Minos

In Cold Blood

Cathan silently returns from around the corner, and Jaycie catches a hint of concern on his face.

“I count at least eight of them. Fortified behind overturned tables,” whispers the elf.

Thelios, emitting a low growl, immediately reaches for his sword and begins to step forward.

“No, wait,” interrupts Alphonse, his eyes twinkling. “Allow me to use my words, and perhaps we can avoid more needless bloodshed.”

“You certain about that? Last time I suffered through one of your ‘speeches’ I’m pretty sure my ears bled,” Jaycie teases.

Alphonse simply grins and turns on his heel, gently clearing this throat. His voice rings out, echoing through the chambers, melodic but forceful with the perfect balance of sincerity and menace.

“You should know that we have defeated no less than a dozen of your companions, as well as several of the giant brutes. Whatever your employer is paying you, I doubt it is enough. We are more than capable of ending your lives today, but there may not be need for that. Walk away. Abandon your post. We require only the wizard, and no more.”

Silence.

Jaycie raises an eyebrow at Alphonse, who returns with a charming wink. She rolls her eyes, but a creeping smile betrays her. He is charismatic, she’ll give him that.

After a minute, a shaky voice calls out from the other room, “Wha…what’s in it for us, then?”

Alphonse ponders for a moment, snaps his fingers and pulls a small, jingling pouch from his belt. He twiddles his fingers, sending a spectral hand to deliver the purse down the corridor.

“Fifty gold pieces to let us pass. Oh! And the bonus of keeping your lives, of course,” Alphonse adds with a calculated laugh.

“And this petty sum is supposed to convince us, eh?” The second voice is gruff and cocky.

Cathan lets out an impatient sigh, unfastening an even larger pouch from his pack. He darts forward and dexterously launches it into the room, causing a loud thump to resonate through the dungeon.

“An extra 250 gold for your troubles, gentlemen. All we ask is that you kindly show us the way to your leader,” Cathan yells. Alphonse purses his lips, clearly perturbed by the derailing of his negotiations.

“You’ve got yourselves a deal. You’ll find the one you’re looking for through the far door,” the gruff voice yells. Jaycie hears the shuffling of footsteps and murmurs, punctuated by the slamming of two doors. The party exchanges glances, their expressions a mixture of disbelief and relief.

Upon entering the room, Jaycie watches Cathan and Thelios hurriedly move the furniture to barricade the side doors, through which the bandits presumedly retreated. Alphonse chuckles and shakes his head.

“I do believe those doors open inwards, friends.”

Thelios drops the table he’s carrying and grumbles some infernal curses. He reaches into his backpack and produces a length of hemp rope. With Alphonse’s help he ties it to the two door handles, pulling it as taut as possible so as to seal in the bandits.

“Pretty clever,” Jaycie says. “Now can we get this over with? The humidity in here is making my hair frizz.”

The group carefully passes through the far door, entering a dark hallway. Thelios and Cathan take the lead, trying to move as quietly as possible, until the tiefling catches his foot on the uneven ground, stumbling forward into another intersecting passage.

“Who in the hells are you?!” shouts a voice, accompanied by more hollers.

“Brace yourselves,” Thelios roars.

The screams of imminent battle fill the corridors. Jaycie freezes while the others spring to action; despite all of her wizardry training and experience, she still isn’t accustomed to real life combat. Alphonse, however, diplomat or not, leaps forward with incredible initiative. With booming incantations and a flash of magic sparks, he paralyzes four of the six bandits advancing on the party.

“Well done!” says Cathan.

“I was going to do that,” mutters Thelios.

Alphonse withdraws back into the first room beside Jaycie. “What’d you think of that, Hart?” he says with another wink. Jaycie doesn’t even try to conceal her smile this time.

“That was—”

THUD.

Jaycie spins around in time to see the side wooden doors splintering. With a snap, the hemp rope whips across the room as both doors burst open, allowing the bribed bandits to spill into the chamber, weapons raised.

One particularly mean looking thug rushes up to Jaycie. He jabs at her with a long spear, but she instinctively conjures a shield of force, causing the attack to glance off her ward. The thug follows up with a shield bash, clashing with her own shield. Jaycie digs her feet into the ground and pushes back with all her might, skidding against the wall until she is pinned. A final stab finds its mark, drawing blood from the wizard.

Jaycie cries out, searing pain shooting through her shoulder. “Al!” she shrieks, but out of the corner of her eye she sees that her comrade has his own trouble. Another bandit crashes into the bard with his shield, sending him off balance. With a perfectly aimed lunge, the bandit sinks his spear deep into Alphonse’s stomach.

Alphonse looks down at the weapon buried in his flesh. His face instantly pales and he shifts his gaze over to Jaycie. Eyes glossed over, the half-elf crumples to the ground.

“NO!” Jaycie screams. The bandit leans over Alphonse’s body, raising his spear high above his head and dropping it once more into the torso of the fallen bard. Alphonse lets out a sickening gurgle, spitting blood onto the stone floor. A crack of released energy sounds from the hallway where Cathan and Thelios wage their own battle, the paralyzed bandits now freed from Alphonse’s holding spell.

Jaycie’s heart pounds as she watches the other bandits close in. She’s cornered, with her friend dying by her side, and the only other two able members of her party outnumbered down the hall. The wizard squeezes her eyes shut and screams out in a culmination of panic.

STOP!”

Jaycie opens her eyes. Everything around her has frozen.

Think Jaycie. Think. There has to be a solution.

She thinks back to her days at the Minos Wizard Academy. The mantra of her Practical Abjuration professor pops into her head.

Observe. Assess. React.

Jaycie blinks and looks around, the bodies of the bandits paused in time around her. She has a problem. All she has to do is solve it.

Observe.

Two…four…six…eight enemies. Proven conviction. Not easily intimidated. Quick, strong, and prepared to kill.

One felled ally. Two more allies in trouble down the hall.

Only confirmed exit across the room. 30 by 30 foot chamber. Low ceiling. Worked stone. Two side doors, wooden.

Time running out. Alphonse seconds away from death. Five, maybe six seconds at most…just enough time for one spell.

Jaycie takes a trembling breath, trying to focus. Her shoulder aches.

Assess.

Kill the bandits. Cone of Cold? No…area of effect too narrow. Impede their advances. Watery Sphere? Too slow. Confusion? Too unreliable.

Protect Alphonse. Resilient Sphere? He’s bleeding out, he’ll die anyways. Group Teleportation? Nothing prepared…how could I not be prepared? I can only teleport myself.

Save myself…escape.

NO. Not an option. How could I…wait…did he just blink?

The bandits begin to slowly creep forward, regaining their speed. Jaycie’s stomach drops, her blood turning to ice in her veins.

No. No! I’m not done thinking! I need more time!

Jaycie hears a choking gasp. Her eyes dart over to the body on the ground. Alphonse is dying. The bandit standing over her friend has raised his spear once again, preparing the fatal blow.

NO! GIVE ME TIME! I CAN SOLVE THIS!

React.

GET BACK!” Jaycie shrieks.

Her hands clutch the arcane focus hanging from her neck. Shimmering walls of force spring from the ground. Jaycie sculpts the wall around her foes, knocking Alphonse’s assailant backwards just as he brings down his weapon. Jaycie, panting and covered in a cold sweat, watches as the bandits angrily pound against the force wall. Her enemies are trapped, but the wall now blocks the exit.

“That should hold them,” Jaycie sighs.

Demonic shrieks emanate from down the hall, followed by pained cries that could only be Cathan and Thelios.

“We can’t win this!” she hears Thelios yell. Jaycie then recognizes the familiar incantations and dull pop of magic energy.

“No way…” Jaycie rushes to the door to peer down the hall. There is no sign of her companions. Thelios had teleported Cathan and himself away to safety. A torrent of fiendish spirits fills the hallway, the magic of evil clerics now focusing on her.

“No…no…no….” Jaycie backs away, stumbling over the body of Alphonse. He’s still breathing. She kneels down and places her hands over his wounds, trying to stanch the gushing blood.

“I…I don’t know what to do. I don’t know how to solve this,” Jaycie whimpers. Her eyes well up as she grabs and cradles Alphonse’s head. His eyes focus on hers, dipping in and out of consciousness. He’s pleading. Jaycie squeezes Alphonse tightly, tears now streaming down her cheeks.

“Don’t worry Al. They won’t hurt you. Not while I’m here to protect you.”

Jaycie places her hands on his temples and the air around them begins to chill. Ice crystals form across Alphonse’s face as his skin turns a deep shade of blue. His breathing stops.

“Get her!” screams a man dressed in dark robes, who has just appeared in the hall. The angry spirits rush towards Jaycie, but in a blink she vanishes, reappearing on the other side of the wall of force.

She runs until she can’t breathe, and then continues to run. Outside the air is damp and cool. Cathan and Thelios are lying on the ground some distance from the cave, and Jaycie collapses as she approaches them. Gasping for air between sobs, she stares down at her trembling hands, which are still covered in cold blood.

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Why Are the Roads so Dangerous
Draft of a speech for Lowry. "Make Minos Safe Again"

It is time for us to kick up the rhetoric. As we know Lowry’s stories have begun to seep into the collective conscious. I have developed a draft of a speech that is specifically designed to get the people riled up (despite the logical inconsistencies that exist in the prose).

I’ve heard tell of an increase of travelers being ambushed by gangs of thugs on the roads leading in and out of Minos. We should be deeply troubled by this fact. You see, the increase of extremely well armed bandits robbing simple travelers of the few coins they have is less an issue of criminality than a harbinger of serious economic strife…a warning sign of the extreme widening between the rich and the poor…a symptom of a nefarious social and political disease.

The disease is corruption. The disease is a cabal of powerful individuals who have tightened their grasp of the political system and who control the coin. The disease is corruption that, like water spilled onto cobblestone, finds every crack and crevice in the council. The disease is a secret organization that seeks to undermine the representation of good and honest god fearing people.

Rich and powerful politicians, many of whom pretend to be “representative of the people”, have no concern for supporting the classes “below them”. They actually have a vested interest in reducing the people’s influence, so that they can continue to stuff their wallets and purses with dirty money. If that weren’t troubling enough, these tyrants do the bidding of a secret organization that goes to great lengths to ensure that those who come into power are aligned with their nefarious interests. How does this organization accomplish their unquenchable ambition, you might ask? They do so through the worst methods possible, through murder and theft, and kidnapping and brainwashing. The politicians in their pockets allow these deeds to be done and will even gleefully participate in the unspeakable acts of evil.

We are on the verge of being inflicted with a plague, my friends. The only cure is for all of us to rally around those who will publicly denounce the evildoers. I call for those who truly ally with the people – for those few individuals in power with the courage to speak out against injustice – to come forward and make clear their allegiances. And, to those who are deeply entwined with the dark dank societies that control coin and political influence, your lies will be exposed, your true ambitions will be brought to light, and by the will of the people, you will be punished.

MAKE MINOS SAFE AGAIN.

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Always Open

Jaycie always held her breath. She learned that lesson once, and she’s a quick learner.

But she never closed her eyes.

A shimmering sea of silver flowed around her, swirling furiously until it was all at once still. Careful not to blink, Jaycie stared ahead intently. Her face began to shake with concentration as perspiration dampened her forehead. Her burning eyes begged for relief, but the pain only hardened her focus. Finally, as if wiping the fog from a cool mirror, a face appeared and returned her gaze: her own.

Jaycie reached up to brush a strand of platinum hair behind her ear. Her fingers then drifted downwards towards a blemish on her cheek. She frowned.

HEY, HART!” a voice screeched.

Jaycie sighed, turning to face three young girls blocking the entrance to the washroom. The tallest, with sharp features and jet black hair, stood with a ringed finger outstretched in Jaycie’s direction.

“What now, Talia?” Jaycie said with as much vitriol as she could muster.

“I heard from Jacob that you’ve been telling people I have a beak like an owlbear!”

“And claws to match,” Jaycie replied, not even trying to conceal the smirk.

“You backstabbing, coldhearted, fake-ass-hair, tacky-robed harlot!” Talia screamed. In one swift motion she flicked her finger, sending several glowing darts hurdling towards Jaycie.

Instinctually, Jaycie flourished her hand. A gleaming shield of energy sprung forth, causing the missiles to ricochet into the wall in a shower of sparks. While the rest of the girls flinched, Jaycie swung her arm around and pointed two fingers at the floor beneath her assailant. A stream of black, greasy liquid shot out, covering the ground around Talia’s feet.

With a scream and sickening thud, Talia’s head hit marble. She moaned and began to cry between short gasps as her pawns helped her stand.

“If you ever try to touch me again, I promise you won’t be getting up,” Jaycie shouted after them, a satisfied smile creeping across her face. But as she looked back down at the ground her heart sank; a small pool of blood began to mix with the dark grease, forming swirls of dark burgundy.

Jaycie’s eyes began to tear, but she refused to close them. Soon her face was wet, her hair and robes damp and heavy. She was smaller now, standing in the warm summer rain. Jaycie glanced up at the large hand encompassing hers. Her father, dressed in black, met her eyes. He had the kindest eyes she had ever seen, but today they were flecked with grief.

A silver haired elf stood over a gathered crowd, speaking soft words in a melodic tone. Jaycie’s father squeezed her hand harder, but she didn’t cry out, even though it hurt. Her gaze wandered over to the mound of fresh dirt, steadily transforming into mud.

She was too young to fully understand, but as her father began to loosen his grip, Jaycie returned with a full embrace. He choked, wrapping his arms around her. Her father cradled her as she buried her face into his stomach. But still, Jaycie did not close her eyes.

It was warm. The warmest that warm could be. Swaddled in the softest cotton, Jaycie stared upwards, squinting as the sun shone through golden locks. The woman hummed, so gently that Jaycie could barely hear, but still every note caressed her causing tingles to shoot through her head.

Eyes as bright as sapphires watched over her, unblinking as if to never miss a single moment. Brilliant, fierce eyes— they were always open, ever vigilant.

This was peace. This was what she came for. Basking in their glow, Jaycie happily closed her eyes.

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A Sidestep In Time and Space

Traveling through the vastness of all time and existence is an instantaneous act that stretches beyond the concept of infinity.
It’s touching every surface in every dimension of space while taking but a single step.
It’s existing at every moment in time in the passing of a single chronon.
It’s seeing the entirety of existence bloom, wither, and blossom again; understanding that every particle in the cosmic garden is you.
It’s all at once logical and the most contradictory experience in any universe.

And it’s fucking terrifying.


Thelios’s vision blurred as a sudden sharpness caused every neuron in his brain to simultaneously wretch in fire. Clutching his temple, he managed to howl aloud, “Dammit Jaycee! What in Gods’ names…”

You have no Gods. They have abandoned you.

Thelios froze. The burning coldness of fear raced through his veins causing his muscles to tense and his visage to become fraught with dread. Even his breath ceased as his chest clenched tightly to still his now rapidly beating heart.

For what God would have you? What they desire from you, already belongs to me.

As the pain began to subside acuity returned to the Tiefling, although for only the second time in his life, he prayed that it wouldn’t.

Did you think I would not sense your presence when you tried to travel through all of existence?

Fighting the great terror that preyed within him, Thelios slowly opened his unwilling eyes.

You cannot travel along a single thread without disrupting the whole fabric.

Panic began to overtake him. As Thelios looked out, all that lay before him was a darkness greater and deeper than any loss of vision could ever achieve. His pupils widened trying to capture even a mote of light as his eyes frantically darted to all corners of their sockets, searching for anything to attach focus. Tight against his skin, his linen undershirt grew heavy with a cold sweat. His horns pulsed and fingers twitched as they unconsciously tried to summon the familiar hilt of their reliable blade.

The Void rumbled with a heavy laughter.

Do you not remember who provides you with your weapon of judgement? You have no faculty here against me.

“Wha… wha…” Thelios finally managed to stutter, “what is it that you want?”

The Void bristled and spoke with much intent.

You have not been faithful to our arrangement.

“I am trying-”

The Void venomously hissed in return.

Our agreement was not for you to try! Deliver me what you promised!

Thelios shooked with great trepidation.

“I have delivered to you many-”

They have been weak and frail. You promised those spirited with strength and hard of will.

“I am tracking them. Finding those deserving of-”

The Void hissed again.

There is no deserving! All shall succumb to me as they pray in my fearful shadow!

Thelios winced at the sharpness of the vibrations around him. He meagerly muttered,“I will deliver. I promise.”

Yes, you will. And until you fulfill your obligation to me…

“What is it that you want?”

A smirking delight seemed to enter the encompassing resonance.

Those who also traveled with you through all of existence.

Thelios’s eyes widened. He quickly swiveled his head from side-to-side, looking for someone, something, to express his bewilderment.

“No. No, they aren’t who I promised you. They… they are my friends.”

You have no Gods and you have no friends. You have only your debt to me. Bring me what I ask or you shall know a suffering greater than any natural death could deliver.

Thelios was speechless. He tried to swallow but there was a heaviness in his throat. Desperately he started searching in his mind for solutions.

“I… I need them. I need them to deliver everything, everyone I’ve promised to you. Don’t you see?”

The Void was silent.

“But… perhaps… one…” he finally resolved with great reluctance. “If I deliver you one… will you let me live to fulfill our agreement?”

Another silent moment passed that felt like an eternity to Thelios.

Very well.

Conflicted feelings of relief and guilt suddenly washed over Thelios.

But for your insolence, I have changed the terms of our agreement. I expect to receive my offerings from you in the passing of three nights.

“Yes… yes, I understand. Will… will you send me back now?”

I will return you when I desire! In mere seconds in this place, all of history can pass you by. Perhaps a thousand worlds will have grown from the ash of the planet you once knew. Or, after years here… it can be a matter of minutes where you’re from. For now, it pleases me to leave you in this shattered night.

After a quiet moment, the Void expressed a final warning.

Tiefling. Do not make me rescind my generosity to you.

Unsure of how to respond, Thelios carefully nodded his head and sank into the silent dark.

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Tonio's Leveling Thoughts

My first order of business is to spend the requisite time at the temple of Tymora, Goddess of Good Fortune, to level up to Cleric lvl 8. There I will learn how to imbue my weapon attacks with poison damage. That damage type will get me thinking about the synergy of potentially using my next level to choose Rogue lvl 3 and pick the Assassin path, since they get proficiency with the poison kit. This plan will then get me thinking about the Assassin we have locked in our basement and how maybe we are not so different, he and I. That will in turn give me the idea to use my high persuasion skill to try and turn him to our cause, which would be more useful than just leaving him tied up with no specific purpose in mind.

Then however that goes, we could use the ritual of allegiance to test if he’s truly been turned. OR we could even use that same ritual on him as a guinea pig to enlist him as a member of the Coin, so he could act as a spy for us.


This is what’s going through Tonio’s head as we travel back to the city. He expresses it to the group, so if you don’t see him at any point during tonight’s adventures, assume he’s following through with this plan.

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Treatise on Politics and Power: "On Propaganda"

Propaganda numbers among the most powerful political tools. Through the use of propaganda, people can be led to believe and act upon causes about which they previously did not care (or did not know they cared) and are not even in their best interest. In fact, the deeper message of propaganda need not be a majority opinion nor contain whole truths. The best propaganda sounds like truth (regardless of reality), ignites the passion of the people, and contains a message that is mirrored by vocal “truth-tellers” who provide ample and straightforward reinforcement.

In order to be successful, propaganda must contain three essential qualities. First, it has to resonate with the people. Creating this resonance – whether based on an existing frustration or through inventing a new one – leads to the second essential quality of propaganda: a subvert message that, while not immediately apparent to the consumer, is consistently interpreted in order to create the desired effect. The subvert message represents the largest challenge that faces propagandists, namely, how to frame the message such that the audience does not feel coerced. This is why propaganda works so effectively with artistic endeavors, such as art, song and story telling; and why the third essential quality – the delivery mechanism – so important. The method of delivery must be culturally relevant and has increasing impact if humorous or dramatic (or both, if at all possible).

More than anything else, propaganda requires a light touch, an excessive amount of talent and an uncanny ability on the part of the propagandist to anticipate the reaction of the public.

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Jack, T. (207 BME) "Brother Jack's Myths, Fables, and Fairy Tales" (2nd ed.)

Look child!
A sanguine sun-fall at day’s end;
Curse the chilling night it doth portend.
The Oni is coming for you, for you.

Rush home child!
No time for embrace and dandle;
Shutter the windows, light a candle.
The Oni is coming for you, for you.

Quiet child!
He gives no mercy, not this beast;
Halt your cries lest you become his feast.
The Oni is coming for you, for you.

Hide child!
Creature of fear and elder lore;
Is he that lurks just outside your door.
The Oni is coming for you, for you.

Pray sweet child!
Black dagger claws, simper of white;
Cutting the darkness, he’s now in sight.
The Oni is here
for you,
for you.

-Children’s Rhyme

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The Follies of Social Media

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Treatise on Politics and Power: "On Fortune and Misfortune"

“Fortune is not fickle. For there are those upon whom fortune smiles more than others. One with abilities – who experiences good fortune – and has impeccable timing will have success (this is not to say, of course, that misfortune cannot befall such individuals). Nevertheless, great leaders are only as good as the opportunities they seize. Even more so, the greatest leaders must learn to turn disadvantages into advantages to such a degree that they so rarely experience misfortune, and appear to exist on a higher level than everyone around them.”

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A Treatise on Politics and Power

Below is an excerpt from the personal journal (informally known by the few who have had the privilege to read it as “A Treatise on Politics and Power") of the deceased mayor of Selk – Alphonse Saperstein.

“It must be realized that there is nothing more difficult to plan, more uncertain of success or more dangerous to manage than the establishment of a new government; for he who introduces it makes enemies of all those who derived advantage from the old order and finds but lukewarm defenders among those who stand to gain from the new one. Such a lukewarm attitude grows partly out of fear of the adversaries, who have the law on their side, and partly from the incredulity of men in general, who actually have no faith in new things until they have been proved by experience.”

The wisdom set forth by the elder Saperstein has the potential to be used in service of good undertakings, but only by one who has immense ability and fortune (if there is such a thing, as indeed we each create our own destinies). Such an individual is rare, indeed more rare than the discovery of a single perfect pearl among thousands of common mollusks, or as a crystalline diamond shining brightly among a pile of rocks. Lifetimes are lived without meeting anyone who comes close to having such qualities. However, there is presently one who walks in the streets of Minos who can exercise great power to affect change in the bloated belly that Minos has become. He is known to some, will be known by many others, and in time all will know his name and his deeds of goodness and greatness.

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