In Which Ancient Evil Is Not Unleashed

Vance: Okay, weekend conversation topic:

Vance: What do y'all want to do next?

Icaria: Beat someone until exposition falls out.

Vance: There are a couple different things you could do next and I should probably do some minimal prep.

Icaria: It seems like all the NPCs are threatening to reveal hidden depths, but they refuse to explain themselves about anything, which limits our options.

Vance: Jaspindar explained herself!

Vance: She likes killing dudes!

Icaria: Plus I should explore that old tomb, since that seems the only source of information.

Icaria: You should have let me eat her.

Vance: So like, major things I foresee you doing:

  • deal with dynasts you don't know.
  • deal with dynasts you do know.
  • check out the tomb.
  • investigate some specific NPC.
  • do something I'm not expecting.

Icaria: I do want to learn about Tran but she isn't my department.

Vance: You could make her your department.

Icaria: I could but do people want to put important information gathering in the hands of the Icaria light comedy hour.

Vance: I was thinking more of a group goal, rather than split-the-party missions.

Vance: Although I for one love the Icaria light comedy hour.

Vance: If this game devolves into wuxia romantic comedy I will be entirely thrilled.

Icaria: Have you considered retconning Legate Tran into an athletic and personable young man?

Icaria: I'm not dating Majal. He is racist against Anathema.

Vance: That would upset my shipping grid.

Icaria: But what of my grid? My flushed quadrant is barren.

Vance: Hmm.

Vance: I did introduce two handsome young gentlemen last time.

Icaria: I do not recall, for I spent the evening talking to a sick old man and a person who declined to believe in my existence.

Vance: Hmm.

Icaria: No doubt the ladies were showered in fellows of amenable disposition.

  • Vance scribbles a reminder to make Master Wen and #4 super hot.
  • Icaria adds more notes about "sexy Lunars" and "roguish fate ninjas."

Vance: Oh, yeah.

Vance: Y'all haven't met your fursonas Lunar mates yet .

Icaria: Then, a hot springs episode where Icaria tries to teach Saphir about love, and everybody else tries desperately to stop him from doing this thing.

  • Icaria considers which member of the party could actually give helpful advice to a young elemental.
  • Icaria boggles a bit.

Vance: Saphir probably no longer counts as "young."

Vance: Childhood in summoned elementals has a precise duration of one session.

Vance: After that their emergent personality has emerged.

Icaria: In that case he may know more about the ways of the world than his father.

Vance: Yeah.

Vance: Icaria knows jack-all about doing the various windy things.

Icaria: Well, he read a book.

Icaria: But the book seemed to assume that both parties were already committed to the endeavor, which seemed to him to skip a few steps.

Vance: The windy thing that can be spoken of is not the true windy thing.

Icaria: Okay, so instead the episode will feature Icaria repeatedly summoning spirits and asking them for love advice.

Vance: You should consider summoning the spirit of friendship.

Vance: Because tidemare love is really really complicated.

Icaria: What am I, a demonologist?

Vance: …and has a lot to do with fin length.

Icaria: I could… try to spike my hair a bit more?

  • Vance notes that any Gold Faction Sidereals I make definitely need to be Serenity.

Vance: Not that I have ever made a non-Serenity Sid.

Icaria: I may try even their powers.

Icaria: Or, alternately, Icaria may become an idiot savant at love the same way he is at everything else.

Icaria: That's probably more entertaining.

Vance: You can introduce facts about love:

  • Difficulty 1: love will tear us apart
  • Difficulty 2: love is a battlefield
  • Difficulty 99: love is easy actually

Icaria: Difficulty (Resolve): baby don't hurt me

  • Vance afflicts Icaria with spooky skeleton disease.

Icaria: Useful when sleeping with the Wyld Hunt!

Vance: But they're celibate!

Icaria: Since Icaria is Mikorin, his default tactic is probably to fire off a massive burst of Presence magic, leave people hopelessly infatuated, and then run away too embarrassed to talk.

Vance: This is why you need to consult with your circle mates.

Vance: Romance plans shouldn't have "massive burst" in them.

  • Icaria considers their advice.

Icaria: "Have you tried impersonating someone they're already sleeping with?"

Icaria: "Just steal all their stuff and leave a trail of their belongings leading to your bedroom."

Icaria: "Um… justice!"

Icaria: (Icaria hasn't had many conversations with Zanara.)

Vance: Okay, let's get advice from some other people.

Vance: You could pray to the Unconquered Sun for guidance.

Zanara: That would be Zanara's advice, yes.

Zanara: But that's her advice for a lot of things.

Icaria: But I don't know how to turn into a swan.

Vance: And your definitely-not-secret-older-sibling-from-the-book-before-yours shows up you could learn it from them, like everyone else does.

Icaria: Ugh, he's probably a super-buff Lunar or something.

Icaria: Curse him for being cooler than me!

Icaria: The idea that Icaria was raised by raksha and didn't notice is sort of appealing, but is probably too twee.

Vance: That's not really twee.

Icaria: Well, I mean, I'm already pretty close to being a joke character. It's probably more of a mysterious magical one-off.

Camena: It is a fact universally accepted that a joke character in a Vance game becomes not-a-joke.

Vance: That is kind of true.

Camena: He had a Battlebabe, Rorschach from Watchmen, and an Iron Chef.

Vance: Elliott's main love interest in my long-running campaign was Jules from Pulp Fiction, as an Infernal.

Vance: Though he later ended up marrying a storm serpent.

Icaria: Jules, or Elliott?

Vance: Jules.

Camena: Oh, that's right!

Camena: I forgot about that, and our bastard lovechild who was… I mean, what was Dusk intended to be, V?

Icaria: Shot through the heart, and Jules to blame.

Camena: He made love to a hurricane.

Vance: He was gonna be a kwisatch haderarch baby with weird fairy godparents.

Vance: And the actual heir to Brigid.

Camena: I figured that was a thing.

Camena: Then mom punches him in the face and steals the real Sword of Ice.

Vance: Did I have him summon neomah nannies?

Camena: Yes, you did.

Camena: Also, we got Spooky Christmas presents from the Unconquered Sun while we were put on trial by Chejop Kejak.

Camena: I got a title, a Hearthstone, and my mom!

Icaria: That's a good present.

Camena: He's really good at gift giving.

Camena: But heinously difficult to shop for.

Icaria: Hm.

Svetlana: All of the other Chejops used to laugh and call him names (like "Sidereal!") Then one foggy Sorrows' Age, Saturn came to say, "Chejop with your Jak so Ke, won't you kill to show the way?" Then how the Kejak slaughtered, how he martialed arts with glee, Chejop the Punching Kejak was left completely out of history!

Icaria: Hm, yes, that probably is why Arcane Fate exists: to protect Sidereals from bullying!

Vance: Like the Bavarian illuminati!

  • Vance set the channel topic: Legate Tran Just Wants A Quiet Life

Kukla: Ha!

Vance: Whose house are you going to bring disaster and dismay to today?

Icaria: Yeah, Icaria has 6 XP and 24 spent, so that's correct.

Icaria: I want to find out about Legate Tran, but I also want to find out about this tomb people refuse to exposit about.

Camena: Camena emerges from her battle with gnarled oaks for arms.

Camena: She's either hit the juice, or learned Wood Dragon's Claw.

Icaria: "That is not my fault."

Svetlana: I guess I'm most interested in the tomb, because the conversation with Legate Tran seems like it might be really awkward.

Icaria: On the other hand, she might feel upset and slighted that the local Anathema haven't come to trouble her.

Camena: Agreed, Camena is all about that Tomb ('bout that Tomb, no Deathlords).

Zanara: Zanara never got to give Jaspindar and Vi her spiel but that can wait. I mean, it's not like Jaspindar can probably talk right now anyway

  • Vance set the channel topic: Return to the Revenge of the Tomb of the Anathema

Icaria: Maybe if we just conspicuously ignore Tran for the rest of the campaign we can convince everybody else we work for her.

Svetlana: I am highly interested in this spiel, but feel it'd be a little ridiculous to put it on my personal priorities list, so I'm just willing to shuffle my schedule a bit when Zanara gets around to it instead.

Vance: Well…

Vance: Actually, about that

Vance: A few days after your showdown with Jaspindar and Vi, one of the Satrap's soldiers appears at each of your domiciles (or have you all piled together in a home base?). You haven't so much as seen one of them between then and now—Majal's promise of safety, perhaps surprisingly, has so far proven true. Each of the soldiers comes bearing a letter, marked in wax with the mon of House Sesus.

Vance: The letter is written in jagged handwriting—perhaps with broken fingers?—but the calligraphy has an impromptu beauty in its imperfection.

Camena: "Poor man," Camena muses. "He had good fingers."

  • Svetlana actually cannot remember which of the council are Sesuses.

Vance: (Jaspindar is who this is from.)

Vance: "Greetings, mysterious strangers in my satrapy. Our fight one that I will remember fondly with my wife for centuries to come—such strength, such skill at arms!"

Icaria: Huh, maybe she's one of those people who become really friendly after you beat the crap out of them.

Icaria: Oh, god, this has become the Nanohaverse.

Icaria: That's why Icaria can't get any dates—he has to make enemies first!

Svetlana: That makes a lot of sense.

Icaria: That means currently I only have a route with Moon Biscuit.

Svetlana: At the very least it should be possible to get a social Charm with this premise.

Svetlana: Or maybe make it a feature of White Devil Style martial arts.

Vance: "However, I have no desire to repeat such conflict, especially when it would cause damage to my satrapy, not just my personal home. As long as you abide by that, we can coexist in harmony."

Icaria: I've always wanted a propery Archery martial art for Sidereals.

Icaria: I made one once but its quality was suspect.

Icaria: Also the theme was "orbits" which I don't think Creation actually has.

Camena: I think just Jaspindar?

Icaria: Isn't Vi Peleps?

Vance: There is a lengthy, obviously rubber-stamped certification of satrapial authority, the equivalent of the highest quality of Realm-issued travel and residency papers.

Icaria: "Well, that's nice," says Icaria. "I thought you said you beat her into a jelly, but I guess actually you became comrades?"

Camena: "Punch buddies."

Vance: Below that, there is a postscript in someone else's handwriting—neat and fastidious. "Jaspindar is still a little drunk on blood loss, but insisted on writing you a letter."

Svetlana: "More yakitori than jelly," Svetlana opines.

  • Icaria considers this culinary simile.

Camena: "Oh," Camena says. "Punch drunk."

Vance: "If you threaten my wife again, I won't hold back! Enjoy your time in Gloam."

Icaria: "They seem really pleasant. Are you sure they murdered all those people?"

Camena: "Did we really do anything to threaten her wife, though? I mean, before they started with the threatening themselves."

Zanara: "Quite sure," Zanara says.

Vance: It's not murder, it's lawful homicide.

Camena: "Loathe as even I am to say it, the Realm is the current legitimate authority hereabouts."

Vance: Does Camena believe in legitimate authorities?

Camena: She believes she needs to know who they are, given her usual proclivities

Zanara: "There is nothing legitimate about what has been done here," Zanara says. "Or elsewhere, for that matter."

Svetlana: Svetlana takes a moment to reflect on how Jaspindar and Vi hold up against Realm standards on the letter and spirit of the relevant laws.

Vance: So it's all about who's pragmatically legitimate?

Camena: More or less.

Vance: Go ahead and make that a minor principle of some kind, if you don't already have something like it.

Svetlana: I kind of came to the player-level conclusion that they were appalling people and that Svetlana is a-OK with letting and if need be helping Zanara do her thing, but that the forest was legal and the conspiracy was at worst a peccadillo.

Icaria: Yeah, my conclusion is that they're awful, and that even if murdering all those people were justifiable, which it isn't, they're still doing it to cover up some really horrible problem that they personally caused.

Zanara: Zanara's conclusion is that they are all corrupt apart from the fact that they represent a force of wickedness and oppression in the Threshold, and she is either going to drag them to virtue or die/kill them trying.

Svetlana: Barring the whole 'trying to kill a Magistrate,' which Svetlana can't really get too worked up over as a legal matter because she isn't really a Magistrate and it would be petty.

Icaria: Yeah, at this point "don't kill Magistrates" is a custom honored more in the breach than in the observance.

Camena: It's gonna be rainin' dead-ass magistrates.

Svetlana: I'm mostly just wondering if it's reasonable for my "official corruption should be rooted out" intimacy to be triggering on the conspiracy against Tran or us, or if it really is the random game of houses it feels like and I should be getting back around to thinking hard about Majal and his false smuggling charges.

Vance: Hmm.

Vance: Who do you think, or suspect, is behaving corruptly?

Icaria: It's possible that Majal is honest according to some definition of the term.

Icaria: At least in terms of being genuinely devoted to the Realm or the greater good or something.

Icaria: In any case, he kept his word and it looks like the satrap is being held to it as well.

Icaria: Meanwhile, we don't know much of anything bad that Tran has done except open a tomb, and that's not so bad.

Icaria: I'd open a tomb if I got the chance!

Icaria: Maybe Tran is just girl Icaria.

Svetlana: At the moment, I am thinking that Vi and Jaspindar are actually not corrupt by Realm standards, but I am not certain about Realm standards.

Vance: Well…

Svetlana: I am thinking that Majal is almost certainly culpable for Moon Onion's false smuggling charges thing but the fact that Moon Onion is a traitor and Majal never actually focused on that bit of our discussion complicates things.

Vance: The most scandalous thing about them is being married, but as long as they're getting kids somehow it's not really that scandalous.

Icaria: Plus the false charges were against someone who is totally guilty of stuff.

Svetlana: False smuggling charges are small potatoes but it is pretty clear-cut corrupt.

Zanara: Zanara definitely wants to rescue her.

Icaria: Like, he might just have been skipping a lot of paperwork in arresting her and letting her prove she's an Anathema by flaring anima.

Zanara: Either by asking politely or otherwise.

Vance: The law of the Realm probably ensures some degree of legal immunity for satrapial officials acting in the legitimate exercise of their office.

Vance: Qualified immunity on megasteroids.

Icaria: As for Jaspindar and Vi, well… first it depends on whether you think "being a Realm satrap" should be punishable by death or not.

Icaria: Zanara probably says yes and Svetlana probably leans towards no.

Zanara: Only the second time I fight them.

Icaria: Icaria is theoretically yes but would have a hard time killing anybody who doesn't help him out by twirling a mustache first.

Icaria: Also he may forget what he was doing if he sees a bookstall or a guy with no shirt.

Svetlana: Strictly speaking, if he did pervert the process of law, Svetlana considers him as having volunteered to allow it to be perverted in a fashion that waives his legal protections. She was just hoping for a bigger case. ^_^

Svetlana: Svetlana reaches the conclusion that she'll investigate the tomb and see what happens when Zanara presents the locals with their options and if it winds up that Majal is still in power then she'll turn her attention to this matter!

Vance: To the tomb, it seems.

Vance: Icaria knows the way, from past geomantic experimentation that may or may not have roused malevolent forces of tainted geomancy.

Svetlana: (Svetlana definitely doesn't believe that being a Realm satrap is punishable by death but she's interested in seeing where Zanara goes with this, probably because following someone else's ideal of justice around is nostalgic.)

Camena: (Camena's most recent dream: A pair of hands wash themselves in thorns and then salt and then fire and then syrup.)

Svetlana: We're off to see the undead, the wonderful undead of Gloam!

Svetlana: We hear they are the worst of the cursed if ever accursed there was.

Vance: The Tomb of the Anathema lies outside the boundaries of Gloam proper. There are no roads that lead to it, neither the sturdy brick of Realm construction or the cruder stone roads built prior to the satrapy's colonization. They seem to curve away from it in a great whorling spiral, as though the Tomb somehow repulsed them.

Vance: Icaria is able to lead you to the point he found on the map. Goats graze on a small, grassy hillock, the only animal life you have seen in almost miles. The eerie feeling of the place's strange geomancy is enough to give you all a funny feeling in your stomach, but at first glance, there doesn't seem to be any sign of an entrance to the Tomb.

Vance: (Perception + Awareness, Investigation, Survival, or Occult could all be rolled.)

Svetlana: 6 successes.

Zanara: Welp. I botched.

Svetlana: (Awareness.)

Vance: Zanara, what Ability were you rolling with?

Zanara: Awareness as well.

Vance: Unless you have an idea for a good Awareness botch, I got nothin'.

Svetlana: Svetlana peers around with sharp quick movements.

Svetlana: (Face first into a goat? but they're probably not tall enough.)

Svetlana: (Trip on one?)

Svetlana: (Instantly realize the secrets of the Tomb, but be unable to explain to the rest of us how looking at a goat gave her the knowledge?)

Vance: Svetlana doesn't see anything immediately, but her perspicacious nose picks up a scent that seems out of place in this pastoral scene—blood. Multiple weeks old, by the scent. At the top of the hill, she finds a bloodstained knife, uneaten by the goats. It is ornately made, and in the style of the Realm.

Vance: Zanara gets into a staring contest with a surly goat.

Svetlana: (Stumble upon an amazing suit of artifact armor, only, its color subtly fails to match that of her bow?)

Svetlana: Hm.

Svetlana: "Icaria, odds on the Tomb being opened by goat sacrifice?"

Zanara: This place gives Zanara a bad feeling. It is entirely possible the goat is not actually a goat. This would not be the first time something like this has happened.

Vance: The goat's pupils are unlike those of any creature you have ever seen. Alien. Bizarre. They will haunt your dreams, perhaps.

  • Svetlana ponders whether it'd be worth having Keen Smell on all the time like Unsurpassed Hearing/Touch is. Hmm.
  • Svetlana decides to do this for now, stifling the anima display with the Night power, on the theory that it'll let her keep track of where the Dragon-Blooded have been in the tomb.

Vance: Hmm.

Vance: With 6 successes and your recent past experiences, I think you are able to recognize the smells of Jaspindar and Vi's blood.

Vance: …among that of others.

Camena: Man.

Vance: Based on what you've overheard already, you'd guess… five of them.

Camena: They are into some weird stuff.

Svetlana: Hmm.

Svetlana: "It's a little weird that they just left the knife here," Svetlana says, "but I… guess we can try cutting ourselves?"

Svetlana: Svetlana doesn't think you'd necessarily take the knife-key away from the tomb, it's just, leaving a knife you cut yourself with where goats can poop on it doesn't seem very sanitary.

Svetlana: Svetlana rolls a single success on her Intelligence + Occult roll to see if this is an incredibly dumb idea, which is probably not enough to tell her anything, waits a moment or two to see if anyone (mostly Icaria) yells a protest, and then experimentally cuts her arm.

Vance: Svetlana's roll gives a result of "seems reasonable."

Svetlana: My Intelligence + Occult is so emo.

  • Svetlana tosses the dagger Camena's way, since she trusts Camena most not to fumble a thrown object. I mean, it's a really softball throw that'll be coming in hilt-first, but that might not help with Icaria and who knows about Zanara.

Vance: As her blood touches the ground, there is a thunderous noise, a great deep rumbling from beneath the hillock. It is enough forewarning for you to move off of the hill, if you would.

  • Camena catches the dagger and then soft-shoes off the hill.

Zanara: "Hm what?" Zanara looks up as the ground begins to shake… then back at the goat… no, probably just a goat. She straightens up and moves back warily.

Svetlana: Svetlana hesitates for a moment while trying to figure out if leaving will mess something up, but she is at root a Doctor Who protagonist. She bolts.

Vance: The summit of the hill seems to rise with a seismic groan, stretching upwards into the sky. Then it tears itself in half, as if cloven through by some great unseen force.

Vance: The goats aren't perturbed by all this, maintaining their footing even as the ground below them is wrenched into a sheer vertical surface.

Camena: "It's going to be one of those Mercurydays, isn't it?"

Svetlana: Thank goodness I didn't get wounded in our last fight! Svetlana thinks.

Vance: Beneath the sunder hillock, there is a disc made of golden metal, like a doorway or a seal. Age has left it streaked with verdigris.

Vance: Without some really fantastic Lore rolls, none of you have seen or heard of anything like this before.

Svetlana: Svetlana cannot make a fantastic Lore roll to save her life.

  • Icaria recovers himself from a distraction.
  • Svetlana checks that Rand's house is still on the ground.

Camena: I bet it's a Stargate.

Svetlana: "Fantastic," Svetlana says, appreciatively, as she returns towards the top of the hill.

Svetlana: "This is the kind of thing that'll get my reports noticed at HQ."

Icaria: Hm, I should try to make some kind of fantastic Lore roll.

Vance: Hmm.

Vance: How old is the library you grew up in?

Icaria: This seems like the kind of thing that's worth really exerting my divinely perfect mind.

Icaria: It's really old and extends far beneath the ground in looping circles.

Icaria: Even the Demon Princes once visited there, and they damn well returned books within a moon if they knew what was good for them.

Svetlana: Ooh, were you raised by Jadeborn?

  • Svetlana thinks about what kind of libraries would be underground.

Icaria: The idea that it was a raksha library and that's why Icaria thinks in genre conventions is tempting, but I am resisting it.

Icaria: It was weird for its own reasons!

Vance: So it's unlikely, but not impossible. Roll Lore.

Icaria: I am spending 8 peripheral motes and rolling 10 successes, because if I can flare anima anywhere, it's in the Tomb of the Anathema.

Camena: "I'm going to go ahead and lay claim to any objets d'art, y'all," Camena said. "That's your standard tapestries, paintings, sculptures; but also decor, trappings, and manuscripts of a non-informational nature," she adds, for Icaria.

Icaria: "Are you really that fond of cursed art?"

Zanara: "If we are not the first to descend into this tomb, I think it unlikely we will find anything particularly impressive," Zanara says. "I am content with sealing whatever evil has been loosed."

Icaria: "Because anything here is probably super cursed."

Icaria: "Like, accurs-ed, even."

Svetlana: "It's possible that whatever evil has been loosed is an evil objet d'art."

Icaria: "Or an evil critic, and that's why they're doing performance art murder to drive him back!"

Svetlana: "Criticism serves a perfectly legitimate social function!"

Camena: "I'm fine with curses," she says with even-tempered confidence. "I'll steal the curse right out of them!"

Icaria: "If he sees an evil deed, he has to stop and review it, like counting dropped rice."

Icaria: "In such a case you would still have a curse."

Svetlana: "Wicked or cursed manuscripts are often of a non-informational nature."

Vance: Icaria knows from his reading that the metal used in the construction isn't just gold, but orichalcum. It almost certainly predates the Second Age, if only because of that. However, the design is simple, almost crude, compared to what you know of First Age ruins and basic architectural principles. It might be incredibly old.

Icaria: So, the building is worth stealing.

Icaria: Aside from the curse.

Svetlana: Svetlana ponders. "Depending on how you define information, anyway."

Icaria: "Sometimes priests would come by and tell us that manuscripts of an informational nature were inherently wicked or cursed," muses Icaria reminiscently.

Icaria: "Then we used to put them in the Correctional Book."

Svetlana: Svetlana looks for a latch or handle. If there is a mysterious mechanism she will leave it to Icaria; if there is no mechanism she will squeeze out another drop of blood onto the orichalcum… gate? Seal?

Camena: "…you know, I'm going to have to visit your home some day. It sounds charming."

Icaria: "Sure, I can process the paperwork for you, if you can provide proof of address."

Vance: Svetlana finds what she thinks to be some kind of… thingamajig, at the center of the disk. It doesn't resemble any kind of mechanism she's seen, but it has the overall feel of being a lock.

Icaria: "I think they said this thing would only open for the Chosen, didn't they?"

Svetlana: "Icaria, there is a thingamajig."

Icaria: I wave a hand over it to expose it to my anima, currently dim.

Vance: It does not react to glowy anima.

Icaria: I poke it with my brush.

Icaria: "Oh, speaking of pointy things!"

Vance: The clash of orichalcum against orichalcum creates sparks like burning magnesium.

Camena: "Oh my," Camena says, brushing off her nails. "Is there some sort of lock issue?

Icaria: "I figure there's like a 40% chance that when we leave here the place is surrounded by Gloam's army and the Wyld Hunt, since they totally knew we were coming."

Icaria: But anyway, I'm going to do a careful examination of everything relevant-looking in the area, including checking around for spirit activity and sorcerous goings-on.

Svetlana: "I guess," Svetlana says. "I'd thought it might be a… magic issue? But Icaria doesn't seem to be conducting geomantic rites, so yeah, this is probably your bailiwick."

Camena: Rolls her neck a few times and approaches the door.

Icaria: "Hm, I wonder what they did when they came. This reacts oddly to orichalcum, but they didn't have orichalcum."

Icaria: "Magistrate, see how it reacts to jade weaponry."

Svetlana: "Good l… " Svetlana pauses. "Have fun!"

Vance: There is a stark absence of spiritual activity, which is probably because of the bojanxed geomancy. The orichalcum disk has some kind of sorcery worked into it, of a low circle—channeling that power all these centuries is what causes the verdigris.

Camena: "The thing about locks is that they hate themselves," she says, running her fingers deftly across the orichalcum curves of the door, searching for the seams and parts. "They don't want to be locked."

Vance: (Dexterity + Larceny.)

Camena: (Lock-Opening Touch. Which for Camena might be more a full-on grope?)

Icaria: "What if they hate the thing behind them more?"

Camena: (Is the lock magical itself?)

Vance: (Yes.)

Icaria: This kind of makes me want a Charm for more generic 'what's-all-this-then'.

Icaria: Glorious Solar "What Is Your Deal?"

  • Svetlana has fished out the watery boomerang to hand to Camena if it turns out jade is actually helpful, but isn't going to interrupt.

Camena: 6m, but it ends up with 12 successes.

Camena: "Ohoho, door," Camena says, suddenly blushing.

Vance: Camena succeeds in triggering the mechanism, even avoiding the multiple false components designed to spring traps.

Camena: "…was it good for you?"

Svetlana: "Coz, it hates itself and it lives on a hill under some goats. You don't need the baggage."

Svetlana: "You should aim higher!"

Icaria: "Or at least get a room."

Vance: A small aperture appears on the mechanism, irising open silently.

Svetlana: "No offense," Svetlana says to the moving mechanism.

Camena: "Oh look. I just got a room."

Vance: The gap at the center of the seal begins to expand, growing from a circumference of inches to feet to yards in a matter of moments. But is is growing wrongly. It is not pushing outwards—the orichalcum disc remains the same size, as do the halves of the sundered hillock above. It is as if more space is coming into being, and the aperture is unfolding inwards into it.

Zanara: "…that is certainly not supposed to happen."

Icaria: "That's a great trick."

Vance: It is simultaneously far greater across than the width of the orichalcum disc, and yet entirely contained at the orichalcum disc's center. Trying to resolve this paradox gives those who attempt it migraines.

Vance: The other side is completely dark.

Icaria: I throw fire into it.

Camena: Nooooooooo, my objets!

Icaria: If they aren't invulnerable they probably aren't there after a million years.

Icaria: Plus the Dynasts probably looted the easy stuff already.

Vance: Anima-light shows a cavern passage, spiraling downward at a gentle enough slope to allow you to descend on foot. The stone is not entirely unworked; clear signs of deliberate shaping mark its walls and structure, even if you do not understand how they were accomplished.

Icaria: I was really thinking of firing Flight of the Brilliant Raptor into it, but this works too.

Vance: The sealed atmosphere of behind-the-gate has preserved five pairs of footprints in the cavern mouth. It doesn't take much guessing.

Svetlana: Svetlana, tentatively, goes in.

Camena: "I kind of hate being in their wake. I was never a fan of the whole 'dungeons-and-dragon-blooded' schtick. Always ends up pear-shaped."

Vance: >_<

Camena: (I rolled 13 levels of Pun Damage against the ST!)

Icaria: "We'll just have to release an even more terrible horror."

Icaria: "To establish our superiority."

  • Svetlana tries to avoid leaving footprints or disturbing theirs, as a habit, but her stealth is merely superb, not inhuman.

Vance: (Dexterity + Stealth.)

Svetlana: 4 successes.

Svetlana: ^ See? See? Superb but not inhuman! Called it! ^_^

Zanara: Zanara plods in, an arrow already fitted to her bowstring. Stealth? What's Stealth?

  • Icaria doesn't know about stealth, either.

Icaria: It's just as well I didn't know the door was so big, or I'd have summoned a stonephant to go ahead of us.

Svetlana: Svetlana, fortunately, doesn't actually care about the fact that they're tromping around as long as she doesn't embarrass herself.

Icaria: Or maybe it would be called a rockaphant.

Vance: The spiraling passageway eventually levels out, leading into a cathedral-like formation of giant stalagmites. There is a clear path through the chamber at its center, though you could climb through the stone formations to either side. You see signs of conflict on the central path—shreds of clothing, spilt blood, and pieces of blades or other traps sheared through by a daiklave's edge.

Icaria: See, this is exactly what a rockaphant is useful for.

Icaria: I fire Flight of the Brilliant Raptor down the path to hit the ground at the other end.

Camena: We owe you a coke.

Icaria: Just to see what happens when something passes through.

Vance: The brilliant raptor flies freely, scorching stone as it passes by and eventually explodes into brilliant cinders, outlining the craggy opening at the far end of the chamber. Nothing appears to respond to its passage.

Icaria: "Hm. Suspicious."

Icaria: Oh, well! I mosey on over.

Vance: (Perception + Awareness.)

Icaria: Four.

Zanara: Three successes.

Camena: "We should probably have a talk about the kinds of situations that do and don't call for the callous abuse of the high arts of sorcery some day."

Icaria: "That's the simplest spell there is, except the one with the butterflies!"

Icaria: "Oh, to think of what I'll do when I learn the actual high arts of sorcery…"

Camena: Camena shudders. Visibly. There might be an eye twitch, too.

Icaria: "Actually I probably have to learn responsiblity or some such thing to master them. It's a shame."

Vance: Icaria makes it a few yards towards the other end before anything happens. Then, he takes a step, and the stone shines violet in outline around his foot.

Icaria: "But, all the more reason to sow my wild oats now!"

Vance: At the far end of the cavern, specks of purple light begin to appear, coalescing together into something brighter, larger.

Svetlana: "Oh, dear."

Icaria: I fire Flight of the Brilliant Raptor at it.

Svetlana: Svetlana ponders available cover.

Vance: There's lots of stalagmites to seek cover behind.

  • Camena absconds.
  • Icaria fires, then absconds.

Svetlana: Svetlana seeks cover behind a stalagmite, in case this is a blast instead of a monster.

Zanara: Zanara takes cover, as well, ready to pop out and shoot whatever it is should it be hostile.

Svetlana: Svetlana's ears twitch a little but it she has never successfully managed to hear specks of light.

Vance: The purple light builds until it is a bonfire, then an inferno, and finally a wall of brilliant violent flame. It begins moving towards you soundlessly.

Vance: Those of you taking cover can roll (Dexterity + Dodge) to resist the hazard.

Vance: Others can roll… something that makes sense.

Icaria: I'm spending five motes to flare my lab coat.

Camena: 7 successes from behind the nearest stalagmite.

Svetlana: 6 successes.

  • Camena high-fives Svetlana.

Zanara: 6.

Icaria: As for rolling…

Zanara: And that's with my armor!

Icaria: "Every explosion has its weak point," I say, and make a precise stroke with Judge's Brush to cut the blast in half, a thing which is much easier to do when shrouded in explosion-proof anima.

Vance: (Dexterity + Melee?)

Icaria: Six successes on Dexterity + Melee.

Icaria: Ooh, double nine, double eight, double seven.

Icaria: Not that that means anything in this case.

Camena: I'm sure Morke is writing a charm to give out Full House bonuses.

Icaria: There's that one Melee charm that triggers on 7-8-9-10.

Vance: The curtain of violet flame passes you by, and you are unscathed.

Vance: Even Icaria!

Vance: However, to the dismay of those attempting to abscond, there will be no retreat.

Icaria: Like, because we're so great, or because it just doesn't do anything?

Vance: Once the violet flames reach the entrance, they do not dissipate. Instead, they begin moving back towards the other side of the room—back towards you.

Icaria: Some days you just can't get rid of an explosion.

Svetlana: That's not ideal.

Svetlana: Svetlana thinks about just going to the other side of the stalagmite, but, we are here to explore.

Svetlana: So she heads down the hall.

Vance: (Roll Perception + Awareness.)

Icaria: Well, I wanted to explore the tomb when it was trying to keep us out, but now it's trying to stop us from leaving.

Icaria: So I'm conflicted.

Zanara: 4.

Icaria: 4.

Svetlana: 4 successes, with bonuses on four senses.

Camena: 4 for me too.

Svetlana: We are not a Circle.

Svetlana: WE ARE A SQUARE.

Vance: The central pathway is a gauntlet of lesser traps, perhaps meant to catch trespassers herded into them by the violet curtain. Svetlana is able to find a safe way to the other side, evading flying needles and breakaway floors.

Svetlana: "Great job cleaning up in here, Jaspindar," Svetlana mutters. "Real great. Great scout, great hunter."

Svetlana: "No wonder you can't even train carnivorous animals to attack people."

Camena: "You're not lion."

Vance: As you approach the cavern's far end, you step through a cave-like entrance into a chamber that appears at least minimally furnished, albeit still built into the cave walls. There is what looks like some kind of altar with lights shining on it, and orange banners made from some silk-like material hung on the wall.

Icaria: "Yeah, I hear the aristocracy starts to fall apart once they find a place they can't bring servants into."

Icaria: I examine the banners!

Svetlana: "Oh, hey, objets d'art."

Camena: "Yes, I should probably examine those. For curses."

Vance: The banners have Old Realm characters written on them, as though by the hand of some giant calligrapher.

  • Icaria's hands twitch, as though longing to shape burning sorcery.

Icaria: Ooh, I know Old Realm! What do they say?

Camena: "Don't do it."

Svetlana: Svetlana makes conceptual preparations for the violet thingie proceeding past the hallway into this room on this pass, but does not actually expect this to happen.

Vance: Rand, roll Perception + Linguistics.

Icaria: Botch!

  • Icaria realizes that he does not actually know Old Realm, which is an oversight he should probably move a dot of Resources into.
  • Icaria does not actually have any dots of Linguistics, either. I'm not that kind of librarian.

Icaria: My library duties were of a higher order.

Icaria: Mostly they involved dusting.

Svetlana: Svetlana is curious about the altar. Even before approaching it, she has formed the theory that it held a treasure that the Dragon-Blooded removed, and that they left their scent, but that the scent faded long ago, leaving only marks in the dust.

Vance: The characters on the tapestries are somewhat archaic, but still resemble the modern script of Old Realm well enough for you to read. Their syntax, however, leaves something to be desired. One banner reads "be warned, be warned," repeated over its whole length. Another, "rise," "halt," "speak," and other verbs. One looks like… just a list of names of flowers?

Icaria: Pretty flowers, or, like, poison flowers?

Vance: Both.

Vance: You don't pick up on any running theme in the list of flowers.

Icaria: "Hm, there's a warning, and a lot of flowers."

Icaria: "Probably it's an indication that you shouldn't go here if you're allergic to any of these plants."

Svetlana: "What a fiendish trap," Svetlana says. "Putting the warning in here, where the victim would have already encountered the subtle floral essences."

Vance: The violet wave reaches your end of the cavern, and begins rolling back the other way again.

Svetlana: Is there anything on the altar? Any sign there ever was?

Vance: Yes.

Vance: There are luminous crystals, rhomboid or octahedral, floating inches above the surface of the altar-like structure. Unlike the rest of the cavern's stone, it is pure white.

Svetlana: Svetlana squints at them.

Vance: They surrender no information to this treatment.

Svetlana: "Floating glowing crystals," Svetlana says.

Icaria: Fire Flight of the Brilliant Raptor Y/N?

Svetlana: N!

Svetlana: "Perhaps you've… read about something like them?" Svetlana offers. "In a book that nobody set on fire?"

Icaria: "What kind of horrible person would set a book on fire?" says Icaria, mortified.

  • Icaria applies his diamond mind to the problem of the floating crystals.

Svetlana: "For all we know, there are small books inside them," Svetlana points out.

Vance: (Rand, Intelligence + Lore.)

Icaria: Five!

Svetlana: Is this chamber the end of the road, btw?

Vance: It is.

Vance: The crystals are somehow interacting with the geomancy of this place—not entirely unlike a hearthstone, although far less powerful. Manipulating them would in turn manipulate the flow of Essence through the geomancy, if only briefly. You think the Tomb's design might sense and respond to these disruptions, letting the altar control various aspects of it. At the very least, you hope it can turn off the roving wall of fire.

Svetlana: Have we disturbed the dust too much to make an attempt at casing the scene and figuring out what the Dragon-Blooded did in here that let the evil out?

Vance: There is no sign of the Dragon-Blooded in here, at all.

Icaria: Oh, maybe it's one of those puzzles where you spell out flower names.

Icaria: "Hm, it looks like some kind of device that control the energy flowing through the tomb."

Svetlana: Svetlana processes that. Is there no dust at all? Or was there somewhere else for the Dragon-Blooded to go? Or did they stop halfway through the passage?

Icaria: I attempt to figure out something useful I can make it do, like turn off the wall of fire, or suck all the evil back in and imprison it forever.

Vance: You think they never made it to the end.

Svetlana: That would explain why there were still so many traps.

Icaria: Huh, I wonder what they did do to let the whatever out, then.

Svetlana: "So the evil they let out," Svetlana concludes, "was a trap."

Svetlana: "Like, a… spirit… that was bound to protect the hallway?"

  • Icaria considers reconsidering meddling with the crystal console.

Svetlana: Svetlana looks out into the hallway. "I guess I can go look around where they stopped," she says. "Though I'll be waiting until the purple thing comes back and then goes that way again."

Icaria: "Mind the needles."

Icaria: "And the spinny thing."

Svetlana: "In the end, if there is no spinny thing in your heart, then all the spinny things in the world can do no harm to you."

Vance: Icaria, can your Twilight heart resist the urge to press what is essentially a giant button?

Icaria: I can if someone tells me not to.

Icaria: I'm essentially biddable.

Icaria: (Because if I wasn't I would be intolerable.)

Vance: There were warning banners!

Icaria: I'm more of a mad fan-fiction author than a mad scientist.

Camena: Craft (Fan Fiction) is a thing you can take now.

Svetlana: Svetlana's Lore and Occult is so thoroughly overshadowed by Icaria's that she is unwilling to bid him in such matters.

Zanara: Zanara has heard of Lore and Occult, but mostly from y'all.

Camena: And your workaday Teen Wolf slashfics can now build towards a maddening wolfyaoi manga necronomicon.

Camena: "Go ahead," Camena says.

Icaria: Fine, let's meddle, then.

Icaria: I try to turn off the wall of fire, or the leaking evil, or summon a boyfriend, if its function seems sufficiently ambiguous.

Icaria: Let's just see where this takes us.

Vance: Roll Lore for the first one.

Svetlana: Attempting to summon a boyfriend here sounds like the best possible option.

Icaria: Is there a configuration that makes Dynasts nicer?

Icaria: Five.

Camena: I press the Muffin Button.

Icaria: Dammit, Elliott, you know nobody can stop pushing that.

Vance: Icaria plays with the crystals for a moment, working out what they control. After a few minutes of practice, he's able to work out which ones control the wall of flame, winding through its various speed settings before finding the configuration that turns it off.

Vance: Wanna summon a boyfriend?

Icaria: Well, it would make my fanfiction more interesting.

Icaria: This machine is super useful and not evil at all, apparently!

Icaria: Man, those Dynasts are going to be sorry they got bored and left in room one.

Svetlana: Svetlana gives it a minute to make sure the wall of fire isn't coming back and then heads out towards where the Dragon-Blooded advance stopped to check the area out. She moves at a casual stroll, now and again tossing a bit of broken needle from one trap into the mechanism for another to jam it, kicking broad blades across the floor to cut wires and trigger projectiles ahead of her, and making impromptu bridges across the occasional bit of missing flooring with sets of spearpoles.

Vance: Roll Perception + Investigation to case the scene.

Vance: With +2 dice and a success for a two-point stunt.

Vance: …and also, gain a Willpower!

  • Svetlana invokes Crafty Observation Method.

Vance: Crafty!

Vance: Roll it.

Svetlana: 10 successes.

Svetlana: (and more appreciation for double 9s than I expected.)

Vance: Svetlana reconstructs the scene in her mind.

Vance: Jaspindar, Vi, Majal, and the man called #4 are there. Tran is, too, a blanked-out figure in your mind's eye.

Vance: Tran's pace is slow—wounded or overconfident?—and then rapidly accelerates, like a cat fleeing a hot stove.

Vance: Vi and Jaspindar move back to back, parrying volleys of needles.

Icaria: Having met Vi and Jaspindar, I'd hate to see the one they think is overconfident.

Icaria: Or they're just poorly informed.

Vance: They make it past the last in the line of traps, the acid pit—and clear it.

Icaria: It's still kind of weird that Majal apparently knew they were going out to fight a circle of Anathema but they apparently didn't.

Vance: They made it all the way past the traps, but still turned away.

Icaria: Or they knew that but were really, really underestimating us.

Vance: From the footprints, it looks like one of them separated, and stood away from the group—but it's unclear which one.

Svetlana: This is how far from the final cavern's entrance?

Svetlana: I'm hearing that it was basically right outside it, but I'm not sure.

Vance: A little bit.

Vance: Throwing distance rather than stabbing distance.

Vance: The one who separated came closer to the door than the others, but doesn't look to have gone in.

Svetlana: Svetlana looks around. Would they have… seen anything odd at the point they separated?

Svetlana: Svetlana is unhappy relying on her eyes. They're the least reliable sensory organ, you know.

Vance: Nothing that the others couldn't see?

Vance: Or was that a plural they?

Svetlana: Plural they.

Vance: Standing in the point yourself, there's nothing that really stands out against the background oddness of the tomb.

Svetlana: Svetlana ponders, then moves her "check out the traps where they stopped" plan to a "check out the traps where Tran suddenly accelerated" plan.

Vance: There are no traps where Tran suddenly accelerated.

Vance: At least, none in effective range.

Svetlana: Which presumably also means no orichalcum summoning circle smeared with blood and the miasma of some summoned being, I suppose. Hm. I guess I will see if Icaria is having any more luck!

Vance: Icaria! What are you doing with the controls?

Vance: Camena and Zanara, where are y'all relative to the console?

Zanara: Zanara is standing somewhere on the fringes of the room. She would lean against a wall, but she learned well enough in her previous life entertaining wealthy scavenger lords that the best way to survive in the industry is to never be the first one to touch anything.

Vance: Oh, no.

Vance: How does she feel about Icaria pressing the button?

Camena: Camena is busying herself with a careful and studious appraisal of the room. Just In Case(TM).

Zanara: He clearly knows what he's doing. Better than Zanara does, at any rate. She's still giving him a healthy amount of space.

Vance: Take a minor tie to that effect.

Vance: Camena, roll Perception + Bureaucracy.

Icaria: Well, I turned off the wall, so now I'm wondering what else it can do.

Icaria: Apparently making all my romantic hopes and dreams come true is an option?

Icaria: That's some good sorcery.

Icaria: I mean… I guess I could try doing that with a working.

Vance: Roll Intelligence + Lore to wish with with a heart full of lust.

Icaria: Lore isn't about lust! But honestly now I kind of just have to find out if this works.

Icaria: Five!

Vance: You underestimate the breadth of Lore.

Icaria: This is going to do weird things to my list of topics.

Icaria: I idly consider my ideal man, which rapidly begins to spool out into a list of frightening specificity.

Camena: …Perception plus Bureaucracy?

Vance: To appraise the sale value of the banners.

Camena: Two successes?

Vance: These are probably valuable enough to be worth stealing.

  • Icaria considers which topics to add to his Lore via Harmonious Academic Methodology.

Icaria: "Lore of Hot Studs," or "People You Meet in Tombs"?

Vance: The white stone altar comes apart beneath Icaria - it separates into many small floating cubes of stone, each with black and white faces. They move in eerie synchrony, reconfiguring into new shape, a throne, all black. As the throne takes form, it completes what was a void in the geomancy of this place's heart, connecting the key lines. There is a quaking and noise like frozen metal breaking and the world cracks open

Svetlana: The world is cracked, and there's gonna be trouble…

Icaria: Hey-la, hey la!

Vance: Seated atop the throne is a beautiful man, muscular and hairless. His body is divided into two halves—the right half is as grey and pale as ash, the left is vibrant indigo. His eyes are twin stars burning black. "Well. Hello."

Icaria: I step forward, knowing that the first thing I say will be super important.

Icaria: I steady my heart using Graceful Crane Stance so it doesn't flutter.

Icaria: And then, I say:

Icaria: "Have you ever read any of the Shark Island books?"

Vance: The man's brow furrows in concentration. "I don't think I, um, know what those are?" His sitting posture recedes into the sloppiness of the transcendently powerful, slouching as he floats in midair.

Icaria: sighs. "I guess it wasn't meant to be."

Icaria: "Anyway, is this your tomb, mysterious guy who just appeared for no reason at all?"

Vance: "I thought it would be Sívana. I don't know who you are."

Vance: "I can explain, but not to strangers."

Icaria: "I am Icaria, librarian-adventurer, and these are my bonded comrades, who will introduce themselves in a suitably impressive manner!"

Camena: "Camena Dezla," she says with a tip of her jaunty coursair's hat that yes, she has totally had forever. "Pirate queen. Art dealer. Amateur impressionist."

Zanara: "Zanara." Who does not appear to be thrilled with the idea of beings who appear from thin air.

Icaria: Appear from thin air FOR NO REASON, I want to stress.

Svetlana: While Svetlana cased the scene with remarkable speed, just the walking around took at least a few minutes, so she is probably not back yet, and does not introduce herself, although she does listen. Unless the manipulation of the crystals took minutes as well.

Vance: (It indeed does take several minutes. Finding a boyfriend takes work)

Icaria: Five minutes! Five whole minutes!

Svetlana: Oh! In that case, as I make my way back through the door, I'll nod. "Svetlana. It is nice to meet you… um, do I need to say that once for each side?"

Vance: He smiles and shakes his head. "No. I am, in my manyness, one. My name is touching the gemstone grass mir something shining and forgotten anon this is the chalice and you are beyond forgiveness. You evoked me here in my seventeenth aspect, the Perfected Immortal Man."

Icaria: "We'd better call you Pim," decides Icaria.

Svetlana: (Heeheehee.)

Camena: Camena whistles, clearly impressed at the name. There's just enough of a sorcerer in her that she can't decide whether to be frustrated or fascinated.

Vance: "Pim," he says questioningly, interrogating the sound of it as it rolls across his palate. "It is an agile name, limber and easily concealed."

Svetlana: Svetlana furrows her brow, no longer distracted by social niceties and thus able to consider the possibility that Pim is an ancient evil. But, well, surely Icaria knows what he's doing.

Icaria: "Very short names are excellent for a nom de plume," Icaria agrees.

Icaria: "So, is this your tomb? People have been making a bit of a fuss about it and we've been wondering what it's all about. Are you some kind of ancient evil? (It's okay, so are we, if you asked most people.)"

Svetlana: Svetlana's trust that Icaria knows what he's doing decreases slightly as he asks someone literally named for being Immortal if this is their tomb, then rises again as she ponders the possibility that he might just… own it or something.

Vance: "Not my tomb—this is my prison. I was cast down and chained here in the depths. They sealed me away, but kept me nearby, should I prove useful in the future."

Icaria: "That's too bad."

Icaria: "But seriously, evil: yes or no?"

Vance: "I have come to accept it."

Vance: "What's evil, dude?"

Icaria: "Evil is when you willfully avert your eyes from the truth," says Icaria.

Vance: "I don't have much opportunity, since most of the time I'm being forcefully made to avert my eyes from everything."

Vance: "So, no."

Vance: "I am not evil."

Icaria: "Oh, okay. Oh, we should bring you to some books!"

Icaria: "And the best time to read is while you're eating."

Icaria: "So we should bring them to a fancy caravanserai, and I will assist you in reading them."

Icaria: "You probably have some history to catch up on."

Vance: "You will not be able to bring me to anything. I am bound to this place, bound in this place. The dragon lines pierce through me, interwoven, inextricable. It is, I was told, the perfect prison."

Icaria: "Perfect prisons are overrated," says Icaria, from experience.

Svetlana: "Ah," Svetlana says, troubled. "If you are unable to escape, then… not to pester you while you are eternally imprisoned, but do you know what did?"

Camena: Camena looks on skeptically at Icaria with growing exaggeration.

Icaria: "Well, they are!" says Icaria, grumpily. "Were we not cast down and sealed away in darkness, never to be reborn until the end of eternity?"

Vance: "I was imprisoned alone. If anything left here, it must have snuck in."

Icaria: "And then, hey: look who's back!"

Icaria: "This guy."

Svetlana: "I was never," protests Svetlana.

Svetlana: Svetlana: did not receive the introductory pamphlet.

  • Camena reconsiders her life decisions.

Icaria: Perhaps she was one of the few Solars not imprisoned for eternity in Shark Island.

Vance: That sounds entirely plausible.

Icaria: Instead, she spent the past two thousand years being repeatedly murdered by Wyld Hunts, which is where she picked up her strong dislike of crimes!

Svetlana: I have never had a flashback to my time on Shark Island.

Svetlana: "I agree with Icaria," Svetlana says, after enough time for a mental change of gears.

Vance: About… Shark Island?

Svetlana: "It seems rude to keep someone a prisoner forever."

Icaria: "Right, so, we'll just have to do everything in our power to set you free. By which I mean, Camena, please pick the lock."

Camena: "…have you met demons?"

Vance: "I have learned to forgive my jailers. I do not despair of my fate."

Camena: "What, pray tell, were you jailed for?"

Vance: "I was not told."

Vance: "There was going to be a war."

Camena: "…what were you?"

Vance: "Were? I haven't… I don't know if I've changed."

Icaria: "This is a terrible way to deliver exposition," says Icaria, vexedly.

Camena: "Within the context of the world before, I mean."

Icaria: "Let's just start at the beginning and you can explain your life story from there."

Vance: "In the beginning, they say, there was only the Wyld, which is to say, no real thing. But the first real things were born from it."

Vance: "I am a subgradient of one of these first real things. Its soul."

Icaria: "Oh, so you're an aspect of Nirguna or something?"

Vance: "I do not know the name. That knowledge was severed from me, as part of my imprisonment. To estrange me."

Icaria: "Gods."

Icaria: "EVERYONE is trying to keep me from getting exposition!"

Svetlana: "There was that bit about the Wyld," Svetlana says, helpfully. It was news to her.

Icaria: "I'm going home and inventing a magic that forces people to explain things at length and in depth."

Icaria: "I can call it Blackened Secrets Inverted."

Vance: "I can answer other questions. Don't you want to know who imprisoned me?"

Icaria: "Yes, please explain that in depth."

Icaria: "And at length."

Vance: "The sun and the moon and the stars."

Vance: "As I said, I don't know why. If I ever gave one of them cause to be my enemy, I have no memory of it. I have come to believe my very existence was antithetical to their rebellion."

Camena: "…I mean, I know we're not all sorcerers, but everyone is taking the broad strokes in here, right?"

Icaria: "Yeah, this is efficient delivery."

Zanara: "His confinement here is Heaven's will."

Camena: "Gods and devils help me, I'm agreeing with Righteous."

Svetlana: "Technically, if we free him, wouldn't that be Heaven's will too?"

Vance: "I don't know about Heaven. The gods have dominion over this world, but Heaven is where the First True Things reign."

  • Icaria considers this carefully.

Svetlana: "I mean, the problem I'm having," Svetlana says, "isn't that I am not absolutely appalled at the idea of freeing him. It's just that the idea of leaving him here forever is so very much worse."

Camena: "Oh sweetie," Camena says to the… thing, but reconsiders whether or not she feels up to the task of explaining. She's not even that big about history! But there are certain things you can't escape, if you're breaking down the walls of your mind to the True Nature of this sort of shit.

Icaria: "Yeah, I think it's time we release him for time served."

Icaria: (Even if he's a weird hot demon or hot shinma or some other weird hot thing, I say in my inside voice.)

Vance: @impulsiveingenue Do you think that goes against your second chances Intimacy?

Camena: "…has everyone else been eating some kind of fun and suspicious mushrooms down here? You want to release something you barely know… with essentially no provocation."

Svetlana: "I'm assuming that if we manage somehow to let him out, it'll be a terrible mistake that we'll regret for a long time. I hope I'm wrong. But… who are we, if we leave anybody in a hole forever?"

Icaria: "You don't need a reason to set people free."

Zanara: If so, "Faith in the Unconquered Sun" is at loggerheads with it.

Vance: Roll Limit for going against it.

Vance: One die if it's major, two if it's defining.

Zanara: No Limit gained!

Svetlana: "I mean, we're not even talking about a life sentence, with a family somewhere to remember him. We're ta… and I'm probably rubbing it in. I am sorry."

Vance: "It really is fine. It is not entirely dissatisfactory, being trapped in the void."

Vance: "I have been able to meditate for the last ten thousand years."

Icaria: "That doesn't sound satisfactory at all!"

Svetlana: Svetlana regains a bit of perspective as she realizes that the universe probably won't actually last forever.

Vance: "You will feel differently, Icaria, after you have meditated for ten thousand years."

Zanara: "If he was consigned here by the Most High it is certainly for a reason, and I will not gainsay Heaven's judgement in the matter, or else everything that we are is called into question."

Vance: "You are welcome to remain with me. It would not be dissatisfactory."

Icaria: "That's really sweet! But it sounds way more convenient to just start bulldozing this place and moving the dragon lines around."

Svetlana: "Or turning it inside out?" Svetlana offers.

Vance: "You heard your compatriot. Do you think you can so easily gainsay the will of the highest gods?"

Icaria: "The highest gods sent me here."

Vance: "Oh?"

Camena: "I'm all about gainsayin'," Camena offers to Icaria. "But I'm also about knowing how deep the water is before you decide to take a dip."

Icaria: "Anyway, it seems like the satrap was doing all those crazy murders to reinforce the tomb. Do you really want to be complicit in that, Zanara?"

Icaria: "Crazy murders are just the worst."

Zanara: "This tomb stood for eons before the satrap was even born," Zanara said. "This is not her doing."

Vance: "What brought you to the notice of the sun and moon and stars, Icaria?"

Vance: "How have you gained their favor, being but mortal?"

Icaria: "Oh, I read a lot of books."

Icaria: "They taught me how to become amazing."

Svetlana: "I must assume," Svetlana says, "that Heaven's will takes twisting paths and unexpected turns."

Vance: "…the gods taught you?"

Icaria: "The gods could not fight against their makers, so they gave their powers to humans, and then retreated to Heaven, leaving Creation in our keeping."

Svetlana: "For instance," Svetlana says, in frustration, after Icaria says that, "Heaven did not feel the need to tell me things like that."

Icaria: "Most definitely including anybody they may have buried in it."

Vance: "That sounds… completely fake. Humans fighting the masters of the gods? You're very attractive, but I don't think you would stand for more than a few seconds against the lords of Heaven."

Icaria: "I'm pretty sure I, like… killed some of them?"

Icaria: "I've been reborn a bunch of times since then so I don't really remember. I guess I could try to dip down and learn more but I'd have to… >:P meditate."

Icaria: "Or something."

Vance: "I suppose one way or the other, it does not change the conditions of my existence."

Vance: "It still just seems like the gods could have picked… something else?"

Vance: "The gorillas would have had much better odds."

Camena: Camena has "done-with-his-shit" face.

Zanara: Zanara has never heard any of this before and is pretty sure Icaria is spinning a line of bullshit, but knows well enough not to spoil said line of bullshit, and so keeps quiet.

Icaria: All my bullshit is completely genuine.

Vance: Everyone, roll Perception + Awareness.

Svetlana: 5 successes.

Zanara: 1.

Camena: 2 successes.

Icaria: 3

Icaria: "Gorillas have impressive upper body strength, but they don't look as good in orichalcum."

Svetlana: (P.S.: How authoritative is Zanara being about her position? Was she expecting to carry the group or just contributing her opinion to the medley?)

Icaria: "Also I've never seen a gorilla who could do sorcery, although I haven't actually seen a gorilla at all, so don't quote me on that."

Vance: It is now almost 100% guaranteed that a city of gorilla sorcerers exists somewhere in Creation.

Svetlana: (This is relevant for Svetlana's Limit condition.)

Zanara: (The moment Zanara heard that the sun, moon, and stars were involved, she came down 110% on the side of leaving Pim be, so yeah, she's pretty firm on that.)

Svetlana: Do 10s double on Limit rolls?

Vance: Yes,

Svetlana: Svetlana gains an impressive 4 Limit from social anxiety. ^_^

Vance: Ain't that the truth.

Icaria: That puts you in the lead, since Icaria has 1 and I don't think anybody else has any?

Svetlana: I would say that I wished I rolled that well on other rolls but in fact I have been.

Icaria: Don't feel bad, Limit Break is a very cost-effective source of Willpower.

Camena: Camena's sitting pretty at 3

Svetlana: "Are we actually humans?" Svetlana wonders. "I mean, I know we're not gorillas."

Svetlana: "But…" She waves a hand.

Svetlana: "Like, the Dragon-Blooded sort of aren't."

Svetlana: "Except for Majal, who is totally a gorilla."

Icaria: "We're physically compatible." Icaria shrugs.

Icaria: "Well, you can ask questions about yourself, but consider: would you call me more than human?"

Icaria: "I think that puts things into perspective."

Svetlana: Svetlana raises an eyebrow at him. "I leave the room for like five minutes and you manifest a perfect immortal man."

Icaria: "Does that make me the perfect man?"

Svetlana: Svetlana looks between them.

Svetlana: "No," she says, definitively.

Icaria: "Yes, thank you."

Icaria: "Seeing the looks on all your faces is the only thing standing between me and yet greater hubris."

Svetlana: "I don't think there's a strict human/perfection dichotomy," Svetlana says. To Pim: "No offense."

Vance: "I suppose even the meekest can attain perfection, if nothing else makes sense."

Vance: "No offense."

Svetlana: Svetlana isn't sure if dichotomy is appropriate language in Pim's presence.

Svetlana: "Thank you," Svetlana says.

Vance: "You came here to ask me about… others. Who are they?"

Icaria: "Some people came in a while ago and messed around, but apparently never got to this room."

Icaria: "But for some reason they're still running around acting like they unleashed some ancient and terrible evil."

Vance: "How do people act, when they have unleashed some ancient and terrible evil?"

Camena: Oh god we've met the fetich soul of the Yozi version of Socrates

Svetlana: "They say that it wasn't their fault."

Vance: "It isn't their fault if they didn't unleash anything."

Icaria: "It is if they do a bunch of weird murders to keep away the thing they didn't unleash."

Icaria: "Honestly I'm now somewhat confused as to whether anything has been unleashed at all."

Svetlana: "In general," Svetlana says, "if a man runs up to a magistrate, saying, 'I didn't steal it! I didn't steal it!', something has always been stolen."

Svetlana: "Though I guess the case here is subtly different."

Icaria: "…you've got me there."

Svetlana: "Here they seem to be saying, 'we're really angry at Tran because it was her idea for us to come down here and unleash that ancient evil we unleashed.'"

Vance: "Tell me more about the 'murders.' What are they? Does being kept away with murder feel like every sensation that crosses the threshold of your mind is weighted down with anguish, and existing is in itself suffering?"

Vance: "I have felt something trying to drive away my Essence."

Svetlana: Svetlana is not at all happy now.

Icaria: I use my vast knowledge of occult matters to determine whether that's a likely subjective reaction to the various geomantic wards I've seen.

Vance: Yes.

Icaria: "It sounds like we're talking about the same incidents, then."

Vance: "A futile effort."

Icaria: "It does rather look as though they've committed grave sins to accomplish nothing."

Vance: "Who goes to such great lengths over nothing?"

Icaria: "I could talk about the tendency to fear what you don't understand, or can't control, but I'm just going to go with 'some total assholes'."

Svetlana: Svetlana finds a length of wood left over from the trap bonanza and begins fiddling with it and a knife as the group talks, getting it thinned down into a shaft and the tip the right shape to fit to the arrowhead she took from Jaspindar's neck.

Svetlana: Just in case it needs to go back in, y'know.

Vance: "But there would not even have been anything to misunderstand. They did not summon me as you did, Icaria. What could they have seen down here to be afraid of? The defenses that secure my prison?"

Icaria: "I… I actually have no idea what they saw, since evidently it wasn't you. Maybe some kind of 'face your worst fear' defense? Those are popular in my reference material."

Svetlana: Svetlana considers.

Vance: "I haven't tested the defenses, but… certainly you came through them."

Svetlana: "You are distinctly and visibly of two natures," Svetlana says. "Perhaps you had a mirror-reversed twin."

Icaria: "That's true," Icaria says, interested. "They were somewhat deadly, but not, like, super deadly."

Icaria: "I would not have expected them to keep out anybody really determined with either a lot of time or command of magic."

Icaria: "Which is surprising, under the circumstances."

Vance: "I am only two-natured in this aspect. The Perfected Immortal Man embodies both life and death. If Icaria had sought out a great destroyer instead of a perfect boyfriend, I would have assumed a different one, which may have one nature, or many natures, or none."

Vance: "If I have a twin, it is myself."

Icaria: "Did somebody… randomly leave an ancient evil in the antechamber of a prison for some totally different thing?"

Icaria: "I mean, it's efficient storage practice, but."

Icaria: "Also this talk of having a separate and destructive aspect seems relevant to my interests."

Svetlana: "I suppose," Svetlana says, "that Legate Tran could have shouted, 'oh no! I am under mental assault by the terrible evil that dwells here! Aah! Aah! I cannot resist, it is escaping the tomb! Quickly, we must flee and set up elaborate ritual defenses against it, based on information I somehow obtained!' for pure theatrical value."

Icaria: "Yeah… I mean, I'm game to assume that a bunch of Dynasts decided to start elaborate and tragic murder-theater to drive away an imaginary evil."

Icaria: "But not because they mistook a cat for a monster."

Icaria: "They're not stupid."

Svetlana: "Icaria, when you have a moment—for I endorse your pursuing your current line of thought first—do you know how they would even know what Essence to drive away without meeting him? Were there signs somewhere along the way?"

Icaria: "Uh… I don't recall seeing any."

Icaria: "Pim is not any regular kind of spirit. He's fairly esoteric."

Icaria: "I am forced to conclude that there's a lot we don't know about what happened just outside this room."

Vance: A violet light flares once again in the cathedral of stalagmites, shining to illuminate you from behind.

Icaria: Dammit, I shouldn't have phrased that sentence so dramatically.

Icaria: I was begging for interruption.

Icaria: Although, I probably was anyway, for I'm afraid I'm not letting everybody else talk.

Icaria: And since Svetlana and Icaria are basically in agreement, we're in danger of the party committing itself to something half of it doesn't actually want.

Svetlana: Svetlana takes a moment to compare the violet to the… half of Pim was purplish or violet or something, right?… but eyes, whatever, most useless sensory organ.

Vance: (I'm getting ready to wrap up for now.)

Vance: Pim was gray and indigo, which is not technically violet.

Svetlana: And in that technicality, everything.

Vance: That's what happens when the law student STs.

Svetlana: Svetlana is distressed at the violet appearing because she is arrogant enough to assume that if it was triggered by something in the hall it was a noiseless evil spirit which is bad, and if it wasn't, then either it's programmed to clear this room and the obvious hiding places won't work, which is bad, or Pim is bringing it in to hurt us, which is bad. It could very well turn out that it just turns on every now and then to provide the news.

Icaria: I suppose I should go look.

Svetlana: The violet wall was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel. Then the geomancy tuned it to NBC.

Vance: As it draws nigh, you see the purple radiance filling the cavern is not the wall of flames. It is an anima banner, surrounding a tall, dark-skinned man with a daiklave.

Icaria: "Purple, purple… I don't remember that one."

Icaria: "Oh, hey, how's things?" I call out in a friendly fashion.

Vance: "You did good to make your way through the traps of the Tomb of the Anathema," he says, tracing one foot across the ground in a semicircle to assume a fighting stance. "But can you defend against the secret of my Scorpion Style?"

  • Vance set the channel topic: ~ fin ~

Icaria: "As I was just saying," I yell, "the traps were only fair to middling!"

Icaria: "I'll fight you, but only if you explain why in great detail first!"

Svetlana: (hahahaha)

Camena: It's Chinatown.

Vance: So…

Vance: …scale of 1-10…

Vance: …rate Pim as a boyfriend.

Icaria: He seems ethical, but not very outgoing. I feel like I'd have to do a lot of the pursuing.

Icaria: His chest and arms are very acceptable, but I'm not sure how I feel about the two-tone thing.

Icaria: Also I think Zanara is going to persecute me for dating him.

Icaria: Possibly with arrows.

Vance: Secret loooovers~

Vance: That's what y'all are.

Zanara: Only if you turn him loose.

Icaria: He's blue. How secret can a blue boyfriend be?

Camena: Camena can be convinced to sneak him out and costume him.

Vance: bad and naughty boyfriends get put in the forbidden god wiggler to atone for their sins.

Icaria: How about if I imprison him… inside Creation?

Svetlana: Maybe make the tomb portable.

Svetlana: Then everyone wins!

Icaria: Well, we were going to steal it.

Icaria: Camena, you're up!

Svetlana: Like, if it could be made like buff jacket shaped.

Icaria: No shirts.

Svetlana: Or maybe just turned into a pair of bracelets.

Icaria: Acceptable.

Camena: I think we're getting into significant sorcerous working territory now

Svetlana: I have two points of Craft (Woodworking) so I can do the really easy woodworking parts of forging the tomb into some bracelets.

Icaria: Well, he's already pinned in a bunch of dragon lines.

Icaria: So what we do is, we sneak back into murdertown and sabotage their freaky murderhenge.

Icaria: Or fill it up with the opposite of murder or something.

Icaria: While I do complicated geomantic things.

Camena: Did I miss some moment where he said something to convince folks to let him go?

Zanara: Zanara is starting to think that her not having any Lore or Occult is secretly a good thing XD

Camena: I feel like I have a lacuna.

Vance: I dunno.

Icaria: It was a while back but it definitely happened.

Icaria: …maybe we can all come to an agreement on killing the satrap?

Camena: Nope!

Zanara: 1) I have to drop a Major Intimacy's worth of dead peoples' memories on her. 2) If she shapes up, no killing her.

Icaria: You never let me have anything I want.

Icaria: Except to yammer on endlessly about whatever's on my mind.

Svetlana: He didn't say anything super-convincing. He didn't want to convince us. He did indicate that he was imprisoned without a crime, some memories stripped, and would be there forever, while not slavering and screaming about killing children.

Camena: I'm assuming that Camena knows just enough about sorcerous lore to be like: "How about no?"

Icaria: Okay, I suggest a new consensus plan:

Icaria: Let's find out exactly what the hell the Dynasts think is going on here.

Camena: I like it.

Zanara: Yes, this is a good plan.

Svetlana: It's pretty much dead center of Svetlana's Defining Principle.

Icaria: Because my high-Occult analysis is that they're commiting lots of murders in order to accomplish Sweet Feathered Analepsis.

Camena: We should invite them to a dinner party. Perhaps a murder mystery?

Vance: Whose murder?

Camena: Dunno.

Camena: Who's gonna piss off us next session?

Icaria: No, I am totally going to invent the spell that forces people to explain themselves.

Zanara: I can think of a few dozen people.

Icaria: We know why they got murdered.

Camena: So… like, Paralyzing Koan, but they can't unfreeze until they've explained their backstory?

Icaria: We just don't know why Jaspindar thought it was necessary.

Icaria: Yes, exactly.

Vance: Intrusive!

Icaria: A magic of orderly exposition.

Icaria: It can also alphabetize shelves.

Camena: If it's your control spell, then it becomes a full-on flashback.

Camena: Or a montage!

Svetlana: Svetlana did her original magistrate impersonation because the magistrate she was following met an ignominious death and nothing was going to happen about it and it and she were going to be forgotten and pointless and left unfinished and just kind of peter out into nothingness and it wasn't okay to have that happen to anyone. This is like ten million times that.

Icaria: Right, then we are in agreement.

Icaria: Then only one thing remains.

Camena: Well…

Icaria: Which is naming our circle.

Camena: Oh, dear.

Camena: The Gloam and Doom Girls.

Icaria: I vote for the Ring of the Well-Ordered Mind.

Svetlana: Oh, hey, I wonder if I can switch in for Pim with a flawless disguise and then escape by undisguising… no, that is the worst idea I've ever had.

Icaria: It does sound like a good way to be pinned to the void for eternity.

Camena: Anathema Anonymous.

Vance: The Mirror Flag charms would be interesting for Svetlana.

Svetlana: I am less likely to go that direction now that we have Camena.

Camena: The Brotherhood Without Subtlety.

Icaria: The Many Facets of Justice.

Camena: Please don't let me stop you! Camena is much more stealy. Our first sessions have just been very… disguise-y.

Camena: But it is tomorrow now.

Camena: And I am off to turn into a pumpkin.

Vance: Night!

Zanara: Night.

Icaria: Good night!

Camena: And so, to you, Vance, a merry happy thank you.

Icaria: This was a good session.

Icaria: I am sorry for talking too much.

Camena: And to the rest of you, I bid you adieu and award you 1 ferret.

Vance: Boyfriends and Exposition.

Camena: (And Rand, it happens. Situations fall itno one character's lap that just fit them.)

Svetlana: Happy dreams! Thank you for running.

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