In Which Various People Are Horribly Injured

Icaria: So, where we when last we appeared in this space?

Camena: We were the folks who didn't Join Battle.

Svetlana: That sounds like a song.

Vance: Zanara and Svetlana are in Magistrate Yakult's office, at the top of an imperial garrison. It's a smallish room—short range from one end to another, full of bookcases. The floors below are larger—one for general work and holding cells, and a basement-level barracks—are bigger.

Vance: Camena and Icaria are in the same cavern you've been visiting, with Icaria's medicine shop set up amidst the communal fires and other gathering places.

Vance: When last we left off, Bokuro and his men were moving into the garrison.

Vance: And orders had been given for the imperial legion to attack the underground population.

Vance: (I'm not quite ready to start, but if you want to ask questions/plan tactics/make opening stunts, go ahead.)


We were the legion that didn't join battle
When the faeries came out from their hills
We were sick with the plague and our captain was rattled
And we lost too many points from our Drill.

Svetlana: Or something.

Camena: So, Icaria and Camena are going to end up taking on a legion, underneath the earth, in a cavern filled with folks.

Vance: Not a full legion.

Vance: How would they fit?

Camena: …poorly.

Camena: Can I carpent at them?

Vance: Craftsmen Needs No Tools can be used in combat!

Icaria: They do have all those cavern supports.

Camena: Can it be used for slapstick two-by-four attacks?

Icaria: Although technically we're probably supposed to protect the people living in the caverns.


We said, "We'd quite like to fight, too,"
But the faeries had Might 2
And we ended up all turned around
And before we'd joined battle
The troop commander sighed, "That'll
Be trees up ahead and not sprites."

Vance: That's Brawl.

Vance: But there are definitely huge stunt bonuses for wailing on someone with a table you just built.

  • Svetlana ponders whether she triggered her Limit condition last week, but thinks she never wound up actually standing up to Yakult outright.

Icaria: Fortunately, I've already got my skin of bronze up.

Svetlana: How does breaking the wall work mechanically?

Svetlana: Specifically, is it a Decisive attack on the wall or a miscellaneous action?

Vance: It'd be a gambit.

Vance: Jade is strong and holes are weak, so I'm thinking it'd be difficulty 3 in this case.

Vance: Well, alrighty.

Vance: Join Battle!

Icaria: Us, too?

Vance: Yep.

Vance: Two fight scenes, one Initiative track.

Vance: Exalted is cinematic gaming!

Icaria: Three.

Zanara: A thoroughly unimpressive zero.

Camena: Four.

Svetlana: Five.

Vance: Well, okay.

Vance: Magistrate Yakult's movements are like a serenely flowing river, almost impossible to distinguish the point where an elegant gesture becomes a decisive arc of violence. Her anima flares a deep-sea indigo as she draws her daiklave, cleaving her desk in two. With a whirling kick, she sends each half flying towards Zanara and Svetlana.

Svetlana: Man, that is such a hostile response to my presentation.

Vance: These are both going to be withering attacks.

Zanara: Zanara has apparently been completely dulled to the constant threat of violence by all this politicking!

Icaria: And the broken ribs.

Zanara: …I'd forgotten that. Yes. We'll blame that.

Zanara: Anyway, my Evasion is probably 3 unless wound penalties subtract directly from that instead of the dice pool now, in which case it's two.

Vance: They do.

Vance: Want to stunt or Charm that higher?

Svetlana: (Is there a flat-footed penalty in this system?)

Vance: No.

Vance: Not outside of stealth rules.

Zanara: Well, it wasn't so long ago that Zanara was pretending not to feel the cracked ribs. Wouldn't be deity-like, now, would it? She draws on a little of that now, ignoring the pain in her side as she throws herself out of the way of the desk.

Vance: Two-point stunt, so +2 Defense and 1 WP.

Zanara: Back up to Evasion 4, then!

Svetlana: Tepet Evdeniya, in the midst of stepping forward to make a followup point with a finger held high, kicks her descending foot diagonally against the floor to shove herself to the side instead as the desk goes past. Evasion is 5, pushed to 6 with 2m.

Vance: …and take another +1 from stunts!

Icaria: Dodge-Kicking Hare Magistrate!

Vance: Svetlana and Zanara both manage to dodge the incoming chunks of furniture. Svetlana, however, stumbles into a disadvantageous footing as she recovers from her leap.

Vance: What's her soak?

Svetlana: 5.

Svetlana: Though 3 of that is from a buff jacket that doesn't really apply much to footing, probably.

Vance: It does for the sake of this abstraction.

Vance: She takes 3 Initiative damage.

Svetlana: Evdeniya's buff jacket flutters out against a bookshelf and diffuses some of the force of her landing!

Vance: Zanara and Svetlana, roll (Perception + Awareness) with a -2 penalty.

Icaria: I think it's meant to be more "the padding gives you more dodging options."

Icaria: Because you have less vulnerable spots that need protecting.

Svetlana: (Evdeniya's buff jacket, secretly offended, tears through that book that Icaria had been wanting to read.)

Icaria: Noooo! The only non-pornographic medical treatise on the island!

Zanara: …between that -2 and my usual -2… lol, I botch.

Svetlana: (…haha, I do have Sensory Acuity Prana running, I used it to hear the whisper. Darn it. Well, it means 5 successes now, plus one more if it's hearing.)

Vance: A trio of Dynasts—members of Bokuro's notorious palace guard—charges up the staircase and into the magistrate's office. A well-thewed man with green hair hefts a battle-axe; a dark-skinned, red-headed woman somersaults into the room and nocks an arrow; a young girl with a faint amethyst sheen to her skin spins a meteor hammer around and around on its chain.

Vance: Svetlana also sees a fourth member come in through the door, hiding behind her comrades.

Vance: There are still two more people in the stairway—and from the sound of it, one of them weighs about five hundred pounds of clanky metal.

Icaria: Vance is out for blood today.

Icaria: "People won't stop asking when What Fire Has Wrought is coming out!" he says.

Icaria: "I've got to test these Dragon-Blooded mechanics, all at once!"

Vance: The axe-wielding gentleman maneuvers into close range with Zanara, taking in her appearance with a contemplative look as he brings his weapon down.

Vance: This is a withering attack, and you're already at -1 onslaught.

Zanara: This axe-wielding gentleman should learn to look around better—Zanara takes hold of the half of the desk nearest her and turns it back over in front of her. It's already been hacked clean through, might as well let Bokuro's friends finish the job!

Vance: He manages to hit by 3—what's her soak?

Zanara: 3. x.x

Vance: You take 2 Initiative damage.

Vance: The archer bounds upwards to the stone roof of the room on a burst of flames, finding their footing on a ledge overlooking a corner. They take aim at Svetlana.

Vance: And then the Dynast with the meteor hammer reaches the apex of her spin, whirls and kicks the metal ball, sending it flying at Svetlana's face.

Vance: (A withering attack.)

Vance: At the same instant, the hidden Dynast pounces forward from stealth, unleashing a flurry of razor claws in a withering ambush.

Svetlana: Svetlana tumbles back behind the bookshelves, a gold-inlaid copy of the sacred Immaculate Texts directly between her and the most logical adjustment path of the metal ball, on the theory that either this will dissuade the Dynast or there will be a heavy bottle of alcohol hidden in the book to block for her.

Vance: +2 dice for the stunt, and 1 WP.

Icaria: We're going to need that booze later.

Vance: The ambush hits Zanara for… 9 Initiative damage.

Vance: CRASH!

Zanara: I am thinking I am not long for this fight.

Icaria: This is why medical treatment is so important.

Svetlana: Evasion 5 before the stunt; I can increase it one point if hit exactly.

Vance: It hits by exactly one.

Svetlana: It hits a… 7? Then I can't do anything.

Vance: No, it hits by enough for your increase to stop it.

Vance: Drifting Leaf 4 Life.

Svetlana: Oh! OK.

Vance: Now we cut back to the caverns.

Vance: The sound of the marching soldiers has driven the inhabitants into a panic—and now, the first ranks emerge from the mouth of one of the main transit tunnels. They are decked out in full armor and arms. Coming up behind them in the ranks is their captain, a Dragon-Blooded whose anima burns bright crimson in the cavern depths.

Icaria: How far off are we?

Vance: Medium range.

Vance: There are no war cries, no shows of intimidation. The only words come from the captain's lips as she gives the orders: "Attack at will."

Camena: Query: Do I have any notion about Fire Aspect anima and its effect on firewands?

Vance: It doesn't provide immunity.

Icaria: Attack, like, everybody, or just us?

Vance: Everybody.

Vance: I've made up a mechanic: every time the battle group attacks the crowd, rather than you, it adds to a pool of Casualty Dice.

Icaria: You'll never keep slaves if they're all dead!

Vance: Which I will roll at the end of the fight to see just how bad things went.

Vance: Camena's up.

Icaria: Yeah, now's a good time to do the thing.

Camena: Camena flares up like a pot boiling hot enough to rocket its lid. This is new to her, this kind of anger. This kind of righteousness. She draws her sights on the Terrestrial commander, trying to hate her to death. Failing that, she moves ahead careful, pulls the trigger, and lights up the cavern with a breath of sulfurous blue-green fire.

Zanara: (Aw, look who's righteous now.)

Camena: (Shush, Righteous.)

Vance: The commander specifically?

Camena: Yeah.

Vance: Take a two-die stunt.

Camena: It's also a surprise unless she beats a 4.

Vance: She manages to beat a 5.

Vance: Make an attack roll, and tell me how many 1s you get.

Camena: 13 successes on the attack, and she takes -1 Defense from Wise Arrow as the flames twist and billow.

Camena: Miraculously, no 1's.

Vance: You hit by 9.

Vance: She has soak 10.

Camena: Ah, well. I guess I can live with 17 dice of withering damage.

Camena: 12 successes.

Camena: Crash?

Vance: Very crash.

Vance: So you gain a total of +18 Initiative.

Camena: 25!

Vance: …and now Icaria's up.

Icaria: This seems like a good opportunity to press our advantage.

Icaria: I'll slide into what seems like a good angle for throwing out an area attack without causing a friendly fire incident, and start chanting Death of Obsidian Butterflies.

Icaria: I'll spend ten personal motes for a full pool and hope for the best.

Icaria: Eleven successes.

Icaria: Camena, if they try to get any closer to me, shoot them.

Vance: We now cut back to the garrison, where Satrap Cynis Bokuro steps into the office, accompanied by a masked bodyguard. Bokuro's skin has been turned to brass.

Camena: My gun has to reload!

Vance: He begins chanting invocations in Old Realm, shaping Essence as he paces through mystical steps.

Icaria: Wow; not only is he completely unreceptive to my pure-hearted advances, he's jacking my look.

Vance: Meanwhile, his thug is going to try and grapple Svetlana.

Icaria: Camena, I think we may need to finish our business on the easier end of the scene in a hurry.

Camena: I think we might all be slightly kerfuckled.

Icaria: At least, I hope this is the easier end of the battle.

Svetlana: (…I'm starting to want to call shenanigans on all these people being close enough to show up in the first round without my being aware at all.)

Vance: (Hmm. What would you have done, with more forewarning?)

Icaria: Thrown a bookshelf down the staircase to block it!

Icaria: Or just otherwise wedged the door shut.

Svetlana: (Known that Yakult was in fact on Bokuro's side, and skipped to having Zanara use social attacks instead of trying to figure out which side she was on!)

Svetlana: (Well, assuming Zanara would have cooperated. But encouraged her to, anyway.)

Vance: Hmm. You probably had a fair amount of forewarning, but not enough for Zanara to actually have meaningful conversation with Yakult.

Vance: Although she can still do that in battle!

Vance: …can Svetlana defend against eight successes?

Svetlana: Anyway, as the guy closes for a grapple, Svetlana unfurls a great scroll of Imperial documents that are technically illegal to tear, mangle, burn, spit on, take the names of the Immaculate Dragons in vain in front of, or burp near in his way.

Vance: +2 stunt!

  • Svetlana tries to figure out if she'd have spent Essence or not.

Camena: (The phrase "unwinnable fight" springs to mind.)

Vance: You are pretty heavily outnumbered. I don't know about unwinnable, but that's a big disadvantage.

Icaria: This may be a good time to try the wall thing.

Svetlana: I doubt I'll get a chance to try anything. I decided to flip a coin as to whether I'd have bought up my Evasion by a point, since I did so once and not the other time, and the answer was no, so I cannot beat 8 successes.

Vance: And… he whiffs the Initiative roll.

Icaria: You don't really have to choose based on in-character knowledge.

Vance: So I imagine what happens is, he successfully lays hands on you.

Vance: But you brandish the documents!

Vance: Brandishfully!

Vance: Even in the heart of a notorious guard, such things can throw one off their pace.

Vance: Svetlana's turn.

Icaria: Believe in the heart of the chakram!

Svetlana: As the guard flails through the unfurled scroll curling like a dragon in the air to lay hands on the rolling Magistrate Evdeniya's robes, she uses him as leverage to gain momentum, flip around up into the air, and fling a bolt of white jade at the wall with the force of a thunderbolt.

Vance: So, roll Initiative.

Svetlana: Can I spend Will?

Vance: Um.

Vance: I think so?

Svetlana: Then 3 successes.

Vance: Your skycutter smashes open a nice, conveniently-sized hole in the wall.

Vance: And the gambit costs you 3 Initiative.

Icaria: Time for a convenient move action.

Vance: You'll need to disengage against Punchy to get out.

Svetlana: I think I have to try.

Svetlana: Though I think whether I can try depends on whether the gambit costs me 3 initiative or resets me to 3.

Vance: Oh.

Vance: I'm gonna say resets here, because gambits dropping you below base is a little cattywhompus to how they work

Svetlana: OK, attempting disengage! 8 successes, 2m on the disengage and 2m to recover the initiative.

Vance: Success!

Vance: You manage to climb out onto the exterior walls of the garrison. From here to the ground, it's about medium range.

Vance: Zanara's up.

Zanara: You'd better believe I'm getting the hell out of here. I probably need to disengage too, though, don't I?

Vance: Yeah.

Vance: Against both ninjette and axe guy.

Svetlana: (Svetlana really wanted to grab you before disengaging but I concluded it was probably illegal.)

Svetlana: (There was a note about it on the scroll.)

Icaria: It's more like a flurry that you probably wouldn't succeed at.

Zanara: Zanara, caught between two very different kinds of sharp implements, decides that discretion is the better part of valor, much though it galls her to run. She dives for the hole, less worried about climbing out than she is about a clean getaway, and if she can't get a handhold on anything? Well, the drop won't be so bad, not after the day she's been having. The sudden stop at the end… less so.

Vance: Take a one-point stunt.

Zanara: I am buying a Dodge Charm next, assuming I live through this. Two.

Vance: Zanara also manages to escape.

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

Vance: Camena starts us off.

Camena: Can you remind me how to flurry actions in 3e?

Vance: You take a -3 penalty on each, can't combine two of the same, and take -1 Defense.

Vance: You can explicitly reload and attack as a flurry.

Camena: Camena edges a little closer, closer; she'd like to spit on this Terrestrial, but it doesn't go as far as her flames. "What kind of worthless mongrel-ass bastard turns a horde up against the helpless?" she asks, and there's a crack of light as her Essence flows into her firewand, leveled one more time at the Terrestrial. "Let's hope the answer's: a dead one."

Vance: Take a two-point stunt.


Camena: o-o

Camena: 14 successes, even after the penalties.

Vance: Wow.

Vance: Is that withering or decisive?

Camena: Let's go withering. She ain't ready for the killing blow just yet.

Vance: Any 1s on the attack roll?

Camena: No.

Vance: She has soak 10.

Camena: The Dice Gods finally smile upon Camena.

Vance: Although… withering a crashed enemy isn't very effective.

Camena: How so?

Vance: They're already crashed.

Camena: Yeah, but I want a ridiculous amount of Initiative.

Vance: In theory I'm supposed to discourage farming ridiculous amounts of Initiative.

Camena: And Camena needs to get at least a little bit of bluster in before she kills.

Vance: 21+ is already pretty ridiculous.

Icaria: Just kill her already!

Camena: Fiiiiiine.

Vance: There's also the battle group.

Icaria: We really need to help out our friends!

Camena: It was decisive all along!

Camena: I assume I beat her Hardness?

Vance: She ain't wearing jade.

Camena: Do those extra successes do anything from the attack roll?

Vance: Not on decisive.

Camena: And are 10's just one success on decisive damage?

Vance: Yes.

Camena: Blarg. Eight damage, L.

Icaria: I've got a bit more on the way.

Camena: The Dice Gods finally found my 1's.

Icaria: Incidentally, get out of the way.

Vance: The Dragon-Blooded captain is substantially more on fire than most people would want to be. Even though her anima shields her flesh and clothing from catching fire, the intensity of the initial blasts leaves her entire body covered with severe burns.

Vance: And now, back to the garrison.

Icaria: I don't act this turn?

Vance: You're lower in Initiative than the tower villains.

Vance: The satrap's henchmen don't pursue you out of the hole Svetlana has made in the office. The satrap himself, however, completes the casting of his spell, beckoning forth a cloud of lavender gas that engulfs both Svetlana and Zanara.

Vance: Roll (Stamina + Resistance) against the Mists of Eventide.

Vance: We're going to abstract out the next few rounds of your escape right here so that you can potentially rejoin the others.

Vance: But if you fall asleep before you reach the ground, that's bad!

Svetlana: 2 successes is all I've got.

Vance: Svetlana's affected for 4 rounds.

Zanara: Zanara, in her younger life, was exposed and accustomed to every manner of chemical debauchery known to the Guild. Subsequently, however, having rather lost her taste for it, her tolerance has waned significantly. Her only saving grace is that it's really, really hard to take a deep breath when your ribs are broken.

Vance: Take a one-point stunt.

Zanara: I am now rolling two dice.

Vance: >.<

Zanara: And neither were successes.

Vance: So 6 rounds.

Zanara: Zanara's No Good Very Bad Day.

Vance: You're able to climb down to short range above ground by the end of the round.

Vance: And let's roll poison…

Vance: Svetlana is unaffected.

Vance: …Zanara, unfortunately, falls asleep.

Vance: It is not her day.

Icaria: It may be time for the Weatherwax Carry.

Vance: Svetlana is able to make it down to the ground, but then she succumbs to the mist.

Vance: That part of the fight fades to black.

Svetlana: …this does not seem to be how the poison works.

Svetlana: (But OK, the end would be the same regardless.)

Vance: It crashed you.

Svetlana: (Right, but it should auto-crash me after I act, which means the only move I can possibly make is to attack and try to gain initiative.)

Icaria: My only comment on that is that if you were going to make them fight six-on-two in an environment heavily unfavorable to their build, and then hit them with a spell they had no chance of saving against, it would have saved a lot of time to just say "you got captured."

Svetlana: (The end would be the same regardless because I don't think I can win if I'm stuck fighting.)

Vance: It was not actually my intent to capture them!

Vance: Camena is surrounded by soldiers who are now shouting and yelling, surrounding her with a pike formation while archers fire from the rear.

Camena: It's no great matter. The Eclipse is moving with a new and singular purpose. Apparently it takes half an army to kill a bunch of slaves. How joyful it would be if it only took one art thief to kill an army.

Vance: +1 stunt.

Camena: 8 Evasion, and if they roll 1's on their attacks, lemme know.

Vance: They miss, and had a single 1.

Camena: 3m to power up Rumor of Form. letting me do a reflexive stealth action as Camena uses the group's ranks against them, insinuating herself into them and sowing chaos while obscuring her exact location.

Vance: Roll it with a one-pointer.

Camena: 6 successes

Vance: Success.

Vance: Icaria, you're up.

Icaria: I've been watching the people in this cavern.

Icaria: After a while you can sense them moving around on the edge of your awareness, like burning red dots of pain.

Icaria: "This person needs me. That person needs me."

Icaria: They all need help.

Icaria: With these soldiers it seems to be the same. I'm aware of each of them as a point of light, requiring action on my part.

Icaria: I finish chanting and reach out my hand, sending a butterfly out to each of them and a few extra to spare.

Vance: Take a 3-point stunt.

Icaria: I'll finish chanting (I assume I can apply the stunt to the attack roll instead of just shaping) and use Supernal Control Method on my attack roll.

Vance: (Yeah.)

Icaria: 16 successes.

Icaria: The battlegroup has -2 Defense.

Icaria: Raw damage is 7 levels plus my extra successes.

Vance: The butterflies swoop over the battlefield in a great silence.

Icaria: (Oh, and Camena? You should probably dodge.)

Vance: Soldiers drop left and right. The Dragon-Blooded captain, already on her last legs, collapses. Shards of black glass litter the ground beneath the remaining troops' feet.

Vance: And now the rout roll…

Vance: Very rout.

Vance: So, fight officially concluded.

Vance: The casualties to the people of this cavern are dire, though not as dire as they could have been. A few dozen men, women, and children have been killed, and scores more injured.

Icaria: "Rubean, I think it would be as well if you helped clean this… this…" Icaria holds it together. "There's glass, you see."

Camena: Is the Dragon-Blooded dead?

Vance: Unconscious.

Vance: Dying, probably.

Vance: It's at this point that five Dynasts wearing the Cynis mon—Satrap Bokuro's bodyguards—enter into the cavern (the two fight scenes were asynchronous, as it turns out). Two unconscious forms have been bound in manacles, and are being carried over the ground a green-haired muscle-man. You recognize them as Svetlana and Zanara.

Vance: Bokuro and Yakult are nowhere to be seen.

Vance: "We're here to… negotiate an exchange of hostages, it seems," says the woman with the razor claws. "My name is Cynis Jaleva."

Vance: "Our priority now is retrieving Captain Ajal and preventing desertion. To the extent that you cooperate, your comrades may be released to you."

Camena: "Camena," she returns, tapping the downed Terrestrial's side with the barrel of her firewand as she casually reloads. "That sounds almost fair. But my hearing falters a little around all the may's and whatnot. Maybe you should clarify."

  • Icaria looks at Camena. This falls under the "potential dirty tricks" heading and is thus her jurisdiction under the Dauntless Bureau of the Flame Duck charter.

Vance: "We'll give you one for the Captain. Hostage for a hostage, fair's fair."

Vance: "Once you've left so we can regather our troops, we'll release the second."

Camena: "My understanding was that a Dragon's worth more than a mortal, at least by your own math. No use trading coin-for-coin between silver and jade, right?"

Vance: Make a persuade roll.

Icaria: Hm.

Camena: 10.

Icaria: It's been a while since I've done this, but I'd like to introduce a fact.

Vance: What manner of fact?

Icaria: You recall Padparadscha?

Vance: Yep.

Icaria: My most useful earth son, who helped us dig into the lower chambers before.

Icaria: He's a handy sort to have around when you're doing repair work, helping out with carpentry and such.

Icaria: That's why I generally have him sleeping under my doctoring stand.

Icaria: In fact, he's probably there now.

Icaria: So I'll give the signal scrape with the heel of my boot and say, at the back of my throat, "Son, if you see a chance to grab Zanara and the Magistrate and pull them under and away, take it."

Icaria: Admittedly if Camena succeeds at negotiations it won't be necessary. ^_^

Icaria: But I need to introduce more facts if I'm going to collect a million Lore specialties.

Vance: Hmm.

Vance: That feels more like a plan than a fact.

Icaria: The fact is that Padparadscha is in fact present in the scene.

Vance: Sure.

Icaria: The remainder is just a thing that I am doing.

Vance: I'll call it difficulty 4, because elementals of his sort are prone to wandering.

Icaria: Six.

Icaria: There's nothing I don't know about elementals of this and other sorts!

Vance: Jaleva sighs at Camena's verbosity. "Fair point. But the only way we hand them over is as you're on your way out."

Vance: Padparadscha is factually present, but he doesn't have the kind of senses it takes to pick up your secret message.

Icaria: What, even with two extra successes?

Vance: Whispers travel poorly through solid stone.

Camena: "Look," Camena says, feigning a broken mask, "I know. I know we're all in so far over our heads that the Underworld is up, but I can't let her go without my friends first."

Vance: "If you want to do a formal handover at the threshold of the tunnel mouth, well… normally I'd say you're welcome to, but fact of the matter is the Captain's bleeding out and we don't have time to waste on shit like that. Here, show of good faith."

Vance: She directs the axe-wielding Dynast to lay a badly bruised, bone-broken Zanara down next to you.

Camena: "And the Magistrate," Camena says, eyes welling up with hot tears of fake fury and terror. "Just… just let her go. Just let us all go, all at once, and you take the Captain."

Vance: She directs the burly Dynast to lug Svetlana over towards the mouth of the same tunnel they entered through.

Vance: "She's right there. Get out, take her with you, and we won't have any problems here."

  • Camena glances at Icaria.

Camena: It's the kind of look that says: "Do we deal?"

Icaria: "Very well, you have a deal," says Icaria. "Padparadscha, please carry both our friends to safety."

Icaria: This time I'll speak loud enough to be heard.

Icaria: Lazy sleepy earth sons!

Vance: Are you directing him to bring them to you, away from you, or not specifying?

Icaria: Somewhere out of the scene, I think.

Icaria: No doubt Camena has some bolt holes established, just because she can.

Camena: It's true!

Vance: The Dynasts let out a gasp as Padparadscha surfaces, drawing their weapons, but as they see the elemental take up Zanara and Svetlana and carry them out through the tunnel, they settle down. "You're a sorcerer, then. Explains what you did to these poor bastards."

Vance: One of the Dynasts begins tending to the Captain's butterfly-wounds.

Icaria: "It's so," agrees Icaria, who is made of living brass.

Vance: "Now get your shiny metal ass out of here."

Icaria: Icaria considers several responses before opting for "Yeah."

Icaria: Camena, let's mosey.

  • Camena makes a gesture of respect to them as she leaves, quietly wishing she'd killed the bitch and not being sure what to do with that feeling.

Vance: "Let's never meet again, dears," she says.

Icaria: As we go around the corner and vanish into the tunnels, Icaria tries to summon his nimbus.

Icaria: This fails.

Vance: Tell me about Camena's nearest bolthole.

Icaria: The adrenaline that flooded his body at the sight of injured friends abandons him in an instant, and he goes back to his prior train of thought.

Icaria: You cannot chant words of sorcery when you are throwing up.

Camena: It's a derelict house in a seedier part of town nearby; she's boarded the doors shut, but canabalized the floors to do so. By chance, that makes it great for earth elementals.

Camena: The only other way in is through the chimney.

Camena: It's like parkour, for apartments.

Vance: Svetlana and Zanara have both regained their consciousness, thanks to sorcerous interference from Icaria.

Camena: And also Camena.

Icaria: Also, doctoring.

Icaria: They look pretty rough.

Camena: Who is totally a sorceress too!

Vance: Zanara is, however, formally Incapacitated.

Camena: Even if she's crap at it.

Icaria: Look, you sorcerize, and I'll doctor.

Vance: The fall was unkind to her… everything?

Zanara: "I wish I could say I've had worse," Zanara groans.

Icaria: …I guess I know what my next Charm buy is.

Vance: Did handing over the hostage implicate any Intimacies for Camena or Icaria?

Icaria: I've got Intimacies for Zanara and Svetlana.

Camena: Same.

Camena: The only one it might have dinged otherwise is "Glory. Power. Pettiness." from her tirade with Captain Raksha.

Icaria: We'll have a chance to be petty later.

Icaria: Although, I think we should probably try to figure out what just happened?

Icaria: It is possible that bringing the same Zanara promising the destruction of the Realm to a meeting as the magistrate's aide prompted a certain degree of response.

Camena: Not Camena's finest lie.

Icaria: Although, just randomly murdering a bunch of noncombatants seems like a really inefficient way to go about pacifying a rebellion.

Icaria: Is Bokuro more afraid of having his smuggling made public than he makes out?

Svetlana: It's not clear who we told her name to or who would have seen her face besides Yakult, and there would probably have been some sign of someone noticing and reacting.

Vance: No one in the garrison had any reaction to Zanara's name or appearance out of the usual.

Icaria: It's true that you would have expected a different reaction if they were upset you were planning to overthrow the Realm right there.

Icaria: Hm, she gave the signal once it became clear you had enough evidence to implicate the satrap and make it potentially stick.

Icaria: Maybe… maybe they've got some kind of lie they're going to use to explain all the deaths and it isn't about pacifying the miners at all?

Icaria: Like, "oh, Magistrate Evdeniya was tragically killed in a riot."

Svetlana: "It was probably set up when she found my name tied to the audit," Svetlana says tiredly. "Moved into readiness when I entered the office, and activated when I showed I had evidence."

Svetlana: "Er, her name," Svetlana corrects.

Svetlana: Svetlana waves a hand vaguely in some direction or other.

Icaria: "Yes, but why kill the miners? I mean, the Realm is brutal, but it seems a little random?"

Icaria: "Incidentally, we should probably warn Tran."

Svetlana: "You've got the messengers."

  • Icaria attempts to whistle for Saphir.

Svetlana: "They may have tracked Icaria and Camena to the tunnels," Svetlana says. "You're known associates of the Magistrate."

Zanara: Hmmm. Could I use War to try to suss this out on a strategic level? (I have Bureaucracy too but it's not nearly as good and War is kinda Zanara's thing.)

Icaria: "A massacre that big is a weird and nonspecific deterrent, especially if you still need the labor."

Icaria: "Were they hoping to frame us for the deaths? But to whom?"

Svetlana: "I'd have thought that information leakage between the two environments wouldn't be to that degree," Svetlana says, "but it was a possibility as soon as you were visible in both places regularly."

Svetlana: "So, they were probably going to kill you?"

Icaria: "They were mostly killing civilians—men, women, and children. They never really got a chance to try and kill me."

Svetlana: "They may have used some sort of divination to find the backup copies of the key documents," Svetlana says. "Possibly. They were down there."

Svetlana: "Hm."

Svetlana: Vance, the treatment of the miners isn't illegal in Realm law, right? I mean, it's scummy but in the tsk, tsk, that awful man way?

Vance: Yeah, it's super legal.

Icaria: Practically nothing is illegal under Realm law if you're a satrap and the victim isn't at least a patrician.

Icaria: I mean, decimating the population to send a message is totally something they do.

Icaria: But it helps if people actually know the message.

Svetlana: "They probably do want to pin it on someone, then," Svetlana says, running that scenario through her mental model of Dynast scheming to check for holes.

Vance: Roll (Intelligence + Bureaucracy).

Svetlana: 4 successes.

Vance: It seems pretty solid. Bokuro would be able to requisition additional soldiers and support if he were able to play the cultists up as a huge threat that did this to House Cynis back on the mainland. That seems like the most direct way he could benefit from a frame job.

Svetlana: (I'm curious about Zanara's strategic take also, if he's looking for more soldiers, although I know it's probably just "more power is always better.")

Zanara: (I mean, that certainly makes sense to me.)

Svetlana: "Probably the cultists and not us," Svetlana reluctantly concludes. "I mean, as the people to pin it on."

Icaria: And then just throwing Evdeniya's body on top of the pile for good measure?

Svetlana: Probably, although having her disappear on this particular island isn't the best optics so possibly they'd just ship her to someone she'd offended.

Svetlana: But they do have known Magistrate-killers about, so it might have been acceptable optics.

Svetlana: Or something nicer, if Yakult feels like corrupt and less corrupt Magistrates still have to stick together to some extent, dunno.

Svetlana: I never got a peek past the impenetrable facade of her Guile, which is at least 3!

Svetlana: That's at least comparable to like the slyest person in my home village, who I was never able to put together a good enough roll to see through either.

  • Svetlana gives her dice the gimlet glare.

Icaria: So, what's our next move?

Svetlana: "The only real bureaucratic recourse remaining to us is to kidnap and replace Yakult; it's that or war."

Icaria: We don't seem to be any closer to confiscating Bokuro's manse, which was our original intention, long, long ago.

Icaria: "I approve, if only because eventually we have to succeed at replacing somebody."

Camena: "Ugggh. If this one has a password for imposters too, I'm hanging up my costume kit."

Icaria: "It's such a useful tactic!"

Vance: You don't know if Bokuro and Yakult have any past history.

Vance: They could have met yesterday!

Zanara: "Honestly, I vote for war," Zanara says. "Talking is getting to be painful. But as I'm in no fit state for it, we may as well attempt this replacement business."

Icaria: If that's the case, they rigged up a secret codeword very quickly.

Svetlana: "I don't think it really matters, in the end," Svetlana says. "I don't believe that Bokuro can do anything more to a Magistrate whose identity he doubts than a Magistrate who turns against him for other reasons unknown."

Icaria: And also the means to hear it, although that could just be Wind-Carried Words Technique or something.

Svetlana: "Which is to say, either he's got the influence to take her on or he doesn't, regardless of what excuse he comes up with."

Svetlana: "He probably does, admittedly, since the only people who really matter at the moment are the mail and the soldiers, so it's possible that it has to be war. But maybe the mail will listen to Yakult."

Icaria: "Fair enough, but right now our priority needs to be protecting the things important to us."

Icaria: "We promised those miners we'd make their lives better. Now, a lot of them are dead, and it's… it's probably at least sort of our fault."

Svetlana: "Yeah, possibly killing him is simpler and less greedy than abducting her."

Icaria: "Also, he may go after Tran, if he's paid enough attention to know she's even there, which we can't rule out."

Svetlana: "Do you have anything that makes really good poisons, Icaria?"

Svetlana: "Exudes, I suppose, is what I'm thinking."

Svetlana: "Maksim cries when I try to milk his venom. It's always been too heartbreaking for me."

Icaria: "But then again… why let you go?"

Icaria: Icaria is musing to himself.

Icaria: "He's basically revealed his hand to you, why let you live? Did he value the captain that much?"

Icaria: "Admittedly, Dragon-Blooded are expensive."

Icaria: "Or did he think he could get you again?"


Icaria: "Well, he is a sorcerer."

Icaria: "Patients, turn out your pockets!"

Vance: There is a manner of elemental that can synthesize all manner of poisons or medicines in its fruit, if fed with sufficient human flesh or Exalted blood.

Vance: It's named, uh…

Vance: …the Alchemical Garden.

Icaria: I'm doing a very careful occult search of both my patients for coins of far sight or any other indication of sorcerous jiggery-pokery.

Vance: (Perception + Occult).

Icaria: I'm using Supernal Control Method, and get 8.

Svetlana: Svetlana turns out her pockets, which contain, among other things, apples, a small glass statue of a warstrider, paper snakes, a copy of the Imperial declaration establishing the Magistrates, and several of Icaria's novels.

Vance: There is at least one coin of far seeing. Possibly more, except I don't know a reasonable number off the top of my head. One-ish.

Vance: Want to distort?

Icaria: "Oh, you cunning little linguist."

Icaria: Oh, do I. And I know just how.

Vance: Explain.

Icaria: I've got some ~criticisms~ I've been keeping bottled up.

Icaria: It's time for me to tell him all of them, while I distort his sorcery, to send it back to him as a screaming siren of exactly why his poetry sucks.

Vance: Roll (Intelligence + Occult) with a 2-point stunt.

Icaria: I'm spending Willpower just to show I mean it. Eight.

Svetlana: Note that a coin of far seeing isn't in the Ex3 core book, so I have absolutely no idea how compromised or not we are.

Icaria: I don't remember how they work exactly, either, although I don't think they're just for seeing.

Icaria: I think it's something along the lines of "transfer your senses into the coin when you like."

Icaria: I'm going to try and turn the sensory input quite painful and then, once I'm done writing an exhaustive review of his life's work, Emeraude can eat it.

Icaria: …and then we should probably relocate.

Vance: There's a moment, as you break through the enchantment, that the spell inverts—your eyes see through the coins, not his. You see him screaming at Jaleva.

Vance: Captain Ajal's body lies on the ground, a spear skewered through it.

Icaria: I guess it wasn't the satrap who valued her life.

Svetlana: (Jaleva?)

Icaria: I believe she was the one we negotiated with?

Icaria: You'd remember, only, you were unconscious!

  • Icaria is basically just guessing.

Icaria: Yeah, okay, she was another Cynis.

Vance: And as the siren of your distortion goes forth, you do not hear the song it sings—but you see what it wreaks on Bokuro. He stops in mid-sentence, tears welling up in his eyes. He tries to stammer out the beginning of a sentence, but keeps getting choked up on tears and repeating himself.

Icaria: Gosh.

Icaria: I think maybe the straights aren't okay.

Vance: He sits down on the ground, moving numbly, like an automaton. Jaleva rushes to him, steadying him before he falls.

Vance: And that is all you see.

Vance: Distorting the coins has burnt out the magic.

Vance: As for how compromised you are… well, they basically work the same as they always have.

Icaria: It's probably wise to assume he heard everything we just said.

Svetlana: (I have no idea how they have always worked.)

Vance: I don't think you've had any important conversations over a patient, so, probably safe?

Camena: The kidnapping bit?

Svetlana: Enh, Svetlana's corrected "my name" to "her name" on the audit and talked about replacing Magistrates.

Svetlana: "Can you tell if someone sends a sorcerous message off the island, Icaria?"

  • Icaria locates the spell in his copy of The Book of Three Circles.

Svetlana: "I know there's no way to stop it without at minimum being there."

Icaria: Coin of Distant Vision, lets you transfer your senses to the site of the coin and perceive as though you were there.

Icaria: You can use sensory Charms and you can know the coin's location.

Icaria: And you can only have one at a time.

Svetlana: "But I'd like to know if I can salvage this by destroying the Imperial mail."

Icaria: "Hm. Difficult. I might have been able to do it if I'd prepared to catch the message in advance, but it's quite possibly gone now."

Svetlana: "Unlikely," Svetlana says. "Nobody makes long-term response to information while actively gathering it, though they may do short-term responses."

Icaria: "I know Tran knows the spell, which is more than I do. She might be able to get a ball rolling in the opposite direction."

Icaria: "Probably Jaspindar would love to know that Bokuro's local magistrate immediately tried to murder Evdeniya after he was implicated in lots of crimes."

Svetlana: Svetlana closes her eyes. "Mm," she agrees. "Whatever. I agree on the relocation thing."

Svetlana: She sighs, and then scrubs away her disguise.

Icaria: Padparadscha, ho!

Vance: Padparadscha is a big furry centipede, about the size of an alligator, with a carapace made of deep blue stone. His hairs are tiny spikes of crystal, and his clever legs dig and shape the earth with the grace of seven dolphins, less a fraction. He has little mind and less attention span, but he's an excellent bus!

Vance: Where to?

Icaria: Hopefully Camena has a bolthole from her bolthole.

Icaria: Meanwhile, I really need to send Saphir to check on Tran.

Icaria: Admittedly, Bokuro has moderately less army than he used to.

Vance: Shortly after doing so, Tran sends you an Infallible Messenger. "No problems on my end. Just tending to the baby, and looking through the grimoires. I was thinking of summoning another demon tonight to keep myself entertained on this whole trip."

Icaria: Ugh. I can't know that!

Svetlana: "Demesne, ship, or somewhere out-of-the-way?"

Icaria: "Good question."

Svetlana: "Ship," Svetlana decides. "If it gets attacked, shouldn't we be there anyway?"

Svetlana: "But I'm not the boss."

Camena: "By preference."

Icaria: "Mother Geode, if you have any desire to manifest yourself before us, having seen our desire to help the people of this island, cataclysmic though it may have been… now would be a great time."

Icaria: Icaria waits in case this has any effect whatsoever.

Vance: The floor begins to glow.

Icaria: Holy crap, that never works!

Icaria: Oh, gods! Can this be?

Vance: It's like… light shining through a stained glass window, taking on its color. And the color is a deep ruby red.

Icaria: An NPC who respects dramatic cues?

Vance: It rises up from the earth itself, streaming in through the floorboards, filling the room.

Vance: There is no physical presence, but a voice resonates in your minds. "Hello."

Camena: No floorboards.

Vance: Then it streams through the absence of floorboards.

Icaria: "Greetings."

Vance: "I've had my eye on you for a while, now. I forget how you keep time, so I can't be precise, but you gather my meaning. What would you ask me?"

Icaria: Hm, what would we ask?

Camena: What the 'disc is going on?

Svetlana: "It would be nice if your soldiers stopped appearing out of nowhere to try to kill us," Svetlana says. "But honestly, I should probably go up and make sure none of the other kind of soldiers do that while we talk, so." Svetlana goes up the chimney to listen for approaching troops while Icaria talks, a soot-black silhouette by the time she gets there.

Vance: "You misunderstand my relationship with my inhabitants. They are not my soldiers—I offer them the gifts of transformation, but do not subtract from their independence."

Icaria: "Well, as you've seen, we've been trying to help them out," Icaria explains. "But it seems that we've poked a hornet's nest and Bokuro is manipulating that for his own gain."

Icaria: "Do you have any insight into what it is he wants, precisely? We guessed more money and power but if you have more particular knowledge it might explain his actions a bit better."

Vance: "'Bokuro.' I have heard that name before. It is called out by my inhabitants in anger and pain."

Camena: Don't forget to ask for a safe ride to the undermanse!

  • Camena disappears in a cloud of eventide dust.

Icaria: This isn't really a great time to ask for selfish favors.

Icaria: "He rather seems to run the place, and keeps the miners as slaves. But I see that you don't have any particular insight into his mind. Probably just as well; he's an awful guy."

Vance: "He is a… a government official, is what you humans call them?"

Icaria: "Broadly correct."

Vance: "I do not understand governments. And my senses are epochally slow. I am not a panopticon. But there is much that I do understand. And of course, the gift you have already seen given."

Icaria: "Hm."

  • Icaria looks around to see if anybody has ideas about how to make use of these assets.

Vance: (Mechanics-wise, this is a chance to pick up free mutations.)

Icaria: I'm perfect the way I am!

Vance: (Zanara could also pick up free healing at the cost of crystalline aesthetics.)

  • Svetlana looks over her Intimacies.

Zanara: (Ha ha yeah no.)

Icaria: "Well, there are certainly things worth knowing. How many of the Realm's soldiers currently occupy the island, and any interesting and unusual things foreigners may be doing here."

Icaria: "Or what the demesne underneath the sea is."

Vance: "Foreigner?"

Icaria: "Let's say, someone not born here? Or who doesn't pray to you?"

Svetlana: Svetlana does not descend, as tempting as the vanishing… no, probably the earth-movement… skill is.

Vance: "Now, that I can speak of. There is a manse above me, and a demesne beneath me—earth and fire. And nearby, a hidden cave of water."

Svetlana: (Damn it, Jim, I'm a doctor, not a chandelier!)

Vance: "I do not fully understand what the foreigners are doing. But it is deeply wrong. It has begun to harm my body. If it grows worse, it may rend a hole in Creation."

Zanara: Zanara tries to sit up, but gives up on it in a hurry. "What do you mean, rend a hole in Creation?" She looks to Icaria, because he is probably going to have to translate this for her, but "hole in Creation" sounds pretty bad.

Icaria: "A hole? Like, a death hole?"

Vance: "In the Essence of things. The geomancy. Imagine the dragon lines as fibers woven together on a great loom. Now imagine them being ripped apart. A hole."

Icaria: Is that a reasonable description of a shadowland, or something else?

Vance: It's a pretty reasonable description of a shadowland.

Icaria: People just can't quit messing with the goddamned feng shui.

Icaria: Is burying the bodies that hard?

Icaria: "That sounds like a problem we can fix, but we'll need as much information about their activities as you can piece together."

Icaria: "It sounds like they'd have to be killing a lot of people to have that effect."

Icaria: "Which… I guess we already knew?"

Icaria: "And he's trading with the Mask of Winters?"

Icaria: "And he's opening a shadowland at the bottom of the island?"


Vance: "I have told you all I know that is useful, I fear. I do not understand their methods or their means. I see much, but don't know what of it is important."

Icaria: "Do you know exactly where the hole is likely to form?"

Icaria: Oh, man, we're going to need Zanara up and running stat.

Vance: "Not within my actual body—somewhere in the stone, the caverns."

Icaria: "We'll find it, and we'll stop it."

Zanara: (I am five days out from being fixed, assuming we can't speed it up.)

Icaria: I'm going to blow my XP into more Medicine as fast as Vance lets me, which will help.

Icaria: But… I am beginning to be afraid Bokuro won't wait.

  • Icaria shifts into delivering his exposition in-character, like a good protagonist.

Vance: Anything else you want to ask Mother Geode before we wrap up?

Icaria: "I am very much afraid that Bokuro's dealings with the Mask of Winters go beyond buying shadowland poppies."

Icaria: "It seems entirely possible that he has agreed to open up a shadowland at the bottom of Tourmaline that the Mask or his agents, could use to exit the Underworld."

Svetlana: What time of day is it?

Icaria: "That would explain why he so readily jumped to murdering miners. He has a use for massacres."

Zanara: "…again, I vote for war," Zanara says. "Regardless of my condition."

Vance: I think by now it's night.

Icaria: "And once he was fingered for the shadowland poppies, he had to jump to eliminating the magistrate. But his subordinate got in the way by sparing her in return for the captain's life."

Icaria: "Now he's going to have to move quickly."

Icaria: "I think… I think there are going to be a lot more murders."

Icaria: "Mother Geode, I think you need to tell your children to hide."

Vance: "I can do that."

Svetlana: Svetlana drops back down the chimney. "Let's go kill him," she agrees.

Icaria: "So long as we bury the body with appropriate rites."

Svetlana: "All three of us and whatever elementals you've got if he's sleepless and surrounded by guards, coz and I if he's actually going to sleep somewhere tonight."

Icaria: Icaria thinks this is a terrible idea but I hate to stop Svetlana from doing anything after I've monopolized all the talking and doing things for so long.

Icaria: Not to mention yet another Icaria Intuition Inducement Prana.

Svetlana: "Well, minus whatever elemental is taking Zanara wherever she'd like to be for this."

Zanara: "Wherever there are people," Zanara says. "If I cannot fight alongside you, I will give you an army."

Icaria: "Zanara needs medical treatment, and we're going to need Zanara."

Icaria: "She can perform the rites that will prevent the disaster that's looming."

Icaria: "All those bodies… if they don't get proper funerary rites, they'll add further poison to the dragon lines."

Icaria: "Although, an army is also useful. The hurry is real, but the need to get our group back to full speed is also real."

Icaria: This is where in the video game they pop up a choice screen to pick which route you want to take.

Vance: KILL | BURN

Svetlana: "He was going to die tonight anyway," Svetlana explains. Then she heads back up the chimney.

Zanara: "The army will only take a few moments. Give me a crowd, any crowd. I will set such a fury in their hearts that it will burn everything it touches."

Icaria: "Can you even stand up?"

Icaria: Zanara is Incapacitated. She is in the capacitated.

Vance: "I could repair you," Mother Geode offers helpfully.

Zanara: "Thank you, but no," Zanara says. "I will mend of my own accord. If I must stand, I will stand, because it must be done."

Vance: Mother Geode has no face, but if she did, she'd be making the :? face

Icaria: Icaria appreciates this dilemma, since he'd have said the same thing out of plain vanity.

Icaria: I mean, he's just starting to see some really good definition on his delts!

Vance: And on that, we shall call it a night.

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