In Which A Perfect Ten Is Not Found
  • Vance set the channel topic: The Exalted Valentine's Day Special: Mercury x Jacint OTP

Icaria: Anyway, since I haven't put up logs for last week, I guess I should summarize what happened for those who weren't here?

Vance: That would help!

Piglets: Sure!

Icaria: Icaria did a working to stop nasty things from coming in through the Underworld, and also we got Tran in to get the baby operation going.

Vance: I should probably summarize the whole campaign premise first.

Vance: Or second.

Icaria: It's an ordinary romantic comedy. Don't overcomplicate things!

Piglets: Am I too late for the meet-cute?

Icaria: We schedule those weekly.

Vance: I guess over-arching useful things to know.

Vance: The baby deal involves the baby of Jaspindar, Satrap of Gloam, and her wife, who the Circle is somehow pals with.

Piglets: Things I know: Zanara has a bow. Babies???

Icaria: We're the Solar circle known as the Dauntless Bureau of the Flame Duck.

  • Zanara dumped guilt on them. :smile:

Zanara: Now they love us!

Vance: Their neomah baby is having weird mutations caused by the contaminating Essence of a forbidden god imprisoned in the island's geomancy

Vance: So the whole impetus for the current adventure is trying to take over a manse that Tran, the sorcerer who made the baby, can use as a sort of elemental lodestone to neutralize the weird spirit essence

Icaria: Except we keep getting distracted because of wanting to free every slave we see.

Icaria: And there are a lot of slaves in the Inland Sea.

Zanara: It's important!

Vance: With that, I want to flash back to Zanara's reaction to Satrap Bokuro getting assassinated, and any palace coup shenanigans that might follow

Icaria: Well, a few less now.

Camena: The DBFD started out trying to assassinate the Satrap of the island port of Gloam, but now she's our buddy. We're helping her and her wife with their demon-tained neomah baby. Now we killed this Satrap and we're mooching.

Svetlana: Kill every satrap, sword every beam, follow every powerbow till you find your dream!

Icaria: Yes, Jaspindar is a pragmatic type who has discerned our Solar nature but is keeping it on the down-low.

Icaria: That's totally a true thing and not a murderously dangerous assumption of mine.

Vance: No

  • Zanara was displeased about the whole killing-Boruko-while-asleep thing, so I imagine she's kind of gone off on her own and started building a cult of the Unconquered Sun as a sort of penance for having been involved in such a vile affair. (She is not sad Bokuro is dead, just that it was all stealthy-like.)

Vance: Thanks to avoiding anima flare, the Circle has largely avoided revealing themselves.

Vance: Tran knows and has been promised you'll tell Jaspindar, but you still have secrecy!

Zanara: It is traditional to combine good and bad news.

Vance: She's going to have some difficulties cult-building, between the Immaculate priests maintaining orthodoxy and the strong indigenous worship of Mother Geode.

Vance: How's she do it?

  • Svetlana might argue that "while dressed as a giant, somewhat socially-inept skeletal naga" is not necessarily the pinnacle of "stealthy-like," but she probably doesn't actually do so.

Icaria: I am maintaining that Jaspindar must already know because otherwise telling Tran was a terrible idea, and that obviously isn't the case, because

Icaria: Oh, that reminds me, we should introduce ourselves.

Zanara: Oh, she won't speak against Mother Geode. She's been helpful. But even she can't deny the supremacy of the Unconquered Sun, source of all virtue, who rules in Heaven! (and anyway, one of her kids tried to assassinate her already and look how that turned out) As for the Immaculates, well, if they prove to be a thorn in her side, she has ways of dealing with that which involve setting the population of the island on their temple like hungry dogs that eat bricks.

Vance: I think the Tourmalinians could accept a "Mother Geode on Earth, the Sun in Heaven" heresy.

Zanara: That is perfectly fine with Zanara, Mother Geode is much better than any god she's ever dealt with.

Vance: But introductions first!

Icaria: I'm Icaria Varus, Twilight Caste librarian, adventurer, and sorcerer. I can learn anything purely from books, which is how I mastered the power of sorcery, the arts of war, and having really good shoulders. Unfortunately I don't know anything I didn't find in a book and my life experience is lacking.

Icaria: I can handle any situation unless I don't already know the answer or I get distracted by some guy taking his shirt off.

Camena: I'm Camena Dezla, Eclipse Caste pirate, art thief, and dabbler. I'm an art enthusiast with a penchant for firewands, violence, liquor, and concealed self-loathing.

Icaria: Oh, and pettiness! You also love pettiness.

Icaria: That's why we get along so well.

Icaria: It's literary.

Camena: I once burnt down a Sidereal's office for funsies.

Piglets: Neat!

  • Dessa Svetlana isn't really anybody in particular. She's a failed actress with no personal presence and a pet mospid. She's pretty sure that she's somehow related to Camena because even with writing variation the surname is just not that common. She spent a lot of time pretending to be a dead Magistrate, but is currently pretending to be a daring, self-confident Solar Exalt. When last seen, two sessions ago, said daring Exalt was in turn pretending to be The Slow Revelation That One's Choices Have Been Poor Ones, aka Regret, a monstrous servant of the Mask of Winters, but then I got injured and missed a session so that may or may not still be happening.

Vance: So, Zanara, roll (Charisma + Performance).

Zanara: Not my best effort. A 4.

Svetlana: Some of my best books were A4.

Icaria: And if the rest had been A4, they'd be in print now!

Svetlana: ^_^


Camena: Okay, yeah, that's solid.

Svetlana: Technically it's two-dimensional, although some depth is assumed.

Vance: So, Zanara does manage to draw a decent crowd. The native Tourmalinians don't worship the Sun, but they do recall his deeds in folklore in legend, so you find an inroads there. While you only find a trio of converts—Raga, Denshi, and Ko, lovable teenage misfits—you've caused a renewed interest in the Sun as a god.

Zanara: Every avalanche starts with a pebble.

Vance: It is possibly fortunate that this theological shift is subtle, as you avoid Immaculate scrutiny. When you have the Geode cultists to worry about, who cares about the folks discussing folklore?

Vance: Svetlana—now that you have de facto satrapy through Flawlessly Impenetrable Disguise, are there any initial orders you want to give?

Svetlana: Let's see. There's an ongoing investigation, led by Yakult who will be an enemy if she figures out what's happened, tensions with the miners, and what happened with the various minions in the manse?

Icaria: And a shadowland in the basement.

Vance: The manse minions probably aren't a real problem. They saw what they assumed were agents of Thorns, and the only witness to the murder got hit by Corrupted Words.

Icaria: Which I've sealed, but I'm still somewhat concerned.

Svetlana: Oh, it actually appeared? That's a problem. Um. I didn't realize I was satrap until you said, and I don't want to stall things, so rather than try to come up with something bulletproof while everyone waits, maybe a roll to figure out a good way to assemble the paperwork on island situation and any revealing evidence I wouldn't have been able to get my hands on before without raising flags?

Svetlana: Flags of the Yakult or other high-ranked people saying, "Hey, why would Bokuro possibly need that?" kind.

Icaria: Yeah, it looks like the massacre caused the shadowland I was predicted, although it's fairly small.

  • Vance tries not to draw parallels to current events.

Icaria: I've put in a warding circle that keeps anything on the other side from crossing over or using most powers over the boundary.

Svetlana: I want to gain intel and also I plan to use the fact that I am satrap to sneak a report on myself through my hypothesized communications embargo.

Icaria: Which I thought would be okay until I remembered all those shadowland poppies people are smoking.

Vance: Roll (Perception + Investigation) for the info you get, with like five bonus dice.

Svetlana: 7 successes (4m).

Svetlana: Just come up with some sorcery to turn them into celestialands poppies. Or celestial seasonings poppies?

Vance: So, it's pretty easy for you to get hands on incriminating documents. Bokuro has a few letters from Yakult among his correspondence. While no single message is particularly damning, the combination of them, along with a draft copy of a marriage license, paints a fairly clear picture: the Magistrate agreed to overlook whatever Bokuro's crimes were in exchange for him arranging her marriage to a younger cousin.

Vance: There's also a bunch of other useful geopolitical intel, but I'm not sure if anything would be relevant.

Vance: There is no evidence whatsoever of any of the Satrap's dealings with Thorns, nor that they ever happened.

Icaria: Didn't we previously find a bunch of evidence?

Svetlana: I'm mostly alert for easy ways to explain de-escalation against the miners in terms of geopolitical intel that isn't Thorns-related.

Vance: Hmm, okay.

Svetlana: There may not be anything obvious, though, so I may just have to declare glorious victory.

Icaria: Blame Zanara and her culting; you can use her preaching career as a cat's-paw to something something.

Vance: So, you have access to the intelligence dossiers Bokuro's been getting from his Cynis family in the spy business, which includes reports that the nearby island of Bask has been fielding increasing numbers of piratical raids. You could easily use that as a pretense to withdraw the legion's enforcement.

Svetlana: Oh! One last thing. Can I get my hands on stuff that Sloth Plum's written?

Vance: But the Immaulates don't take orders from you, and they have jurisdiction over the Mother Geode cult. It'd be problematic to try to deescalate them without ending that worship.

Icaria: Are they super-escalated?

Vance: Sloth Plum, a terrible procrastinator, has written only the first half of a report on inspections of ingoing and outgoing ships. Her writing is competent.

Icaria: Like, I think our main priority is to make things less wretched for the miners.

Icaria: I would assume that for miners who aren't actively rebelling, the Immaculates split their time between telling Satrap Us to be nicer to the miners and telling the miners to be more obedient to the satrap.

Vance: That's a fair assumption, based on the Immaculates as a whole

Svetlana: Because with that sample of her writing style I want to compose and sneak out Sloth Plum's final report, complete with foreshadowing of the plot to murder Tepet Evdeniya for starting the audit and discredit her if that fails, copies of the important documents I turned up earlier, the evidence on Yakult, indications that Bokuro's managed to obtain spirit-blessed agents/assassins from the local populations, and admissions of being somewhat frightened by Yakult and Bokuro's hints that 'the natives' might react poorly to excessively incisive investigation. She's sneaking a copy of it into the back of a copy of Bokuro's verses that he'd agreed to send a mutual acquaintance whom she had led him to believe shared his tastes.

Vance: Roll (Manipulation + Linguistics) with a two-point stunt.

Svetlana: 5 successes.

Vance: High-quality forgery.

Vance: Is there anyone in particular she's hoping it'll get leaked to, or do you just sort of want to have the potential of future release as a thing you have?

Svetlana: "Forgery is my specialty!" she said in a remarkably literal fashion.

Svetlana: I think she's sending it to the hikikomori version of Judge Dee or something, someone who will get the thing, go "?????" and actually unearth it and go, "OMG" and start sending their aunts to grab people's ears. Someone with a small chance of figuring out that it's not Sloth Plum but who will definitely find the documents and figure out that they're legitimate.

Vance: Tepet Evdeniya knew just such a person, her great-uncle Tepet Eboshi.

Svetlana: Perfect!

Svetlana: (It's perfect because the absolute worst case is that he figures out everything, and at the same time I talk myself into continuing to use the identity even though it's potentially burned, but if he's Evdeniya's family as well as being an irascible introvert justice-seeker, then I have a good chance of making him a frenemy or ally instead of a Javert.)

  • Svetlana overthinks everything.

Vance: Meanwhile, Satrap Bokuro—who can be played in this scene by Svetlana or Camena or possibly both of you, with the rest as newly-hired staff—has received a call for an audience.

Vance: It's from his old buddy, Magistrate Yakult!

Icaria: Dun dun dun!

Svetlana: I've already spent the Willpower for the disguise, but I've also been talking a lot and my social skills are probably still lower.

  • Svetlana tosses the choice to Elliott.

Camena: I'll pass the buck here, if it fits—you know Magistrates better than I!

Svetlana: I do love contract disputes, torts, and petty judgery!

Camena: Mmmm. Cherry torts.

Svetlana: "Show her in," Bokuro smarms, as he reviews his latest poem.

Vance: Yakult enters, alone. She's wearing her formal magisterial garb, but her demeanor is much more casual than you've ever seen. "I have good news, nephew."

Svetlana: The autumn leaves have fallen from the trees
I lay, amidst the humming of the bees,
They one by one attend to me

Svetlana: "Oh?" Bokuro says, turning in her direction. He adjusts his glasses. Not sure if he wore glasses before or if they're an experimental affectation to go with these robes.

Vance: Bokuro absolutely would get fake glasses to do the megane pose.

Vance: "I've just completed my final report on this matter. The outcome is under imperial seal, but," and then she winks. "I'd have sent it back to the Isle, but the damn heliograph crew's gone derelict. Said something about there being a communications ban."

Svetlana: Bokuro grins. "Well," he says. "One can't be too careful or too tall."

Svetlana: "I'm sure I can lift that for you, if—" He glances her up and down. "You can assure me that you're not a revolutionary indigenous heretic in a wig?"

Vance: "As if these barbarians could make a magister's uniform look this fuckable? Preposterous."

Icaria: The Cynis magistracy really puts the hare symbolism to work.

Svetlana: Bokuro glances away for a moment to hide a flicker of unease, then smiles and tosses a quick read intentions her way just to make sure that he's not missing something critical about her interests in this conversation. "May the, ah, glorious Immaculate Dragons ever trample thus the feeble magics of such pathetic native gods."

Svetlana: (5 successes, 4m)

Vance: Her intention here is to extract her payment for work done.

Svetlana: Was there an indication of whether the wedding was pending, arranged but pending, or promised but not really fixed in stone?

Vance: The wedding contract is roughly analogous to proposing—it's a contract to be married at a later time, rather than a contract of marriage itself.

Svetlana: Bokuro winces. "No, religious imagery is not my strong suit. Forgive me. My head is still in my books. Let me simply echo 'preposterous' and express vaguely lascivicious hopes for your and my cousin's future happiness."

Vance: "Oh, I'll be quite happy, once I'm wed into the household and out of the Magistracy."

Icaria: Roll to wed!

Icaria: (Stamina + Bureaucracy)

Svetlana: "There is in fact absolutely no greater joy in life than internal Cynis politics," Bokuro agrees placidly. "The first time you fend off an assassin and someone holds up a scorecard and you realize it's higher than your score for your last lay…"

Svetlana: He shakes his head and smiles fondly.

Svetlana: "But, well enough," he says. He takes a moment to think about whether the cousin in question has shown up in any paperwork as being on the island. "If you like, we can see about moving that forward on this mail run too?"

Vance: The cousin in question lives on the Blessed Isle.

Vance: "Please do. I hope I don't need an imperial proclamation to get those damn clerks to do their job."

Svetlana: "Haha," Bokuro says. "I don't think I could get one." He looks briefly distant, as the question clearly runs past his mind: I wonder if she's dead? I wonder if I could get a hold of her? but then shakes it off.

Vance: "Oh, you sentimental fool."

Vance: "Broaden your sense of humor, nephew."

Svetlana: "Yes, dear," Bokuro murmurs. He turns his attention to someone. Camena, if she's there in disguise, otherwise someone else appropriate. "Can you find me the earliest auspicious date for a wedding, here or <Cynis holding where cousin lives> or <major Cynis holding> that allows for travel time plus, oh, six weeks' margin?"

Svetlana: "Unless, ah," he says, and glances at Yakult, trying to remember how the real Bokuro addressed her. "You had a preference?"

Icaria: I am probably not there in disguise.

Icaria: I plan on buying Disguise of the New Face, but it's not going to be for this kind of thing!

Vance: I'm meh on that spell.

Icaria: It does need a bit of oomph.

Icaria: A touch of the uncanny.

Vance: And it needs to step off Larceny's territory.

Icaria: Although mostly I wanted to use it to help Svetlana and Camena layer multiple disguises.

Camena: I'm already one Charm away from doing that.

Icaria: Layers upon layers!

Camena: The joy of being a lady dressed up as a lady dressed up as a lady glamoured to look like a lady.

Vance: "The sooner this marriage happens, the better. Every day seems like it could be the Magistracy's last, now."

Camena: Camena, there in a new disguise as a young handmaiden with a touch of air-blood, bows at Bokuro's request.

Camena: What month is it?

Vance: Descending… Wood.

Vance: …or whatever month you want it to be.

Svetlana: "As you say," Bokuro agrees. "It will be interesting to see what happens if the institution formally dissolves, since its on-paper legitimacy is a key part of the overall legal and social fabric—but even the most critical component of a puppet flops to the ground if enough strings break."

Vance: "It's all gonna break down someday, and I'm betting sooner rather than later."

Svetlana: "Mm," Bokuro agrees. "Let us hope that the sharks that win the feeding frenzy are competent and loyal friends."

Vance: "If only our family had a reputation for mastery of intrigue and subterfuge. Alas! We are but humble caterers by birth."

Svetlana: "I'm just a poet," Bokuro sighs. "It's even harder to stomach."

Vance: "Hopefully, you're a poet who can keep the heliograph towers working. I'm off to send my report."

Svetlana: "Mm," Bokuro agrees. He gestures majestically and meaninglessly to the person whom gesturing majestically and meaninglessly can authorize this, walks Yakult to the door, and while gesturing majestically towards a tree whose stubby branches he is comparing to the infinite valor of the Cynis family to distract her, swaps the contents of the sealed file she's carrying with an equal weight of bad poetry that Svetlana's been composing, pressing the wax closed again with an invisible dab of essence and slipping her, his, their, whatever fingers away as Yakult's glance returns from the tree.

Vance: hmm

Vance: that sounds like Charms

Svetlana: Hm, fair enough. thinks about how to do this with an excellency alone OK, so it's more like this:

Vance: I think an excellency alone is fine, as long as you roll high!

Icaria: Quick, Camena, distraction!

Camena: I mean…

Camena: I can literally do that thing.

Camena: I have doing-that-thing Charms.

Svetlana: Fair enough. I could do this amazingly tricky thing involving a hair-thin wire that basically pokes into the package from the back, hooks into the seal, and pushes it open and then pulls/knits it closed, but signaling to Camena as we walk out is probably simpler.

Svetlana: So that is what I will do, with everything else similar.

Vance: Camena, do the thing

  • Svetlana rolls the (Dexterity + Larceny) for her own satisfaction to see what would have happened with the wire but doesn't actually deduct the Essence she'd be spending, so the roll is invalid whether she rolls super-high or low… and what a waste of four 10s that was.
  • Camena does the thing. Strangely enough, it doesn't actually look like anything's happening at all. Because, you know, Camena's like an artist. She takes pride in her work, even if that work is deception.

Vance: What Charms are at work?

Camena: I wanna say Magpie's Invisible Talon and… huh.

Camena: I guess I don't have the reverse pickpocketing one.

Vance: So, roll (Dexterity + Larceny) with bonuses, and planting the papers will require some certain amount of extra successes.

Camena: I'll just throw my Living Shadow Preparations at it.

Camena: I think last time I banked, it was at 18 successes.

Vance: That will probably do it!

  • Camena still does the thing.

Vance: Exeunt Yakult.

Vance: In the next few hours, she does, finally, succeed in having her report sent. The magistrates patrolling the dockyards and market begin to withdraw as they're informed of the audit's close.

Svetlana: So if all has gone to plan, what has left this island is a large collection of bad poetry that is even worse than Bokuro's because it is an imitation of Bokuro's, and "Sloth Plum's final report."

Vance: Exactly.

Vance: Her superiors are gonna be stumped by that one.

Svetlana: And, sure, a letter pushing the marriage forward, because I'm nice. Maybe I'll get Icaria to help with the handwriting on that, if in random conversations while on the ship he's hinted at having relevant Linguistics Charms.

Vance: How kind!

Svetlana: I don't know what Linguistics Charms he has, I just know he has Linguistics Charms, while I merely have a 7-die Forgery pool.

Svetlana: Well, I mean, she's a vicious monster, but it's Valentine's Day.

Icaria: Well, I have an Excellency and 9-again.

Vance: Make that match!

Svetlana: I never have any motes, so I endorse your spending yours on this for no good reason.

Icaria: I spend five motes and get eleven successes.

Vance: That's probably better than Bokuro ever actually did!

Vance: Now they're going to get, like, double married.

Svetlana: Bloodspurts are red, corpses are blue, the Lord of Thorns says go get married, you two! is probably not what you should say.

Vance: Of course, being a satrap means a busy schedule.

Icaria: Thinking of the wrong thing to say and then not saying it is exactly my method.

Vance: Your next audience—announced to you quietly by one of the grey-robed palace servants—is with the trade delegation from Thorns.

Svetlana: Huh.

Svetlana: I wonder if we have any way to let the others know that there may be trouble. Where is Icaria right now?

Vance: I think the whole Circle is, notionally, around.

Svetlana: OK.

Icaria: If I'm writing a letter I'm probably in the library.

Svetlana: Then Bokuro goes a little pale but nods and gestures in a way that indicates that he does not want to say that they should be shown in but they should absolutely be shown in.

Svetlana: It could also be interpreted as a request for a new honey-fed snake but hopefully the servant can distinguish.

Icaria: In Cynis households you learn to interpret.

Svetlana: If you know what I mean.

Vance: A man with beautiful porcelain skin, cherry-red lips, and hair as blond as spun gold steps into your chambers, his presence dominating the room like a rumbling terror. There are other diplomats with him, representatives of the government of Thorns, but they are clearly puppets here—they have the body language of lambs who know that a wolf has already gotten into the fold.

Vance: "Tsk, tsk, tsk. You haven't been behaving well, have you, Bokuro?"

Svetlana: Bokuro glances blandly at him. "Thank you, but I can't put too much stock in the praise of diplomats."

Vance: "What went wrong with our plan? The rift has opened, but it's… blocked. Worthless for my purposes."

Svetlana: "Wrong?" Bokuro says. He laughs slightly, and there is a seasoning of bitterness, fear, and manic joy in it, before he suppresses all of it. "I'd say it went too well. I have to deal with two of you now."

Svetlana: Bokuro coughs against his elbow.

Vance: He looks at you, curiously. "I don't think I understand what you mean."

Svetlana: "It opened," Bokuro says. "Hell opened onto Tourmaline. Well, not Hell. Only, it wasn't one of you lot that came out." He rubs at his right eye and his temple to push away the headache. "Listen, I don't suppose I could, ah, not get involved in the politics? It's all very heroic to play two wolves against one another but I'd really rather just write my poems and prosper."

Svetlana: Bokuro coughs again, rackingly.

Svetlana: He clears his throat, straightens, smiles. "Ah."

Svetlana: "I'm supposed to tell you that 'it's being handled.'"

Svetlana: He gives a pained grin.

Vance: "It's fortunate for you that my master wasn't relying on maneuvering through the rift, at least not for the moment. The degradation of your people's souls will continue apace. But it's a problem, and I don't like problems. And as long as it's my problem, it's going to be your problem too."

Svetlana: "Yes," Bokuro mutters gloomily. "I rather figured it would be."

Vance: "So. Have your people deal with whatever's obstructing the rift. You're a sorcerer; get your hands dirty if that's what it takes. If you can't, I'll just have to accelerate."

Icaria: Camena, this is your cue to come out in disguise as the Lady of Darkness in Bloodstained Robes.

Icaria: Or whoever.

Camena: Camena is literally in the scene as a godblooded scribe.

Svetlana: Bokuro coughs again. He thinks. Hopefully, he proposes, "I'll set you up with a fabulous residence?"

Vance: "Exactly."

Vance: "Good to hear."

Svetlana: "And tell… ah… tell… ah, I am not sure if I can use a specific pronoun without, ah, the slugs coming out, but mention that any territorial issues might be brought up with you?"

Camena: Wait, someone got Corrupted Word'ed?

Vance: "Huh?"

Svetlana: "Nevermind," Bokuro says, bleakly. "It's not important." He waves to a servant, and sets forth the requirements for the estate where the Thorns delegation will stay.

Icaria: I presume I'm watching from a portrait hole or something.

Svetlana: portrait eye wiggling intensifies

Icaria: And saying things like "Gosh, is this one of the Mask's mysterious deathknights?"

Vance: "If you want to speak of territory with our Lord… well, that's too bad. I'm not your messenger, I'm your overseer."

  • Camena is eyeing the fellow's raiment. Gonna have to make a fake soon.

Svetlana: Bokuro is attempting over the course of this to create the belief/Principle that another Underworld power is making a play for Tourmaline.

Vance: It's skin tight!

Vance: Roll it.

Svetlana: Any benefits or penalties from existing Intimacies?

Svetlana: Oh, wait, that's Resolve, not dice pool.

Vance: Not here.

Svetlana: A mere 2 successes, alas.

Vance: I think your lie is too subtle for him to catch on to.

Icaria: I examine the guy for various occult whatniks, such as sorcererness, demonosity, and studliness.

Vance: Icaria, roll (Perception + Occult).

Icaria: Just nine.

Vance: Um.

Icaria: If he's really hot I may be unable to detect it.

Svetlana: Yeah, you need 10 successes to spot a perfect 10.

Vance: You recognize at least half a dozen different symbols of death and the Underworld in his attire, from the white color of his skintight silk robes to the three-spoked wheel talisman around his neck.

Vance: Alas, the Occult is no good at rating looks.

Icaria: For nine successes I'd hope for a bit more than "yeah, he's definitely all about the death."

Vance: There isn't any magical effects for you to discern, and there isn't any type of magical creature he is.

Vance: I don't think you can roll to tell if someone's Exalted.

Vance: Even with All-Encompassing Sorcerer's Sight.

Svetlana: Bokuro sighs and nods. "Is there anything else you need while I'm working on that and you're here?"

Svetlana: Svetlana ponders how she is going to kill this guy and then frantically resets her mind back to Bokuro's air of defeat.

Icaria: Weapons! Use weapons.

Svetlana: It's true, poison is probably not the best choice; he probably drinks them as beauty supplements.

Camena: Is there anything interesting that looks potentially Larcenable?

Vance: He has what is probably a weapon bundled up on his back.

Vance: And money, I guess.

Vance: "Now that I've scolded you, let me offer you some congratulation. Your troops did do an admirable job with the slaughter. We are happy with you."

Icaria: Bah, they didn't even get that much done before I cut them in half and left their bodies to rot.

Icaria: …wait.

Svetlana: "Slaughter is my fifth-greatest talent," Bokuro agrees.

Vance: "Now, why don't we celebrate?" The figure produces an opium pipe and a bag of crushed shadowland poppies. "Of course, it'd be more enjoyable if we were in the rift. Maybe next time?"

Svetlana: Bokuro stares blankly at him. "Um," he says. "So, completely hypothetically, if someone basically like you happened to have put a, kind of, um, plague-like thing in, say, me, because, say, she thought her master had more use for Tourmaline than yours, would smoking that stuff, um, make it… worse?"

Svetlana: Bokuro almost coughs and then visibly suppresses it and swallows it down, because obviously he's not sick at all.

Vance: "If that's the case," he says, with what sounds like dawning realization, "I think these would be just the thing to make you absolutely better."

Icaria: Verdict: highly suspicious.

Vance: He's probably attempting a persuade, but unless you have a major+ intimacy supporting it, he's going to fail

Svetlana: "…really," says Cynis Bokuro. He thinks about this. He begins to grin, brighter and brighter, before being interrupted by a coughing fit, and then more grinning. "Then by all means. Let's repair to the library, where we can laugh at… ah… my aunt Yakult's bad poetry… as we enjoy."

Svetlana: Cynis Bokuro is not completely stable as he walks, but he's still all but skipping as he rises, waves his servants out of the room except for one godblooded Camenan scribe who he gives an ambiguous gesture to, and heads to the library.

Vance: "Delightful. I'd imagine your House would be most interested in your experience with it."

Svetlana: "Is that a threat or a request for an honest review?" Bokuro wonders abstractly. "You really don't need to add any new threats, if it's the former. If it's a request for a review, I am rather known as an epicurean."

Camena: An ambiguous gesture, you say.

Vance: "The latter, of course. House Cynis throws the parties, don't they? You'll find that this is unlike any other experience you've had before.

Svetlana: Bokuro's eyes sparkle. His glasses sparkle. He is rosecam'd. Poppy-cam'd. He leads the wolf of a man through the library door, hoping that Icaria is smart enough to have either hidden himself or joined battle or both.

Vance: Was Icaria smart enough?

  • Camena follows.

Icaria: Sure.

Vance: Roll Stealth.

Svetlana: Bokuro. o_O ( Rather than smoke shadowland poppies, I think I would rather surround this guy with Solar Exalted. )

Icaria: I'm mostly going to be on the opposite side of another door.

Icaria: Hopefully that doesn't require much Stealth, as I have none.

Zanara: Is it reasonable to say that Zanara is hidden somewhere nearby, on account of being in no way okay with even fake schmoozing with this lot?

Svetlana: I don't know enough about where Zanara is to account for her in my OOC plans, but if there is an easy way to account for her in my IC plans this will hpapen too.

Svetlana: She typed at the same time.

Vance: Being behind a door works, unless he has super hearing.

Vance: Yeah, Zanara is notionally about.

Camena: 10 successes for my own sneaking.

Vance: You utterly outninja this guy.

Svetlana: Svetlana will weigh the reactions of the guy's entourage to see if she can close the door between the guy and them. If she can do so casually she will do so. If not, she'll just get sufficiently far in to delay stragglers and then join battle.

Vance: She can do so.

Icaria: I'll wait until I hear someone say "Icaria, now!"

Svetlana: Bokuro gives him the first sentence and a half of a long and actually fairly interesting anecdote about that portrait there, tries twice to remember the word 'impropriety', and Joins Battle in the middle of the third try.

Vance: In that case, I think we'll end here.

Svetlana: Yay!

Svetlana: Although I am sad that Zanara did not get to do more than be notionally nearby at the final moments.

Icaria: I retire in disgrace, having failed even to determine if a guy is hot or not.

Icaria: Although I did write a good letter.

Svetlana: In fairness, Creation swipe right technology is currently quite bad.

Zanara: (Zanara is real bad at not being Zanara.)

Icaria: I guess someone else will get lucky as a result of my efforts.

Icaria: Admittedly someone awful.

Svetlana: That's OK, the one time Svetlana tried to be Zanara she failed worse than she's failed at being anyone else.

Svetlana: So it all balances.

Vance: This guy just wanted to party with you!

Vance: It's not his fault!

Icaria: Also apparently I should have been doing soul medicine all along.

Icaria: My overnight medical degree is hella spurious, I guess.

Icaria: That's what you get from learning everything from porn.

Icaria: I guess that only works for Jason Stackhouse.

Icaria: Although, I'm not really sure where soul-sickness falls on the Ability chart.

Icaria: I guess either Occult or Medicine, both things I theoretically have.

Svetlana: Yeah, the guy has not really demonstrated that he has to die, just heavily implied it.

Zanara: We'll beat him up and Zanara will speech at him. Worked on Jaspindar!

Svetlana: Technically he could be another Solar in disguise.

Icaria: I feel like I should flirt with him a bit, since I'm trying to upgrade to an actual love interest and that probably means at least developing enough social confidence to flirt on-camera.

Icaria: But he is kind of evil.

Svetlana: He talked a big game but didn't do anything nasty except suggest with apparent inaccuracy that shadowland poppies would help.

Svetlana: …with an admittedly imaginary problem.

Svetlana: Technically they probably would help with an imaginary problem.

Icaria: It's possible it actually would help.

Svetlana: It's true, the apparent falsehood may just be the effect of the extremely bad persuade roll.

Icaria: My familarity with death-drugs as a remedy for necromantic curses is up there with my familiarity with soul-sickness.

Icaria: But seriously, he does kind of fail the "screaming about murdering children" test.

Icaria: We have one low standard and he fucked it up.

Svetlana: Yeah.

Svetlana: He's only good enough that he can say "I'm not him! I'm in disguise!" or "I'm new! I'm new! I haven't done anything yet!" and I'd believe him.

Svetlana: Barring something like that he merits dying by Svetlana's code. Which I should update.

Icaria: Hm, I wonder if I could mess up the rift so that instead of ghosts, elementals disguised as ghosts pop out.

Icaria: That seems overcomplicated.

Svetlana: It sounds awesome.

Icaria: I mean, I could figure out a logic for it.

Icaria: I adjust my warding circle to arrange some kind of fault so that anything going through gets trapped in folded space.

Icaria: The pressure of all these snagged ghosts builds.

Icaria: Creation responds by pouring earth Essence into the hole to balance it out.

Icaria: The result is some kind of air-earth hybrid that strongly resembles said ghosts.

Vance: "Why did you create us?"

Vance: "We are an abomination against nature!"

Icaria: "Well, I wasn't going to, but Auntie Svetlana said it was a neat idea."

Icaria: The main reasoning against is basically "I don't need an army of messed-up elementals if there's not already an army of ghosts."

Icaria: Plus if we kill this guy… hm, what happens if he kills this guy?

Icaria: He apparently thinks he has Bokuro under his thumb.

Icaria: Why does he think he has Bokuro under his thumb?

Icaria: Bokuro's a Prince of the Earth, it has to be a reasonably good threat to make him do super-treason.

Icaria: Speaking of which, we need to loot this manse.

Svetlana: It's a good question.

Svetlana: We know Yakult's motivation now, so it's possible that it's Bokuro's too.

Svetlana: Yakult thinks it's all tumbling down and wants to be in a secure position when it falls.

Svetlana: In a broader sense that ethic may be what would put a Prince of the Earth under a Deathlord's thumb.

Svetlana: But then again, yeah, there could be blackmail or coercion.

Icaria: Or someone jacked his soul.

Icaria: The mysterious underworld forces don't seem to have access to good sorcery, though.

Icaria: Vance, what's Tourmaline's proximity to Serious Deathlord Country?

Vance: Uh…

Vance: Where's that map thing Elliott posted.

Icaria: Like, are we talking Somewhat Deathlord, Much Deathlord, or Mask All Up In My Business?

Vance: It's not too far from Thorns.

Icaria: Hm, much deathlord.

Icaria: So, what have we found looting the place?

Svetlana: Dibs on the Daystar.

Vance: Bokuro has a suit of white jade lamellar.

Vance: There's also the manse's hearthstone, which is a Mountain-Burden Stone.

  • Svetlana ponders armor.

Vance: He has a well-stocked sorcerer's laboratory with your standard odd reagents.

Vance: Also, ludicrous amounts of wealth in the form of gems, art, precious metals, statues, etc.

Vance: I should probably go in and figure out what Merits you all have now.

Svetlana: I suppose I should probably start getting Resistance Charms or something, really, because I change characters too often to make armor practical. While being Bokuro, do satraps wear their armor regularly or only in active military stuff?

Vance: It's a personal choice.

Svetlana: Curses! My attempt to commit you to unarmored satraps has failed!

Svetlana: ^_^

Icaria: Hm, I can probably make white jade work.

Icaria: I mean, logically if it's white I can paint it.

Icaria: Possibly with some kind of magical paintbrush.

Svetlana: True!

Vance: Tourmaline's military is worth a total of Command 4, possessed by whoever's being Bokuro at the time

Zanara: Army, you say…

Vance: You all gain Contacts 1 for Tourmaline.

Vance: Palace staff is probably around Followers 2.

Vance: Whoever's Bokuro has Influence 4.

Vance: His total assets are worth Resources 5, although it'd be tricky to just loot that completely when you leave.

Svetlana: Can we smelt his wealth into a jade golem with a helium core?

  • Svetlana ponders.

Vance: Helium doesn't exist, silly!

Zanara: Upsidasium, then!

Piglets: Fizzy lifting drink!

Svetlana: If I have time I think I have the basic skillz to divert any revenue streams that won't just disappear when he does, but there is much ambiguity around the whole idea.

Icaria: Okay, so white jade lamellar is medium artifact armor. I can use that pretty easily if nobody else wants to assert a claim.

Icaria: Although like everybody else I probably don't want to wear it all the time.

Svetlana: Ambiguity like, will we ever actually have time, what are his revenue streams, where would it go, etc.

Icaria: It's easily shared if we find someone who knows how to wash it.

Vance: Everything-Laundering Meditation?

Zanara: Rather than loot it, we might make use of it to improve Tourmaline and make it a worthy base for our own ends. Y'know, once we deal with all the evil deathguys.

Icaria: It would give us an excuse to never send Tran back to Gloam.

Svetlana: Using Bokuro's wealth to improve the lives of the locals is almost certainly necessary, but there are another two islands we've got commitments on.

Icaria: We are going to be in a fairly good position to fortify this island against outside whatever, although Bokuro's wealth is going to dry up fairly quickly once we stop participating in the Realm and exploiting local mineral resources.

Icaria: I mean, at the end of next session's boss fight I'm going to be buying Celestial Circle Sorcery.

Svetlana: Svetlana wants to nab enough personal wealth that I stop having to worry about whether I actually have a coin when someone asks for one for something at the market but past that it's all nation-building, agreed.

Svetlana: She can probably get that from couch cushions, though, anyway.

Icaria: That's good enough to feed hostile navies to the fogsharks.

Svetlana: It would be ideal if income from his tenant properties in the Realm and the like flowed our way instead of to House Cynis but handwaves.

Svetlana: I don't know if that even applies, really.

Icaria: We can probably do that for a while but eventually Tourmaline's tribute is going to run dry.

Svetlana: Right, it was the previous island that we had an in-Realm solution for.

Svetlana: Hm.

Icaria: Hm, Invulnerable Skin of Bronze plus magic armor is a pleasant 17 soak.

Icaria: Although admittedly I'd need Graceful Crane Stance to walk across weak floors.

Svetlana: I'm a little concerned that if we dig in on island three and abandon our ongoing work on islands one and two then we'll eventually wind up focusing really hard on building our first base on island twenty.

Icaria: Well, you have so many people that you are.

Icaria: It seems only reasonable to conquer multiple islands.

Icaria: Logically, I should take Travel Without Distance as my control spell, and send up some kind of inter-island transport network we can use.

Svetlana: Should I be worried about my lack of soak?

Icaria: Only if someone hits you.

Svetlana: o_o

Icaria: You're fairly dodgy, but I mean, buying an Ox-Body never hurts.

Icaria: Or investing in a buff jacket.

Piglets: Ox-Body is neat. I have little numbers that go across half my character sheet.

Svetlana: I do wear a buff jacket but it doesn't really help that much.

Icaria: Or I could turn your skin into some kind of smooth stone that turns aside blades and is also a great base for cosmetics.

Svetlana: That sounds like it should be a bad idea but I'm not sure I see a disadvantage.

Icaria: It depends on how much you like the legends calling you Dessa Stoneface.

Svetlana: I don't plan to appear in the legends about me.

Icaria: …I'm not sure how I feel about that, dramatically.

Svetlana: My next Charm is Vanishing From Mind's Eye Method.

Icaria: Would Icaria regard that as appropriate or inappropriate?

Icaria: Either way, I can totally do it.

Svetlana: Well, it's not that untraditional, lots of people don't appear in their own legends, like Doctor Who or Robin Who'd or King Who's There.

Icaria: What?

Icaria: (No, Wat was the dog boy.)

Icaria: Hm, what spells from Savant and Sorcerer are good choices for Icaria?

Icaria: Burning Eyes of the Offender.

Icaria: Flight of Separation is always awesome.

Svetlana: Solar Plate is only like three Charms in.

Icaria: If you're a dodgy type there's probably a better defensive investment somewhere.

Icaria: Really, how can the campaign be considered complete until I've exploded into a hundred ducks?

Svetlana: The system doesn't feel weighted towards dodginess being reliable.

Icaria: Well, I mean, you could still use Resistance Charms other than armor stuff without compromising your mobility.

Icaria: Peacock Shadow Eyes is probably useful for something in addition to being bird-themed.

Svetlana: I went for the armor charm mostly as a not-very-deep Charm that takes advantage of Essence 3.

Icaria: Fair enough.

Icaria: Spirit Sword is an awesome spell although not being able to parry non-magical weapons with it is a serious problem.

Icaria: Unstoppable Fountain of the Depths would be pretty cool as some kind of non-lethal anti-crowd effect.

Icaria: Virtuous Guardian of Flame is good for not being murdered.

Icaria: Voices of Distant Regard is cool, although, who really wants to know what people are saying about you?

  • Svetlana pokes around in Dodge for something reliable.

Svetlana: The same 3-Charm investment picks up Seven Shadow Evasion, and I like the prereqs, but I'm not sure I'd be able to reset it, like, ever.

Svetlana: I'm not sure I've been attacked by three decisive attacks yet, much less been able to dodge them successfully, much less with the spare initiative to use Reed in the Wind to do so.

Icaria: Well, hopefully you wouldn't need the perfect dodge twice.

Vance: How often do you need to perfect dodge more than once a scene?

Svetlana: Oh, things reset automatically at the end of the scene?

Icaria: Yeah, it's a "once per scene" Charm and you can reset it within the scene via the condition.

Icaria: Or other powers like the Dawn anima or whatever.

Svetlana: I see. That's not so bad, then.

Vance: Most things reset at scene, a couple by session/story.

Svetlana: I thought it was literally, "use it and then like fifteen sessions later you can use it again, if you've been working hard."

Icaria: Like, Icaria can reset Supernal Control Method by sending his anima iconic and resetting it back to dim.

Icaria: (Generally via Peony Blossom Attack.)

Svetlana: Hmm.

Svetlana: I wonder how Flow Like Blood works out in practice.

Icaria: Raising the Earth's Bones is cool.

Svetlana: I guess Flow Like Blood wouldn't be bad for me.

Icaria: Hidden Judges of the Secret Flame is awesome.

Icaria: Or working with Vance to get some kind of more powerful elementalism.

Icaria: Fetch me a kukla!

Svetlana: When the point is to build up initiative spending initiative to avoid getting hit feels like a numbers game I could easily be really bad at as a player. But usually in practice I'm either relatively safe or I'm taking heavy fire.

Vance: Summon Elemental II: The Legend of Brigid's Gold.

Icaria: Or at the very least garda birds and ifrits.

Icaria: And, like, the mega flame duck.

Icaria: Also known as the molten mallard maid.

Svetlana: I could try to learn Invulnerable Skin of Bronze from one of you.

Icaria: That also works, although it that's all you want to learn it's cheaper for me to just turn you to stone a bit.

Icaria: You could pick up demonology and have bronze skin and a perronelle!

Icaria: And a magic wasp.

Svetlana: Explain the stone thing a bit better?

Icaria: I was thinking of doing some kind of sorcerous working to turn your skin to some kind of white marble.

Svetlana: I thought you were being facetious or talking about a random working.

Icaria: It would give you soak and we could make up some kind of story about how it's an amazing foundation for makeup and lets you digsuise yourself better somehow.

Vance: Turning into stone… probably won't give you bonuses to disguise.

Vance: Unless you count a negative bonus.

Icaria: It just wants a little rouge!

Icaria: Didn't you know that most "white" sculptures from Greece and Rome were originally painted in flesh tones and colors?

  • Svetlana ponders whether Svetlana has an opinion on demonology or having human skin.

Svetlana: Her opinion on demonology is probably mostly positive because her Exaltation spent like half a lifetime undercover in Malfeas.

Icaria: I mean, even unpainted she probably wouldn't look much odder than the deathknight with "porcelain" skin.

Svetlana: Her opinion on being turned to stone is… probably that it's a cool idea but that she shouldn't do things she might regret when she's grown up.

Icaria: All the cool kids are turning bits of themselves into minerals, Dessa.

Svetlana: Though it is extremely funny to imagine various infiltrations as a statue so it is a little hard to resist.

Svetlana: <person Svetlana is following whips around>

Svetlana: <Svetlana is a statue>

Icaria: It's probably a fairly thin layer so it would probably be something like half as good as Invulnerable Skin of Bronze, but with some kind of bonus to various kinds of disguise and also to standing still.

Icaria: Or I could give you the power to transform into a duck.

Icaria: Very useful.

Svetlana: Can you make plot armor?

Icaria: …well, I do practice the magic of stories.

Icaria: Uh, whenever you're about to die, a complication arises that saves you, but makes your life more complicated.

Icaria: Eventually if you can't sort it out you go out in a burst of drama.

  • Svetlana ponders demonology.

Svetlana: For some reason I am fond of Exalted's demons.

Icaria: There's some neat new ones in the Malfeas book for 2e.

Svetlana: There is something a little awkward about the demon in your stomach forgetting you exist.

Svetlana: Though I think there's a Yozi that people forget about so it's not unprecedented.

Icaria: If I lived in a Yozi I'd try hard to forget they existed.

Icaria: The cannibal bureaucrats were cool. They remember paperwork perfectly after they've eaten it.

Svetlana: I suppose technically Vanishing From Mind's Eye Method is in and of itself a pretty good last-resort defensive Charm in many situations.

Svetlana: Though there are also many situations where "who the heck are you?" does not interrupt someone's interest in targeting you.

Icaria: There's got to be some kind of identity magic here.

Icaria: Like, if I extract your name as Dessa Svetlana and put it in a book, so people can't see your real face somehow?

Svetlana: It's actually a well-founded power for her.

Svetlana: It's either because she's playing the part of "someone like Sivana" so well that the broken Mask covers her for a while, which is very fitting, or it's because, basically, from the beginning her exaltation has gone to people so forgettable that the Unconquered Sun himself lost track of them and declared that therefore they had to be a Night.

Icaria: Trackable only by her love of puns.

Svetlana: Svetlana is lucky in that for her it manifests in identity subsumption and is only really bad when she puts Essence into her lack of presence. Some previous holders of her Exaltation were forgettable as themselves without having anyone else to be.

Icaria: I have that problem except for being forgettable.

Svetlana: There was one time an assistant lost track of what was going on and started sewing someone up while her Medicine-focused incarnation was still operating.

Icaria: Dang, girl. It's high time we found you a Lunar!

Icaria: Hm, reincarnated-love horoscopes are totally within my wheelhouse.

Svetlana: And there was that one identity that survived the Fair Folk invasion even though people forgot to tell her about the evacuation.

Svetlana: One of the Fair Folk Princes hung a coat on her.

Icaria: And then she assassinated him?

Svetlana: She tried, but it wasn't sufficiently foreshadowed to take.

Icaria: That's why you need a pocket author.

Svetlana: It's probably mostly the Sivana-imitation thing, but her Stealth suite is generally specialized in being the background object that is hard to pay attention to as opposed to the actually invisible thing you don't spot.

Svetlana: Mostly the Sivana imitation because "to imitate a Sidereal" is what the Charm was originally for.

Svetlana: I should figure out what Sidereal but not until 10 more XP and Essence 3 when I can actually buy said Charm.

Icaria: If you imitate a Sidereal in the woods and nobody remembers, do you still spend motes?

Svetlana: How would you know?

Icaria: Nobody is error-checking our mote math, so we wouldn't.

Svetlana: <ponders> I don't think Svetlana knows Sidereal naming customs. I don't think I ever did, really.

Icaria: I don't think they have any aside from a tendency to bad puns.

Icaria: So, you'll fit right in!

Icaria: It's like you have a mysterious affinity.

Svetlana: Mariner Moon.

Icaria: Crescent Mariner.

Icaria: Take it a bit farther and you get Marina Waxing-Crescent.

Svetlana: I should probably go with Mars instead of Moon. Can you do the same transformation?

Svetlana: Or one of the other planets, or a star. Hm.

Svetlana: Marina Celeste?

Icaria: Harmakhis Crimson.

Svetlana: Meredith Twinklefate.

Svetlana: Gaining sorcery motes every time I can get someone to shake their fist and shout, "Curse you, Twinklefate!"

Icaria: Hm, what's my Sorcery Mote Emotion?

Icaria: Making people worry about me?

Icaria: No, it must be speechlessness.

Svetlana: Emoteion.

Icaria: Zanara probably has awe.

Svetlana: Svetlana's is actually fist-pump/catch-phrase, I just haven't been bothering with catch-phrases because I never formally thought it through.

Svetlana: "Curse you, Twinklefate!" would be a catchphrase and not a fist shake.

  • Svetlana carefully nitpicks invisible distinctions.
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