I am not a top-100 player, as given the inevitable RNG of effects, matchups and draws in card games, and the lack of rewards for ranking up in LoR, I simply don't see the point in painstakingly grinding up to such a level. The highest I've climbed is low Diamond, but considering the above knowledge, I believe that at a certain skill level (perhaps at around Platinum), it's more about how much time one can put in than how skilled they are. HOWEVER, considering all this, I have the absolute conviction that this deck is a top-100 worthy deck.
This is the only deck that I've played since Day 1 of Call of the Mountain, with various modifications, and I believe that it is a completely undiscovered meta unicorn. I've never faced a similar deck on ladder, and my deckbuilding experiments with any other archtypes have left me completely unsatisfied with the lack of interaction and agency, as well as the sheer counterability of the vast majority of tools currently out there. A lot of people are frustrated with the current meta - a lot of points of which are covered by BruisedByGod in his recent video critique. To summarize his main points:
Most answers are completely outclassed by threats
Sheer lack of healing options locks out deckbuilding choices
Most top-tier strategies prey on lack of interactivity (Pirate Burn, Lee Sin OTK, Star Spring)
This is a Control deck which, while originally devised to prey on the inevitably popular Aurelion Sol and Troll Chant and abuse the broken, flexible toolbox of Invoke on Day 1, also manages to both answer all 3 of these problems efficiently.
Lunari Duskbringer x 3
Spacey Sketcher x 3
Lunari Shadestalker x1
Pale Cascade x 3
Unspeakable Horror x 2
Vile Feast x 3
Simply the best available early-game that an Invoke Targon deck could hope to muster - Diana functioning as both early game and late-game removal (we have just enough Nightfall Synergy) for practically no investment, Pale Cascade being legitimately one of the most broken cards currently in the game, and the ping cards also serving a modicum of uses at all stages of a match. Spacey Sketcher has been severely underrated so far - providing critical tools for certain matchups and/or providing early game minions without needing to actually run them (a fundamental weakness of faster decks top-decking late). Its 'discard-replace' synergy with our late-game, as well as Duskpetal Dust and meta-call flex cards is just icing on the cake. Finally, note how every early game card I've chosen scales well and still plays a role as the game goes later; as removal, Elusive blocking, tool-building, Burst-speed Nightfall, pings and cantrip Combat Tricks. This is an often overlooked but fundamental difference between Control early-drops, and aggro early-drops (such as Precious Pet). ~
Sunburst x 3
Vengeance x 3
These two cards, combined with any generated Obliterates, form the only proper removal this deck has - and were the catalyst for me creating this deck in the first place. All three of these removal types leave almost NO room for the opponent to interact with them, and I believe that is the sole condition for a high-cost removal spell to be playable in the current game state. NOTE: Ruination is easily and always played around at a high-level of play - and leaves the opponent with ALL of the agency/choice to play around it/bait it exactly how they wish, instead of you (whose only options are to play the card too early and get out-tempo'd afterward, use more than 3 mana elsewhere to catch-up at which point it becomes unplayable, or lose the game to a sudden-attack completely at your opponent's discretion) - the ultimate NO-NO for this deck: I never even considered putting it in. ~
Meta Call Flex Spots
Divergent Paths x 2
At times I feel as if this card could be cut to 1 copy, but right now 2 feels great against the current meta, and drawing into at least one is almost necessary in order to compete with Star Spring (Obliterate is conditional and too great a tempo loss early on). In other metas previously, I've experimented with 1 copy of Passage Unearned, as well as 2 extra copies of Lunari Shadestalker. ~
Literally Everything Else One Could Ever Hope to Need
Lunari Priestess x 2
Solari Priestess x 3
Mountain Scryer x 3
Moondreamer x 3
Starshaping x 3
I still believe that Invoke is one of the most broken mechanics currently in the game. This is one of the heaviest late-game decks I can possibly imaginable, yet the only cards above 5-mana we run are removal, and our mid-game minions and healing straight up provide whatever early OR late-game tools we might possibly need in any matchup - it's simply overly flexible (flexilibity in card games being a MUCH bigger deal than most people give it credit for) and not enough of a tempo/stat sacrifice IMO. I think that Invoke as a mechanic is even stronger when ran in bulk, and especially in a Control deck - as the game goes on slowly you generate a toolbox that can handle just about any dynamic situation that meta decks can throw your way. The spell-mana nerf to Living Legends has balanced it out quite a bit, however the same-nerf to Cosmic Inspiration still hasn't convinced me that it isn't in the top 5 least healthy effects that a game based on carefully stat-balanced of minion trading could ever have (hit me up with your Cosmic Inspiration hate!) - a large proportion our games are won by this disgusting effect. Solari Priestess and Starshaping need no introduction as some of the most popular, utilitarian Invoke cards, however Mountain Scryer and Moondreamer (not so much Lunari Priestess) really put in the work, and I've never seen anyone else play these cards. The former provides crazy mana-advantage as the game goes on given our huge focus on Celestials (it's a shame we can't afford to push its Invoke chances even higher), and the latter has juuussst the right stat distribution at 3/5 to blockade most midgame tempo plays out opponent might go for. NOTE: Aurelion Sol is straight up unnecessary to compete late-game, is always burdensome and clunky draw, ruins our surprise factor (though that doesn't exist anymore with this post being made), and we often outvalue decks running him anyway (don't forget that the original premise of this deck was 'How can I best remove Aurelion?'). ~
Matchups/Strategy (Order Based on Mobalytics Tier List)
Lee Sin (60/40)
A somewhat favored matchup - although more recent lists that have cut Bastion in favor of Nopify may be a bit more in their favor (a proper Ping Counter). Hard mulligan for Spacey Sketcher, Sunburst and our pings. Generating Silence (Equinox) for Mentor of the Stones/Zenith Blade is our main early game goal. Our Mid-to-Late game goal is removing all 3 Lee Sin's at the expense of practically everything else (the rest of their deck is pretty much completely irrelevant, but rushing them down is also pretty much impossible) - after which our win is basically guaranteed.
This matchup is sadly the most binary thing: Sunburst/Vengeance/Ping's VS Lee Sin/Spell Denial/Zenith Blade
The rest of both decks are basically irrelevant other than to slow down the level up/speed up the level up/Draw into above cards
Draw Draw Draw + Always save enough mana to Removal Spell + Ping if the opponent has 4 mana up late game
I believe that we are very, very heavily favored if played properly (although it's a VERY nuanced matchup to play right), and most of our losses come from bricking our early-game draws and/or not drawing/generating a single Starshaping/Golden Sister as their burn damage inevitably builds up. Hard mulligan for all 1/2 cost cards (only keep 1 Pale Cascade with a 1/2 cost minion).
NEVER, EVER play early minions proactively (e.g. NO turn 1 Lunari Duskbringer unless they play something) - only ever match however many minions the opponent has AND trade right away to minimise Make it Rain/TF value (For instance, if you proactively play a minion with nothing to trade it into, and then find yourself needing to play, say, Diana/Solari Priestess later - the opponent is basically guaranteed free additional AOE value: make EVERY chump blocker count)
ALWAYS open attack into Powder Keg's (usually with our single developed minion)
Take ANY trade you can get (even if somewhat unfavorable) to clear both sides of the board going into turn 8 - one of the ways we can lose is if Riptide Rex clears our heavy board and we only have time to develop one chump blocker before the onslaught - especially because Riptide is MUCH stronger against minions than the nexus > Late game, try to keep both sides of the board as empty as possible
If you find yourself with priority against their activated Plunder past turn 8, play small minions to bait out Rex without having to pass the turn OR play larger minions, especially with uneven health like Moondreamer to protect the rest of your board from potential cannons
ALWAYS try to find a NON-Rex'able position late game to develop Golden Sister, and save Pale Cascade if possible to protect her from Noxian Fervor and recover 6 previous health
ALWAYS have enough mana to remove Leviathan if the opponent has more than 8 mana on any given turn (prioritise Leviathan over Swain himself)
Sacrifice minions to TF attacks and remove Zap Sprayfin ASAP to minimise chip damage (which really builds up)
Be careful and make sure you always have a way to prevent Swain connecting with the Nexus (even if they develop him this turn and open attack the next); Pale Cascade is a good tool here
Pirate Aggro (55/45)
We are much more prone to bricking on draws here than Swain/TF, as we need quite a specific hand to deal with their onslaught - This is probably our most draw-dependent, low-agency matchup by far - as face-deck matchups tend to be. In addition - Captain Farron is much more effective against our removal strategy than the likes of Leviathan. Nonetheless, from my experience I think that we're still every-slightly-so favored in this matchup - often winning by the skin of our teeth. Starshaping/Golden Sister are mandatory late-game, and not bricking by not drawing/generating either is also basically a loss. Hard mulligan for all 1/2 drops, and keep a single Sunburst for Gangplank if your hand is already looking great.
There's nothing much to say here given the nature of their deck - pray your draws are good and take the obvious trades
A very unfavored and binary matchup (see below as to why) that has luckily become rarer recently. Mulligan for Removal/Invoke cards.
Save Starshaping for when you can actually make use of the heal (don't just play it on turn 3 because they're 'starting off slowly' - it's very important to maximise your leeway to survive Atrocity later on)
Try to remove Trundle on curve with Sunburst/Vengeance
Generate/Stockpile removal throughout the midgame
Sadly, none of these choices really matter in the end and the match comes down to luck - if Warmother's pulls a Level 1 Tryndamere on their attacking turn, the obvious open attack followed by a loss is all but guaranteed (Vengeance doesn't stop Atrocity in this case - leading to too great a health/tempo loss, and my previous Passage Unearned tech to deal with specifically this scenario simply wasn't worth the dead card in other matchups). We can also lose to a big levelled Trundle, or simply not generating/drawing into enough removal. Sadly these cases happen more often than not. Warmother's generated too much tempo if left unchecked by hard removal for even a single turn so there is little leeway for bad luck.
If Warmothers' timing and Invoke/draws are on our side, the matchup becomes pretty simple - Smartly use about a removal spell on their big guys for about 8 turns, play around Ruination and Atrocity, then cruise to victory.
This deck was basically created on Day 1 specifically to destroy Trundle/Asol. Sadly though, even at 75/25 the matchup is worse than it should be due to the nature of Invoke RNG - if one player draws into Cosmic Inspiration and the other didn't the match is over, full stop + the occasional shenanigans involving The Great Beyond uninteractibly going face and non-stop Living Legends value. Mulligan for Sunburst, Vengeance and pings.
Remove Trundle ASAP with Sunburst (Vengeance/Obliterates are best saved for Asol so getting Sunburst value while Trundle is still unleveled and 6 health is a big deal in terms of removal distribution)
Always try to remove Asol on the first turn he's played with Vengeance chaining into a ping to minimise the opponent's chance of getting game-winning Invoke RNG/matching your late-game value with free Celestials
If you still haven't drawn a ping late game, try to fish for Crescent Strike with Spacey Sketcher
Play around 7-mana Asol (Augur of the Old Ones) as much as possible
Pray you draw Cosmic Inspiration and the opponent doesn't
Discard Aggro (80/20)
I don't know why this deck is considered competitive - maybe because our matchup here is basically as favored as TF/Swain except without any gameplay nuance required on our part. Mulligan for 1-2 drops. Keep Solari Priestess/Sunburst if hand is good. Only necessary statistical losses to bad early draws against an aggro archtype.
Make obvious trades. Play around Mystic Shot on Diana. Chump block Draven/Jinx. Remove Draven/Jinx. Profit.
Another draw dependent, but quite favored matchup. Quite difficult to play though - you need to balance maintaining some modicum of tempo whilst also being able to deal with their crucial threats. Mulligan for 1-2 drops ESPECIALLY Pale Cascade/Pings, and Removal.
DON'T play ANY minion with less than 3 attack from turns 1-4 UNLESS you're getting tempo'd into the ground OR you have Pale Cascade (otherwise Fiora gets a free trade and the opponent gets to use their buffs reactively rather than proactively - giving you less leeway to remove her)
Save ping's for Fiora Barrier's, NOT Fleetfeather Tracker UNLESS you're getting tempo'd into the ground
Save a removal spell and mana for turn 3 Fiora, turn 4 Shen, turn 6 Genevieve and turn 9 Brightsteel UNLESS you're getting tempo'd into the ground
Basically the Pirate Aggro matchup but a tad bit slower and with no burn - giving you more leeway to make up for bad draws both early and late.
Make the obvious trades, pray to draw well and don't to let Genevieve get 2 attacks off
Basically the Trundle/Asol matchup except with no 'must remove ASAP' threats giving you more leeway to make up for bad draws. Celestial RNG and especially Cosmic Inspiration still give them a chance to win as usual. ~
Shyvana Dragons (50/50?)
I surprisingly, haven't faced too much of this deck yet personally, but looking at it's cards compared to ours, I think the matchup would be about 50/50 (an otherwise favourable looking matchup affected a bit by their high tempo removal and guaranteed Cosmic Inspiration in the form of Kadregrin). ~
This matchup is dependent on whether we draw removal for Ashe somewhat on curve, how much tempo they manage to build early on and whether we draw good enough to afford to play around Reckoning. Mulligan for Sunburst, Solari Priestess, Pings and Diana (only if you've already drawn support) as our other standard early drops are all pretty ineffective against theirs.
Remove Ashe ASAP
Try to Vengeance Sejuani on the attack if she directly attacks your Frostbitten minion in order to prevent the free value trade and maintain tempo on board.
Play around Reckoning as much as possible, especially if it wouldn't affect their own board too much compared to yours - maximise your 5+ attack minions to theirs if Reckoning begins to look more likely
Try to bait out an invested attack/Frostbite support for Trifarian Gloryseeker before pinging her - especially because Elixir of Iron is a bit rarer nowadays
Probably our most favored meta-deck matchup, and unfortunately rarer recently. Their win conditions - Kalista, Blighted Caretaker tempo, Neverglade Collector and They Who Endure simply don't stand a chance against our toolbox. Most losses come from unanswered Blighted Caretaker tempo. Mulligan for Spacey Sketcher, Sunburst and Pale Cascade.
ALWAYS pick Silence (For They Who Endure) or Stun (For Blighted Caretaker) off Spacey Sketcher
Try to hold a minion to play on turn 3/4 to kill an attacking Kalista with Pale Cascade AND get the Nightfall card draw
Play as reactively as possible with your pings - playing them proactively will almost always be answered by Glimpse Beyond, and when they run out of gas later on they will be forced to play their Glipmse proactively - your chance to strike!
Silence/Sunburst Blighted Caretaker as it comes down
SAVE Vengeance for They Who Endure - going into the late game, stockpile Silence/Sunburst and Vengeance and maintain enough mana (usually open-attacking) if necessary (IF can still afford to play They Who Endure that turn) to use one of the former followed by Vengeance to counter into their Atrocity: with this line of play, it's basically impossible to lose the combo
The biggest downside and sheer impossible matchup of this archtype. Maokai manages to pack even less interactivity/inevitability than we do, and the nature of our deck gives us no chance of out-tempoing Deep early OR late. Auto-concede. ~
A simpler aggro matchup than the others. Mulligan for 1-2 drops - especially Spacey Sketcher and Diana, as well as Sunburst.
ALWAYS pick the Stun spell off Spacey Sketcher, and save it for Diana, or of lesser priority, Nocturne/Ephemerals off Stalking Shadows
Removing Nocturne ASAP with either Sunburst or Vengeance is a HUGE priority
ALWAYS play around Pale Cascade
Play around Atrocity and Doombeast damage later on in the match
Another matchup that I haven't faced too much of just yet. Mulligan hard for Divergent Paths and Solari Priestess - Once we remove their uninteractive element trump-card in the Landmark win-condition, if we can survive their early tempo, the rest of the match should be a cinch given our heal/health-ignoring conditionless removal for their Champions. ~
Thanks for reading up to this point, and pardon my formatting, the ridiculous length and the sheer pomposity of it all. I still think Invoke is flexible to the point of being broken and the only reason the matchup spread is so good. I also think that with the release of this guide - more people will come to recognise this archtype and the element of surprise affecting enemy mulligans against an assumed more aggro, Nightfall-focused Diana archtype will be lost. People will also know to play around less common cards such as Sunburst, and I expect winrates to fall somewhat across the board. To conclude this guide, I'd like to say that this is this is not a healthy deck. At the deepest level, this deck is fundamentally about removing agency from your opponent and giving it to yourself, as well as securing the critical boon of having inevitability over your opponent in a game with the nature of LoR. If all decks were like this, LoR would completely cease to be fun. What else do I think is unhealthy right now? - Simple: anything removing interactivity from your opponent - ESPECIALLY as a win condition; Maokai, Star Spring, Cosmic Inspiration, Lee Sin. The avenues through which these cards can be interacted with are way too limited right now. A lot of the metagame nowadays is about having an uninteractable win condition, or focusing damage to face so fast the opponent has no chance to react - another form of non-interactivity. Here's hoping that the meta in the near future heads back in the direction of the close but fair midrange board battles we all came to love back in vanilla LoR. ~ (slinx4)
The morning alarm woke up Ghen. With an annoyed sigh, he stretched out his arm and silenced the foul-sounding chirps. Slowly sitting up in bed, he let out a deep yawn and got to his feet. Running a couple of chitinous fingers along his antennae to stimulate them to life, he made his bed and then went to his closet. Today was a work day, so he needed his suit. Once the pants were on, he stretched out his wings so that he could button up the shirt, then relaxing them once all the buttons were secured. Dressing for the day was done, now for the morning meal. Entering his kitchen, he took out the chilled leftovers of the evening meal last night and popped it into the radiator, first defrosting and then slightly cooking it. During that process, he also fished out a ceramic cup and placed it in his brewer, serving himself some synthesized caffeine. His idle thought led him to being amused that, when eaten directly off a plant, it has a concentration that could kill him three times over. But after going through some refinement and roasting, all it does is make him hyper. Once the meal was put together, his plate of heated leftovers and a cup of almost-piping-hot cup of Xia's, he took his time to enjoy it. His communicator vibrated. When he looked, he found it was from his boss. "Hello?" Ghen answered. "Ghen, the meeting's been moved up to a few minutes from now." His boss, Xkik, announced. "Apparently higher up has something important they want to say. We have a terminal ready for you, I'll message the login details." "Wha-, what's so important?" Ghen asked in bewilderment. "Did a water line rupture or something?" "No, nothing like that." Xkik replied with a slight chuckle. "It's actually about the rumors we've been hearing. That human corporation wanting to acquire us? That's what they're talking about." Ghen could feel everything inside his thorax drop to the floor. "That must mean it's true then, right? Did we get sold off by the Queen to this company then?" "Show up to the meeting and you'll get your answer." Xkik said simply. When he finished, Ghen got the notification on his communicator. There's the login details, allowing him to remotely attend the meeting. "They're about to start, hurry up." Once Xkik disconnected, Ghen worked fast to login and set up the remote viewing. Once everything was done, his screen started transmitting the meeting room. It was already packed. And off by the main board, he saw his answer. There was a human, resting against the wall on his two legs. Standing right in the center of everyone's view was the coordinator, Tizx, watching the clock periodically. As soon as the meeting's start time was reached, the coordinator began. "Alright everyone. I realize that this was rather short notice, so I want to say how appreciative I am that you made it. Now then, let's just get right to it. For some time now, many of you have been hearing rumors that a human corporation has been interested in us. Why? We never really knew. We're just an organization responsible for finding, extracting and providing water to the colony here all under the direction of the Queen herself. Well, as of now, I have the answer for you. Why don't I let Ryan say that?" Stepping back, Tizx motioned for the human, Ryan, to take over. With a nod, Ryan practically bounced over and then took the position. "Good morning to you all. I hope my Zazk is passable, heh. Anyways, the answer to those rumors, is yes. Terran Galactic Company is indeed interested in you all. Which now leads to me. I'm here to announce that, effective yesterday evening, this water company is now a subsidiary of Terran Galactic Company, under the name of Zilia Water Delivery." Many other sub-coordinators broke into hushed conversation, no doubt speaking their thoughts with each other about this move. Ghen could only wonder if this was even a good thing. What will the humans do? Will he still have his job? Will he have to learn how to deal with the ruthless humans? "Now, I am well aware this is quite the...uh, change." Ryan continued. "That's why I'm happy to inform you that, no, nothing negative or detrimental will happen to you. You just have new people to answer to. Operations will continue as normal, everybody here will still keep their jobs. The only real change any of you will personally experience is that Coordinator Tizx here will now report to someone else. On behalf of the Terran Galactic Company, we are extremely excited and are looking forward to working with you all. Thank you for your time." A week later. At least Ryan wasn't lying. After the initial shock wore off, things went back as they normally did. There were no terminations, no reductions in annual pay or anything. Nothing really changed. At least until this new meeting was called. Ghen was at the worksite this time, so he took his seat and watched as, once again, Ryan led the meeting. "Hello again, everyone!" He said cheerfully, his Zazk noticeably improved. "I hope I didn't end up looking like a liar, right? Everything's still normal, all that?" All the zazk in the room confirmed, providing comments to their pleasant surprise as well as lingering thoughts. "Awesome! Awesome." Ryan said jubilantly, his fleshy mouth revealing his bone-white teeth. "Now then, you're probably wondering why I'm here again, right? Well, I got another fantastic piece of news for you all! Two, actually. I'll start with the first: Zilia Water Delivery has just completed its IPO. The company is now publicly traded!" Ghen and the others voiced their confusion, having no idea what in the name of the Queen Ryan was talking about. What was Ryan talking about? What's an IPO? And why exactly is being publicly traded such a significant thing? "Oh, you guys don't know any of that?" Ryan asked in surprised confusion. After everybody confirmed, he let out a quick huff as he began his explanation. "Well, to begin, IPO is short for Initial Public Offering. Basically what that means is that, before today, Zilia was privately held. Only certain individuals could buy and sell shares here. But now that we're public? Literally anyone can buy and sell shares in the company, hence us being publicly traded." "Uh, what's a share?" Ghen asked, still completely lost. "Oh, boy..." Ryan muttered under his breath before returning to his peppy image. "To simply put it, a share is short for having a share of ownership in a company. When you buy a share, you're buying a piece of ownership, and when you sell, you're selling that amount." "So wait...if someone buys a share, they're a co-owner then?" One of the other team coordinators asked. "If they get enough, yeah." Ryan nodded. "You need a lot though, and that really depends on the company. If I had to give an answer though? I'd say usually you need to have a lot more shares than a lot of people combined to be officially a co-owner, but we call that being a majority shareholder." "And how do we do that?" Ghen asked, now growing curious but still not understanding why such a concept exists. "Simple. Buy shares." Ryan said simply. "And that leads into the second piece of awesome news. Zilia's corporate has a product in mind, a premium-package of water delivery. Instead of the usual water that you pump out, filter and ensure its potable before delivery, with the premium package, not only will you get that, but you'll also get all of the required nutrients and vitamins the zazk body requires! And they feel you guys have the best expertise and understanding to pull it off! So, here's what we're offering as a good-faith bonus: A 25% increase to your annual salary as well as being given stock options." Ghen wasn't sure about the second part, but the salary definitely got his attention, as well as everyone else's. Although his job was considered to have a good pay, Ghen isn't going to say no to a higher salary. In fact, he's been focusing his work on getting a promotion so he can come home with even more credits in pocket. "What do you mean by stock options?" Ghen asked after some time. Ryan let out that smile again, the one that revealed his teeth. "If you choose to transfer over to the new group, you'll be provided 50,000 shares in Zilia itself. Why's that awesome? Let me walk you through it. Right now, our last closing price per share was 3.02 credits. And if you have 50,000 shares during that time, you're sitting on 151,000 credits, if you cash it out immediately." "And why shouldn't we?" One of the coordinators demanded in an ambiguous tone. "Because the price per share changes a lot." Ryan explained promptly. "When we got done with the IPO? It closed at 2.73 a share. Right now? My money's on the closing price being 2.99 a share. However, we are extremely confident in this premium package being successful. If it does? Well, my bet is that the share price will skyrocket to 3.12 a share. If you hold those shares and the price gets to what my bet was? You'll instead get 156,000 credits. Just by holding onto them, you just made an additional 5,000 credits!" "And what if we have more shares?" Ghen questioned, now getting excited at the prospect of free money. "Even more money!" Ryan laughed a bit. "And don't forget about dividends, but that's for another time. The premium group is gearing up right now, we just need the workforce. If any of you wants in, I'll be back tomorrow with all the forms needed to make it official. Take the day and tonight to think it over, yeah?" Everything else melted into a blur. Ghen was practically on autopilot that whole day. Was this the secret to the humans' incredibly massive economy? How so many of them have amassed so much money out of nowhere? All you had to do was just buy this share out of a company and you get more money without even working? As soon as he got home, Ghen knew what he was going to do during the night. After feverishly looking through the galnet, now having the human race connected to it, he looked and gathered up as many books that were translated into zazk as he could find, all talking about the human economic system. The last time he undertook such an intensive study was during his primary education phase. And during his search, he even found forums on the galnet that were completely dedicated to the human's economy. All of them talking about strategies on what company, or stock, to pick. How to analyze a company's performance to determine if it was worth the money, or it had potential to grow over time. And that was when he discovered the humans found another method to the extremely simple buying and selling process. There were humans and some other immigrated aliens who made five times what Ghen could receive over a simple month just by watching the share prices during trading hours, and then buying and selling them at the proper times. Ghen's mind was just absolutely flabbergasted. He thought it was just some strange concept only aliens could make, but no, not with the humans. They've practically made their economy into an art or a science. No, not even their economy. Everything. If humans can see a way to make money off of it, they'll do it. And if there isn't, they'll look for a way. Healthcare was monetized. Galnet services, transportation, shopping at the store, they even made all of their utilities into profit-oriented companies. And it was there that Ghen paused, the realization slamming into him. Everything was monetized. Which means, if you don't have the money for it, you're not getting it. Right? Are the humans truly that ruthless? So obsessed with making money? To the point that they're willing to deprive their own people of the absolute necessities if it's a source of credits? Ghen let out a scoff. There's no way. Nobody is that cruel and callous. He's never been to the United Nations. He can't rely on what a bunch of random people on the galnet says. He decided that from here on out, he'll only go as far as saying that humans are a little obsessed with credits, nothing more. ... There he was. Ryan, sitting in the office provided to him. And there was a rather large line leading to him. Looks like word got around. Although, the line wasn't as large as he expected it to be. Maybe the others thought it was just a ruse? That there's no such thing as making free money by spending it on such a made-up concept? Ghen only knows that, if it is a ruse, it's an extremely elaborate one, where all of the humans are in on it. And he believes that's just extremely ridiculous. At the end, if he's unsure, he'll just take the transfer for the very real increase in his very real salary. And although he spent a very good chunk of the night reading up on how humans do things, he's still going to play it smart. He'll leave his 50,000 shares alone and see where it goes from there. "Good morning sir." Ryan greeted warmly once Ghen took his seat. "Now, name please?" "Ghen." He answered, barely keeping his nerves down. "Alright...and what's your position at this location?" Ryan questioned after scribbling on his form. "I monitor the pumping stations near the extraction sites." Ghen explained, staying on point. "To be more specific, I check to see if they're in need of maintenance, as well as reading the flow rate that's determined by the calculators installed there. If there's too little for what's needed, I pump out more. And if there's too much, I pull it back a little." "Nice...and how long have you been doing it for?" Ryan complimented with a nod. "As of tomorrow, ten years." Ghen replied, voice quickly changing to minor awe once he realized that fact. "Excellent. Do you have anyone in mind you'd like to replace you here?" Ryan questioned after another scribble. "If you don't have anyone, you're free to say so." Ghen took a moment to think it over. A bunch of names went through his mind, but one stuck with him. "Tilik. He's just been accepted here, but he's learned quickly. Very attentive and he always catches something subtle. I think he'll do really well in my position, even better actually." "Tilik, really?" Ryan questioned with a little shock, going through his completed forms. Ghen felt a short sense of panic in him. Did something happen, or was Tilik actually transferring? His answer didn't take long to reveal itself. "Right, Tilik was actually one of the first people to want to transfer here. He's actually requested to be part of the testing teams specifically. Do you have a second choice?" "Um...no, actually." Ghen replied, feeling a little ashamed. "Tilik was my only choice, to be honest." "Hey, don't worry." Ryan said assuringly with his hands raised. "Nothing wrong with that. Sometimes, there's just nobody up to snuff, right? 'Kay, so, last question. Is there anything specific you'd like to do when given the transfer?" "If you need someone monitoring new pumps, I'd be happy to do that." Ghen stated. "So basically same job but with better payoff, am I right?" Ryan grinned. "I hear you. Sometimes, we're just not paid enough for what we're doing. I know I think that sometimes. Uh, our secret, yeah?" "Yeah, our secret." Ghen nodded, thinking it'd be better to have friendly relations with the human, just in case. "Awesome. Back on topic, that's it." Ryan announced, placing the form on his pile. "We'll give you a call when you're accepted." "Oh, uh, that's it?" Ghen questioned with a shrug in shocked surprise. "What, expecting a question like, why do you want to transfer?" Ryan chuckled a bit as he leaned in his seat. "You can bullshit all you want, but we both know the answer. Sweet money and stock options. Not saying that's a bad answer of course, just that it's pretty obvious." "I suppose it is." Ghen commented, realizing the point. "Also, you mentioned this...dividend? Is that for Zilia shares?" Ryan laughed a little bit before nodding. "Yep, announced before I came here. About 0.43 per share. Want to know why that's awesome? Instead of waiting for the proper price to cash out your shares, now? The company pays you for each share you hold." "A...Are you serious?" Ghen demanded, flabbergasted. Ryan nodded with his now-trademark grin. "Dead serious. If you get the transfer, and get those 50,000 shares? A little head math...right, if you hold onto those, in addition to your salary, you'll now annually be paid 21,500 credits, if you keep it at 50,000 shares. Only you can decide to sell or buy shares." Ghen just stood there silent and motionless, no idea of whether to believe it or not, to which Ryan just laughed. Once he walked out of the room, he managed to snap back to reality. Again, just focus on the very real pay-raise. He'll deal with the other parts later. After he returned to his spot, he spotted Tizx approaching by his desk. The coordinator seems to be as casual as always. "I saw you in that line a bit ago, Ghen." He said as he leaned on the desk. "Guess you're really taking that human's word?" "I mean, I don't know about all this share business or what not." Ghen began with a shrug, his tone sounding a little defensive. "But I mean, having a bigger salary? Course I'm going for it when I can. And if all this magic credits turn out to be real? You realize we can live like the royal servants, right? Get the best cars, the nicest food and all that?" "I'd be very careful, Ghen." Tizx warned in a sudden shift in tone. "Don't trust those humans. The way they just...obsess over money? Come up with more and more insane ways of getting credits? I don't know, it just makes my wings twitch." "You think this is a bad idea?" Ghen asked with a little surprise at the change-in-demeanor. "I think you should be careful, with the humans, and with what you're saying." Tizx replied, straightening his posture. "I wouldn't put it past those Earthmen to backstab you if it gets them a few more credits. And we all know how the royal servants get if any of us lowly commoners start thinking we can break into their circle." "I hear you, I'll be on my guard, promise." Ghen stated with a nod. With a confirming nod of his own, Tizx returned back to his duty, walking past Ghen's desk. Several weeks later. Everything became so much better. Ghen got the transfer. He didn't need to relocate to a new residence either. And after he was walked through into learning how to manage his stock account, and seeing that new form of payment in his hands, he already felt as though he made the best decision. But it was only when he decided to take those shares more seriously that he became privy to what he was given. After receiving the dividend payment, and actually seeing it was real, valid credits after transferring it to his main bank account, all he could describe was the most powerful high he ever felt. While his first thoughts were to buy himself a royalty-class car, some nicer furnishings for his home, or even a better home entirely, he ended up going the smarter route. After going back to his stock account, he discovered that Zilia's shares rose to about 3.22 credits in price. Knowing that this was the easiest money he could ever make, he took all of his dividend earnings and bought more shares in Zilia, bringing him to owning 56,891. And from his new regional coordinator, a human named Dylan, tomorrow is the grand release of the premium package. For just a monthly rate of 14.99 credits, the tap water will now include a sizeable portion of all nutrients and vitamins required in the zazk physiology. Still, Ghen has to admit. He's not entirely sure why anybody would want such a thing, if they'd even go for it. But, as long as he's practically swimming in easy credits, he won't pay much attention to it. And just like when he was intensively studying the basics of how the human economy worked, he barely got any sleep. His mind was constantly thinking about the things he would buy. Or rather, what other stocks to put his credits into. Even now he can still hardly believe it. Just spend your money on some, make-believe thing and, if you wait long enough and picked the right stock, you'll get more than you spent back? His mind even wandered onto what human colonies, or even their homeworld, Earth, was like. If everybody was making so much money, what kind of things would they offer? What kind of ridiculous service or product or item can you get? He's even debating on joining some forum and just asking around. Explain how he's new to how humans do things and was wondering what he should expect if he's successful. By the time he felt like he can go to sleep, the binary-stars of the system were rising from the horizon. After getting out of his bed and changing to clean clothes, his mind returned onto what-ifs. What if he bought better clothes? He's had his eye on that human brand of luxury clothes, Tessuti di Venezia, that's been all the rage amongst the royal servants. Or maybe he can go on vacation and just check out Earth for real? It was a short ride to his workplace from his home. After getting stuff his stuff and preparing to walk through the doors, he heard the roar of a car grow louder. When he looked, he saw the sleekest and quite possibly the coolest looking car he's ever seen. Each time the engine revved it would startle him, both from how harsh it sounded as well as just how intense it sounded. And after it parked, he saw the doors pop out and then slide along the body back. And there, he saw Tilik, the seat literally turning and extending out a bit before he got off. As soon as he saw Ghen staring, he struck a rather prideful pose after putting on his lab coat and then sauntered over to Ghen. "What do you think?" Tilik said, without any doubt inviting praise or compliments. "D...Did you actually buy that?" Ghen asked, unable to tear his eyes away from the car. "You're Queens-damn right I did!" Tilik laughed happily. "Thing takes off like a starship, has temperature-controlled seating, all-in-one center console, barely any bouncing on rough roads. Hoof, best decision I've ever made!" "How much did that thing cost?" Ghen asked after letting out an incredulous laugh. "Five million credits." Tilik replied, earning an absolutely shocked stare from Ghen. "And thanks to the incredible salary I have, in addition to all these shares and dividends, I'll pay back the credits I borrowed in no time!" Ghen needed a few moments before he could speak again. "All I've been doing is buying more shares." Tilik laughed and then patted the now-envious monitor's back. "Smart man. I got a little carried away, yeah, but not anymore. Any spending credits I got, going right back to investing. That's what it's called right, investing?" "Yeah, it is." Ghen nodded, feeling a fire light up in his thorax. "And also? Today's the day that the premium water thing is being released. Here's hoping it starts out well, right?" "Oh it will, trust me." Tilik chuckled as they both began making their way inside the workplace. "Lots of research, lots of study. By the Queen, so much of it...it'll make your head spin." And after hearing that, Ghen had a moment of realization. "Hey, Tilik? How did you get such a nice position anyways? Weren't you just studying under me before the humans came along?" Tilik let out a sigh after opening the door. "I'll be honest, I never wanted your job. Not because it's boring or terrible, just...I didn't suffer so many sleepless nights in the science academy just to be a glorified button pusher. This is what I've always wanted. Doing science, solving problems rather than just applying the solution, you know?" "Wait, you got an academic certificate?" Ghen questioned, completely floored. "How did you end up beneath me then? I should've been answering to you!" "Simple." Tilik gave a heavier sigh. "A royal servant was asking for the same job I was. Take a guess at who got it." "Ouch. Good thing the humans came along when they did, yeah?" Ghen was taken aback. He never heard anything about a servant taking a job at his place. "Looks like you're proving yourself to be well suited." "By the Queen, of course I am." Tilik nodded. "Like I said, I nearly broke my wings through so many nights, got certified top of my class, all just to get pushed to the dirt because someone who was born into a particular family wanted the same thing I did? I know I'm smarter than any of those empty-skull servants back in the Center. I know that, whatever, uh...corporate? Yeah, whatever corporate wants out of science, I will xeek give it to them." "Well, let me know how things go in the lab." Ghen said, admiring his drive as they neared the main office floor. "Because this is where the button pusher needs to go." Tilik let out a laugh as he nodded. "Hey, how about we meet up at Queen's Fine Eatery tonight. I'll pay, yeah?" Ghen, at first, wanted to admonish him for choosing such an outrageously expensive place to go. But he quickly realized that, he truly is good for it, thanks to the humans. "Well, hey, if you're paying for it." ... It was a fantastic opening. After being told what news sites to keep in mind for stocks, he first heard it from Dylan, and then got more detail on Business Today. There was such a massive demand right from the start that Zilia needs to increase extraction just to meet it. But what really got his attention was the effect it had. Zilia Water Delivery's share price just blasted off. After seemingly holding steady at about 3.15, by the time he got home and logged onto his account, it already reached 7.04 a share. The calculator on his account told him that he got a value-gain of 54.26%. Never in his entire life had he felt such...joy. With all of the shares he currently has? He's sitting at 400,512.64 credits. He knows that it is woefully pathetic compared to what the royal servants have just in their pockets, but the fact that he has such money, just by owning some intangible concept? Why even work at Zilia? Why doesn't he just sit at home, figure out what companies to invest in and make his money that way? What's even the point in working a real job, getting a pathetic pay when you can just take the money you have, determine where to spend it, and get triple back? All just sitting on your wings at home, researching? He was so wrapped up in his excited high that he completely forgot he was going to meet Tilik at Queen's. After quickly and haphazardly putting on his nicer clothes, he got to the place only a few minutes late. Tilik was there by the guide, no doubt having been waiting for him. As soon as he strode up, Tilik's wings stiffned out some. No doubt he must've seen the numbers as well. "I can see your wings, Ghen." Tilik began with an excited chuckle. "Made some serious credits?" Ghen let out an incredulous scoff, struggling to find the words for a moment. "Incredible. All I'm going to say." "Likewise." Tilik chortled some before nodding to the table guide. "All here. Table please?" "Right this way, sir." The guide said politely. It was a short walk, travelling between round tables. The vast majority were populated by zazk, but Ghen was surprised at seeing a few humans here as well. No doubt corporate workers checking out the local food. He did spot them having bowls filled with some kind of mass. Some were brown, others white with what looks to be black specks on them. They arrived at their table. A rather nice one, affording a view out the windows into the busy colony streets. Once Tilik and Ghen settled in, the guide handed out the menus. "May I suggest our rather popular option for tonight?" The guide began. "Human ice-cream. Ingredients sourced from Earth itself. Very cold, but incredibly sweet, and coming in many flavors. The most popular amongst us is called vanilla-bean. The vanilla itself soaks in the cream for much of the process, and then the innards sprinkled on top of it near the end. Rumor has it that the Queen herself has demanded personal shipments of such a treat straight from the home of vanilla, an island on Earth named Madagascar." Ghen didn't even spare a single thought. "Vanilla bean ice cream then, please." "Same." Tilik seconded when the guide glanced to him. With a slight bow, the guide proceeded to ferry their orders to the kitchen. Thankfully it was just a short wait before the guide returned, carrying a large plate containing bowls of ice cream. Ghen could feel the saliva on his mandibles as the bowl was placed before them. He could just feel the cold air around that glistening mass of sugary goodness. The white snow decorated with the black dots of vanilla bean. Once the guide left them, Tilik and Ghen both dived in at the same time. As soon as the ice cream entered his mouth, touched his tongue, he exploded in incomprehensible bliss. The sweetness, the smooth and creamy mass, even the taste of vanilla he wasn't sure about was just absolutely delightful. It was so overwhelming that his entire body limped, slumping in his seat as he was forced to ride on the surging tide of joy and happiness sweeping over him. Tilik was no different. He too was taken completely by the effects of the ice cream, his wings fluttering some against the seat. Ghen could hear some noise. It was the humans they passed by. They were chuckling, grinning, and glancing over at them discreetly. Unlike the two zazk, the humans seemingly just enjoyed the ice cream as if it was just another nice dessert to them. Or perhaps they couldn't allow themselves to succumb to the high? And as soon as the wave of indescribable bliss and happiness subsided, Ghen knew. He just knew. This was the life. He wanted this. The ice cream was just the beginning. So many things denied because he didn't have the credits, or worse, not the blood. Because he was just a drone in the great Collective, even if he had the credits, he wasn't allowed because of what caste he was born in. That fire that sparked in him when he saw Tilik's new car? It exploded into a raging firestorm. And when looking into Tilik's eyes, Ghen could see the same. He was on the same page as Ghen was. Both of them were sold. They have the credits. And the humans? If you can pay for it, they'll never discriminate. All they cared about is if you have the money. And by the Queen, Ghen and Tilik will endeavor to amass as much credits as physically possible. The rest of the night faded into a blur. A blur that evokes only one thing. Bliss. It was only when he walked through the door of his pathetic hut that Ghen's mind snapped back to focus. His mandibles felt sticky. And he felt a weight in his stomach. How much ice cream did he eat? Whatever it was, he ate such volume that the lower-section of his throax extended and rounded out, visible even under his shirt. He felt something odd in his pocket. It was a receipt. 43,000 credits for ten bowls of vanilla bean ice cream. Was that ten bowls for both of them? Or individually? Ghen didn't care. He's good for it. Returning back to his calculator, he acted upon the decision that he had made at that eatery. He's acquiring as many books about investing and stock trading as he could find, frequent and study all the discussions and arguments presented by other like-minded individuals such as he, all to ensure he can live the good life. And he had a very good feeling Tilik was doing the exact same thing. Well, first, the gurgling in his stomach, as well as the feeling of something rising demanded his attention. Looks like he'll need to take the night off to let his stomach get back to normal. Three Years Later. Ghen looked out beyond the horizon, seeing the colony that he grew up in. On the far side was where his old house was. With only a simple robe on, made from the finest silk from Earth's nation-state of China, he relaxed in his seat. It was a long road. Stockpiling credits from pre-existing investments and from subsequent pays, he and Tilik made it. From having only half a million in assets and cash, now transformed to over eight-hundred million. And now, his call contracts on American Interstellar? They've just announced a breakthrough in their next generation of warp drives, reducing the speed coefficient even further, resulting in far faster travel. And with that, their stock price climbed sharply. Another hundred million credits in the bank. Soon, very soon, he and Tilik are about to become the galaxy's first zazk billionares. But that's not enough. There are many humans who are billionares. Only those he can count on one hand are considered trillionares. He's going to break into that circle. He and Tilik. Looking beyond the colony, he saw the abandoned building of the workplace he transferred to when the humans arrived. Turns out, the reason for such a high demand was that the humans also slipped in sugar to the tap water. As soon as that broke, many influential royal servants demanded investigations and outright banning of Terran Galactic Company's influence over the former government division. Zilia's stock price plummeted. But thanks to an advance tip from his human coordinator, Dylan, he and Tilik made a put contract. And that's where they struck gold, as the human saying goes. Dylan warned that if they were citizens of the United Nations, they'd be investigated and convicted for insider trading. But, since they weren't, and the Collective were only just introduced to capitalism, there's no risk at all. Now the colony is going through a withdrawal phase, Zilia has been dissolved and reformed back as a government division and are currently at work re-establishing the standard, plain water delivery. "Well, shit." Tilik muttered as he walked up to Ghen's side, taking well to human speech. "Looks like you win. American Interstellar's announcement really was a good thing. There goes a million credits. Ah well, the Royal Shipyards will make it back for me soon." "Oh? Did they just go corporate?" Ghen asked curiously, glancing to Tilik. "Hell yeah they did." Tilik chuckled, sitting down. "Queen and her retard servants fought it hard, but Royal Shipyards is now officially a human-style corporation. And, to a surprise to all the xenophobes in the galaxy, they're already being offered contracts for ship production. That'll raise the stock price pretty good." "What's that human word...?" Ghen muttered, already having a reply in mind. "Dick? Yeah, calls or suck my dick, Tilik." Tilik roared in laughter. "Already made them. Forty credits a share by this day next month." "I have half a mind to go thirty." Ghen chuckled. "Either way, until then, I heard from Dylan that he knows a guy who knows several prime human women who happen to be into zazk." "You're interested in women?" Tilik said as his wings fluttered. "With how often you tell me to suck you off, I'd have thought differently." "Oh, I always thought it was you who was into men." Ghen responded dryly. "Just wanted to be a good friend, you know? Considering how you never seem to make it past, Hey sweet thing, I'm rich you know." "Oh, go fuck yourself." Tilik countered with a little laugh. After he stopped, wings stiffened, he looked to Ghen. "So, know any royal servants we can put the squeeze on for more revenue streams?" "I got just the one." Ghen nodded, sitting up. "Fzik. He's been fighting to control the ice cream trade. Worried it's a corrupting influence. Got done talking with the human CEO of Nestle earlier. If we clear the way, he'll know how to squeeze a little more gains in stock price when he makes the announcement." Tilik's wings stiffened even more, signaling his approval. "Alright, time to throw some credits around, yeah?" AN: Sorry for the period of no updates. College is starting up, lots of stuff to clear and work out. Not sure why but I just got a bug up my butt about incorporating money and the stock market into a short. Here it is. Sorry if it seems abrupt, character limit fast approaching. Let me know how you guys think about it!
Sympathy for the Drow - De-Vilifying the Dark Elves
The "Evil" races in DnD have always rubbed me kinda the wrong way. Partly once I learned that a lot of them come from racist stereotypes (Orcs, Drow, and Goblins in particular) and also just because it doesn't make sense to me. Even Nazi Germany had variation and dissenters and it only lasted for 12 years. Why would a clearly evil society never change over hundreds of years? In my opinion, a story is only as good as it's villains. So, I've set out to try and make the traditionally evil races slightly more believable and even sympathetic in places. Now, I've not been a DM very long, only like three years. But the first campaign I ever ran was through Curse of Strahd which paints the Vistani (an itinerant society heavily based on the real world Romani) as a conniving group of thieves, murders, and vampire-worshipers. Thankfully, I found through reddit and other sites how to steer away from the racists depictions of the Vistani and making them seem like, at worst, opportunists. So, I hope to be able to do that with some other of the classic DnD antagonist races. I've read some other phenomenal post on here about evil races that totally inspired me as well. There's a great twopart post about Decolonizing D&D which I adore. The post about alignment is easily my favorite. There's a couple great ones on Orcs and Yuan-Ti too so if some of my ideas are lifted from them, I hope y'all consider it flattery instead of theft. So, here are some primer notes before I get into it. For creating the Dark Elves, I tried to keep as much as I could from the books. Obviously some stuff has to get thrown out the window though. I also tried to standardize calling them Dark Elves instead of Drow partly because I feel like Drow has a much nastier sound to it and calling them Dark Elves follows the naming convention with the High and Wood Elves. I tried to model them after real-life matriarchal societies like the Mosuo people of China and their pantheon after real deities like the Greeks, Romans, and Norse. I also quickly realized that building a society is inseparable from geography. Where a people are from effects their language, values, mythology, history, and family structure. I've tried to outline details I think are necessary to making this society realistic while leaving it open ended enough to be place-able in different worlds with relative ease. All that aside, lets get into the meat of it.
The Dark Elves: Elven Outcasts
The Elves are a varied and magical people that come from many planes and many environments within them. But none are met with more distrust and fear than the Dark Elves. Easily set apart from their cousins by their charcoal or pitch-black skin, pink-red eyes, hair of grays and whites, and shorter stature, these people have earned a reputation as killers, thieves, demon worshipers, and liars. But history is a cruel mistress, something the Dark Elves know better than most.
The Divine Divide
As the legends go, when the world was still young, Corellon Larethian lived on the Plane of Arvandor with his fellow Primal Elves. They were wild and mutable, emotional and free in all things. They changed shapes at will, gave and took freely to and from the world, and never stayed in any location too long. They wandered to and fro, scattering their peoples across almost every plane. However, this unbridled freedom was not without a price. Arguments, feuds, and small scale wars were incredibly common between them. Some elves would find themselves stranded on far off planes after most of their companions impulsively decided to leave. Their self serving impulses drove them to often completely disregard the needs or wants of others if they went against their own desires. And their reckless revelry was wreaking havoc on the natural world with Elven parties decimating whole planes of edible plants, wild game, and drinkable water. One such Primal Elf began to see the destruction of their ways and talked to other elves about their actions. Slowly, this Elf by the name of Lolth amassed a small following of devotees that saw the negative ramifications of their inconsiderate freedom. Lolth and her followers agreed to take on fixed forms to show recognition of the dangers that impulsivity could bring. Lolth led this small group of devotees to Corellon to ask for his support. Now, Corellon did not lead these Primal Elves: he was just as wild as the best of them and did not take kindly to others telling him what to do. But he was the First Elf ever born and was universally respected amongst the Primal Elves and if Lolth could convince him, others would surely follow. Corellon listened to her proposition and agreed that they should change to prevent more destruction and conflict, but refused to order his kinsfolk into any action. He was an Elf, same as all of them, and he wouldn’t dare order around his family. He balked when Lolth asked him to take a concrete form as a show of solidarity and brushed her off as a killjoy. Lolth was unsatisfied with this outcome and her following set out to convince each Elf to change their ways to preserve the beauty of the worlds. However, without the support of Corellon, many elves refused her offer. Her anger grew with each failure and her opinion of Corellon turned sour, something she made no attempt to hide from her Elven siblings. Now, Corellon is a proud god and once he caught wind that Lolth was bad mouthing him in an attempt to win over others, he became enraged. He railed against Lolth calling her a snake-tongued thief and Lolth called him incompetent and cruel. Their tempers flared and all the elves chose sides between Corellon’s freedom and Lolth’s stability. During this great debate, the Primal Elves turned to violence. The Dark Elves maintain that Corellon’s side threw the first blow, while the High Elves claim that it came from Lolth’s side. No matter the source, this violent outburst soured relations between Lolth and Corellon forever after. He cast her and her followers out of Arvandor and barred her from ever returning. He also cast all but his most trusted kin from Arvandor, forcing them all to live lives on other worlds out of fear of another perceived insurrection. Thus, the Seldarine remain in Arvandor to judge the souls of Corellon’s faithful when they die and Lolth takes refuge in Arcadia with her pantheon where she minds the souls of the Drow. Corellon’s faithful call her pantheon the Dark Seldarine, while her faithful call it the Myrkalfar.
Myrkalfar: The Spider Mother’s House
Lolth the Spider Queen is the unquestioned head of the Myrkalfar, with all other deities seen as her divine family. Lolth is considered at times to be fickle or even cruel, but her ire is never gained without good reason. A very involved deity, her followers constantly search for signs of her favor or scorn in everyday life. When a Dark Elf contemplates a risky or controversial decision, they consult priestesses or perform their own rites which often gives them direct and succinct answers. She serves as an example to matriarchs of Drow families as demanding yet understanding, punishing yet guiding. She asks for a lot of her priestesses, demanding they be an unflinching example of everything a strong leader should be. The Myrkalfar is often presented as a divine household, with Lolth as the matron. Keptolo is the consort of Lolth and considered to be the ideal of what a male should be. Beautiful and kind, strong and hard working, he helps Lolth in everything she does. Sometimes he serves as a messenger, other times as an agent of redemption, sometimes as a divine healer. When a Dark Elf is tasked with a divine charge, he is usually the one to deliver the message and guide them through their charge. He serves also as a fertility deity and is often worshiped by women or men seeking a child. Outsiders see him as a weak and subservient husband to Lolth, but his faithfulness to his matron is considered a virtue and his status as a “husband” is relatively alien to the Dark Elves as they have no binding marriage in their society. If Keptolo is the agent of Lolth’s mercy, Kiaransalee is the agent of her vengeance. She is the eldest daughter of Lolth and Keptolo and one that Dark Elves pray to when they feel wronged. Only the most binding and serious contracts are signed under her name. To break an oath made under her name is sure to bring destruction. She is also the governor of the dead, judging the souls of those passed in the afterlife. She opposes the mindless undead created by mortals, but spirits and revenants that return to finish unresolved business amongst the living are considered under her protection. Should a Dark Elf encounter a returned spirit that is seeking vengeance, it’s their duty to leave them on their way and pray that the spirit isn’t there for them. This reverence of certain undead is something many outsiders consider downright evil. Selvetarm is the Dark Elven warrior goddess and youngest daughter of Lolth. Often depicted with eight arms, she represents the pinnacle of hand to hand martial prowess, but often is without restraint. She serves as both an inspiration for warriors, and a warning. Vhaeraun is the eldest son of Lolth and governs ambition and stealth. Both of these traits are not necessarily vilified, but worship of him is highly scrutinized. Haughty and rash, tales of him often include deceiving his fellow gods for good and ill and more often than not are cautionary ones. He’s depicted as wearing a mask, either as some punishment for endangering Lolth and her family or to hide his identity for various schemes, possibly both. Malyk is Lolth’s youngest son and a youthful deity of change and growth. He’s often seen as a bouncing young boy that Lolth and her family have to reign in from wild misadventures. His freedom and curiosity is often seen as a double edged sword, both gaining him great riches but also putting him in tremendous peril. He has strong ties to sorcerers and when a child is born with innate magical talent, he is often the one thanked for it. He serves as an outlet for a Dark Elves youthful chaotic nature, but also warns them of the ramifications of their actions. Ghaunadur is a strange figure in the pantheon. Their place in the family is a bit of a mystery, sometimes called the sibling of Lolth, or her child, or even as Lolth’s parent. What makes them truly unique is that they are a formless deity, something that Lolth once warred with Corellon over. The legends go that when Ghaunadur joined Lolth, they refused to give up their changeable nature. When questioned, Ghaunadur pointed to the slimes, oozes, and formless creatures of the world and said that they wished to protect them from the Elves and the Elves from them. Lolth agreed, cementing their position as the deity of the changing forms of nature. Their favored creature is the ooze, but they govern all natural creatures. Dark Elves often pray to Ghaunadur to protect them from the creatures that lurk in the depths of the forest. Zinzerena is Lolth’s sister and is the goddess of poisons, illusions, and magic. Viewed as an elderly and patient figure, she often serves as council to Lolth in desperate times. She’s said to be the mother of all poisons and venoms and her teachings are all about finding the wisest solution to a problem. Zinzerena teaches that even though the spider is small, it’s bite can still fell a panther. Despite her perceived age, she’s considered the younger sister of Lolth and is thought to be incredibly quick and nimble: a reminder that not everything is as it seems. Eilistraee is Lolth’s niece and daughter of Zinzerena. Considered the black sheep of the pantheon, she serves as a goddess of redemption and moonlight. Dark Elves that turn their back on their family or scorn traditions will sometimes find themselves turned to Driders, half-spider half-Dark Elf creatures shunned by all. Eilistraee is said to watch over these creatures and if they are repentant, offer them challenges that they could complete to redeem themselves. Lolth often views her with contempt or mistrust, but never hates her and maintains her place in the pantheon. Dark Elven faithful rarely worship her as the others. She’s also one of the only deities of the Myrkalfar to claim no animosity toward the Seldarine and their faithful. Spiders are the sacred animal of Lolth and are often used as an example of social order and the importance of family bonds. Each strand of silk serves the web as whole. More literally, the giant spiders of the Underdark are multifaceted and incredibly useful creatures. Serving as beasts of burden, war steeds, meat producers, household guardians, and silk producers, they are present in almost every facet of society. Their silks are used in everything from wound dressings to armor to architecture. To kill or steal another family's spider is considered akin to stealing a member of the family. Smaller and more poisonous spiders are often kept in temples and their webs are used as divining tools for priestesses.
The recorded history of the Dark Elves is full of contradictions from High Elf and Dark Elf sources. What historians can agree on is when the Elves of the Prime Material arrived, the followers of Lolth secluded from their Wood and High cousins and retreated into the Azelarien, also known as the Green Sea in Common. A massive forest, nearly 1 million square miles of dense and vibrant trees, that grows denser and darker the farther in one ventures. For countless eons, the High, Wood, and Dark Elves lived in relative harmony in their own corner of the world. High Elves lived near the forests in towns and villages, the Wood Elves lived in the lightly forested outlands of the Green Sea, and the Dark Elves lived deep in the central forests which was so dense that very little light reached the forest floor. As time passed and their villages turned to cities, the High Elves began expanding into the forest, chopping some down to build homes and heat their furnaces. This began pushing into the territory of the Wood Elves and eventually the Dark Elves as well. These two peoples formed a shaky alliance to push back the expansive tide of the far larger High Elven armies. This alliance proved successful however and the High Elven forces began losing ground. What happened next is a matter of some debate. High Elven historians attest that the Dark Elven armies used Wood Elven soldiers as unwitting bait to lure the High Elven armies into a trap, thus causing a schism between them. Dark Elven historians state that the Wood Elven armies turned on them after the Wood Elves met in secret with High Elven leaders and bargained for their independence. Some Wood Elven historians claim that after a brutal defeat on the field, they were met by High Elven dignitaries that offered them clemency if they turned on their allies. They initially refused, but after the dignitaries threatened to make the same offer to the Dark Elves, they had no choice but to accept. No matter the cause, the histories agree that the Wood Elves turned on their erstwhile allies and helped push the Dark Elves into a rapid loss of ground. Facing the might of the two armies with their own relatively small one, the Dark Elves were beaten into a hasty retreat into their own territory. Losing every open encounter, the Dark Elf matrons developed a new strategy of combat. The armies switched from training as many as quickly as they could, to training only a select few in multiple different forms of combat and magic. As the High and Wood Elves advanced into their territory, they quickly found their supply lines cut out from under them, their soldiers ambushed while sleeping, their scouts captured, and their leaders assassinated. And even if they would make it to a Dark Elf settlement, they would find it abandoned and booby-trapped, warned by their fast and silent scouts. If the Dark Elves couldn’t face their enemies head-on, they would weaken them with quick and decisive strikes. Eventually, the war ground to a stalemate. The High Elves couldn’t push into the Dark Elf territory far enough to capture any cities of note without taking severe casualties and the Dark Elves were only managing to hold the invading armies back and couldn’t muster a force strong enough to push back to the enemy capital. Thus, the war cooled into a tense peace. The leaders came together to draw borders, but neither side fully forgave nor forgot one another’s actions. High and Wood Elves viewed the change in tactics by the Dark Elves as an unethical violation of the standards of war. The Dark Elves felt a particular animosity toward the Wood Elves, considering them backstabbers in their darkest hour.
Dark Elf Families: Matrons of Order
The Dark Elf society, to an outsider, looks like an oppressive and cruel society of slave traders and backstabbers. But the truth is more subtle. The Dark Elves value tradition and filial piety above almost all else. To a Dark Elven citizen, their family name is their most valuable possession and they are taught from a very young age that to look after their parents and their younger siblings is the highest virtue. Ancestors that have achieved great things often have shrines in a household alongside the gods themselves. A Dark Elf going against the will of their family is considered one of the highest taboos and often causes them to be outcast from Dark Elven society as a whole. Dark Elf society is matrilineal meaning that the eldest woman in each family is revered as the household leader and receives great respect from her family and society. This also means that the males of the society don’t inherit wealth as frequently as the females. Dark Elven families are quite large, often with multiple generations along with aunts, uncles, and cousins living in the same household. New children almost always reside with their mother. Males of the society are expected to care not for their own biological children, but for the children born to their sisters, aunts, or nieces. This results in a striking amount of sexual freedom for both men and women, but is often viewed from the outside as promiscuity. The Dark Elves do not marry in the traditional sense, instead favoring long term partners with one another that can end at any time with no concerns to material wealth or ownership. However, to become a member of a Dark Elf family is not entirely a matter of heritage. When a family that cannot support another child has one, they are often adopted by more well to do families and raised as one of their own. These adopted children are considered just as legitimate as if they were born into the family. Also, should a family lose all their heirs or become destitute, they often ask to become assimilated into other families for their own safety. The latter is considered a morose ceremony as the members of the smaller family forsake their surnames. To take in such a family is both an extreme honor and grim burden, as it means ending another family's line. The borders of Dark Elven civilization only goes so far as there are trees so many newer up and coming families have expanded underground, a difficult and slow endeavor. This has put multiple houses at odds with one another for territory. However, Dark Elves do not tolerate open hostility between families as they have a very strong sense of collective identity. Dark Elves do not war against fellow Dark Elves, same as a spider does not fight its own web. This leads to many tensions and conflicts needing to be resolved in other ways. Most families will attempt a diplomatic solution, but when that isn’t an option, sabotage and coercion is the favored outlet. Murder is considered a bridge too far by most houses, but subterfuge in almost every other facet is, while not accepted, tolerated. Legends of Lolth’s rebellion and the tension of their enclosed territory have imbued the Dark Elves with a strong sense of symbiosis with nature and conservancy. Sustainable living is the cornerstone of Dark Elf society. In the wild, no creature is killed or plant destroyed unless it’s a matter of self defense or necessary to survival.
Dark Elven Sex and Gender
As with many Elven peoples, sexuality is seen as a fluid and non-binary matter. Same sex relationships are usually seen as just as acceptable as male-female relationships. Since Dark Elves have no marriage structure, same sex life partners are common and widely accepted. Inheritance is passed along by the family as a whole, not linearly, meaning some houses may have matrons with no direct biological descendants while still serving at the elder matron. Power dynamics in relationships are still a factor, with the elder female in a gay relationship considered slightly above their partner socially and is seen as the inheritor in cases of property or genealogy. Male same sex relationships are accepted with little controversy. Since children are passed down their mothers line, the males have no social obligation to sire an heir as with other societies. Transgender and transexual Dark Elves are met with slightly more controversy. Lolth’s rejection of the Primal Elves mutable forms is sometimes cited against transgender and transexual Dark Elves. Ghaunadur, however, is considered the patron god of these people and teaches that just as they are part of nature, they can change their forms. Many of these people join the religious order of Ghaunadur, serving in various roles both in religious ceremonies and as forest guides. Some even consider them to be blessed by Ghaunadur and are highly sought after in forays into the forests for protection. Children born to transgender Dark Elves are still expected to be a part of their eldest mother’s family or eldest father if no woman is part of the union.
Slavery Amongst the Dark Elves
While the Dark Elves do take slaves, their slavery doesn’t look the same as many other societies. When a family becomes indebted to another and they cannot pay off the debt, a member of their family, usually male, will be sent to work for the owed family. They give him room and board and are expected to care for him as if he were one of their own. He’ll work for them for an agreed upon amount of time before returning to his native family. Injury or misuse of this person is often grounds for them to leave and the debt to be nullified. Children born to servant fathers needn’t worry about inheriting their father’s status since they’re considered to be their mother’s child. On the rare occasion that a female servant has a child while in servitude, the child is returned to the mother’s family to be raised by her family while she works off the remaining debt. Some trade of servants does occur between houses, with indentured servants being traded for goods or services or even other servants of special skills, but the family of the servant reserves the right to veto such a trade for any reason. During their frequent clashes with external armies, the Dark Elves do sometimes take prisoners of war, though very rarely are they used for slave labor. They never bring them back to major settlements, often keeping them on the outskirts of their territory to prevent them from learning critical knowledge of their territory. Most prisoners are held as bargaining chips to be traded for passage, supplies, or captured Dark Elves. Captured military leaders are sometimes brought to Dark Elven cities to be tried for their crimes against their people.
Dark Elven Government: Independent Houses
Unlike many other cultures, the Dark Elves lack a centralized government. Societal etiquette govern the standard for how certain crimes and disagreements should be handled, but each family unit acts as its own governing body. Disagreements within families are thus resolved internally. Inter-family disputes are resolved in multiple different ways. Most often, the two matrons of the family will meet and agree on terms to fairly compensate both sides. In cases when these talks deteriorate, the High Priestess of Lolth is often called to serve as the mediator and serves as the ruling body between disputes. Her rulings are final and indisputable, as she is considered the mouthpiece of Lolth’s will. In times of crisis, historically the many houses of the Dark Elves have convened to discuss threats to all of Dark Elven society. This is uncommon as it’s difficult logistically to gather all the matrons in the same place at the same time, so often houses are represented by either the second eldest woman of the family or the eldest daughter of the matron. The High Priestess of Lolth often resides over these meetings as an arbiter in the event of split decisions or in delivering guidance from Lolth herself. There's my take on the Dark Elves. Any comments, suggestions, questions, outrages, and critiques are welcomed. This is my first comprehensive look at a whole race so if I've missed things, I'll try and patch them up. I'd like to do similar things for Orcs, Goblinoids, Kobolds, and others so those might be seen soon. Thanks!
Electrician / Foreman at a Union Shop (Minneapolis, MN USA)
Salary: $97,000 Years of experience: 8.0 Recommended Education: Apprenticeship
What’s a day in the life for an electrician?
I’m a foreman, which is a much different role then if I was still a journeyman electrician. As a foreman, it’s more managing than electrical work. My goal is to make project managers happy, keep everyone focused (so the customer is satisfied), make sure our shop is making money, and deliver something that I can be proud to stand by. The electricians beside me need to be enjoying their day; otherwise, they will resent me and put in sub-par work. Part of what I do is to try and keep things interesting, so my team doesn’t lose interest. I do this by giving guys responsibility, because there’s pride associated with everything they do, or when things are more mundane, creating competitions. The best thing about being a journeyman is that when you go home, you don’t have to think about work AT ALL. When you wake up, you don’t think about work; even when you drive to the job site, you don’t have to fire up your brain until the clock starts. But, as soon as you start working, you’re in a different world, and none of the problems from your home life consume you because you’re too busy problem solving, you’re dealing with something different every couple hours. On a typical day, you wake up early as hell and drive to your job site. The site might be a mudhole, or it might be a nice parking garage, but it changes every couple of months, you’re never in the same situation. For example, let’s say I get assigned to work at General Mills at a factory assembly line with some issues and have to work on it for three days. That might be a casual experience where they have prints, plans, and diagrams to look at, and you follow the instructions and install it. Or, you might be working for that customer and BOOM, an entire assembly line goes down, which prevents thousands of chocolate bars from being made. You now have workers standing there, and your job is to get that line fired back up, quickly. You need to be able to walk into that environment and figure out how to approach it safely. I go through a mental checklist: turn the power off, determine what’s feeding it, find the electric room, what kind of equipment is needed, how many motors there are, what caused the problem, isolate the source, etc. At some point, you go on auto-pilot, and your brain solves the issue. There’s also more thought to it; you need to quickly determine if you can fix it today, how soon you can get the part, whether there’s a temporary solution, or whether you have enough knowledge to fix it.
What’s the best part of being an electrician?
Don’t be afraid to try it; once most people get into the work, they end up liking the profession a lot more than they ever expected. The variety of backgrounds I see seems to be increasing; this includes first-generation Americans, people looking for new careers later in life, and many more women. There’s a lot of job stability, and it’s something that isn’t going away because there’s a huge need. You’ll challenge yourself physically and mentally, and will likely receive opportunities you would never see elsewhere. If you have a lot of ambition, it can be your passion, but it also doesn’t have to be. When you’re starting, you need to push through your training until you’re able to get your license. Once you get your license, you can’t have it taken away, and there’s a lot of freedom that comes with it, so it’s worth sticking it out.
What’s the downside of being an electrician? Words of caution?
For most people trying to get into the trades, I recommend thinking about the long-term implications. Don’t go after the first big paycheck you get offered; if the situation isn’t what you’re looking for, keep looking. Also, you need to be continually aware of what you’re doing, attentive, and present to the task. You learn to be hyper-focused. If you’re looking to get experience and you can’t get into a union program, there’s no problem working non-union. If you’re going to be a non-union worker, you have to have more ambition; you have to be more confrontational, vouch for yourself, ask your employer for more, and there’s no one backing you with negotiated contracts. If you want an excellent education that’s varied and hope to prevent yourself from getting into dangerous situations, the union might be the way to go. Non-union, there’s no curriculum, and you have to do additional research. All things aside, there are some great non-union workers out there. You can do it if you have the drive and determination. If you’re somebody who has no mechanical aptitude, doesn’t like to spend your free time figuring out how things work, or you’re afraid to fix something that’s broken, it might take you a while to enjoy being an electrician. You might still be good at it, but it might not come naturally. You need to have a strong work ethic if you want to have consistent employment and want to be a good electrician. You don’t need to be a perfectionist, but you need to try and do your best.
Describe the path you took to become an electrician
Before I started, I had a vague idea of what trade work looked like, and I tried to visualize myself as one of “those guys.” I wasn’t necessarily thinking, “do I like electricity?” or “do I want to work on electrical hazards?” I figured I could probably do it and gave it a try. Many people expect that if you’re blue-collar and your parents are blue-collar, then you’re the next candidate to be a trades worker. But, that’s an outdated idea. Most people don’t get into the trades because they want a high income, but when you tell anyone how much you make, they’re generally surprised. Because there’s such a demand for electricians, there’s limited space in apprentice training programs. As a result, there are many pre-apprentice (or unindentured apprentice) training programs emerging to ensure that the people who get accepted are likely to see it through. How much pre-apprentice work you need is location dependent (usually 6-24 months), so if you want to get in without this, you may need to research various states or cities. I completed six months of pre-apprentice work and was able to sign up because you no longer needed to complete the full two-year program. Due to high demand (in Minneapolis), they lifted the requirement so long as you could pass their interviews and entrance exams. Once you’re accepted, you have five years of apprenticeship. Each year brings a different program, a pay increase, and every six months, they switch you to a new contractor. Some of the content included learning various installations, people skills, safety, bending pipe, physics/math, high voltage, DC/AC theory, ladder logic, binary, national/state code, etc. But, the biggest thing is learning how to problem-solve, which goes well beyond the codebook. You get a taste for more technical aspects, but you can also really dive into topics like programmable logic controllers, solar, building automation, data, etc. There are lots of certifications for each of these, and in the end, they prepare you very well to take the state exam for the journeyman license. Starting as an apprentice allows you to make money right away. In my first year, I started at $15/hour, which doesn’t include your perks: paid vacation, pension, annuity, an unemployment slush fund, full health coverage for family, etc. Fast forward to today, I make $48.50/hour as a foreman or $46.50/hour as a journeyman. The pay rates are standardized through the union by location. What’s most in-demand right now is for low voltage and inside wireman, which is what I am. But, where you end up depends on your ambition and what you want to do. A lot of guys are content just being a worker; they don’t mind being laid off or moving from contractor to contractor. My preference is to work for a contractor that I like; I work hard to have that security. In terms of options, you can be a journeyman, a foreman, a general foreman (required when you exceed a specific crew size), or a master electrician (requires 2,000 hours of additional work and a master’s license). As a master electrician, you’re likely to get paid more, but you’re bonded to the shop, so you may not do much electrical work, and you will take all the heat if things go wrong.
What’s the future outlook for an electrician?
Since COVID hit, our shop has had to adapt by taking on less profitable jobs; doing this allows our best guys to keep working and stay engaged. For example, we just did a sizable solar rooftop installation, where the work was mostly outside in a safe environment versus a busy construction site. If things start to change, and people don’t want to invest in new commercial buildings, there’s always going to be a need to build homes, apartments, hospitals, schools, or facilities that need constant maintenance. The trades might take bites and hits along the way, but if you’re reasonably smart with your finances, you’ll be able to make it through any tough times, which I’ve never really seen. If need be, I could always find low voltage or travel to where the work is. I know several guys who went to Australia to improve the electric grid and help train locals. The scenario is a little extreme, but there are always opportunities. Ultimately, technology isn’t going to slow down; electrical equipment will always get better, faster, cheaper, and more efficient. Electrical work is nearly impossible to automate, so that can be a good thing if you’re coming from an industry that’s in decline.
If you’re trying to change careers, analyze the things you don’t like about your position now, because if you’re not coming from a trade, you could be in for a big surprise. I’ve observed that service workers who work in fast-paced environments and do a lot of multitasking do very well. You have to enjoy physical work; you have to be willing to work in many different environmental conditions, whether that’s filthy outdoor dirt, extreme temperatures, hot and cold, uncomfortable positions, etc. You have to be able to see the bigger picture so that your work doesn’t become mundane. Job/Career Demand - 5.0 Positive Impact - 4.0 Satisfaction - 4.5 Advancement/Growth - 4.0 Creativity - 4.5 Work-Life Balance - 4.7 Compensation & Benefits - 5.0 Work Environment - 4.0 --- For anyone with questions, I am unfortunately not the writer of this content. We are working on building messaging capabilities on our website, which will hopefully be live in a couple of months. If there are any urgent questions, I can reach out to my friend directly :)
At the Beginning Previously on The Scuu Paradox… The smell of burning wood was all I could focus on. The fires had long died out, making it difficult to see in the darkness; despite all other modifications, Kridib’s eyes weren’t able to see overly well in the dark. Every five minutes, Radiance would send an infrared scan of the colony to help him and his team with their advancement. Despite all that help and the four missile strikes, progress was minimal. Of the forty-seven people sent to the planet, eleven had been killed and five more severely wounded, rendering them useless in battle. From what I could see, Rigel’s forces had clustered in specific points of the colony, giving up the rest: a sensible strategy that had allowed them to ambush three of our teams while suffering negligible losses themselves. As things stood, the enemy forces had positioned themselves in two areas of the colony. Both spots encircled a specific building—mine and the captain’s locations—making further missile strikes impossible. Update? Kridib asked me through the mind link. Nothing, I replied. Rigel had left shortly after our last chat, taking the third-contact rods with him. Since then, I had remained safely isolated in the room and completely alone. Half of them have probably gone to sleep. Tell me if anything changes. Kribib looked up. A dozen sats were visible in the night sky. We’ll be making another go soon. I don’t think that’s a good idea. So far, Kridib had made four attempts to reach me, all of them unsuccessful. His approach, though chaotic at best, had managed to keep him alive. There had been a close call during which his left arm had been grazed by a bullet, though that time the man hadn’t frozen. Everyone has to sleep, Kridib said, heading back into one of the buildings that had been transformed into a ground base of operations. I’ll go first. Must I wake you? I asked. No. With that, the link was severed. To a degree, I was thankful, though not too much. Forcing whatever strength I had, I moved my head to look around the room as much as I was able. Nothing had changed in the last four hours, but at least it let me do something. The last time I felt remotely similar was when I’d had my sensor systems knocked out, though even then I was able to use my shuttle AIs to paint me a picture. Here, I was completely helpless and, to a vast degree, blind. “Do I get any water?” I asked as loudly as my lungs would let me. There was no reason to expect an answer. Even if anyone was awake on the lower floors, they would be on lookout duty. Saying it out loud, though, made me feel better for some reason. To my surprise, the door to the room opened. “Thought you were above those things.” Rigel walked in slowly. Even with my lack of focus, I could see that he had changed clothes. The colours were dark enough to be considered a uniform, although I couldn’t make out any other details. “You can’t swallow, remember?” “My mouth feels dry,” I explained. “Too bad.” Despite my poor vision, I could hear him smile as he said that. Walking slowly, he made his way to the stool near me and sat down. From this distance, I could see him taking something from his front pocket. In the dim light, it was impossible to tell what exactly. “Still having problems focusing?” Rigel asked. “Yes.” There was no point in lying. “Pity. Agora works well on organic tissue. Not on techno-mongrels,” he added with a laugh. “If you weren’t one, you’d be dead. There’s a win for you.” And you’re not making any sense, I thought. “Nice murder troops you got out there. Quick and efficient. A few years ago, the locals would’ve had fun pulling their wings off. Time leaves its mark.” Rigel flicked the object. It let out a peculiar metallic sound. “No action, no combat sims, just the local pests that roam the planet. Those were brought here too, did you know?” “I heard about it.” “Another brilliant idea from the bureaucracy. Create a full ecosystem. Plants, critters, predators... all must be present and carefully maintained. We tried killing them off once. Those were the days. Three colonies setting out, killing everything in sight until the orbital station stopped sending food.” There was a slight pause. “And you know the best part?” Rigel leaned towards me. “None of that happened.” If I could have pulled back, I would have. There was no way of knowing if these were insane rantings or if he was referring to a dark op coverup. Considering he was from the Salvage Authorities, either was possible, and both options were equally undesirable. “I went through your data, Elcy.” Rigel rubbed his hands. “You know things you shouldn’t.” “Because of my past, I’ve been placed on special assignments,” I said. Technically it was true, though we both knew it didn’t explain away the inconsistencies. “You knew about the third-contact artifacts before. You’ve operated them before.” He moved his hand closer to my face. I felt a cold metallic surface touch my cheek. “You’re searching for something. Something that you’re not supposed to find.” He moved the object away from my face. “Here’s my offer. You answer some of my questions, and I’ll answer some of yours.” “That’s one way to get court-martialed.” Not to mention there was no guarantee my self-destruct chip wouldn’t go off at any point. “Please don’t give me the line that the fleet is going through all that trouble just to rescue you. If you were that valuable, you’d never have been sent to this hell in the first place.” Rigel stood up. “What are the odds of the fleet extracting you in one piece? Two percent?” “Point-seven-three-nine,” I corrected. Frankly, I was surprised they were going through all the trouble. “Give or take.” “Less than one percent,” Rigel snorted. “It’s your call. You have three hours to make it. Before I leave you, here’s a freebie. This planet, it isn’t some randomly colonized world in ‘unexplored space.’ We’re in the buffer zone—the border between the Scuu and human space. Think about that.” He made his way to the door. Reaching it, he stopped and turned around. “Oh, and we’re constantly being monitored.”
Gamma-Ligata, Cassandrian Front—615.11 A.E. (Age of Expansion) The third wave of shuttles approached my forward left hangar one by one. The instant they came within three hundred meters, I was handed over direct control of the AIs. As with the previous batches, the first thing I did was to have a set of isolated subroutines flash the memory and purge the entire operating system. That done, I sent out a mini-sat to latch onto and assume control of the shuttles. It was a slow and tedious process, but necessary considering the circumstances. “How are things?” Wilco asked from the bridge. Augustus had gathered most of his officers to a private meeting in his quarters, leaving Wilco in command. This wasn’t the first time it had happened, but each time it did, it felt strange. “Everything’s going as planned,” I said, as the first shuttle went under my control. A quick internal scan revealed that there were sixty-two people aboard, all cuffed and tagged. All of them were tagged as infected, and, to my surprise, none of them were sedated. The instructions were to take them in and monitor their actions at all times, and only to engage if they threatened the ship. Normally, I’d be confident that Augustus knew what was going on. With everything we’d gone through since I’d joined the front, I didn’t think there was anything in the galaxy that could surprise him. I was wrong. Finishing my internal check of the shuttle, I directed it to the outer hangar doors and had it dock. The passengers—all of their identities classified—waited till I covered the walls with disembark notifications, then stood up and quietly proceeded to get off, in orderly fashion. I could tell by Wilco’s expression that he found it unnerving. “A thousand and eighty-two passengers on board,” I said on the bridge and in the captain’s quarters. The moment the last person set foot in the hangar, I would eject the shuttle from my hangar-bay, self-destruct it, and proceed with the next. Delegating the task to my isolated subroutines, I reviewed the instructions I had received. The proper ident protocols and authorisations had been used, ensuring that I would do as instructed without asking questions. An emergency transmission from an unidentifiable ship had led me here. I knew nothing about the ship’s name or specifics, and I wasn’t allowed to get close enough to get a visual. The only things I was allowed to see were its shuttles and mass. Everything else was open to interpretation. “Have any of them said anything?” Wilco asked. “No.” I displayed images of the hangar bay and the corresponding corridors surrounding it. As part of my instructions, the entire section was sealed off and quarantined. “They’re eating.” They also appeared to be healthy, although the instructions stressed no one was to come into contact with them under any circumstances. “I’ve received no indication of how long we’re to keep them. Did the captain get an indication?” “No,” Wilco said in his usual somber voice. “Is everything sealed off?” “Yes.” I rechecked. “No way in or out without captain’s approval.” “Set a buffer zone.” The man went on. “No one goes in or out without my permission.” “If you say so.” It wasn’t difficult. The area in question had been made empty to accommodate the quarantined arrivals, though it seemed a bit too much. “Want me to put sentinels?” “No. We don’t have to hurt anyone, just hold them.” He slinked down in his chair. “They’re the Med boys’ toys. We don’t get to play with them.” Med boys… Only Wilco referred to the Medical Core in such fashion. As most organisations, they were part of the fleet, yet their specific area of expertise gave them as much authority as the Salvage Authorities and the BICEFI combined. As a ship, I knew fairly little about them: they had the power to impose quarantines and cordon off entire planets if they wished. They were also the only organisation with the power to hold an active captain in check. Possibly, that was the reason Augustus didn’t get along with any of his medical officers. According to the public files, the Med Core had created the inner-body nanites and were instrumental in getting humans into space. There were also whispers that they were involved in creating the first ship-cores, although I found that unlikely. Even so, they had more authority than anyone aboard. Even on the front, we had no option but to obey. “It won’t be practical heading into war with them,” I said as the second shuttle entered the hangar bay. “Not our call. We’re to hold them until a Med ship picks them up,” Wilco sighed. “And monitor everything they do.” “How is that different from anyone else aboard?” I ventured a chuckle. “You don’t need to know,” the lieutenant said darkly. Another thing about Wilco was that he had the uncanny ability to make any topic of conversation dark. I ran a few simulations testing various responses, then decided not to respond further. In the best-case scenario, there was a twenty-seven percent chance he found my reaction funny. “Elcy.” Augustus granted me sensor access to the captain’s quarters. “What’s the ETA on the cattle?” “The passengers will be all aboard in seven minutes, captain.” A decade of attempts to mellow his behaviour had brought me no results. “Five, if you need me off in a rush.” “Get it done in five,” he barked. “We’ve got new orders. We’re joining a purge fleet. Go on yellow. Get the grunts prepped.” “Aye, sir.” I issued the order to everyone aboard. Seconds later, ground troop officers and sergeants were shouting their troops into order. “What about the passengers, sir? Won’t combat expose them to unnecessary danger?” “There’s no unnecessary danger,” Augustus barked again. The rest of the command staff had already started leaving the room. Their expressions ranged from mild annoyance to disapproval. Whatever discussions had taken place, they must have been unpleasant and one-sided. “Monitor them at all times and don’t interact until I say so.” “Understood.” It sounded like another escort mission, and I didn’t like escort missions. Normally, it would just be troop detachments or—if we were very unlucky—some mid-level bureaucrat or admiral’s aid sent to do a front-line inspection. Transporting quarantined personnel wasn’t in my usual purview, although if it had been, I’d never know. “What’s the course of treatment they must undergo?” I asked. “No treatment,” Augustus grumbled. “That’s for the Meds to figure out.” “All passengers are tagged as infected. Regulations require we provide immediate medical attention.” I felt my words sound hollow. If Augustus had the authority to provide such, he would have told me already. The only thing I was left was to go through the motions, expecting to receive the obvious denial. “Just monitor them, Elcy! That’s what we’ve been told. And whatever happens, don’t interfere.”
Just monitor them. I had spent three months and thirty-nine hours monitoring the passengers onboard. Through battles and repairs, every single action had been carefully observed, recorded, and stored on external data storage. For the most part, nothing happened. The people would live boring, perfectly organised lives, almost as if they knew they were being watched. There were no scuffles, few arguments, and only one incident resulting in injuries when a Cassandrian fighter managed to slip through my external defences and fire a salvo at the hangar bay. Their health condition also seemed no different than when they had come aboard. I had dedicated a dozen subroutines to collect any potential symptoms in an effort to determine the type of disease they had, but had come to no conclusion. Then, one day, they were all gone. I had no memory of the Medical ship that had taken them, or where that had happened. The only thing I was certain about was the time—precisely two thousand, one hundred and ninety-nine hours since the last of them had come aboard. Everything else remained restricted. Looks like there’s always someone monitoring someone, Sev. If Rigel was to be believed someone was monitoring the planet. The question was who. Seconds turned to minutes, then hours. Hundreds of times, I considered looking into my restricted memories for information regarding the third-contact artifacts or the events in gamma-Ligata, and each time I found a reason not to. As Rigel had said, the chance of me getting off the planet alive was less than one percent, but the knowledge of the existence of the possibility kept me acting. And then there was Rigel’s offer… Rad, are you monitoring me? I asked, attempting to latch on to any open communication protocols. A connection was established, but instead of linking to Radiance, I found myself connecting back to Kridib’s mind. On cue, an info burst from Radiance followed, giving the latest scan. This time, I could see the location of our forces. The total number had increased to seventy-four, Kridib included. Nearly eight percent were gathered close to the captain’s expected location. Kridib and five more were closer to me. Get ready, Kridib said. Moments later, bursts of gunfire echoed in the distance; they were going for the captain first. The mission had begun. From here on, I could see several potential outcomes. In all of them, there was a high probability that Rigel attempted to make a deal. When I was a ship, Augustus had taught me one key thing when it came to missions: regardless of the depth of predictions and the computing power at their disposal, humans always boiled down a situation to a simple binary choice. Rigel wanted something from me and had invested too much to let his chance slip. Before the outcome of Kridib’s rescue mission, Rigel would come here to get an answer to his proposal. All I had to do was wait. As I lay, I watched Kridib run through the darkness towards my location. Unlike before, he was wearing night vision goggles, letting him make out his surroundings better. No thermal? I asked as Kridib made his way through the streets. The smell of burned vegetation could still be felt. That’s what you’re for. Not a reply to be thrilled about, but one to be expected. Cross-referencing Radiance’s latest scan, I started analysing every frame of Kridib’s stream. The first few minutes passed without incident. Judging by the intensified background gunfire, the locals were more focused on keeping Renaan isolated than stopping Kridib. Twenty-eight seconds, later the first shot sounded. Sniper! I shouted straight in Kridib’s mind. “Cover fire!” he shouted, rushing for cover. Watch out for a cross, I warned. The shooting intensified. Based on the area scan, the group was a few hundred meters away. One strong push and they’d be here. That said, I knew that the building was guarded by more than seven people. If I were in Rigel’s place, I would have dedicated at least three dozen. Concentrated fire focused on the second floor of a building, blowing off the entire wall. There was a brief scream before a rocket flew into the spot, hollowing the entire structure with a blast. Heavy weapons? I asked Kridib. I didn’t think Radiance’s captain would resort to such firepower, considering third-contact artifacts were involved; one direct hit, and the entire colony might well end up a smouldering crater, not to mention the potential communication repercussions. Maybe there was truth in Rigel’s statement that Flight Commander Nitel was getting desperate. As I was following Kridib’s advancement outside, the door opened once more—as predicted, Rigel had returned. He was wearing the same set of clothes as three hours ago. I found it puzzling that I couldn’t spot any semblance of a weapon on him. “Your masters have gotten desperate,” the man said in suspiciously calm fashion. “Looks like they’ve sent everything they had to get Renaan.” He walked up to me, then leaned over. “And just a handful to get you.” “Are they winning?” I tried to smile. “Beats me.” Rigel didn’t seem bothered. “You thought about my offer?” “I did. And I don’t think accepting would be a good deal. If I wait for them to rescue the captain, your bargaining power ends.” “Oh?” The man chuckled. “There’s nothing else the fleet would be willing to trade.” Except potentially the pyramid artifact. Even then, I didn’t see them sacrificing the Gregorius. “Once the captain boards a shuttle, it’s over.” A person of Kridib’s squad fell as they were approaching my building. I heard the unmistakable sound of bullets piercing armor, then silence. That was the thing about sound suppressors: one could get killed, and there still wouldn’t be any sound of one hitting the ground. I wanted to turn around and see what had happened, potentially to help. There was a seven-point-three chance that the wound wasn’t fatal. Kridib kept on moving forwards. That’s what made him a ground trooper… it also caused me pain. “What if I kill Renaan?” Rigel mused. “I won’t lose much. Everyone down here’s dead anyway. Someone in the fleet has gone through a lot of shit to get Renaan back. They’d lose a hell of a lot more.” “What if they save the captain?” I countered. “Either way, we’ll soon find out, and you’ll have no offer.” “Quantum paradox logic?” Rigel sounded surprised. “Strange hearing that from you, missy. I’ll have to skim your file once I’m out of here.” He paused for a moment, then dragged the nearby stool over—making a deliberate sound—and sat down. “Truth is, once the moment ends, we both lose our chance. Are you okay with that?” Why are you so confident? I wondered. Even if I were to agree, he wouldn’t be able to get much from me in the next ten minutes, even less if Kridib managed to reach my room. His squad had already made its way to the building proper, facing less than expected resistance. From what I was able to see, there were two snipers left on the upper floors and two machine-gunners on the first. All auxiliary positions on the nearby buildings seemed to have dealt with, although there was no sign of Ogum. “You’ve dealt with Salvage before, I can tell,” Rigel pressed on. “You won’t get another chance like this.” The old man’s with me in the basement, I told Kridib. No guards in the room. He’s ex-Salvage Authorities. Take him, and the mission is over. Saying that hurt slightly. Despite being the enemy, and a threat to the war effort, he remained human. “Then I guess I’ll never know.” As I spoke, I saw Kridib charge at the building. As before, there was nothing fancy about it, just determination and insanity. Several bullets flew so close to him I could hear them, but this time none of them hit. “Your bargaining window is over. No deal.” Kridib emptied his sidearm at the door in front of him, then rushed in. I could see no guards inside, just a set of hastily built staircases. Whatever the original purpose of the building was, it had been transformed into a field center at some point—likely during a previous escape attempt. Probably a group similar to ours had made it their temporary base, then left it as it was once they had completed their mission. No wonder Rigel had had me transported there. Kridib didn’t waste time making parallels, instead drawing his second sidearm and rushing down. At least two floors down, I said. I’m not hearing any of the gunfire. Is he armed? Kridib asked. Unsure. Not that I can tell. There are artifacts, though. “Such a teacher’s pet.” Rigel sighed after a long silence. “In the end, you’re nothing but a ship.” He stood up. He’s standing directly from the door, I said to Kridib. Seven degrees from center. Small frame, average height. Kridib fired three shots. Three bullets drilled through the alloy surface. Half a second later, Kridib followed kicking the door in. “Just one small thing.” Rigel took a tube-shaped object from his vest pocket. Meanwhile, I was staring at an empty room from Kridib’s eyes. It was at least three times smaller than the one I was in, bare and completely deserted. There was no Rigel, no me, no equipment, just a single metallic cube the size of my fingernail placed neatly on the floor. “Renaan was never the target.” The old man bent down and injected something in my neck. A new cascade of connection requests followed. “You are.” —- Next Chapter
ASIC Regulation Thread - Regarding the proposed changes ( Australians effected the most )
I'm hopeless at formatting text, so if you think you can structure this post better take everything i write and put it into an easy to digest way. I'm just going to type out everything i know in text as fast as possible. I'm not a legal expert, I'm not somehow who understands every bit of information in the PDF's below, but i know I'm a retail trader that uses leverage to make profit which is why I'm posting this, in the hope that someone who can run a charge better than me, will. Some of you are already aware of what might be happening, this is just a post to educate retail traders on changes that might be coming to certain brokers. This effects Australian Customers the most, but also effects those living in other countries that use Australian brokers, such as Pepperstone and others. Last year in August 2019, ASIC ( Australian Securities and Investments Commission ) was concerned about retail traders going into Forex and Binary options without understanding these instruments properly and started sticking their noses in for tough regulation. ASIC asked brokers and anyone with interest in the industry to write to them and explain what should and should not change from the changes they proposed, some of the proposed changes are very misguided and come from a lack of understanding exactly how OTC derivatives actually work. I will provide the link to the paper further down so you can read it yourself and i will provide a link to all the submission made by all parties that sent submissions to ASIC, however the 2 main points of debate are: 1, To reduce the overall leverage available to retail traders to either 20:1 or 30:1. This means people who currently use leverage such as 100:1 to 500:1 and everything in between will be effected the most, even more so are those traders with relatively small accounts, meaning in order to get your foot in the door to trading you will need more capital for it to be viable. ^^ This point above is very important. 2, The removing of Binary options trading, which basically includes products like "Bet if gold will rise to this price in the next 30 seconds" This sort of stuff. So far from all the submissions from brokers and individuals nobody really cares if this changes as far as i know, though if you have concerns about this i would start voicing your disapproval. Though i would not waste your time here, all is pointing to this being eradicated completely with brokers also supporting the changes, I've never used such a product and know very little about them. ^^ This point above isn't very important and will probably be enforced in the future. Still to this day i see retail traders not understanding leverage, they think of it as "dangerous and scary", it's not, position size is the real danger, not leverage. So ASIC is aiming to limit retail traders access to high leverage, they are claiming it is a way to protect traders who don't really understand what they are getting into by attacking leverage and not the real problem which is position size relative to your capital. If it was truly about protecting retail traders from blowing up their accounts, they would look for ways to educate traders on "understanding position sizes and why it's important" rather than attacking leverage, but their goal is misguided or has an ulterior motive . I will give you a small example below. EXAMPLE - We will use 2 demo accounts for demonstration purposes. If you don't understand my example, i suggest you try it for yourself. - Skip if not interested in examples. Lets say we open 2 demo accounts with $1000 in both, one with 20:1 leverage and one with 500:1 leverage and we open an identical position on both accounts ( say a micro lot '0.01' on EURUSD ). You are safer on the 500:1 account as you don't need to put up as much margin as collateral as you would on the 20:1. If the trade we just opened goes against us and continues against us, the account with 20:1 leverage will run out of free margin a lot faster than the 500:1 account. In this simple example is shows you that leverage is not dangerous but safer and gives you a lot more breathing room. This trade was a small micro lot, so it would take hundreds of pips movements to get margin called and blow up that $1000 on each account. Lets now use a different position size to truly understand why retail traders blow up accounts and is the reason why trading can be dangerous. This time instead of opening a micro lot of '0.01' on our $1000 dollar demo accounts, lets open a position size much larger, 5 lots. Remember we only have $1000 and we are about to open a position much larger relative to our capital ( which we should never do because we can't afford to do that ) the 20:1 probably wont even let you place that trade if you don't have enough margin as collateral or if you could open the position you would have a very tiny amount of free margin left over, meaning a small pip movement against you will instantly blow up your $1000 account. On the 500:1 account you wouldn't need to put up as much margin as collateral with more free margin if the trade goes bad, but again a small movement could blow up your account. In this example, both accounts were dangerous because the lack of understanding position sizes, opening a position you can't afford to open. This is what the true danger is, not the leverage. Even in the second example, the higher leverage would "margin call" you out later. So i would go as far to say that lower leverage is more dangerous for you because it margin calls you out faster and just by having a lower leverage doesn't stop you from opening big positions that can blow you up in a 5 pip movement anymore, any leverage size is dangerous if you're opening positions you can't afford to open. This is also taking into consideration that no risk management is being used, with risk management higher leverage is even more powerful. ASIC believes lowering leverage will stop people opening positions that they can't afford. When the reality is no matter how much capital you have $500, $1000, $5000, $50,000, $500,000, $5,000,000. You don't open position sizes that will blow that capital up completely with small movements. The same thing can happen on a 20:1 or 500:1 account. Leverage is a tool, use it, if your on a lower leverage already such as 20:1, 30:1 it means your country has been regulated and you already have harder trading conditions. Just remember higher leverage allows you to open larger position sizes in total for the amount of money you own, but the issue is NOT that your using the higher leverage but because you are opening positions you can't afford, for what ever reason that is, the only fix for this is education and will not be fixed by simply lowing leverage, since you can just as easy blow up your account on low leverage just as fast or if not faster. So what is going on? There might ( get your tinfoil hats on ) be more that is involved here, deeper than you think, other agendas to try and stop small time retail traders from making money via OTC products, theories such as governments not wanting their citizens to be traders, rather would prefer you to get out there and work a 9 to 5 instead. Effective ways to do this would be making conditions harder with a much larger barrier of entry and the best way to increase the barrier of entry for retail traders is to limit leverage, lower leverage means you need to put up more money, less breathing room for trades, lower potential. They are limiting your upside potential and the downside stays the same, a blown account is a blow account. Think of leverage as a weapon, a person wielding a butchers knife can probably destroy a person wielding a steak knife, but both knifes can prove fatal. They want to make sure your holding the butter knife then tell you to butcher a cow with it. 30:1 leverage is still workable and can still be profitable, but not as profitable as 500:1 accounts. This is why they are allowing professionals to use high leverage, this gives them another edge over successful retail traders who will still be trying to butcher a cow with a butter knife, while they are slaying limbs off the cow with machetes. It's a way to hamstring you and keep you away rather than trying to "protect" you. The real danger is not leverage, they are barking up the wrong tree, how convenient to be barking up the very tree most retail traders don't fully understand ( leverage) , pass legislation to make trading conditions harder and at the same time push the narrative that trading is dangerous by making it even harder. A full circle strategy to make your trading conditions worse, so you don't succeed. Listen carefully especially if you trade with any of the brokers that have provided their submissions to ASIC. Brokers want to seem like they are on your side and so far some of the submissions ( i haven't read them all ) have brokers willing to drop their leverage down to 30:1 because they know by dropping the leverage down it will start margin calling out their clients at a much faster rate, causing more blown up accounts / abandoned accounts with residual margin called funds, but they also know that if they make trading environments too hard less people will trade or even worse move their funds elsewhere offshore to unregulated brokers that offer higher leverage. Right now it's all just a proposal, but as governments expand and continue to gain more control over it's citizens, it's just a matter of time till it's law, it's up to you to be vocal about it, let your broker know that if they drop their leverage, you're out, force them to fight for you. If you have any more information related to this, or have anything to add, post below. I'm not an expert at this technical law talk, i know that i do well with 500:1 leverage and turn profits with it, it would be harder for me to do on a lower leverage, this is the reason for my post. All related documents HERE CP-322 ( Consultation paper 322 ) & Submissions from brokers and others. https://asic.gov.au/regulatory-resources/find-a-document/consultation-papers/cp-322-product-intervention-otc-binary-options-and-cfds/
Peri-areolar top surgery with Dr. Fischer - the pre-op report
Hi everyone – this is a follow-up to a post I made about a month ago, asking if anyone would be interested in the details of my then-upcoming top surgery. I’m officially post-op now (five days!) and working on a ridiculously detailed writeup. This is the first part, which goes right up until the surgery itself. I’m going to wait a few more days to do the post-op one so that I can go up to the process of getting the drains out. Feel free to skip to the end to get to the salient info, and to comment with any questions about stuff I might have left out! So, without further ado, how I got here: First the basics. I'm 31 years old. I live in Maryland. I'm five feet tall and weigh around ninety pounds, give or take a couple in either direction. My chest measurement before surgery was about 28 inches, and about 26 "underbust." I've never been on testosterone or puberty blockers. I've never really had to wear a binder, and avoided it because I knew that I had to be gentle with that tissue if I wanted the results that I'd really hoped were possible. Keep this in mind - I'm hardly an average representation of anything, so my experience is most likely atypical in a lot of ways. But I'm hoping the overall information could be helpful. I came out when I was 25, though I'd known since high school. Top surgery was on my radar, but trans stuff was on the fringe then - I read a lot of "butch lesbian who got top surgery" blogs, which was the only thing that made it seem possible for me, though the thought of paying for it (I was overestimating the cost by almost double, and too scared to actually look it up) seemed unthinkable. I didn't know about anything but double incision surgery, which was pretty horrifying to me. So I put the thought out of my mind for almost ten years. When I aged out of my parents' insurance and got my own, most plans had a line specifying that they did not cover anything meant to "alter the patient's physical sex," or something to that effect. This changed a few years ago, but at the time I didn't qualify for sick leave at work, and I was still paying off my student loans. Along the way things progressed - I started using a new name, then changed it legally, and then my state started allowing "unspecified" gender markers on driver's licenses. I paid off my loans and saved some money, without acknowledging to myself what I was saving it for. And then I got a letter at work, informing me that they were now required to provide medical leave for anyone working over 15 hours weekly. And suddenly a lot of things came together, fast. My mom has always been supportive of me, but she was not very happy to hear about this. After talking it over a lot, we ended up going together to a therapist who worked with both trans people and families - incidentally, our therapist was also nonbinary, and we had to take a break in our visits while they recovered from their own top surgery. We visited them a few times over a few months, and they suggested that I at least look into getting my surgery covered by insurance, and directed me toward the Johns Hopkins Center for Transgender Health. I had done research on several of the big names in top surgery, particularly those who do a lot of peri-areolar surgeries - I was very not into the idea of double incision, and knew that, while I was not the seventeen-year-old kid on T who's a sure thing for peri, I had a chance. But getting it covered would make the financial hit more bearable. I did some research on insurance coverage. When it came time to renew my Medicaid coverage, I switched to an MCO that had a history of working with Johns Hopkins. I contacted them about finding a therapist to write a letter for me, and about getting a consultation - I expected to have a long wait to meet with Dr. Devin O'Brien-Coon, but they suggested that I come in much earlier and meet with Dr. Benny Tan, who had only recently come to work at the Hopkins center, so I got my letter and scheduled my appointment with him. Dr. Tan had just started at the JH center when I had my consultation with him, and while he had a lot of previous experience doing breast cancer mastectomies, he was clearly a lot less familiar with top surgery. He was adamant that I was ineligible for peri-areolar surgery, and would have to have double incision. He seemed to have some weird misconceptions about the details - at one point he said that no one ever regains any nipple sensation after surgery (???), and when I mentioned the concept of the eventual shape of my chest being somewhat dependent on how much muscle I can develop through exercise he sort of laughed and said, "Well, maybe if you decide to become a bodybuilder." When I asked if I could see post-op pictures of some of the previous procedures the center had done, I was told no, that Dr. O'Brien-Coon didn't want to suggest that there was any guarantee of a specific kind of results. He seemed like a nice guy. He answered the questions I had, and my mom's. But I did not feel good about this. At the same time, I was trying fruitlessly to get any information at all about whether I would, in fact, be able to get this covered by insurance. I won't go into the boring details of one million phone transfers, but after several days the question was resolved: because the insurance required a previous twelve-month period of hormone replacement therapy, I was out of luck. At this point I wasn't even upset - it just made it clearer that my original plan was what I was going to go with. Finally, I paid $100 to have a consultation with Dr. Beverly Fischer in Lutherville. Dr. Fischer was one of the surgeons I'd been researching from the beginning - she's been performing surgeries since the 90s, including a lot of peri-areolar surgeries, and she also is the most local of the surgeons I'd looked into. I'd seen pictures online that people had posted of her work on people with body types very much like mine, and I was impressed. Dr. Fischer doesn't take any insurance (you can try to go through a process on your own afterward, and perhaps get at least a partial reimbursement from your insurance, but that's up to them), but I had the money saved, and I felt it was a fair trade to have a greater level of control over the experience. Since Dr. Fischer has her own small facility, the consultation was very smooth and low-key. Again, my mom went with me (this was right before covid started, but even now she allows one visitor to come with a patient). She looked me over and assured me that I was definitely a candidate for peri (they all say "keyhole" there, which confused me, but I'm going to keep saying peri, by which I mean full circular incisions around the areola). We were given a breakdown of the cost ($9,700) and shown into a little room where they gave us a binder of pre- and post-op photos to look at. Again, her work is very impressive - my mom, who was not familiar with the different styles of surgery, was reassured that they did not look as scarred up as she was probably expecting. This was a much better experience than I had at Hopkins, enough to convince me. Then the pandemic hit! Needless to say, things were on hold for a while. The library I work at was closed for over two months. In June, we started working again, but with a very minimal schedule. I'd been doing almost double my baseline hours by filling in for vacant positions, but now I was working fifteen hours per week maximum, meaning I didn't lose any substitute pay for taking sick leave. So I called Dr. Fischer's office and made the soonest appointment I could, for September 16th. I made a 10% payment over the phone ($970) and scheduled my appointments for three weeks prior to surgery. Three weeks before surgery: I went to Dr. Fischer's office for my pre-op appointment. Because I'd already been measured during my consultation, this was mostly a lot of information and question-and-answer sessions with their surgical coordinator Shannon. My mom came with me (all of us wore masks, and we had temperature checks when we came in, as well as standard "have you had any covid symptoms or been out of state" worksheets to fill out). Shannon brought out a set of the drains and showed us how they'd work (they are still stuck in me at the time of this writing, so I'm trying not to think about it too much!), and gave me a folder of pre- and post-op information, plus the sheet to give to my primary care doctor when I went to get my bloodwork done. The instructions were pretty standard - try to eat a lot of protein in the weeks before and after surgery (raises your red blood cell count so you recover faster), get up and walk around on the first day (helps the anesthesia junk work its way out of your body), don't lie on your back eating applesauce the whole time (you're not going to hurt yourself, live your life, just be gentle). Mentioned, but for some reason not included on the printed sheet: there's a one-day-post-op appointment the morning after, just to check everything out - this means that AFTER your surgery you shouldn't eat or drink after midnight, and through the morning, just in case there's an unexpected need to put you under to correct anything. I brought them a check for the remainder of my payment - $8,730. As weird as it seems, seeing the money actually come out of my bank account didn't bother me at all. I'd saved that money with this in mind, so it seemed natural to finally use it. They also gave me a stack of four prescriptions, which I filled on the way home: One pre-op anti-nausea pill, one pre-op Xanax, several post-op pain pills (hydrocodone and acetaminophen) and several post-op anti-nausea pills. Fortunately this was covered by my insurance, because I sure did NOT need all of these. I went within the week to get the required physical and bloodwork at my regular doctor's office, and just handed them the sheet that said what results needed to be sent to Dr. Fischer. Apparently there was some kind of faxing error and I didn't find out for a couple weeks that they hadn't gotten the results, but that was fixed by some relatively simple phone calls. I'd recommend calling a week after the blood test to confirm that they've received everything. I put in a request for six days off work - starting and ending on a Wednesday, with a normal weekend between. They usually recommend ten days, but I have a very low-activity job and only work short shifts, so they agreed that eight days would be fine. This is another factor that might have been different if I had been getting double-incision surgery, which I've heard can take a few more days of recovery. Some days later, I got a call saying that the anesthesiologist wouldn't be able to be in on the Wednesday I was scheduled for. I was all set to move everything forward by a chunk of time when they clarified that no, they wanted me to come in one day earlier. Well, okay then. I added a Tuesday to my leave. I am told that I will need to get an "excuse note" to take back when I return to work, which I haven't asked for yet, but will probably get at my one-week-after appointment. A few days before surgery: This is the time to get things in order wherever you'll be staying. Of course you can't prepare for everything, but I did as much laundry as I could, made sure I had plenty of prepared food in the house, checked out a ton of books and DVDs from the library. Trimmed my hair and nails. Note that you are required to shave your armpits so the tape doesn't stick to them when they bandage you up - if you're not used to this, I recommend doing it a couple days in advance, because it's a Bad Time. Night before surgery: I got the usual confirmation call from them the Monday before my surgery date. I got everything together (medication. Sweatpants, button-up shirt, socks, slip-on shoes, COTTON underwear, which is the only kind you may wear in surgery. The folder of information. My old ipod and headphones). I went to bed relatively early as I knew I was going to be up early, though it might have been better to stay up and have a late snack before the midnight deadline. Day of surgery: September 15th - my surgery was scheduled for 9:30, and my arrival at 8:30. I was told to shower and wash my hair, to only use antibacterial soap (we had the Dial orange bar) for my body. I used baby shampoo on my hair, because I wanted something that wouldn't leave any weird residue, since I knew I wouldn't be able to wash it again for some days. Deodorant is allowed, but no lotion. Brushed my teeth. No food, no drink, no chewing gum. I went to the surgery center with both my parents, but right now they're specifying only one guest per patient, so only my mom came in. There's a little retirement community and some stores around, so they had somewhere to hang out while they waited. I left my mom's phone number with them on a post-it so they could call her when they needed to come back for me. I took my bag and went into one of the patient rooms, where I was given this hilariously large toga-looking thing to change into. I gave them my bag of meds, and they came back with a tiny bit of water for me to swallow the Xanax. The anti-nausea one dissolves in your mouth and tastes like strawberry mentos. In a little tiny room with a ring light, they took a series of pictures of me from ribs to neck, at straight-on, side, and three-quarter views. Later I looked back at a computer screen and saw these pictures and briefly thought "who the hell's that?" Not that I'd had any doubts before that I was making the right decision, but that made it pretty clear. Dr. Fischer came in after that, and drew about three dashed lines on my chest. My assumption is that these were so that when my skin shifted while I was lying down, she would be able to see what parts corresponded to where when I was upright. I asked briefly about what kind of resizing she would do around my nipples, which are very slightly asymmetrical, and she said that she uses a kind of template that would make them turn out a bit smaller, and, yes, the same size. The anesthesiologist came in to give me the rundown on what would happen when I was taken into the operating room. I would put on a hairnet, I would get an IV that would put me out, then a mask of gas to keep me unconscious. A small tube would be put in the back of my throat to keep my airway open, and might give me a sore throat for a couple days after (spoiler: it did, but it wasn't too bad). Some kind of contraption of sleeves would periodically squeeze my legs to promote blood flow. All fairly standard, probably. So they let my mom come in and hug me, and I said, "see you soon!" and they walked me back. Sorry for the huge cliffhanger, but this thing is way longer than I thought! I'll be back with the post-op section in a few days, ok? And definitely comment any questions you might have. Recovery is boring. TLDR:
Total cost was $9,700, which was not covered by insurance, but depending on your provider it's possible to get reimbursed afterward for at least part of the cost.
Check with your insurance about getting coverage. Be persistent. They might have weird requirements that knock you out of the running, but it's worth seeing what options are available to you.
I had a copy of my therapist's letter sent to the surgeon before the procedure
Three weeks before surgery, there's a physical and bloodwork that has to be done by your primary care doctor, and the results faxed to the surgeon. I'd recommend calling both parties to confirm that the documents were both sent and received.
You'll need to be off work for at least a week, and more likely ten days, so plan for that.
Make sure everything you need is really accessible before you get back. If the cabinets are higher than your shoulders, put the dishes on the counter. It's like anti-baby-safing your house.
You definitely need someone to drive you to and from surgery, and I really, really recommend having someone you trust to stay home with you. Somebody asked about this in my previous post, and here's my updated answer: while you could technically be by yourself most days after the first, I really would not recommend it.
The night before, you must stop eating and drinking before midnight, but you might want to have a late snack if your surgery is later in the morning like mine was. I did not take this advice and I probably should have.
The day of surgery, no food or drink in the morning. Shower, wash your hair, and use antibacterial soap on your body. You can wear deodorant but no lotion. Shave your armpits if you haven't already. Brush your teeth. They will call you the day before and let you know exactly when you need to get there.
Stuff to have with you: Clothes that somebody else can put on you, including a shirt that opens in the front. Sweatpants are great. A skirt would probably be even better. The bag of pills they prescribed to you, plus any other meds you take normally (I brought my inhaler, but didn't need to use it). Just give them the meds and they handle giving you anything you need while you're there. A snack in case you have to take the pain meds on the way home.
Don't panic! People do this all the time, and the doctors know what they are doing. It's a lot of faith to put in someone you don't really know, but they want to do the best job they can.
Good luck to everybody reading this! I am feeling good. My recovery's been great so far and I'll go into more detail when I come back for the next part of this.
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