Saturday, December 27, 2014

A Brief Moment For Our Sponsors

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Monday, December 22, 2014


It was a miserably hot day, just like every other day on the Hellfire Peninsula. She had never liked the place, but today it had her entirely on edge. Something bad was coming, she just didn't know what.

Despite her concern, their patrol was more or less uneventful ... until her brother directed her to land. Every last instinct she had said to get out, get away. Obediently, she set down on the ground, and he slid off her back. She couldn't keep still; she was looking in all directions, fidgety. There were fewer demons now, but Outland was still full of threats.

Her brother's cry of pain drew her attention back to him. She keened her denial as he fell to his knees, clutching an arrow that had sprouted from his throat.

The orcs closed in around her, their riding wolves snapping at her legs. She thrust herself into the air, breathing death on them until an arrow pierced her side.

She screamed defiance, demanding nothing less than vengeance. Her brother had spent his entire life in service to the Light - he deserved that much.

It was to her great surprise when pillars of white-hot flame answered her cry, flowering into existence where the orcs had been. The storm left nothing but ash in its wake, though her brother was untouched.

Ignoring her own pain, she collected his body in her talons and began to carry him to Shattrath.

She had to believe this could be fixed.

50 Word Thoughts - IX


She stared into that abyss in a kind of awed horror. She did not, could not understand it, that yawning void. It was lightless infinity condensed into an almost humanoid form. It had no eyes, but she could feel it looking at her, through her. Worse, she felt its hunger.


The bird people were fascinating, yet vicious. She watched as the burning light descended on the small village, obliterating it. To harness the full destructive power of the sun ... of course it would be unfortunate for the victims. But imagine such weapons turned against the Iron Horde: victory, assured.


The Lifebinder was beauty incarnate. She wore a mortal shell, but the queen of all dragons remained regal. The other dragons present were all powerful and unique in their fashions, and Chirp felt insignificant beside them. A small, gnomish hand tugged on her own. "You could catch flies like that."


She wasn't sure if it was the frostweed, the fish oil, or the simple combination. She tested the mix thoroughly, adjusting the recipe. The transformation would be complete, and permanent. It would change everything about her - physically anyway. She couldn't afford to be recognized by her old friends.

Monday, November 24, 2014

50 Word Thoughts - VIII


"Do you think I'm pretty?"



She smiled. "I'm glad."

"I'm sorry?" What?

She backed Archer against the wall, invading his personal space. She leaned in, putting her hands on his shoulders. Confusion mixed with an unfamiliar emotion. He shoved the woman away, violently, and ran.


She hummed while she painted, content. Applying pigment to canvas was a soothing activity, one she was growing to enjoy. It was not music in a human sense, the grinding and shifting of stone, the song of her homeland. The discordant noise would be unsettling, but she was alone.


The beauty of circuitry was often overlooked. She loved making the insides of her machines as beautiful as they were functional, even though no one else would ever see them. Sometimes - most of the time - it was a challenge to manipulate the machinery. For example, symmetry often required some redundancy.


There was a fighting force at hand; someone was always on duty. But there were no gryphonriders, no alarm spells. There were improvements to be made to the fort's safety everywhere she turned. She would suggest them, but even with her disguise, she was still only just a green recruit.


It was a hobby of hers, getting into places she was not supposed to be. She started with various buildings around the garrison, before getting adventurous. The orc threat posed a particularly juicy target. Getting in was a breeze - she climbed the crude, wooden wall. Delicious secrets lay just inside.


She enjoyed learning for its own sake, though some information was irrelevant or commonly known. Her beloved was knowledgeable and maintained a large private library, where she could look up anything she was curious about. One day, she read about murloc life cycles. The next, she might research star patterns.


She tried to be everything a leader should - confident and competent. No job was so menial that she would not do it herself, though she  obviously could not do everything! That was what the magical word "delegation" was about. Still, she patrolled the grounds and cleaned latrines with a smile.


She wanted to be a good person, she'd decided that. The problem was, how could you define such a thing? Was it a matter of being good at being a person? Or was there some deeper meaning? Neither ethics nor philosophy were especially clear - and neither gave detailed instructions!

Sunday, November 23, 2014

The Aftermath

She woke, groggy, feeling like every part of her body had been beaten with hammers. She didn't want to move, but she had to. Fighting a crippling weakness, she managed to pull herself up to hands and knees. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner of the previous day came up all at once, her stomach protesting what she'd done to herself.

When she was done throwing up, she wiped her mouth and looked around. Ugh. She was still on the cliff overlooking the orcish encampment. It looked very much like a tornado had torn up the area, tents and orcs strewn about like an angry child's toys.

At the center of the camp, a shadow stood, the inky black of the void reaching out and spearing nearby orcish corpses. She watched as a ghost was ripped free of its body. It struggled, trying to escape the thing's reach, but to no avail. The void consumed the spirit like so much candy.

She shuddered. The mission was apparently a success: dead orcs could not normally get up to march, much less to attack a village.

But what had she done?

A better question was, what forces had the orc been tampering with, that his death had loosed this monstrosity.

What would happen when it ran out of orcs?

Vladik! She realized it in a panic - where was her wolf?

She breathed a weak sigh of relief to find him standing nearby, all of his fur up on end. He was growling, his attention fixed on the disaster below.

"Let's get out of here," she whispered.

The wolf nodded, an entirely too human gesture, and trotted off.

When it became obvious that she would not be able to follow at any speed, he circled back to help. She rested almost all of her weight on him, grateful that he chose to be solid for h er.

However, when they got within sighting distance of the garrison, he disappeared like so much smoke.

They both knew that if he was spotted, it would be all too easy to identify her.

Still, she only managed to crawl a few more feet, collapsing in a heap without his support.

Friday, November 21, 2014

The Mission

The orcs were planning an attack. Her first real mission as "Archer" was to thwart that attack. Straightforward enough.

It was a small force of Shadowmoon orcs, not really an army. How could she, alone, stop them from marching? Her instincts said "kill them all" - killing came easy, and it solved the problem. But in this case, it wouldn't be practical.

She reasoned out what she could do while scouting the encampment from above. Whatever else could be said about orcs, they were still mortal. They needed food and water to survive. They needed rest, of course, and they needed leadership. These things, she could disrupt.

Breaking the problem down like that, it was almost manageable.

The best part was, she wouldn't have to do most of it in person.

She put together packets of poisonous herbs, smiling as she worked.

Her beloved wolf would be the one to distribute the vile death she had concocted. Vladik had long since died; she couldn't hurt the ghost with her mixtures.

She explained what she needed him to do, still marveling at how smart he was. She watched as he made his way down the cliff and disappeared from view.

She was confident her wolf would take care of his task. If there was a single scrap of edible food in the camp by morning, she would be surprised - and if they had a single wolf left, or a moment of restful sleep in the entire camp, she would be astonished.

As the local wolves began to howl, loudly, she set to work on her own task.

She wasn't much of a mage; she couldn't rain fire or freeze her enemies in place. She couldn't imagine being able to reverse time.

But she had some talents.

She settled in to the shadow of the cliff, focusing on her well of power. As she closed her eyes, she felt herself slipping free of her body.

The thing she designed was vaguely humanoid, thin strands of magic connecting at a central point. It had two hands, and something resembling a head - good enough. It was also more or less invisible, which suited her purposes quite well.

The thing was also quite mindless; she would be controlling it, directing its every movement. It would take all of her focus: hopefully, she wouldn't find herself under attack, as she would be entirely helpless - most likely unaware of what was happening, until after she'd finished her work below. She wasn't stupid, though - if the orcs caught a scrawny young human in their midst, they would certainly kill him without a second thought.

Carefully, she directed the construct to pick up the poisoned knife. Clumsy, but it would do. She edged down the cliff, before realizing that without a real body, there would be no need for gravity. She flung her 'self' forward, the construct flying out over the camp proper.

One of the tents looked - strange, to her magical vision. It billowed with a kind of inky black smoke, and it beckoned her, drawing her closer. Curious, she followed the call. She slipped unnoticed into the dark-lit tent, finding the orc inside fast asleep. So much power, though - she knew for certain this would be a high value target. She slit his throat without a second thought.

The power did not dissipate. If anything, it expanded, for a moment, before contracting into a vaguely humanoid shape. The darkness hungered - it was impossible for her to look at the thing. It was impossible not to. Ultimately, she found herself staring at it in awed fascination.

The darkness hungered, and before she realized what was happening, her construct was engulfed, consumed. She hastily broke her contact with her creation, cutting her losses and snapping suddenly back into her body. The monster she'd unleashed had stolen almost all of her magic - but at least she was still alive. The backlash of her actions caught up to her quite quickly. She'd expected to be weak after her working.

She was unconscious before she could realize the full of her mistake.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

50 Word Thoughts - VII


The silly little flower men had sharp teeth. She discovered just how sharp when one of them latched on to her arm. She did not scream - she had endured worse. Instead, she bashed its skull in, green goo flying. She shook the dead thing off, before resuming her vicious slaughter.


Northrend was notoriously cold, with biting winds and harsh snows. She had not fully anticipated staying the night in a tent that was completely buried. She dug a small vent up to let air in and what little smoke her heater gave off out. It was a long, grueling night.


She smiled as she worked. To a human, the splash of color on canvas was meaningless. The idea that she could craft her own art was an incredible thought. She did not try to capture the image of something that existed - why would she? Instead, she painted pleasing patterns.


She sighed. She wanted to believe in the good of the world, and then this happened. It was two of the woodworkers - she did not know their names. "You know this is not tolerated," she said evenly. Rage gave her punch strength. No one deserved to be hurt like that.


"Commander!" The man snapped to attention. She had been recognized for her efforts in the previous wars, but honestly, she had no idea how to lead. She had run mostly solo campaigns, because of her "gifts." The idea of running a fortress was terrifying. What if she failed her people?


With how many years the Alliance and Horde had been fighting, she would have thought that a translator would be superfluous by now. Still, she served as well as she could, for basic confrontations. The others around the garrison got together, cornering her to demand lessons. Of course, she obliged.


Once again, she found herself traveling to strange lands a t the beginning of a new war. She was not chosen as part of this mission, but her employer was. She was not one to abandon a job because it got dangerous, and so she demanded a position in their company.


She swung the 'copter around, firing at the massive skeleton below. There were still a number of free roaming undead after the fall of the Lich King, though not nearly so many as during his reign. She did not mind clean up: it gave her time to think.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

50 Word Thoughts - VI


She was dreaming. She knew that, but it was a good dream. She was enveloped in a sense of pure light and warmth. There was a soft chiming noise that filled her mind. "You are not alone," it said. She woke, groggy. On the contrary, she occupied a solitary cage.


"That is not good enough, maggot!" She appreciated that the instructor treated her no differently than the adults he worked with. She wanted - needed - to prove to herself, to everyone, that she could keep up, that she was as good as any adult - if not better.


It came to pass that she found herself working at a military base. As far as her peers were concerned, she was a young enlisted man. That was the story, anyway. They let her participate in their games, gambling being their favorite. She lost, so now she cleaned the latrines.


She snorted softly. The man - the dwarf - who ran this organization was a petulant child, going into an infantile rage because things were not as he wanted them to be. His wife was more respectable, in her eyes. Besides - it was his wife who had invited her here, not him.

Friday, November 14, 2014

50 Word Thoughts - V


She swore. The man cringed - she could feel his fear. He expected her to lash out. A small, quiet part of her said she should. It was the legacy of the runeblades: a persistent, bloody madness, one she fought every day. It was a struggle not to kill the messenger.


There was something hiding among the rocks, something that glittered. It was nothing so plain as simple metal. She recognized the feel of it - a beautiful, purple rock. She did not have the right word for this - gem - but she promised herself she would learn. She needed that knowledge.


She opened a single eye, just a crack. For a moment, that was all that distinguished her dark gray form from the stone around her. Then the hill that formed her body trembled. Her wings spread; she shifted to arrange her legs under her. She stretched, creakinjg, and then roared.


The massive, shaggy-furred beast foamed at the mouth. It had already killed three strong men. Their corpses lay at the monster's feet. No one dared approach the bear, fearing that they, too, would die. Maybe it was the confidence of the young that spurred her on. She charged in.


She twisted the currents of magic in the air. Flames twisted around her arm: blue, green, yellow. She refused to be anything less than perfect, at every skill she chose to learn. She spent all of her time practicing her talents, such that she had never learned what childhood was.

50 Word Thoughts - IV


She wrinkled her nose. While she enjoyed the sweet foods known as candy, she did not enjoy other aspects of this holiday. She had all-but avoided Stormwind for most of the month, for this reason: the low-flying Horde pelted the city with stink bombs. She could not breathe!


She did not understand the noises these strange, soft, two-legged creatures made. They opened their mouths and sounds came out. She tried to make the same noises, but she did not know what the noises were for.
"Chirp?" She asked.
"Yes, Chirp!"
She pointed at the squishy woman. "Hoo-min."


The hawkstrider ruffled his feathers. She could sense his excitement, as plain as any elf's. Without words, she guided the bird around, bringing the lance up in a salute to her opponent. She faced a large orc. He wore heavy armor, she did not. She still sent him flying.


"Do you think yourself funny?" The heat of his anger was palpable. Maybe she should be nicer, but she found it hilarious. His thick, plated pants lay unlatched on the ground, his sword danced just out of his formidable reach. He had picked on the wrong little girl today.


She swallowed heavily, looking out over the expanse - a shallow pool, really. She had learned to deal with some of her fears, but this one still haunted her. She dipped her toes into the water. It was cold and clear. Slowly, she edged into the pool. So far, so good.

50 Word Thoughts - III


They danced, twirling, spinning. She delighted in showing him the miracle of flight. She tucked one wing in, rolling. He was clumsy, but he mimicked her movements, chasing her across the starry night sky. Her love, her mate - he was everything she could have wanted. He worked hard - for her.


There was no grave for her to spit on, no practical way to display her newly kindled hate. And a large part of her, a traitorous part of her, did not want to. She channeled her rage into strength, throwing herself into her training. For all her hate, he won.


She crept through the dim corridor. She did not know where she had come from, nor where she was going. All she knew was a deep sense of dread. She was not a coward; she kept moving forward despite her fear. But it was hard. Her dream trembled in terror.


The orc's axe drew blood, opening a thin gash across her cheek. She was not especially vain, but she took offense to that. She moved with unnatural speed and magically enhanced strength, smashing the greataxe aside and kicking him squarely in the soft bits. He doubled over; she struck again.


She ground the delicate petals down, mixing the herbs together into a mushy paste. The herbs were worth their weight in gold, but they were that effective. Already, she had set aside a wealth of liquid magic: healing potions and elixirs to enhance every aspect of herself. It was necessary.


She punched, piercing the dummy's "eyes" with the spikes adorning the handguard of her axe. The girl stepped back, panting slightly. Long practice had given her endurance - she could keep going just short of forever. She did need to work on all her talents, though, so she had to stop.

Through the Dark Portal

The feel of her axe slashing through flesh, slamming into bone, was intensely satisfying. This was what she was meant for. This was what she had trained for.

She ripped her axe free of the dead orc's skull, lashing out and tearing through another orc's throat.

She wasn't alone out here, by any means - Alliance and Horde alike fought the crushing might of the Iron Horde. But it wasn't like she could hide behind the others, not that she'd want to. She had come to fight, and it was glorious.

A new wave of orcs stormed through the portal. Somehow, she found her efforts had brought her to the front lines, a position that she hadn't intended to occupy. Still, as the strongest warriors of every Azerothian race poured forth to meet this threat, she felt - confident. That was the word.

The orcs largely didn't focus on her, either, at least not at the start. She was small, and she had a trained talent for blending in. She slipped through their ranks unnoticed, ducking a wild mace, and began to wreak havoc.

Her knives had been displayed prominently, not for intimidation, but for easy access. They glowed blue-green as her power freed them from their sheathes. The blades began to dance around her, almost as though they had minds of their own. Blood spattered as sharp points found soft flesh. Her knives fanned out around her, while she herself laid waste to every orc that came before her. Limbs fell, heads rolled, and the orcs suddenly viewed the small half-elf as a threat. This fact, she realized too late.

She drew her blades in close to her body as one particularly large orc turned to face her. He grinned as he smashed his own axe down against her block. Another bone-jarring attack, another - this one was followed with a kick that knocked the wind out of her and sent her flying.

She felt the magic swirl around her as she rolled through the portal.


A heavy kick to her side woke her up. She attempted to lash out, tried to fight whatever - whoever - had thought to capture her. Her hands were bound behind her back, so she thrashed, wielding her magic like a club and blasting outward with raw power. She was stunned as her own magic was reflected back at her.

The big orc grinned down at her as she groaned, looking up. She noted absently that her armor had been replaced with rags that barely covered her modesty. One more thing to take out of the orc's flesh, when she was able.

Her orcish was rusty, but she understood him well enough. "You like to fight, little girl? Then you will fight." He threw two crude-looking axes down next to her. "You will fight in the arena," he said, "Until you die."

This was not exactly what she had wanted when she decided to put her skills to use.


She killed, and killed again, for the orcs' amusement.

She made a point of not getting to know the other prisoners: she didn't know when she would be forced to fight against them - or worse, when the orcs would just kill them all outright.

The first time they had tried to bleed her, she bit, kicked, clawed, and punched, thrashing until they knocked her out with a swift blow to the back of her skull. The second time, she fought only until they knocked her out with a sweet-smelling herb.

Before they could attempt a third time, something amazingly fortuitous happened: fire broke out, burning the huts around them, and the cage door swung open.

Somehow, she doubted the two events were unrelated.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Achaena's Diary, Page Four

I don't want to talk about it. But I suppose that's when I need to most.

Everything I know has been set upside-down.

My family - my Master - lied to me. They told me that my mother had abandoned me. That she hadn't wanted me, hadn't loved me.

But that was a lie.

I spoke with her ghost yesterday. She told me what they had done. They had killed her. My guess is that the house, where I'd lived all my life - was also the house where my mother lived, and died. Otherwise, how would her spirit have been there in death? So they killed my mother, took her house, and made me into a murderer like them.

And how was I to know? I was young and stupid. I accepted everything the Masters told me as absolute truth. They were all the family I had known - what else could I have done?

An example though - the farce known as "pain training." There was a woman who could get into your head. She did a kind of magic, and inflicted terrible, unimaginable pain, all without leaving a visible wound. Undeniably, it worked, at least for me. I can withstand all but the worst pain indefinitely.

But was it necessary to torture children? Really? I suppose in their eyes, it was; we could hardly be effective if we broke down crying over every little scrape like - like children!

And why children in the first place? Is it because no one would suspect a child in a poisoning? Or a knife in the dark? No - I suspect it is the complete obedience, the absolute loyalty. None of us knew any other life, any other family. We were slaves, worse than slaves, because we loved our Masters. We would have died for them. Looking back, I doubt they would reciprocate our devotion.

As much as it hurts now, though, this betrayal was in the past. There isn't any point in dwelling on it: it belongs in the past.

I spoke with the worgen, Raphael, to try and sort everything out. He's wise, maybe even as much as Kelgrim, and more importantly, I was able to locate him last night. I'm glad, honestly: he just seems more ... real, somehow. It's easier to accept the idea that there might be a few good people in the world when he says it, because - well - because I know that he knows the ugly side of the world. He has that kind of a person inside him, just like I do.

He asked me about what my mother's ghost said.

She wasn't happy with the life that I've led, the kind of person I was raised to become.

So he pointed out that I can be whatever I want, do whatever I want.

I don't know what I want, ultimately, but I know that for now at least, I want to be useful. I've been bored, even practicing every day. My mind and body are sharp as ever - why shouldn't I help in the fighting?

I'll contact Foranth tonight. It shouldn't be hard to pretend to be a few years older. I don't even know that a dwarf could tell the difference.

Achaena's Diary, Page Three

So I was right to check on the dwarf - to alert her father. She was no match for the titanic system she was trying to tamper with: she found herself caught by the machine. Fortunately, Kelgrim was able to circumvent the defense systems and save her.

I guess that means I did the right thing.

Elle is safe, so that's good.

The other thing I wanted to mention though - I got accosted by a dwarf. She's apparently called Mistrel Weaving, though she didn't tell me that at first. See, I was minding my own business, transmuting some living steel. It was in the mystic ward of Ironforge - that area with all that power. She took a minute to tell me how good my work was - for someone my age.

Then, she got suspicious. She pieced together what I was, not that it's exactly a well-kept secret. If the SI:7 knows and follows me around, I think it might as well be a matter of public record. I'm just not that important, especially given recent events.

But this dwarf was paranoid.

She seemed to think I was an assassin sent to kill her, for her efforts in the Siege of Orgrimmar or some such thing. I managed to set her straight - I had no idea who she was or what her organization was about. I guess being dragged around is better than having someone try to eat me.

I even got a job offer out of it. She suggested that I might be able to offer my services to the "Anvil March."

Kelgrim was less than happy about that idea. He says that they're gearing up to make an expedition through the Dark Portal, to fight the Iron Horde.

That does influence my decision.

It will be good to use my talents again.

Achaena's Diary, Page Two

Perhaps I am being too harsh. There have been good people in my life, haven't there? What about Rennfri? She adopted me after my family died. That has to count for something. That may not be a good example. Although she seems to care - she DOES care for me - the death and agony that follows her, that she deals out, that is done in her name - I cannot honestly call her 'good.'

What about the elf who had lived next door? She seemed .... innocent of the evils in the world. Maybe the healing woman - the one who became pregnant?

You might say that every nosy paladin who has tried to enforce a curfew on me might be considered good - at the very least, they largely say they are doing it for my safety. So they are nice enough.

And of course, there is the matter of the dwarf, Kelgrim Forgefighter. Undoubtedly, he has made his own mistakes. His relationship with his daughter suggests that she is at the center of one of his bigger ones. But - she has a relationship with her. He's trying to repair the damage done. "Good" is not synonymous with "infallible."

So maybe there is one good person.

I do hope he doesn't hate me, especially after I let his daughter walk blithely into danger. I did send him a letter, so if something is wrong, he can help to fix it.

I'm on a boat now, me and my golem, sailing across the sea to Kalimdor, so that I can fix my own error. I despise water - the only way that I can make the journey is in a windowless room where I cannot see my impending doom.

If we capsize, I will drown and die.

How pleasant.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Of Ghosts

The elf wasn't anyone she recognized. She had known the others she had encountered, either personally or by their armor. This ghost was a civilian, though. She worse a simple, white nightgown, and a river of blood ran from her throat, which had been slit.

"They lied," the woman said, her voice wispery and almost inaudible. Achaena thought for a moment that she had imagined it. "They lied to you."

"Who lied?" She asked. "Who are you?" She wasn't particularly afraid - only the strongest ghosts could harm the living - and she didn't feel that this ghost meant to do her harm.

The woman floated forward, reaching out for her. She felt a chill as the ghost's hand cupped her cheek. "I would never abandon you ... my daughter."

She froze. Years of resentment, of hurt and anger, surfaced momentarily, before melting away. "Mother?" Her voice trembled. This had to be some kind of trick. She'd always been told ... but the dead weren't supposed to be able to lie. Not like the living could. And, when she was younger, hadn't she believed everything the Masters said?

The woman looked like her, tall and willowy, though her features were bleached in undeath. She enveloped Akkie in a cold, yet loving, embrace. "They killed me," the ghost whispered. "I could only watch as they twisted you, tortured you. Made you like them." Her voice held horror and pain. "That wasn't the life I wanted for you. It broke my heart."

"Mother, I - " The ghost pressed a finger to her lips.

"Shh." Her mother offered a sad smile. "This wasn't what I wanted for you, but it brings my soul a measure of peace to know that you are strong enough to survive the cruel world I brought you into. My only regret is that I could not - can not - be there for you." 

Already, I can feel my rest calling.

Be strong, and brave.

My daughter."

Her spirit faded. There came a sense of profound peace.

She sank to her knees, silent tears streaking down her cheeks. Her world had been set upside down.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Achaena's Diary, Page One


That's how these things begin, right? A greeting, an introduction, and then I spill my darkest secrets.

But the healer says that this will help. So, let's do this properly.

My name is Achaena. I am a half-elf. I am twelve years old. And I am a monster.

Oh, not like the Worgen, or the San'layn. No curse has made me to be what I am. But I bear no illusions: I am a monster.

But I'm only twelve, the astute observer will remember. What could I have possibly done?

Let's begin at the beginning. An elven woman deposited her newborn baby on the front doorstep of the orphanage. I remember neither my mother, nor the orphanage. I was too young. But I know what happened next.

A group of assassins, my family, adopted me. They raised me, trained me. I learned to fight with all manner of weapons, including my own magical talent. I also learned to brew potions and poisons.

I made my first kill when I was only ten. I've never felt any guilt. Why should I? This is what I was raised for. I was proud; Master was proud of me. He presented me with a set of ten perfect knives, which I carry to this day. They're a part of me, and more importantly, they are my last reminder of him.

You see, it was less than a year later that their scheme was uncovered. I returned from a job to find the house - my home for my entire life - crawling with guards. Everyone I'd known and cared for was dead.

But time moves on. I escaped the guards' notice easily enough, kept out of their way. I pursued legitimate work, even looking after a hunter's pets for a time. That was interesting. One of them was dead - killed long before I met him. I made fast friends with the ghost wolf named Vladik. He is a supremely loyal companion; he rarely leaves my side. The hunter ultimately let me keep him. If there is one person I trust implicitly, it is him.

I've met a lot of people - some of them were even good, I imagine. But mostly ...

There was that warlock who tried to kill me in Dalaran, because I wouldn't kill someone for free. Stupid - no gold, no blood.

He didn't succeed, obviously. Neither did the dwarf who tore a chunk out of my leg.

I'm still alive, but that one was close. I still have scars from those encounters - the leg healed with the help of magic, but nothing can cleanse fel taint permanently.

Even my own friends are - many of them - awful, horribly cruel people.

I think the dwarf, Kelgrim, is probably the best person I've met, and all I do is anger him. Maybe I should try to listen to him - he's old, he's supposed to be wise. But the things he says are so unrealistic.

People are mostly bad. It takes work - hard work - to care for anyone other than yourself. Even those who claim to be altruistic are only doing it to feel better about themselves.

Now I'm feeling bitter.

Maybe I'll burn this page - that's supposed to make you feel better, too.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

50 Word Thoughts - II


She let the magic flow through her. It was almost pretty, the way the colors swirled together. She found the process soothing. It gave her mind a rest. The magic mixed with the metal in a beautiful pattern of light. It was always good to profit off of enjoyable talent.


The girl called Chirp rubbed at her eyes, trying to wake up. The magic that enhanced her mind would only last a little longer. She wanted to cram just a bit more learning in before then. She just could not keep her eyes open for even a single moment more.


So much time had passed. The house was repaired, and ready for sale, but the word was that it had become haunted. Stormwind's forces were busy elsewhere. No one could be spared for the exorcism. The house stood empty and unwatched. She entered, quiet, in search of her beloved dead.


She was pleased with herself, to know she was still as good as she was once. The mark was fat and easy, the coin heavy in her hand. He would barely miss the fat purse. For her, it was less about money. She had legitimate pursuits. This was just fun.


Bored. The trip took several days, and all she could see for miles in all directions was dull, boring water. At least it was not quite as scary as it used to be. That is, so long as she did not fall in. She could still, too easily, imagine drowning.


The man was named Walter. He was a rich merchant who liked to mix business with pleasure. He was also dead. The two facts were very much related. He had tried to get just a bit too friendly, and she simply could not allow him to compromise her current disguise.


She had never in her life experienced such a variety of flavors, of textures. The word for this one was "potato." She found that it was sometimes hard, but she liked it best when it was hot and soft and covered in "butter." This food was served with dead meat.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

50 Word Thoughts


She knew it was a trap. She knew it, but she trusted herself. She could not, did not, anticipate how prepared he had been. The meat was delicious, even though she rarely ate it. The poison was so fast, she could not even cry for help. She was in trouble.


She was not doing it right. She knew it. She picked up the hammer and began to beat the training dummy in earnest. One strike, two, three - the dummy snapped in half. She did not let up. She continued until the wood was so many splintered pieces. Still so unsatisfying.


She stood over the orc, bloody axe in hand. He groaned, bleeding. It was not mercy that stayed her hand. The alliance needed answers. So she bound his limbs and began to drag his half-dead body back to the camp. Maybe she was wrong to hurt him back. Maybe.

Fast Food:

She settled into the dive, wings tucked in. The unfortunate cow would have no idea what happened. One moment, it was standing, peaceful, and the next, she had snapped its neck, her talons impaling its skull.
She ripped its flesh open, beginning to feast in earnest.
She had killed well.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Thaumcraft Part One

Or: Suddenly Magic

My game starts pretty much like any other minecraft experience: I'm in a savannah, with a few pigs nearby. I look for a tree, and, finding one, I punch it down and make a workbench, an axe, and a pickaxe.

Pretty standard stuff, all in all.

My mod list follows:

Ex Nihilo
and Voxelmap.

The first thing I come across from Thaumcraft: An obsidian totem. I'm not gonna let that stand.

No, but seriously, I'm not. Those things spread taint, and this close to my original spawn, I want nothing to do with that. I immediately upgrade my pickaxe, therefore, and get to work.

My sacred work complete (I don't like taint), I head onwards. The next thing I come across of any value are some sheep, so I put them to death on the spot and get enough wool to make a bed.

Before long I find exactly what I'm looking for - a swath of magical forest.

I've found three different obsidian totems by now and dismantled all of them.

Oh hello.

I don't like these trees, on the one hand - on the other they're useful. Think of them as cave spider dungeons with some decent loot underneath.

Nope, nope, nope, nope, nope.

This also goes to the axe. Pick-axe, that is.

And here's my winnings.

I decide to dismantle one of the three silverwood trees I've spotted. I left the node block in place - we'll see later if the node survived - and I replanted the single sapling I retrieved, because who doesn't want more silverwood, really?

Here's my take from the forest:

Next Up: Mining and gathering.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Neko Powergames The Sims 3: Trivializing Everything Else

Starting with relationships:

People seem to love to rave about the Social Networking skill. So I decided to give it a whirl, leveling it in roughly the same fashion as Science.

The good news is, once I finally max it, I'll have enough LTR points to buy Fast Learner, since maxing Social Networking came up as a wish. Plus, the relationship transmogrifier is, indeed, quite powerful.

The bad news is - well, actually there isn't much for bad news there.

I clone plasma bugs periodically now - I hardly need $200k, though that's my goal.

And, unlike in the Apocalypse Challenge, I don't need to get rid of any of it. Susan's going to be living in a mansion by the time she gets out of college.

Any time Susan meets someone new, I just throw the transmogrifier on, and they're best friends now. She could also choose anyone to be her romantic interest, and with the Sim Finder app, she's guaranteed the best possible mate.

By the end of her third semester, she has $242,089. Which, incidentally, nets me two legacy points all on its own, since the points for money are calculated at 1 for every $100k.

I've also been leveling alchemy, because when I originally created Susan, I meant to make her a witch. I could cheat that on, but it's quite possible to 'catch' witchitude from a potion.

I use the remaining time to level various skills, including Charisma (as though making friends weren't easy enough), Inventing (for the fun of it), and Gardening (for the grades).

I also grab a couple of points in athletics and handiness, because why not.

Total stats by the end of college:

10 Inventing
10 Charisma
10 Science
10 Social Networking
10 Alchemy
10 Logic
8 Gardening
6 Athletic
4 Handiness
1 Writing
1 Cooking

1 Legacy Point for the Founder generation
1 Legacy Point for 100k Total Lifetime Happiness
2 Legacy Points for cresting $200k net worth
1 Legacy Point for LTW fulfilled: Perfect Student


Evil (Family Trait, Social Trait)
Brave (College Trait)

Friday, May 2, 2014

Neko Powergames The Sims 3: Trivializing the Money Problem

So someone asked about the Legacy Challenge - or any other challenge for that matter - and it inspired me to start up one of my own. I don't know how long I'll stick with it - as I mentioned, they tend to bore me - but it sounds like an amusing diversion for at least a couple of days.

This is Susan Beckett. She's a Leo. She likes Mac'n'Cheese, Electronica, and the color gray.

I did the absolute minimum to ensure she had clothing on and looks reasonably cute.

This is a power-gaming entry, not a story or 'spend three hours on clothes' entry.

The traits, therefore, are the most important thing.

I went with:


With plans to get Evil and something else later on. Maybe Irresistable.

I gave her the wish to become a Perfect Student, and away we go.

From the Legacy Challenge, you're supposed to select a lot valued at $14,700, but most newer neighborhoods just don't -have- that kind of a lot. So I'm starting on a 64x64 lot in Lunar Lakes (the one stolen by the equestrian center, thanks Mr. Bulldozer!). 

A quick trip to TestingCheatsEnabled True, and a FamilyFunds Beckett 1300, and we're totally legit and ready to go.

Now, the legacy challenge rules as they stand don't incorporate University Life - or at least, I couldn't find a version that restricts it in any way.

So I'm going to set some personal restrictions.

One: I'm only going to allow myself to apply for extra funds once a semester, on Thursday, after the activity but before finals.

Two: I find it entirely reasonable to limit myself to only three skills on the Brain Enhancement Machine, and five points each, so as to maintain some challenge. It's not going to be much of one, as we'll see.

Three: I'm only taking four semesters, total. I could finish college in one with the right traits - but that's exhausting and gives me no time to get money!

Susan spends the first hour or so waiting for the Uni Mascot and chatting herself up, which improves both her social and her fun. She's having the time of her life by the time the university goods show up, which, combined with her over-emotional trait, means she's quite happy indeed - and racking up those LTR points.

I don't really expect to get a scholarship off the traits I picked, and in fact she gets a disappointing 683/2400 on the aptitude test. I set her up for a single semester at twelve credits, which empties out most of her starting budget. $1,150 is most of $1,300, though she recoups $100 of that for the opportunity, and I'll be selling the cheap camera she got for fast cash - since there's no reason not to; no restrictions prohibit things you got because the game says so.

As always, I start on the central dorm.

Now, if I really wanted, I could sell everything in the dorm but the essentials - or even those - and be obscenely rich. But that seems - against the spirit of the thing. I won't need to, either, as you'll see.

Instead, I buy a Book Corral bookshelf - one of the ones with all the skill books in it - and a dragon egg.

I won't hold it against you if you didn't buy Dragon Valley - and the Renaissance Faire. It's real money, after all, not everybody wants to spend real money.

But I did, so I'm exploiting it, hardcore.

Now, I get the bug where sometimes the job board just doesn't have jobs. Frustrating, but I can deal, and that's not going to be my main mode of money anyway.

I have Susan pose nude at the art center, donate saliva, plasma, and giggles - enough to get her that writing class she really wants to do. My plans involve getting her as many LTR points as possible so that she can net some of the better LTR's early. Since her Lifetime Wish is - not exactly impressive - I'll need to make up the difference somehow.

This little guy is the key to my success here. He means that she won't have to eat or sleep at all for her entire college career - freeing up boatloads of time to do everything else. I'm going to have her only real interactions with him be to talk to him about logic - it's free skill points. I also loot the bookshelf of all the Science books - which is key to my strategy.

Then it's off to the library for some quality study time!

Being a bookworm, she skills up by reading really quickly, and the library boost helps dramatically.

By two AM (roughly six or seven hours after I had her start on it), she's got level 3 in Science - absolutely fantastic for a first night's work. Her first class starts at 8 AM, giving me roughly four hours. Considering my options, I decide to have her study from her course materials, which fulfills a wish she's had since getting to college.

Then I set her to studying Science a little longer, and she's ready for class.

I have her work hard throughout her first class, then queue up flying charcoal for the half an hour or so that she has between classes to raise her fun enough to work hard for most of her next class. Then I have her suck up to her professor - whoever that is - before sending her back to the library.

Yes, she's smelly, but as any veteran of the apocalypse can tell you, smelly is hardly worth noting.

She wants to read three total books, so I set her to reading her course material, which makes her happy. I don't let her finish though - once she's not stressed anymore, I set her right back to studying Science. Since she's a Science/Medicine student, this even improves her grades!

I needn't have bothered with making her happy; she freaked out due to the full moon and became tranquil immediately. Oh well.

A lecture comes between Susan and her studies - fair enough, that brings me to the only place on campus with a free science machine (of doom).

So by now you've probably guessed my plans.

Yep, just like I did in my apocalypse, I'm going to clone these little guys until I'm richer than God. They're worth at least $3400 a pop, probably more. 

Now, I initially planned to get Fast Learner, but that desire seems rather silly - at least right off the bat. I'm instead going to buy my way up the Nerd social ladder - since, that's a thing I can do. Dropping 6k LTR points into the social group nets me rank six, not bad at all.

Susan gets singed on her first attempt to clone, but manages a successful cloning on her second shot, netting her an easy $5072 (total). I use it to buy a brain enhancing machine and a (home based) science lab. She won't stay singed long, this way.

She has to go to class before I can clone too many more bugs, but that's fine, since I have to go to the academic center anyway for my free ~$5000.

After nine bugs, total, have been sold, I'm sitting pretty on a nice $51912. Certainly nothing to scoff at, but let's see if I can do even better!

So the second round of plasma bugs - selling off six of the seven - brings me up to $87618. Not bad.

I spend another 2000 LTR points on getting my next trait - Evil, so that she can feed off the suffering of others. Yay, suffering! In total, that means I spent 10k on a new trait, with basically no time investment. I find it to be an equitable trade; YMMV.

So that's how you trivialize the money problem within the first week of classes.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

A Stranger in Skyrim 22

Chapter Twenty-Two: The Housecarl

In which Lydia is introduced.

The servant began to lead her toward the armory, as instructed by the Jarl. After a moment's hesitation, though, she reached out to grab the man's arm. "I know he expects me to pick out some armor but - that's not going to do me much good. Do you suppose I could select my rewards from the library instead?" 

"Of course, my Thane." The servant bowed slightly, changing direction. 

In the end, she made off with four dog-eared books, all spell tomes that Farengar helped her to pick out. Well - all except one. The thin black book she selected for herself, no one had seen her slip into her pocket. Flipping through it briefly had been enough to catch her interest, and damn it, she'd earned every bit of the reward she picked out. 

As she made to leave Dragonsreach, arms straining a little under the heavy tomes she'd selected, a black-haired woman in full plate approached her. "Can I help you?" Mariah asked, shifting the weight of the books in her arms. 

"Ah, my Thane. I am Lydia, and I am to be your housecarl." She bowed, formally. 

A pause as she processed that. "So - you're some kind of bodyguard, then?" 

"I - suppose you could put it like that. As you are my Thane, I am sworn to protect you, and all you own, with my life." The woman regarded her uncertainly. 

She nodded. "Could you help with these?" She offered Lydia the stack of books, intending for the stronger woman to take only a couple of them. 

"I am also sworn to carry your burdens … " The woman looked resigned as she took the stack. 

Mariah smiled. "Thanks. So - what all am I supposed to do as a Thane, if I may?" 

"To be a Thane is - it's an honor to be named such. There aren't really many duties or responsibilities; you've been recognized for the service that you've already given Whiterun. You're an important person here, a hero. Guards will even look the other way, if you tell them who you are." 

She ducked her head, embarrassed, as she headed for the door. "I don't think that'll be a problem, you know?" She really wasn't a career criminal - why did everyone assume she was? 

"Of course, my Thane." Mariah held the door open for Lydia. "What are we doing today?" 

"Well - I'm not supposed to do anything strenuous for a day or two; doctor's orders." She headed down the steps and across the waterway. There was a man there, standing in front of a shrine. He was shouting about Talos - wasn't that one of the Divines? 

Curious, she listened in. Maybe she'd learn something. 

"Aye, love, love!" The man shouted. "Even as man, great Talos cherished us. For he saw in us, in each of us, the future of Skyrim! The future of Tamriel!" He paused for a moment, for breath, taking a swig out of a flask that - she could only assume - contained some kind of alcohol. Drinking on the job, pfeh. "And there it is, friends! The ugly truth! We are the children of man! Talos is the true god of man! Ascended from flesh, to rule the realm of spirit!" 

He shook his head, angry. "The very idea is inconceivable to our Elven overlords! Sharing the heavens with us? With man? Ha! They can barely tolerate our presence on earth!" He spat on the ground, an indication of his disgust.  

"Today, they take away your faith. But what of tomorrow? Do the elves take your homes? Your businesses? Your children? Your very lives? And what does the Empire do? Nothing! Nay, worse than nothing! The Imperial machine enforces the will of the Thalmor! Against its own people!" 

It was food for thought, and she stood, listening to the entire lecture. She wasn't the only one. He was urging the Stormcloak rebels on, recruiting for them, it seemed. She had little interest in religion, but she didn't think it right, that this Empire was oppressing a people for a difference of opinion such as that. She'd read all about that kind of thing on Earth. She'd have to watch her step - it wasn't her war, but it was stupid to ignore the political climate. 

"Is this war as bad as it sounds?" She asked Lydia as they walked away. 

The woman looked at her, thoughtful, as she nodded once. "It's torn families apart. Old allies have turned to hated enemies over this - it's not quite open warfare yet, but everyone knows it's building up to it. And when it does …." Lydia shook her head. 

"Everyone will suffer. Not just these Stormcloaks, not just the Empire, but the average person, too. I want no part in that. War just isn't worth the cost." 

"Truly, there is nothing you value so much you would fight for it?" A raised eyebrow. 

Mariah shook her head. "It's not like that. I just - I think people should try to get along, despite their differences. Life is too precious to throw away like that." 

Lydia laughed, but it was a bitter laugh. "Things must be different, where you come from." 

"They really aren't." She sighed softly. "They really aren't." 


Mariah sat down on one of the benches near the temple of Kynareth. "Set those down - " She gestured for Lydia to set the books next to her. "I won't get any better if I don't study," she explained, taking the first heavy tome. Conjuration basics - Summoning for Dummies, it might as well have been titled. 

"You're a wizard, then?" Lydia asked it dubiously. 

She laughed. "Well, I'm trying to be. It's pretty much endless studying, as far as I can tell. But - I can do this," she summoned lightning to her fingertips, dancing the sparks across the back of her hand. "So it's worth it, in the end." 

Lydia watched with some interest. "We don't have a lot of wizards here in Whiterun - Farengar, of course, and there's a drunkard who frequents the Bannered Mare, too." 

"Well, I gather I have some talent for it." She shrugged her backpack off, settling it on the ground between her feet. 

"Mariah!" A small voice called, and a little body flung itself at her. She laughed, nearly toppling over as Lucia practically tackled her. "You're okay!" 

She smiled, hugging the child gently. "I am, thanks to you." 

"Oh?" The little girl looked up at her, wide-eyed. 

She nodded. "From what I can tell, Irileth found your potion in my things. It's what kept me together until they could get me to the healer." She squeezed the girl gently. "So I guess I owe you, huh?" 

"I guess so." 

She looked up and over at the housecarl. "Lydia, meet Lucia. You said you were supposed to guard me and everything of mine, right?" 

"Well … yes …." 

She nodded. "I want you to look after Lucia, at least while we're in town, all right? It's not much," she said the last to the girl, "But it's something I can do for you anyway." 

"Of course, my Thane." 

She leaned back on the bench. "Gods, but I'm tired." She yawned to emphasize her point. "But you don't get better at anything without practice." She nudged Lucia gently, to get her to let go. Then, she cracked the book open. 

"You can read?" The little girl asked. 

Lydia made a shushing noise. "That's rude … " 

"No, it's all right. I can read - do you want me to read to you? It's actually really interesting to learn from all these books." 

"You think so?" Lucia smiled brightly, leaning forward to peek at the pages. "I'd like to learn," she said wistfully. 

"Well - why don't we learn together?" She smiled brightly, flipping to the first page. "'This book is the first in a series dedicated to the study of conjuration ….'"