The City of Lives

Atomic Robo Playtest Parts 1 & 2

One of Tesladyne’s facilities, the mycological research institute Biome 3, had failed to check in. Atomic Robo decided to assign one of his most reliable teams of action scientists to find out what had happened. This team was made up of:
-Doktor Sprache: A specialist in linguistics and former Stasi agent, the pseudonymous Sprache can speak any language, mimic any accent, and identify a person’s hometown from a few sentences. His background in the East German secret police makes him a dangerous man to encounter.
-Frau Doktor Lise Meitner: One of the pioneers in nuclear physics in the early part of the twentieth century, Meitner spent sixty years in a Nazi cryogenic storage facility before being revived by Tesladyne. She has long been ignored by the scientific establishment, and her desperation to prove herself has driven her more than a little around the bend.
-Saliah el-Amin: A consulting detective on Tesladyne’s retainer, Saliah’s expertise in forensics is matched only by her arrogance. She can read people like a crime scene, but never learned to actually treat them as anything but tools.
-Dr. Aster Levine: An up-and-coming expert in quantum physics, Levine suffered through a botched experiment in quantum teleportation and is now partially out-of-phase with reality. Her unstable molecular ray gun creates as much chaos as it does benefits.

After a short briefing, the team headed to Oregon. On the plane ride, Sprache attempted to engage his colleagues in conversation, but found himself rebuffed.

Eventually, the team arrived at Biome 3, and rang the intercom. They spoke to Maslin over the intercom, and Sprache determined her hometown of Calgary while Saliah listened and realized that Maslin wasn’t following correct protocol for a communications blackout. However, neither was paranoid enough to assume that Maslin was compromised, so they headed into the airlock and waited patiently (after Aster determined that the decontamination procedure was reasonably timed and not a trap). Speaking to Maslin in the living quarters, the team heard that the satellite uplink wasn’t working. Lise offered to fix it, but accepted Maslin’s excuse that it was already being worked on, and while Saliah determined that Maslin was telling half-truths, she decided not to act on her intel yet. The team accepted Maslin’s offer of a tour of the facility, and while they saw that the biology lab had been abandoned in a rush, they continued to follow Maslin into the rainforest biome.

Saliah listened to the strangely quiet biome, and then heard the sound of something moving, when Maslin had said nothing was around. She confronted Maslin with the fact that Maslin had been giving half-truths; the scientist collapsed under Saliah’s relentless questioning, and began talking. She told the detective about the Ophiocordyceps fungus, how it began to spread. She told her about the colony, and how miraculous it was to become part of it. She told her about the two scientists who shunned the colony, as well as the power of Gazenko, who now led the colony’s spread. Saliah decided to head for her colleagues and warn them about the mind-controlling spores. She was headed off by a colonized monkey, but managed to hide from it.

As soon as Maslin was “caught” by Saliah, a boar rushed out of the forest, attacking Aster and Lise. Coincidence, or the colony protecting itself? The boar, covered in fungus, attacked mercilessly, and was shortly joined by a small pack of vicious monkeys. Lise zapped the boar with her weapons-grade laser pointer after it failed to bite through her super-dense Meitnerium cloak. She then realized that the rampant radiation poisoning that has long ailed her would be very harmful to any animals that managed to bite her. Aster fired her molecular ray at the monkeys. One was struck, and while it was burned, it also increased in size, becoming an eight-foot-tall “Mega Monkey,” though it seemed more confused than super-strong.

Sprache entered a handful of the most commonly-used 4-digit passcodes, hoping to escape the dangerous situation. He succeeded, only to see a fierce-looking military man (Dr. Morrow) rushing down the umbilicus. Morrow slammed through the door and tried to shoot Sprache in the face. Sprache wrestled for the gun, twisting his ankle as he tripped and sending the bullet into the fire alarm system, setting off the sprinklers. The heavy water fall punctured the fragile mushrooms, spreading spores through the air, but all but Lise closed their mouths and kept the spores away until they fell to the ground, waterlogged.

Sprache headed out through the umbilicus and smashed the keypad on his way out, shutting the door for good.

Morrow, seeing that one of the two uninfected action scientists was where he could no longer reach him, started sprinting towards uninfected Aster. Meanwhile, the remaining monkey gathered up a handful of mushrooms and rushed towards Aster, ready to hurl them into her face. Saliah shouted at Morrow, using her knowledge of psychology to convince him that he didn’t really want to shoot Aster. Aster decided to escape Morrow and the monkey by phasing through the dense foliage to the east—where she saw a gigantic hole cut into the dome, with huge and mysterious tracks leading away…

Aster had just phased through the forest to avoid mushroom-throwing from the monkey. She saw a hole in the wall, with giant tracks leading away from the building. Even more distressing, a GIANT FUCKING BEAR, dressed in human clothes, was sniffing at the tracks (which were even bigger than the bear). She decided not to worry about the tracks, hoping that the bear would kill anything that runs. She headed back in behind Morrow and pointed her molecular ray at the back of his head, saying “don’t move.”

Outside, the bear, one “Grisly Adams,” stared at the hole in the biome with great concern. Since he had been rescued from the Great Time Dilation Disaster of 2007, he had been working for Tesladyne: Officially, he is Test Subject #2453, but in practice he functions as a security consultant, using his skills as a former police detective from the extinct bear civilization from inside the time dilation field. Several days ago, he had been sent out into the Oregon wilderness by Dr. Gazenko to track down a missing laboratory monkey. However, the monkey had taken him on a long wild-goose-chase, eventually leading him back to Biome 3, and the angry bear was looking to find out what the hell had happened to his workplace. He raced into the middle of everything, reared up to his full twelve-foot height, and shouted “Will someone kindly tell me what the fuck is going on here?!”

Lise was concerned that the fire suppression system would send up further spores or damage electrical equipment, so she made some jury-rigged repairs.

Morrow tried to convince Grisly that the Action Scientists were invaders, but Grisly’s long-term detective training meant that he didn’t buy it, and realized that Morrow was acting out of character. Given his history with “mad scientists” and clean-up teams (being created and tested on by the former and rescued by the latter), Grisly decided to trust the Action Scientist clean-up team over Morrow.

Aster fired her molecular ray at Morrow as the doctor tried to run, but the military man dodged out of the way at the last second. The monkey, still armed with mushrooms, hurled them at Aster. At this moment, she happened to see a discarded wrench on the biome floor and leaned down to pick it up, with the mushrooms flying over her head through pure coincidence like she was the Road Runner in a Looney Tunes cartoon. She then fired back at the monkey, who hid in the dense foliage.

Grisly shouted loudly at Morrow, citing the Tesladyne regulations for emergency procedures and the fact that he knew Morrow was acting out of character, demanding that Morrow “sit down, shut up, and give me the gun.” Morrow, cowed by the bear, sat down heavily and flicked the safety on his weapon before sliding it to Grisly. Meanwhile, Lise cut through the monkey with her laser pointer, filling the biome with the scent of burnt flesh and toasted mushrooms.

Lise introduced herself to Grisly, who responded with “nice to meet you, ma’am,” and asked for more. He then recognized Lise Meitner as another person pulled out of their proper place and time and rescued by Tesladyne, and relaxed—and the idea of starting a support group for those of Tesladyne’s employees who were officially test subjects, like Lise, Aster, and himself. He casually commented that “For a clean-up squad, you sure made a hell of a mess,” then introduced himself to the rest of the team.

From outside the dome in the PNW darkness, the team saw a flash of lightning and heard a sonic boom reverberate through the structure, and then footsteps running through the forest outside. A rather muscular figure approached through the hole in the dome. In the buff, he shouted “Am I too late? Where is the moss man? Am I in the correct timestream? Talking bear, I was not informed of that… I apologize for my appearance, every piece of matter takes more power to transport through time.”

The nude man explained that he was from the future: “I come from a future too horrible to contemplate, overridden by the fungus… It has repopulated the earth with its vile fungal essence. I am here to right the past and prevent this horror from ever taking place.” He wanted to take Morrow’s clothes, but the team advised him that they could be contaminated, and he ended up wrapping himself in Grisly’s oversized shirt like a toga.

The team began to talk to the time traveler, who said his name was Jones, asking if he knew how to cure the fungal infection (as the majority of them were infected, it was of definite interest). He replied “No. A small rebel contingent has sent me back as a last resort. There is no cure as I know it. I am here to prevent it from ever happening.” Aster quipped back drily “Then you’re going to have to go back another week.” Hearing that, he was extremely upset, and explained that his time machine runs on a very rare element, Meitnerium, and he had no more—the 3 whole grams the rebels had managed to create were gone. Lise Meitner quietly neglected to mention that she had an entire cloak made of a Meitnerium alloy.

Jones was surprised that Grisly would just take his word that he was from the future, but Grisly replied “After this day, yes,”—but also made it clear that the only reason Jones wasn’t on the ground in cuffs was that he was obviously unarmed (and thus wasn’t going to get to borrow a gun). Jones explained that he had gone back to “the birthplace, the foundation of the moss man kingdom. The birth of new order was established on October 7th, 2012.” Grisly replied that “Something big went that way and it smelled like wet socks,” and Jones was extremely upset that he’d missed Gazenko’s moss beast.

Grisly aside, the rest of the action scientists were hesitant to admit that Jones might be a time traveler, so asked for some proof. Jones gave his time machine (which looked just like an iPhone for camouflage reasons—though this increased the team’s worry that he was just a crazy naked man with an iPhone) to Aster to examine. Lise reluctantly handed over a small piece of her Meitnerium cloak, and Aster and Jones headed back a week to try and stop this mess before it started. However, they found themselves still in the rainforest biome, only four hours in the past—just in time to see Gazenko riding a quickly-growing fungus beast into the wilderness. Jones advised Aster that since they’d come too late to properly stop things, it would be safer to avoid “the butterfly effect” and try not to affect anything until they caught back up with the “present.” However, he left Grisly’s shirt hidden in the underbrush to act as proof that they’d gone back in time, and Aster examined the computers in the biology lab, gathering data to examine as the duo took “the slow path” and waited around for four hours. Unfortunately, Aster’s attempt to be quick taking down the data ended up in her accidentally turning off the cell tower, presumably causing her own team’s arrival.

From the perspective of the rest of the scientists, Aster and Jones disappeared and then instantly walked out of the underbrush. Then Jones, dressed in a Tesladyne uniform, went over to the underbrush and retrieved Grisly’s shirt with a flourish. He remarked that “The mayans were right, by the way. This is the whole 2012 business,” then the scientists sat down for a brainstorm, using the information Aster had pulled from the past.

Aster took initial charge of the brainstorm, using her Quantum Physics to explain how the fungus absorbed energy through “Quantum Coherence.” Jones then used his knowledge of Temporal Mechanics to realize that someone from the future had actually brought back the superintelligent fungus to the present, creating a predestination paradox with “Fungus From the Future Hitchhiking Back.” Grisly then took control and determined with his knowledge of Forensics that “ Dr. Dumbass was drinking coffee out of the beakers again,” explaining how the infection originally spread. Aster brought the ideas together into a workable hypothesis that explained everything that had happened:

“Jones was tracking through a mossy field of the future, an evolved type of moss was caught in the treads of his shoe. Upon his next mission, back in time (2009), the fungus fell out of his shoe, ensuring the death of Michael Jackson. Upon forensic teams recovery, the strange moss was taken to a Tesladyne lab for analysis. Unique properties prompted the desire to grow more for alternate testing purposes, thus it was added to the biodome, to grow in a controlled environment.

Through the course of many samples taken and experiments conducted, Dr. Gazenko, an avid coffee connoisseur, dropped and broke his favorite coffee mug. In his slightly groggy state, desperately needing that first cup of coffee of the day, he grabbed the nearest beaker he could reach and filled it to the brim with an earthy coffee.

The earthiness, while delicious, covered up the fact that he was also tasting the remainder of mossy growth in the beaker.

Through Quantum Coherence, the moss began to feed on coffee, and once entered into Dr. Gazenko’s body, had to rely on a different food source; Dr. Gazenko himself.

The first mutation of the moss was to make the human body a habitable place to live. The second mutation was more outwardly visible, as mycelia grew from Dr. Gazenko’s head; creating a source for spore production and thus fulfilling the natural course of all life; to reproduce.

Thus the spores infected other animals, changing the animal kingdom inhabitants into plant kingdom inhabitants, the first of which was our Moss monster, and offspring of Dr. Gazenko himself.”

With this hypothesis, Aster realized that the fungus beast was “Dr. Gonzo’s Baby”!

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Lord Useless and the Men of Real Talent: Stupid Idea No. 152: Go on a Body-Swap Safari with Toulouse Part 3

Mili held the scout at knifepoint and escorted her back to the Men of Real Talent. Considering what to do with her, Gruda pointed out that they had a Meme with them, and he would be able to take over the scout’s body and infiltrate Chuscu’s compound, perhaps then able to find a secret entrance or otherwise get the Men inside. Mili was still unsure about the Meme bodyswapping, but was outvoted and proceeded to make a blind, keeping the Men hidden for the half-hour or so that Toulouse needed to transfer his essence [provoking a dirty joke about “transmitting his male essence” from Mindy]. Toulouse proceeded to speak in a soft chant, while Mili watched out for other scouts—who were searching for their compatriot, broadcasting signs for “where are you” across their skin. Meanwhile, Eustice continued to hold Iolanthe in his arms, keeping her “safe.” Jonakin returned from the wilderness, saying she had been taken to the Chayara cats’ cave, and that her time with the cats “taught her to take life as it comes”—the cats are very Buddhist.

Once Toulouse had taken over the scout’s body, the Men were left with a confused Sky-Carver who had only vague memories of agreeing to host a Meme. Toulouse reassured them that he would eventually recover his memories of what Toulouse had done with his body, and that Epicureans go to extreme lengths for the opportunity to be taken over by a Meme. The Sky-Carver, Gaviero, tried to figure out where he was and who he was with—and accidentally addressed Eustice as “Lord Useless.” Eustice dropped Iolanthe on the hard ground and pointed his sword at the Sky-Carver’s neck, shouting “What did you just call me?!” Iolanthe, trying to prevent a scene, convinced Eustice that Gaviero simply didn’t know about all of Eustice’s great deeds—which led to Eustice recounting them all in a loud voice. He asked for help from his greatest fan, and Gruda talked about how cool Eustice is, but her unsure, halting delivery failed to convince the Sky-Carver. Iolanthe spoke up, making up details and attributing the grand deeds of all the Men of Real Talent to Eustice (unwittingly making Eustice believe that he did do all those things himself). Gaviero, impressed, became a massive Eustice supporter, and gave up the names of those who had told him bad things about Eustice.

Mili, outside, was panicking about Eustice’s loud scene, and saw a scout who had heard the commotion. She whispered to Toulouse, who stepped out and greeted the scout in halting Chinkasqa (as it took some time for him to gain use of the new bodies’ skills and language). He managed to fool the scout into believing that he was who he appeared to be, and that he had captured Eustice and the Men of Real Talent. He mimed putting his hands up to the Men, communicating that they should surrender and he would find a way to get them out later. They complied (Eustice under protest), with Mili following behind in camouflage.

The Men of Real Talent followed the scout to a small compound surrounded by spiked walls. There they encountered Chuscu, who began to laugh maniacally at the idea of capturing Eustice, whose first arrival in Munti Manchay had “heralded his downfall” (as Theonides had given Sayani’s revolution added legitimacy). The camp was also filled with a small group of Shertasi, the twelve-foot-tall imperialist reptiles whose crossrealm war constantly threatened the City. Their leader, a Shertasi named Tassran, wanted to know who these people were and what reason he had not to kill them. Iolanthe convinced Tassran that they were unthreatening, and he decided to put them in a jail cell. Eustice proceeded to throw a hissy fit, throwing his name around and demanding to be treated with respect. Tassran, apparently believing it was better to treat such an important hostage well, agreed to house Eustice in his own tent, guarded by one Shertasi warrior—and the scout Toulouse was inhabiting, at Eustice’s request. Upon seeing the slabs of raw meat that was apparently Tassran’s dinner, Eustice also demanded his chef (Gruda), but Tassran declined, saying perhaps he would allow her to help later and under strict supervision, but he would not simply give her run of the camp.

The Men of Real Talent, placed in a cell, began to plan their escape. Iolanthe, reaching out with her thoughts, realized that there was Soulsharing going on elsewhere in the camp—Soulsharing that seemed to be remarkably similar to what she had felt when Toulouse took over the scout. Gruda, looking around the jungle flora that covered the floor of the cell [my accidental saying “jungle fauna” created a running gag about the cell being carpeted in corpses], found a beetle whose bite would induce sleep and began to figure out how to introduce it to the Shertasi guard.

Mili overheard Tassran and Chuscu talking. She was able to gather that Tassran had been contracted to somehow destroy Sayani’s reputation in exchange for ownership of the Varos diamond mine (why? she wondered), but now that he had captured Eustice and the Men of Real Talent, he wanted more, but Chuscu refused to consider it. She wondered which of them was really in charge, though. Threading her way through the camp, she followed her compass sense to the tent where Sayani was kept—and overheard a chant much like that of Toulouse’s bodyswap. She surmised that a Meme was going to take over Sayani’s body and somehow ready her people to be taken over by Chuscu again, and decided to consult with Toulouse to determine if she could safely interrupt the transfer without harming the Messiah.

Mili sneaked into Eustice’s tent. Toulouse advised Mili that she could safely disrupt the Meme bodyswap before it finished, simply by breaking the Meme’s concentration. He said he didn’t know how long it would take, however, or if the other Meme could take over animals as well as sentient beings: he couldn’t do animals or swap quickly, but more extensive experience or Crafting abilities could allow the other Meme to do so.

Gruda tossed her poisonous beetle down the Shertasi’s shorts, provoking him to pound at his crotch to kill it and start to become drowsy at the beetle’s bite. However, another guard came around to check and she couldn’t take advantage of her move right away.

Meanwhile, Eustice talked to Toulouse and said he had no intention of leaving. He finally was being treated well for the first time since he arrived. He wanted to have sex with Toulouse, as they had finally achieved the goal that was the reason they came to Munti Manchay, but Toulouse had argued that it was not the time. What’s more, he said, from his experience across the Realms, he knew that the Shertasi were bad news, and would assuredly kill Eustice once they were done with him, or just if they got mad.

Iolanthe spoke to Gaviero, finding out his abilities. He had little to offer, being a bureaucrat whose main advantage was in who he knew back in the City, but his ability to fly caught her eye. He refused to fly up and risk getting the attention of bow-wielding enemies, but he did fly high enough to give Iolanthe a boost to climb onto the compound’s interior wall, and she began to creep around, heading for the Soulsharing she detected. Behind in the cell, Jonakin used her Bloodshifting to grow batwings [variously described as “angel wings,” “flying squirrel wings” and “batgirl wings”] and flew to the opposite side of the cell. She rushed the drowsy guard, trying to get the key to the cell, but the guard blocked her (and Gruda, who tried just after). The guard shouted, raising the alarm.

Tassran rushed from Chuscu’s tent and shouted in Shertasi, alerting his troops [and giving them a Leadership bonus]. Meanwhile, Mili sniped at the Meme and punctured her lung [12 stress=Severe and Moderate Consequences + 2-point stress], disrupting her transfer. Eustice became very upset as his personal guard left his post to follow the noise, and he and Toulouse headed out, ready to fight.

Jonakin, frustrated, used her Bloodshifting to knock two Shertasi unconscious, and the tarts du jour snatched up the key and unlocked the cell door. Gruda immediately opened the outsized door and closed the tarts in, irritated at them for being useful, and both Iversdotters headed into the fight. Mili sniped the Meme again, seeing that she was trying to hop bodies, and killed her. Tassran spotted Sayani trying to escape, and Mili interposed herself, taking his strike. Eustice saw this and rushed towards Tassran, pissed that the Shertasi was trying to break his toys. Jonakin reached out and tried to Bloodshift Tassran and another warrior, but they shook it off.

The fight still in full swing, Mili tried to determine what was more important: keeping Sayani safe or stopping Chuscu, who was heading for the gate and escape…

[Mili has very different nudity standards than the City is used to. Mili and Iolanthe have conversations about the appropriateness of situational nudity, but Mili just drops her robe when she needs to camouflage. “If no-one can see me, it doesn’t matter if I’m naked.” She’s… used to Eustice leering at her toplessness.]

[Molly wants to play the illegitimate child of Erillia and Syler]

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Lord Useless and the Men of Real Talent: Stupid Idea No. 152: Go on a Body-Swap Safari with Toulouse Part 2

The Men of Real Talent knew they had to find Sayani if they had any chance of achieving their goals: finding out more about the mine, getting the shiftgate projector to get back home, or getting Toulouse a new body to sexually experiment with. With this in mind, Mili picked up a few items of Sayani’s from his hut and used them to get a Farsharing link on him, a compass point in her head that would ensure they could find him no matter what. They followed a small trail cut through the jungle wilderness for several hours, tracking Sayani through both physical and Farsharing means, before the trail petered out while Mili’s compass still said they had a ways to go. She carefully headed in front of her compatriots, counting on her decades of experience in the jungle to keep both herself and her team safe. She shortly saw a trio of Antupa birds, four-winged predators that had little fear of people and a tendency to attack in flocks. Thinking back to her old hunting trips, Mili remembered that the Antupa bird’s favorite meal is the flesh of its own kind, and decided to take one out and sneak past the others while they were distracted by eating their brethren.

Mili drew the bow she had grown up using, a short bow specially designed for the close distances in the Munti Manchay jungle, and fired a shot, unfortunately failing to kill her target. The Antupa birds, alerted to the presence of prey, launched themselves into the air and began attacking the various Men of Real Talent. Eustice valiantly assaulted one of the birds, only to have his arms torn up with a vicious attack. Gruda came up behind him and punched the bird out of the air, killing it instantly. The other birds rushed towards the carrion, though Eustice and Toulouse continued to try and kill the birds for a time—and Iolanthe used her Soulsharing to encourage Eustice’s tarts towards suicidal “valiance,” which miraculously did not result in their deaths.

Heading towards Sayani, the Men encountered a small creek. They considered swinging or climbing across on the vines that crossed the creek, but Mili remembered the water snakes known as “living vines” that often camouflaged themselves. Instead, Gruda used her Forceshifting to knock a tree over and form an impromptu bridge. Mili crossed first, only to be assaulted by a living vine—a large constrictor over a foot wide and a dozen feet long—and fled, positioning herself on the shore ready to snipe. Eustice followed behind, and was immediately grabbed by the snake. Toulouse tried his hand at Waveshaping, but failed to free Eustice, so Gruda rushed onto the bridge and brought her fist down on the snake’s head, cracking its skull and making it flee.

Another living vine attacked Eustice, and nobody could get to the log to help him. He attacked it, but it stole his sword, and then Toulouse used his Waveshaping to raise the blade from the waters like Excalibur. Iolanthe used her Soulsharing to calm the snake, and it fell into the water, passive. She then presented herself as a helpless woman and asked Eustice to help her out of the dangerous situation (in fact aiming to get him out of danger). He fell for it to an alarming degree [9 of them], and snatched her up in a princess carry. Unfortunately, one last snake rose from the water and attacked Eustice, yanking him and Iolanthe into the water. His legs bound, Eustice couldn’t swim, so Gruda Forceshifted him and Iolanthe out of the water, and the dangling snake was the perfect target for Mili, who drove an arrow into its throat. They all rushed across the log before the blissed-out snake recovered, but Mili stayed behind and killed it, harvesting some snake meat for steaks.

Heading further into the woods, the Men were approached by a Qiri ape. These strange creatures are mysterious even in Munti Manchay, and Mili struggled [using “Stranger in a Strange City”] to remember the details of its ecology, eventually remembering that the apes were never aggressive, but could utterly destroy anyone who threatened their territory. Iolanthe used her knowledge of Cultures to determine that the Qiri ape was at least semi-sapient, with beads braided into its hair, and that it seemed curious, not trying to threaten the Men of Real Talent. Mili, paranoid as always, decided not to try and negotiate with the creature, and instead led the Men away as quietly and non-confrontationally as possible. It watched for a while, then lumbered off.

A few yards away, the jungle broke off into a sizeable path, where Mili spotted a Chinkasqa scout. She decided not to give away her position by warning her friends, so sneaked up on the scout, who had meanwhile spotted Gruda and thrown a spear her way. The spear caromed off Gruda’s armor, and Mili put her bow to the scout’s head and asked who she was (using her take on Iolanthe’s diplomacy lessons). The scout defiantly said only “Chuscu.”

Realizing that the tyrant who had ruined her childhood was back for more, Mili considered what she could possibly do next…

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Lord Useless and the Men of Real Talent: Stupid Idea No. 152: Go on a Body-Swap Safari with Toulouse Part 1

For six generations, many of the inhabitants of Munti Manchay were part of a multi-tribe alliance, controlled by the hereditary kamachiq. The kamachiqs had been tyrannical before, but it came to a new level with Chuscu, a young prince who came to power fifteen years ago. There was much discontent in the populace, especially as deaths rose when scouts were retasked as guards for his “palace.” Then, five years ago, a long-prophesied event occurred. A young girl (Mili) found a strange man wandering in the jungle, unarmed and uncamouflaged, and yet unharmed. This man called himself “Sayani,” and said he had a message of tolerance and equality. He was hailed as the legendary Messiah of Infinite Eyes, the man who could see past, present, and future. He began a populist movement that deposed Chuscu.

The revolution was all but over when Theonides brought his son Eustice to Munti Manchay to discuss mining rights with Chuscu’s government, not realizing the revolution had changed the balance of power. Once he understood the change, he thought long and hard on which government to support. Meanwhile, Eustice went off on a poorly-thought-out hunting trip, where he was attacked by a rampaging Chayara Cat. Luckily, Mili was hunting nearby, and she saved his life—but they both ended up taken by a Qiri ape to be eaten. She kept him alive for days, both wounded, before Theonides, Jonakin, and Gruda[?] rescued them.

Taken back to the City to recover, Mili has only heard bits and pieces of the tale from then on. As Mili is inextricably linked to Sayani’s movement, Theonides took her saving his son as the deciding factor, and made his mining agreement with Sayani. This provided legitimacy to his government, and Sayani pushed Chuscu out of power once and for all. Sayani’s government seems to be going well, and Mili occasionally wonders how the strange man she found in the jungle is managing.

Now that Eustice has decided to take a body-swap safari back to Munti Manchay, Mili has the chance to see how her home has fared. It has changed… but for the better or the worse?

Mili prepared the Men of Real Talent for the dangers of Munti Manchay before her boss’s sexual safari was to begin. She ensured everyone had a weapon and camouflage body paint. Unfortunately, Eustice was much more interested in looking “good,” and gave himself and his tarts extremely attractive but ultimately useless, brightly-colored camouflage patterns (the tarts even decked out in giant, poofy, floral-print dresses). The others went for a more practical pattern, but Mili painted “Dangerous. Don’t trust him” on Toulouse in the visual language of the Chinkasqa. Theonides was unsure about allowing Eustice to return to the dangers of Munti Manchay, but allowed that the repeated interest in Munti Manchay’s mining rights from Freyj and Arrulio meant that he needed to know what was so valuable about a small copper mine. Armed with this mission, the Men of Real Talent headed to the Crux to find a Realmshifter.

The Men of Real Talent traveled through a shiftgate to Munti Manchay, more specifically Mili’s home village of Naukar. Naukar is a nomadic village, but has certain locations it stays in certain seasons, allowing the City Realmshifters to target it properly. The village is covered by a camouflaged canopy and surrounded by a barricade of pointed fenceposts, to keep the Chinkasqa safe. When they arrived, the Messiah, Sayani, approached and greeted them, extremely happy to see Eustice and Mili again. Mili told Sayani about Toulouse’s “body-hopping” plans, and Sayani was extremely uncomfortable with it, but obviously wanted to make Eustice and his father happy, so promised to sleep on it.

Meanwhile, Eustice ordered Mili to find Toulouse a body (which she promptly ignored), while Toulouse began asking various Chinkasqa who might be willing to host his soul (while he normally doesn’t ask, he realized that the situation was delicate enough that he needed to—and Eustice saw the idea of “asking” as strange and kinky, wondering “isn’t everyone lined up to sleep with you?” as they are with him). [Toulouse “like the Old Spice guy” (look up, look down, you’re on a horse)—what?]. Mili was somewhat mollified by the fact that Toulouse needed to speak to a target in order to transfer his mind, but was unnerved by the fact that he seemed to be picking up the language.

Sayani threw Eustice and Mili a festival, a strangely silent affair filled with beautiful dancing and casual sex. Mili spent all night avoiding an old flame, and ended up off with someone else. Before she went off, Mili spent the evening talking Gruda up, emphasizing her muscles and child-bearing hips (which Gruda was intensely uncomfortable with). Gruda finally loosed up a little, drinking fermented yam and dancing, but still didn’t find a bed partner. Eustice found himself several Chinkasqa girls to seduce, and did quite well despite not speaking the language.

In the middle of the night, the Men were awakened by a commotion, which proved to be a group of Chayara cats attacking the barricades—or possibly fleeing from an even bigger threat! Either way, the Men of Real Talent sprang into action. Mili hid herself, but was spotted by several of the keen-eyed cats, and kept her attention on the one who hadn’t seen her. Eustice strode out of his tent, buck-naked and waving his sword threateningly. Gruda found herself overly distracted by Eustice’s form, and he easily talked her into saving his tarts du jour. Mili meanwhile knocked a cat from its perch on top of the barricade, spraining its ankle. Toulouse was nowhere to be seen, apparently much faster at removing his pants than putting them on, but Eustice attacked a cat with a duelist’s stance, shouting “have at thee!” It responded to his inappropriate attack style by knocking his sword from his hand. The cat rushed him, but Gruda ran to his side and interposed herself in between her love and the attacking feline, knocking it to the ground.

Another cat cleared the barricade in one leap and mauled a Chinkasqa hunter to death. Meanwhile, Jonakin went to Sayani’s hut, aiming to get the shiftgate projector and get her charge out of Munti Manchay ASAP. Unfortunately, Sayani was nowhere to be seen, nor was the projector. There was a terrible mess and the tell-tale tracks of Sayani having been dragged off by some malign force. Back in the battle, Mili sniped another cat while Eustice tried to ride his. Gruda Forceshifted the cats to the ground, holding them down so they could be defeated. The final cat was turned to the side of the Men of Real Talent by Jonakin, who scented herself like catnip.

The cats defeated, the Men of Real Talent next had to figure out where Sayani had gone, and if they could survive the dangerous jungles of Munti Manchay…

A few notes on Chinkasqa society: Their population is weighted towards men, due to their women having a tendency to die in childbirth, but there are no strict gender roles: everyone is expected to be a hunter. They value silence above all, and only some of them even speak their own verbal language, most of their communication performed via color-shifting patterns on their skin. There is very little in the way of family roles: casual sex is common, and a child is something the entire village is expected to take care of. The CHinkasqa are attracted to muscular women able to take care of themselves, not the “traditionally” feminine women of the City. The elderly are very highly valued, as few people can make it to middle age without being killed by predators or environmental hazards—but it’s considered that if you can make it to 40, you can make it to 60. Crafting skill is highly prized and very rare.

A few notes on House Varos: Perhaps Theonides has been trying to have another son to replace Eustice for twenty years, as soon as he realized the boy would be a disappointment. However, since Ryline loves her boy so much, she has spent a lot of time with Iversdotter Bloodshifters to abort any further pregnancies. This, of course, begs the question: what would Theonides do if he had another son? Would he kill Eustice, would he stop protecting him and allow him to kill himself, would he banish him?

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Lord Useless and the Men of Real Talent: Stupid Idea No. 151: Point and Laugh at Phineos Part 4

Mili had been keeping a magical eye on Elleia for the past few hours, but once she determined that the highborn lady was of no threat at the moment, she headed down to the sewers after Jonakin and Gruda. There, Jonakin ventured out from her protective pipe and started beating the revolutionary Worldshaper about the head and neck, giving him a concussion. The Wildshifter threw up a mass of vines that tied Gruda to the wall, helpless, then took control of Jonakin’s rats, telling them to go after the tasty Iversdotter.

The Worldshaper magically grabbed up bricks and mortar from his half-finished tunnel and hurled them at Jonakin. [he tried to compel Jonakin’s “Best Defense is a Good Offense” to hurt Jonakin’s defense, but Jeremy paid it off], causing minimal damage.

Mili, carefully hidden in the rubble, began taking potshots at the Worldshaper, firing an arrow through his arm. Jonakin responded to the Wildshifter’s tactic by making the Worldshaper smell like an Iversdotter, hoping to redirect the rats back at her enemies [invoking “Iver 4Iver,” as she is a true expert on the Iversdotter form]. Mili sniped the Worldshaper again, causing him to start “bleeding out,” desperately holding a fist to a gut wound to avoid dying of rapid blood loss.

Back upstairs, Iolanthe waited patiently for the potion to be finished, and easily deflected the old alchemist’s questions on who she was, assuring him that she and Elleia were co-workers. In the reading room, Toulouse and Eustice engaged in small talk, Toulouse bragging about his conquest last night until he remembered Eustice was there. He then shifted strategies, asking Eustice about Elleia. Eustice tried to deny having any kind of feelings for her, but Toulouse saw right through him.

Iolanthe picked up the potion from the old man and headed to Eustice, telling him they should leave. Using his unique ability to twist every situation into his own version of reality, Eustice used his commanding presence to tell Iolanthe that he had just had the idea that they should leave (after all, he’s not about to take orders from “a lower House. And a woman.”)

In the sewers, the Worldshaper, covered in rats, spent one last-ditch effort to open the door to the Curia. Jonakin responded by picking him up and throwing him at the Wildshifter (failing to hit him but killing the Shaper).

Since Jonakin went to the sewers, Eustice had been followed by a replacement bodyguard that Jonakin hired. Eustice failed to realize that it was a different person, and complimented “Jonakin” with things like “Jonakin! You’re not your usual bitchy self today!” He, Iolanthe, and the bodyguard headed out the Curia’s front door, where they saw Elleia and Arrulio. Eustice immediately rushed over to Elleia, ignoring Arrulio entirely. Iolanthe did “Whatever It Takes” to hide the Nullcrafting potion [though, pointedly, not using it as a tampon] as Eustice distracted Arrulio and Elleia.

Arrulio tried to stare Eustice down about his plans with Elleia, “taking her away from him,” (totally misinterpreting the situation), and Eustice responded that she should hand him over ‘cause he’s so great [invoking “ People are Objects” and “Son of Someone Important”]. [It was a nice moment that Arrulio and Eustice were able to have a social conflict while actually having entirely different conversations.

Elleia [according to Mindy’s “spin”] “got a little wet” in response to his sexiness. She decided to invite Eustice out to lunch (sparing him from Mo’s wrath), but he TURNED HER DOWN, in a huge strike for his ego. Frustrated, she decided to go home and fuck Phineos [and will likely call out Eustice’s name that night.

The Wildshifter wrapped himself in protective vines as armor. Jonakin tried to turn the Wildshifter’s blood into insect food, but the shifter threw his blood, coming from a wound above his eyes, on the ground. Mili shot him, causing minimal damage through the armor, and then he ran into the tunnel to the Curia. Jonakin tried to use her knowledge of “Martial Arts are the only True Arts” to find a vulnerable area, but failed. Mili fired again, wounding the Wildshifter in the shoulder. His vine armor fell into uselessness, and he threw up a fence to try and head Jonakin off. Jonakin walked right through it and destroyed the Wildshifter by pulling his own vines tight enough to pop his head off.

With the immediate threat finished, the Men of Real Talent examined the damage. The Worldshaper’s tunnel had been stopped by the Nullsphere, but there was less than a person’s width worth of rock between the end of the tunnel and the Curia basement, which the Men regarded as a gross incompetence. Realizing that a few people with picks and shovels could easily gain access, the Men decided to advise Theonides to tell the security forces to expand the Nullsphere further out (and get another Worldshaper to fill in the tunnel.

Meanwhile, Mili watched Elleia with her Farsharing long enough to see a tremendous fight between her and Arrulio. Apparently he misinterpreted all of Eustice’s dialogue, and had come to the conclusion that Elleia had betrayed him and was working for Eustice. He abandoned her with a vow to ruin her.

The most immediate concerns dealt with, the Men of Real Talent wanted to continue following up the leads of Arrulio and Mo, trying to find a way to ensure that Mo would not be able to pull off this same attack again next week. However, Eustice decided that it was time for a vacation, and packed up all the Men to accompany him on a sexual safari with Toulouse. Heading for Mili’s home Realm of Munti Manchay, Toulouse will possess one of Mili’s people, and Eustice will have sex with him/her while watching the scenario play out on her skin. Good times.

Notes:
On Mindy licking me and me saying thank you: “That’s true love right there” (Anna)

An idea that didn’t fly: Erillia will at the Curia, and the Wildshifting bomb going off caused Syler to die protecting her. It’s worth noting that Erillia may be in cahoots with Mo, because she knows how dangerous he is. She was/is a dangerous Dreamsharer [Maybe there was no guy in a back room or potion at all!].

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Lord Useless and the Men of Real Talent: Stupid Idea No. 151: Point and Laugh at Phineos Part 3

The next morning, the Men of Real Talent set themselves at the task of preparing for the imminent assault by Mo’s forces. Gruda obtained a powerful herbicide and spread it around the basement to ensure that the expected Wildshifting attack would go nowhere, then headed to the sewers with Jonakin to head off the attackers.

Meanwhile, Elleia passed by Eustice on her way out the door and pretended not to remember who he was. Incensed, Eustice grabbed her, removed his ponytail and unbuttoned his shirt, trying to impress her as much as possible. She continued to pretend not to remember him and casually dismissed his seuxal advances. Iolanthe stepped in and tried to defend him, showing that she “possessed” Eustice. [Mindy, on Elleia pretending to not remember Eustice: “She’s just asking to be raped in the back-alley”].

Iolanthe, keeping in mind that their goal was to keep Elleia and Arrulio in the Curia so that they might call off their attack (or at least warn Parliament), did her best to hold Elleia up, but lost ground once Arrulio came in and insisted on dragging Elleia away. His unattainable woman leaving, Eustice threw a tantrum, ranting about the unfairness of it all. Iolanthe took advantage of this and got Eustice to race after Elleia and “remind her” of the dinner they had planned (all a fiction). Lord Useless’s “subtle” dialogue made Arrulio think that he was discussing the terrorist attack and not an innocuous dinner. Eustice left a calling card in Elleia’s cleavage, and she and Arrulio left, their trust shaken.

In the sewers, Jonakin hid in a pipe while Grude covered herself in refuse, both waiting for the revolutionaries to arrive. They finally did, a handful of Rurals and Kipmen, with one Worldshaper who slowly began to open a hole in the wall. Jonakin and Gruda chose this moment to attack, Jonakin using her Bloodshifting to make the revolutionaries smell like rotting meat, attracting rats and insects like nobody’s business. Jonakin’s new status as the Pied Piper of the City of Lives kept the revolutionaries busy, though a terrorist Wildshifter grew massive plants to defend himself, that began killing off Jonakin’s rats before insects arrived to try and eat the plants. Meanwhile, Jonakin tried to attack from within her safe hiding spot in the pipe with a blowgun, with little success, the darts bouncing off the inside of the pipe.

Gruda came in swinging with an axe, trying to avoid hurting her hands on the revolutionaries’ thorny flesh. However, her lack of familiarity with the weapon led to her getting disarmed, and the revolutionary threw her axe into one of Jonakin’s rat swarms. Deciding to keep to her strengths, Gruda reverted to fisticuffs, punching one revolutionary so hard a rib snapped and pierced his heart.

Upstairs, Iolanthe left a distracted Eustice mooning over Elleia and headed to the library to see if she could find a trace of the two conspirators. She located where they had been talking, then discovered a book that proved to be a trigger to a hidden door. Inside, she discovered an old Promethean man working at an alchemical table. He asked who she was, and if she had come to take possession of “the potion,” which “wasn’t quite done yet.” She said she was, and confirmed that she knew “where to put it” (figuring it must be potion to re-ignite the anti-Nullcrafting enchantment in the basement.

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Lord Useless and the Men of Real Talent: Stupid Idea No. 151: Point and Laugh at Phineos Part 2

Eustice and the Men of Real Talent headed across the street to the Drowned Jug tavern, drinking and chatting as they waited for Elleia to arrive. Mili spent a good hour preparing a Farsharing projection, then latched it onto Elleia, able to watch and hear her and her surroundings for a full day. Eustice recognized Elleia as the one unattainable woman—the only woman he had ever known that was of the right class, the right age, the right attractiveness level who had never shown any interest in him. Struck with the unfairness of said situation, Eustice proceeded to get drunk and swear at Mili’s back-mounted projection of Elleia. Eustice’s position on Elleia could be summed up thusly: If she’s having sex with everyone, including Eustice: a free-spirited, generous girl. If she’s having sex with everyone BUT Eustice: a filthy whore. Mili turned off her projection once Elleia and Phineos retired to his bedroom (to Eustice’s irritation, and also his inspiration, to use Mili to spy on other couples having sex around the City), but turned it back on afterwards, to catch Elleia telling Phineos to come to the Curia at ten after two the next afternoon, for an important meeting.

Mili continued to watch as Elleia headed to the Curia and met with Arrulio Verimadia in the library there. The two spoke obliquely about numerous complex and presumably dastardly plans, but the main focus was this: The next day, Mo Proudhoe and his revolutionaries were going to attack the Curia at two pm, and the conspirators’ plan was to get Phineos there just in time to heroically help with search and rescue. Elleia told Arrulio that Eustice had gotten involved, but Arrulio dismissed it, saying Eustice would be far more likely to make things worse for himself than to salvage his reputation.

The Men of Real Talent considered the news of the plan, and remembered the turncoat revolutionary, Skizz, that they had befriended after the textile mill attack. Contacting Skizz again, Iolanthe got Skizz to tell them that Mo’s people were planning on creating a Wildshifting attack, a giant plant that would grow up from the basement and block all the entrances with vines before collapsing the entire building and killing most of Parliament (including Eustice’s father Theonides). He knew that Mo’s people would be entering through tunnels created by a Worldshaper, but did not know whether the Wildshifting would be done by a relic or a man, or whether the revolutionaries would retreat or stay and suicide-bomb to keep people inside and dead.

The Men considered. The law stated that if a member of Parliament (read: a nobleman) died, their seat would pass to their heir. Additionally, while seats on the High Council are elected positions, if a member dies, their heir comes in to finish their term. Horrified by the idea of Eustice leading the High Council for three to four years, they realized they had to, at minimum, get Theonides out of the building. Jonakin argued that if the Curia came down, Theonides could easily seize power in the resulting vacuum and become President-for-life. However, the others pointed out that Theonides was already at the top of the heap, power-wise, and so he had more to lose than he was likely to gain in the chaos of a power vacuum (not to mention that he, as a good man, would never go along with the plan). They also wondered if there was going to be a simultaneous character assassination attempt against Eustice that would ensure that Phineos would gain power from the attack and not Eustice or Theonides.

Therefore, the Men had to find a way to stop the revolutionaries’ attack. They realized that since the Curia normally carried a Nullsphere preventing all Crafting within it, Mo must have found a way around it: bribing the Nullcrafters who created it, countering magic, or something similar. They also concluded that since Relicshifting and Wildshifting are opposed Crafts, it would be far more likely that the Wildshifter they were looking for was a person and not a device (and thus easier to kill).

Jonakin moved through the offices at the department of city planning and found sewer diagrams that pointed her in the direction of a small section of sewer (inhabited by a Grate-Scratcher market) that would be the likeliest starting point for a Worldshaper aiming to dig into the Curia basement. The Men decided to head there in the morning and cut off the revolutionaries before they could even reach the Curia, while Eustice would be in the Curia itself to help out if things went too far (this decision made in part because Eustice would refuse to go undercover as a Grate-Scratcher or seduce one—he “doesn’t got lower than Iversdotters”).

Deciding to investigate the Curia before things went to hell in the morning, the Men of Real Talent relied on Eustice’s contacts to get in after hours. Eustice found one of his old drinking buddies/lovers, a Meme named Toulouse. As a Meme, a sentient viral thoughtform, Toulouse had a habit of hopping bodies as the mood struck him, and had last encountered Eustice in a female form, though he was now a male Sky-Carver. The energetic, over-the-top, debonair and sexually ambiguous Toulouse [who spoke with an un-acted French accent] was excited to see Eustice, and his first question, upon seeing the Men, was “are we having a party?” Eustice expressed regret that he would be “unable” to have sex with Toulouse in a man’s body, though they considered the notion of an orgy.

Toulouse expressed tremendous interest in Mili and the exciting abilities of her skin, and asked if he could take a turn in her body. She arched her back like a cat and turned him down flat, but he gave her his card in case she changed her mind, and asked for directions to her home Realm so he could try out one of her species. Eustice decided this would be a fine outing, and pledged to take Toulouse on a body-swapping safari.

Having completely forgotten why he was there at the Curia and far more interested in a “fivesome” with Toulouse and his tarts, Eustice had to be reminded of their task, but eventually tore himself away from Toulouse and headed inside. Mili and Gruda headed down to the basement storage area, and discovered, hidden under a crate, a strange symbol scratched into the floor. They determined it was only two or three days old, and, deciding it was probably associated with the revolutionaries (though the idea of Parliamentary “gangs” or secret societies did cross their minds), they scratched it out. At once there was a feeling of pressure, and the Nullcrafting sphere around the Curia came back into effect, cutting them off from their magics. They realized they hadn’t even realized that they still could Craft, even though they knew they shouldn’t be able to in the Curia: with a sense so integral to their beings, they never even think about it until it goes away.

Mili then returned to the main floor and headed into the Council chambers, finding and removing a number of decorative potted plants, burning them in a nearby fireplace so that they could not come to life and kill the Councilors.

The night, already stretched late, drew to a close so that the Men of Real Talent would be rested for the attack the following day. Mili kept one eye open and slept lightly so that she could keep her Farsharing link on Elleia active, while Gruda and Jonakin slept soundly outside of Toulouse’s apartment—where Eustice rejuvenated himself with a lively fivesome with Toulouse and the tarts.

Notes
Arrulio moves like Quezalcoatl (flying snake with wings). Quezalcoatl the winged snake god exists somewhere in the Realms (Jeremy’s declaration)

Theonides is like the Speaker of the House or Prime Minister (the first among equals in the High Council)

“Bye, kipfish” (Mindy on my deleting of a Leovite image that looked more like a catfish)

Mili’s Realm has an Amazonian, South American/Indian name

Jeremy lied when he says he never stopped Eustice from “getting some”—he put Eustice to sleep one time, and aged a tart by twenty years.

“I think Eustice deserves a fivesome, for the sake of his character arc” -Emlyn

Jonakin: living Viagra dispensary

Women in the City have a “thing” for Bloodshifters—fun options.

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Lord Useless and the Men of Real Talent: Stupid Idea No. 151: Point and Laugh at Phineos Part 1

With the deeds back in their hands and Eustice out of trouble, at least for the moment, the Men of Real Talent pondered what came next. Eustice had noted that the Sky-Carvers Freyj had working for her during the game had been of House Verimadia, a noble family known to be associated with his cousin Phineos’s bid for power. Eustice decided he wanted to go laugh in his cousin’s face at his failure to screw up his game, and the rest of the Men wanted to know why Freyj had wanted the mining rights in the first place, and how House Verimadia was associated with the scheme. With both of these desires in accordance, the Men of Real Talent went to cousin Phineos’s house.

Phineos and Eustice have long had a tumultuous relationship. The son of Theonides’ less financially fortunate brother, Phineos is poor for a Varos, and has little overt influence in politics. However, he is often seen as a “golden boy,” everything Eustice is not: he is not only charming, but also intelligent, genuinely friendly and well-meaning, with a wisdom that belies his age and a knack for leadership. He is favored by a number of people (including Arrulio Verimadia) to replace Eustice as heir to the Varos fortune and political dynasty. Eustice refuses to see these good qualities, but hates that Phineos gets all this attention (Phineos had the gall to hog the attention at his own birthday parties when they were boys). Phineos, on the other hand, seems to legitimately like his cousin, and has shown no desire to oust Eustice from his seat of power.

At Phineos’s house, a modest dwelling in Council Heights, Eustice forced Jonakin to knock on the door and then turned blue (his inner fire blazing hot) in rage at the insolence of Phineos’s butler not knowing him by sight. Phineos greeted his cousin and the Men of Real Talent (including Mili, who had failed to properly camouflage herself, instead turning the color of wood without any kind of grain). His charming demeanor threw off Mili, who strobed her skin and ran out, prompting a reaction from Phineos of “that was really quite stunning,” and also began to confuse Gruda into thinking there might be other fish in the sea. Jonakin, noting this and wanting Gruda to get over Eustice, used her Bloodshifting to subtly enhance Gruda’s feminine qualities. As they sat down at Phineos’s table (Eustice taking Phineos’s place at the head), Iolanthe began subtly quizzing Phineos about the events at the Thousand Tastes. She pretended to be discussing a friend of marriageable age who was at the game, and in discussing Freyj and the presence of House Verimadia, gleaned a few details: Phineos did not appear to have been directly involved in the scheme, but may have suspected. He certainly was nervous about the mention of House Verimadia. Additionally, when Elleia House Idalion (an old friend of Iolanthe’s who was known to associate with House Verimadia and who frequented the Thousand Tastes while Iolanthe was there) was brought up, Phineos gave an obvious lie that he hadn’t seen her recently and didn’t know her well. The lie of this was established further as Mili investigated Phineos’s bedroom, seeing evidence of a woman staying there, and the Men of Real Talent decided to stake out the house, waiting to see if Elleia would arrive so that they could determine her role in all of this.

[Phineos’s mom is dead]
“Yeah, how’s that working out for you?” [Eustice]

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Lord Useless and the Men of Real Talent: Stupid Idea No. 143: Gamble Away My Father's Land Holdings Part 4: The Canapé Caper continued

Stupid Idea #143 Part 4: The Canapé Caper Continued

As the canape caper continued, Iolanthe turned the tables on the distracting Sky-Carvers, getting them to fawn over her instead. Meanwhile, Gruda reacted in the exact opposite manner: disturbed and confused by the Sky-Carvers’ seduction, she wondered if she would end up going home with one of them or getting so flustered she’d punch one of them out (feeling “Conflicted, Roiling Hormones”). As the Sky-Carvers followed Gruda into the kitchen (and Mili following behind), Mili knocked hot soup into one of their laps, but failed to deter him. Gruda tried to intimidate him into leaving, as he was being unsafe in the kitchen, but her roiling hormones threw her off. She just barely managed to avoid full seduction by holding Eustice in her mind (“He’s So Dreamy”), before Mili pantsed the Sky-Carver, hoping his laughably small penis [invoked with a fate point] would get Gruda back into the swing of things. He left, panicked, but his friend stuck around until Mili went gonzo and followed her hunter’s instinct to hurl a kitchen knife to cut a bunch of pots from the ceiling, which fell onto the Sky-Carver. “He should be more careful. Kitchens are dangerous places,” she quipped to herself… as Gruda took a pot to the head too.

Meanwhile, Iolanthe followed Freyj into a back room, and smashed right into her, knocking a sheaf of papers to the floor. While “helping to clean them up,” she noticed that one of them had Fortunato’s debts listed on it, and another had Eustice’s name on it. Unfortunately, she was unable to determine the true relevance.

Worried that Fortunato was bending to Freyj’s blackmail, Iolanthe started loudly spreading tales of Theonides’ great wealth and charity, hoping to get him back on their side. Meanwhile, one of Eustice’s tarts (Stacia? or did she die? who can tell?) started playing footsie with Fortunato’s crotch, trying to distract him, but he apparently only cares for Rural women, and didn’t respond.

Mili darted out of the kitchen following the clatter of pots, only to be spotted by Fortunato (who chose not to reveal her). She hid from Freyj, the “scary, dangerous predator,” and tried to intimidate Fortunato (but her utter lack of social skills failed her).
Back in the kitchen, Gruda discovered that cyanide is shelved between celery root and dillweed, and that someone had put a powerful aphrodisiac into the finger sandwiches. She distracted a Pariah cook, nabbed a few aphrodisiacal sandwiches and destroyed the rest.

Freyj tried to call an intermission, apparently hoping to talk to her player, but consummate gamblers Mios and Eustice would have none of it, saying that it would allow for cheating and isn’t the way Councilman’s Hand is played.

Finally, Mili flashed an image of Fortunato’s daughter on her skin to inspire him, while Iolanthe brought up politics, reminding Fortunato that “Great House Varos Rules with a Velvet Glove.” Fortunato discarded all his best cards, and combined with a lucky and well-played hand on Eustice’s part, the game went to Lord Useless.

Just after the game, a very frustrated Freyj stared Eustice down with the fire of a thousand suns, saying “You may have won this battle, but I will win the war. We will work together, and I will be in charge.” Unfortunately, the socially blind Eustice read it as passion, that she wanted him now, and responded “I like a woman on top,” running his finger down her cleavage.

Eustice, enjoying his new status as “the best gambler the Thousand Tastes has ever seen,” began to wonder as to why so many Sky-Carvers of House Verimadia (known to support his cousin Phineos) had been there at the game. In any case, it would certainly be fun to go and gloat in Phineos’s face…

“it’s the size of something else [his wallet] that’s important to Iolanthe. It’s not usually in his pants.”
“Neither is his penis!” -Mindy

Iolanthe runs into Freyj, papers fall over the floor. She sees Fortunato’s debts and Eustice’s name on things that she doesn’t see properly.

Sara: “My toes are stubby. They don’t hold a lot of luck.”

(Anna, on Gruda): “When you flirt with other boys, bad things happen.”

Anna: only barter doesn’t work if you never actually tell the other person the terms of the deal…

“Only now that it’s been enough time to have peed successfully” — roll Resources for peeing (having an amount of something)

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Lord Useless and the Men of Real Talent: Stupid Idea No. 143: Gamble Away My Father's Land Holdings Part 3: The Canapé Caper

Stupid Idea #143 Part 3: The Canapé Caper
The Men of Real Talent regrouped at Varos Manor. They handed Blanche over to Theonides, assuring her that he would get her a secure job in another district or outside the City—in any case, outside of Freyj’s sphere of influence. With Fortunato’s dive assured, the Men discussed what their plans for the big Councilman’s Hand game that night would be. Eustice insisted that with Mios’s teachings, he had no need to cheat, even if Fortunato screwed them over. The rest of the Men made their own preparations:
-Gruda decided to use her cooking skills and keep an eye on anything Eustice eats or drinks at the game. She also tried to get some of her Iversdotter friends to stand by as backup… only to find out that she didn’t have any such friends, being a “black sheep.”
-Mili Farshared into the Thousand Tastes and observed Fortunato preparing, seeming nervous and surrounded by watchful Sky-Carvers apparently working for Freyj. She also observed that there was an open window upstairs in Freyj’s apartment (an escape route for either her or the Men of Real Talent), and that there were no ninjas on the roof (that she could tell).
-Iolanthe got some of her own friends together to come by and distract the Sky-Carvers with their womanly charms. She then used a little money and a lot of charm to bribe the Thousand Tastes’ bouncer to not allow anyone in or out of the Thousand Tastes without the password “cheese.”
-Jonakin followed Gruda’s idea but actually succeeded, getting a half-dozen of her brawniest compatriots to hang around in the bar next door, ready to attack if the game gets out of hand.

Aware that Crafting is impossible in the Thousand Tastes due to a powerful Nullcrafting field, the Men of Real Talent prepared for it (as well as the possibility that Freyj’s people would in fact be able to Craft. They pondered why exactly Freyj wanted the mining rights to Mili’s home Realm, but unable to answer the question, they set themselves up in the Thousand Tastes. Freyj had gathered a small crowd to watch the “battle royale between one of the Thousand Tastes’ greatest gamblers and one of its most loyal patrons,” and sarcastically wished Eustice good luck before the game began. Eustice snarked back that he didn’t need luck, and the game began.

Iolanthe sneaked Fortunato a heliotype of his child and girlfriend, assuring him that they were safe. However, Freyj spotted it, and Iolanthe heard her whisper to Fortunato “I don’t know what she showed you, but remember I own you.” Meanwhile, Eustice identified Freyj’s Sky-Carver minions as members of House Verimadia, a group associated with his cousin Phineos’s claim to House Varos’s power. Before he could do anything with this information, Eustice was distracted by his brand new tarts du jour: one running her hands on his inner thigh, the second running her fingers through his hair, the third resting her head on his shoulder.

Gruda grabbed a canapé from a tray and discovered they were dosed with a soporific herb. She signalled to Mili, who was camouflaged in the corner, and Mili tripped a Pariah to bump into the tray of canapés and spill them all over the floor. Later on, emo Pariah poetry described how the “unseen hand of fate ruins another day.”

Iolanthe at first watched the game for cheating, but after seeing that Fortunato appeared to be throwing the game fine, she turned her attention to Uncle Mios, distracting him from talking to Freyj by telling him raunchy stories about improper ladies (with the added benefit of making herself look better as a match for Eustice).

One of Freyj’s Sky-Carver minions started trying to seduce Gruda, seriously flustering her, while Freyj sent one of Iolanthe’s friends running, sobbing, with a single whisper. Iolanthe reflected on how inaccurate the label “friend” in fact was, and decided not to care. Meanwhile, Mili decided that accidental spills were her friend, and knocked a drink into the lap of Gruda’s Sky-Carver seducer… but the smooth-talker shrugged it off, saying he was “better with his tongue than his hands.”

[At this time, Molly noticed a face in the orientation of furniture in a room on the map. Mindy tried to draw a face, but somehow deleted her token. Before realizing this, I turned the “face” into an evil vampire clown, with red nose and big fangs.]

The Men of Real Talent continued their campaign of confusion, hoping that Fortunato would go ahead and throw the game soon…

Notes:
-Gruda is Eustice’s “personal” chef
-The “source of man” campaign: CoL bloodlines come from Earth or go to Earth?
-I like their big plans and orienting themselves

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