Stephen Toulouse (Stepto) passed away this morning.

We worked together in Trustworthy Computing at Microsoft back a dozen years or so ago, and lived (at the time) in the same small town.

Over the years, we changed jobs, and he moved away. But we still kept in touch, and we still saw each other at conferences.

It was 2016, the first day of DEF CON. My brother Joshua had gone in for routine surgery that morning.

As things were starting in Las Vegas, I got a phone call. Something had gone horribly wrong. Over the course of the day, the doctors attempted to save his life.

The thing is, DEF CON is big. There are tens of thousands of people, and more going on than anyone could possibly try to do or see. But Stepto sat with me at a cafe in Paris, while I waited to find out if the last desperate attempt would work.

It didn’t.

But that wasn’t something he could do anything about. What he could do, and did, was sit with me in the middle of what was literally the busiest week of the year in our field, and give me hope, and a friend to talk to.

The World is Not Fair

It will not ease the dying, nor comfort the bereaved. It does not tend to the sick. It will not lay low the tyrant, nor raise up the righteous.

The world does not care.

Those tasks are reserved for us.

Blue Rose

The following is extra-canonical setting information for my Blue Rose campaign. 

Origins of the Sovereign’s Finest

The roots of the Sovereign’s Finest are in the scouts set to watch along the Icebinder Mountains in the aftermath of the Kernish invasion, and the tradition of royal envoys sent out to negotiate or investigate on the Crown’s behalf. Established by Queen Alia, the two halves of the Finest weren’t truly merged until the reign of King Rikin.

As a result of King Valin’s corruption, more than half of the Finest along the northern borders had refused to follow the King’s Orders. In the aftermath of Valin’s fall, King Rikin expanded the mandate of the Finest beyond the border watch. With their fidelity to the ideals of Aldis proven, he expanded the role of the Finest into a mandate to look out for Aldis and her people, wherever that duty might take them. It was at this time that the term Envoy was applied to the Finest, although it has become common to refer to even the earliest members of the Finest as envoys.

The Making of an Envoy

With the increased responsibilities, the training and selection of the Finest become more rigorous. Originally composed of scouts, adepts, and warriors willing to serve along the border with Kern, the Envoys were now charged with broad ranging and often nuanced duties. What began as an informal request by the King to senior members of the Finest to send qualified candidates to the city of Aldis for consideration as envoys rapidly became custom, and eventually law.

Any member of the Finest may choose to sponsor candidates for membership. The next steps depend on the candidate; in the time of King Issik one candidate was sponsored in the morning, and inducted later that same day. Some candidates remain with their sponsors for years, training in the field, and only travel to Aldis when their sponsor believes that they are ready for induction. Others may be sent directly to the Hall of Envoys to study while their sponsor continues their duties. There are still stories told of the Rhy-horse Dellaran who chose to travel across Aldis looking for troubled adolescents in need of a challenge, and routinely would arrive at the Court to drop off a young student, and then head out again, leaving the rest of the training in the hands of the Director. Whatever the path taken for any candidate, by the time they are considered for induction they have a solid understanding of both the laws of the Kingdom of the Blue Rose, and of the cultures and subcultures that are part of it.

Candidates must have a sponsor at all times. Should their sponsor reject them, or otherwise be unable to continue, a candidate will be removed from consideration if no other Envoy is willing to step in as sponsor. Candidates are considered for induction when any Envoy is willing to put them forward, even if their sponsor disagrees. The final determination was originally made by the Sovereign, but towards the end of the reign of Queen Larai, that responsibility was passed to the Director. Queen Jaellin restored the original policy, and at this time Envoys are inducted after review by the Director and the Queen.

Thorns of the Rose

If the Sovereign’s Finest are the voice and hands of the Crown, the Thorns are the eyes and the ears. These agents of the Kingdom work in secret, reporting only to the Director of the Finest. Their identities are secret even from the Crown, and revealed only when absolutely necessary.

There is a small garden just outside the Hall of Envoys, with an empty mausoleum, and a simple marble altar in front of it. Whenever a Thorn returns to the Wheel, a single rose is placed on the altar. White when the agent died from natural causes, or in the line of duty. Red, if the agent was inadvertently slain by an agent of the Crown. It is said that the Director plants a rose bush in the name of each agent, and that each plant only flowers once before dying.


Easy Rolls (Gluten-Free, Low Carbohydrate Quick Bread)

This is a fairly simple recipe for a quickbread, but it does require one unusual ingredient.

The base of this is the curds from clabbered Kefir. Simply let a live culture Kefir (the final liquid, not the mother colonies that you use to make it) sit out at room temperature for a day, and clabber up. Then drain the whey from the resulting curds.


  • 1/2 cup Golden Flax Meal
  • 1 cup clabbered Kefir curds (loosely packed)
  • 2 cups Almond Flour
  • 1 tsp Sea Salt (fine)
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 TBSP Double acting Baking Powder
  • 1/4 cup (one stick) unsalted Butter


Oil a pan (either of these works well) with a little bit of a neutral oil. Heat the oven to 325 degrees (300 if you are using a Convection oven).

Combine the flax meal, curds, almond flour, eggs, and salt in a mixing bowl, and mix well.

Melt the butter.

Add the Baking Powder to the batter, and mix well. Then immediately, add the melted butter, and again, blend well.

Divide the batter equally into the wells in the pan (this recipe will fill either of the two pans listed above).

Bake for 45 minutes. Remove from the oven, and immediately remove from the pan and onto a cooling rack.