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Sympathy for the Drow - De-Vilifying the Dark Elves

The "Evil" races in DnD have always rubbed me kinda the wrong way. Partly once I learned that a lot of them come from racist stereotypes (Orcs, Drow, and Goblins in particular) and also just because it doesn't make sense to me. Even Nazi Germany had variation and dissenters and it only lasted for 12 years. Why would a clearly evil society never change over hundreds of years? In my opinion, a story is only as good as it's villains. So, I've set out to try and make the traditionally evil races slightly more believable and even sympathetic in places.
Now, I've not been a DM very long, only like three years. But the first campaign I ever ran was through Curse of Strahd which paints the Vistani (an itinerant society heavily based on the real world Romani) as a conniving group of thieves, murders, and vampire-worshipers. Thankfully, I found through reddit and other sites how to steer away from the racists depictions of the Vistani and making them seem like, at worst, opportunists. So, I hope to be able to do that with some other of the classic DnD antagonist races.
I've read some other phenomenal post on here about evil races that totally inspired me as well. There's a great two part post about Decolonizing D&D which I adore. The post about alignment is easily my favorite. There's a couple great ones on Orcs and Yuan-Ti too so if some of my ideas are lifted from them, I hope y'all consider it flattery instead of theft. So, here are some primer notes before I get into it.
For creating the Dark Elves, I tried to keep as much as I could from the books. Obviously some stuff has to get thrown out the window though. I also tried to standardize calling them Dark Elves instead of Drow partly because I feel like Drow has a much nastier sound to it and calling them Dark Elves follows the naming convention with the High and Wood Elves. I tried to model them after real-life matriarchal societies like the Mosuo people of China and their pantheon after real deities like the Greeks, Romans, and Norse. I also quickly realized that building a society is inseparable from geography. Where a people are from effects their language, values, mythology, history, and family structure. I've tried to outline details I think are necessary to making this society realistic while leaving it open ended enough to be place-able in different worlds with relative ease. All that aside, lets get into the meat of it.

The Dark Elves: Elven Outcasts

The Elves are a varied and magical people that come from many planes and many environments within them. But none are met with more distrust and fear than the Dark Elves. Easily set apart from their cousins by their charcoal or pitch-black skin, pink-red eyes, hair of grays and whites, and shorter stature, these people have earned a reputation as killers, thieves, demon worshipers, and liars. But history is a cruel mistress, something the Dark Elves know better than most.

The Divine Divide

As the legends go, when the world was still young, Corellon Larethian lived on the Plane of Arvandor with his fellow Primal Elves. They were wild and mutable, emotional and free in all things. They changed shapes at will, gave and took freely to and from the world, and never stayed in any location too long. They wandered to and fro, scattering their peoples across almost every plane. However, this unbridled freedom was not without a price. Arguments, feuds, and small scale wars were incredibly common between them. Some elves would find themselves stranded on far off planes after most of their companions impulsively decided to leave. Their self serving impulses drove them to often completely disregard the needs or wants of others if they went against their own desires. And their reckless revelry was wreaking havoc on the natural world with Elven parties decimating whole planes of edible plants, wild game, and drinkable water.
One such Primal Elf began to see the destruction of their ways and talked to other elves about their actions. Slowly, this Elf by the name of Lolth amassed a small following of devotees that saw the negative ramifications of their inconsiderate freedom. Lolth and her followers agreed to take on fixed forms to show recognition of the dangers that impulsivity could bring. Lolth led this small group of devotees to Corellon to ask for his support. Now, Corellon did not lead these Primal Elves: he was just as wild as the best of them and did not take kindly to others telling him what to do. But he was the First Elf ever born and was universally respected amongst the Primal Elves and if Lolth could convince him, others would surely follow. Corellon listened to her proposition and agreed that they should change to prevent more destruction and conflict, but refused to order his kinsfolk into any action. He was an Elf, same as all of them, and he wouldn’t dare order around his family. He balked when Lolth asked him to take a concrete form as a show of solidarity and brushed her off as a killjoy.
Lolth was unsatisfied with this outcome and her following set out to convince each Elf to change their ways to preserve the beauty of the worlds. However, without the support of Corellon, many elves refused her offer. Her anger grew with each failure and her opinion of Corellon turned sour, something she made no attempt to hide from her Elven siblings. Now, Corellon is a proud god and once he caught wind that Lolth was bad mouthing him in an attempt to win over others, he became enraged. He railed against Lolth calling her a snake-tongued thief and Lolth called him incompetent and cruel. Their tempers flared and all the elves chose sides between Corellon’s freedom and Lolth’s stability. During this great debate, the Primal Elves turned to violence. The Dark Elves maintain that Corellon’s side threw the first blow, while the High Elves claim that it came from Lolth’s side.
No matter the source, this violent outburst soured relations between Lolth and Corellon forever after. He cast her and her followers out of Arvandor and barred her from ever returning. He also cast all but his most trusted kin from Arvandor, forcing them all to live lives on other worlds out of fear of another perceived insurrection. Thus, the Seldarine remain in Arvandor to judge the souls of Corellon’s faithful when they die and Lolth takes refuge in Arcadia with her pantheon where she minds the souls of the Drow. Corellon’s faithful call her pantheon the Dark Seldarine, while her faithful call it the Myrkalfar.

Myrkalfar: The Spider Mother’s House

Lolth the Spider Queen is the unquestioned head of the Myrkalfar, with all other deities seen as her divine family. Lolth is considered at times to be fickle or even cruel, but her ire is never gained without good reason. A very involved deity, her followers constantly search for signs of her favor or scorn in everyday life. When a Dark Elf contemplates a risky or controversial decision, they consult priestesses or perform their own rites which often gives them direct and succinct answers. She serves as an example to matriarchs of Drow families as demanding yet understanding, punishing yet guiding. She asks for a lot of her priestesses, demanding they be an unflinching example of everything a strong leader should be. The Myrkalfar is often presented as a divine household, with Lolth as the matron.
Keptolo is the consort of Lolth and considered to be the ideal of what a male should be. Beautiful and kind, strong and hard working, he helps Lolth in everything she does. Sometimes he serves as a messenger, other times as an agent of redemption, sometimes as a divine healer. When a Dark Elf is tasked with a divine charge, he is usually the one to deliver the message and guide them through their charge. He serves also as a fertility deity and is often worshiped by women or men seeking a child. Outsiders see him as a weak and subservient husband to Lolth, but his faithfulness to his matron is considered a virtue and his status as a “husband” is relatively alien to the Dark Elves as they have no binding marriage in their society.
If Keptolo is the agent of Lolth’s mercy, Kiaransalee is the agent of her vengeance. She is the eldest daughter of Lolth and Keptolo and one that Dark Elves pray to when they feel wronged. Only the most binding and serious contracts are signed under her name. To break an oath made under her name is sure to bring destruction. She is also the governor of the dead, judging the souls of those passed in the afterlife. She opposes the mindless undead created by mortals, but spirits and revenants that return to finish unresolved business amongst the living are considered under her protection. Should a Dark Elf encounter a returned spirit that is seeking vengeance, it’s their duty to leave them on their way and pray that the spirit isn’t there for them. This reverence of certain undead is something many outsiders consider downright evil.
Selvetarm is the Dark Elven warrior goddess and youngest daughter of Lolth. Often depicted with eight arms, she represents the pinnacle of hand to hand martial prowess, but often is without restraint. She serves as both an inspiration for warriors, and a warning. Vhaeraun is the eldest son of Lolth and governs ambition and stealth. Both of these traits are not necessarily vilified, but worship of him is highly scrutinized. Haughty and rash, tales of him often include deceiving his fellow gods for good and ill and more often than not are cautionary ones. He’s depicted as wearing a mask, either as some punishment for endangering Lolth and her family or to hide his identity for various schemes, possibly both.
Malyk is Lolth’s youngest son and a youthful deity of change and growth. He’s often seen as a bouncing young boy that Lolth and her family have to reign in from wild misadventures. His freedom and curiosity is often seen as a double edged sword, both gaining him great riches but also putting him in tremendous peril. He has strong ties to sorcerers and when a child is born with innate magical talent, he is often the one thanked for it. He serves as an outlet for a Dark Elves youthful chaotic nature, but also warns them of the ramifications of their actions.
Ghaunadur is a strange figure in the pantheon. Their place in the family is a bit of a mystery, sometimes called the sibling of Lolth, or her child, or even as Lolth’s parent. What makes them truly unique is that they are a formless deity, something that Lolth once warred with Corellon over. The legends go that when Ghaunadur joined Lolth, they refused to give up their changeable nature. When questioned, Ghaunadur pointed to the slimes, oozes, and formless creatures of the world and said that they wished to protect them from the Elves and the Elves from them. Lolth agreed, cementing their position as the deity of the changing forms of nature. Their favored creature is the ooze, but they govern all natural creatures. Dark Elves often pray to Ghaunadur to protect them from the creatures that lurk in the depths of the forest.
Zinzerena is Lolth’s sister and is the goddess of poisons, illusions, and magic. Viewed as an elderly and patient figure, she often serves as council to Lolth in desperate times. She’s said to be the mother of all poisons and venoms and her teachings are all about finding the wisest solution to a problem. Zinzerena teaches that even though the spider is small, it’s bite can still fell a panther. Despite her perceived age, she’s considered the younger sister of Lolth and is thought to be incredibly quick and nimble: a reminder that not everything is as it seems.
Eilistraee is Lolth’s niece and daughter of Zinzerena. Considered the black sheep of the pantheon, she serves as a goddess of redemption and moonlight. Dark Elves that turn their back on their family or scorn traditions will sometimes find themselves turned to Driders, half-spider half-Dark Elf creatures shunned by all. Eilistraee is said to watch over these creatures and if they are repentant, offer them challenges that they could complete to redeem themselves. Lolth often views her with contempt or mistrust, but never hates her and maintains her place in the pantheon. Dark Elven faithful rarely worship her as the others. She’s also one of the only deities of the Myrkalfar to claim no animosity toward the Seldarine and their faithful.
Spiders are the sacred animal of Lolth and are often used as an example of social order and the importance of family bonds. Each strand of silk serves the web as whole. More literally, the giant spiders of the Underdark are multifaceted and incredibly useful creatures. Serving as beasts of burden, war steeds, meat producers, household guardians, and silk producers, they are present in almost every facet of society. Their silks are used in everything from wound dressings to armor to architecture. To kill or steal another family's spider is considered akin to stealing a member of the family. Smaller and more poisonous spiders are often kept in temples and their webs are used as divining tools for priestesses.

Elven Exiles

The recorded history of the Dark Elves is full of contradictions from High Elf and Dark Elf sources. What historians can agree on is when the Elves of the Prime Material arrived, the followers of Lolth secluded from their Wood and High cousins and retreated into the Azelarien, also known as the Green Sea in Common. A massive forest, nearly 1 million square miles of dense and vibrant trees, that grows denser and darker the farther in one ventures. For countless eons, the High, Wood, and Dark Elves lived in relative harmony in their own corner of the world. High Elves lived near the forests in towns and villages, the Wood Elves lived in the lightly forested outlands of the Green Sea, and the Dark Elves lived deep in the central forests which was so dense that very little light reached the forest floor.
As time passed and their villages turned to cities, the High Elves began expanding into the forest, chopping some down to build homes and heat their furnaces. This began pushing into the territory of the Wood Elves and eventually the Dark Elves as well. These two peoples formed a shaky alliance to push back the expansive tide of the far larger High Elven armies. This alliance proved successful however and the High Elven forces began losing ground. What happened next is a matter of some debate. High Elven historians attest that the Dark Elven armies used Wood Elven soldiers as unwitting bait to lure the High Elven armies into a trap, thus causing a schism between them. Dark Elven historians state that the Wood Elven armies turned on them after the Wood Elves met in secret with High Elven leaders and bargained for their independence. Some Wood Elven historians claim that after a brutal defeat on the field, they were met by High Elven dignitaries that offered them clemency if they turned on their allies. They initially refused, but after the dignitaries threatened to make the same offer to the Dark Elves, they had no choice but to accept. No matter the cause, the histories agree that the Wood Elves turned on their erstwhile allies and helped push the Dark Elves into a rapid loss of ground.
Facing the might of the two armies with their own relatively small one, the Dark Elves were beaten into a hasty retreat into their own territory. Losing every open encounter, the Dark Elf matrons developed a new strategy of combat. The armies switched from training as many as quickly as they could, to training only a select few in multiple different forms of combat and magic. As the High and Wood Elves advanced into their territory, they quickly found their supply lines cut out from under them, their soldiers ambushed while sleeping, their scouts captured, and their leaders assassinated. And even if they would make it to a Dark Elf settlement, they would find it abandoned and booby-trapped, warned by their fast and silent scouts. If the Dark Elves couldn’t face their enemies head-on, they would weaken them with quick and decisive strikes.
Eventually, the war ground to a stalemate. The High Elves couldn’t push into the Dark Elf territory far enough to capture any cities of note without taking severe casualties and the Dark Elves were only managing to hold the invading armies back and couldn’t muster a force strong enough to push back to the enemy capital. Thus, the war cooled into a tense peace. The leaders came together to draw borders, but neither side fully forgave nor forgot one another’s actions. High and Wood Elves viewed the change in tactics by the Dark Elves as an unethical violation of the standards of war. The Dark Elves felt a particular animosity toward the Wood Elves, considering them backstabbers in their darkest hour.

Dark Elf Families: Matrons of Order

The Dark Elf society, to an outsider, looks like an oppressive and cruel society of slave traders and backstabbers. But the truth is more subtle. The Dark Elves value tradition and filial piety above almost all else. To a Dark Elven citizen, their family name is their most valuable possession and they are taught from a very young age that to look after their parents and their younger siblings is the highest virtue. Ancestors that have achieved great things often have shrines in a household alongside the gods themselves. A Dark Elf going against the will of their family is considered one of the highest taboos and often causes them to be outcast from Dark Elven society as a whole. Dark Elf society is matrilineal meaning that the eldest woman in each family is revered as the household leader and receives great respect from her family and society. This also means that the males of the society don’t inherit wealth as frequently as the females.
Dark Elven families are quite large, often with multiple generations along with aunts, uncles, and cousins living in the same household. New children almost always reside with their mother. Males of the society are expected to care not for their own biological children, but for the children born to their sisters, aunts, or nieces. This results in a striking amount of sexual freedom for both men and women, but is often viewed from the outside as promiscuity. The Dark Elves do not marry in the traditional sense, instead favoring long term partners with one another that can end at any time with no concerns to material wealth or ownership.
However, to become a member of a Dark Elf family is not entirely a matter of heritage. When a family that cannot support another child has one, they are often adopted by more well to do families and raised as one of their own. These adopted children are considered just as legitimate as if they were born into the family. Also, should a family lose all their heirs or become destitute, they often ask to become assimilated into other families for their own safety. The latter is considered a morose ceremony as the members of the smaller family forsake their surnames. To take in such a family is both an extreme honor and grim burden, as it means ending another family's line.
The borders of Dark Elven civilization only goes so far as there are trees so many newer up and coming families have expanded underground, a difficult and slow endeavor. This has put multiple houses at odds with one another for territory. However, Dark Elves do not tolerate open hostility between families as they have a very strong sense of collective identity. Dark Elves do not war against fellow Dark Elves, same as a spider does not fight its own web. This leads to many tensions and conflicts needing to be resolved in other ways. Most families will attempt a diplomatic solution, but when that isn’t an option, sabotage and coercion is the favored outlet. Murder is considered a bridge too far by most houses, but subterfuge in almost every other facet is, while not accepted, tolerated.
Legends of Lolth’s rebellion and the tension of their enclosed territory have imbued the Dark Elves with a strong sense of symbiosis with nature and conservancy. Sustainable living is the cornerstone of Dark Elf society. In the wild, no creature is killed or plant destroyed unless it’s a matter of self defense or necessary to survival.

Dark Elven Sex and Gender

As with many Elven peoples, sexuality is seen as a fluid and non-binary matter. Same sex relationships are usually seen as just as acceptable as male-female relationships. Since Dark Elves have no marriage structure, same sex life partners are common and widely accepted. Inheritance is passed along by the family as a whole, not linearly, meaning some houses may have matrons with no direct biological descendants while still serving at the elder matron. Power dynamics in relationships are still a factor, with the elder female in a gay relationship considered slightly above their partner socially and is seen as the inheritor in cases of property or genealogy. Male same sex relationships are accepted with little controversy. Since children are passed down their mothers line, the males have no social obligation to sire an heir as with other societies.
Transgender and transexual Dark Elves are met with slightly more controversy. Lolth’s rejection of the Primal Elves mutable forms is sometimes cited against transgender and transexual Dark Elves. Ghaunadur, however, is considered the patron god of these people and teaches that just as they are part of nature, they can change their forms. Many of these people join the religious order of Ghaunadur, serving in various roles both in religious ceremonies and as forest guides. Some even consider them to be blessed by Ghaunadur and are highly sought after in forays into the forests for protection. Children born to transgender Dark Elves are still expected to be a part of their eldest mother’s family or eldest father if no woman is part of the union.

Slavery Amongst the Dark Elves

While the Dark Elves do take slaves, their slavery doesn’t look the same as many other societies. When a family becomes indebted to another and they cannot pay off the debt, a member of their family, usually male, will be sent to work for the owed family. They give him room and board and are expected to care for him as if he were one of their own. He’ll work for them for an agreed upon amount of time before returning to his native family. Injury or misuse of this person is often grounds for them to leave and the debt to be nullified. Children born to servant fathers needn’t worry about inheriting their father’s status since they’re considered to be their mother’s child. On the rare occasion that a female servant has a child while in servitude, the child is returned to the mother’s family to be raised by her family while she works off the remaining debt. Some trade of servants does occur between houses, with indentured servants being traded for goods or services or even other servants of special skills, but the family of the servant reserves the right to veto such a trade for any reason.
During their frequent clashes with external armies, the Dark Elves do sometimes take prisoners of war, though very rarely are they used for slave labor. They never bring them back to major settlements, often keeping them on the outskirts of their territory to prevent them from learning critical knowledge of their territory. Most prisoners are held as bargaining chips to be traded for passage, supplies, or captured Dark Elves. Captured military leaders are sometimes brought to Dark Elven cities to be tried for their crimes against their people.

Dark Elven Government: Independent Houses

Unlike many other cultures, the Dark Elves lack a centralized government. Societal etiquette govern the standard for how certain crimes and disagreements should be handled, but each family unit acts as its own governing body. Disagreements within families are thus resolved internally. Inter-family disputes are resolved in multiple different ways. Most often, the two matrons of the family will meet and agree on terms to fairly compensate both sides. In cases when these talks deteriorate, the High Priestess of Lolth is often called to serve as the mediator and serves as the ruling body between disputes. Her rulings are final and indisputable, as she is considered the mouthpiece of Lolth’s will.
In times of crisis, historically the many houses of the Dark Elves have convened to discuss threats to all of Dark Elven society. This is uncommon as it’s difficult logistically to gather all the matrons in the same place at the same time, so often houses are represented by either the second eldest woman of the family or the eldest daughter of the matron. The High Priestess of Lolth often resides over these meetings as an arbiter in the event of split decisions or in delivering guidance from Lolth herself.

There's my take on the Dark Elves. Any comments, suggestions, questions, outrages, and critiques are welcomed. This is my first comprehensive look at a whole race so if I've missed things, I'll try and patch them up. I'd like to do similar things for Orcs, Goblinoids, Kobolds, and others so those might be seen soon. Thanks!
submitted by Lerad to DnDBehindTheScreen [link] [comments]

GE2020: The Roar of the Swing Voter

Hi everyone, this is my first ever post here.
I run a little website called The Thought Experiment where I talk about various issues, some of them Singapore related. And one of my main interests is Singaporean politics. With the GE2020 election results, I thought I should pen down my take on what us as the electorate were trying to say.
If you like what I wrote, I also wrote another article on the state of play for GE2020 during the campaigning period, as well as 2 other articles related to GE2015 back when it was taking place.
If you don't like what I wrote, that's ok! I think the beauty of freedom of expression is that everyone is entitled to their opinion. I'm always happy to get feedback, because I do think that more public discourse about our local politics helps us to be more politically aware as a whole.
Just thought I'll share my article here to see what you guys make of it :D
Article Starts Here:
During the campaigning period, both sides sought to portray an extreme scenario of what would happen if voters did not vote for them. The Peoples’ Action Party (PAP) warned that Singaporeans that their political opponents “might eventually replace the government after July 10”. Meanwhile, the Worker’s Party (WP) stated that “there was a real risk of a wipeout of elected opposition MPs at the July 10 polls”.
Today is July 11th. As we all know, neither of these scenarios came to pass. The PAP comfortably retained its super-majority in Parliament, winning 83 out of 93 elected MP seats. But just as in GE2011, another Group Representation Constituency (GRC) has fallen to the WP. In addition, the PAP saw its vote share drop drastically, down almost 9% to 61.2% from 69.9% in GE2015.
Singapore’s electorate is unique in that a significant proportion is comprised of swing voters: Voters who don’t hold any blind allegiance to any political party, but vote based on a variety of factors both micro and macro. The above extreme scenarios were clearly targeted at these swing voters. Well, the swing voters have made their choice, their roar sending 4 more elected opposition MPs into Parliament. This article aims to unpack that roar and what it means for the state of Singaporean politics going forward.
1. The PAP is still the preferred party to form Singapore’s Government
Yes, this may come across as blindingly obvious, but it still needs to be said. The swing voter is by its very definition, liable to changes of opinion. And a large factor that determines how a swing voter votes is their perception of how their fellow swing voters are voting. If swing voters perceive that most swing voters are leaning towards voting for the opposition, they might feel compelled to vote for the incumbent. And if the reverse is true, swing voters might feel the need to shore up opposition support.
Why is this so? This is because the swing voter is trying to push the vote result into a sweet spot – one that lies between the two extreme scenarios espoused by either side. They don’t want the PAP to sweep all 93 seats in a ‘white tsunami’. Neither do they want the opposition to claim so much territory that the PAP is too weak to form the Government on its own. But because each swing voter only has a binary choice: either they vote for one side or the other (I’m ignoring the third option where they simply spoil their vote), they can’t very well say “I want to vote 0.6 for the PAP and 0.4 for the Opposition with my vote”. And so we can expect the swing voter bloc to continue being a source of uncertainty for both sides in future elections, as long as swing voters are still convinced that the PAP should be the Government.
2. Voters no longer believe that the PAP needs a ‘strong mandate’ to govern. They also don’t buy into the NCMP scheme.
Throughout the campaign period, the PAP repeatedly exhorted voters to vote for them alone. Granted, they couldn’t very well give any ground to the opposition without a fight. And therefore there was an attempt to equate voting for the PAP as voting for Singapore’s best interests. However, the main message that voters got was this: PAP will only be able to steer Singapore out of the Covid-19 pandemic if it has a strong mandate from the people.
What is a strong mandate, you may ask? While no PAP candidate publicly confirmed it, their incessant harping on the Non-Constituency Member of Parliament (NCMP) scheme as the PAP’s win-win solution for having the PAP in power and a largely de-fanged opposition presence in parliament shows that the PAP truly wanted a parliament where it held every single seat.
Clearly, the electorate has different ideas, handing Sengkang GRC to the WP and slashing the PAP’s margins in previous strongholds such as West Coast, Choa Chu Kang and Tanjong Pagar by double digit percentages. There is no doubt from the results that swing voters are convinced that a PAP supermajority is not good for Singapore. They are no longer convinced that to vote for the opposition is a vote against Singapore. They have realized, as members of a maturing democracy surely must, that one can vote for the opposition, yet still be pro-Singapore.
3. Social Media and the Internet are rewriting the electorate’s perception.
In the past, there was no way to have an easily accessible record of historical events. With the only information source available being biased mainstream media, Singaporeans could only rely on that to fill in the gaps in their memories. Therefore, Operation Coldstore became a myth of the past, and Chee Soon Juan became a crackpot in the eyes of the people, someone who should never be allowed into Parliament.
Fast forward to today. Chee won 45.2% of the votes in Bukit Batok’s Single Member Constituency (SMC). His party-mate, Dr. Paul Tambyah did even better, winning 46.26% of the votes in Bukit Panjang SMC. For someone previously seen as unfit for public office, this is an extremely good result.
Chee has been running for elections in Singapore for a long time, and only now is there a significant change in the way he is perceived (and supported) by the electorate. Why? Because of social media and the internet, two things which the PAP does not have absolute control over. With the ability to conduct interviews with social media personalities as well as upload party videos on Youtube, he has been able to display a side of himself to people that the PAP did not want them to see: someone who is merely human just like them, but who is standing up for what he believes in.
4. Reserved Election Shenanigans and Tan Cheng Block: The electorate has not forgotten.
Tan Cheng Bock almost became our President in 2011. There are many who say that if Tan Kin Lian and Tan Jee Say had not run, Tony Tan would not have been elected. In March 2016, Tan Cheng Bock publicly declared his interest to run for the next Presidential Election that would be held in 2017. The close result of 2011 and Tan Cheng Bock’s imminent candidacy made the upcoming Presidential Election one that was eagerly anticipated.
That is, until the PAP shut down his bid for the presidency just a few months later in September 2016, using its supermajority in Parliament to pass a “reserved election” in which only members of a particular race could take part. Under the new rules that they had drawn up for themselves, it was decreed that only Malays could take part. And not just any Malay. The candidate had to either be a senior executive managing a firm that had S$500 million in shareholders’ equity, or be the Speaker of Parliament or a similarly high post in the public sector (the exact criteria are a bit more in-depth than this, but this is the gist of it. You can find the full criteria here). And who was the Speaker of Parliament at the time? Mdm Halimah, who was conveniently of the right race (Although there was some hooha about her actually being Indian). With the extremely strict private sector criteria and the PAP being able to effectively control who the public sector candidate was, it came as no surprise that Mdm Halimah was declared the only eligible candidate on Nomination Day. A day later, she was Singapore’s President. And all without a single vote cast by any Singaporean.
Of course, the PAP denied that this was a move specifically aimed at blocking Tan Cheng Bock’s bid for the presidency. Chan Chun Sing, Singapore’s current Minister of Trade and Industry, stated in 2017 that the Government was prepared to pay the political price over making these changes to the Constitution.
We can clearly see from the GE2020 results that a price was indeed paid. A loss of almost 9% of vote share is very significant, although a combination of the first-past-the-post rule and the GRC system ensured that the PAP still won 89.2% of the seats in Parliament despite only garnering 61.2% of the votes. On the whole, it’s naught but a scratch to the PAP’s overwhelming dominance in Parliament. The PAP still retains its supermajority and can make changes to the Constitution anytime that it likes. But the swing voters have sent a clear signal that they have not been persuaded by the PAP’s rationale.
5. Swing Voters do not want Racial Politics.
In 2019, Heng Swee Keat, Singapore’s Deputy Prime Minister and the man who is next in line to be Prime Minister (PM) commented that Singapore was not ready to have a non-Chinese PM. He further added that race is an issue that always arises at election-time in Singapore.
Let us now consider the GE2015 results. Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Singapore’s Senior Minister and someone whom many have expressed keenness to be Singapore’s next PM, obtained 79.28% of the vote share in Jurong GRC. This was above even the current Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who scored 78.63% in Ang Mo Kio GRC. Tharman’s score was the highest in the entire election.
And now let us consider the GE2020 results. Tharman scored 74.62% in Jurong, again the highest scorer of the entire election, while Hsien Loong scored 71.91%. So Tharman beat the current PM again, and by an even bigger margin than the last time. Furthermore, Swee Keat, who made the infamous comments above, scored just 53.41% in East Coast.
Yes, I know I’m ignoring a lot of other factors that influenced these results. But don’t these results show conclusively that Heng’s comments were wrong? We have an Indian leading both the current and future PM in both elections, but yet PAP still feels the need to say that Singapore “hasn’t arrived” at a stage where we can vote without race in mind. In fact, this was the same rationale that supposedly led to the reserved presidency as mentioned in my earlier point.
The swing voters have spoken, and it is exceedingly clear to me that the electorate does not care what our highest office-holders are in terms of race, whether it be the PM or the President. Our Singapore pledge firmly states “regardless of race”, and I think the results have shown that we as a people have taken it to heart. But has the PAP?
6. Voters will not be so easily manipulated.
On one hand, Singaporeans were exhorted to stay home during the Covid-19 pandemic. Contact tracing became mandatory, and groups of more than 5 are prohibited.
But on the other hand, we are also told that it’s absolutely necessary to hold an election during this same period, for Singaporeans to wait in long lines and in close proximity to each other as we congregate to cast our vote, all because the PAP needs a strong mandate.
On one hand, Heng Swee Keat lambasted the Worker’s Party, claiming that it was “playing games with voters” over their refusal to confirm if they would accept NCMP seats.
But on the other hand, Heng Swee Keat was moved to the East Coast GRC at the eleventh hour in a surprise move to secure the constituency. (As mentioned above, he was aptly rewarded for this with a razor-thin margin of just 53.41% of the votes.)
On one hand, Masagos Zulkifli, PAP Vice-Chairman stated that “candidates should not be defined by a single moment in time or in their career, but judged instead by their growth throughout their life”. He said this in defense of Ivan Lim, who appears to be the very first candidate in Singaporean politics to have been pushed into retracting his candidacy by the power of non-mainstream media.
But on the other hand, the PAP called on the WP to make clear its stand on Raeesah Khan, a WP candidate who ran (and won) in Sengkang GRC for this election, stating that the Police investigation into Raeesah’s comments made on social media was “a serious matter which goes to the fundamental principles on which our country has been built”.
On one hand, Chan Chun Sing stated in 2015, referring to SingFirst’s policies about giving allowances to the young and the elderly, “Some of them promised you $300 per month. I say, please don’t insult my residents. You think…. they are here to be bribed?”
On the other hand, the PAP Government has just given out several handouts under its many budgets to help Singaporeans cope with the Covid-19 situation. [To be clear, I totally approve of these handouts. What I don’t approve is that the PAP felt the need to lambast similar policies as bribery in the past. Comparing a policy with a crime is a political low blow in my book.]
I could go on, but I think I’ve made my point. And so did the electorate in this election, putting their vote where it counted to show their disdain for the heavy-handedness and double standards that the PAP has displayed for this election.
Conclusion
I don’t say the above to put down the PAP. The PAP would have you believe that to not support them is equivalent to not wanting what’s best for Singapore. This is a false dichotomy that must be stamped out, and I am glad to see our swing voters taking a real stand with this election.
No, I say the above as a harsh but ultimately supportive letter to the PAP. As everyone can see from the results, we all still firmly believe that the PAP should be the Government. We still have faith that PAP has the leadership to take us forward and out of the Covid-19 crisis.
But we also want to send the PAP a strong signal with this vote, to bring them down from their ivory towers and down to the ground. Enough with the double standards. Enough with the heavy-handedness. Singaporeans have clearly stated their desire for a more mature democracy, and that means more alternative voices in Parliament. The PAP needs to stop acting as the father who knows it all, and to start acting as the bigger brother who can work hand in hand with his alternative younger brother towards what’s best for the entire family: Singapore.
There is a real chance that the PAP will not listen, though. As Lee Hsien Loong admitted in a rally in 2006, “if there are 10, 20… opposition members in Parliament… I have to spent my time thinking what is the right way to fix them”.
Now, the PAP has POFMA at its disposal. It still has the supermajority in Parliament, making them able to change any law in Singapore, even the Constitution at will. We have already seen them put these tools to use for its own benefit. Let us see if the PAP will continue as it has always done, or will it take this opportunity to change itself for the better. Whatever the case, we will be watching, and we will be waiting to make our roar heard once again five years down the road.
Majulah Singapura!
Article Ends Here.
Here's the link to the actual article:
https://thethoughtexperiment.org/2020/07/11/ge2020-the-roar-of-the-swing-vote
And here's the link to the other political articles I've written about Singapore:
https://thethoughtexperiment.org/2020/07/07/ge2020-the-state-of-play/
https://thethoughtexperiment.org/2015/09/10/ge2015-voting-wisely/
https://thethoughtexperiment.org/2015/09/05/expectations-of-the-opposition/
submitted by sharingan87 to singapore [link] [comments]

Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Swaps* (*But Were Afraid To Ask)

Hello, dummies
It's your old pal, Fuzzy.
As I'm sure you've all noticed, a lot of the stuff that gets posted here is - to put it delicately - fucking ridiculous. More backwards-ass shit gets posted to wallstreetbets than you'd see on a Westboro Baptist community message board. I mean, I had a look at the daily thread yesterday and..... yeesh. I know, I know. We all make like the divine Laura Dern circa 1992 on the daily and stick our hands deep into this steaming heap of shit to find the nuggets of valuable and/or hilarious information within (thanks for reading, BTW). I agree. I love it just the way it is too. That's what makes WSB great.
What I'm getting at is that a lot of the stuff that gets posted here - notwithstanding it being funny or interesting - is just... wrong. Like, fucking your cousin wrong. And to be clear, I mean the fucking your *first* cousin kinda wrong, before my Southerners in the back get all het up (simmer down, Billy Ray - I know Mabel's twice removed on your grand-sister's side). Truly, I try to let it slide. I do my bit to try and put you on the right path. Most of the time, I sleep easy no matter how badly I've seen someone explain what a bank liquidity crisis is. But out of all of those tens of thousands of misguided, autistic attempts at understanding the world of high finance, one thing gets so consistently - so *emphatically* - fucked up and misunderstood by you retards that last night I felt obligated at the end of a long work day to pull together this edition of Finance with Fuzzy just for you. It's so serious I'm not even going to make a u/pokimane gag. Have you guessed what it is yet? Here's a clue. It's in the title of the post.
That's right, friends. Today in the neighborhood we're going to talk all about hedging in financial markets - spots, swaps, collars, forwards, CDS, synthetic CDOs, all that fun shit. Don't worry; I'm going to explain what all the scary words mean and how they impact your OTM RH positions along the way.
We're going to break it down like this. (1) "What's a hedge, Fuzzy?" (2) Common Hedging Strategies and (3) All About ISDAs and Credit Default Swaps.
Before we begin. For the nerds and JV traders in the back (and anyone else who needs to hear this up front) - I am simplifying these descriptions for the purposes of this post. I am also obviously not going to try and cover every exotic form of hedge under the sun or give a detailed summation of what caused the financial crisis. If you are interested in something specific ask a question, but don't try and impress me with your Investopedia skills or technical points I didn't cover; I will just be forced to flex my years of IRL experience on you in the comments and you'll look like a big dummy.
TL;DR? Fuck you. There is no TL;DR. You've come this far already. What's a few more paragraphs? Put down the Cheetos and try to concentrate for the next 5-7 minutes. You'll learn something, and I promise I'll be gentle.
Ready? Let's get started.
1. The Tao of Risk: Hedging as a Way of Life
The simplest way to characterize what a hedge 'is' is to imagine every action having a binary outcome. One is bad, one is good. Red lines, green lines; uppie, downie. With me so far? Good. A 'hedge' is simply the employment of a strategy to mitigate the effect of your action having the wrong binary outcome. You wanted X, but you got Z! Frowny face. A hedge strategy introduces a third outcome. If you hedged against the possibility of Z happening, then you can wind up with Y instead. Not as good as X, but not as bad as Z. The technical definition I like to give my idiot juniors is as follows:
Utilization of a defensive strategy to mitigate risk, at a fraction of the cost to capital of the risk itself.
Congratulations. You just finished Hedging 101. "But Fuzzy, that's easy! I just sold a naked call against my 95% OTM put! I'm adequately hedged!". Spoiler alert: you're not (although good work on executing a collar, which I describe below). What I'm talking about here is what would be referred to as a 'perfect hedge'; a binary outcome where downside is totally mitigated by a risk management strategy. That's not how it works IRL. Pay attention; this is the tricky part.
You can't take a single position and conclude that you're adequately hedged because risks are fluid, not static. So you need to constantly adjust your position in order to maximize the value of the hedge and insure your position. You also need to consider exposure to more than one category of risk. There are micro (specific exposure) risks, and macro (trend exposure) risks, and both need to factor into the hedge calculus.
That's why, in the real world, the value of hedging depends entirely on the design of the hedging strategy itself. Here, when we say "value" of the hedge, we're not talking about cash money - we're talking about the intrinsic value of the hedge relative to the the risk profile of your underlying exposure. To achieve this, people hedge dynamically. In wallstreetbets terms, this means that as the value of your position changes, you need to change your hedges too. The idea is to efficiently and continuously distribute and rebalance risk across different states and periods, taking value from states in which the marginal cost of the hedge is low and putting it back into states where marginal cost of the hedge is high, until the shadow value of your underlying exposure is equalized across your positions. The punchline, I guess, is that one static position is a hedge in the same way that the finger paintings you make for your wife's boyfriend are art - it's technically correct, but you're only playing yourself by believing it.
Anyway. Obviously doing this as a small potatoes trader is hard but it's worth taking into account. Enough basic shit. So how does this work in markets?
2. A Hedging Taxonomy
The best place to start here is a practical question. What does a business need to hedge against? Think about the specific risk that an individual business faces. These are legion, so I'm just going to list a few of the key ones that apply to most corporates. (1) You have commodity risk for the shit you buy or the shit you use. (2) You have currency risk for the money you borrow. (3) You have rate risk on the debt you carry. (4) You have offtake risk for the shit you sell. Complicated, right? To help address the many and varied ways that shit can go wrong in a sophisticated market, smart operators like yours truly have devised a whole bundle of different instruments which can help you manage the risk. I might write about some of the more complicated ones in a later post if people are interested (CDO/CLOs, strip/stack hedges and bond swaps with option toggles come to mind) but let's stick to the basics for now.
(i) Swaps
A swap is one of the most common forms of hedge instrument, and they're used by pretty much everyone that can afford them. The language is complicated but the concept isn't, so pay attention and you'll be fine. This is the most important part of this section so it'll be the longest one.
Swaps are derivative contracts with two counterparties (before you ask, you can't trade 'em on an exchange - they're OTC instruments only). They're used to exchange one cash flow for another cash flow of equal expected value; doing this allows you to take speculative positions on certain financial prices or to alter the cash flows of existing assets or liabilities within a business. "Wait, Fuzz; slow down! What do you mean sets of cash flows?". Fear not, little autist. Ol' Fuzz has you covered.
The cash flows I'm talking about are referred to in swap-land as 'legs'. One leg is fixed - a set payment that's the same every time it gets paid - and the other is variable - it fluctuates (typically indexed off the price of the underlying risk that you are speculating on / protecting against). You set it up at the start so that they're notionally equal and the two legs net off; so at open, the swap is a zero NPV instrument. Here's where the fun starts. If the price that you based the variable leg of the swap on changes, the value of the swap will shift; the party on the wrong side of the move ponies up via the variable payment. It's a zero sum game.
I'll give you an example using the most vanilla swap around; an interest rate trade. Here's how it works. You borrow money from a bank, and they charge you a rate of interest. You lock the rate up front, because you're smart like that. But then - quelle surprise! - the rate gets better after you borrow. Now you're bagholding to the tune of, I don't know, 5 bps. Doesn't sound like much but on a billion dollar loan that's a lot of money (a classic example of the kind of 'small, deep hole' that's terrible for profits). Now, if you had a swap contract on the rate before you entered the trade, you're set; if the rate goes down, you get a payment under the swap. If it goes up, whatever payment you're making to the bank is netted off by the fact that you're borrowing at a sub-market rate. Win-win! Or, at least, Lose Less / Lose Less. That's the name of the game in hedging.
There are many different kinds of swaps, some of which are pretty exotic; but they're all different variations on the same theme. If your business has exposure to something which fluctuates in price, you trade swaps to hedge against the fluctuation. The valuation of swaps is also super interesting but I guarantee you that 99% of you won't understand it so I'm not going to try and explain it here although I encourage you to google it if you're interested.
Because they're OTC, none of them are filed publicly. Someeeeeetimes you see an ISDA (dsicussed below) but the confirms themselves (the individual swaps) are not filed. You can usually read about the hedging strategy in a 10-K, though. For what it's worth, most modern credit agreements ban speculative hedging. Top tip: This is occasionally something worth checking in credit agreements when you invest in businesses that are debt issuers - being able to do this increases the risk profile significantly and is particularly important in times of economic volatility (ctrl+f "non-speculative" in the credit agreement to be sure).
(ii) Forwards
A forward is a contract made today for the future delivery of an asset at a pre-agreed price. That's it. "But Fuzzy! That sounds just like a futures contract!". I know. Confusing, right? Just like a futures trade, forwards are generally used in commodity or forex land to protect against price fluctuations. The differences between forwards and futures are small but significant. I'm not going to go into super boring detail because I don't think many of you are commodities traders but it is still an important thing to understand even if you're just an RH jockey, so stick with me.
Just like swaps, forwards are OTC contracts - they're not publicly traded. This is distinct from futures, which are traded on exchanges (see The Ballad Of Big Dick Vick for some more color on this). In a forward, no money changes hands until the maturity date of the contract when delivery and receipt are carried out; price and quantity are locked in from day 1. As you now know having read about BDV, futures are marked to market daily, and normally people close them out with synthetic settlement using an inverse position. They're also liquid, and that makes them easier to unwind or close out in case shit goes sideways.
People use forwards when they absolutely have to get rid of the thing they made (or take delivery of the thing they need). If you're a miner, or a farmer, you use this shit to make sure that at the end of the production cycle, you can get rid of the shit you made (and you won't get fucked by someone taking cash settlement over delivery). If you're a buyer, you use them to guarantee that you'll get whatever the shit is that you'll need at a price agreed in advance. Because they're OTC, you can also exactly tailor them to the requirements of your particular circumstances.
These contracts are incredibly byzantine (and there are even crazier synthetic forwards you can see in money markets for the true degenerate fund managers). In my experience, only Texan oilfield magnates, commodities traders, and the weirdo forex crowd fuck with them. I (i) do not own a 10 gallon hat or a novelty size belt buckle (ii) do not wake up in the middle of the night freaking out about the price of pork fat and (iii) love greenbacks too much to care about other countries' monopoly money, so I don't fuck with them.
(iii) Collars
No, not the kind your wife is encouraging you to wear try out to 'spice things up' in the bedroom during quarantine. Collars are actually the hedging strategy most applicable to WSB. Collars deal with options! Hooray!
To execute a basic collar (also called a wrapper by tea-drinking Brits and people from the Antipodes), you buy an out of the money put while simultaneously writing a covered call on the same equity. The put protects your position against price drops and writing the call produces income that offsets the put premium. Doing this limits your tendies (you can only profit up to the strike price of the call) but also writes down your risk. If you screen large volume trades with a VOL/OI of more than 3 or 4x (and they're not bullshit biotech stocks), you can sometimes see these being constructed in real time as hedge funds protect themselves on their shorts.
(3) All About ISDAs, CDS and Synthetic CDOs
You may have heard about the mythical ISDA. Much like an indenture (discussed in my post on $F), it's a magic legal machine that lets you build swaps via trade confirms with a willing counterparty. They are very complicated legal documents and you need to be a true expert to fuck with them. Fortunately, I am, so I do. They're made of two parts; a Master (which is a form agreement that's always the same) and a Schedule (which amends the Master to include your specific terms). They are also the engine behind just about every major credit crunch of the last 10+ years.
First - a brief explainer. An ISDA is a not in and of itself a hedge - it's an umbrella contract that governs the terms of your swaps, which you use to construct your hedge position. You can trade commodities, forex, rates, whatever, all under the same ISDA.
Let me explain. Remember when we talked about swaps? Right. So. You can trade swaps on just about anything. In the late 90s and early 2000s, people had the smart idea of using other people's debt and or credit ratings as the variable leg of swap documentation. These are called credit default swaps. I was actually starting out at a bank during this time and, I gotta tell you, the only thing I can compare people's enthusiasm for this shit to was that moment in your early teens when you discover jerking off. Except, unlike your bathroom bound shame sessions to Mom's Sears catalogue, every single person you know felt that way too; and they're all doing it at once. It was a fiscal circlejerk of epic proportions, and the financial crisis was the inevitable bukkake finish. WSB autism is absolutely no comparison for the enthusiasm people had during this time for lighting each other's money on fire.
Here's how it works. You pick a company. Any company. Maybe even your own! And then you write a swap. In the swap, you define "Credit Event" with respect to that company's debt as the variable leg . And you write in... whatever you want. A ratings downgrade, default under the docs, failure to meet a leverage ratio or FCCR for a certain testing period... whatever. Now, this started out as a hedge position, just like we discussed above. The purest of intentions, of course. But then people realized - if bad shit happens, you make money. And banks... don't like calling in loans or forcing bankruptcies. Can you smell what the moral hazard is cooking?
Enter synthetic CDOs. CDOs are basically pools of asset backed securities that invest in debt (loans or bonds). They've been around for a minute but they got famous in the 2000s because a shitload of them containing subprime mortgage debt went belly up in 2008. This got a lot of publicity because a lot of sad looking rednecks got foreclosed on and were interviewed on CNBC. "OH!", the people cried. "Look at those big bad bankers buying up subprime loans! They caused this!". Wrong answer, America. The debt wasn't the problem. What a lot of people don't realize is that the real meat of the problem was not in regular way CDOs investing in bundles of shit mortgage debts in synthetic CDOs investing in CDS predicated on that debt. They're synthetic because they don't have a stake in the actual underlying debt; just the instruments riding on the coattails. The reason these are so popular (and remain so) is that smart structured attorneys and bankers like your faithful correspondent realized that an even more profitable and efficient way of building high yield products with limited downside was investing in instruments that profit from failure of debt and in instruments that rely on that debt and then hedging that exposure with other CDS instruments in paired trades, and on and on up the chain. The problem with doing this was that everyone wound up exposed to everybody else's books as a result, and when one went tits up, everybody did. Hence, recession, Basel III, etc. Thanks, Obama.
Heavy investment in CDS can also have a warping effect on the price of debt (something else that happened during the pre-financial crisis years and is starting to happen again now). This happens in three different ways. (1) Investors who previously were long on the debt hedge their position by selling CDS protection on the underlying, putting downward pressure on the debt price. (2) Investors who previously shorted the debt switch to buying CDS protection because the relatively illiquid debt (partic. when its a bond) trades at a discount below par compared to the CDS. The resulting reduction in short selling puts upward pressure on the bond price. (3) The delta in price and actual value of the debt tempts some investors to become NBTs (neg basis traders) who long the debt and purchase CDS protection. If traders can't take leverage, nothing happens to the price of the debt. If basis traders can take leverage (which is nearly always the case because they're holding a hedged position), they can push up or depress the debt price, goosing swap premiums etc. Anyway. Enough technical details.
I could keep going. This is a fascinating topic that is very poorly understood and explained, mainly because the people that caused it all still work on the street and use the same tactics today (it's also terribly taught at business schools because none of the teachers were actually around to see how this played out live). But it relates to the topic of today's lesson, so I thought I'd include it here.
Work depending, I'll be back next week with a covenant breakdown. Most upvoted ticker gets the post.
*EDIT 1\* In a total blowout, $PLAY won. So it's D&B time next week. Post will drop Monday at market open.
submitted by fuzzyblankeet to wallstreetbets [link] [comments]

[Song of the Depths] Chapter 11

Cover | First chapter | Previous | Patreon | Published Books | Website | Discord
“Sarah said you wanted to speak with me?” I strode into Zafir’s office and closed the door behind me. He looked mildly surprised to see me at first, but a welcoming smile took over soon after.
“Yes…we have much to discuss.” Zafir watched me carefully as I sat across from him. “First and foremost, I should inform you of Abel’s lie and the steps I took to fix what he’d done.”
“Oh lovely. I can’t wait.” I leaned against the armrest. “Do tell me of your noble deeds, o’ great hero.”
A short laugh escaped Zafir before he settled back in his seat, hands steepled in his lap, and his voice becoming all business. “To the point it is. Abel, contrary to his reports to me and what he told you, had you fitted with the manner of brain chip that can be detonated. The military recently began investigating Abel’s activities due to his sudden—classified—disappearance. As much of his misconduct was in relation to the other survivors, I took the liberty of ordering additional scans when you were rendered unconscious.”
I gave him an impatient look when he paused for a swig of water. “Which showed the chip. And?”
“I took the liberty of replacing it. After some discussions with our bosses, I educated them on the nuances of survivors such as yourself and acquired permission to use a Syldrari-made chip.” Zafir gave me that mysterious ‘I know you’re overthinking every word I say’ smile of his. “The survivors, and especially you, require more processing power than the empire’s chips provide. Luckily for us, the empire has no qualms about stealing technology from others and refitting it to suit their own purposes.”
“Why Syldrari specifically?” I raised an eyebrow. “There’s plenty of races more advanced than us.”
“Because the Syldrari are the most advanced species we’ve encountered, and because a Syldrari chip was the only one you showed compatibility with. I imagine it must have something to do with the Resonance Incident and your Syldrari suit.” Zafir shrugged, seemingly unbothered by my suspicion. “With that explained, we come to the primary reason I sent for you: I want your permission to run further tests. I’m not confident that Abel didn’t fake more information. Specifically, I would like to run blood tests.”
“I mean…fine?” I glanced around, then back at Zafir. “Here, or one of the labs?”
“Here will suffice.” Zafir motioned for me to roll up my sleeves. He stood and began rummaging around in the nearby cabinets. “How is training progressing?”
“It’s…going. There’s not really much to say on that front until they can start actually going out to do…whatever it is we do.” I shook my head.
“I’m still waiting to hear back from our bosses, but I did send in my request that Calder, Nikolai, and Maelor begin working.” Zafir pulled a chair up next to me and rolled a tray over, motioning for me to give him my arm. “Speaking of which, they want you to resume patrolling the Syldrari Sector during the day. They believe we’ve given enough time—”
“I’m not so sure about that,” I interjected, thinking back to the letter Sarah had brought to me from Rel. “From what I understand, the Syldrari are worryingly convinced that I’m Lethe, and it may be dangerous for me there because of it.”
“And you have this on good authority?” Zafir inquired as he gently prodded at my arm, sanitizing it before strapping a thin black band around the crook of my elbow.
I grimaced. It was too late not to elaborate. “Rel sent a letter along with our meal the other week. He warned that I should stay away because multiple clans, including the R’selkti, are looking for me due to these rumors.”
“Of course…” Zafir sighed, his expression falling. “I’m afraid there’s nothing I can say at this point to make them reconsider…without putting you at greater risk. Tomorrow you will begin your patrols again. I will see if I can convince our superiors to permit one of your colleagues to join you. Either way, I am planning to have one of them act as our ‘vigilante’ in the sector for a time, while you work elsewhere. Who would you say is the most stable?”
“Nikolai for sure.” I raised an eyebrow as Zafir took the band off me. “Done already?”
“Indeed. It’s much more efficient than a needle.” Zafir tilted a black glass vial, peering into it briefly before capping it off. The other three were quickly sealed as well. If there was anything off about my blood, he didn’t comment or show it. A pity, that. I was curious to know if there were still traces of blue like I’d seen while fighting the odd Syldrari. “Now then, I recommend you rest for the remainder of the day. I want you at your best when dealing with the Syldrari. Perhaps you can do some reading on their culture while you relax?”
* * *
I arrived in the Syldrari Sector early in the morning as shops were starting to open and people were beginning to walk the streets. Though it was early, there seemed to be an unusual number of people out and about. They were all so distracted that I managed to make it all the way to Rel’s cafe without anyone acknowledging my presence.
“Elara? You shouldn’t…” Rel released an aggravated sigh. “You don’t have a choice and that’s why you’re here. Of course. What can I do for you, then? Are you feeling better?”
“Better…ish?” I shrugged and gave him a small smile. “What can I say? It’s one thing after another. I’m just trying to roll with the punches at this point.”
“Understandable.” Rel nodded and gave me a tired smile. “Will I be surprising you again today?”
“Can you stop spoiling the graekstidat fodder for one second?” A familiar, grumpy voice demanded. I glanced over to see a Syldrari man with pale grey skin walking over. His black hair obscured one eye, the pale blue underside glowing against his cheek. His eyes were…among the odder that I’d seen. While the pupils were consistent with Syldrari, the colors of deep mauve, yellow, and jade green blended together similar to how a human’s hazel did.
However, I had no damn idea where I’d heard his voice before.
“A…what fodder?” I looked over at the aggravated Rel. “And since when did you have an edgy teenager working for you?”
“Ah, think of it as an amphibious, furred shark hybrid the length of…several train cars,” Rel answered, pressing his fingers to his temples. “Furthermore, Aldiner is old enough to be your great-great-great-”
“I’m working here to pay up for pissing off the elder here,” Aldiner interjected with a snort as he pushed his hands into his apron pockets. He leaned over me, examining me from a few angles. “You don’t have that military air to you. Sure you’re a—”
I gave Aldiner my best cold, intimidating glare as he reached out and poked my cheek once. When he went for a second poke, I knocked his arm aside, spun behind him and elbowed him where I hoped his kidneys were, and moved to take him down to the ground. Alas, an arm