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  So... that book.
Posted by: robkelk - 3 hours ago - Forum: Politics and Other Fun - No Replies

The one that the Nicknamer-in-Chief's niece wrote.

Is she qualified to write such a book?

According to this article in Forbes, Mary Trump earned a Master's and a Ph.D in clinical psychology at Adelphi University.

Also according to the same article in Forbes, she called her uncle's election win "one of the worst nights of my life".

While one would expect somebody who is trained in a field to be able to work in that same field, one would also expect somebody who made such a comment to dislike the person in question. The question here is whether she is sufficiently professional to keep her opinions out of her diagnosis.

So... CBC asked "about two dozen" clinical psychologists to comment.

Quote:Nearly all the experts contacted by CBC News declined to comment, several citing various reasons: ethical considerations, fear of professional consequences and fear of harassment from Trump supporters.

But they did find two who were willing to comment on the record, and a third who was willing to comment on the condition of anonymity. CBC asked two questions:
  • Is it ethically permissible to write what Mary Trump wrote?
  • Do they agree with what she's written about the president, based on excerpts they've seen from media reports on the book?

For the answers, please see the CBC article linked above.

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Question Looking for software suggestions
Posted by: robkelk - Yesterday, 03:52 PM - Forum: General Chatter - Replies (5)

Picked up a new-to-me laptop late last week, and now it's time to configure it. The last time I did this, the machine was running Win7, 32-bit. The new laptop runs Win10 Pro, 64-bit.

What software do I want? The budget is tight, so legally-freeware is preferred.

I've already installed Panda Free Antivirus (I'm used to it), FireFox with uBlock Origin and Privacy Badger, Notepad++, GIMP, and LibreOffice. Daz Studio is an all-weekend install job, so that's for later.

What do I want for email? Is the Mail program that comes with Win10 Pro good enough, do I want to replace it with Thunderbird, or should I be looking somewhere else?

The laptop's old enough to have a DVD-RW drive - do I want VLC Media Player or something else for media playback? And what do I want for DVD mastering (to turn legally-downloaded movies or movies I make myself with Daz Studio into playable DVDs)?

Is PuTTY still the most useful SSH/Telnet client out there?

What do I want for zip-file maintenance: 7zip, IZArc, or something else?

Should I install IrfanView, or is there a better lightweight image file viewer/converter out there? (It seems silly to me to fire up GIMP just to convert one file from BMP to JPG... which I've had to do a few times last week for All The Tropes.)

Acrobat Reader or something else for working with PDFs? Is the Win10 print-to-PDF function decent, or is there a better print-to-PDF driver available?

And have I missed anything obvious?

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  "Faithless" Supreme Court
Posted by: DHBirr - 07-09-2020, 12:59 PM - Forum: Politics and Other Fun - Replies (2)

Ooooh, I'm snickering about this.

So much for the president's — any U.S. president's — "absolute immunity."  Even the Justices he himself nominated turned against the Dotard's monarchical claims.  What?  Have they no obsequious loyalty to America's Chosen God-King?  Heresy and blasphemy!  Bwa-ha-ha-ha-ha!

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  Self-Censorship
Posted by: Labster - 07-08-2020, 08:30 PM - Forum: Politics and Other Fun - Replies (6)

One topic that I haven't discussed on this board any time lately is the People's Republic of China, with the exception of Trump's dumb policy with regards to tariffs on China.  And that's a domestic issue, really, because all of the people paying those tariffs are Americans.

Anyway, the lack of talk about China was intentional on my part.  I thought hey, maybe I'd like to take a vacation there some day, and I really wouldn't go there with the intent to do anything but sightseeing -- so why make the government dislike me?  What could I possibly accomplish, anyway?

The situation there has changed a little bit recently.  China's government recently approved a new national security law, with a lot of implications, that makes me consider wanting to discuss it.  However, I do not want to discuss it here without asking people if that is acceptable to them.  One of the points of the new law above is that is that a foreign individual who provides assistance to anyone protesting in Hong Kong is committing a crime.  It is entirely possible that in this discussion, you can commit a felony in the PRC, regardless of your citizenship or current location.  The law has a global scope.

So I ask you to be very careful in what you say.  I have to start this discussion as a courtesy to all of you, with a question: Shall we have discussion here about the situation in China, or is the discussion better left to the citizens of that nation?

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  Any recs for Eyrie Productions fics under 100K words?
Posted by: Shay Guy - 07-08-2020, 06:56 PM - Forum: Other People's Fanfiction - Replies (5)

I'm asking because I recently encountered a podcast dedicated to looking back on old fanfics (at least 15 years old) -- most episodes seem to be just looking at individual fics, book-club style, but there's also special features like an interview with John Biles. When I asked on Twitter if they had any interest in doing any EPU works, they said Symphony of the Sword and Neon Exodus Evangelion are both on the candidate list, but that fics over 100,000 words tend to be difficult to fit in -- unless they only cover a certain number of chapters, which isn't always satisfying. (Their first Paradigm of Uncertainty episode, for example, is 84 minutes and covers the first eight chapters.)

I've never really managed to properly get into EPU myself -- anyone who's more familiar with their catalog have any suggestions of 100-kiloword-or-less fics for the podcast?

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  Speaking of a segway...
Posted by: robkelk - 07-07-2020, 08:45 AM - Forum: General Chatter - Replies (4)

Segway was the 'device of the future,' in the perfect moment to succeed. So why did it fail?

tl;dr: too high-tech, too expensive, too many high-profile crashes

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  When it Rains, it Pours (Or, BlackAeronaut's Automotive Woes, an Ongoing Saga)
Posted by: Black Aeronaut - 07-07-2020, 05:27 AM - Forum: General Chatter - Replies (3)

So, some of ya'll have probably heard about the accident my brother got into with my Jetta.

No worries, no one really got hurt.  But my Jetta is a mess now.

Video of the accident, courtesy of my dash cam.



Fortunately, it's pretty much all cosmetic.  The only thing really keeping me from driving it a busted headlamp assembly.  But it does mean that I am down by a vehicle.

Oh, what's that now?  A bad water pump in the Saturn?

Okay, make that TWO vehicles.  FFS.

At the very least, I got the funds available to me, and the water pump is readily available in the local parts stores, and I have the tools and know the procedure...  But I'm probably still gonna be unable to work on a day that I'm scheduled.  Dammit.

In other news, I've managed to clear out the vast majority of what Mr. Electro did to the Suburban in their misguided effort to turn it into a cut-rate ghetto show car.  The amount I've pulled out so far is... Impressive.  I'll take a picture later on to show you.

The transmission is another issue, though.  It turns out that the 3-4 clutchpack is indeed burned out - no one mentioned the fact that  the engine runs away when it hits 3rd Gear.

We have ordered the appropriate rebuild kit...  At least, I thought it was the appropriate kit.  But it only came with one piston, and not the full set.

See, thing is that these transmissions were originally built with aluminum pistons to engage the clutchpacks.  But while they worked when they were new, time has shown that they become brittle and crack, letting hydraulic fluid slip past.  And rebuild kits meant to replace these pistons have steel replacements.

So now, we're waiting on a complete set to arrive before I can get started.

I've also ordered a full set of plastic check balls.

This is another shortcoming for the transmission.  They have steel check balls, and that sounds great, right?  Except that some of the ports tend to come under very high pressure - enough that the valve separator plate (a thin sheet of stamped out steel in the valve body that helps separate the individual valves) winds up getting deformed at the ports these check balls are located on, and the steel check balls eventually wind up getting lodged into the plate.

Lovely, eh?

So, we have these plastic check balls (which have been used in many other transmissions for many years with no issue at all) which have just enough give to them so they absorb the impact instead of deforming the separator plate and getting jammed.

I've got my work cut out for me, but I'm still confident in my abilities to do this right the first time.  If anything does come out as being too worn, I won't be half-assing it.  The rebuild will go on pause, pending the acquisition and arrival of new parts.  It might be an inconvenience now, but my parents have assured me that they want this to be done right so it won't be an even bigger inconvenience later.

Other things to fix on the Burbie...

I got a solid shot at fixing the rear air conditioning system on this beast.  A preliminary check shows that while the front AC system seems to work just fine (with a stuck damper up front that will be fixed as well), there seems to be no flow of refrigerant to the rear AC evaporator coil.  This means one of two things:
-There is no power and/or signal going to the expansion valve, thus it won't open
-The expansion valve itself has gone bad
The first is easy to fix.  So is the second, really, but that will also necessitate the discharging of the entire AC system, followed by a purge and recharge afterwards.  However, Mom and Dad have deemed this a worthwhile expense if it gets the rear AC working again.

With me having made so much progress on the Burbie's electrical system, Mom and Dad have asked me to look into the feasibility of installing a basic Bluetooth-capable head unit in the Burbie.

It can be done.

In fact, there are even complete after-market kits that let you install a single- or double-DIN head unit in place of the original tape deck.  They even come with a specially made pigtail that plugs into the OEM pigtail...

... except the OEM pigtail isn't there anymore.

Fortunately, some wonderful people make replacements, and they're available on the cheap.  So I'll be able to make this a thing that happens for my folks as well, and they'll be able to use their phones hands-free in The Burbie.

(Unfortunately, I'll have to rewire the speakers, because that fucktard messed that up as well.  This idiot wired the after-market amp directly to the power supply for the trailer brake system!!!)

And also, I will want to replace the shock absorbers because holy hell this thing wallows worse than a pig, but that's an easy thing to do on these trucks.

Like I said before, I got my work cut out for me, but I have confidence in my abilities to accomplish our goals here.

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  [OOC][META] Sticky threads
Posted by: robkelk - 07-06-2020, 08:20 PM - Forum: There's Nothing Better - Replies (4)

"[OOC][Info] On the Front Burner" hasn't been updated in a year and a half.

"[OOC][Info] Lord Ciel Phantomhive's Personnel Files" hasn't been updated since we started the wiki.

Do they need to remain sticky threads?

EDIT: With only 20 threads on a page, and (currently) 14 sticky threads, there isn't a lot of room for non-sticky threads on the front page of this sub-forum.

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  Otome? Don't be Ridiculous!
Posted by: ECSNorway - 07-05-2020, 03:36 AM - Forum: Other People's Fanfiction - Replies (12)

So I've been following a couple of MobuSeka fics ("The World of Otome Games Is Hard for Mobs" being the full title of the Light Novel series), such as Drakensis' "Care and Feeding of Neglected Otome" (over on QQ) and the triple-insert "99 Problems" on SB. And I was inspired to sit down and try my hand at it myself. Many thanks to Drakensis for beta-reading and numerous suggestions that improved it considerably.


Otome? Don't be Ridiculous!

Ch 1

"Perhaps you would care to solve the problem on the board for us, Miss Baltford?"

What? Oh. Right. The teacher's talking. I hate how slow this class is. They're still covering things I already know. Of course, I already know them because I learned them in high school, a lifetime ago. It's actually been a while since I needed to use algebra.

"Miss Baltford?"

I blink, look up, and actually read the problem. As I expected, it's fairly simple, only requiring a quick factoring and multiplication. "Sorry, ma'am. Thirteen times the square root of seven, plus four."

The teacher nodded. "Correct, Miss Baltford," she said, clearly slightly annoyed. "I know you seem to find this material easy, but I would appreciate your attention anyway. You never know what you might have missed."

Math had always come easy to me, and in this new life, it was easier still. Just my unluck, my memories didn't 'wake up' until the opening ceremonies for the semester. Too late to apply to test out of any classes. Like Math For Babies.

Pretty sure she resents having to have me in this class just as much as I resent having to be in it. Worse, I have... things to do, this summer break, which means I won't be able to test out of second-term Math For Babies either. Why couldn't this world have a Western school year? It's not like there was much else Japanese about them.

I managed to get through class without being nagged again, thankfully. And then, it was time for lunch break. And even if the place was full of class-A Bitches, the one thing they definitely didn’t skimp on was the cafeteria. No, they just served pretentious "sophisticated” twaddle and charged through the nose for extras, like desserts.

It was very well-cooked twaddle. But it was still twaddle.

Gods, but I miss pizza. And I’d kill for a decent cheeseburger. Don’t even get me started on Chinese.

Grumbling, I gathered my things, slung my bag, and slogged through the crowds towards the cafeteria.

"Baltford? Baltford~!” Someone calling my name? "Oi! Jenna!”

I look up. Strawberry blonde, prim looks, moderate curves… Clarice fia Atlee. Thank gods. One of the few people around this place I can truly like, not just tolerate.

"Oh, sorry, Clarice. Lost in… " Cleveland. No. Bad girl. "... thought. You know.”

"Patxi nagging you about paying attention in math again? You know she isn’t going to stop. Even if you do know the material as well as you claim.”

"And just who,” I countered, "is responsible for your own ability to pass that course, hmm? I remember more than a few tutoring sessions….”

Clarice waved her hand dismissively as we walked along. "Yeah, yeah. Look, that’s not important right now. I found a contact for some of those spices you were looking for!”

Okay, my day is definitely made. Some things were easy enough to find here in Holtfort -- garlic, salt, even pepper -- but the hotter chilis, things like cumin and cinnamon and such, I hadn’t been able to find at all.

"Hot damn, I am definitely going to owe you big, then. Tell me all about it.”

And over lunch -- roasted chicken in a lemon-garlic sauce, so delicately seasoned I could barely taste it -- she filled me in. The merchant she’d found hadn’t been able to get all of the things I wanted, but he had a good selection of them, thankfully. It was definitely going to cost, though. Importing anything from that far out was pricey, and he’d only brought a small amount on spec. Wasn’t like we could advertise that far out that I wanted food with real taste!

Thankfully, Clarice had used her family’s pull to put a pre-emptive offer in on a small amount of each of the spices he’d brought in. It was going to put a pretty big hole in my budget for the term, but it was worth it to be able to make some of my favorite foods again.

"Hot damn, this is going to be all kinds of tasty. You are a wonder, Clarice.” I snatched at my napkin to dab at my face, make sure I wasn’t drooling. Good, I wasn’t.

"Just keep that in mind when end-of-term comes around, Jen. I’m going to need a few helpers, and I want to try some of these dishes you keep mumbling about.”

Definitely. For her? Gladly. "Just keep quiet about it, and who you’re buying for, please. I don’t want a mob run on this stuff until I’ve had a chance to secure a decent supply line. And yes, I’ll help your little… scheme.”

Just so long as I can be clear of here in time to get home before Leon leaves.


"Thank you, Alan, it looks delicious. Did you get these from Columbale’s?” I put on a pleasant but false smile as I took the plate with the … confection … and cut off a bit with my fork. ‘Sweets’ around here tend to be high on fruits and sugar, and not terribly imaginative, in my opinion. Worse, there was no chocolate to be had at all. Or vanilla. Clarice’s contacts hadn’t managed to turn up any evidence of either.

Alan smiled, trying for warm and almost getting it. "Of course, Miss Baltford. Only the best for a beautiful lady.” He hadn’t been laying it on as thick as some of the boys had, in fact his lines were almost tolerable. On the other hand this was the sixth ‘tea party’ I’d been invited to this week alone. I was going to end up as fat as my first life if this kept up.

I tried another bite -- the cake was bland, but the fruit compote was more than acceptable. "They are one of the best at this sort of thing. Not too sweet, the cake is nicely moist rather than dry as most of these tend to be… and your choice of tea matches it well. I have to say I’m impressed.”

I actually was. The matching of tea and sweets tended to be the biggest failure most of the boys ran into when it came to these little occasions. I wasn’t actually interested in a relationship with any of them, honestly. But I could coach them a bit and make an example for the other ladies of How Not To Uber-Bitch. Not that most of them would actually pay attention. Maybe some would, though. And maybe more would pay attention to them.

Chatting with Alan was at least much less tedious than most of the boys, too. He managed to be at the least affable as we discussed current events, classes, and recent sporting matches. (Air pirates were on the upswing; Mrs Patxi was just as much in his bad books as she was in mine, if for different reasons; and Jilk fia Marmoria had managed yet another upset in the airbike-racing circuit.)

We passed an hour or so in that manner before I could make my excuses and leave. (Didn’t hurt that I’d drunk enough tea that I sorely needed the Little Gamer’s Room.) Alan wasn’t bad. He at least showed that he cared about the girl he was entertaining having fun, rather than just flirting at her. Unlike, say, Dirk fia Valanthyme. He’d spent most of his time ogling me in ways that were distinctly uncomfortable. I’d have to do something about him… maybe tell one of the bitchier third-years that he was interested. Say, Dorothea fia Roseblade. She had a certain reputation.

Might have invoked something I shouldn't have, there. I was washing my hands after (and offering my umpteenth prayer of thanks to whatever deity had made sure this world had luxuries like bidets, and elastic for underwear) when the door opened.

Let me make it clear: I do not like drill curls. Especially the big kind. They just look weird to me. And they take way too much time and effort to maintain. (Yes, I’ve tried, or rather, Jenna-Classic tried. Even with a maid’s help they were too annoying to bother with.) That said, drill-curls or no, Deirdre fia Roseblade is a sight to enjoy. I took a moment or two to appreciate the view… then, my face red, turned and hurried out.





Contrary to anime imagery and Werner Klocke miniature sculpts, leather armor is not a skin-snug, form-fitting catsuit. It starts with a layer of padding to soften blows -- silk-lined for comfort, since I could afford it by passing up on an extra fancy dress -- and you top that with a rather thick bit of leather. This part is shaped to your body, but it’s been boiled and chemically treated for stiffness. It’s also typically overlapping pieces, to allow for mobility, riveted or buckled together. Metal plates are often worked into this schema in strategic places, to allow for better protection of vulnerable areas.

In summary: It ain’t all that sexy. It’s designed for practicality, not fetishism. You can get fetishy leather "armor” in various places. But it’s costume stuff. Wear it into a dungeon and I guarantee you will be needing a healer, if you survive to get your stupid ass dragged back by your extremely annoyed buddies. Assuming they still give a shit about you after that kind of stunt.

That said, a well-made set doesn’t look bad, either. And a day in the dungeon, wearing the armor and carrying a basic kit, getting into a few fights, was just what I needed to burn off all the sugar I’d been guzzling down at those ‘tea parties’.

"Thanks, Clarice.” That’s the other thing: It’s really a two-person job to get it on. You can do it yourself if you’re good. It’s a lot easier and quicker with help, though. I hopped a couple of times to make sure everything was settled into place, then turned to help Clarice with her own armor.

Half an hour later, just as the sun was peeking over the horizon, we -- and our classmates -- assembled at the entrance to the Capitol Dungeon. Most of us had had some combat training from our families before the Academy, even the girls. Daily sessions with the Academy’s tutors had gotten a start on drilling out bad habits and honing what we’d come in with.

And now they figured we were ready to brave the Dungeon itself. It wasn’t much of a dungeon, from what I’d heard -- any serious threats had been cleared out long ago -- but it was a good place for beginners like us to get our feet wet. I thumbed my saber an inch out of the sheath, then pushed it back in. Just checking, I told myself.

"First-time jitters, Baltford?”

Don’t tell me I have to group with that little blonde bitch… please don’t

"Miss Atlee, Miss Baltfort, Miss Olfrey, you’ll be with Mister Dolbor and Mister Valanthyme.”

Fuck you so much, teach. At least I’ve got Alan and Clarice to balance them.

"Drop dead, Olfrey,” I muttered as the bitch, the dick, and the one decent guy joined me in gathering around Clarice. "Tell me honestly you aren’t a dungeon-virgin, hmm?”

"Yeah, where’d you pop your dungeon-cherry, Cassie? Helberg? Lutzfort?” A smirking Dirk named off two of the most infamously deadly still-open dungeons, both of them heavily guarded and closely held by the families whose territory they were on.

Clarice started to ease her own blade free as we walked down the stairs to the first dungeon level. "Don’t be crude, Valanthyme. Olfrey’s still our partner for the day… even if she is a virgin.”

And with that example of rapier wit, we were in the dungeon.





After a little debate, we’d settled into a marching order. Clarice and Alan were best with swords, so they were in front. Olfrey and Dirk were best at ranged attacks, spell and gun respectively, so they were in the rear. That left me in the middle, to act as reserve.

"So what monsters do you think we’ll see first?” Dirk asked as he thumbed a round into his carbine. "Goblins? Giant spiders?”

Clarice harumphed. "According to the book, the most commonly-sighted monsters at this shallow level are giant ants. Keep that rifle handy, their armor is supposed to be pretty tough.”

"So long as we don’t get mimics,” I mused. "Those are annoying.”

"Mimics? What are they?”

Shut up, Olfrey. "Looks like a treasure chest,” I explained, "Is actually a monster that will try to eat you when you ‘open’ it.”





"Hah! Got it, bang on the nose!”

Focusing on a spell-mandala, I couldn’t reply, but Alan did. "Worry about his four buddies, them, Valanthyme,” he paused to swipe his blade against the ant’s mandibles. "We can tally up the score when they’re all dead.”

I managed to get my spell off a moment later, and the bolt pegged another ant to blow a fist-sized hole in its thorax. The man-sized bug stumbled, but kept on coming, until Clarice got a good strike in and cut it down.

"Three buddies,” she corrected, and then Cassie Olfrey took a pair of legs off another with her own spell-bolt.





"Did you see that?” I stumbled as a "comradely” hand clapped my shoulder. "Damn good spellwork, Baltford.”

I’d dropped an ant coming up from behind us with a quick bolt just before it could sink its mandibles into Dirk’s leg.

I twisted away from his hand before he could try for more. "I think everyone saw it, Valanthyme.”

"Or at least heard you squeal like a little girl when you saw how close it’d gotten.”

I gritted my teeth. "Don’t try to help, Olfrey. You just end up encouraging him.”

"Oh, if it really annoys you so very much, Baltford, I’ll encourage him all I want.”

If looks could kill, my glare would’ve flayed the smirking little blonde bitch alive before submerging her in boiling oil.

"Eh, save it for the sparring ring, ladies, where we can all get a good view of the catfight.”

And like someone had flipped a switch, Cassie and I turned to direct matching Glares-o-Doom™ at Dirk fia Valenthyme.

This time we were interrupted by the clash of swords, swiftly followed by Alan’s voice. "If we could all just focus on the monsters, please?” I turned around to see him and Clarice holding off a trio of goblins, wait, make that a pair, Clarice just killed one, no, here come three more… oh, crap.

My spellwork was going to be too slow for these, so I drew my sword and stepped up to join Clarice and Alan. "Dirk! Cassie! Swat the trailers while we hold them off!”





A baker’s dozen goblins later, we had a chance to relax for a few moments. Fortunately tending our wounds didn’t take long, we’d been very lucky. Nobody had more than a few scrapes and minor cuts. (This was only the first level, after all.) Who knows how we’d have fared if they’d come at us all at once instead of in dribs and drabs, though.

"Damnit,” Cassie whined as I tied a bandage around her arm. "Goblins aren’t supposed to show up at this level practically at all, and we got, what a dozen?”

"Eh, buck up, Olfrey, we killed all the little buggers, didn’t we?” Like me, Dirk had managed to escape almost unwounded. He was, it seems, still determined to be an ass.

"Pull your head out of your behind for once and think, Valanthyme.” Dammit, I was so tempted to grab one of those ring-braids of hers and give it a good yank. If these two idiots couldn’t shut up….

"Olfrey’s got a point,” Clarice snapped. "These goblins may have been individually weak, but they’ve never been seen in these numbers at this shallow a level. It’s an anomaly, and we should report it.”

"You most certainly should.” The cold voice was accompanied by the click of heels on stone as it approached. "Baltford?”

I stood up, ignoring Olfrey’s wince as I dropped her hand into her lap. "Sir,” I began.

"We encountered a group of three goblins shortly after clearing out a group of giant ants. They attacked and we engaged, myself, Atlee, and Dolbor on the front line, with Olfrey and Valanthyme providing fire support. Just as we finished off that group, another trio came up from behind us.

"We adjusted formation as required, but they continued to stream in. A third trio was followed by a pair, then another pair. None of us took more than minor injuries and all goblins were dispatched. So far no more have appeared.”

He nodded curtly and took a few moments to check each of us, making sure our wounds were properly tended to, how much ammunition we had left for the guns, and so forth. "Alright, you lot are done for today. Olfrey, you need to get that arm seen to by the nurse. Dolbor, same for you.”

Clarice took charge of the group again. "Alright everyone, you heard him. Up and out.”

And, with quiet grumbling by Dirk, occasional winces by the wounded, and a sincere sense of relief on my part at our survival, my first dungeon adventure ended.






My dear Finley,

It is good to hear that you and our brothers are well. By the time you read this, I will have completed my second expedition into the Capitol Dungeon. As I have mentioned in my previous letter, our first expedition ended after we encountered a rather large and misplaced number of goblins. Such creatures are normally only found several levels deeper and our instructors are investigating the anomaly. In the meantime we are going ahead with the normal curriculum.

I do trust your own studies go well. In regards to your plaint, I must remind you that mathematics is still a required course. Furthermore, yes, you will find real uses for the things that they are teaching you. Both Arcane Studies and Financial Management are only two of many fields where you will find them useful.

As for the boys here, they seem to come in three varieties. There are the worthwhile ones: caring, thoughtful, and attentive. Then there are, unfortunately, the jackasses. You know the type: arrogant, crude, self-absorbed. I’m sure you can name one we both know well. The third type are the clueless, the ones who just have no idea how to talk to a girl at all. Some of them can be educated, if you are willing to be patient.

Before you even consider testing them, however, think carefully about the type of relationship you wish to embark upon. A quick fling is one thing, so long as you make sure they understand that is all you are seeking. Should you seek something longer-term, or even permanent, choose carefully. Will you be wed for love, or for the political gain of the Baltford House? If the former, can you see yourself waking up next to this man every morning? Placing his happiness as equal to your own?

And if the latter, then you must first and always remember that your every action will reflect upon our family, be it for the good or for ill. A life such as Zola’s may seem glamorous and exciting at first glance. In such a marriage, however, the goodwill of your husband and his family will be vital to the future of House Baltford. Even if he should agree to support you in the Capitol, you will be dependent on his largesse for everything from your dresses and jewelry to the food you eat. Our father may well accept such things for the sake of our House’s benefit, but not all men are so biddable, and all men have their limits.

To turn away from such fraught matters, I am sure you remember my dissatisfaction with the food to be had from the Academy cafeteria. While I have taken my own steps towards resolving this, alternatives have presented themselves. I had the most interesting meeting just the other day with Deirdre fia Roseblade….






"Come on, Baltford, the night isn’t getting any younger.”

I held back a growl as I tried to focus on the paper in front of me. "I am almost done with this essay, Roseblade, and I want to have it out of the way before I go. I like my weekends unencumbered.”

Deirdre shoved the door closed behind her and flopped herself on the sofa. "Fine, fine, fine. I’m not the one who’s spent the last two months whinging about how bland and tasteless the cafeteria food is.”

"It is,” I insisted as I penned another sentence. "Highly priced, exquisitely well-prepared, tasteless twaddle.”

Deirdre harrumphed. "You just don’t appreciate good food.”

"Good? Bah. Try ‘pretentious’. I know what I like to eat. Now, hush for a minute and let me finish this.” She actually did quiet, at that, and with a few more minutes of writing I was able to finish the essay.

Homework dealt with, I grabbed a light coat - it might be May, but it was still late in the day, edging on to evening. A chill, or even rain, was not unlikely. "Alright, let’s get out of here.”

Students were free to leave the Academy campus outside of class hours -- we were nobles, after all. Despite that, we were still stopped at the gates. "Apologies, ladies,” the guard said. "Just need you to sign out.”

Deirdre huffed, but she was just as used to the requirement as I, and after I’d signed my name to the list, she did the same. "Right,” I said as we exited the gate. "I’ll get us some dinner… there’s a couple of decent places around to pick up this and that. I do have a favor to ask, while we’re out, though.”

I caught a little glimmer in her eyes as she regarded my request. "A favor, Baltford? Hmmm, interesting… I’m sure I can find us a bit of privacy for the night…”

I paused for a moment, then chuckled. "Really? Going right to that, this quickly?” I shook my head as we walked along. "Not tonight… well, maybe. But what I was going to ask for, was a decent luthier.”

She paused and turned to look at me. "A luthier? Now there’s one I haven’t heard before. Oh, I know where to find one, but I wouldn’t know good from mediocre. Why, planning on serenading your would-be lover?”

I hummed noncommittally and kept on walking. "The place we want is three, four blocks further on. I hope you brought your appetite.” I paused for a moment, glancing at a shop-front, then added, "For food. Not the other.”

I caught a flutter out of the corner of my eye as Deirdre fanned herself - probably to cover a smirk. "Oh, I brought plenty of both, rest assured.”

We continued chatting - and flirting - as we walked along, pausing occasionally at shops here and there. I paused at a baker’s to pick up a couple of fresh rolls, and another shop provided some slices of nice sharp cheese. Just one more piece needed… and I can smell it already.

It was only a couple of minutes later that I caught sight of our objective through the crowds, and started working more determinedly in its direction. "Almost there, Roseblade, trust me, you’re going to love this. It’s - wait, is that….”

Just turning away from the cart in question, his bounty in hand, was a young man, perhaps our age or thereabouts. He was dressed well, clearly well-off, slender build, dark blue hair… It can’t be, can it?

Deirdre was just as quick to recognize him as I was. "That can’t possibly be the Prince,” she hissed, grabbing my arm to pull me back.

I looked for a long moment, then leaned back close to Deirdre to whisper back. "I’d heard rumors… yes, I think that is him. Julius rafa Holfort. Don’t let him catch on we’re here.”

"What? Why - " I cut her off with an elbow-jab and a hiss as he started to look in our direction. If he saw anything, though, he seemed to ignore it, and moved on.

I held us back for another minute to be sure he was gone, then stepped more confidently up to the little stall. "Hey, Liam. Good business tonight?” I rather carefully avoided asking directly about the Prince’s custom.

"Definitely, Miss B. Your usual?” He was already reaching for a pair of skewers loaded with chicken and onions.

I waved Deirdre forward. "Double, actually. I have a guest, as you see. Call her Miss R unless she tells you otherwise.”

"Aliases, ‘Miss B’?” Deirdre chuckled, a low, husky sort of laugh. "Isn’t that just a little childish?”

Stupid sexy Deirdre. I shrugged and decided to answer with a quote no one of this time should recognize. "What’s the point of being grown up if you can’t be childish now and then?”

After all, it was clearly working for the Prince. I got a little laugh from Liam, too, as he dipped the skewers of meat into his custom sauce before placing them on the grill to cook. "Ain’t that the right of it? Not too long, ladies,” he promised. I could almost taste it now… tangy mustard, brown sugar, garlic, pepper….

Thou shalt not drool, I admonished myself, and swallowed heavily.

Short minutes later, I was a few dia lighter, and was putting together sandwiches with the bread and cheese I’d bought along the way. I handed Deirdre one of the skewers. "Go ahead, try a bite, then we’ll try it like this.”

She took the skewer, fingers brushing briefly against mine, then bit into it and her eyes went wide. "Sharp,” she said, then after finishing the bite, "Tangy and sweet… and a very complex taste for something so strong at the base.”

I nodded. "Liam here has been perfecting this sauce for, what, twenty years now?”

"Closer to thirty, Miss B,” he answered. "Since I started under me own da.”

I nodded. "He’s had plenty of practice. And it’s been here in the capitol, where his customers have a fairly sophisticated palate to begin with.” I passed Deirdre her sandwich and smiled. "Let’s get some beer to enjoy with these and find a place to sit, shall we?”

And that was how I introduced Deirdre fia Roseblade to barbecue.





Holfort Capitol Dungeon
The Third Level
Three days after the Barbecue Incident

"Don’t just stand there, Olfrey, blast it!”

"I would if you’d stop distracting me, Baltford!”

A second later, two mage-bolts and a bullet struck the reptilian monster almost as one, sending it flying across the corridor to slam into the rock wall. It slumped to the floor and, like most dead monsters, began to fade into dust.

"There’s still three left!” Clarice reminded us, and we turned to support the front-line fighters again. She and Alan were engaged with two of the things, while a third was trying to get around them. Probably wanted to get at us. A quick shot from Dirk-the-Dick stunned it and knocked it back, but it shook off the hit and kept on coming. As I had more than once today, I abandoned casting and switched to my sword to deal with it.

I parried a swipe from its crude axe and chopped at the hand that held it, but it was too quick. We exchanged a few more blows before I managed to get in a solid one and put it down. By that point, Clarice and Alan had finished off theirs and were dealing with a goblin that had wandered by.

Fortunately, the goblin seemed to have been alone, and we had a few minutes to catch our breath. I sat down on a convenient boulder and started to dig out the lunch I’d packed.

Alan sighed softly as he twisted open the top of his canteen. "I know you’re a magic specialist, Miss Olfrey, but it would be nice if you didn’t keep getting ‘distracted’ during fights. Is something wrong?”

I took a bite of my sandwich while I watched the show. Mmmm. I have got to find something to bribe Liam for this sauce recipe. Or at least to bottle it and sell it that way.

"‘Is something wrong?’” the little blonde bitch repeated. "Is something wrong? I’m stuck on a team with a bunch of perverts and the teachers won’t let me change groups!” She picked up a rock and hurled it at him to emphasize her little rant.

Alan dodged it easily, of course. (Behind him, Clarice picked it up, looked at it, grinned, and tucked it in her pouch.)

"So,” he said. "A ‘bunch’ of perverts? Ah… okay, I’ll grant Valanthyme seems to annoy every female he opens his mouth near - "

Dirk glared at him and muttered something under his breath, probably imprecatory.

" - but if I’ve ever given offense unintentionally, I certainly apologize. Please, point out where I’ve failed and I will strive to correct it.”

Enjoying my sandwich quite thoroughly, I let out a tiny whimper of pleasure at the taste. Liam really was good, and it was so much better than what I could’ve gotten from the cafeteria. (And, really, Alan fou Dolbor? A pervert? The man was a perfect gentleman!)

"You!” Olfrey suddenly shouted, hurling a piece of bread at me. "You’re doing it again! The stupid men can’t help being perverts, but what the hell is your problem?”

I blinked, paused in chewing. Me? She thought I was perving on her?

"Yes, you, Baltford! Don’t give me that innocent look! What is your damage, can’t find a boy to keep you satisfied?”

All eyes were on me, suddenly, and I swallowed as quickly as I could. "What the absolute freaking heck are you on about, Olfrey?”

"If you’re that hard up for a bedwarmer, Baltford, I could arrange an introduction to a couple of slave dealers.”

Please don’t try to be helpful right now, Clarice, much as I’d appreciate it any other time.
Aloud, I tried to temper my answer without directly insulting the blonde. "And whatever gives you the idea that I have any interest in you at all beyond how efficiently you can slaughter goblins and such?” I paused a moment, then added, "For that matter, you’ve been behind me the last four hours, you’re the one who’s been watching my ass, pardon the pun.”

Dirk sniggered at the double entendre, and we all threw bread at him. He snatched mine out of the air and popped it in his mouth. "Mmm. Mustard sauce. You like it spicy, do you, Baltford?”

"She’s the one who’s been making time with Deirdre fia Roseblade,” Olfrey sniped. "Everyone knows she’s a total perv.”

"She has a rep, sure. What’s that got to do with me?”

She shot up and stomped over to me, waggling her finger in my face. "I saw you with her in the marketplace, Monday. Flirting. Holding hands. Buying some cheap peasant meal for her.”

I blinked and stared at her. "Oooookay. So I introduced her to food that you can actually taste, unlike the cafeteria crap. So what’s that got to do with you?”

("Damn good taste,” Dirk muttered in the background. "Gotta find out where she got it.”)

"You’re just like her!” Olfrey ranted, and I shook my head, unable to find words to explain what an idiot she was being.

"She’s nothing of the sort.” Thank you, Clarice. Best Girl without doubt. "I’ve spent more hours than I can count studying with her - I won’t deny she’s saved my math grades from the pit - and I’ve never seen her behave at all inappropriately.”

To be honest I had spent some time looking appreciatively at Clarice, but apparently she hadn’t noticed. Or had chosen to ignore it. Or she’s just as pissed off at Olfrey as I am.

Olfrey stomped away, kicking another stone against the wall. "Fine. Defend her if you like. But when she shows her true colors you’ll wish you’d listened to me.” She glared at me for a minute, then went back to her lunch. I ignored the glare and went back to mine.

Hours of intermittent fights later, we’d found several magic crystals and a handful each of useful metallic ores. The teacher’s call to head back to the surface came as almost a disappointment.





Fortunately, I’d gotten away with little more than bruises. Hours later, bathed, fed, and rested, I sat in a sinfully comfortable chair in my not-so-little suite, leafing slowly through a random romance novel. It wasn’t all that bad, honestly, but I was starting to lose interest when a knock came at the door. With a soft sigh of regret, I pushed myself up from the seat to answer it.

"Good evening, Miss Roseblade. I trust today’s little adventure hasn’t left you out of sorts?”

She looked stunning, really, with her hair down, slightly damp, probably just out of the bath. Her red-trimmed black housecoat was tied snugly at the waist, not a hint of what was under it outside of the way it clung to her curves. I swallowed heavily as I stood aside to wave her in.

"It was an exciting day, yes. And do call me Deirdre, I think we’re close enough friends not to need quite so much formality, don’t you?” She pushed the door closed behind her, smiling warmly.

"I should hope so,” I agreed. "Let us dispense with the formality, then, and I’d be glad to call you ‘friend’.”

She stepped in close, and I got a peek down the front of her housecoat. Didn’t see much under it but her, to be honest. "Good,” she said, then her arms were around me and her lips clamped on to mine and I was doing my best to reciprocate a very heated kiss.

The rest of the evening is none of your business.

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  It was first in theaters 40 years ago today? Surely you can't be serious!
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I am serious. And don't call me Shirley.

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