Lay betting explained: A beginner's guide from OddsMonkey

Who needs heists!?

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Meet The Freak 10

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The pain in my shoulder kept rousing me from sleep, and damn did I ever need the rest. I'd get an hour or so of sleep, and then something would happen to tweak my shoulder. I'd roll over, or move reflexively to brush away an itch, and I'd be brought reluctantly to wakefulness.
It's not that I was uncomfortable. In fact, this 'hotel' as Wallace called it, might be one of the most luxurious buildings I'd ever set foot in. The furniture down in the restaurant, for example. The quality there, in just one of the pieces, was astounding. It was difficult to get fabric to take dye consistently, to achieve a uniform colour. As such, it was often the upholstery that was of particular prestige, making quality pieces often the centre of a noble's living room. Not only was every piece of furniture in that restaurant of such quality, everything matched. It was as if some sort of perfect automaton had fabricated each piece. And that was to say nothing of the carpentry and metalwork involved, which were similarly astounding.
Then there were the sheets I'd wrapped myself in. It wasn't quite the same as silk, silk had a more sultry quality, and this felt somehow more wholesome. It was more like a warm hug than a- well, than any of the sorts of things I usually got up to when tangled in silk sheets. And with Wallace sleeping nearby, his long steady breaths providing a comforting rhythm, and his scent lingering on the air, I found that I felt safer than I had in a very long while. Not safe, there was a reason I still kept a pistol nearby, there remained a long way to go for true safety, but I was safer.
I only wished I could enjoy it, to bask in the warmth from the pile of blankets, and luxuriate in the feeling that I didn't have an immediate looming threat breathing down my neck. The problem was, my gods damned shoulder would not stop hurting. I tried to find a position that wouldn't aggravate my injury, but despite my best efforts, still couldn't stay asleep for more than an hour at a time.
Finally, angry, bored, and still very tired, I kicked off the blankets in a fit of pique. Of course, that only hurt my shoulder more, and I grit my teeth to keep from waking Wallace with a pained gasp.
I frowned, the steady rhythm was gone.
I snatched a sheet and held it to my chest. With some difficulty, I sat up and peered over the edge of the bed. Wallace had left. Which meant he'd woken up. Which meant he'd noticed me sleeping on the floor next to him.
I sighed. I had been hoping to be gone before he woke, though I wasn't sure what I was trying to hide. That I trusted him? He probably figured that out about when I was huddled naked in the bath.
I wish he'd woken me, we could share breakfast, and I'd follow his explorations, but damn I was tired.
I slithered into the bed, still warm from his presence. I curled up in the middle of the bed where the warmth was the greatest and settled in among the blankets and piled pillows. By some magic, the mattress shaped itself to fit my body, and I quickly found a position that didn't set my shoulder aflame. The heat made me drowsy, and in renewed comfort, saw little reason to fight it.
I had little idea of the time that had passed when I finally woke once more. I only knew that the hollow and tired feeling had abated, and the sun still had not yet risen.
I considered laying there for a while longer. Perhaps I'd doze off again, but thought better of it. I was curious about what Wallace had been doing, had he returned to the room, only to leave me to sleep in peace? Perhaps, but it was a large building. Likely he wasn't finished exploring.
I pushed myself up, found my torch and pistol, and wrapped myself in one of the sheets. So covered, I slipped back across to my room and dressed in the sleeveless shirt and legless trousers I'd worn to dinner. I'd worn the ensemble to dinner out of exhaustion, after all, getting into the flight suit was a bit of a bother at the best of times, and I didn't feel like attempting it with one arm. I'd expected Wallace to make some remark, maybe blush a little. I'd even had a biting retort ready for the occasion, but he didn't protest my lascivious dinner wear. It seemed not to register to him.
I found I quite liked Wallace, which was quite the novel experience. I'd always seen company as something to be avoided unless I'd paid for their time. How strange it was then, that I hoped Wallace would stay once I'd finished teaching him what magic I knew.
With him possibly anywhere in the massive building, I intended to track him by scent. Sleeping several hours in his bed had made that tricky, however, and I had difficulty separating the scents present in the environment from those clinging to me. I could get an idea of where he'd been, but was unable to tell how long ago it was. As it seemed he'd spend the hours I was asleep searching the entire building, I found myself doing the same. I struggled to find a single room that did not have at least a trace of his scent within.
It made me regret leaving my necklace behind, but it wouldn't be safe with my shoulder still healing. That said, I'd only checked the first floor, and I could already feel myself growing faint as I gazed at the door to the stairs.
I am going to make that man carry me back down here.
Just pushing open the heavy metal door- the humans take security seriously it seems -made me feel dizzy. I put my hands on my knees and took a few deep breaths to steady myself before continuing.
I woke to the taste of blood in my mouth, a brutal headache, and the reek of fear. I shifted a little and blinked my eyes open, and I heard a sigh of relief.
"Oh thank god, please, just don't move."
I came to realize that Wallace was holding me in his arms, a little too tightly, as he was making it difficult to move my head.
"Wallace," I grumbled drowsily, "Let me go."
"Valentine, just- please, for fuck's sake."
I met his gaze, and my anger softened as I saw the concern in his eyes. He looked like he'd just seen me die.
"Okay, okay," I soothed.
Wallace calmed a little as the sickly scent of fear was gradually replaced by the musky scent of my pheromones. With so much skin uncovered, the effects should have taken hold much more quickly than they did, but at the very least it didn't appear as if his heart were about to stop.
Wallace took a deep breath, "In first aid- for humans -the number one thing, the most important thing unless someone is gushing blood, are head and neck injuries. "
I placed my palm gently against his chest, "It's okay," I finally understood what had him so shaken, "Fey are different, we're not so vulnerable to getting bumped on the head."
"You're-" he began, but I put a finger to his lips before he could interrupt.
"I know a thing or two about treating injuries, Wallace," I insisted, "I learned all sorts of things about head injuries, but us fey are not like anyone else. If we were, every noble house would have a pile of dead servants who fainted trying to carry the lady's tea up the stairs."
Wallace gently took my hand away from his lips. He held gently onto my hand, our hands clasped loosely across my chest.
"I thought you were dead," he said flatly, "I pushed open the door, and here you were on the landing, limp as a corpse and white as a sheet."
"This isn't the first time I've fainted trying to climb the stairs," I sighed, "I just need a little air."
I gave a little yelp as Wallace gathered me up and rose to his feet, and quickly threw an arm around his neck to steady myself. I squirmed around until I was in a more or less sitting position. The motion made my head throb, and I rested my head against Wallace's chest while I squeezed my eyes shut against the pain.
I'd made it almost to the roof, following Wallace's scent, but that was damning with faint praise. It had been easy to figure out where he'd gone off to once I was in the stairwell, as his scent was present throughout, but the climb had been brutal. To any other fey, my ascent through the building would seem supernal. But to the humans who'd constructed the building, doubtless to Wallace as well, I must have seemed pitiful.
Wallace elbowed the bar across the door, which shifted slightly, and he ducked out onto the roof. I shivered as the cold air brushed across my exposed skin, and tried to press closer to Wallace. It got awfully chilly during The Long Night, and I was a little underdressed.
The roof was altogether more pleasant than that of the 'gas station', as Wallace had called it. There were several cushioned benches scattered about, some small trees here and there, and a few flower beds set against the low wall that ringed the rooftop. Someone, indeed, likely several someones, had gone to some effort to make the space as pleasant as possible.
"What happened to your jewellery?" Wallace asked, his voice low, though I could feel the bassy reverberations in his chest.
"It's not safe to use while I'm healing," I shivered, "So I'm useless until my shoulder is mended."
"You're plenty useful," Wallace insisted, "You teach me magic, and I'll carry you around wherever you want to go," he promised.
He carried me over to one of the benches and took a seat. He let go of me, but I didn't take the opportunity to slide off his lap. Instead, I snatched a nearby blanket and pressed it into his hands. He took it, an amused expression on his face, and helped me settle it around myself. With it trapping the heat, it felt like I was sitting with my cheek resting against a furnace. Between his natural scent and the all-encompassing warmth, I felt myself growing drowsy once again.
I pulled the blankets tight around myself and peered up at him, "Maybe I'll ride you around like a horse," I giggled, "Did Temerity get to ride you around too?"
He immediately turned red, his lips set in a thin line as he tried not to break out into a guilty smile.
"Oh, she did, she did!" I hooted, "Were you face up or face down? The girls at The Blushing Maiden have given it to me both ways, so I can see the appeal in either case," Wallace turned, if it were even possible, a yet darker shade of red, "Now that I think about it, Temerity does seem the sort to take the initiative. Face down then."
Wallace's guilty smile turned to a grimace, but there was grudging mirth in his eyes and the twist of his lips.
I prodded him in the ribs, "You're not even the tiniest bit angry," I asked incredulously, though it was more of a statement.
I pressed my nose against his chest and inhaled deeply, "I can't smell a whiff of anger. If I were a servant, anyone else would be having me flogged right about now to correct my mark against their honour. Or as a noblewoman, they'd be looking for a father, brother, or husband to duel."
He sighed, a wry, grudging smile on his face, "Humans used to be like that," he admitted.
I frowned in thought, "Now that I think about it, I don't believe Simon has ever challenged anyone to a duel. And gods know people have tried to goad him into it."
"Why, to try to get rid of him?" Wallace guessed, "Seems like a losing proposition if it's fey versus human, even if he doesn't go all Super Saiyan on them."
"Super Saiyan?" I inquired.
Wallace covered his face with his hand, "The body magic thing he does."
"Oh, well, you're right. Magic isn't allowed, though that can be hard to enforce. But it's the privilege of the challenged party to opt for a champion to take their place. Usually a sprite, or now that there are other races in the city, a goblin or elf. But it matters little," I explained, "Simon seems genuinely ambivalent to even the most grievous insult made against him. At first, it led to him losing a great deal of respect within the city, but once it was clear he didn't care about that either, I think he was able to turn it into a strength. That said, it's not as if he doesn't get even with those that oppose him. Typically when a nobleman of the city goes after Simon, he'll find that a wife or daughter will have mysteriously fallen for the human interloper," I thumped Wallace on the chest, "Simon's playroom isn't quite as well soundproofed as Temerity's though, I understand that most of the manor, along with anyone out on the street, can hear when Simon is taking the initiative with a new paramour," I put a hand to my chin, as if in thought, "Now that I think about it, that must be some serious soundproofing in Temerity's place, I mean, you must be awfully lou-"
Wallace, very gently, but very firmly, put his hand over my mouth.
I shrank inwards a little and nodded.
At first, I'd been needling him just to see what it would take to get him to strike me. Humans were still an enigma to me, and I found that people were generally easier to deal with if I knew where the limits were, but now I realized that the greater risk would be making the big mushy goliath feel hurt.
He took his hand away, and I pulled myself up to plant a kiss on his cheek, before sinking back down to nestle against his chest.
"You're an okay bodyguard Wally."
"Thanks, Vally," he replied wryly, "Have you got your daily allotment of teasing me in? Can we get to adult stuff?"
I rolled my eyes, "Val will be fine, and what is it?"
"Well," he began, pulling down the blanket a bit so I could see out into the night, "I picked this bench for a reason, are you able to make out that light in the distance?"
"No, can you-"
Wallace covered both the torches, and I waited as my eyes adjusted to the darkness.
"Maybe?" I said finally, "I might just be seeing what I want to see though. I take it you're more confident?"
He nodded, "It's a campfire. It's way the hell out there, but it's a fire."
"Probably surveyors from Caniforma," I guessed.
"Are they going to be a problem?"
"Perhaps," I admitted, "They might eventually find a route here, but surveyors tend to guard their discoveries jealously. Unless you know who to ask, it's not easy to even learn where to buy such information, and that's to speak nothing of the price. No, they're not likely to pose a threat. That said, if someone is truly determined to come after me, they likely could reach us."
"You mean someone might pull the same stunt we did," Wallace realized.
I pulled the blanket back up over my head and relaxed against the big man.
"Yes. And while we had to spend a day getting through the pass, the proximity of the mountains offers possibilities to the determined."
"You mean someone might try to make their own little rest stop by climbing up far enough? Would that even work with horses?"
"Doubtful," I replied, "But if it came to it, they could abandon the horses to the tide, and sleep out the night partway up some convenient cliff."
"Hmmm..." he rumbled quietly, "Just trying to think through the timeline here. So the horsemen, horsewomen, horsepeople?"
"They were riders, not centaurs," I huffed.
"Whichever, point is, they left late. After all, we left late, and they left even later after that. So we'll assume whoever comes after us has time to prepare, and are down the ramp from the city at first light."
"Not a simple task," I interjected, "There are special carriages that carry horses down, and even if they've planned to have those ready, the descent is yet slower than it was for us."
"Okay, fair," Wallace agreed, "But it does mean that, compared to the riders we ran into, they'll be further along at any given point in time."
"Fair," I agreed.
"Which pushes their point of no return forwards, I don't know, six hours?" he guessed, "That might be a bit generous, but we should prepare for a best-case attempt from them."
"They also won't have spent several hours searching an alien neighbourhood for us," I added.
Wallace nodded, "Which means they get even further. Now include the fact they've got a safe return that's a lot closer... yeah, I bet they could make it. Fuck they'd be tired though."
"I wouldn't worry about it for now, Wally," I assured him, "I have a hard time conceiving of a more defensible position than what we have now. We'll have time to ready ourselves. Besides, they know not what they face at the end of their journey. I don't expect to see them in the next Long Night, perhaps the one after next at the earliest," I peered up at him from beneath the blankets, "Plenty of time for you to learn some magic."
Wallace beamed and seemed to tremble at the mere word, and it gave me a little thrill to see him smile like that.
I thumped my hand against his chest again, "Carry me inside, feed me some breakfast, and we can get started."
Wallace pursed his lips, "What was that you said, something about protecting you but not taking care of you?"
I narrowed my eyes, "You're not taking care of me, you're pampering me.
"As you wish, your highness," Wallace replied wryly.
Still bundled up in the blanket, Wallace brought me back inside through a different staircase. Rather than functional metal railings and hard stone steps, this staircase was thickly carpeted, and the hardwood railings were stained a rich dark brown.
Wallace shouldered his way through the door at the bottom of the stairs, and I somehow found myself in a room that was even more luxurious than what I'd seen below.
Now that wasn't to say that every surface was engraved, gilded, and studded with gemstones as it might be in a royal's palace. The humans who'd built this structure seemed to have a preference for understatement, and instead of displaying wealth with precious metals and rare stones, it was with quality materials. Again, I was astounded by the uniformity with which the carpets and furniture upholstery were dyed. The elves could do work that was nearly this good, but it wouldn't be uniform over such a large area, and the reagents they used to fix the dyes had an unfortunate scent.
It looked to me that the top floor of the entire east wing was dedicated to this single set of chambers. Well, perhaps not 'chambers', as the designers seemed not to have believed in walls. Where they were needed, they were either glass, as the exterior walls were, or did not rise to reach the ceiling, and served simply to break up the sightlines and provide a little privacy.
Oddly enough, the kitchen seemed to be displayed proudly, rather than being out of sight, hidden back in some servant's area. I wasn't happy to see the harpsichord, in what would be the sitting room, had it been a separate room. There was also another of those black glass slabs that humans always arranged their furniture to face. There had even been several in the restaurant below, arranged so that no matter where one sat, a slab could be seen. This one was the largest I'd yet seen and was nearly as wide as I was tall.
The deference shown to the objects suggested some religious significance, and it occurred to me that there had been something similar in the house we'd looted before leaving the human neighbourhood. The materials hadn't been quite the same, and the glass slab at the front had bulged outwards rather than being perfectly flat, but there as well, the furniture had been arranged to face it.
"This is the penthouse," Wallace explained, "I wanted to wait until you were up to ask your thoughts, but I think we should start moving our stuff up here. The stairs are a problem-"
"It'll be fine once my shoulder is mended," I assured him.
Wallace shrugged, and set me down on one of the wide upholstered and high-backed benches in the sitting room, "There's also some conference rooms through there," he went on, nodding towards the central spine of the building, "so there's space for us to work if we need it."
I stretched out on my back while Wallace went over to the kitchen to root through the cabinets.
"Is that what's atop the other wing?" I yawned.
"No, the conference rooms are near the elevators, probably for fancy people to have fancy people meetings," he called back, "The other wing is a presidential suite, so I guess this is an American hotel."
"Uh, it's another country from Earth," he explained, "But the language is the same, and I'm familiar enough with the units they use to measure things that it's not a problem," I heard the cabinets shut. A moment later, Wallace was peering over the side of the couch, "I'm gonna go out on the balcony and cook, you stay out of trouble till I get back."
"I'll try, no promises."
With both of us properly fed, I had Wallace join me in the sitting room and drew him down next to me on what he called a 'couch'.
While he'd been busy cooking, I'd poked around the penthouse, looking for something to use for our first magic lesson. I'd found what I'd needed in the bathroom- a bathroom that was larger than some commoner's homes -a box of hairpins.
I took out just one of the pins and handed it over to him. It seemed comically small in his enormous hand, and he held it between forefinger and the odd not-quite-thumb, not-quite-finger that was his extra digit.
"I can do magic with just this?"
"Yes and no. The first thing to understand-" I began.
Wallace beamed, and threw his arms up in the air, "First law of magic!"
I sighed, but couldn't help but share his smile, "You're just a child on the inside, aren't you."
"We're all children on the inside," Wallace replied, "and we're all just pretending otherwise."
My smile turned to a smirk, as I considered what I might do if I wasn't trying to keep up appearances as a noblewoman. And the truth was, it wasn't as if I put much effort into such appearances.
"Are you going to let me teach you magic," I prodded, "or are you going to keep sharing your philosophy?"
"Alright, alright, what's the first law of magic?"
"From a single object, you can only get one type of mana," I recited, "There are exceptions, but for the time being, one object, one type of mana."
Wallace frowned and stared intently at the hairpin, "That doesn't exactly make sense."
"What about it troubles you?"
"The exceptions. Physical laws don't tend to have them."
"Wally, which one of us is teaching and which one is learning right now?"
"I know, I know, but I also spent two decades in one type of school or the other," he insisted, "Newton's laws of motion, the laws of thermodynamics, Euclid's postulates, they mostly don't have exceptions."
"Mostly?" I repeated, "So then they do have exceptions, why is it so strange then-"
"That's just it," he exclaimed, "Thermodynamics, that's sacrosanct. Pretty sure even magic doesn't violate that no matter how hard you try. But Euclid's postulates and Newton's laws of motion, those are different. Euclid had five postulates. The first four are simple. I mean simple enough that they're a single sentence that a kid could understand. I mean, the first one is that you can draw a straight line between any two points, really simple stuff. But Euclid was trying to explain the very fundamentals of geometry. His problem, and hell, mathematicians worked on it for hundreds of years after him, was his fifth postulate. He was trying to describe the fundamentals behind parallel and non-parallel lines, and it was kind of clumsy. He couldn't quite get the phrasing to be as neat and tidy as the other five postulates. And not just him, like I said, plenty of genuine geniuses worked on the same problem, and couldn't figure it out. See, the truth was, there was a deeper understanding that wasn't known," he paused, I think he'd noticed that my eyes were starting to glaze over, "Um, remind me to tell you about non-euclidean geometry some time. The point is, the way he was trying to describe how parallel lines worked, didn't always apply. But he couldn't even conceive of how it didn't apply. It was as if he was blind to it."
"And you think the same is true for magic?" I said slowly, as I digested his speech.
"Yeah, and you know what," Wallace said confidently, "This is exactly the sort of thing Simon would recognize as well."
I felt a sudden tightness in my chest, not fear, but excitement. Wallace had already been able to provide some hints, but now it felt as if I were finally starting to draw the curtain aside.
"This Newton, what was his mistake?"
"Well the thing to remember about Newton, is that he was a genuine genius. I mean, he couldn't figure out the equations necessary to track the motions of planets, so he invented a new type of mathematics. He was one of the first guys to lay out a set of laws that could begin to describe the way the physical world worked. It's more complicated than that, and others added to his theory to build Classical Mechanics, but there's a reason that Classical Mechanics is sometimes referred to as Newtonian Physics. The trouble was, there were areas where his theories broke down. But like Euclid, it broke down in ways he couldn't conceive of. It worked for apples falling from trees, and planets orbiting stars, but not, for example, black holes, nuclear weapons, and spaceships trying to travel faster than light."
"I feel as if I say this frequently in your company," I told him tiredly, "but pardon me?"
"Newton's theories worked at the scales that most people can conceive of. From the very smallest bit of dust, all the way up to the most very massive stars. As for velocity, it covered the stationary, all the way up to objects travelling more than a hundred thousand times faster than a speeding bullet."
"What else is there?"
"Exactly!" he exclaimed, "It took another two hundred years for a guy named Einstein to come along and invent General and Special Relativity, which explained how things smaller than motes of dust, larger than the largest stars, and nearly as fast as light worked."
"I still don't think I understand quite what you're saying, but I take it, that it is enough to know that there was more to know than Euclid and Newton could fathom."
"Exactly," Wallace agreed, "So, what are these exceptions to the 'one object, one mana type' rule?"
"Gemstones, air, and liquids. Raw gemstones can be cut in such a way as to provide two of the available mana types at once. Garnets, for example, provide four mana types, Metal, Body, Strengthen, and Protect. When it is faceted, the jeweller selects any two of those, and from then on, those are the only two mana types that the garnet may provide. Indeed, the caster must use both types, for any spell that includes the garnet. As for air and liquids, neither can be said to be a single object. With liquids, typically one must use the entire container unless it's something like a spellcaster dipping their hand in a lake or river. That's typically only something experts can do though. Most spellcasters will simply scoop some up in their hand or the like. Air presents the same difficulty, experts can simply use it directly out of the space around them, but most Air magic users will carry glass bottles of various sizes."
"So say I wanted to use this bobby pin," Wallace suggested, "I'd need to use the whole thing, and only for one of its available mana types?" I nodded, and then Wallace bent the pin until it broke into two halves, "And now this is two objects, so I could use what was a single bobby pin, for both mana types in a spell?"
"Yes, that was the puzzle I'd intended you to solve," I admitted, "I sense you're unhappy with this answer?"
"I am," he agreed, "I don't know how the 'one object one mana type' rule is wrong, but it's wrong. What if I had two pins, or let's say I just use both these halves. These are metal, so they've got Metal mana? Okay, so could I use both halves for Metal mana, and then some third object for the other mana type I need?"
"Yes," I said slowly, "I suppose that's the second rule. Controlled magic always takes two types of mana, attempt it with a single type, and only the gods know what will happen."
"Alright, well I'm gonna think on rule one. It feels kind of like a 'blind men and the elephant' situation."
This time I just threw up my hands.
Wallace grinned sheepishly, "Sorry, have you ever seen an elephant?"
"Yes," I replied, more than a little exasperated.
"Coles notes-" he began, and I gave him a dangerous look, "Sorry, simple version is, one blind guy puts a hand on the leg and thinks an elephant is like a tree. Another feels the trunk and says it's like a big snake, so on and so on."
"You're clearly very intelligent, very learned. It's a shame you hide it behind a veneer of utter madness."
"We can argue about who's crazier later," he chuckled, "So we've got the first rule, 'one object, one mana type', and its exceptions, and the second rule, 'one or more verbs, and one or more nouns, or bad things happen'."
"Then there's the final rule, and it applies to the case you suggested, using both halves of the pin for Metal mana. Steel is a Greater source of Metal mana. It doesn't matter how much steel you have, it will only ever be a Greater source. The quantity of steel instead determines how long the Greater source persists."
"Is there a number for greater?" he asked, "What's the scale?"
"I've yet to hear anyone use numbers to try to describe the difference between various mana sources, or at least, try and succeed in coming up with anything that makes sense. No, the scale is Minimal, Lesser, Moderate, Greater, and Significant."
"Hold on. Actual metal is only the second-best source of Metal mana? How does that make sense?" Wallace demanded.
I shrugged, "Only gemstones are a Significant mana source, metals are typically Greater, not just of Metal mana itself, but of whatever other mana types that metal provides as well. Copper provides Greater Fire, for example."
"Hmm, seems kinda weird that it's the most powerful sources of mana that are best known," Wallace mused, "I would have thought it'd be the other way around."
"There are commonly known rumours about colours and herbs both supplying either lesser or minimal mana of a great many different types, but I've yet to hear any specifics."
"How are new types discovered then? Even if most people get the info second-hand, someone would have had to be the first."
"It's tricky," I warned, "And I don't even know if the method I know of is the safest way to do it, but typically one takes a material with a known mana type, and the material they want to understand and attempt to cast a spell. Either the caster can guess at what mana might be present in the unknown material, in which case things proceed as with any normal spell."
"And if they get it wrong?" Wallace grimaced.
"If they get it wrong," I continued, "Or simply try to cast a spell without trying to guess what mana types might be present, then nearly anything can happen. The proto-spell uses the selected mana from the known material and a random mana type from the unknown material, and chaos generally ensues."
"I'm guessing it's generally a good idea to use small quantities then?" Wallace offered.
I nodded, "Anything to limit the potential damage. Transformation magic and Body magic are the worst. Fire magic, to be sure, may cause severe burns if the caster is unlucky, but Healing magic can correct something as simple as an injury. But a body, malformed by magic, is nigh-impossible to correct."
I took his hand in both of mine. It was soft but strong, and large enough that my thumbs didn't quite meet in the middle.
"Promise me you'll listen, and promise me that you won't go experimenting on your own," I urged him, "This is dangerous, and there's only so much I can do. If I were any good with healing magic, I would have fixed my shoulder already. I understand your excitement, but before we continue, I need your word that you'll listen when I warn you something's dangerous."
"Alright, I promise," he assured me, "If I come up with anything crazy, I'll talk to you first."
"Thank you, the other thing I should warn you about is that this isn't going to be easy. I don't want you to feel discouraged if it doesn't work right away."
I didn't want to sabotage him by telling him just how hard it was to cast a spell for the first time, but I also didn't want him giving up. I'd seen both extremes in my time. Some would give up after trying and failing for weeks, while still others would hear such tales and internalize the assumption that they'd never be able to do it. I was by no means a magic tutor, but those I was familiar with had spoken of striking a balance. It was essential to warn would-be spellcasters of the difficulty, without making it seem insurmountable. Magic was a science of the mind after all, and if someone got the wrong idea in their head, it often made their magical journey a great deal longer, if it started at all.
"Everything is hard until you figure it out," he replied, "I'll be patient."
"First," I began, speaking softly, "Close your eyes, once you get more familiar with magic you won't need to, but for now it can help to focus the mind."
He did as I asked, and I let go of his hand to pick up the box of bobby pins.
"The spell you're going to cast will give you an invisible hand, that can pick up only metal. Steel contains Earth, Fire, Metal, Movement, and Protection mana. You're going to use the Metal mana from one half of the pin, and the Movement mana from the other to create this hand," I shook the box so he could hear the pins rattle, "Then you're going to use that hand to pick up some of these pins."
Wallace nodded, an oddly tranquil expression on his face.
"Now. Magic requires you to hold two different understandings of the world in your mind. First, there's the world as it is now, where you're holding two halves of a broken pin in one hand. Second, there's the world as you will it to be, where the halves of the pin are gone, and you have an intangible hand, capable of only manipulating metal. Now I understand that might not make much sense," I admitted, still speaking softly, "But think of it as there being two worlds. There's the mental world as it exists within your mind, and there's the physical world, as it appears to everyone else. Take your time," I said soothingly, "Don't rush yourself, the important thing is to-"
There was a metallic rattling, and then the pins were floating above the small box, as if cupped in an invisible hand.
I leapt to my feet, astounded at what I saw, "Wally, that's amazing!" I exclaimed.
Wallace was not so enthused. He had his eyes open now, but there was an unexpected sadness in them.
"Seems I'm uniquely suited to this," he muttered dourly.
"What's the matter?"
"Nothing, just the universe reminding me that I'm a freak."
"Who cares?" I demanded, "What you just did takes most people weeks or months, you're a freak? Wallace, I would cut off my arm to be a freak like you. You're an enormous slab of muscle with indestructible bones, a supernatural talent for magic, and this is just a guess, but someone your size is also probably hung like a horse."
He immediately turned red and brought a hand to his face, but I went on unabated, "Who cares, if I had a body like yours, I would revel in it. The strength, the power, I would need to run from nothing. And what you said about your body making muscle no matter how lazy you are? Gods, I would eat as much as I wanted, drink whatever I liked, and bed whoever I fancied," I shook my head slowly, "But you don't conduct yourself like that. I would have searched out some shapely elf noblewoman, one that was easier to handle than Temerity, to act as patron and paramour while I ate and drank and fucked the days away," I spread my arms, and gazed down at my scrawny frame, "But instead you're here with me, because I need you, and because you have a good heart."
"Well," he said slowly, "Thanks, I guess," he said with a bland shrug.
I growled and prodded him in the side. I wanted it to hurt, but I think my shoulder ended up worse off than his ribs. At the same time, I bore down on my pheromone glands, forcing out as much of the rage pheromone as I could muster.
"You don't think I know you get angry sometimes? Really really angry?" I demanded, "When we lost that pack, gods, I didn't think the scent of anger could be that thick. And then in the tunnel when you were trying to get through that metal cover, the smell was so strong I thought I was going to faint."
I wiped my brow with the back of my hand. It wasn't sweat. Instead, I was giving off so much of the pheromones that it was beading on my skin, and making my clothes and hair damp.
"But you didn't lash out at me, or anyone else. Who cares if you get angry? It happens, what matters is what you do with it. You're a good person, with a good heart," I informed him, "But time to time you need someone to slap you upside the head and get you on the right track, that's all."
He chuckled at that. There was enough rage pheromone in the air now that he should have long since bashed my head in, but instead, he was laughing.
He raised his hands, "Alright, alright, you've made your point. Now could you please tone it down? If I have to put up with this for much longer, I'm gonna burst a blood vessel."
I switched to the opposite pheromone, and couldn't get much out before my glands ran dry, but it was enough to neutralize the rage pheromone in the air.
I put my hands on my knees and took a deep breath, I don't think I'd ever pushed myself that hard, and I was surprised to find it left me so exhausted. My legs felt like jelly as I stumbled back over to join Wallace on the couch.
"If you're done feeling sorry for yourself," I huffed, "I can finish explaining magic," I offered.
"Go ahead, what's left?" he asked wryly.
Continued in comment
submitted by ThisHasNotGoneWell to HFY [link] [comments]

Match betting doesn't finish with the Welcome offers. Here is exactly how I make £1000 a month.

I often see people commenting saying they have made a lot more money since finishing the welcome offers, £1000-£1500 a month and such, but never saying exactly how...
Personally I have made a lot more profit every month since I finished the welcome offers, Usually around the £1000 per month mark.
People say that Match betting drys up once you finish the welcome offers but this is simply not true, it's a matter of being more organised and checking your email for new offers, while also checking the Reload Offers section on the site you use for match betting.

Last week for Example I made £300 from reload offers, This is exactly how:
Coral: Money back as a free bet up to £50 if your team is ahead in the first half but doesn't win the match in the end: Matched 5 Premier League games, 3 were successful. I received three £50 free bets which I matched and turned into £130 profit risk free. £130 in 30 minutes
William Hill: Money Back as Cash if your horse comes 2nd- 2 of the 6 horses I matched came 2nd, I was also able to make a profit by just matching the bets because my odds were higher on the bookies side by using the Happy Hour odds (between 12pm-1pm, 3 horses with enhanced odds) and also the 3 daily bet boosts on Horse raising( to boost my odds on another 3 horses). £20 in 5 minutes
Paddy Power: Money Back up to £10 if Horse comes 2nd 3rd or 4th, Matched the horse with the lowest odds and sure enough it came 3rd, got my £10 free bet. £8 in 3 minutes
Skybet: Money Back as cash up to £10 if Horse comes 2nd 3rd or 4th, Matched the horse with the lowest odds and sure enough it came 3rd, got my £10. £9.50 in 3 minutes
Skybet: Wednesday Super odds: Matched the three super odds on the exchange and due to the difference in odds (If the odds on the bookies are greater than those for same bet on the exchange you are automatically profiting). £10 in 3 minutes
Boylesports: £10 Free bet if your bet loses(Premier League Match): £8 in 3 minutes
Paddy Power 2up: An offer where you get paid out early if your time goes up by 2 goals, the profit varies depending on what the odds on the exchange are when you back the team you orignally lay against, but this offer can make you a lot of profit (You will need to download the team profit calculator app and use the early payout calculator). Last week it Made me £35. £35 in 5 minutes
Novibet: Deposit £100 and get a £50 free bet. Very easy because you just have to deposit the money, get your free bet, withdraw your £100 straight away, then match the free bet on the exchange. £40 in 5 minutes
Coral: Bet 3x £5 in play and get a £5 free bet-Availble everyday. Just match these at half time so the odds are stable, Make sure you also place mug bets every couple of days if you do this one a lot, I would reccomend doing it 5 times a week tops. £20 in 30 minutes
Paddy Powe Skybet Bet clubs: Bet 5x £10 bets in a week to get a £10 free bet with Paddy Power. Bet £25 in a week to get a £5 free bet with Skybet. £10 in 30 minutes

So it's 5 things:
(1) Check your email daily (takes litertally 2 minutes)
(2) Check the Reload Offers on the site you use, I use Team profit (because it's free and just as good as any paid membership site) Here is a link to their reload offers which they update every morning:
(3) Offers change all the time- Don't let this put you off. There are always new offers to replace the previous ones. There are also Weekly/Daily offers ( Coral £50 free bet, Paddy power refund if 2nd 3rd 4th, William hill money back if second, Paddy Power 2up etc) which are constantly available.
(4) If you are using the same offer a lot on one site ,make mug bets. For example the Coral £50 free bet offer is availble on literally every premier league match, if you do just that offer 10 times in a week, you will be gubbed unless you have other bets on your account.
(5) It all adds up. Don't think "It's only a £5 free bet, not worth matching". I get around 15 £5 free bets every week, If I ignored them all I would be down £200 at the end of the month.

If you have any questions don't hesisate to ask, Thanks for reading.

EDIT: I Have received quite a few pms asking how match betting works, so if you are wondering the same Here is a guide I made last month explaining exactly how to do it. Hope this helps

submitted by IvyRoney to beermoneyuk [link] [comments]

D100 Incidents a charlatan PC is making amends for

100 things a charlatan PC would be trying to make amends for. This is an idea brought up by a player at my table who wants a sort of "My Name is Earl" redemption story where she finds the person she wronged and tries to make up for it.

d100 Incidents a charlatan PC is making amends for

  1. Leaving an acquaintance to blame for selling fake drugs to a noble [Sleepy_Bandit]
  2. Tampering with a competitor's equipment to cause them to lose a competition so you can win a bet [Sleepy_Bandit]
  3. Stealing candy from a child who has now grown up to become a rage-filled barbarian [Sleepy_Bandit]
  4. Selling fake love potions to a desperate noble who ended up being embarrassed in public [Sleepy_Bandit]
  5. Using a friend's identity for an illegal deal and getting them arrested / questioned by the authorities [Sleepy_Bandit]
  6. Seducing away a minor noble’s daughter while posing as a noble, leaving them both destitute. [Marksman157 ]
  7. bank fraud, resulting in the economic collapse of a village; a few deaths by despair, starvation or incidental robbery involved [LordsOfJoop ]
  8. planting fake evidence of involvement with a string of robberies, resulting in a local noble being exiled for life [LordsOfJoop ]
  9. popularizing a song that portrays a church in a strongly negative light, resulting in a purge from the region [LordsOfJoop ]
  10. selling a crate of shoddy weapons and armor to a local militia, resulting in a humiliating defeat [LordsOfJoop ]
  11. Playing both sides of a minor dispute between nobles that resulted in closed borders between the 2 regions (cold war situation). [always_gamer_hair]
  12. Farting at a very inopportune moment in front of a noble's child. [always_gamer_hair]
  13. Keeping a memento from a battle that should have gone back to the soldier's significant other or child. [always_gamer_hair]
  14. Climbing up a wall with clearly posted "no climbing" signs, causing part of the wall to collapse [always_gamer_hair]
  15. Accidentally melting the ice sculptures at a local ice festival. [always_gamer_hair]
  16. Reselling stolen goods to the wrong merchant. [always_gamer_hair]
  17. Informing the local captain of the guard that their wife is having an affair when, in fact, she is most certainly not. [always_gamer_hair]
  18. Joined a convent for 9 months to hide from debt collectors, then burned the place down in a botched attempt at faking their death. [Vote_for_Knife_Party]
  19. Let a refugee family use their name to get into a safe city, having forgotten that they are a wanted criminal there. The family was detained, brutally interrogated as potential accomplices, and then thrown out. [Vote_for_Knife_Party]
  20. Used a set of vestments stolen from a cleric's wardrobe following a one night stand to sell fake indulgences and de-cursings. Many people were injured, and the cleric has been banished from their temple. [Vote_for_Knife_Party]
  21. Made up a really impressive sounding fake name off the cuff while being arrested which turned out to be a real, very important person. Interpreting the announcement of their arrest as some sort of provocation, a series of insults and slights escalated into an actual border war... in which the character was an active profiteer. [Vote_for_Knife_Party]
  22. Deflowered one of the participants in a critical political marriage the night before the ceremony, derailing a critical peace settlement and destabilizing the entire region for years [Vote_for_Knife_Party]
  23. Participated in a rebellion against an evil overlord, and named names when captured by the guards. [Vote_for_Knife_Party]
  24. Hocked a critical spare part from an irrigation system for beer money, causing a massive crop failure when that part was needed and couldn't be found in time. [Vote_for_Knife_Party]
  25. Engaged in some petty abuse of the local populace while wearing a guard uniform (stolen as part of another petty crime), which provoked a clash between the local peasants and the local law, resulting in many injuries and some deaths. [Vote_for_Knife_Party]
  26. Took a large sum of money to act as a surveyor and just copied a previous surveyor's work, resulting in multiple recently founded villages being destroyed when a dam was built down-river from them. [Vote_for_Knife_Party]
  27. Accidentally started a race war by spouting off about how much better elves are than a dwarf bar [WSHIII]
  28. Accidentally started a three way religious war by claiming Torm was better than Tyrian temple. [WSHIII]
  29. Accidentally started the Blood War by pissing through a portal into Graz’zt’s throne room...while dressed as a devil for Halloween [WSHIII]
  30. Betting (and losing) a party member on a gamble after already having lost all their money. The winner has ties to the slave trade and is not happy. [Zekaito]
  31. Sold a man a bridge who was subsequently eaten by a very persistent troll. [Wolfenight]
  32. The significant other of a person killed in a fireball mistake turned out to be a renowned and feared bounty hunter. [supersteve320]
  33. Tricking a family member or friend into buying pointless insurance. [Umkynareth]
  34. Tricking a family or friend into investing in a company that never existed. [Umkynareth]
  35. Convincing a friend not to marry by using a loaded die / coin. [Umkynareth]
  36. Upcharging significantly for beewine/mead at a close friend’s wedding. [Umkynareth]
  37. Taking and completing a contract to kill or bankrupt a close relation’s parent, friend or lover. [Umkynareth]
  38. Betting and losing a deed that wasn’t theirs to bet. [Umkynareth]
  39. Stealing a horse. [Umkynareth]
  40. Rewriting their parents’/grandparents’ will to their benefit. [Umkynareth]
  41. Laundering money for a gang / beholder / trading company that then ruined the charlatan’s ancestral lands or city. [Umkynareth]
  42. Convincing a former ally to make a pact with a shady entity at great personal cost in the name of wealth. [Umkynareth]
  43. Extorting, blackmailing or embezzling from an orphanage. [Umkynareth]
  44. Running an orphanage as a front. [Umkynareth]
  45. Skimming/stealing tithes. [Umkynareth]
  46. Hanging on to a memento from a cursed forest / temple, which must be returned lest extremely bad luck continue to befall them. [Umkynareth]
  47. Selling a cursed memento to an acquaintance that granted them exceptionally bad luck. [Umkynareth]
  48. Working with a troll/ogre to collect bridge tolls at great cost to life and limb for others. [Umkynareth]
  49. Contributing to the extinction of a local beast / bird after selling snake oil made from its bits. [Umkynareth]
  50. Conning a respected warrior into buying a weapon the charlatan enchanted to return to his/her position when the command word was spoken. [Umkynareth]
  51. Secretly working with a nothic to learn too much at great cost. [Umkynareth]
  52. Destroying a family’s crops and livelihood with shoddy agricultural remedies to cause their business and lands’ value to decline. [Umkynareth]
  53. Eating that last slice of pie... it was not a good idea... [dermitdog]
  54. Instigating a gang war between two shady (yet wealthy) casinos by cheating and pretending to be from the other casino. [dermitdog]
  55. Sinking the prize ship of a navy while pretending to be a nautical carpenter [dermitdog]
  56. Crashing the lord's masquerade by spilling all of the swindled gold lining your clothes while on the stage, then escaping and therefore discrediting the lord for allowing a vagabond to steal so much money and get away with it leaving the (generous and generally beloved) noble house destitute. [dermitdog]
  57. Selling 'magical' 'snake' oil that, caused a child to die of blood poisoning instead of their terminal (yet curable) illness. [dermitdog]
  58. Reading from the wrong scripture while posing as a preacher, causing a devout acolyte to be executed for heresy after reciting your teachings. [dermitdog]
  59. Lying about your identity to someone while becoming their lover for a scheme. The love was eventually genuine from your side, but the scheme wasn't exactly for the other's benefit. The revelation of your lie has left them heartbroken and angry at you. [dermitdog]
  60. Laundering money so well that it got into wider circulation and put multiple people into prison as they tried to use the money in more rigorous markets. [dermitdog]
  61. Telling someone that you could make them fly, leading to their suicide. [dermitdog]
  62. Selling family heirlooms while posing as a moving company worker, scattering the heritage of a dwindling noble family. [dermitdog]
  63. Leaving your home city abruptly, cutting all ties and never looking back on the people you knew. [dermitdog]
  64. Not stopping a clear case of marital abuse because doing so would blow your cover. [dermitdog]
  65. Stealing the bricks from a historic building and selling them at extortionate prices while replacing them with weaker materials, causing the building to collapse during a busy day. [dermitdog]
  66. Misquoting a holy passage, causing a schism in the church. [dermitdog]
  67. Pressured an accomplice to not seek medical aid for a serious injury, fearing it would result in the detection of a criminal plot, only to wreck the plot themselves by running their mouth in a tavern while drunk. [Vote_for_Knife_Party]
  68. Not wanting to be outdone telling tawdry tales at the inn, the character made up an atrociously lurid fib about their activities with a young princess they had never actually met. A bard heard it, made it into song, and completely ruined her marriage prospects. [Vote_for_Knife_Party]
  69. Sold a map of the city catacombs to what they thought were drug smugglers for 50 gold and a cask of nice wine. The "drug smugglers" were an engineering crew from a rival city, and in a siege 6 months later used the plans to great effect by setting explosives under critical defense structures. [Vote_for_Knife_Party]
  70. Convinced a young accomplice to take the fall for a crime they committed, on the logic that the character would be able to break them out later. Character instead got arrested for partying too hard in the next town over, and jumped a ship out of the country instead of trying to go back for their fall guy. [Vote_for_Knife_Party]
  71. Persuaded several friends to bankroll them for a surefire gambling scheme, based on a plan to use advanced math to calculate the "true" odds of any particular play. Lost everything when they got too drunk to properly carry the "1". [Vote_for_Knife_Party]
  72. While rummaging through a church for things to steal, they found an old bottle of wine, drank it, and put the empty bottle back in it's nook. The bottle was one of the earthly possessions of a man who ascended to a higher plane, and it's consumption was seen as a sign of his return. Several pretenders appeared, triggering a violent schism in the religion. [Vote_for_Knife_Party]
  73. When travelling, they met the last survivor of a pilgrimage, clutching a golden chest in his hands. They were attempting to return a holy relic to a temple, in accordance with an oath sworn by the founder of their order over 150 years ago. With their last breath, they begged the character to deliver the relic in the chest to their destination. The character, headed the other direction, chose to throw the relic in a creek and hock the chest for 10 gold. [Vote_for_Knife_Party]
  74. In a moment of cocky bravado, the character gloated over the fallen body of a dangerous litch, telling them that they were an idiot for not hiding their phylactery better, rattling off several examples. The lich then used a contingency spell to transport themselves and their phylactery away. The phylactery hasn't been seen since, but the lich has been a plague on the land for years... [Vote_for_Knife_Party]
  75. Accidentally fell in with a group of highway robbers and cutthroats, who told the character they were freedom fighters against a corrupt regime. The character found out after a week, but stuck around for a whole month because the "rebel leader" was just too hot. [Vote_for_Knife_Party]
  76. Attempting to get a lover to leave them so as to not feel the guilt of initiating a breakup, the character went too far, gaslighting their SO to the point of actual madness. [Vote_for_Knife_Party]
  77. Sold samples of their own blood to a group they knew to be demon summoning cultists as "virgin blood" (lol, no). They successfully summoned the demon, but completely failed at containing or dismissing it. [Vote_for_Knife_Party]
  78. Got drunk and took a piss in a holy fountain, deconsecrating it. [Vote_for_Knife_Party]
  79. Fiddled around with an elaborate sundial because they were bored, not knowing that it served an important role in timing the local planting cycle and triggering massive crop failure. [Vote_for_Knife_Party]
  80. Agreed to act as a fraudulent guardian for a group of orphans who needed parental consent to join the Army. The "military recruiter" was actually an agent for a slave trader. [Vote_for_Knife_Party]
  81. Hid the body of a dead man in a well, contaminating the only ready source of clean water within 5 miles of a small town. [Vote_for_Knife_Party]
  82. Received a key to the city for services rendered, and then got drunk and lost it. [Vote_for_Knife_Party]
  83. Sold a large pile of colored flour to a church, telling them it was rare medicinal powder. [Vote_for_Knife_Party]
  84. Stole a statue from a town square and sold it for cheap to an art collector. The statue was actually the petrified body of a legendary hero, prophecied to return to life in the time of greatest need, and the "art collector" her ancient nemesis. [Vote_for_Knife_Party]
  85. Yelled "do a flip" at a despondent man standing on a ledge. They did the flip. It was horrible. [Vote_for_Knife_Party]
  86. Spent years convincing an old, half-blind noblewoman that they were their adult grandchild. When the real grandchild came to visit, the guards shot them as an impostor. [Vote_for_Knife_Party]
  87. Knowingly gave a group of pirates a map of the harbor defenses of a city that had banished them for multiple crimes. [Vote_for_Knife_Party]
  88. Blamed a rash of robberies they had committed on an in-city goblin community, giving their enemies a pretense to persecute and exile them, uprooting families that had been living there for generations and turning "Goblintown" from a thriving community to an urban blight. [Vote_for_Knife_Party]
  89. Knowingly sold defective spell components to a group of student wizards, causing them to fail their final exams when the spells misfired. [Vote_for_Knife_Party]
  90. While drunk and in a fighty mood, played "devil's advocate" in an argument with a paladin, turning them Oathbreaker. [Vote_for_Knife_Party]
  91. After being saved from a shipwreck by a merperson, told a group of pirates where to find them in exchange for a fixed fee per fin they cut off. [Vote_for_Knife_Party]
  92. Participated in a scheme to breed and train mimics to act as guard animals and security devices. It worked great for about 72 hours, and then people started getting beaten to death by their own nightstands. [Vote_for_Knife_Party]
  93. Blamed a friendly old healer woman for cursing them, so they wouldn't need to explain certain symptoms of a STI to their significant other. The healer was a druid who was single-handedly responsible for keeping the Fair Folk at bay and placated, and after she was driven away as a witch they moved in on the town. [Vote_for_Knife_Party]
  94. Sold swords with defective heat treating to a local militia, many of which shattered in their hands when they were attempting to defend their town from bandits. [Vote_for_Knife_Party]
  95. Having come down ill before the night of a major party, the character paid a spellcaster to glamor them to hide the symptoms so they could go, carouse and steal. The party was in turn the epicenter of a massive disease outbreak, as many attendees were travelers from afar. [Vote_for_Knife_Party]
  96. Deliberately triggered a trap on the way out of a dungeon to reduce the number of people with whom they would have to share the treasure. [Vote_for_Knife_Party]
  97. Built a fake dungeon, and then spread about it at inns and taverns, so they could ambush the adventurers who came to "save the townsfolk" and take their stuff. [Vote_for_Knife_Party]
  98. Bought a group of slaves on the intention of freeing them... and then changed their mind once they found out how good they were at keeping house and cooking meals. [Vote_for_Knife_Party]
  99. Tuned out during a conversation with a significant other, giving them the "yeah, sure honey, sounds good" treatment when the SO was a young artificer asking for guidance on what ingredients to use, causing a large explosion. [Vote_for_Knife_Party]
  100. Gave someone's name to the Inquisition because they figured it would be easier to rob their house when they were too busy being stabbed with hot irons in a dungeon to do anything about it. [Vote_for_Knife_Party]
submitted by Sleepy_Bandit to d100 [link] [comments]

Razer Gigantus V2 Review - Amazing competitive FPS pad with one major issue -- (Can compare to many other pads listed end of post)

Hey guys,
A lot of questions about this pad have been popping up. And a lot of people have shared their pics and first impressions. I’ve had the opportunity to use the 3XL pad for the past week. Big thanks to Razer for sending this one out for me to try. However I should tell you that will in no way change my opinion of the pad.
If you’ve seen my other posts you know I’ve grown up on cloth pads. Grew up playing Counter-Strike and ended up settling on a GSR for tournaments and general play. But I've always been on the lookout for something better. Sooo I’ve gone down the extremely expensive road of collecting peripherals lol. I've used the GSR+FK1 for many, many years. I’ve only now finally moved onto another mouse - The xtrfy M4. I’ll make a post about that in mousereview later.
I don’t generally test out peripherals in aim trainers. I like to practice with the tools given in any game (CSGO Training maps/Valorant practice range/just playing the game) because I truly believe that yields better results.
Yes, it smells like rubber. It goes away after a few days. It lays flat immediately with no curled edges. I like this. It sits down and hugs my desk like it belongs there.
No stitched edges. Cannot comment on fraying after heavy use. I’d bet my left nut the longevity of this pad will suffer for it on arm aimers. I’d like to see a stitched edge option in the future even if it’s just on the regular size.
Minimal. Zowie style tag in the corner. Perfect.
It feels like the QCK and GSR had a baby and Razer gave birth to it. Very smooth to the touch. Arm aimers rejoice, this will be soft and plush. But not too plush your mouse sinks in (Think Artisan XSOFT). My tracking around corners in CSGO/Valorant felt right at home coming from a GSR.
Spray transfer (Switching targets in the thick of the moment while already shooting) felt REALLY smooth on this pad. I was making some insane double / triple kills I had no business doing.
The friction of this pad is.. Odd. It almost feels like a bit faster version of the Equate. Very little initial but the dynamic is consistent and thick. If that makes sense? I'll explain this more at the end of the post.
Cat hair brushed off easily with a horse hair brush I use on my mouse pads. Dirt doesn’t seem to accumulate on it as fast as an Artisan Zero or GSR. Longevity of glide is yet to be seen, but I imagine since there’s no coating and the tight weave screams quality, it’ll last. But don’t quote me.
I’ve seen people claim this has no X Y difference, but they are incorrect. It may not be immediately noticeable when you’re using the pad, but if you rub your finger softly left and right, and repeat going up and down, there is noticeable drag. I’ll explain this further:
There is one problem with this pad I need to point out. The X Y friction is backwards. I’ve experienced this with two different sized versions of the same pad before. The Mp510. I tried the mat and got an XL for a friend and felt it and immediately noticed the vertical was faster than horizontal, but on my desk mat version it was the normal faster horizontal speed.
Refer to this video for a perfect example. One of the guys on Patched, don’t know their names sorry (Great smaller periph channel on YT), says that left to right had more stopping power than vertical movement. That is not how that pad is supposed to work lol. That would be like the GSR being flipped so left and right is super muddy and up and down is fast. Video of them talking about the mp510, linked to the correct time:
See what he said? That’s definitely not how that pad is supposed to be.
My closest gaming buddy got a Gigantus V2, just the Large sized version that looks like a GSR. He came over for a few beers over the weekend and I asked him to bring it so I could sate my curiosity.
The exact same thing happened with the Gigantus V2 except the other way around! My 3XL pad is not oriented correctly. Whether it’s a production issue or the way the pads are stamped out on a production line? (I don't know how these are made) But the XL pads need to be flipped 90 degrees. Their XY is all borked. This is potentially a problem for a lot of people who like pads with XY difference for competitive shooters. I'm sure at the end of the day our brains will eventually compensate, but that's a direct 180 from how pads normally work.
If I flip my desk mat vertically and hang it off the back of my desk it feels like a great pad. I’d probably use it. Horizontal glide feels amazing, great stopping power. It's almost perfect, like a mat sized GSR I've been waiting for! ...But having it the right way around the pad was too muddy. I couldn’t make micro adjustments very well unless they were jumping over a box in CS or something.
Maybe this was an issue with just my pad? Maybe it's intentional? If it is which one is correct? The 3XL I have with slower Horizontal? or the Large my friend has with slower vertical!?
Maybe it was one of the first iterations and this problem was noticed and fixed later on? I don’t know. But you guys should be aware of this issue. You can easily feel for yourself if you rub your finger along in the same angle for X and Y.
Well constructed cloth pad that screams quality and consistency if you wash it once every 6-8 weeks under heavy use. I would most certainly use this pad as it looks great on my desk, feels great, and provides stable aim for the games I play. However, I can’t use the one I was given because the X Y difference is flipped, and too muddy to use realistically.
The price point of this pad, and the availability of it make this a serious contender to the GSR, and especially the QCK. I think it's higher quality than the QCK, and better suited for high skill ceiling competitive shooters. I'd tie this with the GSR. I bet in the next 1-2 years we'll see a big list of Pro Valorant / CS players using the Gigantus v2. (Hopefully one of those people is me LOL)
I’d buy one if I knew the one I’d receive wouldn’t have this problem. It would completely replace my GSR.

As always, I can answer questions about how it relates to different mousepads.
Artisan Hien MID/XSOFT
Artisan Raiden MID/XSOFT
Artisan Zero MID/XSOFT
Artisan Hayate Otsu SOFT
X-Raypad Equate
X-Raypad Equate+
X-Raypad Aqua Control+ ROB STRATA (Coated, different than black)
HyperX Fury S Pro
ASUS Rog Sheath
CoolerMaster MP510
Aorus AMP 500
Razer Gigantus (Original)
Logitech G640
Corsair MM300 and MM350 (Same surface just one is thicker)
submitted by OptiKal_ to MousepadReview [link] [comments]

[Alien Crash] Bk 01 V30 Ch 06 Problem Children and Consulates

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Chapter Six: Problem Children and Consulates

"It is, without a doubt, the greatest pleasure to discover another being who has the sensitivity to become a Scan."
— Xenor / Sensor-Tech / HAS Adjudicator

Briefing: First Hamathi Visit to ICZ HQ

General Jackson speaking.
"Okay, people, the Hamathi will be here in seven days.
"I remind you, if you have any issues with being near Hamathi, you will remain in quarters until they have left. Better that than an incident occurs. However, if you do have such issues, it would be best if we transferred you to another section where you will have either less or no contact with the Hamathi.
"This is NOT a mark against you. We are adopting some of the Hamathi principles for this project. Admitting that you have an issue is actually a bonus, because you are showing maturity to recognize you have the problem, and we can try to work through it with you. As the President said, this is our first contact, don't screw it up.
"Phase one, arrival via helicopter. Why helicopter? They're all curious as hell since only a few of them have ever ridden in one.
"We will be bringing them into the track facility since the primary reason for this is figuring out how fast they can run for the proposed safari. The track meet will continue for at least a day, probably longer, as we explain the various formats and have them run through them.
"Phase two, running concurrently with Phase one: Selected individuals will be withdrawn for discussions with specific members of our first contact team. This includes their Doctor, Bo'sun Gryul, Pilot, and their scan-tech. So far, "Pilot" is apparently both his position and his name. We're not sure why that is.
"Similarly, their scan-tech is known as "Scan", or "Scans". There have been hints that he is not Hamathi, and that has been confirmed. The Hamathi have already requested what amounts to a TEMPEST shielded blackout room, with so little light that anyone wishing to speak with him will have to wear NVG to have any chance of seeing anything. The Hamathi have okayed this, as long as we disable or remove all the illumination built into the NVG.
"Phase three, …"

Phase One: Track Meet

"Hey, Gilford!"
"Tyler? How'd you get back in? Word was that you were oh yew tee out. Uh, not that I'm not happy to see you, it's just a surprise. Connecting with you turned into the best thing that ever happened to me. So far."
"Heh… Apparently, because I risked my neck to save Pilot, I've got some sort of social bonus. Orites suggested that I contact their Bo'sun regarding another matter. Me, because I've got this bonus, and their Bo'sun because he's the most level headed of the bunch."
"Be careful, Tyler. There's some on the FCT that still have their knives out for you."
"Believe me, the General was very … informative on that issue. You've been doing the video for this? How's it going?"
"Pretty well, they're damn fast, the ones who like the short distances come in about a second faster than Usain Bolt, on average. There's a few that would blow past him like he was standing still, but they spend a lot of time huffing and puffing after that before they're good to go again.
The long-distance runners don't have as much advantage, but they're doing respectable Olympic times. The kicker is that these guys haven't been training for the Olympics, so who knows what they could really do. There's a few, like Gryul, who can't run worth a damn, but look like they could lift a horse.
Those kids who thought they looked like Elves were more right than they knew. The ones who love sprinting are the ones who look like High Elves, tall slender, and fast. The ones who like longer distances, or even lifting, look more like Wood Elves. Not so tall, and darker of skin.
Tell me, Tyler? How'd we learn what these guys looked like?"
"Gil, I have no idea. It does make you think, though…"
"Yeah, who you here for?"
"I'm looking for their Doctor. Not only to thank him for doing such a good job on me, but our Doctor wants to compare notes. Good thing they got their translator working better."
"Yeah… real good. Tyler? Did you ever find out what triggered the whole gunfight in the cargo bay?"
"No, I don't think I did. I was rather out of it right then, and no one was interested in telling me anything else. I only heard about the gunfight afterward from Jones."
"It was that blasted translator. First, it translated something that Pilot said into "station blood removal". Then, when Jones said that per your orders, we weren't to take any offensive action, what they got was "order attack offensive". Damn thing nearly got all of us killed."
"Hooo boy… I wonder what other landmines are waiting for us! I haven't had the chance to learn their language, so I'm not going to know when something comes across garbled."
"Best bet? See that bright young lady over there? Her name is Joanne Foxfire. She's probably the best at recognizing when you've stepped on a landmine, but before it goes off completely."
"Thanks, Gil! You really enjoying it here?"
"What's not to enjoy? My footage frequently goes out on the nightly news. I'm getting a rep for outstanding work. I'm getting a regular paycheck, and my room and board are covered outside of my paycheck. If there's anything wrong, it's that I've got no real chance of spending any of that money I'm earning. You can't get Amazon through the OCZ, much less into the ICZ. It's GFE or nothing."
"That doesn't look like your usual camera, but you aren't bitching; it must be good enough for you."
"Yeah, it is. It's heavier, though. I'm taking that trade-off because of the bennies that came with it. Unfortunately, I'm not allowed to talk about them beyond that."
"Yeah… I just hope I get to finally talk with their scan-tech, that's what I'm really missing out on."
"Really? Oh! Right, you were radar, so you're hot to learn all their new stuff. Oops! Another race is getting started, talk with you later!"
"Later, Gil!"
Lost in his camera already. I might as well go introduce myself to Ms. Foxfire. Gil isn't going to be able to help me find the Doctor, and I'll need her for the discussion with Gryul.
"Hello? Ms. Foxfire?"
"I'm Chief Tyler, may I have a few minutes of your time?"
"Certainly! I'm delighted to make your acquaintance. The actual "first contact" team member to actually live up to the name."

Tyler & Pilot

Even before I find their Doctor, I find Pilot.
"Hello, Pilot!"
"TAYLOR!" Pounce! "How have you been? How goes the training? When can you come back to stay?"
"Woah! Easy there, Pilot! One question at a time, please?" With a big smile on my face and a laugh in my voice. "I've been fine. I'm sorry I could not thank you for pulling me into shelter and that I couldn't thank your Doctor for saving my life. I'd dearly love to work with your scans to learn more about them. But… I have to finish training, which is going well, and by then, who knows where the military will need my training? Which also answers when I can come back to stay… I don't know.
Now, how about you! How have you been? Are you training in anything? Do you think you will be able to come see me?"
"I am doing well enough, although the conditions here are becoming irksome. The milrats get worse every day, and there are issues with providing us with the food we would most prefer. Then there's the matter of a decent place to run! We grow fat, sloppy, and slow. Gryul is training me to be a better leader, it is also going well, but not as fast as I might like. Gryul tells me that I am doing well, but I am not so sure. Coming to see you? I would be pleased, but I think it will not happen. There are reasons it would not be good right now."
"Help me find your Doctor, and get him over to our medical facility. Our Doctor is eager to start comparing notes and treatments. Then we can settle in for a good long chat while they do their stuff."
"Let's go then! HEY DOC! OVER HERE!"

Tyler's View: Doctor's Conference

Eventually, I did get their Doctor to go with me to see ours, taking the time to thank him for saving my life. He was delighted that I remembered and took the time to thank him for his efforts.
While Pilot and I chatted in the background, we were both watching the two doctors trading notes. I shouldn't be surprised, but I am. Our opinions on doctors are pretty similar. Thanks for being there, but I hope I never need you.
The same values and techniques seem to hold. Right off, they got to quizzing each other on what I finally figured out was the "Hippocratic Oath". Lots of agreement right there and everything smoothed out nicely.
Our Doctor is still drooling over their tools and equipment.
Their Doctor is drooling over all the data we have about our species.
In between the drooling, they're still managing to trade emergency procedures in the absence of the correct equipment, and their Doctor got an introduction to the manuals we use to train our medics, as well as the materials we use. He really seemed to like the 'Xstat' idea, which injects a bunch of sponges into a wound to stop bleeding. Apparently, their technique, while more flexible and precise, is also way more expensive.
I had no idea they'd sunk that kind of money into me. It makes me feel a bit guilty.
Okay, take their Doctor back over to the track meet, along with Pilot. Time for that conversation with Gryul. I've made arrangements to have Ms. Foxfire included.

Tyler & Gryul

"Hello, Gryul. I'm Chief Tyler, and this is Ms. Foxfire."
"Ah! Tyler! Orites told me you would be here soon, and that you had questions regarding our treatment of the dead."
If you can imagine a muscular Wood Elf who still looks good, you've probably got him.
"So I was informed, and Gilford suggested that I have Ms. Foxfire along, just in case there were any … issues with translation. Some things are cultural that the translator just doesn't get.
"I was also warned that there are significant differences between Hamathi and Human practices. Differences that pushed him into fight-or-flight. It is good that you trained him so well, he was able to withstand that stress."
"Fight or flight … Ah, the body prepares, and thought becomes difficult. Was it severe?"
"From my view, he was very close to attacking to kill. Ms. Foxfire froze in place, which may be the reason that he was able to resist. At the time, he was in a place where flight was not possible, and fight was not acceptable."
"And it was about death rites. I think I see where this is going. There are very few things that would provoke such a reaction, and it is good that you lead up to it so carefully. I think it would be good to not speak of this with anyone else. They are all young, even Pilot, and would have difficulty in restraining themselves. We will need to find a place where we can discuss this, and they will not be able to overhear.
"If you have a record of Orites' discussion with Ms. Foxfire, I should see that as well. Orites may have earned a citation for proper behavior under stress. Such lead to rapid promotion."
Ms. Foxfire picks up the conversation. "Hello Gryul, I'm pleased to make your acquaintance. There is a place nearby where we can safely discuss this matter. My encounter with Orites was recorded and is available there.
"All through his time with us, he has been a delight to work with. Understanding, caring, and willing to learn anything. While I was momentarily frightened, he did not injure me in the slightest. I value his friendship and that he trusts me to bring up sensitive topics."
"He has said much the same of you. You are both to be commended for your behavior, certain others have not behaved as they ought."
"Gryul? If there are problems with our people, General Jackson should be told."
"There have been, I would classify them as (untranslatable), but they are far too old for that."
"Tyler? Can you arrange for the General to join us?"
"If he's available, but I'm still just a Chief. Yet, he's made it pretty clear that he follows the President's lead "don't screw it up", so if someone's causing trouble, he isn't going to be happy. Let's get over to the FCT building — I've reserved Conference Room #3 — and I'll put in a call for him. This might be something he doesn't want spread around until he's ready."

FCT Building

"Ms. Foxfire? Gryul? Please go on ahead, I'll catch up."
"Sergeant? Would you be so kind as to call General Jackson and inform him that Bo'sun Gryul has certain issues that he wishes to bring up with the General?"
"Yes, Chief Tyler. No guarantees that he'll be able to come, but either way, I'll let you know what he says. Which room will you be in?"
"Conference Room #3."
"Thanks, Chief, I'll get right on it."

Conference Room #3

"Yes, Ms. Foxfire?"
"By the sound of it, someone is already using this conference room."
"I see, and hear. Such language! I did sign it out this morning, and no one else should be in there. It might be an impromptu meeting, let me see if they're done."
knock knock "Hello folks, we have this conference room reserved at this time; are you going to be much longer?"
"And just who are you to reserve our facilities?"
"I'm Chief Tyler, who was instructed to reserve this space for a sensitive discussion with Bo'sun Gryul. And you are?"
"Doctor Thistlewaite and you are no longer on the FCT, so you have no right to reserve any of our spaces for any reason."
"Doctor, I strongly suggest that you not carry on in that line. The General has little tolerance…"
"The General has let you people run roughshod over every policy that governs this place; I'm not going to put up with it any longer! Now get out!"
AHEM! "Doctor Thistlewaite, would you care to repeat that to my face? … No? … Then you may vacate this room immediately since it was not signed out to your group in the first place. That is the only policy that matters, and you are in violation of it."
As the three Doctors file out, with Thistlewaite in the lead, Doctor Reyes catches the General's eyes, looks at Thistlewaite's back, and makes a sign with his free hand. Foxfire catches the sign and grabs the General's arm before he can ask anything. When he looks at her, she shakes her head no, very slightly. His eyes narrow, and he nods to Reyes.
"Now, since the conference room is available, let's get to it."
… …
"Ms. Foxfire? Would you please explain what just happened?" Gryul and I are unaware of the exchange between them and Reyes, but Foxfire explains.
"Dr. Reyes made the sign of the horns while looking at Dr. Thistlewaite's back. He did so in the fashion of the malocchio, an Italian gesture warding off bad luck. In some places, the extended fingers can also signify warding off of a demon or the devil. In this instance, with the knowledge of the coarse language we heard from outside… I'd say that Reyes is telling you that Thistlewaite is a problem and that Reyes doesn't feel he has the authority to stop Thistlewaite."
Gryul looks at the General, "This is one of the reasons I asked you to be here. We have issues with some of the people on the first contact team. I would have described them as (untranslatable), but now I'd have to call them (untranslatable)."
It takes some exchanges with Foxfire before she and Gryul come to an agreement. "General, the first phrase would appear to be close to spoiled brats. The second term has the same connotation but includes the concept that these people are far too old to be demonstrating such behavior. It is quite derogatory when applied to someone who supposedly has advanced education. The phrase could be translated as problem children."
We dealt with the "problem children" — I kid you not; that's how Gryul put it after Ms. Foxfire worked it through with him. — and the General looked grimly pleased as he left the room.
We did a review of Orites discussions with Ms. Foxfire, and yeah, he did look about ready to pounce and shred. Gryul was impassive. We didn't know how he felt about it until after the review.
"I am most happy with Orites' response. He faced a situation that not one in ten would be able to deal with rationally and did so. Which would certainly have sent him at your throat, Ms. Foxfire had he failed. Was there a guard present?"
"Yes, there was. He drew his weapon when he saw Orites initial reaction, but withheld his fire. I do not think that Orites saw him. I believe the General has already written up a commendation for the guard. Good judgment to prepare, better judgment to withhold."
"Precisely. I will be writing a similar commendation for Orites. He has a bright future in front of him. One so young who can restrain himself like that is a rare treasure."
The subsequent discussion with Gryul was mostly between him and Ms. Foxfire. She had the cultural references to hand, so they could figure out how to adapt the ceremony to both Hamathi and Human. It would be acceptable to the Hamathi, and it would emphasize the similarities with Human culture. That would make it more understandable to those who weren't already poisoned by hate.
There still remained the quantity of wood needed to carry out the cremation, and the various local, state, and federal regulations covering cremation. It's going to happen, though, no matter what anyone else has to say.

Tyler and Scans

When Scans arrived, he was in a totally blacked out metal box. Even then, you could hear labored breathing, and what might have been sounds of pain. I felt for the guy. It didn't seem fair or right. We could have gone to see him on board the ship, but this is what he wanted.
The Hamathi with him hurried everyone along to the building that was prepared for him. No windows, ventilation through angled tubes that prevented light from getting through. Everything with metal mesh tied into the whole structure.
Jones looked at it and whistled, I asked why he commented that it had been shielded to better than NATO SDIP-27 Level A standards. That's the sort of shielding you use when the enemy may be as close as one meter and have any kind of equipment they like.
His entry was at the back. The entire box was slid in, then the big door was lowered and bolted into place. They laid heavy rubber gaskets on the outside, sealed them in with duck tape, and slapped a large steel panel over the entire wall. I swear, I heard the guy sigh with relief! Ridiculous with that much metal and shielding in the way.
The human-sized door on the other side had been rebuilt in several ways.
A cylinder entryway that you couldn't have both sides open at the same time because the 'door' was an opening cut in the side of the cylinder. Rotate the cylinder, so the opening is towards the outside. Step inside, rotate the cylinder, so the opening is on the inside, and step through.
That leads to multiple light traps, each of which was tied into the mesh core of the walls, the last one of which had a shielded box that Scans would tell you what you needed to put in. I didn't understand at first why the shield box was at the last light trap. It would have made more sense, I thought, to put it at the first light trap.
Big sign out front of all the things you shouldn't ever bring in, like any light sources at all, and an even longer list of electronics you had to leave outside, like cellphones. With all the shielding, that made a lot of sense.
He seems comfortable and has his own rations, quite different from milrats. It doesn't squeak or squirm; it crunches loudly. Certain members of the FCT were seriously put out because Scans wouldn't talk with them. First with Tyler, then with other specific individuals that he chose. None of which included the most insistent of FCT members.
When it was my turn, Jones checked me for any of the listed contraband and provide a modified set of NVG.
"Okay, Tyler. You're clear, according to the sign. You'll need these." Jones is holding out a set of night vision goggles, with the illuminators disabled and covered with dense layers of duck tape too. "Ms. Foxfire says there will be plenty of illumination for you."
"Thanks, Jones. God, I hope I don't screw this up."
"Hey, Tyler, you didn't screw up the last one. You just got caught in the grinder when some stuck up old farts got their shorts knotted over you being the first one to see the Hamathi up close and personal. I wouldn't worry about it too much. The General has got a gleam in his eye, and a shark's grin. Someone is in for a bunch of trouble, and it isn't you."
"You mean?"
"Like he said, don't get your hopes up. But me? I think he's pulling for you; hard."
"Thanks, Jones."
They shake hands, and Tyler enters the dark-lock.

I make my half-blind way, despite the NVG, to the inner light trap and stopped there to announce myself.
"Hello? I'm Tyler. May I enter?"
Scans' voice answers from the other side of the last curtain.
"Please check your person. Anything that emits light must be left in the box to your left as you stand at the curtain. Check carefully, my eyes are extremely sensitive to what you would call visible light, and far into both ends of the spectrum. This includes radio waves. This entire building has been shielded for my comfort, so your devices would not work in any case. Even from here, I can tell you have several emitting radiation. Something at hip level, and something that seems to be attached to your arm."
"Are the night vision goggles going to cause you any difficulty? I will forgo them if they will."
"They have been tested. A pleasing warmth is all."
Warmth, from NVG. Better empty out my pockets and strip everything that doesn't absolutely have to come in with me. The hip item was an electronic car key. I made a note to add that to the sign outside. There's no way you would need them in here. The wrist one was a puzzler until I remembered my watch was a quartz mechanism that had a battery.
"Thank you for being thorough. When you have everything in the box, please close the lid. … Ah, much better. It was almost like staring at the dawn sun on a clear day would be for you. Move slowly as you enter. There is a chair immediately in front of you. There is just enough illumination in this room, in the far-infrared, that your NVG has been modified to work with. I have taken position behind another curtain while you enter. Let me know when you have ensured that the last curtain is fully closed, and you have taken your seat. I will turn off the interior illumination at that time. You will still be able to see me from my body heat."
Jeebus! I wonder if I can learn anything most of his skill seems to be built into his body!
"The curtain appears well sealed. … And I'm finally sitting down."
"Thank you. For your comfort, please understand that I am … in your terms … an herbivore. Also, that my appearance bears a striking resemblance to a figure from your fantasy horror by Lovecraft."
"Indeed, your representations, aside from the imputed size, are quite close."
"I have been duly warned. If you don't mind, I'll start out by staring at the floor, and slowly raise my eyes to see you."
"A wise plan."
rustle "I have moved the inner curtain aside. You are much as I remember, although you look more … confident?"
"I do? So far, I feel like I've been floundering in stupidity."
"It is from mistakes that we learn the most."
"Then, I must be the most learned being in the world."
An odd slithery sound, Laughter?
"Aren't we all. Are you at your ease?"
"Yes, it's exciting, but not frightening."
I slowly raise my eyes. The image that appears before me is as horrifying as the illustrations. Which is to say, not at all to anyone who isn't being ridiculous.
"Yes, you do bear a striking resemblance, but not horrifying to me. I think it is only the people who allow their imaginations to run away with them who would have trouble."
"Then, you do not have imagination?"
"I have plenty of imagination, but I control it."
"Then, you have the basic requirement to become a scan-tech."
"Really? I'd thought with your exceptional senses, that I would never become a scan-tech at your level."
"My senses are as often a hindrance as a help. If I do not constantly adjust my instrument's gain, I can be easily blinded. I will admit that you are unlikely to surpass me at the weakest signals, but those are seldom at issue. Star travelers, as a class, seem to be quite loud, even obnoxiously loud."
"Are you actually speaking our language? I'd thought everyone was using the translator."
"The translator can be a danger in itself, as your companions found out. I have had little to do, so I have spent much time absorbing your broadcasts. There is one final piece that I simply do not understand. The constant interruptions with completely unrelated pieces that last no more than moments, and come several at a time."
"Unrelated… oh my. This is going to be interesting to explain."
"Before you begin, please remove the goggles, there is a test I would perform at some point while you explain. You may keep them with you, but please do turn them off before you remove them."
Tyler has to explain the concept of commercials, which brings in a ton of other ideas, some of which just have to be hand-waved off. If for no other reason than time.
"Can people not go do other things while the commercials are on?"
"Of course, but many will stay and at least peripherally watch the commercials. Others are amused by them or derive some pleasure by ridiculing them. In any case, the mere viewing of the commercial has value to the advertisers. The very best commercials are saved for a sports event called the Super Bowl. It is a national competition that is widely viewed, and the advertisers know they must present their very best to get people to watch them."
A barely perceptible glow appears.
"What is that?"
"My test. And my theory is confirmed. Under the right circumstances, your perception of radiant energy is far better than your fellows. The illumination will continue to rise. Please tell me when you can identify the image."
"Go ahead."
It's … not hard … but I'm having trouble processing the image…
"And what do you see?"
"Your eye."
"How do you come by that conclusion?"
"I do not know, but that's what it is."
"Most excellent. Your ability to resolve detail is also better. This, combined with your greater sensitivity and imagination, is why you can discern more information from your primitive radar than your fellows. The finest detail that escapes them is easily seen by yourself. I believe humans have a concept called intuition?"
"Yes, we do."
"I suspect that intuition is prevalent throughout your species, but is stronger in some than in others. Yours is particularly tuned to visual information. We can test for other sensitivities later.
I will speak with your General, please inform him that I am available at his discretion.
Oh yes, suggest to him that he come in what I believe are called "sweats" and that he brings nothing metal with him other than the NVG. That will be easier than divesting himself of all the usual attachments.
I will withdraw behind the inner curtain, and then you may choose to don the NVG, or perform one more test for yourself."
"Find your way out, without using any further illumination. Including picking up everything you left in the box."
"Certainly, and thank you for seeing me."
"Do not thank me. You may yet come to regret being a sensor tech. It is not the easiest task in the fleet. One becomes aware of all the threats and is unable to do anything about them, except point them out to others. Missing one may cost you your life. It will certainly cost your crewmates lives."
"Are you the sole sensor tech on the ship?"
"Ever has it been so."
"Has no one attempted to spread the duty among many?"
"Many times, always with a catastrophic blind spot that isn't noticed until it's too late."
"Scans? Humans have two blind spots, one in each eye."
That certainly sends a shock through him. I guess the idea that someone with two blind spots can be so good at sensors is unheard of; something else to keep in mind.
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submitted by spindizzy_wizard to HFY [link] [comments]

Meet The Freak 4

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The sun was a little higher in the sky than I meant it to be by the time I made it to the street where I was to meet Valentine. I'd meant to get up early, take what would probably be my last bath in a while, grab my coat, and make myself scarce before the rest of the manor had really woken up. Unfortunately, I'd spent a bit more time in bed than I'd meant to, and was still a little drowsy. I was thankful then for the brisk early morning breeze and the light rain it carried.
It wasn't quite cool enough for my wool winter coat, but it was what I had so it's what I wore. If I'd just been out and about I might not have minded the rain too much, but if I was going to be travelling all day then it would be best not to do it wet. So I turned up the collar, but left the front open so it wouldn't get too toasty.
My gaze was drawn by a little purple hand waving at me from a ways down the street, and I joined Valentine in front of a small cafe. The tables were sheltered from the rain by a small white and tan striped awning, but Valentine was the only one of the patrons braving the weather.
She was wearing the same bulky flight suit as I'd last seen her in, and she was leaning forwards with her elbow on the table, her cheek resting in one hand. A small teacup sat empty on the table in front of her.
"You're late," she observed.
Her demeanour was more like a tough old sergeant than a noble lady, and she wore a generally unimpressed expression.
"Sorry," shrugged, as I took the seat across the table, "It took longer than I thought it would to get out of there without arousing suspicion."
"Round two took a while?" Valentine guessed, a small smirk creeping into her stern expression.
"I-" I stammered, and already I could feel my cheeks starting to burn, "That's not-"
"Fey have very sensitive noses," Valentine informed me, as the smirk started to creep into her eyes.
"I took a bath," I replied defensively.
"Very, sensitive noses," she reiterated, "And didn't I warn you that Temerity had certain plans for you?"
Dammit, now I was really blushing, "Actually, it seemed like what she really wanted was my political help. Everything else was just, uh..."
I was rescued by the approach of the waiter, who bore yet more tea for Valentine and asked for our orders. I prompted Valentine to order first while I glanced over the menu I'd yet ignored. I asked for only a little bacon and sausage, as I still wasn't sure if the meat they ate was the same as what I had back home. Most of my order was fruit and pancakes. Still a risk, but I judged it to be less so than the meat. Besides, the potatoes and vegetables I'd had the night prior had at least been what I'd expected them to be. Truthfully, I was probably just being paranoid, but all the same, it wouldn't do me any good to be stumbling about the wilderness while suffering from food poisoning.
Grateful for the interruption, as it gave me a chance to collect myself, I waited until the man had retreated before asking about the concern I'd been ruminating over since I'd left the manor.
"Temerity mentioned that there are a few physiological differences with fey," I pointed out.
Needling me had brightened Valentine's expression considerably, but now it soured once again.
"Did she now?" Valentine grimaced.
"Look, as long as you're serious about your promise to teach me magic, I'll carry you on my back if that's what it takes," I promised her, "I mean, ideally you'd get a horse or something, but whatever. The point is, I'm good with our deal as-is. But you've got to tell me what's up with fey biology so I know what I'm getting myself into. Same goes for the pheromone stuff, I don't think it's unreasonable to expect some explanation of how that works if we're going to be travelling together."
Valentine nodded slowly, "That's fair. But if I'm going to tell you about how our pheromones work, then in exchange I think it's only reasonable if you share how it is that humans are able to influence minds. Our pheromones are not something we speak about with non-fey, if I'm to share those secrets then I think it's only sensible to expect secrets in return."
I frowned, "Humans can't influence minds. I mean I guess we can threaten, bribe, whatever, just like anyone else. But it's not like we've got something like your pheromones. That I'll tell you for free."
"I'm serious Wallace," Valentine insisted, leaning low to the table and speaking in a near-whisper, "You tell me how humans do it, and I'll tell you what fey can do."
I furrowed my brows. Clearly, this Simon guy had done something to convince her of this. I just didn't have any idea what it might be.
"Valentine," I began, leaning in a little as well, "This isn't me trying to protect the secret by acting as if one doesn't exist. I can't do anything like what you seem to be imagining. That said, I'm guessing Simon has done some freaky shit and you'd like to know how."
Valentine nodded, and I continued, "What I can promise, is that I'll help you figure out how he's doing it. It's possible he's from a different world than me, maybe a really different world, but I bet we're working with a lot of the same information. If he's relying on something that came from Earth, then I should be able to get some idea of what he's doing."
"That's not terribly satisfactory," Valentine replied, "But it will have to do."
She opened her mouth to speak once again, but stopped and glanced to the side.
The waiter delivered our food, and after asking if there was anything else he could do for us, retreated back within the cafe.
"I take it Temerity covered the basics?" Valentine asked, after taking a bite of her omelette.
"Cartilage skeleton, not very strong, and prone to fainting at the slightest physical exertion. I take it she was exaggerating?"
"No," Valentine replied grimly, "She was not."
Valentine reached into the neck of the flight suit and withdrew an amulet. The chain was very solidly built, at least as jewellery went, with alternating links of silver and gold. Hanging from the chain was a diamond about as large as her thumb. Not very large as thumbs go, but really quite large as diamonds went. Stout as the chain was, it wouldn't be great if someone got hold of it and tried to shake her around, but at least the diamond wasn't coming loose any time soon.
"This gaudy thing isn't just for decoration, it holds an enchantment. Other fey might baulk at the thought of so much as a brisk walk, but I refuse to be limited by what the gods gave me. This diamond provides a significant source of both Body and Strengthen mana, which is used to greatly enhance my stamina," she explained, "You'll not need to carry me on your back, and in fact, you might find it difficult to keep up with me."
I smiled, "We'll see, I can go all day if I need to."
"Is that why you were so late this morning?" she teased, hiding her smirk behind her teacup.
"Aren't you supposed to be a noblewoman or something?"
"Or something," she agreed.
I waved a hand dismissively, "What about the chain, does the gold and silver mean anything or do anything?"
"The gold provides greater Protection mana," she provided, running the thick chain between her fingers, "It's not as much as the diamond provides, but few materials provide as much mana as gemstones do. The silver provides Mind mana. Together they are meant to shield the mind against intrusion."
"Does it work?"
Valentine spread her hands, "Not against Simon's trickery, whatever form it takes. But enchantments like this are common enough, they're intended to stop magical intrusion, and for that purpose, they are more than sufficient."
"So when you say that something 'provides mana'-" I began, but Valentine made a cutting gesture with one hand.
"Eat, there will be plenty of time to talk when we're on the road, if you continue to bombard me with questions then you'll never finish at this rate."
I let Valentine lead me out of the city, she was the one who actually knew the way after all, as I hadn't really been paying attention the first time I'd been through.
There were guards on both sides of the city's gates, armed with pikes, but they didn't see fit to bother us. Maybe they recognized Valentine, or maybe they didn't much care. Probably the latter, as the elves on duty, all of them women, seemed pretty relaxed.
Which I supposed was sensible. Guarding the gates must be pretty low-stress, at least once you got over your fear of heights.
There was a sort of landing just beyond the gates, and beyond that, a sheer drop to the valley floor below. To the right, a cliff face, and to the left, the long sloping road down the side of the mountain. It was just wide enough for two carts to pass, and while there was a railing fencing off the landing, it ended only a few hundred feet down the slope.
I'd probably be pretty relaxed too if I had to guard the place. Sure, you could sneak pretty close to the base of the mountain if you stuck to the forests, but at that point the guards would still have a good couple hours to prepare for your arrival as you made the climb.
"We won't have to walk," Valentine assured me, "The chain lift takes people to the valley before noon, we'll take one of the carriages down."
The chain lift she referred to looked like what I'd seen at small ski-slopes, only scaled up. At a ski-slope it would be a simple loop of cable or rope, anchored top and bottom, and run at a constant speed. A skier would grab on by hand, and the cable would pull them to the top. The only difference was they'd swapped out the cable for chains as thick as my wrist. I couldn't make out how it was anchored down in the valley, but up here the chains led up into a wooden hoarding built into the side of the city wall.
Just underneath the hoarding was a parking lot, there's probably some old-timey word for it, but I thought of it as a parking lot, with several carriages. They appeared to be purpose-built for use with the chain lift, with one axle set quite a bit lower than the other. Up here on the landing, it meant that the passenger compartment would be uncomfortably slanted, but it appeared to match the grade of the slope and looked like it would level out once the carriage was on its way down. There were no horses hitched to any of them, and instead, they had a metal linkage where the harnesses would usually attach.
There were a few elven men standing nearby. They kept an eye on a couple of mules while passing the time with a game of dice. Valentine got their attention, and they pulled the carriage Valentine had picked out into position near the chain.
I briefly wondered if I should be holding the door for her, but she didn't give me the chance. She flipped the latch, and took a seat inside on the high side, holding onto a grab bar inside to keep from slipping off.
Valentine had evidently picked this carriage out for a reason, as waiting inside were a pair of travel packs, and what looked like the 19th century version of a softshell rifle case. A little over six feet long and made of oiled leather, I guessed that it held the weapon I'd been promised. I moved one of the packs aside and took a seat across from her on the low side of the carriage.
She banged a fist on the carriage wall, and there was a lurch as it started to move. I heard a metallic thunk thunk thunk as the linkage tried to find purchase on the moving chain, and then a ka-chunk as the carriage surged forwards.
I felt a strangling tightness in my stomach as my mind threw up the image of us hurtling down the miles-long slope with no way to stop until we either hurtled off the side or crashed into the trees at the bottom of the mountain.
"This is the brake," Valentine explained, indicating the lever by her hand, "If anything happens I'll throw this and we'll come to a stop."
"A very good sense of smell," I muttered, eyeing her suspiciously.
"You're not fond of heights," she observed.
"Not overly no."
I began to relax as the carriage levelled out and I heard the linkage clanking as it took the weight of the carriage. I wasn't very confident in sixteenth-century braking technology, but on the other hand, we weren't moving much faster than a jog. A horse would have drawn us faster, at least on level ground, so if Valentine were quick with the brake, we would probably be okay.
"So. You can smell fear," I said matter of factly, "What else can you do?"
"I suppose this is private enough," she agreed, "Is Temerity the one who first told you about the pheromones?"
"Eh, sorta. I ran into a fey leading a bunch of sprites when I first showed up," I began, "He was putting out some musky scent, drove me half-mad, and I'm guessing it's how he was able to get the sprites to fight to the last man while Temerity and her buddies cut them apart."
Valentine blinked, "What."
"What?" I asked, a confused expression on my face.
"You're saying that you were affected? You're sure?" she demanded.
"Yeah, should it not work on me?"
"The pheromones only work on sprites," Valentine insisted, "This has been tested extensively."
"Valentine, I was a pretty good distance away from the guy and it was all I could do to not lose my shit. It works on humans. Haven't you had Simon around to try it on?"
Valentine clasped her hands under her chin and spent a long moment gazing down at the floor.
Finally, she spoke, "By the time Simon happened along, we'd already come to the conclusion that it didn't work on anyone else. I bet no one bothered to try it on him, and the pheromones he's likely to catch a whiff of by happenstance are a great deal less potent than what's used on the battlefield."
"Can you do more stuff than just get people mad?"
"Anger, fear, and arousal," she listed, lifting her gaze to meet mine, "We can also calm the same emotions, and sense them in others through scent."
"The scent thing, I take it that works on anyone- any species I mean?"
Valentine nodded, "It's not the same scent for every species, but it's not hard to learn a new species. Some of us have also figured out a way to use the pheromones to make the sprites giddy, some combination of the pheromones to increase arousal and calm both fear and anger. I never bothered to learn though."
"Why not?"
She scowled, "It's just another tool to control the sprites, a way to reward them when they do what you want, just like the fear pheromones are used to punish them when they don't. And I refuse to treat another person like they're an animal to be trained."
"I'm sorry," I said honestly, "I didn't mean to needle you."
"You were just curious," she allowed, "I'm not mad at you."
"Last question about the pheromones then," I promised gently, "Is there a limit to how much you can use before you run out?"
"Not particularly, the fey you saw leading the sprites, they might run out if they were spreading pheromones for a couple hours. But as I mentioned, outside of a fight, no fey is going to use nearly that much. Though, I suppose," she continued, raising her eyebrows thoughtfully, "it does sometimes happen with young fey still going through puberty. They'll get startled, or something will set them off, and all their pheromones will be released at once. Very embarrassing, but that's about it."
"Alright. You held up your end, what's the deal with Simon?"
She smiled just a little, "I'm surprised you haven't asked about magic yet."
"Oh god, you have no idea. I have so many questions rattling around my head that I feel like I'm gonna explode," I pitched my voice up a little in a poor attempt to mimic hers, "'Oh yeah, this diamond is full of magic, it turns me into a marathon runner, no big deal. Anyway, want some more tea?' I mean seriously, it's driving me nuts. But once I start asking questions I'm not going to be able to stop myself."
"Well, I don't know the man's life story," she said, smiling, "but I've found out as much as I can since he came to my attention. His play for power is a relatively recent development, but since learning magic he's always been peripherally involved in politics."
"He's that strong with magic?" I asked.
"No, not at all," she said with a shake of the head, "Granted, his expertise with Body magic is considerable, but he seems incapable of using any other type of mana. The political involvement is more to do with having so many loyal spellcasters. Though in fairness, his inability with non-Body magic may all be an elaborate deception, but it would need to be one he planned since before he cast his first spell."
"The mind is part of the body, maybe that's how he does it then?" I suggested, "The mind control I mean."
She shook her head emphatically, "No, Mind and Body magic are different. If Simon were using Mind magic on people then he would have been found out almost immediately. If the first thing we fey discovered upon landing here was Mind magic, then the second was how to defend against it," her expression was already less than pleased, but it soured further, "The sprites have been used as test subjects since the beginning, experimenting with how a mind might be invaded, broken, or defended. Elves, gnomes, goblins all come to Pelignos to learn from the best, and the amulets made by fey are thought to be the best when it comes to protecting against Mind magic."
"My first instinct would be to say that he really was playing the long game from the start," I granted her, "But that would make learning any other type of magic such a pain. He'd need a teacher that he knew would be absolutely loyal, and I don't know how he could possibly know such a thing. Probably a bunch of teachers actually, since I'm guessing everyone has their own specialties. He might be able to strongarm one person to keep quiet, but no way in hell he could keep more than one or two people under his thumb. Someone would talk, they'd either wriggle out of his grip or just say to hell with it and spill the beans."
Valentine grimaced, "You say that, but it's exactly what it seems he's done."
"You've got to explain what that means. Because it's starting to sound like this guy might be the first person in history to actually pull off a big conspiracy without anyone leaking the truth, and if he can do that, I'm pretty sure he's actually a unicorn."
"It started with his first tutor, or at least, everything I've learned seems to suggest she was his first tutor," Valentine clarified, "At some point- and again, this is a little unclear since it wasn't until recently that anyone realized they should have been paying attention to what Simon was doing. At some point, she appears to have become completely smitten with Simon. He picked up more sorceresses as he went, quickly inspiring the same devotion, and taking control of their assets along the way. Houses, land, money, everything."
"All female?" I asked.
"Yes and no. He has this manor in the city where all his sorceresses live, and he's invited no sorcererers, or men of any kind in fact. The serving staff is female as well, but from what I've gathered I believe he's pulled the same trick with men, but only so as to get them out of the way."
I rubbed my temples, I could already feel a migraine coming on.
"So you're saying," I began, "That after arriving from another world, he's somehow managed to assemble a harem of women who are inexplicably interested in him, despite the fact that he really doesn't have anything to offer anyone?"
"That's about it," she agreed.
I sighed, "For fuck's sake."
Valentine's end of the carriage began to pitch up, and the light streaming into the carriage dimmed. A moment later I heard the linkage clank free of the chain, and felt the carriage rock as it was guided off to one side.
We'd barely come to a halt when Valentine slung one of the packs over her shoulder and leapt down.
I followed her out, and found that we stood within a large cave. The walls were too regular and the corners too square for it to be a natural formation, but beyond that, little work had been done to make the place look pretty.
We were near the back of the cave where the rest of the carriages were parked, with yet another team of elven men passing the time as they waited for the next carriage to make its way down.
The area was lit by a few sputtering oil lamps, but it seemed wasteful, as the daylight streaming in through the mouth of the cave was near to blinding. I suppose it said something about the elven perception of light, I don't know exactly what it said, but it said something.
A metal pillar had been embedded in the stone near the middle of the cave, almost a foot thick and running from floor to ceiling. It was set with several rollers, and was where the chain looped around to head back up the ramp to the city.
Valentine tilted her head towards the opening, and I followed her out into the late morning sun. The rain had since passed, so I threw my coat over the top of my pack.
"We still good for time?"
Valentine spread her hands, "Typically surveyors like to head out at first light, but you had to finish burning your bridges."
I winced, "Perhaps I was a little self-indulgent."
"We don't live forever Wallace, and we only get one chance to enjoy it," Valentine advised sagely, "If I was going to be mature about things, I wouldn't be running away from all my responsibilities with a man I'd only just met."
"Think she'll be mad?"
"Oh. She'll be fucking livid."
"Think she'll come after us?" I asked, peering back up at the city.
Valentine shook her head "I doubt it. By the time she realizes we've left the city, we'll have enough of a headstart that she won't have a chance."
"You say that, but I don't see any horses around here," I observed.
Forget the horses, there wasn't even a road. We were now well within the area susceptible to the tides, and it showed. The last few hundred feet of the ramp was poorly defined with no sharp edges, and it blended smoothly into the hills around. Even the grass underfoot looked fresh, as if I were the first person to ever tread on it, which didn't track with this being the sole way into a city of thousands.
Looking back, I saw how the cavern was able to persist, despite the tides and the mists conspiring to wipe the slate clean.
Two steel doors, each a few inches thick and set with leather seals, rested in tracks that ran across the mouth of the cave. When pulled closed they would seal the opening, with only a little gap for the chain. I still wasn't certain of the exact mechanics of how the tides and mists worked, but from the looks of things, the door would be flush with the stone around once closed. With nothing for the tide to sweep away, I supposed that the only risk would be if the mists dropped something on top of the doors.
"Do you know how to ride?" Valentine asked wryly.
"No," I admitted, "I don't even know where you'd find a horse large enough for me."
"Quite," she observed, "And I don't ride anymore, so I have no need of one either. Come, we may talk on the way."
I adjusted the pack on my shoulder and matched her pace. I wasn't about to argue with her, having a horse for her might up our pace a little, but in the grand scheme of things, it likely would make little difference. Besides, if the landscape down here in the valley had as chaotic a potential as it seemed, then for all I knew the horse may end up being more a liability than an asset. But I wasn't certain we'd make it that far, if Temerity was really on the ball...
"My only concern is that Temerity seems really fond of horses, being a knight and all," I pointed out, "And I don't fancy a fight, especially if she brings friends."
"Temerity's not going to start a fight," Valentine assured me, "She'll be mad, and if she gets the chance she'll try to strongarm you back under her influence. But she'll not turn to violence. And in any case, she'll have a hell of a time getting horses down from the city," she gestured back over her shoulder at the ramp, "The slope is so steep and so long that it's tricky to take horses down it in the best of times, try to rush and like as not she'd just injure her horse."
"Hmm, fair enough," I mused.
We left the clearing at the base of the ramp, and ventured into the thick evergreen forest that spread across the foothills at the base of the mountain. Again there was the feeling that I was the first person to take this path. There was little underbrush, just the odd bush or fern, with most of the ground covered by fallen pine needles, turned brown with age. The pine needles were so thick on the ground that I may as well have been walking through snow, with each step kicking up little puffs, leaving clear tracks behind the two of us.
There was an all-encompassing sense of calm, and for a brief moment, I thought that Valentine might be the cause. But was only the musty scent of the pine needles underfoot, and the verdant smell of fresh vegetation carried through the forest on a gentle breeze.
No, it didn't take any tricky manipulation, after all, this was how I'd usually relax when things were getting to me. I'd go for a walk, and not come back until I'd found calm once again. Since moving to the city I hadn't the chance to take a walk anywhere that wasn't a carefully landscaped park, but all the same, the forest felt very familiar.
I grabbed the soft leather case from where it hung behind me, and swung it around in front so I could take a peek inside. The clasps were bits of polished horn, pushed through loops of cord, like the sort of thing you might see on the front of a trendy knit sweater. I undid them, and reached in gingerly.
"Wow," I breathed, as I withdrew the weapon.
It was a poleaxe. The haft was six feet long, stained a very dark brown, and a little more than two inches thick. The head was steel, with a broad but narrow axe blade on one side, with a small hammerhead opposite, and topping it off was a nine inch spike. The langets, reinforcing straps that held the head on, ran nearly two feet down the haft, and had been recessed so as to be flush with the wood. The other end of the haft was also capped in steel, with a blunt pyramidal protrusion that would enhance the effect of striking with the butt of the weapon.
I'd been doing historical European martial arts for a good long time, and while I wasn't the most experienced with the poleaxe, it was my absolute favourite. I'd placed in tournaments with the rapier, won tournaments with the greatsword, and just generally found it funny to fight with a smallsword, but it was the poleaxe that I enjoyed the most. The trouble with the poleaxe is that it's hard to practise with. It's easy to make a sword safe, even a great sword. As long as it's blunt and you've got enough padding you've little to worry about. You'll end up with some bruises, sure, but on the whole, you'd be safe.
The poleaxe, on the other hand, was specifically designed to fight fully armoured knights. So while a blunted sword might be safe to use no matter how much force you put behind it, if you hit someone with a poleaxe and really meant it, it wouldn't matter how well padded they were, you'd lay them out flat.
"That box of old tools covered the cost of this thing?" I asked incredulously.
"The broker I did business with was particularly interested in the bracelet you had," she related, "Cryptic bastard didn't tell me what sort of mana it contained, but it was interesting enough that he was willing to give me the axe on trade for it and the tools."
"My fitness tracker had magic in it?" I frowned.
"Everything has mana within it. The more exotic the material, the rarer the sorts of mana," she explained, "I'm glad you're happy with the weapon, but there is something I want to make clear."
She unzipped the front of her flight suit, drawing the zipper down to mid-chest, and pulled one lapel aside. She'd modified the flight suit, using scraps of something synthetic to create a pair of improvised holsters, each of which held a large double-barrel wheellock pistol.
"I don't want you to get the wrong idea, or to take offence, but I want to make sure that we both know where we stand." she said slowly, "If you touch me, I will shoot you."
I put the axe away and spread my hands, "It's okay," I said gently, "I understand."
"You do?" she asked, eyebrows raised.
"I know what I look like, Valentine," I shrugged, "It's not like I want people to feel unsafe around me."
She nodded slowly, and re-zipped the front of her suit while I closed the clasps.
The pistols were a bit of a surprise, but more that she had them, rather than their existence in the first place. Full plate armour and gunpowder had been contemporaries on earth, so it didn't surprise me that a society that could turn out armour like Temerity wore, also had firearms.
Being threatened with the pistols though, that was a little startling. But upon consideration, it actually put me at ease. It was as she'd said, now I knew where we stood. If Valentine had a problem, I now knew I could count on her to tell me what it was, even if the problem was me. And while I wasn't super keen on the fact that she seemed a little wary around me, it was an understandable sentiment and one that told me I'd ultimately made the right choice by siding with Valentine.
With her, the power dynamic was more or less balanced. I needed her to teach me magic and navigate, and she needed me to help her deal with whatever the wilds would throw at us. And if it came down to a fight, while either of us could give the other a lot of trouble, neither of us could really 'win'. So if she turned on me, I was strong and tough enough to get loose, even if she did shoot me. If I turned on her, well she had guns and magic to fight me off while she got away.
In short, it was a much better state of affairs than I had with Temerity. Even if I could take her in a fight, and I wasn't even sure of that, she was still top dog in the city. Whether I was sleeping with her or not, just staying in Parabuteo would place me within her power. And after hearing her speech yesterday, I'd realized that having silk sheets and amazon on-tap was not worth giving up my independence.
"We'll need to push hard to make it," Valentine began, changing the subject "But there's a pass several miles north. It's going to be our first chance to get to the other side of the mountains, and I'd like to make it through before we stop to sleep tonight."
"I take it that my dawdling is what's going to make things tight?"
"It's not the end of the world, we have the whole Long Night to travel through as well, but this is all the daylight we're going to get and I'd like to make the most of it."
"Twelve hours of daylight and thirty-six of night," I recited, "how are we breaking things up?"
"Well we keep pushing hard till nightfall," she said, and indeed she'd been setting a good pace so far despite her short stature, "And stop for our first rest a little after dark. We'll eat dinner, sleep, should take a little less than eight hours. Then we carry on, it will be dark without The Father, but I can light our way. Typically survey teams I travel with will try to aim for another ten hours, but if you can keep up with me I'd like to go for twelve. Then we have another rest break to eat and sleep, before making the final push."
"At which point, we'll either have made it, or we'll drown."
"We will make it," she assured me, "Even with us leaving a little late, we've several hours of margin."
"You said earlier that he can only use Body magic, what exactly does that mean?"
We hadn't bothered to stop for lunch, instead eating as we walked so as not to waste more time. We were actually moving more quickly than I might have expected, travelling through a dense pine forest. But with the underbrush nice and light, and without too many roots to trip on, our path was actually fairly clear.
"Can he only heal people, or use magic only on himself?" I continued, "Whose body does 'Body magic' refer to?"
"It's the body as a concept," Valentine clarified, "So his, or someone else's, it doesn't matter."
"What can he do to a body then? Does he just get some Body mana from a, what is your necklace, diamond? So he gets some Body mana from a diamond, waves his hand, and then reality rearranges itself however he likes. As long as what he likes involves screwing with someone's body?"
"No," Valentine replied with a shake of her head, "Well, not quite. If you want to do it properly, magic always requires two types of mana. One noun, which refers to what you wish your magic to act upon, and a verb, which describes what you wish to do," she reached into her collar and came out with the amulet, "So my amulet, I want it to make me stronger and increase my stamina. So it uses Body mana and Strengthen mana. There are limits though, the more substantial the change the more substantial the source of mana needs to be."
"And diamonds have a lot of mana in them?" I guessed.
"Yes, any gemstone does, in fact."
"Simon then, the only noun he can use is Body?" I asked, and Valentine nodded in agreement.
"What about the verbs, any limits there? Or do you know?"
"What you describe is exactly the problem, when it comes to Simon I'm certain of nothing. But to the best of my knowledge, he can use any of the verbs. He's particularly fond of Strengthen and Transform, however."
"Can Transform be used offensively?" I asked, wincing at the thought of the sort of body-horror that Simon might be able to inflict upon people.
"Yes, though that's not what he uses it for. Instead he uses the Strengthen-Transform combination to enhance his physical characteristics for short periods. I believe he has some permanent enchantments on his body already, his physique is suspiciously impressive, but the magic pushes it yet further and makes him capable of great feats of strength."
"Does it turn his hair yellow?" I sighed.
"No," she frowned, "Does the colour have some significance among humans?"
"It's, complicated. Complicated and not important. If he can use all the verbs, then what actually are they?"
She counted off on her fingers, "Communicate, Control, Create, Heal, Movement, Protect, Sense, Strengthen, Transform, and Weaken. Weaken is what's typically used in offensive Body magic, and Communicate is hardly used at all. Any combination of noun and verb, is possible, but not all need to make sense."
"Can you use more than one of each? I take it that you need at least one of each, but could I use two nouns and a verb, or a noun and two verbs?"
She nodded, "There's no true limit, at least as far as I know. Perhaps someone has found one and isn't telling, but there are practical limits. However much mana one might be able to gather, ultimately it comes down to the mind of the caster. A spell, in all its complexities, must be held in the mind as it is cast. Creating a blast of fire, however large it might be, is simple. With sufficient mana, even a novice might melt a city wall. Heating a piece of metal to a specific temperature, that's more complex, even if it requires a great deal less mana. Setting a trap, now that's one of the most complex uses of a spell, as it requires the caster to hold in their mind the conditions necessary to activate the trap. Typically it also requires including a second spell, Sense Body or some such, which adds yet more complexity."
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[A Fractured Song] - Chapter 38 - Fantasy, Isekai (Portal Fantasy), Adventure

Cover Art
Teaser: Frances befriended her classmate Elizabeth and the knight Martin, but a misunderstanding occurs just before they go to escort a supply convoy into the siege camp. Will they resolve their differences before they go into danger? Find out on this update!
Story Summary: After years of beatings and neglect from her parents, 13-year old Frances was summoned with her entire class to the fantastical world of Durannon to fight the monsters invading the human kingdoms and defeat the "Demon King." If she succeeds, she might have the home she never had. But if she can't overcome the trauma and self-loathing inflicted on her by her abusive parents, Frances will die, and be summoned back to the home she escaped, on the day that she left.
[The Beginning] [<=Chapter 37] [Chapter Index and Blurb] [Chapter 39=>]
[Map of Durannon]
This chapter was pre-read by u/totallyundescript.
Riding to Westfall Pass would take the better part of a day. So as she rode, Frances had to force herself to scan the road and resist the temptation to look over her shoulders to her friends.
She knew Elizabeth was angry at her, but she didn’t know why, or even how badly. Her classmate seemed to be jealous of her, but the constant apologies didn’t seem to help that. The girl seemed to sway between worry and fury so quickly that Frances had no idea what she felt.
Martin had to be annoyed at Elizabeth too. Frances looked up to the knight, whose visor was open, and was scanning the road winding up to the pass’s entrance. She needed to get Elizabeth and him to make up. But she’d never had to get people to become less angry with each other. She only ever had to deal with people being angry at her.
Frances exhaled, slowly, to disguise her groan as a sigh. She’d been trying so hard to befriend Martin and Elizabeth. She’d made snacks, Hearthsange and done everything she could to help them, but now they were annoyed at each other.
To make matters worse, her mentor hadn’t covered or discussed how to resolve friendship problems. In fact, Edana had been a bit hesitant to give Frances advice on how to make friends. She'd explained her hesitance by pointing out that Frances needed to learn how to make friends, not learn how Edana would make new friends. She had also mentioned that Frances should try not to think too hard about how to get along with potential friends, and instead, just accompany them or ask what would people she liked enjoyed doing or talking about.
It was this advice that Frances had tried to follow, and it seemed to be going well, until this moment.
“Frances,” Elizabeth said.
Frances jumped, torn out of her thoughts. Elizabeth had nudged her horse so it was beside hers.
“I’m really sorry about what I said. Can you forgive me?” Elizabeth asked. Her visor was up and Frances could instantly tell she was being sincere, and more than a little anxious.
“I… of course,” said Frances, relieved to do so. She smiled, “I’m sorry for making you angry at me.”
“Angry at you—” Elizabeth blinked, eyes reflecting confusion “—Frances, you didn’t do anything. I was just being jealous of you.”
Frances’s mind did the equivalent of a record scratch and she stared blankly at Elizabeth.
“By Amura and Rathron, why would you be jealous of me?” Frances asked. The girl couldn’t imagine why anybody would be envious of her. When Frances tried to think of why Elizabeth would be jealous, memories of her parents screaming at her swirled into the forefront of her mind. She could suddenly, vividly, hear them telling her what she was—just a worthless girl.
Elizabeth blinked, opened her mouth and suddenly looked ashamed.
“I… you don’t know this, but our instructors quite often whisper how good you are, and why we aren’t any better. We also… hear things in the rumour mill. Like how you cast true lightning and can teleport.” Elizabeth sighed. “And when I was sent to meet you I wanted to know more, so I talked to everybody I knew to find out about you. I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have taken the rumours so seriously.”
Frances shut her eyes, trying to block the words her parents berated her with. Yet, “worthless,” and “waste-of-space” continued to surface like corks that wouldn’t sink. Logically, she knew that she wasn’t worthless, or a waste of space. Edana had repeatedly told her that she was worthy, and she trusted her loving mentor.
But no matter what, Frances couldn’t help but remember that her own parents thought she was worthless.
“Elizabeth, yes, I can cast true lightning, and I know the theory behind teleportation and have tried it once before you arrived, but the rumours you heard are likely exaggerated. While my missions were successful, they weren’t too challenging. Most of them were escort or defence missions.”
Elizabeth frowned. “Hold on, but you succeeded in all of your missions?”
Frances nodded, not quite sure how that was relevant. Elizabeth looked like she was going to say something, but Martin drew his horse back so he was beside them.
“Sorry, I couldn’t help but listen in. Do you mind if I join this conversation?” Martin asked.
Frances smiled and shook her head, whilst Elizabeth said, “Please! And I’m sorry for being such a burden, Martin.”
“All’s forgiven. You’re just nervous before your first battle. Please continue your line of inquiry, Elizabeth.” The knight was extremely curious to know how the Otherworlders thought of each other, especially since Frances seemed to be far apart from the others.
Elizabeth was beginning to put the pieces together and she pressed on. “Frances, how many missions have you completed?”
“Three,” Frances said.
“You do realize that none of us have been given more than one mission and even then we’ve all failed?” Elizabeth asked, watching the girl’s features.
Frances stared at Elizabeth. “What? But… how… how about Jake? You know, class jock Jake?”
“He quit three months ago. Teleported himself back home,” Elizabeth said, unable to keep the bitterness from her voice. Jake had berated many when they failed their missions, only to quit on the eve of his own.
Agog, Frances searched for another name and face. “Wanda? Smartest girl, class president Wanda?”
Elizabeth pursed her lips. “Not doing great. She’s trying to be a mage, but she panicked when orcs attacked her caravan in Lapanteria.”
“Jessica and Leila?” Frances spluttered. Her old bullies had to be doing well. They terrorized her when she was at school and she vividly remembered their fists against her skin.
Elizabeth took a moment to recognize those two names, but when she did, a host of unpleasant memories came back. “Those two? Annoyingly enough they did okay on their first mission. Jessica may have mellowed a bit, but Leila still tries to pick on people. Anyway, they have other things to worry about. They’ve just been sent on a second mission now that they’re rather nervous about.”
“Alan and Charlie? I know they’re your good friends and are really—”
“They failed and just teleported home,” Elizabeth spat, her voice choking at the end. She wiped her eyes with the back of her hand.
“Sorry. I… I’m sorry,” she croaked, bitter feelings rising back to squeeze her throat and burn like bile.
“Don’t be. You’re mad and angry, and sad. You don’t need to apologize for that,” Frances said. Taking a deep breath, Frances nudged her horse closer to Elizabeth and gently reached her hand on the girl’s shoulder. “Would you like to stop for a moment, Elizabeth?”
Elizabeth sniffled. “I’m good. I’m just…” She turned to look at Frances, trying not to sound as desperate as she felt. “How do you do it, Frances? How are you so… comfortable in this world?”
Frances knew the answer that immediately, but she took a moment to give Elizabeth her handkerchief, waiting for the girl to use it to wipe her eyes.
“It’s mostly because my mentor, Edana, is a great teacher, and has spent substantial time training me,” Frances said finally, thinking how lucky she was to have met her Master.
“Edana? Isn’t she the head of the White Order?” Elizabeth asked.
“You’re apprenticed to Edana Firehand?” Martin scream-shouted, at a pitch so high that Frances wondered if he had trained to be a soprano. After giving her ears a moment to recover, she nodded.
“Edana Firehand?” Elizabeth asked questioningly.
Martin stared at Elizabeth as if she’d grown a second head. “The Flame of Erisdale, the Princess of Perdition, the Human Kingdoms' most powerful mage, period. She has taken on armies and won. Yet, she asks nothing for herself but comfortable life and to lead the White Order in defence of the Human Kingdoms! She’s … so… amazing!”
Frances blinked hard as Martin seemed to look at her with shining eyes. “Can you tell me about how she teaches you? What’s she like? Does she have any favourite books?”
Elizabeth giggled, finding the knight’s enthusiasm completely infectious, contagious. “You sound like you have a bit of a crush on her, Martin,” she teased.
Martin’s head bobbed up and down. “Oh, you bet I do! She’s just so…amazing, fantastic, awesome and—”
“Cool?” Elizabeth finished.
The knight pursed his lips. “Hmm, yes, cool. You must think the same, Frances!”
Frances blinked and thought back to her mentor. She never really thought of her teacher as a ‘cool’ person, just… loving, kind, caring, trustworthy, and the best teacher ever. Actually...
“Yes, she’s really, cool,” said Frances. She smiled brightly at the thought of making Edana laugh when she inevitably relayed this conversation to her by the communication mirror.
“Well, that explains it, you have a really cool mentor.” Elizabeth sighed. “Awww, man, I wish I had a cool mentor to teach me stuff one on one.”
It was then a thought occurred to Frances. “My master has a good friend I know who wants to mentor a hero or heroine. Um, to be honest, her last student was one of our classmates, but perhaps he, she or all previous apprentices ended up quitting. I don’t think she’s bad, though, just demanding. Edana asked her to teach me survival skills.”
Elizabeth arched an eyebrow. “Who? And who did she teach?”
Frances glanced at Martin, “Lady Igraine of Leipmont. I don’t know who she taught. Does she sound familiar?”
Martin’s eyes widened. “I’d take that offer Elizabeth. Lady Igraine is a really famous ranger, and an amazing warrior, nearly as good as Lady Alice Trollhammer.”
Elizabeth nodded and blinked. “Wait, you’d do that for me, Frances? Just… introduce me to a mentor like that?”
“Um, yes. I mean…” Frances took a deep breath. “That is what friends do right?”
She waited with bated breath, watching Elizabeth stare at her.
Charlie, Alan, her friends were good people, but they had moments where they could be sneaky, and completely selfish. She learned that the hard way. And yet, here was someone whom she thought-and treated as a weirdo, that was willing to help her, no questions asked.
Elizabeth swallowed and wiped her eyes with Frances’s handkerchief feeling so glad, and completely ashamed.
“Frances… thank you,” Elizabeth said, her voice thick with emotion.
Frances just managed to bite back her sigh of relief. “You’re welcome. Martin, I can also introduce you to Edana—”
“Frances, I’d be overjoyed if I met her, but you need not set up an appointment,” said Martin. He raised his hand when Frances tried to protest. “I’m glad you see me as a friend, and I see you as a friend too, but my offer of friendship isn’t reliant on you doing good things for me.”
Frances blinked. “Wait, isn’t that what friendship is? A relationship built on people sharing things and doing favours for one another?” Frances winced. “I’m sorry, I’m not very good at making friends, I’m afraid.”
Martin regarded Frances with a decidedly confused look. “That’s a bit too clinical of a description, but while you’re not wrong, true friendship shouldn’t be reliant on that kind of sharing.”
Elizabeth wasn’t confused, she was completely baffled and shocked. “I know you were pretty quiet, but you had a few friends before, right Frances?”
Frances’s voice caught in her throat and she averted her gaze. She didn’t really have a friend. At school, she had people she sometimes talked to. Most of the time, she’d been too afraid that they would see her for the worthless waste-of-space she used to think she was—and sometimes still thought—she had to be. She scrambled for an answer that a normal girl would give, not noticing her two friends wide-eyed looks.
As Elizabeth stared at her new friend, a pang of intense guilt struck her. Frances was the nicest and most thoughtful girl she’d ever met. Sure, she wasn’t the most entertaining, or funny person, but Elizabeth really enjoyed the time she spent with Frances. Thus, Elizabeth couldn’t help but wonder how much fun she would have had, how she could have alleviated Frances’s loneliness, if only she’d actually reached out.
As for Martin, the knight found a chill creeping up his spine. His mother was the Chief Justice of their county’s manorial court, and she had always reminded him that if it seemed odd, it probably was odd. Martin had no doubt Frances was as nice as she appeared to be, but that brought up the question as to why Frances, a girl of fifteen, had not made a single friend. Something wasn’t right and he believed that whatever it was, it was deeply affecting Frances
Shaking his head, Martin took a deep breath. But now was not to time to pry, they were on the road and Frances squirmed at the question.
“Frances, you don’t have to answer that if you don’t want to.”
Elizabeth glanced at Martin, but then took in Frances’s stricken expression and nodded. “Yeah, you don’t need to answer that.” Elizabeth smiled sheepishly. “I do wish I had got—gotten to know you before we got summoned to Durrannon, though. I mean, you’re a pretty cool person yourself.”
The relief Frances felt at not needing to answer that awkward question was suddenly replaced by the utter shock of the fact that somebody would actually think she was a cool person. Elizabeth thought that she was cool. She pinched her arm. Nope, she wasn’t dreaming.
“Oh… thanks, Elizabeth, and thanks, Martin.” Frances tried to say that as naturally as she could, but she knew her cheeks were burning and her lips were forming a wide grin.
Elizabeth smiled, as did Martin. As the knight turned his eyes back to the road, though, his smile faded.
The trio had been trotting up the valley floor toward Westfall Pass, which was quite wide, as the high mountains framing the entrance to the valley sloped slowly toward the ground. However, the road through Westfall Pass itself was flanked heavily by forests.
“We’re approaching Westfall Pass, we should get ready,” Martin said, hefting his spear up from where he had rested it across his saddle.
Frances breathed in, exhaled, and nodded. She could think about the confusing, and pleasant experience of having actual friends later on, preferably after a long discussion with Edana.
Elizabeth glanced around. “Good idea, um, visor on or off?”
“Visor off, for the moment. Keep vigilant, we don’t know where they might be hiding,” said Martin.
Frances nodded and placed her right hand next to Ivy’s Sting. If all went well, she wouldn’t need it.
But as her mentor said, better to be safe than sorry.
If you like this serial don't forget to hit that upvote button, subscribe by leaving a comment in the Writers Butler Bot below, or join [Redditserials Discord server]( and type ?rank A Fractured Song into the #welcome and roles channel. I hang there fairly frequently so feel free to ping me there. Or ask any questions you have down below. If you have upvoted, thanks! It gives me a good way to judge audience engagement with the serial as a whole and keep the direction consistent.
Author's Note: So just a reminder, I have a Patreon, if you'd like to support the series (because coverart is bloody expensive) then check out the link here:. Got no money? Best way to help is to link the serial to a friend :)
I will say you readers are damn amazing. I love the consistent comments and upvotes on the chapters. I plan that once I get 30 subscribers I'll make a Discord server. Right now I'm at 21 so... nine away. It will be for the series, with discussion on the story, author asking reader and reader asking author channel, as well as an artwork and music sharing channel.
Unfortunately, I don't think I can crank out a worldbuilding post on my subreddit by tomorrow. This one will be on Edana's backstory, but I need more time to work out some details.
For the question of the update: Favorite fictional friendship? It can be one that turned romantic, but it must be one that started out as friendship. Mine would be Harry and Ron's friendship from the Harry Potter books (and yes... I know about the JK Rowling controversy, I disapprove of her views, but I still like the series).
Finnnaaaally, Oi, check out the gutcrackingly funny The Extramundane Emancipation of Geela, Evil Sorceress at Large which I am beta-reading for.
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How To Learn Odds And Win Probability & Statistics (24 of 62) Calculating the Odds and Horse Racing Horse Racing, Understanding Pari-mutuel wagering How Betting Odds Work - Sports Betting Odds Explained Guide to Reading Betting Odds: What they Mean & How to Use Them

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