Greyhound Dog Racing Rules, How To Bet

On Spells and Society, or how 5e spells completely change everyone's lives.

Today i have a confession to make: i'm a little bit of a minmaxer. And honestly, i think that's a pretty desirable trait in a DM. The minmaxer knows the rules, and exploits them to maximum efficiency.
"But wait, what does that have to do with spell use in society?" - someone, probably.
Well, the thing is that humans are absolutely all about minmaxing. There's a rule in the universe that reads "gas expands when hot", and suddenly we have steam engines (or something like that, i'm a political scientist not an engineer). A rule says 1+1 = 2, and suddenly we have calculus, computers and all kinds of digital stuff that runs on math. Sound is energy? Let's convert that shit into electricity, run it through a wire and turn it back into sound on the other side.
Bruh. Science is just minmaxing the laws of nature. Humanity in real life is just a big bunch of munchkins, and it should be no different in your setting.
And that is why minmaxing magic usage is something societies as a whole would do, specially with some notable spells. Today i will go in depth on how and why each of these notable mentions has a huge impact on a fantasy society.
We'll go from lowest level to highest, keeping in mind that the lower level a spell the more common it should be to find someone who has it, so often a level 2-3 spell will have more impact than a level 9 spell.

Mending (cantrip).
Repair anything in one minute. Your axe lost its edge? Tore your shirt? Just have someone Mend it.
Someone out there is crying "but wait! Not every village has a wizard!" and while that is true, keep in mind any High Elf knows a cantrip, as can any Variant Human.
A single "mender" could replace a lot of the work a smith, woodworker or seamstress does, freeing their time to only work on making new things rather than repair old ones.

Prestidigitation (cantrip).
Clean anything in six seconds. Committed axe murders until the axe got blunt, and now there's blood everywhere? Dog shit on your pillow out of spite? Someone walked all over the living room with muddy boots? Just Prestidigitate it away.
This may look like a small thing, but its actually huge when you apply it to laundry. Before washing machines were a thing housewives had to spend several hours a week washing them manually, and with Prestidigitation you can just hire someone to get it done in a few minutes.
A single "magic cleaner" can attend to several dozen homes, if not hundreds, thus freeing several hours of the time of dozens of women.
Fun fact: there's an interesting theory that says feminism only existed because of laundry machines and similar devices. Women found themselves having more free time, which they used to read and socialize. Educated women with more contacts made for easy organization of political movements, and the fact men were now able to do "the women's work" by pushing a button meant men were less opposed to losing their housewives' labor. Having specialized menders and magic cleaners could cause a comparable revolution in a fantasy setting, and help explain why women have a similar standing to men even in combat occupations such as adventuring.

Healing in general (1st-2nd level).
This one is fairly obvious. A commoner has 4 hit points, that means just about any spell is a full heal to the average person. That means most cuts, stab wounds, etc. can be solved by the resident cleric. Even broken bones that would leave you in bed for months can be solved in a matter of seconds as soon as the holy man arrives.
But that's nothing compared to the ability to cure diseases. While the only spell that can cure diseases is Lesser Restoration, which is second level, a paladin can do it much more easily with just a Lay on Hands. This means if one or two people catch a disease it can just be eradicated with a touch.
However doing that comes with a cost. If everyone is instantly expunged of illness, the populace does not build up their immune systems. Regular disease becomes less common, sure, but whenever it is reintroduced (by, say, immigrants or contact with less civilized humanoids) it can spread like wildfire, afflicting people so fast that no amount of healers will have the magic juice to deal with it.
Diseases become rare, plagues become common.

Continual Flame (2nd).
Ok, this one is a topic i love and could easily be its own post.
There's an article called "Why the Falling Cost of Light Matters", which goes in detail about how man went from chopping wood for fire, to using animal fat for candles, then other oils, whale oil, kerosene, then finally incandescent light bulbs, and more recently LED lights. Each of these leaps is orders of grandeur more efficient than the previous one, to the point that the cost of light today is about 500,000 times cheaper than it was for for a caveman. And until the early 1900s the only way mankind knew of making light was to set things on fire.
Continual Flame on the other hand allows you to turn 50gp worth of rubies and a 2nd level spell slot into a torch that burns forever. In a society that spends 60 hours of labor to be able to generate 140 minutes of light, this is a huge game changer.
This single spell, which i am 99% sure was just created as an excuse for why the dungeon is lit despite going for centuries without maintenance, allows you to have things like public lighting. Even if you only add a new "torchpost" every other week or month sooner or later you'll be left with a neatly lit city, specially if the city has had thousands of years in which to gather the rubies and light them up.
And because the demand of rubies becomes so important, consider how governments would react. Lighting the streets is a public service, if its strategically relevant to make the city safer at night, would that not warrant some restrictions on ruby sales? Perhaps even banning the use of rubies in jewelry?
Trivia: John D. Rockefeller, the richest man in history, gained his wealth selling kerosene. Kerosene at the time was used to light lamps. Gasoline was invented much later, when Rockefeller tasked a bunch of scientists to come up with a use for some byproducts of the kerosene production. This illustrates how much money is to be had in the lighting industry, and you could even have your own Rockefeller ruby baron in your game. I shall call him... Dohn J. Stonebreaker. Perfect name for a mining entrepreneur.
Whether the ruby trade ends up a monopoly under the direct supervision of the king or a free market, do keep in mind that Continual Flame is by far the most efficient way of creating light.

Gentle Repose (2nd).
Cast it on a corpse, and it stays preserved for 10 days.
This has many potential uses, from preserving foodstuffs (hey, some rare meats are expensive enough to warrant it) to keeping the bodies of old rulers preserved. Even if a ruler died of old age and cannot be resurrected, the body could be kept "fresh" out of respect/ceremony. Besides, it keeps the corpse from becoming undead.

Skywrite (2nd).
Ok, this one is mostly a gag. While the spell can be used by officials to make official announcements to the populace, such as new laws or important news, i like to just use it for spam. I mean, its a ritual spell that writes a message on the sky; what else would people use it for?
Imagine you show up in a city, and there's half a dozen clouds reading "buy at X, we have what you need", "get your farming supplies over at Joe's store" or "vote Y for the city council".
The possibilities are endless, and there's no way the players can expect it. Just keep in mind that by RAW the spell can only do words, meaning no images. No Patrick, "8===D" is not a word.

Zone of Truth (2nd).
This one is too obvious. Put all suspects of a crime into a ZoT, wait a couple minutes to make sure they fail the save, then ask each one if he did it. Sure its not a perfect system, things like the Ring of Mind Shielding still exist, but it's got a better chance of getting the right guy than most medieval justice systems. And probably more than a few contemporary ones. All while taking only a fraction of the time.
More importantly, with all the average crimes being handled instantly, the guards and investigators have more time to properly investigate the more unusual crimes that might actually involve a Thought Shield, Ring of Mind Shielding or a level 17 Mastermind.
There is a human rights argument against messing with people's minds in any way, which is why this may not be practiced in every kingdom. But there are definitely some more lawful societies that would use ZoT on just about every crime.
Why swear to speak the truth and nothing but the truth when you can just stand in a zone of truth?
Another interesting use for ZoT is oaths. When someone is appointed into an office, gets to a high rank in the military or a guild, just put them in a ZoT while they make their oath to stand for the organization's values and yadda yadda. Of course they can be corrupted later on, but at least you make sure they're honest when they are sworn in.

Sending (3rd).
Sending is busted in so many ways.
The more "vanilla" use of it is to just communicate over long distances. We all know that information is important, and that sometimes getting information a whole day ahead can lead to a 40% return on a massive two-year investment. Being able to know of invasions, monsters, disasters, etc. without waiting days or weeks for a courier can be vital for the survival of a nation. Another notable example is that one dude who ran super fast for a while to be the first to tell his side of a recent event.
But the real broken thing here is... Sending can Send to any creature, on any plane; the only restriction being "with which you are familiar". In D&D dead people just get sent to one of the afterlife planes, meaning that talking to your dead grandfather would be as simple as Sending to him. Settling inheritance disputes was never easier!
Before moving on to the next point let me ask you something: Is a cleric familiar with his god? Is a warlock familiar with his patron?

Speak With Dead (3rd).
Much like Sending, this lets you easily settle disputes. Is the senate/council arguing over a controversial topic? Just ask the beloved hero or ruler from 200 years ago what he thinks on the subject. As long his skeleton still has a jaw (or if he has been kept in Gentle Repose), he can answer.
This can also be used to ask people who killed them, except murderers also know this. Plan on killing someone? Accidentally killed someone? Make sure to inutilize the jaw. Its either that, being so stealthy the victim can't identify you, or being caught.

Note on spell availability.
Oh boy. No world-altering 4th level spells for some reason, and suddenly we're playing with the big boys now.
Spells up to 3rd level are what I'd consider "somewhat accessible", and can be arranged for a fee even for regular citizens. For instance the vanilla Priest statblock (MM348) is a 5th level cleric, and the standard vanilla Druid (MM346) a 4th level druid.
Spells of 5th level onward will be considered something only the top 1% is able to afford, or large organizations such as guilds, temples or government.

Dream (5th).
I was originally going to put Dream along with Sending and Telepathy as "long range communication", but decided against it due to each of them having unique uses.
And when it comes to Dream, it has the unique ability of allowing you to put your 8 hours of sleep to good use. A tutor could hire someone to cast Dream on him, thus allowing him to teach his student for 8 hours at any distance. This is a way you could even access hermits that live in the middle of nowhere or in secluded monasteries. Very wealthy families or rulers would be willing to pay a good amount of money to make sure their heirs get that extra bit of education.
Its like online classes, but while you sleep!
Another interesting use is for cheating. Know a princess or queen you like? She likes you back? Her dad put 400 trained soldiers between you? No problemo! Just find a 9th level Bard, Warlock or Wizard, but who am i kidding, of course it'll be a bard. And that bard is probably you. Now you have 8 hours to do whatever you want, and no physical evidence will be left.

Raise Dead (5th).
Few things matter more in life than death. And the ability to resurrect people has a huge impact on society. The impact is so huge that this topic needs topics of its own.
First, diamond monopoly. Remember what i said about how Continual Flame would lead to controlled ruby sales due to its strategic value? This is the same principle, but a hundred times stronger. Resurrection is a huge strategic resource. It makes assassinations harder, can be used to bring back your officials or highest level soldiers over and over during a war, etc. This means more authoritarian regimes would do everything within their power to control the supply and stock of diamonds. Which in turn means if anyone wants to have someone resurrected, even in times of peace, they'll need to call in a favor, do a quest, grease some hands...
Second, resurrection insurance. People hate risks. That's why insurance is such a huge industry, taking up about 15% of the US GDP. People insure their cars, houses... even their lives. Resurrection just means "life insurance" is taken more literally. This makes even more sense when you consider how expensive resurrection is: nobody can afford it in one go, but if you pay a little every month or year you can save up enough to have it done when the need arises.
This is generally incompatible with the idea of a State-run monopoly over diamonds, but that just means different countries within a setting can take different approaches.
To make things easier, i even used some microeconomics to make a sheet in my personal random generators to calculate the price of such a service. Just head to the "Insurance" tab and fill in the information relative to your setting.
With actual life insurance resurrection can cost as little as 5gp a year for humans or 8sp a year for elves, making resurrection way more affordable than it looks.
Also, do you know why pirates wore a single gold earring? It was so that if your body washes up on the shore whoever finds it can use the money to arrange a proper burial. Sure there's a risk of the finder taking it and walking away, but the pirates did it anyway. With resurrection in play, might as well just wear a diamond earring instead and hope the finder is nice enough to bring you back.
I got so carried away with the whole insurance thing i almost forgot: the possibility of resurrection also changes how murders are committed.
If you want someone dead but resurrection exists, you have to remove the vital organs. Decapitation would be far more common. Sure resurrection is still possible, but it requires higher level spells or Reincarnate, which has... quirks.
As a result it should be very obvious when someone was killed by accident or an overreaction, and when someone was specifically out to kill the victim.

Scrying (5th).
This one is somewhat obvious, in that everyone and their mother knows it helps finding people. But who needs finding? Well, that would be those who are hiding.
The main use i see for this spell, by far, is locating escaped criminals. Just collect a sample of hair or blood when arresting someone (or shipping them to hard labor which is way smarter), and if they escape you'll be almost guaranteed to successfully scry on them.
A similar concept to this is seen in the Dragon Age series. If you're a mage the paladins keep a sample of your blood in something called a phylactery, and that can be used to track you down. There's even a quest or two about mages trying to destroy their phylacteries before escaping.
Similarly, if you plan a jailbreak it would be highly beneficial to destroy the blood/hair sample first. As a matter of fact i can even see a thieves guild hiring a low level party to take out the sample while the professional infiltrators get the prisoner out. Keep in mind both events must be done at the same time, otherwise the guards will just collect a new sample or would have already taken it to the wizard.
But guards aren't the only ones with resources. A loan shark could keep blood samples of his debtors, a mobster can keep one of those who owe him favors, etc. And the blood is ceremoniously returned only when the debt is fully paid.

Teleportation Circle (5th), Transport Via Plants (6th).
In other words, long range teleportation. This is such a huge thing that it is hard to properly explain how important it is.
Teleportation Circle creates a 10ft. circle, and everyone has one round to get in and appear on the target location. Assuming 30ft. movement that means you can get 192 people through, which is a lot of potential merchants going across any distance. Or 672 people dashing.
Math note: A 30ft radius square around a 10ft. diameter square, minus the 4 original squares. Or [(6*2+2)^2]-4 squares of 5ft. each. Hence 192 people.
Getting hundreds of merchants, workers, soldiers, etc. across any distance is nothing to scoff at. In fact, it could help explain why PHB item prices are so standardized: Arbitrage is so easy and cheap that price differences across multiple markets become negligible. Unless of course countries start setting up tax collectors outside of the permanent teleportation circles in order to charge tariffs.
Transport Via Plants does something very similar but it requires 5ft of movement to go through, which means less people can be teleported. On the other hand it doesn't burn 50gp and can take you to any tree the druid is familiar with, making it nearly impossible for tax collectors to be waiting on the other side. Unfortunately druids tend to be a lot less willing to aid smugglers, so your best bet might be a bard using spells that don't belong to his list.
With these methods of long range teleportation not only does trade get easier, but it also becomes possible to colonize or inhabit far away places. For instance if someone finds a gold mine in the antarctic you could set up a mine and bring food and other supplies via teleportation.

Major Image (6th level slot).
Major Image is a 3rd level spell that creates an illusion over a 20ft cube, complete with image, sound, smell and temperature. When cast with a 6th level slot or higher, it lasts indefinitely.
That my friends, is a huge spell. Why get the world's best painter to decorate the ceiling of your cathedral when you can just get an illusion made in six seconds?
The uses for decorating large buildings is already good, but remember: we're not restricted to sight.
Cast this on a room and it'll always be cool and smell nice. Inns would love that, as would anyone who always sleeps or works in the same room. Desert cities have never been so chill.
You can even use an illusion to make the front of your shop seem flashier, while hollering on loop to bring customers in.
The only limit to this spell is your imagination, though I'm pretty sure it was originally made just to hide secret passages.
Trivia: the ki-rin (VGM163) can cast Major Image as a 6th level spell, at will. It's probably meant to give them fabulous lairs yet all it takes is someone doing the holy horsey a big favor, and it could enchant the whole city in a few hours. Shiniest city on the planet, always at a nice temperature and with a fragrance of lilac, gooseberries or whatever you want.

Simulacrum (7th).
Spend 12 hours and 1500gp worth of ruby dust, and get a clone of yourself. Notably, each caster can only have one simulacrum, regardless of who the person he cloned is.
How this changes the world? By allowing the rich and powerful to be in two places at once. Kings now have a perfect impersonator who thinks just like them. A wealthy banker can run two branches of his company. Etc.
This makes life much easier, but also competes with Continual Flame over resources.
It also gives "go fuck yourself" a whole new meaning, making the sentence a valid Suggestion.

Clone (8th).
If there's one spell i despise, its Clone.
Wizard-only preemptive resurrection. Touch spell, costs 1.000gp worth of diamonds each time, takes 120 days to come into effect, and creates a copy of the creature that the soul occupies if the original dies. Oh, and the copy can be made younger.
Why is it so despicable? Because it makes people effectively immortal. Accidents and assassinations just get you sent to the clone, and old age can be forever delayed because you keep going back to younger versions of yourself. Being a touch spell means the wizard can cast it on anyone he wants.
In other words: high level wizards, and only wizards, get to make anyone immortal.
That means wizards will inevitably rule any world in which this spell exists.
Think about it. Rulers want to live forever. Wizards can make you live forever. Wizards want other stuff, which you must give them if you want to continue being Cloned. Rulers who refuse this deal eventually die, rulers who accept stick around forever. Natural selection makes it so that eventually the only rulers left are those who sold their soul to wizards. Figuratively, i hope.
The fact that there are only a handful of wizards out there who are high enough level to cast the spell means its easier for them organize and/or form a cartel or union (cartels/unions are easier to maintain the fewer suppliers are involved).
This leads to a dystopian scenario where mages rule, kings are authoritarian pawns and nobody else has a say in anything. Honestly it would make for a fun campaign in and of itself, but unless that's specifically what you're going for it'll just derail everything else.
Oh, and Clone also means any and all liches are absolute idiots. Liches are people who turned themselves into undead abominations in order to gain eternal life at the cost of having to feed on souls. They're all able to cast 9th level wizard spells, so why not just cast an 8th level one and keep undeath away? Saves you the trouble of going after souls, and you keep the ability to enjoy food or a day in the sun.

Demiplane (8th).
Your own 30ft. room of nothingness. Perfect place for storage and a DM's nightmare given how once players have access to it they'll just start looting furniture and such. Oh the horror.
But alas, infinite storage is not the reason this is a broken spell. No sir.
Remember: you can access someone else's demiplane. That means a caster in city 1 can put things into a demiplane, and a caster in city 2 can pull them out of any surface.
But wait, there's more! There's nothing anywhere saying you can't have two doors to the same demiplane open at once. Now you're effectively opening a portal between two places, which stays open for a whole hour.
But wait, there's even more! Anyone from any plane can open a door to your neat little demiplane. Now we can get multiple casters from multiple planes connecting all of those places, for one hour. Sure this is a very expensive thing to do since you're having to coordinate multiple high level individuals in different planes, but the payoff is just as high. We're talking about potential integration between the most varied markets imaginable, few things in the multiverse are more valuable or profitable. Its a do-it-yourself Sigil.
One little plot hook i like about demiplanes is abandoned/inactive ones. Old wizard/warlock died, and nobody knows how to access his demiplanes. Because he's at least level 15 you just know there's some good stuff in there, but nobody can get to it. Now the players have to find a journal, diary, stored memory or any other way of knowing enough about the demiplane to access it.

True Polymorph (9th).
True Polymorph. The spell that can turn any race into any other race, or object. And vice-versa. You can go full fairy godmother and turn mice into horses. For a spell that can change anything about one's body it would not be an unusual ruling to say it can change one's sex. At the very least it can turn a man into a chair, and the chair into a woman (or vice-versa of course).
But honestly, that's just the tip of the True Polymorph iceberg. Just read this more carefully:
> You transform the creature into a different creature, the creature into a nonmagical object, or the object into a creature
This means you can turn a rock or twig into a human. A fully functional human with, as far as the rules go, a soul. You can create life.
But wait, there's more! Nothing there says you have to turn the target into a known creature on an existing creature. The narcissist bard wants to create a whole race of people who look like him? True Polymorph. A player wants to play a weird ass homebrew race and you have no idea how it would fit into the setting? True Polymorph. Wizard needs a way to quickly populate a kingdom and doesn't want to wait decades for the subjects to grow up? True Polymorph. Warlock must provide his patron 100 souls in order to free his own? True Polymorph. The sorcerer wants to do something cool? Fuck that guy, sorcerers don't get any of the fun high level spells; True Poly is available to literally every arcane caster but the sorcerer.
Note: what good is Twinned Spell if all the high level twinnable spells have been specifically made unavailable to sorcerers?
Do keep in mind however that this brings a whole new discussion on human rights. Does a table have rights? Does it have rights after being turned into a living thing? If it had an owner, is it now a slave? Your country will need so many new laws, just to deal with this one spell.
People often say that high level wizards are deities for all intents and purposes. This is the utmost proof of that. Clerics don't get to create life out of thin air, wizards do. The cleric worships a deity, the wizard is the deity.

Conclusion.
Intelligent creatures not only can game the system, but it is entirely in character for them to do so. I'll even argue that if humanoids don't use magic to improve their lives when it's available, you're pushing the suspension of disbelief.
With this post i hope to have helped you make more complex and realistic societies, as well as provide a few interesting and unusual plot hooks
Lastly, as much as i hate comment begging i must admit i am eager to see what spells other players think can completely change the world. Because at the end of the day we all know that extra d6 damage is not what causes empires to rise and fall, its the utility spells that make the best stories.

Edit: Added spell level to all spells, and would like to thank u/kaul_field for helping with finishing touches and being overall a great mod.
submitted by Isphus to DnDBehindTheScreen [link] [comments]

I Read It So You Don't Have To: Little Kids, Big City (by Alex McCord and Simon van Kempen)

Inspired by the overwhelmingly positive response to my previous 'book report' on Ramona Singer's Life on the Ramona Coaster (seriously, thank you all -- truly supporting other women 🙏🙏), I decided to try my hand at writing up yet another of the embarrassing number of Housewives books in my personal collection: Alex McCord and Simon van Kempen's Little Kids, Big City: Tales from a Real House in New York City with Lessons on Life and Love for Your Own Concrete Jungle.
After reading just the title of this book, I'm already exhausted. It's pretentiously long and awkwardly phrased while somehow still managing to be entirely devoid of meaning. In other words, a perfect encapsulation of Simon and Alex. The summary on the back cover describes the pair as the "breakout stars" of RHONY, an assessment that I would charitably call 'debatable,' before going on to inform me that I can look forward to "informative and often hair-raising stories of life in the urban jungle," and that "Alex and Simon use their own hard-won experience as a springboard to discuss a host of parenting topics." I anticipate that this content will be quite useful to me, the guardian of four cats that I spoil endlessly and treat like my actual children.
One of the pull-quotes on the back cover allegedly comes from our very own Bethenny Frankel. I say 'allegedly' because I refuse to believe that the following passage would ever come out of Bethenny's mouth (or keyboard or whatever):
Alex and Simon don't take themselves too seriously, which seems to be essential to parenting. Their fresh 'he said, she said' perspective on parenting is both humorous and insightful!
Please, take a moment and do your very best to picture mention-it-all, betting-on-horse-races-at-age-five Bethenny unironically using the phrase "fresh 'he said, she said' perspective." To describe Simon van Kempen and Alex McCord. Right, didn't think so.
My experience reading Little Kids, Big City started on an unexpected high note when I opened the front cover to find that my copy (purchased used through Better World Books for the low, low price of $5.31 with shipping) had been signed by Ms. you-are-in-high-school-while-I-am-in-Brooklyn herself, Alex McCord! Truly a gift I do not deserve. Samantha and Debbie (whoever and wherever you may be), thank you for your service. I am forever in your debt.
Unfortunately, as would soon become painfully clear to me, after starting off on such a promising note, I would have nowhere to go but down.
The book, which is written in alternating passages from Alex and Simon, begins its introduction with a chronicle of Alex's "fashionably nomadic" early adulthood. Ever the proto-edgelord, she recalls, "I did all those things our mothers warned us about and had fun doing them." We switch to Simon's perspective to hear the deeply embarrassing story of the couple meeting through a dating app while Simon was on a business trip in New York City. No, there is absolutely nothing embarrassing about meeting someone on a dating app. But there absolutely is something embarrassing about using the profile name "Yetisrule" to meet someone on a dating app. To clarify, this was apparently Alex's username, and I remain hopeful that we will get a more thorough explanation of her connection to the elusive Yeti as this book continues.
Alex tells us that, while she and Simon hadn't initially planned to have children, they eventually started to have "clucky feelings." I have never heard this phrase in my entire twenty-five years of life, but based on context clues and also a Google search, I learned that it means they wanted to have a baby. Don't worry, though! As Alex tells us, "You can be eight months pregnant and wear a leather miniskirt." Personally, this is life-changing news -- I had always believed that I couldn't have kids unless I was willing to compromise my 90s goth aesthetic! Maybe I'll rethink this child-free thing after all.
The next bit of advice seems like it actually could potentially be sort of helpful. "No one is a good parent all the time -- nor is anyone a bad parent all the time," they reassure the reader. "You can become a parent without losing yourself." Unfortunately, as soon as I catch myself nodding along, the modicum of goodwill I'd built up is promptly trashed by a gag-worthy line from Simon: "If you take nothing away but a wry smile after reading our little tome, then we've done our job." I immediately vow not to smile until I'm finished reading this book. Excuse me, this little tome.
The book starts in earnest with Chapter 1: "Does a German Shepherd Need a Birth Plan?" To be perfectly honest, I was not expecting a riddle at this juncture, but I am nevertheless excited to hear Simon and Alex tell us "why childbirth is not an intellectual activity." First, however, we get a passing reference to "Park Slope, home of the ParkSlopeParents.com message board made famous in 2007 with a so-ridiculous-it-got-headlines discussion on gender-specific baby hats and where feminism can be taken to extremes." And despite the lame alarmist allusion to ~*XTREME feminism*~, this line did manage to lead me down an interesting Internet rabbit hole, so thanks for that, I guess?
Jesus Christ, I am on PAGE 4 and I am already so done with Simon. Presented without comment:
With the Park Slope OB-GYN, we had the first sonogram and saw the little blip on the screen -- our child-to-be. They say seeing is believing and as nothing was happening inside me, seeing confirmation on the video monitor that indeed my spermatozoa had penetrated and infiltrated one of Alex's ova made me aware that my days as a footloose and fancy-free guy might be coming to an end.
Y'all, I am currently working on my PhD in Molecular Biology. Which, if you were not previously aware, gives me the authority to decree that Simon is never allowed to use the word "spermatozoa" ever again. And so it is.
I was about to say that Alex's passages are at least more tolerable, but it appears I spoke too soon.
The stats they quoted referenced a 40 percent cesarean section rate in the city, and I wonder how that can be acceptable? Are we heading toward Brave New World, where babies are scientifically created in petri dishes and gestated in artificial wombs? Oh wait, we're already there. Are we heading towards a Wall-E existence, where we ride around in carts everywhere and do nothing for ourselves so that our bodies break down and we're all fat, oozy blobs drinking protein from a straw? Somebody slap me, please!!
Truly, Alex, it would be my pleasure.
As a Type-A person, just reading the story of Alex's first pregnancy and delivery gave me anxiety. She says that she just never really "felt the need to establish a birth plan" and that she "gave in to any craving [she] felt." Don’t worry, though -- "If I had suddenly craved chalk, ecstasy or Elmer's Glue, I'd have thought twice." I feel like there is some symbolism here to unpack (Could the Elmer's Glue be a metaphor for the childlike spirit of connection and unity???). Simon describes himself as "a learn-on-the-job guy" and tells us that he and Alex "failed to attend the last couple of [birthing] classes as by then we both just wanted to let instinct take over when the time came." As someone who has never trusted my instincts even once in my entire life, I cannot relate.
Twelve days after his due date, baby François is born. Except it turns out that he actually was born right on time, but Alex "didn't keep regimented track of [her] periods" and miscalculated. What a bummer that modern medicine hasn't advanced to the point where doctors can guide you about that sort of thing.
I don't even know what to say about this next bit, but God help me, I still have 215 more pages of this book to go.
Although the final stages of labor were very, very painful, I [Alex] never used our code word (tin can) for "game over, give me drugs." I definitely recommend using a code word, because it was kind of fun to scream, "I want drugs, give me drugs" through a contraction and have the midwife, nurse and Simon all know I wasn't serious. Once he [François] was finally out of my body, I experienced a tsunami of endorphins that was almost orgasmic, and I understand completely the stories other women have written about ecstatic birth. Simon was sitting behind me at the point of birth, and later when we untangled ourselves he discovered he'd actually ejaculated though hadn't felt any of the normal lead-up to that. It may seem distasteful to some, and definitely neither of us was thinking of sex at the time, but with the rush of emotion and my lower nerve endings going crazy, it's not too far a stretch to say that it's a profound experience.
Johan is born two years later, although it's unclear from the text whether either parent reached orgasm during the event.
The chapter ends with a top-ten list entitled "10 Things We'll Remember That Happened During Pregnancy." These include useful tidbits like
  1. Best advice I heard: men's genitals grow and change shape regularly, then go back to the way they were before. Don't worry about your female delicate bits being able to retract.
Which is…a lovely sentiment. But one that is slightly undermined by phrasing the first part in the grossest way possible, as well as by the use of the phrase "female delicate bits." I do like the idea that they "retract," however, because I think it's very cool to imagine the vagina as an SUV sunroof. By the grace of God, Chapter 1 comes to a close.
In Chapter 2 (titled "No Sleep 'Til Brooklyn, What's My Name Again? and Who is This Alien?" -- seriously, were they padding their word count with chapter titles?), we get more questionable parenting advice from the McCord-van Kempens. They glibly dismiss concerns about co-sleeping ("Simon and I both slept with cats and dogs our whole lives without squishing them"), which I honestly would be more annoyed about if I hadn't immediately gone on to read Simon's account of "the midnight race to the 24-hour pharmacy to buy a breast pump as Alex's breasts were seemingly engorged with too much milk and she thought they were about to explode and fly off her chest." As it stands, I'm truly too defeated to care. Again, just to be perfectly clear: no shade to having issues breastfeeding, all shade to using the word 'engorged.’ And also for giving me the mental image of Alex's breasts desperately struggling to flee from her body (though to be fair, who could blame them?).
Proving that she does not inhabit the same world as the rest of us mortals, Alex tells us that she expected that her state of sleep-deprivation as she raised two young children would "spur [her] creativity with graphic design." For some reason, this does not seem to be the case. Alex is puzzled.
Finally, we've come to this chapter's top ten list ("Top 10 Memories of Random Things We Did While in the Post-Birth Haze"). While these lists have so far been utterly irredeemable, they also mean the chapter is coming to a close, so I can at least take some solace in that. This particular list ranges from the irritating…
  1. We subversively took sleeping babies to as many non-child-friendly places as possible to prove the point that children can be seen, not heard and not bothersome, such as dinner at the Ritz in London, the Sahara Desert, shopping on Madison Avenue, Underbar in Union Square and film festivals.
…to the truly unnecessary.
  1. While changing François' diaper on day one or two, we both stood mesmerized by the changing pad as meconium oozed out of him. It was really the most bizarre and fascinating thing I'd seen to date.
With the couple's general backstory and credentials now under our belts, Chapter 3 ("The Screaming Kid on the Plane is NOT Mine! (This Time)") focuses on advice for traveling with children, which Alex admits "can be a complete pain in the you-know-what." I cannot describe the rage I feel at the fact that she has -- in no fewer than 50 pages -- forced me to read about both her newborn son's excrement and her husband's ejaculate, but cannot bring herself to use the word "ass." Alex, we're really far beyond that at this point, don't you think?
Not to be outdone, Simon shares a conversation he had with François that is remarkable not for its content, but for the fact that one of Simon's nicknames for his son is apparently "F-Boy." Thanks, I hate it.
This chapter's list ("Alex's Top 10 Travel Memories") includes the entry:
  1. Both boys charging down Saline Beach in St. Barths like something out of Lord of the Flies.
So, like a horde of primal sadists? I'm wondering if Alex and Simon have inadvertently confused Lord of the Flies with the hit 2007 reality show Kid Nation. I really hope that's what's going on here.
Chapter 4 ("'Mommy, Johan is Gone!'") promises to teach us how to handle accidents. I'm not sure how comfortable I feel taking emergency advice from the authors of this particular book, but (in large part due to the fact that I have slept since reading the previous chapter, giving the pain a chance to dull somewhat), I am willing to at least hear them out.
After relaying a story of François needing emergency surgery after a foot injury, Alex tells us that at one point, she and Simon realized they had spent "nearly $5000 on Indian takeout" in the past year. For the mathematically averse, this works out to a monthly budget of roughly $100 worth of Indian food per week, making my quarantine Uber Eats habit seem downright quaint by comparison. The chapter-ending list walks us through the "Top 10 Things We Do in a Crisis," and fortunately, the tips seem pretty benign.
  1. Knowing what calms the children down, such as making silly faces or reciting Shel Silverstein poetry backwards.
Wait, hang on. What?
reciting Shel Silverstein poetry backwards
I'm sorry, please forgive me if I have missed some recent, paradigm-shifting development in the field of early childhood education, but what?? As in, "ends sidewalk the where?" "Sdne klawedis eht erehw?" I am truly befuddled.
Maybe the next chapter ("'Is Today a Work Day or a Home Day, Mommy?'") will have some applicable wisdom for me, as I will, in fact, be working from home every other week for the foreseeable future. And, I cannot stress this enough, I am a psychotically overinvested cat mom. Alas, we are instead treated to an unnecessarily detailed breakdown of how important it is to delegate, and specifically that Simon cleans up vomit and Alex cleans up "feces in the various forms that come out of children's bottoms at appropriate and sometimes inappropriate times such as the middle of Thanksgiving festivities." As if we needed another reason to consider Thanksgiving problematic.
The chapter takes a brief commercial break…
When an everyday product can do double duty such as Dawn Hand Renewal with Olay Beauty, a dish soap that seals in moisture while I'm tackling cleanup, sure, I'll buy it.
…before closing out with a list of the "Top 10 Things We Do Because We Were Here First." I am happy to confirm your worst suspicions and tell you that item number one is indeed "Have passionate sex."
In Chapter 6 ("I Saw Your Nanny…Being Normal?"), I find myself actually sympathizing with Alex for the first time in this book. Which is mostly just because the chapter starts by talking about all of the awful, catty parental competitions that seem endemic to a certain crew of white Manhattan moms, and it makes Alex come off at least slightly less irritating in comparison.
That is, at least until a few pages later, when she starts to complain about a previous au pair:
She was sullen, melodramatic and kept a blog about how she hated Americans, hated France, hated us and the children but loved New York. I think she must have thought we were idiots, and when she asked us to leave early we were only too happy to get her out of our home.
I would love to meet this woman. I think we could be great friends.
This chapter's list is even more difficult to parse than previous ones, because while it's titled "Top 10 Things Caregivers Have Inadvertently Done to Amuse, Annoy or Thrill Us," it's not at all clear which descriptors apply to which points. When a babysitter "accidentally used a household cleaning wipe when changing a diaper," were the McCord-Van Kempens amused? Annoyed? Thrilled? The world may never know.
In Chapter 7 ("'Putting To Death Is Not Nice,' a Duet for Two Boys and A Guitar"), Alex and Simon share some of their hard-earned childrearing wisdom with us. Which basically amounts to Alex telling us that, while normally misbehavior from the kids incurs a warning followed by a time-out, she has also developed an ingenious new strategy where she actually steps in to intervene when the stakes are higher. Let's listen in:
A third permutation is when there's a behavior that has to stop immediately, say if Johan has a big blue indelible marker and is running through a white hotel suite. I swoop in and grab the marker as to risk a three count [warning] would be to risk decoration of the sofa.
Take the marker from the toddler immediately instead of trying to reason with him? Groundbreaking.
Side Note: At this point in my reading, I am incredibly satisfied to report that I have discovered my first typo in the book, and in one of Simon's sections no less! ("These toads secret [sic] a poison…"). This is wildly pedantic of me and proof that I am a deeply sick person.
We run though a list of "Top 10 Things We Never Thought We Would Have To Explain" ("10. Why hot pizza stones do not like Legos.") before moving right along into Chapter 8, "Don't Listen to the Well-Meaning Morons." Strangely, I have a very vivid memory of Alex saying "I have a chapter in my book called, 'Don't Listen to the Well-Meaning Morons" in some distant RHONY episode or reunion. I guess she was telling the truth.
The chapter opens with a series of passages in which Alex and Simon respond to various comments that have been made about their parenting over the years. I think this device is supposed to be a bit of lighthearted snark on overbearing strangers, but instead just comes off as weirdly defensive and passive-aggressive. A few examples:
"My daughter is perfect. Her table manners are excellent, she never speaks unless spoken to and we've always had white sofas at home since she was a child, with no staining."
-A woman with one preteen daughter, no sons
Your daughter sounds boring. I wouldn't want my sons to date her..
Zing!
"Why are you outside?" - A bagel seller in Montreal, in February
I'm hungry and the stroller is well protected under the plastic cover. Johan is warm and cozy, the others are asleep in the hotel and I'm going stir-crazy. Is that enough, or should I buy my bagel from someone else?
Got 'em!
"Excuse me, your baby is crying." -- Someone said to Simon as they peered into the stroller to try and determine the cause of said noise.
You don't say! Do you think, you stupid idiot, that I don't hear that? Do you think I think it's just loud music? Do you think I don't want him to stop and that I like it???
Sorry, did I say 'passive-aggressive'? Let's change that to just 'aggressive.'
But despite bristling at being the recipient of unwanted advice, far be it from Alex to shy away from giving her opinions on the shortcomings of other parents.
There was a mom at another table who wore all black and told her hyperactive daughter that they had to have a family meeting to decide what to do next. The type of woman who might ask her daughter to "process her feelings" about which color to choose. The type of woman who wanted make [sic] a big huge hairy deal about including her daughter in the decision-making process and "negotiating" the next best step for the family to take in the pottery shop. Pardon me while I shoot myself.
I'm sorry, but I just cannot respect this take coming from a woman who calms her sons by reciting comedic children's poetry backwards.
We next learn that there are "many websites out in cyberspace," some of which offer child-rearing advice. Simon summarizes their useless "vitriol" as such:
They say that hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, whereas for the 21st century surely hell no longer hath fury, as it's all been hurled at the belittled and scorned Internet mom.
I'm honestly not entirely sure what this is supposed to mean, and my confusion continues all the way through this chapter's "Top 10 Ways We Make Ourselves Feel Better When It's All Getting To Be Too Much." We begin reasonably enough…
  1. Check to see whether the person offering advice has children. How old are they?
  2. Do they have a point? Are they right? It is entirely possible.
…before quickly losing all sense of self-awareness and flying completely off the rails.
  1. Will we ever see this person again? If not, can we get away with unleashing our fury on them? Note, if you're reading this and decide to try it for yourself, go big or go home.
The last few chapters have been a bit Alex-heavy, but never fear -- Simon pops back up in Chapter 9 ("If I Wouldn't Eat That, My Kid Won't Either") to tell us a charming story about how the family refers to his Bolognese sauce as "Dead Cow Sauce," and this is because his children are incredibly enlightened and understand the circle of life and where food comes from. Or something along those lines.
This chapter also provides a lot of really incontrovertible proof that, even though you may swear that your kids say the most hilarious things all the time, you are wrong. I love kids. I can play cool aunt with the best of them. But this "recipe" for "Johan's Concoction" tries so hard to be cute and funny ("whisk violently -- making sure to spill a little out of the top") that I could barely stifle my groans. For anyone who happens to frequent RebornDollCringe, I am strongly and inexplicably reminded of Britton.
A list of "Top 10 Things We Don't Like About Children's Restaurants" culminates with
  1. Where would you rather be? A bistro devoted to race-car driving, with 1950s toy cars on the walls, or T.G.I. Friday's?
Excuse me, ma'am, you must be unfamiliar with the concept of Endless Apps®.
The title of Chapter 10 is "You'll Give in Before I Do!" and although the subtitle lets me know this is referencing "the art and warfare of bedtime," it's hard not to take it as a personal taunt from the authors. Most of this chapter is just transcriptions of 'cute' things François and Johan have said to try to avoid going to bed, but we do get this gem:
Slaying the dragon is our family euphemism for using the toilet (drowning the dragons that live in the sewer) and is fun for the boys to talk about, though probably not forever.
Before giving us a chance to adequately process this revelation, Alex goes on to reflect:
Hmm, perhaps I should delete this -- I don’t want obnoxious classmates getting hold of this book in 10 years and asking the boys if they need to slay the dragon in the middle of geometry class.
Alex, I assure you, you truly have nothing to worry about. Any self-respecting bully will be far too focused on the fact that Simon ejaculated at the moment of his son's birth to pay this comparatively trivial factoid any attention.
The authors shake things up and end this chapter with lists of both "Top 20 Bedtime Stories" and "Top 10 Lullabies," both of which are thankfully inoffensive.
In Chapter 11 ("Children Like Shiny Objects"), we follow Alex and Simon as they purchase the townhouse we see them renovating on RHONY. Although other (read: lesser) parents might store breakables out of reach or limit children's toys to playrooms and bedrooms, Alex and Simon were blessed with two boys whose aesthetic sensibilities are already quite developed:
One kind of funny thing that I noticed recently is that the toys the boys tend to leave upstairs in our red and black living room often tend to be red and black as well. I'm not sure whether that's intentional, but it's funny that the room always seems to match regardless of its contents.
The list of "Top 10 Craziest Places We've Found Objects" is mercifully absent of any orifice-related discoveries.
After reading just the title of Chapter 12 ("Raising Baby Einsteins"), I'm bracing myself for the self-satisfied smugness to come. This preparation turns out to be duly warranted. Baby sign language is dismissed as "a scheme dreamed up by ASL experts who wanted to sell classes to easily influenced new parents," Mommy and Me classes are "not really for teaching anything," and we learn that Alex and Simon have instituted a bizarre family rule that "if a talking toy came into our house, it had to speak a foreign language or speak English in an accent other than American."
We learn that Simon apparently does not know what antonyms are (for the record, Simon, the word you're looking for is homophones) and that New York City is replete with "wailing, nocturnal, type-A obsessed harridans willing to sleep with persons not their spouse if they think it will help their child get into THE RIGHT SCHOOL." Uh, yikes. After a tediously long description of François' pre-school admissions process, Alex informs us:
As a former actor, I've always gotten into play-acting and dressing up with my children. Perhaps a little too much. But I've taken the opportunity to show off a few old monologues, complete with bounding around like a puppy. If you have knowledge, why not share it? If you happen to know Puck's speeches from a Midsummer Night's Dream by ear with tumbling and staged sword play, why the heck don’t you share that with your boisterous boys, who love it and run around shouting, "Thou speakest aright!"
I am suddenly compelled to call my mother and thank her profusely for never making me put up with anything like this. Maybe I'll also get her thoughts on one of the tips listed in "Top 10 Favorite 'Developmental' Things To Do": "if they want something that you want to delay giving them, make them ask in every language they can before giving in." To me, this seems like an effective way to encourage your children to learn how to say "Fuck you, mom" in French as early as possible.
In Chapter 13 ("Urban Wonderland"), Alex and Simon promise to share their unique perspective on "taking advantage of raising a child in the urban jungle." But mostly, we just get a rant about how everyone thinks their kids have weird names, and that makes Simon mad. This chapter's "Top 10 Reasons New York is the Center of the Universe to a Kid" list reminds us what truly matters: "there are more songs with NYC in their titles than any other city."
Immediately after telling us how great it is to live in a city (excuse me, urban jungle), Alex and Simon switch tack and spend Chapter 14 ("'Daddy, a Cow! And It's Not in a Zoo!") expounding on the importance of exposing kids to nature. Sounds great, I'm on board. Unfortunately, we almost immediately take a hard left turn into a story from Simon's childhood where he and his brother are "befriended by this old guy, Dick, who lived on the outskirts of town in a small tin shed." We hear that Dick "occasionally pulled out an early Playboy magazine back from the days when the lower regions were airbrushed out," and that "there had been pretty strong rumors of pedophilia," before promptly returning to the main narrative with no further explanation. I can only describe the transition as 'jarring.'
I can tell how exhausted I am at this point in the book by how hurriedly I skimmed the list of "Top 10 Differences We've Noticed Between City Kids and Country Kids." To be honest, I'm almost annoyed when a particularly bizarre quote manages to catch my attention, because that means I have to think about it for the full amount of time it takes me to transcribe from the page. I'm beginning to think that my initial hope that I could glean some useful cat-rearing advice from this experience may have been overzealous.
Chapter 15 ("You're Such a Great Parent, You Should Be on TV (LOL)") is the only chapter to directly address the family's time on RHONY. It starts with this (attempted) comedy bit in which Alex and Simon pretend to be hilariously self-aware and self-effacing (Alex: "Look up 'Mommylicious' in the dictionary and you will see a photo of me in a ball gown, breast-feeding an infant while making Osso Buco and directing carpenters to build a bookcase for my Dickens and Shakespeare."). This posture would be infinitely more believable if I hadn't spent the previous 205 pages watching these two take themselves deadly seriously.
But rather than share any juicy behind-the-scenes tidbits (or, indeed, convey anything of substance at all), Alex and Simon spend exactly 3.5 pages blustering about how it wasn't harmful for their children to be on TV before giving us a list of "Top 10 Hilarious Things The Boys Have Done While Filming or at Photo Shoots." Spoiler alert: none of them are 'hilarious.'
Chapter 16 is literally titled "The Light at the End of the Tunnel," which makes me feel like this whole experience may have just been Alex and Simon playing some sort of twisted game with me. Alex tells us this is "the chapter of hope," but given that she then tells us about a time when she "spent one full hour discussing why magic markers cannot be carried around with the caps off, particularly in a hotel suite with white couches and walls," I'm not sure exactly where this hope is coming from. Also it seems like this markers-in-a-hotel-room thing happens weirdly frequently. We are then treated to Alex and Simon's "Top 10 Moments of Getting It,'" which includes
  1. Apropos of nothing, Johan said, "You give us time-outs because you are teaching us to be good grown-ups."
This is a thing I'm sure Johan said completely organically and not in response to hearing his parents say "we're giving you a time-out so that you learn to be a good grown-up" approximately seven zillion times.
This brings us to the book's Epilogue (a mercifully short two pages) featuring the line "If you made it to the end of this book, we salute you." Honored to accept this hard-earned accolade, I can finally close the book and start figuring out a way to erase the memory of Simon busting a mid-childbirth nut from my aching brain. Wish me luck!
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The New Druid (Steelshod 433)

Hey there!
I don’t post these daily anymore, so just in case you’re a newcomer and you’ve never seen a Steelshod post before… click here to start at the beginning
This is the latest chapter out of several hundred, and I don’t think it will make much sense without context. This isn’t an episodic story so much as one long narrative.
Hopefully, you’ll enjoy yourself, and I’ll see you back here in good time. If not, no big deal. But I think if you start here you’re going to be very, very lost.
Table of Contents – includes earlier installments, maps, character sheets, our discord server, and other documents.
First | Previous | Next
Victoria
World map
Here is a general lore doc including character profiles and here is a basic roster showing who’s where, and who is a PC: Steelshod Roster!
Note for Binge-Readers: This is generally live-updated to reflect the current state of the game! Hopefully if you’re binging you can keep better track of who’s going where, because you just recently read about them going there.
Ronald’s Basin, in rural Victoria
Steelshod has been given an offer.
It’s been three days since they slew Partholon, the Druid an Fáinne of the Collar of Thorns
Those days have been an unpleasant example of the kind of reactive war Steelshod generally tries to avoid—lots of boring/uneventful scouting punctuated by occasional sudden violence.
But now, one of the Collar’s war leaders—called the “Laochra,” which means something like “hero” but also appears to be the closest thing to a lieutenant that they have—has come to their fortification at Ronald’s Basin
Osion, the Laochra, is a confident smart-ass with a sharp tongue. He’s been friendly aside from barbed jests, and seems to be the man the Collar’s warchief Dolan likes to send out to parley with Steelshod.
He has come calling on Steelshod, and invited them to a celebration that the Collar is throwing tonight.
Supposedly, a celebration of the return of Partholon himself.
Which is quite a trick, given the state Steelshod left him in.
Zelde reminds everyone that she said they ought to take Partholon’s head. She was afraid people wouldn’t believe them.
Felix flat out doesn’t believe Osion’s claim. Besides that, he gestures to the thick dark clouds overhead and the pouring rain
Says that this doesn’t really seem like the time for a party.
Osion shrugs, and he says that the storm won’t go until Steelshod does.
But they will celebrate regardless.
At this point they leave Osion sitting on his horse outside the walls, waiting, and Steelshod confers briefly about how to respond to this offer.
The obvious concern is that it’s a trap.
Yes, the Collar of Thorns is saying that it will be peaceful, and yes they do take their oaths seriously
But on the other hand, from their perspective Steelshod may not be worth treating with honor. Given that James murdered Partholon at a parley and all
So they can’t rule out a full-on betrayal, and open battle, if they go.
Cara’s gut says that’s not the Collar’s plan here—even if they consider Steelshod oathbreakers, honor is more a matter of oneself anyway. If they violate guest right, break an oath of peaceful meeting, then Dolan or this new Partholon will be undermining their own authority with their people.
But that doesn’t mean there won’t be some kind of trap. Maybe they’ll attack the Basin while some people go out. Maybe they’ll arrange an ambush to hit them after they leave the party. Maybe they have some egregious offense planned that will incite Steelshod to violate the peace themselves.
Lots of possibilities, lots of ways things could go wrong.
What’s the upside?
Cyril says that while he has no doubt that the Collar will only show them what they want to show, still… any intelligence on the enemy could be valuable
This is an opportunity to learn more about their enemy.
In fact, Cyril points out that they could use this meeting as an opportunity to quietly send out a secondary party, to scout the forest while the Collar of Thorns is busy and distracted.
Cara decides that the risk is worth the possible intel, so they will go.
There’s some question of whether or not they believe they’ll actually be running into Partholon himself, or if it is a title and they will now meet some (hopefully lesser) replacement druid.
Some, like Felix, are skeptical.
Agrippa points out that they’ve seen many strange things, and from the way Osion is talking he thinks they should assume it’s really Partholon.
Normal healing could not save a man from the injuries they inflicted upon Partholon, but that doesn’t mean he hasn’t swapped into a new body or used some other strange magic to persist.
Felix smirks and jokes that maybe the Collar just have a better healer than Agrippa.
Which results in Agrippa, without any joking tone whatsoever, telling Felix to shut up.
But, hearing this exchange, Amos gets a thoughtful look. Maybe it’s true, he ponders aloud. He asks if Agrippa has ever actually tried to sew a man’s head back on.
Maybe once every hundred times, it works, and—
Agrippa smacks Amos, both to interrupt his idiotic musings and as punishment for questioning his abilities.
At this point, Cara handpicks a team to go with her and James to the party.
She also picks a small scouting team to search the woods for anything useful they might be able to find.
The scouting team is simple: she appoints Drengi as commander and tells him to take every ulfskennar they have with them, save one. He will take Dagur, Foyr, Knut, and Sigridur.
The final ulfskennar in the party, Gulbryn, will accompany Cara’s group.
That leaves them with no howlers at Ronald’s Basin, but everyone staying behind will be under strict orders to hold position and defend the Basin.
And they have one member that can, at least, interpet howls, if not howl himself… that being Vigi, the vartror bersark and member of Yorrin’s Shadowsteel team. He’s practiced enough to be able to understand most basic howled messages such as “enemy coming” “send help” etc.
For the team to actually go to the celebration (I dub them the “Partying Party” to contrast with the “Scouting Party”), Cara picks a decently sized group.
Her primary interest is in durable warriors to help fight their way out of a trap, with a few specialists for their respective skills.
Felix insists on going, of course, to protect his wife. Agrippa explicitly refuses to go, barring a direct order from Cara that she does not give.
Zelde will go, however. Along with most of the biggest tanks on the team: Bear, Snorri the bersark, and the Victorian axemen Tiny & Lioness
That’s five solid walls of muscle and metal
Levin and Evan will also go—less frontliners than the above, but still both of them are exceptionally brutal warriors on foot or in the saddle, and good scouts in case they flee through the forest at night.
They’ll also bring Cyril, because he could be useful for evaluating the enemy and negotiating. Cyril asks for Prudence to come to watch his back and, if needed, deploy alchemy or poison.
Cara also asks Borthul to go. The old wizard is decrepit, but he is their best bet to counteract Druidic magic or identify the method that Partholon has been reborn, if in fact he has been.
As mentioned, Gulbryn is also going.
Cara picked this ulskennar because Drengi says Gulbryn has been growing… stranger, recently, and some of his talents have manifested accordingly.
Ever since he stepped through the Thaumati Gate last year, he has (like everyone that went through the Gate) had strange dreams and occasionally sensed things beyond the scope of mortal understanding.
Even his howls have grown… eerie, in the way they echo and reverberate and set on edge any that hear them.
Finally, the two that were invited are Cara & James, and they’ll both go.
Agrippa clucks his tongue and sets about securing James’s mangled right arm into a more immobile splint than the current sling he has.
James will be useless if a fight breaks out, but he deserves to be there if he wants to take the risk.
And of course he does.
Cara specifically tells Zelde that she needs to stay close to James if things get dangerous, and protect him. She issues Snorri a similar command, to protect Borthul.
James is wounded, Borthul is old and weak, and she wants them both protected.
She does not assign a bodyguard for Cyril.
Cyril takes a few minor preparations before he leaves.
He asks Agrippa to give him a list of the names of all of the captured Collar warriors, in case he gets an opportunity to ransom their freedom in exchange for soom boon
Agrippa has been slowly but surely winning a modicum of trust from the captive Collars, so he gets their names easily and Cyril records them on a scrap of parchment.
He also passes a few specific poisons to Prudence, both lethal and nonlethal ones, in case she anticipates trouble and is in a position to deploy them.
Before they go, Cara asks for Osion’s oath
That the Collar of Thorns grants peace to Steelshod and their allies.
So long as Steelshod does not raise arms against the Collar, no harm will come to any Steelshod or their allies
Whether they are outside Ronald’s Basin, or within it.
Osion swears to the oath without hesitation, and says he speaks on behalf of Dolan, Partholon, and the Collar of Thorns.
The phrasing of the oath should also include Drengi’s clandestine scouting party, in theory.
By design, of course.
Now that this is settled, they depart.
Cara’s group is escorted across the darkening plains by Osion’s men
While Perrin and the others remain behind to hold the Basin in case of treachery
It’s a long journey out to the forests
Osion pokes a little fun at Zelde when he realizes how simple she is, enjoying how oblivious she is to his nettled words
He asks her if she has a man waiting for her, and she says no, she has Steelshod
To which Osion intentionally misunderstands, implying Zelde lets all of the men of Steelshod use her. He says he expects a strapping lass such as her can probably take quite a pounding.
Zelde is still oblivious, and she enthusiastically agrees.
Osion is having a grand time, his men snickering along with him as he taunts her.
Until finally Cara steps in, and suggests that since Osion sounds so interested they could stop somewhere and Osion can take a shot at “pounding” Zelde right here if he likes.
Osion blinks, and tries to politely decline. Zelde offers cheerfully maybe they can do it at the party, and Osion awkwardly deflects
He’s had his fun, but he’s no fool—he can tell that if he tries to spar with Zelde it is only going to end one very unpleasant way.
So he deflates and leaves Zelde alone for the rest of the ride.
After that, Cyril rides alongside Osion and strikes up a chat
He tries to finagle a bit of information out of him, directing the conversation to his own purposes, hoping to elicit useful info from Osion without giving too much away
It’s a careful dance, the precise opposite of the blunt mockery with Zelde
Osion is in his element again chatting with Cyril, deflecting questions with jokes, poking fun at Cyril’s pot belly, and avoiding giving too much information to Cyril’s questions.
Cyril confirms that the Collar’s goal is to cover the entirety of Victoria’s lands, as well as much of Kirkworth, in their “One Forest”
Osion says that the Silver Woods and the Deer Woods, east and south of Victoria, were once part of the One Forest. He likens these cultivated forests to Middish dogs with their balls cut off, compared to wild wolves.
Osion shows some genuine passion here, obviously despite his fondness for japes he is a true believer of the Collar and a true foe.
Cyril also gets a read on how Osion feels about the Collar’s leadership.
He obviously has immense respect for Dolan… more interesting to Cryil is that he actually begins to suspect that the feeling is mutual. It seems Osion is deep in Dolan’s confidence, and they have worked together for years.
It seems Osion has been sent as the Collar’s emissary each time, not just because he is good at insulting them, but because Dolan trusts him.
By contrast, Cyril gleans that Osion does not have that same level of loyalty and affection for Partholon
He speaks of Partholon the same way he speaks of the Forest itself—a force of nature, an inherent element, something deep and core to the Collar, but not someone Osion personally likes or trusts as a man.
Osion never breaks from his apparent attitude that this really is Partholon though, not a new druid sharing the same name.
It takes a few hours to cross the plains, and more time to navigate the North Forest
Osion says they picked this spot special for Steelshod, as the closest meeting place to where they were camped.
Even so, it is well past sunset by the time they arrive.
They see firelight through the trees ahead, and they hear voices, music, and laughter—the normal sounds of a party, which is at least a little promising.
They are told to dismount, and they tie up their horses. Osion guides them in on foot.
And they enter what seems to be not just one clearing, but a series of them.
Many interconnected groves forming a circle around a central grove.
Each grove has a high canopy providing some cover from rain, coupled with some smaller simple leather coverings.
The clearings at the center of each grove are furnished simply, with long wooden tables and benches made of carved and polished logs. They are lit by large cookfires.
Each grove is open to the nearest groves, almost as if they are a series of rooms—and all of them open to the central clearing
The central grove is the most open to the sky, and consequently has the most man-made structures. Each table in the central grove has a leather or cloth awning mounted over it, and the central grove is lit not just be cookfires but by torches and lamps
In the center of this grove is an enormous, gnarled tree. The trunk is partially hollowed out and blackened, as if it was struck by a bolt of lightning long ago.
They also notice that the high boughs of the tree are covered with a huge flock of ravens. Or a “conspiracy” of ravens, if you want to use the silly term for it.
There is also a small wooden platform constructed some distance up the gnarled, blackened tree, but below the ravens.
The platform is carved with intricate Wncari scrollwork, lit by firelights, and visible from all around. Simple carved steps wind up the tree to it.
Dolan is sitting up on the platform, sipping from a horn.
Across all the groves there are at least a few hundred people here, feasting and drinking and laughing.
They appear to be almost entirely fighting men—this is clearly a meeting place, not a settlement.
The partiers don’t seem too disrupted by Steelshod’s arrival, regardles.
Some of them stare, but otherwise they continue their feasting.
Notably, nobody asks any of Steelshod to surrender their weapons. The Collar are all armed, and it seems they aren’t concerned about it.
Osion directs them to head for the central clearing.
Cyril draws a bottle of wine out of his saddlebags as he approaches.
He heads for Dolan, who climbs down from the platform to meet at the base of the tree.
Cyril introduces himself, and offers the wine.
Dolan stares at him blankly for a moment, then says that he doesn’t expect anyone to speak the tongue of the Daoine, but he at least expects them to speak Middish
Cyril sighs, slows down his speech a little to lighten the heaviest Loranette inflections, and reiterates his introduction.
Dolan sort of shrugs, accepts the wine, and takes a sip. He then passes the bottle to one of his men.
Steelshod take note of the warriors seated around them, at the long tables in the central grove
They are especially grizzled and hardened looking men—battle scarred, tattooed, their weapons and armor showing signs of extensive use.
Each man is also adorned with coils of briar vines… cords of vegetation marked by long, sharp thorns.
They aren’t necessarily all literal collars, though some are. Many are coiled around arms or torsos.
It looks impractical, but the men seem unconcerned.
Still, Felix in particular continues eyeing these men warily, not paying much attention to Dolan or any of the diplomacy to come.
Steelshod take their seats at the table Osion points to, and he sits near them.
The men working the cookfire lay out a good spread for them… roasted meats and vegetables, stews, simple breads, and more. It’s not high cuisine, but it’s a decent spread given the environment.
Cyril complains about the spices, the drink pairings, and anything else he can think of. Osion is close enough to hear, and he argues with Cyril good-naturedly.
They eat for a little while, talking amongst themselves and Osion.
Finally, after some time, Dolan speaks.
He’s back up on the platform.
He calls out to Steelshod.
Says that the Collar got Steelshod’s message… and from the look of James, it seems Afric found them with his own message.
James nods. Dolan eyes him, as if sizing him up, and asks James if he won.
James swallows nervously, and then admits that no, he did not win.
Dolan feigns surprise in an obviously toneless way… he points out that James is alive, and he’s guessing Afric isn’t.
Cara interjects to confirm that Afric is dead.
Dolan nods. He’s not surprised. They killed him after the duel… because they have no honor.
Cara interrupts.
“No no,” she says. “The duel went on fair and square, and Afric won. Then he started eating James, and… well… he was eating James. So we stepped in.”
Cara’s deadpan delivery gets some chuckles from the nearby warriors
Though Cyril also notices that at some of the tables further out, there is less laughter and more uneasy silence.
Cyril doesn’t think the folks out there are doubting Cara’s story, but rather they are just discomfited by it.
Dolan does not laugh, but neither does he look uncomfortable
He comments that the note they left him demanded that he step down as part of the surrender Steelshod requests, else they will go to war against the Daoine.
But he can’t help but notice that they only brought some thirty men with which to wage this supposed war.
Cyril says they brought a bit more than that.
Which leads Dolan to comment on the hired Victorians. Do they really think that some flimsy distinction between “hired” Victorians and Victorian soldiers matters to the Collar?
Cyril says it should, since otherwise Dolan would have several thousand more Victorian troops to deal with.
Dolan shrugs. It’s a silly bit of sophistry, but he isn’t bothered by it. If the rest of Victoria is staying out of the fighting for now, that’s all the better.
He’s happy to face a few hundred farmers with spears first. He’s happy to let Steelshod divide the Victorians up for him, so that his Collar can slaughter them all in turns.
He doesn’t really understand what Steelshod gets out of any of this, though.
Why come here and die for Victoria?
The topic of the dead monks comes up, the ones turned to trees. Dolan scoffs at this… they told the monks they weren’t welcome here, and they didn’t listen.
What followed then was their fault.
This casual dismissal is too much for James, who speaks up.
He hotly denounces Dolan and his people’s treatment of the monks, and Dolan takes this totally in stride.
He comments that he would’ve hoped Afric could have at least knocked a little bit of sense into James, if nothing else.
Out of nowhere, Bear speaks up. He says Dolan must not know James at all, if he thinks this thing.
Nothing can knock sense into James!
Bear, bless him, says this so proudly.
Cyril says that, while James may be hotheaded, he’s not really wrong.
In point of fact, from what he saw of Steelshod’s commanders, the reason they decided to intervene was entirely because of what Partholon did to the monks.
Cyril says this with the air of someone who doesn’t totally understand why Yorrin and Aleksandr care so much, but he’ll deign to explain it to Dolan anyway.
In a rare attempt at Diplomacy, Felix points out that Steelshod’s interest in defending innocent monks is a big part of why they were so invested in the Svardic war, too. This sort of thing matters to them, so of course they’re gonna harp on it.
Dolan seems to just shrug at that. The Svardic war did not touch them here.
Maybe he thought that was a clever rebuttal, but it really pisses Cara off.
She says the Svardic war touched her people plenty.
“It’s funny, you lot are so concerned with the Daoine. Well, the folk from my hills are Daoine too.” Cara calls out, her own Wncari accent unmistakeable.
“And you’re so caught up about defendin’ the forests from invaders, from foreigners,” she goes on. “Yet you’re more worried about ‘foreign invaders’ tha’ve been here for, what, five hundred years? Compared to ones that had just sailed in.”
She glares at Dolan, and then the other Collar.
“You’re more concerned with fightin’ Victorians than you were with helpin’ my folk, your own kin, from true invaders.”
Lots of people at Steelshod’s table seem pleased with Cara’s tirade.
They think she really showed them.
Maybe a few of the Collar at the distant tables look a little abashed, but none of the nearby warriors do.
Dolan just stares at her.
“But you’re not of the Daoine, lass. Are you?” Dolan responds calmly.
Her clan does not keep to the Old Ways, Dolan says. Half the people in the Caedian hills don’t even speak the old Tongue, and instead speak Middish in their own families.
Only one clan there, the Cuig Dorn, even pretend to keep to any sort of Old Ways.
No, Dolan dismisses Cara entirely. Her and her people were not—are not—kin worth defending.
They’ve forgotten their path. They are beyond help.
So yes, the Daoine care much more about Victoria than they did the Svards.
Victoria has raped the One Forest and slaughtered the Daoine for generations.
Victoria broke the Collar of Thorns
He states it matter-of-factly, because it is a fact.
Recall that when James and Oliver first arrived here the Victorians were still calling their local Wncari “the Broken Collar”—as that’s what they called themselves.
It was quite recently that they renamed themselves to the Collar of Thorns
Or more accurately, reclaimed their old name.
Cyril recalls all of this, so he interrupts Dolan to ask about it.
If Victoria did all that—broke their spirit, leveled countless acres of forest, and so on—what on earth makes them think they can win this time?
Victoria's city grows larger each day.
They are as strong as ever.
Won’t the Collar just get broken again?
Dolan grins.
And he calls out to his men, repeating the question.
Asking them what makes them think they can win this time.
The response is immediate.
The feasting men begin pounding on their table, raising a huge thumping beat
And they chant three syllables in the cadence of their drumming.
Par
Tho
Lon
When they chant the last syllable, there is a new sound that adds to the cacophony
The multitude of ravens roosting in the boughs of the tree above Dolan suddenly take to the air
The flapping of a thousand wings drowns out the men’s pounding on the table, and the dark night sky grows a shade darker for a moment as the ravens scatter.
Once they’re gone, the Collar have stopped beating the table
And for a moment an eerie silence falls upon the clearing
The only sounds are the crackling of the cookfires and the sounds of a few of Steelshod—Zelde, Bear, Snorri—still noisily munching their food.
In that moment, there is movement on the platform behind Dolan
A figure steps out of the shadows, out of the hollowed-out heart of the tree.
They did not see anyone ascend the tree, and it doesn’t really look like there’s enough room in there for someone to comfortably wait
But nevertheless, a sturdy looking old man steps out of that shadow and stands beside Dolan on the raised platform.
Partholon, of course.
And he sure fucking looks like the man they decapitated.
Hey all! This post took me a little longer than I intended, not just because it’s pretty long… but because it was even longer than this.
It was about 50% longer than the post you just read when I realized that I wanted to just break it into a couple posts instead. So I went ahead and found the best place to stop it, and sliced it in half.
You can expect another post pretty soon. Not necessarily tomorrow, but definitely sooner than the 2 week pauses of the last few posts.
Also, if you missed it, a fan has begun doing audio readings of the greentexts on his YouTube channel. You can find his announcement here. Looks like he’s posting them 3 times a week right now, M-W-F, so he’s churning through them at a nice clip.
I have minor quibbles with a few of his pronunciations, but overall it seems like a really awesome and polished product! Very flattering, so if you’re into audiobooks you should totally go show him some love.
Next
submitted by MostlyReadRarelyPost to DnDGreentext [link] [comments]

[Humanity Fucks You] #8: Rules for Humans, Live Document HR-3-T1

Hello HFY, the next in my series of what happens when humanity's special gift in the stars is to have children with whoever they damn well please. As with the prior 7, I welcome constructive criticism.
With the CCT arc over, it feels like a weight has been lifted off of my shoulders. I'm going to try returning to the pre-CCT style/feel of the series.
As always, all you humans and mixed breeds: Keep those comments exciting!
Author Wiki | Series Wiki | World Anvil
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Post Writing Author's Note

Yep, I'm happy to return to the older style. This one probably isn't going to be considered my best work, but it was nice to not be trying to cram a shitload of ideas into a single story..
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Cass took a deep breath as she entered Yadakulter Station from the cramped shuttle. When I get back to the apartment, I taking a bubble bath and no one can stop me. After getting off of the loading platform, Cass fought her way through the hordes of people getting on and off of Yadakulter to finally get to the roadways, somewhere along the way calling a taxi.
When she finally reached the road, Cass found her taxi, throwing her day bag, the travel bag she packed for the trip to the surface, and the bag CCT had given her into the trunk. Entering the taxi, Cass found the driver to be a hrumrum, a white furball ~30cm in diameter with 4 60cm arms that ended in 4 fingered hands, two of which they walked on. The hrumrum was seated in a transparent ball that held steering controls appropriate for its size.
"Hello, I'm Kregious'quentaur Dapheminker, but most humans call me Kreg. I'll be your driver for The Friendly Yellow Taxi Company today. Where are you heading to?" The hrumrum spoke in a voice that would have been more appropriate for a dolff, which seemed to come from no distinct point. If the rumors are true, all hrumrum are friendly.
"Hello Kreg, I'm Cass. I'm headed to apartment block 24D. Also, is it true that all your people are friendly?"
"Yes and no. If you go to Hrum, you can run into some rather ill-tempered hrumrum, but a friendly disposition is required to leave Hrum. We don't exactly have humanity's reputation for being able to kill entire fleets with a mining ship, so we do everything we can to extend a kind grasper to the Unity and hope that if someone tries to mess with us we will have good friends to back us up." Kreg turned towards Cass as he spoke, revealing two black beads for eyes and a small muzzle that would fit on a dog his size. SO CCCCUUUUUUTTTTEEEE!!!!
"That explains it. So, how do you do the voice thing?" Cass smiled at Kreg as she spoke. Don't pet strangers, Cass. You know better.
"It's our gift. Hrumrum don't actually vocalize, but we can make most sounds we want to. I've heard that some hrumhrum have actually found a way to use our gift to make other species defecate uncontrollably. I've also heard that only works on certain species and is different for each." Kreg stated, making his voice sound as if it was originating from various points within the taxi as he spoke.
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After the enjoyable taxi ride with Kreg, Cass set the 3 bags she had on her bed, and started filling her bathtub with warm water. Now, where did I put the bath bombs? Opening the cabinet beneath the sink and pulling out a bag filled with small, oddly shaped and colored balls. Grabbing 2, Cass tossed them into the slowly filling bathtub.
As Cass put everything back in its place, the bath began to bubble and the scent of lavender filled the bathroom. Cass left the bathroom, grabbing her tablet from her office and leaving her clothes in a pile on the bedroom floor.
The bathtub beeped loudly and stopped filling with water. Returning to the bathroom with her tablet, Cass setup the "bath desk" she kept next the tub and placed the tablet onto the raised plastic "desk."
Cass entered the bathtub in 2 swift movements, sliding in until only her arms, and everything above her shoulders, weren't surrounded by bubbles or water. I can already feel the stress washing away.
Cass pushed the bath desk along its rollers to over by the spout before bathing herself, slowly and carefully.
Once Cass had cleaned herself, she pulled the bath desk back to a comfortable position as she placed her back against the bath of the tub. Hmm, is there anything amusing to translate?
Cass turned her tablet on, quickly logging in and opening her work queue, swiping up until she found a document that she tapped on. This'll be a good one to work on till the water gets cold.
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Rules for Humans, Live Document HR-3-T1

Report pulled for translation by Cassandra Ferrell at the request of H'zan Tilbulter of the Yyyn on Cycle 662, USOT 1, USRT 7 [September 4rd, 2214].
Translated to English by Cassandra Ferrell (Report HR-3-T1) Translated to Wresh Trade Speak by Cassandra Ferrell (Report HR-3-T2)
Further translations are pending.
[Translator notes added in square brackets]

General

  1. Do not challenge a species that can't detect capsaicin to a ghost pepper eating contest
  2. Do not challenge a species that is highly sensitive to capsaicin to a ghost pepper eating contest
  3. Do not challenge any plant based species [6, as of the pulling of this translation] to a ghost pepper eating contest
  4. Do not race hydrocarbon vehicles outside of race tracks that have been certified by the planetary or station government, whichever is applicable
  5. Do not race electric vehicles outside of race tracks that have been certified by the planetary or station government, whichever is applicable
  6. If you have to bet whether it will fit, it won't
  7. Do not host "old fashion" duels
  8. Do not participate in "old fashion" duels
  9. Do not challenge other species to a hot dog eating completion unless their species is on the Unity List of Species Who Can't Eat Themselves to Death (live document UL-2345)
  10. Just because you can strap an engine to it doesn't mean you should
  11. Just because you can strap a jet engine to it doesn't mean you should
  12. Just because you can make it fly doesn't mean you should
  13. Do not make "lightsabers" without explicit permission from the planetary or station government that is applicable
  14. Do not randomly pick up other species you find cute
  15. Do not randomly pet other species you find cute
  16. Do not baby talk to other species you find cute

Dolff

  1. Do not catcall dolvves. It is the same sound their favorite prey animal makes
  2. Do not "wrestle" a dolff in public, even if it is "just having some fun." Dolvves always take "wrestling" as an attempt at mating
  3. Do not ask a dolff if you can ride them, unless you are asking for sexual intercourse
  4. Do not ask a dolff if you can "saddle" them, unless you are asking for sexual intercourse
  5. Do not ask a dolff if you child can ride them, it is highly confusing for all parties involved
  6. Do not ask a dolff if you can ride them "like a horse." They don't know what a horse is and will assume you are asking for sexual intercourse
  7. If you wish to ask a dolff if you, or your child, can ride a dolff like a riding animal, ask the dolff "May I/my child sit on your back while you walk?"
  8. Do not challenge a dolff to any form of eating contest. Their stomachs are 3 to 5 times the size of a human's
  9. Do not attempt to "snuggle" with a dolff that hasn't read the Guide to Keeping Your Humans Safe (live document G-119223)
  10. Do not attempt to pet a dolff that hasn't read the Guide to Keeping Your Humans Safe (live document G-119223)

Itari

  1. Do not enter an itari's home unless you are ready for a long term commitment
  2. Do not enter invite an itari into your home unless you are ready for a long term commitment
  3. Do not attempt sexual relations with an itari unless you are ready for a long term commitment
  4. Do not call an itari a "pretty kitty," it will confuse them
  5. Do not call an itari "Lion-O," it will confuse them
  6. Do not give an itari "ear scritches" unless you are ready for a long term commitment, as doing so is a form of courting

Wresh/Wreshanna

  1. Do not scratch the front ears of a wresh unless you are mating or related
  2. Do not scratch the rear ears of a wresh unless they call you a friend
  3. When you pet a wresh that doesn't know you, run your hand along their flanks and only along their flanks
  4. Do not double dare a wresh to give someone a "wedgie"
  5. Do not attempt to pick up a wresh without some form of skeletal reinforcing [powered exoskeletons with back support are recommended]
  6. Do not give a wresh chocolate
  7. Do not give a wresh coffee
  8. Do not give a wresh tea
  9. Do not give a wresh caffeine pills

Yyyn

  1. Do not set off fireworks outside of areas designated class 18D
  2. Do not call yyyn "party poopers"
  3. Do not attempt to teach a yyyn "how to party"
  4. Do not attempt to make a yyyn break their moral code
  5. Do not attempt to bring religion to the yyyn
  6. Do not attempt to start an orgy, it is a category 6 moral offense

Floofermuttin/Floofermuttins

  1. Do not make fun of the fact that their species is named the Floofermuttins
  2. Do not "cue" at a floofermuttin, it is the same sound one of their predators makes
  3. Do not ask a floofermuttin if you can have their milk, it is toxic to humans
  4. Do not ask a floofermuttin if you can milk them, their milk is toxic to humans
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Once the bath water had become too cold, Cass pushed the bath desk far enough forward that she could comfortably get out and set the bath to drain. I feel so much better now. After drying herself off and grabbing her tablet, Cass moved back to her office. Might as well finish what I started.
After roughly 30 more minutes, a small phone icon popped up on Cass's tablet, followed by the stereotypical phone ringer. OH SHIT! IT'S MOM! Cass quickly hit the accept button, before stretching back in her office chair. Probably gonna be a long. Time to get comfy.
"Hey Cassy! How are you?" The face of Dr. Ferrell appearing on Cass's tablet. In the corner was a small feed of Cass's naked form.
"Hey Mom, I'm doing..." Cass stopped speaking as she slapped the tablet into the desk, continuing with "Oh my god! I'm so sorry! Let me get a shirt!" Man am I glad it wasn't Dad I made that fuck up with.
"Enjoying being alone?" Dr. Ferrell asked, her voice sounding like a smirk.
Cass entered back into the room wearing a loose, blue t-shirt, her cheeks still bright red. She lifted the tablet back to its laptop configuration as she sat down and said "I wasn't expecting a video call. I'm sorry!"
"I got out of the hospital an hour ago. Of course I want to see my baby girl's face." Dr. Ferrell said matter-of-factly.
"Hospital? What happened? Did you have a heart attack?" Cass asked, her speech quickening with worry. Please be okay. Please be okay.
"No, no, I'm fine. Just survived being in a satellite that got shot down." How are you nonchalant about this?
"WHAT? What do you mean you were in a satellite that got shot down?! That's kinda a big deal!"
"I was up in one of the SF staging stations when the namies made their advance on the asteroid belt because a friend of mine in the New Eden Security Council managed to convince them to allow a field test of the Fenrir program to test its potential use in boarding operations. Well, the boarding of the namy fleet flagship was 'understaffed' and it managed to get a single shot off, which happened to hit the staging station I was in, which is technically a satellite." Why are you like this Mom? It's not every day that you happen to be within a SF station that gets shot down.
"Dad is gonna have a fit when you tell him." Cass sighed. A fit won't do it justice.
"I only had around a hundred lacerations, almost a full body bruise, and some minor lung damage from exposure to low air pressure. Nothing a little time, some artificial blood, and nanite repair surgery can't completely reverse." Dr. Ferrell waived her hand dismissively as she spoke.
Cass made a drawn out sigh before saying "So, did anything bad happen?"
"You're childhood bed is currently crushed under a one and a half ton chunk of the aforementioned station. The rest of your room is undamaged. I've already made the calls to get it lifted out of the suite and I'll be looking for a new bed for you soon, so when you visit next we'll have a place for you to sleep." I'm so glad that my bed being crushed is more important to you than the fact YOU NEARLY DIED!
"What about the little kitties and puppies lamp you bought when I was 6?"
"Had to bend the shade frame back into the right shape and it'll need a new light bulb, but it's fine. So, how has my baby been?" At least she hasn't asked about grandchildren yet.
"Fine. Work has been amusing, but the last two weeks have been rough. I had CCT training and got stuck with this asshole who thought he was an army drill sergeant." Cass stated, while throwing her arms up in exasperation.
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Alliance Chapter 2

Hello again! I wrote this while procrastinating for my classes, and I tried to expand to a few things I hadn't written about before. Please let me know what you think of it!
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“Well, it’s definitely not an inconsistency in the fuel,” I announced, wriggling my way backward out of the accessway, trying to blink the sweat out of my eyes. Clarke, my chief engineer, received this conclusion with a flexed jaw. Reactor 2’s slight output fluctuations had gotten more pronounced, so I’d come down to help brainstorm. Thus far, we had ruled out faulty fusion containment, coolant flow problems, and now inconsistency/contamination within the fuel itself. While it was frustrating not to be able to pin down the problem, I was grateful for this last negative—modern Navy reactors only needed to be refueled about every hundred years. The operation was correspondingly long and difficult, involving supervision by two federal regulatory agencies and the Russians.
Clarke tapped her pen irritably against the pad of engineering paper she’s taking notes on. She wasn’t happy with any anomaly in her engine room, and the pressure of our imminent departure wasn’t helping matters. It was worrying me too—not only was my ship relatively an unknown, but my engineer was too. I’d picked up the impression that she was a perfectionist, and she was certainly competent, but I didn’t know how she’d react under stress, or how good she’d be at the inevitable jury-rigging that cropped up on patrol.
My last chief engineer was Commander John Abbas—killed in action. He’d loved troubleshooting, no matter how much he complained about it, and whatever the crisis he’d never lost his composure or his nasty sense of humor; he once configured the security scanners around Engineering to administer mild electric shocks to anyone who said “Carolina,” “Tar Heels,” or “Dean Smith” within five feet of the door. He would’ve thought tunneling was a great challenge.
Focus.
The speaker on the bulkhead crackled. “Captain to the bridge.”
Shit. You forgot, idiot.
We were embarking our half of the joint Human-Z’lask delegation to the Galactic Council today, they were due to arrive at 1000, and it was now—I checked my watch as I scrambled over Clarke and out of Engineering—1015. I guess I’d be fashionably late to greet our erstwhile enemies.
What if they take it as an insult?
Then hopefully they’d shoot me.
I made it from the reactor room all the way up to the currently-unoccupied chartroom off the bridge in record time, with the result that I was even sweatier and more rumpled than I was from being wedged next to an unhappy Reactor 2 for hours. On top of that, I was one of those people who always looked somehow disheveled, no matter how creased their clothes or shined their shoes. I’d never gotten used to the slightly taken-aback look people tended to get when they’re introduced to me—this is the captain? They seemed to be thinking. This idiot who looks like she just rolled out of bed?
I really wished I could look the part. It would make a lot of things a lot easier.
You’d still screw everything up.
I tried frantically to straighten myself out, and quit abruptly as Ramirez and two other marines walked in. “Alright,” I said, making sure I have their attention. “These aren’t the first Z’lask we’ve met, so no staring like you’ve never seen one before. They are the first diplomats we’ve encountered though, so they’ll probably act very differently from what we got used to. Let’s try to be calm and nice and friendly—they’re our allies now, weird as that is. Let’s just take this nice and easy, guys.”
“No sweat, Skipper,” Ramirez responded, as his two buddies nodded confidently. Despite this all three looked tense.
And you’re not?
The diplomats have been permitted onto the bridge, as a show of welcome, so I squared my shoulders like I was taught and went to greet them.
There were ten of them, five Z’lask and five humans. Most of them were staring around at the ship’s interior with varying degrees of curiosity, from the wide eyes of those who’d never been on a vessel so big before to more critical observations from people who clearly had military backgrounds—a human and a Z’lask were both eyeing the weapons status board, taking in the row of green lights indicating all railguns online.
The Z’lask don’t use projectile weapons; they considered them clumsy, even primitive, next to their more elegant energy shooters. The war had disabused them of those notions. I was willing to bet this was the first time this individual had seen our weapons from the operator’s end, and if I was him, I’d be curious.
“We got the stern chasers online this morning,” I said to the mismatched pair, breaking into their inspection. “We’ll be doing charging drills on them today, and then we’ll be all systems operational.” I tried to smile in a friendly, open fashion, and probably looked like I had tetanus.
The human smiled back. The Z’lask’s turquoise pupils brightened before he spoke.
“Do these drills include loading?” He asked, flicking his long, forked tongue to indicate slight embarrassment. “I know it must sound strange to you, but none of our weapons require that, and I would be interested to see how you manage the extra step.”
“Not while we’re in port,” I answered. “But once we’re in transit, we’ll run firing drills. You’re welcome to observe then if you’d like.”
“I would appreciate that,” the Z’lask said, his eyes dimming then brightening to reinforce his words. The human asked him a question about their weapons drills and I excused myself, moved through the rest of the group emitting greeting noises, and escaped to the front of the bridge.
I could feel myself relaxing as soon as I stepped into the familiar tableau: Davis leaning on one elbow over his charts, Xi listening to the comms chatter with one ear and our chatter with the other, Quartermaster First Class Jackie McClane sitting at the controls, a new minion whose name I couldn’t remember (gotta fix that) seated beside her. I paced to my spot. It was good to be back.
The clock on the bulkhead read 1045—time to start preparing for departure.
I always found myself thinking of old family car trips when preparing to leave port—both events were actually pretty similar. Everybody was rushing around frantically, there was a schedule but it seemed like everyone was doing their best to get massively behind it, tempers ran a little short, and then somehow miraculously we were actually ready to leave on time.
The diplomats were surprisingly little trouble—they stood out of the way where they’d been asked to and didn’t bother anyone, content instead to observe the organized chaos of getting the Yorktown back in the black.
Tradition dictated the playing of an ancient song with a title very similar to the cliché about returning to space as the moorings are retracted, and I secretly loved it. Today, it’s extra-special: for the first time since I was captured, I’ll be driving my own boat.
I’m let loose, from the noose, that’s kept me hanging around.
McClane received clearance for departure from Traffic Control, and gently pulled the Yorktown away from the dock.
She’s a big lunk of mass, so she answered her maneuvering thrusters sluggishly at first, leaning gradually away from the pier and wallowing reluctantly into the lane. As she built up some momentum, that old bitch physics started to come over to our side, and the ship moved quicker and more nimbly, a promise of agility showing through her lethargy. Yorktown passed out of New Norfolk gathering way and looking fantastic.
I was standing just between the navigator and weapons officers’ stations, a few feet ahead of the chair my first skipper—Capt. Tillery Carroll, he could read a reactor’s thoughts, had time to teach even moronic new young idiots every simple thing we should’ve known already, and set two speed records—told me that the captain never sat in unless he had to. It was a mark of how much his example impressed me that I still followed his old rule.
I shifted one leg back slightly, to brace for acceleration. We passed the FTL limit beacon, and requested permission to engage our Drazer drives. We received clearance and approached the jump point.
“Permission to go to hyperspace?” McClane intoned, trying hard to keep the excitement out of her voice. My heart was about to go faster than light all on its own. I rolled my eyes around the status boards one more time, felt the thrumming of the drives through my heels, and kept my voice steady as I gave the order.
“Jump to FTL.”
Yorktown shuddered, then leaned heavily into her acceleration—to a stationary observer, she’d appear to be elongating impossibly. She bucked once like she was meeting a wave and then was perfectly still. The view forward changed from the blackness of vacuum, studded with the infinite brilliance of stars, to a whitish-blue tunnel, the only perceptible sign that the Yorktown was now galloping through the stars faster than the speed of light.
I shot a glance at Lieutenant Nguyen, the engineering officer monitoring the reactors and their Drazer drives from the bridge. “All systems nominal, Captain,” he announced, a little nervously. He was new, and evidently a bit scared of me, god knows why.
“Thank you,” I said, turning to look at Davis.
“On course, Skipper, good jump. Estimate arrival at Rendezvous Whiskey in ten hours, fifteen minutes.” He responded quietly, not looking up from his charts. Davis was not made nervous by anything.
McClane cracked her neck and settled in for the watch, her wide-eyed minion looking decidedly less relaxed. I myself could float up off the floor—I just had a textbook first jump with my gorgeous new ship. And even nary a sign of problems from Reactor 2.
Sure, she was a little active building up the bow wave, but that was to be expected—you wanted maneuverability, you had to give up a little stability. She’d probably hop like a scalded cat on exit, but then she’d cut straight through the bow wave and come right back down again without further ado. That was an improvement over her predecessors, which usually buffeted around a few times passing through the disturbance.
Thank you God for letting me be here.
The ship was almost unnaturally still, only the faint vibration of the engines running through her frame. She cruised easily, smoothly, more quietly and much faster than her forerunner Houston was designed to do. I decided happily that she was a worthy successor, and started toying with the idea of sending for some coffee.
Two hours later, the calm of the watch shattered as Xi put her hand to her earpiece. “Distress call, Skipper,” she reported, gaining everyone’s instant attention. “Species unknown, they say they’re under attack by four Drizagen pirate ships at-” she gave the coordinates and my mind started working as my heart started racing.
The Drizagen were a commerce-focused race, and when they couldn’t make it in legitimate business they went straight for the illegitimate. This was considered a disgrace, however, so their pirates were generally small and poorly armed—when they got ahead, they bought their way back into society.
Four of them vs. the Yorktown. Those were the kind of odds she was built for.
Of course, the line between stupidity and aggressiveness was a thin one, and I’d stomped all over it in my career. I knew too many people who thought they were in for something simple, lost their focus, and got killed when they’d survived much worse. I was not going to be one of those people.
“Davis, ETA to their position?” I barked, thinking rapidly.
“Fifteen minutes at maximum speed, Skipper,” he answered at once, tapping away on his navicomputer.
“Increase to flank. Change of course to-” as I rattled off the coordinates I caught sight of one of the Z’lask diplomats out of the tail of my eye, trying to get my attention. I ignored him as McClane repeated the order and the Yorktown leaned over abruptly as she changed course, spinning on her heel as though in disdain for the pirates she was going to meet.
What does he want?
I had more important things to think about.
“Let’s go to general quarters, bring shield generators online in preparation for drop to realspace, charge railguns and arm torpedoes.”
Lieutenants Malinowski and Peretti acknowledged and began barking instructions to their respective broadsides, the steady green squares on their status boards flashing to a malevolent red as each was armed.
“Captain….”
I spun around to glower at the Z’lask diplomat, who had brought himself to speak. “Yes?” I said, just managing to restrain myself from a growl. He stood up a little straighter—all eight-plus feet of him.
“That ship is not human or Z’lask. Its fate is not any of our affair.” His eyes were a steady brightness, no glinting malice or dimmed unconcern.
“What?” I snapped, confused. Space is hazardous to us all, even scrapping human factions acknowledged that. Some of them some of the time, at least.
“It is not our affair,” the Z’lask repeated, apparently firm in his belief. “We do them dishonor to interfere in their private matters.”
Oh for….
Every time I thought I was getting to understand these aliens, they went and did something like this, leaving me more mystified than ever before.
“I’m the captain of this ship,” I said. “And I, in accordance with international law, am rendering assistance to a vessel in distress. We are not dishonoring them by interfering in their private business, we are upholding the honor of a very old code of humanity: they call, we respond.”
The Z’lask’s vivid eyes flickered in confusion, but he shut up, as I knew the reference to rank would make him. I turned back to the task at hand. Four to one wasn’t nice odds, and the UN, in its paranoia that one of us will start another war, had forbidden all forces to open fire unless fired upon themselves—even if they were coming to the aid of another vessel. Because our lives weren’t hard enough as it was. We’d need to be responding the instant we came through the bow wave.
“Realspace drop in three, two, one…” Davis counted down, and the Yorktown lurched again as she decelerated, leaping as she hit her bow wave before driving her nose back down as she knifed though it.
“Shields up,” I barked as we came through the disturbance. I took in the scene in front of me and actually blinked in surprise. Four Drizagen pirate ships—about the size of USN frigates—were swarming around the oddest vessel I’d ever seen in my life.
It looked like a titanic, many-petaled flower in full bloom, sparkling as though coated in raindrops from all the point thrusters needed to move the colossal absurdity. It’s got to be the least efficient thing I’ve ever seen in my life, and I’m in the Navy.
Its strange design was working for it now, though, as the pirates couldn’t seem to figure out how to board it, and were scared to fire on something so fragile-looking, for fear of damaging the goods. It’d kept them alive long enough to summon help.
“Sensors?” I asked.
“Low-power energy weapons, Captain. Shouldn’t be able to get though our shields.” Came Lieutenant Levy’s emotionless reply.
The pirates had caught sight of us, and two of the four broke off and headed right for us. Our shields were at full capacity, and atmospheric integrity had been maintained since general quarters.
We were built to take some punishment.
“Full right thrust, let’s show them our broadside. Xi, any response from ‘em?”
Xi was working diligently at her station. “No response, Captain,” she replied.
Figures for pirates.
Yorktown rolled into the turn, wheeling to bring her broadside to bear on the two approaching, much smaller ships. It should be an intimidating sight. If we could get them to see that, it would save them what we were going to give them.
They didn’t scare. They drove straight at us, their first shots splashing against our shields, shaking the whole ship but not penetrating, as predicted. Malinowski announced torpedo locks on both of them.
Y’all had your chance.
I eyed up the distances, the closing rate, the trajectories of the flying ships. “Fire tube two at the lefthand hostile, fire five at the right.” It was still a surprise to hear my voice, cold and flat, when my heart was leaping as though trying to escape my chest.
“Fire two, fire five,” Malinowski repeated, and the Yorktown shuddered slightly as the torpedoes launched, becoming two fast-fading pinpoints of light as their motors ignited and they arrowed away toward their targets.
Both ships broke hard as their scanners picked up the incoming shots, but neither were maneuverable enough to shake the nimble, remorseless torpedoes. The faint dots arced into blurred tails as the weapons tracked, then disappeared as they superimposed their targets.
The leftmost pirate tried to run straight away, looping nearly vertically around in their haste to escape. This wild maneuver was spectacularly unhelpful, as it quickly put them on a course directly away from us, easy for the first torpedo to follow. It flew right up their exhaust port, and the vessel vanished in an expanding sphere of blindingly brilliant white light.
The rightmost one was a little smarter, it tried abruptly reversing course in a series of zigzags, like a deer chased by dogs. But even though they took advantage of the second’s delay between firings to try to flee their sister’s fate, it was too late. The torpedo still tracked, and caught them in the aft third of the ship—it broke up and incinerated as their atmosphere caught fire in the detonation.
Fission fishin’, ladies and gentlemen.
The remaining two, having hung back to continue harassing the flower-ship, started frantically flashing their running lights, and Xi winced and turned the volume down on her headset. Evidently they had decided to respond to our hails, and begun emphatically expressing their desire to surrender.
“Tell them to take their weapons offline, drop their shields, and come to a halt,” I said. I didn’t particularly like dealing with pirates. And they were delaying us—we’d lose at least another hour babysitting them until reinforcements could arrive to take them to be impounded. Xi repeated the instructions, and both the pirates complied, drifting to a halt surprisingly quickly as Levy reported their weapons powering down and their shields lowering.
“Skipper,” Xi began, still with her eyes screwed up against the noise the pirates were making. “These guys are pretty freaked out. They’re swearing up and down they didn’t know we were human when they attacked us or they never would have, they’re panicking we’re going to kill them anyway.”
“Tell them as long as they don’t try anything they won’t get hurt,” I snapped. “We’re not animals.”
Another damn species that thinks we’re savages.
You’d think it would be nice to have a reputation that clears the way. But instead it felt like the ringing of a leper’s bell.
Xi managed to calm the pirates down enough to hear herself think, and to open another channel to the flower-ship.
“Unidentified vessel, this is the human warship USS Yorktown, do you require assistance?”
Aside from the one we just rendered.
That wasn’t nice, brain….
“Put them on speaker,” I said. I’d like to hear for myself what these idiots thought they were doing out here.
Xi complied, and a voice crackled back. Even with the distortion of the comm it was high, thrumming, and somehow eerie. The hairs on the back of my neck rose as it spoke.
“Yes, please,” it gasped. “The pirates fired on us when they first appeared, two of our people were wounded and we don’t have enough supplies to treat them, can you help?”
The voice rose to express appeal, and as it did it somehow struck another sound from within itself, a musical note sounding behind and around and out through the spoken words. I’d never heard speech so utterly alien—my mind recalled legends of sirens. If sirens talked this is how they would sound.
I pulled myself back together. Xi actually shook her head like she had water in her ears. “We can send over a shuttle, to ferry your people back to our sickbay. Will that be satisfactory?”
The relief flooding through the being’s voice as it accepted was so powerful it cast a vibration of its own, making the speaker sound doubled. I was now thinking—to my consternation—seriously about sirens. No voice could be this compelling and be innocent.
Or could it? The galaxy was wide, and I was sure there were stranger things in heaven and earth than were dreamt of in my narrow philosophy. It was also not a very impressive measure of human progress that sailor’s stories about evil monsters were as present as they ever were.
Nothing is to be feared, it is only to be understood.
“If you don’t mind my asking, what species are you?” I asked, fighting my trepidation.
“We are Iialia,” the voice answered, another musical note emanating from the last word, sounding at once like the pluck of a harp and the strike of a chime—high, crystalline, like the chatter of falling water. “We have heard of you—we knew the humans always went armed, and today we are grateful for that.”
Aaaand another species that thinks we’re foaming at the mouth!
I’d never met an Iialia before, though I knew of them. Their entire species was dedicated to the creation of art—they believed science and the discovery of natural truth to possess artistic beauty, and so the species had reached the stars. And, apparently, sailed them in ships whose design was dictated by artistry, rather than practicality. They were utterly pacifistic—violence was ugly, and their species shunned ugliness.
So at least they’re not sirens?
Damn, we had a low bar.
A medical team—accompanied by marines—was dispatched to their ship, which identified itself as the Cosmic Blossom, because what else would it be called. I glared at the pirates, who have been sitting quietly without making a peep, to keep myself from pestering the team. They would give me information when they had it.
“Bridge, Sickbay, we’ve got the two patients through diagnostics, both are only minorly injured, we’re stabilizing them now. We should be able to patch them up by the time the escorts arrive.”
Oh thank God.
“Good to hear, thank you.”
“Three others accompanied them, they, ah, say they’d like to thank you.”
The fuck?
I sighed inwardly. Now my sunny self—plus the diplomats, I’m sharing my misery—would have to go down to sickbay and meet them, ensure that their first impression of humanity included more than just us beating up pirates for them.
I reviewed what I knew about the Iialia on the way down: they were asexual (I had no idea how they reproduced, except that division was somehow involved), and used the pronoun xa, which apparently translated as “creator.” I’d never even seen a picture of one before.
The Z’lask were annoying and weird as shit, but they at least were within our frame of reference. The Iialia were standing just outside of it, etching drawings on its edges.
I hate diplomacy.
We barged into sickbay. The two patients were behind curtains, being attended to by Dr. Ford, the ship’s surgeon. Looking on were three uninjured Iialia.
They were about human height, which was nice, and covered in fine, sheeny short fur, like cornsilk, ranging in color from pure white to iron gray. Their large eyes, liquid and nearly all black pupil, were set wide apart over small muzzles. They had two legs and two arms, like most species, with the head on top and a sweeping tail like a horse’s at the other end.
They wore short-sleeved garments, their fur evidently much better at keeping them warm than bare human skin, or Z’lask scales. The colors and styles of their fashion slid past my vocabulary—to try to describe them with human words would dirty them. I’d never be able to convey how it was that one seemed to be wearing light, another darkness, the third fire. All the humans stared to see them—their presence was as enthralling as their voices, though they were not what a human would consider attractive.
They’re sirens.
The Z’lask, however, didn’t seem to think so. They greeted the three Iialia formally and courteously, then stared off into space looking bored. One of them, the one who’d disagreed with me earlier, noticed the disparity in reactions about the same time I did, and began staring at us, leaf-green eyes shining with sharp points of concern.
Oh fantastic. Now they think we’re insane.
Who didn’t, at this point.
“Captain,” said the one wearing fire, xa’s fur flowing and smoky gray. “We wanted to thank you for fighting off the pirates—I don’t know what I would do if I lost the Blossom.” The gratitude glittering through the being’s voice sounded golden, like an exultant cello.
“Ah—we truly appreciate that,” I said awkwardly. “Humanity considers it an obligation to respond to distress calls, and we’re always very happy to be able to help.” I tried to smile and look humanitarian. I could feel the green-eyed Z’lask staring at me now.
“Well, permit me to say that we at least are very glad you feel this obligation,” xa said. “Even though we had to be saved by violence, which is such an ugliness.” Xa shook xa’s head mournfully. The musical note produced when xa said “violence” was startling—brassy, impure, and too loud. It was the first sound made by an Iialia that had been anything other than enchanting. The back of my neck prickled and I knew the green-eyed Z’lask had noticed our reaction.
I tried to cover by mumbling something about how we always hated to resort to force, but that unfortunately it was sometimes necessary. The human diplomats slid into the conversation, steered it toward safer topics, and had everyone nattering away.
The voices of the Iialia embroidered musically through the conversation, overlaying the clacking language of the Z’lask and the more guttural or sibilant sounds of English. It was a bit ironic—our speech sounded more “reptilian” than the giant lizards from outer space’s did.
“Excuse me,” the pure-white Iialia began timidly, breaking into my thoughts. “But if I might ask…what is your favorite color?”
“Huh?” I said stupidly. “Uh, blue, I guess. Blue.” I smiled to cover the fact that I’m an idiot.
“What shades?” Xa pressed, staring unblinkingly at me.
God these guys are weird.
“Well, all shades, I guess, except nothing too light. Not like, powder blue or anything.” I matched the Iilia’s stare. I had no idea what kind of evaluation this was.
“Thank you,” xa said quietly, with a sound like the wind rushing from beneath a bird’s wing. Xa sidled over to stand next to the smoky-gray one, who was gesturing widely as xa talked to an equally animated human diplomat while an impassive Z’lask looked on.
The Iialia murmured musically, and to be perfectly honest the lovely sounds were starting to get on my nerves. I realized suddenly that their initial, captivating effect seemed to be waning. The longer I looked at them, the more flaws I saw: their garments were too stiff, their fur antiseptically styled, even their bewitching voices were losing their charm.
What the fuck is going on?
I was chewing on this when the intercom informed us that the reinforcements had arrived to escort the pirates into custody. Dr. Ford pronounced his patients fit to leave, and the Iialia gathered themselves up, thanked us one more time, and departed.
I busied myself with packing off the pirates and getting back underway so I didn’t have to talk to the green-eyed Z’lask, but he caught me after the watch changed, as I was leaving the bridge.
“I noticed something today,” he began. “I wanted to talk to you about it.”
“If this is about answering distress calls…” I warned.
“No, another matter,” he said impatiently. “I wanted to speak to you about your reaction to the Iialia. I noticed you were quite taken with them at first, but by the time they left you appeared rather less enamored of them. Am I correct in these statements?”
“Yes…” I said, eyeing him like he was crazy—even for a Z’lask, he’s being very blunt. I’m not sure whether that was a good or bad sign; I only really had experience in talking like this with one Z’lask, and he was one of a kind. It had always been a good sign when he was blunt though: the time he chucked me in solitary he did it with such flowery phrasing I’d barked at him to come to the point already and gotten myself two extra days.
The self-satisfied lizard.
The green-eyed Z’lask looked…reassured? “They lost their charm to you for the same reason they never appealed to us—there can be no beauty without ugliness.”
“Huh?” I said, with my characteristic rapidity of thought.
Z’lask don’t really have lips, so I considered it a personal triumph of denseness that I provoked pursed lips from this one.
“If you had heard their music, I imagine you would initially have been stunned by the perfection of the sound, but as you listened its perfection would become cloying, then grating, then galling. Of the human songs which I have heard, the ones which I found most moving, which I wanted to hear again to learn and carry with me, incorporated imperfections. Anger, sadness, even just repetitive notes—all things the Iialia would think ugly.”
His viridescent eyes glowed.
“The Z’lask, to borrow the Iialia’s metric, find honor beautiful. The Iialia create art because they believe ugliness to be evil. They have no patience with any imperfection—they could never understand our proverb, ‘there is virtue in the struggle.’ They do not see honor, and so it is not present in their art. Therefore, while we appreciate their works as representations of admirable effort, we find them merely frivolous. You humans, though, your art can be a vehicle. And it is what your art conveys, not the beauty of its form, that captures us so. It seems to speak to us in the same language in which it does to you—it is a convincing demonstration of our compatibility.”
“That’s…good. Isn’t it?” I really was getting pretty tired of the endless whiplash of dealing with the Z’lask.
“I suppose so,” he said. “Though it must be balanced against your insistence on sticking your nose where it does not belong.”
“Not this again!” I snarled, exasperated. “Someone needed help. We could provide it. So we did. End of story. This is not complicated—space is dangerous enough as it is, when things go wrong for you and you have to call for help, you’d want someone, anyone, to come, right?” I barged ahead before he could respond with some nonsense about death before dishonor.
“You would, whether or not you admit it. And you had damn well better do what you expect of everyone else. I happen to believe quite strongly in the responsibility to respect privacy, Ambassador, but it comes second to preserving life. To apply your species’ metric, it is honorable to assist others in distress, because it is what we would want if our positions were reversed.”
“Mm.” The Z’lask clicked shortly. “I suppose it would make sense—your species’ development was so isolated, it is unsurprising you came to view the call for help as a higher one. And there is something appealing about your ideal that you must do for others what you wish them to do for you…it is honorable.” His eyes dimmed with thought, then flashed into brightness again as he realized something.
“It is the same as your Geneva Conventions!” He put his head to one side, an odd look on his face: half-admiring, half-pitying. “You humans insist on plunging into danger, hate the consequences, and then decide you will…legislate the problem away. You did not choose to only sail in groups, so that help would always be at hand, but rather decreed that everyone must answer distress calls—and made it a matter of honor. You did not turn inward to improve your natures, as Z’lask do to conform to the Code, but wrote treaties to do the work for you. Then you made the difficulty you of course still encountered in upholding the law a matter of honor.” He rolled his luminous eyes.
“I suppose this tiring obligation is one to which we could accustom ourselves.” Flipping his tail in the Z’lask grin, he stalked off.
I am going to kick each and every last one of these crazy bastards out an airlock.
Or maybe I’ll just go see what’s for dinner—we had a long trip ahead of us.


Damn, fight scenes are hard to write! I could definitely use some constructive criticism about how to improve them, if anyone happens to think of any! I’d also love to know what y’all think of the Iialia, they were fun to come up with….
submitted by PuzzleheadedCharge4 to HFY [link] [comments]

Every Act of Season 15 RANKED

Rules are pretty simple: If they're on YouTube and got through, they're on this list. They need to be on YouTube so that I can re-watch them to build more of an opinion, and I don't have access to recording episodes to re-watch them fully for any other acts. This also excludes acts that weren't filmed or shown.
With these rules I got a list of 72 acts to rank. My process for ranking them was that I ranked all the acts in a given episode first, then once all 7 episodes had their ranked lists I combined them all to make the final list. One more thing; I'll be mentioning certain tiers I put the acts in almost like a tier list, but this is only so that you can better distinguish my opinions with certain acts. So we'll be starting with the F tier acts. So without further ado, lets get right into it with...
72. Chris and Sid - Oh dear god we are starting off terribly, but that is expected for the worst of the season. What the active f*ck was this act? Chris sings a short tune while his dog just howls in the background? The dog is not singing it just doesn't like music! It's not even in key or anything it's just howling! This is easily the worst of season 15, fortunately we can only go up from here, right?
71. Jacob Velazquez - Well we are going up, just not that far. Jacob just can't pick what he is. The audition was going all over the place. He starts with a vision board his parents probably made for him to get the sympathy vote, and while his piano skills were good enough, he then starts playing the drums for some reason? And it's not even the same song he wrote it's just drums to an already existing song! He's definitely not the worst because he can get better in later rounds if his act becomes more consistent, like if he only was a piano player because he at least does have good skills when it comes to composing.
70. Chef Boy Bonez - I'd place him higher because he (like me) has chef in his name, but this act wasn't very good so he's in F tier. If he was just a rapper with no gimmick he could score better on this but the whole eye popping thing just can't go anywhere or make him any better. Don't get me wrong, popping your eyes is an actual gift you have to be born with, which is part if the definition of a talent, but used like this just doesn't work.
So those are the 3 acts I think deserve F tier. You might think they don't, but these are my opinions and not yours. Anyways we're now onto D tier which mostly consists of acts that had below average or auditions that don't stand out. I'll also start going more rapid fire with these and only go in depth when I feel necessary.
69 (Nice). Elijah de la Motte - Nothing against the cello but also nothing memorable about this kid. Elijah doesn't stand out to me in the slightest and that's about why he's so low.
68. Jesse Kramer - Same case with Elijah, his audition was just so terribly unmemorable.
67. Thomas Day - Nothing stands out about him, just kind of a singer.
66. Celina Graves - Same deal with the past 3 acts.
65. Xtreme Dance Force - The "hype" moments of this audition included them all punching the ground and them going generic moves. Just below average dance group in a season with so many better ones.
64. Erin McCarthy - I made a joke about how god probably had a dart board he used to determine some of this seasons acts and one of the things he ended up with was an opera singer horse lady, and that joke still stands as my opinion. In other words, why?
63. Bonavega - *Chuckles* I'm in danger. I get that people like him, but why? What part of this is appealing? To me, Bonavega just felt annoying and not entertaining, which are the two thing you really don't want a novelty act to be! If you like him, good for you, I don't care.
62. Michael Yo - Weakest comedian this season. Plain and simple.
D tier is now complete. Next is C tier which mostly consists of acts I am VERY neutral towards or ones I feel are generally weaker than others in the competition.
61. Luca Di Stefano - Vocal talent that's beyond singing actually works in his case. He's not gonna get anywhere in the competition but I have enough respect for him to not put him in D tier.
60. Frenchie Baby - At the end of the day Frenchie Baby is just kind of an act. Like yep. That's a contortionist.
59. Ryan Tricks - Same deal with Frenchie Baby except this act probably won't go very far.
58. Ty Barnett - One of the more chill comedians and he got at least a little chuckle out of me.
57. Lewis Shilvock - Sure is a dancer alright.
56. Siena Uremovic - Literally just Lewis but with a blindfold.
55. Alexis and the Puppy Pals - It's a child training dogs...yep. That sure is a child training dogs.
54. Feng E - I've heard his audition was just him using 1% of his power and he is better than what he performed on Agt, but I only consider what we've seen from the act on Agt and this kid is fine enough. Will he get better later? Possibly.
53. Lightwave Theatre Company - I'm always pretty neutral towards acts like these that tell emotional stories and Lightwave is no exception.
52. Emerald Gordon Wulf - Emerald is a good contortionist. Nothing else to say here.
51. Marty Ross - Yeah he's kinda funny that's cool.
50. Jennifer and Daiquiri - Good ol' dog act. Not extremely memorable, but a good dog act.
49. Amanda LaCount - I'm not totally sure what sticks out to me about Amanda I just felt like her audition was better than the other solo dancers.
48. Voices of Our City Choir - Definitely the worst GB this season, but not absolutely terrible. I have a soft spot for choirs and this one is alright. It might not be the best choir we've ever had in all of Agt, but it's an alright one. Should it have been a GB? Probably not. That won't affect my opinion on certain acts though.
Okay C tier is done now that was cute but now we're on to the big leagues of B tier. From this point onward, I have a positive opinion on all the remaining acts, so let's start with:
47. Kameron Ross - Not something too noteworthy but a good audition regardless.
46. Chicken Scratch Sam - This guy figured out the loophole and now he's on this list. I put him at 46 because 1: I don't know where else to put him, and 2: Kinda just to piss you all off.
45. Max Major - There's definitely some kind of science to his finger trick so that's out of the question but the other trick was okay and I overall just liked him more than Ryan.
44. Florian Sainvet - Fast unfolding cd man...just a good ol' fashion fast unfolding cd man.
43. Simon and Maria - They fun. Also apparently commented on one of my posts which freaked me out but yeah they fun.
42. Daneliya Tuleshova - I've heard a lot of people say she's gonna win because she was only "singing a song that wasn't as big she can get better ohohohohohohoh". Frankly I can't see it. I don't doubt she's a good singer outside of Agt, but again I'm only counting what we saw from the act on the show, and her audition wasn't as strong as others in my eyes.
41. Resound - I don't know how I feel about these guys. I just- I don't know. I put them here because they are good but I can't say they're gonna be really- look I don't know what I'm saying here my point is that I straight up just don't know how I feel about these guys.
40. The Spyro Bros - This really does feel like Mochi's revenge. He got robbed out of his frickin' mind in season 13 and it's good we have more Diabolo this season.
39. Ninja Twins - These guys are just charming to be honest. I actually laughed during the introductions and throughout their performance because it was just so ridiculous and I loved it.
38. Brandon Leake - Similar case to Resound where I just don't know where to put this act. I always joked in my head on "what if there was a motivational speaker on Agt" and now there kind of is and it got a GB. I was just confused after that whole thing. So did he deserve the golden buzzer? Sure. At this point, I'm kinda okay with Brandon getting a GB. Odd pick for sure, but it's okay.
37. Kelvin Dukes - From here we enter my favorite part of the list that I call, "The Pit of Singers". Basically the next 9 acts are all singers that are good enough to be memorable, but not my outright favorite singers. Kelvin is a good example of this. I liked his audition and he is good, but compared to the other singers coming up, he definitely falls short.
36. Annie Jones - Another good example of what the Pit of Singers is. Just a good ol' singer.
35. Ashley Marina - I liked her audition if we forget all the dumb build up and Simon cutting songs. Her original song is pretty good in my opinion.
34. Shevon Nieto - Memorable and good enough singer.
33. Archie Williams - Big oof to this guy right now. I wasn't very fond of his audition at first, but I grew to like it. Then the whole incident with Lovely Peaches happened which I'm sure most of you guys heard about, and now I REALLY don't know how I feel about him. Personally I think this was a stunt by Lovely as she has a history of doing scams like this, and we can argue about this all day, but no matter what I'm putting him at 33.
32. Double Dragon - It took me a while to really appreciate how epic Double Dragon's audition was, like these girls have f*cking PIPES man!
31. Roberta Battaglia - This is probably the most deserving golden buzzer pick, just not my favorite golden buzzer.
Okay end of B tier, that was all fun and games but now the A tier begins and we're still in the pit of singers, are you kidding me? A tier is where the real good acts start to shine and my opinions get even less good so let's just get into it.
30. Broken Roots - Sure their audition was kinda just the same thing over and over, but it was a great thing so I can't complain.
29. Sheldon Riley - I was gonna put some edgy "This act speaks to me" kinda joke here but I couldn't make it good so yeah. Sheldon's just a really good singer. He caps off the Pit of Singers, but we still have more acts to cover so let's keep going with the list.
28. BAD Salsa - Honestly who doesn't like them?
27. Winston Fuemayor - We have very limited magic this season which makes Winston all the more appealing. He's the one magician I really like and can see going far. Also I just like the name Winston for some reason.
26. Alan Silva - I really like Alan's audition and I don't have much to say about it.
25. Shakir and Rihan - While BAD Salsa is definitely a better dance duo, Shakir and Rihan are just so damn charming that I had to put them above BAD Salsa! This act just was so sweet and warm and the moves are great and it was just great overall!
24. Noah Epps - Best solo dancer this season, period.
23. John Hastings - Funny comedian man makes good act ya dingus.
22. Alex Hooper - Honestly he deserved a second chance on Agt. His jokes were actually funny and the judges just didn't realize how good he actually was. Glad they can see more to what he's about.
21. Kenadi Dodds - This is sort of a mini singers pit where there is only 4 and these are the really good ones. Kenadi's audition was fantastic and her original song was just perfect in my opinion.
20. Christina Rae - Just because I said Roberta was the most deserving Golden Buzzer doesn't mean she was the only deserving GB. Christina definitely earned her GB. She's a really strong singer and an overall likable act.
19. Shaquira McGrath - I'm not sure if you noticed already but I have a weird soft spot for country. I don't listen to it but whenever I hear it, I have a good time. Shaquira is a prime example of this. Her audition was fun and he voice is spectacular. But like I said, this is a mini singer's pit of 4, and the fourth is...
18. Olox - ...the novelty singer, of course it is! Olox is just a fun act, and I found myself enjoying them more than any of the other singers so far! They're original and interesting and so much more! We do have 1 singer left on this list however, and we're getting to that guy later, but for now, enjoy the spotlight Olox.
17. W.A.F.F.L.E. Crew - I bet you guys we're waiting for them to show up, huh? W.A.F.F.L.E Crew might not be the best GB on any sort of level, but in an odd sense of ways, they ended up being my favorite. This is a loose reasoning held together by ribbon and string, but it hopefully justifies why W.A.F.F.L.E Crew is so high: You see, imagine if dancers on TikTok didn't do what they did for popularity, clout, or just to look cool, they did it because they had a genuine passion for dance and wanted to build a career off of it. And yeah, that's kind of what W.A.F.F.L.E Crew is. They dance, they have tricks, but they have reasons to other than just to dance. I'm not saying that every dancer this season doesn't have passion, all the other dance groups and other dancers care about what they do. I'm saying that W.A.F.F.L.E Crew is able to make a statement. They are able to show this generation of "TikTokers" what they can do with dancing if they had enough passion and determination.
BUT they aren't the best dancers this season because screw me we have 16 acts left and 6 of them involve dancing! This is where we get into the tier of legends, the S tier. This is the biggest of the big leagues! The level of talent REALLY spikes up at this point and I mean it!
16. Usama Siddiquee - By all means one of the funniest comedians this season. His delivery, jokes, and storytelling are all on point! I can see why people consider him to be the best comedian this season, but we still have a few more of them to go.
15. Pork Chop Revue - Yeah to be honest this act is only so high because of personal preference. I'm just really interesting in having pigs perform on stage. This act was one that reminded me in a sense why I like this show; it's because of all the weird acts that can happen! Pork Chop Revue just felt like a heartfelt "We know why you're still here even though almost everyone in your life reminds you daily that this show is so amazingly terrible."
14. Crystal Powell - Best comedian this season (except for one other that we'll talk about later). You might not think that Crystal was funny, but comedy is subjective and yahdah yahdah you've heard this before. Crystal was a comedian that actually had me laughing and made me engaged in her storytelling! The chair prop might not seem like much but it does wonders for this act! I've heard some people write her off as a not very good comedian, but I'm here to disagree.
13. Brothers Gage - Hype as hell harmonica duo. You heard me, hype as hell harmonica duo. Please let them go far.
12. The Divas and Drummers of Compton - Just an amazing audition overall! You got tricks, moves, drums, just crazy stuff happening!
11. Wildcats - But there can only be one superior dance group! Wildcats are amazing and just barely missed out on the top ten, but they really do deserve being this high! What ruins this act is the GOD AWFUL editing they did for it! That isn't the act's fault by any means, but by god the editing on this act and even this season in general in TERRIBLE! Aside from that inconvenience, The Wildcats are an amazing act overall!
10. Malik DOPE - We are FINALLY in the top ten. In other words, my ideal finals for this season. We're still in S tier mind you, but we'll have a different tier in a while. Kicking off the top ten is Malik DOPE. This guy, is amazing! Malik is so much in this act. He is a performer when he is on stage. He has a show. He has, talent. There is so much to like about him. He is a fan favorite this season and I can't argue with that. Judging by past patterns in this show's history, Malik might get stuck at the quarter or semifinals, but god do I hope he doesn't.
9. Bone Breakers - To you guys, Bone Breakers might seem like an odd pick for number 9, and it is. Even to me, Bone Breakers seems like a odd pick. They do have originality and energy, but those alone don't seem to be very good reasons to have them high after the other 2 contortion acts this season were put so low. I might not have a very solid reason for putting Bone Breakers at number 9, but I'll get my opinions straight somehow.
8. Bello Sisters - I just love acts like these tbh. Bello Sisters are an all around fantastic act. My reasons for having them up here are similar to the reasons I like Messoudi Bros last season. They are exciting, they are thrilling, they are a display of strength. This group has a lot better reasons to be up here compared to Bone Breakers. But these two aren't the only group acts I have in the finals, I also have one more to show.
7. JD Marching Band - Remember how I kinda glossed over my reasons for liking Wildcats and Divas and Drummers of Compton? What if I did that again but with this act............JD Marching Band is fun as hell.
6. Muy Moi Show - This act is all around just so dang good. I love acts that have a good street performer vibe to them. Acts like Malik DOPE, W.A.F.F.L.E Crew, and this one! Muy Moi Show is entertaining on so many levels. The fact he had Terry be the one to smash the cement block also kinda adds something to this. Muy Moi Show is just a fun and enjoyable act overall!
"Wow u/ChefMatthews865, you sure have a lot of acts in S tier! Are you really going to finish off the remaining top 5 in this tier and lump them all together?" NOPE! We have now unlocked the Double S tier, named the SS Tier. These are my top 5 acts of this whole season! Let's just get right into it...
5. Wesley Williams - A lot of this season's best acts are it's danger acts, and Wesley is no exception! This is the one danger act this season that actually had me thinking is could go insanely wrong, but he pulled this off like it was nothing! Wesley's audition was so incredible and jaw dropping and endearing, and basically everything I could ask for from a danger act. This is what the best danger acts are; no crazy dramatic explanation or stupid overproduction, just the performers and the true risk of death.
4. Nolan Neal - Of course I'm going to have at least one singer in my own ideal finals and it just had to be Nolan. He is by far my favorite singer this season. I've already gone over my bias towards country singers, and yeah I guess Nolan isn't a perfect fit, but I just love his voice and original song. The song he sang was one that actually hit me, like holy heck it was amazing! I'm trying to stretch out what I have to say about my finalists, but really, they're just amazing acts and that's all I really have to say about them. Funny how I had so much about W.A.F.F.L.E Crew but not as much for these finalists. Granted, W.A.F.F.L.E Crew took more reasoning to go through as to why they were so high so that's part of it and WAIT A MOMENT I'm only typing this part so that you guys think I have more to say about Nolan! But no, I just think he's a really damn good singer.
3. Demented Brothers - Ladies, gentlemen, distinguished guests, it is with full enthusiasm that I tell you that Demented Brothers, an act that probably won't even show up to judge cuts and was treated as a joke audition, cracked the top 3! Demented Brothers are the funniest comedians this season has! They made me laugh so hard when I first saw them and they still made me chuckle now! You might think to yourself that "well they can't have a vegas show if they win that couldn't work!" but when you think about it, their act is actually similar to ones like Tape Face or The Blue Man Group, two already Vegas shows! All in all, Demented Brothers are just a funny, ridiculous, and just goofy act that I had to put in the top 3!
2. Vincent Marcus - Each season when I pick my favorite act, my second favorite always feels like the second in command of some sort. In season 13 it was Samuel J Conroe and in 14 it was Messoudi Brothers. This season's "second in command" is Vincent Marcus, and with a title sounding like that, you'd think I'd have a very good reason for it, right? Well this time around, let me tell you that I really don't. My main reason for liking Vincent so much is honestly just my bias towards impressionists. I Think they're really cool on how they can imitate someone's voice or a certain character's voice, and they're probably my favorite act type on all Got Talent shows. Vincent is really no exception. Sure I might not know exactly all the rappers her impersonated, but for the ones I did know, this audition was amazing! I hope the best for Vincent in this competition.
Well we have one spot left. Some of you may have been keeping track of who I haven't said yet and already know who he is. This act became my favorite the moment I say his whole audition, and with my preferences of certain acts and the criteria I set for this list, he's a perfect number 1.
NUMBER 1. Brett Loudermilk - And yes saying "NUMBER" in all caps was necessary since I can't type "1. " without starting a list. But anyways, Brett Loudermilk is my (current) favorite act in Season 15 of America's got Talent. When you look at what I liked and disliked about certain acts, you can see why this act fits so perfectly. He shows his skills of being a performer, he's entertaining, he's funny, he's just an amazing act. I did also say that some of this season's best acts are danger acts, and he even fits that just fine! Heck, he swallowed 3 swords at once as a quick improv trick that he had never done before then! You might be thinking to yourself "He only got to show some of what you're saying because the judges kept messing with him!" and to that I say to you blind dimwitted baboon, "eh, yeah you have a point." I will admit, parts of what Brett showed to us came from the judges messing with him. And I could try to find some weird counter argument to this, but that'll just stretch out for way to long. So maybe if the Judges just went with what Brett had planned it wouldn't be my number one pick. However, we live in the timeline where the judges did mess with him, and it all worked out because he became my number 1 favorite act of Season 15.
Congratulations, you made it to the end! Or perhaps you just skipped ahead to see my top picks or just so you could comment on how your favorite is at the bottom, who the heck cares! This list was a pain at times to make, but at the end of the day, it was all very fun and well. I've seen so many different opinions about the acts of season 15, which goes to show how unexpected this season will be! That was the main issue with last season on how we all knew Kodi Lee was gonna win right after the first episode. But these varying opinions come at the cost of me basically guaranteeing that i'll get flamed in the comments for having Bonavega close to the bottom, or how 6 of the 10 finalists are solo male acts, or how W.A.F.F.L.E Crew is my highest rated GB, or how I somehow put Voices of our City Choir too high when it was at 48, or how that- you get the point I'm getting flamed no matter what. It's 1:35 am as I write this so I'm gonna go to sleep at let you guys fight in the comments. Peace out my doods.
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