Story — The Third Era and Recent History

From the Writings of Lead Historian of Ancient Affairs, Toreshide, 52.4E

 

The Great Sundering that created the Xal Deer Sea brought a close to the Archon War. They were all in agreement that they had the power to change the world, and if they weren’t careful that power would tear it apart. Verik and Cedrine took much of the blame for all the lives lost in their act of retaliation, but rather than continue to wage war, the other Archons decided to forgive them and make things right by changing things for the better.

The Archon War’s official conclusion was the establishment of the Preservers, by Kitsuki’s suggestion. This organization would have international influence and would bow to no sovereign power. Their goal, as it remains to this day, is to collect and maintain all knowledge of the world in all forms. This means obtaining copies of every written work, and writing down our findings as well. The individual tasks of the Preservers has grown more complex over time, and a more detailed explanation is better suited elsewhere.

The Preservers was established, and the Archons also served as the original Keepers of their respective nations. As such, they served as both leaders of their nations and of the Preservers. Most Archons agreed that this should not always be the case, and succession for control of their governments and the seat of Keeper should diverge after their own lives were at an end. However, they could never agree on a rule of succession, so most nations adopted their own specific rules. Suffice it to say that this has been met with much controversy, and people both inside and outside the Preservers are often very opinionated towards how this should have been done or why things happened the way it did.

After the Archon War, the Archons collaborated on several large scale projects, most notably the Endless Halls in Kitsuya, where a vast majority of Preserver collected knowledge is stored. It is believed that Verik crafted The Archive at around this time, though he informed no soul of its existence, and the Preservers didn’t discover it until much later.

It is at this point that northern Torreth reaches a golden age. Many advancements regarding the use and application of magic are made, and this allows even the most arid regions of Ketha to be inhabited, as well as the unforgiving slopes of Aluvalia.

It is also at this time that the Archon Zephirine ventures (or returns, if some rumors are to be believed) to Koh Liia. This is the first verifiable incident in which a human has successfully returned from Ithalin or any other known or speculated landmass.

Due to the establishment of the Preservers early on, the events of the Third Era are so well documented that picking and choosing which are most significant are always up for debate. As such, it would be better to briefly describe how things changed over the centuries rather than describe specific events.

Contrary to popular belief, the Archons did not live particularly long lives, save for Zephirine and Kitsuki. If anything, their lives ran shorter than average due to the wounds sustained in their battles and the stress their positions caused. Most died of old age.

Initially, the Preservers had a difficult time enforcing their power beyond the reach of nations. It has never been the charge of the organization to deal with politics in any light other than our own internal affairs, but the first three hundred years of this proved difficult for both sides. There were many that thought the Preservers and the national governments should work in tandem, and some that believed the two should be entirely separate. In time, separation won favor, and it has been that way ever since.

The middle of the Third Era is widely regarded as the most fruitful and peaceful time in all of history. Border disputes were few and far between, and even when they were brought up they were solved peacefully. Armies became useless, and as such much of the magic users that were not affiliated with the Preservers opened schools to formally teach others.

This allowed for the growth of even more knowledge, and a few centuries later, steam-powered energy became very popular, birthing a revitalized interest in the advancement of technology rather than a prioritization in magic. Calitha turned to steam as their main source of energy, and they became the leading nation in commerce. Nations like Ketha have followed behind, while some have been more resistant to change, but overall trade between nations grew much easier.

This golden age continued until recent memory, when the Rupture occurred. This has been chronicled as the beginning of the Fourth Era, of which this has been written in the fifty-second year. There is still little that is known about the event, only that it originated in Veritia. The explosion wiped out the entire nation and left a rift in the night sky, and it seems to have influenced the way flora and fauna interact with magic. This, in general, made the use of magic far more dangerous, and has necessitated the need for a new defense force that does not utilize magic.

This was the reason for the formation of the Riftguard, a non-research oriented branch of the Preservers, forty-three years ago. They are devoted to the protection of the realm against both magical and non-magical threats. A smaller division of the Preservers has also recently been established to investigate the Rupture, it’s cause, and it’s consequences.

While little may currently be known about the drastic changes in our world and environment, it is imperative that this is knowledge the Preservers discover quickly, for the safety of both Torreth and Nacre Then as a whole.

Story — The Archon War (420)

From the writings of Lead Historian of Ancient Affairs, Toreshide, 52.4E

 

After the Treaty of Eight was signed, the continent of Torreth was split into two designated halves. The southern half was the remaining portion of the Autlan Empire, and with the decline in its power and size came a sudden and huge influx to the northern reaches, much of which was previously considered uninhabitable until the rediscovery of magic.

But there was no solace to be had there. The signing of the Treaty of Eight gave way for the most violent decade in all of recorded history: the Archon War. The purpose of the Treaty was to settle land claims for the Autlan Empire, but gave no such distinction for the nations of magic and their godlike leaders. (This was one of the reasons it was signed so shortly after it was originally drafted.)

Each of the Archons, with the exception of Kitsuki, believed themselves to be the most powerful, wise, and capable leader. Some wished to unify the magical nations of Torreth, while others wanted to be the sole leader. They birthed the seven distinct Sources of magic, but they specifically bear little historical significance and as such will not be discussed here.

Since there was no agreement to be had, they waged war with one another, largely over land disputes. (It was at this time that Kitsuki declared her distaste for war and claimed the north-eastern islands as her own.) They fought with the fury of hurricanes and tornadoes. The Archons, it is said, were forces of nature in their own right, and the only thing that could stand up to one was another Archon. This time of conflict at an individual level is referred to in Preserver documents as “Phase One”. Phase One did little to settle land disputes, however. Calitha, for example, would lose a battle to Verik, and then continue taking his land from under his nose anyway through cunning and trickery.

For this reason, the Archons started forming alliances with one another, with two general goals. Calitha, Zephirine, and Keht forged their alliance with the objective of unifying Torreth and bringing the magic realm into a golden age with which it could expand both geographically and scientifically. This was contrasted by the alliance of Verik, Cedrine, and Aluvair, who believed that the seven nations should remain separate, and that individuality and adversity was key to advancement. This is referred to as “Phase Two” of the Archon War, and it was relatively less destructive than Phase One as it lead to many civil discussions between the seven Archons. Kitsuki, in all of these discussions, remained neutral. It is possible that she first proposed the formation of the Preservers in one of these meetings.

Phase Two did not last long. It isn’t entirely known what started the birth of Phase Three, the final phase of the Archon War. It is speculated that Calitha had secretly been teaching others how to use her magic, which was an action that was openly scorned by the Archons. Many Preservers speculate that Keht somehow betrayed the trust of the civil meetings, or that Zephirine was selling secrets to the Koh Liir race on the distant continent of Ithalin in order to gain their favor. There is undeniable significance that all of these rumors put the “unification” side of the Archons in a bad light, but there is little that can be concluded from this.

Phase Three began as the Archons started bringing up disciples of their magics. As magic is pulled from one specific source, teaching more people one type of magic makes each individual’s ability to use it more diluted, and thus this weakened the Archon’s direct power, but on a large scale, having armies that could utilize magic was a significant boon. Battles sprouted like wildfire across the landscape. With Calitha’s exceptional tactical prowess and large army, combined with Zephirine’s ability to manipulate the weather on a continental scale, the war suddenly looked very grim for Verik, Cedrine, and Aluvair. Their position was strongest during Phase One, where their magic allowed them to become unstoppable, but the tables had turned, and if they couldn’t find a way to tip the scales, surrender would soon be the only option.

Their response was a single retaliation on such a massive scale that much of northern Torreth was destroyed, sinking below sea level and creating the Xal Deer Sea. This blow killed thousands upon thousands of people, and is called The Great Sundering by many. This event forced the Archons to rethink their own power, as it had never been used on such a cataclysmic level. This effectively ended the Archon War, as each nation and Archon decided that war was not the answer.

Story — The Second Era (410)

From the writings of Lead Historian of Ancient Affairs, Toreshide, 52.4E

 

With the birth of the Autlan Empire came a swift and steady decline in the Al’Tari population. Nearly two thousand years of suffering wrought by the hands of the Al’Tari left a ruthless and vengeful people. Autlan was always seen as a wise and benevolent ruler, but he had only contempt for our kind’s former captors. For the next two hundred years, the Al’Tari were hunted and systematically destroyed, and though some opposition rose, it fell upon deaf ears, and they were completely wiped off the face of Torreth.

The extinction of the Al’Tari people is considered the golden age of the Autlan Empire. This is the only time in known history that humanity has ever been unified under one banner, and while civil disputes inevitably rose, they were small and trivial. It is also, perhaps coincidentally, the period of slowest advancement. Very little was achieved during this time, and many scholars among the Preservers claim that it is precisely due to humanity’s unification that few scientific improvements were made.

Eventually, however, the population grew to a critical mass. Very little was being done to control birth rates, and feeding the Autlan Empire’s entire populace became a serious logistics issue. Several rebellions occurred, but little headway was made under the organized might of a formal military. The High Council was established in order to reduce the power of the King, but little was changed.

About one hundred years later, circa 850.2E, the Warstorm was established to combat a great many of the people’s grievances. This was a public tournament at which people could both compete and spectate, and nearly all of them were battles to the death, leading in blood baths with casualties in the thousands. This helped with both overpopulation and the national food supply.

Over time, people grew disillusioned as to the Warstorm’s true purpose. The popularity of the Autlan Empire’s rulers declined rapidly over several generations, until finally one king, Keranus Tyrenin, formed a team of researchers called the ‘Archons’. This primary goal of this team was to investigate the Al’Tarin curse that inhibited the use of magic, and if possible, break it. This was met with enormous success, and the Archons reinvented magic by dividing it’s use into the seven ‘Sources’. It is for this reason that the Al’Tarin curse is suspected never to have broken, but rather, the Archons discovered a way to utilize magic anyway. Unfortunately, how they came about this discovery, and what occurred before the Archons rediscovered magic is lost to history. It is very likely that Keht, one of the seven Archons, destroyed their research just prior to the Archon War.

Because of how the Fide Torru use magic and their aptitude towards individual use, the Archons gained immense power. Each became the sole user of their own individual stars, and their vast store of magic allowed them to bend the very land to their will. If the historical documents of the time are to be believed, each of the seven Archons were capable of taking on the entire might of the Autlan Empire’s military. The King saw this as a wonderful opportunity to seize the entire world under human control, but the Archons had other plans. Indeed, mere months after the Archons tapped into this new power, Keht declared a formal war on the entire Empire.

Within days, the other Archons joined him, and the entire continent of Torreth was split into factions fighting for succession of the throne. Before much bloodshed could occur, however, King Keranus surrendered to the Archons, and they signed Treaty of Eight. The southern half of the continent would remain under Empire control, while the northern half would be freely given to the Archons for them to claim, and the Empire would not intervene in any way.

The signing of the Treaty of Eight (so named because of the eight nations involved), is seen as both the beginning of the Archon War, and the end of the Second Era.

Story — ‘The Was’ and the First Era

(I couldn’t think of anything I wanted to teach today, so instead I wrote a new piece for Nacre Then. This may or may not become a more normal thing. We’ll see what the future holds.)

 

From the writings of Lead Historian of Ancient Affairs, Toreshide, 52.4E

Nacre Then’s origin has been the matter of some debate throughout the history of the Preservers as well as other, less educated researchers. Though now lost to public knowledge, it was generally accepted that the planet began with a god. In some cultures, especially the religions of the Al’Tari, the god of the sun is a great, omnipotent being. He created the first race, known as the Primordials. These people could harness the elemental magics the same way the modern races can, only their source of power was the sun itself. This period in history is often referred to ‘The Was’, in ancient texts. No evidence of the Primordials or a ‘sun god’ has ever been uncovered, and as such is perceived to be largely fanciful nonsense. Some Preservers have speculated that the existence of these beings was conjured up by the Al’Tari in an effort to further subdue humans during the First Era. True or not, these ancient texts describe that the sun god held contempt towards the Primordials, perhaps from misuse of magic, so he cleaved the ancient peoples into the four races we know today, diffusing their power immensely. It is at this point in history that the Preservers have been able to find conclusive evidence for, so the birth of these four races is deemed as the beginning of the ‘First Era’.

The two races on the distant continent of Ithalin are the Rinla Bulvin, brutish porcine monsters who are as massive as they are unintelligent, and the Koh Liir, often referred to as the “bird hive”, for their strong attachments to their home and their numerous kin. The former draws their magical power from the earth itself, though how they harness this power is as of yet unknown, while the latter draw their power from the air, and have the unique ability to permanently affect the environment with their magic touch. One can see evidence of Koh Liiran magic in the floating cities of Calitha, which were old military outposts from their brief foray onto Torreth later in the First Era. Though records have shown only one human has ever ventured onto the shores of Ithalin, secondhand evidence claims that these two races have been at war with each other for millennia.

For obvious reasons, we are far more knowledgeable about the events on our own continent, Torreth. There were humans, (referred to as the Fide Torru in Al’Tari scripts), and the Al’Tari. Humans, it is known, draw power from the stars, and the seven Archons in particular. The Al’Tari draw their own power from the moon, and older records have indicated that they could use that power to create spirits that fight for them. In Al’Tari culture it is believed that these spirits originate in the realm of the moon (one of the three planes of being), but there is no evidence to support the existence of any such plane other than the seemingly sentient spirits themselves. As for the humans, they seemingly have no unique ability to manifest magic the way the other races can, excepting the fact that humans seem to be the most capable of harnessing magic at an individual level, whereas the other races often require several if not hundreds of members of their species in order to use their magic.

For unknown reasons, war broke out almost immediately once the Al’Tari and Fide Torru came into contact with one another. Records indicate that the Al’Tari managed to defeat the humans and crush all resistance in a manner of decades. They used an astronomical phenomenon called ‘The Weave’ to harness an unprecedented power, but little is known about this event or how the Al’Tari used it. After subjugating the entire human population, they used their power to curse the humans, locking their ability to harness magic and ensuring no resistance could be mounted against them. It remained like this for nearly two millennia, until Autlan was born. Even without the use of magic, he rallied the humans under one banner, and rebellions began across the continent. Through strategical mastery and unprecedented leadership capabilities, he overthrew the Al’Tarin Kingdoms, and the birth of the Autlan Empire is chronicled in Preserver calendars as the birth of the ‘Second Era’.

Life — Nacre Then’s Beginnings and Summer Plans

I have returned! With the conclusion of the spring semester, and the onset of summer fast approaching, I have some super exciting news. For today, I have two big things to share, and my blog’s weekly schedule will resume this Monday, starting off with a May update. Fun stuff.

First things first, I’ve self published my first book. It’s a short story anthology titled Nacre Then’s Beginnings. You can find it on Amazon for $7.99! “Why did this happen so suddenly when I’ve been working on other projects?” you may ask. Well, I was going through the writers group edits for my stuff, incorporating changes and setting aside copies that had no notes on them. I don’t go through this process often, mind you. This was several hundred sheets of paper I was going through looking for notes, and some stories were given to my group several months ago. By the time I went through everything, I had lots of copies that were left blank, and it seemed a shame to throw them away.

I made a post on Facebook about it, asking if anyone wanted some hard copies of my stuff. I was met with way more requests than I had anticipated, so it got me thinking. A lot of the people that wanted to read my things don’t use the computer very often, or simply wouldn’t know where to look if they did want to read my work. I thought it would be a great idea to make an easy way to access my work physically, and this meant self-publishing.

Putting this all together wasn’t really a big task. In fact I decided to put a lot of my older works into this anthology in case I decide to make this a more regular thing. After throwing in a preface, some author notes, and cleaning up the stories a bit, I went to CreateSpace, an online formatting service, and got it officially published for free. Easy peasy. I won’t get into how long it actually took, though. Start to finish, formatting the manuscript and making small edits took me almost ten hours of work. I partially blame the free service for that, but I can’t complain about free things.

My plans for this book are pretty simple. This isn’t my “debut” novel. A lot of it contains very dated and non-canon works. As a result, I’m not advertising it (much). I’m just going to inform friends and family (and interested parties) that it exists, and anyone that’s interested will be satisfied. As for future publications, that’s probably a long way’s off. I do want my first real work to be a novel, after all, and I haven’t even written anything suitable just yet. Maybe someday sooner than later, though.

 

In other news, I had plans to move to San Fransisco for the summer. I thought I had a job opportunity over there, and I thought it would be cool to get out of the house for a while. I planned on getting some quality reading and writing in, being away from my computer and video games, so while I would have had a full time job, my intent was that my free time would be spent much more productively.

But as it turns out, the job I thought I was applicable for wasn’t. So if you’re one of the people who I told this to, it turns out I’m staying. I’m not upset about it. Technically, it lends itself to the possibility of me being more productive, since I’ll have all day to work on reading and writing more. In practice though, we’ll see how that turns out.

I’ll outline my plans for this summer more thoroughly Monday, when I give my May update. I’ll give you a hint, though: I’ve got a cool idea for a book that involves a board game and gods.

Story — This is Ketha

You there! Yes, you! What, you think I’m talking to these vagabonds? No, just look at the way they’re dressed! You’re obviously not from around here, judging by the, well, everything about you. Care for a song? I’ll only charge three taps.

What, haven’t you got any money? You weren’t robbed once you got off the boat, were you? I’d imagine somebody would have warned you about that. Well, you don’t have to stare so blankly at me. I’m a bard, not a servant. You think I’m carrying this lyre around to floss? Now, run along, and mind your shoes. The truly desperate will wrestle them off you if you aren’t wary.

Well? What are you staring at me for? I can’t help you if you haven’t got any money. If I didn’t charge per song I’d be out of business within a week. No, I don’t get a lot of business around these parts, as you’d imagine. Mostly your sort: travelers that can actually afford the leisure. Speaking of, were there others on the boat you came on? Perhaps a song could attract some attention. Just don’t tell anyone you got this one for free, got it?


 

A man may see here beggars

Strewn all about the street

But I, no– I see treasure

Who have no coin to eat

It wasn’t always like this

This conclave of the poor

But often luck can run amiss

And it’s gone dry along this shore

But this is no song of poverty

This land to one attunes

This is an Archon’s property:

The Spirit of the Dunes

 


That shadow there, up in the sky

It leaves the wind in short supply

That half-dome shelters everyone

And under it, there is no sun!

Outside the cities there is sand

And in that sand you’ll find no man

The cities are your safest bet

The beggars here, they are no threat

This, oh guest, is Ketha

The land of burning gold


 

There’s magic here, yes that is true

But Kethan’s cannot craft anew

They need fire, water, earth, and such

Without these things, they can’t do much!

But with those tools they should be feared

One candle flame and a field is cleared

The Archon, Keht, he could do more!

Entire kingdoms he did floor!

This, good sir, is Ketha

The land of strength untold

 


You may wonder, why not leave?

What could we possibly receive?

But to us, this is our home

If not this place, where would we roam?

The lucky few can flourish here

Otherwise cities would disappear

Struggle breeds greatness, as they say

So we’re all strong in our own way

This, dear friend, is Ketha

The land where dreams unfold


We’re not all beggars, not all thieves

Is a man not anything he believes?

Nobody is a giver here

There isn’t even a river near!

We’re not all thieves, but I sure am

This humble song is just a scam

I’ve got your purse–you are too kind!

Maybe next time you won’t be so blind

This, poor fool, is Ketha

The land where lies are told

Story — Day of Reckoning

Tread lightly. Do not give them reason to fear you before you are ready. This makes the task much more difficult.

Cyntheras passed through the halls with a nonchalant grace. Unlike the rest of her kind, she wore no thin, wispy robes that trailed behind her. Her clothes were far more form fitting and utilitarian. She was Darkkind, and yet was something else entirely. She held no whimsical pact between her kind and the people of Vasrand. No, she was a tool to be used. And her day had come.

The corridor of polished stone echoed with the sound of hushed voices and hurried footsteps. Hallowed ground. A place of peace where anyone could seek refuge without discrimination or malicious intent. It was also a place of politics, where the two sects of Vasrand met to discuss their differences. Darkkind rarely visited.

As she walked down the aisle, people slowed and evaded her, giving the Darkkind a wide berth. Her identity was easily perceived, of course. Veins of dark purple ran up and down her unusually gray skin like lightning. A consequence of the Skyshard’s corruption that nobody else dared contract, even for all the power it bestowed. People would only approach under a Darkkind’s direct command, and even then it took sheer courage.

The only exceptions were the thralls. The bodies of the dead upraised to follow their master’s bidding. Cyntheras sneered as a few of them passed right by her, unconcerned for their own personal safety as they stepped within arm’s reach of the Darkkind. Her rage overwhelmed her for a moment, and she grabbed one by its head just as it got close enough. “You use the Hallowed Source,” she hissed. “Perhaps you could use some more?” Pouring the Skyshard’s energy into the thrall, it started to glow purple, a dull haze emanating from each orifice until the upright corpse exploded from the raw power.

Focus. You have a task to complete. Letting your anger get the best of you impedes our goal.

She exhaled slowly to calm down. She would find release soon. Patience.

After another minute she found herself at the end of the great hallway. Two huge doors barred her way from inside the main meeting house. Debating over what should be done about the growing threat of non-human magic use. This wasn’t a concern for the Darkkind, of course. Interruptions weren’t allowed while a meeting was in session, but petty rules such as this were beneath her.

She pushed the doors open, deliberately using her hands rather than using the Skyshard’s power to push them. Don’t make them afraid.

The room was shaped like an amphitheater, with rows of desks and chairs descending as they all faced a singular podium. The room was filled to about half capacity, meaning nearly eighty council members were present today. The meeting halted abruptly at her entrance, the man speaking at a podium stopping mid-word as soon as he recognized the intruder. “L-Lady Darkkind!” he stammered. “To what do we owe this pleasure?” No doubt these men were surprised to see her. They didn’t often deign to trifle in politics.

Cyntheras didn’t reply. Instead, she closed the doors behind her. All eyes were on her. She reveled in the growing apprehension. She extended her palms to the handles, and ethereal chains curled out from her hands and twisted their way around them, interlocking and weaving around the bars, firmly locking the two doors in place.

The mood of the room darkened. She barely stifled a grin as she watched the concern grow heavy in their faces. Savor this day, but don’t let it get in the way of the plans.

“Their fates are sealed,” she whispered in reply. “The reckoning is come.”

“Lady Darkkind?” the speaker at the podium asked. “I’m afraid I must ask your purpose here. We were in the middle of discussing important matters.”

She paced into the room, descending the long steps of the center aisle. The men in each row stiffened as she walked past them, relaxing slightly as she continued down.

There was a hushed whisper from behind her, and Cyntheras spun immediately to address the transgressor. As soon as the two made eye contact, his terror redoubled.

“Words spoken among a vessel of the Skyshard must be addressed to the vessel,” Cyntheras seethed. “Surely you are aware of this.” She took one stride back up the stairwell.

Panic visibly coursed through the man as he watched her approach him. “I merely joked that you could save us from this boring meeting!” he pleaded, giving a nervous chuckle to ease the tension.

“Lying in the presence of a vessel,” she chided. “That makes two sins.” An extended finger trailed along the wooden desk before him. In its path, purple cracks cascaded down its surface. She leaned in close to him, and he reflexively backed away, sweating profusely.

“Your punishment is death. And may you serve your god better Elsewhere.” She caressed his cheek with the back of her hand. Immediately, purple veins of lightning sprang from the point of contact. He screamed in agony as the corruption spread down his body. Relishing in his pain, Cyntheras placed a hand on his chest, feeling his heart beat faster and faster. Her hand clenched into a fist in bliss, digging her nails into his skin until finally, his heart erupted, and the man slumped from his chair. She released him, letting him fall to the floor. A relatively slow death for him, since he was so evil. Her sisters were getting lazy if one such as him was allowed to roam the streets.

Do not lose focus, vessel. Remember, you are a tool and nothing else.

Cyntheras nodded to herself, appreciating her handiwork one more time, before returning to the main stairway. A hint of a smile pervaded her countenance. She could all but taste the horror and fear in the room.

“You inquire upon my purpose, mortal,” she stated, loud enough for the entire meeting house to hear. “A sensible request.”

She let those words fester in their minds as she reached the center of the room to the man in the podium.

“Allow me to clarify the reason for my presence here.” She pulled a knife from one side, it’s blade gleamed purple and black. “We are all tools for the Skyshard, you see. Some are more… directly applied than others.” She pointed the dagger towards her victim. “And some are less useful than others.”

Cyntheras approached the man at the podium, gliding around the wooden fixture. Leaning in close, she planted her lips against his. Delicious shock and fear coursed through him. After a moment, pain joined the two. Still kissing him, she plunged the dagger into his back. There was nothing she took more pleasure in than to bask in another’s anguish. She twisted the blade, and soon he collapsed to the floor, dead.

“The Skyshard has deemed you all unworthy of service, you see,” she continued, wiping the blood off the dagger with her thumb. Pushing the body away with one foot, she stood behind the podium and addressed the rest of the council. “This is the day of reckoning. I encourage you all to fight back. I want this to take as long as possible.”