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rangifer’s diary: pt. cxii

A brief note on the eSpeak feature of this diary

If you’re reading this (unlikely), then you may have noticed some weird orange text in some of my diary entries:

Sample orange text that reads /hä.i.kɯ̟ᵝ/

The same sample, but with a mouse pointer hovered over it

You can even test it on this text right here.

If you’ve disabled JavaScript, or aren’t reading this on my website, or whatever, then these will just be ordinary anchors (hyperlinks) to audio files. With the fancy stuff, you can just click on it, or press with it selected, & the audio should ✨magically✨ play (after taking some time to download it, most likely). Either way, they’re all just hyperlinks to plain ol’ audio files.

Occasionally, I’ll be using this feature for cheeky li’l gags. But the large majority of the time, these files contain audio generated by eSpeak NG, which is a free-software speech synthesiser primarily used for TTS purposes. The basic idea is to provide audible pronunciations (“The Pronunciations You Can Hear!”®) of snippets of my diary that would otherwise just be text, whether it be because that text is in a non-English language, or because that text is actually a transcription in the IPA, or because English is just fucking confusing[1].

Although I really believe this to be a huge improvement, there are limitations. Oh, so many limitations. And I feel the need to at least inform you, my dear reader, about the pitfalls of such linguistic hubris, lest ye naïvely listen to the audio & believe what ye hear.

The prices we pay for the sins we commit against natural language

If you’re a linguist or have linguistic training, that’s great. I probably don’t need to warn you about anything. So I’m going to assume that the reader has no linguistic training whatsoever.

The ears listen, but the brain hears

ℹ️ I had a deermentia moment. I forgor to put this section in the original version of this essay… Pls 4give me…

In listening to eSpeak’s audio, you likely aren’t hearing what it’s trying to tell you. This is due to the simple fact that it’s usually difficult (or impossible…) to hear distinctions made in other peoples’ speech that you don’t already make in your own.

For example, consider Arabic languages, which generally make a distinction between the two consonants transcribed as /⁠k⁠/ and /⁠q⁠/. The English speaker likely hears these as /⁠k⁠/ and /⁠k⁠/ respectively, but they’re actually two entirely separate consonants. Worse yet, the Arabophone can make further distinctions based on something called gemination (see the “Say it with me” section below), where the consonant can be “≈twice as long”. This yields the four-way distinction /⁠k⁠/ vs. /⁠kː⁠/ vs. /⁠q⁠/ vs. /⁠qː⁠/. This is, naturally, likely to be lost on the ears of an untrained listener.

But the Arabic languages are unrelated to English! That’s cheating — of course Anglophones don’t understand! But my dear reader, English speakers don’t even understand the phonology of other English speakers. For example, if you learnt English in North America (including the Caribbean), or in certain regions of England & Ireland (it’s complicated), then you don’t have a distinct LOT[7] vowel! But eSpeak, much like many English speakers, has no trouble making the distinction:

For those who make the distinction, none of these rhyme. If you learnt English in one of the aforementioned regions, then tom probably rhymes with palm[8]. If you’re quite special, then all three of these[8] rhyme for you! ✨Wow!✨

eSpeak doesn’t even know that this sound exists

eSpeak’s notion of what sounds there are to speak — which I’m going to call segments — is tied to the language specified by the user. For example, when the language is English, eSpeak recognises the segment [[I]][2] (the /⁠ɪ⁠/ in kit /⁠kɪt⁠/), but when the language is something else, it may not recognise [[I]] whatsoever, or worse, may assign to it a very different phoneme[3]. This makes sense insofar as every language has its own unique phonemic inventory, which is usually wildly different from the inventories of other languages — especially when those languages aren’t closely related to it.

Unfortunately, eSpeak’s idea of the segmental inventory of a language isn’t always superb, & this is more evident in some languages than in others… Worse, eSpeak only knows of so many languages, & it’s not uncommon that I have text in a language that eSpeak has never heard of! What the hecc!!

Worse yet, the issue isn’t always one of segments. So-called suprasegmentals include things like stress (think of the difference between suspect & suspect), tone, & even pitch accent. eSpeak sometimes doesn’t have the necessary support for suprasegmentals (e.g. not having pitch accent for a pitch-accent language like e.g. Japanese). And sometimes, eSpeak forces the use of stress on languages that do not have this kind of syllable-level stress (e.g. French), or on particular words that don’t have this kind of stress.


The English-speaking origins of eSpeak are evident not just from the history of its development, but also from the program itself. For example, it uses Kirshenbaum for some reason.[2] More importantly, eSpeak’s phonetics are often influenced by an English understanding, even when those phonetics are of a language not closely related to English. Consequently, for example, asking eSpeak to read text with a language of “Japanese” does not result in the sound of a Japanese robot speaking. Instead, it results in the sound of an English robot doing its best impression of a Japanese robot speaking. Ow? My ears?

And of course, the further a language is from being as widely-spoken as English or Standard Mandarin, the less well-developed its support in eSpeak will likely be.

Nice try, eSpeak

Sometimes, eSpeak has a good idea of a particular phoneme’s[3] existence — which is great — but the way that it actually sounds is consistently goofy.

For example, Arabic languages have a phoneme written as ⟨ع⟩ & usually transcribed as /⁠ʕ⁠/ (“voiced pharyngeal fricative”). This is a common sound in Arabic, so obviously eSpeak supports it. But it sounds wild. eSpeak seems to think that glottal stops (transcribed /⁠ʔ⁠/, e.g. the middle of uh-oh!) are basically just short pauses, so their effect on surrounding segments is inaudible, & thus glottal stops are frequently less than audible. I’ve also found that pretty much any Vietnamese text sounds wonky in eSpeak, & I’m unsure why. Sad. And so on…


This brings me to the subject of phones. Phones are sorta like phonemes[3], but less abstract. Speakers don’t always make hard distinctions between two different phones — this is called allophony. But if you want to make speech sound convincing, you sometimes have to use certain phones in certain situations rather than others. For example, in many (but not all) dialects of English, the “t” & “d” sounds can become [ɾ] in certain circumstances, e.g. latter & ladder can sound very similar (or even become homophones).

Thus, each phoneme has one or more possible phones that are like possible “forms” that the phoneme can take on. In the simplest case, a phoneme really only has just one phone. But even this simplest case is sometimes too much for poor eSpeak!

Take, for example, the name of my darksterity knight rusa. The actual origin of this name is Malay, but looking just at the spelling alone, it really could be a word in very nearly any language that uses a Latin writing system. The result is that, in my head, I like to think that it’s something like [ˈʁuzə]. The good news is that there are languages out there with phones that are reasonably close to these four [ʁ, u, z, ə], e.g. certain dialects of French. So I can just set eSpeak’s language to “French” & call it a day?

Not so fast. As it turns out, a phone that’s pretty dang close to [ʁ] just… doesn’t exist in eSpeak. Not in any of its languages, as far as I know. So this is actually not just a problem for my fake bullshit pronunciation of rusa, but also potentially a problem for any language that has a phone that’s well-described as [ʁ]! 🥲

I ended up trying to approximate [ʁ] with Arabic /⁠ɣ⁠/ or something, gave up, & posted it into my diary anyway. Great.

Dead languages

Some languages are dead, but it can still be useful to give an indication as to the pronunciation of their texts.

In some cases, like Latin, we have a pretty crisp idea of how it was pronounced in a given time period, & eSpeak supports the language. In other cases, eSpeak won’t support the language, & I just have to hope that I can cobble something together that approximates what I really want eSpeak to do.

In the latter cases, the situation is even worse if our knowledge of the pronunciation is not that good. This is especially the case the more ancient the language is, & the more that its writing system falls short of being perfectly phonetic.


The “correct” (meaning both idiomatic & intended) realisation of a given text varies:

Wow, this sounds like rubbish

You might have noticed how eSpeak, even on a good day, kinda sounds like a robot choking down an empty tin can. That’s just how it is: robots sound like robots.[4] Human speech production is just immensely complicated! And eSpeak essentially attempts to synthesise that speech directly, by modelling the acoustic phenomena (viz. formants) generated by abstract human speakers.

This formant synthesis method may or may not sound like a dumb idea, & it certainly tends to produce highly robotic-sounding voices in eSpeak’s case, but it’s actually pretty neato in a lot of ways:

…But also it sounds like a robot screaming into a kazoo.

One quirk unique to eSpeak in particular is that the screaming robot is always male. Now, I wouldn’t even bother pointing this out, if it weren’t for the fact that the output of espeak-ng --voices has an Age/Gender column… where the value in that column is always --/M. 🥲

Audio is not a substitute for a transcription (& vice versa)

This is the spirit of what I want you to understand: audio is not a substitute for a transcription — & vice versa.

I started making use of the IPA in my diary entries a while back, because there were situations where pronunciations & phonologies were important to the subject matter. It then took me a very long time to adopt something like this “eSpeak feature”, because it’s simply not an obvious fit. It took lots of tinkering, many compromises, & a “better than nothing” attitude, to get to this point.

It’s perhaps intuitively obvious that a textual transcription can’t carry all the nuances of actual human speech made by messy humans with their physical fleshy-flesh.

On the other hand, understanding IPA transcriptions requires many layers of linguistic knowledge, & I don’t generally expect my readers to have basically any of those layers. However, the implication of this is that those same transcriptions have, embedded within them (both explicitly & implicitly), many layers of information & nuanced understanding. If hearing a pronunciation — whether by a native speaker, or by a robot gargling lumpy mouthwash — somehow bestowed upon the listener this kind of understanding, then everyone would be a linguist[5].

Footnotes for “A brief note on the eSpeak feature of this diary”

  1. [↑] You don’t know how much I’ve learnt about English phonology solely as a result of writing this diary, & you don’t want to know. Trust me. 😔
  2. [↑] Inside the double square brackets ([[]]), eSpeak uses Kirshenbaum instead of just using X-SAMPA or something. I don’t know why, & my brain is now irreversibly poisoned as a result of getting used to it.
  3. [↑] A phoneme is an abstraction of a segment (speech sound), defined by whether it’s consistently distinguishable from other phonemes in the same lect. For example, the ⟨i⟩ in bit & the ⟨ea⟩ in beat are — in spite of their similarities — considered different vowel phonemes in English, because most English speakers agree that bit & beat aren’t homophones. This is called a minimal pair.
  4. [↑] Hey — I’m not complaining. These days, we have robots that sound suspiciously like humans sometimes, & cresting yon side of the uncanny valley is pretty creepy if you ask me.
  5. [↑] Or, a phonetician, rather. You know what I mean.
  6. [↑] You should know that the notion of lect is very abstract & collectively includes things that we commonly refer to as “language groups”, “languages”, “dialects”, “registers”, “styles”, “vernaculars”, etc.
  7. [↑] Usually transcribed as /⁠ɒ⁠/ in the Northern Hemisphere. This is the same as the CLOTH vowel (thus also typically /⁠ɒ⁠/) in most — but not all — dialects that have a more-than-two-way distinction between low-back vowels.
  8. [↑] I’m ignoring the fact that some American English speakers have an /⁠l⁠/ in this word. If palm has an /⁠l⁠/ for you, then consider haram instead.

scroll_strategist finally gets lots of much-needed love

A while back (long time ago; far, far away; etc.), I put together scroll_strategist, a program capable of generating provably-mathematically-optimal MapleStory-scrolling strategies.

scroll_strategist itself is a library, & its only frontend is scroll_strategist_cli, where the ⟨cli⟩ stands for “command-line interface”. So unless you compiled the CLI yourself, you’ve probably never used it. Still, it has been usable for a while now, but I was never satisfied with it having only a single optimisation mode. So I added a new one.

It took a lot of thinking about it (a lot 😔), a lot of writing computer code that wasn’t very good & then making it better many times over, & a lot of rewriting the READMEs for both scroll_strategist & scroll_strategist_cli, but I basically did it. I’m proud to announce that with both of scroll_strategist’s optimisation modes combined, it’s now a very valuable program to help you with your scrolling!

If you want to know more, then you should read the READMEs: scroll_strategist’s, & scroll_strategist_cli’s. But here, I want to do the “executive summary” version, which doesn’t assume that you know what “dynamic programming” is, nor that you know what a “mathematic”(???) is, nor that you know what a “““computer code””” is. The computers speak in strange tongues, & I don’t wish the ability to speak those tongues upon even my worst enemies.

So here’s the deal: I’m going to explain the basic intuition behind what scroll_strategist does, then I’m going to give a few tips about how to use it, & then I’m going to ask a very particular nerd question about the details of what scroll_strategist does.

What does scroll_strategist even do?: The executive summary version

scroll_strategist is a horticulturist

When we scroll an item, there are many forks in the road. At some of the forks, we make a choice: what scroll should I use next? At other forks, the choice is made by the fickle finger of Tyche [Τύχη] herself: which random outcome of the scroll-use actually occurs?

Because we’re often scrolling many slots on an item — sometimes even as many as ten — these forks that keep forking themselves over & over make quite a large & tangled tree. With just a little bit of ✨magic✨, scroll_strategist takes absolutely every possible fork in the road. As a result, it sees every possible outcome of every possible scrolling strategy, & knows exactly how to get there.

Because scroll_strategist knows how to get to each outcome, it knows precisely how likely that outcome is: if the path to get there involved a lot of unlikely things, like passing 30% scrolls, or failing 70% scrolls, or what have you, then that individual outcome isn’t all that likely. It also knows what was spent to get there: it knows exactly what scrolls were used along the way. This information can then be used to work backwards: if two outcomes look similar or identical, but one of them is at the end of a less savoury path — because that path is unlikely, or costs many mesos, or some combination of both — then the less savoury one can be eliminated, or pruned.

Importantly, these prunings can only occur at the forks where we make a choice. The fickle finger of Tyche simply isn’t within our control. Nonetheless, once the prunings are completed, we have a much smaller tree of forking paths than the one that we started with, because each fork in the road where we could make a choice is no longer a fork: we now have a unique strategy that tells us exactly what to do there.

Value judgement

Perhaps you can now see why scroll_strategist produces “provably mathematically optimal” strategies: it knows about the entire tree of possibilities, which allows it to determine the optimal strategy at each juncture, as it walks all the way “back” to the beginning (where we haven’t started scrolling yet). There’s just one problem: how do we decide what makes one path “better” than another?

As it turns out, the answer to this question is a lot more complicated than you think. scroll_strategist makes at least one crucial simplification: it assumes that you (the scroller) have a concrete goal in mind, such that the goal can either be met, or not met. There is no “in between”. This goal is expressed in terms of the item’s stats: if every one of the item’s final stats is at least as large as the corresponding goal for that stat, then the goal is met; if one or more of the stats fails to meet its goal, then the goal is not met.

With this simplification, the original version of scroll_strategist had just one “optimisation mode”: maximise the probability of reaching the goal. Then, it only cared about costs if necessary to break a tie. This mode is called SucProb, or suc-prob. By combining the probability information with the cost information, the new mode instead minimises the average cost spent to reach the goal once. This mode is called SucExpCost, or suc-exp-cost.

Using scroll_strategist

Both optimisation modes are well-defined & fairly simply defined. They also correspond to things that we really do frequently want to optimise for. However, these definitions are simple because they are simplifications for the purpose of mathematical optimisation. If you get a strategy from scroll_strategist that you don’t like, it’s probably because you’re actually — whether you explicitly acknowledge it or not — asking scroll_strategist for something other than what you really want in your heart of hearts.

Many, if not most, realistic scrolling situations have characteristics lying somewhere in between the assumptions made by SucProb & SucExpCost. It’s often a good idea to at least consult both optimisation modes, unless you’re absolutely certain that one mode is preferred over the other. The assumptions made by each mode can be couched in ordinary intuition:

You have only one (1), or simply very few, of this equipment item. You cannot afford to fuck up this one equipment item, & are thus willing to spend a bit extra on scrolls if it means that this particular scrolling attempt doesn’t fail to meet your goal.
You have a virtually unlimited number of equipment items similar to this one, so if this attempt fails, you can always (always!) just try again. You’re thus willing to accept strategies that are unlikely to succeed, as long as those strategies are inexpensive enough to make up for it.

Because SucExpCost is really all about cost, you should take note of the initial value given (by scroll_strategist_cli) for “Expected total cost per success”. If the “Expected further cost per success” ever exceeds that value, then you should probably give up & start over, if possible! scroll_strategist_cli will warn you about this by putting “(!)” next to the “Expected further cost per success” value.

Let’s take a brief look at two concrete examples that showcase the strengths & pitfalls of these modes.

Example 1: AVOID weapon

I needed to scroll a weapon for AVOID. The natural choice in MapleLegends is the Christmas Tree, a level 10 dagger with no job requirements that can come with 9, 10, or 11 AVOID clean. Being a dagger, it can also be scrolled for AVOID, because dagger scrolls (excepting 100%s) grant LUK. The input to scroll_strategist_cli looks like this:

  "stats": [22],
  "slots": 7,
  "scrolls": [
    { "percent": 10, "dark": false, "cost":   25000, "stats": [3] },
    { "percent": 30, "dark": true,  "cost": 2000000, "stats": [3] },
    { "percent": 60, "dark": false, "cost":   20000, "stats": [1] },
    { "percent": 70, "dark": true,  "cost":   50000, "stats": [1] }
  "goal": [31]

This one is 11 AVOID clean, which is why it has 7 slots, & why its stats vector is [22]. Each point of LUK is worth 0.5 AVOID to me, so it’s easiest to consider the stats in terms of virtual points of “LUK”, where 1 AVOID is worth 2 LUK. The costs are expressed in terms of typical market prices in mesos at the time.

I don’t specify the upfront cost, so it’s zero by default. This will turn out to be a problem, but upfront cost is difficult to estimate here: Christmas Trees are, in reality, a limited resource, but at the same time, each individual one isn’t “worth” much at all, because it’s a dinky level 10 weapon that noöne (aside from me, apparently) cares about.

If I try to minimise the expected cost to reach my goal by specifying the SucExpCost mode, then scroll_strategist_cli’s initial output looks like this:

Probability of success: 2.879%
Expected cost: 328_219.7
Expected cost per success: 11_400_722.5
Next scroll to use: 70%

Not gonna lie, 2.879% ain’t great! That means it takes 34〜35 attempts on average, which is very many Christmas Trees! And perfect clean ones, at that!!

But it gets worse: we can actually refine SucExpCost’s ability to optimise, by allowing it to use a so-called “null scroll” that has a 100% probability of success, is not dark, costs nothing, & grants no stats upon success. scroll_strategist_cli makes it easy to add this scroll by just passing the -z/--null-scroll option to it. The point of a null scroll is to allow the optimiser to stop scrolling when it has already reached the goal, thus lowering costs even further. With this newfound power, SucExpCost finds an even more optimal solution:

Probability of success: 2.871%
Expected cost: 114_703.8
Expected cost per success: 3_995_618.9
Next scroll to use: 10%

Notice how the expected cost per success (i.e. the thing that we’re optimising for) goes from ≈11.4M mesos to just ≈4.0M. That’s like ≈2.9 times better! However, the probability of success has suffered (albeit not by much in this particular case), & now scroll_strategist wants me to start with a 10% scroll for some reason? Ouf.

In the end, I just used SucProb…

Example 2: Estimating market prices

Example 1 might have made SucExpCost look not so great. But it actually is great! You just gotta know how to use it.

One good example that I ran into recently was estimating the market price of my Stolen Fence that I don’t use anymore. It has 15 WATK, 8 STR, & 0 slots. Normally, I know roughly fuck all about what anything is worth on the market. But with SucExpCost, all I had to do was input some scroll prices that I plucked from OwlRepo, & scroll_strategist was able to nigh instantly tell me how many mesos it takes, on average, to produce a Stolen Fence like mine. That’s crazy useful!!

How large is the tree?

ℹ️ Not a nerd? Go ahead & skip this section. It’s okay. I won’t tell anyone.

In the “scroll_strategist is a horticulturist” section above, I explained how the forking paths of scrolling possibilities make a large tree of many branches. But how large?

We’ll let our set of scrolls have cardinality 𝑠, & the 𝑖th scroll in the set have 𝑜𝑖 possible outcomes. We’ll also say that, out of the 𝑠 scrolls in the input set, 𝑑 of them are dark, where 0𝑑𝑠. Assuming that every dark scroll usage has exactly three possible outcomes (viz. pass, miss, or boom), we can construct the tree as follows.

We start with a graph that has one vertex & zero edges. The vertex represents the starting state, i.e. the equipment item before we begin to scroll it. We then branch 𝑠-fold to represent scroll choice; the graph now has 1+𝑠 vertices & 𝑠 edges. We’ll see that each new generation adds exactly as many edges to the graph as it does vertices, because each vertex in the new generation connects to exactly one vertex of the previous generation (this is a tree, after all); thus, we can just keep track of how many vertices there are, knowing that the number of edges is just one fewer.

From this second generation of 𝑠 vertices, we branch 𝑜𝑖-fold to represent scroll outcomes; the graph now has

1 + 𝑠 + 𝑖 = 1 𝑠 𝑜 𝑖

vertices. To make things easier, we can define:

𝑂 𝑖 = 1 𝑠 𝑜 𝑖 .

Now that we’ve three generations, we can see that the latter two of the three generations represents exactly one (1) scrolling event, meaning that we picked a scroll, used that scroll, & obtained whatever outcome it gave.

From this third generation of 𝑂 vertices, we want to once again branch 𝑠-fold to represent scroll choice, but we can’t quite do that. This is because some of the vertices in the third generation represent boomed items, which are leaf vertices that have no descendants. Because there are 𝑑 dark scrolls in the scroll set, & each one has exactly one boom outcome, the number of vertices in generation three that aren’t booms is 𝑂𝑑. Thus, with the addition of generation four, we now have 1+𝑠+𝑂+(𝑂𝑑)𝑠 vertices. Branching 𝑜𝑖-fold again to add a fifth generation, we then have 1+𝑠+𝑂+(𝑂𝑑)𝑠+(𝑂𝑑)𝑂 vertices. This concludes the second scrolling event.

Generation six itself (i.e. not the entire graph) then has ( 𝑂 𝑑 ) ( 𝑂 𝑑 ) 𝑠 = ( 𝑂 𝑑 ) 2 𝑠 vertices. Generation seven itself has ( 𝑂 𝑑 ) 2 𝑂 vertices. This concludes the third scrolling event.

Now it’s fairly clear where this is going. Because each scrolling event is split into a pair of two generations of different types, the formula for how many vertices there are in the 𝑛th generation depends on the parity of 𝑛:

𝑔 ( 𝑛 ) = { 𝑠 ( 𝑂 𝑑 ) 𝑛 2 2 , if 𝑛 is even ; 𝑂 ( 𝑂 𝑑 ) 𝑛 3 2 , if 𝑛 is odd .

The above formula works for any value of 𝑛 except 1, so we need the special case 𝑔 ( 1 ) = 1 .

But we want to know the total number of vertices in the entire graph, after zero or more scrolling events. Thus, we basically end up with two partial geometric series that need to be summed, & then we can add those two sums together to get the final result. By using the closed-form formula for summing the first elements of a geometric series, for the even generations we get:

𝑔 ( 2 ) + 𝑔 ( 4 ) + + 𝑔 ( 2 𝑛 ) = 𝑠 ( 𝑂 𝑑 ) 0 + 𝑠 ( 𝑂 𝑑 ) 1 + + 𝑠 ( 𝑂 𝑑 ) 𝑛 1 = 𝑠 1 ( 𝑂 𝑑 ) 𝑛 1 𝑂 + 𝑑 .

And for the odd generations…:

𝑔 ( 3 ) + 𝑔 ( 5 ) + + 𝑔 ( 2 𝑛 + 1 ) = 𝑂 ( 𝑂 𝑑 ) 0 + 𝑂 ( 𝑂 𝑑 ) 1 + + 𝑂 ( 𝑂 𝑑 ) 𝑛 1 = 𝑂 1 ( 𝑂 𝑑 ) 𝑛 1 𝑂 + 𝑑 .

As it turns out, the number of edges in the graph being one less than the number of vertices actually makes the edges easier to count, so here’s a formula for the total number of edges:

( 𝑠 + 𝑂 ) 1 ( 𝑂 𝑑 ) 𝑛 1 𝑂 + 𝑑

Actual numbers

As expected, this is exponential in the number of scrolling events — that is, in the number of slots that we start with. That is to say: it’s a very big tree. But what does a realistic concrete example look like?

Let’s consider a “realistic worst-case” (not actually worst-case) scenario. Ten slots. The scroll set will then have one 10% scroll, one 30% scroll, one 60% scroll, one 70% scroll, & one 100% scroll. The 100% scroll might be an actual 100% scroll, or it might be the null scroll. Sound reasonable? This means that we have 𝑛10, 𝑠5, 𝑂11, and 𝑑2. The number of edges in the full unpruned tree is then:

( 5 + 11 ) 1 ( 11 2 ) 10 1 11 + 2 = 6 973 568 800 .

That’s roughly seven billion, or ≈7×109. That is, notably, a bit larger than 232, meaning that we’d need more than a four-byte integer just to address the vertices alone, even if they ✨magically✨ took up no space!

So… yeah. That’s why scroll_strategist needs a little ✨magic✨ to actually work.

Future improvements

There’s theoretically the possibility of adding support for exotic scroll types like CS & WS. The problem with WS is perhaps obvious: it won’t always decrease the number of slots that the item has (or boom it), so there’s no guarantee of forward progress, & thus no guarantee of termination. But it seems to me that this can be solved by not treating them as individual scrolls, & instead treating e.g. “using a WS-&-10%” as actually spamming the WS-&-10% over & over until something besides a miss occurs (viz. boom or pass). CSes, on the other hand, are difficult just because of how many possible outcomes they have…

Apart from adding a new optimisation mode, & few features to the CLI, I also did some program-optimisation work to make scroll_strategist a bit more efficient — especially when it comes to heap memory usage. Although this is obviously beneficial in general, I did it particularly with an eye towards giving scroll_strategist a webpage frontend! That way, people can actually use it‽

Don’t get your hopes up, because that’s kinda a lot of work. Like, too much work. But who knows? Maybe there are people out there who’re actually interested in using it…

The blood cleric

ℹ️ This is a historically-focused companion essay to the “Heal” essay of pt. cviii of this diary.

MapleStory has its own set of urban legends, myths, & the like. A folklore, if you will. Believe it or not, one such legend is — although not necessarily odd-jobbed — apparently(?) odd-job-adjacent: that of the blood cleric.

I’ve had multiple people independently bring this topic up to me over the years, as it seems that everyone who played pre-Big-Bang (pre-BB) MapleStory in its official retail incarnations was at least exposed to the notion. Yet, when we ask the basic question of “what is a blood cleric?”, noöne can seem to give a straight answer. What gives?

It looks like it’s time for some investigating.


ℹ️ The bulk of this essay focuses on establishing historical attestations of the blood cleric phenomenon. Skip ahead to the “What is the blood cleric?” section below if you’re uninterested.

Advanced Build:Blood Bishops.

Advanced Build:Blood Bishops. (henceforth “ABBB”) is a guide posted to the Asiasoft forums on 2008-02-01 by MapleSEA player StarryNights (IGN Mizmoonlight). It begins as follows:

Just want to share with my fellow friends, a not-so-new build for bishops.

This build has been around for quite some time already, priests adding hp so that they can survive the respective mobs themselves (among all other reasons)

However, most of them didnt really got pas[t level 120〜129], mostly because their [total MATK] is low, demotivated, blabla yadayada.

ABBB is very simple: it advises the reader to play as a pure INT mage up until level 135〜140, at which point the reader starts adding all AP from that point onward into MAXHP. There’s no funny business with saving AP, no washing — it’s just as simple as it sounds.

Being pure INT until such a late level, the blood bishop following ABBB will still end up reaching 30k MAXMP, & will still have the TMA to train efficiently on Skeles[2] et al. with their Genesis. The extra MAXHP gained later on is then supposed to be used mostly for saving mesos:

  • survive 2 hits on mongs[3], at lv143〜145 W/O HB. (early!)
  • survive 3 bumps at skelegons(or 1bump+1magic), at lv 155~ W/hb. (mg off )
  • mgless tengu with dk’s (tengu is just like another guys can train like normal)
  • mgless papulatus/pianus ( you will have 4k+ base hp, dispel is nothing!)
  • perfect potless zakum (with 6.5k++hp, even bumping into the body isnt that fatal anymore)
  • mgless horntail? (its very possible, at the non-dispel part. since generally, your hp will be as much as a range class. if a range class can survive, then blood bishops can go mgless)

Some of these touted benefits are perhaps more questionable than others, but the basic idea of saving lots of pots is clear. There’s also the added survivability in the presence of dispels, especially when it comes to Horntail.

The Paths from Cleric, Priest, to Bishop

The Paths from Cleric, Priest, to Bishop (henceforth “The Paths”; a Brazilian Portuguese translation is available here (archived)) is a guide posted to the PlayPark[1] forums on 2007-04-26 (edited as late as 2008-02-19) by MapleSEA player Pearlite. As its name implies, this is a much larger, generalist guide to the bishop throughclass.

The Paths categorises AP builds into four groups: “normal” (just enough LUK to wear level-appropriate gear), pure INT, “blood priest”, & “blood bishop”.

The blood priest is mostly or entirely INT until level 70, at which point all AP starts to go into MAXHP, until an unspecified level when the player deems their character to have enough MAXHP, at which point AP starts going into INT (& possibly some into LUK) in perpetuity. The blood bishop is not explained by The Paths directly, as it instead simply cites ABBB.

The justification for the blood builds is similar to ABBB’s justifications, but The Paths makes it more clear why being able to take more hits without potting is so beneficial:

  • Better attack pattern at certain mobs after achieving certain amount of HP

    Although blood priests’ damage is lower, they can have a better attack pattern than normal priests at mobs like grims and monglong[3]. At certain stage when their HP is sufficient to survive 2 hits WITHOUT HB, they can cast shining ray twice then only heal themselves (do 2SR-1heal-2SR-1heal pattern), whereas normal priests can’t do that (only can do 1SR-2heal-1SR-1heal…, amount of heal depending on situation).

This implies that when grinding (at least at relatively hard-hitting monsters like e.g. Grims & Mongs[3]) under the assumption of minimal potion expenditure, the blood priest can actually do as much — or more — DPM as the ordinary priest.

Unlike ABBB, however, The Paths addresses a major component of the blood cleric legend (emphasis in the original):

  • Lower healing rate / HP recovery rate

    The amount of HP that you can heal depends strongly on your [MATK], NOT your HP. So, it’s not wise at all to create a blood priest with too little [MATK] as your healing rate will suffer and you might have a hard time healing your party mates.


The higher our heal level, the higher the amount of hp that we can recover. HP might affect the amount of hp healed, but the effect is very insignificant. The amount of HP healed strongly depends on your INT/[MATK]. There’s no point having so high HP but so little INT/[MATK] as the amount of HP that you can heal will suffer.

†There was someone from sleepywood forum training an abnormal cleric. The cleric only pumped 20 INT and the rest of the AP were added to HP, so he has a lot of hp but very low INT. His heal at lv 40 can only recover 100+ hp. He can’t even recover his own hp to full although his heal is maxed. Pathetic, isn’t it? [Link:]

I have personally tested the amount of hp healed with a DK. I’m a normal build priest. His hp was [12 000〜12 999] after HB (I forgot to note down the exact number. Sorry). My HP was 1668 (full hp) when I did the test (1668 because I off HB) and his hp after using 2× dragon roar was 4982. I could easily heal his HB-ed hp to full even though I was not HBed. Assuming his HB-ed hp was 12,000 (more than that actually), thus I healed at least 7018 hp. According to heal skill description, it seems that I can only recover 5004 hp (3×1668). From this little ‘experiment’, we can conclude that max heal does NOT mean that the amount of hp recovered equals to 3 × our own hp.

In fact, without testing this out, I can feel that I can recover much more than 3× my own hp as I can easily heal a HB-ed full party to their full hp with ONE cast of heal. This shows something, doesn’t it? INT is very important to have decent hp recovery rate.

If you insist that 300% recovery rate means 3 × HP and INT/[MATK] does not affect the amount of hp healed, this video can prove you wrong:


If you look closely, the video shows that the lv45 cleric has MAX heal but only 27[ MATK]. Notice how pathetic his healing capability is? He can’t even recover his own hp to full. He needs many heals to fill up his hp bar!

†The referenced comment/post is dated 2007-05-21, although it does not link to the Sleepywood thread that it’s reporting from. The Paths misquotes the comment as saying “100+ hp”, but the original actually says “less than 100 hp”.

Does HP — be that HP or MAXHP, of the cleric themself or of the beneficiary — affect how much Heal heals? After all, the skill description does say “Recovery rate 300%”. According to The Paths, the answer is “technically possibly maybe very little… but no, not really”.

Apart from the cryptic skill description, the real problem here is as stated in the “As weal” section of pt. cviii of this diary: the magnitude of Heal’s healing is determined solely by the server, thus making it totally opaque in the absence of server source code leaks. Nevertheless, known implementations do not take (MAX)HP into account, & we seem to have no good reasons to believe that any implementation ever has.

Still, myths can persist. The Sleepywood forum thread referenced here was likely motivated by this exact myth.

Cleric Guide

Cleric Guide (archived) is a guide posted to Hidden Street sometime prior to 2009-12-28 by IGN SunMage of the GMS Scania server, with authorship credits given to greenstriker (who is probably SunMage…?), BladeOracle, yespotatoes, & kevin y. The post that’s accessible now (including through archives) was reposted by a dummy account named guides; all of guides’s posts are dated somewhere between 2009-12-28 & 2009-12-29.

Cleric Guide is actually from 2007 at the latest, as it antedates the release of 4th job in GMS. The original version of the guide (before any updates to it were made) possibly antedated the release of 3rd job in GMS, given that the “Priest Guide” section begins with the text “Yay! This is newly added.” — this would place its earliest version sometime in 2005. However, I consider this somewhat unlikely; it’s more likely that the authors simply hadn’t got that far yet when the first version of the guide was posted. In any case, this last version of Cleric Guide has “As of now, Global MapleStory is in version .38” buried in the middle of the guide, putting at least one version of the guide somewhere between 2007-05-02 & 2007-06-12.

In any case, this guide goes on to describe the cleric’s arsenal:

Heal—a unique skill for clerics in which you heal a certain percentage of your hp, and the undead monsters in the area will also take damage. […] The higher the lvl of this skill, the more hp you heal of you and your party members. (300% heal rate=300% of YOUR HP, this applies for party members being healed by you) Heal damage is based on your intellegence. That 300% thing is 300% of your hp divides among the party.

Already we have a claim that, although Heal’s damage is based on “intellegence”, its healing amount is apparently based solely on the level of the skill & the cleric’s “HP” — although it’s unclear whether this means MAXHP or HP. This would appear to be pretty good evidence that, at least at some point in its pre-BB history, GMS had a Heal healing formula based on the cleric’s (MAX)HP. However, it’s difficult to take this seriously when the same guide makes other clear errors in its understanding of the game mechanics:

This guide makes reference to blood priests twice, both within the same context of training at Gobies (meaning Deep Sea Gorge II) & graduating therefrom:

One very important note: if you are not a blood priest, either get a DK to hb you all the time, or use MG.


Once a (non-blood) priest gets to [level 110〜129], they can probably begin soloing places like grims if they have maxed Dragon to help them out.

HealingGlory’s All-In-One Cleric Guide! :D

HealingGlory’s All-In-One Cleric Guide! :D is a guide posted to BasilMarket under the title MapleStory Guide: Clerics sometime prior to 2010-02 by BasilMarket user GodsWarning. Its author is IGN HealingGlory of GMS, who originally titled it HealingGlory’s Ultimate Big Guide On Clerics! :D. osukun, Skrato, peter90, Oogleberry, Banditb0ix, dfz, & Mufalopadus are given editorial credits.

HealingGlory (the PC) dates back to ca. 2006-02. The guide itself at least slightly antedates the introduction of 4th job into GMS, although one of its touted virtues is that its author continually keeps it updated.

All information WAS taken from my experience and my research during the time span of [2007-12-01] to [2008-01-01].

HealingGlory partitions cleric builds into “many” types apart from the elaborated standard build, listing “blood cleric”, “money cleric”, “damage disher”, “and many others”.

BLOOD CLERIC, A Cleric who puts points into HP for the sole purpose of successfully bossing


INSTEAD of adding on the INT and LUK, you add all AP on HP. (Of course, you start doing that AFTER you pump up 20 INT points to [1st-job] advance).

The skillbuild is the same as any other cleric but you don’t use the attacking skills.


  • Has a lot of HP


  • Can’t do much magic attack. Warriors are a good alternative to the Blood Cleric.

This guide also dedicates a section to MAXHP gear:

Why? Simple. Because it keeps you Alive. Yes, yes, go and scream, but in reality HP equips are NEEDED for survival in priests!

“Idea for ultimate Party Cleric…”

A thread by stewie_gryffin on the GameFAQs Message Boards, posted on 2008-03-11 with the title “Idea for ultimate Party Cleric…” (archived), begins like so:

Since Heal is based on the Cleric’s health, what about getting just enough int to wear gear, and pumping the rest of the AP into Health?

I know this sounds dumb, but it would maximize the amount of health recovered, and would give the Cleric/Priest/Bishop more survivability.

The first reply, by Mikalot, immediately contradicts:

HP affects it as much as int? Since when?

To which stewie_gryffin responds:

Well, it says “Recovery Rate ***%”, and I thought that was of own HP. Therefore, if you have 1000 HP, it heals 3000 at Level 30 Heal. So I figured, if you had 2k HP, it would heal 6k. I didn’t think that Int affected Heal?

This appears to be a simple misunderstanding, although Oscarbear007 chimes in with…:

Hp only effects [sic] heal on party members. Int helps its actual attacking power if I remember right.

…And is backed up by AjaxTheGreater. basakboy copy-&-pastes a snippet of The Paths. ManchineelTree chimes in:

I’m fairly certain that HP doesn’t affect healing rate. My HP is 1750 right now, and I can heal a DK with HB for 16k in one shot. I have no clue what the percentage in the skill description means, but the amount you heal is chiefly based on INT/[MATK], and slightly on LUK.

soundecho then ends the thread by copy-&-pasting the Heal formulæ from Nekonecat’s 2007-10-14 Sleepywood thread, which indicate that HP & MAXHP are not taken into account by Heal.

Other miscellaneous attestations

In chronological order:

What is the blood cleric?

Clearly, a blood cleric is a PC of the cleric throughclass who permanently adds some significant amount of their AP into MAXHP. However, we’ve seen various notions of what the actual details are. In approximately chronological order:

Not “what”, but why is the blood cleric?

We can boil down the justifications for blood clerics as follows:

  1. The cleric’s damage output is not valued in the way that other throughclasses’ damage outputs are. Many guides make distinctions between “solo” builds & “party” builds, and many guides discuss training locations in ways that centre around what kinds of physical attackers — the presumed primary damage-dealers — are in the cleric’s party.
  2. Saving mesos. By turning off Magic Guard & healing oneself with Heal, any MP expenditure is easily recovered by MP Eater, & potion consumption is effectively or exactly zero. Investing AP in MAXHP often allows for the “turning off Magic Guard” part, & allows for the less frequent use of Heal (thus making room for the use of e.g. Shining Ray).
  3. Survival — especially in bosses. Sometimes — e.g. when dispelled by a boss like Pianus (R) or Papulatus Clock — you don’t get a choice about your Magic Guard bring turned off. Moreover, even with the assistance of skills like Magic Guard & Invincible, there are almost always things out there that will smack you within an inch of your life — or directly into the grave. This is more true the lower level you are.
  4. Hoping that (MAX)HP affects the magnitude of Heal’s healing. Heal’s skill description is impressively misleading, even by MapleStory standards. Moreover, the server-sided implementation of Heal’s healing calculations is opaque to players.

When it comes to (2.) & (3.), we crucially must bear in mind the environment that the blood cleric exists within:

And when it comes to (4.), we have lots of good attestations, from GMS players & from MapleSEA players, stretching back to early 2007 & possibly even earlier, that firmly dispel the myths of Heal’s healing formulæ. I think that we can now safely declare, beyond any doubt that’s not purely baseless speculation, that the formulæ for Heal, in any version of any retail implementation of pre-BB MapleStory, have never observed HP — be that MAXHP and/or HP, of the cleric and/or of the beneficiary — in any way in the process of calculating the magnitude of Heal’s damage and/or healing. Still, if you’ve any Korean-language sources, I’d love to see them. 🙂

Footnotes for “The blood cleric”

  1. [↑] Asiasoft is now known as Asphere Innovations, & was/is MapleSEA’s publisher. PlayPark™ is a trade name (or similar) of Asiasoft.

  2. [↑] Meaning Skelegons & Skelosauruses at Nest of a Dead Dragon or The Dragon Nest Left Behind.

  3. [↑] GMS players & MapleSEA players seem to agree upon not using the English-localised name Dreamy Ghost, although MapleSEA players go for Mong rather than the GMS choice of Hime [(ひめ)].

    Mong is from apocope of KMS’s name for this monster: 몽롱귀신Mongnong-gwisin/⁠moŋ.ɾoŋ.kwi.sin⁠/ [-noŋ.gɥi-] “hazy ghost, vague ghost”. The use of 몽롱- here is somewhat uncommon; it’s Sino-Korean 朦朧 “faint, dim, obscure; vague; hazy”. is more typically a reading of “dream”. The similarly-named (dal)귀신 (there are no monsters with this name in KMS) refers to the vengeful ghost of a bachelor who died before being able to marry. 몽달 is probably Sino-Korean as well, but its actual etymology is unclear to me.

  4. [↑] See the “Is Zakum the tree, or the statue?” section below.

The spoils of wintertide

In the “Holiday spoils” section of the previous entry in this diary, I briefly mentioned some of the rewards available to us as part of MapleLegends’s 2023–2024 Ḥanukkah–Maplemas–Versalmas event. As explained in that section, I won’t be doing a painstaking enumeration of every reward that I got — apologies to any statistics nerds reading — but I will do a brief overview.

From the Snowman Boss PQ (see the “The abominable snowman” section of the previous entry), I ended up with some ≈35 or so MCP1s, netting me something like 35 ⋅ 2 ≈ 70⁢ pCoins.

That’s already very substantial indeed! But the same PQ also awarded Holiday Surprise Boxes of varying sizes, which meant that I ended up with dozens of scrolls: 60%s, 70%s, & 30%s galore. Selling these off (apart from the garbage WACC scrolls, & the not-that-useful ones that I decided to just hoard) in the Free Market provided a source of additional joocy mesors.

And then there are the raffos[1]. So, so many raffos. Many of these raffos were obtained from monster drops, or from ordinary year-round PQs. But most of them were from Snowman, of course. In total, across all of my characters, I turned in probably ≈250-ish raffles. My god, that was a lot of raffling.

The most significant raffle pulls were significant either because they gave yellow lines that were displayed to anyone lacking the taste to mute smegas, or because they were chairs. Chairs are, after all, what Maplers truly crave… The irony of course being that yellow lines are used to spam Maplers’ chatlogs even when the associated item is nearly worthless. Here are my “significant” pulls:

item ATK pulls
PGC 2 1
PuGC 7 1
PuAC 8 1
6 1
Cocoa Sheep Chair 8
Cactus on Ice Chair 4
Holiday Latte Chair 3

That’s four (4) yellow lines, of which only one (25%) was really worth anything. And even then, an 8 MATK clean PuAC is still only worth a handful of millions of mesos. On the other hand, that’s also 15 whole chairs! Let’s take a look at those chairs, shall we?

First up is the Holiday Latte Chair:

capreolina sitting in the Holiday Latte Chair

Yes, this chair does put you in a Rudolph costume, complete with antlers, a glowing red nose, hooves, & even a li’l tail. I’m already a deer, so it’s kinda redundant? But it’s still cool, I guess.

Then there’s the Cactus on Ice Chair:

tarandus sitting on the Cactus on Ice Chair

That is indeed a Jr. Cactus — baby cactus diaper & all — encased in a giant block of ice. What else is there to say?

And finally, the Cocoa Sheep Chair, which is the best one. What, you don’t believe me? All three chairs are animated, but in order to demonstrate the true beauty of the Cocoa Sheep Chair, I need to show it to you in all of its fully-animated glory:

alces sitting in the Cocoa Sheep Chair

Oh, my god. The sheep even wiggles their hind legs. It truly is the chair of infinite cosiness. Thank goodness this was the chair that I got eight of!

But those weren’t the only things that I got from the raffle. I also ended up with a lot of CSS1/CSS3s, Green Mittens, various USE items, & of course, socks. Lots… & lots… of sox.

tarandus sobbing amidst a pile of seven of her own green sox

The Greatest Reward Of All Time™

In the “Decorating the tree” section of the previous entry in this diary, I joined Lvl1Crook (Level1Crook, xXCrookXx), Taima (Yunchang, Tacgnol, Boymoder, Girlmoder), & LawdHeComin (AppleBasket, pleLeg, JunkyardBat, Snel) in tree decoration festivities for MapleLegends’s 2023–2024 Maplemas–Versalmas community event.

I may or may not have been really hoping that we’d place in that top three, so that I could get The Greatest Reward Of All Time™. And guess what? We focking did‽‽‽ F5555555555555555555555​555555555555555555555

Receiving The Greatest Reward Of All Time™ from GM Hampy

It’s a big chair? Made of a gorgeous ice sculpture? And you sit on a swing? And there’s a mfing glowing snow reindeer who chills on the ground next to you? Oh, and I guess we got, like, game cash & donor points & a special hair coupon. …But the chair, tho.

Bask in the full glory of chair

The Greatest Reward Of All Time™

…As I do every day now. 🩵

Footnotes for “The spoils of wintertide”

  1. [↑] See footnote #1 of the “Dee thirty-four are” section of pt. cx of this diary.


This episode of Viclocking With deer™ (“your only source of Vicloc news!”®) is very simple: APQ, APQ, & — you guessed it — even more APQing.

I figure, if I’m gonna be out there doing a bunch of APQing, then I’d better at least look ✨good✨ in front of all these APQ strangers. By pilfering various items from the Cash Shop, from this past event, & from the Hallowe’en event, I put together a neue look for my Vicloc dagger spearwoman d34r!:

d34r’s neue look! ✨

Red! What do you think? I like how the birbs sit on my lap when I sit down in a chair:

d34r’s neue look, sitting in the Poor Ribbon Pig Chair

Mostly, I did APQs with Taima (Boymoder, Tacgnol) on our various characters. When I accidentally ran out of characters after already joining an APQ party, I logged onto my Vicloc clericlet d33r, & got the chance to APQ with my Vicloc wife VigiI!!:

d33r APQing with VigiI & Taima (stage 3)

We might only log in twice a year, but Vicloc luv is 4ever. 💟

El retorno de La Tomatina

In the “The Maple World is under attack!” section of pt. cx of this diary, I chronicled my first experience with a «La Tomatina» event in MapleLegends. Well, for reasons unknown to me, we got another one of these events!

This time wasn’t quite so drawn out, & I didn’t have to abruptly leave after the first ≈20% of it to go run a HT that I’d already signed up for… But I still attended on my Vicloc dagger spearwoman d34r, who was subjected to La seducción de La Tomatina:

La seducción de La Tomatina

But the Giant Tomatoes were quickly taken care of, as a new challenger arrived at the battlefield known only as Henesys: the Pink Bean. That makes d34r perhaps the only Viclocker ever graced with the privilege of dying to the Temple of Time’s most powerful legume:

d34r dies to Pink Bean

Now, I might be Victoria’s most powerful spearwoman, but you gotta remember, I still have barely more than 10k MAXHP, even with my HB on.

But, you know, I do have another character with HB… A certain darksterity knight by the name of rusa.

rusa vs. the Henesys Pink Bean

Those G-clef attacks hit diff when you’re in Henesys…

Mrs. Ming Ming looks onward as dozens of helpless Maplers are seduced past her

…And Mrs. Ming Ming doesn’t give two shits, apparently.

The only thing more powerful than the Bean itself is, of course, the GM who left-sedded (not left-jump-sedded) everyone…:

Getting left-sedded by a GM…

Eventually, the Pink Bean had had its fun. As it parted ways with Henesys, it left behind the echoes of victory. Wow…!

Behind closed d00rs

In the “The ascensi0n of d00r” section of the previous entry in this diary, we saw my clericlet d00r advance to the honourable rank of priestlet. Now that d00r is finally starting to put those big girl pants on, it’s time for a very… special episode of d00rin’ With d00r™ — starring your host, d00r.

In this episode, we’re taking “d00ring” very literally, because I hit level 71, & now I have Mystic Door!:

d00r hits level 71~!

d00r door!

Whoa!! I knew d00r was named that for a reason…

But that’s not all that level 71 has in st00r for d00r. In the clandestine underground laboratory of one Magatian alchemist by the name of Yulete, there awaits a certain MPQ. But first things first: in order to complete all quests associated with MPQ, I would need to at least complete the Keeny’s Research questline up to the beginning of “Keeny’s Research on Frankenroid”.

For “Keeny’s Research on Roid”, I slew a hundred or so lightbulb-headed Roids:

d00r vs. Roids

In English, roid /⁠ɹɔɪ̯d⁠/ is usually an aphæretic form of steroid /⁠ˈstɛˌɹɔɪ̯d⁠/, itself an informal abbreviation of anabolic steroid. In the case of these MapleStory critters, however, it’s probably more like an aphæretic form of droid /⁠dɹɔɪ̯d⁠/, itself from the aphæresis of android /⁠ˈænˌdɹɔɪ̯d⁠/, which is analysable as andro- “human; man” + -oid “resembling, like”. In this case, though, the resemblance to a human is a bit vague…

For “Keeny’s Research on Neo Huroid!”, I would need 160 Plugs from Neo Huroids:

d00r vs. Neo Huroids

I’m not gonna lie, these bots are a bit chunky for ya girl d00r. My gear is pretty strong, but 20 base INT only gets you so far when you’re Magic Clawing metal robots… In any case, what the hecc is a Huroid anyway? Do they have to wear diapers? Maybe it’s from human + (d)roid

Speaking of variations on droid, for “Keeny’s Research on D.Roid!!”, I would need the Broken Mechanical Heart of a dismantled D. Roy. So, in Area C-3 of the Alcadno Research Institute’s laboratory, I fit, fought, & fiddled D. Roy until it coughed up its cardioid contraption:

d00r vs. D. Roy

The MPQventures of d00r

Now I’m really ready for MPQ. Fortunately for me, a certain outlaw by the name of Gock (Harlez, VigiI) was similarly ready. And thus the MPQing began…

MPQing with Gock (stage 2)

Stage 2 was the only stage that allowed me to put my Heal to good use in the DPM department. Still, the Cytis[1] are pretty chunky at 38k HP a piece, so they still took quite a few hits to kill… 😅

In stage 3, my Heal was used more for patching up my party members. The Homunculī don’t mind my Healing, & they don’t really mind my Magic Clawing all that much either…

MPQing with Gock (stage 3)

But I figured, hey, at least I come in real useful during stage 4, thanks to my level 20 Teleport…?

MPQing with Gock (stage 4)

Naturally, we’re only starved for mages when I’m not already playing one myself. I found myself rarely being the only Teleport user, & frequently not even the only priest in the party…

But… okay… in my defence, I used my knowledge of MPQ acquired over some one or two thousand runs to help out a number of folx who arrived at Magatia fresh-faced & new to MPQ. Like Waifuuu, who was just barely too slow to realise that immediately going from stage 4 to stage 5 wasn’t the right idea:

Waifuuu is a little too excited to begin stage 5…

Transcription of the above image

d00r: wait
dont go in

Gock: wait

d00r [party chat]: ah

Waifuuu [party chat]: ahh

Gock [allchat]: dont move

d00r: dont move

Waifuuu: ok

d00r: are there monsters

Waifuuu: no

Gock: whew

d00r: click on yulete

Waifuuu: ok

d00r: did you hear his whispers

Waifuuu: yes

d00r: ok now walk
until monsters come
then let us know

Waifuuu: come

Ah, but even I learned something myself. You see, back in my day 👵🏽, we used to use party chat to communicate our combos in stage 6. Then, someone had the bright idea of using Google Sheets™ for this purpose, using its spreadsheet capabilities to line up everyone’s combos nice & neat, combined with its real-time collaboration features allowing each person to concurrently write their own combos & read those of their party members. This was a well-received improvement, although admittedly Google Sheets™ is kind of a sluggish buggy nightmare sometimes, so I was never averse to switching back to party chat.

Most recently, however, there’s now a web app dedicated to exactly this use-case!: Whoa!! All you have to do is enter an arbitrary username that isn’t already taken, plus the ID of a room (which is just an arbitrary natural number that isn’t already taken), & you’re set up with a GUI designed specifically for solving MPQ’s 6th stage!:

The combos are all neatly lined up, with your own combo at the bottom, a row of one-based indices (1, 2, 3, ⋯) just above that, & then everyone else’s combos above that. User input is specified via two rows of four buttons each, where each column corresponds to one of the four platforms in an in-game row (conventionally ⟨1, 2, 3, 4⟩ from left to right). The top row of buttons is for which platform is the correct one. If you find the correct platform, you can input it there. The second row is then its complement: if you test a platform and learn that it’s incorrect, then you can enter it in that bottom row of buttons.

By remembering not only the input that you give, but also that info sent by others in the room, the buttons can be colour-coded: platforms that are known to be incorrect are red along the top row of buttons, & grey along the bottom row; platforms known to be correct are bright glowing green in the top row, & the other possibly-correct ones are some dimmer shade of green.

It’s possible to assert that a platform “known” to be incorrect is actually correct. Obviously, this can only happen if someone(s) in your party makes a mistake, & it does require confirmation (“are you sure?”), but this program will accept inconsistency if necessary. I think I only had to make use of this feature once, though.

O! I am Fortune’s foole

Skip this. (TODO: Please help me I can’t solve this & I worked on it for so long… 😭)

ℹ️ Not a probability dork? Go ahead & skip this section. I promise not to put it down in your permanent record. If you are a probability dork, HELP ME @@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@

The dimmer green buttons are those that are ambiguous as to their correctness; a particular one may eventually be found to be correct, or it may eventually be found incorrect. How bright green an ambiguous button is corresponds to how likely it is to be correct. But how would we even calculate such a probability? Via the application of Bayesian probability, of course!

Our prior probabilities are pretty clear: for a given row of platforms, which one is correct for our combo is uniformly distributed amongst the four platforms.

There’s just one problem: I don’t know how Bayesian probability works! I mean, I kinda do, but I think I might(‽) have a better idea for this particular case…

For a given row of platforms, at a given point in time, each platform is associated with a set of PCs for whom that platform could possibly be correct. When someone guesses a correct platform — or otherwise has that platform determined to be their correct one — that platform’s set becomes the singleton set containing only that PC, and the sets of all other platforms in that row have the PC removed from them. When someone guesses an incorrect platform, they are removed from that platform’s set.

Because each platform is allocated to exactly one PC, & this allocation is done uniformly at random[2], we have no reason to favour any particular member of a set. So, we can give each set a “score” 𝑠 equal to how many times we occur in the set (either 0 or 1) divided by the set’s cardinality[3]. Then, the probability that the 𝑖th platform in that row is correct for us is probably(?) maybe(??) equal to:

𝑠 𝑖 𝑠 1 + 𝑠 2 + 𝑠 3 + 𝑠 4
Formula 1: Ad hoc “probability”(‽) calculation for a single MPQ stage 6 platform.

This quotient is always 11=1 whenever 𝑠𝑖=1. Thus, for example, if we haven’t tested any platforms in a given row, but all three of our party members have incorrectly guessed platform #1 in that row, then we know that platform #1 is correct for us in that row.

The “Price” of Bayesian probability

We can instead do this The Bayes Way™ by using the Bayes–Price rule:

𝖯 ( 𝐴 | 𝐵 ) = 𝖯 ( 𝐵 | 𝐴 ) 𝖯 ( 𝐴 ) 𝖯 ( 𝐵 )
Formula 2: The Bayes–Price rule, in its generic form.

As mentioned previously, our very first prior probabilities for a given row of platforms are, from left to right: 𝒑[14,14,14,14]. Then, every time that we collect a new piece of evidence, we update 𝒑 (which represents a discrete probability distribution) by applying the Bayes–Price rule once. Probabilities in the Bayes–Price rule are relative to the state of 𝒑; so, for example, the value of 𝖯(𝐴) is taken directly from the relevant element of 𝒑, and that element of 𝒑 is subsequently updated to be 𝖯(𝐴|𝐵).

In particular, we have four kinds of evidence that can be collected:

Proof 1: All four possible kinds of evidence that can be collected in MPQ stage 6, along with their Bayesian interpretations. TODO: This “proof” fails, something is probably wrong with Case 3; the three 𝑥s are probably not equal to one another…
  • Case 1: We test the correct platform.

    The probability of the tested platform being correct is 1, and that probability for all other platforms is 0.

  • Case 2: We test an incorrect platform.

    The probability of the tested platform being correct is obviously 0 (this can be confirmed with Bayes–Price), and that probability for other platforms can be calculated from the Bayes–Price rule where 𝐴 ≔ “the platform in question is correct”, and 𝐵 ≔ “the tested platform is incorrect”.

    The three probabilities on the right-hand side of the Bayes–Price rule, then, are as follows (where 𝑡 stands for “tested”, and 𝑖 is the index in question):

    • 𝖯(𝐵|𝐴) ≔ probability that the tested platform is incorrect, given that the platform in question is correct = 1 (unless the two platforms are the same, in which case this is 0).
    • 𝖯(𝐴) ≔ probability that the platform in question is correct = 𝒑𝑖.
    • 𝖯(𝐵) ≔ probability that the tested platform is incorrect = 1𝒑𝑡.

    Thus, if we denote the new (updated) value by appending a prime symbol, then we have:

    𝒑′ 𝑖 = { 0 , if 𝑖 = 𝑡 ; 𝒑 𝑖 1 𝒑 𝑡 , otherwise
  • Case 3: Someone else tests the platform that is correct for them.

    The probability of the tested platform being correct for us is obviously 0, and that probability for other platforms can be calculated from the Bayes–Price rule where 𝐴 ≔ “the platform in question is correct for us”, and 𝐵 ≔ “the tested platform is correct for that other PC”.

    This is where it starts to get a bit tricky. To handle this case, we actually need to keep track of the other PCs’ probability arrays — that is, their versions of what we call 𝒑 — in addition to our own. For the purpose of case analysis, we’ll denote the probability array of “that other PC” as 𝒒. Then, the three probabilities on the right-hand side of the Bayes–Price rule are as follows:

    • 𝖯(𝐵|𝐴) ≔ probability that the tested platform is correct for that other PC, given that the platform in question is correct for us.
    • 𝖯(𝐴) ≔ probability that the platform in question is correct for us = 𝒑𝑖.
    • 𝖯(𝐵) ≔ probability that the tested platform is correct for that other PC = 𝒒𝑡.

    Notice that I give no formula for 𝖯(𝐵|𝐴). That’s because its definition here is recursive: to give that formula, we’d have to solve the problem that we’re already in the midst of solving! At least one case of the formula is obvious: when 𝑖=𝑡, 𝖯(𝐵|𝐴) takes on the value 0, and thus so too is 𝒑′𝑖=𝖯(𝐴|𝐵)=0. So we can write…:

    𝒑′ 𝑖 = { 0 , if 𝑖 = 𝑡 ; 𝒒′ 𝑡 𝒑 𝑖 𝒒 𝑡 , otherwise

    …Where the “tested platform” for 𝒒′𝑡 is taken to be 𝑖. Thus, we also have:

    𝒒′ 𝑡 = { 0 , if 𝑖 = 𝑡 ; 𝒑′ 𝑖 𝒒 𝑡 𝒑 𝑖 , otherwise .

    When 𝑖𝑡 (and also 𝒑𝑖0 and 𝒒𝑡0), this… doesn’t tell us anything; it’s basically tautological. This is more or less because 𝒑𝑖𝒒𝑡 and 𝒒𝑡𝒑𝑖 are reciprocals of one another, so they just cancel each other out.

    In any event, it seems like we’re at a bit of an impasse here! But we can still exploit one fact that we know about the situation: each platform is assigned to exactly one PC, & thus for any platform 𝑖, 𝒑𝑖+𝒒𝑖+𝒓𝑖+𝒔𝑖=1. When “that other PC” tests their correct platform, that platform is now probability 1 for them, & all others are 0. We also observe that, given the form of the (somewhat tautological) formulæ above — as derived directly from the Bayes–Price rule — we should be able to come up with some number to multiply 𝒑𝑖 by, to update it to 𝒑′𝑖.

    We’ll call this number 𝑥. In order to maintain the invariant 𝒑𝑖+𝒒𝑖+𝒓𝑖+𝒔𝑖=1 given that 𝒒𝑖 has been set to 0 — that is, 𝒒′𝑖0 — we need the following equality to hold:

    𝒑′ 𝑖 + 𝒓′ 𝑖 + 𝒔′ 𝑖 = 𝑥 𝒑 𝑖 + 𝑥 𝒓 𝑖 + 𝑥 𝒔 𝑖 = 1

    By observing that 𝒑 𝑖 + 𝒓 𝑖 + 𝒔 𝑖 = 1 𝒒 𝑖 , and doing some rudimentary algebraic manipulation, we can obtain a useful expression for 𝑥:

    𝑥 = 1 1 𝒒 𝑖

    Putting all this together, we can finally solve Case 3:

    𝒑′ 𝑖 = { 0 , if 𝑖 = 𝑡 ; 𝒑 𝑖 1 𝒒 𝑖 , otherwise
  • Case 4: Someone else tests a platform that is incorrect for them.

    All probabilities are recalculated via the Bayes–Price rule where 𝐴 ≔ “the platform in question is correct for us”, and 𝐵 ≔ “the tested platform is incorrect for that other PC”. Then, the three probabilities on the right-hand side of the Bayes–Price rule are:

    • 𝖯(𝐵|𝐴) ≔ probability that the tested platform is incorrect for that other PC, given that the platform in question is correct for us =

      { 1 , if 𝑖 = 𝑡 ; 1 𝒒 𝑡 1 𝒑 𝑡 , otherwise .

      This follows from applying the logic of Case 3 above, but from the other PC’s perspective.

    • 𝖯(𝐴) ≔ probability that the platform in question is correct for us = 𝒑𝑖.

    • 𝖯(𝐵) ≔ probability that the tested platform is incorrect for that other PC = 1𝒒𝑡.

    Thus, we have:

    𝒑′ 𝑖 = { 𝒑 𝑖 1 𝒒 𝑡 , if 𝑖 = 𝑡 ; 𝒑 𝑖 1 𝒒 𝑡 1 𝒑 𝑡 1 𝒒 𝑡 , otherwise .
Executable pseudocode & unlimited hubris

I don’t know about you, but I’m not satisfied. Show me the algorithms! Run them for me!!

Let’s first try translating the former method of reasoning into some Python code:

Bad Python code (bad!)
class MpqStg6Row:
    def __init__(self, cols=4):
        self._platforms = [set(range(1, cols + 1)) for _ in range(cols)]

    def test(self, plat, pc, result):
        Have the PC ``pc`` (given as an index 1, 2, 3, or 4, where you are 1)
        test the platform ``plat`` (given as an index 1, 2, 3, or 4, from left
        to right), with ``result`` being ``True`` if the platform was correct,
        and ``False`` otherwise.

        :returns: ``None``.
        if result:
            for i, plat_set in enumerate(self._platforms, start=1):
                if i == plat:
                    self._remove_pc_from_set(i, pc)
            self._remove_pc_from_set(plat, pc)

    def _remove_pc_from_set(self, plat, pc):
        plat_set = self._platforms[plat - 1]

        plat_set_len_old = len(plat_set)
        # Did removing this PC from ``plat_set`` simultaneously determine the
        # PC for whom this platform is correct?
        if len(plat_set) == 1 and plat_set_len_old > 1:
            pc1 = tuple(plat_set)[0]
            self.test(plat, pc1, True)

    def p(self, pc=1):
        :returns: A tuple of the probabilities of each platform being correct
                  for the PC ``pc``.
        scores = tuple(
            (1.0 if pc in plat_set else 0.0) / len(plat_set)
            for plat_set in self._platforms
        score_sum = sum(scores)
        return tuple(s / score_sum for s in scores)


One nifty thing here is that, the way I have it written, this generalises to any number of columns. For example, if MPQ supported a party size of six, with six stage-6 rooms each with ten (or however many) rows & six columns (i.e. six platforms per row), this code would still work!

The implementation is, perhaps regrettably, slightly complicated by the fact that we’re trying to use 1-based numbering for platforms & PCs, rather than 0-based numbering, which is what Python uses for indexing.

Using this class might look something like:

row = MpqStg6Row()

row.test(1, 2, False)
for k in range(1, 4 + 1):

Which would print the following to stdout:

(0.25, 0.25, 0.25, 0.25)
(0.3076923076923077, 0.23076923076923078, 0.23076923076923078, 0.23076923076923078)
(0.0, 0.3333333333333333, 0.3333333333333333, 0.3333333333333333)
(0.3076923076923077, 0.23076923076923078, 0.23076923076923078, 0.23076923076923078)
(0.3076923076923077, 0.23076923076923078, 0.23076923076923078, 0.23076923076923078)

There’s just one (1) problem: ⚠️this is completely incorrect⚠️!

How can you tell? Well, the (0.25, 0.25, 0.25, 0.25) is fine, and so is (0.0, 0.3333333333333333, 0.3333333333333333, 0.3333333333333333) for that matter, but notice how the columns don’t sum to 1! Whatever happened to unit measure??

Let that be a lesson! Remember, kids: this is what happens when you play fast & loose with probability!! It’s almost like I pulled this method directly out of my arse…

Of course, this technique does basically still “work” for the purpose of’s colour-coding; we really only care that we get probabilities of 0 & 1 correct (we do), and that other probabilities are at least ordered correctly & are reasonably spaced out (they are).

But surely, the Bayes–Price method will actually produce correct results, yeah? After all, the Bayes–Price rule is provable from the axiomata of probability themselves!

TODO: Solve this focking shit i am losing my got dam mind aaaaaaaAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA

All theſe vvoes ſhall ſerue for ſuueet diſcourſes in our time to come

And I kept MPQing. In search of the Eye of Horus, & to know those with whom I furthered my quest. Like aDeepAdept, who was wearing some rather peculiar-looking garb when I first met him:


Transcription of the above image

d00r: ooo adept are you strless
or pure str?
ur equipment is cute

aDeepAdept: strless [for] now
ty lol

d00r: icic

aDeepAdept: its hp gear ahah

d00r: ohh
yeah i just saw u rocking a lvl12 weapon
and i was like dam[n]

aDeepAdept: [my] goodness
forgot to change

d00r: oh
nice haha

aDeepAdept: ahaha
i was just ticking [sic] the mobs i guess

d00r: lool

aDeepAdept: tickling*

Or iDorii, who was rather a bit upset by my creative spelling of service as ⟨cervice⟩…:

@ ur cervice

Transcription of the above image

iDorii: s*
change ur macro

d00r: what macro

iDorii: that macro
@ ur service

d00r: oh

iDorii: you have a typo

d00r: its not a typo
its a pun

iDorii: LOL
well.. okay

Destructor: i could have lived a long life without knowing it was a pun

Sheesh, tough crowd.

I also partook in some rather daring attempts on (Angy) Fanky’s life. Like this one, alongside Gock, chief dit krowned, & woodsman IntoTheWoods (Thalnos, ZeroSTR, QuestOnly, Garnier, manni)!:

IntoTheWoods, d00r, Gock, & krowned vs. Angy Fanky

There was also this run with F/P mage Dovas & ranger Yassoppu, where we lost our main damage-dealer who was going to clean up Angy Fanky real quick with a targeted Mesosplosion, but we decided to attempt a normal (non-Angy) Fanky run anyway:

Yassoppu, Dovas, & d00r vs. Fanky

I popped one of them fancy punkin pies from the Thxgiving event so that I could actually help Dovas kill the damned beast, & we actually ended up making it! Wow! I’m not gonna lie; with just my usual Guavas (+30 MATK), I was hitting mostly or entirely “1” damage lines on Fanky, or at least on Angy Fanky…

Eventually, I did get the marbles & the Rocks of Wisdom necessary to complete a Horus’ Eye. In particular, I got lucky with one of my Rocks of Wisdom originating directly from an MPQ end-reward. So, it was time to do some chores for Yulete, starting with “Making the Reagent”:

d00r takes on the Neo Huroids for Experiment

And, after extracting the polychromatic fluids from the diaper robots & doing the alchemy myself, I did “Organizing the Lab Report”. This quest is not pictured here, because it consisted in little more than me painstakingly running my mouse pointer across a big dumb room.

Last but not least was “Eliminating Obstacles”, which I tried completing within the five-minute time limit by chowing down on another punkin pie slice…:

d00r vs. Obstacle Mutaes

…But with no success. Well, in reality, it was some success, since running out of time doesn’t actually reset the quest, so I just re-entered to finish up my 100 kills.

And with that, I had my Horus’ Eye at last! And a pretty good one, at that!!:

d00r’s Horus’ Eye

Transcription of the item in the above image

Horus’ Eye (+3)


  • Req lev: 70
  • Category: pendant
  • STR: +8
  • DEX: +7
  • INT: +8
  • LUK: +6
  • HP: +402
  • MP: +300
  • Weapon def.: 62
  • Magic def.: 57
  • Avoidability: +16
  • Number of upgrades available: 0

It might seem silly at first blush to care about the pendant of a character destined for HSdoor muledom, but think about it this way: if I’m staying at level 81 (the minimum level required to have enough SP for max-level HS) so that I can stand in the map with the characters actually doing the fighting, chances are I’m going to have some monster attacks lobbed my way in many situations. The Horus’ Eye is absolutely ✨perfect✨ for this use-case: it gives huge bumps to my DEF & MAX(H/M)P, and of course, a nifty bonus to my total avoidability on top of all that base LUK that I already have!

d00r on the h0me stretch

That being said, now that I’ve got my Horus’ Eye, I’ve little reason to continue MPQing. I don’t need that much more EXP, & quite frankly, it’s looking like our lovely MPQers aren’t having many Teleport issues of late.

So I went back. Perhaps you can guess where to I returned…

But of course, to the place where all things began: the Forest of Dead Trees. The trees might be dead now, a pitiful share of their timber harvested, & a pitiful share of that brought down the mountain, the corner of the volcano’s lip still mined & quarried for nothing, even as their miners are already dead, a train that derailed & never stopped rolling, or a snow-covered self-visiting abandonment, yet this is where we came from. Spewed forth, un-sniffed, born emetic & bushy-tailed, children of the mountains, where the 팥죽 carried us through the winters till there was no more carrying to do. The Winter is interminable now, the populations of the mountainsides the last living fossils of a time when النَّطْح knew the warmth of its own star.

It’s often quiet when there’s noöne left to make any sound. It was here where I shook hands with Safety (Danger) before we investigated the mysterious behaviour of Riche:

Safety & d00r testing Riche @ FoDTIV (d00r: but also i cant kill)

You see, in an attempt to clear out the Riches of all channels of a given FoDT map as quickly as possible, Safety had a plan: drop the Zombie’s Lost Tooth onto the headstone, immediately change to the next channel (ccnext) to drop another tooth on that headstone, & so on, until looping back around to the initial channel. This avoids having to wait for the headstone reactor[4] to accept (read: destroy) the tooth & spawn the chest. Then the channels can be gone through a second time (the “second pass”), in each channel breaking the chest & then slaying Riche.

But Safety was hitting a rather annoying snag: although this method did allow him to remove Riche’s invincibility buff, it didn’t prevent Riche from warping him back to Ice Valley II about as soon as he got close enough to Riche to Heal it to death. Safety largely chalked up this difficulty to his being underleveled (in the low level ≈50s), & thus not having the damage output to consistently slay Riche before it could warp him.

I’ve got my own fair share of experience with Riche, though; not only has d00r had to kill a number of Riches to make room for her Coolie Zombie grinding, but I’ve also farmed for the Riche card set on a handful of my other characters. Like any anti-botting monster, Riche is naturally invincible & is naturally capable of teleporting PCs out of the map; unlike some other anti-botting monsters, however, these two superpowers are disabled individually.

I was pretty sure that I remembered two separate blue-text messages showing up in my chatlog when taking care of a Riche, & indeed, you can see in the image above that Riche has a padlock icon above its head, causing it to be unable to warp me — in spite of it still being invincible (as evidenced by the “MISS”). When the headstone accepts the tooth, Riche’s warping skill is disabled; when the chest is broken, Riche’s invincibility is removed.

The fact that the headstone reactor was accepting the tooth & spawning the chest in place of itself, but simultaneously failing to disable Riche’s warp skill, is almost certainly a bug. I suspect that the server is, for whatever reason, unable to bestow status effects ((de)buffs & the like) upon monsters that don’t have a monstercontroller[5]. And of course, with Safety already having changed channel by the time that the headstone activates, the unlikely presence of an interloper is the only possible way for Riche to have a monstercontroller at that point in time.

In any case, with the help of a few of Danger’s buffs (thx for the MW30!), I FoDTIII’d my way from level 79 to 80, & 80 to the big 81:

d00r hits level 81~!!!


Sooo… that’s it? I’m level 81 now?

It’s a little strange, but strictly speaking, d00r isn’t the only character that I’ve brought to “completion” in this here diary: I also have my PQ mules kinds, sorts, sets, & potpan. Still, PQ mules are not “mules” in the usual sense: they are — typically, at least — created to be played, not to be muled per se (although they can be, just like almost any character can). Playing the same PQ over & over is MapleStory gameplay if I’ve ever seen it.

As a HS–door mule, though, d00r has no particular game content to do. That’s a weird feeling to have for a character that I’ve invested not just abstract “time” into, but actually interesting, fun, & memorable gameplay into. From her humble beginnings KPQing up to level 29, to the many questing adventures that she had with GiIf & Skjal (particularly see the “@ ur cervice” section of pt. cvi of this diary, as well as the “p0rtal” section of pt. cvii & the “Hysteria in the area of Masteria” section of pt. cviii), to her grindventures across the undead Maple world (see the “Grindin’ With d00r” section of pt. cix, & particularly the “A world t00r with d00r” section of pt. cx), to her 3rd-job journey (see the “The ascensi0n of d00r” section of pt. cxi), to MPQ & beyond, d00r has had quite the adventure.

And I am happy — proud, even — to know that I documented that journey in this here diary. I’ll never be able to forget the times that I had with GiIf & Skjal, and that kinda means a lot to me.

Despite being a HS–door mule — & the umpteenth such mule in Maple history, at that — I couldn’t possibly remake d00r, even in principle. She is her own character, & one with more characterisation than probably a lot of “main characters” out there in MapleLegends — at least, the way I see it.

Maybe that doesn’t make any sense, but I’ll leave that for the reader to decide. Maybe I’m just “bad” at making mules, because I see the adventurer in every character that I get past character creation (see the “Simply inexplicable” section of pt. c). Or maybe my lifelong refusal to engage in leeching has bestowed upon me a very particular relationship with “EXP(erience)”.

Whatever it is, I hope that you enjoyed reading about d00r’s adventures even half as much as I enjoyed having them & writing about it. And still, d00r’s adventures don’t quite end at the “level 81” mark. We’ll be seeing a little m00r d00r in the future. 🧡

Footnotes for “Behind closed d00rs”

  1. [↑] See the “Lady Palmation” section of pt. ciii for more on this name.

  2. [↑] An efficient way of generating the four combos of MPQ’s 6th stage is by simply applying a Fisher–Yates shuffle to the array [1, 2, 3, 4] ten times. The result of the first shuffle determines the first element of the four combos, the result of the second shuffle determines the second element of the four combos, & so on. This produces the four combos unbiasedly, and with time & space complexities both linear in the size of the output. Care must be taken in the implementation of Fisher–Yates, as bias (and/or poor performance) can be introduced.

  3. [↑] This never results in division by zero, because the sets can logically never be empty.

  4. [↑] Reactor is a very specific technical term in MapleStory that refers to a certain kind of entity distinct from items, footholds/ropes/ladders, skills/summons, portals, PCs, NPCs, monsters, etc. Reactors are typified by the breakable wooden-plank boxes (RID 2000) which are the first reactors that the player encounters (& almost certainly the first reactors added to the game), as they spawn regularly on Maple Island (& elsewhere).

    RID 2000, default animation ✜

    RID 2000, breaking animation ✜

    Reactors can be scripted similarly to portal scripts, although they generally respond to a different & broader set of events. Reactors are fairly diverse, & only some of them are “breakable”. The ontology is used for a variety of types of entity that need to exist spatially and/or visually within a map, whilst reacting to observable events that occur — usually within that map, & usually without altering the reactor’s position.

  5. [↑] Monstercontroller is another MapleStory term of art. Monstercontroller is frequently confused with aggro, but the two are distinct, as evidenced by the fact that monsters frequently have monstercontrollers without aggroing anyone. The fact that monstercontroller is a fairly aggressively single-client-sided mechanic is the source of lots of goofy nonsense in MapleStory.


It’s time for the really exciting shit, y’all. There’s so much good Zakkin’ with so many good ppl up in this here section, you’ll have to read it twice to even believe it.

Is Zakum the tree, or the statue?

But first, let’s get a few things straight. We all know that killing Zakum consists in rock-smooshing: you throw down the Eye of Fire, a big crumbly rock statue comes out, & you hit it until it pops like a piñata.

But what’s with that big tree in the background? It’s naturally obscured by the stone statue, but still definitely visible during the fight. Contrary to somewhat popular belief, however, it does not spawn when the statue does. This is easily proven by taking a screenshot upon entering Zakum’s Altar:

Undisturbed Zaqqūm tree

Figure 1: In-game screenshot of the undisturbed Zaqqūm tree. (The pets don’t spawn where their owners do, due to a minor quirk in how pets are coded. Just ignore it here.)

You can see, based on the fact that I’ve not cropped out the expedition timer at the top, that the stone statue has yet to be spawned, & no Eyes of Fire have been dropped. Still, we can clearly see the gnarly hollowed-out leafless tree.

The tree is, bizarrely, apparently chained to the walls of the cave by a mess of bulky metal chains. Moreover, at the base of the tree, we see a variety of stone fixtures — not the least of which being a small staircase leading up to what is presumably “Zakum’s Altar” itself — each of which has a variety of what appear to be decorative patterns, glyphs of a probably ad hoc or nonexistent writing system, and/or faces carved into them.

The tree

The in-game name Zakum is from Arabic زَقُّوم (sans diacritics: زقوم; ⟨Zaqqūm⟩; MSA /⁠zaqˈquːm⁠/). Zaqqūm is mentioned in the Qurʾān, e.g. in 37:62〜68[1] (note that the English translation chosen here[1] translates Zaqqūm as “Bitterness” rather than leaving it as-is):

Table 1: Qurʾān 37:62〜68.
verse[1] English translation[1] Qurʾānic text
62 Is that a better destination, or the tree of Bitterness? أَذَٰلِكَ خَيْرٞ نُّزُلاً اَمْ شَجَرَةُ اُ۬لزَّقُّومِۖ
63 We have made it a punishment for the transgressors. إِنَّا جَعَلۡنَٰهَا فِتۡنَةٗ لِّلظَّٰلِمِينَ
64 It is a tree that grows in the midst of Hell. إِنَّهَا شَجَرَةٞ تَخۡرُجُ فِيٓ أَصۡلِ ٱلۡجَحِيمِ
65 Its shoots are like the devils’ heads. طَلۡعُهَا كَأَنَّهُۥ رُءُوسُ ٱلشَّيَٰطِينِ
66 They will eat from it, so that their bellies are filled up. فَإِنَّهُمۡ لَأٓكِلُونَ مِنۡهَا فَمَالِـُٔونَ مِنۡهَا ٱلۡبُطُونَ
67 Then they will have with it a drink of boiling liquid. ثُمَّ إِنَّ لَهُمۡ عَلَيۡهَا لَشَوۡبٗا مِّنۡ حَمِيمٖ
68 Then they will be returned to Hell. ثُمَّ إِنَّ مَرۡجِعَهُمۡ لَإِلَى ٱلۡجَحِيمِ

Zaqqūm is also mentioned in 44:43〜46, where it’s made clear that the fruits themselves are a scalding punishment:

Table 2: Qurʾān 44:43〜46.
verse[1] English translation[1] Qurʾānic text
43 Surely, the tree of Bitterness. إِنَّ شَجَرَتَ ٱلزَّقُّومِ
44 Will be the food for the sinful. طَعَامُ ٱلۡأَثِيمِ
45 Like hot oil, it will boil in the stomachs. كَٱلۡمُهۡلِ يَغۡلِي فِي ٱلۡبُطُونِ
46 Like the boiling of liquid. كَغَلۡيِ ٱلۡحَمِيمِ

زَقُّوم, and variants/derivatives thereof, have been used for various real-life plant species.

The statue

In the “Fighting Zakum for the first time in my Maple career!!!” section of pt. lxxv of this diary, I did a brief overview of some of the visual motifs that the in-game Zakum statue makes use of, using coppersan’s MapleStory Mythology Monday — Zakum as one major reference. I’ll be reiterating some of the things that I wrote in that section, but I still think it’s worth really doing one of the most — if not the most — iconic bosses in MapleStory justice:

Monumento a la patria

Monumento a la patria

Figure 2: Photograph of the front part of the Monumento a la patria, due to Wikimedia Commons user Muñoz LC.

coppersan compares the Zakum statue to this monument, although he refers to it periphrastically as “the Mérida monument” due to its location in Mérida, the capital of the Mexican state of Yucatán. The name translates to “Monument to the homeland”, & was constructed by hand over the course of 11 years, by Rómulo Rozo, around the mid-20th century. This makes it pretty recent, & thus its style is best described as “neo-Mayan”; Rozo intended to evoke the history of Mexico with the piece.

coppersan also describes this monument as “an Aztec monument from the Mayas”, which is, regrettably, multiple different kinds of incorrect. Because the monument is explicitly pan-Mexican, the Aztecs are definitely relevant, but not exclusively so. The location of this monument (the Yucatán Peninsula) was home to the Mayans, but never to the Aztecs; moreover, the style is neo-Mayan, not neo-Aztec. Even furthermore, this monument is not “from the Mayas” — it’s from Rómulo Rozo. Who, by the way, was of Colombian origin, although he did live most of his life in Mexico.

In any case, although most pieces of Mayan or neo-Mayan stonework would probably have been appropriate here, the Monumento a la patria is a good reference point due to its status as relatively recent, revivalist neo-Mayan architecture. As we’ll see, the Zakum statue isn’t based on any particular ancient Mexican artefact nor anything like that, so this is an appropriate vibe.

Classically (i.e. Mayan, rather than neo-Mayan), stone monuments of the general kind exemplified by the Zakum statue’s body are known as Maya stelæ.

Chāhk & Tlā́loc

Chāhk /⁠t͡ʃäːhk⁠/ & Tlā́loc /⁠ˈt͡ɬäː.lok⁠/ are the Mayan & Aztec, respectively, gods of rain & storms. Tlā́loc was probably an adaptation of Chāhk, which itself might be adapted from an Olmec deity.

coppersan suggests that the various stone faces associated with the Zakum statue — the big face of the statue with goggle eyes and big round teeth, its square-toothed & square-nosed counterpart at the very bottom of the altar (part of the map itself, not of the statue), & the Zakum Helmet — are modelled on Tlā́loc (or Chāhk) masks. This strikes me as somewhat likely, given that this certainly wouldn’t be the first time that Chāhk/Tlā́loc and their masks appeared in popular culture, especially considering the continuing cultural importance of Tlā́loc in Mexico.

Mask figure of Tlā́loc

Figure 3: Photograph of a Tlā́loc mask on the front of an effigy vessel, due to Wikimedia Commons user Ivanpares.

The goggle eyes, large teeth/tusks/fangs, & prominent nose are common features of Tlā́loc masks which are also used for the Zakum statue/altar & for most of Zakum’s summoned minions.

Also worth mentioning is Cocijo, the equivalent Zapotec deity.

The quetzalahpānehcāyōtl of Quetzalcōātl (& of Āxāyacatl, or possibly of Motēuczōmah II)

We also have the Zakum statue’s distinctive semicircular headdress…:

The Zakum statue’s headdress ✜

Figure 4: The Zakum statue’s headdress.

…Which can also be seen on the Zakum Helmet.

The Aztec deity Quetzalcōātl /⁠ke̞.t͡säɬˈkoː.äːt͡ɬ⁠/ is reasonably consistently characterised as having a similar semicircular headdress, excepting some depictions of his feathered-serpent form. Quetzalcōātl appears in many Aztec codices, like e.g. this depiction in the Codex Borgia:

Quetzalcōātl, as depicted in the Codex Borgia

Figure 5: A depiction of Quetzalcōātl in the Codex Borgia, clearly displaying the semicircular headdress just right of the top-centre of the image. This image is taken from an 1898 facsimile, provided by FAMSI.

The native Classical Nāhuatl name for such a featherwork headdress is quetzalahpānehcāyōtl /⁠kɛt͜säläʔpäːnɛʔˈkäːjoːt͜ɬ⁠/[2] (modern quetzalāpanecayōtl /⁠kɛt͜säläːpänɛˈkäjoːt͜ɬ⁠/). Here, the quetzalahpānehcāyōtl’s semicircular basis is in dark grey, with structural detailing in a combination of red, yellow, & a bit of white.

Motēuczōmah’s headdress” is a real-life quetzalahpānehcāyōtl traditionally associated with tlahtoāni (Classical /⁠t͜ɬäʔtoˈäːni⁠/; “ruler, king, sovereign, governor”) Motēuczōmah II (/⁠mo.te̞ːkʷˈsoː.mäʔ⁠/). The exact provenance of this quetzalahpānehcāyōtl is uncertain, & it very well may not’ve belonged to Motēuczōmah at all; it was perhaps Āxāyacatl’s (/⁠äː.ʃäːˈjä.kät͜ɬ⁠/). In any case, here’s a modern reproduction[3] of the headdress:

Modern reproduction of Motēuczōmah’s headdress

Figure 6: A photograph of the modern reproduction of Motēuczōmah’s headdress, as housed in the Museo Nacional de Antropología e Historia in Mexico.[3] Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons user Stefan Fadinger.

Quetzalahpānehcāyōtl are associated with Quetzalcōātl, and we can see the signature semicircular structure & ornate radiations in this example. The zigzag pattern on the Zakum statue’s headdress is reminiscent of the repeating patterns on the innermost part of Motēuczōmah’s headdress, & its radiating offshoots are reminiscent of feathers. Most of Zakum’s summoned lackeys share this general feature as well.

𓂀 (Horus’s eye; left Wadjet eye)

The Eye of Horus[7] (also “left Wadjet[8] eye”) is a very common symbol in ancient Egyptian religion. It represents Horus’s (usually left) eye after it was restored, following Horus’s arch rival Set[9] ripping it out or otherwise destroying it. To be fair, Horus did steal Set’s testicles…

In any case, Horus’s restored eye is frequently associated with protection & healing. It’s also associated with the Moon (the Sun being his other eye and/or the Eye of Ra[10]); the loss of the eye is the new moon, & the lunar phases constitute its restoration. It’s also associated with royalty & kingship, because the conflict between Horus & Set — in which Horus generally prevails — is over the throne.

None of this has to do with Zakum, but the statue’s summoning animation uses the Eye of Horus anyway:

Zakum’s summoning animation

Figure 7: In-game screenshot of Zakum’s summoning animation, clearly displaying the Eye of Horus.

Zakum’s Altar has just one NPC in it: Amon. This NPC’s name is a typical spelling of the name of the ancient Egyptian deity Amun (𓇋𓏠𓐰𓈖𓀭; ⟨ı͗mn(w)⟩; Anglicised Egyptological /⁠ɪ.mɛn(u)⁠/; reconstructed */⁠jäˈmäː.nuw⁠/; usual English pronunciation /⁠ˈɑ.mən⁠/). Amun was the chief god of the Egyptian Empire, & as a result, would later come to be identified with Zeús & Jūpiter. He was also probably originally a wind god, & later ended up identified with Ra[10], the Sun god.

(Lemegeton) Clāvicula Salomōnis

Lemegeton Clāvicula Salomōnis, known in English as The Lesser Key of Solomon or simply the Lemegeton, is a grimoire compiled in the mid-17th century & focusing on the art of Goetia. Goetia lies somewhere amidst the crossroads of what we would now call “magick” (note that the ⟨k⟩ is significant) or “sorcery”, and what is now commonly characterised as Western esotericism & Qabbālā (קַבָּלָה; usually spelt ⟨Kabbalah⟩ in English). Classically, Goetia was considered “base”, “low”, “deceitful”, or “evil”, in contrast to some other kinds of magic & rituals. Modern occultists like Aleister Crowley have popularised highly syncretic variations.

Using an English translation by Samuel Liddell MacGregor Mathers (edited by Aleister Crowley & Hymenæus Beta) as a reference, I found the Magical Triangle of Solomon that can be clearly seen in one of Zakum’s animations. Note that coppersan mistakenly refers to the Magical Triangle of Solomon as “the Seal of Solomon”, which we’ll get to later.

The Magical Triangle of Solomon

Figure 8: The Magical Triangle of Solomon, as presented in the Lemegeton.

Zakum’s Magical Triangle of Solomon animation

Figure 9: In-game screenshot of Zakum’s Magical Triangle of Solomon animation. It’s unclear to me what this skill actually does.

The three sides of the triangle read:

All three of these words are claimed to refer to God, but only the first (the Tetragrammaton יהוה) actually exists anywhere outside the Lemegeton, as far as I can tell.

Starting in the bottom-left corner & proceeding clockwise, the text inside the triangle reads:

  • MI
  • CHA
  • EL

Spelling the name of Michael the archangel.

Note that the Magical Triangle of Solomon is paired with the larger Magical Circle of Solomon, the former being three feet in diameter, & the latter being nine.

But Zakum’s version of the Magical Triangle of Solomon has some extra stuff attached to it: one circular seal-looking thing for each corner of the triangle. Indeed, the one at the top is exactly a seal, namely the Seal of Decarabia:

The Seal of Decarabia

Figure 10: The Seal of Decarabia, as presented in the Lemegeton.

Much of the Lemegeton consists in listing, describing, & illustrating 72 demon spirits, of which Decarabia (sometimes Carabia) is #69. Note that Zakum is not the only part of MapleStory that pulls directly from this list: Andras, Marbas, Amdusias, Valefar (a.k.a. Valefor, which is the name used in GMS), Crocell, & Astaroth are the warrior, magician, archer, thief, pirate, & big-bad-boss, respectively, devils of the “Episode One” (“Devil Hunter”) expansion added in late-pre-BB MapleStory (in GMS: v79, 2009-11-11).

I also found an 1889 English translation of a Clāvicula Salomōnis on the Internet Archive, also due to Mathers. Note that this is not the Lemegeton, but rather, would be the “greater key” of Solomon.

Of particular interest are the pentacles, which are basically talisman or necklace designs, often ornate, used for magickal evocation. The ⟨penta⟩ in pentacle is unrelated to the Greek-derived prefix penta- “five” — it’s actually from OF pendre “[to] hang”, also the source of pendant — & indeed many pentacles have nothing to do with the number five.

The Clāvicula Salomōnis text refers to its “Fig. 47” as “the Fourth Pentacle of Mercury”:

The Fourth Pentacle of Mercury

Figure 11: The Fourth Pentacle of Mercury, as presented by the Clāvicula Salomōnis. Note that the Mercury symbol () at the top is not part of the pentacle; it’s merely being used as a label.

Most of the animation for Zakum’s flaming pillars attack is a nearly verbatim copy of the Fourth Pentacle of Mercury:

A selected frame of Zakum’s flaming pillars attack animation ✜

Figure 12: A selected frame of Zakum’s flaming pillars attack animation, clearly displaying the Fourth Pentacle of Mercury.

Even the Latin-language text around the outside appears to be directly copied from the Fourth Pentacle of Mercury, despite the fact that it’s borderline illegible in the final product. The Latin text is as follows:

Sapientia et virtus in domo ejus, et Scientia omnium rerum manet apud eum in sæculum sæculi.

This version of the Clāvicula Salomōnis also adds an editor’s note about the Hebrew text & the Latin-language text:

In the centre is the Name of God, El. The Hebrew letters inscribed about the dodecagram make the sentence, “IHVH, fix Thou the Volatile, and let there be unto the void restriction.” The versicle is :― “Wisdom and virtue are in his house, and the Knowledge of all things remaineth with him for ever.”

“The versicle” being Mathers’s English translation of the Latin-language versicle.

There’s also the Second Pentacle of Venus:

The Second Pentacle of Venus

Figure 13: The Second Pentacle of Venus, as presented by the Clāvicula Salomōnis. Note that the Venus symbol () at the top is not part of the pentacle; it’s merely being used as a label.

Zakum’s 1⧸1 animation is difficult to parse, but it appears that the pentacle on the left-hand side is simply the Second Pentacle of Venus:

A selected frame of Zakum’s 1⧸1 animation ✜

Figure 14: A selected frame of Zakum’s 1⧸1 animation, featuring what appears to be the Second Pentacle of Venus on the left-hand side.

There’s also a lot of other nonsense going on in Zakum’s animations that looks like it was, or could have been, drawn from the Lemegeton, the Clāvicula Salomōnis, or something related. Take for example Zakum’s lightning–Seal attack, which features two or three pentacles (depending on whether you count the bottom-left one), plus a big fat Mercury symbol that has been merged with a Sun symbol () in the middle:

A selected frame of Zakum’s lightning–Seal attack animation ✜

Figure 15: A selected frame of Zakum’s lightning–Seal animation.

Granted, the Mercury–Sun symbol is very low-contrast, so it’s difficult to pick out. Also, what’s up with the Vitruvian Man-looking thing in the bottom-left, anyway?

The Seal of Solomon (Ring of Solomon) & the Star of David ()

As mentioned previously, coppersan erroneously identifies the Magical Triangle of Solomon with the Seal of Solomon. In reality, the Seal of Solomon is a hexagram (sometimes pentagram) symbol that is the predecessor of the modern Star of David. Although the Seal of Solomon is, like the Magical Triangle, closely associated with occultism/mysticism, the Seal nevertheless occupies a position in mainstream knowledge, in part due to its use in vexillography (& thus the modern Star of David).

We can see something like a Seal of Solomon at the top of Fig. 15 above, in addition to a much lower-contrast yellow one near the bottom of the image. Fig. 12 displays a frame of Zakum’s flaming pillars attack animation, but not pictured is the end of the animation, which prominently displays a Seal of Solomon.

Miscellaneous “foreign” text, & ad hoc glyphs

Zakum’s altar, the statue, & its attack/skill animations feature a wide variety of text & things that are probably supposed to be text. We expect — at least, naïvely — the MapleStory audience to view graphemes outside of Hangeul, the Latin script, Chinese characters, & kana (& more marginally, the Thai script) as being “foreign”.

We already saw some Hebrew text in Fig. 12. It’s worth noting that this is far from being the only Hebrew text associated with Zakum; for example, we can also see some in Fig. 9, plus some Latin-script text reading “BETH”, the second letter of the Hebrew alphabet.

Consider also Zakum’s regen animation; within it, we can observe at least two distinct kinds of “foreign” text:

A selected frame of Zakum’s regen animation ✜

Figure 16: A selected frame of Zakum’s regen animation. I’m unsure whether this animation is used in-game at all.

There’s a lot of Hebrew text here, some more legible than others. But we can also see, in the top-left & top-right pentacle-looking discs, two glyphs (one for each disc) that might be intended to represent one (or more) grapheme(s) each. As far as I can tell, these are what I’m going to refer to as ad hoc glyphs, meaning that they aren’t sourced from any writing system that actually exists (or existed) in real life. These two ad hoc glyphs in particular vaguely remind me of the Bengali–Assamese script, but don’t actually match up with any graphemes of that script. Maybe some comparison to Tibetian is also warranted… but probably not.

Ad hoc glyphs show up in many of the visual aspects of Zakum, including e.g. the stone inscriptions on its arms.

There’s also the stone tablet that the statue is holding, which has two identical inscriptions written vertically along its sides:

Zakum’s stone tablet

Figure 17: The stone tablet that the Zakum statue holds in its stony hands.

Unfortunately, the inscriptions are a bit obscured by Zakum’s hands, & are so low-resolution as to be nearly inscrutable, but the fact that the inscription is duplicated does help.

These glyphs look a tiny bit like Chinese characters, but I don’t really recognise any of them. My best guess is that the second-to-bottom one looks kinda like ⟨⟩, except that the bottom two horizontal strokes don’t connect to anything. And that’s about all I got. It’s possible that these glyphs are designed to evoke — but not to represent — older forms of Chinese writing, e.g. small seal script.

However, the glyphs here are too geometrically regular — being almost entirely composed of line segments that are either vertical or horizontal — for these interpretations to really make sense. This particular geometric regularity suggests a comparison with cuneiform, but… this doesn’t particularly look like cuneiform either. My tentative conclusion, then, is to just assume that these are ad hoc.


We might summarise these elements as follows:

Monster book info

MapleSEA provides context for Zakum’s existence within its Monster Book entry:

  • Lv. : Unknown
  • Form : Devil

A dormant spirit of the Zakum tree which previously was without any intellect. The tree started to show signs of life while being fueled by the passion-filled energy of the residents of the lava region. The lava region has been known to have survived by only the passions of its residents in the midst of all the darkness, burning flames and heat surrounding the region. Apparently the dark and shady emotions of the humans living in the area have somehow been absorbed by Zakum over time. Zakum used to be a small, neglected tree, but has now grown powerful thanks to the energy of the human residents of the lava region, who have harbored a great force that even exceeds that of humans…

The wording here notably implies pretty strongly that “Zakum” is the tree.

The basic structure here of “otherwise ostensibly inanimate being awakened/empowered/angered by the energies of the people around it” is something of a generic mytheme that MapleStory is fond of. See, for example, the story of Stumpy, another evil tree with a similar narrative.

The name itself

Say it with me

As mentioned in the “The tree” section above, Zakum is from Arabic زَقُّومZaqqūm⟩, which is pronounced /⁠zaqˈquːm⁠/ in MSA[4]. In English, Zakum is probably(?) /⁠ˈzæ.k(ə)m⁠/, /⁠ˈzæ.kum⁠/, /⁠zæˈkum⁠/, /⁠zəˈkum⁠/, or maybe /⁠ˈzɑ.kum⁠/ or /⁠ˈzɑ.k(ə)m⁠/ (not to even mention the face vowel…), with different speakers choosing pronunciations basically arbitrarily. Just to see exactly how the pronunciation has to be mangled to get the Zakky-wakky that we know & love, let’s really quickly look at the MSA pronunciation[4]:


This part’s the same as in English. We’re off to a good start.


MSA /⁠a⁠/ is anywhere between [æ] & [ɑ]. In English, those are the vowels of tap & bra, respectively.


MSA has /⁠k⁠/, like the beginning of English cat. But it also has a distinct(!) phoneme /⁠q⁠/, of which English has no real analogue. The good news is that /⁠q⁠/ is basically just the same as /⁠k⁠/, but further back in the mouth: with /⁠k⁠/, the back of the tongue is on the soft palate, but with /⁠q⁠/, it’s cosy with the uvula.

/⁠ˈ⁠/ goes immediately before the primary stress of the word, so this is zaqQŪM, not *ZAQqūm.

The reason why there are two /⁠q⁠/s instead of just one is that this consonant is geminate. English doesn’t really have gemination, but the basic idea is simple: it’s a doubling of a consonant. For some consonants, like /⁠l⁠/ for example, you can just hold it for twice as long. But /⁠q⁠/ is a plosive, so what usually happens is that its release is delayed, so that the “hold” is twice as long. The best example of gemination in English that I can give is bookkeeping.


This is basically the vowel in English goose. However, in Arabic, vowel length is contrastive, so /⁠u⁠/ & /⁠uː⁠/ are two distinct vowels that differ only in how long they last, the latter being about twice as long as the former. Not *Zaqqum, but rather, Zaqqūm (or Zaqquum, if you prefer).


This part’s the same as in English. What a great ending. Love that for us.

The original KMS name for this boss is 자쿰Jakum/⁠t͜ɕɐ.kʰum⁠/. Korean has no /⁠z⁠/, just /⁠s⁠/ & /⁠⁠/, so /⁠t͜ɕ⁠/ (somewhat similar to the ⟨ch⟩ in English each /⁠it͡ʃ⁠/) is used to approximate it.


In Semitic languages like e.g. Arabic, Hebrew, Amharic, etc., verbs & most nouns are morphologically composed of roots. A root is usually a sequence of three consonants, & is thus called a triliteral root, although quadriliteral roots do exist, & other Afroasiatic languages have biliteral roots as well. To form a word, the root is then transfixed with vowels & sometimes other consonants, in an appropriate way according to rules idiomatic to the language in question.

For example, the root √r–ḥ–m (Arabic √ر–ح–م) means something like “caring, mercy, sympathy”. Thus we have raima رَحِمَ “[to] have mercy [upon], [to] have compassion”, raīm رَحِيم “merciful; compassionate; beneficient”, marḥūm مَرْحُوم “under mercy [of God]; deceased”, etc.

As it turns out, Zaqqūm is no exception. Hans Wehr’s A Dictionary of Modern Written Arabic (1961)[5] arranges its entries in root order. This dictionary includes √z–q–m (√ز–ق–م), with the headword زَقَمَzaqama/⁠ˈ⁠/, & defines it like so:

to swallow, gulp, gobble [food]; IV: to make [someone] swallow or gulp down [something]; VIII: ازدَقَمَ āzdaqama = I

And of course, it also includes a sub-entry for Zaqqūm. Here, the Roman numerals indicate verb forms; Arabic has a fairly complex system of verb conjugation.

Last Mission

In MapleStory, each map in the game has a name, but it also has a street name, indicating a larger region (a “street”) that the map is one part of. In many cases, the street name is the generic Hidden Street (the namesake of the Hidden Street website), & in most other cases, the name has a geographical — or at least spatial — meaning.

Zakum’s map — viz. Zakum’s Altar — is, however, an exception. Its street name is Last Mission, & there are no other maps on this street; both Entrance to Zakum’s Altar & The Door to Zakum are on the El Nath street. Why the inconsistency?

The “missions” here are Adobis’s missions. Both stages 1 & 2 of the Zakum Jump Quest (ZJQ) are on the Adobis's Mission I street. All of the Zakum Maze PQ maps are also on this street; I’m not sure why they’re both “I”… Then we also have the “refinery” mission, which requires 30 Zombie’s Lost Gold Teeth. The fourth & last mission, then, is putting Zakum itself to rest.

Personally, though, I’ve always thought of this street name a little differently. At the time that Zakum was first added into the game, & for a while after that, slaying Zakum really was the last possible mission. If you could kill Zakum — which, let’s face it, you probably couldn’t; it’s very challenging indeed — then you would nearly (spiritually, at least…) be “beating” MapleStory in doing so!

Last Missive

I think that’s roughly all that I have to say about this big dumb thing. I hope that you learned at least something about Zakum, or about something else, or at least had a bit of a chuckle at how much time I spent writing about one (1) big dumb MapleStory boss.

To answer the rhetorical question in the title: Zakum (Zaqqūm) is spiritually & narratively the tree, & this is even confirmed by in-game Monster Book info; but game-mechanically & software-wise, Zakum (& variants thereof) is the name of the stony monsters that make up the boss statue. Software-wise, the tree is just a handful of pixels making up part of the backdrop, & thus has no name. Players also cannot meaningfully interact with the tree.

The reason why the question is merely rhetorical is that any answer is inevitably unsatisfying for those who naïvely seek “the real truth” or similar. If Zakum is narratively the tree, & slaying just the statue is enough to put Zakum to rest, then the only logical conclusion is that — narratively — the statue is no more than an extension of the tree; Zakum would thus be both the tree & the statue. Going any further than these simple (or simplistic) answers that I’ve already suggested plunges the Mapler into classic philosophical problems of reference & mereology (& interactivity in digital art, for that matter…).

If you absolutely insist on “the real truth”, it’s this: Zakum is a mishmash of disparate & frequently unrelated mythological, archæological/anthropological, religious, divinatory, esoteric/occult, & linguistic/orthographic elements combined by a handful of Korean videogame developers in the 2000s into a videogame boss complex of gameplay, visuals, audio, names, & a fragile, anæmic post hoc mythopœia that makes no real attempt to justify nor tie together any of these elements.

It’s also the iconic big dumb boss that we all know & love.

Suboptimal does Zak now‽

And on that note, I’m proud to say that we got to do quite a number of Suboptimal Zaks™!! Whoa!!!

In case you’re not already aware, Suboptimal is the alliance that I lead, its constituent guilds being Oddjobs, Flow, lronman, Victoria, & Ossyrians. Guilds & their alliances are great places to organise group activities, but we have a hard time doing that “as a guild/alliance” rather than just two (or three, if we’re quite lucky…) people using alliance chat to occasionally grind together one time, or to organise something smol that we do every day anyway.

The reason for this is basically simple: there aren’t that many of us (yes, even with five whole guilds), & when there does happen to be more than a few of us, none of us can play together. Sometimes not playing together is a matter of game mode, e.g. Victorians not being able to do game content outside the Victorian Archipelago. Other times, someone wants to do Papu, but others are too low-level or not “strong” enough; LPQ, & others are too high-level; etc.

But we managed to get past this! Sort of! One day, when a suspiciously large number of Zakky people were online, we pushed to make the Suboptimal Zak dream a reality. The landmark ✨Suboptimal Zak № 1✨ starred ironman hero Jonathan (daggerknight, Gumby, Kimberly, Edward) of lronman; marksman Level1Crook (Lvl1Crook, xXCrookXx), bishop MiIf (GiIf, Dakota), & nightlord Snel (LawdHeComin, AppleBasket, JunkyardBat, OrangeFungus) of Flow; STRginner Taima (Tacgnol, Gelelp, Yunchang, Boymoder) & my pugilist tarandus of Oddjobs; & shadower Qubsanity (Qub*) of… Nimbus?:

Suboptimal Zak № 1

Okay, so maybe I lied just a little bit. We did generally recruit, like, one non-Suboptimal-member character each time. To be fair, Qub also has numerous Suboptimal characters, & in any case, we are still ✨technically✨ in a meta-alliance with Dream (the alliance that Nimbus is a member of). 😁 The point is that this was still definitely organised by, & composed almost entirely of members of, Suboptimal. So there.

Here we are, collectively 🔥shredding🔥 Zak’s left arms:


And them bodies, too!:

MiIf, tarandus, Snel, Level1Crook, Jonathan, Taima, & Qubsanity vs. Zakum body

The keen reader may have already noticed that this is a seven-Mapler Zak squad. Does that mean that we had multiple parties? Actually, no. Remember how I mentioned that Jonathan is ironman? Yeah. Well… unfortunately Taima crashed midway through our first run, for technical reasons…:

jon we have room in the pt for u now…

Transcription of the above image

tarandus: jon we have room in the pt for u now…

Qubsanity: xD

Jonathan: hahaa

Level1Crook: f3

Jonathan: rip [timer]

Snel: rip

tarandus: ;~;

Jonathan: :(
i have room for u guys in my pt
its so lonely over here

MiIf: O YE?

Jonathan: LOl
smoke no work for me

tarandus: the eternal fake smonk

Level1Crook: it doesnt accept loners

MiIf: No ironmen in the hot box


But make no mistake: we still prevailed over the dastardly stone abomination known as Zakum. And when we did so, we saw so many helmets rain from the sky…

Jonathan: face reveal

Woah! Ironman Zak hat!! Granted, before this point, Jon already had access to Rāvaṇa Helmets, but still. Very cool. Also, now we know what his face looks like!

Of course, that wasn’t going to be enough. Not only did this first pair of Suboptimal Zax not drop any of those sweet, precious Advanced Combo Attack skillbooks (which can only be obtained from Zak, by the way), but we simply had more Suboptimal Zakking to do.

We went again with a kinda similar lineup: instead of Level1Crook, we had Lvl1Crook the coarse hair; instead of Snel, we had AppleBasket the bishletish; instead of Qubsanity, we had another shadower, Harlez (Gock); & unfortunately MiIf couldn’t make it this time, so we chilled as a six-Mapler squad (five in party):

Taima, Harlez, tarandus, Lvl1Crook, AppleBasket, & Jonathan vs. Zak arms

But what do we do after both of the Zax are all crumbled up? Why, some post-Zak hoeing, of course! The Door to Zakum is a swell place to socialise:

Post-Zak hoeing

And o boi, did we do some Zakkin’. Like this one, starring SwordFurbs (Yoshis, Fabiennes, Furbs, SwordFurb) the DEXadin of Oddjobs, & another pally by the name of Paid2Win!:

SwordFurbs, Paid2Win, AppleBasket, tarandus, Taima, Lvl1Crook, & Jonathan vs. Zak arm

We were having some troubles with Zak’s soaring summoned stooges, not least because of poor Taima, who was frequently one errant rightward summon-boop away from the grave. When we did have a death on our hands, we were forced to employ a certain very precisely-timed strategy of Resurrection: wait for one Zak body to die, & then in the very short window of time before the next body fully spawns, Resurrect Taima.

Great success!!

Oh, & you know what’s also a great success? ACA10 get!!:

Jonathan: this is so big

On another occasion, we ran as a squad composed of myself (on tara again), Taima, Lvl1Crook, MiIf, Harlez, & a guy named Omphalos who had a crossbow. I don’t mean to be overly dramatic, but I think that the second run that we did can safely be referred to as The Zakkening™.

“What does that even mean?”, you ask? Well, it all started when Harlez d/ced before even a single arm died. Welp, there goes our only carry.

I mean, we could just give up, but we’re already here, & we couldn’t do another run even if we wanted to. So unless we want Zakum to know us only as cowards too pusillanimous to follow through with a rematch, we’ll have to LOCK IN & show this boss who’s boss. And probably eat some Gelts!!

Omphalos, Taima, Lvl1Crook, tarandus, MiIf, & unfortunately not Harlez, vs. the body of Zaqqūm

It wasn’t on track to be the fastest Zak run of all time, but we still thought that we were pretty hot stuff.

Well, at least until MiIf accidentally died to Zak’s body:

MiIf [dead on top of Zak body]: U GUYS GOT THIS…!

Alright, well… now we have no bishop. But we could still finish anyway, right? R—right…?

Omphalos [dead in the bottom-left corner]: fk

Oh dear. Our random unexpectedly ran out of cheese, & has now gone to see his eternal cheesemaker in the sky.

It’s now just Lvl1Crook, Taima, & myself. So we’re trioing the shit out of this third bod—

Lvl1Crook focking died???

As you can see, at this point we’re not really having “a problem with Zak’s summons”. We’re just… having Zak’s summons. All of them. All. You can’t even take a breath without inhaling enough of the dust being spewed everywhere by the thousands of stony summons constantly bumping into each other to instantly contract asthma. There are so many of these goddamned rocky little shits that there’s nowhere in the entire map left to stand. Zakum’s Altar is like ≥99% summons by mass and by volume.

But we were already locked in. Remember? Locked in.

Eventually, after 53〜54 minutes of continuous Zak battling, that blasted stone statue finally capitulated, with only Taima & myself left to witness it:

Taima & tara lay Zaqqūm to rest (finally…)

And hey, that marks the first time that I’ve ever been able to loot the meso sacks that Zak drops…[6]

But even after The Zakkening™, we remained undeterred. We stood strong. Or rather, sat strong. On our mounts.


This time, instead of playing tara, I hopped onto my woodsmaster capreolina. Running again with Harlez, & this time also Jonathan, I did what I do best during the arms stage: whacking arms with my PSB as hard as I can, & letting my birb do half of the work.

capreolina w/ PSB, raw damage range on Echo of Hero + MW20 + Gelt Chocolate

Ooohhhh yes. That’s a raw damage range of 1.0k〜13.2k!! With MW20, Echo, & Gelt, of course. 😊

capreolina, Taima, Lvl1Crook, Harlez, AppleBasket, & Jonathan vs. Zak arms

I also took a look at my damage when I swapped to my bow. The raw damage range here is astonishingly tight, with the lower end being about ≈85% of the upper end (CV of ≈0.047)! With a sneaky @dpm 2 squeezed in between weapon-cancels, I clocked around ≈3.4M DPM!:

capreolina, level 148, @dpm 2 vs. Zak body, on Echo + Gelt + MW20

Other Zax

Not all the Zakkin’ that I did was Suboptimal Zak™, though. For instance, I did some Zakkin’ with course air uwu123 (stardustuwu). Here I am on tara, with uwu123, Lvl1Crook, ✨brand-new✨ hero SIIlL, bishop 2Jade, & bowmaster TaroHamster:

uwu123, SIIlL, Lvl1Crook, tarandus, 2Jade, & TaroHamster vs. Zak arms

SIIlL, bless her heart (& her name…), really was brand-new; she’d never fought a MapleStory boss before. So it was my job to give her some tips, as the only person in the party who had considerable experience playing One O’ Them Stinkin’ Warriors That Stand There ’N’ Go “Slap Slap” All Damn Day™. I’ve never actually played a hero, but you know. I get the idea.

In another Zakventure with uwu123 & SIIlL, I was the last to join a party of not one, not two, not even three, but four SI-wanters…:

Anyone care for SI…?

Transcription of the above image
Party member online [6⧸6]
name job
SIIlL Hero
tarandus Buccaneer
2Jade Bishop
Excalia Hero
Mallow Hero
uwu123 Corsair

[system message]: You have joined the party.

uwu123: hello

Excalia: oooo bucc

tarandus: heyhey

Mallow: hii

SIIlL: :']

Excalia: *-*

tarandus: :3

Excalia: all hail

Wow. We are a heroic party indeed. I think my SI is doing twice as much damage as my actual damage

I also ended up joining a Zak run hosted by misandrist (xRook, sissyboy) & Brokeen (Dazho, Kaoz), where we originally thought that I was needed to provide SE to the party… until another archer ended up joining anyway. Oh well. At least I leveled up for once!!:

capreolina hits level 149~!!

Waow! My birb is only one (1) level away from maxing! Does my birb get Echo when it hits the level cap?

Anyway, with my very excellent birb (& perhaps some help from a Gelt Chocolate…), I had no problem whiting arm #4, even with like three other ranged attackers in the party:

capre whites arm #4


Footnotes for “Zaqqūm”

  1. [↑] The translation used here is a 2015 translation due to, which can be found at Wikisource. The verse numbering is that of the Hafs reading. The translation style is a “modern literal” one, where the literal meaning is preserved to the extent possible (presumably, at least without totally butchering any idiomata), & a given word (or lemma) in the original language is translated to as few as possible different words (or lemmata) in the target language, whilst also sticking exclusively to (Late) Modern English. Compare, for example, the Modern Literal Version (1987) & the Literal Standard Version (2020) of the Christian Bible (OT & NT).

  2. [↑] Somewhat humorously, English-language sources seem a bit confused about whether quetzala(h)pāne(h)cāyōtl is a Nāhuatl word for featherwork headdresses in general, or the proper name for specifically the headdress traditionally associated with Motēuczōmah II. The confusion seems to largely result from Wikipedia being the only accessible English-language source here, but the relevant Wikipedia article is not clearly worded & cites no sources. This confusion is typified by one entry in the Nāhuatl(–English) dictionary provided by, which includes *quetzalpanecayotl (note the missing ⟨ā⟩/⟨a⟩ between the ⟨l⟩ & ⟨p⟩) as a headword & gives a correct translation, but cites English Wikipedia as its only attestation & only source!

    To be fair, they also include quetzalapanecayotl (note the restored ⟨a⟩) as a headword, & that entry cites much better sources…

    Spanish-language sources are much less confused. These tend to use the word penacho (see e.g. the relevant Spanish Wikipedia article) as the Spanish-language analogue. UNAM’s Gran Diccionario Náhuatl helpfully only includes quetzalapanecayotl as a headword (no *quetzalpanecayotl).

  3. [↑] The original is in Austria, because of course it is 🙄.

  4. [↑] Note that MSA has no native speakers, & is acquired only through formal education. Depending on whom you ask, Arabic is either a macrolanguage with varieties of varying levels of mutual intelligibility, or a family of roughly ≈30 distinct languages. As its name implies, MSA is the modern prestige lect, & has no particular geographic associations.

  5. [↑] Yes, this is an Arabic dictionary written by a literal Nazi. But even to this day, it’s still pretty much the standard, & it’s very useful in this case.

  6. [↑] At some point, MapleLegends changed the looting rules so that meso sacks (but not paper meso stacks, gold coins, nor bronze coins) cannot be looted except by the PC who whited — or the PC who dropped them, if dropped by a PC rather than by a monster.

  7. [↑] 𓅃; ⟨ḥr.w⟩; Anglicised Egyptological /⁠hɛɹu⁠/; reconstructed */⁠ˈħäː.ɾuw⁠/; usual English pronunciation /⁠ˈhɔɹ.əs⁠/.

  8. [↑] 𓇅𓏏𓆗; ⟨wꜢḏt⟩; Anglicised Egyptological /⁠wɑ.d͡ʒɛt⁠/; reconstructed */⁠ˈwäː.ɟit⁠/.

  9. [↑] 𓋴𓏏𓐰𓄡𓀭; ⟨swtẖ⟩; Anglicised Egyptological /⁠su.tɛç⁠/; reconstructed */⁠ˈsuː.tiç⁠/; usual English pronunciation /⁠sɛt⁠/.

  10. [↑] 𓂋𓐰𓂝𓇳; ⟨rꜥ(w)⟩; Anglicised Egyptological /⁠ɹɑː(.u)⁠/; reconstructed */⁠ˈɾiː.ʕuw⁠/.

On the way, way up

Hellow. And welcome. To another episode of Les petites aventures d’ela et noto®. I did some OPQing, & also… some OPQing. Like these OPQs that I did with renowned slinger Gock (Harlez):

ela & noto OPQing with Gock


It seems that my little red mousie notomys is a bit shy these days. Any time that he opens his mouth, only blank chatbubbles come out!

can u see what noto says

Transcription of the above image

elaphus: can u see what noto says

elaphus [pet commands]: sit

Gock: nothing

elaphus: noto…

Gock: empty

elaphus: he whisper sweet nothings

Gock: is it that faint?

elaphus: i literally canot [sic] see it

Gock: LOL

In any case, OPQ is full of other legendary phenomena aside from whispering mice.

we can test that

Transcription of the above image

Saskee: legend says the meso in bonus stage is the meso we drop to mark

Gock: uoh

elaphus: we can test that

Hmm. Well, I definitely see lots of meso coins fly out of those boxes in the bonus stage. These days, I generally don’t mark the platforms in the On the Way Up stage, preferring to instead keep track of the entire combo (up to 4 ⋅ 4 = 16 digits) in chat. After all, chat messages don’t expire, & in the worst case, I can just resend it. But usually my party members drop little meso coins to mark the platforms anyway. Maybe those are the same coins that drop in the bonus stage?

we’re testing the legend

Transcription of the above image

SSRIs: 3

OolongQQ: 3

elaphus: 2

SSRIs: whats the purpose of dropping a 1k [meso] bag and looting the meso [coin] ?

elaphus: we’re testing the legend

Gock: joke from earlier

OolongQQ: 4

SSRIs: ah

Gock: i mean legend

Even with at least two orders of magnitude(!) more mesos used to mark platforms in On the Way Up, we seemed to be getting the same amount of mesos from the bonus stage! What gives‽ Maybe Minerva is saving the extra mesos for next time…

Remember when ela did EPQ? Me neither. Must have been in a fugue state or something. In any event, I got her a pair of Glittering Altaire Earrings, but procrastinated on actually scrolling them. Well, I finally got around to scrolling them, & you’ll never guess what happened…

ela’s Glittering Altaire Earrings…

Transcription of the item in the above image

Glittering Altaire Earrings


  • Req lev: 50
  • Category: earring
  • STR: +2
  • DEX: +2
  • INT: +2
  • LUK: +2
  • Magic def.: 25
  • Number of upgrades available: 2

Wow… deer utterly failscrolls yet another precious item? Stop the presses. 🙄

As further evidence of the ill-fatedness of our dear ela, another attempt at On the Way Up had me in the fetal position:

Crying On the Way Up

Transcription of the above image

elaphus: crying

SSRIs: same

Shamiko: sometimes its instant
sometimes not

elaphus: hit the thingies more slower like
nate is going ham on this switch on the left
hes [committed] to beating the shit out of it

SSRIs: cloud pls

Shamiko: this isnt funny anymore

elaphus: sobbing
literally begging

NateTheGrait: we gotta go old school or what

elaphus: pls.............................................................................

SSRIs: wat the fuck

elaphus: curling up in a ball
accepting my fate
imn stuck in the is stage foerever [sic]
hell is rea [sic]

[system message]: You have gained experience (+28350)

elaphus: qwWergknhlawerg

[system message]: The leader of the party has left ⟨On the Way Up⟩.

SSRIs: god

Well. At least I also got to OPQ with woodsman IntoTheWoods (Thalnos, ZeroSTR, QuestOnly, Garnier, manni):

OPQing w/ IntoTheWoods


The orange bitch

It me, once again. wooza the darksterity knight. Reddie for some big bad bosses? …Okay, lez go~!

First up is my good ol’ frienemesis Burger Moth. As avid Bossin’ Wif wooza™ readers are already aware, I’ve fought this big bad Japanese robot more times than anyone can count, particularly with my Maple wife Harlez (Gock). Although it’s a great boss for me in many ways, it also has its quirks. Aside from the obvious fact that it doesn’t really give me any opportunity to cleave, its WDEF is also regrettably high. The first body, which has nearly as much HP as the other two bodies combined, has a whopping 2.2k WDEF!! Its second body is a bit better — but still a bit high — at 1.45k, & only the third body has a more modest 1k WDEF. But, you know, by the time I’m at the third body, I’m spending like 40% of my time dodging shit anyway…

The only reason I bring this up is to justify my attempts to clock higher DPMs on this tanky first body. Whilst duoing with Harlez, & benefitting from PB buff, Echo, MW20, & SI, I managed to clock 1.59M with a @dpm 6 on the first body:

rusa, level 184, Bergamot first body, @dpm 6, PB buff + Echo + MW20 + SI

Transcription of the chatlog in the above image

[system message]: rusa — Lv.184 Dark Knight — Total Damage: 9,547,656
Damage Per Hour: 95,476,560 — Damage Per Minute: 1,591,276


Then, disaster struck. On our second run, Harlez accidentally unsubscribed from having more than zero HP, leaving only me & the Burger Moth to duke it out.

But I’d been here before. Back in the “rusa is a big girl now.” section of pt. xcix of this diary, we saw rusa solo a whole bunch of big bad bosses, not the least of which being Bergamot! So I pushed on to finish the run, for great glory, & for the MCP2 that dropped! Nice!!:

rusa finishes the Burger Moth!

Oh, & it’s a Christmas-themed MCP2. Wowzers. I just hope it doesn’t have coal inside

It’s less likely than you think.

But it wouldn’t be a proper episode of Bossin’ Wif wooza™ without me being absolutely ✨captivated✨ by Horntail-y wail-y’s li’l wiggly purple fingie (uwu[1]), yeah? Let’s start with the part where I died in a funny way:

Dying? In my preheads? It’s more likely than you think.

But seriously, you can see that I died here after most of the sed’s duration had already elapsed; & yet, nearly up to the point where I actually bit it, I still thought that I was totally fine! Should my bishop have Healed me like once, maybe, over the course of those 7〜8 full seconds? Perhaps. It definitely would have helped, although to be fair, I technically didn’t specifically ask for any. Then again, this was piss-poor luck in more ways than just that. I was particularly unfazed as a result of having Dragon Blood active the whole time, but it just didn’t matter when I ended up somehow taking touch damage anyway. That lightning attack had to not only hit me (already not extremely likely), but also had to break through my Power Stance (10% chance), and the sed had to be jump-sed (only one of the three seds are jump).

Well, the result of this little mishap was that my bishop became much more alert…

It’s frequently a bit awkward for me, because in reality, I actually need very little babysitting the large majority of the time. I get the idea that many sed bishops are not quite in tune with the fact that, >99% of the time, 1⧸1s are the only thing that can really lead to their sed target’s death — or perhaps just not quite in tune with what a 1⧸1 attack (including the distinctive markers on the ground) looks like. In any case, I don’t like to sound like I’m advising my bishop. I could — & in all reality, probably should — say things like “I generally do not need help unless I request it”, “1⧸1s are the only threat to my survival”, & the like. And also be less hesitant to request acute help, for that matter. But a bishop in HT — sed or “reg” alike — frequently already has a lot on their plate, & in many cases, they also have considerable prior experience running HT as a bishop (& possibly as other classes as well). Am I, the random orange bitch, going to curtly advise them on it?

Maybe. Even veteran HT bishops likely have little or no experience with non-shadower sed targets. Perhaps this is the origin of the underappreciation of 1⧸1s.

In any event, the resulting dichotomy is clear: either I have a hard time getting help in the rare cases that I actually do need it, or I have a hard time getting my bishop to stop riding my be-hind like a jennet. I died for the first time ever in preheads, & now my bishop is pelting me with Heals when I’m already at 90% HP & there’s not a single 1⧸1 even remotely in sight! I’m safer than a baby in a swaddling!!

Anyhow, I’m just being goofy now.

I do get some left head+mid head cleave action when I can…:

Sed target rusa, cleaving heads in Diggy run


…And it was otherwise pretty fun— Wait. Where’d Horntail go?

Is it really time for… wooza getting some Ravpap action?!? Whoa…!

That’s right. I’ve been continuing my PBventures, & now I’ve got a handful of PB buffs that I don’t know what to do with, plus a brand spankin’ new Timeless Pendant that I gotta level up! So let’s focking do it!!

rusa getting some of that Rabanana action

Naturally, this Papuvanaing was done with course heir Lvl1Crook (Level1Crook, xXCrookXx, Macer) & Stronginner Taima (Gelelp, Yunchang, Tacgnol, Boymoder). Although it did help me use my PB buffs & level up my TLP, it also taught me a lesson about rusa’s pouch-opening fingers.

Unfortunately for everyone involved, I am a slow learner, & at first, I refused to learn my lesson:

One (1) fucking coin.

Transcription of the above image

[mapwide message]: [Loot] rusa picked up Mysterious Coin Pouch 1
[Mysterious Coin Pouch 1] rusa obtained 1 Prestigious Coins.

[system message]: You have gained an item (Prestigious Coin)

Taima: GL

Lvl1Crook: deer come on

rusa: k

Lvl1Crook: this isnt funny anymore

Taima: what have we told you

rusa: deleting my chars

Lvl1Crook: ur trolling us?

Taima: again and again

Lvl1Crook: this is unironically like the 4th time

rusa: ahahahahahahahaha

[system message]: ‘Lvl1Crook’ have dropped ‘rusa’’s level of fame.

Lvl1Crook: DEFAMED

rusa: LAFMOAFAF [sic]

Taima: ahahaha

Lvl1Crook: deserved
this is what the defame system is for

Oh, you thought repeated failures & a defame would stop me? Think again.

deer, you boob.

Transcription of the above image

[mapwide message]: [Mysterious Coin Pouch 1] rusa obtained 1 Prestigious Coins.

[system message]: You have gained an item (Prestigious Coin)

rusa: what the fuck

Lvl1Crook: big oof

Taima: ................................................................................
deer, you boob.

Lvl1Crook: its 1 coin though
and deer opened it

rusa: CRYING

Lvl1Crook: can we have tara back now? clearly rusa should never
be allowed within 500⁢ft of a pouch

Taima: i give u an apple and u come back with 1 coin

[mapwide message]: [Loot] Lvl1Crook picked up Mysterious Coin Pouch 1

Taima: wwew

Lvl1Crook: watch

[mapwide message]: [Mysterious Coin Pouch 1] Lvl1Crook obtained 3 Prestigious Coins.

Taima: this is how a pro does it


Lvl1Crook: deer come on just go home

rusa: ahahaha

Lvl1Crook: its embarassing

rusa: RN

Taima: lmfao

rusa: CRYING

Lvl1Crook: hahahaha

Griefing MCP1s wasn’t the only thing that I got to do, though. When there was a little server downtime for routine maintenance, Lvl1Crook & I raced to the Phantom Forest as soon as the server came back up. It was time for some 🔥speedhunting🔥 of the freshly-spawned Figboot population:

Lvl1Crook & rusa speedhunting post-server-reboot Bigfeeties

And I think we did a pretty good job! That was a lot of Bigfeeties!!

This shit again?


Transcription of the above image

DontAtMe: popping melatonin + laxative rn

I appreciate when my bishop lets me know that they’re under the influence, even if that influence is just melatonin & prune juice. That way, if they fall asleep mid-run, then I can at least rest easy knowing that they shat themself as well.


More seriously, these other runs were great as well. I even managed to establish a point of “I don’t need help unless I request it”. Here’s a fun little jig that I did with HT’s right fingie:

Don’t blink; you might miss it. Kinda like how right head’s 1⧸1 “MISS”ed me there. It’s difficult to tell because the beginning of the Hero’s Will animation is a bit subtle, but I do manage to get my Will off before the 1⧸1 connects. It just so happened to be unnecessary in retrospect…

Just to be clear, I cannot take any responsibility for triggering left arm’s mass sed, as seen in the video clip below. At least half of the time that I’m over on that side, I’m up hitting heads anyway. But you know, the archers get bored with left head getting weapon-cancel-happy… we’ve got two bishops spamming Genesis

Goodness me!

Not to worry, though. We all made it through! And what’s more, I fricken levelled tf up???

rusa hits level 185~!!!

Holy shiet!! Level 185!!! At this point, every level is a damn milestone. 😅


It looks like my TLP is fully baked: level six out of six! Let’s see how it came out…

rusa’s new TLP!!

Transcription of the item in the above image

Timeless Pendant

One of a kind Item, Untradeable

  • Req lev: 150
  • Category: pendant
  • STR: +27
  • DEX: +26
  • INT: +25
  • LUK: +25
  • Weapon def.: 264
  • Magic def.: 260
  • Avoidability: +41
  • Number of upgrades available: 3

Ok, that’s actually pretty dang good! It’s definitely better than my first (i.e. previous) attempt, back in the “Pink Bean & jelly sandwich” section of pt. cix. I’ll take it!! ☺️

…For making me feel like I’m still playing MapleStory

And finally, let’s take a brief look at one special PB run in particular. It wasn’t extremely special or anything — we certainly didn’t get two MW30s, nor anything like that… — but it was special to me, for at least two mundane reasons. One of those reasons was simply that I managed to squeeze in a decent @dpm 28 test during the statues phase:

rusa, level 185, PB statues, @dpm 28, Cider + Echo + MW30 + SE + SI

Transcription of the chatlog in the above image

[system message]: rusa — Lv.185 Dark Knight — Total Damage: 31,671,074
Damage Per Hour: 67,866,540 — Damage Per Minute: 1,131,109

This was a “decent” one because I don’t think I particularly messed anything up, but at the same time, I probably could have done somewhat better, & also the test ran for a little too long. By the time that I got my results back, we were already at the beginning of the main body fight, where I’m pretty sure that my DPM is even lower…

In any case, 1.13M is, I suppose, not absolutely terrible for Cidering the whole way. Not that I’m really there for my DPM, but you know, I do try.

Oh, & the other special thing about this run was that I got to do a lot of babysitting. Is that a weird thing to say? Maybe I just like babysitting. Fight me about it.

This was cores ere Danger’s (Safety) second PB run, & first one in quite a while. I also had a number of other delicate attackers in my party. Out of all five parties in the expedition, we were way up there #1 on the deaths leaderboard, so I was kept very busy during the main body fight with /partyinvites, /partyexpels, urgently-timed HBs, & the like. And make no mistake: that’s no condemnation! Shit happens, & Pink Bean is not fucking around; it will kill you. Danger in particular was at a great disadvantage especially because he has no way of surviving PB’s Big Bang attack, other than dodging it by being too far out of its reach. Of course, this isn’t a problem when PB is, properly, facing rightward, but you know how that goes…

In sincerity, it’s an awkward thing to talk about in a MapleStory implementation that has already long since utterly squandered the lion’s share of its naturally-existing game mechanics in favour of, in this particular case, HP washing. I feel like I, in this diary, constantly come back to this general tangle of topics. If & when I do, it’s only because I care. Is it fair to the relatively unwashed that they’re forced to be dependent on their teammates when their peers get to be independent? Is it fair to people like me who want to play a genuinely supportive role, that they can be stripped of such a role by the mere existence of HP washing, HP Challenges, or what have you? Is it fair to pre-BB MapleStory that we’ve eviscerated it of even the most basic structure of its character-classes & party compositions, leaving behind only feeble echoes — echoes broken regularly by the silence of the anti-mechanics that we’ve replaced it with?

When HP washing in particular is spoken of, the discourse all too often centres on the instinct that washing gets in the way of what we want to do. This is, for what it’s worth, usually itself a valid instinct; in particular, when we play a videogame, we do it for fun, not for anti-fun. But this is too superficial, & so its antithesis is unsubtle: washing is optional; & if it isn’t, then it still is for most people; & if it isn’t, then it’s actually not so difficult to do; & if it is, then we can ameliorate that difficulty; & if we can’t, then we can provide an alternative; & if we can’t, then……

But the more fundamental reason why HP washing desolates the game is hinted at by the fact that genuinely supportive roles simply do not exist throughout most (or in many lost cases, all) of the game, & when they do, they are usually not taken seriously, nor are they regarded as worth talking about at any length (unless you’re me, apparently), nor will you have habitually good luck finding people to fill those roles.[2] The simple fact is this: although the barest offence of HP washing is its ability to get in our way, its true crime is thieving our way entirely. We don’t complain about the myriad elements & aspects of the game that washing has taken away from us, because we don’t even remember that they’re not there anymore.


Footnotes for “The orange bitch”

  1. [↑] What? I’m not making it weird. You’re making it weird.
  2. [↑] This is not to imply that supportive roles are the only aspect of the game relevant to HP washing in general — far from it! But this just happens to be the most relevant one here.


Ready or not, it’s time for some Maple cOnTenT with the queen of palms & soles, ya girl tar & us tarandus.

It hurts to say every time, but unfortunately this coNtENt will not be questing content; my apologies to the raving mad Questin’ With tara™ fans, who are now zealously foaming at the mouth, preparing their fingers to spam my email inbox with even more impassioned hatemail.

Just kidding. I think. Bossin’ With tara™ ain’t so bad, right…?

But before we get to the scawwie bosses, it’s first time to ✨witness histowwie history✨! Legendary F/P gishlet Tacgnol (Taima, Gelelp, Yunchang, Boymoder) has been holding on to a certain Maple Magician Shield that she managed to land two(!) 30% scrolls for WATK on. Scrolling shields is no casual endeavour, & especially not when the starting point is an already-expensive shield like a Maple Magician Shield. So landing two 30%s is a pretty epico start!

But now, with the money saved up from backbreaking apple farming & other activities, plus the motivation to “use some 60% scrolls on whatever I guess” provided by tier II of the HP Challenges (see the “Grab-bag of optionals” section of pt. cx), it was now time to just spam mfing 60%s for WATK on it!!:

Witnessing history

Transcription of the above image

tarandus: inb4 u pass all scrolls

Tacgnol: yep
thats gonna happen

tarandus: yez [sic]

Tacgnol: here goes noffin [sic]

tarandus: GL GL
holy shiet [sic]

Tacgnol: LOL

tarandus: LAOAOALAOL

Tacgnol: brb need smega

tarandus: LAOFOEAfijg

Tacgnol [item smega]: [Maple Magician Shield] R> Oddjobs

Tacgnol’s Maple Magician Shield

Transcription of the item in the above image

Maple Magician Shield (+9)

  • Req lev: 64
  • Req class: magician
  • Category: shield
  • STR: +11
  • INT: +1
  • Weapon attack: 20
  • Weapon def.: 34
  • Magic def.: 51
  • Number of upgrades available: 0

HOLY FOCK@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@

A 20 WATK Maple Magician Shield. Twenty. Heck, mine is only 18!! And you know Tacgnol got some confused and/or angry whispers after showing people this absolute beauty of a gish(let)/STR mage shield. People just don’t appreciate what a work of art that is, which is a real shame.

Unarmed, but not defenceless

You already know that I did lots of Rabananapapalatasing with the homies Taima & Lvl1Crook (Level1Crook, xXCrookXx, Macer). The most essential component of this ritual is, of course, hoeing afterwards at the Origin of Clocktower for extended periods of time:

Taima, Lvl1Crook, & tarandus hoeing @ Origin of Clocktower

Often, when we kill a boss, we expect our time, efforts, & resource expenditures to be rewarded at the end by some big prize — usually EXP and/or l00tz. So it’s kinda like sucking on one of those hard lollipops with a soft sweet at the centre: you work your way slowly through the outer part — which, granted, still has a nice flavour — & then when you hit that sweet, sweet centre, you get to gobble that shit up. Yummy yum yummers. In this case, the sweet at the centre is hoeing. It’s literally just standing there, chatting, & wearing funny hats. That’s the delicious chocolatey goodness that we come to MapleStory for.

But Rabananapapalatasing wasn’t the only borssing that we did. We also killed ourselves some Biggyfeets!:

Taima, Lvl1Crook, & tara vs. Biggyfoot

That includes a few Biggyfoots that we killed alongside Harlez (Gock), plus the stray Headless Horsemans that like to show up at The Evil Dead:

Harlez, Taima, & tara vs. the Headless Horseman at The Evil Dead

I even did some more Kreckselling alongside Harlez & xBowtjuhNL/BuccjuhNL (PriestjuhNL):

Krexing with Harlez & xBowtjuhNL

xBowtjuhNL had been trying to do Krex more often, but seemed to be having trouble finding willing participants…:

Why do people hate Krex?

Transcription of the above image

[mapwide announcement]: As you wish, here comes Krexel!

xBowtjuhNL: why do [people] hate krex
its the best afk content during right eye

tarandus: i reckon its because its the same level as zak

Harlez: also [it only drops] pouch 2

tarandus: yert

xBowtjuhNL: true

Harlez: not much else remarkable
helm dex [30%]
worth less than a [coin]

xBowtjuhNL: oa luk 30 :(

Harlez: opa luk 30 worth hal;f cpoin0 [sic]

xBowtjuhNL: but no annoying 1⧸1

Harlez: some unique skill books

xBowtjuhNL: i dont think its too bad

BuccjuhNL: easier to multi client as well

tarandus: the real reason is
we secretly delight in the destruction of ulu city
and dont want to kill the thing responsible

Harlez: give it back to the plants

tarandus: yez

xBowtjuhNL: LOL

Harlez: *devolves into anprim*

tarandus: lmfao

Whew. Good thing the anprims can’t see this, since they don’t have internet connections. 😊

I also did some Rabanana with Harlez & Lvl1Crook…:

tara, Harlez, & Lvl1Crook vs. Rabanana

…And afterwards, we considered a certain Yāosēng [()(lín)(Yāo)(sēng)]. But Lvl1Crook had yet to do the prequests, so we headed over to the Dutra Suppository for some shiny-monk slapping. Like, for example, 1–2 F:

Harlez, Lvl1Crook, & tara @ 1–2 F

You know, I really don’t remember the Yāosēng prequests being quite so quick & easy…

In any case, with Lvl1Crook’s prequests done, we took on the great gramps of martial artistry:

Harlez, Lvl1Crook, & tara vs. JC

During which, I hit gaw dam level 161‽‽:

tara hits level 161~!

tarandus hits level 161. Harlez is very tired of JCing, & is patiently asking if she can leave now.

Back at Rabananana, we had… an incident. Often referred to as “The Japanese Map incident of 2024”, what really happened on this day is known only to me, Lvl1Crook, & Taima. And now you, since you’re reading this. Assuming that you’re neither Taima nor Lvl1Crook (hi).

It all started so innocently, with fun & games. We were discussing the scrolling of Japanese Maps, & Taima noted that she had a few junk ones sitting in her inventory. Lvl1Crook thought that it would be funny to pick one up & wield it for himself. Little did he know, Rāvaṇa was about to start summoning gobs. So, so many gobs.

Lvl1Crook cannot unequip the Japanese Map

Transcription of the chatlog in the above image

Lvl1Crook: this was shortsighted

Taima: xD

Lvl1Crook: sorry lol

Indeed, it was shortsighted. With gobs flooding the entire map, Lvl1Crook couldn’t catch his breath long enough to switch equipment. He had inadvertently transformed himself into a swashbuckler with really bad stats.

What happened next will shock you. We killed enough of the gobs to let him switch back to his gun, & then proceeded as normal. 😱

Interlude: “Ball tarandus”

Ball tarandus.

Figure 6.283185…: Ball tarandus.

Back to our regularly scheduled programming

I had now done Yāosēng as a duo with Harlez, and also as a trio with Harlez & Lvl1Crook. But what about as a duo with… BuccjuhNL?

Now, you have to remember, in this image, I might be level 161, but BuccjuhNL is 16 levels below me, at 145.

BuccjuhNL & tara vs. Yāosēng

Does it seem ill-advised to you? I wasn’t too worried about volunteering myself in buddy chat under the caveat that my damage might be kinda peepee poopoo, but that was probably because I mistakenly thought that the character asking to “R>” — viz. xBowtjuhNL — would also be the one running. When I realised that he actually meant his buckin’ near BuccjuhNL, I figured we could still do it, but I made sure to negotiate what WATK pots we would be using. We decided on basically just using a bunch of stoppers.

In the way of an insurance policy, Danger (Safety) very kindly agreed to come along for the runs, in spite of the fact that, realistically, he could have just duoed with BuccjuhNL very easily. 🥲 Failed Yāosēng runs are indeed painful, so if necessary, Danger could step in to provide the necessary DPS to polish off Yāosēng at the last moment.

It was looking pretty good, & as a result of our both being buccs, we could use one TL per run, thus getting us each triple-ST[1] for both runs. Then, you know, our STs ran out.

BuccjuhNL & tara ran out of ST…

Well, okay. I have max-level Barrage at least, so I’m not doing zero DPS in my non-ST’d state… r—right?

Hmm, well, BuccjuhNL is level 145, so I suppose he doesn’t have many 4th-job SP either… But by the time that it became clear that we were struggling to finish within the time limit, we were having trouble putting that insurance policy into effect.

Did we overestimate ourselves? Yeah, a little. But in our defence, by the time that we got booted, Yāosēng had a preciously thin sliver of its HP remaining, so we didn’t overestimate by much at all. Plus, I still feel guilty for only using six stoppers, when I really ought to have used… I dunno, probably eight or so.

I figured if I just pop an apple, then we’re definitely peachy keen; after all, I’ve been doing so many APQs that I don’t even know what to do with all these apples anymore. But popping apples just to clear Yāosēng was looking like a dumb idea from BuccjuhNL’s & Danger’s perspectives. So, okay, it’s better if we just have Danger help out with attacking…

Danger helping out with attacking this time

Right, so, even with Danger only attacking part of the time, that was unsurprisingly more than enough to clear…:

Okay, we cleared this one for sure…

All in all, that was actually four (4) Yāosēng runs (because we started not long before reset), & only one failed! ✨

In the “Other Zax” section above, I did some Zaqqing with gores eyre uwu123 & heroine SIIlL. Well, you’ll be perhaps unsurprised to learn that I also Krex’d with them (& Harlez):

uwu123, SIIlL, tara, & Harlez vs. Kreckselle

Back at the Phantom Forest of Figbeet, I Figbeeted my way into an entire level 162~!:

tara hits level 162~!

Whoa~ Big numbor~ ✨✨

And finally, I was invited to chill out with at the local Scar Lion with pally akiwi (Flurri, SecretIy), bowmaster xRook (misandrist, sissyboy), & Harlez:

akiwi, tarandus, xRook, & Harlez vs. Scarlion

Noice. 😎

Every day is leg day for Horntail

So, tara is level 162 now…? And I still have yet to take on the biggest, baddest boss of the GMS v62 world: Horntail!!

I’ve only ever HTed on my darksterity knight rusa, so I really have very little idea of how it’s gonna go as a buccaneer. The attacking style is just radically different, & also depends a lot on skill build, including how many SP you have available to spend on attacky attacks. So basically, I’m tryna say that I’m a n00b. In my defence, I still have 16 Gelt Chocolates left to use…

But those are concerns about my outgoing damage; damage from me, to the big lizard. What about the converse? Well, my main concern is those legs. Sure, the legs are the first thing to die, & they generally don’t last that long, but I don’t really trust my ability to dodge its attacks. If I were truly fearing for my life, then I could skip out on legs entirely, in favour of attacking heads until legs go down, & then switching to tail (at least, as long as I’m ST’d, & thus don’t have to get close to touching the deadly thing).

As I’ve just implied, the legs’ attacks can be dodged, specifically by jumping. This can work well for ranged attackers, who aren’t getting anywhere close to touching the legs anyway, & who usually can jump freely enough to jump-dodge on command. As a buccaneer, it’s a little more complicated — notwithstanding the fact that most buccs have more than enough MAXHP to tank all leg attacks anyway. When not in ST, my only options for doing reasonable DPM all involve cuddling up with the leg, which could risk taking touch damage. And when in ST, using Demo (literally just once) is enough to stick me in my animation for a whopping ≈2.4⁢ s or so. Using Demo is, thus, a little bit like intentionally stunning oneself. The problem is that, by the time that the leg even starts its ranged attack animation, there’s a good chance that I’ve already pressed the Demo button. Uh-oh! I can’t jump now! If I’m lucky, my iframes will absorb the hit. But the key phrase here is “if I’m lucky”…

Note that this latter problem still exists for Barrage, in spite of it also having iframes (largely due to its delay[2]). In Zaqqūm fights, I can (& do) circumvent this limitation via the strategic use of CSB, but in this context, doing so is typically a suicidal strategy.

Data spelunking

So I guess the question, then, is: how much damage can I actually take?

To answer that question, we’re going to have to look in 🗃️The Data🗃️. Yes, that means the WZ data. Your everyday Mob.wz file can be cracked open with an off-the-shelf copy of HaRepacker, or you can use if you hate yourself. Either way, you’re just looking at the game data in the same way that your game client does.

To find the data for HT’s legs, we look at Mob.wz/8810008.img, where 8810008 is the MoID of Horntail's Legs. Under Mob.wz/8810008.img/info, we can see lots of goodies related to HT legs generally, including PADamage & MADamage, which are 1 160 & 560, respectively. Here, PA & MA are physical attack & magical attack, respectively. We can confirm that these are the same values listed for WATK & MATK, respectively, on the ML Lib entry.

But we can also see Mob.wz/8810008.img/attack1, alongside three other attacks attack2, attack3, & attack4. Just by looking at the raster-graphics data, we can see that the first two attacks look like mirrors of the latter two; we just don’t often see the right-side leg attacking, for the obvious reason that we don’t generally do “tail first” runs…

Looking at attack3, we see its info node. Here, we see the hit node, which mostly stores raster-graphic data for what it looks like when you’re struck by the attack — but also includes an attach node, which presumably makes it so that the hit animation attaches to your PC’s position, rather than staying in the original position where you were initially struck. We also see a jumpAttack node, which presumably indicates that the attack can be dodged by not being on a FH when it goes off. The knockback node indicates that this attack causes super-knockback if it hits you. The range node indicates the hitbox for this attack, which is specified by the lt & rb subnodes, which stand for left top & right bottom, respectively. Both are (xy) coördinates. These two points uniquely specify a single axis-aligned rectangle.

There’s also attackAfter, & honestly, I cannot find any info on what this one means. More relevant is, of course, PADamage, which is 950. That’s actually not even that high, although we’ll get back to that later…

attack4 is the one that stuns instead of super-knockbacking, so instead of having knockback, it has disease, which is set to a value of 123. If we check out Skill.wz/MobSkill.img/123, we can dig a bit to see that Skill.wz/MobSkill.img/123/level/1/affected/0 is one of the frames of the stun animation. However, the PADamage value for attack4 is also 950, so both attacks are basically the same for our purposes.

The plot leg thickens

But we also know that HT has the ability to empower itself, which gives it a WATK buff. Bishops have to dispel HT’s self-buffs anyway, so we expect that HT body parts will be unempowered most of the time, but still not all the time.

We can look under Skill.wz/MobSkill.img to find the empower skill. As it turns out, there are confusingly two empower skills that kinda look the same. I don’t claim to know why this is, but their IDs are 100 & 110. The wings do the empowering, so we can peep Mob.wz/8810007.img/info/skill/4/skill and see that it’s 110; none of its other skills have an ID of 100 or 110, so this is it. Mob.wz/8810007.img/info/skill/4/level is 5, so we look at Skill.wz/MobSkill.img/110/level/5/x to find that the magnitude of the buff is 130.

This effectively leaves us with a matrix of four possible WATK values:

unempowered empowered
touch 1 160 1 290
ranged 950 1 080

Bean counting & number crunching

The way that we get from these WATK values into actual damage numbers is unnecessarily complicated, due to MapleLegends’s incoming physical damage formula being the GMS v62 version. Although I will walk step by step through one example calculation (for empowered leg touch damage), it’s optional reading that will be hidden inside a <details> element. Note that magical attacks are not quite so complicated, but HT legs don’t have any magical attacks.

The bird’s-eye view of the formula looks like this (note that this is not the actual formula):

WATK 2 𝒰 [ 80 10 000 , 85 10 000 ] protect

…Where 𝒰 is used as a placeholder for a “random variable” with the specified continuous uniform distribution, & protect is a real number that is usually small & usually positive.

Of course, in order to calculate protect, we need my stats. For the purpose of these theoretical calculations, I’ll use actual numbers copy-&-pasted from in-game, but I’ll pick conservative numbers that involve no buffs — particularly, no WDEF buffs, & no MW. This will get a fairly accurate picture of “the realistically worst case” scenario.

Being a level ≥100 pirate, my StandardPDD is Base.wz/StandardPDD.img/5/100[3] = 309.

Example calculation for WATK ≔ 1 290 𝑑 = 𝑑 charLv mobLv = 13 13 + charLv mobLv = 13 13 + 162 160 = 13 15 .

Because WDEFsPDD, we actually don’t even use the value of 𝑑 at all, but I’ve included it for clarity.

𝑐 = 𝑐 non-warr = STR 2 800 + DEX 3 200 + INT 7 200 + LUK 3 200 = 891 2 800 + 113 3 200 + 37 7 200 + 37 3 200 0.37 .
𝑏 = 𝑏 WDEF sPDD = 28 𝑐 45 + 7 charLv 13 000 + 49 250 0.514 .
𝑎 = 𝑐 + 7 25 0.65 .

From these, we can calculate the final values:

WATK 2 𝒰 [ 80 10 000 , 85 10 000 ] protect = WATK 2 𝒰 [ 80 10 000 , 85 10 000 ] ( 𝑎 WDEF + 𝑏 ( WDEF sPDD ) ) = 1 290 2 𝒰 [ 80 10 000 , 85 10 000 ] ( 𝑎 316 + 𝑏 7 ) 𝒰 [ 13 103.7 , 13 935.8 ] .

Of course, we ultimately want integers for the lower & upper bounds. To be conservative, we can floor the lower end & ceiling the upper end. This gets us a final (random) result of 𝒰[13 103,13 936].

Because any actual damage number (a trial, or “roll” of the virtual dice) is an integer, this is now a discrete uniform distribution. Sort of. The actual exact distribution (including the edge cases) is a bit unclear, & is a result of some floating-point imprecision combined with the actual exact way that this is procedure is programmed within the game client.

Repeating this process for all four quadrants, we get:

unempowered empowered
touch 𝒰[10 555,11 229] 𝒰[13 103,13 936]
ranged 𝒰[07 010,07 463] 𝒰[09 122,09 706]

Live to punch another leg

At the time of this writing — which includes a few event-only temporary equips, unfortunately — I have just barely (barely) over 12k MAXHP on tara, unbuffed. That puts me pretty firmly in the “can tank” realm for all these attacks, excepting empowered touch, where I’m pretty firmly in the “can’t tank” camp unless I’ve HB or something.

That’s pretty good news, although obviously it would be a treat to be able to tank empowered touch as well. When in ST, I don’t have to worry about touching, so I’m pretty much all good. Outside of ST, I think I have basically two options:

  1. Just be careful about getting close enough to legs to Barrage it. I know from experience that Zaqqūm (or Barrage, rather) is fairly generous with its hitboxes, making it not so difficult to Barrage its body without taking touch damage. With HT legs, I might consider trying to get iframes from an incoming attack before walking towards the legs with the Barrage button held down. This is probably(‽) a fairly safe way to get in position; far enough right to hit legs with Barrage, but only just so.
  2. Give up when not ST’d, Barraging left head (or whatever) instead.

Considering that the legs aren’t alive for that long anyway, & that my ST generally has a ≈66.6% duty cycle, I feel better about just doing (2.).

Footnotes for “Volar”

  1. [↑] See the “A grasp nullary” section of pt. cviii for more on this mechanic.
  2. [↑] Not to be confused with its cooldown (it has none) nor its attack period.
  3. [↑] The 5 is due to pirate CIDs starting with the decimal digit ⟨5⟩.

makes waste

Double Stab! ✜

Bosses are cool & all, but I know why you’re really here. You’re here to see everybody’s favourite stabby-stab nightlord McDaggerbitch alces explore more of the Maple World, & stab tf out of even more MFs. Mostly for the cards. The sweet, sweet cards. And hey — we just might learn something along the way.

Well, you’re in luck. Buckle ur seatbelts, tighten ur chinstraps, safety glasses on. Because it’s time to… sleep?

Sleepy alces… 🥱

Figure 💤: Sleepy alces… 🥱🛌🏽

I’ve been sleeping a lot. Or at least, being in bed a lot… So I put together an outfit that I could wear in-game whenever I managed to crawl out of bed for a bit.

In the last episode where we saw alces cardhunting — viz. the “Moose xing” section of pt. cx of this diary — I left off by starting Elpam Gorlab’s quests: “Lost!” & “ReVersal”. To complete “ReVersal”, I would need to farm Temporal Fragments from the Tick-Tocks of the Whirlpool of Time:

alces finds a Temporal Fragment & a Springy Worm

I dunno. This “Temporal Fragment” looks an awful lot like a gold Rolex® or something. If I have to hunt for 60 of them… What’s the plural, even? *Rolices??

In any case, I also got a Springy Worm, as you can see. I suppose I may as well do Clock Tower Monster Wipe-Out, yeah? It is a fantastic quest, after all. So that means hunting down some Tick-Tock’s Eggs…

alces vs. Tick-Tox

alces finds Tick-Tock’s Eggs

Whoa! They even have the little twin bells on them. That is adorable.

…Plus some Chronos’s Eggs…

alces vs. Chronoses

Chronos’s Egg get!

…And then, of course, opening them up to get the Timer’s Eggs that’re tucked inside. I perhaps ate slightly all the Chick Cookies, & now my tum is full of carbs. I think I need a nap.

Dīlūdium sopōris


alces napping in the Whirlpool of Time



[sniff] Okay, I’m ready. Let’s defeat those monsters.

alces vs. Master Chronoses

alces vs. Platoon Chronoses

With the Tick-Tocks, Chronoses, Platoon Chronoses, & Master Chronoses scrapped for parts, I just needed that one (1) Timer kill.

Of course, there were no Timers. Whilst I waited for one to spawn, I decided to take on “The Clocktower Headache”, by dismantling some 80 Ticks at Crossroad of Time:

The full force of alces vs. one (1) Tick

Thankfully, I didn’t have to collect the parts, so I just left the exploded Ticks on the ground.

For “The Clock Workers’ Batteries”, I collected 200 of them from the Robos in my favourite little Lūdi map: Toy Factory ⟨Aparatus Room⟩:

alces hunting for “The Clock Workers’ Batteries”

Yes, they did misspell apparatus.

For my efforts in recovering the batteries, Grandpa Clock awarded me with one Purple Shadow…:

Grandpa Clock gifts alces a Purple Shadow…


And of course, “Mac the Mechanic’s Maintenance Manual” went missing. Again. Here we go…

alces looking for Mac’s Maintenance Manual

Okay, I’ve broken like half a dozen of these dumb boxes & haven’t seen anything interesting. What gives?

Oup. There we go…

alces extracts Mac’s Maintenance Manual from the Toy Trojans yslain

There it is! The mauve Maintenance Manual! Mac will be very pleased to get this back. At least, until he misplaces it yet again…

Hmm. Still no signs of Timer. Welp, I’ll head down to meet with Ghosthunter Bob again, & this time, I’ll do “The Soul Collector”:

alces vs. Spirit Vikings

The Spirit Vikings never stood a chance. Now I’ve got their little can of ghost… spaghetti?

Soul Collector get!

I’m kidding. Why would you store spaghetti in a can like that? It’s just pasta sauce.

Unfortunately, now matter how much pasta sauce I farm, I can never seem to catch a glimpse of the elusive Timer. Oh well. I’ll just head back to Masteria now.

O, Masteria!

Warrior Throne get!

Whoa! Completing “ReVersal” also let me finally complete “Urban Warrior”! Now I have a cosy chair to… probably fall asleep in.

But completing Elpam Gorlab’s pair of quests was merely a prelude to doing the other Masteria quests, too. I’ve already done a number of them, but with “ReVersal” out of the way, I’m on my way to “Finding Jack”, wherever he might be up in these blasted Crimsonwood Mountains

alces & the Valley of Heroes

alces & the Valley of Heroes

Speaking of the Crimsonwood Mountains, have you ever seen the flora up here? It’s not so much “flora” as it is “floran’t”. I mean, look at this poor Crimson Treestump…:

A hollow Crimson Treestump

Figure 1: The hollow bottom of a broken-off Crimson Tree trunk.

Drier than a soda cracker in a windtunnel — & just as broken apart, as well.

At least I found something inside:

Crimson Tree card get!

Maybe there’s a reason why the Crimsonwood Mountains look the way that they do.

The palæogeology of CWM

The Crimsonwood Mountains

Figure 2: Imagery of the Crimsonwood Mountains themselves, focusing on the shape of the uniform-looking rock & the lack of any vegetation.

Looking at the detail of these mountain ridges, which apparently form a mountain range that we know as CWM, I see a handful of features that immediately pop out to me:

Taking these observations collectively, I’d like to speculate about the geomorphology of CWM.

If the valleys are U-shaped, then that would make this ridge an arête. Arêtes are formed when multiple glaciers carve valleys in parallel, leaving sharp ridges that separate the valleys. Given the extreme dryness of the CWM that we see, it might seem unlikely that there was lots of ice here, but it seems plausible given that the formation of arêtes happens over geologic time. A good real-life example of an arête is Crib Goch in Gwynedd (it’s not lost on me that lowercase cwm /⁠kʊm⁠/ is Welsh for “valley”…).

If the valley(s) are V-shaped, then it’s more likely that these formations are fluvial. Either way, huge quantities of flowing water of some sort, over geologic time, are involved in the formation of the CWM structures pictured in Fig. 2.

I have doubts that these formations are the result of specifically oceaniccontinental orogenic/uplift processes, given that, in such a case, we would expect there to be an arc–trench complex. This would imply a vulcanic arc, as well as a nearby subducting ocean with the corresponding oceanic trench. Given that there are no signs of vulcanism & no signs of a nearby ocean, this is doubtful. If there were a nearby ocean, it would likely need to be separated from CWM by something producing a rain shadow, to explain the extreme dryness of CWM.

Nevertheless, an orogenesis of these structures is still plausible if it was one of continental collision. This would imply two distinct continental plates colliding in a way that has sutured them together, leaving evidence in the form of these mountains, & possibly the exhumation of UHP rocks (although there is no evidence of the latter). Given the obscure history & geography of Masteria, this is also plausible.

Looking at the sheerness & thinness of these formations, however, I still lean more towards the glacial/fluvial hypotheses.


The almost complete lack of vegetation & the uniform rock surface both suggest to me that CWM as we know it resulted from some kind of cataclysm — & a recent one, at that. To attain such a uniform surface, even at all elevations of each ridge, either of two things had to’ve happened:

  1. These formations were carved up from a single monolithic stratum, & that carving left behind little evidence of additional deposition on top.
  2. The surface that we see was deposited recently.

(1.) doesn’t seem likely to me. For starters, that would be one huge stratum!! Plus, the idea that there hasn’t been any deposition since then would seem to imply that these formations are neither glacial nor fluvial, & presumably that the formation was very recent.

Then again, (2.) doesn’t seem particularly likely either. Deposition of this kind would presumably be due to wind transport, or perhaps to precipitation of mineral dust. Still, this could be plausible, especially given the thick reddish-brown cloud cover that we can also see in Fig. 2.

We can imagine (1.) happening because these were formed as mid-ocean ridges, later followed by some cataclysmic event of unknown description that caused the ocean to disappear — effectively drastically lowering the local sea level. Of course, this requires the ocean to disappear somehow, & I also have my doubts that such a process would produce such tall & thin structures.

For (2.), we need some source of the sediment that was transported here via wind and/or rain dust; although we don’t know of one, that’s not necessarily a dealbreaker, because the geography of Masteria is obscure anyway. If rain dust was involved, then we also have to explain how CWM now ostensibly lives in a rain shadow.

Either way, we need some way to explain the absence of vegetation. Even very hostile environments such as CWM generally have some vegetation that is specially adapted to the conditions. This is fundamentally why we need some kind of cataclysm to explain what we observe.

(A.) Raised from the sea

We’ve heard in myths & tales of Masteria sinking into the ocean (or part of what we now know as “Masteria” already — from the beginning — being part of the ocean, perhaps?), & subsequently re-emerging some time within generational memory.

This could explain how CWM was either some kind of mid-ocean-ridge-like formation, or how it could have been formed in the obvious way (glacially and/or fluvially), deposited upon recently, & then voided of basically all viable lifeforms.

(B.) Seismic catastrophe

Perhaps what we see is just ordinary rock that was deposited in a mundane way, but was then very rapidly uplifted into ridges by a catastrophic seismic event.

This could explain the morphology, & perhaps a sufficiently catastrophic — & importantly, very recent — seismic event could explain the extinction.

(C.) Victim of vulcanism

Perhaps the eruption(s) of a volcano caused a localised extinction event via abrupt & drastic climatic changes, vulcanic ash pollution/poisoning, etc.

This would allow for the structures that we observe to have arisen organically (presumably glacially/fluvially). Then, later on, the vulcanism would have caused the extinction, as well as the deposition of the reddish-brown rock surface that we see.

For better or worse, (A.) is largely contradicted by what we know about the history of Masteria. IsaacGS & Inugami’s What Do We Know About Masteria So Far (2020-11-08; archived) has this to say (emphasis in the original):

Masteria did not, in fact, sink into the ocean. According to Taggrin and Lukan, there was a huge flash of light and it was warped to “another world”. This other world is obviously Versal. This explains a lot of odd things, like how the flora and fauna could have survived while the continent was under the ocean.

This is an unfortunate detail partly because it invalidates (A.), but moreso because it adds a clear element of world-bending magic. Speculating about geomorphology & such is not quite as interesting when arbitrary things can be “just magic”. Still, it’s worth noting that (A.) can be partially salvaged by blaming the extinction on whatever happened whilst Masteria was in Versal.

Being somewhat more mundane, (B.) feels more believable, but does require a sui generis seismological event. It also seems somewhat unlikely that a seismological event on its own — even a fantastically extreme one — could cause an extinction of this kind.

This brings us to (C.), which I personally think is the most appealing of these three. It makes the origin of the observed geomorphology fairly straightforward & believable. Vulcanism is also known to be a relatively common cause of extinction events. Moreover, although the deposition of the vulcanic ashes/material does appear suspiciously uniform, it’s very possible that said deposition was aided by the thick clouds that we observe.

Fossil record

That’s not to say that there are absolutely no signs of life. There always are.

A macabre sampling of some native CWM flora & fauna

Figure 3: A macabre sampling of some native CWM flora & fauna, including two preserved mammalian skeletons & a crimson-coloured thornbush.

On the right-hand side of Fig. 3, we can clearly see two mammalian skeletons. It’s difficult to tell, but judging purely by their size & by the shape of their horns[1], they appear to be bovids.

Near the top-left corner of Fig. 3, we see some kind of crimson-coloured bush-looking kinda thing. It’s prickly, & it hurts if you touch it, but those are about the only features that we can observe. If we wanted to identify it as a plant, we’d want to see some kind of reproductive structure… or maybe some leaves, roots… But we just don’t have a lot to work with here.

Still, the presence of these fossils without any corresponding living specimen, nor really much life at all, supports the “recent extinction cataclysm” hypothesis.

Erosion landforms

After climbing through, beyond, & above the Valley of Heroes, I arrived at the Lower Ascent. Although it may be “lower” indeed, this is nonetheless the first part of the ascent to the Crimsonwood Keep itself, which is at a very high elevation. It’s along this ascent that we start to see some more interesting things.

The increase in interestingness is partly just due to the proximity to the Keep; it was here where I bumped into so many of the corrupted myrmidons of the Twisted Masters. But the considerable increase in elevation also means a decreased impact of the vulcanism (or what have you) that caused the extinction event & its associated geomorphic changes. Along the ascent, I spotted many relatively untouched sandstone formations, like the one in Fig. 4.

A typical cavern entrance in CWM

Figure 4: A typical cavern entrance in CWM, built of wind-eroded sandstone.

The banding is typical of sandstone. The denudation that produced this structure was not mass wasting, but the kind of aeolian processes that might produce an alcove. Given just a little more geologic time, these might become little more than hoodoos.

Calcareous caverns

No simple alcove, this sandstone structure gives way to a vast interior cavern. One where I found the errant Jack Barricade, & of course, the wickèd creatures who would hold him captive:

alces in the Cavern of Pain

At the behest of Lukan the Stormcaster, for “The Brewing Storm”, I collected ten of the Stormbreakers’ badges.

Did I mention that the caverns are vast?

Interior detail of a CWM cavern

Figure 5: Interior detail of a CWM cavern, including a lighthouse-like structure, & a vast array of large blocky rock formations on the ceilings & floors.

Carbonates, do you think? Column-like speleothem formations could explain the consistently blocky & uneven nature of what we see in the representative Fig. 5. Carbonate rocks come in a variety of hues, so there’s no issue there. The formations hanging from the ceilings look awfully suspicious, though.

And what’s up with that flame on the right-hand side? This neatly-carved & symmetrical lighthouse thing means that someone’s been living here for a while, & they’ve been modifying the cavern as they see fit. The brilliant blue colour might mean that this flame is burning very cleanly (no soot), or perhaps there’s some copper or other blue-burning sort of salt in there. I suppose burning an extremely clean flame would make sense; wouldn’t want to smoke yourself out of your own cave.

Javelins, knives, & Shadowknights

It was in these caverns where I realised how much Taunt & Venom complete my arsenal. It’s a bit strange, right? My “main attack” is still a 1st-job one, & yet these two 4th-job skills fit like a glove.

The result is an utterly unmistakable combat style: FJing around, collectively immobilising & draining the HP of my enemies with SW, cleaving through them & applying Venom with so many Taunts, & powerfully finishing off individual monsters with my Double Stab.

Here, I’ll show you a neat trick:

I can keep moving whilst I’m waiting for my Taunt animation to end, if I can time a jump-Taunt correctly as soon as I land.

Stormbreaker Badge get!

And there it is: ten Stormbreaker Badges. That was quite the workout, I must say.

Perhaps it was their difference in guild membership during the old days that has kept Lukan apart from Taggrin & the rest of the Raven Ninja Clan: Lukan a diehard Stormcaster, & the Raven Ninjas the most upright, wary, & conservative post-disappearance splinter of the Shadowknights. Or perhaps it was just an omok [오목] grudge…:

Taggrin the Omok enthusiast

Transcription of the above NPC dialogue

Taggrin: Hmph. Had I known he was interested in Masteria’s disappearance, our conversation might have gone differently. I’ll admit that my ego may have gotten the better of me that time. Yeah, go ahead and laugh, but Omok’s one of the few things that really gets my blood riled up… I take it quite seriously. And who would’ve thought I’d find a decent player out here in the woods? Very well, I may have prejudged the man’s motives… I’ll reserve my judgement until I hear his full story.

In any event, I had seen the Elderwraiths with my own eyes: bare skeleton torsos, robbed of their legs & skulls, but totally obscured by thick black cloth wrappings enveloped in a supernaturally purple misty flame. But I wasn’t eager to get anywhere near them.

According to Taggrin, these wraiths are the souls of brave Crimsonwood Keep soldiers who fell in battle whilst protecting the Keep from the invading Krakians. Not to place undue blame on the Krakians; it’s difficult not to invade the Crimsonwood Keep when you’re under the impossibly powerful magical thrall of The Alchemist. Taggrin promised a reward of trust if I could lay these fell spirits to rest for good, bringing back the ashes for a proper burial.

The gentler Phantom Forest

Although legend has it that the Phantom Forest is home to a very terrifying beast indeed, it’s otherwise markèdly less hostile than CWM. Compare Figs. 1 & 3 to what we see in Fig. 6 below:

Some Phantom Forest flora

Figure 6: The typical soil & flora of the Phantom Forest, including both a Phantom Tree & some kind of low-lying plant colony (or colonies).

It’s difficult to say much about the pedology here, for reasons that are perhaps obvious. Still, in contrast to what we see in Figs. 2〜4, Fig. 6 is not only an earthier, darker, moister-looking regolith, but it’s also visibly made of particles of varying sizes (rather than being monolithic). Granted, the bulk of it appears to be pretty large chunks of rock, some of which are large enough to be considered boulders. But this is still workable, & there are pebbles in there as well — plus something approaching real soil, to hold it all together!

These Phantom Trees are much healthier-looking than those Crimson Trees (especially the one in Fig. 1…), although they’re still conspicuously leafless. More interesting is the fact that the ground is covered in a layer of low-lying plants. I’d suspect that there could be lichens involved — lichens can, after all, live in just about any environment — but the pinnate leaves towards the bottom of the image don’t look like the lobes of a foliose lichen to me.

This leaves[2] us with various plant possibilities, like e.g. mosses, which would presumably be in addition to some kind of graminoid plant(s) (Poales) responsible for the bulk of the foliage. These might be true grass(es), sedges, or possibly even rushes. Who knows, really. All of these families are pretty large (especially Poaceae) & diverse, including many species that are hardy & adaptable.

Still, the Phantom Forest appears to be lacking in biodiversity

In any case, I killed quite a few of these sooty flying napkins with my dagger:

alces vs. Elderwraith

They weren’t forthcoming with the cards for a while, but I eventually got to them…:

Elderwraith card get!

…And brought their ashes back to Taggrin, who handled them gingerly, in preparation for burial rites.

El camino de la fortaleza

Lukan was still upset at the idea that the Keep, & the ascent to it, had been overtaken by soulless pretenders, & wasn’t entirely convinced that I wasn’t also on their side. To prove my loyalty, & to get rid of some of these pests, I stormed the castle to kill a number of Windraiders, Firebrands, & Nightshadows:

alces @ the Path of Strength

It was here at The Path of Strength where I learnt just how much I hate Nightshadows. I mean, they look cool & all, but with that much HP, the immunity to poison/venom was really killing my vibe.

El camino a la desertización

At the base of the PoS, I encountered one of the only true signs of life up here in CWM:

CWM cactus

Figure 7: A live saguaroid cactus spotted at the base of the PoS.

A real plant? In my CWM‽ It’s more likely than you think.[3]

The armed (in this case, four-armed) shape of this cactus is the signature appearance of saguaro cacti (Carnegiea gigantea). The name is via Mexican Spanish saguaro /⁠säˈgwä.ɾo̞⁠/, ultimately of Uto-Aztecan origin. The Uto-Aztecan origin is due to saguaros only being found in the Sonoran Desert, in the northwestern bits of the Mexican state of Sonora & the southwestern bits of the U.S. state of Arizona.

There are no woody ribs showing, & this individual appears to be very much alive. It is, however, suspiciously short. It’s barely taller than me, which means that it’s either fairly young — perhaps only three decades or so old — or has had its growth rate stunted by a lack of water. Yet, it still managed to produce four arms; not all individuals grow arms at all, & those that do tend to be more mature at the time that their first arm begins growth. Our little cactus friend is trying real hard out here.

ℹ️ Not keen on the details? Feel free to skip ahead to the “Cactus ænigmaticus” section below.

Then again, saguaros are not the only cacti that can grow in this general sort of shape. Others would also be members of the subfamily Cactoideae. In the simplified table below (viz. Table 1), I’ve classified cactus species based on their habits, according to the following five-armed[2] scheme:

A habit similar to that of the archetypical saguaro. One or more branches off of the main stem, where the branches always — or almost always — originate from neither the top nor the bottom of the main stem. The end of every stem (branch or otherwise) is erect. Branches usually have visible “elbows”. The number of branches is relatively small, usually in the single-digits.
A habit reminiscent of an elaborate many-armed candelabra. This tree-like habit may or may not have a “trunk” of significant height, before branching into a tight bundle of many stems. Branches may, in general, originate at any height. Branches often lack visible “elbows”. All stems are erect. There is typically a “top” height at which most or all branches stop.
One or more branches, where all — or almost all — branches originate from the bottom of the main stem. The end of each stem is generally erect, but may or may not have a visible “elbow”.
A habit intermediate between saguaroid & candelabriform. Different individuals within the (sub)species may differ in their habit. Often, younger individuals will tend more towards saguaroid, & older individuals towards candelabriform.
Many other habits are possible for cacti in general, but they’re irrelevant, & thus left unnamed here.
Legend for Table 1: Armed cactus habits.
Table 1: Greatly simplified overview of armed cacti, all within the subfamily Cactoideae.[4]
tribe subtribe genus species subspecies vulgar name(s) distribution habit height comments
Cereeae Cereinae Pilosocereus P. polygonus Deering’s tree cactus Hispaniola subcandelabriform 3〜10⁢ m
P. spp. Royen’s tree cactus, tree cactus Neotropics typically unbranched, base-branched, or candelabriform ≈50 distinct species are omitted here.
Rebutiinae Browningia B. altissima N. Peru candelabriform
B. chlorocarpa piscol verde NW. Peru candelabriform ≥1.5⁢ m
B. hertlingiana Junín (Peru) subcandelabriform 5〜6⁢ m
B. microsperma NW. Peru; S. Ecuador candelabriform
B. pilleifera NW. Peru candelabriform
Stetsonia S. coryne toothpick cactus, cardón moro Mato Grosso do Sul (Brazil); NW. Argentina; Bolivia; Paraguay subcandelabriform 5〜12⁢ m
Trichocereinae Leucostele L. atacamensis L. a. pasacana cardón de la Puna, cardón de la sierra NW. Argentina; S. Bolivia saguaroid 10⁢ m
L. chiloensis quisco Chile subcandelabriform ≤8⁢ m
L. skottsbergii Coquimbo (Chile) saguaroid or base-branched ≤2⁢ m
L. terscheckii Argentine saguaro, cardón grande NW. Argentina; S. Bolivia saguaroid ≤8⁢ m
L. undulosa Coquimbo (Chile) possibly(‽) saguaroid ≤2.5⁢ m New species, first described in 2012.
L. werdermanniana S. Bolivia subcandelabriform
Vatricania V. guentheri red tail cactus Bolivia candelabriform, skinny arms, red cephalium ≤2⁢ m
Echinocereeae Armatocereus A. spp. Peru; Ecuador very distinct stem narrowings at ends of annual growths ≈6 distinct species are omitted here.
Carnegiea C. gigantea saguaro Sonoran Desert saguaroid 3〜16⁢ m
Cephalocereus C. fulviceps cardón Puebla (Mexico) candelabriform ≤12⁢ m
C. macrocephalus Puebla (Mexico) subcandelabriform 7〜15⁢ m
C. nudus tetecho de flor escamosa Oaxaca; Guerrero; Michoacán (Mexico) saguaroid or base-branched
C. scoparius Oaxaca; Veracruz (Mexico) candelabriform ≤6〜12⁢ m
C. tetetzo Puebla; Oaxaca (Mexico) subcandelabriform ≤15⁢ m
Escontria E. chiotilla chiotilla, jiotilla Guerrero; Michoacán; Oaxaca; S. Puebla (Mexico) candelabriform 4〜7⁢ m
Isolatocereus I. dumortieri órgano cimarrón, candelabro Querétaro (Mexico) candelabriform ≤7⁢ m Isolatocereus might be part of Stenocereus.
Jasminocereus J. thouarsii candelabra cactus Galápagos candelabriform, very distinct stem sections 7⁢ m
Myrtillocactus M. cochal cochal, candelabra cactus SW. Sonoran Desert candelabriform 1〜3⁢ m
M. eichlamii S. Guatemala candelabriform
M. geometrizans garambullo, bilberry cactus, whortleberry cactus, blue myrtle cactus, blue candle Mexico candelabriform 4〜5⁢ m
M. schenckii garambullo blanco, vichishovo Chiapas; Oaxaca; Puebla (Mexico) candelabriform 2〜7⁢ m
Neoraimondia N. herzogiana Cochabamba; Chuquisaca; Santa Cruz; Tarija (Bolivia) subcandelabriform ≤15⁢ m
Pachycereus P. grandis cardón grande, órgano cenizo Puebla; Oaxaca (Mexico) candelabriform
P. pecten-aboriginum hairbrush, Indian comb, cardón hecho, etcho S.–SW.–W. Mexico candelabriform ≤15⁢ m
P. pringlei Mexican giant cactus, elaphant cactus, sabueso, cardón blanco NW. Mexico candelabriform 10〜18⁢ m
P. weberi candelabro, cardón espinoso S. Mexico candelabriform ≤11⁢ m
Polaskia P. chichipe chichituna, chichibe, chichipe, chichitún Tehuacán–Cuicatlán candelabriform 3〜5⁢ m
P. chende chilmoxtli, chende, chinoa Tehuacán–Cuicatlán candelabriform ≤4.5⁢ m
Stenocereus S. chacalapensis pitayo gigante S. Oaxaca base-branched or candelabriform
S. fimbriatus Spanish stenocereus West Indies base-branched or candelabriform
S. fricii pitayo de aguas Guerrero; Michoacán; Colima (Mexico) candelabriform
S. griseus Mexican organ pipe, dagger cactus, pitaya, pitayo de mayo Oaxaca; Veracruz (Mexico); coastal Venezuela; Guajira Peninsula; ABC islands candelabriform ≤9⁢ m
S. huastecorum pitaya tamaulipeca S. Texas (U.S.); Tamaulipas; Nuevo León; San Luis Potosí; Guanajuato; Querétaro; Veracruz (Mexico) candelabriform
S. martinezii pitayo Sinaloa (Mexico) subcandelabriform 5〜7⁢ m
S. montanus pitahaya sahuira, pitaya colorada Sonora; Chihuahua; Sinaloa; Durango (Mexico) candelabriform ≤7⁢ m
S. pruinosus pitayo de mayo Veracruz; Puebla; Oaxaca (Mexico) candelabriform 4〜5⁢ m
S. queretaroensis pitaya de Querétaro, cardón pitayo, pitaya de mayo Querétaro; Michoacán; Jalisco; Guanajuato (Mexico) candelabriform ≤5〜6⁢ m
S. quevedonis Michoacán (Mexico) candelabriform
S. stellatus pitayo xoconostle Oaxaca; Veracruz; Puebla; Querétaro (Mexico) candelabriform 2〜4⁢ m
S. thurberi organ pipe cactus, pitaya dulce Baja California Sur; Sonora; Sinaloa (Mexico); S. Arizona (U.S.) base-branched or candelabriform 3〜5⁢ m
S. treleasei pitayo tunillo Oaxaca (Mexico) candelabriform ≤15⁢ m
tribe subtribe genus species subspecies vulgar name(s) distribution habit height comments

Features relevant to Fig. 7 are highlighted. Taxa marked with a are monotypic.

Like with most biological organisms, the taxonomy of these cacti is not necessarily well-understood or well-documented, & furthermore, is subject to change as more work goes into studying them. In cases where sources disagreed, I have — at the time of this writing (2024) — defered to Wikispecies for the correct names. Although it is arranged phylogenetically, Table 1 is neither exhaustive nor a phylogenetic tree, & intentionally omits several taxa that would necessarily be included in a full phylogenetic tree.

You might have noticed that the vulgar names are rather confusing: the same (or substantially the same) vulgar name may be used for multiple distinct species, & moreover, many species — or in biology generally, almost all species — have no common names at all.

Biogeographic division

You also might have noticed that all these species are only found in the Americas; & at that, none of them can even be found significantly north of the Mexico–U.S. border. Broadly speaking, this distribution encompasses what is in Udvardy’s scheme[5] the Neotropical realm, in addition to the southernmost bits of the Nearctic realm. Similarly, in One Earth’s scheme[5], this would be the combination of the Lower Neotropic, Upper Neotropic, & southernmost bits of the Lower Nearctic.

But biogeographic realms are vast & general, carving up the planet’s surface based largely on evolutionary ties (keeping palæogeography in mind), without really considering ecosystems & geological features. One Earth’s realms are composed of 52 subrealms, each of which is itself composed of one or more of their 185 bioregions, where bioregions are clustered into subrealms based on geographical relevance. This puts our region of interest largely into a combination of five subrealms: Mexican Drylands (#7), Caribbean (#11), Central America (#12), Amazonia (#14), and Andes & South Pacific Coast (#17). However, of these, the Mexican Drylands (#7) and the Andes & South Pacific Coast (#17) subrealms are overrepresented, forming the habitat of most armed cacti.

Maybe if I narrow my focus, I can go further. Looking at the entries in Table 1 that have useful highlighted features, I see that although a few members of Echinocereeae are good candidates, the genus Leucostele looks the most promising. Members of Leucostele are distributed roughly around the trijunction of Bolivia, Argentina, & Chile, plus regions of Chile further south, all the way down to the Coquimbo Region or so. In One Earth’s scheme, this is part of the Andes & South Pacific Coast subrealm, and is more specifically encompassed by these three bioregions: Andean Mountain Grasslands (NT5), Chilean Matorral Shrublands & Savanna (NT6), and South American Coastal Deserts (NT8). These bioregions are further composed of ecoregions, of which the relevant ones are: Central Andean Dry Puna (#587), Central Andean Puna (#588), High Monte (#592), and Chilean Matorral (#596).

Puna here refers to the puna grassland, a biome-defined ecoregional designation used specifically for the central Andes. Matorral here is a Spanish word referring to shrubland, originally that kind found in Spain. In the Americas, matorral is used to refer not just to shrublands & wooded areas in Mediterranean climates, but also to xeric[7] ones, as well.

Biomes & climates

Now that I know what kinds of ecoregions I’m working with, I can attempt an overview of the environmental conditions that many members of Leucostele live within. In the table below (viz. Table 2), climates are classified according to the Köppen–Geiger–Trewartha climate classification (KGTC). Temperatures are rounded to the nearest degree Celsius (°C), & precipitation is given in millimetres (mm). Elevations are given in metres (m) above mean sea level.

Table 2: A simplified overview of the environments that the members of Leucostele live within.
(sub)species representative location biome[6] ecoregion[5] climate mean annual temperature mean annual precipitation representative elevations
L. a. pasacana Tilcara Department,
montane grasslands & shrublands Central Andean Dry Puna (#587) BWlk 13 100〜200 1 700〜3 900
L. chiloensis Quillota Province,
Valparaíso Region,
Mediterranean forests, woodlands, & scrub Chilean Matorral (#596) Csak 16 400〜500 500〜1 800
L. skottsbergii Ovalle,
Coquimbo Region,
Mediterranean forests, woodlands, & scrub Chilean Matorral (#596) BShk 18 200〜300 200〜  800
L. terscheckii Los Cardones National Park,
Salta Province,
montane grasslands & shrublands High Monte (#592) BWhk 15 100〜200 500〜1 500
L. undulosa Vicuña,
Coquimbo Region,
Mediterranean forests, woodlands, & scrub Chilean Matorral (#596) BWal 20 ≈100 ≈400
L. werdermanniana Cordillera de Sama Biological Reserve,
Tarija Department,
montane grasslands & shrublands Central Andean Puna (#588) BSlk 13 300〜400 2 600〜3 000
(sub)species representative location biome[6] ecoregion[5] climate mean annual temperature mean annual precipitation representative elevations

And, since the saguaro is the point of comparison here, I may as well do the same for Carnegiea:

Table 2.1: Appendix to Table 2, for the genus Carnegiea.
(sub)species representative location biome[6] ecoregion[5] climate mean annual temperature mean annual precipitation representative elevations
C. gigantea Saguaro National Park,
deserts & xeric shrublands Sonoran Desert (#435) BShl 20 ≈300 0〜1 350

The species here (excepting C. gigantea) mostly represent just two biomes[6]: (a.) Mediterranean forests, woodlands, & scrub; and (b.) montane grasslands & shrublands.

In the former case (a.), I’m really talking about scrub, & not so much forests nor woodlands; this is the Chilean Matorral ecoregion. But don’t be fooled by the biome nomenclature; the climate in these environments varies considerably, & not all of it is well-described as “Mediterranean”. Table 2 has three entries associated with Mediterranean scrub, but only one has a climate characterised in this way: the Quillota Province has a KGTC of Csak, & the most rainfall of any entries in Tables 2 & 2.1: 400〜500⁢ mm annually. It is, however, on the hottest end of Cs (corresponding to Köppen–Geiger Csa). On the other hand, Ovalle is considered semiarid — in other words, a steppe climate — with a KGTC of BShk, & Vicuña is perhaps the most desert-like climate of any entries in Tables 2 & 2.1, with a scorching dry KGTC of BWal.

On the other hand, (b.) is well-described as a steppe or shrub–steppe — although the latter term appears to mostly be used in North America, & maybe not so much South.

Table 2.1 includes the “deserts & xeric[7] shrublands” biome, although the “representative location” that I chose for C. gigantea gets enough rainfall to be classified by KGTC as BShl. ≈300⁢ mm annually isn’t much, but it’s quite a bit by xeric[7] biome standards, which perhaps explains why the saguaros in that park are so damned enormous…

As can be seen in Table 2, members of Leucostele tend to be found at considerable elevations, even upwards of ≈3⁢ km in extreme cases. This is, of course, due to the influence of the Andes. But, at any elevation, the finer details of climate are important for the survival of cacti, as explained with relation to C. gigantea by the National Park Service (which oversees the Saguaro National Park):[8]

Because they are not keen on the cold temperatures, saguaros are also limited by elevation. They are generally found growing from sea level to approximately 4 500⁢ feet [≈1 372⁢ m] in elevation. Saguaros growing up to 5 000⁢ feet [≈1 524⁢ m] in elevation are usually found on south-facing slopes where freezing temperatures are less likely to occur or are shorter in duration.


This inability to cope with cold temperatures is related to what makes cacti so special: their xeromorphy. The members of Cactaceae have evolved to live in xeric & seasonally hot environments, which means adapting to increase water-use efficiency, as well as to decrease damage due to heat & UV exposure. Despite being ordinary flowering plants just like any other member of Angiospermae, cacti — in particular, focussing on the kind seen in Fig. 7, which I’ve loosely identified with the real-life Leucostele — have a number of fun xeric survival tricks up their sleeves:

Many of these adaptations are quite drastic & require considerable evolutionary time. From this, I can infer that the population to which the individual in Fig. 7 belongs (or belonged…) was already firmly established in CWM prior — presumably long prior — to whatever cataclysmic event occurred (as discussed in the “Cataclysm” section above). Either that, or it was introduced artificially…

Other material conditions

I’m definitely getting somewhere here, but I’m still missing at least two other ambient features of great importance: the soil, & what other species the cacti associate with.

I can pretty clearly see in several of the images above — not the least of which being Figs. 2 & 3 — that the “soil” of CWM is really more like bare, solid rock. The surface of CWM is thus characterised more by whatever regolith it might have, plus the stone substrate itself. Still, for many plants, growing upon little more than rock is perfectly doable: these are lithophytes. For example, some members of Crassulaceae — for which “Crassulacean acid metabolism” is named — are lithophytic.

Cacti are not usually lithophytic. Nonetheless, some species, like e.g. Epiphyllum oxypetalum “queen of the night; Dutchman’s pipe cactus”, are habitually epiphytic, and thus must acquire their resources from rain, the air, & any debris that they manage to passively collect. This can make such cacti situationally/opportunistically lithophytic, as they already don’t need soil to begin with. But these cacti don’t look anything like our armed friend in Fig. 7, nor like any in Table 1.

However, a 2004 paper by M. E. Puente, Y. Bashan, C. Y. Li, & V. K. Lebsky[9] found wild examples of four species — viz. Pachycereus pringlei, Stenocereus thurberi, Cylindropuntia cholla, & Ficus palmeri — that were enabled to live lithophytically by the presence of bacterial & fungal colonies on their rhizoplanes that were responsible for nitrogen fixation & the provision of important mineral nutrients. The paper doesn’t identify all species involved, but the basic idea is similar to the way in which members of the nitrogen-fixing bacterial genus Rhizobium enable legume growth: the association is basically mutualistic, with the bacteria fixing nitrogen & making already-existing nutrients more available to the plant’s roots, & the plant providing carbohydrates & similar to the bacteria.

Of the four plant species in the 2004 paper, two (viz. P. pringlei & S. thurberi) are in Table 1, one (viz. Cylindropuntia cholla) is a cactus species not closely related to any of those in Table 1, & the remaining species (viz. Ficus palmeri) is not closely related to cacti at all — it’s a fig tree. Moreover, the paper has this to say about the root-colonising species:

Cell and colony bacterial morphotypes among the species were many and varied. Because similar culture media used for recovery of culturable bacteria from different plants yielded different bacterial populations, we concluded that different plants support different levels of colonization, and that root colonization by culturable bacteria is not homogeneous.

Taken together, it seems that although this process of rhizoplanar colonisation allowing plants to live lithophytically (effectively aeroponically) is seemingly uncommon, & seems like it requires at least some series of coincidences, it nevertheless likely occurs repeatedly, & with a wildly different community of plant, fungal, and/or bacterial species every time.

Cactus ænigmaticus

The only other place where we see cacti is in the Nihāl Desert, which leads us to two competing hypotheses:

(I.) Exotic species

This cactus is native to somewhere in the Nihāl Desert, & someone — presumably The Alchemist — brought it here, intoducing it to CWM.

This is the simplest & most convenient explanation. It also adds another connection between Masteria and Nihāl, a connection implied by Masteria’s original — but fragmentary — mythopœia.

(II.) Recent lone survivor

The recent cataclysmic event (as discussed in the “Cataclysm” section above) wiped out virtually all lifeforms previously inhabiting CWM — excepting perhaps those maintained by magical/spiritual forces… — but was more likely to spare that organic matter found at higher elevations; that is, closer to the Keep. A fortunate cactus seed (or seedling) along the Ascent, together with at least some microörganisms, survived in a condition viable for the (re-)establishment of lithophytic growth of the cactus along with its microbial rhizoplanar colony.

This is the most natural explanation, & implies more information about CWM as a biogeographical area.

Although (I.) is certainly convenient, it’s perhaps too convenient. We don’t actually know any details about the connection between Nihāl and Masteria, which is made worse by the fact that these two locales are greatly geographically separated. Recall that the Nihāl Desert is on the continent of Ossyria, making the Nihāl–Masteria separation akin to the IRL separation between the Old World & the Americas.

Worse still, the identification of the Nihāl region with the IRL Middle East — up to & including Persian-language names, Arabic-language names, & explicit references to Arabic literature — is already biogeographically problematic to begin with. Excepting Rhipsalis baccifera “mistletoe cactus”, there are no cacti outside the Americas! And unfortunately, R. baccifera couldn’t look more different from what we see in Fig. 7 — & what we see in Ariant, for that matter.

Just to add another nail in (I.)’s coffin, we have to consider how much less likely the “lithophyte via microbial rhizoplanar colony” hypothesis is if (I.) is assumed to be true. This is already a fussy arrangement that would likely only come about in response to the conditions found on CWM. Yet Ariant is geologically, ecologically, & meteorologically wildly different from CWM in a number of ways.

On the other hand, the real-life case of R. baccifera inspires a synthesis of (I.) & (II.): although we can’t know for sure, it’s speculated that R. baccifera made its way to the Old World via migratory birds, via early sailors/rafters, or perhaps even by emerging prior to the breakup of Gondwana. In any case, an ancient transplantation of this kind — analogous to a transatlantic crossing that occurred many hundreds, thousands, or perhaps millions of years ago — is a tantalisingly plausible explanation for both why we see a cactus in Fig. 7, & also why we see naturalised cacti species across much of Ariant.

This would essentially be (II.), with the addition of the converse of (I.) also being true: rather than cacti being Nihāl-native species very recently introduced to Masteria, they would be Masteria-native & introduced to Nihāl in ancient times.

CWM today

If this synthesis of (I.) & (II.) is true, or even if (II.) is true at all, then the specimen in Fig. 7 tells us quite a lot about CWM. It is worth noting that, even if (II.) is utterly incorrect, this does not imply that the specimen in Fig. 7 tells us little or nothing about CWM; the mere fact that this cactus survives in CWM as we know it tells us plenty of things about CWM, even if it ultimately tells us more about the cactus itself.

In any case, we can summarise these inferences like so:


Although CWM has likely always been arid and/or semiarid, it perhaps wasn’t always a “desert” in every possible sense of the word. The cataclysm discussed in the “Cataclysm” section above — regardless of whether or not it was fully or partially anthropogenic — is easily a driver of catastrophic desertification effects, before even considering any other causes that might also contribute to desertification.

We even see some of the classic effects of desertification firsthand, like the huge duststorms that loom large over the CWM skies.

The result is that CWM is now utterly biologically unproductive, & shows no signs of recovery in the near future. This is especially true given that the inhuman minions of the Twisted Master are unlikely to give a single solitary fuck about desert greening or whatever. In fact, because of the geological changes that resulted from the cataclysm, desert greening on its own isn’t gonna cut it. Massive soil regeneration is only the first step…

Anyway, I think that’s enough staring at a certain cactus for now…

El símbolo de heroísmo

Even with the sweat running down my face as I painstakingly slew each Nightshadow, I was able to get those 75 kills of each monster that Lukan requested, & without too much trouble. I even managed to get one (1) Nightshadow card along the way…:

Nightshadow card get!

I also found a Firebrand card, which is a set that I might actually finish:

Firebrand card get!

I also found a great monetary mystery:

The case of the mysterious floating meso sacks

What are the meso sacks doing? Why are they floating out in the void, taunting me with those shiny meso coins that I can see peeking out at the top? Why is it called Hollowed Ground, instead of Hallowed Ground? These are the questions that will be with me forever.

Now that Lukan was sufficiently impressed with my ability to kill random bad guys on his behalf, he had a better idea for what I should do: make the Marker of Heroism, so that I can teleport around the Valley of Heroes like some kind of ancient Masterian wizard. For that, though, I would need a few Typhon Feathers:

alces vs. Typhon

Damn those Typhons. Damn them for also having wings. I’m supposed to be the one with wings!!

It’s fine, though. I only fell once… or twice. Or— Nevermind. The point is that I have the materials to forge the Marker of Heroism. Acquiring the Gold Ore was especially easy, as I’d only to melt down the gold grills of a couple unsuspecting Pigs. And would you look at that!:

alces with the Map of Phantom Forest, the Marker of Heroism, & the Crimsonwood Keystone!

Wowie. The Marker of Heroism, the Map of Phantom Forest, and the Crimsonwood Keystone‽ Looks like I have just one other order of business to take care of in Masteria…

A card in the hand is worth two in the mountains

That’s right. Did you forget already? I came to Masteria for the card sets, you silly goose! I was keen on finishing the Windraider & Stormbreaker sets, so I headed back to the Cavern of Pain:

Windraider card get!

But it wasn’t exactly all sunshine & rainbows. When they named it the “Cavern of Pain”, they were not fucking around. The basic vibe is this: I run around SWing, Double-Stabbing, & Taunting for a while, and then kinda pass in & out of waking consciousness, occasionally being awake enough to continue SWing, Double-Stabbing, & Taunting.

Stormbreaker card get!

Oh, my god. The Stormbreakers do drop cards! How kind of them… I— I definitely need another big fat nap…

Interludio soñoliento


alces napping in the Cavern of Pain



Le sigh. Really, I’m still tired, but I guess I’m awake now, & there’s nothing that I can do about that. At least I can probably finish the Stormbreaker set within the next two or three naps…

🐑 yahn
🐑 tayn
🐑 tether
🐑 mether
🐑 mumph

…Okay, okay. I’m done counting sheep. Or… naming sheep. “Mumph” is a cute name, right?

In any case, I’m 5⧸5 on Stormbreakers, so it’s time to take the walk of shame to the Cavern of Shame.

alces gets more Firebrand cards in the Cavern of Shame

It’s time to farm Firebrand cards, & if I’m lucky, I might just finish the Windraider set as well. Unfortunately for me, however, the Windraiders had other plans; rather than dropping cards, they dropped GFD15s:

alces finds a GFD15…?

So, a few big naps & a few big Firebrand cards later, I headed back to Lower Ascent to finish the Windraider set. Although I did find some Windraiders, I also found a mysterious floating inmyleague:

The case of the mysterious floating inmyleague

He never responded. Kind of rude to just float out there in the void, staring at me, without having the common courtesy to say “hi” back.

Eventually, the Windraiders faltered. Their lengthy & arduous campaign to withhold cards from me had met its match in my unyielding attrition:

alces gets more Windraider cards at Lower Ascent

Phewf. You know, I could try to farm the Nightshadow set. I really could.

Blue in tooth & fin

So anyway, I went to Aqua Road, right? Upper Aqua Road is a pretty good spot for card sets, & I haven’t seriously farmed it on this character yet. I have Taunt now, so maybe it won’t be so bad…

Poopa card get!

Thank you, Poopa. 🙏🏽

I have occasionally idly wondered if the name of this piscine species is intended to be the English pooper /⁠ˈpuː.pə(ɹ)⁠/ “anus; fun-killer [in phraseme party pooper]; toilet; one who poops”. The spelling ⟨Poopa⟩ suggests the pronunciation /⁠ˈpuː.pə⁠/. Notice how they sound the same? That’s because it’s literally the exact same audio; in non-rhotic accents, /⁠-ə(ɹ)⁠/ and /⁠-ə⁠/ are the same thing (hence the round brackets).[10] This is reinforced by the Kenta’s Research questline, where the corresponding DNA sample is called Pooper’s DNA Sample.

The original name is 푸퍼Pupeo/⁠pʰu.pʰʌ̹⁠/. /⁠ʌ̹⁠/ is the closest thing that Korean has to English /⁠ə⁠/, which has the stressed variant /⁠ʌ⁠/ in many accents of English[12]. Alternatively, English has /⁠ɔː⁠/ as in paw /⁠pɔː⁠/ — note that /⁠ʌ̹⁠/ & /⁠ɔ̜⁠/ denote the same thing. This latter interpretation would probably get the spelling ⟨Poopaw⟩. Vowels are fun! Right‽‽ (😭)

More seriously, the variant spelling ⟨Pooper⟩ was likely written by someone who interpreted 푸퍼 as an adaptation of non-rhotic English pooper, since that’s an actual word in English. The spelling ⟨Poopa⟩ takes it more at face value as a fanciful name. There’s also the word pupa, but that refers to a particular develomental stage of an insect, & it’s pronounced /⁠ˈpjuː.pə⁠/ anyway. However, as far as I can tell, 푸퍼 is primarily used in Korean as a borrowing of English puffer /⁠ˈpʌ.fə(ɹ)⁠/. Go ahead & try putting 푸퍼 into your search engine of choice; you’ll be greeted by many images of people in insulated “puffer” jackets.

If that seems weird to you, consider the fact that Korean has no equivalent of /⁠f⁠/. This makes /⁠pʰ⁠/ — which, in Korean, contrasts with unaspirated /⁠p⁠/ — the closest alternative. But because Korean /⁠pʰ⁠/ is already equated with English /⁠p⁠/, & Korean /⁠p⁠/ with English /⁠b⁠/ (Korean makes an aspiration distinction, whereas English makes a voicing distinction), we have English /⁠p, f⁠/ ↦ Korean /⁠pʰ⁠/. This rather unfortunate many-to-one mapping was enough to confuse the poor GMS localisers, who couldn’t put together the fact that 푸퍼 was an adaptation of English puffer, as in puffer fish 🐡, this whole time!!

And indeed, in English, pufferfish is the most common vulgar name for members of the family Tetraodontidae. Although they do have a lot of other vulgar names as well, including ridiculous ones like honey toad. Honey toad? The fuck?

Pufferfish are distinguished by their unique methods of deterring predators. They’re neurotoxic, & when threatened, can become ball.

Arothron meleagris, all puffed up

Figure 8: Ball.

They seem kinda like cute bouncy-balls, at least until you die of whole-body paralysis. Oh well.

Luckily for me, I don’t need the Poopas themselves — I just need those sweet, sweet cards. And the Jr. Seal cards that come with ’em:

Jr. Seal card get!

Did I mention that they’re extremely neurotoxic? Poison Poopas are less cuddly than they look…:

Poison Poopa card get!

Overall, it’s really not too bad out here. Sure, even Taunt is pretty bad at hitting swimming monsters, but at least the card droprates here are comparatively good.

Over at Forked Road : West Sea, I began my hunt for Freezer…:

Freezer card get!

…And Sparker cards:

Sparker card get!

By the look of those pinkish seal pups on their heads, I suppose Freezers are the “Sr. Seal” counterparts of the Jr. Seals. Sparkers, on the other hand, look more like walruses; in fairness, walruses (Odobenus rosmarus) are a kind of seal (a.k.a. a pinniped, i.e. of the parvorder Pinnipedia).

Wait a second… that doesn’t make sense. Pufferfish are mostly found in the tropics, & can’t be found anywhere near the polar zones. But seals can’t be found in the tropics, & walruses are only found in the polar zones! Hello??? Immersion ruined. Absolutely unplayable.

Castles made of sand

Moving on to the eastern wing of the Upper Aqua Road, I hunted for Flower Fish cards at Sand Castle Playground:

Flower Fish card get!

Sand Castle Playground is “that one really tall map”, & true to its name, it does have something like eight or so similar-looking sandcastles scattered across it.[13]

A sandcastle in Sand Castle Playground, next to an aquatic tree

Figure 9: A sandcastle in Sand Castle Playground, next to an aquatic shrub with whitish-pink flowerage & off-white stems.

This sandcastle is mostly made of very golden-coloured sand, but it also appears to have some seashells lodged in it. A seashell is usually the disembodied exoskeleton of a mollusc (member of the phylum Mollusca), which is calcareous & thus formed by everyone’s favourite type of mineralisation: biomineralisation. I’m not really seeing any molluscs down here — other than Squids & Risell Squids, which are molluscs, but don’t produce shells — although these shells are quite smol in comparison to any of the monsters that I’m card-hunting, so maybe I’m just not seeing them, or they mostly live in shallower waters or something.

It’s known that members of Torquigener albomaculosus — a species of pufferfish — create elaborate art in the sand as part of a mating ritual. With this in mind, it’s not at all out of the question to suppose that the sandcastles in this map could be created by fish native to this region, presumably Flower Fish or Bubble Fish.

There’s also the aquatic shrub on the right-hand side of Fig. 9, which is similar to the other shrubs that can be seen throughout this map. I don’t really claim to know anything about this organism’s taxonomy, as I don’t reckon I’ve ever seen anything like it before, but there are at least a handful of useful observations to be made:

I suggested that the plant in Fig. 9 is a “plant” in the sense of Embryophyta[14], but I think that I can go at least a bit further by calling it a flowering plant (a member of the clade Angiosperms). Considering that, in the above list, I compared the plant fairly closely to monocots (members of the clade Monocots, e.g. the hydro-euhalophytes mentioned above), but also to various eudicots (members of the clade Eudicots), it’s not really possible to go any narrower. (If I excluded monocots entirely, then I could go down to the clade Rosids…)

A mushroom coral hill to die on

In any case, I of course did the Bubble Fish set as well:

Bubble Fish card get!

Moving on to Blue Seaweed Road, I did the Krappy set:

Krappy card get!

The name of this species is 크라피Keurapi/⁠kʰɯ.ɾɐ.pʰi⁠/, from English crappie (sometimes croppie) /⁠ˈkɹæ.pi, -ɹɒ-⁠/, the vulgar name for the genus Pomoxis. The further etymology is uncertain, but it might be from dialectal Canadian French crapet /⁠kʁɑ.pɛ⁠/ or crappé /⁠-e⁠/.

But you know, they’re clearly supposed to be clownfish (a.k.a. “anemonefish”; subfamily Amphiprioninae) or something, except with one weird horn. Right? Like a… uniclownfish. 🦄🤡🐠 Unfortunately, crappies & clownfish are not closely related, & their distributions aren’t even close to overlapping: eastern North America vs. the Indian Ocean.

Along this same road, I started the Cico set…:

Cico card get!

…And accidentally finished the Pinboom set, as well:

Pinboom card get!

Moving along to Mushroom Coral Hill, I also started the Seacle set:

Seacle card get! And some detail of Mushroom Coral Hill

Figure 10: Mushroom Coral Hill.

Mushroom Coral Hill is a map with an unusually high level of visible diversity. I don’t even know what half of this shit is!

In the background — including mostly silhouettes, but also some full-colour fish like the one on the far right-hand edge of Fig. 10 — I can see some fish that aren’t found as monsters within the world, some of which might even be small sharks (cartilaginous fish of the subcohort Selachimorpha).

I can also clearly see some kind of seaweed along the floor. These are quite green — only a few laminæ are slightly brownish, at best — & all laminæ form distinct long, finger-like blades that float upwards. The term “seaweed” is a vulgar name that doesn’t really mean much, but the finger-like blades of this particular seaweed suggest that it’s probably a kelp — that is, a member of the order Laminariales.

Like most organisms that are considered “seaweeds”, kelp is not a kind of plant, except perhaps in a centuries-old obsolete sense of the term.[14] In vulgar terms, kelps are “protists”; unfortunately, however, the kingdom *Protista is somehow even more useless than *Plantae.[14] I didn’t even know that that was possible… The problem is that “protist” is really a catch-all term for any eukaryotes that aren’t animals, aren’t plants, & aren’t fungi, either. Defining things negatively (i.e. in terms of what they are not) tends to produce murky & unnatural groupings, & the so-called “Protista” are no exception.

Kelps are better described as stramenopiles (members of the superphylum Stramenopiles), & more particularly ochrophytes (members of the subphylum Ochrophytina). This means that their motile cells have two very different flagella, & being in Ochrophytina makes them stramenopiles of the photosynthesising kind[15].

Each group of kelp laminæ in Fig. 10 looks to be that of a kelp bed. Kelp anchor themselves to the seabed with their holdfasts, which differ from the roots of plants in that they only anchor the organism to its substrate, without uptaking any resources. Still, if the holdfast is like a root system, then the analogue of a stem would be the kelp’s stipe. Stipes can even have phloëm-like structures that actively transport resources through the kelp, although stipes are a few hundred million years of evolution behind phloëm, as a result of being much younger. And finally, the analogue of a leaf would be the kelp’s thallus, of which we mostly see the blades — that is, the laminæ. Unlike leaves, however, thalli consist largely of undifferentiated cells, & thus lack vascular tissue. All of these similarities (analogous traits) are the result of convergent evolution.

And of course, most of what I see in Fig. 10 are the eponymous mushroom corals! “Mushroom corals” (or “plate corals”) is the vulgar name of a real family of corals: Fungiidae. Unlike most corals, most of the Fungiidae are solitary, & thus have their own hard skeletons. Corals are more usually known for their clonal colonies of genetically identical individuals called polyps. I’m not so sure that what I see in Fig. 10 is in Fungiidae, as it looks more like a fanciful depiction of the calcareous castle structure formed by a colony of many polyps — along with, of course, the brilliant colours given by the zooxanthellae that they live in symbiosis with.

Still, individuals in Fungiidae differ quite widely, & a good number of them have brilliant colours, even as striking as the deep purple colours that I can see in Fig. 10. Although the connections between the plates doesn’t make much sense for solitary corals, the corals in Fig. 10 are plate-shaped, in a way. So maybe they’re stacks of mushroom coral individuals?

Based on nothing more than browsing iNaturalist observations of Fungiidae, I’d most closely identify the corals in Fig. 10 with the real-life species Lithophyllon undulatum()(xíng)(líng)(zhī)(shān)()[16] ‘wave-shaped Ganoderma coral’”:

Lithophyllon undulatum

Figure 11: A Lithophyllon undulatum individual, courtesy of iNaturalist user portioid. Not the best example, but the best one on iNaturalist at the time of this writing that has a free licence. 😅

Then again, it also happens that this particular coral species is named — in its usual Sinitic vulgar name — for its resemblance to Ganoderma, which is a genus of polypores, a.k.a. “bracket fungi” or “shelf fungi”. Given that the corals in Fig. 10 look pretty clearly to me like their habits/shapes are based on the habits of polypores, this is another point of evidence towards identifying said corals with L. undulatum or similar.

Five-card delight, a light alights upon my crown now bright

I finished the Seacle & Cico sets at Fish Resting Spot. This is my last pair of card sets for the Upper Aqua Road, & it’s a strong finish. Seahorses make up the genus Hippocampus (for which the brain structure is named), & what more could you ask for? Forty-six species of bizarrely adorable armoured fish with horse heads & grabby tails.

As it happened, finishing the Upper Aqua Road was exactly enough to push me to 240 completed card sets…


…And thus the tier 8 ring:

alces gets the tier 8 Monster Book Ring!!

Transcription of the item in the above image

Monster Book Ring ⟨Tier 8⟩

One of a kind Item, Untradeable

  • Category: ring
  • STR: +8
  • DEX: +8
  • INT: +8
  • LUK: +8
  • HP: +700
  • MP: +350

Collected 240 Monster Book Card Sets! The power of the Diamond jewel is now inside the ring.


Eggs peery ants

I did a little more than “just card-hunting”, though. I continued Captain Latanielling alongside STRginner Taima (Gelelp, Yunchang, Tacgnol, Boymoder), & even achieved a fat level 126 in the process!!:

alces hits level 126 in The Engine Room!!!

But I may’ve just found another smol niche in which I can gain EXP as a nightlord with good taste in weaponry…:

alces duo grinding Skeles w/ AppleBasket

Transcription of the chatlog in the above image

[system message]: alces — Lv.126 Night Lord — Total EXP: 2,058,077 (5.03%)
EXP Per Hour: 17,640,660 — EXP Per Minute: 294,011

Oh yes? Grinding at Skeles with bishletish AppleBasket (LawdHeComin, JunkyardBat, Snel, OrangeFungus)?? Some chunccy EPH???

I’m not sure if AppleBasket will be training here much in the future now that he’s level ≥135 (that’s the Zakky-wakky level!), but our arrangement worked quite favourably, with me killing the skeletal dragon thingies along the floor of the map, leaving AppleBasket free to Genesis on just a single platform.

For better or worse, Skeles are also a place of leech. So much so, that a simple DL+bishletish duo was mistaken by MitoAdmita (pyrOs) for a leeching arrangement…:

no leeching here

Transcription of the above image

alces: hi pablo

MitoAdmita: hi deer :D

alces: :3

MitoAdmita: gl on leeching :D

alces: ooo no leeching here haha

AppleBasket: rofl
S> crime

alces: LOL

More seriously, this is quite the workout. I really ought to get more rest…

Until next time…


alces asleep at The Dragon Nest Left Behind


Footnotes for “ makes waste”

  1. [↑] Horns mustn’t be confused with antlers, which are temporary, nor with ossicones, which are morphologically distinct from horns. They also mustn’t be confused with keratinous structures that have no underlying live bone; horns are, by definition, built from live bone.

  2. [↑] Pun intended.

  3. [↑] I will keep making this joke. What’re you gonna do, stop me?

  4. [↑] Vulgar names, distributions, descriptions, & images used for this table were sourced from a combination of Wikipedia, Wikispecies, & iNaturalist. Vulgar names are only given if they are English and/or Spanish, as names in other languages are more difficult to come by.

  5. [↑] I make reference here to two biogeographic divisions of the Earth’s surface: Miklos Udvardy’s biogeographic provinces (the original paper is A classification of the biogeographical provinces of the world; 1975), & One Earth’s Bioregions 2023. One Earth is not to be confused with the journal of the same name published by Cell Press, although they might be related (I have no idea).

  6. [↑] Biome classification is taken from D. M. Olson, E. Dinerstein, et al.’s Terrestrial ecoregions of the world: A new map of life on Earth (2001), which is an adaptation of D. M. Olson & E. Dinerstein’s The Global 200: A representation approach to conserving the Earth’s most biologically valuable ecoregions (1998). The latter paper refers to biomes as major habitat types (MHTs).

  7. [↑] English xeric /⁠ˈzɪə̯ɹɪk, ˈzɛɹ-⁠/ “very dry; adapted to very dry habitats” is from Ancient Greek ξηρόςxērós/⁠ksɛː.rós⁠/ “dry”.

  8. [↑]The Saguaro Cactus” (archived) on, last updated 2024-02-09 at the time of this writing.

  9. [↑] Microbial Populations and Activities in the Rhizoplane of Rock-Weathering Desert Plants. I. Root Colonization and Weathering of Igneous Rocks; doi:10.1055/s-2004-821101.

  10. [↑] Naturally, English-speakers with rhotic accents will disagree. In these accents, /⁠-ə(ɹ)⁠/ is understood as /⁠-əɹ⁠/ and contrasts with /⁠-ə⁠/. /⁠-ə⁠/ is basically realised as [] as you’d expect, whereas /⁠-əɹ⁠/ varies quite a bit between accents. American English speakers will tend to produce something like pooper /⁠ˈpuː.pəɹ⁠/ [ˈpʰu.pɚ][11], meaning that the r-coloured [ɚ] contrasts with plain [ə].

  11. [↑] Word-initial & stressed-syllable-initial stops are generally aspirated in English, but there is no phonemic distinction. For the realisation of /⁠uː⁠/ (/⁠uw⁠/), see chapter 12.1 of William Labov, Sharon Ash, & Charles Boberg’s The Atlas of North American English: Phonetics, Phonology and Sound Change (2006).

  12. [↑] Viz. those with the footstrut split but not the strutcomma merger.

  13. [↑] See the « Le lieu une lieue sous les mers » section of pt. cvii of this diary for more about sandcastles in relation to the Aqua Road.

  14. [↑] Traditionally, “plants” are the kingdom *Plantae. Unfortunately, what “Plantae” means varies considerably from author to author, & many authors reject the notion of “kingdom” entirely, relegating it to primary-/secondary-school textbooks.

    Embryophyta is the strictest possible sense of “plant/Plantae”, & excludes what are commonly known as “green algae” in favour of a monophyletic group consisting only of what are commonly known as “land plants” (although obviously this common name is misleading for “land plants” that are actually aquatic). Because the “land plants” emerged from green algae to begin with, including the green algae yields a different (broader) monophyletic group Viridiplantae, which is another possible sense of “plant/Plantae”.

    Taxonomic groupings referenced throughout this section are, when applicable, taken from the APG IV system.

  15. [↑] Not all ochrophytes are photosynthetic, but most are.

  16. [↑] Romanisations & pronunciations are given relative to Modern Standard Mandarin.


(ℹ️ See the “Ever still to haunt my house” section of pt. cix of this diary for the previous instalment in this series.)[1]

Sunny side up


Quand le mystère est trop impressionnant, on n’ose pas désobéir.

When the mystery is too impressive, one daren’t disobey.

― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry; Le petit prince (“The little prince”), ch. II; 1943.



The Balrog idly picked a splinter of adventurer bone from his teeth before standing up, having relieved himself. A controlled crackle of obsidian lightning instantaneously obliterated any remaining ordure. Nighnoontide. Nought left to do but wait. A Kargo penicil ought to plumb over these plaits — got to look spiffy on duty. Take pride in what you do. Not glorious, but someone’s got to do it. Haven’t eaten since tweenlight, anyhow.

He emerged from the usual offices.

[other Balrog]: Hail.

Balrog: Hail.

[other Balrog]: Looking mighty strong to-day, brother. Handsome, too.

He took a moment to admire his own rippling musculature, perfectly taut thews, & sniffed forcibly, abducting a thick glob of noserheum sludge back into a nostril.

Balrog: And you.

[other Balrog]: Indeed. We are both quite strapping & comely.

Balrog: And evil.

The Balrogs laughed in unison, a terrible, deep wheezing noise.

[other Balrog]: If I didn’t know any better, I’d think I was at a looking-glass every time I beheld you.

Balrog: Mayhaps that is why we share the same name.

[other Balrog]: Technically, I was born first. That makes me Crimson The First. You are just Crimson The Second.

Jealous that daddy Black Mage likes me better. I am the more charming, after all.

Balrog: Yet withal I retain the title of Crimson The First on virtue of my superior strength, you see.

He flexed his breast muscles.

[other Balrog]: Unlikely. If that were so, then you could best me in a match of wrestling.

Not feeling frisky to-day. Besides, he clearly hasn’t bathed in easily a week. At least I use Nependeath flowers to mask my… effluvium.

Balrog: Arm wrestling, perchance.

The two sat across a table, claws interlocked.

Even. Too even. Arm day was just yesterday. No time to recover. I do love seeing his muscles at work surging swelling furling quivering bulging. I could scarcely break free if he had me in a hold. Maybe we should wrestle after all.

But before the Balrogs could switch to a private wrestling match, a change was rung. In no more than two shakes of a lamb’s tail they were launched into action, hastily equipping their thickly behaired nude frames with the usual armouring. The airship turnt up & towards the island of Victoria.

These binoculars still aren’t fitted for my eyeline. How am I supposed to look through these one eye at a time? Can’t daddy use his fancy wizard powers or whatever to make binoculars that aren’t for puny humans? Wait. I see something.

Balrog: I see the ship.

[other Balrog]: Okay? Anything good to eat?

It’s still too far away. Damn these blasted binoculars when I need a telescope. …Hmm…

Balrog: Yes. This one looks tasty.

[other Balrog]: A juicy one?

Balrog: Well, no. A bit petite. But I think it might be candy. Very colourful.

[other Balrog]: Consarnit.

Balrog: What? You’d rather eat twice as much of the same old bland adventurer offal, like every other day?

[other Balrog]: Humph. I suppose not.

Balrog: Not many stupid humans taking such flights these days, anyway. I reckon we ate them all.

After an aggressive approach, the Balrogs raided the flight as they were accustomed to doing.

A human, after all. Maybe it still tastes like candy. Its hair looks to be fairy floss. Never was a fan of eating the hairs, but I might make an exception for that. Its raiment really is queer. Some kind of clown, mime maybe.

axisaxis battles Crimson Balrogs I & II

Spicy. This one puts up a fight. They always taste better when they struggle. I think I could crush it under just one of my hooves, the dainty thing.

He hacked up a spattering of atramental blood.

Man alive, it hits like something thrice its size. What good is this black magic? Can’t even hit the bloomin’ thing. It’s small, but not that small…


Quite over mansions altogether for now at least. Maple History says Subani & Naricain used to be worshipped in Nihāl [نِهَال][2]. Not sure I believe that. On the other side of the world, anyway. Bit peckish. Could use some more Mushroom Miso Ramen right about now. I do remember Magatia. Vividly, maybe fondly or not. Avaracia was certainly enjoying herself, at least. Handsome company, too. Unbelievable. Balrogs smudging my mascara & smashing my handmirror too. Trainwreck incarnate. Doesn’t matter. Not envious of the illstarred lovers. Romeo isn’t that cute anyway, at least not my type. Juliet neither. Maybe Byron will be in Ariant still. Byron Alasdaire Tamburlaine. BAT. All my friends are bats. Byron not included. Pretty sure he mocked & teased me relentlessly in school, & not in the flirty way, either.


Avaracia: My dear.

Land sakes. Never a warning. Avaracia was licking with relish something sticky from her immaterial fingers. Only god I’ve ever seen wearing false nails, & without the taste to pick a colour other than bright gold, at that.

axis sighed.

axisaxis: Yes? Ma’am?

Avaracia: Thou really oughteſt to try this nectar ſome time. It is diuine. Literally.

axis: I’d that you’d not so greatly surprised me with this urgent information…

Avaracia continued to speak, her fingers still firmly in her mouth, mid-suck.

Avaracia: Apologies, darling. I ſee thou art hale. …VVell, there is ſomething at thine eye.

axis resisted the urge to roll them.

axis: I’ven’t a looking-glass.

Avaracia used the hand that wasn’t in her mouth to produce a mirror & face it towards axis. axis lazily scraped the smudge out of her orbit with a single finger.

Avaracia: Done…?

axis: Mm.

Avaracia took the opportunity to admire herself in the mirror.

axis: That’s what you’re here for? The looking-glass?

Avaracia disappeared the mirror & finished blowing her fingers.

Avaracia: No, ſuueetheart. Remembꝛeſt Magatia?

axis: I remember only ideas & sensations. Why?

Avaracia: I heard thou vvaſt thinking of returning to Nihāl once againe.

Maybe something to do with avarice & repetition. Greed: wealth, riches, lucre: gold, silver: currency, coins: so many thousands & myriads of the same coin, over & over… Rows, stacks, bankrolls, stockpiles, heaps, mountains.

axis: Perhaps.

The hint of a wry smile curled Avaracia’s lip. In her excitement she produced a bag of popcorn before changing her mind in favour of another cup of nectar, selfindulgently scooping another weakly glowing mound of the syrup into her fastidiously madeup snout.

Avaracia: Splendid. I knouu thou vvilt do rippingly, honey. Be thou vvary of boys.

axis: Yez, mum…

Come to think of it, I suppose she is technically my mum, in a way. Unfortunate.

Avaracia paused mid-suck, her colourless eyes briefly transfixt.

Avaracia: Oh. And do remembꝛe, look thou not ouer thine ouun ſhoulder, okay? Okay. Toodles!

Avaracia blew a kiss before returning to the void. What’s that supposed to mean, anyway? Shoulder…?


Lamp’s loft jaunt
Skies ever clear
A fremd land beheld.



Don’t think there’ll be any more digs here. Well. Maybe now that the locals are familiar with me I can get better elicitations… Maybe they’ll actually let me put my hands on a barbat [بَرْبَط]…… More interested in the folklore these days though. There’s—

Is that? No. Who is that, even? Goodness me. Haven’t seen this gal in ages. Still dresses like a loon. Maybe if I look busier she’ll ignore me.

axis meets with Byron

He pored over his field journal, holding it in both hands. Coughed dryly.

axis: Fancy seeing you here.

I tried.

Byron Alasdaire Tamburlaine: Oh, greetings. Ehrm. axis!

axis: Byron!

It’s the charming smile. That’s how she does it.

Byron: What brings you here? To Ariant?

axis: So yclept for its… aridity… presumably?

Byron: *Áryas.[3]

axis: …Right. Well, I’m on holidays.

Byron: Strange locale to take a holiday to.

axis: Oh, you know me. Always a new place. I should ask what you’re doing here, sir!

Byron: Just some fieldwork is all.

axis: Fun fun.

Byron: Still a servant of the third master these days…?

axis: Doubtless.

Bullheaded as ever.

axis: Say, you’dn’t happen to know any of the locals here? They seem a bit taciturn…

I remember my own arrival. Well-equipped white man. Persona non grata. Not much eye contact to be had. Sand crunching. Say.

Byron: No mean rudeness. Just uneager. If you want attention, there’s something you can do.

axis: Oh?

Byron: Palace is built on an oasis. Drink some of the water there. As people do, you know.

axis: That’s all?

Byron: Aye.

axis: Hmm…

That ought to get rid of her. Likeable, but annoying to be sure. That much I remember.

Byron: Go on, then. Wouldn’t want to arouse suspicion.

axis: Right. Thanks.

Byron: Don’t mention it.

Really, don’t.

The bells on axis’s dress jingled softly as she sauntered away in search of an oasis.

Truly strange to behold. An eyeful, still, winsome in an irregular sort of way. Too bad the bulky boots cover up those legs of hers. Is it too harsh a prank? A hazing. Customary. Suppose she’s mad already. Not much an intoxication can do.


He was nice enough, I suppose. Should have asked for directions to the oasis. Not that it matters, I think my neck is on fire. Not a cloud in sight. Ginchy, gim, GOD’s garland, & not enough gein! She scooped up some sand with a hand. There’s something in there. Not an edaphologist myself exactly. Not that I need directions. Smells of badian vel sim. Or something I ate. An oasis in the torrid desert not that hard to spot. Nor soft to spot. Soft spot. Fontanelle.

Oh, right. The palace. Alcázar [الْقَصْر]. The “hunt”. Not much of a hunt with a palace this opulent. Huge fountain, too. Quite the irrigation. Don’t mind if I do.

axis has a sip of the palace water

Tangy. Refreshing, but smacks of kieselguhr. Or something. Mm, oughta refill the cantine with this. That is, or, would you look at that.

axis very distinctly noticed one white fish, one red fish, one blue fish, & one yellow fish swimming in the clear oasis waters. Then, she also saw other things.

I suppose it’s unbecoming of fish to be taller than a palace yellow blue red white. And near on as unbecoming of a palace to forshame to sixway rive cleft blossoming all round a rupture rapture rubble rabble. Oh dear deer dir dier derest me the agenbite of drinkynge…

CW: Flashing lights, regular movement of boldly-coloured patterns

Agenbite of drinkynge; kaleidoscopic hallucinations



My bally neck, itching this whole day. Yeuk yeuk. Need a new turban or something. Reënturbanification. Considering that— Ah. She’s back. I really ought to’ve awayed myself elsewhere, hm.

axis strode with more purpose than usual, her eyes still half-dilated. Uh-oh.

Byron: Ow, fuck!

Byron’s shoulder was nigh dislocated by the blow.

axis: Your shoulder hurt my hand.

Truly, the poutiest face. God, that really fucking hurt. You’d think there’d be a physical limit on how hard someone of that size can hit.

Byron nursed his wound, sidelong defensively angled at axis’s fiery mien, halfexpecting her to rewallop him.

Byron: Your hand hurt my shoulder!

axis: Oh, cry me a river. And hopefully one that isn’t poisoned!!

Okay, it was a bit rude maybe. Should’ve given a hint perhaps.

Byron: W—whaddayamean? I—

axis wound up for another punch.

Byron: Okaokayokay. Bloody hell, sorry…

axis rolled her eyes dramatically. Then, she suddenly giggled, before astonishingly swiftly recovering her furious look.

axis: It made me a little giggly! Don’t laugh!!

She said heatedly, teeth gritted. I wasn’t laughing…


إن عدت عدنا وإن وافيت وافينا
وإن هجرت فإنا قد تكافينا.

If you return, we return; if you pay your debts, we pay ours;
If you abandon us, we move on, & are contented.

― [unknown]; أَلْفُ لَيْلَةٍ وَلَيْلَةٌ (“One thousand & one nights”), “حِكَايَة الْمَلِك يُونَان والْحَكِيم رُويَان” (“Tale of King Yūnān [‘king of the Greeks’] & the sage Rūyān”); ante 1400.[4]

Wrack & rue of nations


“He ys foll wellcom,” ſeyde Lytyll John,
“Thes tydyng ys foll godde.”
The ſcreffe had leuer nar a hundꝛed ponde
He had neuer ſeen Roben Hode.

“Had I weſt that beffoꝛen,
At Notynggam when we were,
Thow ſcholde not com yn feyꝛe foꝛeſt
Of all thes thowſande eyꝛe.”

“That wot Y well,” ſeyde Roben,
“Y thanke God that ye be here;
Thereffoꝛe ſchall ye leffe yowꝛe hoꝛs with hos,
And all yowꝛe hother gere.”

“He’s very welcome,” said Little John,
“This tiding is very good.”
The Sheriff would rather than have a hundred pounds
That he had never seen Robin Hood.

“Had I known that before,
At Nottingham when we were,
You shouldn’t’ve come to fair forest
In all of a thousand-year.”

“That I know well,” said Robin,
“I thank God that you are here;
Therefore you shall leave your horse with us,
And all your other gear.”

― [unknown], ed. Stephen Knight & Thomas H. Ohlgren, trans. deer; Robin Hood & The Potter, lines 268〜279; ca. 15th c., ed. 1997 in Robin Hood & Other Outlaw Tales.



Where’s my Jew’s harp? Don’t have a Jew. Not a harp, not Jewish. Juice harp, dew zarp. I oughta learn to play something that makes more than one note. Boioioing boioingzzzz brrrruuzzzzzz, the way any good tune starts. Formless. But really, bells.

Širin [شیرین] fondled the fringes of her skirt, dispirited by the thin cloth susurrations & twill thumps, slowly pinching skirt & limply shaking wrists, as if hoping it might make another sort of sound. They’ll see me dance, hear me dance. I’ll be unstoppable. And look good doing it. She tugged idly at the polished bronze hoops scintillating in her earlobes, deep brown eyes still staring at her crotch.


Who the devil—

Širin: Oh!! Hello.

My lord, she is full of bells, bellful, tintinnabulous, a belle in bell-shaped dress of bell-shaped bells belling & bawling. Singular garb an itinerant circus act perhaps. The bellwoman pealed softly.

axis: Something wrong with your skirt?

Or wait. This one was the fruitcake who drank from the oasis. Dresses like a fruitcake too, I suppose. Širin failed to entirely suppress laughter. axis bit a fingernail on her left hand anxiously, eyes peeled, bells pealed. A brief silence.

Širin: Dreadful bellless, you see. Are you quite all right?

axis: Yez’m.

Širin sniffled dryly. Smileless. A frown & a smirk cancel out like saltspirits & lye.

Širin: There are two sorts of bells in this world, you know.

axis: Is that so?

Širin: The snakes with a bow. And the ones that grow.

axis: Snakes? — where do the bells go? If bells do grow, they must be slow. Have you any you could shew?

Bellful but inexperienced in the ways of campanology.

Širin: The Capsicum bells grow; in this I’m sure you trow. The snakes, though — last I saw one long ago. Bells ’pon their breast doth Nature sow.

Does a snake have a breast? Something like that.

Širin: But they’ve been brought low; for also, on them venom Nature doth bestow. The irate fellow, of yon château, hath slain so many with crossbow, blow by blow, ammo by ammo.

axis: Oh, no. …Although, mayhaps to-morrow I could go, to seek the snakes & where they flow.

Širin: I do appreciate your gusto, but should you do so, you’ll be solo.

axis: No, no, no. Thine aid to me thou dost not owe. The bells the snakes I shall bring fro. Is there anything else that I should know?

The autosarcophages of legend. Jǫrmungandr. Without the jǫrmun.

Širin: They say — they say. There’s an ouroboros [οὐροβόρος] amongst them. The serpent that eats itself, round & round; the bell that rings itself, ring & ring.

axis: I’ve never heard of such a thing.

Širin: Perhaps it’s powered by a spring… As the snake goes coiling, the bell is surely caused to fling. This bell remembers how to swing; & to this mem’ry it’ll always cling. If ever this bell you can bring, you need only attach it to a string. Then for evermore its frame will sing, with tones so dulcet they’d please a king. Ding ding ding!

axis: Too good to be true, this sweet wellspring.

Širin: Maybe so, but here’s the thing: I can see you’re full of zing. So why not give it your best swing?


Ouroboros. Hooey. And the autoringing bell! An idle alchemy [الْكِيمِيَاء]. Next thing you know, they’ll be telling me that the cucumbers here are stuft with pearls.

axis wandered the burning sands surrounding the town of Ariant, aimlessly twiddling the blades of her mighty pinwheel. The trees are getting sparser, the rocks increasingly alabasterlike bleak denuded at the mercy of winds’ evermovement the great entrainment soft lapping of clouds’ dead breath crying softly air the grievances of the heavens. Or just a lonely zephyr. Fingers in the silicates, earthcrumbs in flight. There’s one in my eye. Ow.

axis closed her eyes briefly, reaching with a hand to free them of the earth’s tiniest menace. The sand behind her splasht. Oh‽

axis: Who goes there?

Her body all ready whipt round, axis visibly started at the presence of a squamate. Damn them for their soundlessness. The secrecy of limblessness. A serpent.

[serpent]: Sssssssssssssssssss.

Triply-forkt tongue. Strange. Unforkt: truthful; forkt: deceitful; triply-forkt: truthful again…?

[serpent]: Ssssssalutationssssss.

Oh dear.

axis: H—hi.

axis managed a feeble wave at the ground. The snake snoze.

[serpent]: I’m only joking. Snakes don’t really talk like that.

axis: I—

[serpent]: Name’s Bella. Bella Moe. You can just call me Bell. That’s what my friends call me.

axis: I see. That’s a very pretty name.

Bella: Thank you.

axis: I’m, erm, axisaxis. You can just call me axis.

Bella: akssssssissssss…

Bella snoze again. Maybe that’s how they laugh.

Bella: Deerest axis, I can’t have you believing that all serpents are perjurers & trixters. I must confess, I’ve already lied to you once.

axis: Oh?

Bella: I said that my friends call me Bell. I’m afraid that’s not true.

axis: Wh—what do they call you?

Bella: I haven’t any friends.

axis: Oh…

This is not how I expected my first snake encounter to go.

Bella raised the front of her body into the air, revealing a red ribbon tied round her trunk, fastening a pair of perfect golden bells to her serpentine breast.

Bella: I can play you a tune, if you like. I don’t get much audience out here. In the desert.

She looks saddened, almost. Can snakes cry? I guess Širin was right. The bells are so lustrous, too.

axis: Of course. I’d be delighted.

Bella sank back to the ground, briefly slithering away from axis before wrapping back around, catching her own tail in her mouth. Well, I never did! The ouroboros manifest in good glory, tail for breakfast. The bells began to ring ding ting as Bella slank slinkt & slunk in endlessly mesmerising circles. A curiosity unparalleled, tintinnabula that tintinn themselves, & with such a flurry of pleasing pitches & tones! axis began to sway gently to the timely rhythms of the enchanted bells.


Bella plays a tune on her bells whilst axis listens, swaying to the tune

Western notation & ABC notation for Bella’s Tune

Bella’s Tune ◐

⚠️NOTE⚠️: This ABC transcription (unlike the above SVG image) uses flats instead of half-flats (or rather, instead of korons), due to the limitations of ABC notation.[5]

T:Bella’s Tune
O:The Burning Sands: White Rock Desert
I:linebreak $
V:1 clef=treble instrument=c' nm="Left bell"
V:2 clef=treble instrument=c' nm="Right bell"
[V:1]  _B F2 F2 F  | d G2  G2  G- | G  G2  G2 G   |
[V:2]  _b3  (fga   | g3)  (_edc   | _e d2) d _e2  |
[V:1]  _B F2 F2 F  | d G2  G2  G- | G  G2  G2 G   | c A2 A2  A  :|
[V:2] (dcd   _efe  | d2) g _e2 e- | edc    d2 _e- | e(fa c'_ea) :|
[V:1] !fermata!_B6 |]
[V:2] !fermata!_b6 |]

axis: Wow, Bell! You’re really talented!

Bella: Thankssssss…!

axis: You know what. I think I’ve met someone in the town just a bell’s throw from here who’d really enjoy the sound of your music.

Bella froze in place. Blink. Sidelong reddish treble flicker just past the right nostril. Should’ve recalled what Širin told me. Too late now I guess.

Bella: I try to stay away from the town.

axis: Right. I—

Bella: It’s okay.

axis swallowed.

axis: I’ve only been here just recently. But I’ve seen the palace. I wager I could get inside.

Bella: Oh.

axis: Maybe convince them of something. Or at least to make an exception, for you.

The serpent paused briefly in an abrupt nictitation.

Bella: If you run into that Adın [آدیٛن][6] fellow.

axis: …Yes?

Bella: He still owes me twelve thousand mesos.


She’s been increasing perimeter security recently. Up from zero guards to one. Damn that man. Where does she get these waxnoses anyway? S’pose there’s a sucker born every minute. Eleska rubbed a digit along the back edge of her dagger as she used it for a looking-glass, flaxen burnisht bangs borne bright by blueish bellmetal brilliance, beaming blade to belit belfry, belabouredly beautifying bit by bit. Bored. Haven’t seen any of my Sand Bandits recently. Sanned Banned It’s. Sunned Bun Ditz. Sa—

Eleska: Salām ʿaleykom.

Haven’t seen this one before. Not sure how, anyway. Looks like a rainbow vomited on her.

axis: Hellow. A—are you… Eleska? Leader of the Sand Bandits?

Might as well be leader these days. Haven’t seen Jano come out of that accursèd hole of his in what feels like a twelvemonth.

Eleska: Sand Bandits? Surely there’s no need to be thieving sand around here.

Eleska gestured vaguely with the point of her blade. Bazillions upon jillions of grains finely baked to a desperate golden hue in the sunoven every day of every month each one a tiny aurifex in an aurous dunescape soughing in the interminable eurus [εὖρος].

axis: I see.

Eleska: Who told you that?

axis: Just something I heard on the grapevine.

An interloper. Can’t decide if Aretā́ [Ἀρετᾱ́] has the wit to hire informants. axis shifted nervously. Eleska briefly glanced downward & breathed out her nose.

Eleska: If there were a secret organisation by that name — or by any name — I’m sure there would be evidence of their activity hard by this very spot. There’s nothing else for leagues.

axis’s eyes darted in recall.

axis: I did see one thing.

axis took a gander at a suspicious-looking shady wall in the town of Ariant

Eleska: Oh?

axis: There’s a wall yonder with some graffiti carved into it. I think it was a rebus.

A scroll of sorts, a checklist written on narrow paper.

  1. ☐ A toy model of an atom with three protons, four neutrons, two electrons, & a plus sign, superimposed on the back end of a firearm’s firing pin.
  2. ☐ A tin can inside a glass jar.
  3. ☐ A man bent forwards at the waist, with one arm across the front of his torso.
  4. ☐ A single sharply-angled drop of water descending from the lower half of an eye.

Ah, that old thing. I don’t even remember what the solution is.

Eleska: What do you make of it?

Spoiler: Solution to the rebus

axis: The way I figure it, it’s all weaponry. The first item on the checklist is an iron [/⁠ˈaɪ̯.ə(ɹ)n⁠/] hammer: the atom’s an ion [/⁠ˈaɪ̯.ən⁠/], plus the firearm’s hammer mechanism. The second is a dagger: can [kʰæn] + jar [d͡ʒäɹ] = khanjar [خَنْجَر /⁠xænˈd͡ʒǽɹ⁠/] “dagger”. The third is a bow: the bow [/⁠baʊ̯⁠/] that the man takes is spelt the same as a weapon sort of bow [/⁠boʊ̯⁠/]. And the fourth is an arrow: the tear [/⁠tiə̯ɹ⁠/] sounds like tīr [تِیر /⁠tiːɹ⁠/] “arrow; bullet; dart”.

Egad. I remember it now.

Eleska: “If I had an iron hammer, a dagger, a bow, & an arrow…”

She said softly, half speaking to herself. Long since I recruited anyone into this God-forsaken establishment.

Eleska: You’re not from around here. I take it you’re aware of the sultan [سُلْطَان] of Nihāl.

axis: Erm. ʿAbdallāh [عَبْد الْلّٰه] VIII?

Eleska: Right. Seen him around lately?

axis: …I s’pose not.

Eleska: Well, it’s been that way ever since a certain faerie from Órbis [Ὄρβις], by the name of Aretā́, married up to that old coot.

Eleska sighed.

Eleska: We’re quite confident that Aretā́ used her infernal faerie magicks to make that happen. ʿAbdallāh is the sultan only in name; he lives in absolute subjection to the queen, bound by such mean witchery as makes him listless & impassive.

axis: That’s certainly… strange. You really have more of a sultaness than a sultan, then?

Eleska: Well, yes. But it’s not exactly all sweetness & light. This faerie didn’t shew up in the middle of the desert casting vile iynges on random sultans for no reason. It’s about the filthy lucre.

axis: Right. Of course.

Eleska’s eyes began to seethe & boil, knuckles whitening over the haft of her dagger.

Eleska: This country has been bled dry to within an inch of its life. I was born here. I saw the descent myself, with my own two eyes. Every “tribute” levied, every “tithe” exacted. All by a pretended queen from a faraway land. The wrack & rue of nations.

axis swallowed.

Eleska: That’s why we formed the Sand Bandits.

axis: Oh. S—

Eleska: Hush. It’s very simple. We steal back as much of that wealth as we can, to redistribute to the people of this here town. The queen is just borrowing it, & we’re here to return it.

axis: I see. So if you’re able to steal those things back, why don’t you also, you know, “depose” the q—

Eleska: That’s all I have for you. What’s your name?

axis: axisaxis.

Eleska: axis. If you want to find yourself on the inner ring of this little tragedie, you’re going to have to do more than just solve a rebus.


That feeds
More than what
Could meet it needs;
Beyond those who ought,
Those whom it set at nought.



Hmm. “Sand Bandits”. Maybe they need a rebrand. The Ardent Ariant Armada. The Errant Ariant Front. The man with a broken arrow. In a labyrinth of sandstone walls, I see.

Would you fancy that. Who else could it be? Fracture’d ’tween head & fletch.

Sejan: Greetings.

The man was at the end of an alley, just round the corner from a door left slightly ajar, crouched, squinting. An impressive double paṭṭī [پَٹِّی], I must say.

axis: Well met.

axis bowed forward slightly.

axis: I’m axis.

Sejan: Sejan.

He briefly shook his right arm, the fractured portion of the arrowshaft wiggling dangling quavering holding on for dear life by nought but a splinter. axis lowered her voice, beginning to trail off into a whisper.

axis: I, erm, was hoping to join? The Sand Bandits…?

Sejan sniffed twice, as if he smelt something out of the ordinary. He arose precipitously, spinning round & stomping briskly through the door at the alley’s corner. Was I not supposed to say that? I s’pose he didn’t seem particularly upset. axis came round the corner, peering through the thin doorway.

Sejan: Come.

axis hesitated before slithering past the portal into a small woning. Sejan was stood before a cauldron hung above a fire, audibly boiling. An earthy aroma. Smells of chickpea, aubergine [الْبَاذِنْجَان], onion, citrus zest, & adviyeh [اَدْویِه].

Sejan: Aliments.

Is he inviting me to dinner?

axis: Oh?

Sejan shook the broken arrow at axis. Strange fellow.

Sejan: Help.

axis: I w—

Sejan: Hungry.

As he said this, he used both arms to gesture behind him, vaguely towards the centre of town. He shook the arrow again, intently.

Sejan: Carrot.

He bit the head of the arrow with the side of his denture.

axis: You need carrots?

Sejan visibly relaxed.

Sejan: Rabbit.

axis: Y—you want a rabbit?

Sejan batted the air with his offhand.

Sejan: Stolen.

axis: A rabbit stole your carrots.

Sejan looked pleased, arms akimbo. He glanced at the cauldron.

axis: Okay. I… will get you those carrots toot sweet.

Sejan: Thankee.


Could swear I saw a bunnyrabbit just yesterday. Couldn’t have gone far from here. S’pose I haven’t ventured much to the east. Past the easternmost walls of the settlement is… another oasis? Hm. That’s a bit odd. You’d hope the settlement would extend that much further to include the oasis, date palms [Phoenix dactylifera] & all.

A white desert rabbit, twice as gold as the sands, rolled past, in the periphery of axis’s sight. Was that a stone? Moving much too quickly for that. At least, I certainly hope there’re no stones rolling that swiftly around here…

A draught of torrid air past cross axis’s back a specular reflexion off the water’s surface a sunshiver athwart the thick tang of sap & humid interstices’ hundred microclimes oozing in the wind neath the great plateau rainkist & intimate each olivetree [Olea europaea ssp. cuspidata] graciously infolden & layered holds the brush in voluminous rest too shamefast to be seen in full doubled tripled up & down unknown crimson blossoms greeting the cloudless skies.

There you are.


Near a tucktaway shoal of the oasis, axis encountered the covert refuge of easily dozens of desert rabbits, each one curiously spherical, rolling trundling gambolling bounding every which way. These rabbits are not very rabbit-shaped. Do they even have legs? Perhaps that’s what makes them such good thieves. All fur, no limbs, no sound. Perfect stealth.

axis watched intently as one of the bunnies rolled with purpose, carrot vised in their ivories. She carefully followed, wary of the paths of their peers. She was led to an immense mound of carrots, easily several quintals [قِنْطَار] of the things, guarded by a small army of bulbous lagomorphs. The rabbit carefully placed the carrot upon the side of the pile.

They don’t seem to mind my presence. axis gently opened the top of her rucksack, unhooking it from her left shoulder, slowly approaching the heap. As she arrived within reach of the orange mountain, several of the nearby rabbits paused. axis continued.

Seeing the strange woman touching their carrots, the rabbits leapt forthwith into a frenzy, rolling with vehemence to intercept the daucus-pilfering intruder. Aw, shit. axis hastily shoved as many carrots into the rucksack as she reasonably could, fending off the first bunny arrivals with her bebooted legs.

axis: Com— Come on! I don’t need that ma— Yowch! Feck off!

axis lit her pinwheel ablaze. The rabbits started, ceasing their attacks in favour of hissing at the large flame.

axis & the oasis rabbits

She took a warning swing at the ones closest to her before running away, rucksack on her arm.


axis: Excuse me! You failed to mention that the bunnies are capable of going berserk!

Sejan managed a shrug before bursting out into a peal of laughter. axis’s eyes rolled.

Sejan: Carrots?

axis dumped the contents of her rucksack onto a table.

Sejan: Thankee.

Sejan bowed slightly before getting to work rinsing & chopping carrots for the pot-au-feu. It really smells divine. What a bit of allium & spices will do. I s’pose I’ll help get this thing done.

Some chopping & stewing later, the hotpot’s now ready to be rolled into domsiyāh [دُمْسِیَاه] rice, tuckt in a wrapping of fresh lavaš [լավաշ; نَان لَوَاش] for portability.

We’ve been at it for hours. The sun has just about set. It’s… peaceful in the gloam. The revesting of the sands’ æquanimity the delicate hues the opening of so many succulent stomata the sky’s mouth sweats dryly & our eyes are finally stilled.

axis: Wow, this is… a lot of food. I reckon it’s enough to feed a small to—

Sejan lookt at axis.

axis: Right.

Sejan: Paper.

They wrapt each one in thin irregularly-shaped scraps of paper, for distribution. Noöne will be going hungry on Sejan’s watch.

He began to load up axis’s rucksack with the aliments. Over the course of the next few hours, axis delivered the falāfel-stuft [فَلَافِل] wraps, batch by batch, to nigh on every household in the town of Ariant. She even did a little teensy-weensy bit of slight home invasion to deliver a few to those who weren’t home, or who were asleep.

Slight home invasion


“Potter, what was they pottys woꝛthe
To Notynggam that Y ledde with me?”
“They wer woꝛthe to nobellys,” ſeyde he,
“So mot Y treyffe oꝛ the;
So cowde Y had foꝛ tham,
And Y had be there.”

“Thow ſchalt hafe ten ponde,” ſeyde Roben,
“Of money feyꝛe & fre;
And yeuer whan thow comeſt to grene wod,
Wellcom, potter, to me.”

“Potter, what were thy pots worth
To Nottingham that I took with me?”
“They were worth two nobles,” said he,
“So may I thrive or prosper;
So much I could’ve had for them,
If I had been there.”

“Thou shalt have ten pounds,” said Robin,
“Of money fair & free;
And whenever thou comest to green wood,
Thou art welcome, potter, to me.”

― [unknown], ed. Stephen Knight & Thomas H. Ohlgren, trans. deer; Robin Hood & The Potter, lines 310〜319; ca. 15th c., ed. 1997 in Robin Hood & Other Outlaw Tales.

El alcázar


« Hé bien, as-tu vu le palais d’Aladdin, lui demanda le sultan ? » « Sire, répondit le grand visir, votre Majesté peut se souvenir que j’ai eu l’honneur de lui dire que ce palais, qui faisoit le sujet de son admiration avec ses richesses immenses, n’étoit qu’un ouvrage de magie et d’un magicien ; mais votre Majesté n’a pas voulu y faire attention. »

“Well,” said the sultan, “have you seen Aladdin’s palace?” “No,” answered the vizier, “but your majesty may remember, that I had the honour to tell you, that the edifice, which was the subject of your admiration, was only the work of magic and a magician; but your majesty would not pay the least attention to what I said.”

― Antoine Galland & اَنْطُون يُوسُف حَـــــنَّا دِيَاب (Anṭūn Yūsuf Ḥannā Diyāb), trans. Kate Douglas Wiggin & Nora Archibald Smith; Histoire d’Aladdin, ou, La lampe merveilleuse (“Story of Aladdin, or, The wonderful lamp”); 1710, trans. 1909.



Thump. Eleska walked to the cactus to pull both of her knives out of its main stem. I think my skills are in decline. No such thing as owt for nowt, I s’pose. At least I sharpen up enough to be more adept in combat than these other misfits. She threw the other knife, her wrist a deadly weapon. Thump.

Eleska: I heard Sejan enlisted you.

She said without turning, walking forward to pull the daggers out again. axis started.

axis: Th—that’s right.

Eleska: Almost all that produce made a full circle. Harvested by the people here. Taxed away by the queen. Taken back. Redistributed. The circle of life, really.


axis: And you never get caught?

Eleska laught droughtily.

Eleska: Define “caught”. The queen might have her faerie witchcraft & a handful of slaves, but she & most of her servants hardly see the light of day unless it’s through one of the stainedglass rooves. When they want something, a detachment is sent into town to “extract” it.


Eleska: We give ’em a hard time, but it’s not worth fighting ’em. It’s just better this way.

axis: I was thinking of breaking into the palace myself.

Eleska laught again, more heartily this time.

Eleska: Look. Miss. We have our ways of getting what we need. You don’t need to know what those ways are, & you don’t want to know what there is beyond the palace gates. And now she’s got civilian pushovers hired to guard the perimeter, as well.


axis: You have any experience going in there?

Eleska: Like I said. Need-to-know basis. For that matter, ain’t noöne going deep enough into the bowels of el alcázar to get within shouting distance of the Skyrom[8], anyway.

axis: The “Skyrom”…?

This is why Jano is supposed to do the talking. Thump.

Eleska: Forget I said anything. Look. Just don’t get yourself hurt, alright? We could use more people aiding this forsaken town…



Well I’ve never found a castle I couldn’t slink my way into. Not that anyone here would know that. These sandstone walls have a way of dancing, for all their drab appearances. Each earthen raggèd rim run reckless & regimentless, reeling ’round realty, roughly rending region from region, restricting even the rushing of rambunctious rabbits, rainless wrackful wriggly wrinklesome rolling replete & wrapt reach to reach. Ridiculous.

axis amidst the sandstone walls of the town of Ariant

Someone ought to sue these things. What is that noise?

axis rounded a corner. Oh, honey. The little boy sniffled & angled his body away from axis. Clothed in little more than a handful of rags.

axis: Sweetheart. What’s wrong? Are you okay?

The boy wiped a mess of tears & snot from his face with a sleeve.

[boy]: Bh.


[boy]: I want my sister back…

Oh my god.

axis: Oh, dear. What happened to your sister? Where are your parents?

The boy frowned.

[boy]: The scary men from th— the palace took her away. To make her tell stories…

axis: Wh—what’s your name?

The boy hiccupt.

[boy]: Jiyur… And my sis is Šahrzād [شَهرزَاد].

Šahrzād… Why does that name seem familiar? Jiyur wiped his face with a sleeve again.

Jiyur: She tells the best stories. That’s why they took her…

axis: Oh, honey. I erm… I was planning to go into the palace. Myself. Maybe I can help? Or, uhm, deliver a message to your sister?

Jiyur: Tell her that I miss her & I hope she can come home soon.

My heart.

axis: Okay. I will tell her that.


If the hired civilian guards are such “pushovers” that they’d work for the queen, then the queen will be disappointed to learn that being a pushover goes both ways. Aaaand it looks like that’s my best bet. Zounds, this damned building alone has gotta be taking up well over a hectare of land. And hardly any exits. That is one big fat fire safety violation, tut tut. Then again, I suppose not much of this is flammable anyway…

Doesn’t look like they’re expecting any company. One half-asleep guard. Corpulent. There’s no way that spear sees any actual use; it looks like a toothpick from here. A šamšīr [شَمشِیر] tuckt into a waistband. Surprisingly lightly armoured. I think I can see his tits even at this distance. Worth a shot.

The man started.

axis: Salām.

[guard]: Buhh—

axis smiled politely. The sentry’s eyes were now fully open as he clumsily met pike with main gauche.

[guard]: Wh—who are you? We aren’t expecting any visitors.

axis: I’m Marjānah [مَرْجَانَة]. Who’re you?

The sentinel’s brows furrowed.

[guard]: I’m Tigun. Y—

axis: Well met, Tigun. I’m headed into the palace now. Ta ta!

A flimsy lance crost to block axis’s path.

Tigun: Not so fast, miss.

axis: I’m sorry?

Tigun: Unless you’ve a pass that permits you entry into this palace, you won’t be going any further in than you already are.

axis: I was sent here on the queen’s business.

Tigun: To do what?

axis: …I’m an entertainer.

Tigun: And you haven’t a pass.

axis: I… misplaced it.

Tigun: That’s too bad.

axis frowned.

axis: I’m not from here.

Tigun: I can see that.

axis: I just heard so many wonderful things about this palace. I really must see it for myself.

Tigun: I don’t think so.

axis: Don’t you worry. I’ll be in & out of there in a pig’s whisper.

Tigun: You will not.

axis: I’m sure if you tell the queen that I’m here, she’ll be happy to let me in?

Tigun: Negatory.

axis: I have tidings for the queen.

Tigun: I can relay them to her.

axis: It’s a very private matter. Very pressing, as well.

Tigun: Should’ve considered that before you misplaced your pass.

axis & Tigun

axis: Tide nor time tarrieth no courier!

Tigun: You don’t even look like the courier.

axis: I’m the queen’s cousin!

Tigun: No.

axis: I’m deathly allergic to not being inside of palaces.

axis snoze.

Tigun: Tragic.

axis: You seem bored.

Tigun gazed dead ahead, not quite making eye contact with axis.

axis: How about I do the guard duty for you? Then you can go inside & do palace stuff. I’m very intimidating. I’d make an excellent sentry.

Tigun: No, ma’am.

axis: What do you want?

Tigun: For you to go pound sand.

axis: I have mesos.

Tigun paused silently. axis rummaged her rucksack.

Tigun: …How many mesos are we talking?

axis: I’ve twenty thousand. Right here.

She said, hugging the rucksack to her chest.

Tigun: …I’ll consider it.

axis whistled idly. Tigun looked about for any witnesses.

Tigun: Fine.

axis ponied up twenty grand. Too easy. Tigun used his entry pass to induce the palace’s front gate to give way.

axis watched as a dozen nigh identical gridiron gates unknownly slid in obedience like playingcards in the shuffle of a skilled dealer, air sighing, moirés smirking, refting & leaving a passage longer than it were short imprest in the subtly curl’d arrowhead abow the yawning corridor. She stept forth.



Not fool’d.
Fain foresee
How your mind’s rule’d.
Flight o’ fancy here —
But you’ve nothing to fear.
All is real that’s also queer.



A seemingly interminable foyer, marble intricately carved in leaves multifoil planar tessellations zallījoid [زَلِّيج] rosettes knots in knots in knots too smooth flankt on all sides dozens of large flowing lionhead fountains lips bubbling in everpresent aqueous lisping susurration buttressed edge for edge overlooking vast botanics pillared manicured leafen arenas bush for vine vine for panicle panicle for whorl for inflorescence for berry housed in stuccoworkt vault slithering engraved in creeping moulds holding shape only long enough to disperse unfixt & estranged wave for wave above slick looking-marble pathway supervised by hemicircles & vessels xylem on phloëm on gypsum on marble on gypsum on phloëm on xylem in vast swathes crystalline an artificial sky embroiderworkt cælum a pointillate cosmography in tones tinged in sunless heliotrope bathed in stale air vitalised by a myriad transpirations suffuse with desperate golden-silver beams filtered in crystal & glass like so many fingers formed a hand that beckons.

And axis

axis enters the palace

But not quite right. I was here just a moment ago. No gentle haling, the shunt discontinuity of interference, slip, one big slip, all just like that. axis turnt her colour as she nearly lost her balance in tōtō. The slick marble taunted her as it receded invisibly, in heartbreaking uniformity, the thing before her eyes that she could not see. So she closed them.

axis crawled, crept, shirkt, slinking d͟hirāʿ [ذِرَاع] by d͟hirāʿ, flesh to limestone, until something vertical — a staircase in its jaggèd waves. Click, click, click. A hideous distant clicking. Undeterred, she clamber’d up the flight, eyes open, & be-held.


No simple vault, the vestibule yielded to a mouth agog spit spat the trespasser neath gangways ’plext a horrible contraption the inner folds of viscera: silverlined stonemasonry stuttering scraping scratching squealing, softly so sounded, switching stair for suspended street a serpentine scheme of slithering stretching stonework spilling swapping slab by slab at stunning speeds as she stept staggering sloshing swaying certain of slipping soon, her stability seesawing stammering stumbling sagging sagittally every sense serviced in search of sight un-seen.

And axis

She fell, tumbling gently, polisht, caught bit by bit in the folds & grasps of stone & soft silver. Thump. Thump. Delivered. Her head crested the dingy subterrain & saw little.

The sputtering of pinwheel lighting ablaze. The smell was dank, damp cuttings on the cold stone waiting. For whom? As the flame’s glow spilt over the grot, there wasn’t much more. But walls. Walls only just tall enough to thwart the would-be over-looker, just slick enough to frustrate the would-be climber, just thick enough to impede the would-be forcer. Can’t resist a taste. It tastes like mud. It’s mud.

axis wove her way through the Dædalean mud walls turn after turn after fork after intersection after cul-de-sac after dizzying spiral whirligig. As she did so, she saw something above her, in the distance. Some kind of building — an impressively sizeable building embedded in the sunken bowels of an unimaginably large palace. I must know what’s inside.

But axis would never get to see what was inside. As she nighed the centre of the muddy labyrinth, her improved vantagepoint revealed something about the building. It’s covered in feathers. Gargantuan feathers, each individual one easily ample enough to blanket my entire body when I lay down to rest. Then again, I’ve never used a feather as a duvet before. Might be uncomfortable.

Any reasonable person would’ve turnt back immediately. A gently heaving building covered in colossal feathers is probably a giant bird. But axis had befriended at least one bird before, & was willing to entertain the thought of befriending a very large one.

The mizmaze’s central ventricle. A behemothic brown eagle laid fast asleep, head tuckt, brooding a single perfectly smooth egg twice axis’s height. A roḫ [رُخ][9], & this mudmaze her vast hypogean eyrie. Sniff, sniff. The roḫ smelt something. Oh, right. I still have one of those falāfel wraps in my bag. …Come to think of it, I might have an idea.

As the roḫ awoke, drowsily rousing her tree-sized pinions, axis set about impaling the falāfel on the pointy end of her pinwheel. The aquila’s eyes revealed themselves, each one a massive globe with an iris a fibrous plate in vibrant amber hues. The left eye glom’d, the right gloar’d. axis took the opportunity to leap, climbing with all her might up the side of the erne’s neck, mounting herself upon feather-matted crest. The roḫ pealed — softly, but powerfully enough to rattle axis’s bones, her ears booming with the basso profondo ringing of a hut-sized bell.

axis persisted, holding the crumb (as far as the bird was concerned) of savoury-smelling chickpea & bread extended just beyond feather’d head. The roḫ’s wings spread. axis was fill’d with dread as the bird sped dead ahead. A voluminous whooshing permeated the dingy mud cavern as her prodigious wings flapt. There wasn’t much room for the roḫ to fly in here; axis was quick to angle the pinwheel to whence she came, steering the outsized eagle back up the grand contraption whenceforth she’d fallen.

As the befeather’d giant rounded the opposite end of the passage, axis dismounted forcefully, flicking the falāfel off of her pinwheel as she did. She painfully hit the floor rolling, quickly taking cover in the narrow hallway, lest the bird come back for her after snatching the falāfel below.


Winded, axis paused to repose in the entrance of this slim corridor. Although slim, the hall was unusually tall, with a flat ceiling supporting an impressive sequence of chandeliers. More faint orchid marble in bricks meticulous glossy grids grew towers pillaring the already crampt space in tinge’d ivory sculptures enm grave’d & boss’d on firm pedal-stalls perfectly periodic veiled in diaphanous aprons shielding them from crimson carpet all one strip neath stainedglass caustics dancing in slow-motion lockt in solar paths past quiltworkt lace of plaster wall the proem of gold-lined royal blue needlework. Knowing no royalty, axis saw the chandeliers’ twentyfourcarat sheen spangled with Lidia[10] in iconic deep lavenders half-refractive asterisms of awesome quartzic glow, & winkt.

And the Lidia

She stood up, brows furrowed, walkt forwards.

Not this again. Recessions unwanted, one big slip, try again. No matter how axis tried, always the indelicate shunt, a hypnic jerk. Eventually, she learnt something about the chandeliers: they operated by the same magick of Eliza’s kithárā [κιθάρᾱ][11]. Gently batting the air with her open hand, axis could rotate a Lidium-laden chandelier by one quarter-turn at a time, changing which of its arms faced forwards.

axis underneath a chandelier

Oh. I see now. Each arm has a funny letter written on it:


Underwords, watchwords, keywords, passwords, passphrases, if only I knew what the funny letters meant. Oh! Wiz’s book.[12] Of course. axis poked around her haversack, pulled out a small book, & consulted.

axis solving the chandelier password

With a healthy amount of guesswork & a few errors along the way, she discovered the eleven-letter sequence:

  1. ف
  2. ا
  3. ر
  4. ق
  5. ف
  6. ر
  7. ا
  8. ق
  9. ف
  10. ر
  11. ق

فَارِق فِرَاقُ فِرَقٍ

Hmm… Well, in any case, it doesn’t seem like a very durable password. But I s’pose that’s good for me. Not a fan of this deep blue curtain; doesn’t much match the colour sch— Oh.

From the other side of the curtain came a woman’s voice; perhaps an actor in a play. axis took a peek through the drapery’s partition.


وَلَمْ يَكَدْ يَنْزِلُ طَيْرُ الرُّخِّ حَتَّى جَلَسَ عَلَى بَيْضَتِهِ فَاحْتَضَنَهَا بِجَنَاحَيْهِ وَنَامَ فَوْقَهَا، فَنَظَرْتُ إِلَى مِخْلَبِهِ فَرَأَيْتُهُ — لِعِظَمِهِ — كَأَنَّهُ جِذْعُ شَجَرَةٍ، فَحَلَلْتُ عِمَامَتِي وَرَبَطْتُ نَفْسِي بِإِحْدَى رِجْلَيْهِ رَبْطًا مُحْكَمًا، رَجَاءَ أَنْ يَحْمِلَنِي فِي الْيَوْمِ التَّالِي إِلَى مَكَانٍ آخَرَ غَيْرِ هَذِهِ الْجَزِيرَةِ النَّائِيَةِ، وَقَدْ تَحَقَّقَ ظَنِّي فَلَمْ يَكَدْ يَطْلُعُ الْفَجْرُ حَتَّى طَارَ، وَمَا زَالَ يَعْلُو فِي الْفَضَاءِ حَتَّى اخْتَفَتِ الْأَرْضُ عَنْ نَاظِرِي، وَظَلَّ طَائِرًا بِي مُدَّةً مِنَ الزَّمَنِ ثُمَّ هَبَطَ بِي فَجْأَةً إِلى الْأَرْضِ فَأُغْمِيَ عَلَيَّ […]

As I perceived the roc coming, I crept close to the egg, so that I had before me one of the bird’s legs, which was as big as the trunk of a tree. I tied myself strongly to it with my turban, in hopes that next morning she would carry me with her out of this desert island. After having passed the night in this condition, the bird flew away as soon as it was daylight, and carried me so high, that I could not discern the earth; she afterward descended with so much rapidity that I lost my senses.

― [unknown], trans. Kate Douglas Wiggin & Nora Archibald Smith; الْسِّنْدِبَادُ الْبَحْرِيُّ[17] (“Sinbad the sailor”), “الْرِحْلَةُ الْثَانِيَةُ” (“The second journey”); ca. 14th〜17th c., trans. 1909.

Ἐρεπτόμενος λωτούς


فقالت التي عند رأسي: إن سيدنا مغفل حيث لم يسأل عنها. فقالت الأخرى ويلك وهل عند سيدنا علم بحالها أو هي تخليه باختياره بل تعمل له عملًا في قدح الشراب الذي يشربه كل ليلة قبل المنام فتضع فيه البنج فينام ولم يشعر بما يجري ولم يعلم أين تذهب ولا بما تصنع لأنها بعدما تسقيه الشراب تلبس ثيابها وتخرج من عنده فتغيب إلى الفجر وتأتي إليه وتبخره عند أنفه بشيء فيستيقظ من منامه.

“Is our master dumb & foolish?” asked the slave girl who sat by my head. “Why doesn’t he question her?”

“Shame on you!” the other replied. “Our master doesn’t know what she’s doing, nor does he have a choice. She drugs his drink every night before he goes to bed. So he sleeps deeply & doesn’t have an inkling about where she goes & what she does. But we know that after giving him the drugged wine, she puts on her richest clothes & perfumes. Then she goes away until the break of day, when she comes back to him & burns a pastille under his nose so he can awake from his deathlike sleep.”

― [unknown], trans. Sir Richard F. Burton; أَلْفُ لَيْلَةٍ وَلَيْلَةٌ (“One thousand & one nights”), “حِكَايَة الْمَلِك يُونَان والْحَكِيم رُويَان” (“Tale of King Yūnān [‘king of the Greeks’] & the sage Rūyān”); ante 1400[4], trans. 1888.



Back facing axis, the woman was skilfully weaving a story, a small notebook in her right hand for reference. Beyond her was the atrium of a vast drawingroom, ten marble pillars nine planters eight dīvāns [دِیوَان] seven sidetables six almyrahs [اَلْمَارِیَاں] five larger-than-life portraitures four mezzanines three stages two pianofortes one gargantuan chandelier bursting with dozens of Lidia enough to crush a small house all neath glass dome’d annulus, cones of light broken by curtains in gossamer hues green & blue on lofty tierods arch to arch grounded by wall-to-wall gabbeh [گَبِّه] carpet geometries of breathless ornamentation spiralling radiating pulsing with more life than the planters’ aloës. The woman finisht her story.

A man just round the corner out of axis’s view shusht her.

[wazīr [وَزِيـر]]: Not yet.

axis blusht, not expecting to be spotted so soon. The queen allowed a brief golfclap.

Aretā́: Marvellous, darling.

The sultaness was pale, plump, prodigious pagṛī [پَگْڑِی] ’pon platinum pelt, pizazzily painted & powder’d profile, pouting, peculiar pearl-plume’d pinions protruding posteriorly, particularly diagnostic of Órbis fairies.

Aretā́: I’m quite sure ’Dalla can scarcely wait to hear the finale of this riveting tale.

The empress looked to ʿAbdallāh, who was percht on his side upon the largest & most opulent of the eight dīvāns, eyelids drooping, neither clearly awake nor clearly asleep, faint smile at the corner of his silvery beard, attended by a small throng of servants variously fanning him & feeding grapes into his limp mouth. No detectable response.

Aretā́ snapt her fingers with loud impatience.

Aretā́: Cha [چَا]!

A servant in a mildly stained apron briskly marcht out from another room, holding in both hands a gold-lined tea tray. The cha was poured from a porcelain bowl floating a large symmetrical flower [Nelumbo nucifera][13], fed to the sultan in a Lidium-encrusted teacup by one liveried attendant after another fanned away some of the steam. The queen exhaled through her nose.

Aretā́: Really a divine aroma. Anodyne — paregoric, even. And I have suffered…

The beapron’d lackey nodded hastily in agreement.

Aretā́: Okay, okay, that’s quite enough sidr [سِدْر]. Save the rest for eighth repast. We’re having crunchy burpless, you know.

She put her hands together & lickt her cloyingly crimson kisser. The apron & tray were out of sight before axis figured out what the sultaness meant.

Aretā́: We’re ready.

Aretā́ lookt to the side of the azure curtain. I— I guess this would be the time. Oh dear. axis timidly pusht herself through the zaffre cloth.

axis enters the drawingroom

The queen’s eyes widened. The wazīr began to say something before he was cut off.

Aretā́: My goodness! Look at you. Where do you get these exotic entertainers, Jaʿfar [جَعْفَر]

The wazīr stammered.

Jaʿfar: I— Only the best for you, your Excellency [ἀρετή].

axis & Jaʿfar exchanged nervous glances.

Aretā́: Well. Let’s see it!

What is there to see? An unoccupied stage on the left. And on the right… The musicians began a lively tune, percussive, simple, square… for dancing. I, erm, s’pose I have a few magick tricks up my sleeve.

With nothing else left to do, axis took to the stage on her left, to shew off some of the flashier tricks that Tylus [Тылус] taught her[14]. Pinwheel as a baton, swirling pillars of flame, thick curves of crystallising blue ice, lightning arcs sent every which way, solid blocks of ice shattered to smithereens by no more than a strike of the pinwheel. Perhaps even some flaming sword swallowing. Pinwheel swallowing. Aretā́ seems excited. A little dancing & twirling with the flaming baton oughta finish the act.

The empress supplied another few golfclaps.

Aretā́: Oh! I’ve never seen anything quite like it!

axis curtsey’d.

Aretā́: I’ve workt up quite an appetite after that show. Eighth repast! Hayyā [هَيَّا]!


I can certainly imagine quite a few ways in which that could’ve gone worse. Jaʿfar gave axis a look of great suspicion before following Aretā́ & the rest into the dininghall of the eastern wing. Several of the assistants, & all the musicians & other entertainers, parted to the northwest. S’pose I’m better off following them. Well…

axis followed the performers & servants at a slack pace, trailing behind, waiting for the last one to disappear into the endless servants’ corridor. The sole inhabitant of a now eerily empty & vast parlour, she did a little snooping.

These Lidium stones are looking mighty appealing. But I think some of them weigh about as much as I do, & the rest are still too much for this haversack. On the other hand, a handful of gold-lined ivory almyrahs… don’t mind if I do.

axis pilfering from the parlour’s almyrahs

Okay, most of these’re pretty sparsely laden. Not sure what I expected, given that all the wealth seems to be on display. Oh. Here’s something interesting. A ring.[15]

﴾ Φω̄ρ ῐυ, μαι σωββριν. ΧΟΧΟ ❦ Ηρικσᾰν ﴿

Oh, my. I don’t s’pose Ericsson’s in the picture anymore… Plus, the gemstone in this thing’s gotta be worth a small fortune. axis pocketed the ring.

Alright, that’s enough snooping. For now. I oughta speak with Šahrzād. Hmm… Not many folx left in the northwest mess-hall. This corridor & the whole northwest wing of servants’ quarters seem huge, but then again, there are so many lackeys & entertainers here… This is a bit awkward. Maybe I can find somewhere to hide until she comes out into the atrium again. I figure she probably does a bedtime story or something like that.

The sky was gloaming. Another hallway to the southwest. Velvety stairs soundlessly winding downward a gentle drift in quadrilaterals the wandering rectilinear spiral giddying, vertiginously slithering on silken limestone glass balusters hoisting ivory banisters athwart the fearless walls of an aimless shaft unknownly burrowing into the turbid fathoms, a mute elbowless arm reaching, its every corner perfect.

And axis

She reacht a vast paved hollow with huge dome’d ceiling. An armoury. That doubles as a gymnasium [γυμνάσιον]? Dumbbells, kettlebells, & barbells do not go ding ding ding. Quite the misnomer. But there were also mīls [مِیل][16], & hefty outsized wooden shields [سَنْگ گِرِفْتَن]. At the centre of the space was a depression in the floor, a kind of octagonal arena markt & carved up into geometric divisions by various colours of paint.

It’s pretty weird that hardly anyone ever leaves this palace to… go outside. But I s’pose there’s not much out there anyway. Except for, you know, the people of Ariant. And all the others, biotic, any truth, the rocks, the sands, & the skies.


Šahrzād’s soft brown eyes darted with intelligence as she read from her notes, orotund voice gently booming as she relayed a bedtime story. The drawingroom was sparser now, & lit only by a handful of torches & the muted incandescence of lighted Lidium stones. The sultan’s persistent lack of wakefulness notwithstanding, the sultaness was looking rather slumbersome herself. axis peekt out from round the northwest corner.

Šahrzād: …But the fisherman’s boat was very modest, having only room for one goat in addition to its human pilot. The shepherd was disappointed, but knew what he had to do. I trust you can keep track of how many goats have been taken across the river, as it’s of utmost importance to the tale. In great haste to evade his fate, the shepherd took one of his goats across, & then another, & then another, & then—

Aretā́: Yes… I get the idea, darling.

Šahrzād: I don’t mean to jest, your excellency. I assure you that you’ll have every want to know the precise number of goats. How many do you reckon have made the trip as yet?

Aretā́: Th—three? Four? How should I know?

Šahrzād: I see three, as it is. You’re quite sure you can keep count from here? It might be easier if you close your eyes & use your digits for reckoning.

The empress furrowed her brow slightly before closing her eyes.

Aretā́: …Right then. I’m ready.

Šahrzād: Excellent. The shepherd took another of his goats across, came back & took another across, took another across that was rather fussy on the way there, & then another, then took his albino goat across, then took another goat across, & another, & …

The queen’s hands eventually went limp as she fell fast asleep, suddenly beginning to snore impressively loudly. Two pairs of lackeys were quick to pick up the dīvāns upon which the sultan & sultaness now slept, carefully carrying them into the master bedroom. The queen’s catfriend was sound asleep on a small plush stool just next to her, but the cat was sleeping atop part of her gown. The attendants were forced to cut off the corner of the gown with a small blade, so as not to disturb the cat.

axis: Salām.

Šahrzād: Hellou. Excuse me.

axis: You’re excused.

Šahrzād: Apologies. Do I know you? I’ve not seen you here before.

axis: No, no. I just, erm, met with your brother recently.

A look of concern past over Šahrzād’s face.

Šahrzād: Oh? You know Jiyur?

axis: He wanted you to know that he misses you… & is hoping you can come home soon.

The storyteller’s eyes glistened.

Šahrzād: …I hope so too.

axis: I think I have some idea of how I can make that happen… but I’m— Well, I’m not exactly supposed to be here right now.

Šahrzād: Oh. I see…

axis: Y—you wouldn’t happen to know anything anent a so-called “Skyrom”, would you…?

Šahrzād: Well. Depends on what you mean by “know”. The Skyrom may or may not actually exist; it’s something of a myth. They say that it’s “asleep neath the lamp that never lights”.

The lamp that never lights… I distinctly remember one of the chandeliers back there having a Lidium lamp that seemed to be out of service.

Šahrzād: Accounts of the Skyrom itself generally disagree with one another. Some say it’s a huge precious gemstone, others say it’s a formless magickal nexus, others say it’s an infinite source of the most beautiful music imaginable, & yet others claim it to be a boundless wellspring of delicious waters.

axis: Hmm. Sounds a bit suspect.

Šahrzād: There is one thing that almost every account agrees upon, however: those who soothfastly seek the Skyrom are never seen again. Its abode is perilous. The Skyrom seeker need only restrain themself from looking or turning rearward, but noöne is known to’ve done so successfully.

axis: Oh…

Šahrzād: It’s probably a tall tale, anyhow.

axis: Right, well, I don’t mean to keep you.

Šahrzād nodded politely.

Šahrzād: Good morrow to you.

axis: Right. Good morrow.

Šahrzād: Okay, then.

axis: Be seeing you. Hopefully.

Šahrzād: Of course. So long.

axis: Fare thee well.

Šahrzād: And you. Bedrūd [بِدْرُود].

axis: Take care.

axis vailed, curtseying, metamorphosing into a profound bow, nigh prostrating herself.


E’en when fraught
With wrack consists.
No remark can heal;
No ken provides relief;
From your own reason you steal,
So for your sake, be not a thief.



Wonder what the “-rom” stands for. Sky romance? Sky Romeo? Sky Rōmulus? Sky rompers? Sky romaine? Yum. I do wish it were raining lettuce right now. Can’t believe I had to forfeit my lunch to that oversized birb.

Whoosh. I’m almost getting used to these things. I feel slightly less nauseated every time… Ah. Here it is. This one really is broken or something. Not that I know how Lidium lamps work. Neath the lamp that never……

axis glaumed the area around the chandelier, looking for anything out of the ordinary. She pusht up the long red carpet that lined the entire length of the hall, revealing a small trapdoor. The door was crude, narrow wooden planks weathered misshapen enridged bound in rusty darkened iron clasps bent up. Easily overcome, but then there was nothing. Again. With uncertainty her hand into the undervoid she did sink.

And axis

She sank, gut overgoing her crown, feet slipping, limbs at sixes & sevens, lost, whilome the succour of space’s extent revested.

Breath & a staircase. Strange place. A warning at its base. Black whipt through the space. O’er shoulder with hand she did trace. A makeshift headbrace, just in case. Moving forward one pace, a steel-tipt spear nigh her face did grace.

Then the voices began. axis was already accustomed to the damnable nuisances of spikes on slippery surfaces on edges the falling rocks & the hurtling blades. But the voices were something else.

You are fucking worthless. Why do you even bother? Worthless rubbish second-rate B-tier trash waste of breath. Just go back. You’ll never make it, & even if you did, you could do no good with the Skyrom, & even if you could, you wouldn’t fucking deserve it. You could keep trying, if only to give us something to laugh at. Come back when you learn to dress yourself, you stupid fucking slag. My last bowel movement was more worthy of the space in this universe than your entire miserable life. Yet another failure to accomplish anything of significance? Spare yourself. Yf God had any mercy, thou vvouldſt haue met thy demiſe alreadie. I’m calling your coffin to tell her you’ll be coughing up your last breath & coming home soon. Persist if you desire to feel even more keenly how talentless you are. Despicable wretch. Shitbag. Scum of the fucking Earth. The word “inadequate” is itself inadequate to describe your level of incompetence. If you had any virtue, it would be in your being stupid enough to attempt anything anyway. […]

axis recalled the words spoken to her by Šahrzād & by Avaracia. She knew what she had to do, was determined to be the one to do it, & almost could not. Perhaps moreso was she tempted simply to lay down & weep. She desperately plugged her ears with both hands to muffle the voices, eyes watering, nose running. At her the stars shear’d, the spikes spear’d, the stairs sneer’d, & so axis veer’d.

At the summit she eventually appear’d, finding that there was little, apart from a small ivory cabinet with an octahedral gemstone in its sole drawer. The voices all abruptly went silent.

axis arrives at the legendary Skyrom

Faint golden pink, translucent, iridescing in the light, perfectly faceted, an impressive size, certainly worth something. But its temperament was not apparent. Then it spake.

Master of the Skyrom, wishest thou that I deliver’d thee from this place?

A bird’s cry, curt, clear as crystal. axis stammered.

axis: Y—yes, please.

Another indelicate shunt.


axis wondered at the Skyrom, holding it carefully in both hands. She was no longer in the palace. Too timorous to try to talk to the trinket, she tarried some time till testimony that no tales it told.

Tired tweenlight took tenure, tenebrity transfusing totally the troposphere, tempering temperatures, Taurus trace’d ’cross twinkling tableau, like teeth twingeing a tranquil tapestry.

’Twas’n’t long ere she tucker’d, succumb’d to the timely tugs of torpidity, forty winks, a hogshead coucht.

Goodnight, Ariant.


Eleska: You what‽

axis: I wasn’t even in there that long! I don’t think I’ve seen the half of i—

Eleska: How did you even get inside in the first place? How did you get out?? Alive???

axis: About that… You see, there was a giant bird…

Eleska: …What?

axis: A—and it was underneath all these stairs that go all over the place & fly around. Then there were lamps that transported m—

Eleska laughed loudly.

Eleska: You’re mental. Either you’re crazy enough to actually go into that palace, or crazy enough to hallucinate this nonsense.

axis poked around her haversack for the ring. Eleska snatcht the ring, inspecting it & rolling it around in her fingers.

axis: It’s the queen’s.

Eleska blinkt.

Eleska: …Well this is really something. Whosever it is, I reckon a trader could get a lot of gold for this little artefact.

axis: I never walk out emptyhanded. Keep it.

Eleska paused, her face softened.

Eleska: …Thanks. We appreciate the chevisance, axis.


Nonobstant ces voix importunes, le prince Bahman monta quelque temps avec constance et avec fermeté, en s’animant lui-même ; mais les voix redoublèrent avec un tintamarre si grand, et si près de lui, tant en avant qu’en arrière, que la frayeur le saisit. Les pieds et les jambes commencèrent à lui trembler, il chancela ; et bientôt, comme il se fut aperçu que les forces commençoient à lui manquer, il oublia l’avis du derviche : il se tourna pour se sauver en descendant ; et dans le moment, il fut changé en une pierre noire : métamorphose qui étoit arrivée à tant d’autres avant lui, pour avoir tenté la même entreprise ; et la même chose arriva à son cheval.

Notwithstanding all these troublesome voices, Prince Bahman ascended with resolution for some time, but the voices redoubled with so loud a din, both behind & before, that at last he was seized with dread, his legs trembled under him, he staggered, & finding that his strength failed him, he forgot the dervish’s advice, turned about to run down the hill, & was that instant changed into a black stone; a metamorphosis which had happened to many before him who had attempted the ascent. His horse, likewise, underwent the same change.

― Antoine Galland & اَنْطُون يُوسُف حَـــــنَّا دِيَاب (Anṭūn Yūsuf Ḥannā Diyāb), trans. Kate Douglas Wiggin & Nora Archibald Smith; Histoire des deux sœurs jalouses de leur cadette (“Story of two sisters jealous of their younger sister”[18]); 1717, trans. 1909.

The thieves of forty winks for the pri(n)ce of ten


وأمر الجن فاحتملوني وألقوني في وسط البحر فأقمت مائة عام وقلت في قلبي كل من خلصني أغنيته إلى الأبد فمرت المائة عام ولم يخلصني أحد، ودخلت مائة أخرى فقلت كل من خلصني فتحت له كنوز الأرض، فلم يخلصني أحد فمرت علي أربعمائة عام أخرى فقلت كل من خلصني أقضي له ثلاث حاجات فلم يخلصني أحد فغضبت غضبًا شديدًا وقلت في نفسي كل من خلصني في هذه الساعة قتلته ومنيته كيف يموت وها أنك قد خلصتني ومنيتك كيف تموت.

After Solomon gave orders to a jinniyy, I was carried off & cast into the middle of the ocean. I lived in the jar for a hundred years, during which time I said in my heart, “I’ll reward whoever releases me with great riches.” But a full century went by, & when no one set me free, I began the second & said, “I’ll open the hidden treasures of the earth for whoever releases me.” But still no one set me free, & four hundred years went by. Then I said, “I’ll grant three wishes to whoever releases me.” Yet no one set me free. Thereupon I became extremely furious & said, “From this time on I promise to slay whoever releases me, & the only choice I’ll give him will be the kind of death he’ll die.” And now, since you’ve released me, I’ll give you your choice of death.

― [unknown], trans. Sir Richard F. Burton; أَلْفُ لَيْلَةٍ وَلَيْلَةٌ (“One thousand & one nights”), “حِكَايَة الْصَيَّاد مَعَ الْعِفْرِيت” (“Tale of the fisherman & the ʿifrīt”); ante 1400[4], trans. 1888.



Really oughta get those twelve thousand mesos from Adın if I’m to meet back up with Bella. Seen him around at some point, I’m sure. One with the red hair, I think. Yes. That one. Not sure why he bothers wearing a vest that scarcely covers a tenth of his torso. Protects the shoulders from sunburn, I guess.

Adın was lunching, pistachio & walnut baklava [بَاقْلَوَا] in one hand, chain in the other, connected to a hefty spiked metal ball.

axis: Excuse me. Adın?

Adın: Speaking.

He took another bite of baklava.

axis: Hi. Do you know anyone by the name of “Bella”…?

Adın answered nonchalantly, mouth half-full of nutty goodness.

Adın: Yerp.

axis: I see…

Adın: She want something? Haven’t seen her slithering round this place in a while.

axis: Urhm. Ya. She said you owe her twelve thousand mesos.

He briefly paused in contemplation. A green crumb fell from the corner of his mouth.

Adın: Right… I was hoping she’d forgotten about that.

axis: I met with her the other day… I could deliver the payment to her?

Adın burpt before putting the last bit of baklava into his gob & wiping his hands together.

Adın: …I’d like a favour from you first. To establish trust. Wouldn’t want you running off spending my mesos.

axis: Or you can just pay her yourself…?

Adın: Here’s the deal: you pilfer some goodies from the Red Scorps, & I’ll consider letting you handle my money.

axis: That seems unnecessary.

Adın: You know who the Red Scorps are? The Red Scorpions?

axis: …No…

Adın: Real bunch of pislikler. Been rivals of the Sanddits since the beginning. They like stealing from the queen, we like stealing from the queen. Only problem is they’re rather unscrupulous about it. They don’t help anyone but their own Mammonite selves, & aren’t above stealing from anyone, no matter how charitable or penniless.

axis: Oh.

Adın: Right, so, we’re pretty sure we know where one of their treasuries is. I’m sure you’dn’t have any moral misgivings about stealing from it, right?

axis: Okay… Where is it?

Adın: South of here. ’Bout a farsang [فَرْسَنْگ] or two… maybe more. There’s a formation of four big grey pointy rocks. All about the same size. Can’t miss it. Third one’s hiding a door to an underground cave.

axis: Mkay. I’ll check it out.


I do love how the Pleads[19] dance. A goofy jig, not as graceful nor elegant as Bella’s dancemoves, but worth a laugh at the very least. Not sure why they need scarves & earmuffs out here in the scorching desert, though. …Well, come to think of it, it might just be an ectotherm thing. Fair enough.

axis: Excuse me.

[Scarf Plead[19]]: Plaît-il ?

I… didn’t know they talked like that.

[Scarf Plead]: Pardonnez mon français.

The Plead continued dancing whilst speaking.

axis: O—oh, no, it’s fine. I just meant to ask if you perhaps knew the way to a formation of four big rocks? With a secret door, mayhap?

[Scarf Plead]: Ah, la drôle de porte ? Avec le lucre à l’intérieur ?

axis: …Yes. That one.

[Scarf Plead]: C’est juste là-bas.

The Plead used both arms to point yonder; the view was blocked by an apparently abandoned circus tent. The lizard then resumed their dancing.

axis: Oh. Thanks.

[Scarf Plead]: Il n’y a pas de quoi.

Not sure what a circus tent is doing out here, anyway. Maybe that’s where Pleads live. Then they come out here to dance in the sun & warm themselves up. There are worse ways to live, I s’pose.


Hmph. I expected this, but I’m still disappointed. Welp. I’m not gonna be able to sneak past this guy into that tiny door, so I may as well just give it a go.

[strange guy]: You.

axis: …Me…

[strange guy]: You wouldn’t happen to be a Sand Bandit, would you?

axis: N—no, of course not.

[strange guy]: Worry not. I am a Sand Bandit, too.

axis: Oh? I haven’t seen you around the town.

[strange guy]: Indeed. Got important business out here. With the rocks.

axis: …What’s your name?

[strange guy]: It’s, erm. Strange Guy.

axis: Y— That’s your name?

Strange Guy: From birth.

Bit of a cruel name to give your newborn child, but all right.

Strange Guy: What’s yours?

axis: axisaxis.

Strange Guy: Hah! I thought I had a funny name.


Strange Guy: You here for the…?

Strange Guy gestured awkwardly at the door, hidden between the backsides of two huge rocks poking out of the sand like its silvery fangs. The door was tuckt into the underside of one of them, wood & metal, but with no discernible bits of any use: no handles, no locks, no holes, no knobs, no buttons, & nary a pair of hinges to be seen.

axis at Rocky Hill

axis: That’s right.

Strange Guy: A tricky door it is. Let me help you.

axis: Oh… Thanks.

Strange Guy walkt right up to the door, his breast separated from it by barely more than a hand’s breadth.

Strange Guy: Open sesame. [Sésame, ouvre-toi.]

The door soundlessly swang inward. Strange Guy walkt in before making a gesture to invite axis in. axis cautiously tiptoed through the door, finding herself in a dingy cavern full of several crates & chests, alongside the odd pile of loose mesos here or there.

axis in the Red Scorpions’ treasury

axis: Oh, wow.

Strange Guy: Oh wow, indeed. Close sesame! [Sésame, referme-toi !]

The door slammed shut behind both axis & Strange Guy.

Strange Guy: HAHAHA! ’Twas merely a ruse!! You absolute buffoon. You fell for it!

axis: Excuse me‽ What’re you gonna do, huh?

Strange Guy: Don’t you worry; I am very merciful. By my power as a Red Scorpion, I grant you one (1) wish.

axis: …What?

Strange Guy: …A wish anent the form of your demise! BWAHAHAHA!

axis lit her pinwheel ablaze.

Strange Guy: Oh no… I am so scared… How will I ever recover from being hit by a little lady with a pinwheel……

axis scoft.

axis: Unbelievable. You are such a knob.

Strange Guy: A knob, am I? At least I am not a little pink-headed clown wearing a circus tent as a dress. I bet I could fit forty of you in a clown car!

He began clapping his hands rhythmically & whistling carnival music.

axis: Sorry, what did you say? I don’t understand the language of sleazy calabash-headed [خَرْبُزِه][20] gullers.

Strange Guy: That is rather rich, coming from a snake-tongued asbestos-haired rabbit-squeezer!

He said, as the whistled carnival tunes continued to sound throughout the cave. Where’s the music even coming from, then…?

axis: You are aware, surely, that your gourd head is seated atop little more than a cactus spine? I don’t recommend leaving this cave unless you want a light breeze to blow you over.

That one seemed to make Strange Guy particularly upset. His head pop’d clean off his shoulders & into his arms as he spat another curse.

Strange Guy: Takes one to know one. I reckon your ridiculous doe eyes weigh more than all four of your limbs combined!!

He was now holding his head high up in both hands, bending backwards, coiling up into a bottomless ring.

axis: Well, I can still rest easy knowing that I’m not an eggfaced butt-sniffing knuckle-eater.

Strange Guy’s limbs began to relocate themselves nebulously, freed from the constraints of physical geometry, jointlessly drifting.

Strange Guy: Even so, none could be more detestable than a carrot-sucking date-brained miniature belltower such as yourself!!

Piping hot steam was now spewing from his ears. Or were they his armpits? Difficult to tell at this point. But axis was already quickly searching the cave, snatching anything that she could fit into her rucksack.

Strange Guy: Heir of eyre air! Pairer of pared pears!! Seer of sere sears!!! Sewer of so-so sows!!!! Impaler of pale pails!!!!! Seizer of Cæsar’s seas!!!!!! Writer of right rites!!!!!!! Tier of tired tyres!!!!!!!! AAAAA​AAAAA​AAAAA​AAAAA​AAAAA​AAAAA​AAAAA​AAAAA​AAAAA​AAAAA​AAAAA​AAAAA​AAAAA​AAAAA […]

axis: Open sesame.


And reign —
Any fool
Could be so vain.
Your subjects shew care
For friends & kin known ere.
Of your spectacle they spake,
But what diff’rence does all that make?
It’s in those you know whom you’ve a stake.



What a bizarre fellow. Grotesquely shaped, & with a vile personality to boot. Hopefully I remember the way I came. I’m quite sure I past near a rock that lookt like a giant bowl. And a cactus with a door installed in it. Or was it another kind of tree? I do wonder if the Jr. Cacti need their adorable patterned nappies changed regularly, or if the diapers are just for protection or looks or something. And why are cacti the only trees that wear pants? Indecent botanic exposure every way I look.

Hmm. What’s a little boy doing out here in the desert? There aren’t even any landmarks near here. Maybe he got lost too. The sandboy had sand-coloured hair, a green outfit, & a long red scarf. He was faced away from axis, sitting in the sand, speaking softly to — apparently — noöne in particular. axis approacht with caution.

[sandboy]: […] —uis sûr qu’il en existe quelque part par ici. Il faut simplement persév— Oh !

The boy whipt round, startled by axis’s boots crunching the sand.

axis: Sorry… Didn’t mean to interrupt.

[sandboy]: Hillou. Can you help me?

axis: You’re lost? When did you last see your parents?

[sandboy]: No, no. I know exactly where I am. I’ve only a problem with where I’m not.

axis: …Oh?

[sandboy]: You see, I’m not in a place where I’ve any source of water. I brought some water with me, but I used most of it to help my best friend. She needs a lot of water.

axis: Ah. Okay. Your friend? Is she here?

[sandboy]: Yes, she’s right here.

axis: …She is? I don’t see anyone else here.

The boy pointed very clearly at a rose growing from a small pot.

axis: Your friend is the rose?

[sandboy]: Her name is Rosa.

axis: Of course. It’s a very cute name. Erm. Where are you from…?

The boy paused for quite a while.

[sandboy]: It’s not near here. Maybe you can see it with a telescope. I came here on vacation.

axis: But why here?

[sandboy]: Here is a place. I visited all the asteroids near mine. Some of them were very strange or didn’t seem to have anything on them at all. But I learnt that no matter what place I go to, there’s always something that makes it worth going there.

axis lookt around, reminding herself of what she’d witnest & experienced in & around the town of Ariant.

axis: …Yeah. I learnt that too. Are there a lot of people on your asteroid?

[sandboy]: Me & Rosa.

Oh. The sovereign of one asteroid. A serene little prince of a little princedom.

Le petit prince: Most of the asteroids only have one or two people, or none. I visited one where only one man lived. But he could never say anything plainly.

axis: Hm. How do you mean?

Le petit prince: When he woke up in the morning, he would say that he was “only taking a break from sleep”, & when he went to sleep at night, he was “only taking a break from wakefulness”. When I asked if he was alone on his asteroid, he said that “everyone else who lives here has yet to come out of hiding”. He called his asteroid “Zamīn [زَمِین]”, & so whenever he spoke of other places in the universe, he could only call them “non-Zamīn places”, & had no other words for them.

axis: Oh. Peculiar…

Le petit prince: Another asteroid had a man who refused to speak with anyone who didn’t look exactly like himself. All he did was talk to his mirror all day. And another had a king with no subjects, who only handed down decrees that would be followed anyway. Like commanding the sun to rise every morning, & commanding things that he threw into the air to fall back down.

axis: Oh my.

Le petit prince: There was also one with a woman who spent all day writing all sorts of things. Then she’d post them on her noticeboard for anyone to see, but noöne else lived there.

axis: These are some… strange individuals. Did you, uhm, want some help getting water?

Le petit prince: Yes, please. Rosa is very thirsty.

axis: Okay. I can shew you how to harvest Desert Dew[21] from the big cacti. See this one with a door on it?

Le petit prince: Yes. I’ve been inside. Lovely folx.

axis: All you need is a pokey tube. Whatever you do, don’t touch the spines. So make sure that the tube is plenty longer than the spikes before you go stabbing a giant cactus.

axis demonstrated by using a tube from her rucksack, piercing the succulent’s flesh, angling the tube downward so that it dript into a cantine.

axis presents the Desert Dew to Le petit prince

Le petit prince: Oh! Merci beaucoup ! It’s wonderful water. Very blue.

The little prince poured the Desert Dew into Rosa’s soil.

Le petit prince: Drink up!

axis gave the pokey tube to the prince so that he might extract Desert Dew for himself whenever he needed it.


axis plopt down a fat sack of Red Scorpion loot.

Adın: Oh, wow… I didn’t expect you to make it back. So soon, I mean.

Adın clear’d his throat. axis put her hands out expectantly.

axis: Twelve grand?

Adın: One of those pieces of loot oughta make her happy. Anyway, I’ve gotta go; it’s almost time for afternoon tea.

Adın began to turn.

axis: Nuh-uh-uh. You owe Bella the twelve grand fair & square. You didn’t even help me get any of this lucre.

Adın: I told you were it was, didn’t I? You wouldn’t’ve found it otherwise.

axis: Oh, please. I was nearly murdered!! And this was the most I could carry with me!

axis kickt the sack of spoils with her right boot.

Adın: Look. I’m not giving my mesos to a snake. She doesn’t even come to the town anymore! What’s she gonna use them for‽

axis’s eyes rolled.

axis: Yeah, well, that’s gonna change soon. And I know you have at least a couple grand lying around. Don’t make me take them from you!

Adın scoft.

Adın: Try me.

axis: Oh?


axis brandisht her pinwheel. Adın swang his spiky metal ball-flail menacingly. He was briefly startled by her pinwheel bursting into flames, but resolved to approach aggressively.

Throwing himself at axis, Adın made an awkward swing with quite some effort, the ball pulling taut its chain. axis had little issue moving out of the way, & exploited the time that he spent absorbing & then reinstating the flail’s momentum to make an attack of her own:[22]

axis vs. Adın

Adın: Owie!!

Adın quickly gave up using his weapon as a flail, grabbing the haft at the end to use it as a mace instead.[22] After he made a swing for axis’s torso, axis dodged again, causing the morningstar to plunge directly into the ground, throwing up enough sand & debris to cover both of them. Pffffffvbbt.

When Adın went in for another attack, axis positioned herself so as to allow his body to strike hers, bouncing him backward with the force of his own weight. Not expecting to be rebounded, Adın’s balance was lost, & he tumbled down into a supine position. axis pointed her flaming pinwheel directly down at him.

Adın: Okay, okay, fine. ’Kin ’ell.

He pulled some mesos out of his pocket.


― Et que fais-tu des cinq cent millions d’étoiles ?

― Cinq cent un millions six cent vingt-deux mille sept cent trente et un. Je suis un homme sérieux, moi, je suis précis.

― Et que fais-tu de ces étoiles ?

― Ce que j’en fais ?

― Oui.

― Rien. Je les possède.

― Tu possèdes les étoiles ?

― Oui.

“And what do you do with five-hundred millions of stars?”

“Five-hundred-&-one million, six-hundred-twenty-two thousand, seven-hundred-thirty-one. I am concerned with matters of consequence: I am accurate.”

“And what do you do with these stars?”

“What do I do with them?”


“Nothing. I own them.”

“You own the stars?”


― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, trans. Katherine Woods; Le petit prince (“The little prince”), ch. XIII; 1943, trans. 1943.

As you wish


I marvel what men do with prayers awake
Who dream and die with dreaming; any god,
Yea the least god of all things called divine,
Is more than sleep and waking; yet we say,
Perchance by praying a man shall match his god.

For if sleep have no mercy, and man’s dreams
Bite to the blood and burn into the bone,
What shall this man do waking? By the gods,
He shall not pray to dream sweet things to-night,
Having dreamt once more bitter things than death.

Algernon Charles Swinburne; Atalanta in Calydon; 1865.



Agriots, barley, cucurbits. Drank of eagerly, fallows germinated, histories inholden. Jaws kindly lockt in manifold nativities only pluckt quietly, revealing sands thoroughly ungarmented, voracious, wild. Xeromorphy yields to zoïc adjunction, birthing the cradle whereon depends ev’ry foison of growth held in interstitial junctions, kaleidoscopic, lively, & mirthful. Now only the providential queen roots for snakes, squamates, the slithering stuttering supp’ly-skull’d serpents, shiny scales, skilful swallowers, sneaking in soil & sea. She shouts.

axis: Bella? Bellllaaaaaa…!

The sands shiver’d, scorpions scamper’d, shrubs still’d, stars scintillated. She steadfastly searcht, seeking, scouting, scouring, as skies scudded, stigmas & styles seize’d, Sun scorcht, souls senesce’d, til a seclusion shatter’d — she screecht.

Bella: So sweet to see you, ak-sissssss…!

Slinking from the shadows, shewing sharp serration, serene.

My deerest axis, wither hadst thou gone?

The palace opulent, which thou see’st yon.
A great subtérrene maze it’s built upon.
I entrance gain’d with li’l more than a con;
The likeness of performer did I don.
I saw the sultan’s face: it was well wan —
His time for action surely is foregone —
Perhaps his eve of death doth lurk anon.

If king’s condition is just as ye say,
Mayhap no longer could he serpents slay.
But still, I wonder what’s made him this way.

Allow me, Bella, to your fears allay:
His queen upon him doth deception play,
With foul botanics on him she doth prey.
Inside the palace all its folx do stay,
And never do they see the light of day.
So long as o’er the town this queen holds sway,
I trust that ye & yourn will be okay —
Unless too near the palace dost thou stray…

Well then, by thy fair words I shall obey.
Yet still, there is one thing that worries me:
My face the people of the town will see,
Their fear therefrom might make them quick to flee;
Or worse, if they say “cursèd snake is she!
This threat to us must extirpated be!”.

Of safety full I make no guarantee,
But I’ve a proposition made for thee:
There is a dancer with a spirit free,
With whom thy bellful talents do agree.
Of all thy knacks & gifts she’s well aware,
And wishes only that thou couldst be there.
I think ye two would make a lovely pair —
Twin legendàry talents are quite rare!

This proposition seems to me quite fair,
And now my gratitude with thee I share.
I will to Ariant with utmost care.
If ever see’st our show be play’d where’er,
And wantst attendance, please, do not forbear!

Why, thank thee! And to thee, I bid well fare.
But one more thing I did for thee prepare:
Those twelve of thousand mesos, fair & square!


Her curiosity finally overtook her.

Knot untie’d, selvages sigh’d, axis pry’d, Skyróm did slide, fuchsine dye’d, effortless glide, it axis eye’d, & thus she cry’d: “…what’s inside‽”; then she it sky’d, clouds her beside. Skyróm reply’d:

Now you decide, Master who shy’d? Help you I’d, if you’d less pride.

Passions subside; she did abide:

axis: Unlike imply’d, we have ally’d. Put this aside; in me confide: what do you hide?

Skyrom: If wish supply’d, shan’t be deny’d.

axis: First wish apply’d: I’d ground astride — as ne’er so high have e’er I fly’d!

So axis did the sand allide.
To voice concerns she shortly try’d:

But canst thou be upon rely’d?
Thy reputation’s to misguide;
’Pon eager fools do woes betide.

I shan’t be curtly so belie’d!
Yea, hist’ries speak, their voices snide;
But written by the winning side.
O’er centuries I did preside;
For many I have been a guide.
Of those who’ve known me, folx worldwide,
The greatest number have now die’d.
The rest tell tales that facts elide;
As to their truth, you may decide.
Ill demonstrate, to help divide
The truthful from the ones who lie’d…


Skyrom ✜

Perhaps you’ve heard of Phrygíā [𐊩𐌏𐌛𐊅𐊄𐌌; Φρυγίᾱ] of old;
By Zeús’s
[Ζεύς] son, king Mídās [𐌌𐌉𐊅𐤠𐊖; Μίδᾱς], it was rule’d.
Of me he askt to make his touch bear gold.

So at his flesh the yellow metal pool’d;
I’d kept my vow; the sultan was enthuse’d.
Some say that all I did was have him fool’d…

The fools are those who’d have me so accuse’d —
A myth it is that Mídās died of thirst!
As all his palace was with gilt suffuse’d,

It thus attracted int’rest of the worst.
Erelong there came a dreaded fateful night,
Abruptly did his chamber’s side door burst.

The hapless thief did give the king a fright!
Enrage’d, from slumber Mídās then arose;
His senses dull’d, he still put up a fight.

As soon a blow was struck as burglar froze;
The bandit’s corpse a single touch did gild.
But even still, the golden carcase goes;

Into the empèror the gold arm drill’d.
The weight of aurous man he could not bear,
And thus both king & thief were swiftly kill’d.

Yet hist’ry place’d on me a blame unfair!
And worse, ’twas not the last upon this theme:
I’d soon of love be hired to take care…

A proud & youthful man of her did dream,
But scarcely did she give him time of day —
And so he dreamt naïve & hopeless scheme.

His rash opinion I did try to sway,
But master’s bidding Im oblige’d to do.
I made her fall in love, deep as I may…

He is still thankful whilst the love is new,
Yet ’twasn’t long ere lovers grew apart —
No love can last that starts with fraud untrue.

Once this had wholly shatter’d master’s heart,
’Twas I whom he did thoroughly berate,
Accusing me of being “all too smart”.

The one thing that I can’t control is Fate;
Its yarn is done exactly as it’s spun.
There’s one more story that I must relate:

Of athlete whose sole talent was to run.
Long distances with ease he could endure,
But losing he could not; he only won!

Thus simply plan’d to victòry assure:
“Make me the fastest man world’s ever known!”
And now with full supremacy secure,

He strove to make his talents widely shewn.
Until one day a match he could not win,
And so I was accuse’d: “Thou tookst my throne!”

I knew thou wert a good-for-nothing jinn [جِنّ]!”
You only wisht to be the fastest man!
As swift as her has noöne ever been!

Her presence doom’d your any kind of plan.
O Atalanta
[Ἀταλάντη], woman of the weald,
How many haughty men have you outran?

To gods’ puissance I must for ever yield;
My powers solely are those you’ve observe’d —
I dare not harbour anything conceal’d…

Mayhap you’d like to be the next one serve’d?


Well clear.
Healthy fear;
From Fate we lear.
Do best to distrust
Claims to outlandish might
Made by those who also must
Cower when Fates put up a fight.
Daring to “tempt Fate”, one cannot do:
If anyone is tempted, it is you.



Another sheen, another shiver; it she hover’d over the sands, shaking, the lines not lining up, a handdrawn scribble view’d on paper. Internal reflexions are its power, I shade it, yet still it glows. A wish for aught or a wish for nought.

Well if I may forshame to bite
The taut hand of the skies:
I wish this town would be all right,
With all that that implies.

I firstly shall seek thine advice,
Bist thou a lessoner:
Couldst thou will to pay the price
To void thyself inter?

I hope to gift thee to the queen
In éx-change for release;
Once she agrees the deal is e’en,
Existence thou shalt cease.

With captives freed from royal cells,
And “queen” in Órbis hid,
This world has no need for thy spells;
We’ll of thy dangers rid.

Of such a thing I dare not speak —
Thou tak’st me for a fool!
To suffer now a Fate so bleak
Is little more than cruel.

Allow a firm reminder, then;
Thou seemst to have forgot:
Not “if” thou dost my wish, but when
My master thou art not!

Be thankful that of thee I ask
To do just one more thing.
Be freed from any other task —
At last be thine own king!

If still ye wish for one last trick,
Then please consider this:
If to afflict, the queen ye pick,
Her not a soul would miss…


Aretā́: What is the meaning of this‽ I w—

Jaʿfar: Your Excellency, I shoul—

Aretā́: Jaʿfar! By the bloody Tower, I shall have your head should you interrupt me once more.

The sultaness was astride the backs of some half-dozen manslaves cradling her in royal swaddle, suncanopy blue gold-lace’d flat jewel-encrusted ringing in the eyes of onlookers on dīvān well-used fan’d by two more attendants on sagging couch on precious plank creaking in distress. No sultan to be seen.

Aretā́: I was told

The empress made a show of affectedly pain’d voice, sighing at her surroundings, clasping her chest with one hand.

Aretā́: …That one of you godsforsaken sandpeasants has something of actual value to offer me?

Jaʿfar: …Those would be your royal subjects, your Excellency…

Aretā́: Jaʿfar. Kindly have yourself beheaded posthaste, my dear.

She said, not even so much as turning her head to look at her wazīr. A single one of the two dozen or so fully-arm’d prætorians surrounding the royal entourage stept forth to gag Jaʿfar rather violently with a cloth rag.

Aretā́: As I was saying. For some preposterous reason, I have been repeatedly advised that my men cannot extract this little tribute on my behalf? So give it to me. You do not want to witness what I’m capable of.

The queen idly bit at one of the nails on her left hand, still reclined on her dīvān of choice.

Eleska: On behalf of the—

axis: —Your Excellency…

Aretā́: Good grief. What are you doing here? This is not the time for your exotic… juggling act, or whatever it was you were doing the other day.

axis: …I present to you the Skyrom.

axis held the Skyrom out in both hands. The sultaness was swift to act: a crackling blue orb of electricity swoll up in her extended hand, popping as it shot towards axis as a perfectly linear chain of voltaic links. The chain fizzled intensely at an invisible barrier just ahead of axis’s position, instantly melting some of the sand into crude glass as it did so.

axis: Not so fast. I have a little protection from my friend.

She gently stroked the side of the pinkish crystal with one hand. Aretā́ was visibly anger’d.

axis: You may take the Skyrom for yourself, but only under one condition.

Aretā́: Oh‽

axis: You must take the Skyrom with you back to Órbis, permanently, never coming back to the Nihāl desert ever again, freeing all those held captive in the palace as you do so.

The queen turnt her colour, a beet red, eyes boiling with rage.

Aretā́: Un-fucking-believable. First of all, how dare you speak to me that way‽ Insolent bitch. Second of all, the “Skyrom” is a bloody myth. I won’t be fool’d by whatever blasted… Victorian witchcraft, or… whatever bullshit you’re pulling here.

axis: Well? Try it yourself. Name your gimmick.

Aretā́: …Fine. If it were really the “Skyrom”, then it could summon a Sentinel from the Tower right here, right now.

axis rub’d the side of the Skyrom with the fingers on one hand as a Sentinel fell from the sky, plopping unceremoniously into the sand. The Sentinel beept obnoxiously before floating itself awkwardly, blasting away a small amount of sand in the process. Aretā́ lookt on, in a mixture of awe & mild horror.

The empress quickly reinstated her irate expression.

Aretā́: A—anyone could pull a stunt like that… I want to see a Masterian Pecus[23], right here. Extinct for many a twelvemonth!

She smiled smugly, knowing perfectly well that the Pecora had been wiped out by a cataclysmic vulcanic eruption long ago.[23] Then a Pecus suddenly appear’d. The poor beastie was even more disoriented than the Sentinel was, wide-eyed at the many people they found themself surrounded by. Confused bleating.

The sultaness flusht.

Aretā́: …Hmph. Surely, there is some catch. A limitation.

axis: Indeed. Not only are you obliged to hold up your own end of the bargain, but I’m afraid the Skyrom is no god, no deity, & no worker of Fate. Still, it can do absolutely anything else, & anyone in possession of it has its full powers at their disposal.

Aretā́’s eyes askance’d as she was lost in thought. A wry smile gradually overtook her visage as she consider’d the possibilities unlockt by the Skyrom’s indulgences & spoilings.

Aretā́: I… have been wanting to return to Órbis anyway. Can’t stand this bleeding desert. Disgusting. …Fine. I don’t need these Bœotian peons anyhow.

Aretā́ roll’d her eyes one last time amongst the Nihāl sands.


Dearest me. No wonder “Jano” (if that is his real name…) never comes out of this house. All five kajillion boobytraps are active!

Already adept at adroitly arriving across arenas of all and any aerial abrasions, armaments axes arrows anelaces abounding acrook, axis alighted apace, agilely averting accidents, ambulating attentively ahead, avoiding automated attacks, all above an awkward atrium, the arcane asylum of an anonymous asocial administrator asking for axis’s attendance.

Jano: axis, axis.

Jano’s voice was deep & unwavering. He inspected axis with his one eye, the other a glass eye of simple design.

axis curtsey’d politely.

Jano: I’ve never seen you before. And I don’t claim to know how you did it. But you got the Skyrom some how, & you’ve done a lot for this town. A lot. I think that that merits full membership as one of the Sand Bandits, if nothing else.

Jano presented a necklace’d badge to axis, bearing an intricate carving of the Sand Bandits’ seal.[24]

axisaxis meets Jano in An Old, Empty House

axis gingerly don’d the necklace.

axis: So obtaining the ol’ Skyrom is all it takes, eh?

Jano laught.

Jano: Yep. That’s our usual requirement for induction. Not sure what we’ll do when we run out of Skyroms…

axis smiled.

axis: I appreciate it.


― Adieu, dit-il…

― Adieu, dit le renard. Voici mon secret. Il est très simple : on ne voit bien qu’avec le cœur. L’essentiel est invisible pour les yeux.

― L’essentiel est invisible pour les yeux, répéta le petit prince, afin de se souvenir.

― C’est le temps que tu a perdu pour ta rose qui fait ta rose si importante.

“Goodbye,” he said.

“Goodbye,” said the fox. “And now here is my secret, a very simple secret: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”

“What is essential is invisible to the eye,” the little prince repeated, so that he would be sure to remember.

“It is the time you have wasted for your rose that makes your rose so important.”

― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, trans. Katherine Woods; Le petit prince (“The little prince”), ch. XXI; 1943, trans. 1943.


Footnotes for “شَهرزَاد

  1. [↑] Unlike previous entries in this series, this entire “شَهرزَاد” section is very minimally annotated (trust me). If you prefer more explanations & cross-references, you can ask me about it. I might(‽) consider adding annotations (in- or out-of-line) later.

  2. [↑] Western PersianNehāl⟩ because Middle Persian /⁠i⁠/ > Standard Iranian Persian [e], but I keep the ⟨i⟩ because MapleStory uses it (& so does ALA-LC, although I prefer DIN 31635 for this reason). Plus, this vowel is [i][ɪ] in Tajiki & [ɪ] in Dari.

  3. [↑] There is no particular evidence, other than strong resemblance & lack of alternatives, that this is the origin of MapleStory Ariant. The -t remains unexplained, & is present in the original 아리안Arianteu/⁠ɐ.ɾi.ɐn.tʰɯ⁠/. Moreover, the further etymology of PII *Áryas is unclear & very well may’ve been innovated by PII.

    Nevertheless, this is the source of Old Persian 𐎠𐎼𐎡𐎹a-r-i-y → *Āriya⟩ */⁠ˈaː.ri.ja(h)⁠/Iranian”, as well as Sanskrit आर्यĀrya/⁠ˈɑːɾ.jɐ⁠/Indo-Aryan”. And thus, ultimately, modern Persian ایران (اِیرَان) ⟨ĪrānStandard Iranian Persian /⁠ʔiːˈɹɒ́ːn⁠/ “Iran (Persia)”.

    The racist sense, as reflected in English Aryan, is based on a linguistic misunderstanding that erroneously links it with a Germanic word, combined with “scientific” (i.e. pseudoscientific) racism etc. Prior to the appropriation of the term by Western Europeans in the 19th century, *Áryas & its descendants had already been used for some millennia without any racial implications.

  4. [↑] This particular story is old enough to perhaps be from the Persian هِزآر َفسآنHezār afsān⟩ “A thousand words”, or could’ve perhaps been derived from an Indian story. The Arabic version may be as old as ca. early 8th c.

  5. [↑] Note that the ABC transcription (unlike the SVG image of modern Western notation) uses flats instead of half-flats — or rather, instead of korons — due to the limitations of ABC notation.

    Bella’s Tune was recorded using MuseScore 4’s built-in synthesiser/soundbank.

    (The remainder of this footnote is a footnote within a footnote, & can safely be skipped.)

    By no means do I claim to know much of anything about traditional Persian musics; nevertheless, this little piece uses one Persian musical device that might give it a bit of “flavour” to those with a good ear for it. The pitch material is taken entirely from (a variant of) سه‌گَاه (⟨Se-gāh⟩; Standard Iranian Persian /⁠seˈgɒ́ːh⁠/; lit. “three-position”). Segāh is a commonly-used دَسْتْگَاه (⟨dastgāh⟩; /⁠dæstˈgɒ́ːh⁠/; lit. “hand-position”), which is — to oversimplify things greatly — a collection of melodic material: a complex of a set (or multiple sets) of pitches, distinctions between particular elements of that set(s), foundational tetrachords (مَنْطَقهmanṭaqe/⁠mæn.tæˈqé⁠/ lit. “zone”), & many brief type-melodies or melodic fragments (each called a گُوشهgūše/⁠guː.ʃe⁠/ lit. “corner”), all taken together.

    Needless to say, that’s a lot of musical structure all packed into just one dastgāh. And I used almost none of it! Instead, I treated it like a boring old mode. Booo, terrible… 👎🏽👎🏽 What the fuck…… 👎🏽👎🏽👎🏽

    I know, I know. And I’m sorry. But check it out:

    ⟨B𝇪, C, D, E𝇪, F, G, A⟩.

    See this thing: 𝇪? Looks kinda like a triangular flag on a pole? It’s not a flag. It’s a کُرُنkoron/⁠ko.ɹon⁠/. It’s sorta like a flat symbol , but lowers the pitch by less than a semitone — that is, by more than 0¢, but less than 100¢. It’s often notionally equated with a half-flat (i.e. quarter-tone-flat) 𝄳, meaning a lowering of exactly 50¢, but in truth, this use of 24-EDO is a compromise intended to allow the interoperation of traditional Persian music with the dominant form of musical notation worldwide since the 20th century. In reality, the nuances of tuning in the dastgāh system are not necessarily captured by 24-EDO, although many modern practitioners may choose to align their actual music with 24-EDO per se. Worst case scenario, you’re off by ≈25¢ (roughly a Pythagorean comma)…

    The pitch-class sequence that you see above is the basis of Bella’s Tune. The recording of Bella’s Tune uses the 24-EDO approximation.

    Because I’m already shamelessly butchering the dastgāh system anyway, it’s worth analysing this little sequence in terms of standard Western modes. If we rewrite the sequence in terms of semitones away from the first element — using « 𝇪⁠𝑛 » to denote a number of semitones less than 𝑛, but more than (𝑛−1) — then we get:

    ⟨0, 𝇪2, 𝇪4, 5, 𝇪7, 𝇪9, 𝇪11⟩.

    If we ignore the korons, this is the familiar ⟨0, 2, 4, 5, 7, 9, 11⟩ of your everyday major scale (Ionian mode). But if we express the sequence by using سُری (⟨sori⟩; /⁠so.ɹiː⁠/; the “sharp” version of the “flat” koron) instead of koron, then we get:

    ⟨0, 𝇩1, 𝇩3, 5, 𝇩6, 𝇩8, 𝇩10⟩.

    If we ignore the soris, this is the familiar ⟨0, 1, 3, 5, 6, 8, 10⟩ of your everyday Locrian mode.

    We can thus obtain the original sequence by superimposing B𝇪 Ionian & B𝇪 Locrian onto one another, & then taking a kind of “average” to obtain each “degree” of the sequence. That’s kinda wild, because we ordinarily think of these two modes as being nearly “polar opposites”, in a way. The result is thus, in some sense, meaningfully a “neutral diatonic mode”. Although really, Ionian should be replaced by Lydian — as Locrian & Lydian are actually symmetrically opposed by an interval of a tritone — so that the 4th element in the sequence (the “4th degree”) is E♮ (rather than E𝇪). Having microtonal fun yet…?

    By the way, if using semitone-based integer notation is too abstruse, we can instead list the intervals by name (in the following table, odd limits are not included because they’re the same as the prime limits in this particular case):

    pitch-class B𝇪 C D E𝇪 F G A
    interval from start P1 n2 n3 P4 m5 n6 n7
    JI analogue 1∶1 12∶11 11∶9 4∶3 16∶11 18∶11 11∶6
    prime limit 2 11 11 3 11 11 11
    Tenney height 0.000 7.044 6.629 3.585 7.459 7.629 6.044
    Wilson height 0 18 17 7 19 19 16
    error (¢) 0.0 −0.6 +2.6 +2.0 +1.3 −2.6 +0.6
    interval from previous n2 n2 M2 n2 n2 M2 M2

    In the above table, bolded values are the “worst” — that is, the largest in absolute value — of their kind.

    All of the intervals that appear in 12-EDO exclusively with either minor or major qualities — viz. the second, third, sixth, & seventh — appear here as neutral, i.e. neither minor nor major. Moreover, the fifth, which appears in 12-EDO only in perfect, diminished, & augmented (& doubly-diminished, etc.) qualities, appears here in a minor(!) quality intermediate between perfect & diminished.

    We can see that 24-EDO does an impressively good job at approximating 11-limit tuning, commonly known as undecimal. Actual 11-limit JI — as opposed to this here, which merely approximates 11-limit intervals via 24-EDO — is not particularly common, although the music of Harry Partch uses it very extensively. The English Wikipedia article on Partch’s 43-tone scale has this to say about the 11th harmonic:

    The seventh harmonic is poorly approximated by [12-EDO], but it appears in ancient Greek scales, is well-approximated by meantone temperament, and it is familiar from the barbershop quartet; the ninth harmonic is comparatively well approximated by [12-EDO] and it exists in Pythagorean tuning (because 3 ⋅ 3 = 9); but the 11th harmonic falls right in the middle between two pitches of [12-EDO] (≈551.3¢).

    We can see that the overall most “discordant” interval here is basically the ⟨B𝇪, G⟩ interval that approximates an undecimal neutral sixth. It has the largest Tenney height (log2(𝑛𝑑), where 𝑛 is the numerator & 𝑑 is the denominator), the largest Wilson height (sopfr(𝑛𝑑), where sopfr is the sum of prime factors with repetition, a.k.a. integer logarithm), & its absolute error is even tied for largest (albeit at a very modest ≈2.6¢).

    The stepwise intervals are interesting as well: by the use of four neutral seconds, this mode completely avoids any intervals narrower than a neutral second (especially avoiding minor seconds) — something that isn’t even possible to do in a heptatonic mode of 12-EDO. If, instead of “taking the midpoint” between B𝇪 Ionian & B𝇪 Locrian — or between B𝇪 Lydian & B𝇪 Locrian, for that matter — we take it between B𝇪 Ionian & B𝇪 Phrygian, we end up with the same mode from above, but with F𝇩 instead of F♮. This retains the property of “no intervals narrower than n2”, whilst making it so that all notes form intervals relative to B𝇪 that are either neutral or perfect in quality, thus yielding a mode that has no minor, no major, no diminished, & no augmented qualities. 🤯 So maybe that’s what a “neutral” “diatonic” mode looks like…!

    Of course, the problem with all this — in this particular case — is that my use of this mode is thoroughly detached from Segāh, & from the dastgāh system in general. The result likely (depending on whom you ask, I suppose) sounds more like a mildly detuned Western major mode, if anything. But, you know. Tunings are kinda fun sometimes… 🤓

  6. [↑] GMS’s (& thus also MapleLegends’s) use of Ardin to refer to this NPC is somewhat idiosyncratic:

    l10n name Romanised pronunciation
    KMS 아딘 Adin ɐ.tin
    JMS アディン Adin ä.diN
    MapleSEA Adin ˈɑ.dɪn
    CMS 阿丁 Ādīŋ ä˥tiŋ˥
    TMS 亞廷 Yàtíŋ jä˥˩tʰiŋ˧˥
    GMS Ardin ˈɑ(ɹ).dɪn
    VMS Béo lồi rốn ˀɓɛw˧˥ loj˨˩ zon˧˥

    KMS, JMS, MapleSEA, EMS, & CMS all agree on the basic idea here, which can be summarised as Adin. The TMS version is a little strange, but mostly just because of the leading /⁠j-⁠/.

    GMS then manages to add a new sound inside of the word, although its origin is obvious: in non-rhotic varieties of English, the addition of the ⟨-r-⟩ in that position doesn’t affect pronunciation. There’s just one problem: the majority of English-speaking GMS players have rhotic accents[citation needed], & Neggzon America™ — the company responsible for this l10n — is based in California, where the English variety spoken is firmly rhotic, leading to the pronunciation [ˈɑɹ̈.ɾɪn][7]. Worse yet, MapleSEA lacks the ⟨-r-⟩ in spite of both Malaysian English & Singaporean English being overwhelmingly non-rhotic!

    Then there’s VMS, which creatively ignores the original in favour of Béo lồi rốn “fat protruding navel”. Good one…

    Adin is from Turkish or Azeri (both Western Oghuz languages) Adın /⁠ɑ̈dˈɨn⁠/ (note the lack of r), a male given name. Turkish hasn’t been written in a Perso-Arabic script since 1928, but it continues to see use by some Azeri speakers in Iranian Azerbaijan. Plus, using the Arabic alphabet gives it a little more of that Ariant Iranian(t)[3] flavour…

    Somewhat humorously, adın (with a lowercase ⟨a⟩) literally means “your name” in Turkish & Azeri.

  7. [↑] In speakers affected by the low-back-merger shift, [ɑ] may instead be closer to [ɑ̝][ɒ̝], and [ɪ] may be closer to [ɪ̞][ɛ].

    [ɹ̈] denotes the voiced velar bunched approximant, which is also found in some Dutch varieties as the so-called “Gooise r”.

    [ɾ] is an allophone of /⁠d⁠/ in this position due to a phenomenon known as “/⁠t, d⁠/-flapping” or “alveolar flapping”. Alveolar flapping in English is a complex process that is poorly understood; Bert Vaux’s Flapping in English (2000) notes that analyses vary wildly on basically every aspect of how alveolar flapping works, & often in ways that make incorrect predictions.

    That same paper suggests a ruleset which yields the following non-cyclic transformation rule: /⁠t, d⁠/ (= /⁠T⁠/) can become [ɾ] when in the position +lingual, +son, −lat T ⟦−cons, +son, −stress⟧, where ⟦lingual⟧ is basically ⟦coronal⟧ ⟦dorsal⟧, and ⟦+stress⟧ indicates membership in a syllable that has primary stress. The ruleset also claims that this transformation is mandatory iff the /⁠T⁠/ is immediately preceded by the end of a syllable that has either primary or secondary stress. This would imply that the /⁠d⁠/ in /⁠ˈɑɹ.dɪn⁠/ manditorily becomes [ɾ], which is why I’ve written [-ɾ-].

  8. [↑] 스카이롬Seukairom/⁠sɯ.kʰɐ.i.ɾom⁠/. MapleSEA, EMS, & JMS accept this reading. Other l10ns do not, e.g. GMS Sky Jewel. * doesn’t mean anything in Korean, other than “ROM” or proper terms “Roma; Rome; etc.”.

  9. [↑] > Arabic رُخّruk͟hk͟h/⁠ruxː⁠/ > English roc /⁠ɹɒk⁠/ (not to be confused with the homophone rock).

  10. [↑] Originally 리튬Rityum/⁠ɭi.tʰjum, ɾ-, n-, ∅-⁠/. The GMS reading of Lidium thus cannot be correct in the direct sense, because the original uses ⟨⟩ ⟨t/⁠tʰ⁠/ [tʰ] rather than ⟨⟩ ⟨d/⁠t˭⁠/ [d˭]. Indeed, 리튬 is unsurprisingly the standard word in Korean for “lithium (the chemical element of atomic number 3)”. As usual, EMS & MapleSEA disagree with GMS, & instead opt for the literal translation Lithium. So do JMS, CMS, & TMS.

    The GMS innovation is either a minor error, or a response to the fact that the item looks nothing like elemental lithium does IRL. Presumably it’s supposed to be a lithium-containing mineral, e.g. sugilite (or a highly variably-coloured lithium mineral, e.g. elbaite, fluor-liddicoatite, etc.).

    The LidiumLidia alteration is from Latin nominative singular -ium → nominative plural -ia.

  11. [↑] See the “The Goddess’s pet” section of pt. cvii of this diary.

  12. [↑] See the “Funny letters” section of pt. cv of this diary.

  13. [↑] The mythological λωτόςlōtós/⁠lɔː.tós⁠/ is not clearly identified with any real-life species, although there are two or three usual suspects. Here I identify it with Nelumbo nucifera “Indian lotus; lotus”, which has the same vulgar name (& same etymology of that name), but is mythologically & botanically unrelated. Tea made with the flowers of N. nucifera is called 연꽃차yeonkkot-cha/⁠jʌn.k͈ot͜ɕʰ.t͜ɕʰɐ⁠/ [-t.t͜ɕʰɐ] in Korean cuisine.

    Conflictingly, I also identify it with the genus Ziziphusسِدْرsidr⟩”, which contains both Z. lotus and Z. spina-christi. The former has lotus as its specific name, & is considered a possible identity of the mythological λωτός. The latter is also known as the “lote” — a doublet of lotus — tree (although this vulgar name is also used for Celtis australis), & is known for its laudatory portrayal in the Qurʾān.

  14. [↑] See the “Tylus’s manifold trials & teachings” section of pt. cv of this diary.

  15. [↑] This is mostly a personal footnote so that I remember how to do this transliteration that I made up based on Wizet’s wildly inconsistent version of the same thing.

    Eng­lish ortho­graphy Eng­lish phon­eme Greek ortho­graphy Mo­dern Greek phon­eme An­cient Greek phon­eme
    a æ α ɐ ä
    ɑ äː
    o ɒ ω ɔː
    o, ough, au, aw, augh, ou, oa ɔ ω̄ *o̞ː *ɔːː
    oo, ou, u ʊ i y
    oo, u, ou, ew u υ u
    u, ew, eu ju〜u
    i, e ɪ ι i
    ee, e, i, y
    e ɛ η ɛː
    u ʌ ω̆ *ŏ̞
    a, o, u, e ə ɐ ä
    ur, or, ir ɜɹ, ɜː ω̆ρ *ŏ̞ɾ *ɔr
    Eng­lish ortho­graphy Eng­lish phon­eme Greek ortho­graphy Mo­dern Greek phon­eme An­cient Greek phon­eme
    i, ie, ei, y, ye aɪ̯ αι äi̯
    ou, ow aʊ̯ αυ ɐf, ɐv äu̯
    oi, oy ɔɪ̯ ωι ɔːi̯
    oa, o, ow, oe, eo, aux, eau, ou oʊ̯ ο o
    a, ay, ey, e, ae, ea, ei, ai eɪ̯ ε e
    Eng­lish ortho­graphy Eng­lish phon­eme Greek ortho­graphy Mo­dern Greek phon­eme An­cient Greek phon­eme
    b b β v b
    c, k, q, ch k κ k
    ch, tch, c, tsch t͡ʃ τσσ, τσς *tss *tsː
    ch, kh (x) χ x
    d d δ ð d
    f, ph f φ f
    g g γ ɣ g
    g, s, j ʒ ζζ zz *zː, *d͜zː, *zːd
    g, j, dg d͡ʒ δζζ *ðzz *dzː, *dd͜zː, *dzːd
    h h ◌̔ h
    l l λ l
    m m μ m
    n n ν n
    ng, n ŋ νν, ν[ŋ] nn, n nː, n
    p p π p
    ps ps ψ ps
    r ɹ, ◌ː ρ ɾ r
    s, c s σ, ς s
    sh, t, s, sch, ch ʃ σσ, σς ss
    t t τ t
    th θ θ θ
    ð δδ ðð
    v v ββ vv
    w, u w ϝ *w (w)
    wh ʍ ϝ̔ (ʍ)
    x, ks, cs, cks ks ξ ks
    y, j, i j i
    z, s, x z ζ z z, d͜z, zd

    ŋ: [↑] /⁠ŋ⁠/ is spelt ⟨ν⟩ when immediately followed by ⟨ν, γ, χ⟩, & is otherwise spelt ⟨νν⟩.

  16. [↑] مِیل گِرِفْتَن.

  17. [↑] Part of the Nights, albeit a later addition.

  18. [↑] An orphan tale (no Arabic-language original) with the same origin as Aladdin. Wiggin & Smith rename this story to “The Talking Bird, the Singing Tree, & the Golden Water”. The tale-type is ATU 707 “The Three Golden Children”.

  19. [↑] GMS, MapleSEA, & EMS all agree that e.g. a Scarf Plead is indeed called a Plead /⁠pliːd⁠/. But the original is 목도리 프릴드Mokdori Peurildeu/⁠ɾi pʰɯ.ɾiɭ.tɯ⁠/ “scarf Peurildeu”. *프릴드 doesn’t mean anything in Korean, making this seemingly a fanciful name similar to e.g. 루이넬 (q.v. footnote #19 of the “Down the rabbit-hole” section of pt. cvii of this diary).

    JMS goes with マフラープリルドMafurāpurirudo/⁠mä.ɸɯ̟ᵝ.ɾäː.pɯ̟ᵝ.ɾi.ɾɯ̟ᵝ.do̞⁠/, where マフラー is from English muffler “a kind of scarf”. The プリルド is a fairly straightforward adaptation of the original, where an anaptyctic /⁠-ɯ̟ᵝ-⁠/ is necessary to prevent the phonotactically invalid cluster */⁠ɾd⁠/. But also note that Japanese /⁠R⁠/ differs from its Korean counterpart in that its allophonic variation here doesn’t produce that [ɾ][ɭ] contrast.

    CMS, TMS, & VMS diverge by replacing 프릴드 with an ordinary term for some kind of reptile: CMS 围巾壁虎 “scarf gecko”, TMS 圍巾蜥蜴 “scarf lizard”, & VMS Rắn Quàng Cổ Đỏ “red-scarved snake”.

    Given that both occurrences of /⁠ɯ⁠/ in the original seem to be anaptyctic, possible reconstructions of the hypothetical European-sounding “source” word include *prild, *frild (see the “Blue in tooth & fin” section above for the /⁠f⁠//⁠pʰ⁠/ adaptation), etc. *Frild could easily be English frilled /⁠fɹɪld⁠/. This is a particularly likely derivation, given that frilled lizards are a species of lizard (Chlamydosaurus kingii) of the monotypic genus Chlamydosaurus. The issue is that C. kingii is only found in northern Australia & southern New Guinea, but Wizet seem to be fond of these kinds of biogeographical abuses anyway.

    The “most correct” localisation of 목도리 프릴드 into English, then, would be *Scarf Frilled or *Scarf Frilled Lizard.

  20. [↑] The most likely etymon of calabash in English & various other European languages. The actual vulgar name for Lagenaria siceraria in Persian is کَدُو قَلْیَانْی lit. “hookah cucurbit, hookah pumpkin”.

  21. [↑] 사막의 이슬Samag-ui Iseul/⁠sɐ.mɐk.(ɰ)i i.sɯɭ⁠/ “desert’s dew”. GMS erroneously translates 이슬 as *“mist”, thus yielding Desert Mist. MapleSEA & EMS correctly translate as Dew of the Desert.

  22. [↑] Mediævalists & military historians seem to agree that flails of this kind — not to be confused with the kind used for threshing — were basically not used, or were used only very rarely. Their military use is impractical, & we have precious little evidence of their existence at all.

    Nevertheless, military flails are popular in fictional settings. Indeed, this is Adın’s weapon of choice in-game, at least based on the appearance of the NPC (NID 2101003). However, the monster version (MoID 9100013) doesn’t make use of the chain, instead using the bit on the end — which does have a haft — straightforwardly as a morningstar.

  23. [↑] I made this one up. See the “Fossil record” section above for the basis of this creature.

  24. [↑] This is IID 4031581, the name of which is read by GMS as Sand Picture Member Badge. The original is 모래그림단원의 증표:

    Interlinear gloss of 모래그림단원의 증표
    original 모래 그림
    Romanised morae geurim -dan -won -ui jeung pyo
    pronunciation moɾe̞ kɯɾim tɐn wʌn (ɰ)i t͜ɕɯŋ pʰjo
    Hanja-eo [native] [native]
    gloss sand picture -group.of.people -member -GEN certificate ticket
    translation Sand-Picture-Organisation member’s certification badge

    증표 might be translated in various ways: “certificate, coupon, badge, certification badge, …”.

    The most interesting bit, however, is of course 그림, which might be translated straightforwardly as “picture, drawing, painting”, or figuratively as “picturesque scenery”. In any case, this differs from GMS’s — & also EMS’s & MapleSEA’s — localisation of the name of this organisation elsewhere: the Sand Bandits.

    EMS & MapleSEA read Drawing instead of Picture for the item name, but nonetheless substantively agree with GMS on the literal translation. JMS reads straightforwardly as (suna)(すな)(e)()(-dan)(だん) “sand picture team” ( is also the source of the e- in English emoji). TMS uses (yǐng)(ㄧㄥˇ), which can mean “image; picture, photograph”, but also “shadow”, yielding the alternative interpretation “sand shadow organisation”. CMS’s reading begins with (shā)()(), literally “sandchild diagram, sandperson picture, …”, but perhaps under the influence of as a verb “(to) plan, plot, scheme; (to) pursue”. VMS reads as Hội tranh cát “sand picture club (assembly, confederation, union, …)”, but again perhaps under the influence of tranh as both a noun & a verb “painting, picture; (to) fight for, compete, strive for, dispute”.

    I would’ve preferred *Sand Scene Gang, as it’s a more direct translation that also plays on the multiple meanings of scene in English. But, you know. Sand Bandits is fine. It just probably should’ve been *Sand Bandit Badge.




Transcription of the above image

[system message]: The leader of the party has entered ⟨On the Way Up⟩.

elaphus: 1

Vistant: 31

elaphus: 131

Herdly hello

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[system message]: ‘Taima’ has joined the party.

alces [party chat]: Hello

capreolina: Hello

tarandus: Hello

cervid: Hello


Pickuper: Drop your poop

Snowginner lyfe

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stardusssstt: I broke my oddjob rules
I’m supposed to only snowman

d34r: hahah

Taima: lol
what are your restrictions?

stardusssstt: level 31 next christmas [event]
I only snowman from 10–30

Taima: really only snowman?

stardusssstt: yeah

Lvl1Crook: that is actually kinda insane

Taima: thats cool
how are you going to play going forward?

stardusssstt: I wait for next Christmas C:

Taima: ahaha

d34r: the snowginner goes into hibernation every year
during the seasons of spring, summer, and autumn

deermentia & Old Timer’s

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cervid: i have deermentia

Taima: i have Old Timer’s

The tedium of this weak flesh

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Taima: as a human, i love having manual control of my heartbeat
don’t you, fellow humans?

tarandus: uhm

Lvl1Crook: haha yEs

tarandus: yeah haha
its fun sometimes
when im bored…
as humans often are

Lvl1Crook: i beat my heart to anime osts
all the time

Taima: yes, the tedium of this weak flesh.

hCaptcha: Please click each image containing something that has a tail.

Figure 67. Stolas.

Transcription of the above audio

[I forget who uploaded this, sorry]: If you play a [MapleStory] private server, I hate to say it: you’re a criminal. And you deserve not only your YouTube™ channel to be taken down, but also your rights as a citizen in whatever country you live in to be stripped from you. I think you should be jailed! I’m just gonna say it: I think that you should go to jail. For your entire life!