In Which We Are Too Competent For Our Own Good

Vance: So:

Vance: If anyone needs a summary of last time:

Vance: You met with Cynis Bokuro and Magistrate Yakult in the satrap's jeweled palace, and were charged with finding the Mother Geode cultists responsible for Sloth Plum's assassination.

Vance: Icaria confirmed that Bokuro's palace is an Earth Manse, and also picked up two demesnes—one in the depths of Tourmaline, another on the seafloor nearby the island.

Vance: You went off to find the underground demesne, but then got sidetracked when you found one of the caverns that house Tourmaline's enslaved native population. Icaria and Svetlana began distributing medical care, while Camena promised them "food, fresh air, what medicine I can, and the light of the sun."

Vance: They did so in disguise as priests of the goddess Zanara.

Zanara: I walk away for five minutes; y'all start worshipping me.

Camena: I needed a charismatic face for the cult.

Camena: I thought it was minimally agreeable.

Vance: How does Zanara feel about being deified?

Vance: Has she done it before?

Icaria: Nobody ever starts worshipping me.

Zanara: She does have a cult. She just kind of wishes she didn't.

Vance: More specifically, has she pretended to be a god?

Zanara: Oh, fuck no.

Vance: Or does her cult worship her as a Solar?

Zanara: She can't stand gods.

Zanara: The latter.

Zanara: She's from Great Forks; the only gods she's ever met are venal scam artists.

Vance: So let's start with your first public appearance.

Vance: Which is bound to be the most dramatically-awkward part.

Vance: I'm assuming the entire circle is going to have a hand in it, since this ruse being successful is pretty important.

Vance: Svetlana, are you there?

Svetlana: Yes.

Vance: Yay!

Icaria: I will use the full power of my social acumen and power of deception.

Svetlana: It's Camena's ruse and either Svetlana never quite got it, or I've forgotten my understanding of it in the past two weeks—more likely that, so I do not know how to help prepare.

  • Svetlana is never any good at the beginning of a session.

Vance: By now, you've learned the comparatively subtler ways of reaching the caverns. Grandmother Feng, the underground crime boss most amenable to facilitating your operation, has put the pressure on you to have your god appear as a way of securing goodwill from the other power players in the cave community.

Zanara: (I will naturally be running Harmonious Presence Technique and Majestic Radiant Presence for Maximum Awesome In The Classical Sense.)

Vance: That is going to be hilariously effective here.

Icaria: Meanwhile, Icaria has been on a massive doing-things bender, pouring Solar XP into learning Medicine—via a combination of past life memories and a "medical text" which is at least 80% erotica.

Icaria: Also summoning some elementals to work on finding natural water sources, teaching Camena carpentry, and the like.

Vance: Satrap Bokuro's natural talents certainly display his Cynis heritage.

Zanara: (Oh, and Master Thespian Style.)

Icaria: I should probably attempt to seduce the satrap at some point, although, really, Icaria's boy-craziness is currently at an all-time low.

Camena: Camena has blossomed as a carpenter.

Camena: She's really good at it!

Camena: She's been buttressing the caverns, trying to enhance the air flow.

Icaria: Oh, that reminds me.

Icaria: Which of my Intimacies do you want?

Camena: None of them.

Svetlana: Svetlana is so bloody exhausted because she is trying to Bureau-Rectifying Method during the day and heal people's lungs all night and invent surgeon's masks in the exactly zero hours between, but she probably has time to help Zanara achieve a properly godly appearance and coach her in how to act like a god, as seen in dozens of popular plays.

Icaria: I forgot to mention that Flowing Mind Prana gives you one of them.

Icaria: Largely because I was thinking of the upgrade Charm that lets me give you whatever Intimacy I want, like "wow, carpentry is great."

Icaria: But unfortunately I can't buy that until E3.

Svetlana: "If possible," Svetlana advises, "wait until all seems lost and then descend from above in some sort of wooden box and fix everything."

Icaria: Hm, one Intimacy is "things should fit in their boxes."

Icaria: That seems carpentry-relevant.

Vance: I think "conducting a bureaucratic inquiry to find corruption in a Realm holding" only really needs to be one roll.

Vance: I mean, it's the Realm.

Zanara: "…I don't think I ever saw a god be that proactive," Zanara mutters.

Camena: Camena would never accept that intimacy.

Vance: So roll Perception + (Intelligence or Socialize), with the bonuses from BRM.

Icaria: "I strongly dislike people who won't explain things"?

Icaria: There's also "I really hate fairies," which is funny because it lets me imagine that Icaria kept breaking off his lecture on the properties of wood grain to rant about those fucking raksha again.

Camena: Camena already has one of those.

  • Svetlana peers at Bureau-Rectifying Method, which talks about reforming bureaus but gives bonuses to investigating them. Well, the part about being an object of confidential trust to most members of the bureaucracy is probably more important.

Icaria: "I like to do things by the book"?

Vance: Follow the money!

Svetlana: 15 successes, or 16 if a Bureaucracy specialty counts towards "Bureaucracy in automatic successes"

Camena: "I'm entitled to meddle because of reasons."

Icaria: Also something you already had, but I guess it's fine since I forgot to warn you about the Intimacy clause.

Camena: I don't really have that.

Vance: There are plenty of witnesses—Grandmother Feng herself, who deals in shadowland poppies, a young and imaginative dockhand who's kept track of sightings of ships bearing the flag of Thorns, clerks who will testify to concealing expenditures in their ledger. Even Satrap Bokuro, in casual conversation, has betrayed far more incriminating information than he realizes.

Icaria: People really seem to like shadowland poppies.

Vance: You don't have enough evidence to conclusively prove he's been dealing with the Mask of Winters, but Jaspindar's original accusations certainly seem to be backed up by the facts.

Icaria: Tell me a bit of what I know about their properties!

Vance: Roll (Intelligence + Occult).

Icaria: Four.

Icaria: Mmm, buying more Intelligence is paying off already.

Vance: Poppies grown in shadowlands are reputed to have certain supernatural effects when refined into opium or other drug forms. It seems to create a higher awareness of the Underworld in users, but not to actually let them see into it.

Vance: They're banned throughout most of the Realm and its holdings under Immaculate censure.

Vance: The predominant effect of the drug is still its normal one, though.

Svetlana: Hm, so in theory if I don't want to try a new clever scheme the evidence I have would want to go either to the same place I sent the original notes trying to put the island's ownership under dispute or to the House—Peleps?—we were hoping would take the area over. I'm not sure whether the mail is trustworthy and I'm not sure whether any evidence I gather is meaningful while Yakult is still present.

Icaria: I see!

Vance: You're almost certain the mail isn't trustworthy.

Vance: The extent to which evidence is meaningful probably depends on engaging Yakult in social influence.

Vance: Jurisdictionally, you're sort of the beat cop to her police chief.

Svetlana: Tricky. I could probably get mail smuggled off the island and sent elsewhere pretty easily between my Larceny and Camena's, but there's really not that much point unless I die here and that's the kind of consideration a magistrate should worry about, not a Solar.

Icaria: I was going to continue considering seducing the satrap, which is great from a dramatic perspective but an absolutely terrible idea given that he's a Cynis Dragon-Blooded who almost certainly has social Charms, and I am… not that.

Icaria: But honestly if I keep hanging around his library reading his poetry he'll probably just take the decision to initiate out of my hands.

Vance: Seduction's not just about who has more Charms.

Icaria: True, there's also the size of your Guile.

Vance: However, if you do attempt that, you find that no amount of poetry-reading appears to prompt Bokuro to initiate romantic conversation, although he is very needy with regards to you praising his poetry.

Svetlana: If there are any desperately important bits of evidence I can keep a copy of them in the mines where I'm doing medicine but I guess my only real option is to persuade Yakult to act correctly. That might be almost impossible or very easy.

Icaria: I don't object to doing that.

Icaria: Gods, maybe the myths are true and straight men do exist.

Vance: pfft

Zanara: Nonsense!

Vance: So, let's smashcut from one conversation to another.

Vance: First, Zanara in the underground, then Svetlana, Ace Attorney.

Svetlana: Oh, man, that means I can't drag Zanara with me to assist in the tricky social fight. This is going to be hilarious.

Vance: She can come along, unless something in the first conversation distracts her.

Vance: Zanara and her retinue of false priests arrives into the squalid residential housing built in the caverns through a tunnel maintained by Grandmother Feng—a route considerably subtler than having an earth elemental wrench the ground open and grappling down on a Wood Dragon's Claw.

Svetlana: (She is certainly invited, at least, anyway. She's really the only one that would clearly be helpful, Icaria and Camena are better at social combat than Svetlana but as far as I can tell not by enough to be backup if it's actually a problem.)

Icaria: I don't think Icaria is better.

Icaria: My highest social pool is 5.

Vance: The quality of life in this cavern has begun to visibly increase—your patients' conditions have been steadily improving, repairs have gone underway on the more dangerous wooden shanties, and one mother has already given birth, safely, under your care. But there's still a long way to go.

Camena: Camena is best liar.

Icaria: Saphir and a few of his brothers could probably do a lot about the air, and with time I could make some kind of working to make air circulate in a permanent fashion.

Icaria: But really it's easier to just destroy the Realm and let everybody live somewhere else.

Vance: As Zanara steps into the cavern, all Majestically Radiant, the low clamor of the caverns falls immediately into silence. All eyes are on her.

Vance: Grandmother Feng looks Zanara over, visibly impressed. "Now, don't think we're going to be worshipping you, but go ahead and say your piece."

Zanara: "We are less concerned with such matters than you may have been led to believe," Zanara says. (What am I meant to be convincing them of, besides the fact that I'm a god? I don't believe anyone ever told me that.)

Svetlana: (I think you're just helping establish that we don't suck.)

Vance: (From Grandmother Feng's perspective, this is mostly a grin-and-grip. She's staking resources and reputation on y'alls efforts down here, and essentially wants you to make an impressive display so this will be seen as credible and justifiable on her part by other crime bosses, priests, and various power figures within the indigenous population)

Zanara: (Ah! Fair enough!)

Zanara: "We come not to expand Our flock, but to do the work We are charged with." This, too, is perfectly true.

Vance: "First time I've heard a god say that."

Zanara: "Truthfully, We know many gods are concerned only for their own glory," Zanara says, shaking her head in greatly exaggerated shame. "We are not of their like. Our only aim is to rectify injustice. Glory does not build greatness. We expect you believe much the same."

Vance: "Oh, we seem to be of a mind when it comes to the Realm's damn glory."

Zanara: "Indeed! All of Creation pays for it, and sees little, if anything, in return. We shall not abide it."

Vance: "Well, go out there," she says, indicating a hastily-erected ersatz podium, "and tell them that."

Vance: The crowd awaiting you cuts across all ages—babes in arms, children old enough to work, emaciated men and women, and the carefree old men smoking opium.

Zanara: Zanara regards the podium, and then the crowd, and sets a regal pace walking out to them. "Behold! For We are Zanara, charged by Heaven with the destruction of injustice and tyranny! No longer shall you dwell far from the glorious light of the Unconquered Sun, and no longer shall you toil beneath the Realm's boot! Look within your hearts and rejoice, for the light of truth is among you! "

Vance: (Make a Charisma + Performance/Presence roll.)

Vance: (With a two-point stunt.)

Zanara: Ten!

Vance: For a moment, even the most destitute and oppressed among the crowd are able to forget the burdens on their existence. A glimmer of hope fills even the most jaded eyes. They aren't yet convinced, but they're receptive.

Zanara: "We see within you the embers of hope—let those embers rise up into magnificent flames! With that, We shall burn the pillars of the Realm, until each House falls under its own vile weight! Though We are mighty, We are but one—with you, Our strength waxes ever greater! So let not doubt corrode your will! Dream! Dare to dream of a better tomorrow, and then work with Us to build it!"

Zanara: (I am going to hit them with Dogmatic Contagion Discipline, to get things really rolling behind the scenes.)

Vance: Fun.

Vance: Go ahead and roll it with another two-point stunt.

Vance: The crowd's Resolve is 3, so you can track extra successes.

Zanara: Yeesh, I'm rollin' bad tonight. Seven!

Vance: That is still a +4 dice bonus on their rolls.

Vance: That's pretty big!

Zanara: True!

Vance: Not everyone in the crowd is open to your words, but there are enough who take them to heart. Zanara sees her own fiery spirit reflected at her in the faces of the women and men before her.

Vance: They don't have the energy to make a loud show of applause, or a grand celebration of it, but they walk a little lighter and dream of better things.

Vance: And there is, of course, less-than-grand celebration.

Vance: After the speech is concluded and the crowd begins to go its way, Grandma Feng invites any of you who want to come into what seems to be her base of operations, where she and a number of men and women take turns passing around an opium pipe and laughing at bad jokes.

Svetlana: ("What do you call it when Hesiesh gets the stomach flu? The Illiberal Hurl.")

Icaria: I still have a lot to do.

Zanara: (I mean I'm tapped for personal motes and I feel like we've more or less sold ourselves as legit?)

Vance: Well, unfortunately…

Icaria: No, I mean, I still have to treat patients and study and do quality-of-life work, and it leaves me with not much time for chatting and getting high.

Vance: Everyone roll Perception + Awareness, and give me a quick idea of where you'd be—at Feng's, heading out, etc.

Svetlana: ("What was Sextes Jylis' college nickname? 'Ripper'")

Icaria: Oh, god.

Zanara: Four, and Zanara would have politely excused herself with a "Such substances hold little interest for Us." Again, true, she doesn't like getting drunk or high!

Vance: >.<

Icaria: Today I am lucky and also roll four.

Svetlana: Three, unless hearing is involved. Svetlana would probably be heading back upwards.

Camena: 2 for Camena, who is probably with Zanara, playing the quiet acolyte.

Icaria: Icaria is probably moving towards his "The Doctor is IN" booth.

Vance: Hearing could be involved.

Svetlana: Then four successes, and difficulty is lowered by one.

Vance: Everything is fine.

Vance: There's absolutely no chance something could go wrong.

Svetlana: Yay!

Svetlana: I am very happy about this.

Svetlana: Unless there is someone moving in stealth in which case I want to reflexively spend 1m on Studied Ear Espial for a few extra dice instead of being happy. But I suspect that is not the problem.

Vance: Yeah, roll three more dice.

Svetlana: A further success!

Vance: So, the cavern is about six range bands end to end. The squalid wooden structures are built along the side, resting on the cave wall support—it's through one of these that Camena, Svetlana, and Zanara are going towards the exit.

Svetlana: (If everything is still fine, then I assert that my expert ears twitch alertly as I expertly notice absolutely nothing.)

Vance: During the day, most of the residents gather around small fires in the central area of the cave to congregate and talk. This is where Icaria's medical stand is set up, about two range bands distant from the rest.

Icaria: I have a feeling of impending carpentry.

Vance: Stalagmites, stalactites, and other cave-y things are there too.

Vance: Join Battle!

Camena:

Camena: You know, fires aren't great in caves.

Vance: It's not a great set-up.

Kukla: Seriously, this place sucks.

Vance: But they don't really have much else in the way of light.

Vance: And it's a tall cave.

Icaria: Once again, four.

Camena: Seven successes, and it establishes Stealth.

Zanara: A resounding two.

Svetlana: Nine successes (8m.) So 12, I think.

Vance: So, Svetlana is the first to act.

Vance: She doesn't see or hear anything unusual, but her gut tells her that something's not right.

Svetlana: Walking towards the entrance, Svetlana strolls around a stalagmite near the wall and doesn't come out the other side. She's up a meter and a half and pressed between the cave wall and the ceiling, instead, although whether that actually fooled anyone depends on what angles any possible viewers were looking at her from.

Vance: Roll (Dexterity + Stealth) with a one-point stunt.

Svetlana: 4 successes.

Vance: You enter concealment against a bunch of folks in the crowd.

Vance: Camena's up next. Like Svetlana, she hasn't yet pinpointed any hostiles.

Camena: Camena withdraws the moment her hackles raise, giving Zanara a quick look before stepping back into the crowd. She slips around and alights on the tops of one of the shanties, crouched carefully so that only a sliver of her hood can be seen from below as she scans for… trouble? Strangeness?

Vance: Make a new (Perception + Awareness) roll, with a one-die stunt.

Camena: 1!

Vance: The crowd is big—big enough that by the time Camena spots the enemy, he's already making his move. One of many almost indistinguishable figures casts off his handspun raiments, revealing a body that has been transformed almost entirely to solid, sharp-edged crystal. He seems to glow a bright sky-blue as firelight splashes off his body.

Camena: Quoth Camena, but not too loudly: "Fuuuuuuu—"

Vance: "We have the only god we need," he intones, somberly, as he raises two hammer-like fists upward, clenched together. "False hope is more bitter than poison. You end here."

Vance: And he is making a decisive ambush against Zanara!

Zanara: Shit.

Vance: so your defense is 0, and most defensive charms can't be used

Zanara: That's fine, I don't have any, lol.

Vance: Any Hardness?

Zanara: Nope!

Zanara: My Evasion and Parry are both 4.

Vance: 4 levels of bashing damage.

Vance: The blow also slams you to the ground, prone.

Zanara: Ow.

Icaria: So, I'm still two range bands away?

Vance: Yep.

Vance: But it is now your turn.

Icaria: Naturally I do not fail to notice these things!

Vance: Yeah, you definitely see that happen.

Icaria: I've been getting ready to open for business, and I can see every face in this cavern like a pinpoint of pain.

Icaria: Helping people is… good? But it's also bad.

Icaria: I lack the introspection to analyze my emotions in combat time.

Icaria: Honestly, it's nice of this crystal guy to come along and let me solve an easy problem again.

Icaria: I'll bolt in Zanara's direction and begin chanting the first syllables of Invulnerable Skin of Bronze.

Icaria: May as well use Supernal Control Method.

Icaria: Oh, hey, nineteen!

Vance: o__o

Vance: Zanara, your turn.

Vance: You're in close range with this big crystal golem guy.

Zanara: Zanara picks herself up off the ground, still very much in her I Wish Gods Were Actually This Way persona, even if such a persona would never have a bloodied lip. She turns to face her assailant with every ounce of disdain she can muster. "Is that all?" (BTW, did he pay a Willpower to hit me? I'm assuming Majestic Radiant Presence is still up.)

Vance: (He did.)

Zanara: Basically—I feel like if I get too down and dirty, it's gonna ruin everything we just did. (XD) So that's me intimidating him (and also taking up five motes because like I said I am tapped for personal and, uh, I'm pretty sure these folks can tell the difference between gods and Anathema).

Vance: Roll it with a one-point stunt.

Zanara: Six!

Icaria: If you can maneuver a bit, that would also be good.

Icaria: Getting closer to Icaria would put you in range of War Lion Stance.

Vance: It's hard to read someone's expression when their face has been almost entirely overtaken by veins of sapphire growing through their skin, eyes and teeth turned to solid gemstone, but Zanara thinks she sees something of fear in her assailant's expression.

Vance: End of round, everyone gets 5m.

Vance: Svetlana, you're up!

Svetlana: Svetlana's voice cracks through the cavern as she comes back out into sight. "Can you at least let us finish treating the goddamn children first?"

Vance: Hmm.

Vance: Make a social roll, with a two-die stunt.

Svetlana: 8 successes on (Charisma + Performance) to inspire shame in him with sheer theatrical levels of scorn.

Vance: "Mother Geode will see to the children. Not the usurper godling of the month." His words are defiant, but his heart doesn't seem to be in it. Even though he's unharmed, his fighting spirit is on a knife's edge.

Vance: Camena, you're up.

Camena: The Thief of Art stands and sloughs off her cloak, cracking her neck with a satisfying sound as she assumes a martial position, her firewand against her shoulder. "I've broken better men than you. Quite literally, in fact. If you don't want some of what happened at the harbor, I'd suggest you stand down and hug it out, lad."

Vance: The social beatdown doesn't stop being a thing.

Vance: Roll it with a one-die stunt.

Camena: Eight successes.

Vance: "You'll find that I'm nothing like those who have come before. I am Eskth, first son of my father, and I will not see my people suborned once more to the caprice of Imperial, god, or anyone else. I am ready to die."

Vance: Icaria, you're up.

Icaria: I'm going to cover the remaining distance and put myself in range to use Defend Other on Zanara and be ready to use War Lion Stance to cover anybody else who needs it.

Icaria: For now, I'm just sort of leaning on Sun's Brush, not quite threateningly, yet.

Icaria: This doesn't have to turn lethal if he doesn't want it to.

Vance: Okay.

Vance: Zanara, you're up.

Svetlana: (Oh, thank goodness, thinks Svetlana, as Icaria gets in range of Zanara, because she's been having waking nightmares of Zanara's head coming off.)

Zanara: "You say you are ready to die, Eskth," Zanara says, drawing herself up to her full (and considerable) height. "But you stand against the tide of Heaven itself, righteousness itself! Even Mother Geode must bow before the unwavering light of the Unconquered Sun, for there is an order to things. You may certainly give your life in battle against Us, and you surely shall if you do not relent. But We would rather see such valor spent liberating your people, not blindly snapping at a hand offered in good faith. You deserve better than that. Your people deserve better."

Vance: (Roll it.)

Vance: (Two-point stunt.)

Zanara: Seven!

Vance: "…I'll show you my resolve," Eskth says, defiantly. With a single, swift bow, he smashes one of his hammer-fists to his breast, sending cracks all down the length of his torso. There is a shimmer and a rise of Essence, and the cracks begin to glow with bright blue light, building in intensity and spreading across the rest of the man's body.

Zanara: (I never pick the right dialogue options.)

Vance: But there is something in him that fails. His eyes wander, looking to the sick men and women who crowd the cavern, the children lying in crude hospital beds, the hope in the people's eyes.

Zanara: "Then break me," Zanara says, spreading her arms wide. "If you can."

Vance: And as his will to violence crumbles into dust, the light shining from his body stops.

Vance: "I've failed."

Icaria: If he tries to shatter himself, I'm going to parry it if possible.

Vance: ~ battle mode over ~

Svetlana: "…personally," Svetlana says, "I don't really think it's a failure to back down before a stupid mistake. Smartest thing I've seen someone fighting us do in a long, long time."

Zanara: Zanara nods. "It is not failure to admit that the dawn shines brighter. We forgive your transgression."

Camena: Camena leaps down from her perch smooth as butter. "Gotta admit, I'm not used to talking sense into folk. Or for the sense getting through."

Svetlana: "I mean, what if I'd charged in and you'd killed me? That would have been such a waste."

Svetlana: "Or if you'd embarrassed Mother Geode before the other gods. Um, I don't know quite how that works, though. I know it can happen. Politics. Completely over my head."

Icaria: What a nice man. I wonder if Grandma sent him.

Vance: The crowd is absolutely awestruck—between the sudden violence, you winning a fight against a formidable foe without raising a hand, and Eskth's heroic pathos, they're totally overcome.

Icaria: See, this is why I wonder who really sent him.

Icaria: I recognize a story when I see it being told.

Vance: "I have not fulfilled my duty, even though all it would have taken is a few more seconds," Eskth says, his affect totally flat. "Spare me your forgiveness."

Svetlana: "You know," Svetlana says, "I wasn't kidding. Seriously, even if you did have a grudge, even if there was some reason to fight it out, I'd really like to, y'know, finish the medical part and maybe the part where we get rid of Bokuro and whatever other stuff the others are working on before that. It's just ridiculous, y'know? Can't we, like, work together on that part? And then maybe, like, talk before the whole assassination thing? Because I'm not assassinating you guys."

Vance: "First, there is no 'us guys.' I made my own decision, and no one else came with me."

Camena: "Well, more to you for the initiative, then."

Vance: "Second, I'm not going to work with you. I might not have been able to kill you, but don't mistake that for friendship. I don't care if it's the Realm, the gods, or the Princes of Hell themselves. I'm not going to see Tourmaline betrayed by the promises of yet another would-be savior."

Vance: Eskth begins to slink away, though his uncloaked form is still incredibly conspicuous.

Camena: "I mean, sounds like you're just wishing for it to be you."

Vance: "I'm not a savior," he says, disappearing into the crowd. "Just a man. A stupid, stupid man at that."

Svetlana: "Expletive," Svetlana mutters.

Svetlana: She looks down. "OK, so, I need to try to get Bokuro kicked out of the satrapy. Zanara, will you lend me the divine favor of your company? I really want to go try my crazy idea to stop that kind of thing from ever happening again but my crazy ideas don't generally help that much."

Icaria: "Yes, but first…" says Icaria, moving to examine his newest patient.

Vance: Zanara, I presume?

Svetlana: "Oh, hells and heavens," Svetlana says. "I'm so sorry. Zanara, are you OK?"

Svetlana: Svetlana is glad that one of us has enough of a brain to notice that she's hurt but is sad that it is Icaria.

Zanara: "We are well enough," Zanara says. "By which I mean," she adds under her breath, "I'm in quite a bit of pain, but I'm not about to show it."

Camena: "C'mon, Righteous. Let us see under the mask. Don't let the angry bloke be the only one who cracks a little today."

Zanara: "Then I suggest we leave," Zanara says quietly. "If possible, I'd like a bath. Nothing I said was untrue but I still feel as though I've rolled around in a pigsty."

Icaria: I've fulfilled my function as a tough guy and as a doctor, so I'm feeling more myself than I have for a while now.

Vance: So, unless anyone would like to do other things, I'll cut to evidence time with Magistrate Yakult.

Svetlana: Svetlana encourages Zanara to take, in fact, an hour-long bath to replenish spirits and motes before we proceed.

Zanara: I will happily take five more motes. Regrettably I am still all kinds of messed up and will be for the next two days.

Vance: To be fair, you have like, at least most of your ribs broken.

Vance: Severe bruising and maybe some internal bleeding…

Vance: You can walk that off in two days!

Zanara: Totally.

Icaria: Seriously, see a doctor!

Icaria: You're not going to be one of those patients, are you?

Icaria: I have a lock on pointless machismo for this circle.

Zanara: Oh no, once she's not playing This Is What Zanara Wishes Gods Were Actually Like, she will 100% admit to the ow.

Icaria: Wow, this circle is just full of actors. ^_^

Vance: So, post-mote-bath…

Svetlana: Meanwhile, Svetlana becomes Evdeniya and drinks a small probiotic drink to help get into Yakult's frame of mind.

Vance: Magistrate Yakult is headquarted in an Imperial garrison, not unlike the one in which you recently interrogated the two prisoners.

Vance: She welcomes you enter her office. "Magistrate Tepet Evdeniya, and your retinue, come in. Have you made any progress with your assignment?"

Svetlana: "Magistrate," Evdeniya greets cheerfully. "This is my associate Zanara, recently injured heroically defending me from another of those crystal men, though it sadly escaped. If nothing else, I believe we have their attention."

Vance: Roll… (Manipulation + Presence).

Svetlana: 2 successes.

Vance: She's going to read your intentions…

Vance: …and, unless you have Guile 1, she's gonna fail

Svetlana: Man. If only I had the acting Charm and could exploit that.

Svetlana: One day.

Vance: (Also, for mote purposes, you're all at full. It was a really good bath!)

Zanara: (Baths are awesome.)

Svetlana: "I was tracking their raids on government supplies and the like and accidentally stumbled on a few unrelated points of interest," Evdeniya says, passing Yakult a file with the meticulously annotated notes on Bokuro's wicked deeds. "Since it's not the focus of my investigation, I figured you were the appropriate person to have this."

Vance: "Magistrate, you were told to bring those responsible for your comrade's murder to justice." She opens the file to a random page, skimming over a few lines. "This has no bearing on that. Why did you take it upon yourself to contradict a direct order?"

Icaria: This is why I'm not present, because I actually do have Guile 1.

Vance: (You're a Guile-ability.)

Icaria: (It's easier to just say I'm a lie-ability.)

Vance: (Damn.)

Svetlana: Evdeniya's eyes are wide and wounded. "I don't follow?"

Vance: "You were told to find the heretical cult. I have a captain of the legion and an Immaculate abbot waiting on your word before they can take action—why do you insist on wasting their time with these investigations into the Satrap? I assure you, I am perfectly competent to perform a simple audit."

Svetlana: "I can't help it if people want to tell me things," Evdeniya says, with resolute conviction. "And nobody's ever wanted a disorganized and un-annotated report."

Vance: "Very well. I hope you know just as much, if not more, about the cultists. Tell me everything."

Svetlana: "It's fairly straightforward," Evdeniya says. "They're a cell-based organization mostly performing independent operations constituted by citizens whose spirits are tempered by the dismal conditions in the mines—they're really quite abominable—until they reach a point where they should despair but grimly refuse. At that time Mother Geode reaches out to them and they perform the yaran ith, becoming partially or wholly crystalline and gaining an explosive seed of blue Essence inside them, more or less invisible when moving towards their goals, and fanatically dedicated to the idea that Tourmaline must throw off the quote unquote oppression of the Realm and in fact all foreign parties. Mother Geode herself is immanent in the island, mostly, although she does have a pocket realm accessible from somewhere with a high concentration of crystal I've yet to locate. They murdered Sloth Plum out of the mistaken belief that we Magistrates were essentially extensions of Bokuro, whom they, perhaps justifiably, loathe."

Svetlana: "Their funding is mostly from the citizens but they do get about a tenth of their supplies from raids and another tenth from traitors within the government."

Vance: "Watch your tongue, Evdeniya. But excellent information."

Svetlana: "I can't watch it," Evdeniya says. "My eyes don't point that way."

Vance: "I believe that is all that the Legion and the Immaculates need to hear."

Svetlana: "Excellent," Evdeniya agrees. "Ah, should I assume that Bokuro will be cleared of all charges, then?"

Svetlana: "Icaria has been… somewhat close with him… and would be relieved to hear, you see."

Vance: "It would not do to discuss the results of an audit before I have written my official finding."

Svetlana: "Of course it would do," Evdeniya says, leaning forward. "It's just us Magistrates here. Well, and Zanara, but she's discreet."

Vance: "Especially when the person I'm talking to has a personal interest in the inquisition."

Vance: "I went back through the paperwork—there must be another Tepet Evdeniya somewhere in the Empire, or else that means you're the one who originally requested this audit."

Svetlana: Evdeniya reads Yakult's intentions.

Vance: "That's interesting."

Vance: Roll it.

Svetlana: Alas, she probably has Guile > 2. We are such a pair.

Vance: Indeed she does.

Vance: She even has Guile > 3.

Svetlana: "That is quite interesting," Evdeniya agrees. "I only wonder whether that means you question my evidence, or you dislike it."

Vance: "Well, I would be a fool to take a dossier compiled by someone's political enemy too seriously. But it's hardly as if I'm going to throw it dramatically into a fireplace."

Vance: "Damn garrison doesn't even have any."

Zanara: (I have Motive-Discerning Technique—mind if I give it a shot?)

Vance: Go for it.

Zanara: Nuts, three exactly.

Svetlana: "See, here's the thing," Evdeniya says. "Should I somehow be a complete idiot, and everything I have there is wrong, then of course I would have no objection to Magistrate Yakult seeing the truth I was too blind to discover. I would prefer to be laughed off of this island in disgrace than to take down an innocent man, if those were my only two choices. But you have a very good poker face, Magistrate, and I am unable to see through your interactions with Bokuro to see where the two of you stand."

Vance: "Are you suggesting that I might be breaching my duties of professional responsibility? I certainly hope you aren't." Magistrate Yakult says—genially, not threateningly.

Vance: "It's not uncommon that we magistrates are called hares by the likes of Bokuro."

Vance: "But I consider myself a noble crocodile."

Svetlana: "I am absolutely a hare," Evdeniya says. "And I can think of no metaphor whatsoever in which a hare somehow trumps a crocodile, even if I wanted to banter cleverly. It does not even run away particularly well in a swamp. Only, if you thought that file were falsified evidence trumped up by an Imperial Magistrate against an Imperial satrap, you ought to be more interested in it, not less, so you can see why I find this puzzling."

Icaria: (Wig-growing contest.)

Vance: "Oh, certainly not falsified—I'm hardly accusing you of unprofessionalism. Only bias. There is no rule against working on an audit that you called for itself, I suppose, and I don't think a woman of your reputation has risen to your station on baseless lies."

Vance: "But, that said, speak your part. Summarize your findings on Satrap Bokuro for me, please."

Svetlana: Evdeniya turns on Speed the Wheels and says, "Ignoring substantial circumstantial evidence such as the occasional sly allusion in his own poetry, what we have is statistically vastly improbable portions of the shadowland poppy distribution moving through warehouses and individuals he directly or indirectly controls and members of the government ordered to omit recording expenditures at time intervals that repeatedly match large influxes of the same."

Vance: "Interesting."

Vance: Both of you, roll (Perception + Awareness) with hearing.

Zanara: A very unlikely six!

Svetlana: 11 successes, with Sensory Acuity Prana now active.

Svetlana: Wait, 12.

Vance: So, both of you hear Yakult whisper two sentences, quietly, underneath her breath."

Vance: "Captain, move out into the slave caverns."

Vance: "Briarpatch."

Svetlana: Evdeniya stands up. "Well," she says. "I won't take up any more of your time. Hares must run, you know."

Vance: You hear the sound of people in armor rushing in to the garrison downstairs—at least six, and a seventh not wearing armor. You pick up the familiar scent of Satrap Bokuro.

Svetlana: Is there a window to go out of, an alternate exit besides downstairs, or a good hiding place that's not in sight of Yakult or downstairs, in roughly that order?

Svetlana: (I'm mentally imagining this as a second-floor office with a hallway outside at the moment.)

Vance: This building doesn't have any windows—the closest are murder-holes in the walls, too small for you to climb through, but potentially destroyable.

Vance: This is the very top of the garrison, and it's just a single room—the only way in and out is by the stairs.

Vance: There is lots of good hiding place—Yakult's room is full of bookshelves, tapestries, and other pieces of stealth decor.

Icaria: Ah, so you've got them cornered.

Svetlana: How destroyable? Like, is the building wood and not stone, or do you just mean that Solars are good at destroying things and solid stone with a murder-hole is weaker than solid stone without it?

Vance: The latter

Vance: Although it's probably on the wimpier side of solid stone buildings

Icaria: Try hitting it with Magistrate Yakult!

Icaria: Oh, god, she does have a yogurt name.

Svetlana: That is at the top of my list except I don't have any Skill in Brawl so probably not what I do.

Icaria: Or, uh, wait…

Icaria: Just knock her unconscious and steal her identity.

Icaria: Eventually that trick will work.

Vance: And, at this point, we draw the curtain on this session.

Icaria: If we just, you know, try it a couple dozen times.

Svetlana: Frankly, as much as I want to smash a murder-hole, doing it with a boomerang is a really weird idea.

Zanara: And me with a bunch of broken ribs and a need to maintain respectability.

Zanara: Dang respectability!

Svetlana: I mean, skycutters are big, it's not like it's throwing a chunk of wood, but still, it's one of the least applicable weapons.

Svetlana: Thank you for running!

Vance: It is a gigantic flying chunk of jade!

Vance: It's good at smash.

Zanara: Yes, thank you!

Icaria: All hail Vance!

  • Icaria rolls to reclaim XP from teaching, gets 1 success.
  • Svetlana ponders whether to lower her trust in the Magistracy or raise her belief in uprooting corruption.

Icaria: You're technically a corrupt Magistrate yourself.

Svetlana: Gasp!

Svetlana: How do you even what I never

Vance: Why not both?

Svetlana: Technically I can only change one Intimacy per scene.

Svetlana: I am already cheating a little by doing it post-game and not asking you for permission. ^_^

  • Icaria adds an Intimacy to his sheet to reflect Icaria's quest for love, which really ought to be on there.

Icaria: Anyway this week we got in some good Zanara time, which we've wanted for a while.

Svetlana: And now, at long last, Svetlana can actually fake animas.

Svetlana: cue never impersonating a non-Solar Exalt again.

Svetlana: Possibly I should have had it from the beginning, I'm not actually sure if Dragon-Blooded go around showing anima constantly or whether all Magistrates are Dragon-Bloods. But I have it now!

Vance: I don't think all magistrates are Exalts, but Evdeniya was.

Icaria: According to the book, I think they all are.

Icaria: Mind you, I think the book has them portrayed as technically more powerful than this campaign is running with.

Svetlana: Oh, right, I didn't have Perfect Mirror from the beginning because Larceny isn't my Supernal.

Icaria: (Albeit only very technically.)

Vance: I imagine that flaring your anima infrequently would be a positive attribute among Dynasts, connoting discipline and self-control.

Svetlana: If we assume that Majal was way overconfident, then the campaign Magistrates seem to be normal.

Svetlana: I mean, hardly anybody important is caving to Magisterial authority but that's because they're all important.

Icaria: Yeah, it has no backing now.

Icaria: But in theory you can go where you want, do what you want, kill who you want.

Svetlana: I probably should have trusted my instincts more with Yakult.

Icaria: And tried to drink her?

Svetlana: If I'd just assumed that she was in fact leaning towards being corrupt, I could have tried to inspire her to be better, failed miserably, and given Zanara an opportunity to do a much better job.

Icaria: I foolishly thought that my presence was unnecessary.

Icaria: But it turns out that murders can happen at any time!

Svetlana: But she did too good a job at keeping the possibility alive that she was just being slow.

Svetlana: I kept not turning on my Seasoned Criminal Method to seem recruitable, though I guess that wouldn't have helped because she knew I'd started the thing.

Icaria: Still, I suppose next week you can just run to the window and shout "medical emergency!" and I'll be with you in a flash.

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