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  1. The response was a sudden jump and a tackle-hug that drove Devin back a couple of feet as Tawny clung to him with her arms squeezing so hard it felt like Cade had been giving her pointers on how to snap a bear's neck or something. The blonde farmgirl buried her face in his chest, breathing him in for a moment, then relaxed the grip enough to look up at him a little tearfully, albeit with a smile. "You really are the worst sometimes." she told him, the look in her eyes giving the lie to her words even if the fond tone hadn't done so. " Ba-la-la-la-la-las'." She snorted then, a most unladylike sound of amusement before breaking into laughter. Devin patted her back, then gently hugged her in return. "We good?" he inquired after it seemed a suitable time had passed. Tawny sighed, then reluctantly unwrapped her arms from around him and stepped back a couple paces, wiping her eyes a little. Wordlessly, she offered him a fist, and grinning, Devin bumped, and the two fluttered their fingers in the air, chorusing "Ba-la-la-la-la-la." They shared a smile. "We good." Tawny affirmed, then her gaze took on a heated overtone and she cast a glance down at his pants. "For now." she added as she turned away with a flirt of her head. Devin blinked, blowing out a soft breath at the second glimpse he'd just seen of the fire inside the wholesome girl-next-door. Tawny wandered to the edge of the slope, peering at the dazzling snow-capped mountain at the far end of the titanic valley for a moment before speaking again. "Can we practice more?" "Sure." This was safer ground. He talked Tawny through a few exercises that came to him. It was a little stop and start at times. He had only Jason's sparse descriptions and his own observations to go on for what was possible - which seemed to be a lot at times. And Tawny, though more calm and centered now she wasn't terrified of being a freak, still slipped up occasionally. The progress was steady, however, culminating in a floating handful of pebbles that hung suspended and slowly orbiting around the blonde's head as she walked twenty paces, then stopped and caused the pebbles to form a tower in mid-air for a moment before separating and drifting slowly down to the ground. All but one, which she reached out and took in her hand before putting it in her pocket. "A memento." she grinned at him. "I'm never going to forget this day." Her smile faded then, as a pensive air came over her expression. "Deej, I know that you and the others probably have some secret club thing going on. And you probably can't tell me what you can all do, at least without asking them and stuff..." "Buuut..." he prompted as she hesitated. Biting her lip, she went for it. "But if you guys have, like, training sessions and stuff, do you think they would help me too? Whoever has powers like mine, I mean?" she hesitated a moment. "Wait, you don't have an underground base with a danger room and laser-shooting robots, do you? That seems a bit hardcore, is all I'm saying." Devin snorted. "Blondie, we have a field and some junk. We're strictly low-tech. No bald old English dudes making us wear spandex... which in the case of the girls is a real shame." "Pig." she grinned at him. "Oink." he grinned back, unrepentant. Then his grin faded a little, his eyes turning serious. "I think the gang would be totes cool to help you, Tee. And if they have doubts, I'll make 'em go away. Now we ain't exactly a tightly-knit well-oiled machine. Me and... uh, the person whose got powers like yours 'specially. I got their back, and they got mine - I think - but we got some air to clear between us before you come round for playdates." He frowned a little, his gaze distracted for a moment as he considered what was on his mind. "Is it serious?" Tawny asked, drawing near with concern on her face. Devin re-focused on her and shrugged, smiling lopsidedly. "Might be. Might not be. It's one of them Nerdlinger's Cat things. I dunno till I open the box." "Schrodinger." Tawny corrected with a giggle. "It's Schrodinger's Cat. Goof." Devin cocked his head, frowning at her. "You sure?" "Yes!" He considered for a moment - or appeared to consider - and then shook his head. "Nah, this is definitely a Nerdlinger's Cat situation, Tee. You're gettin' your cats mixed up." He tsked, shaking his head slowly. "Can't be doing that, not if you want to join the X-Men and wear spandex." "You don't need to get me in the gang for me to wear spandex for you." Tawny almost-purred, arching an eyebrow at him. Devin coughed. "Aaaand that's our cue for me to get you home. And me to get me home. And we can both take a cold shower, separately, which is healthy and Christian and not at all tempting." He reached out and took the giggling girl's hand. "There's no place like-" And space folded, and they were gone in after-echoes of purple-tinted ripples, leaving behind almost all of the majestic valley and Cyclopean peaks. Almost all, for they carried with them the small stone in Tawny's pocket and, more importantly, their shared memories of the place and what it meant to them.
  2. The address Sean texted was, Cade noted with a sinking feeling, a motel. In Brady, a town roughly 30 miles down Interstate 15 from Shelly, a halfway point between there and Great Falls. It's fine. He might be there to... to help out the local law with... with... Crap. CrapcrapCRAP. Dad, you'd better have a damn good explanation. Cade thought as he drove down the interstate. He'd made mom cry. He was scaring her - hell, he was scaring Cade with this crap. He resisted the urge to speed - that'd be all he needed, for the State cops to catch him with a radar as he went to confront his maybe.. possibly... cheating dad. He didn't want to believe it. It had to be anything else. Hell, he'd take his dad doing deals with meth dealers from Great Falls over having an affair. Well, mostly. That would still be utterly shitty, but at least it wouldn't be cheating. He's a Marine. Semper Fidelis, for crying out loud! Always Faithful. Even I know that one. His dad was a moral backbone in Shelly, a constant star to steer by, a strong figure of slightly heavy-handed but fair authority. Cade was finding his composure sorely tested on that drive, remembering how cut up Charlie had been when his dad had cheated. That thought engendered another fear: would dad leave mom? He felt a pricking in his eyes at the thought, and willed the tears to stay down. He had to focus - not on his fears and imaginings, but on what was before him. Be prepared for anything. Right. There was a buzz from his phone, and glancing down Cade saw that Sean had sent him another text. //Kept an eye on it. On the move again. North up I15// Cade narrowed his eyes at the darkened road ahead, now and then punctuated by headlights of cars on the other side. He figured by the road markers he was perhaps five miles from Brady, so pretty soon now one of those sets of lights on the oncoming side would be... Yep. He saw the Sheriff Department cruiser head past, going the other direction up to Shelly. "Fuck." he muttered, an epithet which would have made his mom and sister gasp, and probably caused Marissa to wink and fan herself. He couldn't pull a u-turn on the Interstate... could he? And if he waited to change direction properly, then he'd be in Brady... where the motel was. At which point, he could either do what Cassie would do, and play detective, or else turn around and chase his dad's tail-lights all the way home...
  3. "Oh, this would look cute on you!" Tess held out a dark green baby-doll tee-shirt with a picture of a velociraptor on the front wearing a toothy grin, holding a Rubix cube and the slogan 'Clever Girl' emblazoned underneath. Kat pondered it, grinning a little like the dinosaur as she got the joke, then held it against herself. "It's a bit, uh, tight?" she commented self-consciously. Tess glanced at the shirt quizzically, then took in Kat's habitual attire - baggy tops, shapeless jeans - and slowly nodded in understanding as she pursed her lips. "Sometimes it's good to have a tight top." she smiled mischievously. "It's the only way to get some guys' attention." The petite redhead considered the tee-shirt for a moment, then a small grin stretched her lips. "I like the picture. But I don't know... green ?" She pointed at her hair. "I'm gonna look like Santa's elves with this color." "They have a grey one." Tess grinned, bringing up her other hand and holding the aforementioned article with an air of slight triumph. After a short snort of laughter, Kat shook her head. "Fine, I'll take it." Her father's girlfriend chuckled triumphantly, hanging the other one on the hook and tucking the grey tee-shirt under her arm. The two of them had done some more serious shopping - regular underthings, socks, various necessities - and were now in, as Tess put it, 'the fun part'. Which, Kat had to admit, wasn't as bad as she might have feared. Sure, Tessa wasn't a 'big brain', but she was sharp, had a sense of humor and had a good eye for clothes. So far she'd persuaded Kat to try on several pairs of jeans that were a bit more 'American high school girl' - low-cut to accentuate rather than shroud the waist and hips. She'd even guided Kat through sampling some more sophisticated makeup than her usual bare-bones approach. It wasn't Marissa Jauntsen levels of glamor, but as Kat stood in front of the mirror in the changing rooms she couldn't help putting her hands on her hips and cocking them to one side, attempting a coquettish look with no-one but her to see it, and wondering if it would change how people saw her. She definitely didn't look twelve years old wearing those jeans and better-fitted tee-shirts, short and pixie-like or not. Nor did she look like a boy. She imagined Alice nodding approvingly, her mother teasing her. Grinning, she imagined her papa's look of concern that his gamine seventeen year old daughter was suddenly looking like a young woman - a paternal terror worse than monsters and psychic powers. She wondered how Erwann would react, seeing her dolled up and looking like a real girl. And her new circle of... friends, for want of a better word. How would they react? It was hard to say with some, but she mused that Devin would flirt incorrigibly, trying to make her laugh and blush, and Sean... Did he go for girls? If he did, he'd probably be polite, friendly and sort of sweet. Then flashed in her mind an image of cold serpentlike jade eyes fixing on her with some kind of formless, nameless hunger in their depths - like a leopard watching a succulent young antelope from a tree, and Kat felt her face grow hot before she turned away from the mirror to get changed once more. "You okay?" Tessa asked as they walked down the street, bags in each hand as they returned the parking deck. They'd stopped at a Starbucks, and were sipping on caffeinated slushies as they walked. Kat looked at the woman she'd tried very hard to dislike, and smiled. It wasn't a complete surrender, but it was definitely a willingness to try. "Yeah." the young French woman nodded, giving her dad's girlfriend a wider smile. "Was just thinking this has been a lot of fun. Thanks." Tess beamed, her warm brown eyes growing warmer. "Hey, don't mention it." she shrugged, though she was obviously happy her bonding gambit seemed to have worked. "It's a great excuse to spend your dad's money." She paused, looking at Kat with a raised brow when there was no reaction. "That was a joke." She didn't hear Tessa. She was too busy hearing everything. Everyone. Minds, all around her, each of them a small caged universe of thoughts, dreams, fears, loves, joys, terrors, desires. It was the feelings that she was hearing more than the thoughts, though she could sense the shape of all those minds. But the feelings came strongest, and her mind latched onto the strange sensation, chasing the rabbit down the hole to gods knew where. Tessa's concern growing / a feeling of irritated disturbance from a man who looked at her askance as she stared at him while he passed by / a woman filled with sorrow in the apartment they were outside / children with their simple joyous abandon as they played. It was beautiful. It was terrifying. It was exhilarating. If Kat had been neurotypical, then she'd have been able to exert some focus to pull her mind back from getting lost in the sensory emotional impressions that washed over her. But her brain was easily fascinated by strange new phenomena, and now it lived in an emotional landscape in which floated stars that were minds, each pulsing and shifting colours gently as they broadcast their feelings.
  4. Here we are again, still getting by like so many of you, through the Covid-19 pandemic. In our continuing effort to dish up some entertainment as everybody is handling the changes to their lives, on April 1st we unveiled the new Onyx Path logo! Created by Mirthful Mike Chaney, our art director and designer extraordinaire, I’m told that “Wreck-em Rich” ringing his infamous silver bell is going to be our new mascot – for a lighter, funner Onyx Path for these dark days! If the date it was posted doesn’t make it obvious, this was just a bit of fun. I know a fair number of our freelance creators certainly got a kick out of it! Which is really the point. We all need little bits of silliness and fun right now, and as I talked about last week, a lot of our Monday Meetings have been looking into ways we can provide even more support and encouragement for fans and freelancers alike. Here’s a few of them: This week, we continue the massive Exalted Sale over on DTRPG, with really deep discounts on the earliest PDFs! Over the weekend, a lot of our creators joined in on Gehenna Gaming‘s Virtual Horror Con. In fact, here they are: Daniella Lauzon, Meghan Fitzgerald, Eddy Webb, Steffie de Vaan, Dixie Cochran, Meredith Gerber, Mike Tomasek, Jacqueline Bryk, Jacob Burgess, Josh Heath, Rachel Judd, Crystal Mazur, Neall Raemonn Price, James Mendez Hodes, Sam Araya, Joshua Doetsch, Justin Achilli, and Amy Wilkins. And those are just folks who freelance create for us, there were a lot of other super contributors too, but if I missed anybody- let me know. These folks were on panels and ran and played in games, and by all accounts, it was a fantastic time – very professionally run – and something like $7K was raised for Covid-19 relief efforts! Gehenna Gaming is already posting links to the virtual events, so if you missed the Con, you can still view actual plays of your favorite games, as well as panels discussing a wide variety of topics concerning horror and gaming – from our stuff, to other game lines, to writing horror in general. I’m personally looking forward to checking out the panel about horror game design with both Justin Achilli and Jason Carl on it! You can start with these links: Gehenna Gaming Twitch: https://www.twitch.tv/gehennagaming Main YouTube Link: https://www.youtube.com/gehennagaming Gehenna Gaming main website: https://www.gehennagaming.com/ Chronicles of Darkness Mortal Game: https://youtu.be/EdPfkI0FLFk Trinity Continuum: Aeon Game: https://youtu.be/j7masQukyjQ Mage: The Awakening Game: https://youtu.be/13UtpbAFAfk Lunars art by Gunship Revolution Back in January, which seems very long ago in a faraway land right now, we had the Onyx Path Summit. One of the resolutions from that Summit was for us to host something like a virtual Developer Town Hall meeting. A large-scale, on-line, meeting that our many devs could call into and we’d be there to discuss, well, things. What we really wanted to put together was a venue where our devs could directly talk with Eddy, Dixie, Matthew, Matt, and myself about whatever might be concerning them. Tomorrow, we’re implementing the first couple of these, because we really feel like waiting until we get through all this is missing an opportunity to allow our folks, many of whom are self-isolating, to have human contact (virtually) when we all need it most. And it’s contact with folks in similar situations. We’re all trying to figure out how to create in this current situation; how do you work in a crowded house, or even should you in the face of whatever domestic situation you now have? I, myself, am looking forward to hearing from everybody! Dark Eras 2 art by Alex Shiekman Last week’s Onyx Pathcast where the gang did 5 minute pitches of our games – sort of a “Sell Me On Game X” sort of thing – proved so popular that they had enough requests from listeners to do two shows. So they did. The Return of the 5 Minute Pitch Returns will go live on PodBean and your favorite podcast venues this coming Friday, the 10th, and so if you missed part 1 (The Return of the 5 Minute Pitch) you can catch that and get caught up easily. These are excellent explanations of the game lines, along with much jocularity as our hosts try to say everything they need to before the 5 minute alarm goes off. Scion Companion art by Luciano Kamorozino Finally, I just want to point out that we have a bigger than normal list of YouTube vids below in the Onyx Path Media section, so if you prefer to watch gameplay and panels on YouTube rather than Twitch, we’ve got you covered. We do still have plenty of Twitch programming, although several troupes have needed to take a break because of the impact of the virus, and a lot of other folks have contacted Matthew with their broadcasts for the week. So please, zip right down into The Blurbs! and check those out if you want something game-oriented even if you can’t play right now. After all, you can play, watch, read, read about, and generally lose yourself in any of our: Many Worlds, One Path! Blurbs! Kickstarter! We’ve cancelled the Legendlore Kickstarter for the time being. While we wait for that happy day, here’s a fantastic Legendlore interview with developer Steffie de Vaan, hosted over at High Level Games! https://www.highlevelgames.ca/blog/legendlore-rpg-from-onyx-path-publishing-an-interview-with-steffie-de-vaan We’ll get Legendlore back on KS as soon as we can, and meanwhile we are building the M20 Technocracy Reloaded Kickstarter! Onyx Path Media! This week, it’s the Return of the 5 Min Pitches Returns! There were so many of our game lines mentioned by our audience for inclusion that the gang needed to make two shows! Here’s the second part, so you can join the gang as they “speed date” a smorgasbord of our games, giving out highlights and their ideas – all for your viewing pleasure and edification! As always, this Friday’s Onyx Pathcast will be on Podbean or your favorite podcast venue! https://onyxpathcast.podbean.com/ As mentioned above, Virtual Horror Con took place to great effect over the weekend! If you haven’t already do check out their website https://www.gehennagaming.com/, and if you missed some of their actual plays of our games, please check them out here: CofD Mortals: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EdPfkI0FLFk Trinity Continuum: Æon: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j7masQukyjQ Mage: The Awakening 2nd Edition: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=13UtpbAFAfk And Gehenna Gaming’s Twitch: https://www.twitch.tv/gehennagaming If you’re self-isolating or locked down, you can always tune in to our games this week. A few of our usual hosts are having breaks due to the situation in the world right now, but we’ve got plenty coming over the next few days, including V5, Scion, Pugmire, Changeling: The Lost, Changeling: The Dreaming, Mage: The Awakening, Scarred Lands, and a Dark Eras Werewolf: The Forsaken chronicle! This week sees a return to Vampire 5 – Blood on the Tamesis! Do check this one out, as it’s a fantastic chronicle. You can subscribe to our channel over on twitch.tv/theonyxpath to catch up with any episodes you missed! 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: Scarred Lands AMA with Travis Legge: https://youtu.be/38fPD50puSM Trinity Continuum Special with Danielle Lauzon: https://youtu.be/cUrct7WvykA Changeling: The Lost – Littlebrook Reunion: https://youtu.be/OaqUKvkDTxc Trinity Continuum: Hard Holidays 2 – Holiday Harder: https://youtu.be/DeS8BGuOBKs Pugmire: Paws & Claws: https://youtu.be/W-SxDdVuQtk Vampire: The Masquerade: Blood City – Chicago by Night: https://youtu.be/Occ6CX68ook Aberrant: Community Service: https://youtu.be/51-Y_Diaefg Do subscribe to our channel and click the bell icon if you want to be notified whenever new news videos and uploads come online! The Botch Pit has performed a deep dive into the fantastic antagonists of Werewolf: The Forsaken, with this episode focusing on the Hosts: https://youtu.be/N5jtask8hYQ The superb 307 RPG podcast has produced a series of shows based around the superb Scarred Lands campaign setting, and you can find an interview with Travis Legge, a dissection of sub-classes, a deep dive into Vengeance of the Shunned, and more, right here: https://307rpg.com Please give them your support! More new Occultists Anonymous for all you Mage: The Awakening fans: Episode 94: Mirror, Mirror Returned home from Cambodia, the Rookery cabal find themselves with an Abyssal entity in their inner sanctum. They debate how to handle it while more of them start to become obsessed with it…https://youtu.be/My_WhERNAK4 Episode 95: A Blood Price With the Abyssal entity banished from the Fallen World, the cabal begin to figure out what has happened in NYC since the death of the Prince. There are talks of repayment in blood with a vampire and warnings about the sarcophagus.https://youtu.be/nzomKjw6fQA Roll the Role continue with their Scarred Lands Gauntlet of Spiragos actual play! Roll the Role is a fantastic show, so please do give them a look: https://www.twitch.tv/rolltherole And the bizarrely named Scabby Rooster continue their actual play of Scion, right here on their Twitch channel: https://www.twitch.tv/scabbyrooster One of Matthew’s personal favourites, Devil’s Luck Gaming, continues their Werewolf: The Forsaken chronicle over here: https://www.twitch.tv/DevilsLuckGaming Please do give them a follow! We have a fantastic Legendlore interview with developer Steffie de Vaan, hosted over at High Level Games! https://www.highlevelgames.ca/blog/legendlore-rpg-from-onyx-path-publishing-an-interview-with-steffie-de-vaan Ekorren returns with an incredible deep dive into the Scarred Lands which you really must watch. His enthusiasm shines through in everything he says about this beloved setting: https://youtu.be/56QKuLlCCPI And as we’re on the subject of Ekorren, if you missed it he also did a Charms for Solars video, for Exalted 3rd Edition right here: https://youtu.be/4AG2FxJi0dg 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.) Update: the devs are working on the updates for the roller in both Android and iOS; here is the rundown from them: 1) Redo the UI for system for Android. It will look the same as the current design. My goal is to have something ready by Saturday to send out to the Facebook users, asking them if this fixes the issues. This will be a beta type thing. This will break several of the fancy dice. 2) If the above worked out and the android users give all the clear, we’ll redo the graphics system to fix the fancy dice that got broken. We’ll do another Android beta through Facebook. This might take up to two weeks, as my schedule allows. 3) If everything worked well, we’ll release to Android for real at that point. 4) Port all of the existing stuff to iOS and release on that. 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 get Pugmire and Monarchies of Mau out into stores, as well as to individuals through their online store. You can pick up the traditionally printed main book, the screen, and the official Pugmire dice through our friends there! https://studio2publishing.com/search?q=pugmire We’ve added Prince’s Gambit to our Studio2 catalog: https://studio2publishing.com/products/prince-s-gambit-card-game Now, we’ve added Changeling: The Lost Second Edition products to Studio2‘s store! See them here: https://studio2publishing.com/collections/all-products/changeling-the-lost Scarred Lands (Pathfinder) books are also on sale at Studio2, and they have the 5e version, supplements, and dice as well!: https://studio2publishing.com/collections/scarred-lands 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 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! As always, you can find Onyx Path’s titles at DriveThruRPG.com! This week, the Gigantic Exalted Sale is still running EXtra strong! Everything Exalted in PDFs is on sale! On Sale This Week! This week Mythical Denizens for Scion 2e will be available in PDF and PoD versions on DriveThruRPG on Wednesday! Awakening to a mythic destiny brings a rush of new powers and capabilities, but it can also bring a Hero to the attention of a variety of strange and powerful beings, who seldom regard the arrival of a meddling band with warm wishes and open arms. Scion: Mythical Denizens includes ready-made antagonists suitable to drop into existing stories, from lethal Legendary Warriors to inscrutable Fair Folk to shapeshifting Therianthropes and more. Each antagonist included in Mythical Denizens features: A full background to shed light on a being’s origins and motivations. A complete stat block and list of capabilities for easy reference. Rules for new Qualities and other unique powers possessed by some antagonists. Story hooks to spark stand-alone sessions or easily integrate into existing games. But wait, there’s more coming to DTRPG this week! Memento Mori for Geist 2e will be available in PDF and physical book PoD versions on DTRPG on Wednesday, as well! The Underworld runs deep, lifetimes stacked on stolen lifetimes, all to squeeze us down to fuel, to fodder, for the bastards that built it. Sooner or later, it gets us all. It’s patient. It plays the long game, because it has eternity to wait you out, fland it doesn’t believe mayflies like us can make a difference in the end. That’s why we’re going to win. Geist: Memento Mori includes: New Mementos, including additional Vanitas and the rare and coveted Greater Mementos New Regalia and Ceremonies drawn from dozens of Krewes across all archetypes New Haunts that pulse with the Underworld’s own power New Haunted Locations, each with their own tales of tragedy and endurance New Dominions, from the regal Gilded Palace to the Neon Table casino Conventions! Though dates are subject to change due to the current COVID-19 outbreak, here’s our current list of upcoming conventions: UKGames Expo: https://www.ukgamesexpo.co.uk/ GenCon: https://www.gencon.com/ Tabletop Scotland: https://tabletopscotland.co.uk/ Gamehole Con: https://www.gameholecon.com/ PAX Unplugged: https://unplugged.paxsite.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) Under Alien Suns (Trinity Continuum: Aeon) Mission Statements (Trinity Continuum: Aeon) Adversaries of the Righteous (Exalted 3rd Edition) The Clades Companion (Deviant: The Renegades) The Devoted Companion (Deviant: The Renegades) Saints and Monsters (Scion 2nd Edition) M20 Rich Bastard’s Guide To Magick (Mage: The Ascension 20th Anniversary) Wild Hunt (Scion 2nd Edition) Dead Man’s Rust (Scarred Lands) V5 The Faithful Undead (Vampire: The Masquerade 5th Edition) V5 Trails of Ash and Bone (Vampire: The Masquerade 5th Edition) V5 Forbidden Faiths (Vampire: The Masquerade 5th Edition) Redlines Dragon-Blooded Novella #2 (Exalted 3rd Edition) Hundred Devil’s Night Parade (Exalted 3rd Edition) Trinity Continuum: Adventure! core (Trinity Continuum: Adventure!) Contagion Chronicle Ready-Made Characters (Chronicles of Darkness) Novas Worldwide (Trinity Continuum: Aberrant) Exalted Essence Edition (Exalted 3rd Edition) Second Draft Exigents (Exalted 3rd Edition) Crucible of Legends (Exalted 3rd Edition) Many-Faced Strangers – Lunars Companion (Exalted 3rd Edition) Kith and Kin (Changeling: The Lost 2e) They Came From Beyond the Grave! (They Came From!) Assassins (Trinity Continuum Core) The Book of Endless Death (Mummy: The Curse 2e) N!ternational Wrestling Entertainment (Trinity Continuum: Aberrant) Development Heirs to the Shogunate (Exalted 3rd Edition) TC: Aberrant Reference Screen (Trinity Continuum: Aberrant) Across the Eight Directions (Exalted 3rd Edition) Contagion Chronicle: Global Outbreaks (Chronicles of Darkness) M20 Victorian Mage (Mage: the Ascension 20th Anniversary Edition) Manuscript Approval Scion: Dragon (Scion 2nd Edition) Post-Approval Development Scion: Demigod (Scion 2nd Edition) Editing Terra Firma (Trinity Continuum: Aeon) Lunars Novella (Rosenberg) (Exalted 3rd Edition) Buried Bones: Creating in the Realms of Pugmire (Realms of Pugmire) Tales of Aquatic Terror (They Came From Beneath the Sea!) Mummy: The Curse 2nd Edition core rulebook (Mummy: The Curse 2nd Edition) Player’s Guide to the Contagion Chronicle (Chronicles of Darkness) Contagion Chronicle Jumpstart (Chronicles of Darkness) TC: Aberrant Jumpstart (Trinity Continuum: Aberrant) Trinity Continuum Jumpstart (Trinity Continuum) Masks of the Mythos (Scion 2nd Edition) LARP Rules (Scion 2nd Edition) One Foot in the Grave Jumpstart (Geist: The Sin-Eaters 2e) Post-Editing Development City of the Towered Tombs (Cavaliers of Mars) W20 Shattered Dreams Gift Cards (Werewolf: The Apocalypse 20th) Cults of the Blood Gods (Vampire: The Masquerade 5th Edition) Hunter: The Vigil 2e core (Hunter: The Vigil 2nd Edition) Trinity Continuum: Aberrant core (Trinity Continuum: Aberrant) Deviant: The Renegades (Deviant: The Renegades) Monsters of the Deep (They Came From Beneath the Sea!) Legendlore core book (Legendlore) Titanomachy (Scion 2nd Edition) Pirates of Pugmire KS-Added Adventure (Realms of Pugmire) Indexing They Came From Beneath the Sea! (TCfBtS!) Art Direction from Mike Chaney! In Art Direction Scion Titanomachy – Contracting. Waiting on a couple of artists to free up. Tales of Aquatic Terror – Sounds like a mission for LeBlanc! TC Aeon Terra Firma V5 Let the Streets Run Red – Awaiting art approvals. Cavaliers of Mars: City of the Towered Tombs WoD Ghost Hunters Aberrant – Contacting and contracting. Pugmire Adventure Hunter: The Vigil 2e Mummy 2 – ADing that out post Aberrant AD. Deviant – Going over the notes. Legendlore – Kickstarter on hiatus. Technocracy Reloaded (KS) – Prepping for KS. Cults of the Blood God In Layout Yugman’s Guide to Ghelspad Contagion Chronicle Vigil Watch Scion Companion Duke Rollo Book Proofing Trinity Aeon Jumpstart Pirates of Pugmire TCFBTS Heroic Land Dwellers – Inputting proofing comments. Lunars: Fangs at the Gate – Doing up cover and getting the whole thing over for 2nd proofing. At Press TC Distant Worlds – PoD proof on the way. Scion Mythical Denizens – PDF and PoD versions on sale this Weds. Night Horrors : Nameless and Accursed – Errata gathering ending. Dark Eras 2 – PoD proof ordered. VtR Spilled Blood – PoD proof ordered. Dystopia Rising: Evolution DR:E Screen & Booklet DR:E Helnau’s Guide to Wasteland Beasties Geist 2e Screen Memento Mori – PDF and PoD versions on sale this Weds. TCFBTS Screen and Booklet They Came from Beneath the Sea! – Indexing. Geist 2e Anthology – Errata gathering. C:tL 2e Oak, Ash, & Thorn – Errata gathering. Today’s Reason to Celebrate! I was going to post a bunch of celeb birthdays for today, like Paul Rudd who I just always enjoy, but then I noticed something odd on the obit list – from which I was not going to write about today. But I have to share this. Country music legend Merle Haggard’s name is on both lists today (April 6, 1937 – April 6, 2016). He died on his birthday, which strikes me as a very good topic for a country song! Weird facts are definitely a Reason to Celebrate!
  5. "Hey, Sean." The resident cyberpath - hmm, he wasn't sure he liked that title. Bit too close to 'psychopath'. Perhaps 'cyber-empath'? Technomancer..? Yes, he could live with technomancer - looked up as Autumn fetched up against the neighbouring locker to his, leaning a shoulder against it with her arms full of books, blue eyes earnestly regarding the intersexed young man from her freckled face. He gave her a smile as he fished out his own set of textbooks for next period - the Fellowship had been largely leaving each other some space today, each of them digesting the harrowing events of yesterday. They hadn't been avoiding each other so much as just nodding companionably in passing, or sitting quietly together in lessons. The only one he'd really spoken with today was Kat, as he was still her local Sherpa, and Kat wasn't really a full member of the Fellowship yet... He paused that roll of thought. What were the criteria, really? Devin had welcomed Courtney into the fold, who yesterday had been revealed as not just a treacherous bitch whore from hell, but a telepathic treacherous bitch whore from hell, and the rest of those present had just shrugged and nodded. Autumn had become a member of the Fellowship based on a single nightmarish afternoon in the woods near the trailer. If a trial by fire and general acceptance of someone's presence was all it took, then yeah, Kat was in the gang. She did need her powers quantifying, testing and training, though. All of this had taken a split second of cogitation, his psionic overclocking of his brain's processing speed still running smoothly. At first, he'd been concerned that it would take a toll or 'overheat' his brain somehow, but there was a curiously organic, natural quality to the enhancement that didn't seem to react poorly with his cells and synapses. "Heya Autumn." he replied, closing his locker. As usual, the hoodie-wearing Girl Scout's open expression was easy to read. She looked like she had a question or something to say, so he prompted "What's up?" "I was wondering if I could get Jase's number from you." she asked, her cheeks taking on a faint warmth as it occurred how that must sound. "I mean, I've got everyone else's from last Friday, but he doesn't have a cellphone, so..." "Yeah. Says he 'doesn't need one'." Sean rolled his long-lashed eyes expressively. "I mean, he's worked with me to build circuit boards and install overclocking, so I know he's not a Luddite, but damn..." Autumn made a small amused sound, lips twitching in a smile. It appeared even the Impenetrable Bannon's oldest friend in Shelly found him incomprehensible sometimes. "So can you hook me up? I mean, with his number?" "Lemme check with him?" Sean asked, semi-apologetically. "I mean, I don't think he'd have a problem, but it's still-" He let the sentence hang uncompleted, punctuating it with a wordless shrug. "Oh yeah. Gotta observe the proprieties." Autumn nodded agreement. Sean grinned at her. "Yeah, Jase is a stickler for those. He'd pout." he answered with a wink. Autumn snorted soft laughter, blue eyes dancing at the incongruous mental image of Jason sulking, freckled nose wrinkling good-humouredly. "Oh my god. What would him pouting even look like?" "I dunno. But I don't want to find out." Sean's eyes widened in mock-alarm, then he relaxed and laughed along with her. "I've got a couple minutes - if you're cool to wait I can call him now?" "Sure. That'd be awesome." Autumn nodded, settling back in her comfortable lean against the locker as Sean took a step or two away, then dialed Jase's home phone. It rang four times... five times... six- "Hello." No lilt of question at the end of the word - the verbal equivalent of a blank facial expression. Vintage Jason. "Jase. Hi." He gave Autumn a thumbs-up, to which she smiled. "Sean." The tone warmed, a barely perceptible change in tenor and temperature. "Everything alright?" "Uh, yeah. Everything's fine. Listen, Autumn asked me for your number - is that cool?" "Of course." Jason replied without hesitation. "Makes sense for her to have it - I should have thought of that myself." "Well, if you got a smartphone like the rest of the human race, it'd make things a lot easier." Sean teased. "It certainly would." There was an odd quality to Jase's reply, but before Sean could put his finger on what, exactly, he asked "Anything else?" "Uh, no." Sean was still trying to work out what that discordant note in the flow of the conversation meant, but he was pretty sure asking wouldn't get him anywhere, at least not over the phone. "I'll give Autumn your digits. Are you okay otherwise? How's your dad?" "He's good, I think. Gone to Great Falls to see about farming supplies." "Oh cool." Sean nodded. "Alright, I've gotta jet to class. You back tomorrow?" "Yes." There was a pause, then a wryly humorous "I'm certain I'll have plenty of catching up to do in class." "Shyeah." Sean snarked. "You'll have to stay behind a week to catch up. Later, Jase." "Bye." "And that is how we do." Sean turned to Autumn, fingers tapping as he sent Jason's number from his phone to hers. "He doesn't have an answering machine or anything, so it'll ring till someone picks up or whoever's calling gets sick of it." he advised, knowledgeable of some of the various peculiarities of the Bannon household. "There's an extension in the barn though, so if he's there he'll still get it." "Cool, thanks." she nodded, storing the number in her own contacts with a few practiced thumb flicks. "No problem." he said breezily, giving her a jaunty salute as they went their separate ways. = = = = = = = = = = = Autumn sighed as she flopped onto the couch and dropped her book bag to the side, letting Dakota rest her chin on her denim-clad knees as Lexi clambered up with her paws on Autumn's shoulder, demanding attention and ear-scritches. A master of juggling the dogs and her phone, she checked the time and noted a message from Cassie, asking everyone to meet up tomorrow at lunch to 'talk about stuff she'd found out'. And to think, today had been almost able to pass for normal in a dim light - no-one talking about conspiracies, or Shine, or monsters. It was actually kind of restful. She had an hour or so before Warden Crocker was due to come round - time enough to scrounge up something to eat, relax, and... She flicked open the contacts on her phone and stared at the entry labelled 'Jason', teeth worrying at her lower lip as her left hand pulled on the drawstring cord of her hoodie. Call him now? Call him later? Put it off till tomorrow and ask him in person? None of the above seemed comfortable choices. Relax. He's your friend. You gave him your number in the middle of a room full of people. You cycled up to his house and somehow came away unscathed and with his friendship - plus your hoodie. But he was also a reminder of 'the Weird', perhaps more so than the other members of the Fellowship. Today had had a scant supply of 'Weird', and she had enjoyed it. In her minds-eye, within Jason's cold jade eyes flickered images of monsters, and figures on fire yet unburned, and shadowy conspiracies and evil experiments. The Weird had entered her life when he'd stepped into the girls bathrooms without any fucks given, checked her for a concussion, then calmly and with wry amusement shattered reality and the laws of physics as she understood them. "Ugh!" It was not fair to blame him, or make him the... Harbinger of the Weird, or whatever the term was. Still, she hesitated as she stared at the sequence of numbers on the phone screen, absently ruffling Dakota's ears as she mulled over her course of action.
  6. As quiet nights in went, it was going well. Haruka was at her bubbly charming best, enough so that Marissa was cuted out and almost wished for a little sister... Though the beautiful teen dream conceded privately to herself that other people's kid sisters, behaving themselves as a guest in someone's house, were probably a lot better than actually living with one. Still, eleven years old wasn't the nightmare time, and Haruka was as cute as a button sewn onto a particularly adorable stuffed toy. She also had a playful wit, slyly teasing Cade in front of his girlfriend with some anecdote or other, and then looking innocent when called on it. And it was fun, doing stuff like 'sneaking' a kiss from Cade, knowing that Haruka would see it and start making barf noises. For his part, Cade was feeling pretty chilled - though not 'Netflix and Chill'd. God, he'd really thought all this time it just meant hanging out and watching TV, when actually his friends were talking about... Yeah, that was still good for a warm face when he remembered how innocent he'd been about the phrase. Marissa and 'Ruka seemed to be hitting it off, discussing the merits of various male actors for the show they were watching in a way calculated to tease the one male present, which he took in good sportsmanship. It was perhaps eight thirty when his phone buzzed in his pocket, and as Haruka giggled at a sly comment of Marissa's involving the rear of one of the leading men in the show, Cade smiled and fished the phone out. Seeing the call was from his mother, he frowned and got up from the couch, motioning to the other two to keep on watching as he moved to the counter, some distance from the TV area of the Twins basement rec area. "Mom?" he said quietly, then frowned deeper as he heard a faint sniffle on the line. "C-Cade. He's not home." The impressively proportioned young athlete stared at the far wall of the basement room as his mother continued tearfully. "I made his favorite, and f-found out when he would be off work from his office. He was supposed to be back t-t-two hours ago. I called the station and they said he went off-duty at six-thirty, right on schedule. His phone is going straight to voicemail, Cade." The woman who'd tried so hard to be a mother to him for eleven plus years broke down, crying openly. "I'm scared. I don't know what's going on!"
  7. She looked doubtfully at the pebbles in her palm, then at Devin, her eyes wide and small white teeth nibbling on the corner of her lower lip as she considered protesting, saying she couldn't, that it scared her... But this was Devin. He had come for her, like a rough around the edges but way hot version of a knight from a fairy tale, and held her and taken her to this wonderful panoramic place that she wished she had her phone with her so she could take a picture... Not that she could show it to anyone because they'd either say it was shopped and they could see the pixels, or else she'd have some 'splainin' to do as to how she got to Peru without a passport. He'd seen powers like hers before. He wasn't scared. So she wasn't scared. Right? Right. Just a plain ol' farmgirl from Montana, dressed in sneakers, jeans and a t-shirt, about to make rocks fly. She focused on the topmost pebble in her palm, lifted her other hand over it and then reached out and touched it without using her fingers, feeling the surface of it with that weird, extra-sensory sense of touch. She felt the grain of the pebble, it's temperature, and then very gently she willed the intangible fingers to lift. For Devin it reminded him of standing in Jase's vehicle barn once more, back during the summer, watching a wrench slowly rise into the air and realising that he wasn't nuts, that there really was weird shit happening to him, to them. He grinned at Tawny's expression of intense concentration that made her look almost cross-eyed as she slowly gestured with her empty hand, making the pebble rise until it stood on air a foot above the rest of them in her palm. Slowly, she spun her fingertip in a circle, and the pebble followed her gesture, picking up speed and the circle widening as she sped up the twirling of her finger. "Whoo!" Devin cheered, and Tawny looked away from the pebble and at him, an adorably hesitant smile breaking out over her face- and then the pebble shot off to the side like a stone from a sling. The two teens heard it clatter as it bounced down the rocky slope. "Fudge!" Tawny stamped her foot. "I lost my concentration." "Tee, you don't need to look at it. You can feel where it is. You could close your eyes and count every pebble on the ground around you by touch if you wanted. We're talking serious Zen archery master shit." "Yeah, I can, but- wait, how do you know?" "I told you, I've seen these powers." Devin stood up and approached the girl, stepping behind her and reaching around to cover her eyes with his palms. "Guess who! Now..." he went on as she giggled a little. "Don't use your eyes." "But it feels weird not to look at the pebble!" she protested, quivering a little from anxiety- and his proximity. "Feels weird to ride a bike without training wheels too the first time, right? Comes a point they just hold you back." Devin right now was a paragon of patient, gentle encouragement that would have amazed most of the Fellowship to see, a veritable Tawny-Whisperer. "You're at that point, girl. Can't keep pedaling in the slow lane. You can feel the pebbles in your hand, right? Lift one." She took a deep breath, feeling the reassuring presence of him there behind her, and once more gestured over her palm with her free hand. Devin reflected that she'd outgrow that too, as Jason had - that instinctive need to make Jedi-like gestures, kind of a magic feather to get the powers working. But one step at a time. Right now, he grinned as once more a pebble rose into the air and stopped after a foot. "Aight. You got it." he said reassuringly. "Now, keep it there and lift a second one." "Two?" Tawny almost squeaked. "I've barely been able to move a single coin reliably before." The pebble in the air bobbed and wavered. "Cook and his doctor goons don't know shit about Shine." Devin reiterated. "Steady now. Just fix the pebble where it is in your mind... Now lift another and stack it on top the first one." Slowly, a second pebble rose from her palm to float alongside the first, Tawny sticking the tip of her little pink tongue out of the corner of her mouth as she 'juggled' the two small stones. Tentatively, the second pebble rose a little higher then drifted across and, with a faint 'click', stacked on top of the first rock, balancing there as though a hand were keeping both in place - which in a sense was what was happening. Devin grinned wide and slid his hands from Tawny's eyes. "Take a look, Michelangelo. Your first TK sculpture." "I'm doing it..." Tawny murmured as she opened her eyes and looked, feeling the two stones connecting, feeling her invisible fingers holding them in place. "TK?" "Telekinesis. Or... Tawny-kinesis, p'raps." "Tawny-kinesis? You goof." she smiled warmly over her shoulder at him, then back at the two stones. A faint air of mischievous concentration furrowed her brow, and the pretty blonde girl blew a kiss into empty air - only for Devin to feel it on his cheek. She glanced at him, grinning. "Did that work?"
  8. Intermission and Side Fic Awards (Completed Fictions only) Marissa: +3 XP for Intermission. Jason: +2 XP for Intermission, +1 XP for Short Term Aspiration Kat: +3 XP for Intermission, +1 XP for Short Term Aspiration
  9. Sophia gazed at him for a long moment, conflicting emotions in her eyes - the need to support the boy she was crushing on regardless of his personal insanity warring with the need to protect him from said insanity. Fortunately(?) the latter desire won out. She grabbed his arm and drew him further from the nearby buffet table. "It's crazy." she said in an undertone, looking as though she were fidgeting with his lapels as an excuse to run her hands over his shoulders. "Firstly, Charlie, I love that you want to go all Bruce Wayne-by-day on this, but to quote Illidan Stormrage: you are not prepared, babe." "A Batman and a Warcraft reference? Be still my heart." Charlie smiled lopsidedly, fighting back the urge to argue his corner and letting her finish, but unable to resist a small bit of banter. She grinned at him and looped her arms around his neck, smiling like a girl on a date should smile at the guy she was with - but the straight-shooting continued. "First, you're either going to tell the tale of the misdeeds at the prison without a source, which means you'll end up looking stupid, or you'll tell them about Cassie's plucky investigative reporting, which puts your friend in the crosshairs. And her dad, who these shadowy assholes still have mind-controlled somewhere." She swayed a little in his arms, like they were starry-eyed young lovers impromptu slow-dancing and heedless of who was watching. "And name-dropping Taggart? Even if he has a rock-solid cover, he's still a member of a secret government organisation. He'd be pissed, Charles. Plus you'd risk collateral damage, maybe. What if the normal authorities start really paying attention to Shelly?" "Right." Charlie nodded, feeling a little foolish, but Sophia wasn't quite done. "And finally, my sweet man, while you might make Crossroads scramble a bit to cover their ass, once that was done they'd come straight after you with an eye to payback. Not 'the mysterious bug boy'. You, and by extension all of your friends, and even me. And they wouldn't fight fair, squaring up. They'd do shit like interfere in your 'rents divorce, or ruin your dad's finances, or repossess Bannon's farm." Charlie winced, imagining how that would go down if people showed up to take Jason's home away from him: smug men with briefcases, confident that civil law and the social contract armored them from reprisal. The best case scenario would be a nightmare. Worst case would be Waco-apocalyptic. Sophia, seeing his expression, kissed him gently. "Like I said, it's awesome that you want to do something. But if you're going to do a raid-pull, don't Leeroy Jenkins it." she advised. "Let's treat this as a scouting mission instead. If there are people from Crossroads in Shelly, they might be here shmoozing with the governor too. We keep our eyes and ears open, and learn all we can." "That's... actually a better idea." Charlie conceded. He really wanted to kick the anthill, but Sophia had a point. It might turn out to contain fifty-foot radioactive ants. She leaned against him, making him aware of the soft press of her breasts through their clothing and the scent of her shampoo, and rested her head on his shoulder, smiling. "Hope I'm not interrupting you two lovebirds?" Charlie sighed - his dad's voice was jovial and teasing, and at any other time he might have smiled, but he had been enjoying the quiet moment with a girlfriend who, he realised not for the first time, had a lot more going on than her bra size. He reluctantly unclasped his hands from around her waist, hearing her giggle a little as she likewise slid her arms from around his neck, and turned to greet his father, who was with an unknown gentleman. He was well-dressed, in an expensive suit that was almost too formal for a semi-formal event. He was of average height, average weight, perhaps a well-preserved fifty years old with a hairline that was starting to thin above a high forehead. He had a warmly amused smile as he studied the two teens, and everything about him seemed avuncular, like a friendly face you would take sound advice from. He also gave Charlie the heebie-jeebies. It was no particular thing - he didn't have an ugly leering expression, or cold predatory eyes. He was just... off, somehow. "This is my son, Charles." Lucius beamed as he indicated Charlie to the man, then swept the gesture over to Sophia. "And his lovely companion, Sophia. Kids, this is Mr Enterich from Crossroads Incorporated, one of the country club's secret backers." "A not-so-secret secret backer." Mr Enterich smiled good-humoredly, nodding to the pair. "Charles and Sophia. Delighted to meet you both." It did not escape Charlie's attention that the man didn't offer a hand to shake, but at the same time, some sixth sense told him, he really didn't want to touch the dude. "Lucius here likes to talk me up as a generous benefactor, when indeed my meager contributions were simple, inadequate recompense for the aid he has given us in getting the ordinances passed for us to break ground on the prison all those years ago."
  10. He'd given her back the knife, understanding that it's surrender to him had some formal significance and it's return likewise, and stood motionless as she'd once more touched the stoic, immobile plane of his cheek, meeting her eyes. As she turned to go, he'd asked the one question he'd set aside so far. "Is your name really Kaitlin Forster?" She'd paused, then turned back to him with a faint smile and a hint of sadness in her eyes. "It is the name I chose for myself, so it is 'my name' in that regard. But no, it is not the name my mother gave me." She had hesitated, seeing the question in the gleam of his jade eyes. "Catheen." She'd swallowed, feeling the old words surface. "Catheen of the Ddraig, born from Elssbett by Iskand. That is how my full name would translate, spoken in our tongue." "So I would be Jason, born from Catheen by Gar?" he inquired. She'd nodded, a sudden chill seizing her as she heard her son refer to himself in the traditional way. "Technically, unless you had another clan name, you would use your mother's." she said. "But you aren't of the clans, Jason. You don't have to be. You were born outside them, and you were not raised like a normal Teulu male." She had stepped back close to him, looking up at his face. "You've never killed-" "I have." he corrected quietly. "I killed a monster. Yesterday." She'd shaken her head and reached up, cupping his face in her palms. "You didn't let me finish. You've never killed a thinking, feeling opponent, face to face, and watched the light fade from their eyes with satisfaction. You've never hunted down a sapient creature, like a human being or a rival Teulu, for sport and taken a trophy from their body, or eaten their flesh. You've not had your aggressive instincts honed and encouraged as a marker of your superiority and innate right to dominate those around you. That capacity for all that violence and aggression is in you, a sleeping beast that stirs now and then. But you've not lived the life that would nurture your savagery - and I don't want that for you. And I bet your friends wouldn't, either. Or your father." He'd pulled back slowly from her familiar embrace, his warning gaze at the invocation of his father and friends a wall of green ice, a reminder that, whilst there had been progress today, there was still a barrier between them Perhaps there always would be. She'd nodded acknowledgement, then spoke again, her voice soft. "I will be staying in Shelly. You will have more questions - you know where to find me." She hesitated a second. "Your... father. Is he well?" "Do you care?" came the reply, cool and matter of fact. Kaitlin had nodded slowly. "I do." Her son had studied her face, her eyes warily, then shrugged. "He just learned yesterday that I am a psychopath with psionic powers, and I'm not sure how he really is doing now. I think he might be getting better, or at least have been jerked from his sadness." Jason had looked across the farm fields, overgrown grass and scrub swaying in the morning breeze, then back at his mother. "I think I will save the revelations of today for awhile. And the fact that you are in town." "Don't hold back the information too long." she'd advised. "When Circle Time comes, there won't be time for him, or your friends, to sit around and digest it." And then she had left, without seeking to touch him or express further familiarity despite the urge to hug him. Even if he had been a regular human boy and she his human mother, the gulf between them was still not bridged. But perhaps it would be, one day. As she'd driven away, heading for the school and her human existence, the woman who called herself Kaitlin Forster allowed herself to experience a human sensation unknown to the Teulu: that of hope.
  11. "We call ourselves Teulu." Kaitlin began, cradling a mug of coffee between her palms. "It means 'the family', or 'the kin'. As the name suggests, blood ties are important to us." "I suppose there's an exception to every rule." Jason's eyes were hard as he regarded his mother, who shifted in her seat. "I was afraid of you. I'm a... a runt amongst my- our people. Not physically, or mentally, but emotionally I am 'weak'. A throwback to our 'animal' roots, as they would say." Kaitlin leaned forward, hand shifting as though to reach out, but obviously thought better of it. "When I saw the test results, I didn't need to go for a full genetic test - I knew you were Family. I panicked. I actually thought because I was a throwback that you would be too, that I could have a mostly-human child with Gareth. I'm... I'm sorry, Jason." "How non-human am I?" he asked, ignoring her apology and the heartfelt look in her eyes. Kaitlin sighed, taking a sip of the coffee. "You share ninety-nine point two-two percent of nucleotide sequences with Sapiens Sapiens." "That's quite a large difference. Neanderthal man shared ninety-nine point seven." He remarked. Kaitlin nodded, glancing around the neatly-kept farm kitchen, then back at her son. Naturally, he seemed to be completely composed, but a lifetime of reading her family informed every small gesture, ever microscopic tick of the eye. He was intrigued, and suspicious. "What are the notable differences?" "Primarily neurological, though there are a few anatomical ones. Most Teulu are psychopaths, by human standards, though they have certain hard-wired differences. They tend to be clannish rather than strictly solitary, choosing a group as an extension of themselves, and regarding everything outside that group as expendable and irrelevant. They lack fear, or remorse, or shame, capable of any action if it furthers their personal goals and strengthens, or at least doesn't weaken, the clan. Apart from lying." "Lying. Yes." Jason regarded her curiously. "Is that a cultural taboo? Because I have always hated it myself. It..." "Feels wrong?" his mother finished. "Like a perversion of reality.?" "Yes." Jason nodded, his head tilting slightly. "Where does that come from?" "From our gods." Kaitlin raised an eyebrow at the skeptical look in Jason's eyes. "Seriously." "Gods." he stated, the word a study in doubt expressed in a single syllable. "Not some ephemeral spirits floating around, imagined by delusional old shepherds who ate too many of the wrong mushrooms. I mean the elder beings who took us, in ancient times, and changed us. Once we were human, but the gods - two beings of great power and cunning and patience - wanted warriors. Smart warriors, ruthless and aggressive yet capable of teamwork and loyalty. They took some humans and improved them. One of the changes they made was an instinctive anathema for lies. We can obfuscate, or keep secrets, or hide our intent, or dance around the truth with word games, but we cannot outright lie, or deliberately break our word." "Hmm." Jason pondered that, gazing down at the black swirl of the coffee in his cup. "What other changes did the gods make?" "Developmental speed was increased: mentally generally, physically as well for females. We're generally more intelligent on average than humans - not dramatically so, but enough to matter, and like you, most Teulu don't get distracted by emotional concerns. A female Teulu is of child-bearing age at the age of ten - and looks like a human girl of sixteen or seventeen. We also have four ovaries, and often give birth to multiple children at once. Twins are the norm. We're also fertile longer - menopause does not start until the fifth decade of life at the earliest. Males age at a more human pace - perhaps a touch faster, enough to be considered 'early bloomers' by human standards. We live longer, barring accidents or violence a Teulu can live healthily well past a hundred. Violence, however, is common on our world. Clans war against each other over resources, or simply to raid one another for mates and children." "That sounds wasteful." Jason noted clinically. "It is." his mother agreed. "Each clan has a male and female pairing leading it, and it is not in the nature of any Teulu to easily submit and follow. Even the most capable and strong leaders are constantly alert for challenges to their supremacy, within and without. If a younger pairing desire and have support, they can even strike out and form their own clan, taking warriors and females with them. Even within clans, fights and contests happen often - females will compete over a male who is considered viable mating material, males will compete over station, or to court a female they desire, or to reinforce their claim to a particular offspring. There is a code to prevent Teulu simply murdering each other over differences, but it is still a bloody, Darwinian existence. Personal cunning and ruthlessness are the most prized traits, with learning, strength, looks and fertility coming a close second. Value and loyalty to the clan is also praised." She paused, a look of distaste on her face. "We have knowledge and technology far in advance of this place. We should be doing more than endlessly quarreling the way we do. That's one reason I left." "Where is their- our I guess- world?" "Sideways." Kaitlin met his eyes as she sipped her coffee, then explained. "It's between dimensions. Sort of a large pocket, created by the gods to house us. Every so often, it's possible to cross the boundary, and our hunters range out looking for resources, or breeding stock." "Define 'every so often'." Jason asked immediately. "Every two hundred years or so, maybe. It's called Circle Time, and it's the one time when the clans don't fight each other. They hunt humans, and other intelligent species - for sport, for trophies, for food or for breeding stock." "We can breed with humans, then... Of course we can." Jason flicked a finger as he dismissed that question. "And the offspring is always Teulu?" As Kaitlin nodded, he 'hmmed' and sipped his coffee. "Did you come here during a Circle Time?" Kaitlin sighed. That was a question she'd hoped he wouldn't ask. "No. I made a deal with... one of the gods." "You've actually met these gods?" he leaned forward, fascination now in the gleam of his eyes. "One of them." she corrected. "He's called 'the Trickster'. He's a figure like the Native American Coyote, or the African Anansi, or Loki from the Norse myths on this world. It's from him we get our cunning and intelligence, so it's said, but he's also where we get our stubbornness and desire for freedom from." "What deal did you make?" "That is my business." she said, lifting her chin defiantly. Jason studied her, eyes narrowing. "Was it-" he began, but she interrupted. "Listen. You could ask hundreds of questions, and we could be here all day. I came here to warn you that Circle Time is coming, and my clan is likely going to want to trace down what happened to me. They will probably find you, and you have something they want." Jason paused, thinking for a moment, then stated rather than asked "Shine." "Radiance. Yes. The Teulu have a trace of it, a bare trace. Enough to make our trackers excel at tracking, our mind-speakers able to talk without words, and our healers instinctively able to diagnose ailments and injuries." She raised a hand, and a spoon rose slowly from the sugar bowl, turned once in the air, then settled again. "That is the limit of what I, or any psychokinetic amongst us can do. You are far beyond that, aren't you? I can feel the Radiance pouring out of you, just like it pours out of your friends." She leaned towards him, placing a hand on his. He didn't pull away, but his stare was steady as he returned her gaze. "The clan will want that gift. They will probably want your friends, too. It's a valuable resource, a genetic gold mine. And Circle Time is maybe two years away, perhaps less. I made a deal with the Trickster, and I think he knew what would happen when I did it, young and foolish and thinking I could escape. You have to be ready, Jason. I don't know if you can hide from them, or run from them. But I don't want you to be taken unawares." "Why?" he asked simply. "Why warn me?" "Because you are my son." she said with feeling. "Because I am so sorry that I ran from you. And I want to make amends. I owe you at least this warning." She studied his cold gaze and, greatly daring, lifted her hand to touch his sun-darkened cheek. He didn't slap her hand away, or draw back, but nor did his expression soften. "I don't expect this to square us." she said. "But please, accept it as an apology from your foolish mother." He slowly reached up and took her hand in his for a moment, holding it gently, then let go. "Alright. I accept the apology." He took a slow, deep breath and let it out, the only sign of inner turmoil she could perceive. "Mother."
  12. Enterich blinked in understated amazement, then a slow smile spread across his face as Shelly's queen made Her Royal Displeasure known... along with a healthy dash of Royal Candor. As Marissa primly laced her fingers together and rested them on her purse, he gave a low chuckle and applauded, three slow claps of his hands, before inclining his head in acknowledgement. "My, my. Miss Jauntsen, I can see that our selection of you was, if anything, almost supernaturally prescient. Who could have foreseen this?" His eyes twinkled merrily as he gave a sigh of mock-regret. "Where were the young ladies like you when I was a young man?" "There were not then, nor will there ever be again, a woman like me." Marissa stated with a smile that was as sweet as her dark eyes were venomous. Enterich nodded agreement. "I fear that, at least, is true." he replied. "How fortunate, then, that I am in the position I find myself. If the day comes when you make good on your promise to me, please know that there are no hands I would rather orchestrate my downfall than yours." "When the day comes." Marissa corrected, almost gently. Enterich smiled at her, a sly gleam in his eye that was almost flirtatious. "When. Of course." he nodded. "Very well. I confess, I am tempted to call your bluff and simply... make that phone call." His gaze was level with hers, measuring, testing, weighing, and there was ice behind the good humored threat. "But you won't." Marissa asserted. "Because I've already said I will cooperate - for a cost - and your people definitely would rather have me on the inside than on the outside. Wouldn't they, Mr Enterich?" "Wise beyond your years... Or certain beyond foolishness." The older man smiled at her once more. "But it seems, at least at this pass, you are correct. You are positioned to serve our interests, and we have what you want - that being money... and the safety of your family... in our power to grant." He clasped his hands together and rubbed them briskly. "To business, then. Your lunch period is almost up, so I shall be brief. This Sunday. If you have any plans, cancel them. You will be meeting with me again, here, for several hours, starting at eleven AM. In that time you will prove your value, Miss Jauntsen, by giving me a run-down of your associates, particularly the five who infiltrated Crossroads but also any other... talented teens you know. Names, personal observations, known powers, weaknesses of character or chinks in the armor we can exploit in the future. For this service you will be paid a hundred-thousand dollars in a manner of your choosing, plus a bonus if I feel you have provided extra value of some kind." He paused, fixing her with a steady look. "That is the deal on the table, Miss Jauntsen. The first step to establishment of our arrangement. Do we have an accord?"
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