In Which It Is Not Our Fault

Vance: So…

Vance: Where last we left off…

Vance: …Tran showed you a pretty messed-up baby.

Icaria: It wasn't that bad!

Svetlana: It was strangely appealing.

Svetlana: The four arms resonated with me for some reason.

Svetlana: It was like, somehow I thought, yeah, people with four arms, they're pretty rad.

Icaria: Y'all are just prejudiced against differently-armed babies.

Svetlana: Maybe I met one at some point and they left a subconscious favorable impression on me?

Icaria: Maybe you knew a four-armed person in a past life!

Vance: Also, it has all the generic baby cuteness.

Camena: So, none.

  • Icaria is predictably vulnerable to adorable babies.

Vance: It's in a womb of demonic glass, but it's come far enough along in the gestation process to develop the chubby cheeks and toes and whatnot.

Svetlana: Plus Svetlana is very biased against vision and thinks having an extra eye is just sensible.

Svetlana: It's like the least reliable sense, the one that always tries to fool you, but, you know, she only has two eyes. She has a limited perspective.

Icaria: That's like, double depth-perception.

Camena: "That looks a mite unsettling."

Icaria: I express this feeling with my outside voice.

Icaria: "Aw, it's adorable."

Icaria: How's the baby coming along on the male/female angle?

Vance: Can't tell.

Camena: "If that's adorable, Icky, I don't think I'll trust your findings on men from now on."

Svetlana: "Yeah," Svetlana agrees. "That's gonna be a good 'un."

Vance: "It doesn't matter if the baby is adorable," Tran says, voice quivering with unvented frustration. "It matters if the the baby carries the blood of the dragons."

Camena: "And that's in question?"

Icaria: "…does it?"

Icaria: "I mean, three-eyed dragons sometimes happen."

  • Icaria considers the Kukla.

Svetlana: Svetlana attempts to sniff out the blood of the dragons.

Svetlana: But there's all this glass in the way.

Vance: "I have no idea, but I'm not optimistic." Tran says. "Luzi says it wasn't her fault, but some magical contamination, a taint. Which means this is doubly my fault."

Icaria: "I think we all know the source of the disruption."

Icaria: "That's not the same as it being your fault, though."

Vance: "It was my idea to open it. My fault."

Icaria: "Nonsense! I have terrible ideas all the time."

Svetlana: Svetlana snorts.

Icaria: "It's absolutely on everybody else to stop me from doing them."

Svetlana: "Yeah, your idea."

Camena: "The babe was forged from Vi and Jaspindar, blood and bone and spirit?"

  • Camena looks surprisingly serious, getting closer to eye-level with the device.

Icaria: "Yeah, I'm assuming we're talking about neomah work here?"

Vance: "Hey, don't tap on the glass, nudnik," says a mezzo-baritone voice from around the corner. A very buff neomah, smoking opium from a cast-iron pipe, gives Camena a glare.

Icaria: Well, hello there.

Camena: "The question stands. I'm not as versed in demonology."

Icaria: "So," I say, "this is your work, then. Seems like they're holding together well under the circumstances."

Vance: "This isn't a demonology problem, lady." the neomah tells Camena. "I did my job as bound and promised."

Vance: "Luxi Ku doesn't skimp on quality babies."

Camena: "But the blood of the Dragons should dominate any infernal influences?"

Icaria: "Yeah, this is definitely a job for a savant preternaturally skilled in five-element theory and an understanding of the dragon lines."

Svetlana: Svetlana ponders this, then finds something to lean against, closes her eyes, and begins carefully eliminating notes one by one from Tran's scent—this one sweat, this one the accumulated fumes and dusts and spiritual afflatuses from sorcerous labor, this one the almost-intangible tang of the vitreous fluid—to try to isolate what the blood of the dragons actually does smell like.

Vance: Hmm.

Svetlana: (Svetlana can add scentless things to her scent library.)

Vance: I can't just say it doesn't have a smell, because you can smell unsmellable things.

Icaria: There's five types of dragon-blood, anyway.

Icaria: This baby's going to have wood and water.

Vance: But that doesn't mean you can smell, like, hope.

Vance: Blood of the dragons is more like that.

Camena: So for that she needs All-Smelling Sorcerer's Schnozz?

Icaria: Arguably the chemical scent indicators associated with humans experiencing hope are totally smellable.

Icaria: Oh, that reminds me that I actually bought said sight.

Icaria: Time to switch it on and do some occultism.

  • Vance reads the charm.

Svetlana: Fair enough. I'd figured it was more physically immanent than that, because I have an intuition that there's some weirdness if it's purely metaphysical.

Camena: It's Divinations of Secrets all over again!

Svetlana: But that's fine. If I get down to no scent at all, I get down to no scent at all. ^_^

Vance: I'll say you get an Intelligence + Occult roll to check out the baby's aura and whatnot.

Icaria: Oh, and somebody should probably go and tell Jaspindar to call off the assassins.

Icaria: Without telling Tran that there were assassins.

Icaria: Six successes!

Svetlana: (Smelling hope is easy, but it needs Foe-Scenting Method. Because then you can smell the dematerialized small god of the hope!)

Icaria: I'm assuming my specialty applies.

Vance: Whatever this baby's deal is, they're definitely affected by (or expressing?) the Essence that radiates from the Tomb of the Anathema and Pim bound within it. It's much further progressed, both physically and spiritually, than anything you'd expect to see from, say, demense mutation. The energies at play here are fundamentally different than elemental geomancy.

Icaria: "Yeah, I pretty much figured."

Icaria: "Well, as far as being transfigured by Pim's energy flows, the damage is pretty much done."

Vance: You can't tell if babies are going to exalt as Dragon-Blooded normally, so no telling what this does to the odds.

Icaria: "The question is, is that going to interfere with the possibility of awakening the blood of the dragons?"

Icaria: "And if so, can we tweak the odds a bit by feeding it a bit more pure elemental energy while it remains in vitro?"

Svetlana: Svetlana wrinkles her nose irritably at the ultimate realization that Dragon-Blooded smell just like everyone else. There's a moral in that, though.

Icaria: I told you, they're a kind of human!

Icaria: "We may be able to arrange something along those lines with a little geomancy, to make a more comfortable dragon's nest."

Vance: "You've seen the local geomancy. How do you plan on designing around that?" Tran asks.

Camena: "The mutations should be fixable. The physical ones, at least. I've seen spells to that effect."

Icaria: "With great difficulty! But I'm an expert, and you clearly have the manpower."

Icaria: "As to the mutations, I don't know that I agree. Now that they've shown up, I doubt the demon can be put back in the tomb."

Icaria: "But I would like to see any records you have about what the local dragon lines were like before the Tomb was opened."

Icaria: "With a bit of effort, we may be able to put a few blocks in and block off Pim's Essence from a small part of the island."

Vance: "Distorted. Warped. That was the reason I wanted to open the Tomb, I guess. To find out what was wrong with the land."

Icaria: "Ah, so it was always like that. Well, I guess know you know!"

Vance: "Oops," she says bitterly.

  • Icaria pats Tran.

Icaria: "That's science!"

Camena: "It might be worth asking, though I think I know the answer: Can we move the cradle? If we can get the local geomancy fixed more's the better, but until then, I could set sail for… well, not a lot of leads on that front, but there's bound to be a demesne about."

Icaria: "I doubt there's a permanent fix that doesn't involve removing Pim from the Tomb, which is supposedly impossible and also Jaspindar would be cross with me."

Camena: "Let's just assume that unleashing the ancient demon is probably a nonstarter."

Vance: This time it's Luxi who interjects. "No, I went and built a special baby-holding jar that's specifically more useless than growing it inside of a person. Of course you can move it."

Camena: "I really don't need the attitude, darling," Camena says, not bothering to look up at Luxi as she takes a squared map from her pocket and unfolds it.

Icaria: "That's probably more useful than trying to play around with the local flows, then, although ultimately I doubt we can do more than make his eventual Exaltation vaguely more likely."

Vance: The neomah glowers attractively.

Icaria: "Insofar as the ineffable blood of the dragons can be described as likely or unlikely."

Icaria: "I think Camena's sort of on the right track, though, in that finding a well-favored location for a new lab on a different island is probably indicated."

Camena: "I don't suppose you know of any other demenses, Tran?"

Camena: "Can I call you Tran?"

Camena: "I'm gonna call you Tran."

Vance: "You're aware the Satrap keeps an eye on outgoing ships?" Tran asks. "Trying to move her baby off the island would be even more dangerous than staying in here."

Icaria: "There's no point, anyway."

Svetlana: Svetlana frowns for a while. "Legate," she says, after an inner struggle. "Respectfully, there is reason to believe there was mind-affecting magic at work in the opening of the Tomb."

Icaria: "The effects of Pim's Essence goes way beyond any form of demesne contamination I've ever seen."

Icaria: "Honestly, we should probably be keeping an eye on non-sorcerous pregnancies."

Svetlana: "I am uncomfortable listening to you blame yourself for the entire farrago, rather than your part in it."

Vance: "What do you mean? You think someone made me do that?"

Camena: "You have no idea how sneaky I am," Camena replies.

Camena: "The effects of Pim's Essence may not be reversible, but introducing raw elemental essence may help ameliorate the worst of it. Or not! Or it may give him… I don't know. A time head? What about elementals, Icaria? Or… oh gods, I've been around you lot too long. What about possession? Could we bind a spirit to him, to help immure his form from any further adulteration?"

Svetlana: "I think that when you explained why you opened it," Svetlana says, "You said that that was why, quote, 'I guess.'"

Icaria: "Honestly, I feel like the damage is done."

Icaria: "Our concern should be for keeping the child viable and for doing what we can to understand precisely what the effects will be."

Icaria: "And helping Jaspindar find an… understanding… secondary school."

Icaria: "I hear Great Forks is lovely this time of year."

Vance: "Do you think a Satrap and her wife will want a useless child who can't Exalt?" Tran asks, raising her voice again.

Vance: "Do you think they'll want the idiot who ruined their own child?"

Zanara: "It's really not," Zanara says. She's been more or less staring at the child the entire time, not understanding most of what's being said.

Icaria: I try to look understanding.

Camena: "I should think that the Satrap and her wife are long accustomed to making due with unusual circumstances."

Icaria: "Ultimately, they're going to get the child they're getting."

Svetlana: "Probably?" Svetlana says. "How can Jaspindar not love Vi's child?"

Icaria: "I mean, it's not like we don't know what went wrong and how to avoid it next time."

Vance: "If someone else made me open the Tomb, then who was it? The demon trapped in it? If I let it corrupt my will and work ruin through me, I'm a disgrace to my family."

Camena: "Do we even know that the child may not Exalt, Icaria? Or is it only speculation?"

Icaria: "Also, yeah, if they don't love their four-armed baby, I'll just raise it myself."

Icaria: "It's seriously ineffable."

Icaria: "You can have demon-blood and still be Dragon-Blooded, I do know, so it's not a total disqualification."

Icaria: "That said… it's a problem."

Icaria: "Even if the child does Exalt, the Blessed Isle is not a friendly place to send a three-eyed babe off to school."

Icaria: "It's not great even for children with standard measurements, really."

Camena: "Essence is stubborn. Flesh, less so."

Icaria: "I mean, I can glamour them up, but it would be too much to expect that nobody would notice."

Vance: "Why are you all worried about problems years from now?" Tran asks.

Vance: "There are just as many problems right now. Some of them might end with me dead."

Icaria: "Oh, yeah!"

Icaria: "Camena, could you go tell Vi to call off the assassins?"

Camena: "Mmm. If I must."

Icaria: "Apparently the demonpocalypse isn't actually happening."

Icaria: "Look, Tran."

Camena: Attempts to give Tran a reassuring hand-squeeze on her way out, while also throwing some shade-glares at Luxi.

Icaria: "Spectacular fuck-ups is what being a sorcerer is all about."

Vance: Luxi gives Camena the finger.

Icaria: "If you wait to understand things before you meddle with them, you'll never get anything done!"

Vance: Roll Charisma + Presence for that to actually be encouraging.

Icaria: Two, and I spend a Willpower. Can I spend more than one?

Vance: Nay.

Vance: Tran's expression softens, a little. "I'm glad I'm not the only sorcerer on the island. I'm a fuck-up, but you make me feel… like a little less of one."

Icaria: "It's strange how everybody who comes near me starts to feel a little bit more competent."

Camena: "Fuck-ups unite!" Camena shouts from the end of the hallway as she exits.

Vance: "So. I don't understand this. But we still have to meddle with it until it's fixed. How do we get off of Gloam?"

Icaria: "Well, it's going to be really difficult."

Icaria: "For you, I mean!"

Icaria: "For me it's going to be super-easy."

Icaria: "Because ultimately Jaspindar and Vi are probably getting a baby that's somewhere on the scale between moderately- and extremely-weird, and you pretty much have to be straight with them about that."

  • Camena heads for the Satrap's estate.

Icaria: "A sorcerer who occasionally destroys a laboratory is one thing."

Icaria: "A sorcerer you can't trust is totally different."

Vance: Tran's heart rate increases noticeably to Svetlana's ears when the topic of coming clean is broached.

Icaria: "But I tell you what."

Icaria: "We'll undertake not to let her kill you."

Vance: "Maybe we should fix their baby first, before we say anything."

Icaria: "That kind of plan leads to us all losing our hats."

Svetlana: "It wouldn't have been the demon," Svetlana mutters, long after the conversational moment has passed. "Some sort of Exigent of Destiny, I think. I'd like to ask him where exactly he was going with this before I point any fingers."

Icaria: Zanara, I think this is a job for you.

Icaria: Can you, like, soothe her or something?

Zanara: Soothing is definitely a thing I can do!

Zanara: "Tran, you've not yet lost Jaspindar's trust. Not fully, at least. But if this stretches on any longer, you just might. Now, I will confess I understand very little of… this…" she said, waving her hand, well, pretty much in every direction, "but I cannot see how hiding it will help. Sooner or later, the truth will come out."

Vance: Give her Charisma + Presence.

Zanara: Seven.

Icaria: This sorcerer is now double soothed.

Svetlana: That's only with double 7s in play.

Icaria: Can I still call Zanara a soothsayer?

Vance: "You're right, of course." Tran says. "I just wish you weren't."

Vance: "Would you come with me, to tell Jaspindar?"

Zanara: "Of course."

Icaria: I suppose we'll all come, since I've promised us on the non-murder thing.

Svetlana: That makes sense.

Icaria: Oh, man, if I'm wrong and Jaspindar really does hate her forever, I'm going to be so embarrassed.

Zanara: That's why I'm coming, too.

Vance: I suppose we can fast forward to that.

Zanara: Group Hug Encouragement Prana.

Vance: Are y'all bringing the baby along, or leaving it here for now?

Icaria: I'm not bringing a baby to a murder!

Svetlana: I'm grabbing a Minor Tie to Tran because she's a woobie and I'm trying to actively use the Intimacy gaining rules.

Icaria: An unmurder.

Vance: Tran appreciates it!

Svetlana: Babies are great improvised weapons, you know.

Icaria: I should gain an Intimacy as well, since we're united in our unique competence.

Svetlana: There's a whole Sidereal Martial Art that revolves around a baby in one hand and a kama in the other.

Vance: Jaspindar is, of course, very eager to see Tran as soon as you send word back to her. You proceed/are brought to the satrap's chambers in a whirlwind pace. Jaspindar and Vi sit together, clutching hands beneath the raised podium before their throne-like seat. Tran's breathing is a ragged disharmony.

  • Camena stands to the side, nodding softly but encouragingly to Vi.

Svetlana: (Its signature move makes the enemy cease to exist. I think it's called Kama Baby Don't Be Like That.)

Vance: >.<

Icaria: >.<

Vance: Tran explains things. She starts to cry as she watches Jaspindar, watching her. When she is finished, the satrap stands abruptly, surprising Vi, and slams a fist through the nearest stone column.

  • Icaria maintains a supportive stance near Tran.

Vance: Vi just stares down at the sorcerer, looking unsure whether she's going to scream or be sick.

Vance: "So," says Jaspindar, after almost a full minute spent silently panting in front of the column. She still hasn't moved, and her knuckles are bloodied by the force of her blow. "Taking our baby off the island might help it?"

Icaria: "Completing the child's gestation in a more normal environment, particularly in a demesne or manse of suitable aspect, may… cause it to develop in a more normal fashion."

Icaria: "I mean…"

Icaria: "From an abstract perspective, the child is healthy."

Icaria: "It's just not the kind of child the Realm likes best."

Icaria: "Finding a suitable dragon nest may push it more in that direction, but ultimately we won't know until they are grown."

Vance: "Does that mean she'll go back to normal?" Vi asks.

Icaria: "I think this child is going to be something other than normal regardless of what happens. It might be appropriate to think of the baby as a kind of exotic God-Blood."

Vance: "Enough with the honeyed words. You can call our child what it is. Demon-blooded. Monster-blooded. Anathema, if anyone home on the Blessed Isle decided they don't like me."

Icaria: "The spirit in the Tomb of the Anathema is not… technically a demon," says Icaria. "Very technically. But yeah, it's a problem for you."

Camena: "The -blood part, perhaps not. And Icaria believes that the physical changes are irreversible. I do not."

Icaria: "Oh, they're totally reversible; I just think it will make matters worse and would also be cruelty to a perfectly good baby just to please some jerks on the Blessed Isle."

Icaria: "But I could probably, I dunno, enchant the child so that they could hide the physical marks?"

Icaria: "As Evdeniya says, shapeshifting's easy if you know how."

Svetlana: Svetlana has not actually had enough time on the way to reapply her disguise, so she is in fact just made up to look a little unlike herself with a badge reading 'shapeshifter.' This, in a way, supports Icaria's point.

Vance: Jaspindar returns to her seat, trying to feign calmness and failing badly. "Camena, you have a ship. All four of you—you've more than fulfilled everything I've asked of you, every trust I've placed in you. That's why you're the only people I can trust our child's safety to."

Vance: She ignores Tran, avoiding eye contact.

Svetlana: Svetlana smiles brilliantly with relief for a moment before returning to an expression fitting the solemnity of the occasion. Oh, good, Jaspindar is going Paragon route.

Camena: "My Sparrow is at your pleasure, Satrap. But it would be best to know if there is a suitable demense nearby, one that will offer safety for the child as well as anodyne essence."

Vance: "The Geomantic Engineers Corps maintains the most thorough maps of demesnes across satrapial territory. Every island demesne within logistical range of a ship was capped during the first occupation of Gloam. It would be weeks before you entered unclaimed territory, " says Vi.

Camena: "I'll send for a map, then," Camena says, assuming some wild authority. "And have my men ready the ship."

Svetlana: "As much as it pains me to admit my shallowness," Svetlana says, "I'd be fine with giving up everything to protect and take care of a baby… if it didn't involve separating the baby from loving parents and a stronghold for dubious gain and leaving mostly acrimony behind us."

Vance: "Then you understand his desperately we will want our child back with us when this is done, Magistrate Evdeniya. Makes you ideal for the task."

Svetlana: "Possibly this is a faster process than I imagine," Svetlana concludes, looking to Icaria.

Icaria: "Unlikely."

Vance: "Then we'll be all the more desperate."

Svetlana: "Ah," Svetlana says, preparing mentally for four years or so with a small demon-blooded child.

Icaria: No, probably more like a couple of months.

Icaria: Although, honestly, Icaria doesn't really think this will do anything except soothe Jaspindar and Vi.

Icaria: Ultimately, the kid's going to be a weird demon-blood no matter what happens, and Icaria's primary concern is helping them grow up happy and healthy.

Icaria: "The main problem with this plan," Icaria notes, "is that a place that far away will be a poor location to set up a sanctum for future operations."

Icaria: "That is, if you want to continue bearing children while you remain resident on Gloam."

Svetlana: "It's fine," Svetlana says. "Jaspindar, Vi, who deserves to lose a nearby Manse?"

  • Icaria nods at this.
  • Vance pulls out a map.

Vance: "There's a handful in the control of the Realm. Of course, it would be treason to suggest attacking one of them, even if Cynis Bokaru does business with the lord of Thorns."

Vance: "Lookshy still holds two island manses we were never able to take from it. Turning a babysitting venture into a war of territorial conquest was never my intention, but, fuck Lookshy."

Vance: "I don't know. Creation is a big place, and there's a whole lot of jerks."

Icaria: "Good thing there's a map."

Svetlana: "What kind of business with the lord of Thorns?" Svetlana asks, desperately trying to remember who that is.

Icaria: The Mask of Winters.

Svetlana: (Svetlana is not as well-informed as the person she usually pretends to be, having only brought her Lore up to one recently.)

Vance: "You're familiar with shadowlands poppies, of course, from Majal trying to frame you with them. Which, uh, sorry about that."

Camena: "Water under the bridge. I did almost kill you."

Vance: "The Mask of Winters cultivates them and sells them. I don't know for sure that Bokaru is how they're getting past the Realm's blockade, but I know he's received diplomatic ships from Thorns and I know the kind of man he is."

Zanara: Oh, how the wheels are turning in Zanara's head.

Camena: "If Icaria's elementals can feed the sails, my ship can make past the Satrap's borders… but no, it won't be a quick trip and doesn't address the underlying problem."

Svetlana: "That seems like the one, then," Svetlana says. "I'll send him the paperwork tonight."

Vance: "…could I recommend… the sneak attack?"

Vance: Jaspindar is emotionally exhausted to a point beyond really being concerned with things like plausibility, but the idea of paperwork is too much for her.

Svetlana: Svetlana considers this for a while.

Svetlana: "We aren't bandits," she says.

Zanara: "Speak for yourself," Zanara says, smiling. "At least, according to the Guild, that's precisely what I am."

  • Vance notes Solar XP for Jenna.

Icaria: I don't really care, but I would like to have my own manse.

Icaria: "I'll let our masterminds figure out the details," says Icaria. "I'd better start with the experiments I'll need to perform before leaving. Oh, and I'm borrowing Tran. Probably for the best."

Vance: "Just as long as the paperwork doesn't implicate any parties on Gloam in any hypothetical treason against Satrap Bokaru or Tourmaline itself." Vi instructs Svetlana.

  • Icaria borrows Tran while people are talking about other things. I have a tomb to visit.

Camena: "Duly noted."

Vance: (I figure we're about near the end of this scene, unless anyone has other plans.)

Svetlana: "Absolutely," Svetlana says. "The purpose of paperwork, after all, is to cause things to become legal. …I am uncomfortable with the full implications of that sentence, but, well. It is what it is."

Icaria: I'm going to drag Tran off to the Tomb to interview Pim and have a conversation with her along the way.

Icaria: I guess technically "and have a conversation along the way" is implicit in everything I do.

Zanara: Zanara's going to stay with Jaspindar and Vi for a bit, mostly just to comfort them and make sure there's no lingering anger or resentment at anyone involved.

Svetlana: Svetlana is going to hang out with Tran and Icaria because she finds the Pim situation generally interesting and to avoid having one scene per player, but mostly she'll be composing.

Vance: As you depart, Jaspindar follows, taking Zanara aside (but not outside of Svetlana's supreme earshot). "Zanara, I don't know what I can do… but I'm worried about Tran. As much as I am about my own child. Please, promise me you'll make sure she stays safe."

Svetlana: "Huh," Svetlana says, apparently at random. "I totally misread that."

Zanara: "I give you my word," Zanara says. "I'd have done so anyway. A sorcerer, and that young at that?" She smiles. "Worry not. She's in good hands."

Vance: Meanwhile, Tran is not super thrilled at revisiting the Tomb of the Anathema, but at Icaria's insistence has assented. Camena and Zanara coming along?

Zanara: As long as Jaspindar and Vi seem alright.

Vance: They're coping.

Camena: Camena should probably be prepping something to sail, but for lack of imagination, yeah.

Zanara: Then yeah, she'll come along. Someone's definitely gotta keep an eye on the sorcerers.

Icaria: "Well, that went well," says Icaria, elsewhere, "considering."

Icaria: "Now all that remains is to solve a difficult and potentially intractible magical dilemma."

Vance: (There's gonna be some quick downtime after the Tomb scene, so y'all can tend to things like that and meditate on Essence.)

Vance: The Tomb opens up with the spilling of Chosen blood. Did Svetlana leave all the traps disabled the last time, or did she reactivity them before leaving?

Svetlana: I left them disabled unless somebody told me otherwise. Svetlana doesn't like traps.

Icaria: "I actually wanted to ask you about the ward in Jaspindar's twisted space. I'm assuming you set up the ward as well as the space?"

Icaria: "A nice piece of work, incidentally."

Vance: "Yes. After I let out whatever was in the Tomb, I wanted to create some kind of defense against it… although now it sounds like I misunderstood what happened completely."

Vance: "Add another problem into the local geomancy," she says regretfully.

Icaria: "It's a fascinating situation," Icaria agrees absently.

Icaria: "Well, you may understand it better after you've met Pim."

Vance: So, interesting question.

Icaria: Let's not be too incautious, obviously. Sívana or Iron Snow could have retrapped everything.

Vance: Pim was the aspect manifested specifically from Icaria's desire for a perfect boyfriend.

Vance: Is he going to try to invoke the same intention again, or a different one, or does someone beat him to it?

Icaria: I don't think I specified "perfect," which is just as well because Icaria's specifications on those lines change daily.

Vance: A quality boyfriend.

Svetlana: Svetlana is unable to beat him to it barring extremely comic accidents.

Icaria: I would assume that this time I would just try to evoke Pim specifically, rather than repeating my exact actions from before.

Vance: So, you're at the altar in the nadir of the prison.

Icaria: Now that I've met him it's harder to objectify him properly.

Vance: You evoke Pim, yet no Pim comes forth.

Icaria: "Maybe I should have spent more time looking for operating instructions."

Vance: Once again, the altar splits into separate levitating cubes, black and white, before reconfiguring into the shape of a throne.

Vance: The figure that appears upon it, however, is not Pim.

Icaria: Is this the setting that makes Dynasts nicer?

Svetlana: Svetlana considers the proper way to do this. It would be wrong to simply use her Magisterial authority for her own ends, so her actions must be the correct bureaucratic expression of "we are seizing this Manse for medical reasons and because you suck." Hm. Probably there are laws allowing for the request of a revocation of the title to a Manse and demesne under certain circumstances. Those circumstances are almost certainly either arcane and can be manipulated, or blunt like "commerce with enemies of the Realm," but ultimately it's going to be about selling it to the grey-haired Dynast stamping the papers either way. Really, what she wants is to invoke a presumptive forfeiture with means available to a private citizen and then use her Magisterial authority to speed it along to the right places as a compassionate gesture to the baby—eh? looks up at the throne

Vance: This aspect manifests as a crocodile-headed woman with eyes of burning gemstone, carrying a set of scales in one hand and a hammer of black lead.

Icaria: "Well, this is unexpected."

Zanara: "…that's not Pim."

  • Icaria eyes the rest of the group, wondering whose fetish this one is.

Vance: "It looks like you're trying to find the operating instructions for the Tomb of the Anathema."

Icaria: "Oh, are you them? That's significantly more helpful than I was expecting!"

Vance: "I am the Lizard Woman of All Knowledge. This aspect is better suited to answering your questions than the Perfected Immortal Man."

Icaria: "First Age spellcraft, guys. Just, wow."

Camena: "Huh. I would have thought Tomb of the Anathema was just, you know. What the locals called it."

Svetlana: "Oh, awesome!" Svetlana says. "Do you know whether the submitted survey of Cynis Bokaru's demesne is a 100% accurate reflection of the current status of the land?"

Icaria: "I'd be really surprised if it was," says Icaria, who's familiar with reference maps.

Vance: "My knowledge of things that happened after I was imprisoned here is a little shakier. I could look at your map, but the tectonic plates may have drifted between then and now."

Vance: "The map itself has an earnest, teaching spirit—it was surely made by a sincere cartographer. But sincerity doesn't prevent error."

Icaria: "I think what we really need to know is the history of the tomb, the reasonably complete nature of the being imprisoned here, and a general idea of the potential effects of the recent Essence leakages on developing children."

Svetlana: Svetlana squints at the Lizard Woman of "All" Knowledge. "Thank you," she says.

Icaria: Svetlana is very trusting of labels for a master of disguise.

Icaria: Incidentally I am labelling this emanation L'Woak.

Vance: "The Tomb of the Anathema was built to contain me/us after the Maiden clove us from our greater self. We were forbidden by heaven, but useful to the chosen of the gods, and so they built the gate that opens only to them and this altar to beckon me forth."

Vance: "Others, like you, have consulted with me throughout history. They come bearing desire or intention, and the altar draws forth the aspect of me that can best fulfill it."

Svetlana: Svetlana is in fact wearing a label that marks her as a master of disguise.

Svetlana: "How mobile is the altar?" Svetlana wonders.

Vance: "Im-, unfortunately."

Vance: "The dragon lines run through it, into me, back through it. A second layer of protection on an unbreakable binding."

Icaria: It's probably impolitic to ask how to break unbreakable bindings in front of poor Tran.

Icaria: "Ever since the Tomb was partially opened, it seems like your Essence has completely suffused this island. At least one child, growing in a sorcerous womb, has been changed by it."

Icaria: "I was wondering if you knew what the effects might be, and how pervasive they would prove."

Vance: "Partially opened? No, that couldn't be it. Like I said, the Exalted who built this place fashioned it so they could go in or out as they please. My Essence has been bound to this land for millennia, which I'm sure could have some ill influence on your young."

Vance: Tran remains silent, caught up in her own head, but feeling a weight slowly lift.

Icaria: "Hm. I wonder, then, why a child conceived after the Dynasts opened the Tomb would be affected when the one conceived earlier according to the same methods was not."

Vance: "The native people of this island—do they all have the same markings?"

Icaria: "No, they seem normal."

Icaria: "I was worried that such markings might begin to appear, but your statement seems to indicate that the danger is minimal."

Icaria: It appears that we may be dealing with a case of sababytoge.

Svetlana: "Four arms, an extra eye in the central forehead," Svetlana says. "To be precise. Does that have any particular resonance?"

Vance: "So it's probably a rare occurrence. Creating new life is always a complex matter of Essence, regardless of the physical rudiments."

Svetlana: Yeah, Svetlana is convinced it's Sívana and just doesn't want to bring it up around Tran.

Vance: "The four arms belong to the Perfected Immortal Man. The third eye is that of the Age-Devouring Destroyer. If the baby's head grows into a crocodile's, I'll be quite intrigued to see it."

Icaria: "Their mothers probably won't. They feel an obligation as bearers of the blood of dragons."

Vance: "…which ones?"

Icaria: "It is the children of Gaia to whom I am referring."

Icaria: I was forgetting L'woak is pre-Exalted.

Vance: "Gaia mated with humans?"

Camena: "Can neither confirm nor deny."

Vance: The Lizard Woman isn't the only one caught off guard. "Who's Gaia?" asks Tran.

Svetlana: "Humans are hot," Svetlana says. "-Ish."

Icaria: "These are really good questions which I don't know the answers to, either, but that's how the Five Elemental Dragons were described in the books I read on the subject."

Icaria: "They weren't primary sources, though."

Vance: "Heathen philosophers are very bad at understanding the nuances of the Dragons," Tran notes.

Camena: "The Terrestrial Exalted," Camena offers, hoping that she does, in fact, know this thing.

Vance: "So, are the other kinds of Exalted? What kind are you?"

Camena: Who asked that?

Vance: L'Woak.

Svetlana: Svetlana congeals her plan. File to have the land and demesne ownership suspended due to irregularities in the actuality as compared to the survey, petition for permission for a military exercise on that land while its ownership is suspended, flurry of vegetable freshness commission compliance related requests and other similar out of nowhere nonsense to get a number of Cynis Bokaru's ships and holdings looked at unexpectedly in the hope that he gets in too much trouble to pursue the matter or reassert rights to the demesne. Focus on things that a citizen merchant could theoretically file but use the Magisterial seal to encourage certain parties to review certain documents more quickly. Considering writing to Cynis Bokaru suggesting that she's heard that he's storing shadowland poppies at that Manse and would he mind if she turned the place inside out looking for them, on the grounds that he probably isn't and would let her, but that may be a step too far.

Svetlana: "You can't just ask someone what kind of Exalted they are!"

Svetlana: Svetlana looks offended.

Svetlana: "I treasure my mystique."

Vance: "Why? Are there some kind of Exalted that it is bad to be?"

Camena: "I'm not sure they'd be called Exalted, oh Keeper."

Svetlana: Svetlana ponders that. "That makes sense. Probably just -alted."

Icaria: "Honestly, we're just being secretive to annoy Jaspindar."

Vance: What's everyone's Guile?

Svetlana: "And to get the betting pool higher," Svetlana points out.

Zanara: 3.

Icaria: Uh, 1.

Svetlana: 3, but Svetlana has had the Socialize Excellency ready to go ever since she felt the urge to tug at her collar and sweat.

Vance: You can go ahead and boost if you want.

Svetlana: 4m, then, for 5 Guile.

Vance: @elliott?

Camena: 4.

Svetlana: Svetlana channels Evdeniya, and her lessons on this kind of thing. "Nobody cares if you're lying, Svetlana," Evdeniya had said. "They only care about whether you are maintaining the appearance expected of you for the place in the world you have."

Svetlana: (And then says the stupid '-alted' line.)

Vance: "So, is this what you meant when you said it wasn't my fault, Magistrate Evdeniya?" Tran asks. "If there was nothing to be freed from this prison, then what was it that I saw before?"

Svetlana: "I don't know why you're asking me," Svetlana says, "when there's a Lizard Woman of All Knowledge right there."

Icaria: "Or, you know, me."

Icaria: "It was totally Sívana, aka Number Four, and his tricksome illusions."

Vance: "Icaria, Lizard Woman of All Knowledge, explain away."

Icaria: "He wanted to open the tomb and to keep you away from it, so he used weird magics to pretend to be the guardian devil that chased you away."

Icaria: "Which you then were unable to find, the reason being, it isn't there."

Vance: "Number Four!" Tran exclaims. "But he's… nice! He actually cares about people."

Icaria: "That isn't necessarily incompatible with him wanting access to the tomb and for you to keep away."

Vance: "Why would he do that?"

Icaria: "I dunno, I don't like the guy. The magistrate may have a more even-handed evaluation."

Icaria: "Or, you know, whoever."

Vance: "Sívana studies martial arts from me." the Lizard Woman volunteers.

Vance: "He says that the styles I've learned have been forgotten for millennia."

Icaria: "Yeah, he wanted in here to study ancient martial arts, he said."

Svetlana: "Honestly, I'm 50/50?" Svetlana says. "I don't think the baby is an accident. I just think he's potentially competent enough to ensure the baby Exalts with the four arms as a side effect. Say. Or, conversely, that it was horrible malice and he needs to die. 50/50."

Icaria: "I don't think he's evil or anything, just a manipulative weirdo I don't trust."

Icaria: "I don't mind suspecting him of things, but on reflection I don't really see a motive for him to do that."

Vance: "If he made me think this was all my fault, then…"

Vance: "…hope he likes butterflies."

Svetlana: Svetlana looks completely baffled at Tran.

Svetlana: "Doesn't… everyone?"

Icaria: "Maybe not… all of them."

Icaria: "I mean, maybe Sívana secretly wants to destroy Jaspindar and her allies and this is part of that? But I don't actually have a reason to believe that."

Svetlana: "Honestly, Icaria. The guy has motives like 'ensure a tree grows an extra branch one day.'"

Icaria: "Oh, right, and the pig thing."

Icaria: "O Lizard Woman of All Knowledge, might you tell us what Sívana's deal is?"

Icaria: "Would you call him malicious, or kindly?"

  • Camena looks at Tran with concern.

Camena: "Don't challenge him. At least not blindly, or by yourself. And certainly not with something like that."

Svetlana: "Oh!" Svetlana realizes. "It's a poison."

Vance: "He's kindly to me," L'woak notes without personal interest. "Provides for various priestly services and offerings. But he does want to learn from me, and might have ulterior motive behind his kindness."

Vance: "He's also really good at kung fu."

Icaria: "It's a self-propelled flight of razor-sharp insects."

Svetlana: "… oh!"

Vance: "I don't challenge people by myself," Tran says. "I have an army of demons."

Svetlana: "I think he made you think it was all your fault," Svetlana says. "But I can be wrong, and I can be deceptive. I'm not quite sure how you can verify what I'm telling you without tipping him off, and I'd really rather you not get into the life practice of unleashing armies of demons based on a stranger's word."

Camena: "The Magistrate speaks reason."

Vance: "I'll find out when we come back from Tourmaline. No need to lose patience."

Svetlana: "Excellent," Svetlana says, and gives herself a high score for convincing Tran it might not all be her fault without immediately getting any fights going.

Icaria: I'm changing her name to Lizard Woman of Approximate Knowledge.

Icaria: "Hm… did we have any other pressing questions?"

Vance: "You wanted to know if I could help undo my Essence's influence on the baby."

Vance: "All Knowledge."

Icaria: Damn, she's got meta-knowledge.

Camena: "If I child were to be afflicted by your Essence, would that suggest to you that the baby might have difficulty achieving Terrestrial Exaltation?" Camena adds.

Vance: "I don't have any solid basis to speculate upon," she says, "but I remember the gods, and the dragons, and Gaia. I doubt their Essence would have any affinity for mine."

Icaria: "We considered moving the child away from this island and to a demense of Terrestral aspect elsewhere, in hopes of reversing or at least minimizing any unpredictable results."

Vance: "Isolation is a fundamentally sound approach. It may not be enough."

Camena: "Do you have any other suggestions?"

Svetlana: "Can the child be infected with the Essence of an aspect that is notably human in appearance?"

Camena: Camena looks at Svetlana with wide eyed astonishment.

Icaria: "That sounds ethically troublesome."

Vance: "I have no human-like aspects; humans emulated me."

Svetlana: Svetlana blinks at that.

Icaria: "I'm already kind of in favor of letting the child develop as it is, although Jaspindar and Vi are correct that a three-eyed child will have a difficult life as a Dynast."

Vance: "It's possible. I cannot spread my Essence intentionally, but if you could direct my unbound power…"

Icaria: I suppose if the baby is half-blue, that's less of an issue.

Vance: "It may not reverse whatever spiritual irregularity might make them incompatible with the Terrestrial Exaltation. It might make them something even better."

Camena: "How would we know if you're being truthful, or helpful, or right? The gods bound you here."

Icaria: "Wow, rude."

Icaria: "I never asked how I knew if you were being truthful. I just randomly decided one day to trust you with my life!"

Vance: "I'm in a prison with a door that opens only to the Exalted, and a cage that forces me to present my most helpful self to my captors. What about this situation makes you think I'm not bound to be truthful and helpful to the Chosen?"

Camena: "My inability to read the minds or check the competence of the architects of the Tomb."

Svetlana: "We are making rather a practice of trusting Icaria's instincts," Svetlana says. "If we abandon this we might have to unravel our decisions quite some ways back."

Vance: "You already discussed breaking the binding with the Perfected Immortal Man, and he told you his decision. Even if I disagree, we're still all stuck here."

Svetlana: "Oh, right!" Svetlana says. "I wanted to ask about the procedure for sending an affidavit on your character to the personage in Heaven responsible for reviewing your case."

Camena: "Look," Camena says, all fire and folk-wisdom, "I trust Icaria's instincts. But I don't deal with anyone who won't look me clear and straight in the eye and tell me they're talking in good faith."

Svetlana: Svetlana looks blankly at Camena.

Svetlana: "…dear cousin, it is not necessary to restrict one's social circle strictly to con artists and thieves…"

Camena: "I wasn't talking about you, hon."

Camena: "You've always had the right look about you," she adds with a rogue smile.

Svetlana: "That's my good faith in action!"

Vance: "If Heaven has such a procedure, they didn't tell me. I believe the precise term for this kind of place is a 'memory hole.'"

Vance: The Lizard Woman has trouble looking Camena clear and straight in the eye, because she has a crocodile head, but she eventually gets a good look at you in silhouette. "I'm talking in good faith, and you won't regret trusting me."

Camena: There's a quicksilver flash in Camena's eyes as she grabs, well, nothing in particular from thin air.

Svetlana: "I suppose I will be burning a written memorandum at dawn," Svetlana says, irritably. "If it's all for nothing my rage will shake the Heavens, albeit to such a small extent that they will probably confuse it for an aftershock from someone else's rage."

Svetlana: Svetlana knows her limits.

Camena: "Thank you," she says, and bows before leaning up against the wall, a half-grin on her face.

Vance: "If you're done scrutinizing my credentials, I have one more word of advice before you leave this island."

Svetlana: "It's 'Run,' isn't it? It's always 'run.'"

Vance: "Not over the ocean."

Svetlana: Svetlana's mind is blown.

Vance: "Sívana and his enemy won't let any time go to waste. I don't understand the full scope of their game, but it's more than just studying martial arts. You may want to take your own precautions before leaving this isle."

Icaria: "Precautions against being martial-arts-murdered, or something more specific?"

Icaria: "Oh, I was going to ask if you know anything about Iron Snow."

Camena: "Like, what the heck is he?"

Icaria: "Or what colors and foods he prefers."

Vance: "All I know is that Sívana is frightened by this enemy-he-did-not-know-he-had."

Icaria: "His fears seem exaggerated."

Vance: Tran makes a "?" face at all this talk of Iron Snow.

Icaria: "I for one don't know lots of people!"

Vance: "Sívana is exceedingly cautious in his guard. What worse fear could he have?"

Icaria: "Being eaten alive by silkworms?"

Icaria: "Public speaking?"

Svetlana: Svetlana closes her mouth very firmly to avoid participating.

Camena: "Do the Chosen issue you commands? Ones you have to follow, I mean."

Icaria: Please don't exploit the slave labor while I'm trying to make fun of Sívana.

Vance: "There are rules I have to follow, but it's not total control. If you told me to stand here and let you club me to death with a rock, I'd be allowed to yell out at you."

Camena: "And do you have to follow all Chosen equally, to whatever extent you must follow?"

Svetlana: Svetlana asides, "Icaria, how easy is it to meddle with fate with sorcery or geomancy? I don't mean, to get a particular result. I mean … just to … meddle."

Vance: "I am under compulsions that don't take my personal interests into account, yes."

Svetlana: Svetlana's eyes sharpen for a moment at L'WAK's words there, but Camena seems to have this.

Icaria: "I'm not really an expert on fate, but I'm sure that sorcery at least can do a good meddle."

Camena: "I meant, all types. It seems a danger indeed if some blasphemer could countermand the dictats of the Dragon-Blooded."

Icaria: "I mean, apparently all it takes is knocking a branch off a tree."

Svetlana: "All right."

Svetlana: "Thanks."

Svetlana: Svetlana dashes off a quick note. "Dear Sívana, It has come to my attention that you may not act entirely in our interests over the coming months. As a matter of professional courtesy I am penning this note rather than asking Icaria to do his best to sorcerously meddle with and tangle the various fates and destinies of Gloam. I would appreciate it if you subtracted the time you might have spent cursing us and dealing with the consequences of that from any intrigues that would upset me, spending it to, e.g., practice martial arts instead." She'll… ask someone to have it delivered once we've left.

Vance: Very polite!

Icaria: All right, then!

Icaria: I guess it's time to play Steal That Manse!

Vance: First, y'all get some downtime.

Camena: Camena wants to stay back and ask just one more thing.

Vance: One mooore thing!

Vance: Ask away.

Camena: Camena apologizes for her impolite behavior earlier, once Tran's out of earshot. And then inquires as to a certain Tapestry…

Icaria: I suppose I'm going to do some experiments with Pim particles and see how they react to various forms of elemental Essence.

Icaria: And how they react to promote, control or otherwise affect each other, or not.

Vance: "Jade Tortoise Devours The Sun? Well, you're in luck. Sívana is an art collector, and that piece is his pride and joy. It contains hidden martial wisdom."

Icaria: God, it's like some people have never even heard of books.

Vance: "He says he has it hung up in his office, so, just visit him."

Icaria: kekekekeke

Camena: "…"

Camena: "Gods damn it."

Camena: "…Do you happen to know if it's fireproof?"

Vance: "…did Sívana's office catch fire?"

Camena: "Fires were set, yes."

Vance: "The good news is that First Age art is incredibly durant. The 'Jade' in its name is literal."

Camena: "I sense a caveat."

Vance: "Fires are rarely good for the value of art pieces."

Vance: "You're never going to get full market value on it."

Camena: "I can live with that," she says, smiling. Just as she turns to leave, she stops, as if finally settling on something.

Camena: "To whatever extent I can issue this, I order you not to give aid to Sívana's enemy. I suspect that's unnecessary, and it might have been best to ask your permission. You know… before giving you that order. But it's there, on the authority of the Most High."

Vance: "Gonna let you know that probably won't work, but I will try."

  • Camena shrugs.

Camena: "Can't blame a girl for trying!"

Vance: So, what do people want to tackle before getting on the boat?

Svetlana: In the final hours before departure, instead of sleeping, Svetlana engages in a flurry of correspondence. There's the note to Sívana. There's a letter to Jaspindar asking her to occasionally have the current price of the scrip checked by someone official, even though it's expected to be "slightly lower than the paper it's printed on" until we get back to start the con, as well as a plea to make note of any major asset movements by the slave-holding merchant houses. There's the prayer-affadavit on Pim's character to be burned at dawn. And finally the Manse-seizing plan.

Camena: "Well, I mean, you could. And probably should. But this was fun. Next time I'll bring tea. And liquor. You drink tea and liquor?"

Svetlana: (Plan "My Cabbages!": (a) file to have the Manse land and demesne ownership suspended due to irregularities in the actuality as compared to the survey, (b) petition for permission for a military exercise on that land while its ownership is suspended, (c) send out a flurry of vegetable freshness commission compliance related requests and other similar out of nowhere nonsense to get a number of Cynis Bokaru's ships and holdings looked at unexpectedly in the hope that he gets in too much trouble to pursue the matter or reassert rights to the demesne. Focusing on things that a citizen merchant could theoretically file although very few would, but use the Magisterial seal to encourage certain parties to review certain documents more quickly.)

Vance: "Of course; I'm not a barbarian. Or a mortal."

Zanara: Zanara is leaving a small group of officers behind to keep recruiting here in Gloam while they?re away kicking ass elsewhere. This is not the first time she?s done this.

Icaria: I am doing science.

Icaria: Oh, and writing novels.

Zanara: Oh, also, making sure Moon Tortoise is no longer in prison. In fact, taking her with us, if she?s up for it, just to make sure she?s safe.

Camena: Camena's preparing her ship and Doing Sorcery. Nothing in particular. Just the theoreticals.

Vance: Moon Tortoise is free and available for conversation

Vance: (Mostly "you're working with THEM?")

Vance: @jennamoran: Who is Svetlana going to file with over the land?

Zanara: (Zanara's response is mostly: "It's more like they're working with us, lol.")

Svetlana: The Righteous and Accountable Ministry of Weights and Measures.

Vance: They're imperial rather than under the control of any house, right?

Svetlana: I don't have enough Lore to declare that. I barely have enough Lore as a player to know they exist. But they seem to be Imperial.

Vance: By the power of extradiegesis, it becomes so.

Camena: Man, that should be our Circle name. Some completely made-up ministry.


Vance: Manipulation + Bureaucracy to file, but it'll take a while to hear back on.

Vance: Say, as long as it takes to sail to Tourmaline, or thereabouts.

Svetlana: Oh, man, what a terrible roll.

Svetlana: 5 successes, 9m, 1W.

Vance: It's not your best report ever—even with Jaspindar's account, facts are sparse—but between the information you have available and the name you sign to the report, it's going to definitely cause some trouble for the satrap.

  • Svetlana, infuriated, invents a Bureaucracy Charm to reroll those five 6s until they fail to appear but doesn't have room in her build to take it until like Essence 4.

Icaria: I guess I should also summon some elementals.

Icaria: A tidemare seems useful.

Icaria: I'll call her Sodal.

Icaria: And a huraka.

Vance: Huraka are…thunderbirds? Air bears?

Zanara: So this trip to Tourmaline, this is the kind of downtime where I can spend a buttload of accumulated xp, yes?

Icaria: Air bears.

Icaria: He can be Agnate.

Vance: Yeah.

Vance: Rand, roll to bind them both.

Vance: Also tell me how you're keeping your greenmaws fed.

Icaria: I'm afraid they've eaten all the profits from my novels.

Icaria: I mean, I bought meat with it; they did not actually consume the koku.

Vance: Good dogs.

Icaria: Alternately, do you remember those goatoids that used to exist?

Vance: From your murder stampede?

Camena: I kind of want Camena to start her hand at a working.

Vance: Whatcha want to work?

Camena: Hmmm.

Icaria: Yes, them.

Icaria: Still, you have accepted my first explanation and I have no need to imply that Svetlana's goatoids were consumed.

Vance: Chomp.

  • Zanara secures various skill and attribute upgrades, plus Tiger Warrior Training Technique. Yay! Now I, too, am part of the long-term-project Essence-commitment argument!

Icaria: 15 and 15 successes, since I don't really need to worry about mote expenditure in my secret underground lair.

Icaria: Although I guess I could claim that in downtime I can abuse Supernal Control Method to my heart's content.

Camena: Grah. I dunno. Nothing that actually seems relevant beyond color.

Zanara: (Wait. Crud. Missing a prerequisite. >_< )

Svetlana: Hm, I should file an actual report, too. Maybe I can work on that on the ship itself. Dearest Magnus, the rot in the Threshold runs deep. No sooner did I arrive then I was confronted with a ship full of shadowland poppies, an Anathematic weapon, a hellboar running rampant on the docks, and a revolutionary undercover as an official of the Empress' Throne. When my scribe had ably subdued the hellboar, I allowed the revolutionary to seize temporary control of the poppies and the weapon and followed her back to her master—only to discover that her ostensible master was playing the same game of 'letting the revolutionary think she'd fooled us' as was I…

Icaria: You forgot to describe my many noble attributes.

  • Icaria considers how Icaria describes his circlemates in his novels.

Camena: That I wanna hear.

Icaria: Hm, I'm actually not sure.

Svetlana: When my handsome and gallant scribe, who incidentally would be a perfect match for any talented men of that persuasion you're looking to send to the Threshold to temper and find a romantic match for, had ably subdued the hellboar…

Icaria: Much better.

Icaria: I'm honestly having a hard time coming up with a good concept for Icaria's fictional circle.

Svetlana: "I don't know if it's in character," Svetlana waffles.

Icaria: I'm pretty sure he'd be complimentary to the point of making everybody he actually likes a Mary Sue, but not in any normal way.

Icaria: I doubt he bothered to describe what anybody who isn't a dude looks like, for instance.

Icaria: I really need an editor.

Svetlana: You don't have any other dudes in your Circle, dude.

Svetlana: People are going to suspect you of lying about your main character's leanings.

Icaria: I'm afraid my fiction is problematic.

Vance: It's time to move from fictional ships into the kind that are made out of wood and stuff.

Icaria: I don't know, maybe that's too far into madness and Icaria's books actually are good.

Vance: Camena, give us a launch.

Icaria: Although, I suppose "everything people say about them sounds awful, and everybody describes them in-character as awful, but everybody also owns all of them" is probably about right.

Svetlana: I'm assuming they're great. Svetlana is probably resisting the temptation to just crib from them.

Icaria: They'll probably be famous for the rest of eternity, but they're definitely schlock.

Icaria: Anyway, I'm on a boat.

Camena: The Sparrow isn't much to look at from the outside, but inside, it's… well, it's just all over the place. Half the hold's painted over in fresco and mural, and the young crew seem equally at home with a brush as a cutlass. The incubator is loaded aboard under the cover of night and with great delicacy; the others… not so much. Still, you can say this much: The food is good.

Svetlana: Hmm. I guess I should probably actually lower my own Major Principle that I need to continue recording my judgments and adventures at the end of that scene when I realize that Icaria and not Svetlana is theoretically Evdeniya's scribe now, and Icaria is already writing books, which I think means I roll Limit.

Icaria: We could become literary rivals instead!

  • Svetlana quietly bumps her Limit to 6, aiya.

Vance: There is some uneventful time spent at sea, of which we need not speak.

Vance: Somewhere between Gloam and Tourmaline, a thick fog rolls over the surface of the sea, engulfing the world in white.

Vance: Svetlana, make a Perception + Awareness roll with hearing or smell.

Svetlana: 5 successes on hearing, Sensory Acuity now active.

Svetlana: Wait, 6 successes and -1 difficulty.

Vance: You have incoming: six very large, fishy-smelling things.

Vance: They are moving towards you, but not through the water?as far as you can tell, they are swimming in the fog itself.

Icaria: Well, crap.

Vance: While you're in the mist, rolls that depend on vision take a -1 penalty.

Vance: Time to Join Battle.

Svetlana: If they are getting to us really soon now, Svetlana yells, "Incoming!" If not, she tries to find her Circle and quietly warn them.

Camena: "Boys, girls," Camena says, meaning her crew, "batten down and take cover."

Svetlana: It sounds like the former.

Icaria: Rubean and I are on deck.

Camena: Camena throws off her dark cloak, leaving only sea-gray clothes to better sink into the mist.

Vance: Tran stays below deck with Luzi, guarding the baby-egg.

Icaria: I kind of wish we hadn't brought Tran.

Icaria: But yeah, let's keep her below!

Icaria: If I accidentally flare anima I may have to hide inside my tidemare.

Icaria: And wow, I actually get 7 successes, a decent start for once.

Zanara: A measly 2 for Zanara.

Svetlana: My Join Battle is also 7, mostly because I went for a full excellency.

Camena: 25, which also counts as Stealth.

Vance: I'm going to allow this.

  • Camena feels hideously abusive.

Vance: …possibly maybe once, before explicitly barring the Living Shadow Preparation + Blurring Battle Feint interaction.

Svetlana: I am angry at my dice, not because 7 is low or anything but because I rolled no 6s or 9s on 16 dice after specifically activating Sensory Acuity earlier because "well, I'll probably have to Join Battle." ^_^

Camena: Well, if this is my only go, then I'll just hit here with a happy 5!

Camena: :stuck_out_tongue:

Svetlana: That's a pretty wicked interaction. I approve.

Vance: Camena's up first, undetected, but not in range of the giant fogsharks.

Vance: They're still out at medium range.

Camena: Well, then, not much Ms. Diezla can do, other than load her dragonsigh wand ruefully and watch as her folks all get to ground, preferably in the hold. It's going to be a dirty night.

Icaria: Aim?

Vance: You can delay.

Vance: For clashing.

Camena: I'm assuming one can't functionally Aim at these folks.

Camena: Yeah, I'll delay. Finger on trigger, ready to snipe.

Vance: Do you want to just unload on the first one to come in range?

Camena: Yeah. Let's send a message.

Vance: Svetlana and Icaria are up next.

Vance: Camena drops 2 Initiative.

Icaria: "Magistrate," I say, "point me in the right direction."

Icaria: I start shaping Death of Obsidian Butterflies.

Vance: Shaping roll!

Icaria: I'll spend eight motes on my Excellency, and roll 17 dice.

Icaria: Nine.

Icaria: Hm, I need 15. Still, I may as well wait until I see the whites of their eyes.

Icaria: Incidentally, I have invested in a buff jacket because haha, this is no time for turning myself into metal.

Svetlana: Svetlana starts to scurry away, but is nailed to the deck by Icaria's request. "Ah," she says. She points. "There, there, and… I can only point to two," she says, taking aim at one and pointing with her free hand at the other.

Icaria: You could use your words!

Svetlana: Svetlana's leg twitches, but she stays there, because the thing is, they're moving.

Vance: Any actions beside aiming?

Svetlana: Whatever action it is to point them out to Icaria. If he needs Aim to do what he's doing I may be stunting an aim for him instead of myself.

Svetlana: If not, no, just Aim.

Icaria: No, I would just like to be pointed in a generally correct direction when they become visible to me.

Svetlana: Svetlana is staying put because she has this vision of them circling around just before Icaria blasts, and if she provides real-time tracking he will know.

Vance: A first fogshark flies into view, its fins thrashing it forward through the mist. Anyone familiar with marine life recognizes this as an aberration, dramatically larger than the fog sharks of the White Sea. It's about siaka-sized.

Icaria: That's… quite large!

Vance: It also flies into short range, getting a faceful of fire.

Vance: …but at a -1 penalty.

Svetlana: Octopus! Svetlana recognizes, with a thrill of terror at actually being in one of those marine adventure books.

Vance: Elliott?

Camena: Stealth is still a foreign language to Camena, and despite her newfound talents, she can't resist the subtle showmanship—the way she lets herself slide nearer the target with the rock of the boat, the way her crosshairs fall right in its jaws without a wasted motion.

Vance: Two stunt dice.

Camena: 10 successes, and it eats -1 to its DV.

Vance: You hit!

Camena: 9 Damage. +1 for Clashing.

Vance: Camena snipes the shark good, but there's only so much of it she can set on fire. It's really big!

Svetlana: Oh, god, that smells delicious.

Vance: Another fogshark follows its seared brother into view, of the same size. It opens its maws and begins sucking in mist, creating an incredible wind.

Vance: Camena, roll Strength + Athletics.

Camena: That is a terrible combination of things.

Camena: Pick another one. Perhaps one with Larceny in it?

Vance: sharkvrooooom

Camena: …1.

Vance: Camena gets pulled off the deck.

Vance: But her Defense will probably be enough to avoid getting chomped.

Icaria: "Sodal! Catch her!" I yell.

Icaria: Sodal probably can't actually hear me but she's you know, around.

  • Vance rolls Sodal into battle.

Svetlana: (Oh, 5 Join Battle for Maksim but, honestly, this is probably not the best initial showcase for my familiar. Because he is small and tasty.)

Icaria: I don't know if Sodal is that useful in a fight, although she might be useful as a place to fight from.

Icaria: Can fogsharks swim in, like, water?

Vance: Platform ally is the plan.

Vance: Yes.

Vance: They're still sharks!

Vance: Elliott, what's Camena's Defense?

Camena: 5.

Vance: She avoids getting grappled, and has her choice of either dropping down into the water or trying to get her footing on top of a shark.

Camena: Those are not good choices.

Camena: I guess I'll go… water?

Vance: Splash!

Svetlana: The Fonz is disappointed in you, man.

Camena: It'd only end up that way if I tried shark.

Icaria: There's a complimentary whale.

Vance: It's not hurty, although, hard to load a firewand in.

Vance: Maksim is up next, if you want to have him do stuff.

Svetlana: I guess based on his build that he should take off from the mast and head upwards, disengaging if that's what's necessary.

Vance: It's not.

Svetlana: Because hanging out in the rigging is not very safe when there are fogsharks.

Svetlana: And that's really it, so!

Vance: Up next…

Vance: Icaria, Svetlana, and Zanara, make some Strength + Athletics rolls.

  • Svetlana mostly has him take an action so that she can stop forgetting about him. Maybe when there's two sharks left he can join in.

Icaria: Can I use Graceful Crane Stance instead?

Icaria: That's pretty much what it's for.

Svetlana: 6 successes, 2m.

Vance: You can use Graceful Crane.

Icaria: I do this thing!

Zanara: Zanara, feeling the wind tear at her, fires an arrow into the toe of her boot and into the deck, anchoring herself in place!

Vance: Svetlana and Icaria both maintain their footing as more sharks try to swallow them down.

Zanara: (God I need the stunt.)

Vance: Take two dice.

Svetlana: Svetlana actually makes a serious practice of having solid footing at all times.

Zanara: …that actually hella helped. 6.

Vance: Zanara's tied down!

Vance: Zanara and the last fogshark are up next.

Icaria: I kind of forgot about Rubean.

Icaria: rolls her Join Battle, gets 1.

Svetlana: Convenient!

Zanara: Now anchored down safely, Zanara takes aim at the last lingering bits of flame from Camena's shot, pulling another arrow from her quiver, drawing back the bowstring, and firing in a single clean motion.

Vance: Take two dice, a success, and a Willpower.

Zanara: 6m, 1m on Sight Without Eyes and 5m on the excellency, aaaaand… 18. Wow.

Vance: Wow.

Vance: Is that withering or decisive?

Zanara: Withering.

Vance: You hit with 15 threshold successes.

Vance: It has 17 soak.

Zanara: Plus 12 damage, haha, wow.

Vance: Is that dice or the total?

Zanara: Dice.

Zanara: Just to make sure, I?m rolling damage + threshold successes, yes?

Vance: Yeah.

Zanara: Nine!

Vance: It's super crashed.

Vance: The arrow skewers clean through it, which exposes its air-filled insides to the crawling remnants of Camena's fireshot.

Vance: Zanara goes up to 19 Initiative.

Vance: Final shark tries to chomp Camena out of the water, but misses.

Vance: Rubean's turn.

Icaria: Rubean stands by me, hook swords at the ready. She's Defend Othering me.

Icaria: She's not as great at that as Emeraude would be, but, on the other hand, she can swim.

Vance: Camena, a big seahorse offers to pick you up.

Vance: End of round, everyone gets 5 motes.

Vance: Zanara is the first up in Round 2.

Zanara: A second arrow follows after the first—this one, with the benefit of a heartbeat to aim, sails straight for the fogshark's eye!

Vance: Two stunt dice.

Zanara: Decisive! 5m, 1m for Sight Without Eyes, 4m for Excellency, aaaaand… seven!

Vance: Hit.

Vance: Roll damage.

Zanara: Six!

Vance: This shark now has an arrow skewering one of its eyes, and the inside of it is on fire.

Vance: It's very badly injured, but it's thrashing about more ferociously than before.

Vance: Svetlana and Icaria are up next.

Icaria: Icaria chants: "In my left eye, a stone. In my right eye, the wind. Caught between past and future, the only right action is to cut."

Vance: Take two dice!

Icaria: I'll spend six motes, and therefore roll a total of seventeen dice again.

Icaria: 15 successes. Well, that makes last round irrelevant.


Vance: Roll (Perception + Occult) to attack.

Icaria: Oh, I'll do more than that.

Icaria: Supernal Control Method!

Icaria: 10 successes.

Icaria: And it's undodgeable, to boot.

Vance: Icaria hits all the sharks.

Icaria: "…it appears they did not like butterflies."

Vance: Damage is (Essence + 7).

Icaria: So, 9. Is raw damage rolled?

Vance: Yeah.

Icaria: Against each one individually?

Vance: Strictly speaking yeah, but we can make it all one roll.

Icaria: Four.

Vance: There is so much blood in the air.

Icaria: No, no.

Icaria: It's just red ink.

  • Icaria is a little more thrown by this than he would like to admit.

Svetlana: The green boomerang is wood, wind, and beginnings. Svetlana uses the suction force of the inhaling shark to tumble off the deck, hurl the green jade boomerang at the marked shark (whichever one she was aiming at), and slam herself into the mast before bouncing away to scurry across the top of the hold in a disengage.

Vance: Svetlana gets 2 dice to attack, and doesn't need to roll to disengage because the sharks are still at short range.

Svetlana: Precision of the Thrown Raptor to lower its Defense by 1, but only 6 successes to hit.

Vance: Hit.

Vance: Withering or decisive?

Svetlana: Withering.

Vance: 4 extra successes, and it has soak 17.

Svetlana: Overwhelming 4, 3 successes.

Vance: It crashes, and you go up to Initiative 19.

Svetlana: Shouldn't it be 17? (7 Initiative + 5 Crash + 2 hit + 3 damage?)

Vance: The hit bonus is only 1 point, and I had you at Initiative 10.

Vance: I may have just added 3 to your Join Battle automatically

  • Svetlana is furiously paging back and forth through the book hoping each time that her search term will be helpful as combat happens to figure out what to roll and what's going on.

Svetlana: …do I have something that would bump my Join Battle by 3? OK, so 16 Initiative.

Vance: Your starting Initiative is your Join Battle roll + 3.

Svetlana: Oh!

Svetlana: Then yes, 19.

Svetlana: I didn't know about the +3. ^_^

Vance: Camena, a fogshark skims over the water and tries to swallow you whole, yet again.

Camena: I thought I was atop a seahorse?

Vance: It's trying to swallow you off of it.

Camena: Sorry, Nico is being adorable—

Camena: I'm gonna take a deep breath and put my heels to the side and hope it knows enough to dive, dive, dive.

Vance: The seamare rolls over on its belly, which does have the advantage of moving you out of the attack's path.

Camena: Glub, glub.

Vance: Svetlana, Icaria, and Zanara are all getting chomped on.

Icaria: Zanara's stuck in place, so I'm going to use War Lion Stance to reflexively defend her.

Zanara: Aww. Thanks. :heart:

Zanara: That said I actually have a pretty healthy parry in melee-mode.

Vance: What are folk's Defenses?

Icaria: Parry 5.

Zanara: I have an Evasion of 4, since, well, I'm not in melee-mode.

Icaria: Double Parry can't hurt. Well, I guess it can hurt me.

Zanara: But I am also nailed down which probably doesn't help.

Svetlana: Evasion 5.

Icaria: I may as well spend six motes on my Excellency.

Vance: Oh, wait.

Svetlana: Would Drifting Leaf Elusion help?

Icaria: That'll raise my Parry to 8. Or wait, I guess I can only raise it to seven?

Svetlana: (That's the "dodge attack that exactly hits Evasion.")

Vance: Drifting Leaf would help if you also used an Excellency

Icaria: I guess I'll spend four on the Excellency and use Bulwark Stance.

Svetlana: Unlike DLE, I don't think I can invoke the Excellency after the attack hits.

Vance: Right.

Vance: It's a "Step 7" Charm.

Icaria: Which brings me up to bonfire.

Vance: "Huh," says Tran below decks.

Vance: "That sure is some ANATHEMA!"

Icaria: She so totally can't see that.

Vance: It filters through the seams in the wooden construction of the ship.

Vance: Like giant shutters!

Icaria: It so totally does not.

Icaria: Anyway, it won't be an issue in ten seconds.

Svetlana: I was mostly not using an Excellency because I won't get a feel on what people can hit if I'm always pumping my Evasion past that, but that seemed like an ST hint, so, OK, 4m when it tries to chomp me for Evasion 7.

Camena: Do you really think an Eclipse wouldn't have made her ship impermeable for light?

Zanara: I mean, if light can get through, water sure the heck can

Camena: I do all sorts of naughty, Anathematic things in there.

Zanara: Which is kind of an issue.

Icaria: I don't really care enough to argue.

Icaria: It's just going to be stunt fodder in a moment.

Vance: Table consensus seems to be light-proof boat.

Vance: Although I am seriously questioning the logic of "if light can get through, water can," because, windows.

Vance: Anyway, no one is eaten by sharks.

Icaria: I assume she can see, like, a yellow light up above.

Vance: Camena's up.

Icaria: No, she's not!

Svetlana: I can't stunt my dodge without seeing the attack, so I don't. It's probably like, "Aaah!" <duck>.


Icaria: PEONY BLOSSOM… dammit, stop predicting my attacks before I call them out!

Icaria: Only I can call my attacks!

Vance: "Your next line is…"


Icaria: I block the force of the fogshark's lunge with Sun's Brush, then allow its weight to flip me over in a reverse somersault.

Icaria: I catch myself with the point of the brush on the deck and use it as a pivot to reverse direction and bring the sharp edge right up through an existing wound.

Icaria: It's like I have no weight at all.

Icaria: There is a sudden rush of flying letters in my anima before it winks out. Meanwhile, Legate Tran sticks her head out of a window and says "wut?"

Icaria: But there's nothing. Just me, fighting a shark and winning.

Vance: Take two dice, a success, and a WP.

Icaria: Thirteen successes after spending ten personal motes on my Excellency.

Vance: Hit.

Vance: Withering or decisive?

Icaria: Decisive.

Vance: Roll damage.

Icaria: I guess that's just ten, which is my initiative.

Icaria: Ah, seven damage.

Icaria: Or, wait, do tens count?

Vance: Just as one.

Icaria: Then five.

Vance: Sun's Brush scatters the obsidian wings embedded in the shark's skin as it plunges into the beast's skin.

Vance: Now Camena's up.

Icaria: It's still not dead? Good grief.

Camena: "I am going to murder everything."

Camena: Camena is, I guess, going to spend the turn reloading her wand.

Vance: The shark that Svetlana hit with her boomerang advances on her in a thrashing frenzy, slamming its tail at her in a withering attack.

Icaria: Bluh, I really thought I was going to get a kill shot in or I wouldn't have spent all those motes.

Svetlana: These creatures think it's an impressive trick to hide in the fog, but the Iron Wolves laugh at such a trick. Svetlana melts away into the wood, the air, the thin light that makes it through the fog of the glorious Unconquered Sun. They have to hide their presence with physical illusion. She, when it lashes out at her—she's barely even there.

Svetlana: She also spends 2m for Evasion 6 as she tries to be where it isn't looking.

Vance: She dodges successfully.

Vance: The shark has blood to pay attention to!

Vance: (The shark that has an arrow through its eye and is on fire internally finally collapses in on itself, as I add up its health levels correctly.)

Icaria: Yeah, that happens a lot.

Vance: End of the round, everyone gains 5 motes.

Vance: Next up is Svetlana.

Icaria: Like, my Parry just shot up hugely as I realized Rubean is still bodyguarding me.

Svetlana: Wood begets fire. As I drop away from the wooden roof of the hold, the red boomerang skitters upwards, almost out of control, a spark of the sunlight's fire gleaming along its edge, and smashes the shark's stomach as it passes me… right in the heartburn from the half-rotten giant rockfish I've been smelling that it unwisely ate two days ago and has been regretting ever since. Decisive attack, Joint-Wounding Attack, disengage.

Vance: Take two dice, on both rolls.

Svetlana: Oh, and Shadow Dancer Method to retain my initiative on the disengage, since I'm not at all clear what would happen otherwise.

Vance: Otherwise you'd spend it!

Icaria: I think you lose a point or two every time you disengage.

Svetlana: Right, that's what Shadow Dancer Method is for. But I reset to 3 and I'm not sure if it's before or after that. 6 successes on the attack roll.

Svetlana: Wait.

Svetlana: 7.

Icaria: I think you'd spend it first and then reset to 3, so you probably don't need Shadow Dancer Method. Is that right, Vance?

Vance: You can do either way, depending on the order.

Vance: That hits.

Svetlana: Yay!

Vance: It takes a lot of damage!

Svetlana: 19 dice, and I think no excellency is possible.

Vance: Right.

Svetlana: 6 successes, and a -3 penalty on actions as heartburn acts up.

Svetlana: 9 successes on disengage.

Svetlana: (Sorry I take so long.)

Vance: You can see the shark squirm as the burst of poison begins to circulate through it.

Icaria: Never be ashamed to stunt!

Vance: …and a successful disengage gets you away from it.

Vance: One fogshark drifts past you, chasing its own blood as it scatters on the wind. It lashes out in search of any crew hiding on the deck.

Vance: The bust-gut shark does not understand why it is suddenly in such distress, but attacks Svetlana as the only apparent source of its agony.

Vance: Witheringly.

Svetlana: I'm pretty sure it already attacked me, because that one was the one that I'd hit before and was also right there, but I reflexively disengage further either way!

Vance: The shark contends with the joylessness of life.

Icaria: It attacked and then the next round started and then you attacked.

Vance: Your reflexive move brings you in range to help folks getting chased by the hungry shark.

Svetlana: Oh!

Svetlana: OK, that makes sense.

Vance: One shark tries to pick off Rubean.

Icaria: War Lion Stance! I'll switch my reflexive defense to Rubean.

Vance: Any Excellency on your parry?

  • Icaria wonders if this is really efficient use of motes.

Icaria: No, but I may as well use the motion of my brush to splash some dripping shark-blood in front of its nostrils and send it instinctively in the wrong direction.

Vance: It hits with a mighty 10 successes.

Vance: And it's not too picky about who it eats, so when Icaria interposes himself, the shark just goes through with attacking him.

Vance: What's Icaria's soak?

Icaria: Six.

Vance: It hits you for 12 withering damage

Vance: You're very crashed!

Icaria: That puts me at -9! How humiliating!

Icaria: I get hit that hard even when Rubean and I are defend othering each other?

Vance: You were defend othering her.

Vance: She can't defend other you back or the world loops in on itself.

Icaria: Jaspindar and Vi got to mutual parry!

Vance: They had Charms.

Vance: And even then it didn't work that way.

Icaria: Godsdamned sharks.

Vance: But you do get the benefits of Rubean's Defend Other as another shark is drawn to the bloodspray.

Vance: So, count your blessings?

Vance: It tries to grapple you.

Icaria: I'm not bleeding!

Icaria: This is just… stray ink, from my anima.

Vance: It doesn't know that!

Icaria: I guess I'd better use Dipping Swallow Defense to avoid an onslaught penalty and four motes for Parry 7.

Vance: You avoid a nasty fate.

Vance: Camena and Zanara are both up.

Camena: Any sharks at short range from where I'm bobbing?

Icaria: Yes, what's the current shark situation?

Icaria: I'm a bit confused in the melee.

Vance: Four of the sharks are clustered around the fore of the ship, at close range to both Camena and the melee people.

Vance: One has strayed onto the ship, at short range from melee people and medium from Camena, that is chowing down on civilians.

Camena: Camena brushes damp hair aside from where it's plastered to her face, takes rough and steady aim at the nearest shark, and sends a plume of turquoise fire scintillating throughout the air. Near as she can figure in the heat of battle, that's what happens when brine and her reagents mix. So far as it burns, she's happy.

Vance: Take two dice.

Camena: A not-stellar 8 successes, and the creature gets -1 Defense.

Vance: It is a hit.

Vance: Is this withering?

Camena: Yeah.

Vance: 7 threshold successes.

Vance: …and it has soak 17.

Camena: Daaaang.

Camena: 5 successes.

Vance: You catch the fogshark that just finished brutally throwing itself at Icaria, forcing it to back down to avoid a snoutful of fire.

Vance: Gain 6 Initiative.

Camena: 9.

Icaria: There's too many of them and they're too damn resilient.

Zanara: Zanara draws her sword, hacks the arrow in her boot in half, and steps clear of it, dashing to Icaria?s side. (Flurrying Ready Weapon and Defend Other)

Icaria: I really, really need to cast another spell.

Icaria: And… I can't!

Icaria: They're all Perilous.

Vance: Crashed Icaria's turn.

Icaria: I'm dazed and staggering backward, but that's just another form of forward motion!

Icaria: I'll trip over one of those things you tie ropes to, catch myself with the haft of my brush, push downwards using such muscle as I possess, and reverse my momentum to bring Sun's Brush falling more or less directly into the attacking shark's side.

Icaria: I can't afford to spend any motes right now. Withering attack, five successes.

Vance: Uh… eyeholes?

Zanara: Kleats.

Vance: That is a hit.

Vance: With one threshold success, etc.

Icaria: Cleats is what I mean.

Icaria: I guess I roll my overwhelming value only, then?

Vance: Yeah.

Icaria: Two.

Vance: You're up to -6!

Zanara: (Huh, always thought the nautical ones were spelled with a 'k.' Good job li'l Vera, you're still making adult Vera wrong even decades later.)

Icaria: -7, I'm afraid.

Icaria: Oh, wait, I get one for hitting.

Icaria: "This sucks."

Icaria: "I didn't really want to do this on a boat, but… Emeraude!"

Vance: Finally, the crashed fogshark barrels down at Svetlana in a furious, uncontrolled display of rage.

  • Icaria summons Emeraude onto the field of battle.

Vance: (Can you do that reflexively?)

Icaria: I can!

Svetlana: Hm, I don't reflexively disengage from this one because it wasn't one of the ones in range of me earlier, correct?

Icaria: For three motes, which I really can't spare, but I also can't spare any more of my flesh and blood.

Vance: You only get one reflexive move per disengage.

Vance: I think?

  • Svetlana looks it up. Correct.

Svetlana: As Svetlana retreats from the other shark, weaving backwards, she trips a nameless crewman so that he tumbles safely through a half-open grate to land amidst bananas in the cargo hold instead of fleeing into the maw of the shark behind her. As for her, the collision sends her reeling unexpectedly away from the shark that is coming for her now.

Vance: Rand, roll Emeraude into battle.

Vance: The stunt is enough for Svetlana to evade and make a banana sundae!

Svetlana: Sweet!

Icaria: 1 success, for 4 Initiative.

Vance: She will act next round.

Vance: End of round, 5 motes.

Vance: The first to act is the bust-gut fogshark. Moving past Icaria and Zanara's defense, it lunges at Camena, slamming its jaws down on her in a decisive attack.

Camena: Her caste mark flares for just a moment as Camena grabs hold of some rigging sent over the rails by the clamour above decks. She clambers up and then just as it dives for her, she lets go quick, burning the skin off her palms to get back down to the mare in time.

Camena: Dodge 8.

Vance: Camena climbs up past the shark, but as she plummets down, it twists in mid-air to catch her with its jaws.

Camena: Drifting Leaf Elusion help?

Vance: It does!

Vance: …and now Camena's turn.

Camena: There's a word in Airtongue. Camena doesn't know it, and doesn't know she doesn't know it, but she feels it. Kouss. It means, if you unpack it: "Your pain keeps my fireplace stoked in the winter." It's a good feeling. She rushes to reload and fire like she's made out of wind and bustle, and smiles as she pulls the trigger again.

Vance: Take two dice, two sux, and a Willpower.

Icaria: So, what was the soak on these things again?

Vance: 17.

Camena: 17 successes, and it loses 1 Defense.

Vance: Are you shooting the one that attacked you?

Vance: Either way, hit.

Camena: Oh my, yes.

Vance: Withering or decisive?

Camena: Withering. I don't have the juice for a real deal yet.

Vance: So that's 16 threshold successes.

Camena: 13.

Vance: Juust crashed it.

Vance: So gain… 19.

Camena: 28

Camena: And please tell me it literally crashed.

Vance: Yes.

Camena: Because the image of a flying shark just fireballing into the water.

Camena: It fills my bleak heart.

Vance: On the middle of the deck, where Svetlana is, a frenzied fogshark is scrabbling at the deck with its fangs as frightened crewmen hide under crates and barrels.

Vance: It begins moving on a pair of sailors huddled together behind a water barrel, but you have enough time to intercept it.

Vance: You being Svetlana, specifically.

Svetlana: I have Initiative 3.

Svetlana: Are we there already?

Vance: This is reflexive.

Svetlana: Oh!

Svetlana: Fire promotes earth; the red boomerang slips back into its place and mesmerizing, glittering, gleaming, the white jade cutter falls into Svetlana's hands. It drags through the guts of a dead crewman on the deck and whirls past the sailors, between them and the shark, and you'd think to look at it that the tastiest possible corpse was whirling through the air and out off into the distance before the skycutter bounces off the waves to clean itself and return to Svetlana's hands.

Svetlana: (If it's not clear, that's an attempt to lure it away. I think it's clear, but maybe it's confusing.)

Vance: Gross.

Vance: But roll Dexterity + Thrown, with a success and two bonus dice.

Svetlana: 5 successes.

Vance: The fogshark chases Svetlana's boomerang as it flies overboard. Like a dog that fails to realize the ball is still in its master's hand, the shark zooms away in search of the corpse-bits as the boomerang flies, now clean, back to Svetlana's hand.

Vance: Emeraude is up next, along with another fogshark.

Vance: The fogshark eyes Emeraude clashfully.

Icaria: I'm not sure if Emeraude is big enough to win a clash with these sharks.

Icaria: Or, honestly, strong enough to hurt them with her attacks.

Vance: She's not as big, but her bite's basically a heavy weapon.

Vance: And these guys have bad defense.

Icaria: All right, let's give it a go.

Icaria: Emeraude digs down into the wood of the deck, splintering the surface as her roots dig deep. It's not a great soil, but it'll do. In her mind's eye, she visualizes the shark as an insect and snaps down hard.

Icaria: It's a tricky piece of visualization but she's very practiced at thinking about eating things.

Icaria: Withering bite attack!

Icaria: Also, Unbroken Root Endurance.

Vance: Roll with three bonus dice for being rooted against the clash.

Icaria: Four.

Vance: The fogshark and Emeraude wrestle with each other, neck and neck, but the shark is the one that finally bites home.

Icaria: Vance, you have fed one familiar too many to a shark.

Vance: It hits for 4 withering

Icaria: I guess we're both crashed.

Vance: Zanara and Svetlana are up next.

Icaria: I should have just had her defend me.

Svetlana: Could I get a sense of what's going on around me?

Vance: You've cleared away the shark that was going after the crew, so the deck is now safe. You're one range band away from the fore of the ship, which has two sharks directly over it and two floating around the periphery.

Svetlana: Is that where the meleers are?

Vance: Yeah.

Svetlana: Earth promotes water. Flexibility. Disruption of combat doctrine. As she reseats the white boomerang and a black jade shadow falls into her hands she sighs, winces visibly, and then for once she charges back into the fray, closing with her nemesis. It's not quite clear where the boomerang went until it slams into its eye from the left side.

Vance: Clunk!

Vance: Take two dice.

Svetlana: 15 successes (9m + 2m Night stealth peripheral, 1 WP.)

Vance: Ouch.

Vance: Very hit.

Vance: Withering or decisive?

Svetlana: Withering.

Vance: 11 threshold successes.

Vance: And he's still got 17 soak.

Svetlana: 11 + 12L artifact + 3 strength = 26 - 17 = 9 dice, rolling 6 successes (spelled out in case I'm confused about anything.)

Vance: Boomerangs smashing into eyes can be very violent to look at.

Vance: Especially when they're made of razor-sharp jade and have bizarre mass properties

Icaria: I'm troubled to contemplate such phenomena.

Icaria: Especially in light of their recently-revealed realness attribute.

Vance: With all of the fogsharks crashed, they make a retreat from battle, lazily drifting away.

Vance: If you really want to carve up some fogshark for stew you can, but the danger's been driven away.

Icaria: They'd just eat somebody else.

Icaria: If combat's over, I'm going to fire off another round of butterflies at them as they flee.

Vance: The crew is cheering—Camena, as usual, but also Svetlana, for saving them.

Svetlana: It's just as well. If Svetlana took out the final boomerang she'd discover her embarrassing mistake regarding elemental associations in Creation on the very first one.

Vance: The Death of Obsidian Butterflies gets a wild round of applause.

Svetlana: I think the one Camena roasted, if it floats, is probably enough for stew.

Icaria: Okay, my next Charm moves are going to be towards Thunderbolt Attack Prana.

Icaria: I really need a damage increaser.

Vance: Nothing like cooking your fish from the inside-out!

Vance: That is gonna wrap things up for tonight.

Svetlana: Svetlana does not attack the departing fogsharks,because that just seems peevish and undignified. It'd be one thing if she could ride them down properly.

Icaria: My mistake was going decisive without enough Initiative.

Icaria: 10 wasn't high enough to ensure a kill-shot and I wound up reset surrounded by alive sharks.

Icaria: Honestly I probably should have just spent the entire battle hiding behind Rubean and shooting butterflies.

Svetlana: Thank you for running, Vance!

Vance: NP.

Zanara: Yes, thank you!

Vance: Sorry it stretched out!

  • Svetlana ponders any intimacies she might get from that scene.

Icaria: Yes, that was an actual difficult battle and I almost got eaten.

Vance: You did use a corpse to save the living.

Vance: That implies some values.

Icaria: Let's see, XP.

Icaria: I used my knowledge of elemental things, and also the power of butterfly shooting.

  • Icaria considers titles for tonight's adventure.

Vance: You're not a Dawn!

Icaria: It is an arcane secret.

Icaria: In Which Sharks Are Difficult To Puncture.

Vance: Turning on the Tomb of the Anathema's Clippy mode probably triggers Twilight XP.

Icaria: In Which It Is Not Our Fault.

Svetlana: Minor Principle—"Figuring out how to get someone what they want tends to distract me from the question of whether they should have it."

Icaria: I hear you.

Icaria: I don't even want to fix this baby!

Icaria: It's fine the way it is!

Zanara: We got Tran to Do The Right Thing. Zenithy?

Vance: Yeah.

Vance: Helping Tran bumps Zenith.

Icaria: I also acquired a sorcerous protege.

Vance: Svetlana used financial skullduggery to acquire advantage over Cynis That Guy.

Icaria: Bezoar?

Icaria: Cynis Onion?

Vance: Elliott has already gone to sleep so I don't have to remember the Eclipse triggers.

Icaria: Onion Satrap.

Vance: Wakaba, the Onion Exigent.

Svetlana: Svetlana continued to fight for Pim not getting left behind and forgotten, which is probably a more important showcase of that principle than dropping everything to help a baby or helping some sailors because honestly, baby, and honestly, civilians in danger right there.

Vance: Low-hanging heroism fruit.

Svetlana: She continued to showcase her other important Principles only vaguely, which is mostly because when I noticed I was doing poorly on them I started playing my Defining Principle more actively but for my Major Principles I mostly just committed to using the Intention gain and loss system. But she did avoid engaging in official corruption at the weighty cost of me as a player having to think harder about what her plan was!

Svetlana: So I totally got Night XP out the wazoo but I can only claim Intimacy XP if you continue to be kind of laissez faire about how interesting or dangerous the expression has to be.

  • Svetlana looks up what the wazoo is, and is surprised it took her so many years to learn this.

Svetlana: I think I thought it was a kind of kazoo.

Icaria: I assumed it was a river somewhere.

Svetlana: Just one with multiple reeds, like a harmonica, that you exhaled more forcefully through.

Svetlana: So, anyway, I totally got Night XP out the fortissimo harmonica, or, hartissimo.

Icaria: It's interesting how things shift.

Icaria: At first I was afraid I was going to be dominating the combat after getting off two good attacks, but then I got suddenly crashed and spent the remainder of the battle tripping over things.

Svetlana: There's definitely a lot of ebb and flow.

Svetlana: I had no idea we were anywhere near winning when we won.

Icaria: Next time it would probably be good to have a semi-permanent counter for a 5v6 battle, because all the sharks started to flow together in the end.

Svetlana: That's because there weren't any sharks; it was all a Number Four illusion. Towards the end his power over us waned. You can tell because Number Four, 5v6, 7 succeeds, 8 is great fortune.

Svetlana: It all connects, man! It all connects!

Vance: Yeah.

Vance: Six sharks was too many.

Icaria: Maybe three sharks, each ridden by a fairy prince.

Vance: I think the braincount is limited to maybe three or four of the same thing.

Vance: I should've mixed it up more.

Vance: Thrown some fogsquid at you.

Svetlana: There is a flaw in the ranged combat model I'd originally anticipated, which is that spending half of one's actions aiming is not viable when a long-realtime combat is five actions.

Icaria: Plus they all had huge soak so it was like a giant sea of hit points.

Svetlana: Shadow Dancer Method isn't bad at all, so letting enemies close with me now and then plays well enough with my build but having only 5 soak might be an issue and I'm reluctant to start buying Resistance when Dodge is already tied for the ability with the most Charms on my sheet.

Svetlana: And armoring up beyond a buff jacket feels out of character. I mean, hand Svetlana a set of heavy plate and push her into a den of ogre-wasps, she'll put it on, but it's not comfortable.

Svetlana: Maybe 5 soak just feels like nothing because those sharks had 17 soak and were not obviously made of adamant.

Svetlana: And Emeraude had a zillion soak, I think.

Svetlana: Though I guess soak has different implications when it's restricted to withering attacks.

Svetlana: Part of it is probably that Solar Dodge is one of the mean trees.

Svetlana: Larceny is all, "Here, have some effects!" while Dodge and Socialize are like, "OK, so, we can maybe see our way to giving you a one point bonus now and then, because we're friends."

Svetlana: Which is probably fair because anything bigger than that would be disproportionate.

Svetlana: But I could see buying the whole Dodge tree and still getting eaten pretty easily.

Svetlana: After deep analysis, I propose that I qualify for the Expression Bonus after all, because Svetlana's reason for agreeing with the entire trip is that the alternative is basically saying 'enh, one four-armed baby isn't worth it' and she can't make herself say that because of a Defining Principle, and the trip itself included a significant challenge in the form of sharks.

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