November 2020

The system predicted that he would say that, of course. Protestations to the contrary, and false assertions of free will are an expected and necessary part of the algorithm, one that has long since been planned for.

The system furthermore predicted that, with his arguments defeated through logic, that he would quietly walk across the midtown bridge to his domicile, in defeat.

It is inconceivable that the bridge could be leapt from at all, much less that he would do so. Nothing in the algorithm had indicated that this would be the case. It has caused a cascading failure, a systems crash.

These notes will be appended to the error log with the hope that the system can be restarted, the data stream intact.

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The Emperor, at this time, was well-known for his love of musical instruments and brass in particular. Naturally, this was represented in his patronage of the arts, with the composer M. Gorn writing a series of brass-heavy concerts for the royal court. But the Emperor was also a military man, and his love of martial music was reflected in one of his personal cavalry units, the Brass Hussars.

Outfitted in a combination of imperial green and musical pink, the Brass Hussars were trained as light cavalry but carried no weapons other than short, ceremonial dirks. Instead, their load was given over entirely to trumpets, bugles, and even the newly invented tuba. They would play martial music on these for the Emperor on maneuvers, from horseback, supported by a small group of percussionists drawn from the artillery corps who played on specially towed cassion wagons.

In the event of war, the Brass Hussars were theoretically supposed to break up and serve as heralds and musicians for the imperial army. In practice, however, the Emperor was loathe to commit his favorite musicians to combat and they tended to remain with him at all times as part of his personal retinue. The major exception was the Battle of Nosilki, where the Emperor himself, in personal command of his army, was trapped by the Duke of Hovoy.

The Brass Hussars distinguished themselves at Nosilki by sounding repeated charges for units that did not exist, charging at and breaking up disorganized formations despite having no weapons of their own, and in general using surprise and cacophony as effective weapons. They were able to open up a gap in Hovoy’s lines which allowed the Emperor to escape, and then escorted him to safety–all while, according to legend, miming loading and firing their trumpets like musketoons.

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They came from beyond the gates of the Inland Sea, speaking a strange language that is yet undeciphered. They Voyagers, as they came to be called, arrived in force with both warriors and their families. Everywhere that there was unsettled or lightly settled coast, they founded settlements and began fortifying them against an unknown enemy. Both Pexate and Layyia’s southern coasts were under Voyager dominion for a time, before the coming of the Crimson Empire, and their rule over Naix would endure for centuries.

Within a generation, most of the Voyagers who remained spoke the vernacular of their region, and when the Crimson Empire rose and imposed Standard Imperial on the populace, Voyagese faded still further from memory.

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Excerpted from the Ruins & Rogues Creature Compendium, incorporating materials from the Sorcerers & Sabers Interverse Guide

Dire Squirrel
Size: S
Hit Dice: 2d17+7
Treasure: Class VIII
Armor Class: -3
Attacks: +2 (claws), +2 (jaws)

Dire squirrels possess the same size and appearance of normal squirrels, as well as the same overall goals (generally stealing food) as ordinary squirrels. However, they have incredible strength and stamina and are far more fierce when confronted. Anyone unfortunate enough to attempt shooing, killing, or otherwise interfering with a dire squirrel is unwise for all but the most seasoned warriors.

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“Tell me, Terra, what do you know about 1nfusi0n?” Sherwood Greg said, pronouncing the handle as “one-fussy-zeron.”

“You mean 1nfusi0n?” his nurse, personal assistant, and best friend Terra said, pronouncing it as “infusion.”

“If he didn’t want people to say the numbers, he shouldn’t have used the numbers,” Greg said.

“But yes, I know him. World record speedrun holder from the old days, 2005 or so. Used to have every video game speedrun in the book, but I don’t think he’s set any recently.”

“And I don’t think he will ever again,” said Greg. “He was found dead this morning, and I’m being called in to consult. Care to join me?”

“What could they possibly need with Sherwood Greg, overall coordinator of Nerdicon and head of the Council of 12?” Terra said. “I’m pretty sure they can deal with speedrunner murders after you helped them catch Podoboo’s killer.”

“Oh, I’m sure it’s an open and shut case,” said Greg. “But 1nfusi0n was a trust fund baby that turned his home into a classic video gaming shrine, and I’m hoping to see–and buy–a few choice pieces before they go on the market.”

“No one’s going to want to sell you anything when he’s not even cold,” Terra said.

“Agreed. That’s why I make connections. Schmooze. By the time the contents of his collection come up for auction, I’ll be a natural choice to flog them, and I’ll keep the best pieces for myself. At a fair price, of course.”

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Name: Charline Blue
Codename: Azure
Skillset: HUMINT
Former model and exotic dancer. Recruited after stealing the identity of a patron’s estranged wife and living as her for six months.

Name: Sterling Pizarro
Codename: Inca
Skillset: Data analysis
24th-great grandson of Francisco Pizarro through one of his mistresses. Recruited after redirecting all funds for internet game company Whiteout Entertainment through his offshore credit account and using the accrued reward points for free Amazon purchases for two years.

Name: Sherman Purtee
Codename: Gorgeous
Skillset: Safecracking, burglary
Former model and exotic dancer. Recruited after using a wild bachelorette party to crack a Sausalito safe and steal $200,000 in diamonds, which he then fenced.

Name: Pamula Parreira
Codename: Vine
Skillset: Acrobatics, lockpicking
Former Olympic-class acrobat and tumbler. When her trainer attempted to stunt her growth with modified hGH, she picked the lock and dosed him instead–fatally. Recruited after escaping custody for the tenth time while awaiting trial.

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“This is Maye Wipperfurth. Our company pays her one cent per post, up to a maximum of $7 USD per day, to leave comments on blogs with our company’s link as both her referrer and her home site. Since Maye is a real person, the comments are 100% unique, relevant to the material, and untraceable as spam.”

“$7 is a lot of money. Why not just have a bot do it for free?”

“Well, that’s $7 gross, not net. We take some off the top for taxes, a little more for a finder’s fee, and the money is only redeemable in an online store that we also operate which drop ships items from AladdinQuick. So it drives traffic to our site, most of the money stays with us, and we also build relationships with the AladdinQuick people, who’ll be running this miserable pebble in 15 years. 20 tops.

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CARL: This is Carl Drake, play-by-play commentator for NBS Broadcasting, coming to you live from my girlfriend’s living room via Zoom for a postgame breakdown of the Battle Royale 2k20 Virtual Championship.

TOM: That’s right, Carl. This is Tom Hicks, color commentator for NBS Broadcasting, and I am also coming at you live from my closet to help break down the Battle Royale 2k20 Virtual Championship. If my bitrate drops suddenly, it means the kids have started a new YouTube video.

CARL: So when we last left our players, Erasmo was 12 kills ahead of Spainhour, our two top players after master player Gsaser was banned from all tournament play in perpetuity throughout the universe by speaking in favor of Hong Kong home rule.

TOM: That’s right, Carl. China rules Hong Kong forevermore, and its benevolent hand is only reluctantly moved to violence by the actions of a few counterrevolutionaries.

CARL: Now I will admit that I am not entirely clear on the rules of Battle Royale 2k20, being as I am a professional sportscaster who has been furloughed at half pay and calling these esports games is the only way I can prove my worth to my corporate masters at NBS, who have already enacted staffing cuts so severe they border on decimation.

TOM: That’s right, Carl, and we should be grateful for these few table scraps we have been given. Higgins had to call the election live in a Republican stronghold, and he may not live through the night.

CARL: So as far as I can see, Spainhour needs to pretend kill Erasmo 12 times in order to claw back the lead in this video game.

TOM: That’s right, Carl, though I believe he can kill anyone else as well.

CARL: Even noobs?

TOM: That’s right, Carl. Especially noobs.

CARL: And the tournament is sudden death?

TOM: That’s right, Carl, inasmuch as any player may be, at any time, suddenly killed. For pretend. But Battle Royale 2k20 will allow them to respawn in the next game.

CARL: So not at all unlike the Lions, in any case. All right! Ordinarily, this is the part of our coverage where we would do a locker room huddle, but that’s how we lost Gutierrez. Also, I don’t believe that there is any locker room, since these kids aren’t breaking much of a sweat.

TOM: That’s right, Carl, though as my son will tell you, you don’t need to be physically active to need a good shower, and I imagine these e-athletes are much the same.

CARL: You said earlier you don’t think your boy has what it takes to be an esports champion, Tom?

TOM: That’s right, Carl, you have to actually play video games to get to the championship. Tom Jr. only watches other people play on YouTube, a recursive nightmare of laziness and sloth that saddens me even as I am stunned by its magnitude.

CARL: Takes after his mother, then?

TOM: That’s right, Carl, though since the ‘rona I have managed to keep temporary custody of the descendants, since ex-Mrs. Hicks doesn’t want to be cooped up with them any more than she wants to stop draining my wallet for alimony.

CARL: Up next, some greatest moments from the most recent game, including spawn-camping, an epic headshot, the Halo Hump, and of course, our Teenage Trash Talker of the day! Stay tuned.

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A secret, it lies
On the pavement below
Spreading stain from eyes
The blood it does flow
What is the form there
Crumpled, deceased
I admit I don’t know
A secret, indeed

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The King’s personal favorites, however, were eligible to serve in the 1st Gustatory Hussars, also known informally as the Hungerssars. Though they carried ranks, wore uniforms, and went on maneuvers, the Hungerssars were more preoccupied with cooking, feasting, and making merry. They were issued skewers instead of sabers, the fronts of their uniforms were the color of meat juice so that stains would blend in, and they moved not with the other cavalry but with the supply wagons. On the rare occasions that the King or the Crown Prince would accompany their troops for any length of time, they would do so as Hungerssars.

This arrangement lasted until the Battle of Gateau, when enemy troops routed the army and tore into the rear units, catching the Hungerssars at their feasting. Many influential royal favorites were killed or captured, though some were able to fight off their attackers with their skewers or other cookery and escape. Songs are still sung about Baron Liégeois the Younger, who was able to escape with a skewer in each hand, alternately striking (blunt) blows and taking enormous bites of roast seasoned pork shoulder.

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