The Free Bundle

Will James Cameron Screw UpBattle Angel Alita?

Damned KnightsRanking the darkest heroes of all time

Top 5 Indie Gamesto play this 2018!

Plus!

RitualsA Fantastic Horizons story!

The Tower of The BeholderThe Dungeon Master Corner!

DIY Painting StationFor miniatures (beginners)

& More!

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Comics, Video Games, Books, Hobbies, Retro, Literature, Sci-Fi, Entertainment, Classic Movies, DIY and everything you need for your hobbies. Finally, a magazine for the rest of us.

Time until the next issue arrives

Letter from the Publisher


Dear Readers,

Welcome to the first issue of The Free Bundle Magazine. You read that right, we are now a Magazine. We have had a fun time over the past few weeks making the transition. With a bit of luck, all the hard work we have done will be worth it if we can help those who, like us, needed a place for their loves and hobbies.

There are some many fine entries in this first issue that I really do not know where to start!

In literature, we present a free audiobook entitled Mr. Graham Smith, The Most Remarkable Man Who Ever Was that you definitely do not want to miss.

Adventurers of the D&D 5e, you can start sharpening your pencils: we have a Pen and Paper Role Playing game in The Dungeon Master entitled The Tower of the Beholder.

In Fantastic Horizons we present you with our own little pulp magazine in which we intend to maintain the tradition of publishing short stories of science-fiction. So, if you enjoy the stories of H.G. Wells or H.P Lovecraft, the entry of this issue will keep you awake all night: Rituals.

The Hobbyist Corner debuts with a very special surprise for those of you who, like us, simply love to paint your Warhammer and D&D miniatures.

Our Cover Story about Battle Angel Alita is a must-read for movielovers. In addition, we present you with an exclusive look at the ten best Christmas films ever produced by Hollywood in Lights! Cameras! Action!

Now, a very special surprise: the debut of Dogeron DOG Kenan’s in the world of comics!

Of course, all this doesn’t mean we have forgotten all about Indie Game Developers. They are, after all, part of the family. That is why we are publishing the Top 5 Indie Games To Play this 2018.

On behalf of everyone who made this issue, I want to thank you for helping to make possible the great success that The Free Bundle has enjoyed in recent years and invite you to join us on this new journey. We sincerely hope you enjoy it as much as we enjoyed doing it.

Javier Cabrera

Editor-in-chief

Carlos Cabrera

Artwork

DJ Hendrickson

proofreading

Tiffany Amber

Contributing writer

Cordwainer Bird

Contributing writer

Maurice Leblanco

Contributing writer

Derek Thomas

Contributing writer

WINTER 2018
CONTENTS

The Shadow, created by Walter B. Gibson. Swamp Thing, created by Len Wein and Bernie Wrightson, with Alan Moore, Stan Woch, Doug Wheeler, Pat Broderick, Doug Wheeler, Mike Hoffman, Jon J. Muth, Scott Snyder, Yanick Paquette. Batman, created by Bob Kane and Bill Finger. Darkman, created by Sam Raimi. Superman created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. Battle Angel Alita, 銃夢, Written by Yukito Kishiro, Published by Shueisha in the Business Jump Magazine, distributed by 20th Century Fox, produced by 20th Century Foxm, Lightstorm Entertainment and Troublemaker Studios. DOG Dogeron Kenan, Copyright by The Cabrera Brothers Company INC. Christmas painting Copyright by Norman Rockwell. Latché Swing, by Latché Swing 2008, https://freemusicarchive.org/music/Latch_Swing/demo_2008/

CABRERA BROTHERS FREE BUNDLE is published bimonthly by The Cabrera Brothers Company. All rights reserved through the world. Cabrera Brothers FREE BUNDLE, Issue 1, Winter 2018. Copyright 2018 Cabrera Brothers. All intelectual properties featured in this issue, the distinctive likenesses thereof and related elements are trademarks of each of its own authors and trademarks holders. For advertising and Custom Publishing, please contact our editor.


Comics Zone

Damned knights: ranking the darkest heroes of all time

Since not all villains twirl their mustaches and rob banks, the world doesn't need all of its heroes to be boy scouts. To stop an uncontrolled fire, sometimes you need to start a bigger one and pray not to burn everything once it finishes the job. That is the case with the heroes and anti-heroes of this issue. The darkest vigilantes of all times, face to face.

THE PUNISHER

Frank Castle

Because when a criminal get to see the purple of his guts shine on the sunlight before going to hell, it isn’t vengeance; its punishment.

A strong storm wakes you. It is late at night. As you reach for the light switch next to your bed, palm tree leaves frantically scratch your room’s large windows. Electricity doesn’t work. You should be worried, especially with your line of work. But you aren’t. After all, you didn’t build your mansion on one of the many small unnamed islands of the Caribbean because you like the ocean view. You did it because its practically impossible for someone to find you there.

You get off the bed, put on your gold-embroidered slippers and drag your feet across a carpet of naked women to the bathroom. One of the girls wakes with a soft moan; you whisper her to go back to sleep while tying a knot on your purple bath robe.

In the bathroom, the water from the large fountain you paid famous Greek sculptor Konstantinos Polikronomunos to install there is warm to the touch. That’s how water is during these times of the year on the island. It helps to shake the sleep away, true, but not this time. This time it woke you into a nightmare.

In the mirror’s reflection, you see the door silently closing behind you. You also see the pale skull that’s painted on the shirt of the man that’s closing it. That damn skull, shinning in the moonlight. As if it were smiling at you. As if the damn thing was death itself, making a grimace.

You’ve been in the business long enough to know what it means when the man with the skull shirt shows up.

The Punisher needs little introduction. After the mafia murdered his family, war hero Frank Castle becomes a bloodthirsty vigilante who stops at nothing to put a cruel end to organized crime.

Renowned for the unnecessary brutal of his methods and for inspiring fear with his signature skull-shirt, Frank doesn’t nitpick who he brings in front of death. Bank robbers, assassins, mercenaries, gang members, drug dealers, even warlords; to him they are all equally deserving of the edge of his knife.

When it comes to imparting justice, The Punisher is as blind as a grenade launcher in a room full of corrupt politicians.

An extensive training in all types of weapons courtesy of the United States Marine Corps, the Marine Force Reconnaissance, the Airborne School and the Navy SEALs, along a short cross-training with the special Australian Air Service Regiment during his Vietnam tour, make of Frank a master of infiltration, military strategy, camouflage, hand-to-hand combat (comparable only to Batman’s) and in complex methods of extracting information, turning him into judge, jury and executioner of his own crusade.

Besides having his skills, Frank has counts with variety of safe houses, vehicles scattered around his main base of operations (New York City), bank accounts filled with the money of the criminals he takes down and with a handful of false identities that he forces forgers to make for him with the sole purpose of bringing the horrors of war to those who cross the line of decency.

Born from the pen of The Amazing Spider-Man’s Gerry Conway, The Punisher got his inspiration from The Executioner, a very popular pulp character from the golden age of fiction created by Don Pendelton.

Although Frank Castle and Pendelton’s Mack Bolan share similarities (both are war veterans, both become vigilantes after their families are killed by the organized crime), Frank has been in the race for much longer, which has offered him the opportunity to be developed by many talents, each adding their own inspirations to his personality.

Of the many characterizations of Frank Castle that Hollywood has taken to the cinema through the years, some of them good, most of them “okay” (let’s not discuss the cartoon), the best remains, without doubt, his first appearance in the 1989 flick titled simply “The Punisher”.

As he waits for his many injuries to heal in the darkness of the maze that the New York City sewers are, a naked Dolph Lundgren delivers shivers with which is perhaps Frank Castle’s best line on screen:

“I still talk to God sometimes, I ask him if what I’m doing is right or wrong, I’m still waiting for an answer, and until I get one, I’ll be waiting, watching, THE GUILTY WILL BE PUNISHED!”

SWAMP THING

Swamp Thing

Because there isn’t a thing in the universe as cruel as nature.

Out of the depths of the Louisiana Swamps comes a man born from the fire and the chemicals of his own secret laboratory: Alec Holland, the Swamp Thing.

Although there have been several incarnations of this monstrous elemental, Alec ranges amongst the most well-known ones due to Alan Moore’s fantastic 1984’s revision where he answered the question: its the Swamp Thing Alec Holland, or the other way around?

As peaceful as mother nature —and just as ruthless— this anti-hero roams earth guarding its balance and mercilessly punishing those who dare to commit crimes against life.

With an arsenal of powers that go from regenerating its own severed limbs, up to being reborn from the ashes as a phoenix by transmitting its consciousness anywhere where there is plant life, The Swamp Thing its capable of growing wings to fly whenever he chooses, alter its shape and size, extend its arms or legs to lengths other superheroes can only dream of and most importantly, control all plant life on any planet of the universe by will.

Who in its right mind would fight such a thing? Such a Swamp Thing?

Well, who would fight an entire planet, that’s the question! Superman? Possibly, but while Superman gets his powers from the sun, Swamp Thing gets his from life itself; whether it’s from planet Earth, Venus or any other planet that supports life in the galaxy. The simple fact that Swamp Thing represents the incarnation of nature and life itself, makes it immortal, and perhaps even more powerful than the son of Krypton.

But like all of those who travel the way of the champions, this wasn’t always the case. The immortal being known as Swamp Thing showed its leaves for the first time in 1971’s House of Secrets #92, from no other than from DC Comics itself.

Back then, creators Len Wein and Bernie Wrightson had Alex Olsen (the very first Swamp Thing) getting murdered by a love rival in the 20th Century, then performing a Lazarus act when he returned from the grave as a humanoid plant-like being in thirst for revenge. A plot that would have made that Nina Wilcox Putnam, co-author of the 1937 version of the mummy, spit out the afternoon tea through of her nose.

Perhaps because there is a notorious resemblance with Mary Shelley’s lost son, who also rose up from the grave reanimated by chemicals (though many still believe electricity did the trick, due only knowing Frankenstein through all the film and television versions, as happens with the Swamp Thing), that the story became interesting enough to have caught the attention of readers everywhere.

Far from the guardian of life that we know it for today, but surprisingly similar in its vicious methods of imparting justice, the first appearance of Swamp Thing was successful enough for DC Comics to grant him his own series. From night to morning, Len and Bernie earned more time to expand on this first idea of a plant-like man returning from the grave, and boy did they used it.

Leaving behind the tuxedos and mustaches, the duo rewrote the next installation of Swamp Thing in a more contemporaneous setting, moving towards what would be fertile ground for one of the most iconic characters ever to be conceived in the history of comics.

THE SHADOW

The Shadow

Because the forbidden knowledge to cloud men’s minds remains as one of the sinister pleasures that can be wielded only this mysterious servant of the darkness.

Famed World War I aviator, Kent Allard, returns home under the alias of Lamont Cranston, a wealthy young businessman with few worries in life, other than being a night vigilante who keeps evil at bay.

After having learned to cloak men’s minds while he traveled through the mysterious far lands of East Asia, Lamont becomes The Shadow; a terrible invisible force that dodges bullets and swiftly moves around his enemies without being seen, only heard.

His deep, cruel laugh its a characteristic signature that sheds to despair and madness the minds of those who dare to commit a crime in his city.

A master hypnotist with incredible physical abilities, unparalleled reflexes, an extraordinary marksmanship with his .45 pistols and a raw thirst for justice, makes of The Shadow one of the darkest characters ever created.

Capable of contorting his body to extremes that would make India Fakirs get a cramp, Lamont can slip through the narrowest walls, compress his lungs to hold his breath for inhuman lengths of time and even distort the very muscles of his face to hide his facial features at will.

Besides being able to project his voice over great distances just as a super ventriloquist would do, Lamont fluently speaks many different languages to perfection, skillfully utilizes several styles of hand-to-hand combat with great physical prowess and possesses the power to bend the will of the criminals he faces, almost instantly, turning them into mere puppets. All thanks to his hypnotic powers and to his training in the arcane ways of Asian concentration.

Created to boost the sales of Detective Story Magazine back in glorious 30’s, The Shadow first began as an omnipresent narrator for a Tales-From-The-Crypt style radio show but featuring stories from the detective magazine. Then, as a monthly publication when listeners from all over the country began asking newsdealers for “that Shadow detective magazine” that nobody seemed to find.

Commissioned to come up with two stories per month the length of a novel, it wasn’t long until Walter B. Gibson (writing under the pen name of Maxwell Grant), had to ask other writers for help to face the challenge, although he managed to finish the impressive amount of 282 stories of The Shadow in a span of twenty years.

Besides influencing creators such as Bob Kane and Bill Finger in the creation of famous characters such as Batman or V, from V for Vendetta (Alan Moore), Gibson’s The Shadow inspired a whole generation of crime fighters detectives in the pulp magazines. They would take justice by their own hands with excessive brutality never seen before until then.

Operating from his secret facility in New York and using a network of agents that owe him their lives ranging from cab drivers, policemen, doctors, and even judges, The Shadow watches over the entire planet and puts a final answer to the question “who knows what evil lurks in the heart of men? The Shadow knows.”

MARV

Marv

Because even when having short lives, the feats of some heroes “scream” louder than those of others.

Sin City it’s a rotten place to live. It soils everybody. One has to have the moral strength of ten men to stay straight, not to slip fall down its cracks, not to be tempted by its corruption. Marv was twenty times stronger than any man. He held his head high and remained straight, all the way until the end. Out of the “Projects”, comes a hardboiled man who never wanted to be a hero, but in Sin City, that’s the way life dealt his cards.

Unlike many others we are so used to call heroes, Marv doesn’t have an infinite supply of tech gadgets, money or -more importantly- superpowers. He doesn’t even keep watch over his city, at all. In fact, he doesn’t even think of Sin City as “his” city; he despises it for what it does to people and the only reason he sticks around its because, in his own words, he “kind of like it” there.

So how does Marv fights crime if he is not a vigilante, or belongs to a group of heroes that go around jumping roofs dressed in leggings?

Well, one thing is for sure; Marv never heard the hero’s call, he was born one. Right off the crib; a natural born hero. Instead, the question should be “what does a born hero do?” He keeps to his own and doesn’t bother the rest with delusions of greatness, which is more than we can say about many of the so-called traditional superheroes. Although somehow, troubles always seem to find him.

That said, the only thing that motivates Marv into action when those troubles come knocking, it is the very thing that makes him a hero; his strong civic duty and implacable sense for justice.

With almost seven foot of hard muscles, flattop buzzcut haircut scarred grim face and a mental condition that makes him dangerously psychotic, Marv is as savage as he is fair. If he crosses path with a crime being committed and can do something about it to level things up, he goes for it. The pleasure that comes from his brutal ways of fighting injustice, where those who would normally get away with crime end up crippled for life or even dead, is just an advantage that he learned to enjoy.

Similar to a kind of “Conan the Barbarian” wearing an overcoat (according to Frank Miller’s own accounts), Marv is a formidable fighter and surprisingly skilled when it comes to weapons, despite he doesn’t have formal or military training, unlike many traditional heroes do. Instead, Marv makes use of his brutality, strength and street skills to survive Sin City.

Although Marv dies in “The Hard Goodbye”, he does it in a more than stellar way. He doesn’t fall saving the planet from an alien invasion, nor fighting to protect the entire city’s population from some caped archenemy’s evil plan. He simply kills his way up the ladder of a political-church conspiracy in the name of a dead prostitute and pays the price for it.

The way Marv rode the thunder was so magnificent, so perfect, that the famed collector’s toy line McFarlane Toys immortalized the scene by released a special version of the character in his last moments strapped to the electric chair.

Buyers of the figure can pass electric current to Marv as many times as they wish and get in return the most sincere and emotionally charged last words ever to have been printed in the world of comic books.

Last words so powerful, so full of darkness, that managed to elevate his creator, Frank Miller, above all of the other writers in the industry, inviting him to take his place along talents such as those of William Shakespeare, Walter Whitman, and Edgar Allan Poe.

- “Is that the best you can do, you pansies?” Sheer poetry.

KIRA

Kira Death Note

Because few things in life are as dark as the soul of a teenager with a god of death as a pet.

Up to a point, it might be said that Light Yagami is the luckiest of all heroes on the list. He has it all; youth, good looks, academic success, a loving family and a bright future ahead of him.

So why someone like him would adopt a secret identity and start chasing criminals? The answer might not come as a surprise, for it is guilty of having driven most teenagers to do unthinkable things throughout history: he does it out of sheer and simple boredom.

Upon finding a Death Note in the schoolyard, Light Yagami starts a strange partnership with Ryuk, a Shinigami (or god of death) that has grown frustrated with the rules of life and death and has decided to come up with some of his own.

After carefully studying the rules laid by the deity on the notebook, Light Yagami adopts the name of Kira, a severe invisible hand that brings justice to criminals everywhere in the world.

Though Kira doesn’t have any powers of his own other than his smarts, he might be considered the most dangerous hero on the list. And yes, he is a hero, but more on that later.

While the most important rules that govern the Death Note are only five, to be completely aware of its true power and wield it for as long as he did, Kira had to memorize more than fifty, surprising even the Shinigami itself.

Suffice to say that these rules are not only complex but interconnected to each other, making the Death Note a deadly trap to whoever uses it. Proof that Light Yagami’s wits are as sharp and as powerful as any weapon or learned a skill by other heroes.

By simply writing the name of his victim in the notebook and concentrating on its face, Kira is able to kill from anywhere in the world and get away with it. He can even go as far as to describe the “how” and “when” as detailed as he fancies; which gives him full control on the person’s death in ways no other hero on the list has.

The fact that he does while living under the same roof as the murder’s main investigator (his father) would be admirable enough, but Kira takes it one step further by participating in the investigation himself. Soon, he takes down every criminal in the FBI most wanted list like if they were nothing, then he goes on to try to get rid of every criminal in the world, all while having lunch with those who are in charge of capturing him.

Over time, as people begin to worship the invisible hand that terrorizes those who break the law, Kira becomes a deity on his own right.

Though the Manga and Anime paint him as a cocky brat with a thirst of power, Kira, turns out, is nothing short of the ultimate hero.

With everything to lose and nothing to gain, he unleashes a killing spree that lasts long enough to do what many heroes the size of Batman or Superman can only dream; change the world. With Kira, criminals everywhere went from abusing the system to escape punishment, to fear it.

Despite his obvious intentions to bring true justice to the world, the “hero” of the series is not Kira, but a Sherlock Holmes knock-off named “L”. Every police organization in existence and even his own father, head of the Japanese Task Force, mount an unprecedented manhunt in an attempt to try to capture him.

With no other allies than the Shinigami’s own sick desire to see mayhem, his demented girlfriend, and his own intellectual capacity, Kira manages to beat all odds and, ultimately, give a bloody battle against crime.


Literature


Touch for zoom

Dogeron Kenan's comic debuts at The Free Bundle

To celebrate the launch of this revamped 'The Free Bundle', we bring you the first installment of a webcomic strip based on Cabrera Brothers' own video game: 'CYPHER: Cyberpunk Text Adventure'. The protagonist, no other than the infamous smuggler known as Dogeron 'DOG' Kenan, makes his debut as a bimonthly webcomic.




CYPHER CYBERPUNK TEXT ADVENTURE

CYPHER: Cyberpunk Text Adventure is unlike anything you have ever played before; it is a whole new dimension in game interaction and storytelling you can vividly experience from within the realms of your own imagination!

  • Digital download, PC &MAC
  • DRM FREE, Add to Steam Library

Full Soundtrack PLUS Digital Ready-to-Print content : NeoSushi City Map + Dogeron’s Kenan Medical Report + EXCLUSIVE PAPERCRAFT for your gaming shelf! Easy-to-follow instructions: no glue, no tape, only scissors and lots of love! Be the envy of your friends and co-workers! + Copy of CYPHER: Digital HintBook - a complete walkthrough of the game which includes a special “Making of Cypher” section, exclusive character profiles you won’t find anywhere else and clues to finish the game, PLUS + Digital DVD Cover edition.

The contents and the game will not be shipped physically, they are only available through digital download.



Cover Story

Will James Cameron Screw Up Battle Angel Alita?

After we all shrugged with the latest Hollywood's attempts to adapt Anime classics like Ghost in the Shell, fear for what will happen to the beloved Alita franchise in the hands of James Cameron arises.

When I first saw Kyle Reese materializing out of the thin air onto a dark sky of the 90’s, fall naked on a dirty back alley, steal some homeless man’s pissed-stained pants, then desperately flee away from cops and from a future devastated by murdering robots in “The Terminator”, cross my heart, I thought I was seeing double. The scene had been taken right out of Harlan Ellison’s opening for a 1964’s Outer Limits episode called “Soldier from Tomorrow”!

Of course that, Harlan Ellison being Harlan Ellison, sued James Cameron after spending one-hour forty-eight minutes watching how his rights as an author, as a creator, hadn’t been respected. Those who knew Harlan best, know the man was as sweet as cotton candy, but they can also attest of how hard and bitter he often was with those who, willingly or not, made the abysmal mistake of wronging him.

The result of Cameron’s adventures was, besides a one of the most successful movies in cinema’s history, a juicy settlement in Harlan’s favor and a very prominent, very notorious acknowledgment at the end of the last scene, moments after Sarah Conor drives away her red jeep towards a stormy horizon, stating to viewers that everything they saw has been, in fact, inspired by Harlan’s teleplay for the Outer Limits:

Acknowledgments to
the works of
HARLAN ELLISON

Oh boy, does that hurt or what? The hair in the soup. The fly in the milk. To Cameron, a line of credit in his debut that he will continue to despise while alive.

Though that wouldn’t be the last time James Cameron had issues with the source material. Shocking, I know. There has been court claims for copyright infringement filled for almost every movie the famous director was involved, either as a director or producer; from The Terminator (stated above), to True Lies, Titanic and even Avatar (not to mention the elephant in the room the size of Nickelodeon’s building). All blockbusters. All plagued by the dull belly dance of copyright attorneys.

Does that means the man steals everything that falls onto his lap? Not at all. The creative process can be hard for some artists, especially when a large part of their day consists of a rich diet of manuscripts. I know some writers who often won’t read at all when they are in the process of writing a major work. They hope that will be enough to keep their minds from playing tricks on them since (believe me) there is no fun in having to rewrite entire portions of a manuscript because what it was read for leisure the night before, sneakily found its way to the work of the next morning.

Nonsense! Heresy! One can’t start limiting the creative mind out of fear! It is a tapestry of every experience we ever had in our lives! Its mere fibert its made out of us, sitting at the cinema, reading that book in the park, watching the Saturday morning cartoons, browsing comics at the shop, playing board games, video games, talking to friends, overhearing conversations at a elevator or before crossing the street! Everything! Everything that we ever found in our way gets copied, cataloged, and archived into that infinite library of thoughts that is our creativity, so we can use it later through our subconscious mind in our works. Those who deny their loves, loose their train to the land of dreams and madness.

And it is in the daunting task of creation that inspiration becomes an unavoidable process–and a very necessary one. Go re-watch Star Wars and you will find some traces of Kurosawa films in the sands of tatooine you hadn’t seen before. Find a copy of the beautiful “8½” and tell me Quentin Tarantino didn’t got inspired by Federico Felini for the dance scene in Pulp Fiction. Put on your boots and go hunt the white whale yourself, then dare to argue that Herman Melville hadn’t been secretly in love with William Shakespeare when he had Starbuck and Ishmael and Ahab and Pequod, steadily rowing with their harpoons ready towards death itself.

James Cameron might be at fault for failing to recognize (at times) the many waterfalls of inspiration that fill the fountain of creativity he often drinks from to delight us with his magnificent movies. But the man is no thief, merely an artist.

Thus, the fear with Alita (which he is producing) lays not with copyright infringement, but in the possibility of him committing an equally damaging sin. A sin that is being carried with a strangely sickening pleasure nowadays by Hollywood at large; the willingly act of ignoring the importance of the source material.

The atrocious case of Ghost in the Shell can be cited as an example of the horrors that such fault brings upon those who dare to walk among those tombstones. Granted, there are things that simply can’t be translated into a movie, no matter how good or how artistically talented a director might be. But these cases often limit to film versions of books, where there are no preexistent visual material other than the cover (with rare and obvious exceptions).

In the inverse case of a comics made out of a books or a existing film, or even from an Anime movie, it is usually a standard practice to respect the source material. The art can be sketchy, true, but that doesn’t damages the storyline at all.

Live action films, in the other hand, seem to do everything in their power to shred the franchise into oblivion so no one else will dare to use it again for a movie. Prominent disasters include the rare case of the Dragon Ball The Movie, Michael Bay’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and, more recently, Netflix’s Death Note.

But back to Ghost in the Shell.

From the choice to have Scarlet Johansen as the leading actress (clearly far from portaiting Motoko Kusanagi to the big screen) to liberties taken in perhaps one of the most important aspects of the franchise; its world.

Just to cite an example, in the iconic scene where Motoko is getting ready to jump from a building’s rooftop, there is a large neon-sign behind her reading MASEJ. That sign its nowhere to be seen in neither the manga version or the anime.

So, from where does that incredibly prominent sign comes from? And what does MACIEJ means? It turns out that Maciej its the name of one of the main concept artists who worked on the movie. Besides bringing in giant holograms only because someone producer took a peek at Blade Runner 2049 script and thought it would be a swell idea to have them on Ghost in the Shell too, the man decided to place his last name in one of the concepts, which later found its way into the final production (something the people in charge of visual effects had to cover up by making a cute story about being a “homage” to Maciej, though they never specified why an unknown concept artist should be homaged in a movie for a Manga he has never had any part into).

The whole production it’s plagued with those kinds of sins. Will Cameron slip on that banana peel? Not likely; the man is a professional.

And because he is a professional, there is still hope for Battle Angel Alita! Huge hopes! For where James Cameron ends, Robert Rodriguez begins. One tiny look at the masterful Sin City, an afternoon spent chasing criminals with The Spirit or enjoying Sin City: A Dame to Kill, are without doubts enough to realize that the man knows exactly how to shoot a film while respecting the source material.

He doesn’t looks down on writers or comics artists at all. He’s a fan. Actually, Robert Rodriguez its way more than a simple fan. He is (along with Tim Burton, Spielberg, George Lucas, Zack Snyder and Guillermo Del Toro) one of the few movie directors who can gift us crazy Manga lovers what we have been really hoping for from a live action version of our beloved franchises.

When Ray Bradbury was called by John Huston to write the screenplay of Moby dick, he spent an awful amount of time in Ireland not being able to do justice to the book. The reason was familiarly worrisome: he had not read the source material. It was too long, too intimidatingly slow to him. Not that the story is boring at all; it simply wasn’t his kind of book.

After months not being able to write down coherent scenes for the screenplay, and with John Huston tearing apart page after page at the end of the day, Bradbury decided to sit down and actually take the time to go through the book. He re-read Moby Dick, from scratch, although he had gone through big chunks of it already perhaps a dozen times and knew it from memory.

The result was nothing short of magical. Bradbury states that, upon finishing reading the book, the scent of fresh sea air fill his room. Tired, he went to sleep, but woke startled not long after, jumping out of bed straight into the bathroom. He looked himself onto the mirror, moved almost to tears and screamed “I am Herman Melville!”.

What followed were the forty pages of screenplay that were missing to start hunting for the White Whale, plus, a full re-write done in one sitting supervised by the ghost of Herman Melville. At last, Bradbury had become a fan, and so did everyone who will see the Ahab of Gregory Peck.

Perhaps it’s time for some movie directors to take the time to discover how to become in love with the source material before screaming “action” in front of an shrugging audience and wonders why someone would want to add to something that’s already perfect.




Literature

Literature

Mr.Graham Smith, a toast to new beginnings

To celebrate the launch of our online magazine, our staff is pleased to present you with a very special gift: an entirely free audiobook written by Javier Cabrera: 'Mr. Graham Smith, The Most Remarkable Man Who Ever Was'

When I first read about Verne’s enigmatic Prince Dakkar, I could not stop thinking about what could have happened in the life of this man, son of no other than the Raja of Bundelkhand and descendant of the sultan himself, that pushed him to leave a life of comfort and wealth for which the vast majority of men would kill, in pursuit of becoming the Captain of the Nautilus, and, ultimately, a pirate.

Thanks to modern comic books and their film adaptations we are now more than aware of the trails and tribulations that can turn regular men into becoming masked vigilantes. But little has been said about what are the circumstances in which the regular men of the classical fiction are urged to set sail for adventure.

After all, it is not hard to understand why young Edward Malone joined Professor Challenger’s expedition into the unknown, is it? But what moved the Professor into embarking himself into such a strange journey in the first place? What possessed him to become so obsessed with that “Lost world”?

Let’s take “The Traveler” from “The Time Machine”, for instance. We know little about him, only that he was an inventor. While that is more than enough to enjoy of the story, we really have no clue of what happened in the life of this man that droved him into the madness of building a machine capable of traveling through time!

We know Professor Lidenbrock as a renewed geologist and mineralogist, but what was the event that made him into Lidenbrock, the adventurer? Why wasn’t that explained in “Journey to the Center of the Earth”? It is as important as the character adventure, perhaps even more important! Would it be that Wells, Verne and all the other masters thought that, at the time, their audiences wouldn’t understand?

I don’t blame them. It is quite easy to figure out what cursed Captain Ahab into chasing the White Whale. But to comprehend why Nemo changed his fortune for a life as a pirate, or why Dr. Moreau, a well-positioned man with a respectable career in the sciences, ended up yelling “Lazarus, rise!” from his Mysterious Island… well, luckily, we have fiction to help us answer the hard questions.

That is why to celebrate this new Free Bundle, we present you with another surprise: a free audiobook! In this short story, published some years ago by Silverthought Press and narrated here by Roger Watson, we will explore the brief moment in which a regular man blossoms into an adventurer.

Mr. Graham Smith doesn’t know it yet, but he’s about to become, the most remarkable man who ever was.




Hobbyist Corner

DIY Miniatures Painting Station (Beginners)

Painting Warhammer or Dungeons and Dragons miniatures can lead to a very unorganized desk. No worries, crafting your own painting station for miniatures is not as hard as it sounds. Here's how.

Are you looking for an easy and inexpensive way to have your own painting station for your miniatures? Well, look no further! The Free Bundle brings you an exclusive miniatures painting station that you can build all by yourself from those annoying Amazon boxes you have laying around the house.

Why have a miniature painting station? Well, if you paint miniatures, eventually you’ll want to store your paintings somewhere. Some people use a tupperware plastic container, others simply throw their paint bottles in a shoe box or leave them in the back of a drawer. That can be fine at the beginning, but eventually it’s better to have a quick way to find our colors with as little work as possible. After all, painting miniatures is difficult enough, right?

"That can be fine at the beginning, but eventually it's better to have a quick way to find our colors with as little work as possible."

This is an easy project to make, even for those who do not have technical skills. It uses Amazon boxes that would otherwise end up in the garbage, do not uses any wood, screws or nails (unless you want to, since the exterior can be done with either MDF or several layers of cardboard glued together, your choice) and saves space on your desk.

Want more? We have more: by building this painting station you will not only get rid of those ugly amazon boxes, but end up having a place to store your paint bottles, will impress your friends with your handcraft skills and go green, all at the same time.

Isn’t that cool?

"...[it holds] up to five of your bottles of paint, though you can easily fit up to 8 bottles from 10 to 18ml, depending on their size."

Best of all, its free: there is no need to order anything Online or use a laser cuter with this one, simply grab yourself a pair of scissors, an X-Acto knife (or any similar knife), some hot glue, some band-aids and dial 911, because we are going to build ourselves a painting station!

Our exclusive model for the beginner hobbyist features: two rows of quick access for up to five of your bottles of paint, though you can easily fit up to 8 bottles from 10 to 18 ml, depending on their size (and as many types and sizes of bottles as you want in the main storage area).

It also features holes for your brushes, one slot to store your files, knives, and sharp objects. Plenty space for your glue or hot glue gun also on the main storage area, two water holders next to the rows of paint bottles and a special slot for those annoying instructions that scale models sometimes come with.

Here’s the blueprint:

DIY Painting Station

To get a better look at the blueprint, you can download the full version by following this link. To build the painting station we will need:

  • Hot glue sticks
  • Hot glue gun
  • One amazon cardboard box (two for better results)
  • A x-acto knife or equivalent.
  • Scissors.
  • A pen (who doesn’t has a pen!)
  • A ruler (or we can make one from one of the edges of the cardboard box)
  • A thick strip of foam (10x10cm or 4x4 inches, or we can stack thin layers until we get the thickness we need)

A note: measurements can vary depending on the bottles and the space available, since not every country uses the same measures for their bottles, we don’t include measurements in the blueprint. Your desk, your space, your measures. Its all up to you. This project is flexible enough that you can adapt it to whatever situation you find yourself with in terms of available space.

Let’s get to it

Gather your paint bottles and choose which ones will go on the quick access rows and which ones will go on the main storage area, where the big bottles will often get stored. Then, simply use your pencil to draw a line around the bottles on the cardboard box, carefully delineating the space needed and leaving room for the other slots shown in the blueprint.

The foam has two purposes: to lift the paint bottles from the back row so we can see which colors are and hold the pens, brushes, sharp objects and blueprints in place. The diagram on the image is pretty self explanatory! All you need to do now is hot glue your painting station and start using it!

If you don’t have a hard cardboard for the exterior shell, you can glue two or three layers together and voila, instant hard cardboard! Hopefully, this will be your first step into the wonderful hobby of painting your miniatures. This station is intended for beginners only, but we will be adding new painting stations over the next issues for moderate and advanced hobbyists!


The Dungeon Master

The Tower of the Beholder

Something sinester is rumored to be happening in the small fishermen village of Leda. Children are dissapearing from their mothers beds without a trace, without a sound heard...

Welcome to the first edition of “Dungeon Master”, our little corner dedicated to the pen and paper gamers! With each new issue of The Free Bundle there will be a new, exciting, never seen before adventure to play. Sword and Sorcery, Call of Cthulhu, Vampire, Pathfinder, you name it!

Our pledge: to make your life as a dungeon master easy with fully customizable, ready-to-play adventures. That means printable maps, location descriptions, and everything to enhance and the adventure.

A warning: Your players may be seasoned adventurers, but we assure you: nothing of what they have experienced so far comes close to what they will go through with The Tower of the Beholder. There will be difficult decisions ahead for those who dare to venture inside the tower of the old abbey. Decisions that, without a doubt, will follow them and their characters through many campaigns. Consequences, that no one on your table will forget.

THE ADVENTURE BEGINS

INTRODUCTION

The children of the coast of Leda, at the south of Whitesparrow, have begun to mysteriously disappear from their beds during the night. Lord Fargus, sovereign of those lands, suspects that the Tower of the Beholder, an old construction bordering the ruins of his father’s old abbey, might have something to do with the disappearances.

With villagers on the verge of a revolt, Fargus was forced to send six of his best men to the tower for answers, but none has returned.

Now, as despair grows among the fishermen and his remaining men, no one dares to leave their families alone to investigate the tower. Lord Fargus fears a revolt like the one that killed his father is in his hands.

As if the traceless fading of Leda’s children was not enough poison in the lips of men, rumors about the curse have begun to spread throughout Whitesparrow, affecting the economy of the small village.People in nearby cities refuse to trade with Lord Fargus’s fishermen, even though they have never heard of missing children: Leda’s fish have soured. Its meat tastes rotten.

Hunger and fear have driven many of the villagers to flee. Some leave Fargus’ lands on foot, others by caravan, but in the end, it doesn’t matter: few make it past the hills. No town will have them. Not while they bring the curse of the missing children.


This adventure has been designed for the fifth edition of the world’s most popular tabletop game, for up to six characters of 2nd to 5th level, with two to four hours of duration. All you need to provide is your own monster statistics, some dices, the material here included and you are all set to go!

To add your own hazards and traps, please make use of the following guidelines. These determine the Difficulty Class for ability checks, hit points for your inanimate objects, and damage thresholds.

Skill DCs: 10 (easy) to 20 (hard)
Hit Points: 5 to 30
Low Damage: 3 (1d6)
Medium Damage: 7 (2d6)
High Damage: 14 (4d6)

SUMMARY OF THE ADVENTURE

This adventure begins when the players bump with a caravan of two families on the road. They are trying to repair one of their wagon wheels so they can return to the small fishing village of Leda before nightfall.

The families, like many others attempting to escape “the curse of Leda”, have been met with hostility and even with violence when trying to set up camp at the outskirts of the nearby towns, being forced to return.

Although the fisherman families are willing to share some aspects about the mystery of the missing children that afflicts their people, their bitterness and frustration makes them extremely reserved, so they will keep their distance with the players.

Once in Leda, the players will notice a predominantly rotten smell in the narrow streets of the village. Its beaches are full of rotten fish. They will try to speak to other fishermen to learn more about Fargus’ story and the missing children, but it won’t be easy: the locals, tired of ridicule and disdain from all of Whitesparrow, will have few words for them. Shame and fear seem to speak louder than hospitality.

While there is little that the party can gather from the villagers, something is clear: people there suspects that Cassandra, the banished sorceress of Lord Fargus’s father, has something to do with the disappearances. Lately, many have seen her roaming near the cliffs at night. For the villagers, their return to Leda is what has caused the disappearance of the children, and the rotten fish with which the sea keeps feeding them. The witch is taking revenge.

After all, it was them who hanged her lord and murdered her pet, a Beholder.

This will be the first time that players hear about a Beholder in Leda, and although they can certainly try to know more about how and why its there from the villagers, no one will want to say much about it.

Eventually, the party gets an invitation to the “mead hall”, where they will meet a devastated Lord Fargus, sovereign of Leda, sunk into desperation and decadence. Fargus, like any leader about to lose his position, promises the party what’s left of his fortune (which is not much, but enough to make the players agree to the adventure) if they enter the Tower of the Beholder.

The Tower, an old watchtower of the abbey, is where the sorceress of his father raised a Beholder to protect the village during the campaigns of Rahinne, and where he suspects may lay the answer to the problems of his people.

Almost moved to tears, Fargus begs them to find out what happened to his men and help him unravel the mystery of the rotten fish and missing children of Leda once and for all.

What everyone knows but nobody will tell the players or Lord Fargus, is that ten years ago, in their miserable hunger, the starving villagers revolted against Fargus’ father, broke into the abbey and feasted on the children of the beholder. Then, hanged Fargus, ransacked the place and set everything on fire, with everything and which inside.

The beholder barely escaped the flames but ended disfigured, and upon seeing how the villagers devoured his children on the way out, he went mad.

For the next ten years, as much as the beholder tried to avenge his children, he simply couldn’t: the witch had cast a protection spell, keeping him away from the villagers.

What the players won’t know until the end of the adventure, is that ten years ago, in their miserable famine, the villagers mutinied against Lord Fargus, broke into his abbey and feasted on the Beholder’s offspring, Then, they hung their Lord and set the abbey on fire, with the witch inside.

The flesh that the villagers eat that night corrupted their lineage. The curse they cast upon themselves passed onto the womb of their women and from there, to the children they women carried.

It has been their children who paid for the parents’ sin. They were born dead, soulless. For they are neither human nor creature: they are monstrosities. Things that shouldn’t exist. Things that carry a disease that needs to be kept from spreading.

If they kept their human shape for as long as they did it is because the spirit of Cassandra has been protecting the people of Lord Fargus from the beyond. Even after all these years, even after what they did to her and her Beholder.

But the magic of Leda’s sorceress has begun to fade away out of this plane, leaving the children unprotected from the beholder’s disease. Without Cassandra, not only the children’s curse will continue its course, but also the one of the sea’s; for it hasn’t forgiven yet the fishermen for feeding the aberration with its fishes.

The players will have to face not only the missing children, which are now aberrations, but also a crazed Beholder, who will unleash his contained fury on anyone who tries to snatch his new children away from him.

Enemies: Poisonous Vine, Giant Spiders, Beholder, Three Zombies, Missing Children, a Rust Monster, a deep gnome, a Shrieker, a Skeleton, and a Giant Centipede.

NOTABLE NPCS

Lord Fargus: Sovereign of the small fishermen’s village of Leda. Fargus and his father share the same name, something not too uncommon among those ruling Whitesparrow. During the Rhainne campaigns, Lord Fargus’s father was hanged from the great oak tree near his old abbey by a mob of hungry fishermen.

At the time, Lord Fargus’s son was in the battlefront when rumors about the hunger and discontent of his people reached his ears. For six days and their nights, Fargus’s Son rode back to aid his father, though by then it was already too late.

Now, with the children disappearing and the seas giving rotten fish again, Lord Fargus suspects of his father’s old witch, Cassandra, who vanished in the middle of the revolt ten years ago, leaving his Lord to his luck.

Many believe to have seen the witch near the roads during the cold winter nights. To Fargus, if what the travelers have seen is true, it could mean Cassandra is back, possibly hiding in her old study of the tower of the Beholder, plotting her revenge.

After all, it was her who kept the beholder prisoner and forced him to protect the village while he and his men were in battle. It is also her who had to bear the shame of having failed to protect her lord.

The villagers’s patience is running out. Lord Fargus fears that, unless he does something, his fate will be that of his father.

Beholder: Disfigured and blinded of all his eyes during the revolt that ended the life of Lord Fargus’ father almost ten years ago, the beholder has gone mad. Rage poisoned his mind. Upon seeing the fishermen devouring his children, the beholder tried to stop them, but Cassandra had cast a spell on him to keep the fishermen’s safe in case he ever attacked them. All that the beholder was able to do while the villagers satisfy their hunger with the flesh of his children was watch how they eat them alive.

Barely having escaped the fire and with a maddening rage for what the villagers had done, the beholder spent the next ten years lost in a useless revenge as he tried again and again to approach the village.

It wasn’t until the witch’s magic began to fade that the beholder was able to make his way to Leda. Inside the tower, the beholder found the fishermen’s missing children half transformed. The curse had passed from the wombs of the mothers to the sons and daughters of those who ate the flesh of the beholder’s babies. Upon seeing the crude metamorphosis and recognizing part of himself in the children of the fishermen, in his madness, the aberration began to raise them as if they were his own.

Cassandra: Even though Cassandra raised the beholder since he was in an egg, she was loyal to Lord Fargus. When the fishermen burnt down the abbey, she remained to her Lord’s side the entire time.

Her spirit now wanders the outskirts of the village, fulfilling her Lord’s mandate to protect the people of Leda. Her magic has been the only thing that keeps the beholder’s anger away from the village, the fresh catch and the curse of the flesh out of the hearts of the villagers’ children.

With the essence of Cassandra fading away, the beholder is free to roam around the village. The seas have resumed its punish of the fishermen, giving them rotten fish, just as they did when Fargus’ father was Lord there. The curse of the beholder has also begun to poison the children, turning them into aberrant creatures.

It is possible for the players to get into sporadic conversations with Cassandra, but since the essence of the witch moves between two planes, her answers will not be what they expect: she will speak to them in riddles, giving clues and suggestions, but never answers.

Door knocker: Jerry is a door gargoyle with a very particular (and quite insulting) sense of humor. Without any effort of his part, Jerry can easily exasperate most players, as he seems to know instantly the most shameful and dark secrets of anyone who knocks on the door he guards (a kind of sick defense against traveler merchants).

For each answer to a question, Jerry requires a knock of a different person. With each knock, the gargoyle knows that person’s darkest shameful secret (which he uses to insult and shame the player in a humorous, cheeky way).

With Cassandra’s magic fading away, so are the old door knocker’s memories. Still, Jerry the gargoyle remembers fragments of what happened during the night when Lord Fargus’ father got lynched.

He will remember, for instance, groups of villagers complaining in front of the abbey for letting the beholder eat all fishing.

Also when the sea, offended with the villagers for feeding the aberration, soured the fishing, and when the whole village began to stank to rotten fish (although, since the door knocker has no smell, it never knew that there were fish decomposing in the beach until the villagers showed up with torches at the abbey’s door).

Missing Children: Hidden in the permanent twilight that are the inner walls of the old abbey tower, the sons of the fishermen survive by consuming rotting fish and rodents at night, under the watchful protection of a deranged beholder.

When driven by a maddening hunger, the villagers feasted on the beholder’s children (some still without hatching from their eggs, others, barely able to float at all) they infected themselves with an unknown disease.

Having sworn to protect the villagers from all evil, the spirit of Lord Fargus’ sorceress used her magic to delay the curse for as long as she could. With her essence now vanishing after ten years of continuous effort, the children have begun to show the horrible signs of the curse of their parents.

Children: Thomas (Oskar’s son), Lauriel, Robert, Guillerme, Rhodes, Josue.

“The heads of the children turned into shapeless bulges, swollen beyond recognition, deformed pulsating masses of translucent putrefaction. Their mouths widened into a twisted grimace of long, sharp fangs. Their boyish hairs turned short, thin, like the ones of a bat. Their eyes, while one became small and narrow, the other enlarged, grotesquely out of its socket.”

“But the curse was not limited to the flesh: they also inherited some of the memories of the beholder’s children. Memories of their last living moments, vivid enough to make them escape from their parents’ homes, for they know what they did the night Fargus died. The flesh, always remembers.”

SECRETS AND CLUES

  • The caravan that the players found was initially composed of five families, but only two returned to Leda again.

  • Cassandra, Lord Fargus’ father witch, has been seen wandering the roads and the old abbey tower.

  • Some of the families have turned to the dark practices in a desperate attempt to keep evil away from their doorsteps and prevent their children from disappearing.

  • The children were in their very beds when, without a sound or leaving a trace, they disappeared. Some even did it while they slept in the arms of their mothers. No one witnessed how; they were there a moment, disappeared the next.

  • Rumors say the priests that erected the abbey gouged their own eyes out. They were worshipers of the night. The long robes they wore never let this gossip to be proven.

  • Travelers swear to have heard the cries of children echo in the deep whispers of the cliffs near the abbey at dawn.

  • Elders speak poorly of Lord Fargus and his father. They recall the great hunger of ten years ago with knots in their throats. Somehow, they are ashamed and don’t want to talk about what happened that night.

  • Some remember that Cassandra used to feed the beholder with fish, but since the fishermen were against sharing their food with the creature, they let its share rot on the beach before giving it to the witch.

  • If asked, no villager will deny having seen Lord Fargus’ father hanging from the great oak tree in front of the abbey, but there will not be a single one who admits having taken part in the lynching that night.

  • According to the customs of their order, the priests were buried into the seas. Some of the village elders say that when the last priests sunk, that’s when the sea began to give rotten fish.

CUSTOMIZING THE ADVENTURE

You can easily customize The Tower of the Beholder by replacing Lord Fargus of Leda and his father with NPCs from your existing campaign.

The villagers with whom the players initially bump into on the road (Oskar and Westbrook) can also be personalized by relating one of them to some of your players, either by blood or by past encounters. Perhaps the nephew of one of your players is the son of Oskar or the son of Westbrook and has now been lost along with the rest of the children.

Maybe Oskar or Westbrook sent for the characters after the disappearances began. Perhaps one of the younger brothers or sisters of one of your players or even one of their children has disappeared.

The possibilities to relate the events of the story to your players are endless.

Cassandra, Lord Fargus’ sorceress, can also be customized to belong to a sorceress or wizard from your own campaign.

The dark priests of the abbey can also be a starting point for a more custom and familiar adventure. They can belong to an Order that is already well established in your campaign.

BEGINING THE ADVENTURE

The great red flame of sunset burns slowly over the hills to the South of Whitesparrow. A gloomy mist covers the road ahead, where two wagons visibly damaged by swords and arrows, block the path.

A thin man with worn clothes and the skin hardened by the sun advances towards the players along with a child of no more than fifteen summers with caution and distrust. The curved blade of the man, fully extended. The dagger the boy clings tightly to, shaking.

Behind them, wives hurry their daughters back inside the wagons in whispers, never taking their eyes off the players. The children faces are expressionlessly tired, eyes that have seen too much of men’s hate, staring at nothing and taking in everything at once.

One of the wheels has given up against the stones of the road and a second man busily pushes himself to give it back its shape before night falls.

Family one: Oskar (husband), Thendra (wife), Arthur (eldest son), Soren (son), Michail (son)

Family two: Westbrook (husband), Choli (wife), Joslyn (eldest daughter), Edmund (son), Maribel (daughter)

At the south of Whitesparrow, the party crosses path with a caravan of two families of fishermen fixing the wheel of one of their wagons. By the state of their belongings, and the tired of their horses, it is clear that they have ridden all night long, enduring more than one attack on the road.

As the party gets closer to the wagons, the men reluctantly try to keep them away from their families.

Diplomacy will ensure that a peaceful encounter can be held. A sword-to-sword conversation will be the most that players can get from these people.

In case things get a tad too loud, the women of both families can persuade the men not to risk their lives unnecessarily by escalating things any further.

During the conversation, the party will learn that the families are heading back to the Coast of Leda, a small village of fishermen from where they are originally from after unsuccessfully trying to relocate on the nearby town of Imuria, north of there.

The men will bitterly tell the party that, like many of the fishermen who try to flee from Leda, they too have been met with nothing but hostility in nearby towns. Now, left with no other option to survive through the winter, and against their better judgment, they are heading back to Leda.

As the talk progresses, the fishermen will reveal why many try to escape Leda: for the past two years, the youngest children of each family have begun mysteriously disappearing from their mothers’ beds.

Rumors of the curse travel fast through Whitesparrow.

Fearing the curse, some of the families have been imprisoned after trying to settle outside Imuria. Others have been burned alive along with all their belongings.

For the missing children, they blame Lord Fargus, sovereign of these lands. They consider him as useless as his father was once in life (though they won’t reveal much more about what’s happening than that).

At each opportunity of the conversation, they warn the players to turn around and return where they came while they are able to do so.

People throughout Whitesparrow do not look too kindly at those who walked through Leda, and if they spend too much time there, they risk the fate of their people becoming theirs.

Once the talk is over, players can approach Leda to learn more about the curse and Lord Fargus, although many will choose not to talk to them out of fear and shame.

The first thing that surprises the players is the incredible rotten stench that floods the narrow streets of the small fishermen village.

Like the families they came across before, those who stayed in Leda will also blame Lord Fargus for the curse. Hunger and death loom over every family, no one is safe. The situation feels as if it was spiraling out of control; is not only that the children are disappearing, but the fishermen can’t feed the rest of their families. Something that happened when Lord Fargus’s father was alive began to happen again: the fishing is going sour.

“The great hunger” the elders call it. Back when his father was alive, it drove the people of Leda to desperation; they ended up by burning the abbey down and hanging Lord Fargus over the great tree that grows nearby. Rumors say that, if the situation doesn’t change, the same tree that saw the father hang, might also claim the son’s life.

Eventually, the party gets approached by one of Fargus’ men: a tall, fierce-looking warrior with a troubled frown who invites them to his Lord’s mead hall (after forcing them to leave their weapons at the door).

Inside, Lord Fargus introduces himself and says his men told him about the outlanders who were asking questions about the curse. He is not convinced that what is happening to the village its a curse at all; but in a conspiracy. The children, the fishing souring; it all reeks to dark forces plotting against him.

Fargus strongly suspects Cassandra, the witch who lived in the tower of the old abbey. When the tower was burned, nobody saw her body, they only hear her screams. Now, many travelers have started to rumor having seen her by the cliffs. Not long ago, Fargus sent six of his best men to investigate the tower, but many moons have passed and none of them has returned.

Someone it is trying to take him his lands, the problem is that he doesn’t know who. Not long ago he sent out six of his best men into the Tower of the Beholder. There, Fargus suspects the true secret for the disappearances of the villager’s children hides. Moons have gone by, and none of his men has returned.

The tower, a massive structure twenty times taller than the largest tree of the High Forest, leans crookedly at the top of a cliff next to the ruins of his father’s old abbey.

Cassandra, Lord Fargus father’s sorceress, kept the beholder under her power to guard her master’s lands during the Rhainne campaigns. When the men of the village and Farguns himself answered the horn of war, far beyond the hills of the east, it was the witch’s abomination what kept his father’s enemies at bay.

With most of the food being sent away to the front lines, Fargus’ father didn’t realize of his mistake when he let the witch poison his hear with the idea of using the beholder as guardian of the village; the beast feeds itself with the hunger of ten families.

Soon, the fishermen began protesting having to give most of their food to the Beholder. The bad blood grew to the point where they left the part that belonged to the Beholder to rot under the midday sun of the beach, in an attempt to poison him. To the dismay of the villagers, the rotten fish became a delicacy for the creature.

It was not long before all the fish came out rotten from the fishermen’s nets. The seas were punishing the villagers for feeding the aberration.

With the sea cursing their fishing, there was no more food left to feed the village, and with most of the fishermen gone to the war, the villagers’ hunger grew into anger and desperation. Blood was shed. The crowd was unforgiving.

Even though it was the only thing that kept them safe, that night, the villagers blaze the tower on fire, killing the monstrosity that soured their food.

In the middle of the night, at the light of torches, death spreads quickly. It wasn’t until Fargus’ son got word of the revolt and hurried back from the battlefront that the madness stopped.

But by then it was already too late; his father hung from the old oak tree. Half of his men lay slaughtered around the burnt ruins of the abbey.

Fargus was now Lord of the coasts of Leda.

With the beholder dead and the witch gone, Fargus saw no other choice to protect his people than surrendering part of his father’s domains to his enemies. The sea gave them abundance again. Peace was no longer a longing in the heart of the fishermen.

Winters went by. Now, a new evil with a stench to the past descends like a thick bank of fog over the coasts of Leda. The children are missing from their beds. Fishing is rotting again.

What’s worse: fearful by the disappearances, some of the villagers have begun to put their faith in charlatans and the dark arts, steering away from the teaching of the stars his father worked so hard to maintain.

For Lord Fargus, everything points to the witch and the tower of the old abbey. He promises what remains of his fortune if the players can help him unravel the mystery.

FIGHTING THE CHILDREN

If it comes to that, this adventure includes a battle against the creatures that were once the villagers’ missing children. We include the names of some of them and to whom they belonged before turning into despicable monsters. Feel free to customize one or more of these children to be a little brother, son or nephew of one of your players.

NOTABLE LOCATIONS

LEDA

Area Aspects: small fishermen village, old abbey in ruins next to a crooked watchtower at the edge of a cliff. Great black tree near the abbey.

The sea wind blows putrid in Leda. A light rain continually falls over its sharp cliffs of black granite. Its air, eerily warm for a coastal village, hurts the lungs when breathed.

Below the precipice where the abbey and its tower are, as if they were the ribs of long-dead animals, the broken carcasses of forgotten boats lie half-buried in the lugubrious sands of the beach. A testament to the village’s misery.

The small houses, covered in a greenish mold, stretch chaotically through the rocky landscape of southern Whitesparrow as if they had sprouted from the rock itself.

With doors and windows covered up by cheap talismans bought to travelers and bums, Leda’s villagers have put their faith into the dark arts in search of protection for their children.

Besides the occasional laughter that reeks of despair and madness, there are no sounds of life left in the small village, only the constant complaints of seagulls looming over large pools of fetid fish. Fish that no merchant would buy, not even to feed their pigs.

Leda its located at the south coast of Whitesparrow, near the frontier between the town of Imuria and the Longhammer Kingdom.

Despite covering a fair amount of terrain on the rocky coast of Whitesparrow, Leda it’s relatively small. There is no fertile ground there, only a few wide trees the fishermen use to build and repair their boats.

The village most prominent landmark is its abbey’s watchtower, where a Beholder infamously lived during the Rhainne campaigns. The structure, a huge black stone tower that stood on the highest cliff of Leda, was used by priests to study the movements of the stars.

Despite being relatively hidden, Leda its no stranger to raids by either sea or land. Pirates try to assault the fishermen as often as bandits have attempted to occupy its roads, but the abbey and its watchtower have always been there to protect them.

ABBEY

Area Aspects: cliff, uphill narrow path

The path from the outskirts of the village to the abbey its dangerous, hard to walk. It leads to a narrow passage that spirals uphill against Whitesparrow’s famous ebony coast, where its ruins are.

The rocks of the cliff where it was built are as sharp and slippery as an elvish blade. The winds blowing on the trail that leads to it are so strong that even the most experienced travelers don’t find the courage of going through it by only using the feet.

To reach the abbey of Leda, like the blind monks who built it, one must crawl there.

The high walls of hand-carved stone blocks that once protected it fell helpless before the whims of the villagers and time. Beside it, a half-burnt candle raises over the mist; the tower of the Beholder. Crooked to one of its sides after part of the abbey’s walls fell over it, the old watchtower shows the countless scars of old sieges.

As if it was clinging to the coast of Leda by a will of its own, the tower of the beholder looks like it is about to collapse off the cliff at the slightest fell of one of its bricks.

SHATTERED DOOR

Area Aspects: gargoyle sticking out its tongue, broad ironbound wooden door (shattered), poisonous vines.

The door is of a strong ironbound oak as dark as the coal of dwarfs. Among the pieces of the door that are still standing, the door knocker sticks its thick gargoyle tongue out in a grotesque grimace of scoff contempt.

In the past, the entrance to the ruins of the abbey was blocked from the outside by two large pieces of red oak. Now, the poisonous vine that creeps all through the door and the stone walls its enough to keep marauders away from its secrets.

Since Leda’s sorceress vanished from her tower, the magic that once protected the abbey’s entrance has slowly faded away over the years, but not entirely.

Some of it still lingers there, like an invisible mist to the eyes and senses, allowing the poisonous weed to grow uncontrolled, wild, and giving life to Jerry, an old door knocker with an extravagant taste for long conversations.

If the party can withstand the brass ornament’s dry sense of humor, they will have a unique opportunity to learn more about the night of the lynching of Fargus’ father through the eyes of a privileged witness.

The poisonous vine covering what’s left of the door is particularly dangerous: it can lash out against creatures passing close by and even trap them.

Any person or creature attempting to go through the shattered door without protection from the poisonous vine must succeed on a DC 13 Constitution, or take 7 (2d6) poison damage.

If someone gets stung by the vine, it will be poisoned so for around twenty-five to thirty-five minutes.

A character with a medical background can spend five minutes to aid the poisoned victim and attempt a DC 12 Wisdom (Medicine) check.

If the attempt succeeds, the afflicted wound will no longer be poisoned: the victim will heal over time.

The poisonous vines cover almost the entire shattered door, allowing the party to partially see what’s inside, but not step inside the abbey without getting rid of it first.

TOWER HALL

Area Aspects: Dim light, signs of a battle on the floor, burnt torches, spiders.

Unlike in the village, where it is breathed warm, the air trapped within the tower of the beholder its as cold and damp as the one of a crypt. Sun isn’t allowed beyond its thick hand-carved bricks; it has been barred.

The priests who erected it were worshipers of the night. They blinded themselves by tearing out their own eyes. Their gods, swollen lumps hiding in the void of the stars, granted them their darkest wishes.

Spurts of blood from severed limbs that are not there. Scratches on the wood flooring from swords that missed their target. Signs of a recent battle.

The staircase, which stone steps are barely wide enough for one person to climb it at a time, disappears between shadows and a thick curtain of cobwebs.

The spiders that lurk free in the dark have the size of a small pig and move in groups of five or less. They can climb difficult surfaces without needing an ability check (spider climb). While in contact with their web, even when it’s a broken one, the spiders can know the exact location of any other creature in contact with their web (web sense). While on their web, spiders are fast and can easily ignore the restrictions caused by webbing (web walker).

LIBRARY FLOOR

Area Aspects: books of all sizes and shapeps, some burnt, some untouched and still on their lecterns, spiders, three zombies, a Rust monster and a Mimic, hidden in a large bookcase. Aleph symbol on the floor.

It would be impossible to know for sure how many books in the arcane arts the library of the old tower used to house, only that rage and fire weren’t enough to rid the world from their madness.

Among the burnt papyruses and the piles of greenish ashes from the skin of the strange creatures that the priests’ used to bound some of their books’ with, a small number of their most unholy tomes managed to escape the claws of fire. They rest there still, on their lecterns, undisturbed.

With thick pages made out of the dry skin of the oldest priests of the order, these books carry secrets no sane man should dare to know. Texts that date back to a time where the scribes of the monastery had discovered the true nature of the dark. Thankfully, the priests wrote them in a tongue only a man without eyes can read.

In addition to the spiders mentioned in the tower hall, three zombies are discovered in the library floor (Lord Fargus’ lost men, still wearing their light armor) along with two Monstrosities: a Rust Monster and a Mimic that hides in a large bookcase near the back wall.

An aleph is a cardinal point from where one can see all the points of infinity from the same angle, simultaneously, without distortion or confusion. Those who dare to see through an Aleph invoking one, often end up losing their minds or hurting themselves due to the overwhelming nature of the experience.

SORCERESS STUDY

Area Aspects: burnt books on magic, mess, one deep gnome, one Shrieker, a Skeleton, and a Giant Centipede lurk in the shadows after having escape their glass prisons.

A hurricane couldn’t have made a better job ravaging the witch’s study than the mess the hungry fishermen did. And they were remarkably hungry.

Under the wreckage of a large turned over bookshelf, countless glass cases of all sizes and shapes hold creatures that ought to be under someone’s boot or burning on a stake. The glass cases stack high under broken wooden shelves in a grotesque display of the arcane, worthy of the Herald Holdfast’s museum of wonders.

Some of the witch’s aberrations are long dead. Others, clumsily try to free themselves from the spell that binds them to an existence of misery, even after all these years. But it is the ones that are not are there that stand out the most. Large, thick glass cases, lie broken on the floor. Their exploded glasses speak of things that should only have crawled, but for some reason, have broken free and learned how to walk.

One deep gnome, one Shrieker, a Skeleton, and a Giant Centipede lurk in the sorceress’ study.

BEHOLDER’S LAIR

Area Aspects: open vertical space, greensish magical bonfire, blind beholder.

The last six floors of the tower have been purposely collapsed to leave enough space for the Beholder creature to float free.

Although it has been blinded on all its eyes by the flames of the villagers almost ten years ago, in the enormous eye of the aberration, hell can be seen. His mouth and nose breathe fire in constant anguish. His disfigurement only makes his features more hard, more terrible.

There is no longer any trace of sanity in the monstrosity, only rage and a deep sorrow for the loss of their children. It bounces stupidly against the black stone walls, breathing so heavily that the very tower seems to be breathing with it.

Beneath the creature, the sons and daughters of the villagers gather around a sickly bonfire. Its faint greenish light spills over the little ones as they move awkwardly in circles adoring the Beholder. A kind of dance so horrible that it could well have been taken from the darker passages of the second forbidden volume of Wolfhar the Damned.

CONCLUDING THE ADVENTURE

Besides defeating a blinded by hatred beholder with a ten-year bloodthirst, the party must decide what to do with the children.

Will they murder them for what they have become? Will they return them to their parents? Will they try to break them free of their curse? Perhaps by killing the villagers, so that the curse can end and they can save the children and the future of Leda?

Will they try to summon Cassandra with one of the books from her Library? Or will Fargus allow the children to live in the tower, in secrecy?

EXPANDING THE ADVENTURE

The tower can have as many floors as you want.

Each floor can be filled not just with traps and foes your players can overcome, but with secret passages or magic stairs that lead from one floor to another in the tower.

That alone will create a vertical maze your characters can explore for as long as you want while having an “escape clause” at hand you can exploit any second by having them travel instantaneously to the witch’s study after walking up a flight of stairs.

That alone would create a vertical labyrinth that your players can explore for as long as you want, while at the same time, give you an “escape clause” at hand that you can conveniently exploit at any time by making them travel instantly to the witch’s studio (in case they get impatient).

There can even be a dungeon underneath the tower that extends to the abbey itself, where the beholder is hiding. Or, you can have it hidden on the tower’s roof, or in one of the previous floors to Cassandra’s study, or anywhere you want!

You can also have a maze of poisonous vines outside the tower and you can even have Lord Fargus’ father’s spirit appear at the oak tree where he was hanged, maybe even giving some clues or valuable instructions in getting through the tower’s maze.

It is also possible that the story of Lord Fargus doesn’t end with this adventure. Depending on how your players end this story, you can have his father’s spirit haunting the people of Leda for having lynched him. You can even have your players fight Lord Fargus’ disembodied spirit with the help of Cassandra!


Lights! Cameras! Action!

The Definitive Advent Calendar of Must-See Christmas Movies

Christmas is back! We present you with an exclusive calendar of ten days with the best films to get into the festive spirit.

Some of us here at The Free Bundle have decided to put together a small but quite effective list of Christmas films in the form of a ten days advent calendar to help you jumpstart your Christmas Spirit.

Whether you’re looking for a classic film about Christmas, have a laugh at the silliness of the Holiday stress, or simply spend quality family time, here are our favorite picks to plan ahead of time, pour yourself some egg nog, get cozy by the fire and enjoy the Christmas season.

DAY 16: “Jingle All The Way (1996)”

We start this list with a movie that will set the tone for the rest of our little calendar. Many people hate it, it’s true. It’s not really clear why, really. They just do. Maybe it’s because they can not stand watching another Arnold Schwarzenegger film, who here in The Free Bundle newsroom, we consider to be one of the best actors of our times. Or maybe they just hate it because they think the world is already too stuffed with Christmas comedies to waste time with yet another one. But the truth is that Jingle All The Way may very well be considered the favorite film to start our holiday season, and here’s why:

It has everything anyone could ask of a Christmas movie. Family, a little bit of magic, a touch of good intentions, and a story that ties everything together in a nice package with a colorful Christmas ribbon.

Now kids nowadays might go crazy for a Nintendo Switch or a new iPhone under the Christmas tree, but back in 1996 fun was still battery-powered and any working class parent could afford a present for the little ones in the family. Times surely have changed, but some things don’t: there is still something powerful in family stories like this one. Stories that leave an important message during Christmas season. This list hopes to group and explore these wonderful stories, and Jingle All The Way deserves to be among those for its warmth and family-friendly subject.

Arnold, I don’t know how, but you did it again.

DAY 17: “The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)”

If anyone knows how to create an original Christmas story that resonates for years to come, that is the father of the original Batman movie, Mr. Tim Burton. Not only has he captured the most iconic feeling of the Christmas movies we love so much (it’s a wonderful Life, Miracle on 34th Street), but he also put Halloween there!

Why is that so incredible? Well, because it made of Christmas a win-win situation for those of us who not only enjoy the special flavor of this time of year but also love the terrifying things that lurk in the dark weeks before, we have a new tradition: see Jack’s Christmas. If you did not do it during Halloween, do yourself a favor, look at Christmas!

DAY 18: “How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966)”

Not the Jim Carrey version! He and Ron Howard did their best, but it just isn’t the same without Chuck Jones wonderful magic, isn’t it? This classic story from Dr. Seuss’ widely known book “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” was originally aired in 1966 and re-broadcast again next year, for twenty-six amazing minutes that ended up captivating an entire planet and that I would continue doing it for years to come.

If you are going to watch one movie from this whole list with your family, please let it be Chuck Jones’s heartwarming version of Dr. Seuss’s “How The Grinch Stole Christmas”. You won’t regret it.

DAY 19: “Batman Returns (1992)”

We all miss the days when Batman was just a hero and not a martyr. The latest Hollywood treatments on the Dark Knight have been, to be mild, quite boring. Undeniably Nolan is an excellent director, but he simply could not achieve the Batman we deserve. In any case, it is understandable; everyone got scared when Joel Schumacher’s Batman tanked. Little by little, those running the show decided to steer away from the most attractive side of the franchise, which is fiction, and change it with a somewhat… incipient realistic look. But come on, the man it’s supposed to be Batman, not the Gothic kid in the schoolyard. He’s a freaking hero, a crusader! A Dark Knight!

That is why the second installment of Tim Burton’s Batman should not be taken lightly. This is an amazing Christmas movie to watch at any time of the year, but it is especially magical during December. With Danny Elfman on the soundtrack, an unmatched Michael Keaton as Batman, and a fantastically portrayed version of Gotham City during Christmas time (snow and all), Batman Returns must be seen at least once during Christmas week.

DAY 20: “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (89)”

This film is definitely an acquired taste. Year after year, many choose to skip “National Lampoon Christmas Vacations” for the simple fact of being a Chevy Chase comedy. They couldn’t be more wrong. Luckily for them, it’s an easy mistake to correct.

What we have here, ladies and gentlemen, its one of the most incredible cinematographic experiences that have been conceived for the Christmas season. The Citizen Kane of the Christmas comedy films, that’s what it is. With topics as current as the stress that can arise when trying to plan a Christmas out of the paintings of Norman Rockwell, and everything that family reunions mean for.

It’s also about the working-class Christmas reality, something that Hollywood used to do pretty well before each Christmas movie became an “after office party.” That is why despite being almost 30 years old, mark my words, with time, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation will become a timeless classic for the entire family.

DAY 21: “Gremlins (1984)”

Stephen Spielberg excelled himself with this Comic Horror classic. The star of the show is undoubtedly the most beautiful creature that Hollywood has given us: Mogwai (gizmo). Many do not know, but in the original script, this small and tender critter was destined to become the leader of the Gremlins (and the most sadistic). This was removed from the script in order to preserve the family rating (along with the beheading of Billy’s mother, among other things).

Speaking of Billy: At first, he was supposed to be the stereotypical nerd of the 80s, but at the last moment that was also changed. While it does not seem to be as big deal as Mogwai the killer, the reality is that this change turned out to be a disaster: the weakest point of the entire franchise turned out to be, precisely, its main character.

If the movies had been shot today, there is no doubt that Mr. Spilberg would have thought about that last change twice (especially with all this Stranger Things trend going on). That said, Gremlins remains, still, one of the best Christmas movies to have fun during our attempts to instill the joyful Christmas spirit.

DAY 22: “Home Alone (1990)”

Kevin McCallister needs no introduction. Since the character’s first appearance in Home Alone (1990), there has not been anything like it when it comes to Christmas comedies.

Either we are talking of the original 1990 version or the 1992 sequel, both are good-natured family movies that attract kids and adults every Christmas time with fun that we rarely see on TV nowadays. It remains as one of the highest ranked Christmas movies of all times, and for a good reason.

DAY 23: “Die Hard (1988)”

What can be said about this little Christmas tradition? In addition to shopping and drinking hot chocolate, watching Bruce Willis jump from a rooftop for the 50th time should be one of the best things to do each year. Although many critics do not count Die Hard as a Christmas movie, we do not care: there is a special place in our hearts for that final fight of John McClane and Hans Gruber in the Nakatomi Plaza building.

Based on the 1979 suspense novel by Roderick Thorp, “Nothing lasts forever” (I bet you did not know), this is by far the only Christmas action movie that has been made to date. A must in our list

DAY 24: “The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)”

There are many versions of the immortal “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickes out there, but without a doubt, this entry on our list would have been among the man’s favorites. “The Muppepts Christmas” is exceptionally performed by Kermit the Frog as Bob Cratchit and Michael Caine in the shoes of Ebenezer Scrooge, this film proposes a version of the classic story that should be as traditional as the eggnog in all the homes.

And, to everyone’s surprise, this version of “Christmas Carol” is one of the few that follows the original story of Dickens almost to the letter, to the point that many are convinced it is the most faithful adaptation of the work of the author conceived to date.

Just to cite an example, “The Muppet Christmas Carol” presents us with an omniscient narrator throughout the history (masterfully interpreted by The Great Gonzo), just as if we were reading the book!

That is, to my knowledge, something that all of the other versions simply lack. Even the most acclaimed ones. That is why, if everything else fails this Christmas, then this movie is the only one you need to make sure to watch during the holiday season.

DAY 25: “The Polar Express” (2004)

Based on the 1985 children’s book of the same name by Chris Van Allsburg, this computer-animated graphics version of the classic tale is perfect for the entire family to enjoy. With a digitalized Tom Hanks playing several roles (including Santa!), this film needs to be watched during Christmas Day for its full effect to take place.

The film is also a reminder to some of us who have grown perhaps a little too busy and too fast, that the magic and wonder of Christmas is a treasure that should be relished, not only during childhood but as we grow older as well.

EMERGENCY BONUS: “Mickey’s Christmas Carol (1983)”

If everything else has failed, there’s always the chance to lit a candle and summon Walt Disney. While many like the new version of Christmas Carol magistrally portraited by Jim Carrey, the original 1983 animated version with Scrooge McDuck is, perhaps, one of the best movies of this list and a must-watch when it comes to lifting up the Christmas Spirit.

Even if we already watched The Muppet Christmas Carol, this version of Dickens’s tale is highly recommendable and a tradition in many families across the world.


The Free Bundle Games

Top 5 Indie Games To Play This 2018

In this new edition of Free bundle Games we bring you the best five games of independent developers that you need to play this 2018.

The Free Bundle indie showcase comes again with five new games, all awesome but…wait, not a single one of them is free!? How come? Well, the age of the free games has ended for the independent developer movement. Sad, true. Do not despair though: there are still plenty of free games on platforms like Steam, PlayStation Store, Nintendo Switch Store and even on Microsoft Store!

The games we will cover in this section, though not free, belong to small and medium teams of independent artists. They need your support to compete with the big studios. So, how can you help? By spreading the word, of course! They have bet on you by creating some of the most impressive entertaining titles that, we promise you, will leave you specheless.

While most AAA games get all the attention, we feel it is our duty to mention these small studios and their passion for gaming. Here they are, Cabrera Brothers’ Free Bundle five most awesome games this winter (plus, a bonus game!)

My Time at Portia

Developer: Pathea
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, Windows, Linux, Mac

Having a sandwich outdoors isn’t a sandwich anymore, Bradbury wrote in his Dandelion Wine. How much true that short sentence can hold for some of us who have played hours Harvest Moon back while we were young and wise and knew everything there was to be known about life.

One can play hundreds of farm games and soil will always feel as fresh as that first summer afternoon we planted our tomatoes in Harvest Moon. Luckily, there are games like My Time at Portia to water our inner child and watch it grow each morning.

But careful, this is not any farm game: you inherited the family farm, yes, but not of any country you know. Portia is different. Quite different. This is an RPG village and you are destined to live the adventure of a lifetime when joining the community of Portia.

“This is an RPG village and you are destined to live the adventure of a lifetime when joining the community of Portia.”

What else can any gamer ask other than the chance to see your own little business grow, find love, meet new friends and attend local festivities in a town of dreams? These are just a few of the many things you can experience after a long day of work at your little farm of Portia.

Throw that gun away, stash that dagger someplace dark, put down the grenade launcher and grab your watering can: tomorrow night there is a festival night at Portia, we better take care of our farm today!

Griftlands

Developer: Klei Platforms: Windows

There is nothing man yearn the most than the ages of the pirates. Absolute freedom comes with a cost, though. It was true then as it is in Keli’s Sci-Fi world of Griftlands, where we control a group of mercenaries in a dynamically generated universe that changes depending on our actions and decisions.

Battles are turn-based, tough and fun like they should be. The unexpected twist: instead of killing your enemies quick and simple, what you will want to do is to put all your efforts on subduing them. After all, a captain needs his crew.

“…as for your skills as a mercenary, fighting and exploration will be as relevant in GriftLands as your silver tongue.”

One aspect of the development to keep track on is that this turn-based RPG is being moldered by some of the folks behind “Don’t Starve”, so a unique kind of fun is obviously already ensured. As for your skills as a mercenary, fighting and exploration will be as relevant in GriftLands as your silver tongue. You will have to make sure to look after your profits, not only on your victories, as Griftlands’s sandbox economy constantly adapts to what is happening in the game.

As with Don’t Starve, Griftlands will surely become one of those games that you must have in all your platforms.

Warhammer: Vermintide 2

Developer: Fatshark
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Windows

You step out of the fortress and run into the forest after making your way through its labyrinthine narrow corridors being careful not to trip over the bodies of your fallen comrades. Death lurks on that forest. You can smell it even with your helmet on. The entire area is infested with the vermin.

It might seem like you are running away from them, but you are not falling back though. You are leading the hordes into an open area, a place where you can have a fair fight. For a normal soldier that is at least six at the time. For a hero like you, that means around a dozen.

“Death lurks on that forest, you can smell it, even with your helmet on. The entire area is infested with the vermin.”

The only thing you have at hand to make it out of this one alive are your armor, your faith, and your guns. Big fat guns. Lots of them.

Underworld Ascendant

Desarrollador: OtherSide Entertainment
Plataformas: PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, Windows, Linux, Mac

If there is a team we can trust will deliver the original experience of the old role-playing games, these are the guys behind the video game Underworld Ascendant.

While there has been some noise on the lines about it “not being a revolutionary RPG of the likes of Skyrim”, we should not forget that was never the initial intention for Underworld Ascendant. What we have here is the purest example of “what used to move us as players back in the day” in direct conflict with “the wonders of today’s gaming trends”.

Or “sandbox multiplayer games with loot and a complex perks system”, versus “what RPG games were supposed to be, fun”.

Most games have steered away from those old scrolls of unwritten rules that game designers used to follow when they conjured their fantasy worlds into our hearts. It’s that many of them came from the old role-playing games of pen and paper, not from playing Fallout 3. That is how game designers nowadays have chosen to walk a more linear path, a more forgiving path, just with the newer adventurer in mind to whom they consider to be some kind of porcelain doll.

”…(This) is a purest example of what used to move us as players back in the day…”

Underworld Ascendant doesn’t. This is a hard role game, one that will make us fall in love with the dungeons for the second time. That doesn’t mean that the new adventurers cannot sit at the table to play, only that if they do they better know what’s on the road ahead: they will walk into the battlefield with the best of the best and that there won’t be a squire carrying no one’s shields.

Here, everyone carries his own sword.

They Are Billions

Developer: Numantian
Platforms: Windows

Your settlement is under attack! Today’s sixth wave of zombies weakened your defenses, you better get moving fast! Place traps, rebuild fences and make sure to save some of your resources to come up with something new for the next time they come howling to your door because this is no simple RTS game: they are billions!

“They are billions” is a classic strategy in real time in its purest form, the kind that should have been made from the times of Command & Conquer but somehow eluded the video game industry until now.

”…swarms of hungry zombies are coming for you, whether you are ready or not.”

Build, operate and expand your own settlement of survivors in this steampunk world carefully planning your defenses: the swarms of hungry zombies are coming for you, whether you are ready or not. Those of us who have not gone sick with this infestation have a responsibility to rebuild mankind from the ground up before its too late, so hurry up and play They Are Billions before its name changes to We are billions and there’s no one left!

BONUS: Sunless Skies

Developer: Failbetter
Platforms: Microsoft Windows, Linux, Macintosh operating systems

February 2016. From nowhere, without the slight hint that was going to be an awesome month, Sunless Sea was published. The fun tsunami caught many players from all over the world with its original post-apocalyptic setting and its original gameplay, worthy of a second, perhaps even a third installment. Two years later and we are again, being impressed by Failbetter and its unexpected twist to the franchise.

“Sunless Skies fulfills every young science fiction fan’s ambition of commanding a starship through the vastness of the stars”

In this new installment, we will enter deep space. What are you not convinced? Wait to hear this: steamboats capable of flying in the immensity of the night and beyond alfa centauri. Yes! Sunless Skies fulfills the ambition of every young fanatic of the science fiction to command a starship across the sky.

Keep your crew well feed, watch your engines, stay on course and don’t burn your wings when you pass near the sun!




Fantastic Horizons

They were conducting an experiment, but they weren't ready for what they discovered in...

Rituals

Gentlemen of the board, I am well aware of the abuse I have made upon your trust by joining the late Professor Braun in his delirious experiment instead of trying to put a stop to it. I deserve nothing less than the expulsion of this house of studies, that much is clear. But well knowing the rumors that now weigh on my person, I cannot simply afford to leave without giving my version of the events of that night.

Not as a petty attempt to preserve my good name, which is irreparably ruined by now, but so that the truth about the professor’s work can endure–at least among men of science.

At around four in the morning, during what most sensationalist newspapers have so rightly baptized as “the dawn of horror”, myself and two undergraduate students met as per my friend’s instructions at his manor.

Jeremy is perhaps one of the most applied young engineers I have crossed paths with, besides my direct recommendation to the Professor Braun. The girl, Alexandra–who I never met before that night–introduced herself as an Archivist, though I later found out what she really was.

As we pushed open the enormous rusted gate to make our way across the jungle of uncut grass that surrounds the property, I must confess, I began to become uneasy. I was not aware of the disgraceful condition the professor had sunk his family state. You will understand, then, my concern when I walked into the old mansion finding most of the furniture missing, the walls and floors torn open, stripped from their wood. It was as if a bomb had exploded in the middle of the living room.

Fearing one of his many experiments had ended in a tragedy, I ran to his laboratory upstairs by leaping through the river of cables that converged up the old wooden stairs.

As it turns out, the Professor was well and sound in the large east room of the upper floor. He had his nose buried deep in five large volumes at the time I walked over to his desk. Two I recognized almost immediately, as they were zodiac charts written specifically in German shortly after WWII by one of Hitler’s own confidants, supposedly copied from the journals of the Fuhrer himself. The remaining three I overheard him mention once or twice to the faculty’s Librarian, but never knew they were the astrological treaties of the English Monk the Venerable Bede until I saw them on the professor’s desk.

At the center of the room, the swarm of wires that I had leaped over down in the living room climbed like a vine through the walls and up the ceiling, then converged inside the mechanical leviathan Braun and Jeremy had been working on and off for the past few months, giving the impression that a giant spider and its web had taken over the interior of the old Braun mansion.

As we all know, watchmaking was among the professor’s most curious hobbies. Not that there was something particularly ordinary about his love for geology, anthropology, photography, electricity, history or any of the other hundreds of interests he pursued. But this machine of his, it really gives testament to the man’s dedication to the extraordinary. It belongs in a museum, where other scientists can study it, learn from it, get inspired by its outstanding complexity, not hidden in some court’s deposit because of what happened.

It wasn’t until I touched my friend’s shoulder that the books released him from their spell. “You are late, Martin!” he said. “Have you brought me what I asked you to?”

“I punched a hole in my pocket to have this last one shipped over the weekend,” I said, handing him the metallic disk with the Portuguese alphabet engraved on it.

He wasted no time in getting off his chair and snapping the metallic dial inside the labyrinth of cogs along with all the others. Once he tested its rotation manually, Braun flipped a switch, stepped back and watched anxiously. The mechanism of the machine began to shriek, then tremble violently and for a moment, blow large clouds of steam, as if it were breathing in the cold air of the house with disgust.

Finally, to Braun’s amusement, once the huge machine had grown accustomed to being on, the disks filled with dialects that shape its guts, began to spin in synchrony along with the one I handed him.

At my friend’s request, I had commissioned some of these discs to be forged in Chaldic, Spanish, Chinese, Russian, Latin, and in every language known to man by different colleagues in linguistics from other universities. Some I had especially laid out with a combination of rare alphabets, like Sumerian with touches of Zend. Others were really curious, like a whole series with the different variations of the sacred tongue of India. He even went as far as to have me create one in a specific language spoken only in the Bactrians that few men know about. They were a work of art on their own; handmade silver Rosetta stones loudly jerking with a clank, back and forth, spinning, dialing, each at its own pace.

After the dials had gone through every possible combination, they automatically rotated back to their starting position and locked themselves there with the sonorous ring of an old wall clock bell embedded in the center of the machine.

Braun’s eyes were of a child. “Finally,” he murmured to himself.

“Now you will tell me why you needed the disks and what this thing is for?” I asked.

He looked up as far as his hunchback allowed him to and smiled, nodding.

“As you know, Martin,” he began, “my loves extend far beyond astrophysics, but not as far as to include linguistics, which is crucial for the success of this enterprise. I’ve already informed Alexandra and Jeremy what will be attempted here today. They both agreed months ago, but since you don’t belong to our department, security measures had to be taken to ensure the integrity of the experiment. Surely, you will understand.”

“An experiment? Is that what this all is for?” I said, “What is it supposed to be, a new kind of telescope?”

He laughed a little. “In a way. Say, Martin, are you familiar with Graham Bell’s photophone?”

“Of course; he devised a mechanism capable of transmitting sounds through a light beam. His most ambitious patent, some might say.”

“And Mr. Bell would be the first one to agree with that statement,” Braun said while he sat on the chair of a wooden student desk attached to one of the sides of the machine. “This machine you see here is the continuation of what Mr. Bell began at the winter of his life. I call it, the Star Whisperer.”

“Sounds like you are building yourself a space rocket here, Professor.”

Braun smiled broadly.

“So, what does it do?”

“It frees us!” he shouted with great anxiety in his voice. “You see, Martin, what you are looking at here is the second Star Whisperer I’ve built. The first one was born two years ago, its actually buried deep inside the entrails of this newer, improved version. One might even say it is its heart!”

While checking over a series of valves and instruments on the small student desk attached to his seat, the Professor signaled Jeremy, who immediately began pulling off all of the curtains letting what was left of the moonlight bathe the vast room.

For some reason, I mistook the strange symbols Alexandra began chalking on the floor around the machine to stellar charts, so I didn’t pay her much attention. While my lack of curiosity at her actions might sound strange now, I assure you that at the time it was not stranger than the colossal clockwork erected in the center of the improvised workshop.

Braun ignored her as well. “It was thanks to my breakthrough in that first, rudimentary version of the Star Whisperer that I was able to broadcast to a device, just like the one over that chair, but that was in my University office! Right through a beam of sunlight!”

“That’s almost two miles away!” I stuttered.

My surprise became so evident that my friend burst into a maniacal laugh. “Two point five miles, Martin. This design, though, can handle a thousand times that distance,” he said, pointing at the large plate with millions of tiny convex mirrors that tiled into a huge cone on the top of the machine.

I shook my head at the notion of such a feat. “Impossible. Surely our atmospheric conditions will degrade any sound within the photons when traveling that far?”

“Not with this new version,” he said, “but that is not where my improvements on Mr. Bell’s invention stop, no. This photophone you see here has the capability of broadcasting and receiving not only sounds, but images as well. All through the same sunlight beam and without the need of another device at the other end.”

“Absurd!” I accused him.

He laughed again.

“Through this visor over here,” he said, patting a sort of copper periscope protruding from the student desk attached to his chair, “I’m capable of picking up images from anywhere sunlight travels to. What we have here is a window into the universe, Martin. Far more powerful than any telescope made in the last fifty years, far clearer too.” I lifted an eyebrow.

“Both are subject to interference, true,” he said, “but man’s brain has evolved into processing images easier than it does with sounds, which is why instead of trying to make sense out of static, I decided to bring someone smarter than me.”

Jeremy smiled.

“This young man devised a mechanism capable of separating the natural atmospheric noise resonating on any light beam, say, from a passing cloud, from the actual audio wavelength of the spoken word. The sound then gets represented phonetically by the letters engraved on the dials you kindly designed for us. Aimed at the right latitude, the Star Whisperer will be able to pick up conversations and images from almost any point in the universe where our sun shines.”

Braun noticed my expression. “Do you understand now, Martin, why we kept it from you? This machine can win wars!”

“If what you say it does is true,” I said, “then it can also create a thousand.”

“Let’s leave that to politicians.” The professor laughed. “And since no one but us has knowledge of its existence, today, the Star Whisperer will see far beyond what Galileo could have dreamed.”

As you know, Braun’s contagious excitement had always been one of his greatest assets, with his students and with the rest of the faculty.

This time was no different.

I ran towards the machine and stuck my head inside its world of springs, pulleys and cogs, marveled at the perfection of its craftsmanship. Despite the countless sketches that have been published by newspapers, none captures the scientific rigorousness that Braun’s majestuous invention deserves. I see myself forced, then, to describe his Star Whisperer, as he baptized it, as detailed as possible:

The machine was made in its entirety out of Coromandel, no doubt taken from Braun’s own family furniture. Roughly twenty-five feet wide and sixteen feet tall, the invention had a similar shape to an anti-aircraft battery, but with the particularity of supporting a large funnel on its front, instead of a barrel. At the end of the funnel there was a conical-shaped mirror made out of intricate tiny cuts of tiles, mimicking the care and meticulous attention to detail one would only expect to find in the decorations of a Persian rug.

The whole construction rested on a platform made from some other kind of wood, a more common kind, with a tablet arm chair desk attached to the base on one side of the machine. On the desk, a multitude of levers, valves and measuring instruments spread out in front of the Professor as an orchestra, waiting for the director to conduct his symphony.

That said, though, the copper periscope is among the most notable of its instruments. Its long tubular shape, twisted from several points of the machine all the way to the controls on the desk, erects itself in a vertical position almost similar to the one of a cobra.

Under a bell, buried deep inside the dark puzzle of brass cogs, the silver dials I’d built could be seen from a considerable distance, as they were lit by two yellowish filament bulbs on each side of the inner walls which constantly flickered. Braun caught me staring at them.

“You must wonder why I commissioned you with those,” he said, reaching for a cigarette from his apron’s big front pocket.

“Sanskrit? Aramaic? Ancient Greek? Esuma, from the Ivory Coast? Just who will you be trying to contact here?” His stare went to the window. “Those living in our sun.”

I can assure you, gentlemen, my surprise was as overwhelming as yours. The irony of being a linguist and finding myself with no words that could be used in the face of such outlandish affirmation left me with no other choice but to turn around and head back to the staircase, but given the colossal undertaking of his enterprise and the many hours I had already invested in the design of the dials, I lament to say that I succumbed to my scientific curiosity. Without doubts, the worst decision I have ever made in my life.

“Professor,” I warned him, “there is nothing you can say to convince me that there are people living in our sun.”

“What about logic, Martin?” he demanded. “Are you going to refuse listening to logic as well?”

I simply stared at him and waited for it to be a joke. It wasn’t.

“Every sacred scroll in history tells us about a singular, unique tongue spoken by men long before we cursed ourselves into nations.”

I grinned at that. “You won’t be talking about the story of Babel, from the book of Genesis, won’t you?”

He was.

I laughed even harder than he before. “That is just a story, man! A myth! Nobody lives in the sun!”

“Wrong!” he claimed, his eyes almost leaving their sockets. “Evidence clearly tells us otherwise!”

“Evidence?” I said, “What evidence could there possibly be?”

“Our own history, Martin! Every culture worshiped the sun, and in every culture the same story appears, again and again through our time line! Nepal, Mexico, Sumer, Africa–all speak about humanity building a tower so tall that it reached out into the heavens and angered the Gods!”

“And they punished men by giving them different languages so they couldn’t work together again.” I laughed. “Yes, I know the story, Professor.”

“Then you realize the possibility.”

“Mere folklore!” I said.

Think, man, think!”

“A widow’s tale passed on in front of bonfires, nothing more.”

“Nothing more? Look around us, Martin! Science has yet to tell us from where so many languages come from. How would you explain this widow’s tale, as you call it, being passed on from totally different cultures that existed hundreds of miles apart from each other, even across the seas or beyond the poles back when man wasn’t even sailing the oceans?”

As many of us had the opportunity to witness, the Professor was among the stubbornest of men when it came to standing behind one of his theories, so I decided to pass on the challenge. Not for lack of arguments, but again, out of curiosity.

“And this… monstrosity of yours,” I said, “will offer us an explication?”

He nodded. “The Mesopotamians called him Katuzakel, the Chinese named him Yu Hang, the Hebrew Jehovah, the Sumerians An, the Egyptians Ra–all existing in the heavens, all represented by one common symbol–our sun. See, when I began with these broadcasts I caught something floating…” he paused to whisper, “in the sunlight.”

He motioned me to come closer.

“At first I thought it was static, or simply clouds moving through the light beam. After all, Dr. Bell described these findings himself with a similar experiment. But then, something else came through. Something that shook the very foundations of my beliefs. No doubt Bell’s conclusions would have been the same as mine if he would have had access to our technology.”

Braun turned to one of the many audio apparatuses of the laboratory and fed it with a black wax cylinder as carefully as a mother puts her newborn into the crib.

“We can’t be careful enough, Martin, I assure you,” he said upon seeing my frown at the delicacy with which he treated the cylinder, “this here is the only existing copy. The recording process itself is highly complex. Unorthodox as well. It took me days to figure out how to sew the secrets that the sunlight whispers us into the tapestry of this wax cylinder you are about to hear.”

“Make a copy.”

“We tried!” he said while fiddling with the wooden knobs of the recording apparatus. “For some dammed reason that still eludes us, the uniqueness of these sounds refuses to imprint themselves onto any medium other than wax. I beg you to give it all your attention–I can only allow myself to play it a limited number of times, since with each play its footprint degrades irreparably.”

“Very well, I’ll listen,” I said, giving in to his demands.

At first, the recording pretty much sounded like static noise, nothing unexpected. But shortly thereafter, when thirty or so seconds had passed, I began to slightly feel uncomfortable, as if I were listening to something that was there, but my brain couldn’t process.

The roughness of the noise converged into a tempo when the Professor fiddled again with the apparatus knobs, the static became somewhat coherent, it took shape, it made sense, and from that coherence, from that pattern, a faint voice emerged.

It sounded like a chanting of some sort in what I can only assume was an ungainly form of Arabic, Mandarin and perhaps Castilian. Though it wasn’t a combination of any these languages. There were slight traces of them, yes, most definitely, but not in the way many here might be inclined to think.

The words–there was something about those words. Something in the way they were being spoken. Something that only the trained ear of a linguist would associate with a known language. It was their pronunciation; I never heard them being spoken like they were…pure.

It felt as if I was hearing some of those words, words we all use in our everyday lives in their original form, for the first time ever; untainted from accents, from our own cultural interpretation, even from our emotions–and I say our emotions because there was something I interpreted as emotion behind those words, just not the kind we might know, be used to.

They just sounded beautiful. Words sounding as they were meant to be spoken. But it was also a terrifying thing to hear, the singing of an angel.

“This came through a sunlight beam?” I asked, astonished.

The professor nodded.

“Couldn’t this be interference of some kind? A radio transmission? Perhaps the wind?”

He shook his head. “Do you recognize what’s being spoken?”

“Some of it sounds like… Latin, or Greek, I’m not sure.”

“It is the old language, Martin. The tongue of the Gods. Adamic–the language spoken by Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.”

“Rubbish!” I said.

“What explication would you offer, then, to this new language? It undeniably shows roots of some of the tongues we speak today–without mentioning traces from a dozen other languages that man hasn’t spoken for centuries!”

“Hundreds before I can even think on making such scandalous claims as you!” I replied.

“Dear Martin, why do you refuse to believe your own ears? This is the kind of factual proof that shatters myths and turns them into history. Stop denying your own instincts and you will come to the same conclusions I have.”

“Which is?”

“That by either the will of the Gods, or time itself, we men dismembered our mother dialect. Thus, the Spanish language was born, and the Chinese, and the Japanese, the Portuguese, the Latin and all the others and the variations we speak to this day. Mere interpretations–all sharing a common undertone, a common ancestor.”

Braun caressed his invention the same way a father would run his fingers through his son’s hairs.

“This machine is showing us that the first original language, Adamic, existed! Could you imagine, Martin? That without knowing we men have been speaking the words of God? The divine tongue–forgotten, broken into small pieces, hidden away from us in plain sight!”

The chanting continued for a few more moments while we listened in silence. Finally, when the tape stopped, I looked over at Braun. Upon seeing me battle with the hundreds of theories clogged into my throat that refuted his, my friend turned around to mind his station and said, “Stay long enough to find out.”

As a man of science, I saw no reason not to indulge in my fascination for Braun’s possible discoveries other than my own ego, so I accepted his challenge.

“It won’t be long now,” he said, taking a quick peek at his pocket watch.

It was not. After a few minutes, sunrise begun, and so did their experiment.

Curved over his desk like a boy playing with new toys, Braun began to operate a series of handles and knobs in sequence, which made the base of the machine to turn clockwise. While Jeremy began to take long notes in his journal about it, the machine itself spun too, but counterclockwise and at a specific angle chalked by Alexandra on the wooden flooring.

Though the comparison might seem unfortunate, seeing my friend’s invention spinning around, elevating, jerking back and forth with him clinging to his chair, reminded me of Heracles taming the Cretan bull.

Soon, the night left us. When the first rays of dawn reached over the hill and touched the mansion’s roof, the professor swiftly pushed one of the dozen pedals under his desk. The machine became stuck at an odd angle; a giant sunflower, carefully positioned to receive the warm sunlight.

The clockwork began to wake inside the monstrous apparatus. I took my place next to Jeremy, where I had a good sight of the discs and take my own notes.

The moment the first beam of sunlight broke through the tall colonial windows of the mansion, the machine’s enormous mirroring dish swallowed it and made it explode into a thin line of light, no thicker than a nail, which redirected into the stomach of the mechanical voracious beast, as fast as a gunshot.

The silver discs began to spin. First it was only one, then there were two, then a third and a fourth one joined. Soon they were all spinning around, violently, back and forth, skipping a random number of letters with each spin they took. Often, they paused and rotated back to their starting position, only to start spinning in sequence again.

“I’m seeing something!” Braun said, forcing his voice over the mechanical roars of the machine. “I can’t quite make what it is just yet, but I am seeing something!”

His hands began playing the instruments on his desk like an orchestra director would play his musicians, each knob he fiddled, each switch he turned on or off, each lever he pushed or pulled accompanied by a sudden or smooth movement from the machine, which in turn, made the discs rotate faster, or stop more abruptly.

“Here it comes!” Braun announced, his eyes looking down into the periscope as the sunlight came through it and shone his face into a mask of joy. “I see something! Yes! It is…some sort of construction on the surface–on the sun! A pyramid! By God, I see a pyramid!”

A similar chanting to the one the Professor had played for me earlier began coming through the resonance box in the machine. The dials began to rotate back and forth, skipping two, six letters at a time, sometimes a whole group until they stopped on a configuration. A bell rang inside the clockwork with each word that formed.

“Speak to me, Martin!” Braun said. “What do you make of it?”

“Nothing,” I replied, while trying my best to make sense of the message, “it’s just gibberish.”

“Read them anyway, man!”

With every moment the chanting grew louder. Soon, we found ourselves shouting to make ourselves understood. It was the same message, repeating over and over again. I was about to tell him there was nothing to form a coherent sentence with when I realized the letters had come through in a random order, undoubtedly a product of how the machine processed the sounds into words.

Without a moment to spare I began solving the most complex anagram I’ve ever encountered, part Greek, part Portuguese, part Hebrew with traces of antique Castillian and a few others I had to phonetically decipher with the help of Braun’s extensive library.

As I’ve stated during the many hours of interrogation at the police station, I do not want to, nor can I recall the words my lips spoke when I unscrambled the message, for I believe they are somehow responsible for the events that occurred next. My subconscious mind, evidently being infinitely wiser than my self-preservation instinct, keeps shielding me from them.

All I can attest, and of this I am certain without a single shred of doubt, is that the moment that came immediately after I pronounced those dammed words, the sunlight coming into the machine amplified its brightness beyond any conceivable spectrum. It was like a terrible explosion in slow motion from which one’s eyes could not escape, not even by shutting them. It increase with each second that went by, it seemed as if it would never stop.

If I try long and hard enough, and make the effort to ignore the scars of pain my shattered mind has become, I see images of Alexandra approaching Braun with a knife from behind. Grabbing his hair. Fighting to keep his face clinched against the machine’s periscope. Forcing him to stare at the unfathomable horrors that ride on the sunlight.

Unable to free himself from the witch’s grip, my friend gave into panic. Blinded by the brightest light any man has ever witnessed, Jeremy and I attempted to clumsily reach Braun, when his screams turned into a screech of a strange dialect as hollow as the howling of an owl.

But it wasn’t my friend’s yells of terror while the witch stabbed him in the neck or the blasphemy of the tongue he was speaking that paralyzed us into shock. No. It was what we saw when he managed to push himself away from the periscope.

The girl can’t be blamed for what happened, I suppose. Alexandra was probably the sanest person in that room. Evidently, she was familiar with certain aspects of the experiment not even the professor was aware of. Her shamanic chants while stabbing him no doubt witness that.

However, it is my conviction that her actions weren’t guided by a murdering madness like some investigators are inclined to believe, or by the abuse of hallucinogens, as newspapers have wrongly suggested, for there were neither in the room–no, it was far simpler than that.

It was pure human instinct.

The same human instinct that pushed the primitive man to the knowledge of the stars, that taught them how to hunt, how to survive, how to find their way back from the seas long before knowledge could be passed on to new generations through scrolls, or even words. It was the cumulative instinct of those that came before us.

The witch’s mind was the only one there that hadn’t been completely clouded by the infinite questions of science. She merely accepted our condition as children of the earth, and as such, reacted the same way our ancestors did during their rituals hundreds of years ago at the top of Aztec pyramids. It was the same horror that haunted the great Egyptian Priests at their Pharaohs’ deathbeds, or those worshiping virgins at the brim of Hawaiian volcanoes.

I’ve concluded that, upon such scene, it is humanly impossible to react any differently than she did. Had Jeremy or I been close enough to Braun, and had we been knowledgeable enough about the forbidden as she to bring a dagger along with us, we would have joined her.

Why? Because what our ancient priests and shamans did weren’t random acts of barbarism for better crops or to make rain, I know that now. These senseless sacrifices, as history defines them, were never meant to ask our Gods for favors. They were transmutations. See, gentlemen, we haven’t been cast away from paradise out of spite, but out of fear: we kill our Gods.

We realized the very moment Alexandra began giving the Professor death. Even though Jeremy and I were both almost blinded by the intense sunlight exploding into the machine, we managed to see a grotesquely enlarged eye cutting itself open on the flesh of the Professor’s forehead, as if was peeking through a keyhole. The double iris giant eye began looking around the room, curious, as a newborn thrown into the world.

The madness of our screams was only interrupted when the loud jerking of the discs stopping in position and the ring of the bell brought in a new message from a star where there shouldn’t be life.

There was no need to read the position the discs had stopped to decipher them, though. The voice that came through the machine was in plain English and, though impossible, sounded exactly as Braun own voice.

This is what it said: “Martin, I’m burning!”