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Valentine's Vengeance
Things got pretty twisted this year for Valentine's. A inadvertent wish and a vengeance demon wound up setting the entirety of town against Astrid. Poor Jason was nearly torn to shreds before we managed to undo the demon's twisted wish.
I'm really hoping for a nice quiet few weeks. Spring break is coming up soon, and I'm going to head out to Rose Castle. I plan on inviting Angela Darcy to come along. I'm going to ask Maryanne if she wants to invite anyone as well. It might also be a good break for Seumas wants to tag along. Give the man an excuse to head back to the old country.
I have this sneaking suspicion that the entire scooby gang is going to wind up rooming at my estate. I could probably spin it as an extra-curricular school trip and give everyone class credit somehow. It would have two, possibly three, teachers running the show. I would simply need to convince the principal, and avoid Boothe screwing it up completely. I think he's still got it out for Astrid after the food fight, and after his car was completely gutted in the parking lot.
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Dark of night

Mirilida sat by the fire exhausted. She was exhausted but restless. She always enjoyed a break from the dank and dark of the barrowmaze where you cannot distinguish night from day, but she felt a sense of urgency to get back. Even on a night where the waning moon was not lighting up the sky, it seemed like day compared to the pitch black of the tombs. And yet, she still felt the need to get back.

It was not her itch to fight, which was always a drive for her. It was not the treasure they were accumulating. Mirilda did not really care for the wealth they were amassing. She lived simply and had more gold and gems than she would need for a long time. But she KNEW they needed to get back.

Her sense of dread about the future of the world was growing. If the necromancers were to find the tablet before they did, what would the world become? Would the living become slaves to the dead? Would evil reign while good suffered? She could not shake the sense of doom she felt and her sense of urgency grew.

She knew others in the party had different motivation for exploring the barrowmaze. They spent more time looking for treasure than for the tablets. She needed to convince them that their mission must come first. She looked around the camp and everyone looked exhausted, but she can sense the gloom from the maze lessened by being out in the woods. There was a lightness about them that was always missing when they were surrounded by the dread of the tombs.

Yes, she needed to convince them, but that could wait until morning.
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This is it? As the Unchained enter the dim chamber, Leon’s disappointment is acute. Expecting a tremendous treasure, they instead are met with a nondescript pedestal displaying a dank cushion and a creased deck of cards. Clearly Boudica is more optimistic; she impulsively picks up the deck and shuffles. Didn’t she used to have a little more common sense? Leon eyes her carefully, looking for tentacles twining out of the cards to strangle her, or razor sharp edges slicing her hands. He is pleasantly surprised that nothing happens and she returns the deck to its cushion - but inexplicably she draws a card and holds it up! He shields his face for the explosion or the cursed sharp-toothed beast or whatever is coming next, but instead becomes aware of a soft glow emanating from Boudica. She’s struggling to breathe, but something else is happening… Leon feels an urge to touch her hair, loan her money, buy her an ale, wash her feet. She loosens her armor and rises like a goddess, speaks in a queenly voice that dispels all fear. We will follow her, she will lead us, all will be well.

Leon looks from Boudica to the others to the deck of cards. Mirilda appears unconvinced, but Leon is emboldened: we could all be kings! He lifts the deck and begins to shuffle. Memories of late night card games fill his mind: Court-Shield-Castle: a clever game where the winner tricks the others into thinking his defenses are down, before slyly breaking through their shield of royal cards...Prisoner’s Ruff: a fast action game where everyone tries to pass the “prisoner” card around until the game is suddenly halted and the keeper of the prisoner loses all his coin... Lucky Man’s Tangle: keep your hand full of unassociated cards, no pairs or sequential numbered cards... and of course Trump Fools: no one ever seemed to be able to win that one.

He leans over to place the deck on the pedestal. While fingering the frayed edges of the cards, he is met with alternating glimpses of agony and ecstasy:

Ula’s bones in a graveyard

A magical flight through the crystal sky

The scent and sensation of his own skin burning and bubbling from within

The view from a lordly height, admiring his own tall muscled body

A forgotten memory of nothingness, the hollow moment before coming into existence.

And now he is holding up the top card, realizing he was right! Lucky lucky lucky. Anything can be his for the asking! “It’s a wish,” he tells the others. Sliding the card into his pocket, his mind swirls with possibilities. Strike the death blow to an enemy. Pull a drowned victim from the water and watch her breathe again. Crumble a steel door to the ground with a touch.

Should he tell the others about the images which visited him while touching the cards? They are already fading, he can feel only his newfound luck, and the certainty that Boudica will lead the Unchained to glory. He steps back and lets Mirilda take a turn.
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Motley Magic
I don’t trust magic any more than I trust anything else. I don’t mean to say that it doesn’t exist—I’ve certainly observed enough of it to know that it does. A woman transforms into a shark before me with regularity. Boudica is quite literally bursting out of her armor because her bosoms swelled to impressive proportions in an instant. (I wonder how long she had wished for that.) And recently, I’ve been on the receiving end of it enough to be amazed and horrified by its power. I’d rather risk death by wrestling a thorn out of an angry bear’s paw than be teleported again. But knowing something is real and trusting it are two very different phenomena.

Love, drink, gods. I know for sure that drink exists. I’ve seen the Unchained stumbling about, enjoying this hard life sufficient to know that its wondrous effects are very real. But trust it? How can I trust something that would make me hug a stranger, laugh with abandon, or forget … well… just forget? Gods? Maybe they exist. Images and stories abound to suggest that they might. But trust them? If they exist, they are perverse and cruel and I despise them. Pray to them? I’d just as soon pray to a festering turd. And love. Whether a feeling or an action, I do know it exists, but I do not trust it. Like God, it is perverse and cruel, and to trust it is a dangerous, dangerous mistake.

So…magic. I must abide it. Boudica and Tor have saved my ass with it enough times for me to cultivate gratitude for it. I love that Meena is a shark. And who wouldn’t want to sleep on Boudica’s new pillowy bosoms? But draw a card from that magic deck? Not for all the fox kisses in the worlds. You could get what Boudica got, or what Leon got. Why tempt fate?

Magic, like love, drink, and the Gods, has, at times, proven itself beneficial. But like love, drink, and Gods, it has also caused destruction and death. The Unchained, with their characteristic collective generous spirit, allowed me to keep the magic sword we fought to find. I have never held a magic weapon, and I am in awe, but I am also suspect, and will yield it with caution.
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New Markings

This YT 1300 isn't the Risky Rig...
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