MARKED - Oops, hiatus. :(

Jun. 27th, 2017 03:35 pm
aldersprig: an egyptian sandcat looking out of a terra-cotta pipe (Default)
[personal profile] aldersprig
MARKED - Oops, hiatus. :(

So I’m on vacation and totally forgot to actually get my twitter contact info while I was gone so I can’t… do the polls.
Sorry about the hiatus! We’ll be back with the poll next Monday (the 3rd) and pick up the updates again on the following Thursday.

read on...
xyzzysqrl: A moogle sqrlhead! (Default)
[personal profile] xyzzysqrl
At the end of your time in The Hero of Kendrickstone, the game generates you a bardic ballad to tell of your exploits. Which is honestly legit pretty cool, I wish more games did that! So let's pick through that, and I'll spell out the tale behind the tune...
Big Spoiler Country beyond this point. )
I gotta experiment a lot more, I think, to see just how flexible the game structure is but it FEELS LIKE it's hard to get away from the role you assign yourself at the start. That said, I've now got a save waiting on my drive I suppose, and if there's another 'book' in this particular series Choice of Games will email me so I can import in.

It was a fun couple hours!

Bed after 4am.

Jun. 26th, 2017 10:41 pm
archangelbeth: An anthropomorphic feline face, with feathered wing ears, and glasses, in shades of gray. (Glaseah Me!)
[personal profile] archangelbeth
*sigh* And the kid -- with an annoying nose -- no earlier and with more wakeups.

Played in a fast, silly game!
I was Galli-EMU-mus. It was fun.

Havva Quote
Di clambers up the food dispenser! Clamber, clamber... how is she getting inside this? More importantly, how is she getting down? Di whips her head around wildly and screeches, hoping that this will help somehow.

INwatch+Bookwatch )

Dragons under fold )

Recordkeeping: Bastion COMPLETE

Jun. 26th, 2017 06:31 pm
xyzzysqrl: A moogle sqrlhead! (Moogle)
[personal profile] xyzzysqrl
Everybody I know tells the same story about Bastion. It's a great game, but they never beat it. They got stuck on a Proving Ground challenge room and gave up.

Hell, the last time I tried to play Bastion (in 2012 according to the Steam achievements) I got stuck on a Proving Ground challenge and gave up. This time around I decided, fuck the challenge rooms I'm gonna just play through the story. This... didn't actually take too long, although I feel the game goes on about three missions longer than it actually needs to.

(Not sequentially. I would remove those three missions from somewhere in the middle. But it FEELS like there was a clump of raw dough right in the middle of the loaf. Maybe that's pacing. I dunno.)

Uhm... well, this was the Indie Darling of 2011, Proof that Indie Games Can Be Good. Y'know, it's STILL pretty darn good. Maybe the movement speed felt kinda slow coming off of Ys, maybe the art doesn't hold up quite as well as it used to (until I realized that Ruck's definition of "Kid" involves, like, ages 20-30 I thought I was playing as Old Kid from Invader Zim or something) but it's still a legit good game, moreso if you don't screw around trying to break 40 pots with three bow and arrow shots or whatever.

Spoilers. )

Just beat the game.
It's good.

The Hidden Mall Part VII

Jun. 26th, 2017 02:20 pm
aldersprig: (tea3)
[personal profile] aldersprig
Part I
Part II
Part III
Part IV
Part V
Part VI

💸 💰 💸 💰 💸

Abigail and Liv looked around the deserted mall. “It’s like we found a future version of our mall, some time when it was abandoned, like in a post-apoc movie. Except…” Liv looked around slowly. “It doesn’t match up. There’s a fountain down there and there should be a plus intersection, not a T. And the two-stories part doesn’t go as far as our mall does.”

“Except,” Abigail pointed out, wanting to make some sense of this despite the fact that it was patently not sensible, “we haven’t actually left our mall.”

“I think we have. We entered on the first floor. This is the second floor.” Liv started walking down the hall.
Read more... )

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aldersprig: (AylaWorried)
[personal profile] aldersprig
Chapter 25: Leofric
by Inspector Caracal

Monday, November 20, 2000

Leofric sat off to the side, paying just enough attention to know if Eriko was saying something to him and otherwise ignoring the three upperclassmen. He'd finished all of his homework for the night but he kept his notebook open anyway; if he looked like he was busy with school stuff, Eriko was less likely to give him something to do - something he would, inevitably, screw up.

Cynara was cleaning up after dinner, as she usually did, and Dysmas was mostly ignoring her, as he usually did. Sometimes Leo wondered why Dysmas was even Keeping her in the first place; he certainly didn't have any problem bringing home other girls. And that was something Leo didn't have any orders against being annoyed about - especially since the last time that'd happened, Cynara had spent the whole time sitting out in the suite, trying not to look sad.  Not even collapsing in the halls had been enough to make Dysmas to care about her.

read on...

The Elves of Orbis Leonis

Jun. 26th, 2017 10:14 am
the_gneech: (Default)
[personal profile] the_gneech
Writing this as part of my World Map Project for the Storm King's Thunder campaign. Chunks of it will go into the gazetteer handout for the players, but I'm also posting it here for my elfy players (lookin' at you, Plotline and [personal profile] laurie_robey).

Elves are always a joy, and always a problem. Every campaign, and every edition, has treated them differently, to the point where it’s become a giant blurry mess. So for Orbis Leonis, my “grand unified D&D setting,” here is the definitive word on elves.

Earliest Days

In prehistoric times, the elves were a single people. They have a variety of creation legends, but they are largely biased and contradictory. What is known is that there was once a wide-ranging high elven civilization throughout the region now known as the Marches, ruled from the great spiraled tower Elfspire. Before the foundation of Elfspire, even the elvish histories are lost, other than that the elves fled from some calamity across a seemingly-endless plain– a plain that would have to be where the Gulf of Irul Kinthé is now– only to stop in despair upon sighting the eastern reaches of the great desert of Xadar. The Elfspire was created, the story goes, when the Maimed King, Iearendir, prayed to Corellian Larethian, who appeared before them and commanded a unicorn to touch its horn to the ground. From that spot sprung a well of miraculous healing powers, and around it grew the Elfspire in “an echo” of the unicorn’s horn. This happened, according to the elves, “hundreds of centuries ago.”

For an indeterminate (but presumably very long) time, the elves ruled the region. How the elvish realm interacted with other ancient kingdoms is open for speculation. However, roughly 30,000 years ago, according to what elven records still exist, there was a bitter internal conflict among the elven gods, which was in turn echoed by enclaves of elves in the mortal realm. This conflict led to a massive event the elves call the Sundering, that splintered the elves into the eladrin, high elves, wood elves, and drow that the world knows today. (Some scholars point to this as also being the origin of the orcs. Orcs deny this. Often via manslaughter.) This event also ended the elvish dominance of the region and seems to have led the decline of the entire elvish race.

Note that this story seems to conflict with the giants’ tradition that there were no civilizations of note on the surface other than Ostoria during its heyday. Either the elvish record is incorrect, or the giants’ idea of what is a “civilization of note” is disputable. Which of those may be true is left as an exercise for the reader.

High and Wood Elves

Of the elven kindreds, high elves and wood elves are closest to each other, with their differences being purely cultural. A high elf raised by wood elves, is a wood elf, and vice versa. They are called "high" elves because they prefer to live on the surface, or even better, in trees or tall spires, but also because they did not follow Lolth into the Underdark. Although the stereotypical high/wood elf is of fair complexion, with very fine, straight hair, there is more variation than people generally think. In the Sea Kingdoms and realms further south particularly, elvish complexion ranges to a copper or deep brown color.


Eladrin ("noble elves" in their own language) are the most powerful of the high elves, with the strongest attunement to the realm of Faerie, to the point where they are infused with its magic. They are closer to elemental spirits to mortal beings, being tied to the passage of the seasons and the movement of the sun, stars, and planets. Although physically similar to their more terrestrial kin, Eladrin are readily discernible because their eyes are solid orbs of color with no visible pupils, and their bodies often radiate a visible aura. Tales say they can speak any language, and step between the mortal world and Faerie/Feywild at will, and while this may certainly be true of individual eladrin, it may not be true of all of them.


Drow, the "dark elves," followed their goddess into the Underdark. Before the Sundering, the elf goddess Araushnee was a patron of the stars, destiny, and craftsmanship, whose emblem of the spider represented her weaving of the fates. Her favored followers, although still high elves, would undergo a ritual transformation that altered their skin to an intensely dark blue and their hair to a shining white or silver as a mark of their devotion. During the great conflict that caused the Sundering, Araushnee forsook the light of the stars and fled the realms of light (or was banished, or simply left, depending on who you ask), taking her followers with her into the Underdark. From that small pool of common ancestors came the modern drow.

(Note: Araushnee's daughter Eilistraee, a high-spirited goddess of moonlight and dancing, shares her mother's appearance, and what few drow who have forsaken the worship of Lolth for its wickedness and cruelty, have generally turned to her as their new patron. A small cabal of drow worshippers of Eilistraee can be found in Myth Talminden, and it is something of a "promised land" for discontent drow of the Underdark who would flee their dark mistress.)

Orcs and Elves

How do the orcs fit in? The truth is that mortals don't know and the gods aren't telling, but there are clear signs of some sort of connection. First, is their shared mythology: the story of the battle between the orc god Gruumsh and the elf god Corellan Larethian, allowing some variance for which side you are rooting for, is remarkably similar in both cultures, and always highlights the famous cutting out of Gruumsh's eye. It is also worth noting that elves and orcs are both interfertile with humans and each other, unlike any of the other demi-human races. (It is rare in the extreme that an orc and an elf would have a child, but such a child would essentially be either a half-elf or a half-orc depending upon which parent they favored.)

Elvish Homelands

There are two major elf holdings in Orbis Leonis. First, and oldest, is the Elfspire, in the southeastern portion of Thessalaine near the Gulf of Irul Kinthé. This consists of a massive, spiral conical tower formed out of a unique mineral reminiscent of mother of pearl, a dizzying fifty stories in height and crowned with an ever-burning beacon. The mountainside below the spire is also populated by houses and fortifications in the high elven style.

The second largest is the western seaside realm of Myth Talminden ("Silver Lighthouse" in Elvish), a fair and green country on the westernmost point of the mainland. The city of Myth Talminden proper consists of several large stone towers inlaid with silver from Argent, in a curving spiral style that echoes the Elfspire, but on a much smaller scale (the tallest reaching only seven stories). The towers are connected by a dizzying network of narrow, gracefully-arcing catwalks that not only provide walking access from one spire to the next, but also reinforce the overall structure like a lattice.

There are many smaller settlements across the land, usually referred to as "havens." These include the wood elf settlement of Starsong Hill in Elsir Vale, Mother Oak of the Westdeep, or Dimhaven and Mistvale in Thessalaine. Of course, the drow have their own cities in the Underdark, but the names and locations of these are not generally known to surface dwellers.

-The Gneech
aldersprig: an ancient-looking world map (map)
[personal profile] aldersprig
Desmond’s World
Okay, yay, gender in Desmond’s world!

Gender in this world - or at least in this nation - is marked by clothing, by behavior, and by voiced preference. The clothing is pseudo-Edwardian in style, so it is often the case that Male People wear Pants, Female People Wear Skirts, and so on.

However, people a) sometimes choose to wear robes that hide everything, thus obscuring the question of gender - often for political-functionary roles where gender has no place in the role.

Many roles are still very gendered: someone has to stay home and watch the children, someone has to do the heavy labor, someone has to make meals, and these are often but not always split along gender lines. However, one can choose to put on the role and pronouns of either gender - although in a marriage or other partnership, it is generally considered polite to discuss such things with your partner and work out the roles ahead of time or, if not ahead of time, in teamwork with your partner.

Marriages are often for a combination of procreation and protection of the young, especially among the lower classes, and for those things and for financial unions among the upper classes. Thus, it is generally considered useful to have two people with the appropriate sex organs to make a child together in a marriage, but there are several ways around this, and nobody would ever ask outside of that partnership or forming one. What sex organs you have and who you have sex with is generally considered private business as long as it does not lead to babies.

Babies are raised as genderless until they begin to express a preference, at which point they are generally dressed as that preference until they take over dressing themselves.

Recordkeeping: Fly'n INCOMPLETE

Jun. 26th, 2017 05:24 am
xyzzysqrl: (Bubbles)
[personal profile] xyzzysqrl
I... nnnhg. Mhf. Uh.

I can't even say this game was BAD. This game wasn't bad at all.

It was however extremely French.

You're some variety of plant eyeball with a gliding option. One day a giant nose person comes to your pastoral tree planet and starts dropping killer red gears around. Technology is bad, so you set out on a quest to collect between 200-400 floating dandelion seeds per level as you platform around to stop the nose person's plans.

Along the way you meet the plant eyeball who can puff up and stick to things and the plant eyeball who can roll up into a sphere and bounce. This is where I stopped because I just...

It's not like it's bad! It's well made, non-crashy, the physics are okay... I just don't CARE. Maybe I tried to play this at the wrong time. With Ori and the Blind Forest fresh in my memory a lot of platformers are going to come up REALLY SUPER SHORT and feel lacking.

Although if I have to compare it to something, it's more Rayman, and Rayman wins that comparison too because Rayman doesn't feel like it's physically beating you with a sense of aggressive forced whimsy. Like geez at least make your cutscenes skippable guys. I got that the nose dude is evil. I don't need to see him nose-trumpeting at his minions every few minutes.

Sooo yeah I dunno I just legit felt nothin' on this one.

Bed around 3 am.

Jun. 25th, 2017 08:14 pm
archangelbeth: Face with glasses and large red horns. Looking blah and-or grumpy. (DjinnBeth)
[personal profile] archangelbeth
Woke up before noon, omg. Kid... got 4 hours sleep.......
(On the plus side, taking the Benadryl AFTER brushing teeth did provide an earlier bedtime. We can, perhaps, work with this.)

excuse, there is a commotion in the gas fireplace. a flying squirrel or large mouse hopefully NOT setting itself on fire via the pilot light...

Okay, commotion seems to've faded. I need to clear out enough space to open that out and figure out where the creatures are coming in. *sigh*

Anyway. Food was gotten, but it was breakfast type food, and I got no ice tea or hot tea and now I have a splitting headache and am drinking cooked-at-home tea. After taking ibuprofen. Kid and spouse are off getting food.

Hat tip to Mal, re Wonder Woman:

This is an awesome Twitter thread about the design of the movie Wonder Woman's costume.

Now I'm going to try to edit through this headache.

(Oh, right, and when this headache fades, I have a CUNNING PLAN to consolidate some things and thus declutter something else. HM.)

Havva Quote
S••••• says, “And someone on this thread about flags goes and asks where do single people go to get the tax breaks married couples do. I answer, 'A judge, justice of the peace, or minister.'”
S••••• says, “Of course, they have to go in pairs.”
--From the MUSH. (Or, I suppose, in 4s, if they're Andorians.)

INwatch+Bookwatch )

Dragons under fold )
tuftears: Thoughtful Lynx (Thoughtful)
[personal profile] tuftears
I did not so much wake up as toss and turn all night, despite my determination to get to sleep. Partly travel stress and jetlag and being in a tiny hotel bed, partly my cold and drinking lots of fluids meaning that I also needed to go to the restroom frequently. It wasn't an awesome night.

Since we had taken showers immediately before going to bed, so we could get up and out the door bright and early in time for the breakfast buffet and tour group departure... we had pretty bad bed hair.

I should note here: we were strictly warned not to drink the water in Malta, and that goes for the showers as well. It was rather discomfitting. I was glad my older bro had provided me a large refillable water bottle that allowed me to stay hydrated, especially as I was fighting off a cold.

There are no pictures of this. Just the fact I had to ask for a comb from the hotel staff (and thanksfully they were able to provide one) is sufficient shame for me. x_x

Cut for images! )

Bed at 4:30am again.

Jun. 24th, 2017 08:24 pm
archangelbeth: Bleary-eyed young woman peers up, pillow obscuring the lower half of her face. Text reads: SO not a morning person. (So Not A Morning Person)
[personal profile] archangelbeth

Reminding ze spouse that the kid gets the Benadryl AFTER tooth-brushing, not before, so the peak woozytime does not have to be worked through in order to get teeth brushed. -_-

The sky was a weird grayblue, and very very foggy. I wiped at the bathroom window to see if it was somehow condensation, but if it was, it was on the other side. Blurry atmospheric picture was taken.

So, obviously, breakfast was at 3pm. -_-

Havva Quote
----------------------Quoted by BotEl-----------------------
Marianne, Ofanite of the Wind
Corporeal: 4 Ethereal: 3 Celestial: 2
Strength: 5 Intellect: 5 Will: 3
Agility: 11 Precision: 7 Perception: 5
Skills: Acrobatics/3, Area Knowledge (England)/3, Fast-Talk/2, Language (Local)/3, Running/2
Attunements: Ofanite of the Wind, Cherub of the Wind, Elohite of the Wind
Remaining CP: 6
E**** says, “Cheers, love, the cavalry's here!”
--From the MUSH

INwatch+Bookwatch )

Dragons under fold )
xyzzysqrl: (Play with me.)
[personal profile] xyzzysqrl
Man it's gonna be tough to talk about this one.

2064: Read Only Memories is a very Japanese-style adventure game, in the tradition of games like Policenauts and Snatcher as well as many older games that just never got translated here in any way. The thing about this style of adventure is that you usually get a very limited set of verbs and a plot that's strongly on a rail.

This is the case with 2064, which gives you Look/Use/Talk and your inventory and limits the puzzles and interactions a fair bit. You CAN however address various characters with different tones, and the game tracks these for varying purposes. By the ending you can phone up quite a storm if you're the talkative type.

At least 2064 doesn't make you Think About / Look At / Think About every single damn thing on screen like SOME Japanese adventure games do.

Actually the plot and characters are really what you're here for. Like, resign yourself to the fact that you're gonna Touch/Talk/Look At/Use Every Item On Every Item all the way through the game for the funny remarks and just settle in to enjoy the story.

As it opens you are a reporter of whatever gender you like...

(pronouns are selectable/customizable and people call you what you want to be called and that is a THING y'know? That's just a nice goddamn thing they did right there)

...and you are working on some gadget reviews. As you try to sleep, a robot crawls in your window. The robot's name is Turing, they are the first sentient AI, and they need your help.

From there it gets quite cyberpunk indeed: Illegal backroom modifications, shifty public corporations with a dirty underside, everyone playing not quite by the book. Written with a genuine degree of heart and soul but ... even that's not why I loved this game I realize suddenly.

I loved this game because it felt like being in a world where humanity would continue to grow. The relationships are gay or bi or who knows, whatever, I don't know what one character's gender IS and it never actually felt like it mattered because they were a person.

(I have seen people call this game excessively queer with a social justice agenda to which I can only say A: Good, B: Fuck you, and C: It takes place IN NEO-SAN FRANCISCO AND ONE OF THE FIRST PLACES YOU GO IS THE DAMN CASTRO DISTRICT PLEASE SEE POINT B AGAIN.)

People call you what you want to be called. Genetic hybrids wander the city and fight for acceptance, but they're making slow progress. Corporations continue to be corporations but people do their best to find the upsides. Everyone is really into a particular soda and wants you to know about it.

I dunno, this game felt WARM. This SETTING feels warm. Between this and its sister game Va-11 Hall-A I want to LIVE in this damn universe.

After the game ended and dropped me into Eternal Christmas, my reporter-avatar lady went out to an arcade and played some kart racing games, then wound up at a bar that makes you crawl over a conveyor belt so everyone enters as equals. She had a good time talking to a wolf in a halloween costume of a wolf ("It seemed like a fun idea at the time") but had no real interest in alcohol. After a lot of chatting with the bar owner and a couple of cosplayers, she flirted with a growly lion fellow who shyly revealed he liked being tied up.

That's how Ms. Xyzzy's story ends. In the days leading up to the holiday, she helped usher in a new age, she stared death and anime in the face, she drank all the flavors of Hassy and both prevented AND provoked a riot... and Christmas Day she spent wrapping up a lion guy. I mean, it would TAKE Christmas to get me to top, but escapist fantasy I guess.

Just another day in Neo-San Francisco.

Recovery continues...

Jun. 23rd, 2017 08:27 pm
archangelbeth: An anthropomorphic feline face, with feathered wing ears, and glasses, in shades of gray. (Default)
[personal profile] archangelbeth
And I got like over 8 hours of sleep FINALLY at a pretty solid stretch oh lovely lovely lovely. I could still sleep a lot more, but.

My sore throat is just about gone. As I said in a comment: Apparently my immune system said, "Hey! Waddaminute! WE KNOW YOU! YOU'RE SOME VIRUS WEARING GROCHO GLASSES!" and dogpiled it after all. Whew.

Kid was very, very frail and blah this morning, but we got food into us and ice tea into me (the good stuff!) and then went driving to a different place for to-go dessert. ("I wanted to go to [X] because I wanted dessert," said kid. I looked at my watch and said, "Well, they won't be busy now. We could go there for dessert." And they said, "Oh, right, that's an option." So we did.)

Tonight is STO night and I shall cut this short because STO.

A link of potential interest. Heh.

Havva Quote
Notice that, for instance, nothing is really recommended for a weakling. One would think it most important that one whose magic is weak have a wand capable of picking up the faintest of impulses to amplify.

INwatch+Bookwatch )

Dragons under fold )

Good Kitten - more Beauty-Beast

Jun. 23rd, 2017 11:29 am
aldersprig: (lock and key)
[personal profile] aldersprig
First: M/m Keeper/Kept
Previous: Be Yourself

This chapter features a lot of description that wanders around the edges of sex without describing penetration or intercourse.

Read more... )

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An Adventure, Chapter 2

Jun. 23rd, 2017 09:07 am
aldersprig: (Aldersprig Leaves Raining)
[personal profile] aldersprig
Chapter One:

The darkness inside was disorienting. She looked in, and could see nothing; it was as if no light at all passed through the doorway, not even the creepy red illumination.

She couldn’t turn back now; her fingerprints were on the doorknob. Oxana stepped through, feeling carefully with one foot on the floor and holding her hands in front of her.

The floor felt rough under her feet but level, and nothing met her hands. She took careful step after careful step, reaching out to either side, feeling in front of her, wondering once again was this a good idea?

The answer appeared to be no, but here she was anyway. Her head hurt, probably from the pressure changes down here, and the air tasted damp and stale, like the door hadn’t been open in a long time. Since 1920? she wondered. Or just a few years ago? Was it safe to breathe? There were all sorts of stories about why the dorm had been closed off, after all. She couldn’t remember if one of them had been about gas, or bad air, or carbon monoxide, or anything.
Read more... )

There is an Underschool Pinterest board! Here -

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xyzzysqrl: A moogle sqrlhead! (Default)
[personal profile] xyzzysqrl
Hi folks. It's the Steam Summer Sale, and that means Sqrlmog Land is all abuzz with visions of New Games.

It's also time for me to say I put a lot of time and energy and enthusiasm and such into writing this stuff. Maybe not so much the little capsule summaries, I'll admit. Those actually could really improve and I feel sort of bad they've gotten so lame. Those need to improve, and I admit it, and I am sorry for that.

The big involved multipart playblogs however I do put some time and energy into and I've occasionally wondered if, like... I should go Patreon or TipJar or Koffee or whatever the hell kind of money-making game they have nowadays, but I really don't feel like what I do is quite good enough for THAT either. I have a realistic expectation of what I deserve and it isn't so much that.

Still, I am always working to improve and pushing to get better at gaming, at playblogging, and I've even started to take timid steps back towards streaming again. If you enjoy what I write here, and you'd like to support me -- support which I MUST SAY IS OPTIONAL AND NOT SOMETHING Y'ALL SHOULD FEEL GUILTED TOWARDS -- I present my Steam wishlist. Please note that those not in the US may not be able to gift anything my way due to Dumb Reasons involving currency rates or something.

My wishlist can be found here.

Normal service will resume soon -- and I have another playblog planned (hopefully, if nothing goes wrong!) for next month, by the way. Mildred Benson's birthday is coming up. Prepare for another Drewblog!

Thank you.

Blue at the Mizzen - Insidian Style

Jun. 23rd, 2017 10:21 am
esteven: (Default)
[personal profile] esteven posting in [community profile] mandc_read
This is it. We have read the Aubreyad twice, we have read Insidian's wonderful take on the books twice, so now it is time to bid a fond farewell to the Read and to all of you who have supported us over the years.

Thank you. I shall certainly continue to look in as I am sure there are still comments I have not been able to reply to.

Also: one should never say never

Also: YaY Jack!

The plot summary of Blue at the Mizzen curtesy of wikipedia

The Surprise sails out of Gibraltar but collides in the dark with a Nordic timber ship and returns for repairs. Back ashore, Aubrey hears a reliable description of the last day of the battle at Waterloo; he thanks Lord Keith for moving the prize court along briskly to share out the huge prize, more than 382 pounds a share. Aubrey has clandestine visits with his cousin Isobel, Lord Barmouth's wife. Admiral Lord Barmouth hastens the repair work, realizing he helps himself that way. Many Surprises desert. The frigate sails to Madeira for more serious repairs but arrives just in time to see Coelho's famous shipyard at Funchal in flames. Maturin receives a coded report from Dr Amos Jacob regarding the Chilean situation and takes the Ringle to England, where Sir Joseph Blaine updates him. The Chileans have split into two factions: northern still interested in British help, and southern retaining the services of Sir David Lindsay to command the Chilean navy. Whilst Maturin stays with Sophie Aubrey at Woolcombe, Aubrey returns the Surprise to Seppings' yard in England for a thorough re-fit and recruits a strong, competent crew out of Shelmerston for the long voyage ahead. In London, the Duke of Clarence asks Aubrey to accept Horatio Hanson as a midshipman. Initially reluctant, Aubrey finds that the boy has the mathematical skills essential for a navigator and he becomes a competent sailor. Fully fitted, the Surprise stops at Funchal, picking up Jacob, and then heads for Freetown, where Maturin proposes marriage to a young attractive widow. Christine Wood shares his tastes for natural philosophy. Her view of marriage suffered from her first marriage, as her husband was impotent. She turns him down. She agrees on her upcoming trip to England to visit the Aubreys at their home in Dorset and to meet Maturin's daughter Brigid there. Surprise then sails to the coast of Brazil, where Dr Amos Jacob parts to cross the mountains overland.

After a difficult rounding of Cape Horn, the expedition reaches San Patricio in Chile. Ringle goes for repairs following a grounding in the Pillón passage. After a meeting between Aubrey, Maturin and Sir David Lindsay, in which the two sides agree to mutually support each other, Maturin writes to Blaine describing the different juntas and the training of three republican sloops by the crew of the Surprise, who assist in capturing a moderate privateer. After meeting Dr Jacob with the intelligence he gathered, Aubrey heads to Valparaiso, while Maturin and Jacob ride there by mule. Here they meet General Bernardo O'Higgins, the Supreme Director, and Colonel Eduardo Valdes. Learning that the viceroy of Peru, under the Spanish king, plans to invade Chile, the group determine to confront the Royalist forces at Valdivia, where the viceroy will need to seek stores. The Surprise and Ringle make sail and Aubrey elaborates a plan to drop Chilean troops at Concepción while the ships destroy the gun-emplacements at Cala Alta and then bombard the fort at Valdivia.

The plan succeeds and the revolutionaries capture four chests of silver and one of gold, conveyed by the Surprise to Valparaiso and then overland to Santiago. Sir David Lindsay fights a duel with one of his officers and dies. Popular local sentiment gradually turns against the British, and Aubrey receives news that the junta plans to impound his frigate. He decides to pre-empt action against Surprise by cutting out the Peruvian fifty-gun frigate Esmeralda at Callao in Peru to strengthen the Chilean navy. Surprise conducts a hard-fought broadside action and eventually the British-Chilean force takes the ship. Aubrey suffers wounds in the thigh and shoulder. Maturin and Jacob compose a coded message of the successful cutting-out to Sir Joseph Blaine which the schooner takes to the Isaac Newton, as Dobson's friends agree to carry the message across Panama to meet a returning merchantman. Ringle carries the news to Valparaiso.

The President of the Valparaiso junta, Don Miguel Carrera, gives Aubrey and his officers a lavish dinner, after which Aubrey insists on his sailors receiving their share of the prize-money and Esmeralda's value by the end of the month. The next day Don Miguel authorizes five thousand pieces of eight and use of any naval stores the Surprise requires. With a fully repaired ship, Aubrey sets about training the young Chilean naval officers as the Surprise continues her survey of the Chilean coast, for several weeks. Jacob arrives from Valparaiso on a private brig, with coded messages from Sir Joseph Blaine. The Duke of Clarence requests Horatio Hanson's return to sit his lieutenant's examination. Second, the Admiralty requires Aubrey to take command of the South African squadron, hoisting his broad pennant as Rear Admiral of the Blue at the River Plate, blue at the mizzen, aboard HMS Implacable. Carrera arrives with a message saying it will take three more months to complete the payments, releasing Aubrey from his responsibility to the Chileans. He accepts his promotion, sets course for the Strait of Magellan.

June 2017

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