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Ultimate Gambling Guide for GTA Online - odds, probabilities, and optimal strategies

This is not mine, the creator of this is u/enderpiet

Since the Diamond Casino update, I have seen a large number of 12-year-olds posting Blackjack memes on this sub. As a parent, this has me very worried.
On top of that, I have seen some of the most trustworthy GTA Youtubers giving flawed gambling advice, which can have damaging impact on their gullible audiences.
So that's why I decided to write this up, to educate everyone on the subject, so there will be no more misunderstandings.
(2020 Update down at the bottom.)
If you're one of those Youtubers that wants to use this information in a video, feel free to do so. The more people (especially kids) that become educated about gambling, the better.
But then also please go back and review your own work, and delete or edit the videos that are giving out the wrong advice, like where you're saying you have "a good strategy for making money with roulette", or some other nonsense that I've heard this week. Delete that please.
Before I get into the individual games, I need to discuss a few concepts first, that will make understanding the rest a lot easier.
Expected return and variance
A game like Roulette or Slots has a fixed expected return on your bets. This is a percentage that you have no way of influencing. Say you are flipping a coin against a friend, and you both put up $1. The winner gets the pot. Since the odds are even at 50%, in the long run, you will expect to break even. Your expected return is 100% of your bet.
But imagine if you would play this coin flipping game in a casino against the house. On the "house rules" listed at the table they would probably say that you would only get 95 cents back for every win, while you are forfeiting a dollar on every loss. Would you still play?
Sounds stupid to do so, but still, everybody does it. Every bet they place on Roulette, every coin they put into a Slot machine, is based on the same concept.
Those few cents they take on every bet are their profit margin, and has paid for all the Vegas lights, the Mirage volcanoes, and the Bellagio fountains. Make no mistake - casino gambling games are not designed to make you lose, because sure, you can get lucky on a single night, but they are designed to make them win. That's the beauty of it. They can both exist at the same time.
Too many people that don't see how this works, are just destined for disaster. Just because you went on a lucky streak and won 8 games out of 10, does not mean that flipping coins is a profitable game, or that choosing tails is a winning strategy. Always be aware of the house edge, your true chances of winning, and just realize that you got lucky. There is no such thing as a strategy in flipping a coin that will give you a higher expected return, so it's just pure gambling, just like Slots and Roulette.
Most casino games are made in such a way, that your expected return is a little under 100%. This means that from every dollar bet at the tables, the casino expects to keep a few cents. For individual players, results may vary. Some will win, most will lose. But for the house, it doesn't matter. They take millions of bets each day, so for them, the expected average works out a lot sooner. In short: the house always wins.
When looking at the house edge, we're talking about the expected long-term result, based on the game's house rules. But for a player, it can take literally tens of thousands of hands or spins before you also reach this average number. Until that time, you can experience huge upswings and downswings, that are the result of nothing but short-term luck, which is called variance.
Some games and some bets have a much higher variance than others, which means your actual results will differ enormously from what you're expected to be at.
Take for example betting on red/black at the Roulette table. This is a low-variance proposition, because it has a high percentage chance of occurring, and a low payout.
Contrast this with betting single numbers in Roulette, which only win once every 38 spins on average. This bet has a much higher variance, meaning you can easily hit a dry spell, and not hit anything for 200 bets in a row, or you can see a single number hit three times in five consecutive spins. This is not a freak occurrence in high-variance bets.
Even though the expected return in both these bets is exactly the same, there's a huge difference in variance, causing massive differences in short-term results, which can go both ways. You need to be aware of this, before you decide what types of bets you are comfortable with placing.
Gamblers' Fallacy
Another thing to realize, is that each individual game, hand, or spin, is completely independent from the one(s) before it, and after it.
Gamblers tend to believe, that the chance of a certain outcome is increased, based on previous results.
The most famous example comes from the Casino de Monte Carlo, where the Roulette wheel managed to land on black 26 times in a row. Gamblers lost many millions during that streak, all frantically betting on red, believing that the odds were in favor of the wheel coming out on red, after producing so many blacks. This is not true. Each round is completely independent, and the odds are exactly the same.
You will hear people say things like a Blackjack table being "hot" or "cold", which is completely superstitious, and should be ignored. The exception was when Blackjack was being dealt from a shoe. It made card counting possible. But with the introduction of shuffle machines, and continuous shuffling like is being used in GTA, this no longer exists.
This is also why "chasing your losses" is a very bad idea. After being on a losing streak for some time, many gamblers believe that now it's their turn to start winning. So they will often increase their bet size, believing that when their predicted winning streak comes around, they will win back their losses, and more.
The reality of it, more often than not, is that people will indeed start playing higher and higher limits, until they are completely broke. Nobody is ever "due for a win". There is never a guarantee that you're about to start winning. In fact, the opposite is more likely to be true. You are, after all, in a casino.
Betting systems
Some people like to think that they have a fool-proof betting system, like the Martingale system. Simply increase or even double your bet when you lose, and keep doing that until you win. In theory, this system will always win. So that's why table limits were introduced, and where the system fails.
If you start at the Roulette table, playing red/black, with a small 750 chip wager, and just double your bet every time you lose, you only have to lose 6 times in a row, before you will be betting the table limit of 48,000, just to get that 750 chip profit.
Sure, you can go on all evening without this happening, winning 750 chips each time, but this losing streak only has to happen once, and you're bust. Any betting system like this is ill-advised, because you are hugely increasing your so-called "risk of ruin", and that's what we were trying to avoid.
And even if your starting bet is only 100 chips, after only nine straight losses, and nine doubled bets, you are betting the table limit at 50,000 chips. If you lose that bet, you're 100,000 chips in the hole, with no way to recover that with your 100 chip base wager.
So don't believe anyone that says this is the perfect system to always win in the casino. Sooner or later they will understand why they were wrong, when they're asking you for a loan.
Set your limits BEFORE you start playing
One final point before we get into the games, a general tip for people that head out to play: money management.
Just like in real life, before you go to the casino, decide on a maximum amount that you are WILLING TO LOSE.
Bet small enough, so that amount can last you through the entire evening, and you will not be tempted to run to the ATM to continue playing.
Considering GTA money, some people will be comfortable losing 1% of their GTA bank balance, some people will be comfortable with gambling away 5% of their total GTA savings. It's up to you what you can handle. Decide for yourself where it will start to hurt, and don't cross that line.
But whatever number you decide on, as soon as you lost that amount, get up and walk away. Don't chase your losses, stick to your limits, and accept that this has not been your day. There is always another game tomorrow. Always agree with yourself on a simple stop-loss rule, how much you would want to lose at most, and simply stop playing when you get there.
Same goes for winning. You can decide on a number, how much profit you would like to take away from the casino. You can go on a hot streak and be up half a million in a short period of time, but if you would continue to play longer, looking for more, chances are that you're going to lose it all back.
Most people are happy with doubling their daily casino budget, for example. Others are looking for 10 bets profit in Blackjack. Whatever you choose, when you hit that number, you can stop playing and bank your profits, or you can continue playing if you're still enjoying the games, but then only just play minimum bet sizes. Then you're just playing for fun, not for money. You've already made your profit, so simply keep it in your pocket, and don't risk losing it again.
Either way, decide on what your money management strategy will be, and STICK TO IT.
Casino games in GTA Online
Now, I'm going to dive into the games that you can find at the Diamond casino, ordered from worst to best.
6) Slots
Generally the rule is this: the less strategy a game has, the worse it is for the player. And with slots, this is definitely the case.
The only influence you have, is choosing what type of machine you're going to play. Basically, there are two types of slot machines:
-high frequency, low payout slots
-low frequency, high payout slots
In the first type, there is no huge (progressive) jackpot on offer, just your average selection of prizes that don't go up to crazy amounts.
This will result in a player having many more spins resulting in a win. The amounts that you win on the bigger prizes, will be smaller, but they do come around more often. This type of slot machine has a lower variance, which means that your money should last you longer, winning many smaller prizes along the way to keep you going.
The second type of slot machine lures you in with the temptation of a huge jackpot prize. Even though the long-term expected return on these machines is the same as the previous type, the prize distribution is hugely different. The large jackpot prize weighs heavily on the scale of expected return, but the chance of it hitting is extremely small. This results in a much higher variance on this type of machine. Usually your money will go down very fast, because the smaller prizes are less rewarding than on the other type of machine.
At the Diamond, the info screen says the player return at slots is set at 98.7%. This means that, on average, for every maximum bet of 2,500 chips, you expect to lose 32.5 chips.
This might not seem like a lot, but the danger of slots is that the game is extremely fast. You can spin about once every 6 seconds, which would result in an expected LOSS of about 20,000 chips per hour of playing.
But again, in this long-term expected number, the large jackpot awards are also factored in, and as long as you don't hit those big prizes, you'll see your money go down a lot faster.
In any case, thank heavens the max bet is only set at 2,500, or else we would see more players go bankrupt at alarming rates.
Optimal strategy for slots:
There is none. Because after betting, you have no more influence over the outcome. The only choices you have, is what type of machine you want to play at, and how much money you are going to risk. And those are all personal preference. As long as you stick to your loss limits, as discussed above, there's no harm in having a go every once in a while, hoping to get a lucky hit. Just realize that you don't have a high chance of scoring a big win, so as soon as you do, get up and walk away.
5) Roulette
Roulette is also a game where you have no influence over the outcome. There is zero skill involved. You place your bet, and that's it.
In traditional French roulette, a table has only the single-zero, but of course, for American casinos that wasn't enough of a house edge, so they simply doubled their profits by adding a second zero. The house edge was increased from 1/37 to 1/19, which is huge.
This makes playing on a double-zero roulette table by definition a sucker's play.
The payouts scale evenly, which means that a bet on a single number, and a bet on half of the numbers, and everything in between, yields the same expected return. The only difference, again, being the variance that you are willing to subject yourself to.
The player return for double-zero Roulette for all bets is 94.74%.
Except for the 5-number bet, which can only be made by placing a bet on the two top rows that contain 0, 00, 1, 2 and 3. The expected return on this bet is lower: 92.1%. This is because it only pays out 6-1. Why? Well, the number 36 isn't divisible by 5, so the greedy people that came up with double-zero Roulette had to round it off someway, and as expected, it wasn't going to be in the players' favor.Just remember that that 5-number bet is the worst bet at the table, and should be avoided. All other possible bets have the same expected return.
So it really doesn't matter how you spread your bets, if you bet only one chip, or if you litter the entire table with a bucketload of chips. Each chip you put out there, has the same expected return, so there is no strategy that will improve your long-term results.
Assuming that you're betting the maximum table amount of 50,000 chips, you will be looking at an expected loss of about 2,630 chips per spin. Considering that a round takes about 45 seconds to complete, your expected LOSS at the GTA Roulette tables will be around 200,000 chips per hour of playing.
Optimal strategy for double-zero roulette:
Stay away. Stay far away.
4) Three Card Poker
With Three Card Poker, we come across the first game where there is actually some strategy involved. You get to look at your cards, and then decide if you want to fold, and surrender your ante, or double your bet.
Additionally, you can choose to place a side bet on "Pair Plus", which offers progressive payouts.
There are some websites out there that ran all the numbers with computer simulations, and even though I would like to quote the source here, these websites are understandably littered to the max with online casino ads, so that's why I have decided against doing that.
Optimal strategy for Three Card Poker:
For this game you only have to remember one strategy rule: Always bet on any high card queen-six-four or better, and fold any high card queen-six-three or lower. That's it. Just don't forget to double check if you're not folding a straight or a flush, and you'll be fine.
This strategy will result in an expected return of 96.63%.
The Pair Plus sidebet, with the payout table that is used at the Diamond casino, gives you an expected return of 97.68%, which is actually a bit better than the main ante bet.
So by playing both wagers, you're reducing your expected losses per bet, but since you're betting more, you're also increasing your expected loss per hour.
My advice would obviously be to not play this game at all, but if you do, put as much of your bet as possible on the Pair Plus, while making our Ante bet as small as you can.
To be able to compare it to the other games at the Diamond, let's stay on that 50,000 maximum wager, meaning making your ante bet 35,000, and your pair plus bet 15,000, if the table would allow it.
This results in an expected loss of about 1,525 chips per hand, and with a round taking about 45 seconds, this adds up to an expected LOSS of around 120,000 chips per hour of playing. In comparison, if you would only play the ante bet for 50,000 per hand, you expect to lose 1,685 chips per hand, which means an expected LOSS of about 135,000 chips per hour. So the more out of that 50,000 wager you can put on the "Pair Plus" sidebet, the better.
Even though it may be fun to try out this game for a bit, since there's only one simple strategy rule to follow, you'll soon find yourself robotically grinding down your bankroll until it has vaporized. You're not missing out on anything if you skip these tables, there is no real challenge.
Just like with Roulette and Slots, if you want to try it out nonetheless, you can just bet the minimum amounts and only play for fun, so it won't matter if you win or lose.
3) Blackjack
Blackjack is the most complicated game by far. Simply because the player has to make a series of decisions, which will largely decide the outcome. Luckily, there is such a thing as an optimal strategy, which will be outlined below.
However, the strategy is also dependent on the house rules. These not only affect your expected return, but in some places also your decisions.
Here are the house rules at the Diamond casino:
-The game uses 4 standard decks, and a continuous shuffle.
-Blackjack pays 3 to 2, dealer checks for early blackjack.
-No insurance offered, no surrender.
-Dealer stands on soft 17.
-Double down on any two cards.
-Player can split only once, but doubling after split is allowed.
-Seven-Card Charlie.
Under these rules, and following the "basic strategy" chart, your expected return at Blackjack is a shade under 99.6%, which is extremely good for a casino game, that's why Blackjack should be your table game of choice.
But it comes at a price: you are going to have to memorize the relatively complicated strategy chart, or at least stick it to your monitor until you have it in your head. But in case you ever stumble into a real-life casino, you won't regret having this table memorized, so I would definitely advise you to work on that.
The strategy chart might look complicated at first, but you will be able to notice certain patterns. Your decisions are mainly based on the dealer's upcard, which is basically divided into a weak card (2 to 6), and a strong card (7 to ace).
When a dealer shows a strong card, you will be hitting more often with the risk of going bust, but when a dealer shows a weak card, you're not taking that risk, and you will be standing more, but also doubling and splitting more. You want to increase your bets when the odds are in your favor, and get out cheap when they're not.
But it also helps to take some time to think about why a certain advice is given. For example, why does it say that you always have to split two eights, even against an ace. Well, that's because two eights equals 16, which is the worst total you can have. It's better to split them up, and give yourself a chance of finding a 17, 18 or 19 with the next card. Once you see the logic in that, you'll have one less thing to memorize.
The playing advice in the basic strategy chart is a result of computer simulations that ran all possible outcomes against each other, and produced the most profitable decision for each situation. So you can't go wrong following it.
Optimal strategy for Blackjack with Seven-Card Charlie
The added house rule of Seven-Card Charlie, adds a small advantage for the player, and it does influence a few strategy decisions. For example, you might have a 14 with 6 cards, against the dealer's 5 upcard.
Normally this would be an automatic stand, but if you're only one card away from the Seven-Card Charlie, meaning an instant win for the player, regardless of the dealer's hand, it turns it into a hit.
Here's the most optimal strategy chart to follow for the Diamond Casino house rules:https://prnt.sc/olct6g
You'll see that two fives are missing from the chart, and that's because you never split them. You treat them as a regular 10. You also never split tens. Just stand on 20.
If you follow this strategy religiously, even with a maximum wager of 50,000 chips, you only expect to lose about 215 chips per hand, and with rounds taking about 30 seconds, that amounts to an expected LOSS of 26,000 chips per hour, which is only half a bet. A small price to pay for an hour of entertainment.
But since the expected return is so extremely close to 100%, you will see more positive short-term results than with other games. But obviously it can also swing the other way. Again, this is supposed to be the game where your money lasts you the longest, but always set your loss and win limits before you sit down. That rule simply always applies.
Still, even with optimal strategies applied, all these games are expected to lose you money in the long run. So betting any kind of large amounts is not advised. If you simply want to enjoy playing these games, there's nothing wrong with betting a minimal amount. Playing these games for a longer period of time will already cost you money anyway, since your daily property fees will still be charged while you're playing in the GTA casino. As long as you can play for fun, there's nothing wrong, but when you see yourself betting insane chunks of your entire bank balance to try to recoup some unfortunate losses, you're doing it wrong.
As the commercials in Britain all correctly say: when the fun stops, stop.
2) Virtual Horse Racing
Now onto the good stuff. I ran some numbers, and I believe Rockstar has made a mistake with the horse racing game. Because as it stands, and if I read the numbers correctly, this game is actually profitable for the player. You can actually make money with this, at least, until Rockstar figures out their mistake and patches it.
If anyone wants to jump into the math and double check this to make sure, please do so. I will add any corrections to this post. This is one of those "to good to be true" things, so I keep thinking that I might have overlooked something. So please verify it if you can.
The setup is this. There is a pool of 100 horses, each with their own attached payout. These are divided into 3 groups, ranked by their odds. From each group, 2 horses are randomly selected to provide a pool of six runners for you to bet on.
Now it's not an actual race you're looking at. You are looking at a raffle. This is important to realize.
Each horse gets awarded a certain number of raffle tickets. The favorites get awarded more tickets than the underdogs, and therefore, have a higher chance of winning.
If this distribution works like it does in the real-life casinos, then the raffle tickets are awarded according to the betting odds.
Example 1: imagine a race with 3 runners, all have 2/1 odds, representing a 33.3% chance of winning. (Because 2/1 means 2 AGAINST 1, so 3 total.) In this case, each horse gets one third of the raffle tickets, giving them an equal chance to win.
Example 2: imagine a race with 3 runners, one has 1/1 odds (or EVENS), representing a 50% chance of winning, and the other two horses are marked up as 3/1, with a 25% chance of winning. The favorite gets half the tickets, the other two get a quarter of the tickets each.
A ticket is drawn, and you'll have a winner.
It doesn't matter in this game which horse you bet on, because the expected return is always the same: 100% or break-even, for the above examples.
Now, what happens if the percentages don't exactly add up to 100%?
They must add up to 100%, because there will always be a winner. And only one winner.
So when this is the case, the actual winning chances of the horses are adjusted to meet the 100% requirement, using their payout odds to determine the scale.
So, if the represented percentages add up to more than 100%, the actual winning chances of the runners will be DECREASED, resulting in all bets becoming losing propositions for the players.
Example: In a 6-horse race, all runners are listed at 4/1, representing a 20% chance. Only with six runners that amounts to 120%. So all chances are scaled down by 1/6th, to end up at 100%.
This means your horse's chances are reduced from 20% to 16.67%, turning it into a losing bet: 5 times you will lose your bet, and 1 time you will win, but only get 4 bets back in this instance, instead of 5. A losing bet in the long run.
This is the type of odds that you find in regular casinos, with fields as large as 15 runners to bet on, where the assumed winning chances always add up to more than 100%, therefore are decreased for all runners, resulting in a house edge.
But in GTA Online's Inside Track, there are other scenarios, because of the small field, and the way that they are put together.
In some cases, the represented percentages when added up, are LESS than 100%, meaning that the actual winning chances of all runners, are INCREASED.
This creates profitable bets for the players, because in the long run, you're expecting to win more money than you lose. This is a gambler's dream, pure and simple.
So, according to the in-game information, the three groups of horses are divided as follows:
-Favorites: EVENS to 5-1
-Outsiders: 6-1 to 15-1
-Underdogs: 16-1 to 30-1
Let's take the two most extreme examples to show what's happening.
The worst possible field to bet on: two runners at EVENS, two runners at 6-1, and two runners at 16-1.
EVENS represents a 50% chance, 6-1 is 14.29%, and 16-1 is 5.88%. Add those up and you land on a total of 140.34%.
This means that the actual winning chances of the horses are decreased by 28.75% (to get that 140% down to 100%), which makes betting on this field extremely unwise.
A horse at EVENS will only come in as a winner 35.63% of the time, instead of 50%,
a horse at 6-1 will only win 10.18% of the time,
and an underdog at 16-1 will only win 4.19% of the time.
The expected return on a bet on any of the horses in this field is only 71.26%, so a maximum bet of 10,000 chips on any of these horses holds an expected LOSS of 2,875 chips.
These returns are the same, because the winning chances are scaled equally, according to the payout numbers. So it really doesn't matter which horse you bet on, in the long run, you expect the same results.
But as explained before, it does influence variance, and therefore your short-term result, which can swing both ways.
But now, the best possible field to bet on: two runners at 5-1, two runners at 15-1, and two runners at 30-1.
Odds at 5-1 represents a winning chance of 16.67%, 15-1 odds means 6.25% chance, and 30-1 odds means a 3.23% chance of winning. Add these six horses together, and you only get 52.285%.
This means that, to get from 52% to 100%, the actual winning chances of these horses will be almost doubled! Multiplied by 1.91 to be exact.
So the 5-1 favorites will now win 31.88% of the time, instead of 16.67%,
the 15-1 runners will win 11.95% of the time,
and the underdogs at 30-1 odds will still win 6.17% of the time.
When betting on this field, the expected return on your bet is 191.25%!
This means that a max bet of 10,000 chips will result in an expected PROFIT of 9,125 chips.
This is printing money, if there ever was such a thing.
Optimal strategy for Virtual Horse racing
So all you have to do, is only bet high on the games where you have an expected positive return, and bet the absolute minimum on the games where your expected return is negative. Or back out of the racing game to refresh the field.
If you don't have a way to quickly add up all the percentages, and until somebody shows up here with a neatly formatted table, just use a few general rules of thumb:
-Always bet the maximum on a race with favorites at 2/1 and 3/1 or higher in it.
-Simply skip all races with two favorites at EVENS in it, and at EVENS and 2/1. Or bet the minimum, if you can't skip or refresh the field.
-To decide if you should play races with other favorite combinations EVENS and 3/1, EVENS and 4/1, EVENS and 5/1, or two favorites at 2/1, the payouts on the other four runners determine whether or not it's profitable to play them. The results of betting on these fields vary from an expected 1,330 chip loss (worst-case) to an expected 1,680 chip win (best-case), with a max bet of 10,000 chips.
But if you're not looking for another strategy chart, you might just want to skip these borderline cases, and just cherry pick the best ones, which are easy to recognize, and with which you can never go wrong.
It's difficult to put a number on an expected win-rate, because it all depends on which fields you get presented with, but it's not unreasonable to state that you can maintain a steady win-rate of around 200,000 chips per hour, with about 50 seconds per race.
Remember, you're not trying to win every race. You're trying to win the most money per hour. So don't sweat it when you bet on a 4/1 favorite, and lose a couple of races in a row. It will still be more profitable in the long run. You have the math on your side.
To reduce negative variance, always bet on the favorite, when betting on profitable fields. We're not gambling anymore, we're grinding out a steady profit. We want to keep the swings to a minimum.
I contacted Rockstar support to verify if this is indeed how it works, but the only reply I got after 6 weeks is that they were "looking into it".
User u/Garsant made a useful Excel-worksheet, available for you to download, where you can quickly type in the payouts on the horses, to see if it produces a profitable bet or not. You can find it in his post here: https://www.reddit.com/gtaonline/comments/ekp8na/gta_online_inside_track_odd_calculato
1) Wheel of Fortune
The number one profitable casino game in GTA Online is obviously the Wheel of Fortune, because it costs you nothing to play.
Unfortunately, you only get one free spin per day, but it holds great value, so make sure you do it.
With a chance to win a super car, vehicle discounts, expensive mystery prizes (which also can be vehicles), and a lot of cash and chips, the expected return on a single spin is around $100,000 in value.
So don't forget your daily spin, it's definitely worth your time.
2020 Update:
As of the Diamond Casino Heist update, the Inside Track horse racing is confirmed to still be as profitable as outlined above.The only thing that seems to be changed, is that you can't refresh the field anymore by backing out of the screen. This does affect your hourly rate in a negative way, but does not change the fact that this game has a huge positive expected return, and should be your go-to when you're trying to take money from the house, without having Lester's nagging voice in your ear. That should also be worth something.
And with that, I conclude my 5,000 word essay on gambling in GTA. Questions, comments, feel free to add your input to this guide.
Cliffs:
-Gambling games should only be played for fun, not for big money. You should expect to lose in the long run. The house always wins.
-A casino game doesn't have a memory, and betting systems don't work.
-Set your limits before you start, how much you are willing to lose or win, and then walk away when you get there.
-Don't play slots, roulette, or three card poker.
-Only play blackjack following a basic strategy chart (https://prnt.sc/olct6g).
-Inside Track betting can be played profitably, if you only bet on fields WITHOUT a heavy favorite.
-Wheel of Fortune is always your best bet, because it's a free bet.
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Tennis Betting - Tips For Exchange Betting on Tennis Matches

By choosing tennis as your preferred sport for betting, you have already given yourself an "edge" against those who bet on or offer odds on other sports. To use this "edge" to make money consistently, however, you'll need to understand two fundamental principles first. Then apply the power of mathematics.
Principle #1
It is sheer folly to place a tennis bet (or a bet on anything) with a "traditional" bookmaker. The expression "You can't beat the bookie" is axiomatic; you just cannot beat the bookie over time. It's because the odds are always mathematically calculated in favour of the bookmaker. Everyone knows (or should know) that the bookie's mathematical "edge" against the punter is necessary for him to make a profit so that he can stay in business.
Computer technology has given rise to a new form of betting, known as "exchange betting" or "matched betting". With "betting exchanges" there is no bookie to beat; in other words, there is no middle-man. Every punter bets against another punter or punters somewhere out there in the Internet ether. Any punter (or "trader") can place a "back" bet that a player or team will win, and/or place a "lay" bet that a player or team will lose. Thus, any punter can choose to act as an ordinary bettor and/or as a bookmaker.
With exchange betting the odds are not set by a third-party or middle-man; they are set by the punters themselves, who place requests for odds at which they are prepared to place bets (if they wish to act as an ordinary bettor), or place offers of odds at which they are prepared to lay bets (if they wish to act as a bookmaker).
As the "back" bettors gradually lower their requested odds and the "lay" bettors gradually raise their offered odds, the software on the exchange betting web site matches all the back bets with all the lay bets at the instant they coincide. The accounts of the "backers" or "layers" are then credited with their winnings automatically a few seconds after the end of the event according to its result.
Obviously, the technology for providing such a "fair" betting service must be paid for somehow. This payment is taken in the form of a commission on the punter's net winnings on an event (or "market"). That is, commission is charged only on any positive difference between winnings and losses on the same event.
This betting system is as close to a perfectly fair betting environment as it is possible to achieve.
There are very few betting exchanges in existence, however, perhaps because the exchange betting software is so complex and therefore costly. The giant among exchange betting web sites is Betfair, with about 90% of the market at the time of writing. Others are the Global Betting Exchange (BetDAQ), ibetX, Betsson, Matchbook and the World Bet Exchange (WBX). Betfair is by far the most popular because it was the first to offer this "perfectly fair" betting environment, and is trusted to perform accurately and instantly.
Principle #2
So, why does tennis betting give you that "edge" over betting on other sports? The answer, though simple, is often overlooked even by those who bet tennis regularly. And if you're someone who's never bet on tennis, you'd almost certainly not have realized the significance of the tennis scoring system on the betting.
Consider this fundamental difference between the tennis scoring system and that of probably any other sport you can think of.
In other sports and games the trailing player or team must make up the points gap by winning a point for every point they have already lost in order to catch up to the leader. Only then can they start to move ahead. This fact seems obvious.
In tennis, however, the trailing player or team can lose the first set 6-0 (possibly with a deficit of 24 points). That team can then win the second set by the most narrow of margins, 7-6 in a tie-break, winning the set by very few points (or even by winning fewer points than the opponents, a rare but possible occurrence!).
As soon as the trailing player or team wins the second set, the two sides suddenly have even scores, even though one player or team might have actually won many more points than the opponents.
This anomaly often has a profound psychological effect on one or both sides, which affects the way they play for the next few minutes, and therefore also the betting odds requested and offered by punters on the match. This, however, is another aspect of tennis betting which may be the subject of another article. This article deals with the mathematical aspect of tennis betting and how to win money with this knowledge.
How to win at tennis betting
Now that you're aware of these two fundamental principles, how can you use them to your advantage when making tennis bets?
The key is not to be just a "backer" or a "layer", simply betting on the final outcome of an event. If you do that, you will lose out over time, because there's always a small difference between the "back" odds and the "lay" odds -- there must be, otherwise there'd be no incentive for anyone to offer odds and there'd be no betting at all. Combine that with the commission you pay on your net winnings, and the "edge" is against you mathematically (although it is not as great as with conventional bookmakers).
The secret to winning at tennis betting is to be BOTH a "backer" AND a "layer", but at different points during the event. This is another aspect of betting that distinguishes the exchange betting web site from the traditional bookie. At the betting exchange you can place a back or lay bet at any time during the event, right up until the very last second or the final point. This is known as "in-play" betting.
Because in-play betting is allowed, the odds for each opposing side change as the event progresses, according to the likelihood (as perceived by the punters) of either one side or the other being the eventual winner. The trick is to place a back bet on one side at certain odds and later place a lay bet on that side (or a back bet on the other side) at better odds as fortunes change and the odds swing in your favour. If you can achieve this, you will win your bet overall, regardless of the outcome of the event -- a true "win-win" scenario.
Why bet on tennis and not on other sports?
Apart from Principle #2, explained earlier, tennis is ideal for such "swing" betting, because the odds fluctuate after every point is played. There are therefore very many small swings to one side and then to the other. This doesn't happen in soccer, for example, because goals are so rare and a goal shifts the advantage suddenly and hugely to the scoring side.
Furthermore, a tennis match can have one of only two results; there can be no draw or tie; and one of only two players or teams can win. In horse racing, for example, the winner can come from a large number of runners.
The more possible outcomes there are to factor into the equation, the more difficult it is to win. (Despite this obvious logic, soccer and horse racing remain the two most popular sports for betting, probably for historical reasons. Tennis is already third in popularity, however, as more and more punters discover the fact that it is easier to make money betting on tennis than on any other sport.)
"In-play" betting or "pre-event" betting?
Now that you have -- it is hoped -- understood and absorbed the generalities of exchange betting and the peculiarities of tennis scoring, it is time to explain the details of how you can win at tennis betting.
Earlier it was stated that the secret to winning at tennis betting is to be both a "backer" and a "layer", but at different points during the event, placing bets at different times during the event as fortunes change and the odds swing in your favour. This can be done with both "in-play" betting and "pre-event" betting.
One method used with in-play betting is called "scalping". As its name suggests, scalping involves skimming a tiny profit by backing or laying at exactly the right moment as the odds move slightly in your favour, perhaps when one player scores two or three consecutive points, and repeating the process again and again. The biggest drawback of scalping is that it is very time-consuming and fraught with mental and physical tension. Not only must you pay full attention to what's happening during the match by live video broadcast, but you must also catch exactly the right moments at which to bet, which is, in fact, made impossible by the 5-second delay imposed by the exchange betting software between the time you place the bet and the time it is accepted.
We're not elaborating on this here because, as stated previously, this article is about winning by mathematics, not by the sweat of your brow. The maths aspect involves betting, not during the event, but before the event starts. That is, pre-event betting.
Mathematics do not lie!
There are a few tennis betting "systems", some purely manual, others using software programs, some of which are enormously complicated. From the investigations of the writer (a mathematician), they all require the input, at some point, of a "probability factor" by the bettor. This probability factor is usually the odds at which you want your "balancing" bet (the "lay" bet on the "backed" side or the "back" bet on the opposing side) to be triggered, giving you the "win-win" scenario mentioned earlier.
So, how do you determine the value of this probability factor? That, dear reader, is the crucial point of the whole matter, the linch-pin that holds any exchange betting "system" together and determines whether it succeeds or fails, whether you win or lose.
Up to now, it seems, this probability factor has had to be determined by the sheer experience of a few seasoned professional gamblers, or by trial-and-error guesswork by lesser mortals. Little wonder that so many punters lose or do not win as much as they could because they do not know the EXACT value needed to optimize their bets!
Accuracy is of paramount importance when determining the probability factor, in order to maximize the chances of winning consistently. A search on the Web for a tool to calculate it proved negative. The writer therefore created one that encompasses not only all aspects of exchange betting but also the peculiarities of the tennis scoring system, and called it the Abacus Exchange Betting Calculator, for want of a better name. The probability factor is calculated to two decimal places, merely by entering the pre-event odds of both opposing sides, and has enabled the writer to make consistently more than 10% profit from tennis betting since Wimbledon 2009.
As a parallel test, the writer also placed bets according to "gut feeling", in sufficient numbers to establish a trend. It resulted in a loss of 10% of the working capital (or "bank").
Other tests were done, using the Abacus Exchange Betting Calculator, by betting on other sports where small odds swings occur, such as American Football, snooker and darts (very long matches only, otherwise the swings are too large). The results here just about covered the commissions paid on winnings; so, it is not worthwhile.
It seems, then, that the particular mathematical formula or algorithm (which is very complex) discussed here works well only in conjunction with the unique scoring system of tennis.
Conclusion
As a scientist, the writer feels that it is highly probable to win at sports betting consistently over time only when the following factors are present:
  1. An exchange betting web site is used, not a conventional betting web site. (Beware of many sites that pretend to offer exchange betting by appearing in search engine results for "exchange betting"! Ensure that their software system enables you both to back and to lay bets at any odds you want against other punters, not against the house. If in doubt, check that their web site looks like the one at Betfair.)
AND
  1. The sport is tennis, because of its unique scoring system.
AND
3(a) You learn about and become experienced in in-play betting and are prepared to devote almost all your time glued to a computer screen while following each match, sometimes more than one simultaneously.
OR
3(b) You use software that tells you exactly the odds to request and offer and the stakes to place in pre-event betting in only a few minutes, thus allowing you to get on with your normal life.
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A short Guide to making £500 through Match betting (Update for current circumstances)

I saw a few posts in recent weeks asking about match betting and how to do it with reduced sporting fixtures. I wanted to make a post to tell people that it is still easy to do, The reason being that it's a solid way to make £400 or so in a short time (orginal post Here), and it's a shame not to do it if you could use the extra cash at this time. However there are a few differences now:
(1) The reason people are saying that match betting is hard to do right now is because a lot of the large sporting fixtures are cancelled, the ones that are left aren't very big events and this means there's not as many people betting.
Because there's not as many people betting, it is harder to find odds that "Match" perfectly on both the Exchange and the bookies due to a lack of "liquidity".
(2) Harder to find a perfect match? Definitely. This is bad for regular match bettors because it simply isn't worth the sporadic "bet £5 get £5 free bet" offers that we get by email. However for those who are new to match betting, and who will be completing welcome offers of £20, £30 £40 and £100 in free bets, it is highly profitable, simply just a little less than before.
Crunching some numbers:
Horse Racing Fixture from today : Qualifying bet of £10 to get £40 in free bets, Bookie odds of 3.0, Exchange odds 3.9....Not a perfect match and when you use the calculator on team profit (explained in guide below) you will see that your balance is negative of about £1.90
But, now you have qualified for £40 in free bets, you now find as close a match as you can on an event that's on both the bookie site and the exchange.
For example, you get a "Match" with odds of 5.5 and 6.2 (again, not a perfect match), using your £40 in free bets, you will secure a profit of £29.03 (you use the calculator to work this out, explained in guide below). Less the negative of £1.90 from the qualifying bet, that still leaves a profit of £27.13. There are about 20 offers on the list below, Mean value of about £20 per offer
The usual profit for this offer would be about £30, so You are looking at about a 10-12% reduction.
The point is, if you are looking for a way to make £400-£500 and can't wait, the list of welcome offers on the guide below are highly profitbale.

Ok so Here is the Guide:
Having done my research and having been able to turn a really nice profit in such a short time, I wanted to make a short guide to eliminate people's doubts and simplify things a little. Since it really doesn't take a lot of time to hit that £500 profit mark, it's a shame not to try it out. Anyway, Here it goes:
I was sceptical as hell about Match betting because a friend showed me the Facebook groups and it just looked like a giant gambling pyramid scheme. It turns out there is a decent chunk of change to be made from it, you just need to follow the guides and never ever actually gamble with your money.
Never ever Gamble? Yes That's right, you are going to be using Gambling sites to complete the various offers, but the whole idea behind match betting is that every time you "make a bet", you match that same bet on the exchange. So for example, if I bet £10 for Real Madrid to Win on the Bookie Site at odds of 2.5, I then also make a Matched bet on the Exchange (This is a separate site such as Smarkets or Betfair) where I bet for Real Madrid not to win at odds of 2.5 (or as close as I can get to those odds). In this way I am covered in all outcomes, and it allows me to fulfill the requirements of the bookies offer (For example Bet £10 and get £30 in Free bets)
What's the difference between the Bookie Site and the Exchange? On the Exchange Site you are basically being the Bookie and just like a Bookie, you have liability. If I bet £10 and my bet wins at odds of 2.5 then I win £25, so the bookies liability for this bet is £15, the extra money that they would have to give me if I win. There are calculators on the Match betting sites which you can use to calculate what Liability you need to enter on the exchange each time you make your matched bet. There is also software to help you find what games have the closest odds on both the bookies and the exchange, which is very important.
What do I do when I get my free bets? It's the same process again, You find a game that has very close odds on both the bookies and the exchange ( You do this by using odds matching software, the site I use for this is called OddsMonkey). Only this time when you use the calculator to work out your liability, you will set it to "Free bets SNR" so it knows you are not using real money. It will tell you how much Liability to use in the exchange and off you go.
How does this make me money? The fact that you have a free bet to use is what makes you money, For example a £30 free bet at odds of 5.5 in the bookies will win you £135 (30x 4.5, because the original free bet stake of £30 is not returned to you). Now let's say that the closest odds I can find in the Exchange for the same game are 6.0, I will need a liability of £112.50 to match my free bet in the bookies ( I use the calculator on team profit to work this out)
£135- 112.50 = £22.50 in Profit.
Alternatively if my bet on the exchange wins, I will lose the free bet of £30 (but it's not actually a loss to me because It's not real money) and I will win £22.50 on the exchange. Either way, I make a Profit of £22.50
Where can I learn to do it? There are some sites that you have to pay a monthly subscription to but I found one called Team Profit that is free and has a full guide of all the different offers you can complete.
I worked my way down through the list of offers, nice and handy, and having completed 20 offers at 15 minutes per offer, I came out at £470 for 5 hours total of work.
I you are new to this site and are opening a free account I would really appreciate if you use my Referral (£10 )
Here is the non referral link to the page with all the offers: https://www.teamprofit.com/welcome-offers-list
Important things to consider:
(1) You do not need to "gamble" to match bet, in fact by definition, the bet you make is "matched" on the exchange, so it is not a gamble in any sense.
(2) You can use a separate bank account for all your match betting, In this way your main banking information is not shared with any of the sites you sign up to. A good one to use is Starling or Monzo . They are free to use and it only takes 5 minutes to open an account.

I really hope this guide will help someone out because It really is a solid way to sort out a months rent for only 5 or 6 hours of work
Thanks for Reading.
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Meet The Freak 4

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Wallace
The sun was a little higher in the sky than I meant it to be by the time I made it to the street where I was to meet Valentine. I'd meant to get up early, take what would probably be my last bath in a while, grab my coat, and make myself scarce before the rest of the manor had really woken up. Unfortunately, I'd spent a bit more time in bed than I'd meant to, and was still a little drowsy. I was thankful then for the brisk early morning breeze and the light rain it carried.
It wasn't quite cool enough for my wool winter coat, but it was what I had so it's what I wore. If I'd just been out and about I might not have minded the rain too much, but if I was going to be travelling all day then it would be best not to do it wet. So I turned up the collar, but left the front open so it wouldn't get too toasty.
My gaze was drawn by a little purple hand waving at me from a ways down the street, and I joined Valentine in front of a small cafe. The tables were sheltered from the rain by a small white and tan striped awning, but Valentine was the only one of the patrons braving the weather.
She was wearing the same bulky flight suit as I'd last seen her in, and she was leaning forwards with her elbow on the table, her cheek resting in one hand. A small teacup sat empty on the table in front of her.
"You're late," she observed.
Her demeanour was more like a tough old sergeant than a noble lady, and she wore a generally unimpressed expression.
"Sorry," shrugged, as I took the seat across the table, "It took longer than I thought it would to get out of there without arousing suspicion."
"Round two took a while?" Valentine guessed, a small smirk creeping into her stern expression.
"I-" I stammered, and already I could feel my cheeks starting to burn, "That's not-"
"Fey have very sensitive noses," Valentine informed me, as the smirk started to creep into her eyes.
"I took a bath," I replied defensively.
"Very, sensitive noses," she reiterated, "And didn't I warn you that Temerity had certain plans for you?"
Dammit, now I was really blushing, "Actually, it seemed like what she really wanted was my political help. Everything else was just, uh..."
"Sweetener?"
I was rescued by the approach of the waiter, who bore yet more tea for Valentine and asked for our orders. I prompted Valentine to order first while I glanced over the menu I'd yet ignored. I asked for only a little bacon and sausage, as I still wasn't sure if the meat they ate was the same as what I had back home. Most of my order was fruit and pancakes. Still a risk, but I judged it to be less so than the meat. Besides, the potatoes and vegetables I'd had the night prior had at least been what I'd expected them to be. Truthfully, I was probably just being paranoid, but all the same, it wouldn't do me any good to be stumbling about the wilderness while suffering from food poisoning.
Grateful for the interruption, as it gave me a chance to collect myself, I waited until the man had retreated before asking about the concern I'd been ruminating over since I'd left the manor.
"Temerity mentioned that there are a few physiological differences with fey," I pointed out.
Needling me had brightened Valentine's expression considerably, but now it soured once again.
"Did she now?" Valentine grimaced.
"Look, as long as you're serious about your promise to teach me magic, I'll carry you on my back if that's what it takes," I promised her, "I mean, ideally you'd get a horse or something, but whatever. The point is, I'm good with our deal as-is. But you've got to tell me what's up with fey biology so I know what I'm getting myself into. Same goes for the pheromone stuff, I don't think it's unreasonable to expect some explanation of how that works if we're going to be travelling together."
Valentine nodded slowly, "That's fair. But if I'm going to tell you about how our pheromones work, then in exchange I think it's only reasonable if you share how it is that humans are able to influence minds. Our pheromones are not something we speak about with non-fey, if I'm to share those secrets then I think it's only sensible to expect secrets in return."
I frowned, "Humans can't influence minds. I mean I guess we can threaten, bribe, whatever, just like anyone else. But it's not like we've got something like your pheromones. That I'll tell you for free."
"I'm serious Wallace," Valentine insisted, leaning low to the table and speaking in a near-whisper, "You tell me how humans do it, and I'll tell you what fey can do."
I furrowed my brows. Clearly, this Simon guy had done something to convince her of this. I just didn't have any idea what it might be.
"Valentine," I began, leaning in a little as well, "This isn't me trying to protect the secret by acting as if one doesn't exist. I can't do anything like what you seem to be imagining. That said, I'm guessing Simon has done some freaky shit and you'd like to know how."
Valentine nodded, and I continued, "What I can promise, is that I'll help you figure out how he's doing it. It's possible he's from a different world than me, maybe a really different world, but I bet we're working with a lot of the same information. If he's relying on something that came from Earth, then I should be able to get some idea of what he's doing."
"That's not terribly satisfactory," Valentine replied, "But it will have to do."
She opened her mouth to speak once again, but stopped and glanced to the side.
The waiter delivered our food, and after asking if there was anything else he could do for us, retreated back within the cafe.
"I take it Temerity covered the basics?" Valentine asked, after taking a bite of her omelette.
"Cartilage skeleton, not very strong, and prone to fainting at the slightest physical exertion. I take it she was exaggerating?"
"No," Valentine replied grimly, "She was not."
Valentine reached into the neck of the flight suit and withdrew an amulet. The chain was very solidly built, at least as jewellery went, with alternating links of silver and gold. Hanging from the chain was a diamond about as large as her thumb. Not very large as thumbs go, but really quite large as diamonds went. Stout as the chain was, it wouldn't be great if someone got hold of it and tried to shake her around, but at least the diamond wasn't coming loose any time soon.
"This gaudy thing isn't just for decoration, it holds an enchantment. Other fey might baulk at the thought of so much as a brisk walk, but I refuse to be limited by what the gods gave me. This diamond provides a significant source of both Body and Strengthen mana, which is used to greatly enhance my stamina," she explained, "You'll not need to carry me on your back, and in fact, you might find it difficult to keep up with me."
I smiled, "We'll see, I can go all day if I need to."
"Is that why you were so late this morning?" she teased, hiding her smirk behind her teacup.
"Aren't you supposed to be a noblewoman or something?"
"Or something," she agreed.
I waved a hand dismissively, "What about the chain, does the gold and silver mean anything or do anything?"
"The gold provides greater Protection mana," she provided, running the thick chain between her fingers, "It's not as much as the diamond provides, but few materials provide as much mana as gemstones do. The silver provides Mind mana. Together they are meant to shield the mind against intrusion."
"Does it work?"
Valentine spread her hands, "Not against Simon's trickery, whatever form it takes. But enchantments like this are common enough, they're intended to stop magical intrusion, and for that purpose, they are more than sufficient."
"So when you say that something 'provides mana'-" I began, but Valentine made a cutting gesture with one hand.
"Eat, there will be plenty of time to talk when we're on the road, if you continue to bombard me with questions then you'll never finish at this rate."
I let Valentine lead me out of the city, she was the one who actually knew the way after all, as I hadn't really been paying attention the first time I'd been through.
There were guards on both sides of the city's gates, armed with pikes, but they didn't see fit to bother us. Maybe they recognized Valentine, or maybe they didn't much care. Probably the latter, as the elves on duty, all of them women, seemed pretty relaxed.
Which I supposed was sensible. Guarding the gates must be pretty low-stress, at least once you got over your fear of heights.
There was a sort of landing just beyond the gates, and beyond that, a sheer drop to the valley floor below. To the right, a cliff face, and to the left, the long sloping road down the side of the mountain. It was just wide enough for two carts to pass, and while there was a railing fencing off the landing, it ended only a few hundred feet down the slope.
I'd probably be pretty relaxed too if I had to guard the place. Sure, you could sneak pretty close to the base of the mountain if you stuck to the forests, but at that point the guards would still have a good couple hours to prepare for your arrival as you made the climb.
"We won't have to walk," Valentine assured me, "The chain lift takes people to the valley before noon, we'll take one of the carriages down."
The chain lift she referred to looked like what I'd seen at small ski-slopes, only scaled up. At a ski-slope it would be a simple loop of cable or rope, anchored top and bottom, and run at a constant speed. A skier would grab on by hand, and the cable would pull them to the top. The only difference was they'd swapped out the cable for chains as thick as my wrist. I couldn't make out how it was anchored down in the valley, but up here the chains led up into a wooden hoarding built into the side of the city wall.
Just underneath the hoarding was a parking lot, there's probably some old-timey word for it, but I thought of it as a parking lot, with several carriages. They appeared to be purpose-built for use with the chain lift, with one axle set quite a bit lower than the other. Up here on the landing, it meant that the passenger compartment would be uncomfortably slanted, but it appeared to match the grade of the slope and looked like it would level out once the carriage was on its way down. There were no horses hitched to any of them, and instead, they had a metal linkage where the harnesses would usually attach.
There were a few elven men standing nearby. They kept an eye on a couple of mules while passing the time with a game of dice. Valentine got their attention, and they pulled the carriage Valentine had picked out into position near the chain.
I briefly wondered if I should be holding the door for her, but she didn't give me the chance. She flipped the latch, and took a seat inside on the high side, holding onto a grab bar inside to keep from slipping off.
Valentine had evidently picked this carriage out for a reason, as waiting inside were a pair of travel packs, and what looked like the 19th century version of a softshell rifle case. A little over six feet long and made of oiled leather, I guessed that it held the weapon I'd been promised. I moved one of the packs aside and took a seat across from her on the low side of the carriage.
She banged a fist on the carriage wall, and there was a lurch as it started to move. I heard a metallic thunk thunk thunk as the linkage tried to find purchase on the moving chain, and then a ka-chunk as the carriage surged forwards.
I felt a strangling tightness in my stomach as my mind threw up the image of us hurtling down the miles-long slope with no way to stop until we either hurtled off the side or crashed into the trees at the bottom of the mountain.
"This is the brake," Valentine explained, indicating the lever by her hand, "If anything happens I'll throw this and we'll come to a stop."
"A very good sense of smell," I muttered, eyeing her suspiciously.
"You're not fond of heights," she observed.
"Not overly no."
I began to relax as the carriage levelled out and I heard the linkage clanking as it took the weight of the carriage. I wasn't very confident in sixteenth-century braking technology, but on the other hand, we weren't moving much faster than a jog. A horse would have drawn us faster, at least on level ground, so if Valentine were quick with the brake, we would probably be okay.
"So. You can smell fear," I said matter of factly, "What else can you do?"
"I suppose this is private enough," she agreed, "Is Temerity the one who first told you about the pheromones?"
"Eh, sorta. I ran into a fey leading a bunch of sprites when I first showed up," I began, "He was putting out some musky scent, drove me half-mad, and I'm guessing it's how he was able to get the sprites to fight to the last man while Temerity and her buddies cut them apart."
Valentine blinked, "What."
"What?" I asked, a confused expression on my face.
"You're saying that you were affected? You're sure?" she demanded.
"Yeah, should it not work on me?"
"The pheromones only work on sprites," Valentine insisted, "This has been tested extensively."
"Valentine, I was a pretty good distance away from the guy and it was all I could do to not lose my shit. It works on humans. Haven't you had Simon around to try it on?"
Valentine clasped her hands under her chin and spent a long moment gazing down at the floor.
Finally, she spoke, "By the time Simon happened along, we'd already come to the conclusion that it didn't work on anyone else. I bet no one bothered to try it on him, and the pheromones he's likely to catch a whiff of by happenstance are a great deal less potent than what's used on the battlefield."
"Can you do more stuff than just get people mad?"
"Anger, fear, and arousal," she listed, lifting her gaze to meet mine, "We can also calm the same emotions, and sense them in others through scent."
"The scent thing, I take it that works on anyone- any species I mean?"
Valentine nodded, "It's not the same scent for every species, but it's not hard to learn a new species. Some of us have also figured out a way to use the pheromones to make the sprites giddy, some combination of the pheromones to increase arousal and calm both fear and anger. I never bothered to learn though."
"Why not?"
She scowled, "It's just another tool to control the sprites, a way to reward them when they do what you want, just like the fear pheromones are used to punish them when they don't. And I refuse to treat another person like they're an animal to be trained."
"I'm sorry," I said honestly, "I didn't mean to needle you."
"You were just curious," she allowed, "I'm not mad at you."
"Last question about the pheromones then," I promised gently, "Is there a limit to how much you can use before you run out?"
"Not particularly, the fey you saw leading the sprites, they might run out if they were spreading pheromones for a couple hours. But as I mentioned, outside of a fight, no fey is going to use nearly that much. Though, I suppose," she continued, raising her eyebrows thoughtfully, "it does sometimes happen with young fey still going through puberty. They'll get startled, or something will set them off, and all their pheromones will be released at once. Very embarrassing, but that's about it."
"Alright. You held up your end, what's the deal with Simon?"
She smiled just a little, "I'm surprised you haven't asked about magic yet."
"Oh god, you have no idea. I have so many questions rattling around my head that I feel like I'm gonna explode," I pitched my voice up a little in a poor attempt to mimic hers, "'Oh yeah, this diamond is full of magic, it turns me into a marathon runner, no big deal. Anyway, want some more tea?' I mean seriously, it's driving me nuts. But once I start asking questions I'm not going to be able to stop myself."
"Well, I don't know the man's life story," she said, smiling, "but I've found out as much as I can since he came to my attention. His play for power is a relatively recent development, but since learning magic he's always been peripherally involved in politics."
"He's that strong with magic?" I asked.
"No, not at all," she said with a shake of the head, "Granted, his expertise with Body magic is considerable, but he seems incapable of using any other type of mana. The political involvement is more to do with having so many loyal spellcasters. Though in fairness, his inability with non-Body magic may all be an elaborate deception, but it would need to be one he planned since before he cast his first spell."
"The mind is part of the body, maybe that's how he does it then?" I suggested, "The mind control I mean."
She shook her head emphatically, "No, Mind and Body magic are different. If Simon were using Mind magic on people then he would have been found out almost immediately. If the first thing we fey discovered upon landing here was Mind magic, then the second was how to defend against it," her expression was already less than pleased, but it soured further, "The sprites have been used as test subjects since the beginning, experimenting with how a mind might be invaded, broken, or defended. Elves, gnomes, goblins all come to Pelignos to learn from the best, and the amulets made by fey are thought to be the best when it comes to protecting against Mind magic."
"My first instinct would be to say that he really was playing the long game from the start," I granted her, "But that would make learning any other type of magic such a pain. He'd need a teacher that he knew would be absolutely loyal, and I don't know how he could possibly know such a thing. Probably a bunch of teachers actually, since I'm guessing everyone has their own specialties. He might be able to strongarm one person to keep quiet, but no way in hell he could keep more than one or two people under his thumb. Someone would talk, they'd either wriggle out of his grip or just say to hell with it and spill the beans."
Valentine grimaced, "You say that, but it's exactly what it seems he's done."
"You've got to explain what that means. Because it's starting to sound like this guy might be the first person in history to actually pull off a big conspiracy without anyone leaking the truth, and if he can do that, I'm pretty sure he's actually a unicorn."
"It started with his first tutor, or at least, everything I've learned seems to suggest she was his first tutor," Valentine clarified, "At some point- and again, this is a little unclear since it wasn't until recently that anyone realized they should have been paying attention to what Simon was doing. At some point, she appears to have become completely smitten with Simon. He picked up more sorceresses as he went, quickly inspiring the same devotion, and taking control of their assets along the way. Houses, land, money, everything."
"All female?" I asked.
"Yes and no. He has this manor in the city where all his sorceresses live, and he's invited no sorcererers, or men of any kind in fact. The serving staff is female as well, but from what I've gathered I believe he's pulled the same trick with men, but only so as to get them out of the way."
I rubbed my temples, I could already feel a migraine coming on.
"So you're saying," I began, "That after arriving from another world, he's somehow managed to assemble a harem of women who are inexplicably interested in him, despite the fact that he really doesn't have anything to offer anyone?"
"That's about it," she agreed.
I sighed, "For fuck's sake."
Valentine's end of the carriage began to pitch up, and the light streaming into the carriage dimmed. A moment later I heard the linkage clank free of the chain, and felt the carriage rock as it was guided off to one side.
We'd barely come to a halt when Valentine slung one of the packs over her shoulder and leapt down.
I followed her out, and found that we stood within a large cave. The walls were too regular and the corners too square for it to be a natural formation, but beyond that, little work had been done to make the place look pretty.
We were near the back of the cave where the rest of the carriages were parked, with yet another team of elven men passing the time as they waited for the next carriage to make its way down.
The area was lit by a few sputtering oil lamps, but it seemed wasteful, as the daylight streaming in through the mouth of the cave was near to blinding. I suppose it said something about the elven perception of light, I don't know exactly what it said, but it said something.
A metal pillar had been embedded in the stone near the middle of the cave, almost a foot thick and running from floor to ceiling. It was set with several rollers, and was where the chain looped around to head back up the ramp to the city.
Valentine tilted her head towards the opening, and I followed her out into the late morning sun. The rain had since passed, so I threw my coat over the top of my pack.
"We still good for time?"
Valentine spread her hands, "Typically surveyors like to head out at first light, but you had to finish burning your bridges."
I winced, "Perhaps I was a little self-indulgent."
"We don't live forever Wallace, and we only get one chance to enjoy it," Valentine advised sagely, "If I was going to be mature about things, I wouldn't be running away from all my responsibilities with a man I'd only just met."
"Think she'll be mad?"
"Oh. She'll be fucking livid."
"Think she'll come after us?" I asked, peering back up at the city.
Valentine shook her head "I doubt it. By the time she realizes we've left the city, we'll have enough of a headstart that she won't have a chance."
"You say that, but I don't see any horses around here," I observed.
Forget the horses, there wasn't even a road. We were now well within the area susceptible to the tides, and it showed. The last few hundred feet of the ramp was poorly defined with no sharp edges, and it blended smoothly into the hills around. Even the grass underfoot looked fresh, as if I were the first person to ever tread on it, which didn't track with this being the sole way into a city of thousands.
Looking back, I saw how the cavern was able to persist, despite the tides and the mists conspiring to wipe the slate clean.
Two steel doors, each a few inches thick and set with leather seals, rested in tracks that ran across the mouth of the cave. When pulled closed they would seal the opening, with only a little gap for the chain. I still wasn't certain of the exact mechanics of how the tides and mists worked, but from the looks of things, the door would be flush with the stone around once closed. With nothing for the tide to sweep away, I supposed that the only risk would be if the mists dropped something on top of the doors.
"Do you know how to ride?" Valentine asked wryly.
"No," I admitted, "I don't even know where you'd find a horse large enough for me."
"Quite," she observed, "And I don't ride anymore, so I have no need of one either. Come, we may talk on the way."
I adjusted the pack on my shoulder and matched her pace. I wasn't about to argue with her, having a horse for her might up our pace a little, but in the grand scheme of things, it likely would make little difference. Besides, if the landscape down here in the valley had as chaotic a potential as it seemed, then for all I knew the horse may end up being more a liability than an asset. But I wasn't certain we'd make it that far, if Temerity was really on the ball...
"My only concern is that Temerity seems really fond of horses, being a knight and all," I pointed out, "And I don't fancy a fight, especially if she brings friends."
"Temerity's not going to start a fight," Valentine assured me, "She'll be mad, and if she gets the chance she'll try to strongarm you back under her influence. But she'll not turn to violence. And in any case, she'll have a hell of a time getting horses down from the city," she gestured back over her shoulder at the ramp, "The slope is so steep and so long that it's tricky to take horses down it in the best of times, try to rush and like as not she'd just injure her horse."
"Hmm, fair enough," I mused.
We left the clearing at the base of the ramp, and ventured into the thick evergreen forest that spread across the foothills at the base of the mountain. Again there was the feeling that I was the first person to take this path. There was little underbrush, just the odd bush or fern, with most of the ground covered by fallen pine needles, turned brown with age. The pine needles were so thick on the ground that I may as well have been walking through snow, with each step kicking up little puffs, leaving clear tracks behind the two of us.
There was an all-encompassing sense of calm, and for a brief moment, I thought that Valentine might be the cause. But was only the musty scent of the pine needles underfoot, and the verdant smell of fresh vegetation carried through the forest on a gentle breeze.
No, it didn't take any tricky manipulation, after all, this was how I'd usually relax when things were getting to me. I'd go for a walk, and not come back until I'd found calm once again. Since moving to the city I hadn't the chance to take a walk anywhere that wasn't a carefully landscaped park, but all the same, the forest felt very familiar.
I grabbed the soft leather case from where it hung behind me, and swung it around in front so I could take a peek inside. The clasps were bits of polished horn, pushed through loops of cord, like the sort of thing you might see on the front of a trendy knit sweater. I undid them, and reached in gingerly.
"Wow," I breathed, as I withdrew the weapon.
It was a poleaxe. The haft was six feet long, stained a very dark brown, and a little more than two inches thick. The head was steel, with a broad but narrow axe blade on one side, with a small hammerhead opposite, and topping it off was a nine inch spike. The langets, reinforcing straps that held the head on, ran nearly two feet down the haft, and had been recessed so as to be flush with the wood. The other end of the haft was also capped in steel, with a blunt pyramidal protrusion that would enhance the effect of striking with the butt of the weapon.
I'd been doing historical European martial arts for a good long time, and while I wasn't the most experienced with the poleaxe, it was my absolute favourite. I'd placed in tournaments with the rapier, won tournaments with the greatsword, and just generally found it funny to fight with a smallsword, but it was the poleaxe that I enjoyed the most. The trouble with the poleaxe is that it's hard to practise with. It's easy to make a sword safe, even a great sword. As long as it's blunt and you've got enough padding you've little to worry about. You'll end up with some bruises, sure, but on the whole, you'd be safe.
The poleaxe, on the other hand, was specifically designed to fight fully armoured knights. So while a blunted sword might be safe to use no matter how much force you put behind it, if you hit someone with a poleaxe and really meant it, it wouldn't matter how well padded they were, you'd lay them out flat.
"That box of old tools covered the cost of this thing?" I asked incredulously.
"The broker I did business with was particularly interested in the bracelet you had," she related, "Cryptic bastard didn't tell me what sort of mana it contained, but it was interesting enough that he was willing to give me the axe on trade for it and the tools."
"My fitness tracker had magic in it?" I frowned.
"Everything has mana within it. The more exotic the material, the rarer the sorts of mana," she explained, "I'm glad you're happy with the weapon, but there is something I want to make clear."
She unzipped the front of her flight suit, drawing the zipper down to mid-chest, and pulled one lapel aside. She'd modified the flight suit, using scraps of something synthetic to create a pair of improvised holsters, each of which held a large double-barrel wheellock pistol.
"I don't want you to get the wrong idea, or to take offence, but I want to make sure that we both know where we stand." she said slowly, "If you touch me, I will shoot you."
I put the axe away and spread my hands, "It's okay," I said gently, "I understand."
"You do?" she asked, eyebrows raised.
"I know what I look like, Valentine," I shrugged, "It's not like I want people to feel unsafe around me."
She nodded slowly, and re-zipped the front of her suit while I closed the clasps.
The pistols were a bit of a surprise, but more that she had them, rather than their existence in the first place. Full plate armour and gunpowder had been contemporaries on earth, so it didn't surprise me that a society that could turn out armour like Temerity wore, also had firearms.
Being threatened with the pistols though, that was a little startling. But upon consideration, it actually put me at ease. It was as she'd said, now I knew where we stood. If Valentine had a problem, I now knew I could count on her to tell me what it was, even if the problem was me. And while I wasn't super keen on the fact that she seemed a little wary around me, it was an understandable sentiment and one that told me I'd ultimately made the right choice by siding with Valentine.
With her, the power dynamic was more or less balanced. I needed her to teach me magic and navigate, and she needed me to help her deal with whatever the wilds would throw at us. And if it came down to a fight, while either of us could give the other a lot of trouble, neither of us could really 'win'. So if she turned on me, I was strong and tough enough to get loose, even if she did shoot me. If I turned on her, well she had guns and magic to fight me off while she got away.
In short, it was a much better state of affairs than I had with Temerity. Even if I could take her in a fight, and I wasn't even sure of that, she was still top dog in the city. Whether I was sleeping with her or not, just staying in Parabuteo would place me within her power. And after hearing her speech yesterday, I'd realized that having silk sheets and amazon on-tap was not worth giving up my independence.
"We'll need to push hard to make it," Valentine began, changing the subject "But there's a pass several miles north. It's going to be our first chance to get to the other side of the mountains, and I'd like to make it through before we stop to sleep tonight."
"I take it that my dawdling is what's going to make things tight?"
"It's not the end of the world, we have the whole Long Night to travel through as well, but this is all the daylight we're going to get and I'd like to make the most of it."
"Twelve hours of daylight and thirty-six of night," I recited, "how are we breaking things up?"
"Well we keep pushing hard till nightfall," she said, and indeed she'd been setting a good pace so far despite her short stature, "And stop for our first rest a little after dark. We'll eat dinner, sleep, should take a little less than eight hours. Then we carry on, it will be dark without The Father, but I can light our way. Typically survey teams I travel with will try to aim for another ten hours, but if you can keep up with me I'd like to go for twelve. Then we have another rest break to eat and sleep, before making the final push."
"At which point, we'll either have made it, or we'll drown."
"We will make it," she assured me, "Even with us leaving a little late, we've several hours of margin."
"You said earlier that he can only use Body magic, what exactly does that mean?"
We hadn't bothered to stop for lunch, instead eating as we walked so as not to waste more time. We were actually moving more quickly than I might have expected, travelling through a dense pine forest. But with the underbrush nice and light, and without too many roots to trip on, our path was actually fairly clear.
"Can he only heal people, or use magic only on himself?" I continued, "Whose body does 'Body magic' refer to?"
"It's the body as a concept," Valentine clarified, "So his, or someone else's, it doesn't matter."
"What can he do to a body then? Does he just get some Body mana from a, what is your necklace, diamond? So he gets some Body mana from a diamond, waves his hand, and then reality rearranges itself however he likes. As long as what he likes involves screwing with someone's body?"
"No," Valentine replied with a shake of her head, "Well, not quite. If you want to do it properly, magic always requires two types of mana. One noun, which refers to what you wish your magic to act upon, and a verb, which describes what you wish to do," she reached into her collar and came out with the amulet, "So my amulet, I want it to make me stronger and increase my stamina. So it uses Body mana and Strengthen mana. There are limits though, the more substantial the change the more substantial the source of mana needs to be."
"And diamonds have a lot of mana in them?" I guessed.
"Yes, any gemstone does, in fact."
"Simon then, the only noun he can use is Body?" I asked, and Valentine nodded in agreement.
"What about the verbs, any limits there? Or do you know?"
"What you describe is exactly the problem, when it comes to Simon I'm certain of nothing. But to the best of my knowledge, he can use any of the verbs. He's particularly fond of Strengthen and Transform, however."
"Can Transform be used offensively?" I asked, wincing at the thought of the sort of body-horror that Simon might be able to inflict upon people.
"Yes, though that's not what he uses it for. Instead he uses the Strengthen-Transform combination to enhance his physical characteristics for short periods. I believe he has some permanent enchantments on his body already, his physique is suspiciously impressive, but the magic pushes it yet further and makes him capable of great feats of strength."
"Does it turn his hair yellow?" I sighed.
"No," she frowned, "Does the colour have some significance among humans?"
"It's, complicated. Complicated and not important. If he can use all the verbs, then what actually are they?"
She counted off on her fingers, "Communicate, Control, Create, Heal, Movement, Protect, Sense, Strengthen, Transform, and Weaken. Weaken is what's typically used in offensive Body magic, and Communicate is hardly used at all. Any combination of noun and verb, is possible, but not all need to make sense."
"Can you use more than one of each? I take it that you need at least one of each, but could I use two nouns and a verb, or a noun and two verbs?"
She nodded, "There's no true limit, at least as far as I know. Perhaps someone has found one and isn't telling, but there are practical limits. However much mana one might be able to gather, ultimately it comes down to the mind of the caster. A spell, in all its complexities, must be held in the mind as it is cast. Creating a blast of fire, however large it might be, is simple. With sufficient mana, even a novice might melt a city wall. Heating a piece of metal to a specific temperature, that's more complex, even if it requires a great deal less mana. Setting a trap, now that's one of the most complex uses of a spell, as it requires the caster to hold in their mind the conditions necessary to activate the trap. Typically it also requires including a second spell, Sense Body or some such, which adds yet more complexity."
Continued in comment
submitted by ThisHasNotGoneWell to HFY [link] [comments]

Worst Neighbor of All Time- Is This Blackmail? Long But Entertaining

Solved: Clearly the correct course of action is to press charges and pursue an RO. I’m pressing charges right now. Thanks to everyone.
Im TLDR’ing this up here since it is a lot of text. Basically, I have a neighbor whom has a long history of antagonizing my family. I have hundreds of videos and reports that are uploaded to YouTube, and I would like to leave my neighbor a letter basically stating that if she does not stop these behaviors, I will not only be contacting the police again to press charges, but that I will make every YouTube video public with her name and address (or my address) on them. Would this be considered blackmail? It would probably be best to read the story if you need to understand the dynamics. But I need this to end, so please feel free to PM or anything that can help! This really has caused emotional damages.
If you want the link to the videos just ask!
This is a long story but it is well worth reading, and I believe that someone with a legal background would be very interested in how it has played out.
I have lived in my home since 2016 and have a wife and two small children. Our neighbor originally was nice to us but showed some signs of mental illness. Such as placing a sign in her front yard saying, “THIS IS ANTIFREEZE” and a little plastic bowl of blue liquid (obviously its actually green and she didn’t know). This was in response to a dog pooping in her yard. We also have a large lab, and one day I came home to find dog shit all over my porch. I watched her leave her home quickly, and then a police car came and basically told me that someone complained about a dog not being on a leash. I texted her saying sorry and I wanted to talk and she would not commit to it. Her grandkids and mine used to play together but do not, and a lot of her anger seemed to be around our son and her view that he was “a brat”. I blocked her number after that and we were resolved to leave her alone.
So, while we did leave her alone, her and her family did not do the same for us. I noticed a few months after this that random large rocks and sticks were in my yard that weren’t there that morning. In February of 2017 I installed two cameras to watch my driveway and front porch. Almost daily she would walk onto our property and throw trash onto it, her daughter would take her car and rather than back down their own driveway, pull all the way around and drive straight through my yard. I kept this videos and began adding them to Youtube and USB drives. Finally, I recorded a video in April 2017 that clearly showed her dumping raw trash right onto my driveway. I went to the police station and reported it, showed the officers the videos, and they said they would talk to her. They did, I watched them go over there, and she denied everything. You would think that after police intervention she would stop, nope, it actually got worse.
For the rest of April that year I had many videos of her and her grandchildren throwing rocks and hitting my house and doing the same general shit they always do. I knew that she was a Sunday school teacher, so I called her pastor and met with him and his wife to show the over 100 videos that I had collected. They were absolutely appalled and stated that they would speak to her. Mind you, this was an attempt to keep her and her grandkids out of real trouble with the law. The pastor talked to her and we thought that this would cause the behavior to stop, NOPE!
From there, she proceeded to call the fire department on me almost daily. Her cousin is the fire chief of the county. I began asking that police come every time she did this and collecting many police reports. I finally had enough, and searched for the father of her two grandchildren to make him aware of what his kids were being coached to do by their grandma. It took a few days, but I did find him and speak to him. Both parents are divorced and their father is hated by my neighbor and subsequently he doesn’t like his ex-wife or her either. This actually worked for about a year to get her to stop. It terrified her. Her daughter came over and apologized profusely and asked that I not press charges. I didn’t. You would think this was the end, right? BIG OL’ NOPE!!!
She did seem to cease any activity that targeted me until about two months ago. She had coached her grandkids into bullying my son when he goes outside and to basically ride their bikes past him and his friends and be obnoxious jackasses’. I came home one day and my wife, our sons friends mom, and our shitball neighbor in a screaming match because the grandkids were once again being obnoxious and screaming things. I immediately took control of the situation, turned on my camera, and very calmly listened to my shitty neighbor basically claim complete innocence in all of this. I calmly explained to her that I have enough evidence to have her charged, and enough evidence to have her grandkids in trouble. She took this and stated that she also had evidence of us doing something, but we have not once ever retaliated, so clearly she’s full of shit, which I also called out. According to her “I was going to come apologize to yall but didn’t” and “the lord knows my heart”. I asked her to leave us alone and we would do the same. You thought this was the end of this didn’t you? NOPE!
About a week later, I noticed that her and her grandkids were paying a lot of attention to the people that live directly behind her. So her anger now was targeting someone else for once. Over time I figured out that the dog back there sometimes barked, and she hated that, so that was her issue. I recorded and watched this dumbass and her dipshit offspring stand in the middle of their driveway blowing a “dog whistle” so that the dog would be in pain. She then decided that since the dog sometimes barked, that she needed to set off her car alarm every morning at 7am for a minimum of 5 minutes. Then also decided that what would really help is to throw rocks and trash over the fence and repeatedly hit the fence with a basketball. Seeing this and having all of the videos of it occurring, I wrote a letter to that neighbor and put it in his mailbox. Later that evening I received a call from him, and guess what?
HES A COP!!!
I met with him and gave him every single video I had of her and her shitty offspring messing with his dog, which ended up being about 25. She was unaware of this new found friendship, and he and I agreed that he would call his supervisor to get an officer from a different precinct to respond to a call at his home. When the officer got there, we showed him the plethora of videos and reports I have compiled. In total, I have about 200 videos and 60 pages of police and fire reports. The officer stated that we had enough evidence to take her to jail: animal abuse, littering, vandalism, and contributing to the delinquency of a minor. The officer asked if we wanted him to apprehend her. Myself and that neighbor ultimately decided against that (he didn’t have the history with her that I do) but that the officer would go to her home and explain to her that should any of this continue she would be going to jail. He stayed at her home for about 30 minutes, and afterward called us both and stated that she denied everything, even when he said he clearly saw the videos, and kept offering to make him food or drinks. In the week after this I was away on business for a weekend. She stopped my wife outside and said that she had video of me putting nails in her tires. Clearly that is complete horse shit. What was odd is that all 4 of my cars tires had nails in them that were identical. And of course, my camera lost power over that weekend. You would think that this absolutely has to be the end, right? NOT A CHANCE!!!
I ordered better surveillance cameras and installed them. They also have night vision. I have caught basically the same antics as before. Except this time she is directly targeting my son, I have her on video mocking the way he runs to her grandkids, but no sound. It was clear that is what she was doing. I also have more videos of her throwing shit too. Shes basically right back to where we started. When we are outside she makes it a point to go out and to talk loudly about anything, but she is a coward so cannot do it in person. Two nights ago she yelled at the top of her lungs that she had found glass in her yard, as if talking to someone inside of her home. Basically, this means that she has probably put glass into my yard, as when she ever does anything like that, you can bet that she actually did it.
To give you an idea of the evidence I have collected and archived, and what I am holding back for a possible lawsuit. I give you the following:
So I am holding back quite a bit, and honestly I believe I could get a restraining order easily to protect my children from her, and I think that filing a suit stating emotional pain would also be successful. This genuinely causes anxiety and we cannot leave our home or face it being attacked.
I didn’t go into this, but it seems that she believes she is being persecuted. We have never retaliated against her but from what I understand she tells everyone that we are causing the issues, and that she is simply putting (insert object) back onto our property. She also claims to have all kinds of evidence that shows me personally doing (insert action) to her property. Clearly this person is mentally ill and I do pity her, but this has to end.
TLDR is up top due to the length of this.
submitted by World_Renowned_Guy to legaladvice [link] [comments]

I'mma head out

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The Cryopod to Hell 211: Harboring a Grudge

Author note: The Cryopod to Hell is a Reddit-exclusive story with over three years of editing and refining. As of this post, the total rewrite is 222 parts long and 953,000+ words. For more information, check out the link below:
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(Previous Part)
(Part 001)
...
Kar and I spend the next several hours following the main 'road' that weaves across Hell Harbor's coastline. Comparing it to streets on Earth makes it seem extremely primitive, given how its surface is made of compacted dirt and not concrete or something more durable. Well-worn ruts in the ground tell a tale of the excessive number of carriages ferrying passengers along the coastline, from the north to the south.
We keep to the forested side of the road, opposite the ocean, ducking behind cover whenever we spot someone coming. Unfortunately, due to how my Wordsmithing functions, I can't keep us invisible forever. Doing so would drain my mana by three times its usual rate, and even moreso if I have to maintain Kar and Blinker's invisibility if we separate from each other.
So, instead, I activate my T-REX and set it to camouflage mode, allowing me to blend into the background scenery without wasting my mana. Kar's green skin allows him to melt into the forest with ease, while Blinker can just hide behind a leaf. When it comes to stealth, being small is an underrated attribute.
[Turtle,] Kar says, transmitting his thoughts to me from behind a tree. [I sense a single person coming around the next bend. Their mana level is unusually weak. I believe they are human.]
I nod. [One sec.]
I deactivate my T-REX and speak a word of power. "Sense."
My senses reach out half a mile ahead, where I quickly pick out a single human female riding a horse. However, unlike the other humans who've passed us, this lady wears extravagantly designed clothes. Her youthful appearance makes her look about twenty-five years old, while her haughty expression instantly reminds me of Beelzebub.
[It's a human woman,] I say. [I'm a little surprised to say this, but I think she isn't a slave. She's dressed like a noble, so she might know something about Ose's whereabouts.]
Kar grunts. [Hurgh. Shall we tie her up and interrogate her?]
[Ooh, good idea!] Blinker chimes in. [I'll disorient her with a little finger waving, while you guys get the rope!]
[What?! No!] I protest. [Jeez. I'll just ask the lady a few questions. Hang tight.]
With my physical appearance still a perfect facsimile of Mara, I stride over to lean against a tree alongside the road. Having absorbed many of Mara's memories, I've already learned more than a few of her quirks, so I pull out a deck of fake Tarot cards and pretend to glance through them, acting as if I haven't any interest in the world around me.
Within a minute or two, the sound of hoofs clopping against the ground reaches my ears. I flick my eyes to the side to spot the young, dark-skinned woman riding toward the Hell Harbor Annex at a speed I would describe as 'leisurely.'
As the woman draws near, I continue to stare at my cards while flipping through them. Eventually, she starts to pass me, only to slow to a stop.
"Hm? Mara? What are you doing out here in the middle of nowhere?"
Immediately, I get a sinking feeling in my gut.
Shit. She knows me. Knows Mara, I mean. Phoebe?
Phoebe quickly appears at the top of my subconscious. She activates the terminal for Mara's memories and flips through them. "This young woman's name is... Lily! Lily Brown. Uhm, her father's name is Benjamin Brown, she lives at, uh... at the Slithering Spire... uhm..."
That's enough for now. Keep listening and try to give me answers to any of her questions.
I raise my head to stare at the young woman riding the horse. Her bright pink hair shines in the sunlight, giving her a cute and merry demeanor. However, the half-scowl on her face makes her attractiveness drop by several points.
"Lily. Don't mind me, I'm just passing the time," I say, while running a finger through my long, blonde hair.
"Oh, so now you call me by my first name," Lily mutters. "My father told you not to step foot within ten miles of the Spire, especially after what you did the last time we saw each other. You have a lot of nerve showing your face around here."
The sinking feeling in my stomach turns into a bottomless chasm. Goddammit. What were the odds we'd run into the one person who has beef with Mara? Shit. This is going to be a sticky situation.
"I, ah, came to apologize," I say, winging the conversation. "Some things happened that made me re-evaluate my outlook on life. I was abrasive and rude the last time I visited."
"Hmph. Understatement of the century," Lily hisses. "He was my brother, you filthy, bloodskinned bitch. Because of you, Tyrese can't have children anymore. You demons are all the same."
Lily exhales violently, flaring her nostrils in rage.
"If my daddy were here, he'd rip your bloody head off. I don't want your apology. I want you to drop dead."
Hoo, Christ, I think to myself. I really know how to pick 'em. Got the saltiest broad this side of the Mississippi.
"Yeah, you do," Phoebe says sarcastically. "Alright, so looking through Mara's memories, it seems this Tyrese kid made a crude joke about how humans are 'bigger' than the pathetic demonhoods most demons sport, and that pissed Mara off. She ended up castrating him. He screamed the whole time and went into shock, barely surviving thanks to this 'Ben Brown' guy's doctors on call. So, yeah, there's a lot of bad blood between Mara and Lily."
I hadn't noticed...
With a sigh, I don my most apologetic smile. "Look, Lily, I know I've done some terrible things, but I'd like to make it up to you. What would you say if I told you I had a method to, ahem, restore your brother's dignity? I can't undo the suffering I've caused him, but I do feel terrible. After all, a harmless joke is no reason to maim someone for the rest of their life."
A strange look appears on Lily's face. "Huh? What in the seven hells are you on about?! Since when have you ever been the type of person to regret hurting one of us 'filthy fleshbags'?! Admit it, you filthy skank! You're just afraid of my daddy! You know that if you piss him off again, he'll rip you limb from limb! Well, let me just tell you this, little miss pissy; you should be afraid! My daddy is the strongest human you'll ever face! So you'd better turn that ugly, fat ass of your around and haul it on out of here! Hmph!"
The more Lily talks, the more baffled I become.
Who the hell is her father, and how can he possibly be strong enough to instill such confidence in his daughter? Does Lily, perhaps, refer to political power? Are politics an integral part of Hell Harbor's society?
As several questions churn in my mind, Phoebe suddenly pipes up.
"Benjamin Brown! Ah, I remember, now. Jason, don't you recall Tucker's vision? His artifact used to belong to a man named Benjamin Brown, back during the Energy Wars."
That's impossible, I reply. Tucker's visions were from a hundred thousand years ago. Benjamin Brown would have surely died by now, if not during the war. Unless...
Phoebe nods. "Exactly. Marie survived all this time. She mentioned humans who lived on Hell Harbor, too. Benjamin Brown must be one of those 'elites' who obtained immortality and stayed alive long after the Energy Wars."
I see.
With a slight nod, I return my attention to Lily. Thanks to the speed of thought, conversing with my mind-wife only takes a split-second of real-time.
It's no wonder Lily isn't afraid of me. Benjamin Brown once possessed a legendary heroic artifact. He slaughtered Volgrim and demons alike. He's probably a total badass, and that's why even Demon Barons like Mara wouldn't dare to fuck with him.
Maybe I ought to pay him a visit.
After bowing my head, I nod apologetically. "Yes, uhm, you've got me there. Alright. I understand. If I can't make amends for my past actions, I'll leave you alone. Sorry for wasting your time."
I turn away from Lily and start to walk away, only for the girl to speak again, her voice much quieter than before.
"Wait. Something's not right, here. You've been acting awfully odd, 'Mara.' I've known you for a long time, and not once have you ever apologized or said you were sorry about anything. What's going on, here? Who are you?"
My heart skips a beat. Shit. Lily's onto me.
I spin on my heel while intending to reply, only for Lily to continue speaking. "Hah. I should have known. You're not Mara at all. You must be..."
She pauses for dramatic effect.
"...Belial! Oh, for devil's sake! Admit it! I've caught you red-handed this time!"
I groan inwardly. Shit. How am I going to deal with this turn of events?
"Don't worry," Phoebe says. She rapidly clicks and clacks on Mara's memory terminal. "This is actually fortunate for us. Belial and Lily are birds of a feather. It seems they hang out occasionally, though Mara's memory is quite spotty on the relevant details."
That's not good enough! I reply. We already stepped in a fat pile of shit by poorly impersonating Mara! I can't afford to screw up again by poorly apeing Samantha!
A split-second passes as Phoebe considers my words.
"Jason. I have an idea. I want you to allow me to take over your body for a bit. I know Sam much better than you. I think I can imitate her, but I need to have full control. If I try to tell you what to say, you're bound to come off sounding stiff and clunky. Impersonations are not your specialty."
I barely even have to think about Phoebe's request. Sure. You know how to use my Wordsmithing if the going gets tough, right?
"Naturally."
Alright. Here goes nothing. Do your best, sweetie.
With a mental command, I close my eyes, willing my consciousness to lower its defenses. Phoebe's soul quickly engulfs mine, wrapping me in its warmth and allowing her to take control of my body.
Having already done this once, back when my soul departed to investigate Marie and the Volgrim, she still surprises me by completing the mind-swap effortlessly.
My consciousness falls into a dark abyss, one which quickly brightens up, allowing me to step foot inside my very own Mind Realm. My soul, now detached from my body, lands amidst a field of buildings ripped straight out of the 2020's.
"You caught me!" Phoebe says to Lily, her voice lilting cutely. She acts embarrassed for a moment and covers her face, all while secretly whispering, "Disguise," under her breath.
Phoebe, now fully in control of my body and Wordsmithing, uses a word of power to transform from Mara into Belial, shedding her regal Baron appearance for a far less dressed, more striking one.
"Teehee! It's me!" Phoebe says, sticking her tongue out. Her voice perfectly mirrors Samantha's, reminding me further of how versatile my Wordsmithing can be. "I'm surprised it took you so long to figure me out! Aren't we besties?"
"Oh, Beli," Lily says, clicking her tongue. "I should have known it was you! How have you been? I haven't seen you in, what, two years?"
The young woman slides one of her legs around the horse and hops to the ground. Her leather boots clomp against the dirt as she lands, and my wife holds out a hand to steady her.
"Two years? Hmm... you know me! I don't pay much attention to the time! I always- mgm?!"
Before she can finish her sentence, Phoebe gets thrown off-balance when Lily suddenly turns around, grabs the back of her head, and presses their lips together.
I stand within my Mind Realm, eyes wide open at the sudden change in Lily's attitude. Where before, she was a haughty, reserved noblewoman, she suddenly blooms into an erotic-minded temptress.
Phoebe, even more startled than me, only manages to hold herself together by remembering her job of mimicking Belial. She presses back into the kiss and returns Lily's embrace with twice the intensity. Both of them go at it for several long seconds, making me feel insanely awkward as a passive observer.
My wife, who has taken over my body, is now pretending to be her best friend while making out with a woman neither of us knows! What the hell is going on?!
After more than ten seconds of furious tongue-punching, Lily pulls away, her cheeks beet-red. "Devils! It's been a while since you, ahem, retorted so passionately! Have we been apart for so long that you've forgotten to act coy and indifferent?"
Phoebe smacks her lips. Lily's taste lingers just long enough to turn her foggy-brained. "Coy? I, ah... well, what can I say! Haha... I like to do my own thing!"
"No kidding," Lily sighs. She fans herself for a moment before clearing her throat. "Ahm, so, Beli, dear! Why are you out here, all by your lonesome? Don't tell me you were waiting for me to come waltzing by! Pulling such a horrid joke on me is in terrible taste!"
Phoebe doesn't reply for a second or two. Thanks to our mind-link, I notice her use of telepathy increases substantially as she excavates Lily's surface level-thoughts.
"Well, I have my reasons. It's been a while since I returned to Hell Harbor, and you just happened to come trotting down that road. What's a girl to do, if not improvise?"
"Tsk, you've always been an enigma," Lily says, clicking her tongue. "Daddy says you've been on Tarus II, helping out a bunch of humans. Is that what happened, or is his intelligence network wrong again?"
To my surprise, Phoebe doesn't give a direct answer.
"Hmm. What do you think?"
"I think that's exactly the kind of thing you'd do!" Lily replies. She jumps toward Phoebe and wraps her arms around Phoebe's succubus form. "You're always way too kind and compassionate! If it weren't for your help, Tyrese would never have made a full recovery!"
"Oh, I didn't do all that much," Phoebe says, feigning ignorance. "You're giving me way too much credit, Lily, dear."
"Nuh-uh! We only managed to repair half the damage that filthy, sodding Baron bitch did to my brother! It was you who made Tyrese whole again! He still can't have any kids, but daddy said we owed you a great debt! And you know me... I'm not one to let debts gather interest... hehe!"
Phoebe and Lily continue bantering. What surprises me is how, despite Phoebe knowing very little about Lily and Belial's relationship, she manages to improvise time after time, all by using several advanced psychological tricks invented well after the Arthurian era.
Cold reading, a technique often used by so-called 'psychics' from my era, allowed them to speak in broad, generalized terms to gather information about their subjects. Phoebe uses it to determine just how close Belial and Lily's relationship is, while inferring more in-depth information by casually acknowledging and denying statements in a playful manner. Lily, oblivious to Phoebe's intentions, keeps letting more and more details slip, which in turn fuels my wife's knowledge.
The longer the conversation continues, the more adept Phoebe becomes at manipulating Lily. Soon, the young girl becomes putty in her hands.
"Oh, I missed you so much," Phoebe says, grinning from ear to ear. "I've been trapped on Tarus II with only a few friends to keep me company, but none of them are... like you. You know what I mean."
"Indeed, I do," Lily says, blushing. She gazes into Phoebe's eyes as she speaks, both of them sharing more than a hint of intimacy.
However, Lily pulls away and ruffles Phoebe's hair.
"Oh, Beli. Things have changed since we last spoke. I'm sorry that we haven't talked much, but... you remember Beelzebub, don't you?"
"Beelzebub? Of course. What about him?"
"Well, he's the new master of the Slithering Spire. He's become more and more heavy-handed over the years. He won't allow any of us humans to fraternize with Hell Harbor's residents, especially other pureblooded demons. It's tearing me up inside! I haven't spent any time with Bianca in several years- you remember Bianca, right?"
Phoebe nods sagely. Her eyes reveal wisdom beyond her years as she acts like a long-lost friend of whoever 'Bianca' might be. "Naturally. What happened between you two? Did Beelzebub hurt her?"
"No, no! It's just... since Bianca's a succubus, Beelzebub won't allow us to spend any time together! Remember that time when the three of us visited the hot spring? You, me, and Bianca? Well, as long as Beelzebub is the master of the Slithering Spire, it'll never happen again! The fucking rat-bastard always gets in my way! He won't let me do as I please, and I don't dare stand up to him! Daddy doesn't care, either! He's always going on about that damned Operation Stormbringer as if it's more important than his daughter's happiness!"
"Operation Stormbringer?" Phoebe asks. "Forgive me, but I don't recall hearing about that one."
Lily waves her hands nonchalantly. "Oh, some big invasion plan. I don't pay attention to the details, and neither should you. Daddy and the top demon generals are always blustering and blowing their horns about this and that! It's hardly worth our attention! Especially when it involves that damned Ose."
"Ose?" Phoebe asks. "Funny you should mention her. I came to Hell Harbor because I needed to see her."
Lily's eyes widen. "What? You?! Beli, darling! I thought you hated that skank! Any time Ose came up in conversation, you always started ranting and raving!"
Phoebe crosses her arms. She assumes a pouty stance and turns a few degrees away from Lily. "I do hate her! Ose and I have a long, sordid history of backstabbings and betrayal. I'd rather not go into it, because it's beside the point. I'm here on official business, Lily, dear. Humanity's leader sent me to discuss peace talks with Ose. If I can convince her to sign a treaty... well, you and I might get to see each other once in a while. Not only that, but even as the owner of the estate, Beelzebub won't have any legs to stand on. You, me, and Bianca could do as we pleased."
Lily's expression turns curious. "Oh? I didn't peg you as the ambassador type! You must really get along with those humans to treat them so nicely."
"As well as I get along with you," Phoebe says, flashing a radiant smile. "But, um, there's a problem, Lily. I'm a little embarrassed to say it, but it's been bugging me, and I don't know who to ask for help."
Lily practically leaps for joy. She rushes toward Phoebe and grabs her hands. "You can ask me for anything, Beli! I'll always help you!"
Phoebe blushes. She averts her eyes, and for once, I realize that her expression isn't deceitful. My wife is actually starting to develop feelings for this young woman.
"Umm, well, you see... there was this Hydra that appeared on Tarus II. I helped fight it, but due to some terrible accidents that happened during the battle, I hit my head and got knocked out. When I woke up, I had lost some of my memories. How do I put this..."
Phoebe hesitates for a moment, building anticipation in Lily's eyes. "Yes? What's the matter?"
"Well..." Phoebe continues, "...I forgot where Ose's estate was! I'm totally lost! I've been searching everywhere, but I'm too embarrassed to ask for help. Oh, devils, you probably think I'm an idiot!"
"An idiot? No, no, don't be silly!" Lily laughs. "And here I thought some jerk had broken your heart. If you don't remember where Ose's estate is, that's easy. I can show you the way, Beli."
Lily presses her head against Phoebe's chest and sighs, taking a moment to inhale her scent. "Ahh... I missed you so much. I'm glad to help you. Never act as if I'll hurt you, okay? We're closer than sisters. Closer than lovers, even."
Phoebe blushes. "Yes. Yes, we are."
...
After a few more minutes, Phoebe bashfully waves goodbye. Lily mounts her horse and waves back at us. "Bye-bye, Beli! Remember, it sits atop the third mountain plateau to the east, the one overlooking Bael and Mephisto's estates! After you visit that skank, please drop by later! I'll have daddy's doctors examine your head. I don't want you to suffer any permanent brain injuries, okay?"
"Right, right," Phoebe says, blowing Lily a kiss. "I'll see you later, lover!"
Both women give their goodbyes, then depart, traveling in opposite directions. Phoebe enters the forest to the east, only to hide behind a tree once Lily disappears from our sight.
"Hoo. That was stressful," Phoebe says. "I didn't anticipate Lily being so... excitable."
"You did great," I say, taking a seat on a bench. "Way better than I could have managed. If Lily had kissed me and done the tongue thing, I'd probably have broken character right then and there. You acted the part perfectly."
Phoebe's face turns beet-red. She slumps to the ground and hides her face in her hands. "Oh, god! Jason, don't bring that up! I'm married! I shouldn't be kissing other people! E-especially not women! It's weird!"
"I don't see anything wrong with it," I reply. "It's not like you planned the kiss, or anything. If it had bothered me, I would have stopped you. Besides, in the era I come from, women kissing other women wasn't weird, nor men kissing men. Maybe it was a little bit rare, but I saw plenty of it growing up."
Phoebe rubs her face furiously. "Argh! That might be true for you, Jason, but not for me! I grew up in... in a proper era! Where men courted women, and both sexes knew their roles! This modern era always makes me feel so weird! So... so dirty."
I keep my voice neutral. "How so?"
Phoebe hesitates. She doesn't reply for several seconds but eventually relents.
"Well. How do I put this? Um. Ever since you and I got married- no, even before then... Samantha has always acted much more touchy-feely than I liked. At first, I didn't want to be rude, but then after our marriage, I started feeling guilty about my passive rejections. Whenever she got too close, I would push her away. I never directly rejected her, and that, in turn, made me feel worse."
My mind-wife sighs. "Not only that, but since I never told you about all the moves she made on me in private, I always felt like I was lying to you, too. Sammy and I never did anything, but I always felt, and still feel, like a complete ass. I should set boundaries, but I don't know how. I don't even know if I should."
She falls silent, waiting for my reply.
I nod. "Yeah. I know all of that. I've always known. The day you and I got married, Samantha came over to me and confessed she was madly in love with you. It caught me off-guard, but I took it in stride. You and Sam have a lot in common, after all. Both of you lost the first men you ever loved. Satan, for her, and Sir Percival, for you. I don't see myself as a fairy tale hero of legend, rescuing a virgin princess. I grew up in a society where marriage was cheap, divorces were common, and love had lost most of its substance."
"I don't believe in true love," I continue. "At least... I didn't. Not until I met you. I knew a lot of people growing up. Good people, the sorts who went to Church every Sunday, and said their prayers before their three meals. I always thought the people who held onto their wives and husbands the tightest had most unhappy marriages. They always broke up and ended their love with explosions of rage and torn-apart families."
"Jason..."
Phoebe starts to interrupt me, but I continue. "There's more. I knew a lot of people who thought of their spouses as possessions. They assumed that marriage entitled them to 100% of their wives or husband's affection. To me, even if that were true in the eyes of the law and God himself, it felt immoral. You have a big heart, Phoebe. There's more than enough room for you to love Samantha and me equally, especially after all she's done for us. For you. She saved your life when I couldn't. If it weren't for Sam, Beelzebub would have killed you, Neil, and all the other people in the Core. She's a good friend. I'd never want to hurt either of you."
After I finish speaking, Phoebe falls silent. Tears well up in her eyes, and she quickly tries to wipe them away. "Jason... I never... I never knew you felt that way."
"Dammit, Phoebe. Don't cry. You're gonna make me cry, too..."
"Sniff..."
Phoebe paws at her eyes, and hiccups. "Oh, god. I feel like such an idiot. Why didn't I just tell you sooner? I always thought you'd be jealous, or that you'd pull away from me. I love you, Jason. You're the only man I have eyes for, but... sometimes, when I speak to Samantha, I just... I have this urge to close the gap between us, yet I never do. It tears me up inside."
"I feel terrible, too," I say. "I never realized you and Sam had such tension between each other. I always assumed when you ended up at the pit stop; you two were making a quick pit stop in each other's pit stops."
Phoebe sniffles. "...What?"
"You know... when you're racing. Sam's your mechanic, remember? That's why I mentioned pit stops...?"
"Jason. Why do you always have to make such terrible jokes at the silliest times?"
"Dunno. It's a curse."
Phoebe laughs. "Haha... ugh. My face hurts. I look like crap. Jeez, the worst part is, I'm not even the real Phoebe. I'm just her mind-clone. My original body doesn't even know I've told you all this."
I shake my head. "No. You are the 'real' Phoebe, equal to your original body. As far as I'm concerned, I have two loving wives. You might as well be her spiritual twin or something. Don't get so down on yourself."
Phoebe doesn't cheer up. She stares at the ground listlessly. "You can say that all you want, Jason. It doesn't change anything. I'm still just an errant soul living inside your Mind Realm. I don't have a physical body. I can use yours when you're not using it, but it's not mine. I'm only borrowing it."
The moment Phoebe finishes speaking, a strange, euphoric idea pops into my head. Like a lightbulb going off, I jump out of my seat and gaze forward with brightness in my eyes. "Ah! That's it! Phoebe, you're a genius!"
Phoebe pulls her head out of her hands. "...I am?"
"Yes. Think about it. You don't have a physical body. You can't interact with me, currently. However, that doesn't have to be the case. I'm a Wordsmith! I can create a new body for you and allow you to enter it whenever you want!"
Phoebe stares at the ground for a few moments before jumping to her feet. "N-no way! Jason, that's genius!"
"Yeah. I don't know if it will work, but it's worth a shot. Try making yourself a new body, then let me take over mine and I'll transfer-"
"STOP!"
Before I can finish my sentence, a masculine voice shouts from behind me, making me jump out of my skin. I whirl around to see Raphael, Gabriel, and Michael standing less than twenty feet away. The expansive city park somehow seems much smaller with Gabriel's giant form towering above the nearest trees.
"Thou shalt do no such thing, foolish child," Raphael hisses. "Already, thou hath cloned thy wife's soul without comprehending the consequences. Verily, I tell thee now, that if thou go through with thy foolish plans, thou shalt irreparably harm the one thou claimeth to love."
With my mind still in a daze, I merely stare at the old man. "Huh? What do you mean, Raphael? Explain."
The Archangel of Wisdom flaps his wings. He slowly hovers nearer to me, all while maintaining a contemptuous grimace.
"Imbecilic child. Thou knoweth nothing of Soul Links. Tell me, Jason, what are souls?"
I shrug. "Um. The essence of a person? Their... core?"
"That description is not far from the truth," Raphael concedes. "However! It is far from encompassing the importance of a being's soul. Souls mustn't be considered trifles and playthings. Those who manipulate souls freely will accumulate terrible injuries, ones incurable by even the greatest healer. Look no further than Valac and Mephisto, necromancers who manipulate the dead to do their bidding. In exchange for tremendous power, they lost the vitality from their bodies."
"Alright," I reply. "What about Satan? He seemed just fine, despite being a soul manipulator like Valac. Hell, he was worse, in many ways."
Michael, instead of Raphael, replies. "Indeed. The Devil was a crafty bastard. He, too, manipulated souls to a fearsome extent. However, while he may not have lost his body, he lost his link to the strands of fate. That is why he eventually perished not ten thousand years after his emergence."
"Put another way, the Devil rapidly accumulated fatal amounts of bad luck," Gabriel explains. "Fate conspired to kill him. The Devil proved incapable of resisting the Creator's divine will, and thus, he expired."
I nod. "Fine. Manipulating souls is evil. I get it. What does that mean, though? What would making a body for Phoebe cost me?"
Raphael shakes his head. "I do not know. Each soul manipulator suffers their own agony. In my case, I ended up trapped alone inside this ring. However, in thy case, I speaketh of the evils of soul manipulation not to protect thee, but to shield thy wife."
Raphael continues. "Every time a soul separates from a vessel, it suffers irreversible trauma. Thou hath cloned thy wife's soul. Her clone has, no doubt, suffered some level of memory loss. Her mood swings are not a mere byproduct of her situation, but directly linked to the circumstances of her creation!"
Raphael stabs a finger toward me.
"Thy reckless use of soul manipulation has caused thy wife's errant soul to suffer! Thou art the cause of her pain. Further, by trading places with her, not once, but multiple times, the two of thee have injured thy souls even further!"
This time, Raphael's words hit home.
"You mean... by allowing Phoebe to take over my body, I've somehow injured both our souls?"
Raphael nods. A solemn look appears on his face.
"That is correct, young Hero. Imagine, for a moment, that someone were to take a piece of paper and draw a face on it. We might call this the creation of a soul. However, if one intended to remove the face and place it upon another piece of paper, how might they do so?"
I shrug. "Um. Maybe they'd wet the paper and place another piece against it?"
"Indeed. They might succeed in copying half of the original image, but in doing so, the copy and the original would only be half as vibrant as before! This situation is a suitable allegory for when thou dids't copy Phoebe's soul from her original body. The copy and the original body were both harmed by thy actions."
"Another method," Raphael continues, "would be to take a drawn face and tear it from the page. Thou woulds't then be capable of gluing the face to another page. And thus, thou woulds't perfectly move the face from one page to another."
I frown. "But wouldn't that damage the original page? It would still ruin the paper and it wouldn't look good at all."
"That is correct," Raphael says, nodding vigorously. "After copying Phoebe's soul, thou inadvertently attached the copy to thy Mind Realm. By detaching thy soul from thy body and allowing Phoebe to take over, she ended up tearing herself away from her anchor point, and then tore her anchor yet again when she returned to thy Mind Realm. These repeated actions have injured thy soul, as well as hers."
Raphael cocks his head.
"Tell me, Hero. Have thou suffered any mental issues over the last few years? Headaches? Indecision? Paranoia? Irrational bursts of emotion?"
After closing my eyes and thinking for a moment, I shake my head.
"No. I don't think I have."
"So thou sayeth. The effects of soul manipulation can be both subtle and dramatic. Tis' difficult to spot their effects until they have become irreparable. However, this aged one has a method!"
Raphael makes a motion with his hands. Several magical symbols appear in the air, forming a diamond within a circle. After a few moments, the sensation of a whirlpool swirls within my head, yanking me out of my Mind Realm.
I awaken moments later, fully in control of my main body. I turn my gaze inward to see Phoebe standing before Raphael, her soul having returned to my Mind Realm.
Raphael forces a grim smile. "'Tis no secret to thee that I am one of the mightiest soul manipulators in existence, young Hero. Worry not. My powers are severely limited, so long as I reside within my ring. I have safely swapped thy mind with thy wife's, but doing so again without harming either of thee would be beyond even my means. Now, look closely at Phoebe's errant soul with thy Wordsmithing."
A sense of worry seizes me as I realize what Raphael just did to me. Without my permission, the old man actually managed to manipulate not only my soul but Phoebe's as well, all while possessing a sliver of his former power.
It's dangerous, allowing Raphael inside my Mind Realm. I'll need to come up with countermeasures to protect myself from not only him, but others of his ilk.
I shift my focus onto Phoebe. "Examine."
Unsure of what to look for, I turn my attention toward my mind-wife's mana pathways, as well as her internal magic structure. As a non-Hero, she possesses a complete lack of mana, similar to any other human. However, thanks to my various Wordsmithing empowerments, she appears far more fit and full of vitality than other people.
I gaze at her with clinical dispassion, but even after five minutes, I don't see anything wrong.
"Sorry, Raphael. What am I supposed to see?"
"Look toward Phoebe's brain," Raphael replies. "Or, more specifically, the area of her soul which she visualizes as a brain."
I frown. "What do you mean?"
"Souls can take any form they wish," Raphael explains. "For example, if Phoebe wished, she could transform her soul into a giant arachnid, or a fearsome dragon. However, 'tis all but impossible for someone untrained in soul manipulation to morph their soul into anything beyond their self-image. Thy wife still remembers her physical appearance, so she materializes within thy Mind Realm as a facsimile of her physical body."
This time, it's Phoebe who responds. "Wait, are you saying I can change my appearance if I just imagine myself looking different?"
Raphael scoffs. "Nay! All beings possess an indelible image of themselves. To merely change thy appearance would require a tremendous amount of willpower and self-actualization, unlike any I've seen before. For example, if I were to imagine my soul possessing four arms instead of two, I might succeed two times out of ten, due to the image of myself I've implanted in my mind over the- what?!"
Raphael stops mid-sentence. He stares, wide-eyed, as Phoebe's hair color changes from white to crimson. Freckles appear on her face, and her height increases by half a foot.
"Wow! This isn't hard at all!" Phoebe marvels. Her skin becomes noticeably more youthful, and her eyes change from green to yellow and red, mimicking a demon's irises. "Amazing! I can feel all the changes happening in my soul every time I imagine them!"
Raphael's eyes nearly bug out of his head. "W-w-what?! Preposterous! How can an untrained mortal- gah! I wouldn't believe it if I didn't see it with my own eyes!"
Phoebe laughs, oblivious to Raphael's astonishment. Behind the old man, both of his brothers wear equally long faces.
"Impressive," Michael mutters. "The human wench is a damned natural at altering her self-image."
"Long has it been since I've seen Raphael in such a confused state," Gabriel adds. "The look on his face is more than a little amusing."
It doesn't take long before Phoebe changes her appearance to mimic Belial, then she changes into Daisy, Raphael, and even me. Each change makes her clap her hands and dance around excitedly. "Boo-yah! Haha, I'm the best! That's right; Queen Phoebe is here!"
I smirk, sending a smug look toward Raphael. "You were saying?"
Raphael tugs on his beard angrily. "No! Dammit, Jason! Look closely! Thy wife's situation is far from optimistic. Do as I said and gaze at her mental pathways."
I nod and follow Raphael's instruction. When I peer more closely at Phoebe's 'brain,' all of my smug satisfaction vanishes.
Inside my wife's head, along with the bright blips indicating her brain's activity, I notice several tiny, almost insignificant-looking 'smudges.' Resembling drops of ink spilled onto a piece of paper, each one appears far darker than the area surrounding it.
"Oh my god."
Raphael nods furiously. "Thy wife's actions are far from normal, young Wordsmith. Even her vocabulary has changed since I swapped thy souls. If she is capable of changing her appearance so easily, it can only mean she has lost her sense of self-image. This means her condition is quite dire. Use thy Wordsmithing and attempt to repair the blemishes staining her soul. If we are lucky, thou shalt return her to normal."
Phoebe continues changing her appearance. To my horror, I realize that each time she does, the blemishes on her soul increase in number, adding another spot or two.
"Phoebe. Please, stop," I say. "You can't keep changing your appearance. You're hurting yourself."
My mind-wife scoffs. "Psh! You're just jealous, hubby! I can do something you can't. Nyeh!"
Phoebe sticks her tongue out at me. Her pose makes me nauseous.
The Phoebe I know would never do such a thing. She's always been a stoic person, not someone who indulges in her emotions.
Without hesitation, I target Phoebe's soul.
"Repair. Repair. Repair."
One by one, I target each of the soul blemishes, erasing them bit by bit.
It takes me nearly fifteen minutes to repair the damage. Eventually, I finish, allowing Phoebe to slump to the grass inside my Mind Realm. She rests her face in her hands. "I... I feel like shit."
Raphael places a hand on her shoulder, comforting her with his touch. "Were thou to continue for much longer, I fear thy memories might have degraded permanently."
"Maybe," I counter, "but I did heal all of her soul blemishes. Doesn't that mean I erased all of her soul manipulation's negative symptoms?"
"Perhaps, but I would not bet my life on it," Raphael cautions. "I have done my part to avert thy crisis. Now, moving forward, thou knoweth enough to avoid placing thy loved ones in precarious situations."
With a dismissive wave of his hands, Raphael turns his back on Phoebe and starts hobbling away.
"Continue with thy plans, Wordsmith. However, do not assume thy Wordsmithing is omnipotent. It has many points of failure, like any power. Rely on it at thy own risk."
"Oh," Raphael continues, "be certain to check thy soul for blemishes, too. If thy wife possesses them, thou surely do as well."
Raphael and his brothers fade away, leaving Phoebe and me alone.
"Are you okay?" I ask.
"I don't know," Phoebe replies. "But now I understand why I was so good at impersonating Sam. I doubt I could do it again, the way I am now."
"Maybe. Maybe not," I counter. "Inspect."
I turn my gaze inward, examining my soul with Wordsmithing.
However, after more than ten minutes of searching, I find nothing wrong with myself whatsoever.
My soul remains uninjured.
Why would Phoebe suffer wounds to her soul, but not me?
...Have I, perhaps, overlooked something?
Next Part
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How to Calculate Betting Odds and Payouts. One of the reasons why horse betting is difficult is because the odds fluctuate every time a bet is placed. This fluctuation is called pari-mutuel wagering, or pool betting. In typical betting games, you’re betting against the house. With horse racing you are betting against other betters. Since most tracks have a $2 minimum bet, below is a handy chart to look up the payoff for a $2 bet at various odds. Remember, your actual payoff may differ from this chart, as the odds on the tote board are rounded off, so 2-1 odds on the tote board may actually be 1.9-1 or 2.2-1. Odds: This term refers to a numerical summation of how likely it is that a horse will win. Odds that are set in the morning or even the day before being called a "morning line" and are based on the opinions of official handicappers. As race time draws closer and people begin betting on the horses, the odds begin to reflect this money. By Richard Eng . Part of Betting on Horse Racing For Dummies Cheat Sheet . You’re betting on horse races and want to know how much your winning bet will give you. To compute your $2 win price, take the odds of your horse and multiply the first number by 2, divide that by the second number, and then add $2 — simple as that! Welcome to DRF.com, your source for horse racing entries, results, live odds as well as all horse racing and thoroughbred racing news.

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