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Title: Archaeologist Discovers NEW Talis Cave
Body: Latest development in the translation. This is huge. I cannot stress enough that this information is delicate and the implications are potentially game changing. Nothing leaves this forum. Here it is…
We made a significant breakthrough after a couple weeks of intense studying. I do not want to bore you with the details of the process as the actual writings are unsettling. The tone sounds like it’s from a ghost.
“During the interim between pre-birth and death is a unique opportunity to destroy the unceasing monuments and descendants of past generations. Like a blink of an eye and the effort of ancestors is laid to ruin. The ones that revel in this opportunity are the most dangerous beings. I, myself, have fallen to such a being so consider this cave of my final writings as legitimizing what I have to say next for I speak from experience. Below is what I have learned of the Aspect. Use it to grow strong, for he grows bored. There is no other choice.
Empyronn [commented]: Did Talis predict his own death? Is he even dead?? Does anyone have any information on this like sightings or other strange phenomena?
Capito [replied]: There was a rumor going around during the siege of Garghent that Talis was dead. Some Specter said it but honestly so much crazy shit happened there so who knows what’s what.
Empyronn [replied]: Someone should start a thread about that war. It didn’t even last a year and featured the largest army ever.
Obviousoblivion [replied]: Already working on one. Just got the ok from the admin.
Petarack [commented]: If there are any Specters in this forum get ready for the next translation.
Hammerman024 [replied]: As someone who isn’t a Specter I am still getting ready.
Shocktgun [commented]: Who the fuck is the he that Talis is referring too?
Omat1 [replied]: Apparently someone stronger than Talis.
Anonymoose [commented]: I’m still trying to piece together the translations in the first two posts!
Zaline [replied]: I almost want to say that the first two were written before the rest. The whole style is drastically different. Talis was renowned for meditative visions, maybe that’s what they are? As for the meaning, well it’s up for debate.
Dg70 [replied]: Using Talis in the past tense does not feel right.
Pelicanit [commented]: Yeah I’m moving to the country. The Brother continent has already lost multiple cities. All out war is about to start on the Sister continent and now Talis is potentially dead. Am I missing anything?
Omat1 [replied]: The heat death of the universe?
Deo rounded a corner on the perimeter of a grand teahouse. The gated building hosted a scenic outdoor area surrounding a simple yet splendid square building with an overhanging roof. The wall itself was wooden and didn’t offer much in the way of visuals into the enclosure. The front gate was manned by multiple employees whose job was to verify the identity of visitors. Teahouses were places to exchange information, trade secrets, dine with powerful friends, drink exotic plants, make connections, all while enjoying strategy games. This particular teahouse, the Omega Leaf, was among the most renowned in the city of Ophir. The kind of place where one had to already have connections in order to join the guest list. Being a member likely cost the fortune of what most make in a lifetime.
“If you have to ask the price, you aren’t rich enough to join.” Said one internet article Deo read while browsing different teahouses.
Deo wanted in. With no way to make connections and lacking the extravagant wealth, Deo had to rely on one odd peculiarity of the rich.
Being there meant you belonged… So long as there was no reason to doubt. Certain ticks were giveaways, improper attire, too much observation, looking lost, hesitation, on the other extreme was being too focused, acting bigger than everyone, rushing into things. One had to blend in by acting, and this was the cliché, natural. But the wealthy version of natural, pompous.
Deo slipped his phone out and put it to his ear, pretending to wait for a call.
He had looked up beforehand to know there was a side exit to the Omega Leaf. The wire gate only opened from the inside so Deo had to play the waiting game for someone to leave through it. The average stay time was three hours. The first batch of customers should be leaving around eleven o’ clock, having arrived at eight when the teahouse opened. Deo had waited nearby for the time to pass and finally approached the side gate. He heard talking from beyond the side gate and saw glimpses through the garland adorned wire door that a couple was working toward the exit.
Deo paced toward the gate just as it opened. He said his fake goodbyes on the phone and politely waved to the couple exiting. He could see they were slightly drunk and had other things on their mind than a random stranger going through a door.
Deo was in the teahouse now. From inside he could see walls of berry hedges lining the interior, creating mazes and dividing the courtyard into private enclaves. There was a short pathway of flowers and streams that fed into a calm pond. There were a couple benches and tables on this side but the main, open part of the courtyard soon came into sight.
Deo took a second to get situated with the layout, though he never stopped walking. Small tables with room for two and slightly larger tables that sat four. Some were in the shade of a tree, some let the sun warm them, furthermore some tables were positioned next to the pond or by bushes. It all proved to be very neat and organized. The place made good use of its space and dimensions to create a unique setting for the kind of environment that Deo could only describe as the primary redeeming factor of the human race, minus the wealth cost to participate of course. A place of peace to debate quietly and come up with wild philosophies in the middle of nature with friends and strangers alike.
Deo shook his head from the thought. A man, a rather bulky man, sat at a table alone, cigar in mouth, coffee in hand, and chess board in front. He made eye contact with Deo and the invisible, wordless challenge was issued.
Deo made his way to the table, having accepted the challenge.
From nearby Deo smelled the black coffee, as pungent as the full-body sweetness of the cigar. It’s not that the cigar was weak, the coffee was just ridiculously hearty.
“Welcome to the table, lad.” Deo accepted the seat and noticed the man was likely a decade and a half, maybe two full decades older than himself. Someone well into their thirties. He was a big man, muscular, broad, defined jaw. Deo noticed his knuckles and hands. They were fighter’s hands.
The combination of cigar and coffee, physique and teahouse gave Deo the impression of someone who lived an interesting life. What were the experiences that led this man to here, with the specific vices he engaged?
“Thank you, sir.” Deo said. He switched his gaze to the chessboard. The ornate mahogany checkerboard was exquisitely hand-crafted to the most satisfying smoothness so as to allow a small, but the right, amount of friction for the pieces. The chess pieces themselves were a fascinating array of figurines with stylistic proportions.
“You can call me Hege.” The big man said.
“I am Deo. Nice meeting you.” Deo replied formally.
“Likewise.” Hege said, sipping on coffee.
“The figures are very curious looking. What is the theme of this board?” Deo asked.
The big man took a puff before answering. “They are modelled after historic statuettes from the people that lived here in Ophir long before it was a city, some twenty thousand years ago. The board is called Neolithica Divinorum, or ‘diviners of the stone age’. The carpenter who made this has done excellent work in the past but I believe this to be his magnum opus. It is sought after by collectors across the Brother and Sister continents.”
“One can appreciate the history and care with which it was crafted from.” Deo said while holding a piece and feeling it. “It is a shame most use it as a collector’s item, this sort of board needs to be experienced. It honors those ancient memories.” Deo looked more closely at the pieces, dissecting them one by one. The king was an anthropomorphized avian creature, although the features were confined to general shapes and broad exaggerations, the king piece was clearly some kind of deity figure or divine being that acted as the central point or axis of this neolithic culture. The queen was carved with her arms touching her oversized hips and pronounced breasts made it an obvious mother or fertility figurine.
The bishops were shamans in mammoth headdresses. They looked like the most complex ones out of the whole set. The knight was some big cat long extinct perched on its haunches but sporting the head of a man. The rook was a piece with a jar-like bowl on the head, with its arm supporting the object. They had a simple dress on and no other distinct characteristics except for a creepy, single eye on the forehead. Without that eye one would assume they were a gatherer, walking many miles in a day to bring resources. The eye made them into otherworldly assassins.
The pawns were simple warrior depictions, but each pawn had its own look, though they were all distinctly pawns because of their size and general shape. The side closest to Deo, the ‘white’ side was carved from birch and the ‘black’ side from ebony.
“Took the words right from me.” Hege remarked.
Hege, sitting across from Deo, didn’t interrupt the examination. He knew Deo was getting a feel for the board. Familiarizing himself with the pieces, their personality, their souls. There was more to the game than the physical pieces and the strategic methods. There was flow and style, the intentions and spirit of the player reveal themselves beautifully, flawlessly in the moves taken and the moves missed. It was like peering into the consciousness of someone. Hege didn’t mention where the ‘divinorum’ part of the name came from. Diviners. These ancient symbols synchronistically reveal parts of the psyche when played. That is why it is called the stone age diviners. Hege was eager to divine this strange lad and his violet eyes.
“Interested in playing a game?” Deo asked.
“I have half a cigar and half my coffee, I’ll win before I finish.” Hege said with a glint in his light, bright brown eyes.
“Do you have a preference?” Deo was referring to the color.
“How it’s set is fine by me.” Hege would be black and Deo, white.
White goes first in chess.
“Shall I start?”
Before Hege could answer, a waitress approached.
“Would you like anything sir?” It took Deo a second to realize she was talking to him.
“No thank you.”
“I don’t recognize you from the guest list, may I have your name?” The waitress asked.
“It’s okay, he’s with me.” Hege interrupted with a wave.
“Ah, very well. Do you need anything else then?”
“Some cheese and bread would be appreciated.”
“I’ll bring it right out.”
The waitress continued with her rounds.
“You stand out more by not ordering anything.” Hege pointed out.
“True. If you’re paying…”
“Help yourself lad.” Hege took a few more puffs. “You’re not native to Ophir are you?”
“Observant of you.” said Deo.
“I’m sure you’ve got an intriguing story.”
“I thought the same of you.”
“Well, let us begin our game. Though I should warn you, losing will ruin your life.”
“And yours.” Deo returned the grin that Hege gave. By now both sensed the other had an Aspect. This game of chess had a lot weighing on it, the roulette mystery of losing to a foreign Specter would make for a dangerous contest.
“I will start.” Deo made his first move. “Pawn to g3.”
Hege responded with his own move. “P to f5.” He took a puff. “You look sure of yourself. Let me ask you this, Deo, have you played against a master before?”
Deo knew Hege wasn’t trying to intimidate or boast. From their brief encounter, Hege seemed to be an honest, yet talkative person. Conversation came with the culture here.
“I have not played against a human before. Knight to f3.”
Deo used the more old school method of verbalizing his moves, saying the full name of the piece. Hege stuck with the more conventional letter association.
“Never? You are an unusual man, Deo. Sneaking in to play a game of chess in an area where only masters gather. I wonder what your purpose is. It is obvious to me that you are not some attention seeking vagrant. Otherwise I’d have you thrown out.” Hege pondered out loud. “P to d5.”
The waitress returned with a board of assorted fancy cheeses and gourmet breads.
“Excuse me, I changed my mind. I would like a blackberry mimosa.” Deo ordered. Though this was a teahouse, they served plenty more than tea.
“Coming right up.” The waitress assured.
Deo resumed the game. “Pawn to a4.”
“P to h5. You’ve got manners, you’re well spoken, well dressed, cultured… and ambitious! That’s what it is.”
“Pawn to h4. What do you mean?”
“P to c6.” Hege took a puff and sip. “The reason you’re here. I can feel it in your moves. This is a test for you. What you’re seeking goes far beyond gaining access to a mere teahouse, no?”
“Perhaps. But this is no test. This is the beginning. Rook to a3.”
“P to b5. Beginning of what?” Hege asked rhetorically, knowing such secrets were not ready to be revealed yet.
“Pawn to d3.” The early part of the game was about securing position and organizing strategy. Every single move would become important by the end of the game.
“P to e6. You’ve come to Ophir to start something, I’d guess an empire of sorts. This is the place to do it.” Hege admitted.
“You’ve made your own?” Deo asked. “Pawn to e3.”
Hege spread his hands. “I have. P to a6.”
“Knight to c3.”
The waitress brought Deo his drink. He sipped it and the tart bitterness of the fruit was refreshing and expertly mixed with the champagne.
“P to g6.”
“Knight to e2. What’s fascinating to me is your background as a fighter. You’ve come a long way from underground fighting rings to the most eloquent teahouse in Ophir.”
Hege rubbed his chin, blushing from the accuracy of Deo’s assessment. Though it’s not like his story was completely hidden, something told Hege that Deo merely psychoanalyzed him based on the subtleties of human nature. Divination works both ways, thought Hege. Can Deo as well read so much from this game of chess?
“Actually the most eloquent teahouse in Ophir is the Magic Cap but I take your meaning. One of the redeeming qualities of this city is the ability to build an empire from nothing but your fists.” Hege added his move at the end. “N to f6.”
Deo took another sip. “Rook to c3.” He let Hege continue.
“B to h6. So that’s why you’ve come to Ophir. You seek to build an empire? I can see the fire in your eyes when the word empire is spoken.” Hege ashed his cigar and took a couple quick puffs.
“Rook to c5.” Deo made his move but said nothing.
“B to f8.”
“Pawn to d4.”
“N to d7. I know you want to ask, Deo, so I will tell you. I own a small district and have several thousand working for me. I own gambling houses, train and run martial art tourneys and sell illicit drugs to some very powerful figures in Ophir. It is appropriate, or in the context of any other city, to call me a crime boss.”
“You have refined tastes.” Deo complimented, indicating Hege’s presence in this place.
“One must not conflate work life with personal life.”
Deo nodded and thought of his next move. “Pawn to b4.”
Hege took a minute to eat some of the cheese and bread. “P to a4.” Hege captured the first piece, a white pawn. Deo looked vexed. He appeared to have taken the capture as a personal loss. It was deeper than the unfortunate casualty of a game. Something dear to him had been slain and Deo was responsible for that loss.
Seeing someone’s reaction gave away a lot about their personality. Hege predicted that losing a pawn was more tragic than the death of an actual person to Deo. This was a man with strange ambition.
“Knight to c3.”
“N to b6.” Hege took a long drink of his black coffee.
“Rook to c6.” Deo captured a black pawn.
“This is looking to be an interesting game. B to d7.”
“Rook to c5. I decided the strategy to beat you before we began.”
“N to g4.”
Deo paused to think. “Knight to g5.”
“Do tell.” Hege took a puff and a sip. “N to c4.” They were reaching the point at which the fighting would become fiercest. All the potential energy from dancing around the board would combust into a field of battle.
“And spoil the surprise? Bishop to h3.”
“R to h6. A lot hangs in the balance of this game. For your sake, I hope you’re right.”
“King to e2.”
“O-h-h-h. Moving the king unprovoked? That is refreshing. R to b8.”
“Knight to a4.” Black pawn captured.
“B to a4.” White knight captured.
“Knight to e6.” Black pawn captured.
“Q to e7.”
“Knight to c7.” Deo’s knight was in line to capture the black king. “Check.”
“Impressive. K to d8.”
“Pawn to f4.”
“N to e3.” White pawn captured.
“Bishop to e3.” Black knight captured.
“N to e3.” White bishop captured. It was a fairly even trade.
“Queen to d2.”
“N to c4.” Hege’s queen was in line to capture the white king. “Check.”
“King to d3.”
“N to d2.” Deo’s queen was captured. A hefty casualty so early in the game.
“King to d2.” Black knight captured. But Deo retaliated with his own savage strategy.
“P to a5. You are an admirable opponent.” Hege saw the shift of the board fall out of his favor despite capturing the white queen. He saw victory slipping from his grasp slowly.
“Rook to a5.” Black pawn captured.
“B to c6.” Hege was puffing on his cigar more frequently. Either a nervous habit or a tick to help him think.
“Pawn to c3.”
“Q to c7.” White knight captured. Most of Deo’s specialty pieces had been captured. It was still anyone’s game.
“Rook to c5.”
“P to g5. Your command of the board is daunting. I am only further fascinated by what your intentions are.”
“Pawn to g5.” Black pawn captured. Hege’s pieces were dwindling. “What do you think is false about this world?” Deo asked out of nowhere.
“R to g6.” There was so little room for Hege to maneuver. “What is false?” Hege thought about the question.
“Bishop to f5.” Black pawn captured.
“I cannot speak for the whole world. For the human race I would say wisdom is false. R to d6.”
“Rook to h5.” Deo removed another black pawn. “Why wisdom?”
“B to e7. Wisdom doesn’t translate the same from one to another. It is, broadly speaking, subjective. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that human perspective limits our interpretation of wisdom.” He took a few long puffs. “There was once a man who searched his entire life for one thing that could bring contentment and meaning to his existence. One day he said ‘I have learned the secret, you must give up all you own and live nowhere’. A prince who longed for fulfillment, unsatisfied by the lavish lifestyle of wealth, heeded the advice of this wise man and disposed of all that he owned and gave up his power and status to become a nobody. The former prince died alone and cold on the streets weeks later.” Hege stopped to puff his cigar again.
Deo took his move. “Pawn to g6. That is a cynical story is it not?”
Hege waved his hand, “it is not finished. The wise man was just a paid lackey sent by the prince’s enemies for they knew the prince was unhappy with his life. They seized the prince’s assets and soon took over the kingdom. R to g6.” White pawn captured.
“Bishop to g6.” Black rook captured. “That is a neat tale of human depravity.”
“B to a4. Ah, but here is the punchline! When they found the dead prince’s body, frozen by the winter nights, they saw a full, joyful smile.”
“So the enemies of this prince inadvertently hired a real wise man? Rook to c7.” Deo captured the black queen. Hege let out a curse.
“K to c7.” White rook captured. “No, he was just a man who made up something frivolous to get the prince to relinquish his wealth. Humans are forced, probably genetically, to stand between solipsism and ostentation. The self is all that matters, yet we must attract the validation of others by any means.”
“Truly, humans are a paradox.” Commented Deo. “Rook to d5.” Black pawn captured.
“R to b6. So you seek an empire Deo, how will you obtain it?”
“I will start with winning this chess game. Then I would like you to join me. Pawn to f5.”
“How coincidental. Should I win, I will have you join me. B to g5.” Hege’s bishop was in line to capture Deo’s king. “Check.”
“King to d3.”
“B to b5.” Hege’s bishop was in line to capture the white king again. “Check.”
“Rook to b5.” Black bishop captured.
“R to b5.” White rook captured. Only a single bishop remained for Deo aside from a handful of pawns and the king.
“King to c4.”
“You have made excellent use of your king. Seldom do I see people use the king in such a manner. B to c1.”
“Humans who play things like chess, they see themselves as being the king piece. ‘Protect the king at all costs for the king is myself’. They are narrow minded. The king is a piece like any other, though it is true that losing the king ends the game. I control the king, and I will see that my enemies grovel in the ground chasing after him. “Bishop to e8.”
“R to c5.” Rook in line to capture the white king. “Check.”
“Pawn to c5.” Black rook captured. Hege had run out of options. Only a bishop and king remained for him, victory was impossible. He could force a tie at least…
Deo was going to win with an army of pawns!
Hege would play out the game for a little longer. “K to d8.”
“Pawn to c6.”
“K to e8.” Looking back, Deo had targeted his pawns more than anything else. How clever! Strip away the main force and the rooks, bishops, knights and queen lose their backbone. There’s nothing to fall back to and nothing to advance with.
“Pawn to d5.”
“K to d8.”
“Pawn to g4.”
“B to g5.”
“King to b5.” Deo moved his pieces to stay on light squares, only moving them to dark squares when escorted by the king. Hege’s last bishop was on a dark square. It was useless.
“K to e8. Why did you ask what I thought was false about this world?”
“Pawn to d6.”
“B to h4.”
“Pawn to d7.” Pawn in line to capture black king. “Check.”
“K to e7.” Hege could only play the mouse, retreating and hoping for a chance mistake to prevent Deo’s victory.
“King to c5. What a human believes is false reveals more about them than what they believe is true.”
“B to g5.”
“King to d5.”
“B to h4.” Hege’s last bishop danced around in vain.
“Pawn to c4.”
“So what of you Deo, what is false about this world to you? B to g5.”
Deo’s pawn army took their time approaching Hege’s end of the board where they could receive promotions, careful to never step on a black square without the king escorting them. “Pawn to c5.”
“B to h4.” Hege had never seen such a playstyle, where the king puts itself at risk for the pawns.
Deo looked at his hands. “These are false. King to e5.”
“B to f2. Your hands?”
“Pawn to f6.” Pawn in line to capture the black king. “Check. The work of mankind, of every singular person. That is the lie of this world. ”
“K to f7. How so?”
“Humans do not know their own hands. The print of the fingers, the lines of the palm, the ridges and indentations scattered across the appendage in morphogenetic randomness. The things that humans work with… they do not know their hands therefore all that they do is false. But what else do humans not know? Pawn to d8. Knight me.” The newly promoted knight was in line to capture Hege’s king. “Check.”
Hege did not want to surrender. If he lost he’d never get another opportunity to own Deo. “K to f8.”
“King to d5.”
“B to h4. This ambition of yours, how will you see it through?”
“Pawn to c7.” Deo thought for a second. “I’m going to conquer Ophir.”
“B to f6.” White pawn captured. Hege managed to take out one more pawn. “The whole city? My but that is ambitious!”
“Is there anything about this game that makes you believe I’m not capable? Knight to e6.”
Hege would be lying to himself if he thought differently. Logically he knew a game of chess was not indicative of someone’s ability to conquer a city but there were variables here that disregarded logic. The specific chess set they played with, the Aspect, those macabre eyes, that miserable philosophy… “K to e7.”
“Pawn to c8. Rook me. I want you to join me, Hege. I will need an able chancellor, an administrator to run this city. To use chess as an apt metaphor, you will be my king.”
“King eh? K to f7. It’s an interesting proposition. If you fail I will lose everything I have been building for my entire life. I am assuming you have no following nor funds.”
“Perhaps everything you have built in your life has allowed you this opportunity, to be at this teahouse, the teahouse I happened to break into. And if I succeed you will be the most powerful man in Ophir, under me. Pawn to c6.”
“Don’t get me wrong. I am open minded and as is the requirement of this city, a risk-taker, though I am not sold on the serendipity of our encounter. B to h4.”
“However you choose to explain what draws people together, you will be glad for it, I think. I offer you life, Hege, for it is mine to give and take. Pawn to c7.”
“B to e1. After our game concludes, come with me to my district. We can discuss things further there.”
“Very well. Rook to a8.”
“B to a5.”
“Pawn to c8. Bishop me.”
Hege conceded. “That’s it Deo. You win. I surrender.” There wasn’t even any coffee left, and the remaining knub of the cigar burned his lip. It is the courteous thing to do to surrender when a game is completely lost, show grace in defeat in impossible scenarios. A bishop and a king could not checkmate a king, and facing a knight, rook and bishop with another pawn ready for promotion should be described as a rout.
Oh but having someone like Deo under his control would have been glorious!
The game was over. Deo won. They departed from the teahouse soon after.
Hege led Deo to his lair. Hege’s base of operations was in a high-rise building. He owned the surrounding neighborhoods, multiple factories and plenty of shops and quality of life infrastructure. Hege had built a functional, self-contained empire. What Deo had come to realize of Ophir was that it consisted of a combination of thousands of miniature cities within the overarching whole of the metropolis. Hege’s district, though poor and made from rundown material, was run with genuine compassion for its people.
Hege seemed to know the names of every resident. He commanded respect and love from them and in return he offered safety and wealth. The exterior of his district was a façade to avoid unwanted attention for his contraband business. Inside were modern appliances and bountiful furnishings.
Hege enjoyed the reclusivity of his district as he slowly amassed following and grew his empire, caring for each individual along the way. Deo was satisfied making Hege his king piece.
They talked long into the night, Deo told his plan and Hege offered insights and the two schemed a strategy to conquer Ophir.
“So you will serve me?” Deo asked as they concluded, still needing to go through this formality.
“How can I refuse?”
“You can kill me here, right now. That is the only chance to end my reign before it begins.”
Hege chopped another cigar and worked on lighting it. “Yes, I alone have to make this decision. Not because of anything grand, I was just in the right place at the right time.” He nursed the cigar for a minute. “I will accept your offer, Deo and serve under you.”
Deo nodded. “I am curious, what would have happened if I lost the chess game to you?”
“My Aspect is Hegemony. I am a sage who forces those who lose to me in a competition to exert unquestioning and undying loyalty to me. You would have become my slave in a sense.” Hege kicked his feet up on a stool as he reclined back on the sofa. “Worry not, I have but one chance to win or my power can never be used on that person.”
“Your name is the first four letters of your Aspect.” Stated Deo.
“We are our Aspects, Deo.”
“You truly believe that?”
“Tell me then, Hegemony, the people in your district, they love you. Are they all under the influence of your power?”
“Many are, but many more are not. I have agents throughout the city helping me to build my empire. Beyond that, I have worked hard to gain the trust of my residents.”
“I am glad you have joined me. With you, the transition of Ophir to me will be seamless. I had never wanted to completely raze this city to the ground. Now I don’t have to.”
“It makes me wonder,” Hege started, “what your Aspect does. You have alluded to it but I do not quite understand how you will accomplish the feat of conquering a whole city.”
“You know your role for tomorrow?” Deo asked.
“Then tomorrow you can see for yourself my Aspect and your doubts will crumble into dust.”
“If I call you by your Aspect, what do I say?”
“Very well, Death, tomorrow we shall conquer us a city!”