In Which People Do Not Speak Their Mind

Icaria: Ah, right, it's Tuesday.

Vance: Oh!

Vance: I had forgotten Tuesday, but not Exalted.

Vance: I am ready to Exalted.

Vance: Conversely, it appears we are the only ones here

Vance: Which might make it difficult to run anything besides a Very Icaria Christmas

Icaria: My Nobilis power was too great. The other players have deserted Creation for… uh… Creation.

Icaria: Honestly, deciding to give gifts to every child in Tourmaline does sound like something Icaria would do.

Vance: Creation-Meru and Creation-Ash

Vance: But you have yet to learn the shocking secrets of Tourmaline!

Vance: Like how it got the name

Icaria: Oh, dear, did someone turn all the children into semi-precious stones?

Icaria: Anyway, it looks like we need a bit of time, so I will run to the grocery store to get supplies to up my Icaria power.

Icaria: Never Twilight without caffeine.

Camena: Je suis tres fatigue

Camena: Mais c'est normale pour moi

Vance: that's 50%

Vance: but without Jenna and Vera, none of our names end in vowels!

Camena: If only Vera were the only one here

Camena: Then it could be a Vera Special Episode

Vance: If we don't make quorum, I'll probably run a Boat Dreams first age interlude

Svetlana: (I am so sorry.)

Svetlana: (It moved from 1 to 3:35 unexpectedly while I nitpicked range rules.)

Icaria: Well, the interlude allowed me to acquire sun chips.

Icaria: Fit for a Solar!

Vance: No problem

Vance: This time of year is just no time for schedules

Camena: Let us invoke the music of the irregular polyhedrons

Vance: I haven't been able to get in touch with Vera, so I'm thinking that I will just start, and contrive a reason for Zanara to go off on her own once you make landfall

Vance: The sea glows jade and emerald before you come in sight of port, as though a green sun had been drowned beneath the waters. As the huraka's ceaseless gale drives you nearer, you see the source of the illumination. Tourmaline's rocky island face has been mined down as though the whole island were an orange whose skin had been peeled off in irregular strips, exposing huge crystalline formations that spread out like a skeleton wearing the island's skin. Miners toil away on scaffolds raised up in the hollowed-out caverns, sending out crates of opalescent crystal shards to be pulled up above by pulleys.

Camena: "Well that's shiny."

Camena: "You guys wanna steal it?"

Camena: "I kind of want to steal it."

Icaria: "Do I have to carry it?"

Camena: "You have to summon something to carry it. I'm thinking thick thews. Like, thews for days. Thews for all of Ascending Water."

Vance: The docks are an irregular assembly of wooden platforms, lashed together into a boardwalk that spans the island's southeast corner. They teem with Imperial trade ministers, examining vessels for contraband or worse.

Vance: Tran and her demon handmaiden come up on deck with you to take in the island. "I think I can guess which part is the manse."

Icaria: "I'm not a dating service."

Icaria: "Seriously, can you even imagine how terrible that would be?"

Camena: "It could be a thews-lady. Or even a thews-agender being."

Vance: Luxi snorts. "You humans and your pitiful few genders."

Vance: "Good grief, Creation is a madhouse."

Camena: "Hush you. When we want to hear about your superfluous genders, we will solicit the information."

Icaria: "If you aren't careful, Camena, I'll try to summon your ideal true love."

Icaria: "Then we'll see just how smooth the course of love runs!"

Camena: "You wouldn't dare."

Vance: "Sure would be a shame if some lowly demon caved your head in, punk."

Camena: "Sure would be a shame if I stole your stomach, baked it into a pie, and fed it back to you."

Vance: "Joke's on you, I don't even have a stomach."

Camena: "We'll make due."

Icaria: "Please don't antagonize the monster."

Icaria: "Camena, you behave, too."

Svetlana: (remind me where the logs are, again?)

Icaria: http://nobilis.me/doom-and-gloam

Camena: (Who's Luxi?)

Vance: (Neomah)

Icaria: Tran's neomah, a buff lady with a combat pipe.

Icaria: She's got thews! Perhaps it was meant to be.

Vance: "She can't actually kill you," Tran reassures you. "She's bound to do whatever is best for bringing the fetus to term, which means not killing our nice friends who are doing us a favor."

Camena: "Just remind her that I can and have stolen limbs before."

Icaria: "Don't make me get out the greenmaw."

Icaria: "Let's take out our cabin-fever-based aggression by finding the satrap of Tourmaline and jacking his manse."

Vance: The Sparrow docks. Your welcoming committee consists of a tired-eyed bureaucrat dressed in the regalia of the Realm, and about a half-dozen people who fit the bill of hired goons.

Svetlana: Tepet Evdeniya emerges onto the deck.

Camena: (AND SO DOES THE SCARLET EMPRESS)

Camena: (Nr)

Vance: "Welcome to Tourmaline. Under the authority of an Imperial audit, we'll be conducting thorough and random examinations of ships' cargo and personnel. Your compliance is appreciated. Call me Fastidious Squirrel."

Vance: (Svetlana, this indicates to you that your plans are going as planned)

Svetlana: Evdeniya blinks cheerily at Fastidious Squirrel. "What an auspicious name," she says. "It's excellent to meet you."

Svetlana: Evdeniya doesn't step forward to take the lead in the interaction, though, since the captain is on deck.

Icaria: Meanwhile, Icaria schemes ways to make Camena and Luxi Qu love each other.

Icaria: Fortunately he's read plenty of classic texts on the matter.

  • Camena gives the gathered paper-pushers a sour look. "I've already had enough audits carrying this one," she says, thumbing at Evdeniya.

Vance: "My apologies, captain. Do you have any cargo to declare?"

Svetlana: Evdeniya gives an embarrassed smile. "What else am I supposed to do while sailing, captain? It's not as if you have any criminal conspiracies on board to unravel."

Camena: "Can I declare her?"

Camena: "Got lots of things I'd like to declare her as being, mind, so you might need more paper."

Svetlana: "Oh, goodness."

Vance: "In other circumstances I'd be very amused by this brand of nautical humor, captain, but I'm afraid my duties are many and pressing. We're going to have to have absolutely no farce whatsoever."

  • Icaria looks around nervously.

Camena: "Whatever. Let's see… one Imperial minister or magister or whatever, one Terrestrial co-governor of Gloam, one bound demon for said, a worthless excuse for a godblood deckhand and whatever cargo they've all schleped aboard."

Vance: Tshun is extremely hurt by that remark.

Vance: "It's not my fault me pa was only a god of funny looking stones."

Icaria: No, she means me.

Camena: (I meant Icaria.)

Vance: Tshun comes into existence nonetheless!

Svetlana: "In that case," Evdeniya says. "I'd be happy to assist. Ah, with the note-taking and tallying and such, of course, I wouldn't presume to stop you from doing your own poking and prodding."

Vance: "What have been your last ports of call? Have you been to Thorns since its fall?"

Camena: "Fresh out Gloam, and not likely, since I'm rather fond of my limbs being the same in number and location as they were before."

Icaria: Does that mean you don't want to do a plot where Icaria schemes to make a match with you and a neomah?

Camena: Not really.

Vance: Is there anything suspicious on the boat that's not hidden away?

Icaria: Do my novel drafts count?

Camena: I mean, other than the BABY-INCUBATION CHRYSALIS?

Icaria: It's not a secret that we have a sorceress!

Vance: I'm assuming you've got a way of hiding that.

Camena: I'm assuming that the artifacts are all being passed off as Tran's.

Icaria: She's got a demonds license.

Vance: … in a secret room or something.

Vance: At the end of a thorough inspection by the goons, Fastidious Squirrel hands Camena a slip of paper stamped with a vermillion seal. "You'll need to keep this on your person at all times while in Tourmaline."

Camena: Hmmm.

Camena: Did he stamp it in person?

Vance: Yes.

Camena: I'ma steal the stamp.

Vance: Flawlessly?

Camena: I mean, probably?

Camena: I'm on my Chromebook.

Vance: Okay.

Vance: Tell us how it goes down.

Icaria: If someone asks, are you flawless, you say, yes.

Camena: Oh yeah, flawlessly.

Camena: Squirrels may hide away their nuts, but this magistrate's not so careful with his stamp. A baggy robe? A shallow pocket? Thick clothes underneath? It's a damn crime in and of itself. Camena moves. Camena doesn't move. Just because someone hasn't moved doesn't mean they didn't just totally move.

Vance: Not so fastidious now, is he?

Camena: Nope.

Vance: The docks of Tourmaline offer all the familiar comforts that sailors have come to know and crave. Teahouses, brothels, and drug dens float side by side, with the largest establishment sprawling out over multiple of the floating wooden platforms. A drunkard railing against the iniquities of House Cynis's administration is dragged out of a teahouse by a pair of local bruisers. Zanara heads off to make some justice happen.

Svetlana: "I suppose I should see if I have any mail," Evdeniya muses. Let's see. Local Tepet holding? Local government office? Local ally? Where would a Magistrate get mail?

Vance: The Imperial heliograph station!

Svetlana: Of course! The Imperial heliograph station! That's exactly what I was about to say myself. looks up 'heliograph' in another window

Vance: It's up on the island proper—something like a slender windmill, except with mirrors.

Svetlana: So many years of bad luck. So many.

Svetlana: Evdeniya heads that way, then, after peeking at the document that got stamped to see if she needs one or if that's just for ship owners.

Vance: It's boat-specific.

Svetlana: Evdeniya feels a fundamental kinship with boats after all this time at sea but is not one herself.

Vance: The foothills that lead up to the slopes of the island proper are circuitous, occasionally interrupted by the progress of past mining operations. Once you get up their, your magisterial credentials are readily accepted. A young scribe sorts through a complex registry of files, and deposits one containing transcriptions of all messages sent to you.

Vance: Who's sending you mail?

Svetlana: Evdeniya had at one point filed to have the land and demense ownership suspended due to irregularities in the actuality as compared to the survey and petitioned for permission to have a military exercise on that land while the ownership was suspended, hoping that the trouble she got Bokaru into would facilitate success with this. Technically I believe she forwarded citizen Svetlana's requests to avoid wondering if she were abusing her position, but a copy of the replies would probably come to her anyway.

Icaria: Wow, so we already jacked the manse?

Icaria: Efficient!

Vance: The letters you have report that the satrapy is under an Imperial audit. While ownership hasn't been suspended yet, Bokuru is under heavy investigation.

Svetlana: Sadface. Though not terribly surprising, my Bureaucracy roll back then was good but not Realm-shaking.

Vance: It is a major advantage

Vance: but it's not just going to plop the demesne in your lap!

Svetlana: Evdeniya thanks the scribe for his hard work, takes a few moments to talk about how he looks like he's got something worth developing in him and how she hopes he'll continue to work with integrity in the Realm's service and someday bring that potential to its proper flower, and then goes to see if she can assist with the audit.

Vance: It just so happens that Icaria and Camena have found a major site of audit in process!

Svetlana: (Yeah, that was not Jenna's sadface but Evdeniya's.)

Svetlana: Ooh, a major site of audit!

Vance: A diplomatic procession from Halta has been held up by Imperial magistrates. The gifts of fragrant wood and fine delights they sent to the Satrap are hollow, insides filled with illegal, illegal shadowland poppies. A severe-faced woman interrogates the diplomat, who insists he has no idea what happened.

Camena: "… fucking Sivana."

Camena: "I kind of want to help them out, Icky. Thoughts?"

Svetlana: "Oh, how nostalgic."

Icaria: "Probably best to find out who's actually to blame."

Svetlana: Evdeniya curiously sniffs to see if she can distinguish self-righteous outrage from guilt, but she suspects adrenaline is overall winning. She approaches the confrontation. "May I?" she asks, indicating with eyes and arm that she's interesting in looking at the gifts.

Vance: "I'm not familiar with you," the other magistrate says. "Identify yourself."

Svetlana: "Evdeniya," Evdeniya says, with an appropriately-sized quarter-bow. "Tepet Evdeniya. Over there's my scribe Icaria, in case he wanders into the conversation, and associate. And you are?"

Vance: "Magistrate Sloth Plum. What's your role in this mess of an audit?"

Svetlana: "I have none," Evdeniya says. "But I'm pursuing a certain matter related to its principal, so if you don't mind my lending a pair of… eyes and hands, I think we can be of help to one another… I can certainly take that up somewhere more centralized if you don't feel like making that call on the site of an interrogation."

Vance: Make a Charisma + Presence roll.

Svetlana: (Evdeniya believes that she is not formally declared anywhere as the instigator.)

Vance: Unless you're lying more than you're truthing.

Vance: (Correct—they don't really care about the whistleblowers.)

Svetlana: 1 success, 1 WP.

Svetlana: (I haven't implemented any training from Icaria at this time on my sheet, so if Icaria spent XP for it say so quickly.)

Vance: "Hmm… I'm overworked as it is, but this is a sensitive operation. There will be opportunities for you to assist."

Vance: "Now, let's figure out whether these diplomats are trying to smuggle contraband to the satrap, if they're trying to frame him by making it look like they're smuggling contraband to him, or if someone else has framed them by making it look like they're smuggling."

Svetlana: Evdeniya, aware that she did not come across at her best, starts to frown wistfully at 'sensitive operation', hesitates at opportunities to assist, and becomes confused at the 'let's'.

Icaria: I haven't without your say-so.

  • Camena has scurried away. She's plying a young playwright with drinks and promises of funding, but she wants a play made. "The main character," she says, "is named Sivana. Always accidentally setting things on fire! He thinks he's sneaky, but isn't. Do the comedy thing, you know."

Vance: For the next few weeks, the playwright keeps wondering why his scripts keep erasing themselves just after he's done writing them.

Vance: Residual arcane fate is a screwy thing.

Svetlana: Evdeniya concludes tentatively that Sloth Plum accepts her presence but does not want her messing with stuff, unless Sloth Plum explicitly turned to someone else before saying 'Now, let's figure out.'

Vance: Nope, that's directed at you.

Vance: You have a big in with her just by virtue of being a magistrate.

Vance: The roll was for unlocking bonus trust.

Icaria: Yeah, you have plenipotentiary authority!

Icaria: Unless people ignore it.

Svetlana: Evdeniya nods firmly, then. "Have you just now caught them, or have you already had time to trace their movements, acquaintances, finances?"

Svetlana: She goes to look at the gifts.

Vance: "In flagrante delicto."

Vance: The gifts are crude fakes, of the sort used by criminals to smuggle tools and weapons into prisons.

Svetlana: "The poor dears," Evdeniya says. "They must be terrified. Was your ship one of the random inspections coming in?" she wonders, in the diplomat's direction.

Vance: "No, they made it into harbor before the audit was declared. I don't see why anyone would go all the way from Halta out to here if it was something legal."

Svetlana: Do the boxes smell like they've been at sea for a while?

Vance: Hmm.

Icaria: This is all somewhat out of Icaria's depth, but I stand ready to use any of my various spells at the magistrate's need!

Vance: Make a Perception + Awareness roll with relevant smell bonuses.

Svetlana: 7 successes, Sensory Acuity Prana now active.

Svetlana: Wait.

Svetlana: Yeah, 7.

Vance: You're able to get a smell profile on the boxes, but even with the acuity of your nose, you aren't able to confidently tell whether the damp place they've been stored in for the past months was a ship's hold or just a warehouse with poor insulation.

Svetlana: Evdeniya nods, and turns to Magistrate Sloth Plum. "If you'd like, I can pop out for a bit and see whether the boxes came from a ship or a warehouse."

Vance: "Why don't we just find out whether the culprits are guilty or not?"

Vance: "I was framed!" the Haltan ambassador protests. "Someone tampered with the gifts!"

Zanara: I have arrived and successfully caught up on the backlog. Apologies, everyone, health insurance is a miserable thing.

Svetlana: "That's certainly an approach," Evdeniya agrees, glancing at the ambassador. "So you have no illicit relationship with the satrap? No connection to Thorns? No ties to House Cynis other than the generous desire to gift them with your noble wood? No financial irregularities in your circumstances? Entirely legal appointment?"

Svetlana: Evdeniya isn't really looking at him as she hits each question, but she has stepped just close enough to listen to his heartbeat, to pay deeper attention to his scent, and even, sadly, to catch a bit of his face out of the corner of her eye.

Vance: "If I have to breach my diplomatic privilege to keep my freedom, fine. My delegation was sent to inquire into the possibility of soliciting military aid from House Cynis against our Linowan enemies. I was assured all dealings would be strictly above board."

Vance: Roll read intentions with a two-point stunt.

Svetlana: 4 successes, 6m.

Svetlana: Wait.

Svetlana: Yes.

Svetlana: (Does a two-point stunt include the +1 Willpower and you just say it differently at different times?)

Vance: (Yes.)

Vance: Something is off about the way he's acting. He's dragging things out; anxious people don't do that whether they're guilty or innocent. The ambassador is stalling.

Icaria: I scale a nearby building to look for oddnesses in the neighborhood that may be coming our way, like a pack of hired thugs.

Icaria: Or maybe just the ship's mast.

Vance: Roll Perception + Awareness with a one-die stunt.

Svetlana: "Interesting," Evdeniya says. "Perhaps we should relocate somewhere more secure, then, if we're going to discuss diplomatic matters."

Icaria: Two.

Vance: "I won't be dragged away to your imperial dungeons that easily. If you're going to arrest me, arrest me."

Icaria: While I'm up there, I'll request assistance in searching from Saphir.

Vance: Icaria does not see anything of interest

Icaria: I suppose I may as well flick on my wizard eyes as well, just in case, although this is probably a people problem.

Vance: No wizard things.

Icaria: Well, you never know. You see a lot of weird stuff when you've got these stanky old wizard eyes.

  • Icaria attempts to look world-weary.

Svetlana: "Oh?" Evdeniya says. "You won't be?" She smiles at him. No, that's baring her teeth. She looks in his eyes. "Your people are suffering," she says. "Your people are at war. Pain, disease, maiming, sorrow. And this is what you do about it? This is how you make your friends in the Realm? This is how you honor your ancestors and your country? With stalling? With lies? Right before you there is an opportunity that few have ever been granted, a hope for the future that few ambassadors could ever hope to bring, and what do you do? You wait for… I'm not quite sure… and you busily engage in ticking it off."

Icaria: Svetlana Beast Mode!

Icaria: Or maybe that makes it Maksim Mode.

Icaria: That definitely sounds cooler.

Svetlana: "Who are your friends, Halta?" she says, as if he were his country. "Who do you want them to be?"

Vance: "My people are at war, Imperial dog. At war with you." As he says this, he drops his Haltan accent for what you recognize as the native dialect of the island. "It's too late for you now."

Vance: Everyone present, roll Perception + Awareness.

Icaria: Two again.

Svetlana: Is this a Join Battle roll?

Vance: No, it's vs. Stealth.

Camena: 1!

Svetlana: 5 successes, or 7 successes, 1m, if this is "moving" in stealth.

Icaria: Admittedly I'm on top of a mast, so it's quite hard to sneak up on me unless you're an invisible bird.

Icaria: So instead, hearing this threat, I'm going to start chanting Invulnerable Skin of Bronze.

Vance: Hold up,

Vance: Svetlana and Icaria are both able to pick out a throng of men and women bearing weapons, rapidly converging on the scene of the diplomatic debacle.

Vance: Now it's time to roll Join Battle.

Icaria: I'll spend four motes… hotcha! Ten successes.

Svetlana: I'll invoke… AWAKENING EYE.

Zanara: An angry mob, and I didn't rile it up? Who would have thunk.

Icaria: Are people getting out of the way of the throng?

Vance: No, they're moving unnoticed through the crowd.

Icaria: "Saphir, fetch your aunts."

Camena: 12, which also counts to establish stealth.

Svetlana: 14.

Vance: Sounds like Svetlana's up first.

Svetlana: Evdeniya staggers back in shock at the not-Haltan's words, her pack spilling its contents, stumbling over the shadow of her black jade skycutter that falls out of her pack and kicking it at a frankly absurd pace into the not-Haltan's forehead. "Th-there's one over there!" she says, pointing, as it inconspicuously loops back into her other sleeve. Steel Storm Descending, Joint-Wounding Attack, +1 die of excellency.

Svetlana: This is a decisive attack, with bonus dice equal to the difference between my initiative and his.

Vance: Okay, so you get… +10 bonus dice.

Vance: That is probably the max.

Svetlana: 14 successes.

Vance: Very yes.

Vance: Roll Initiative.

Svetlana: 4 damage, -3 to all his dice pools for the rest of the scene.

Vance: The ambassador-cum-assassin reels back as the sharp jade skycutter slams into his head, leaving him severely concussed. He looks like he's on his last legs.

Vance: Camena is up next.

Camena: Who else is around?

Vance: There's the battle group made up of the assailants.

Vance: There's also a hidden dude Svetlana spotted but you can't see him.

Camena: That's fine, he can't see me!

Camena: How far away are the would-be assailants?

Vance: I should roll for him.

Vance: They're within short range of Svetlana and Sloth Plum.

Vance: I don't know where you are precisely, so place yourself somewhere on the imaginary map.

Vance: There are market stalls running down both sides of the street, with lots of upper-story hangouts and the like.

Camena: Hmmm.

Camena: Camena takes a running leap down from a rooftop, her silk robe fluttering behind her like a war-banner. Her wand is trained on the assailants as she interposes herself between them and Svetlana. There's a flash of green smoke and a reek of sulphur, and also a fair bit of fire.

Vance: Take a two-die stunt.

Camena: 7, their defense is -1, and it counts as an ambush.

Vance: Hit!

Vance: …with seven threshold successes.

Camena: 10 successes, withering.

Vance: They have soak 8.

Camena: Well, shit.

  • Camena rerolls minus Soak.

Camena: 9.

Vance: It turns out that even the rowdiest of boys might waver in the resolve when someone ambushes them with a flamethrower.

Camena: "Not so hot, are ye?"

Vance: They run, scattering and trying to douse themselves. The ambassador swears at them, slurring his words a little.

Vance: Camena gets +5 Initiative.

Vance: Now Icaria's up.

  • Svetlana belatedly adds two more levels of damage to the ambassador, because she always forgets to add 3 to her starting initiative.

Vance: Hmm.

Vance: In that case, he is your choice of dead or knocked out.

Svetlana: Knocked out is more appropriate. Plus, it's not like he's done anything to make it so I particularly want to ensure he can't be rescued.

Icaria: I guess I may as well dive in. Can I make a monkey leap into combat range, or are they farther away than that?

Vance: It's like the "delayed slice" when two samurai rush each other.

Icaria: I suppose I might land on Svetlana's diplomat and complete his takedown.

Vance: At this point, the only active combatant has stealth on you.

Icaria: Then I suppose I'll stay where I am.

Icaria: Hm, skin of bronze, Y/N?

Vance: It can't hurt.

Icaria: I'm going to get started chanting, then.

Icaria: Supernal Control Method! Twelve successes.

Vance: So close!

Svetlana: There are very few situations that are made worse by Invulnerable Skin of Bronze. Pretty much just the situations where you might accidentally be mistaken for a coin.

Icaria: Or for a demon!

Svetlana: Or a coin demon!

Icaria: I'll just claim to have been summoned by Tran.

Vance: There is a blur of violence from the shadows—the hidden enemy Svetlana spotted, a shirtless youth whose right arm has transformed into an elongated blade of crystal, growing out of his flesh. He brings this scything blade down on Sloth Plum.

Vance: He cleanly takes her head off her shoulders.

Svetlana: (Man, from Medium Range?)

Vance: Yep.

Vance: This guy has shenanigans!

Icaria: Hm, maybe I should have dropped down for Defend Other.

Vance: Everyone else is incapacitated, so Round 2. Everyone regains 5 motes, Camena's up first

Camena: She's not sure what to make of this guy, but she doesn't like someone that dangerous that close to Svetlana. She's gonna move in, but stay frosty—basically delaying in case he goes aggro.

Vance: Okay, that costs you 2 Initiative.

Vance: Icaria's next.

Icaria: I'll spend five personal motes in hopes of finishing my spelling this turn.

Icaria: Eight!

Icaria: With that done, I'll take my move action and leap into the fray within close range of Svetlana, brush at the ready to make sure nobody else loses their head.

Vance: It's his turn now.

Vance: And he's attacking Svetlana.

  • Svetlana thinks idly about calling Maksim when it's her turn, pre-rolls Maksim's initiative so it's ready, rolls a botch. I think, meanwhile, Maksim is drunk.

Icaria: War Lion Stance!

Vance: Which means Camena gets to clash.

Camena: …well, crap, I forgot to reload, didn't I?

Vance: You could go Brawl!

Icaria: I should train Camena in Brawl.

Camena: I think I have to.

Icaria: All the things I say that make you chase me around the deck were training.

Camena: Camena maneuvers past her cousin, pushing him back with a few feints before aiming for his chest with a kick of her thick-shod boots.

Vance: Take a one-point stunt.

Camena: 11.

Vance:

Vance: Oh, man, you fuck this guy up good.

Icaria: I have taught you well, my young apprentice.

Camena: I taught myself!

Vance: There are people in this town who are going to be sharing drinks and laughing about old times, and they're gonna tell the story of the time this crystal-armed maniac just got absolutely wrecked by a passing captain.

Camena: Well, technically I sparred with the greenmaw…

Vance: Is it withering or decisive?

Camena: Let's go decisive.

Vance: You beat his hardness.

Camena: Yup.

Vance: Roll damage with +1 success.

Camena: …praise be the dice gods, who are so good. 10 successes.

Vance: As the assassin brings his crystalline arm-blade down on Svetlana, it meets Camena's kick.

Vance: And shatters.

Camena: "Someone's been…"

Camena: "Disarmed."

Icaria: Yowza.

  • Icaria waves his weapon disconsolately in the air.

Svetlana: I bet that played out shockingly fast in-world.

Icaria: I just hope this guy is ready to exposit, and quickly.

Camena: So, we have so far walked halfway down a pier, chatted up a magistrate, and kicked folks to death tout suite.

Camena: My Christmas list now includes some artifact-grade boots. Maybe some made for walking. Yeah, that's just what they'll do.

Svetlana: "Thank you, Camena," Svetlana says, smoothing out her clothing nervously.

Camena: "Not a problem, hon."

Svetlana: Svetlana is sad that Creation's medical skills are not quite at the point of 'stick head back on.'

Vance: Well, right now this guy is unconscious.

Vance: That sucker hurt.

Svetlana: Did Sloth Plum have staff?

Vance: None with her.

Vance: She has them elsewhere on the island.

Icaria: I wonder if I could feed her to Emeraude very quickly before anybody notices.

Vance: Calling up Emeraude probably makes it a hundred times more likely someone will notice.

Icaria: Then our magistrate could impersonate the other magistrate and we'd achieve complete magistratic redundancy.

Vance: Multi-jurisdiction drifting!

Svetlana: …no one noticed?

Vance: Oh, people noticed.

Vance: You're in a market area of town.

Vance: People are screaming.

Icaria: I'm going to quickly and carefully bundle Sloth Plum's remains into a respectful handful of sail and place them to one side where they won't get trampled by a mob.

Icaria: If that stops word of exactly who got murdered from getting around quickly, well, it's a sign that good funereal practice will take you far!

Camena: "Well. That was a first."

Svetlana: "We need to get her to her family and these two to somewhere to talk to them. And to calm people down."

Camena: "Never shattered someone's arm before."

Zanara: One assumes Zanara would hear the screaming and immediately think "I can't leave them alone for five minutes"

Vance: Oh, of course.

Icaria: I sent Saphir for her a while back, so he probably finds her as well.

Camena: "Can't lie, kids. Kind of liked it."

Svetlana: Svetlana steps out. She claps her hands loudly for attention. "There is no need for screaming, ladies and gentlemen! We'll be performing all week! Dazzling fire-play! Remarkable dramatics! You won't want to miss a moment! But we're done for the day."

Vance: After a few minutes, a cadre of Imperial soldiers approaches you. Their livery is different than that of the magistrates inspecting the docks—they wear the mon of House Cynis. "Magistrate. We heard there was an attack, but the witnesses contradict each other. Did you apprehend the rebels?"

Svetlana: Svetlana reads intentions, looking for an intimacy regarding these people that they're calling rebels.

Svetlana: …and only gets 1 success, so.

Vance: You're pretty sure they aren't fans

Svetlana: "Most of them scattered," Evdeniya says. "Unfortunately. I have the one who was pretending to be an ambassador, though."

Svetlana: "I'd like a good room to interrogate him in. Torture implements shouldn't be necessary, but I admit I have no interest in his comfort at this point."

Vance: "We can arrange for that."

Svetlana: "Icaria," Evdeniya calls. "Can you bring the faux ambassador?"

Camena: The headless one?

Icaria: Icaria hefts the ambassador over one brassy shoulder, delighted at being called upon to do heavy lifting.

Svetlana: Nah, we have two unconscious enemies, I believe. Svetlana is not mentioning the one you took down.

Vance: "The Satrap also wished me to tell one of the magistrates that he mourns the loss of peer. Their family be be graciously compensated."

Svetlana: "It's unacceptable," Svetlana says. She squeezes her eyes shut for a moment. Evdeniya says. She opens her eyes again. "But it was also instant, with no time to react. My thanks to the satrap. She seemed excellent in the short time I knew her."

Vance: The guards help you manhandle your captives into a nearby garrison (there are many on the island, apparently). Both the false ambassador and the now one-armed assailant are locked in separate rooms, awaiting your interrogation.

Svetlana: Svetlana was subtly hoping that Camena would spirit the other one off just in case House Cynis was involved in this, which is why she was loud when mentioning the ambassador only, but if nothing like that happens, she'll point him out and be surprised he was alive and things will happen even as stated.

Camena: Yeah, Camena is not terribly perceptive.

Svetlana: "Icaria, did you ever finish that exposition spell?"

Vance: If you'd like to spend some XP and wing the mechanics fast and loose until I write them down, the answer to that can be yes.

Icaria: …sure, why not? It's time to contribute to the future of sorcery!

Vance: My one caveat is that it can't just be, like, mind control. It has to have a tangible vector like brain scorpions or something.

Icaria: I was thinking something like a compulsion to vocalize your thoughts.

Icaria: Or maybe… I enchant a book so that your thoughts are written into it?

Vance: Swapping inner and exterior monologues!

Icaria: They fly out of your mouth like ink and write themselves into a book that I'm holding.

Vance: So, uh.

Svetlana: Svetlana meditates in the room with the one-armed guy, carefully thinking through the exact steps to dispose of a troublesome pawn while an interfering magistrate is in her degenerate Cynis HQ, comparing it to the cloud of options for ordinary guard and bureaucratic duties, and leaving some of the keepsake bells she'd used to harass Tran where they might go off if people were walking through the first set of steps and not the other.

Vance: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e108Q6P5c6Y

Icaria: We can call it the Censer of Escaping Thought, because the thought-trails look like smoke arising from an incense stick.

Vance: Probably a… Charisma + Occult roll against the target's Resolve?

Vance: It should probably be relatively easy for major characters to resist, but not for mortals and randos.

Icaria: I'm going with Intelligence + Occult because my Charisma is dreadful.

Vance: what about your Manipulation?

Icaria: Even worse!

Vance: Okay, so call it Intelligence.

Icaria: It's a literary spell because that's my thing.

Vance: And the amount of extra successes will determine how much value the thoughts you get will be

Icaria: Hm, could you phrase that as some kind of Guile penalty?

Vance: I could, but it feels like having your thoughts transcribed is a lot more intrusive than just a read intentions roll.

Icaria: I suppose you don't actually get to keep rolling against Guile that many times.

Icaria: All right, I'm gonna get my enchant on.

Icaria: Who do we interrogate first?

Vance: Okay.

Camena: Failure on a major target generally means that the book produced is accurate, but not compelling or valuable—it's full of minutiae like the amount of porridge they usually eat for breakfast and whether or not they like their haircut.

Svetlana: I'm inclined to interrogate one-arm first, because I didn't try to pitch him on Haltan patriotism, and also because he's more impressive so he's more likely to wake up and suddenly turn into a giant monster.

Vance: Actually, what if it was rolled against Guile instead of Resolve?

Vance: That makes a bit more sense.

Icaria: I'd like to figure out a way that the book just works and that the roll involved in using it is mostly about getting the person to think about what you actually want and not about what the satrap looks like naked.

Camena: think unsexy thoughts think unsexy thoughts think unsexy thoughts

Vance: What if that was modeled as a social roll, but could be done by other players?

Icaria: Yeah, that makes sense.

Vance: Triggering the spell wouldn't take a roll, just touching the guy and having them somewhat still to transcribe

Svetlana: Because I didn't try to pitch him on Haltan patriotism I can run Seasoned Criminal Method on him to seem vaguely familiar to him in his capacity as member of a criminal organization, not that I'm quite sure where that would lead.

Icaria: Touching people usually requires a roll.

Vance: Not if they're beat up and unconscious!

Icaria: Most of the people I want to force to exposit are still conscious, historically.

Vance: It may require a roll in certain contexts.

Vance: But not an attack roll.

Icaria: If I must, I guess.

Icaria: Anyway, let's get literary on this guy.

Icaria: I'm going to cast the spell and leave the book open in front of Svetlana.

Vance: The one-armed man's mouth begins to spume with the inky mist of unspoken thoughts.

Vance: The transcription begins:

Vance: "Where the hell am I?"

Vance: "Hey, she looks familiar."

Vance: "And not just from me trying to kill her before."

Svetlana: "I'd like to help you," Svetlana says, quietly. "But I need to appear to cooperate. Do you understand?"

Vance: "I don't need any help from an imperial magistrate," he spits. "It's a shame I wasn't able to take you too."

Vance: A thought appears: "Help me? Is she crazy?"

Svetlana: Svetlana gives him a half-smile. "It's a pity that Sloth Plum's execution was so public," she says. "It means that having her reappear is impossible."

Camena: (I'm fading, as per usual. Got an early morning event tomorrow, one of the last of the semester. Peace, y'all; go forth and inquisit.)

Vance: Roll Manipulation + Presence.

Svetlana: 2.

Svetlana: (Happy dreams!)

Vance: "Don't play games with me. I know the names and faces of all of our revolutionary operatives, especially the ones who've infiltrated the Realm. You're a liar."

Vance: A thought: "What is she trying to do?"

Svetlana: "You don't recognize my face?" Svetlana says. She frowns. She puts the Magistrate's hat aside and adjusts the contours of her disguise a bit with a grease pencil, still looking vaguely familiar. "I'm so hurt."

Vance: Thought: "I've seen you before. I must have."

Vance: "Sorry, lady, doesn't ring a bell."

Svetlana: "It's all right," she says. "People forget me. It's my curse. I'm not really hurt. Maybe you recall the name Sivana?—ah, but if you can't keep that name in mind, you can just call me Number Four."

Vance: Thought: "???"

Svetlana: Svetlana fussily restores the contours of her disguise to what they should properly be. "So the question is, what needs to happen now?"

Svetlana: "—you don't remember me at all?" she sighs. "The name doesn't even ring a bell? The curse isn't supposed to work on people who value me."

Vance: "You say you want to help me. So let me out of here. If you aren't an imperial bootlicker, why help out those Cynis bastards?"

Svetlana: "That's a bit tricky," Svetlana says. "It was very useful being a magistrate when coming here, but once I got here, I'd planned to change. House Cynis doesn't really like Magistrates. Oh, they'll let me in here. They'll let me talk to you. But getting you out—the paperwork's bogged down and I'm not exactly a… fighter."

Svetlana: "Just imagine for a moment that I could help you," she says. "What needs to be done? What can salvage this?"

Vance: Thought: "Tourmaline for Tourmaline. Drive away the Realm. Restore the old temple. Mourn so many dead."

Svetlana: "I'm only seventeen," Svetlana wails, though quietly enough not to catch a guard's attention. It's a complete lie, but she has Chosen of the Sun health and has demonstrated being in disguise. "I don't know how to fix everything. I don't know how to help with the temple. I don't know what to do with the mushrooms. I don't—" She runs her hand through her hair. "You know stuff. Help me."

Vance: "How did you know what I was thinking? Are you… a god?"

Svetlana: "You looked like my mom looked when she talked about the temple," Svetlana says. "It's… pretty distinctive."

Vance: "If you want to fix everything, I can tell you what to do. That lady, the one who kicked my arm off? Get her to do the same thing to Satrap Bokuro's head. Him, all his cronies, all the damn monks."

Svetlana: "That's pretty easy," Svetlana says. "I've got an in with her already."

Svetlana: Svetlana laughs. "Cleared a fake smuggling charge about shadowland poppies, of all things. At least, I think it was fake. I don't really know much about that stuff. Was that… that part of things… "

Vance: "So, what do you want from me?"

Svetlana: "I just have to be in here for a while, now, I guess," Svetlana says. "Just… we can remember the temple for a while, or whatever."

Vance: "Was your mother from Tourmaline?"

Vance: Thought: "What is with her and the temple? It was just a stray thought—"

Svetlana: "She was so beautiful," Svetlana says. "Eyes like black jade but they were so warm when she smiled. Her hair was so pretty."

Vance: "What was her name?"

Vance: Thought: "I don't buy this. She doesn't look like she's from here. She probably won't even know a Tourmalinian name."

Svetlana: Svetlana closes her eyes for a moment, letting the waves of sound from the nearby miles of island wash in over her. "—the laundry is—" "—bastard get of a Cynis—" "—five for a siu—"

Svetlana: Svetlana attempts to close the mental hand of her ears on a name.

Vance: that sounds like Perception + Awareness

Svetlana: 5 successes, difficulty lowered by one,

Vance: Success!

Vance: Make up a name

Svetlana: "Xeroderma," Svetlana says. "Xeroderma Petropoulos."

Svetlana: Her voice is wistful.

Vance: "A beautiful name."

Vance: "Daughter of Xeroderma, I think I've thought up a way you could prove your loyalty to the people's revolution."

Vance: Thought: This is almost too much.

Svetlana: Svetlana rubs at her face a bit. There aren't tears, she isn't trying to fake tears, even, just a, y'know, wake up, Sivana!

Vance: "Go to the Mother Geode. Perform the yaran ith, like I did, and return with a blessing. That will prove your commitment."

Svetlana: "Go to the Mother Geode," Svetlana says slowly, nodding her head a few times as if memorizing it but also hoping to give him time to think about it. "Perform the yaran ith… return with a blessing."

Icaria: This sounds likely to leave you with rock thighs.

Icaria: Or something.

Icaria: Think it over once or twice: what lasts the longest in this life? Character? Or made-of-rock thighs?

Svetlana: After a moment, whether he's thought anything more detailed about this or not, she nods firmly. "I don't need to prove my commitment," she says. "To nobody but myself, anyway. But if that's your orders, sir, I can do my best. Um."

Svetlana: "Though… " she says. She hesitates.

Vance: "Though what? Too attached to your good looks?"

Svetlana: Svetlana pokes her fingers together. "It's just… about that matter… " She closes her eyes. "If you say it's OK," she concedes. She lowers her head.

Svetlana: Svetlana then sneaks a glance or two at his missing arm, as if nervous about having a crystal arm attached.

Svetlana: "Should I still try to pin the goods on the satrap or was that just to get close to him? It'll be tough but I can try."

Vance: Thought: Mother Geode will know what she's really about.

Vance: "Kill the satrap. That's all he deserves."

Vance: At this point, his will finally resists Icaria's enchantment, and the thoughts cease to flow.

Vance: There is a knocking on the door—the Cynis guards are back.

Icaria: This is a disappointing enchantment as far as exposition goes.

Svetlana: "I didn't even know he was actually here," Svetlana admits. "I thought he was still governing from afar. Nobody tells me these things. But if he's actually here, then I'll do what I can."

Vance: (That is on me. I will have to get better at doing internal monologues.)

Icaria: Eh, I think part of the problem is that while useful the spell doesn't really do what Icaria wants, which is to get people to explain their own dramatic role in an efficient way.

Icaria: Possibly because that would be the sorcery of ultimate power and could never see the live server without a nerf.

Vance: We can tweak the details

Svetlana: Svetlana did her best to keep leading him to the right topics, but it's tricky!

Vance: It could be more coercive than that

Icaria: Ultimately, what he wants is to be able to ask "who are you?" and get a decent answer instead of "I don't have to tell you anything!" or "I am your doom!"

Vance: Also, while it's not really a proper dramatic conclusion point, I think I am gonna call things here.

Icaria: That reminds me that it's time to roll again on my mask magic.

Svetlana: It was at least somewhat useful, and we still have the option to coercively interrogate the other guy. I'm not sure how Svetlana feels about that.

Svetlana: She put Magistrate Sloth Plum in her deitysphere, so the fact that these guys are potentially useful and have a tragic backstory is not getting maximum traction with her. But it is getting some traction.

Icaria: Hm, spending a WP on it gives me eight successes to add to the working after all the difficulties are removed.

Svetlana: Thanks for running!

Icaria: Hooray!

Svetlana: I'm sad that my alleged name never appeared in his internal monologue. I was curious whether he'd be able to remember it or if borrowing a Sidereal's name is an amazing cover.

Vance: I think arcane fate decays at the point of second hand usage.

Vance: Unless you have something like Name-Stealing Technique.

Vance: Otherwise, if someone named Leaf Exalted as a Sidereal, that word would just glitch out for all Creation.

Svetlana: I feel like there's a distinction between the syllables Sivana as syllables, or even a name, and used with Sivana-the-person in mind.

Svetlana: I don't feel it necessarily makes the trick work!

Vance: Yeah

Svetlana: But there's definitely a distinction.

Vance: Arcane fate targets based on the referent, not the signifier

Svetlana: See, it gets tricky, because if you can borrow the name Sivana and it's memorable, you could theoretically then tell people that you did so.

Vance: I like to think that arcane fate has a personality of sorts

Svetlana: That makes sense.

Svetlana: Probably technically negative space of a personality, but same diff.

Vance: In ambiguous situations it errs in favor of reenacting narrative cliches and/or inconveniencing Sidereals.

Svetlana: Makes sense.

Svetlana: 5 and 4?

Vance: Yup

Svetlana: Woo, persuading him I was even possibly on the level earned me Performance 4!

Svetlana: (Enough to get Master Thespian Style! Though I have eight other Charms I need first. Oh, wait, was I going to delay that and buy evocations? Hm. Performance fits the session, but evocations!)

Svetlana: I guess I will stay at Performance 3 for now.

Icaria: Should I start training Camena in something?

Icaria: Or anybody, really.

Svetlana: I am coming around to the Presence training idea for the same reason that being terrifyingly ugly is high Appearance.

Svetlana: In theory what I want is probably a Presence specialty in Inoffensive but the system argues that specialties are for people with a rating 2+.

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