In Which We Are Knocking, But We Cannot Come In

Vance: So…

Vance: What's the first item on the agenda:

Vance: Meeting Tran, or the Cloud Tortoise Jailbreak?

Icaria: It can't be that hard to get Moon Speaker out of jail.

Icaria: So we might as well do that first.

Icaria: Just go ask Majal if you could please have her back.

Icaria: If he asks for a weird favor in return, that's plot!

Camena: Or just ask Jaspindar.

Camena: She's our drinking buddy.

Svetlana: We should meet Tran at the very end of the session. Tran's numinous effusions of mysterious virtue will inspire us all.

Svetlana: And we will achieve Essence 2.

Icaria: The more you puff her up, the more likely she is to be Lady Icaria.

Icaria: And one of me is enough.

Svetlana: This implies you are quite puffy.

Icaria: The technical term is "swole."

Camena: We must not allow the Icariaception to come to pass.

Camena: #warcrime

Vance: So…

Icaria: I, too, feel the need to protect the integrity of my brand.

Svetlana: It sounds as if we are going to Jaspindar or Majal to get Moon Moon free.

Svetlana: It's really Zanara's show, so I suppose it should be her plan.

Icaria: That's probably up to Zanara as she's the one who actually cares if Moon Largesse lives or dies.

Vance: There isn't really a formal prison system in Gloam preparing the Realm's colonization, so they've been used what's basically a scouting garrison, reinforced with some cells and such, to hold the prisoners that the Satrap actually cared about.

Vance: That last part is probably going to be an obstacle to asking politely.

Vance: Or maybe not!

Camena: Hmmm.

Icaria: I mean, if necessary, I can just send Citrin.

Camena: Maybe trade Vi a list of underworld smugglers in exchange?

Svetlana: It seems like once Jaspindar was coopted into the same revolution that Testudine Satellite was already a member of that the animosity between them should have been somewhat resolved.

Vance: Moon Tortoise is part of Zanara's anti-Realm revolution.

Zanara: I mean, so are they now.

Zanara: Sort of.

Vance: Or at least associated with it.

Camena: I mean. I could go in there and steal her.

Icaria: I don't feel like this needs to take more than twenty minutes.

Camena: Agreed.

Vance: Likely not.

Icaria: Just slip her a note and I'll have an elemental in there to carry her out in two shakes of a yeddim's tail.

Camena: So, final proposals on the table: What sounds good to folks?

Camena: Break her out, or go through channels?

Zanara: I mean, if we ask, they say no, and we break her out anyway, that's… kinda obvious. Even to Zanara who is not really that good at scheming.

Icaria: Let's just offer them something nice.

Icaria: What do we have that they want?

Camena: They might not be afraid of magisterial justice, but what about a magisterial commendation that gets sent back home?

Camena: Like, one with a comically big gold star.

Icaria: I guess we could expose #4 as a non-Terrestrial weird Anathema, although that's a lot of trouble to pop at once.

Zanara: Let's not. We are slowly Befriendapaloozaing him!

Camena: Can we not? Even I feel like that'd be too much for the poor dude.

Svetlana: Svetlana doesn't really understand why this needs anything complicated. If Jaspindar says no, either she has a good reason or she doesn't.

Camena: His office just burnt down!

Icaria: No, we're not.

Icaria: I'll sleep with him, but we aren't friends!

Icaria: I agree with Svetlana. Let's just ask Jaspindar, and if not, we'll know what to do.

Icaria: It's not like she won't know it was us even if we don't ask first.

Camena: True.

Vance: Do Camena and Zanara want to come along?

Vance: Or are they going to be, say, heisting at the same time?

Camena: Yeah, Camena's gonna go with asking permission in this case.

Camena: More out of laziness than concern

Zanara: Zanara would like to be there, but if Camena needs her for heist purposes she's fine with that too.

Zanara: I mean, Zanara would be terrible at heisting, but hey.

Svetlana: Enh, just look the people who spot you seriously in the eye and say, "This isn't a heist. This is holy."

Svetlana: That's what the Unconquered Sun does when he's moving pieces and it's not his turn.

Vance: Jaspindar is holding open court out of Gloam's civic ampitheatre, built both atop and out of the ruins of some ancient edifice of a bygone age. The raised dais where the Satrap sits in judgment and the raised seats of the courtiers and spectators are hewn from the same smooth, translucent black-and-white stone. As you approach, you hear a harbormaster angrily yelling that the sea captain across from him should be forced to pay the damages from his exploding shipment of firedust. Jaspindar holds a painted silk fan open at an angle that perfectly conceals her yawn, though her attendant dutifully takes down every word and speaks on her behalf. As you catch her eye, she snaps her fan closed and calls for a recess.

Camena: "Oh good, she remembers us."

Vance: "Only if you've brought me something fun to do," she purrs, drawing close to you. "This is absolutely the worst part of being the satrap in Gloam. Their traditions are maddening!"

Svetlana: Svetlana tilts her head. "Oh?"

Vance: "These people expect their ruler to hold court for their petty personal squabbles once a fortnight. I'm not a magistrate! How am I supposed to know which of these two is in the right? Why can't I have one of the bureaucrats who I pay to make these decisions make this decision?"

Icaria: "This sounds like a job for… a magistrate!"

Camena: "An Imperial one?"

Vance: "Are you the shapeshifting one?" Jaspindar asks Svetlana. "We know one of you can do it."

Camena: Titters.

Vance: "And since I haven't been horribly murdered and eaten, I can rest assured your power comes from an entirely wholesome divinity, not the Lunar Anathema."

Svetlana: "Don't be ridiculous," Svetlana says. "Being able to shapeshift isn't a power. A child can do it if they know how."

Vance: "Majal's report said there was a perfect copy of me during the attack en route to the gala. And it's not easy to jack my swagger."

Svetlana: "Mm," Svetlana says. "…is this a serious request?"

Vance: "I haven't decided that yet," Jaspindar says. "I could imagine allowing myself to be convinced."

Vance: "Would your heart leap to settle contract disputes and petty torts?"

Svetlana: Svetlana grinds her teeth. "Of course not," she lies.

Icaria: "It would be a shame to make the magistrate do all this work while we slipped away to party," says Icaria, assuming his most guileful face.

Vance: (Icaria could roll with Charisma, or Svetlana can with Manipulation.)

Svetlana: Socialize?

Vance: That works.

Vance: Or Presence.

Svetlana: …7 successes, 1 WP.

Svetlana: Svetlana's bashfulness on this point is apparently pretty enticing.

Vance: That is so much overkill that Jaspindar is forming a positive tie for Evdeniya.

Zanara: Nice.

Svetlana: (It is sheer luck; there were two 10s and two successes on 6 dice.)

Svetlana: (Luck… or fate?) (Looks around for #4 out of character.)

Vance: "Oh, I know that tone of voice. You're trembling at the chance. Let's play the empress and the urchin—you turn into me and get to work justice among the common people, I party down."

Svetlana: "…fine," Svetlana says. "But only because I have been buried up to my nose in inventories and account books for days and need to deal with real people for a while so I don't start screaming."

  • Icaria passes Jenna the Solar XP bucket.

Icaria: It seems that Bureaucracy Quest will be easier than you supposed.

Svetlana: Svetlana sounds massively sulky and quite pleased, which is completely accurate.

Icaria: Except for the part where you actually have to do bureaucracy.

Svetlana: Svetlana looks around to see if there are any witnesses, or open areas from which witnesses might come.

Vance: You're free to Moon Prism Make-Up.

Svetlana: Svetlana nods, finds a good place to sit and work, and says, "Your honor [or as appropriate], if you could advise me as I work and catch any small nuances I might miss, or advise me on behavioral details known to the public, it would be most helpful."

Vance: (Is that to Jaspindar's scribe?)

Camena: Camena stands by, ready to advise as well.

Svetlana: That was to Jaspindar.

Vance: (Oh, sorry, misread the context.)

Vance: "My public face is a little different from the one I've shown you. No smiling, for one, because gods they're depressing to talk too. I'm also show… slightly more restraint."

Vance: "Trust me, though, these people aren't the ones you have to worry about figuring out your shapeshifting trick. They're the kind of idiots that blow up docks, for Mela's sake."

Svetlana: Svetlana seats herself on a stool and gets out her makeup kit and mirror and begins to work. A bit under the eye here, a bit of color there, a shift in the face that seemed to make the monsters and horrors and fairies and such less angry when she used it on the stage there. "We'll need to adjust outfits, of course, but you most likely have a spare one nearby in case an idiot spills something on you regardless." She ponders. "Hm, need to be slightly taller." She wriggles her shoulders, stretches a bit, and suppresses a wince of discomfort before her back settles into the new posture and she adds a bit of lift into her shoes.

Vance: Take +2 stunt dice, although this roll will only matter to see if the other Dynasts catch Jaspindar skipping court.

Svetlana: In a stunning example of overkill, 14 successes on my Flawless Disguise over my Flawless Disguise.

Vance: …she doesn't get caught.

Svetlana: (-6m Flawless -4m Excellency.)

Vance: "Wonderful! It's like seeing my reflection, or my shadow walking free. My Shade, the Changing Magistrate. Just make sure you never abuse my face, because I'd really hate to have to execute you."

Icaria: "We already know you've got protocols in place," Icaria grins.

Vance: Svetlana, I'll let you narrate your Solomonic judgments. Do the rest of you want to accompany Jaspindar to partytown?

Camena: Camena is generally in favor of parties.

Icaria: It seems only polite, although if we don't have plans for that we can skip over most of it.

Vance: I was planning about a scene of you trying to convince her.

Svetlana: "I would hate to have you have to execute me a second time," Not-Jaspindar agrees sadly. "The paperwork alone."

Camena: Camena whispers to Zanara: "I wonder if someone should petition the magistrate for mercy…"

Vance: "Go forth and do justice, magistrate," Jaspindar says as she departs with the rest of the circle. "Now, I don't have much time, so we can't prepare a gala or a salon or anything. Let's get drinks at the Pillow House."

Zanara: Zanara whispers back, "You read my mind," then turns to Jaspindar. "You know, I don't believe I've been there since arriving in Gloam."

Camena: "Bring on the hot boys!"

Vance: The Pillow House stands at the crossroads of Gloam's most prosperous neighborhoods, a pagoda overgrown with vines that blossom into blue flowers, Venus's color. Inside, it is a combination of the most elegant aspects of saloon, teahouse, and seraglio. The beautiful men and women who bring you drinks and food are formally dressed in loose silk kimonos that leave everything to the imagination. They have a table already prepared for the Satrap and her retinue, with a pre-stocked selection of Jaspindar's favorite vintages. She motions for you all to sample the beverages as she gulps down an acid-bright blue drink from a glass bowl.

Camena: Camena calls for a scorpion-bowl of her own, giving a Southern boy a good head shorter than she is a wicked wink.

  • Icaria attempts to drink things and pretend to be worldly.
  • Icaria rolls Manipulation + Presence.

Vance: I think that'd be Stamina + Socialize.

Zanara: For a moment, Zanara looks distinctly uncomfortable, but only for a moment. She still sticks to tea, though.

Icaria: One success either way.

Vance: Icaria is comedically drunk for the remainder of the scene.

Icaria: "There's a story about what happens to people who encourage sorcerers to drink," says Icaria, before drinking whatever it is.

Camena: "Great," Camena muses. "A sauced-sorer."

Icaria: "That is very funny," says Icaria, sadly.

Svetlana: Not-Jaspindar expects herself to be good at the judgment part, in both senses of the word, but today has another purpose. Today she has to get a feel for the reactions of the people in the city. Today she has to get a sense for what people will accept, what they'll go along with, and what will make them resist. Today she'll need to verify her sense, as much as she can, of how the economic factors in the city intertwine. She is planning to make her first strikes on slavery-supporting merchant houses as soon as the group isn't actively doing anything else, so she needs to know what kind of solidarity the merchants feel. The best—and still dumb—plan she has for handling the freed slaves is to set up oversight, give them a portion of the gross income of the industries they worked at, and hope that enough of them stay and enough others move in that it's not a disaster… and there are going to be disasters still, so she needs to understand which groups in the city will be able to cope and even profit in that environment. Very few key players for any of that will be here, but… well… she can attempt to extrapolate. Most of all, she has been, as she admitted, eyeballs-deep in economic theory for the past few weeks; she needs to make sure that she actually understands how people react and that her judgments aren't completely atrophied or atrocious. In the end, if there were a newspaper, it would probably report a surprisingly uneven day for the satrap: some judgments shockingly incisive, others with a purpose completely unclear.

Vance: "So," Jaspindar says, as she exchanges her depleted fishbowl for some kind of spicy pepper liqueur. "No one just gives me a convenient excuse to leave the peasants and get drunk without an ulterior motive. What can I do for you?"

  • Svetlana goes quiet, having said a mouthful. It does not require immediate GM response; you can stay with the bar scene.

Icaria: "Oh," says Icaria, sunk in melancholy, "we were hoping to ask a favor."

Vance: Svetlana, go ahead and gain one Willpower.

  • Camena hums a few bars of "What can I do for you?"

Vance: "I believe that was what I said, yes. Skip to asking for it already!"

Zanara: "…and also hoping to not be so straightforward about it," Zanara says, smiling. "But it does rather save time, doesn't it? Majal is holding someone regarding that little dustup before the gala. We'd like to secure her release."

Vance: "Are you referring to the functionary who's being held for treason? Her name escapes me, but charges those grave don't. Why would you want her free?"

Camena: "We don't want her free. We're more than willing to pay. Or trade, at least," Camena adds, impishly sipping at her drink.

Vance: "Releasing a spy and a saboteur is a steep request. She could threaten Gloam's security with what she knows, and from Majal's reports she has every inclination to do so. Should I assume that she's one of your agents?"

Zanara: "At the time, I had no way of knowing you would be so amenable to reform. Regrettably, that's not very common. You have my word that if you make no moves against us, she would be no threat to you. I simply refuse to allow one of my people to suffer unnecessarily."

Vance: (Roll Charisma + Presence.)

Zanara: 5m personal, aaaaand… wow. 12.

Vance: "Your word is something I've come to value. Let me ask you this—was she the only one, or do you have more people in my ministries who I've yet to ferret out?"

Zanara: (…do I? I don't think I do?)

Vance: (Up to you to decide.)

Zanara: (I don't think she does, she just got here.)

Zanara: Zanara shakes her head. "Only her."

Vance: "That makes things easier. I can see to her release into your custody, buut, it does seem only fair that you owe me a favor, doesn't it?"

Zanara: "Well, we did get you out of a very boring afternoon."

Vance: "Not really in the same echelon, I'm afraid."

Camena: "Fine," Camena says. "I'll give you the name of my tailor. But she's a trade secret, mind you."

Vance: "I had something more specific in mind. It has to do with my… personal life."

Icaria: A forgotten anniversary?

Camena: "I mean, I don't know if Svetlana is willing to take the body double thing that far…"

Vance: "My marriage with Vi is somewhat… unconventional by the standards of the Realm. Our Houses have been perfectly accepting, however, because we still pass down the blood of the dragons. We have a son, five years old, back on the Blessed Isle. He was conceived through sorcerous arts, but he's our son nonetheless."

Icaria: "Oh, I see."

Icaria: "You aren't on speaking terms with Tran now."

Vance: "Legate Tran is the sorcerer who facilitated the birth, as well as the one responsible for the enchantments on my manor, and more. Until recently, she's been admirably loyal, for all her faults. I don't know what's happened with her, what's changed, but now she's holding our second baby hostage."

Icaria: "Like, a literal baby, or a potential baby?"

Vance: "The former. It is still gestating, waiting to be born. Tran refuses to even let me in to her laboratory."

Zanara: "…that is quite unacceptable," Zanara says.

Camena: "Agreed, indeed."

Svetlana: (Wow! We're actually going to meet Tran!)

Camena: "Safety of the child is paramount, of course," Camena says, suddenly made of sterner stuff than usual even as she draws the Southern boy nearer. "But what else should we know about your preferences in how this is resolved?"

Vance: "I can't just march in with a direlance—who knows what harm I might accidentally cause to my child? While I don't know the exact nature of the magic Tran uses to create children, it's going to take a subtle approach to free her. That's not going to be easy. She keeps a menagerie of demons on her estate. Getting in is going to be difficult enough."

Camena: "Lucky for you that you've got a pair of…" Camena pauses, reconsidering. "One and a half sorcerers on your side."

Icaria: "Well, there's ways…"

Icaria: "Sorry."

Camena: "Sorry about what, darling?" she asks, running her fingers through Icaria's hair, but you know, in a friendly way. Like one of those friends that becomes dangerously affectionate when halfway through a gallon of liquor.

Svetlana: Svetlana might conceivably actually count as less than zero sorcerers, bringing the count down further.

Zanara: "You say you don't know what's happened. I take it that means she's made no demands?"

Vance: "Half the time I can barely understand her, but she's been making even less sense lately. I don't think she wants anything—she was just angry at me, furious, and wouldn't say why."

Icaria: "It's an occupational risk."

Icaria: "One day I shall probably wind up completely mad."

  • Icaria stares into his cups.
  • Camena waggles her eyebrows suggestively at the cute Southern boy, and then at Icaria.

Vance: A Djala in a panda-spotted kimono suggestively offers Icaria a plate of licorice candies.

Svetlana: Hm, I have discovered a slight hitch in my plan.

Icaria: I eat them, morosely.

Camena: "If we are to have the best chance at being effective, we will need your aid," Camena says, still trying to prod a response out of Icaria but still perfectly lucid, with a businesslike tone. "Schematics of her estate, if they are at hand. A dossier, if Majal can provide one. Some knowledge of her sorcerous abilities, if any record has been made."

Vance: "Majal has the blueprints. We've been going over them these last few weeks. I'll send it to you by courier."

Icaria: "Yes, I think it's doable."

Icaria: "I know some things about spirits, even if…"

  • Icaria gazes into the distance.

Camena: Camena is still petting Icaria like a kitten,

Icaria: I fail to notice.

Vance: "Tran's specialty is demonology. The protocols surrounding registering summoned spirits were… relaxed for her, in exchange for her contributions to the good of the satrapy. She may have dozens of them bound."

Svetlana: It occurs to me that each time both parties in a dispute are sufficiently certain in their righteousness that feel they can demand that the satrap make a certain judgment rather than pleading for it or arguing for it, I will have to roll Limit. I'm… not sure how frequent that will be.

Icaria: Is that kind of anxiety still a problem for you when you're pretending to be someone more confident?

Vance: I don't think that's going to be a problem.

Zanara: "We can handle demons," Zanara says. "Of that, I have no doubt."

Vance: Humility is usually a good approach when you're talking to the Satrap.

Camena: Bearing in mind also that any judgment you could render will be almost certainly fairer than anything Jaspindar could have made.

Svetlana: Phew.

Svetlana: I am not going to make my Limit Trigger require I be myself because I don't think I've been myself since the game started. ^_^

Svetlana: Wait, there was the stage. But aside from that. ^_^

  • Svetlana reads Vance's private-chat explanation of what happens now that she knows she isn't going to Limit Break before getting all of it.

Vance: "That's a good first step. You'll also be laying siege to her in her lair, and I don't have any idea what kind of wards or defenses she might be able to raise. You saw her handicraft with the my little forest."

Camena: "I am, despite every fiber of my being straining at the pronounciation of these words, confident in our ability to overcome her sorcery. In this realm, Icaria's competence is undeniable. And my own… is acceptable."

Icaria: "The forest is certainly impressively large. Was it terribly expensive?"

Vance: "Very well. I'll arrange for… her name's Cloud Tortoise, right?… to be freed, and dispatch a courier with the dossier on Tran to you. I'm worried that she's become volatile, so the faster you act, the better."

Camena: "Duly noted," Camena says with a nod.

Vance: Jaspinder's eyes begin to moisten with tears. "I've been trying to just keep it out of my mind. But I'm so worried."

Camena: Camena begins petting Jaspindar's head too. "We'll get this done. Don't worry."

Icaria: "If she was doing anything in there to hurt you, she'd be telling you about it."

Icaria: "She's probably just gone mad."

Vance: "I don't want to call in the Wyld Hunt on one of our own people. But if you can't stop this, that may be my only option."

Icaria: "Sometimes I get so intent in my work I forget how to speak human languages."

Zanara: "We'll take care of this," Zanara says, taking Jaspindar's hand in her own. "No mother should be separated from her child."

Icaria: "Although the difference is…"

  • Icaria shakes his head, trying to shake off his alcohol-induced introspection.

Zanara: (That said, I am going to be an asshole and Read Intentions to see if those are crocodile tears or if Jaspindar's the rare Dynast who actually cares about her kids beyond "has she Exalted yet?")

Vance: Go ahead.

Zanara: Manipulation + Socialize, right?

Vance: Perception.

Zanara: Ah! Okay. Motive-Discerning Technique, 3m personal, aaaand… 3.

Vance: She's being sincere, although you're not sure if that's the only reason she's this upset.

Zanara: Fair enough! (Zanara was being serious about the mother and child bit, anyway, she's mad)

Vance: (That wraps up the scene, unless anyone else has plans.)

Icaria: I have to go sober up before the introspection demon gets me.

Camena: I'm getting the Southern boy's card, but other than that, I'm good.

Vance: What's the circle's next move?

Camena: Checking Majal's dossier and doing some preliminaries?

Icaria: Hm. Should I summon fifty war daughters?

Icaria: Using my occult insight to gauge Tran's general demons level is probably good either way.

Vance: Majal's dossier is heavily redacted—"matters irrelevant to the current issue"—but paints a general portrait of the sorcerer as a naïve newcomer in the world of politics, too compassionate for Gloam's people to play realpolitik. She's noted as being eager, even pliable, though the reasons why are redacted out. An unexceptional background in the Realm's sorcerous school, no relevant childhood history, and only speculation as to what prompted the sudden change in her behavior. None of Majal's agents sent to infiltrate Tran's estate have returned.

Svetlana: I'm assuming we've reconnected and some hours have passed?

Vance: Yus.

Camena: "Make a note," Camena says to no one in particular. "To redact Majal's face."

Svetlana: I fill people in delightedly on my fascinating day and hear the sobering news and agree regarding Majal's face.

Svetlana: "It's probably either [Sivana] or that purple guy."

Svetlana: What do I roll to remember Sivana?

Vance: I'm going to treat Arcane Fate more as in-character brain fuzz than something you roll against.

Svetlana: I have a defining principle that nobody gets forgotten but feel guilty just ignoring Arcane Fate. Hm. OK, I call him Savannah!

Icaria: And the purple guy is Iron Snow. Am I having any difficulty remembering him?

Vance: The same brain fuzz, yeah.

Vance: It's like having something on the tip of your tongue, except confusing the sensory feeling between your tongue and your fingers and feeling all weird and then getting an ice cream headache from thinking about it.

Icaria: I'm going to write about it.

Vance: This time, it doesn't get erased out of existence.

Icaria: No, not like that.

Svetlana: "Most likely weird poison guy," Svetlana concludes. "Because he does things like make people inexplicably change their behavior."

Icaria: Although that's interesting.

Icaria: I'm starting my new novel.

Icaria: It's about two celestial functionaries: one hot and scheming, the other hot and dumb. They fall in love, but later are torn apart for mysterious reasons and plummet to the earth.

Icaria: Then, they become enemies!

Icaria: Eventually their mutual love for a pure-hearted librarian brings them back together and saves a city from destruction.

Icaria: If nothing else it will annoy Sivana.

Vance: It'll also annoy Iron Snow.

Icaria: I don't actually know for sure that Iron Snow can read.

Icaria: He sure as hell can't count.

Camena: Oh, dear.

Svetlana: At some point in the book there has to be the exchange "Iron Snow." "Irons YES."

Icaria: "Ooh, that's good stuff."

Camena: We're going to get a homebrew cascade for smut before the end of this campaign, aren't we?

Vance: No, we are not.

Icaria: "While I write the sexy bits, I was going to mention. I would kind of like to talk to Tran before we invade her home and the seat of all her power."

Svetlana: "Also known as visiting."

Icaria: "As a sorcerer, I can provide a precise evaluation of her closeness to mad cackling laughter."

Camena: Camena looks as if someone has cancelled Christmas.

Vance: You remember the way to Tran's house, from that time you were… apparently recruited into one of Majal's schemes to assassinate her.

Icaria: "Maybe I could send her a copy of one of my books."

Vance: (The dossier notes that this preceded her change in behavior.)

Icaria: "Then, we'll make her come out, to buy the sequel!"

Svetlana: "Oh?" Svetlana peeks at the dossier again as that fact strikes her. "Has Tran not come out at all since then?"

Icaria: "That does actually seem like a good reason to be acting odd."

Svetlana: Svetlana is fuzzy on whether 'then' means the gala or the change in behavior until she looks at the dossier.

Icaria: "Maybe Jaspindar just doesn't realize that most people take being almost murdered personally."

Vance: There are reports of sightings of her as far back as the last few days.

Vance: Tran never found out about the plan, though?she just had the party cancelled on her.

Icaria: "Let me just say in advance that if I ever take an arrow to the throat I'm going to be downright shirty about it."

Icaria: Obviously she found out.

Icaria: She's a sorcerer.

Icaria: There's no cap on her potential for power!

Icaria: That's how I come to know everything.

Icaria: These pictures just come into my head!

Icaria: Like about Sivana being the tomb monster, or his passionate meeting with Number Four in the dungeons of Pneuma.

Icaria: But yeah, let's have her for dinner.

Vance: So how are you planning on inviting her?

Icaria: I'll write an invitation. My penmanship is excellent.

  • Icaria considers what to say.

Icaria: "Help me write this, everybody."

Zanara: I am totally here for letter-writing. Linguistics is rad.

Icaria: "Worthy Legate:"

Icaria: "It has come to my intention that Jaspindar thinks you are acting super weird."

Svetlana: Svetlana asides to Camena, "Speaking of writing, how's your painting?"

Icaria: "So, she sent us to kill you."

Icaria: "But first, we should have dinner and talk about it."

Vance: (Jaspindar was not actually in on that plan.)

Icaria: "How about tomorrow night at seven?"

Svetlana: "And more generally your currency design?"

Icaria: She is sending us, right now, to kill her.

Vance: She didn't say to kill her!

Icaria: She wouldn't be asking us to do a home invasion if she wasn't down with it.

Icaria: "We're having dolmades."

Camena: "Oh my," Camena says with a flourish. "Whatever are you asking, O magistrate?"

Icaria: "Bring your favorite demon (one is enough)!"

Icaria: "Love, Icaria Varus (author of Frenzied Pythons)"

Icaria: "Maybe we should workshop this a bit."

Svetlana: "I suggest crossing out 'kill' and writing 'hug' in the space above it," Svetlana says, Icaria's way.

Icaria: "That would be inaccurate," says Icaria. "You should never lie to a sorcerer."

Icaria: "Maybe I should just, like, wander over."

Svetlana: "Now, cousin," Svetlana says, Camena-wards, "It is practically disrespectful for you to address a satrap in that manner."

Icaria: "We've got interests in common."

Camena: "Don't make this a family disguise-off. Some of us have already figured out how to fake anima, my dear."

Svetlana: Svetlana makes an embarrassed face.

Svetlana: "Anyway," Svetlana says. "I want to rook the merchant houses that support slavery. I'm a little worried that just taking their assets might get troublesome. So I was hoping, maybe, we could make a nice new currency. Something, you know, not worth anything, maybe even openly not worth anything, except maybe when burned as a sacrifice to a god we won't mention at the time, if then. Except that it'll inflate in value because other people are buying it. And then it stops inflating in value and crashes when the price is high and all the scrip is in the right merchant houses' hands."

Svetlana: "You might have a better idea," Svetlana says. "Of course."

Camena: Camena looks at Svetlana with a long, even look. She circles the woman and takes the measure of her, slow and methodical and almost the opposite of the Camena that anyone has seen until now. Her face grows grave and concerned, until finally she stops and throws her arms around Svetlana in a bear hug, lifting the magistrate off the floor at least for a few moments. "I knew there was a criminal in you somewhere, cousin!"

Svetlana: Svetlana squeaks.

Svetlana: "I'm not the Legate!" she says.

Camena: "That is… accurate? But mostly irrelevant," she adds, putting the Night Caste down.

Icaria: "I suppose you could be if you wanted," muses Icaria.

Icaria: "Camena could be the baby."

Camena: "I will end you," Camena says, still smiling. But also threatening. But smiling!

Svetlana: Svetlana waves vaguely at the letter. "Jaspindar wanted us to hug Tran," she explains.

Icaria: Icaria broods over the letter.

Svetlana: Svetlana grins at Camena.

Icaria: "This is infuriating, honestly."

Vance: Icaria should go ahead and roll Charisma + Linguistics.

Vance: The workshopping is worth a two-point: take 1 success, +2 dice, and 1 WP.

Svetlana: "It's not really criminal," Svetlana says, "anyway. It's more like… action accounting."

Camena: "Hmmm. Can't make the god in question too blasphemous, of course. Dig through the Immaculate records and find a nice, vague name. Something enticing but nonthreatening. I wonder if Vi might convince the wife to support this scheme?"

Svetlana: Svetlana does not look like she is actually trying to convince anyone of this.

Icaria: I'm going to spend five personal motes and roll 15 dice.

Icaria: And the result is… wow. 14 successes total.

Vance: You make some really quality edits to your letter.

Camena: "Hell, between the two of us, we could buy up all our own first batch through a series of alternate identities."

Icaria: I put brush to paper and produce something almost completely unlike the letter I previously dictated.

Camena: Icaria slipped and the letter came out a flawless accident.

Camena: He totally meant to write all those murdery bits.

Svetlana: "I was thinking," Svetlana says, "that there are some people who I could not give a completely satisfactory judgment to today."

Vance: Is the gist of it the same?

Svetlana: "I mean, the judgment was fine."

Icaria: Something formal, but warm, indicating a belief in our mutual interests and a desire to put right whatever has gone wrong in the hearts of the Dynasts of Gloam before matters come to a head.

Svetlana: "But—there was no viable recourse."

Svetlana: "So perhaps they could be slipped a small gift."

Svetlana: "Something to indicate that the satrap's servants noticed."

Camena: "Oho?"

Svetlana: "It seemed a way to get some of the early funds out there, anyhow."

Vance: How is this letter getting delivered?

Svetlana: I support cannon.

Icaria: I suppose I'll just walk over and hand it to somebody.

Svetlana: "Icaria, people who go into the estate might have been vanishing?"

Icaria: "Yeah, but those were other people."

Icaria: "You can't get rid of me that easily."

Camena: "I'll see about securing a printer."

Icaria: "But seriously if I'm not back in an hour break down the door and rescue me."

Svetlana: "We could deliver it by javelin?"

Vance: Anyone want to accompany Icaria?

Icaria: I'll bring Rubean and Saphir.

Svetlana: "Thank you, cousin." Svetlana beams. "You're a gem."

Icaria: They establish my sorcerous bona fides.

Camena: "Gods I hope not. I like not exploding."

Svetlana: "…don't take everything that happens in one of Icaria's books literally."

Icaria: I can even ride my little cloud.


Icaria: But because I promised not to cause a fuss, I ride it about two feet off the ground.

Svetlana: Normally I'd accompany Icaria, but Svetlana has concluded this is a deeply personal project for him, a way to prove himself by stepping into the lion's den.

Icaria: Hm, who shall I say it's from?

Icaria: Our Circle needs a name.

Camena: The Office Immolators

Icaria: The Ring of Truth.

Icaria: I mean, would we lie?

Camena: Yes.

Zanara: No.

Svetlana: We Could Be Anybody.

Icaria: Both of those statements have the ring of truth about them.

Camena: One Dawn Short.

Svetlana: Ooh, that's good.

Vance: It's not storming, or even raining, but Legate Tran's estate is so ominous that it really should be. Instead, the sun shines cheerily as Icaria and his retinue set off for the sorcerer's lair. The townhouse is further from Gloam's central district, though this has left Tran with plenty of room for architectural expansions. Some of them defy the laws of physics—a gigantic oak's branches pass neatly through a segment cut out of one of the estate's towers, passing neatly between the tower. Unlike Jaspindar's estate, there's no sign of any servants, or anyone at all, on the grounds.

Icaria: Spirit looker magic, go!

Vance: Is Icaria a brave person?

Icaria: My front is impenetrable.

Icaria: Under that it remains to be seen.

Icaria: …so what you're saying is, I'm surrounded by blood apes.

Vance: Your field of vision is basically completely full of demon

Icaria: Are we talking like twenty demons, fifty demons, or a thousand demons?

Vance: Closer to 50.

Kukla: It Is Time 2 Go.

Icaria: "Saphir… I need you, very quickly, and very quietly, to go home, without looking back."

Icaria: "I'll see you later."

Icaria: I do my best to look like someone who can't see fifty demons and knock on the gate.

Vance: Most of them flit about the yard invisibly, tending to various tasks. Slug-headed bears trundle about the edges of the estate, occasionally extending a proboscis into materiality to scruffle up weeds or garbage. Opalescent cicadas dance in the air to no obvious effect. There are, however, a trio of entities made up of web-like filaments that seem to be watching you.

Vance: I think it'd be Manipulation + Socialize or Integrity to not let on that you see them.

Svetlana: He absolutely didn't want company, Svetlana thinks, as she scribbles ongoing revisions to her plans in the group's hotel, Yes. This is something he needs to face alone.

Icaria: I'm in danger of losing focus as fear impinges on the unceasing whirl of thrown-together bullshit that is my personality, but "being afraid of a bunch of demons" is at least something I have a pre-determined response for.

Icaria: That said, I'm not spending motes, so only two successes.

Vance: Roll two stunt dice.

Icaria: 0.

Vance: So, they definitely noticed you noticing them.

Icaria: Although, since I'm coming with 'sorcerer' written on my hat, I suppose it doesn't matter.

Vance: The filament-things move to surround you. It's awful to see them in motion, strangely abstract yet still evoking a visceral fear, perhaps, of marionettes and wriggling things. They arrange themselves into a triangle around Icaria and Rubean.

Icaria: "I've come to deliver a letter to Legate Tran," I say evenly.

Vance: "Hey, what's you want, guy?"

Vance: "Stop talking over him, he's trying to tell us!"

Icaria: "Yeah!"

Icaria: "I brought a letter for the boss. Very important."

Vance: "Our master's not seeing anyone. Letters is anyone, so you can take that away from here."

Icaria: "She's not seeing the man who brings the food around? She must be hungry."

Icaria: "That sucks."

Vance: "Oh, look at the wise guy who knows all about agriculture. Eventually you primitive apes are going to realize you can keep your food cold, but until then, you can fuck off."

Icaria: "My point is, surely she's not planning to lock herself in her house until she runs out of tinned salmon."

Icaria: "What's the deal, anyway? Everybody's been telling me what a nice lady she is; why's she suddenly homestuck?"

Icaria: "Was she crossed in love?"

Icaria: "Was there a tragic love affair with someone she knew she could never marry, but secretly yearned for?"

Vance: "So what, are you bringing food? We supposed to serve roast flame duck?"

Icaria: "Wait, aren't all flame ducks roasted?"

Vance: "We're groundskeepers, not gossip-mongers, you bonehead."

Icaria: "That's not the point, though, I'm talking about Legate Tran's broken heart."

Vance: "That's very personal and something she has to deal with on her own."

Icaria: "I never knew a groundskeeper who wasn't all about the gossip. Come on, 'fess up."

Icaria: "If she's going to deal with it on her own, she needs to be handling her own correspondence."

Icaria: "Do go tell somebody that there's a dashing young sorcerer outside with an important letter."

Vance: "Does that make sense?" one stage whispers to his partners.

Vance: "Think so?"

Vance: "Sure."

Vance: "We have decided that we will deliver your letter."

Icaria: "You have my deepest gratitude."

Vance: "Up yours, buddy."

Icaria: "What a charming bunch of fellows," I say to Rubean as we walk away.

Icaria: Then I go home and find a quiet closet somewhere to have a panic attack.

Vance: Do Zanara/Camena/Svetlana have things they want to do before getting the response to the letter?

Camena: Nothing particularly screenworthy. Finding a printer for our currency.

Vance: There are absolutely no money forgers in Gloam with the tools and materials needed to print your desired currency. By afternoon, you have almost a dozen of these none working for you.

Camena: Exxxxxcellent.

Svetlana: I'll probably start work on a few letters to have intercepted regarding the pending value spike on this stuff.

Vance: That's probably Manipulation + Linguistics.

Svetlana: I figure writing letters directly to them would be suspicious, and faking them coming from someone risks exposure, but if they get a hold of letters that weren't supposed to come to them through less legitimate channels, it can seed the idea.

Svetlana: Blah blah blah, coded reference to this house that this other house doesn't like, blah blah blah, mention of an asset that most people don't know they have but the target does, blah blah blah, certain referenced parties are expecting to invest in it so getting it early has the hope of driving up the price for them on a quick amusing resale, all in the rough script of a merchant's semi-legal agent.

Vance: Take two dice.

Svetlana: 5 successes.

Vance: This is a pretty damn good forgery—it's convincing to the layperson, and even an expert will have trouble spotting any irregularities, barring magic.

Svetlana: Oh, this counts as forgery?

Vance: Loosely speaking.

Vance: Damn.

Svetlana: [rolls her specialty die.] …make that 7 successes.

Vance: So this is near-impeccable.

Svetlana: All those endless hours forging Tepet Evdeniya's reports are paying off!

Vance: You think you could get it past a Dynast.

Svetlana: I think this can flexibly eat up as much time as I have here.

Vance: Okay.

Vance: So it's evening, and the four of you are having something for dinner. As you eat, a shimmering sphere made of eyes, floating on six white-feathered wings, appears to Icaria—and only Icaria. He recognizes it as a sorcerer's cherub.

Icaria: "Oh, hey, a sorcerer's cherub!"

Svetlana: "…it's called a cauliflower, Icaria."

Icaria: "Ah, Dynastic slang.

Vance: It repeats a message in a voice like a golden trumpet: "Icaria, I don't know who you are, or what you want. You trespassed on my estate even after seeing my demons, so you are a fool. I have no desire to speak to anyone, and especially not fools. Leave me alone."

Icaria: "Once again people tell me things I already know, but not what I want to know."

Icaria: "Tran says no, guys."

Vance: The cherub offers no further exposition before dissipating into stardust.

Camena: "Hmm. We could set her house on fire."

Svetlana: "That seems excessive. The child is still inside."

Icaria: "She's got like two hundred demons. And a baby, yeah."

Camena: "Or pull the same trick we tried with Majal. Let slip of the discover of an especially powerful sorcerous phylactery in the hands of a new sorcerer…"

Svetlana: "That is a lot of demons."

Svetlana: "Can demons…" Svetlana shivers slightly. "Can they see hidden things?"

Svetlana: Svetlana is pondering the possibility of an extraction. Although she is only high-mortal stealth and doesn't actually know where Camena stands there.

Icaria: "There's a lot of demons, with a lot of different powers."

Zanara: "Then we shall defeat them each in turn," Zanara says.

Icaria: "I suppose I could summon an army of elemental bravos."

Svetlana: "That's actually a pretty good idea," Svetlana says.

Camena: "That's adorable, Zan. But we're looking for real plans."

Svetlana: "Zanara's, I mean, although an army of elemental bravos isn't bad."

Svetlana: "Do we know how strict their orders are?"

Icaria: "Admittedly, I think some of them are, like, demon janitors. But even a demon janitor may be a viscera-sucker or something."

Svetlana: "I mean…" Svetlana waves a hand. "I know we don't know that. Do demon orders need to be very strict?"

Camena: "I can get behind an army, but of course, if we're looking to save the child and we're already settled on the 'house on fire' initiative, then a full-scale spiritual incursion is likely not much safer."

Svetlana: "Because if they can swarm us, then killing them one by one is not good. But if they… can't leave, or whatever?"

Icaria: "Depends on the demon, depends on how you summoned it."

Icaria: "I doubt they'd stand on their orders if they were being slaughtered where they stood or something."

Icaria: "Perhaps we could sneak in from below?"

Zanara: "Is there no way to banish them?" Zanara says. "That always seems to be how stories involving demons end."

Svetlana: "Or maybe adjust the geomancy so that it costs energy for each demon someone has summoned in that area?" Svetlana asks, on the principle that Icaria can probably accomplish anything that has geomancy in the sentence.

Icaria: "I could research something," I say, "although obviously there's no simple trump card against a demon army or people wouldn't do it."

Icaria: "Hm. The geomancy here is all kinds of messed up."

  • Icaria considers ways he could take advantage of that.

Camena: "A pity we couldn't simply douse the complex in a wash of Solar Essence."

Svetlana: "Like bleach?"

Icaria: "Most of the solutions along those lines would probably not be good for a sorcerously-sustained child."

Svetlana: "Oh, point."

Icaria: "I would really like to figure out a way to get her to open the doors herself."

Icaria: "There's every chance that she's just the victim of Dynastic plots or Sivana's weird mind games."

Camena: "I'll be back in just a moment."

Svetlana: "What do sorcerers desperately want?"

Zanara: "True enough. I still can see no benefit to keeping Jaspindar's child hostage…"

Camena: Camena's going to go steal the unredacted file on Tran from Majal's office.

Vance: Gimme a Stealth roll.

Camena: 9 successes.

Vance: Okay.

Svetlana: "Or to turn it around, why would a sorcerer shut themselves away for a lengthy time?"

Icaria: "Hm. You think she could be doing Big Magic?"

Vance: As you approach the satrap's manor, you notice that Jaspindar has seriously stepped up the security. There are armed guards with torches at every entrance, including the servant's entrances. A few archers perch atop the roof. Your sneaking is pretty incredible, but that's a whole lot of eyes.

Svetlana: "…is… that why a sorcerer would shut themselves away for a lengthy time?"

Icaria: "That's one reason."

Zanara: Zanara shakes her head. "Jaspindar has known Tran for at least five years. She knows her well enough to know something is unusual in her seclusion."

Camena: Wait, Majal's office is at her manor?

Icaria: I meditate on the possibility that Tran's estate's host of omens is larger than normal and indicates the presence of Big Magic.

Vance: Yes.

Vance: It has been since forever.

Camena: I am just forgetful, then.

Camena: So 9 successes won't do it?

Svetlana: Svetlana ponders. "Did the demons react to you before you actually went past the front gates, Icaria?"

Vance: You can try, there's just a lot of opposed rolls = a lot of chances someone rolls lucky and spots you.

Icaria: "I only got into the yard. Most of them seemed intent on their tasks."

Vance: Icaria probably spent enough time on the estate to make the Perception + Occult roll to pick up on workings-in-progress.

Icaria: Hm, so no.

Vance: You would have to make the roll before you draw inferences!

Icaria: "I suppose we could take me at my word and just try to starve her out."

Camena: Well, then, I come up to the front with a list prepared of a few less-than-pliant smugglers, and ask to speak to Mistress Vi.

Icaria: Five.

Vance: You find it highly unlikely that Tran is going to performing a working.

Vance: Camena, I assume you're getting the names of these smugglers through your criminal contacts? If you turn them in, that might hurt your underworld reputation.

Icaria: "Hm, I probably could do something to start her food spoiling quickly."

  • Camena goes to meditate for a bit.

Svetlana: "I will go and listen in on her, soon," Svetlana says. "But I do not expect anything useful unless there is someone else in there for her to be talking to and I can throw something attached to a wire into the room she is in without her or the demons noticing."

Icaria: "I would really like to figure out a way to resolve this peacefully, because honestly Tran is probably just under the evil sway of Iron Snow's muscle magic or something."

Vance: If you have a Matches Malone disguise or two you use to move among the underworld, that might let you get away with it

Camena: Literally what I've said each time :stuck_out_tongue:

Svetlana: Svetlana ponders this. "Which I can't."

Vance: Okay, so Vi is very happy to have the names of people who are costing her taxable municipal revenue. She radiates the passion of a Defining Intimacy.

Vance: "What can I do for you, Madame Camena?"

Icaria: "Surely we can… trick her into coming outside. But… we really probably do have to find out why she's staying inside first."

Icaria: "Somebody… may have to go and talk to that jerk."

Vance: "I understand that Jaspindar spoke with you about our… difficulties."

Zanara: "I could certainly make an attempt," Zanara said.

Camena: "She did indeed. And I'm not sure if you're aware of the… well, there's a scope issue involved with the Legate's defenses. We were hoping to find some other leverage against her, but I'm afraid the Spymaster provided us with the barest scraps he could. Heavily redacted. I'm hoping you could have a word with him? Well, either that or give me twenty three seconds while you turn your back and pretend to take an interest in the tiled flooring outside his office."

Vance: "It's really hard to help you people when you commit treason every other breath." Vi sighs. "You've been very helpful, so it's in our best interests to give you a pass… but I'm having trouble imagining how you've come this far in life without being throne in some despot's dungeon to rot."

Vance: "I've sat in on all the planning meetings with Jaspindar and Majal, of course. I probably have the same documents he does. What are you looking for?"

Svetlana: "I guess one of us could dress up as her mother," Svetlana suggests.

Svetlana: Svetlana peers at the redacted file to see if Tran's parents are alive.

Vance: Both dead.

Svetlana: "I guess one of us could dress up as her dead mother," Svetlana suggests, somewhat less hopefully.

Camena: "Anything on Tran that might help us understand her, or her motivations. And I do resent that, if only a little—it's only treason if it's unsanctioned. Or unwarranted. And I can't imagine Tran is in Jaspindar's good graces of late. I know that we're… unorthodox. But Heaven knows that sometimes that's the better way to be."

Camena: #MeaningfulLook

Vance: Roll Charisma + Presence.

Camena: Manipulation, I'm totally playing this.

Svetlana: Svetlana considers this. "Actually, she would probably come out if there were a fake family corpse on her lawn, but she might not be more amenable to talking."

Vance: You told her you were planning to rob his office. You've been extraordinarily truthful!

Camena: The truth can always been manipulatory!

Vance: Explain how here, 'cause I can't see it.

Camena: Because it set me up to deliver a one-liner that preys on Vi's self-identity and the identity of her beloved.

Vance: Fair point.

Vance: Take two stunt dice.

Svetlana: (ponders) "A really loud festival right outside?"

Vance: ("your next line is…")

Svetlana: "Though that opens up the escalation of her attacking the festival-goers with demons. Hm."

Camena: 7 successes.

Svetlana: "Pigs."

Svetlana: "Let's get every pig on the island and unleash them on her lawn."

Svetlana: "Pigs with bells on."

Vance: "If you've heard that stupid rumor that she's in love with Jaspindar, don't believe it." Vi says, pulling out scrolls from her personal rack. "Looks up to her like a mother, that one. "Here's the dossier, unredacted. I doubt Majal actually cut out anything too useful, but I don't really care about his security protocol when my child's in danger, you know?"

Zanara: (What sort of a roll would it even be to try to suss out why Tran is so paranoid? Read Intentions?)

Vance: (At this point I don't think you have the info to read intentions.)

Vance: (I guess Icaria could, to try to gauge the motive behind the Infallible Messenger's infallible message.)

Camena: "Understandable. And… really, Vi. Whatever you might think of us, or of me… we'll handle this."

Icaria: Two successes.

Svetlana: Svetlana goes to the shelf and gets out her documents on the worst merchant houses' holdings in livestock, because Legate Tran is going to confiscate them.

Vance: "Thank you, Camena. Tran… was a friend, but right now she's dangerous. I don't want to see her hurt, but if it comes down to it…"

Svetlana: Svetlana may well be disappointed and have to resort to scouring the outer portions of the island for goats. She's not sure how much livestock can be removed from the island's economy without causing an upset, or how much is there in the first place.

Vance: Icaria's sense of Tran, based on her brief snippet of conversation, is that…

Camena: "It's a last resort," Camena says reassuringly before taking her leave.

Vance: Have you ever felt panicked about having someone over because your room/house is a mess?

Vance: She sorta had that kind of vibe.

Svetlana: (Oh, she's going to love my plan!)

Icaria: "Like, 'I accidentally summoned Ligier' mess?"

Icaria: Or, 'I intentionally summoned a dozen neomah' mess?

Vance: Not sure.

Camena: Camena drops the unredacted file into her circlemates' collective laps. Metaphorically. The file is probably not big enough to do that literally.

Vance: You could pick up the anxiety, but not the exact degree.

Vance: Some key points from the unredacted dossier:

  • Both of Tran's parents died in the battle against the Bull of the North. She was around age 12-13 when it happened, and Exalted in rage when she found out.
  • Tran seeks out parental figures that can provide her assurance and security. Jaspindar has taken on this role for her, making her a useful and pliable agent.
  • That's about all; I didn't really think through the redactions too much.

Svetlana: "Icaria, before I commit to a plan that is instantly revealed as folly, I am assuming that a typical demon cannot simply make an animal vanish—eliminating it would be messy. Am I wrong?"

Icaria: "Yeah, that's not a normal demon power."

Svetlana: Svetlana ponders the unredacted dossier with another part of her mind. It's not clear how we can fake up a parental figure without getting her out, and faking a Bull of the North appearance seems problematic.

Icaria: "I think I am starting to understand."

Zanara: (…Tran's like… 19?)

Icaria: "This is like when I accidentally destroyed a book and hid for a week in some far-distant shelves rather than tell the senior librarians."

Svetlana: "Does this give you insight as to ways to lure her out?"

Vance: Tran is the baby of the bunch .

Icaria: "Eventually I ran out of things to read."

Icaria: "And to eat."

Svetlana: "All right," Svetlana says. "Then I'm going to go borrow a house near hers with a very large yard."

Camena: "Oh, gods."

Icaria: "Hm, so, she's basically a kid who messed up big-time and is hiding from her angry parents."

Icaria: "Only, with an army of demons."

Camena: "Oh gods," Camena says again, but this time with a completely different meaning.

Svetlana: "Unless anyone has a better plan for getting her to come out than the army of livestock with bells."

Icaria: "No, that seems pretty good. Don't forget to have the bells blessed."

Svetlana: "How would I do that?" Svetlana asks, earnestly trusting Icaria's Lore and Occult.

Icaria: "Just get some of the better class of priests and make a reasonable offering."

Svetlana: "Got it."

Icaria: Meanwhile, I am going to summon a small army.

Icaria: Or at least, as much of one as I can manage in the time I have.

Vance: Make some binding rolls.

Icaria: How many?

Vance: And spend some Willpower.

Vance: How many elementals you want?

Svetlana: Svetlana slips out the door, becoming a shadow in the night. For she is a hidden Dagger of Heaven, and she will never be seen by the enemy because the enemy will be distracted by OH GOD THE PIGS.

Icaria: I guess it depends on when we plan to make our move.

Icaria: If it's tomorrow, I guess I can do two or three?

Camena: Camena retreats into her pipes, smoking a whole whole whole lot.

Vance: Tell us about the elementals you're trying to bind.

Icaria: Hm, I think I'd like to have some more greenmaws.

Vance: Battlegrouping would be convenient.

Icaria: Flame ducks are nice, but this is a city and I feel like there may be grappling in my future.

Vance: Remind me what a greenmaw's Resolve is?

Icaria: It's 3.

Svetlana: "This is short notice," Tepet Evdeniya says, earnestly, to the household owner. "And I realize that if I called upon my magisterial authority, you would doubtless consider it abuse. So let me put it to you this way. This is a chance to perform a favor that will not be forgotten for the satrap herself. And I think it can safely be said that you may find a character very like you earning a cameo in Icaria's next book."

Icaria: ("If I do you the favor will you promise I won't be in the book?")

Vance: What brings heaven's judgment into this home owner's domicile?

Svetlana: If that was OOC, it is someone who lives near Tran who has a yard large enough to store the livestock while accumulating it. Or the best I can get on these two things.

Camena: Camena cannot deal with this shit in her current state of not-quite-sobriety.

Svetlana: If it's the person asking IC… works on a response.

Camena: BRB.

Icaria: Meanwhile, I roll 4, 6, and 7 on various binding rolls.

Vance: The nearest house to Tran's is a small farm, with a square of ploughing soil planted with horseradish and sheep sheeping about. Where better to hide livestock than among livestock?

Svetlana: Tepet Evdeniya flashes on a bit from a play, that period of her life having been brought all too close. "It is not always our virtues or our vices that Heaven judges," she quotes. "At times we are simply asked to do what is necessary."

Vance: (He wasn't asking IC, so I will treat that as badass soliloquy.)

Vance: What he really says is, "Oh, Pasiap preserve me, you can take whatever you want!"

Vance: Icaria has +3 greenmaws.

Vance: Please tell me battlegrouping them won't make you frown.

Icaria: No, I was expecting it.

Vance: Cool.

Icaria: They can go with Emeraude, and Rubean is the leader.

Vance: Can you fit all of them in your anima?

Icaria: I understand that I cannot.

Vance: So you're gonna have some giant plant-worms following behind you?

Icaria: I'm not going to bring them out until I actually need them.

Icaria: They're just… going to be about. In case.

Icaria: I really don't want to fight.

Vance: They are hungry boys.

Svetlana: "Thank you," Evdeniya says. "This business should be accomplished within three days. If you have trouble with anything before then—" She writes the character for before and the characters for the date and signs it on a slip of paper and passes it to him. "You may find aid from my associates, and quite likely from anyone in the government."

Icaria: Well, we have a chef.

Vance: Emeraude has been manageable, but if you don't find some fodder they might start eating livestock.

Svetlana: Does Tran have any recognizable servants?

Svetlana: Having secured a place to keep them, Svetlana must now go on a livestock stealing binge.

Icaria: Fortunately the magistrate is bringing some.

Icaria: That's very thoughtful of her!

Vance: The farmer gapes, mostly at the fact that a government official is actually being polite to him and respecting his rights while commandeering his property.

Vance: From what you've heard, Tran's gotten rid of all her human servants.

Vance: Like, let them go, not killed them.

Svetlana: Actually, I don't hate Tran yet, I can wear the livery of one of the merchant houses that's likely to cause the most trouble.

Vance: In the city of Gloam, the shellfish market is a matter of pride. A matter of family. A matter of eternal glory. That's why the Mother-of-Pearl Killer Gang enforces an iron grip of quality over the market.

Svetlana: Svetlana lets her flawless disguise lapse, puts together an appearance suitable to a servant of the Mother-of-Pearl Killer Gang with 7 successes, turns on her Friendship with Animals Approach, and goes to town.

Vance: It's the white gloves that make the disguise.

Svetlana: Indeed. They are the pearly shell that congeals around the filthy fist of corruption.

Svetlana: Svetlana makes a corrupt fist, although because she is a Solar it accidentally becomes a pure righteous fist.

Vance: So you're… just wrassling up a bunch of cattle, for ritual purposes?

Svetlana: It's not so much ritual purposes.

Svetlana: We want Tran to come out.

Svetlana: Icaria assured Svetlana that the guard demons cannot make a vast herd of livestock with bells attached to them softly and silently vanish away.

Svetlana: Svetlana believes, therefore, that Tran will come out, if only to stare at the scene in horror.

Vance: All becomes understood.

Icaria: The bells are blessed to make them extra infuriating to the demons.

Svetlana: If the demons attack, then her lawn is covered in viscera and there are a bunch of animals screaming in addition to the bells ringing, which probably won't make her happier than the living livestock.

Svetlana: She probably won't like the smell either.

Vance: Most of Gloam's livestock are small creatures native to the island environment?a sort of mountain goat, pygmy rams, and angler-lizards. Herding them is a ??? + Survival roll.

Vance: I'll let you stunt the attribute.

Svetlana: Svetlana slips into an example pen. At first the animals are slightly alarmed, but it is rapidly clear from just a quick look or sniff of the air that this is not one of those dangerous humans. This is a small, meek creature like themselves. It is a small, meek creature that seems to know where some kind of good… food? is. Its body language isn't terribly clear. Definitely something very interesting. Obviously one shouldn't leave the pen, but clearly it's worth it. Should they make a ruckus? Oh, interesting. Look at that step! That step is very interesting. How quiet! Predators would never hear it! Yes, stepping like this and going to the very nice food is definitely a good idea.

Vance: I'm laughing aloud, so that's a three point stunt.

Vance: Take 2 bonus successes and 2 dice, +1 WP.

Svetlana: 7 successes on Manipulation + Survival.

Vance: You round up a good sized herd—multiple dozens of animals of varying degrees of stubborness, herded together under a singular purpose.

Svetlana: I slip away as they are practicing stealth in the yard of the house and steal some bells. It's actually quite difficult to find a shop selling bells that is owned by someone involved in slavery so I probably actually steal some money and then steal the bells and leave the money behind. 6 successes on the stealing stuff.

Vance: You procure sufficient bells—I'm picturing, like, a slightly smaller variation on the classic cowbell?

Svetlana: That makes sense. I was imagining chains of bells tied to the feet but that's honestly better and I'll take what I can find.

Svetlana: Plus, if it's a few large bells I can take the clappers out before sneaking away with them, which is probably helpful.

Svetlana: Well, not "a few," but.

Vance: A few dozen.

Svetlana: Last trick is getting them blessed, and then I think we're good to go.

Vance: Zanara is a priest.

Zanara: It's true!

Icaria: Oh, right!

Svetlana: That is not a very hard trick, then.

Icaria: All right, then!

Zanara: If I need to roll, last I checked, ritual was Charisma + Performance, aye?

Svetlana: "Zanara," a complete stranger asks, presenting her with a large bag of cowbells, "could you bless these?"

Vance: I think this is just something you can do.

Vance: I do want to see Svetlana explain her plan.

Icaria: Come forth, my livestock, and blesséd bells!

Zanara: Zanara blinks. "I… oh. Right. Sorry. Every time you do that…" She lifts her hands to the sky and recites a prayer in Flametongue.

Vance: And the Most High gazed down, and he saw the bells, and he saw that they were good.

Zanara: Damn good bells.

Svetlana: "Heh," the stranger says. "I should…" A few moments later the white gloves are gone and the makeup is off and she is a scrawny nobody. "My real face."

Svetlana: "Nice to meet you, as it were," Svetlana says.

Zanara: "…thank you," Zanara says, smiling.

Svetlana: "All right," Svetlana says, explaining the plan in a voiceover as she implements it, unless someone balks. "Here's what I'm gonna do. I'm going to set up some baffles to help the herd flow the right way when needed, at the intersections and just outside her gates. I'm going to bell these animals. I'm going to lead them to Tran's estate. Along the way I'm going to put the clappers back in properly. I'm going to set up some more baffles if her demons took the first set down. And then I'm going to drive dozens and dozens of animals wearing holy bells onto the lawn. Since I'm probably not going to be the best at that step, I might need an elemental or someone to help out with the, y'know, git, git into the demon-haunted place part. Then hopefully she will come out and we can talk to her."

Svetlana: "Zanara or Icaria would be better than me for that part. Most likely Camena would be too."

Vance: Who will lead these lambs to the slaughter?

Icaria: Hm. Who actually is best for that?

Svetlana: I have Survival Excellency, though my dice pool is not extreme.

Vance: It probably won't be too difficult.

Vance: They can't see the demons.

Svetlana: I assume it's just a matter of activating Friendship with Animals Approach and helping them realize how to best actualize their individual potential by proceeding along the clearly marked routes in orderly procession with their peers.

Vance: That seems perfectly reasonable.

Vance: One way or another, Svetlana successfully herds the procession of mixed livestock onto Tran's estate.

Vance: As the first trespasser begin nibbling at the flowerbeds and fishing in the koi ponds, a squad of blood apes materializes. "Hey! Get out of here!" one bellows, scattering pygmy sheep.

Icaria: I guess I'll just follow along behind, and instruct Rubean to bring Emeraude, Yade, Tourmal, and Chrysobh if she hears me calling.

Svetlana: Once again, the fellow being appears among them. Ah, they had been distracted by their practicing of the stealthy step, they had almost forgotten the good thing, but now it has been brought again to mind. And it is not far away! Etcetera.

Vance: The blood apes do their best to run the livestock off the grounds, although some can't help themselves and eat them.

Vance: It's pandemonium.

Svetlana: Svetlana blocks the exit with the baffles once the last clanging holy sheepoid has entered, hopefully before too many leave again.

  • Icaria takes stock of the various demons he can see, and relays this information to Svetlana and anybody else about.

Vance: You hear the sounds of some very happy blood apes realizing that their assigned task is no longer possible, and that therefore, they are free to just chow down.

Vance: There's just so many demons.

Vance: There's the watcher guys, who are observing the goats.

Vance: And a whole bunch of miscellaneous guys who aren't paying attention at all, going about their own routines.

Zanara: Zanara, across the street, cannot help but stare at the entire mess.

Camena: "We are gonna get so Wyld Hunted."

Svetlana: Have they materialized to eat the goatoids? How many?

Vance: Half a dozen blood apes.

Svetlana: "Can we take six?" Svetlana asks Icaria.

Icaria: "Oh, yes, I should think so. But how many are there that we don't see?"

Svetlana: Svetlana was not ready for this! She thought there would be more temporal separation between her mixing with the pack and the cold-hearted decision to slaughter them!

Vance: Auto-Demon Alarm Systems!

Svetlana: Svetlana chews on her lip. Then she shouts at the blood apes. "Wait, wait!" she says. "You can't eat those! They're poisoned!"


Vance: Manipulation + Presence?

Icaria: Icaria assists.

Icaria: "Why did you release my specially poisoned agony ungulates out of their holding pens?"

Icaria: "That was fantastically ill-advised!"

Svetlana: Seasoned Criminal Method to seem like an ally to these criminal apes, because this roll is probably going to suck.

Svetlana: 2 successes!

Vance: "Lady says they're poisoned," says one blood ape, munching on a leg of goat. "We can survive eating poison, right?" asks another, tossing an angler-lizard over Svetlana's barricade.

Vance: "Poisonous sheep, yeah. If these were elephants we'd be in trouble."

Svetlana: "That's right," Svetlana says, sagging. "They can survive it!" she says, punching Icaria's arm. "Why did you worry me like that? They can survive practically all poisons!"

Icaria: "It's important to know your poisons in advance! What kind of poisoner would leave such a thing up to chance?"

Icaria: "Now we look like amateurs."

Svetlana: "%%%%," Svetlana says. "What the %%%% do you mean, not left up to chance?"

Svetlana: "What the %%%%, is this some kind of special freaking venom or something?"

Icaria: "I built these incredibly expensive venom-producing agony ungulates, yes, in order to produce the most special venom imaginable!"

Icaria: "So special!"

Icaria: "And now they've been eaten, by like the only people on this whole damn island who can't be poisoned!"

Icaria: "So now I don't even know if they work or not!"

Icaria: "It's incredibly, uh, incredibly, incredibly HECKING frustrating!"

Svetlana: "At least—you guys are immune to like, every poison, right?" Svetlana calls.

Vance: "Pretty much!"

Vance: It's at this point that the doors to Tran's estate open. A young woman walks out, her hair the faint green of copper-burning flame, wearing Heptagram-style robes and a veil that covers her eyes. "Erymanthoi, leave." The blood apes frown and scatter, dropping their chunks of animal meat.

  • Icaria offers Svetlana a fist bump.

Zanara: "Ah. There she is," Zanara says quietly. "I suppose this is our cue?"

Svetlana: Svetlana sags in relief. At last the horrific farce can end and the new farce can begin.

Svetlana: Svetlana nods to Zanara.

Camena: "I suppose. The first-act farce is done."

Icaria: "Oh, hey!"

Icaria: "Your blood apes just finished eating the poisonous sheep I was pretending to have."

Vance: She looks at the slaughterhouse scene that is her front lawn, and… well, you can't see her response through the veil. But based on the sound of her heartbeat and the smell of her sweat, Svetlana guesses she's not too happy.

Vance: "You must be Icaria."

Camena: "I'm starting to suspect that they might be right about us, in terms of being more trouble than we're worth."

Svetlana: Svetlana sits disconsolately on a baffle. She isn't happy either.

Icaria: "People can always tell. I must be especially foolish today."

Icaria: "Or it could be the six-foot brush."

Zanara: "Oh, I know we are."

Icaria: "Both options are possible."

Svetlana: "I need to be better than this," Svetlana says, mostly to herself, a little to Camena. "…puppets? Would puppets have worked?"

Camena: "Put the veal out of your mind, cousin."

Icaria: I regret not reaching out to Tran with a novel written with her in mind, but my Introspection isn't yet high enough for that.

Vance: "Eskri, I believe these animals constitute a mess in the garden." Tran says off-handedly. Throughout the green, tiny men with faces bound in lead masks and axe-heads for hands begin to materialize, chopping up the animal carcasses and digging holes to bury them in.

Vance: "I do not have time for this. Please leave me alone."

Svetlana: Svetlana looks hopefully at Zanara and Camena.

Icaria: "I think we should probably cut to the chase here."

Icaria: "You've been holed up in your house for quite some time and acting weird for reasons nobody knows, although I suspect I can guess."

Icaria: "Probably something along the lines of 'oh dear, I seem to have unleashed ancient evil and now my moms are mad at me, and it all sucks and I don't really want to deal with it, so I'm going to lock myself in my room with a million demons.'"

Icaria: "But even if you don't realize it, everybody is really worried and thinks you're about to storm the city with a demon army or blow yourself to bits or some other weird sorcerer thing."

Vance: "I'm doing work. It's very important and you don't understand it. Please go away."

Icaria: "We obviously aren't going to do that."

Icaria: "So, it's probably going to take less time to just explain yourself in a straightfoward and orderly way."

Vance: "Tell everyone: Tran is very busy working. She will talk to you later, when she is done."

Svetlana: Svetlana closes her eyes, opens them, and succeeds in putting the veal out of her mind; or, at least, reducing it back to its proper level of importance, as livestock.

Zanara: "We have been to the Tomb, Legate Tran," Zanara says. "We know what happened."

Zanara: "And I should say that what happened is not what you think happened."

Vance: "That raises several questions. It's not related to the work I'm doing, though."

Vance: "Erymanthoi, maonides, cernunta, if you see someone hostile flare an anima banner, materialize and attack."

Icaria: Why is she being so… oh.

Icaria: I get it.

Camena: "I recommend against that, maiden," Camena shouts, putting every ounce of exotic appeal and verve into her voice. It's a busker's voice, by far.

Icaria: She's in danger of losing the baby.

Camena: "Not when there's something better at hand."

Icaria: That's why she won't talk, because she won't admit to Mom that she's come that close to miscarrying her beloved kid.

Vance: "I told them only to attack hostile people. If you aren't hostile, they won't attack you."

Zanara: "How fortunate that we have no hostile intentions," Zanara says.

  • Icaria considers his companions, then decides that Zanara is probably the one he should share this insight with.

Icaria: Mumble mumble whisper whisper!

Svetlana: Svetlana experimentally sniffs her mood, trying to smell past the current annoyance and the charnel stench to her general… state.

Vance: She is in a state of nervous breakdown.

Zanara: Zanara listens, nodding. "Your work… how does it fare? There's no shame in asking for help, if help is needed."

Vance: Zanara, roll Charisma + Presence.

Zanara: 7.

Svetlana: "She is breaking," Svetlana observes. Not loud enough to be aimed at Legate Tran, though she can probably hear.

Vance: Tran removes the veil that covers her eyes. They are faintly bloodshot, and dark bags hang under them. She looks like she wants to say yes so badly… but she doesn't. "You wouldn't be able to help. Even if you are Exalted, this is extremely complicated. There's nothing you can do."

Zanara: "You would be surprised what we can and cannot do. Icaria is quite wise, and while I am no savant? I will go to great lengths, if need be."

Icaria: "I think there are a lot of people who would be glad to hear you ask for help even if they ultimately can't help."

Icaria: "Not us, I mean. Your friends."

Icaria: "I think I know how you feel."

Icaria: "When you don't know who you are, the only thing you have is what you can do. And if that fails, what have you got left?"

Vance: "It doesn't make any sense to ask people for help if they can't help you!" she replies, raising her voice for the first time.

Icaria: "It does, because I think Jaspindar and Vi really do care about you. I think they want to know how you're feeling."

Icaria: "I think they do care about you, not just because you're a great sorcerer, but as a friend."

Vance: "They would hate me if I asked them."

Svetlana: Svetlana reads intentions for a Jaspindar-related intimacy.

Vance: Roll it.

Icaria: "At this point I don't see how telling the truth can make things worse, and I have faith that it's going to make it better."

Svetlana: 5 successes.

Vance: "You don't even know what the truth is. I don't trust your speculation."

Vance: She has a Defining Tie with a context of "desperate need for approval."

Icaria: Hm. Do I lay down my theory cards?

Icaria: Of course, I also have the "the Tomb wasn't actually your fault" card to play, although I don't know if I want to expose Sivana yet given that he can play the "I know you're not Exigents" card.

Svetlana: "Zanara," Svetlana says, "perhaps you could make it clearer to her that in this time of current and impending changes Jaspindar would not want someone so important to her and Gloam shouldering a heavy burden alone?"

Icaria: "I am speculating that the reason you're withholding the baby you've been working on for Jaspindar and Vi is that the project isn't going very well."

Svetlana: Svetlana is again speaking loud enough for Tran to hear but not loud enough to be targeted for her to hear.

Vance: "…how do you know about the baby?"

Zanara: Zanara nodded. "She asked us to come, Tran."

Icaria: "I suspect that what you're working on right now is a frantic attempt to save the child."

Vance: "Jaspindar asked you," she says. It's a question, but her voice is completely flat, like she's just had the breath knocked out of her.

Zanara: "Because she is worried about you."

Vance: "It's… more complicated than that."

  • Icaria nods, as if to say "go on, then."

Vance: "I think I should show you something."

Vance: She opens the front door, inviting you in. As you move through the threshold, she traces sigils in mid-air, disabling her lair's various wards.

Icaria: Let's mosey.

Vance: Tran wordlessly leads you down a dimly-lit staircase, to what seems like a basement atelier constructed underground. She opens a door, leading you into a room filled with a greenish-yellow light. As you step inside, you see something like an egg made of glass, and wrapped in ribbons of bronze.

Vance: Inside of it is the gestating infant. It quite clearly has four arms, and a third eye is wide open on its brow.

Vance: …and that's all, folks.

Icaria: "Aw, how cute!"

Camena: So…

Camena: the baby…

Camena: …is a…

Camena: …is a…

Camena: …fusion?

Icaria: Yet another mystery falls before my power of orderly analysis.

Svetlana: It's clearly the Unconquered Sun.

Icaria: Eh, these things happen when you work with neomah.

Icaria: Probably they happen even if you don't!

Svetlana: We all thought he was up in Heaven, but actually we were Chosen by a baby in Gloam.

Icaria: Gloam isn't really a great place for this kind of project. It's like opening a creche outside Chernobyl.

Camena: Of course

Icaria: Probably the baby is enlightened by Pim's doleful aspect.

Icaria: We'll just have to chop it in half.

Camena: The real issue is that the unborn baby is in the process of Exalting as an Infernal, and its gestation pod has been coopted into a Chrysalis Grotesque

Icaria: Then Jaspindar and Vi will be like "Noooooooooo!" and that will prove they truly love their fusion child.

Icaria: More importantly!

Icaria: Icaria earned the power of understanding!

Icaria: I therefore formally requisition my 5 XP and Essence 2.

Svetlana: Oh, yeah! That proves it's the Unconquered Sun!

Svetlana: We saw it, and bam, Essence 2!

Vance: Dun-dunna-dun-dun-dun-da!

Vance: As a special celebration/me being lazy, you all got 4 Solar XP!

Icaria: Brush crisis power, make up!

Icaria: The cowbell plan was a good one.

Vance: I'm not sure if it was… good.

Vance: It was extremely successful.

Icaria: Any livestock you walk away from, you know?

Icaria: Meanwhile! I was right about another thing!

Icaria: Tran really is girl Icaria.

Zanara: She seriously trips Zanara's maternal circuits.

Svetlana: It was an extremely Night Caste plan for something so loud and chaotic.

Svetlana: Svetlana is very pleased with herself.

Svetlana: Also upset with herself but that's running on a different track.

Icaria: Well, you can pay for the livestock that got et.

Svetlana: Oh, heck no, that's all stolen from slavers.

Icaria: The criminal within has finally broken loose.

Icaria: The night… shall last… SLIGHTLY LONGER THAN THE USUAL

Svetlana: The criminal within has in fact totally cut loose. It's the aerosolized pattern spider venom.

Icaria: Once they invented new crimes, you knew that ordinary law enforcement just couldn't keep up.

Icaria: That and they invented a new government above you to enforce them.

Icaria: Oh, that must be your next mask up: a Sidereal.

Camena: Clearly, we are doing all sorts of evil next game

Icaria: Childcare isn't evil!

Icaria: If you can't keep your inner supervillain in check, I'm not letting you do science to the baby.

Svetlana: That is Svetlana's Essence 3 mask.

Svetlana: Svetlana cannot impersonate a Sidereal at Essence 2. She isn't good enough yet.

Icaria: I feel like you're good enough, if only you knew what you were impersonating.

Icaria: It's easy to impersonate people who are so damn stingy with facts.

Icaria: "Tell me, if you're really Iron Snow, what was my father's name?"

Icaria: "Further information is not available at this time."

Svetlana: Btw: Thanks for running, Vance!

Icaria: Yeah, this was good stuff.

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