In Which Gambling Is Wrong

Svetlana: Has anyone come up with any better plans in the past few weeks for handling a Deathlord than "I dunno, try our best?"

Camena: Can you give me twenty minutes?

Vance: Sure.

Camena: I just dropped Nico at the shelter.

Vance: Aww, no!

Vance: Is he okay?

Icaria: I plan on driving him mad with my erudite… oh, dear.

Camena: He boards there when i go out of town.

Icaria: Oh, okay.

Vance: I worried he'd, like, committed a ferret felony, and had to go to jail.

Icaria: I thought you were going to say he had Exploding Ferret Syndrome.

Icaria: The worst syndrome.

Svetlana: My best quarter-plan is to pretend to sell out so that when he wins we can still win, but it's, as noted, at best a quarter of a plan. I have a really bad whole plan that involves psyching ourselves up really hard to believe that we have something to wager that will kill him if he owns it and then betting it when the box comes out but I don't think it'll work.

Icaria: Just remember he probably has a Moonshadow.

Icaria: My plan is to drive him with my erudite eroticism.

Icaria: Vance, can I roll the last two successes on my working? It's been approximately forever and the casino story will be much more entertaining if I have it.

Serestala: Sorry I was busy killing the 7 through 12th ringed royalty of the baboons and members of the Cult of Yamusara.

Serestala: (Qud is a good game.)

Zanara: At least none of those baboons had axes.

Serestala: One had a knife!

Serestala: He was the 9th Ringed Philanderer.

Vance: Yes, you may. As long as you remind me how we agreed that would work.

Icaria: As long as I'm <100% dressed, people get an Intimacy of love upon seeing me that scales up a notch at the end of every scene they're in my presence.

Icaria: Until everything ends in total obsessive madness.

Serestala: Whoa.

Vance: How's it resisted?

Icaria: Eventually, after everything ends in blood, I will probably either remove the working or cap it at Minor.

Icaria: Hm, probably either "it isn't" or "you need to get your Resolve to some number most people can't do without invoking a true love or something."

Vance: I'm gonna say the Tie can only escalate after a scene in which you reached new heights of sexiness.

Vance: If they got a Minor from a glimpse of your thighs, you'd need to pose to raise it to Major.

Vance: And set the Resolve at like, 7.

Vance: That's the "basically impossible" number.

Vance: Except it'll be a (Wits + Integrity) roll.

Vance: Or maybe an (Appearance + Integrity) roll as an alternative? Harder to be bewitched if you're already confident in your own look.

Icaria: Oh, now I remember. The main balance point was supposed to be not having any sensible restrictions.

Icaria: Being stupidly overpowered and not being able to have a normal conversation if anything happens to my shirt is its own limitation.

Vance: You can't seduce the Mask of Winters by flashing your nips!

Icaria: Well, I mean… I don't really want to.

Camena: Almost home!

Icaria: Abyssals aren't exactly corn-fed country boys.

  • Zanara adds a Defining Intimacy of “I like women” to Zanara’s sheet, which should have already been there honestly, just in case of wardrobe malfunctions.

Vance: The Red Rule can shut down any friendly fire.

Zanara: Haha, I know.

Icaria: I was assuming you guys would be using the Red Rule to avoid the magic, yeah.

Vance: But do I need to roll for Kumaria, or did you stay dressed for the ride over?

Icaria: It's cold on that dragon!

Vance: Fair enough.

Icaria: Although Kumaria falling for Icaria's charms while he thoughtlessly demands that she set him up with all her male colleagues seems depressingly plausible.

Vance: Octavian and Baeleron would also have to roll.

Icaria: Baeleron is not classified as my pseudo-child, so that's not terrible, although lord knows what mad infatuation will do to Octavian.

Svetlana: I feel nonhumans should have some sort of advantage here.

Icaria: Emphasis on "mad," I guess.

Svetlana: Not an overwhelming one but some.

Icaria: I suppose the ST could imply some kind of intimacy akin to "I am definitely not attracted to gross air-breathers."

Vance: They would, if Icaria had put sensible restrictions on the working.

Vance: He did not.

Serestala: Yeah, it feels like Octavian has a type and Icaria is not a large terrestrial mass of silica.

Svetlana: I mean, sure, agatae will be all over him, but I just don't see how he's alcoholic enough to ping a stomach bottle bug's hotness levers.

Vance: Bears are going to fall in love with him, and I mean the grizzly kind.

Svetlana: Fair enough!

Icaria: This is why it's dangerous to be good enough at Occult to do Celestial Circle workings in your spare time, while sitting on a dragon.

Serestala: Though maybe that's why Octavian would be into it. "There's my ex, come on, act like we're having fun together."

Icaria: Anyway, you probably all noticed that Icaria has grown suspiciously attractive over the past few weeks. Probably you felt strange emotions and went to another corner of the dragon to hit yourself in the head with rocks until the madness subsided, permanently.

Icaria: Kumaria can probably advise you on what kind of rock is best. She's got a whole filing cabinet on the subject labelled "Trouble No One Needs."

  • Icaria isn't exactly sure what it looks like when you do beauty-magic on a week-long dragon flight.

Icaria: It may resemble reading a lot of men's magazines.

Icaria: And attempting to do isometric exercises while sitting on a creature who is… maybe three feet in radius?

Icaria: I suppose it's possible that Baeleron has a barbell rack installed.

Icaria: He's got bull horns, so they could hang there.

Vance: I'm declaring canon that Icaria has Flex Mentallo-style boxers.

Vance: Trunks? Are those what trunks are?

Icaria: He seems to wear a very large leopard-print Speedo, which isn't very Bronze Age.

Icaria: Trunks is a Saiyan warrior from the future.

Svetlana: No time travel in Exalted. He's a Dragon King.

  • Vance clears their throat.

Vance: The Diving Sea Snake Casino, Kumaria has told you, is the wandering island of the gambler's god Plentimon, a brigadoon of splendid wonders and impossible stakes. With the aid of a starmetal compass and a horoscope chart, the Joybringer has worked out a route to its current location.

Vance: "Just out of curiosity… do the five of you have a plan for how to handle this? We're almost there."

Camena: "Play games. Have drinks. Win games. Have more drinks?"

Icaria: "I'll go in and cause a distraction, while Camena wins all of the games."

Camena: "And/or cheat. A little. If necessary."

Zanara: “Gambling is hardly my forte,” Zanara says. “I suppose I’ll be on distraction patrol as well.”

Icaria: "Everybody else is in charge of preventing any and all of the things that will stop her from winning."

Vance: "You can't cheat in front of Plentimon. He'll see right through any trick you try, and he won't be happy. Don't cheat!"

Camena: "Psssssh. I've annoyed worse than him."

Camena: "Like, remember that time with Sivana and the fire?"

Icaria: "Okay, new plan. I will distract Camena."

Icaria: "While that is going on, Zanara, I need you to win all the games."

Serestala: "Well, if we're not cheating, then I'm out of ideas."

Vance: "But you are going to be up against… at least whoever represents the Mask of Winters, plus everyone else who wants a key to the Eschaton Vault. I don't have any intel on their capacities."

Zanara: “Couldn’t we distract Plentimon?”

Svetlana: Evdeniya considers this. "If Plentimon is absolutely guaranteed to see through any cheating, then we simply have to play extremely well."

Icaria: "…is he some form of hot guy?"

Vance: "Depends on your standards, Icaria."

Icaria: "I'm a very wholesome person."

Svetlana: "If it is not a certainty, then we must assume that Mask of Winters will cheat, and do so better."

Camena: "I could go in disguised as the Mask of Winters. And then implicate my own Deathknight by cheating."

Vance: "You could try to distract him, but despite the fact that he's slumming it in Creation's gambling halls, he's a god of pretty major pertinence. That gives him a lot of power."

Svetlana: "…that isn't a bad idea, Camena. Expose his cheating, whether or not he is doing it, I mean."

Icaria: "Hm, maybe our first step should be to learn the strength of our opponents."

Svetlana: "I'm not sure that's the correct method, but it's an interesting idea."

Vance: "But it's only legendarily difficult, not axiomatically impossible."

Icaria: "How many deathknights are present, and who's the gambler?"

Zanara: “…I like it. Devious.”

Camena: "You're on the side of deviousness now, Righteous?"

Camena: Camena smiles a wicked cat smile.

Zanara: “Strategy can be devious without being unrighteous, you know.”

Svetlana: Evdeniya considers. "Let me go further," she says, "and turn around my previous thought. Suppose we convince him that we are successfully cheating, so that he must?"

Vance: "So, the next question is, who's going to play? The more of you at the table the better our chances, but you'll all have to put up a stake."

Camena: "I assume you're staking us, then?"

Camena: "Otherwise, Heaven doesn't have much skin in the game, so to speak."

Camena: "And momma could use some comps."

Icaria: "Camena, you are just the worst subcontractor."

Camena: "I'm surprisingly okay with that."

Vance: "My stake was going to come from my operational budget. But, uh…"

Vance: "I've got no real poker face. I was planning just to dodge everyone's attentions."

Vance: "Not sure how long I can keep that up."

Camena: "…they didn't even send you with an expense account?"

Icaria: "Yeah, I… don't really do the poker face, either."

Svetlana: Evdeniya glances at Kumaria. "I'm not sure whether Cynis Bokuro had the opportunity to inform the Realm that I was dead, so I'm not sure whether I'm capable of staking anything on behalf of the Magistracy. I don't suppose you have Sidereal magic to determine that, or know whether the Magistracy has the kind of stakes that would matter?"

Svetlana: "If I'm left with my own purse, allow me to laugh briefly in a robotic manner."

  • Icaria considers having Icaria say "I've got big guns and I cannot lie."

Camena: "Jeez, Yu-Shan. It's like they want the dead terrorist monsters to get the apocalypse key."

Svetlana: "Haha. Haha. Hahaha," Evdeniya notes.

Icaria: I guess I have… a magic brush, which I really don't want to lose?

Camena: "I've got… a fair bit of silver, but most of it tied up."

Icaria: And most of a year's service from a magical dragon.

Svetlana: Oh, right, we do have magical items, I guess.

Vance: "Plentimon can facilitate almost any wager, as long as you own it. Not just physical things. Dreams, souls, years of your life."

Icaria: I can also foresee a future where Icaria wagers his unholy beauty, but he'll have to get sick of it first.

Camena: "You mind if I put you up, big guy?" Camena asks Octavian.

Icaria: "Oh, hell no."

Svetlana: I know we've picked up some boomerangs, Bokuro's armor, and the warstrider, I'm not sure if there's anything else.

Icaria: I don't mind betting the armor.

Icaria: It would faciliate my grand disenshirtment.

Svetlana: I don't want to bet the boomerangs since I bought the evocation, although I'd probably get the XP back, but more pressingly Vance wrote up the evocations.

Serestala: Serestala has a resources score that is larger than I remember and easily liquidated for this situation.

Camena: "Hmmph. Loathe as I am to go and… what did you call it, subcontract? That thing. Think Plentimon's hurting for an Eclipse to seal his deals?"

Vance: "No one just has a Solar Exalt lying around at their service, Camena."

Vance: "You can ask him."

Camena: "Hmmm. Beyond that… not sure what I've got that's worth much of a damn. Unless he's looking for a nearly encyclopedic knowledge of Threshold Expressionist Art."

Icaria: "Oh, and I have some magic masks."

Icaria: "Albeit less than I did."

Camena: "Wonder if he'd take a small and slightly shitty satrapy."

Svetlana: Evdeniya tries to remember what Kumaria swore to Camena and whether it rules out a two-man con.

Svetlana: ("I'll work the Solars up into staking their souls and service and memories, you win it from them, bam, everyone's happy."—the two man con she wants to make sure isn't happening by checking her memories of the oath.)

Vance: Growing closer on the horizon, you see a lush tropical island that looks like it was plucked out of the exotic seas of the West. Rising up over the island, like Meru over the Blessed Isle, is an ornate pagoda of glossy wine-dark wood, ornamented with mosaics in mother-of-pearl and banners that glow with a pulsating iridescence, spelling out the name of the building in all the tongues of Creation: The Diving Sea Snake Casino.

Camena: "Oh gods. It's worse than I feared. He's tacky."

Icaria: Icaria is never going to wager anything metaphysical.

Icaria: He has read those sorcery manuals very carefully.

Serestala: "I think it's kind of pretty."

Icaria: All the books that didn't say "don't drive everybody who sees you mad with your incredible delts; you don't want to go among mad people" were very clear about "don't go bartering your voice; people who buy bits of people are jerks."

Svetlana: Evdeniya, after careful thought, concludes that Kumaria did not actually swear to be a loyal ally, just that the offer to show the vision was sound.

Icaria: Icaria has decided to trust Kumaria absolutely on the grounds that she's a questgiving NPC.

Camena: The new Sidereal anima is a colorful exclamation point that floats over their heads.

Svetlana: That's… not good logic at all, although it does ensure plot progression!

Icaria: That makes no sense.

Icaria: Ensuring plot progression is the only logic.

  • Icaria reaps a bounty of sorcerous motes.

Vance: Baeleron alights on the island's conveniently-illuminated Dragon-Parking Stables. "If you don't mind," Kumaria says, getting off the dragon's back, "I'd rather not go into the casino. I don't know whether my resplendency can withstand the Mask of Winters' scrutiny, and I'm not eager to find out. Could I just… give you my marker?"

Icaria: "Anyway, I'm prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice."

Icaria: "Camena, please go and do gambling things with this."

  • Icaria wiggles out of Bokuro's armor.

Vance: She holds out a small jade tablet, fitting in the palm of her hand, engraved in the shape of a maneki neko.

Vance: Is there perhaps, a subtle glimpse of Icaria's belly?

Icaria: No, but I've definitely got bare shoulders now.

  • Vance makes some rolls.

Zanara: “One supposes they don’t welcome armed parties in this establishment,” Zanara says.

Icaria: I'm afraid someone has rubbed vaseline on the camera lens.

Svetlana: Evdeniya reaches for the tablet.

Camena: Camena swipes it.

Svetlana: Evdeniya shakes Kumaria's empty hand. "Thank you for assisting us to this point," she says smoothly.

Vance: Baleron's bull-headed countenance flushes a bright red. "I… Icaria."

Camena: "Icaria, cover up. You're giving sonny-boy bad thoughts."

Vance: Octavian looks away, uncomfortably. With a flick of his hands, he sends countless flecks of black oil onto the soil of the island, blighting the hated earth.

Icaria: "I'm afraid those were the only clothes I own."

Icaria: "Man, I was really into the idea of a shirt I'd never have to wash, so, uh, please don't lose it?"

Camena: "So, do I have to leave my precious firewand out here or what, Kumaria?"

Icaria: Although I am still wearing some kind of sleeveless undervest, and, you know, pants.

Icaria: I should probably consider what worldly possessions I actually have.

Vance: "Weapons are fine."

Vance: "Violence usually isn't."

Serestala: "You know everywhere we go they say that and how does it end up? Violence."

Vance: "If things go bad…"

Camena: "We're getting better at it, though, don't worry."

Camena: "The violence, I mean."

Camena: "We're better at the violence."

Icaria: "Let's find out what we're up against before we worry too much. Who, uh, who plans a heist before they know who they're stealing from?"

Vance: She hands each of you a piece of blank parchment. "Write something on it. I'll have my spider check them every ten minutes."

  • Camena makes a show about entering the casino, firewand slung across her back and hands clapped together in enthusiasm. Camena looks the way an athlete might before some great challenge.

Vance: The inside of the casino is almost more than you can take in. There are pleasures to appeal to every sense, delights to entice any heart. Countless gamblers play every game known to Creation across the vast hall, smoking opium or thick cigars and eating from platters of fresh fruit and smoked fish. On a small raised stage, a four-armed woman with a star for a head is plucking out a beautiful harmony on a guzheng.

Icaria: What are the other three heads?

Vance: (Avoidance Kata!)

Svetlana: Evdeniya writes, "You never answered my questions," on the paper, and heads in.

Vance: (What were Evdeniya's questions?)

Svetlana: (Evdeniya asked if he could use Sidereal magic to see if Bokuro had managed to warn the Realm she was dead, and if not, whether the Magistracy resources were at the level that actually mattered at a contest like this, or if this is like, Imperial Manse or Get Out)

Serestala: "Fancier than any gambling hall I've ever been in," Serestala says.

Vance: None of the hardened gamblers stir from their tables to notice you, but someone does. He is a striking figure, a face unlike any that you have ever seen—it is void, pure black, like a hole cut out of the world, and filled with a thousand beautiful shining stars. He wears a silk kimono of seven colors, and is bedecked in jewelry from every Direction and era of Creation, and a few worlds besides. "Greetings, travelers!" says Plentimon, radiating good humor and enthusiasm. "I see that you have the last of the invitations to tonight's special event. Please, fall me to our special Adamant Hospitality Membership Lounge."

  • Icaria considers this figure.

Camena: "Plentimon, I assume?"

Vance: "Indeed! You have me at a disadvantage."

Svetlana: Evdeniya nods politely, but can't help looking too long into the void.

Vance: My god.

Vance: It's full of stars.

Camena: "Isn't that how a gambler likes it, though?"

Svetlana: Oh, so he's theater folk.

Vance: "Oh, I won't be gambling with you tonight—just watching our special entertainment."

Camena: "More's the pity. Seems a rare chance to gamble with the Gambler."

Vance: "You'll be meeting your competition in the lounge. Right this way, take a drink or a meal or whatever you please as we walk."

Camena: "Take whatever I please?"

Camena: "That seems a dangerously loose wording, friend."

Vance: "I like to offer only the finest in luxuries. Don't steal from the other guests, though."

Icaria: "Pleased to meet you. We are the Dauntless Bureau of the Flame Duck."

Icaria: "We are consultants."

Camena: "I'd say that's not our real name but I'd rather save my lies for later."

Icaria: "You had your chance to pick a different name, and you let it go by."

  • Camena shrugs and takes a few things as she goes, primarily a flute of bubbly, a small plate of smoked fish she recognizes as a distant delicacy, and a single plum floating in a crystal bowl full of cologne.

Svetlana: "She can pick a different name later," Evdeniya says. "There's time."

Zanara: Zanara takes nothing, says nothing. She is entirely too used to this sort of thing.

Vance: Plentimon opens a door to a room filled with plush sitting pillows, and platters of food, drink, and drugs that are somehow even more opulent that those outside. There are four other individuals waiting in this lounge. "Now, if you'll just wait a few moments," Plentimon says to all of you, "there are a few final preparations I must make before we can begin tonight's special Wonders of the Lost Age Tournament."

Vance: As you had been told, the Mask of Winters is here.

Svetlana: Evdeniya looks at him, then glances back at Plentimon. "If I may ask," she says: "Why?"

Vance: He is… massive. At least ten feet tall, but seeming even taller, shrouded in black robes and darker shadows. If he takes notice of your entrance, or of Plentimon's speech, it does not show behind his metal mask of a face. He is silent, motionless. At his side, sitting on one of the pillows, is a beautiful woman dressed in white robes, contrasting against the red lily that ornaments her night-black hair. She is knitting a cashmere shawl with a pair of ivory needles.

Vance: In the far corner of the room, as far away from you and everyone else as possible, is a young man with green hair and tired eyes, weighted down by countless protective talismans and mystical wards.

  • Camena takes her own seat, jade marker in one hand as she takes stock of her competition.

Vance: And, snacking on a bowl of caviar, is a demon whose upper body is that of a man—a handsome, bare-chested man—with whorls of violet and crimson tattooed on his skin, and long red hair. His lower body is a writhing mass of scorpion's tails, an octopus-like mass of chitinous appendages.

  • Icaria sits calmly down on a chair and begins to read.

Vance: He gives a polite nod.

Camena: "Octavian, make any notions about that fellow?"

Icaria: I roll to know who that is.

Vance: Take two bonus dice from Octavian's help.

Icaria: Nine successes.

Icaria: The dice are on my side tonight. Auspicious.

Vance: It is Cehlarik, Who Stirs The Cauldron of Memory, a Demon of the Second Circle whose summoning is advised for peering into the memories of others, erasing knowledge that should not be known, and other esoteric purpose.

Icaria: Speaking of knowing things and Lore, I completely misread how Harmonious Academic Methodology works.

Icaria: I thought if I introduced a fact, I got to add a specialty at the end of the story.

Icaria: It's actually both.

Icaria: So I'm short about twenty-five Lore specialties.

Vance: I think you get one specialty per story,

Icaria: Yeah, so twenty-five or so!

Icaria: Not that it matters.

Vance: We haven't had twenty-five full stories!

Icaria: My logs clearly show each session as a separate story.

Icaria: Anyway, I check this guy over for sorcerous bindings. Is he a subcontractor, or free-range?

Vance: He is unbound.

Vance: "Greetings, Princes of the Earth. What brings you in search of this key?"

Camena: "The usual," Camena says, suddenly stone-faced.

Vance: "…you intend to use it?"

Camena: "Could be."

Vance: Camena's intentions are being read.

Icaria: "To see and be seen, is what we came for."

Camena: Guile 9.

Vance: He fails.

Icaria: Ooh, do me next!

Svetlana: Evdeniya seats herself.

Vance: At this point the scene unfolds into a dating-sim-style conversation menu.

Serestala: Serestala takes a seat and stares directly at Mask of Winters because her parents never taught her any better.

Vance: The Deathlord takes no notice, but his companion does. After finishing her current row, she pits her knitting aside, and comes over to sit beside Serestala. "Hello, there. They call me the Qedesha of Unrepentant Sinners, but that's quite the mouthful."

  • Icaria looks this word up. Well, then.

Vance: Emphasis on the "priestess" aspect of the word.

Camena: "Just 'Sinner,' then?"

Vance: "Works for me!"

Camena: "Fabulous."

Vance: "I imagine we're here for the same thing," she asks. "Absolute power, eh?"

Camena: "Something like that, sure."

Serestala: "Nah, I was promised a sword."

  • Camena turns her attention to the Terrestrial.

Camena: At least, she assumes it's a Terrestrial.

  • Vance reminds themself that y'all have a Dragon-Blooded tied up on Baeleron.

Icaria: Lots of people have green hair and aren't Terrestrials!

Vance: Oh, that guy.

Vance: He's in a corner.

Icaria: I use my intense knowledge of the elements to discern the source of his hair color.

Vance: He seems very unhappy about Camena paying attention to him, but can't do anything to stop it.

Vance: "Mordanun," he mumbles, by way of introduction.

Camena: "Hello, Mordanun."

Vance: "I don't see the point of talking to you. We're going to be competing against each other."

Vance: "Only one of us can win, no matter how good a friendship we might strike up."

Icaria: "Isn't friendship the truest victory?"

Camena: "To your fortune, then," Camena says, raising her glass lightly in a toast that dances between mocking and sincerity. "And to mine, too."

Vance: "You seem a pleasant woman. I wish that both of us could win what we want, but that can't be helped."

Vance: "Don't take anything personally."

Svetlana: Evdeniya frowns at Mordanun. "The game is zero-sum, but I am surprised that the outcome must be."

Camena: "Not at all. Incidentally—Dragon Blooded, yeah?"

Vance: "What makes you say that?"

Camena: "Notions. Instincts. Am I completely off base?" she adds, wilting a little, maybe as a flourish.

Vance: "Completely."

Icaria: I hate your racism. I hate it so much.

Svetlana: "I mean, are you both actually planning to unleash ancient evils on the heads of all the rest of us if you each win?"

Icaria: I was going to say that this is what happens when you don't listen to me, and then I realized that I should invent a Charm that makes bad things happen when you don't listen to me.

Svetlana: "Do I have to? Is it obligatory?"

Camena: You can't just ask people if they're evil.

Vance: Who's Svetlana asking? They aren't close enough to ask both at once.

Vance: Unless you yell.

Svetlana: Mordanun.

Vance: "No, I don't want anything to do with that."

Svetlana: Evdeniya looks at Camena, a similar question in her eyes.

Camena: What question?

Svetlana: "You're not planning to unleash ancient evils, either, right?"

Camena: Camena smiles and winks.

Svetlana: Evdeniya makes a face.

Camena: "But c'mon, man, what's your deal, then?" Camena asks, flashing a smile back at Mordanun.

Icaria: "Yeah, tell me what you do want, then," says Icaria. "It's part of the psychological warfare aspect of the game."

Icaria: Stand back, everybody.

Icaria: I am going to attempt… to smolder.

Vance: Do you… draw back the clothing?

Vance: And does this affect everyone in the room?

Icaria: I will remain bare-shouldered for now, although everybody in the room ought to be affected anyway, since they haven't seen it before.

Icaria: I spend five personal motes on an instill action directed at this sad-looking, friendless fellow.

Icaria: And I roll ten successes.

Vance: What emotion do you instill?

Vance: Intimacy, rather?

Icaria: A desire to get to know me better!

Camena: Goddamnit, Icaria, you and your terrible tube-top.

Icaria: I invite you to narrate a better outfit for me.

  • Vance makes some rolls.

Icaria: And this is the story of how everybody made their Resolve roll except the Mask of Winters.

Vance: "I want to sell the key," he says, in an almost confessional tone. "Not for money. But there's a… rare illness that I have, one that's very difficult to cure."

Icaria: "Wow, really? That's super interesting; tell me your symptoms?"

Icaria: I apply my master physician's eye.

Vance: "That's… a little personal."

Vance: Roll (Perception + Medicine).

Icaria: I'll spend five more personal motes and roll 13 dice… 9 successes!

Icaria: Venus smiles upon my physick.

Icaria: That's what comes of being sent by a Chosen of Serenity.

Vance: Looks fine to you.

Icaria: "Hm, you look as healthy as a horse."

Icaria: I attempt to read his intentions.

Vance: What're you looking for?

Icaria: I want to know if he's honest about being sickly.

Icaria: I roll… three successes. Wow, that's better than I was expecting.

Vance: You can't really tell.

Vance: "It's… not really a sickness like the flux or the plague. I'm sorry. It's hard to talk about."

Vance: "But as long as I win, I have a chance at ending it."

Icaria: "Oh, so you've got curses!"

Icaria: "I should have known; you clearly have resting curse-face."

Vance: "More than just a curse."

Vance: "I am my own Hell."

Icaria: "Double cursed?"

Icaria: Oh my god, he's an angry cloud guy.

Icaria: As the Unconquered Sun is my witness, I shall be the first to bone a new Exalt type.

Icaria: Everybody out of the way.

Icaria: "That sounds amazing," says Icaria, overcome with the heady brews of attraction and scholarship.

Icaria: "Let's have a look."

  • Icaria wanders over and applies his most powerful occult perceptions to this intriguing fellow.

Vance: All-Encompassing Sorcerer's Sight?

Camena: "Well, that's going to be interesting," Camena says in a small voice, turning her attentions to the Dead Elephant in the Room.

Icaria: Oh, yeah.

Camena: "Should I address you as the Lord of Thorns, perhaps?"

Vance: Sorcerer's sight reveals very little—his talismans hold some mystical power, but there's nothing else you can see.

Icaria: Well, even so, I am checking him all-out scholarways. Surely he has something going on perceptible to the trained diamond mind.

Vance: There is a voice like the wind blowing between the trees on a snowy night, as you cower in the cold dark of a cabin to withstand the storm. "Please, let us not stand on formalities. I simply intend to watch—it is my knight who will be playing for me." Sinner grins.

Camena: "You have a certain amiability I might not have expected," Camena says, and flips her Seasoned Criminal Method switch to "Receptivity," a certain corruptible excitement entering her voice, a little whisper of potential wickedness. "All things considered, of course."

Vance: "I understand that I there are those who fear me, but my goals are statecraft and diplomacy. Hard to accomplish when one must menace with every syllable."

Camena: "I can respect someone who knows when to spend their best kind of coin."

Svetlana: Evdeniya studies Qedesha for a moment, her senses hunting out scars, nuances in her scent, origin of clothing and hairstyle, the dirtiness or cleanliness of her fingernails, the tapping or stillness of her hands, and all the eighty-seven little things from legendary Magistrate Di Yu's list.

Vance: Two-point stunt.

Svetlana: 8 successes on this profile.

Vance: What are you trying to figure out about her?

Svetlana: Why her? (Or put another way, who she is that he'd choose her for this.) Plus anything random and incongruous just in case.

Icaria: Oh, didn't you know?

Icaria: Little old ladies who knit know everything about human nature.

Icaria: From behind those doilies she has beheld the darkest secrets of the mortal soul.

Svetlana: Dang it, and we lost ours.

Vance: She has all the bearing of a master socialite—perhaps she trained in Coral's diplomatic school, or in the courts of the sorcerer princes of Ysyr (not the Realm. You'd be able to tell). If there's any gambling to be done, you reckon that she can put on a superb poker face and see through the bluffs of others.

Vance: And from the way she holds her knitting needles, you're fairly certain she can do more than just make a sweater with them.

Svetlana: Oh, , she can do mittens.

Camena: But can she knit in the round?

Vance: Is that when you use the circular needles?

Vance: My mom's a big knitter, but I'm not!

Svetlana: You need a perfect circle to knit in the round.

Svetlana: Either that or the right summon materia.

Vance: Plentimon returns to the room. "Welcome!" he shouts, dramatically, "to the first round of the Wonders of the Lost Age Tournament!"

Vance: At his gesture, the trappings of the room dissolve into a candy-colored mist, reforming in the shape of a gambling table with seats for each of you.

Vance: "Before you decide which of you will be playing, allow me to explain the rules of this tournament."

Vance: "You're allowed to stake whatever you want—and I do mean whatever—at any time. In exchange," he says, prestidigitating a sapphire blue poker chip. "You'll get these. The tournament has five rounds, in which you'll be betting your chips on various games. At the end, whoever has the most chips wins the key to the Eschaton Vault."

Camena: "I assume the house takes its own cut?"

Vance: "If, for any reason, you decide you're done playing, whatever you wagered will be restored to you—as long as you have enough chips to make up for it."

Vance: "Oh, watching some of Creation's greatest gamble over a key to untold treasures is its own reward."

Vance: "Now, anyone willing to put down a stake, take a seat."

Vance: Sinner doesn't think twice—this is what she came here to do. The Mask of Winters does not take a place at the table, brooding over in what seems to be the spectator's seating.

Camena: What does she put down?

Vance: The staking will go down once everyone's taken a seat.

Vance: Mordanun take his seat, while Cehlarik attempts to entangle his scorpion-tails around one.

Svetlana: Evdeniya seats herself.

  • Camena gives her a stern look like "You sure you want this, cousin?"

Vance: Plentimon eyes Serestala, Zanara, and Icaria. "Are you sure you want to sit this one out?"

Svetlana: Evdeniya clarifies: "Do you lose your stake if you win the key?"

Vance: "The winner's stake is returned to them. The house keeps the rest."

Icaria: My poker face keeps not existing.

Icaria: Although future games may include things like battles to the death.

Svetlana: Evdeniya squints at Plentimon for a moment, but then turns her attention equably back to the table. It could have been one step worse.

Serestala: "Well, if it's just a friendly game I might as well try my hand at it."

Zanara: “While I generally don’t gamble…” Zanara takes a seat as well. “Perhaps the stakes here may make it worthwhile.”

Vance: "Wonderful! Now, let's start with initial bids. Would the ambassador from Thorns care to begin?"

Serestala: (Does my Vulnerability aspect of Seasoned Criminal Method work here?)

Vance: Yes.

Vance: Sinner produces a black gemstone from the folds of her sleeves, and holds it aloft. "The Screaming Library. The ghosts of a hundred sorcerers, bound in a single jewel. Their knowledge, immeasurable. Is that enough for you, God of the Dice?" Plentimon smiles, and waves his hand. The jewel vanishes, replaced by a stack of eight chips.

Vance: "Who's next?"

Camena: Camena rummages through her coats, clearly looking for something. She stacks up a small pile of gems and dubloons as someone else might with paperclips and oddments, then finally adds a small, leather-bound notebook, one that the others may sometimes have seen her scrawling in. "A momento of my trips across Creation, with more than a few profitable trade routes. And more to the point, notes describing a pair of spells of my own design."

Vance: They vanish, in return for four chips.

Camena: Camena throws some shade at Plentimon.

Vance: "Take my left arm," Mordanun says.

Camena: Liminal.

Vance: Plentimon looks… not surprised, but what a constellation might look like if they were surprised. Nonetheless, he makes a gesture. There is no blood, no violence, no scream of pain—the arm is simply gone.

Vance: Six chips pile up before him.

Icaria: That must have been a really good arm.

Serestala: Serestala reaches into her vest and pulls out a heavy sack of coins. "A lifetime's earnings of broken noses, split fingers, and heroic retaliation. Also, if you win I'll throw in a list of the best noodle stands in the Threshold."

Vance: "Now, you'll have to be specific, because I could literally take all those broken noses and split fingers."

Vance: "You're just wagering the money, right?"

Serestala: "Well, I think I still need my nose, so lets start with the money."

Vance: How much are you offering?

Vance: Like, literally all your money?

Serestala: Yes my entire Resources 2.

Vance: He gives you six chips in exchange.

Zanara: Zanara considers. “In the East, there are more than a few people who call me a goddess. I offer my place as the object of their veneration.”

Zanara: (Cult 2, for costing purposes.)

Vance: This is the first time Plentimon has taken an abstract possession. Zanara's connection to the prayers that sustain her does not simply vanish—she feels it moving almost physically out of her, drawn out by Plentimon's miracle, and reshaped into a stack of six chips.

Icaria: "I'll throw in a set of white jade armor, which you probably won't recognize," Icaria adds, since apparently nobody else is going to.

Vance: "You're not playing," Plentimon notes.

Zanara: (I can’t wait for this to end with the Mask of Winters asking if Serestala is going to do the ORA ORA thing.)

Icaria: "There was a point when this was a group stake, but whatever."

Svetlana: "Sight," Evdeniya says. "Reputation. —leaving enough to function in these games, if either is specifically needed. The records of my cases. …a set of white jade armor?"

Vance: "I can divide it evenly among you fellows."

Vance: The four of you each receive another two chips.

  • Camena still looks a little salty at her short-ass pile.

Vance: The demon Cehzarik rumbles. "I have a memory, drawn from the mind of a god. Five minutes watching the Games of Divinity being played."

Icaria: He has like a hundred screaming sorcerers, Camena.

Icaria: You only have one!

Vance: Plentimon all but drools as he draws out the memory, exchanging it for a lordly pile of fifteen chips.

Camena: Junkie.

Icaria: That's good business practice.

Icaria: Fifteen chips to give him the memory, and another fifteen to take it away again.

Svetlana: "…interesting," Evdeniya says. "No wonder I was able to hide in Malfeas for so long."

Vance: "You have two chips. Do you want to wager anything more, or are you good with that?" he asks Svetlana.

Vance: "If you happen to run out, or don't have enough to match the bet, I can always make another exchange. Or you could fold, but why do that?"

  • Icaria considers smacking Svetlana with a brush if she tries to bargain away metaphysicals like sight, but maybe that's disruptive as a player.

Icaria: Or, I suppose, just giving her the brush to wager.

Icaria: I'm sort of attached to it, but Icaria is well aware that stories where you give away your acting talent or whatever don't end well.

Svetlana: "Sight," Evdeniya says, "Reputation. —leaving enough to function in these games, if either is specifically needed. The records of my cases."

Vance: "Sight is helpful, unless you have other means. I could take all of it, or just a portion."

Svetlana: "Nine-tenths, then."

Svetlana: Evdeniya shrugs.

Vance: She is now nearly blind.

Vance: And by reputation, I assume Tepet Evdeniya's?

Svetlana: Plus probably Svetlana's good rep under Tourmaline.

Vance: Svetlana receives fifteen chips, plus the two she already had.

Svetlana: But mostly Evdeniya's, because she thinks of herself as Evdeniya right now, she's just not being precise.

Vance: "The first round is a simple game, played in the streets of Nexus and the palaces of lords. A simple game of dice."

Vance: Those of you playing each receive a perfect cube of white jade, marked with pips of ebony.

Vance: "I'll stake two chips," Mordanun says. Sinners and Cehlarik match him.

Camena: "Three," Camena says, pushing half her stack forward.

Vance: The others match Camena.

Serestala: "Well, if Camena thinks that three is the way to go…" Serestala picks up three chips.

Svetlana: Evdeniya separates out three chips without looking, fingers deft on the stack, and pushes them forward.

Zanara: “I’ll see that as well,” Zanara says, sliding three chips forward.

Vance: "Very well."

Vance: (If you play this honestly, it's just everyone rolls a die, highest roll wins. But I expect you intend shenanigans.)

Camena: Camena lets the die roll in her hand, every little motion calculated as the superstitions of a gambling woman. But even a perfect die has its weaknesses—if she cannot find a flaw in its weighting or balance, then there is always the matter of her own throw. There is no mathematics in this, at least not for her; everything comes from muscle, from the little flex of hands that come before a die leaves the palm and hits the table. A quick swipe at the table's top gives her all she needs to know of its texture, its firmness. This isn't even a new trick for her.

Vance: As you do, your intentions are read.

Camena: Guile 9.

Svetlana: Evdeniya is focused on the smell of Qedesha's mood, the sound of her movements, all the little things that might give away cheating hidden from the lying eyes. After a moment, still listening, she says, "Ah, Mr. Plentimon, I'm not sure I can roll this in such a fashion that I don't know what number it will land on."

Vance: It is beat.

Vance: What cost would Camena require to throw this whole tournament?

Camena: Hmm?

Vance: "No worries, Evdeniya," Plentimon says. "These dice, and all other gaming implements in this palace, possess true randomness. You won't have to worry about that."

Vance: If someone asked you to throw this, what would they have to offer for you to accept?

Icaria: One million zenny.

Camena: Camena honestly doesn't know. Ideally it'd be the Eschaton Key itself, but that's kind of a heroism pipe dream.

Vance: What is the Key, to her?

Icaria: I suspect he'd have to offer her enough that she could feel she was the real winner.

Camena: The Key probably isn't much to her, actually. She can't conceptualize the actual danger it might have.

Camena: But she's tried to invest some in her identity as a hero.

Camena: (It doesn't stick too much.)

Vance: Iiinteresting.

Vance: There is also a second read intentions, this one against everyone whose Guile is lower than… 6.

Icaria: 2!

Zanara: Do we have the opportunity to buff our Guile?

Vance: Yes.

Vance: If you got beat, what's your general emotional feeling towards winning?

Icaria: I will be happy if one of us does. Like Camena, I don't really have much conception of apocalypse.

Serestala: Serestala considers the die for a moment and then shrugs tossing it to the table with casual abandon. If there is any strategy to her actions then it's masterfully hidden or more likely non-existent.

Serestala: (Any chance Spurious Presence counts for this?)

Vance: Not against this.

Serestala: Then 1.

Vance: How's Serestala feel about the prospect of winning?

Zanara: Boosting my Guile to 6 via Excellency. Zanara is unreadable!

Serestala: Serestala likes winning. It makes her feel important and heroic.

Svetlana: Evdeniya considers the die. She whispers to it, gently, "May it be true; for what could be more beautiful in this corrupted, broken world than the truly, fairly random?" After attempting to instill a positive Intimacy for herself in the god of true randomness, she rolls.

Vance: Okay. Everyone roll 1d10, highest result wins

Serestala: 9!

Zanara: 5.

Svetlana: 6!

Svetlana: The dice roller reported 6 as FAIL and 0 and I had to look way over to see "6"

Svetlana: It was very much like true randomness lashed out at me.

  • Icaria rolls a die in his heart, and in his dice roller.

Icaria: It is a 0.

Camena: 4

Icaria: Truly, the dice were with me and I should not have doubted myself.

Vance: Plentimon claps his hands at the result. "Wonderful! Serestala with a 9!"

Vance: Sinners grumbles over her 1.

Vance: Serestala receives the pot of eighteen chips!

Vance: "Now, we move on to round two."

Icaria: Beauty contest!

Serestala: Feats of Strength!

Vance: The dice vanish from the table—in their place, a pristine deck of cards. Plentimon shuffles and deals them, face down. "Serestala, since you won, you make the first bid. Blind."

Svetlana: Evdeniya casually writes, "Serestala wins first round, dice roll, cards shuffling and dealing now," on a piece of paper she is using to track events with. It also has "you did not answer my questions" on it but that is clearly just an old note.

Serestala: "Oh, it's that sort of game!" She grins and closed her eyes. "Camena deal me in."

Svetlana: Evdeniya also notes down brief descriptions of her opponents in case she forgets who they were later.

Vance: "Ma'am, your bid?"

Camena: "Not what that means, Serestala."

Svetlana: "Serestala: Anathema, seemed like a bruiser, possibly a dice shark. Qedesha: Anathema, Mask of Winters' agent because he can't see the cards through his mask. Mordanun: cursed? Or just snippy? Camena: Anathema, reasonably congenial, dangerous. Scorpion-foot guy: has scorpion feet. Hopefully last round will be a race. Not Anathema, oddly. Scorpion feet: OK, according to Immaculate doctrine. Consider revision, edition 2. Zanara: Anathema, quiet."

Serestala: "Oh. Well…" She shrugged and tossed in four chips.

Vance: Mordanum matches with the last of his chips. Sinner and Cehlarik are able to do so more comfortably.

Camena: Camena looks at her pile of three chips with growing frustration.

Vance: "Camena, it looks like you could use a helping hand," Plentimon says. "Anything else you care to wager?"

Icaria: Don't give him your hands!

Camena: "Don't suppose a coupon good for a few contracts, sealed by Heaven's own hand, might be worth some chips, oh King of Games?"

Vance: "Oh, I certainly take payment in future goods. Have an advance."

Vance: Eight chips appear in front of you.

Camena: "I was expecting to quibble some over the number."

Camena: "Still."

Camena: Camena puts in four, leaving herself with seven.

Svetlana: Evdeniya looks thoughtful, then pushes four chips forward.

Zanara: Zanara sees the bet as well, her face impassive. She has a single chip left.

Svetlana: "Man, this is a great hand," Evdeniya mutters, poker face breaking slightly.

Svetlana: Evdeniya is almost certainly aware it hasn't been dealt yet.

Vance: For card games (without cheating), roll 5d10. You want the highest and wides match—a pair of 1s is the lowest result, five 10s is the highest

Svetlana: I'm not sure what the card game is, so I'm not sure how to even consider cheating.

Vance: I didn't invent a very complete fictional card game, so cheating is on a stunt basis.

Vance: You can also try to read intentions someone else's hand.

Zanara: Might one bluff others into folding?

Svetlana: Evdeniya's fingers flutter over the deck as she draws her hand, the motion meant to look from Qedesha's angle exactly as if she'd just barely pulled off reading a card ahead with her fingers and swapping it in in the moment too fast for Qedesha to see. She doesn't actually cheat, though, just fakes it.

Vance: C-c-c-c-call!

Vance: That'd be (Manipulation + Presence).

Zanara: Zanara looks at her cards briefly, sets them back down on the table. “I would like to wager the memory of the first life I took.” Her eyes are steady. Her breathing is easy. There’s a slight—slight—curl to the corner of her mouth.

Svetlana: 11 successes.

Zanara: (This effectively represents her “I won’t harm the defenseless” intimacy, which is Major.)

Vance: Cehzarik pouts as a memory goes to someone other than him, but Plentimon rewards you with six chips.

Vance: Sinner gives Evdeniya a piercing look. She attempts to read her intentions.

Zanara: Nine!

Svetlana: I am not sure if Inverted Ego Mask works on non-Intimacy read intentions. I'm 90% sure it does, in which case my Guile is currently 5.

Vance: It does.

Vance: What's Svetlana intending?

Camena: Camena looks at her own cards for a fraction of a moment, letting a single thread of anxiety trail across her face before dismissing it. Surely her hand can't be that bad?

Camena: Also flipping my appearance to "Vulnerability."

Vance: As Zanara wagers her memories, a pallor crosses Mordanun's face. For someone who wagered an arm, the thought of a memory being staked seems just too much.

Vance: "Fold," he says, reclaiming his four chips from the pot.

Vance: He regards Zanara with a sort of awe.

Svetlana: Evdeniya invokes Inverted Ego Mask. She is intending to be the only one Plentimon doesn't catch cheating.

Svetlana: (I picked something that fit my actual action closely. If the sky's the limit, then it's more like "I'm going to cheat, hahaha, and if you cheat to stop me, Plentimon will catch you." )

Serestala: It's clear that as lucky as Serestala is at dice, she has absolutely no poker face to speak of. She rearranges her hand, makes noises of amusement, and at least half the table gets the faintest glimpse of part of her hand (a pair of 8s and a 9) as she lowers it in surprise at Zanara's actions. Which provides the perfect moment to discreetly switch one of Zanara's cards in exchange for one of her own.

Vance: Sinner points a finger. "She's cheating! She read the cards!"

Svetlana: "I… can barely see…" Evdeniya points out, like someone talking to a child.

Vance: Cehzarik fixes Svetlana with a red-eyed glare, just barely restraining his memory-rummaging pedipalps.

Vance: "I didn't see anything, Sinner," the god confirms.

Svetlana: Evdeniya smiles at Plentimon warmly.

Vance: "Nor," comes a dark wind from the back of the room, where the Mask stands, "did I."

Vance: Sinner frowns. "I could have sworn…"

Vance: She's doing the math in her mind.

Vance: And it leads to an inexorable conclusion.

Svetlana: "I'd like to wager Mask of Winters," Evdeniya says.

Vance: "Uh, not yours to wager." Plentimon says nervously.

Vance: Sinner folds, without a word, clawing her bid back from the pot.

Vance: Cards on the table?

Svetlana: "I'm a Prince of the Earth," Evdeniya points out. "He's just a ghost."

Vance: Cehzarik has a pair of 5s.

Camena: Camena reveals a trio of 8's.

Serestala: Serestala has a pair of 8's.

Vance: "Impossible!" the demon shouts at Camena's impossible luck.

Zanara: Zanara turns her cards over, revealing… absolutely nothing of value.

Vance: The pot of sixteen chips goes to Camena.

Camena: Camena has 23 chips.

Zanara: Zanara has seven.

Svetlana: Evdeniya fumbles the cards slightly as she turns them over before revealing… two 7s, the pot still going to Camena as said.

Icaria: Hm, try betting the presence of Mask of Winters within your universe.

Serestala: Serestala is at 19 chips.

Svetlana: Evdeniya is at 10.

Vance: "Now, the game for Round 3 might require a bit more explanation," Plentimon says, dismissing the deck of cards with a wave of his hand. "It's called 'life drinking'." Seven flutes of wine appear on the table, one in front of each of you. "Six of these cups hold wine. One is laced with venom distilled from the universal solvent. You can bid one chip, and drink the cup in front of you, or drop out of this round and not drink. Then, there'll be a round with two poison cups. Last one with a valid wager still alive, wins."

Camena: "I'd like to propose an exchange, if I could, Plentimon."

Vance: "Go for it, Prince of the Earth."

Camena: "What value would you pin on me not doing something? To be specific: Would it be valuable for me to not inform Heaven of the fact that the God of Dice is betting so dangerous a prize when there are known enemies of Creation at the table?" Her tone is even, not a whit accusatory. She sounds deadly earnest, in fact. Still, there's something dangerous in her look, something sharp.

Vance: "That's a threat, not a wager."

Camena: "It is a theoretical future service."

Vance: "Such is the nature of blackmail. Pass."

Vance: "Are you going to bet and drink, or fold?"

Vance: Mordanun slams a chip down.

Vance: Sinner holds one hesitantly in her hand. She looks at the wine worriedly, as if trying to make out whether it's poisoned by sight.

Serestala: Serestala joins the one armed man in slamming a chip down.

Camena: Camena places down nine chips.

Vance: "It's only one chip per glass this round," Plentimon chides.

Camena: Camena withdraws eight.

Zanara: Zanara slides a chip forward.

Vance: "Bottoms up!" Plentimon beckons.

Svetlana: "I'd like to stake my ability to lose at games of chance," Evdeniya says, wryly, pushing a chip forward after taking a sniff.

Camena: She also gives Icaria the briefest look before taking out her piece of paper and making a few quick notes: Now we're doing poison. So that's fun. FYI: If I can press charges against Plentimon, we're going to be doing that very shortly. If there's some legal precedent against him, I'd love to have leverage ASAP.

Serestala: Serestala knocks back the glass of wine and waits to see if it universally solves her or not.

Svetlana: Evdeniya is assuming that the glasses all smell the same, although it would be interesting if one doesn't.

Vance: She can probably make a Perception + Awareness roll.

Icaria: I fear I'm going to be talking about my sex life at length again soon.

Icaria: Although the effectiveness of that tactic was marginal.

Zanara: Zanara drinks her glass of wine. “Honestly, I hope you all drop out quickly. I rather dislike drinking to excess.”

Vance: Anything to help your allies win!

Svetlana: 5.

Svetlana: (On the Awareness, with Sensory Acuity Prana now active.)

Vance: Your glass… isn't poisoned. You don't think. It's hard to smell in here, harder than it should be, so you can't get a sense of the others.

Camena: Camena drinks.

Vance: Sinner pales as she knocks back her wine.

Svetlana: Evdeniya drinks, despite her Principle that she should just say no to drugs.

Svetlana: Including universal solvents.

Svetlana: Ragara Nancy would be ashamed.

Vance: The Abyssal spits out a mouthful of blood and dissolved teeth. She forces her face into a resolute smile.

Vance: "This I do for my savior. Next."

Vance: Plentimon renews the wine glasses. This time, two of the seven are poison. Same procedure—if you want to drink, bet a chip and bottom's up.

Serestala: Serestala once again puts a chip forward.

Zanara: Zanara does so as well.

Svetlana: Evdeniya gets 10 successes on a second sniff, now that she's used to the wine's mildly fruity aroma with earthy notes.

Vance: You can now tell exactly whose glasses are poisoned.

Vance: Yours, and the demon's.

Svetlana: "Hold on," Evdeniya says. "I don't trust Qedesha after she tried to get me in trouble like that. She did something to my cup."

Vance: "My mouth is still dissolving."

Svetlana: "Right. That blood she spat out. It was deliberate. I want to trade cups with her."

Svetlana: "I don't know what she has against the demon, though."

Svetlana: (This isn't a great plan, I realize.)

Vance: Roll Manipulation + Presence against Plentimon.

Svetlana: 9 successes. (I dumped a bunch of motes and hid them with Nightiness.)

Vance: "Hmm," the god ponders. "I saw nothing, but I've been outfoxed before. Here." He comes down to the table, and makes a few arrangements. He swaps Svetlana's glass with Sinner's.

Vance: Then he swaps Sinner's—the poisoned one—with Camena's.

Vance: And then swaps Svetlana's—unpoisoned—glass with Serestala.

Vance: "There. That ought to be fair."

Camena: "Hey!" Camena says. "I liked mine."

Serestala: "Well, I liked mine. I don't see why you get to mess with it if she's the one with the problem about the arrangements."

Vance: "Because," Plentimon justifies.

Vance: "Enough talking!"

Camena: While Plentimon is distracted, Camena reaches out with her Essence, planting a pair of chips on the Qedesha from whoever is sitting nearest to her.

Zanara: Zanara sighs and drinks her glass before anyone can fiddlefaddle around with it.

Vance: Sinner is, at the same time, folding. She doesn't trust Svetlana, whatever her game is.

Vance: She's out for all of round 3.

Serestala: Serestala drinks her glass again.

Vance: Camena, roll (Dexterity + Larceny).

Vance: Serestala, roll (Resistance + Stamina).

Camena: Nope. Charms!

Vance: Ah, then two of Cehlarik's chips go to her.

Svetlana: "If you have so much of a problem with it, Anathema," Evdeniya snaps, "then drink that Abyssal monster's. Not like she's using it." She angrily gulps hers down, mentally prepared for Plentimon having swapped poison in somehow.

Camena: Magpie's Invisible Talon + Phantom Sting Search.

Camena: Or…

Camena: Wait.

Camena: No.

Camena: I don't have Phantom Sting Search, for some reason.

Svetlana: Do you have Skillful Reappropriation?

Serestala: 5 successes.

Camena: That's what Phantom Sting Search is.

Vance: Serestala takes two levels of lethal damage.

Vance: The demon isn't looking so hot, either.

Camena: Camena drinks, I guess.

Vance: He's too distracted by the throatful of poison to notice his chips have gone missing.

Serestala: Serestala coughs and beats her chest a couple of times. "Smooth."

Icaria: This would have gone differently if I'd been playing.

Icaria: So, really, it's just as was predicted.

Icaria: Jenna is going to kill everybody because I don't drink.

Vance: Next flight. Six drinks (Sinner's out), three poisoned.

Zanara: Zanara slides a chip forward. Lousy odds don’t seem to frighten her.

Svetlana: Evdeniya puts on her blankest face as she tries to figure out how Serestala got poisoned. Was she wrong, or did Plentimon do a better shuffle than it looked? The latter is more likely.

Vance: Camena is not poisoned!

Camena: Camena puts her own chip forward.

Vance: Things do indeed seem not as they were

Icaria: Obviously it's only poisoned if you drink it along with an unpoisoned glass!

Serestala: Serestala puts forward another chip.

Icaria: Or something.

Svetlana: Evdeniya guesses she might as well keep going.

Svetlana: Chip… 3!

Vance: If there's no shenanigans, everyone can knock one back

Vance: Mordanun chokes on his wine, but does not seem to suffer any harm. His eyes darken.

Serestala: Serestala having already tasted the poison willingly knocks back another glass.

Vance: Serestala, Zanara, roll (Stamina + Resistance).

Camena: "Is there any real interest to this, then? Half of us have the heart and stomach of a concrete elephant."

Serestala: 7 successes.

Zanara: Zanara drinks. Ugh. Three glasses is usually where she cuts herself off for the—what’s that smell?

Zanara: Two.

Vance: Serestala manages to hold her poison well.

Vance: Zanara takes four levels of lethal damage.

Svetlana: Evdeniya is still desperately trying to figure out what to do when her turn at poison comes when it becomes clear that that is not this turn.

  • Icaria begins trying to figure out the treatment for this.

Vance: "You're getting bored of this, Camena? Well, I suppose we can move on to round four early—but how do we decide who won?"

Serestala: "It's actually kind of peppery once you get used to it."

Zanara: Zanara brings up the wine—and a fair quantity of blood. At least she manages to mostly get it on the floor instead of herself?

Icaria: "I won, because I was smart enough not to drink that. Although I guess that makes Plentimon the real winner."

Icaria: And if he says 'the house always wins' I shall scream."

Camena: "Seconded."

  • Icaria reaps more sorcerous motes. Delicious!

Vance: "Serestala, you ended up with the poisoned cup twice and came out without a scratch. If anyone deserves this round's pot, surely it's you." He pushes the fourteen chips to the Dawn Caste.

Vance: "Now, on to Round 4!"

  • Icaria mouths "death battle, death battle."

Vance: This time, the entire room dissolves, billowing around you like a mist and reconfiguring itself into a new space.

Vance: You are looking down into an arena from its high marble steps.

Zanara: Serestala, crushin’ it.

Icaria: Yesssssss.

Vance: In each of the four corners, a different monster.

Vance: A gigantes of the Dreaming Sea, massive, man-eating, swinging an oak tree embedded with shards of obsidian.

Icaria: Or could it be… the dreaded Pokemon battle?

Vance: A great behemoth of the Wyld, tentacles and shell and mollusk flesh arranged in an incomprehensible configuration.

Vance: A jade soldier, with thunderbolt ballistas for arms.

Vance: And, in the last corner, a tyrant lizard.

Vance: Plentimon roars, "Choose your champion!"

Vance: And with that, I'll call it for tonight!

  • Camena throttles Plentimon.
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