In Which The Rules Failed To Account For Camena

Vance: Are folks ready to start, or do we need some more time?

Icaria: I'm good.

Camena: I need more time, but only in the existential sense as I barrel towards 30.

Svetlana: ^_^

Svetlana: I am also around, since that was only 90% from my asking and not 100%.

Vance: Zanara, Serestala, are y'all good to go?

Zanara: Oh, yeah.

Serestala: Yep.

Vance: The five of you, plus your Gold Faction benefactor Kumaria and the Quarter-Prince of Hell, are flying away from Prophet's Keep and its imperial forces on the back of the dragon Baeleron, ascending through the clouds even before the monks have reached the island's edge. Kumaria is silent for a few minutes—Svetlana can smell equal parts adrenaline and nausea commingling in the overstressed seer's system. Eventually, she finds the composure to force the unpleasantness out of her mind. "And now, I think it's time for us to have a conversation about the Mask of Winters."

Camena: "Is it about his sexy, sexy minions?"

Icaria: "I'm going to need us to take a few minutes first to praise my dragon."

Vance: "No, this isn't a romance-based conversation."

Icaria: "He's working very hard and is as proud as gods may be."

Vance: "Yeah! Good job, Baeleron!" she agrees, petting his flanks.

Svetlana: "He is a very excellent dragon," Svetdeniya agrees.

Vance: "Tell me what you know already about the Mask of Winters, or about Thorns."

Icaria: "He is both dead, and bad."

Icaria: "Oh, and mysterious!"

Vance: "Not wrong."

Zanara: “That is… more or less my understanding as well,” Zanara says.

Svetlana: "He fed starving people free pigs. Then their skeletons fell out."

Serestala: "Can't say I know anything else. Dead and bad."

Icaria: "The skeletons fell out of the pigs?"

Camena: "He's got a sexy minion fellow?"

Svetlana: "…no," Svetdeniya says.

Icaria: "That's supposed to happen if you cook the haunch right."

Svetlana: "No, they did not fall out of the pigs."

Vance: "The Mask of Winters is something that my coworkers and I call a 'Deathlord.' They're ghosts of incredible power—way more power than almost anything we've seen come out of the Underworld since the dawn of time. The fall of Thorns was maybe the Mask's one mistake, because that was what got us to notice him."

Icaria: "Man, winning too much is a pretty good mistake."

Camena: "Okay, so… when you say power. Ballpark it here."

Icaria: "I could stand to make that one more often."

Camena: "Because my life has basically become a succession of mild apocalypses."

Camena: "I'm starting to lose my sense of scale."

Vance: "They have minions, although not all of them are sexy. We call them 'deathknights.' We're almost sure that these are some kind of Exalted, and they're definitely more puissant than we Sidereals are."

Serestala: "So they can squeeze down into something smaller than a teacup?"

Icaria: "How powerful are you, anyway?"

Vance: She makes a handwavey motion.

Icaria: "…that's pretty good."

Vance: "Right now we haven't yet pieced together what his motivations are, but we have been able to follow his activities and agents in Creation. That's how we've learned that the Mask of Winters is planning a visit to the gambling halls of the god Plentimon."

Svetlana: Vance: Plenti? Plentiplent. Timon. Plentmon!",

Icaria: "…my narrative convenience senses are tingling, and I don't know why."

Vance: "This is the exact opposite of convenience, trust me."

Icaria: "You think he's a cheater?"

Vance: "I've pulled up a list of everything that's going to be wagered today, and, uh…"

Camena: "Maybe I should have gone with Sigereth."

Vance: "A long time ago, the Exalted fought against the creators of the universe."

Camena: "Oh, that's an ominous way to start."

Vance: "And in that war, there were a whole lot of weapons and monsters and stuff that was just too dangerous to leave lying around."

Icaria: "…we've noticed."

Vance: "So Heaven created the Eschaton Vault. It's—it's basically just a big old box that has all those things stuffed away in it under lock and key. There's a lot more magical stuff, all sorts of bindings and extradimensional space and boring stuff, but really, it's just a box."

Vance: "Someone is going to be wagering the key to a single chamber of the Eschaton Vault today."

Vance: "Smart money says that's what the Mask of Winters is after."

Icaria: "Oh, it's never the first thing you think it is."

Camena: "…I want this."

Camena: "I want this thing."

Serestala: "It's probably just a goat."

Camena: "I want it now."

Icaria: "An apocalypse goat."

Camena: "And then I want to brag about having it to Sivana."

Icaria: "No, no, I want it."

Serestala: "We can get you a goat just about anywhere."

Icaria: "Then I'll give him the apocalypse goat as a birthday present."

Zanara: “… why under the Most High’s sight is such a thing being gambled for?”

Vance: "These are weapons so uncontrollably powerful that it's just not possible to outweigh the collateral damage they do."

Svetlana: "Is… it possible to remove him from the guest list?"

Vance: "Unless you're fighting the makers of the universe."

Serestala: "That's a good question."

Camena: "I promise I only want this for its aesthetic and historical values."

Camena: "Definitely."

Camena: "Probably."

Serestala: "I've been kicked out of a plenty of gambling halls."

Icaria: "Then he'll say 'Oh, but I have nothing to give you in return, Icaria.'"

Icaria: "And I'll say, 'Oh, but I'd love to have that shirt you're wearing. No reason!'"

Vance: "Unfortunately, it seems like the Mask of Winters has an agent that possess full diplomatic privileges. Like yours, Camena."

Svetlana: Svetdeniya blinks, then scowls.

Icaria: Icaria chortles. It will be the perfect crime.

Svetlana: "How the hell."

Serestala: Serestala turns to look at Camena. "You can't get kicked out of gambling halls?"

Vance: "As long as he remains engaged in legitimate business at the casino, he is effectively beyond censure."

Camena: "Wait wait wait wait. I can do that?"

Zanara: “…” Zanara blinks. “What.”

Icaria: "Do I have to read everybody the list of how their powers work?"

Vance: "One of the local rules of hospitality in Plentimon's hall is that no one will be turned away so long as they have a stake to wager."

Camena: Camena looks like she might be having the best Calibration ever.

Serestala: "I'm really regretting my choice in shiny power because I just put the pain on people."

Icaria: "Hey, Serestala, did you know you can flex so intimidatingly that even a mechanical man would know fear?"

Icaria: "It's true!"

Vance: "Kind of shot himself in the foot with that one."

Svetlana: "I would not mind a manual," Svetdeniya admits.

Serestala: "Well, I didn't before now."

Icaria: "I meanwhile, can hide ducks inside myself."

Serestala: "Truly this is a world beyond imagining."

Icaria: "Oh, and I have really sweet abs. All Twilights do."

Vance: "My previous plan had involved entering the game in disguise, and taking a subtle approach to slowly feel out the supernatural capabilities of him and his retinue."

Icaria: That reminds me, if we've been flying all the way to Plentimon to be doing this tonight, I should roll for my project again.

Camena: "We don't do subtle."

Vance: "But now I have a circle of Solars to throw at the problem."

Icaria: Thus having my amazing powers on call for use tonight. Subtly.

Vance: "As long as you stop him from getting the key, do what you've got to do."

Camena: "So. It sounds like you need a little Eclipse razzle-dazzle."

Vance: (Icaria, there's gonna be a bit before you fly to the casino.)

Camena: (Shit, shit, shit, this is a really bad time to be at Limit 8, isn't it?)

Serestala: "Just point me at who needs to get out of our way."

Icaria: Just do what I do and only do things you want to do.

Svetlana: Svetdeniya looks to Zanara. "Your call?"

Icaria: Then your Limit will stay forever low.

Serestala: (This is a very bad time to admit it but what's our total XP counts looking like?)

Icaria: "I for one am completely on board with whatever mission the mysterious prophet chooses to give us," Icaria notes. "What else are we even for?"

Zanara: “…if such a thing exists, and is being gambled upon… I think it well and good we keep it from falling into the hands of any despot.”

Camena: "Just so we're clear," Camena says, eyes trained on the horizon like she's already looking for the gambling hall, "I'm not giving the key back."

Vance: "Serestala, I've trained with you enough to know how powerful you are, but against the Mask of Winters and his deathknights, I'd be worried for you. Trying to win this one by violence may not end well."

Icaria: "No, you're giving it forward. To me."

Icaria: "And then I'll give it to Sivana."

Icaria: I look deeply into Camena's eyes.

Icaria: "Don't you think he deserves this?"

Vance: "Okay, no, none of you are keeping the keys to a doomsday weapon."

Icaria: It is possible that Camena will derive a different meaning from this than what Icaria intended.

Camena: "So… none of us are helping you, then?"

Vance: "Afterwards this is being brought back to Yu-Shan's collection of the rest of these keys. Which is itself locked behind an even bigger key."

Camena: "The size of a key doesn't really help, you know."

Serestala: "Well, I don't really know why you asked for my help if you didn't want there to be a fight," she says with a frown. "It's kind of my thing."

Icaria: "I dunno, what if it was ten stories tall?"

Camena: "Smaller keys are a biiiiiiiitch because it means someone went to the trouble of micro-engineering a lock."

Icaria: "So that only the great god Hap-Wa-Samammo could actually turn the key in the lock?"

Serestala: (Also, Serestala just joined the super cool Limit 8 Club.)

Vance: "Camena, these things are world-wreckers. Weapons that spread mutagenically adaptive plague across continents. Time-eating monsters. Word-weapons that could snuff out free will. These are not good things."

Svetlana: "You have solid grounds for negotiation," Svetdeniya says, "but I don't think you actually have very solid grounds for dictation."

Vance: "There's no one who could be trusted to keep one of them."

Icaria: "The Mask of Winters would be all 'curse my puny skeleton arms!' and Hap-Wa-Samammo would be like 'ghost do you even lift?'."

Icaria: "Y'all are making it very hard to get a date."

Camena: Camena looks her dead in the eye. "Lady, you really need to send your spider to fetch you a copy of my CV."

Vance: "But of course, I'm not asking you to do this mission for nothing. Yu-Shan can provide recompense in quite a large number of ways. Cash, paid in jade talents, if you like. But that's probably the most boring option."

Icaria: "No, no, obviously we couldn't possibly ask for a reward."

Zanara: “…recompense for doing the work of Heaven?”

Serestala: "I could, actually."

Zanara: Blink. Blinkblink.

Camena: "I'm willing to entertain offers."

Icaria: "Don't worry about Camena. We'll just bring her along and introduce her to Undead McAmbassadorpants and soon she'll hate him enough to want to screw him around for free."

Camena: "But I am really growin' fond of the idea of a worldbreaker."

Camena: "Don't even know what I'd do with it, frankly."

Vance: "I could requisition the Division of Battles and see if they have a superweapon they can lend out."

Vance: "Seriously."

Camena: "But you know, conversation pieces and al—"

  • Icaria whispers to the seer, "She also is addicted to art."

Camena: "Wait, what?"

Serestala: "Do you have a sword!?" Serestala's eyes light up.

Serestala: "A really good sword."

Vance: "Or, perhaps, Camena, you would be interested in an original Venus?"

Zanara: “…if you want a sword, you can have mine,” Zanara says, looking confused. “I prefer the bow, anyway.”

Camena: Camena looks at Icaria.

Camena: What's your Evasion, Rand?

Icaria: It's 5.

Camena: And can it endure a direct attack from the Quarter Prince?

Icaria: Since you ask, yes.

Serestala: "I wouldn't want to disarm a heroine."

Icaria: At my command, any part of this dragon can become delightfully immaterial.

Camena: "Stop tempting me with things I want."

Vance: "A painting by Venus…it's indescribable, looking upon it."

Camena: "I will stab you. Or I guess not stab. I don't do stabbings. Hey, Octy, you do stabbings?"

Vance: Octavian grunts. "My preference is for smashing, but if that is your command…"

Zanara: “I… that’s very kind, but I’m not—Camena, don’t threaten stabbings. Or smashings!”

Serestala: "Can we please get back to the important thing here? I need to know about this sword."

Vance: "We can totally get you a sword, if you want one."

Vance: "Maybe even one you can't break."

Camena: "Not a command. Just a question. Well, I mean, a threat, posed as a hypothetical question."

Serestala: Serestala made a sound that from a smaller or younger woman might have been a squeak of delight.

Vance: The demon answers, "Your threats would be more effective if you allowed me to convey them. I have mastered the strategy of intimidation."

Icaria: "Can you swim?"

Camena: "I'm sure you have, darling."

Vance: "Okay, ignore him, this is his whole deal," Kumaria cautions.

Icaria: "Okay."

Vance: "I didn't really want to get hung up negotiating individual payment for each of you. Just, trust me, we've got a generous operations budget for this one. Are you willing to undertake this?"

Icaria: "We totally are."

Icaria: "I speak as the one who can tell the dragon which way to fly."

Camena: "Grudgingly. But also excitedly?"

Zanara: “Without hesitation.”

Serestala: "What are we waiting for?"

Svetlana: "I have no objection to preventing atrocities," Svetdeniya agrees.

Vance: She gives Icaria a set of coordinates that reflect the current location of Plentimon's hall. You're not sure how fast dragons fly, but you're coming to suspect that the answer is "incredibly fast."

Icaria: Excuse me?

Vance: It's going to be, a day maybe?

Icaria: Five successes on Lore says I do know how fast elemental dragons fly.

Icaria: And the answer is…

Icaria: Incredibly fast!

Vance: After a few hours, the five of you notice a small, shimmering light following you through the sky, trying its best to catch up.

Icaria: "Uh, Svetlana, what is that?"

Svetlana: "I think it might be easier for you to integrate with the Circle," Svetdeniya says, thoughtfully, to Kumaria, "if you pretended to be a very destiny-focused Twilight."

Camena: "Is that Tran's thing?"

Icaria: I search my occult knowledge of small, shimmering lights.

Vance: It approaches, and you see that is, in fact, Tran's thing.

Svetlana: "I hope it's not Maksim, who I admit I assumed was… somewhere," Svetdeniya says, blushing brightly. She attempts to …

Icaria: "He's in the glove compartment."

Svetlana: Ah, well, trying to figure out how to hear or smell a distant shimmering light is no longer a concern.

Vance: The Infallible Messenger finally catches up with Baeleron, snagging a handhold on one of the dragon's scales to keep from falling away.

Vance: It speaks with Tran's voice, and it is more panicked than you have ever heard it.

Vance: "THEY'VE CALLED A WYLD HUNT. ALL OF YOU NEED TO RUN AWAY AND HIDE."

Icaria: "Wow, I can't believe Camena identified that before I did."

Camena: "I'm not some second rate sorceress, you know."

Svetlana: "You heard the lady," Svetdeniya says.

Camena: "I studied under Tran for a whole three days."

Vance: "YOU DON'T HAVE TO TELL JASPINDAR YOU'RE ANATHEMA. DON'T TELL ANYONE."

Zanara: Zanara sighs. “Poor thing must be a wreck…now I feel bad for leaving her alone.”

Vance: "PLEASE STAY SAFE AND ALIVE."

Icaria: "Wow, I'm glad this didn't find us in the middle of Gloam."

Camena: "Awwww."

Camena: "She likes us."

Vance: Kumaria and Octavian do not appear to notice the messenger at all, or hear what it says.

Icaria: "Why is that surprising? We've been super-nice to her."

Svetlana: "She really ought to know better," Svetdeniya points out. "This is utterly classic being subverted by the silver tongues of the Anathema."

Serestala: "Well, I only met her for about five minutes so it's a little surprising she cares about me."

Camena: "So…finally got a Wyld Hunt. I feel like a real Anathema."

Icaria: "Really, we've been super-nice to most people we meet who aren't fairies, or Sivana."

Zanara: “I’d rather have avoided the Wyld Hunt, myself…”

Icaria: "Perhaps you turned her head with those powerful arms?"

Svetlana: "No, that would have killed her, Icaria."

Serestala: "You think? I'll keep that in mind."

Icaria: "She is a young and innocent creature," says Icaria, who is… maybe four years older than Tran?

Icaria: I think Icaria is about 24.

Icaria: Old enough to know better, but young enough to plausibly not.

Camena: "You sure I can't have the worldbreaker? I feel like the Wyld Hunt would respect me more if I could say, without any exaggeration, that I could destroy…I mean, you're calling them worldbreakers, but is there, like, any gradiation here? Maybe just a Blessed Isle-size impact zone one?"

Vance: "You can't destroy the Blessed Isle."

Vance: "Or rather, I'm not going to let you."

Camena: "Keep your destiny untangled. I'm probably definitely joking."

Vance: "The Eschaton Vault is nothing to joke about!"

Zanara: “Nor is massacring the population of the Blessed Isle.”

Icaria: "I feel like we haven't really fully explored our own personal capacity to cause trouble, anyway."

Icaria: "Come on, everybody."

Camena: "Everything is something to joke about. That's how we keep on living."

Icaria: "Let's roll that ghost."

Camena: "Besides, joking's not the same as avoiding."

Camena: "It's the opposite, even."

Vance: So

Vance: Who has the highest Wits + Survival?

Svetlana: (5)

Zanara: (3! And it’s all Wits!)

Icaria: "One of us should seduce him. Kumaria, what are this ghost-knight's romantic preferences and probabilities?"

Serestala: 5

Icaria: 3.

Camena: 5

Camena: We are terrible at whatever this is

Vance: Okay, everyone roll to evade tracking, and we'll just take the best.

Camena: Who exactly is tracking us over sea?

Icaria: Four.

Zanara: 1.

Camena: And why isn't the dragon just rolling?

Zanara: Probably something magical, yo.

Icaria: If I win, it's going to be hilarious.

Serestala: Three.

Icaria: It's the Immaculate Javert.

Zanara: Also I’m gonna take this moment to confirm: we’re at 145/116 XP/Solar XP, right?

Icaria: In an ornithopter.

Camena: A mysterious four.

Serestala: Icaria is going to ward us to safety with exposition.

Icaria: Oh, wait, I have Wits 4.

Svetlana: I… need to… understand the situation a little better before I can even conceive of a stunt or whether it makes sense to spend motes.

Icaria: So, five.

Vance: You are attempting to fly on this dragon so as to avoid being noticeable for flying on a dragon.

Icaria: 145 XP is correct.

Icaria: It's no big deal, I'm just going to expand my cirrus skiff a bit.

Vance: Possibly against someone who would be using magic to track you over the sea

Icaria: I'll conjure it up and then just kind of expand it to cover Baeleron.

Svetlana: Fair enough, four.

Icaria: Can't fly on it that diffused, of course, but it's good cover.

Icaria: Camena, give me a hand and get out your pipe.

Camena: I don't know if I can use the Skyward Sea without a ship

Icaria: Just wing it.

Vance: Svetlana's hearing means she'd probably get a chance to detect this before anyone else, so roll Perception + Awareness

Icaria: It's easy if you're a first-rate sorcerer.

Icaria: <eyebrows>

Svetlana: Svetdeniya would normally comment at some point about taking a purely straight path being a mistake, but she sees Icaria handling that and doesn't worry about it… UNTIL

Icaria: Or if you have a bunch of firedust you can convert into smoke via some process.

Svetlana: Sadly only four successes. Sensory Acuity Prana now active but not very helpful.

Vance: You hear a sound that I don't think you would ever have heard before—it sounds like something big and metal, sluicing through the water of the ocean below at an incredibly high speed.

  • Icaria rolls ten dice for Baeleron and gets seven.

Vance: It seems to be following after the dragon in a straight line, even concealed by Icaria's cloud.

Icaria: You need good senses to be able to look down on people so well!

Svetlana: "Metal warsnake below," Svetdeniya observes quietly. "Or… somesuch."

Icaria: "Let's drop Octavian on it."

Icaria: "Octavian, can you land directly on it from this height?"

Vance: "I can't see shit."

Camena: :heart:

Icaria: "…Serestala, can you throw Octavian onto the snake?"

Camena: "Okay, so, time to engage in some serious what-the-fuckery, y'all."

Svetlana: "I could throw him, but he'd just fly back up here."

Icaria: "Ah. So you have absorbed the chakram-nature."

Vance: But, in a few minutes, you see just what is pursuing you. It is massive, at least thirty feet tall, and it is striding effortlessly across the surface of the water, leaving behind a rippling ribbon of a wake.

Icaria: Vance, you fucker. Don't test your new creations out against us!

Vance: It is a warstrider.

Serestala: "Yeah, I can probably throw him at that."

Camena: "You. Sidereal. Explain."

Icaria: You should test them out by giving them to us!

Icaria: What material is it made of?

Icaria: Please don't say blue jade.

Camena: Soulsteel

Serestala: "Should I be going down there to deal with that?"

Svetlana: Evdeniya frowns at the warstrider. "That does not look like it should float," she says.

Vance: Its armor is black jade, creating an elemental resonance with the water below it. In one hand, it wields a steel sword with a twenty-foot blade. The other arm appears to be missing, but has been replaced with a crudely-rigged siege crossbow. This kind of patchwork construction appears throughout the warstrider's build—it seems to have taken some considerable damage over the years, and only received partial repairs.

Vance: Right now, it's at long range from you.

Icaria: "Okay, let's vote. Shoot it with sorcery, yay or nay?"

Vance: Does anyone have actions they'd like to do prior to Joining Battle?

Icaria: I'm going to un-disperse my skiff, since it didn't work.

Icaria: Anybody want to ride my magic cloud into battle? Archers?

Serestala: Increasing strength exercise just in case we really are throwing Octavian at it

Icaria: It's not fast or anything, but you can stand on it.

Icaria: Oh, yeah, I'm Increasing Strength too.

Zanara: “…right,” Zanara says, calming stringing Guiding Faith. “This should be interesting.”

Camena: Camena is going to cast Tide Crawler on herself.

Icaria: Who will win the gun show?

Zanara: Graceful Crane Stance.

  • Icaria spends nine motes to boost his Strength to 6.

Svetlana: "Depends what the dragon is going to do," Evdeniya says. "If it's going to throw me into the sea I would prefer to be on a cloud."

Vance: It closes to medium range. Ready to Join Battle?

Icaria: What happens if we say no?

  • Icaria Joins Battle.

Icaria: I get a preposterous 8 successes on as many dice.

  • Svetlana Joins Battle.
  • Serestala boosts to Strength 9. LIKE A CHAMP.

Icaria: Damn, girl.

  • Icaria puts his shirt back on.

Zanara: 1 success.

Vance: (Elliott and Rand, roll for your summons.)

Icaria: By which I mean my artifact armor which I am obviously wearing all the time.

Icaria: Baeleron rolls five.

Camena: (…shit, 4 successes?)

Camena: For Camena, that is.

Serestala: (5 successes.)

  • Icaria recalculates his mote pools now that he's Essence 3.

Icaria: It's 19 and 47 for anybody else who needed to know.

Camena:

Camena: Octavian gets 12 successes. He rolled 5 10's.

Svetlana: 13 successes, 16 initiative, 1 free success for spotting hidden opponents.

Vance: For this fight, you'll have access to the following gambits

Vance: Block Vision (difficulty 3): This gambit obscures the slots in a warstrider’s helm that allow its pilot to see, or the visual sensors of a more advanced warstrider. The pilot is effectively blinded, taking a -3 penalty on all actions that depend on vision. The pilot may use a miscellaneous action to clear the obstruction.

Vance: Disable Arm (difficulty 5): This gambit targets one of a warstrider’s arms, temporarily disabling it in some fashion. If the warstrider is holding anything with the disabled arm, it drops it. The pilot cannot move or use the disabled arm, and takes a -3 penalty on any actions that require the use of both arms. Restoring the arm’s functionality costs 2 Initiative and requires the pilot’s full turn. This action cannot be placed in a flurry. However, if all of a warstrider’s arms are disabled, it becomes impossible for the pilot to clear the damage by himself, requiring one of his ally’s to intervene with an appropriate stunt, gambit, or magic.

Vance: Disable Leg (difficulty 6): This gambit knocks one of a warstrider’s legs off-balance, or renders it unusable. Its pilot must succeed on a difficulty 5 Dexterity + Athletics roll or fall prone. Even if the pilot succeeds, he takes a -3 penalty on movement rolls while that leg remains disabled. The pilot can restore a leg’s function as a reflexive move action on his turn that costs 4 Initiative. If all of a warstrider’s legs are disabled, it automatically falls prone and cannot take move actions for the remainder of the scene.

Vance: Breach Frame (difficulty 7): This gambit pries open the armored plating that covers a warstrider’s fuselage or otherwise breaches its frame, creating an opening through which the pilot can be directly attacked. For the rest of the scene, any character may pay one point of Initiative to make a decisive attack directly against the pilot. This breach cannot be repaired during combat without the use of magic such as Craftsman Needs No Tools (Exalted, p. 292).

Vance: First up is Jenna.

Svetlana: Evdeniya moves onto the cloud and takes Aim.

Icaria: "Baeleron, all-range mode."

Svetlana: (Evdeniya does a jawdropping stunt as she does this, earning many many many extra dice for moving onto the cloud and taking Aim, but none of you notice because it's not important.)

Vance: Now Octavian's up.

Camena: Octavian is going to take a running leap off Baeleron, ringing Equitable Resolution against the warstrider like a gong as he falls.

Vance: Two-die stunt.

Vance: (You're at medium range, but I'll say he can jump it.)

Camena: 10 successes.

Vance: That's a hit.

Camena: Bonus damage?

Vance: It's withering? 3 extra successes.

Vance: Soak is 19.

Camena: 2 successes.

Vance: The warstrider shifts back with the force of Octavian's blow, but seems undeterred by it. Octavian falls through the air, clinging to a handhold on the warstrider's armored plates.

Vance: Next up is Icaria.

Icaria: This crossbow attachment… it's made of wood, yes?

Vance: Yes.

Icaria: I'm going to start shaping Flight of the Brilliant Raptor.

Vance: Go for it.

Icaria: Supernal Control Technique, 13 successes.

Icaria: Blah, not quite enough.

Icaria: That's what I get for not bothering to stunt.

Vance: Serestala and Baeleron are up on the next tick

Kukla: (But think of all the time you saved!)

Icaria: PS, don't stand on the bit I'm about to set on fire.

Serestala: Serestala takes a running leap off the back of Baeleron before anyone can remind her the dragon could just fly her closer. Her anima begins to burn around her as she uses her velocity to drive herself fist first into the metallic head of the warstrider.

Vance: Take two stunt dice.

Serestala: (5 successes, 9 motes.)

Vance: The warstrider is going to clash with you.

Vance: It swings its sword upward in a great arc, interposing its blade between you and the helm.

Vance: …and it wins the clash.

Vance: Serestala's fist breaks against the blade. She takes 3 levels of lethal damage, and has -2 Defense until her next turn.

Kukla: (Never punch a sword!)

Vance: Icaria, Baeleron also gets a turn now.

Icaria: Hm, should he rush?

Icaria: It seems like I might as well let him come to us.

Icaria: Baeleron adopts a flowing circular motion and prepares to fend off a strike against anybody on his back with a swipe of his mighty tail.

Icaria: Aka, the Ouroboros Stance.

Vance: Is that a Defend Other?

Icaria: Yeah.

Vance: He can probably protect everyone on him.

Icaria: Also, I think we're going to descend a bit so that Baeleron is just barely underwater.

Vance: Camena's up.

Icaria: Leaving just enough of his head above water to see clearly and enough of his body for us to use as a mobile battle platform.

Camena: So…

Camena: Fuselage—is it a chest type deal?

Vance: Yeah.

Svetlana: (Are you keeping the cloud next to the dragon, or do I move the cloud, or are you doing something else with it, or can you only move one at a time?)

Camena: I'm assuming its locked up tight.

Vance: The pilot's head peeks up into the very bottom of the helmet.

Camena: I'm really not sure how to measure these proportions.

Camena: Does it seem like the fuselage is an actual room, of sorts?

Vance: You really can't see the insides of this.

Vance: Or are you asking for like, using a gambit reasons?

Camena: It's not one of those gambits, no. But it's pretty gambit-ish.

Vance: Yeah, other than being pretty sure of where it is based on the way the helm is moving to track vision, you don't have an idea what the innards of this are like.

Camena: Well, then, best guess time.

Icaria: I think I have to command the cloud, but I can tell it to do whatever you want.

Camena: Camena's going to get a nice leap herself towards what she suspects is the fuselage, latching on with two of her eight water tentacles as she gropes around for some kind of seem that would indicate a way in. Assuming she finds one? Door-Evading Technique.

  • Vance blinks.

Camena: "Hooooooowdy neighbor."

Vance: Okay, yeah, you're inside this warstrider.

Zanara: (This is beautiful.)

Camena: Things also just got a lot brighter inside.

Camena: Camena's at 2a.

Vance: Its innards aren't really divided into anything approximating rooms—the armor hangs off of something like a giant metal skeleton, with the fuselage strapped in around the "spinal column."

Vance: A grandmotherly woman with a wrinkled face and chalky white hair locks eyes with you, strapped into a harness that appears to be controlling the warstrider. "Die, Anathema!" she spits.

Camena: "That's not very neighborly at all."

Vance: It's now Zanara's turn.

  • Camena is indecently proud of himself.

Zanara: What an act to follow. Zanara nocks an arrow and takes Aim.

Vance: The pilot is likewise going to take Aim—at Camena.

Vance: End of round, everyone regains 5 motes.

Vance: Octavian's up first.

Kukla: (That was downright cunning.)

Camena: Octavian takes a moment to let out a gruff laugh at his latest mistress' ingenuity, then starts using the warstrider's head as a snare drum, Equitable Resolution battering it with impossible speed and a decent rhythm. It's not destined to be a big hit, but it's got a beat and you can dance to it.

Icaria: It wasn't really.

Icaria: Because now Vance is going to change the rules before they go gold to make that trick harder.

Vance: Take two dice.

Icaria: ~should have saved it~

Camena: I AM STRESS TESTING.

Kukla: (Good job of it, too!)

Icaria: That's true; you're a good friend.

Camena: Octavian's attack garners a pathetic 8 successes.

Vance: Muda!

Vance: Was that withering or decisive?

Camena: Withering.

Vance: Svetlana's up next.

Svetlana: Wind swirls and howls around Evdeniya and the cloud shifts and darts on the breeze as a piece of the sky falls from her hand, blue jade, to ring a withering blow against the warstrider's leg.

Vance: Take +2 dice.

Svetlana: 10 successes withering.

Vance: Hit by 2, 19 soak.

Svetlana: Just overwhelming dice then, I think; no damage. Does that count as a hit?

  • Svetlana checks It does. So no damage, though my initiative goes up to 17.

Vance: Icaria's turn!

Icaria: I trace out the Old Realm glyph for "consumed by fire" over the enemy warstrider with Sun's Brush, ending the sigil by flipping the weapon upside down to make the "thumbs down" gesture.

Icaria: Conveniently, this glyph resembles a bulls-eye.

Icaria: FLIGHT OF THE BRILLIANT RAPTOR

Vance: PHOOOSH!

Vance: Take a two-point stunt.

Icaria: I'll spend five peripheral motes and roll 17 dice to get seven successes.

Vance: Is Flight of the Brilliant Raptor blockable?

Icaria: I don't really see how it would be.

Vance: Fair enough.

Vance: PHOOOSH!

Icaria: Although I do have to make an attack roll, so maybe.

Vance: We'll call it a hit by 3.

Icaria: Whee! Fire!

Icaria: Honestly, it probably won't deal much damage; the important thing is setting the wooden bits on fire.

Vance: Roll it anyway.

Icaria: Six successes.

Vance: So, this warstrider is on fire.

Vance: And at least Serestala and Octavian are currently on it.

Serestala: Unpleasant.

Vance: Both of them should make a roll of some sort to avoid the flames.

Icaria: I was assuming Serestala could stand on the metal bit.

Icaria: Octavian, eh.

Vance: The wooden bit is gonna burn up, but the whole dang warstrider's on fire.

Serestala: Anything in particular I should roll?

Icaria: That is significantly more power than I expected when I tried to set a big hunk of jade on fire.

Camena: How is blue jade on fire?

Vance: It's basically stunt based. If you want to tough it out, (Stamina + Resistance); if you want to find a safe place amid the flames, (Dexterity + Dodge); etc. etc.

Icaria: I'm just that good, Elliott.

Vance: It's all the non-blue jade bits of the strider.

Vance: This is a patchwork colossus.

Camena: Being covered in oil, Octavian, aims to take refuge on the still unburnt left thigh… but only receives four successes.

Vance: He takes two levels of lethal damage.

Serestala: Serestala seems rather non-plussed that she has just been set on fire. Though she's consumed along with the rest of the warstrider rather than screaming, burning, or asphyxiating she mostly seems to just smolder stylishly.

Vance: +2 stunt dice.

Serestala: 8 successes.

Vance: Serestala's good.

Icaria: Oh, good. Nothing has happened of which I need feel ashamed.

Vance: The warstrider's wooden arm… is not good.

Vance: It hasn't burnt up completely, but it is burning much more than you want an arm to be burning.

Vance: Serestala and Baeleron are up next.

Icaria: It would be cool to dragon-grapple it, but we'd all probably fall off and it seems unnecessary, so Baeleron will continue defending us.

Icaria: Using his venom breath might work with all these holes, but there's such a thing as teasing Camena too much and poison spit is probably it.

Vance: Camena is pretty safe inside the warstrider.

Vance: Think of her armor rating!

Icaria: Logically, she's cooking.

Icaria: Think of her oven rating!

Vance: Black jade conducts heat poorly.

Icaria: Well, at least this warstrider protected the occupant against one thing correctly.

Serestala: (Ovens going off on your turn is a bother!)

Serestala: Serestala goes for the sword arm and does her best to apply all her arm-breaking lessons from the good old days on an opponent several times her size which admittedly were not part of the good old days.

Vance: Take +2 dice.

Serestala: (10 successes!)

Vance: Hit!

Vance: Roll Initiative against difficulty 5.

Serestala: 3 successes. :disappointed:

Vance: The arm refuses to break!

Vance: And now, Camena's wild ride.

Camena: Despite their cramped quarters, Camena finds it relatively easy to slither around her new friend, propelled by the strange, undulating motions of her tidecrawler tentacles. "So, I know it's a cliche and all, but you wouldn't think of just going quietly, right? Didn't think so." Without giving her time to reply, Camena reels one of the tendrils back; the water pools at its tip into a crude fist and then batters right into the Terrestrial's sternum.

Vance: So… what kind of attack is this?

Camena: This one is Withering because Camena needs Initiative.

Vance: Okay, well that's easy enough to resolve.

Vance: Take a two-point stunt.

Camena: 12 to hit.

Vance: Hit by 6!

Vance: Her soak here is just 8.

Camena: Four successes.

Vance: The Dragon-Blooded twists her wrists in a mudra that temporarily disables the motion tracking of the warstrider, doing a backflip against the strain of the fuselage's leather straps to kick aside the tendril of water. It's to no avail. The tendril slams down on her chest, and she is now in Initiative Crash.

Vance: +5 Initiative.

Icaria: What kind of gambit will cut the straps?

Vance: Zanara's up.

Zanara: Hmmm. Is it obvious from the outside that the operator’s in trouble? (ie, crashed?)

Vance: It definitely seems off and vulnerable.

Vance: The warstrider is "crashed" as much as the pilot is, although it isn't literally blinking red.

Zanara: Hmmm, okay. Zanara holds her arrow, and calls out, “You have fought valiantly, but you cannot defeat us! Surrender now, pilot, and we offer you your life!”

  • Vance rolls the pilot's Perception.

Vance: The warstrider's metal helm opens partially, a small seam where the mouth would be. A harsh metallic noise booms from it. "My name is Mnemon Akuhatan, scion of the Scarlet Dynasty, hunter of Anathema. I will not surrender to the likes of you!"

Camena: "Man, she screams good for an old biddy who just got gut punched."

Zanara: (Man, usually Make Friends In Battle Method works. Is that gonna take my action?)

Vance: Nah.

Icaria: You didn't even roll!

Vance: If you want to press it up to social influence you can make a roll with your action.

Zanara: Naaah. She clearly needs more beatin’ on before she wants to be friends.

Zanara: “We’ll see,” Zanara murmurs to herself, letting fly with her arrow. Foolish to open her armor only to scream out her defiance, really — it’s an obvious opening.

Icaria: If you could pinion her a bit, that would be great.

Vance: Take a one point stunt.

Zanara: I actually have a plan for that, but I don’t have enough Initiative to carry it off at the moment.

Zanara: 8 successes, Wise Arrow to lower Defense.

Icaria: Yeah, I think I'm basically going to have Baeleron just drown her a bit, so that should help out excellently.

Zanara: Zanara is also shinin’ real bright.

Camena: Caaaan ya not?

Camena: Maybe not try and drown the possible water-aspect?

Svetlana: You're just saying that because you're in the metal cockpit with her.

Vance: Actually, you can see her anima shining from within the warstrider.

Vance: I'm not saying she's a Water Aspect.

Vance: But if she is, she's probably the first to have a bright red anima banner.

Zanara: Oh, dear.

Icaria: Well, that's just aces.

Icaria: The more onslaught penalties, the better.

Vance: Um.

Vance: Legendary Size.

Vance: She takes no onslaught from y'all.

Icaria: Even if Zanara is hitting the pilot in the face with an arrow?

Svetlana: That's… Mars, not that Evdeniya would know that, and not fire?

Vance: Okay, Camena would be able to inflict onslaught.

Vance: It's fire red, not Sidereal red.

Zanara: But yeah, Defense is 7 after Wise Arrow, Soak is… 14?

Svetlana: Phew. (I assumed fire but then people sounded worried so I tried to figure out why.)

Zanara: From what I’ve sussed out from previous attacks.

Vance: Camena's onslaught drops it down to Defense 6, and the base soak is 19.

Zanara: Aaah. Well, yeah, that’s Overwhelming only, unsurprisingly. Ugh. 1.

Vance: The warstrider's helm-jaw closes shut, smashing arrows between its big metal plates that aren't teeth.

Vance: End of round, everyone gets 5m.

Icaria: Although, hm, I was kind of assuming that the burnt-out crossbow would leave a hole we could access the cockpit through.

Icaria: Then Baeleron could just stick his head through in water-form and occupy the entire cockpit space with water.

Icaria: But maybe that isn't the case.

Zanara: I think at this point it’s more effective for Zanara to try to make friends with Fire Grandma.

Camena: Please.

Camena: Stop trying to fill the cockpit with things.

Zanara: haha

Camena: I have got this.

Serestala: Serestala wants to fill it with fists.

Icaria: You can make friends with her after I render her unconscious and we tie her up!

Camena: I have super totally got this.

Zanara: Archery needs ways to get through armor, ugh.

Icaria: It's cool; Baeleron won't drown friends.

Icaria: New Charm: Picky Arrow.

Icaria: Shoots enemies and ignores walls.

Vance: As the round begins, the flames smoldering across the warstrider's wooden crossbow-arm finally complete their work. It collapses, falling into the ocean.

Vance: (Entering the warstrider through this hole is a difficulty 6 gambit rolled with [Dexterity + Athletics].)

Vance: Up first is the pilot, whose action last round I forgot.

Vance: She reaches out to Camena, her palm outstretched.

Svetlana: (And she turns to me with her hand extended
Palm is split with a flower with a flame
Akuhatan stands in the strider
And I'm struck once again by her Essence technique)

Vance: Essence begins to swirl and compress in her hand, building up into a bolt of fire.

Vance: Camena is getting Elemental Bolt Technique'd, as a withering attack.

Camena: Slithering about on her tidecrawler tendrils, Camena dances away from the bolt.

Vance: Take +1 Defense.

Camena: 7, plus tell me if she rolls any 1's, and I win on ties.

Vance: You dodge, and she rolled three 1s.

Camena: Eh, I'll let it stand.

Vance: Okay.

Vance: Up now is a three-way tie between Camena, Svetlana, and Octavian.

Svetlana: I leap into the air and fuse with Camena and Octav—wait.

Icaria: You cannot fuse with Octavian.

Icaria: He has forsworn love.

Icaria: Only after you open his stony heart once again can he achieve a stable fusion.

Svetlana: Air promotes earth!

Svetlana: Air does promote earth. It's not just a means for opening stony hearts, you know. And that's why as Evdeniya's cloud veers crazily into Short Range of the warstrider the white bolt she hurls at it is not a cloud, not a stone, not an island, but in that moment the earth itself, come crashing down upon that little speck upon the sea. (Harmonious Dragon Strife decisive attack.)

Vance: Take a one-point stunt.

Camena: Octavian is going to howl with a strange mixture of wrath and masochism at his burning flesh, sliding his quarterstaff into the socket where the warstrider's arm meets its shoulders. With a quick, brutal, prying motion, he wrenches that socket open.

Camena: Disable Arm. Or, just Disarm for short.

Vance: One-point stunt.

Camena: 10 successes to hit; 7 on Initiative.

Svetlana: 12 successes to hit. (and if the attack deals damage the weight of it will "crush the terrain beneath the target's feet," rendering it difficult terrain. Whatever that means here.)

Vance: Svetlana hits by 6.

Vance: I think in this case it will get pushed down further into the water.

Icaria: No doubt lowering the difficulty of gambits to get inside.

Camena: Camena, meanwhile, slithers in nice and close. All at once, her eight tentacles close around the Fire-Aspect—grabbing at ankles, wists, shoulders, and neck, leaving one to slowly drip a steady trickle on her forehead.

Vance: And Octavian succeeds in dislocating the warstrider's arm, wrenching it from its socket with a show of demonic force that snaps the slender metal threads linking the arm to the fuselage's control harness. This warstrider is now totally disarmed.

Vance: I mean, it can kick you, I guess.

Icaria: Maybe we should just let Camena win without a roll.

Icaria: I feel like we have this person where we want her.

Icaria: Well.

Icaria: She isn't at the bottom of the ocean yet.

Svetlana: 10 damage to the warstrider. It would have been 15 if I could double 10s.

Svetlana: Actually, I think it drops to… Strength + something.

Vance: Is that decisive?

Svetlana: Yeah.

Vance: Yeah, it drops to Strength + 3.

Svetlana: 5 damage, and the weight of the earth.

Vance: Svetlana's skycutter smashes into the warstrider with incredible force, gouging through armor-plated joints to cut at the controlling cords beneath. Its legs begin to sink down into the water, as its elemental resonance frays unto nothing.

Vance: What would Camena like to do with the pilot?

Camena: Camena would like to choke the life out of her, but given that she did hear Zanara, she'll restrain her and wait for the gang to come to an accord

Icaria: How could you possibly restrain a fire-controlling aristocrat with just a bunch of water arms?

  • Icaria takes a moment to watch the final Katara vs. Azula battle, just for fun.

Icaria: Nobody has ever tried a trick like that before.

Vance: At this point, with the warstrider having lost a third of its damage track and both of its arms, I believe she may be willing to stand down.

Vance: Or rather, what the heck else is she gonna do?

Vance: Combat end!

Vance: Despite being outright defeated and thoroughly grappled, the Dynast's only response is an unrelenting "fuck you" in Camena's direction.

Kukla: (Get thee behind me, Satan!)

Svetlana: Evdeniya politely lowers the cloud down to the warstrider's chest so that wrestling the Dynast out is a bit less inconvenient for her cousin.

Camena: "I mean, are you offering?"

Vance: "Don't be crass."

Camena: "You're not really my type."

Vance: "Up yours, Anathema."

Camena: "I mean, mature Dragon-Blooded bitches is certainly a niche appeal."

Serestala: Serestala gives a frown. "Well, that wasn't my best attempt. Rematch, alright?"

Icaria: Baeleron helpfully offers a bit of his tail that you can smoosh her down into.

Icaria: His body basically goes watery enough to push her down into it and then solidifies.

Vance: But yeah, Camena is able to wrangle her out onto the cloud.

Svetlana: Evdeniya eyes Camena. "Less of that, please, cousin."

Camena: "But it's fun to antagonize the true believers."

Icaria: "Just because somebody made an attempt to murder you while they were completely and totally outmatched, doesn't mean it's okay to insult them."

Camena: "Counterpoint: Yes it does."

Icaria: "She's probably really upset about being old and came out here to die fighting us."

Svetlana: "She has every right to consider us monsters, although honestly trying to kill us while we're trying to stop Mask of Winters from ending the world is… ah… strategically iffy."

Zanara: “You too were ignorant once, Camena,” Zanara says. “Anyone can change.”

Vance: "I am perfectly fine with my age, thank you very much."

Icaria: "Okay, so why did you try to fight an entire circle of Anathema, plus a dragon, plus Octavian, with half a warstrider?"

Camena: "Oh my gods, Righteous, please stop making this about being the bigger Exalt. I just beat someone up in their own giant war machine. Let me ride high for a bit."

Icaria: "If suicide is ruled out, most of the other explanations do sound a bit insulting."

Kukla: (She was compelled by the cruel power of playtesting.)

Vance: "The Wyld Hunt is not for the meek. When I hear its call, I answer."

Icaria: "You're supposed to answer with like half a dozen other dudes."

Icaria: "Even I've read the manual."

Zanara: “You have every right to be proud of yourself. It was very impressive! That doesn’t mean you have to be cruel.”

Vance: "And if you hadn't devil-walked into my warstrider, I still could have won!"

Svetlana: "It was extremely impressive, cousin," Evdeniya agrees.

Camena: Camena wonders how much blue jade she could scrape off this rig before they have to scuttle it.

Icaria: "Many people could have won, if not for the part where they lost."

Serestala: "It'd be a pretty fine idea if she was trying to delay quarry for a larger quarry to send somebody to harass their flanks."

Camena: "Devil-walked?"

Zanara: “…you’re right,” Zanara says. “We should get moving.”

Icaria: "Oh, right! Strategy!"

Svetlana: "You would never have won," Evdeniya informs her. "I'm sorry. But Serestala has a point; we should—"

Zanara: Why hadn’t she thought of that?

Camena: "Man, that soundsmuch cooler."

Icaria: "Sorry, Camena, the answer is none."

Svetlana: "…as Zanara says," Evdeniya finishes, awkwardly.

Icaria: "Are we keeping this person trying to kill us, or do we drown her?"

Kukla: (I vote brütal mürder.)

Svetlana: "Keep her. If nothing else, she can participate in the gamble."

Icaria: "Or we can send her home with a sharp note, like usual."

Camena: "I mean, I like drowning."

Icaria: "Oh, that's true; she can be our ante."

Svetlana: "Icaria!"

Zanara: “If nothing else, I’d like to talk to her,” Zanara says. “We may learn something. And so may she.”

Vance: "I'll bite my tongue off before I serve you bastards."

Serestala: "We could ante the warstrider. This thing has to be worth something, right?"

Vance: "Don't touch Friendly!"

Svetlana: "I am fairly certain that fighting against slavery means that using people as ante is out."

Icaria: "We kind of need to move quickly for the reasons you just stated, although I do hate to leave it at the bottom of the ocean."

Camena: "It's worth about its weight in jade, less the cracks, less the fissures, and less the effort of scrapping it."

Icaria: "You could assume her identity and use her line of credit."

Icaria: "Fine, whatever, we have a dragon."

Zanara: “Svetlana is quite right. I would never demand your service,” Zanara says.

Icaria: "But he's going to need some really extravagant flattery if you want him to carry this thing at full speed."

Icaria: "I move that we continue this conversation while moving at said speed."

Icaria: "Also that we search our new friend for tracking magics."

Serestala: "I could probably drag it but I can't fly as well. You do you, dragon."

Vance: Like a homing device?

Icaria: Yeah!

Vance: Those aren't things that exist.

Icaria: Or a sorcerous coin.

Svetlana: Evdeniya considers the matter. "Baeleron, the Realm has incredible machinery. Ancient wonders of the First Age. Treasures that kings would weep to imagine and dare not dream to own. But we have a dragon, so we win."

Vance: Nothing pings All-Encompassing Sorcerer's Sight.

Icaria: Such flattery pleases the mighty Baeleron!

Vance: "This does seem," the dragon ponders, "to be in harmony with the right way of things."

Camena: Camena wheels the Terrestrial around slowly, trying not to be noticed, and gets her pointed at Seresalta.

Icaria: And thus it was that we hauled warstrider out of there.

Vance: Hmm.

Vance: He's going to need to roll a feat of strength.

Vance: And Akuhatan is going to try to wrest herself free of Camena's grip!

Vance: (Strength + Brawl) roll time.

Svetlana: "I had never doubted it," Evdeniya agrees, in Baeleron's direction. "And that was before it was proven in battle, where even in that tiny machine she was crippled by fear and wonder at your glory."

Icaria: His feat of strength pool is kind of amazing, so it's certainly doable.

Camena: Pretty sure Camena fails here.

Icaria: His grapple pool's not bad, either.

Vance: Whatcha roll?

Icaria: Baeleron grapples the escaping Dragon-Blood, simply letting her feet sink down into his watery body.

Vance: I don't think he can do that and drag the warstrider at the same time!

Camena: 3.

Icaria: I thought I wasn't doing the first thing yet.

Vance: The Dynast wriggles free!

Vance: But we are not going back into combat, and I don't think we need to bother rolling to see if the lesser elemental dragon can grapple her.

Icaria: Drowning-in-Coils Constriction, go!

Vance: "Your ranks are filled with traitors, Anathema," she says, hanging upside-down from the dragon's coils. "Yo—blargharaarghable."

Icaria: I think we're just going to submerge her until she falls unconscious.

Vance: That works pretty well!

Vance: You now have one (1) unconscious Dynast.

Serestala: "Handy."

Zanara: Zanara sighs. “Well. That could have gone better.”

Svetlana: Evdeniya looks thoughtfully at Kumaria. "I'd suspect myself, except that I am very well aware that I am not a sorcerer."

Icaria: "I don't really think it could have."

Vance: Kumaria resumes existing, stepping out from behind a leaf.

Zanara: “Hope springs eternal.”

Vance: "Sorry about that."

Vance: "I figured you had yourselves taken care of."

Vance: "And I was right!"

Icaria: "Wow, you really are a prophet."

Icaria: Icaria is genuinely impressed.

Serestala: "Could have gone worse," Serestala says and then looks down at her injured hands. When did that happen? Oh, right, the sword punching part.

Svetlana: "I'm more concerned about the traitors in our ranks?" Evdeniya says. "Icaria and Camena are not possibilities, Zanara and I are incapable—Serestala seems unlikely to be a master sorcerer or spy, but even if she is, it would not exempt you from suspicion. I suppose there is also Octavian."

Zanara: “She’s trying to divide us. Get us to suspect one another. That’s all."

Vance: "I'm offended, m'lady."

Svetlana: "She could have been babbling nonsense, of course, or you could tell me now that you needed us to have the warstrider as ante."

Vance: "I am the only one here whose loyalty is sorcerously enforced."

Camena: "Yeah, I can vouch for that. He's expertly bound."

Icaria: "I don't actually see any reason why she would know anything about our ranks, so I shall continue ignoring her."

Svetlana: "Oh," Evdeniya realizes.

Svetlana: "What can you, and other sorcerers near you, and other people in the room, or watching the room, find out about the location where an Infallible Messenger goes?"

Icaria: "Although I will note that being sorcerously bound does not in any preclude having an agenda. It's all in the manual."

Icaria: "Wait, did I not give you the manual, Camena?"

Icaria: "I guess it's in Neve anyway."

Vance: "My agenda is to learn as much of Creation as I can, in preparation of the day I conquer it."

Vance: "See? Utterly transparent in my loyalties."

Icaria: "As they say, 'transparent' means you can either see right through it or you can't see it at all."

Svetlana: "Specifically, could Tran have been forced to divulge where it went, or could miss Mnemon Akhenaton, or whatever, have followed it?"

Vance: Both Camena and Icaria know the answer to be "no," unless there's something they're missing

Icaria: "Shouldn't think so. Really, I'm surprised Akuhatan was able to catch up to us at all."

Icaria: "This contraption of hers must have been the real deal once upon a time."

Icaria: "As you can see from our current very fast movement, Baeleron is very fast."

Svetlana: "Hm," Evdeniya says. She shrugs. "All right, then." She settles back upon the dragon and watches the clouds go by.

Serestala: "Maybe that guy Icaria is so crazy about told her where to go?"

Icaria: "Well, he is evil, so maybe."

Svetlana: Evdeniya would suggest better evasive maneuvers but she actually doesn't have any better ideas than the diffuse cloud thing and the going fast thing, I mean, seriously, there is not much cover up here.

Icaria: If they have two vehicles that can go at five hundred MPH, we may as well just settle down for a big setpiece battle anyway.

Icaria: (Seriously, Baeleron travels at 500 MPH.)

Zanara: (I hope we’re adequately shielded from the wind shear, then. Ouch.)

Svetlana: That is pretty fast.

Icaria: I've got a scarf; don't worry.

Icaria: Turning yourself into metal also helps!

Icaria: But in general I assume magic makes it possible.

Svetlana: I just use Torn Lotus Defense against the wind until it can't bear to flay the skin from my bones.

Vance: And with this, I think we draw to a close

Vance: Thank you for wrecking a warstrider in a way I didn't realize was possible!

Icaria: The moral is that dragons are better than demons, but that the devil-walker is still the warstrider's most fearsome enemy.

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