During the Warring States period, the Sengoku Jidai, when many heroes rose and even more heroes fell, the samurai Kasabuke Daihatsu served the noble daimyō Matsumura-Tamarubuchi. Never far from his daimyō‘s side, Kasabuke was sworn by a blood oath to never let a single drop of rain touch Matsumura-Tamarubuchi. As an umbrella-bearer, he was perhaps the most important member of the daimyō‘s retinue, and as was often the case in those days, many conspired to wet him.

Though Kasabuke would be spared the fate of the umbrella-bearer Matsuoka Akira, who was famously torn apart by wild dogs for plotting to spill tea on Oda Nobunaga, he nevertheless was unable to perform his duty. By treachery, an enemy of Matsumura-Tamarubuchi was able to divert the daimyō into the famous Ame Pass and trap him there during a rainstorm. Drawing his kumbrellatana and his smaller umbrella-to–which could not be returned to their scabbards without being wetted–Kasabuke protected his daimyō from every drop of the ferocious storm. But an enemy umbrella-bearer, sent by the shadowy daimyō Shiame, attacked at that very moment.

The contest was an epic one, the sound of bamboo on bamboo echoing from the mountainside for many hours. But in time, Kasabuke tired and the assassin was able to deflect his aim just enough that a single drop of rain touched the hem of the daimyō‘s kimono.

His honor stained, his master wet, Kasabuke was a broken man–until he swore vengeance. He would not rest until Shiame was not only wet but soaking, and his quest would resound through five hundred years of Japanese history as that of the Umbrella Samurai.

Inspired by this.

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CODE #C41\14D4
CANADA ALERT

This alarm is sounded when the Canadian Prime Minister initiates Code Omega-Zed-Eh, the long-gestating Canadian plan for world domination.

A Canada Alert requires swift action to defeat the invaders. Recommended precautions include:
– Adding “kilometres” to road signs to confuse the distances between landmarks
– Brandish a private medical insurance form
– Releasing greenhouse gasses to melt the Arctic and unleash a plague of mosquitoes
– Creating roadblocks or protective circles with American beers

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The stadium was full and loud as the latest indie pop rock crossover sensation, Granny and the Robots, finished playing their set.

“Thank you!” the lead singer cried. “Thank you very much!” The crowd, overwhelmingly young women, screamed and pressed forward so much that the security line buckled and a few were able to get their hands on the stage, where their idol slapped them with stinging enthusiasm.

It took three encores, but the band eventually got off the stage and into their trailer. Once the last member, the drummer, was inside, the door closed and triple-locked.

“Well, that was a hell of a performance,” said Bertha Neumeier, unhooking herself from the virtual reality control panel interface. “Think they’re any closer in figuring out the band name?”

“Negative,” said UXP-491, pulling the android control cable from its data port.

“0100111001001111,” croaked Binar-Tron, doing the same.

“WE ARE STILL 20% ORGANIC COMPONENTS WHICH IS MORE THAN THE STONES,” added W473R-WH331.

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New Age Pharmacy had purchased a GesteCo Model 983 to help run its stockroom. They’d paid extra for a 900-series model because its anthropomorphic form was more endearing to customers and it could run the counter at a basic level if there were no pharmacists available.

“Good morning, sir or ma’am,” the Model 983 said, detecting from the stockroom that there was a customer present and no pharmacist available to deal with them.

In reply: “Good morning, sir or ma’am.”

This customer was an Oblate Electronics C-202 Courier, a competitor to the GesteCo Model 983 that was available at a lower price point but with fewer options for customization. In theory, they should have been able to communicate via high-speed infrared data ports. But the fact that both had been set to interact with humans, and the fact that GesteCo and Oblate had stubbornly made their infrareds incompatible, the units were forced to rely on speech synthesis and auditory pickup.

“What can…New Age Pharmacy…do for you today?” said the Model 983.

“Customer…Cynthia Jean Reynolds…requires a refill of prescription number…03221983945,” said the C-202.

“One moment, please.” The Model 983’s latest batch upload confirmed the scrip and the details: a prescription for heart pills, dispensed every two months, until further notice. Paid in full due to government benefits for war widows. The 983 trundled to the back, used the special manipulator arm that New Age had installed, and scooped up a pill bottle. Returning, it deposited the bottle on the countertop.

The C-202 picked up the bottle and deposited it in its internal storage locker for delivery. “Thank you, sir or madam.”

“Have a pleaseant day, sir or madam, and visit us again soon at…New Age Pharmacy.”

The Model 983 returned to the stockroom as the C-202 exited. The place was thick with dust and cobwebs; the only visible marks were those the Model 983 had made filling the prescription a moment ago, and performing the same tasks two months before.

Returning home, the C-202 deposited its medicine on an end table, adding to a pile of 270 other bottles spilled over its side and down onto the floor. It returned to its alcove, its duties completed for another two months, its power cell with another 100,000 cycles left in it.
Inspired by this.

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Argentsail the Dispossessed
The far-flung Island of Anpok is nearly a thousand miles out to sea, and was undiscovered until a goblin longboat was blown off course in a storm and into Anpok’s small harbor. Its captain, exploring the area, found the veins of argent silver which saw the island go from uninhabited to supporting a population of 2000 miners within five years. He was able to sell the title of the island to the crown of Layysia in exchange for a tidy sum every year. This provided him with a good income until the crown, on trumped-up charges, ceased payment. In retaliation, Argentsail sold a quitclaim to the King of Pexate and guided an invasion fleet to oust the Layyians. Thus it was that Argentsail became (technically) dispossessed, yet maintained his name.

Ryntap Rawfingers
Musician, storyteller, and itinerant bard, this goblin composed ballads on the ryntap, the traditional goblin lute-drum. His epic stories, told in song and verse, were the life and times and family history of Mycnu Rollfall, a mighty goblin warrior. Named for his ability to roll with the punches and think on his feet, Mycnu Rollfall was a goblin living in what became the Kingdom of Pexate in the time of King Eyon I and leading a band of his fellows against the incursion of the King’s conquest. His exploits won him the respect of his adversary but did not spare him from death in furious battle. Playing his fingers raw while spreading his ballads, Ryntap won his name and reknown. The only detail, which never seemed to bother Ryntap or his listeners, was that Mycnu Rollfall (and his lovely mule wife Nyubl) never existed at all.

The Stitchwound
Anatomist, healer, and all-around doctor, The Stitchwound tended to the wounds of both sides of the catastrophic Battle of Buckethill, earning his name for saving the life of a baron by stuffing his wound with maggots and stitching. As legendary for his insults as he was for his healing, The Stitchwound would likely have earned a name for himself when he told the Crown Prince that “he was not afraid of a man who took ten years to learn his alphabet.” Later, when attending to the Baron Varrett, the Baron’s son worried that his father would be poisoned. “Have no fear,” The Stitchwound told him, “for no man in Varrett would take away your father’s life to make you baron.” Spurning any other names, he insisted on being known only as The Stitchwound (with an integral article) until his death tending to a goblin chief during a raid across the border of Layyia.

Tpaukep Skinpeeler
When the famous Amber Crown of Layyia was stolen by gutsy brigands from the Crown Jewels, the King of Layyia brought together the best trackers and minds in his kingdom to try and see to his treasure’s return. A goblin answered the call, certain that her methods of deduction were superior to those tried by the better-known and more expensive hunters. The royal steward derisively let her try. Realizing that it had to have been an inside job, the goblin tracked down where every single person with keys had been the night of the theft. The only one with no alibi was kidnapped and interrogated with a flayer’s knife; it only took one arm peeled like a potato for him to divulge his accomplices. The goblin then tracked the thieves using the same methods; the last purpetrator reportedly lost every inch of skin on his torso before he divulged the crown’s location. Tpaukep literally means “yellow-stone,” amber, and “Skinpeeler” explains itself.

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“I dated a geneticist for a while.”

“Why didn’t it work out?”

“She wanted to have kids, but I wasn’t really about that.”

“But she’s a geneticist! She can make her own kids with DNA!”

“Yes, she can…just like every other woman.”

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Near the end of the Golden Age of the Abbasid Caliphate, engineers digging an irrigation ditch uncovered a most curious item. Accounts differ as to whether it was found there or plunged to the site in a ball of fire from the heavens, but all agree on the nature of the object: a nearly perfect cube of a material that was smooth as obsidian, warm to the touch, and roughly the size of a man’s head. Astonishing its discoverers, the cube was surrendered to the Caliph reigning in Baghdad and his House of Wisdom, the greatest grouping of scientific minds of this or any age.

It was called sagheer kaaba or little cube by those who found it, in reference to its shape as a near-perfect cube. Many in the House of Wisdom found the sagheer kaaba to be pleasingly evocative of the holy Kaaba in the Great Mosque, the House of God. For this reason, it was felt by some in Baghdad that the sagheer kaaba must be divine in and of itself, a gift from Allah.

The Caliph warned sternly against this, promising to punish as idolaters any who bowed to the sagheer kaaba in prayer and ignored the directive in hadith and surah that only the holy Kaaba in Mecca was to be used for such. Nevertheless, the Caliph allowed the study and display of the sagheer kaaba within the House of Wisdom as a curiosity.

One of the greatest minds of his age, the polymath Ibn Al-Haytham was the first to discover a curious property of the sagheer kaaba during an experiment in physics. The object had the curious property of generating an electric current in any conductor it touched–or even was brought into close proximity with. Ibn Al-Haytham was able to use the sagheer kaaba to power a variety of small automatons he constructed for the Caliph’s amusement, and the fragmentary Baghdad Chronicle records the Caliph’s son being delighted by a “mechanism of skittering brass legs like unto a spider” with the cube perched on top of it.

Study continued after the deaths of Al-Haytham and the reigning Caliph, with increasingly elaborate devices being designed to draw on the sagheer kaaba‘s power, which was found to grow at a geometric rate in response to the demands made upon it. It powered baths, moving walkways in the palace, lights that burned without wicks or oil, and a series of catapults and crossbows arrayed in the city walls for the purpose of defense.

In time, too, the younger Caliph wavered in his father’s attitude toward the sagheer kaaba as an focal point of worship. Arguing that its wondrous properties could mean nothing but a divine origin, the Caliph and his household began directing their daily prayers to Allah to the small cube rather than the great one. The House of Wisdom’s best scholars noted with unease that the cube seemed to increase its power output as a response to these prayers, and several quietly quit their posts and left Baghdad.

When the great imams of Baghdad learned of the Caliph’s actions, they demanded that he cease his heresy at once. He agreed through a messanger and announced that the sagheer kaaba had been destroyed, but thereupon he and his household were largely confined to the palace and did not appear in public. Observers from the House of Wisdom noted that the Caliph’s palace was increasingly fortified, and that the sagheer kaaba-powered defenses had begin appearing inside the city walls, at the palace’s battlements.

Eventually, the Caliph’s eldest son returned from campaigning against the Mongols in Iran and attempted to meet with his father. Denied access–again through a messenger–he snuck in through a secret oubliette. The next day, shaken and trembling, the Caliph’s son summoned the imams, the House of Wisdom’s scholars, and the commander of the Baghdad garrison. Without giving an explanation other than heresy and continued idolatry, he insisted that an attack on the palace begin at once.

When an emissary sent to the Caliph returned full of crossbow bolts, the luminaries of Baghdad agreed to the assault. They soon found out how efficient the new defenses were, though, and if the records are to be believed close to 10,000 men were wounded or killed in the battle–cut down by all manner of infernal machines. The troops that did pierce the inner sanctum were sworn to secrecy, but several accounts of moldering bodies locked in the harem and the sagheer kaaba floating in glory on a throne of gold nevertheless survived.

The new Caliph declated the sagheer kaaba to be a thing of the devil, a demon set loose upon the earth, and attempted to destroy it. The Mongols preempted this, however, with their great assault on Baghdad’s weakened defenses. With the sagheer kaaba‘s miraculous machines no longer functioning, the enlightened city of Baghdad fell to the invaders in only 12 days.

Unreliable accounts indicate that the sagheer kaaba was delivered to the Khan as a curiosity along with the Caliph’s severed head. In any case, its last known whereabouts were in the titanic convoy of plunder that left Baghdad in 1259 bound for Karakorum.

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