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  1. Yesterday
  2. Have you had a good week? We sure have! And not just because we’ve watched sanity and truth start to … Cypher Chronicles, vol. The post Cypher Chronicles, vol. 3-2021 appeared first on Monte Cook Games.
  3. In which Eddy has a rare solo chat with Chris Spivey about Masks of the Mythos for Scion, which is currently on Kickstarter. Eddy is alone! Some Doctor Who chatter. In-jokes in books. Even more Doctor Who! How the Mythos works in Scion Mythos morality Mythos mechanics The Mythos “pantheon” Public Domain? Eddy talks about the ACD Estate Research, Harlem Unbound, and Haunted West Masks spoilers! A bit on the Masks setting Chris is miffed! They talk about Leverage? New Callings? Watchmen Links: Scion Dragon and Masks Kickstarter: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/200664283/scion-dragon-and-scion-masks-of-the-mythos-for-scion-2e/ Harlem Unbound: https://www.chaosium.com/harlem-unbound-2nd-edition-hardcover/ Haunted West: https://haunted-west.backerkit.com/hosted_preorders Darker Hue Studios: http://www.darkerhuestudios.com/ Korean Leverage: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leverage_(South_Korean_TV_series) Onyx Path YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/TheOnyxPath Onyx Path Twitch: https://www.twitch.tv/theonyxpath Onyx Path Discord: https://discord.gg/5uckcBk
  4. Preorder Ptolus: Monte Cook’s City by the Spire from your friendly local game store, and we’ll give you the PDF … Ptolus Brick-and-Mortar Preorder Deal! The post Ptolus Brick-and-Mortar Preorder Deal! appeared first on Monte Cook Games.
  5. Where It All Began July 16th, The Awakening… The apologies didn’t stop coming. Chet was, in one way or another consistently trying to get in contact with Marissa and try to repair the damage he had done. Perhaps it was in some vain attempt to win her back and not ruin his chance with her forever or just his conscience getting the best of him. Regardless of which, Devin was sorely running out of patience with him and pretending everything was okay around him was seriously straining his calm. He knew it was also Marissa’s fault, her addictions and blind stupidity were what opened the door for all of these problems to happen to begin with, and he hadn’t let her forget that. He also knew she was using again and her not seeming to learn from her past mistakes grated on his nerves daily. That’s why she wasn’t here at Bunee’s today with him and Tawny. Before they’d left he and Marissa had gotten into another shouting match about her poor life choices when Marissa came stomping down into the kitchen to yell about Chet sending her another Facebook message begging her to give him another chance. This wasn’t what he signed on for. This grand game they planned on playing with the teens of Shelly was supposed to be just that, a game. Now it seemed to be spiraling out of either of their control and he wasn’t sure he wanted to be a part of it anymore. He felt like everyday he was ripping himself to pieces in order to keep others, like his sister, whole. Now, to top it off, the girl that seemed to understand him and help to calm him down had been called home by her father instead of being allowed to sit with him for a quiet, chill lunch with no drama… Until Chet decided to be Chet and pick a fight with Lilly after harassing Clara. "Yeah? I'll show you harmless." He was over on the opposite side of the diner near a table where most of Shelly’s social rejects had retired to for lunch. Lilly had just told Chet he was harmless after Clara decided to insult him for inviting them to a party. Devin thought a simple ‘thank you, no’ would have sufficed, but she had to go and fling taunts. Of course Lilly swooped in to save Ever-The-Victim-Clara from what Devin considered a fight she started. "Dude, you can't even hit hard enough to make a girl quit. Though it's probably the only time you will ever on top of one." Lilly noted, shaking her head. "Yeah... well..." he said, thinking for a moment, "Good thing you're quarterback. Because you love handling balls." Chet said with a sneer, feeling proud of himself. Lilly nodded and shrugged. "Yeah. Maybe, but dude, you chase after them, all game, with all your might, just wanting to get your hands on them." Lilly countered, still smiling as she gave a 'wassup' nod to Clara, her morning jogging buddy, in the booth. All Devin could do was shake his head and keep sliding through his phone. Chet didn't get too much into matching wits with either of the women, although all of the inbred Montanans were being so loud that Devin could have easily been involved in all their conversations at once. He sighed, annoyed that he was still at Bunnee’s but hadn't quite built up a reason to leave yet. Alone at his booth he just tapped the screen on his smartphone browsing his favorite social media, trying to tune out the local mouth breathing drama sponges. "D," Chet held his arms out to Devin, looking at him like a comrade in arms against the teenagers of Shelly. "Bruh, you gonna let em' gang up on me like this? Help a brother out, man?" Devin had, at one point or another, abused, chastised, emotionally assaulted, sexually harassed, or was just cruel in general to about every person sitting in the restaurant at that current point in time, a few got a bit worried when Chet made a call for reinforcements. Sean knew the depths of Devin's emotional detachment when it came to making others feel terrible. Bannon knew that Devin would rather burn this whole city to the ground than spend one more minute there, Clara knew that while she had a Plan, Devin probably had a Manifesto. He hated Shelly and everyone in it and it was moments like this he cherished and salivated for. Moments where he could just bring their perfect little worlds crashing down around them and remind all the little people how weak and pathetic, they actually were... Several tensed for the abuse that was about to be visited upon the dining area... "Chet," Devin never took his eyes away from his phone. His tone was filled with boredom and lack of caring to an extreme, like a bored prince sitting on his throne when he'd rather be whoring. "Sit down. You're an idiot. You picked a fight you couldn't win, and your insults make about as much sense as Roid Rager over here," he thumbed to Lilly without acknowledging anyone. "I mean, 'you chase after them', really?" He still hadn't looked up from his phone. He was irritated about something; they could all tell. Devin never missed an opportunity to destroy any of them, yet here he was just passively blowing them off. "If you don't want to go to the party... just don't go. It's that simple. You don't even have to say anything, simply don't fucking show up. Look around Clara... no one. Will. Miss you. Put that on your suicide note, and we'll all still try to pretend to cry and act like we didn't see it coming. You're smart enough to know that if you talk to Chet, he'll talk back, it's what children do. Chet... you're a moron dude, sit down, drool, look stupid... that's it. That's your fucking job. Don't come over to the big brains and start shit, you know you're gonna lose. Because this is your future, bro. This town. Nothing more. Not a scholarship, not an 'A'... ever, and certainly not fucking my sister so quit hitting her up on Facebook, because she's lost her voice from all the dry heaving your broken English has induced. And for the record, Dick Snot, 'pretty' is spelled with a 'y', not two fucking 'e's..." It wasn't often Chet got it from all sides like this, and it was unprecedented for Devin to fire off both barrels on one of his own popular, jock clique friends. Something was certainly rotten in the state of Den... Montana. Chet had made a move for Devin's sister, and everyone knew that there were only a few taboos in Devin's world, one of them was trying to date his twin sister Marissa. Chet was on Devin's radar... that meant some people, like Sean, might be able to breathe easy for a week or so while Devin's rage was focused elsewhere. "Shit, Devin... uh, look bruh, I was-" Chet tried to stammer out but his babbling was cut short by a very loud snap of Devin's fingers. He still didn't look up from his phone. He just cut off Chet and with the same hand he snapped his fingers again and casually pointed at the bench opposite to him, inviting Chet to have a seat. Everyone knew what came next: the talk. The warning. The one and only time Devin would ever tell someone to stay away from his sister. They had no idea what had been going on over this past summer and couldn’t guess that this was Chet’s third time of getting on Devin’s bad side. There were rumors (and only rumors, mind) of what he'd done to those who didn't heed that warning. Some were never seen again, others he sold their organs on the internet, in one instance he punched their soul out of their body... you know how kids talk. Either way, no one wanted to be in Chet's shoes today… "As for your sister?” Chet turned to face Devin, walking forward a few steps with no intention of sitting down. He’d decided now, and here, of all times to get cocky. “Everyone hits on her, I just didn't get lucky." Devin looked up from his phone, his eyes angled in up in a serial killer glare that said while Chet currently held the high ground, he was seriously underestimating Devin's power. Like all teenagers Devin was now faced with a myriad of possible choices as to how he could handle the rather tense situation Chet had introduced. He could simply weather the slings and arrows of the big guys harsh words and resiliently allow them to not damage his calm. Or, with a few well-placed words of his own Devin could diffuse the situation with finesse and aplomb. There was also a third way but no well-adjusted person every really chose... Devin moved like a striking snake. Swift, lethal and deadly. He tossed his smartphone to Chet and as the large guy reflexively went to catch it, he let his guard down and caught a fist clean to the center of his face. Okay... so Devin chose the third option. Force. It was always force with him... anger, violence, conflict... these were his tools against a county, population and family life he couldn't stand anymore. On any given day, Chet probably could have taken Devin in a square one on one, but Devin wasn't playing fair. The first punch knocked Chet so far back he lost balance and fell backwards. Devin's phone slid wildly across the floor of Bunnee's and slammed into the side someone's foot at Sean's table. Chet didn't have time to recover before Devin was standing over him, pulling his shirt and bringing the big dumb guy towards him for two more heavy blows to the face... Chaos erupted all around them and the rest you all know.
  6. When We Two Parted Chet was still in the group, his punishment as of yet, undecided. The twins had kept the goings on a secret, not mentioning that Chet was involved in the blackmail, only Terry. It had been an awkward week or so, but Marisa did a fine job of ignoring him despite his numerous apologies. Devin, on the other hand, was quick to put the equivalent of a retraining order out on him. He wasn’t allowed to talk to, text, email, even write a letter to Marissa to the point where he was obsessively enforcing it. Still, Chet managed to sneak in a few words here or there. The others began to wonder what was going on, but it was summer and most drama swept away swiftly in order to free up time for the next available party. Chet on the other hand was nervous… there was always a price. Those were the rules. He’d went after the Jauntsens only to lose and so far, aside from Devin locking down on him talking to Marissa, they didn’t seem to have cared at all that it happened. That worried him more than anything. The swimming hole was packed and in full swing, Devin had almost goaded Jacob into a fight until the more mature and levelheaded teenager just walked away from him. Devin declared himself the winner. Through the masses Marissa made her way to the boundaries of the beach were to the shade of a tree where one of her fellow classmates was reading a book. She stopped in front of him, looking down at him as she waited for him to notice her. He didn’t. Jason Bannon wasn’t the sort of type that expected company. He was engrossed in the pages of a book he’d read numerous times. It had been committed to memory on the first read through, years ago, but despite his perfect memory there was just something about holding a book; the way it felt, its scent, the relaxion he felt as his eyes poured over the words on a page. At this moment those words were Lord Byron’s ‘She Walks In Beauty’, a poem that framed the perfect beauty and goodness of an idealized woman yet he made no attempt to give his subject any individuality, instead making her universal, so that any man in love can see his inamorata in the verses. She walks in beauty, like the night / Of cloudless climes and starry skies / And all that’s best of dark and bright / Meet in her aspect and her eyes / Thus mellowed to that tender light / Which heaven to gaudy day denies... Serendipity, it seemed, was not without a sense of irony. She cleared her throat. “Do you not see me standing here?” “I do. But, caring that you’re there and knowing that you’re there are separate things.” He said, not looking up from his book. “You’re Jason Bannon, right?” Now he looked up from his pages, scanning his guest from the wedge heels on her feet to the cut off shorts to the black bikini top. Her hair was unbound and falling over her shoulders and he didn’t understand why she wore makeup to go swimming, but he did notice she’d returned to wearing her trademark maroon lip gloss. “What are you reading?” She bent over to glance at the title, offering him an enticing angle of her breasts. He was certain she did it on purpose. “Lord Byron? Interesting choice.” “I am.” He replied. He let the book close onto his thumb, keeping his page but giving her his attention. “Why is it an interesting choice?” “Because it’s the last sort of literature I’d expect to find in the hands of one of you bumpkins out here Nowhere, Montana,” she glanced around to make sure none were able to hear their conversation. “Look, I know you deal. No bullshit, I’m in the market and curious as to what you can offer.” “Grow my own, standard strains, plus a few I grew on my own.” He stood, letting the bumpkin comment go for now. Brushing himself off, he took in a different angle of her. He knew exactly who she was, who didn’t? She’d always been so beautiful to him, even in the ever-changing climate of high school where styles and people and fads changed daily, she always seemed to be the same measure of perfect beauty no matter how she changed it up. People never interested him much, accept her. She was interesting to him and before he knew it, he’d caught himself staring. “What?” She asked as his eyes paused for too long on her. “Nothing,” the simple word was delivered in its usual monotone. “Prices are fair and a small percentage under the going rates from a few others around here, plus, confidentiality. Usually, I only deal using dead drops, but for Marissa Jauntsen, I could work in person. Save you some time and money.” “Can you get oxy, hydro, addies, maybe?” It was back to business for her, but she didn’t let the way his eyes had locked onto her escape her. She didn’t know that Jason Bannon was unlike any other gentleman she’d encountered thus far in her illustrious introduction to ‘how to be a celebrity and hit rehab by nineteen’. He was wired differently than most, and his gaze being locked on her didn’t mean a door was opening for her to manipulate him like she did everyone else, it just simply meant what it implied: in this moment Marissa was the most attractive distraction he’d had so far today. “Oxies and hydro will kill you,” he shook his head. He knew she was a partier, but he didn’t know she was that dedicated. “I don’t deal death; I deal a good time. Addies? I can make my own and their moderately less addicting, so use responsibly. Easy recipe, lasts longer and, according to my positive Yelp reviews, the sex is amazing.” “Haven’t tested it yourself?” She flirted with a raised eyebrow and mischievous grin. “No,” he replied dryly. “Dealing 101. Don’t get high off your own supply. Now, they are more expensive, but they’ll keep you alert longer and keep those grades up. Trust me. Fifteen each.” “I’ll take three hundred dollars’ worth, when can I pick them up?” It wasn’t often Jason was taken by surprise, let alone put on his heels, even if temporarily, but her request left him completely off guard. He wasn’t even sure he had three hundred dollars worth made at the moment, generally he could get by with ten at a time or so, it kept production costs low and the product fresh. Shelly was a very small market, not really a big spender type of community. When he started dealing, he went in knowing that it was for side money, not to pay his way through college. Marissa though? This girl was on a whole new level. “Tomorrow,” when her expression turned sour, he explained. “Fresh batch, just for you. Let you test the product right from me to you. Nothing that’s been lying around. I don’t keep a phone, so you can’t text me or call me. You need something, you speak to me directly. Business is discreet and if you do something stupid like tell all your friends or get caught and my name comes up, we’re done. Period. If all that is okay with you, meet me here tomorrow. If not, then it was a nice to meet you in person, finally.” “I like you,” she cooed like she’d just found a new toy to play with. He was blunt, honest and the best part was he meant every word of it. He wasn’t afraid of her and that was new. “Smart, and you know how to do business. I can respect that.” “Not bad for a bumpkin. I know.” His tone was about as sarcastic as he could manage. She reached down, slipping the book from his grip and looking at its cover. It was well worn and showed that veteran status of being one he’d returned to a lot throughout the years. “He’s one of my favorites, you know.” She said, holding it almost lovingly. She seemed gentler with poetry than she was with people. “Is he now?” Jason asked, glancing to the book in her hand then back into her eyes. He wasn’t one to judge, but she didn’t seem the poetry type if he was being honest with himself. “When we two parted / In silence and tears,” she began, her voice soft and dangerously close to passionate. She stepped forward, tracing a sharp red fingernail down his chest to his abs where she stopped to meet his eyes. “Half broken-hearted / To sever for years / Pale grew thy cheek and cold / Colder thy kiss / Truly that hour foretold / Sorrow to this.” She recited by heart only the first verse, but the one she chose was one about the finality of a previous relationship, perhaps something secret and forbidden and Jason immediately made the correlation between it, and their dealings. Perhaps he has misjudged her, and suddenly had made her infinitely more interesting. She turned and walked away from him; his book still cradled gently in her hand. “My book.” He reminded her. She just kept walking, turning back only to smile flirtatiously at him. “See you tomorrow.” She was several steps away and he was still standing there, pondering the events, the poem, her thievery. Trying to understand the ‘peopling’ in it all. He lit up a hand rolled cigarette and looked at the Royal Suite where the ‘It’ crowd laughed and passed the time. Marissa sat on her towel, reading Lord Byron and completely uninterested in anything else. “The hell just happened?”
  7. The Bitch Came Back... Chet’s bedroom was dimly lit, and the sounds of Top 40 Hits played from Chet’s phone to his Bluetooth speaker as muted background noise. His parents were out tonight, spending time with friends in what Chet knew would be a late night of cards and drinking. He’d snuck Marissa in not shortly after they’d left. She bit her bottom lip and arched her hips. She let out a soft moan as her fingers ran through Chet’s short red hair. He suddenly stopped and looked up from between her thighs, his breath short and lips glazed with her arousal. “Did you?” He asked. She opened her now rolling eyes and sighed and her body relaxed lazily as she felt dryness creeping to her nethers. “No, Chet. I moaned. Just like the last time you asked me. You don’t have to stop every time I make a peep and ask if I’ve had my orgasm.” “Oh,” he looked like he was about to get back to it when she compressed her thighs together and barred any further activity. “You know what? This isn’t working for me.” She pushed herself up on his bed, fixing herself as she shimmied her skirt back down. “What? Come on, it was getting good,” he protested while standing up. “We haven’t done shit but kiss for the past month! Who hasn’t gone all the way after a month of dating in this town?” Men, Marissa had figured out, were not a highly intelligent bunch. They were easily distracted by provocative underwear, cleavage, and the occasional make out session. She needed Chet distracted tonight and knew kissing would just be old hat at this point, so she let them start out with some heavy petting and she slowly guided his hands to places she hadn’t before. Like a fish on a hook, he was baited and eating out of her… well, hand, so to speak. What she hadn’t planned on was him being so abysmally horrible at it. His observation, however, boiled her blood. She wanted to go off on him and remind him that he was a blackmailing prick, and she would never date him, but she needed him calm tonight. “It’s not you, it’s me.” The Devil on her shoulder rolled around with laughter while the Angel… well, there was no Angel. “I mean, come on, can you blame me? I need to be able to trust you.” “You can!” His reply was quick, just like she knew it would be. He was almost pleading, begging her with his statement and she was used that tone in a guy’s voice when he just really wanted to get what he wanted and was willing to say anything to get it. “Baby, you can trust me with anything.” She knelt on his bed and walked over to where he stood at the edge. Wrapping her arms around him she smiled a red lipped smiled just before she kissed him. Her tongue seductively traced his lips, seemingly uncaring that he’d not wiped his face clean of her dampness yet, and that only turned him on even more. After the passionate moment she pulled away and smacked him gently on his broad chest a few times. “We’ll try again in a bit, promise. Now, go wash your face.” She said playfully. His gullible smile was all she needed to see before he marched of to the bathroom to do as she asked. Now, all she needed was to disassociate herself from her brother tonight to make it look like she wasn’t aware of what was going on. “Hey, have you heard from my brother at all tonight? I text him earlier and he’s not replying,” she spoke loudly so he could hear her. “Yeah!” He yelled over the water running into the sink. “He’s out with Cody and Todd.” The water fell silent and he walked back into his room, wiping his face with a hand towel. “Rebecca, preachers’ daughter, Rebecca called up Devin. They’re partying tonight, said she’d bring friends, so Tee and Cee went with. Invited me too, but we had plans.” “Should’ve joined them,” she looked at him with mischief in her eyes. “Preacher’s daughter is a freak.” “And how would you know?” He laughed, approaching her and wrapping his arms around her, kissing her gently. She hated how handsy he was. He couldn’t go ten seconds without holding, touching or kissing her. He was possessive and insecure to the extreme, but as sick as it made her, it gave her something she could exploit. “Deej and I shared her a few times,” Chet leaned back and raised an eyebrow at her. She scoffed and playfully slapped his chest. “Not at the same time. This isn’t Game of Thrones.” Relieved he stepped back. “You and her uh… y’know, lately?” “Lately, no.” Her reply was honest enough and she stepped away from him to walk to his dresser mirror to fix her makeup and ruffled clothing. “I’ve been spending all my time with you. But we have partied a few times in the past.” “Hot. Get me video next time,” he laughed and plopped down onto his bed. “Sorry,” she fixed her hair and lip gloss, adding a bit of a teasing shimmy for him while she readjusted her panties from where he’d shifted them during their failed attempt at intimacy. “I’ve learned my lesson with videos. You’ll be lucky if I ever add an emote to a text I send you.” “C’mon, Mari,” his hands went up in sudden irritation and fell back to the bed. “Why do you always bring that up? Have I done anything with it? No. Look at us, we’re happy, I do make you happy, right?” “Of course, you do,” she lied. Turning to face Chet she leaned against his dresser, folding her arms. “But we’ve been over this a hundred times. As long as you have that video I’m not your lover or your girlfriend, I’m your prisoner.” “If I get rid of it, you’ll leave.” His brow straightened and his tone slipped into something that didn’t sound like him anymore. Chet had never been a bad guy, just a bit of an entitled bully, but when it came to Marissa, he always sounded possessive to the point of scary. “We’ve been through this.” “And I’m not rehashing it,” Marissa walked to the bed and leaned down to kiss him. Her hand gently traced over the fabric at the crotch of his shorts. “You want all of me, and I’ve told you how to get it. The rest is your choice.” “Or,” he mumbled out between kisses. “You leave me.” “No risk, no reward.” She giggled, kissing him passionately as he slid his hands under her shirt. Not wanting to be distracted by another make out session she tapped his chest again and pulled away. “I’m hungry.” “You’re always hungry,” he complained. “I know, right?” She back away from the bed offering him her hands so she could help him up. “Lately I am starving like, all the time. Be my hero and cook us up some burgers? I know you have those freezer ones.” She put on her cute face and pouty eyes. “Please?” Teasingly she looked down at the desire in his shorts and back up to him, biting her lip. She cooed seductively. “Make it worth your while.” “Seriously?” He grinned wide that stupid grin of his and lurched up from the bed, stepping around her like she wasn’t even there. She couldn’t recall him moving with such urgency in a long while, leaving his phone next to the Bluetooth speaker. “This better fucking work,” she whispered once he was gone, not looking forward to having to make do on that promise she just made to go down on a guy for a couple of cheeseburgers. Following Sean’s instructions, it was only a matter of seconds before she was screen sharing Chet’s phone off his Bluetooth connection. “Cassidy… you’re a fucking genius. I could fucking kiss you right now.” She went into the settings and turned off his phone lock. She could make changes to settings but not edit or delete his files or apps. Within the blink of an eye, she was in Chet’s bathroom sitting on the edge of the tub and deleting everything she could find. Texts, gallery, everything, although she took a moment to watch the video again if only to remind her of how stupid she’d been. Afterwards, she deleted all of his contacts out of spite. All that was left was to hope against hope he didn’t make any copies of the damn thing somewhere she couldn’t or didn’t already look. At this point, the plan was a Hail Mary against copies of the video. Chet was playing the drums with the countertop when his phone slammed onto the counter and slid to a halt. Surprised, he spun about to find Marissa standing in the doorway of the kitchen, her regal expression had returned and even Chet’s small mind was already doing the math. He looked to his phone then back to her. “Um, did you want the station changed?” he asked, referring to her not being able to access his phone to change it on her own. It was a stupid thing to say, but he needed a moment to collect and process what might be about to happen. “No,” she stepped forward, one leg crossing confidently in front of the other like she was on a runway. “I was just coming to tell you I’m leaving. And,” she reached up and draped the vibrant red panties she’d been wearing, and that he’d bought for her, over his shoulder. “To give you back those, since they represent the closest you will ever get to me from this day forward.” “What’re you talking about?” He looked back to his phone and quickly grabbed it, swiping it to unlock it but there was not code. His eyes widened as everything began making sense, there in his gallery: nothing. Everything was gone. His files? Gone. There was nothing left. She’d deleted every part of his life that he kept on his phone and to a teenager that tantamount to murder. “You bitch! The fuck did you do!?” He looked at her and took one angry step forward, but Marissa stood her ground. Unflinching, she stopped him in his tracks. “Do it.” Was all she said with her eyes locked on him. “Send me home with bruises, Chet. I fucking dare you. Your dad sells cars, mine is retaking his pistol qualification next week.” He’d called her everything there was a word for as she walked out of his house, but she was barely listening. If he had a copy of it he would have said something by now, she was sure of that. Anything to keep lording his power over her. Her car door closed and her eyes met the rearview mirror. She couldn’t help but smile devilishly at herself as the sensation of her old self was slowly returning. They’d won and got the better of Chet and that made her feel like the Queen of Shelly once again. She wiped her lips clean of the red and started her car. Leaning in Devin’s doorway later she smirked an evil maroon smirk. “Well, are we clear?” “Looks like it,” Devin stood from his bed, dropping the gaming controller at the foot. “Nice shade. I take it it’s done?” “It’s done.” She wrapped her arms around him and hugged him tightly. “Thank you.” He held her close, giving her the time she needed to recenter herself after all the drama. Softly he started to sing, “We’ve got all the ways to be…” It was the song from the Disney movie they had auditioned for and would have had the part, but their mother managed to annoy the producers to the point where they ended up getting recast. They didn’t get the starring roles, but they’d memorized every song. Marissa smiled from where she was tucked tightly in her brother’s arms and giggled as she sung the last of it, spelling the one word in all the world she enjoyed the most. “W-I-C-K-E-D.” She groaned and released him. She skipped down the stairs as he followed. “Ugh, we would have been so awesome in that movie. Notice how Dove Cameron’s Botox just got worse and worse in all the sequels? I’m hungry, feed me and tell me I’m pretty.” Devin laughed and skipped right behind her. “Botox or not, she’s still hot as fuck, and I’m not cooking, we’re doing pizza. Oh, did you hear Cam passed away?” “Whaaat? What happened? He was only, like, twenty, and such a sweetheart…” They sat at the island in their kitchen eating pizza and talking well past midnight. They didn’t do it often, but they sat, spent time together and laughed and talked and for just awhile they didn’t feel like the reigning royalty of a small town in Montana they tyrannically subjugated for their own sick amusement. They were normal. Two teenage siblings gossiping and goofing around like normal teens should have and for the first time in several weeks Marissa was able to get a sound night sleep.
  8. The Evil That Men Do Terry paced about in the darkness, the cherry from cigarette glowing brightly for a moment before it dimmed again when he exhaled a white cone of smoke for his lungs. He was across the street from his house where he usually stepped out to smoke. He had a habit of getting wrapped up in what was going on his phone and wandering off into the forested area just across the street from his house where he’d lean against one tree or another while one cigarette would become two or more as he replied to texts or fielded calls or just plain got lost on the internet in the warm summer air. The white light from his phone moved about as he paced, giving him away in the shadows of the late June evening. He smirked at the screen and pinched his cigarette between his lips and held up his phone to reply to whomever text him or whatever comment amused him. Devin’s stomach was tight and about to wrap itself in knots. Todd and Cody were on either side of him, kneeling in the shadows where Devin had spent the last couple of weeks staking out Terry and learning his patters and habits. He’d surmised that this, while he was smoking, was the best time to get him. His mind continued to chastise his rational brain, screaming that what he was doing was insane, criminal and borderline psychotic. He thought about confronting Terry alone but feared that it would only cause him to tell Chet and they might get uppity and upload that video and ruin Marissa’s future. The three of them, however, could put the fear of God into Terry and make him understand that actions have consequences. Actions have consequences. The though gave Devin pause as he watched Terry. If that were true, him and Marissa had one hell of a reckoning coming their way one day. It wasn’t supposed to be like this. The experiment, the game, whatever they wanted to call it, wasn’t supposed to turn their ‘friends’ into devious, deceptive, violent people who reveled in the misery of others. Even Marissa, the longer it went on, got lost in the power and prestige that being the Queen of Shelly gave her. It was like something burrowed into their minds and souls and just made them… off. No one knew his sister better than he did and Devin knew that in the last few years, she’d changed so dramatically that he didn’t even recognize her on somedays. Not that he was one to talk. Here he was in the shadows with two of his goons ready to avenge his sister and the thought of hurting this fool Terry made him feel… good. He was looking forward to this. Did that make him just as messed up as everyone else? Devin stepped from the shadows and approached Terry. The crunching of the leaves on the wooded grounds should have given him away immediately but it took until Devin was almost on him for Terry to be disenchanted enough by the distraction of his phone for him to take notice. “Terry?” Devin asked, lazily pointing at him briefly before letting his hand drop to his side. “You’re Terry, right?” This stranger just stepped from the shadows and casually asked him his name. Everything about the sudden shift in Terry’s evening told him that things were about thirty seconds form taking a sharp decline. “Who’re you?” Terry asked a question with a question. That was one of Devin’s pet peeves. “Devin,” he said calmly. His stomach was on fire, he burned with hate for this guy and what he did to his sister. “Jauntsen. You know my sister, Marissa.” Terry’s eyes darted back and forth as if it suddenly dawned on him Marissa’s brother was in all dark clothing, and he was over a hundred yards from his house in an empty, heavily wooded lot in the middle of nowhere. He kicked rocks. Hardcore. He could tell Devin didn’t give chase as he bolted away from him. The leaves underfoot loudly shuffled like the waves roaring up onto a shoreline on a windy evening. Hearing was almost impossible, and he could barely see, he knew the path so well he usually just walked it absent mindedly. Now, however, he was in a state of panic. He wasn’t calm enough at the moment to consider where he was going or have the wherewithal to stop and turn on his phone’s flashlight. He never saw, and barely heard, Cody come up from his flank and even if he had, the shoulder check Shelly’s star football player leveled onto him sent him flying backward an impressive six to ten feet where he slammed into a tree at an uncomfortable angle and felt to the ground. “This the guy, dude?” Cody laughed as he approached the doubled over Great Falls dealer. He hoisted his victim up easily; Terry was still to dazed to put up much fight. Cody slammed Terry’s back into the tree, hard. With his other hand he pulled long piece of torn sheet out from his pocket and gagged Terry. When he struggled Todd stepped up and slugged him in the gut, the wincing reflexively jerked Terry’s arms back down to instinctively protect his exposed core. He was already in tears, but Cody sure as hell didn’t care. He began to wrap the full length of the sheet all the away around the small trunk of the tree and tied it tightly, binding Terry to the tree by gag. Todd punched him again and lent his own sheared length of sheet to bind Terry’s arms down and his body to the tree. Devin casually approached, hands in pockets like some mob boss. “Terry,” he smirked. “Terry, Terry, Terry… oh, Terry.” He taunted, letting the reality of the situation sink into the man who blackmailed his sister. Terry retaliated with mumbles and muffled screams and while his arms and head were bound to the tree, he valiantly flailed at Devin in fear and anger with his feet. He kicked out at Devin, who was intentionally just out of range, until he felt he was losing his balance and then he’d set that foot down and flail with his other. Laughing, Devin pointed to Terry and looked to Cody and Todd, who were standing behind Terry, on either side. “You seeing this? This guy fucking serious right now?” His goons laughed. “Terry, bro. M’dude. You know why I’m here, don’t you?” Terry mumbled through his gag, it was barely coherent, but he got the point across. “Go fuck yourself. Your sister’s a slut.” Devin inhaled and smirked while he released the breath. “Maybe. But I’m not here because my sister likes to fool around with dudes like you. This isn’t an overprotective brother house call. You know why I’m here, and if you don’t answer my questions, truthfully, then it’s going to be a bad night for you. In fact, it’s going to be a bad life for you, because I could easily hammer on a piece of shit like you for fun and, full disclosure, I don’t mind making this drive once in a while.” Terry looked into Devin’s eyes. While the bound man held no love for this guy, his sister, or his current situation, he could see how serious Devin was. He noticed Cody pick up a thick tree branch and felt him slide it between the sheet and the tree. After a few moments he felt the pressure on his bindings tighten and Cody turned the branch end over end. He winced in pain, trying to tighten his chest to fight back against his bindings but just didn’t have the strength to compete with the football player acting as torturer. “The video,” Devin asked, cupping Terrys chin and cheeks with his hand and turning his face to look at him. “Where is it?” A glance from Devin had Cody loosen the bindings slightly. “Ph…” He mumbled through his gag. In a defiant moment of courage, he giggled with a no small measure of madness in his eyes. He was planning on making this hard. “Fuck yourself…” “Phone?” Devin smirked. “That what you were going to say?” The phone in question was being delivered by Todd to Devin’s hand at that moment. It had fallen to the ground after Cody’s amazing shoulder check. Of course, Devin knew all this information. He’d already broken in and snooped around and knew that Terry, so far, hadn’t made any copies of it. Most people didn’t, not when their phone was a secure and portable form of media, Devin’s only real worry was that he’s uploaded it to sites like 4chan or Pornhub and had spent an interesting amount of time lately watching everything posted on those sites. In the last few weeks, he’d seen some shit. “This phone?” Terry tried to spit at Devin… but the gag. Devin gave him an off-color look that Terry was starting to read as his ‘seriously’ look. Devin swiped the screen and it asked for the four-digit unlock code. Devin showed him the screen and the request for the code. “What’s the code?” He asked. Terry laughed through squinted eyes, flipping Devin off with both fingers. “We can make this look like a bear attack, Terry.” Devin jested. “If that’s how you want it, but I’m still in a good mood, so let’s be civil, hm? I’m going to ask you the code, you tell me with your fingers, and if that doesn’t work, well, my buddies break one. ‘Nine’ is tricky with broken fingers, I hear, so the way I gather you get one shot to make your jokes and play tough guy, or at the very least hope ‘nine’ is nowhere in your code. Ball’s in your court. We’ll wait while you think it over.” Cody twisted the branch and squeezed Terry tighter to the tree to encourage him to think quickly. Within moments Terry was making gestures with his hands, 4-4-4-4. Cody let up and Devin tapped in the numbers, chuckling about how he hated it when it was something he probably could have guessed. He scoured the phone’s gallery, swiping back to the weekend when Marissa was getting her high on and decided that blowing her dealer would be a great idea, because it did wonders for Kim’s career. Sure enough, the video was there. He paced around and followed the directions he’d researched online for how to wipe someone’s Cloud-drive, just in case, then proceeded to scour his texts to see if he’d sent it to anyone besides Chet, then deleted all of those too. All that was left was the video itself, and he destroyed it with a sense of satisfaction but only after he sent it to himself, then deleted the call logs and all his contacts. The entire process took the better part of five to ten minutes and in the meantime Todd and Cody watched over Terry. When he was finished, he approached their captive. “You know why we came here,” Devin’s voice was an almost eerie tone of Batman calm. “You know what will happen if we ever have to come back. My sister? Off limits to you, forever. She says ‘hello’ you turn and run away as fast as you can. Taking videos and using them as blackmail just because my sister won’t sleep with you is damn near grounds for me to roll you down a cliff and break you on the rocks on one of the numerous riverbeds in this fucking state. If you made copies, I highly recommend you delete them, because if they ever surface, my sister might be on blast for it, but I’ll have nothing but rage, time and motive to dedicate my fucking life to ending yours.” He gripped Terry’s throat, slamming his head back into the tree. “Have I made myself clear?” Terry nodded.
  9. The Long Game June 2019. Shelly, Montana. Three weeks before the Awakening. The Jauntsen Twins were always in it for the long game. They were well into the last week of June and although everyone knew Marissa didn’t date, the local cliques couldn’t help but notice how much closer her and Chet had seemed to be getting the past couple months. Nearly all the school hung out at a private swimming hole that they assumed was super-secret and none of their parents knew about it or could find them there. Their very own private beach away from the world. What they didn’t know was that their parents used it when they were in school, and it was probably the least kept secret in all of Shelly. The only reason they didn’t all get busted there was because, as long as everyone was behaving themselves, it was an unspoken rule to allow the kids to believe they were getting away with something and had something they could all call their own. In truth it was one of the only places where nearly all the grades, who could be trusted to be out on their own, were represented in a single place, aside from the school itself, where they could all socialize and hang out. Bunees was an option too, but only so many school kids could fit in the small malt shoppe. So naturally the Jauntsen Twins had to show up and ruin it for everyone. One of the reasons the Jauntsen Twins were so popular, despite how horrible they were, was because they were exceptionally good looking. Devin was a gymnast with a sleek and toned physique that made him look like he belonged in some CW show targeted for older teens and young adults thirsty for drama. Whether they loved him or hated him, no one could deny that Devin was one hell of a good-looking guy and there weren’t many females in Shelly that didn’t swoon anytime he was around them. With his shirt off and shorts down enough to fully show off his tight abs he walked through the scene like he owned the place. Marissa worked just as hard as her brother at looking great, remaining flexible, lithe and toned year-round, and that went double for bikini season. Like her twin her body was toned and her curves were smooth and enticing from her bust to her hips. All of Shelly’s classmates knew Marissa by name, appearance and attitude. In fact, it was two of those things that made her so desirable and the last one that kept them looking instead of trying their luck at asking her out. Her vibrant red bikini matched her lipstick shade, and it was far more daring in its design than any of the other kids of Shelly High were comfortable wearing. Coming from a beach state, Marissa was relatively comfortable with her body (and being gorgeous helped, of course) and she strolled through the crowd alongside Devin, announcing their arrival by being beautiful and attracting stares as they passed people enjoying the sun and the water. “S’up, bro!” Devin offered a nod to a classmate. Lona Wilson, whose shaved head had earned her a nickname form Devin to remind her daily of how much she looked like a dude. She was sitting on the rocks with her sister(?), Clara Wright, looking out at everyone else having a good time while she sat around doing what she did best: brood. Lona replied to his gesture with a one of her own, a rigid middle finger that proudly said what everyone in Shelly was thinking. He looked to his sister. “Wow, rude.” Marissa smirked. “I think she wants you. Need me to wingman?” “Gross,” Devin chuckled. “Not if you paid me.” “So, what did you find out about Terry?” She asked as they walked to the ‘Royal Suite’ of the swimming hole, a series of high, flat rocks that overlooked the water and the small, but packed, beach below, by about ten feet or so. They were just large enough to accommodate Devin, Marissa, and all the other ‘it’ crowd of Shelly High. “Well, using what you told me I staked out his place. Broke in the other night and you were right, he didn’t have anything on his hard drive, and he didn’t have any thumbs lying around. Not a tech savvy dude, like you said.” “Wait,” she whispered. “You broke in!? Deej that was dangerously stupid!” He side-eyed her with a displeased expression. “You really wanna start comparing stupid mistakes?” “Fuck off.” They’d gotten on better terms in the last month, maybe because they hadn’t seen a whole lot of each other as Marissa was constantly with Chet as his new arm candy. She moved past his sarcasm with a briefing of her own findings. “Well, he’s obsessive. Classic personality. He’s possessive, needs to know where I am at all times, who I’m with and when I’m seeing him next. When we’re together he has to always be touching me, hand holding, my head on his shoulder, something.” “Are you trying to get this guy killed?” Devin asked while he seethed internally at the thought of Chet touching his sister. “Has he, uh… you know. Tried anything?” “Sexually?” She shrugged. “Not really. Which surprises me. I think he’s still trying to convince me to fall in love with him by not taking advantage of me by using the video. He always seems really conflicted on the matter… like he wants to, but then he just… I don’t know… doesn’t. Most we’ve done is make out and some heavy petting. FYI, he is a horrible kisser. He does that ‘swallow your face hole’ open mouthed kiss… ugh, it’s so gross. I have to re-do my eyeshadow every time we fool around because he’s licked it off.” They both laughed. “There is nothing on his PC and he has only two thumb drives. One for homework and one for porn, like you have.” She’s left out the man-handling and minor abuse she put up with. He was handsy and roughed her up for her attitude once in a while, but it was nothing that left a mark, not after she reminded him that she couldn’t rock her bikini if she was covered in bruises. It was the dumbest conversation she had to have with a guy, talking about showing off her body for him while she was thinking of caving in his skull with a football trophy. “Whaaat?” Devin sounded like he was offended at the notion that he was keeping porn on the thumb drive. “I have way more than one. What an amateur.” She snickered and continued. “He doesn’t need porn. He has me.” She boasted. “Gross.” He brother feigned hurling. “The problem is his phone; he changes his password all the time. It is only four numbers, but I never know what they are. I think he knows I’m looking at his finger presses when he unlocks it, or at least trying to. He doesn’t use cloud storage, so our best bet is that he believes his phone is the most secure place to keep it.” “Phone is covered.” Devin smirked. “Cassidy hooked me up. He said if Chet is using his blue tooth, you can slip into his phone that way, share networks with his phone from yours and you’ll have access to his gallery, including videos. He wrote down how to do it.” “How?” She asked, suddenly excited in anticipation of this nightmare to be over. They’d spent the last several weeks doing what they did best: manipulation. While Marissa was with Chet, all she was doing was analyzing his pattern-of-life. Where he kept media storage, what were his passwords, what was his sleeping schedule, how heavy or light of a sleeper he was. By now she was convinced that she knew more about Chet than he knew about himself. “Not here. Does it look like I’m carrying hacking instructions in my fucking swim trunks?” He gestured to his swimming trunks, black shorts with a knee length spandex liner. “Today, just play the part. Tonight, Cody, Todd and I are handling Terry. You’ll handle Chet, just remember, the video now, revenge later.” “Bet.” She said coldly, glaring at Chet who was sitting shirtless in the sun laughing with Tammy and Curtis up on the rocks. “How do you keep getting Cassidy to help us? Can we trust it?” “Symbiosis. Sure, Cassidy hates that I pick on him, but he also knows that without me, the bullying he’d receive from the others would be way more severe, like ICU severe. He’s a freak, sure, but, I mean, it’s not his fault. If I’m going to hate someone, I do it honestly. So, I keep face by picking on him, and do him a solid by keeping the real beatings at bay. So, he’s willing to hook me up from time to time. Won’t budge on removing that pixel mesh from all the Japanese porn I have though, fucker.” Marissa laughed. “God, we are so fucking good at this. They’re doing us favors while we’re treating them like shit. I swear, we have all the ways to be…” “W-I-C-K-E-D.” He spelled it out, so it rhymed with ‘be’. He laughed. “Ugh, I’m still so pissed we got recast for that movie.” He nudged her. “Okay, game face.” The two approached the Royal Suite and smiled their fake smiles as they greeted their ‘friends’ from school and spent the afternoon soaking in the sun. Tonight, with any luck, Marissa’s mistake would be erased, and Chet’s head would be on a platter. She made a note to herself to get Cassidy something nice as a thank you.
  10. It Worked For Kim “Are you fucking kidding me, Marissa?” Devin yelled at his sister as he stormed down the hall from his room into hers. His sock sheathed feet echoed hollow thumps with each angry step he took. “I don’t believe this. I don’t believe you!” He gestured to his twin who was in her room taking off the white mock turtleneck she’d worn that day to school. She spun swiftly about to face him, covering her black lace bra and chest with her crossed arms. “Dude, what the hell, get out!” Her foot caught the arch of one of her numerous heeled shoes and she flung it at him with a kick-like flick of her foot. Devin dodged the flagrant assault on his person as the shoe soared out the door bouncing off the wall and rattling around in the hallway. “Seriously? You swallow everything in a dealer’s sac and now your future is in jeopardy, but ‘oh no, my twin brother might see me in my underwear’ is gaining ground on your Top 5?! Your priorities are shit, Marissa.” “Eat me.” She grumbled and just kept on with getting changed for her visit with Chet. Devin nodded, making eye contact with his sister in the mirror as she pulled on a top with a plunging neckline in the hopes that the cleavage would distract Chet while they ‘negotiated’. “Mmm, yeah. That next on your list? You done sucked and fucked every dealer, junkie, alcoholic and frat boy in two counties, gonna get hopped up on ludes and throw a little incest into the mix?” “The fuck is your problem?” She yelled at him while sliding on a pair of jeans under the skirt she had worn to school. An unzip later let the skirt drop without her brother catching anything more than the black lace triangle of fabric that disappeared down into her jeans, not that it was awkward for either of them. The Jauntsens were a show business family and before they moved to Montana if a day went by where they weren’t changing in the car or in a small dressing room that shared with several others, then something was out of place. Still, strange as they were, they exercised as much modesty as they could... usually. “You’re my problem!” He yelled at her while she zipped up her boots. “What the hell is wrong with you? You told me you stopped all that shit and now you walk into my room and drop a bomb like that and walk off like this shit will be fixed in a day!” “I was done with it,” she said calmly, walking right past him like he was an unseen ghost. She skipped down the stairs and made a left into the kitchen, her heels echoing through the empty house as they met the tiled floors. She twisted the cap off a bottle of water and let the fridge door close on its own as she turned to her brother. “Then, I wasn’t.” The look of disgust on Devin’s face was one for the record books as she slid to halt in his socks on the polished floor. “’Then you weren’t’. Oh, what? One OD isn’t enough for you?” “Devin that was-“ “Stupid! Ignorant! Moronic! Irresponsible! I can go on.” He yelled, cutting her off. “I get it, Emjay, I do. Go out have a little fun, vent the frustrations of dealing with mom’s bullshit and dad… well, fuck let’s face the facts that dad has just checked the fuck out. I get it, I live here too I see it every day, just like you! But If you keep this up Em, you’re going to end up dead! That shit is going to kill you!” “Stop yelling at me!” She yelled back in a rare moment when she rose her voice, usually always at her brother. “I got high and got recorded giving a guy a blowjob, big fucking deal! This is bad, but it’s not the end of the fucking world, Deej! Kim Kardashian got a fucking TV show afterwards and it’s been on for like, ten years! She’s a fucking billionaire after her sex tape!” “Are you out of your fucking mind?! She wasn’t in the video snorting oxies before she had sober, consensual sex with her boyfriend. This is your fucking future, Marissa!” He frantically paced about, his anger making him agitated to the point where he needed to move. The only time was ever still was when he was sleeping, and even then, he tossed and turned. When this riled up, he almost seemed like he was dancing, his movements were so sporadic, and it was like he wanted to walk away but invisible hands kept yanking him back. “We’re not in Malibu anymore, Marissa! The police will ruin you; colleges will reject you! You’re self-destructing! Th-this is getting out of control. You are getting out of control! It was fun at first but this game… these people… it’s… it’s poisoning you.” “Drama queen.” She raised her eyebrow and smirked, mocking him as she took a drink of water. “We set out to run this place until we graduated, and we’re on top still. Chet just caught us off guard, we’ll fix him. It’ll just take time. These idiots are like puppets, Christ, get your shit together.” Her water bottle slipped from her hand and she screamed in shock as Devin swiped his arm across the island in the kitchen, launching the vertical paper towel holder and salt and pepper shakers off to collide with the vertical blinds that covered the sliding glass door that led out to the patio. “No, they’re not puppets, Marissa! Sure, they were idolizing us at first but familiarity breeds contempt! They’re evolving, trying to move past us, surpass us, run shit themselves. Cody blatantly offered to rape Sean’s sister today! He’s losing his fucking mind, getting more unpredictable. Todd said he was outside Bunee’s trying to smash racoons with bricks! We’re convincing them that this deviant, evil shit is okay. Emjay… we forgot to consider that everyone has their special brand of fucked up in their souls. They’re turning on us. We need to stop. We need to fix what we’ve done to these people, they’ll listen.” Glancing at the door and then back she groaned as she picked up her water bottle, casting it off into the sink. “The only one losing their mind is you, you fucking psycho! Jesus Christ, what the hell is wrong with you?! So he’s smashing raccoons, good, fuck them! Gross, disgusting little shits anyway. It’s a public service!” She stepped to the island and leaned against it, looking at her brother with equal parts compassion and frustration. “Devin, these people are too stupid to outsmart us. We’re fucking pros at this. So Chet-“ “Outsmarted you?” Her brother’s cocky observation didn’t do much to calm how pissed she was at him. “Got lucky.” She corrected. “So, Terry was his cousin. Small world, and I didn’t see that coming. Now, we improvise, adapt, and overcome. Divide and conquer like we always do.” “You’re not fucking listening to me, Emjay,” he rubbed his face, burying it in his hands. “For Christ’s sake will you stop trying to be in control all the damn time? If you would step outside the box you would see it’s shaping up to be a goddamned circle that looping around to bite us in the ass! We made them this way! We’ve been telling them for years that this sort of shit is okay… you just gotta be super popular to get away with it!” “I’m going to go talk to Chet,” she said calmly, once again completely ignoring everything her brother said. “You need to calm down. Invite Courtney over, fool around for a bit. You’ll feel better.” She left the kitchen. The echo of her heels clacking throughout the house as she collected her jacket and rattled her keys on her way out to her car. “Love you, bro!” She yelled as the front door closed and she was gone. All he could do was lean against the island seething in his rage. He heard her car pull out of the driveway and all Devin could do was just pick up what he scattered across the kitchen and go up to his room to get ready for his work out. Sweat and pain did wonders for his temper on days like these. It had been a couple of hours before Marissa returned home. Devin was finished with his workout, had showered, made dinner and left her plate in the microwave. Marissa didn’t cook. It was a Jauntsen family rule. He was in his room, reading (if one could believe it), when he saw her pass his door and walk down the hall to her room. She was limping slightly and that caused Devin to sit up from his bed and follow her a moment after she closed the door. Two taps let her know he was there as she sat on her bed and groaned while she lifted one leg up to unzip her boots. “It’s open.” “Hey,” her twin offered quietly. “You okay?” “Oh, yeah,” she chuckled. “Got a cramp in the car. Tightened up on me on my way up the stairs. That’s all. Skip yoga for a day, it cramps you for two.” She awkwardly laughed. “Uh, huh,” he dismissed her excuse. It was feasible, considering all the workout injuries that went on in the Jaunsen house, if they didn’t know how to treat their own sprains, twists and pulled muscles, they’d be broke from the medical bills alone. Still, he wasn’t buying it on solely on her word. IT had been a few hours and he’d had time to calm down. As was typical, the twins didn’t stay mad at each other for long. “So, uh, look…” “I know.” She interjected. “I know and I thought about it… what you said and, maybe you’re right.” Devin entered and knelt in front of her, helping her with her boots so she didn’t have to move anymore than necessary. “I love you. You’re my sister and I swear I would do anything to protect you, but sometimes, Em, sometimes we don’t have control of this. You’re going down roads I can’t protect you from. The drugs, the guys, the drinking… you know I don’t care if you have flings, that’s not the problem, but these dudes you play with, the shit they offer you… one of them is going to seriously hurt you one day and that scares the hell out of me.” “I know.” Quietly her voice cracked, stealing the last part of her words. “I just… I just don’t know how to cope like you do Devin.” Finally, she broke down and tears fell freely from her eyes while she collapsed into her brother’s arms. “This house. Mom. Dad. I hate it here and we’re never going to escape… and… I just want everything to go away, to feel good again, if only for a little while. I didn’t want this to happen.” She cried through her thoughts as they came out as best as she could allow them. Her makeup smeared and in moments Marissa Jauntsen, Queen od Shelly High was reduced to your average looking teenager with no walls to protect her from herself. “We’ll fix this.” He rubbed her back, holding her tight. “Get changed, shower and I’ll heat up dinner for you. We’re all we have, and we’ll figure this out, and get you help. Then, I’m breaking Chet’s legs.” She laughed on his shoulder as best she could. She was his rock to cling to all her life when life was overwhelming her and nothing good seemed to be in sight. As he let her go and stepped out, closing her door quietly she stripped down, sucking her teeth painfully as she slid her jeans down her legs. She approached her mirror and looked at the inside of her thigh where the yellow bruise was getting larger. Wincing through pursed lips she hoped a hot shower would dull the pain. Devin hadn’t noticed that she wasn’t wearing lipstick when she got home. She left with her usual, dark maroon lips, forgetting that Chet had mentioned wearing the color he got her for her birthday. She wasn’t sure if he’d done it to other women before, but he knew exactly where to squeeze that would make it difficult to see a bruise unless she was intimate with someone or willingly ratted him out. He was getting brazen with the video of her in his possession, hurting her was just the start and she knew it. He’d been clear that the next time he saw her she needed to be wearing what he’d bought her, if she was going to hate him, the very least she could do was respect the time and effort he put into making her happy. She’d never seen him like that before and it boiled her blood, but only after the fear in the pit of her stomach subsided. Marissa dried herself off. A pair of leggings and a sports bra later she was feeling like a human being again. Her leg hurt, but the heat from the shower had made it feel a little better. She set the lipstick he purchased for her on her birthday out on her vanity and looked into her own eyes reflected at her in its mirror. “You’re a dead man walking Chet Walker. You just don’t know it yet.”
  11. Shame of Thrones Shelly High’s six-hundred-pound gorilla was not named Grodd. He was named Chet. A massive specimen of ginger genes, cornfed Montana cooking, too much testosterone and a healthy dose sexual frustration that was all mixed together into a pot and set to boil until high school. In truth Chet was more like two hundred pounds, but it was solid. The boy was tall, well-built and, that’s right, on the football team. Chet’s real downfall was twofold: one, he was not particularly attractive. He wasn’t unattractive, he was just… meh. Ordinary, bland, vanilla, were some of the terms Marissa, the focus of his affections, had used to describe him. Second, Chet was unfortunately not gifted with likeability. He wasn’t particularly bright, cunning perhaps, from all those years of processing football plays, but he didn’t relate well with most people on an intellectual level. With his red hair and rather slow on the uptake demeanor, Devin had nick named him ‘Biff’, something Chet despised, especially once Marissa started using it too. Chet had been in love with Marissa Jauntsen for three years now. Ever since the first time he laid eyes on her in eighth grade his heart wanted no other. Since then, they had flirted and she’d shown interest and he even outright told her how he felt, but she proclaimed that she didn’t date. It wasn’t him; it was her and she didn’t want to overburden him with her drama. He was a great guy and deserved better than that. They agreed friendship was the best and most steady course, but his love for her never died… if anything it just grew as time went on and he couldn’t have her despite her being near him every day in school and after as they both hung out in the same circles. Today though he walked through the halls with a bit more confidence in his stride. He approached the ladies standing near Devin’s locker and offered them each a nod in greeting. He towered over them, his six-foot two, broad shouldered frame shadowing Tammy as he leaned up near where she was. She moved a bit, obscuring his angle of vision so he couldn’t read the rather steamy texts she was sending to Curtis, her boyfriend and one of Chet’s teammates. “Where’s Deej and the others?” He asked after a few moments. “Apparently handling ‘the Cassidy issue’,” Courtney offered, shrugging. Chet nodded. “Oh, right, that.” Courtney’s face melted into an expression of frustration mingled with confusion. “Seriously? Does everyone know about this except me?” “Pretty much.” The three of them replied in unison, never lifting their eyes up from their phone screens. Courtney fumed and rolled her eyes, sighing loudly and then resigned herself to ignore them. Within moments her own phone was at the ready and she was lost in the distraction it provided. “Hey, Marissa?” Chet finally said, looking around Tammy, which elicited her to swiftly cover her screen again, to the brunette he lusted after. “Mmhmm?” She lazily acknowledged, not bothering to look up from her phone. “You have a moment? Can we, uh, talk?” Tammy huffed, knowing that this could very well be another failed attempt to get under Marissa’s skirt. With a roll of her eyes, she shifted her position and sidestepped around Chet, changing places with him. She mumbled something but he didn’t quite catch what it was. “Bout’what?” Her reply was two words swiftly mingled into one. She swiped her screen, scrolling through what TikToks were trending. The world could be burning around her, and she wouldn’t have noticed. “Like… in private?” He added. She inhaled deeply and rolled her eyes with annoyance as she exhaled. “Fine, whatever.” Her phone disappeared into her small purse, and the two of them walked away from the others. “Tell Deej I’ll back in a second if he pops up.” The ladies nodded but didn’t bother looking up from their mobile devices. They rounded the corner from the lockers, dipping into the alcove that led into one of the bathrooms. She tended to take the lead, always managing all angles of every encounter and this was no different. Chet didn’t mind, he let the tapping of her heels and the way her skirt swayed with her hips keep him focused while he organized his thoughts. Eye on the prize, Chet. “Well?” She about faced on him, turning around fast enough that he thought her skirt might twirl up too far, but it seemed that she knew exactly what her attire could handle and still preserve what little modesty Marissa seemed to possess so close to the end of the school year. “What is it? Because if it’s about the party next week, I swear to god, Chet, I already told you-” “It’s not about that, Marissa.” Chet said firmly. Firm enough that it seemed oddly brave and out of character for the large ginger, so she allowed herself to calmly wait for him to continue. She crossed her arms, cocking her head the way she did when she was investigating someone, dissecting them mentally to find something, anything she could use for leverage during her conversations, either now or later. “Then what?” She leaned against the wall, crossing one leg over the other, remaining visibly bored and irritated with him… which was normal. “So, uh, you know Terry, right?” He asked. “Terry who?” Her eyes narrowed suspiciously. She knew a Terry, but there wasn’t one in Shelly she associated with. “Collins. He’s a senior at Great Falls?” “Maybe, why?” She pushed off the wall, suddenly interested in the dialogue that seemed to be leading Chet down a highway to Hell. “If I know a Terry or not, it’s not any business of yours.” She knew he had a slight obsession for her. Nothing too creepy-stalkerish, but just enough that a few select teases here and there and it left him eating out of her hand for a few days. She played a dangerous game with the guys of Shelly and Great Falls. She knew they were attracted to her and when a guy is attracted to a girl that girl can get away with some wild things. What Marissa hadn’t considered, was The Devil always comes to claim his due. “The hell do you care, anyway?” “Well, I started wondering why you spent some weekends in Great Falls,” he started. He noticed the way her eyes narrowed at his comment, solidly implying that she found his interest in where she spent her time and who with, a step in the direction of stalkerish. Chet swiped and opened his phone. As he spoke, he swiped the screen a few times. “So, I don’t think you knew this but, Terry is my cousin. And he started blowing my phone up last night, all of it about you.” Fuck. Marissa thought. She was hoping the drama Terry would stay a hundred miles away in Great Falls where it started. Terry being Chet’s cousin, however, was something she didn’t know and didn’t plan for. Her trip to Terry place was just supposed to be a bit of fun and a good time, but it escalated, and they got into a huge fight when she refused to sleep with him. She was so high, she didn’t remember anything else, just the argument and trying to drive home. Worry and concern began to erode her posture, but she hid the revelation of Terry and Chet talking well enough that he still couldn’t get a read on how she was taking the news. “So? Where I go and who and who I spend time with isn’t your business, even they’re your family.” “Yeah, I know,” Chet nodded. “But you know, it just pisses me off Marissa that you go and drive a hundred miles to give it up assholes like Terry when I’m right here. I treat you right, I’m always right there for you, I actually care for you, unlike that prick, but like always, you women just attach yourselves to assholes who treat you like shit.” “Again, Chet,” her hands tightened their grip on her biceps and she consciously moved her arms from casually beneath her bust line up to cover her chest, as she was extremely uncomfortable with how the football player was looking at her. “Not your fucking business. It was cute three years ago. We made out a few times, we fooled around when we were fifteen… let it go. Who I ‘give it up’ to,” she air quoted his words and her arms went back to being folded across her chest, her words lending confidence to her posture. “Is certainly not your business. Terry and I partied from time to time. He was fun and had a hurricane for a tongue. It’s not my fault the best you could ever manage with me was to sit around and watch sports. Now, fuck off.” With a huff of disgust, she walked past him, or at least, attempted to. With an iron grip on her arm Chet stopped her in her tracks and with one powerful motion had tossed her right back into the alcove where she was standing a moment ago, trapping her from leaving the conversation until he was ready to let her leave. “You think I haven’t watched you and your brother these last couple of years, Marissa? The way you two do as you please to whomever you please whenever you please and nothing ever happens to you? You two think you can shit on everyone and we’re supposed to sit there on our knees asking for more.” Fear. It was not a feeling she had grown accustomed to these last few years. Indeed, she and her brother had elevated themselves to practically invincible, but as she rubbed the elbow that hit the brick behind her, concern began to grow in her. “You’re a dead man,” she growled at him. “My brother-“ “Isn’t going to do a damn thing,” Chet held up his phone and let her see the video of her at Terry’s over the weekend, doing lines of crushed Oxycodone and shots of liquor right before the frames of Terry standing in front of the full-length door mirror in his room smiling and offering himself a thumbs up and devil horns with the back of Marissa’s head clearly visible as she went down on him. The leather pants and maroon satin blouse she wore completely gave it away that she was the girl in all those clips. “Don’t you have an internship with the mayor this summer? Something like this,” he flipped the screen around to look at it. “Well…” “What do you want?” Her tone was devoid of emotion, almost robotic. She was slipping into shock, unable to understand how this was suddenly happening to her. She was always so careful. She knew a stray picture, or a random video taken by someone could have disastrous effects, not only on her party life, but her whole future. She was so wasted this weekend that she honestly didn’t even remember who she gave head to, and she certainly didn’t think it was Terry. He’d been trying for awhile to sleep with her, promising her freebies if she did, but her brother was the only one who knew that Marissa was still a virgin and just really good at distracting guys with everything else on the table that wasn’t sex. All she remembered was him kicking her out when she refused to have sex with him. She was wearing a long sleeve shirt because her arms had scrapes from where he threw her out the door and she stumbled because she was so wasted. “Be careful with your next few words Chet. There are rules and we don’t do this to each other.” “Oh, right, your rules,” he silently chuckled and slid his phone in his pocket. “I remember ‘manipulating people is easy once you have leverage’. You’re just pissed because someone finally got you.” She inhaled and let it out slowly. There was still no emotion writ in her expression. She could not win this battle, not at the moment, but she still needed to wrest some manner of control back. “Only under the condition that those you are manipulating have something to lose or are willing to take a loss to mitigate the leverage.” His eyes shifted about as he processed that. It was obviously not what he was expecting. However, Marissa did have something to lose, and for now, she needed out of this conversation so she could focus on the damage control. “So, let’s deal, Chet. We both know I don’t want that getting out,” she found some measure of confidence in her tone as she focused on fixing this sudden shitstorm that had entered her life. “So, I’ll do for you, and in return you’ll delete that, and Terry will delete his too, all copies.” “Are you out of your fucking mind, Marissa?” Chet laughed. “As long as I have this, I have you. I have you both.” “But for how long?” Marissa managed an evil smirk. “Eventually you will erode my patience and I will simply take the hit, let the truth be exposed, live my life as the party-girl whore of Shelly and you and I will both have nothing. Except, I will have the satisfaction of watching you have your arms and legs broken, and every eight to twelve weeks from then, until I’m bored with hearing you scream in pain, I’ll see that they end up broken again. This is your life now, Chet. You want to play? So, let’s play. What do you want from me?” “You.” She could see some loss of his confidence after her revelation that now that video was the only thing keeping him alive. Chet was crafty, but never very smart. There were so many angles of blackmail he hadn’t considered… “I’ve always ever wanted you. Video or not, look, I just want my chance to treat you right, to show you that if you just gave me a chance, I’d be the one for you. I could make you happy, that you could… love me.” Again, not too bright. “Blackmailing me into being your lover so I will learn to love you?” She suddenly didn’t feel too worried as she massaged the bridge of her nose. “Christ, Biff.” “Don’t call me that,” snarled. He stepped up to her, blotting out the light as his shadow became her mantle. “We’ll hash out details later. I just wanted you to know where you stand with me.” “Fine,” the rage in his eyes sent fear coiling up her spine and it sunk its fangs in her voice. She knew he noticed her tremble slightly. “But Chet, I will not sleep with you. I don’t care what Terry told you, but I never slept with him, and same goes for you. And I will never, ever love you if you have that video. We are not dating, we will not date, ever, if you have that. You want an accessory, fine, but I will murder you in your fucking sleep before I ever tell you I love you.” The evil in his grin almost rivaled her on her best days. He leaned in almost close enough to kiss her. “I’m okay with that. Meet after school. And wear something lighter than this maroon shit, like that red I got you for your birthday.” She offered him a lazy smirk in sarcastic confirmation, and he pushed away from her and walked off to join the others at the lockers. She watched him go. Her chest was on fire and her stomach was tightened into knots. She was scared, offended, shocked and to some degree a bit impressed. She knew Terry was too stupid to post the video and ruin her, not when he, like Chet could use it for leverage plus he was complicit in doing and dealing drugs in those clips. She also knew his brain was baked to the point that backing it up probably wasn’t going to happen either. If she got Terry’s phone, she’d have his copy of the video. Chet was going to be another matter entirely. Her phone was in her hand and she was texting her brother and telling him they needed to chat after school, before Chet even rounded the corner to meet the girls by the lockers.
  12. The Cassidy Issue “How about you go and fuck yourself?” Laurie Cassidy’s eyes smoldered with rage as she glared at Devin Jauntsen. Her back was against the lockers, and she wasn’t in any position to make a break for it, what with Cody and Todd hovering on either side of her waiting for their master to tug their leashes. Still, she remained defiant to the end. “How about you help,” Devin smirked. “Dude, she’s not even a freshman.” Todd laughed. Cody reached out and touched her side. “Close enough. I’d hit it. You free Friday, Laurels?” She pushed Cody away a step or two, but he just laughed harder at her, more amused in her anguish then his infliction of it. “Don’t you touch me!” Evilly Devin just watched letting it all happen until he finally stepped in and Cody and Todd backed off. “See? Laurie, we both know I’m the only thing keeping this school from tearing your brother apart and I ask for so little. My homework done, tech support, and for him to be available when I need to talk with him.” His movement was swift and his speed a surprising shock that caused the younger redhead to squeak timidly as his fist slammed the locker, startling her. He leaned in, closer to her than any guy had ever been to her before. Gently two fingers toucher her chin and he moved her head so she would look at him. “I’m trying to be reasonable. Now. Where is your sister so I can talk with him? Or do I leave Sean to fend for himself against these two?” Her eyes moistened as her glare spat fire into his soul. She couldn’t believe that she actually had a crush on him. Despite how horrible of a person Devin was, she found him to be just, well, hot. Too bad that wasn’t enough to make her not want to collapse his skull with a shovel every time he opened his mouth. Love was complicated like that. “Computer lab. He’s printing flyers, or something.” “See? That so hard?” He smiled at her, his face was a blur as she held back the tears. He was close enough to kiss her and all she wanted to do was slap the spine of one of the books she was carrying up into his throat. “See you in a few months, Cassidy. Welcome to Shelly High.” Devin pushed her forehead, causing her head to slam into the lockers. She heard them laugh and high fiving themselves as they left her in the hallway to hide her swelling urge to cry. “Guys! Guys, no!” Sean Cassidy struggled as best he could against Todd and Cody, but it was a losing battle. His sneakers squeaked on the tiles of the bathroom floor as each of the boys roughly handled an arm and practically drug him as he struggled against their pull. Finally, they simply had enough and threw him up against the wall. Sean slid down it in pain and sat wincing on the floor. Devin casually entered in his customary villainous manner, now that the dirty work was handled, they could talk. “Guys, chill.” Devin motioned to Sean, pointing out to his thugs that he wasn’t pleased at the moment. “He can’t fix shit if he’s broken. Right Sean? Don’t wanna be broke, do ya?” All Sean could do was shake his head. Three on one, typical bully cowardice, he thought to himself. “I-I was going to talk to you in second period. Now… I know you’re pissed, but-“ For the briefest span of a thought Sean felt like he was Solo trying to negotiate with Jabba the Hutt. Imagining Devin speaking Huttese was the only making this whole thing not unbaearable. “Pissed?” Devin chuckled, cutting him off. “Duuuude… what makes you think I’m pissed?” He swiped a hand in Sean’s direction, motioning for Cody and Todd to do their thing again. Swiftly they sprang into action, each grabbing one of Sean’s legs this time instead of his arms. They wrestled for a moment, but it was only a matter of seconds before the local computer nerd found himself hovering over a toiled in the handicapped stall with each of Devin’s hench-douches holding one of his ankles. The intersexed boy struggled with his shirt to keep it from falling and exposing the bra he wore to his tormentors. “See, me? I’m not pissed, Sean. Todd and Cody, they are the one’s who’re pissed. I have the swimming pool, I have parents who are never home, I have liquor for drinking, three spare bedrooms for fucking, and since I’ll be spending June in summer school, Cassidy… that’s a whole lot of swimming, drinking and fucking these guys are not going to be able to do because you didn’t do what you were fucking told to do. I tried to talk them out of this, dude. I did. But you’ve messed up their summer bro, I’m barely keeping them from ripping you apart.” They feigned dropping him, letting him slip a bit towards the toilet before quickly tightening their grip. “Was going to play Mars Attacks with the back of Laurie’s throat,” Cody said while thrusting his pelvis a few times. “Now I gotta wait for July for that. It’s awfully selfish of you Tit-Boy… keeping her from me for another whole month… she like chocolate? I heard bitches love chocolate n’ shit like that.” Todd laughed along with Cody, but Devin silently scowled at the budding sociopath. They were supposed to be intimidating the Cassidy kid, not threatening to sexually assault his sister. There were rules to this game, and Cody generally didn’t follow any of them. “See?” Devin knelt, looking Sean in the eyes as the tortured teens face swiftly reddened. “They’re animals, dude. I’m doing all I can, but… well, we all know the sacred rule of high school, bro.” “Don’t fuck with our summer vacation!” Todd gave Sean a quick jab in the gut, causing Sean to wince. There wasn’t much power behind it and he was pretty sure that was only because Devin was present. Devin was a horrible human being, but he honestly believed that violence wasn’t necessary except as a last resort. Threats, taunts, manipulation, those were his weapons… violence came only after there were no other options. Provoking others to violence first meant he’d already won. “Todd, chill.” Devin held up a hand to calm his cohort down. “I have this. Thanks though, I appreciate the assist. Love the energy.” He turned his attention back to Sean. “So? Fix this. For Laurie’s sake.” As a brother himself, Devin wouldn’t allow anything to happen to Laurie. It was the threat that mattered, that fear needed to build up in Sean’s gut, that unknowing and gnawing ‘what if’ to take a black hold in his mind and cloud his rational judgment. That’s what gave the Jauntsen twins their power: not that they could actually do anything, but the fear of what if they did? It was bully psychology 101, they trapped the poor students in their own minds, prisons of their own makings and let the worries of ‘what if’ make them pliable to more abuse. “M-maybe I can hack the school’s summer school roster,” Sean offered, stammering through the pain in his gut and the reddening of blood rushing to his head. “Sounds reasonable. I like it.” Devin smiled, obviously pleased. He tapped Sean on his cheek Mafia style and nodded for the guys to let him down. The three waited while Sean composed himself and caught his breath. “You really need to get out more,” Devin chastised him. “Workout, do some laps, something…” “Your concern is noted,” Sean lied with obvious sarcasm. “So, do the hacking thing, and we’re squared Cassidy,” The Prince of Shelly folded his arms, glaring at the intersexed kid while he adjusted his bra. Cody mumbled something about him being a freak and Todd just took the opportunity to laugh at the poor kids’ misfortune. “What do you need from me? Money? Equipment?” Cody looked stunned, gesturing to Sean in a half shrug. “Fucking serious, dude? You’re gonna pay Tit-Boy? Fuck him, he works for us.” He slapped Sean on the back of the head. “Freak.” Sean cowered slightly. It was three on one and all he could do was make himself smaller in their presence. “It’s not that easy, Devin.” Cody tensed up to slap him again, but Devin stopped him, silently gesturing for Sean to say what he had to say. “The roster is in an un-editable registry,” he lied, knowing they knew nothing about computer lingo to call him on it. “Meaning that if there are supposed to be twelve summer school students, then there has to be twelve names. If not, they’ll know the registry was hacked and we all go down. Expulsion. No college prospects. If I take your name off, Devin, I need to replace it with someone else’s.” Sean’s eyes moved to his left, where Cody stood. The message was clear. While Devin knew that if he caught fire that instant Sean would watch him burn, there was a certain honor among thieves’ mentality to how the Prince of Shelly did business. Sean was safe from most beat downs because he handled Devin’s assignments, the more difficult ones, at least. That was the cost of his protection. Now, however, as one brother to another, Devin could see the fire in the young man’s eyes that told him he wanted nothing more than to beat Cody to death with the hand dryer on the wall for even hinting about going after his sister, Laurie. He could respect that. For the most part, Sean knew Laurie was safe from Devin… but his goons, well, sometimes he didn’t control them to well. There, in the span of the stare, the two men decided, shook on it, and acted without a single word. “Cody. Put his name on the list.” Devin pointed to his number one goon. “What?” Cody looked at Devin, anger filling his cheeks to the hue of crimson. “The fuck dude!” “Cody, relax.” Devin said, lowing his hands toward the floor like he was pushing down all the rage that was building over at Camp Cody. “Sometimes we need to take one for the team. Besides, it’s only for a few weeks. No big deal.” “Then you fucking do it!” Cody gestured angrily at his backstabbing ‘friend’. “It’s your dumb ass that got summer school to begin with. Fuck.” “I’m gonna let that slide, because I’m in a good mood,” sometimes all one needed to imply they were offended to wake others up to the possibility of things getting out of hand if the disrespect continued. “As I already said, I have the part pad, so I can’t be there letting you guys party if I’m in summer school. Look, to sweeten the deal, I’ll toss in the Heath twins. I’ll hook you up when you get out in July.” “Which one?” Cody narrowed his eyes, suspicious of the offer. “One, the other, shit, both, dude, if you want. I heard the blonde one’s a freak, you and Todd could prolly spit roast her.” Cody’s expression relaxed as he pondered Devin’s offer. Todd’s was twisted in thought as he tried to do the math on Devin’s words, considering both of the Heath sisters were blonde. His eyes rolled about like he was carrying the one to somewhere it didn’t want to go. “Yeah, fine…” he caved after a few long moments of weighing his options. “Fine, fuck it. But I’m serious, Jauntsen, you better hook me up. Both of them.” “Yeah, sure, fine, whatever,” Devin agreed dismissively mumbling his half of the agreement. He glared at Sean for a long moment. Then thumbed towards the door. “Go.” Sean weaseled his way past them and left as swiftly as he could. He knew his side was going to be bruised but at least he avoided getting dunked in the toilet.
  13. The Pride of Shelly May 2019. Shelly, Montana. Three months before the Awakening. It should have unfolded like a slow-motion scene from a 90s teen drama movie as the three young women walked down the hallway of Shelly High School with Marissa Jauntsen leading the Pride. The heels of her knee-length leather boots were dangerously close to being outside school regulations but that hardly mattered in comparison to the short, black pleated skirt that was showing far more skin than the timid administrators of the Shelly School Board were comfortable with. She completed her outfit with a white, long sleeve mock turtleneck that seemed glued to her body like a second skin. Her hair was bound up in tight topknot while her makeup was impeccable, displaying her signature maroon lipstick. Courtney Addams was dressed almost exactly like Marissa, save her skirt was plaid and her top a maroon like Marissa’s lips with her ginger hair pulled up in a tight topknot as well. Blonde Tammy Keller was in her cheerleading uniform, which gave her a pass in the short, pleated skirts department, but the fact that she didn’t wear shorts underneath it until game time when it was required, had earned her more than one talking to by the faculty. The ladies were certainly hitting the trifecta of ‘blonde, brunette and redhead’ as they were easily the three most attractive girls in the school. If one was into shallow, vapid, but hot. Marissa was the undisputed Queen of Shelly High School and everyone knew it. Shelly Montana had the elementary and high school in the same building and there were fourth graders who were already dying to be like her one day. Having moved from Malibu, California, her twin brother and she took Shelly by storm three years ago. It wasn’t that they were particularly special in anyway, save that they came from money, it was just that they were new, and were from a place so close to stars and celebrities that it seemed like they themselves were the same. They brought with them ideas and stories from a place that the mountain kids of rural Montana had only heard about on television or read on the internet. Almost overnight their strange, sorcerous ways seemed to pull in the younger crowd to them and it was a simple matter of charisma and leadership that shot them to the apex of legendary status among Shelly High. She led the Pride in looks, attitude and charisma (depending on who you asked), so her other two hangers-on followed behind her, forming a three-girl triangle that pushed their lesser to the walls like a wedge parting a sea of plebs, lest they make the mistake of attracting Marissa’s ire. The trio stopped where they usually did, in front of Devin’s locker. It was a daily routine to meet up there, share some conversation and then part ways before wreaking havoc upon the poor masses of Shelly High’s student body. Marissa leaned against her brother’s locker, her phone already in her hand as she swiped the screen and began browsing her social media feeds. Her sharp, claw-like acrylic nails made a hollow ‘plastic-on-glass’ tapping sound as she distracted herself. “The hell?” Tammy huffed, irritation in her voice as she folded her arms and stood to the right of Shelly’s queen. “It’s not like we don’t do this like, every god damn day. The hell are they?” Marissa raised a hand to quiet Tammy, who seemed to complain often just to hear her own voice. “Chill. They’ll be here soon; they’re handling the Cassidy issue.” “Oh,” Tammy nodded, suddenly relaxing as she remembered ‘the Cassidy issue’. “Right.” “What Cassidy issue?” Courtney asked, flipping her long top knot from off her shoulder, allowing it to cascade down her back. “If you needed to know, Courtney,” Marissa snapped at the redhead, never taking her eyes off her phone. “You’d fucking know, wouldn’t you? Christ. Would you two just shut up and wait?”
  14. Last week
  15. Now available in advance PDF from DriveThruRPG: Yugman’s Guide to Ghelspad for Scarred Lands! Pay Heed to the Wisdom of Yugman the Sage A century and a half after the Divine War, the titans lay defeated and scattered across Scarn and beyond. As the people of Ghelspad work to build a new world on the war-torn remnants of a fallen paradise, new heroes rise, and new threats emerge. Yugman the Sage brings an overview of these new heroes and villains, as well as the tools they use to rise to power. Yugman’s Guide to Ghelspad contains: 21 new Social Backgrounds expanding the sects & societies introduced in the Scarred Lands Player’s Guide 23 new subclasses, with each base class represented 6 new Races and a revised Hollow Legionnaire New Spells, True Rituals, Magic Items and more! Sales The Jackie’s Dreaming bundle has four days remaining at Bundle of Holding, benefiting Jackie Cassada’s widow Nicky Rea. Thank you to everyone for your contributions so far. DriveThruComics is having an Art of/Making of Sale, which includes four from Onyx Path: V20: The Making of the Art of Children of the Revolution W20: The Art of Werewolf: The Apocalypse W20: The Art of Changing Breeds: A Visual Guide to the Fera M20: The Art of Mage: 20 Years and More Kickstarter Update Our Kickstarter for Scion: Dragon and Masks of the Mythos for Scion 2nd Edition launched yesterday, and we funded within 66 minutes! We’re already at 265% with $92,784 of our original $35,000 goal. We’ve currently hit a healthy 10 stretch goals, with more to come over the next month: Dragon Companion: Creating your own Flight, The Bearers (giant turtles) Mythos Companion: Additional Mythos creatures, Great Old Ones, Legacy characters, Dragon Reference Screen Dragon Ready-Made Characters, x2 Mythos Reference Screen Dragon backer shirt Did you miss one of our previous Kickstarters? The following Kickstarted products are still open for preorders via BackerKit: Scion: Scion: Demigod They Came from Beyond the Grave!: They Came from Beyond the Grave! Trinity Continuum: Trinity Continuum: Aberrant Legendlore: Legendlore World of Darkness: WoD: Ghost Hunters Vampire: The Masquerade: Cults of the Blood Gods Mage: The Ascension: Technocracy Reloaded Chronicles of Darkness: Deviant: The Renegades Chronicles of Darkness: Hunter: The Vigil 2nd Edition Chronicles of Darkness: Mummy: The Curse 2nd Edition Community Spotlight The following community-created content for Scarred Lands has been added to the Slarecian Vault in the last week: Your product could be here! Have you considered creating your own to sell? The following community-created content for Realms of Pugmire has been added to Canis Minor in the last week: Your product could be here! Have you considered creating your own to sell? The following community-created content for Storypath has been added to the Storypath Nexus in the last week: Scion: Divine Reliquary Your product could be here! Have you considered creating your own to sell?
  16. Ptolus: Monte Cook’s City by the Spire for Cypher SystemBy Monte Cook672-page (plus extras) hardcover or PDF$149.99 (hardcover); $59. The post Ptolus: Monte Cook’s City by the Spire appeared first on Monte Cook Games.
  17. >>> Join us now! <<< The ancient powers never fully went away. They wander our roads and cities, mingling with the teeming masses of humanity. Characters in Scion 2nd Edition begin as humans touched by fate, heirs to great powers and incredible destinies. In the core setting for Scion, characters discover they are the children of Gods, inheriting mantles, accomplishing great deeds, and deciding their own destinies. It’s a game about divinity and humanity, and everything in between — and now, with these two expansions, everything beyond as well. Scion: Dragon and Scion: Masks of the Mythos open new pathways, new origins, and new secrets for Scion Second Edition. Scion: Dragon details the stories of Heirs, those chosen by Dragons to act within The World as their agents. It is the story of discovering history, subverting enemies, and espionage. Your Draconic patron seeks to embroil you in millennia-old plots and ancient grudges as shadowy manipulators. All the while, you must learn their secrets, and either embrace the Dragon’s goals for you or make your own. Masks of the Mythos is a sourcebook for Scion: Origin and Scion: Hero. While the majority of Scion focuses on real-world mythologies and religions, Masks of the Mythos is a step off that path into a more fictitious World. The material presented here is as canonical to an ongoing Scion campaign as every individual Storyguide and group wish it to be. The goal of this project is a little different than previous Onyx Path Kickstarter campaigns. Instead of funding the development of a single core book or supplement, this campaign is designed to develop two new divergent projects at the same time. Both books are designed to take the Scion Second Edition roleplaying game in new directions and explore previously uncharted areas. With this campaign, we’re hoping to fund the development and production of Scion: Masks of the Mythos and Scion: Dragon and open up even more storytelling possibilities in the World of Scion. You can choose a reward tier that focuses on either of these books (or both!), but all support will go towards both projects, which will be worked on in tandem. >>> Join us on Kickstarter now! <<<
  18. Tomorrow, as I write this, on Tuesday the 19th at 2pm Eastern US time our dual Kickstarter for Scion: Dragon and Scion: Masks of the Mythos arrives to bring chaos to your order, and a whole lotta options to your Scion gaming! As I’ve mentioned before on this blog, this is a new sort of Kickstarter format for us – so it’s pretty exciting! Even though we have run multiple book reward KSs before, they were for the sort of book one and book two for a game line, not two very different books like these. James, our Kickstarter Concierge and all-around nice guy, will be juggling providing all of our backers with updates and text section for both books and answering questions about both as well. We want folks who are backing for both books to have an exciting but not overwhelming KS, of course, and we also want to provide backers who are drawn to only one of the books to get the updates that keep them enthralled! Not to mention a wide variety of Stretch Goal rewards! Fortunately, we’ll have all sorts of Scion creators popping in to help him, especially Danielle Lauzon who led the flights creating Scion: Dragon, and Chris Spivey, who led his creative team through the minefield of bringing Cthulhu to Scion in Masks of the Mythos. Now, I’ve been asked a couple of times just when these two new expansions to the core mythical Scion experience were dreamed up? Lest you think we just threw them into the mix in a pitch meeting last year when we were sequestered, both books have been discussed pretty much since a 2nd Edition was first brainstormed. In fact, Masks of the Mythos, although not with that title, was discussed during the creation of Scion first edition. Going back through the mists of time, one of the reasons I felt like Scion would really resonate with our gaming community was our collective love of mythology – and not just real-world, but all sorts of attempts at figuring out if there was something out there greater than ourselves. And if that thing, or things, is alien? Outside our human experiences in ways that few of our real-world mythologies would go? Well, isn’t that a challenging angle to try and get your head around – and how much moreso if you are a Scion? Plus, the Cthulhu Mythos is in the old Deities and Demigods D&D book I loved as a brand spanking new TTRPGer – so gotta get them in our game, too! Scion: Dragon cover art by Shen Fei Scion: Dragon was conceptualized a bit later during a conversation I had with our old friend Joe Carriker, who was the dev that started the charge for Scion 2e. We were discussing providing enough depth to the setting that there could be layers of conspiracy/conflict sufficient that even a single pantheon game could have some surprises. I don’t really remember who first suggested another power bloc made up of dragons (go ahead and blame me if you hate the idea and praise Joe if you love it), but once it was out there, we rattled off the possibilities in a torrent of ideas. Besides, dragons are cool! As you see with these brief descriptions, the books have always been seen as a way to expand our Scion game line so as to provide more options and more ways of perceiving the setting. Some folks may throw both books into the pot with the core mythological Scion setting, some may play either discretely as their own stories, and I’ve even heard some online folks discuss pitting the Dragons against the Mythos! There ain’t no wrong answer there, my friends. Mix. Match. Enjoy! Which brings us to why we are KSing them together. Well, part of that is 2020 and the changes it wrought on our plans, Kickstarters included. And part of our thinking was that while either book was well worth running an individual KS for, by putting them together in one we’re reinforcing the previously mentioned underlying idea that these are both different ways of expanding Scion. These are the sorts of things we try and bring forward in our planning. We could be completely off-base, y’know. Let’s see if it plays out that way with the KS! Monsters of the Deep art by James Stowe And Then, the Monday Meeting: The gang has been working on their panel and play ideas for Virtual Horror Con #2, and we’ve got a lot of cool ideas to add as our contribution to the raft of fun events already planned by our hosts at Gehenna Gaming. Our crew can’t wait! Lots of sales info getting discussed here today! So let me lay out some of those points we covered: The Jackie’s Dreaming Bundle of Holding for the late Jackie Cassada and her partner Nicky Rea has just under a week to go and is headed towards $40K but is not there yet, and it would be fantastic is we could deliver that much (or more) to Nicky after all she’s been through. They were so instrumental in White Wolf‘s heyday as both incredibly creative writers and also as mentors for our very young and brash crew of creators. Please do consider how their influence led to so many of the great game books you have loved – not just Changeling: The Dreaming, but Mage: The Ascension, and even Ravenloft – and pledge to help. Thanks! https://bundleofholding.com/presents/Jackie We also discussed the current sales; one at IPR for C20 and Wr20 Deluxe books, and the other at DTRPG (well, DriveThruComics) featuring the four “Making Of” books we’ve done. Links to those are below in the Sales area of the Blurbs! TC: Aberrant art by Gunship Revolution This week on Wednesday, the compiled Yugman’s Guide to Ghelspad PDF goes on sale. If you remember, we put a PDF chapter of the book on sale each month, so this is the version where we’ve taken those six chapters, added some additional material and rejiggered a couple of sections for clarity. Basically, turned those six individual PDFs into a single connected book. To thank those of you who already purchased 4 or more of the 6 chapters, we’ll be sending you a DTRPG link for the compiled PDF absolutely free of charge! (And yes, if you pick the individual sections up before the PDF goes on sale on Wednesday you will get sent the link for the free compiled version!) One Foot In the Grave art by Tilen Javornik Finally, one of favorite artists to work with, Michael Gaydos, has put up a site where a ton of his original art is for sale. He’s a fantastic artist and the consummate professional. We’ve been very thrilled to have been able to work with Michael since I hired him to work on Vampire: The Masquerade Revised (3rd) Edition, and so glad that his phenomenal success as a comics artist, like for Jessica Jones, has never stopped him from contributing to our projects! I mean, there’s only so many hours in the day! So, if you’re as big a fan of his illustrations as we are, check out what he has available here: https://michaelgaydosrpgart.blogspot.com/ You might be surprised at what favorites from our books you can find! Thanks all, here’s hoping to see you at the dual book Scion Kickstarter on Tuesday, and all across the internet as we introduce folks to our: Many Worlds, One Path! BLURBS! Kickstarter! Our next Kickstarter will start Tuesday January 19th, 2021, at 2pm Eastern US time! It’s a double feature for Scion: Dragon and Scion: Masks of the Mythos! Onyx Path Media! This week: Eddy talks with Chris Spivey about (among other things) Scion: Masks of the Mythos. And also Doctor Who. And Watchmen. It was a lot! As always, this Friday’s Onyx Pathcast will be on Podbean or your favorite podcast venue! https://onyxpathcast.podbean.com/ The headline media today is Mage: The Podcast’s superb interview with developer Danielle Lauzon surrounding Scion: Dragon! It’s a captivating listen, so please give it your time! http://magethepodcast.com/index.php/2021/01/16/scion-dragon-mage-the-ascension-crossover-with-danielle-lauzon/ Our good friends at Vorpal Tales continue their Masks of the Mythos game this week over on twitch.tv/theonyxpath! If you want a preview of that game, go over to our channel and follow (and subscribe!) to be notified when that stream goes live! Mikaela Sims is going to be running a stunning new Mage: The Ascension game! You can find their preview video for it right here: https://youtu.be/VzPRXafB6WM and be sure to subscribe for more content! For anyone new to our media section, you can find us running and playing games over on twitch.tv/theonyxpath pretty much every day of the week! Plus, if you’d like your games hosted there, just get in touch with Matthew Dawkins using the contact link on matthewdawkins.com. This week on Twitch, expect to see these games and streams running: Scarred Lands – A Family Affair Hunter: The Vigil – Stuffed Frostlands of Fenrilik – Behind the Screen Scion – Masks of the Mythos – Vorpal Tales Hunter: The Vigil – The Trail Home – Red Scar Changeling: The Dreaming – The Last Faerie Tale Scarred Lands – Dracogenesis – Vorpal Tales Werewolf: The Forsaken – Very Angry Dogs – Paleo Gaming Scarred Lands – Purge of the Serpentholds Deviant: The Renegades – Radiation Burns – Vorpal Tales V5 – Thy Kindred Come – Rolling Nomads Hunter: The Vigil – Devil’s Luck Gaming Get watching for some fantastic insight into how to run these wonderful games and subscribe to us on Twitch, over at twitch.tv/theonyxpath Come take a look at our YouTube channel, youtube.com/user/theonyxpath, where you can find a whole load of videos of actual plays, dissections of our games, and more, including: Scion: Hero – Heroes for the Holidays – E1 – https://youtu.be/1ihJ4CM22BQ Scarred Lands – Purge of the Serpentholds – S2E3 – https://youtu.be/3UTkb2SEV-M Ghost Hunters – Chimera House – FINALE – https://youtu.be/YWW8OeOvGfs NEW Changeling: The Lost Actual Play – E2/2 – https://youtu.be/asM9JZDZ0os Hunter: The Vigil – Stuffed – E1 – https://youtu.be/NbBKv57qI3Y Scarred Lands – The Golden City – https://youtu.be/pNaUQII1BTE Subscribe to our channel and click the bell icon if you want to be notified whenever new news videos and uploads come online! Wards & Witchcraft continue their stunning Mage: The Awakening actual play over on their YouTube channel: Episode Seven In the shadow of a sinister secret, the cabal pursues the truth about a mysterious book signing. Will their mastery of reality be enough to protect them when all signs point to danger? https://youtu.be/BNSqg0YVeoM Systematic Understanding of Everything is a fantastic Exalted Explainer Podcast by Exalted Dev Monica Speca and Exalted Writer Chazz Kellner. You should check it out, because it remains among the best Exalted shows out there. Their most recent episodes are available over on https://www.exaltcast.com/, with their newest the following: Want a system for how to use dance to get someone to elope? How about a speech to start a religion or a song that gets bakers to riot? Exalted has you covered! Chazz and Monica explain social systems then we use them to save Prismatic Falls, for now. https://www.exaltcast.com/2021/01/11/unbound-social-mastery-social-systems/ Our very own Chris Allen continues his wonderful chronicle of Werewolf: The Forsaken over on the Paleo Gaming Twitch channel! Please add a follow to their stream and give them your support: https://www.twitch.tv/paleo_gaming Occultists Anonymous continue their wonderful Mage: The Awakening chronicle right here: Episode 157: Ask Me Anything We pick up with a quiet conversation with an Archmage as the cabal come to terms with what they’ve agreed to and then a summary of the defenses they take part in alongside the Council of the Tomb Tomes. https://youtu.be/zFki3bwxnTk Episode 158: New York Mysteries The cabal returns from Montana, checking in with Network and Titus from their two months away. Tensions continue between Atratus and Songbird and the Council wants a report on their doings. https://youtu.be/tnn5cmF_t1o Back to Exalted, and the Story Told Podcast continue their Fall of Jiara Dragon-Blooded chronicle right here:https://thestorytold.libsyn.com/fall-of-jiara-34-0 The Dragon-Blooded continue to eliminate suspects from their list of possible Lunars or conspirators as Peleps Maera prepares for a journey. Please check these out and let us know if you find or produce any actual plays of our games! We’d love to feature you! Electronic Gaming! As we find ways to enable our community to more easily play our games, the Onyx Dice Rolling App is live! Our dev team has been doing updates since we launched based on the excellent use-case comments by our community, and this thing is awesome! (Seriously, you need to roll 100 dice for Exalted? This app has you covered.) We’re told that the App Dev is currently creating an updated version for the latest devices, so keep an eye open for those! The App was also pulled down from the Apple store in order to make some required updates – it’ll be back there soon! Virtual TableTop! Two Virtual Tabletop adventures: the Gauntlet of Spiragos and the Dagger of Spiragos for Scarred Lands on Astral TableTop and DriveThruRPG! Scars of the Divine War, which ended less than 200 years ago, have still not healed. One such scar is the Chasm of Flies, a rent in the earth created when the titan Spiragos the Ambusher was smote down by one of the young gods, Vangal the Ravager. Now, the Chasm is inhabited by spider-eye goblins and their spider allies, but it is also thought to be the resting place of powerful artifacts from that elder age. Astral TableTop is the easiest way to play any tabletop RPG online, free. Astral already supports popular systems like D&D and Pathfinder, and Astral can support virtually any tabletop roleplaying game. Get started quickly with built-in support for most popular game systems. Whether you’re brand new to TTRPGs or a veteran tabletop gamer, Astral‘s ease-of-use and built in automation is designed to streamline gameplay. Astral is browser-based and uses the latest technology to streamline your storytelling experience. Connect with your party online and run your campaigns however you like. Astral offers tools optimized for phone, tablet, and desktop devices, no installation required. Build epic battlemaps using Astral‘s enormous collection of scenery, props, and tokens or upload your own. Pro users gain access to over 12,000+ assets and fresh new packs every month. Add weather, visual effects, triggers, and so much more with easy-to-use tools Build your own adventure, or choose from pre-generated game kits like Gauntlet of Spiragos and Dagger of Spiragos. Create character sheets, craft maps, or just jump right in to connect with your friends and start your adventures! On Amazon and Barnes & Noble! You can now read our fiction from the comfort and convenience of your Kindle (from Amazon) and Nook (from Barnes & Noble). If you enjoy these or any other of our books, please help us by writing reviews on the site of the sales venue from which you bought it. Reviews really, really help us get folks interested in our amazing fiction! Our selection includes these latest fiction books: Our Sales Partners! We’re working with Studio2 to provide our traditionally printed books out into your local game stores. Game stores can order via their usual distributors, and can also contact Studio2 directly. And individuals can check out our projects via the links below! You can pick up the traditionally printed Pugmire and Monarchies of Mau main books, screens, and the official dice through our friends there! https://studio2publishing.com/search?q=pugmire Now, we’ve added Chronicles of Darkness books such as Changeling: The Lost Second Edition products to Studio2‘s store! See them here: https://studio2publishing.com/collections/all-products/changeling-the-lost Scion 2e books and other products are available now at Studio2: https://studio2publishing.com/blogs/new-releases/scion-second-edition-book-one-origin-now-available-at-your-local-retailer-or-online Our Vampire: The Masquerade 5th Edition books are also available from Studio2 in the US: https://studio2publishing.com/products/vampire-the-masquerade-chicago-by-night-sourcebook Looking for our Deluxe or Prestige Edition books? Try this link! http://www.indiepressrevolution.com/xcart/Onyx-Path-Publishing/ And you can order Pugmire, Monarchies of Mau, Cavaliers of Mars, and Changeling: The Lost 2e at the same link! And now Scion Origin and Scion Hero and Trinity Continuum Core and Trinity Continuum: Aeon are available to order! Dreams and Dust Sale on C20 and Wr20 going on now over at IPR: https://www.indiepressrevolution.com/xcart/Deals-and-Specials/ As always, you can find Onyx Path’s titles at DriveThruRPG.com! Our 4 “Art of…” PDFs are on sale over at DriveThruComics: https://www.drivethrucomics.com/browse/pub/4261/Onyx-Path-Publishing?filters=0_0_0_0_10005 On Sale This Week! This Wednesday a mighty tome is released: the compiled Yugman’s Guide to Ghelspad Advance PDF for Scarred Lands on DTRPG! Conventions! Though dates for physical conventions are subject to change due to the current COVID-19 outbreak, here’s what’s left of our current list of upcoming conventions (and really, we’re just waiting for this last one to be cancelled even though it’s Nov/Dec). Instead, keep an eye out here for more virtual conventions we’re going to be involved with! Gehenna Gaming is planning a second Virtual Horror Convention in mid-February and Onyx Path will be there and sponsoring sessions! From Gehenna Gaming: “Virtual Horror Con is back for the second year in a row with three more days of online tabletop RPG, panels, industry workshops and TTRPG actual play streams! Virtual Horror Con 2021 returns February 19-21. VirtualHorrorCon.com“ And now, the new project status updates! Development Status from Eddy Webb! (Projects in bold have changed status since last week.): First Draft (The first phase of a project that is about the work being done by writers, not dev prep.) Exalted Essay Collection (Exalted) No Gods, No Masters (Scion 2nd Edition) TC: Aeon Novella: Dawn (Trinity Continuum: Aeon) Once and Future (Scion 2nd Edition) Realms of Magic and Mystery (was Terra Incognita) (Scion 2nd Edition) The Hedge (Changeling: The Lost 2nd Edition) Redlines Dragon-Blooded Novella #2 (Exalted 3rd Edition) They Came From Beneath the Sea! Jumpstart (They Came From…!) They Came From [Classified]! (They Came From…!) They Came From [Classified]! Jumpstart (They Came From…!) Tome of the Pentacle (Mage: the Awakening 2e) Second Draft Wild Hunt (Scion 2nd Edition) TC: Aeon Novella: Meridian (Trinity Continuum: Aeon) Tales of Depravity! (They Came From…!) Proteus Nova Compendium (Trinity Continuum: Aberrant) Development TC: Aberrant Reference Screen (Trinity Continuum: Aberrant) Contagion Chronicle: Global Outbreaks (Chronicles of Darkness) Exigents (Exalted 3rd Edition) Kith and Kin (Changeling: The Lost 2e) Adversaries of the Righteous (Exalted 3rd Edition) Saints and Monsters (Scion 2nd Edition) Trinity Continuum: Anima Many-Faced Strangers – Lunars Companion (Exalted 3rd Edition) Monsters From the Crypt! (They Came From…!) They Came From Camp Murder Lake! (They Came From…!) Manuscript Approval Crucible of Legends (Exalted 3rd Edition) – To Paradox Trinity Continuum: Adventure! core (Trinity Continuum: Adventure!) Assassins (Trinity Continuum Core) Exalted Essence Edition (Exalted 3rd Edition) Post-Approval Development Contagion Chronicle Ready-Made Characters (Chronicles of Darkness) The Devoted Companion (Deviant: The Renegades) Editing Lunars Novella (Rosenberg) (Exalted 3rd Edition) Mummy: The Curse 2nd Edition core rulebook (Mummy: The Curse 2nd Edition) The Book of Lasting Death (Mummy: The Curse 2e) Dearly Bleak – Novella (Deviant: The Renegades) N!ternational Wrestling Entertainment (Trinity Continuum: Aberrant) Under Alien Skies (Trinity Continuum: Aeon) Dead Man’s Rust (Scarred Lands) V5 Trails of Ash and Bone (Vampire: The Masquerade 5th Edition) M20 Victorian Mage (Mage: the Ascension 20th Anniversary Edition) Mission Statements (Trinity Continuum: Aeon) The Clades Companion (Deviant: The Renegades) M20 Technocracy Operative’s Dossier (Mage: The Ascension 20th Anniversary) Yugman’s Appendix: People of Ghelspad (Scarred Lands) V5 Forbidden Religions (Vampire: The Masquerade 5th Edition) CtL2e Novella Collection: Hollow Courts (Changeling: The Lost 2e) Heroes in a World of Horror! (They Came From…!) Dystopia Rising: Evolution Fiction Anthology (Dystopia Rising: Evolution) Squeaks In The Deep (Realms of Pugmire) Prometheus Unbound (was Psi Orders) (Trinity Continuum: Aeon) Legacies of Earth (Legendlore) Hundred Devil’s Night Parade (Exalted 3rd Edition) Novas Worldwide (Trinity Continuum: Aberrant) Scion Fiction Anthology (Scion 2nd Edition) M20 Rich Bastard’s Guide To Magick (Mage: The Ascension 20th Anniversary) They Came From Beyond the Grave! Jumpstart (They Came From…!) Across the Eight Directions (Exalted 3rd Edition) Post-Editing Development Hunter: The Vigil 2e core (Hunter: The Vigil 2nd Edition) Deviant: The Renegades (Deviant: The Renegades) Legendlore core book (Legendlore) Masks of the Mythos (Scion 2nd Edition) They Came From Beyond the Grave! (They Came From!) Scion: Demigod (Scion 2nd Edition) Scion: Dragon (Scion 2nd Edition) Player’s Guide to the Contagion Chronicle (Chronicles of Darkness) V5 Children of the Blood (was The Faithful Undead) (Vampire: The Masquerade 5th Edition) Annie X (Tasty Bit) (Scion 2nd Edition) Indexing Art Direction from Mike Chaney! In Art Direction WoD Ghost Hunters (KS) Hunter: The Vigil 2e – Art buy in progress – tweaking last of notes. Legendlore Scion: Dragon (KS) – Ready for the KS. Masks of the Mythos (KS) – Ready for the KS. Scion: Demigod – Art buy in progress – new artists in the mix. They Came From Beyond the Grave! TC: Adventure! (KS) – Contracting KS artwork. Contagion Chronicle Jumpstart (Chronicles of Darkness) – LeBlanc needed art notes re-sent, done that. M20 Victorian (KS) – Art at Paradox for approval. TC: Under Alien Skies – Chasing down stragglers. Heirs to the Shogunate – More art and sketch reviews. Dead Man’s Rust Children of the Blood – AD’d. M20 Technocracy Jumpstart – Art in progress. Exalted Essence (KS) V5 Trail of Ash and Bone – AD’d. V5 Forbidden Religions TC Mission Statements – Artnotes in. TC Aberrant N!We M20 Technocracy Dossier/Companion M20 Rich Bastards Guide – Figuring out art buy. Hundred Devils Night Parade – Figuring out art buy. Squeaks In The Deep (KS) – All Ad’d, Meredith doing artist contracts for this. In Layout Vigil Watch – Travis tweaking layout to better match Yugman’s. M20 Technocracy Reloaded Monsters of the Deep – Josh almost ready to proof. Mummy 2 TC Aberrant Jumpstart LARP Rules (Scion 2nd Edition) Proofing Yugman’s Guide Support Decks (Scarred Lands) Geist: One Foot In the Grave – At Paradox for approval. Deviant – Backer PDF errata gathering. TC: Aberrant Screen Peoples of the Crossroads Continent At Press Lunars Wall Scroll Map – At KS fulfiller. Shipping started soon. Lunars Screen and Booklet – At KS fulfiller. Shipping started soon. Lunars: Fangs at the Gate – At KS fulfiller. Shipping started. PDF and PoD on sale at DTRPG. V5 Cults of the Blood Gods – Press files sent. PDF and PoD versions are live on DTRPG. Esoterica of Mars: City of the Towered Tombs – PoD ordered. Tales of Aquatic Terror – PoD ordered. Aberrant – PoD and trad print files uploaded to printer and DTRPG. Yugman’s Guide to Ghelspad Compiled – Getting Advance PDF uploaded to go on sale this Weds on DTRPG. Today’s Reason to Celebrate! Today is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day in the US, and our children are spared a day of Zoom classes with the holiday. That juxtaposition, that combination, of everything MLK means to the US with everything going on today and tomorrow and Wednesday, is such a kaleidoscope of hope and fear, success and failure, where we were/are/should be, that the mind boggles at attempting to encapsulate something here in a paragraph. But that MLK had a dream, and he strove to make that dream a reality – that is something to celebrate today and every day!
  19. Sean rode the Carousel, , sitting astride his favourite steed, the one with that looked like a nightmare with a unicorn horn, its mane, hooves, and eyes lacquered a fiery orange. Wistful melancholy etched his fine features as he held onto the pole with both hands, his eyes closed, letting the rollicking music washing over him as his mount reared up and down as the Carousel spun round and round. He had helped his dad, some, in refurbishing the Carousel several years back. Mostly just wiring the lighting and screwing in light bulbs. He knew he is dad once had expectations, aspirations that his son would join him in his contracting business. Once, Sean had wanted nothing more. He liked building things, putting things together to make something better, grander. But even before puberty had sent his development careening in different directions, Sean's dreams had going in different directions as well. He certainly still liked electrical work, but his interest in landscaping and house renovations waned in favour of software programming, computer assembly, and cobbling together gadgets and devices. His father had never faulted him his interests, and was even proud of his eccentric son and designing and programming a full, indie video game - two, in fact, though Jack Cassidy didn't know his son had completed his second with the tremendous help of his developing electokinetic prowess. Still, Sean could help but feel a bit of regret, a sense that he was abandoning his dad in a way. Both Teagan and Laurelei had help their father too, but Teagan had gone off, joining the army with the goal to become a Ranger, and while Laurie was still searching for what she wanted to do, it had always been clear she would be joining Jack in the contracting business, eventually to take it over. Sean's goals had been to make it big enough in the video game industry to let his parents retire early, with enough so they could enjoy their time, while not himself falling into the same miasma of greed and short-sightedness that the AAA game studios and publishers seemed stuck in. It seemed like that would be a long-shot now... When he caught the text from Marissa, Sean felt like Lilly had just kicked him in the sternum. He could hardly breathe while at the same time, the urge to vomit was almost overwhelming. One hand slipped from the pole, the back of his wrist going to his mouth, as though the physical motion itself could keep everything from coming up. He didn't even bother pulling out his phone to send his reply, barely restraining himself from yanking on the flow of electrons coursing through the Carousel to bring it to a sudden halt. Instead, he swung one leg up and over the carven saddle and timing it well, jumped off the nightmare unicorn when it rode low with an unexpected show of grace he would have been proud of if he hadn't been so distressed and scampered away from the Carousel. With a genetic sword of Damocles hanging over his head, potential doom weighing on him from Not-Cody, from storming Site B, from the idea that there wasn't actually a solution for him there, still in a way, it hadn't felt entirely real to him, it felt almost like one of his roleplaying games. Yeah, bad stuff had happened, but they had always pulled through. He hadn't been burned in a way, like Devin had been. Sean might have been forced to face his mortality like someone his age should never have to, but there wasn't a visceral immediacy to it. Not like finding out Charlie was dead and Sophie missing, and in all likelihood, it was Not-Cody's doing. If Charlie wasn't his best friend, he was still a good one. He had helped out Charlie, filling in for part in a play at the last minute when the girl dropped out. Charlie had been in the first D&D game he'd ever run, and been in practically every game and campaign he'd run since. The idea that he wouldn't be there anymore, was gone, seared deep. Other than his grandfather, Sean hadn't lost anyone that close to him, definitely not someone his own age. Sophie. She was missing, possibly dead, too. They had been friends once. She'd been the first girl he had ever asked out. He didn't think anyone besides the two of them knew. She'd turned him down. Hard. Cruelly, even. That had hurt. Bad. Bad enough that he hadn't even considered really asking another girl out. Not until Kat, anyway. He had hated her, too, for a while, if not to the degree he held for Courtney, but it had faded quickly, an emotional scar, instead of a psychic wound he kept picking at, and he had never wished her harm. Dead. but maybe not dead. Maybe a chance to save her from the monster Cody had become. Sean had started towards his sister and parents, to warn them, to send them home, to whatever safety home could offer, but redirected himself to the parking lot at a pace just short of a jog. He didn't know what the plan was now, if they were going to try to hunt Cody down now or not. With Devin able to blip around and take them along, they might be going as soon as they gathered and he wanted the go-bag he had stashed in his Grand Cherokee. <<<To: Laurie>>> [From: Sean] <Pack up. Get Mom and Dad and get home. Now.> Sean sent to his sister as his sneakers skidded on gravel, one arm over his chest as he hustled towards his SUV. <<<To: Sean>>> [From: Laurie] <What's going on?! I thought 'stuff' was happening when it was dark.> Even through text, Sean caught a hint of his sister's worry. <<<To: Laurie>>> [From: Sean] <Not-Cody hit us first. He - No, IT - got Charlie and Sophie.> Sean debated for only an instant to before telling his sister the truth, glad he had had the foresight to voodoo her phone. Okay, it hadn't really been foresight, she'd just wanted unlimited data, text, and phone, with a zero dollar phone bill. <Who knows who else it might go after. Tell the 'rents it's something like what happened at Marias.> <<<To: Sean>>> [From: Laurie] <Love you.> Short, trite, even, but the sentiment came through. <You guys stay safe. Okay, safe as you can while doing what you guys have to do. I'll look after our parents. You better come back, bro, or I'll kick your ass. And I can do it, shorty.> Laurie stared down at her phone, willing Sean and the rest of the Fellowship success in taking down the fucker who was working for the Dark, or was a part of now, or whatever. Then she shoved her phone in a pocket, squared her shoulders, then turned towards her parents, hands balled into fists and eyes hard with determination. Watch. Study. Analyze. Act now. Breakdown later. She looked over Champion's Field. Was the news out already? Were people rushing around, was there a subliminal panic growing the crowd. She saw the Sheriff, but he strode in the same brisk lope he always did. "Mom, Dad, we gotta go," Laurie said with a firmness she had never directed at her parents before. She waggled her fingers in a way suggesting something ephemeral and then started bagging stuff up, throwing other things in the cooler. Work economically. No need to rush. A few minutes now will save more later. "Some stuff, voodoo stuff, is happening. Stuff like at the hospital Sean told us about. You understand?" Jack's hand tightened on the tongs he was holding, his knuckles going white. Carolyn stared at her youngest child, who was an inch taller than she was now, and looked to have some growth left to her yet, then slowly nodded. "We don't like it, but we understand. Enough, at least, hon. What does Sean want us to do?"
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  21. Some great recommendations on recent games. Loads of great fantasy material for the Cypher System, and a journey to the … Cypher Chronicles, vol. 2-2021 The post Cypher Chronicles, vol. 2-2021 appeared first on Monte Cook Games.
  22. Fisher nodded, very relieved that things had not turned out for the worst. The disappointment and sense of betrayal Mr. Syracuse could have brought to bear would have cut out his heart worse than a dozen very sad Jewish mothers. "Fair enough. I'll let the others know that's the game plan. Thank you, again, Mr. Syracuse. Now I need to go help Austin follow up a lead. Those witches aren't going to banish themselves. And wipe that smug smile off Marius' scummy face." Mistakes had been made, but he could bounce back. He was Fisher Capra, a kami demigod! Even in the face of trouble, you could always go beyond, Plus Ultra!
  23. "Yeah I guess, though I gotta admit I've got alot more stress in my life now." The young scion shrugged. "I mean there's just so much going on, all happening so fast. We're still butting heads with Eric and his band, which is abit more complicated for me, since well, I'm going to the dance with Yokiko." His tone certainly indicated he was hoping for this to be more than a one-time thing. All the signs were there. "We've got new bandmates that just joined us, and I think things will be alright, but it's all been pretty crazy and there's a fair amount of friction. There's just so much we don't know, and I think we all still take things for granted. I know we're demigods, that things are only gonna get worse, but I'm not ready to just live for all that. My family's already been threatened once, all of ours were. I don't want to keep endangering them, but short of just leaving, I can't see a way forward that might do that." "So I'm just gonna move forward, do the best I can, and swallow my pride and ask for help when I need it, because right now, there's alot I can't do on my own." He looked around, at all the dead birds, and shook his head. "Damn this smell is pretty damn awful though." He grunted, and tried not to breathe deeply. the smell of death mixed with the sea, and it was rather unpleasant. "I'm not exactly sure what I'm looking for, something that is just out of place. The fact these three things are supposedly equidistant means they're setting up some sort of ritual, and this is one of the two points we actually knew. I'd been hoping for Fisher to get here since he's got abit more feel for that sort of thing." Austin sighed. "Got way too many things I need to actually start learning it seems, and far too little time to do so." He looked over to the water. "Something tells me there won't be anything in the water, they can't guarantee it'd stay there. I figure it's some sort of carving, or maybe a group of carvings, but I could be wrong."
  24. In which Dixie, Matthew, and Eddy discuss cults, Cults of the Blood Gods, blood, and gods. Is King Bowser a cat? Do we deserve a break? The lasting greatness of Alan Wake IP law, licensed RPGs and video games, and Beckett’s Jyhad Diary Memories of our Scion actual play The Cults of the Blood Gods theme tune Cults of the Blood Gods is on sale via PDF and print on demand! Problems with the Bahari The One True Way (to Golconda) Why religions are appealing to vampires The Leftovers is a magnificent TV show and you should watch it Fringe beliefs emerging in the 21st century The Lancea et Sanctum (from Vampire: The Requiem) are also magnificent and perform miracles! The reasonable nature of Mithraism (when compared to the Sabbat) Why cults are a mundane horror as well as a supernatural one One of our Trails of Ash and Bone stories Children of the Blood teasers Alternate names for the Hecata The emerging popularity of the Hecata Necrotic Plague and why it’s an excellent power (so there) Jason Newberry doesn’t deserve to have eyes The Giovanni Brand Name The Promise of 1528 Why you should buy Cults of the Blood Gods Links: Onyx Path YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/TheOnyxPath Onyx Path Twitch: https://www.twitch.tv/theonyxpath Onyx Path Discord: https://discord.gg/5uckcBk Alan Wake: https://store.steampowered.com/app/108710/Alan_Wake/ Beckett’s Jyhad Diary: https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/225322/V20-Becketts-Jyhad-Diary?affiliate_id=13 Onyx Pathcast Scion Actual Play: https://onyxpathcast.podbean.com/e/episode-102-scion-actual-play-extravaganza-eddy-was-wrong/ Cults of the Blood Gods: https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/336233/Cults-of-the-Blood-Gods-Vampire-the-Masquerade-5th-Edition?affiliate_id=13 The Leftovers: https://www.hbo.com/the-leftovers Vampire: The Requiem 2nd Edition: https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/123898/Vampire-The-Requiem-2nd-Edition?affiliate_id=13 Chicago by Night: https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/283858/Chicago-By-Night-Vampire-the-Masquerade-5th-Edition?affiliate_id=13 Heaven’s Gate: https://www.heavensgate.com/
  25. Indie Press Revolution is holding a “Dreams and Dust” sale until the end of the month (as supplies last), featuring 30% off Wraith: The Oblivion and Changeling: The Dreaming products: Wraith: The Oblivion 20th Anniversary Edition (Deluxe Edition) Wraith20 Storyteller’s Screen Changeling: The Dreaming 20th Anniversary Edition (Deluxe Edition) Changeling20 Storyteller’s Screen Changeling20 Dice
  26. Fuck Fuck Fuck Fuck Fuck Fuck FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK Kat's breathing was heavy as the SUV's door slammed, the noise akin to a prison door. One of her friends was dead? Phone. Fuck. She took a deep breath. Closed her eyes, focusing on her other senses. Anyone with two brain cells would know that a car is supplied in energy by the engine. If you simply removed the supply, then... She frowned. Turning the whole fuel tank into water suddenly didn't seem like a good idea. Kat was familiar with her powers, now. As she had told Courtney the day before, manipulating matter felt hard, whereas manipulating energy was but child's play. And she would've kind of felt bad for breaking that car. If she wanted to be able to reason her Dad, she needed subtlety. Not to break the engine. I guess I just need to tell the engine to fuck off for a moment. And subtly, the car signaled to its driver, with an annoyed rattle, that it would not move any further until ordered to, coming to a smooth stop after a moment. "We're not headed towards the Project facility." Her voice was cold, void of any hesitation. "We need to talk." Kat's heart was palpitating, but for some reason unknown to her, she was calm. A limpid truth shone in her mind, bright as day: if she wanted to stay alive, she had to be with her friends. And her mind was dead set on doing that. What could guns do against an entity able to walk dimensions? Her dad looked askance out of the window, then at the driver in front of them as the SUV came to a rolling stop, but at her words and, more importantly, the tone, he refocused on his petite daughter. "Kat?" he asked in a studiously calm tone. "Is this you?" He gestured towards the front of the car, where the driver was cussing under his breath and trying to restart the engine, getting nothing but clicking noises. "Won't start, captain." he reported after a moment. The other soldier was looking around, eyes on the outside of the stalled black car. "Kat?" Josh repeated. The French girl sighed. "Yes. It's me. I can't just follow you to the Project facility. Especially not today." She paused for a brief moment. "Who..." Repressing the urge to cry, scream, or whatever her dysfunctional brains wanted her to do, she bit her lip, and kept going. "Did they tell you which one of my friends died? Because I saw almost all of-" She stopped, thinking back. She did scan her surroundings earlier. It could be, as far as she knew, one out of three of her friends. And one of them did not show up at Bannon's farm. She pressed tense fingers on her closed eyes, nervous. "Point is, I'll be safer with my friends, you should know why. And... there's something else I need to tell you." "Kat-!" Her dad stopped, pausing as he took in what she had said, then sighed softly. "Okay... Okay. What's the thing you need to tell me?" She took another deep breath. "I have an idea of which one of my friends was killed, and not by who, but by what. It wasn't someone, it was something." She opened her eyes and looked at her Dad. "Tonight, we're dealing with that thing. Not negotiable." Before he could object, she went on. "Two reasons. One, conventional weapons won't work on it, we're the only ones able to get the job done. Two..." She looked at the soldiers in the car, then back at her Dad. "... you guys can't travel through dimensions like that thing. We can. And I can't tell you who exactly, because it's not my story to tell. But, yeah, that thing? Totally hiding under your nose." Did I say too much? She thought. Time would tell. He studied her for a moment. "Was it like... whatever was sending those things into the Project that day, last week?" As she nodded wordlessly, he chewed at the corner of his lip. "Shit." he muttered as he stared into space, then looked at her again. "And I've got a pretty good idea of who, Katherine." he said in a dry tone. "I do have a clearance, I've been briefed." He fell silent then, regarding her somberly. "You're just kids." he stated quietly. "You know what you're asking me to do?" Her mask cracked for a moment, fear painted on her features as clearly as her brushes would have on a canvas. Tears started rolling down her cheeks, her voice silent compared to the world around her. "I know." She wiped her humid cheeks. "I have to. We have to. What if everyone in town ends up dead tomorrow, ha? That would totally suck." Irony replaced fear in her voice. She couldn't waver now, that would be the worse thing to happen. "I have to be with my friends. I couldn't just watch them die knowing I could've actually helped, right?" She was talking to herself as much as she was talking to her Dad. She didn't want to go, but knew she would hate herself for the rest of her life if she didn't go. The rest of her life. It wouldn't mean much anyway if they failed. "Shhh, honey, honey, c'mere..." Aware that the two soldiers in the front were still there and paying attention, Josh felt more than a little awkward thrust into the role of nurturing parent. But Kat was his little girl, and though she was putting on a brave face he could see the strain it was causing. He slid across the seat, wrapping an arm around her and patting her back as he stroked her coral-red hair, hugging her tight. When he spoke again, it was quietly. "I've not been around much. Guess I was still seeing you as a child." he mused aloud. "If you really believe you have to... to go do this?" He looked down at her, and Kat nodded in response despite her teary eyes, despite wanting to cling to him. Josh took a deep breath, and let it out in a sigh. "Okay then..." He pulled her phone from his pocket and passed it to her, one arm still around her shoulders. "Just... is there anything I can do? The Project can do? To help I mean? Do you kids- guys need anything?" She sniffed, then grimaced. "I don't have a clue, to be honest with you." She paused, taking back the control of her voice, then: "First-aid kits for the after-party, maybe. Uh, yeah, no, scratch that. We got that part covered." She fell silent for a moment, considering the question more seriously. "I think it's best for the Project to not get involved right now. If I read the room correctly last time we talked about it, things are a bit... tense?" "Huh." Captain Williams grunted, looking at the other two Project personnel, both of whom were doing an admirable job of not appearing to pay attention. There were standing orders not to antagonise the bunch of superpowered kids. And his daughter was definitely one of them. He looked back at Kat. "Okay. I'll offer you a deal. I'm not going to have one of my men there tranq you, and I'm letting you go back to your 'Fellowship'. In exchange, you come back safe, and when you do, we sit and we talk about what you did, okay? A debrief." He forced a smile he didn't feel. "Over cocoa." She gave him a poor grin, and a clumsy hug. "Deal. Cocoa sounds great." She mentally sighed, glad of how it had turned out. She then checked her newly retrieved phone, her eyes narrowing at the messages she had missed, and swore under her breath, typing a short reply to the group chat. "I need to get back to the Carousel, fast." She wondered if she could run faster than a car. Probably faster than this one. Wait... She realized she was still holding a tight restraint on the engine's energy flow, and released it. "The engine should be able to start now." The driver tried the starter, the engine purred into life, and Josh nodded with some relief in his expression. He wasn't sure what Kat's powers entailed - it certainly wasn't as easily summed up as 'psychokinesis' or 'teleportation', but he was glad she hadn't permanently disabled a government vehicle. He was going to have a hard enough time explaining this snafu to Taggart as it was. Leaning past her, he opened the door. "We both better get going, pipsqueak." he told her, giving her hair a quick ruffle. "Be careful, and be smart, okay?" "Aye, aye, Captain." She replied with a smile, as she stepped out of the vehicle. She waved her hand in quick goodbyes, then closed the door and started running. Really fast. Her lungs quickly started burning, but it didn't really matter. Three hundred meters? That's nothing compared to my morning torture.
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