Excerpt


House Argenti
Monopoly: Silver
Patriarch: Halidus Argenti

The second-oldest of the seven houses, House Argenti is responsible for all coinage and banking in addition to their silver mines. Uniquely among the noble houses, the Argenti elect the head of their house from all adult members for a lifetime turn not unlike the Lord Regent; for this reason they are often labeled the “Little Regents.” This strong egalitarian streak has led to the Argenti being the most eager to do business with, and extend more rights to, the surface city and its quick folk. This reputation is a double-edged sword, making them extremely popular with non-dwarves but also often regarded as weak or traitorous by their fellow dwarves.

House Heusos and House Isarnan and implacably opposed to House Argenti, and this rivalry (the “Gold-Iron Alliance”) has only grown more intense since Halidus Argenti was able to prevent Qana Heusos from being elected as Lord Regent. House Argenti also has relatively strong ties with the upstart House Makrana, with Halidus Argenti currently engaged to be married to Parian Markana the Younger’s sister.

House Heusos
Monopoly: Gold
Matriarch: Qana Heusos

By far the most wealthy of the seven houses, with a lavish lifestyle commensurate with their great wealth, the gold miners of House Heusos have dominated the city’s politics since its inception. Legend holds that the King Underground was a Heusos, and only his lack of direct male heirs has left the house forced to seek election to the post of Lord Regent. In addition to mining and refining, House Heusos uses its money to invest in many enterprises, though its conservative heads routinely refuse to extend loans and financing to non-nobles and non-dwarves. The majority of Lords Regent throughout the city’s history have been Heusos, but they are in the middle of an unusual drought, with no Heusos among the last five to hold that title.

Matriarch Qana Heusos was the strong favorite to succeed the childless Melah Gabelle, the previous Lord Regent, but enough of her fellows were upset by her hamhanded attempts at bribery and threw their weight behind Halidus Argenti. In the end, a compromise candidate was chosen, but Qana still seeks to bully, blackmail, dominate, or overthrow him, as her whims dictate.

House Galena
Monopoly: Lead
Matriarch: Ctesia Galena

The lead mined by House Galena is used in the city’s plumbing, in cosmetics, and in the various magical engines that help bring fresh air down to the dwarven city from the surface city. These products are naturally toxic, a state of affairs that House Galena alternately disputes, ignores, or embraces. The Galena dwarves are stereotypically famous both for their natural beauty and their savagery. Many rumors link Ctesia Galena, the house matriarch, with organized crime, protection rackets, and other unsavory activities.

Nevertheless, House Galena nobles are highly sought after as consorts, and indeed three of the current seven houses have a Galena married to their current patriarch or matriarch. This constant influx of blood ties has saved House Galena on many occasions, though it is also noteworthy as the only great house besides the new House Makrana that has never produced a Lord Regent.

House Verdigris
Monopoly: Copper
Patriarch: Koten Verdigris

The second-oldest of the seven houses, House Verdigris was once a supplier of bronze weaponry for the military but has since transitioned into offering high-quality metallurgy services and essential conducting pieces for electricity and magic. The copper roofs popular in the surface city are nearly all Verdigris products, and they are renowned for their commitment to the scholarly study of science and magic.

The current Lord Regent, Koten Verdigris, is from this house. He was chosen as a compromise candidate when the seven houses could not agree between House Argent and House Heusos. As such, Koten is well aware of the precariousness of his position and has adopted a policy of conciliation and appeasement, seeking not to make waves and not to anger the other powerful dwarves who might unite behind another candidate.

House Isarnan
Monopoly: Iron
Patriarch: Fergus Isarnen

Iron for steel has made House Isarnan the most martial of the Seven Houses by far, and the High General who commands all the city’s dwarven armies in the event of war has been an Isarnan for five hundred years. The current holder of that office is Fergus Isarnen, and he has been strongly criticized in recent years for holding back stocks of iron and steel for military use rather than allowing more to be used for common blacksmithing. A notorious conservative, Fergus has adamantly refused to extend any citizenship or recognition to the quick folk who dwell on the surface. He also opposes arming any non-dwarven troops, leaving the city watch as the only quick folk with arms of any quantity.

House Isarnan has not produced a Lord Regent in centuries, and privately many feel that “the sword rusts in its scabbard” as there have been few threats, internal or external, to test House Isarnan’s bluster. The consort of the current Lord Regent is an Isarnan, however, and the house hopes that their future children might inherit the position and even unite the two houses.

House Gabelle
Monopoly: Salt
Matriarch: Tuzia Gabelle

Salt, while not glamorous, is an essential facet of everyday life, used in everything from cooking, to preserving food, to making cheese, to raising livestock. Thus the salt mine monopoly operated by House Gabelle has served as a constant, if dull, source of profit and power, one that has produced ten Lords Regent since the founding of the city. Lord Regent Melah, the predecessor to the current holder of that title, is still widely respected.

The perception among the other houses that salt is base or common is deeply resented by members of House Gabelle, who tend to be rather ostentatious and open in flaunting their wealth and power as a result. They are patrons of the dwarven symphony, the annual gladiatorial games held on the surface for the quick folk, and other cultural events. This does not stop rumors that they are plain, boring, and on the decline, however.

House Makrana
Monopoly: Marble
Patriarch: Parian Markana the Younger

The youngest of the Seven Houses, House Makrana is barely a hundred years old and its first patriarch, Parian Makrana the Elder, has only recently died. Parian was able to rise from the rank of commoner, albeit a decorated military veteran commoner, by cannily partnering with quick folk to invest in marble quarries considered useless by dwarves but highly prized for building on the surface. By paying strong dividends to wealthy merchants in the surface city, he was able to build capital and establish a noble house while allowing his partners to “own” a monopoly despite not being dwarves.

House Makrana is currently the sole source of they mysterious element “bauxite,” which is used to make blades stronger and lighter than any yet known. Its source and forging are closely guarded secrets, and the other houses greatly fear that it will further disrupt a delicate balance already tottering due to House Makrana’s rapid rise to power.

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Dragons were driven underground long ago, secreting themselves in the furthest parts of the world once the mortal races, both the slow folk and the quick, had grown powerful enough to oppose them. They sought refuge at the roots of mountains, at the pressure points of fault lines, at the basements of great caverns that they collapsed behind them. One such powerful beast buried itself once, long ago, in a place that became rich with minerals due to its passage and its influence, as the mysterious process that draws precious things to the great wyrms worked its way over centuries.

The greatest city the current age knows was once a simple dwarven mining settlement, set up to mine these riches. So vast and rewarding were the canyons and fissures below that they soon grew in power and population, with the noble houses growing fat and indolent and enjoying the sway they held over the surface city and its quick folk. Dwarven nobles provide the Lord Regent of the city, the most powerful single king in the world by meany measures, and the wealth of the mines flows through him. The King Underground, the legendary first miner that claimed the lode as their own, will never return and their line is broken–so they say, anyhow.

When the miners awoke the slumbering beast, it slew them without a second thought. But then a curious predicament presented itself: how to subvert and destroy the city above, the vast cancer that had grown in the wyrm’s slumber, without bringing the full force of the mortal world down upon it? The dragon had ideas of reviving its race to primacy once more, after all. The solution it hit upon was as simple as it was brilliant.

Have the mortals kill one another. Act through agents to sow chaos, discord, and violence above. Then, as the city fell apart in open warfare and its nobles were preoccupied with slaughtering one another, the time to rise would come. Those few that survived would soon know the primacy of the wyrms that, once hunted, had faded into legend and myth.

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Ora Nightstealer, also known as “the Puppetmistress” for her delight in manipulating people to do her bidding, is one of the more powerful night hags from the Grey Waste of Hades. She was a renowned wheeler and dealer in souls, amassing immense power by trading for favors with some of the most vile evil creatures on both sides of the Blood War. When she is not hard at this gruesome work, Ora is known to be a lover of illusions, often using particularly devilish ones as a form of gatekeeper – ensuring that only visitors she finds sufficiently interesting are allowed to meet her.

Legend has it, however, that she is also deeply unhappy.

The tale goes that, while pursuing her own goals on the prime material plane, Ora encountered a princeling from a noble house. Whether she was on that plane on a mission to steal souls or simply for her own amusement, the troubadours do not record. But as night hags can easily assume any shape they please, Ora appeared there as a comely maiden. And, for reasons that remain obscure, she fell in love with the princeling, and he loved her in return, so far as anyone could see.

And then, Oda chose to reveal herself to her lover in her true form as a night hag. Horrified, he turned her away. While most night hags would have strangled a mortal to death for such a transgression, by all accounts Oda left the princeling alive. But the experience broke her heart, and tens of thousands of mortals owe centuries of torment to her shattered feelings.

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Wealth brings wyrms, the elders always say. This is why the old cities of the Above were always so strongly fortified. Dragons would seek to steal their wealth from above, and the insidious Below, the cursed refuge of evil souls that writhes deep within the planet, would seek to bubble up from below like an overstirred pot. The great fortresses of old, be they made by the slow folk or the quick folk, were always reinforced at both ends.

But that was before the Age of Reason, when the dragons were all hounded to the far corners of the earth and killed, and the Below was brought to a low simmer by declining belief. A soul that believes in nothing, after all, never reaches the hell Below or the bliss Above but merely ceases to be. And dragons, the great agents for the Above and the Below in their various shifting allegiances and guises, were all but extinct.

All save one, anyhow. And she had a plan.

The greatest dwarven city of the Age was sunk deep into the richest mines ever discovered, with a vast metropolis wade by the quick folk set atop it and owing fealty to the nobles below and the mythical King Underground. What if a dragon were to make their way to the basement of this great city and claim its horde? It could be done in secret and with subtlety, and as the last of the drakes still possessed her dead consort’s seed within her, it could be the birth dry of a whole new generation of her kind.

So she snuck into the great city in the guise of a petty quick folk and began to work downward. Quick folk, slave, elf, and even dwarf – she made lives as them all as she worked ever downward. It was decades, centuries, before the miners and the dwarven houses that employed them began to notice the deep tentacles in their society, the wealth flowing downward, the crime bosses and gangs acting in concert with the mysterious evil rising from below.

By that time it was perhaps too late. Distracted by the shiny bauble of the Lord Regency and its power, the nobles had allowed a true Queen Underground to arise, and the time when she will make herself known and feast on that which has grown fat an complacent is soon at hand.

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When the founders of the city arrived, dwarves drawn by the mineral wealth that exceeded anything they ever could have imagined in the Old Mines, their first delvings uncovered a massive beast. An elder wyrm of the kind no longer found in our world, it had set itself atop the vast veins of gold, silver, and still other unknown ores as one of his lesser kin might set themselves upon a stolen hoard of coin. But the dwarves, ever canny, sought to negotiate with this dragon, whose power they could not hope to defeat. Through flattery and guile, they reached an accord which would stand for millennia.

They acknowledged the great wyrm as their lord, and pledged to tie the city to his life force. If he ever perished, the subtle magicks and intricate engineering of that place would fail. There was thus no reason for them to kill him and every reason to protect him, though he never deigned to appear above the surface and simply appointed a Lord Regent to act in his stead. In return, the dwarves were allowed to mint their coins and sell their wares.

Over time, irritated by the continued growth of the city, the dragon retreated underground in tunnels of his own excavation. But by the time the new city, built by humans and the other quicker species, began to rise on the surface above the now-subterranean abode of the dwarves, the dragon was all but forgotten. The heads of the great dwarven houses regarded him as mere myth, the King Underground, and the Lord Regent had become a king in everything but name, a bauble that the nobles squabbled for amongst themselves.

However, as it always does, the corruption of the earth arose once more, bearing with it evil and chaos on wings of sulfur. As the Below ever sought to subvert and overthrow the Above, one of its reaching tendrils found the sleeping dragon deep beneath the city and invaded his dreams. Perhaps the Below does this with full knowledge of what the dragon’s corruption and death will bring on the surface. Perhaps it merely enjoys the sport.

But the time will soon come when the minor rumblings beneath the city, whispers of evil that are denied by the noble houses, will bear dangerous fruit for all that remain in what has become the greatest city the Above has ever known.

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The college administration building was a tower, ten stories tall but rather narrow. The base was concave, giving the whole first floor a strange recessed affect not unlike the inside lip of a frisbee. The design made sense in the 60s, I’m sure, but now it’s known more for its odd appearance and echoing effects than anything.

That must be why the school orchestra started playing there. By spacing the members out and playing, the echo effect made for a rich, resonant, and loud experience. But they were quickly taken in by the echoes and fell out of sync with one another. There’d be a moment of harmony as you walked by, a violinist playing in tune with the echoes you could hear, but it quickly fell to dissonance as the sonics fell off.

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Flourish

Black science and technology
Nano elastic material
Amazing nano rubber pad

US Amazing Nano rubber pad
Strong adsorption ability
Everything can stick
Without any vestige when remove it.

Easy to use
Toss lightly, It goes to wall easily
Pull whatever you like

The thing you can not hang
on the wall in your life
It can be absorbed easily
Even the small stereo also can be
go to the wall easily

Just remove it, when do not want to use
Also can reuse
How to solve when meet dust,
Rinse with water for a second
will be a new one.

Origin: US Michigan

Taken from the packaging for this.

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