In Which Ancient Evil Is Even Less Unleashed Than Previously

Vance: It's getting close to start time

Vance: Rand, Vera, y'all about?

Zanara: I'm here, yeah.

Icaria: Beware, I live!

Camena: After 10,000 years, Rand is free!

Camena: It's time to conquer Earth!

Vance: Why don't we start off by checking in on Zanara's Second Chance Army? We haven't formally introduced them, and we can say Svetlana is off investigating.

Zanara: Works for me. With Jaspindar on board they can operate a touch more openly, I should think. Also, sidenote—has it been long enough a downtime for snagging abilities/Charms?

Vance: Yes.

Zanara: Neat. Snagging Socialize 3 and Motive-Discerning Technique just for general social toolkit purposes.

Vance: Finally someone will read intentions!

Camena: Living Shadow Preparedness for me.

Vance: So, are your troops still quartered in a warehouse, or have you found ritzier digs?

Zanara: Probably moved up a bit in the world, I should think, especially if they're going to start recruiting (spoilers: they are, lol).

Icaria: Citrin can only dig so fast. :stuck_out_tongue:

Zanara: And we do have a satrap on our side :3

Icaria: As of right now he's working on my front coat closet.

Vance: The satrapy wouldn't be happy with recruiting for a "rebel army," but "mercenary companies" are perfectly fine

Icaria: It's really more like a boys and girls club.

Icaria: But for adults, with weapons.

Zanara: Well, yes. Zanara does know how to maintain a certain decorum.

Zanara: Mercenary company/charitable organization.

Vance: Some of your soldiers have been asking difficult questions about what's going on Gloam. There's been calls for you to make a speech.

Vance: (Some of the veterans may be making these calls more for the sake of seeing another of Zanara's orations.)

Zanara: Zanara is entirely up for making big, impressive speeches. For the sake of brevity I'll simply say that her position is that there certainly is a dark undercurrent to affairs in Gloam, but that she and her new companions are going to handle it. Gloam could well be the lever with which they will move the world, and she means to see it in good condition for the purpose!

Zanara: i.e., this isn't just another Guild Caravan they're knocking over, it's an entire satrapy.

Vance: Roll Charisma + Performance, with two stunt dice.

Zanara: Six!

Kukla: Zing!

Vance: Your soldiers are pumped. They are just totally thrilled about being led by you and about taking on the Realm.

Vance: Your second-in-command, a grizzled veteran whose details I will leave to you to decide, approaches you afterwards. "That'll set the stragglers straight. It always take a while, to get used to the affairs of gods." With this, they indicate not just you, but also Icaria and Camena. "Maybe we ought to bring them into the war room, as it were, and talk strategy."

Icaria: "Strategy's important," Icaria agrees, as one who's heard this said somewhere.

Icaria: "I've been thinking about writing a book about our adventures, to inspire the people of the Threshold to follow in our footsteps."

Vance: "A novel approach to warfare."

Camena: "It'd be a kindness," Camena says, taking the man's hand before he can react and giving it a soft kiss. If it was meant as genteel, that's kind of undercut by the suggestion eyewaggle that she adds.

Icaria: "Yes, exactly," says Icaria, completely missing the pun.

Zanara: "I have no objection," Zanara says. "What little we lose by way of surprise, we shall gain far more for the truth being known."

Icaria: "Well, I was going to edit it a little."

Icaria: "The satrap seems determined to believe that you're the Chosen of some unknown god in spite of you more or less parading the truth in her face, so we may as well humor her."

Icaria: "I daresay she has reasons for averting her eyes from the truth."

Vance: Is Icaria's newly-conceived plan on the level of an Intimacy?

Icaria: "After all, if she faced facts, she couldn't justify letting you remain in Gloam. Or alive."

Icaria: Things related to books always feed my intimacies!

Zanara: "Mmm, yes, well." Zanara smiles and nods. "Perhaps that, we can hold back for now. Sooner or later, I will get to fixing that as well."

Icaria: "In the book, you can be the Chosen of Serinuma, a mysterious Eastern goddess of dreams."

Icaria: "I'm workshopping your backstory."

Zanara: "Dreams. I like it."

Vance: "That's a load of dung. She should be the chosen of a war goddess!" shouts the still-unnamed second-in-command.

Icaria: Unless someone inserts themselves as editor, the book is probably going to be about the adventures of Icaria, leader of the circle, fabulous (and incidentally quite buff) warrior and lover, and his children and sidekicks.

Camena: "Every war starts in a dream."

Icaria: Although that won't necessarily stop it from being incredibly popular trashy fiction.

Icaria: Although Svetlana already has her writing thing going, so I may just wind up gingering up her reports for publication or something.

Icaria: Learning things from books is Icaria's thing, so it makes sense that eventually he'll write a bodice-ripper that teaches the reader Tiger Style.

Icaria: But for now maybe we should focus on less literary strategy.

Vance: The Second Chance Army's war room is windowless, hidden from the prying eyes of the satrap's spies. A Gateway board dominates a table in the center, with five pieces arranged on its grid. Maps of Gloam and local sea charts are pinned to the walls, and a cask of wine features prominently.

Vance: The second-in-command removes two of the pieces, setting them aside in the board's dungeon. "If you're right, then we won't have to worry about Jaspindar or Vi." He moves a third piece into the walled border at the board's center line. "Majal too, but I don't trust him. That leaves Tran and… the one whose name we keep forgetting. Where do you start?"

Icaria: "Number Four."

Icaria: "Or possibly #4?"

Icaria: "I'm not great with katakana."

Zanara: Zanara nods. "If our information is correct, I would say the greater threat is Number Four. Regrettably, that and the effect of his presence are almost all we know. I'm not sure how you isolate someone who slips off your mind in such a way."

Camena: "Hmmph," Camena says, taking one of dungeoned pieces to examine it. "It'd be a darn sight easier if we knew what the man wanted. Hell, if we knew what he liked. Boys. Girls. Wine. Chains. Some kind of lever. You don't suppose either of our little satraps might have anything to mind?"

Vance: If only there was some kind of roll for discerning people's Intimacies!

Icaria: "We know he was in love with Iron Snow," says Icaria.

Icaria: "I mean, we basically know that."

Camena: "Do you mean that you're slashin' it hard in yer cloud-addled head?"

Icaria: "But then their love turned sour, and they came to blows over the destiny of Gloam."

Zanara: (Oh, hey.)

Zanara: ( I ROLL TO DISCERN INTIMACIES if I can do that from a great remove. >.> )

Icaria: I fear you cannot. You'll have to observe him a bit.

Icaria: I guess… we'll just have to find him?

Icaria: Has anybody mentioned what his official job is supposed to be, or is he just a mysteriously-frequent tagalong?

Camena: "Could always cause a bit of a ruckus and see if it gets the rat out of his hole?"

Icaria: "But we're legit now."

Icaria: "Just invite him to dinner."

Vance: He's been seen in the company of the other Dynasts in an advisory position, but there is no official title that you know of.

  • Camena seems to deflate. Her idea involved surprise parades and bacchanalia.

Icaria: We can have a bacchanal. It'll just be indoors.

Camena: You spoil all the fun.

Camena: I was going to find you a nice boy!

Icaria: I already found several!

Icaria: They're just possibly evil.

Camena: Or a bushel of them. I don't know what the collective noun is. Probably a riot.

Icaria: I'm just going to entangle myself with everybody and see which one is the last to murder a bunch of people.

Icaria: Although, I guess we're befriending murderers now?

Vance: The second-in-command, who, fuck it, is named Kren, rolls his eyes intensely at this shippy talk.

Camena: I mean, we did almost murder Vi.

Camena: Like, a lot.

Icaria: This talk is non-canonical!

Camena: Camena realizes she should probably worry about her own love life, too.

Camena: I'm pretty sure this is at least deuterocanonical.

Icaria: Yeah, somebody should really stop Icaria from dragging all the men into his insane orbit.

Icaria: If that's what you're into.

Camena: We're pulling focus.

Camena: Camena drags Icaria stage-left.

Vance: So, are you just literally inviting #4 over to the barracks?

Zanara: Absolutely not.

Camena: We're legit.

Camena: I assume Camena's renting out a townhouse.

Vance: How much resources she got?

Icaria: And a cook, if none of us can cook.

Camena: 3.

Vance: Rented!

Camena: And slyly retrofitted for better eavesdropping.

Vance: Hmm.

Camena: Not immediately relevant!

Icaria: Let's have potstickers.

Vance: Roll… Intelligence + Larceny, to Scooby Doo the place up.

Camena: But she does want to have like, Clue-style spyholes.

Icaria: The Cult of the Illuminated is just a red herring.

Camena: 9.

Vance: Okay.

Vance: So basically as far as any mortal guest is concerned you're an omnipresent fucking phantom.



Vance: Gross.

Vance: So how are y'all getting in contact with him?

Icaria: Let's just send a note!

Icaria: Care of Majal.

Camena: I assume Vispindar can get us a meeting?

Camena: Or Majal.

Camena: Did we ever press him for his take on #4?

Vance: No.

Vance: Which of the the three do you want to approach/send a letter through?

Icaria: I vote for Majal, to reinforce our legit-ness in all corners.

Camena: I vote for us doing two earlier parties with other random higher-uppish mortal functionaries to disguise our interest in #4 precisely

Zanara: That is a good idea.

Zanara: And in the meantime Zanara can ply Vi and Jaspindar for any information they might have managed to retain about him.

Vance: Sounds good.

Vance: So, skip ahead a few nights, and you're having a gala for Gloam's admiral-in-chief, a heavyset pelagrothrope named Sunless. Zanara draws Jaspindar and Vi, now fully recovered from their injuries, aside over the festivities.

Zanara: "Good to see you both fully mended," she says, smiling. All this excess is a bit much for her, reminds her of the bad old days, but it's in the service of a greater cause.

Vance: "I'm afraid we never properly got your name, Zanara. I mean, of course we know it, because we have spies, but not properly introduced. What brings you to Gloam?" asks Jaspindar.

Vance: (Camena and Icaria, feel free to conduct your own investigations during the gala.)

Zanara: "In general, my purpose, as dictated by the Most High. In more practical terms… it was a strategic necessity. Certain cities have rather longer a reach than I'd anticipated. But it's all to the good—now that I am here, I think things will begin to change much more rapidly."

Camena: Camena is going to try some shameless flirting with Sunless, pretending that she gives way more of a shit about navy business than she actually does.

Vance: "A true prophet, then? The Immaculates would want you in stockades if that got out, but I come from a house of atheists and heretics. My family pride dictates I must hold you in high esteem," she laughs, not insincerely. "As long as you pay the taxes on whatever your enterprise's, ahem, profits may be, the sea lanes of Gloam welcome you."

Vance: What's Camena's end game? Finding out about #4, or smooching on a hot manatee captain?

Camena: Ideally, she'd like to make an in with the admiral and see if she knows anything about #4 or Tran.

Vance: Roll Charisma + Socialize/Presence.

Zanara: "I'm rather pleased to have your high esteem," Zanara says, meeting Jaspindar's eyes. "And as to the profits, I think there will be quite enough of that to go around. Now that we're operating in the open, legitimately, I think it might even come sooner rather than later."

Camena: Manipulation for openly being a sneak about this?

Vance: Sure.

Camena: She's gonna do her best flirty exotic bit about it too.

Camena: 10 successes on Manipulation + Presence

Vance: Sunless speaks highly of Tran—it seems the Legate is far more invested in the people of Gloam than her fellow Dynasts. With a lowered voice, she mentions that Tran is a sorcerer, and that her demons have played midwife to Vi and Jaspindar's children. Why? The pelagrothrope speculated that it is love—Tran must have an unrequited desire for either the Satrap or her wife.

Vance: She doesn't know much about #4, only mentioning his obsession with "that damned tapestry." While those words might mean nothing to others, to Camena, they sound like a lead on what brought her to Gloam in the first place.

Camena: Love = letting your demons be all up in someone's hoo-hah?

Vance: Not at all how it works.

Zanara: It takes all kinds.

Vance: Jaspindar beckons for more drinks. "Tell me, prophet. You didn't arrange this to celebrate Gloam's admiralty. You wanted to talk to me. I'm listening."

Vance: Vi, meanwhile, is just getting druuunk.

Zanara: "Well, we've come upon our legitimacy rather quickly. I may not be accustomed to life in a satrapy, but even I can tell well enough that it pays to know those in the satrap's close confidence. Those who came for you in the forest in particular. Nothing underhanded, you have my word—I'm only trying to get to know the lay of the land, so to speak."

Vance: She smiles a predatory smile. "Don't mistake my lenience for legitimacy. Half the fun of this is getting to make veiled threats, and if you get too comfortable you might start missing them."

Vance: "I wasn't exactly conscious when they came for me—remember?—but I think you know who you mean. My spymaster Majal, my disgraced cousin Wen, and #4. "

Zanara: "Precisely them, yes."

Vance: "I believe you've already spoken at length with Majal. Wen is a martial arts prodigy, but unExalted, and excommunicated from the Immaculate Order. He's no power player—I simply didn't care to let him suffer further on the Blessed Isle."

Vance: "#4 is an outcaste, but I'd offer him a place in House Sesus in a heartbeat, if he would take it. He… he suffered the most of any of us, when we entered the Tomb. Whatever was down there, it ate his very name. All we could remember was that he was the fourth of the five of us."

Icaria: "That's… that's some big magic," says Icaria, impressed.

Icaria: "…we sure didn't see anything like that down there."

Vance: "…I know I told you you could investigate," she says, "but seriously, what the fuck?"

Icaria: "Well, I am an adventurer and sorcerer and I also have no sense whatsoever, so."

Icaria: "But yeah, we wandered down to the bottom, including some stuff you guys stopped before getting to, and all we found was a guy asking us to free him from his eternal imprisonment."

Icaria: "Then we argued about whether we ought to do that and couldn't come to consensus, so we wandered off to do something else."

Zanara: "How very peculiar," Zanara says—but Icaria understands it quite differently: "If Number Four put that idea in their heads, he is far more dangerous than I'd given him credit for." (Subtle Speech Method, 3m peripheral, Mute)

  • Svetlana arrives.

Zanara: (I love Linguistics Charms. Also hey!)

Camena: (Hi, Jenna!)

Vance: (You're currently having a party with the satrap to try and find out more about #4.)

Vance: "You didn't see the guardian-spirit of the tomb, then?" Jaspindar asks. "Four arms of cobalt flame, three eyes, a mask of blood-colored porcelain? It must have escaped when we breached the seal."

  • Svetlana probably wanders in looking as much sleep-deprived as a Solar ever looks, because on top of poking around the island, she has been raising Bureaucracy to 5 lately and that is a very late-night subject.

Icaria: "No, just a guy who was half-silver and half-cobalt on either side of his body and imprisoned forever on both sides of his body."

Vance: "And a prisoner… if the spirit we saw was its gaoler, then how much more terrible must it be?"

Icaria: "He had really amazing triceps."

Vance: "I'm super gay, so I don't care."

Icaria: "Mind you, Zanara felt that if he had really been locked away by the great powers, it would be a bad idea to release him on that account."

Icaria: "Well, I was interested."

Zanara: "The will of the Most High is the will of the Most High," Zanara says. "It's as simple as that."

Icaria: "So, yeah."

Icaria: "In any case securing his release is supposedly impossible, so the danger levels of supporting it is probably nil."

Vance: "I'm going to very politely ask you not to unleash any forbidden gods in my satrapy, please. I understand that you're a sorcerer. Some of my best enemies are sorcerers. Please just… don't… this one time."

Svetlana: "One would hope," Evdeniya says, as she approaches, "that the will of the Most High is subtle and full of nuance. It is a complicated world."

Icaria: "I have to admit, my books on the subject did say things like 'DO NOT RELEASE ANCIENT SEALED EVILS' in big letters, rather often."

Svetlana: "The books that said otherwise were probably empty."

Vance: "Did you study at the Heptagram, Icaria?"

Icaria: "I did not! I am self-taught. I come from the library at Neve, you see."

Icaria: The library at Neve is pretty damn famous but probably not famous enough to justify self-initiation in and of itself.

Camena: Leans against a wall, happy to be the sorcerer who is not a sorcerer.

Vance: "You… come from a library? Like, are sorcerers just… born out of magical bookshelves?"

Svetlana: Evdeniya waves her hand in a gesture that is intended to convey ancient sealed evil letters fluttering out of a book that encourages the release of ancient sealed evils but probably actually looks like she was going to say something more and than didn't.

Icaria: "The librarians did indicate that some such thing occurred at my birth, although I suspect that the circumstances were probably more ordinary."

Icaria: "Honestly my life was very boring until I realized I could teach myself to become an amazing hero out of books."

Icaria: "I'd rather hear Zanara's backstory, because I actually don't know it either."

Vance: Jaspindar passes Zanara the traditional character development glass of wine.

Icaria: I don't actually know Camena's either except for the Miss Piggy handwave.

Icaria: "I was a pirate, she was a lady… you know the story."

Camena: Hmmm?

Zanara: "My life was similarly quite boring," Zanara says. "To the point where leaving one of a few rooms made for an eventful day. There really isn't much more to tell."

Icaria: I can't forgive your ignorance of the Muppet movies, Elliott.

Camena: Oh, I am not ignorant of them. Just not immediately conversant in references.

Vance: "That sounds dreadful, Zanara. I'm glad you've made it free."

Zanara: "Not so glad as I am, I think. But it's in the past, and I have others to think of, who have suffered far more than I."

Vance: "Indeed there is. Thanks be to Pasiap, for the generosity of our Immaculate monks. Much as I scorn the veneration, they've done more for the poor of Gloam than anyone in this city's history."

Svetlana: Svetlana blinks. "Does that mean they only came here recently?"

Vance: "Gloam is a fairly new holding, yes. House Sesus has colonized it within the last fifty years."

Icaria: "Unusual, given the location."

Svetlana: "What was it previously?—you'll have to excuse my ignorance, I was inveigled into attacking your bodyguards as soon as I arrived."

Svetlana: Evdeniya has really had plenty of time for research but mild embarrassment shared is mild embarrassment lessened.

Vance: "Well, it was a Realm holding once before, taken just after the Empress rose to power. When the Peleps merchant marines were disbanded and given over to V'neef"—Vi makes an expression of drunken outrage—"the indigenous Gloamese rebelled, and Peleps lacked the manpower to hold it. House Sesus, as it were, re-conquered it. We offered tax benefits."

Svetlana: Evdeniya savors the term 'indigenous Gloamese,' which really has a beautiful sound and cadence irrespective of its meaning. She takes note of it for her reports.

Camena: "Money," Camena whistles. "It does make the seasons turn, don't it?"

Svetlana: "Thanks," Evdeniya murmurs. (In this case referring to the brief history, rather than being proud on money's behalf.)

Svetlana: Evdeniya closes her eyes. "Is there any special meaning to the monks establishing themselves now rather than in House Peleps' dominion?"

Svetlana: Evdeniya doesn't think there is any special meaning, to be clear, she's just curious and the conversation is kind of quiet.

Vance: "No—only that Gloam fell back into heresies after Peleps lost its hold. Mind you, I'm all for heresies, but most of the native gods are tyrants and extortionists."

Svetlana: "Truly," Evdeniya says, "the Realm is a source of a thousand blessings. No offense," she adds, to Zanara.

Svetlana: Evdeniya takes a moment to look around carefully for #4, since she understands he can be difficult to notice.

Vance: He is not present at this gala, it appears.

Camena: AT THE GALA.

Vance: You've never seen him at social events.

Svetlana: Clearly we must hold an antisocial event.

Svetlana: Some sort of alag.

Zanara: "No offense taken. My quarrel is not with the Realm, after all, only with what it does."

Vance: "Careful, Zanara. It wouldn't be treason to say that, but the law doesn't take kindly to calling the Realm's legitimacy into question."

Vance: "See? Veiled threat!"

Camena: Claps softly, seeming genuinely impressed. Or at lease, genuinely amused.

Zanara: Zanara smiles. "Never change."

  • Icaria boggles at girl talk.

Svetlana: "The Realm's legitimacy cannot be questioned," Svetlana says. "After all, if it did not descend from the Shogunate, then there would be a temporal anomaly."

Icaria: I suppose in the context of Exalted, much like Homestuck, mind games and veiled murder threats are girl talk.

  • Camena pulls Vi or Jaspindar aside for a bit of innocent small talk, whichever seems more pliant and less occupied.

Vance: Vi is plastered, which probably penalizes Resolve, but may be a form of occupation unto itself.

Icaria: Meanwhile, I solved the mystery.

Icaria: Although we can talk about that later.

Camena: "He's a sweet boy, really he is, but he's also… a bit much. You know. You've seen him. I suppose I just wish he could find someone that understands him. You know, understands why he speaks at such… such great length. Whether you want him to or not."

Vance: Which mystery?

Icaria: The mystery of what the hell's going on.

Icaria: I'll exposit about it when a suitable moment arises in-character.

Svetlana: Evdeniya swirls the caffeinated Creation concoction in her cup and says, "I continue to be deeply troubled about Pim's situation."

Camena: "D'you think the nameless might make a good match?" she asks, lighting a long pipe and taking a luxurious drag. "Seems like the patient sort."

Icaria: This is an impressive way of eliciting exposition.

Vance: "I'm not sure if you were here when I said it, Magistrate, but there is to be absolutely no freeing forbidden gods or worse."

Vance: (Who is Camena talking to?)

Camena: (Whichever one the others aren't.)

Camena: (Presumably shitfaced Vi.)

Vance: (And the nameless is #4?)

Camena: (Yeah. She gets metaphorical in her cups. Or her pipes.)

Icaria: illustrates her point by getting super messed-up on seven cups of chocolate and talking to a random guy in the corner about Essence cascading until his eyes glaze over.

Vance: "I don't know much about #4's love life. I guess when you don't have the best wife in Creation, there isn't as much to get excited and talk about? Poor guy. Got his name bitten off, all 'cause of Tran."

Camena: "No love lost between you and the good sorceress?"

Svetlana: "I understand your sentiments," Evdeniya agrees. "And of course I accept your intentions, but such a hard and inflexible rule is too ingracious; it risks injustice."

Vance: "She has her good side. But it was her idea to break open that damn Tomb. She did a lot of harm, and she can't fix it."

Svetlana: "The law must always be tempered with… if not mercy, then truth."

Vance: "We aren't talking about a thief in the stockade, Magistrate, were talking about a god-monster older than humanity, sealed away by Pasiap's will. "

Camena: Camena nods, puffs out a cloud of red smoke that snakes away all kinds of unnatural-like. "I think we are alike, you know. We love hard and fierce. I respect that. Hopefully there's no hard feelings, you know, about the dire injuries?"

Svetlana: Evdeniya considers this. "Ah," she says. "Then… we must forsake truth and mercy?"

Vance: "It was a good opportunity to practice out healing meditation techniques," Vi says, with what could be a hint of innuendo. "I mean, start shit again and you're dead, obviously. But other than that, I think we're going to be best friends."

Svetlana: "Cast them into the rubbish pile and the fire? Set a new course for ourselves. Harden our spines, fix the scales to our eyes—"

Svetlana: Evdeniya looks thoughtfully into the distance.

Icaria: "In any case, I dislike being wrong, so I have no intention of doing anything about the Pim situation until I know exactly why I shouldn't."

Camena: Nods, smiling. "And just, theoretically… what are your feelings about contraband goods of a recreational nature? Scuttlebutt from the scum below the streets suggests that shipments aren't what they were."

Icaria: "It's extremely possible that he was locked away for excellent reasons."

Vance: Jaspindar struggles to understand Evdeniya's empathy. "Would you let the demons of out of Hell? Spirits don't have any place in our courts. They follow a different law."

Vance: Vi unleashes her drunken fury. "Contraband! Fucking smugglers!" She spends the next few minutes angrily yelling about taxation and economics.

Camena: Is amused, and also seems to take notes. "I've found a few of that sort myself, shameful lot. I might be a brigand, but even I know that ports don't build themselves."

  • Camena is lying lying lying lying lying.

Vance: Roll Manipulation + Presence/Socialize.

Camena: 7.

Vance: "If you could name any names, I would be very happy to collect the fines."

Svetlana: "If they were imprisoned by an unjust process?" Evdeniya asks. She squints. "Honestly, I don't trust myself to properly reintegrate the demons of Hell into Creation without creating a greater farrago, so there is a practical concern. But if that were waived, if I had the tools in my hand to redeem such an error without creating a worse one? How could I do otherwise without becoming a demon myself? Isn't there some…" She waves her hand around. "Anti-Immaculate Dragon that goes around doing unjust things because it's easy? I can't remember all the wretches and anathemas and the like."

Camena: "I will prepare a list and send the names promptly as soon as the ink dries."

Svetlana: Evdeniya rubs at her forehead, trying to imagine the process involved in safely resettling Hell's demons in Creation without causing murder, havoc, and calamity.

Vance: "Pasiap's judgment is itself due process. How could it be otherwise—or at least, so the monks say." Jaspindar says, sipping her wine. "My concern is with the danger to my satrapy. We already have one ancient spirit roaming loose in the satrapy, and whatever it guarded could be even more powerful. I have a duty to guard this city from such threats."

Svetlana: Evdeniya bites back an argument, takes a moment, and says, "Speaking of which, this ancient spirit that is roaming loose."

Svetlana: "I became a little confused when exploring the tomb because there was… remarkably little evidence that anything had been released. In fact it shook my perspective a great deal. Could you tell me a little more about that encounter and how it got free?"

Svetlana: (I saw a bit about this early on when reading the log but it didn't look like it got thoroughly discussed; if it did, you can reply in summary rather than in dialogue.)

Vance: "The five of us descended into the Tomb, and passed through a gauntlet of traps—that damn fool Tran nearly got herself killed, thinking her anima would protect her from sorcerous fire. When we got to the end, we saw a guardian-spirit, standing before the threshold of the final chamber, the one you must have explored. The spirit said that we had brought a great doom down on this city, that we would know pain and death only until we set right what we had disturbed. So if I have seemed stressed, now, you know why."

Icaria: nods with some vigor, as though this confirmed a theory of his own.

Vance: "I've been keeping this a secret, but the four of you are the only ones besides us who seem to stand a chance of measuring up to this spirit."

Zanara: "Until you set right what had been disturbed… hmm."

Icaria: "Oh, the more the merrier."

Svetlana: "…pain and death only, or only pain and death?"

Icaria: Okay, so, for the record, Icaria's theory is:

Vance: "I'm not an expert on Old Realm grammar, but I believe it's the latter."

Icaria: There's a mysterious guardian spirit running loose from the tomb that nobody has actually seen since.

Icaria: And there's a mysterious guy that nobody knows anything about before then.

Icaria: Logic suggests that we can reduce the number of necessary entities by assuming that they're the same hot guy the same guy.

Svetlana: "And this spirit advised you regarding the magic thing you made in your magic forest?"

Icaria: Somebody bound him to watch the tomb for eternity, which is the same as imprisoning him along with his prisoner, so he took the oppotunity to fly the coop and convince the Dynasts that he was an outcaste who got his name eaten.

Vance: "Of course not. Tran and #4 worked together to devise the wards. So far, they seem to have worked."

Icaria: And to convince them that they had to do all this… stuff. To keep the tomb sealed, or to keep people from noticing he was gone, or whatever.

Svetlana: (Interesting theory!)

Icaria: So, he's not a Dragon-Blooded or a Getimian, but a weird spirit, and Iron Snow isn't his ex-boyfriend, but is doing legit Sidereal business.

Icaria: Well, okay, they could still be ex-boyfriends.

Icaria: I also have a plan to prove or disprove my theory, which I'll bring up when we can actually execute it.

Svetlana: Evdeniya considers this. "If the spirit was lying, I'd say it got you pretty good."

Icaria: "Well, it must be doing something."

Vance: "So you think an ancient spirit just wanted to mess with our heads?"

Icaria: "They didn't bind ancient spirits of doing nothing into tombs from the before time."

Icaria: "In the before time they did not fuck around."

Icaria: "Well, they did."

Icaria: "But not in a boring way."

Camena: "In increasingly creative ways, though," Camena adds with a whistle, rejoining the rest. "You ever read the Seven-Leg Sutra, kiddo?"

Camena: "There's yer heroism."

Icaria: "Is that the one you have to store in a vat of dry ice?"

Camena: "That's the one, kid."

Vance: The Seven-Leg Sutra is a wholesome text about different hugging katas.

Camena: Protip: It is not.

Svetlana: "It did seem to produce a fair bit of discord in the ruling council of the city," Evdeniya observes. "Depending on how tightly it was actually bound, that might be a noteworthy accomplishment."

Icaria: "I'm more concerned with where it might be now."

Icaria: "If it was a guardian, the thing it was meant to guard is still there."

Svetlana: "Well, find it," Evdeniya says.

Svetlana: She rolls her eyes.

Icaria: "All right, I will."

  • Icaria steeples his fingers and pretends to think.

Icaria: "Okay, I know what to do."

Svetlana: Evdeniya looks delighted, in part because she really hopes it involves pointing dramatically at someone who is right here.

Zanara: Zanara raises an eyebrow. "That was quick."

Icaria: "I am very clever."

Svetlana: Evdeniya has no reason to believe it does except tradition.

Camena: "Eh."

Icaria: "But it won't work if I tell everybody, so we can discuss it later."

Icaria: Did we want to talk more at the party, or cut to later?

Camena: Cut.

Icaria: Okay, so, we can cut to a secure room with just our circle.

Vance: Yes.

Icaria: I do sorcerous things to check for prying demons, etcetera.

Vance: Roll Perception + Occult.

Icaria: Camena no doubt handles the larcenous end of the transaction.

Camena: Indeed.

Camena: Percption + Larceny to ferret out any folks?

Camena: Or other mundane eavesdroppery?

Icaria: Six!

  • Svetlana makes a token effort herself, but will only actually roll if Camena botches.

Vance: So there actually are some prying demons floating about Gloam, but you're able to augur your way around them. Camena's townhouse is already secured against mortal scrutiny.

Camena: …wow. 10 dice, 1 success.

Icaria: Damn straight.

Icaria: Never fear; I'll fill in the gap with prying demons.

Icaria: Well, with Saphir, anyway.

Icaria: He can keep watch.

Icaria: Anyway.

Icaria: "I have a theory."

Svetlana: (A dancing demon?)

Camena: No, something isn't right there.

Icaria: No, something…

Icaria: :C

Camena: :slightly_smiling_face:

Camena: Bunnies!

Svetlana: Bunnies? It could be bunnies.

Svetlana: "Please, go on."

  • Icaria distracts the group from this extended reference by procuring a chalkboard and drawing little chibi illustrations on it to match the things he says.

Icaria: "Let us consider the players in our little drama."

Icaria: "We have some Dynasts."

Icaria: "We have a tomb and its mysterious prisoner."

Icaria: "We have an equally mysterious guardian spirit."

Icaria: "And we have the mysterious #4."

  • Icaria draws them all with cute googly eyes.

Icaria: "Observe the guardian spirit!"

Svetlana: Evdeniya focuses on the flame duck.

Icaria: "It appears in the tomb, makes threats, and has never been seen since."

Icaria: "And, conversely, observe #4!"

Icaria: "Who has been seen since, but whose history before that moment cannot be precisely nailed down!"

Icaria: "Rather than needlessly multiply entities, I suggest that they are, in fact, the same person."

Icaria: "The ancient guardian seeks to free himself from his bindings by disguising himself as a remarkably well-set-up outcaste, and befuddling the local Dynasts into believing that they already knew him, but forgot him owing to shenanigans."

Icaria: "Then there's some stuff with weird wards that I don't fully understand, but which #4 is definitely involved in."

Svetlana: "…can all spirits free themselves from their bindings by disguising themselves as remarkably well-set-up outcastes?"

Svetlana: Evdeniya is mostly highlighting the oddity of it being able to get free in a mildly humorous fashion, but there is a thread of genuine nervousness.

Icaria: "My guess would be that the disguise has more to do with not being sent back from whence he came."

Zanara: "Would he not make his best efforts to be quit of Gloam, then? Why stay here?"

Icaria: "Perhaps he can't. Perhaps he isn't fully free."

Svetlana: "If I remember correctly," Evdeniya says, "Tran was… apart from the others, when things ended."

Camena: "And no thought to whether or not the spirit and Pim might, in fact, be the same?"

Svetlana: "Perhaps Tran is bound to #4?"

Svetlana: "Or, well, the other way around?"

Icaria: "Camena's notion is consistent with the facts," Icaria agrees. "We can't discount it."

Vance: @jennamoran One of them was apart from the others, but you don't know which.

Icaria: "However, I have come up with a plan to test my theory."

Camena: "Hit us with it, kid."

Icaria: "First, you see, I will write a piece of trashy genre fiction starring myself which will become amazingly popular in Gloam."

Icaria: "Zanara's network will be invaluable for distribution, of course."

Camena: Camena's hopes wither really quick.

Icaria: "This will make me a minor celebrity and I shall make a number of public appearances promoting literacy and the like."

Icaria: "Obviously, this has nothing to do with my real plan. I just want #4 to think we're doing something else."

Icaria: "Camena, this is where you come in."

Svetlana: "Thus her name."

Icaria: "Have you ever heard of the Triple-Moon Mirror of Truth?"

Camena: "That's a new one by me."

Icaria: "Anyway, it's an ancient mirror with the power to dispel illusions, lies, so forth. Reasonably well-known if you're into that sort of thing."

Icaria: "It's been lost for ages, naturally."

Icaria: "But if you were a librarian at Neve, you'd know it was locked securely away in our basement."

  • Icaria laughs.

Icaria: "Not that I plan to go to fetch it or anything."

Icaria: "The point is that #4 can't know for sure that somebody hasn't got it."

Vance: I'm going to ask for an Intelligence + Lore roll on that.

Vance: A toughy.

  • Icaria rolls five successes, before you ask.

Icaria: Spending four motes.

Icaria: "So, as you can see, it would be convenient if we could arrange for him to believe that some scavenger lord had found it, and was bringing it to Gloam by ship."

Icaria: "That's just the kind of thing someone in his position would worry about, and want to check up on… if I'm right, that is."

Vance: (I'm going to say the Mirror does in fact exist in the Library, but that you're only making your best guess at what it does.)

Icaria: It works for my plan as long as people think it does that.

Camena: "I think I can make that stick."

Icaria: Icaria doesn't care what it actually does, because he has no intention of going to get it.

Icaria: I probably shouldn't tell Camena what secret treasures we have, but there's a reason they sent me out to seek my fortune instead of making me a master-grade librarian.

Svetlana: In fairness, librarians often tell people what can be found in the library.

Vance: So how does Camena plan to undertake this campaign of rumors?

Icaria: You guys don't have a card!

Svetlana: I totally do. (rolls Dexterity + Forgery.)

Kukla: Do the dice agree…

Icaria: Well, I mean, I could just make you a legit one, since I know the ritual.

Svetlana: The dice do. 6 successes! Though I'm not assuming it actually happens. ^_^

Icaria: I need some of your blood first, obviously.

Vance: Okay, now the librarians are shifting from "raksha" to "Deathlord servants."

Camena: Well, Camena's got several identities embedded in the underworld now, so she's laundering (or anti-laundering) the rumors through them, at the same time as her primary identity—an iron-hearted godblood mafioso—starts shaking some of the Underworld folks down, threatening to let the satrap know about them if they don't comply. She wants that mirror to get in safe.

Icaria: (Return the books on time. Return the books on time. Return the books on time.)

Vance: Roll… Manipulation + Larceny, let's say. The spy network will work in your favor, so it'll be comparatively easy. And take two stunt dice.

Icaria: Meanwhile, I am going to summon up some water elementals.

Icaria: The sort of critters who could discreetly watch over a boat.

Vance: Knot-oracles are a breed of toad, covered in eyes, that are capable of swimming beneath the sea, have poisonous skin, and speak in riddle-prophecies.

Icaria: Hm, that doesn't sound like something I'd care to be related to.

Vance: It makes a sad face. :disappointed:

Camena: You know…

Icaria: pages through his hypothetical books of summons.

Camena: Quick question.

Camena: For play-versus-narrative…

Vance: sure

Camena: Effects that happen day-by-day, should we keep doing them day-by-day, or should we just assume that once something's banked, it's banked until use and we just can't re-use that daily?

Vance: Given our pacing, let's go with the latter for now.

Camena: Fiiiine.

Vance: If it gets in the way we can change that.

Icaria: Hm, the pebble-glasset is something like a dolphin made of blown glass, with a strong swim speed, a powerful water cannon, and the ability to take human shape as long as nobody pokes it.

Camena: If it was daily, I was going to drop my Larceny bomb here for just ridiculousness.

Camena: But no—6 successes!

Vance: Oh, you're fine to do it here.

Vance: Once you use it I'm fine with you resetting it the next day.

Camena: Well, I was going to but only if I didn't get to keep it day-to-day.

Icaria: So, a kind of hollow glass fish.

Vance: Like the ones you can see the skeletons of?

Svetlana: Wouldn't it be chilly?

Vance: Since going by RAW produces the fun outcome, I'll go by RAW. You don't get to keep it day by day.

Icaria: Probably, but more dolphin-like and cute.

Camena: Nooooo!

Camena: My poor successes! :disappointed:

Vance: How many successes do you get on this roll?

Camena: (I am conflicted on the topic of what I really want).

Camena: 32.

Camena: 32 successes.

Vance: Camena pulls a headset out of nowhere, which, how does that even exist?

Icaria: Meanwhile, I roll four.

Vance: "All according to keikaku."

Vance: ST's Note: keikaku means plan

Vance: I will let you set the scene of the boat that supposedly has the Mirror coming into port and you preparing to ambush #4

Icaria: I'm calling this one Spinel and setting him and Saphir to keep eyes on the ship.

Svetlana: I feel the urge to indicate that Svetlana is making the first moves on slave-holding merchant houses while preparations is happening, probably involving hitting up Jaspindar for info on scandals she can legit squeeze a few outliers on as Magistrate, but only to whatever extent can happen without needing to play out something and interrupt this forthcoming scene. (If that's not at all, that's fine, but I felt the impulse to indicate!)

Icaria: Icaria is also making the first moves in his Slave Literacy Through Trashy Fiction program.

Camena: It's not a pretty boat. It's the kind of boat so specifically and purposefully rundown that it can't be anything but a ruse. It's coming in not long after dark really sets in. The folks are quiet, the port is empty, and anyone awake is halfway down their third cup. Such a ruse! Such a perfect trap! So obvious to anyone with the insight to see it, and a pluckable as a plum!

Camena: Who wants to be where IRL to the boat and the port and whatnot.

Icaria: Why an obvious trap?

Camena: I thought we were doing this as a trap?

Camena: Did I stroke out somewhere?

Icaria: Oh, it's obviously pluckable, not an obvious ruse.

Camena: I was going for like, a double-reverse-untrap.

Icaria: Okay, fine; you're in charge of traps.

Svetlana: Like a ripe fruit that is a fruit cake that is not a lie.

Vance: You'll probably all want Stealth rolls to hide in place.

Icaria: I have no such ability, so I am simply in a nearby noodle shop awaiting the sound of a ruckus.

Icaria: Saphir and Spinel orbit somewhere out of sight.

Icaria: Honestly, knowing he wants the thing is enough.

Camena: …so, I really shouldn't have spent my whole stealthmongery on that.

Zanara: Zanara has zero stealth, so she's probably a ways away. Away enough that she doesn't spoil the trap, anyhow.

Zanara: Possibly on another boat.

Svetlana: I like the roof of something overlooking the docks, although I'm pondering what kinds of things actually exist.

Icaria: Yes, this is a job to be left to the sneaks and supplementary summoned sneak help.

Vance: @elliott There is at least a day between the rumors and this. You have time to renew it.

Camena: #wecool

Vance: @rand Saphir gets 14 dice for stealth, 'cause he's invisible.

Vance: I forget what Spinel is, so how much makes sense?

Icaria: I made him up just now, but, probably "okay stealth rising to really good if he is in the water and you are not."

Camena: A surprisingly demure 4 successes for Camena on stealthing her place in the plot.

Icaria: Out of the water he isn't particularly anything.

Vance: Let's give him 14 dice underwater.

Icaria: Seven for Saphir and six for Spinel, then.

Vance: Now, everyone gets to roll Perception + Integrity.

Svetlana: Is there a decent roof, ideally with a random protrusion on it to stand next to? If not, then probably the crow's nest of a small nearby boat.

Vance: Yes, there are lots of rooftop perches.

Icaria: Wow, three tens for 8 successes.

Camena: Woooooow. 2 successes.

Zanara: Blessedly that's Caste for me. 3m personal, 3 successes.

Camena: That is honestly surprising.

Svetlana: 3 successes on Stealth, and that's with Willpower. 1 on Perception + Integrity unless hearing or smell applies.

  • Svetlana hangs her head in shame.

Icaria: If it's Perception + Integrity, that's probably a wizard thing, so it's not surprising that it takes a wizard to see it.

Icaria: Never fear, when you fall under Numbuh Four's insidious mind's eye, I will solo the rest of the circle for your sakes.

Camena: I see what you did thar.

Icaria: Or at least that's how I'll tell it in the novelization.

Vance: The honeypot ship sails into port, put all according to Camena's designs. There is a dizzying urge in the minds of those watching, but it passes as you draw strength from your circlemates' resolve. You see a man with the same nondescript features as #4 in a docker's outfit. The figure walks past the ship's captain, who shows no hint of even perceiving him, before moving in towards the ship's depths.

Vance: (Everyone who saw that, your magic Intimacy falls to major and can't go back up.)

Svetlana: I memorize his scent.

Icaria: Objection!

Svetlana: Fine, I sniff the air first.

Icaria: Before this occurs, I attempt to weave counter-sorcery.

Icaria: If that doesn't work, I guess I'll know that isn't sorcery.

Vance: There's no sorcery to counter.

Vance: #4 smells familiar.

Icaria: Curiouser and curiouser.

Svetlana: Is #4 actually Icaria? Because that would be a seriously dramatic reveal.

Icaria: It's true that you've never seen us in the same place before.

Icaria: I mean, really?

Icaria: Icaria "randomly" teleports away, and then #4 brings the other Dynasts?

Vance: Roll Perception + Awareness with all your scent bonuses.

Vance: (Jenna, specifically.)

Icaria: Then Icaria starts trying to convince you to unseal the tomb, and evokes its hideous necro-master by "accident"?

  • Svetlana looks up what her scent bonuses actually are, which are surprisingly minimal for Awareness + scent.
  • Svetlana activates Sensory Acuity Prana for 5m, then rolls.

Svetlana: 9 successes.

Vance: There are many scents that cling to him—lapsang souchong, tobacco smoke, sweat—but there is also the smell of the strange red soil from the Tomb of the Anathema. This can't be a lingering trace. He's been there more recently than any of the other Dynasts.

Icaria: Does he smell like Iron Snow?

Vance: Nope.

Vance: Different people.

Vance: And not smooching.

Svetlana: One bonus I apparently do get with scent is the ability to scent his mood, making an automatically successful read intentions action to determine a target's disposition.

Vance: Oh!

Svetlana: So I'm curious what his mood smells like as he enters the ship.

Vance: He's currently cautious.

Svetlana: That makes sense!

Vance: It'd be called suspicion, but he's too sure of himself for it to be just that.

Icaria: Hooray!

Icaria: My plan was a complete success!

Svetlana: I don't know if we actually have a plan. I'm kind of assuming we're not letting him leave the boat but if Icaria said it was in the between-scenes.

Icaria: I actually don't care what happens now.

Vance: Do you want to confront him aboard the ship, or after he debarks?

Icaria: I just wanted to know if he would come.

Svetlana: That's true, that is actually good information.

Icaria: It's not necessary to my plan to confront him at all, but someone else may want to.

Camena: Pity the ship's crew disembarked. And with all that firedust aboard, right inside the hold where the fake mirror was!

Icaria: Or, we could just signal all the crew to leave and… yes, that.

Icaria: Zanara probably won't allow it, though.

Camena: I am trying to decide if I am serious.

Icaria: Since he's only probably evil.

Camena: I am probably not serious.

Camena: But I am open to being serious.

Svetlana: I'm honestly not sure I'm OK with it, and I'm more morally loose than Zanara.

Icaria: Icaria was definitely serious when he suggested it, but it probably isn't the time.

Svetlana: I mean, he is very probably evil, but it is definitely not a certainty.

Icaria: There's like a 90% chance of it being deserved and expedient, but there's always that 10%.

Zanara: Zanara does not hold with killing the defenseless, and blowing the dude up unawares definitely qualifies.

Icaria: Nobody with abs like that is defenseless, but fine.

Svetlana: In fairness, they could be fake.

Camena: I suppose it would annoy Vi.

Svetlana: That could be why he's scared of the mirror.

Svetlana: He's actually a 90-pound weakling.

Icaria: Gosh, magistrate. Who knows what evil lurks in the bods of men as you do?

Svetlana: He's just using Illusory Atlas Style.

Svetlana: If we're not planning to confront him, I kind of want to track back along his path here.

Icaria: Oh, yeah! That's the one that million-year-old masters use to do the trick where they throw off their robes and have rippling old-man pecs, right?

Zanara: He will probably realize this is a trap when he finds out the mirror's not there, though. Dare say he might try to pull a vanishing act.

Vance: Retracing his tracks would be Perception + Survival.

Camena: There's a fake mirror there, for sure.

Camena: And Camena's got enough Occult to at least make the fanciness right.

Svetlana: 6m, 8 successes. I am assuming that "2 successes on tracking" and "upgrades its predecessor. You add your Perception in dice, or a minimum of 2 successes on tracking" don't stack.

Icaria: And Icaria can assist on plausibility.

Vance: Which two Charms?

Svetlana: Keen Taste and Smell / Unsurpassed Taste and Smell.

Vance: Right.

Vance: Although it's your Perception in successes, not dice.

Svetlana: Oh, then 9 successes.

Svetlana: Evdeniya drops lightly down onto the docks a ways back from the ship and begins walking back along his path at a proper Magistrate's stroll, as if it were perfectly obvious rather than a remarkable feat of perception which way he came. It is one of the faster strolls but still a stroll, because dignity.

Vance: His path is bizarrely difficult to follow—there is nothing so simple as a footprint or a stray cigarette ash. Instead you track him by the absence of tracks, following faint scent leads back to the Satrap's estate.

Vance: Or rather, Evdeniya makes her way back towards the estate.

Svetlana: (One must learn how to stroll extremely quickly so that one can frustrate enemies forced to follow you with how slow you're going while also arriving in time to not annoy important figures at your destination.)

Svetlana: (These are key life skills, much like learning to come to the point while meandering and looking properly disheveled while in court-perfect attire.)

Vance: Zanara and Icaria are sitting this out, but do Camena or the elemental squad do anything?

Svetlana: Enh, it can be tracking by the absence of tracks in actuality, there's just, you know, appearances to consider. While trying to make sure no one sees me.

Vance: But of course.

Camena: Camena is definitely going along.

Camena: It's Team Disguise FTW.

Icaria: Saphir trails at a distance just in case the magistrate needs an exit strategy.

Icaria: Spinel attempts to seduce a girl who will eventually turn out to be an anemone.

Vance: When you're in a relationship with your anemones, that's called fishmesisitude.

Icaria: I'm afraid he's that age.

Vance: Do the two of you gather the rest of your circle before going to Jaspindar's?

Svetlana: It's like the Classic of Emptiness: following nothing rather than something, remaining unseen while polishing your appearance, the spirits of the land and sky will fall into the dragon's mouth.

Zanara: Zanara would do her best to follow along at a fair distance, so as not to give away the game.

Svetlana: Evdeniya is not taking active action to gather her circle because she assumes that if they're not following her they're following #4.

Vance: Is there anyone actually going after #4?

Icaria: He's probably just going off to sulk somewhere.

Icaria: "Curses!" he cries. "I have been foiled by the machinations of a superior brain. It was probably Icaria, who I am finding increasingly attractice as a result."

Icaria: "I shall instantly retreat to my secret lair and begin making chocolate to deliver to him anonymously."

Svetlana: (I don't think so as a player, that's just Evdeniya's vague assumption and why she isn't concerned about meeting up with him without the circle handy.)

Vance: Okay.

Vance: Those of you en route to Jaspindar's estate arrive there.

Svetlana: Did he pass through the main entrance?

  • Icaria makes a note of this speech to put in the mouth of Mercuryday, the villain of his book.

Vance: He came by way of the servant's kitchen entrance.

Vance: The same one y'all have used when sneaking in here.

Svetlana: It is probably unreasonable to keep breaking into Jaspindar's estate all the time, but I'm kind of curious about where specifically he came from.

Vance: You could probably go in the front door politely and pick up his trail, but you'd have to explain yourself

Svetlana: I take off my Magistrate's hat and invoke Seasoned Criminal Method's dissonance so that people who spot me through my not-great stealth who don't know me personally but have vaguely seen me about won't recognize me as that Magistrate that's been around. Totally unrecognizable. No hat. Well, also, a much more generic look, the face just kind of sets in it. Then I'll sneak in.

Vance: Make a new stealth roll for this infiltration.

Svetlana: It's really easy when you can hear people's every little movement, when you can practically smell their thoughts—you barely have to stick to shadows, you barely have to step quietly. Those skills are great, but mostly, you move where they're not looking, when they're not looking. You step when they're not listening, or amidst the waves of other sounds.

Svetlana: That said, a mere 3 successes.

Vance: Take two stunt dice on top of that.

Svetlana: 5 successes!

Vance: That's easily enough for the stray chef wandering about. You could probably steal some rice balls and never get caught.

Svetlana: I frown sternly upon official corruption of that sort. A Magistrate should not take advantage of their position as a Night Caste Solar to steal rice balls from the mouths of the hungry.

Icaria: You'd be stealing from the mouths of the obscenely wealthy.

Svetlana: Well, OK, I frown without any meaningful sternness upon the idea. It's more of a faint smile and a shake of the head at the thought.

Icaria: I mean, did you give the chakrams back?

Svetlana: It is Heaven's will that I have all boomerangs under the sun.

Svetlana: What good would it do to give them back? They would only return to me!

Vance: The layout of the estate, as previously mentioned, is three floors with a spiral staircase at the center. #4 did not come down the stairs—instead, his path leads out into a small courtyard, walled in within the estate, with flowerbeds and a fountain. According to all signs you can find, he just stepped out of the fountain.

Svetlana: This is probably something sorcerous, but perhaps it is something larcenous; I evaluate it with the eye of one who has seen the entrance to many hidden thief's passages. Well, technically, that was my supporting character in Icaria's novel.

Vance: Roll Awareness. With… sight bonuses.

Icaria: Ah, yes, the travelling tailor Svetlana, who is secretly a Realm magistrate in disguise.

Svetlana: Is it a new scene and/or hour? (If it is a new scene, Sensory Acuity has lapsed; if it is a new hour, I will renew it, but if not, I won't.)

Vance: I don't think we've had a proper scene break.

Svetlana: It turns out not to matter, as I roll no 9s or 6s. 5 successes.

Svetlana: I should really get some spectacles.

Vance: The statue depicts Danaa'd diving to the bottom of the ocean and sealing away the Anathema. Beneath her hand is a tile with a thin coating of real black jade. When you press it, there is a sound of scraping machinery beneath the fountain, and it begins moving, revealing an empty space beneath. A slender silver ladder, made of some unknown substance, descends into the dark.

Svetlana: "Saphir?" Svetlana says, hopefully.

Svetlana: She ponders for a moment, then also tries, "Camena?"

Icaria: Saphir drops down at your side.

Vance: "All I can do is hear things, Aunt Svetlana, so I'm not sure how much you're expecting me to help."

  • Camena appears nearby.

Icaria: "Mm?"

Camena: "It is quite a piece of work," she admits. But she's eye-groping the fountain, so who knows what she's talking about.

Vance: Don't ogle the personifications of virtue!

Svetlana: "Hearing things is very important," Svetlana says. "You should feel proud. But in this case, what I had hoped from you was different. Could you inform Icaria of this, and that I… we?… are descending? He and Zanara may feel free to tell Jaspindar if sneaking in is unrealistic or against their preferences. "

Camena: "C'mon cousin," Camena whispers. "Let's live dangerous."

Svetlana: Svetlana lives dangerously.

Vance: "Yes, ma'am." The air elemental flits away to find Icaria, and relays the message.

Svetlana: Three years later, as she ski-jumps over Ahlat's head with her feet strapped to two giant sharks, she realizes that perhaps she should have done something about #4 instead of merely living dangerously.

Svetlana: Wait, no. She… descends the ladder!

  • Camena follows.

Vance: So…

Vance: Both of y'all are gonna need to make Stamina + Integrity rolls.


Camena: That is…

Camena: …a very specific combination.

Vance: Because vaporized pattern spider venom begins to flood the shaft as you touch the ladder.

Icaria: Hubris, y'all.

Kukla: :open_mouth:

Icaria: Now all your wives are dead.

Svetlana: 1 success!

Camena: 2 successes!

Vance: Oh, boy.

Svetlana: This is probably how we came to be related.

Icaria: This is exactly the kind of existence-ravelling effect my sorcery was intended to prevent!

Vance: You both start hallucinating.

Vance: Poison, not mind control!

Icaria: Mind poison!

Vance: Is that a cheap exploit on my part? Maybe.

Camena: If it hit Integrity, it's mind!

Vance: It's hitting your source code.

Icaria: Don't try and apply your petty categories to my awe-inspiring mystic bans!

Vance: This is reality-warping super-stuff.

Camena: Wait.

Camena: Wait.

Camena: It's vaporized?

Vance: Yes.

Camena: So, Svetlana should have noticed, yes?

Camena: She smells the things.

Vance: Not in time for you to avoid it,

Camena: Uhm

Icaria: Meanwhile, Saphir reaches me with his message.

Camena: Wits + Awareness!

Icaria: I instantly recognize that Camena and Svetlana have strayed from the beautiful simplicity of my plan and will need to be rescued.

Vance: Okay, Svetlana can make a Wits + Awareness roll to detect odorless venom in time to push you away.

Icaria: I throw money at the noodlesmith and book it in their direction.

Icaria: Jaspindar's estate has a wall, so I'll just wait for a good moment and jump over it.

Vance: Hup.

Camena: Nothing is odorless; only undetectable to the spectrum of human awareness.

Vance: Fate is odorless.

Camena: Liiiiies.

Icaria: Meanwhile, I try to think of a way that this turn of events can still be consistent with my theory.

Icaria: Icaria is having difficulty returning to my earlier notion of Sidereal/Getimian war on account of not knowing what either of those things are.

Svetlana: Fate has a characteristic smell to anyone who has meted it out to dozens, seen its twists and turns, learned the tang of the bitterness before the irony. It isn't bitter or sweet, it isn't tangy or salty, but it is iron. It is jade.

Vance: Take two stunt dice.

Svetlana: 9 successes.

Svetlana: ("She can add scentless, tasteless subjects to her scent library and taste index.")

Vance: Svetlana scents the pattern spider venom the instant it touches the air. Acting on pure instinct, she pushes Camena out of the way, to safety.

Vance: (Pattern spider venom is now in your scent index.)

Camena: "Svetlana!"

Camena: It's totally an action movie trailer moment.

Icaria: You mean, "Evdeniya!"

Vance: So, Svetlana is the only one who begins hallucinating—an awful waking nightmare where she flees endlessly down a curving road. Behind her she hears Evdeniya, the real Evdeniya, calling out for help as she lies wounded on the ground—impaled on a sword, gored by a wild beast, drowning, crushed beneath avalanches. She dies over and over and over, and every time you can't do anything but leave her behind.

Icaria: My status as the most effectively closeted person in the circle continues to astonish me.

Vance: To Camena, Svetlana is kind of… transparent.

Vance: She's Back-to-the-Futuring.

Icaria: I have decided to arrive on the scene.

Vance: You see Camena, a slightly transparent Svetlana, and a Scooby Doo secret room.

Icaria: "Oh, gods! It's a clear case of… I don't know what this is."

Camena: "Whoever you are," Camena growls, trying to grab Svetlana by the shoulders but talking instead to someone unseen and possibly not even present. "Show yourself. Or I will burn down everything. Fix this."

Vance: But nobody answered.

Icaria: "Two things. The second thing is me fixing this."

Icaria: "The first thing is, we're leaving."

Icaria: I hoist Svetlana in my arms and leap over the wall for somewhere more congenial for emergency existential medicine, ie, anywhere but here.

Icaria: I wave a hand as if to say "Camena, Saphir can carry over the wall (minus your dignity) or you can get out your own way, at your preference."

Svetlana: (I think I can't actually react to this because my reactions are pre-included in the hallucination, so I will ignore my vague sense that I'm supposed to be roleplaying the hallucination in some fashion.)

Vance: You have a hard time hoisting Svetlana. She's solid enough to the touch, but when you try to pick her up… it doesn't work.

Vance: (Oh, I was assuming you would play it out.)

Icaria: Hm.

Icaria: I use my spirit-toucher magic.

Zanara: Zanara isn't far behind Icaria, and stares at the whole scene. "…what in the…"

Vance: In Svetlana's inner world, the landscape begins to change. She's a young woman in the theater, pursued by… why don't you tell us about where her fear of spirits came from—

Vance: Svetlana isn't dematerialized. It's more like she's not there, or at least, partially so.

  • Camena grabs Icaria's hand. "Sorcery?" It's angry, and desperate, and angry again.

Camena: (Clarification: This is a suggestion, not an accusation)

Icaria: "It's an occult shenanigan."

Icaria: "I really wish I could deal with this without anybody noticing us."

Zanara: "Let me worry about that. You help her."

Icaria: "An existential malady… the self vanishing under the weight of care… "

Icaria: (I know what to do but Jenna has to carry the scene along a bit before it can land with the correct weight.)

Camena: (D'accord.)

Svetlana: Svetlana's fear of spirits is sadly rather mundane. She is a young and remarkably undistinguished girl from a young and remarkably undistinguished family, and there is a rock outside the house on a cold winter night, and a moon above the rock, and her father is telling her stories about ghosts. Sometimes ghosts, sometimes spirits. For a person of Creation he is surprisingly bad on the difference. He's pretty dim. There's just a world out there of all kinds of nasty things, and they're very scary, and sometimes, when you go outside, you will meet a tall pale lady in the darkness and the cold wind will blow through you and when you look back you won't be anywhere at all.

Svetlana: There's supposed to be awful monsters in the wheat. She never encounters them, which is because "they're spirits."

Svetlana: There's supposed to be worse things in the forest. She never encounters them because going there would be dumb.

Icaria: (He was correct on that score but never mind.)

Vance: A young Svetlana stands on a stage. The audience is full of ghosts and devils, animal-headed totem spirits and strange aberrations that never existed anywhere but her own head. The trees of the forest twine around the walls of the theater, destroying the division between the two places as dreams do. Your audience eagerly awaits your performance.

Svetlana: "I can't go on like this," she hisses to the curtain. "I can smell everyone in the audience."

Svetlana: She doesn't mention that they're all monsters. This is just an assumed part of the theater.

Svetlana: The audience will eat you alive if they can.

Vance: "Go on," comes an unbidden voice, an echo of every memory of awful authority you have. "The show must go on, Tepet Evdeniya, for the rest of your life."

Svetlana: "That's only if I make a deal with you," young Svetlana argues, because obviously evil spirits, raksha, and theater managers are basically the same. "You can't make me perform unless I make a deal or make an incorrect sacrifice."

Svetlana: She looks to the audience for help. "That's right, isn't it? I don't have to do this unless I make a… " Her voice goes a lot quieter as she mutters, "deal with you" because the audience does not look inviting.

Svetlana: Svetlana tries to remember the other things. "Or eat something a spirit already ate," she says.

Vance: The voice coheres—not into a form, precisely, but the outline of one. From the corner of your eye, you could almost mistake it for a person. Head on, that mistake becomes impossible. "This is the punishment given to you by fate for your crimes."

Svetlana: "…oh," Svetlana says.

Svetlana: She lowers her head.

Svetlana: "I guess," she agrees.

Svetlana: She steps back a bit. She looks out at the audience, flinches, closes her eyes, and thinks. "Uh," she says. "Once upon a time, there was a… heroic librarian?" She tries to remember a play and vaguely remembers the plot of Icaria's novel.

Icaria: Which is conveniently fairly similar to the plot of your life!

Icaria: Although in the novel men swoon more.

Vance: The crowd approves of the introduction. Bookshelves begin to take a misty form on the stage behind you.

Svetlana: "To advance the cause of literacy and justice," she says. "To bring the light of wisdom and truth to the darkness of Gloam he came, with his trusty associates… um… Tepet Svetlana? Anzara? And Namica?"

Svetlana: It becomes clear very rapidly, as if the audience didn't already know, that her stage presence is kind of… bad.

Svetlana: "There was a mirror," she says. "Enter mirror, stage left."

Svetlana: "I mean, sorry, sorry, that was an instruction."

Svetlana: "Don't enter mirror, stage left. I didn't say that. That just happens."

Vance: Formless stagehands wheel the mirror onto the stage.

Vance: They give you cutting looks as they walk away, as if to say, "this better be going somewhere."

Svetlana: Svetlana sweats. She risks opening one eye to see whether she is still alive.

Vance: Seems like it.

Svetlana: "And suddenly the boat didn't explode!" she exclaims dramatically.

Svetlana: "(dramatic exclamation)" she adds.

Vance: "BUT THAT'S A NON SEQUITUR!" the audience roars, fanged maws and animal snouts and ghostly voices all commingling in a demented choir.

Vance: The noise is deafening, overwhelming. It is a mountain, and you are but a grain of sand.

Svetlana: "It's art!" she protests, in instinctive defiance, but it is almost instantly overridden and she cringes back onto the stage.

Svetlana: "I mean, if that's OK," she says, too softly for the mountain to hear, unless it has really good hearing, which some mountains probably do.

Icaria: "It appears," says Icaria in a slightly-less-fictional layer of the world, "that she's being ground into nothing by maddening hallucinations that wear away at her very being."

Vance: Back in reality, Zanara, Camena, and Icaria struggle to aid the poisoned Svetlana, still to no avail. "It's a shame, you know," says a newcomer's voice, appearing as if out of nowhere from behind one of the courtyard's pillars. "I could have disarmed the wards, if I'd known you were coming. But since you've been trying to play me for a fool, I suppose it's your just deserts."

Icaria: "Deal with that, please," says Icaria, not really paying attention. One thing at a time is the best way!

Icaria: "The only solution," he says, looking serious, "is to fight back the pressure of the esoteric with the mundane."

Icaria: I take a deep breath.

Icaria: "Okay, so, on the way here I saw a really cute guy trying to carry three baskets of oranges and I really wanted to stop and help him, but I was in a hurry because of… "

Icaria: continues to spool out his internal monologue while other people confront #4.

Zanara: Zanara straightens up to her full (and considerable) height, glaring at the source of the voice. "Save your snappy remarks. No one here is in a mood for wit."

Camena: "I suggest you begin explaining how to fix this," Camena says, cocking her firewand and fingering the trigger. "Expeditiously."

Icaria: Meanwhile, a few hallucinations deeper, the angry voices of mountains and theater critics is joined by another voice, softer but gaining, going on at length about hot dudes.

Vance: "I see little reason for politeness, seeing as how you've been spying on me and causing general trouble throughout the city. It's quite unfortunate that Evdeniya here triggered the poison—it's exquisitely rare, magical. Right now, she's living through alternative possibilities, what her life could have been, drawn from fragments of her unconscious mind. If you want to help her, you'll need to give her a bridge she can follow back to this reality. Setting me on fire, I can promise, won't help."

Camena: "What will help, then?"

Icaria: "…I mean, I didn't exactly intend to conjure forth a boyfriend, or rather, I did, but it seemed harmless on account of it probably wouldn't work, but now that he's here I'm not sure about the whole two colors thing, does that make me shallow? Anyway he might be evil although I guess that also applies to most of the other guys I sort of know… "

Camena: "Especially seeing as how our dear sorcerer is on the task."

Vance: "…I'm not sure that your sorcerer is helping."

Svetlana: (Svetlana is quiet for eight minutes and thirty-two seconds before she attempts to pick up the story with the sinister Number Ghost that the Librarian-Hero lured out, unless events intercede or the crushing force imposed its own schedule. I suspect we're only a few minutes in, thus I am being quiet.)

Icaria: I assure you, my response to the problem is logical, sensible, and sane.

Vance: As Svetlana stage-fights the menacing mathematical phantom, she hears a faint, distracting whisper like an itch in the back of her throat that she can't reach, no matter how much she twists her tongue around. It's a familiar voice, though she can't name it, going on inanely about romance.

Zanara: "Then help in his stead!"

Icaria: The realness of the voice is unquestionable, since you couldn't possibly make this shit up.

Svetlana: It is probably the director. Who is probably drunk, with a small chance of trying to give me a cue.

Vance: "All I know about you is what I've read in the spy reports. I don't know enough to call her back, even if I particularly wanted to. Which, currently, I'm not sure I do."

Zanara: "Oh, I assure you, you do," Zanara says. "Trust me."

Camena: Camena looks conflicted between setting him on a crazy amount of fire and helping Svetlana. But in the end, is that a choice? She gives him a raw look, anger and sadness, and rushes over to the Night caste.

Icaria: "…I was really trying to talk to the guy at dinner the other night, but it seemed as though he was just not interested in Essence cascades, which is kind of odd since they're just fascinating, don't you agree, and he really was very cute, although not as built as some of the guys around here, which I thought would make him more approachable for me but I guess not, also I suppose I drank too much, because the chocolate was a lot stronger than I was expecting… "

Camena: "Watch him," she says simply to Zanara.

Icaria: Icaria breaks off his monologue just long enough to say "But don't make eye contact."

Camena: She kneels down beside Svetlana and tries to smile at Icaria, speaking softly but confidently so as not to disturb his monologue either.

Icaria: Then, as if to make up for this interruption, he starts comparing upper arm development in #4, Iron Snow, and Majal at some length and in detail.

Vance: "You threaten me," #4 says, approaching Svetlana, "so clearly you have no idea of who I am, or what I am capable of. Do not mistake me—I'm stating a fact, not making a threat. I know who you are, and have intimations of what you are, and for that reason I wouldn't threaten you." He takes a small scroll of paper with Old Realm calligraphy written on it and presses it to Svetlana's forehead.

Camena: "You know, you said we might be cousins and I think it was a joke, but there's so much earnestness in you it's hard to tell, and honest to Sol, lady, if there was ever someone I wanted in my family tree, it's gotta be you."

Vance: Camena's words come through even clearer in Svetlana's mind. Her forehead tingles, like someone is painting a tattoo on it.

Svetlana: Svetlana hesitates. This doesn't compute very well.

Vance: Outside of her mind, the characters on the prayer strip begin to glow emerald. "I've never actually tried this before, but it could help."

Camena: "Explanations."

Camena: It's a demand, and afterwords, she resumes her own monologue, trying to figure out where their blood might converge, three or four great-grands back.

Icaria: I can't explain anything! I'm too busy babbling!

Vance: "I'm trying to prophesy this exact moment, right here, right now. It should act as an anchor for her to find herself back to reality."

Svetlana: "Such sentiments," Svetlana murmurs, turning over Camena's words in her mind. "They don't belong in a play. They're too real." Unfortunately, this isn't her realizing that the play is an illusion. It's her going meta.

Icaria: Just follow the stream of consciousness into the light!

Svetlana: "That's the problem with these artificial things," Svetlana says. "We get up here and we lie, we lie so badly." She waves a hand at the mirror, still not getting up. "It knows, you know. We get up here on the stage and everything is false, and it shouldn't be. The truth in us is what is most right."

Vance: The mirror reflects a reflection, which reflects outward into infinite repetition. It's you each time, but never the same you. Tepet Evdeniya. Dessa Svetlana. Chosen of the Unconquered Sun. There are so many of you here, and none of it is real.

Svetlana: Svetlana interrupts a half-born monologue about how she didn't know what truth was when she was trying to write plays, didn't know what truth was until she was running from Evdeniya's enemies in the cold, and just stares at the mirror instead.

Svetlana: "Of course not," she says. "Of course it's not. Not even that," she says, meaning the Chosen bit. It can't be real, the part where the mirror shows her as Chosen. Because she is a Night.

Svetlana: The endless burning light in her was never meant to be seen in mirrors.

Svetlana: It is never in what shows itself. It will not be seen in the actress on the stage; but it will attempt to flood the stage and the play itself. (She's going to attempt to address the poison as a miscellaneous Medicine action with the usual +2 difficulty penalty. This may not even be possible, which is fine.)

Vance: In this context, it's no longer necessary.

Icaria: Arguably you could also ignite your anima and obscure your identity, although it might just make things much worse.

Svetlana: Actually, just igniting my anima at the base level is probably the next step if metaphysical mumbo-jumbo about Nights and waiting for what y'all on the outside are doing don't suffice.

Vance: The mirror's surface blackens, your reflections burning into shadow that recede into the depths of the black glass. The director, the scenery, the audience—in the dark mirror you see the void beneath their pretense of being.

Vance: With Camena and Icaria's voices to guide you, you walk out of the darkness, back into the real world.

Icaria: "…and that's why I've decided that #4 would probably be unsatisfying in bed."

Camena: "I dunno, kid. Seems like he's an enormous dick."

Vance: "I really hope my divination is what healed her, because I'm going to be so annoyed if it's your prattle."

Svetlana: "I'm afraid it was Icaria's literary attainment," Svetlana lies.

Icaria: "Ultimately, the mundane is the surest answer to the existential. Isn't that what Claidis said?"

Icaria: I'm rolling Intelligence + Lore to make this argument incredibly cogent and convincing, to annoy him.

Vance: "Now that you've stalked me, spied on me, tried to break into my personal office and ruined a literally priceless poison trap, I suppose you plan on yelling at me?"

Icaria: Seven successes!

Icaria: Sorry, my references are flawless.

Vance: Your theory sounds plausible to him.

Svetlana: Incidentally, does Watchman's Infallible Eye suggest he's worth profiling? And is his mood accurate to his words?

Svetlana: I haven't interacted with him for five minutes yet so I haven't done the profiling yet, I'm just subtly establishing Watchman's Infallible Eye while asking the question. ^_^

Vance: He's definitely pinging your Larceny-senses.

Camena: "That was your office?"

Vance: And his mood is severely more dire than he is letting on. He's really mad! This is very inconvenient!

Vance: "Most of the day I spend advising the satrap, or her spymaster. When I am not, I come here, where I can be safe and secure in my privacy. Could, rather."

Vance: "Now I'll have to, I don't know, build a hut in Jaspindar's godsforsaken murder forest."

Zanara: "Or you could be honest with us," Zanara says, looming behind him. "Just a thought."

Camena: "Could," Camena says, and then a very quick succession of things happens: She hits the switch, starting the fountain moving back into place, drops a satchel of the strange, volatile stuff she uses for ammo, and fires a blast downwards just as the fountain finally makes its seal again.

Vance: Make a threaten roll, Camena.


Vance: "Oh Jupiter fucking damn it."

  • Icaria frowns at the increasing amounts of evidence that this guy is in fact a Sidereal, which Icaria is completely unprepared to pick up on in-character.
  • Camena stands back up, rolling her neck with a satisfying crack. She's smiling again.

Camena: "Oh yeah, that hits the spot. Squaresies, mate."

Vance: He's not mad enough to Join Battle, but he definitely is mad enough to punch Camena.

Svetlana: "If I may ask," Svetlana says, without getting up, "why was one of you standing apart from the others in the tomb?'

Vance: What's her Evasion?

Svetlana: Svetlana has had many, many reactions, but all the previous reactions missed their conversational moment even worse than that one did.

Camena: (Camena's at 4.)

Vance: (Will you stunt/Charm it up?)

Camena: (Whatever happened to system transparency? :P)

Svetlana: (Try backflipping. That always helps.)

Vance: He's using an Excellency and nasty kung fu you don't want to be hit by.

Camena: Hmmm.

Camena: Camena's seen punches before; style or no style, it's hard enough to keep a strong blow if someone is pressing at the inner elbow. All the more so if they're pressing at it with the butt of a firewand shod in orichalcum.

Camena: +4 Excellency dice.

Icaria: For best results, stunt him into stepping on the switch and falling down his own office orifice.

Vance: So he lands the hit.

Camena: …oh man, that is pretty awesome.

Camena: Wait, what?

Vance: Oh, did you have more stuff?

Camena: I was gonna actually roll some dice?

Vance: For… defense?

Icaria: If he's actually going to toss out kung fu, I'm in range to Defend Other.

Zanara: Likewise.

Vance: You just get +1 per 2m.

Camena: Frigg.

Icaria: Now that I'm officially on the record as an Exigent of Xu Ui, I carry Sun's Brush without bothering to hide it.

Vance: Icaria and Zanara, roll Wits + Melee to react in time.

Zanara: Six.

Icaria: I smoothly spin my brush to put a stop to the blow, but I don't both trying to get in #4's way. I simply reach out and with the spear's point, I press the button that opens the hatch just as he puts his weight over the trapdoor.

Icaria: Five successes.

Vance: So what are your respective Parries?

Icaria: Five.

Zanara: Four.

Icaria: I'm pretty sure they stack; if he can beat nine, I'm just going home.

Vance: The combined force of your defense is enough to stop #4 cold. He stumbles backwards as Icaria triggers the fountain mechanism, finally taking a steady footing on the smoke still rising from the burnt ruin of his office. "My apologies. My emotions got the better of my professionalism."

Icaria: Well, that's a classy way to avoid a pratfall.

  • Camena emotes gratitude.

Vance: "These things do happen when you set a man's office on fire, you… you… [HUGE SWEARS]."

Icaria: "Are you actually a man? I was kind of assuming you were the guardian spirit of the Tomb of the Anathema assuming human form."

Svetlana: Svetlana dusts herself off. She starts pulling herself to her feet.

Camena: "Oooo. That one's new. Lovely little piece of vocab to pilfer."

Icaria: "But I'm pretty sure some of those words you're using don't date back quite so far."

Vance: "I can assure you that I am a man. My name is Sívana, although I doubt that you will remember it. I was born in a little village in the Southeast, named Ardent." Svetlana can feel genuine nostalgia on him. "And now I'm dealing with you four."

Svetlana: "In fairness," Svetlana says, "We are also dealing with you, Four."

Zanara: "I take it a spirit did not eat your name, then?"

  • Icaria writes the name down.

Camena: Covertly writes "Sivana, Jupiter" on her arm with a bit of leftover ammunition powder. Itches like hell, though!

Vance: Yeah, that's basically gone by the time you set it down.

Icaria: considers this.

Vance: "The monster in the Tomb did, in fact, eat my name. I can utter the sounds, and you might even remember their association with me for a few minutes, but soon enough it will slip from your knowledge. Even if you write it down, it will come to nothing."

  • Icaria continues listening to what's going on, but wanders over to a nearby stone wall.

Vance: (What are people's Resolves, and Intimacies they think might apply, distrust-wise?)

  • Icaria does a few spins for the look of the thing and then writes "Sivana" with deep strokes using Sun's Brush.

Icaria: I think mine is, like, 1.

Camena: I think I'm at Resolve 3? And as for Intimacies… I honestly got nothing.

Camena: Unless our Bad Foemance is now an Intimacy.

Icaria: It's Manipulation + Socialize / 2, right?

Vance: No, Wits + Integrity / 2.

Icaria: Oh, then I have 4.

Zanara: Resolve 3, and a Defining Intimacy for questioning everything but myself.

Svetlana: Honestly and literally, what's immediately on Svetlana's mind is "Major Principle "I must continue to record my judgments and adventures," which makes his claim not something she can accept. (Though not "unacceptable.") Because being able to write down Sivana will be important. Resolve 3.

Icaria: Under some circumstances, I might be able to use "Evil is when you willfully avert your eyes from the truth," but that's doubtful.

Zanara: Should that apply? It's more philosophical than "I assume everyone's bullshitting me."

Svetlana: But in terms of trusting him as a person, I don't have anything.

Zanara: (I also have one for "Knowledge is power" at Minor if it doesn't.)

Vance: Zanara does not buy his story about having his name eaten. Even if the part about it getting distorted seems kinda true, he's lying about how it happened.

Zanara: I would like to read intentions on this lying liar who lies.

Vance: What are you trying to figure out?

Svetlana: (Technically, does that mean I form a Minor Intimacy towards his name having been eaten?)

Zanara: Why he's lying, mostly, or barring that, what he's even doing with a magic secret basement fort.

Vance: (Nah.)

Vance: You get the sense that he's the kind of person who maintains a web of lies around him, always—he's deceiving the Dynasts, and he's deceiving you, all in pursuit of some hidden ulterior motive.

Vance: He also has an Intimacy of thinking that secret rooms with trick doors are real neat.

Icaria: Oh, they are indeed!

Icaria: Maybe we can still bone.

Camena: Vanity, thy name is Carl.

Zanara: "I take it lying has become habit for you," Zanara says. "However you came across such a name, it matters not. Why are you here? Speak plainly!"

Icaria: Icaria takes his cue from this and adds "Frankly, we're not convinced there was ever a monster in the Tomb to begin with."

Vance: "I'd come to confront you about why you were spying on me earlier, with the fake shipment."

Camena: "Fake shipment of the thing you went to steeeeeeal?"

Svetlana: Svetlana gapes at him, although Camena summarized the reason better.

Camena: "Not that I can fault that, mind you. Love a good spot of larceny."

Vance: "Sure. I would use the term 'confiscate,' because that Mirror is many many kinds of dangerous, but I concede it would fall under the Realm's definition of… burglary, I think? Does a stationary boat count as a domicile?"

Vance: A small green spider scuttled out of his sleeve. He holds it up to his ear, and listens to its answer.

Camena: "Great. He's infested."

Icaria: "I'm baffled, and irritated by my bafflement, and I don't know why."

Svetlana: "Icaria is right, of course," Svetlana says. "There's really no reason to believe in this elaborate farce of a monster, or at least, not any that left. Um, you seem to have spider-ear, sir."

Svetlana: "Most likely the best solution is to re-engineer the island's geomancy so that the tomb is more useful for our purposes and call the matter resolved."

Vance: "Fill me in on what you know of the 'elaborate farce of a monster.' There are so many people in this city who don't know the truth that you can't have possibly heard the right version."

Icaria: "All the Dynasts we talked to seem to think they freed a monster from the Tomb."

Icaria: "We can't find any monster, and the thing imprisoned in the Tomb is still safely in it."

Camena: (Alright, folks, I'm slipping off to bed. Y'all push on and be awesome and assume that Camena is back there with a perma-raised eyebrow and a shit-eater grin.)

Icaria: "We did, however, find you, who appeared at the same time the "monster" disappeared."

Icaria: "Also we met your ex-boyfriend, who warned us of your sinister mind games, and decided you were worthy of further investigation."

Svetlana: "Oh," Svetlana says, realizing. "That was probably a sinister mind game, wasn't it? Thank you for reminding me."

Vance: "Ex-boyfriend? That's… wait a second."

Svetlana: Svetlana profiles his character.

Icaria: "The purple guy," Icaria adds helpfully, because some people have a lot of exes. "Knows Scorpion Style? A bit overconfident?"

Vance: "If there's someone here who knows about me, then all this is small potatoes compared to that person."

Icaria: "Look, I made him exposit in an orderly fashion, so you're going to have to do the same thing."

Vance: @jennamoran: What kind of information are you looking for?

Icaria: "If you're going to mutter about your schemes in front of us, I'm going to need you to clearly articulate your objectives. And maybe we'll even want to be helpful!"

Zanara: "We're quite capable of being friendly," Zanara offers, "when appropriate."

Vance: "I'd be perfectly willing to explain—well, everything that's going on in Gloam to you. But I would need you to promise to help me find whoever has compromised my cover. Camena, I believe you can make that oath official?"

Icaria: "That's backwards."

Icaria: "First, you explain why we want to do a thing; then we make decisions about whether we should do it."

Icaria: "You're trying to run drama in reverse."

Icaria: "Every character in a story has to want something, and you need to know those motivations to really appreciate their character."

Svetlana: She's not really tuned to see mystical things, of course. She's using the insight from… well, seeing people. She's looking for the things that don't compute, or the things that remind her of people doing particular schemes. Things that don't match his facade. Things that stand out to the senses of a Magistrate. She's tried to help the natural chaos of conversation wind him up and throw him off a bit, get him out of his easy comfort zone without being actively confrontational, for the past few minutes, to see what shines out through the cracks. Besides, er, green spiders in his sleeves. Don't think I've seen that one before.

Icaria: Incidentally, is the name I engraved into the stone (rather deeply) fading at all?

Vance: Take two stunt dice and a success, +1 Willpower

Vance: Yeah, it's fading.

Svetlana: 6 successes.

Svetlana: Versus his Guile, I think.

Icaria: There's got to be a way I can exploit this effect

Icaria: I can scratch his name out of gold, collect the dust, and then scratch it again once it regenerates.

Svetlana: (That is beautiful.)

Svetlana: (But surely using it to power some sort of sorcerous working would be better.)

Icaria: Hm, yes, a perpetual motion engine of some kind.

Icaria: Maybe if I poke a Sivana-shaped hole in the wall and use the motion of bricks falling back into place to create motive force?

Icaria: Or I suppose that might just summon Captain Marvel.

Icaria: Actually what will probably happen is that Icaria will just write "Sovana" into his next book and that will be what sticks.

Vance: This person definitely isn't a criminal, at least by any kind of criminal you've ever heard of. He has the mannerisms of a meek savant, except that he is the mastermind of an Exalt-baffling conspiracy and has the reflexes of a trained martial artist.

Icaria: Is that not how criminals are?

Svetlana: "Oh," Svetlana says, in tones of realization. "You're an official."

  • Icaria is completely unfamiliar with criminals below the Master Villain of fiction.

Vance: "Maybe we can reach a deal. I'll tell you everything that happened in the Tomb of the Anathema, up front, and then you can make up your minds on what to do."

Icaria: "That's a really good deal."

Vance: (He's rolling to bargain with you, so gimme Resolve if you want to refuse)

Vance: "Secrets are a strong currency."

Svetlana: She guesses a second-level title from the Thousand Scales, which I'm going to pretend is "Undersecretary of Taxation?"

Svetlana: (Second from the top, of course.)

Icaria: "It's true! So, we may as well trade in kind."

Icaria: I don't want to refuse; that's a really good deal since he's giving stuff away for free.

Zanara: "That, and one more thing—how to remember you clearly. If you tell us these things and we forget them, that is hardly a deal."

Svetlana: Resolve 3.

Vance: "You'll have to focus very, very hard. I can't help it."

Svetlana: Wait.

Svetlana: Is the deal literally just him telling us stuff?

Vance: (He beats your Resolve, so you'd need to spend a Willpower to walk out.)

Vance: In exchange for you at least hearing him out on operation not-his-ex-boyfriend.

Icaria: Icaria is already rather intent on fitting this guy into the plot of his next book, "The Hero of Words and the Forgetful Functionary."

Svetlana: Enh, OK, I'll be persuaded, sure.

Icaria: That said, if he trips the sorcerous protections again, we bounce.

Icaria: They're good for like, two more goes.

  • Svetlana tries to remember what she thought the bargain he was offering actually was, but, Arcane Fate can apparently affect players.

Vance: "The five of us—Jaspindar, Vi, Majal, Tran, and myself—entered into the Tomb. As I suspect you now know, it will open only to one with the blood of the Chosen in their veins. While the four of them were distracted with the traps, I assumed a monstrous form through certain secret martial arts, leaving my shadow in my place. I threatened the Dynasts to make them fearful and dependent on me, to keep them away from the Tomb in the future, to sow dissension among them, and to fulfill a number of other objectives which I doubt would be of interest to you. You were right all along, Icaria."


Icaria: I apply my Resolve to this and use "Evil is when you avert your eyes to the truth," a Defining Intimacy.

Icaria: …nobody's ever given me a compliment before and it's kind of suspicious.

Vance: He means it!

Zanara: "You would be surprised what is of interest to us."

Svetlana: I've given you compliments!

Svetlana: Albeit in a narrow field.

Vance: "Does the fate of cowherds and fig trees intrigue you, Zanara? There are exactly seven fruit, rather than nine, on the branch of a certain tree because of my actions, and young boy has found an oracular cow as a result of my actions in the Tomb, but that's not important right now."

Zanara: "…a cow."

Svetlana: "I feel deeply ashamed for having put so much effort into investigating such an upright and straightforward fellow," Evdeniya admits.

Icaria: "This sounds… bizarrely familiar."

Vance: "By definition, I don't think I'm an upright or straightforward person. But I am a responsible professional."

Icaria: I am beset by out-of-character knowledge and am considering the possibility of pouring ten motes into the Lore Excellency and flaring anima in the middle of the garden in an effort to remember what Sidereals are.

Zanara: "I'd ask if you're a god, because you certainly talk like one, but you said you were Chosen." The obvious question is left unspoken.

Vance: "Haven't you heard? I'm an Outcaste."

Svetlana: "To be honest," Svetlana says, "I have been struggling not to criticize your righteousness on the poison, and will even let professional fly by, but I am having trouble with the word responsible."

Vance: "As I said before, I could have disarmed the trap and let you in, if you had asked. I would offer to do that now, but alas, someone burned it down."

Svetlana: "It's generally not the prerogative of the non-upright and non-straightforward to be asked before investigated."

Svetlana: "To speak purely in practical terms."

Vance: "So that makes trapping my very private, very personal quarters with poison that isn't even lethal my fault, all of a sudden?"

Icaria: "Yes, but anyway, you were still going to explain why we should help you hunt down your ex-boyfriend."

Icaria: "That is way more critical information because there's always time to pass judgment on you as a person later."

Vance: "First things first: I don't know who this person is. This is why he's so frightening to me. And I don't even have any ex-boyfriends that he could be."

Vance: "I, uh, don't date much."

Icaria: "Are you sure? I felt some heat there when he said your pseudonym."

Icaria: "There could be some unrequited feelings animating his bosom."

Vance: "Please, describe him at length. What he looked like, what he said what he wants."

Icaria: "Perhaps you rejected some pure-hearted lad, possibly because he couldn't do martial arts, and you didn't even want him around."

Icaria: "But now he's back, to let you know, he can really Scorpion Style it down."

Icaria: "What he was like? Hot. Muscular. Purple. Bad at math. Somewhat paranoid."

Vance: "Purple?"

Icaria: "Yes, purple. You know, like I'm yellow."

Vance: "So… not?"

Icaria: "I was referring to… you know what, this is dragging on and we're standing in the middle of the satrap's garden and bothering servants."

Icaria: "Let's continue this conversation over dinner somewhere."

Icaria: "Please don't try to claim you have urgent office work to do, for I fear I will be forced to disbelieve you."

Vance: "I made good on my end of the bargain, so don't try to deflect away from holding up yours. Do you think anyone can hear into this courtyard if I choose not to permit it? That'd be a very poor secret lair."

Svetlana: "As a point of random curiosity," Svetlana says, "how do you feel about the practice of slavery?"

Icaria: "We said we would think about doing what you wanted if you explained why we should. So far your explanation amounts to it being really convenient for you personally if we would."

Vance: "I was born into it," he says. "It was the greatest torture I've ever known."

Icaria: "I presume you have more cogent reasons than that, or at least I hope so, so you may as well tell me about them over a meal, possibly after some kind of act break."

Svetlana: "Would you like to help end its hold, here, and later elsewhere?" Svetlana says. Not to preempt Zanara, but because if he's going to randomly assume we're going to get all into his agenda she's going to return the favor.

Vance: "Here's your explanation, Icaria. If you promise to help me—just promise, before you even go through with it—I can tell you more. I know much, much bigger secrets that I can share with you."

Vance: (Probably another bargain roll if people want to resist.)

Icaria: This is a much less good deal.

Icaria: I am resisting like all hell.

Vance: Do you have any relevant intimacies? A desire for knowledge, say?

Icaria: "Yeah, that one never came up in the sorcery handbooks."

Icaria: Knowledge comes out of books.

Zanara: "You are expecting a great deal from us," Zanara says, "without very much to go on." She takes a step closer and says, quietly, "You are not the only one here born to slavery. I suspect we have a great many things in common—but we will never know if you continue to be so evasive. If you desire our trust, you must give yours in turn."

Svetlana: Resolve 3, though technically he only pitched it to Icaria.

Vance: It was sorta open-ended.

Vance: He's just irked at Icaria in particular.

Zanara: (I have Resolve 3 and a variety of Intimacies that might apply; my bit was sorta intended as a counter-offer?)

Icaria: (I'm not even really kidding; Icaria is a savant at learning stuff out of books but outside of that he's only good at transferring information in the most straightforward and unsubtle fashion possible.)

Vance: I'll give you +1 Resolve stunt for it.

Vance: Icaria's intimacy sounds like it applies, so what's his total Resolve?

Icaria: Six.

Vance: Icaria and Zanara are unpersuaded, but Svetlana's going to have to spend a point of Willpower if she wants to not take this deal

Svetlana: Absolutely.

Vance: Unless she can call on a relevant intimacy

Svetlana: It's either/or, not both/and?

Vance: If you have an Intimacy, it'll raise your Resolve high enough to beat out his bargain roll entirely

Vance: Darn tiny sidereal mote pools.

Svetlana: I don't know what it takes to be directly relevant. By the spirit of things I can say that despising the theater primes me to not want to listen to him after what he put me through. By the letter of things he is something literally called a spirit even if he isn't and I find him creepy.

Icaria: He's not flashing caste mark or anything, is he?

Vance: I think the theater thing totally works.

Vance: No, no caste mark.

Svetlana: (No, it's just the intimacy is very specifically to things called spirits, which, as the dread spirit that escaped, he totally is. He gets infected by the creepy because he pretended.)

Svetlana: OK! Svetlana sulkily ignores the bargain.

Vance: Sívana's face sinks slightly as he sees that none of you are interested in his offer. "I can tell you the secret history of the world. The origin of the Solar Exalted, how they were locked away, and how they came to be freed. The nature of the thing in the Tomb, and the powers that can be evoked from it. The affairs of the gods. I am dealing in premium secrets, so I just want you to know what you're walking away from."

Vance: "You have done me a favor by alerting me to his presence, so I owe you all gratitude. Except you, Camena, you can fuck right off."

Icaria: "This is… this is…"

Svetlana: "The secrets are absolutely interesting," Svetlana says. "But you're not speaking in good faith."

Icaria: "I can't take it. We need to go."

Zanara: "We're not walking away," Zanara says, offering him a hand. "Come have tea with us. We will talk further. And, if you will listen—I think we can make this world a better place. Together."

Vance: Gimme Charisma + presence, Zanara.

Zanara: (7, 4m each peripheral and personal.)

Svetlana: Svetlana thinks for a moment, and then takes Icaria's hand to lead him away.

Vance: "…I would like to see that happen. The sun and the stars have not always been in strife," he says. "I know of a certain place that makes the absolute best fried octopus and serves it with a fermented potato liquor, which we are absolutely going to."

Svetlana: Svetlana stops, and lets go of Icaria's hand.

Zanara: Zanara smiles. "Excellent. Lead the way."

Icaria: "Don't take me up on the date just because you think you're winning," moans Icaria, swaying in the wind dramatically like a sorcerer turning down ultimate knowledge for the sake of duty.

Svetlana: "In the book," Svetlana says, "wasn't he stewing over you all this time?… I mean, the character that was vaguely similar to him? He probably can't help himself."

Vance: The fried octopus stall is a pagoda of ten thousand wonderful smells, pleasing the nose and seducing the stomach. Sívana begins with a very large cup of vodka, and points at Camena in a gesture that indicates she is very much paying.

Icaria: Nope!

  • Svetlana assumes that this is the case, and that Camena has his wallet.

Icaria: I am not participating in this date!

Icaria: Instead I am moaning like a lost soul, grabbing Camena in one arm, and doing a triple backflip over the nearest wall.

Icaria: And rolling Limit as my dignity hits the floor.

Vance: You can drag Camena away, but it is going on her tab.

Vance: Roll it.

Icaria: Is that three?

Icaria: One success, which brings me to 2.

Vance: Tick, tock.

Svetlana: "Huh," Svetlana says. "I… misjudged that."

Svetlana: "I will have to apologize to him later."

Vance: He's still willing to dish on some secrets, although he'll be less pleased if Camena isn't there for oathbinding.

Icaria: As I vault over the wall, I yell something unintelligible about following me.

Icaria: Arguably I should have grabbed Svetlana as she's probably the lightest, but it felt rude to manhandle somebody whose player is still here.

Vance: "Zanara, Evdeniya… am I correct in assuming that you are the leaders of your circle?"

Icaria: Anyway, Svetlana is probably the most capable of getting out on her own.

Svetlana: "It's a… circle… "

Svetlana: Svetlana helpfully draws a circle for him in the air.

Vance: "But you're the responsible ones, right?"

Svetlana: "Oh." Svetlana squints. "It's unclear to me how broad a sense of responsibility Camena and Icaria actually have. It may be more than you think. But we are temporarily following Zanara's lead in principle."

Zanara: "I defer to the others on many subjects. They are often far wiser than I."

Vance: "Then Zanara, let me be as upfront as I can with you. Right now, I am being hunted by an enemy who knows things he absolutely should not be able to know, about whom I know next to nothing. What I need now is safety and security while I complete my studies here. I won't ask you to fight for me, just to pass on whatever information you come across about this enemy."

Vance: "In exchange… well, if you have any burning questions, ask away."

Svetlana: "If I may ask," Svetlana says, "in what sense should he not be able to know these things? Casually it is a practical concern; you have been repeatedly implying a moral imperative.… unless you think we are completely mercenary, I suppose."

Zanara: "It would help to know precisely why you are here. He likely knows this as well, after all."

Vance: "My identity has been struck from the rolls of fate. That is why my name and the details of my appearance fades from memory. Someone like you could potentially retain the memory, with intense concentration, but there's no way that someone who's never met me should be able to know about me."

Vance: "I came to Gloam to unseal the Tomb of the Anathema, and study under the soul imprisoned within it. It has begun teaching me secret martial arts older than Creation itself. Secrets are my professional area of expertise."

Svetlana: "Logically, you'd have forgotten him," Svetlana opines.

Vance: "The entire deception with the Dragon-Blooded was meant to ensure they would be to scared of the Tomb to interfere with my training, among other ends. If you don't have at least half a dozen plans in motion at any given point in time, you're just not being efficient."

Svetlana: Some of the dislike in Svetlana's eyes fades when he mentions secrets being his professional area of expertise. Not because she approves of that directly, but because it makes some of his weirder social moves less weird.

Zanara: "That is the whole of your purpose here? To learn ancient fighting techniques?" Zanara considers this for a moment as she drains a teacup. "To use them, or to know them for their own sake?"

Vance: "The purpose of my assignment was to uncover the knowledge of them, and preserve it for future students."

Zanara: "Well, perhaps he means to keep it out of their hands. Why should anyone want that?"

Vance: "I won't pretend that learning the legendary fighting styles of the ancients doesn't also have some selfish benefits."

Vance: "Does he know about the Tomb of the Anathema?"

Zanara: "As we met him in it, I should think so."

Svetlana: "He may have been lost."

Vance: "Has he made contact with the imprisoned soul?"

Svetlana: Svetlana turns the matter over in her mind. "Icaria might know. I don't."

Icaria: (We didn't see him do it, but we did more or less evoke the thing right in front of him.)

Icaria: (He definitely seemed to know what it was.)

Svetlana: "Speaking of, do you happen to know what it did to wind up there?"

Vance: "That is a complicated question, although I did promise you answers. First, I must ask how much you know about demons."

Svetlana: Svetlana blinks. "I don't want to speak against my own interest, but I didn't think that answer comes under a bargain we made?… um. I know quite little about demons."

Svetlana: "I suppose it's technically part of 'what happened in the tomb,'" she muses.

Vance: "The common demons you hear of sorcerers summoning, like blood apes and neomah, are species that populate Hell. They are created by the more powerful among them, the Second Circle demons. Each of these is in turn the soul of a Third Circle demon, which is in turn the soul of a Demon Prince—or as they were known before the gods defeated them, the Primordials."

Vance: "The thing in the Tomb was once the soul of a Primordial, but the armies of the gods needed to cleave that part of the Primordial's soul from its being. They sundered the bond, and sealed the spirit away here."

Zanara: Zanara blinks, having understood perhaps two of every three words out of that. "I… see."

Vance: "Imagine if you could cut out your anger, or your hope, or your sorrow. It'd be something like that, only on a cosmically vaster scale."

Svetlana: "So it's a prisoner of exigency," Svetlana says, "and not a criminal, but it's also a very, very bad thing? Or… the… hope? The… muscles?… of a very bad thing?"

Vance: "Crime isn't really a thing that can be spoken of during that time period. The law of Heaven was written by the Primordial now named Malfeas, the King of Hell. I don't know the details of what it is to its oversoul, or why it was imprisoned."

Svetlana: "That's just ridiculous," Svetlana says, as if he were sharing amusing speculation about a local merchant family. "The law can't originate in a demon."

Zanara: "Justice descends from the Most High," Zanara says.

Vance: "The Primordials created the world. The gods, led by the Unconquered Sun, freed us from their reign. "

Vance: "Because the gods could not fight against their makers directly, they gave their power unto their Chosen heroes."

Svetlana: Svetlana wrinkles her nose a little because he smells so serious about this.

Zanara: Zanara, on the other hand, is listening intently, because this sounds so very right.

Icaria: I feel like I should be redrawing the arm tattoos.

Svetlana: "The world keeps getting bigger," Svetlana says, almost plaintively. "How much farther to go?"

Vance: "The Chosen of the Sun—your past lives—ruled Creation, and the gods ruled Heaven. But some the Solars grew unrighteousness. A faction of the other Exalted rose up against them and sealed them, you, away for centuries. Your kind returned into the world five years ago."

Svetlana: "Shark Island," Svetlana realizes.

Vance: "That is one name for it, I guess?"

Zanara: "You know, I've heard that mentioned a few times, but no one has explained it to me," Zanara said. "For my part, I have no interest in ruling the world. Or anywhere, really."

Icaria: One day you will all realize that I am right about everything.

Icaria: Beginning with Shark Island and moving forward.

Icaria: Honestly, it's just as well that I panicked and ran like a frightened child, because Icaria has been on a being-right jag all session and it would no doubt soon have led to hubris.

Svetlana: "I need a new mask," Svetlana says.

Svetlana: She chews on her lip.

Svetlana: "A Magistrate is too small, I suppose."

Svetlana: "I could be one of those Third Circle things?"

Vance: "No, those are something else."

Svetlana: "I don't think you know what a mask is," Svetlana says, with a twinkle in her eye, but doesn't press the matter.

Svetlana: (Because he's right.)

Vance: Sívana indicates the amount of vodka he's had. "It'd be tricky. Whatever."

Svetlana: "I felt for Pim," Svetlana says. "Ah. I mean, the prisoner."

Vance: "They are not an unkind spirit. If I could free them, I would, and let them serve as sifu to Heaven."

Zanara: "…is it not the will of the Most High that… Pim… is held there?"

Vance: "I don't know if the Unconquered Sun personally put him there. Things were rough and loose back in the dawn time—it wasn't law and order, it was war. He's still on the Roll of Forbidden Gods, but it's not like the Unconquered Sun is checking it."

Zanara: "…this changes things," Zanara says quietly. "Would that I could speak to Him once more, as He did to me. It would solve a great many problems."

Vance: "He has a very busy schedule."

Svetlana: "He is kept there by his place on a Heavenly record, which is not regularly reviewed on account of the scale of the Most High's duties?"

Vance: "Of course it's reviewed. The Most High does have secretaries."

Zanara: "…He does?"

Svetlana: "…and I suppose you win," Svetlana concedes, apropos of nothing in particular and everything in general. "I'll probably vote for letting you know if we learn anything about this scorpion style guy."

Vance: "Heaven is a great bureaucracy. How did you think anything got done?"

Vance: "Thank you, Evdeniya."

Svetlana: "If it is reviewed," Svetlana says. "Then… "

Svetlana: She frowns.

Zanara: "I… suppose I hadn't considered it," Zanara said.

Svetlana: "Is it that Heaven's bureaucracy is prone to one of the Earthly faults, or are we simply both deceived on the merits of his imprisonment?"

Svetlana: Svetlana makes a tentative conceptual leap almost impossible at Occult 0, but possible because she just pushed her way to Bureaucracy 5.

Vance: "Let's just say that even gods aren't infallible."

Zanara: "I could have told you that," Zanara says. "Great Forks is a perfect example."

Vance: "And, well, any bureaucracy with fallible bureaucrats is going to have its flaws."

Vance: "We try to minimize those."

Zanara: "…so not even Heaven is free of corruption," Zanara says quietly. "That is… very disappointing."

Svetlana: Svetlana closes her eyes. "Of course," she agrees. "Is there… a procedure for… I mean, if an independent party wanted to file an… affidavit or…"

Vance: "I'm sure you can try. No telling how long it will take to process your request."

Svetlana: Svetlana brightens. "Icaria's probably read about the process."

Vance: "If there's something you want to fix in the world, I recommend you roll up your sleeves."

Zanara: "I assure you, I have already done so."

Svetlana: "I could probably do a great deal more to prevent mortal injustice in the time it would take to master sorcery and be at all helpful in resolving Pim's situation personally," Svetlana says. "But if it can be done by filing reports, affadavits, and notes on investigations—"

Svetlana: Svetlana makes a muscle.

Icaria: Vote Svetlana for Censor of the Omphalos!

Svetlana: Svetlana then laughs a bit, because she isn't actually expecting to move Heaven with these things so much as irresistibly drawn to the notion.

Vance: "You could have made an excellent operative of Yu-Shan."

Svetlana: "That's an amazing and totally comprehensible compliment," Svetlana agrees. "It probably suits me."

Svetlana: Svetlana mentally files "yooshing" as the way to file affadavits with Heaven.

Svetlana: Svetlana forms the mental picture: you pray for a while until you reach a purified mental state, and then you compose a perfected holy report, and then you yoosh it.

Vance: nyoosh

Svetlana: nyoooosh

Icaria: If you have impure assistants who need to file documents, you'll have to build a kind of legal canal.

Icaria: A nyoosh sluice.

Svetlana: nyoooosh whoomwhoomwhoomwhoom nyoosh oh no the report came back I used boomerang skills instead

Vance: "I'm glad that we were able to see eye to eye… or at least, those of you that didn't jump over a wall. I must retire now—there is the certain matter of an office to be rebuilt. I'll await your reports, and provide the assistance I can in matters of destiny."

Icaria: He's turned himself into your Elminster.

Icaria: I was wise to leap when I did.

Svetlana: "If only there were martial arts," Svetlana says, vaguely distracted, "built from the supernal insight that combines the ways that improperly finished or filed reports return to you with requests for amendation and the ways boomerangs arc through the air."

Zanara: "Do stay in touch. I expect you'll know where to find us, if secrets are your business."

Svetlana: Svetlana has worked hard to tune into his vibe.

Svetlana: Svetlana's name has even become more like his—you can see how similar it is now!

Vance: "If you want to send me a message, all you need to do is write me a letter. My spider friend can bring it to me."

Zanara: "Convenient. I'll keep that in mind."

Zanara: (So many linguistics rolls. :3c )

Svetlana: "Surprisingly nice talk, considering," Svetlana says. "Thank you."

Vance: "Give Camena my thanks for paying."

Svetlana: She squints at him, pondering whether her own attitude is the result of evil mind magic, but ultimately concludes that she still dislikes him as a person so her gratitude for the useful insights is probably legitimate.

Svetlana: "I'll do that, but bear in mind that all things are transient."

Vance: "That's not my division."

Vance: …and unless anyone has things they want to do, I'll call it game.

Zanara: (I think that would be reasonable, it's after midnight here. x.x )

Icaria: It's only been nine hours.

Icaria: Have some stamina!

Vance: I think everyone managed to get their Solar XP, because that was forever.

Svetlana: Svetlana has come to the very logical conclusion that if she started as a small village girl and became a city girl and became a magistrate's assistant and became a Solar/magistrate then she is probably going to wind up creating her own worlds like four Svetlanas from now.

Icaria: I really am surprised my theory was even half correct.

Vance: The Svetlana scale of power progression.

Zanara: Hehe.

Zanara: Meanwhile Befriendapalooza 2016 continues.

Zanara: Pretty soon everyone on the island is gonna be our friend.

Icaria: You mean your friend.

Icaria: I don't like any of 'em!

Zanara: Thanks to the transitive property of friendness, being my friends makes them your friends too!

Icaria: I'm only going to sleep with most of them out of cussedness.

Zanara: Hahaa.

Svetlana: We are so close to Essence 2 so clearly that is when she will upgrade to her proper post-Evdeniya face, who must clearly be a hero suitable for the Circle and for the slavery-expunging fight.

Icaria: The Screaming Pheasant Magistrate!

Icaria: If I time it right maybe Icaria can self-actualize as part of hitting Celestial Circle Sorcery.

  • Svetlana ponders existences above magistrates.

Vance: Maybe you need a past life memory flashback episode to guide you!

Icaria: At some point you'll have to be an Empress.

Svetlana: That seems like Essence 4.

Icaria: You could edit prose fiction as the Red Ink Slayer.

Vance: I am forming to sleep now.

Vance: Y'all plot mischief.

Svetlana: I suppose the public face of the massive imaginary anti-slavery secret alliance within the Guild would be an existence above a Magistrate, but it might be beyond my current abilities.

Zanara: I will plot mischief in my dreams, which means it will likely be very incoherent mischief.

Svetlana: Happy dreams!

Svetlana: Thank you for running, Vance!

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