Blades in the Dark: Le Fantôme de Mme. Bloodsoe

Do you remember my recent blog about Blades in the Dark? My friends and I played our one-off session, and it’s finally time to see what happened when my character, Lapis de la Nuit, joined up with Gwack Zextra and Alecia Petronova! (Please note that this blog entry is rated R and not intended for children!!! lol)

The bells in the dilapidated clock-tower still worked. The sound of the midnight bells rang loudly through the dark, empty streets of the formerly rich district of the Six Towers in the city of Doskvol, where it is always night. Giant townhouses, slanted and concave, created organized rows of desolation. But on one street, a small cloaked man scurried and shuffled towards the one house on the block that seemed to have lights on inside. The little man was slow and quite old, but he knew precisely where he was going. He walked up the steps and started knocking with determination.

This was the house of the “Seventh Tower” – an elite crew put together by Bazso Baz for high profile assassinations, heists and intel operations. Although, they certainly didn’t look like an elite crew based on their appearance. In the front parlor lay Gwack Zextra on a dusty chaise-lounge, sampling some new recreational drugs that he had just designed in his laboratory hours before. He was of strong build and would be an attractive man, if he weren’t constantly in a stupor. Gwack, also known as “G” within the crew, was a mastermind Leech – a saboteur and technician – and he battled with the struggles that come along with high intelligence; to him, knowing too much was a curse and he needed to quiet his mind through drugs and alcohol on a constant basis.

High intelligence was less of a problem for Alecia Petronova, the crew’s Cutter. He was a dangerous fighter with a massive frame, and massive arms to boot. Alecia was always working out in his spare time, partly to take his mind off of the unfortunate turn that his life had taken. He once was a gladiator for a noble family and enjoyed many of the best riches the world had to offer. Unfortunately, in his youth, the noble home where he worked and lived was targeted by murderous thieves who robbed the estate and killed nearly everyone on the property. Almost everyone, but Alecia, aka “Cia”, survived and went off to make his own way. It hadn’t been easy until Bazso Baz, a well known gang leader, recognized Alecia’s strength and skills, and teamed him up with Gwack Zextra and a young woman called “Nightstar” who could speak to the dead.

This young woman was really named Lapis de la Nuit, a Slide who was not only a spy and manipulator, she was an occultist. Her room was upstairs in the Seventh Tower’s hideout, where she worked by candle light to read tarot cards and conducted seances nightly. Lapis was slender and beautiful, and she grew up in a brothel with her mother (who ran it) so she knew how to use her feminine wiles to procure information and steal money when she needed it. However, despite being sexy and savvy, both Gwack and Alecia knew that Lapis was an odd-ball. She wore steampunk goggles to speak with ghosts, or “fantômes” as she called them, since she spoke French.

Gwack was in no condition to be answering the door. He heard the knocking and turned his head. The banging continued, and got louder. Was it just in his mind? Could he hear a voice just outside the door, or was this all a dream? G made some flailing attempts to get out of the reclined position that he was in, but by the time he was upright, Alecia was already pushing him out of the way with his big, sweaty arms. Cia was never happy to be interrupted mid-workout, and G being too drugged out to even open the door wasn’t helping Cia’s mood. Their hideout wasn’t exactly a place where visitors came calling, so someone knocking at the door was a bit ominous.

Cia peeked through the window curtains and saw the silhouetted figure’s small frame. Not feeling much of a threat, he cracked open the door and said gruffly, “You have the wrong address.”

“I wish to speak with one who is called Alecia. I was sent by Madame Bloodsoe,” the dark figure whispered in reply.

Cia immediately slammed the door shut in the stranger’s face.

He sighed and paced back and forth. Why does this man know his name? The knocking on the door resumed.

After a moment, Cia opened the door again and let the man in, who identified himself as Ekan. He asked Ekan to wait while he dumped a bucket of water on Gwack to help him sober up, and retrieved Nightstar from the attic. As she made her way downstairs, Lapis sensed a new spirit presence in the house that seemed to be seeking her help.

With the crew assembled in the front hall, Ekan explained that Alecia knew Madame Bloodsoe, and Cia sighed and admitted that they once worked together, in a way. Ekan continued on and said that he was Bloodsoe’s personal medium, and that she had passed away. Lapis felt this was strange, and sensed that the spirit presence wanted to tell her something. Ekan continued on.

“Madame Bloodsoe was murdered. She does not know how or why. She says she cannot rest in peace without finding out who murdered her, and without saving the “Bloodsoe Mace” which is a family heirloom that remains in her home to this day. Madame Bloodsoe worries that a gang will try to take over her mansion, so she wants the house destroyed.”

At the word destroyed, Gwack seemed to perk up and pay attention.

“If you can do all this and bring me the Bloodsoe Mace, I will pay you 4 Large Gold Coins for it. This is no small fee, as you know. Madame Bloodsoe prides herself on the preservation of this highly… treasured heirloom.” Ekan seemed to emphasize the word treasured in a strange way that gave Lapis even more unease.

Nightstar decided to put on her steampunk goggles and see why the spirit was making her feel so unwell. Focusing her intention on the spirit, she could see the outline of a wealthy, older woman.

“I was hoping you would find me,” the fantôme whispered. “Do not trust this man Ekan. Ask him to leave the room.” Lapis motioned with her head to Alecia, who wordlessly pushed Ekan into a side room and closed the door.

“I am Madame Bloodsoe. I need your help to find my attacker, destroy the house and save the Mace; this much is true. But I cannot trust Ekan. Please help me, please!”

The fantôme was desperate and beginning to wail, as Lapis knew they often did. While the ghost lamented, Lapis explained to the crew who the spirit was and what she wanted. Cia was skeptical, and decided to verify the ghost’s identity with a little test. He asked what they had eaten for dinner on the fateful night that Cia’s family was murdered. But the ghost of Madame Bloodsoe knew the right answer (it was rabbit) and Cia was convinced, and a little disturbed that his past was literally haunting him.

“This man Ekan is not a good man. He wants to sell the Bloodsoe Mace in an auction and make a profit from my death. I heard him making arrangements!” Lapis continued to translate what the fantôme was saying to the rest of the crew.

“WAIT! …What is going on?” Gwack interrupted, slightly slurring his words. Cia and Lapis rolled their eyes.

The Ghost of Madame Bloodsoe continued, “I need you to complete the mission, but don’t give the Mace to Ekan. Bring the mace to Ricmoore Silverstok, my vault keeper. He will pay you the same and ensure that the heirloom stays in the family vault and not in the hands of an auctioneer for Ekan’s profit. You see, I was targeted by a gang of thieves. When I was murdered, my spirit was not able to rest and awakened in an area far from my home – something happened to me that is not right. I must find out what happened or I will never be able to move on and be at rest. Please help me!”

Lapis parley’d the ghost’s message to her crew. They decided to get Ekan out of their house immediately. Cia steered the little man out of the house, but as he was pushed out, Ekan tried to get Cia to agree to bring him the Mace after the mission was complete. Instead of a handshake, Cia crushed Ekan’s hand and the small man was angry as he left the hideout.

The crew asked more questions of Madame Bloodsoe’s ghost after Ekan left. How did she die, was it poison? An attack? But Madame Bloodsoe was not sure. She believed whatever happened must have been an attack from behind because she did not remember seeing anything. She was in the bedroom, someone must have broken into her home. Madame Bloodsoe also told them that the Mace was on display in the library. When she was alive there were servants in the home, but she did not know if the were alive anymore. She also didn’t know if they were trustworthy. She warned that the house is well secured and they would need to have a plan to get inside. Lapis reassured the spirit that they were on the case and she would be at rest very soon. But first, they had to wait a bit for Gwack to sober up.

A few hours later, the crew was planning to enter the house via the cellar. The door seemed to have a very complicated lock, and through the glass panes they could see that there were lights on inside the mansion. First Cia tried to use a lockpicking kit, and Gwack tried to help him with his tinkering skills. Unfortunately, the mechanism jammed and made a loud metal screech. Then Gwack pushed Cia out of the way to tinker some more. Working furiously, he managed to break the entire lock off the door, making a huge bang that echoed down the deserted street. But… the door was now open.

Cia led the way into the cellar. He had the good sense to remember to bring a delivery man uniform to make his way further into the house. After a few steps, a man dressed as a servant approached Cia and started questioning him. When it was clear that Cia was not really who he was pretending to be, Cia used a scary weapon to stab the servant – but not before getting grazed by a bullet from the servant’s pistol! Why would a servant have a pistol in the first place? The sound of the pistol fire sent Gwack and Lapis running in after Alecia, all the while knowing that this must have set off an alert to whoever is upstairs as well.

Gwack was fixed on setting up his demolition tools to destroy the house at the end of the mission. This was something he had wanted to do for a long time. As he set up explosives at various parts of the foundation, he struggled because some of them were damaged. But an evil genius like Gwack had always wanted to blow up a building, and so was able to come up with new ways to make the explosives work.

As G was busy setting up the demolition, Lapis used her own disguise kit to make herself look like a servant. She crept upstairs and stealthily found her way to the parlor, where she saw a man wearing a cloak and a white mask. The figure turned to her and tilted his head askew, as if confused to see her there. Lapis grabbed her Trance Powder from her pocket and blew it in the masked figure’s face.

“I am a servant of this house and you will let me walk by freely,” she said to him simply. The figure was entranced but the powder made him sneeze loudly, and the noise brought a second masked figure running into the room. Using the remaining Trance Powder, Lapis disabled the second man and left them in the parlor. However, she could sense that there were two more men in the library down the hall, where the Bloodsoe Mace was waiting. At this time, Gwack made his way up to the hallway where Lapis was standing. Together they made their way to the staircase,

The old stairs made loud creaking sounds, despite their best efforts to be quiet. This alerted the masked figures guarding the library, and they came running towards G and Nightstar, now trapped on the stairs. Cia appeared just at the right moment with his dragon’s clave weapon, eliminating one of the assailants with one bludgeoning blow.

Deciding that Cia had things under control on the first floor, Gwack and Lapis rushed upstairs and found themselves in a fancy living area. Lapis put her steampunk goggles on and saw the ghosts of three servants sitting on the sofa, who verify that these masked assailants are the ones who murdered Madame Bloodsoe.

Lapis and Gwack made their way further into the upstairs living space, and Gwack was attacked in the dining area. Using a defensive move, G flung his hands upward and without even meaning to, he stabbed the masked man in his eye!

Meanwhile downstairs, Alecia was sparring off with the remaining attacker on the first floor. He tried to question the masked man, in between jabs from his fist. “Hopefully you’ll put up more of a fight than your friends!” Cia taunted him. But he quickly realized that this masked man was wearing armor under his cloak.

Fighting in brawls wasn’t exactly Nightstar’s specialty, so she quietly moved past the dining area where Gwack was fighting, and down the hall to a closed door, presumably the bedroom. Lapis lightly knocked on the door and then opened it to find a single masked man alone in the room. There was a strong foul odor that hit her when she entered the bedroom, but Lapis tried to ignore it.

“Oh lucky me, finding such a man alone in such a beautiful bedroom!” she said, closing the door and taking off her coat. “Why don’t you take off that cloak and let me see you?” Lapis turned on the charm, walking right up to this man and stroking his arm, helping him remove his clothing.

The masked man complied eagerly. He removed his mask and his cloak. Lapis put her hands on his belt and looked up at him. “Who are you? What are you doing here in this house?”

“I think you already know what we’re doing here. I’m a member of the Wraiths.”

“The Wraiths!” Lapis exclaimed with horror. They were a well known, ruthless gang who committed many atrocities across Doskvol. Gwack heard Lapis’ yell this from the bedroom as he made a finishing blow on his assailant. His mind suddenly began to race. He knew that his drug dealer was connected to the Wraiths. Was this a group that he wanted to start trouble with? But suddenly he heard Cia struggling by the stairs with the remaining Wraith assailant downstairs, and G rushed down to help him.

Back in the bedroom, the Wraith had fully disrobed and was pushing Lapis down onto her knees.

“You’re lucky you found me. I will treat you very well. Just look how well I treated the last woman who was in this room!” He began to laugh, and gestured toward the closet in the corner. The door was open, and it was now obvious where the stench was coming from – Madame Bloodsoe’s dead body was seated in a heap, with her face carved off like a mask. “I carved a mask on her face with the power of the Wraiths so she wouldn’t remember what happened when she awoke as a pathetic ghost! We targeted the old bat so we could take her antiques, but her house is so comfortable, we decided to stay here. And why wouldn’t I want to stay here, when I have a young vixen like you just walking in the bedroom?”

At that moment, downstairs in the library, Gwack was prying the Bloodsoe Mace from it’s display case. In his struggle, he damaged the heirloom a bit as he pried it off, but as soon as he held it in his hands, he knew what a strong weapon it was. Not that he needed it – Cia had finally finished off the armored Wraith, who was certainly much tougher than they had expected. As they caught their breath, they suddenly wondered where Lapis was.

Upstairs in the bedroom, Lapis was trying to get away. This Wraith was clearly one of the leaders of this sadistic group, and he had no intention of letting Nightstar out of the room without having his way with her. Lapis pulled her pistol from the hidden holster in her skirt and took a shot at the Wraith, but she missed. The Wraith began to laugh again and pushed Lapis down onto the bed.

The sound of the pistol upstairs sent Cia and Gwack running up to see what they could do to help. They barged into the room and Cia used his throwing knives to impale the Wraith as Gwack pulled him off of Lapis. Jumping off the bed, Lapis tried to stab at the Wraith, but missed again. Gwack was in prime position to impale the Wraith with the Bloodsoe Mace, knocking the final attacker to the floor.

It was time to get out of there and finish the job. The Seventh Tower crew raced out of the house and as Gwack pulled out the detonator for the explosives, Cia asked if he could push the button.

“Why do you hate Madame Bloodsoe this much?” asked Gwack. Cia explained that after his family was murdered, she tried to force him into servitude, and that was why he had to leave. Madame Bloodsoe wasn’t as innocent as she would have them believe.

Alecia pushed the button. The house exploded and lit up the streets with fire, creating an eerie daylight appearance for a brief moment. In the light, Gwack realized that the Bloodsoe Mace was looking pretty gross. It was damaged and covered with blood and bits of brain. The crew worked together to clean and tinker with it to fix it up as best they could, and they took it to Ricmoore’s warehouse. However, after appraisal, Ricmoore decided to pay the crew only 3 Large Gold coins instead.

The crew thought this was fair as they headed back to their hideout. One Large Gold coin each would carry them over until their next mission. Lapis knew that Madame Bloodsoe wouldn’t be bothering them anymore… but what about Ekan? Would he be giving them trouble now? And what about the Wraiths? When would they strike next?

And Gwack continued to worry… did his participation in this mission mean that he just lost his best drug connection??

We hope you liked our one-off session of Blades in the Dark! It was really fun to play in this game world full of thieves and spies. Everyone is a bad guy! The game play was pretty simple too, but that might be been because of our abbreviated session. I’ve looked at some of the game materials and it definitely can become complex. Maybe someday I’ll get to play this game again. I highly recommend that gamers check it out!

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Book Report: The Sixth Extinction

Book Title: The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History

Author: Elizabeth Kolbert

About the Author: This book won her a Pulitzer Prize so I figured that was a good sign! She is a native New Yorker, has written FOR the New Yorker, and is surely a professional science nerd.

Main Characters: This non-fiction book covers Elizabeth’s journey of discovery as she visits different research facilities around the world to see why certain species are currently endangered and going extinct. She meets lots of fellow scientists, who are also from around the globe, and I guess they count as the other characters, but really the different extinct and endangered species are the main subjects of this book. However, there are way more than 6 species that are at risk right now, so I’m not going to attempt to list them all here.

Plot Summary: Planet Earth has already faced five separate mass extinction events in it’s known history. How these extinctions came to be is still debated to this day. Was it a meteor? Rapid climate changes? Did a supervolcano erupt and create a volcanic winter, killing off all living things? Maybe… ALIENS??? OK that’s not what this book is about. Instead, Elizabeth Kolbert travels to different parts of the world to see what the next extinction might be. Along the way, she reviews the history of evolution and some earth science basics, and talks about what happened during the different dinosaur extinctions, as well as the ice age. In her travels, Elizabeth learns that there are lots of different species at risk – from frogs to bats to rhinos, and let’s not forget important eco-systems like the rain forest and coral reefs, which sustain life for countless other species as well. The rate that the climate has been changing in the past century is causing major concern in the scientific community. While the industrial revolution and now modern living is adding major pollution to the planet, another issue is that humans too are a part of the problem. The human race has a history of killing off species. But if the planet cannot compensate and evolve in time to counteract the damage that humans are causing, will we cause our own species to become the next mass extinction? *cue rats taking over the world*

Lessons Learned: This planet is home to millions of different beings. We all contain life. We are all worthy of being here. We are worth preserving. Earth is surprisingly resilient, even though sometimes things can only change very, very slowly. While sometimes things may seem bleak, like when you pave paradise and put a parking lot… you still get dandelions. Somehow, life finds a way to prevail. Unfortunately, survival of the fittest is definitely a common theme, and species that are more fragile and specialized cannot adapt and tend to die off when their environment changes. This is a trend that has repeated for millions of years… since the beginning of life on Earth.

Personal Opinions: After reading sci-fi last month, I wanted something REAL. I went for the polar opposite with this nonfiction earth science primer. It was tough to keep up with all of the complicated terms and concepts at times. I think the subject matter of this book is extremely important to be aware of, and planet conservation is essential to maintain life as we know it. Should something catastrophic happen due to climate change, we would have to adapt and it would definitely not be easy. However, I don’t think the world would end. I believe that the living beings on Earth are resilient and find a way to survive. You can find life in the most extremely difficult terrains and conditions. It’s a matter of being adaptable.

But what if the coral reef died? The entire ocean’s balanced eco-system would be altered. What if the polar ice caps melted, causing over-flooding to the oceans? What if we released so much carbion dioxide into the air that the oceans absorbed it and turned into acid water? Can humans adapt to that??

Game Review: Go Vacation!

Go Vacation!

It’s Labor Day Weekend! Do you have any big vacation plans? I don’t! Except of course, my private handheld getaway: Go Vacation for Nintendo Switch! This game is packed full of different activities and mini-games to play. Let’s take a quick look at what the different resorts have to offer.

Marine Resort

I’ve never been to Hawaii, but Kawawii Island must come pretty close in comparison. You get to explore the island using a marine bike, ATV, and a surfboard. Activities include beach volleyball, skydiving, scuba diving, and even a triathlon. You can take a scenic flight tour around the island to see beautiful views, or you can swim around the cove searching for secret treasure boxes. What I especially like about Go Vacation is that you can easily jump from the various activities using a menu, or you can roam freely around the island using your character.

City Resort

If you were a fan of the old Tony Hawk games from way back in the early 2000s then you will like the City Resort. This area gives you a pair of inline skates and a skateboard to roam the city with, and there are tons of half pipes to do tricks and rails to grind on. You gain points towards your character if you successfully complete a trick at any time, whether you are in an official activity or just doing your own thing. You also gain points by completing challenges in each resort, which in the city include activities like street racing, skate tricks, and fun arcade games like whack-a-mole and table hockey. What are all these points for? Unlocking furniture for your customized VILLA, of course!

Yes this game has a bit of everything; my need to design and customize a house is met with Go Vacation’s Villa! (Plus my need to like, own a beachside villa. This way is a LOT cheaper lol!) There are several decor themes to unlock, so there is a lot of motivation to complete ALL of the game’s activities to rack up as many points as I can get. The Villa area isn’t a resort with activities, but I thought it was worth mentioning here.

Snow Resort

For those of us who enjoy winter sports, Go Vacation includes a ski resort on a mountain, complete with bunny slopes and as you climb higher, there are steeper and more perilous options. There is a chair lift, but I like to use the snowmobile to get up the mountain. You can also use a set of skis, a snowboard and a snow tube to get around in this area. Activities range from your typical ski slaloms and long jumps to dog sledding, snowman making and snowball fights!

Mountain Resort

Honestly, I think this area should have been named Ranch Resort, because a lot the activities are what you might find on a dude ranch. You can ride a horse, an off-road car, or even in a kayak in this forest/mountain resort. There are lots of shoot-em-up target practice activities to play, as well as white water rafting, tennis and equestrian sports. Not to mention paragliding, where you can see more gorgeously designed aerial views while hitting balloon targets.

Is that all? No. I didn’t even describe all of the various activities in each resort, you’ll have to play for yourself to learn about everything! But there are also fun little side objectives, like finding all of the bungee jump locations in each resort, or taking photos of all of the animals that can be found on the different terrains. (Yes, this game has that Pokemon Snap element too lol!) There’s also fishing, treasure hunting, photo op spots… Go Vacation truly has all of the things I like!

The only thing that is missing are cats. You get a pet dog in-game (obviously because of the dogsledding activity – guess a kitty can’t pull a sled) but the only cats to be seen are in the City Resort, roaming around… or a giant lion sitting in the middle of the street.

Which resort do you think sounds the coolest in Go Vacation? It’s a great way to take a vacay without paying for airfare! I think the activities are a lot of fun, and is a nice change of pace from some of the other games I’ve been playing lately. I like how the joy con controls aren’t too overly complicated, and I look forward to trying out the multi-player functions at a gamer meetup next week. It’s also worth noting that Go Vacation was a little cheaper than most Switch games, priced at $49.99. I traded in some old games towards the price and I am quite satisfied! If you need a vacation, but only have fifty bucks to spend… try Go Vacation!

 

 

 

Blades in the Dark: Introducing Lapis de la Nuit

Tabletop games are really fun, and the current DnD campaign that I’m playing with my friends is getting pretty intense! My DM is awesome and he puts up with all of my nonsense, which I really appreciate lol! His DM from a different campaign is coming to visit NYC, so we thought it would be fun to do a one-off session of a different game with my DM’s DM (Grand DM? lol) to switch things up. The game we’ve chosen is Blades in the Dark.

Blades in the Dark is a tabletop role-playing game about a crew of daring scoundrels seeking their fortunes on the haunted streets of an industrial-fantasy city. There are heists, chases, occult mysteries, dangerous bargains, bloody skirmishes, and, above all, riches to be had — if you’re bold enough to seize them.

You and your fledgling crew must thrive amidst the threats of rival gangs, powerful noble families, vengeful ghosts, the Bluecoats of the city watch, and the siren song of your scoundrel’s own vices. Will you rise to power in the criminal underworld? What are you willing to do to get to the top?

Gangs? Scoundrels? Vices? Sign me up! In true nerd fashion, we spent this past week planning out our characters and coming up with back stories. Introducing my character for BitD… Lapis de la Nuit! (pronounced La-peez de la Noo-eet)

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Lapis de la Nuit was born at the South Point of Akoros, a french-speaking peninsula (calling the location “Point-Sud”) and well known as a tourist attraction. The beautiful sunsets – and even more beautiful nude beaches – brought lustful men with stuffed pockets to the Point-Sud each summer.

Well before she was born, Lapis’ mother Celeste took advantage of this unique opportunity to capitalize on the vices of rich men. She opened a beach-side brothel near the most popular “plage nu” and hired a team of women eager to make some money. Times were very difficult for women in Akoros, but a common way to gain financial independence was for a young woman to sell her body to the highest bidder of the night. Celeste was a beautiful and strong woman, willing to do what it takes to provide food and shelter for herself and her family. After she gave birth to Lapis, she vowed that her child would not have to endure the hardships of life working in the Underworld at a brothel. As a single mother, Celeste wanted Lapis to have an education.

Unfortunately, formal education was hard to come by in this tourist town, which focused much more on sex, gambling, drugs and alcohol. But Celeste knew all sorts of  different people through her network, and she set up an arrangement for Lapis to study under an occultist named “Sébastien le Voisin” (or, Sebastian the Seer). Sébastien, a client of Celeste, was known for his ability to communicate with the dead. He taught Lapis how to read tarot cards, unleash the power of gemstones, and how to speak directly with “fantômes” (ghosts).

As a young girl growing up in a brothel, fantômes were really the only friends that Lapis had. Sadly, the first fantômes that Lapis met were spirits of former prostitutes who  died or were murdered in the brothel, or at other nearby establishments. The fantômes were kind to young Lapis, but they did lament their tales and Lapis was terrified that she might suffer the same fate as these women. Lapis spent most nights staring up at the stars and talking to fantômes. This gave her the nickname Nightstar.

Once she reached sixteen, Lapis was as beautiful as Celeste, and men began asking to pay for her company for the night. Lapis realized that she would need to leave town so that she might avoid a life of prostitution. She agonized over leaving her mother behind, but Celeste urged Lapis to follow her instincts.

As luck would have it, that summer, big-time Black Swords gang leader Bazso Baz was staying at Point-Sud to spend some gold that he had recently ‘acquired.’ Lapis happened to overhear Baz complaining that he could not get any sleep due to an enraged fantôme in his hotel room. Lapis was eager to use her Ghost Voice ability to help this man; she thought perhaps she could make a living as a Seer. Introducing herself as Nightstar, Lapis offered to visit Baz’s hotel and speak with this fantôme and tell it to leave him alone.

Lapis bravely went with the burly gang leader to his hotel room, only to find one of the ladies from her mother’s brothel, Nyryx, lying naked on the bed.

“What is this little bitch doing here?” Nyryx demanded at Baz, not even looking Lapis in the eye when they entered the room.

“Shut up, Nyryx. Nightstar is here to help stop the hauntings so I can get some fucking sleep,” Baz snapped at his courtesan.

Ignoring the two of them, Lapis used her ability to speak to the fantôme and ask the spirit to please calm itself and to move to a different room. Lapis had already established a good reputation for herself among the spirits of Point-Sud, and the fantôme obliged to Lapis’ request. Moments later, the room felt lighter and the spirit’s aura was no longer present.

Baz was amazed and overjoyed, having little knowledge of the occult or Lapis’ unique skillset. Immediately he started formulating ways that these skills could help the Black Swords gang.

“One of the biggest problems we have is when our men are killed before delivering intel,” Baz explained. “And you are so young and beautiful… we could use a young woman like you to lure our enemies into traps. What do you say? Will you travel back north with me? I can train you to be a Slider, a spy. You and your fantômes can find out the information we need for a heist. And you’ll be handsomely rewarded.” He flipped a large gold coin out of his pocket and into Lapis’ hands.

“How much money did you just pay her??” shrieked Nyryx. “She barely did anything! You didn’t pay me half that much for the time I’ve spent with you!” Nyryx was glaring at Lapis with a jealous rage.

“Nightstar has a valuable skill,” Baz replied, smiling at Lapis. Then he turned to face the bed. “And do not question me again. I’m going to venture out alone tonight. You can leave now, Nyryx,” he said coldly to the naked woman, who quickly gathered her clothes and rushed out the door. Nyryx kept her eyes directly on Lapis as she left, and they seemed to almost glow red with rage.

Baz told Lapis that he was leaving for a job in two days, and would like her to accompany him for espionage training. He asked what ties she still had here in town, and if travel was acceptable to her.

“Oui, I am ready to leave Point-Sud. My mother runs the brothel and I do NOT want to work there like her,” Lapis replied, more to herself than to Baz.

“That is fine news!” Baz was rubbing his hands together, feeling quite satisfied. “But I must ask you something, and I need you to think on it and answer honestly. Clearly you are not a woman of the night, and I respect you as a professional consultant. However, if I am to train you in espionage, I need to know how far you are willing to go. You are pretty and young, and you can use that to your advantage in many situations as a Slider. But sometimes to get the information, you will have to get into bed.”

Lapis sighed. The beauty that her mother passed down to her seemed to inevitably force her down this path. Such is the life in the Underworld. But being a Slider was something interesting – something MORE than just bedding a different patron each night. This was an opportunity to use her innate ‘gifts’ for something beyond a cheap thrill. She could unlock mysteries and secrets! And she could make a LOT of gold! With enough money, she could retire and buy a home for herself and her mother.

“I understand,” Lapis said simply.

“Not with me, of course. I will train you and be your mentor. I’ll have some of the other female Sliders in the gang teach you about ‘bed manners’, shall we say. We will stop over at the Black Swords hideout near Cloudspire, and you can show them what you can do! I’m excited. Are you excited?”

“Excited to start my new life? Of course! Bien sûr!”

Before they left Point-Sud, Lapis told her mother about the plan to leave with Baz. Celeste was chuckling and gesturing towards Nyryx, who was drowning her sorrows at the bar in the entrance of the brothel.

“Seems as though someone else thought she’d be joining Bazso Baz on that trip,” Celeste laughed.

Lapis then produced the gold coin that Baz had paid her for helping with the fantôme, and gave it to Celeste.

“I plan on earning a lot more than this when I’m with the Black Swords. I’m going to make enough money so that neither of us have to work another day,” Lapis declared.

“Ah, ma petite fille. I will wait for you here until that day comes.”

They embraced for the last time in who-knows-how-long. Lapis was afraid to leave, but knew this was what she needed to do.

She left with Baz and they traveled north to Cloudspire, to the secret hideout of the Black Swords. For three years she learned to master the techniques of espionage, and found that using her body to gain information was far easier than she anticipated. Lapis, going by the name Nightstar, encountered different types of fantômes in Cloudspire, and she seemed to be growing popular within the spirit world due to her fair approach and treatment of the spirits. Sébastien le Voisin would be proud!

________________

I won’t write any more because we still have to figure out how our characters met and what we are doing right before the game starts. We’ll be playing the one-off this week, so stay tuned for what happens when Lapis de la Nuit meets up with Gwack Zextra and Alecia Petrovona! If you are interested in Blades in the Dark, be sure to check out their website: https://bladesinthedark.com/

AC Switch: A Wishlist

THIS IMAGE IS FAKE (but it would be hilariously amazing)

The Glux Blog started off as an Animal Crossing blog when I was playing AC:CF on the Wii. Ahh… back in the day. Now this blog has evolved, and so has the Animal Crossing franchise. The ‘current’ AC game is “Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp” on mobile phones, and while it’s not QUITE the AC experience that we know and love, it’s pretty great. AC:PC has completely revolutionized gardening; added a goal system for helping friends, catching bugs and fish, scavenger hunts and other objectives that keep you coming back; and has introduced tons of new furniture and clothing items through game updates. They add new events and features all the time, so the game is always changing.

Missions that keep me coming back and playing more.

Before that game came out, we had AC: Happy Home Designer, another spin-off title that focused specifically on interior and (brand new!) exterior home design. It introduced the new grid system for moving furniture around and made the entire home design process much easier.  AC:HHD also added large size vehicles to the catalog, something that I think a lot of people have been wanting.

Grid Editor on the lower screen makes interior design much simpler.

These games are both fun in their own ways, don’t get me wrong. But they aren’t REALLY Animal Crossing. We haven’t had a fresh AC main franchise title in 5 years. We haven’t really heard peep about something being in development for the Switch, but it must be on the way. I think Nintendo is taking their time with the release, since they already have Super Smash Bros. Ultimate coming out this holiday season. That should sell plenty of Switch systems for 2018, leaving more sales opportunity for AC in 2019. There’s also this:

As for when Animal Crossing Switch may actually happen, Fils-Aime says that Nintendo isn’t interested in teasing games for years. When it comes to fan favorite franchises, the company would much rather reveal information closer to the game’s planned release.

-Gamerant.com

This I do appreciate… I hate waiting for years anticipating a game (*cough* Cuphead *cough*). But I DO want a new Animal Crossing game for Switch ASAP.

Just in case there’s still time for game developers to read my blog and grant my wishes, here is what I’d love to see in the next Animal Crossing game. Special thanks to Carney who contributed to this wishlist!

  • Grid Editor for design and layout!
  • The Camper from AC:PC rules! Let me drive it to my friend’s towns during multiplayer. I love having that little separate space to decorate.
  • Exterior design is a MUST! I loved editing the outside of my house in AC:HHD, having control over all the aesthetics, and decorating the lawn with items.
  • Let me dress my townies!! YAS! Gracie can judge my picks!
  • Daily Goals, Monthly Goals, and Event Goals would be great!
  • Free DLC & Updates as often as in Splatoon 2.
  • Design the interior/exterior of public buildings.
  • Incorporate the fun mini games from Amiibo Festival. Also, more co-op mini games from AC:NL’s Tortimer Island.
  • FULL AMIIBO SUPPORT that brings your favorite characters to town. I’m talking  about the Amiibo Festival figures AND the Amiibo Cards from AC:HHD, and maybe some new ones too.
  • The Nintendo Switch Online App sync’s with my catalog so I can view it on the go, kind of like a Pokedex.
  • Improved gardening and cross pollination with new hybrids.
  • Bring back the virtual console games you can play in your house, like in the AC Game Cube game. WITH MULTIPLAYER!!
  • More New Animal Types (More Unicorns??!!? 🦄)
  • New NPC characters too!
  • BRING BACK THE UFO IN THE SKY (just make it a little easier to shoot please)
  • More RL holidays from different countries. In AC:CF I would have to travel to friends in other countries to experience special holidays and get exclusive DLC. Why can’t we all enjoy the rich variety of cultures and learn about new holidays from around the world?
  • A release date within the next YEAR!!! PLEASE!!!!

That’s my wishlist… so far, that is! Until Nintendo releases info about an AC Switch game, all we can do is hope and dream. What do you hope to see in the next Animal Crossing title? Leave a comment with your ideas! 🙂

Danaeryzard & Alaria: The Return of Ragnar

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, check out the entire saga in order by reading the chapters organized on the DnD tab of this site!)

…………..

Days after the Bug Bear attack, Danaeryard and Alaria found themselves back in the regular routine of guard duty and combat training in the Barracks of Castle Drachen. They had been waiting to hear from Esmeralda about the translations of the ancient Orc writing that was on the building schematics they found at Lake Constant. Finally, one afternoon during guard duty, they were summoned to the Great Hall to meet Esmeralda! 

“We are getting closer. I need you two to go to the Castle Bookstore, miles away past the outer courts, in the castle city district by the gate house. An ancient Orc specialist who runs the shop has finished the translations and will be waiting for you. Please retrieve the final translations and bring them back here. We are one step closer to ridding the world of this menace.” Esmeralda instructed the duo from her usual table at the Great Hall. She gave them an address and explained how to get there via the Drachen horse-drawn buggy service. 

When they reached the city district, it was quite busy. Merchants and shoppers filled the streets. Delicious odors from various food stands wafted through the roads as the buggy took the duo to an upscale part of the city, with fancy stone buildings and shops. The driver pulled up to a shop with a sign that read “Castle Bookstore” above it’s open door. Dany and Alaria hopped out of the buggy and headed inside.

Castle Bookstore

The scene inside was shocking. Shelves had been knocked over. Books were strewn all over the floor. But shop was otherwise deserted, and they found the coin box untouched; whoever did this was not looking for gold. Before they could discuss that their Orc translations might have been the target, a loud squawk interrupted the stunned silence. 

“I know that voice!” Alaria cried out. Turning towards the door, a commotion could be heard outside. A child was yelling and the bird’s caws continued loudly. Dany followed Alaria out of the shop and saw a boy sitting on a barrel, and also fighting off a hawk with a red tail that was diving down towards him, flapping it’s wings and nipping with it’s beak. “Ragnar!”

Ragnar Redtail

The bird turned and squawked happily, swooping over to Alaria and landing on her forearm. Ragnar was an old friend of Alaria’s, her animal companion from back home! Alaria was overjoyed to be reunited with her hawk and she stroked his feathers lovingly. She wondered what would make Ragnar attack this child, so she asked him, “What happened at the bookstore?”

“I ain’t no snitch. Who’s askin’?”

“Do you want this hawk to peck your eyes out?” Alaria snapped back.

The boy jumped off the barrel, laughing nervously. “All right, all right, but keep that thing away from me! I was playing here a couple hours ago and I saw a group of masked people go inside the bookstore. It was just for about 20 minutes. Then they all left, but they had the shopkeeper and his family with ’em. But they all seemed fine to me.”

Alaria thanked the kid for the info and he ran off, not wanting to spend another minute near that hawk. Dany thought that Ragnar might be more useful than she realized! Alaria nuzzled with Ragnar, and as she looked at him more closely she noticed there was a slip of paper tied to his leg. She opened it up and the contents read:

Crispin Docks – Slip 5 – 1st of the Month – Midnight

~ B

The note was signed with an ornate “B” and immediately Alaria grew pale. It was the signature of Birolesh – Uncle Biro, as Alaria called him. He was a leader of a thieving guild and Alaria explained that Uncle Biro had killed her own parents, many years ago. Receiving communication from this man was ominous. 

“The only good news is that we have two weeks before the first of the month…” Alaria muttered. “Let’s go sweep the bookstore once more for clues and report back to Esmeralda.” Carrying Ragnar on her arm, she led the way back inside the store. However, when Ragnar was inside, he started flying around and tossing books through the air. Dany cowered and felt a bit afraid, but suddenly Ragnar squawked victoriously and produced a dark black ring from under a pile of papers. He flew to Alaria and dropped it in her hands, and she knew all too well that this was the calling card of a gang called the Midnight Ring.

“The Midnight Ring?? Isn’t that the gang that Ezra was trying to recruit us into when we first came to Drachen?” Dany said with dismay. This was starting to get overwhelming and she wanted guidance, so she reached out to Esmeralda via chat ring. After Dany explained the situation, Esmeralda asked the partners to try to find another Midnight Ring recruiter at one of the taverns in town. If they could find where the Midnight Ring was hanging out, maybe they could find the stolen translations. 

Once they were on the streets, Dany and Alaria were surprised at just how many inns and taverns were in the city district! They started at the Weary Traveler, where they had met Ezra many weeks ago, but there was no sign of her or any other Midnight Ring affiliates. They wandered up and down the streets to every tavern they could find: The Belching Bull, Liquid Gold, Thistledown, The Dented Mug… but they had no luck. Finally, as the sun was setting, they turned down Green Street and saw a big tavern at the end of the road.

As they approached, Alaria noticed a secret symbol on the tavern sign: an “M” written in Theives’ Cant. She pointed this out to Dany and whispered, “This must be the place.” Alaria slipped the dark black ring on her finger and confidently went to the door. However, they were immediately stopped by large guards blocking the entrance inside, demanding to know what their business was at this tavern.

Dany and Alaria asked for Ezra and said that they had been invited. The guards laughed at the partners and said that nobody was there with that name. But Alaria did not give up; she pointed to the black ring on her finger and said, “I have something that might interest you.” Without another word the guards stepped aside and let them in. One of the guards directed them to a staircase leading to the basement. All eyes were on Dany and Alaria as they walked through the tavern to the staircase. Dany began to feel weak and sickly as they walked down the stairs. Alaria pulled out her wand of magic detection, as she always does in new places, but the wand was not working.

They entered the basement chamber, which was filled with typical tavern storage: kegs, wooden boxes and crates, and bags of hops and wheat. Lurking in the far corner was a cloaked figure, standing with his arms crossed, peering at them from under a hood. “Oh, I guess you’re not as stupid as I thought,” he scoffed at them, while stroking a black crow that was sitting on his shoulder.

Tanar

“Look at you, pathetic Expeditionary Guards. Running errands for that bratty princess, high up in her castle? She cares nothing for you, yet you break your back for her. What kind of life is that? Anyway, you can call me Tanar. What are you doing in our tavern?”

“We have reason to believe that you know where certain stolen documents might be,” Alaria replied. “And where a certain missing shopkeeper and his family might be.” 

Tanar laughed, but looked a bit annoyed. “Oh, I don’t have that here. That is the truth, and even if you don’t believe me, don’t bother to try and fight me. You won’t have much success with my magic dampening field  suppressing your magic. Not to mention the thirty gang members waiting to pounce on you upstairs.

“No, what I’d like is an exchange. That’s fair, right? Nobody has to get hurt. All I need is a simple tracing of an etching on Princess Pema’s crystal diadem. You can handle a simple task like that, right? Or do Tieflings and Dragonborn not know how to hold a piece of charcoal?” Tanar laughed mockingly. “Get me that tracing and I’ll give you the translated schematics.

“And one more thing. Don’t go running to your superiors for help, or tell anyone about this little arrangement. If you speak one word to the authorities, the shopkeeper and his family might meet an… unfortunate end.”

Dany and Alaria had no choice. They couldn’t let an innocent family suffer at the hands of the ruthless Midnight Ring. They agreed to comply with Tanar’s request, and they were instructed to meet up with an informant at a nearby barn for more detailed information on where the crystal diadem could be found.

They left the Green Street Tavern and made their way outside of the city district, to the barn where they would meet Tanar’s inside agent. The barn was empty except for a few bails of hay. Dany and Alaria waited inside, playing with Ragnar and watching him do parlor tricks with Alaria that they had clearly been practicing for years. Despite the dire circumstances, Alaria was in high spirits – the thought of pulling a heist in the castle was quite an alluring challenge. Dany on the other hand was very apprehensive. Her burly form made sneaking around and thieving a difficult task. It was hard for her to go anywhere without being noticed.

After waiting for twenty minutes, a man rushed into the barn carrying a sword and wearing a dark black ring, just like Alaria’s. 

Yawnax

“Just received word from Tanar. I am Yawnax and I have some information on the handling of the diadem. I have learned that the diadem is only seen in the South Hall, in the Royal Vault, or on the Princess herself. She only wears the diadem on holidays, so any average day the diadem is on display at the South Hall. It is probably easier to access while it’s on display here during the day, despite the plentiful amount of guards. Each jewel is in a glass display case that has an alarm attached to it, so it cannot be lifted without the guards knowing. And the Royal Vault is impenetrable, so don’t even bother with that.” 

Yawnax unsheathed his sword and began using it to draw in the dirt. He was making a map, showing the duo where the guards were positioned, and where the diadem was found in the hall. Alaria studied it and made sketches and notes on some parchment paper. 

“You can contact me via the black ring for the next 24 hours. After that the connection is severed.” Yawnax tapped his ring onto Alaria’s and she felt it buzz with energy. “Now be gone from here before anyone sees you.”

Back at the castle, Dany and Alaria went to the South Hall to see the layout for themselves and come up with a plan. Since it was night time, nothing was on display and there were only a few guards stationed around the perimeter. They expected to see far more guards the next morning when the South Hall was open to the public. 

After scouting out the area, Alaria began coming up with a plan. They went back to their room in the Barracks to discuss. Alaria suggested that since she was a master of disguises, that she would impersonate a Royal Jeweler. This would give her access to the crystal diadem and enable her to handle it without being questioned.

Dany was in a panic. She knew she couldn’t help with the heist, or the sketching. But she couldn’t stand the thought of her partner being at risk and doing all the work, while she sat by on the sidelines. Dany insisted that she would come along and create a diversion to keep attention off of the heist. 

Alaria wasn’t so sure about this. Dany had a history of being accident prone. Was a diversion necessary? However, Dany refused to sit back and let Alaria do all the work, and she was acting really stubborn about it.

Alaria shrugged and figured a little diversion couldn’t hurt… could 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! 🙂

Gamer Survey Says…

Remember Myspace, when we would copy and paste surveys and questionnaires about our personal lives, write in our answers, then tag our friends to do the same? I always enjoyed that. Am I the only one? Nah, I don’t think so. Recently one of the WordPress blogs that I follow on my Reader posted a super fun geeky survey, but it was part of the “Sunshine Blogger Awards.” Now, I wasn’t nominated or anything… but that doesn’t stop me from butting in and participating anyway! But I’ll go ahead and plug Strange Girl Gaming, since she posted it. Check out her blog!

Sunshine Blogger Awards

The rules

  • Thank the blogger(s) who nominated you in a blog post and link back to their blog.
  • Answer the 11 questions the blogger asked you.
  • Nominate 11 new blogs to receive the award and write them 11 new questions.
  • List the rules and display the Sunshine Blogger Award logo in your post and/or on your blog.

The questions that were asked:

1.      What is your favourite super power?

As was discovered during a Splatfest earlier this year, the best powers to choose from are apparently Flight and Invisibility. I was on Team Invisibility aka Team Creeper. We lost. Guess that means the best super power is clearly Jean Grey’s Phoenix Force from X-Men. 

2.      What is your favourite fighting game series?

I could be a basic Nintendo fangirl and say Smash Bros. here, but I really liked Soulcalibur II when I was in college. I played that with my friends daily. Cassandra was my favorite.

3.      If you could spend a day with your favourite video game character who would it be and why?

OMGOMGOMG can I spend a day petting Pikachu and playing with Pokemon?? Yes?!? Pokemon: Let’s Go Pikachu is coming out this November! I’ll add the countdown to my blog when the date gets a little closer.

4.      Star Wars or Star Trek?

Oooof. I’m more of a fantasy fan than sci-fi. I guess I’ll pick Star Wars since I’ve cosplayed as a Storm Trooper. But it’s not really my bag, baby. *ducks as everyone throws tomatos at me*

5.      Who is your favourite starting Pokemon from the original series?

Well… it’s Pikachu. (Technically Pokemon Yellow is still the original series. Neener.) Everyone knows I love Pikachu. Yes, Pika isn’t the best battler but that isn’t the only thing important in life. Being an iconic best friend is important too!! Also, Pikachu is the only Pokemon that I still collect when it comes to merch. I need all the Pika-things.

6.      You have to survive the night being hunted by Mike Myers, Jason Vorhees, Pyramid Head or Mileena, who would you survive against?

I’ll pick Mileena… as long as I can have Scorpion with me to help me kick her ass!

7.      What do you do to relax?

Surprise – I play video games! But sometimes gaming isn’t relaxing. Especially when you’re stuck on a boss in Octopath Traveler and you ALMOST beat it but then your team got completely obliterated… then you need a break! The truly best way to relax is to do some meditation, yoga, or deep breathing exercises. Try it now! Take a deep breath in… hold it in for a few seconds… then slowly exhale. Do this a few times and your heart rate will slow and you’ll feel instantly more chill!

8.      What is your favourite TV series?

Ahh such a hard question! All time? Or current? I would say for all time, my answer is 24. I loved this show so much and I’m glad I found it again on Amazon Prime. There are so many seasons, so many episodes, and every one is action packed. And Keifer Sutherland is so great as Jack Bauer. Coming in a close second is Lost, but the final season just kills it for me. When it comes to current shows, I’ll say my favorite is Orange is the New Black. I just watched the latest season and I think this show is so good. I love how they are tackling certain issues (no spoilers! lol), and I also love how Piper doesn’t take over the entire plot. There are so many interesting characters!

9.      Sci-Fi or Horror?

Horror! I’d much rather feel suspense and shock. Sci-fi can be so over the top and unbelievable that it takes me out of the story. But a psycho murderer on the loose trying to kill everyone? Fear is something everyone can relate to!

10.   Where would you love to go on holiday?

TOKYO!! Please please please! Can someone just send me there?? I’ll blog about it I promise!! Haha! I would really love to see the sights in Tokyo, eat amazing food, go shopping, and do lots of touristy things! KUDASAI!!?!?!?

11.   What is it you like about blogging?

Blogging is something that I’ve been doing for so long… I can’t imagine what life would be like without it. Being able to share my thoughts, ideas and ramblings with the internet, and random people that I don’t know can comment and interact with my content is such a cool thing. I’ve made some really awesome friends through this blog! Being able to connect through writing and shared interests is so unique and special.

NOW….

This is when I’m supposed to write 11 questions, nominate people, etc. etc. as per the rules I posted above. But I didn’t follow the rules at the beginning and I’m certainly not going to follow the rules now! Instead of what I’m supposed to do, I’m going to ask that everyone fill out the latest StreetPass Game Show Survey! It’s for the upcoming Retro Game Show at PAX West next month. Unfortunately I won’t be in Seattle for it, but I want to spread the word and help the StreetPass Game Show team get as many survey responses as possible! Please take a few minutes to fill out the survey, and if you’re going to PAX West you won’t want to miss the panel!

Take the survey here! It’s quick I promise!

Danaeryzard & Alaria: A Cloud of Laughter and Daggers

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!)

…………..

Esmeralda

A three days journey though the Forest Wilderness brought the brave duo back to the safety of Castle Drachen. Danaeryzard and Alaria settled back into their room at the Barracks and tried to get some R&R before being summoned to their next mission. However, it wasn’t long before a messenger delivered word that Esmeralda was waiting to speak with them in the Great Hall.

The Great Hall is a giant room filled with tables used for meeting and eating. Cauldrons were cooking up stews and kegs of mead were found stacked around the room. Dany and Alaria made their way through the room to where Esmeralda was seated. At the table with her was an Elf that they had never seen before. They cautiously approached until Esmeralda indicated to them to come and sit. 

“Greetings Alaria, Danaeryzard. Please join us. This is Hedwig, a Druid Elf visiting the castle on official business. I thought he could spend some time training the both of you on Druid fighting techniques and battle strategies for forest combat,” Esmeralda said, standing to greet the newcomers. Hedwig did the same and they all shook hands before sitting down at the table together.

Hedwig

“Certainly, I’d be delighted to go over some of my proven tactics,” Hedwig replied, feeling a little awkward. He was a strong, middle aged Elf with several decades of combat under his belt, but he never thought of himself as one to train the new recruits. His battles were often improvised – not necessarily planned and prepared for carefully in advance, contrary to how he’d have Esmeralda believe.

“Excellent! We’ll get to that in a moment – I think the Drachen Gardens Courtyard would be a suitable location, yes?” Esmeralda asked, looking at Hedwig, who nodded in agreement. “But first, we must have a debriefing on your recent mission. Please tell me everything that you learned at Water’s Edge.”

Dany and Alaria glanced nervously at each other. They didn’t even come close to completing the mission. In fact, they felt somewhat responsible for the deaths of  some innocent townspeople at Lake Constant, and felt extremely forlorn about the whole mission. They weren’t any closer to discovering the mysteries of the crystals, or finding the location of the Sun Wizard. However, they recapped their travels, explaining about the magical abilities the the Golden Dragonborn have been using to change their form, as well as their encounter with the Hag and the crystal stones they found in the foundation of the library. 

Esmeralda did not hide the concerned look on her face when she heard about the crystal stones. The fact that the crystals, in massive form, were embedded into the very foundation of the building itself was grave news indeed. She asked to see the building schematics that they had collected from their defeated enemies. Esmeralda surmised that the crystal stonework creates an immense power. She sent the schematics to the Drachen Scholars to analyze and decipher. 

“All right, good work you two,” Esmeralda said, “I know you might not think it, but you have done some great research here. Now we’ll have a better understanding of what we’re up against. Next up, training. Hedwig here is the best when it comes to nature. Let’s gear up and meet in the courtyard.”

When they stepped into the Garden Courtyard, Dany and Alaria were amazed. Courtyard was an understatement! The Drachen Gardens were so vast, it could have been called a forest. Acres and acres of green grass, lush trees and foliage, and meticulously organized flowerbeds were spread out before them.

Castle Gardens

Hedwig and Esmeralda led the way to an open grassy field, speckled with a few giant trees. They were discussing how this area would be more suitable for combat trials, with less obstacles and no flowerbeds to trample. As they began to get set up, suddenly an ear-splitting alarm began to ring throughout the entire castle grounds. Esmeralda’s face went pale.

“Oh no. Bug Bears again!” Hurriedly, Esmeralda packed up some weapons and put them in her own sack, obviously preparing to go to battle. “I have to go take care of this. I’m going to give you each a set a Chat Rings, so that we can communicate. If you both wear the ring and earring, you can communicate telepathically with anyone else wearing the set.” She quickly showed them how the Chat Rings worked and then rushed off towards the entrance of the castle.

Unsure of what to do, Dany and Alaria remained in the courtyard with Hedwig. After about a half an hour, the alarm was still going off and Esmeralda had not returned. The three decided to search around the area, maybe they could help somehow.

Dany looked around by the trees surrounding the clearing. As she turned to search deeper into the wooded area, she heard the sound of branches being stepped on by something heavy. Something that was breathing loudly. Something… growling!

Bug Bear

She turned to her left and saw that a giant Bug Bear was heading straight for her. It was at least eight feet tall and fierce, but it did look as though it had already been in a serious fight. The Bug Bear roared and charged towards Dany, Alaria and Hedwig. In a panic, Alaria tried to contact Esmeralda with the Chat Rings, but heard no response. They were on their own!

Taking the lead, Hedwig raised his crossbow and took a shot directly at the Bug Bear, which stopped it in it’s tracks. But the Bug Bear was not severely injured from the arrow; it pulled the bolt from it’s shoulder and roared once more. Seeing an opening, Alaria whipped out her wand and cast her new favorite spell: Hideous Laughter at the Bug Bear. The targeted beast took a step forward, tripped, and fell flat on it’s face, erupting with a wailing laughter that was louder than the intruder alarms still blaring through the castle. Hearing these cries attracted another Bug Bear to the trio, this one approaching from the south. 

Dany knew that they might be overwhelmed fighting both of these strong Bug Bears at once. Since the first Bug Bear was doubled over in fits of laughter, it was incapacitated, but not getting hurt either. Gripping her crystal orb, Dany tried a new spell, the Cloud of Daggers. She cast this cloud at the laughing Bug Bear. Since it was already unable to move because of the Hideous Laughter, it would be stuck within Dany’s Cloud of Daggers, which was a thick cloud filled with spinning daggers that slice at anyone in the cloud. The synergy of the spells cast by Dany and Alaria would take care of the first Bug Bear, while they focused on the second attacker! Were these partners finally starting to learn how to battle effectively??

The second Bug Bear was headed straight for Hedwig. It began to swing a giant, spiked mace and roared wildly, but Hedwig used his spritely reflexes to dodge at the last moment. Alaria and Dany both shot at the second Bug Bear with crossbows, while the first Bug Bear remained in the cloud of laughter and daggers, which was beginning to turn red with blood. Whimpers could be heard between the roars of insane laughter. 

Hedwig recalled some of his woodland creature studies and realized that while Bug Bears have a high armor class, their HP isn’t very impressive. But they are chaotic and will always attack! The second Bug Bear was proving to be quite chaotic as it swung it’s mace at Dany, hitting her with a heavy blow to the arm. She took a step back, reeling from the hit. It was at that moment when the first Bug Bear’s laughter turned into a weak howl… and then silence. The cloud attack had worked decisively. 

Now, to finish off the second Bug Bear. Hedwig swung his axe at the Bug Bear, but it missed and hit Dany instead! Her dragonscale arm was bruised and bleeding. Alaria’s crossbow attack missed the erratic Bug Bear, who dealt another blow to Dany with the heavy mace. Now Dany was getting mad – why was she the main target here?? She channeled her anger through her crystal orb to release a Fire Bolt cantrip directly in the Bug Bear’s hairy face. It roared in pain and beat down the flames on it’s fur. 

Hedwig took a few steps backward and made a wide sweeping motion with his staff to cast a Thunder Wave spell. The wave of energy charged directly at the Bug Bear, tossing it through the air and slamming it against one of the giant trees in the Courtyard. The Bug Bear was stunned and stood still, giving Alaria a perfect shot for her crossbow. She hit the Bug Bear in it’s chest and it howled in pain. Dany cast another Fire Bolt, but a moment too late. The Bug Bear jolted out of the way and the giant tree behind it was set ablaze. 

As it ran, the Bug Bear hurled it’s mace at Alaria, hitting her strongly on her side. Hedwig brandished his staff once more, summoning the power of the Moonbeam spell. Beams of light and rays of stars engulfed the Bug Bear with ghostly flames and it’s body fell in a crumpled heap on the grassy grounds. 

The trio stood, panting, and surveyed the area to make sure no more attacking Bug Bears were headed their way. All was quiet. 

“Why didn’t Esmeralda respond to our distress call?” Alaria wondered aloud.

A moment later, Esmeralda and a group of soldiers stormed through the Courtyard, only to stop and see the carnage. Esmeralda looked surprised and impressed to see two dead Bug Bears laying in the field. She asked Hedwig to analyze the skills of Alaria and Dany. 

“I like how they used the forest to their… advantage…” Hedwig said, glancing over at the giant tree that was still burning a few yards off in the distance. 

“Well, despite this not being our planned training session, I must thank you for your help and your expertise today, Hedwig. We hope to have you visit Castle Drachen again, perhaps under less chaotic circumstances next time,” Esmeralda said. She turned to Dany and Alaria and continued, “The two of you did great out there as well. Thank you for defending the castle and doing exemplary work. I heard from the Scholars that they are studying the written orc language from the building schematics in their lab right now, and should have the wording deciphered in a few days.”

Esmeralda looked over at the tree, still burning. “Someone’s going to have to put that out. Can we get a grounds crew out here?” She sighed. “Well, the two of you are doing a fantastic job. But in the future, Dany… can you NOT burn down the Princess’ Birth Tree??”

…………………..

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! 🙂

Happy Book Lovers Day!

Calling all bookworms! Bust out your bookmarks, because it’s #BookLoversDay! I just finished reading The Player of Games last week, as you may have read in my latest book report, so I don’t have a full book review for you today, but I will share what’s on my reading horizons!

In honor of today, let’s start with Goodreads. Do you have a profile? I have been using Goodreads ever since I bought my first Kindle. I think it’s a great site because you can easily reference books you’ve read, keep a running list of books you want to read, write reviews to share with your friends, and get recommendations for new books to read! Want to be friends? Click here to add me! 

My “Currently Reading” list is pretty long… but I have certain books that I only read a bit per day (or month! lol) and others that I’ll sit and read for hours. It all depends on what it is! Let’s take a look:

  • 2018 Radical Self Love Almanac – I check in once a month and read up on the fun ideas and tips for each month, and fill out the monthly worksheet to help me become the best me!
  • Heart Talk: Poetic Wisdom for a Better Life – Another book that I read sporadically. This is a book that I turn to when I’m feeling sad and need something heart-warming to boost me up. I have this book in print and I really like how it’s designed, it feels like a scrapbook/journal.
  • A Victorian Grimoire: Romance, Enchantment, Magic – This book is fun to sit and read for a bit, but I haven’t quite committed to it yet. I like how it revisits the history of magick and explores what life was like during the Victorian era, while showing readers how to incorporate these things into modern life.
  • The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History – My current book that I read when I’m on the train. I needed something that was the opposite of the sci-fi that I read last month – so I went for a nonfiction book that explores the science of how different species came to be extinct on this planet. It’s weird to think about how evolution and extinction are concepts that have only been around for a couple centuries.

That’s only what’s going on NOW, of course! With my Kindle, I’m always collecting new books to read, thanks to my Amazon Prime account, which grants me free books every month. I have a few classics that I’ve been meaning to read, such as the complete Peter Pan collection or Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea… I also have been meaning to read this book I had received from a book club and never got around to, The Self Love Experiment. It can be hard to keep up with all this reading, since my free time is also spent playing video games and going to happy hour and stuff lol! But commuting is a good time to read and I carry my Kindle almost everywhere. I can never have too many books! Escapism is TOTALLY in for 2018…

What are you reading for Book Lovers Day? Do you have a FAVORITE book? Let me know what you’re reading in the comments!

Book Report: The Player of Games

Custom cover art by @gluxbox

Book Title: The Player of Games

Author: Iain M. Banks

About the Author: Born in Scotland, Banks was named one of the Times’ “50 Greatest British Writers since 1945” and has written a series of science fiction novels called the “Culture Series.” His wikipedia page indicates that he was pretty obsessed with collecting fancy cars for a while, but after a car accident he sold them all. He was married, divorced and married the same woman again… love is never easy! He passed away from cancer in 2013. 😦

Main Characters: Some of the many, many characters in the book…

Jernau Gurgeh: Our talented, intelligent hero! Gurgeh is a professional game player, growing bored of his celebrity gamer life. To spice things up, he allows a drone bot to convince him to cheat at a game, setting off a chain of events that brings Gurgeh to participate in a different sort of game, on a different planet. This game, Azad, encompasses an entire alien civilization, and Gurgeh studied it for lightyears, but was that enough to play it through to the end, and win??

The Culture: Not a character, but an entire civilization. The Culture is a highly advanced and intelligent society that has alleviated it’s people of most hardships in life, such as pain, body image, sexual identity, etc. They solve this through synthetic drug glands and simple sex changes, allowing people to be who they want, and switch around if they want. The people of the Culture have jobs but I’m not sure if they have any bills to pay. It’s a Utopian society of sorts, however the lack of hardships tend to make the civilians a bit bored with life.

Mawhrin-Skel: A drone bot – the one that convinces Gurgeh to cheat in the first place. It’s small but mighty, using energy fields to impose physical force onto others. It once had a prestigious government job, and blackmails Gurgeh to get it’s job back at the “Special Circumstances” division.

Chamlis: A drone bot that is also Gurgeh’s oldest friend and confidant. It’s been around for a long time and has centuries of wisdom. It communicates with Gurgeh throughout his journey, sending messages and updates from home.

Flere-Imsaho: Another drone bot – this one accompanies Gurgeh to the alien planet. It’s a little fiesty and sensitive but seems to have Gurgeh’s best interests at heart. This bot is tiny, can fit in your hand, but is capable of so much more.

The Azadian Empire: Not a character, but another civilization. The Azadians developed the game of Azad, which is incorporated into their language and daily life in such a way that you need to BE Azadian in order to succeed at the game. Or so they hoped. This society includes three genders (male, female, apex) and the apices are hermaphrodites, and the alphas of their society. Males and females are lower class, bred for manual labor and sex slavery. The entire society is based on class systems and the higher classes enjoy abusing their power in extreme ways.

Emperor Nicosar: The ruler of planet Ea, which is where the game of Azad exists. The Emperor is decided by whoever wins the game of Azad, but Nicosar’s predecessor was killed and he assumed the throne by default (he had been second place in the last game of Azad) so he feels he has something to prove.

Plot Summary: Gurgeh is a genius at games and wants a new challenge. When temptation to cheat and get a Perfect Game gets the best of him, Gurgeh finds himself being blackmailed into participating in an alien game called Azad, which is on a planet hundreds of lightyears away. He learns as much as he can about the alien civilization as he can, and studies the game during the journey, and when he arrives the culture shock is very strong. The people regard him as a freak and untrustworthy. As he progresses through the game, he earns respect but it quickly turns to disdain and jealousy. The game takes months to complete, and as he plays Gurgeh learns more and more about the Azadian society, including the dark undersides that the apices don’t want him to know about. Gurgeh’s drone Flere-Imsaho tries to keep him out of trouble but Gurgeh manages to get into all sorts of drama anyway. Eventually Gurgeh makes it to the final round, and what ensues will literally change the entire Empire!

Lessons Learned: Power struggles are real, no matter what planet you’re on. Sci-Fi can be a fun genre to read and I shouldn’t discount it. Many books that start off slow are still worth reading. And most importantly: even in space, there’s scrambled porn.

Personal Opinions: Admittedly, it took me like 3 times as long to read this book, and my book club posts have been severely delayed as a result! Ooops! I was a little uninspired at the beginning… so many long weird names, so much random made-up stuff about alien societies, I felt out of place and confused. But as I pushed forward I started to get into the plot and the pace really started picking up.

The one thing that really irked me was the lack of chapters. Well, not exactly… there are 4 chapters in the whole book. It’s split mostly into thirds and then one short chapter that feels more like an epilogue. My issue is that when I’m reading, I’m the type who’s like, “OK I’ll stop when I finish this chapter.” Each chapter is a third of the book so… that plan doesn’t work. I had to just stop wherever and read back to get my bearings when I returned to the book. So that part I didn’t really like. But it’s a book about aliens, so it SHOULD be a weird read, right??