rowyn: (studious)
Health/Fitness
I caught another lingering cold, this one mostly a cough that won't quite go away. I never felt horrible on this one, just run down. This is good, because I only have enough PTO to cover my vacation in the third week of June.

The Fitness Challenge at work wrapped up in May, thank goodness. I can go back to my usual workout schedule instead of the weird deformed one I've been using to try to minmax the challenge. The challenge does not correlate very well with any actual minmaxing of health, so this was mostly not a net positive. The closest it did to good was getting me to exercise on some days when I would have skipped it. But I also did less exercise on many days than I would normally, because extra time didn't "count".

I did some kind of exercise for 23 out of 31 days in May, so not far off normal. I hope to get back to doing one long bike ride on the weekends while the weather remains good. I think I've only had one ride over 12 miles since March, and I am feeling out of shape.

I've been eating more mandarin oranges and cottage cheese and less pastries and candy. This has not impacted my health or weight as far as I can tell.

Writing
I wrote a bunch of Poll RPG installments, and some new scenes for Birthright. That's about it. I have been more focused on editing.

Poll RPG: 13,500 words (the total of both files is at 26,250 now).

The Business of Writing
I finished my first editing pass on Birthright. I now have 7 items left to fix on Scales, and 18 left on Birthright. They are pretty much all hard changes that I don't have a clear idea on how to implement. Still. Getting there.

Art/Other
I worked on a picture of Smoke and Corydalis for several days, and lost interest before finishing it. That was all the art I felt like doing this month.

Socializing
I went to see Terrycloth in Seattle! Alinsa came to visit too, and the three of us hung out a lot. Alinsa and I went to see the Sabaton concert on the last day of my trip. We were going to drag Terry along, but opted not to in the end. This was the right call, as Terry is even less keen on standing than I am. Concerts are a LOT of standing. I actually sat down on the floor through most of the set for the second band, Leaves Eyes. Also, the venua did not have A/C and it was packed with people and about 90 inside. Sweltering. And you don't dare drink much because then you have to fight your way to the bathroom and then try to fight your way back to your spot.

This may be my last concert at a venue without seats, is what I'm saying. Fortunately, ProgPower is in a big theatre with stadium seating, so it's quite comfortable.

In any case, Sabaton was great. <3

Seeing Terry and Alinsa was also great. <3

Happiness
I spent a lot of May in a kind of low-grade glum mood. Not miserable, just thinking "I want to cry" a lot. I didn't even actually cry. Just glum.

Anyway, the "I want to cry" song is much better than the "I suck and everything I do is awful" or "I want to kill myself" songs, so. There's that. It would be nice to be more upbeat, though.

I write this down as a marker, so I don't forget and exaggerate my past as better or worse than it was. Moving on.

Goals for coming month
* Finish editing Scales and Birthright. I'd like to finish Scales (again) first, because once I finish it this time, I can kick it to beta readers. Because this will be the last round of edits that will impact it.
* Do something about covers for the two books. Where by "do something" I mean "find a cover artist". Who is not me. A professional.
* I also still have to deal with the rental car and credit card insurance people. Sigh. There was actually a thing the credit card insurance people asked me for that I could even get them (credit card statement showing the rental), but I didn't until last night because I had to look up when the accident happened again. I couldn't remember any more. I could have just sent every credit card statement. "It's on one of these four! Have fun."

Anyway, I finally did this (and even found the right statement) yesterday evening. Chrome would open the statement but not save it to file, for no apparent reason. I had to print it to PDF, which was semi-illegible also for no apparent reason. It was basically still readable, so I sent it. Hopefully that will be that.

Card Benefit Services has sent me letters for stuff that only the rental people can provide, too. I forward those on. I don't know if the rental people have provided any of it. They don't write me back. -_- But the claim form only had "other" for things to upload and they haven't asked for anything else but the statement lately, so. Maybe?
rowyn: (Smoke)
Curry This smelled delicious even before they stepped inside, the scent of cumin, coriander, pepper and other spices hanging in the air. Smoke breathed it in, with a growing confidence that the food here would not be bland. Corydalis and she were overdressed for the atmosphere here. The staff wore simple off-shoulder dresses, or tunics with trousers, and the other patrons were dressed either as if they'd come from work, or in similarly casual attire. Heads turned their way as they waited to be seated. Smoke couldn't help thinking that Corydalis would draw eyes no matter what he was wearing, though.

If the draka noticed, he showed no sign of discomfort with the attention. His eyes were on her. "You look like you've come home."

"I love curry," she admitted. "My father made curries all the time when I was growing up. Coconut milk and chicken curry is my first comfort food."


"I hope Courthall is not driving you to comfort eating already."

Smoke laughed. "No, not at all. The exact nature of the problem is a conundrum, but I like puzzles. And all the people have been helpful and solicitous. Especially Blackwood and Licorice." The maitre'd led them to one of the tables near the center of the room. The restaurant was busy enough that the ones along the walls were all full.

"Ah, I am glad to hear it." He gave a slight shake of his head, smiling again. "I admit, I have had a private and rather irrational fear that you might find Courthall as difficult as your predecessor."

"Not at all! Blackwood not only flew me all the way back to Courthall himself, but he offered to guide me around on arrival. He showed me where the old gatherer was, and took me to the top of the House of Chambers so I could plant my own. Licorice was kind enough to show me about the rest of the building. She's the one who showed me the kitchen, where I discovered you had carpenter ants."

"Excellent! Ah, excellent that they took good care of you, that is. I remain unenthusiastic about the carpenter ants." He gave her another wry smile, and Smoke giggled. Corydalis hesitated a moment, then asked, "What department is Licorice in?"

"Maintenance."

Blond eyebrows drew together over gold eyes. "Hmm. Did she say what division?"

"No. She was fixing a problem with the hatch at the top of the Four's globe when we met," Smoke offered. "Why?"

"No reason. It's a large campus; I fear I don't know every employee." He said it apologetically, with the air of someone who thought he ought to know everyone. Or perhaps someone who had thought he did know everyone. Corydalis glanced down at his menu.

This poll is closed.
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That's interesting ...

View Answers

Ask Corydalis if he usually meets everyone who works at Courthall.
6 (46.2%)

Find out why he remembers Blackwood
2 (15.4%)

Ask more about Corydalis's family and interests outside of work
0 (0.0%)

Ask about Corydalis's work
0 (0.0%)

Ask if there are any other strange going-ons in Courthall
5 (38.5%)

rowyn: (Default)
"I would like to see the palace," Smoke admitted, even if she did expect to be in Hallston for a while and there was no urgency.

With an unselfconscious ease, Corydalis slid open the panel at the front of the floater and requested the driver detour to circle the palace. "To the left, if you please," he added, before sitting back. To Smoke, he continued, "There are tours of the public areas of the palace interior a few times a week, if you decide you'd like a closer look. But the exterior is worth seeing too."

The Hallston palace encompassed a full city block, and had a grandeur unlike the houses of the nobility around it. It was a feat of combined architecture and enchantment. It was all in alabaster white, faintly iridescent and illuminated by bright rows of light globes along its trim. Its wings rose to either side of the main building, in smooth arcs over private gardens. The glass bottoms of the wings cast light into the gardens. The grounds were a fanciful menagerie of plants, bushes, and flowers sculpted into the shapes of mythical animals, as well as suggesting the mysterious cliffs and exotic locales where such creatures might be found. Smoke pressed against the glass of her window to take it in: Corydalis's request to the driver meant the palace was on her side of the floater, rather than his. "Oh, it's marvelous! Is the Ruler in residence now? Is it as improbable on the inside as the out, or does it look like a place where people live?"

"The Ruler is not in residence at this time. I believe they are due next in a few weeks. The private quarters look like a place where people live. The public tours of the inside are just as unlikely as the exterior. It's a work of art."

Smoke glanced over her shoulder at him. "Have you seen the private quarters, Master Corydalis?"

"A couple of times. As assistant, not guest; I helped with the preparations for one of their majesty's private events."

Smoke raised her eyebrows. "You must have an interesting employment history, sir." She sat back in her seat as the floater completed the circuit of the palace and continued on its way to the restaurant.

The black draka shrugged. "No more so than anyone else, I should think. Did you train as an enchanter at a young age, Master Smoke?"

"At fourteen, yes. That was a normal age of apprenticeship when I was young." The normal age had been twelve, actually, though by law apprenticeships didn't start until sixteen now. Autumn was eighteen and Walnut seventeen. "I've never held a job out of the field." Smoke changed the subject quickly, before he could ask for more details. "Do you have family in Hallston?"

"My youngest daughter is an adjunct at Hallston University, and so busy that I only see her a little more often than her two older siblings," he said, with a wry smile. "I didn't grow up in the area, but I've lived here for the last thirty years."

"No spouses...?" Smoke asked, both curious and cautious of prying.

A shake of his head made a stray lock of gold hair fall across one eye. "My former wife and I divorced eight years ago. You?"

"My wife passed away two years ago," Smoke answered, wistful.

"Ah, my apologies. I am sorry for your loss."

"It's fine. I raised the subject." She smiled at him. "I have two grown children, too. A master goldsmith and a bookbinder. I still miss my wife, but I've no regrets."

"As it should be." The floater arrived at the Curry This, and Corydalis helped her out with a natural grace. He offered his arm, and they walked in together.

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Dinner conversation

View Answers

Ask about Corydalis's work
1 (7.7%)

Discuss who he thinks might be behind the sabotage
0 (0.0%)

Tell him about how helpful Licorice and Blackwood were yesterday
8 (61.5%)

Ask more about Corydalis's family and interests outside of work
1 (7.7%)

Ask if there are any other strange going-ons in Courthall
3 (23.1%)

rowyn: (Smoke)
"Mmm." Smoke curled one arm up to touch Master Corydalis's forearm. She hadn't meant to mock-faint into his lap: she'd been aiming for his shoulder and missed. Now that she was here, she hadn't quite figured out how to leave. He had a very comfortable lap. Lying in it was probably taking too much advantage of the casual atmosphere. "No, you sound like you have everything under control. Although, wait, I am a concerned about my apprentices, who will be arriving tomorrow. I normally have them run errands for me and do independent work, but I'm not sure that's advisable given the atmosphere. Could I -- I don't know -- get a local assistant? Someone who know their way around and could keep my boys from stepping into any hornets' nests?"

"Certainly that can be arranged." Master Corydalis was still smiling at her, with that devastating smile he'd employed at their first meeting. His legs shifted under her. He had a very  comfortable lap. Those long legs and strong arms provided plenty of support.

"Thank you, sir. You're very kind." I can't get up now, Smoke told herself. That'd make it look like I flopped against him just to extract a promise or something. I need to make getting up look natural. "How far is it from Courthall to the Trade District, do you know? I've not gotten my bearings in Hallston yet."

"Not far. Two miles or so, perhaps. The address you gave for Curry This might be two and a half. We're in the Crown District now."

"Oh, are we?" Smoke straightened; the draka gracefully assisted her, as if strange people fell into his lap all the time. Maybe they did. She gazed out the floater window on her left, away from him, and watched the Crown District. It had a lot of ancient mansions and manor houses. To Smoke's eye, they were over-ornamented and sprawling. She liked the height and grandeur and cleaner lines of Crescent Bay's skyline better. As residences for a single family, they were imposing. She couldn't imagine the army of maids needed just for dusting. "Are we going to pass the Palace?"

"Not exactly. You'll be able to glimpse it on the right, when we reach Candid Street. But we'll be several blocks shy of it. We could ask the driver to detour, if you like."

Smoke turned to look past him. He'd obligingly leaned back so she could see out his window.

Poll #18413 Sight-seeing
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Detour?

View Answers

"No, that's fine." Lean over him to look at it at Candid Street, though.
7 (53.8%)

"Yes, please, I'd like to see it."
6 (46.2%)

Next topic?

View Answers

Comment on how exciting it is to work in the nation's capitol, ask how long he's worked at Courthall.
1 (7.7%)

Ask if he has family in Hallston.
3 (23.1%)

Ask who he does think would be behind the sabotage, if it's not Pouring Magic.
3 (23.1%)

Tell him about how helpful Licorice was yesterday.
2 (15.4%)

Tell him about how helpful Blackwood was yesterday.
4 (30.8%)

rowyn: (Smoke)
The master enchanter gave Corydalis another of her wide-eyed looks, ears canted downwards in dismay. "No! Not at all; I need to know these things to do my job. How are you going to keep my work from being sabotaged, or me from being run off by your partisan legislators?" She put a hand to her forehead dramatically. "This is extremely alarming!" With a little twist of her torso, she swooned backwards towards him.

Startled, Corydalis caught her in his lap, one arm behind her shoulders. His other hand crossed over her chest catch her arm against her side and ensure she didn't slide off. "Er. Master Smoke?"

She cracked open one eye, as if spying surreptitiously. "My hero! You'll protect me, won't you?" Smoke gave him a little mischevious smile and added, "All right, maybe not that alarming. But I admit it is disconcerting. How do I keep out of all these machinations?"

He chuckled. "In fairness, until you came into my office this morning, actual sabotage or circumvention of the wards had not struck me as at all probable. If Pouring Magic was willing to to conduct sabotage, the wards would have been the place to start, not something they'd attempt two years after the accusation. Moreover, nothing in the investigation indicated P.M. had engaged in any wrongdoing. There wasn't just insufficient proof: there was no evidence. The two companies have an acrimonious rivalry, but that's a far cry from criminal conduct or tortious interference," he answered, gazing down at her. Her slight frame felt beguilingly comfortable against his lap. This is not professional behavior,he told himself. Laugh at her joke and help her sit up. Instead, he found himself shifting his legs to provide better support for her back.

"So you don't think they've done anything unethical." As Smoke started to sit up, the floater turned up a steep slope and gravity tipped her against his chest. She paused, her cheek snuggled against his lapel.

"Eh." Corydalis raised one hand enough to waggle the fingers. "Unethical is a much broader term." Encompassing things like cuddling up to one's contractors, he reminded himself, and then countered with, oh, lighten up. Holding her for thirty seconds is nothing like sexual intercourse, and it's not like she's throwing herself at me to get the contract. She already has the contract. He cleared his throat and continued, "I judged W. E. guilty of avoiding work, a tendency exacerbated by a bad personal relationship with Courthall employees. And P.M. guilty of nothing worse than pursuing the contract with uncommon vigor, exacerbated by a vindictive streak. Neither company has stirred up rumors of bad behavior outside of their conflict with one another, and nothing within the conflict has any evidence. It felt more like the situation when the wind knocks over a vase, and two siblings hear the crash and immediately point to the other. "He did it, Dad!"" He smiled at Smoke again. "As an unrelated party, I did not anticipate any trouble for you from them. And I still think sabotage by Pouring Magic is unlikely. But Courthall security is investigating the sabotage given your information. And I did position a lookout to keep an eye on your new gatherers. We'll be increasing overall security in the buildings starting tomorrow to watch for saboteurs. Are there any other particular measures you'd like me to take to assure your safety, or that of your work?"

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Additional measures?

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No, that sounds good
12 (85.7%)

Yes, I'd like a bodyguard
1 (7.1%)

Yes (leave a comment with what)
1 (7.1%)

How long do you plan to stay in his lap?

View Answers

Ack ack UNPROFESSIONAL whose idea* was this SIT LIKE A PROPER ADULT SMOKE
4 (28.6%)

Just a few more minutes and then I'll behave. When it seems politic.
8 (57.1%)

How long is this floater going to take to get to Curry This?
2 (14.3%)

We don't really NEED dinner, do we?
0 (0.0%)



* It was archangelbeth's idea, and yes I rolled it. :D
rowyn: (Smoke)
Smoke watched him, ears tilted in a listening pose. "What are the details, if I may ask?"

Next to her in the floater, Corydalis grimaced. On the one hand, gossip did not become a person in his position, and on the other, the details might be relevant to Smoke's work. "It's hard to decide where to begin. You know the stereotype of corruption, where lawmakers hire their friends and relatives to do work instead of hiring the person best suited to the job?" At her nod, he continued, "It is rarely so simple as that stereotype. Sometimes one befriends people because one admires how well they do their job. Or one's relation offers the best rate for a contract. Or some other objective measure shows them the most qualified."

He gestured with one hand to wave that aside. "But you get the idea. It is difficult to pick apart relationships or be assured of true objectivity.

"Windbreak Enchantments was first hired by the government .fifty-seven years ago. Their work was, at the time, considered good. When Courthall's were the only buildings in that part of the city to survive the Hallston Inferno forty years ago, Windbreak's reputation improved to impeccable. They started trying to convince us to switch to a new style of wards -- more costly upfront, but cheaper to maintain -- thirty-five years ago. Twenty-eight years ago, when my predecessor and the general opinion of the day concluded the new method well-established and sound, we made the switch. Around that time, the company accepted an apprentice, Rain. Rain's older brother is now Representative Kite. He was mayor of Hallston at the time. One of W.E.'s masters, Berry, married Ash, the brother of the Duchess of Deeplakes.

"Since then, Windbreak Enchantment's founder has retired. Four partners, including now-Master Rain and Master Berry, ran the firm for several years. Then Rain left under acrimonious circumstances, the details of which do not reflect well on either side. Rain founded her own enchantment firm, Pouring Magic. Representative Kite has tried, several times, by various means, to place the contract for Courthall with Pouring Magic. The Duchess of Deeplakes was adamant about maintaining the contract with W.E. The manuevering between the two has become the source of its own feud."

Corydalis took a deep breath. "Two years ago, the maintenance department started having communication issues with W. E. Our department claimed they weren't keeping agreed appointments, their department claimed the appointments didn't exist or were at another time. They said Courthall wasn't taking necessary steps, our side said we'd never been told to do so, etcetera. We changed the contacts on both sides, things settled for a couple of months, then got worse. Pouring Magic has been courting my people in maintenance, to convince them we should switch. The Duchess of Deeplakes found out and accused Pouring Magic of sabotage. Not of the wards, mind you -- at the time we didn't have any problems with the wards themselves." Corydalis spread his hands. "But of the ruining the professional relationship, by stealing or forging correspondence between us. Courthall security conducted an investigation and found no evidence of this. But by the time we did start having issues with the wards, the atmosphere was thoroughly poisoned. Windbreak Enchantments is convinced of bad faith on our part, and most of my subordinates are convinced of bad faith on theirs. I went to Crescent Bay to find you, Master Smoke, because the local situation is simply impossible. And I didn't ask you to report to maintenance because they are justifiably embittered by months of dealing with fleas, rats, ants, and enchanters who insist all three are directly or indirectly their fault. Moreover, I don't want to bring the weight of the duchess's disapproval down on them, and likely you, in addition to everything else. So. That is how I end up with you as my direct report." He smiled wryly. "Are you sorry you asked yet?"

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Well ...

View Answers

... yes. Let's talk about something else. What do you do for fun in Hallston?
1 (7.7%)

Wait, is this duchess going to hate me anyway? For displacing her sister? Or was that one the brother-in-law? What about Pouring Magic, do I need to watch out for them?
5 (38.5%)

What did *you* believe was going on -- was Pouring Magic or Windbreak Enchantments doing something unethical or illegal?
7 (53.8%)

Did any of you think maybe you should've warned me about this before I took the job?
0 (0.0%)

rowyn: (Smoke)
"I told you I could help, Master Corydalis." Master Smoke gave him a playful smile. Corydalis smiled back, and then ducked his head quickly as one horn caught on a tree branch along the path to the street. Watch where you're going, not just her, he reminded himself. What are you, besotted? You shouldn't be staring like that at a contractor in any event. He schooled his eyes forward as Smoke said, "I feel silly for not knowing, but, um, what exactly does a master of ceremonies do? I mean, here at Courthall. I gather it's not like the theatrical equivalent."

Corydalis chuckled. "Not exactly, no, although sometimes the job does feel like directing a three-ring circus. I am the head of those functions of Courthall that are not directly related to governance. So, for example, maintenance, catering, scribe and messenger services, Courthall security, groundskeeping, entertainment, events planning -- these departments all ultimately answer to me. The representatives and nobility have some personal staff, and they organize the committee and general assembly meetings and other affairs of governance."

Smoke's blue eyes rounded, her ears canted to the side as she gazed up at him. "Oh. That sounds like a lot of work."

"It is," he said, ruefully. "But I have a great deal of help. When I have too much to do, it is almost always my own fault."

"How is that?"

By now they had reached the street, and Corydalis spread his wings and held out a hand to flag down one of the patrolling floaters. He handed Smoke into its cab, then followed behind her. "Because it means that I have chosen to do work myself that I ought to delegate to someone else. Or I have chosen the wrong delegate for a job and I need to hire the right one. There are some fires one cannot avoid having to put out oneself, of course. But the art lies in getting the right people pointed in the right directions, and then loosing them to their tasks. If I do that properly, there's nothing left for me to do."

Smoke leaned back in the floater seat, her grey features thoughtful. "That still sounds like a lot of work. So if you're in charge of all the non-governing stuff, who do you report to?"

"The prime minister," he told her.

She gave him a sidelong look so alarmed that Corydalis laughed. "You report to the prime minister?!"

"Don't worry, it's not contagious."

"I don't mean -- that is -- what are you doing managing a replacement enchanter personally?"

"My job." He gave her another rueful smile, and added, "Badly. The details comprise a complicated political equation."

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Complicated political equation?

View Answers

Ask for the details! They might be important!
10 (71.4%)

Don't pry for details. Ask about his personal life.
0 (0.0%)

Ask what he likes about his work
4 (28.6%)

Ask about life in Hallston, the capital city.
0 (0.0%)

rowyn: (studious)
Talking about using Discord for an RPG reminded me of how the media in which I play a game shapes the game. Every medium has its own strength and weaknesses. For example:

Face-to-face: In-person games have great advantages in speed. It's much faster when you can see and hear players clearly. You can use physical props readily: miniatures, dice, and game boards are easy to use in-person. But there are disadvantages to face-to-face: there's no built-in, automatic record of game play. You have to schedule a time and you can only play with the people who show up. During play, the GM either has to prepare for a variety of different player choices, or limit player choice, or be good at improvising. I find game play less immersive in person: it's hard for a GM to play multiple NPCs at once who are presenting different perspectives or arguing with each other. It's also hard for a player to convincingly play characters who are very unlike the player.

Video or voice-based games: I have little experience with these, and what I do is mostly "this is an inferior version of face-to-face." The only advantage I know of over face-to-face is "you don't have to physically get people in the same room". If there are others, they've eluded me.

Online scheduled games: My own experience with this is mostly on MUCKs, but it's played similarly for me on other text-based chat clients. This style approximates face-to-face in that participants all show up at a scheduled time, all play and respond to each other in real time, and stop playing at the end of the session. The advantages of this style: it's easy and natural for the GM to switch between characters, and participants can easily be characters who are nothing like themselves. The GM still needs to prepare/improvise, but usually has a little more time to think between actions, because play is slower. Disadvantages: play is slower (everything has to be typed). There are "virtual tabletop" tools out there; I don't know if these come close to the ease of setup of real props now, because I haven't tried them in years.

Online unscheduled synchronous games: This is the MUCK style of "you show up when you want to roleplay and play with whoever's there". I have never found this to be a very satisfying model of roleplay, because it's hard to tell a story when you don't know who will be involved in it or for how long. Sometimes this encourages burnout -- people who are hyperinvolved and always on and always playing until they flame out after a few months. But I've known other people who made it work. The main advantage over scheduled is in the name: you don't have to schedule play.

Email or forum-based games: These play fairly similarly in my experience. Participants play by posting to the email group or forum. Play is asynchronous: you send a post to the group and you get responses hours or days later. Email is good for games that are driven by conversation or player actions that don't require die rolls. They are terrible for games with a lot of combat or anything else that requires die-rolling. It's good in that you don't have to schedule a time for it, and bad in that it can result in burnout -- people can't look away from the game for fear it will get away from them.

Discord is an interesting medium for a game because a Discord chat group has a persistent history. MUCKs and many chat clients only show you the activity while you are connected to them. Discord will let you scroll back to the start of the chat, if you want.

Discord can be set up to give notifications, or not, so it's easy to see if a chat is active or to ignore it.

For various reasons, my own preferred play is unscheduled and asynchronous. I am generally okay with responding in a time frame of "several hours" and run into issues when it's "a few minutes".

And I am thinking: how do you structure a story so that it best accommodates my style of play? For example, I know that if I want to play a combat-heavy dungeon stomp, I'm best off doing that face-to-face.

But if I want to have a game where:
* Play is unscheduled and unsynchronous
* Participants are involved at varying levels of commitment: some people respond quickly, some respond slowly

What kind of features built into the story will best enable that?

One thing that I discovered while playing with Bard Bloom was that telepathy among the PCs was extremely useful for keeping a game active. All the players could talk to each other without the GM needing to be involved in the conversation, even if the party was presently split up.

Splitting up the party had advantages in forum/email play that it doesn't have in most other forms of play: it allows the GM to interact with each player on that player's priorities, without them getting trampled over by players who respond more quickly. This requires a pretty active GM. In theory, you could get this same effect in Discord by splitting the party between different chat channels. I'm not sure how well it would work in practice.

Mostly, I am thinking about story features like "telepathy": things you can set up so there's an in-character explanation for something that is useful/needed due to out-of-character reasons. What if there's a story explanation for why characters are more or less active at different point in the story, for OOC reasons? One of my friends used to play a game where the characters all had a curse that sometimes one or more of them would turn into a gemstone, and the other characters would have to protect them. The "curse" took effect if the player was absent that week. This isn't a very compelling storytelling hook by itself, but it's the kind of thing I'm thinking about. What if the game took place on an astral plane, and characters act at different speeds depending on arbitrary factors (that amount OOCly to "how available were various participants?") How do you structure this so that players don't feel like they're disadvantaged if they're not around as much?

Anyway, I am kind of stuck on what kind of stories lend themselves best to the format, and what kind of system. So I wanted to write this out and see what other people thought. :)
rowyn: (Smoke)
Master Corydalis looked, if anything, more astonishing than he had at their morning meeting. He'd changed as well, into a jacket with a long, swishing train and a high front: considered a feminine cut in Lightshel, though it looked good on every gender. Corydalis, with his broad shoulders and narrow hips, wore it very well indeed. As she stood beside him, she thought he was even taller than she'd thought, until she realized from his stride that he was wearing high-heeled boots:. Heels were masculine choice, for the extra height they gave and the elegance they lent a man's walk.

Absorbed by the look of him, the striking contrast between gold hair and black skin, the feel of his muscular arm beneath her hand, Smoke almost missed his question. Her words tripped over themselves to make up for the pause. "I had a great day! The supply store was out of treated oakleaf, which is my usual durability reagent for gatherer spells. But I'd heard titanium-gold wire was superior, and they had that. So I got it, and a book on techniques, and it was amazing! There are so many applications for the stuff, and it has a lot of properties that will make information spells much better. For instance, I have an analysis spell that I use on all my gatherers, and with this wire, I was able to make it a much more detailed spell. It's much better at pinpointing the source of anomalous reports, whether it's interference through the Wall, or a physical event, and even what kind of physical event: weather, water, fire, physical disruption by living or nonliving material. Also, it'll make the gatherer itself more resilient against that kind of interference."

Smoke beamed up at him as she babbled on, "and that's not even all! I haven't finished the book yet, because I needed to get all those gatherers set up. Which I did! Five of them. But I'm looking forward to rest of the monograph because my work is so dependent on good information, and this is a treasure mine. I do hope it's not overstating the matter." She ground to a halt, abruptly realizing she'd been burbling technicalities at a non-practitioner. Her ears tilted back. "My apologies, Master Corydalis, I didn't intend to ramble on. I hope your day went well?"

He smiled, setting Smoke at ease. "My day was fine, if not so engrossing as yours. When will your work of today bear fruit?"

"I'll check them tomorrow. They'll have records of any activity that happens between setup and then. There's some overlap with the new ones and the one I set up yesterday, so I'm curious to see if they give different results. The new ones will indicate ant activity inside the wards even if the ants don't cross the barriers -- that's a feature of the new wire! -- so I can find where your carpenter ant nests are, since they're likely to be inside the buildings."

Corydalis's eyes lit. "Now that is excellent news."

This poll is closed.
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What to talk about next?

View Answers

Ask if he's got anyone investigating who might be sabotaging Courthall.
0 (0.0%)

Ask about his personal life: "I hope I'm not keeping you from your family."
2 (16.7%)

Talk about Smoke's plans for tomorrow
1 (8.3%)

Ask about his job: what does a 'master of ceremonies' do?
9 (75.0%)

rowyn: (Smoke)
Smoke had only brought one change of clothes to Hallston. They were expecting their wardrobe to catch up with them when the apprentices did, tomorrow. But they didn't want to wear the same clothes to dinner when they'd been tromping around dusty rooftops in it all day. Not that they'd changed for dinner yesterday, but Master Corydalis's day suit had been more formal than what Licorice or Blackwood were wearing. So they stopped at a ready-made clothing store instead of going back to the hotel.

They browsed through the sorts of things they usually wore: long jackets in rich colors or dark ones, silk scarves, crisp shirts, and the like. None of felt right, and Smoke found themselves drifting towards fancy, frilly clothing.

An evening gown like the sun rising caught their eye, dyed firey red at the ankle-length hem to pale yellow at the high collar. It had a matched short jacket with lace cuffs, lending it an air of professionalism despite the long, draping skirt. It didn't have the beading or jewels of the most formal gowns.

Smoke didn't own anything like it.

They tried it on, and stood before the dressing room mirror, staring at a feminine reflection. Slowly, Smoke exchanged enby earrings and put on a pair of female ones she had in her jacket pocket. She was surprised to find how much she liked the drape and swish of the dress, the hidden girdle that slimmed her waist, the way the jacket sugested more bust than she possessed, the cheerful pastel colors, everything womanly about it. She wanted it at once, and second-guessed that desire almost as quickly. Is this the right kind of dress to wear to a dinner with my new employer? Why did I ask my new employer to dinner anyway? Do I want to be female because Master Corydalis is so very imposingly male? Am I afraid that being enby is too much like competing with him, and I can't? Am I trying to conform to some ancient stereotype of little female paired with larger male? That sterotype doesn't even work for draka, their females are taller. Smoke's train of thought derailed as she tried to imagine a person bigger than Corydalis. ... usually taller. Maybe not taller than him. Would Master Corydalis find a smaller male more appealing? Do I care this much about what he thinks? Is  this about him?

Or do I just want to wear a pretty dress and be female for a few hours?


Smoke rolled her eyes. The whole thing felt like a debate that ought to have been settled a century ago, when gender-signal earrings fell into fashion and people stopped policing the gender identities of others. But here she was.

She made sure the expense form fit in one of the gown's pockets, then strode out of the dressing room with the skirt swishing pleasingly about her ankles. "I'll take this, please." She let the clerk talk her into matching slippers, but held the line when he tried to persuade her to add costume jewelry or a flashier pair of female earrings. She didn't want her outfit to be too fanciful.

When she returned to Courthall, she found Corydalis already in the House of Chambers' lobby. "Oh! I hope I've not kept you waiting long, sir."

Corydalis half-turned at the sound of her voice. His motion froze, arrested, wings raised slightly for balance. Then he completed the move and delivered a courteous bow. "Not at all, master enchanter. I came down from my office only a moment ago."

Smoke relaxed, returning a curtsey. "Good timing, then. Did you have any place in particular in mind? Someone recommended I try Curry This and it sounded good."

"I've not been there, madame, but I am game to try." He offered his arm. "Please, lead on." As she took his arm and they glided out of the giant lobby, he asked, "So, how did your first full day at Courthall go?"

Poll #18383 How did it?
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How did it?

View Answers

Burble excitedly about uncovering new applications for titanium-gold wire
4 (40.0%)

Recap work on gatherers concisely, ask him about his day.
5 (50.0%)

"Great! I met you! Oh, adding new gatherers went fine too. How was your day?"
0 (0.0%)

Comment on how exciting it is to work in the nation's capitol, ask how long he's been at Courthall.
1 (10.0%)

rowyn: (Smoke)
After a few moments of dithering, Smoke asked the clerk, "Have you any good references on substitutions, or titanium-gold wire? I've heard good things about it, but I've not worked with it personally."

At the question, the kith clerk's blue eyes lit. "Oh, yes! We have a new monograph on metal wires, by Clover of Darkwrit City -- have you heard of him? He's very good, you'll love it." She led them to the shelves, sable-pointed tail flirting behind her. "We have three different alloys, but you'll want the 7:2, Clover says it's the best for information magic." It was also the cheapest, giving Smoke more confidence in the recommendation. "Are you an enchanter?" they asked the clerk.

"I want to be! I haven't found a master taking apprentices, and the colleges of magic are all too expensive for me." She sighed, wistful, then flashed a smile. "That's why I like working here! When it's slow, I can read through all the books."

Smoke felt a moment of regret that they didn't need a new apprentice. They purchased the book and the other supplies, and remembered they were having dinner with Master Corydalis tonight and they hardly knew any restaurant in town. "Do you have any recommendations for places to eat?" they asked the clerk.

Her ears perked. "Sure! Do you want fancy or homey or what? Do you like spicy?"

"Who doesn't like spicy?" Smoke asked, honestly bewildered. "Uhh ... one of each?"

The clerk grinned. "A kith after my own heart! My favorite fancy restaurant is Sunflare, which is all fondue and will make the broth and sauces as spicy as you like. For more casual, there's Curry This, which has like a million different curries and they're all great."

"Thank you!"

On the return ride to Courthall, Smoke skimmed through the book. It made for fascinating reading; Smoke didn't want to put it down to work on the gatherers. But after making sure they had a solid understanding of how to use their new reagent, they started putting up gatherers around Courthall.

They added five new ones, total, each on top of one of the tall buildings surrounding the complex's park. By the time they finished the last, it was near dinner time. Smoke returned to their hotel room to change.

Poll #18377 Dressing for Dinner
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What gender does Smoke want to present tonight?

View Answers

Femme (she)
2 (13.3%)

Tomgirl (they)
8 (53.3%)

Equally male & female (they)
5 (33.3%)

Feminine male (he)
0 (0.0%)

Where should they eat?

View Answers

The Big Cheese (which Licorice recommended).
0 (0.0%)

The Quarry (they went their last night).
0 (0.0%)

Curry This
10 (66.7%)

Sunflare
3 (20.0%)

Ask Corydalis to pick somewhere
2 (13.3%)

How shall they dress?

View Answers

Fancy (which Licorice recommended).
9 (60.0%)

Sexy (they went their last night).
1 (6.7%)

Professional
6 (40.0%)

Casual
3 (20.0%)



(The last question will be graduated, so a bit of everything based on how many votes each gets. And I was rushed trying to get this poll to work, so I duplicated some stuff from the previous question by accident. Oops. Just ignore the stuff in parenthesis in the last question.).
rowyn: (Smoke)
Smoke dropped their eyes, hesitant. "As it happens, I normally only need one gatherer for a job like this. So I did not bring enough supplies to create several. It's too late now to have my apprentices bring the supplies when they come, so I should buy components on site. Would you direct me to whatever forms I need to complete for an advance?"

The master of ceremonies gave another of his quirky smiles. "Of course. Allow me to expedite the process. How much do you need today?"

Their eyes eyes rolled up, trying to do some quick calculations. They named a conservative figure. "It'll be at least that, but I can cover any excess out of my own funds for now."

Corydalis walked to a wall safe in his office and opened it, then extracted a sheaf of shek from a cash box. He counted out the sum Smoke had named, then increased it by 20%. "Let's not take any chances. I'll need a receipt from you." He wrote out two on a pad of paper, then had them sign it. "The budget office has expense on hand ... " He rummaged through a desk drawer to produce one with a flourish. "I'll direct this amount to be repaid to petty cash for my office ... " He filled in a box on the second page, then handed it to them. "There. It takes them a few weeks to reimburse, and I do not want you delayed."

"Thank you." Smoke smiled at him, then glanced at the page and gave a daunted laugh. "These are very ... thorough, I see. I'd better consult them for directions. Unless perhaps you could give me pointers? Over dinner?" Smoke canted their ears to the sides, caught between optimism and the desire to cringe at their own forwardness. They were afraid to look up from the form.

But when they did, Corydalis smiled at them as if it were any ordinary request. "Of course. It would be my pleasure."

Smoke was pretty sure they responded with something normal, like "Thank you, master of ceremonies. Good day," before they left. And probably no actual squealing. But they would not have wanted to swear to that in a court of law.

In any case, they recalled themselves to their job when Corydalis's secretary gave them a pocket map of the complex, with directions to an unused office and a key. "You can work out of there, if you need some space to review blueprints or store your equipment or whatever."

Smoke stopped by to make sure the key worked: it was a little windowless cube in the interior of the Hall of Bureaucracies. They dropped off the blueprint case, but took the folder with them to review while they took a floater to the nearest arcane supply store.

The folder told a grim story of the history between Windbreak Enchantments and Courthall. It began with the usual fare: negotiations between the two, a commitment list from Windbreak, followed by invoices and then maintenance correspondence. But over the last couple of years, Windbreak had become increasingly unresponsive. A half-dozen copies of letters from Courthall were answered by curt notes: "Will discuss in person at meeting." It wasn't clear if there were always notes from these meetings, or if the meetings even happened. But what notes did exist were unproductive. No wonder Corydalis had wanted to be quit of these people. The folder didn't contain the maintenance logs for Courthall. Smoke made a mental note to ask after those when they visited Windbreak Enchantments.

When they reached the enchanter's supply store, Smoke found the prices there lower than the same supplies in Crescent Bay. But they were completely out of stressed oakleaf ivy. Other kinds of stressed ivies could be substituted, and they had grenache which would be adequate for a gatherer. But oakleaf made for more durable, long-lasting enchantments. Smoke knew of a technique for using titanium-gold wire that was supposed to make even better gatherers than oakleaf, and the store did have titanium-gold wire. But they'd never actually tried using it because the wire was so much pricier. They asked out the counter, and the clerk recommended a couple of other stores in the area, but didn't know if they'd have it in stock either.

Poll #18367 Substitutions or Not
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Should Smoke keep looking?

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No, it might take an hour or two and they want results NOW. The gatherers are going to be redundant, they don't need to last years. Weeks is probably enough. Grenache will do fine.
1 (10.0%)

Check the other stores for oakleaf; durable might be important if they're being sabotaged. Although their initial gatherer did use oakleaf.
2 (20.0%)

Everything else is cheaper than expected: get the titanium-gold wire and a book on the technique for using it to bone up.
6 (60.0%)

Get a couple of new books on substitutions and look through them to see if there's anything else Smoke could use that they don't already know about.
1 (10.0%)

rowyn: (Default)
Smoke bit their lip, considering Corydalis's question. "Install more gatherers first. You'd normally only need one for a job like this, but multiple gatherers will have overlapping reports and be harder to tamper with. You can't really lock up a gatherer; it needs to be exposed to collect data. But if you can spare some people you trust to keep an eye on them and make sure no one tampers with them, that would be good.

"After that, my next priority would be to speak with Windbreak Enchantments. That shouldn't take long. Then work on mitigation. Once the gatherers have had some time to work, I'll have a better idea of where the current wards are weak and can reinforce appropriately. It'll give my apprentices time to arrive from Crescent Bay with my equipment, too."

The tall dark draka nodded, his gold gaze thoughtful on her. "I endorse your plan, master enchanter. I'll ask Security about guards to watch the new gatherers; if you want to designate one a priority, that will be more feasible than all of them. Windbreak Enchantment's address is in here with our all other documents on them and Courthall's wards." Corydalis offered a blueprint case along with a folder. "Courthall will cover your expenses. If you've never worked with the bureaucracy before: be sure to keep receipts and itemize everything. Document everything. It will make your life much easier in the long run." The corner of his mouth twitched up with an apologetic quirk.

He rose and came around the desk. Smoke stood as well, which did not make them feel any less dwarfed as Corydalis took their hand. "Thank you for your advice, Master Smoke. This is already the most productive conversation I've had with an enchanter in years. Is there anything else I can do to make your work easier?" he asked, the expression on his face sincere and considerate. For a dizzying moment, Smoke felt as if the full power of Courthall might be at their disposal, just for the asking.

Poll #18356 Assistance
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Open to: Registered Users, detailed results viewable to: All, participants: 11


How may he?

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"An advance would be good. The components for gatherers are expensive and I came too quickly to pack."
2 (18.2%)

"Um, how about dinner? I mean, I could tell you about my progress tomorrow night. Over dinner. Yes. A business dinner. Very common in Crescent Bay."
6 (54.5%)

"No, thank you. I'll let you know if I need anything."
2 (18.2%)

Something the author forgot (leave a comment)
1 (9.1%)

Anything else Smoke wants to mention?

View Answers

Blackwood knew where they put the new gatherer.
0 (0.0%)

Licorice knew too.
0 (0.0%)

Name both.
3 (27.3%)

Don't say anything. It was the obvious place to put a gatherer. Anyone who knew enough about enchantments to tamper with one would expect it to be there, so there's no reason to cast suspicions on bystanders that Smoke drafted to help.
8 (72.7%)

rowyn: (Smoke)
"A lot of small, odd things," Smoke answered. "The wards look functional, and even with braided wards I'd expect to see signs of a problem in the braid if three different strands weren't working. I'd certainly expect to see signs of it in the existing gatherer. But I don't. And a woman from maintenance reported that there was a problem with the hatch by the existing gatherer. Which doesn't mean anything, but it's an odd coincidence. Moreover, tampering with a gatherer is easier than tampering with a ward. The old gatherer doesn't have a spell to detect abnormalities with it. But the one I put up yesterday did, and my analysis spell said it was already maladjusted this morning, in a way that would increase the chance of false positives. It reported a three-rat incursion and no rats repelled last night, at a spot where maintenance found one dead rat. One dead rat that had probably been dead for a while but the corpse only showed up last night. You have carpenter ants -- ants that eat wood -- showing up in the food areas. As opposed to ants that eat food."

They took a deep breath. "It's possible to explain all of this without sabotage, but 'sabotage' requires far fewer strange coincidences. Even the kinds of problems you're having are suggestive of sabotage: the fleas and rats are annoying but not dangerous in the short term, while carpenter ants can do serious structural damage in the long term. Like a two-pronged assault designed to make the complex uninhabitable without hurting anyone. Is there anyone who would have wanted the previous enchanting firm fired?"

"Aside from me?" Corydalis smiled wryly. "They're a large organization and they've been both difficult and expensive for years. They're well-connected, however. Perhaps they've inherited some enemies from their connections."

Smoke nodded. "Another possibility -- is there anyone who stands to gain if the seat of government left Courthall?" Replacing all of the wards would be a costly endeavor. Some of them were installed when a building was constructed, and were almost impossible to correct afterwards.

The draka's mouth thinned to a hard line. "That is an all too real possibility. Speaker Iris has wanted the government seat to relocate to Kindlewood for years, and the inability of Windbreak Enchantment to solve our latest problems has given her movement more supporters." Corydalis folded his hands before him on the desk, and leaned forward to study Smoke with intense gold eyes. "If it's not a problem with the wards, master enchanter, is there ought that you can do for us?"

Smoke considered. "There are ways I can help, although only one of them is what you hired me for. The existing wards are still sloppy and I can improve them in various ways. I can also install more gatherers and monitor the situation to help you find the saboteurs. Or I can take steps to mitigate the problems the vermin cause. I could even talk to Windbreak Enchantment myself, in case they're more helpful towards another professional."

"Ah. And in your professional estimation, which of these measures would you recommend come first?"

Poll #18345 Priorities
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Open to: Registered Users, detailed results viewable to: All, participants: 14


What comes first?

View Answers

Strengthen the wards.
0 (0.0%)

Install more gatherers.
7 (50.0%)

Mitigate the vermin problems.
4 (28.6%)

Talk to Windbreak Enchantment, the previous enchanters.
3 (21.4%)

Commitment

View Answers

Promise to work long hours until problem is resolved, for no extra charge
1 (7.1%)

Offer to work long hours, if given a bonus
1 (7.1%)

Work a little longer than usual, but not constantly, because downtime is necessary to ensure productivity
12 (85.7%)

Work usual hours; it's the gov't, they're not used to fast anyway.
0 (0.0%)

rowyn: (Smoke)
Don't stare, Smoke told themselves. Do not stare at the giant sexy draka. He is your boss. Remember this. They tilted their head back to meet his gold eyes. Smoke was not a short person: they were of a height with an average draka. But their head didn't even reach Master Corydalis's shoulders. "I, um, I'm your new enchanter, and would you be able to tell me where maintenance is? I need to ask them a quick question and then I'll be right back. Sorry. It's related to the job." They canted their ears back, making their earrings chime.

Master Corydalis raised his eyebrows, bemused. "Certainly. Their main office is on the second floor, at the far end of the Green Hall. There's a sign on the door."

"Great." Smoke backpedaled to the door. "I'll be right back. Thank you. Sorry." They fled down the hall, thinking I am not prepared for this.

The maintenance office did log animal corpse removal, thankfully, and verified that they'd removed a dead rat from the west side of the building, on the outside. Smoke's gatherer had reported three rats as passing through through the wards, and no deaths. So ... it still didn't add up.

Frowning, they started back to their employer's office. A draka enby emerged from the office to call after them: "Excuse me, master enchanter?" Smoke paused, letting the other enby catch up. "You were asking about the rat corpse from this morning?"

"Yes?"

"I found it, and it was ... strange. I did cleanup yesterday today, and didn't see it then. But when I found it this morning, it looked like it'd been dead for days, to be honest. I'd've thought a dog or cat had dragged it there and left it, but it was only crow-pecked."

Smoke's frown deepened. "Thank you." That ... didn't make any of this more sensible. They dashed back up the steps to the fourth floor. The kith secretary waved them into the inner office this time.

Master Corydalis sat at a massive desk, reading a report when Smoke stepped inside, but rose with a smile at their arrival. "Good morning, master enchanter. I am Corydalis, master of ceremonies for Courthall." He came around the desk to offer his hand.

His grip was warm and firm but considerate; Smoke hadn't felt this small next to someone since they were a child. It was different with a dragon-form draka: one expected them to be huge. "I'm Smoke. Master enchanter. From Crescent Bay. And you already knew all that. Um. Sorry about running off on you." And this must be the worst first impression I've made on any one since my apprenticeship.

Corydalis's smile widened. "It's a pleasure to meet you, honored. I'm glad to see you are already hard at work on our troubles here. I'd not expected you for a few days, at least. Much less to be already too busy for a meeting. Please, have a seat. Have you uncovered anything already that you wished to share?"

They sank into the chair opposite the draka's. At least he didn't loom so large sitting down. His coloration was still gorgeous, though. Smoke fixed their eyes on the desktop. Focus. "A few things, master of ceremonies. The existing wards at Courthall are a sloppy affair, as I expect you've already surmised."

The draka grimaced. "I hope you're not going to follow that with 'and they need to be replaced entirely.'"

"No." Smoke took a deep breath and raised their eyes to meet Corydalis's. "To be fair, I'm not sure the wards are the cause of your vermin problem. They might be a component, but part of Courthall's problems look like sabotage."

Corydalis sat back in his chair, blonde eyebrows lifted, as he returned Smoke's attention. "I see. What leads you to this conclusion, master enchanter?"

Poll #18327 So Many Things
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What will Smoke give as their reasons? What do they suspect? (Feel free to leave comments instead of using poll box)



This poll is a little different! I will use all the responses that are sensible and based on things Smoke has observed so far. (They don't have to be specific, it can be 'X happened and made me suspicious'). For responses that seem implausible to me based on Smoke's experiences, I'll roll to see if they gets included anyway, with the roll weighted based on how far-fetched the suggestion is.

I'm on vacation in Seattle for the next four days, so this poll will be open until Tuesday morning.
rowyn: (Default)



Pic inspired by the way they've interacted thus far in the Twitter version. :)
rowyn: (Smoke)
Breakfast at the commissary was starch-laden, bland, and unfathomably sweet. Most of the foods were baked or pan-fried concotions of fine-ground grains, milk, and eggs. The commissary then offered to top these already-sweet goods with a variety of sauces, all of which were so syrupy-sweet that the fruits scattered within seemed tart by comparison. There was no spice in any of it, unless one counted the one set of pastries that had a filling of butter and sugar with a hint of cinnamon. Even the sausages were unspiced, in addition to being of unidentifiable provenance.

Smoke did not linger over their platter of various-textured sugars. They were almost surprised there weren't kitchen ants in the commissary, with all these sweets to lure them.

But a quick check revealed signs of carpenter ants in the commissary, and none of kitchen ants.

Smoke did a quick round of the wards on the outsides of the buildings in the complex: they all looked much the same as the ones at the House of Chambers. Adequate, undamaged braided wards. They went to the roof of the House of Chambers to check on their gatherer.

Their gatherer reported incursions, one of rats and a different one for fleas, through two different spots on the outside of the existing wards.

Smoke would have found this report of normal, predictable problems much more heartening if the gatherer-analysis spell they'd left on it had not reported that there were problems with the gatherer.

The analysis spell couldn't tell Smoke what had caused the problems, only that it was reporting false positives on penetrations. Meaning attacks that had been repelled might show as successful. That bias would be particularly pronounced for ones connected to rats or fleas.

It was conceivable that Smoke had made a mistake in setting up the gatherer, or that some accident had caused the gatherer to have issues with its data. But Smoke found both the timing and the problem suspicious.

Smoke re-adjusted the gatherer, then went to the sites of the reports. They couldn't find any signs of bodies. Flea corpses, they could've overlooked. Rats, not so much. They went inside to find maintenance to ask if any rat corpses had been cleaned up overnight. But once inside, they realized it was only a few minutes until their meeting with Master Corydalis.

One of the guards escorted Smoke up four flights of stairs in the east wing of the House of Chambers, and down a marble hall. The building was beautifully crafted, the carved moldings and frescoed ceilings that depicted famous places from across the nation. Paintings and sculptures gifted by foreign dignitaries adorned the walls and stood on pedestals. It felt almost palatial.
Most of the doors in the hall were closed, though lights through frosted glass panes showed they were occupied. The office of the master of ceremonies had an open door to an antechamber occupied by a young kith man. The inner office door was closed.

Smoke introduced themselves to the kith, who assured them the master of ceremonies would be with them momentarily.

Behind the inner door, Smoke heard muffled voices, a deep bass rumble and a vibrant alto. The alto had begun with aggrieved, angry tones that mellowed as the conversation continued. Smoke debated asking the secretary where maintenance was and telling him they'd be right back.

Before they'd made up their mind to do so, the door opened. An elf woman with the kind of beauty elves were famed for stepped out: she moved with a fluid, natural grace, delicate features, full lips, skin warm brown and thick black hair woven into box braids and secured by golden clasps.  She wore a flowing red overrobe over cream trousers.

Behind her was the largest humanlike-form draka Smoke had ever seen. He was so tall that he had to duck to keep his gold horns from scraping the door frame, and his shoulder broad enough that he seemed to fill it. He had gorgeous features and striking coloration: skin midnight-black, mane a burnished gold a few shades paler than his horns and eyes.

"Thank you so for your help, Master Corydalis." The elf had her head tilted back to watch him with fond eyes as he escorted her to the door.

"Of course, Representative Meadowlark. You know I am glad to be of service." He smiled as she stepped into the hall. After she left, his smile lapsed into a fleeting, pained expression, then he rallied and turned his smile upon Smoke.

It was a powerful smile.

"Good morning, honored. How may I be of assistance?"

Poll #18322 Assistance
This poll is closed.
Open to: Registered Users, detailed results viewable to: All, participants: 11


How may he?

View Answers

"I'm the new enchanter and actually can you tell me where maintenance is? I need to ask them a quick question and I'll be right back, sorry."
3 (27.3%)

Tell Corydalis that the vermin problem is probably sabotage.
1 (9.1%)

Tell him the wards are sloppy and Smoke will fix them.
0 (0.0%)

"These are sloppy wards but they're not your only problem."
7 (63.6%)

Smoke's demeanor?

View Answers

I am Professional. So Professional.
2 (18.2%)

Trying not to stare.
2 (18.2%)

So out of my depth and also league.
4 (36.4%)

I would totally flirt if I only knew how.
3 (27.3%)

rowyn: (Smoke)
"I thought I told you to call me Smoke," the enchanter told Blackwood with mock sterness. Smoke stepped in to slip their arms around the dragon's neck and hug him. Heartened, Blackwood returned the hug by tucking his chin against their back, then they took their leave.

As he carried Licorice to her building, they chatted idly for a minute or two. In a lull, Blackwood asked hesitantly, "Am I beling paranoid, or did I make a terrible mistake in asking them how they became an enchanter?"

"Terrible mistake," Licorice confirmed, bluntly. Blackwood winced, and the human leaned down in the harness to pat his shoulder consolingly. "It'll be all right. I think they forgave you."

*

They were very nice people, Smoke thought, waving as Licorice and Blackwood flew off. But I'm not getting into that whole sordid story with people I've only just met. Still, I could've handled that more gracefully.

With a sigh, they checked into their room at the hotel and prepared for bed.

The next morning, they rose early, with plenty of time to consider their approach.

Poll #18312 New day
Open to: Registered Users, detailed results viewable to: All, participants: 15


Work to do!

View Answers

Go to the Courthall commissary for breakfast and poke around investigating wards before meeting with Corydalis
8 (53.3%)

Find an enchanter supply store in Hallston and try to get supplies to tackle ant problem
2 (13.3%)

Write apprentices to make sure they bring the right supplies when they arrive in next few days, then meet Master Corydalis at Courthall
5 (33.3%)

rowyn: (studious)
I wrote this back in early May and forgot to post it. Weird.

Health/Fitness

I did pretty well at exercising for much of the month. I took the last weekend off, for no particular reason except that I had a rental car and couldn't motivate myself to go use the exercise bike. And I missed a few days while on my staycation, because I got sick. Otherwise, I was exercising 6-7 days a week.

I was definitely sick for three or four days, and then had a couple of weeks of "my throat is still a little scratchy and I'm sneezing more than usual" sort of stuff, where I wasn't really sick but didn't feel exactly well. It started on the Tuesday of the Monday-Friday that I had off. So, on the one hand: I guess I was going to take that time off anyway so might as well have it scheduled? (My bank has just "Paid Time Off" in one big pool, instead of separate vacation and sick days. I have been there for twenty years and I get five weeks of PTO a year, so I'm not really hurting for paid time off, though.) On the other hand, it was not a very relaxing vacation.

I am still eating lots of junk food. The bank had a bake sale while I was on vacation, so at least I missed that. But we're having another one on Monday and my willpower is weak versus bake sale, so.

:9

Writing

I beat my CampNano goal for Demon's Hunter! I lost most of my will to work on it by the time I hit goal last week, but I'm still poking away at it.

Also, I started the Poll RPG, which has been pretty fun and also kind of weird, especially the Twitter version. One thing I wanted to do with the story was write short installments, of no more than a few hundred words each, so there'd be frequent polls on what Smoke did next.

It turns out that it's harder for me to write a short installment that actually accomplishes anything than it is to write several hundred words. Especially if I'm trying to establish relationships between characters. Once the Twitter fork got to a character Smoke could flirt with, daily installments started running 20 or more tweets each again. I'm still trying to keep the daily updates for the Twitter version shorter than the Dreamwidth ones, but I decided not to angst over making it short.

I did make Google Doc files of the story-to-date for each version, because it wasn't a lot of effort and the Twitter one is already totally unnavigable. Tweet chains of 50 or so tweets work fine on the webpage, but hundreds of tweets in one chain don't work well in-browser, and they break some of the client programs. So. My plan now is to start a new thread each day and link to the doc in the opening tweet.

Demon's Hunter: 28,000 (CampNano goal was 25,000. Total )

Poll RPG Notes: 3,800

Poll RPG: 11,700

And a bunch more words for LJ posts and notes for Birthright and suchlike that I'm not going to bother parsing out.

The Business of Writing

I read another book for research purposes, and browsed about on the web for info, and made thousands of words of notes, and also fell into a pit of black despair.

I'm about 20% through on my first editing pass of Birthright. Most of the actual editing was done in the last seven days. Before that was research and despair. I will try to finish the first pass in May. I'm going to try getting more editing done from work by putting 10-page chunks of book into separate Google docs so they're small enough to edit on phone. This works for sections that just need some continuity clean-up or the like, but not on sections that need to be totally re-written, or when I need to rearrange the order of scenes.

Wish me luck.

Art/Other

Oh hey I drew some pictures this month! The Poll RPG game made me want to do pictures. So I drew a portrait of the protagonist and a picture of Blackwood and some sketches of Corydalis. I have yet to make a decent colored pic of Corydalis, and I still want to.

Anyway, that was a nice change of pace.

I did do my taxes in April!

I have poked at my credit card company and the rental car company a few times in an effort to get them to get each other the documents they need.

Socializing

I crit-failed my planning roll for my vacation in April and didn't go anywhere. If we assume I was going to get sick that week anyway, that's probably just as well.

I am going to see Terry and Alinsa in Seattle next weekend, though! And assuming I don't mess up on buying tickets, I'll see my parents and brother in June, and hopefully my NC friends as well.

Happiness

April was not been a good month for happiness. I was depressed and dragging for most of it. I'm glad it's over now.

Goals for May

Yay new month! Yay 4thewords.com is not running time-limited events that will make me feel like I need to write thousands of words every day to complete them!

4thewords.com backfired for me in April, because I was so determined to finish all the CampNano quests that I spent less time on editing than I would have otherwise. Also, I am to the point of "I don't really want to do any new writing any more, I'd rather just be editing."

Editing on my phone is still awful, but I'm going to make an effort to do it anyway. When I can make it work, I can get an extra 10-20 pages a day edited that way.

* Finish first-pass edits on Birthright
* Keep up with PollRPG for fun & to keep 4thewords streak
* Do some more art for PollRPG
* Other writing as desired
* Poke rental car & card benefits to get them to give each other the info and money they need. (Fixing this is not within my control, so it's just staying as a goal of 'poke them' until they actually do what they need to do.)
rowyn: (Smoke)
By this time, even Blackwood had finished eating, and the waitstaff had surreptitiously placed a ticket on the table. Smoke splayed their ears at the question, the insides reddening. "Oh, um, well." They picked up the ticket; it only tallied their meal and Licorice's, since Blackwood had an account. "I didn't realize it had gotten so late! I didn't mean to make you fly back in the dark, Blackwood. I should let you go." They scooted out of their seat and headed for the counter to pay.

Blackwood exchanged a glance with Licorice, who gave an exaggerated shrug. The two headed after Smoke. "I apologize for my impertinent question, Smoke," Blackwood said. "I did not mean to presume."

Smoke turned and gave him a dazzling smile. "What? Oh, no, not at all." They touched his hand in reassurance. "I just know how early you had to rise this morning, and of course I have that meeting with Master Corydalis. And I've already made both of you work so hard today -- "

Licorice licked sauce from the corner of her mouth. "I've worked a lot harder, believe me."

The kith enby smiled at both of them. "You're very kind. But I should get checked in to my hotel." Smoke turned back to pay for the ticket, stifling a yawn.

Blackwood offered them a ride, which both accepted. Smoke's hotel was closest, so he dropped them off first. Licorice claimed a good-night hug from the enchanter. Blackwood felt too self-conscious to shift to humanlike form when he still had to drop Licorice off, and envied her that hug. "Good night, master enchanter," he said, subdued, long neck snaked to bring his draconic head level with them.

This poll is closed.
Open to: Registered Users, detailed results viewable to: All, participants: 15


oh no sad dragon

View Answers

"Didn't I tell you to call me Smoke?" *hug dragon neck*
14 (93.3%)

Ask Blackwood to change shape for a proper hug.
0 (0.0%)

Oblivious to sad dragon, wave g'night and leave
1 (6.7%)

Must be professional, professionals are not huggy. Give Licorice stern look, go to bed.
0 (0.0%)


[Yes, this is the outcome only one person voted for. Die roll came up with their number anyway. Sigh.]

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