Lilith stops being invokable as of this time. Those who wish to play events and scenes during this period of Lilith's early expansion should know the following.
The Luciferian Word-bound, Demon and Prince alike, continue to hemmorage Word-strength. Each day that passes, right at dawn when angels receive their Essence for the day, the Symphony reclaims some of what Lucifer imposed upon it, and all Luciferian Words lose a Word force. Demons (or Princes) with only one Word force lose one of their Forces instead, all as per the Game Master's Guide.
Servitors of Luciferian Princes or Word-bound continue to have their master's attunements, which in turn continue to work. Rites also continue to work so long as the Luciferian Word continues to be actively supported. Note that Princes who are adapted to Lilithian Words no longer support their Luciferian Words, and their old rites stop working even if their old attunements do not disappear. This is even true of Demons of Lust (for example), whose Superior's Word did not change. Old Servitors would need to have Andrealphus's rites re-granted to them for them to work, as the Luciferian Word of Lust they are attuned to is no longer supported.
Note that Kronos seems to be an exception. Either his Word was privately adapted by Lilith, or the Word of Fate is independent of Lucifer and Lilith alike.
Note that while Valefor is missing, his rites do still work.
During this time, the Luciferian Princes continue to bolster their failing Words. While most Luciferian Word-bound perish within a month of Lucifer's death, the Princes are vastly more powerful and have great reserves to work from. Servitors of Luciferian Princes are given more and more Earthbound assignments, trying to promote their Words wherever possible and delay the inevitable.
There is considerable unity between the Luciferian Princes during this time, at least until Vapula defects and becomes Prince of Science under Lilith. Baal has assumed a kind of Martial Law, with Asmodeus supporting him where possible. And, while Lilith has the heart of Hell (and the entire of the Lower Hells) under her sway, the Luciferian Princes still have the core of Hell's provinces under their control. In particular, Abaddon, Gehenna, and Perdition are wholly under control of the Luciferian Princes. Shal-Mari -- currently the Berlin of Hell -- is contested between Kobal and Haagenti on the Luciferian side and Andrealphus and Rebekah on the Lilithian side in a bitter cold war. Alaemon is rapidly gaining control of Stygia from Malphas, and perhaps is angling for Hades as well, though Asmodeus is keeping him at bay for now. Sheol is in open warfare between Belial and Furfur, and Tartarus and the Nightmare side of the Marches are firmly in Lilithian hands.
New and Changed Superiors
Here are the effects of the changes to Lilith and the First Seven Major Princes. Note that while reference is made to realigning Servitors to the Princes' new Words to allow access to their Rites, the Princes may choose to give their Rites to anyone, including old but untouched Servitors. However, their old Rites will not work from the moment of their conversion, and as a rule the Princes will require an old Servitor to be remade in the image of their Superior's new Word before granting Rites or privileges.
Alaemon: Luciferian Secrets to Lilithian Intelligence. Old members of the Conspiracy continue to have their Attunements, their Secret Society Places and their ranks, but need realignment by Alaemon from the Luciferian Word of Secrets to the Word of Intelligence before gaining Alaemon's new rites. An Alaemon writeup will follow.
Andrealphus: Luciferian Lust to Lilithian Lust. His writeup doesn't change, though his Luciferian Servitors will need to be realigned before they can use his rites again.
Beleth: Luciferian Nightmares to Lilithian Horror. She uses her old Servitors almost immediately to defend the Marches, and converts them when she has opportunity. Writeup to follow.
Furfur: Luciferian Hardcore to Lilithian Destruction. The Superior of choice for violent Luciferian demons of all stripes, Furfur swiftly gets converts from the War, Fire, Hardcore (naturally) and Death. The process of his conversion seems to have levened his impetuous nature and given him more of a brain. Writeup to follow.
Kronos: There is no change in the Prince of Fate -- his Servitors do not even need realignment to a new Word. His writeup is unchanged.
Lilith: Luciferian Freedom to Queen of Hell. Rites, Lilith's dissonance conditions and any distinctions she once may have given stop working. Lilith has more than stopped supporting the Word of Freedom -- she has completely abandoned it.
Vapula: Luciferian Technology to Lilithian Science: Vapula's servitors need to be realigned to his new Word in order to have access to his Rites. Writeup to follow.
Rebekah: The Princess of the Deal has her own attunements, Rites, distinctions and methods. She does not carry or support Lilith's old Rites or dissonance conditions. Writeup to follow.
Hell Under Lilith: The Early Days
The period described under "The Consolidation of the Queen's Power (or, the first Seven Major Princes)" is one of tremendous chaos for Hell. Increasingly desperate, the Luciferian Princes are willing to allow Lilith "her little demonstrations" while searching for a way to stabilize their Words and retake the Granite Throne. Her choice of Andrealphus as her first Prince after the dangerous Kronos is seen by many in Hell's War faction as a sign of sentimentality over strategy, and allows Lilith to make several more moves before opposition really begins to take shape. By the time her true strategy does begin to come clear -- that Lilith intends to fight the War very differently from the Hell of old, and is choosing her Princes accordingly, the Luciferians are already in a bad position -- especially with seven Princes, all stable and growing in strength, with at least four of them formerly major Luciferian princes with organizations to match, and the rest save Rebekah at least former Minor Princes. The speedy loss of the Luciferian Word-bound, made worse by Lilith's willingness to name new Word-bound of her own, without any consideration for prior claims on those Words, is also hard on the Luciferians, especially when their Word-bound begin "crossing the River Styx" as the phrase is bandied in Hell, petitioning the new Princes for service in exchange for new or stable Words.
Free Lilim: The Frees are enjoying a booming business, despite the loss of their Mother's Rites. They enjoy unprecidented freedom of travel and activity -- with their Mother the Queen of Hell, it's entirely possible the Free Lilim are now sacrosanct, and even the Luciferian Princes aren't about to test that premise.
What disturbs the Free Lilim is how little contact their Mother has had with them. Most of the Frees are willing to step up and work with their Mother as independent contractors, working her will in a way she knows she can trust. However, it seems Lilith isn't buying -- and very few Free Lilim seem to be in line for Words, where some Lilim serving one of the seven current Major Princes have successfully petitioned Lilith.
Of course, one Free Lilim got the motherlode of prizes. Rebekah, Lilim Princess of the Deal, has not only been lifted to the ruling class of Hell but in many ways is Lilith's lieutenant and assistant. However, her being given the ability to create Lilim and reassign Geases disturbs many of the Frees, as does her aggressive recruiting techniques among the Frees. Rebekah isn't much interested in promoting the Free Lilim ideal, it seems... and to date, not one of the Lilim she has created has been a Free.
Still, everything seems to be going well for them....
Infernal Adventure Seeds
Luciferian Seeds: On Earth, tremendous efforts are being waged by all of the Princes in the name of promoting their Words. GMs can easily run any number of increasingly desperate attempts to raise the profile of a given Superior's Word.
Example: The PCs, Servitors of Belial, are given a mission to start a rampaging fire in Sequoia National Forest -- the larger and more devastating, the better. They are to make it clearly an act of terrorism and arson, claiming responsibility for "The Cleansing Fire." Opposition will be stiff from Servitors of Animals, Flowers and the Sword.
Also, a large number of Earth-duty Servitors, shaken by Lucifer's death and the Chaos in Hell, have begun to go Renegade or even seek Redemption. Given the distractions the Luciferian Princes are undergoing, many of these Renegades aren't even bothering to shatter their Hearts first. As a result, there are a certain number of retrieval or elimination missions being assigned to loyal Servitors. There are potential seeds on either side of this issue.
Finally, Heaven -- while having some troubles of its own (see followup post) is keeping the post-Lucifer's demise pressure up high. Tethers -- many of which no longer have Seneschals as they follow their Words into death -- are being assaulted in cities all over the world, and Princes need extra hands on duty keeping their pathways and Essence sources vital.
In Hell, Luciferian Seeds will center around the need for control of Hell proper and Hell's resources. Shal-Mari, as the most hotly contested city, will be laboring to continue with Sin as usual -- with similar battles going on in the other contested areas. Also, information gathering (especially by the Game and the War) is at a premium in all contested areas and Lilith-controlled areas. There are always agendas to be followed. Any number of plots and scenes can evolve out of the fight for Hell's population (and Essence.)
In the Marches, Beleth's demons (both Demons of Luciferian Nightmares and Demons of Horror) do battle to protect the back door to Hell from invasion, bolstered (much to their chagrin) by Servitors of Lust. Lusties in turn have been granted both access and charged with the duty of infecting even dreamscapes on Blandine's side of the Marches with sinful Lust. Blandine (and Laurence, whose forces had been assaulting the Nightmares side of the Marches with Blandine's Angels) are both fighting to maintain the purity of good Dreams as well as looking for an opening in Beleth's defenses.
Lilithian Seeds: (Note that some of these will have to wait for writeups of the new Superiors and their Words, though extrapolation can be developed.)
On Earth, Lilith's Princes are quietly establishing their power (and Tethers, where appropriate.) While they let their Luciferian brothers make noise throughout the Corporeal Realm (and screen their activities in), the seven Major Princes known during this period are devoting their Corporeal activities to consolidation.
PCs are likely going to be sent to unmanned Tethers for posting and awaiting stabilization (or rerouting -- Furfur has been poaching Fire's tethers with almost reckless abandon). The Alaemish will be stepping up infiltration of corporeal agencies and organizations -- all as part of Intelligence Gathering, of course. The Furfurites -- far from going out and wreaking havoc, as some might think, are instead moving to quietly secure potential areas of Destruction, while enjoying some of the ancilliary minor Tethers to Destruction the efforts of the Luciferians are making when they're not looking. Science is reaffirming their hold on Luciferian Technology Tethers and organizations, while moving more and more into theoretical areas. Lust is keeping a low profile, as one of the least changed of the new Major Principalities. However, they're carefully reinstating (or realigning, where possible) Seneschals to Lust to help protect Lust's tethers and reestablishing Lust's corporeal holdings. Servitors of Horror, finding themselves more concerned with the Corporeal Realm than Nightmares alone had ever been, are mostly trying to acclimate to their new duties without drawing undue attention. Rebekah's Demons of the Deal, entirely new to their duties, are already moving into the places of power -- guided by those former Servitors of the Luciferian Game and Luciferian Greed who have crossed the Styx to Rebekah's service to the places where deals happen and worlds shake. Most Dealers are finding themselves in national capitals, on national stock exchanges, or in organized crime.
Lilith stops being invokable as of this time. Those who wish to play events and scenes during this period of Lilith's early expansion should know the following.
A note -- in both background materials and mechanics, I'll refer to
"Luciferian" Words. These are original Infernal Words, degrading at 1
Word Force per day at sunrise. Note that barring promotion of one's
Word enough to gain Forces, the most powerful of non-Superiors
(defined as having 18 Forces and 21+ Word Forces) will fall into soul
death after 39 days plus however many more Word forces they have.
Superiors, having huge numbers of nebulous Forces and power,
generally will last longer than this. Also, while Lilith (in this
system) can both grant Words (and stable ones at that) and
Princedoms, she can't strip Luciferian Words and Princedoms unless
she grants new Words at the same time. But, that problem is self
correcting, isn't it? Technically, the new Words are Lilithian Words,
but generally they will just be referred to as Words.
The Consolidation of the Queen's Power
(or, the First Seven Major Princes)
There was turmoil in Hell following the Ascension of the Queen. Many demons had passionately believed in Lucifer and his cause, and had no reason to believe in Lilith and her right to power. Others had repented of their rebellion and gone to embrace Heaven and Redemption. The Luciferian Princes, still desperately fighting for survival, had little time to consider Lilith's Ascension -- no doubt they decided Lilith could be dealt with after they achieved stability once more.
But Lilith was no fool. Since long before the Fall she had known that all things came with a price, and true power lay in what one could provide. Her strength had been undiminished following Lucifer's death. Her ascension to the Granite Throne had made her vastly more powerful. The support of Kronos meant she was strong and difficult to assail. But to rule Hell she first had to give Hell a reason to follow her.
That reason came from a Demon of the War -- a Habbalite named Voizia, who was the Luciferian Demon of Tormenting Prisoners of War. Lilith selected her as a powerful Demon who had suffered greatly, her Word not strong enough to protect her from the erosion. She was not yet a Remnant, but it was close... so close.... And Lilith spoke to Voizia, and asked if she were strong enough to step into a new world, without Lucifer or even her Word. And Voizia said yes, and Lilith drew her close and impressed upon her the Word of Pain. And Voizia, Habbalite Demon of Pain, rose in strength quickly.
And the Luciferian Demon of Pain felt his Word being held by another and felt a momentary flare of strength. The moment was fleeting, however, and within three days he was Soul dead. The Horde knew then that Lilith had the strength to save them.
Andrealphus was the first to yield himself to Lilith. She reached her beautiful, cruel hand out and collected the Luciferian Prince of Lust. She pulled him tight and whispered to him, demanding his utter and total fealty now and forevermore, tightening a Geas that made a simple Year's Geas look petty. Lilith was no longer concerned with Equity, it seemed. And Andrealphus wanted the beautiful, powerful, domineering woman and threw himself to his knees before her, and Lilith renamed him Prince of Lust -- his Word once again stable. And he knew that she could take that Word from him if she willed, and kneeled at her feet, the slave of the woman who had been the Princess of Freedom. And so Lilith built her earliest foundation on Fate's free support and Lust's submission.
Lilith then knew she needed to weaken the old order, and form a new Hellish Alliance that was devoted to her, not to old dreams and viewpoints of the War. And so she let Asmodeus degrade on, but instead drew young Alaemon to her breast, feeding his paranoia, ambition and Impudite's pride with bitterness and hunger, and forging him into her Prince of Intelligence. Secrets fell beneath his Word now, and she gave to him the spies, the whispers, the hidden things, and made him her agent in Hell and on Earth. And so Lilith accepted Intelligence into her power base, before violence or War. And so the nature of the very War itself changed, with Heaven none the wiser. For Lilith intended to win, and her goals were specific indeed.
The weakest potential beachhead in Hell came from the Marches, of course. Since the Death of Lucifer, the forces of Blandine and Laurence had been hounding Beleth's gates. Laurence had believed Beleth vulnerable with her Word failing slowly within her. Blandine hoped and prayed that with Lucifer destroyed, her lover could be reclaimed from the ashes of Hell itself. But Lilith did not intend to lose just yet, and she summoned the Luciferian Princess of Nightmares. And whatever bargain the two struck is not know, but Beleth pledged herself and her support both to Lilith and Lilith's plan, and Lilith made the Djinn the Princess of Horror -- a broader Word, with more potential. And Beleth threw her forces into defense, and had them bolstered with Andrealphus -- whom she disliked, but Lilith wanted dreams of lust corrupting humanity alongside nightmares that terrified them -- and demons in the dreams of humanity on both sides of the Marches. With renewed angles of attack on Blandine's side of the Marches, the assault was lightened and Hell was not taken. So was Lilith's strategy shown to be wise.
With Fate, Lust, Intelligence and Horror, Lilith was clearly establishing a beachhead in the War -- not of violence or military strategy, but within the hearts, minds, fears and desires of mankind. Lilith knew that the world and human race that had existed when the Fall was as dead as Lucifer. It was a modern world now, and Hell needed a new agenda. One not dedicated to Armageddon but Humanity. The Luciferian Princes could see this, and they were sorely displeased. Baal, the Luciferian Prince of the War, spoke out against this plan and Lilith's rule, and in this was supported by his associates, Asmodeus, Belial, Vapula and Saminga. But they were no longer strong enough to openly attack healthy Princes. Still, Lilith could not afford to leave the power bloc untouched. She seized upon the one Prince that fit her agenda -- Vapula -- and drew him in. The world was scientific now, not superstitious, she told the Habbalite, and war was fought by missiles and computers instead of swords and charges. And Vapula was turned, and accepted Lilith's rule. And in her name Vapula became the Habbalite Prince of Science, his scope expanded and his research affirmed. And Vapula left behind his Luciferian comrades and clients, and threw himself into researching the world Lilith wanted to bring about. At the same time, he publically abandoned his research into stabilizing Luciferian Words -- though rumors persisted of black research, naturally.
Lilith, in assuming the scepter of Hell itself, had renounced Freedom. In accepting the promise of power and whim, she had renounced Equity. No longer was she interested in the trading of Lilim for promises, or services for services. Those who wanted her services could bring their gifts up front, now. But Lilith could recognize the need both for Lilim in Hell, and for the kind of dealmaking that once she had excelled at. Further, with her ascension and Mammon's Word degradation, Marc was poised to seize the financial structures of Earth and restore Selflessness in most arenas. To combat this, Lilith raised her first entirely New Princess to power. This was Rebekah, a powerful but hereto un-Word-bound Free Lilim, and a former aide de camp to the former Princess of Freedom. Rebekah agreed to the unthinkable -- eternal servitude -- in exchange for both unimaginable power and the unique abilities (aside from Lilith herself) to provide Lilim to other Princes, trade and reassign Geases, and otherwise broker power throughout Hell. It seemed Rebekah could actually create Lilim, but the white gold bracers and neck-choker Rebekah always wore from that day forward may have actually provided the ability. Lilith herself stopped providing Lilim on that day as well, so as not to undercut her so-loyal, so important Lilim Princess of the Deal.
Rebekah swiftly proved her worth by gathering up the weakest, most desperate of the Luciferian Princes, Furfur, Calabite Prince of Luciferian Hardcore, and bringing him to Lilith. Lilith watched as the Calabite courted death. It is said she let her Demon of Pain -- the very symbol given to Hell of her power -- torture him during this time, increasing the pain and his horror. And the Queen of Hell offered the suffering Prince a lure -- as beautiful as she was. A Word and Principality among her highest. The role of Furfur's old Superior and enemy, Belial. The expression of violence among humanity. And Furfur broke under the strain -- the Hardcore ultimate rebel against authority betraying all his followers and proported beliefs, swearing eternal bondage in Geas to Lilith and her will. And in turn, the Queen lifted Furfur back up in power and knowledge, granting him the Word and Principality of Destruction. And Furfur embraced Destruction in the name of the Queen with fiery pleasure.
Fate. Lust. Intelligence. Horror. Science. The Deal. Destruction. With these seven Princes serving her will -- a 'Balseraph' (in name at least), two Impudites, a Djinn, a Habbalite, a Lilim and a Calabite -- Lilith felt secure in her power, and began to work her designs upon the Earth, promoting new Word-Bound in service to her Seven Princes. And she let the forces of Hell know that other Words and even Principalities could still be had... for a price.
And the Luciferian Princes -- Asmodeus, Baal, Belial, Haagenti, Kobal, Malphas, Nybbas and Saminga -- gather their flagging power and try to hold a unified line, but begin to fragment and fall upon one another... or seek to survive by any means necessary. Of them, Baal's vision was the broadest -- knowing Hell's mission for thousands of years, and distrusting the Lilithian Agenda, but increasingly helpless to fight it.
And no one knew where Valefor was.
Or perhaps "Lies" was his Word. Many believed that of old Scratch, after all.
In the end, it didn't matter. He had lies, and he had pride, and eventually they combined into fatal Hubris. He was caught in his House of the Morning Star by Michael, and Michael finished what he started in Heaven.
Every Demon felt Lucifer's death scream. They felt it in their dark, beautiful Hearts, rippling and thrumming and crying out with the pain of the First Balseraph's Soul Death. They felt it in their Celestial Forces -- almost dissonantly they felt the outside Symphony complain with their utter, painful loss.
Every Angel felt Lucifer's death scream. Felt the pain as the First of the Fallen died true death, the bright Archangel of Light forever stepped beyond redemption, beyond pride, beyond hubris, beyond lies. In the end, Lucifer was wrong and Michael forced it on him. And while some cold Angels of Stone smiled cold smiles with the horror, most Angels -- especially the ancient ones -- knelt and cried for who Lucifer had been, and would never be again.
Every human felt Lucifer's death scream. Scientists would later talk about sunspots, or the odd Earthquake that did so much damage in Louisiana, or who knows what -- but every human felt that sudden twisting feeling. A liberation? Maybe. Or maybe the certain knowledge that the Universe was not what it was, and who can say if it were better or worse.
In the end, it didn't matter. Lucifer was dead. Dead as a doornail. Rumors of his Remnant walking the streets with a beautiful -- yet anachronisticly dressed and acting -- woman as his guide are dismissed by Host and Hoarde alike.
There was little time to mourn. Lucifer was dead. And with him Hell itself was dying.
The first days were confused. The Princes were silent on issues -- all below them were assuming power struggles were taking place between the different factions, as the Princes each made a bid for Lord of Hell. All but two. Kronos, sitting in his Archives with a malevolent glower, made no attempt to rise to the Granite Throne. And Lilith, the beautiful Human Princess, stayed not in Hell but on Earth, waiting it out and keeping under wraps.
The Demon of Stale Bong Water was the first. Imbap's painful, pathetic death took just ten days after the Death of Lucifer, his last Celestial Force winking out into the night publically, the fragment demonling who remained sobbing loudly enough for Heaven and Hell alike to hear before its tongue was silenced forever. And many weren't surprised. How long could such a pathetic Word last? What good was it, beyond the example it set forth?
But the question was why did he die?
And over the next few days, more and more of Hell's Word Bound died, their Words dying in them. Even the Seneschals weakened and died, even though their Tethers were potent still. The Words were failing in them. The Servitors of Lightning trapped the powerful Demon of Hubris himself, a Duke of Hell, and one of Baal's Servitors. Holding him locked down in the basement of the M.I.T. Media Lab, the Jeanites dispassionately measured and watched as the Duke's Word fell. Each day, another Word Force. The Demon begged and pleaded, twisting in his bonds as his very Word degraded.
And yet, hubris was alive and well in the world.
The Infernal Words were dying.
Heaven launched assaults on all fronts -- military, conceptual and spiritual -- as Hell foundered. The Princes desperately began campaigns to bolster their failing Words before they lost their power and position. Vapula desperately began research to tame the Power of the Word itself....
But Kronos did little, and the Demons of Fate continued to ply their trade among humanity. Kronos didn't even seem to mind his Word-bound falling like flies. And Kronos himself seemed unaffected by the carnage.
And no one knew where Lilith was. No one, that is, but Kronos himself... and Yves.
It is said that both Yves and Kronos visited Lilith at the site of her Boston Harbor tether -- minor, compared to her nearby Lexington Green tether, but of special significance to Lilith herself. The three sat and drank tea in a shop by the docks, and spoke of many things, late into the night. At the end of the evening, Yves tied his coat tight against the evening mist and walked away. And Lilith and Kronos stayed, and Kronos whispered in Lilith's ear, and she agreed.
The next morning, as yet another Word Force failed among Hell's dying Word-bound, Lilith and Kronos returned to Hell. They walked through the gates, without looking to the Angels of Final Judgement. They made their way through the streets and stenches. And they entered each of Hell's domains, one at a time, and Lilith stood upon a pedestal in each, Kronos standing below her, to her left side, slightly behind. In each domain, Lilith gave the same speech.
"I am Lilith, the Daughter of Man," she said. "I was once Princess of Freedom. Where others obeyed, I chose. And I have been given the final choice. I am Queen of Hell now. All who would survive will serve me. Any who deny me will regret it." And so Lilith, who walked away from Eden and chose the path of self-governance, made her last choice -- and chose Selfish Power, without compassion for others.
And then Kronos, the Prince of Fate, spoke, always the same way. "I am Fate," he said. "Fate is not denied. It is embraced. Lucifer has met His Fate. He is dead, his campaign dead with him. Fate serves the Queen of Hell. And Fate recognizes the Queen's Infernal Right to Rule, to assign territory, to promote the cause of the Revolution, and to cede Words and Principalities as She sees fit, and no other."
And then they left, but at each stop -- in Perdition, in Hades, in Shal Mari, in Stygia and all the rest, more and more demons followed the pair, until finally they reached Lucifer's Granite Throne, which rejected all Princes and fools who attempted to sit upon it.
And Lilith sat upon that cold throne, and the fires of Hell flared. And in that moment, all knew that Lilith truly was the Queen of Hell, now and through eternity, her Fate secure.
Every Demon felt Lilith's Ascension. They felt it in their dark, beautiful Hearts, rippling and thrumming and crying out with the selfish hope of the First Woman's iron fist. They felt it in their Celestial Forces -- almost dissonantly they felt the outside Symphony shudder with their new leader's terrible vision.
Every Angel felt Lilith's Ascension. Felt the pain as the Mother of Lilim accepted selfish Fate completely and utterly, of her own Free Will. And while some mournful Angels of Flowers wept hot tears with the horror, most Angels -- especially the ancient ones -- steeled themselves for the battle yet to come, and hardened their shining Hearts against her.
Every human felt Lilith's Ascension. Scientists would later talk about plagues, or the odd volcanos that erupted worldwide, or who knows what -- but every human felt that sudden twisting feeling. A liberation? Maybe. Or maybe the certain knowledge that the Universe was not what it was, and who can say if it were better or worse.