Best ball rankings

BestBall

2021.08.01 20:49 praz2 BestBall

Discuss the Fantasy Football Best Ball format here! Post your teams, discuss players and strategies for tournaments and normal leagues.
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2023.01.18 05:43 DynastyAnalyst Fantasy_BestBall

Fantasy Football community featuring content and discourse on season long fantasy formats and tournaments. Individual league chat is welcome as well. This subreddit will feature a variety of great fantasy articles, podcasts, and advice as well so feel free to add too it!
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2008.08.27 23:14 /r/fantasyfootball - Good For Your Season

/fantasyfootball - Good For Your Season
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2023.06.03 17:55 MJMobileLegends Mobile Legends Best Esmerelda Skins Revealed (All Esmerelda Skins Ranked)

Mobile Legends Best Esmerelda Skins Revealed (All Esmerelda Skins Ranked) submitted by MJMobileLegends to u/MJMobileLegends [link] [comments]


2023.06.03 17:54 hhthememegod People are underestimating rin

Rin is still the best player in blue lock even though we haven't seen his improvement in the NEL He is easily the second-best defender in the blue lock (very close to aiku imo)
  1. bachira(the best at dribbling in blue lock) was not able to get past him in a 1v1 during the second selection
  2. has intercepted many passes and shoots
  3. can read the field easily and make people do what he wants
  4. was the only one in the u20 match who was able to keep up with sae and shidou during defense
  5. stole the ball from sae in a 1v1 (though only once)
In offense 1. flow rin has top 3 dribble in blue lock 2. crazy curve shot and Long range, can shoot with left leg if needed 3. has really good passes and playmaking 4. was way better than isagi at reading the field before the NEL Rin also beat a new gen 11 player in a 1v1 which isagi was only able to do in the NEL and that wasn't even a 1v1
submitted by hhthememegod to BlueLock [link] [comments]


2023.06.03 17:52 Sensitive1111 My Theory, Prediction & Analysis of Classroom of the Elite after reading until Year 2 Volume 9

[Most of these are probably just my bias imagination.] I believe the reason why the school accepts academically-challenged students with obvious conduct disorder is probably so that they can control the amount of class points each class would have after the first month of their first year. If they put most undisciplined students in Class D and most disciplined students in Class A, it will create the rank or hierarchy that they want. In other words, students like Ike, Yamauchi & Karuizawa are probably accepted so that they will behave poorly to keep Class D the last class. This method will hold back students like Horikita, Kushida, & Hirata who don't seem to have any problems on the outside, but have a lot of problems on the inside. This situation will allow Horikita who sees other people as a baggage to learn cooperation. This will also allow Hirata to come into terms with his emotions through the trials and tribulations the class will face. It will also force Kushida to reveal her true self when faced with inevitable betrayal. Horikita's class and Ryuen's class doesn't have much difference especially in terms of academic and physical ability (especially in the beginning), except for the fact that a lot of students in Horikita's class have a problematic hidden self. Students in Ryuen's class on the other hand are much more stable. They have a clear personality, whether it's good or bad. This stability in personality is also true for students in Sakayanagi's and Ichinose's class. Only Horikita's class have students with what seem to be split personality. (The fluctuation and growth of each students affect their class rank as well. We witnessed the fall of Ichinose's class as almost all students in her class lose their individuality under Ichinose's rule.) Almost all the significant characters in Horikita's class have a hidden self, especially those introduced early. Plain Sakura is secretly a gravure idol. The cold Horikita Suzune secretly has a brother complex. The sweet Kushida is secretly a person full of hate. The charismatic Hirata was secretly like Ryuen in his past school because he carries the guilt of not being able to save his best friend from bullies. Of course, the main character, the unremarkable Ayanokoji is secretly a perfect human being nurtured inside a lab called the white room. Other students in Horikita's class also have some notable quirks. The Professor (Sotomura) is talented with scheming (and some technical stuff related to technology if I remember correctly). Ike is a skilled camper. Hondou is an otaku. Sudou is of course an athlete. The girl Onodera is also an athlete. Akito is an archer. Some students also excel academically, such as Keisei, Wang Mei-Yu and Matsushita. On the other hand, the other students in Horikita's class are plain and have nothing remarkable about them, like Shinohara, Sato, Yamauchi, and some other students. One character to to note is Hasebe who's most noteworthy characteristic is having a big chest and being Sakura's best friend. Kouenji is one of the most remarkable character, the existence that Ayanokoji cannot grasp and control. So Horikita's class is composed of students that can be classified under some categories: (1) students who excel in all areas but lacking in terms of personality or have something problematic hidden, that would be Horikita, Kouenji, Hirata, and Kushida; (2) students who excel only academically, such as Keisei and Wang Mei-Yu; (3) students who excel with physical abilities such as Sudo, Onodera, and Akito; (4) students with quirks such as Ike, Professor, Sakura (who is secretly a gravure idol), etc.; (5) lastly, the plain students. One existence that doesn't fall under any of categories stated above is Kei Karuizawa. She should be plain since she doesn't excel in anything, nor does she have any particular quirk. But she's described as the leader of the girls in Horikita's class. Her image is that of a bitch gyaru who almost verbally bullies other people. Everyone assumed she's a girl who chases after pretty boys ever since junior high, even Ayanokoji thought so. However, that assessment turns out to be far from the truth as she never had romantic experience and never even held a boy's hand until she met Ayanokoji. She turned out to be a severely bullied girl who had a near-death experience which scarred her both physically and psychologically. In other words, she could belong to the category of plain students because she doesn't have anything to offer academically and physically, but at the same time, she also isn't really plain because she has a strong influence towards the girls. She could also fall under the category of students with a hidden self, but at the same time, she's not academically nor physically remarkable like the others under that category. The way her character is made means that she's one of the best test subject for Ayanokoji's goal in training his classmates, because Kei is someone who hit rock bottom and only surviving by becoming a parasite. And this whole ordeal of her is stopping her from growing. It might not be possible but Ayanokoji might end up training Karuizawa with some martial arts for self-defense. If he really plans to help Karuizawa become independent, then he should come up with a strategy to help Kei overcome her trauma from the experience of nearly being killed. One strategy would be to teach her self-defense. The best sign of Kei's growth would be her initiative to break up with Ayanokoji. In other words, it would be best if Kei is the one who breaks up with Ayanokoji instead of the other way around. That's why for me, I don't think Ayanokoji would initiate the break up in Year 2 Volume 9.5. He would probably mend their relationship if it's at the point of breaking down because of Ichinose. That's because, if they separate now, Kei would go back to being a parasite of Hirata or move on to some other strong guys, maybe someone from Sakayanagi's class like Machida or Hashimoto. That being said, the hidden selves and inner issues of students of Horikita's class is being dealt with one by one. Hirata was the first, then Horikita, now Kushida. Everytime one of their inner issues are resolved, Horikita's class steps up in the class rank. It goes without saying that once Ayanokoji reveals his hidden self, Horikita's class will reach Class A. Now, it would be a different story if Ayanokoji changes class. I don't know which class has enough funds to help Ayanokoji transfer. But as of now, I don't think any of the classes has 20 million points. The only class who might have that amount of points is Sakayanagi's class which is the least likely class that Ayanokoji would transfer to. But if the author wants it, it's also possible. However, for now, I don't see Ayanokoji changing class just yet, if he ever will. At the very end, the class at the bottom of the ranking might be Ryuen's class. Ichinose's class might be the Class C. And, Sakayanagi's class would be Class B. While Horikita's class would be the final Class A. Or some shounen anime thing might happen and they all graduate from Class A. Honestly though, I don't think Kushida was such a bad person. Even if her inner feelings were different from her behavior, it's the truth that she was a very helpful classmate. In her previous school, it was honestly annoying how everyone criticized her after they found out about her true feelings when they're the ones who took advantage of her kindness. No matter how hateful Kushida felt, it doesn't erase all the help that she did. It was rather draining to see her pretend everyday. The only annoying thing about her is the fact that she repeatedly try to expel Ayanokoji and Suzune. Excluding that, she was very helpful to her other classmates. Even if you say that those actions don't come from the heart, it still took a lot of effort and patience. Honestly, her hidden self isn't that dark. Her past was just her being taken advantage off and then her retaliating. If someone tried to see through her and give her a comfort place where she can be her true self, she would have avoided being overstressed. She wouldn't have become twisted. One thing I don't understand is Ichinose's character. Karuizawa Kei's character becoming useless is one thing, but Ichinose's character changing from being the cool & beautiful Class B leader to a damsel in distress kinda left a bad taste. When she became vulnerable for the first time after rumors about her starts spreading, it was understandable. However after that, she broke down again and again which surprised me because she's different from the cool character initially introduced. Her transition from being the cool and capable Class B leader to a damsel in distress didn't feel natural. I was honestly annoyed that she keeps getting depressed. I understand Ichinose has a lot of fans as well, but she didn't really interest me because I know that she represents the cool female heartthrobs which is a common character in Japanese romance stories and other genres. I do know that she's a great character. But I don't understand why nobody aside from myself (and some few) was disappointed with her becoming a damsel in distress. I do understand now, after reading Year 2 Volume 9, why she became a damsel in distress. The author was preparing her to become a sort of yandere character. She was reborn into another type of character. She did become more interesting. But I still feel like the author overdid in making her a damsel in distress though, it was over the top. The reason why I think it was over the top is because COTE has a lot of characters, and the pages used for making Ichinose depressed could have been used to introduce other characters more smoothly so that they wouldn't feel like they appeared out of no where. Characters like Matsushita for example, she suddenly has her own point of view in the novel but she was never introduced as a remarkable character initially. One last thing I want to say is Ayanokoji's love for Karuizawa is most probably real. He always described his own human emotions since the beginning of the light novel. Even though he's supposed to be apathetic, he's happy when people and girls talk to him. He also went through change, specially because of Manabu. Ayanokoji was especially particularly obsessed with Manabu and Suzune's reconcilation as siblings, a behavior that is supposed to be abnormal for someone apathetic. Ayanokoji has strong control over his emotions, that's for sure. But, he does feel emotions. He might be using Kei to experience what romantic love is, but he has to truly experience those emotions to truly understand the concept. Otherwise, he's just acting and only learning about empty romantic relationship, not romantic love. In other words, he does love Kei romantically, but since he's capable of controlling his emotions, it doesn't appear as strong as it should. This is also to say that Ayanokoji did really truly care about Sakura as a friend, and that he was hurt when Sakura was expelled even if he doesn't express it verbally. In case I'm wrong, I'm willing to take the shame.

P.S. I'm new to reddit so please let me know if I'm doing something I ain't supposed to do.
submitted by Sensitive1111 to ClassroomOfTheElite [link] [comments]


2023.06.03 17:51 throwaway_dimes My boyfriend (23M) refuses to have sex with me (24F) during the entirety of our 8 year relationship. I'm seriously considering packing up and leaving.

TLDR: My boyfriend refuses to have sex with me because of his ED problems. No matter what I try, he will not budge. We fight all the time, and he gives me empty promises over sex. When he's not feeling nice, he blames me for all our sex problems even though I've been nothing but supportive. Will he ever go back to the person I fell in love with, or should I just ditch everything and fly back home (originally started as an LDR, but I moved across the country for him).
This relationship has so much heartbreak in it for me, but I genuinely love him as a person, and I really thought he would be the man I would marry. He is a great human (most of the time) which makes me feel that much more disgusted with myself that I can't be happy without sex. He provides for me now that we live together, we go on cute dates/ vacations sometimes, we have similar interests, and above all, he is my best friend. He is my rock. He comforts me when other things in my life get hectic. That being said, our sex life is atrocious.
I have to skip a lot of detail on how our long distance relationship went. We met on a videogame of all things when we were 15/16. We had never been in a relationship, and we were virgins when we started dating. We met in person 4 years after our relationship began. Not by my choice. Anyways, I thought when we met it would be full of loving, passionate sexual things. It was not. He knew I was a very sexual person before he even asked me to be his girlfriend. We were always sending each other pictures and videos of the ahem.. spicy variety haha. We always flirted with each other, and he even asked me for sexy video chats and phone calls. So, when we met, and he had zero interest in fucking me, I was surprised to say the least. Anyways, we went on cute dates, had our first kiss, watched movies in the hotel, etc. All was great until I tried initiating sex. He was not getting the hint. I was very shy, so I backed off the first couple times I tried. Eventually, I gathered up the courage and flat out asked him to fuck me lol. He happily obliged, but when we tried, he gave up after about 2 minutes because he said he couldn't stay hard enough. I thought I felt something, but I guess he no longer had an erection. He felt really bad, but I just comforted him and gave him a handjob/blowjob instead which he loved. He didn't reciprocate, but I didn't really care because I just liked making him feel good. We tried to have sex again a couple days later, but he couldnt keep it up then either. For the rest of the trip I just did things to pleasure him.
A few more visits went by, all of which had zero real sex. He for whatever reason just couldn't do it. He was really upset about it and called himself a failure despite me comforting him. He basically became sexually abstinent. I really think this impotence made him hate sex or even the thought of it because he shows no interest at all in even touching me let alone anything more intense. He barely even kissed me for god's sake. He would never make out with me, feel my body, pleasure me (not like he did in the first place). It was really awful for me because physical intimacy is very important in my happiness. I hate that it is, but I can't help it. I would try to talk to him about trying again, but it always ended up in a fight. He always gets so defensive when I ask him for more sexy times. During year 4-6 of our LDR relationship, I just gave him head and asked him to kiss me. I even offered him my dildo to use on me because I really needed something back y'all. If blue balls can happen to women that has been me up until this day lol.
The dildo seemed to ease the pressure on him, but he still refused to try real sex. He never offered to dildo me after I gave him blowjobs until I started literally crying for him to give me loving attention. I had to initiate everything, and even when I did he wouldn't get the hint. It really just sucked the fun out of it for me, but I desperately wanted that connection with him. He told me to keep trying, so I kept initiating even if he rejected me or didn't understand what I was doing. It was rough. I started crying a lot more, and bothering him about it. I think that really made him hate sex more because he started saying things like "all you want is sex", "why can't you love me without sex", "I don't care about sex so why can't you do the same?". He even blamed his problems on me gaining a bit of weight. I did gain like 30lbs during the LDR because of a multitude of problems going on in my life. Ever since he blamed my weight, it really destroyed my confidence. He has since taken that back, and tells me everyday how perfect I am, but I don't believe him. How can I? He claims he just never thinks about sex anymore, and that's why he doesn't touch me or care about my needs.
I ended our relationship around year 6 because he wasn't treating me right. The breakup lasted about 4 months. It was hell for me because I missed my best friend, and I was so angry with myself and him for sex being the reason things ended. I just wanted to be loved.. he still talked to me everyday which made me miss him so desperately. He said he would fly over to see me, and try his hardest to love me how I needed. He promised he would put more effort into sex because he didn't want to lose me. Stupid me let him do it because I was still hopelessly in love with him. I really thought he would stay true to his word.
From that point on, he did start initiating more. We still couldn't have real sex, but atleast he was showing interest in my body and my feelings. He really started putting effort into pleasuring me, and it felt mostly right to be with him. I was still sad I couldn't have more, but I really genuinely love this man despite the hardships. During year 7 of LDR I had a falling out with my family and needed to move out. He offered to let me come live with him and his family. I was hesitant because our sex life still made me upset, but he reassured me that we could practice sex all the time now that we can see each other everyday. I fell for it... lol.
I moved across the country. Many things changed from that point. He didn't practice sex at all with me. He started barely kissing me again, he never initiated anything, he acted like he had no idea I wanted to have sexy times. We fought a lot. At this point, I was MAD. I was soooo done with all his lies. I gave up my comfy job, my puppies, my friends, my whole life because he said he would be everything I needed. He knew I trusted him, and he just shit all over me. During our fights he would blame me even more for our relationship failing. He said if I didn't want sex, none of this would be happening.
I'm just so frustrated and honestly suicidal now because he just amplifies my depression. Now that I'm stuck out here with no money and no way to get back he kinda just treats me however he feels he can. When he's feeling nice and loving during sex fights he apologizes and tells me to keep initiating even though he rejects me when I do that 90% of the time. When he's feeling defensive and mean during sex fights he will blame me for everything and tell me to go back to where I came from. It's disgusting... He will always apologize and tell me he's the problem the next day. I feel like he's definitely manipulating me now that I live here, but I'm not sure why. What's the point 😔
If he doesn't like sex, and he hates me for wanting it, why did he let me move here? I'm so torn up because I just can't let go of the person he used to be I guess. I'm also very forgiving and compassionate. I know he hates himself for not being able to have sex with me. He would cry and punch the wall because he saw how much he was neglecting me. I try to understand, and forgive him for his awful behavior, but I really don't think I can take anymore or else I'll be dead. A couple fights ago, I said I would give him until the end of the year to make our sex life better. He agreed. Then he continued to be a crappy partner, so we fought again. This time he added that he would work harder at sex only if I also put effort into losing weight for my "health". That really gave me the ick and ever since that happened, I can't even look at him the same. I no longer give him blowjobs. I rarely ever cuddle or spend time with him. He asked me why that is, so I just snort and say "gee I wonder why". He doesn't know what I mean by that. Just what the hell.
To make things worse, he has a ring in his nightstand for me, and I just don't even want marriage anymore. Why can't I let go of him? I am so fucking pathetic. He's a sociopath I swear. He will treat me so well when I'm not asking for sex, but as soon as I want to do anything slightly sexual he gets all weird. Then if I press too hard it turns into a fight where we are both threatening to jump off the balcony and crack our necks to escape this hell. What happened to my sweet boyfriend I fell in love with 😔
I've suggested trying different positions, getting ED medication, riding him if he's scared of being on top or whatever. Anything you guys can think of to fix this I've most likely already done it 🤷‍♀️ I've even asked him if he's gay or asexual to which he denies. Not my proudest moment, but this is so abnormal.
submitted by throwaway_dimes to relationship_advice [link] [comments]


2023.06.03 17:50 TheScribe_1 [The Book of the Chosen] - Chapter Twelve - The Blacksmith's Boy (Part Three)

Fourth and final part at the same time tomorrow.
Series Page - Read 10 weeks ahead on Patreon - Read the story so far on Royal Road
*
Chapter Twelve - The Blacksmith's Boy (Part Three)
Clouds. Black, moving, twisting like rope. His head ached. His blood was hot as flame. Fire flashed in the clouds, and the old stormtower gleamed. The Old Man stared back at him from the gloom, eyes carving at his skin. You could have warned me. He taunted him. Smoke bled around his shoulders, and his skin melted away. Cal tried to look away, but it was too late. The fire was on him, and the sky filled his eyes with black water, smothering his breath.
*
He gasped, pain searing down his spine, and choked on his own breath, spluttering.
‘Get him up.’
‘I’ve got him.’
Lokk’s voice. Cal felt a hand curling underneath one of his arms, lifting his aching jaw off the floorboards. Pain shot down his back again, and he cried out, eyes spinning. Then there was another hand beneath him, and he was lifted groaning away from the floor. They lowered him carefully into a chair, and he fell against it, skin stinging, panting through gritted teeth.
‘What happened to him?’
‘Had a wolf at ‘im, by the looks of it!’
‘Don’t be a fool! No wolves in these woods.’
‘Believe in magic, but not in wolves?’
Cal groaned again.
‘Shut it, all of you!’
Cal blinked again, and the Innkeep’s rosy cheeks coalesced into the air before his eyes, looking down at him worriedly. Lokk was at his shoulder, wide-eyed, his mop of lank hair hanging loosely over his forehead. Someone had put the door to, and it was suddenly very quiet. Cal took a breath.
‘What happened, boy?’ The Innkeep asked him. Beyond his shoul-ders, Cal could see the faces of a half-dozen patrons, blinking back at him with wide eyes. All except Old Godry, who looked mildly irritated. Outside, the storm wailed helplessly against the thatching, and thunder rumbled against the hills, more distant, now. Cal held his breath, craning his ears. But the footsteps were gone. He swallowed.
‘There were…’ He hesitated, glancing towards the door. ‘I… fell.’
‘Down half the Teeth by the looks of it!’ Lokk pointed at his arms. ‘What were you doing out in this?’
Cal blinked, looking down. His arms were crisscrossed with dozens of bloody cuts, and his shirt was hanging off him in strings. He frowned, shrugging, and then winced as fire raced over his skin, and fell back against the chair, gasping.
‘Thought… Thought I had time to get back.’
‘Damned fool.’ Carel told him, appearing beside her father. She had a pail of steaming water under one arm, and a bundle of rags in the oth-er. ‘Got to clean those before they rot.’
‘I’m fi-’
‘That’s enough talking.’ The Innkeep told him. ‘Or I’ll want coin for the cloth.’
Cal thought better of arguing.
‘Saw a fair few mugs go over.’ The Innkeep turned towards the rest of the room, smiling reassuringly. ‘I’ll fetch a new barrel. This one’s on the house.’
A few grumbles of approval from the assembled regulars. They were all watching him. He could feel their eyes on him, prying, poking. Sen-sible boys know better than to go wandering in a storm. They’d always thought the Blacksmith’s stray was cracked. Same as his master. Godry seemed to have let his irritation go at the promise of free ale, but Cal spotted the butcher’s brute of a son, Petr, sneering back at him over the rim of his mug. He lowered his eyes. They thought him mad. Maybe they were right. Behind his eyes, the shadows were still chasing him through endless trees, clawing at his heels. But the door stayed closed, and there was no sound beyond it but the storm. Maybe he was losing his mind.
‘Quite the show, that was.’ Lokk grinned as his father went off to find the barrel. Carel rolled her eyes, pulling up another chair and set-ting about dampening the cloth. ‘Barely seen you in weeks, then you show up all bloody an’ panting like a wolf that’s got in with the chick-ens? You always knew how to make an entrance.’
Cal grunted. He didn’t feel like explaining himself. Wasn’t sure he could, even if he did.
‘Scared off the new folk, too.’ Lokk nodded towards an empty table in the far corner of the room, scattered with discarded mugs.
Cal blinked. ‘What?’
‘Had some of Solen’s new hands in tonight.’ Lokk told him offhand-edly, scratching his chin. ‘Quiet lot. Must have given them quite the fright. Saw themselves out sharpish.’
‘What did… hnngg.’ Cal clamped his teeth together with a groan as Carel pressed one of the rags against his bloody forearm.
‘Stay still.’ She told him, wiping the cloth slowly across his skin. It felt like someone was stripping his flesh with a wood plane. Cal clenched his jaw, forcing himself not to yelp. Lokk lounged idly against the bar beside him, sweeping his loose hair back from his forehead un-tidily.
‘Interrupted Godry, too.’ His friend went on, clearly unperturbed by his suffering. ‘Old goat hates being interrupted.’
Cal grunted again. The little clump of patrons seemed to have lost interest in him, now, turning back to their mugs as the Innkeep moved deftly through the tables, a little cask under his arm. Petr and his father were sitting glowering at no one in particular. Forley and his young wife Priss looked taken aback, and not the least bit shaken, by the un-expected turn of events the evening had taken, but the dour-faced min-ers beside them (whose names Cal did not know) seemed to have paid Cal’s entrance no heed at all. Old Godry was sitting patiently, firelight knotting over his scarred cheeks, waiting for his cue. Soon their mugs were full again, and the foolishness of the Blacksmith’s stray was quite forgotten. The Innkeep set the empty cask down somewhere behind the bar, and went off to find another barrel. Cal gritted his teeth as Carel went on with her work, eyes watering, and watched the villagers blur indifferently by the fire.
‘You weren’t finished, Godry.’ Albin, the butcher began, taking a long swig from his mug. ‘’bout to tell us how the wizard farted out his storm to save the savages.’
Cal saw Forley roll his eyes. ‘You know damned well where we were! Tell us about Arolf!’
Albin scowled, opening his mouth to retort, but Godry regained his composure in time to step in.
‘Aerolf, Forley.’ He corrected patiently.
‘Aerolf, then.’ The young shepherd agreed, rolling his eyes. ‘What happened next?’
‘Well, like I was saying, old King Talor’s already met his end, but them Northmen weren’t done yet. That beast Aerolf most of all.’ Godry began, lowering his voice and eyeing his audience conspiratorially. ‘He had a score to settle, see. This weren’t the kind of man to let a woman run from him, you understand.’
‘Serves him right.’ Albin grumbled. ‘Couldn’t keep her in his bed, even with a sword on her.’
The two miners snorted in agreement, and Petr just kept scowling. Cal flinched as Carel drew her rag over a particularly deep cut. He caught her eye reproachfully, and she smiled slyly.
‘Oops.’
She was very close, he realised, and he could feel the heat of her against his cut-thread skin. Another night, he might even have enjoyed it.
‘So there they was, dead King and all. Could of had the throne for hisself, right then.’ The old miner continued gravely. ‘But he was more animal than man. Mad as a beast, they say, big as a bear, covered head to toe in blood, cut up like an old buck. And this beast had a taste for blood.’
The little circle of villagers leaned a little closer in their seats, eye-ing Godry eagerly. Cal realised he was listening along with them.
‘So off he goes, bloody magic blade in hand.’ Godry held out his hand like a blade, scowling at them over the fire. ‘He finds that place where old King Talor locked up his pretty young daughter. And what’d’you think he does when he finds it?’
‘Kills her.’ Forley whispered.
‘That’s right, boy.’ Godry nodded, dropping his arm. ‘Heard it said he clawed the tower door open with his bare hands. Dragged her out in-to that garden, butchered her right there in the grass, threw her off that big rock of theirs like an old ham. This weren’t a man you run from. If he couldn’t have her, no one could.’
‘How’d they kill him, then?’ Albin asked, frowning.
‘Well, see now. Northmen ain’t the only one with monsters.’ Godry said craftily, raising one patchwork brow. ‘Dekar’s a sharp one. He’d realised what was afoot, by now. Rallied the King’s Men, drove the scum back out of the King’s hall. Weren’t a man amongst them left standing, save the ones in the garden. But for Aerolf and them, he saved his best killer.’
‘The Bloodless.’ Forley murmured.
‘The Bloodless.’ Godry agreed. ‘Biggest woman you’ve ever seen. Big as a wagon, skin like blue snow. They say there’s nought but ice in them veins, and if you cut her, she don’t bleed.’
‘And I’ve got rocks for balls.’ Albin snorted.
‘Might as well, for all the good they do you.’ Godry snapped back at him. ‘But the Bloodless finds the traitor. Right there in that garden, all covered in the Princess’s blood. Cuts Aerolf down, throws him from the walls after her, him and his magic sword. Almost killed that Stonesplitter dog, too, whilst she were at it. Weren’t no easy thing though; gets her head cut open like a peach for its trouble. Should’ve died, right there. Would’ve, if not for those… other types Dekar had took up with.’
‘‘Least the traitor was dead.’
‘Aye, that he was. That Heartspire’s taller than a mountain. Say there weren’t nothing left of him but mulch, once he got to the bottom. Him and the princess both.’
‘Makers have mercy.’ Forley murmured, making the sign of the Nine over his breast. Even Albin took another mouthful of ale.
‘Weren’t no mercy. A beast don’t deserve none.’ Godry said sober-ly, following Forley and drawing a circle over his chest. ‘If he couldn’t ‘ave her, no one could.’
Cal barely heard them. He felt drained, as though the cuts had bled the weight from his bones. He floated just above his chair in a haze, and the roomed blurred and swayed as if through shallow water. Carel went about her work quietly, carefully, and the pain of it washed over him in raw waves, until the pail of water at her feet was stained an ugly pink.
‘Dekar had a plan though!’ Forley whispered excitedly, his rever-ence forgotten. ‘Tell ‘em, Godry!’
‘That he did, Forley.’ Godry smiled, his scarred face contorting gro-tesquely. ‘See, that Dekar’s sharp as a carving knife. Took up Taylor’s magic sword, led the King’s Men himself. But that weren’t all. Had some of his men kept back, from down West. Big men. Hard men. Came on the Northmen camp in the dead of night. Surrounded ‘em.’
‘Weren’t just any men, I hears it.’ Albin grumbled.
‘Here we go!’ Forley snorted.
‘Said it yourself, Godry. Dekar took up with them religious types.’ Albin shot back, frowning indignantly. ‘Everyone knows it.’
‘Religious? Masks don’t keep the Makers.’ Forley spat. ‘Ain’t noth-ing but bandits dressed up like monks.’
Cal blinked.
‘Brothers ain’t got no Gods save the Darkness.’ Priss murmured qui-etly. ‘You say Nine, I say eight.’
‘All the same.’ Albin was saying, folding his arms over his mug. ‘Brothers are useful, and good old Dekar didn’t sniff at them like you do.’
‘That’s enough, Alb.’ Godry interrupted. ‘He’s still our King, even all the way out here.’
Cal opened his mouth, straightening in his seat, but Carel pushed him back down again tutting.
‘Sit still.’
‘But-’
‘Hardly our King anymore, anyways.’ Albin spat. ‘Not like it used to be. Valia’s for the lowlanders.’
‘You sounds like a Northman.’ Forley scowled.
‘Or one of the Elahi.’ Priss added. Albin bristled, and Godry jumped in just in time.
‘Doesn’t matter. All Dekar’s hard men never got to the Northmen camp.’ The grizzled old smelter went on. ‘Seems old Isandur weren’t done yet.
Cal gritted his teeth. His head ached, and his mouth tasted like smoke.
Albin spat at his feet, sneering. ‘Isandur my arse.’
‘Let him be, Alb.’ Forley told him.
There was a moment of uncomfortable silence as the butcher and his son fixed Forley with their most angry of looks. Then Godry cleared his throat noisily, and Petr shoved himself to his feet and stalked off to-wards the bar, snatching up their empty mugs as he went.
‘But Isandur is a crafty one, and no mistake. Showed up just in time, as always. What he wanted from it, no man can say. Them Chosen are scheming sorts, what ones is left. Us mortals couldn’t guess what they’s thinkin’.’ He paused, nodding knowingly. ‘Storm-tamers, they call ‘em. He spoke the words, and the sky opened. Biggest storm you’ve ever seen. Caught Dekar’s men as they came. Scattered ‘em like wheat in a gale.’
Petr aimed a crooked smile at Carel as he passed, and she lowered her eyes. Cal barely noticed. He no longer heard Godry. The room around him seemed very far away. Was he awake? Or was he dream-ing?
‘Northerners took the chance. Fled faster than the wind what chased them. Them that were still on the rock, them what murdered and killed our King?’ Godry went on, shaking his head sadly. ‘Them he called the wind itself for, and carried them away before Dekar could get at them. Aerolf’s brother, among them. King of the North, he goes by now. Couple of other Northmen, too. Stonesplitter cut almost in half by the Bloodless’ blade.’
Albin spat on the floor, and the miners scowled. No right-minded Valian liked this part, magic or not. Cal ground his teeth.
‘That Chosen bastard let the King get his throat slit, then shows up to save his killers.’ Albin cursed.
‘Makers know why. Not been seen since.’ Godry agreed. ‘Back they went, anyway, back to the rest of the savages as they fled like dogs. Storm was so heavy, river banks burst behind them, flooded half the valley.’
Cal’s heart was pounding in his ears, and his skull was ringing. Out-side, the wind whined over the thatching, howling at the broken clouds.
‘Don’t matter how many men Dekar had. Or how many Brothers. Ain’t no one swimming in mail.’
Cal forced his eyes shut. Black Ones. A storm. Falling.
‘Cal?’
He opened his eyes, blinking into the firelight, and found Carel look-ing down at him worriedly.
‘Does it hurt?’ She was asking softly.
‘What… no, I’m fine.’ He told her, blinking again. ‘I need to…’
‘Stay here.’ She told him, lifting up the bloody pail. ‘I need more cloth.’
She turned on her heel and disappeared. Cal’s head spun.
‘… already scared off the new folk with all these tall stories.’ Albin was saying. ‘Storm’s just a storm. Forge boy knows.’
Cal blinked, lurching unsteadily to his feet. Asking questions, the Innkeep had said. His vision blurred unsteadily, and the room stared back at him, wobbling like a top.
‘Cal, you need to sit down.’ Lokk told him, putting a hand on his shoulder.
Cal blinked. His eyes stopped spinning, and the ache in his head had vanished. The wind had moved on overhead, and the air was thick with smoke and heat. The little group of patrons were eyeing him curiously. All save the butcher.
‘Listen to him boy, before you hurt yourself.’ Albin sneered back at him.
‘Come on, Cal. Ignore him.’ Lokk murmured in his ear.
Cal swallowed, meeting the swarthy butcher’s eye for a moment. Then he let himself be steered backward, slumping into his seat like an empty sack.
‘Must have lost more blood than I thought.’ Lokk told him, pulling up a chair beside him and tutting. ‘Want to pick a fight with Albin as well as that storm?’
‘What?’ Cal mumbled, blinking. The butcher had gone back to his drink, and the other villagers had gone with him, grumbling amongst themselves about the practicalities of storm-tamers and treacherous, magical old men. He took a breath. ‘I wasn’t. I-’
‘Sure looked like you were. You know Alb. Just his way. Didn’t mean anything by it.’
‘Lokk, when did the new folk leave?’
‘What? Oh… I told you. Right after you turned up. Spooked ‘em good, you did, all bloody like a fresh ham…’
‘Where did they go?’
‘How should I know? Had my hands full peeling you off the floor. Why d’you care, anyway?’
‘Lokk, I need to…’
‘Oh, no you don’t! You aren’t going anywhere. Need to rest.’ His friend told him, pinning him to his chair by his shoulders. ‘Look like you fell down half the Teeth face first.’
‘I…’ Cal began, lowering his voice. His head was clearing, and the room was no longer spinning like a leaf. Beside the fire, the other pa-trons were still bickering emptily. The storm had passed, and the ache of it was clearing from his battered skull. ‘I didn’t just fall. Something was chasing me.’
‘What are you talking about? You crack your head, too?’
‘Lokk, listen. There were…’
‘Let go!’
They both looked up at the sudden commotion from beside the bar. Carel had just made it out from behind it with a fresh pail of steaming water before Petr had cornered her, bulky shoulders blocking the way forward like a stubborn bullock. He had one meaty hand curled around Carel’s wrist, and she had her eyes fixed on the floor. Cal was on his feet before Lokk could say anything.
‘Let go of her.’
The big youth let go of Carel’s wrist, and the pail fell abruptly back to her side, spilling steaming water across the floor. She looked at it distantly, frowning.
‘Or what, you little shit?’ The butcher’s son grumbled throatily, turning slowly around to facing Cal, glaring down at him with rheumy-eyes. His words had the imprecise edge of drink to them, and his breath smelled of sour ale. ‘Gonna throw yourself down a fucking hill at me?’
‘Just leave her be, Petr.’ Lokk added from Cal’s shoulder.
‘Mind your own business.’ The big youth snorted, still glaring at Cal darkly. ‘Sit down before you hurt yourself, stray.’
He began to turn back to Carel. Lokk put a hand on Cal’s shoulder, and Cal ignored him.
‘Leave her be.’ He said again.
‘Or what?’ Petr snarled back, lurching around again, wiping spittle from the corner of his mouth. ‘Going to bleed on me?’
‘It’s fine, Cal. No harm done.’ Carel said quietly from beside the bar, eyes still on the ground. ‘Sit down, let me finish with your cuts.’
‘You heard her. Be a good little foundling and sit down like she says.’
Cal swallowed. Petr was nearly a head taller than he was, and his arms were thick, corded with miner’s work. But there would be no avoiding it now, and he didn’t have the patience to let it be, that night. The big youth was drunk, and spoiling for a fight. Cal glanced back over his shoulder, but the other patrons were bickering loudly beside the fire, oblivious, or indifferent, or both. The Innkeep was still in the back somewhere, tapping a new barrel. Strike first. Strike hard. Cal shifted his feet slightly, readying himself. His head had cleared, and his pain was far away. The moment of calm was on him. A blink in time. The room faded away, vibrating with stillness. There was only his breath. In, and out. He waited.
‘Nothing to say? Suppose a dead whore can’t teach her cunt son any manners.’
Cal moved quickly, uncoiling like a bowstring. He burst forward off his hind leg, bunching his fist towards Petr’s slab of a jaw. The butch-er’s son had no chance to react. How could he? Cal moved with the ease of a seasoned brawler, hard limbs whipping like clubs. Lokk’s arm slipped from his shoulder. He was already halfway across the distance between them before Petr could even blink.
His boot splashed, skidded, slid. The water. Cal blinked, lost bal-ance, and slid wildly into Petr’s chest. His head thudded into the other boy, and he staggered back, confused, dazed. Petr blinked down at him, cogs turning slowly in his ale-slowed mind. Then a broad grin spread across the big youth’s jaw.
‘Should’ve listened, stray.’
submitted by TheScribe_1 to HFY [link] [comments]


2023.06.03 17:50 ProtectionRealistic5 Guideline of Skills Essential to Athleticism (Long)

Below I've outlined what I believe are the 9 skills that define a balanced athlete. There are definitions for them as well as a few sentences of why I believe that skill's development is important (through a volleyball lens). This won't be a crazy peer reviewed paper, so keep that in mind. Anyone who wants to build a complete workout or may not know exactly what area in their athleticism is weak should be able to get something from this. This post is a bit long so if you don't want to read it all, you can just skim through the skills and give feedback as to whether I missed anything.


  1. Strength
Strength is the ability to create force. Think strongmen or power lifters. As a volleyball player, you will want a leaner physique as excess muscle will only slow you down. Getting a good strength to weight ratio through callisthenics is an excellent way to improve this area and also free. Do keep in mind that avoiding a bulky frame doesn’t mean you should shy away from lifting weights. Squatting 1.5x your weight is the target range I see for a lot for jumpers training vert. Deadlifts are also an important exercise for strengthening the glutes which do 40% of the work jumping! They will give you no results without weights. Strengthening your fingers and entire arm will help you set from longer distances when needed, overhead pass better, give you a great block, and improve the occasional joust so don’t forget to train them as well.
  1. Speed
Getting from point A to B in as small a time frame as possible. For sprinting there are 4 phases: Start, Acceleration, Driving (top end speed), and Deceleration. I believe a player should focus on accelerating and decelerating since the court is small enough that your top speed isn’t AS important as how fast you can get to it or hit the brakes. Acceleration carries over well for improving your jumping ability in a hitting approach too. You will be able to add more momentum into your jump with good speed. Being able to decelerate fast will allow you to get back in position quickly among other things. It is very beneficial to be able to stop on a dime at will.
  1. Power
The ability to create maximal force in minimal time. This is especially important for jumping high, hitting hard, serving, etc. You will want to train explosively while gaining strength AND speed as these will affect how much power you can produce. An MMA middleweight will be able to produce more force in their punches and kicks than someone with say, 20-30 lbs of extra muscle if they lack power. Same reason why someone at your local gym who might squat or curl the most wouldn’t necessarily be the best jumper or throw the hardest.
  1. Agility
The most relevant characteristics of an agile individual are nimble feet, the ability to change directions while maintaining speed, and the ability to move quickly from one movement pattern to another. Moving to either pin for a block or getting behind a pass in a split second and adjusting your platform accordingly. Chasing down a bad pass and diving to keep a rally going. Transitioning from defence to offence and vice versa. I personally like to associate agility with quick reflexes as well. All of this won’t amount to much if you can’t process the information fast. This skill is priceless to any athlete.
  1. Balance
The ability to perform movements with precision and grace; maintaining equilibrium. Balance may not seem like it’s that important at first. It’s not like situations arise in a game where you need a gymnasts level of balance. Although, if you can improve your mid-air stability and overall coordination, you will have way more control over your body. Balance is something you will need to have in order to use your power correctly. If you are leaning too far left or you begin falling backwards when hitting, the result will be a weak hit or even one out of bounds. Recently I have been training a lot with single leg balance while closing my eyes to train this (try this on your toes if it’s too easy). The core also aids in balance off the ground so train it as well .
  1. Mobility
Another aspect of fitness that few actively train. Essentially it is flexibility in motion. Remaining strong at the upper levels of your flexibility is key for avoiding injuries and strength in unconventional positions. Sinking low for passes or getting a full range of motion in your arms will increase your longevity and effective playing range. Stretching dynamically and statically are great for gaining mobility and warming up. I’ve started static stretching only after exercise though as I have heard that doing it prior to activity can actually decrease performance and even increase injury!
  1. Game Sense
Sports IQ and adaptability. Adaptability is how well you adjust to different scenarios or environmental changes. It sucks having knowledge of tactics if you can’t put that knowledge to use deceptively or in a timely fashion. Watching high level games and learning as much as possible. Playing with better players than you. Having a good coach training you. Memorising various plays and knowing when to employ them. These are all ways to deepen game sense. The mind is your greatest tool.
  1. Stamina
Specifically anaerobic capacity which is the maximal work performed during maximum-intensity short term physical effort. Volleyball has a lot of situations where you will be standing or shifting at one moment, and the next you will be exerting a lot of effort. You will want to train high intensity intervals, maximal effort sprints. This will train your body to withstand lactic acid and slow its accumulation. Sprints will help develop acceleration too so they are a great addition to anyone's training.
  1. Accuracy
One of, if not the most important skill to have in volleyball. Whether you are a setting, passing, or hitting you will need it. What good is all of the above if you can’t keep the ball in the court or serve receive well? Proper technique (which could probably be its own category) is a key component for gaining better aim while also keeping your body safe. No further explanations needed.

Hopefully I was able to get my point across coherently. This is my first time trying out a higher effort post, so let me know what needs improvement. I based it off an article (The Ten Components of Complete Athleticism) and I added or removed categories until I felt like I covered the main tenets of athleticism. Wikipedia was also a resource that I used. Did I miss any points that could have been added? Or was there a part that I was wrong in that needed correcting? Maybe even a tenth athletic skill I had failed to think of... All feedback is encouraged. All edits were to the formatting and spelling.
submitted by ProtectionRealistic5 to volleyball [link] [comments]


2023.06.03 17:50 DangerousEulerQuail Which CS PhD program?

Hello,
I am fortunate enough to be in contact with professors at several universities to work with them for my PhD in CS. I am unfortunately torn between the universities, and I thought I would consult you all.
I am an American student at a small private university in the midwest. I ultimately wish to get my PhD and do ML engineeresearch stuff for a tech company.
UT Austin - #8 CS ranking - Climate similar to what I am used to
University of Michigan - #11 CS ranking - Cold winters
Harvard - #17 CS ranking - Cold winters - Not the highest ranked of my list but its Harvard
Duke - #20 CS ranking - Climate similar to what I am used to
UMass Amherst - #24 CS ranking - Cold winters
University of Southern California - #24 CS ranking - Fantastic weather
University of Waterloo - Top? CS school in Canada, unsure of the ranking compared to the rest - Has good opportunities for getting into FAANG, so I've heard.
Which of the aforementioned is best for my goals?
Thank you so much!
submitted by DangerousEulerQuail to gradadmissions [link] [comments]


2023.06.03 17:48 Tanji250 How to manoeuvre into a successful career in commercial law?

I will be a final year law student come September at a high ranking Russell group law school in the Uk; due to some personal circumstances (but I also take accountability and responsibility) I have suffered very poor academic performance(2:2) relative to my A-levels and gcses (A*s) and I failed to secure a vacation scheme too.
After doing some thorough self-work over the past few months and addressing a lot of my bad behaviours and habits I am dialled in and extremely motivated to perform well this year and secure a training contract but I recognise my lack of legal experience (besides first year work experience at a MC firm) and poor academic performance up to this point will be a huge obstacle to me, especially in a very competitive market.
I’m not deterred by working hard nor am I scared of rejection; can the kind people of Reddit advise me on which steps to take next and how best to go about my goal?
Over the summer I will enrol in legal research, corporate finance and some Microsoft courses so as to upskill and maybe beef up my CV, and I plan to revise my first year and second year content to solidify my legal knowledge but I’m sure there is more I can do!
Thanks in advance x
submitted by Tanji250 to uklaw [link] [comments]


2023.06.03 17:48 PokerPlayer42069 The Top 3 Table Games at Winaday Casino

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submitted by PokerPlayer42069 to u/PokerPlayer42069 [link] [comments]


2023.06.03 17:46 iloonatic Got my 120th diamond perfect today! 🎉

Got my 120th diamond perfect today! 🎉 submitted by iloonatic to Beatstar [link] [comments]


2023.06.03 17:46 TheScribe_1 [The Book of the Chosen] - Chapter Twelve - The Blacksmith's Boy (Part Three)

Fourth and final part at the same time tomorrow.
Previous Chapter - Read 10 weeks ahead on Patreon - Read the story so far on Royal Road
*
Chapter Twelve - The Blacksmith's Boy (Part Three)

Clouds. Black, moving, twisting like rope. His head ached. His blood was hot as flame. Fire flashed in the clouds, and the old stormtower gleamed. The Old Man stared back at him from the gloom, eyes carving at his skin. You could have warned me. He taunted him. Smoke bled around his shoulders, and his skin melted away. Cal tried to look away, but it was too late. The fire was on him, and the sky filled his eyes with black water, smothering his breath.
*
He gasped, pain searing down his spine, and choked on his own breath, spluttering.
‘Get him up.’
‘I’ve got him.’
Lokk’s voice. Cal felt a hand curling underneath one of his arms, lifting his aching jaw off the floorboards. Pain shot down his back again, and he cried out, eyes spinning. Then there was another hand beneath him, and he was lifted groaning away from the floor. They lowered him carefully into a chair, and he fell against it, skin stinging, panting through gritted teeth.
‘What happened to him?’
‘Had a wolf at ‘im, by the looks of it!’
‘Don’t be a fool! No wolves in these woods.’
‘Believe in magic, but not in wolves?’
Cal groaned again.
‘Shut it, all of you!’
Cal blinked again, and the Innkeep’s rosy cheeks coalesced into the air before his eyes, looking down at him worriedly. Lokk was at his shoulder, wide-eyed, his mop of lank hair hanging loosely over his forehead. Someone had put the door to, and it was suddenly very quiet. Cal took a breath.
‘What happened, boy?’ The Innkeep asked him. Beyond his shoulders, Cal could see the faces of a half-dozen patrons, blinking back at him with wide eyes. All except Old Godry, who looked mildly irritated. Outside, the storm wailed helplessly against the thatching, and thunder rumbled against the hills, more distant, now. Cal held his breath, craning his ears. But the footsteps were gone. He swallowed.
‘There were…’ He hesitated, glancing towards the door. ‘I… fell.’
‘Down half the Teeth by the looks of it!’ Lokk pointed at his arms. ‘What were you doing out in this?’
Cal blinked, looking down. His arms were crisscrossed with dozens of bloody cuts, and his shirt was hanging off him in strings. He frowned, shrugging, and then winced as fire raced over his skin, and fell back against the chair, gasping.
‘Thought… Thought I had time to get back.’
‘Damned fool.’ Carel told him, appearing beside her father. She had a pail of steaming water under one arm, and a bundle of rags in the other. ‘Got to clean those before they rot.’
‘I’m fi-’
‘That’s enough talking.’ The Innkeep told him. ‘Or I’ll want coin for the cloth.’
Cal thought better of arguing.
‘Saw a fair few mugs go over.’ The Innkeep turned towards the rest of the room, smiling reassuringly. ‘I’ll fetch a new barrel. This one’s on the house.’
A few grumbles of approval from the assembled regulars. They were all watching him. He could feel their eyes on him, prying, poking. Sensible boys know better than to go wandering in a storm. They’d always thought the Blacksmith’s stray was cracked. Same as his master. Godry seemed to have let his irritation go at the promise of free ale, but Cal spotted the butcher’s brute of a son, Petr, sneering back at him over the rim of his mug. He lowered his eyes. They thought him mad. Maybe they were right. Behind his eyes, the shadows were still chasing him through endless trees, clawing at his heels. But the door stayed closed, and there was no sound beyond it but the storm. Maybe he was losing his mind.
‘Quite the show, that was.’ Lokk grinned as his father went off to find the barrel. Carel rolled her eyes, pulling up another chair and setting about dampening the cloth. ‘Barely seen you in weeks, then you show up all bloody an’ panting like a wolf that’s got in with the chickens? You always knew how to make an entrance.’
Cal grunted. He didn’t feel like explaining himself. Wasn’t sure he could, even if he did.
‘Scared off the new folk, too.’ Lokk nodded towards an empty table in the far corner of the room, scattered with discarded mugs.
Cal blinked. ‘What?’
‘Had some of Solen’s new hands in tonight.’ Lokk told him offhandedly, scratching his chin. ‘Quiet lot. Must have given them quite the fright. Saw themselves out sharpish.’
‘What did… hnngg.’ Cal clamped his teeth together with a groan as Carel pressed one of the rags against his bloody forearm.
‘Stay still.’ She told him, wiping the cloth slowly across his skin. It felt like someone was stripping his flesh with a wood plane. Cal clenched his jaw, forcing himself not to yelp. Lokk lounged idly against the bar beside him, sweeping his loose hair back from his forehead untidily.
‘Interrupted Godry, too.’ His friend went on, clearly unperturbed by his suffering. ‘Old goat hates being interrupted.’
Cal grunted again. The little clump of patrons seemed to have lost interest in him, now, turning back to their mugs as the Innkeep moved deftly through the tables, a little cask under his arm. Petr and his father were sitting glowering at no one in particular. Forley and his young wife Priss looked taken aback, and not the least bit shaken, by the unexpected turn of events the evening had taken, but the dour-faced miners beside them (whose names Cal did not know) seemed to have paid Cal’s entrance no heed at all. Old Godry was sitting patiently, firelight knotting over his scarred cheeks, waiting for his cue. Soon their mugs were full again, and the foolishness of the Blacksmith’s stray was quite forgotten. The Innkeep set the empty cask down somewhere behind the bar, and went off to find another barrel. Cal gritted his teeth as Carel went on with her work, eyes watering, and watched the villagers blur indifferently by the fire.
‘You weren’t finished, Godry.’ Albin, the butcher began, taking a long swig from his mug. ‘’bout to tell us how the wizard farted out his storm to save the savages.’
Cal saw Forley roll his eyes. ‘You know damned well where we were! Tell us about Arolf!’
Albin scowled, opening his mouth to retort, but Godry regained his composure in time to step in.
Aerolf, Forley.’ He corrected patiently.
Aerolf, then.’ The young shepherd agreed, rolling his eyes. ‘What happened next?’
‘Well, like I was saying, old King Talor’s already met his end, but them Northmen weren’t done yet. That beast Aerolf most of all.’ Godry began, lowering his voice and eyeing his audience conspiratorially. ‘He had a score to settle, see. This weren’t the kind of man to let a woman run from him, you understand.’
‘Serves him right.’ Albin grumbled. ‘Couldn’t keep her in his bed, even with a sword on her.’
The two miners snorted in agreement, and Petr just kept scowling. Cal flinched as Carel drew her rag over a particularly deep cut. He caught her eye reproachfully, and she smiled slyly.
‘Oops.’
She was very close, he realised, and he could feel the heat of her against his cut-thread skin. Another night, he might even have enjoyed it.
‘So there they was, dead King and all. Could of had the throne for hisself, right then.’ The old miner continued gravely. ‘But he was more animal than man. Mad as a beast, they say, big as a bear, covered head to toe in blood, cut up like an old buck. And this beast had a taste for blood.’
The little circle of villagers leaned a little closer in their seats, eyeing Godry eagerly. Cal realised he was listening along with them.
‘So off he goes, bloody magic blade in hand.’ Godry held out his hand like a blade, scowling at them over the fire. ‘He finds that place where old King Talor locked up his pretty young daughter. And what’d’you think he does when he finds it?’
‘Kills her.’ Forley whispered.
‘That’s right, boy.’ Godry nodded, dropping his arm. ‘Heard it said he clawed the tower door open with his bare hands. Dragged her out into that garden, butchered her right there in the grass, threw her off that big rock of theirs like an old ham. This weren’t a man you run from. If he couldn’t have her, no one could.’
‘How’d they kill him, then?’ Albin asked, frowning.
‘Well, see now. Northmen ain’t the only one with monsters.’ Godry said craftily, raising one patchwork brow. ‘Dekar’s a sharp one. He’d realised what was afoot, by now. Rallied the King’s Men, drove the scum back out of the King’s hall. Weren’t a man amongst them left standing, save the ones in the garden. But for Aerolf and them, he saved his best killer.’
‘The Bloodless.’ Forley murmured.
‘The Bloodless.’ Godry agreed. ‘Biggest woman you’ve ever seen. Big as a wagon, skin like blue snow. They say there’s nought but ice in them veins, and if you cut her, she don’t bleed.’
‘And I’ve got rocks for balls.’ Albin snorted.
‘Might as well, for all the good they do you.’ Godry snapped back at him. ‘But the Bloodless finds the traitor. Right there in that garden, all covered in the Princess’s blood. Cuts Aerolf down, throws him from the walls after her, him and his magic sword. Almost killed that Stonesplitter dog, too, whilst she were at it. Weren’t no easy thing though; gets her head cut open like a peach for its trouble. Should’ve died, right there. Would’ve, if not for those… other types Dekar had took up with.’
‘‘Least the traitor was dead.’
‘Aye, that he was. That Heartspire’s taller than a mountain. Say there weren’t nothing left of him but mulch, once he got to the bottom. Him and the princess both.’
‘Makers have mercy.’ Forley murmured, making the sign of the Nine over his breast. Even Albin took another mouthful of ale.
‘Weren’t no mercy. A beast don’t deserve none.’ Godry said soberly, following Forley and drawing a circle over his chest. ‘If he couldn’t ‘ave her, no one could.’
Cal barely heard them. He felt drained, as though the cuts had bled the weight from his bones. He floated just above his chair in a haze, and the roomed blurred and swayed as if through shallow water. Carel went about her work quietly, carefully, and the pain of it washed over him in raw waves, until the pail of water at her feet was stained an ugly pink.
‘Dekar had a plan though!’ Forley whispered excitedly, his reverence forgotten. ‘Tell ‘em, Godry!’
‘That he did, Forley.’ Godry smiled, his scarred face contorting grotesquely. ‘See, that Dekar’s sharp as a carving knife. Took up Taylor’s magic sword, led the King’s Men himself. But that weren’t all. Had some of his men kept back, from down West. Big men. Hard men. Came on the Northmen camp in the dead of night. Surrounded ‘em.’
‘Weren’t just any men, I hears it.’ Albin grumbled.
‘Here we go!’ Forley snorted.
‘Said it yourself, Godry. Dekar took up with them religious types.’ Albin shot back, frowning indignantly. ‘Everyone knows it.’
‘Religious? Masks don’t keep the Makers.’ Forley spat. ‘Ain’t nothing but bandits dressed up like monks.’
Cal blinked.
*‘*Brothers ain’t got no Gods save the Darkness.’ Priss murmured quietly. ‘You say Nine, I say eight.’
‘All the same.’ Albin was saying, folding his arms over his mug. ‘Brothers are useful, and good old Dekar didn’t sniff at them like you do.’
‘That’s enough, Alb.’ Godry interrupted. ‘He’s still our King, even all the way out here.’
Cal opened his mouth, straightening in his seat, but Carel pushed him back down again tutting.
‘Sit still.’
‘But-’
‘Hardly our King anymore, anyways.’ Albin spat. ‘Not like it used to be. Valia’s for the lowlanders.’
‘You sounds like a Northman.’ Forley scowled.
‘Or one of the Elahi.’ Priss added. Albin bristled, and Godry jumped in just in time.
‘Doesn’t matter. All Dekar’s hard men never got to the Northmen camp.’ The grizzled old smelter went on. ‘Seems old Isandur weren’t done yet.
Cal gritted his teeth. His head ached, and his mouth tasted like smoke.
Albin spat at his feet, sneering. ‘Isandur my arse.’
‘Let him be, Alb.’ Forley told him.
There was a moment of uncomfortable silence as the butcher and his son fixed Forley with their most angry of looks. Then Godry cleared his throat noisily, and Petr shoved himself to his feet and stalked off towards the bar, snatching up their empty mugs as he went.
‘But Isandur is a crafty one, and no mistake. Showed up just in time, as always. What he wanted from it, no man can say. Them Chosen are scheming sorts, what ones is left. Us mortals couldn’t guess what they’s thinkin’.’ He paused, nodding knowingly. ‘Storm-tamers, they call ‘em. He spoke the words, and the sky opened. Biggest storm you’ve ever seen. Caught Dekar’s men as they came. Scattered ‘em like wheat in a gale.’
Petr aimed a crooked smile at Carel as he passed, and she lowered her eyes. Cal barely noticed. He no longer heard Godry. The room around him seemed very far away. Was he awake? Or was he dreaming?
‘Northerners took the chance. Fled faster than the wind what chased them. Them that were still on the rock, them what murdered and killed our King?’ Godry went on, shaking his head sadly. ‘Them he called the wind itself for, and carried them away before Dekar could get at them. Aerolf’s brother, among them. King of the North, he goes by now. Couple of other Northmen, too. Stonesplitter cut almost in half by the Bloodless’ blade.’
Albin spat on the floor, and the miners scowled. No right-minded Valian liked this part, magic or not. Cal ground his teeth.
‘That Chosen bastard let the King get his throat slit, then shows up to save his killers.’ Albin cursed.
‘Makers know why. Not been seen since.’ Godry agreed. ‘Back they went, anyway, back to the rest of the savages as they fled like dogs. Storm was so heavy, river banks burst behind them, flooded half the valley.’
Cal’s heart was pounding in his ears, and his skull was ringing. Outside, the wind whined over the thatching, howling at the broken clouds.
‘Don’t matter how many men Dekar had. Or how many Brothers. Ain’t no one swimming in mail.’
Cal forced his eyes shut. Black Ones. A storm. Falling.
‘Cal?’
He opened his eyes, blinking into the firelight, and found Carel looking down at him worriedly.
‘Does it hurt?’ She was asking softly.
‘What… no, I’m fine.’ He told her, blinking again. ‘I need to…’
‘Stay here.’ She told him, lifting up the bloody pail. ‘I need more cloth.’
She turned on her heel and disappeared. Cal’s head spun.
‘… already scared off the new folk with all these tall stories.’ Albin was saying. ‘Storm’s just a storm. Forge boy knows.’
Cal blinked, lurching unsteadily to his feet. Asking questions, the Innkeep had said. His vision blurred unsteadily, and the room stared back at him, wobbling like a top.
‘Cal, you need to sit down.’ Lokk told him, putting a hand on his shoulder.
Cal blinked. His eyes stopped spinning, and the ache in his head had vanished. The wind had moved on overhead, and the air was thick with smoke and heat. The little group of patrons were eyeing him curiously. All save the butcher.
‘Listen to him boy, before you hurt yourself.’ Albin sneered back at him.
‘Come on, Cal. Ignore him.’ Lokk murmured in his ear.
Cal swallowed, meeting the swarthy butcher’s eye for a moment. Then he let himself be steered backward, slumping into his seat like an empty sack.
‘Must have lost more blood than I thought.’ Lokk told him, pulling up a chair beside him and tutting. ‘Want to pick a fight with Albin as well as that storm?’
‘What?’ Cal mumbled, blinking. The butcher had gone back to his drink, and the other villagers had gone with him, grumbling amongst themselves about the practicalities of storm-tamers and treacherous, magical old men. He took a breath. ‘I wasn’t. I-’
‘Sure looked like you were. You know Alb. Just his way. Didn’t mean anything by it.’
‘Lokk, when did the new folk leave?’
‘What? Oh… I told you. Right after you turned up. Spooked ‘em good, you did, all bloody like a fresh ham…’
‘Where did they go?’
‘How should I know? Had my hands full peeling you off the floor. Why d’you care, anyway?’
‘Lokk, I need to…’
‘Oh, no you don’t! You aren’t going anywhere. Need to rest.’ His friend told him, pinning him to his chair by his shoulders. ‘Look like you fell down half the Teeth face first.’
‘I…’ Cal began, lowering his voice. His head was clearing, and the room was no longer spinning like a leaf. Beside the fire, the other patrons were still bickering emptily. The storm had passed, and the ache of it was clearing from his battered skull. ‘I didn’t just fall. Something was chasing me.’
‘What are you talking about? You crack your head, too?’
‘Lokk, listen. There were…’
‘Let go!’
They both looked up at the sudden commotion from beside the bar. Carel had just made it out from behind it with a fresh pail of steaming water before Petr had cornered her, bulky shoulders blocking the way forward like a stubborn bullock. He had one meaty hand curled around Carel’s wrist, and she had her eyes fixed on the floor. Cal was on his feet before Lokk could say anything.
‘Let go of her.’
The big youth let go of Carel’s wrist, and the pail fell abruptly back to her side, spilling steaming water across the floor. She looked at it distantly, frowning.
‘Or what, you little shit?’ The butcher’s son grumbled throatily, turning slowly around to facing Cal, glaring down at him with rheumy-eyes. His words had the imprecise edge of drink to them, and his breath smelled of sour ale. ‘Gonna throw yourself down a fucking hill at me?’
‘Just leave her be, Petr.’ Lokk added from Cal’s shoulder.
‘Mind your own business.’ The big youth snorted, still glaring at Cal darkly. ‘Sit down before you hurt yourself, stray.’
He began to turn back to Carel. Lokk put a hand on Cal’s shoulder, and Cal ignored him.
‘Leave her be.’ He said again.
‘Or what?’ Petr snarled back, lurching around again, wiping spittle from the corner of his mouth. ‘Going to bleed on me?’
‘It’s fine, Cal. No harm done.’ Carel said quietly from beside the bar, eyes still on the ground. ‘Sit down, let me finish with your cuts.’
‘You heard her. Be a good little foundling and sit down like she says.’
Cal swallowed. Petr was nearly a head taller than he was, and his arms were thick, corded with miner’s work. But there would be no avoiding it now, and he didn’t have the patience to let it be, that night. The big youth was drunk, and spoiling for a fight. Cal glanced back over his shoulder, but the other patrons were bickering loudly beside the fire, oblivious, or indifferent, or both. The Innkeep was still in the back somewhere, tapping a new barrel. Strike first. Strike hard. Cal shifted his feet slightly, readying himself. His head had cleared, and his pain was far away. The moment of calm was on him. A blink in time. The room faded away, vibrating with stillness. There was only his breath. In, and out. He waited.
‘Nothing to say? Suppose a dead whore can’t teach her cunt son any manners.’
Cal moved quickly, uncoiling like a bowstring. He burst forward off his hind leg, bunching his fist towards Petr’s slab of a jaw. The butcher’s son had no chance to react. How could he? Cal moved with the ease of a seasoned brawler, hard limbs whipping like clubs. Lokk’s arm slipped from his shoulder. He was already halfway across the distance between them before Petr could even blink.
His boot splashed, skidded, slid. The water. Cal blinked, lost balance, and slid wildly into Petr’s chest. His head thudded into the other boy, and he staggered back, confused, dazed. Petr blinked down at him, cogs turning slowly in his ale-slowed mind. Then a broad grin spread across the big youth’s jaw.
‘Should’ve listened, stray.’
submitted by TheScribe_1 to redditserials [link] [comments]


2023.06.03 17:44 irunwithoutscissors 37 [TF4F] West Coast/US - "But most of all...I'm sick and tired of havin' nobody." - Lloyd Christmas, limo driver

Oh, you made it! Fantastic! Please, have a seat. Would you like some coffee? I actually don't drink it myself, I just keep it for guests. Cream? I don't think I have any sugar, I'm sorry...
Okay, where to begin? A little about me, huh? Well, I'm 37... I just turned 37, and I really don't like being 37. I just... I really don't like it. I was born male, have always identified as female, have been out (to close friends, soon to be publicly) for almost a decade, and am just now beginning my transition. I like to be open and honest about it (when it's safe to do so), and I'm happy to answer any questions you may have (and I'm not easily offended or anything, so don't be shy!). I recently went back to work for a company I swore I was never going to work for again, and I'm already sore as all get out (also, my boss just happens to be dating my childhood crush, and there are photos all over the internet, so that's fun). That being said, it's only for the summer, so I'm not stressing about it too much. Come fall, I'll be going back to school, getting my CDL, and hitting the road full time (at which point I will be untethered location-wise, so distance may not necessarily be an issue if we happen to hit it off). Let's see, what else? I love animals, like, so much. I'm not 100% certain I was a cat in a past life, but I've honestly never seen any evidence to the contrary. I watch a lot of movies. In fact, I watch a lot of the same movies, over and over. And yes, over. I also plan to start making films of my own (for local festivals) once I've settled down somewhere and saved some money, that's been a lifelong dream of mine. Similarly, I plan to start about five different bands, music has always been a huge part of my life as well. I love to write (well, I love to have written), and while I'm not the biggest reader you'll ever meet, I have a decent-sized list of favorites (mostly with pictures, but...). Basically, anything creative that lets me use my imagination or put my own touch on something will probably catch my interest. And then like video games, pool, poker, I love road trips (go figure), camping (okay, glamping, unless I'm with somebody who knows what they're doing), sports here and there (I'd rather play than watch, but I do enjoy going to baseball games). Oh! And I probably do the best Christian Slater impersonation you've ever heard.
What am I looking for, you ask? To be completely transparent (which is a fun word to use considering who and where I am), I'm ready to settle down with the person I'm supposed to be with, simple as that. I want to form a genuine bond with somebody special, who truly understands me, and vice versa. It's a lot to ask on a Saturday morning, I suppose, but it's happened before, and it will happen again, right? (Right?) And as far as who I'm looking for, I'm honestly pretty open, but I will say, as far as I'm concerned, the most attractive quality a person can possess is a kind heart, I'm a total sucker for empathy. If you care about people, animals, and the planet, we're probably going to get along, and from there, the rest is just chemistry!
Well, that's about the gist of it, so I guess the ball is in your court now... If you think we might hit it off, drop by and say hi! :)
submitted by irunwithoutscissors to cf4cf [link] [comments]


2023.06.03 17:44 sufy8 Four Vogue Houses & the Celebrities They Work With

tonight is the latex ball, the most iconic & illustrious ball in the ballroom scene. you should all root for your favorite vogue houses, i'm biased so i want you to root for mine.
beyonce called out our names in her "break my soul (queens remix)" and even called out some kiki houses (kids and young adults) and musical acts (like the house of ladosha).
here are four vogue houses, and the celebrities they work with:
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  1. THE HOUSE OF NINJA
Prominent Members: Willi Ninja, Javier Ninja, Danielle Palanico, Shaun Ross
Celebrities Known for Working with the House of Ninja: Malcolm McLauren & Beyonce. The first song to reference vogue was Malcolm McLauren's "Deep in Vogue." It features Willi Ninja in rap vocals and choreography.
2. THE ILLUSTRIOUS & ICONIC HOUSE OF MIYAKE-MUGLER
Prominent Members: Olivia Lux, Leoimy Miyaki-Mugler, Prince Miyaki-Mugler, Leyna Bloom
Celebrities Known for Working with the House of Miyaki-Mugler: Willow Smith, America's Best Dance Crew, MTV, HBO, & FKA Twigs. When FKA Twigs performs "glass & patron," she features vogues from the scene, including MM and the House of Basquiat. She even brought Robert Pattinson to our Vogue Night.
  1. THE HOUSE OF XTRAVAGANZA
Prominent Members: Indya Moore, Venus Xtravaganza, Jose Gutierez Xtravaganza, Hector Xtravaganza
Celebrities Known for Working with the House of Xtravaganza: Katy Perry, Ryan Murphy, & Madonna. Madonna was inspired to write "Vogue" when meeting Jose Gutierez Xtravaganza and Luis Xtravaganza for a night of voguing at the Sound Factory in New York City.
  1. THE HOUSE OF BALENCIAGA
Prominent Members: Miss Lawrence, Barbie Balenciaga, Honey Balenciaga, Shannon Balenciaga
Celebrities Known for Working with the House of Balenciaga: The Real Housewives of ATL, Balenciaga themselves, & Beyonce. According to a toxic group chat I'm on, a lot of them are on tour with Beyonce RIGHT NOW. Some people are jealous because their house mother is also a celebrity with connections.
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please send us good vibrations & thoughts, thanks!
submitted by sufy8 to popculturechat [link] [comments]


2023.06.03 17:40 Significant-Tip3483 everyone who prepares for advance is already among the strongest mentally.

I have wasted this golden opportunity by not studying for advance whereas there are so many people who would sacrifice a lot just to get a chance to write this exam. 11th online classes mein waste hogayi 12th mein pseudo studying karke apne aap ko tassali deta tha. last ke kuch months padhke 96 percentile tak push kiya. not the best percentile so usse kuch khaas nahi milra tha isliye uske baad mujhe laga last ke 2 months mein advance ke liye nahi padh paunga isliye dusre exams pe focus kiya. state ke exam mein 5k rank aaya. ab bitsat ki preparation karra hu. I don't regret preparing for bitsat but i will always have the regret that i didn't even try to prepare for one of the most prestigious exams of our country. isliye kal tum log jaise bhi likho regret matt karna because tumne atleast koshish ki hein and that's what matters the most.
submitted by Significant-Tip3483 to JEENEETards [link] [comments]


2023.06.03 17:39 Green-Cow-3340 I left my boyfriend of 4 years and I've never felt more conflicted.

I've avoided talking about this for a while, considering I'm a pretty private person and nobody really knew about this relationship (I had my reasons.) I guess the hardest part of this is the fact that I never got the chance to physically meet him, he was halfway across the world, but it's not like we didn't know have the security of knowing we were two real people. This whole relationship started from an out of the blue text from him, and we never stopped talking from then on. Literally. There was not even a single day that went by (with some exceptions) that we didn't talk to each other. I changed every aspect about my life for him: how/when I sleep, my eating schedule, when I was/wasn't more active on my phone, etc. I put all of my time and focus into this relationship, literally giving so much of me that it exhausted my mind terribly.
Everything between us was wonderful, for the first year and a half or so, then we split after he started to.. change. (for the 1st time.) After that, I went through a bit of an emotional break without him, we still kept contact, but it wasn't the same. And when we got back together 6 months later, he was much colder to me than before. Feeling guilty, even though I hadn't done anything wrong, I spent the next 3-4 months trying to reconciliate myself with him. However, it seemed like my every push was met with resistance, and I just stopped. To note, it's not like I didn't communicate with him. I was ALWAYS thorough in my own communication, but he never seemed very interested in putting in the effort to love and communicate with me back. Shortly after we had gotten together again, we split, were apart for 3 more months, then got BACK together again. (I know, rocky and stupid.) I loved him so dearly, my heart literally beat just for him, and I put everything I had on the line just to be with him. We'd go through stages where he would be cold with me, and I'd sit idly by and wait for him to warm up again, soaking in whatever little attention he decided to give me in a 2-3 day period out of each month. I lived like that for years. The last time we got together, it was like everything had changed completely. I knew where it was going but I was in so much denial that I kept taking the things he'd dish out to me. I spent many countless nights crying and pleading into my pillow for answers, wondering why he hated me so much but told me he loved me so deeply. I was so wounded, and in pain, the entire time. He never took the time to care about me, my interests, my feelings, anything that pertained to me was "small talk." And every conversation needed to be about him. But I was fine with that. I sat by, let him be the centre of attention, always. I loved him, so it seemed normal to me. As I got older, we grew apart instead of together. I eventually grew some balls and started questioning the things he would do to me, calling him out more, which caused him to isolate himself even more. I felt incredibly guilty the entire time, every single time I'd talk about myself I felt like I was covering him up. So, again, I let him be the centre of attention. Every phone call and text was about him, and I let it be that way. I wanted to be a good girlfriend, and I wanted to be enough for him. I couldn't offer him much physically, so I tried to give him what I lacked in a form of emotional support instead. He was never really fond of that, considering he was a man's man and didn't like feelings and such. But, I tried. Every day I opened my eyes my first thought was him, how can I make his day better, how can I make him happy, how can I keep him from being mad at me today? Everything was a guessing game with him. He was so deeply rooted into my life that his emotional state would effect me, even from across the sea. I never wanted to anger him, or frustrate him, and I always tried my best not to. But as the years progressed, he seemed to get more upset with me way more often. He would frequently tell me how mad I make him, how much he hated the way I acted or thought. Each passive joke was made to be into this terrible thing, and I was never really "allowed" to be myself. Just a submissive thing for him to talk to or get sexual favors from. I resigned myself to that, I made myself into that. I shoved myself into a tiny, little box for him and begged him to love me. And I did that for years. I broke myself into a million little pieces for him, destroying everything I ever knew about myself just to become something he wanted. If he said I was too stupid one day, I would do my best to be smarter the next. If he told me I was unfunny one day, I would try to make him laugh the next. I tried so incredibly hard to get him to like me, to enjoy me, but it seemed like everything I ever did was just pushing him away more and more. I was becoming annoying to him, instead of lovely and interesting, I was a nuisance. I felt so incredibly worthless, so tired and drained, but I kept going. I gave him everything I had.
Then one day, nearing my 18th birthday, he had said something to me that just completely shattered me. I had dealt with a lot of blows from him already. The lack of contact, the feeling of despair every time I'd hang up the phone, the name calling, the multiple girls he'd fantasize about and tell me, I had thought I'd dealt with it all. But when he had spent a week finally loving me again, and then told me how incredibly annoying he found me to be, I just kinda broke. I have nobody to talk to, and he was the only one, something he knew. I loved to tell him things, I got so insanely excited every time I had something new to tell him, and I always had the tendency to ramble. A quality which I had thought he had found endearing. But when he started to interrupt me, talking over me and sending my things while I was trying to talk back to him, and he told me I was annoying? I just stopped in my tracks. It was a defining moment for me, and I had made a decision that night to distance myself from him like he had done so many times.
I noticed first that he didn't seem to miss me, he didn't make much effort to reach out to me and start a conversation other than the occasional Instagram message. It hurt. Seeing someone that I cared about so much act like I hadn't existed in the first place hurt so deeply. Especially when he was ingrained into my routine. When my 18th birthday came around, I had thought that maybe, just maybe, he would say something. Keep in mind that we were in two different time zones, and we always treated my birthday (and his) like a two day event because of it. When he hadn't even texted me a simple happy birthday, I was done. My heart was wrenching in pain, and I was just. over it. I texted him and asked him if he forgot, to which he did, and when I had went into my depth about how I felt about that he proceeded to guilt me for not being around. Showing me that he did notice my absence, it just wasnt convenient enough for him to recognize, and he didn't care. After that, it felt like my entire being just stopped caring. I had felt numb, and I started to ignore him completely. I just gave up, something I never do with someone I love. And I know all of this may sound like an over exaggeration, or some kind of selfish whine, but I promise you he mentally exhausted me to the point of near s*icide -- more than once.
We had a conversation about how I was feeling. How I didn't know how to talk to him how I couldn't trust him anymore. I told him everything I had been holding inside of me for 2 years at that point, not holding back a single detail. When I was done, he told me he loved me and wanted to fix this, but I had heard that so many times from him I didn't even let him have the chance. Seeing as he didn't understand that I wanted to leave, I just did it anyways. I went no contact, only reaching out to him one more time, and I couldn't even answer him when he responded because it made me sick to my stomach even thinking about it. It still does. He completely ruined me, changing me into this person that I never wanted to become; bitter and angry, self-loathful and hopeless. I was always a happy person, sunshiny. Then I met him, and my entire life turned upside down, and I let him do it. Some of you may be thinking that we were young and immature, but he was much older, and I was much more mature than you'd think considering the amounts of abuse I've suffered in my life. Either way, he broke me, and I may never recover from that. But I sit here every night and I think about the times that were good. Sitting up on the phone at 4:30 in the morning, watching him play video games, or watching the walking dead before I had to go to school. I remember staying up super late, just to hear him tell me about his day when he got off work, I remember when he stopped doing that. I had such a deep, karmic bond with him, and I will never have that with anyone else.
I have to keep myself from reaching out to him, because even though he hurt me so badly, I still love him. I hate to admit it, but I still love him. I still think about his face, the curve of his nose and the pout of his bottom lip. I think about all the freckles he has on his skin, and the birthmark at the base of his spine. The way he has two baby teeth on his bottom row because the adult ones never grew in, and that lovely little gap between his front teeth. I will never forget that beard, or the color on his cheeks, and it pains me so deeply. I love him so dearly, but he hurt me so badly, and he's never coming back. I'm trying to be okay with that, but it is so insanely hard. It's so hard to know that I have loved a person so deeply, and have probably forgotten about me already. I'm sorry that this is so long, but I'm very hurt right now and I have nobody to talk to. Thank you for reading this reddit strangers.
TLDR; My ex hurt me but I eventually got out of the relationship. I still love him and I can't deal with the idea of not loving him, even though he's not coming back.
submitted by Green-Cow-3340 to offmychest [link] [comments]


2023.06.03 17:33 UKsElite_Clan [Recruiting] UKsElite Code #PJ2R2C9G Th10+ Lvl 15 Clan Friendly / Active / B2B War / CWL / Clan games / Raid weekends Independent

🇬🇧UKsElite🇬🇧
📍Welcome to UKsElite clan we are looking for players to join our friendly clan and help rebuild the clan after a bit of time out due to health reasons I want to build a force to be reckoned with. We are an adult clan that likes to banter and have a laugh and also take it seriously and try to push up the rankings (that’s our aim 😝) active friendly and respectful is a must we will not tolerate rudeness from anyone 📍
💥I’m also looking for players that will help the running of the clan a list of jobs will be listed below 💥
🍻PLEASE ALSO NOTE THAT WE ARE VERY OPEN ON SUGGESTIONS HOW TO MAKE THEN CLAN BIGGER AND BETTER SO ALL SUGGESTIONS WELLCOME 🍻
⚡️List of jobs I need help with⚡️
📍Running of raid weekend ie ( prioritisings upgrades) 📍 📍Help running wars plus CWL 📍 📍Recruiting of players of any levels 📍
⚡️Below is a list we do ⚡️
🏹 Clan games 75,000 🏹 (Once clan is fully running again ) 💣 B2B war 💣 🏆 CWL Gold 3 (Restarting again ) 🏆 🔝 High donations 🔝 🪖 Maxed level troops 🪖 🚻 Male & Female members 🚻 💬 Active Discord💬
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49UNDEFEATED (Leader)
submitted by UKsElite_Clan to ClashOfClansRecruit [link] [comments]


2023.06.03 17:32 HeadOfSpectre The Soldier

"Think of this as a chance at revenge," Sweeney said.

Revenge.

What a moronically quaint idea.

This jumped up little shit had come into my home, interrupted my retirement and here he was talking to me about revenge, as if he knew the first thing about what I’d seen, what I’d been through, why I’d quit.

Looking into his eyes, I knew he didn’t understand. I knew he couldn’t.

I've been hunting vampires for most of my life. I've killed more of them than I can count. But Clementine Di Cesare was no ordinary vampire. Hell, none of the Di Cesares were ordinary vampires, but even among them Clementine was… unique. She was the one all the others quietly feared. The one who was even spoken of with reverence by the Di Cesares masters, those twin Immortals who could not be killed by any weapon of this world. Seeking revenge against her was like seeking revenge against death itself.

“Revenge?” I repeated, with a dismissive scoff.
“You’re really going to tell me that after what she put you through, you don’t want revenge?” Sweeney asked.
“If you knew what she did to me, you’d know why I don’t want revenge,” I replied.
“Really? Sorry Franklin, but I don’t buy that. Look, I get it if you’re reluctant to jump back into the fight. I do. You of all people know just how dangerous the Di Cesare’s are. Especially ‘La Morte’.”

I looked over at him as he said that name. It rolled off his tongue so irreverently. To him, it was just a name. An alias assigned to some vampire he’s only heard of stories. He didn’t utter it with the respect it deserved, and I almost couldn’t be bothered to correct him. Any words spent on this small minded glory hound were probably wasted.

“Yes, I do know.”
“Which is why I need you,” Sweeney said. He almost sounded as if he were pleading with me. “Think of this as an opportunity to set things right… to put that vampire bitch in the ground where she belongs, and save God only knows how many lives in the process!”
I sighed.
He just didn’t get it.

“Mark my words, Mr. Sweeney, if you chase after Clementine Di Cesare, you’ll end far more lives than you save. She didn’t get a name like ‘La Morte’ for nothing. She earned it. Purchased it with the blood of the tens of thousands she’s sent screaming into the maw of Hell. She is not something you chase, Sweeney.”
“She’s a vampire,” Sweeney said dismissively. “She’s another enemy to destroy.”
“That’s what George Bundy said,” I replied. “Then not too long after, he died.”
“I’m not George Bundy,” Sweeney said.
“No. You sure as hell ain’t,” I agreed, before looking the kid in the eye.

He thought he was an up and comer, climbing the ranks of the Brethren. He probably thought of himself as some sort of badass vampire hunter too, when in reality he could never have so much as dreamed of holding a candle to the likes of Bundy… or hell, any of the men who’d died in Brazil.
“You should watch your tone with me,” Sweeney warned.
“Or you’ll do what?” I asked, “You ain’t going to frighten me with vague threats, boy. I’ve walked through Hell, trying to kill the Devil. What have you done?”

Sweeney bit his lip but didn’t respond.
“There’s nothing you can say or do that will intimidate me,” I said, before lighting myself a cigarette. I stared at the road outside of my porch, old memories flooding back to me before looking over at Sweeney again. He sat in his chair beside me like a sulky child. This was the man who wanted to destroy the Di Cesare family? Pathetic.

“Exactly how much do you know about the Brazil Job?” I asked.
“I know it was a failure. Clementine Di Cesare killed most of the men the Brethren sent out… all except for you. You were the only one good enough to beat her.”
“Good enough…” I repeated with a huff, “Hardly… whatever picture you’ve got in your head of some glorified battle, throw it away. Trust me, the Brazil Job was anything but glorious. It was a two hour long trek through Hell. And I didn’t beat Di Cesare at the end of it. I survived her. They’re two different things entirely.”
“I’m not sure I understand,” Sweeney said.
“You wouldn’t, would you?” I sighed and took another drag on my cigarette.

This kid wasn’t going to leave until I made him understand… so I told him my story. I told him everything even though I knew he’d learn nothing from it.

***

I’d joined up with the Brethren Knights of St. Fontaine back in the 1980s to hunt monsters. Back then, it seemed like the best use of my skills. I’d done my tours with the army, but even after I got out, I was still looking for an enemy to fight. So naturally, once I found out that vampires were real, I set my sights on them. It seemed like the most sensible thing to do at the time.

The Brethren Knights fancied themselves the descendants of the Knights Templar, and they insisted that their God given mission was to protect mankind from the things that lurked in the shadows. I didn’t really have much love for God at the time, but if the Bretheren were the ones fighting the monsters, then I was happy to tolerate the Jesus freaks in their ranks.

It was 1988 when we first heard whispers of the Imperium. A supposed cabal of vampires, trying to get them organized. At the time, it’d seemed too crazy to be true. Vampires generally went their own way, in my experience. At most, they might have a partner but other than they they didn’t really socialize with their own kind. But supposedly someone out there had the big fucking balls to keep them in line, and whoever they were, they scared the shit out of the Brethren.

They’d started targeting high profile vampires, trying to find someone who was involved in this ‘Imperium’, hoping that maybe they might get someone to talk. And it wasn’t long until they found someone who did.

From my understanding, the vampire they captured didn’t seem to know much about who was actually running the show. But they knew who their second in command was… and that was when I first head about the Di Cesare family.

The name was familiar to some of the higher ups in the Brethren, and I’d heard some stories. Not sure which were true, but the long and short of it was that the Di Cesare’s and the Brethren shared a bloody history, and didn’t particularly like each other too much.

George Bundy explained it to me like this at one point: ‘The Di Cesare’s are an old family. Most of them used to be witches, up until their Matriarch turned them into vampires. Now they’re a whole new kind of nasty. Far as I know, the only time anyone’s actually managed to kill one was about 200 years ago. Anyone who’s tried since has ended up dead, so most folks don’t even bother anymore.’

I guess it shouldn’t have been surprising they’d be involved in the Imperium, but the mere mention of their name ruffled some feathers higher up on the chain of command, and eventually they put out a kill order on them. Most of the Di Cesare’s were generally pretty hard to track down, but the top brass had a pretty good line on their matriarch, Bianca Di Cesare. Supposedly, she’d been spotted near the family’s private estate in Brazil and rumor had it that most of her daughters were there too.

Normally, the brass wouldn’t have sanctioned any kind of attack on them. The Di Cesare’s were already considered off limits, and attacking them at their private estate was considered damn near impossible. The estate was located in a small mining town outside of Manaus called Refugio de Julia, or just Julia for short. The town was fairly remote, being only accessible from a few backroads and most folks tended to avoid it, claiming they’d had various strange encounters in the area. Their accounts described unsettling pale figures with dark hair and large green eyes working in the mines, although some of the more disturbing stories we heard involved sightings of other creatures in the jungle surrounding the town. Massive spiders with humanoid faces, tending rotting corpses filled with stinging bees, giant howling beasts who tore through the forest, hunting prey, and beautiful women who would appear in the nearby towns, betwitching men into coming away with them only to reveal themselves as monsters who fed on the blood of their victims. Some had even claimed the Di Cesares themselves were such beasts… although those claims weren’t taken quite as seriously.

A skeptic might say the stories that surrounded Julia seemed like little more than just local superstition… but the Brethren had been dealing with the supernatural for long enough to recognize when something was probably real, and when it was probably fake and they knew damn well that most of the stories about Julia were probably true. None of them had ever dared set foot in Julia to find out for sure, since doing so would probably be suicide, but the theory was that the Di Cesares had created Julia as something of a refuge for other creatures. Other vampires, werewolves, arachne, karah and all sorts of other hellspawn. They offered them a home and safety in exchange for their labor in the mines. Hell, the name of the town more or less spelled it out.

Refugio de Julia

Julia’s Haven.

Julia had been the name of the only member of the Di Cesare family that the Brethren had ever killed, so I guess it was only fitting they named the town after her.

I honestly think using other creatures like them as a workforce was a bit inspired… since it made Julia damn near impenetrable. Reaching their estate at the far side of the town would have been impossible without being noticed by every creature of hell living in that town, and odds are they’d tear anyone apart long before they even reached the gates of the Di Cesare estate. And if one had the bright idea to approach the estate from another angle, they’d be trudging through miles and miles of rainforest to do so, only end up face to face with a massive stone wall that kept the rainforest out.

In effect - the Di Cesare estate was a fortress. Getting in would be no easy feat, to say nothing of confronting the vampires within. But with the fear of the Imperium gnawing at the back of their minds, the Brethren had finally set their minds to trying.

George Bundy had been the one in charge of planning the operation out.

I’d known Bundy before I’d joined up with the Brethren. Hell, Bundy was the whole reason I’d joined the Brethren. He’d been my CO a number of years back, and he’d earned his reputation as a hardass just about ten or twenty times over. Bundy was a gruff looking man with a bushy moustache and intense eyes. During the years I knew him, I don’t believe I ever once saw him so much as crack a smile. He only ever seemed to speak when he felt there was something he needed to say. Otherwise, he was usually dead silent.

He was somewhere in his late fifties back in 88. By all rights, he ought to have retired years ago. But he refused.
“I’m a soldier,” He said, when I asked him about it once. “That’s all I am. I don’t know what else to be.”

Bundy’s initial plan had been to hit the Di Cesare estate from the air. Come in fast and loud with a couple of helicopters and see how those vampires stood up to some good old American flak. The idea got shot down pretty quickly, so to speak. Apperantly, most if not all of the Di Cesares had cursed their own bodies, causing whatever wound one inflicted on them to appear on whoever it was who had wounded them. Going in guns blazing would have ended in a bloodbath… and not for them. There were also some concerns about drawing attention from Julia. With no conclusive data on just what they had living in that town, there was no guarantee we’d be safe in the air. A few eyewitnesses had described seeing giant nests in some of the trees in the jungle, supposedly consistent with the nests made by harpies.

Flying in guns blazing was out. So Bundy went back to the drawing board and what he came back with… well, it was ballsy, but it almost seemed like it just might work. During his reconnisance of the Di Cesare’s estate, he’d noticed a large but shallow tributary flowing into the amazon river that led right through the Di Cesare’s estate. Along the tributary was an abandoned water mill, that connected to the Di Cesare estate.

He’d suggested using the water mill to gain entry to the grounds, and from there, move on the Di Cesare’s. That plan had been approved, and Bundy had been allowed to handpick his team for the operation. He’d chosen fifteen men, all of them ex military, most of them having served under him before.

He’d told us we would be dividing into three teams of five men each. We would leave Manaus by boat, and land at three different areas near the tributary before making our way to the mill on foot, where we would regroup, before moving on the Di Cesares. The reason for the division was to ensure that if any of our teams ran into trouble upon making ground, the entire operation wouldn’t be compromised.

Team 1, led by Bundy himself would depart first and land to the west of the tributary. Team 2, led by a man named Ferdinand Hernandez would make land about fifteen minutes later near the mouth of the tributary and Team 3, to be led by me would land fifteen minutes later to the east.

On the day of the operation, I sat in my boat, watching as the other two left. It was twilight when we set out, and I remember that as my team and I carried out our final checks on our equipment, the only thing I felt was a familiar anticipation.

I’d hesitate to call it fear. Fear is what came later. Anticipation is the better word. I knew we could be walking into a tough situation… but I trusted Bundy. I trusted he’d run a smooth op. God knew, he’d done it a thousand times before.

The team assigned to me wasn’t anything particularly special. They were competent enough, but none of them would’ve been my first choices. Jack McMullen, for instance, who was about the same age as I was at the time. We’d both served under Bundy before, although while I respected Bundy, Jack was wholly devoted to him. I swear, if the man had told him to stuff a live grenade up his ass, Jack would’ve done it without a moments hesitation. I dunno if Jack simply saw him as the father he’d never had or what, but he damn near worshipped Bundy.

I can’t quite say the same for the other guys we had with us, though. One of them, some greenhorn by the name of Pearce Wilson struck me as an airheaded pretty boy who’d never actually had his boots on the ground before, while the other one, Scott Barber had left a bad taste in my mouth last time we’d worked together. Barber was capable… but he was violent. This was a kid with a hell of a chip on his shoulder, and it looked a hell of a lot like that Confederate flag patch he wore on his jacket. He wanted an excuse to shoot something, and I don’t think he cared what. Under most circumstances I’m not sure I would’ve fully trusted him with a gun.

The last one though, Joseph Feng… him I trusted. Feng was the one I knew the least about, and he didn’t seem much for conversation. But he handled himself competently enough and seemed to know when to sit down and shut up.

When Team 2’s boat was far enough away, we got the radio signal to follow. Barber was the one steering the boat, so I gave him the order to cast off and we ventured out into the twilight, unaware of just what was waiting for us out there.

***

We landed in our designated area fifteen minutes after Team 2 confirmed they’d touched down at theirs. Our landing was fairly uneventful. Feng, Barber, and I secured the boat before we radio’d Bundy to let him know we were in position. After that, it was just a matter of making it to the tributary.

As we ventured into the jungle, the world around us was quiet. There was wind, the whisper of the river behind us, and the sounds of animals. But little else. The river fell away behind us as we moved in single file toward the tributary, maintaining radio silence as we did.

It was about a half hour before we heard the gunshot.

Just one, echoing through the twilight. But it was enough to give us pause.

“The fuck was that?” I heard Barber ask. Immediately, the kid was on high alert, with his gun raised as if he were expecting every monster in Julia to come charging at us from all angles.
I just listened, waiting to hear if there was anything else. I half expected my radio to come to life, but it didn’t.
“Team 1, status?” I asked.
The radio crackled with static, but there was no response.

I tried it again, but still with no success. The radio was working, that much I was sure of. Something had to be blocking the signal.
“What’s going on?” Feng asked.
“Dunno,” I replied. “Comms are down.”
“Down?” Wilson asked, “So we’re flying blind out here, then?”
“More or less,” I replied.
“What do we do? Do we go back… if the comms are down…”
“Just because something’s jamming our signal doesn’t mean we’re made,” I said. “Relax. We keep moving for now. You keep your eyes wide open, and your head on a swivel. We’ll make it to the tributary and see if we can’t meet up with the other teams.”
I could tell Wilson wasn’t a fan of my answer, but I didn’t much care. We had a job to do, and I aimed to do it.

I pressed on without a further word and the others followed. Up ahead, I could hear the sound of running water and picked up the pace. I figured the tributary had to be close… and I was right.

I emerged from the brush into the stream, only to pause when I saw what was waiting for us in the water.

In the dying sunlight, it was impossible to mistake the bodies sprawled out on the rocks as anything else… and all I needed to do was look at their uniforms to know they were our people.
“Jesus…” I heard Wilson say under his breath. He froze up, lingering by the bank as I cautiously approached one of the bodies.

It belonged to a somewhat heavyset man with a thin mustache who I recognized as Hernandez. His eyes were still open, although lifeless and staring in different directions, and there was a clean hole in his forehead where a bullet had ended his life. The gunshot we’d heard earlier had likely been the sound of his death.

Looking at the bodies around him, I knew they had to be the rest of Team 2… although it was a little harder pinning down their cause of death. Some sort of bladed weapon, perhaps, judging by the state of them. I realized the odds were that they walked into some sort of ambush.
“What about Bundy and Team 1?” Jack asked, “Any sign of them?”
“No,” I said. “These bodies are all from Team 2… Bundy could still be ahead of us.”
“Then we need to keep going!”

Jack turned, heading up the stream and Barber was right behind him. Feng paused for a moment, thinking this over before following. Only Wilson remained.
“How do we know we’re not walking into a trap?” He asked.
“We’ll deal with that when we get to it,” I said before moving to follow the others.
“With all due respect, Sarge… that doesn’t sound like the best course of action!” Wilson argued, finally following me. “It sounds just like a good way to get killed!”
“Yeah?” I asked, “I’m gonna tell you an ugly truth, kid. That’s the job. Make your peace with it, and it’ll go a lot easier.”

Wilson didn’t like that answer either and trailed off behind me, watching as I continued upstream. For a moment, I half expected him to go back to the boat… but no. I dunno if he found his balls or just didn’t want to get left behind, but he started to follow us again.

I kept trying to raise Team 1 on the radio while we walked, although I still had no luck. The light above us slowly faded into darkness as we trudged through the water in silence, guns sitting comfortably in our hands and mosquitos biting at our necks.

It wasn’t until we lost Feng that I heard anybody so much as make a sound, and when we lost Feng… it happened almost instantaneously. One minute, he was at the head of the group, walking just ahead of Jack and I. The next, he was gone, only barely having the time to let out a scream as he fell into the river ahead of us.

The rest of us paused. Jack seemed to freeze and I pushed past him, calling out for Feng as I did. As punishment for my compassion, I almost went down after him. I only barely stopped myself from stepping on the slippery rocks that had helped send him to his demise.

I could see Feng’s body in the water, and I could see the blood pouring out of him. He twitched a few times, but I knew he was dead. The sharpened wooden spikes jutting out of him confirmed as much.
“What the hell…” Jack said under his breath, staring at Feng’s corpse in disbelief. “That’s a fucking spike trap!”

Yeah.

It was indeed a fucking spike trap.

I could see other spikes jutting out of the water ahead of us, just past a small dam of rocks that were just slippery enough to make it difficult to stop yourself from falling. Some of those spikes had other bodies on them… likely members of Team 1. I only counted two, although that still didn’t exactly bode well.

“They put a fucking spike trap in the goddamn stream…” Jack said, “Who the hell does that?”
“Somebody who’s expecting us to use the stream,” I replied.
“So they know we’re coming?” Barber asked.
“Clearly…” I replied. “And they’ve got a good idea on what our route is too.”

“Yeah, no shit!” Barber snapped. “Christ… let’s get the fuck out of here. There’s probably more fucking traps upstream!”
“Bundy’s orders were clear!” Jack argued.
“Bundy’s probably dead by now!” Barber replied, before looking at me. “Sarge, come on. You have to know this is suicide!”
“Suicide was part of the job description, was it not?” I asked.
“The job is to kill those fucking vampires, not to die in the goddamn process! We need to get out of the stream and into the woods!”

“Judging by the fate Team 2 met, I’m not sure the forest is someplace we want to be right now,” I replied.
“Excuse me?” Barber asked, “What the hell are you talking about, Sarge?”
“Five men dead, but only one gunshot. How did the rest die?”

Barber didn’t seem to be able to answer that.
“By now… yes. It’s clear we’ve walked into a trap. And yes, I understand that it makes sense to try and leave that trap… but I don’t know if we’ll be safer in the jungle. Something jumped Team 2. Cut them apart, and then shot Hernandez as a warning. They didn’t have to shoot him. They did it so we’d hear.”
“Your point being?” Barber asked.
“I don’t think this is just a trap, Barber. It’s a game. Stop playing, and you might just end up like our friends downstream.”
“A game?” Wilson asked, “Sarge, you can’t be serious!”

“From where I’m standing, we have a better chance of surviving in the stream,” I said. “Look, we’re at least halfway to the rendezvous point, and there have to be at least two members of Team 1 left. The safest thing to do right now is to follow them.”
“You’re off your fucking rocker, Sarge,” Barber spat, locking his eyes with mine. For a moment, I thought the boy was going to try and fight me. But no. He was wise enough to stand down.
“If you wanna get yourself killed, go right the fuck ahead. Just leave me out of it! Wilson, come on,” Barber said before trudging over to the edge of the stream. Wilson didn’t even hesitate, just looking back at Jack and I quietly before he disappeared into the forest with Barber.

“You’re not gonna stop them?” Jack asked.
“No,” I replied. “God willing, there’s a chance that pigheaded asshole is right… dunno how much of a chance, but a chance.”
“Then how come we’re not following him?” Jack asked.
“There’s also a chance he’s wrong.”
I turned, before making my way around the spike trap.
“Keep a slower pace,” I said. “Watch for traps.”

Jack hesitated for a moment, but he followed me without any further questions and we walked in silence for a little longer.

We heard nothing from the trees. Nothing that told us about the fate of Barber and Wilson. I wasn’t sure if that was good news or not.

In fact, I don’t think we heard a thing until about a half hour later, when we heard the explosion.

It came out of almost nowhere, but ahead of us I could see a flash of light and hear the screams of men. On instinct, I found myself picking up the pace and could hear Jack behind me. In the low light, I saw a shape float past me in the stream. It took me a moment to realize that it was a severed human arm.

In the water ahead of us, I could see a figure clinging to one of the rocks and trying to pick himself up. I recognized him as George Bundy.

Jack was at his side almost immediately, trying to help the old man to his feet.
“Sir! Are you alright?”
Bundy just wheezed, before his legs gave out from under him. I helped Jack drag him to the shore so he could sit and rest for a moment.
“What the hell was that?” I asked, looking back at the stream.
“Grenade trap… I think…” Bundy panted, “Fucking tripwire… Popkov tripped it, I think…”

Popkov… odds are he was one of the two mangled corpses lying in the river a few feet away from us. It seemed they’d taken the brunt of the explosion, although Bundy still had some shrapnel in his arm that Jack was tending to.
“Christ… whole fucking ops gone to shit…” Bundy spat. “Team 2 got taken out just about as soon as they landed. Someone killed them and dumped them in the goddamn river. Lost half my boys to the fucking spike trap and half to this…”

He looked up at us, before spitting onto the ground.
“Guess you two haven’t done much better.”
“Hard to say,” I replied. “Two of ours took off into the woods, trying to avoid the traps.”
“Then they’re dead,” Bundy replied. “I’ve seen her watching us… always just up ahead, always from a distance… she’s seeing how far we’ll go. How much we’ll take…”
“She?” I asked.
La Morte. Should’ve figured she’d be the one to greet us.”
“La Morte?” I asked.

“It’s Italian. Supposedly, she earned that name around the time the Di Cesares fled Venice. It’s funny, the Brethren like to act like the Di Cesares leaving Venice was some big victory of theirs, since before they did, they finally killed one of them… hard to call it a victory though, considering how many corpses they made before they fled. And most of them came from La Morte…”
Bundy winced in pain as Jack bandaged his arm before he continued talking.

“See… when the Di Cesare’s left Venice, one of them stayed behind. Clementine, the Scorpio sister. Guess she was unwilling to leave the fight unfinished… and according to the stories, the death toll she personally amassed in the years after the Di Cesare’s left Venice make the bodies they claimed during the Venetian Massacre a hundred and fifty years prior look like a pittance. The Brethren still occupying the city started to call her La Morte. Death. Cuz wherever she went, death followed in her wake… and it seems we’ve walked right into her open arms, haven’t we, boys?”

“You’re sure it’s her?” I asked.
“She’s a Di Cesare… and the shit we’ve seen out here… I don’t see any other Di Cesare setting those traps. It’s her. I’m sure of it. She’s watching us. Seeing how far we’ll go. Seeing if we’ll turn tail…”
“Should we?” Jack asked, and Bundy finally seemed to acknowledge him.
“Excuse me?” He asked.
“Should we? Look, sir… I’d follow you into the mouth of Hell, but right now, we’re down from fifteen men to three. Can’t say I’m optimistic about our chances right now. If this woman is half as bad as you’re saying she is, maybe it’s time we took a step back!”

Jack looked at me, hoping I might back him up, but I remained silent.
“What the hell are you talking about?” Bundy asked.
“What I’m hearing here, is that as of right now, the vampire out there could kill us at any time. She hasn’t. Far as I’m concerned, that’s mercy. Maybe we should be taking it while it’s offered.”
Bundy stared at him, before chuckling. I think it was the first time I’d ever seen him laugh.

“Just walk away, then?” He asked.
“Walk away, and come back better prepared!” Jack corrected.
“Walk away,” Bundy said again. “We walk away now, and there won’t be a chance to come back better prepared. We get one shot at this. One. Failure is not an option. We go in there and we kill them or we die. End of discussion.”
“And how exactly are we even supposed to kill them?” Jack asked, “That curse they have… bullets aren’t gonna do shit, sir!”
“Yours won’t, mine will…”
Bundy pulled his pistol from his holster. I noticed some sort of pattern crudely engraved on it.

“I’ve been doing some research… studied the curse they put on themselves… and I think I’ve found a way to break it. Not sure if it’ll work yet… but we get one chance to test it.”
Jack stared at the gun, then back at Bundy.
“Sir… do you hear yourself?” He asked quietly, “You can’t be serious… right now, even with that gun we don’t stand a chance in he-”

The gunshot echoed through the forest and made me jump. Jack’s voice died in his throat as he hit the ground.

Bundy stared at him for a moment, before huffing and holstering his pistol again. He draped his coat over his shoulders, before looking over at me.
“No room for failure, Frank,” He said calmly.
I didn’t know what to say to that. I stared down at Jack’s body, my mouth hanging open slightly. When I looked back at Bundy, he was already back in the stream.

There was a tense silence between Bundy and I as I followed him along the final stretch of the tributary. He trudged on ahead, covered in sweat and straining with every step, but I could sense the quiet determination he had to see this through. Looking at him, you could’ve told me that George Bundy could wipe out the Di Cesare’s all by himself and I would have believed it in a second.

The night around us was full of sound, and each one drew my attention. I watched the forest, expecting to see some sign of La Morte watching us. But I saw nothing, except for what she wanted me to see.
“Mill’s just up ahead,” I heard Bundy say as we pressed on, although I noticed his steps faltering as he seemed to notice something in the trees above us. I stopped behind him, looking up before seeing what he saw, and when I saw it I felt my stomach turn.

I’d seen death before.
But what Di Cesare had left out for us… that was something else.
Pearce Wilson and Scott Barber weren’t dead.
But if they could have spoke, I’ve got no doubt they would have begged us to kill them. Wilsons pretty face was covered in blood and his pouty lips were parted as more trickled out of him. His curly blond hair was matted and I could see crimson there. Tree branches portruded from his ribs, while the loops of his entrails dangled out of his opened stomach. And Barber was in just about the same state, only he seemed to at least have the ability to turn his head to look at us.

I think he might have tried to speak, but the only sound he seemed to be able to make was a pained whimper.
“Jesus Christ…” I said softly.
“He had nothing to do with this,” Bundy replied. He took one last look at the two dying men hanging from the trees, before moving on.
“We should put them out of their misery, sir,” I said.

Bundy paused, before looking back at me.
“Don’t waste the ammo, Frank,” He replied. “They’re already dead.”
“Not yet they’re not!”
“Give them time. They chose to go into the woods. They can live with the consequences… for however long that lasts.”

With that, he left them. If I were a more compassionate man, I would have put them out of their misery. But no. Bundy moved on and so did I.

He approached the water mill, before examining it. It was an old building, made of stone that had long since been overgrown by moss, and sat right on the wall that separated the Di Cesares estate from the amazon. It hardly looked secure, even if the only entrance hadn’t just been an old wooden door secured with a padlock, finding a way in wouldn’t have been difficult. And it didn’t take much for Bundy to break through that door. All he needed was a couple of well placed kicks and it swung right open.

Drawing his gun, Bundy strode inside and I followed him.
“The Di Cesare’s will be in the main house,” He said. “We should find a way in through the back, try and catch them off guard. Main target should be the matriarch, Bianca. Her we should prioritize keeping alive… the rest are expendable.”

“Much as you are, I’m sure.” A voice called from deeper in the mill, and both Bundy and I froze.
I noticed movement on the floor above us, and through the shadows, I saw a tall woman watching us. She was dressed all in black, with blond hair tied back in a ponytail and the intense eyes of a soldier.

This had to be Clementine Di Cesare.

Bundy aimed his pistol at her, although she only barely seemed to notice.
“Only two of you left… I’m not sure the odds are in your favor,” The woman said. Her voice was low, calm and quiet.
“Only one way to find out,” Bundy growled.
“And only one way to walk out of this place alive,” Di Cesare countered. “You can put the gun down, turn and walk away. I won’t stop you. There’s no shame in living.”

“All the bodies you’ve left in your wake… that’s rich,” Bundy said.
“I don’t relish what I’ve done. I simply don’t know how to do anything else,” She replied. “Think about this, Bundy. Over my lifetime, there have been countless thousands who have come to kill me. All of them are dead, but I am not. Even if you could kill me… you could not kill my sisters. Not all of them. Not before they came for you.”
“Just you, would be enough…” Bundy said, before pulling the trigger.

I knew he’d hit her. I knew the bullet pierced her shoulder. But that woman… she didn’t even flinch. She simply dove out of the way before he could shoot again, taking cover and avoiding his next shot.
“Frank, upstairs!” Bundy snapped, “Flush her out!”
I went, trudging up the old wooden steps with my rifle drawn. Only to see Di Cesare vaulting over the railing and back down to the ground floor as soon as I made it up there.

Bundy shot at her again, only to miss for a second time. I saw Di Cesare’s arm move, and heard him cry out in pain. In the low light, I could see a dagger protruding from his shoulder. He stumbled back a step, leaving himself open for only a split second.

That second was all it took for Di Cesare to raise her own gun and fire just one shot.

George Bundy hit the ground without so much as a final scream. There was just a simple hole in his skull where she had shot him.

I felt my heart start to race faster. My eyes settled on Bundy’s gun, and I ran for the railing, vaulting it and dropping to the ground below with a thud. Di Cesare shot at me, and I felt the bullet tear through my leg. I reached out for the fallen gun and grabbed it before turning it on Di Cesare, only to find myself staring down the barrel of her own pistol. My finger rested on the trigger, but I didn’t have the guts to pull it.

"Kill me, and you will not see the sun tomorrow." She said, her voice still cold and calm.
“Killing you is part of the job…” I replied, but my finger still couldn’t squeeze the trigger.
“And is it worth your life?” Di Cesare asked. “You fail your mission either way.”
“And die with some goddamn honor…”
“There’s no such thing as honor. There is alive and there is dead. Choose.”

I knew what I was supposed to choose.

But my hands were shaking, as I stared into the face of death. My finger couldn’t squeeze the trigger.

The gun collapsed to the floor and Di Cesare kicked it away from me, before huffing and lowering her gun.
“Do not return,” She said softly. “Or next time, I will unleash a hell upon you that will make you beg for simple traps.”

She picked Bundy’s gun up off the ground, and then she was gone. After I finally picked myself up off the ground, I was gone too.

As I walked back along the stream… I passed the corpses of the men we’d left behind. Barber and Wilson, Jack, Feng, Hernandez, and his team. The flies were already feasting on them. Animals had already torn at them. And as I looked down at their cold corpses, I knew I had made the right choice.

I filed my report with the Brethren. Told them that Di Cesare had wiped us out, and a few months later I quietly retired. I never looked back.

***

“You walked away from her?” Sweeney asked in disbelief, “You had her dead to rights and you walked away from her?”
“I chose to live,” I replied. “Can’t say I regret the decision either. Because of the choice I made, I met my wife and had my kids. I’ve lived the life I had because I chose not to throw it away on some vampire.”

Sweeney just shook his head.
“You could have gotten the first confirmed kill on a Di Cesare in two centuries, and you threw it away you fucking coward! I could execute you for that!” I noticed his hand hovering over the gun on his hip.
“You could.” I replied, before quietly unholstering the pistol I kept at my side. I aimed it at Sweeney’s head.

He stared at me like a slack jawed idiot.
“Would you like to give it a try?”
“W-what…?”
“Would you like to give it a try, Mr. Sweeney? Or would you like to see the sun tomorrow?”
He stared down the barrel of my gun, and I already knew what his choice would be.

Sweeney took a step back. I saw his hand move away from his holster, and I lowered the gun with a huff.
“Thought so,” I said.
Mr. Sweeney left me without another word.
I knew he would not return.
submitted by HeadOfSpectre to TheCrypticCompendium [link] [comments]


2023.06.03 17:31 Blubber28 Gathering Storm Round 2 - The results!

Gathering Storm Round 2 - The results!
Good day to everyone! Here are the results for round 2 of the Gathering Storm competition.
First, I want to start off with an apology for taking so long. I wish I had been able to give the results sooner, but unfortunately, May was quite an eventful month for me. Finding the time to make this post has been difficult, as writing it takes up quite some time. But, alas here it is, and I hope you will excuse the long waiting time.
I also want to quickly mention that the next round will take place at some point after the internal space rework has rolled out, likely somewhere in July. If you like these competitions, keep an eye on the subreddit by then, and consider participating in a different competition in the meantime :)
With that out of the way, I do want to thank everyone who participated. I loved seeing some of you mention that getting the vehicle up to 50 km/h was quite a challenge, as that was exactly what it was meant to be :). Some of you have been in competitions before, while there were also some newcomers. With 8 participants, I feel like I am still able to rank all entries and give them a review. If we do at some point reach over 10, I may start to limit the number of entries discussed in the result posts, but I don't think we'll get there soon XD.
I have changed the scoring again, making armour its own category (with less weight due to the nature of this round). It was somewhat clunky for me to properly adjudicate points to it as a subcategory of 'utility,' like it was previously. This system should be much better at rewarding additional protection overall.
As always, I will also mention that while certain designs were better than others, I could tell that every single one had effort and thought put into it. In this particular round, you were asked to design an alternate universe Type 97 Chi-Ha, and I believe all (well, most, I'll get to that) designs offered an alternative worthy of consideration.
With that out of the way, let's get into the meat of this post: The results!
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8th place: The Type 97 "Zako" by u/benkavin.
https://preview.redd.it/oevbdra65s3b1.png?width=1446&format=png&auto=webp&s=5ec59a26fbeb9347ae4f6b50be6a08f29e156ce4
This vehicle was certainly an interesting one to test out. I myself was quite surprised it ended up as the lowest ranked entry, as u/benkavin is quite a seasoned competition participant, ending up in the category top 5's of TEABAG several times. So, I will summarize why. As a quick disclaimer though, there is a method to the madness, and what I will say, I mean in a more playful manner rather than an offensive one. Please take that into consideration as you read the roast review of this vehicle.
So, what is there to like about this tank? Several things, actually. It has a very low and generally small profile, which helps with its stealth. All this space is efficiently used, as all three crewmembers get the full cubic meter of space. Its engine is in the front, acting as an additional layer of protection, while the sprocket and transmission are in the back to spread the weight better. The radio antenna can be pushed out of the way when the turret turns, meaning it will not restrict turret movement. The suspension is simple (coil springs) and should be relatively easy to maintain. I also quite like the shape of this tank - especially the front part. It also clearly advertises that this is a light and nimble vehicle.
Now, onto the less good parts.
Some of the more observant among you may have noticed some flaws already. To start off with some visual/constructional flaws: The air vent in the direct front forms a weakspot, the exhaust blocks most of the driver's vision, and the protrusion at the back prevents the turret from rotating 360° and doesn't serve a particular purpose as far as I could tell. While the shape of the vehicle is quite nice in my opinion, it did lack any national decals or insignia. The suspension itself ingame is not well designed, and the vehicle bounces around on any bumps it crosses, so much so that I had to steer when driving over the testing bumps to stay on them.
The backside protrusion blocks the cannon
Needless to say, due to these flaws it scored quite low in the aesthetics and mobility categories. The armour protection was up to standard after a small revision, but not much more than necessary. In utility, it performed better in some aspects; it had 17° gun depression, 100% crew space, albeit for 3 crewmembers. There was one peculiarity where it rose above the competition, as it had a gearbox with only 5 gears in total (4f, 1r) to bring it up to the required 50 km/h. Still, it is sadly not enough to escape the last position.
The pitch for this vehicle is quite short, but well made and nicely edited as pictures. While the limited length and the disclaimer at the end limit the salesmanship effectiveness, the rest makes up for it somewhat, meaning the pitch got a decent score overall.
So, all this makes it the bottom-scoring entry for this particular round. And yet, with all this taken into account, this is one of my favourite entries. Now, you may wonder, why? Well, as I mentioned, there was a method to this madness. In one of the comments under the pitch Reddit post, our builder mentions the name means "Inferior Fish," and that this vehicle was designed by Chinese sympathizers in occupied Manchuria. This made me chuckle somewhat, as it puts a lot of the flaws into context. This also explains why the entry is at the bottom of the competition; it was made bad intentionally. It is the sprocket entry equivalent of purposefully failing a test, something that many people argue to be just as hard as succeeding on a test.
So, with that, I take my hat off to you, u/benkavin, for purposefully creating a severely flawed vehicle and creating a decent pitch to try and sell it off to the invaders. While it did not win you the competition, I suspect that that was never the intent with such an entry. You can be very proud of your bottom score, as your vehicle excelled in what you made it to be.
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7th place: The Type 6 Ke-Ha by u/Face_Stabbed.
https://preview.redd.it/2w34cgnn5s3b1.png?width=1245&format=png&auto=webp&s=fdb7b8a64d85c6e81ded502159d9dd730f005192
A returning participant from round 1, which is nice to see. This vehicle, while its overall score was low, has some interesting qualities.
It had a decent score in utility, mostly due to the large amount of fuel it carries: 860l in total, more than any other vehicle in the competition, which would enable the vehicle to perform long-distance operations with ease. It also carried the most ammunition, with 186 37mm rounds in total. It gave its three crewmembers maximum space, and fulfilled the preferred 6-speed gearbox. It also features three machine gun mounts; two at the front and one at the back of the turret.
It didn't score great in the aesthetics category. Not because I think this is an ugly vehicle by any means, but rather due to the lack of national characteristics. I like the angular shape of the front, the protrusion at the back of the turret for the radio and machine gun, and the sponson shape at the front and back. It also looks very believable; you can easily imagine three crewmembers sitting quite comfortably within this vehicle. However, it does not exactly look like a Japanese vehicle, neither in shape nor in the details. There are also no national decals of any kind present, meaning that there was a small point reduction there.
Its mobility and armour protection scores were adequate overall, though this vehicle suffered somewhat from the steering. It felt quite sluggish, both at low and high speeds. This made driving it difficult at times. My advice is to have a stronger first gear. This generally improves steering, especially at low speeds. The frontal hull armour does offer great protection due to the angling, and will likely bounce most things the Chinese could throw at it.
The pitch was well-written; it had a logical structure and laid out the vehicles' characteristics very well. From reading it, you can really tell that it was carefully designed. It also included a stat sheet, and was decent at salesmanship.
While this is near the bottom in the ranking, this is by no means a bad vehicle. I recommend keeping in mind the country that you are designing for, and trying to make the best of the space available, as there was a lot of free room left in the vehicle. With that advice, I would not be surprised to see you rise up in future competitions, as this design shows you have a great foundation in your sprocketeer skills!
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6th place: The Type 96 Te-Ha by u/Legodudelol9a.
https://preview.redd.it/kbqq6klq5s3b1.png?width=1098&format=png&auto=webp&s=28c42bc65f983791c536d3bdc84095b8bc631685
Now, I cannot help but feel that this vehicle does look a little bit cursed, with the huge turret on the small hull. However, this is because it is re-using parts from existing designs submitted to other competitions. As refurbishing old tanks or creating designs using older parts wasn't out of the question in real life, I think it is an acceptable reason. Also, while it is not mentioned in the pitch, I do like to think that this is the reason the name is from the year before (Imperial Year 2596, or 1936 in the Roman years).
Now, let's start with the review. This vehicle had a stellar score in utility, and scored the second highest in that category. From past experience, this seems to be a bit of a trademark for our moderator, as he's quite good at fitting a lot in a tight space. Or, to word it slightly less like an innuendo, he is quite good at using the available space. This tiny vehicle has 104 37mm rounds, 800l of fuel, nearly 20° of gun depression, maximum space allocated to four crewmembers, and three machine guns.
The latter is also one of its flaws, however. Simply put, I think putting two machine guns that close to each other may make them nearly impossible to use, as they are likely in each other's way. The hull does also seem to be too small to realistically fit the driver and all the other hardware listed previously. Other than that, it does have the typical Japanese characteristics in its shape, especially with the asymmetrical turret.
Its score in mobility was very mixed. It is the first vehicle reviewed here that managed to surpass the 50 km/h, topping out at around 50.8 km/h. It overcame all required obstacles and its steering was very smooth at all speeds, most likely due to the short length of the hull. However, it was the joint worst scoring entry on the obstacle course, together with the Type 97 "Zako." It suffered from the same issues; only three wheels with a very stiff suspension means that it just bounces around while trying to drive. It definitely lost out on a lot of points in that regard, but it was likely a necessary sacrifice to help cross the trench and climb the step obstacle.
The frontal hull and turret armour are thicker than requested, making it quite durable in a hull-down position, which is complemented by the great gun depression. Other than that, the armour fulfills the requirements and not much more. The pitch was well-structured and laid out the details of the vehicle well, but sometimes it felt more like a technical summary rather than a sales pitch. While those details are important, they are not the main reason that makes the pitch stand out to potential buyers.
All in all, I am once again surprised at all the utility that fits in such a small machine. A decent entry overall.
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5th place: The Type 19 Ha-To by u/bonnibelio.
https://preview.redd.it/xi96s76u5s3b1.png?width=1318&format=png&auto=webp&s=2bfd3373a075b11ae4727bcb6a26acf20376421b
Now we get to the top five entries. This was the first submitted entry to this particular round, and by a first-time participant no less. This is a solid first entry overall. In fact, it managed to score a category win in the newly made 'armour' category. While this category had a lower weight this round due to the nature of Japanese tank design, it is no mean feat.
Its frontal protection went up to 50mm effective armour in places, and this was not just on small spots. The lower and upper glacis, as well as the sponsons and the turret side were well protected. Even then, the actual thickness of the flatter plates was 25mm on the hull and 30mm on the turret. These are significant differences, meaning that even dedicated anti-tank guns of the time will struggle to penetrate the front at a long to medium range. Even on the sides, the plate behind the tracks is 25mm thick, meaning they too are tough to crack.
This added armour did somewhat impact the top speed, but it did manage to get to the required 50 km/h. It was also able to climb all required inclines and had a very well set up twin-transmission for both acceleration and steering. However, while I tried my best to overcome the 0.5m step, I wasn't able to do it. I even tried it backwards, but sadly it refused to climb it, no matter the method. So unfortunately I had to deduct some points there.
The pitch was well structured and had some great pictures to go along with it, but it was lacking in salesmanship and era-appropriateness. This is likely due to the text itself being quite short. Now I don't require an essay referencing historical documents, of course, but I would say this area has the most room for improvement. Why were the Japanese looking for a tank, and why should it be yours? What is it expected to face, and what does this vehicle bring to the table to meet that threat? Those kinds of questions should be answered in a solid pitch, and they are not. I think if you keep them in mind in the future, that they will be of great use in writing your future pitches.
In terms of utility, the Type 19 surpasses some of the requirements. It gets some bonus points for the 700l of fuel, and in addition offers a good 18,0° of gun depression, four crewmembers with decent space, more than one MG mount, and 6 gears per transmission.
The aesthetics were also good, though it did also miss out on some points here. So, first of all, this vehicle very much looks the part of a Japanese tank, especially with the turret. However, it does look much more like a late-war design rather than an early-war one. I don't think this is surprising given the great Chi-Nu replica that u/bonnibelio was also working on, but it does mean it loses a point for era-appropriateness. The turret and hull look nice, but the hull does feel a little squished to me. I think crawling in there would have been difficult at the very least. The design does make great use of crewparts and decals to decorate the tank, as you can see here:
There are decals that decorate certain parts of the tank, like the cupola, the custom fuel port, the plates on the turret, and the protective bars around the exhaust. I've seen parts and decals been used as decoration many times, but using them in tandem like this is a great skill, and it is executed very well on this design.
All in all, this design is a good entry, especially for a first-time participant. u/bonnibelio, you can be proud of your creation.
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4th place: The Type 4 Kin no Suisei (Ki-Su) by u/mei9k.
https://preview.redd.it/4ksdtlrw5s3b1.png?width=1354&format=png&auto=webp&s=6844263ad430dcd46c1150896bd73dfe457f09c2
Another great entry from a first-time participant. Some of you may immediately see the resemblance to the old Type 89 I-Go (Chi-Ro) medium tank, the first domestic design by the Japanese. As it played a major role in the conquest of Manchuria in the early 30's, seeing a tank clearly evolved from that design for the later China campaigns is not out of the question.
This vehicle had a shared top score in aesthetics. This is likely not a surprise if you take the time to look at the tank. It is a very unique looking machine, yet it makes sense given the history. It received top marks for national identity and a very high score for historical accuracy as well. I was also quite happily surprised to see the return of using placable plates for decoration, something that was much more popular back when rivets were not a thing yet in the game. And it looks great on this machine! The plates are all very neatly worked into the shape of the design.
The turret has the typical round-ish shape with a machine gun sticking out the back, with nicely smoothed out plates. The hull, as mentioned, is very reminiscent of the Type 89 medium tank in its shape. In the pitch, it is said to be inspired by the cavalry riding horses, and one could see the resemblance. On top of the great shape, there is also plenty of details to look at, including custom wooden/bamboo boxes for stowage, access hatches for the engine, crew hatches in the turret and the front, and a special protrusion for the driver. I do imagine it may be quite tight for his legs, though, given how far forward the driver's visor is. Other than that, no major drawbacks were found aesthetics-wise.
https://preview.redd.it/cd9k1pt66t3b1.png?width=1372&format=png&auto=webp&s=79945ed19a3b97bc684393bdaced6f40b8736554
And, well, they also made a variant with rust and decay, which looks pretty sick tbh:
Freshly dug-up out of the mud
While the looks were the best part of this machine, it is not its only quality. While the armour fulfilled the minimum and did not exceed it significantly in any place, the mobility score was also quite good. It manages to almost reach 51 km/h, so it was among the faster entries in the competition. It managed to overcome all necessary obstacles, and its steering was very smooth as well. Despite its strong suspension, the ride was relatively smooth over bumps - mostly because of speed and smaller roadwheels.
Its utility score was on the lower side, which is not surprising given the small size of this tank. It carried the required fuel, ammunition, has three crewmembers at full space, and offers 17,0° of gun depression, and used the 57mm cannon, but that is all.
Another strong point of this entry was the pitch. It is well structured, and takes the historical context of the designed vehicle's task into account. It lays out the details of the vehicle well and has good pictures to accompany it. A solid pitch and entry overall, especially for a first-time participant.
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3rd place: The Nanakyū-shiki keisensha Kehe (Type 97 Ke-He) by u/Nicholpher.
https://preview.redd.it/hn3a1co66s3b1.png?width=1311&format=png&auto=webp&s=7b25d85bba29faa48ef37583b21b9dd31e24859c
Our bronze medalist is not a first-time competition participant, but is relatively new still. However, this did not stop them from making a killer entry. Just from a first glance, you can already tell that this is a nicely compact design, and from testing it I can confirm that it uses its space to the fullest.
The top half of the scores in Utility were all very close, and this design was among them. Within this small machine, there is 800l of fuel, 6 gears, and four crewmembers at maximum space all cramped together. This entry also has the best gun depression out of all entries, sporting an impressive 19,8° on the 57mm anti-infantry cannon. It also has two machine guns; one in the mantlet for the gunner and another in the back for the commander. This makes it a well-rounded machine overall in the intended theater.
It managed to get the category win in mobility, even though it was not the fastest entry. But as I was grading it, I found that several machines had some shortcomings of some kind. Some had a bumpy suspension, others had trouble steering, etc. This one just does everything good. It overcame all obstacles, performed a smooth ride on the testing bumps, and had great steering capabilities at all speeds. This was mostly due to a very well-tuned twin transmission. In essence, this vehicle shows that good mobility does not always equal great speed.
With the great mobility score, it will not come as a surprise that the armour score was not the highest. Although there was increased protection on the hull rear and turret sides that the crew would appreciate, if only for morale.
Aesthetics wise, this entry scored decently as well. There wasn't any particular subcategory where it over or underperformed in this regard. It had a good national identity and era-appropriateness score, and it looks decently realistic in shape as well (i.e. it looks like humans would fit inside). It makes great use of crew parts to add further functionality like the smoke launchers. It also features the two hatches for the two transmissions in the front, a great detail to add. Interestingly, it doesn't feature any national flags, but it does have several markings on it that look like production numbers or slogans. As such, I did reduce the points gained from the decals slightly, but it's still a positive score.
Finally, we arrive to the pitch, which also had a good score overall. The presentation format is interesting, with the Japanese on top and English below. This did make reading somewhat harder due to the separation, but the text itself was well-written and well-structured. The various capabilities of the vehicle are laid out and highlighted, explaining some of the decisions made in the design process. The pictures were nicely framed, but I felt that the filter takes away a lot of the detail within, so it scored a little lower in that regard. Still, a solid pitch and entry overall, and a worthy receiver of the bronze medal.
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2nd place: The Type 97 Ke-Ho by u/Cardinal_Reason.
https://preview.redd.it/5jkkhxnnct3b1.png?width=1333&format=png&auto=webp&s=b0d5b7b7edc2d4a31f782321bbc34f6344559b92
Our silver medalist is also a relative newcomer, and like the previous entry they too did an excellent job. In fact, I found it quite interesting that they ended up receiving the highest score in two categories - an impressive feat!
One of those was the utility category. The vehicle has the desired 800l of fuel covered, offers 19,7° of gun depression, has four crewmembers with maximum space allocated, the preferred 57mm cannon, 6 gears and even a whopping four MG mounts. The thing that pushed them ahead of the competition on top of all this was likely the extra ammunition, carrying 60 rounds of 57mm high-explosive rounds and 15 rounds of armour piercing. While I didn't find any information on this particular cannon firing anything other than high-explosive, the space for those shells still counts towards the total. In essence, this little machine has all the kit required for the operations in the vast space of China.
This machine's armour fulfills only the requirements, with exception to the thicker plate of 25mm on the front of the turret, something that will effectively protect the crew in hull-down positions. This did make this vehicle one of the lighter entries, which is reflected in its excellent mobility score, coming in as a second in that category. This particular entry is the fastest in this round, reaching an impressive 52.6 km/h. It performed well in the other subcategories too, with the exception of the bumps, where it was plagued by a too soft suspension. This, in combination with the unevenly spread roadwheels, meant that it kind of bounced around and was hard to control. The steering was adequate, as the twin transmission wasn't perfect, and tended to slow down the tank significantly when steering. However, other than that, this vehicle performed great in terms of mobility.
Aesthetics wise, this vehicle had a good score as well, coming in second after the joint category winners. It had a very high score in national identity, both in terms of shape and decals. It also had a good score in era-appropriateness. I don't think that one needs much explanation either. It is not difficult to imagine this vehicle in the Chinese theater next to a Type 95 Ha-Go. It is also nicely decorated with the Imperial flag and the Sakura (cherry blossom) decals.
Finally, we touch on the other category win that this vehicle managed to secure: The Pitch. This particular pitch has received top marks in several subcategories, most notable in terms of structure and salesmanship. Seriously, at the end of the pitch all I could think was "Shut up and take my money!" It does a good job at laying out the specifications and details of this vehicle, and presents it in a way that is very persuasive, especially to the Imperial army. Touching on the situation Japan was in, their plans for the future, and how this vehicle was going to fit in those plans was what made me give it the top marks. On top of that, it also has nicely framed and edited pictures. The one thing that I missed was a stat sheet, but it did not cost you your well-deserved category win. It was very convincing and well thought-out, and it got your entry the well-deserved silver medal.
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1st place: The Type 97 Ke-Ru by u/Drallo.
https://preview.redd.it/23r9be5yet3b1.png?width=1300&format=png&auto=webp&s=d4d5c2a4593ea5330b27caafe7b3074c14a0eccd
Our golden medalist, once dubbed 'Bargain-bin Lily' by our resident Minister of Military Expenditure himself, is none other than u/Drallo. This entry once again highlights that consistently performing well in several categories is the thing that wins you competitions like this. While he did also bag one category win, this entry did score second or third in most other subcategories.
The one exception to this is the mobility, where this entry was fourth. It is still a good score overall, however. It managed to barely get the 50 km/h required, but performed good in all other aspects. It overcame all obstacles, was relatively comfortable over bumps, and had good steering capabilities. While it struggled somewhat with the higher speeds, it did accelerate very well, and got up to a decent speed quickly. While it did not excel in this particular category, it is certainly a mobile and maneuverable vehicle. It is mentioned in the pitch that "Your evaluation crew will find a nimble vehicle that does not fight or complain to its driver - it listens and obeys." After evaluating it I wholeheartedly agree with that statement.
The lower mobility score can be easily explained when one looks at the armour of this machine. Coming in at 5.79 tonnes, it is among the heavier entries. This is because the hull and turret front are significantly thicker than requested, with armour effectiveness ranging from 30mm to 50mm in some places. This means that it will be able to shrug off even dedicated (small-calibre) anti-tank weapons at medium ranges, a great feat for a light vehicle. The hull rear and turret sides are also a couple of millimeters thicker. All this meant that this vehicle got the second place in terms of protection.
It got its third place in the Utility category, bringing 800l of fuel and 78 rounds of 57mm ammunition into the fight. It also has an impressive 17,5° of gun depression and the desired 6 gears. It does have four crewmembers with limited space, particularly for the driver and gunner. Other than that, it had the preferred cannon and multiple MG mounts scattered around the vehicle, meaning it will be well-armed against the expected infantry.
The pitch for this vehicle was also great, getting a close second place in that category. It scored high in salesmanship, details, and received the top marks for the many pictures. Each one is nicely framed and presented. There is even a leather cover of the official report! In addition, it provided a decent acknowledgment of the Japanese plans, helping with the era appropriateness score. Finally, a nicely made stat sheet gave us a good overview of the vehicle's capabilities.
It will likely not come as a surprise that this vehicle was the other category winner in terms of Aesthetics. While the national identity score was somewhat lower, mainly due to the turret shape, all the other subcategories made up for it. It very much looks like it was designed in the late 30's, and the large turret actually makes it look like three people could fit in there. Most points came from the details, though. With many custom decals, grates, hatches, smoke launchers, and some well-placed spare parts, this looks like a vehicle ready for combat.
https://preview.redd.it/a8lx4x7ilt3b1.png?width=1609&format=png&auto=webp&s=0aaf6090fe53ac9aeb645387dd7e97695d5f1393
There's just so much to look at on this vehicle - so many little details that make it as good as it is. I can only recommend to check out the pitch if you haven't already. The pictures he makes are much better and do this vehicle more justice than I could. All in all, it is a well-crafted entry for a well-deserved win.
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And that concludes this particular round of Gathering Storm! Congratulations to the winner, and thanks again everyone for submitting your designs. While it took me much longer than I had hoped, I enjoyed testing and grading them. Keep an eye out in July for the next round, and let me know if you have any questions or comments. See you all hopefully next time!
submitted by Blubber28 to SprocketTankDesign [link] [comments]


2023.06.03 17:26 HeadOfSpectre The Soldier

"Think of this as a chance at revenge," Sweeney said.

Revenge.

What a moronically quaint idea.

This jumped up little shit had come into my home, interrupted my retirement and here he was talking to me about revenge, as if he knew the first thing about what I’d seen, what I’d been through, why I’d quit.

Looking into his eyes, I knew he didn’t understand. I knew he couldn’t.

I've been hunting vampires for most of my life. I've killed more of them than I can count. But Clementine Di Cesare was no ordinary vampire. Hell, none of the Di Cesares were ordinary vampires, but even among them Clementine was… unique. She was the one all the others quietly feared. The one who was even spoken of with reverence by the Di Cesares masters, those twin Immortals who could not be killed by any weapon of this world. Seeking revenge against her was like seeking revenge against death itself.

“Revenge?” I repeated, with a dismissive scoff.
“You’re really going to tell me that after what she put you through, you don’t want revenge?” Sweeney asked.
“If you knew what she did to me, you’d know why I don’t want revenge,” I replied.
“Really? Sorry Franklin, but I don’t buy that. Look, I get it if you’re reluctant to jump back into the fight. I do. You of all people know just how dangerous the Di Cesare’s are. Especially ‘La Morte’.”

I looked over at him as he said that name. It rolled off his tongue so irreverently. To him, it was just a name. An alias assigned to some vampire he’s only heard of stories. He didn’t utter it with the respect it deserved, and I almost couldn’t be bothered to correct him. Any words spent on this small minded glory hound were probably wasted.

“Yes, I do know.”
“Which is why I need you,” Sweeney said. He almost sounded as if he were pleading with me. “Think of this as an opportunity to set things right… to put that vampire bitch in the ground where she belongs, and save God only knows how many lives in the process!”
I sighed.
He just didn’t get it.

“Mark my words, Mr. Sweeney, if you chase after Clementine Di Cesare, you’ll end far more lives than you save. She didn’t get a name like ‘La Morte’ for nothing. She earned it. Purchased it with the blood of the tens of thousands she’s sent screaming into the maw of Hell. She is not something you chase, Sweeney.”
“She’s a vampire,” Sweeney said dismissively. “She’s another enemy to destroy.”
“That’s what George Bundy said,” I replied. “Then not too long after, he died.”
“I’m not George Bundy,” Sweeney said.
“No. You sure as hell ain’t,” I agreed, before looking the kid in the eye.

He thought he was an up and comer, climbing the ranks of the Brethren. He probably thought of himself as some sort of badass vampire hunter too, when in reality he could never have so much as dreamed of holding a candle to the likes of Bundy… or hell, any of the men who’d died in Brazil.
“You should watch your tone with me,” Sweeney warned.
“Or you’ll do what?” I asked, “You ain’t going to frighten me with vague threats, boy. I’ve walked through Hell, trying to kill the Devil. What have you done?”

Sweeney bit his lip but didn’t respond.
“There’s nothing you can say or do that will intimidate me,” I said, before lighting myself a cigarette. I stared at the road outside of my porch, old memories flooding back to me before looking over at Sweeney again. He sat in his chair beside me like a sulky child. This was the man who wanted to destroy the Di Cesare family? Pathetic.

“Exactly how much do you know about the Brazil Job?” I asked.
“I know it was a failure. Clementine Di Cesare killed most of the men the Brethren sent out… all except for you. You were the only one good enough to beat her.”
“Good enough…” I repeated with a huff, “Hardly… whatever picture you’ve got in your head of some glorified battle, throw it away. Trust me, the Brazil Job was anything but glorious. It was a two hour long trek through Hell. And I didn’t beat Di Cesare at the end of it. I survived her. They’re two different things entirely.”
“I’m not sure I understand,” Sweeney said.
“You wouldn’t, would you?” I sighed and took another drag on my cigarette.

This kid wasn’t going to leave until I made him understand… so I told him my story. I told him everything even though I knew he’d learn nothing from it.

***

I’d joined up with the Brethren Knights of St. Fontaine back in the 1980s to hunt monsters. Back then, it seemed like the best use of my skills. I’d done my tours with the army, but even after I got out, I was still looking for an enemy to fight. So naturally, once I found out that vampires were real, I set my sights on them. It seemed like the most sensible thing to do at the time.

The Brethren Knights fancied themselves the descendants of the Knights Templar, and they insisted that their God given mission was to protect mankind from the things that lurked in the shadows. I didn’t really have much love for God at the time, but if the Bretheren were the ones fighting the monsters, then I was happy to tolerate the Jesus freaks in their ranks.

It was 1988 when we first heard whispers of the Imperium. A supposed cabal of vampires, trying to get them organized. At the time, it’d seemed too crazy to be true. Vampires generally went their own way, in my experience. At most, they might have a partner but other than they they didn’t really socialize with their own kind. But supposedly someone out there had the big fucking balls to keep them in line, and whoever they were, they scared the shit out of the Brethren.

They’d started targeting high profile vampires, trying to find someone who was involved in this ‘Imperium’, hoping that maybe they might get someone to talk. And it wasn’t long until they found someone who did.

From my understanding, the vampire they captured didn’t seem to know much about who was actually running the show. But they knew who their second in command was… and that was when I first head about the Di Cesare family.

The name was familiar to some of the higher ups in the Brethren, and I’d heard some stories. Not sure which were true, but the long and short of it was that the Di Cesare’s and the Brethren shared a bloody history, and didn’t particularly like each other too much.

George Bundy explained it to me like this at one point: ‘The Di Cesare’s are an old family. Most of them used to be witches, up until their Matriarch turned them into vampires. Now they’re a whole new kind of nasty. Far as I know, the only time anyone’s actually managed to kill one was about 200 years ago. Anyone who’s tried since has ended up dead, so most folks don’t even bother anymore.’

I guess it shouldn’t have been surprising they’d be involved in the Imperium, but the mere mention of their name ruffled some feathers higher up on the chain of command, and eventually they put out a kill order on them. Most of the Di Cesare’s were generally pretty hard to track down, but the top brass had a pretty good line on their matriarch, Bianca Di Cesare. Supposedly, she’d been spotted near the family’s private estate in Brazil and rumor had it that most of her daughters were there too.

Normally, the brass wouldn’t have sanctioned any kind of attack on them. The Di Cesare’s were already considered off limits, and attacking them at their private estate was considered damn near impossible. The estate was located in a small mining town outside of Manaus called Refugio de Julia, or just Julia for short. The town was fairly remote, being only accessible from a few backroads and most folks tended to avoid it, claiming they’d had various strange encounters in the area. Their accounts described unsettling pale figures with dark hair and large green eyes working in the mines, although some of the more disturbing stories we heard involved sightings of other creatures in the jungle surrounding the town. Massive spiders with humanoid faces, tending rotting corpses filled with stinging bees, giant howling beasts who tore through the forest, hunting prey, and beautiful women who would appear in the nearby towns, betwitching men into coming away with them only to reveal themselves as monsters who fed on the blood of their victims. Some had even claimed the Di Cesares themselves were such beasts… although those claims weren’t taken quite as seriously.

A skeptic might say the stories that surrounded Julia seemed like little more than just local superstition… but the Brethren had been dealing with the supernatural for long enough to recognize when something was probably real, and when it was probably fake and they knew damn well that most of the stories about Julia were probably true. None of them had ever dared set foot in Julia to find out for sure, since doing so would probably be suicide, but the theory was that the Di Cesares had created Julia as something of a refuge for other creatures. Other vampires, werewolves, arachne, karah and all sorts of other hellspawn. They offered them a home and safety in exchange for their labor in the mines. Hell, the name of the town more or less spelled it out.

Refugio de Julia

Julia’s Haven.

Julia had been the name of the only member of the Di Cesare family that the Brethren had ever killed, so I guess it was only fitting they named the town after her.

I honestly think using other creatures like them as a workforce was a bit inspired… since it made Julia damn near impenetrable. Reaching their estate at the far side of the town would have been impossible without being noticed by every creature of hell living in that town, and odds are they’d tear anyone apart long before they even reached the gates of the Di Cesare estate. And if one had the bright idea to approach the estate from another angle, they’d be trudging through miles and miles of rainforest to do so, only end up face to face with a massive stone wall that kept the rainforest out.

In effect - the Di Cesare estate was a fortress. Getting in would be no easy feat, to say nothing of confronting the vampires within. But with the fear of the Imperium gnawing at the back of their minds, the Brethren had finally set their minds to trying.

George Bundy had been the one in charge of planning the operation out.

I’d known Bundy before I’d joined up with the Brethren. Hell, Bundy was the whole reason I’d joined the Brethren. He’d been my CO a number of years back, and he’d earned his reputation as a hardass just about ten or twenty times over. Bundy was a gruff looking man with a bushy moustache and intense eyes. During the years I knew him, I don’t believe I ever once saw him so much as crack a smile. He only ever seemed to speak when he felt there was something he needed to say. Otherwise, he was usually dead silent.

He was somewhere in his late fifties back in 88. By all rights, he ought to have retired years ago. But he refused.
“I’m a soldier,” He said, when I asked him about it once. “That’s all I am. I don’t know what else to be.”

Bundy’s initial plan had been to hit the Di Cesare estate from the air. Come in fast and loud with a couple of helicopters and see how those vampires stood up to some good old American flak. The idea got shot down pretty quickly, so to speak. Apperantly, most if not all of the Di Cesares had cursed their own bodies, causing whatever wound one inflicted on them to appear on whoever it was who had wounded them. Going in guns blazing would have ended in a bloodbath… and not for them. There were also some concerns about drawing attention from Julia. With no conclusive data on just what they had living in that town, there was no guarantee we’d be safe in the air. A few eyewitnesses had described seeing giant nests in some of the trees in the jungle, supposedly consistent with the nests made by harpies.

Flying in guns blazing was out. So Bundy went back to the drawing board and what he came back with… well, it was ballsy, but it almost seemed like it just might work. During his reconnisance of the Di Cesare’s estate, he’d noticed a large but shallow tributary flowing into the amazon river that led right through the Di Cesare’s estate. Along the tributary was an abandoned water mill, that connected to the Di Cesare estate.

He’d suggested using the water mill to gain entry to the grounds, and from there, move on the Di Cesare’s. That plan had been approved, and Bundy had been allowed to handpick his team for the operation. He’d chosen fifteen men, all of them ex military, most of them having served under him before.

He’d told us we would be dividing into three teams of five men each. We would leave Manaus by boat, and land at three different areas near the tributary before making our way to the mill on foot, where we would regroup, before moving on the Di Cesares. The reason for the division was to ensure that if any of our teams ran into trouble upon making ground, the entire operation wouldn’t be compromised.

Team 1, led by Bundy himself would depart first and land to the west of the tributary. Team 2, led by a man named Ferdinand Hernandez would make land about fifteen minutes later near the mouth of the tributary and Team 3, to be led by me would land fifteen minutes later to the east.

On the day of the operation, I sat in my boat, watching as the other two left. It was twilight when we set out, and I remember that as my team and I carried out our final checks on our equipment, the only thing I felt was a familiar anticipation.

I’d hesitate to call it fear. Fear is what came later. Anticipation is the better word. I knew we could be walking into a tough situation… but I trusted Bundy. I trusted he’d run a smooth op. God knew, he’d done it a thousand times before.

The team assigned to me wasn’t anything particularly special. They were competent enough, but none of them would’ve been my first choices. Jack McMullen, for instance, who was about the same age as I was at the time. We’d both served under Bundy before, although while I respected Bundy, Jack was wholly devoted to him. I swear, if the man had told him to stuff a live grenade up his ass, Jack would’ve done it without a moments hesitation. I dunno if Jack simply saw him as the father he’d never had or what, but he damn near worshipped Bundy.

I can’t quite say the same for the other guys we had with us, though. One of them, some greenhorn by the name of Pearce Wilson struck me as an airheaded pretty boy who’d never actually had his boots on the ground before, while the other one, Scott Barber had left a bad taste in my mouth last time we’d worked together. Barber was capable… but he was violent. This was a kid with a hell of a chip on his shoulder, and it looked a hell of a lot like that Confederate flag patch he wore on his jacket. He wanted an excuse to shoot something, and I don’t think he cared what. Under most circumstances I’m not sure I would’ve fully trusted him with a gun.

The last one though, Joseph Feng… him I trusted. Feng was the one I knew the least about, and he didn’t seem much for conversation. But he handled himself competently enough and seemed to know when to sit down and shut up.

When Team 2’s boat was far enough away, we got the radio signal to follow. Barber was the one steering the boat, so I gave him the order to cast off and we ventured out into the twilight, unaware of just what was waiting for us out there.

***

We landed in our designated area fifteen minutes after Team 2 confirmed they’d touched down at theirs. Our landing was fairly uneventful. Feng, Barber, and I secured the boat before we radio’d Bundy to let him know we were in position. After that, it was just a matter of making it to the tributary.

As we ventured into the jungle, the world around us was quiet. There was wind, the whisper of the river behind us, and the sounds of animals. But little else. The river fell away behind us as we moved in single file toward the tributary, maintaining radio silence as we did.

It was about a half hour before we heard the gunshot.

Just one, echoing through the twilight. But it was enough to give us pause.

“The fuck was that?” I heard Barber ask. Immediately, the kid was on high alert, with his gun raised as if he were expecting every monster in Julia to come charging at us from all angles.
I just listened, waiting to hear if there was anything else. I half expected my radio to come to life, but it didn’t.
“Team 1, status?” I asked.
The radio crackled with static, but there was no response.

I tried it again, but still with no success. The radio was working, that much I was sure of. Something had to be blocking the signal.
“What’s going on?” Feng asked.
“Dunno,” I replied. “Comms are down.”
“Down?” Wilson asked, “So we’re flying blind out here, then?”
“More or less,” I replied.
“What do we do? Do we go back… if the comms are down…”
“Just because something’s jamming our signal doesn’t mean we’re made,” I said. “Relax. We keep moving for now. You keep your eyes wide open, and your head on a swivel. We’ll make it to the tributary and see if we can’t meet up with the other teams.”
I could tell Wilson wasn’t a fan of my answer, but I didn’t much care. We had a job to do, and I aimed to do it.

I pressed on without a further word and the others followed. Up ahead, I could hear the sound of running water and picked up the pace. I figured the tributary had to be close… and I was right.

I emerged from the brush into the stream, only to pause when I saw what was waiting for us in the water.

In the dying sunlight, it was impossible to mistake the bodies sprawled out on the rocks as anything else… and all I needed to do was look at their uniforms to know they were our people.
“Jesus…” I heard Wilson say under his breath. He froze up, lingering by the bank as I cautiously approached one of the bodies.

It belonged to a somewhat heavyset man with a thin mustache who I recognized as Hernandez. His eyes were still open, although lifeless and staring in different directions, and there was a clean hole in his forehead where a bullet had ended his life. The gunshot we’d heard earlier had likely been the sound of his death.

Looking at the bodies around him, I knew they had to be the rest of Team 2… although it was a little harder pinning down their cause of death. Some sort of bladed weapon, perhaps, judging by the state of them. I realized the odds were that they walked into some sort of ambush.
“What about Bundy and Team 1?” Jack asked, “Any sign of them?”
“No,” I said. “These bodies are all from Team 2… Bundy could still be ahead of us.”
“Then we need to keep going!”

Jack turned, heading up the stream and Barber was right behind him. Feng paused for a moment, thinking this over before following. Only Wilson remained.
“How do we know we’re not walking into a trap?” He asked.
“We’ll deal with that when we get to it,” I said before moving to follow the others.
“With all due respect, Sarge… that doesn’t sound like the best course of action!” Wilson argued, finally following me. “It sounds just like a good way to get killed!”
“Yeah?” I asked, “I’m gonna tell you an ugly truth, kid. That’s the job. Make your peace with it, and it’ll go a lot easier.”

Wilson didn’t like that answer either and trailed off behind me, watching as I continued upstream. For a moment, I half expected him to go back to the boat… but no. I dunno if he found his balls or just didn’t want to get left behind, but he started to follow us again.

I kept trying to raise Team 1 on the radio while we walked, although I still had no luck. The light above us slowly faded into darkness as we trudged through the water in silence, guns sitting comfortably in our hands and mosquitos biting at our necks.

It wasn’t until we lost Feng that I heard anybody so much as make a sound, and when we lost Feng… it happened almost instantaneously. One minute, he was at the head of the group, walking just ahead of Jack and I. The next, he was gone, only barely having the time to let out a scream as he fell into the river ahead of us.

The rest of us paused. Jack seemed to freeze and I pushed past him, calling out for Feng as I did. As punishment for my compassion, I almost went down after him. I only barely stopped myself from stepping on the slippery rocks that had helped send him to his demise.

I could see Feng’s body in the water, and I could see the blood pouring out of him. He twitched a few times, but I knew he was dead. The sharpened wooden spikes jutting out of him confirmed as much.
“What the hell…” Jack said under his breath, staring at Feng’s corpse in disbelief. “That’s a fucking spike trap!”

Yeah.

It was indeed a fucking spike trap.

I could see other spikes jutting out of the water ahead of us, just past a small dam of rocks that were just slippery enough to make it difficult to stop yourself from falling. Some of those spikes had other bodies on them… likely members of Team 1. I only counted two, although that still didn’t exactly bode well.

“They put a fucking spike trap in the goddamn stream…” Jack said, “Who the hell does that?”
“Somebody who’s expecting us to use the stream,” I replied.
“So they know we’re coming?” Barber asked.
“Clearly…” I replied. “And they’ve got a good idea on what our route is too.”

“Yeah, no shit!” Barber snapped. “Christ… let’s get the fuck out of here. There’s probably more fucking traps upstream!”
“Bundy’s orders were clear!” Jack argued.
“Bundy’s probably dead by now!” Barber replied, before looking at me. “Sarge, come on. You have to know this is suicide!”
“Suicide was part of the job description, was it not?” I asked.
“The job is to kill those fucking vampires, not to die in the goddamn process! We need to get out of the stream and into the woods!”

“Judging by the fate Team 2 met, I’m not sure the forest is someplace we want to be right now,” I replied.
“Excuse me?” Barber asked, “What the hell are you talking about, Sarge?”
“Five men dead, but only one gunshot. How did the rest die?”

Barber didn’t seem to be able to answer that.
“By now… yes. It’s clear we’ve walked into a trap. And yes, I understand that it makes sense to try and leave that trap… but I don’t know if we’ll be safer in the jungle. Something jumped Team 2. Cut them apart, and then shot Hernandez as a warning. They didn’t have to shoot him. They did it so we’d hear.”
“Your point being?” Barber asked.
“I don’t think this is just a trap, Barber. It’s a game. Stop playing, and you might just end up like our friends downstream.”
“A game?” Wilson asked, “Sarge, you can’t be serious!”

“From where I’m standing, we have a better chance of surviving in the stream,” I said. “Look, we’re at least halfway to the rendezvous point, and there have to be at least two members of Team 1 left. The safest thing to do right now is to follow them.”
“You’re off your fucking rocker, Sarge,” Barber spat, locking his eyes with mine. For a moment, I thought the boy was going to try and fight me. But no. He was wise enough to stand down.
“If you wanna get yourself killed, go right the fuck ahead. Just leave me out of it! Wilson, come on,” Barber said before trudging over to the edge of the stream. Wilson didn’t even hesitate, just looking back at Jack and I quietly before he disappeared into the forest with Barber.

“You’re not gonna stop them?” Jack asked.
“No,” I replied. “God willing, there’s a chance that pigheaded asshole is right… dunno how much of a chance, but a chance.”
“Then how come we’re not following him?” Jack asked.
“There’s also a chance he’s wrong.”
I turned, before making my way around the spike trap.
“Keep a slower pace,” I said. “Watch for traps.”

Jack hesitated for a moment, but he followed me without any further questions and we walked in silence for a little longer.

We heard nothing from the trees. Nothing that told us about the fate of Barber and Wilson. I wasn’t sure if that was good news or not.

In fact, I don’t think we heard a thing until about a half hour later, when we heard the explosion.

It came out of almost nowhere, but ahead of us I could see a flash of light and hear the screams of men. On instinct, I found myself picking up the pace and could hear Jack behind me. In the low light, I saw a shape float past me in the stream. It took me a moment to realize that it was a severed human arm.

In the water ahead of us, I could see a figure clinging to one of the rocks and trying to pick himself up. I recognized him as George Bundy.

Jack was at his side almost immediately, trying to help the old man to his feet.
“Sir! Are you alright?”
Bundy just wheezed, before his legs gave out from under him. I helped Jack drag him to the shore so he could sit and rest for a moment.
“What the hell was that?” I asked, looking back at the stream.
“Grenade trap… I think…” Bundy panted, “Fucking tripwire… Popkov tripped it, I think…”

Popkov… odds are he was one of the two mangled corpses lying in the river a few feet away from us. It seemed they’d taken the brunt of the explosion, although Bundy still had some shrapnel in his arm that Jack was tending to.
“Christ… whole fucking ops gone to shit…” Bundy spat. “Team 2 got taken out just about as soon as they landed. Someone killed them and dumped them in the goddamn river. Lost half my boys to the fucking spike trap and half to this…”

He looked up at us, before spitting onto the ground.
“Guess you two haven’t done much better.”
“Hard to say,” I replied. “Two of ours took off into the woods, trying to avoid the traps.”
“Then they’re dead,” Bundy replied. “I’ve seen her watching us… always just up ahead, always from a distance… she’s seeing how far we’ll go. How much we’ll take…”
“She?” I asked.
La Morte. Should’ve figured she’d be the one to greet us.”
“La Morte?” I asked.

“It’s Italian. Supposedly, she earned that name around the time the Di Cesares fled Venice. It’s funny, the Brethren like to act like the Di Cesares leaving Venice was some big victory of theirs, since before they did, they finally killed one of them… hard to call it a victory though, considering how many corpses they made before they fled. And most of them came from La Morte…”
Bundy winced in pain as Jack bandaged his arm before he continued talking.

“See… when the Di Cesare’s left Venice, one of them stayed behind. Clementine, the Scorpio sister. Guess she was unwilling to leave the fight unfinished… and according to the stories, the death toll she personally amassed in the years after the Di Cesare’s left Venice make the bodies they claimed during the Venetian Massacre a hundred and fifty years prior look like a pittance. The Brethren still occupying the city started to call her La Morte. Death. Cuz wherever she went, death followed in her wake… and it seems we’ve walked right into her open arms, haven’t we, boys?”

“You’re sure it’s her?” I asked.
“She’s a Di Cesare… and the shit we’ve seen out here… I don’t see any other Di Cesare setting those traps. It’s her. I’m sure of it. She’s watching us. Seeing how far we’ll go. Seeing if we’ll turn tail…”
“Should we?” Jack asked, and Bundy finally seemed to acknowledge him.
“Excuse me?” He asked.
“Should we? Look, sir… I’d follow you into the mouth of Hell, but right now, we’re down from fifteen men to three. Can’t say I’m optimistic about our chances right now. If this woman is half as bad as you’re saying she is, maybe it’s time we took a step back!”

Jack looked at me, hoping I might back him up, but I remained silent.
“What the hell are you talking about?” Bundy asked.
“What I’m hearing here, is that as of right now, the vampire out there could kill us at any time. She hasn’t. Far as I’m concerned, that’s mercy. Maybe we should be taking it while it’s offered.”
Bundy stared at him, before chuckling. I think it was the first time I’d ever seen him laugh.

“Just walk away, then?” He asked.
“Walk away, and come back better prepared!” Jack corrected.
“Walk away,” Bundy said again. “We walk away now, and there won’t be a chance to come back better prepared. We get one shot at this. One. Failure is not an option. We go in there and we kill them or we die. End of discussion.”
“And how exactly are we even supposed to kill them?” Jack asked, “That curse they have… bullets aren’t gonna do shit, sir!”
“Yours won’t, mine will…”
Bundy pulled his pistol from his holster. I noticed some sort of pattern crudely engraved on it.

“I’ve been doing some research… studied the curse they put on themselves… and I think I’ve found a way to break it. Not sure if it’ll work yet… but we get one chance to test it.”
Jack stared at the gun, then back at Bundy.
“Sir… do you hear yourself?” He asked quietly, “You can’t be serious… right now, even with that gun we don’t stand a chance in he-”

The gunshot echoed through the forest and made me jump. Jack’s voice died in his throat as he hit the ground.

Bundy stared at him for a moment, before huffing and holstering his pistol again. He draped his coat over his shoulders, before looking over at me.
“No room for failure, Frank,” He said calmly.
I didn’t know what to say to that. I stared down at Jack’s body, my mouth hanging open slightly. When I looked back at Bundy, he was already back in the stream.

There was a tense silence between Bundy and I as I followed him along the final stretch of the tributary. He trudged on ahead, covered in sweat and straining with every step, but I could sense the quiet determination he had to see this through. Looking at him, you could’ve told me that George Bundy could wipe out the Di Cesare’s all by himself and I would have believed it in a second.

The night around us was full of sound, and each one drew my attention. I watched the forest, expecting to see some sign of La Morte watching us. But I saw nothing, except for what she wanted me to see.
“Mill’s just up ahead,” I heard Bundy say as we pressed on, although I noticed his steps faltering as he seemed to notice something in the trees above us. I stopped behind him, looking up before seeing what he saw, and when I saw it I felt my stomach turn.

I’d seen death before.
But what Di Cesare had left out for us… that was something else.
Pearce Wilson and Scott Barber weren’t dead.
But if they could have spoke, I’ve got no doubt they would have begged us to kill them. Wilsons pretty face was covered in blood and his pouty lips were parted as more trickled out of him. His curly blond hair was matted and I could see crimson there. Tree branches portruded from his ribs, while the loops of his entrails dangled out of his opened stomach. And Barber was in just about the same state, only he seemed to at least have the ability to turn his head to look at us.

I think he might have tried to speak, but the only sound he seemed to be able to make was a pained whimper.
“Jesus Christ…” I said softly.
“He had nothing to do with this,” Bundy replied. He took one last look at the two dying men hanging from the trees, before moving on.
“We should put them out of their misery, sir,” I said.

Bundy paused, before looking back at me.
“Don’t waste the ammo, Frank,” He replied. “They’re already dead.”
“Not yet they’re not!”
“Give them time. They chose to go into the woods. They can live with the consequences… for however long that lasts.”

With that, he left them. If I were a more compassionate man, I would have put them out of their misery. But no. Bundy moved on and so did I.

He approached the water mill, before examining it. It was an old building, made of stone that had long since been overgrown by moss, and sat right on the wall that separated the Di Cesares estate from the amazon. It hardly looked secure, even if the only entrance hadn’t just been an old wooden door secured with a padlock, finding a way in wouldn’t have been difficult. And it didn’t take much for Bundy to break through that door. All he needed was a couple of well placed kicks and it swung right open.

Drawing his gun, Bundy strode inside and I followed him.
“The Di Cesare’s will be in the main house,” He said. “We should find a way in through the back, try and catch them off guard. Main target should be the matriarch, Bianca. Her we should prioritize keeping alive… the rest are expendable.”

“Much as you are, I’m sure.” A voice called from deeper in the mill, and both Bundy and I froze.
I noticed movement on the floor above us, and through the shadows, I saw a tall woman watching us. She was dressed all in black, with blond hair tied back in a ponytail and the intense eyes of a soldier.

This had to be Clementine Di Cesare.

Bundy aimed his pistol at her, although she only barely seemed to notice.
“Only two of you left… I’m not sure the odds are in your favor,” The woman said. Her voice was low, calm and quiet.
“Only one way to find out,” Bundy growled.
“And only one way to walk out of this place alive,” Di Cesare countered. “You can put the gun down, turn and walk away. I won’t stop you. There’s no shame in living.”

“All the bodies you’ve left in your wake… that’s rich,” Bundy said.
“I don’t relish what I’ve done. I simply don’t know how to do anything else,” She replied. “Think about this, Bundy. Over my lifetime, there have been countless thousands who have come to kill me. All of them are dead, but I am not. Even if you could kill me… you could not kill my sisters. Not all of them. Not before they came for you.”
“Just you, would be enough…” Bundy said, before pulling the trigger.

I knew he’d hit her. I knew the bullet pierced her shoulder. But that woman… she didn’t even flinch. She simply dove out of the way before he could shoot again, taking cover and avoiding his next shot.
“Frank, upstairs!” Bundy snapped, “Flush her out!”
I went, trudging up the old wooden steps with my rifle drawn. Only to see Di Cesare vaulting over the railing and back down to the ground floor as soon as I made it up there.

Bundy shot at her again, only to miss for a second time. I saw Di Cesare’s arm move, and heard him cry out in pain. In the low light, I could see a dagger protruding from his shoulder. He stumbled back a step, leaving himself open for only a split second.

That second was all it took for Di Cesare to raise her own gun and fire just one shot.

George Bundy hit the ground without so much as a final scream. There was just a simple hole in his skull where she had shot him.

I felt my heart start to race faster. My eyes settled on Bundy’s gun, and I ran for the railing, vaulting it and dropping to the ground below with a thud. Di Cesare shot at me, and I felt the bullet tear through my leg. I reached out for the fallen gun and grabbed it before turning it on Di Cesare, only to find myself staring down the barrel of her own pistol. My finger rested on the trigger, but I didn’t have the guts to pull it.

"Kill me, and you will not see the sun tomorrow." She said, her voice still cold and calm.
“Killing you is part of the job…” I replied, but my finger still couldn’t squeeze the trigger.
“And is it worth your life?” Di Cesare asked. “You fail your mission either way.”
“And die with some goddamn honor…”
“There’s no such thing as honor. There is alive and there is dead. Choose.”

I knew what I was supposed to choose.

But my hands were shaking, as I stared into the face of death. My finger couldn’t squeeze the trigger.

The gun collapsed to the floor and Di Cesare kicked it away from me, before huffing and lowering her gun.
“Do not return,” She said softly. “Or next time, I will unleash a hell upon you that will make you beg for simple traps.”

She picked Bundy’s gun up off the ground, and then she was gone. After I finally picked myself up off the ground, I was gone too.

As I walked back along the stream… I passed the corpses of the men we’d left behind. Barber and Wilson, Jack, Feng, Hernandez, and his team. The flies were already feasting on them. Animals had already torn at them. And as I looked down at their cold corpses, I knew I had made the right choice.

I filed my report with the Brethren. Told them that Di Cesare had wiped us out, and a few months later I quietly retired. I never looked back.

***

“You walked away from her?” Sweeney asked in disbelief, “You had her dead to rights and you walked away from her?”
“I chose to live,” I replied. “Can’t say I regret the decision either. Because of the choice I made, I met my wife and had my kids. I’ve lived the life I had because I chose not to throw it away on some vampire.”

Sweeney just shook his head.
“You could have gotten the first confirmed kill on a Di Cesare in two centuries, and you threw it away you fucking coward! I could execute you for that!” I noticed his hand hovering over the gun on his hip.
“You could.” I replied, before quietly unholstering the pistol I kept at my side. I aimed it at Sweeney’s head.

He stared at me like a slack jawed idiot.
“Would you like to give it a try?”
“W-what…?”
“Would you like to give it a try, Mr. Sweeney? Or would you like to see the sun tomorrow?”
He stared down the barrel of my gun, and I already knew what his choice would be.

Sweeney took a step back. I saw his hand move away from his holster, and I lowered the gun with a huff.
“Thought so,” I said.
Mr. Sweeney left me without another word.
I knew he would not return.
submitted by HeadOfSpectre to HeadOfSpectre [link] [comments]


2023.06.03 17:24 NurarihyonMaou I'm fucking done with this Game

Someone on this /r said to me, that I should focus Mid/Bot

Just played Jungle Qiqi, was helping from the beginning, trying my best, only slighlty trying to help Top, mostly focusing on Mid and Bot
Our Bot was Fed, me and Mid were slightly ahead, Kha'Zix randomly started One-Shooting, but whatever
Enemy Top was Olaf, dude became fucking Raid Boss, he casually 1vs4 or 1vs5 us (not sure)
My ADC was going Front-Line instead of Back-Line (I'm suprised he died only 4 times)
My Team didn't listen to my calls, so we barely got any objectives


Other Game, I had bad start against Yone...
But he was making mistakes (like overstaying), so I got some Gold in return
I focused on helping my Team (my ADC was salty from the beginning), my Jungler at first was helping, later he started to wander aimlessly,
our Teemo was staying in Bush instead of helping me,
our Lucian stayed in the back without doing anything usefull, only being toxic and going in like an idiot later which also killed me, which caused Game to end faster...
In the Late Game only Brand (and me) was trying, even though he was flamed by Lucian with no reason (I mean, he started with Tear as Supp, but whatever)
Like, I'm losing 34 fucking LP, while gaining maybe 20 on average
Like, I'm far from being good with Qiqi, but this is just fucking bs
I never belived in ELO Hell, as I reached Gold maybe 1.5 Year after staring to play LoL, and next 3 Years I was stopping playing while being close to reaching Gold, as I was getting unlucky which made me bored...
But this Year I just fucking can't, no matter what I do, I can't fucking Rank Up, I get like 8 Win Streak, then I lose most of the Games, and I lose soo much more LP than I gain that I'm in a fucking lack of words...
In previous Years I used other Champs, last Year I even abuse Wukong and Rammus, but currently I find only Qiqi fun



Edit: While I get Auto-Filled into ADC, I usually Win without much effort, like - I hate this Lane, and I still Win while being forced to Play it, yet I can't do much with Qiqi, even when Fed
Yeah, Skill Issue... but, like - something ain't right
submitted by NurarihyonMaou to QiyanaMains [link] [comments]


2023.06.03 17:23 SeparateDrivez KNUST ranked best in the world for provision of Edu Based on SDG 4 » GhBase•com™-Everything & News Now

KNUST ranked best in the world for provision of Edu Based on SDG 4 » GhBase•com™-Everything & News Now submitted by SeparateDrivez to Mycosmo [link] [comments]


2023.06.03 17:23 bagonickles Looking for new recruits to my alliance fairly new

Looking for new recruits to my alliance fairly new
Just be active and over 100k than feel free to join my ally.
submitted by bagonickles to ContestOfChampionsLFG [link] [comments]