The City of Lives

Treasure Hunters for Hire: The Ruins of Taluna Part 1

Mr. Fix, an information merchant and go-between, called together some of his best freelance treasure hunters for a new job. These Hunters were:

  • Hexfinder Yorgen [Mindy], a Droghan Nullcrafter on a crusade to find and destroy magic wherever he finds it. He is strong in combat and against magic, values hard work and teamwork.
  • Rezilio [Todd], a Sky-Carver philosopher and Godless who wants to understand everything about the universe (and magic in particular), seeking out relics to study and dissect them.
  • Thalia [Anna], a Crossblood Promethean/Outlander acrobat, performance artist, and Epicurean who fell into Relic-chasing for the adrenalin rush.
  • Akina [Molly], a Grate-Scratcher amateur academic who knows almost everything and wants to learn more. She is the half-sister of Lopov [Jeremy].
  • Lopov [Jeremy], a Grate-Scratcher thief and forger specializing in stealing relics and replacing them with perfect replicas. He is the half-brother of Akina [Molly], and “acquired” most of the books she’s used to advance her education.

Mr. Fix explained to them that a consortium of merchants wanted to hire these five (and one more who was currently busy) as their main relic-hunting crew, after… something happened to their old crew. He handed out a Journeyman—a relic capable of Realmshifting them to the Realm of their choosing—and several Flares—boxes that could be filled and sent back to Mr. Fix from anywhere—to each of them, and laid out their first mission. A City colony had been started in the far-off Realm of Taluna, and the colony had recently stopped communicating with the City. Since they had just reported discovering ruins of a previously unknown civilization, the Consortium suspected relic activity. The hunters were to go to Taluna, find what happened to the colony, and if it was relic-related, to find and retrieve said relic.

The team set off, landing in a beautiful wood outside a small settlement. Thalia climbed to the top of a tree and looked around, seeing a strange, large depression a mile or so to the northeast. The others approached a guard standing at the bridge, who was standing there practically in a daze. They discovered that he was ridiculously happy and relaxed, unaffected by anything—and though he couldn’t tell them why he felt so good or when it started, he guessed it had started around the time “Philius came back from that place.”

Directed to Philius, who was hanging out in the graveyard, lazily sitting on a grave, the team headed over there. Rezilio decided to fly, but as he reached the graveyard, a sudden gust of wind threw him off balance and smashed him into the ground. Recovering, he was helped to his feet by Yorgen and Philius. Speaking to Philius, the hunters gradually determined that he was a Sky-Carver and explorer by trade, who had come to Taluna a few months ago to explore the surroundings and make sure it was safe. His cousin Francisco had come with him, but was now dead. Philius seemed remarkably unconcerned by this event, showing no sorrow at all as he pointed out Francisco’s fresh grave.

Abruptly, smoke began wafting out of Francisco’s grave, and Thalia Forceshifted the dirt out of the hole. They saw a burning corpse, and Akina and Thalia working together put the fire out. Rezilio tried to examine the corpse, and came to the tentative conclusion that he had died of strangulation, and had several broken bones. Philius responded that Francisco had been killed by “the tentacle-plant thing, you know, in that place, you know the one.” Trying to convince him that they did not know what he was talking about, the hunters gradually got a little more out of Philius: that he and his cousin had examined some ruins northeast of town, Francisco had been killed, and that was when everyone became so happy.

After some debate as to who started the fire (Rezilio determined that there was no chemical accelerant on the body, implying a magical source), or if it was spontaneous human combustion, the hunters had no conclusive evidence (though Lopov seemed convinced Philius had done it), and they decided to investigate the ruins. First, however, they brought Philius with them, hoping that removing him from the town would cure his “blissed-out” state.

Unfortunately, as they headed out of town, Philius became even more “blissed-out,” to the point where he didn’t mind when his pants mysteriously set alight, burning him badly. The hunters found a flint-and-steel on the ground near Philius, but saw that, oddly enough, it had not been used recently. Yorgen applied his medical knowledge and saw to Philius’s burns, then they left him sitting in the water, hoping he would be coherent enough not to drown.

To the northeast, they found ruins of an old civilization, mostly-buried by age or some kind of natural disaster. Akina and Thalia examined the art that decorated the walls, determining that the civilization who had built them was:

  • intensely interested in art and making things beautiful
  • the ox was an important symbol in their art
  • as was the scorpion
  • and all of the people in the art seemed intensely happy.

Armed with these conclusions, the hunters lit themselves some torches and headed down into a submerged part of the ruins. Moving slowly down a darkened corridor, they discovered a mysterious door and, further down the corridor, some kind of swinging axe (presumably a trap). Lopov carefully opened the door, to discover a hideous mutant monstrosity, a mixture between a man, an ox, and a scorpion, standing vacantly in the room. Akina informed him that it was a Toxinox, a Bloodshifted creation that was strong, tough, poisonous… but vulnerable to its own poison.

Meanwhile, Thalia, Akina, and Rezilio examined the axe trap. Thalia jumped through its swing, misjudging slightly and causing herself minor injury. Rezilio examined it but didn’t find a way to stop it before he decided to fly through, shielding himself with armor of wind. He was struck by the axe’s chain, but his armor protected him. At this point, having had enough of this nonsense, Thalia used her Forceshifting to stop the axe in its tracks, making it safe for the others to come through…

I put the assets online to speed download
Have someone not me or Mindy host Skype
Possibly turn Max Mem 1024, Min Mem 512, Stack Size 10

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Shadows and Subterfuge: The Expose Op Part 2

Mere moments after the doors clanged shut, the team sprang into action. Rasine attempted to pick her door’s lock, but failed — and had to jump back to avoid Syler, who smashed down the door from the other side. They quickly located the evidence they needed, fake ballots filling the file cabinets, as Pi suddenly Realmshifted in. She said she had found her father, and he was meeting with Tessiria that very night — and that his name was Mikael. The rest of the team informed her they’d met him; he was a powerful priest who preached against the evils of Crossbloods, he was very much part of the establishment, and was kind of a jerk. They contacted Gaius via Farscribe, and he Realmshifted the files out — and they failed to follow. He told them that while the Nullcrafting field had come down, someone had put up a Realmshifting-specific block, and the team would have to make it out on their own.

Pi informed Gaius that she wasn’t leaving without at least finding out what Tessiria and her father were talking about, and all the team expressed sorrow that they couldn’t just kill Tessiria. Gaius agreed it was a good idea to find out more intel, and reluctantly gave the team permission to kill Tessiria, now that she was losing power. After all, she had just tried to kill him. The team leaped at the chance to take down their nemesis, and began heading for the dining room where Pi, Mindsharing, informed them Tessiria was (arguing with Mikael about the ethicality of something or other and surrounded by 10 guards).

The team began to flank the room, ready to come in on all sides — when Mo and his small army of servants came racing down the stairs and burst into the dining room, shouting revolutionary slogans. Pi delved deep into Mikael’s mind, discovering his secrets:

  • 20-odd years ago, a young Leovite on his way up in the Church hierarchy, basing his ministry on the evils of Crossblooded relations, fell in love with a young Sky-Carver named Seulia Dorian. The Dorians were a House with little power, under the thumb of the Aderino family. When Seulia became pregnant, Mikael was horrified and the Aderinos were pissed. Refusing to take the shame, Tessiria’s mother used her influence to force Seulia’s parents hide her until the baby was born, and then to send her away to Inoria and arranged marriage. Simultaneous, they blackmailed Mikael, “helping” him with his problem by making Seulia and the child go away, and threatening to reveal his secret and ruin him in the Church unless he agreed to help them on occasion. Since then, Mikael has occasionally pushed the Aderino agenda, giving them subsidies and supporting their political bids. Right now, they’ve asked him to work on greasing the wheels in the voting polls to add two thousand dead people to the voting registry, all voting for Tessiria. Ultimately a moral man, he is vehemently opposed to this, and trying to get Tessiria to stop it, or at least not involve him, but he has all too much to lose now…

Tyche hung back, not wanting to support these “teammates” who hated her. Meanwhile, Syler and Erillia came round the side, and Erillia launched a massive psychic attack at Erillia, fueled by her hatred and anger [and all her fate points, ending with 14 degrees of success]. Tessiria defended but ended up badly shaked — and Rasine then sneaked through the melee and under the dining room table, tossing a poisoned dart at Tessiria. The noblewoman, while mentally strong, had no physical defenses, and was instantly and debilitatingly poisoned. Mo and his compatriots continued fighting the guards, losing men left and right. Seeing his revolutionaries die, Mo decided to summon his old friend the Greensman with the wooden bird the demigod had given him.

Syler fired his crossbow at a pair of Tessira’s guards, only for one to knock the arrow out of the air and the other caught it and hurled it back at Syler, injuring him. Syler responded by shouting “Thorvald” into the wind, summoning the demigod who owed him a favor. Mikael, intent on stopping all of this nonsense, let out a massive Lightshifting burst that blinded everyone in the room (except for Rasine, underneath the table, and Mo, who was tough enough to stand it). Tyche quickly healed the blindness from her compatriots Syler and Erillia, who immediately assaulted the guards and Tessiria again.

Suddenly, the Greensman rode through the double doors, atop a giant boar. He said “Ho, Morris. ‘ello, friends! ’ow may oi be of service! Look loike ye’ve got some enemies that need takin’ care of,” and made the plants (that Mo had (for some reason) taken from the greenhouse) grow to a massive degree and choke the life out of a pair of guards, watering the plants with their blood. Demigod Thorvald came in shortly after, buzzing in as a cloud of bees, and stung another pair of guards to death. Mo then convinced his servants to pledge their eternal loyalty to the Greensman in return for him curing their blindness. The Greensman blinked and said “Well, oi don’t know what oi’ll do wit’ that, but… thanks,” and indeed cured them.

Rasine tagged Tessiria again with a sleeping dart, and Erillia followed up by creating a terrifying illusion of all Tessiria’s enemies surrounding her and advancing slowly. Pi stepped into the room and shot a quick mental message to Mikael, saying “Hi! I’m your daughter!” Mikael had no idea how to respond, showing shock, relief, outrage, and confusion all at once. Tessiria rose into the air, and made a long and dramatic monologue:

“You five have been quite the thorns in my side. I was this close to owning this city, but you just had to get involved: overthrowing the Niontian government, taking the Crashers out of my control, destroying my mine, removing my influence from Solfidley’s little town, and even massacring my last Niontian allies. And now you think you’re going to interfere yet again? Riduccio has disappointed me time and again-”

She waved her hand, and an image of Riduccio, bloodied and beaten, hanging on a dungeon wall, appeared in the air.

“-but now I find it time to address this problem myself. Should you hand over this so-called ‘evidence’ and surrender, I will be magnanimous, and you will be free to live out your lives in some remote and isolated Realm. Should you choose to resist, this will go… poorly for you."

Tessiria then fired a mental pulse that attacked the team and the servants, but the team resisted. Pi took advantage of Tessiria’s mental battering ram, taking hold of it and utilizing her own “emotional fireball” over her father to “cockfuck Tessiria with her brain.” Tessiria become more and more unsteady.

Mo and his servant army charged Tessiria, pulling her down from the air. Once she was on the ground, they proceeded to savagely beat her mostly to death, breaking nearly every bone in her body. Tessiria spent one final, desperate burst of mental energy, sending the servants running for the hills, while Mikael finally decided to take his shot at ending his twenty-year torture at the hands of the Aderinos, kicking Tessiria hard in the face.

Finally, Rasine took careful aim at Tessiria, who was screaming in pain and rage, and fired a dart that went right into her mouth and stabbed into the base of her brain. Tessiria fell silent with a wet gurgle, and the teams’ resident demigods finished up her minions.

The team stood around for a moment, wondering what to do next, and then Pi confronted her father, with a look that said “I’ll let you in, but only if you change.” Mikael hesitantly raised his arms, and she came in for an awkward hug with the father she never had.

Epilogue:

With Tessiria disgraced and dead, Gaius wins the seat on the Council easily. He has little time to run the House with his new position, so hands over control to his most-trusted niece, Erillia. She runs the house cleverly and well (if perhaps a little less ethically than Gaius did), increasing its status and wealth with the help of her good friend Syler. Decades pass, with her working slowly and methodically, until House Trevelanius is the most powerful House in the City, controlling directly or indirectly over half the High Council. Erillia guides the City from behind the scenes, helping to usher in a new golden age.

Syler volunteers (or is “volunteered”) to be the public face of the evidence that takes down Tessiria. He is lauded in the streets and recognized as a great hero, and takes his place as the official head of security for House Trevelanius, despite his low status. He continues to pine after Erillia, but their friendship grows closer and closer. Decades later, as his position has grown to encompass a massive army of soldiers and security throughout the City, one of the best-organized private armies in City history, Syler stops an assassination attempt against his beloved Erillia, only to be struck down himself. As he lies dying, she confesses her love for him. Whether she was lying or not is her secret, but for his last few moments, Syler finally feels complete.

As she tries to build a relationship with her father/recovers from destroying her only family, Pi returns to Gaius’s service, entertaining him and ensuring he knows everything his enemies intend as he takes his place on the High Council. She finally gets Rasine to reconcile with her, though their relationship is never more than rocky and difficult. Working from behind the scenes, Piah pushes forward the Crossblood agenda, doing her best to help people realize that they’re no different or worse than the purebloods. Within her lifetime, a massive civil rights movement takes hold of the City, improving if not fixing the institutional prejudice that pervades the City.

Once Tessiria is destroyed and Gaius wins the election, Rasine settles in as his bodyguard, defending him from all the constant assassination attempts that High Councilors risk. She and Pi continue an on-and-off, hot-and-cold relationship that is horribly dysfunctional for both of them. As the years pass, Rasine refines her stealth skills and mental discipline to a level seldom seen across the Realms. Eventually, she learns how to block out even Pi, and takes this opportunity to cut herself off from the world. One night she simply disappears and is never seen again.

Proud she showed her brains and unconventional thinking could save the day, Tyche still grows bored quickly. Gaius grants her a position as a free-range spy, heading to various Realms and determining their potential for threat or promise to Gaius and the City. After years of far-flung adventures, she is finally caught… and promptly disappears. Was she killed? Did she escape? Nobody knows, but those who knew her speculate on the wild adventures she’s having on the fringes of civilization.

Mo and the servants take the Aderino house as their own. The new House – or, as Mo prefers to call it, the Commune, grows in power as the years pass, and eventually there is a true Rural voice on the High Council, speaking for the poor and disenfranchised who have become part of the Commune over the years. Mo, of course, is busy pushing the revolution further and harder, and when he finally dies in what would later be known as the Proudhoe Revolution, his status as a martyr inspires new revolutionaries for generations to come.

And thus ended the adventures of Gaius’s team, his dark actors ensuring a better future through evil deeds. They were, in many ways, the means that the end justifies.

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Shadows and Subterfuge: The Expose Op Part 1

The note was distinctly in Tyche’s handwriting, Rasine noted, comparing it to the diary. Now they had their proof, and Mo and Rasine wasted no time getting to Gaius — resting in his physician’s house — and asked him to gather together the entire team. They all arrived, and Mo and Rasine put on an elaborate show of revealing evidence piece by piece, watching Tyche become more nervous and angry as they built their case against her. In the end, Tyche agreed to explain everything to Gaius, but only to him and Syler. The others very reluctantly agreed to leave, and all proceeded to try and listen in. When he summoned them back in, Gaius told them Tyche’s story: Bored by the team’s lack of progress against Tessiria, she took it upon herself to infiltrate Tessiria’s House and act as a double agent… without telling anyone. Now she’s gotten in over her head, forced into collaborating with a Promethean arsonist-for-hire named Phaedra to burn down Gaius’s mansion – or else she’d be exposed as a double agent. At this point, she’s gained access to evidence linking Tessiria to ballot tampering (apparently, several thousand dead people have just registered to vote for the Aderino ticket), as well as her orders to burn down Gaius’s house. This one-two punch should be enough to disgrace Tessiria and finally remove her from power. Gaius said that Tyche had noble intentions, but terrible judgment, and decreed that punishment would be forthcoming, but not until after the team retrieved said evidence and take down House Aderino.

Rasine freaked out that Gaius would trust the “obvious traitor,” and actually came out of hiding to throw a fit before she stomped out. Syler and Erillia agreed with Gaius’s assessment and orders, even if they were still suspicious. Mo, on the other hand, agreed to go in only if Tyche would never be allowed out of his sight. Gaius revised that to “out of Syler’s sight,” seeing as he is the leader, and told them to make their way into Aderino Manor and retrieve the evidence before the ballot-counting the following morning.

The team (minus Rasine, and Pi, who was still AWOL) sneaked into the manor’s courtyard, in mundane disguises (as they remembered the anti-Crafting field that gave them serious problems the last time they’d entered the manor). After a lot of discussion, they decided to speak to the servants and have Mo incite them into revolution as a distraction, while the rest of the team headed down to the basement, where the fake ballots were. Before they began, though, Mo insisted on “testing Tyche’s loyalty” by finding a random noble member of the household (Tessiria’s uncle, who was quietly smoking a pipe on a patio) and telling Tyche to kill him. Tyche responded by Bloodshifting him to his patio chair and silencing him, but said she would rather just walk past him. Mo was unsatisfied, and beheaded the man, hurling his skull at Tyche with the words “That’s how it’s done.” Syler used his knowledge of the lower-class and criminal populace to determine that he had a friend (Wendy, the girlfriend of his fence’s cousin), within the servant population of Aderino Manor. He removed his disguise, called her to the window, and asked if he could come in and talk to the servants. Eventually, the team convinced the servants to come out to the patio to see the dead body, and Mo began preaching about the evils of the nobility, how their horrible treatment of the lower classes could no longer be tolerated, and encouraged the servants to rise up and slay their masters, promising them the manor once they were done. His audience, jaded by their terrible treatment and inspired by Mo’s passion, agreed (except for one, who Mo immediately knocked out with a fierce blow from his hammer).

While the team debated their plans, Rasine arrived and, sick of waiting, decided to start the mission on her own. She headed into the basement and encountered a guard — but unfortunately, failed to strike him, revealing herself and starting an unfortunate combat. The rest of the team heard the sounds of fighting coming from the basement, and split up: Mo headed upstairs with his mob of servants, while the rest went downstairs to find the evidence they needed.

Upstairs, Mo headed directly for Tessiria’s bedroom, sending a few of his mob into each of the bedrooms to slaughter the sleeping nobles. Unfortunately, just before he reached her room, a duo of guards heard the ruckus and came up the stairs. They fought well against the untrained and poorly-armed servants, slaying several while taking little injuries of their own. Mo ignored this and headed straight for his target, only to discover that Tessiria was not in her bedroom. A servant spoke up then, saying that she might be still awake, given it was election night, meeting with a pollster or “that priest fellow.” Mo angrily asked why he wasn’t given this information earlier, and immediately changed tactics to head towards the main floor where Tessiria might be — and on the way, he stopped to slaughter the guards, easily beheading one and sending the other over a railing to splatter on the ground floor.

Downstairs, the team encountered Rasine, visible for once, in fierce combat with a guard. Syler disabled the guard with a crossbow bolt to the lung and moved on, focused on his goal… but Rasine quickly executed the man. Erillia, seeing a duo of guards playing dice in the next room, tested out the magical defenses, discovering that they were there and powerful, but not insurmountable. She failed to craft her illusion, though, and the guards headed into combat with Syler. Syler knocked them to the ground with a breakdancing-esque spinning dodge/trip, and Erillia overcame the Nullcrafting block to convince the guards they couldn’t feel their legs. Tyche ran right by this scene, sprinting towards the evidence. Meanwhile, Rasine started heading after her mortal enemy(?) Tyche, while Syler locked the guards in a closet.

Tyche made it almost to the evidence room before she encountered a pair of guards, and she tried (with great difficulty) to boil their blood with her Bloodshifting. She continued this with minimal success, Rasine slowly coming up behind her (planning to kill Tyche with a dart to the neck), until Syler and Erillia arrived to back her up. Rasine, having lost her opportunity to kill her nemesis, sneaked past her to the evidence room. There, just as Tyche dismembered her foes, Rasine saw a bald, broad man sitting cross-legged, deep in concentration, sitting in front of several filed cabinets. She quietly walked over and jammed a poison dart into his neck, killing him instantly. As the man fell, the team Crafters felt the Nullcrafting block lift… but then every door in the manor slammed shut and locked, and a loud, mystical klaxon began to sound…

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Shadows and Subterfuge: The Rumor Op

Speaking to the weak and sickly Gaius, the team discovered that an opening in the High Council had just come up, as one of the Sky-Carver councilors had just died — and Gaius and Tessiria are the front-runners for the spot. Since he was too sick to deal with it, he reasoned, he needed the team to ensure that Tessiria wasn’t fixing the election.

Erillia’s system of contacts quickly informed her that:

  • “someone’s” goons were at all the voting areas, scaring away those who would vote for Gaius.
  • Some suspected Tessiria of manipulating the voting records and securing the vote that way.
  • Riduccio was speaking out against Gaius, spreading rumors that he had a Crossblooded bastard, a team of assassins, and had burned down his own house.
  • And, last but not least, that the deal councilor perished of a mysterious carriage accident, immediately thought of as suspicious by the team.

Mo and Rasine decided to venture to the remains of the Trevelanius mansion and trace down the arsonist who had burned it down, while Erillia took it upon herself to stop these rumors in their tracks and shame Riduccio (and Syler insisted on coming along).

At a party at Metis‘s house, Erillia and Syler (in disguise as “Leon” the Leovite aristocrat) began engaging in verbal banter with Riduccio and his cronies, fighting back and forth to get the crowd on their side. The insults flew back and forth, and Syler soon found himself shamed out of the fight, his “Leon” persona tarnished beyond use — but Erillia managed to turn the crowd against Riduccio soon after, impugning Tessiria and starting her own rumors: Tessiria is a dangerous, self-serving bitch who only attacked Gaius because she knows she’d never win without stooping to foul play, because he’s obviously the better candidate.

Meanwhile, Mo and Rasine were already convinced that Tyche was the person who burned down their home: She was not a member of the House, she was a Flameshaper, she kept running off on her own errands, and she seemed to know about the mansion burning down before it happened, judging by her instantaneous house-hunting. Now they just needed some evidence. Mo discovered the origin of the fire, in the servants’ quarters beneath Gaius’s study, and found some evidence of a chemical accelerant and possibly mechanical or magical assistance. Rasine ventured into Tyche’s burned-out room and examined the remaining scraps of her diary, which revealed a list of arsonists throughout the City. They turned to the Trevelanius House fire department, and compared Tyche’s list with their list of likely suspects, and narrowed it down to a handful of names. They narrowed this down further to Prometheans, and decided to investigate one Phaedra Gy-vehr, who worked as a freelance “troubleshooter” in Clovenmouthe.

Investigating Phaedra’s place, Rasine picked the lock but got an explosive surprise for her efforts. The two entered, spoiling for a fight, and quickly located the Promethean explosives junkie, hurling bombs at them from the back room. However, she was no match for the skilled operatives, and they quickly subdued her. She revealed that she had never met the person who paid her to set the fire at Gaius’s mansion, but that she had been given a message. Mo and Rasine examined the message, anxious to discover who was behind this tragedy…

Whose handwriting is the message? Tessiria or TYCHE?

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Shadows and Subterfuge: The Mountain Outpost Op Part 1

Following the horrific fire, the team decided to split up in order to cure Gaius’s horrible shadowpox infection. Erillia and Syler decided to speak to the only man they’d ever met who had a cure for the shadowpox, Gaius’s estranged cousin Baltinius; Rasine, Piah, and Mo decided to head to the Mountains of Mourning, where Pi had heard of a outpost of Niontians. Mo took Gaius along with them, but Pi almost instantly ran off, saying she had found out more about her missing father (greatly angering Rasine in the process).

Erillia and Syler greeted a very friendly Baltinius, but Erillia was almost instantly suspicious, and soon confirmed (at least in her own head) that he was about to betray her and Syler and lead them into a trap. Baltinius escorted Erillia to one of the Trevelanius family crypts, saying he had the medicine there, while Syler (pretending to go on an errand) followed secretly (though Baltinius actually spotted him but chose not to reveal it yet).

Meanwhile, Rasine and Mo paid a Realmshifter to send them to the Mountains, and arrived at what looked like a military outpost built into the side of a mountain. There, they greeted a Niontian guard and, uncharacteristically, used diplomacy and deceit to get themselves into the outpost. They were escorted to the leader of the outpost, one Vertex-of-Pain, who agreed to give them the medicines they needed, and took them into a small store-room filled with barrels. Unfortunately, just as the duo became suspicious at the gunpowder-scented room, a guard outside slammed and locked the door.

Erillia tentatively followed Baltinius into the tomb, where he led her to a sarcophagus supposedly filled with medicine. He claimed he “had to step outside for a moment,” but Erillia confronted him, refusing to believe his lies. Baltinius denied it for a short time, then admitted that he had decided to take revenge on Erillia and her friends because they had failed in their “promise” to restore him to his former position in Gaius’s good graces. Erillia soon concluded that Baltinius was working for Tessiria (and chided him for it), at which point the socialite ran for the door. The unathletic Erillia failed to reach him in time, though he ran straight into Syler on the doorstep. Baltinius just barely managed to grab a hidden lever inside a gargoyle before Syler tackled him, and a grate slammed down over the entrance and a bevy of spinning posts covered in blades exited the walls and started heading for Erillia.

Mo threw a barrel at Vertex-of-Pain, which had no effect but to fill the room with gunpowder. Rasine tried to damage the Niontian by using her Shadowshaping to create pure darkness (known to make Niontians dissolve), but the hurt Vertex-of-Pain managed to escape, slipping under the door.
Rasine immediately worked at picking the lock, using her training to unlock it by touch. The duo managed to escape, heading into the room next door, which was filled with Niontian guards. A fierce fight commenced.

As Syler wrestled with Baltinius, the politico managed to remove a small figurine from his pocket, hurling it to the ground and conjuring a massive vaguely man-shaped cloud of swirling red energies. While Erillia hid in a sarcophagus and tried to figure out the blades’ patterns and interfere with them by throwing stones into their mechanisms (also attacking Baltinius with a Dreamsharing attack she’d been preparing for a good quarter-hour), Syler began efficiently beating Baltinius to death. Unfortunately, Baltinius’s tongue proved to be a deadly weapon, as he tried to convince Syler to let him live, promising wealth, power, and Erillia’s hand in marriage. Syler found himself horribly conflicted and losing faith in both Erillia and himself, but managed to kill Baltinius with a pickaxe to the skull. The monster vanished, having badly injured Syler, and the physically and psychically damaged Kipman turned off the traps and sat on the steps, engulfed in pain. They checked the sarcophagus Baltinius had pointed out, finding it did indeed contain medicines, and they quickly realized they needed to head to the Mountains of Mourning to bring the medicine to Gaius.

On their way back from the tomb, Erillia and Syler met back up with Tyche and Pi. Tyche had, she said, been scouting properties for a new headquarters for the Trevelanius family, while Pi had returned from her search for her father with a possible name — and had meanwhile discovered that the Niontian Outpost was not just a settlement, but a staging area for a Niontian invasion. One quick and insistent conversation with a low-ranking Trevelanius versed in Realmshifting later, Erillia, Syler, Tyche, and Pi found themselves deposited unceremoniously inside the Niontian stronghold.

While the new team fought their way through the shadows (Erillia considering diplomacy far too late to stop her bloodthirsty compatriots), Rasine and Mo pursued the leader Vertex-of-Pain down a far hall. By the time the two teams met up, they had discovered that a shiftgate projector sat at the far end of the hall, defended by Vertex-of-Pain and several guards, who were sniping the heroes with crossbows. Syler gave Gaius the shadowpox cure, while Mo checked its efficacy. Rasine, while trying to sneak past them, stumbled into a set of black-powder mines the Niontians had laid down, injuring herself and just barely returning to the shadows before being slain. Meanwhile, Pi poured energy into the projector, while Syler loosed volley after volley of crossbow bolts at it, and Tyche filled the room with flame (unfortunately injuring an angered Rasine, who Tyche didn’t see), and the combination of their efforts soon sent the shiftgate projector into overload.

The team fled the outpost mere moments before the entire structure imploded, making much of the mountain collapse in on itself as the Niontians and their stronghold were sucked into the space between worlds.

Gaius, slowly awakening, opened his eyes and asked weakly “How is the election coming?”

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Shadows and Subterfuge: The Fire Op

In the midst of interrogating their suspected serial killer, the team felt a familiar sensation, as if their brains were on fire, and heard a familiar voice in their heads — Piah, their onetime colleague and Rasine’s former lover, who had ventured off in search of her mysterious parentage. The voice shrieked “It’s burning! He’s dying! Come to the mansion! QUICKLY!” The team sprang into action, Rasine actually stealing a horse from the opera house’s taxi service, and before long they had gathered at the Trevelanius mansion “Cloudspun.” Cloudspun was indeed ablaze, their home being destroyed before their eyes. There they split up, depending on their priorities.

Syler, always the straightforward hero, ran straight through the front door, heading through the main hall and upstairs towards Gaius’s study, the most likely place to find him. Rasine had the same idea, but headed around back, trying to get to the study through the window. Mo immediately headed to the servants’ quarters, intent on rescuing his fellow underclassmen, and Erillia flew up to the top floor to help her family, the rest of the Trevelaniuses.

Syler encountered fierce heat and flame, as well as a Niontian coming from Gaius’s study. They faced off for a moment, but the Niontian escaped, and Syler decided to save Gaius rather than continue to fight. Meanwhile, Rasine had climbed up the outside wall and picked the lock on the window, only to find Pi in the study, cradling Gaius in her arms. Rasine was incensed that the same woman who had betrayed her by leaving would consider returning, not to mention steal her thunder, and she pushed Piah out of the way as she went to help Gaius. Pi, trying to make peace, explained that someone had poisoned Gaius’s drink when they were discussing her return to his employ, and that she had been using her Mindsharing abilities to help him fight off the poison’s effects. Rasine revealed a secret passageway, and they carried Gaius down it, just as Syler burst in the door.

Downstairs, Mo smashed his way into the servants’ kitchen, rushing in heroically and saving at least a dozen Kipmen and Rurals who had been injured by smoke inhalation and burns. Once he was sure they were safe, he began explaining that, of course, Gaius had set this fire himself for the insurance money, and that they should rise up against the nobles of the house and take Cloudspun for themselves. The servants, loyal but supremely grateful, were confused, uncertain of which avenue to take, and generally nonplussed.

Erillia discovered that most of her kinsmen were huddled in the upstairs ballroom, and she went to fetch some water from the nearest well. Flying unsteadily and with little confidence in her water-tossing abilities, she ventured as close to the window as she dared, singing herself as she put out the flames — and then went inside, helping her fellows fly out the window and to safety. Syler came in from the other side and helped as well, before Erillia helped him down to the ground.

Meeting up, the team gathered around their injured employer, and determined that he had been poisoned with a weaponized version of the same Shadowpox Rasine had suffered through in Niontia Unprime 236…

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Shadows and Subterfuge: The Backstage Op

The team, fresh off their exploits at the trial, were sent by Gaius to one of his investments, the Nox Theatre, an opera house down in Belltown. Several accidents had recently been reported, including one death — that might just be a murder. The team headed down immediately, and after a short encounter with the manager, began interviewing the cast and crew.

They quickly discovered that the latest accident, the death of player Stephanus, had come from a fight scene during a performance of “The Tragical Historie of Julianus,” a show about the last Monarch of Light. The team’s acquaintance Thole had been the man with the sword, and said it had felt as though the sword had been jerked from his hand. They spoke to the prima donna, Kylie, who said she believed Thole killed Stephanus out of jealousy for the man’s rising stardom. Thole discounted this idea, saying Stephanus was a secondary player and nothing more.

After investigating and discovering a distinct magical trace left on the killing sword, the team ventured backstage and began looking for more clues. Abruptly, a falling sandbag struck Kylie on the head, snapping her neck instantly.

As the director fled, the team began to be assaulted by the set: a prop chariot tried to run them down and the backstage rigging started wrapping them up. As they fought back, they discovered a Grate-Scratcher stagehand, who shrieked at them that “the theatre is mine! Tessiria gave it to me!” and they found themselves fighting animated suits of armor, ropes, and stage lights. They did their best to disable the Grate-Scratcher, who, they figured, was a Forceshifter telekinetically controlling all these props.

Mo brought the ropes to life, controlling the plant fibers to grab a hold of anyone around — catching several of his friends as well as the villain. Eventually, through the villain overusing his Crafting abilities and Erillia’s constant mental assaults, they wore the Grate-Scratcher — one Predjan — down and took him prisoner.

16 stages

Marianus

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Shadows and Subterfuge: The Trial Op

Their foes safely in the hands of the Thief-Binders, the team set about preparing for the trial. Gaius instructed them that the trial must go off without a hitch, and that the Ma’dem must suffer the consequences of their actions. The prosecutor, a Sky-Carver named Sharlotti Biscardi, asked the team to act as witnesses for the prosecution: Syler, Erillia, and Tyche all agreed, while Rasine refused to even let Biscardi see her, and Mo was off on a revolutionary adventure of his own. They were additionally asked to ask Thole and Mikhael, both important public figures, if they would come on as witnesses — and they tasked themselves with finding out if Tessiria had a link to the Ma’dem.

They began by tracing the money that the Ma’dem had used to pay for their defender (an ethically questionable Iversdotter named Wittal) to a Pariah accountant. Paying him a visit, they used trickery and intimidation to get out of him that Tessiria had paid for the Ma’dem’s lawyer, as well initially hiring them to extort protection monies from the Underway station. Frightened, he reluctantly agreed to get protection from Tessiria from Gaius.

Heading over to the Nox Theatre in Belltown, they encountered Thole in time to see him play for the crowds, utilizing Soulsharing to excite them and using Dreamsharing to make it seem as though he were an entire band. The team cornered him in his dressing room, and through emphasizing the revolutionary influence he could make by being involved in such a high-profile trial, convinced him to be a witness. They also determined that he greatly disliked Mikhael, standing for different things, and that he had been playing down the street when he felt the distress of those dying in the Underway and came to their rescue.

They then went to see Mikhael at his church in Templedowns, seeing him preach on the evils of crossbreeding across Bloodlines, saying every bloodline should know their place in the class structure. They convinced him to testify by emphasizing how his words could inspire faith, and determined that he had been watching Thole at the time of the fire, and had followed him to the station.

When the trial started, each consenting member of the team found themselves in front of the jury. The defense attorney tried to poke holes in their statements and cast doubt on their character, even bringing up Syler’s criminal past — but the team comported themselves well, Syler acting as reformed criminal.

Feeling good about the trial, the team was unpleasantly surprised to find out from Biscardi that the jury was being tampered with. A bit of contacting among the criminal types, and they discovered a Kipman had been intimidating the jury. Finding said Kipman, they plied him with wine and food in order to find out he had been paid by the same Pariah accountant as they had previously encountered, and that he would change his tune and threaten the jury to convict instead for a tidy sum of money. Erillia utilized her Trevelanius fortune to do exactly that, and the trial was soon won, with Hark receiving a death penalty and his three cronies five to ten years of hard labor.

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Shadows and Subterfuge: The Underway Op

Left to their own devices, the team was scattered around the City doing their own thing: Syler, for example, was buying a poison-filled ring for Erillia. Suddenly, a Farscribe message from Gaius instructed them to get to a certain Underway station ASAP. The Underway, a kind of magical subway system, had been set on fire, and one of the Trevelanius families was trapped inside in need of rescue.

Erillia, Mo, and Rasine arrived at one entrance, Syler at another. Syler immediately rushed in, intent on saving as many civilians as possible. Mo did the same, but focused exclusively on the lower-class patrons. Erillia, on the other hand, sought out the Trevelaniuses. SHe found one huddled by a column, and another (the young son), down on the rails, with a third presumably on the other side of the Underway carriage. She flew over to the son and encouraged him to fly back with her. Meanwhile, Syler started to get attacked by a maniacal Flameshaper, who was the obvious source of the fire. Additionally, a gigantic ox-faced Kipman Bloodshifter started smashing up the place, and shut Syler inside the carriage. Syler had no choice but to dive out the window onto the rails below.

Meanwhile, Rasine recognized Grake, a Pariah Realmshifter who worked for the ethically dubious mercenary group known as the Ma’dem, known to often work for Tessiria, and realized the entire fire had been cause by the Ma’dem. A sniper started firing at the team from down the tunnel, and Erillia tossed a terrifying vision into the sniper’s head to drive them away. An Iversdotter with darts started attacking Mo, and Grake joined in, teleporting Mo all aroun dand making him horribly nauseated. Erillia made the Realmshifter imagine the fiery inside of the carraige just as he was about to teleport, forcing him to teleport to that spot, where he burned to death.

The Flameshaper turned intoa giant fireball, but Syler avoided the flames, and the Shaper pushed himself so hard he knocked himself out. Erillia struck again, making the Bloodshifter “blind, deaf, and numb,” and he ran screaming down the tunnel.

Around this time, two charismatic individuals came down from the surface and started helping rescue civilians (Which Erillia and Rasine didn’t appreciate stealing their thunder) — a Leovite named Mikael and a Promethean named Thole. Mo struck down the Iversdotter, and the conflict was at an end. The team quickly decided to follow the Bloodshifter and sniper, leaving behind two dead and one unconscious.

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Shadows and Subterfuge: The Moulting Op Part 2

The team surveyed the Inn lobby — there was a fire raging to the south, with sounds of shouting coming from within it. Syler immediate jumped at the chance to be a hero (“Syler to the Rescue”), and rushed into the flames. He found a porcupine-eque Kipman trapped under a large table, which Syler removed handily and carried the Kipman back out of the fire, just barely avoiding burns. The Kipman, a prickly individual named Torq, told the team he had been a guest at the restaurant when the disaster struck, and two of his friends had been killed by falling debris. While Mo(?) interrogated the man, apparently mistrusting him, Rasine began exploring to the North, and Syler to the west. Rasine examined several rooms, most notably finding a strange dimensional portal that teleported her from a hallway to the bar whenever she tried to enter a supply closet, and a Pariah’s corpse, who had a journal of gossip and secrets and a signet ring, both of which Rasine confiscated. To the west, the ballroom had been taken over by more of the white blood cell creatures, who were menacing a plump Iversdotter.

Syler launched several crossbow bolts at the creatures, injuring them but not severely. Erillia came over after a bit, and used her Dreamsharing to create an illusionary monster, which the creatures immediately headed towards, intend on eating it. The Iversdotter, who identified herself as the Inn hostess, by the name of Lygga, said in response to Mo’s intense, bullying questioning, that she had been working in the kitchen when the single-celled creatures appeared and ate two of her co-workers while she ran off. One by one (Mo spending a moment throwing some more fractal food to the blood cells to distract them), the team headed towards the back staircase — Tyche last, as she spent her time fighting the fire with her Flameshaping — where they encountered themselves. Their future(?) duplicates told the team not to trust the Grate-Scratcher Svetana. Svetana objected, saying she had no ill intent or secrets to hide. Syler and Erillia to not trust either Svetana or their “future” selves, in case they were illusions or suchlike.

Upstairs, the ordinary layout had been completely rearranged by the fractal elf’s moulting, inclouding several more white blood cells. Seeing that the cells were blocking their passage, Rasine darted into a room, attracting the cells to follow after her. She stepped back out, and Mo made vines grow over the door to hold the creatures in. Svetana immediately rushed to her room and started grabbing clothing and other stuff — Rasine spotted that she was palming money and documents at the same time. Rasine tried to steal a paper off of Svetana, only to be caught by the well-trained thief. Rasine refused to confront Svetana, but [?] demanded to know what these documents were. Tyche and Erillia identified them as contracts and receipts, and Svetana broke down and admitted she had been stealing signets, stationery, and copying signatures from teh diplomats and important families Brunei had been meeting with, using them to [?] money. The team confiscated Svetana’s papers (Rasine taking the signet rings), and decided they would remove her from Brunei’s service — but recommend her to Gaius.

The team examined three of the other rooms — a swampy place for a [?], a dark and mysterious Kivian “pocket Realm,” and a low-gravity room. They ignored all these rooms and opened a door to an underwater room fro an Emerald Wavedancer. [?] swam through, and Tyche grew gills and did the same — but the others distrusted the water, and Mo broke through the ceiling and they walked along the roof to get to Brunei’s room. There, mistrusting Torq’s motives, Erillia made an illusion of Brunei in the hall, and Torq tried to run into Brunei’s room, only to be stopped by a garrote-wielding Rasine.

Seeing Brunei was completely non-responsive to stimuli, the team searched its room for whatever Torq was looking for, finding a strange device (a sphere with a number of blinking lights and sigils on it), which Torq denid all knowledge of — but simultaneously identified as an audio recording device. Some harsh interrogation from Mo resulted in Torq spilling his guts — he had caused all this by bribing a waiter to plant the Soundcatcher in Brunei’s room, hoping to catch the elf’s code for the hotel vault downstairs, not realizing it would trigger a moulting. Once the team removed and shut off the soundcatcher, Brunei, and the geography of the Inn, returned to normal. The team took Svetana and Torq into custody, taking them to Gaius. The team took a well-deserved vacation, not knowing what was to come next…

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