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This is important, because there can be only one team of Dark Samurai in any given game. If you are playing the primagames. The Lightning Trap The Elder Kappa Shell is probably the most powerful commonly available defensive component in the game, but it comes at a cost. In single-player, this is nor- mally just a minor annoyance, since rela- tively few monsters use Lightning attacks. An experienced multiplayer competitor will tend to use Lightning attacks against mid-level opponents, on the assumption that there will be at least a few Kappa Shells in the party, lowering resistance.

Because of this, smart players limit the number of Kappa Shells they incorporate into their armor, and tend to stockpile extra Lightning defenses as well, in the form of masks and rosaries. You can, however, be booted out of a multiplayer game if another player successfully invades your Shrine Room and kills all the Samurai in it. This is a good reason to keep all your multiplayer characters in fighting trim, rather than just concentrating on grabbing experience for your four favorite Samurai.

A good emer- gency tactic in case of Shrine Room inva- sion is to teleport three of your active char- acters back to the Shrine Room while the final Samurai makes a dash for the nearest portal gate. In multiplayer, you always want to know exactly where the nearest Portal Gate is, and the quickest way to get there. How much normal damage the Item inflicts. The minimum Dexterity required to use the item.

How many enhancements the item has. The minimum Ki required to use it. The minimum experience level required to use it. How many magic components can be used to enhance the item. The minimum Strength required to use or wear the item. This item is unique. Ul, U2 and U3 refer to where you might find the item. The greater the number, the later the item will be found in the game.

A range of numbers 0 - that help determine which random item a monster might be carrying. See Monsters, p.

Here are a few rules of thumb. It can only be obtained as random treasure from powerful monsters. Every Samurai in the game should work to get his Strength up to a level where he can wear Kunimichi.

I - 10, Dam. I - 5, Dam. Note that despite its compact size, the lai- To is a two-handed weapon, and cannot be used with Duel Weapon Attack. The greater the number, the later in the game the item appears. Bakudan Arm Armor U2 p. You get 8 spell points for a single element when you give it to your priest. However, the larger the component, the fewer that can stack together.

Sometimes it can. Therefore, the Cho-gokin Ore determines its prefix, while the Yama- inu Blood determines its suffix. The Cho- gokin Ore in it is even stronger since the ore determined the prefixso it has at least three pieces of Cho-gokin Ore remember that the base Magic Value of Cho-gokin Ore is lower than that of Yama- inu Blood. Gem components are fully described on page This section presents a few addi- tional tips to make your magic item design more efficient and effective.

There are two things to avoid in designing magic items. The first is the temptation to throw everything you find together as soon as possible for as long as the gold holds out. You need strong magic items most in the late game. Keep your magic items in the early game cheap and mod- est, saving up to go all out at the end.

The other trap is the reverse. Customized or General- Purpose Design? Fill your weapon slots wisely. Be patient, and build the per- fect weapon one component at a time. Watch out for Elder Kappa Shells in armor. This can be particularly deadly in multi- player games. Use gems wisely and efficiently see p. Don't waste these on an inferior bow, save them until you can put them in a quality Go-Shinpo-Yumi. Consequently, it's pretty much impossible to find it and put it to use in a single-player game.

It's really designed for multiplayer use. Don't hold your breath. It is functionally identical to the Tear of Buddha p. Elder Kappa Shell Although they're the most powerful commonly available armor enhance- ments in the game, beware of the vul- nerability to Lightning attacks they con- vey. Try not to use more than one per character, or less in Multiplayer see The Lightning Trap, p.

Gems are an extremely powerful tool for increas- ing the power of a magic item, but they can also powerfully increase the cost of customizing the item. Instead, use gems selec- tively to multiply the most important abilities on an item. More may become available in future patches and add-ons from Click. The second citadel and wilderness Stage 2. The third and fourth citadels and wildernesses are Stage 3 and 4. In general, the monsters you run into are determined by your current stage — you tend to meet Stage 1 monsters during the first stage, and so forth.

For most mon- sters, there are six ever-stronger varieties, running from Stage 1 through Stage 6. Therefore, most of the monster descrip- tions in this chapter have six columns, one for each stage. Some monsters only appear in a single citadel or wilderness, but since any of the citadels and wildernesses can be your first stage, your decision on where you start determines how soon you run into the monster and whether you meet it in its Stage 1, Stage 2, Stage 3 or Stage 4 incarnation.

Some monsters play specific roles in par- ticular quests, especially the personal quests. However, you only get three of the twelve personal quests determined by the clan you select in any particular game you play. For example, Gaiya-jiro p. A number in parenthe- ses for example, the 5 s and 6 s by the Bake Yoroi leader names on page indicate a stage as well.

In this case, there are Bake Yoroi leaders only in stages 5 and 6. They tend to have better treasure, including higher odds of magical armor or weapons. Occasionally, an assault troop stat will vary from a regular monster stat. Snipers S. Some monsters especially humanoid monsters include snipers. Snipers stay in one spot and continue attacking, regardless of what your Samurai do.

Snipers tend to have lower Vitality and less loot than their fellow monsters. A, B, C. There are three possible leaders for most types of monsters. When all three leaders are similar, stats for all three are list- ed in one column.

Most of the time these labels indicate the different spells that each leader can Nettwork - dARKSKULL - Fontanelles: Early Formations Of dARKSKULL (File). Stats Most of the stats are pretty clear. Mass relates to Knockback see below. Immobility Resistance describes how well a monster resists your attempt to freeze it.

Might retreat if under Attack Chance non-spell lists the chance the monster will hit when it strikes. Poison Damage lists how much poison damage the monster can inflict with each strike. These numbers seem low until you realize that the poison damage is inflicted every second for ten seconds, or until a Remedy is applied. Once a poison has run its course, the damage is no different from any other damage, and can be healed in the same way as other damage. Stun chance, duration lists the chance that a monster will stun you into immobil- ity if it hits you, and how long that stun will last in seconds.

Most monsters only cast spells when at a distance, and some only shoot an arrow or make some other physical ranged attack. Only those who can both fire a weapon and cast a spell will have this stat. Spell Names. If it only has one spell, no percentage is listed. A few monsters have no loot at all. Note that the first line under Bake Yoroi Loot p. But which mask, armor or sword? That depends on the bake yoroi you just killed.

The first line lists a Value for each type of bake yoroi. For example, the Value for a Ghost Armor Stage 2 bake yoroi is 25 - If you kill a Ghost Armor bake yoroi, and the first item determined randomly is a mask, then check the Mask table on page The next mask, the Akujo- Beshimi, covers the range from 9. Compare that range to the Mask Values. When picking which particular mask that a Ghost Armor bake yoroi has, Throne of Darkness picks a random number between primagames.

Note that in this case, the Han-nya is more likely than the other two masks combined. Once the first item has been determined even if it is nothingthere is the possibil- ity of a second item. If the monster has a second item, the same series of random selections is made to determine what the item is. Gold Loot. When a monster has gold, the loot list tells you how much gold it might have. However, the listed range of gold on a list covers all related monsters who use that list, and the most gold is reserved for the toughest monsters.

For example, the Dead Foot Soldier Loot list p. However, the gold that a Stage 1 Dead Foot Soldier might have falls at the very beginning of this range — he will never have more than 5 gold. Are you surprised? Also remember that the actual amount of gold the monster yields will be modified by the gold bonus if any of the player who killed it. See p. Armor Loot. There are a few loot lists which specify other odds for particular types of armor.

Potion Loot. There are a few loot lists which specify other odds for particu- lar potions. For some monsters, if one of their items is a weapon or a piece of armor, that weapon or armor might be magic. This number gives the percentage chance that a weapon or armor is magic.

The name of each unique weapon or piece of armor on this list is followed by UlU2 or U3. Items marked with Ul tend to be found earlier in the game, and are weaker. Items marked with U3 tend to be found later and are more powerful. Magic AAV is Cursed? Yep, this is the chance that the magic weapon or armor you just picked off a dead monster is cursed. Defaults Great effort has been made to fill all the holes, but there might still be a few.

Strike 5 F. Ranged A Forked L. Bake Yoroi are just about the only source of Ghost Armor Plates. This is probably the best non-unique, randomly available armor components in the game, and they are certainly the rarest. It may well be worth reverting to a previous save and vanquish- ing Go-no several times, until he yields this treasure.

Zanshin is the only source in the game for the Magma Sphere, a powerful but compact magic compo- nent. Since killing the Dark Warlord ends the single- player game, the Magma Sphere is effectively nonexis- tant in these games.

Bane 1 Pr. Bane 2 Pr. Strike 8 F. Darts 13 B Lava Skr. Strike 8 Inf. L-Oot See list on page Strike 4 Forked L. Blood of Budd. Patience of Budd. Tear of Budd. Seeker 18 C Ice Skr. Seeker 8 Lava Skr. Ranged Spark Skr. Wave 14 F. Bakemono Tatar! Stats Sugar! Seeker 12 W. Ranged Ice Skr. Flame 1 Drag.

Flood 1 L. Flood 1 Drag. Rartged Forked L. Ranged F. Darts 17 F. They have mass 0. Burn 1 bp. Brew 1 Sp. Koku-ryu always yields the very rare Winged Serpent Scales components. He also has a one-in-three chance of yielding a decent amount of gold, but a two-in-three chance of yielding a unique weapon or armor of the highest type. Seeker 5 Lava Skr.

Darts 5 Brimstone 6 C L. Strike 2 W. Strike 3 L. Strike 4 Inf. When in doubt, get its name, then look it up on this list. Once the Daimyo finishes giving you your first quest, you can start out. There are a couple of boxes in the shrine room that may contain useful items. Gather the remaining samurai and secure the castle.

When you see the Swordsman, click on him, then wait for him to heal up in the Shrine Room and call him back into the party, for a full com- plement of four in your active party.

Now go back up and start to clear out the whole castle, from top to bottom. Break every barrel, look in every chest, and pick up everything you find. Otherwise you could find yourself with a fatal deficiency of either cash or experience fairly early in the game.

Find the Sorcerer in the Outer Citadel and slop him before he summons reinforcements. Just keep pushing forward. Running away not only gives you life-sav- ing breathing room, but also has a chance of dividing your enemy up into smaller, more manageable groups as they chase you.

Both are now empty, of course. Find them. To take out the sorcerer, try to be cagey. What you need here is a feint. Divide and conquer. Go out the gates of the citadel. Click on him to finish the first part of your quest. He promises to get back to work, and gives you some info about the Priest. Tlie Priest has gone out lo help the Villagers. There are no enemies whatsoever between the citadel gates and the entrance to the first wilderness area. With the Blacksmith and Priest now back on duty, you can identify any magic items you may have found, repair your best armor and weapons, and donate all left- overs to the Blacksmith for the benefit of the war effort.

Monster Populations The lists of monsters found in each area do not for the most part include mon- sters you encounter on quests or in caves. Citadels and Wilderness Monsters in the first Citadel and Wilderness you enter are Stage 1 unless noted otherwise. Assuming you continue adventuring clockwise, monsters in the second Citadel and Wilderness are Stage 2, in the third Citadel and Wilderness are Stage 3, and in the fourth Citadel and Wilderness are Stage 4.

Below are some notes on the unique features of each of the citadels. Mori Citadel The castle is a very straightforward five- story tower, with the boss commander hid- ing out in the back of the storehouse sec- tion of the lowest floor. The path from the castle door to the main gate is very linear, with the temple just outside the door, the smithy on a bit further, and the portal gate just before the final exit. One unique feature of this citadel is the outbuilding in the courtyard between the portal and the smithy, where some archers have set up an ambush on the roof.

The boss commander is in the kitchens, in the room to the right of where you enter. Oda citadel is completely surrounded by moats, and you get from one courtyard to another via bridges. Whereas Mori had four exterior courtyards, Oda has only three, but the innermost is very long and wraps around the building. The temple is located in a small but well guarded side courtyard. You have a lot of good cover and concealment in this courtyard.

Go to their castle and execute them! The boss commander is found in the tiled room to the left of the entrance. The smithy is near the main gate and the portal gate, while the temple is way off in the most remote corner of the complex. Go lo Iheir cas- tle to the [dodopi ise dinxHon] and search for suiAiOors. The boss commander is located in the suite of well-appointed rooms just opposite the entrance.

Outside, a narrow courtyard wraps around the building. One bridge leads to a small ornamental garden with no exit other than the way you came in, of course.

Consequently, there are fewer and weaker creatures regardless of how far along in the game you are the closer to the Shrine Room you get. The second, third and fourth cas- tles are pretty much the only maps in the game that get easier the further into them you get. The order of the castle quests never varies, regardless of where you start. In the sec- ond castle you find the Daimyo murdered.

In the fourth, the Daimyo is defeated but still barely alive. He gives you his sword to use in avenging his death. The bosses in the castles also appear in the same order. The layout of the map makes the most sense if you think of the adventure being set on a roughly circular island with a large moun- tain in the middle like Mt. Fuji, on the main island of Hokado in real-world Japan.

Connecting each of the four citadels is a road winding through the Japanese coun- tryside. The wilderness areas between the citadels are where much of the first half of the game takes place. Like the citadels, the wilderness areas are designed to be explored in any order.

The monsters get tougher as you progress through the game, but the basic features of each of the wildernesses are similar. Debu are strong, fat, brutal demons used by Zanshin to grind the mills that turn the corpses of innocent victims into the undead troops of the Dark Warlord. Each of the wilderness areas has a debu mill near one of the village areas, but only the first and third depending on where you start actually have debu and their live victims in residence.

The second has a peasant who will point you toward the second debu quest, and the fourth area is just abandoned. All four of the debu mills have lots of Gaki hanging around, however. Tliey are to be fed to his monsters! Both of these mills are additionally guard- ed by a force of gaki. Their mills are located behind a fence of thorns, and your archers and spellcasters can do a good deal of damage over the fence while a debu makes his cumbersome way around to the entrance.

SaOe them from my fate Each of the wilderness areas has two portal gates, one near the entrance and another near the exit. In the middle of each wilder ness area, Zanshin has set up an ambush consisting of a mass of skeleton warriors behind barricades, plus other assorted nasties.

To get through the ambushes, try to work the perimeters, taking the archers out one barricade at a time. Archers and offensive spellcasters are extremely useful against the ambush- es. The enemy also uses these ambush points as supply depots, so once you do take one down there should be plenty of loot for the taking.

There are cemeteries in all four wilderness areas. As quests go, this is actually one of the easier ones. One of the Toyotomi personal quests also involves a visit to the Toyotomi cemetery see p. This path is marked by a blue line on your automap. These guards are tough, and their power level does not increment as you progress from wilderness to wilderness.

The guards are equally powerful in each of the four areas, regardless of where you start. By the time you get to the fourth wilderness, the fight should be quite winnable. In the first three areas, the Daimyo will warn you if you get too close to the ambush. The village with the Debu mill in the eastern corner is right at the start of the path. The graveyard is near the first bridge. Tliere are two caves in the second half of the map.

The southern cave is called The Abyss, and is the home to a varied assort- ment of subterranean monsters. The other cave, just north of the second portal gate, is the Lair of Suizan, the Kappa King. The first portal gate, Morino Village, is convenient to the foot of the mountain, and would be an excellent place to start that portion of the game. Pit of Torment primagames. The Debu mill is located in the far western corner of the estate, behind the fields. Highlight the bamboo and click on it to open the path.

Click on the stone to make the rest of the stones appear be ready for the very tough legendary Kappa on the other side. The Pit of Torment, is located just before the central ambush. Just beyond it is the graveyard. Ca-Oe of the Btack Oni 3. The debu mill is located in the northeast corner of the northern village, with the graveyard due west, across the road.

Beyond that, just before you reach the central ambush, is the lair of the Koga Ninja. This cave is where the Oda Ninja completes his quest. For example, when you cross the bridge of the first southern river, turn left and follow the river as far as you can to the northwest.

Highlight these trees and click on them to get the Hemp, a unique component that has the power to make one weapon or armor completely indestructible. Once again, the Hemp is unique, so save it for something you really, really like. The village on this map is located far from the road, just a short distance from the foot of the mountain. The debu mill is on the southeast side of the village, just beyond the fields.

Just over the river and down the road a bit from the graveyard is a riverside clearing dom- inated by an impressively huge pagoda 2. Quests that take place primarily on the mountain are listed on pages Two of the personal quests, those of the Tokugawa Wizard and the Toyotomi Berserker, start in the wilderness but finish up on the mountain.

Mori Berserker, Yagyu Jubei Where does it happen? In the Oda wilderness. Receive the quest from a peas- ant standing near the bridge over the southern river, and fulfill it at the Thousand-Year Maple. What do I have to do? You and your companions must meet the Trinary at the Thousand Year Maple and fight them and their troops to the death. What do I get? Three very high quality items - armor or weapons. Mori Leader, Takeda Shingen where does it happen?

In the Mori wilderness. When you kill Suizan and give the Buddha statue to your priest by Offering it through the Priest interface you receive a significant bonus to spell points in whatever element you make the offering. In the Toyotomi wilderness, at the pagoda. You encounter the ghost of Kagetora, an old friend who charges you to go to the pagoda and destroy the Shadow Commander who murdered him. When the commander is dead you must take his head back to the ghost to prove the deed is done.

Oda Ninja, Kajiwara Kagesue where does it happen? In the Tokugawa Wilderness. From their you just have to track Suigetsu to his lair, find him and kill him. Tokugawa Archer, Tejima Kenzaburo Where does it happen? In the Oda Wilderness, near the foot of the mountain. By then it was getting late and we agreed to make camp for the night.

It was only after she removed her hood that I noticed her honey-blonde hair and ice-blue eyes, odd traits for a halfling. Certainly one that made her stand out.

No wonder she'd kept her head concealed. Our campsite was near a pond, one that wasn't frozen over. I didn't mind bathing in it but my rings make me immune to cold. I had to use my powers on her so she could bathe. More than once I caught her stealing glances at me while I washed off the road grime. She also used the excuse of sharing heat to justify sleeping next to me, passing out next to me even as I write this.

I won't deny a mutual attraction but that's not something I want to pursue while I'm trying to track a murderer. We pick up the trail first thing in the morning. Normally mundane attempts at such misdirection fail when one can see the subtle differences in the tracks themselves. Even the difference of an ounce or a quarter of an inch in length can leave telling discrepancies. It takes magic to perfectly replicate such things. Which this thing apparently had access to.

Worse, each of the sets went roughly six feet before disappearing altogether. No signs of the creature climbing any of the trees to travel via brachiation, no scent trail, nothing. Even my attempts to use remote viewing using a hair I got from the rangers failed utterly.

Whoever this is, they know how to disappear without a trace. I'd thought Valerie would want to return to Rivalis, but she asked to accompany me instead, explaining how she didn't leave for Il Aluk on good terms with her family. Her family was keen to put her proclivities for breaking and entering, especially in defeating traps and even the most complex locks, to "respectable use. I can understand her decision.

Filial pride can be a horrible burden. Not that she was only skilled in thieving. During an attack by some ghasts she was able to take down two by slipping an elven fineblade into their backs before they knew she was there. Normally the undead are immune to precision attacks, but there is a technique for overcoming part of it.

Plus her strikes left scorch marks on their necrotic flesh identical to strikes with holy water or other attacks with positive energy.

Yet her weapon had no enchantment that would account for such. It's overly pragmatic of me to say so, but I must admit such skills would greatly aid the Shining Force.

And, in all honesty, we share lot in common and find each other to be quite pleasing company. So I teleported us back to Archer Estate after our encounter with the undead. We weren't going to get anywhere by staying in Darkon and the Kargat had already warned me to back off.

Not that I fear for myself, but I couldn't put Valerie at risk. She also didn't want to return to the University and was delighted at the chance to get out of the country. She'd stolen quite a bit of money from the Eternal Order temple in Il Aluk to help some of the beggars there obtain food and clothing for the winter. A noble goal if not the wisest of ways to go about it when dealing with an institution as powerful and corrupt as them.

For now she's staying at the Estate. I wouldn't mind if she stuck around, actually. She's one of the few people I've met here who is so well versed in subjects as diverse as philosophy, biology, and planar theory.

It's a refreshing change to have a conversation with someone who isn't blinded to the mysteries around us by fear or hatred. That much at least is going well. What isn't going well is Valerie's rather unsubtle attempts at seducing me. At first it was "accidentally" exposing herself to me with doors left ajar or ignoring my knocks on the doors to the bath. Now she's walking around in very little and asking me to check certain areas of her body for something.

I've tried to talk with her about her behavior but she feigns ignorance of any untoward motives. It's not that I don't find her attractive--I actually find her very beautiful and engaging--but after what happened with Priscilla and the Nidalan clergy who found her I'm wary of becoming intimate with anyone. Valerie seems to have taken that knowledge as a challenge. One thing I've learned this past week is that she is not very reserved about her body or her sexuality.

As a rule, at least on other worlds, halflings don't have the hangups about physical intimacy that humans and even dwarves do when it comes to people they know and trust. She is certainly living up to my own past experiences in that regard. Her charm and skill at setting people at ease with words alone has left me in some compromising situations when I let my guard down and she took the opportunity to express her intentions with actions.

I'm not made of stone and it's getting harder to resist her efforts. Did I just write some double entendres? I need to go cool off. Valerie got the better of me and we consummated our relationship last night. It actually turns out that was her first time. Everything she had done to seduce me, everything she suggested, had come from various pillow books she'd read. Once the tension between us was broken she launched into a rambling confession of her feelings for me. I'm fairly sure a lot of it was purely hormonal but some was genuinely from her heart.

I'm glad I could help her experience something so wonderful but I'm unsure of my own feelings. She's certainly willing to wait for an answer. Especially since she's admitted to her own ambivalence over this turn of events. I doubt we'll have much time to explore our feelings for the next little while, though. I was asked to investigate a "rotting smell" coming from the root cellar of a farm halfway between Archer Estate and Mordentshire.

My initial look revealed ghoul tunnels that had breached the cellar, along with a lone ghoul that I was able to interrogate to learn more. This isn't just a feral pack but one led by a ghoul lord. One that very deliberately commanded "her" minions to tunnel towards this specific farmstead.

Ghouls are unpredictable enough, but a ghoul lord? My own experiences with such beings are severely limited. All I know for certain is that simply luring it out with some raw meat won't work.

They retain too much control of their mind to fall for such simple tactics. There's also why they would target that farm specifically. I talked to the family but the lady of the household, Linda, was unsure.

The family had lived on a struggling patch of land in southern Mordent. Her husband had inherited their current farm when a relative died last October. Her husband flat out refused to talk to me and threatened me with a wooden pitchfork.

There was fear in his eyes, abject dread. Not of me but something else. He did accept my offer to pay for the family to relocate to an inn in Mordentshire, though, and they were on the road before sunset. He just wouldn't speak to me. Once they were gone I poked around his relative's old study and found an old journal. It was mostly annual records of the harvest but I did come across something thirty years earlier. An unnamed cousin was driven off the farm when she was found practicing "vile rites.

Just a family name: Dyer. That name sounds familiar to me but I can't place why. Fortunately one of the things I've collected at the Estate are copies of Mordentshire's town records. I did find birth and death records of the Dyer family but a name had been struck from them.

I'll have to ask around tomorrow if I want to find out anything more. I know I've heard the name "Dyer" before.

I just can't remember where or what it was in reference to. He's asked to not be named here and the story he revealed was shocking. Ashley Dyer Hunter, the woman who's name was stricken from all records, had never "been right. Things like sneaking out of her family's house to wander graveyards at night, invoking the names of the dead, and damaging headstones.

These behaviors started during her adolescence and quickly escalated as she got older to include defiling the burials themselves and doing I really didn't want to know. The only other person she cared about was her younger brother, Anthony, whom she doted on. Unfortunately he was a sickly boy and in his fifteenth year he succumbed to consumption. She didn't take that well, wailing and cursing the divines, even going so far as to steal his body after it was interred.

It was at this point that my unnamed source became involved, tracking her down to an abandoned inn a couple miles outside of Mordentshire. She'd laid his body out over a circle of symbols on the floor and was chanting something he didn't recognize. When he interrupted she lashed out at him with magic, possibly inflict spells by the description he gave.

As well as a rather potent supernatural fear that left him fleeing. When he returned with reinforcements a few hours later they found Anthony's butchered body, minus the head and pieces of his torso removed by a sharp blade. The rest had been savaged by human teeth. They never found her or her brother's remaining body parts.

Anthony was then buried in hallowed ground. Weeks later someone dug it up but they were chased away by the groundskeeper. Whoever it was tried several more times until they just seemingly gave up.

Ashley's name was struck from the records and people never again so much as talked about her. At least not until now. I can theorize what happened, based on my own experiences with psychopathic people. Ashley was undoubtedly the one who butchered the body and tried to reclaim what she'd left behind.

Her first attempt at returning Anthony from the dead failed but her possessiveness was such she decided to make him a part of her forever by eating him. If she succumbed to ghoul fever afterwards, that would explain why she waited so long to come back for the rest. A quick visit to his grave revealed why she may have quit trying.

Someone cast sacred item on both the tombstone and the coffin underground. My source confirmed blessing both twice, once before the last attempt to dig up the grave and again after.

One holy spell she could resist, but two at once and on sacred ground she couldn't overcome. Tunneling under the farm must be a part of her mania. The extended family actually lived on the farm until she fled. Afterwards her own parents lost the will to live--losing both children at once--and died in their sleep a month later.

Her cousins left after they grew up and married while her aunt died of pneumonia five years ago, leaving her uncle, Clint Hunter, the sole inhabitant.

None of his children wanted the place after his own death so it fell to his distant nephew who likely doesn't know a thing about what happened.

I don't see a reason to burden him with this ugly history, either. Other than Ashley's apparent metamorphosis into a ghoul lord and her insanity, I'm at a dead end when it comes to information about her. Especially how she came to possess skill in using divine magic. It's entirely possible she forged a connection to the divine through sheer willpower and corrupted zeal. It wouldn't be the first time I've seen it happen.

How far she's progressed in her study over thirty years is another unknown. Since ghoul lords can control lesser ghouls to find food for them, she could have learned much without her hunger getting in the way.

My instincts are telling me that's almost certainly the case. Gods only know what other unholy powers she's developed as well. Unlike my encounter with Arijani, I'll be joined by another on this fight. Valerie has made it abundantly clear that she's joining me whether I want her to or not. We need to make certain preparations before we even think of trying to face this woman in her own domain.

In a strange way this is actually rather exciting. It's been a long time since I did more than improvise my way to victory. Editor's Note: Indeed. Monsieur Dreamfire is certainly far more powerful than he lets on here and elsewhere. But he's always espoused Uncle Rudolph's philosophy defeating a foe through superior knowledge, not superior force. Up until now I was beginning to wonder if he was being hypocritical?

We actually spent all of yesterday taking inventory of the items we could use against the undead. It shames me a little to say I've not kept my stores up; ten vials of holy water, an enchanted bottle of sunlight oil that refills itself once a week if it's kept capped, one vial of the positoxin grave dust, one chiurgeon's kit, and a dorje of psionic restoration with five charges left. In all, not as much as I would like. Digging through one of my bags of holding revealed five jars of restorative ointmentsome old potions Nettwork - dARKSKULL - Fontanelles: Early Formations Of dARKSKULL (File) cure serious woundsand a lot of other things that would be useless for our current mission.

Mementos and treasures from centuries of adventuring that were forgotten, things of potential use to the Shining Force but not much help now. One item was a pair of goggles that grants its wearer darkvision, something Valerie could use.

We were going to avoid light sources where possible. We didn't want to give our positions away early. Upon entering the tunnels we were struck by the cloying stench of rot. The tunnels themselves were littered with bits of rotting flesh and gnawed bone, something most ghouls wouldn't do.

They would have consumed such scraps. This was definitely a way of throwing off any pursuers who might use scent to track the pack down. There was still the matter of tracks left in the dirt they hadn't cleared, Nettwork - dARKSKULL - Fontanelles: Early Formations Of dARKSKULL (File). Judging them, the lone one I'd caught days earlier was the only one who had entered the area within a week.

It looked like once the pack had dug the tunnels they were pulled back. Out of the chaos I picked out five distinct sets of prints that differed from the most recent ones, so there were at least that many in the tunnels.

As we went deeper it became clear these tunnels were also deliberately laid out as well, with a central one kept on a fairly straight path heading east. Any connected to it ended abruptly in walls of solid earth. Ashley must have been having trouble keeping her pack focused on their task. This ended when we came to a large area that had been cleared out as a crude room. Awaiting us was no less than ten of the undead, all of which fled the moment Brianna drew Finaldeath.

That was a bit of a letdown after several hours of searching. I think all of us wanted to let off some frustration by slaying the creatures.

We actually didn't need to wait long for them to come back. This time backed by some that were dressed in armor and wielding magical items, including a darkskull. Valerie was actually first to attack, sneaking behind the largest and burying her blade into its back. Normally the undead don't respond to pain like the living do, but this one wailed and reeled from the strike. It left itself open to an attack by Brianna and was disintegrated into dust with one hit, while three others were left with scorched flesh where her morning star hit.

Maxine pummeled two of them into true death while I just stood back and unleashed a barrage of mind arrows at the lesser ghouls. It took maybe twelve seconds for us to slaughter all fifteen of them. The greater ghouls all wore insignia from outlander organizations and bore the fiendish taint of Doresain, King of the Ghouls. Gravetouched ghouls. Since their creation requires the intervention of a demigod I doubt we'd encounter many more here or elsewhere. But it did speak of how powerful Ashley had to be to take control of them.

She also was certain to be upset that we destroyed some of her most powerful minions. I was actually counting on that; her anger would cloud her ability to think.

As for that darkskullBrianna smashed it to pieces. As we went deeper we encountered more and more ghouls, coming in waves of a dozen or more at once. Too many, really, for a single ghoul lord to have spawned alone. And none of them much of a challenge to us. I got the feeling we were being tested with mere cannon fodder before we encountered the first of a series of greater undead creatures: dread wights, lesser mummies, two morghs, even some vampire spawn that were trained in fighting.

Again, all of them easily destroyed before they could do any real damage. Ashley was definitely in command of powerful divine magic to be able to create and control so many different and potent creatures. Our first real sign that we had found her lair was the fact that the latest room we found was lined with walls of stone as reinforcement. I can only imagine how long it had taken her to create this.

Other rooms connected to this central one held what could be called a stone throne and a minor cache of valuables--both trapped with magic spells. Another had an altar with a bleeding moon carved into it, an unholy symbol not dedicated to any specific god.

Still another had a fairly luxurious bed and other furniture reminiscent of a woman's boudoir with a stone bathtub linking to an underground stream.

Even in undeath Ashley was vain enough to want luxury and the chance to bathe, as well as a desire for wealth. What she had put with her throne was all pretty cheap, though. Semiprecious gems, polished copper jewelry, nothing worth much. Yet her gravetouched minions had used moderately powerful magical gear and wielded an item that required fairly significant resources to create. She was certainly in command of superior wealth than what we saw here unless she'd scavenged everything.

It was only when Valerie checked the throne again that she discovered a mechanism built into the side, a well-hidden button among the carved artwork of the living being enslaved to serve the dead. That part was actually free of traps and it opened a hidden room that turned out to be a laboratory of sorts. In the center was a dwarven enchanted forge, one that could be used to create any type of magical weapon or armor if the smith or an assistant possessed the proper spells.

There was also a shelf filled with books on demonology and necromancy. Several volumes of The Madrigorian looked like they'd been read repeatedly from the dog-eared pages. An alchemy table--not enough to call a full lab--was set against the opposite wall of the bookshelf. I recognized several of the ingredients on accompanying shelves as being highly potent toxins--arsenic, belladonna extract, several forms of snake venom, even a preserved royal morel from Borca.

But the mixtures laid out were odd, diluted with weak acids or alkaline substances and then mixed with bizarre ingredients I couldn't readily identify. Yet there was something familiar about them, like I'd seen them before but I couldn't quite remember where. After nearly five centuries of adventuring it was entirely possible I had. But without proper analysis I would never figure it out. I pocketed samples of each in glass vials and returned to the central chamber.

Brianna had spotted a secret door in the wall opposite the entrance to the tunnels. Beyond it lay a series of visible tripwires and glyphs. It was an escape tunnel designed to discourage pursuit and narrow enough that anything the size of a human would have to go through single file. It was too much of an ambush risk to go through.

So I manifested energy wave and let the narrow walls channel a sonic blast down its length, collapsing the packed earth as it went. Even a ghoul hive would take weeks of constant work to dig it out. I likewise collapsed the tunnels on our way back, doing so only when we were far enough away to outrun any cave-ins.

When we got back to the farmhouse it was already nighttime. There wasn't a risk of ghouls burrowing into the place but the actual mastermind had eluded us. For our efforts we did acquire some magical gear that, once thoroughly washed with holy water, would be perfectly serviceable. And once I figured out how to remove it, I could teleport back and acquire that enchanted forge.

It would be a huge boon to the Shining Force to be able to more readily create enchanted arms and armor. Until then I have to analyze those mixtures I found. I'm not expecting to like the answers. As the saying goes, "He who increases knowledge, increases sorrow.

Since the undead lack a metabolism, they're unable to gain anything from alcohol and other things mortals imbibe.

A little knowledge of necromancy and alchemy can create things that do affect them in similar ways. Ashley was creating undead narcotics, essentially. Enough to last for quite a while given how potent they would be. The effects on the living would be a mixture of euphoria and quick death followed immediately by undeath with as little as a drop in a mug of ale or a glass of wine. I'm not sure she used them for that purpose, however. They would be too obvious to anyone with a sense of smell or taste when completed and they're horrendous to both.

More than likely she was creating them for herself. No wonder they were familiar. I've seen them consumed by greater undead like vampires in planar cities like Sigil and Union at taverns that served them. The more I learn about this ghoul lord, the more shallow she's turning out to be. Brilliant, but shallow. The Dyer family returned to its farmstead. I use a psionic version of sacred item to supply them with some simple stones that would be useful in driving off or destroying any ghouls that tried to come back.

I even used my right ring of para-elemental control to place two-inch thick stone walls around their root cellar, hindering any future attempts to dig a new tunnel. It was the least I could so since we failed to find and destroy the being responsible. And that doesn't sit well with me. I actually found myself punching the ground in frustration, screaming, before I knew I was doing it. Looking over the past few months I realize I haven't taken any time to just unwind.

Valerie's "attentions" aside, I haven't done anything recreational for too long and the mental strain is beginning to get to me. A part of me wants to just climb into bed and sleep for days just from sheer mental exhaustion. I need to take a break but I have no idea what I want to do. A messenger dropped off a leather-bound invitation to a "meeting" with a secret group of society's elite.

It said I'd been under observation for a year and was determined "to fit with the independent spirit and appreciation for freedom of thought and action" that they embodied. Honestly I would have thrown it away if I didn't recognize the seal stamped at the end. The Order of Unseen Lovers. Of all the groups I could have encountered, this is honestly the last one I ever expected.

Especially in a sleepy and industrious country like Mordent. There aren't really any idle rich or adventurers of sufficient means to fill out their membership roster living here. Nor does the culture really support the idea of a group of people using greater invisibility spells to come together for a party of good food, good drink, and anonymous amorous encounters. That may be the whole idea; few people would ever think to look here.

The order can operate unmolested by those who oppose its libertine ways or who would demand membership if they found out. It's actually a rather brilliant move. This also wouldn't be the first time I was invited to join the Order. Before my durance in the Abyss, I was a member in good standing on another world. I even developed a psionic version of the proper spell simply to attend. Back then I lacked a magic item that could render me invisible.

The rod of stalking I found years ago would work perfectly if I tied it to my upper arm. I also didn't have the crystal eyewhich can pierce the invisibility and ruin the whole idea.

I'd have to wear my eye patch to block it. As much as I'd like to invite the girls, the invitation was very specific that I go alone. It couldn't hurt to check it out. One where the ghostly Lady of the House was allowed to stay because she was genuinely good and just wanted to have living guests again in a mansion restored to its previous interior splendor. A society matron from centuries ago. It was almost too perfect, really.

She got her wish and the Order had the protection of a fairly potent spirit. Come to think of it, no one outside the Force knew about this place. Just as on other worlds, guests arrived and were sent to a side room to disrobe and store their belongings before casting the spell or activating the magic item to render them invisible. I'd almost forgotten about that part. Everyone at these parties was to go naked. Fitting since it's a group where people go to enjoy more carnal pleasures in utter anonymity.

Oh, my! This Order seems like quite the scandalous bunch! Especially if they engage in bedroom behavior openly. Aside from brightly lit chandeliers and a central table filled with the finest food and drink, the room looked empty. It certainly didn't sound empty, though. The familiar scents and sounds of a party were all around me as the head butler announced the arrival of "the Dream Knight.

The last time I had attended such a party I hadn't learned techniques to properly determine if there was someone invisible in front of or around me besides using my senses of hearing and touch.

This time I could practically see their outlines and avoid any collisions. At the head of the room was an ornate padded chair with the depression of someone sitting on it.

Judging by the perfume, I could tell it was a woman. I properly introduced myself and then felt a hand on my shoulders as I bowed. Whoever it was just giggled and blithely mentioned, "It's been centuries, Dream Knight," in Common! I knew that voice. An elven lass I'd met shortly before I left to find Tyriana in the Abyss who pleaded with me not to go. She was something a fan of my adventures as recounted by bards on an outlander world. We wound up chatting for several hours, touching each other's bodies to get a feel for body language as well as less innocuous reasons.

She was horrified by what I'd gone through, but was also genuinely glad I'd survived. She regaled me with her adventures on Toril, learning the elven arts of the songblade as she worked her way across the Sword Coast to Waterdeep to the Spine of the World and Neverwinter Hold and even infiltrating Thay for a while.

It was an encounter with an efreet in Calimshan that sent her here just a couple of years ago. Despite hearing tales of my efforts, she was never able to magically locate me due to my cloak.

Even now I was using a personal mind blank as an added precaution against both detection and anyone who might try to contact me mentally. Instead she joined the Vaasan branch of the Shining Force and worked her way west before establishing the Order at this estate.

That made sense, actually. Even two centuries ago she had earned a reputation as something of a hedonist with a heart of gold. Her time here had been a bit of an ordeal at first. She had the misfortune of arriving in Nova Vaasa and honestly thought she'd never left Toril.

Until she saw nobles using muskets and who didn't speak a word of Common. The Church of Bane ordered her arrest and execution when they learned she was a wizard. It was only because of the Shining Force that she escaped; they raided the temple to free her and others who had been wrongly accused of crimes, causing enough chaos to allow her to escape from an antimagic field she'd been held in. It was a confusing, disorienting experience for her.

But she still proclaimed her gratitude that it had led her to me in the end. By then it was into the early morning and the party was winding down as folks retired to private rooms for sleep or time with someone they'd taken a shine to in more private circumstances. The hostess did the same, asking me to go with her simply to talk more and so we could actually see each other.

Her face had the faint lines of age that elves acquire in their elder years but otherwise she looked like she hadn't aged a day. Since I wasn't using my hat of alteration she could see that my right arm was replaced with a Nettwork - dARKSKULL - Fontanelles: Early Formations Of dARKSKULL (File) metal one, as well as the scar over my left eye.

Her expression was one of concern but I assured her they were old injuries that didn't hurt anymore. In truth I was rather grateful for the items used to compensate for those injuries in Elisime's twisted gladiatorial pits. They aided me in my escape and have been useful countless times since. After talking we retired to bed. Not to enjoy each other's flesh but to literally sleep together in each other's arms.

Sometimes that can be the most intimate form of interaction. Perhaps I've spent too long in Mordent but I had to fight the urge to go out and begin the day's work after eating. The other guests didn't seem to have that problem as many of them chatted, copulated, or did both at once. Others retired to rooms that had been converted into baths with hot and cold running water, an amazing feat given the lack of geothermal vents.

I chose the latter, with Star Breeze joining me so we could talk further. I asked her how she had even learned of the Order's existence in the first place and she told me about a chance encounter in the city of Amn on the Sword Coast.

The place is notorious for strictly regulating the use of magic without a "license" outside of temples and she fell afoul of Athkatla's arcane regulators, the Cowled Wizards, by casting a simple cantrip. One of the wizards who arrested her offered her membership once she paid the outlandish cost to "register" as a licensed magic user. Wealth attracts vice like honey does flies. Especially if the vice breaks laws and offers those who indulge an additional "edginess" to their activities. After she got out of Nova Vaasa, she traveled through Darkon and learned a great deal about how magic works in this world and those who use it.

It was there that she met enough people to form her own branch of the Order. Alongside the aid of the Force I need to talk with Dratha about making these sorts of decisions on her own. Setting up in Darkon wasn't really an option since that land leaches the memories of non-natives. And there are too many spellcasters there who could unduly expose its existence. Other places were likewise out of the question for various reasons, with Dementlieu being especially dangerous after the Cult of Elisime Nettwork - dARKSKULL - Fontanelles: Early Formations Of dARKSKULL (File) shop there.

Mordent turned out to be the perfect place: sedate, reserved, mistrustful of outsiders, filled with buildings the locals would never dream of getting close to, it was perfect. Especially after their chosen site was already cleansed of evil and the only resident spirit left was quite amicable to their purpose.

Last night's party, it turns out, was the first ever held. And judging by the accents I heard in the main ballroom the membership included folks as far away as Sithicus and Kartakass. Still, if I stopped to analyze the number of distinct voices I'd heard, the amount was less than twenty altogether.

The Order is selective even on other worlds, but Star Breeze is being especially so. Listening to her explanation I could understand why; too many fell creatures could infiltrate a party and slaughter everyone or worse. She seemed to be particularly focused on therianthropes. Understandable since therianthropy can be spread sexually and there was no easy way to detect the true nature of non-supernatural shapechanging ability in this world. A single were-beast could spread the Dread Disease and gain several minions without once exposing its true nature.

It was then that she revealed her true purpose in inviting me besides her fan worship. I've been here far longer than her and developed the knowledge necessary to better detect and repel the various creatures she wished to keep out. Unfortunately the methods I use for detection can't be done by others without access to a soul seeker medallion or the aid of a powerful blessed anchorite.

Even other methods useful on other worlds, like sacred item's ability to cause a shapechanger's true form to appear briefly, is unreliable here. As for repelling, there wasn't a lot more that could be done. The estate was already protected a greatly enlarged hallow spell to help protect against undead intruders besides its resident ghost.

Serving foods that contained the chemical banes of therianthropes was possible if the bane wasn't toxic to begin with. But that relied on the target creature actually consuming said foodstuffs.

I could tell she was hoping for something that would ensure complete safety. But that was something I couldn't give. Her only option was to continue as she had been: properly vetting any potential members before they were invited. That wasn't what she wanted to hear and I feel a little bad I couldn't offer any better advice. Maybe some true dweomer or master manifestation could be of help but I'm not sure they would even work in this world.

Or what kinds of attention they would get if they did. I'm not ashamed to say I'm afraid of trying the latter; I've seen the things lurk in, beyond, and even between the Mists.

They would most assuredly respond to such things. After that bath we spent most of the day simply talking about various things. Mostly about life outside the Realms of Dread. She was definitely nostalgic for her old life and a world where magic worked reliably. As for myself, I realized I was more resigned to my fate here.

I've made some good friends and I can't just leave this world as long as I can continue fighting the evil I find. And if I'm being brutally honest, I have doubts that I'll ever escape. I finally left the estate in the mid-afternoon. When I returned home Valerie was both glad I'd returned and angry with me. I was worried she'd start acting possessive and jealous after our intimate encounters. That's actually a natural reaction and I didn't blame her for feeling such. In fact, my own feelings towards her were what kept me from doing anything with Star Breeze.

I don't know how long this love affair will last but I do know I don't want to ruin it or hurt her. Tomorrow it's back to work as usual. I've been hearing stories from the sailors the Archer Trading Company employs of a rotten ship that, by all rights, shouldn't be able to float much less sail.

In each case the ship's moniker, The Endurancewas covered over by another: Ship of Horror. Rudolph is also preparing to publish another of his guides, this one on liches, and he's eager to learn what I know of psiliches and demiliches.

The former I'm confident I can give him some information about. But the latter I've only ever faced once. I'd sooner face a dozen atropals than fight even one demilich again. I was able to help him sort out some of the more egregious myths about psiliches but there's still gaps in our collective understanding.

Once more I'm stymied by the fact that this world plays by an unfamiliar set of rules. As for demiliches, we can be thankful no being in this world has that kind of power.

Not even Azalin is capable of becoming such a potent creature. The sailors for the ATC are becoming more and more antsy, though. Sightings of the Ship of Horrors is increasing and even old salts balk at the thought of making voyages to the islands, despite every incentive I can spare.

Their unwillingness to ship food to Ghastria, one of the ATC's most generous clients, is rather telling.

So I began to investigate the history of the Endurance, such as it is. Unfortunately there's not much, other than scant mentions of it as early as BC when its current captain inherited the ship. The last notable entry was Captain Garvyn taking a job to deliver three corpses to "Todstein," wherever that is. Something must have happened because that's the last time he or his ship was seen before it's return as the Ship of Horrors.

Which leads me to another, very disturbing discovery. The title "Ship of Horrors" is not unique to one vessel but is apparently one that has been held by numerous ships in the past. The captains of the ships are invariably cursed to pilot their ships after they commit some sort of sin on the waters. In fact the ship is a kind of Mistway that can travel between bodies of water by going through the Mists. The captains themselves don't seem to be as tightly bound as the darklords are because each has been released from their curse.

There's an old soul--in the literal sense--in central Mordent who once held the dubious honor of being chosen to pilot the Mistway who shared his story with me in exchange for putting his cutlass with his corpse. He was a merchant sailor who killed his first mate over a game of cards one night and spent over a decade bound to his ship until his curse was broken. He helped fill in the gaps regarding what the Ship of Horrors really is and what happens to those cursed to pilot it.

If his story is true, and I detected no falsehoods in his telling, then Captain Garvyn was already marked for his evil actions before the Endurance became the Ship of Horrors and it was something he did on that fateful voyage that drew the curse. I doubt it was merely a failure to deliver the three corpses he was transporting but something more malicious. Even something as simple as dumping the bodies overboard after taking his money would be worthy of a curse by whatever forces rule this world.

There is one last thing about this that makes my blood run cold. Of the three corpses to be delivered, one was that of a child and one of the corpses to be delivered was that of one Madeline Stern. The second verse of Hyskosa's Hexad reads, "The lifeless child of stern mother found. Heralds a time, night of evil unbound. Especially if Azalin does what Madame Eva said he will and breaks the proper flow of events.

Even I can't guess as to what will happen then. Excerpts from the journals of Alexander Dreamfire, Mordentshire, Mordent, April 30, BC Under the guise of a minor "noble" house in Borca, the Shining Force has established a base in its forested western regions. The ground is fertile but nearly half the trees are blighted by the blue-purple lichen that grows everywhere. That makes them easy to fell but useless for lumber to build the farm that will be our cover.

Thankfully we're so close to the border with Richemulot that importing necessary materials will be easy. I've been planning this for years and I've included ways to tap into the geothermal activity of Borca to create hothouses to supplement the more traditional farming techniques.

Also the area I've chosen is over a sizable chunk of solid bedrock, free of any subterranean hot spots, so our true base can be carved out underground. The stone quarried out will be of great use in building fortifications against both the wildlife and the bandits that roam Borca's interior. We've already attracted a sizable number of workers thanks to the rather generous nature of the indentures.

Other "nobles" scoff at the idea of paying their people "extra" for working more than eight hours a day or giving them a day off to rest every week, painting the ideas as lunacy and worse.

Even the idea of paying for their medical care is foreign to them Then again, they do the same to discourage people from leaving for Richemulot.

The people we attracted are already showing the motivation and loyalty I'd hoped to instill, though. As well as markedly improved health. In less than a week they've already cleared an acre of trees and plowed enough fields to help keep them all fed through the year once the crops come in. One of the overseers I assigned there, a druid, was not happy to see the forest cleared away.

But she also understands the necessity of what we're doing. Especially since the seeds of the healthy trees are being saved to be planted later. I plan on making a trip there in another month or two when things calm down around here. Right now it's the busy season for everyone. The brickworks has just received a massive shipment of clay from around the Core, just in time for orders to start coming in for literal tons of product.

Winter's storms have left the coastal levees in bad shape so I'm trying a different formulation out, one better suited to coastal areas and as hard as iron. They're a bit more expensive but they're still cheaper than Mordentshire paying for new bricks and labor every year. As well, I've taken over some of Rudolph's duties as the town doctor thanks to his frequent trips and requests for my pharmacological skills.

No good deed goes unpunished. The first crops planted yielded a bountiful harvest and game was plentiful. The workers were making amazing progress and realizing their lives will be better here, fostering true loyalty.

Construction of a manor to act as both the house for the overseer and a commons for gatherings and even shelter in emergencies was well underway. Then Ivana Boritsi herself decided to pay a visit with her enforcers.

Her very presence unnerved everyone and before she left, at least two families' only sons died of poison after she demanded they pay her a visit in the bedchamber. There's a powerful sense of mourning and outrage running through the populace and I can't blame them. Legally we can't do a thing to stop her from visiting again in the future. But we can do things to discourage her from visiting personally. Her only real reason for visiting this time was to size up the place and how much money she could extort from it in the future.

Which, I have to admit, I hadn't adequately planned for. So I made the trip here to help restore order and implement measures to help prevent such tragedies from happening again. In particular, making the place seem too unpleasant for her or her minions to visit. Ivana is ruthless and cunning but she's also a sybarite who only cares about her own comfort.

So making Lieben Farms look much more rugged and unrefined than it actually is is one way. That actually isn't too hard since we lack the resources for homes to be decorated elaborately or for the protective walls to be much more than functional. The other is to spread rumors about how insular and hostile to outsiders the place is. And finally, to keep the place from becoming larger than it needs to be. A hamlet or small town rarely develops a reputation for being a place wealthy elites want to visit.

Then there's the unstated purpose of this place. Simply providing food for certain Shining Force bases is proving to be painfully difficult. With fairly simple magic and the natural geothermal properties of Borca, it will be easy to create underground greenhouses that can provide as many as four or five harvests a year.

For that we need outsiders we can trust to keep a secret and are sympathetic to our cause. That will require much the same degree of moral fortitude the Force already demands from its actual members. Underground farms themselves are nothing new.

Mushroom farms in underground tunnels can be found throughout the Core and that's already one of the official purposes of the Farms. The true extent of our subterranean agriculture will need to be kept a secret from everyone who isn't a part of the Farms, though.

Ivana would seize the opportunity to extort more taxes and even the Boritsi Trading Company would want to horn in. Either would defeat the purpose of this place.

The surface greenhouses are already slated for certain luxury crops like coffee from Har'Akir, a drink I'm sure will be quite popular among the nobility and the farms who will want the cherries from the trees to start their own crops. Enough to convince those in power not to interfere since the most flavorful breed of coffee bush is extremely temperamental and won't fruit, much less survive, unless conditions are kept just right.

But for now our efforts are on helping restore what we can. I had to pay an anchorite of the Borcan See an excessive amount of money to come and perform simple funeral rites for the two young men who were murdered because none of the ones I talked to are willing to come and act as shepherds for the faithful and we're too far away from any other settlement with any resident anchorites.

I did make contact with a Mordentish emigre who is a trained anchorite and looking for a more tolerant place to live, especially now that his mortu Vistana wife has just given birth to their daughter. Building a temple would actually help take people's minds off of what happened and give them something to focus their energy on.

This whole affair has been a painful reminder that it's not just the plants and wildlife that's poisonous in Borca. End transcription. The room she used in the manor house birthed a minor Sinkhole of Evil that needed cleansing. It's been negated but true purification will take time and effort. Beginning with the demolition of the place so we can start over. This has forced the Shining Force to openly utilize magic to make up for lost time, something I'd hoped not to do in front of outsiders.

Borcans aren't as violently mistrustful of magic as other cultures in the Core are but they still fear it and those who wield it. This is going to make Lieben Farms' reputation even more sinister than it already was. It's strange enough to clear land in the mostly untouched western forests but to openly use magic as well?

The site of the old manor house has been used to build a temple to Ezra, now that we have a resident anchorite. Thomas Norris and his wife, Katya, arrived three days ago.

Some folks are already speaking of leaving simply because they now have a Vistana among them. But her skills as a healer herself have won over most. Especially when she Nettwork - dARKSKULL - Fontanelles: Early Formations Of dARKSKULL (File) save the life of a woman who would have bled to death in labor had she not been there. Both she and her husband are noble souls, I can literally see that much, and if people want to leave due to some petty bigotry, there's a clause in their indentures to allow that.

This place can't afford to have those who are openly resentful of their lot staying around because of a contract. We need to know that those who aren't a part of the Force will be loyal because they trust us.

And that's impossible to accomplish if they hate us. Thankfully the new work being done is taking everyone's minds off of things. The stone being excavated from underground is, as expected, granite. What's remarkable is that it's actually a pink-hued variety, high in demand among the upper classes across the Core. We've quarried enough to cover our needs already and can export the majority of it. That means dealing with the Boritsi Trading Company, though. In all honesty, I'm fine with that as long as I'm not the one doing the actual dealing.

There is so much bad blood between us that any deal made would likely fall through out of sheer mistrust on both sides. Complicating matters is how deep the deposit is, nearly a quarter of a mile. This was always going to be an underground quarry but even with magic it will take nearly a year to remove enough material to build the planned base. That's not including any complications that inevitably arise.

That's cutting it close to the time of Hyskosa's Prophecy for comfort. Well, onward and upward. The natural grain of the granite deposits have made it surprisingly easy to cut blocks out while leaving a stable floor and ceiling. Those will still need reinforcing but we can move a lot more material than I'd originally thought.

There's already enough space for the first of the mushroom gardens to be built, something I had thought wouldn't happen until next spring at the earliest. There's even talk of growing morchella--true morels that are highly prized by chefs and gastronomes alike--but I'm not a mycologist.

I don't know if they can be cultivated and retain their unique flavor. This leads us to something I'd thought we'd have more time for. Namely, a renewed need for lumber and large amounts of mulch.

The latter is actually easy since many towns and cities will gladly give away their garbage. It just takes time to convert. The latter is where things will get tricky. The local woods don't provide enough usable material for this new demand. Nor would I authorize such because they're a part of the place's defenses.

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