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Found 76 results

  1. MR39: For Science! "Scissors." He reached out a gloved hand, blood dripping to the floor and spattering his boots. He didn't look up from the dissected body on the table before him. Miranda picked the scissors from the tray and handed them to the doctor, hands trembling as she watched him take the gleaming silver tool from her. His steady hand moved to make the cut. Miranda let out a small gasp, bringing him to a stop. "Do you need to leave the room, Miranda?" The doctor spoke quietly from beneath his mask. Miranda's heart beat wildly and she didn't make a sound. "Send me another to take your place. You're relieved for the day." Moments later she leaned against the door of her room, trying to calm her stomach. Nope. She lost what food she'd eaten that day. Shaking, she wiped her mouth with her sleeve and collapsed on her bed across the room. Something had to be done about this. Dissection after dissection and still nothing satisfied the doctor. Everyone knew that epics were horrible people but that didn't mean it justified cutting them open to see how they worked...did it? "I have to stop it." Opening the drawer in her end table she pulled out a pad of paper and a pen and began writing. ~~~ Trying to steady her breathing, Miranda knocked on the office door. The doctor's voice beckoned her inside. A clock ticked on the wall, the only sound in the room besides that of papers shuffling on the heavy wooden desk. It was a nicely furnished room with a dark velvet chair in the corner, a pretty green rug on the floor and a dark wooden bookcase lining one wall. A tank of fish sat next to the chair, the filter causing bubbles on top that made the fish curious until they forgot what they were doing. Fish don't have the greatest of memories. The doctor glanced up from his desk in the center of the room. "Are you feeling better? Please come in." Miranda swallowed and stepped forward, handing the doctor the note she had written. "What's this?" "I'm leaving." The doctor looked at her in shock. "You're what?" "I need to get away from here for a while. I want to go on the next expedition you send out to find epics for your….research." The doctor's expression changed from concern to consideration. "I...see." He removed his glasses, hooking the end of the frame in his lip as he thought. Did he suspect something? Miranda counted to ten to distract herself and still her nerves. He sat quietly for a moment, the ticking of the clock seeming to grow louder and louder in Miranda's ears before the silence was broken. "Very well. You've been my best assistant." He put his glasses back on and set to writing on a clean sheet of paper, signing it when he was finished. "Give this to Arone straightaway. I believe his team is leaving for Newcago first thing tomorrow morning." Miranda reached out and took the paper, sighing in relief and turning to leave. Just after the paper left his fingers, the doctor gripped her wrist, causing her to look back at him. He stared her in the eye, his cold blue gaze feeling as if it would pierce through her. "Be careful." She nodded. Leaving the room, she closed the door behind her and exhaled. She wasn't sure if those words had been meant as well wishes or a threat. Did he suspect her intentions? Either way she was leaving. She would find a way to put an end to this. Even if it meant having to find an epic to help her. _________________________________________________________________ Welcome to MR39! The game will begin on Friday the 13th at 1 PM CST. Good luck! The game is set sometime before the events of the book Steelheart but after Steelheart has taken over the city of Newcago. So basically before the beginning of book 1 minus the prologue. Rules: This will be a MR with 48 hour cycles The elims have a separate doc to discuss and they have one kill per cycle Open PMing (only 1 on 1) Tied lynch ends in a no lynch No minimum vote requirement When a player dies their items are removed from the game Actions: You may only take one action per cycle Elim kill counts as an action You may use an item You may target a player and attempt to steal their item You may choose to guard yourself against an item being stolen Factions: Loyals - you are loyal to the doctor and will see your mission done when you find all of the traitors Traitors - you win when you kill or outnumber all of those who are loyal to the doctor Items: Gun - one time use, may kill any player you target unless they're protected by the vest Bullet proof vest - one time use, protects against any attack excluding the lynch (passive ability but if activated by an attack it will cancel out your other action if you took one) Knife - wounds a player of your choice, blocking their action for that cycle (may be used once per round) Binoculars - may spy on a player's action, seeing whom they targeted and with what action (may be used once per round) Both the elim kill and the gun will show up as an attack if the binoculars spot it. It will not specify which one it was. Order of Events: Guarding an item Stealing Bullet proof vest Weapon or elim kill Binoculars Inactivity filter: must post once per cycle or you'll be removed from the game Player List: Links:
  2. Hey, is Prof otherwise known as limelight based on the Rush song of the same name. I noticed a few lyrical/thematic parallels, such as "one must put up barriers to keep one's self intact" obviously akin to his force fields and more subtle ones like "I can't pretend a stranger is a long-awaited friend" echoing how he met David. As a huge Rush fan I am not entirely partial to this idea but there at least seem to be a lot of consistencies between the song and the character. (as a new member I can't post a link but it's not hard to look up)
  3. I WAS JOKING WITH MY FRIEND ABOUT GIVING ALCATRAZ THE RUIN SHARD AND NOW I NEED TO DRAW A L L OFF THE DESTRUCTIVE CHARACTERS MERGED INTO ONE BEING current idea: alcatraz reading the bible with red hair holding some shiny rocks saying something like "Matthew 2:12: and behold, God said unto to The Devil 'thou hast yee'd thy last haw'"
  4. so what new epics would you like to see? what stats/whatever the attack stats are called would they have i'm saying calamity/larcener as a boss (yes i'm aware regalia will be a boss), obliteration, the coven epics, other babiliar and ildithia epics,
  5. Really liked it. It almost felt weird enjoying it so much when it's a YA series and I'm 31. I've seen the complaints about the rushed ending, and felt it a bit too. But it didn't ruin the series for me. Prof was such a great character. I really liked that his weakness was fear of failure when he's putting everything on the line. So many people fear failure and will self sabotage so they have the fall back answer. That was cool to me. I expected David's transformation to take place sooner. I thought once he survived the tower with Megan it would be a rapid descent into figuring out how to use Steelheart's power set leading to a battle to bring back Prof.
  6. I don't see a typos thread yet, so here goes. Ebook page 78. Chapter 12, second page Looks like there is a stray comma after But...
  7. So, Edgedancer and I were talking about Reckoners, and he brought up the idea of Fortuity fancying himself a filmmaker, which evolved into a full-blown headcanon, which evolved into something else when I imagined Steelheart doing the look-directly-into-the-camera thing perfected by Jim Halpert on the US version of The Office. Enjoy. Oh, and if you wish, get into the mood by imagining a montage of Newcago Epics set to the ever-classic Office theme music. Spoilered for length. Mentions alcohol and drinking.
  8. Just finished, a good read with plenty of juicy tidbits but I was a little disappointed with the ending to be honest. Anyone else care to share their thoughts?
  9. 1. Are there Words of Brandon about the Reckoners series?
  10. Ok, I know it is an ongoing joke that Reckoners isn't cosmere and that lots of people new to the fandom are making the mistake (I did so myself). I walked into all of this thinking most of Brandon's books were Cosmere and was told: "nope you're wrong". This kind of threw me off because I seriously thought that this was all connected. So I decided to do some research on the Coppermind, update myself on Investiture, Adonalism, shards, etc. AND I FOUND SOMETHING VERY INTERESTING. I BELIEVE RECKONERS COULD ACTUALLY BE COSMERE GUYS!!! There are sixteen shards (some think 17) and there are ten known shards. Upon actually pondering them I realized that many have opposites (i.e. Ruin vs Preservation, Honor vs Odium, Ambition vs Devotion) even just the definition of the words are opposing. So, upon this realization, I thought back to Calamity. In Calamity, when David is taken up to meet Calamity (who is someone else, yadda yadda yadda (Larcener)) Calamity tells him: "You refuse to see what your people are, once they get a little power," (Calamity, Sanderson 399). This shows that he sees them (at least to me) as somewhat easily controlled. He also calls this, "A terrible place," (Calamity, Sanderson 398) <= one example. Then, later, Calamity says: "I contain every power of the universe. Do you understand? They are all mine. I am what you call a High Epic a thousand times over," (Calamity, Sanderson 402). Calamity (or Larcener) sees himself very highly, sees nothing wrong with what he does (similar to Ruin and Odium). He sees himself as a god, and according to the Coppermind: "Adonalsium is generally regarded as a God, responsible for the creation of the Cosmere,[2][5] and it is sometimes referred to as the "power of creation." So if the shards do have opposites, Larcener could be the vessel of a shard. Something that has to do with Heteronomy or Subjection--which are the opposites of Autonomy. Autonomy wanting freedom, Subjection wanting control. IN THIS WAY RECKONERS COULD BE COSMERE.
  11. In a darkened world, an apocalyptic TLT… Featuring @Shard of Thought: Thought and AJ @beantheboy12: AJ @xinoehp512: Tom Joebob & Fantastic @Jaywalk: Jay and his bunny Bozo
  12. So I just had this thought: What if Prof directed a play and David was the stage manager? This resulted in a series of vignettes I wrote between David and Prof. My friend wrote a couple of these so I will post mine and then post the ones she did. Spoilered for length, this has no actual spoilers. Mine My Friend's One We Both Made
  13. A fan club for Elsa Steelheart to rule over. Who is Elsa Steelheart? If her lengthy introduction topic is anything to judge by, she might just be the most popular Sharder since FeatherWriter. Of course, her highness far outranks Feather; after all, she is just a Lady, whereas Elsa... Well. Elsa is our Queen. In your graciousness, her Majesty is always willing to accepts new members to the court. If you wish to pledge your allegiance to our most worthy Queen, simply present yourself before her and swear your loyalty. Your Majesty, Elsa Steelheart, First of Thy Name, Titan of Ice, Snowwarden, Frozenborn, Queen of Newcago and all Lands of the Seventeenth, I, _______, do swear my humble, undying fealty to thee. I shall forevermore serve thee and thee alone with the utmost fervency, till last I draw breath
  14. So I have a bunch of Reckoners themed memes on my phone, and thought it would be fun to post some of them here! Feel free to post any Reckoners memes you have too! A few of mine are posted in the spoiler section above. Spoilers for Steelheart and Calamity. I'll upload some non-spoiler ones later!
  15. As stated in the tags, this fic is inspired by the WoB explaining Fortuity's weakness—public rejection by a woman to whom he is attracted—and hinting it stems from a time that happened in the worst possible way. I found that to be an intriguing deepest-darkest-fear, and this idea began percolating. Will probably be a three-parter, but I'm not making any promises. Part One
  16. During Calamity, we learn the titular antagonist has "gifted" Epic powers to people instead of "investing" (non-Cosmere, but still works.) them with abilities. I believe this distinction was the preventive factor in the children of Epics NOT inheriting power; considering Motivators work on genetic mimicry and offspring would share similar DNA strands to parents. This limitation has likely been removed when Calamity went the way of Evocation. Which bares the question: How will Epic powers be inherited? Will the kid get the same power as their powered parent with a personal touch like Tavi? Will children of 2 Epics (David and Megan) get both powersets, or will there be "Interference" like with Epics and certain Motivators? Or will a child's non-powered heritage cause "Interference" granting a very different ability from their Epic parent?
  17. I finally joined the 17th Shard!!! I've read both the Mistborn trilogies, the three Stormlight Archives, Warbreaker, and Arcanum Unbounded. Outside of the Cosmere, I've read the Reckoners and Legion. I can't wait for when he decides to write Warbreaker 2, but it sadly doesn't look like its going to be anytime soon.
  18. So most of you have probably seen that there is a Kickstarter going on for a board game based on Brandon’s Reckoners series. If not, you should check it out. Many of you may not have seen that they are doing a contest to win a free Epic (all the bells and whistles) version of the game along with a signed set of the Reckoners books and copies of the two other games that Nauvoo Games has produced. Most of the things you can do to get entries aren’t too bad as far as these types of contests go- they’re mostly “visit this site” or “watch our livestream video” and there isn’t really an onus to share it with all your friends via social media (though of course you can if you want, like I’m doing right now). But currently if you do all the things in their list it gives you enough entries to have about a 2% chance at winning the grand prize, so hey, that’s not too shabby. And yes, I realize that this is blatant promotion and yes, if you use the link above to enter the contest it gives me 1 bonus entry too, but I figured that there would still be people who are interested who haven’t heard about it yet. I don’t really care about the contest so much as I care about making sure that other interested sharders out there find out about it.
  19. Even without their queen events were taking their turn in Astoria. With Lucentia having taking her leave just recently the news hadn’t become public yet and Deathgale didn’t intend for it to become such. It was bothersome enough to put down all the maggots that had gotten arrogant after she lost her arm. So he went after business like usually. Today said business lead him to what used to be a High school. The building was barely recognizable as what it used to be, now that its entirety’s covered in a layer of diamond, just like the other important buildings of the town that were still standing. For some reason the groups of Epics that had formed liked to take those as their bases, apparently they hoped it would grant them some kind of favor. Naïve fools. The crowd inside the building parted to make way for him. Deathgale knew where he needed to go and no one in the building was foolish enough bother him. In the usual office he was greeted by Ripper. Not the most impressive Epic even if he had somewhat of a healing factor, a fact he tried to keep secret outside of his group. Naturally, trying to keep a secret in this town away from Bloody Mary was beyond futile. According to her, he acted as their representative until the Hematite formerly decided who should replace Hellstone. Having your leader die of a random heart attack is a rather pathetic tale; just further prove that this scum didn’t deserve to be called Epics. The Epic bartender sat down facing him and exhaled a breath of smoke from his cigarette. It danced in the air between them. Ripper eyed the smoke warily. “You may state your matter.” Deathgale stated calmly. “Since Hellstone passed away Sonata has been putting pressure on us. She probably even Ki-“ “What killed him was his unhealthy diet, I can assure you.” Deathgale cut him off, a quiet edge in his voice making clear that the topic wasn’t up to debate. “Certainly,” Ripper face showed a flash of anger at the slight towards his late boss, however he swallowed it down immediately, “still you can’t just let them-“ “There’s no ashtray on the table.” “I’m sorry… but I think the matter at hand is more important.” “Seems like I’ll have to do without one then,” Deathgale pulled one last time at his cigarette. Then he stabbed it into Ripper’s eye. The little maggot reached for Deathgale. He simply flicked one of his fingers forward and with a high pitched hiss a blade of wind cut through Ripper’s arm. The bloody stump limply slumped on the table. Blood splatters stained the table and Ripper’s clothes. Still as calm as he was when entering the school Deathgale stood up and walked towards the door. Halfway there he stopped and turned back to Ripper, who was collapsed on the table, moaning in pain as his remaining hand jerked between his eye and stump. “Should we meet each other again you should remember your courtesies and also not presume to decide that we cannot do something.” He casually lit himself another smoke as he talked. “However, you are in luck. Her majesty is interested in keeping the city calm, so I shall have a talk with Sonata.” Letting these lesser Epics play their little games with each other was a simply a way to keep them placated. Yet from time to time a little management was necessary to keep them from creating more trouble than they are worth and so Deathgale went to his next assignment.
  20. Hey guys! I'm currently working on a Fan comic for The Reckoners. It's an aftermath story for Calamity. It's called Absolution and I hope you guys take a chance to read it,and enjoy it. If you like it, please tell me your thoughts, Plot: Tavi Phaedrus has become very uneasy since the fight with Obliteration. For months, She's not eating much, she's become restless, and becomes extremely jumpy. She remembers clearly on what happened during the battle. She was brought into David's world to fight Limelight, a version of her father, and nearly died because of it. She now worries that he will find a way to finish the fight she was dragged into . Prof also has a hard time living with himself. After all the horrible things he's done, he finds it hard to accept it all. He does everything he can to avoid his powers. He doesn't want to hurt his closest friends more than he already did. In doing so, he slowly grows more distant. After an alliance is made between the two dimensions, the two meet. Again. Can the two Epics learn to work together. Can they do that whilst two Epic plan a way to destroy New Cago?
  21. So if epic powers and weaknesses are tied into a persons fears then what do you think your powers and weakness would be if you were an epic? My powers would probably be something related to fire as I am very much afraid of open flames. My weakness would be either spiders (I'm arachnophobic), Being alone (I'm afraid of being left behind) or flying (Planes absolutely terrify me) I say these would be my weakness and fire would probably be my power because I can't think of how these would really translate into powers.
  22. So, I was trying to cancel my PSN (Playstation Network) subscription and during the course of that event I noticed that my account had several dozen episodes to a show called "Powers". Check out the description for the show and tell me if it sounds familiar to you (emphasis mine): "An inside look at Powers: A PlayStation Original series, based on two homicide detectives, Christian Walker and Deena Pilgrim, who are assigned to investigate cases involving people with superhuman abilities, referred to as "Powers." Set amidst today’s paparazzi culture, Powers asks the questions: what if the world was full of superheroes who aren’t actually heroic at all? What if all that power was just one more excuse for mischief, mayhem, murder, and endorsement deals? Includes behind the scenes footage, exclusive interviews with cast and crew, and a first look at scenes from the series."
  23. Day 0 Outskirts of the city of Adelaide A dark tower, surrounded by crows, being struck by lightning, the near constant cawing of crows temporarily subsided, replaced by the rumble of thunder until it grew dark again, the birds screeching all the louder until the lightning drowned them out once more. “What’dya call a group of crows again?” Jed asked his companion as they walked down the nearby street. “Flock isn’t it? Thought birds were all flocks?” Came the reply. thunk. “Nah, crows is something else, a murder of crows innit?” “Don’t think it matters much what you call em, those ones’ll eat you up if you get close whatever you call them.” “Bloody Epics. Tellin ya Jef, the day they all go back to whatever pit what spawned em’ll be the best day of my life.” Jed said, spitting to one side. “It’s not so bad, hear some places got completely wiped, old Crowbar up there don’t cause much trouble, just watches you all creepy like for the most part.” “You’re right there, not as bad as old Necro up in the city, you hear he emptied half of Glenelg the other day recruiting again?” crunch “He’s working his way out from the center, be a couple months before he sends them soldiers out this far.” Jef said back. Jed shuddered slightly before replying. “Hate them soldiers, almost worse than Epics that lot, what kind of man betrays his own race just for some fancy powers that only ever hurt people? They all look wrong, you ever look at one of their faces?” thud “I try not to.” Jef said, shuddering in turn. “Heard they could suck out your soul if you look em in the eyes and the first time I saw them I believed it, look like dead men walking they do.” “Ah whatever, hurry up and get more wood or it’ll be morning by the time we get back.” The two set to their daily routine, chopping and gathering firewood and loading it onto a truck. Ever since the power had gone out people in the inner suburbs had found themselves in a sudden need of wood and no means to get it, surrounded by concrete structures as they were. It had been Jeds idea to get into the business of firewood, everyone needed to eat and while most people had focussed on supplying the food aspect of that not many had thought about peoples need for fuel. He tried not to overprice it, everyone was in this together after all, but no one could blame a man for looking after his family first in times like this could they? thwack. A short distance away from the working pair a lone black crow stood watching, cocking its head to one side curiously before flying back to the dark tower to join its fellow. Inside the tower stood an old man wearing a long flowing cloak, the weather was still hot and it caused him some discomfort but he was an actor after all, if he was going to live in a dark tower surrounded by crows he’d better look the part. “Anything interesting?” A voice called from across the room, a gorgeous young woman reclining in a luxurious chair with one arm draped on the windowsill. “Just a couple of layabouts getting some wood for the village and worrying that the dwellers of a certain evil tower might come and steal their souls.” Crowbar said, taking some liberties with what had actually happened and adding his own little embellishments. The room was suddenly lit by an incredibly bright flash, Crowbar recognized the warning signs and closed his eyes just in time to avoid getting blinded before opening them to watch the woman, small bolts of electricity now dancing between her fingertips. “Do you still need to do that?” Crowbar asked with a sigh as soon as he could hear again. “What?” His companion, an Epic known as Powervault replied, idly watching as the bolt continued to play between her splayed fingers. “I’m a lightning Epic, I need lightning to charge myself up again.” “You were charged three months ago, can you even hold anymore than you already have? Or do you just like the noise?” Three more bolts struck Powervaults hand in rapid succession, leaving the indignant Crowbar squinting as he failed to close his eyes in time. “You can never have too much.” She said, continuing to lounge languidly. “Besides it takes days to get a proper storm going to charge with, might as well make use of it while its here.” Grumbling to himself, Crowbar turned, attempting to swirl his cape dramatically before striding to a staircase. “I’ll be up top replenishing the flock since you just fried half of them.” He grumbled. “Have fun dear.” Powervault said before shooting another crow from the sky with a bolt from her hand. Crowbar wisely decided not to comment. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ An elaborate manor on an island to the south Sergeant Kimberly sighed deeply before sucking in a deep breath and rapping three times on the large door. “Enter.” A voice inside called, strangely high pitched for one so commanding in tone. Kimberly had drawn the short straw again, which meant that now she had to deal with him. “I’ve brought the evening meal sir.” She said, trying to keep a calm voice as she approached the back of the large leather seat. “Set it over there please Stuart.” The voice said again, without the door obstructing it it was now even more obvious, this was the voice of a child. A small hand accompanied the phrase, gesturing to a desk on one side of the room. She walked over to the desk and placed a silver tray gently down onto it, the smell of freshly made soup, toast and perfectly roasted beef wafting up towards her. “It’s er… Kimberly sir. Stuart’s still in the kitchen cooking for the rest.” “Ah, sorry Kimberly, I sometimes forget which of me is me and which is another me.” As usual she had absolutely no idea what he was saying, one of the reasons the soldiers stationed in the manor all hated having to be the one who served Psionic. “Would you like me to take it away?” He asked gently, his small face turning in his chair to look up at her. Upon seeing Kimberly’s confused expression the boy clarified. “The anger, fear, hurt. They’re useful sometimes, but distracting, unpleasant. To dwell on them is not to live life but rather to be consumed by it. Or so I think anyway.” Kimberly’s face paled still further. “Um…” She stuttered out, trying to think of how best to refuse an Epic. “Ah, you worry that I’ll steal your mind entirely? Leave you a broken shell? Worry not, you’ve no memories I want. Not yet.” He stood up, approaching the shaking sergeant, her toned body trembling as the small boy walked up to her, stood on tiptoes and brushed her cheek softly. “I’ll need to cultivate you more before I reap the harvest.” He walked to one side, approaching one of the bookshelves that lined the room before pulling out a volume and then approached a desk, sitting down in his desk chair and pulling a blank notebook towards him and beginning to write. Behind him, Kimberly just managed to retain her footing as she hastily retreated from the room, sparing only a glance for the young Epic-genius. She’d need to come back later to pick up the notebook, trying to make sense of his usually indecipherable scribbles and copy them before putting the original into storage. But before then, she needed a drink.
  24. Savannah nursed his drink, eyes lost in thought as he contemplated the coming day. "Hey, Savannah right? You're in the arena tomorrow." An elderly man sat across the table from Savannah, the mans turquoise tophat marked him as either an Epic or completely insane. "Yes that's right, and you are?" "Ah scuse me manners, Brighthead at your service." The man swept a seated bow to Savnnah, almost smashing his flushed face into the table as he did so. "Whoops. Well I'm jus a minor so I haven't been in the arena yet, I watched that match with Fundemented and whashisname last week, man that was good. Never would have called that he'd use that pencil in the end. So anyways, nervous for tomorrow? You're gonna meet Soulcaster himself and all." Savannah nodded grimly. Fear overpowering his pride. "Very nervous, I mean he's got to be one of the strongest Epics in the state. I hear he has a super powerful Epic in his employ that he just uses to set his watch in the morning!" Brighthead laughed at that, finishing off his beer in one massive gulp. "Well yer sort of right on that, but also completely wrong. You got a place to stay? You probly already got one here in the champions bar and all I got is a little two story downtown but you're welcome if you'd like." Grimacing Savannah regained some of his usual arrogance, adressing the minor Epic coldly. "I'll be fine to get accommodations by myself thanks." "Ah thas much better." Brightdeath said, nodding in approval. "Got to carry yaself right or Soulcaster might just give ya some 'assistance'. Turned one guy into a lemur for his match cause he thought he was 'too short for an Epic'. Well, drink up next rounds on me." Nervously Savannah accepted the offer, the information doing nothing to dispel his worries at meeting Soulcaster. Still some 'liquid courage' couldn't hurt right? And he still had plenty of time to head up to his rooms and get rest before the next day arrived. "Make it two rounds and you can stay and drink with me." Savannah agreed. "Ah tha sounds like a good deal to me. Just so's you know though, drinks are free fer Epics anyway." Brighthead said with a wink before ducking under Savannah's clumsy smack to his head.
  25. This thread is now closed to Epic characters, though anyone is welcome to adopt a non-Epic player character. This is not as lame as it sounds. Being a town run by normal humans, The Dalles arguably presents more opportunities for non-Epic characters. Besides, if you join as an Epic, your character will either join one of two gangs trying to conquer the city, work for the City Guard, or be shot on sight. Your options are kind of limited there. If you're set on adopting an Epic, check out the Salem thread. Late November, two years ago Koschei the Deathless marched into the farmhouse, pistol in hand, purple cloak billowing behind him. Snowflakes fell, catching on his cloak and sticking in his hair, and he irritably pulled up the hood. Barrett Springfield had betrayed him. A hole in his stomach and a slit throat, and he had chosen a killing shot for Haze over a wound for his brother. When he ordered Haze and Headshot into the farmhouse, Koschei had been certain their mortal wounds would keep the Springfields firmly under his thumb. Yet Barrett had betrayed. Two mortal wounds, and he still betrayed. Koschei wished, not for the first time, that he could raise the dead. Were he graced with this gift, he would have raised Barrett a dozen times to kill him again and again. He slammed the door open. “What do we have?” Two vanillas knelt in the living room, hands behind their heads as Headshot held a pistol to each of their skulls. Tank had a dark-haired toddler in pink pajamas folded in his arms, who let out a wail the moment she spotted the newcomer. Koschei winced. “Shut her up, will you?” “Just calm down, Gloria,” her mother cooed. Her own voice was thick with tears. “Please, sweetie, just stop crying. Everything’s going to be fine.” Gloria’s wail increased in volume. Tears flowed down her mother’s cheeks as her father added his voice in a desperate attempt to comfort her. The noise, the voices, the tears—it pounded at his skull, tearing through his resolve, he had to do something quickly or he would shoot them all and be down a family— Koschei’s revolver was trained on the child in a heartbeat. “Shut her up or I’ll shut her up for good!” Her parents fell silent. Even Gloria ceased her wailing, easing into a low, pitiful whimper. “Please,” her mother pleaded. Her voice was soft now, wavering. “Please, don’t shoot her. We’ll do anything you want.” Her father swallowed. “I’ll tell you where we keep the weapons. The code to the safe. Anything.” Wheels turned in Koschei’s mind. His Epics had little need of weapons at the moment, though they would certainly be a boon, and Tank could simply tear the door off the safe. If this man was willing to give him the code, it meant he was breaking. He lowered his revolver. “Tell me the code.” He rattled off a string of numbers, which Koschei committed to memory. “It’s in our closet. Second door down the hall. Ammo’s there, too.” “Set Gloria on the floor,” he told Tank, “and see if they’re telling the truth.” He returned a moment later with the safe in his arms. Koschei entered the code and opened the door to half a dozen rifles with an adequate supply of ammunition. His smile was genuine. “Thank you,” he told the father, “for telling the truth.” The man relaxed slightly. “Come here, Gloria. Come here and sit with Papa.” “Tank, bring Gloria to me.” “You have the guns,” her mother said pleadingly. Frantically. “We gave you what you wanted, and you said you wouldn’t hurt her.” Ignoring her, Koschei holstered his pistol. Tank carried a squirming, kicking Gloria to where he stood. “Tilt her head back.” He did so. “You have the guns.” There was no demanding note in his voice. No anger. Only fear. “You said you’d leave her alone.” “I said nothing of the sort.” “Please!” Her mother’s whisper was frantic and urgent. “We’ll do anything!” Koschei paused to give the couple a smile, drawing a dagger from his belt. “I know you will.” One quick slice and he slit the child’s throat. Screams. Pleas. Koschei calmly placed his hand over the wound. The edges drew together. Blood ceased flowing onto his palm. The screams fell silent. “Your Gloria will live,” Koschei told the couple, sheathing his knife and taking a cloth from his pocket. He wiped the blood from his hand as he faced them. “Provided you do as I say. For what I give….” He wiped the blood from her throat and withdrew a small amount of the power he had given. A short, narrow red line appeared on her throat, drawing a frantic whimper. “I can also take away.” Koschei regarded the couple for a long moment, struck by the contrast between them and the Springfields. Where that family had glared from the moment they were healed to the moment Koschei named the price of his gift, this couple stared. Not in outrage. Not in shock. Only terror. The woman bit her lower lip, sobbing quietly, not daring to avert her gaze from Gloria. Her husband’s eyes flickered from Koschei to his daughter. Perhaps there was a spark of anger, but it died the second Koschei touched his knife. A smile curved his lips. These people were broken. Thoroughly broken. And he owned them.