The krogan were a race from the irradiated hellhole of Tuchanka that were uplifted by the council species in order to face another race known as the rachni. They were successful, but without the hardships of their homeworld their population exploded, and the krogan began to try to take whatever they could in the galaxy. These Krogan Rebellions ended when the entire species was exposed to the Genophage, a biological agent that rendered only one in 1000 pregnancies viable, and made nearly the entire species sterile. Urdnot Wrex is a krogan mercenary, and had long since lost any hope that his species could ever be saved. Instead he would travel from world to world, working as a bounty hunter, mercenary, or whatever else paid. His life changed forever when, on an assignment to kill a bar owner named Fisk, he met and joined forces with Commander Shepard. Sticking with the Commander after they became the first human spectre (a group of elite agents above galactic law), Wrex proved instrumental in helping thwart the schemes of rogue spectre Saren to take over the Citadel. After learning that Saren had found a way to cure the Genophage, and then destroying that cure to keep the krogan from being Saren's slaves, Wrex gained renewed faith in the fact that his people could be saved. Returning to Tuchanka, he took control of clan Urdnot and began to reform the krogan ways of doing things. His actions would eventually lead to him becoming the leader of the krogan race and bringing about a cure to the genophage, and would go on to prove invaluable in the war against the Reapers, as well as leading the Krogan to a brighter future beyond. Note: A number of feats can be performed by any squadmate regardless of who they are. These feats will be marked with [Squadmate] and the gif is not guaranteed to have Wrex in them. Similarly, gifs of Wrex's in game abilities are performed by Shepard (since the abilities are functionally identical in game regardless of who's using them) Index Hover over a feat to see the source Games
OST James Vega has been a member of the Systems Alliance marines ever since he joined up as a teenager with the encouragement of his uncle. During a mission to the colony of Fehl Prime he ended up commanding his squad to take down a brutal gang of Blood Pack mercenaries, and afterwards he and his squad were assigned to protect the colony. Two years later the Collectors invaded the colony, kidnapping all of the colonists and killing most of Vega's squad in the process. In the end Vega was left with a terrible choice: save the colonists, or save intel on the Collectors that could be used to beat them once and for all. He ended choosing the intel, and became one of very few survivors of Fehl Prime. To make matters worse, soon after Commander Shepard destroyed the Collectors, rendering the intel James had retrieved near useless. Afterwards James fell into a self destructive depression, though never blamed Shepard for it, and even ended up in a bar fight against a gang of Batarians when they insulted Shepard in front of him. Soon after this he was recruited by Admiral Anderson to guard the brig of a ship holding one prisoner... Commander Shepard them-self, who had turned them-self in after destroying the Alpha Relay. Because of this assignment Vega found himself on Earth when the Reapers (a race of sentient starships that systematically wipe out all suitably intelligent life every 50,000 years) arrived, and ended up aboard the Normandy along with Commander Shepard. While at first Vega hated the thought of leaving Earth as it was being ravaged, but eventually Shepard convinced him that he was needed out in the galaxy to get help for Earth. Vega became a member of Shepard's squad, forming a sort of mentostudent relationship with the Commander while the Normandy tried to defeat the Reapers once and for all. Notes: A number of feats can be performed by any squadmate regardless of who they are. These feats will be marked with [Squadmate] and the gif is not guaranteed to have James in them. Similarly, gifs of James's in game abilities are performed by Shepard (since the abilities are functionally identical in game regardless of who's using them) Index Games
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Free 30+ page travel guide about Budapest, Hungary and bits of Central Europe. Enjoy! Information correct as of summer 2020. If you find anything incorrect or would like to make requests, suggestions (or just want to say hi), please do that here! You should also drop by in /budapest to see past questions and to get advice from multiple people. I would also greatly appreciate your post-trip feedbacks about whether my recommendations worked out for you or not! Restaurants, clubs can undergo radical changes and it's not always possible to keep track of every single one. The local charity I support is the Hungarian Food Bank Association. For every €1 donated they are able to save €30 worth of perishable food and have it reach underprivileged Hungarian families. If you find this guide useful, please consider donating to them! Some links use URL-shorteners, so I could track how many of you are using this guide. Nothing fishy waiting for you behind them. See my suggestions in the comments below about:
===CORONA RESTRICTIONS=== The situation is subject to change momentarily, this information is current as of September 2020. Eastern Europe as a whole has largely been spared from the worst of it, including Hungary, and the risk of transmission is low. Presently foreigners are banned from entry altogether. Exceptions are in place for people with ties to the country (family members, studies, work, those holding residence permits), and people transiting by car on designated highways. The situation will be revised monthly, with experts saying the second peak is expected for December-January. In the country, you need to wear a mask on public transport, inside shops, malls, cinemas, museums. You don't need to wear them inside restaurants, cafes, bars, but they must close by 23.00. Social distancing rules are in place, but largely ignored. ===END OF CORONA RESTRICTIONS=== Hungary has a continental climate with 4 seasons. Summer is the main season, a slightly less busy time to visit is April to mid-June and September to October, but the weather is less predictable. Those uncomfortable with 30+C (>85F) temperatures should visit around then as 35+C (>95F) is not uncommon in the summer. November through March has -5 to 10 (20-50F) and possibly gloomier weather – but fewer tourists. Currency: the Hungarian Forint (HUF, Ft). Fair exchange rates for Euros is around 330-335Fts, for US Dollars around 300. Only use currency exchanges where the buy/sell spread isn't greater than 5-6Fts for these two currencies! Citizens of 62 countries do not require a visa to enter the Schengen Area and can stay for maximum 90 days within a rolling 180-day window. See here if you don’t know what that entails. EU member countries that are not members of the Schengen Area are Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Ireland, Romania, and the United Kingdom, visits to these do not count toward your 90 days. Non-EU countries part of the Schengen Area are Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland, visits to these do count toward the cap. Because we both know you want to do your own research, use:
WeLoveBudapest, the definitive city magazine in English, from top lists to current events,
Offbeat Budapest, a new site with the author’s finger very much on the city’s pulse,
Spotted by Locals, for even more local insight. Their offline city guide is worth $3.99.
TripAdvisor, a small number of reviews might be bought, but no other site competes with their sheer volume of input. Be skeptical of places with unbalanced (90+% 5-star) reviews, the remaining ones should be accurate.
See the city in 4K, or with Rick Steves. However nothing beats having a physical guidebook in your hand! Lonely Planet has the best and most recent issue. Read up on the concept of coconut and peach cultures, as sometimes the reserved and distant behaviour of locals can be misinterpreted by ‘peach’ visitors as rudeness – nope! This is a comprehensive itinerary, but leaves out the best museum of the city: the House of Terror, a solemn museum of the Nazi and Soviet occupation and crackdowns (get the audio guide or be prepared to peruse dozens of pamphlets). There's an attendance limit, so you might need to wait up to 30-45 minutes to get in when it's the busiest. When you are around Deák Ferenc tér, drop by in the Tourinform office (Sütő utca 2., the small street near the church) to stock up on free maps, printed guides of the city. WeLoveBudapest prints a comprehensive and free one every year around June. I suggest 4 full days to discover Budapest, or 3 faster paced ones. Make it 5-7 if you'd like to make a few daytrips (Szentendre - open-air ethnographic museum, cobblestoned, quaint center, Esztergom - Central Europe's largest cathedral and religious center, Visegrád - medieval castle, Eger - medieval castle and wine region). Most of Hungary’s highlights can be visited in 2 weeks. For more details on countryside and international trips, see my comment below. Meal times and habits are typical to central Europe: breakfast is usually done at home, not much of a culture of eating out in the morning. But a large number of new wave breakfast places have popped up in the past years, which offer ample opportunities for visitors, normally from 8am. Lunch is at midday, after 1pm most places are going to be fairly empty and many will stop serving lunch after 2pm. The standard time for dinner is 7pm, bookings for later than 8pm are unusual. Lots of restaurant kitchens close at 10pm (with the restaurant following suit 30-60 minutes later), finding a meal after that hour is challenging for anything other than street food. Baths Gellért is the most aesthetic, Széchenyi the largest and most popular among foreigners (Sparty can get crazy with lots of drinking, puking and sex going on in the pools, but it is wildly overpriced and 100% aimed at visitors). Rudas is a Turkish hamam with swimwear optional, single-gender weekdays (women-only on Tuesdays, coed and swimwear-mandatory on the weekend). Lukács is plain and personally I’m not a fan of it – tourists only visit it because it’s included free with the Budapest Card. For more details on the baths, see this. For off the beaten path sights, ride the D11 or D12 public boat lines for a cheap alternative to paid cruises (travelcards only valid on weekdays, otherwise 700Ft), check out the Pinball Museum, Hospital in the Rock or check out this section for a lot more off the beaten path ideas. Shopping Hungary has the world’s highest effective VAT (=sales tax) at 27%. Non-EU/EEA tourists are eligible for VAT refund on their qualifying purchases if they complete the paperwork (min. €175 value per transaction, passport+reclaim form stamped by customs official). The most popular and best accessible mall of the city is WestEnd on Nyugati tér. Arena Plaza is larger by floor area and carries a couple brands that can’t be found elsewhere, but is less centrally located (10min walk from Keleti train station). Don’t expect to find bargains on clothing or electronics, prices are similar to Western Europe and over North American or Asian ones. For more information on shopping and VAT refund, see here. Paprika Market is a decent souvenir shop in the sea of overpriced, terrible quality crap on Váci utca. Magma Gallery for contemporary and affordable jewelry, ceramics and home decor items by local designers is just one street over on Petőfi Sándor utca. Check out the antique bookstores alongside Múzeum körút between Astoria and Kálvin tér, some have Socialist-era posters available for sale from 30€ and up, that could be a unique gift/home decor to take home. Ecseri road flea market for more antiques, go early on Saturdays. Hungarian cuisine is hearty and filling, with a heavy use of meats. Must-try foods are:
Hortobágy crêpes: Hungary's more sophisticated answer to enchiladas, these savory crepes filled with either stew or minced meat covered in creamy paprika sauce make excellent starters or even entrée.
pörkölt/paprikás: a thick stew without or with sour cream mixed in and what the rest of the world incorrectly believes goulash is – my favorite is catfish with curd cheese&dill noodles, though beef, chicken and the inferior pork are more commonplace
roast sausage and blood sausage (hurka-kolbász): the breakfast of champions! Ideally eaten at an authentic butchershop like Pinczi or Balla with a side of pickled veggies, mustard (or horseradish) white bread and cold beer at 8am on a Saturday.
everyone’s favorite street food, lángos: Hungarians only eat it with salt, garlic, sour cream and/or cheese, the Frankensteinian concoctions with sausage or kebab toppings are 100% aimed at tourists
Somló trifle: a scrumptious walnut sponge dessert with chocolate sauce and whipped cream
Chimney cake: a sweet, spiral pull-apart bread baked over charcoal, rolled in the topping of your choosing (typically nuts, cinnamon, vanilla sugar, cocoa, coconut flakes)
For authentic recipes, recommendations for recipe blogs or cookbooks, tips for cooking traditional Hungarian meals, see here For edible souvenirs to bring home with you:
Pick winter salami: only choose the original, typically ~6000/kg, comes in sizes of 380, 800 and 1250g and in trays (100 and 250g). The brand has a deli & store (working with regular prices) on Kossuth tér, next to the Parliament, open from 7am on weekdays for breakfast and lunch.
Tokaji dessert wine: aszú being the premium product with the at least 4 puttony varieties suggesting quality, but they make regular whites as well, so check the label. Should cost at least 3-4000 per bottle. Suggested wineries: Disznókő, Oremus, Dereszla. Avoid: Royal Tokaji
Premium pralines in lovely, traditional packaging from Stühmer.
Grocery stores include Spar, Tesco, Aldi and Lidl. Avoid CBA and Coop, low quality for high prices. Small convenience stores, many 24/7, also dot the city at higher prices. The most popular and best accessible mall of the city is WestEnd on Nyugati tér. Alcohol is sold at every one, but some (mostly residential) districts enact a ban on the sale between 22.00-06.00. The central Pest districts don’t have such limitations in place. Tobacco is sold at tobacconists (‘nemzeti dohánybolt’ ). These shops are also exempt from the evening alcohol sale ban if you find yourself in such a district. Flavored cigarettes are banned in Hungary, so no Black Devils or Sobranies. Budgets (per person) For reasonable comforts, I would suggest aiming for at least €50 per day excluding accommodation. Hotel prices significantly vary in and outside high season.
Shoestring: <€50 (hostel dorm €10, attractions €5+, meals and entertainment €10+)
Mid-range: €75-150 (1/2 of hotel room or great Airbnb €30+, attractions €20+, meals and entertainment €25+)
In comfort: €150+ (1/2 of comfy hotel €75+, attractions €30+, meals and entertainment €50+)
Getting around Do not buy the Budapest Card, it is not a bargain, even if every travel blogger seems to think otherwise! You would need to visit at least 3-4 museums a day to break even and the free visit to the pretty plain Lukács Baths could mean you’d deny yourself going to the much more interesting mainstream alternatives, such as Gellért or Széchenyi. The discounted museums are second-rate and typically not what most visitors choose to hit up on their own. Do buy a public transport travelcard, the 1, 3 or 5-day unlimited options require no validation or ID (common reasons for fines). For week-long stays, the 7-day travelcard needs an ID number and that you have the document on you at all times. Please do not try to get around by using single tickets! The travelcards are economical (from €5/24h to €15/week) and easy to use: no validation, you just show it to the controllers. Validity starts immediately by default, or you can select a later starting date (always from midnight). 7-day and monthly passes require an ID/passport number, and you must have the ID on you whenever you travel, otherwise you risk getting fined! Groups of 4 or more can also buy the even more economical '24h group travelcard', but all persons must travel together using that. Common reasons for fines
Forgetting to validate single or transfer tickets
Entering the subway station without a valid ticket
Not having the ID on you for the 7-day travelcard or monthly passes (if you are fined for this, you have 2 business days to present it to the central BKK office for a reduced fine)
Ticket inspectors (must have an anonymized badge and armband) are notoriously brash, speak subpar English. Paying on the spot lets them give you a discounted fine of 8000 instead of the regular 16000 through postal order or wire transfer, they aren't looking to scam you if they offer you that. Fines are pursued internationally through collection agencies, multiplying the original amount once their fees are added. Cheapest way to get to the city from the airport is by public transport. I suggest paying the 900Ft supplementary ticket for the 100E bus. The southern portion of the M3 subway is under reconstruction, during that period the 200E buses go beyond their usual terminus, Kőbánya-Kispest and take you to Nagyvárad tér station, where the subway runs from. The purple ticket machines at the airport and all over the city take chipped cards. Shuttle bus is a good compromise between price and comfort and depart when full or close to. Ignore touts walking up to you offering cabs in the arrival hall, use the official Főtaxi booth immediately outside the building. Rates are centralized: flagfall 700Ft, 300Ft/km, 75Ft/min waiting. The fair price to the centre is around 7-9.000Fts. Rides inside the centre are typically under 3.000. All taxi companies have passable reputations with a few horror stories about each, Főtaxi (+36-1-222-2222), 6x6 Taxi (+36-1-666-6666), City Taxi (+36-1-211-1111) are a few. There are some stories of even company cab drivers trying to rip off naive-looking tourists, especially around train and bus stations, so consider legal Uber-alternative Taxify/Bolt (Android, iOS). Uber is banned. Most companies have apps, but they have terrible design and might set an unchangeable pick up location 5-10 minutes away from you. It’s much better to order by phone, they have English-speaking operators. If you must use an app, choose Taxify. Scams Cabbies are the only ones eclipsing the ticket inspectors in notoriety. I cannot emphasize enough: DO NOT USE THE ONES WITH ‘FREELANCER’ ON THE FRONT DOORS!!! These drivers are nicknamed 'hyenas', work independently, they always have rigged meters and are known to sometimes assault customers who don’t comply with their ridiculous demands. If you hail on the street, be absolutely certain you’re getting into a company cab (logo on the front doors). A known scam by the hyenas, fraudsters and illegal street exchangers is giving you worthless currencies with similarly high denominations as the Forint – namely the Indonesian Rupiah or the old Belarusian Ruble. Bag handlers at the airport steal from unsecured luggage. Never put any valuables in your checked luggage! Overly friendly, attractive women approaching you in broad daylight 'to practice their English' and taking you to scammy cafés where you'll be charged €300 for a bottle of bottom-shelf champagne are also to be avoided. Recently a Redditor reported the same happening to him through Tinder, so be very suspicious of anyone insistent on going to a particular establishment. The scam café was Hajós Café on Hajós utca. Another known scam location is Café Fidelité on Révay utca. Otherwise general safety cautions should be exercised: watch your valuables in crowded spaces for pickpockets, be wary of overly friendly strangers approaching you and introducing the idea of going to a club or bar by their 5th sentence or of people pretending to be authority. Policemen typically wear dark blue uniforms and white shirts , sometimes with a visibility vest and can be identified by the numbered metal badges on their chest and their separate police ID card which you can ask to inspect before complying with their orders. Scammers use fake police IDs to part you with your cash under the guise of inspecting the notes for counterfeits. Always ask to see it first: this is real, this is fake – notice where the real one has a serial number, the fake says POLICE. If the issue is anything halfway serious, ask to be escorted to the nearest police station – it will scare away scammers playing dress up. The emergency number is 112 for police, ambulance or firefighters, there are English-speaking operators (works throughout the EU). If you get pickpocketed, notify both the police and in case of losing your travel documents, your embassy. Thieves are usually courteous enough to leave papers near trash bins, so walk around in the neighbourhood to see if you can recover them. If you find someone else’s, hand in to the nearest police station. Getting around the city is easy, Budapest has one of the best public transport systems of the continent. Use Google Maps for orientation and getting around! Tickets and passes with rates are listed here. All EU/EEA citizens aged 65+ travel for free on all Hungarian public transport, including trains, distance buses. Picture ID and administrative 0 Ft ticket required. Age 65 is not included. Student discounts are available to full-time students in EU/EEA countries with a valid student ID. If it doesn’t have it, also carry a picture ID. EU citizenship not required, you only need to study there full-time (not applicable for exchange students unless they get ID issued). The monthly student pass (3450) is cheaper than the 72h travel card (4150) for identical benefits. The 4 subway lines are coded by numbers and, unofficially, colour (1-yellow, 2-red, 3-blue, 4-green). The busiest, M3, is under renovation until 2021, but remains in partial operation, see details here. The entire line shuts down after 8pm and all day on weekends (replacement buses operate), and one section of the line is always out of service. For 2019 it’s the southern segment, between Kőbánya-Kispest and Nagyvárad tér. During this time the 200E airport bus will take you to the more central Nagyvárad tér stop (from where the subway runs) instead of its regular terminus of Kőbánya. In Budapest driving is not recommended for the perpetual lack of parking spaces, congestion and because there's really no need to. If you must arrive by car, pick a hotel with parking, use the free parking lot at Kelenföld subway station, street-parking by StarPark at Podmaniczky utca at ~€8/24h, or opt for a more central location (such as one of CarE Park’s garages ) at ~20€/24h, €100/week and do not use it for getting around in the city. Public areas are metered in the entire centre, typically charging 1.5€/h with a cap of 3 hours on a ticket. The Bubi city bike system is available for anyone’s use. The rates are very favourable (500Ft for 1-day, 1000 for 3 for the pass), but a deposit of €80 will be docked when you register and might take a few weeks to release. First 30 minutes are free, after it's 500Ft/30min on top of the daily pass' price. Two e-car sharing systems compete in Budapest. I suggest using MOL Limo, as you can complete your licence verification remotely (do it before arrival, they might take a day or three if they are backlogged). Despite the name, the cars are tiny, automatic VW up!s, the majority electric and all automatic. Age limit 18, min. 1-year old national licence, foreign ones accepted, €20 registration fee and €0.25/min rate. Coverage includes basically every area of note to tourists in the centre, except the Castle and underground garages (as well as the airport). Expansion is planned for the future. You cannot park (leave the car) outside the coverage area, but you can drive through. Sightseeing The best rated tour bus company is Big Bus, Giraffe (aka. the red Hop On Hop Off ones) tends to get mixed-to-negative reviews. Segway tours also available. Free thematic walking tours of the city depart in front of the lion fountain on Vörösmarty tér daily. A tip of 2000-2500Ft/person suggested, but they're are chill about it, you can give less if you're on a budget. River cruises run during the day and the evening, including dinner (usually not great, save for one) or party in the latter case. The most popular is Legenda, partiers choose Boat Party. One standout cruise is Pannónia Gastro Boat that goes above and beyond the standard quality of service of other operations and often host guest chefs from innovative countryside restaurants. Public transport alternative is the D11 or D12 boat lines between Boráros tér going up to Népfürdő utca (or getting off at Jászai Mari tér or Margaret island 1 or 2 stops prior). Tram 2 between Jászai Mari tér and Boráros tér hugs the Danube on the Pest side and loops around the Parliament for a similarly nice experience. Seasonal operations, normally from March through October. Money The currency of Hungary is the Hungarian Forint (1EUR=330HUF, 1USD=300HUF in November 2019), but I’ve listed prices in Euros (€). Check for current rates here. Don't exchange Forints at home, bring USD/EUGBP in cash or a chipped card with you – the withdrawal fee is far smaller than what you’d lose by the atrocious rates available to you at home (exception: neighbouring countries). With cards, Visa, Mastercard are best, Maestro acceptable. Avoid Amex, Diners Club and other uncommon non-European issues. CAD/AUD/JPY/CNY will be exchanged at slightly worse rates, but still much better than if you’d exchange Forints at home. I don't recommend bringing currencies other than the ones I've mentioned and those from neighboring countries, but if you do, Tichi Change exchanges almost every valid currency in the world at as good of a rate as you could realistically hope for. When the ATM asks you if you want to be charged in your home currency, say no and opt for Forints or you'll lose up to 30% due to the poor conversion rate! Learn more about the rip-off of dynamic currency conversion here and steer clear of the ATMs operated by Euronet. Besides the dynamic currency conversion ripoff, they will also prompt you to withdraw ridiculously high amounts of money (equivalent of $500 or more) that you will not be able to spend in 3-4 days. Don't exchange any money with bright orange Interchange they use ripoff rates (>30% spread). They hava e monopoly at the airport and are also present throughout the city in premium locations, such as Váci utca. Street exchange is illegal and a good way to get scammed. Tons of fine currency exchanges around the city, the best USD and EUR rates are at Gold Change but use your eyes: the buy/sell spread shouldn’t be more than 1-3% apart for these, or 2.5-5% at banks. Exchange offices and banks do not take cards! You may only use them for ATM withdrawals. Phones Make sure to bring an unlocked phone, ideally a dual-SIM one. The 3 main carriers are Vodafone, Telekom (T-Mobile) and Telenor. The best prepaid package is Telekom's Domino Fix with the 1/3/30-day unlimited 4G add-on, costing 990+9900Fts (€32) for the 30-day option. SIM cards need to be activated after purchase, so buy them at brand stores where help is available instead of supermarkets or gas stations. Roaming fees within the EU have been abolished in 2017, you will be able to use your SIM in any EU member country, but not as if it would be local. I.e. a Vodafone Hungary-issued SIM will be roaming on Vodafone Austria’s network. Some 'reasonable' data caps remain in place, which are determined by the cost of your service. Outside the EU there are punitive data rates. I once managed to rack up a $90 bill for 5MB by accident. Sleep Rates are for high season (late April through September, Christmas, NYE), might be 50+% lower on other dates
For 0 hours (party hostels, from €10): Grandio, Retox, Carpe Noctem Vitae
On a budget (well-reviewed hostels, dorm, private rooms €10-35, apartments €40-60): Lavender Circus, Maverick City Lodge, Pal’s, The Groove, Loft, standard Airbnbs
In style (€150-250): Palazzo Zichy, Bródy Studios, Moments, Prestige, Corinthia, this palatial Airbnb
Lavishly (€250+): Aria, Ritz-Carlton, Four Seasons (the gold standard), Kempinski
Location: if you plan on sleeping, the party district (VII., inside the ring road) should be avoided, as well as VIII. outside of it and around Keleti train station for safety reasons/because you can get nicer digs elsewhere. An under the radar gem of an area is VII. between Múzeum körút and the ring road. Buda is nowhere as dead as tourists collectively imagine it to be (especially around Széll Kálmán tér), don’t shun it if you find someplace nice there. Eat at
Rosenstein (best traditional Hungarian restaurant in the country)
Két Szerecsen (cozy Hungarian)
Olimpia (casual fine dining)
Borkonyha (business casual fine dining, Michelin-star)
Stand25 (Bib Gourmand bistro - don't miss the goulash and the layered potatoes!)
Kispiac (modern Hungarian)
Vén Hajó (restaurant ship with amazing panorama and well-done Hungarian food - touristy, but still memorable!)
Petrus (French-Hungarian, Bib Gourmand)
Tüköry (traditional Hungarian on a budget)
Ruben (traditional Hungarian on a budget)
Bors (soups & sandwiches with a cult following)
Manu+ (authentic Neapolitan pizza).
For more detailed restaurant recommendations, see this comment. August visitors, check the restaurants' websites and Facebook to see if they aren't on holiday! The quality of service is a common source of complaints, don't take it too hard if it happens to you. Tip is 10% most of the time, unless you’re really dissatisfied or find yourself absolutely elated. Many top end restaurants add a ~12% service charge to the bill, tipping on top of that is not expected, though naturally it will be appreciated. Neither regular, nor ost fast food restaurants do refills. The only exceptions are all KFCs and a few Burger Kings. Smoking is banned at all restaurants, bars and basically every facility open to the public. Designated smoking areas can be found outside on the street. Try pálinka (~40% ABV fruit brandy), Unicum (herbal bitteaperitif, like Jäger), bikavér from Eger and Szekszárd (lit. ‘bull’s blood’, a full-bodied red), Tokaji aszú (similar to white Port, made of hand-picked berries with noble rot, named the "wine of kings, king of wines" from the 18th century) or fröccs (spritzer, white or red wine mixed with seltzer – a lifesaver in the summer)! More details in the shopping section. Or get really local and ask for ’fény’, carbonated vodka foam over raspberry syrup. You’ll see the fény (=light) at the end of the tunnel in no time! Eat a freshly fried lángos at market halls (acceptable toppings: sour cream, garlic, cheese, perhaps ham and cabbage - certainly none of that tourist stuff with nutella, Hungarian sausage or kebab...) and fried sausage from a butcher shop such as 1951 establishment Balla Hús in Városház utca or the more contemporary Belvárosi Disznótoros eatery. The gallery of the Hold utca market hall hosts quality street food vendors, Karaván food truck yard right next to Szimpla. Nightlife For more detailed recommendations, including strip clubs, casinos and more, see this comment. A casual evening
A38 (a converted Ukrainian barge – a unique experience)
Barba Negra Track
Get out See train schedules on Elvira, check for buses on menetrendek.hu (this site combines bus and train schedules, but has no English version, check for the orange or blue icon on the left side to see which is which). Daytrip options include
Szentendre: a bit different from its Scottish peer (lit. 'St. Andrews') quaint, cobblestoned artist town, chock full of galleries, art museums, restaurants – and tourists. The biggest attraction requires a short cab ride out of town, the open-air ethnography museum, Skanzen, with authentic recreations of functioning village clusters (open March through October). Best restaurant, oddly enough, cooks up a Caribbean fare at the hand of the Curaçaoan owner and his Hungarian wife: Mjam. Reachable by the H5 suburban railway from Batthyány tér (requires extension ticket for segment outside city limits - that's after Békásmegyer station, you need a 15km extension)
Eger: the location of a key Hungarian victory over invading Ottoman forces, this popular excursion destination is famous for its medieval castle, Baroque center, random museums (Beatles, firefighting and marzipan to name a few), its reputable wineries producing full-bodied, cabernet-like reds (bull’s blood, bikavér) and the limestone terraced natural spa of neighboring Egerszalók. Suggested wineries: St. Andrea, Tibor Gál, Demeter, Bolyki. Eat at Macok restaurant (by the castle entrance), they are excellent!
Etyek: the nearest wine region to Budapest, they focus on whites. Although not as spectacular as the previous examples, it's a worthwhile visit for wine aficionados in the summer and autumn. Typical varieties include Irsai Olivér, királyleányka and Muscat Lunel (sárgamuskotály).
For multi-day excursions, including to lake Balaton and detailed information on car rental, countryside and international tourism opportunities, click here
Julep polishes (all new) - Cynthia, Anisa, Queen Anne, Lexie, Courtney - $2 each
Other (all new) - Formula X “Astronomical”, Nails Inc matte top coat, Seche Vite quick dry top coat, Sally Hanson “Fuzz-sea”, Sally Hanson (don’t know the name, but it’s like a top coat with matte glitters) - $3 each for first 3, $1 each for last two
2 misc eye brushes from coastal scents (new) and Elizabeth Mott (all over shadow brush) (probably used once or twice) - $1 each
Bunches of Foils
Link to the album Lots of foil samples, blister pods, etc. It would take WAY too much time, not to mention space on this thread, to list them all, but feel free to peruse and ask questions. It’s mostly moisturizers and primers, with a good amount of foundations/BB creams. In the past I’ve sold these for 50 cents each, sold a bunch in one large lot, and given them FWP to those who asked for specific foils, or who wanted to try some of a particular type of product. Feel free to ask/offer! Edit: all skincare foils taken
Futures were lower this morning as investors gear up for the beginning of a two-day Fed meeting. Monday's losses were the first in four sessions for the S&P 500 and Nasdaq, with the Dow posting its third loss in five trading days. (CNBC)
Cramer: A key market sector is signaling that the Fed should stay on hold (CNBC)
PG&E (PCG) filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, as it deals with potential liabilities from wildfires in California. The utility has filed a motion seeking court approval for $5.5 billion in debtor-in-possession financing. (Reuters)
Earnings season ramps up this morning with releases from Dow components 3M (MMM), Pfizer (PFE), and Verizon (VZ), as well as many other companies. Apple (AAPL) will grab the after-the-bell earnings spotlight today. (CNBC)
The housing sector will be in focus today with the release of the S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Index for November at 9 a.m. ET. At 10 a.m. ET, the Conference Board's January Consumer Confidence Index is expected. (CNBC)
Former Starbucks (SBUX) chief Howard Schultz, who is considering a White House run as an independent, told CNBC's Andrew Ross Sorkin that he won't do "anything to put Donald Trump back in the Oval Office."
Schultz hires ex-Obama advisor as he mulls presidential run (CNBC)
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi invited President Donald Trump to give the State of the Union address on Feb. 5. The partial government shutdown fight between Trump and Democrats previously delayed the president's speech. (CNBC)
Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker said during a news conference that special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation is "close to being completed." He said he has now been "fully briefed" on the investigation. (CNBC)
Trump's former personal lawyer and longtime fixer Michael Cohen has hired two new criminal defense lawyers, and dropped his old ones, as he prepares for testimony at a Senate committee next month. (CNBC)
Judge abruptly cancels Paul Manafort's sentencing in Virginia case (CNBC)
The Trump administration unveiled charges against China's telecom giant Huawei. The accusations include the company violating U.S. sanctions on Iran and of stealing trade secrets from a U.S. business partner. (WSJ)
China says US indictment against Huawei is 'unfair' and 'immoral'(CNBC)
Russia and China strongly criticized U.S. sanctions placed on Venezuela, with the former pledging to support the beleaguered President Nicolas Maduro. Russia said it completely undermined confidence in the financial system. (CNBC)
A snowstorm that hit parts of the Midwest yesterday will give way to record-smashing cold this week as a polar vortex drives a deep freeze across the eastern half of the U.S. (USA Today)
A bug in Apple's (AAPL) FaceTime lets you listen in to the audio if you try to call someone, even if they don't pick up. CNBC tested it and verified that it is a real bug. Apple said a fix is coming this week.
How to disable FaceTime so people can't spy on you by exploiting a bug (CNBC)
3M – 3M earned an adjusted $2.31 per share for the fourth quarter, 3 cents a share above estimates. Revenue beat forecasts as well, but 3M cut its full-year outlook citing the current economic environment among other factors.
Pfizer – The drugmaker beat estimates by a penny a share, with adjusted fourth-quarter profit of 64 cents per share. Revenue also beat Street forecasts, however Pfizer's 2019 earnings outlook came in short of consensus. The company is expecting a hit from the loss of patent protection on its Lyrica pain treatment.
Verizon – Verizon's fourth-quarter earnings came in 3 cents a share above estimates at an adjusted $1.12 per share, with revenue just shy of forecasts. Verizon's results were helped by a greater-than-expected number of subscriber additions.
Harley-Davidson – The motorcycle maker earned an adjusted 17 cents a share for its latest quarter, 11 cents a share shy of estimates. Revenues also came up short on demand weakness in the U.S., which is Harley's biggest market.
Xerox – The office technology provider came in 10 cents a share above estimates, with adjusted quarterly profit of $1.14 per share. Revenue was slightly shy of forecasts, but Xerox also gave a 2019 earnings outlook that surpasses consensus estimates.
PG&E – PG&E filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, as it deals with potential liabilities from wildfires in California in 2017 and 2018. The utility has filed a motion seeking court approval for $5.5 billion in debtor-in-possession financing.
Whirlpool – Whirlpool reported adjusted quarterly profit of $4.75 per share, beating the consensus estimate of $4.23 a share. The appliance maker's revenue came in below Street forecasts, however, and Whirlpool posted its first annual loss in more than 10 years. It expects to return to profitability this year, but its forecast falls below analysts' estimates.
Wynn Resorts – Wynn executives ignored sexual misconduct complaints against former CEO Steve Wynn, according to a newly released report from the Nevada Gaming Control Board. The report was accompanied by a proposed settlement, in which Wynn agreed to pay an undetermined fine. The casino operator agreed that the report largely matches its own findings.
AK Steel – AK Steel beat estimates by 5 cents a share, with adjusted quarterly profit of 16 cents per share. The steelmaker's revenue was essentially in line with forecasts. Stronger sales helped offset the effect of higher expenses.
SAP – SAP said it would implement a restructuring, following a year in which the business software maker missed its own sales and earnings targets. SAP will take a charge of up to roughly $1 billion for the restructuring, most of it during the first quarter.
Apple – Apple said it would issue a software patch later this week to fix a bug involving its Facetime service. The bug lets iPhone users hear audio from someone they've dialed even if the call is not answered. (Here's how to disable FaceTime so people can't spy on you by exploiting a bug.)
Square – Square was downgraded to "underperform" from "market perform" by Raymond James, which thinks the mobile payments technology provider saw organic growth peak during its third quarter and that key metrics will show material deceleration this year.
Polaris Industries – The recreational vehicle maker beat estimates by a penny a share, with adjusted quarterly profit of $1.83 per share. Its revenue fell below forecasts, however, and it gave a weaker-than-expected full-year forecast for 2019, citing global trade and economic uncertainties.
Susan smiled. “Survive. Not, for example, to do anything about this end of the world-” I rested a hand on Susan’s shoulder as several of the gods turned unpleasant looks towards her. My father took a step forward, his shoulders bunching and muscles standing out like cables, between her and the gods. “A kind offer. Do we have accommodations while we’re here?” “Of course, my son,” said Zeus, and smiled. “Please, settle in. Enjoy yourselves. There is a feast tonight, in your honor.” He stepped up to my father, and I noticed that Zeus was taller. A moment before, he’d been about as tall as me. Now, he was a couple of inches taller than my dad, and that made me feel just a little bit disturbed. I couldn’t tell whether I’d misjudged his height, or if he’d changed it. He embraced my father in a manly hug, and squeezed him once, quite firmly, before slapping him on the shoulder. “Now, please! Settle in.” He paused for a moment, and then turned towards Megara. “Echidna.” She drew herself up, her back straight, her eyes meeting his without the slightest trace of hesitation. “Zeus, who marshals the thunderheads.” I couldn’t quite tell whether that was an insult, a compliment, or a careful mix of both. “We meet, at last.” “We do indeed.” He smiled brilliantly, pearly white teeth flashing at her. “All is forgiven. Please, find yourself welcome here.” This seemed to catch her entirely off surprise, a single eyebrow arching delicately. “I cannot say I ever expected to hear that from you.” After a long moment, she nodded her head. “But we all of us change in the face of adversity, don’t we? Thank you. I shall strive to be as gracious a guest as I can be.” There was, at this, a lessening of tension, a subtle lowering of shoulders. It couldn’t have been just that; I wasn’t so absurdly perceptive that I could read a room effortlessly. There had been something in the air, crackling like ozone. A tension that was gone, now that mom had shown she wasn’t angry. The gods dispersed in crowds, save for one who strode forth, a grin on his face. I’d been reading some of my father’s novels on Greek mythology, and had grown confident in being able to identify gods, at least when they wanted to be identified. I certainly wouldn’t have had to do that for this particular god. Hermes was noticeably nude save for a cape and a cap that reminded me of a World War 1 soldier. I tried not to stare, and in doing so, noticed that both Susan and Isabelle seemed entranced. I gave Isabelle a little nudge, and then aslightly harder one. “Wha?” She looked at me, and flushed red. “I was just…” “It’s alright, it’s alright, it happens all the time,” said Hermes, a grin on his face. “God of Athleticism and all, comes with the territory. I don’t get to run across the world much anymore, it’s good to know I’ve still got it.” “He actually looks a lot like Dean,” murmured Susan. Isabelle’s flush grew just a little bit worse. I coughed into my hand, and Hermes did the same, looking- for just a moment- genuinely surprised. “I believe,” said Harry, “that we could use a guide to our quarters.” “Of course, brother. Come along.” Hermes gestured, and turned, which seemed to break the hypnotic state that Susan was in. I heard Megara grumble something under her breath, but not loud enough for any of us to catch it. “I must say, it’s thrilling to see you. I’ve spent precious little time in the mortal world for- Well, too damn long, obviously. I…” The god began to walk at a brisk pace, up the side of the hill. “I don’t imagine you’ve heard. But. My great-grand son… Neither of you have happened to see Odysseus, have you?” Megara let out a soft sound of disconcert. “He’s not here? I’d have expected that if any of the heroes were… I never met him. Never waylaid him.” She shook her head. “I hope he is safe. I always liked him. A hero who never slew monsters.” She chuckled. “Only men.” “Yes, well, I suppose I can see where that would endear him to you,” said Hermes. “He left. A long time ago. Said he had a mission. I’ve never heard of him visiting one of the cities…” Hermes’ lips twisted into a frown. “I suppose it does no good to worry about him, but-” “We can hardly help but worry about our kin, particularly when they are so eager to get themselves into a mess, can we?” asked Megara, and there was a certain warm kindness in her voice. Hermes tossed a bright, pearly smile at her. The trees surrounding us were apple trees. I had grown up in upstate New York. I knew apples. These were not the simple, stunted mortal apple trees. Apple trees in an orchard were, at most, about 15 feet tall, and carefully pruned to keep them manageable. These were great, primeval things, towering over us on either side, growing so thick that they created a dense canopy. Despite that, golden light streamed down between leaves, dappling the ground with pools of warmth, and giving the entire place an ethereal feel. And perhaps most striking was the color. Golden apples, normally, have a yellow-ish color; Something between red and green. These apples were had the lustrous shine of metal. Susan stared up at one of the trees. “Are these safe? They’re not going to cause sudden shame about nudity or doom mankind if we eat them, are they?” “They’re the Golden Apples,” said my father. “They show up a lot in myth. Greek, Norse, Irish…” “There’s a reason the island is called Avalon,” said Hermes. “It was said that apples grew here better than anyone else. On an island in the far west of the world the Greeks knew… Sound at all familiar?” He smiled. “It’s always the question, isn’t it? Which came first, the stories, or the reality? The apples are safe. They grant an immunity to age, and disease, to any who eat them. Of course, the mortals who stole them would find that small comfort, considering what the gods would do to them for the theft, but that’s so often the way, isn’t it?” He smiled brightly. “You, however, are guests. Immortality, and health, are what you might call… table stakes.” “Immortality,” said Susan, frowning dubiously. “Seems like kind of a commitment.” She reached up, and gently tugged on one of the golden apples, hanging low on the branch. With a soft snap, the branch lifted up into the air, leaving the apple in her hands. It was close to the size of her head. “So, you bite into one of these things, and you live forever?” “Barring accident or misfortune. Sadly, a very limited immortality, particularly in our line of work. But it ensures that your last moments will be glorious- or at the very least, hilarious.” Hermes smiled. “Would you like to try it?” “Hmm.” She stared at the surface for a long moment. “Nah. Hey, Dean, Isabelle, think fast!” Susan had a good arm. The apple swished through the air, and my hand came up automatically, at the same time as Isabelle’s. It struck my palm, but would have bounced out if Isabelle hadn’t caught it from the other side. The apple wasn’t quite as heavy as I would have expected from its size, but it had a certain weightiness that was thoroughly metaphorical. Harry frowned over at Hermes. “A panacea? A cure to aging?” “Yes,” said Hermes, nodding. “You’re thinking, what a wonderful thing it’d be for the humans to have, right?” Dad crossed his arms. “I’d considered it. I’ve known many good men who could have done a great deal more good, had they survived long enough. There are quite a few humans who are worthy of this sort of thing.” “It wouldn’t work. Believe me, I agree with you, and I want humans to survive. It’d put that smug bastard Apollo in his place, sure enough, curing all disease. But humans don’t work that way. You give them everything they want, and it just destroys who they are. If every human were immortal, there would be wars over resources; If only a select few were immortal, there’d be even worse wars. Humans have to mature into immortality. You can’t go interfering with them, you can’t just give them what they want. They have to earn it. Otherwise, they won’t ever really have it.” “Is that why this is the first time I’ve seen any of you?” asked Harry, his voice soft. “You know what my life has been like, I presume.” “Yeah. I watched. You survived.” “Because of others. I kept thinking…” My dad was quiet for a moment. He never talked about growing up. I’d learned a little bit more of the story since I had died and come back, but he’d always held his tongue. I knew that he’d been in Africa, which is where he’d met my birth mother. I remember her telling me stories about the two of them robbing a casino, or a club or a bar, or something- the details were never consistent- and then arriving at the States. Hermes finally spoke. “Why didn’t we help.” “Not to put too fine a point on it,” said Harry. “I know. I wanted to help. We all wanted to help. But we can’t. We… tried interfering. Tried getting involved. But we’re only… Well, not human, obviously. But we’re limited in the good that we can do, Harry. You think I didn’t want to help your son, to lead him out of Hades? Even Hades could only do that when he was given the right chance.” He turned towards us. “So. You kids want immortality?” “I think I need to consider it more,” I said, and Isabelle and I set the apple down on the ground with the reverence that it deserved Hermes was quiet for another moment as he approached a large, Italian-style villa. It reminded me of the ones we’d seen in Fiesole, standing atop a terrace, great grape vines growing up its sides, the walls immaculate white, the terra cotta roof tiles brilliant in the sun. “And if I may offer some advice… While you are here, try not to talk about Silas Nash. The subject is still a very sore one.” With that, Hermes gave a brief bow at the door of the Villa, and was then off like a shot, sprinting down the hill with a speed that made it clear that he’d been going quietly mad with the pace of our walk. “What do you think he meant by that?” I asked, softly. “Nash saved your life. Probably saved the lives of everyone in the city. But he was given power by War, he defied Hades and through him Zeus, and worst of all, he’s strong enough to scare them,” murmured Harry. “You’ll notice that if there’s one thing in myth that worries the gods, its mortals who can stand up to them.” “He saved my life. He saved your life. He saved literally all of our lives. You’re not going to just let them think that he’s some villain, are you?” I stepped a little bit closer, and tried not to let the heat enter my voice. “You know, sooner or later, that he’s going to come here. And you know, if he does, and they treat him like he’s a monster, things are going to get unbelievably messy. We can’t just let them think that.” “Of course we can’t,” said Megara, firmly. “We shall simply have to be…” She let a smile run over her lips. “Persuasive.” A golden plaque was inscribed over the entrance to the villa; Villa diEracle. The five of us split up. The villa was large enough for at least a hundred people to avoid ever seeing each other. I found myself a room, and began to lay out my clothes there. The formal suit and tie seemed strangely silly, in light of what we’d seen the gods wearing, but it’d have to do. I set it out on the bed, and stared down at it for a moment. The first hint I had that someone else was there was when cool hands slid around my shoulders. “Are you mad at me for staring?” asked Isabelle. “No.” I smiled. “I mean, how often do you get to see gods nude? It’d probably be a shame if you didn’t peek. I know I’m going to be hoping to meet Aphrodite tonight, rowr.” She slugged me in the shoulder, and chuckled. “Just be careful, you might run into Artemis instead.” She leaned against my back for a moment. “You’re angry.” “Not at you, or Susan, or any of them.” “I know. You’re angry at them.” I sighed, and felt her arms tighten a little more around my shoulders. She was warm, and her head rested against my back, the scent of her perfume filling the air as she squeezed me a couple of times. “He saved me. You know? I still remember how it looked, when he arrived in the Asphodel, when he told me what happened, when he encouraged me to come back. He was an asshole, but in that kind of way that showed he cared. And he was the one who actually helped. He didn’t have to do any of what he did.” “He’s frightening, Dean.” Isabelle was quiet for a moment. “I’m not sure you know how frightening. I’m not saying it’s right, he was the one who saved us, but… I can understand why he’d scare the people here. He scared me. He scared Susan. He’s… something else. You heard about that attack that they said he was responsible for, on the Secretary of the Treasury, last year. He might have gone bad.” “I don’t believe that,” I said, and rested a hand on hers. “And I know you don’t, either.” “No, I don’t. You’re right that he saved us.” Her voice dropped a little. “He saved Susan. She…” She shook her head. “Do you know that she tried to kill herself, on the rooftop?” “I didn’t,”I murmured, and frowned. “She never told me.” “She told me about it. She thought it was the only way to make things right, and he stopped her.” Isabelle was quiet for a second. I thought about the day before, when I’d found Susan on the rooftop. “She’s still guilty about what she did. I’ve tried to convince her that it wasn’t her, that it wasn’t her fault, that it was a manipulation. That she’s nothing like that. But…” Isabelle sighed, and sank down onto the bed. “It’s hard to get her to see sense sometimes. You know? She acts so cool about everything, but…” She rubbed at her eyes, and I noticed a little moisture on her fingers. I sat down beside her, and squeezed her gently. “I worry about her.” “Maybe the two of you should spend a little more time together? I want to keep my father company tonight. The two of you could have an evening to yourself. I…” He frowned. “You know how it is. It can feel a little bit like I’m intruding sometimes, with you two. You’ve been friends for a long time. I don’t mind giving you your space for a bit.” “I-” She was quiet for a moment, and then smiled. “I don’t think that’s what she needs. I don’t think that’s what I need, either, for that matter. But that might be what Harry needs. This sounds like it’s going to be kind of… tense.” She frowned down at the clothes on the bed. “I wonder if it’s more polite to be shaped like a human, or a snake, while I’m there.” “Personally, I have always favored my true form. But that may mean something different for you than it does for me.” The two of us turned. Megara stood in the doorway. She was dressed in a bright jade-green tunic, and her skin was a shade of pale blue, contrasting with the green. Her dark hair hung curled around her face, and her tail was the color of rust. It glittered in sunlight. A delicate skirt hung around her waist, concealing her modesty somewhat, the tail coiled behind her. Isabelle smiled, and bowed her head. “You look very lovely, Mrs. Drakos.” “Echidna might be best here.” Mom smiled warmly. “And I know that you have been feeling some uncertainties about your body.” She paused for a moment. “In honesty, I do not know precisely how that would feel. I was born as I am; I have never been otherwise. But I know that I have seen it happen in my own children, when they were reborn. The clash between human and monster. The strangeness of the mix of sensations. The uncertainty of which side to embrace. I have seen them make every choice on the spectrum between the two. None of them have made a wrong choice, if you catch my meaning. Whatever you want to be, be it with conviction, and you will be fine.” “That is… good advice, which I may find difficult to follow, Echidna.” “Good advice always is. If all we needed to do was follow it, the world would be a simpler place.” She smiled. “Now, if I may. Dean, do you mind talking with your father? He’s in a pacing mood.” “Oh, heck.” I stood up, and grabbed the clothes. “Yeah. I’ll see if I can help” I moved to step past Megara, and then stopped, halfway through the doorframe. I gave her a peck on the cheek, and squeezed her gently around the shoulders. “And you look great, Mom.” “Go, go, there’s no need to make your girlfriend jealous,” murmured Megara, but she smiled as she did. True to her words, dad was pacing in the large master bedroom. He looked over half a dozen ties, picking up one, and then another. “Dean. Your mother sent you here?” “Yeah.” I looked over the ties. “I’m going to be honest, Dad, you could probably wear a lion skin and get away with it.” “I should be so lucky as to have a lion skin on hand,” he murmured, checking himself in the mirror. Anything my father wore, no matter how well tailored, looked like it was about to tear apart at the seams if he moved too quickly. He tried the tie again, and again it came out like a mess. “Son, help.” I stepped in front of him, and began to tie the tie. I frowned. “You’re really worried about this?” “Just a touch.” “Dad, you’re one of the greatest heroes of western mythology, finally returning home after conquering a literally millenia-old nemesis. I’m sure that they’re going to be thrilled with you.” He nodded slowly. “Son… How do you call Megara mom?” I frowned at that. “I’m… not quite sure what you mean.” “I still remember Acanit. How do you not feel… disloyal? I know you wouldn’t do it if you thought it meant forgetting your mother. But…” He was quiet for a moment. “The only father I ever knew died, burning. Zeus was not there. He wasn’t there when Acanit died. He wasn’t there when I fought Megara. He hasn’t taken an interest in me for a long time. It’s…” He sighed. “It’s odd that I should ask you for advice on this, but the situation feels familiar. How do you acknowledge someone as family when you think of them as anything but? The man was never there for…” He paused, and looked over at me. “God, son. I was never there for you, was I?” I squeezed his shoulder. “You were there for me when it really counted. And for mom… for Acanit. You were there for her when it really counted. But you couldn’t be there all the time.” “I should’ve.” “That’s not who you were. I was angry at you for that, for a long time. But… What’s the point of getting angry about those things? You were doing what you thought was right, and the fact that you cared was part of what she loved about you. I can be angry about that, or I can understand it, and appreciate it about you. That’s what you have to do with Zeus, I think. Understand him. He’s still the father of the gods. And either he’s someone who can be your father, or he’s not.” I paused. “And if he’s not, we should probably still be respectful.” “Yes. That certainly adds a certain note of terror to the evening, doesn’t it?” Harry smiled warmly. “Well, we’ll just have to see if we can get through the evening without any faux pas.” — “I’m just saying! I’m just saying. I think they should wipe them all out.” “Ah,” said Harry, delicately. “And who is this, again?” Ares grunted. A tall, bellicose man, he was olive skinned, and energetic, his dark curly hair hanging around his face, dressed in armor. I wasn’t sure specifically what kind, but it was made of overlapping plates that didn’t look like the armor I’d seen in museums of Greek artifacts. “Whoever. I feel as though it’s fairly universal advice, really.” “Ah,” said Harry, for lack of something better. I coughed into my hand, and Thor frowned. His shaggy red hair had been cut into something smoother and more stylish, framing his handsome, rough features. “I don’t know. I mean, without a good agricultural group to raid, you wind up having to grow everything yourself. I think we can all live in peace, provided we have the occasional chance to indulge in a little pillage and slaughter.” Ares rolled his eyes visibly. “What, you disagree?!” “No, no. I can just see how barbarians would think such things. Do all the fun of pillaging and taking, but when it comes to the hard work of holding…” He sighed. “No wonder your people became a bunch of slack-jawed egalitarian pacifists. When was the last time a Scandinavian nation fought a war of aggression?” “Oh, yes, and the Italians and the Greeks have certainly been the scourge of the continent,” said Thor, smirking. “What was it? The only colonizing nation to ever lose a war to an African nation. That’s one for the history books, isn’t it? Ethiopia certainly gave you what for.” “Ah,” said Harry, smiling. “My first wife was from Uganda, actually. Not quite neighbors, but close.” He paused as Thor and Ares looked askance at him. “You seem different, Heracles,” said Ares. “He IS different. You used to laugh a bit more. And…” Thor cast an eye towards Megara, and frowned. “Well, I understand how it is, attractive women and all, but… You’re much more into snakes than I remembered. Three of them?” “Only one’s his,” said Ares. “The other two are with the boy. And someone’s got a taste for exoticism!” The war god roared with laughter, and slapped Dean’s arm with a carefully calculated force; Sufficient to sting, just short of dislocation. “Well, good on you, I say! No conquest like the conquest of love. Just because this soft Norseman’s got a phobia about snakes!” He elbowed Thor with a degree of violence that, when used on any mortal, would likely have crippled them for life, if not killed them outright. “I think both of you,” said Harry, “should shut your goddamn mouths and think carefully about what you say about my wife.” There was a very notable silence for several seconds. Then Ares laughed belligerently. “That’s more like it!” He prodded dad once very firmly in the chest. “It’s unsettling to see you acting all quiet and thoughtful! That’s more like the half-brother I know! Care for a drink? The ambrosia’s good tonight.” “Oy, son,” said Thor, pointing, as Harry accepted the drink. “Looks like your girlfriend is looking for you. Don’t worry, your dad’ll keep for a minute. I want to hear about this story. Sounds like some good old-fashioned questing.” I turned, and saw Isabelle, standing with a young woman. She smiled, and waved, and I approached the two. The hall was one of the Norse longhouses, smoky fires billowing, great racks of meat and bread and cheese and other foods, and an overabundance of something hideous, slightly bitter, and gelatinous that the older Norse gods attempted to force on others. I’d heard one of them refer to it as ‘lutefisk’, and after obligingly choking down one of the cubes, had sworn to myself to never again attempt to eat it, as it had roughly the consistency and flavor of snot. Instead, I grabbed a leg of some unknown but likely hoofed animal, scooping it onto a handy platter, and carried it over to the two. The girl turned towards me, and nodded her head politely. “You must be Heracles’ son. I’ve been talking with Isabelle.” She held her hand up, almost reaching it out to shake, before suddenly withdrawing it. “Ah- sorry. My name is…” She paused for a moment, and frowned. “Artemis.” “Artemis? The goddess?” I looked her up and down. The headphones around her shoulders, the rather punky black shirt and shorts. It appeared she was a fan of the Arch-Senators, too. She looked a bit pale to be Greek, and her hair was a messy, mousy brown. There was a distinct nerd vibe I got from her. “It’s an honor. But, uh, if I can say-” “I wasn’t Artemis. These guys… a couple of hitmen, they murdered the original Artemis. Turns out that I won the qualifying match to be the new one. I was…” She concentrated, taking a deep breath. “Penelope. That’s the name. God, everyone here calls me Artemis, they treat me like Artemis, it gets really weird.” She frowned. “It’s nice to have new people here. People who don’t have this idea of what I should be. And, sorry about not shaking your hand. I get… weird, when I touch guys. It kind of… hurts.” “That’s…” I searched for the right words. “That sounds like it sucks.” “Yeah. Yeah.” She sighed, and then smiled. “But, I’m glad to have new people around here, anyway. And someone who’s my age. Actually my age. Like, even the kids here kind of get to be… timeless, you know?” She smiled. “I was like, 17 when this happened. Only a couple of years ago. I haven’t actually been home since then. Athena brought me here, told me that I wouldn’t be safe out in the wild, and, well, considering what happened to the last Artemis…” “Does that happen often?” Isabelle asked, her voice kind and gentle, resting a hand on the girl’s shoulder. It seemed that she was able to make contact safely. “No. Apparently I’m only the second god it’s happened to in, like… a century, at least. It had everyone here really worried for a while, but they say it’s going to be taken care of soon, so…” She shrugged. “They don’t really tell me a whole lot. I don’t know whether that’s personal or not. It’s just a pain in the ass.” “I’ve been talking a bit with Penelope about my issues. It’s been… reassuring, really.” “For me, too,” said Penelope, and smiled. “I, uh. If you’d like, tomorrow or something, I could show you a bit more of the island. There’s some interesting stuff. It’s actually about the size of like, Wales or something, though it doesn’t look like it. It gets all weirdly folded up.” “Yeah,” I said, and smiled. “It’s good to meet you.” Then, I heard a voice from behind me. It was Susan’s. “Fruit of the poisoned tree, hmmm?” “Oh, shit,” I murmured, and turned. There, standing across from Athena, with one arm crossed over the other, holding a cup of mead in one hand, was Susan. She had her best ingratiating smile on, her expression warm and pleasant. It was the precise expression she always wore when she was being particularly venomous with someone. I began moving through the crowd. “It is one of the natural logical progressions. Tainted deeds produce tainted ends. Like an illegal search and seizure, an act must be considered for its origin, its method, and its results; if any of those three are suspect, so too is the deed.” “You don’t say.” I elbowed past a Vanr who was setting down another rack of meats and cheeses, trying to accelerate without making it completely obvious. “Well, it’s something you must consider for the rest of your life. The Horsemen are planners. Even without War’s power, you are perpetually tainted. Every action you take in the future, everything that you might accomplish, everything you might do, may simply be advancing the desires, the ideals, of a creature that is trying to destroy humanity. Your family. Who already has used you once to betray-” I stepped in. “Begging your pardon, Athena Parthenos. I have someone to introduce Susan to. Begging your pardon-” “And you, for example,” said Athena, her voice cool, devoid of any heat or passion, as though it was the most reasonable thing in the world, “should have died, along with your girlfriend.” I froze, already turned away from her, my hands on Susan’s shoulders. Her expression had gone very still. “I apologize,” I said, keeping my tone even, respectful. “I do not say this to be cruel. It would have been a simple solution to the pin that War created. She used the desire for your life, or the White Snake’s, on everyone. I believe that the young lady even proposed the solution. Making things right. If only that man had not tried to have it all, perhaps the world could have continued on.” “You think he should have died-” began Susan, heat in her voice. I pulled her physically, shifting myself between her and Athena, and turned to face the woman. “Why do you feel the need to say that?” I asked, my voice level, calm. I found that despite it all, I was very calm. I had died. I had seen the worst that could happen. And while Athena could be prideful, could do some foolish things, she was being very actively provocative. This was about something else. And it struck me that much like Susan, and Isabelle, and mom, and dad, she had something she needed to say, and she did not know how to say it openly. In that light, she was much less frightening. Still a bit frightening, but I didn’t feel any shaking in my stance as I faced her. “Because there may come a time when you find yourself making the same choice,” said Athena. “Because of that selfishness, that refusal to let you die, we have been set down a course that will end, almost inevitably, with the death of most humans, and no small number of the gods. This place is a sanctuary. A place to wait out the end. And if the day comes when Silas Nash arrives at this place, I want to be sure you realize the consequences of mindless compassion. Because someone always pays a price for those decisions, those small mercies. A few short years of your lives were traded for the lives of countless billions. That is the weight that is on your shoulders.” I felt the shudder run through Susan. I took a slow breath. I shouldn’t react. Should stay calm. “It’s funny, that logic,” said Susan, and her voice was very calm and very clear. “You’ve been following it for a very long time. And you’ve wound up here, the whole city thing falling apart, and terrified that humans are going to finally start kicking you in the head. That’s it, isn’t it? The reason you’re so bothered by Nash. Because he can actually stand up to you, and your behavior for thousands of years was based on the idea that you weren’t responsible for your actions.” A vein began to throb in Athena’s head, and her fingers rattled out a staccato beat on the shield slung by her side. “Well, good news, because not everyone is as much of a heartless asshole as you.” Susan narrowed her eyes. “And you’re going to be really glad that people have compassion, someday soon.” Athena took a step forward, and there was a fluttering of wings. A woman’s hand rested on her shoulder, a dark figure behind her clad in crow feathers. A spear hung loosely from one hand. Her hair was dark. Her eyes were dark. And her skin was pale as Isabelle’s, though their features were otherwise quite different. “Athena. You aren’t being provoked, are you?” “No, Morrigan,” said Athena, her upper lip twitching once, very slightly. “You are alive now, boy. There is little point dwelling on the past. Not when there is the future to consider.” She turned sharply on her heel, and left at some speed, the dark feathered woman following her. “What the hell was that about?” I murmured softly to Susan, as the party returned to its former vigor around us. “I mean, don’t get me wrong, I understand where you’re coming from, just-” I let my hands stay on her shoulder, and gave her a squeeze. “You don’t have anything to prove, Susan. You know that, right?” “Yes, I do,” she said, and then looked apologetic. “I’m sorry. Just… She got to me.” I rested an arm around her shoulder, and she seemed somewhat warmed by that, pulling my hand down against her throat, pulling in a bit tighter against me as the two of us walked to join Penelope, and Isabelle. Penelope’s eyes were wide. “Are you nuts? You know what she does, right?” “I’m pretty sure I’m already a deformed monster,” said Susan. “What’s she going to do?” “I don’t really ask that question. There aren’t a lot of mortals around here, but…” Penelope shivered. “I’d think it wouldn’t be so frightening to you. You’re their equal, aren’t you?” I asked, and then paused. “Right. They’re not exactly discriminate. I remember reading about a lot of sniping between the gods. They tiff, so one of them murders another’s lover.” “That kind of thing, yeah.” Penelope sighed. “The Irish aren’t so bad, the Norse are even kind of friendly, but… It’s hard to let my guard down.” She looked at the crowd. “Athena can be… nice. But she can also be scary as hell. I can’t believe you stood up to her like that.” “Prior experience,” murmured Susan. “God. Uh, I think I need to go be somewhere… else.” I nodded to Isabelle, who took Susan’s arm. “Oh, come on, guys, I don’t need a chaperone.” “Actually, I was thinking that I wanted to talk with you a bit, with Penelope’s help. Dean, do you want to come along with us?” “In a minute,” I said. “I need to check on my parents.” I smiled. “I’ll see you three later tonight, alright? Tomorrow, we can have a nice time together.” I gave a warm smile, and drifted away from them. Susan and Isabelle would do alright together. I wanted to let my parents know about the little encounter with Athena sooner, rather than later. I turned, and spotted them at the far end of the hall, talking with Zeus, and someone else. “Ah, grandson,” said Zeus, smiling magnanimously. “I’m sorry about Athena. She’s been… Well, the only real word for it is bitchy. You understand how it can weigh on her to be cramped here in Avalon. She always dreamt of ambition and success. She’s worried about all of us, and she can occasionally be slightly callous in expressing that concern. If she should give you any more trouble in the future, you have only to mention it. I am still the sky god around here.” Megara nodded softly. “Thank you. You can understand, it’s something of a shock.” She looked around the room. “In honesty, Zion was always much… closer to humanity, I suppose would be the way to put it. This feels much closer to the old world. I’m not entirely sure whether I find that comforting or odd, but it is good to know.” She paused for a moment. “Hera, mother-in-law-” Hera raised an eyebrow. “Am I? I can never remember all the genealogies.” “Through Typhon. At least in a few of the stories.” “Oh, yes. I think I remember that. Seems like something you might have done,” said Zeus, a light smile on his face, even as he rubbed at his knee. “Certainly felt like your style.” “Not at the party, dear,” said Hera, a weary expression on her face. “I can take your word for it, Echidna. What can I help with?” “It’s… something of a personal matter.” Mom gave Harry a smile. “We’ll be back in a bit. Enjoy talking with your father.” And then it was just the three of us, in an expanding circle of awkward silence. “Son.” “Zeus.” “It would be too much to ask for a Father?” Zeus asked, a little hint of a plea in his voice. My dad was silent. “No. I understand. There is certainly some things to be answered for.” “I understand… most things. Most of the things that you would’ve had to do. I’ve led men into battle. I understand that you can’t always hold their hands. But the thing that kept coming back to me was Echidna. Surely you knew about what she was doing. Millenia have passed, and there’s been no Hercules. I suppose… Why didn’t you interfere?” “I…” Zeus sighed. “This may sound callous of me. But it was… a sacrifice, of sorts. She began her vengeance, sometime after Avalon was built. And I realized that she would keep doing it. She was twisted by hatred, and killing her wouldn’t change that. It would drive her further into the grasp of the Horsemen. By allowing her to go about her hunt, it… focused her. She was a monster, but one that could be overcome that way. In honesty… I hoped this would come about. That you would wind up taming her. It meant the lives of many decent men sacrificed. But that is, unfortunately, a frequent consequence of being a god.” His features hardened momentarily. “I won’t apologize for what I did. But I hope that you can recognize the act for what it was: One of faith in you. In your abilities, your compassion, and your nature. And I am glad that you, Harry Constantinou, became my son.” He crossed his arms. “I hope that you will stay here. I know it is not in your nature, but in these uncertain times, it would be a great comfort.” There was a long quiet period in the conversation, as dad shifted uncomfortably in his jacket. Finally, he sighed. “Hell. That’s a pretty good reasoning. And I can’t say I was there enough for my own son, so I can’t be one to judge.” He gave me a brief, apologetic smile before turning his gaze back to Zeus. “So you’re not bothered by the fact that I’ve married the mate of your nemesis? The one who tore your tendons out, and all of that?” “Honestly, son, and don’t tell Hera or your wife about this, but I consider it something of a point of pride.” Zeus smiled. “I know I have a few bad habits in my history. But I’m glad to see you putting them to good use. You two are in love?” “I think so, yes. I hadn’t really expected it, but…” “Then I feel at least that I did not do the wrong thing. I’m proud of you, son.” “Thanks.” Harry frowned. “I don’t know if I can call you father. Not quite yet. But… I’m glad that I could meet you, at least.” And that, it seemed, was sufficient to end the night on a positive note. The two of us made the trip back to the villa, the sun set, the moon slowly rising. It was full, and I got the distinct impression that it was always full in Avalon, casting a silvery light that somehow managed to illuminate as well as the sun had during the day. The villa was quiet as we arrived, and I made my way to my own room. Neither Susan nor Isabelle was there, which made me feel slightly uneasy, but I trusted them to be well wherever they were, and lay down in the bed. It was lonely, without either of them there. I’d grown surprisingly used to having their company most of the time. I closed my eyes, and despite the hollow loneliness, I was asleep in a handful of minutes. The sound of scales awoke me, the gentle but unmistakable rustle. I opened my eyes, and yawned, blinking. “You okay?” “Somewhat,” said Megara, her voice soft. She stood in the room. Beside her, Hera stood, tall, imperious, her expression mixed. “I am sorry to disturb you, son. I needed someone along to see me, and… no one else seemed quite appropriate. Do you mind joining me? We will not be long, but it would help a great deal to have you with me.” I nodded, and rubbed my eyes. I was still dressed in the shirt and tie. “Do you want me to change, or anything?” I briefly looked to the side, at Hera, who was looking more than a little bit nervous. “Is this dangerous?” “Not quite,” said mom, and she sighed. “I am afraid that this is dangerous only on the emotional level. There are loose ends that need to be tied up. We’re going to Tartarus.”
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