• Don't link to the video of the Christchurch shooting, or repost links to the shooter's manifesto.

[CofD] Sir Night Compiles Night Horrors: The Unbidden (In-Character Let's Read)

Leliel

SJ Road Warrior
Validated User
Glad_You_Asked.zip

First of all: this city is worthless. There is nothing here even worth making enemies over, let alone betraying others. It has an interesting internal warping due to the Contagion, but to be frank the entire municipal area may as well be the decaying body of a Host; whatever it once was is gone, puppeteered and driven by its own underworld that mimics the functions of a living city while being something entirely different. Sooner or later, it will burst, and all the crooks will flee to unsullied pastures to corrupt and parasitize. I will be up front and say that if my plan works, New Beth will no longer be an issue. If it doesn't, then I have little further personal interest in it, beyond the death of Cadere and the removal of one last weight on my shoulders. I am still researching its link to Prometheans.

I sense I will be free from this server soon, so I want to clear up one more bit of confusion:

I am a loyal servant of the Exarchs as a whole. I do not serve the Arkhitekton.

Why is simple; I treasure my free will, to the extent I still have it. And I suspect my fellows do as well.

First, know her legend, passed from Seer to Seer and accepted as truth; Helena, to use her true name, is nothing more or less than the lead designer of the Celestial Ladder, last great working of Atlantis before the Shattering of Time. Her common title, as one might suspect, is simply her profession; she is the architect, Ascended from humanity into a prototypical Form of the very concept of a designer of buildings and tamer of the wild world. She was never the most politically important mage, mind, but she was always renowned as a genius. When the Iron Seals, glory to their names, sought a way to enter Heaven and commence the Second Titanomachy and the Taming of the World, it was she who had her name offered before all others, and so she became the Master Builder of the Exarchs. And when it became clear that the Oracles, ever faithful to the old gods, had ascended the Ladder and protected the position of the less human pantheon, and that too many mages and too many viewpoints would Ascend from mortality and into Form, it was she who was chosen to stay behind when the Ladder was broken and create it anew when the world was united in worship of the new gods. Each of the Seals gave her potent knowledge of their Arcana, with the exception of the Gate of the Abyss, who granted her with blessed ignorance of the Void's untruths, unable to be absorbed by it like so many Supernal beings who are not properly released back into Heaven post-Summoning.

The problem is, the warping of time that came from hiding the Time Before behind history seems to have mutated her into lichdom, one far more inhuman than even my own half-prophecy state. From the legends, her skin turned translucent, her blood was replaced with the blue-white fire of pure Mana, and she learned how "to command thoughts to be her herald," which I theorize to be an oblique way of saying she is telepathic by nature. The process rendered her mad from pain. Whereas once, she was meant to simply live, perhaps nudge society into harmony here and there, until the day all existed within the decrees of the mortal-born divinities, her broken mind, riven by the widening Abyss and no longer having a past in conventional time, plus even her vast spirit being overwhelmed by knowledge she had not properly learned, fixated upon her trade and ultimate purpose.

This would upset the Pentacle, Timori-esque heretics they are, enough, except that in her monomania, the Arkhitekton confused the metaphysical, partially philosophical techniques used to stabilize the ladder from mere mystical machine into a tool for Ascension for needing sentient minds in its construction.

I do not claim to know what the Ladder was made of, but I suspect that even if the true Ladder was made of flesh and Sleeper brains, the Sleepers were at least willing. Even beyond the ethical insanity of using human meat as building scaffold, the minds fighting against being used as such (even by reflex) would be unacceptable interference when climbing to the Supernal.

This ended predictably; while the Arkhitekton was and is immortal even beyond the unaging, a group of fifty mages realized that she still needed sleep. They ambushed her in her personal quarters within her tower of flesh, and tore her body into fifty pieces; still alive, but unable to access her divine power. Each piece, they placed in an indestructible box which collectively forced her into sleep, and hid all across the world. The tower itself may still stand, last I heard there were rumors of it in the Amazon rainforest, but its mistress was sealed away.

Naturally, some of my colleagues assumed that since the Pentacle did it, it was the duties of the Seers to undo it. The so-called Restoration Society is a Nameless Order now, one of those myriad regional attempts at creating an Awakened society without the sponsoring of any traditional sect or even the Free Council's protections (though given how psychotic their hatred of conventional Seers are, I suspect a vendetta would be called against them for the insult of the attempt). They recognize she is mad, of course, but that even in her wounded state, Helena remains the Master Builder of the Exarchs. They wish to reconstruct her and help her remember the true techniques for building the Celestial Ladder, bridging the Abyss and allowing them to Ascend themselves to serve as lesser new gods. Besides the disrupt to the celestial order this would be, this would also unleash the Arkhitekton at her full power on the world. Not something anyone sane is a particular fan of.

It's also self-defeating. While I did seek one of the Arkhitekton boxes for her knowledge, I never opened it, both because I have enough confidence in the Initiative to be able to utilize her knowledge without her power, and because I just needed the expertise to construct an antenna, of sorts - something I could get from diving into her mind. The lucid Arkhitekton is also an Exarch in her own right, a living symbol of kingship and command. Simply opening a box causes her to become aware of the onlooker and able to contact them telepathically, offering the traditional patron bond of master and exalted servant. Those who accept become part of her very soul's arcane scaffolding; any spell Helena casts on her servants is effectively the same as if she had cast it on herself, and the bond between herself and her proxies grows as more of her body is bought together and she heals; at later stages, her servants become beings like her, with translucent skin and blue-white tass for blood, and ever more fanatically loyal, to the point of suicidal eagerness to matyrdom. As she heals, even those who are not her servants find her commands have the weight of the Supernal behind them; even beyond her grasp of Mind spells, she can simply give a simple, telepathic order to any mage in sight of one of her body parts and the Awakened finds it difficult to contest, though it must be very short and can't order the Awakened not part of her scaffold to physically harm himself. And that is not even getting into her abilities as a mage herself; every piece of her that merges reawakens her potential with one of the Arcana, and every five pieces allows her to draw upon more of her Gnosis. A fully healed Arkhitekton is said to be a Tenth-Degree Master (ie, has access to all the Practices, even Making and Unmaking, in all ten Arcana) and is at the peak of non-Ascended Gnosis. And that isn't even getting into her mutated body; anything less than damage that would cause severe organ harm for a human is something that causes, at most, a bruise, and even the damage sources that can injure her just separates some of her parts back into the original 50 pieces again, and they immediately seek to rejoin the rest of her. Even in her mad state, Helena is also a genius, and a skilled pugilist and speaker besides. Her only two weaknesses, besides the boxes sealing her away, is that she was born in a time before praxes and rotes, so she improvises all of her spells (which means she is as vulnerable to Paradox as any mortal Awakened), and apart from her prodigy craftsmanship and ability with construction, she is unfamiliar with the mundane world as it is due to her monomania. I also suspect that other esohumans or even Sleepwalkers are different enough from her personal symbols that she cannot order them as easily; another reason why I tapped the rest of the Initiative for help in seeking her boxes.

I have no desire to destroy or even rule the world, simply remove the Contagion and ensure the mandate of heaven remains intact.

I am to be free soon, but know this; there have been outbreaks of the Contagion recognized by Sleeper history. The three most known are the Black Plague, the Spanish Flu of 1918, and the Plague of Justinian. And if the plague has its way, the entire world will die under a similar sickness.

If you ever want to save the world from plague, please, give me a call. We'll find you.

----

well_that_sucked.zip

You have no idea how much I missed the glares of my current neighbors after having spent a month or so inside a dimensional anomaly around a slum crossed with a malfunctioning mage's lab. [For the record, they though he got involved in gang violence and died. The look on their faces when the creepy librarian had returned and was just as bullshit-intolerant of their social jockeying was almost worth me being a single mom for that long.]

But Sir Night is back, and now that we know a great deal more about the Crucible Initiative - that they exist, for one thing - and that my client has finally allowed me to know about the Contagion and her own struggles against it, I think I can give a less jaundiced perspective than those pyromanical fanatics.

At some point, I am going to go into the Clockwork Creations of Ashar'Arif, but right now, I am going to my bed, and sleeping in something with actual covers, no bedbugs, and no looming fear I am going to be murdered by the psychic clone of a hedonistic torturer/killer. More answers when the questions come up.
 
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Leliel

SJ Road Warrior
Validated User
unbiased_sources.zip

Now that I've gotten a good night's sleep, finally, I can relate some new information that I have learned (and been allowed to declassify) from Neferyah about the mysterious Contagion.

First: Yes, it is a disease that infects reality. It is a source of what is regarded in mortal histories as lethal pandemics, when it metastasized into normal pathogens and started using them in conjunction with its supernatural hosts to spread. Yes, its strains offer a devil's deal (I am aware of the irony) to its hosts, and can manufacture life forms that exist to create a better environment for its replication. [The best lies contain an element of truth and all that.]

Foetia did not inform you, likely because she would rather not believe it herself, that the majority of people who restrict the spread of the Contagion find it has better ways of being treated than burning them all and letting God sort them out. [Fittingly, they're the closest allies to the God-Machine.] In fact, the Crucible Initiative's very existence, and the existence of other so-called "Sworn" groups, cross-esohuman fraternities dedicated to research and containment of the Contagion, are proof of a fundamentally tamer way of treating it; the defining trait of the Sworn is "Vectors," nothing less than self-infection with strains of the Contagion that have been bred to become, for lack of a better term, vaccines. [Though from the sound of it, the Crucible Initiative ain't something the others regard as Sworn anymore; the exact term is False.]

From what Neferyah and her particular faction of Sworn explained, I believe the Contagion is, at its core, an RNA-based eukaryotic microbe. This would be remarkable enough given the fundamental instability of RNA {Fun fact, you need to keep that stuff freezing in a lab, else it spontaneously catalyzes and you're left with a bunch of free molecules that tell you absolutely nae anything - Cichol}, but becomes even more so when you learn the history of life. RNA, you see, was actually the first living molecule; DNA was simply an evolutionary adaptation for the stable storage of genetic information. In a sense, DNA exists for the benefit of RNA, not the other way around. [You can start playing Parasite Eve music now.] The Contagion, thus, is quite possibly the oldest extant form of terrestrial life, and to have not only survived for billions of years, but thrived? That is one of the most truly beautiful facets of the universe, even given the Contagion's nature as one of the most horrifying pathogens in existence. Life, as they say, finds a way. [And oh god, life is horrifying.]

The problem is, as noted, RNA is inherently unstable in most environs. Thus, the Contagion developed a novel evolutionary strategy based on the very occult physics of the Temple (I am not sure if this technically makes it a cryptid, or even if it developed when exposed to the Temple. I do know that Infrastructure is a favorite host of the plague). By altering the occult underpinnings of the universe via reality-altering molecular recombination of itself {In simple terms, it encodes spells into its very genetic structure, and not the Supernal ken - Cichol}, it so alters the pockets of the universe into a state inherently less hazardous to its genetic material, and then sporulates within the altered area like a great cosmic fungus. Of course, this also causes unpredictable and usually detrimental effects on the world at large, but the Contagion has adapted to exploit that; Carriers and Contagious are simply aspects of how it manipulates occult physics to create a favorable environment for its lifecycle. Which is why it affects esohumans and preexisting supernatural phenomenon; occult physics are already active there, the pathogen just alters the system slightly to create a breeding ground.

What causes it to appear spontaneously and sporulate is a matter of debate. The Crucible Initiative has the most simplistic and likely ineffective way of going about things (they assume it appears essentially randomly, after all), but other Sworn debate about how the Contagion still exists and how it manifests in previously unknown areas. Neferyah's own Sworn faction, the Jeremiad, believes it is a form of divine retribution, an act of wrath from heavenly entities to show their displeasure with truly obscene amounts of failure in esohuman purpose. The Cryptocracy, the current co-wardens of the Ravaged (the other group calls itself Zero Hour), believe that it sporulates in response to the occult energies released by social decay, being an opportunistic parasite. I have not made my mind up yet, but I do know one thing:

Neferyah was once an ally of Foetia. She left, because Foetia proved herself willing to commit genocide to stop the Contagion - if not for her own survival, because she genuinely believes that her continuing life is critical to the salvation of the world from it.

The Prosapia Curse is not a natural destiny. Foetia asked her masters to lay that black fate upon them.
 
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ZiggyZapf

Sorcerer of Autumn
Validated User
From: Dingbat@FontsByThePound
To: Group
Subject: Figures.

I've got my own share of "tear it all down and rebuild it from scratch" impulses I have to suppress, (Being a Beast-seeming Changeling often takes your existing politics and adds "anarcho-" to it) but I have generally bad experiences with people who go for the "nuke it from orbit" route. Having an affinity for tropes via the Wyrd, I can't help but think of all the B-movie generals who make things worse by insisting on nuking the problem.

I've been getting pretty jaded, so I'm kind of in the mode of "reality is already broken," so I hesitate to trust apocalyptic predictions about something horrible that exists: I suspect, like most supernatural problems, it's been around so long, it's part of the world's ecosystem, and we're just supposed to live with it. Given the unknowns, I wouldn't be surprised if it can feed on the destruction in a "controlled" burn. Of course, given how many mundane diseases humanity has had success on, I don't want to give into defeatism.

In any case, that's one more threat for this Magister of Nightmares to catalogue. No rest for the weary.

--Ziggy Zapf
 

The Watcher

Registered User
Validated User
From: Jacob@TheIsland.net
To: Group
Subject: Learning is Half the Battle

So, it appears no matter how long one has lived one can always have new discoveries which let one see what one already knows in a new context. Case in point, if Foetia's words here can be believed she is not a high ranking member of the cult wishing to restore the Arkhitekton as I originally thought. Examining the recollection of past events with this new information, apparently my friend and I assumed that agents from the Restoration Society and those of Foetia's Crucible Initiative were all working for the same organization that was attempting to gain possession of the Box we were denying them, when in fact they were rivals making independent attempts to seize the thing. Interrogations conducted with that assumption already in place led to answers which presented a distorted picture regarding the Fate Lich's motive and affiliation.

Similarly, learning more about the existence and nature of this Contagion has me considering the possibility that a number of events and phenomena that I have encountered or learned about through the centuries that I attributed to either the Abyss or the Lower Depths could instead have originated from it. And that the hints of conspiracies and secret societies whose memberships were rumored to include a diverse assortment of esohumans could be these Sworn and False organizations Sir Night describes.

One fact that I did know beforehand is that the Prosapia Curse is indeed Foetia's doing. Having discovered that fact from another source, I can confirm the veracity of Sir Night's words regarding it. Furthermore, I can tell you all her motive for it. Like a number of individuals significant to Fate, Foetia possesses a Destiny. And as some here learned about such matters know, such Destinys always include a Doom. The complete details of hers are unknown to me but there is one portion I have learned. "The Eldest Living of an Awakened Line Hailing From The Time Before Shall Witness/Seal Your Undoing!" - Translation ambiguous if active part or mere presence is required. As you all might deduce, a member of the Prosapia Line could fit that description.

Naturally the Fate Lich would want to do whatever she could to minimize the potential danger her Doom posed. Thus the Curse cast on the Prosapia Line. She of course lacked the power to personally cast such a potent generational curse but she was able to persuade/bargain with an Archmaster to do so and provided the necessary Quintessence for the deed. Thus the Prosapia Line was cursed "to dwindle and decline until its last scion lives no more." Which of course served to cause the family to turn their focus toward their continuance rather than involvement in matters that could cause their path to intersect hers and eventually winnowed down their numbers to the point it's on the verge of being extinguished, with one sole member whose character is such that he's easily manipulated and distracted with the hope of siring a child.

But before you all find yourself reluctant to end Theo Cadere's existence, let me stress that while he currently is the likeliest candidate to be Foetia's Doom, there is a strong possibility that his death will not eliminate it as the Lich assumes. Other possibilities may arise once Theo Cadere is gone, ones more likely to actually play the required role than Cadere himself. To paraphrase a famous fictional scientist who knew a little about chance, Fate finds a way. So despite the fact that Foetia believes his death shall make her forever safe, one should not be afraid to kill the sorry and loathsome excuse for a human being.

--Prospero
 

Leliel

SJ Road Warrior
Validated User
From: jamescalloway@gmail.com
To: Group
Subject: Welcome Back

Welcome Back Night. Nice to hear from you again.
thank_you.zip

I don't think I'm going to be complaining about my house any time soon. I wasn't going to, but after having been in Ashward Heights for a while, I'm fine with self-absorbed neighbors as compared to a failing apartment slum with a Supernal anomaly attached. Possibly one also infected by the Contagion.

I plan on doing a writeup later, but that place has needed new owners.

@ Prospero: Thank God. I was not enjoying the prospect of letting him run free until some distant point of establishing the one thing I know can finally kill her.
 

The Watcher

Registered User
Validated User
From: Jacob@TheIsland.net
To: Group
Subject: Raiders of The Lost Arkhitekton

Regarding matters unrelated to Theo Cadere, Foetia's revelation that her Crucible Initiative had an interest in retrieving fragments of the Arkhitekton has me pondering the uncomfortable possibility that other unsavory entities might also be aware of its existence and potentially have ambitions to reassemble her for their own ends. The foremost one on my mind being The Contagion, or at least its infected devotees.

Considering its imperative as an infection to spread itself as much as possible, a restored Arkhitekton offers The Contagion a potential path to a massive game-changing victory. For if a restored Arkhitekton can truly reconstruct a functional Celestial Ladder then it offers The Contagion a method of entering the Supernal itself, which would thus make its existence and nature a fundamental aspect of Reality. Even the miniscule chance that this tactic could succeed should make reassembling the Arkhitekton a project worth pursuing to any among its devoted who are aware of the Exarch's existence and current condition.

Fortunately, the fact that other groups already vie for the boxes means that even if The Contagion's servants were pursuing such a goal they've got a lot of opposition. Beyond the Sworn groups which oppose them they would have to deal with rivals such as The Restoration Society, whom I'm sure would not want to share the means of their own apotheosis, and the various groups and individuals who oppose them. In any event, preventing any group or faction from obtaining all of the Arkhitekton's pieces is of course important, but out of all of them keeping pieces out of the hands of those who serve The Contagion should be the highest priority.

--Prospero
 

Leliel

SJ Road Warrior
Validated User
tick_tock_goes_the_hypocrite.zip

And for that, Prospero, I am thankful. I have enough dealing with the Contagion, and I am sure, being scouted for joining the Sworn. [Neferyah isn't exactly subtle about offering Tim overviews of her responsibilities or showing off Vectors.] Did you know, a notorious strain caused a Malleus Maleficarum pastor to form a death cult? His very voice became a living meme that effectively instantly converted his congregation to the more lethal iterations of the Shadow Congregation's ideology. Quite a terrifying time, and the typical example cited by those trying to explain how dangerous the Contagion is. The New Beth strain seems to work by altering perceptions of the past, hence why it took me so long to realize that Isaac Cooper was a Lutheran, not a Puritan, when splintering off a Dutch expedition. The perceptions then metastasize by overlaying interstitial terrain that would exist if said perceptions were true over bits of the city, causing it to become a shifting maze; the closer you are to a particular concentration of opinion, the more likely that iteration for those people's opinions is real for you. This includes the people that live in the interstitial district. How anyone is able to navigate this city is beyond me, but I theorize, based on the captured Ashward Ravens I captured, that its native Contagious learn how to shift their idea of the past to warp space to create shortcuts. [Said perspective-shifting also means they have no idea who they are, or even what they want, apart from basic id-driven stuff and respect. Shows why they were so feared and mysterious, they were nothing but the platonic idea of "gangbangers" who could get their territory to teleport anywhere.]

It's times like this I actually find examining the mysterious powers of the Clockwork Creations of Ashar'Arif a relief.

Ashar'Arif himself is not a mystery, for the simple fact my client personally knew him and traded theories about Relics. He was an Awakened horologist in 13th Century Islamic Spain, an Obrimos and early member of the Guardians of the Veil. A polymath and an engineering genius even before he Awoke, Ashar'Arif's new insight into Forces, Prime, and later Matter sharpened his skills to levels that surpass even modern (human) robotics in some way. [Makes Tim feel right at home.]

He was also a member of the Left-Handed Legacy known as the Austere - aka, the Clockwork Assassins. I don't think he was a killer himself, but like them, he silenced his emotions in favor or dispassionate logic and zealot dedication to the way he felt things should be. {Which is to say, they turn themselves into fucking cyborgs because the flesh is less efficient. I really hate that their very soul-sculpting requires them to be a bunch of borderline-fascist cute hoors who left the full shilling somewhere in the Abyss, they'd be really cool to knock back a few with, - Cichol}. He regarded his Legacy as an extension of his beliefs as a Muslim scholar, that it was his duty to make his wondrous creations traps to those he regarded as hubristic - especially other Awakened, as he regarded educated sinners as an order of magnitude worse than the ignorant. [That part we don't have an issue with, just the method he chose.] Thus, his tools and toys are usually even more dangerous than they are useful.

Or show no obvious use at all, in the case of Miriam's Doll #5. [If you've got a clue as to who Miriam is or the fate of #1-4, please tell us. Even Neferyah has no idea, Memory or not.]

Going by the copy of his treatise we now have, the Doll's number is a reference to it being the fifth in a series of prototype, multiple-assembly modifiable dolls, each one substantially more complex and lifelike. [Thankfully not too lifelike, because Hell Barbie is creepy enough without the uncanny valley. Ugh.] I must admit, it's impressive; each of its parts is completely interchangeable upon the core wire frame with a vast and varied set of backups, and each "valid" assembly (I'll get to that in a minute) looks like a completely different doll, all of them beautiful toys. [Which I am keeping far, far away from my kids. He thinks it's pretty, I reiterate Hell Barbie.] All the eyes are built in such a way that refraction makes them appear to have a spark of life in them.

Refraction, and an infusion of power from the Abode of Demons. [Hell. Barbie.]

As fitting Ashar'Arif's other creations, the Doll itself is not aggressive in its charm or curse. Rather, a close examination will reveal every part has a subtle mosaic along the leather skin akin to tattoos, each pattern fairly different. Completing a new, complete pattern with a set of doll parts and careful repositioning of its limbs awakens the touch of Pandaemonium within it, filling its keeper with euphoria at the accomplishment to a solution to the puzzle, which is actually quite refreshing and helps with focus later. The fact that particular boon affects completely normal Sleepers is reason enough the Doll is so prone to inspiring obsession in collectors (such as the man we eventually had to blackmail to get it from. What we were offering as a carrot was essentially the complete erasure of his borderline debt slavery to the bank and his children dying in return for the Doll. Everything is an addictive substance to someone, I suppose). A true mage can activate an even greater effect by spending Mana as she feels the rush of completion, sharpening her mind and focus for a day or so.

The danger comes in from how the Doll is an Imbued Item, and thus has an internal store of Mana. To use this Mana for most purposes, including activating its internal spell of scrying on the condition of an individual (OOC:My update of the Doll to 2E, where all Imbued Items have a spell) is perfectly safe. The problem happens if the mage attempts to spend mana for the hyperfocus effect when completing a pattern; whatever Ashar'Arif wanted the Doll for, it wasn't giving a buff to the mental fortitude of Awakened. [Neferyah suspects he was using the Doll as an assistant for Awakening children; he lived before the Labyrinth was codified as a framework, so he wouldn't have been immediately slapped by other Guardians.] Attempting to draw on the Doll to pay for the hyperfocus awakens a curse that not only leaves the mage distracted, tired, and weak-willed, but actively addicts her to the puzzle for at least 24 hours, forcing her to believe there is a secondary layer to the puzzle. {It could be the result of Pandaemonium within it going wild, but given how much of an arse our clockmaking friend could be, I'm betting intentional curse - Cichol} Attempting to rationalize this is actually a source of a lot of the Doll's inauspicious reputation; the Awakened often ruefully call themselves addicted to mysteries for a reason, and a device that that exploits that curious impulse to interfere with their lives as a calculated insult does not sit well with them.

Not that Ashar'Arif was afraid to get his hands dirty in other ways when enforcing his idea of moral purity. The gulmoth corpses I wrangled when they escaped from the Marvelous Clockwork Mystery prove that.
 
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Leliel

SJ Road Warrior
Validated User
(OOC: As a side note, very little is defined in the book about Ashar'Arif apart from his moralism and time and place of origin. Given how Sir Night knows an eyewitness to him and has a copy of his treatise, it seemed OOC for him to not know at least a few more definite facts.)
 

ZiggyZapf

Sorcerer of Autumn
Validated User
Term I've come to enjoy for brevity: Schmuck Bait. Lot of people have self-destructive curiosity, and I imagine it's that much worse for the Awakened, especially when they have access to more intriguing forms of destruction. Definitely a favorite tactic for the Gentry and hobgoblins. Sometimes even a sales pitch at Goblin Markets. I've got my own stories as well.
 
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