Bell Digest vol11p03.txt

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To: RuneQuest-Digest@Glorantha.Holland.Sun.COM
From: (Jonas Schiott)
Subject: Volume 11, no 3, part 1 of 02: Light of Subere, pt 1
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A storytelling scenario about Life, Glorantha and Everything

By Dag Olausson and Jonas Schiott


This scenario is intended to enlighten both the players and their
characters (and perhaps the Game Master as well) about the nature of
Nysalor's worldview.  First, a series of encounters will encourage them
to consider moral and philosophical issues.  Then, they will meet an
NPC who argues eloquently for an illuminated point of view.  If the GM
can convince the players, we recommend that their characters should
also start leaning towards illumination.  The scenario is suitable for
almost any group of PCs, but works best with a party of native
Lightbringers.  It takes place in Ralios; specifically Delela and the
desolated land of Vustria, and the PCs should for some reason be ready
to follow instructions from the Orlanth high priest of the Niltelmor
tribe.  This is easily accomplished if they are members of the tribe or
orlanthi passing through the area.  If neither of these conditions are
met, the GM must think of some other catch that will make the PCs
willing to take the priest's orders.

Our inspiration for this scenario comes from a book by Joseph Conrad
and a film by Francis Ford Coppola.


The player characters, who are considered expendable by the High Storm
Voice (because they are foreigners or troublemakers or both), are
chosen for a (suicidal) mission.  They are to eliminate a renegade Wind
Lord by the name of Stein.  The reasoning behind this mission is
unclear, as is the exact nature of Stein's crimes, but off they go
anyway.  In fact, Stein has been Illuminated.  During their journey the
party will be exposed to events that are designed to make them unsure
of some previously unquestioned beliefs (like "Orlanth represents
everything that is good and true", "Chaos is bad, wipe it right out"
and so on), and more amenable to Stein's argumentation later on.

When they reach their destination they will be taken prisoner, Stein
will engage them in philosophical debate for a while and finally let
them go.  They are then free to take whatever course of action they
please.  If they have been persuaded to adopt Nysalor's outlook they
can either carry out their mission anyway (since nothing really
matters, why not?), or run off to become hermits somewhere, or anything
in between these extremes.  If they have proved to be exceptionally
resistant to argument, they will quite naturally rub out Stein and pat
themselves on the back for a job well done.  That's OK, too.  In
keeping with the subject matter of this scenario, there is no 'right'
or 'wrong' way to finish it.

With the Niltelmor

It is near the end of Sea Season.  The weather is warm, with plenty of
rain.  Delela has just recently erupted with greenery again after the
barren winter; the whole world seems new and fresh.  There is, however,
dirty work afoot.  The Niltelmor tribe is renowned for its harsh policy
towards the wolf-hsunchen, the Telmori.

Not only do they defend their own territory and shepherds, they also
"engage the enemy offensively".  To most people in Delela and the rest
of the East Wilds, Telmori are a nuisance and the Niltelmor are vaguely
admired for their fight against the werewolves.  Of course, very few
have any idea of how the war is fought.  The party is summoned to meet
the high priest in his private quarters, a very large and fine tent
outside the Orlanth temple.  His name is Beorlak and he asks some brief
questions about the character's backgrounds.

He then starts to tell them about Stein.  "Stein was the perfect Wind
Lord before he went mad.  He was on a special mission deep inside
Vustria, he and his troops were assigned to help stop the Telmori
attacks on our settlements in the border areas.  But Stein killed the
other Orlanthi and started operating on his own, using decidedly
unsound methods.  He took control over a tribe of feral broos and uses
them in a very brutal, but also very effective campaign against the
raiding wolfmen.  He has also made himself a god to his own 'tribe' -
they worship him devoutly.

As Stein still prays to Orlanth occasionally, we have picked up some of
his statements through Divination.  All of them prove him to be
absolutely mad.  It must be tempting for a lone human among these
inferior creatures to become a god.  You must terminate his activities,
using any means necessary.

To help you in your task we will loan you this: it is a Thunderbolt
matrix with three charges, they all activate at the same time and
strike the same target.  Of course, officially this mission doesn't

This is mainly true information, with some qualifications: most of
Stein's party were killed by Telmori, he only killed the last two
himself (arguably in self-defense, they attacked him when he tried to
Illuminate them about the need for recruiting broos), and his madness
is debatable.  The matrix is only usable by someone who as been
initiated into the Orlanth cult.

When the party agrees to take on the mission, he continues.  "Stein is
two metres tall and completely bald.  He was noted for his mastery of
Oratory and the Javelin.  For the first part of your journey you will
accompany a group of warriors from our tribe, led by a Wind Lord named
Slaymor." If the party doesn't come up with any questions quickly, they
are led off to meet Slaymor.  Beorlak answers any queries in as few
words as possible and will under no circumstances whatsoever admit his
suspicion that Stein has gone Riddler.  He is still trying to find out
who is responsible for this turn of events, assuming that the Lord was
Illuminated before leaving on his mission.  What he doesn't know is
that Stein gained his basic insight years ago:  the change of worldview
since then has been a gradual process.  Slaymor will greet them and
explain that he and his warriors leave for Vustria tomorrow morning.
The PCs are given some rations and a place to sleep in a longhouse.

On the way!

Slaymor's troop consists of around 30 warriors, all dressed in bronze
ringmail.  Slaymor himself is protected by a suit of iron chainmail.
He knows of the PCs' mission, but his men do not.  After three days of
marching the party reaches Outmark, the last of the Niltelmor tribe's
settlements.  They are given some provisions and told of the big
happening tonight.  There will be a fight between two bulls and a
werewolf in the stockade!

That night all of the party, the residents of Outmark and some people
from the surrounding area gather around the stockade.  It is a circular
wall of wood poles, approximately 15 metres in diameter, with a gate
and a walkboard on the outside.  Inside the stockade, a naked human
sits with his head between his knees.  Then the moon comes out, and
it's full.  The naked man raises his head and moans - then he howls and
starts to change shape into a wolf.  The gate is opened and two bulls
with Fanaticism and powerful Protection spells cast on them storm in.
The audience cheers and the fight is on.  Since all of the combatants
have excellent defenses, not much blood is spilt.  But the audience
shouts with joy each time the werewolf is bashed around by the bulls.

When the fight starts to wind down because of exhaustion, all
spectators who know the Ignite spell (mainly housewifes) are allowed to
use it on the wolf.  Since there are so many spells and no way to put
out the fire (and some undisciplined orlanthi throw in a few
Disruptions for good measure), the werewolf dies an agonizing death.
After this spectacle, the celebrations last long into the night.

Into Vustria

Next day, the expedition continues into the wastelands of Vustria.
There is not much vegetation here, mostly shrubberies and a kind of
short, very tough grass.  The landscape is rugged and filled with
ravines, small streams and steep hills.  The only wildlife the
adventurers can see are some big white birds and a kind of earthdigging
rodent.  The next two days are hard travelling without much distance
being covered.  Slaymor explains that all of Vustria is like this ever
since Arkat - "curse his name" - was here.  At times the PCs can feel
the earth rumble beneath them and once they witness, off in the
distance, a whole hill tumble down.  On the evening of the second day,
scouts report that they have found some human and wolf tracks further

The tracks led to a cave in a hillside and to avoid detection by the
Telmori, the scouts did not investigate any closer.  Slaymor declares
that an attack will be made at dawn tomorrow, and that the PCs are
welcome to take part in it (if they do not, they will be regarded as
cowards).  The attack begins with 10 warriors circling around the hill
to catch anyone trying to escape by some secondary entrance to the
cave.  The rest of the troop gathers at the foot of the hill, some 500
metres from the cave.  Slaymor orders the bagpipers to start playing:
"It scares the shit out of them".  

As the orlanthi march up the slope, the defenders try to organize
themselves but have little time to do so.  These Telmori are not
werewolves, they are "Pure Ones".  As there are only four adult humans
and five wolves present, and they lack any sort of armour, the fight
turns into a massacre.  Just as the PCs reach the fighting they see a
small girl, maybe 8 years old, push over a large boulder that lands on
an orlanthi's head.  He dies immediately.  If they do nothing about it,
she is killed by one of the other warriors.

After the battle is over it turns out that this was the only orlanthi
casualty.  All of the Telmori (including 7 children) were slaughtered.
The Niltelmor warrior is burnt and his ashes spread to the winds.
Slaymor can explain that this is what is meant by "engaging the enemy
offensively", and that the only good Telmori is a dead Telmori.  If the
PCs protest about having the children killed, Slaymor argues that it
saves the trouble of killing them when they have grown up - it is much
easier to do it now.  Besides, all Telmori are Chaos, haven't their
priests taught them that?

The journey continues on the following day.  Before midday, three
humans in rags are spotted, fleeing from the party.  They are on the
other side of a ravine and the orlanthi's bows are unstrung.  Slaymor
raises his spear and casts three Lightning spells in quick succession.
The fleeing men all fall down and are taken prisoner.  Sniffing the
air, Slaymor exclaims "I love the smell of ozone in the morning! Now we
will make our little expedition a profitable one."

After another two hour's march, a very high and smooth standing stone
is reached.  Slaymor places his hands on the stone and concentrates for
a while, then he proclaims that the party will rest here for some
time.  As evening starts to fall, a group of twelve dragonewts
approaches.  They stop 200 metres off and send a small one forward.
Slaymor speaks to it, whereupon they go over to the prisoners and the
dragonewt starts feeling their legs and arms.  Now the PCs can hear it
say "Good flesssh, good flesssh".  The dragonewt gives some dragonbone
to Slaymor and departs with the prisoners.

Next morning the PCs are taken up on a hilltop by Slaymor, where he
shows them the land towards the north.  They can see fog or smoke
rising from the ground, covering a vast area.  "Stein has his base
somewhere north of the Fogland.  This is as far as we were ordered to
escort you.  We will head eastward now, so our paths must divide.  I
wish you good luck with your task.  You will need it to succeed where
Colban could not." If asked who Colban is, Slaymor will start to
explain that he was a rune lord sent to kill Stein - then he stops and
thinks that if Beorlak didn't tell the PCs about Colban, he probably
shouldn't either.  He and his men leave after giving the PCs some food
and goodbyes.  Slaymor's parting remark is somewhat cryptic: "You will
notice when you are near Stein".

Into the fog

The Fogland consists of stony ground with many cracks in it.  Through
these cracks white fog rises and reduces vision range to about 10
metres.  The sun is still visible, which makes it easy to find the way
northwards.  The farther north the party travels, the stronger a
strange feeling grows that they are closing in on Stein.  There is some
unknown, somewhat offensive smell in the air and sometimes the earth
groans.  After three or four hours, the adventurers spot a couple of
crucified Telmori and some wolves hung by their necks.  They have been
dead for several days.  At their feet, piles of skulls can be dimly
seen through the fog.  The skulls are mainly human, but numerous other
species are represented as well: wolf, troll, broo, dragonewt, horse

Out of the fog?

One hour after this, the foul smell increases in strength.  Then the
streams of fog abruptly stop and it is possible to see clearly again.
The party is confronted with a large, ancient temple ground that has
fallen into ruins (a Lhankor Mhy scholar could after some study decide
that it belongs to the period of Osentalka's Golden Empire).  Most of
the buildings are reduced to rubble, but a few are surprisingly

At a distance of 200 metres a wide ring of maybe 100 armed broos
surround the party.  Their attitude is not threatening, just watchful.
Two male humans stand beside some ruins just 50 metres away, one of
them obviously a Wind Lord (but not 2 metres tall and bald), the other
dressed as a Grey Sage.  The later is waving cheerfully to the PCs - he
seems to be beckoning them closer.  Two courses of action are open to
the players:  they can approach the humans or flee.  If they flee or
fight they will be captured (use nets, grappling broos, magic, whatever
it takes).  The only difference will be that they get to hear Khoff's
soliloquy after being captured, instead of before.


"Khoff, at your service.  You are here to see Stein, of course.  He is
a remarkable man.  He fights this war.  He accomplishes more out here
in a single day than the others do in an entire season.
He has a voice! Stein is not a man you talk with - you listen to him.
All that have met him agree.  I am immensely grateful that I have had
the honour of meeting this man.  Oh, he has enlarged my mind."  etc

Colban stands completely silent, he never speaks.  Khoff explains that
after hearing Stein speak, Colban doesn't feel that anything he could
say would be of importance.  When the party has walked further inland,
the broos will surround them and they will be told to surrender their
arms and magic items, "Just for the sake of security, I promise that
you will get them back.", whereupon they will be bound and led
onwards.  They should realize that they can't fight against odds of
this magnitude.

(If you think your players are the type to resist at any cost, and you
don't want to kill their characters, our suggestion is that you disable
them in stages.  In playtesting, we've discovered that many players
cheerfully hand over their weapons:  "Haha, I've still got the matrix
hidden up my sleeve".  Then you can demand their magical goodies a
little later, and finally they are without means to resist being

Rain starts to fall; only a drizzle at first, but from now on till the
scenario's end, it rains constantly, gradually building up to full gale
strength.  The prisoners are taken to one of the best preserved temple
buildings, where Stein awaits.  The room smells of slow death and is
only lit by a few torches.  Stein, dressed in a simple white robe,
looks much too weak and emaciated to be a powerful Rune Lord - he is
obviously very sick, yet his eyes are as discerning and his voice as
grave, profound and vibrating as ever.  His lips barely seem to move,
which is in keeping with his appearance, but he still emits an amazing
volume of tone, which is not.  He will begin by asking the PCs where
they come from, what clan they belong to.

If he gets any reply that places the person in question somewhere in
Ralios, he will reminisce for a while about how lovely the flowers
there smell at this time of year or some such trivia.  He will then get
started on the concept of freedom: "Real freedom, that is to be free of
your beliefs.  Think carefully upon this.  You cannot call yourself
free until your beliefs and opinions no longer burden you." After this,
he starts to pay attention to what the adventurers are saying.  "You
are just errand boys, and expendable ones at that.  You realize that,
do you not?"

"Did they tell you why you were to kill me?" "What did you expect of
your journey?" The PCs will be held captive for the next few days.
Stein will visit them with food and water.  He will also ply them with
Illuminating debate.  Some examples are given in an appendix, but don't
feel restricted by these.

For the purpose of this encounter, any information you (the GM) have
about how your players are best convinced is also known to Stein.  Try
to adapt your arguments to what your players know about Glorantha and
how they've reacted to the previous encounters.  Your goal is to make
them realize that Law and Chaos are not evaluative terms, just
descriptions of the two sides there must always be to existence, and
that if they wish to choose sides they should do so for their own
reasons, not because of their childhood indoctrination by some priest.
Stein, for instance, has chosen to be true to his original assignment,
but in his own way.  To simulate the game effects of this, each time a
player concedes an argument to Stein, his/her character should gain a
point of Illumination skill.  If you can't convince them, so be it.
The universe still doesn't care.

This Is The End

On the night of Freezeday, Truth Week,
the party will be released: some broos will cut their ropes and leave
their equipment in a pile outside the door.
No explanation will be offered (even if some PC knows the broo
language). There is a storm raging; not much can be heard over 
the peals of thunder, but all the inhabitants seem to be gathered 
in the main temple.
Stein is presiding over some kind of religious ceremony.
The main event is the sacrifice of a large snake.
If the players decide to kill Stein (for whatever reason) they should
succeed - time it so that the snake's head is cut off in the same
Stein's last words will be "The horror! The horror!" - anyone looking
at his eyes in that moment can see that they are staring far beyond
It is a stare wide enough to encompass the entire universe,
looking straight into the heart of an immense Darkness.
The storm subsides,
and the PCs are now free to do as they please.
The broos are too perplexed by the death of their god to take any
action; they don't even defend themselves if attacked.
If the adventurers start slaughtering broos,
make them roll for disease resistance.
That will probably dampen their enthusiasm for genocide.
If they don't return the matrix to Beorlak,
he will send bands of Niltelmor warriors to find them and try to get
them excommunicated.

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To: RuneQuest-Digest@Glorantha.Holland.Sun.COM
From: RuneQuest-Request@Glorantha.Holland.Sun.COM
From: (Jonas Schiott)
Subject: Volume 11, no 3, part 2 of 2: Light of Subere, pt 2
Reply-To: RuneQuest-Digest-Editor@Glorantha.Holland.Sun.COM
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Stein Philosophizes

"You have the right to kill me,
but not the right to judge me.
Who can say what is right and what is wrong? Can you?"

"Will the gods tell you what is right or wrong? But the gods do not
care about human morality! All they want is your Power."

"Just look at the many different ways one god can be worshipped: are
the Orlanth cultists in Delela and Naskorion in agreement about what
their deity considers just?"

"There is no such thing as right or wrong.  There is no objective good
or objective evil.  What is evil? Tell me that!"

"Why is for instance Chaos evil?"

"Is death evil? Death is needed to let the living live.  If nothing
died there would soon be no room for life."

"Destruction is necessary so that new things will have a place to
grow.  Without destruction, the world would soon stagnate.  Is this

"Chaos stands for destruction and Law for construction.  Both are
needed in the cosmos.  In their inner being they are actually alike.
What makes one more good than the other?"

"Take light and darkness, same thing there.  At heart, they are one and
the same.  What do you see if you look into absolute Darkness?
Nothing.  What do you see if you look into absolute Light? Nothing."

"You must be rid of your fright and your hatred.  If you do not
befriend them, they become mighty enemies that will dominate your
life.  Why are you afraid of Chaos?" "To lose one's hatred is to become
free.  How can you be free when you let hatred rule over you?"

"You kill for money or for your god or lord.  Chaos kills because it is
forbidden.  What is good or evil about any of these things?"

"If there is no good or evil, there is nothing that can be called sin
either.  What is sin?"

"If there is no sin, then there is no guilt.  They tell you that you
should not feel guilt unless you have sinned.  So why should anyone
feel guilt?"

"Chaos hates laws because it wants to feel free.  But as no one can
break all laws at once, creatures of Chaos are constantly frustrated
and feel an abiding hatred of the laws they do not break.  This hatred
binds them as much as those who follow Law.  Therefore even they have
to realize the necessity of laws, or they can never be free of their
all-consuming hatred.  Can anything be freer than a being with no hate,
fear, guilt or prejudice?"

"Just as Law and Chaos must exist side by side, so must all other
'opposites'.  If there were no grief, how could we distinguish joy? If
there were no pain, how would we notice pleasure?"

"Would you have anything worth saying as your last words?"

"You must let fear and moral terror be your friends, or they will
devour you.  In a human village I visited, some of the children had
been playing in the woods, even though it was forbidden.  There they
had met some Telmori children and befriended them.  When this became
known, the entire village gathered together and the children were
killed by their fathers.  I cried when I saw the little pile of
decapitated heads.  But then realization hit me like a diamond
hammerblow to the head: what genius, what will, what strength it took
to do this.  That men filled with love could do such a thing.  They
were moral, but with the strength to kill without judgement.  They knew
that if they did not do this, humans could never be free of the

"What a world we live in...  We train our young boys to chop people
into tiny bits, but the priests will not allow them to say 'fuck',
because it is indecent!"

"Regarding the broo here I only have one thing to say: let them go on
fighting Telmori.  This way we get rid of both groups.  Exterminate all
the brutes!"

Notes for the GM: about Illumination

The more tangible effects of Illumination are immunity to all manner of
Detect Chaos/Law spells or skills, as well as cult Spirits of
Reprisal.  The former is easily explained - since a Riddler in fact is
not aligned with either side, there is no reason for him/her to
register as chaotic or lawful - but the later is somewhat trickier.
Stein provides the key in his argument about guilt: when normal
(unenlightened) cultists break a rule, they are so deeply conditioned
as to feel at least a subliminal twinge of guilt, no matter how
unrepentant they claim to be.

This feeling, this awareness of having done something wrong, is what
the Spirits of Reprisal home in on and in some way 'feed' on, generally
being more effective against those with low self-confidence (POW).
As an Illuminate knows that nothing you can do is really wrong in any
metaphysical sense, the Spirits are simply unable to find him/her.

[This was written before the pulication of "Dorastor", with its
somewhat modified description of Illumination.  Pg 125 says that "The
Illuminate is not _automatically_ attacked by any spirit of reprisal"
(my emphasis) and also that "Divination is effective on an Illuminated
individual".  This implies that a priest could ferret out an
Illuminate's activities and sicc a spirit on him.
Does that falsify our interpretation? Not really.  Divination just
tells you what a person has done (at best), not how he feels about it.
And a cult spirit acting under specific instructions ("attack that
guy") doesn't need any further incentives - proper identification of
targets is the commanding priest's responsibility in this case.]

It is often claimed that the 'cult' of Nysalor has a Dark Side and a
Light Side.  The Dark Illuminates are those who use their knowledge as
an excuse to satisfy their base desires without regard for the
consequences, while those who follow the Light realize that if the
structure of the world doesn't provide a grounding for any ethics, then
people will have to provide it for themselves - morality is still
necessary for human (or other sentient) life, even if it can never be
objectively 'true' or 'real'.

This description is accurate as far as it goes, but it's not the whole
picture.  The widespread acceptance of these definitions is partly due
to the efforts of the Arkat cult (who regard themselves as the only
genuine Light Siders, any other Riddler must be Dark), partly the
result of an inclination among Gloranthans to fall back on dualism
whenever in doubt.  But in fact, many Illuminates don't fit either
mold: some seem to act entirely at random (being barely distinguishable
from Tricksters), some refuse to involve themselves with the world at
all, many choose a goal in life that can hardly be described as either
Light or Dark (Stein is one of these), and a few are just insane -
though whether insanity is a result or cause of Illumination is moot
(as is the question if Stein belongs in this category as well).  As any
Riddler will tell you, there just aren't any simple answers.


The two varieties of Telmori, "pure" and "cursed", both exist in
Ralios.  In Telmoria, the wolf peoples' ancestral home, the
overwhelming majority are Pure Ones, descended from those who refused
to obey Nysalor.  Unfortunately, orlanthi in the Wilds get their
picture of Telmori from the packs of Cursed Ones that roam Vustria,
making forays into Delela as well as Naskorion and Otkorion.  This is
especially unfortunate for the Pure Ones who, ranging far afield during
the summer seasons, are mistaken for their tainted cousins.  To
Delelans, Telmori are werewolves, chaotic and evil monsters.  People in
Saug and Keanos regard them more as legendary beings, the basis of
horrifying tales told around the campfire.

The Niltelmor Tribe
(from the "Delela" chapter of the Encyclopedica East Wildica)

This is a new tribe, resulting from a split in the Halgol tribe 50
years ago.  The reason for this dispute was the Halgolela policy of
appeasing the Telmori.  Niltelmori have an entirely different relation
to these hsunchen: they are mercilessly put to death whenever found.
In order to accomplish this efficiently, all clans in the tribe
cooperate in tracking down wolf-people.  As a result, Telmori tend to
avoid the area nowadays.  Even the werewolf packs choose another
route.  The cooperation also reduces the frequency of conflict among
the clans.

Leader of the Niltelmor tribe is Soggaler Redear, grandson of Ontar
Greykiller, the man who engineered the break with Halgol.  Soggaler
wears a magical cap, inherited from his grandfather, that renders him
immune to biting and clawing attacks.  The wearer can never remove it,
however, and is also unable to enter any building.

All the Niltelmor clans despise the Halgol tribe, but spend no more
energy raiding it than usual.  Soggaler is trying to convince more of
the Halgol clans to join Niltelmor, so an exaggerated conflict with
them would not be a good idea.

(by Jonas Schiott, don't blame my friends for this part...)

This was originally written as a tournament (played at GothCon XVI, in
1992), and has now been revised considerably.  The former version
mostly took place along a river, and tended somewhat towards being a
spoof of the movie (from the con brochure blurb: "Kilwin.  Shit, we're
still only in Kilwin!").  We've cleaned most of that stuff out in an
attempt to bring the serious issues of the scenario into focus.

Our interpretation of Illumination, as presented in the scenario, was
at least partly conceived as a polemic against the printed version of
the Nysalor 'cult' (in CoT).  Of course, since we wrote it, "The Path
of Illumination" has seen print.  This new improved version deals with
many of our complaints, mostly through opening up the field for a large
number of possible interpretations.  The 'skill riddle' mechanism is
still grating, though, especially since the example given of a riddle
(the first _good_ example of a Nysalor Riddle I have ever seen) has no
apparent connection to it.  "The designers despair of capturing the
flavour of a revolutionary mystical philosophy in game mechanics."
(Dorastor, pg 127) And with good reason.  We decided to not even

Obviously, there are still a lot of things open for debate, but even if
I think I can anticipate some of your reactions, I could never
anticipate them all.  So let's leave that to the daily.