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  1. Vansin

    Books on the mind

    As I suggested to @KittyvonCupcake just earlier today: the Dying Earth books are all comprised of short stories or short story fix-ups. Perhaps not as action packed and televisiony as modern fantasy, but if you want dreamlike settings, strange magic, ruthless and amoral characters, and the most superfluous use of wonderful big words you’ll ever find, check it.
  2. The Barbarian Raid Part I: A Pyre of Coth [Mysterious Grove: Underground Temple] Constans followed Ioreth, rearing his head back in shock as the looming shadow retreated. It had touched Ioreth, violently. He frowned and stood beside her, splashing safety across the new room. The shadows here were not idle, he concluded, only fearful of his light. So long as his flickering eyes kept them at bay they would remain in hiding, waiting, as they had for god knows how many years, for the moment to strike. Was it tens of years? Thousands? The gurgling in his stomach informed Constans that he just didn't have that kind of time. Something inside him was very upset, and he feared what would happen to Ioreth if he lost his battle against the pain and discomfort. Even a particularly long wince could spell danger for the elf. He had to act now. He thought of telling Ioreth to hang back, but it didn't matter. In a moment the shadows would be everywhere. Constans walked up to the pillar and touched the gorgeous spiral of black-streaked marble. Hauntingly, the wispy streaks of black in the stone looked suspiciously humanlike, as though lives had been snuffed out like candles and their souls were smoke diffusing into the afterlife. It is a lie, Constans thought as he stared up where the living shadow had been, obviously, the souls have remained. And then he closed his eyes. He couldn't see it, but the room darkened instantly. He had rudely failed to tell Ioreth what he was doing, but he hoped the surprise on her face would be genuine enough to lure out the frightful shadow. Invisible in the darkness, the unliving creature emerged from hiding, streaking over the dangerous priest towards the victim it had already chosen to steal: the elf. Constans turned on his heel. He couldn't be sure the shadow was going to lunge for Ioreth, but he knew she was the only thing in this room he cared to spare from his flames. He inhaled sharply and opened his mouth to scream. Instead of sound, he screamed fire. It whooshed from his lips and blasted directly at Ioreth. Behind the fire, Constans' eyes narrowed with focus and he threw his hands up and tore them outwards, and the flames rebounded away from his friend's pale skin to exclude her from its heat. It curled backward in a globe that ran up the walls, spilling past Constans like a wave, bathing him in warmth and light and catching the shadow fully by surprise. The creature released an ear-piercing cry and recoiled too late. It caught alight, holy fire searing its unholy shape, sticking like honey to its diminishing shadowflesh. It flailed and batted at itself as the power of god consumed it. Constans winked at Ioreth and turned to admire his handiwork, smiling with a confidence which almost begged his stomach to interfere. It did. Constans doubled over at once, both hands grabbing his midsection. He felt the disgusting shape surging and spinning under his skin, and he pushed it inward. He gagged, and a tremendous dry-heave left him breathless. Above him, the shadow was beating away the light and the room was slowly darkening again. He tried to look up, to dispel it with his eyes, but another surge of agony crippled him. Something was wrong, so wrong. It wasn't just him. He felt an existential dread, a far-removed dread, as though the danger was not only here inside of him, but everywhere, and everything he knew and loved was in peril. His stomach burned, but he had no way of knowing that it was burning for Coth. @KittyvonCupcake [Coth] A woman vaulted over a hedgerow. An old man tripped and fell trying to run to his home. It was on fire. A child screamed and pounded on a window inside. Bolts were flying overhead. They fell at random, the landed ones looming like crooked tombstones which burned everything near them. Gardens were aflame, their vegetables dying silently as a husband pulled his fainted wife down the street with no idea where to go. With every bolt fall, hollers and screams. If you looked up, you could see them passing the moon like witches' brooms. Prila saw it all. She was running with Nyra back into the heart of town and higher up the hill. She was having a hard time remembering things, and she smacked herself on the temple when she realized it was dumb easy things she couldn't recall, like where her favorite hiding spot was. She was with Nyra because there wasn't anyone she'd rather be with. Nyra was so calm-- scared still, like anybody, but never intimidated-- and Prila knew she would be safe. Nyra was counting on Prila! So why. couldn't. she. remember. anything!? She realized she had to stop hitting herself because she might actually get hurt. Unfortunately, the attackers made that very easy. A bolt sailed down from the sky and hit the road in front of Nyra and Prila. Dirt sprayed in all directions. It was about ten feet ahead of them, and at its tip a cloth smoldered with fire. Nothing was on the road to catch. It was small consolation to Prila, who stopped short and then backpeddled until she bumped into Nyra. She was breathing so fast that she was feeling dizzy. She had to find somewhere to hide, or else they could die and even Nyra couldn't save her if one of those giant arrows fell on her. It would cut her right in half, and she would bleed everywhere and she'd never get to leave this awful place because she'd be dead. "Nyra!" she gasped in rare delight, "Reeca's house! Reeca's house is made of stone!" Yes! People should go there. The stone might stop a giant arrow, and it wouldn't catch on fire! "And Lars has an underground basement beneath the horse stable!" "And there's a fox den under Fiona's garden...which...might be too small for anybody but me..." @Better Than Gore [Outside Coth: The Edge of the Forest (Approx. 1000ft from town border)] The orange light reflected off of Viscerex's helmet, fiery snakes slithering across his metal cheek as bolts were loaded and launched away. In the distance, across the grassy plains, Church on the Hill was twinkling like an overripe constellation from so many new fires. It was beautiful. Viscerex turned away from his handiwork, gesturing for Aethelmir to follow him. The two men walked back into the forest and out of earshot of the bolt thrower team. "What do you think they will do?" the chief asked. "My lord, so far it seems that have elected to burn. They are in chaos, which tells me they were unprepared for us. I expect they will eventually remember they have wells and put out some of the fires. They have a leader, no doubt. Someone will put them in order soon. I suppose the only question is whether we should meet them before they're in order or after." "That is the question. I have elected to wait. I am not afraid of them organizing. There may be opportunities there. The twins tell me their armed forces are almost nonexistent." "Well, lord, that's no different than most of the towns we've encountered this season. All the fighting men ran to the cities, where the money is. Though this place seems prosperous enough..." "It is a strange thing." the chief said, looked back through the trees at glittering Coth, "Untouched by raids. The construction is all fresh. This is a new town. Who would make such a folly so far from safety?" "It is a holy community, lord. Named after a church. We might be so bold ourselves, if god promised us safety." Viscerex was silent for a moment. He slid his hand over the smooth metal skin of his helmet and finally nodded. "Go gather nine other men. That will leave me with 19 to guard the throwers if danger descends from the hill. We are north of the town. Take your nine and follow the circle of the forest until you are facing the western side, and hide. Watch the bolts. Your signal will be a bolt with green fire. If you see the signal, move directly to the town and gather plunder and any slaves you can carry." Aethelmir nodded and slipped away into the forest to gather his nine men. Viscerex returned to the bolt throwers. "Do not stop your fire, warriors. The eyes of god are upon you." @Spooky Mittens @Fierach @Bastard
  3. [The Forest Outside Coth] "Stupid filthy savage, am I? Who is the one covered in dirt and blood?!" Aethelmir growled, raising his hand to beat the frail boy before he was stayed by a gesture from his master. Viscerex stood up and walked toward the mouthy noble and the muscled lieutenant with a calm stride. He passed by Aethelmir in silence, a sure sign of displeasure, and pushed the boy out of his way with a halfhearted boot to the chest before disappearing through the tent flaps. Aethelmir looked from the chief to the boy and grimaced. He grabbed Anton by the arm and dragged the fool out after him. He certainly wasn't going to let the wretch idle in the chief's tent without anyone to watch him. It wasn't long before the scouts returned. The twin brothers made their way through the camp and bowed their heads to the chief before getting to their business. From far away it was difficult to hear what they said of Church on the Hill, but when the chief nodded and clasped the twins' shoulders the warriors of the camp knew that battle was upon them. An excited whisper grew amongst them, and men sought out their armor and began to pack their belongings before the order was even issued. Though not privy to the planning of the attack, there were some things that were evident even to Anton. The first, and he might have noticed this earlier, is that the barbarians were trailed by a small force of mules, each burdened with wood and metal shapes which seemed to be pieces of some disassembled machine. Over the next hour, Anton bore witness to that machine's construction. In fact, it was more than one machine. If he was worldly enough to recognize them, he would call them bolt throwers. Each was about chest-height and looked like nothing else but a very large, mounted crossbow. From the various material, the burly raiders constructed three such devices and, further, three carts to see them to their final positions. Meanwhile, a pair of men began to see to their ammunition. The bolts were as long as a man's arm, and their bladed heads were quickly wrapped in doused cloths. The cloths smelled awful, and flammable. Once their construction was finished and they were mounted on their carts, the raiders began to march. Discarding their usual raucous behavior, the raiders slipped through the forest outside of Coth in silence. Anton, who again found himself tied to the back of an ugly mule, rode near to the front and soon saw the hill of Coth rise above the forests. It was tall, and the bonefires of the feast clothed the hill in a necklace of orange gems. Viscerex beside him gestured to bring the bolt throwers forward. The light siege machines were arrayed in a line, and aimed so that their ammunition would have a clear path of travel high into the air. Two raiders grabbed a long, rectangular pelt of sewn skins and held it like a shield in front of the weapons. Behind this shield, men began to make a small fire pit, the light from which would be blocked from sight by the skins. There was no need to alert the Cothites to their position just yet. "Now hear me, warriors." Viscerex said, as the twenty-nine men huddled, "I will not lie to you, there are giants on this hill. Yet they are few, no more than five. They are tall, yes, and fearsome, but they are also drunk. Avoid them, and if they venture close enough to our throwers," he said, patting the siege weapon to his side paternally, "fill them full of bolts." "Remember! We are here for plunder! God has brought us to this town, and for good reason. It is untouched by raid, and if god is good its church will be brimming with gold. We will take it all! Yet god favors those men who fight with their minds, and so we shall. It begins with volleys of these bolts, as many as we can loose upon the town until it is aflame. We sow chaos first, and then we see what comes of it. If the signs are good, we charge and plunder. You will all wait for my signal, and no man will attack before it, or I will kill him myself." The men smiled and nudged shoulders, their battle lust building. "Hide well throughout the forest, wait for the sound of my horn. When you hear it, make haste to the town and take what you can! You five men," he said, gesturing toward Aethelmir and a handful more warriors, "you will man the weapons. Keep that skin in front of them until you are sure we have been spotted, then prepare. If they sally forth, it will be to destroy these throwers. Now go! And pray to god for victory!" And so they did. Viscerex fell in beside Anton and his mule. "You will lead me to the green flame, you said. Then lead." he commanded, and slapped the mule's backside hard enough to make the creature cry out in pain. It took off, galloping through the forest and toward Coth, taking its hapless prisoner with it. Aethelmir watched the mule and boy disappear through the woods and frowned. "Lord, will he not tell the townsfolk of our intentions?" "If they do not kill him first?" Viscerex answered, turning his steel face to his lieutenant, "I hope he will." [Coth: Prila's Secret Spot] "Wow! I knew it was a cool sword!" Prila said, clapping as her idol ripped the impressive blade from the earth. She was proud of herself for having hid it so well. In her mind, no one deserved it more than Nyra. She imagined the warrior woman using it, slicing through faceless foes in some fairytale battlefield as dragons flew overhead and monsters of all sort spun away in fear of the magical sword! She looked up to imagine it all, and gasped in delight. "Nyra look! A shooting star!" It was destiny! It was just like a story! But Prila's joy turned to horror as the shooting star came hurtling downward, followed by two more stars-- no, not stars. Something else, something on fire. Something- Whatever it was hit the hill, and the music and cheer of the feast stopped all at once. The other two things slammed into the hill as well, and one fell close enough that Prila could see it plunge into a house, crashing through the roof like a needle through wool. Splinters of wood flipped through the air and it was only moments before fire began to glow behind the home's windows. "What...why?" she mumbled, shocked. She looked to Nyra and noticed that the sword in the warrior woman's hand was glowing. @Better Than Gore @Spooky Mittens @Bastard
  4. Coth welcomes all refugees, so long as they respect goat god..
  5. We haven't started writing yet, no. Is there a time limit?
  6. [Coth: Feast -> Secret Spot] Prila looked shyly down at her plate and smiled. Nyra was so nice. "Okay." she said quietly. "Hey!" she cried out, perking up at once, "Do you want to see something really cool?" That really cool thing was some ways away, however. So when they were finished eating they brought their plates back to Reeca, said thank you, and traveled back down the hill again. For all their talk of hiding coins and riches, Prila couldn't believe she'd forgotten about her special hiding spot. The special hiding spot wasn't too far away from Prila's house at the base of the hill, but the spot was technically outside of town, so it was somewhere she wasn't supposed to go. Prila laughed as such restrictions, and it was easy to laugh when no one was really watching you. Night-time was in full swing now, and it turned out Prila was sincerely hard to keep track of in the dark. Aside from her cartographic memory of the town, she was very nimble and excelled at finding little pathways no one else noticed. She sprung out from one such place, a narrow crawlspace through ten adjacent rolls of hay, and pointed Nyra toward a small pile of rocks on the side of the path exiting town. When you looked at them, the rocks were clearly arranged, but a traveler might walk by and never notice them at all. "I didn't want to hide it here, I just couldn't get it out. It's sort of...stuck there." she admitted. She invited Nyra to remove the rocks and see. To her surprise, the warrior woman would discover a smooth green gem, and it attached to something else. By the time the rocks were completely cleared, Nyra would be face to face with the emerald-pommeled hilt of a sword. The blade, however, was buried straight down into the ground to the hilt. "It's what I think it is, right?" Prila said quietly. @Better Than Gore
  7. Constans swept light across the room as he walked to its center, smiling at Ioreth's quip as he knelt down to scoop up a handful of rotten wood. Kneeling made his stomach feel better, and as he lingered for a moment in reprieve he thought of his own church, itself already quite ruined. Yet still, his faith was surrounded by life. If this old church had once served a god, Constans knew it must be a long forgotten one, for in his studies he had never seen designs or secret symbols that matched the ones Ioreth was inspecting. He stood slowly, puzzling over the room and touching his fingers to his abdomen, prodding around to feel the source of his discomfort. The source of his discomfort prodded back. Constans' eyes widened, and he gave a furtive glance to make sure Ioreth was too distracted to notice him explore further. He pressed against himself again, and felt a horrifying sense of movement in his stomach. He wasn't sure how much longer he could attribute this to indigestion, but when he opened his mouth to say something about it he heard the clattering sound of bone hitting the stone floor and found himself distracted from what was, after all, just a bit of a scary stomachache. Constans crossed the room hoping his forward lean wasn't too conspicuous. Looming over Ioreth's shoulder, he saw another long pathway, curved this time. Ancient wall sconces held more rotten wood-- torches, once-- and etched into the stone on the walls were surprisingly adept pictographs of humanoid figures arranged into a sort of religious dance. The first had the dancer crouched low, then on the next he seemed to leap up. There were more, but they were spaced out unevenly and continued around the bend. "There's something wrong with the shadows." it wasn't just here, it was everywhere he looked. In the first room it had been easier to ignore. After all, there were things here and there around the room which could, if you didn't think too much, be the cause of the strange shadows. In this hallway, there were no such excuses. Even though there was nothing before them except open air, his green light seemed to cast upright shadows that would be there one moment only to disappear after the next flicker of his inconsistent eyes. He caught one, a tall shape jumping halfway down the path, and gasped. "They're people." he whispered, "There are people everywhere in here. Look!" he said, pointing to a shadow on the wall just ahead of them. The shadow was of a man on all fours, skittering away. Constans' light blinked, and when it returned the shadow was gone. "Why are they moving like that?" @KittyvonCupcake
  8. Vansin

    Animated works of all kind

    I like that at the end of the credits-
  9. Vansin

    Animated works of all kind

    Indeed it is that cool. A story of adventure, friendship, heroism and a bit of a cautionary tale to boot. Also at one point they kill god.
  10. Vansin

    Animated works of all kind

  11. [Outside Coth: The Chief's Hut] Aethelmir looked up at the chief. "Sorry, lord." he murmured and quickly walked out of the tent. For about a minute Viscerex sat in silence, the chest of the unconscious boy rising and falling with his shallow breath. Who was Viscerex? How had he become chief? It began with his father, he thought as he leaned back in his foldable throne, his father and the tribe. He'd been a boy, but not a son of the chief's wife. It had caused problems, his birth, but his father had been a strong man, and had thankfully produced no other sons. Being the son of a chief was not a guarantee of anything, but Viscerex behaved manfully, and was his father's champion until that fateful day, the day when- SPLASH! Aethelmir had returned and dumped an entire bucket of water down over Anton's head. Viscerex snapped back to the present. "How dare you fall asleep in front of the chief you miserable weakling?!" Aethelmir shouted, aiming a soft kick at the boy's stomach. "You stand up this instant and answer his damned questions or I'll have you dig a lake!" @Bastard
  12. Penned by the hand of Constans, Prophet of Coth, A merchant lord of Blairville, a family of slavers in Dougton, a lumberyard on the outskirts of Coconino Marsh, a colony of dwarves in Blaurg Mountain. What do they all have in common? First, we must speak of dragons. Before the smaller races, everything belonged to the dragons. Like gods, they claimed vast swathes of the planet, competing and carousing together across the sky, the envy of the natural world. For an age, it was sheer, joyous barbarism. Yet like ourselves, the dragons eventually sought to erect certain social barriers against the naked cruelty of nature's demand that all creatures be either predators or prey. It was dragonkind which established Valucrean society as it exists in its diluted form today-- our sanctity of common law and our value of sentient life derive primarily from their racial hubris. A dragon was, in those days, an inviolate specimen of advanced life. All dragons, despite their addiction to power and wealth, understood that a moral sense of equality among them would allow more of them to live, fewer of them to die, and would enhance the species over the course of generations. "Peace among dragons." This was the slogan of those days. Dragons who persisted in the old ways of fatal combat were, paradoxically, the first to be eliminated by the laws of the new world order. So it is obvious that dragonkind was still inclined toward violence, for they were still fierce competitors for land and gold. Yet without the recourse for killing a rival directly, dragons began their excruciatingly slow descent from apex predator to the diminutive stature we see before us today in the form of common wyverns, wryms, and lesser dragon races. A testament to the corrupting influence of society? Perhaps. For once a dragon could no longer kill a peer directly, he was forced to commit his violence indirectly. This led to the mixing of their blood with lesser species, and the deputization of our various small humanoid races as their killer catspaws. In this way, the dragons retreated from active and public life and became puppeteers of a sort. Over the millennia dragon sightings dwindled, until now it is erroneously believed that dragons are extinct. This is false, even if we fail to consider the dragonspawn modern adventurers occasionally slay to so much fanfare. You read it right: dragons are alive. For the proof, we must return to our original question: what do all those disparate factions, the merchant, the slavers, the loggers, and dwarves have in common? Simple: they all serve a dragon. Particularly, they serve a Red as old as society itself, the great Skemmdarvargur, or the Firebreather as he was known in ancient times. Much of Skemmdarvargur's life is a mystery to us, but his effect on our modern world cannot be understated. A dragon of surpassing intelligence and cruelty, it is likely that he is the sole survivor of the shadow war that dragonkind played against itself in northern Terrenus. It was that shadow war which raised the first human settlements, equipping the early men with dragon's knowledge so as to create bases of power from which assassins could be bred. Note, these are not the discreet professional assassins of our days, no, and for Skammdarvargur's early career as a father of human society he was dealing with us in our basest form. We were like the barbaric dragons at the beginning of history, a race of blunt instruments uninhibited by codes of morality. This was our value to dragons, of course, and the task for which our race was shaped-- to always be on the precipice of weakness and strength, capable of unimaginable destruction when bent to a task together, yet relatively harmless individually. But we have grown since those ancient times. Like the dragons before us, we have found the guiding light of peace and civilization. We won this by serving our purpose well, for while the dragons are not extinct, they are now exceedingly rare. The dragons who remain lay deep in hiding, taking forms not their own and hoarding immense treasures and old magic where it is probably safest (which is to say, far away from our hands!) yet for all their remoteness, dragons still shape our world by directing our destines in ways we rarely comprehend. Of the cases I mentioned earlier, the slavers and the dwarves and all those, only the merchant lord is aware that his life is in the service of the Firebreather. The rest serve without knowing, hired like you or I might be by a rich and mysterious benefactor. My own investigation into these strange connections began with the slavers. They were, frankly, shocked to find that their business was not an absolute secret, as they worked for one man and shipped their slaves to one place only: the lumberyard. Here, the slaves are disguised as workers and set about the task of relentlessly creating firewood which itself is exclusively shipped to the dwarves in the mountain. I have yet to find time to visit this dwarven enclave, but I expect they would be just as nonplussed as the slavers to learn they are serving the purpose of a dragon. God alone knows what they are smelting up there, but the firewood is surely to fuel a dwarven forge. This is only one of four different plots connected to that same merchant lord, and he is only one of six Terrenus nobles I have found connected to Skemmdarvargur. There are certainly more. We may never know the full extent of his schemes. The question arises: to what end is all this working toward? If he is the last dragon in our area, what then are his goals? I could posit simply that he wishes for what all dragons wish: more gold, more power, more, more, more. No doubt his secret machinations are affording him just that. Yet I believe there is something far more sinister at work, plans which have outlasted whole civilizations of man, which have wound their way through family lines, ancient enmities, and the very institutions which we credit for our current greatness. Behind so much of the world we think we know is one solitary mind, accustomed by birthright to piloting destiny and shaping the illusion of causality to further an unknowable goal, representing a stern warning about the deviant moral consequences of straying too far from one's own true nature. If my fears are founded, that mind also represents the single greatest accumulation of knowledge and power in the northern half of Terrenus. Only one power is surely outside the taloned grasp of this great deceiver, and that is the power of god. Look upon the headstone of Skemmdarvargur's false grave in Blaurg Mountain and take heed: "Here he lies, Skemmdarvargur the Firebreather, last of the dragons in the north." 'Here he lies' indeed. @supernal
  13. Vansin

    Economics of Dragonslaying

    I'm a D&D supernerd, so admittedly I hew toward a representation similar to D&D's representation of dragons. In D&D dragons grow in size, magic, and intelligence as they age. Definitely not a hard rule for every fantasy setting, story, or draconic creature. So assuming dragons are dumb-- yeah you're talking about animals who like to collect the shiny round things. In their case, it's like a thug stealing your lunch money only on a titanic scale. However if dragons are intelligent, I'd wager they'd want to surround themselves with comfort and opulence in complex lairs staffed with fanatic followers who see to their whims. A very smart, very powerful dragon might be the closest thing to a terrestrial god a setting can have, and could use that gravitas to accumulate humanoid helpers, servants, even a military force capable of doing its bidding while it, I don't know, rolls around on mountains of gold. So the question is: how bestial is the dragon in question? Does it follow human societal customs? Perhaps human societal customs derive from dragon society, allowing for a similarity which could encourage a dragon to engage human economies as a path to more riches, seeing human settlements as simplistic simulacra of its own species' financial habits. For example, a dragon might see a human city much in the same way a coal baron might see a coal mine. An easy location from which to extract money. Once again, assuming it's intelligent. The concept of an intelligent dragon is my personal contribution to this thread because it's the only sort I've ever thought about!
  14. Vansin

    Black Book OOC

    It's all about motivation. If you still feel motivated to finish this, I'm in. If you want to delay it or end it, I'll be here for the next quest.
  15. Vansin

    Economics of Dragonslaying

    So, back to the original premise of the thread: Dragons represent about the same benefit/cost to an economy that an extraordinarily wealthy human might, albeit they're a concentration of wealth with excellent security. However if your dragons are at least of human intelligence they'll understand the concept that investment grows wealth. I always imagine dragons as the remote manipulators of vast organizations and endeavors all geared toward the sole purpose of increasing the size of their hoard. The danger of a rich dragon would seem to me not to be a merely financial danger, but a political one, as a dragon could finance extremely complex political nonsense which could drain an economy without the victims ever knowing anything more was going on than regular banditry and crime and corrupt governance. And further, I think that a smart dragon would use its personal power not to smash open a bank and steal lots of money (If its sets up enough of a network, money will come to it regularly and reliably and a dragon lives so long that it can afford to wait) but instead to crush anyone who could undo its machinations. Or prop up people who can achieve its machinations! I always imagined a dragon pretending to be a mindless engine of destruction while planting some lackey as an anti-dragon candidate! The candidate would whip the people into such a fear of a dragon that they'll accept crippling economic stress in the name of "stopping the dragon", and the proceeds of that heavy tax burden would of course go directly to the dragon himself. Like with demons and devils and angels and gods, considering the impact of a dragon has to take into consideration that they're smarter, and way longer lived than mortals, and they plans ought to be concealed by misdirection over misdirection over misdirection.