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         Chess was breathing hard, and his knees were aching as he propelled himself along the rising slope.  His elbows, luckily, had turned out to be more resilient than he had expected, but he was almost positive that he was wearing holes in his expensive laser-target uniform.  In fact, he was certain that an L.E.D. light had ripped off his jacket a short while ago.  He wished that he could reach his canteen of water and wash out his mouth, which was encrusted with dirt from having to plow through the areas where furrows crossed each other.
             He had no idea how long he had been at this.  The moon, high and bright now, had brought cooler air with its rising.  That was good, but his skin itched and his heavy uniform seemed filled with sweat and dirt.  He had not expected the journey to be this difficult and he really wanted to quit.  What a stupid idea this was, he berated himself.  He was so tired… just wanted to quit and go to bed.  But people were depending on him...  He sighed and pulled out his flashlight and the compass once more.
         The multitude of furrows formed a maze that did not always lead in the direction that he wanted to go, but he tried to wind along with them: if he had to bear too far to the left, then when another furrow crossed his path, he tried to bear to the right.  It was sort of like exploring one of the maze-like dungeons in the game.  Every once in a while, he poked his head up above the dirt sides, just to make sure of his direction.  Mostly, though, he trusted to the compass and thought gratefully of his mom.
          All this time, there had been little noise from above.  Now, as he got closer to his destination, occasional voices floated down to him, but they were soft and indistinct.  Silence would soon be essential, and he would not be able to risk even the tiniest spot of light.  Putting the compass and flashlight away for the last time, he began to move again.
          The ground leveled out and he was at the top of the hill before his numbed brain even realized it.  In the moonlight, every shape looked like a person to his frightened and bleary eyes.  He stopped and watched for movement.  He did not have to wait long before one of the opposing team walked by, just a meter away from his position.  Chess only saw feet moving, and the glow from a spotlight, which he assumed was lighting up the slope of the hill as it passed.  He held his breath until the guard was some distance away, and then he moved toward the small wood structure where the hostage was.
         The cabin was surrounded by guards, but none of them seemed to be looking directly toward it, and the lights they were holding for their own use cast deep, irregular, often moving shadows along his route.  Despite his fear and exhaustion, Chess smirked.  If he was stealthy… and didn’t lose his nerve… he could do this, master thief or not.
              He got to the door of the cabin and peered in through a crack.  He thought he could make out four guards inside, but they seemed to be relaxed and chatting… and two of them were not even close to any weapons that he could see.  Also, one drill sergeant observer was in there, and the hostage was seated in the far corner.  It was important that he not shoot the hostage, Chess reminded himself.
          He retreated to the deep shadow on the side of the cabin and quietly disengaged his rifle from the straps on his back.  Again, he wished that he could stop for a drink of water.  But then, he also really needed to urinate.  No chance of any of that right now.  He crouched there, letting two guards stroll casually past his hiding place, and then he headed for the door.
          Once the door was opened, Chess’s world plunged into a blur of action.  The light of the cabin overwhelmed his eyes after so much time in near-darkness, and several of his shots went wild.  He did manage to hit two of the four guards, though, and their blinking target lights played even more havoc with his vision.  He suspected that he also shot the drill sergeant monitor… if the guy had actually existed in the game.  Lucky for Chess, he did not.  But he did not shoot the hostage and he did not get hit himself.  And now he was standing in the middle of the cabin with his rifle pointed, sweeping between the remaining guards and the closed door.  His legs felt wobbly, but his adrenaline was pumping.  He looked toward the now-crouching hostage in the corner.  “Hey, Tenor,” he called out weakly.  

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A good way to keep your head in maze-like caverns and big buildings is to always turn right (I think it is slightly less effective to always turn left). However, this strategy alone will not enable you to find all the parts of many caves.

A Few Tips for Newbies on Aralon Sword and Shadow
by Tobias D. Robison, June 2011

         In two successive studies reported to the journal Psychological Science in 2009, researchers found that denying low self-esteem (by repeating positive self statements like “I will succeed”) actually made the study subjects feel worse. Time Magazine summarized this is a short article entitled “Finding Your Inner Loser.”  I think they sort of missed the point, but I got it.
          In The Hobbit, Bard, the man who shoots the dragon-killing arrow, is described as a dark, moody person.  When everyone else is being cheerful, he is “grim-voiced and grim-faced,” thoughtful and perpetually worried.  But this attitude does not hinder him when it comes time to act.  In fact, he is instantly ready to counter-attack, unhindered by trying to appear cheerful and careless to the rest of the populace.  As a result, the people of the lake-town ask him to be their leader, which he, of course, declines.
          Contrary to what much popular psychology says, supreme confidence in one’s abilities and chances, along with personal charisma, might not give the best advantage when it comes to overcoming crisis situations.  And I discovered a rather interesting book on exactly this subject…          



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