Star-Fired Beef


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Oooh, It’s A Snaaaake

As well as my mental recovery, the other thing I need to work on this year is my physical fitness. Now, I am not exactly happy with being fat, and I am definitely going to need to be slimmer in order to feel healthy, but after all these years I am finally coming to terms with why I am unhappy with my current state. It isn’t being fat that makes me feel ashamed and depressed, it is that I am unable to physically handle the activities that I love and want to be able to do. Simple movement without pain or effort is something that I look back on with longing, and I know that regardless of how fat I am, what I want is that freedom of movement, that confidence in body that has been lacking for so long. The side effect of increasing my fitness will naturally be weight loss – or, rather, fat loss – but I am not bound by arbitrary numbers or clothes sizes as a goal. My goals are purely action-based: can I handle this half-day hike? Can I ride from here to there? Do I have the energy to attend a full day of convention attendance/work a full shift on my feet/enjoy a walking tour of a new place? This week I made a significant step towards achieving these fitness goals. Thanks to the generosity of a community outreach mentor and his contacts, I now have a secondhand mountain bike, which I can ride in the nearby parkland walking paths. I had to ride it home from my mentor’s office, and it took about three times as long as it should, since I haven’t ridden a bike for nearly twenty years. And oh man, did I feel it afterwards. You guys. My balls. So sore.

I just got to the point in FFXIV’s main story questline where I chose my Grand Company affiliation. After a long and frustrating consideration of how each GC fit the needs of Menashi’s RP personality, I ended up choosing to become a member of the Twin Adders. It’s not ideal, but the speeches given by the other leaders at the memorial services rang a bit false for Menashi’s liking, so it became a choice of ‘least unsuitable’ rather than ‘most suitable’. THAT unlocked the Grand Company requisition dailies, and I finally got the quest to obtain my chocobo. So today I spent ticking off as many supply and provisioning orders as I had materials for, and soon discovered how lacking I was in some basic resources. Thus, after I finished crafting and obtaining GC seals, I headed out to start work on my mining. I can see myself easily spending a day’s session just gathering and crafting every so often – it is not a fast process!

My Steam gaming project at the moment is L.A. Noire. I am loving it for so many reasons, but I cannot help feeling slightly restricted by not having a controller. The investigations, though, are incredibly engaging. I did attempt to make Thief Gold my next project, but after struggling to make it through the first mission, I found that it just wasn’t holding my interest. Every time I played it my mind kept wandering off to ponder what other games I desired to play. Not a good sign. Also finished with a Lemmings-style puzzle game called Spirits, which again could not hold my interest long enough to stay motivated. I think I’ll do a Steam Challenge post on it, since I am satisfied with how much I got from it, but I doubt I will do a post for Thief Gold.

Airiel – Sharron Apple


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The Ghost of Blaugust Past

Lately I have been feeling guilty about not maintaining a regular blog schedule, and the feeling has slowly grown to the point of action. As per usual for me, my chosen path is to blatantly rip off copy emulate others who do it better – in this case, Belghast. So as both a residual resolution from last year, and in anticipation of (and training for) this year’s Blaugust event, I am going to try and establish a regular, ideally daily, posting routine modelled on Belghast’s unpatented three-paragraph template.

As part of my therapy, I am working on structuring my daily activities so that I don’t fritter away so much time obliviously. I can get caught up in reading, or gaming, or browsing, or watching videos, and get so absorbed in it that I fail to notice how much time has passed. Now, this is not so much of a specific problem – I don’t miss appointments or anything important like that – but it can really screw up my plans to be productive, and makes me have to re-plan the next day’s activities to incorporate the missed tasks. One of the prime culprits for this time vortex, obviously, is MMOs, so I am starting my structuring with that. 

FFXIV is my main MMO at the moment, although I am still “officially” invested in making progress in TSW and LOTRO as well. As I belong to Aywren‘s FC. and most of the members are in US time zones, I am trying to make sure I am around for an hour or two during their prime time. This hour or two generally satisfies my MMO cravings, and by staying in a specific window of time I beginning to find it easier to stop when I planned to, and thus I hope to lose some of the anxiety of clock-watching or fear of overdoing it. Self-trust is going to be a big component of my mental recovery, so it is things like this that will benefit me in the long run, even if it seems less than relevant right now.

Drapht feat. Downsyde & Layla – Inspiration Island


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Steam Challenge – The Stanley Parable

This is part of my Steam Challenge Series (the full list is here).

The trailer promises so much. The Stanley Parable was to be a mindfuck of epic proportions.

It was, and it wasn’t. I am still conflicted about whether I actually enjoyed this game. The narration was fantastic, and my heart skipped a nostalgic beat when I loaded up the very Half-Life-2-esque graphics. It brought me back to the late ’90s, reminding me of both Half-Life, and Goldeneye in the atmosphere and setting. Portal gets mentioned a fair bit in comparisons, and while that is probably true, for me that is not as strong an association.

So what is the problem? Why am I not more committed to a judgement? Honestly, I am not sure. I tend to love games that play the mindfuck card, that leave you guessing as to what really happened, that leave a lot of stuff unanswered. And while it is usually the narrative that provides that experience, in The Stanley Parable it is the game world that does it. That makes the experience more intense, more fulfilling, and so more enjoyable in a lot of ways.

On the other hand, I think it overshot the mark in some respects. It felt like the payoff graph was a bell curve. At the start you are totally clueless, and everything is bizarre. As you play there is greater understanding, which allows you to explore more purposefully and feel like you are getting some sort of progress, i.e. learning more. Then, I found that after a number of playthroughs, I wasn’t getting enough new stuff to keep up the motivation to repeat content ad infinitum. It became a chore, and so I stopped.

I consider The Stanley Parable to be an amazing example of blurring the lines between games and art/philosophy, or of games as art. As a game it is still basic, although more involved than something like Gone Home or a visual novel. I definitely enjoyed it more as an artistic endeavour than as a game experience.

The Tea Party – Great Big Lie


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Steam Challenge – The Walking Dead Season 1

This is part of my Steam Challenge Series (the full list is here).

I went in blind to Telltale’s The Walking Dead. All I knew was that it was one of the best games from that company, and one of the best adventure games ever. I have not seen the TV series, or read the comics that all these other products are based on. It was all new to me.

It was even better than the hype – and it is standing at 97% positive reviews on Steam, from over 25 thousand. I just need some time to process my experience. This game made me feel things. I cannot believe how exhausting it is to go through such an intense emotional ride. Even now, days later, I am going back over my choices, wondering if I could have made it better somehow, if I could have been a better role model, a better friend, a better survivalist.

My first thought on finishing was, no it can’t end like that I need to go back and explore other choices. But the prospect of doing that weighed so heavily on me, was so intimidating, I knew that I couldn’t put myself through it again so soon. And then I realised that that was a good thing, that one of the best things about games like this is the fact that your choices – often in the heat of the moment, with little time to think – can give you access to the story in a personal way, that you have been able to insert yourself into the story in such a way that you are part of it, personally. It becomes your story, in a way, and that makes it a very special thing. Going back and exploring other options, although I do want to see what happens, is purely academic now, it is gaming rather than storytelling.

This was the first time I’ve played with quicktime events, so they caught me off guard the first few times. I liked the way they were implemented here.

Regarding the path I took: as I said, it feels like a very personal journey, so I won’t go into any details here. I am happy to discuss and compare notes with others who have played, however. All I will say is that throughout the game I did my best to be honest but sometimes guarded, and always kept in mind the effect it would have on Clementine, should she find out. I tried to stay neutral as much as I could, which might have backfired on me in some ways and definitely got someone killed that I reeeeeeally wanted to keep around.

I found it really odd that nobody ever used the word “zombie”, it was the one misstep in the narrative, I thought. I know it’s a thing from the comics, it just doesn’t make any sense to me.

In summary, The Walking Dead is amazing and I might just get the DLC, 400 Days, next week in order to eke out every last drop from this game. I have a feeling that Season 2 is in my near future too, despite my attempts to limit new acquisitions.

Reeeeeeally NSFW

DMX, Ol’ Dirty Bastard, Ozzy Osbourne & Crystal Method – Nowhere To Run


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Steam Challenge – Obulis

This is part of my Steam Challenge Series (the full list is here).

I knew I had to have this physics puzzler when I saw the trailer. It did not disappoint.

Over 150 levels of serene, mild-to-moderately challenging puzzles, Obulis is just fun to play. Only a small proportion of the levels require you to complete aerial timing tricks to knock marbles out of the sky in a specific direction, which is great because while they are fairly satisfying to complete, they become very annoying and frustrating if encountered often.

There are a nice range of mechanics to work with, all tied to certain “areas” – which are basically just the artistic themes of the levels. I found the variety very refreshing, and there was a good mix of puzzles which were easily solved (in theory, in practice you might still have to have a couple of goes to get the timing right), and ones which needed a lot of experimentation. And everything in between, of course.

My one and only criticism is that there is no volume control for the sound – it’s either on or off. I was about to go on a rant about it being one of my pet peeves, but it just occurred to me that perhaps these games that do this are all ports of mobile games, where the device provides the volume control. Still, it can’t be that difficult to implement a volume control when you are doing the PC port, right?

Anyway, totally recommend Obulis for some gentle puzzle-solving action.

Gomez – Fill My Cup


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The Shape Of My 2016 Gaming

Like Murf, I don’t really go in for the new year resolution thing, but I do have broad goals for the year and laying them out early is sort of the same thing, so here we are.

I will need your help, though.

MMO Gaming

Well it looks like FFXIV has its hooks in me for a while, so I think that’ll be my main MMO for most of the year. I just got to the stage where I can unlock other classes on my little Lalafell, Menashi, and I signed up for three of the crafting classes. That was enough to give me a glimpse of the depth of the rabbit hole, so I reckon my main task will be to restrain myself from becoming too caught up in it and thereby burn out. Patience, Grasshopper.

The goal for TSW is to catch up to current story content, and then duck in occasionally to keep the flow going. Should be easy enough with my lore post project keeping me honest.

Wildstar and LOTRO, I might have to keep my goalsetting to a minimum. Perhaps monthly progress goals is the way to go there. A couple of levels here, a zone completion there…nice and easy. Same with Devilian, maybe. We’ll see.

That’s the current MMOs dealt with, so what about the upcoming titles? I won’t have to worry about Star Citizen releasing this year, same with EverQuest Next. Those were the two major MMOs I was looking forward to. I’ll keep an eye on Crowfall and Camelot Unchained (the crafting classes made me perk my ears) but I don’t expect a proper release in 2016.

The Asian imports, hmmm. I don’t think Blade & Soul is going to grab me, but I might give Black Desert a try. Likewise, I am quite interested in Lost Ark Online, it seems to be an improvement on Devilian in all ways.

Steam Gaming

Okay so last year, mostly due to my illness, I didn’t get through many big-name games in my library, and I don’t think I played any new release. I did, however, make up for that with quantity, in the form of shorter and lesser-known, (mostly) lesser-quality games. This year I want to reverse that. Instead of quantity, I want to focus on quality. I want to finally experience as many big name games as I can this year, whether big in scope (like Tomb Raider) or classics (like Grim Fandango).

Here is a list of the games I have available to me which I think might fit that category. Please, let me know if I’m being too generous by including something I shouldn’t. Also, cast your votes as to the top five you’d recommend. Alphabetical order, no biases here!

  1. Alan Wake (+ American Nightmare)
  2. Batman: Arkham Asylum (+ Arkham City)
  3. Bioshock 2
  4. Blackwell Series
  5. Broken Sword 1-3
  6. Brutal Legend
  7. Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3
  8. Costume Quest
  9. Crusader Kings II*
  10. Crysis 2
  11. Deus Ex: Human Revolution
  12. Dragon Age: Origins
  13. Endless Space*
  14. Europa Universalis III*
  15. F.E.A.R. (+ sequels)
  16. Grim Fandango Remastered
  17. Half-Life 2: Episode 2
  18. Jade Empire
  19. Just Cause (1 & 2)
  20. L.A. Noire
  21. The Last Express Gold Edition
  22. Mafia
  23. Mass Effect (1 & 2)
  24. Metro 2033
  25. Planescape: Torment
  26. Red Faction: Armageddon (+ Guerilla)
  27. Saints Row The Third
  28. Shadowrun Returns (+ Dragonfall)
  29. Sid Meier’s Pirates!*
  30. Thief Gold
  31. Titan Quest
  32. Tomb Raider
  33. Total War (Medieval II, Rome, Shogun 2)*
  34. Walking Dead Season 1
  35. The Witcher (1 & 2)

*- the goal for these would be to get in at least one proper playthrough/campaign.

I think a reasonable goal is to finish at least ten of these before the year is out.

Evergreens

I intend to continue to put time into Hearthstone, and the main goal is to stay on top of dailies. I want to get to legendary rank at least once in the year, though.

Doubt I will go back to Heroes of the Storm, unless I get some rank-climbing buddies. Or they change the ranked format to shorter seasons. Something has to change, that’s for sure.

Purchases

I reeeeally want to make progress on thinning out the library this year, so my goal is to only buy games to complete sets (e.g. Mass Effect 3, or Broken Sword 4 & 5). But there are so many quality titles out there, I just don’t know how I’ll be able to manage it. I think the key will be how much more concentration I have as I get better and can function more normally. That should let me stay focused a lot more, and thus get through the games faster. That, and the self-discipline in FFXIV I mentioned earlier.

Good luck to me!

Cheers!

NSFW

Missy Elliot – Work It


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My Gaming Year In Review

When I began thinking about my gaming at the start of 2015, I was a bit lost and scattered. I had finally, finally broken away from WoW for good, and the MMO’s I’d turned to as a replacement (especially ArcheAge) were a massive disappointment. I was without a proper MMO home, and so I turned to my Steam library, inspired by Aywren and Jasyla primarily. Yet, staring at the hundreds of titles in that library, it was difficult to know how to proceed. If there is one thing I have learnt about myself, it is that I can’t make long-term plans for things like this. My interests span too many genres to know what I’ll be in the mood for at any given time, and if I have committed to a game and am not in the mood for it, then I just end up not playing anything really.

Thus, my gaming goals for the year were rather broad and flexible. But how did I do?

MMOs

I never did find a new MMO home…or did I? I picked up FFXIV in the last Humble Bundle of the year, and although I’ve only played a couple of hours, I have a home in Aywren’s Free Company, a character that I have a steadily evolving headcanon for, and I am enjoying the game itself. The signs look good.

My first attempt at trying something new was when I took a punt on the exploration-only game, Wander. It was the lowlight of my gaming year, unfortunately, and although I occasionally check in on the update progress, it hasn’t done enough to draw me back so far. I’ve basically written it off.

I picked up a Wildstar key from another bundle about halfway through the year, but it wasn’t until I moved house at the start of December that I installed it. It’s nice, and I’ll keep logging in, but it didn’t hook me instantly the way FFXIV did.

I tried to get back into GW2 when my friend did, but it held my attention for exactly one session before I dropped it again. Similarly with LOTRO, I logged in once this year and started a new hobbit hunter, intending to just work through the story without the fiddly crafting and collecting stuff, but for some reason I never felt motivated to make it a regular thing.

Finally, The Secret World. I have been keeping it in view all year via my The Secret Lore series but have only played in small chunks – I think I may have spent more time on those posts than in game. However, I have made progress: I started the year partway through the Scorched Desert, and I finish the year having finished that zone, completed the City of the Sun God, the Virgula Divina questline in London (SUPER spooky!), and the Beseiged Farmlands in Transylvania, and am about halfway through the Shadowy Forest. I am making sure that I stay ahead of the Secret Lore entries story-wise, so that means I will have to get my arse into gear in 2016. I still love the hell out of the game, but it will never be my MMO home.

Steam Challenge

So according to my list pages, I have crossed 47 games off my Steam list, and have bought, won or been gifted 56 new (non-MMO) games…uh oh. I WAS DOING SO WELL!! On the one hand, there have been quite a few games I Noped on barely minutes into trying them, which I never wrote about, and that tips the scales somewhat. On the other hand, some of those Nope games come from that new games list. Like, Pixel Pirates, which I had not looked into carefully enough before I put it on my wishlist.

So…let’s call it a draw. Thus, no actual progress in thinning down the library. Boooo.

I am not all that happy with the result, but that comes down to one overriding factor: my depression. Despite having a lot of time on my hands, I was unable to muster up enthusiasm for, or concentrate on, a game for more than 30-60 minutes at a time. That led to a lot of game-hopping, frequent breaks, and very slow progress in each game. Something like a Back To The Future episode, which takes 2-3 hours, I had to do over 2 days. Something that I should be able to finish in a week, like Psychonauts or Crysis, took months. So although I am glad that I got some of the bigger games finished, most of my time was spent on smaller indie titles.

I managed to resist the Steam sales for the most part, only buying a handful of games in the Summer Sale and one (so far) in this Winter Sale. The biggest culprit by far was my inability to say no to bundles. Again. I avoided most of them, but even so the few that I did get have offset the gains I made in crossing titles off my list. I was, I think, also unusually lucky in winning quite a few Steamgifts giveaways this year.

Other Games

Alongside my depression and the lack of energy that came with it, I ended up devolving to the “daily” games. Part of the year was devoted to Heroes of the Storm, I spent a month or two heavily into Diablo 3 with a seasonal character, and dabbled a bit in some online Magic. The mainstay of my gaming, though, was Hearthstone. I think I took one month off during the whole year, and most months I have been keeping on top of my daily quests. I did go full Hearthstone in October, in an attempt to reach legendary, but only made it to rank 4. It does require a lot of hours to reach legendary rank, especially if you start down at rank 20ish.

Finis

And there we have it, folks. I started the year all scattered and lost, and although I managed to focus for short periods of time, I remained fairly scattered throughout the year. Now that I am on increased medication, and in a new, less stressful living space, I should have a good baseline to work with in the future.

Yothu Yindi – Treaty


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The Secret Lore – Krampusnacht

See all the Secret Lore here.

‘Tis the reason for the season! Krampusnacht is the other main holiday celebrated in The Secret World, and as usual – like Halloween – it has a darker flavour than the common real-life event. I like the way that the Secret World delves into mythology for inspiration and to flesh out events like these.

Krampusnacht

Our wisdom flows so sweet. Taste and see.

TRANSMIT – initiate the Saturnalia signal – RECEIVE – initiate the Lord of Misrule cadence – YOU BETTER WATCH OUT – initiate the Feast of Fools – YOU BETTER NOT POUT – initiate the Childermass prerogative – LULLAY, THOUGH LITTLE TINY CHILD, BY-BY, LULLOO LULLAY – initiate the hel-bár complexion – WITNESS – Krampusnacht.

HE SEES YOU WHEN YOU’RE SLEEPING.

Who’s that yonder, all yuletide banes – dragging behind him a sack of chains?

Mistletoe to kiss by. Mistletoe to gouge out the eye. Packages and parcels and red-red wrapping and little hands dismembering it all in joyful sporagmos. We smell him under the rot of the Black Friday dead. Nephew of a snake and a wolf. Go to momma!

HE KNOWS IF YOU’VE BEEN BAD OR GOOD.

Who’s that dancing on the icy roof – stamping on the ramping with a cloven hoof?

“Hra-hra-hra! To all a good night!” Cheeks painted red. His belly writhes like a bowl full of worm jelly – children’s faces press from within distended skin like nervous actors against the theatre curtain. He reeks of sugarplums. When will the Krampus Gate open? When will the Holiday Devil come for the little ones? “When mother freezes over,” he cackles. “Hra-hra-hra!”

YOU BETTER NOT CRY.

Time for all good sweetlings to go to bed. Shall we tell you a bedtime story? This is the story and the story goes… It is a silent night. All black, all white. A man dangles from a roof on a noose of Christmas lights. The jolliest of gallows. He sways. So quiet. So peaceful. Just the crunching of snow. The twinkling glow paints his corpse red and green.

His plastic name tag says: BEN. He has a black eye, a gift from a customer eager to get a steal-of-a-deal on a nifty-keen TV. One side of his face is healthy, the other a ghastly blue. Holiday retail slowly ate his heart, like a sluggish worm in a frozen apple. But a stranger gave Ben a kindness, bought him an eggnog that warmed half his body. The stranger gave no name, just called himself “Granddaddy” and gave Ben a present. A book. The pages contained old names and rites. Ben followed them to the letter, then strung himself up as an ornament.

And so this year, the Krampus Gate is open wider than it should be. Will you close it, sweetling? Will you give the Yuletide Devil chase? We sing, “Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, Nail the Devil to the post, Thrice I strike with holy crook, One for God, one for Wod, and one for Lok!”

Once upon a time, Beowulf cradled the hairy monster in his hands. Who was he to know that momma was much, much worse? But that was just a retro-echo. Go now, to the nine frozen rivers. Go now, to Niflheim. Go to the mother with horns in her frozen tomb-womb.

Each object sings a syllable of Her true name. The lump of coal is a prelude to fire, reminds Her of father’s displeasure. A bottle of an alcoholic’s frozen piss is haunted by icy regrets and spirits. A pouch of soil, for all of Her subjects who swim in the dirt. The yew branch reminds Her of cemetery trees, rots tickling Her face. The wolf fang reminds Her of brother. Snake skin reminds Her of brother. Corpse maggots remind Her of life living impossibly in the grave, and of dwarfs wriggling in great-great-great-grandfather’s guts. A cadaver’s finger nails remind Her of death and of ships built on their brittle spite. The horns of the Holiday Devil remind Her of son.

 

And now it is well past bedtime, sweetling. A story then? This is the story and the story goes… A girl is punished by her father. In the beginning of winter, he carries her to a nearby lake and hangs her between two trees. Half of her body is submerged in the freezing water of the lake and half is left in the open air.

Slowly her submerged skin shrivels and blackens. The pain wounds her, tears her soul in two and with the eye that rots on her submerged face, she begins to see the shadows of the world beyond ours. Every touch of death, every ravage of time. On every living thing.

Her father returns and cuts her free. He gives her a drink of something wonderful that warms half her body.

“Father, why was I punished? she asks, quietly.

“Punished? Why you have been been blessed!” Loki said.


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Steam Challenge – Anodyne

This is part of my Steam Challenge Series (the full list is here).

I am torn about this game. I wanted to like it, and I did enjoy it for the first hour or two…then it became tedious.

Quite a few Steam reviews call Anodyne a Zelda-lite, which I have to assume is accurate since I’ve never played any Zelda before the N64. I actually quite liked the art style (I know!), must be the influence of To The Moon. This RPGMaker thing is quite impressive with the range of mechanics and effects it can bring to the table. 

The writing, on the other hand…I think it’s a bit too clever for its own good. There is an element of mystery, the sense that all of this is illusory or somehow meaningful in an unexpected way. It…it’s like dubstep, with the buildup to the drop. The problem being, the drop is taking far, far too long to appear. You’re kept in the dark about too much for too long, and eventually the grind of navigation back and forth between areas to try and find the way forward became too frustrating for me. I got nearly halfway through the game, as near as I can tell, and I still have no idea where I am, what I am doing, or why I am here. There is only so long you can play without context. I realised I was just wandering aimlessly trying to figure out where to go, what to do next.

Anodyne does communicate an air of uneasiness quite well, I will give it that. You might not know what is happening, but you do know that it is Not Good. I usually love that air of suspense in a game, but ultimately I ran out of patience with the pace of the storytelling. It is entirely possible that I just got stuck and missed something obvious, but the lack of story payoff up ’til then meant that I was not inclined to give Anodyne more investment than I already had.

All those words to say, I liked it but I hit a progress wall and was not sufficiently motivated to push through, even with a walkthrough.

Death In Vegas – Dirt


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The Secret Lore – The Truce

See all the Secret Lore here.

European, especially eastern European folktales, tend to feature the supernatural world quite heavily. A fairly common theme, from what I remember, is the uneasy balance between humans and fae, a very fragile truce that is often disrupted and causes grief all round in these stories. I love that The Secret World’s Transylvanian storyline is full of that tension between humans and fae.

The Truce

Our wisdom flows so sweet. Taste and see.

TRANSMIT – initiate Transylvania signal -RECEIVE – initiate the Strigidae syntax – OFFER VALID ONLY AT PARTICIPATING LOCATIONS – initiate the contract cadence – WITNESS – The Truce.

Secret truces are made all the time. All around you. Every night it happens somewhere. In a bedroom, parents placate their frightened offspring, assure her that there are no monsters. She falls asleep, but wakes in the dead hours to see her parents crouched on the floor, making complex pacts with the voice under her bed, by the luminescence of her glow-worm night-light. “Paying one beats losing all,” it says.

It might be said that the world of the mundane must make deals with the world of the supernatural. These words hide a fallacy. There is only one world, sweetling – the secret world. Your species only occupies a tiny bit of it, floating on an eroding island of ignorance. The water is dark and full of movement.

Some truces are older than others. In Bacas County – where myths walk in the forest of the remote valley – the humans made an accord with the supernatural that lasted six centuries.

Initiate the secret histories.

They set the truce shortly after Mara, the vampire queen, was cast out. The owlish one, Cucuvea, summoned all the inhabitants, normal and paranormal, to a great gathering. Reconciliations were made, mutual respect achieved.

Such a menagerie! So many phyla and families of the preternatural. Fairies, nymphs, and forest spirits cohabited with moroi, pricolici, and Capcaun. Uriasi dwelled in the mountains and the Valva Apei lurked in the small lake. Humans huddled in their villages and their farmlands. The fragile balance was maintained.

Bacas County became a refuge for the increasing number of disbelieved. They crawled, flew, and loped there in greater numbers as the world around grew inhospitable.

For time out of mind, preying upon humankind was the natural, or paranatural, order of things. The inhabitants of the valley understood. The truce demanded there be no unnecessary aggression, but it allowed all creatures to remain true to their nature – tongue, tooth, and claw.

We were there. We saw. We tallied the coppery cost of peace – a few young men a year, claimed by Fata Padurii – the occasional stray traveller returning, covered in bruises and wicked scratches from the dance of the Iele – those foolish enough to wander out when the strigoi and pricolici hold sway under the blood moon. There is always a cost – a price for a prize. The simplest systems work.

Until the hunters become the hunted.

A few years ago, it was the supernaturals who vanished in increasing frequency. The supernal fauna thinned, culled by an unknown hand. An uproar sounded among the paranormals. They blamed the villagers. The humans denied wrongdoing. Cucuvea tried to maintain the peace, reminding all of the truce.

Many a magical beast wandered from the forest, braving the inhospitable land outside. Those who stayed became cagey, vicious, and unforgiving of suspicious humans. The lion gets a thorn in his paw, and there is no mouse to remove it. Only rending and screams can result.

Soon, hordes of feral vampires arrived, followed by the Romany, those who designate themselves the Drăculești. Many of the forest creatures remembered the persecution suffered at the hands of these monster hunters. Forgetting, there was none. Forgiving, there was none. The relationship strained, the truce frayed.

Yet the Drăculești ignored the creatures of the dark forest. With a little disdain, and more self-control, they focused on the common enemy: Mara and her undead multitudes. Despair can bring pandemonium, but it can also inspire reason. The monster hunters and the supernaturals realised they must stand together against the vampire spawn.

Initiate the possibility matrix.

Is carnage the only possible future, sweetling? If the vampires win, all will die. If the vampires lose, the tattered truce will slip away, and the survivors will tear each other apart. What will you do? We wait in ravenous anticipation.

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