In Which The Situation Calls For Somebody Different

Vance: So, to briefly recap the last session, since it was so long ago…

Vance: Y'all arrived at Tourmaline, a strip-mined crystalline island.

Vance: Thanks to Svetlana's bureaucratic meddling, Cynis Bokuro's currently under a Magistracy audit searching for any commercial ties to Thorns.

Vance: And then a group of native Tourmalinians, including a guy with a bladed arm made of crystal, caught one of the magistrates in an ambush.

Vance: After a sorcerously-assisted Q&A session with the one-armed (after Camena kicked his crystal arm into pieces) man that I never gave a proper name, you were told that you could prove your loyalty to the native resistance by meeting with a god named Mother Geode and performing a rite called the yaran ith, which is presumably how he got said crystal arm.

Vance: There's still one more of the rebels to question (the one who posed as a Haltan ambassador to lay the ambush), but at the end of the session, you were beckoned away by some of the satrap's guards.

Vance: Are there any questions my summary didn't answer?

Icaria: Is Iron Snow a Getimian?

Icaria: Also, how can I free Pim from his prison?

Icaria: Your summary was unclear.

Svetlana: I'm a little out of sync with Svetlana's mental state and current priority list because of time gap but I understand the situation.

Vance: Iron Snow is three dogs dressed up as a Sidereal.

Vance: Pim can be freed by pouring him into a cup, along with ginger ale, cucumber slices, and other vegetable drink accessories

Svetlana: Remind me where the logs are so I can reread the last bit?

Vance: I don't think the last session's in the logs.

Icaria: I have been dilatory.

Svetlana: Oh, it was unclear whether the satrap was actually physically on the island, and there was the possibility that we might know this either by the guy confirming it at the very end of the interrogation or having learned it while going to the prison or whatever.

Vance: Yeah, that's gonna get answered right when we pick up.

Vance: (He is.)

Svetlana: Interesting.

Svetlana: Probably he heard that Maksim was going to be visiting his humble isle and rushed to roll out the red carpet.

Vance: You are, as you were, in an Imperial guardhouse—one of many stationed on gem-rich Tourmaline. The detention cells are on the top level of the structure, with the lower armory and barracks levels actually descending into the fissures carved out of the island by some long-ago mining. Your interrogation of the one-armed disciple of Mother Geode, the man named Tam Rugh, is concluded when a pair of Cynis guards rap at the door.

Vance: (Has Svetlana kept her Magistrate identity low-key, or would they reasonably know her name?)

Svetlana: I'm pretty sure she was open with it.

Svetlana: I mean, even before getting there.

Icaria: There isn't much point being a secret fake magistrate.

Svetlana: So let's assume she definitely was.

Icaria: Unless you just like having six layers of disguises.

Icaria: Which many Nights do, I suppose.

Svetlana: Two layers of disguise is really fun and I think I've done that at one point although I'm not sure it's actually rules-legal.

Svetlana: So they would know Tepet Evdeniya.

Vance: "Greetings, Magistrate Evdeniya," says the taller of the two guards, a burly blonde-haired woman. "Satrap Bokuro has requested your presence, and that of his retinue, so that he might properly offer his condolences for this tragedy."

Svetlana: "Mm," Evdeniya says. She looks at the guard. "Does he need much time to get the ambush ready?"

Vance: The shorter guard, an underfed-looking slip of a boy too small for his breastplate, makes an indignant outcry, stopping only when his partner raises a hand. "Your wariness is understandable, Magistrate, but the Satrap is no enemy of yours. You will find him with Magistrate Yakult, the head of this investigation, and I am sure she will speak to his cooperation with her efforts."

Vance: "It's these island heretics," the younger soldier spits. "They're low-lives and cutthroats."

Svetlana: "That's unsettling," Evdeniya says. "I can't remember the last time an official didn't make at least one try at killing or at least entrapping me. I… I'll have to actually remember proper manners, then." She runs a hand through her hair and checks her garments. "Can someone make sure they stay alive and in reasonably good condition until I have a chance to speak to the other one? I suppose I'm presentable enough. Icaria?"

Svetlana: Evdeniya vaguely indicates the prisoners with her head when she says "they" to make sure Icaria doesn't think she means the two guards.

Icaria: Icaria, delegating further, says "Rubean?" and pulls her from behind a curtain.

Camena: "And Camena!"

Svetlana: Evdeniya wasn't actually asking Icaria to do it, just making sure he didn't think she was asking him to knock out the guards but keep them in good condition. Though having Rubean do it is fine.

Vance: "It's not like we're going to beat them while you're away," the younger, untactful guard says, but puts up little protest as a the flame duck takes up a watch. Both of them give a little "ooh" at being in the presence of a sorcerer.

Svetlana: "No accusations intended," Evdeniya says, mildly. "I just wanted to make sure that if there were any other interrogations scheduled they were not so intense as to interfere." She toddles along in what she hopes is the right direction.

Vance: "What my partner Den means is, these men hold answers that the Satrap, the Magistrates, and the Immaculates all need. We wouldn't let them come to harm before you finish questioning them," the taller guard fills in. "There is a guide waiting for you outside the guardhouse. He'll lead you to the Satrap's manse."

Svetlana: "Thank you kindly," Evdeniya says, taking a moment to peek curiously around the curtain at the stone wall behind it.

Vance: It's a wall, all right.

Icaria: Ho ho ho! Behold the terrifying power of my sorcery!

Svetlana: Evdeniya is as always impressed at her fellow Night's skills, particularly given that she is an Eclipse. Anyway, she is content to be escorted to meet the satrap, particularly if Camena actually did show up. If not she is inclined to call Maksim along the way and send him off again to let her cousin know where she'll be. Maksim cannot actually communicate this in any way but they're both clever.

Vance: Camena is, I believe, notionally present.

Vance: Possibly she's been looting artworks from the barracks?

Camena: I doubt the barracks have anything of merit.

Vance: Your guide is a young child—from the dark bronze hue of his skin, a native of Tourmaline, unlike the guards. He leads you along the carved-out pathways that criss-cross the island, all the while telling you his impressions of "Big Boku," various monsters reputed to stalk the night, and good luck charms for mining.

Camena: "I once thought about digging up jewels," Camena says, "but that talent was never mine."

Svetlana: "Ugh," Evdeniya says.

Vance: Tourmaline is roughly egg-shaped, cracked by centuries of mining, lying on its side in the sea. The Satrap's manse is at the apex of the rising curve: a resplendent ziggurat, each layer hewn from a different type of gemstone—carnelian, amethyst, agate, and so on. "Big Boku lives in the fancy rainbow house," your guide says. He holds out an expectant hand.

Svetlana: "Though, in fairness, the Magistracy entirely depends on copper miners for its staff."

  • Camena sees what you did there.

Camena: "I should think its staff might be easier from lumber."

Icaria: I suspect Icaria is a ludicrously generous tipper.

Icaria: Partly out of personality, and partly poor math skills

Svetlana: Evdeniya is willing to pay the guide, having won at least one coin in the earlier betting on ship, but it sounds like Icaria gets there first.

Camena: Wait, am I supposed to be doing my sugar mama schtick?

Vance: The child gapes at the sheer amount of money Icaria has given him, and runs off, just in case it was a mistake.

Camena: "Man. I hope that kid buys a boat with that."

Vance: The jeweled steps leading up to the manse are manned by a pair of guards every five levels, but they beckon you inwards.

Svetlana: Evdeniya proceeds.

Camena: "I've learned the hard way not to trust a man who lives in a house hewn of gemstones. So… just stay on your feet. Or on your back, in your case, Icaria. Could be fun!"

Svetlana: "At least we can probably trust him not to throw glass."

Icaria: "Because… he can't throw glass at me from behind?"

Svetlana: "Yes," Evdeniya agrees.

Camena: "Poor boy."

Vance: The stained-glass doors of the manse are pulled open by a team of slaves clad in the Cynis mon, revealing an elegant atrium. Pillars of red gemstone stand out against the milky, opal-white of the walls, while sapphire fountains trace out elegant geometric forms with the spray of water that comes from them and the jewel-toned light that refracts through it. Two figures stand waiting for you. The first can only be the Satrap himself, clad as he is in Cynis finery—a willowy, white-haired Dynast with a strange pair of lenses on his face. Beside him is a woman wearing a Magistrate's uniform, with a crimson tassel denoting her superiority to Tepet Evdeniya's station. A throng of attendant servants and bodyguards clusters around them, but disperses to let you through.

Vance: "Well met, Magistrate Evdeniya," Bokuro says warmly. "And the rest of you, whose names I cannot wait to learn. I regret only that is the loss of one of your colleagues that brings you here. I have been discussing the tragedy with Magistrate Yakult—we hear you were the sole eyewitnesses to the assassination of Sloth Plum?"

Camena: Camena looks around with the rapacious hunger of a starving woman offered a seat at an emperor's banquet. She doesn't know how to steal a manse, but she's open to suggestions.

Svetlana: Were we the only ones? I thought it was an inhabited part of the island.

Vance: (You weren't literally the only ones, but you were the only people of importance.)

Vance: (He's not gonna invite a fishmonger in.)

Svetlana: (What about Sloth Plum's coterie/guards? Anyone?)

Svetlana: (Sorry for delay.)

Vance: (I don't think she had guards with her.)

Svetlana: Evdeniya inclines her head slightly to Cynis Bokuro and slightly more deeply to the woman. "The only witnesses of substance, most likely, unless one of Sloth Plum's retinue was nearby and unable to join us."

Vance: "Then I hope you can dispel the conflicting accounts we have heard of her death. Please, tell us what you saw, and what you learned from your interrogation of the assailants."

Vance: "Though of course, it would be inhospitable not to offer you food and drink first." At a hand signal from the Satrap, servants bring large silken cushions for you to recline on, and plates laden with fruits and wine.

Vance: (Nothing smells poisoned.)

Camena: Not being one to abstain, Camena takes a share that she measures as being about 20% more than might be polite.

Vance: By Cynis standards, that's a remarkable display of self-restraint.

Icaria: Hm, I do like food.

Svetlana: "As you wish," Evdeniya agrees. She seats herself, and sets a plate beside her. "When I arrived, the Magistrate had stopped an apparent Haltan delegation whose diplomatic gifts for you contained contraband. Upon light interrogation, he started stalling for time. I thought there would be a few minutes to verify that he was stalling, confirm that Sloth Plum shared my opinion on the matter, and relocate to another place; instead, unfortunately, it was about twenty seconds before the attack. The attackers were concealed by what I take to be a spirit blessing, but may have been magic. At a certain range it became possible to detect them despite it: they were a number of otherwise unimpressive assassins and one Tam Rugh, who went from javelin range to beheading Sloth Plum with a crystalline arm in the time it took to utter about two words. Fortunately that put him in arm's reach of my associate Camena, who resolved the matter before he took my head in turn."

Svetlana: Evdeniya doesn't say "leg's reach" because that sounds wrong.

Vance: "First, let me commend all of you—Magistrate Evdeniya, for your pursuit of truth even in the face of death, and Camena, for bringing a dangerous cultist to heel. Your deeds credit your House. And your account confirms what rumors we have heard," he says, exchanging a look with Magistrate Yakult. "The assailants, I believe, belong to a heretical cult that worships Tourmaline's indigenous gods with bizarre ritual self-mutilation. Clearly, my past crackdowns on their number were far too merciful—and that mercy has left an honorable magistrate dead. How can I apologize?"

Vance: "I will of course bring down the full force of my legionnaires, and let the Immaculates deal with their treacherous gods—but this is, I believe, a matter for the Magistracy. Yakult, I believe you should take the lead in pursuing those responsible. My forces are at your service."

Camena: "If I may ask—has there been any motion taken against this god, the one who has armed these insurgents?"

Svetlana: Svetlana takes a moment to evaluate the apparent relationship between Bokuro and Yakult, scanning for any Intimacies he might have involving her by practice, memory, and scent.

Vance: Yakult plucks up a crystal flute of wine. "Your sympathies are well taken, Satrap, but there is still the audit of the port to be performed. Magistrate Evdeniya—I don't recall you accompanying me here from the Blessed Isle, though of course, your assistance is welcome. As you've already begun interrogating the culprits, I believe this might be best delegated to you, in cooperation with the Satrap and the local abbot."

Vance: (Jenna, roll Perception + Socialize.)

Svetlana: 6 successes, 4m.

Vance: "We have punished her disciples, but unruly gods fall under the purview of the Immaculates. Until now, we had thought their heresy well-suppressed, requiring no action against their spirit patron. I believe this has finally changed."

Svetlana: "Your recollection would be accurate, Magistrate Yakult," Evdeniya agrees. "I came on other business, and only became involved because in the short time I knew her I rather liked Sloth Plum."

Vance: (There aren't any Intimacies in play, but their relationship is more familiar than you would expect between a satrap and the magistrate investigating him. If either has bad feelings towards the other, they're hiding it remarkably well from both you and each other.)

Camena: "I should very much like to contribute my humble skills to such an endeavor," Camena says. Well, she says "humble," but it sounds like there should be scare quotes around it. Subtle ones, maybe 8-point font italics.

Vance: "In that case," Bokuro says, a pleasant smile on his face, "I will see that Magistrate Evdeniya is given our survey charts of the island—the cultists move their meetings among the abandoned tunnels in the island deep, but mere rats cannot hope to escape a pouncing cat. Take as many of my legionnaires as you need."

Svetlana: "That's kind of you," Evdeniya says. "—ah, if you wished to apologize to the Magistracy in a way beyond helping right this injustice, then I might note that not every Magistrate has a Camena ready to descend from the sky to eliminate all wrongdoers in a moment. If your House has talent that could, perhaps, be put to use to preventing one of my sisters or brothers from dying in such a quick fashion, the scales might wind up balancing quite swiftly."

Camena: "I wouldn't say all wrongdoers. A sizable number, maybe."

Vance: "An excellent suggestion—though I suspect the heretics will not be so bold, having seen one of their freakish champions brought down by your lawful might. Magistrate Yakult, let us discuss plans for security further, once this meeting is done."

Svetlana: "Is the Mother Geode that the heretics speak of a location spirit or something more abstract?" Evdeniya wonders, nibbling on a fruit.

Vance: "I must confess to ignorance of the cult's theology. I gather that she is some old spirit of this island, but it would be Abbot Ija who would know the nature of their gods."

Svetlana: "Fair enough," Evdeniya agrees.

Svetlana: "If I might ask," Evdeniya asides, "which of your enemies is it that spreads such terrible rumors about you?"

Vance: "Hardly terrible rumors," Bokuro laughs. "When accusations are leveled against those of my House, they tend to be fair more outrageous than importing contraband. Tourmaline is a lucrative satrapy, and I am sure there are many who would leap at the opportunity to wrest it from me. But, as the poets say, the razor of truth cuts not the innocent man."

  • Icaria tries to remember this one.
  • Icaria wonders, while he's at it, how much he actually wants to hunt heretics, and how much he'd rather secretly aid them.
  • Camena wonders where the Satrap keeps his art.

Vance: You could ask!

  • Camena also avails herself of the opportunity to examine the appearance and mannerisms of everyone involved.

Svetlana: "Mm," Evdeniya says. She murmurs, "the razor of truth cuts not the innocent man; As if striking a shield, it slips in the hand / Of the wrongdoer; falls free. The cannon of truth / Explodes, when thus aimed. The bloody and ruth- / less sword cracks on their skin. / There is nothing more frustating, one admits with a sigh, / Gainst an innocent foe one is oft forced to lie."

Svetlana: "Truly it resounds through the ages," she agrees.

Vance: What's Camena looking for in particular in appearances and mannerisms? Just enough to pull off a good disguise?

Camena: Yeah.

Camena: She's just making some mental notes.

Vance: Mentally noted.

Camena: Doesn't want to get caught off guard like last time.

Vance: "My, Magistrate Evdeniya, have I found myself in the company of a fellow poet? You continue to impress," Bokuro says. "I fear that my own work is… a little embarrassing, but perhaps I could share it once this catastrophe has been brought to a close."

Svetlana: "Mere doggerel," Evdeniya disagrees. "I merely found the imagery of such weapons comically failing in sequence momentarily amusing; my apologies." She rises and nods to both of them, then offers Cynis Bokuro a gentle smile. "I appreciate your kindness, and look forward to ripping the rotten, corrupted hearts out of the heretics undermining this satrapy with you."

Camena: "She means that she expects me to do the ripping for her."

Icaria: "There could also be slicing."

Camena: "Immolating?"

Vance: "I believe you will find the most satisfying form of violence against these cultists is shattering."

Icaria: "Hm, promising."

Vance: "And now, I believe there is further auditing that I must be subjected to. Farewell, and may Mela smile down upon you."

Svetlana: "And may Pasiap bless your works," Evdeniya agrees.

Vance: Where to now?

Camena: Camena suspects it's to infiltrate the Mother Geode without getting all crystal-army.

Icaria: I'm going to do geomantic analysis.

Icaria: I want to find the location of nearby manses and judge their suitability for our original purpose.

Vance: Well, Bokuro definitely lives in an Earth manse.

Icaria: Any good?

Vance: And Earth is the element best suited to stabilizing the unnatural.

Svetlana: That is probably the next interesting scene. I am kind of interested in picking up the survey plans and would probably logically do interrogation two first, but, yeah, tracking down the Mother Geode is probably the next worthwhile step, so maybe I'll ignore logic.

Icaria: This baby isn't going to be Earth Aspect, though. I'd have to consider.

Camena: If we've got time enough, Camena might start spreading rumors that she's smuggled in something attractive to local gods, like a handful of bottles of Celestial Wine.

Vance: You can't know what aspect the baby would be

Icaria: I guess , but assuming that it would match one of the parents, if at all, is as likely as a good guess gets.

Icaria: Although I guess I still don't really care.

Vance: Okay, so let's assume you've gotten the map of the mine tunnels before leaving Bokuro, and that you were collectively able to get useful answers out of the false ambassador, Lyg.

Vance: What questions would you have asked him?

Vance: Icaria, you can roll Intelligence + Occult to conduct a more thorough geomantic survey.

Vance: …and Camena, roll… Manipulation + Socialize, I think, to rumormonger

Icaria: Fourteen successes.

Vance: Well, shi-t.

Icaria: I'm really quite good at geomancy!

Svetlana: I'd be most interested in locating Mother Geode, in what Bokuro's done that they hate, and why they'd go after Magistrates investigating him.

Svetlana: Oh, and to verify that their stealth tech is a spirit blessing.

Camena: She's doing it under a couple of disguises, and rolls an 8

Vance: So, you can tell that Bokuro's manse is inefficiently built—the demesne formed by the movement of Earth Essence through the crystalline structure of the island is a major one, but his manse is only minor, leaving lots of excess geomantic energy to be shunted off to no productive use.

Vance: It's also not the only demesne on Tourmaline—you think there is one underground, as well as one that appears to be beneath the sea.

Svetlana: And what the point of the fake contraband was when they were planning to kill investigators who found it and the person who received it.

Icaria: I forget, how many manses were officially registered as existing?

Vance: I think it was only the one manse.

Svetlana: That's all I really need. I'd like to know passwords etc. on how to get to Mother Geode without being attacked but I'm not willing to torture him for them so I probably can't, while the others I think I can with aggressive interrogation and the spell.

Vance: Camena spreads rumors productively, and in a way that isn't going to get her ship ambushed by greedy thieves. It's not entirely clear whether this will get to the heretic cult's gods, but there's definitely at least a few spirits that are in line with Immaculate orthodoxy who've heard about this shipment of rad stuff

Vance: Lyg tells Camena that Mother Geode is at "the heart of the island," a statement he appears to mean literally. When shown the map, he scoffs a little, suggesting that the god is not limited to the crude tunnels carved out by mortal hands.

Icaria: Interesting.

Icaria: Well, if I were a god of mother crystal, I'd live in an underground demesne.

Icaria: "Camena, could you please find the secret underground place of power for me?"

Vance: Their enmity towards Bokuro is predicated on the Realm forcing Tourmaline's native population into laboring in the crystal mines, as well as suppressing their native religion. He doesn't seem to distinguish between the Satrap and the Magistrates, viewing them as just another tentacle of the Realm, and doesn't really understand the audit situation

Icaria: "It's over there somewhere."

  • Icaria helpfully points in the correct, down-ish direction.

Svetlana: Hm.

Vance: The fake contraband was primarily bait for a magistrate—the Haltan ambassador cover was deliberately shitty, with the goal of catching the magistrate's attention so the assassins could move in

Vance: Their stealth, however, is purely mundane—Mother Geode's blessings all take the form of the yaran ith, which you take to mean, freaky crystal body parts.

Camena: "Oh, sure. I sometimes forget how I can swim through solid rock and stone."

Camena: "As opposed to literally any earth elemental you could conjure."

Icaria: "I was assuming there would be a door somewhere, and hidden passages guarded by a heretical conspiracy."

Camena: "Oh," she says, suddenly sincere. "You meant find it like in a totally normal but somewhat guilesome way."

Vance: When Icaria compares the mine map with his geomantic survey, it looks like the underground demense is waaay below the deepest that any of these tunnels reach. So, if Mother Geode does live there, her cultists are coming down through the tunnels.

Icaria: "Yeah, you know; set a thief to catch an earth elemental."

Icaria: It's worth investigating! If it's not a secret manse or a god's home, I still want to know about it.

Vance: Oh, you can tell that both it and the one underwater are uncapped demesnes.

Icaria: That's still fine for my purposes.

Vance: The Essence patterns are quite different.

Icaria: I don't really have the training to cap a manse, I think, but I can use that power for, you know, stuff.

Svetlana: "One last question," Evdeniya realizes, as she thinks about Lyg's comments. "Has your operation ever used any supplies originally intended for the government of Tourmaline?"

Vance: After a spiel about how none of the resources belong to the Realm, Lyg admits to occasional but generally infrequent raids on Realm supplies—just a little, here and there, not enough to draw notice.

Vance: Tunnel-wise, since I'm not going to draw out an entire 3D map, it's probably fair to assume that one of the ones on the map seems a more likely lead than the others: between the location the assailants came from, what you learned in the interrogations, Icaria's geomantic survey, and Bokuro's information, there's one likely candidate.

Svetlana: "How terrible," Evdeniya sighs. "It seems that following up on this interrogation, as Yakult suggested, will require going over the books for the satrapy to assess the resources available to the rebels."

Icaria: I could definitely call an earth elemental as a scout or assistant, although I don't know that sending it off on its own would be effective.

Svetlana: Evdeniya knows that this will not convince Yakult or Bokuro, but she believes it will convince Bureau-Rectifying Method. Later. When she has Essence for it.

Vance: Getting into that tunnel, though, may be a little tricky—that vein's long since been mined out, and new construction built over it. You can still access it through a junction with a horizontal tunnel that runs just below the earth, which the map labels as a slum populated by slave-miners, with a reputation for high criminal activity.

Icaria: Yeah, I got this.

Icaria: Come forth, Padparadscha!

Vance: Padparadscha! Presumably, they have some kind of burrowing power?

Icaria: Yeah, they're probably the same sort of fellow as the son who's remodeling my house back on Gloam.

Vance: Roll to bind.

Icaria: Eleven.

Vance: …bound.

Svetlana: Hm, how long has it been since the fight?

Vance: It was relatively early morning when the fight broke out; now it's around sunset.

Vance: Call it eight hours.

  • Svetlana refills her Essence pool.

Svetlana: "Do you want to head down and check the place out, then?" Svetlana asks Icaria and Camena.

Icaria: Anyway, I'm going to work with Padparadscha and see how convenient an entrance I can have made for us.

Icaria: Bypassing as much of the ordinary path as possible may get us past some guards.

Vance: You can burrow down into the residential tunnel as close as possible to its juncture with the vertical tunnel, although it'd be a bit of a blind landing.

Vance: I don't think an earth elemental is going to be able to distinguish between "secret cult guards" and "folk living underground."

Icaria: I'm not sure that I could, either.

Svetlana: In theory I can listen through a solid wall before we go in, though it's pricy.

Svetlana: Well, hm, no, officially, it's a thick door.

Vance: Yeah, the layer of earth above the tunnel is very thick.

Vance: Enough to support buildings and the like.

Svetlana: Enh, what's the worst that can happen?

Camena: Errything.

Vance: The island was actually the Kukla's open mouth the whole time.

Icaria: I could have my earth son dig some silver wires through the stone.

Vance: Viable!

Icaria: I'll do that, then.

Svetlana: Svetlana winds a wire around her finger and listens thoughtfully to the vibrations in the world, spending 5m.

Vance: And it doesn't look like it takes a roll.

Svetlana: Well, presumably as much of a roll as if my ear were where the wires came out.

Svetlana: If that's near enough that no roll is needed, then yeah.

Vance: Most of what Svetlana hears is the sound of people going about their everyday lives amidst miserable conditions. Elderly men and women reminisce; babies and injured slaves cry out. You'll certainly be noticed if you descend here—barring absurd stealth rolls—but you don't pick up on anything suggesting that this is a Geode-cult stronghold.

Camena: Did someone say absurd Stealth rolls?

Camena: Joking.

Svetlana: ("So what we do is, we treat Icaria as 'loot.'")

Svetlana: "I don't think they're any threat," Svetlana says.

Svetlana: "Where is the Manse from here, again?"

Svetlana: "Er, Demesne?"

Vance: Way down.

  • Icaria helpfully pencils it on the map, with an arrow pointing down.

Vance: More down than the tunnel could get you.

Icaria: I better bring my skiff.

Icaria: I see a deep hole in my future.

Svetlana: Svetlana scrubs off the disguise, just in case she still had it on. She shakes out her duller, straighter hair.

Svetlana: "I don't feel the desperate need to avoid attracting attention," Svetlana says.

Camena: "Finally," Camena says. "I have met a problem I can neither kick nor burn."

Vance: So, Padparadscha can just open up a hole for you to jump through, which would take some Athletics rolls.

Icaria: I'll happily leave the infiltration in Camena's leadership.

Icaria: Fortunately, I am good at Athletics rolls!

Icaria: But I also have a flying cloud.

Vance: Alternatively he could come along with you and trail some kind of earthen path for you to descend on.

Vance: But the structure would be super noticeable, and Padparadscha has shitty stealth pools, so that sort of rules out a covert approach.

Camena: I mean… I know we don't really care about these folks, but we're gonna make a ruckus any way we enter. Do we have an actual goal?

Icaria: I just wanna know what's in that demesne.

Icaria: Let's just wander in politely and see what we can see.

Camena: Wait, are we sure this tunnel gets us there?

Vance: The tunnel that the residential one leads into is the most likely center of cult operations.

Vance: There aren't any that go down into the demense, but if you want to start digging, it's as good a place to start as any.

Camena: Well, I mean, if we go in then the cult's going to know we're coming. Do we just want to play that straight?

Icaria: Up to you, as attache of subtlety.

Camena: Camena has Wood Dragon Claws now, Vance.

Camena: When did that happen?

Camena: And I don't mean the spell.

Camena: I mean her appendages.

Camena: That was a really quick spell she cast!

Camena: As we crack open the tunnel, she's going to use the vine-arms like a grappling hook and lower down her friends.

Camena: It's about impressions, see.

Camena: And these folk seem to like big bad elemental extremities.

Vance: Any attempt at a stealthy descent?

Camena: Nope.

Vance: Well, by the time you touch the ground, a considerable crowd has gathered, gawping at the sorcerous spectacle.

Camena: "Thank you! Thank you! I'm here all night! Except not at all, because I'm just passing through," she says as she glad-hands the crowd, giving them winks and rakish smiles and also a rucksack full of bread secreted away somewhere (troubling) on her person.

Vance: The enslaved miners are a malnourished, sickly populace—even those in their youthful prime are marked by disease and the scars of the lash. They live in rudimentary houses constructed between the wooden braces that hold up the tunnel, squalid huts built from scrap wood that festers with at least a decade's worth of mold. It is, however, substantially better lit than you would have imagined—cracks and faults in the tunnel let in the glow cast by the luminous crystal elsewhere beneath the island, a dim radiance that's just barely enough to read by.

Icaria: What a mess. I should bind some cleaning spirits.

Vance: Some of them flee from you in fear, while others clamor around you, asking for blessings—"feed my daughter," "heal my father's lungs," "free us from this place."

Camena: "Oh," Camena says, taking an interlude from her showmanship to survey the surroundings in earnest.

Camena: "Oh."

Icaria: "I… I should probably learn medicine."

Icaria: "I think I was a doctor once?"

Vance: Svetlana is able to pick up a scent that is, by now, all too familiar—shadowland poppies. It's faint, but coming from all around, suggesting that many of the residents of this tunnel smoke it.

Camena: She seems unsuited to the task that these people present—not the things they beg of her, but what they deserve—what she could give them. What she has the power to do, and how much she could be if she had been less selfish in her gifts.

Camena: "Blessings upon you all, from—"

Camena: She stumbles for a moment in her speaking, arms raised, but then there's a flicker of fire across her fact.

Camena: "Blessings upon you all from Zanara, the Lady of Many Mercies, goddess of respite, who smiles on the small, the sick, and the enchained."

Vance: One of them, an elderly woman bent-backed from years of labor, hacks up an soot-black wad of phlegm at Camena's feet. "We don't need your gods!" she says, with an iron resolve, even in the face of a sorcerer.

Camena: "A god is not a god."

Vance: "We need food, and water, and medicine, and fresh air and the light of the sun."

  • Camena hates herself a little for affecting the riddles of a priestess.

Vance: An air of perplexment comes over the crowd with Camena's words, but the grandmother isn't having any of it.

Camena: "And so you do. And all this SHALL be yours. When we return tonight, it will be with water. Tomorrow—with food. And then with fresh air, brought down into these caves. I will bring you what medicine I can in her name… and she will bring you the light of the sun. I do not mean a one of these things as metaphor," she says, modulating her performance, all flair abandonned to paint her face with honest pain. "I mean real water. Real food. Real air."

Vance: Roll Charisma + Presence/Performance, with a one-point stunt

Camena: 11.

Icaria: I have no words for this.

Icaria: I'm just sick.

Vance: "Son of a bitch, you're telling the truth," the old woman says. "I'm Grandmother Feng. I take care of people around here." The crowd nods a general assent, almost visibly falling in line behind Feng.

Vance: "What kind of people are you, coming down through solid earth with those big, ugly wooden arms? Sorcerer? I've never met a sorcerer who gave a shit about my family."

Camena: "Call me Seven Devils Clever ," Camena says with a small flourish, her dragon-arms disappearing suddenly. "And I am no mere sorcerer. I'm just an envoy, like I said. Here to bring hope."

Camena: Her look, which Icaria and Svetlana might recognize as having an undercurrent of terror-fear, also says: "And I just promised way more than I know how to deliver and FUCK MY CLEVER MOUTH WHY DID I SAY ANYTHING AT ALL."

Svetlana: Svetlana asides to Camena in a murmur, "If your steward can help with the purchases, I have some familiarity with the medicines they'd need."

Camena: Camena emotes weeping gratitude.

Camena: "But first, I fear we have business with the Mother Geode."

Vance: "It's good that you're paying her your respects," Feng sniffs approvingly. "But you can't just find her. Mother Geode comes to those she deems worthy."

Vance: Camena, Feng's reading your intentions to try and figure out what you want with Mother Geode

Camena: Guile 6.

Vance: She fails.

Svetlana: Svetlana's expression is conflicted.

Camena: I am not 100% sure how this all happened.

Svetlana: Finally, Svetlana's expression firms. "That's not for her to deem," she says. "But that's beside the point."

Camena: "My loyal secretary speaks the truth."

Svetlana: Svetlana steps back to stand half a step behind Camena and to the left.

Vance: "Well, whether it's right or not, Mother Geode isn't someone you can find. She finds you."

Icaria: "We'll just have to do good deeds until we get worthy, then."

Svetlana: "I can think of several indisputable ways to attract her attention, milady," Svetlana says. "But they may not be appropriate for company."

  • Icaria is thinking about some long-term projects.

Icaria: Ways to conjure springs, and so forth.

Vance: "I'm just a grandmother, not a shaman," Feng says, in a way that indicates she is absolutely not just a grandmother. "If you want to try to get her attention, fine. If it doesn't work, bad luck."

Icaria: "That's how plans are," agrees Icaria. He seems… oddly cheerful all of a sudden?

Svetlana: "Indeed!" Svetlana beams.

Icaria: I'm heading back to the satrap's and looking for a library.

Vance: Oh, boy.

Vance: If Camena and Svetlana want to do more exploration here I might do that first, but he's got a unique library.

Svetlana: "…milady, we lost the Exigent, again."

Svetlana: Svetlana looks in Icaria's direction, then at Feng, then shrugs. "If she is going to take notice, is she likely to do so just about anywhere?"

Vance: "You'd be better asking someone who's spoken with her. All I know are the stories, fairytales—Yisan who went down the well, the eighteen-less-one miners, how she stopped the anemone devils. The fairytales say she sees everything, but I don't know about that."

Svetlana: "Thank you," Svetlana says. She nods. She closes her eyes. Then she opens them again. "Ah, this one has some small medical skill. This one will be assisting in the collection of appropriate medicines, of course, but if there is anyone in more dire need before we move onwards?"

Vance: "There's barely a man or woman more than thirteen whose lungs aren't full of dust and shards of crystal. There are children whose gums bleed and teeth fall out, or whose joints have swollen up till they can't move. All I can do for them is make sure they have the poppies. They're all in dire need."

  • Camena takes Icaria aside before he leaves.

Camena: "I think… I think I thought that I was you. That I could do what you do, summoning elementals… is there a water spirit who might make water? Or can your earth elemental burrow down? There's water in the earth sometimes. Could it dig them a spring? I've made an enormous mistake, Icaria. I've made an enormous mistake."

Icaria: "No, I made the mistake."

Icaria: "I made the mistake of being the person I wanted to be instead of the person the world needed."

Icaria: "But I'm going to become that second person. And I'll make you one, too."

Icaria: "It just takes a little… book learning."

Camena: "And perhaps a little savvy?"

Icaria: "Savvy's on you, but yes."

Icaria: "Fortunately, as a librarian, I'm a capable teacher."

Icaria: Anyway, Icaria is going to find some books and start power-studying medicine.

Vance: Well…

Vance: So…

Svetlana: Svetlana considers this for a while. "All right," she says. "I'll go get what I need."

Vance: Bokuro is… happy, although a little anxious to let you into his library.

Vance: But it's not got very much on medicine.

Icaria: I wouldn't hurt a book!

Icaria: Surely there's a basic medical treatise somewhere.)

Vance: There are many old volumes of poetry, and a few of the classic Cynis texts, which are really far less pornographic than they're reputed to be.

Vance: The vast majority, however, is made up of his own handwritten poetry.

Vance: He hangs in the threshold like a haunting specter, waiting to see what you open.

Svetlana: Svetlana heads to somewhere she can commandeer herbs and antivenin in bulk.

Icaria: I use my immense erudition to find good things to say about his poetry.

Icaria: I flatter as shamelessly as scholarly dignity allows.

Vance:

The serpent that swallows itself has seen the face of Heaven
and from its fangs flow sweet milky ambrosia

Camena: Ewwww.

Camena: Doubling adjectives on that last line.

Camena: Tacky.

Vance:

Late is the lover who comes by the second way,
but great is the reward of that secret embrace

Vance: It… goes on like that. For several volumes.

Icaria: Wait, haven't I heard that before somewhere?

Svetlana: Clearly it's a metaphor for stable governance.

Icaria: That was in the tomb or something.

Icaria: Incredibly significant! Or shameless copying from some source I'm not familiar with.

Vance: (That is probably me pulling from the same source twice, rather than a thing with in-game significance.)

Icaria: Anyway, I flatter shamelessly and interlace it with questions about medical books and their availability.

Vance: However, to a savant of the occult like Icaria, Bokuro's erotic verse is a clear allegory for the mystical and esoteric world, and the paths which they may walk.

  • Camena rushes about, instructing her men to take a good deal of her current liquid assets to begin provisioning. Not enough to ruin her, of course! But enough that it hurts quite a bit. Meanwhile, she's frantically assembling a new getup with the help of Yellow Tam, the ship's nimble-fingered tailor.

Icaria: That's really interesting but I need information about influenza.

Camena: Do we have any idea about other houses that might not like Sesus, either here specifically or in general?

Icaria: Meanwhile, I'm going to train Camena in Medicine as well.

Vance: The closest thing to a medical text is the Garden of Twining Trees, a text on eroticism that focuses on the aspects of human anatomy brought into play. It even discusses the treatment of disease, albeit with a focus on the venereal.

Vance: Svetlana knows that House Tepet absolutely hates the everloving shit out of House Sesus.

Icaria: For once I'm actually not interested in carnal knowledge, but it'll do.

Icaria: Time to use my long-foreshadowed Power Of Learning Things Out Of Books.

Svetlana: (For clarity, Svetlana has Medicine and Medicine Excellency.)

Camena: (Any others that wouldn't implicate Svetlana's cover?)

Svetlana: (I'm only noting this in case Rand is about to spend XP on the belief that our party lacks all access. If he's doing something cool with sorcery, no clarity needed.)

Icaria: Yeah, that's why I'm not teaching you. Hey, you can teach me a bit! Although really, learning from not books?

Vance: Svetlana is able to find a cache of medical supplies in various guardhouses, and is able to requisition them without even needing to steal them. It's still a comparatively small amount for the maladies you suspect pervade the entire enslaved populace of Tourmaline, but it's a start.

Icaria: Yeah, I could train Camena in some other practical thing if she has an idea.

Icaria: Architecture, or something.

Camena: Hmmm.

Icaria: It doesn't have to be something Icaria actually knows.

Icaria: I'm a theorist!

Camena: I'm not sure!

Camena: Let me mull.

Icaria: Medicine has story-level appropriateness but since Icaria's doing it and Svetlana already has it it's not necessarily a great min-max expenditure.

Camena: Right.

Camena: I could always annoy Vance by creating a second Solar Circle Chef.

Vance: As if the series of divine culinary showdowns was not one of my favorite parts of that game.

Icaria: If not Medicine, probably Craft (Architecture) or Craft (Carpentry) or Craft (Waterworks).

Camena: Architecture seems the most broadly useful.

Svetlana: Svetlana sends a note to the ship's quartermaster asking him to purchase more and heads down to start… making a poison treatment roll an hour, probably? She'd like to come up with some amazing, brilliant treatment but Creation's medicine isn't like that. Though the idea of a breathing mask is very slowly percolating.

Vance: Carpentry could be used for many architectural applications, as long as they're made of wood.

Icaria: Or (woodworking), which the book suggests.

Camena: Carpentry makes sense. Or Woodworking. Because also boats.

Svetlana: Craft (Waterworks) ;_;

Vance: Let's call this an extended *Intelligence + Medicine) roll.

Icaria: That, and a lot of Solar XP.

Camena: Also, just a note, but I am starting to fade. It's almost tomorrow here.

Vance: We do seem to be winding down.

Vance: Let's call it a base difficulty 3, since having bad stuff in your lungs is hard to treat, and say that a total of 30 successes will be enough to significantly improve the overall quality of life for people in the underground community to a reasonable degree

Icaria: So basically, Icaria is seized by a sudden manic energy, and spends a sleepness night conjuring water elementals, studying medicine out of the little book of poetry, and haranguing Camena about the theory of wood.

Vance: Svetlana's preparations probably count for a one-point stunt.

Camena: I'm sure Icaria knows all about the Theory of Wood

Icaria: Only in theory.

  • Camena now wants a custom Dragon Claw Evocation for woodworking.

Vance: That can be arranged.

Svetlana: Svetlana mostly carefully stimulates the lung acupoints to help maintain and later improve the tissue health before helping the sick inhale steam from the appropriate herbs, which slowly breaks down the ingested crystal. This isn't actually very good for the lungs itself, but once the dust problem reduces ordinary treatments become more useful.

Camena: Camena's going to establish a new cover as a rogue thief with vague hints of being from a competing House.

Camena: So she can fund her TERRIBLE REGIME OF INCREMENTAL LIFE IMPROVEMENT.

Icaria: So, I'm spending 3 Solar XP on myself and 3 on Camena.

Svetlana: And, I guess, if I do a full excellency an hour, I have 11 hours before I have to start strategizing on that, so that's what I'll do.

Vance: Let's say the interval's a day.

Vance: This isn't really disease/poison as the system models it.

Vance: Just being in really shitty health.

Svetlana: OK!

Svetlana: So 5 successes the first day, then. This will be a while.

Icaria: Once I free up a little time I can probably do some kind of windy thing to get fresh air going.

Icaria: Oh, hey, my training time is just a day.

Vance: Svetlana does noticeably help some folks.

Vance: But there's still so many more.

Camena: If only sorcerous workings weren't so slow!

Vance: And on that depressing note, are we okay calling it?

Svetlana: Svetlana considers this. She closes her eyes. She considers time management.

Svetlana: Sure.

Camena: Indeed.

  • Vance puts away his half-man, half-crystal antagonists.

Svetlana: If that's a whole day's work, this is going to take a month, because Svetlana's probably going to need to spend every other day as a Magistrate.

Icaria: In theory I have enough XP banked to make myself into a master physician through pure all-nighter power.

Camena: We require force multipliers.

Vance: It's "a day" in the way that training times are a "a day."

Vance: You still have time to do other things, it's just assumed your offscreen downtime is spent doing it.

Svetlana: Fair enough.

Camena: Thanks for running, Vance, Lord of Folks Faffing About!

Icaria: Okay, so I'll put down Medicine 1 and Camena can put down Craft (Woodworking) 1.

Svetlana: Yeah! Thanks for running!

Icaria: Once again, we wound up doing a completely different thing than we thought. ^_^

Vance: The faffing about is world-building!

Camena: I was very surprised when Camena did the thing.

Camena: It was fun to be surprised by her.

Camena: In a vaguely MPD sort of way.

Icaria: Oh, and I guess I can go ahead and roll to recover my banked XP.

Vance: Rowlet.

Icaria: One.

Vance: Ah, ah, ah.

Camena: I require MOAR SUMMONING.

Icaria: I mentioned calling you a spring spirit!

Icaria: Make up the deets yourself.

Icaria: Meanwhile, for next week I'll get started on Medicine 2.

Icaria: Oh, wait, I can use my non-Solar XP to start buying Medicine Charms if I meet the pre-reqs.

Icaria: Which… I do! The starting ones are quite reasonable.

Svetlana: I feel pressure to raise my Medicine now.

Icaria: If everybody else is you don't really have to.

Icaria: The thing about Medicine is that logically Icaria should have more of it than he does, he (and I) just didn't bother because it wasn't very sexy.

Svetlana: Yeah, but it's part of Svetlana's concept.

Icaria: What do you have in it now?

Svetlana: 2, but favored, because I wanted her to be Solar-talented in it, but couldn't justify her having any training.

Icaria: Okay, I can train you a bit next.

Icaria: Getting you to 3 is only 4 XP if it's favored.

Svetlana: I'm not bugged by others being good at it or better at it, I just feel the baseline for "Solar-talented in it" is rising suddenly.

Svetlana: Oh!

Svetlana: I'd… had that wrong, I thought it was 5.

Svetlana: It is in fact only 3 XP.

Icaria: Isn't it (current x 2)?

Svetlana: That's for non-favored.

Vance: I think favored/caste is [(current x 2) - 1].

Svetlana: I can pump it to 4, then, if you won't in turn feel weird about that.

Icaria: Sure, why not?

Icaria: If Camena's going to learn woodworking having two doctors feels less redundant.

Svetlana: Two doctors is almost certainly a good idea, TBH.

Svetlana: Because Creation's medicine is what it is.

Svetlana: I mean, you could probably be making rolls on this extended roll thing.

Icaria: Plus there's enough Charms to specialize anyway.

Svetlana: I'm fine now, anyway.

Svetlana: Having bought it to 4, I now only feel guilty about having a 4 without adequate backstory, there is no longer any amount of Medicine you can pick up at any speed that can make Svetlana feel untalented at it to me.

Icaria: When in doubt, past lives!

Svetlana: That makes sense, actually.

Svetlana: Thank you!

Icaria: I, the master of excuses, can explain it!

Svetlana: I should actually invoke Bureau-Rectifying Method next session.

Svetlana: I will actually invoke it next session.

Svetlana: Even if we never encounter a bureau.

Icaria: Also, Manse-Stealing Method.

Svetlana: That's up to you, really.

Icaria: Well, we were going to steal the satrap's manse, but now we're on a good deeds kick.

Svetlana: Svetlana kind of assumes that if we get to the uncapped Manse you can just steal it.

Svetlana: One of you, at least.

Svetlana: Er, uncapped Demesne.

Svetlana: She figures that you can probably just build a manse on it in between healing people and making springs.

Icaria: I don't actually have that skill.

Svetlana: Hm, that's unfortunate.

Svetlana: Svetlana figures, incidentally, that when we really want to meet Mother Geode we can show our caste mark underground when not surrounded by miners.

Svetlana: She could be completely wrong.

Icaria: Embarrassingly, Mother Geode is actually an ancient, but eccentric, Bronze Faction sorceress who lives underground because of her dislike of the sun.

Svetlana: It's OK, we'll crack open her stony heart!

Vance: Mother Geode… is a cup.

Svetlana: Cups are on gray Arcs.

Svetlana: They are useful for their emptiness.

Icaria: Hm, I also really want to buy up to Intelligence 5, because I use that a lot.

Svetlana: A level 5 Attribute is awfully expensive!

Svetlana: Sometimes I think about raising my Charisma.

  • Icaria goes ahead and pours XP in, since it's useful for so many things.

Icaria: That boosts medicine, sorcery, and lore rolls, so it's worth it.

Svetlana: Have you just not been spending XP?

Icaria: Kinda.

Icaria: I definitely wasn't spending my Solar XP.

Icaria: Plus there's XP from this session as well.

Svetlana:

The razor of truth cuts not the honest man
The cannonball of truth bounces off a rock and flies narrowly over the honest man's shoulder
The fiery arrow of truth, unleashed upon an honest man, accidentally strikes a raven
The raven falls screaming from the sky, knocking the crown from the head of the dishonest man.
He wails.
The siege engine of truth pushed by the troop of the more or less factual and bristling with the blades of the reasonably accurate,
Before it reaches the honest man,
Falls into a hole. Its teetering edge nearly hits the honest man, but luckily,
Three confused pigeons of wickedness, having forgotten their allegiance,
And betraying their own motivation as the wicked always do,
Fly directly into the projected blade, knocking it aside in a whirl of the severed feathers of malice.
The severed feathers of malice get into the mouth of the honest man,
But the severed feathers of malice do not pose a difficulty for the tongue of the honest man.
The honest man talks around them, amusingly spitting bits of fluff with every sentence.
The fluff gets stuck upon the razor of truth. Its edge grows dull.
The razor of truth, it does not cut the honest man.

Icaria: Truly, words to live by.

Icaria: Unless you're a dishonest man.

Svetlana:

The razor of truth cuts not the dishonest man.
The dishonest man is surprised. "But I'm a liar!" he says.
In the background, the razors of the philosophers wail their dismay.
"Why won't it cut me?" asks the dishonest man.
"Truth is not sharp," explains the razor-man, his eyes as sharp as knives,
Metaphorically.
"Truth is a state of being."
The dishonest man laughs and charges cheerfully the spears and shields
Of the army of the righteous
They are metaphorical. The righteous have no money. They can't afford whole spears.
The dishonest man is safe.

Svetlana:

The razor of truth is a terrible razor. It does not cut practically anybody
If you want a razor that actually cuts,
Consider shopping elsewhere.
Burma Shave.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License