In Which A God Makes A Poor Impression

Vance: So…

Vance: It seems like all the members of this imagisphere are present.

Vance: Shall we get to…

  • Vance set the channel topic: The Reign of the Two-Headed Satrap

Vance: ?

Camena: Game Start!

Vance: We'll begin with Tran.

Vance: She probably has some things to say about your politicking.

Svetlana: Oh no!

Icaria: "Wow, I can't believe you saved the island from the Mask of Winters and defeated a political rival!"

Vance: The young Dragon-Blooded sorceress and her bound demon, the brawny neomah Luxi Qu, have basically established themselves in the manse as roommates, watching over the magic baby crystal.

Vance: Have you let her know you replaced Bokuro?

Svetlana: I wasn't there for the session when she moved into the manse. It seems like it would have been important information at the time.

Icaria: I feel like it would be difficult to conceal, especially after we also told her Bokuro was plotting to unleash a shadowland.

Vance: Her mind was on baby magic at the time.

Svetlana: I am content to have been sufficiently scattered not to have told her until we bump into one another in the halls if that's a better scene, but it seems likely she would know.

Vance: In that case, she probably asks you to come have a chat with her at some point.

Camena: Yeah, I'mma vote for us mentioning it.

Vance: "I have a question. About pretending to be Bokuro."

Svetlana: The satrap's books and accounts are kind of swimming in my head anyway, it's harder to figure this stuff out when I'm not being Evdeniya. I'm happy to stop by.

Camena: "Yes?"

Vance: "It's going to be at least a season before the baby is complete."

Camena: "Born, Tran."

Vance: "Watching over the baby isn't hard. But if Dynasts are vying for control of Tourmaline because they find out the satrap is dead, or there's a mass rebellion, that would be hard."

Icaria: "Yeah, let's not tell anybody."

Vance: "I don't know how governance works. I went to the Heptagram. But I am incredibly anxious about everything you're doing!"

Svetlana: "It was just a little death," Bokuro says. "I have those all the time."

Vance: The last part is more emotionally open than Tran has been this whole while, almost. She's really opened up to you!

Svetlana: Bokuro holds two fingers close together to indicate how small the death was. Barely any death, really.

Camena: "What is it exactly you're afraid of, Tran?"

Icaria: "Probably of getting caught, starting a war, failing in our objective, the baby dying, everybody dying."

Vance: "I am specifically afraid of forces beyond my control causing me to fail Jaspindar and Vi."

Icaria: "Those all seem like super-legit worries."

Icaria: "I mean, we didn't exactly plan to replace the satrap for more than like half an hour before you did it."

Svetlana: "Admittedly I'm not sure I can weather the consequences of my own report or put down the rebellion without, er, putting it down," Bokuro admits, polishing his glasses. "It might be best if, rather than having Dynasts find out I'm dead, we just arrange a controlled transfer of power."

Icaria: "We were just wandering about, and then, out of the blue, Bokuro murdered a bunch of people. So then obviously murdering him back seemed logical."

Vance: "To Jaspindar, of course."

Camena: "We try things," Camena says with a shrug. "Sometimes they work. If not, we try something else. But you're not going to come to harm, Tran. Nor the kid."

Svetlana: "Yeah, sure, if that's politically feasible," Bokuro agrees.

Vance: Tran smiles, self-consciously. "Thank you Camena."

  • Camena gives a look that asks whether Tran would feel better with a formal Eclipse oath.

Vance: It'd be above and beyond her expectations

Vance: This isn't really about her not trusting you, it's about wanting to be reassured things will turn out okay.

Svetlana: "D'you think Jaspindar has enough cred back home to make a claim stick if she was in the right position and Cynis flopped?"

Icaria: Just saying you won't screw up is nice.

Icaria: But it's nicer to indicate that we'll make more sensible decisions in the future.

Camena: "Look… first sign of trouble, I'm falling back to you and the baby. Get me a plot on the best way to have some bolt-holes for your mecha-womb, and I'll make sure they stay viable."

Vance: "She is Satrap. If we can feign some reason for Bokuro being left unable to govern, it wouldn't be inexplicable for him to transfer control."

Icaria: "Hm. Syphilis?"

Vance: "House Cynis would dispute it, but they have no navy."

Icaria: "Do Princes of the Earth get syphilis? Surely there's some kind of disease he'd be terribly embarrassed to have."

Svetlana: "Conscienceitis?"

Vance: "The Cynis consider venereal disease a mark of distinction," Tran says, although that is not actually true

Camena: "We could disgrace Bokuro."

Svetlana: "Blackguardedly cursed by the Mask of Winters despite never having associated with him in any way?"

Svetlana: "Why did Mask of Winters go out of his way to curse this fine upstanding example of House Cynis who has never had any dealings with him and in fact who doesn't even know what thorns are? Nobody knows. It was probably because of the underworld alcohol."

Camena: "Hmmm… attempt to break away from his house and start a new dynasty of his own? Make him look like a death cultist? Or just have the poor fellow explode in a sorcery accident?

Icaria: "I bet they're not that fond of impotence. Maybe Bokuro had to run home to seek treatment for his shameful inability to achieve literary ecstasy."

Vance: "That lie is going to be hard to maintain if a Bokuro never arrives at the Blessed Isle."

Camena: "Seems like death cultist might be our cleanest option. And lucky lucky, we've got a conveniently real shadowland for some other Terrestrial to stumble upon."

Zanara: We simply need someone to ‘find’ it, then.”

Svetlana: "But where could we find another Terrestrial at this hour?"

Icaria: "Or I suppose Tran could just marry Bokuro."

Vance: "Gross, no."

Vance: "Let me discover the shadowland."

Svetlana: Bokuro looks vaguely hurt.

Vance: "I don't date men!"

Serestala: "It's not really him. I made that mistake too."

Camena: "What if Tran had a dramatic fight with Bokuro in the streets?"

Icaria: "Fortunately, he is secretly a woman, but that's not the point."

Camena: "…Icaria, did you make me say that?"

Icaria: "…yes."

  • Icaria takes sorcerous motes.
  • Camena begins a small exercise with her Essence, trying to figure out what a death-tainted Terrestrial anima might look like.

Vance: "Your sorcery is disreputable," Tran notes.

Vance: Uh…

Icaria: "We could have a lovely, tasteful wedding, and then you could murder Bokuro on your wedding night."

Vance: Camena, roll Intelligence + Occult.

Icaria: "I've got a pearl-handled knife laid aside for just this eventuality."

Icaria: "Then you'd be satrap by right of conquest!"

Svetlana: "I would really like to dramatically fight Tran in the streets but it might be simpler just to realize that I've been irrevocably found out and do a peaceable transfer of power in order to minimize trouble."

Icaria: "I'm pretty sure that's how satrapy works."

Vance: "I wouldn't mind a sorcerous duel. I was very good in class, and you don't get the chance often."

Camena: Nine successes.

Svetlana: "Like, say, when my guard captain says, 'But why am I listening to Jaspindar now?' I say, 'because the alternative is all of us eventually hanging for treason, or, my retiring to fantastic wealth while your career continues unimpeded.'"

Icaria: "Ooh, ooh, I want to have a sorcerous duel! Let me be Bokuro!"

Camena: "No."

Icaria: Icaria pulls his bangs in front of his face and tries to do a Bokuro impression.

Svetlana: "He could be Bokuro if it was in a place that was hard to see details," Bokuro says. "I often find that I look like a lot of people in such places."

Vance: Air is the breath of the world. But the underworld is a breathless corpse. The dead do not suspire of elemental air, but instead, its memory. It is the last long lingering before silence. It is Echo.

Icaria: "Oh, my marmoreal month of Descending Air

Icaria: twice twisting, trembling in my tree

Icaria: When will you wend your way about

Icaria: At dismal dawning, or at about twenty-five past three?"

Camena: "Icaria. Y'er makin' me want to drown you a little."

Svetlana: "…but then something would light him up and it would be apparent that he was not Bokuro. I am sad to admit it but possibly never giving anyone the chance to even come into contact with the lie might be best."

Camena: "And I would feel really bad about it. For a while."

Icaria: "I have a seahorse."

Svetlana: Bokuro scratches at his temple. "Though I guess Camena could sorcerously duel you if it turns out to be important, I always forget she's not just ocean me."

Vance: "Elementals," Luxi sneers.

Camena: "I can banish her."

Icaria: "Do you really want to get into a sorcery fight?"

Camena: "And I am not a one-trick Exalt, thank you, cousin."

Vance: "Demon-binders may be fools and idiot bastards, but at least we're worth summoning. Your seahorses are bad."

Svetlana: Bokuro polishes his glasses, puts them on, looks at Camena. "Implications, cousin, implications."

Icaria: "Sorry, my elemental children are all great."

Camena: "Oh! Which reminds me. Tran. When we get some time, we should chat. About demons."

Vance: "!" Tran emotes, blushing.

Icaria: "Wow, lewd."

Vance: "Any time, Camena. I majored in infernalism."

Camena: "Excellent."

  • Camena steeples her fingers.
  • Icaria learns Demon of the Second Circle just to spite you all.

Camena: Nooooooooooooo that was my plan!

Serestala: "That purple woman seems real angry about seahorses," Serestala whispers to Zanara.

Zanara: That’s a demon,” Zanara whispers back.

Serestala: "Really?"

  • Vance rolls to see if Luxi hears.

Icaria: It is very important to be able to tell if someone is a demon or not.

Icaria: If other people could tell, I wouldn't have so many problems!

Icaria: I'd be wandering around all day flaring anima like nobody's business.

Vance: "I am neomah, to be precise. We can take pieces of flesh, with consent, and then weave them into new life. It's a living."

Vance: "Please stop doing that speech," Tran says, exasperatedly.

Svetlana: "So, our visiting Dragon-Blooded Tran discovered my terrifying dabbling with the death cult, getting word out via that messenger spell whose name I totally know as a sorcerer myself, forcing me to dismiss my dear metal skeleton friend Prophet of Opium Justification and turn the island over to Jaspindar in order to avoid scandal. Rapid transition of power and public announcement to follow, Tran as viceroy once things get started? This is not a plan proposal, this is a summary of my understanding plus a proposal of some details."

Icaria: "This is Rubean," I say, producing Rubean from nowhere. "She is a flame duck. She can be aflame, and also a duck."

Icaria: "Also, she has excellent common sense."

Icaria: ("Leaven us out of yon sausage-measuring contest," says Rubean.)

Vance: Serestala has met Tran before now, but you haven't really talked with her much before now.

Icaria: "That plan seems pretty good, though. Tran, are you prepared to be a responsible satrap? You could really make a difference in the lives of all these people."

Icaria: ("Plus it's a great way to keep your mouth shut," I don't say.)

Vance: The others have probably explained to you that she knows about them being Solar Exalted—are you going to be that open about it, too?

Icaria: In all fairness, I probably introduced her as "and this is Serestala, who showed up to be our Dawn."

Icaria: Although she has Brawl so it is quite within her power to shut Icaria up in a hurry.

Serestala: This is something that Serestala would have happily gone along with.

Vance: Tran has the kind of wariness of you that one does of people they've been taught are demon-ridden and inevitably grow to become destroying monsters. She trusts the others enough, though, that them vouching for you is all it takes.

Icaria: Yes, everything is proceeding according to the unities.

Svetlana: "I suppose that that means that I should figure out everything I've ever wanted to do as a satrap, and Camena the same, because ideally this should only take a few days."

Icaria: Meanwhile, I have to figure out how to prove to everybody that I am the best sorcerer and that all the other sorcerers are less good.

Vance: "I… could ask Vi to bestow her governing wisdom on me."

Icaria: If Camena starts keeping the Shadow-Lover in her tote bag, that will interfere in this objective.

Svetlana: "I've never mooned the town square as a satrap but I'm not sure I actually want to," Bokuro muses.

Svetlana: "It might be a less embarrassing and a more satisfying memory if done from one of the castle towers instead. Oh, and I should give some random street kid a title and a place in court."

Vance: "It would necessitate her coming to visit," Tran notes, as I write that explicitly into the Charm text.

Svetlana: Is there enough jade in Bokuro's vault to swim in it?

Vance: There was a random street kid who lead you to the manse!

Icaria: "You could just summon a demon vizier," says Icaria. This is Icaria's idea of how sarcasm works.

Vance: He's invested in the art objects portfolio.

Vance: "I would recommend invoking Gervesin," Luxi says.

Svetlana: "Camena, I will have to call upon you for advice as to how to swim successfully in Bokuro's vault. It will be very tricky and bumpy."

Icaria: "That was sarcasm. Nobody needs to invoke Gervesin."

Icaria: "He is a jerk."

Vance: Camena, Icaria, what're y'all's Resolves?

Icaria: 5.

Icaria: 6 if bad logic is involved!

Icaria: Anyway, I'm probably going to plan to put one over on Camena by enchanting myself with unholy loveliness, Zorayas-style.

Icaria: This cannot possibly go wrong.

Icaria: But first we should give Tran her own island.

Vance: Camena, you're getting instilled with demon-zeal!

Icaria: See, this is how they get you.

  • Icaria sits atop his pillar of sorcerous wisdom and good decisions.

Vance: Camena gains a Minor Tie towards Gervesin.

Camena: Wait, what?

Icaria: Luxi is putting visions of demonic power to dance in your head.

Vance: Luxi's recommending demons to summon!

Camena: M'kay.

Vance: The context… I'll leave it up to you, because it's not quite respect. It just has to be positive.

Camena: I've always been more of a Sigereth guy myself.

Camena: I'm listing it as curiosity.

Icaria: If you have to summon a demon, pick Gebre! Or Gumela.

Vance: "I'm willing to go through whatever charades you need to put on," Tran says, off-handedly sculpting a seraph of sorcerous energies in the palm of one hand.

Vance: She sends an explanation of events to Jaspindar.

Svetlana: "I think that having Vi come by to bless you with her wisdom is a good idea," Bokuro concludes, after some thought. "But I also think you'll be fine. You've got a good head on your shoulders. If the people didn't deserve the best they could get, it wouldn't be worth her bothering."

Vance: "But I was never a good student of politics!"

Svetlana: "In fairness," Bokuro says, "Neither was I."

Svetlana: "I mean, Bokuro."

Icaria: "Most of your teachers would probably have taught you all the wrong stuff, anyway."

Icaria: "They'd be all 'Tran, you should murder a bunch of slaves because it's expedient.'"

Svetlana: "I mean, really, the best way to ensure the weal of the people is almost certainly not to murder them all, that is textbook."

Icaria: "So I figure you might as well do things your way."

Icaria: "You would honestly have to work hard to do worse than the last guy."

Camena: "Not like there's much to politics," Camena says, hands behind her head. "Run the ship, keep the purse full and flowing, give folks their share but make them earn it. Every once in a while, put a bit of fear to 'em. And every once in a while, let 'em see you smile."

Svetlana: "Proper medical care, sunlight, vegetables… I mean, seriously, Bokuro knew how important eating your vegetables was, it featured prominently in his poetry, but he never thought to apply it to his own people."

Vance: "Tourmaline has no farmlands. Food imports are an expense. Bokuro cares only for profit, not for cost."

Vance: "Cared, rather. Heh."

Icaria: "Sounds like a job for sorcery."

Icaria: "You could turn the island into delicious rock candy!"

Camena: "No, Icaria."

Icaria: "…some of the island?"

Vance: "Satrap Bokuro's fatal flaw was that he never learned how to summon demons," Luxi suggests.

Camena: "But suppose we could fill up the shoals and schools off shore?"

Icaria: "You can't solve every problem with demons."

Icaria: "Well, you could make plenty of food with a few monbozia, but nobody wants to eat that."

Vance: "The cnezgi eat people's hair, and can spin it into anything in their devil-spinnerets," Tran says, the wheels turning in her head.

Vance: "I could have them make one long noodle… "

Icaria: "I was going to suggest altering a few of the crystal veins so they'd sprout crystal corn, or something."

Camena: "Crystal corn… seems like we'd have to get Mother Geode on board."

Icaria: "Wow, we're coming up with some really good ideas here. I feel political already!"

Serestala: "Couldn't we just go like ask some sea god for fish vegetables?"

Camena: "…"

Camena: "I feel like that kind of suggestion was supposed to be my job, but clearly I'm pretty shit as an Eclipse."

Icaria: "Let's just make a sea god."

Vance: "Even the Satrap has to answer to the Immaculate Order. If we feed the people with heretical practices, we'll be put down."

Zanara: I wouldn’t rely on gods in any case,” Zanara says.

Icaria: "…I suppose the fish thing is the most subtle."

Svetlana: "Max can make vegetables," Bokuro observes. "But I don't know if he can do it at scale."

Camena: "Okay. So, gods no; sorcery's a maybe. I could liquidate the Satrap's collections without too much trouble. Could. Could… "

Vance: "Mother Geode is another mystery. She's not in any Immaculate prayer calendars. I have no idea what she actually is."

Icaria: "I could make Max very large," says Icaria, but in his heart he's given into Necessity and the knowledge that he must do practical things.

Camena: Camena trails off, licking her lips as she eyes a few of the tapestries.

Icaria: "If we put Camena on point it shouldn't be that hard to make a local fishing industry practical."

Camena: "Why are the solutions never quick and easy?"

Icaria: "You keep overruling the easy solutions, like Plan Giant Maksim and Plan Make My Own Gods."

Vance: Camena, make a (best of Charisma/Manipulation/Intelligence) + Bureaucracy to liquidate Bokuro's assets and get that redirected to food imports.

Vance: The palace functionaries withstand the change of regimes as stone endures the waves.

Camena: Yeah, I'm going to not do that.

Icaria: I can set some elementals to the task of watching local fish hatcheries and tending to the shellfish.

Camena: Besides, if she did it, she'd do it black market.

Vance: In that case, it is not done.

Camena: Bureaucracy is for dweebs.

Vance: "I feel like like I can run a satrapy without letting the people starve for at least a season," Tran opines. "Maybe even without having to summon a cnezgi."

Icaria: "I suppose we can let that be sufficient unto the day."

Vance: "But before you end this charade and set sail, remember the promise you made me."

Vance: "You can't keep lying to Jaspindar."

Svetlana: "It really ought to be easy," Bokuro agrees. "You don't need to make a personal profit, you have a stock to sell, there are relatively few hungry mouths right now, and you have talented support."

Zanara: I make it a point to never lie,” Zanara says. “But I take your meaning.”

Icaria: I don't think we actually made any such promise.

Camena: I think we did?

Camena: I might be misremembering.

Vance: You did.

  • Vance checks the logs.

Icaria: Camena promised not to do any harm to Gloam without good cause.

Vance: "This is the promise I make to you, Legate Tran; let it be sanctified in the eyes of the Unconquered Sun. I swear this oath in friendship, to do no evil against you or Gloam without just cause and provocation; to hold true to the promises I make to Gloam; to work with you and yours in good faith in all that I do. This I do affirm by the light of Heaven, and I write it now into the world itself," she says at last, wisps of blue-gold anima forming that same oath in the air all around them before fading away like water into thirsty roots.

Vance: Letting Jaspindar and Vi know is working with her and hers in good faith in all that you do.

Svetlana: Svetlana is excited about the satrap masquerade ending, because she can get back to actual medical work.

Vance: Although the oath only applies to Camena.

Icaria: Well, whatever. If Camena wants to out us because she made a stupid rash decision, that's her problem.

Icaria: (I would never do anything so silly.)

Vance: Icaria…

Icaria: I'm going to go and bless the local waters to be full of fish, because I'm a serious person.

Vance: What is the fashion of your blessing?

Svetlana: (Och, dinnae be fashed, blessing!)

Icaria: Hm, I'll awaken the spirits of the water so that they'll tend to the fish and draw them to the people's nets.

Icaria: It can just be one of the things that local Essence flows give rise to elementals to do henceforth.

Vance: A textbook Ambition 1 working.

Icaria: I roll 21 dice, 17 successes.

Icaria: Whoops, I'm done.

Vance: Very fish!

Icaria: Sorry, did anybody else want to claim to be best sorcerer?

Icaria: Oh, man, it's time to make some more good decisions!

Icaria: How much to turn the entire island into rock candy?

Icaria: (Only too late would Icaria realize that he is on the island.)

Vance: In the seas that surround Tourmaline, a new current appears. It is faint, tremulous—a minnow could swim against it—but it is there. It changes the movement of the entire ocean, if only by some infinitesimal degree, but that is degree enough. Elemental Essence flows through the seabed geomancy, giving rise here and there to elementals of water. They are lobster-headed otters, each a good five or six feet in length, who speak in soft kind voices.

Vance: These are zerazmi, who will gladly trade fish for stories of human experience.

Icaria: (Meanwhile, Camena has presumably spent the week learning how to summon Emerenzia.)

  • Icaria tries to think of the worst possible demon for this situation.

Icaria: Honestly, Emerenzia might be it.

Vance: Icaria's got Celestial Circle, right?

Icaria: Yeah.

Vance: So this working costs 1xp.

  • Icaria lazily lobs a Solar XP.

Vance: At some point, when Tourmaline's food supply is no longer a pressing concern, it will return unto you.

Icaria: Awesome! Anyway, while everybody else is doing frivolous things, I'm going to work on giving myself some amazing sorcerous powers.

Icaria: That should keep me busy for a few weeks so somebody else can talk.

Vance: It takes a week.

Camena: Camena's overseeing some craft projects—splitting her time between housing for the underslaves and new fishing boats.

Icaria: Giving myself unholy loveliness should take several weeks.

Vance: Improving housing sounds like a basic project, and building multiple boats sounds major?

Camena: I mean, not like huge boats. Fishing boats.

Vance: It's still more than one of them.

Camena: I have CNNT.

Svetlana: I'll plug away at the sick people for a while, then work on stealing stuff from the local minor houses, crimelords, and consortiums that do slavery-type stuff or that Bokuro was giving kickback money to for whatever reason.

Vance: Hmm. Rather than having you spend a whole bunch of motes on CNNT and getting a silver XP bonanza, I will say that here, it lets you skip the craft XP cost of starting the major project.

Vance: And also do it in like, an afternoon?

Vance: Probably less than that.

Zanara: Zanara, meanwhile, will work on organizing the locals so they feel safe to speak for themselves regardless of whoever ends up running the place. Mutual aid, that sort of thing.

Svetlana: Or that were giving him kickback money? Right, I think that's what I mean.

Svetlana: For undue favors, anyway.

Camena: CNNT also lets me knock out major projects damnedly fast.

Vance: The cult of the Unconquered Sun that Zanara has sown is especially receptive to her message. They begin organizing community aid in the residential caverns as a holy practice.

Vance: Camena, let's start with (Dexterity + Craft) for housing.

Vance: Crafts aside, is there any pressing business before you set sail?

Svetlana: Are we about to head to a different island?

Vance: You may, but are by no means forced to.

Vance: Although I will make a sad face if you split the party between islands.

Camena: Nine successes.

Svetlana: I was trying to figure out why we were setting sail suddenly.

Icaria: I wasn't joking about imbuing myself with unholy sorcerous might, although it may be a little while before that resolves.

Icaria: That's going to be an Ambition 2 Celestial working with Finesse 3.

Vance: Ah, okay.

Icaria: Which I can roll for as the clock advances.

Svetlana: If the hint is "you can get this island into pretty good shape with no crisis on the horizon without drama" then that is good information.

Vance: Camena successfully rebuilds the housing in the caverns beneath the city, repairing the rotting and damaged timbers and building upon them to create quality housing!

Svetlana: If it was wordplay about Camena's skills that I misunderstood then that is a different thing.

Vance: Both.

Svetlana: I'm trying to remember what state we left mask island in.

Vance: Camena gains 2 silver xp, or 3 if this supports an Intimacy

Camena: 2

Vance: And as I read the bit about getting silver XP at the end of stories, which I had no idea was there

  • Vance looks at Camena's sheet.

Icaria: We kind of said "welp, we'll be back when we're done with the baby thing and Icaria finishes his mighty sorcery, please don't stop believing in us for the next several months."

  • Camena is beginning to regret his decision to respec Craft.

Vance: We've had… finding out Jaspindar's deal, finding out the baby's + forbidden god's deal, masquerade island sidequest, tourmaline sidequest.

Camena: Camena didn't respec until Tourmaline.

Vance: How high was your Craft before?

Camena: I don't think she had it. I traded out an unused favored.

Icaria: Plus I trained her in it.

Vance: In that case, take five extra silver XP and I think that evens it out.

Icaria: I should probably use that Charm again at some point so I didn't buy it just to teach Camena how to whittle.

Svetlana: OK, so when Icaria's finished his sorceries we should finish masquerade island.

Vance: Building a multiple fishing boats is… well, building a single boat would probably be three, so I'll say this is difficulty 4.

Vance: (Dexterity + Intelligence)

Camena: Wow. Only 5 successes.

Icaria: I can probably get it all done on the boat.

Vance: No one can dispute the seaworthiness of your boats!

Icaria: The actual sorcery for Prophet's Keep is done.

Vance: Take 4 gold XP, and 2 silver XP.

Svetlana: Icaria seems to have been working an enchantment—I don't know if it got finished or needs to be finished now—to… make people think that the luminaries of society were actually the slaves and vice versa? I'm trying to figure it out by reading the log backwards and having trouble.

Icaria: Yeah, it's basically going to give people a bunch of fake histories that everybody will believe for the time being.

Icaria: All of a sudden the island's leaders are going to be suspiciously attractive and opposed to the status quo.

Icaria: I might need you to kidnap some weirdos who think they're the lodge leaders for some reason.

Vance: I think you were high Finesse, so how do you envision this working out?

Vance: What's the subjective experience of getting hit with this fake history?

Icaria: Basically I pick out some dudes, write the new story of their life complete with stats and powers on a mask, and slap it on them.

Icaria: Then the story becomes true as far as anybody can tell for, oh, let's say a moon and a day.

Vance: That will probably be generally efficacious, but get bumpy around people's Major and Defining Intimacies.

Vance: Sound good?

Icaria: It's probably very like a lovely dream of how you suddenly have all the stuff you always wanted.

Svetlana: Our major enemies were probably the siaka lodge, the muscle, and the bosses, although we didn't actually talk to them. And we were going to talk to Qu Qukulan to get them on our side and get, well, Peleps to take over this island too. Oh! And there's a Realm garrison we need to keep from freaking out.

Icaria: Yeah, I'll probably try to avoid doing stuff that would interfere with their minds in a big way.

Icaria: I mean, with our accomplice's minds.

Icaria: I'm totally going to town on everybody else's.

Svetlana: And we'd promised to stop the export of soldiers to the Realm.

Vance: I should probably briefly summarize the Prophet's Keep plot for Serestala's benefit

Icaria: And there'll probably be some spare masks lying around if anybody else has a part they'd be interested in playing.

Serestala: It would help.

Svetlana: I had an enormously elaborate plan to keep the local Realm garrison from contacting home with a sorcerous messenger without killing them so I could con them into going away.

  • Svetlana listens to the recap!

Vance: Prophet's Keep is a Realm holding, formerly under Satrap Bokuro's control, whose social structure is dominated by crafting and artisanal lodges, whose cultists all wear masks of their lodge's titular animal.

Serestala: I see!

Vance: While in the market, Svetlana met an escaping slave, 48 Pillar, and helped him get away the Siaka Lodge of artisanal mercenaries and onto the ship's crew.

Vance: 48 Pillar wants to return and help in rescuing the rest of the island's slaves, who are used as janissaries by the Toad Lodge, but there are a lot of obstacles: The gods maintaining the status quo would consider it almost an existential threat. These include Qu Qukulan, a wind-god and patron of the Parrot Lodge, who sit at the top of the social hierarchy, and Dancer With a Skirt of Iron, a goddess of smithing and war who is the Toad Lodge's patron.

Icaria: So I'm going to use my magic to fuck them all up good!

Icaria: With some help from Zanara.

Serestala: Freeing slaves is definitely in Serestala's wheel house though her practical skills don't extend much beyond awe inspiring levels of violence.

Zanara: Zanara is all for fucking up corrupt gods.

Camena: Camena sets to whittlin' a mask of her own. It's a spider!

Vance: They asked the Dancer to free the slaves, but she refused. She has no particular interest in maintaining that status quo, but no interest in disrupting it either, and she thinks it will lead to the Toad Lodge going bankrupt, and the Realm eventually coming to call when they stop getting their tribute of janissaries.

Vance: (Incidentally, being a society where everyone goes masked, Prophet's Keep's local populace doesn't have a conception of gender and use xira as a formal, neutral pronoun.)

Vance: But, if they want to do it, she advised they go to Qu Qukulan. If they can get the wind god's blessing, the others will fall in line, according to her.

Vance: Anything I missed?

Svetlana: It seemed that Dancer was willing to support a change in the status quo as long as it involved no more exports to the Realm. She wasn't going to unilaterally rebel but she was in our corner—that was my understanding.

Vance: Yes.

Vance: You have her permission, essentially.

Icaria: Yeah, so we basically came up with a plan to do to Prophet's Keep what we did to Tourmaline.

Icaria: Only we're going to use sorcery to engage in lightning round impersonations of virtually every person of importance on the island.

Svetlana: I didn't realize that it was another Bokuro holding; that may simplify this greatly.

Vance: She cares about being a war goddess for armies of people, and doesn't really care if those people are slaves or not. She doesn't like the Realm tithe but has put up with it.

Svetlana: Have we accidentally taken it over already?

Vance: The Circle's revolution is a chance to get rid of that, to her.

Icaria: Arguably we've arrived at the "make lots of fish" stage of our takeover.

Vance: The imperial government of the island may defer to you, but the lodges aren't automatically going to give you deference.

Serestala: Our fish based revolution will be mighty.

Svetlana: OK!

Svetlana: That's excellent. So we show up with a letter of credentials from Tran for the matter of stopping slavery and janissary export, in exchange for craft-based exports, but we need to get the lodges to buy into it on our own or we expect that the garrison will either stonewall us or do nasty things to achieve our ends.

Vance: "Stop the practice of slavery" doesn't seem like something that would inherently be difficult—the trick is figuring out what you use to pay the Realm's tribute instead, and deal with backlash from affected lodges.

Vance: We arrived at the same place!

Icaria: I suggest rock candy.

Icaria: So, are we saying goodbye to Tourmaline for now?

Svetlana: It sounds like it to me.

Vance: It seems like you're done?

Icaria: We've made it a better place!

Icaria: It's got more fish, and we replaced its sorcerous ruler with an infernalism major.

Zanara: Also a fresh new cult of the Unconquered Sun.

Zanara: Which is always nice.

Icaria: Yes, they can make friends with all the new demon residents.

Serestala: And you didn't leave Serestala there to solve her problems with her fists.

Svetlana: And Yakult still got her happy ending!

Svetlana: Svetlana is weirdly happy about this. Every good comedy ends with a wedding, after all.

Icaria: She needed moral fiber, so Svetlana made her marriage prospects more regular.

Vance: No, gross.

Icaria: I'm afraid when you marry a Cynis these things just happen.

Svetlana: Svetlana has this vague fog of Magistrate solidarity and Bokuran conspiratorialness around her enmity for Yakult so she is delighted that she managed to suppress all temptation to get revenge instead.

Vance: Does magisterial solidarity extend to glaringly corrupt magistrates?

Svetlana: Yeah.

Icaria: Apparently.

Svetlana: They need to be taken down hard but they're still kin.

Svetlana: They understand.

Icaria: We could send her a poisoned wedding present.

Vance: In order to maintain the feeling of realism in travel, the particulars of your journeys between islands will be determined by the Weather Die, the Shark Die, and the Chance Die.

Vance: That makes 1000 possible sea voyages!

Svetlana: Yakult's presumably spent time on the roads trying to fix broken places while knowing that everyone in power could turn out to be the one that doesn't respect the magistracy any more and intends to kill her instead, see. Even if she's corrupt.

Svetlana: She's been the law that runs like a hare.

Icaria: Meanwhile I will roll for my new sorcerous project.

Vance: That's profound

Vance: Do you already have an Intimacy that covers that?

Vance: The weather is sunny, the journey uneventful, and the only sharks you see are the white nurse sharks of the Inland Sea.

Vance: They are good dogs!

Svetlana: Technically I fissioned all of the magistracy intimacies off to the Evdeniya persona that I don't actually have yet.

Icaria: That's a great trick.

Vance: Stick them in your subconscious for safekeeping!

Icaria: How long does the journey take?

  • Svetlana gives the future persona a relevant intimacy.

Vance: Around a fortnight.

Icaria: Okay, so two intervals.

Vance: It's probably not the same as the time it took to get here from Prophet's Keep, on account of currents and whatnot

Svetlana: One night for a fort—but fourteen for a Solar.

Icaria: First week, twelve successes, so that's nine after Finesse.

Icaria: Second week, fourteen, so that's eleven.

Zanara: I can Tiger Warrior up the crew, should Camena desire

Icaria: The rest will have to wait.

Vance: Did we already work out the Ambition and Finesse for this?

Icaria: I said it was Celestial 2, Finesse 3 and nobody contradicted me.

Vance: K!

Icaria: That's correct for giving myself a cool power, right?

Vance: Yes

Zanara: Oooh, and I’m Essence, 3, I can specialize them now.

Icaria: My general notion is that anybody who sees me less than completely dressed will be inspired to love me.

Svetlana: "You're now an acrobat! You, have a pet hawk!"

Icaria: This is a terrible plan but I didn't buy Celestial Circle Sorcery to make good plans.

Vance: Training under Zanara is incredibly popular. Sailors fight for a chance to train in the front ranks. This isn't any infatuation—this is awe at being in the presence of absolute divinity.

Camena: Tiger Warriors are always good.

Camena: "Ye all know I'm a Solar too, right? Right?"

Zanara: Additional options include—good at fightin’ ghosts and demons and junk, good at fightin’ giant stuff, and Literally Perfect Morale

Vance: "You're a Solar, captain, but you're a scoundrel too. It makes it hard to get quite as agape." Cord says.

Svetlana: Svetlana points at Camena, wide-eyed, jaw dropping. "A-a-a-a-anathema…"

Camena: "Fair enough," she admits.

Camena: "…also, did ye go a little sun-brained, cuz?"

Svetlana: Svetlana giggles. "Sorry, I just always forget."

Camena: "…how?"

Svetlana: "I was busy remembering that you were a sorcerer!"

Camena: "…"

Icaria: Nobody is ever going to remember that you're a sorcerer if you don't make more magical mistakes.

Icaria: Try making the boat talk! Can't go wrong!

Camena: Camena's not in the Celestial Circle yet.

Serestala: Make the boat gently hum!

Svetlana: Svetlana goes back to training herself to figure out pass phrases and references to the past that the crew randomly make up each time they challenge her.

Icaria: You can dip down and do a Celestial working.

Camena: Not going the Star Butterfly route.

Icaria: Surely a narwhal blast is in-theme for Camena?

Camena: Oh, it totally is.

Vance: The Sparrow comes into view of Prophet's Keep just before dawn. The island is dotted by the lights—the sacred flames that burn on the hearths of the dozens of lodge-shrines.

Icaria: Want me to enchant your gun so it shoots narwhals?

Camena: No.

Icaria: Maybe I will anyway.

  • Icaria goes quietly mad with power in a cabin somewhere while somebody else follows the A-plot.
  • Camena spends the trip studying some notes from Tran about demonology.

Vance: As you draw near to the docks, you see a Lookshyan trader being swindled by a butterfly-masked member of the lodge of professional con men, while street performers guised as ocelots busk for bits of food or parrot feathers.

Vance: The shrine fire of Qu Qukulan is not kept in the Parrot Lodge. Instead, it is the center around which the people's homes are built, a massive communal fire that burns like a signal flare. If the wind god is paying attention to anywhere, it might be here.

Svetlana: Svetlana boldly dons her flame duck mask.

Svetlana: "Shall we go?"

Serestala: Serestala has the growing feeling that she is underdressed for this island.

Icaria: "Awaiting instructions."

Icaria: I guess I wear a flame duck mask, too. The others are ready, but it's not time until the faces say it's time.

Svetlana: Svetlana glances at Serestala. "Shoot," she says. "Forgot to make you one of these. Camena's the faster whittler these days…"

Vance: Cord and 48 Pillar have gotten to know each other pretty well over the voyage, smoochwise.

  • Svetlana feeds Camena the silver XP because frankly getting the decent roll she had to make the initial masks was shocking, and her pool dropped slightly lower in the respec.

Serestala: "Don't worry about it. I'll find one myself." She is clearly taking it personally.

Camena: There is a whir of knives and lightning, then a mask.

Vance: Serestala, are you going to form an Intimacy towards Camena as she makes you a mask of your own?

Svetlana: "Nah," Svetlana says. "You're a member of our Dauntless Flame Duck Bureau too, aren't you? …that's us, for clarity."

Serestala: Yes, I am.

Vance: Tell us about it.

Vance: Camena, take 3 silver XP.

Camena: Shiny.

Serestala: Camena gets me what I want.

Camena: Damn right I do.

Vance: "While you speak with the parrot's god, I will go to the slave compound," 48 Pillar declares. "To let my brethren know what is coming. When Icaria's enchantment takes hold, I will have them ready."

Icaria: We need to pick the people we're going to give it to, and who they're going to replace.

Vance: Cord makes an impassioned show of begging 48 Pillar not to risk himself, but the janissary is resolute.

Svetlana: Svetlana nods. "Icaria, um, I don't know who'd be instructing you, but I'm gonna go talk to Qu Qukulan. You're welcome to come along? Or do… other stuff?"

Icaria: My social acumen is limited, so I'm just going to follow you about and do as I'm told.

Svetlana: "Serestala, you too? I'm assuming Camena and Zanara are well aware that they're always invited to any potential negotiation."

Serestala: Serestala gives a nod. "Just tell me what to do."

Camena: "I suppose I should tag along. You folks might need a bit of saving again, and there might be art."

Svetlana: Svetlana looks at 48 Pillar. "If you get yourself killed, I will have to raise an enormous pyre of screaming, dying slave-takers in your name, so please don't. Good luck!"

Zanara: I’ll have company for standing behind you looking vaguely threatening this time,” Zanara says, smiling.

Serestala: "I'll show you how to crack your knuckles real loud."

Vance: It's easy enough for the five of you to make your way into the communal space surrounding the shrine flame—tensions between the populace and the Realm are relatively minimal here, and the military guard is light.

Vance: A great bronze brazier holds piled-up, burning coals, onto which supplicants have piled fragrant herbs and animal offal, to make a pleasant smell. Etched onto the shrine is an image of a wheel made up of feathered wings.

Vance: Most of the people attending the shrine now go maskless, members of the island's lowest social class. It seems this dark hour is the only opportunity for them to make their prayers.

Svetlana: "Qu Qukulan," Svetlana says, gently, quietly, as she studies the flame. "It is night, and I gift a small portion of the night to you. I bring the scent of faraway lands and satraps' blood. It is night, but the sun walks behind me. Come and speak with the Princes of the Earth."

Vance: Roll (Charisma + Performance).

Svetlana: 3 successes.

Vance: There is a sound like a great rushing of wind as the world transforms, instantly, around the five of you. The dark of the night and the flickering light of the flame, the sound of prayers and the sea rushing to shore, the smoke on the wind—all these things fade away. It is as though you have come into the presence of an innumerable flight of birds—everywhere, filling the space of all the world that is not you, are wings, feathers, talons, eyes.

Vance: If any of you take a moment and attempt to query this, it becomes apparent that these events are not, in fact, happening. You have been drawn into a dream of sorts, together, and stand in the presence of Qu Qukulan.

Vance: "Prince of the Earth? I hardly believe that. You do not have the blood of the dragons about you." The voice is a chorus of a thousand songbirds, harmonizing in an eerie unity.

Camena: "Think bigger."

Vance: "I know what the dragons do to those greater than themselves. If you would claim that title, then prove it."

Svetlana: Svetlana leans against a building, where sight lines to her from the crowd if she can still see them, or the remembered crowd if they're invisible to her now, are minimized, and for a few long moments a circle of gold burns on her brow. (It's not clear to me whether she needs to shift the mask first, given that it can shine through all disguises when it goes off against my will; if she needs to move the mask, she does.)

Icaria: I think he means the kind of proving where you kill a bunch of people.

Vance: There is a sense of moving-away-from, of the presence of the divine withdrawing itself from you—perhaps to a safer distance. "Truly, you are Lawgivers returned. Hail to you, Dagger of Heaven."

Icaria: Oh, or perhaps not!

Camena: "Dagger of Heaven. Appropriate."

Serestala: "That's a great title!"

Vance: "You seem not to know in full the legacy of which you are the inheritors."

Icaria: "I was dead for a thousand years. Not sure what their excuse is."

Camena: "I tried to meditate on my legacy once. Did not end well."

Svetlana: "So the world has fallen into something of a state," Svetlana says. "In those, as he says, thousand years. I feel responsible. And my friend Zanara suggests that we start by dealing with this abominable practice of slavery."

Svetlana: "We have persuaded the Realm to accept a different coin in taxes," Svetlana says, "but obviously it is only polite to discuss the matter with you before attempting any major social change."

Vance: "It is no abomination in the eyes of Heaven," Qu Qukulan says, "but the Sun's Mandate bids me respect your jurisdiction on earth."

Camena: "…this is suspiciously easy."

Vance: "What payment would you have us offer? Soldiers are easily come by—mortals breed themselves. Our wealth is the work of lifetimes."

Svetlana: "That's the wrong way to think of it," Svetlana says. "There are two ways this is going to go down. There's the way where we start a glorious golden age, and the way where the Realm collapses and everything turns to chaos. In the first, your ideal strategy is to work as hard as you can to perfect yourself and contribute to the larger good. In the second, your ideal strategy is to have others become… reliant upon imports from you, while retaining military strength. Is that not so?"

Svetlana: "In twenty years nobody is going to want to ship soldiers in from Prophet's Keep, but they may still want other trade goods from here, if they have sufficient exposure to their quality."

Vance: "Pah! I refuse to do things by half-measures. If the Sun's Chosen are returned, then you are returned. Do not tell me that you will pay the Realm i a different coin—tell me you will tear down the Realm! Drive them from this island and free us of their Immaculate yoke. Do that, and you have my blessing to free the slaves."

Camena: "And there we go."

Vance: Is that getting bound?

Camena: Nope.

Icaria: Sounds like a plan to me!

Camena: Camena was just waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Icaria: Our "destroying the Realm" score is distressingly low.

Svetlana: Svetlana considers this. "That's … awfully violent," she says. "And chaotic, and requiring constant attention for decades to make sure the Realm doesn't gut this place in revenge while we've stepped out for a moment. Are you sure?"

Vance: "Have the Sun's Chosen grown to abhor chaos and strife? Do you know not that the Most High first gave you his blessings so that you might plunge Creation into war?"

Vance: "If you have power enough to break the Realm's hold so that they never come back, then you are worthy of my blessing. If you do not, return to me in your next incarnation."

Camena: "The Sun's Chosen have grown to abhor getting fileted before their preparations are complete. The Sun did not expect his newborn champions to rush immediately into battle unarmed."

Icaria: "When do we plan on being ready for open conflict with the Realm?"

Svetlana: Svetlana pokes her fingers together. Then she straightens her spine, accepting that she's gonna have to roll Limit for this. "I don't think, Mr. Qukulan, that it's exactly unworthy to not want to do things your way. It might, uh, just mean that you're wrong and that piles of corpses of soldiers and children all over the island isn't actually better than a puppet satrap."

Vance: "I am not arguing that my morality is objectively applicable. Rather, if you are unable to defeat the Realm, I see no reason I should prefer your reign to theirs."

Vance: "I am the Wind of Victory. I serve the mighty."

Zanara: If you lack moral fiber, I see no reason we should seek your blessing for what we ultimately choose to do,” Zanara says, glaring.

Camena: "Because if not, we will break you," Camena says, her eyes and caste mark blazing white-hot very briefly. When they fade, she looks confused.

Vance: Make a threaten roll, anyone or everyone

Zanara: Five!

Camena: Eight!

Zanara: Also, Zanara’s caste mark is gettin’ in on the glowy fun.

Icaria: Honestly, his logic seems sound to me.

Icaria: We probably need to start considering our long-term plans and start looking into having our own kingdom.

Svetlana: "I'm not not mighty," Svetlana protests, vaguely, scratching at her cheek with the half-formed memories of 7,382 assassinations over multiple lives flashing through her mind. (Nine.) "It's just that I don't really like people demanding I kill people when the problem's already solved."

Vance: "You are mighty, young Lawgivers," the god says in his many-toned voice, "And I do not doubt that you can make good on your threats. But I am Qu Qukulan, who fought against the Ancients with your fore-selves. If you wish to avoid strife with the Realm, it would be wise to avoid strife with me as well."

Vance: "I have no armies, I have no Exalted. But there are things this world no longer has names for that I can unleash against my enemies, and you will not come out of battle unscarred."

Svetlana: (quietly, in the background, Svetlana's Limit rises to 9.)

Vance: "By which I mean: let us be more polite in our conversation."

Zanara: (so much Limit-gettin’ goin’ on)

Serestala: (I got one 1 limit from that.)

Vance: ping ping ping ping

Camena: "Unrighteous creature," Camena says again, her eyes flaring anew, her face a mask of disgust. "You call wisdom cowardice. You call mercy weakness. You can stewardship pointless. You are no more fit to rule a pile of dust than an island. I have slain stronger creatures than you—the stubborn, the mercurial; the wicked and the beautiful; the devoted and the faithless. You deserve nothing."

Icaria: "Oh, gods."

Zanara: Well said.”

Serestala: "What she said."

Svetlana: (Technically her face is a mask of a flame duck, not disgust, I think.)

Vance: "I rule nothing. I have nothing."

Icaria: "I don't think he's wrong to want the Realm gone instead of just pacified."

Camena: "You will have less than nothing. You will have a place in Hell."

Icaria: "Doesn't everybody long for liberty? Not everyone is like us and can just sail on to the next island when we've finished our currently-proscribed adventure."

Svetlana: Svetlana chews on her lip, looking between Icaria and Camena. Hm.

Vance: "I could flee this island, if I wished, but I do not so wish. I will not leave my worshippers without my guidance, nor would I forsake their prayers, even if Immaculates only allow them but once a season. I do not ask that you abandon wisdom—only that you put your wisdom to the end of swift action. I do not ask that you abandon mercy—instead, I ask you to embrace it for the people of Prophet's Keep. I may starve for prayer, but they suffer worse still."

Vance: This probably now counts as a formal persuade roll on his part

Vance: I'll just go ahead and list the Intimacies that I think best support it best for you

Vance: Svetlana—Power is for protecting others, not one's self (-2 Resolve)

Vance: Zanara—The Realm must be destroyed (-2 Resolve)

Vance: Icaria—I'm entitled to meddle because reasons (-2 Resolve)

Zanara: (Counterpoint: The gods of Creation are not to be trusted, Minor. I should probably update the list on my sheet, I’ve been adding to hardcopy)

Vance: Yeah, that lowers the penalty.

Vance: Camena, if this counts as glory and power for you, -3 Resolve, or if not, entitled to meddle because reasons, -2 Resolve

Icaria: I'm extremely persuaded!

Camena: It's 'Glory, Power, Pettiness.'

Svetlana: (That particular one got kicked to future Evdeniya in the revised sheet, but I have two other Major Intimacies that weaken me against this, so it's of no matter. But what is he trying to persuade us of?)

Camena: Spiting this spirit is textbook pettiness.

Vance: Serestala—a hero acts in the moment (-3 Resolve), unless you don't think this counts as being a hero.

Vance: He wants to persuade you to sign on to his all-or-nothing agenda

Vance: So, everyone, give me your Resolve after all modifiers.

Camena: If you accept that it's more about pettiness, 6.

Vance: I accept.

Icaria: 3.

Serestala: 0.

Zanara: My Resolve is at 2, all modifiers considered, but I feel like “Respect all but those who exploit others” is Decision-Point worthy, and this jerk is 1) trying to exploit us 2) clearly wants to exploit the locals for more prayer considering the “wah wah I starve for prayer” comment.

Svetlana: If you accept "Everybody ought to get to be OK" as my reason to want to not slaughter the Realm, then 4 -2 (Major) + Major. If it can morph to 'maybe the Realm can be driven out bloodlessly,' then 2.

  • Svetlana isn't sure if (- Major + Major) = 0 or +1.

Vance: It's +1.

Vance: And I accept.

Vance: Qu Qukulan rolls preposterously well and beats everyone's Resolve.

Svetlana: Then 5.

Vance: If you want to resist—if you want to be unconvinced that destroying the Realm outright is the best path, rather than any incremental approach—you'll need to call on an Intimacy equal in strength to the one that supported his roll, and pay 1 WP.

Zanara: Does the one I cited above qualify?

Vance: Yeah.

Icaria: That seems pointless. I mean, obviously destroying the Realm outright is best if you can do it.

Vance: He may not be exploiting you objectively, but the perception is definitely reasonable.

Zanara: Oh, yeah.

Zanara: This is about Zanara not liking this jerk in particular.

Camena: Same for Camena.

Svetlana: "I guess that makes sense," Svetlana sighs.

Svetlana: (What level of Principle do I pick up?)

Vance: He's not actually instilling you with a principle, he's trying to get you to take action.

Vance: Or rather a specific flavor of action.

Svetlana: … I… roll to destroy the Realm?

Camena: Roll Ride.

Icaria: Might as well. How much direct Realm presence is on the island, anyway?

Vance: There's a quarter of a legion stationed here maintaining the garrison, as well as some Immaculate presence—a few dozen monks, to handle all the gods about.

Zanara: I have long desired to crush the Realm underfoot,” Zanara says, “to make its streets into rivers that run red with the blood of the Dynasty. But they are not the only evil in this world. And recently, I have found that maybe—just maybe—bloodshed may not be necessary. Diplomacy, trade, intrigue… these are not my customary methods, but we have seen great progress thus far, and materially improved the lives of many."

Camena: "Yeah, what Righteous said. You can go sail yourself a big fleet of fuck you."

Vance: "If you can achieve an absolute victory by diplomacy, I will not deny it to you."

Svetlana: "Guys," Svetlana protests, sounding a bit stressed. "He's got a right to not like them, you know."

Svetlana: "He? It? Wait, I know this one, xie."

Camena: "Yeah, and just a few minutes ago, he was kissing ass, saying that he'd obey the Lawgivers and their mandate."

Camena: "He's the same kind of bully we always find: The one that thinks they're the only one who's right."

Vance: "He," Qu Qukulan helpfully clarifies. "We gods are latecomers to this island. Their culture is older than our presence."

Svetlana: "Yeah, but he knows the island and we don't," Svetlana points out. "Well, he did know the island until two seconds ago when he clarified that he was a newcomer."

Vance: "Latecomers, not newcomers!"

Serestala: "I don't know," Serestala kicks the ground. "I always just figured if I did what I do then I could keep people from being endangered. Just every time I try there is somebody else that can get hurt while I'm busy. If we cut off the head that just makes a lot of limbs for me to have to break after the fact."

Svetlana: "It's never felt quite right," Svetlana says, editing memories after the fact, "to be so ready to work with the Realm we're trying to take down anyway."

Zanara: Do recall that on the night we met, I was trying to murder Jaspindar.”

Camena: "Good old days."

Svetlana: "Yeah, and now we took months of our life just to carry her child!"

Camena: "But I must admit, I am rather fond of them."

Svetlana: "…to Tourmaline!"

Zanara: My point is… you’re the ones who taught me that a drawn sword might not always be the answer,” Zanara says.

Svetlana: "I am rather awesome," Svetlana admits. "But, as a compromise, what do you think about drawn knives?"

Svetlana: Svetlana sighs, and sags a little. "Whatever," she says.

Zanara: If you’re set on this, I’m not about to let you do it alone,” Zanara says, “but we should at least give them an ultimatum.”

Svetlana: Svetlana waves a hand vaguely towards Camena and Zanara. "I'm on your side here," she says. "Mr. Qukulan, but I've got to say that unless you can get the archer and the captain on board they probably will break you like they said. Sorry. Consider bending on something else."

Svetlana: "Oh!"

Svetlana: "Nevermind," Svetlana says, brightening.

Zanara: I think this is strategically unwise, but I’m not about to abandon you over that.”

Camena: "And I was just going to kidnap you until you came to your senses, cuz."

Vance: "It sounds," Qu Qukulan says, tentatively, "as though we may have reached an alliance."

Zanara: Only inasmuch as we were going to liberate this island anyway. If we must make war, I do not think you’ll like the results.”

Vance: "I am willing to risk my luck on that. It won't be the first time."

Svetlana: "I'd really rather con them anyway," Svetlana admits. "It just has to be a much bigger one than I was planning. The kind of con that gets them to never come back."

Svetlana: "Right, I was thinking about the Great Contagion."

Vance: "…do you remember it?" Qu Qukulan asks, his polyphony betraying genuine curiosity. "I know some of your kind survived to see it."

Vance: "Before the Great Contagion, there was a beautiful flower that bloomed in the meadows of the South. Its petals were the brightest blue, and it smelled like nothing more than a sweet ripe melon."

Svetlana: Svetlana closes her eyes. "Cynis Bokuro testing … a potentially sorcerously controllable variant of the Contagion … that turns out not to be. That was my original plan, and it's actually better now."

Vance: "This was called the Wind of Victory flower."

Vance: "The Contagion drove them to extinction. Do you know what happens to the god of a tree if that tree should perish?"

Svetlana: Svetlana eyes Qu Qukulan. "You totally shouldn't have ticked off our sorcerers, gotta say."

Vance: "Are there any sorcerers it is advisable to anger?"

Vance: There is a sheer avian cacophony that you think might be the equivalent of a chortle.

Svetlana: "Ones I don't think could bring back extinct species if they actually wanted to," Svetlana says.

Vance: "Alas, it would not matter now. Like all the gods here, I was stripped of my title and stipend, cast out into the slums of Heaven. We fled here, and took on new roles."

Serestala: "I can sympathize with that, I think."

Svetlana: "Mm," Svetlana says. "Tell me, how would I get paperwork filed in Heaven?"

Vance: "That depends on which Bureau you're filing with. The Bureau of Seasons, for example, requires seven yards of hand-written poetry. The Bureau of Humanity has a boilerplate form."

Vance: "The difficulty would be in getting to Yu-Shan in the first place, and avoiding the ——"

Vance: There's a slight frisson of arcane fate as your mind processes the words "Sidereals."

Svetlana: "The Bureau that reviews the fates of Heaven's prisoners," Svetlana says. "I'm not certain which one that would be."

Vance: "I've been out of Heaven for centuries, alas. I do not know who currently holds that responsibility."

Vance: "Before the Unconquered Sun turned his face from the world, he held the title of High Gaoler over the foes of the world. Later, it became a special duty of the arahat-god Kumajiri. I do not know if she survived the Contagion."

Svetlana: "Burned prayer-documents and the like don't get to the relevant bureaus, then," Svetlana says. "I take it. Probably always was too much to hope for. What does it take to get a god that isn't normally allowed into Heaven, into Heaven?"

Serestala: "Well, I don't know if she's allowed in or not but my hometown had all sorts of people talking about prison this and eternal restraint that."

Vance: "There are gateways that lead between heaven and earth. One of them, we came through in our exodus to this island. I can tell you where it lies."

Svetlana: "I'd appreciate that," Svetlana agrees.

Vance: Svetlana's mental form in this dreamworld begins to unfold like origami—harmlessly, painlessly.

Vance: Out of her brow comes a scroll of paper, upon which is written a map of all Creation. Almost all Creation. A good bit of Creation.

Vance: It is the world as Svetlana knows it.

Svetlana: "I do this all the time," Svetlana assures Serestala.

Vance: A single feather drops from the sky, catching fire as it falls. It lands on the map, marking a certain point under certain stars.

Serestala: "Oh good," Serestala says. "I wasn't worried that you didn't or anything. I was just surprised."

Vance: Svetlana recognizes, in passing, that she is Svetlana. Thus she folds herself back into herself—only now, with a secret knowledge in her.

Svetlana: "So I have four plans," Svetlana says. "One involves lots of killing. One is to deal with slavery without Qu Qukulan's help, or with said help on credit, using Icaria's plan, and then deal with the Realm as a separate matter. One is to use Icaria's masks on the monks and commanding officers of the Realm too. One is to stage a fake Great Contagion experiment gone out of control to get the Realm to skedaddle. Anyone else have a plan?"

Svetlana: "I am OK with an ultimatum before the plans where it is relevant."

Svetlana: (Apologies for getting persuaded, btw; I wouldn't have done it if I'd known everyone would feel obligated to solidarity despite resisting.)

Zanara: (Oh, it’s fine.)

Zanara: (Zanara just really doesn’t like this god. XD )

Vance: "Please don't conduct a Great Contagion experiment."

Svetlana: "I have no way to conduct a real Great Contagion experiment," Svetlana says. "…wait. OK. I have two ways to conduct a real Great Contagion experiment. But the point is, I am not planning to conduct a real one."

Svetlana: "Three."

Svetlana: "But they are not impressive, except the one where I ask Icaria for help."

Svetlana: "Four."

Svetlana: "But they are not impressive, except the ones where I ask Icaria or Camena for help."

Icaria: "I suppose I could use these masks with a story of "and then he got the Great Contagion and died."

Svetlana: "Fi—" Svetlana shakes her head. "I am planning to fake an experiment."

Icaria: "Presumably eventually it would wear off, and they would be less dead."

Vance: "This dream is reaching too farcical of a tenor for me to maintain any further," the god says, possibly joking.

Vance: And you wake up.

Vance: Dawn broke, while you were dreaming, but it hasn't been long. You are welcome by a throng of Prophet's Kept—masked and unmasked alike. They greet you with smiles and bowls of sweet nectar.

Vance: Does anyone have Spirit-Detecting up?

Icaria: I could if I had a reason to seek spirits.

Vance: Does "just coming out of a spirit-induced vision" count?

Icaria: Logic says yes!

Svetlana: "Thank you," Svetlana says, accepting a bowl of nectar and trusting in her senses to discern any poison. "You are most kind."

Vance: Icaria sees the true form of Qu Qukulan—a hummingbird with bright blue feathers, no bigger than his thumb. Stature is no measure of power among spirits, but the thought occurs that he may have been bluffing about his terrifying battle prowess. He flies away, leaving behind a trail of sparkling sapphires.

Vance: "Welcome to Prophet's Keep. My name is Evani," says a deer-masked person. "Gahir," one of the unmasked. "Our god's been talking with you, so you're welcome among us, obviously." "Drink the nectar or you'll get dehydrated."

Icaria: I examine the nectar for stuff.

Icaria: Also, dammit, tricked by leprechauns again.

Vance: Roll Perception + Medicone, I guess

Icaria: Two.

Vance: Or Awareness.

Vance: It's just juice.

Icaria: Delicious!

Icaria: Anyway, while we do this, we need to figure out how to take over the island.

Icaria: For next week, I guess.

  • Vance secretly whispers to everyone but Svetlana: make Svetlana Limit Break!
  • Icaria considers what Svetlana would actually do if she broke limit now.

Icaria: Kill everybody, I guess.

Icaria: Or some other variant on "forget to be somebody else and just start doing stuff."

Svetlana: "I thought that went well," Svetlana agrees, to Evani. "Can you help us find accommodations until our business with your god is complete?"

Vance: "Oh, certainly. Do you mind living with a family?"

Svetlana: "As long as it's not mine," Svetlana says.

Vance: She gets laughs.

Svetlana: Svetlana gauges what Evani is looking for out of this interaction, mostly as a way to see how much we can get away with having talked to the god, getting a surprising 8 successes on read intentions.

Vance: They want to provide hospitality to someone honored by the gods.

Svetlana: It is very tempting to exploit this in various fashions but we don't have a big picture plan yet for small picture things to fit into, so Svetlana will just, y'know, receive hospitality.

Svetlana: (Svetlana does not… start rumors about the Great Contagion or Bokuro, speak prophecy about the end of the realm, claim to have the backing of the god to rule, declare the end of slavery, or even convince people we're extra-awesome!)

Vance: You find yourself welcomed into a small but cozy home, with an herb garden planted in every scrap of available soil around it. Evani lives with their spouse, Onäke, and five entire children. There is a pot of something that smells delicious (Svetlana has super-taste, so she knows its goat and various spices) in a pot over the fire.

Vance: And this seems as good as any a point to end.

Svetlana: A very… tasteful… ending

Icaria: The moral of the story is, don't trust any bird that isn't a duck.

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