The City of Lives

Shadows and Subterfuge: The Moulting Op Part 1

In Gaius’s office, the team queried him on the nature of the trouble at the Inn. First he edified them on the nature of the Inn: An institution that caters to Outlanders (tourists, diplomats, merchants, etc), the Inn has a variety of rooms that magically mimic the Outlanders’ original environment: desert, swamp, 1/3 City gravity, etc. He told them that he believed a Fractal Elf, nicknamed Brunei, was causing terrible chaos. The Fractal Elves are a species from the Far Realms who exist in multiple Realms at once – they appear to be constantly changing, like a fractal, snowflake beach ball, but they are only rotating in and out of our Realm and showing part of their larger form. They are capable of warping reality around themselves, and Gaius believed that this had happened, as the streets surrounding the Inn had starting twisting and undulating as though alive.

The team debated whether they would be able to make it to the Inn by land, and asked Gaius to provide them with a Realmshifter… but then decided they could end up being teleported into solid earth if the Realmshift didn’t go properly, so decided to see if they could walk there. Approaching the Inn, they saw that it was, for the moment, stable, though the road was badly damaged, filled with debris and overturned carts. They encountered several strange creatures that looked like gigantic single-celled organisms, which were eventually identified by Tyche as the Fractal Elf equivalent of white blood cells – the PCs were, in some sense, already inside the elf’s body, and its immune system was trying to kill them. Erillia created the illusion of a monster, and Mo spread some “fractal food” from the Elf’s home Realm around, and the cells hurried to eat both, allowing the team to quickly run past them.

The road suddenly began undulating, and the PCs saw a ten-by-ten-by-thirty lightning storm suddenly arise. Tyche tried to run around it, only to find that when she ran off one side of the road, she came back on from the other direction [like going off one side of the screen in an old-school video game]. Erillia flew over it, only to get shocked as the ground surged up and caught her in the storm – but she made it through with minimal injuries. Rasine sneaked through, her cat-like reflexes keeping her away from the worst. Mo, seeing Tyche’s difficulties, tried to run backwards… and, amazingly enough, it worked, and he was able to run around the storm with minimal fuss, carrying his wolf in his arms, it looking backward and acting as his eyes. Tyche followed him, and the Realmshifter Stevanus tried as well, only to get badly shocked and collapse in the storm.

Rasine, knowing Gaius valued Stevanus, decided to put forth at least a small effort, and successfully rescued him. Mo applied some salve, and Tyche Bloodshifted, resulting in a much more healthy man. They easily made it the rest of the way into the Inn, where they found a slim Grate-Scratcher girl trapped under a smoldering beam. Mo hefted it off her, and then Tyche healed her broken rib, making it merely badly bruised. The girl, one Svetana Milevic [who spoke with a vaguely Russian accent], told them she was a friend of Brunei, and believed that the problem was a recurring condition of its, known as “moulting,” where the elf sheds its current physical form and creates a new one. She said that if they could collect the survivors of the mess and make it through the shifting reality to the elf’s room upstairs, she could speak to it and probably get the moulting to stop.

The team surveyed the burning wreck that was the Inn of the Worlds, looking for survivors in the mess…

SANNA (Sara/Ann) – Self-Actuated Neural Network Array

Rasine doesn’t believe a thing Tyche says

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Shadows and Subterfuge: The Revolution Op Part 2

After finishing up with 3rd-of-Spines’ attack, the team settled down for the long haul, ready to spend the next six months starting a revolution.

[A long-term Social conflict based on the Diaspora book, the revolution held a Revolution square on one side of the map, and the downfall of the PCs’ allies the Hidden-Truth party, on the other. The PCs and the enemy Exposed-Lies party fought to move the Under-, Middle-, and Upper-Classes to their preferred end of the track. The players created a composite character made up of their characters’ best traits (an exercise they seemed to quite enjoy), and each action was made up of the composite character’s dice rolls and a short in-character scene to help determine the roll and its modifiers].

The team began by visiting the Millennium Club, a middle-class criminal venue run by 3rd-of-Spines. Syler spoke with some Kipman immigrants and learned “How the Crime Functions." Erillia approached 3rd-of-Spines and, by connecting with him over their mutual hatred of Tessiria (who had “made Erillia’s list”), learning of a job opportunity on a weapons heist the next week (though it’s worth noting that everything 3rd-of-Spines hated about Tessiria had actually been done by Erillia). Rasine spoke to a few Pariahs and, “Embracing the Stereotype,” connected with them and convinced them there is “A Profit To Be Made in Revolution.” Mo spoke to some existing revolutionaries, who invited them to a meeting at the hospital of the revolutionary society. Tyche started “Following the Dance Craze,” increasing the team’s publicity and popularity.

After the club trip, the team followed up on their leads, influencing the criminals of the middle class into full revolt. Which their next step, the team went to the storage park, moving weapons to give to the revolutionaries — but the park was raided. The team, through judicious use of Erillia’s Dreamsharing and Tyche Bloodshifting (forcing the muscles of the police into her service), sent most of the police away. The lower classes were unmoved in either direction.

Next, the team went to the Parliament building, intent on embezzling the money the upper classes were using to pay their mercenaries who were fighting the revolution. Rasine stole and invoice, and Syler and Tyche forged it, and then Erillia used her disguise to seal the deal, and the team walked away with the mercenaries’ pay. Their last resort exhausted, the aristocrats had no choice but to accede to the revolutionaries’ demands — and the team again erupted into discussion on whether to push for full rebellion.

The true revolutionary Mo was outvoted by the more practical members of the team, and the Hidden-Truth Party took charge. The team went and spoke to the new Overgovernor Place-of-Tears, and he gave them Ibram, their original goal, to return to Gaius. He assured them that the Hidden-Truth party had no interest in invading the City — which Erillia determined was the truth, but for the rather disturbing reason that Place-of-Tears hates the City and wants nothing to do with it ever.

As they returned to the Realmshifting district, Baltinius walked with them, again pleading for help returning to the fold. The team promised to tell Gaius what he had done, and Rasine took a particular interest in finding out what he had done to fall out with Gaius in the first place [ ]. Back in the City, they reported to Gaius, who said that unfortunately they had no time for vacation, as there was terrible trouble at Gaius’s Outlander venue the Inn of the Worlds [not the End of the World, as the players misheard].

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Shadows and Subterfuge: The Revolution Op Part 1

The team spoke to Undergovernor Place-of-Tears to find out his ideas on fomenting revolution. Place-of-Tears advised them that the key is to show the underclasses how terrible their life is under the Exposed Lies party, by deceit if necessary. Deceit is a long and storied tradition among the Niontians, who view self-interest as the highest moral duty, and thus honest, when it acts against one’s self-interest, is a weakness. He suggested they start at a Lightcatcher factory, harassing and hindering the workers, and to pretend to be representatives of the Exposed-Lies party.

A long debate commenced between Mo and Erillia. Mo opined that the revolution as planned is not going far enough, that this organized political coup will not actually free the lower classes from oppression. Erillia said that this was irrelevant, that so long as the revolution helps Gaius’s interests, it doesn’t matter. Mo rejoindered that whichever party was in charge was likely to work with Tessiria. The debate continued, then ended inconclusively, with the party deciding to follow Place-of-Tears’ plan for now, and decide later whether to start a full revolt or the traditional coup. It was noted that the Niontian government was split into a party in charge and an opposition party, like the British parliament, with many politicians known as “governors.” The head of the lead party is called the “Overgovernor” and the leader of the opposition party known as the Undergovernor, and both are elected to the post of governor, then appointed by the party to the post of Over- or Undergovernor.

The party went to the factory and scouted it out, and Syler decided to steal all the Lightcatcher and sell them on on the black market for a tidy profit. He stepped in across the 2-D walls of the factory and liberated a Lightcatcher, only to be caught by a security guard. Tyche immediately stepped in to save him, claiming they were government inspectors. They looked around and, seeing numerous safety violations (or at least claiming to), shut down the factory under the pretend authority of the Exposed-Lies party and Tessiria Aderino (who Erillia disguised herself as, complete with signet stamp on her shoe). Over the next several days, they watched the factory workers become more and more unhappy (while Syler contacted his black market friends, who looted the Lightcatchers and sold them).

The PCs, hanging around the factory, were confronted by 3rd-of-Spines, who claimed to be a union leader, and was obviously in charge of most criminal operations in the area. 3rd-of-Spines insisted that the PCs leave, and tried to bribe them, but [who?] angered him [how?], and he and his gangsters attacked. The following battle was not short, but was quite one-sided, the PCs easily striking down the gangsters and crippled 3rd-of-Spines, removing on arm and breaking the other before driving him off, hoping he would spread the word of "Tessiria"’s atrocities…

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Shadows and Subterfuge: The Long-Lost Cousin Op Part 2

¬While the team was struggling their way through Aphotic 9, their comrade-in-arms Erillia had finished up her family business and spoken to Gaius, who advised her that their old, estranged cousin Baltinius was working with the team. As neither Gaius nor Erillia trusted Baltinius, Gaius sent her to keep an eye on the devious cousin. Erillia tracked down the team at the in-home chapel of one of Ibram’s parishioners, to see Syler in mid-pounce…

Syler easily overpowered the weak old priest, and Mo smacked him across the head, knocking him unconscious. However, before they could celebrate and leave, Mo was struck by a shadowsteel crossbow bolt by a Niontian peering out from the chapel’s central room. Two more Niontian attackers quickly appeared, and the team employed several methods to fight them and protect their prize: Syler, after accidentally embedding her pickaxe in the floor, focused on ranged attacks with her own shadowsteel crossbow bolts; Mo got up close and personal; Erillia, coming upon the scene, joined in by removing all sensory information from the Niontians, making them “Blind, Deaf, and Numb”; Rasine fought by herself, as always, slipping in and out of the shadows; and Tyche utilized the luminary power of her Flameshaping… but unfortunately repeatedly failed to control the power, setting the chapel ablaze.

The chapel slowly burning, the team had trouble discerning how severe the damage was, as the NIontians had created a magical darkness that hid the visible spectrum of the flames — so they decided to retreat. Rasine used her Shadowshifting to force one Niontian to melt into oily shadow before throwing a chair through a window and escaping. Outside, Syler laid Ibram’s body down, then had to pull him from the greedy grasp of the remaining two Niontians, who hissed “Our target is here, we must flee!” Erillia created an illusion of a Lightshifting bomb, which terrified both Niontians into running… and Syler handed Ibram off to Mo as he went back inside to fetch his pickaxe. Mo immediately let Ibram slide to the ground and stomped one of the Niontians to death with his shadowsteel cleats, while Rasine threw her own dagger at the last one, splitting it in two. Inside, Tyche quelled the blaze, but she and Syler came outside just in time to see a shadow reach up from the ground and seemingly pull Ibram into the earth. Syler tried to hold him, but her grasp was not strong enough.

Rasine and Tyche both used their knowledge of Shadowshifting (one practical, one theoretical) to determine that the technique that pulled Ibram away teleported a target from one shadow to another, had a maximum range of about a half-mile… and seemed to have the signature of a master, one Undergovernor Place-of-Tears, the head of the Unprime 236 opposition party. The team decided to pay him a visit, but first stopped by Baltinius’ to help Rasine’s degenerating illness [the latest symptom, a crippling arthritis, had just struck]. There, Rasine was hesitant about taking medicine from a man she knew to be untrustworthy, and Tyche made everything so much worse by grabbing Rasine’s arm and trying to force her to take the medicine — especially since Rasine was already angry at Tyche for helping her during the fight [Aspect Better Off Alone]. Rasine succumbed to her anger and fear [Aspect Pushed into the Shadows], shouted “I don’t need your “help”!” and vanished, leaving the medicine behind. The others headed off to the Parliament building, Rasine following behind in the shadows (and pickpocketing, though not taking, the medicine).

At parliament, the team headed into the sub-basement and were directed to the Undergovernor, who greeted them graciously. Through a series of half-truths and hesitantly-revealed information, Erillia managed to discover that Place-of-Tears did in fact have Ibram, and he would need something even more valuable in order to give him up — but that they might find themselves on the same side. Meanwhile, Rasine, now blind as well as arthritic, pulled Mo aside and asked him to test the medicine. Mo did so, drinking a small portion and giving a bit to his wolf, and decided it was clean — so Rasine hesitantly drank it. Combined with some herbal supplements of Mo’s, Rasine started on a slow but definite road to recovery — and the first thing she did was to Farscribe Gaius and badmouth Tyche, talking about her wanton use of Flameshaping. Gaius advised Rasine to keep an eye on Tyche and keep a log of her behavior. Eventually, Erillia pulled out of Place-of-Tears that he wanted to completely overthrow the ruling Exposed-Lies party and take over the government — and they agreed that would be in everyone’s best interests, taking the warhawks out of power. Giving a qualified “yes” to the alliance, the team returned to Baltinius’s to Farscribe Gaius, who gave them permission to foment revolution…

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Shadows and Subterfuge: The Long-Lost Cousin Op Part 1

Fresh from their adventures in Bavingdon, the team reported back to Gaius. He told them their next mission would take them to Niontia Unprime 236, the nearest Niontian borderworld. There, a Leovite priest called Ibram was causing immense amounts of grief, stirring up pro-war, anti-City of Lives sentiment. Additionally, he served as an integral link in the Shadowsteel arms trade, taking the weapons from the mine the team had encountered in [The Shadowsteel Mine Op] and selling it to the Niontian military before funneling that cash back to Tessiria. Gaius told the team that taking down Ibram’s weapon-smuggling would be a necessary piece to stop the Niontian invasion, as well as provide an essential piece of evidence to prove Tessiria’s involvement in the whole scheme. Hence, their assignment: to find and abduct Ibram, and bring him back to the City.

[The game stopped here for a good hour or hour-and-a-half, as the group departed from the plot to discuss the ramifications of a world of living shadows — two-dimensional creatures. Through debate and GM interrogation, the following items were determined:

  • The original Niontia Prime is a 2-D world where humans can’t survive.
  • However, Niontia Unprime 236 is a physical world. It has no native life, a low but liveable temperature and oxygen content, and a red giant sun.
  • The Niontians live on the surface of the ground — or side of rocks, or structures, etc.
  • Niontians build their own shadow structures that are barriers for them, but not for humans — but 3-D barriers hold no problem for the Niontians.
  • In nature, Niontians can see only along the 2-D place — when a human’s foot leaves the ground, it vanishes.
  • Niontian Crafters, especially Shadowshifters and Farsharers, can perceive the 3-D world.
  • Shadowsteel is one of the only substances that can affect both Niontians and 3-D creatures (or “corporeals”/”corpies.”
  • Unprime 236 was settled by the Niontians because of its location — close to the City and the Shertasi and Ma’ar Empires.
  • The Niontians are involves in the Shertasi-Ma’ar war — either trapped in a situation they can’t escape, or opportunistically taking advantage of distracted opponents, depending on who you ask.
  • Unprime 236 serves as a trading post, shuttling goods and travelers between the City and further Realms. It also imports goods from the City to support its small corporeal population (mostly diplomats and merchants), and exports services like [??].
  • The corpie populace has built small numbers of physical buildings — and a there are also physical structures that provide shade for the Niontians.
  • The central city of Unprime 236 is named Aphotic 9 [ay-FOE-tick]. ]

Once the team crossed Realms into the gate district of Aphotic 9, they met up with Junius, their contact/translator/guide. Unfortunately, Junius was almost instantly assassinated, a Shadowsteel bolt in his throat.

[The notion of “shadow” something was mocked at turned into a running gag, everything labeled “shadow” — including the party: “Shmo,” “Rashine,” “Tyshe,” and “Shyler.”]

Rasine leapt after the assassin, easily stomping over the shadows in her way — but the Niontian assassin responded by blowing a black dust in her eyes, blinding her. Mo tried (and failed) to save Junius, then treated Rasine’s blindness. Tyche liberated Junius’s identity papers and searched (fruitlessly) for anything else of value. The team found themselves surrounded by the local police, who hissed at them in Niontian until another corpie, a Son of Light dressed in old-fashioned, raggedy finery, talked the police into leaving and introduced himself as Gaius’s distant cousin Baltinius. Rasine, naturally mistrustful, immediately checked with Gaius via Farscribe, and he verified Baltinius’s identity, but said they shouldn’t trust him too closely, as they had had a “disagreement” years ago.

Baltinius took the team to a lousy flat [flat! on a 2-D world! Hah!] and said he needed their help to get back in Gaius’s good graces, and would be happy to help the team find Ibram in exchange. He revealed that Ibram had been targeted by the opposition party in the Niontian Parliament, the Hidden Truth Party, and had recently vanished, either kidnapped or gone into hiding (“done a runner” in Baltinius’s words). Also, the team discovered that the assassin’s dust had infected Rasine with a deadly illness known as “shadowpox,” that would kill her within a day. Baltinius promised to find a cure while the team worked.

The team went out into Aphotic 9, questioning a parishioner at Ibram’s “Church of the Hooded Lantern,” a Parliamentary bureaucrat, a few criminals, and the Realmshifter who brought them to 236: Mo threatening with his Shadowsteel cleats, Syler and Tyche charming, Rasine subtly searching, and Tyche also researching in the local library. They discovered that Ibram was most likely targeted for kidnapping to exchange him for political favors from the dominant Exposed-Lies party — a standard, and fully-legal, part of the local political system — and had retreated to the home of a local corpie family associated with the church. Heading there, they confronted Ibram — and when he asked for a password, Syler simply tackled him.

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Shadows and Subterfuge: The Bavingdon Council Op

Armed with the knowledge, torn from Riduccio, that there was a mole in Bavingdon’s city council, the team returned to Bavingdon to see their old friend Arbron Solfidly, aka “Cockburn Fuckhorn.” There, they spoke to Solfidley, who plied them with whiskey and fine talk, and advised them to investigate the newest member of the council, a young Rural woman named Bessa Idmengton.

This they did, finding Bessa’s small house on the edge of the rather large Idmengton estate. While Mo and Syler knocked on the door, Rasine went around back and entered via a convenient window. Syler concocted a strange story about being part of a census, and Bessa seemed to believe it, inviting them in (but not before the intoxicating scent of her womanly Rural flowers wooed Mo into trusting her implicitly). There, she offered them sweet tea, and Syler and Mo accepted.

Meanwhile, Rasine had discovered a secret room, where she found that Bessa had been using her feminine wiles to influence the council, and took possession of Bessa’s signet ring and a heliotype of her and a local councilman, “Moose,” mid-coitus. As Bessa went to prepare the tea, Rasine slipped out and told her teammates that Bessa was bad news, before slipping back into hiding.

When the Rural returned with the tea, Mo easily downed his, his powerful body easily resisting its poison without even realizing it was dosed. Syler, on the other hand, casually refused to drink, claiming he wasn’t thirsty — until Bessa realized Syler had caught her game, and pulled a small crossbow. The fight was short but not pretty, Mo having great difficulty fighting against the woman who had ensorceled him with her scent, but the team prevailed, taking her down.

The team returned a captured Bessa to Gaius back in the City, only stopping off to thank Solfidley for his help — and for Mo, oddly enough, to accuse him of poisoning his whiskey [Mo’s player had had more than his share of whiskey that night, and decided that in-game, Mo had been poisoned by Solfidley].

Perhaps the City council is made up (in part) of the Speakers of the town councils

Cockburn Fuckhorn

Rurals go both ways — animal and vegetable

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Shadows and Subterfuge: The Frame-Op

Eschewing the night of rest Gaius offered, the team asked immediately for their next assignment. Gaius laid out the problem: Riduccio, their old enemy from The Shadow Op, was levying a lawsuit against Metis for grand deception, claiming he had faked the entire assassination attempt through Dreamsharing, as there was no physical evidence: Of course, the team knew the Niontian assassin had faded into nothingnessl the weapon had also, while the bolt fired had disappeared because Syler had kept it as a trophy; and the hero who saved Metis could not be found because it was Syler in disguise. Quickly deciding they didn’t want to reveal the truth and reveal themselves, nor did they have the resources to fake the evidence needed, they decided to force Riduccio into dropping the suit.

Knowing he used to frequent the “Cup-and-Ball” whorehouse (and abuse the girls), they checked back in there, where the madam knew Syler and Mo as the heroes who had stopped Riduccio and had begun to frequent an extremely seedy tavern and whorehouse, “the Pits,” the team headed over (Syler unable to meet Erillia’s gaze). At the Pits, Syler took a casual drink at the bar and inquired about customers being rough with the girls. The bartender replied that that was a service that the Pits offered, but the most receptive girl was currently with a customer — and happened to look an awful lot like Syler.

Since they knew Riduccio has a preference for felinoids and for hurting his prostitutes, the team concluded it must be their target in the back room, and decided to use their newly-acquired Lightcatcher (a magical camera, essentially) to take a few incriminating heliotypes. Rasine slipped into the bad and saw sights she could not unsee. The light in the room was too dim to take a good heliotype without using the flash mechanism, and she knew that would alert Riduccio. Summoning her Shadowshaping, Rasine ever-so-slowly pulled the shadows away from the “couple” until she could see clearly, and snapped a few pictures. She sneaked back out and shared the pictures with her comrades, who expressed disguist but realized they would be perfect for blackmailing Riduccio.

They waited until the the courtier left the Pits, and followed him in disguise before they approached a convenient alley. Syler distracted Riduccio, while Rasine sneaked up and dosed him with a soporific created by Mo. Taking Riduccio to one of Syler’s old hang-outs, an abandoned sausage factory, they tied him to a chair and began interrogating: Good Cop (Erillia), Bad Cop (Mo), and, given Riduccio’s sexual proclivities, Syler was, in a pinch, “Sexy Cop.”

Riduccio panicked immediately upon seeing the heliotypes and proof of having a half-breed child, but was initially more afraid of his boss Tessiria than his abductors. However, Erillia created illusory Niontians in the corners — remembering Riduccio had feared them back during the Shadow Op — and suddenly Riduccio was hysterically ready to furnish the “Niontians” with wahtever they wanted. Still, though, he was unwilling to instantly drop the lawsuit, because it was Tessiria’s idea, and she would punish or even kill him. But he had an idea — if there was another problem, more important to Tessiria than the lawsuit, Riduccio could justify dropping it. He recommended that the “Niontians” remove Tessiria’s mole in Bavingdon’s city council. The team warned Riduccio to follow their deal, and returned him to his house, unconscious and with one of the heliotypes folded up in his pocked to ensure he didn’t think it a dream.

Gaius, upon hearing the tale, expressed distaste at their methods but pleased by their success, also told the team to head straight for Bavingdon after taking a well-deserved half-day off.

[A notable (if inaccurate) joke was this, while Rasine was looking for Riduccio: “In the first room, the sex was too gentle. In the second room, the sex was too rough. But in the third room, the sex was just right.”]

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Shadows and Subterfuge: The Practical Theosophy Op and the Wild Hunt Op

Still at the Heliotrope Cliffs, the team was approached by a coach claiming to be from their boss Gaius. The team verified the coachman’s identity as an employee of Gaius, then took the coach around to a Practical Theosophy research station working for House Trevelanius. Their mission, very simply, was to determine why the station’s project was behind schedule and try to get it back on track.

At the research station, they were greeted by Mostocles, the supercilious and irritable head researcher. He informed them that the philosophers working at the station had a local demigod, designated subject-003*, held for experimentation, and they were trying to develop a weapon, nicknamed the “Godbow,” that would use the demigod’s reality-warping abilities to assassinate any target from any distance.

The team reacted in a variety of ways to this information: Rasine and Syler worried that the weapon would make their jobs obsolete. Rasine immediately felt that Gaius, kind-hearted as he was, would never approve of a project that required capture and torture of an innocent creature, and immediately contacted him. Gaius responded defensively, saying he needed the weapon to use against Tessiria (news itself to the team, who were surprised to hear Gaius’s goals had turned from disgracing Tessiria to murdering her), and that he was sick of his weak stomach standing in the way of his goals, so he didn’t want to know the details of the weapon if they were unpleasant. Rasine was conflicted, but her overriding loyalty towards Gaius turned her aims towards ensuring the weapon worked. Erillia, meanwhile, saw the potential in the Godbow and (realizing she had little chance of wresting control away from Gaius), determined to gain access to it herself. Syler and Mo investigated the room, finding that the god – a constantly-shifting being transforming from plant to animal to mineral and back again – whispered “help me” from its place trapped inside an invisible Forceshifting field.

Erillia began to seduce Mostocles, who responded by asking her to keep a secret for him: that the weapon wasn’t ready, and he had no idea when it would be (or, she saw in his eyes if not his words, if it would work at all). She tentatively agreed, but insisted on seeing and getting a copy of all the research on the god and the weapon. They left together for the library.

Meanwhile, Syler and MO felt pity for the captured god, especially when they saw the blueprints for the weapon, with manacles to hold the god in place and the dubious assurance of Mostocles that the god would live through “at least a few” firings of the Godbow. They decided to release the deity, and scouted the holding room to find eight carved runes at the floor and ceiling corners of the room, that seemed to hold the Forceshifted cage in place. After being noticed destroying one rune and being warned by a researcher “if you destroy those runes, it’ll escape and kill us all!” Mo mixed up a sedative and the two forced it upon the researchers and their assistant.

The duo methodically destroyed the runes, smashing the one nearest the door last, as they warned the door guards and ran for it, uncertain the god would consider them friend instead of foe. Having just sent the experimental documents to be copied, Mostocles and Erillia headed back to the containment room upon hearing the massive tremors of the god attempting to knock down the door.

Erillia and Rasine (who had been exploring) arrived back just in time to see a stream of bees fly through the narrow gap between the containment room’s door and floor, and proceed to cover Mostocles completely and sting him to death. The bees then headed for Syler, who nervously held still as the bees covered him – and the god whispered “thank you. If you need my help, shout to the wind what my worshipers call me – Thorvald.” The god burst through the ceiling, and the team headed for the exit, stopping only long enough to retrieve the documentation from an easily-cowed copyboy.

On their way down the Cliffs and back to the City, the team saw a strange six-legged big cat cross their path. Ignoring it, they made camp for th night, only to be interrupted bya small group of injured and bedraggled travelers. The travelers said they were merchants and had been attacked not only by a trio of said cats, but by a huge manlike lizard, and claimed that he creatures had been arguing over who got to kill them. Rasine went to investigate their claim (and loot their wagons), but when she arrived, she encountered a monstrous Shertasi – a twelve-foot-tall reptilian humanoid with a mouth full of six-inch-long teeth and an angry attitude. He introduced himself as Tarshon, and, intimidating the hells out of Rasine (already delicate because she was caught out in the open), insisted she take him back to her camp and the merchants. He explained an ancient ritual between the Shertasi and Ma’ar, to find prey and fight each other over the right to finish the hunt.

Meanwhile, the three Ma’ar – 14-foot, six-legged cats with opposable thumbs on their front paws – invaded the camp, and their leader Hhhhyow insisted the team hand over the merchants and guide the cats to the Shertasi. The team had just tentatively agreed (while planning to double-cross the Ma’ar), when Rasine and the Shertasi Tarshon came tromping through the woods. The three Ma’ar went racing towards the Shertasi. Rasine disappeared into the underbrush; Erillia put an illusion into Tarshon’s mind of another cat flanking him from behind; Mo created a muddy goop designed to mask scent, adn began to spread it on the merchants; Syler started taking pot-shots at both Shertasi and Ma’ar with his bow.

Erillia made several more illusions – transforming one Ma’ar into a duplicate of the Shertasi, and created the sounds and smells of the merchants inside a tent while the real ones started to run – while Tarshon killed one Ma’ar and wounded another, taking significant wounds himself in the process from both Ma’ar and Syler. Mo administered his scent-masker to the rest of th team while Rasine gathered up the team’s gear, and Mo Wildshifted scaly armor onto the monstrous combatants to extend the battle and give the team and merchants more time to escape. Their strategies worked, and both the team and merchants got away from whoever won the fight, and made it back to the City over the next several days.

*Subject-001 was none other than The Greensman, and Mostocles had failed to capture him. Subject-002 had been a minor urban deity, who had been apparently destroyed during attempted capture.

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Shadows and Subterfuge: The Shadowsteel Mine Op: Part 2

Taking Bachik the mine foreman out of the mine, the team began to interrogate him on four subjects: his past, Tessiria, the mine, and the Niontians. The conversation went back and forth for a time: Erillia claimed to be an enforcer for the Centrum Guild [whose mandate, among other responsibilities, includes an analogue to the US INS], ready to bust Bachik for hiring illegal aliens (the Niontians); Syler and Bachik threw barbs back and forth at each other about their past, and how each had gone from leading a gang to becoming an aristocratic lackey; Mo used physical intimidation (and removed the invisible tracking tattoo with his scythe, then handed it off to his wolf to lure the guards away); and Rasine, never one to get intimately involved, searched through the files she had pulled and found a few choice bits of information (such as the questionable-at-best legality of the Niontian workers, the fact that Tessiria was the mine’s patron, and that the mine was working far deeper than officially reported).

Eventually, the team pried the following story out of the foreman: When leading the Land Sharks gang, he had always been in the pay of the Dorian family, which included depositing anordinar unwanted child on a doorstep and removing the nursemaid to the Dorian family mine. Years later, Tessiria had bought the mine – and him – and the dirty work he’d been party to increased in scale. Tessiria had made a deal with the Niontians to mine ore and make Shadowsteel weapons for them, so that they could affect the ordinary physical world. She had set up a shiftgate projector deep in the mine, where the Niontians would mine and forge shadowsteel, then take it through the gate directly to Nionta Unprime, avoiding all the hassle of using the official ’gates in the Crux.

Armed with this information, the team entered the mine, Bachik in tow, and spread word that the entire mine was going to collapse and the miners needed to evacuate. Heading down into the deep mines, they found the location of the ’gate projector and shadowsteel forge. They attacked both physically and psychologically, Erillia making an illusion of the mine collapsing around them. The team managed to slay two Niontians, but the other two fled through the ’gate to Niontia Unprime – but not before sabotaging the ’gate projector. The team gathered up a few shadowsteel weapons and fled, exiting the mine just as it vanished, leaving a single gaping cavern inside the mountain. Perhaps the entire mountain had been Realmshifted to Niontia Unprime, or perhaps it was completely destroyed. Either way, their work was done – and as they were pondering this, a carriage pulled up. A man got out and said “Get in. We need to go to your next assignment, to the Practical Theosophy research station on the other side of the Cliffs…”

[A number of amusing anecdotes came from this session:

From Syler’s player, after the rest joked that the rival gangs were named after the gangs from West Side Story – “I don’t know who the Sharks and the Jets are. Sorry, I don’t keep up with gang activity. Or sports teams.”

Noting the glow on our video-chatting player’s face, and that it came from her glowing computer screen: “She’s got internet all over her face”

and later, upon momentarily forgetting her name: “What’s-her-face? It’s hard to tell, there’s internet all over it.”

A potential “Computer Name” for the video-chatting player, who is often treated as though she inhabits the computer rather than communicating through it: “A.N.N.A.: Artificial Network Nanite Avatar”

A few of the many insults traded with Bachik: (to the Rural): Dirtfucker, mudblood, (to the cat Kipman): Pussy

On the Rural’s sexuality: “He goes both ways – animal and vegetable.”

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Shadows and Subterfuge: The Demigod Op

The team spent a restless night, Erillia hallucinating and Rasine breathing hard and resting uneasily on her cracked rib. The next morning, they spoke to Varrio, who told them he was temporarily in command of the Crashers, until they could have a “Contest of Champions.” The team decided to leave before Varrio figured out it was them, not imaginary Blightbound, who had killed their leader. Varrio advised them to watch out for the “wild gardener,” a legendary creature/god/man that roamed the area they’d be passing through on their way out of the Wilderwoods.

Along the trail, they encountered a trio of Niontians crossing their path. The team struck first, Mo Wildshifting a gap in the leaves to shine sunlight down on the shadows and Erillia Dreamsharing one into total sensory deprivation. The team wondered momentarily if the Niontians were actually hostile – but if they hadn’t been before, they were now, firing shadowy arrows at the team. Mo took a glancing blow, but one lodged iSyler’s chest, the arrow transformed into shadow, two-dimensional and insubstantial.

Around this time, Mo’s wolf and Pi’s Mindsharing located a mysterious presence, which gave Pi a tremendous sense of tranquility and peace. The presence suddenly arrived, in a sprouting of plants springing out of the ground. It revealed itself as the wild gardener, a short broad Rural(?), so covered in plants and mossy hair (fur?) that not an inch of skin showed [and spoke with a thick Aussie accent]. He glanced over at the Niontians, calling them “shadowy creatures,” and suddenly plants rose up from the ground and smothered the Niontians, apparently at his command,. He introduced himself as The Greensman, and asked the team to accompany him back to his “garden,” as Rasine stayed out of his view and examined the ex-Niontians, becoming suspicious that they left no trace, instead of the oily smear she had come to expect. At the Greensman’s “garden,” a small farm filled with animals (all called “Morris”), the mysterious man told the team he’d love to be friends with them, and, after quoting the Seeding Manual extensively (which Mo matched him line for line), asked them for a favor: to get rid of some poachers who had been killing his animal friends. Rasine was dubious of the Greensman’s intentions, and searched the farm for evidence of wrongdoing (and found nothing), bu the others, especially Pi and Mo, trusted the strange man and agreed to the task. Asking his help, the Greensman gifted Erillia with a special tea blend, designed to calm her mind by the following morning (Rasine refused to reveal herself and receive treatment).

Rasine believed this was all a waste of time, and contacted Gaius to say so. He said that if the Greensman could transport them more quickly than walking, let alone his other possible favors, it would be worth it, and gave the team three hours to take out the poachers.

After Mo tracked the poachers to their camp, the team scouted it out and ecided to begin with a diplomatic approach, with Syler and Erillia talking to the poachers. Parth the head poacher showed himself to be a vile and evil man, caring only for money and believing the Greensman to be nothing but a legend. Erillia responded by assuring the poachers that the Greensman was not only real, but terrifying, watering his field with the blood of poachers [placing an aspect “Terrified of the Greensman” on them]. Then Rasine started the attack on the poachers, throwing a poisoned dart into Parth’s neck. Parth turned out to be a Wildshifter, binding Syler to the ground with vines – but Mo struck back and did the same to Parth. Erillia provided an illusion of their prey coming back from the dead to haunt them, terrifying the men so that one fled into the cookfire, burning to death. After Syler struck Parth with his axe, crippling the poacher’s hand and creasing his skull, Parth struck back, awkwardly firing his long bow at Syler from too close a distance, causing little harm.

Meanwhile, Lang (Mo’s wolf) drove a fifth poacher into camp, killing him – and then Mo pulled anotehr into the trees by Wildshifting, and Lang tore out the man’s intestines. Mo tied up the last poacher, while the others of the team recovered several bows the poachers had “left behind.” They returned the poacher to the Greensman, who said he would try to reform the new “Morris,” and granted the team a small wooden carving of a bird, claiming they could contact him with it htey needed his help with the “shadowy creatures.”

The Greensman summoned a few giant birds, who carried the team to Bavingdon, stopping only to pick up a trunk of furs from the poachers’ campsite. In Bavingdon, the team handed out the furs to the populace, increasing their goodwill significantly – and then met with Solfidly again, telling him of their deeds for him (killing Rolius, aiming the Crashers at the Dead Tribes instead of Bavingdon, and gifting his town with furs). He agreed to support Trevelanius during the vote, and expressed interest in further “favors.”

Checking in with Gaius through their Farscribes, the team received their next orders: to investigate a mine owned by Tessiria Aderino, in the Heliotrope Cliffs

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