In Which We Do Not Attend the Gala

Vance: So far I haven't really been looking to challenge your Intimacies from your sheet.

Vance: Does anyone have an Intimacy they want to get the spotlight this session?

Vance: Ethical dilemma, chance to get Solar XP, chance to get Limit, whatever

Icaria: I dislike problems that can't be fit into the grand theory of everything.

Icaria: Also I lust after books.

Vance: What kind of problems don't fit into the grand theory of everything?

Camena: Camena's still got a crew roaming around somewhere that she's responsible for. And I'd love a chance for her to go apeshit about art.

Icaria: Most notably things that can't be modeled in terms of yin-yang or five-element theory.

Icaria: I also thought we ought to nail down official Circle policy re: our loyalty to the Realm.

Icaria: Icaria is vaguely against, Svetlana is nominally for, Camena loves gold.

Camena: Camena loves art.

Icaria: And now we have someone new with new opinions!

Zanara: Realm delenda est.

Svetlana: Svetlana's Intimacies are probably poorly designed and I'm not sure how to practically feature them.

Vance: In that case, any emotional conundrums in general?

Icaria: I guess the first case is to decide what's actually important to you?

Icaria: Like, you've taken over the life of a direct servant of the Empress. Are you actually loyal to the Empress?

Svetlana: Oh, nah, she just doesn't like governmental corruption and has general good feelings towards the magistracy. Anything more than that is just getting caught up in the flow of the role.

Vance: Doesn't like corruption is a pretty meaty Intimacy.

Svetlana: Her main loyalty is just that she doesn't like suffering/dead/wronged people just getting forgotten about. It's why she cared about the hellboar and prisoners even though it was really pretty minor.

Vance: Gotcha.

Vance: Now, let's meet Zanara and her Second Chance Army.

Svetlana: In theory she doesn't like spirits but I completely forgot about that when the spirit was actually showing up so I don't know now.

Vance: Gloam is a port city, strategically valuable to the Realm, run by a Dragon-Blooded council.

Vance: What are you doing to undermine it?

Zanara: Where the Realm goes, slavery inevitably follows—so Zanara is (quietly) making inroads among the local population, and saving the big showy uprising for later. I imagine she's masquerading as someone relatively innocuous, such as a traveler or a pilgrim.

Vance: Okay, so let's go to a meeting with a couple of your compatriots.

Vance: Want to describe Zanara's meeting chambers, or would she have it somewhere not-personal?

Zanara: She's very much out of her element, so I don't think she has chambers, really. She and her people might be squatting in a warehouse?

Vance: Okay, then. So a very cozy meeting in a warehouse.

Icaria: With coffee!

Camena: And bronze-skinned maniacs!

Icaria: I wasn't invited.

Icaria: Unless I was.

Svetlana: Just how many maniacs are you?

Icaria: I can solve myself into existence in many places using Lore rolls.

Icaria: Well, arguably only once per scene. But in this case it's at Zanara's discretion.

Vance: The women and men of the Second Chance Army banter, drink, and play top-spinning games in a rank domicile that was once a warehouse for cattle, bankrupted by bandits attacking the sea routes between Harborhead and Gloam. Zanara leads three confidantes back to her personal bunk. One is a priest of the commerce-god Zhe Jasmi, concerned for the well-being of the island's poor and willing to defy the Realm. Another is a guild merchant prince, proclaiming the virtues of free trade in what is doubtlessly some sort of pretense. The third is Zanara's secret weapon?one of the Council's own, a functionary of Lord Majordomo Majal. Her name is Moon Tortoise, and she has sworn her life to liberation.

Icaria: Her name is what?

Vance: "Majal is planning a gala in about a week's time at Legate Tran's, to be announced later today," says Moon Tortoise. "From the paperwork, I gather that the satrap will be there herself, and probably her wife. Four birds with one stone sounds good to me."

Vance: @randbrittain: Shhhh

Vance: (Also note for continuity purposes that this is about a week before present time in-game.)

Zanara: "Hmm. Quite. But we'll need to be ready to move. Before the week is out, I want everyone familiar with the area, well enough that we can separate and evade any pursuit individually. As to the gala… well, I've talked my way into and out of worse situations than that," Zanara says, smiling.

Vance: "It'll be hard to get into the area—Legate Tran is well-guarded, and they say she's a sorcerer. Who knows what she's got behind her walls?"

Icaria: Demons! I guess demons.

Zanara: "True enough. Perhaps I should go alone, at least at first. Send up a signal when there's a proper opportunity."

Vance: "My people could help get you in," offers the priest. "Most of the estate's laborers pray to Zhe Jasmi for fair wages."

Vance: "Or you could accompany me," suggests the merchant prince. "They'll invite me."

Zanara: "I'd rather not tie up innocents in this," Zanara said, nodding to the merchant prince. "Not until they're ready to go to war properly."

Vance: "I'd make a remark about love and war," the merchant prince, Jazanal, "if that were not so painfully trite."

Zanara: "Just remember who we're here for," Zanara says, "and make sure that invitation comes through."

Vance: "I'll pay for their food. They won't have any choice but to invite me." he says, matter-of-factly but barely hiding a smile.

Zanara: Zanara let a smile cross her face, even if a part of her cringed. "How fortunate a tool quid-pro-quo can be."

Vance: And now, unless Zanara has other things she wants to do?

Zanara: No, I think that about wraps it up!

Vance: In that case, we fast forward to the day of the gala.

Vance: Icaria, Camena, Svetlana, you have one final preparation to make.

Vance: LET'S

Vance: PLAY

Vance: DRESS-UP!

Icaria: Time for some kidnapping!

Vance: Alternatively:

Vance: LET'S

Vance: PLAY

Vance: KIDNAPPING!

Svetlana: All our dreams and all our hopes from now until hereafter—

Svetlana: All that we've been wishing for will happen at the Gala—

Svetlana: At the Gala!

Icaria: At the Gala!

Vance: Remind me whom you wanted to kidnap?

Icaria: The satrap.

Vance: Hmm.

Icaria: At the Gala! There'll be husbands! One of whom might marry me!

Vance: The satrap's security might be slightly increased since she caught your elemental spy.

Svetlana: She is afraid of being peppered next.

Icaria: She'll be expecting an elemental spy, not a ring of incredibly powerful and handsome kidnappers.

Vance: All right.

Vance: How are you planning on kidnapping her?

Icaria: Hm, in a way that nobody will suspect.

Camena: At the Gala! With the Satrap! That's where I am going to be! I will use unholy magic, to change what she will see!

Icaria: Oh, can you do that? That's super useful.

Icaria: Can you be our fake satrap?

Camena: Easily.

Vance: You have an embarrassment of riches in that regard.

Icaria: That'll do, then.

Vance: In that case: back to dress up.

Vance: What are y'all wearing?

Vance: …and how are you smuggling in weapons, artifacts, elementals, etc.?

Icaria: I'll simply have to call on a swarm of tarnish beetles.

Camena: Am I going as the Satrap?

Camena: Or does that come later?

Svetlana: I'd actually assumed we'd be grabbing the satrap before the gala itself, although doing the substitution there is more daring.

Camena: I admit I am still unclear about our plans.

Icaria: Their iridescent carapace is powerfully hypnotic. We'll just use them to distract all her subordinates for a moment while we walk off with her.

Icaria: Here's the plan.

Camena: Which… I mean, with Icaria, "plan" is a generous word.

Svetlana: I assumed it would be, like, climb a tower sneakily and, like… chloroform and then… smuggle…

Icaria: Before the gala, we confront the satrap at a convenient moment and use my tarnish beetles to put anybody she has with her into a convenient short trance.

Icaria: Then, we subdue her politely.

Icaria: Camena takes her place, and we take the real satrap to someplace that may or may not be Camena's boat.

Icaria: Then, we attend the gala and spring the trap.

Icaria: At the gala.

Camena: Please gag her and throw her in a barrel of the illegal stuff they smuggled onto my damn boat.

Camena: At the gala.

Icaria: My main reason for thinking not the boat is that it's the first place anyone will look.

Icaria: Admittedly we don't own a lot of other real property.

Camena: Why would anyone search my boat?

Camena: The Satrap isn't missing

Icaria: True!

Camena: Are we going to have to do the Satrap thing, or do we want to skip to the scene where Camena is uncomfortably propositioned in the guise of the Satrap?

Svetlana: I vaguely feel like impersonating Moon Onion when we kidnap the satrap, but it depends on just where we expect to catch her. It sounds like we're doing this as she departs for the gala, unless Icaria had a different expectation of how to catch her somewhere?

Icaria: I figure letting her depart for the gala works, since it minimizes the amount of time Camena has to spend impersonating her in front of people who know her and might want to talk business.

Icaria: Being Moon Witness is probably a good idea because it leads into our new companion.

Camena: Indeed. We can all enjoy Moon Moon.

Svetlana: Flawlessly Impenetrable Disguise is Simple, so it can't be used with an Excellency, or are combos free now, or?

Icaria: Combos don't really exist.

Vance: Combos are free.

Icaria: You can combine freely with reflexive stuff and supplementals from the same ability.

Camena: Peeeeeeerfect Miiiiiiiiiirror!

Svetlana: A shocking 13 successes on the disguise roll, even after the -4 penalty for impersonation.

Svetlana: (And 14m spent if someone bursts in right then, with 6m committed peripheral if they don't.)

Vance: Even a Dragon-Blooded trying real hard is going to have difficulty seeing through that.

Svetlana: It is a Flawlessly Impenetrable Disguise. ^_^

Camena: Camena is jealous, ending up with only 12 successes.

Icaria: Wait, when did Moon Orchid get here?

Camena: But she DOES get to impersonate anima and essence effects, and also anyone who can try to force a roll takes -4 dice.

Vance: Hmm. I figure FID basically lets you sneak in any weapons that could reasonably fit under your clothes.

Icaria: And where is Magistrate Evdeniya?

Vance: …but it might be trickier to hide full-body armor.

Camena: What's the Satrap's aspect?

Svetlana: In fairness, I have actually seen Moon Lamp.

Vance: She is a Wood Aspect.

Svetlana: That extra success probably comes from that.

Icaria: Remind me, what is the satrap's actual name?

Icaria: We keep not using it.

Vance: Jaspindar.

Icaria: Ah, right.

Icaria: Well, we'll get properly acquainted soon.

Vance: You know all their aspects from the Marukhati family. Satrap Jaspindar is Wood, her wife Vi is Water, Majal is Earth, and Legate Tran is Fire.

Svetlana: "Hm. I hope I'm remembering right that my last name is actually Tortoise."

Svetlana: I think I just use a buff jacket normally. I'm not sure how difficult that is to hide, or if it's in fact normal at a Creation gala.

Vance: buff jackets get a definite pass

Icaria: This is a martial aristocracy!

Vance: Camena, you're disguised as the satrap?

Icaria: Meanwhile, I'm going to…

Icaria: sighs

Camena: I'm sorry.

Camena: Who is this… Camena?

Camena: And why are you talking to me, ST peasant?

Svetlana: We could disguise Icaria as someone, but it might not work as well.

Icaria: This is really distasteful, but I'm going to put on clothing that covers up my arms and start wearing my glasses again.

Vance: Minor Obstacle: Has Camena ever seen Jaspindar?

Icaria: And unspike my hair.

Vance: You may need to wait until post-kidnapping to disguise yourself

Icaria: Surely she's seen very unflattering propaganda pictures put up by the Second Chance Army.

Svetlana: You could just keep your tarnish beetle in your hair and have anyone who looks to tell if it's spiked get confused.

Icaria: I can't argue with that logic!

Icaria: Wait, but in that case, what was the point of nerding up at all?

Camena: I'm sure there's a pic of her somewhere.

Vance: Okay.

Vance: I will allow you to disguise yourself as her, but only if you go into an artistic reverie over whatever painting you saw of her

Svetlana: It's also probably the case that the Salinan working embedded lots of miscellaneous information into Creation as a random side effect, because encoding just sorcery is harder than just kind of shoving everything sorcery-adjacent in there, so it's possible that everyone in Creation can deduce Jaspindar's appearance from first principles.

Icaria: That's logical.

Svetlana: Also the best way to make ricotta.

Vance: Ah, yes, the famous Jaspindar identity.

Icaria: Ultimately all things are interconnected.

Svetlana: Holistic Impersonation Methodology.

Svetlana: Conceptual Clothing Tactic.

Camena: It's not quite reverie, mind; Camena's spent her evenings perusing the galleries of the well-to-do, at least the ones she can enter without too much breaking. It sickens her, the way the greatest pieces of Gloam's history are squirreled away in the tasteless hallways of the well born. Worst of all is the recent crazy—it's clear enough that the satrapy has recently taken Romanticism to vogue, imbuing the newest paintings (you can smell it; the paint has barely set a decade, hardly time enough to cure) with lifeless adherence to proportion and ratio. At last, she finds something worth looking it—Jaspindar, by the look of her; younger, certainly, but that's easy enough to guess at. She's a stern-featured woman, dark skin traced through with subtle strokes of green. This painter at least knew Realism when it hit them in the face, and so it must be some mark of her breeding, not just embellishment; Camena traces over her skin with imaginary powders, making a pantomime of what she would do later at her kit. She knew this now, in the bones and the muscle. She knew how to be the Satrap.

Vance: Take a point of Willpower.

  • Icaria spends the remainder of his spare time disguising Sun's Brush as a ceremonial staff via carefully lacquered papier-mache.

Vance: Hmm.

Vance: Make an argument for what you think that roll should be.

Icaria: I'm going for Intelligence + Craft.

Icaria: Not that I have any Craft, but it doesn't have to look good, just "not like a golden god-weapon."

Vance: Works for me.

Icaria: Ideally the lacquer will just crack off when I bang it hard against something.

Vance: You'll even get crafting experience!

Svetlana: Svetlana feels that this plan is extraordinarily shaky but also that she is not going to come up with a better heist, so is willing to rely on excellence, improvisation, and not really being that afraid of failure.

Vance: With 4+ successes, mortals aren't going to be noticing it.

Icaria: Two successes, which is really better than I was actually expecting.

Vance: With two, it's… gonna call for some Perception + Awareness rolls, down the road.

Icaria: Ah, but what if I hold it upside down?

Vance: You think it would reasonably risk exposure no matter what.

Icaria: "…Camena, can you think of a better disguise for my weapon?"

Icaria: …oh, wait.

Icaria: I know what to do.

  • Icaria gives Sun's Brush to Rubean and tells her to hold onto it for the rest of the night.

Icaria: If I need it, I'll be calling her and Emeraude to me anyway.

Vance: "I'll take good care of it!" the flame duck says.

Svetlana: Oh no! The artifact has fallen into the hands of the forces of darkness!

Vance: (Hey, that's a neat trick!)

Icaria: Hohoho! I have discovered the duck of holding!

Camena: I don't suppose I can get a valet for my gun?

Icaria: Sure, just let Emeraude eat it.

Vance: You can probably hide it in a flawlessly impenetrable disguise.

Vance: It's flawlessly impenetrable.

Camena: Hmmm. True. It's now a stylish double-barrel sceptre of satrapiness.

Camena: Although I'm beginning to wish I'd just made it a flame piece.

Svetlana: It would probably have gone out by now.

Vance: So, should I describe the satrap's route to Legate Tran's estate, or would someone like to introduce facts about it?

Svetlana: My Lore is 0, so I do not think I will be doing so. Dessa Svetlana happily imagines a section of the route where the satrap and the guards must blindfold themselves to avoid witnessing the forbidden secret of the canal painters, and another part where she passes through an ancient building only Exalted may enter, but she does not think they will occur.

Camena: What she said

Icaria: She probably stops at the sweetshop to get candied apricots.

Icaria: Satraps love apricots.

Icaria: That's where we'll strike.

Icaria: I've been carefully studying local delicious food.

Vance: You'll need… some kind of roll to do the legwork to figure out where she'd be most vulnerable on her way

Icaria: Studying to the tune of five successes!

Vance: I don't think culinary appreciation is gonna…

Vance: …well.

Vance: I stand corrected.

Icaria: Naturally, not all her guards can fit into the sweetshop, so only one follows her in.

Icaria: She used to take in more, but they kept stealing sweets.

Vance: You don't get to go quite that far.

Icaria: Woe, that I didn't buy Supernal Lore and the Charm for "yes I do get to go that far"!

Vance: Gloam imports candied apricots from the exotic peninsula of the Devil Alligators, and ships them back to the banquet tables of the Realm. Satrap Jaspindar and Legate Tran's estates are roughly catty-corner from each other in the high class district of the city. Jaspindar is known for her love of a particular candied apricot merchant whose shop is on the way, to the point of giving him her mon to display in his shop to show her approval.

Svetlana: Random reminder: Unsurpassed Hearing is currently always on. This is apropos of nothing, just in case it's ever relevant.

Vance: A carriage pulls along the roadways.

Vance: How are y'all stalking her?

Camena: Stealthily!

Svetlana: I'd be vaguely inclined to be, like, on a roof near the apricot shop and listening for her, possibly with one of the spirits waaay overhead with aerial view to alert us if she unexpectedly goes a different direction?

Icaria: I've got a magical cloud to assist me in quietly getting from rooftop to rooftop.

Icaria: Subtly.

Vance: Okay.

Icaria: And yeah, Saphir can alert us to anything really odd from a safe distance.

Vance: Dexterity + Stealth from all of y'all.

Camena:

Camena: Uhm.

Camena: So.

Camena: Satrap!Camena gets 12 successes

Vance:

Vance: Impressive!

Icaria: I got 1.

Vance: Less impressive.

Icaria: Possibly after the first rooftop I realize this isn't going to work and decide to just wait on the opportune moment to act.

Vance: You think it would be advisable to follow from aerial distance.

Camena: Am I stealthy enough to absorb his badness, like a Stealth Blackhole?

Icaria: Is it dark enough for me to do that?

Icaria: I guess it is actually possible that people can't see me on the cloud from beneath.

Vance: You'd need to be up really high.

Icaria: Fair enough!

Icaria: I'll stay topside unless I see a reason not to be. When I get the signal I'll drop down and carry the hopefully-subdued satrap away on the skiff.

Icaria: Magistrate, you can hold my beetles.

Icaria: Just, like… don't look at them too hard.

Svetlana: 5 successes on Stealth.

Vance: So, Svetlana and Camena approach on the ground, while Icaria flies overhead?

Icaria: You mean, Moon Onion and the satrap do.

Camena: We're waiting for the Satrap to go in… or for her guards to do so.

Vance: The candied apricot shop is spread out among several pavilions—it's popular! The satrap exits her chariot, surrounded by guards in jade, to browse the wares.

Icaria: I assume they have more than one product.

Icaria: Or, maybe not!

Icaria: Decadence!

Svetlana: I suppose that makes it time to sneak in and… hm. Assess the circumstances. Do we need to do something to arrange for a moment when nobody will be looking our way from out of range of the beetles?

Vance: As ~Svetlana~ Moon Tortoise comes within a few hundred yards of Jaspindar she has a sudden realization?this is the hunter from before, the same woman she heard in the message brought by Icaria's air elemental.

Svetlana: Jaspindar?

Vance: Yes.

Icaria: What, really?

Vance: Yes.

Icaria: Everything we know is wrong!

Icaria: Black is white, up is down, and short is long!

Svetlana: I'm going to try to figure out whether this is someone already in disguise as the satrap.

Svetlana: Which I guess is purely visual, since I don't know what the real satrap smells like, so regular Perception + Awareness + Excellency.

Vance: Go for it.

Svetlana: 4m, 5 successes.

Icaria: I remain unaware of these events, but I am in favor of kidnapping her anyway just because.

Vance: You don't pick up any indication that the satrap is an individual in disguise.

Vance: In fact, you remember her smell from being at the wilderness-mansion breach.

Svetlana: …yeah, I guess we should still do this.

Icaria: I spent all afternoon on that papier-mache.

Icaria: It was a fun activity to do with my wind son.

Camena: Is the Satrap's entourage still waiting for her? Like, I assume a carriage and more guards.

Vance: Yes.

Vance: It's right between you and her.

Svetlana: I don't know exactly how the tarnish beetles work, but I am under the impression that what is happening is that I am circling around to get to the shop, waiting for a moment or aisle when there are a limited number of sight lanes on the satrap on guards, stepping forward with tarnish beetles, and letting them go to work.

  • Svetlana adds "circling around to get to the shop" when you say "between you and her."

Vance: What exactly is a tarnish beetle?

Svetlana: It's like a beetle with impure honor.

Icaria: It's a kind of earth elemental that appears in swarms.

Svetlana: It followed a leader that consorted with bees and the shame rubbed off. I assume. Rand can tell you more.

Vance: And how does it help you kidnap Jaspindar?

Icaria: Their carapaces are iridescent and in large numbers they create sparkling patterns of light that can hypnotize people and leave them unaware of their surroundings and in a trance.

Vance: Gotcha.

Icaria: Hopefully just long enough for us to knock out Jaspindar, slot our cuckoo into place, and take her out.

Vance: Do y'all advance past her carriage to enter the shops?

Camena: Stealthily!

Vance: All right.

Svetlana: I don't go, like, right in front of the horses or anything, because 5 successes is not enough to be confident of when Dragon-Blooded are around, but I am moving in a fashion that will put me on the other side of the carriage from where I am now, which does mean crossing the invisible line they indicate.

Vance: You evade the notice of the mortal guards, but nevertheless, as you move forward, Lord Majordomo Majal emerges from the carriage. He makes direct eye contact with you, and for a moment shows genuine confusion.

Vance: "Satrap, weren't you just buying apricots?" he asks. His heart rate doesn't show any sign of real suspicion, for the moment.

Camena: Wait, what?

Vance: "And… Cloud Tortoise? What are you doing here?"

Icaria: I was kind of assuming that Camena had covered her face or something so as to not obviously be the satrap until the switch happens.

Svetlana: Camena is the real Night here. I'm just a hare on a mission from God.

Vance: Is that the case?

Vance: In that case, its Cloud Tortoise/Svetlana he turns to, as the person he actually recognizes. "Why are you here? You've been following us, why?"

Svetlana: Just for clarity: it's not surprising he saw me with my 5 stealth successes, but he saw Camena too, through her 12 stealth successes, presumably with a really good roll or some sort of weird effect? I guess Svetlana doesn't know either way.

Camena: He didn't see me.

Icaria: I think Vance has retracted that he saw Camena.

Vance: … right. Woof.

Camena: Vance is just Avoidance Kata'ing poorly.

Icaria: After being reminded of the twelve successes.

Svetlana: Svetlana lowers her shh'ing finger from her lips and gives him a look.

Vance: So, the current continuity, Majal is barking at Svetlana, Camena is hidden, and Icaria is up in the clouds

Svetlana: "Sir, this is on your orders." Intelligence + Socialize roll to remember if 'sir' is the appropriate honorific, 2 successes, 2m.

Vance: "I didn't order you to follow us, Cloud Tortoise. I could hear your footsteps the entire ride. Things are different when you're dealing with a Prince of the Earth."

Vance: (Sir is an appropriate honorific.)

Svetlana: Shame flashes across Moon Tortoise's face. "This one… I did not mean… " She glances towards the satrap, then in full politeness mode. "This one apologizes for her clumsiness."

Vance: "I don't even know if I can call this clumsiness. Just what order of mine did you think you were following by sneaking out to the candied apricot stall after us, hmm?"

Svetlana: Svetlana now regrets leaving Moon Tortoise gagged so she couldn't see them interacting.

Camena: "Oh, for the love of… "

Svetlana: "A spirit was sighted at your off—" Moon Tortoise pales and goes silent at the satrap's voice.

  • Icaria considers firing the distraction sorcery.

Camena: That was intended to be a whisper.

Svetlana: Oh.

Vance: "I'm perfectly aware of that, Cloud Tortoise. When the satrap finds an air elemental spying on her, she lets me know."

Vance: (Roll Manipulation + higher of Presence or Socialize.)

Icaria: Whatever, I'm going to start shaping.

Vance: Which spell?

Icaria: I can decide to fire it off, or not, later.

Icaria: Flight of the Brilliant Raptor.

Svetlana: "No," Cloud Tortoise says. "I mean, it's a few blocks behind…" 3 successes.

Icaria: It's my control spell, so I can fire it off at quite a long range.

Vance: Okay, go ahead and make your first shaping roll.

Icaria: I'm basically going to use it like a firework to distract the guards, at which point Camena can unleash the beetles and strike.

Camena: He says that and I do not feel confident

Icaria: If it distracts Jaspindar from the actual threat, well, so much the better.

Vance: Svetlana, your intentions are being read. What's your Guile?

Svetlana: 3.

Icaria: And I get three successes.

Svetlana: "Come on," she says, not knowing her intentions are being read, and moves towards the satrap and guards in the shop.

Icaria: Dammit, I can't use a tagline if there's nobody up here to talk to me.

Svetlana: I tagline… the darkness!

Icaria: I didn't even come up with a tagline to use today.

Vance: "Well, well. I had been hoping to make this a bit more dramatic of a reveal—thrown the damning documents at your feet, lock you in a cell with your seditious compatriots, but there's no chance for that. I know that you're aiding a rebel insurgency within Gloam, Moon Tortoise, and now I must act on that knowledge."

  • Camena sighs.

Icaria: Hm, this could be a good chance to lead him away.

Icaria: At least, if you think you can evade him successfully.

Svetlana: Svetlana bolts, at an angle, in the hopes that she can draw the satrap, guards, and Majal to roughly the same place. She's kind of aiming to run parallel to the aisles, roll behind fruit for the first attack, and dash catty-corner to pull everyone together in an alley out the window of the shop, or behind the shop if it's open-walled.

Vance: Roll… Wits + Athletics.

Camena: #WeirdAssPairings

Svetlana: 5m, 6 successes, I included a "Fleet of Foot" die.

Vance: You successfully abscond into an alleyway, with Majal in close pursuit. The impact of your bodies on the ground draws the attention of a handful of the carriage's armed guards, who begin drawing towards you. All this is right in Icaria's sight line.

Vance: @randbrittain Go ahead and make your next shaping roll. If it brings you to enough to cast, you can do that now.

Icaria: It's probably going to take me a while… oh, well, I may as well use Supernal Control Method.

Icaria: Nine successes, which brings me up to twelve out of fifteen.

Vance: Okay.

Svetlana: Damn, how to bait the satrap into following too. "The tomb shall move!" she cries.

Vance: Now, everyone roll Wits + Awareness

Camena: … Has anyone actually figured out what the ever-living beetlejuice we're going to DO with an experienced Terrestrial?

Camena: 5

Icaria: Blow your Excellency, hit her very hard in the back of the neck, and hope for ST leniency because this isn't meant to be a fight scene.

Camena: …I'm an Archer.

Icaria: If the ST objects, point out that impulsiveingenue needs to get a turn to do something soon and we need to get to the gala.

Svetlana: 2m, 6 successes.

Icaria: Well, roll Stealth and shoot her in the back of the neck.

Zanara: (Of course, you are about to detonate a Brilliant Raptor, which I imagine is fairly noticeable even from quite a distance.)

Icaria: Five successes.

Icaria: The hard part is not setting the city on fire, but I am an expert in how one element affects the others.

Svetlana: Fire, for instance, sets wood on fire.

Vance: Okay.

Camena: Apricots are wood.

Icaria: Exactly!

Vance: So Svetlana and Majal are up first, on the same tick.

Vance: If you both attack, we get a clash!

Camena: …godsdammit.

Icaria: I Joined Battle and didn't know it!

Icaria: Well, my Raptor should go off right after they act, so Camena will have her moment to strike.

Svetlana: What are my ranges from Majal and the satrap?

Camena: My moment to strike with all of diddly shit

Icaria: Come on, Elliott, make a Confidence roll.

Vance: Majal is in short range

Vance: The satrap is over at the stalls (which count as difficult terrain)—she's at long range from where you are.

Svetlana: I want to close with the satrap and keep at range from Majal and I have no idea how many actions that is or if keeping at range from him is actually possible before he closes.

Icaria: Wouldn't it be better to distract him from the satrap, so that he doesn't see you lifting her?

Svetlana: You gave me the beetles.

Svetlana: I kind of need everyone in one spot to use them.

Svetlana: Unless I misunderstand them.

Icaria: Fair enough.

Svetlana: I failed to ask you if they had multiple shots, or how long they last, or how long the range is.

Icaria: I don't actually know, since I just made them up today.

Icaria: So I'm going to say that their hypnotic ability is one-shot but incredibly powerful and will last for three rounds.

Icaria: And will hit basically anybody who can see them.

Vance: I'm going to allow this

Svetlana: OK! So I'm not really concerned about reaching the satrap, then, but I do need to have her not be in cover from me. Can someone who understands movement help?

Icaria: They can fly, so you can probably just tell them what you want them to do.

Icaria: I mean, they don't fly well, but they can get over a fruit cart.

Vance: She doesn't have great cover.

Vance: I'd say light at best, from the layout of pavilions.

Icaria: In fact…

Icaria: Just toss them high into the air.

Icaria: I'll take care of the rest.

Vance: but there isn't any angle that would let you get through it, unless you get right up close to her

Icaria: I can get people looking in that direction.

Svetlana: Depending on the layout, then, I either move to bring her into medium distance so I can knock over that cover with a thrown object, and if I have an action left I'll throw a dart Majal's way. Or, if the ceiling is high enough, and if Icaria actually explained all this, I'll throw the beetles up with a cry of "Now!" and close my eyes.

Camena: Sorry, internet exploded.

Icaria: Let's assume that I explained this at an earlier time.

Icaria: In fact I will explain it at an earlier time now via flashback.

  • Icaria does this, but skips the flashback.

Vance: Okay.

Vance: Let's say tossing the beetles is a gambit.

  • Svetlana draws strength from this important memory of her beetle-mentor.

Vance: We'll say it's an unblockable Dexterity + Thrown attack.

Icaria: Against whom?

Svetlana: The darkness.

Vance: Everyone who sees them.

Icaria: Oh, well, get as many successes as you can.

Vance: The Initiative roll for the gambit will be difficulty 5 to get the satrap, but lower to get the guards.

Camena: @kukla, I understand your reluctance now.

Icaria: Meanwhile, I plan to detonate my Raptor just above the spot in the air where the beetles dance to get everybody looking in that direction.

Vance: @elliott In the system's defense, Rand just made these guys up.

Camena: It's more about my feelings about the length of this scene.

Svetlana: 6 successes, 4m.

Vance: Okay.

Vance: Now roll 9 dice for your Initiative.

Svetlana: 3 successes.

Vance: All right.

Vance: The shower of beetles manages to enrapture most of the satrap's carriage guards, but she is unaffected.

Vance: (We'll say you pay 4 Initiative as the cost)

Icaria: I thought she needed five successes to get the satrap?

Vance: Majal is going to try to grab Svetlana by the throat, in a clinch.

Vance: (Three initiative successes)

Svetlana: Does he have to rush me first?

Vance: No, he can move to close reflexively.

Svetlana: Do I roll something about the clinch?

Vance: First, you can buff your defense with charms.

Svetlana: I have Evasion 5. If he has three successes over that, then I don't think there's anything I can do at the moment; I don't think I have 8m to buff it with an Excellency.

Svetlana: If he has three successes under that, then I don't understand what defense I am buffing.

Icaria: You should be able to spend four to buff it to 7.

Svetlana: I have absolutely no idea why that would help.

Icaria: Because, he'd need to roll higher to clinch you?

Svetlana: He rolled three successes. Or is the actual attack yet to come?

Icaria: No, it was you that rolled three successes on your gambit.

Vance: The attack is yet to come,

Svetlana: Ah! Much is made clear.

Icaria: First you rolled to hit, and then you rolled your Initiative to succeed at the gambit.

Icaria: (So, having more Initiative makes gambits more likely to succeed.)

Svetlana: I saw Vance describe a clinch attempt and then say "three initiative successes" and missed the flow of conversation.

Vance: NP.

Svetlana: Sure, I'll spend 4m to buff evasion to 7.

Vance: You easily evade him.

Svetlana: Leaving me with, I think, 3.

Vance: (…and he loses 2 Initiative for missing)

Icaria: Good, good.

Vance: Icaria and Camena act next, and simultaneously.

Camena: …are we really wanting me to basically immolate the Satrap?

Camena: Because that's about the range of my options.

Icaria: "I, thy sole friend, but not thy sole friend, a burning brightly friend, but truly not a true friend… "

  • Icaria incants.

Icaria: Naw, it's a bashing attack.

  • Vance groans.
  • Icaria cackles.

Camena: Bashing?

Icaria: Yes.

Camena: So… you want me to try and knock out an experienced Terrestrial despite having 1 Strength and no martial abilities other than archery?

Icaria: Look, this scene has been going on forever and we want to get to the gala, so you can roll Dexterity + Archery to knock her out because of reasons.

Svetlana: Use boxing glove arrows!

Icaria: If anyone disagrees I will keep stunting terrible song references into my spells.

  • Camena turns to look at the ST.
  • Icaria fires off Flight of the Brilliant Raptor to create a loud, hot, and noisy, but harmless firework in just the right place to get everybody looking at the tarnish beetles.

Vance: I think the gala may not be a thing you get to.

Icaria: But, my prince!

Vance: The relevant people were already tarnish'd.

Camena: Fuck it, we've fulfilled Majal's request at this point.

Vance: You could aim that damage at someone, if you want.

Camena: We've made a fun attempt on the Satrap's life.

Icaria: I can't really see a way of doing that that won't hurt somebody I don't want to hurt.

Vance: KK.

Icaria: Which is why I meant the raptor to go off before the beetles and assist in that.

Vance: @elliott You are still in stealth, so if you want to fuck out of this that's actually pretty easy to do.

Camena: I'm trying to decide between bailing or coming to Svetlana's aid and quickly transforming into an incapacitated Majal.

Svetlana: I'm not sure if Majal was incapacitated. He acted at the same time so his action was not indicative and he is neither a guard nor a satrap so the description of who was affected was not helpful.

Vance: True.

Camena: I mean, after I burn him up.

Vance: He looks over, but is unaffected.

Svetlana: Oh! That makes sense. A person can always be made more incapacitated.

Icaria: I'm not really sure why we played this whole scene out if the result was going to be "whoops, nobody has the skills needed to knock out the satrap in two rounds, so I guess you fail."

Vance: I had not anticipated this course of events. >.>

Vance: On the upside, no one can tie this back to you so far.

Camena: Is everyone in a position to abscond?

Icaria: I can fly away, I guess.

Svetlana: In practice, the beetles were faulty owing to the geomancy of the apricot stall. I attribute it to the geomancy since the beetles were not inherently faulty, but only faulty because it was not practical to pump up initiative before unleashing them.

Svetlana: I can at least attempt absconding.

Vance: If all three of y'all want to bag it, we can break combat.

Svetlana: I don't think anyone knows what I look like, if I get far enough away to drop the disguise.

Vance: Jenna, roll Dexterity + Athletics to abscond.

Svetlana: 5 successes, 3m, assuming Fleet of Foot applies. 7 successes if we got end-of-round motes back, because the extra die I'd have rolled would have been a 10.

Vance: Success.

Vance: It takes a few minutes for you to regroup—Svetlana out of breath from sprinting away from Majal and the guards, Icaria on his cloud, and Camena unseen. If you don't want to be suspiciously late to the gala, you're going to need to hurry. And possibly change your disguises.

Icaria: Do we even need to go at this point?

Camena: Why would we go to the gala now?

Camena: Camena's gonna go to the Satrap's mansion and dig through her stuff.

Camena: Wanna dig through her stuff, Jenna?

Svetlana: The major advantage of going to the gala is bringing the PC group together.

Svetlana: I admit this is more than a little OOC.

Camena: Granted.

Vance: That is true.

Icaria: It's true; it's just that we no longer have the main reason it was going to be safe for us to be there.

Vance: No one knows you actually were involved in the attack.

Vance: And if you don't show up to what Majal asked, he will want to know why.

Icaria: Yes, but they're a bunch of Dynasts and we're Anathema.

Icaria: Secretly being the satrap was our trump card for when the satrap gets murdered.

Icaria: Or… whatever happens, if it isn't going to be that.

Camena: I mean, at the heart of it, didn't Majal ask us to make a big, fake attempt on the Satrap?

Icaria: If the satrap isn't us it feels like a bad idea even to Icaria.

Svetlana: I feel it is my modus operandus to attend but my Tepet Evdeniya disguise will be awfully shaky with 4m to my name and Essence recovering slowly out of combat.

Vance: It was specifically on her guards, and specifically at the gala.

Icaria: Well, I mean… under the circumstances I'm absolutely not going to attack her guards at the gala, so.

Vance: You could go to the gala and not attack her guards.

Camena: Same.

  • Svetlana has a lot of trouble finding Essence recovery times in the book, which is distracting her.

Vance: Give it the old college try.

Icaria: And then Majal might say "And here are the saboteurs who attacked the satrap! Guards! Attack them!"

Camena: Or Jenna and I could go investigate the Satrap's underthings, and discover her hidden plans.

Camena: 5 per hour, Jenna.

Icaria: Okay, let's take a step back for a second.

Vance: Majal did threaten to kill you if you didn't, so…

Camena: One of us can fly, and the other two can be other people.

Icaria: If he's going to kill me either way, I'd prefer that it not happen in his house surrounded by Dragon-Blooded.

Icaria: But seriously, I think we're getting heated and ramming our faces into it won't help.

Vance: So, consensus seems to be, not do the gala

Svetlana: I… kind of need an hour anyway.

Icaria: I think we're frustrated because we had a plan that was going to lead to something fun and it fizzled for reasons we don't fully understand.

Vance: Oh, okay.

Icaria: And as a result we're not really jazzed about walking into the tiger's den without all the cards we were stuffing up our sleeves.

Vance: (I think "failed stealth roll trying to trail the carriage" was the point of whoops.)

Svetlana: I mean, don't get me wrong, 6 successes on looking like Tepet Evdeniya again, but my usual flawless disguise it ain't.

Icaria: Which is a problem because our new player is waiting there.

Camena: Rand has expressed my reservations quite well.

Vance: So, as y'all wound-lick, let's shift focus back to @impulsiveingenue.

Vance: It's the day of the gala.

Icaria: (Arguably I was over-ambitious in making "let's kidnap the most important person in town" a part of the plan that really needed to finish in under twenty minutes to keep the pace going.)

Icaria: (But once that happened the whole encounter probably needed to be abstracted down to Elliott rolling Larceny and Jenna rolling Stealth.)

Camena: (I should have used Flawless Pickpocketing Technique on Jaspindar.)

Icaria: (Ah, yes, just put her into your inventory.)

Vance: Merchant Prince Jazanal comes to Zanara, breathless. "We need to change plans. Cloud Tortoise must have gone insane, but I saw her in the streets, fighting with the satrap's majordomo. We've lost the element of surprise completely, and the security at the gala is going be madness. We're going to need to spend our efforts elsewhere.

Zanara: "…you're right, of course," Zanara says. "Damn it all, it was the perfect opportunity! You're sure it was Cloud Tortoise? I can't imagine… " She shakes her head. "We're going to have to find her, find out exactly why she did it."

Zanara: (Is it Cloud or Moon? I have officially lost track.)

Icaria: I think she's Cloud to you and Moon to the majordomo.

Icaria: Presumably Cloud Tortoise is her actual name.

Vance: I think Moon Tortoise is her actual name.

Vance: I'm just being very inconsistent.

Icaria: For clarity, people getting her name wrong is a running joke.

Vance: "Last I saw of her, an angry Dynast was running after her about ready to splatter the streets with her blood. If you want to find her, best of luck."

Zanara: "She knows our faces. Of course I want to find her. Where did this happen?"

Vance: "Just by the Lucky Whelp fruit shop. The one with the candied apricots, with the sugary leaves." He sketches a wavey map for you.

Vance: (In the interest of getting the party together, would anyone mind just fast-traveling to Zanara spotting the Circle?)

Zanara: (No problems here!)

Zanara: (Though, how I'd recognize them… admittedly puzzles me.)

Vance: Svetlana's still disguised as Moon Tortoise.

Vance: Whom you recognize.

Zanara: (Oh!)

Svetlana: Oh, you caught us really early in the escape!

Vance: Eyewitness news!

Camena: And the Satrap is with her!

Svetlana: I suppose I can't exactly remove my disguise when I can hear someone approaching, because there's no point if they catch me halfway.

Vance: For the moment, it's explicitly to get the party together.

Vance: In other circumstances I might let that be feasible.

Icaria: Seems reasonable.

Vance: So—Zanara finds the three of you, once you've evaded the satrap's soldiers (her carriage has already packed up and left, heading towards the gala). She is shocked to find Moon Tortoise in the company of a young man and Satrap Jaspindar.

Vance: At the time she finds you, you're scoping out possible entrances into the satrap's mansion.

Icaria: "Can't we just walk into the front door? You do own the place."

Icaria: "Oh, hey."

Camena: "It might seem a bit unseemly for me to return on foot with strangers in to—"

Svetlana: "I'm not a stranger! I'm a dangerous revolutionary."

Icaria: "Oh, speaking of!"

Icaria: Since he isn't in disguise, Icaria doesn't have to dress like a dweeb any longer.

Zanara: (I was under the impression we haven't met?)

Icaria: I think we're just running into you in the middle of a suspicious-sounding conversation.

Svetlana: (I don't think anyone's greeted you yet. The "oh, hey," was realization he could take his glasses off.)

Zanara: (Ah!)

  • Icaria flings the glasses and robes away and begins trying to respike his hair in an alley, in the dark.
  • Svetlana makes a face, if they were flung literally away, and picks up the glasses and robes, because she feels it is bad criminal procedure to leave such things in an alley.
  • Svetlana has high standards.

Icaria: That's true. You taught me better than to leave evidence lying around.

Icaria: If somebody found that they might be able to prove I was a dweeb.

Camena: pats Svetlana reassuringly on the shoulder.

Svetlana: "Thank you, satrap. I am glad someone understands proper conduct."

Camena: smiles imperiously, but it's a bit of a farce.

Icaria: I'm not sure this is working. Maybe if I use Invulnerable Skin of Bronze?

Zanara: "What in the world… ?" Zanara rounded the corner to find the unlikely trio skulking in the shadows and having a very suspicious conversation. "Moon Tortoise and… " Her eyes dart back and forth between the two. Something's not right. "What exactly is going on here?"

  • Icaria moans and falls on Zanara's shoulder.

Icaria: "I just want to be impressive again! I should never have consented to hiding my light under a bushel!"

Camena: "…Huh. Never expected him to fall for a lady."

  • Icaria is kind of failing at finding a way to express Icaria's fear of uncoolness in a genre-appropriate way.

Icaria: Really, I think I need to take a Limit.

Vance: Sounds good to me.

Svetlana: "I don't understand what you mean. What would be going on?"

Icaria: This probably counts as being humiliated in one sense or another.

  • Camena checks Limit: Dezla is outwitted or made powerless.

Vance: If you decide it's humiliating you, sure.

Camena: … yeah, I think I'm with you on that one.

Vance: It's your trigger, so roll 3 dice.

Icaria: One.

Camena: Do 10's double?

Vance: yep

Camena:

Camena: 3.

Vance: Okey dokey.

Icaria: Admittedly I'm trying to figure out what Icaria would actually do if he Limit Broke that he isn't doing already.

Icaria: Maybe, like, he'd actually sleep with somebody instead of just making a song and dance about it.

Vance: I'd probably give him a very confident Limit Break.

Icaria: How would I tell?

Vance: All your social anxiety would just evaporate.

Camena: Icaria's Limit Break is Peter Parker with the Venom suit from Spider Man 3

Vance: Pffft.

Icaria: I guess I did just exhibit discretion in re: the gala, so I suppose I can be less discreet than I currently am.

Svetlana: "Perhaps it would be best if you moved along," Svetlana hints to the stranger, showing no sign of recognition whatsoever.

Vance: Anyway, one of you three give poor Zanara an actual explanation.

Zanara: "First you ruin the plan by attacking before the gala, then you… are you consorting with the satrap? Has this been your scheme all along?! To gain favor by exposing me?!" Zanara says, glaring at "Moon Tortoise."

Icaria: "Yeah, who are you to question Satrap Jaspindar? Also, is my hair okay?"

Camena: "I am eminently consortable," Jaspindar replies, someone nettled.

Svetlana: Svetlana quirks an eyebrow at her. "That's exactly my plan, Sun Avocado."

Icaria: It would be funny if none of us recognize the name, but this has been going on long enough.

Svetlana: Then Svetlana frowns. "Or whoever you are."

Zanara: "…what?" The look of budding fury is replaced by one of confusion.

  • Icaria receives a bolt of intuition.
  • Icaria takes a few steps back, the better to look deeply into Zanara's eyes without going cross-eyed.

Svetlana: "I suppose, if you've been conspiring against the satrap, you ought to walk with us," Svetlana concludes, reluctantly. "I'd be interested to hear the details and the justification."

Zanara: "…you know full well I have," Zanara says. "You did so with me!"

Svetlana: Svetlana reads Zanara's intentions, because she's thinking of dropping a little bit of honesty to speed PC integration.

Vance: Zanara, are you going to apply Guile against it?

Zanara: Entirely too gobsmacked to do so

Svetlana: 1 success.

Vance: So, what are your current intentions?

Icaria: Yeah, I'm kind of considering just intuiting that she's a Solar via the power of genre awareness that Icaria uses as a substitute for cunning.

Zanara: In this instant? Find out why Cloud Tortoise is pretending not to know her (and also why is the satrap there and where are all the guards)

Svetlana: Svetlana fishes out some… stuff… and starts adjusting her hair's shade with it. "Well?" she says, as she pulls out a length of it in the new color. "Give me something to work with. What's she done? What're you doing about it?"

Svetlana: Svetlana tries to get the group to keep walking, although social stress may block her if anyone refuses to be nudged by her own motion.

Icaria: Sure, I'll follow along.

Zanara: "…you're… you're not… ?" Zanara blinks, and at this point is entirely happy to keep walking, if only out of sheer shock.

Camena: "Gods, I should have known better than to resort to something as debasing as subtlety."

Icaria: "No, no, we're Chosen of the Sun, like yourself," says Icaria, as though this was obvious to everybody.

Vance: I'm going to allow this.

Icaria: "We've been failing to kidnap the satrap."

Camena: "I thought we discussed just saying things like that, Icaria."

Icaria: "Probably it went turnip-shaped because we didn't have you on our side."

Svetlana: "Fortunately," Svetlana says, as she rubs something under her eyes, "there are indications that the satrap's been involved with some sort of wicked power under the— uh… ah."

  • Icaria rolls his eyes. "She is clearly our destined ally. Just consider the circumstances of this meeting!"

Svetlana: Svetlana squints at Zanara to see her reaction.

Zanara: …Zanara begins to laugh.

Camena: "That is the traditional response to Icaria, yes."

  • Icaria intensifies.

Svetlana: "…I suppose," Svetlana says, clearly meaning to say more but not finding it.

Svetlana: Then with a shrug she decides to trust Icaria and goes on with the transition to Tepet Evdeniya, even letting her real face show through occasionally in between. There are worse ways to die than trusting a librarian.

  • Icaria emotes "I'm touched!"

Zanara: "Forgive me, then," Zanara says, slowly regaining control of herself. "You must admit, you made quite a scene, the three of you… but you're right! With whe four of us, together, there's nothing that can stand in our way!"

Icaria: "Anyway, we're a circle of travelling heroes seeking to unravel the mysteries of Gloam."

Svetlana: "Svetlana," Svetlana introduces. "To be honest, I'd heard good things of the satrap. Why were you conspiring?"

Icaria: "To throw off the Realm's tyranny, no doubt! That's a suitably heroic vocation."

Zanara: "…well, yes, more or less, that," Zanara says, a bit put off balance by being beat to the punch. "And I am Zanara."

Icaria: "Icaria."

Camena: "Camena."

Camena: "When I'm not the Satrap, mind you," she adds, with a casual wrist-flicking gesture. It's no big deal, right? Just because I am the spitting image…

Vance: By now, Svetlana can hear the music coming from the gala. It appears an ambush isn't going to stop Jaspindar from dancing.

Svetlana: "Presumably not a tyrannical one," Svetlana says.

Svetlana: "Or if you are, please stop."

Svetlana: Svetlana fails to perfectly conceal being slightly out-of-sorts on this point.

Vance: (Are folk ready to go raid the satrap's house?)

Svetlana: Sure!

Camena: "I don't suppose you and your plucky rebels have a passable carriage, Zanara?"

Icaria: Apparently she's a sorcerer? Let's steal all her books.

Camena: And put them… where?

Icaria: It's time for… reshelving.

Icaria: I'll simply organize them onto another shelf.

Icaria: In some random house.

Vance: (Tran is the sorcerer.)

Zanara: "A passable carriage, no. What I have is a warehouse, a hundred trained soldiers, and weapons and armor for the lot."

Icaria: Oh.

Icaria: Well, we'll steal something or other.

Icaria: I will continue committing crimes until one of them works.

Camena: Camena supports this crime spree.

Svetlana: "Apparently the satrap opened some sort of tomb," Svetlana explains to Zanara as they go, "and someone may have been taken over by the power within it. I'd thought it was the satrap herself but it seems like maybe it wasn't, so possibly Vi?"

Vance: By now, the layout of the satrap's estate is almost familiar to you. The kitchens of the servants' quarters makes a convenient entryway—no one's working in them while their lords feast elsewhere. From there, you're able to make it in to the mansion proper, at the first floor. A spiraling helix of staircases ascends two others. The satrap has tightened her security—you see guards patrolling the empty hallways—but they are a cut below the satrap's elite troops. Eluding them requires some effort, but should be easy enough for you.

Vance: Of note, there is absolutely no way the wilderness you saw could fit into the interior space of this house

Svetlana: Svetlana waves around to the others in case anyone has ideas. Then, struck by the thought, she adds, "Oh, the satrap was the one we heard talking to Majal."

Camena: I mean…

Icaria: "That… makes no sense."

Icaria: "And this house makes no sense."

Camena: "Yes," Camena purrs. "My house is such a mystery."

Icaria: "I'm not sure if I should be sorry we got distracted from wandering into those woods, or… really, really glad."

Zanara: Zanara nods and keeps a pensive look on her face. She has no idea what the woods have to do with any of this.

Svetlana: The wilderness we saw was definitely physically coterminous with the interior space of this house?

Vance: Yep.

Svetlana: Hm.

Svetlana: Super-hearing and super-touch is still on. I can theoretically turn on super-smell if I burn my last three motes, but honestly I'd rather save them for emergencies. I guess I'm kind of curious to try casing the scene near the relevant wall.

Svetlana: But I suspect that there's dimensional screwery going on.

Svetlana: Which none of my abilities are likely to catch.

Icaria: "To make a long story short, a week ago we found a bunch of people trying to escape from a set of woods on this estate."

Icaria: "A hellboar had made a hole in the wall and thereby given them an exit from the grounds."

Camena: Hmm. Any art of note? Or suspicious treasures?

Icaria: "Apparently they were all felons being hunted for sport by the executioner, who we now know was the satrap herself."

Vance: Between superior stealth and Svetlana's hearing, it's pretty easy to map out the mansion.

Icaria: "Except… now that we're inside the walls, there are no woods."

Icaria: "We saw the forest, but it couldn't actually have fit into the space we saw it occupy at the time."

Vance: Floor 1: Greeting room, salon, dining room, garden.

Zanara: "I… see." This is all way over Zanara's head.

Svetlana: I sadly only get 2 successes on casing the scene, even if we get an undisturbed 15 minutes and even if it would turn anything up.

Icaria: "So… some kind of sanctum, I guess."

Vance: Floor 2: Armory, a fancier dining room, library.

Vance: Floor 3: Master bedroom.

Icaria: "Now, what would that mean…"

  • Icaria turns on his spirit senses and looks idly about.

Svetlana: "I hate this stuff," Svetlana says, making a vague gesture to indicate the entire world of the unseen that is also unheard and unsmelt.

Icaria: I suppose there's no reason that a spirit couldn't make a sanctum within the walls of the satrap's estate.

Vance: Svetlana identifies the point that corresponds to the hellboar's breakaway point—it's a perfectly ordinary wall in the salon. It's indistinguishable from the other material in the wall, and nothing in the room pings as suspicious.

Icaria: Although it's an unusual thing for a satrap to allow unless they have a totally unusual and immaculately inappropriate relationship.

Vance: Icaria doesn't immediately see any spirits.

Icaria: I look about for tell-tale signs of sanctum-like things or dimensional oddity.

Vance: For a generalized search of the house, roll Perception + Awareness.

Svetlana: 9 successes.

Vance: Icaria, roll Perception + Occult.

Icaria: Four motes, eight successes.

Vance: Svetlana finds little of interest on the first floor, unless one counts priceless decorations and ornaments. The second floor, however, proves more intriguing: the library is not only full of books, but the residence of both Jaspindar and her wife Vi's writing desks. Svetlana's fingers easily detect the secret openings and false bottoms in the desks, turning up hidden letters in both.

  • Icaria absent-mindedly helps Camena bag priceless etc.
  • Camena looks at a promising painting on the 2nd Floor landing, wondering how brazen she wants to be.

Vance: The armory is hung with a trio of priceless jade weapons, locked behind intricate mechanisms of metal and glass. But this is a facade—an anomaly in the flow of air through the room brings Svetlana's to a tapestry that conceals a doorway, its stone frame etched with Old Realm sigils. As Icaria examines the door, it's clear that some sorcery is at work.

Icaria: Does the doorway currently lead anywhere?

Vance: Hmm.

  • Icaria does not go through the doorway.

Vance: You have no indication it doesn't go anywhere.

Vance: But you can't normally tell that, with closed doors.

Camena: Oh.

Camena: Oh.

Camena: Dibs on the door.

Icaria: "That's a magical door, that is."

Svetlana: I read the letters with my fingertips as we look around, since I don't want my eyes occupied.

Camena: Camena is skipping to the door, pulling out pins and levers and stranger tools still from the Satrap's unreasonably tall coiffure.

Icaria: "What part of "that's a magical door" makes everybody want to put their hands all over it?"

Camena: "Do we want the jade too?" she asks, eyeing the door with a jeweler's loupe perched in one eye. "I can get the jade."

  • Icaria actually understands safety procedures if sorcery is involved.

Camena: "Stay in the room, if you please, Icaria. I'd love to have someone here to dispel the magic if I end up a frog. Or, gods forbid, boring."

Svetlana: "It's hard to just stare it open," Svetlana points out.

Camena: "Oh, my dear sweet child. It's what I live for! To help poor unfortunate Exalts, like ourselves. Poor souls with… just a whole lot of greed."

  • Icaria sighs.

Vance: "Late is the lover who comes by any way but the fifth road, which is concealed. It is the living road that coils itself in knots as it feels the pain of nostalgia, for which reason it is traversed with absolute nonchalance. The world is a single fixed point"

Icaria: "I suppose if we want to cross the threshold than we'll have to pay the toll."

  • Camena relays the inscription to Icaria for a consultation before she starts fiddling with the door.

Camena: "I mean… it's kind of earth-y, right? Five roads, five poles."

  • Icaria rolls Occult to translate this into ordinary talk.

Camena: "And also, the question about the weapons was serious, darlings," Camena says without ever taking her eyes off the door.

Camena: "Zamana? Svetlana? Jade, anyone?"

Vance: Make it Intelligence + Occult.

Icaria: Six successes.

Zanara: Zanara shrugs. "I say take them. The cause can always find a use for them."

Icaria: "I don't see why the Dynasts should have them."

Vance: The inscription suggests to Icaria notions of spatial contortion and abstraction. Folding space into a knot?

Icaria: Well, I already knew that part.

Camena: "I trust the mechanisms in the display cases are simply mundane finery, Icaria?"

Vance: Camena finds the locks on the weaponry are surprisingly good!

Svetlana: "I don't object to jade," Svetlana says.

Icaria: What are the odds that the whole knot of twisted space depends on these runes and comes apart if I get Camena to shoot them?

Vance: That seems like a very stupid way to build a twisted space to you.

Camena: What are the weapons behind the glass?

Vance: There is a black jade reaper daiklave, a whip with spikes of green jades woven into it, and a set of five skycutters, in the fashion of Western boomerangs, one in each color of jade.

Svetlana: Svetlana peers at Camena's lockpicking technique, but it's likely better than hers, so she makes no comment.

Camena: And they're three separate cases? I don't see anything other than the fancy locks on them?

Vance: No

Vance: No traps or anything.

Svetlana: "I admit I'm fond of boomerangs."

Icaria: Well, that's one five and another five.

Icaria: Try hitting the door with the fifth one, or something.

Vance: Oh, you do notice that these three are only a few of the at least a dozen such cases throughout the room.

Vance: The rest are just empty.

Vance: Jaspindar and Vi apparently love swords.

Camena: Hmmm.

Icaria: Do the cases show signs of having things been removed from them recently?

  • Camena makes some rolls.

Svetlana: Svetlana makes a five-point circular gesture in the air to remind Icaria that there is no fifth element, only a cycle.

Vance: Roll Perception + Awareness/Investigation.

  • Svetlana knows the elemental cycle of boomerangs, even if she doesn't know the elemental cycle of anything else.

Camena: 10, 7, and a mighty 14.

Vance: What are those three rolls for?

Camena: Dex + Larceny to get into the cases.

Icaria: Anything else about that comes in a set of five?

Vance: Oh yeah those locks have been like…

Vance: …deprotagonized.

  • Camena cracks her neck and heads back to the magical door.

Camena: "Alright, Icaria. You want to venture any more guesses, or am I free to do my thing, honey?"

Svetlana: "We're pretty close to a set of five."

Icaria: Icaria takes the fifth skycutter from the left and waves it around in front of the door.

Vance: The door remains inanimate.

Camena: "That's a no, then? Yes? Yes."

Svetlana: Svetlana conceals the remaining four skycutters from the satrap's personal armory about her person, something which can in no way have any consequences of any sort at any future time.

Svetlana: Actually, skycutters might be too big for that? I'm not sure.

  • Icaria hands her the fifth one.

Camena: Camena, in a voice that most reserve for unbridled eroticism:

Camena: "Yesssssss."

Vance: They lock together into a wheel for convenient storage!

Svetlana: Neat!

Vance: Also they weigh, like, a bunch.

Icaria: That's why attunement was invented.

Icaria: Admittedly that requires motes.

Camena: She caresses the door lightly—perhaps not even at all! Perhaps she touches only the air above it, or the idea of the door! Whatever her mania, she blows on it at unlikely angles, taps the stone with a fingernail to hear its resonance. This isn't even knowledge. This isn't even skill. This is Camena Dezla, her intuition firing in ways she cannot follow and will never repeat.

Vance: The whole set attunes for 5m.

Camena: (Anything in particular I should roll to crack this bad boy open with Lock-Opening Gesture's magical option?)

Vance: Remind me how the magical option works?

Svetlana: Svetlana is intending to pretend that she is completely unaffected by the incredible weight until she has motes to attune them, which I'm randomly estimating will be about 10 minutes at this point. It is possible that they weigh too much for this, or that it's already been an hour since the fight, or nowhere near an hour.

Vance: What's her Strength?

Svetlana: 3.

Camena: Lets me go ahead and challenge a sorcerous lock, with Double 9's and some auto-sux.

Vance: I think she handles it.

Vance: Does it use a weird dice pool or just Dex + Larceny?

Camena: Literally doesn't say.

Camena: Default makes sense.

Camena: But it's open to questions, yo.

Vance: Sure, let's go with that.

Camena: 9 successes.

Vance: The door is a single slab, without any hinge or handle. Camena's deft pick bridges the sigil-circuitry of inscribed incantations and baffling the ward's capacity to observe itself as she corrupts the enchantment that should only detect the handprint of the lady of the house.

Vance: Now, it will open to anyone's touch.

Camena: "Praise me," she says, grazing it with her hand.

Vance: Incidentally, anyone hear who's familiar with the Realm got Occult dots?

Svetlana: "All praise to thee, blessed Camena, our lady of miracles."

Svetlana: Svetlana bows her head.

Icaria: I've read books about the Realm.

Icaria: Some of them might be a bit old.

Vance: Not good enough, I'm afraid

Icaria: "Hail, Camena, queen of picks."

Vance: Well, maybe. Go ahead and roll it.

Icaria: Four.

Svetlana: No Occult here. It always seemed too creepy. All that drinking the blood of chthonic gods and growing extra eyes in your elbows.

Icaria: No, no, Occult is good clean fun.

Icaria: I never get into any of the tentacular stuff.

Icaria: Which admittedly may be why I am currently baffled.

Vance: As you watch Camena unwork the wards, it becomes clear you from what their destruction reveals that you've read about this—this manner of working sorcery is a textbook example of the discipline practiced by imperial sorcerers.

Icaria: It's heptagrammatical?

Vance: Stepping through the open door is like biting into unripe persimmon. When you have stepped through, you are at the topped of a sturdy wooden platform, about ten feet off the ground. An identical door stands at its center. All around you there is wilderness.

Camena: So… was Camena subtly corrupting their Heptagrammar?

Icaria: Well, Jaspindar isn't a known sorcerer, so that tends to implicate Tran as well.

Icaria: In all this… thisness.

Vance: Exactly, Camena.

Svetlana: Definitely going through.

Zanara: Zanara peers into the doorway. "I have no idea what you just did, but it's certainly very impressive. Oh, these must be the woods you were speaking of."

Icaria: "Did they go to all this trouble just to have a place for blood sports?"

Vance: Svetlana can tell from the range of wildlife noises that this is the same place the boat escaped from.

Icaria: "That's… unusual. Most satrapies just do this kind of thing in public."

Svetlana: Hearing isn't really the best sense for this, even the Unsurpassed version, but any indication of prisoners?

Vance: You're far from alone, although nothing is close enough to present a possible danger, or bizarre enough to arouse excitement.

Icaria: I'm going to call my skiff.

Icaria: I suppose this place could have incredibly deadly flying predators, but I may as well skip the hellboars.

Vance: Maybe four humans within the range of your hearing—but you aren't certain whether it encompasses the entire wildernesses. Its far vaster than the interior of the house. It goes on for miles.

Camena: "Not to be the voice of reason, duckies, but just to point out: If we leave, we'll probably not be getting back here without an act of Deliberative, and if we stay, we're trapped in the Satrap's death arena."

Camena: "We stole a lot of shit, duckies."

Camena: "Well, we."

Icaria: Well, apparently you can leave by blasting a hole in the wall."

Svetlana: "Icaria, Camena, d'you think the door opens freely from this side too now?"

  • Camena shrugs.

Vance: It does!

Camena: Has my meddling left traces on the door?

Camena: Like, would someone be able to know that it's been picked?

Vance: A sense of gratitude in fulfillment radiates from the opening-and-closing enchantment on the door

Vance: Probably not.

Svetlana: Svetlana peeks back through the door with an investigator's eye to see how obvious it would be that we left this way.

Vance: A Solar investigator could find them; a Dragon-Blood probably can't.

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

Camena: Can I go back in and obfuscate our tracks?

Vance: Wits + Larceny.

Svetlana: 5 successes on my casual investigation roll to spot our own traces, which I guess is immediately rendered obsolete. ^_^

Vance: Zanara, were you aware the satrap murdered criminals as a sport?

Camena: I think this should be a group project.

Camena: Svetlana's there to point out when I've missed a spot.

Svetlana: That's reasonable.

Camena: Camena sighs as she gums up the locks, the ones she had so carefully unlocked. Have to make this look like an amateur.

Zanara: They mentioned it earlier, I believe. Doesn't make her any less angry about it.

Icaria: I help sweep.

Camena: Also opens a window and bats at the side of the wall carefully, to leave signs that someone got in through there—disturbed ivy, splintered windowjambs.

Camena: 9 successes.

Vance: You can rest pretty sure with that.

  • Camena scuttles back into the Jungle.

Vance: Svetlana, you hear a single, large animal of some sort moving directly towards where you are?it'll get there in about five minutes. Its footsteps make it sound like a quadruped, although something is odd about its gait.

Vance: It smells… bad.

Icaria: Hey, who wants to climb up on my magic flying cloud?

Camena: Playboy.

Svetlana: "How kind," Svetlana says. "And timely. Trouble's on the way."

Svetlana: Svetlana drags herself up onto the boat with less agility than usual.

Icaria: Although really it should probably be whoever wants to meet the beast least, because I can only fit one person on this thing who isn't me.

Svetlana: Oh.

Icaria: Well, that could still be you.

Zanara: "What exactly is trouble?"

Camena: Well, Svetlana's low on motes.

Camena: Camena is too, but still has a round or two left in her.

Icaria: In any case, I think I would like to be armed.

Svetlana: "Something big, that smells unpleasant."

Zanara: "Ah. That sort of trouble."

Icaria: Although, I can't fit my familiars on the cloud, which would make me feel a bit like the jerk on the Titanic."

Vance: adds the Titanic to the list of texts in the library Icaria was born in.

Camena: Camena pulls out the Sevenfold Flame Prism.

Icaria: "Okay, what's our objective here? Find any prisoners who may be here and break out?"

Icaria: "I'm not qualified for long-term camping."

Svetlana: Svetlana has gotten onto the cloud, realized that there's not room for anyone else, and frowned. "Um. Sorry, didn't realize space was limited. Camena, I actually kind of trust you can keep out of sight, but if you're not used to stealth in the wilderness? Zanara, if you'd estimate you're worse at fighting or hiding than I am?"

Zanara: (This comes entirely down to whether it's reasonable for her to have a six foot powerbow on her person.)

Svetlana: "Actually… " Svetlana ponders.

Icaria: Well, I always carry a six-foot golden god-weapon on my person.

Icaria: Except for, um, right now.

Svetlana: Svetlana slips down off the cloud.

Svetlana: "Please help me not be torn apart if it is a demon," Svetlana says. "But if it is an animal, I probably have enough juice to handle myself."

Icaria: "Possibly we should be finding a safe place to camp out."

Vance: It's perfectly reasonable

Camena: Camena tips her hat to Svetlana. Or would, if she were wearing her actual hat. But she does take advantage of the moment to doff some of the Satrap's finery.

Vance: Any scene-long Charms people want to use?

Icaria: It's always a good day for Invulnerable Skin of Bronze.

Icaria: Finally, my hair will be right.

Svetlana: Svetlana will waffle her way right back up onto the cloud if no one steals the spot and no familiars get summoned onto it, but if someone else heads up there… enh, sure, I'll go ahead and burn my last three motes on Friendship with Animals Approach. I think I said I had 3.

Vance: You've got enough time to get that up.

Icaria: Also there isn't actually a point in my flying away since I'm the melee guy."

Camena: I think I'm going to have to go after this. It's so very nearly tomorrow. But… sadly, I don't have scenelongs.

Icaria: I'll jump back to the ground and let Svetlana take my place as the only passenger on the cloud.

Vance: Ah, sorry. I can try to start wrapping up.

Camena: No, no! For once I'm not tired.

Icaria: I'll put up my hair, summon Rubean and Emeraude, and arm myself with my beautiful brush.

Vance: @vera, for your benefit, Rubean is a flame duck, and Emeraude is a greenmaw.

Icaria: That puts me down six motes.

Svetlana: If it's finally been an hour, I'll burn my last eight motes on Friendship with Animals Approach and attuning the weapons so that I am not lugging vast weight around, and hopefully the two archers who cannot befriend animals take the cloud and hopefully it is an animal.

Vance: "Do you have need of your brush?" Rubean asks.

Svetlana: Either way I have no motes. It is very sad.

Zanara: Zanara unwraps the long package she (was totally) carrying on her back (the entire time), revealing a long golden bow and a thin quiver full of arrows. "I can take care of myself," she says, stringing it. "Though… I must admit, my countryside excursions are usually a lot less countryside than this."

Camena: Would I be correct in assuming it's night time in the jungle?

Icaria: "Good evening, everybody. Please meet our new circlemate. Thank you for my brush. Oh, and we're about to be attacked by a giant monster."

Zanara: (I have no scenelongs but at least those Archery charms will get some use!)

Vance: It's a bit before sunset.

Icaria: Well, once combat starts those motes will just come rushing back.

Svetlana: True.

Icaria: Maybe I can…

Icaria: Hm, no, there's probably no point in starting off with the Raptor.

Icaria: I can set the jungle on fire later.

Icaria: Incidentally, you said sunset? There's a sun?

Icaria: I examine the sky for indications that we're somewhere in Creation proper.

Vance: Roll Perception + Survival.

Icaria: I can't be bothered so I instead spend one mote to know exactly where the sun is relative to me.

Icaria: Sorry, Solar.

Vance: The way it looks like it is.

Icaria: Well, that's interesting.

Camena: I think that's the first time I've ever seen that used.

Icaria: "It looks like this might be an actual place and not a sanctum. I wonder where, though?"

  • Camena looks around.

Camena: "Smart obol's on East."

Vance: Anyone have Survival?

Svetlana: 2 points.

Vance: Based on the position of the sun in the sky, you're in the same place.

Vance: At most, if you've been teleported, it's been by a relatively small amount.

Svetlana: "Probably Gloam," Svetlana says, absently.

Icaria: "That's still interesting," I says. "There are sorceries that can do this, although they tend to fall outside the reach of the average Terrestrial. Or of me, for that matter."

Icaria: "I mean, maybe with a few years and a budget, but I could do a lot of stuff with two years and a budget."

Svetlana: "Is it possible that it's an illusion, Icaria? Or that the other Gloam is an illusion?"

Icaria: "But seriously, why? It's not actually illegal for the satrap to hunt prisoners down the streets of Gloam if she feels like it. Why perform overly complex sorcery just to have a secret killing field?"

Icaria: "That's… well, it also raises the question of why, although it seems more in scale."

Svetlana: "I vaguely recall that there might be regulations regarding murder by hellboar that were instated after someone tried to use one in a duel," Svetlana says. "But I doubt they'd be enforced out here even if there were."

Zanara: "Perhaps to conceal a greater degree of wickedness than is commonly accepted."

Icaria: "I'm trying to imagine what that could actually be."

Icaria: "Aside from tax evasion, I guess."

Camena: "Pffft. They're Dragon Bloods, Icky."

Icaria: "Or they could be Anathema-worshippers, in which case, wow, this was all a big misunderstanding."

Svetlana: Svetlana, while accepting the animal will probably catch us, makes a not-very-forceful attempt to lead the group towards a campsite out of sight of the door. Barring the discovery that someone else has better Survival, animal interruption, or people not following along.

Vance: Hmm.

Svetlana: We may have been doing that already, it was vaguely discussed.

Svetlana: It's not clear.

Vance: Give me a sec to brainstorm a couple possibilities…

Vance: Okay.

Icaria: I'm going to send the cloud up so that Svetlana can scope out buildings, etc.

Vance: Brainstorming complete.

Vance: Possible directions are NORTH, SOUTH, EAST, and WEST.

Svetlana: Svetlana is willing to rapidly climb back onto the cloud and do this scoping if you make this intention clear and no one else has bothered to take the seats.

  • Icaria does this thing.

Icaria: Ultimately being on a mobile cloud platform is probably a good place for Svetlana anyway.

Icaria: Just tell me if you want me to move it around during combat.

Vance: UP is technically a direction, but there's just sky there.

Svetlana: I am most interested in WEST.

Icaria: Are any buildings visible from up?

Icaria: Clearings?

Svetlana: But Rand's question is pertinent.

Icaria: Flying animals large enough to attack a human?

Svetlana: And I think he's controlling the cloud anyway.

Icaria: We may also want to figure out where the other door goes.

Icaria: I kind of forgot about that.

Vance: There aren't any buildings, proper, although there are wooden posts and other occasional bits of handicraft that suggest a human presence. There are few clearings—except for a few carefully-pruned paths, the plants have been allowed to grow large and free.

Svetlana: Is there any indication at all from above that this is still an island?

Svetlana: Would there be?

Vance: There wouldn't be.

Vance: As the cloud edges westward, Svetlana notices something on the ground, something too intentional to be natural, but too misshapen to belong in the satrap's house.

Vance: From above, it looks like a kind of small construction made of piled-up long stones.

Svetlana: I wave my hands wildly in the hopes that Icaria can see me and point downwards, or use some prearranged signal like… a flare that we mysteriously have… to indicate the same. Or possibly I nudge the cloud directly downwards if I can.

  • Icaria interprets these signals correctly.

Icaria: Let's investigate!

Vance: From on the ground, the structure looks almost like a nest made with stone pillars instead of straw. The placement is a little crude, but clearly purposeful, as if some giant had lifted them into place. Raised up on the center of it is a curiously shaped sculpture, or shrine, or control console.

Vance: There are words written into the stone pillars with painstaking care and anima flux by one of the Dragon-Blooded. High Realm. Does anyone speak it?

Svetlana: I do, of necessity.

Vance: "WE HAVE COME TO TERMS."

Svetlana: "This place… is clearly 'Terms.'"

Icaria: I examine this… thisness… for occult significance.

Vance: Intelligence + Occult.

Icaria: Seven!

Camena:

Camena: Vance is a bad man.

Vance: ?

Camena: :stuck_out_tongue:

Svetlana: "So they dug down into some sort of tomb, and opened it, and met… something. And then in this strange other Gloam, they made an accommodation with it."

Vance: The altar is a shrine, like the many raised to the gods—although it does not appear sanctified to any god you know of. However, unlike most shrines, this one is not meant to carry prayers to the god. The stacked pillars of stone sprawl in a geomantic formation that is more like a ward than anything else.

Svetlana: "Selling themselves to some alien power… as preparation for rebellion against the Realm, or possibly to survive the threat it posed, or maybe just for the sake of power itself?"

Icaria: It's a… prayer blocker?

Vance: Not exactly.

Camena: "Instinct and experience tell me the latter, hon."

Vance: You have seen smaller shrines of this design before, generally designated to gods of war, death, or disease who are bidden to stay away by prayers.

Svetlana: "I'd agree," Svetlana says, "if Lord Majal had not been so very concerned about it."

Icaria: And… where does the power come from?

Icaria: It's not going to be the harmonious forces of the ley lines, is it?

Icaria: This is about blood.

Vance: It's the ambient feng shui.

Vance: You don't see any blood.

Icaria: Oh, really? That's way cleaner than I was expecting.

Vance: Well, you don't see any blood on the rocks.

Vance: There are definitely dead people in the woods.

Icaria: If this is a geomantic shrine to keep away unpleasant spirits… using this location for murder fun time is a very odd decision.

Svetlana: "…right," Svetlana says. "They're not hunting people for sport. They're hunting them as sacrifices."

Icaria: This place is a shadowland waiting to happen.

Icaria: … what would happen if the geomancy is perverted in that fashion?

Camena: "Can't even imagine what you're feeling," she says, looking at Icaria.

Svetlana: Svetlana glares at the ward in the fashion of someone who really wants to mess with it to make something happen but has too much sense.

Vance: You wouldn't say the warding is a perversion of the geomancy. It's just the auspicious confluence of a particular configuration.

Icaria: No, I mean, what happens to the warding if the area it's sitting in becomes a shadowland?

Svetlana: "Icaria, can you still feel the tomb in the local geomancy?"

Svetlana: "…er, if that's the right… concept…"

Icaria: "I'd need to do a few soundings."

Vance: The shrine seems dedicated solely to keeping one individual spirit's Essence away.

Icaria: Can I tell anything about the flavor of that Essence?

Vance: You're not sure how much it would help against a shadowland.

Icaria: No, I really meant "will it fail disastrously if the local geomancy changes to Abyssal aspect," but apparently that's not where you're going.

Vance: You weren't quite able to pinpoint it when you first examined the shrine. It doesn't quite fit into the five element cycle, or the cycle of yín and yáng.

Icaria: "Okay, so this shrine is designed to keep away some terrible, evil thing."

Svetlana: Svetlana thinks back over the conversation she overheard, trying to figure out whether a big spirit could be the thing that Jaspindar and Majal were worried was going to make the wrong move.

Svetlana: Svetlana is probably somewhat clearer on this than Jenna owing to having a much higher Investigation, although it's been about a week for both of us.

Icaria: "I guess we… probably shouldn't do anything about that, then?"

Svetlana: "Keeping away evil things is provisionally acceptable," Svetlana agrees.

Vance: It's uncertain what the shrine would do in a shadowland. Maybe it would still work? Maybe nothing? Maybe something else entirely.

Vance: Svetlana is correct.

Icaria:

  • M: "It won't be safe with her around. We'll need to be cautious…"
  • ?: "It's too late for that, now. I want to believe she's still herself, but… "
  • M: "I hope so."
  • ?: "She was the one who wanted to break into that god-damn tomb so much."

Icaria: We now know that ? was Jaspindar.

Icaria: I don't have many suspects for "she."

Icaria: I guess Tran can be #1.

Svetlana: "I don't get this place," Svetlana says, unhappily. "I am starting to get a general sense for the rest of the picture, and think the tomb will tell us more, but… for this place, all I can think to do is look around or hope that Icaria figures something out."

Svetlana: "Not the shrine," Svetlana says. She gestures around widely.

Svetlana: "The pocket jungle."

Svetlana: "I'd kind of like to go far enough to see if we're still on an island."

Icaria: "I guess it's time to explore, then."

Vance: hHm.

Svetlana: I notice that elliott hasn't spoken in a while, and is possibly asleep or fading.

Vance: How far would you need to be from a hypothetical shore-or-lack-thereof to see it? I dunno the optics of that.

Svetlana: Actually the same is true of impulsiveingenue whose time zone I don't know.

Svetlana: Oh, wait.

Zanara: Horizon is, generally, 12 miles, though Creation's rather flat.

Icaria: I feel like if we go high enough on the cloud we're pretty sure to notice an ocean.

Zanara: And I'm here, just… Zanara's really out of her depth when it comes to weird spooky things despite growing up in Great Forks.

Zanara: (Also I am on the West Coast, so I am fine.)

Vance: Okay.

Camena: I am also here.

Camena: I'm just being annoyed by a mustelid.

Vance: NICO!

Vance: For mile after mile, you see nothing but trees. After a while of cloud-roaming, you eventually discover that the wilderness does not, in fact, go on forever. Space contracts inwards to a point, and beyond that you can go no further. If there are oceans, then they are beyond these borders.

Icaria: Hm, so it is closer to a sanctum than to… to whatever.

Icaria: Sanctums usually have spirits, of course.

Icaria: And there's a ward, to keep a spirit out.

Vance: Sanctums also don't have doors.

Icaria: They kind of do?

Vance: Well, not people-doors.

Vance: Ghost-doors.

Icaria: True, but that could be an illegal backdoor or something.

Svetlana: It might have been a ghost door if we died while fighting Majal and didn't notice.

Icaria: I just wonder if the ward is to keep out a spirit who built this place.

  • Icaria checks for a lowdown on general local spirit activity.

Vance: There aren't any spirits inside this wilderness.

Svetlana: "Please tell me that 'this is a giant spirit's stomach that they made a door into' is a foolish idea?"

Camena: "They're Dragon Bloods, cousin."

  • Camena has a new and uninteresting catchphrase.

Vance: And you're beginning to think "ward" wasn't the best way of understanding the shrine. It shares some fundamental principles, but this doesn't "block" things—it's more like it "washes" or "scrubs" them.

Vance: A spiritual air filter, as it were.

Icaria: It kills spirits?

Icaria: Or just prevents them from entering?

Vance: It probably wouldn't kill a spirit, but it'd be very unpleasant to be around if you were tuned to the kind of Essence it was purging

Icaria: But there aren't any spirits here.

Icaria: That's practically unheard-of.

Svetlana: So it turns out that when you strip away the civilization spirit essence from Gloam, you get a wilderness?

Vance: There aren't any active spirits.

Icaria: If that was the case, there'd be people running around in loincloths.

Vance: There's some dematerialized forest gods hanging out, but just like in a background scenery kind of way.

Icaria: So, there's a forest.

Vance: The godscape is what you'd expect from the landscape.

Icaria: And there's some kind of spirit that somebody wanted to keep out of the forest.

Icaria: Oh, that's much less sinister.

Icaria: And it's some kind of spirit my education apparently doesn't cover, so it's probably awful.

Icaria: But on the other hand if we destroy the ward we'll probably get to find out what it is!

Vance: What kind of spirits does your education cover?

Icaria: I dunno, ordinary stuff. Gods, elementals, demons, and ghosts, but mostly the first two.

Vance: You feel like you should know this. It's on the tip of your brain, but you just can't come up with it!

Icaria: I spend a Willpower.

Vance: Hmm.

Vance: I'll allow it.

Svetlana: Oh, man, Willpower, I completely forgot about that resource.

  • Icaria checks Games of Divinity to make sure Vance isn't toying with him.

Icaria: Oh, wait, this is obviously the word of Stanewald.

Vance: You finally realize what kind of Essence this shrine is purifying?it's the exact same aspect as what you felt radiating from the "bad spot" in Gloam when you performed your geomantic assay.

Icaria: Oh, well, yeah, I was actually already assuming that.

Vance: A Willpower pops back out.

Icaria: I guess it would be super-irresponsible to break the ward to see what happens, although I am definitely going to make notes in hopes of being able to reproduce this effect elsewhere.

Icaria: How hard would it be to make a similar ward back in the city out of easily-attainable materials?

Icaria: Materials such as I could buy with the proceeds from various stolen knick-knacks?

Svetlana: "I'd rather not unleash a plague on Gloam for kicks," Svetlana agrees.

Vance: It'd be maybe an afternoon's effort.

Icaria: Oh, well, let's go do that, then.

Svetlana: "I mean, that seems like a highly unlikely outcome for futzing with the ward, but even a small chance is pretty bad."

Icaria: Oh, that reminds me, is it still almost sunset?

Vance: By now it's probably juuuust sunset.

Icaria: Cool.

Icaria: I hand Svetlana my geomantic implements, just to be dramatic.

Icaria: "I'll catch y'all back in the city," I say.

Svetlana: We just went in one direction, or we explored the place? I hold the geomantic implements in a suitably amazed fashion.

Icaria: "If I don't see you before, I mean."

Icaria: "Icaria out."

Vance: There's still three unexplored directions.

Icaria: I'm winking out via the Twilight anima.

Vance: Okay, you go to… a place of magical power.

Icaria: That's correct!

Vance: In this case, that's probably the sanctum of Last Light Fading, the city god of Gloam.

Icaria: I'm very curious to see what registers as the nearest one.

Camena:

Zanara: "…is Icaria… supposed to do that?" Zanara glances around.

Camena: "Did he just disappear?"

Icaria: Hm, so I wound up outside the whatever?

Icaria: That's interesting.

Vance: You don't think you're inside it.

Svetlana: "He may have disguised himself as a spirit," Svetlana says dubiously.

Icaria: I don't mean the sanctum, I just mean… wherever we just were. Evidently nothing inside it counted as a viable target.

Svetlana: "I mean, it would make sense if he could disguise himself as something."

Camena: That doesn't follow from logic.

Svetlana: "He's a Solar."

Camena: It's a place of power.

Camena: Not the nearest.

Zanara: "I certainly don't have the first idea how to disguise myself."

Vance: The city-god's sanctum is surrounded by supplicants, asking to end the day with a full belly, a warm bed, and whatever happiness heaven allows. Last Light Fading is physical manifest, and nods like a kindly grandfather, dispensing gestures of blessing here and there. He seems immensely tired.

Svetlana: Svetlana frowns dubiously, then pokes the air where Icaria was.

Icaria: In general I feel like if it pops me out on the other side of a metaphysical divide, that's an indication that nothing nearby was close enough.

Svetlana: "Well," Svetlana says, "good on him, I guess."

Icaria: I'll assume the posture of a supplicant and generally try to do the spirit proper honor in some way that leads into me doing things there next week.

Camena: Still not a valid argument from logic. Just means that the innerworld is coterminous, or at least occupies similar enough space for the 10 mile range.

Svetlana: "Perhaps he was just here to guide us for a time. To help bring us together."

Vance: Okay.

Icaria: It's late; I'll give somebody else a turn to investigate.

Vance: What is the wilderness bunch going to do?

Icaria: …honestly I felt like there was a 30% chance of me popping out back at the ward again.

Camena: We're going to wilderness brunch!

Icaria: Or in the tomb!

Camena: Mimosas on the dead folks.

Icaria: Still, you live and learn.

Vance: I had to decide whether the pocket-forest is warded against teleportation or not.

Icaria: I already called my familiars into it.

Vance: That's different.

Vance: They work like pokemon.

Icaria: I guess the others still have those two to be my surrogates if more boars attack.

Icaria: Emeraude will eat well for once.

Svetlana: It depends on how easily Solars get tired. If we're pretty normal in that respect, then I'd propose food and shelter. If we're like automatically caffeinated at all times by the sun's virtuous radiance, then… north?

Vance: Freelancer Needs No Coffee.

Vance: Icaria, does your cloud stay with them?

Icaria: I suppose it's there, but I don't think it's going to move without me to command it.

Icaria: Rubean can fly if they need to scout.

Svetlana: "If anyone's more concerned than interested in this place, we can also try breaking out at the edge, I suppose. I'm only interested in staying 'cause I don't feel done."

Icaria: will play as Rubean for the time being, I guess. I wasn't thinking we'd go on much longer or I might not have winked out so soon.

Vance: Everyone going north, Perception + Awareness.

Vance: I am hoping to wrap up relatively soon.

Icaria: Three.

Svetlana: 7.

Zanara: Aah, one.

Vance: Svetlana hears them before she sees them—some kind of large predator, several of them, though not as large as the beast she heard before. As she nears closer, she sees them—a pack of lions, lazily gnawing on corpses. They are lying atop a small hill of human remains, rotted and grown over with moss. The sheer number of them is abominable. If they were buried, this would be a mass grave.

Icaria: "Intolerable."

Vance: Everyone roll Perception + Awareness.

Svetlana: Svetlana's expression hardens.

Svetlana: 4 successes.

Zanara: Again, one.

Icaria: Four.

Svetlana: "Do we end them?" Svetlana murmurs. "It's not really their fault, but this is no good."

Zanara: "If they've learned to treat us as prey, we may not have any choice in the matter," Zanara says. "In any case, I mean to correct this… abomination."

Vance: A voice calls out from above you, mocking and proud. "You worry that they'll consider you prey? There is only one hunter in my den, and that is me." It is Satrap Jaspindar, emerging from the shadows, walking on vines and trellises that knit themselves together beneath her feet to support her weight.

Vance: "…and sometimes my wife."

Vance: Peleps Vi, an older woman with blue hair, a chubby-cheeked smile, and a black jade daiklave makes an almost polite nod as she emerges.

Svetlana: "What an excellent tracker!" Svetlana says. "Though, alas for the quality of character."

Icaria: Excellent.

Icaria: This is a great chance for you guys to finally kidnap Jaspindar.

Svetlana: Hahaha.

Icaria: Oh, man, you can even impersonate her wife at the same time!

Vance: Jaspindar raises her hand to her mouth, as if laughing elegantly, but Vi almost explodes with passion. "Don't insult my wife, scofflaw. You're breaking and entering on the satrap's property. Remind me, love, is the punishment for that capital execution?"

Vance: Jaspindar grins. "It absolutely is, Vi."

Icaria: "Apparently that's the punishment for everything lately."

Svetlana: "Mm? This jungle is the satrap's property? I confess I had not recognized it."

Vance: "Ignorance of the law is no excuse." Vi notes, reciting from a textbook.

Svetlana: "The savage splendor of your boudoir would put even a Cynis to shame."

Svetlana: "…well," Evdeniya admits after a moment. "As it were."

Svetlana: "Tell me," Evdeniya says. "What's the spirit done to raise your concerns?"

Vance: Satrap Jaspindar ignores Evdeniya, drawing a lance of green jade. "In the name of the Scarlet Empress, I hereby sentence you all to death by hunt!"

  • Vance draws curtain.

Svetlana: Thanks for running!

Vance: NP.

  • Camena claps.

Vance: I hope it picked up after the initial scenes.

Icaria: Wow, I picked a great time to teleport away.

Icaria: I assure you Icaria is doing something very important.

Icaria: And not drinking tea and wondering where you all are.

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