dorchadas: (Warcraft Moonkin Moonfire)
Just got out of a three-hour meeting where they again mentioned that we need fewer meetings. Maybe they can form an exploratory committee that can meet and determine a meeting schedule where they hammer out a plan for having fewer meetings.  photo emot-psyduck.gif

I mean, some of the supervisors near me were playing Candy Crush on their phones. These are not vital meetings here.

I've been working on a Pathfinder adaptation of Warcraft, sourced partially from the old World of Warcraft RPG and partially from my eternal desire to tinker with systems. I already added two ability scores to the classic Strength-Dex-Con-Int-Wis-Cha lineup (one for Perception, and splitting Dexterity into full-body agility and fine manipulation) and am writing out all the spells myself rather than using the classic magic missile and cure light wounds. Now I'm working on the druid, and I'm trying to do it without any moon or sun spells. Moonfire is probably the iconic druid ability--it's what the moonkin is casting in the icon I used for this post--but in Warcraft III druids didn't have any of that. They summoned plants, roared loudly, and turned into animals.

The ones with the moon-themed spells were, of course, the priestesses of the moon. WoW brought in shadow priests and didn't want too many race-specific classes--and I don't blame them, it was a balancing nightmare for years until they finally wiped out almost all the edge-case buffs and special racial spells--so they didn't make night elf priests moon-themed, but I can ignore that for these purposes. Druids get to grow thorns and summon roots and spores and control the weather, and priestesses call down the light of the moons.

Moonfires will still be spammed, but in a more thematic way.  photo _groove___revamp__by_autumnowl.gif

I took that Potter quiz that's all around social media now and got Slytherin, again. I always considered myself as a Ravenclaw until I starting taking those quizzes and they just came back Slytherin, Slytherin, Slytherin, Slytherin... Well, green and black are my favorite colors, and sometimes I do know what's best for you.  photo emot-colbert.gif

And I almost forgot, but I found an article on USGamer about a fan-made Final Fantasy XV cookbook. I showed it to [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd and now she's fired up about trying to make some of the recipes, so maybe when we draw Darker than Black to a close, we'll have a new cooking project to match it and 50 Weeks, 50 Curries.
Maybe I should actually play Final Fantasy XV first, though...  photo 65599addbaf4d227.gif
dorchadas: (Great Old Ones)
​​Dramatis Personae
  • Luc Durand, French Professor of Linguistics
  • Radovan Venclovic, Romani ex-soldier
  • Rosaline St. Clair, American Antiquities Dealer
  • Valentina Durnovo, Russian Countess/Gentlewoman
  • Yan Nikolaev, Bulgarian police inspector

After taking the weapons distributed by Major Kristova's associates, the inspectors sat and waited until dawn. The professor sat by himself, casting surreptitious glances at the major's associates and wondering if they could be trusted. The countess offered up a brief prayer in memory of Jazmina, thinking of all the people she had lost. Radovan cleaned the shotgun he had taken, checked his ammunition, and otherwise fell back into his soldier training. Rosaline stared off into space, almost in shock.

Near dawn, they all piled into a truck and drove southeast of Sofia, to a set of caves near a smaller village. The entrance had been concealed and behind was an obvious emplacement for an ambush, with barbed wire and sandbags set up in front of a machine gun emplacement. The actual machine gun was lying yards away, smashed to uselessness against a rock wall. There were several trucks parked nearby but all of them had ruptured fuel tanks and were undriveable. The major surveyed the carnage, hoisted his rifle, and shared a grim expression with his men. There would be no prisoners.

The cave was completely dark, with a slick floor and unsteady footing. Further in were cave paintings, a bison and hunters frozen in time. The passages looped in on themselves as the group descended further and further into the earth, and finally they heard the sound of boiling water and the faint stench of decay. Through a jagged arch of rocks was a giant chamber, full of echoes, and liberally strewn with bodies with a strange pyramid in the center. As the police fanned out and secured the room, the investigators moved in an examined the scene. The bodies had been torn apart, still clutching weapons that had proved useless against what they had faced. Radovan examined the bodies and found that there was much less blood than there should be. He looked closer and and realized that they were already starting to rot, and then realized that only parts were staring to rot. Parts which had been attached to living bodies by unnatural means.

As Radovan reeled back, the countess moved to see what was wrong and, as she crossed the room, she saw her own eye staring at her from a dead man's eye socket.

The major followed a trail of blood toward a crevice leading upward, with the sky visible through the other side. It was far too narrow for a human to make it through, and he abandoned any attempt to follow the trail. As the group approached the pyramid, they realized that it was made of skulls. Fifteen feet high, growing more and more fleshy as it rose. The top was flat, possibly intended to be used as a platform, and the countess mused that the head may be here. Radovan tried to climb and backed off in disgust when one of the skulls fell on him, and Rosaline suffered a similar fate. Yan asked what they were doing, and when the professor explained he asked for a boost and easily climbed the pyramid of skulls. It was strangely stable, and from the top he could a shrine on top with a pillow, bearing the indentation of a heavy object but otherwise empty. Yan called down that there was nothing there except the shrine, and then climbed down.

Following another trail of blood that led behind the pyramid, the group entered a narrow passage and found a dead cultist who had been torn to sheds. Behind him was a small opening, two feet in diameter, that descended down into the depths of the earth. Rosaline shined a light down but couldn't see anything, and Radovan dropped a rock. When the sound came back, Rosaline reached a hand in, twisting her arm around the passage's turns, and felt two garlic cloves and something smooth, with eye sockets. She lost her footing and her check against the rock, but reached further and further and pulled out the Head of the Sedefkar Simulacrum.

As they existed the small passage, they noticed that most of the bodies on the ground had gone missing.

Radovan stared, seemingly in shock, but the group noticed that the other policemen were still there and had seemingly missed the bodies. One of the police shouted something, and the group noticed movement in the darkness, something darting around in the shadows. Climbing the walls and crawling along the ceiling, and a Yan called out to the major that they needed to leave immediately. A hundred feet from the exit, things came charging out of the shadows. Long-clawed, red-eyed, sharp-toothed, muzzled gray-skinned monsters, and the group prepared for battle.

Shots range out as the investigators fired at the rushing group of monsters. The major made the first kill, blasting one with its shotgun and sending it falling apart in a spray of accelerated decay, but then the monsters were on them. One of them hit Yan, knocking him to the ground, but Yan brought his pistol up and blew it apart. Another clawed Radovan and tried to seize him, reaching around Radovan's attempt to push it off and sunk its fangs into Radovan's neck...and then it crumbled as the major shot it in the head. Rosaline crushed a clove of her garlic and the creature attacking her backed off, hissing. As one of the monsters approached the professor, he drew forth the Mims Sahis, slashed the vampire, and cut it in half.

As the countess backed away from the creature attacking her, the major shouted at them to run and ordered Yan to follow them. Rosaline threw another clove to the major and the investigators moved toward the cave entrance, avoiding the creatures who reached for them, and fled through the passage toward the surface and into the sunlight. The monsters' footsteps followed them through the tunnels, but as they left the tunnel their flesh seared in the sunlight and they fled howling into the caves. The major, having followed them, punched the wall in fury and stalked to his truck. He said he had lost good men and there would be vengeance, and pulled out dynamite and passed it out to the investigators. They laid it down, triggered it, and an explosion sealed the entrance to the horrible caves where the Butchers had their temple.

Rosaline applied first aid to Radovan's wounds as the professor carefully examined the wound's reaction to sunlight. It seemed benign, and Radovan claimed that no blood was drawn, but the professor watched him all the way back to Sofia. There, the major and Yan had a private discussion and then Yan said that he would travel with them to accompany them on their trip. Yan grabbed his equipment and they all returned to the investigators hotel, where they had an almost supernatural compulsion to reassemble the Sedefkar Simulacrum.


Each investigator saw something of themselves in it, and they spent some time gazing at it. Yan asked them their plan, and the investigators explained the Shunned Mosque, the Brotherhood of the Skin, and the need to destroy it. The professor explained about Le Comte and the expectation that he would be coming for them, soon, and the investigators split up to prepare. The countess bought garlic, Yan bought wood to be whittled into stakes and "acquired" some holy water from a local church, and the professor picked up the Arabic translation materials he had had forwarded to Sofia. The professor wrote letters to his sons and daughter, and the countess bought a fashionable eyepatch. Then, they boarded the train for their last night on the Orient Express.

The investigators were exhausted, but they knew they were in danger. The professor suggested they crush garlic and apply it to the seams of the outdoor windows. Yan suggested that they jam the doors in their rooms that led to other rooms, and the countess suggested that they set a watch. After an uneasy dinner, they returned to their rooms and fell asleep, and in the night, there was a knock on the countess's door. Her questions as to the identity of the person were answered only with more knocks. The noise alerted Yan and Radovan, and Yan peeks out into the hall and saw a conductor. The conductor seemed to be sleepwalking, but they raised a shotgun, slowly, and fired. The sound raised screams and and shouts, and as the conductor raised his shotgun, Yan charged. The conductor moved backward just in time to be hit by Rosaline and the countess opening the door to their room.

As conductors came running and shouted at Yan about whether to arrest the conductor, the conductor who had the gun protested his ignorance and eventually was led away. After some brief argument about what to do, the investigators drifted into uneasy sleep. After about an hour, the professor heard a whispered voice demanding that he return the "skin." The professor said nothing, retrieving some garlic, and knocked on the door to the women's room. As the voice ranted, Rosaline knocked and the professor opened the door, shushing her. Eventually Le Comte promised to kill one passenger per hour that the Simulacrum was not returned, and the voice fell silent.

Waking the others up, the professor explained the situation. The investigators decided that they would have to track down Le Comte and destroy him, and so they girded for battle and proceeded to the Fourgon, where they assumed that Le Comte must have some coffin that protects him from the sun. As they walked down the corridor, they heard a roaring sound, and coming around the corner they saw a tiger that sprang on Yan, biting him! As the tiger's fangs sank into his flesh, Yan drove his stake into the tiger, but it didn't seem to have any effect. Rosaline crushed some garlic and hurled it at the tiger, and it recoiled and its body rippled and twisted into the form of a man. A horrific mockery of the human form, long arms and covered in scars, with a muzzle-like face, rotted nose, and hideous fangs. The countess threw holy water to no effect, Le Comte stared at Radovan but Radovan fired his shotgun, blowing a hole into Le Comte. Then the professor pulled out the Lover's Heart. The red light of hatred seared the ancient monster's face, and its body fell apart into mist as it fled.

As they entered the salon car, they were questioned by a conductor, but Yan managed to bluster enough to ward him off. To assuage further suspicious, Rosaline, Yan, and Radovan briefly went back to their room, but the professor and the countess stayed for a drink. As they drank, they heard from another passenger than one of the passengers had died.

The others returned and the professor told the conductor that he needed to retrieve something from this luggage and the conductor, who seemed unsteady on his feet, shuffled aside. They entered the Fourgon and began to search, frantically looking for a coffin or something large enough for one. They found an unregistered crate, clearly large enough to contain a body. Radovan and Yan pried it open and found a coffin, padlocked shut, and the investigators forced it open. The coffin cracked open, revealing a layer of blood-soaked earth and...Le Comte, who opened his eyes and attacked.

Yan hurled garlic and Rosaline tried to stake the vampire, who clawed her across they face, dropping her with hideous wounds. The vampire leaped up and stared at Yan to no effect, and Radovan grabbed Yan's carbine and fired, blasting a hole in the vampire. The countess quickly bandaged Rosaline as the professor pulled out the Lover's Heart and, in Latin, intoned, "Tullius Corvus, go now to thy reward!" The red beam illuminated the vampire, spreading like a bloodstain across his body, and the shock of hearing his name was the last thing he knew as his body exploded into dust and the ancient monster was finally laid to rest.

In the chaos of the passenger death, the investigators were able to scatter the blood-soaked earth and destroy the coffin. They told the conductors that there had been an anarchist bomb in the unregistered coffin, and surprisingly their story was accepted. They finally went to sleep, knowing that one threat had been dealt with, but they were traveling straight into the maw of danger.
Annals of the Fallen
  1. Gianni Abbadelli, Italian Vatican Parapsychologist, arm torn off by čudovište in Vinkovci, February 8th, 1923.
  2. Demir Sadik, Turkish Revolutionary/Field Medic, devoured by the living lair of the Baba Yaga in the forests outside Orašac, February 13th, 1923.
  3. Jazmina Moric, Croat Linguist, killed by a thrown grenade during a battle with the Butchers at Sofiiski Universet, February 15th, 1923.
Crawl 'til dawn
On my hands and knees
God damn these vampires
For what they've done to me


I definitely thought we were going to lose Rosaline this session, but the countess pulled a clutch first aid roll at the last moment! And it's a good thing that none of us approached the windows. There's a lot of terrible things the vampire can do from the safety of outside the train.

Le Comte is finally dead (through the professor doesn't entirely think so, and he's followed us across Europe this far so I don't think it's entirely unreasonable to be suspicious). Now we just have the Brotherhood left to deal with. Just.
dorchadas: (JCDenton)
​Before I begin, I have a disclaimer: [personal profile] theome bought this game for me for the purposes of he thought I would like it. And so it is with a heavy heart that I say that I...don't.

I had such high hopes! I put Read Only Memories on my Steam wishlist basically as soon as I heard about it. A new adventure game, with pixel art, in a cyberpunk setting with a robot as one of the major characters and made by the people behind GaymerX? That sounds amazing! And when I started it I was having a lot of fun, but as I played the annoyances started to pile up until an event near the end of the game that completely cut me off from caring about the story. Then it was just clicking through a lot of text boxes until the end so I could finish.


Symbolism.

Read more... )
dorchadas: (Kirby Spaceship Happy)
It's farmer's market season, and we live pretty close to a large farmer's market. [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd had the idea to start going there every Wednesday and make dinner using fresh ingredients from the market, since right now she's working the summer school shift and so gets done with work just after noon, and yesterday was the first dinner she made. And it was delicious.

Food pictures )

Everything tasted amazing, and it wasn't particularly expensive either! Less expensive than going out to dinner, which only makes sense since we had to cook and clean it up. This was a trial run to see if we wanted to make it a Wednesday tradition, and it came off splendidly. And tasty.  photo Emot-happycat.gif
dorchadas: (Blue Rose)
Last weekend [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd and I took a vacation, sort of! We went out to Portland for [twitter.com profile] faylynne and [twitter.com profile] ntcomplete's wedding, and unlike the last time we were there in 2015, the weather cooperated. For Portland, anyway. It was cool and cloudy--just the way I liked it--and being next to the Willamette meant that sometimes there were passing boaters, though at least they cut the motor when they noticed that there was a ceremony happening. But everything else was lovely. I especially liked the sling that the maid of honor, [twitter.com profile] faylynne's eldest sister, had rigged up to allow her new baby to participate in the ceremony.


I also loved how most of the wedding party entered to the main hobbit theme from The Fellowship of the Ring, while the bride and groom entered to an instrumental cover of the Legend of Zelda fairy fountain theme.Link smilie photo lhappy.gif

The ceremony was extremely short and to the point. After a brief opening, the couple gave their vows--almost inaudible to us sitting in the back, but from what I could tell a variation on the traditional ones--and then exchanged rings, soldiering through [twitter.com profile] ntcomplete dropping them when the best man handed them to him and [twitter.com profile] faylynne initially trying to put the ring on his right hand. Then they kissed, the ceremony was over, and the guests all went back to the hall for drinks and snacks before the reception. I drank red wine and gin, [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd drank white wine and cider, and our friend [facebook.com profile] aaron.hosek does not drink, but we were all united in our love for the snacks. Caprese skewers and grilled cheese shooters, with a tiny bit of grilled-cheese sandwich stuck in the top of an ounce or so of tomato-basil soup in a shotglass. It was delicious and I'm amazed that I haven't seen it anywhere else.

Inside, we took our seat at the labeled tables, each themed after a specific fantasy setting. The three of us were seated at the Tortall table, which immediately made [facebook.com profile] aaron.hosek text his girlfriend. She was unable to attend due to a family emergency, but despite not really being geeky at all, she's read the Song of the Lioness books and would have instantly recognized the table title.

Then was a buffet dinner and dancing. I was initially a bit worried that no dinner preference had been specified, but [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd correctly pointed out that it was almost certainly a buffet. And it was, with nothing that we can't eat. The salmon and asparagus were especially tasty.  photo wheeeeee_emote_by_seiorai.gif

We did not dance, at least for my part because none of the songs being played are the kind I like to dance to, but the dance floor wasn't particularly well attended. There were a lot of people chatting and eating, and then speeches and cake.


I don't like most cakes, but they did look wonderful. And they were made by the maid of honor. I heard a couple people asking [twitter.com profile] faylynne if her sister was a chef, and her reply was that she took a pastry class one summer.

As we left, we got a bit of a chance to chat with both of them. [twitter.com profile] ntcomplete tried to sell [facebook.com profile] aaron.hosek on attending PAX and mostly succeeded and both of them told us about their honeymoon in Japan and how they wanted us all to go back in 2020 when the new Ghibli Theme Park will be opened. I mentioned that was also when the Nintendo Theme Park would be open and that's in Ōsaka, far away from the Tokyo crowds. [facebook.com profile] aaron.hosek suggested making the Japan trip a biannual thing and you know, that sounds like a great idea.  photo Emot-chocobo.gif

[twitter.com profile] faylynne also mentioned that she had been practicing Japanese on DuoLingo and how shocked she was when the writing suddenly changed and she realized she had to learn another syllabary. All I could do was nod, half sagely, half sympathetically. I've been there.

She wants to get to conversational Japanese in time for 2020. I wish her good luck. She will need it.  photo japan001.gif

Other things I did in Portland!:
  • Stayed with my sister, who kindly put us up in her apartment's spare room!
  • Went to House of Ramen, which featured build-your-own ramen so [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd and I could have porkless ramen. We got a small size bowl, also known as "the size ramen is served in Japan." My sister and her boyfriend split a regular.
  • Went to the farmer's market and bought a bunch of cheese and smoked salmon. They also had delicious macaroon cookies but we were too full to eat them.
  • Bought some Edo Jidai-era lacquerware at the going-out-of-business sale at Shogun's Gallery.
  • Went to Moonstruck chocolate, which I obliquely wrote about here.
It was a lovely way to spend a weekend.
dorchadas: (Darker than Black)
This weekend [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd and I are in Portland for a wedding! I'm sure I'll be writing all about that tomorrow when I have more time to write, but at the moment we're sitting in my sister's apartment, where she kindly offered to put us up for the weekend, and eating chocolate. We walked downtown yesterday to one of Portland's farmers' markets, and after buying smoked salmon and a load of spiced cheese curds, my sister said that she and her boyfriend were going to go to Moonstruck Chocolate for dessert, so we tagged along. [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd jokingly said that we should do a Darker than Black about the truffles we are, but then I noticed they had chocolate bars.
Read more... )
dorchadas: (JCDenton)
Came in to work an hour and a half early today, since I fortunately have a flexible schedule if necessary. [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd and I are flying out to Portland tonight for [twitter.com profile] faylynne and [twitter.com profile] ntcomplete's wedding on the least annoying flight I could find, which still doesn't get us into Portland until almost eleven. Fortunately, my sister lives in Portland and has generously offered to pick us up from the airport and house us for the duration of our stay.

Of course, my stomach is tying itself in knots because that's always what happens with travel. What if the rain gets worse, what if we can't get to the airport on time, what if we can't fit everything in the bag. What if what if what if.  photo _panic__by_de_mote.gif At least we have an external battery, tablets, and a Switch, so we'll have plenty to do. We can be that annoying young hipster couple playing the Switch on a plane.

At least the problems mentioned in my last post were fixed. Without warning, of course--I just came in on Wednesday and it worked fine, and then on Thursday around lunch I got an email asking if it worked. Great response time, everyone. A+. Would use again because I don't have any other choice.

Alright, back to work.
dorchadas: (Office Space)
So on Friday last week, I arrived at work, booted up our database program, got to work, and immediately received a "number precision too large" error. So I fired off an email to support and waited. I heard nothing, but I was only there for a half-day since it was [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd and my ten year wedding anniversary. I figured they'd work on it and I'd come back on Monday and it'd be fixed.

Narrator voice: It was not fixed.  photo shaking_fist_emoticon.gif

It is now Tuesday, and I've gotten two emails, one of which asked me if it worked now (it did not), and the other saying they had escalated the problem up the ladder. It still does not work. This is pretty much confirming my preconceptions about corporate projects, where the new database was six months late, has a terrible UI, is less efficient than the 19-year-old internal software it replaced...and currently doesn't work. Good job. Congratulations all around.

And of course, all the people who originally pushed this project have left the organization. They made their dramatic mark, but deal with the aftermath? Pfft.

We'll see how long our new fancy database software doesn't work. Will it be down for a week? Tune in later and find out!
dorchadas: (Toon Link)
I'm not sure I had even heard of Oracle of Seasons--in Japanese, fushigi no kinomi -daichi no shō-, "The Mysterious Seed -Land Chapter-"--before I set out on my Zelda chronogaming quest. It was twinned together with Oracle of Ages and released in 2001, the height of my anti-console snobbery. My loss. But the march of time and technological progress means I can go back to those games that I missed and play them now, when I'll appreciate them. Truly, we live in the the golden age of gaming.

Oracle of Seasons is another weird portable entry, starting a trend that began with Link's Awakening and continuing to this day. The mainline console entries, with the exception of Majora's Mask, are the traditional Zelda games where Link fights Ganon and rescues the Princess, and the handheld games are the ones where he talks to a psychedelic winged whale, rides trains, and plumbs the depths of the same dungeon a dozen times. Or here, uses the progression of the seasons to save a land where the seasons have been thrown into disorder.


Link's dancing was already disordered.

Read more... )
dorchadas: (Great Old Ones)
​​Dramatis Personae
  • Jazmina Moric, Croat Linguist
  • Luc Durand, French Professor of Linguistics
  • Radovan Venclovic, Romani ex-soldier
  • Rosaline St. Clair, American Antiquities Dealer
  • Valentina Durnovo, Russian Countess/Gentlewoman
​It was a ten hour train ride to Sofia, and the party used the time to catch up Rosaline on what had happened in the forest and explain what they were up against to Radovan. To their relief, Radovan accepted their story of secret cults, lands of dream, and vampires without much question, and when the story was done, the countess proposed a toast "to those who are no longer with us." The party drank gladly, though with some tears in Jazmina's eyes as she thought of Demir.

As they lowered their glasses, Jazmina spotted her father's friend Radko Jordanov, sitting alone at the far end of the dining car and taking notes on some documents spread on the table in front of him. Led by Jazmina, the party approached, noticing over his shoulder the words "Sedefkar" and "Simulare," as well as "Dzhudzheta" underlined several times. Jazmina greeted him and he responded warmly, astonishment that they were on the same train. The party asked him his business, and he said that he was on the way to Sofia to catalogue Dr. Moric's possessions and was studying a student's old paper that had some remarkable similarities. The student Ivo Pinev found a statue head that he claimed he bought from a farmer and spun a fantastical tale of a prehuman race, which he named after the Dzhudzheta of Slavic myth. His paper was full of gross inaccuracies and he was laughed out of academia, but Dr. Jordanov added that he was surprised to see that the strange words like "Sedefkar" that he thought were simply fabrications were reflected in the papers from Mr. Moric's cache.

As he spoke, Jazmina and the countess noticed that one of the waiters had stopped doing serving and was blatantly listening in to Dr. Jordanov's conversation and taking notes in his serving pad, ignoring all of the summons from the diners. When he noticed the party's attention, he turned and began moving toward the far end of the car. When the maître d' asked him why he was leaving, the waiter drew a knife and slashed at him!

As the panic started in the car, Radovan jumped up and began leaping from table to table in pursuit, while Jazmina tried to force her way through the crowd. Radovan was notably more successful, forcing open the door at the far end and struggling with the assailant as one of the conductors tried to dissuade Jazmina pursuit. She was not delayed long, however, and arrived as the waiter was trying to leap off the train and Radovan was grabbing at the briefcase the waiter carried. As he grabbed at the satchel, the strap broke and it went tumbling off the train. Soon after, the pair were able to restrain the waiter, after which the conductor arrived with several men to haul him away.

Radovan followed his nose and found the corpse of a young man, stripped to his underclothes and missing his right hand.

The party reconvened and discussed the situation. They couldn't think of of a reason why the hand would missing, and Jazmina, the professor, and Rosaline eventually decided to go check on the man himself. When they arrived, the guards told them in confidence that the waiter had killed himself while he was in the cell. Jazmina spun a tale of a ring that the waiter had snatched from her, which got the professor entrance to the cell. The waiter had killed himself by stabbing himself in the eye, and after a moment controlling his stomach, the professor inspected the body. The waiter had both hands, no rings, no tattoos, and nothing suspicious about him. His search fruitless, the professor exited the cell and they all returned to their rooms, where the awaited their arrival in Sofia.

In Sofia they were met by a grizzled police inspector, Major Kristova, who took them to the station and questioned them about the events on the train. He seemed to accept even the strangest of their stories about cults, and when Rosaline asked if these events were common, he replied in the affirmative. He seemed like he wanted to say more, and at the countess's urging he revealed that there was a group of slavers operating in Sofia called the Butchers, who kidnapped people and occasionally took body parts as trophies. He urged them to be careful and report anything they saw, and led the group out to the street. As they left, the investigators noticed that the other policemen snickered at the inspector as they walked out.

Dr. Jordanov offered the use of his car to the group if they would drop him off and the investigators accepted. They took rooms at the Hotel de la Bulgarie, and while everyone else went to bed, the professor and the countess ordered up wine and cheese and had a quick meal before retiring.

In the middle of the night, Radovan and the professor were awoken by scuttling in the middle of the night and awoke to find disembodied hands clambering toward them! They began to scuffle, dodging the hands' attacks. Radovan grabbed his hand and hurled it out the window, and the professor tried to hurl blankets over it but failed.

In the other room, the countess was awoken by cold fingers as the hand plucked out her eye!  photo emot-gonk.gif

Rosaline and Jazmina were also under attack, but after the hands strangled them for a moment, they let go and began to run toward the heating vents. Most of the party let their hands go, and the professor's attempts to capture his were unsuccessful.

As the countess screamed in agony, Rosaline ran over and treated the wound while the professor called the front desk and demanded a doctor. Radovan closed the heating vents and searched the room before the doctor arrived and began to treat the countess. The professor said that he and awoken to figures in the room, but they fled as soon as they noticed their targets were awake. The doctor replied that this fit with the times, gave the countess some laudanum, and said the police had been called. The police took a statement, looked around, and then left, and the group drifted into an uneasy sleep.

As she slept her opium dream, the countess had visions of running through back alleys and climbing into a black car, leaving the city and speeding off into the country.

In the morning, Major Kristova was waiting for them in the lobby. The major did not buy their story of disembodied hands, and left in disgust after telling the investigators not to call him again. As they returned to their rooms, the countess told them about her visions and had another, of the car driving through the mountains, which had a very distinctive outline.

About this time, Rosaline, the countess, and the professor remembered what had happened to the priest whose eye was taken during the Fourth Crusade.

As they were leaving, the hotel staff took the professor aside and told the professor that an eye was found in the alley behind the hotel, but it was green and her eyes were brown. The professor thanked them and the group continued on to Dr. Jordanov's house, where after an awkward explanation and breakfast, he wrote down the title of the monograph and the party split up to search. Rosaline eventually found it in the library.

As the countess was searching, she had another vision, a stronger one almost crystal-clear. A person walking through a cavern carved out of the living rock.

In the study again, Jazmina sat down with the manuscript and began to read it. It claimed that the idol was created by prehuman dwarves, ridicules the academic establishment, and says the idol was sent to Dr. Todor Mativ at Sofiiski Universet. At that name, Dr. Jordanov pales and says that Dr. Mativ had killed his wife and sons and was found wearing their skins. He rushed at the police and was shot down like a mad dog. Years later, his assistant killed herself by stabbing herself in the eye. Dr. Jordanov sat down and said that he was done with the investigation, but the countess managed to drag a promise out of him to contact the Sofiiski Universet and arrange and introduction with Professor Chedenko.

As the investigators were leaving, the countess had another vision, again in the same cave. On a huge overhang, images were carved of mammoths and men wearing antlered headdresses.

At Sofiiski Universet, the staff were supremely uninterested in the urgency of the party's plight, until a professor of English took pity and, in a roundabout way, asked for a bribe. The countess gave over the money and he led them to Professor Chedenko's office, Jazmina knocked, and the investigators entered. Professor Chedenko was slightly absent-minded and easily distracted, but when Jazmina mentioned the Dzhudzheta Idol, Chedenko opined that it was probably a fake, maybe plastic. Rosaline tried to impress the urgency of their mission onto him with Jazmina's help translating, and Chedenko offered to show them the idol. Up a stair and down a hall lined with armor, was a door, and through the door was chaos. A headless man, spurting blood, and two seriously beaten men lay in the scattered parts of the workroom. Most of the investigators were okay, but for the professor this confirmed that Le Comte truly was after them, and he fled screaming.

The others saw men in dark clothes climbing out the window. One escaped, but the others turned at the opening of the doors and moved to attack. One of them had a shotgun, but his wild firing missed as Radovan charged in toward them. The other hurled a grenade. Jazmina tried to kick it back and Rosaline tried to throw it, while,the grenade man pulled a handgun and shot Radovan in the chest, dropping him. Then the grenade exploded.

Rosaline and Jazmina were seriously wounded and the countess, though she had run, was still shaken by the explosion. She stood up and treated Radovan and Rosaline, but her attempts to save Jazmina were unsuccessful, and Jazmina bled out on the floor of the Sofiiski Universet.  photo emot-ohdear.png

As Rosaline worked, the countess looked out the window and saw the men in black standing by a large truck with a covered back. It screamed out of the parking lot and right into another car that moved to block it, plowing through the car and sending its driver flying. This knocked off the tarp and revealed a maxim gun, which the assailants fired at all the other cars in the parking lot as they fled.

The countess applied first aid to the only one of the survivors in the room, who muttered "Men. Robes. Who wear shoulders not their own," before passing into a coma. She checked on Professor Chedenko, but found that he was dead, and as she stood up she had a vision of a group of men in black robes walking through a fanged maw carved from living stone.

The students and faculty of the university arrived and, after some panic and worry, doctors were called, and Major Kristova was there as well. He said that he would protect them from the rest of the police, taking them in as witnesses, and he warded off the rest of the police when they tried to question the investigators and took the group away.

He managed to arrange some time for the investigators in the library, and the countess asked about the mountains. The librarian recognized it as the Sredna Gora, a local mountain range. Rosaline and the professor did some general research into eyes and heads, finding a few fragments about the eyes being the windows to the soul and cave paintings being symbolic representations of the animals. Then they left the library, went into a truck, Major Kristova whispered a password and the truck drove around randomly to confuse pursuers until it arrived at an abandoned bakery, where, after an exchange of knocks and passwords, they were admitted. In safety, they shared stories with the Major, explaining the cults that chased them, and the major replied that he had been chasing the Butchers for three years and now, the location of their base was finally known. The major said they would need a plan, and then attack tonight. Then he offered the base as a place to rest.

As they rest. The countess had another vision of horrific mutilations performed by something not quite seen. Limbs ripped out with impossible force, screaming faces torn apart, before something rushed at her and vanished in an explosion of light. As the countess panicked sightlessly, her brain refusing to see anything at all, she realized that the pain and itching in her eye was gone. Perhaps she was safe?

As they were resting, the group received a call from an informant saying that they saw a truck passing near full of bullet holes. The major stood up and said that this was their chance, and after passing out weapons, they all left to take the fight to the cult.
Annals of the Fallen
  1. Gianni Abbadelli, Italian Vatican Parapsychologist, arm torn off by čudovište in Vinkovci, February 8th, 1923.
  2. Demir Sadik, Turkish Revolutionary/Field Medic, devoured by the living lair of the Baba Yaga in the forests outside Orašac, February 13th, 1923.
  3. Jazmina Moric, Croat Linguist, killed by a thrown grenade during a battle with the Butchers at Sofiiski Universet, February 15th, 1923.
The deaths are coming faster now.

I forgot about the eye! And those cultists in the library were much deadlier than most of the opposition we've faced this far. Shotguns and grenades? We're going to need to start carrying tommy guns like the most stereotypical of Call of Cthulhu protagonists. At least now we have a group of heavily-armed paranoid conspiracy theorists on our side. It's almost like we're playing Delta Green again!

When I failed the SAN check in the library, I drew from [livejournal.com profile] mutantur's deck of failed SAN rolls and got unshakeable belief, so the professor is now even more convinced than ever before that the hand of Le Comte is behind everything. And honestly, I don't see why that's not correct. Once you admit that there are vampires, well.

Ten years!

Jun. 9th, 2017 05:21 pm
dorchadas: (Link and Zelda sitting together)
And many more to go!

Today is [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd and my ten year wedding anniversary. Kawaii heart emoji photo heart_emoji_by_kawaiiprincess2-d51re77.gif As I posted on Facebook, to put that into perspective, I made sure to set my AIM away message to "AFK, getting married" on my wedding day.

Unlike most events, since ten years is a nice round number we actually bought presents for each other. Usually our celebrations consist of going out to dinner or lunch, and we did go out to lunch today at a pretty good restaurant, but here we made an exception and also bought gifts.

click for pictures )
It's been a great ten years and I think it only looks up from here!  photo heart.png
dorchadas: (Blue Rose)
Yesterday on Twitter, the Japanese Consulate in Chicago retweeted this link to a translation contest run by the Japanese Literature Publishing Project, and now I am troubled. It took me a long time to figure out, but translation is really what I want to do. Conveying knowledge between one language and another is like solving a puzzle where the reward is understanding. Some of my favorite times in Japan were when friends would visit and I'd interpret for them, and yeah, my Japanese is passable at best, but it's good enough that I can convey meaning. Just recently I was reading 電撃ピカチュウ to [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd as she lay on the couch with her head on my lap and realized that this is my best life.  photo wheeeeee_emote_by_seiorai.gif

But I don't know if entering the contest is a good idea right now. The deadline is July 31, with 36 pages to translate. That's not an insurmountable barrier--right now I'm reading 世界の中心で、愛を叫ぶ and I could easily do 36 pages of that in eight weeks--but reading that also gives me a good example of where my translation abilities are right now, which is "good but not great." I don't often make a mistake that inverts the meaning of what I'm reading, but it does happen. Entering this contest would take a lot of effort I think would best be saved for other things, like studying for the JLPT. That, I think I have a better chance with.

I'll remember this for next year, though. This is the third contest, and though the first was in 2012, the second was last year. Maybe they're on track.

My sister has a job interview in Chicago today so we put her up last night. She's an incredibly considerate houseguest--worked around my usual morning schedule and accepted the food we had on hand--and I don't get to see her very often, so it was pretty nice. She's looking for a job in academy after veterinary private practice turned out not to her liking. I advised her to take the job in Iowa and use it to save a ton of money, but she pointed out that it would require living in Iowa. Fair.  photo _s_by_stevanov.gif

My parents are coming into town tonight, but not until late, so after work [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd, my sister, and I will probably play Mario Kart. Couch gaming isn't something I get to do much lately, especially not with more people. It'll be great.
dorchadas: (Warlords of the Mushroom Kingdom)
Dramatis Personae:
  • Shining Star, mandragora sorcerer-priestess of Nyahré.
  • The Green Knight, mandragora briarwitch.
    • Drifting Snow, chuzan former farmer.
  • Bonnie, kong Auspicious Orator.
  • Amos Burnham, a human from Earth.
  • Elaphe, a chuzan junior member of the Black Rose.
Just before dawn, Amos decided that he should scout out the necromancers' camp and see what it was that they had to face. Without waking any of the others--the Green Knight was already awake--he crept out of the camp to the north to within sight of the enemy camp. There were three figures sleeping near the fire, one large, one medium-sized, and one small, but that was all he noticed before he realized that the sapling next to him was a pole, on top of which was a skull, which turned and glared balefully at him before opening its mouth and letting out a sustained, ear-piercing wail.

Amos leveled his musket and fired at the shapes and then ran. He wasn't even sure he hit anything in the darkness, but he did see that the walking dead were coming for him. He arrived back at camp and explained, and after trying to start a prairie fire and failing due to the sodden grass from all the rain, the party mounted up and rode south for a mile in the lightening sky until they were sure that they weren't being pursued. They debated going back to try again, but eventually decided that now that knew where the necromancers were headed, they would go back to Gyere and see if they could raise a mob.

The ride back to town was uneventful and they were let in with only minimal hassling from the militia. They rounded up the militia captain and went to the tea house Three Wheat Sheaves, where they found the Band of the Red Dove drinking and dicing within. So they decided to call the mercenaries over as well, and with Captain Crimson of the Band of the Red Dove, they sketched out a map of the local area and asked the militia captain if there was anything that the necromancer could be heading for, a graveyard or a place of power or something. The militia captain recalled, in broken Floral and then in Muskalan with Bonnie translating, that he had heard stories of a cursed cave to the west of Rockfort during his childhood and maybe that was their destination. Then the party drew up a contract with the Band of the Red Dove and rode out at the head of a company of mercenaries.  photo 58-2nsylaw.gif

There was some side discussion of getting mounts for the mercenaries to try to beat the necromancers to the cave, but it was eventually dismissed as unfeasible due to the cost of horses, the likelihood of actually finding thirty riding horses in a farming community, and the fact that oxen aren't suitable for riding.

The mercenaries force-marched, and Shining Star called up the witch-sight as she traveled, and by mid-afternoon she saw a grove in the distance with a shadow hanging over it like a cloud. Bonnie immediately drank spirit-flower tea when Shining Star mentioned the miasma, and she saw pairs of eyes watching them as they approached. The mercenaries sent out scouts, and when they reported back, the party drew up a plan.

The grove surrounded a cave mouth that reared out out of the ground in a tiny hill, with two skulls on posts in front of it. There were no walking dead or necromancers visible, and the party decided to move closer and take up positions in the surrounding woods and try to lure the necromancers out by activating the skull guardians. Elaphe would send his bob-omb familiar above the cave mouth and, when the necromancers appeared, it would drop on them and then they all would attack. The Green Knight gave a brief sermon to Drifting Snow and then summoned the power of the forest to armor him in bark. The bark split through his skin...but it was gnarled in strange ways, with odd purple moss growing on it. Drifting Snow stared, unsure if this was what was supposed to happen, as the mercenaries began their plan.

Two mercenaries charged forward into the sight of the skulls and, as they started to shriek, they tossed off small bombs that made loud noises and then ran back into the trees. As zombies started filtering up from the cave mouth, mercenary archers began firing at them...as did Amos and the Green Knight. The other members of the party waited as more of the walking dead appeared from the cave, as well as one ghul, which Amos and the Green Knight focused on until it ran forward and the mercenaries fell on it with swords.

Then, another figure walked up from the depths of the cave. Skeletal, with green balefire burning in its eyesockets and wearing black robes, it looked around the clearing, taking in the walking dead full of arrows and the shapes it could see in the trees, and shouted something back down the cave mouth.
Elaphe's player: "Are there any signs that this is a necromancer?"
Me: "Other than the obvious necromancy?"
At his signal, Elaphe's bob-omb ran over the edge of the cave mouth and exploded as it hit the ground, sending the walking dead flying in all directions. The necromancer was barely visible in the smoke, fleeing back down the cave mouth, as the mercenary heavy foot charged forward, tossing a few bob-ombs as they did, and began dismembering the remaining zombies to prevent them from acting.  photo emot-black101.gif Then, the party configured. The cave didn't seem harmed at all by the explosion and the opening had jagged edges that were uncomfortably reminiscent of teeth, so collapsing the entrance didn't seem like it would work. The Green Knight opined that it might be the corpse of some unholy beast that the necromancers were attempting to raise and they would have to go in after them, and that is ultimately the course they chose. One of the mercenaries pulled a crystal out of a pouch and squeezed it, producing a flickering orange-red light as bright as a bonfire, as the mercenaries and party together moved into the cave mouth.


I expected the party to ambush the necromancers, but I suppose that is what they tried! Maybe if Amos had done better on his Stealth roll.

The players were originally thinking of bringing along a bunch of the town militia, but once they realized the mercenaries were still there they immediately thought about hiring them. Trained warriors beats farmers with spears, especially when fighting the walking dead and necromancers. And thanks to some good tactical planning by Amos and outnumbering the walking dead (so far), they've done very well. Going into an evil cave? Well.

We stopped a little early because there wasn't time to run the final battle in the last twenty minutes we had, so exploring the cave will be next game.
dorchadas: (Darker than Black)
​I will warn you now, dear reader, that this is my most biased review yet. How could it not be? I've been eating See's marzipan dark chocolates for almost as long as I can remember. My grandparents always gave boxes to me and my father at birthdays and holidays, and then my father continued the tradition whenever he went west to visit them, and I'm sure that should I have children they will also be receiving boxes of See's from me on appropriate events.

I mostly hate #brands and I follow See's on Facebook, such is the depth of my love.
Read more... )
dorchadas: (Chiyoda)

This weekend is the date of two of my favorite festivals in Hiroshima--Tōkasan in Hiroshima City and Mibu no Hanadaue in Chiyoda (とうかさん and 壬生の花田植, respectively). There's video of Mibu no Hanadaue here

It's really making me miss Japan. We went to both festivals all three years we lived in Hiroshima, because while we sometimes had a hard time knowing that any particular event was occurring, Tōkasan was the talk of the town for months, and our students invited us to Mibu no Hanadaue the first year we lived there. And now that social media is so big in disseminating information, I follow a bunch of Facebook pages like 北広島ほっと情報 (Kitahiroshima Town Hot News Updates) or the Tōkasan page. That means I have a constant stream of updates on festivals I went to, festivals I knew about but never got the chance to attend, and festivals I've never heard of but really wish I had. Plus pictures, of course. Get Hiroshima, the gaijin-run local events news source, posted this picture of Mibu no Hanadaue.


Source.

Re: my subject line, today's weather in Chiyoda was sunny and clear, with a 0% chance of precipitation.  photo sparkle_emoji_by_kawaiiprincess2-d51re35.gif

Also, last night I installed Heroes of the Storm after my attempts to play an AI-enabled DotA Allstars in Warcraft III did not go well. It's the only map I've ever found that crashed WCIII, and some searching found that the map has problems with certain heroes' abilities. There's no way I'm playing DotA on Battle.net. Those days are done. I played DotA games for thousands of hours when I was a university student and have no desire to go back to the world of racist insults and people dropping the instance the other team scores first blood against them.

HotS seems to solve a lot of my problems with MOBA games. There's no items, so there's no need to memorize item combinations. There's no gold, so last-hitting isn't a thing. XP is team-wide, so jungling and people demanding solo mid don't exist. Also, it's free just like the original DotA Allstars was (WCIII was a sunk cost at that point), so there's no harm in trying it out. And you can play against AI so [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd might try it out with me and see if she likes it.

I don't know how long I'll stick with it, but I'm glad I tried it out. It's much more fun than I thought it would be.
dorchadas: (Do Not Want)
Came in this morning to an email from the vice president that there were changes afoot. Several people were being shuffled around, new opportunities, maintain and expand our place in the growing market of  photo blahblah.gif you know how these things go. I read it because it's good to know what's going on--those who have not swords can still die upon them--and near the end was a notice that I was being directed affected by being moved to a different team.

It's not a major change, since my new boss sits in the same room as my old boss, I've worked with them before on another projectm and I don't talk or interact with my boss that much anyway, but it's a little disconcerting to not have any announcement made to me. Not an email from my old boss, not an email from my new one, neither of them mentioning anything to me... And coupled with the note at the end of the vice president's mailing that more people were being turfed out, though with "dignity and respect," well. It's hard to maintain a level head.

I remember not long after I was hired, my then-boss mentioned that the department I worked in was a good one because there weren't a lot of major upheavals. And then six months later the division manager and assistant division manager were suddenly fired, and then the biannual layoffs began and will probably continue until morale improves. It's like the best take on those millennial articles:
Pundits: "Why aren't millennials buying diamonds or houses?"
Us: "Economic precarity makes any long term planning impossible."
Pundits: "It must be because they're lazy and buying too much brunch."
I think I just heard my now-old boss mention that they were surprised by the changes too, which is a great mark of effective leadership and direction. Emoji Kawaii frog photo croaking_frog_emoji_by_kaidahthedragon-dabw3kq.gif

I really wish I were better at Japanese so I could just turf all this out and do what I've discovered I really enjoy.

In-progress Addendum: My now-old boss came over to chat while I had this sitting open in the background. They weren't particularly impressed with how this was handled--they knew it was coming, but though it would be more direct rather than being stuffed in the bottom of a generic update email--but said they'd be meeting with my new boss to transition things over and work out how my annual review would work since we're on a new system now with different metrics. They also said they'd approve all of my pending time off.  photo kirbylaugh.gif So while I remain worried, I am no longer covered in a cloud of doom like I was when I started this post.

Maybe this is why I was stressed earlier? Displayed worry from the future?
dorchadas: (Warcraft Algalon)
I've been on edge almost all day, which doesn't make it easy to relax on a three-day weekend. I even went to get a manicure with [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd and while my nails are much more manageable--they were long enough that it was pretty annoying to type--all I could think of while I was there was how long it was taking. I didn't find it relaxing at all. And I meant to start playing ふしぎの木の実 (大地の章) (Oracle of Seasons) today and haven't even booted it up. Instead I finished reading Japan at War, which is admittedly an excellent book, and fiddled with music for hours.

I've been really nostalgic for Warcraft lately. Not World of Warcraft, necessarily. The time of my life when I played MMOs is over. But the Warcraft setting, around which there isn't any way to interact outside of WoW and Hearthstone now that Blizzard isn't putting out Warcraft RTSes. I downloaded and organized the entire Wrath of the Lich King soundtrack, all fourteen hours of it, and have original WoW and Burning Crusade waiting for me to sort through when I can find the time. I booted up Warcraft III and played for a while before I tore myself away. And I made that icon that's up there from one of the few screenshots of Algalon I could find that wasn't full of PC nameplates or raiders trying to murder him.

I originally thought of putting "The stars come to my aid" as the text, since I played a Balance Druid and wore the Starcaller title from the moment I got it until I stopped playing even as I accumulated titles like "The Insane" and "Battlemaster," but I thought the current version would be more broadly applicable.  photo 3327b7f6b45a33781e80dce4e4461510-d4ipx9c.gif

I'm all fired up over trying to make my perfect version of a WoW tabletop RPG game based on Pathfinder and using the Spheres of Power sourcebook to build spell lists for each caster class and Path of War for the martial classes, because I think it would work incredibly well even if it would be a ton of work. It'd be less work than actually balancing WoW is, though! And I need a new project now that Warlords of the Mushroom Kingdom is in tinkering mode and I have multiple other games prepped and ready for when I have more time.

Of course, that's what I need, right? More time.  photo shy.png

(On the other hand, an old woman at the nail salon told me that I had interesting pants and the proprietor said she was jealous of my hair, so some good things happened today!)
dorchadas: (Great Old Ones)
​​Dramatis Personae
  • Demir Sadik, Turkish Revolutionary/Field Medic
  • Jazmina Moric, Croat Linguist
  • Luc Durand, French Professor of Linguistics
  • Rosaline St. Clair, American Antiquities Dealer
  • Valentina Durnovo, Russian Countess/Gentlewoman
At the Filipovics' house, the dinner party began. As they sat down, Todor Necic mentioned that dinner was earlier than normal due to the ceremony, and when the professor asked what ceremony he meant, he said that tonight was an ancient Cigany fertility ceremony and that the investigators were welcome to come. The professor agreed that that sounded fascinating, and they all sat down to eat. The dinner was classic Eastern European fare, hearty and beet-centered, held in a room decorated with dozens of clay pots and knickknacks. The countess asks about the clay pots and Father Filipovic said that they were often dug up in the fields, dating from Roman times.

As she was looking, the countess noticed an old bone flute, almost ivory-colored, and asked Nedic if she could examine it. He handed it over, and she examined it, noticing the intricately-carved vines on it, but there was something that seemed odd. She couldn't place it, and neither could the professor, and after a time she handed it back.

As the dinner wound down, the professor asked about the old woman who lived in the forest. Nedic spoke of her with slightly caution due to an old woman who lives alone in a dark forest and hasn't been to the village for forty years. He said that she was just called Baba, "grandmother," and she lived alone and spoke to no one. The professor asked how long she had lived there, but Nedic said that he didn't know and had only spoken to get once.

After dinner, preparations for the ceremony began. While the people gathered, an old woman was seen arguing with the Cigany and stormed over to the countess, demanding through Jazmina's interpretation that the investigators refuse to attend the ceremony. The countess said that she would go pray, but that the professor should watch because of the academic value. The woman eventually grew frustrated with translation and stormed off.

The ceremony invoked a young Cigany girl, dressed in a cloak of leaves and painted with mud, being led to every house in the village and having water poured over her in the February cold. By the end she was shivering, and while she was taken back to one of the houses to warm up, the professor's memory was jogged. Something that the masked man in dream Zagreb had said in his torrent of words crawled out of his memory, and he muttered, "The Black Goat of the Woods." The countess asked him what he said, and the professor explained that the Cigany ritual had some elements similar to protective ceremonies dedicated to the Dark Mother. He couldn't explain any more than that, and eventually shook his head.

After the ritual, Todor Nedic told one of the Cigany that the party was planning to go into the woods. The old woman was dismissive of foreigners being in the town at all, but when she learned they could be dissuaded, she said that she would send her nephew with them. Before she turned away, the professor and the countess noticed that she had a bone whistle around her neck, very similar to the one in the Filipovics' house. Then, the party split, with the professor and Demir going to the priest's house and the women going to the Nedics'. The priest noticed that the professor was looking at the flute, but he was unable to answer the professor's questions about it and expressed surprise that the Cigany had a similar whistle. Then he asked if the professor wanted to tell stories, and the professor and Demir gratefully accepted, staying up late and drinking into the night.

At the Nedic house there was a much more subdued night, and the women eventually get to sleep. Jazmina awoke in the middle of the night to the sound of voices talking in low tones in the kitchen. She couldn't understand the language, so she woke up the countess and they discussed what to do. Eventually, Jazmina tried to sneak downstairs, but a squeak of an errant board silences the voices instantly. When Jazmina descended the stairs, she found Anna alone in the kitchen, making tea. She accepted Anna's offer of tea reluctantly, and drank one cup while listening to Anna's imprecations against the Cigany before excusing herself and going back to bed.

In the morning the investigators assembled in the silence of the Nedic house and the chaos of the Filipovic house, other than Rosaline, who stayed in her room due to a sudden bout of sickness. As they made to leave, Todor Nedic's sister walked up to the professor and pressed a bone whistle into his hands, explaining through pantomime that it would offer protection from the forest spirits. The professor, knowing what he knows about the forest, gratefully accepts.

Radovan Venclovic, the nephew of the old Cigany woman, was waiting for them and introduced himself as their guide. He said that he was wary of the forest but this was a request, so he would take them to Baba's hut, and they began walking. The villagers watched them go as Radovan mentioned that they got few foreign visitors in the town, pointing out the lush fields, the smoke arising from the Cigany encampment, and the verdant grass with no livestock grazing on it. Then, the investigators entered the woods. There was no path, but they followed Radovan as the woods grew darker and darker, the trees slowly began to gain coatings of mold and slime, and all other sounds vanished. Except one--the professor noticed a faint hum, just under his hearing. He stopped, looking around warily, but none of the rest of the investigators heard it. The countess offered the professor water and Radovan suggested that he stop to rest, but the professor said that he would rather get through the woods.

After several hours, the party smelled the scent of freshly-baked bread and came on a brown hut, alone in the forest, surrounded by a fence of thorns. The professor and Demir both felt eyes watching them, but there was nothing out there, and eventually they entered the hut, though not without Jazmina pricking her hand on the thorns as they entered.

The inside of the hut was cluttered with dozens of bits of statuary, with an oven filled with a roaring fire and a young woman sitting at a tapestry. Radovan immediately noticed that she looked very familiar, almost like the twin sister of a girl he knew who had gone missing, immediately making him wary. She introduced herself as Kcerca and was surprised that Radovan recognized her, but brushed it off as a strange coincidence. Kcerca said that Baba was out, but she would be back soon.

As they waited, Jazmina and the countess examined the statuary. The countess accidentally knocked over a shelf containing a bunch of statue pieces and Kcerca rushed to help her pick it up, apologizing for the mess, while Jazmina looked at the tapestry she was working on. It's a picture of a peasant village, and as Jazmina looked at the village she noticed that it was definitely a picture of Orašac.

As the statues were put back into place, a cold wind blew outside with the sound of sheets ripping and the door opened. An old woman entered, hunched over, and nodded at the party and then moved over to Kcerca and began to speak with her in an unknown language. After a moment, she asked what the investigators were there for, and when the professor said they were looking for a statue, Baba smiled and said she had plenty of statues and they would have to stay for dinner. Radovan turned down her invitation with as much grace as he could muster.

Baba told a story about her father, a professor in Sofia who kindled her interest in Roman architecture and statuary, and she became something of an amateur archeologist. She sold statuary to fund her habit, but now she was old. As Kcerca put wood in the oven, the professor told her about the statue arm they were looking for and gave it its name--the Sedefkar Simulacrum. Baba perks up at the name and begins looking around, directing a search. After a short time, she pointed it out on the highest shelf, and Demir volunteered to get it. He climbed up the shelves and grabbed it, trying to tug it free from the shelves as Kcerca put more wood in the oven. Then, several things happened at once.

The statue arms near Demir reached out and grabbed onto him as the other investigators noticed that the roof wasn't actually thatched, it was composed of writhing tentacles! Baba reached out and grasped a giant breadpan, scooping up Demir while cackling and dumped him into the oven, now a giant rugose mouth ringed with tentacles, that clutch at Demir hungrily! Kcerca pickled up a large kitchen knife and turned on Radovan, charging forward, as the shelves revealed themselves as conglomeration of bones that grasped at the professor and the countess!

The countess ran over to Demir and tried to pull him out of the oven, but Demir yelled something in Turkish and pushed the arm into her hands. Radovan, surprised, took a nasty wound from Kcerca's knife and tried to grab at her, but as the professor pointed out the door and the countess pulled the arm away and moved toward the door. The investigators jumped out of the now-high-up hut, hitting the ground lightly except for Jazmina, who twisted her ankle, but not enough to prevent her from running, which they made haste in doing. Behind them they heard a horrible discordant singing and the shrieking of Baba, answered by many other voices, crashing through the woods with their own answering song that reminded the professor and the countess of the shepherd calls of the terrible Men of Leng.

Knowing that now was the time, the professor pulled out the bone whistle and blew it. A shrill noise seemed to fill the air, growing louder and louder and filling the air until the whistle shattered into fragments, cutting the professor's face, as they ran past the briar fence, now revealed to contain hundreds of bones. Behind them, the cottage tore its tentacle-like roots free from the earth and stomped toward them, but the sound of the whistle cut through Baba's singing and the answering cries from the woods. The house staggered around, confused, and a flailing root hit Baba and knocked her off into an old oak tree with a sickening crunch.

The delay did not last long, but the investigators wasted no time in running. After a few moments, they heard the house and the other things in its wake crashing through the forest behind them. They ran as fast as they could, finding a deer path and following it to its end, and when they smelled smoke, Radovan recognized his camp and shouted that they should go there.

As they burst out of the forest, the leader of the Cigany, Marco, approaches and asks Radovan what had happened. The investigators told their story as the Cigany edged away from the arm the countess carried, and then Jazmina noticed a woman who seeemd to be an older version of Kcerca. She pointed out to her in the crowded and shouted, but Radovan shushed her, saying that the woman wasn't who Jazmina thought she was. In Romani, he told Szuba that he had seen someone who looked like her sister who they had thought lost by wolves, leading to Szuba wailing in anguish and collapsing.

These two stories combined infuriated the Cigany, who start to gather torches and pitchforks and assembling a mob. They asked the investigators if they want to join them in seeking vengeance. The professor was reluctant, but assented when both the countess and Jazmina expressed a desire to find Demir's remains. They steeled their courage and followed the angry Cigany into into the woods.

They reached the location of the house before too long, but the clearing was mostly empty. Only dead brown grass remained, though as the mob spread out to search, Jazmina and the countess found a pile of viscera, barely recognizable as having once been a man, near a tree. The countess blanched and turned away, but Jazmina carefully checked Demir's remains, finding the Mims Sahis--untouched by the horrors that he had endured--and a strange red gem that radiated an almost palpable sense of hate. Jazmina asked the others about it, and the professor recognized it as the gem that Madame Bruja had employed against the sorcerer in the Dreamlands. After a brief conversation, they took it and continued.

Before they left, the professor noticed a patch of dirt blown away from bare stone. An ancient mosiac, depicting images of tree-like abominations devouring sacrifices.

Further on in the forest, the mob entered another clearing and found, crouching like a wounded animal, the horrible house that had chased the investigators through the woods. Radovan staggered about as though blinded and JAzmina fainted away, and while the professor an the countess dragged them to safety, the mob charged forward and set upon it with axe and torch. They took horrible casualties and over half their number fell, but eventually the house collapsed and lay, hacked and burning, on the ground. The Cigany thanked the investigators for their help in pursuing vengeance and led them back to their camp, where they had a hearty meal and finally slept.

When they arrived in Orašac, they found it in the same condition as they left it...except for Father Filipovic, sitting vigil in the church over the twisted body of his wife. Nedic said that she had collapsed during the night, in front of Father Filipovic, and the investigators exchanged knowing looks before leaving him to his grief. They told Rosaline what had happened, accepted Radovan's offer to travel with them and purge the earth of this evil, and took the morning train out of the town.

Their trip back to the Orient Express was plagued with problems. In one small town the investigators were attacked by an enraged mob of black chickens, leading to a pitched battle in the streets. When the battle ended, the chickens were the white of normal chickens, and only money offered by the investigators prevented a mob of villagers from seeking redress for the death of their flocks. AS they arrived in Belgrade they were stricken with boils and spent the night in feverish dreams, but awoke clean and whole. As they prepared to board the train, they saw many figures watching from doorways, like old woman shrouded in heavy clothes, but no one was there if looked directly at. And finally, after they bought Radovan a ticket and settled into the train and sped through the countryside, a terrific storm broke and they saw, silhouetted against the hills, illuminated by flashes of lightning, something large, like a giant headless bird, keeping pace with the train but never drawing closer. Rosaline suggested that perhaps the Baba drew its power from the natural world and the iron of the train kept it away.

As they crossed the border into Bulgaria, the investigators noticed a broken-down hut near a river. The hut's thatch twitched like branches in the breeze as they passed, waiting for them, but it did not cross the border.
Annals of the Fallen
  1. Gianni Abbadelli, Italian Vatican Parapsychologist, arm torn off by čudovište in Vinkovci, February 8th, 1923.
  2. Demir Sadik, Turkish Revolutionary/Field Medic, devoured by the living lair of the Baba Yaga in the forests outside Orašac, February 13th, 1923.
This one is extra-long!

This is one of the moments in Horror on the Orient Express I've been most waiting for because I hated the presentation in the original. Then, Baba Yaga was just that--Baba Yaga, flying on mortar and pestle and all, and it was very hard to square her existence with the rest of the Mythos around her. Here, it's much more like "Baba Yaga" is the human mythology that sprang up around something older. Something that lurked in the forests before humans ever came to the Balkans.

Demir's death and the arrival of Radovan are due to a player shuffle, so next session we'll have Radovan Venclovic the Romani ex-soldier as a permanent party member. This does mean that the combat potential of eh investigators is steadily increasing, which is good as we head into the more dangerous parts of the campaign.

Thus ends Horror on the Orient Express, Book III. Next time, Book IV: Constantinople and Consequences!
dorchadas: (Cherry Blossoms)
I heard about Momodora: Reverie Under the Moonlight on Bonfireside Chat, as a game that was similar to some aspects of the Souls games that they really liked. Then I heard it was a metroidvania game. Well, that's all I need to hear. Sign me up.

I bought it, loaded it up, and took in the beautiful pixel art and moody music. And then I moved forward and was brutally murdered by a chibi with a shield.


A deadly ambush.

Read more... )
dorchadas: (Slime)
Checking twitter this morning and I found out that there was a commercial for a new Dragon Quest game in Japan, and it's fantastic.



I don't really have any nostalgic attachment to Dragon Quest. I haven't even played any of them other than the original Dragon Warrior and, recently, Dragon Quest IV. But I got a little misty-eyed when the music started, and I know what it's like to huddle under a blanket in the night, to tell your family that you'll be done soon, just a little bit more.

My favorite moments:
  • 0:50: The girl saying 時には我慢も必要です。 ("Sometimes patience is required") and then the taped-up paper that says, "Until I get into college, Dragon Quest is prohibited!"
  • 0:55: The kid drawing a slime and saying 授業中も冒険してた "Even during class, we had adventures."
  • 01:10: The man and woman saying 勇者は挫けない "Heroes do not get discouraged" and then でも、余り[?]には勇者だって泣いていいでしょう "But it's okay for even heroes to cry sometimes."
  • 01:35: The bit at the end 僕らは、夢中で勇者だった。そして今、ふたたび「勇者の時」が動き出す。 "In our dreams, we were heroes. And now once again, the time of heroes has come."
This is how you make a commercial that banks on nostalgia.  photo 58-2nsylaw.gif
dorchadas: (Office Space)
Love it when someone I knew in university reposts a status from a Nazi in his zeal to condemn people for caring too much about the Manchester bombing and not bombings in Syria or Iraq.

The shared post only mentions "Zio-Imperialism," which is a pretty big red flag. So I tracked down an essay by the writer about how accusations of antisemitism are offbase and, well...

Blatant antisemitism )

I can probably stop there, I think.

I'm going to defriend him regardless because he's been close to this edge before multiple times without stepping over, but I at least want to hear his explanation.
dorchadas: (Warlords of the Mushroom Kingdom)
Final met for another game!

Dramatis Personae:
  • Shining Star, mandragora sorcerer-priestess of Nyahré.
  • The Green Knight, mandragora briarwitch.
  • Bonnie, kong Auspicious Orator.
  • Amos Burnham, a human from Earth.
  • Elaphe, a chuzan junior member of the Black Rose.
The party huddled with Black Salted Earth in the Three Wheat Sheaves, ordered food and mushroom beer, and planned. Black Salted Earth went over the situation--Gyere was again terrorized by a vampire who now was even attacking people in their homes, making the old advice to stay indoors useless. She mentioned that they had already considered the obvious suggestion to assemble everyone in the town square at noon, but the refugees and farmers from the surrounding countryside made it impossible to keep track of who was in town. Shining Star and Bonnie consulted a moment and suggested that the vampire might be a shedo, a group of vampires who could assume the forms of those whose blood they drank and who were vulnerable to silver's touch. That led to some more outlandish suggestions--wear silver rings and shake everyone in town's hands--and then they asked Black Salted Earth to send for Sigeferth and ring him into the discussion.

He arrived moments later, ordered food, and with Bonnie translating into Sarasan the party filled him in. He was troubled by their story of the vampire attack in the wilderness, mentioning that he had once hunted a brood of jiang in Sarasa, but they had been half-feral and the Veiled Ones had been able to flush them out into the sunlight. An intelligent jiang and a shedo working together was a bad sign. He hadn't seen anything, but said he would keep a look out, especially now that he had a description of the jiang. He asked if any of them could scry and try to find the necromancers they were looking for that way, and Shining Star said she could not, but that they should consult the old amanita who had helped them look into Old Three Eyes's disappearance, so that was their next destination. The seer asked if they had any items from the person they were looking for or something affected by their sorcery, and they handed over the old sword they had found on the battlefield. The seer performed the ritual, lighting candles and pouring water over the sword, and then their hand tapped the table and slowly moved a handspan westward.

With some idea of where to go, the group made final preparations. Shining Star and Bonnie sought the aid of Gyere's healer and performed surgery on Elaphe, trying to make sure that the wounds he received from the vampire wouldn't lead to permanent disability. After several hours, and with the aid of Shining Star's hedge magic and Bonnie's alchemy, Shining Star was satisfied that Elaphe would recover, and they all went back to the tea house to rest.

Amos and Sigeferth went up to the roofs to scout out. They didn't speak a common language, but with Sigeferth using the Royal Speech and Amos pantomiming, they were able to have a brief conversation about where Amos came from and whether he had ever fought a vampire before. They didn't see anything during their watch, and some time after midnight Amos went to bed.

The Green Knight rode in patrol down through the village, and when he heard the sounds of combat he approached the southwest wall. He asked the militia captain what had happened, and in broken Floral the captain said that there had been a few walking dead but the militia had taken care of them. Seeing the assembled crowd, the Green Knight made a speech about the glories of the Way of the Forests and the downfall of mortal civilizations. Then he turned to go and he was halfway down the street before he realized the someone had actually listened to him. A young female chuzan, brown-furred, clutching a spear and a wooden shield and wearing homespun undyed wool. The Green Knight didn't speak Muskalan and the chuzan didn't speak Floral, but through the Royal Speech he was able to learn that she did mean to follow him and he had finally acquired his first disciple. Flush with success, he returned to the tea house and went to sleep, though he had sure to caution his disciple when she climbed into the bed that the things built of mortal hands were all impermanent.

The others were shocked to find someone else in the room when they awoke. Elaphe had dagger out almost before his eyes opened, and Bonnie let out a shocked squeak. She asked the chuzan's name--Drifting Snow--and bundled her off to the baths with some soap after noticing that she hadn't taken a bath in probably days or weeks. The Green Knight explained himself while she was gone, and while the Shining Star and Bonnie were dubious, they weren't going to stop Drifting Snow from following them, and they certainly weren't going to let only the Green Knight talk to her. They welcomed her when she returned from the bath, and she followed as they checked in about the village--no vampire attacks the previous night--and then mounted their horses and rode out into the rain.

They left Gyere heading west, past some abandoned farms and a few still being worked and watched over by wary-eyed farmers with bows close at hand, scavenging food from the ripe fields. Elaphe took some of the trow weapons, a sword, spear, and shield, and gave them to Drifting Snow to use. Her eyes almost bugged out of her head, but Elaphe just waved it off.

After midday, in the middle of a small copse of trees, they came on a pipe standing alone. Bonnie asked Drifting Snow if she knew anything about it, and the chuzan said that she had heard of a pipe that led to somewhere warm and overgrown, like a jungle, and this might be it. That piqued Bonnie's curiosity, and over the objections of the rest of the group she went down the pipe. It did indeed deposit her in a jungle, steaming hot, in front of a plaza overgrown with weeds and small trees between the stones. In the distance, rising out of the jungle, was an immense ruined ziggurat. Bonnie returned and excitedly told the party about her find, pushing the treasure angle to try to get them interested, but Amos pointed out that they were chasing necromancers and on a timetable. Bonnie marked the pipe on the map, and they pressed on.

Before dinner they found the remnants of a campfire, but the rain had washed away all the tracks. The Green Knight used his sorcery to speak to nearby plants and learned the necromancers had gone north, and after half an hour Amos managed to pick up the tracks again. They kept going through the night, guided by Amos, until they saw a campfire in the distance with figures milling around it. They set up campfire in bowshot range, without a fire, and waited for the dawn. During the night, Amos saw figures continually milling around during his entire watch, and the Green Knight noticed someone setting up some object on the edge of the firelight, but the others did not seem to notice them and the night passed without incident.

When dawn came, we stopped for the night.


The Green Knight's endless speeches finally worked! His player even spent XP on the Followers Background to cement her loyalty, so she'll stick around and earn XP. Though come to think of it, Henchman might be better for that, though she's starting from a lower base. "Subsistence farmer" is a classic D&D start for an adventurer, but the combat ability of a farmer is pretty low. She might have Melee 1, or more likely, Melee 0 (Spears +1). And Survival 2 (Farming +2)

The next session won't be in five weeks, barring a sudden cancellation. I was expecting a hunt for vampires in Gyere, but the players surprised me again. Next time, a fight against necromancers and the walking dead!
dorchadas: (Yui Studying)
Annoying male protagonists are the scourge of fiction.

So I'm reading the latest chapter of 世界の中心で、愛を叫ぶ for today's tutoring session and get to a Romeo and Juliet-esque part where Sakutarō and Aki talk about how they want to get married. Aki points out that she's only 16, and that people think that they might change their minds. Sakutarō talks about how marriage is about being able to support themselves in society and does that mean that sick people who can't support themselves shouldn't be allowed to get married (だったら病気なんかで自立できない人たちは結婚しちゃいいけないのかってことになる), referencing something that happened to his grandfather. Aki sighs at Sakutarō's tendency to jump to the extremes of any argument, and then the annoyance starts:
「社会的に自立するってどういうことだと思う?」
彼女は少し考えて、「働いて自分でお金を稼ぐってことかな」
「お金を稼ぐってどういうこと?」
「さあ」

"What do you think it means to support yourself in society?
She thought for a little, "To work and earn money, I think."
"And what does 'to earn money' mean?"
"Well."
Everyone knows the Socratic method is the best way to endear your girlfriend to you.  photo _s_by_stevanov.gif

He then goes on to say that money is the reward for various skills, which, okay, and then goes off into left field:
「それなら人を好きになる能力に恵まれている人間は、その能力を生かして人を好きになることで、お金をもらってなぜ悪い?」
「やっぱりみんなの役に立つことじゃないと、だめなんじゃないの」
「人を好きになること以上に、みんなの役に立つことがあるとは思えないけどな」
「こういう現実離れしたことを平気で言う人を、わたしは未来の夫にしようとしているんだわ」

"If that's the case, for humans who are blessed with the ability to love other people, why is it bad to earn money by making use of that ability?"
"If it's not useful to everyone, it's no good."
"I don't think there's anything more useful than the ability to love."
"And I'm trying to make someone who calmly says such off-the-wall things my future husband."
Thus demonstrating that Aki has a reasonable grasp of economics, because the ability to love has a high supply and the demand for any particular person's ability to love is low. But that's not enough for Sakutarō, since this kicks off a page-long rant about what love means and how it's better for humanity to be wiped out by a meteor if it doesn't value the ability to love.

To Aki's credit, she doesn't feed his ranting. But I can see why the English title--and apparently, the proposed Japanese title before the publisher convinced him to change it--for this book was Socrates in Love. Sakutarō's response to anything is engage in grand works of adolescent philosophy, but unlike Socrates he's lucky if his musings have any connection to anything in the real world. And Aki tolerates it, maybe even finds it endearing, but that doesn't make it fun for me to read.

Can I read a version of 世界の中心で、愛を叫ぶ from Aki's perspective?  photo emot-colbert.gif

ACEN 2017

May. 21st, 2017 11:08 am
dorchadas: (Enter the Samurai)
​I was incredibly nervous for basically all of Thursday and most of Friday before I went to ACEN and I still don't know the reason why. I've had a great time at the last there ACENs I went to. What did I think would happen?

Well, nothing went wrong, but here's my chronicle of what did happen:

At length, but with lots of pictures! )

This is the most actual convention-related stuff I've gone to in a long time, and we would have done even more if storytime hadn't been cancelled. I described it to friends as me scanning down the list and saying, "Alright, which of these panels at an anime convention aren't about anime" but that was...well, pretty much my thought process. Most of the cosplay pictures I took weren't from anime either. I don't go to anime conventions for the anime part.  photo Emot-chocobo.gif

Looking forward to next year!
dorchadas: (Awake in the Night)
Metroid II is the only Game Boy game I've played for longer than a few minutes. One of my sister's friends had a Game Boy, and for some reason that is still opaque to this day, her mother asked me to babysit for them. That mainly consisted of the friend watching TV while I played Metroid II, confusing myself with the changes between that and Metroid. Having to hunt metroids? Jumping morph ball? Trying to play a metroid game on a 160 x 144 pixel screen? I played for about half an hour, got nowhere, and then never played it again.

When I heard about Another Metroid 2 Remake, I figured it would end up vaporware like the various 3D Link's Awakening remakes or shut down before being released like Chrono Resurrection. To my utter astonishment, however, it was finished, released, and was out for almost a month before Nintendo DMCAed it. That was more than enough time for the internet to seize hold of it, and it's easy to find if you spend any time looking.


Threat detected

Read more... )

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