Mili held the scout at knifepoint and escorted her back to the Men of Real Talent. Considering what to do with her, Gruda pointed out that they had a Meme with them, and he would be able to take over the scout’s body and infiltrate Chuscu’s compound, perhaps then able to find a secret entrance or otherwise get the Men inside. Mili was still unsure about the Meme bodyswapping, but was outvoted and proceeded to make a blind, keeping the Men hidden for the half-hour or so that Toulouse needed to transfer his essence [provoking a dirty joke about “transmitting his male essence” from Mindy]. Toulouse proceeded to speak in a soft chant, while Mili watched out for other scouts—who were searching for their compatriot, broadcasting signs for “where are you” across their skin. Meanwhile, Eustice continued to hold Iolanthe in his arms, keeping her “safe.” Jonakin returned from the wilderness, saying she had been taken to the Chayara cats’ cave, and that her time with the cats “taught her to take life as it comes”—the cats are very Buddhist.
Once Toulouse had taken over the scout’s body, the Men were left with a confused Sky-Carver who had only vague memories of agreeing to host a Meme. Toulouse reassured them that he would eventually recover his memories of what Toulouse had done with his body, and that Epicureans go to extreme lengths for the opportunity to be taken over by a Meme. The Sky-Carver, Gaviero, tried to figure out where he was and who he was with—and accidentally addressed Eustice as “Lord Useless.” Eustice dropped Iolanthe on the hard ground and pointed his sword at the Sky-Carver’s neck, shouting “What did you just call me?!” Iolanthe, trying to prevent a scene, convinced Eustice that Gaviero simply didn’t know about all of Eustice’s great deeds—which led to Eustice recounting them all in a loud voice. He asked for help from his greatest fan, and Gruda talked about how cool Eustice is, but her unsure, halting delivery failed to convince the Sky-Carver. Iolanthe spoke up, making up details and attributing the grand deeds of all the Men of Real Talent to Eustice (unwittingly making Eustice believe that he did do all those things himself). Gaviero, impressed, became a massive Eustice supporter, and gave up the names of those who had told him bad things about Eustice.
Mili, outside, was panicking about Eustice’s loud scene, and saw a scout who had heard the commotion. She whispered to Toulouse, who stepped out and greeted the scout in halting Chinkasqa (as it took some time for him to gain use of the new bodies’ skills and language). He managed to fool the scout into believing that he was who he appeared to be, and that he had captured Eustice and the Men of Real Talent. He mimed putting his hands up to the Men, communicating that they should surrender and he would find a way to get them out later. They complied (Eustice under protest), with Mili following behind in camouflage.
The Men of Real Talent followed the scout to a small compound surrounded by spiked walls. There they encountered Chuscu, who began to laugh maniacally at the idea of capturing Eustice, whose first arrival in Munti Manchay had “heralded his downfall” (as Theonides had given Sayani’s revolution added legitimacy). The camp was also filled with a small group of Shertasi, the twelve-foot-tall imperialist reptiles whose crossrealm war constantly threatened the City. Their leader, a Shertasi named Tassran, wanted to know who these people were and what reason he had not to kill them. Iolanthe convinced Tassran that they were unthreatening, and he decided to put them in a jail cell. Eustice proceeded to throw a hissy fit, throwing his name around and demanding to be treated with respect. Tassran, apparently believing it was better to treat such an important hostage well, agreed to house Eustice in his own tent, guarded by one Shertasi warrior—and the scout Toulouse was inhabiting, at Eustice’s request. Upon seeing the slabs of raw meat that was apparently Tassran’s dinner, Eustice also demanded his chef (Gruda), but Tassran declined, saying perhaps he would allow her to help later and under strict supervision, but he would not simply give her run of the camp.
The Men of Real Talent, placed in a cell, began to plan their escape. Iolanthe, reaching out with her thoughts, realized that there was Soulsharing going on elsewhere in the camp—Soulsharing that seemed to be remarkably similar to what she had felt when Toulouse took over the scout. Gruda, looking around the jungle flora that covered the floor of the cell [my accidental saying “jungle fauna” created a running gag about the cell being carpeted in corpses], found a beetle whose bite would induce sleep and began to figure out how to introduce it to the Shertasi guard.
Mili overheard Tassran and Chuscu talking. She was able to gather that Tassran had been contracted to somehow destroy Sayani’s reputation in exchange for ownership of the Varos diamond mine (why? she wondered), but now that he had captured Eustice and the Men of Real Talent, he wanted more, but Chuscu refused to consider it. She wondered which of them was really in charge, though. Threading her way through the camp, she followed her compass sense to the tent where Sayani was kept—and overheard a chant much like that of Toulouse’s bodyswap. She surmised that a Meme was going to take over Sayani’s body and somehow ready her people to be taken over by Chuscu again, and decided to consult with Toulouse to determine if she could safely interrupt the transfer without harming the Messiah.
Mili sneaked into Eustice’s tent. Toulouse advised Mili that she could safely disrupt the Meme bodyswap before it finished, simply by breaking the Meme’s concentration. He said he didn’t know how long it would take, however, or if the other Meme could take over animals as well as sentient beings: he couldn’t do animals or swap quickly, but more extensive experience or Crafting abilities could allow the other Meme to do so.
Gruda tossed her poisonous beetle down the Shertasi’s shorts, provoking him to pound at his crotch to kill it and start to become drowsy at the beetle’s bite. However, another guard came around to check and she couldn’t take advantage of her move right away.
Meanwhile, Eustice talked to Toulouse and said he had no intention of leaving. He finally was being treated well for the first time since he arrived. He wanted to have sex with Toulouse, as they had finally achieved the goal that was the reason they came to Munti Manchay, but Toulouse had argued that it was not the time. What’s more, he said, from his experience across the Realms, he knew that the Shertasi were bad news, and would assuredly kill Eustice once they were done with him, or just if they got mad.
Iolanthe spoke to Gaviero, finding out his abilities. He had little to offer, being a bureaucrat whose main advantage was in who he knew back in the City, but his ability to fly caught her eye. He refused to fly up and risk getting the attention of bow-wielding enemies, but he did fly high enough to give Iolanthe a boost to climb onto the compound’s interior wall, and she began to creep around, heading for the Soulsharing she detected. Behind in the cell, Jonakin used her Bloodshifting to grow batwings [variously described as “angel wings,” “flying squirrel wings” and “batgirl wings”] and flew to the opposite side of the cell. She rushed the drowsy guard, trying to get the key to the cell, but the guard blocked her (and Gruda, who tried just after). The guard shouted, raising the alarm.
Tassran rushed from Chuscu’s tent and shouted in Shertasi, alerting his troops [and giving them a Leadership bonus]. Meanwhile, Mili sniped at the Meme and punctured her lung [12 stress=Severe and Moderate Consequences + 2-point stress], disrupting her transfer. Eustice became very upset as his personal guard left his post to follow the noise, and he and Toulouse headed out, ready to fight.
Jonakin, frustrated, used her Bloodshifting to knock two Shertasi unconscious, and the tarts du jour snatched up the key and unlocked the cell door. Gruda immediately opened the outsized door and closed the tarts in, irritated at them for being useful, and both Iversdotters headed into the fight. Mili sniped the Meme again, seeing that she was trying to hop bodies, and killed her. Tassran spotted Sayani trying to escape, and Mili interposed herself, taking his strike. Eustice saw this and rushed towards Tassran, pissed that the Shertasi was trying to break his toys. Jonakin reached out and tried to Bloodshift Tassran and another warrior, but they shook it off.
The fight still in full swing, Mili tried to determine what was more important: keeping Sayani safe or stopping Chuscu, who was heading for the gate and escape…
[Mili has very different nudity standards than the City is used to. Mili and Iolanthe have conversations about the appropriateness of situational nudity, but Mili just drops her robe when she needs to camouflage. “If no-one can see me, it doesn’t matter if I’m naked.” She’s… used to Eustice leering at her toplessness.]
[Molly wants to play the illegitimate child of Erillia and Syler]