to say weakly as he began to gurgle out blood from his mouth. Crest pulled his sword back out of Sullin’s body and the wizard fell in a crumpled heap.

They all stood silently for a moment. The two men, Crest and Smalls, looked in dismay at the bodies of Cledus and Bengie in the cave. Dany and Alaria had no idea what to say, aside from offering condolences for the deaths of their friends and thanking them for coming to their aid in the battle.

“I guess this puts me in charge now…” Crest said, in a bewildered and almost fearful tone. “I have to tell Bengie’s mother what happened. I have to… I have to take care of so many things…” His mind trailed off and he didn’t finish his sentence. He turned abruptly and exited the chamber. Smalls stood in somber silence for a few moments, then sighed deeply and walked out as well. 

Dany and Alaria stayed behind for a bit longer. Alaria checked Sullin’s dead body and found hand-drawn building plans with notes written in a language she couldn’t identify. She put it in her bag and then the duo stood together in the cave quietly. 

“We never actually met Cledus. I wonder what he was like,” Dany whispered.

“Bengie was a good kid. He didn’t deserve this,” Alaria said disjointedly in response, lost in her own thoughts.

The partners looked at each other, finally realizing how tired and beaten they felt. They needed to rest and regroup. They needed to get back to the Inn. From there they would figure out their next move. From now on, they would not only be working to help the castle… they would be would be avenging the life of Bengie, and who knows how many other innocent lives that have been spent by the Sun Wizard and his minions. Now, this was personal.

……………………

And so ends the latest installment of our DnD adventures! Thanks for reading! I hope you like this ongoing storyline lol! If you play Dungeons and Dragons too, let’s hear about your character in the comments! 🙂

Dinos Takeover Los Angeles!

We planned a simple trip to Los Angeles, CA. Our plan was to visit the E3 expo and do some sightseeing. What I hadn’t planned on was Los Angeles BEING TAKEN OVER BY DINOSAURS. I should have known. The marketing was everywhere: The dinos have left the park. They just didn’t mention that the dinos went to LA.

My first dinosaur sighting was in Downtown LA. We were at the convention center, innocently perusing the aisles of the show floor at E3.

Raptors at E3

Raptor!!! It was behind a fence. I can’t be sure if the fence was electrified, but it did look damaged. People were lining up for an experience nearby so it must have been safe… maybe the raptor was tranquilized…? Paralyzed? lol

The following day, walking down past the Walt Disney Concert Hall… another tranq’ed dino was found, in a cage. It seemed like it was baking in the hot sun! (Is this inhumane??)

Triceratops tranquilized for travel?

We decided to inspect the situation further, by waiting on a ridiculous line for what was called the Jurassic World Fan Fest event. We were told there would be VR games, giveaways, and free movie tickets maybe??

Entering Jurassic World

After the long wait, we made it to the entrance. And what did we find? FREE T-SHIRTS!!! YASSS! So that was a good start. Once we made it inside the giant JW doors…

AHHHH!!

A friendly T-Rex was waiting just inside the entrance!! Yikes! Luckily it must have been trained to only do photo-ops instead of eating people, so there was no carnage. And he was super IG-friendly, of course. I mean, this is LA after all.

Resting in the shade…

It was hot af that day. I’m pretty sure I got sunburned at this event. Some dinos were lounging in a more shaded photo-op area. The dino above was just laying there looking pretty spent. I tried to take a selfie with another dino that was popping out of the vegetation. (Blue?)

Dino Selfie

We wanted to check out the VR game thing but the line was insanely long and they were having technical difficulties even getting it started up. So no. We also got raffle tickets that were supposedly eligible for a free movie screening but the booth to trade in the tickets wasn’t set up yet either. What kind of half-assed event was this? Dinos are baking in the sun in questionable conditions, humans baking in the sun on line for the event, and then some of the attractions weren’t even doable?

At least I got that free t-shirt!

Later in the day, we went to Santa Monica Pier. There weren’t any dinosaurs. Plenty of old people, if you count them.

Santa Monica Panorama

Santa Monica Pier Panorama (featuring Carney)

Santa Monica from the top of the Pacific Wheel

Ugh. I loved Santa Monica. Next time I go to LA I might just stay in this part of town. The boardwalk is really fun. I bought a conch shell for my niece to hear the ocean. There were rides and we ate delicious tacos and drank various margaritas. We even saw some fancy plane thing that I barely got a photo of, but apparently it’s a cool rare thing! (Carney, help me out here in the comments please! lol)

Cool airplane thing!

We also saw a police van with surfboards rigged up on top, tourists struggling with selfie-sticks, a cute baby, and the Bubba Gump Shrimp mascot. Important things!!

The next day, we spent a majority of our time in Hollywood. I won’t clog up my blog with all of the celebrity homes that I took photos of, but you can peruse the full album on my Flickr page. Here’s a nice panorama I took from the Hollywood Hills:

Hollywood Hills

We took a bus tour to see the sights of Hollywood, which was a lot of fun. In addition to the Hollywood sign and the celebrity homes, we were driven through Beverly Hills and around Rodeo Drive.

Dinosaur of a tree in Beverly Hills

Rodeo Drive

All the palm trees!

After our tour we stayed in Hollywood to hang out. We checked out the Walk of Fame and other popular sites, but we wanted some more authentic experiences. And alcohol. So we stopped at a couple of bars in Hollywood!

The Roosevelt Hotel

We started at the Roosevelt Hotel, to experience how rich movie stars of the 1950’s might have enjoyed their cocktails. It was fancy. I mean, check out that indoor fountain! But the prices were fancy too, so decided to check out a speakeasy on Sunset Blvd. called Adults Only. The fake store front was a pretend porn video store, but when you walk in there was only slight amounts of porn and large amounts of old VHS tapes from the 1990s, from Sleeping Beauty to Indiana Jones. All fake placeholders put up in the vestibule, because only a few steps brings you into the actual bar, which was GORGEOUS.

Dimly lit, classic vibe speakeasy Adults Only.

On the big screen they had some old black and white movie that we couldn’t name. The menu consisted of movie titles that described the flavor and theme of the cocktail. It’s kind of dark but I took a picture to give you an idea. (I was drinking Clueless!)

The menu was in a VHS cassette case!

OK, so there were no dinosaurs here, but we were enjoying some delicious alcohol in some very old bars! (Well, old by California standards, anyway.)

At this point, you may be thinking that I had exaggerated about the dinosaurs. I DIDN’T. We encountered many more dinosaurs the next day – at Universal Studios Hollywood!!

Hogwarts Castle

We stopped at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter first. There was a scary dragon on the Harry Potter 4D Experience ride, but that’s not exactly a dinosaur. I get it. But don’t forget… Universal also has a Jurassic Park.

Jurassic Park – THE RIDE

Sadly, I didn’t take any photos of the dinosaurs that I saw within Jurassic Park – The Ride. It was a water ride (not a log flume by definition, as we were in yellow raft style vehicles) that took us through Jurassic Park. But then we realize that the dinosaurs had broken out of the park! They were roaming through the ride area! We got sprayed and splashed as we went through, but nobody on our raft was prepared for the big drop. Tensions rose as we climbed to the highest part of the ride, readying ourselves for the final, sharp angle drop and then… A GIANT T-REX HEAD DESCENDS DOWN ON YOU. Adding just that extra amount of terror and adrenaline as you begin to drop straight down into the water below! AHHHH!! And then as you land the entire raft is hit by a giant WAVE of water and literally everyone comes out drenched. There’s no ‘oh if I sit on the edge I’ll be dry.’ Nope. Everyone. Gets. Drenched. And then they direct you into the gift shop, stocked full with clean, dry, brand new Jurassic World t-shirts celebrating the new movie. I see right through your marketing tactics, Universal!!

Then we saw Blue.

Blue

Unlike all the other dinos we had seen, Blue was not in a cage. Blue was not behind a fence. Blue was not tranquilized. Blue was THERE. Being FIERCE. People lined up to take photos with Blue, but the danger was reallll!!

Blue getting angry.

Blue was very realistic. She moved and blinked and roared and screeched. She chopped her teeth at the young babies being offered for ‘photo ops’ (aka lunch?!?!) and scared the bejeezus out of some little boy that was watching on the sidelines. He almost cried. That’s how real Blue was. It was no joke. I should have taken a video instead of photos. Oh well!

I bet you won’t ever see as many dinosaurs in Los Angeles as I did!! Anyway, if you enjoyed the pics from my trip, there’s many, many more on my Flickr Album. Check it out below! Hit the side arrows to move to the next photo. Let me know what you like!

LOS ANGELES

 

Oh yeah and don’t forget to see see Jurassic World in theaters now!!

E3 2018: A Brief Recap

This year, my awesome friend Carney and I decided to take a trip to Los Angeles and attend E3 2018! I just got back and while I intend to write a blog about the ENTIRE trip, I wanted to do a quickie overview of E3 first.

LOS ANGELES

Things that were great about E3:

  • Game Demos. Obvi. If you can manage to get into a line, playing some of the latest games is one of the best parts of E3. I played Super Smash Bros. for Switch, as well as the new Monster Hunter. However, those were the only demos I managed to play. More on that later.
  • Swag. While not QUITE as impressive an offering as I remembered in 2013, there is still a decent amount of free stuff to get at E3. Tote bags, Vault Boy masks, and free Drakes snack cakes were some of the most prevalent finds at the convention center.
  • Decor. For some reason, the booth setups at E3 are always the coolest. I’ve gone to NYCC, PAX East and PAX West and none of it compares to E3 when it comes to life-size dioramas and game world immersion.

Things that were pretty shitty about E3:

  • Lines. LINES!!! I quickly realized that E3 actually stands for Everything has 3 Hour Lines. Because that’s how it is. We got there at 9am and by the time I was scanned in and at the Nintendo booth at 9:24, the line for Let’s Go Pikachu was 3 hours long. It was very disheartening. The only reason I was able to play the Smash demo was because they forced us to book time slots in advance. But now I’m actually grateful they made me do the extra work because that at least ensured that I got to play SOMETHING. Jeez.
  • Lack of Panels. There were not many ‘events’ planned for E3. Not that it would have mattered, because you’d probably have to commit an entire day to waiting on the line to get in. But one of the best parts of conventions are celebrity panels. Why aren’t there any at E3?
  • The Cool Nintendo Events Weren’t Actually At E3. The Splatoon 2 Tournament was held at a theater offsite and you had to line up at a specific time on June 11th (BEFORE E3 EVEN STARTS) to get wristbands. Guess what? My flight was only arriving at that time. Same deal with the Smash Bros. Tournament – that day they were giving out tickets at the same time as my Smash Bros. demo time slot. Soooo wait in a line in hopes of getting tickets to watch the Smash Invitational, or actually go to E3 and play the demo I had registered for in advance. Naturally we went with the sure thing. But why was Nintendo forcing us to pick which thing was a priority? It felt very unfair. I caught a few glimpses of the tournaments on live feeds they had on TV screens. Whoop.
  • You Can’t Even Go to the Major Press Conferences. Yeah yeah I don’t have a press pass. But in the game company livestream videos, it always looks like a huge auditorium filled with fans in attendance. In reality, those are all paid professional press badge holders at those events. They are getting PAID to cheer. Actual die-hard fans don’t even get to go to the press conferences. Hmph. Plus they hold the press conferences early in the morning when the rest of us plebs have to wait in lines to get in. We don’t even get to watch unless we wanna burn mobile data.

You might sense my disappointment in E3 by now. You would be very correct. I quickly realized that the lines are likely to be much more manageable when I go to the Nintendo NYC store and play in the E3 Demo Area in the convenience of my home state. Honestly, my time spent away from E3 was much more fun. I did lots of cool touristy things and had a blast in LA. I’ll blog about the rest of my trip in a day or two. But for now, check out my Flickr album and enjoy the VISUALS of E3…. at least it’s a very IG-friendly event.

The Pokemon QUEST Continues!

Oh man oh man I know I’m late with this one but I’m sure any self-respecting Nintendo & Pokemon fan already knows the news about the upcoming games “Let’s Go Pikachu!” and “Let’s Go Eevee!” due to release in November for the Nintendo Switch. These games will be compatible with Pokemon Go, which has recently inspired me to re-download the app and start playing again since the weather is getting nice! I’m way behind in Pokemon Go so I have plenty of work to do if I’m gonna catch ’em all! Where’s my Team Instinct squad at?? lol

Of course that wasn’t the only important Pokemon announcement. Another, main title franchise Pokemon game is coming out in 2019… and it will be releasing on the Switch! It’s a little sad that the 3DS is really starting to be phased out, but the potential awesomeness of playing a main Pokemon title on a big TV screen is too good to pass up. I hear that there will be even MORE new Pokemon added to the ‘Dex too so it’s time to renew my Pokemon Bank account and make sure I finish my Alola Dex before I fall too far behind! Gah!

Was that all? Nope! Right now you can download a “free-to-start” game called Pokemon Quest. It’s been on the eShop for about a week or so now and I downloaded it. Their game design choice was to make all of the Pokemon into block-form, as though they were made of legos or in the game Minecraft. Why are they like this? No clue.

They call it free-to-start because you can certainly start the game for free and play it for free, but it will be very slow. In this game you have a battery and when it runs out of charges you have to wait for it to re-charge, or use in-game currency, which you earn a little bit of each day… but there’s a lot of perks to buy and it’s easy to run out.

This is when the game becomes less free. Sure you can wait for your daily allocation, or you can pay real money to get more. If you buy the premium packages, not only do you get bonus in-game money, but you also earn more on your daily allotments. The premium packages also include other perks like decorations that help with getting certain color berry drops, attracting certain types of Pokemon, etc.  as well as a few higher level bonus ‘mons to add to your team right then and there.

I decided to buy the most expensive pack because it seemed like the best deal. For around $30 I got a major head start on the game, plus way more in-game bucks. This helped me bolster my team so I could make some good progress in expedition mode. Using their new My Nintendo gold coin function in the eShop, I was able to apply 400 coins and get $4 off my total price, which was pretty nice!

The actual gameplay is EXTREMELY CASUAL. Hardcore gamers will likely be frustrated with this game. Hardcore Pokemon fans gotta catch em all so I play it for the Pokedex completion, because the gameplay is frankly… boring. There’s two modes: automatic and manual. Neither of these modes allow you to control where the Pokemon move around in the field. (Originally I had expected this game to be like Pokemon Rumble, but in that game you have full control of your toy Pokemon.) What you can control, in the manual mode, is which Pokemon Attack the ‘mons in your team decide to use, and when. However, I found that trying to do manual mode was a bit chaotic and kind of wasteful, since I didn’t know where the ‘mons would be moving to, and my moves would end up missing. So I moved to automatic mode and took more of an “overseer” approach to the game. I play it more like team management strategy.

To make friends with new Pokemon, you have to cook up dishes using berries to attract different types of ‘mons to visit your little base camp. One time I even got a shiny! Once you have a Pokemon on your team, it will level up when it completes an expedition. The Pokemon seem to follow the normal evolution rules of their species, with the exception of any evolution stones, because I haven’t seen those. There are Power Stones that you can collect and apply to the Pokemon to increase their power and defense, as well as to amplify their moves. You can even train up your Pokemon to learn new moves, but you will have to sacrifice some of your existing Pokemon to finish the training. Choose wisely!

Overall, do I recommend this Pokemon Quest to all gamers? No. I would recommend it for younger players and those who just love anything from the world of Pokemon. It definitely is not like most other Pokemon games, and those looking for an RPG will be very disappointed. If you go into it with lower expectations, you might find that it’s a fun casual game to play when you’re on the go.

Danaeryzard & Alaria: Mushroom Cup Cave

It’s Dungeons and Dragons time! Here’s the latest installment of the epic journey of our heroines, Danaeryzard and Alaria! (If you’re new here, you can read the earlier chapters of the saga using this tag search.)

…………..

Sunset at Water’s Edge was truly a sight to behold. The vast width of Lake Constant gave an impression of looking out at an endless sea, with the sun slowly making it’s way toward the horizon and casting succulent shades of peach and orange across the sky. However, Danaeryzard and Alaria didn’t have much time to appreciate the natural beauty – they were looking for the cave where Cledus would be selling his crystals. They walked along the rocky perimeter of town, where they came upon a large, carefully carved opening to a dark cave. 

“Hey – wait a sec!” a young voice called after the duo.

Dany and Alaria wheeled around, surprised. Behind them was a young, scraggly looking girl with shaggy hair and dirt on her face. “Who are you?” asked Alaria.

Charlotte

“Oh uhh I’m Charlotte. Are you going in the cave?” asked the girl. Without receiving an answer, Charlotte rambled on. “Lots of people check out the caves, especially foreigners. Like those crazy religious folk. They’re always looking for the big crystals. Are you looking for the big crystals too? Did you know they can amplify magic? But it takes a turn to charge ’em, so you have to plan ahead! My mom always tells me to plan ahead, but it’s so hard to remember… Oh hey can I ask a favor?”

Alaria looked at Dany quizzically. Who was this scruffy girl with all this information? Why was she talking so fast? What could she possibly ask them to do? 

“You are quite bold to come up to foreigners all alone like this,” Dany said to the child, trying to sound wise and give warning of their potential danger. “What could we do for you?”

“Well… I’m not supposed to go in the caves. But sometimes I sneak in. I never go too far, because it gets dark and I don’t want to get lost. But uhh… well, I left something in there last time. It was my Grandpa’s Stein. It’s an old brass mug with a crystal fish on the side. If ya see it, can ya bring it back to me? Or give it to my mom – she works at the Inn. Please? Could ya?”

A stein? Why would a child be carrying a stein into a cave at all? It was a strange request, but Dany and Alaria said they would keep an eye out for it. Charlotte thanked them and ran off towards the main road. The partners shrugged at each other and proceeded cautiously inside the cave.

It was a well made cave, carefully crafted with support beams and a sunlight shaft, allowing what was left of the daylight to illuminate the interior. The cave was damp, sandy and musty, and looked as thought it was not being used regularly. On the right side was a darker opening that led deeper into the cave, and on the left was a large door with a giant bolt lock going through the middle. Alaria inspected the lock, hoping to use her lock-picking skills to open the door, but was confounded by the complexity of the ancient lock. They decided to proceed into the darker passage, which led to a much larger open chamber.

The main cave chamber felt even mustier than the entrance. There was moss growing all over the walls, and appeared to have accumulated in mounds in the far corners of the chamber. Little white mushrooms were clumped together and tiny white spores floated lazily in the air. A soft clicking sound echoed throughout the chamber, but Dany and Alaria could not see the source of the sound. They continued to carefully walk through the chamber, in search of any sign of Cledus or maybe a good hiding spot. 

Suddenly in the corner of her eye, Dany spotted something shiny among a pile of rocks. She always loved shiny things, ever since she was a hatchling, and could easily spot something shiny even in dark places. The shiny thing was indeed the missing stein, but when Dany picked it up she accidentally disturbed the rocks and they spilled across the ground, rolling over a white mushroom. It popped and hundreds of little spores poofed up in a small cloud. The clicking sound quickly intensified in volume. Alaria looked toward the back of the cave and saw that the mounds of moss in the back of the cave were stirring and moving on their own. 

“I think you should get over there Dany. Try some of that fiery breath of yours on those mossy mounds.”

She tried to walk over as carefully as she could, but Dragonborn were never known to be very graceful or light-footed. Danaeryzard’s large talon feet managed to smush a cluster of white mushrooms as she walked deeper into the cave. Another poof of spores rose up and the mysterious clicking almost sounded like angry yells that were echoing through the chamber. 

Vegepygmy

Without warning, the moving mounds of moss popped upwards and sprang into the form of Vegepygmy warriors! These leafy, spear wielding soldiers were short but quite full of rage. Apparently Dany and Alaria were not expected or welcomed in this cave after all! Was the ‘missing stein’ a trap to awaken these monsters? Quickly they moved into defensive poses as the Vegepygmy lept toward them. Dany took on two at once, and a third ran towards Alaria, clicking angrily. One attack from the Vegepygmy on Danaeryzard showed that their leafy spears were no match for Dany’s red-gilded scale armor skin. The spearhead seemed to bounce off of her, leaving the Vegepygmy looking confused and angry. 

Alaria shoved her short sword into the chest of the Vegepygmy that was charging toward her. It cried out in pain, but when it stepped back, Alaria watched in horror as the wound she had just doled into him was glowing green and regenerating. The stab wound was practically healed as the Veggie heaved it’s spear into Alaria’s arm.

On the other side of the cave, Danaeryzard used her Fire Bolt cantrip to attack one of the Veggies that were flanking each side of her. The flames hit the Vegepygmy directly in the face and it cried out in pain. The smell of singed leaves began to fill the cave. Again the Veggies tried to attack Dany but her thick scaled skin was too powerful. Feeling boisterous, Dany tried to do a slick move with her crystal orb and hit the Vegepygmy on the other side with another fire bolt, but her fingers slipped and she almost dropped the orb. 

Alaria was in pain and in her desperation she had a moment of clarity – as a Rogue, she had the ability to dash, disengage, and sneak her way through battles! If her attacks were simply being healed by this Vegepygmy, then she was not going to be able to beat it on her own. She quickly dashed away from the little green monster attacking her, and charged at the Veggie that Dany had burnt in the face. This time the Vegepygmy did not heal up after Alaria’s short sword hit. This was when Alaria realized that once you attack a Vegepygmy with fire, their magical healing ability was disabled. 

“Dany – you have to hit them all with your fire attacks! Roast these brussel sprouts!!”

After shrugging off another attack, Dany heaved her firey breath weapon towards the Vegepygmy that she had missed last time. While it wasn’t a huge hit (she was still struggling to fully control the power of her breath weapon, and she was pretty sure the dampness of the cave only made things worse), she knew it would be enough to do some damage and negate the magic power.

With her next move, Alaria chopped the first Vegepygmy directly in half. She had a victorious gleam in her eye and set her sights on the other newly singed Veggie. As she kept that warrior busy, Dany turned around and sent a Fire Bolt towards the last Vegepygmy, and it’s healing magic finally stopped. The two remaining Veggies were getting desperate and livid. In a rage and attacking from behind, one of the Vegepygmy found the sweet spot under her arm and stabbed Dany deep under her scaled skin before she could turn and defend herself.

But Dany wasn’t too injured to retaliate. With her crystal orb in hand she conjured a Magic Missile spell, creating three thunderous bolts of energy that pulverized what was left of the Vegepygmy attackers. Their lifeless bodies collapsed in leafy heaps, and Dany spotted an old key in the enemy that Alaria had recently chopped in half. The key was surely intended to be used on the locked door from the cave entrance! They made their way back to the old locked door.

Before proceeding, they needed to heal. Alaria used a potion, and Dany decided to try out her False Life spell to regain some additional HP. She’d never practiced necromancy in her past Sorcerer practice, and felt the strange surge of dead spirits creating an invisible defensive shield around her. 

After they unlocked the door the two partners continued into the deep chamber, which looked like it had been used much more frequently and recently than the rest of the cave. As they walked deeper in, they saw a body laying on the ground. Cautiously they looked closer and saw that it was the body of Cledus. His skin was white and his throat had been slit. He looked like he had been killed several days ago. 

If that was Cledus, then who were they playing Roll It with at the bar the day before??

“HAAA-ARUK-UK-UK-HAAA!!”

Golden Dragonborn

A deep laughing voice that made Danaeryzard’s heart sink with despair echoed through the chamber. The ominous laugh had a distinctly Dragonborn accent and was the all-too-familiar sound that Dany heard when her clansmen would laugh at her and call her names when she was younger. In the back of the chamber, huge crystals began to glow in the darkness. From the shadows walked out a tall golden Dragonborn, holding a staff.

The Dragonborn continued to scoff at Dany and Alaria as he began to approach. 

“Looking to buy some crystals, are we?? HAAA-ARUK-UK-UK!! Ahh, and I see that you’ve found Cledus!”

Alaria and Dany exchanged horrified glances as they realized that this entire scenario was a setup. This golden Dragonborn had somehow used magic to impersonate Cledus and lead them into this trap. How did they not see this coming?

“Do you two really think you can interfere with us? The Sun Wizard is always going to be one step ahead of you! These crystals don’t matter to us anymore!”

The golden Dragonborn held his staff out in front of him, towards Dany and Alaria. The crystal orb installed at the top of the staff began to glow with a red light.

“SOON YOU’LL BE JOINING YOUR FRIEND CLEDUS!!”

……………………

And so ends the latest installment of our DnD adventures! Thanks for reading! I hope you like this ongoing storyline lol! If you play Dungeons and Dragons too, let’s hear about your character in the comments! 🙂

Book Report: The Handmaid’s Tale

Custom cover art by @gluxbox

Book Title: The Handmaid’s Tale

Author: Margaret Atwood

About the Author: She has written several other novels, although I haven’t read them. She looks like a nice lady. She lives in Canada!

Main Characters: As always, there are many characters in the book so I’ll focus on the main ones. Sorry for spoilers!

Offred (June?): Protagonist. She has completed training to be a Handmaid in the dystopian future of this country, which is renamed Gilead after a horrific government coup led by a radically religious Christian sect. There is a disease or genetic mutation or something causing sterilization and infertility, so only women with certain genes are able to give birth – the Handmaids. There’s a crazy new system for procreation where a married couple uses a handmaid as a surrogate, but with crazy sex practices and strange indentured servitude with a religious zealot flair. Definitely a scary scenario.

The Commander: The antagonist? But it’s unclear if he’s the TOP of the totem pole or just one of the high ranking officials. He’s certainly complicit in the new laws that deprive all women of the right to read and write, own property and money, and robbing women of their families and the children they had given birth to before the regime change. The Commander toys with Offred, inviting her to visit him at night (which is normally forbidden) to read books and magazines, and he even took her on a little excursion one time.

Serena Joy: The wife of the Commander. She’s a bitch. I’m sure any woman in her situation would feel the envy and hatred for a handmaid, yet her ‘religion’ forces her to accept the ceremonies. Why did the women in this dystopian future allow this to happen? How did they all become convinced that this crazy religion was the answer?

Luke: He and June/Offred were married before this craziness happened. They have a daughter together, but the crazy religious government decided it was unfit because Luke had been married before. Divorce was no longer legal or something. It was somewhat unclear what exactly happened to him. He might have been killed, he might have escaped. Offred doesn’t know.

Moira: In the time before Gilead, Moira and June were best friends. I wrote June with a question mark before because I didn’t really know her name when I read the book, although I probably just forgot the one instance that they said her name. But in the Hulu series they say June all the time. Anyway, Moira is full of life and is brave. She sees June/Offred one last time in an unexpected place. (This is totally different from the plot of the Hulu series, for some reason they changed a LOT of these details.)

Oflgen: A fellow handmaid, she walks to the market and goes to Gilead events with Offred every day. At first they didn’t talk much but eventually she reveals that there is an underground network fighting against the regime. They have hope. But then tragedy strikes. (ahh trying not to reveal too much!)

Aunt Lydia: One of the crazy older ladies in charge of training the handmaids and she seems to enjoy threatening and scaring the groups of women in her charge at the Red Center. She runs Salvaging events too, during which a sinner is punished – usually hung or beat to death in some way. Sometimes the handmaids are ordered to participate in carrying out the sentence. Brutal stuff!

Nick: He works for the Commander as a driver, and helps to facilitate the secret meetings between the Commander and Offred. He is also an Eye, someone who spies on people to report back to the government. But he apparently is also a part of the underground resistance. Offred/June has conflicted feelings about him after Serena Joy arranges for her to have sex with Nick to “increase her chances” of making a baby. Offred and Nick start to have a secret (illegal) relationship, which she feels conflicted about considering she doesn’t know what happened to her husband.

Plot Summary: It’s a dystopian future where women have lost their rights – but only in Gilead. Tourists come to visit and take photos of the handmaids in their strange uniforms. Women have been brainwashed to feel shame and blame for not being able to conceive, yet the Handmaids are the only fertile women and they’re still treated like garbage. What kind of messed up patriarchy is this? If I were a character in this book, I would have been shot already for dissent.

The story is told in a non-linear way that jumps between present day and times before Gilead, when they “were happy but didn’t know it”. The establishment is running Gilead but there was enough opposition to have a secret underground network. Unfortunately the end of the book is very abrupt and there isn’t much conflict resolution. I don’t want to give too much away. All I can say is that the plot of the book and the plot of the Hulu series are extraordinarily different and I found it a little confusing and off-putting when I watched the series right after reading the novel.

Lessons Learned: This book should be a reminder that women especially need to stand up for their rights and not let something horrendous like this happen to us. If we stand together we are strong. Also, I think this book reminds us that women should NEVER be defined by their status of motherhood.

Personal Opinions: Ugh this book was tough to get through at some points. It’s a fast read (aside from some disturbing scenes in the story) and you basically feel icky after it’s done. I did enjoy the storytelling, it was informal and direct to “you” the reader, which helps you to really get wrapped into the story. I felt pain for the protagonist, I wanted to help her, I wanted to slap sense into all of the Gilead assholes. I feel confident that our society would never devolve into this… as long as we don’t get rid of all the scientists. In the book, science was outlawed. I hope that this country is smart enough to not do that…

Tarot: A Pet Project

Lately I cannot get enough of tarot cards! I am addicted to doing at least one reading a day. I’d like to do more, honestly. I’ve recently started reading a book about how to write fiction using tarot cards and it sounds like so much fun! I’ve decided that since the Manga deck has such storytelling illustrations, I will use that deck for writing purposes. So of course that meant I needed to get a THIRD deck to keep in my backpack and use for travel or readings for friends. What kind of deck does one carry around with them?? A pet, of course. I got the Pagan Cat Deck. Now I have kitties with me all the time! As always, I must start with a deck interview. I tried to shuffle as best I could, but…

Tell me about yourself.

4 of Swords: Purrrr…. I’m napping right now. I like to rest and have deep thoughts. Contemplation is one of my favorite things to do. Aside from sleeping.

What are your strengths?

10 of Chalices: I’m an expert snuggler. I love to help create a happy home. Harmony and alignment are my specialties. 

What are your limitations?

3 of Chalices: I only come out when friends are around! I’m here to be a travel companion and to guide your friends and community. Just don’t call me an emotional support animal!

What are you here to teach?

The Magician: My abilities to share knowledge will spread magick to others. I will teach you and your friends to learn more about your inner powers, skills, and to find your own answers. And I’ll teach the world to love cats, of course. Mrow.

How can we best collaborate?

Hierophant: You, the hooman tarot reader, must establish yourself as a trusted tarot interpreter. Together we will uncover the mysteries of daily life for yourself and others. I’ll bring the catnip.

What is the potential outcome of our relationship?

9 of Chalices: If we work together, we can grant wishes. Bowls and bowls of tuna can be ready for us to feast upon. Satisfaction and happiness is in the future!

What breed of cat are you?

Mreh! I cannot be defined. Sometimes I am a gorgeous longhaired Persian requiring grooming and maintenance. Sometimes I am a black cat deeply in touch with the occult. And at all times, I am the QUEEN of the house, so don’t forget that. What matters most is that in my heart, I care about others and I want to be an inspiration.

I think this deck will require lots of petting, I mean shuffling, to make sure it gives concise answers. But I love it’s compact size and it’s already in my backpack ready to go on adventures! Who wants a reading from the Cat Deck??