The City of Lives

Nila's First Account

It started in the library of one of the Light’s nobles.

Myself and five others. Quite a mix we are, too. Two Prometheans, a Kipling, a Leovite, a Pahiah, and myself; a Sky-Carver. We didn’t seem to be a trusting sort of group as there was no conversation while we waited, but then again that could have something to do with the fact that we had no idea why we were there.

The Lady joined us soon thereafter and explained to us what she wanted and why we were there. The Lost District, which had been used as a dumping ground for old buildings and other undesirables for ages now, had a gate to the outside world open up. Incidentally, this gate is in the middle of the city and no one seems to know what’s inside. That’s where we come in. Each of us has a skill that when used together make us a rational choice for the expeditionary force. Our leader, the Leovite, was included for his superior knowledge of culture and language. Our battle expert, the Kipman, was chosen for his innate ability to handle a threat, but that seems to be all he’s good for. The rest of the party consisted of the Pariah that was there for his vast knowledge of creatures strange and wild, two Prometheans that were thick as thieves, and myself. For my part, it was my realmshifting abilities.

With the Lady’s promise of reward we headed out and into our adventure. We made it to the gate and the rings we were provided allowed us through the barrier that had been erected to keep people out and whatever might be inside in. Once we entered there was only one way to go. It was a small corridor that winded through the rubble. At one point we came to a place where we could either stay on the path or explore a building. We chose to explore the building, which was a bakery, except for the Kipman who decided to stay on the path. Didn’t find much in the bakery besides a spoon and a screw, so we continued on through the labyrinth of abandoned buildings that were so tightly packed and morphed together it was like one big, confusing structure. We were rejoined by the reckless Kipman just before we discovered a party of seven that clearly shouldn’t have been there. They were obviously looking for something and were undeniably from outside the district. Our fearless leader approached them and tried for peaceful discourse, but they seemed bent on violence and pulled us into battle.

Watching my fellows engaged, I was impressed with our individual skills and how they came together to form a cohesive force. I was especially surprised to see that the Kipman was, indeed, a powerful fighter and valuable ally. For our first battle as a group we did well and won the day without too much difficulty. Unfortunately, our Kipman fighter decapitated the leader of the other party and he was not available for questioning. We did manage to spare one of them and the Kipman redeemed himself by using intimidation where the Leovite’s diplomacy had failed. After a great deal of questioning we were able to determine that this was one of three groups that are wandering around this strange place looking for some kind of relic or item. They seem like a cult that opposes the Light, Helior worshipers. On the bright side, we now know that when one of those twits asks us a question the answer is, “Across the Ocean’s Calm.” After receiving all the information we could, I gave him some gold and sent him to a tavern where he wouldn’t cause further difficulty.

- Nila Sora

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Nila's Second Account

We decided to continue on the way we were going and see what was to be found. After some investigation, we discovered a concealed door and agreed that that was our best option for moving forward. It led into a small corridor with another hidden door at the other end. The only thing we found in the secret room was a small pack with Grate-Scratcher provisions. After much debate it was finally decided that we should take it, even though I thought that it should stay.

A very short time later we found the owners of the pack and our greeting was less than cordial. Phaedra had stealthily opened the door to see what lay behind and, as per her nature, she made something explode. When she looked inside the next room she saw a fire surrounded by people and her first reaction was to make that fire bigger. After the explosion, in which many Grate-Scratchers were injured, Ayla rushed in to see what she could do for them. I wasn’t sure she’d be able to make it to someone and show her good intentions before she came under fire, but miraculously, she did. Truthseeker was right behind her and a few more of us trickled in to assess the situation. Truthseeker approached one of the men to try and quell hostilities, but he inadvertently mentioned that we’d come from outside the Lost District and the lackey immediately summoned his leader, and not in a happy kind of way. Whatever, we only wanted to deal with the decision maker anyway.

The commander’s name was Knot and he seemed like a good leader, especially considering that I have been raised to believe that Grate-Scratchers are only disgusting wastes of space. He also seemed completely disinterested in our professed intentions of peace. Uninterested, but neither stupid nor rash, he allowed us speak to him and explain about the gate being opened in the city and that we were on a mission of peace. Truthseeker then tried to present him with the pack we had found as an offering, but as it was their pack to begin with, this only enraged him. It took a lot of fast talking and a large portion of my rations, but we managed to calm him. I justified it, but I almost wish I hadn’t. We had no need for the pack when we took it and it only led to trouble. Knot told us about the area; the mutated cultists, mold trolls, and where to go and find them. He provided us a map to get to the cultist’s layer, which sure sounded like it could be the place the Helior worshipers were looking for. It’s where the cultists alter themselves into their almost animalistic states. We headed out to inspect the area, but were left without the strong feeling of a new ally. He left us wondering about what was behind one of his doors and wasn’t overtly friendly, but he did provide us the map and let us leave peacefully. I am hopeful that we will earn his trust.

We made our way to mold trolls that lay between us and our objective. We stopped in a courtyard that gave me the opportunity to get a bird’s eye view of our placement in proximation to the map and allowed me to view a pit of spikes that seemed worth investigating. Before the troll hole was a dead Leovite female in adventure gear. There were two interesting things about her, she was moldy and she had a scroll on her person from a “world class adventurer” named Afton Brand requesting information about the Lost District. Phaedra once again peeked through the door and this time nothing bad happened. She spotted a large mold troll and Truthseeker heard another. That’s when Myrmec stepped in with his opinion; he was very much of the belief that the trolls could not and should not be harmed. It was a surprisingly contentious point, but he won in the end and rendered both trolls unconscious to be placed out of our way with the body of the Leovite in case they should get hungry.

After dealing with the trolls, it was decided that we should check out the pit in case there was something dangerous and there needed to be a quick retreat. As we made our way down we heard screams of distress. I was immediately suspicious and as it turns out I was right. A woman was in the pit screaming for her life so we pulled her out and tried to calm her. She was beside herself over a brooch she had lost at the bottom of the pit and wanted one of us to go down after it. Neither Truthseeker nor Aquinus saw a problem with it, but the rest of us did. We insisted that she take us back to her people and that they could help her search. She started to lead us out of the area with Truthseeker right on her heals, but before the rest of us could join them we were locked inside. Phaedra quickly blew the door to pieces and we easily won the day against the succubus, but we need to be more cautious as a group. At least we got to keep the brooch she had indeed left.

- Nila Sora

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Nila’s Third Account

At length, we were able to determine what lay behind the door and exactly what we should do about it. Each in our group has their own opinions and passions; it can be hard to come to conclusions at times, but when we reach a consensus we can achieve greatness. I have to say that my fellows are growing on me and that we are each valuable. By listening at the door that Knot had said would lead to the cultist’s layer we figured out that the room was occupied by someone chanting in an ancient Light’s Son dialect. Knowing how much trouble fundamentalists can be, we decided on an offensive entrance. I realmshifted our battle leader, Aquinus, into the center of the room with a powerful bomb that Phaedra had constructed. Aquinus was to use the bomb as she saw fit based on what was found inside.

What she found was alarming. Apparently, the center of the room held a fountain of blood and the chanting was a cultist sacrificing a Grate-Scratcher baby while drinking magic blood from the fountain. Aquinus threw the bomb behind her and rescued the child from the hands of its would-be destroyer as the bomb went off. Hearing the explosion, it was our cue to enter. I was the first through the door and the sight I beheld was shocking; the glowing ooze that was clearly the “Sun’s Blood”, the rubble and mutated bodies around the room. I immediately began to play my flute in an attempt to put what appeared to be their leader to sleep. The blast had killed most of the mutants and we were able to eliminate the rest of the threat quickly and efficiently. Aquinus took a fair amount of damage, but for the most part we were unhurt.

As the heat of battle cooled, we were left with the unconscious leader and two others. Our first order of business was to tie up the cultists and see to the baby, but Aquinus, in a fit of rage removed the head of their leader. Seeing her madness, I rendered her unconscious to be tied up as well. She wasn’t acting completely out of character but she’d also had quite a bit of exposure to the blood and we thought it best to be cautious. By the time we had searched the area, cared for the child, and analyzed the situation a bit more Aquinus came to and assured us the she was fine; just upset, when she executed our prisoner. We untied Aquinus and then interrogated the next man to wake using some of the blood as a carrot. Apparently, it’s a very addictive substance that has many conflicting abilities. Not only does it provide super strength, it also provides super aggression. I could sense the lightshifting properties it had myself, but it also had bloodshifting, shadowshifting, and blightshifting properties. After getting all the information we could out of the mutated Son of Light, I once again knocked him out so as to determine our next move.

After a great deal of convincing, Myrmec managed to persuade us that there wouldn’t be much danger if we did a little experimenting with this new and powerful substance. I was curious to see what would happen, but wasn’t terribly fond of the idea. For a minute I thought it might be best to take the young Grate-Scratcher back to its people, but the reduction of myself and whoever I might take with me would reduce our number and therefore increase the danger. I stayed, but kept my distance. At first. As the small amount of blood was given to our addicted captive, whom we had chained up and placed at the bottom of a pit, I handed the baby to Aquinus and crept forward to see what was to be seen. He was obviously strengthened by the potion, but there wasn’t much more of a difference. As he demanded more of the blood, our leader revealed a secret.

The Lady had pulled him aside before we left and told him that if we should find the Sun’s Blood that he was to bring it to her. At first I was upset that he hadn’t told us before, but as we were strangers, and he did tell us now instead of acting on his own, I managed to forgive him. We decided that it wasn’t in our best interest to immediately present her with such an item of power and that we shouldn’t destroy it before knowing more. As we couldn’t just leave it there and we didn’t have the opportunity at the time to learn more, we each (except for Ayla and Aquinus) collected a sample and Truthseeker and I realmshifted it to one of my father’s abandoned properties at the wharf, which was the safest place we could come up with on such short notice. That left our business in the chamber finished, except for the baby and the two prisoners. While we were discussing what to do with our wards, the one in the pit had an unfortunate accident and met his untimely demise. That’s when we left with the other, concluding that we would turn him over to Knot to deal with.

As we entered and were greeted, a woman rushed forward and collected her child from my arms. The joy, the love I saw in her was amazing. It once again reminded me that I can’t judge a people based on what they look like. These abominable creatures, as I’m supposed to believe, seem to have more love and happiness in the worst of situations than my people do in the best. I realize that this might be a rare and special example, but what if we’d just raged in here after Phaedra made their fire bigger and finished the job? I must remember not to judge a people based on appearances, but at the same time I can’t afford to hold myself back in a dangerous situation in fear of being wrong.

Knot was quite happy to see us, and between the prisoner (whom the Grate-Scratchers immediately put to death) and the returned child, we found that ally I had hoped for. He gave us a complete map of the area and all the advice he could. We agreed that we would send an envoy of diplomats when we returned to the city that would talk with him and his people.

I must say that parts of the map are intimidating, but I am optimistic that this quest will not have been in vain.

- Nila Sora

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Aquinus's First Journal thing
the journal thing…

“…I saved a baby today… it was totally unplanned and just happen. it started when we were about to go into a room full of cultist(for some reason we had to figure out if they were evil cultist, as if there are any). after coming up with a few ideas, the high class realm shifter, thought of teleporting in, and before i know it, I’m teleporting in with a giant bomb… right on top of a fountain of blood, with the fuckers of light(who managed to be unglyer than normal) about to sacrifice a baby, so, it was instict i threw the bomb to the side and bull tackled the head guy. my god, he was ugly, he had a hand coming out his back. shudders i tackled him shelided the baby with my body and then attacked him while waiting for the rest of my “party” to come in. so here i am badly burned and with a baby in my hand and what does the bomb maker do? Throws a bomb right next to me of course. Anywho, we kill the cultists, save for two who the Blood Shifter knocked out. Man, are those guys screwed up. Kept babbling about the “Fountain of Blood” and how much he needed it. apparently the stuff gives you blood lust and is addicting as heroin. so naturally the “professor” says “We have to stay here and do experiments!”. The Guy creeps the hell out of me. after much arguing we decide to realm shift it to the highborns “empty where house”. just gahh why?! i fail to see how nay good can come out of it. Whats going to happen? is it just going ot sit there? and why does the “Queen Bitch want it?” The more i get into this place the less i like it."

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Nila's Fourth Account

We left the Grate-Scratchers and sought to finish our mission. We first went to the room marked ‘Hounds’ despite the protests of Myrmec and while listening through the door we heard their music and were filled with fear. We were able to overcome our fear and defeat them, but it was difficult. I took their vocal cords to sell at a later date. Myrmec stayed out of the fray and Truthseeker’s cougar was at one point hideously combined with one of the hounds. Truthseeker sent her away and then there was the issue of what had happened, but he and Aquinus disappeared before he was able to give testimony. Myrmec claimed to have been knocked unconscious and to have completely missed the battle. It couldn’t be proved that he had moved against us, but I will be very weary of him in the future. I’m not sure his loyalty has been compromised, but Ayla is positive and caution is necessary.

We came to a bit of a standstill in regards to our dispute and carried onward. We came across a courtyard where I could fly up and assess our situation. We thought an area off of a set of stables looked promising, but when I flew over it a creature flew out at me and the only reason I escaped was that I was able to realmshift away. Deciding it might be better to seek out a little treasure, we pressed onward. When we did our checks before entering we were able to determine that someone was inside, so I did what was natural and knocked. A cultist opened the door and asked me the password. I provided it and was allowed entry into the artificer’s workshop that they were searching. I began to search with them and when I made a comment to test the leader’s intelligence, I was slapped. The gig was soon up and my companions busted in to the fray. We have now knocked the leader and two of his companions out and are about to interview them. Phaedra just found a screaming orb in a hidden part of the workshop and we think this may be the treasure we seek, even though we don’t yet know what it is.

- Nila Sora

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Shadows and Subterfuge: The Shadow Op

Gaius Trevelanius, the leader of a small noble House in Sylvennis, brought together his stable of espionage agents for their first mission as a group. The new-found team was made up of:

  • Syler Furbane, a Kipman crime lord and attention junkie skilled at quieting conflicts. The group’s leader.
  • Piah “Pi”, a Leovite/Son of Light half-breed “bad-ass mind wizard” and court jester with a hidden agenda. The group’s diplomat and tech wizard.
  • Rasine, a Pariah who lives up to the name, always hidden in the shadows (and afraid to come out). The group’s infiltrator and spy.
  • Content Not Found: gatcha, a gregarious Outlander storyteller and jack of all trades — and even more of an attention junkie than Syler. The group’s entertainer, distraction, and flexible operator.
  • Erillia, a minor Daughter of Light official within House Trevelanius intent on raising her station, and skilled Dreamsharer. The group’s master of disguise and deceit.
  • Mo Proudhoe, a Rural revolutionary intent on taking down the aristocratic system from the inside. The group’s medic and melee fighter.

The team were sent, as their first job all together, to investigate and prevent and assassination of Gaius’s good friend and political ally Metis — or so it was presented to the group (Pi determined that Gaius barely knew Metis and wanted to get in bed with, saving his life to create goodwill). They were to infiltrate a party Metis was throwing.

First, Pi set up a telepathic link between all the team. Erillia made a disguise for Syler and Mo as Sons of Light, as no-one of their low station would be allowed into the party. Pi and Gatch went in before the party started, acting as the entertainers they are. By the time Erillia and Syler entered the party, Pi had already identified Riduccio, a Sky-Carver politico, as possibly the assassin, or at least associated with them, as he was thinking “only one hour until my part of the plan.” Meanwhile, Mo entered the garden and found a dark, mysterious oily smear at the fence, and a trail of the stuff that led to a window. Rasine sneaked in mere inches from the guards, and found an open window in an upstairs study — the same Mo had found, and smeared with the same oily substance.

Syler kept an eye on Riduccio while Pi, Gatcha, and Erillia surveyed the crowd, attempting to find more information on Riduccio. The information they gathered:

  • He is usually very conservative, but recently, on the topic of immigration, he has grown very liberal.
  • He likes lower-class prostitutes.

Metis finally emerged to give a speech, telling everyone that he was going to ensure:

  • that any refugee who needed to flee the inter-Realm conflict between the Shertasi, Ma’ar, and Niontians should be welcome in the City
  • BUT
  • extensive background checks should be instituted on any prospective citizen to avoid enemy combatants entering the Realm of Lives.

Pi thought this was oxymoronic hogwash, and detected a similar sentiment in Riduccio’s mind: “That’s what you think will happen. You just wait.” While Syler moved his attention over to Metis, Pi engaged Riduccio in shameless flirtations and Gatcha endeavored to (and failed to) entertain the crowd with a fictionalized version of Syler’s own life, emphasizing its moral: “A person with a strong ideal can beat any odds,” which Riduccio vibed on — and Pi, sensing that, mimicked his opinion to grow even closer to him.

Rasine followed a mysterious shadow away from the study and onto a balcony overlooking the main hall. She saw that the shadow was just that — a living, malevolent shade with a crossbow aimed at Metis. Just then, Pi picked up Riduccio thinking “It’s time!” and the lights went out. Pi dived fully into Riduccio’s head, finding out everything she could in that moment. Most vital was:

  • The shadow was a Niontian, one of those deceitful and warlike living shadows, and was working with Riduccio.
  • Riduccio had been recruited by the Niontians to help them invade the City, and step one is massive immigration.
  • Riduccio was afraid of being betrayed and eliminated by the Niontians.

The team all sprang into action: Syler stepped in front of Metis just in time to take — and shrug off — the Niontian’s crossbow bolt. Eriliia threw a hallucination into Riduccio’s head that he was being attacked by Niontians, driving him into a panic. Rasine took her knowledge of Shadowshifting to discern the Niontian’s major weakness, and created a cloud of darkness to absorb the creature — injuring but not killing it. Pi forced Riduccio into turning the lights back on. Erillia instantly began spreading rumors that a cousin of House Trevelanius (Syler in disguise) was responsible for saving Metis, and that the crossbow bolt looked otherworldly. Gatcha ran and hid — and Mo took advantage of the darkness and confusion to murder a random aristocrat.

Pi tossed a homemade light bomb up onto the balcony, but failed to harm the Niontian — then Rasine threw another shadow and it disintegrated with a scream on the edge of hearing.

As the party began to return to normalcy, the team considered how best to use Riduccio and Pi’s deep infiltration into the man’s mind…

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Shadows and Subterfuge: The Manor Op

Trevelanius’s espionage team decided to leave the party as soon as things quieted down, stopping only long enough for Syler Furbane to tell Metis that he had been saved by Gaius Trevelanius’s people. Piah decided to follow Riduccio, tracking him easily as she was still inside his head, while Content Not Found: gatcha went home shaken, Erillia went to take care of some family business, and Mo Proudhoe, Syler Furbane, and Rasine checked back in with Trevelanius. He complimented them on their work, gave them a small bonus, and told them to follow Riduccio and find out who he was working for and who he was meeting with.

The team reconnected with Pi at the “Cup-and-Ball” tavern and whorehouse in Belltown, where Pi had been telepathically monitoring Riduccio’s sex life with a Leovite prostitute while sampling some cordial. Mo, upon seeing a fellow Rural working as a prostitute, tried to appeal to her sense of propriety to find out more about Riduccio. She demurred, but Syler, after bribing the whore a bit, found out that Riduccio:

  • has a thing for felinoids — Leovites and Kipmen with feline features, while being less picky about gender.
  • is a frequent customer and big tipper, and
  • has occasionally beaten the girls

Upon hearing this, Mo flew into a rage and approached the Cup-and-Ball’s “Madam,” insisting that she do something about her abusive patron. The madam replied that Riduccio had been warned, but the problem appeared to have stopped, and if it were to happen again, she would respond. [OOC: Upon hearing that this happens, Piah’s player asked “is he beating one right now?” The GM responded “if you give me a fate point, he is,” and she immediately handed one over]. Pi reported over the mind-link that Riduccio was in the process of beating his whore, and Mo pushed the madam up against the wall, shouting that Riduccio was in there hitting one of the madam’s girls. Syler, running “To The Rescue,” smashed through the back room door, interrupting Riduccio in mid-backhand, and knocking him to the floor.

The madam consoled and chastised her girl (for not reporting this sooner), while Mo prepared smelling salts to awaken Riduccio. Meanwhile, Rasine, having sneaked into the madam’s office, saw that on occasion Riduccio’s bills were paid by a Tessiria Aderino – and Pi, deciding she could still seduce Riduccio in the future, but not if he saw her with Mo and Syler, headed out to the street. As Riduccio awakened, Mo slapped him across the face, swore at him for his behavior, and threw him out of the Cup-and-Ball. The madam gave Syler and Mo credit for a “evening of pleasure,” and they accepted graciously, then left to pursue Riduccio. Rasine stayed behind [and played Batman], surprising the madam and asking for her real take on Riduccio. The madam assured the mysterious intruder that she hated what Riduccio had done to her girls, and would ensure he never came back – and informed her about Riduccio’s patron Tessiria.

They all followed Riduccio as he went to Tessiria’s manor in Council Heights. Meanwhile, Pi reported back to Trevelanius telepathically, and Erillia, who had just checked back in, did a bit of research on Tessiria – she:

  • is a powerful councilor on the High Council
  • controls significant portions of Sylvennis and Council Heights
  • is not well-liked
  • is cruel to her servants
  • is willing to share power, but inevitably betrays [has the Aspect: “We Can Share… For Now”
  • blocks her manor house from all Sharing to prevent spying.

As Riduccio entered the manor, he disappeared from Pi’s mind, verifying Erillia’s intel. Rasine scouted the house for weak spots in its security, and immediately slipped into the servants’ quarters, sneaking right past the sleeping peons. Pi used her Relicshifting to create magical wire-cutters that shut off the manor’s security system, and the rest of the team entered separately from Rasine.

Acting in three separate groups, the team did the following:

Mo and Pi: wandered around a bit, then found Riduccio’s dressing room and guest bedroom. There they discovered some felinoid pornography and a mysterious notebook hidden in a fake book, filled with a coded message in the ancestral language of the Sky-Carvers. Upon hearing guards walking nearby, they hid in a closet, and Pi stripped naked in preparation for plan B. The guards found Mo’s wolf and chased it out a window. One followed the wolf, but the other headed back to report the animal. Pi burst out of the closet nude, trying to convince the Iversdotter guard that she was a prostitute Riduccio had hired (with the wolf as a “prop”). The guard bought it, and told Pi to stay in Riduccio’s room, but insisted on going to get Riduccio and tell the Mistress. Mo burst out of the closet, and after a short melee, the staggered guard agreed to not tell anyone about Pi and Mo – but only if Pi put back everything she had stolen. Pi refused, and Mo thought it wasn’t going to work anyway, so they gagged and tied the guard up in the closet.

Rasine: stealthily covered most of the house’s grounds, narrowly avoiding every guard that patrolled near her. Ducking into a bedroom to avoid a patrol, she found a note addressed to the occupant (Tessiria’s daughter? niece?) from Tessiria, saying “Remember that girl who embarrassed me by sleeping with a filthy Leovite servant? You wouldn’t want to be where she is…” She took the note, as well as a House Aderino signet stamp.

Erillia and Syler: kept away from the guards’ patrols, and clothed themselves in some servants’ garb they found, before finally finding their way to the upstairs room where Riduccio and Tessiria were meeting – a study or something – and, listening at the door, they found out the following:

  • Tessiria needs the support of Arbron Solfidly, the only Rural on the High Council, for “the vote.”
  • Tessiria and her Niontian allies are sending someone to gain the trust of the Crashers, the
    barbarian tribe that raids the City’s outlying areas.
  • Tessiria is sending her personal army to take over House Daceas’s territory in Sylvennis the very next morning!

For Riduccio’s failure at Metis’s party, Tessiria burnt or branded him (hard to tell through a door). Hearing this – and Rasine’s bird call that meant guards were coming, they ducked into a nearby laundry room. Unfortunately, they had been spotted, and the guards walked right in on them – kissing passionately, as Erillia had been prepared for this eventuality. The guards bought the scam (especially since Syler, long in love with Erillia, bought it as well), and told them to go back to the servants’ quarters and reminded them of the curfew, letting them off with a warning.

The team regrouped outside the manor, noting they had several schemes Trevelanius would almost certainly want them to thwart – and with only four hours until Tessiria’s troops march on House Daceas…

Aspects

  • Erillia Invoked: None; Compelled: None
  • Mo Invoked: Rural Revolutionary, Defender of the Downtrodden; Compelled: Defender of the Downtrodden
  • Piah Invoked: None; Compelled: It’s Not Easy Being Good
  • Rasine Invoked: Embracing the Stereotype, Nothing Gets By Me x3; Compelled: None
  • Syler Invoked: Syler to the Rescue; Compelled: Syler to the Rescue, the Animal Within x2, My One and Only: Erillia
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Shadows and Subterfuge: The Rich Rural Op

Trevelanius’s team, meeting outside Aderino Manor, decided to head back to Trevelanius’s headquarters. After having trouble finding a cab and deciding not to brave the treacherous Verge Street they’d have to cross to get back to Trevelanius’s before dawn, they contacted Gaius with their Farscribe and told him the situation. He told them that he would march on House Aderino’s territory come morning, and that the team should go directly to speak to Arbron Solfidly. A spot on the High Council is coming up in a few months, and both Tessiria and Gaius are looking to take the seat, so both need the support of Solfidly, the richest and most influential Rural in the City.

The team tracked down a cab and made their way to the Crux, where a Realmshifter hired by Gaius sent them to Solfidley’s hometown of Bavingdon. In the small Rural community, the team found their way to Solfidly’s lodge. Erillia, Mo, and Piah went in to negotiate, while Rasine went to search the man’s house and Syler guarded the door.

Solfidley turned out to be a large, plainspoken gentleman with a penchant for whiskey in the morning and lots of hunting [and spoke, according to the players, as a cross between George W. Bush and Foghorn Leghorn, or George “Cockhorn”]. They discussed their political needs, and Mo interrogated Solfidley about whether he truly cared for the Rural cause, and accused him of doing so little it was worthless (for example, Solfidley had raised the fine for a noble killing a Rural from 20 solu to 500). Solfidley took it remarkably well, and tried to assure Mo that he was doing all he could – while Erillia and Pi did their best to silence their friend before he got them all in trouble. The Councilor set out exactly what they could do to gain his support:

  • gain the support of the people of Bavingdon
  • get rid of Rolius, a rival Councilor
  • stop the Crashers from raiding Bavingdon
  • go hunting with him (but they would have to do one or more of the others first)

As they were finishing up, Federigo Falcone, a vassal of Tessiria, showed up, and Syler stalled him long enough for the team to finish their conversation. As they considered what to do next, Rasine left her investigations (and the signet ring she had stolen) and tried to listen in on Federigo and Solfidley’s conversation – very nearly being caught, with only pure desperation [and a bevy of fate points]] hiding her behind a curtain just in time.

The team decided to return to the City and assassinate Rolius. However, because of House Trevelanius’s Rules, they needed to establish that Rolius was a criminal and deserved to die before murdering him. Back in the City, they split up into several investigations:

  • Mo and Syler found out about a sausage factory owned by Rolius, rumored to grind up Kipmen into their meats. They failed to infiltrate the factory, but spoke to the workers, who vehemently denied the rumors.
  • Pi investigated where Rolius was going to be when, assuming she would be able to pluck evidence of some crime from his head just before killing him, and found he was going to be at an art gallery opening that evening.
  • Erillia caught a rumor that Rolius had killed his brother several years ago in order to take over his House (the brother had been killed with some kind of poison, blight- or blood-shifting, and his killer had never been identified). She went to the library and found Lightcatcher heliotypes of Rolius’s brother, as part of a fiendish plan to make Rolius admit his guilt.
  • Rasine infiltrated Rolius’s office at the Curia and found financial records regarding the month of his brother’s murder, and the location of the Rolius family crypt.

They all came together at the Rolius crypt, where they discovered Rolius had been killed with a particular poison that is undetectable in red wine. Erillia observed what the brother’s corpse now looked like, then went and bought some of said poison while dressed in the House Aderino servant’s outfit she had obtained the previous night. Their plan all put together, the team congregated at the art gallery opening, where they pulled Rolius into a back room, and Erillia used her Dreamsharing to disguise herself as the man’s dead brother, accusing him of murder – and psychologically tormenting him as she transformed into the visage of the brother’s rotting corpse. Panicked, Rolius ran out into the crowd, crashing into a waiter – who Erillia also gave the brother’s face. Rolius smashed a wine bottle and attempted to kill the waiter with it, but Pi grabbed hold of his mind and forced Rolius to slit his own throat.

Their first task finished, the team decided they should move directly on to the next, as they were certain they were working against a deadline to gain Solfidley’s support before Tessiria did. Another trip to the Crux, and they were quickly Realmshifted to the Wilderwoods, where they could meet the Crashers.

The Crashers ambushed the team easily, but agreed that they could be friendly… especially if they were “friendly.” Pi, already flirtatious, didn’t resist as Skarch, the rough-and-tumble wolf/bear/man leader pulled her in for a kiss – but Rasine, already traumatized by being caught off guard and exposed to the world, swore to get her revenge on the man who was kissing her ex-girlfriend.

As they all drank and caroused, the team somewhere between guests and prisoners, a mysterious, sexy, cat-derived Kipwoman showed up out of nowhere, announcing herself as Del. Del declared herself an employee of House Aderino, intent on making a deal with the Crashers. Rasine, intent on getting back at Pi for the attention she was paying to Skarch, approached Del and pretended to be a flirtatious Crasher. She began to lead Del away, but Pi couldn’t watch Rasine with another woman, nor could she allow this woman to sabotage their work with the Crashers… so she pounced on Del. An angry, violent, and yet terribly sexy cat-fight began between the two feline women, as the Crashers looked on and applauded. Rasine, continuing the feud with her ex-lover, rushed up to Skarch and planted a great big kiss on him… and then began to freak out as he threw her down on the table and she realized she was in over her head. With all the romantic tension in the air, Syler let loose his true feelings and kissed Erillia.

Erillia had no time to deal with that, and took advantage of the confusion to make the Crashers hear skeletal hoofbeats, as if their enemies the Dead Tribes were nearby. As the camp erupted into chaos, Syler shook off Erillia’s rebuff and ran to Rasine’s rescue, grabbing Skarch and pulling him into the bushes. The cat-fight became deadlier, and Pi dove into Del’s head to find her motives and mission:

  • Sent by Tessiria, Del was to get the Crashers to attack the City.
  • She had two things to offer: her body (a negotiating tool, more or less), and, more importantly, control over the Julian Plains after the Niontians take the City.

Syler and Rasine fought Skarch with axe and garotte, making up for their less impressive martial skills with the advantage of numbers and surprise. Rasine began choking Skarch from behind, but he threw her over his shoulder and slammed her against the ground, using her own garrotte against her, bruising her windpipe and cracking a rib. Syler managed to get him off her, and planted his axe in the Crasher’s chest, killing him.

Meanwhile, Pi, in full control over Del’s mind, sent her against Skarch’s second-in-command, the horse-man Varrio, having Del announce that she was attacking in the name of House Aderino and not caring who died in the end. Erillia created an illusionary horde of Dead Tribes raiders riding through the camp, drawing the Crashers away and hiding Pi as she stabbed a Crasher in the back to help sell the illusion. Unfortunately, just as Erillia pulled the last Crashers away with a final illusion – a Dead Tribes rider galloping through the camp – she pushed her mind too far, and her own hallucinations turned against her, the rider wheeling round to run her down…

Aspects

  • Erillia Invoked: The Truth is Merely What You Can Make Others Believe, How Can I Control the World If I Can’t Control My Own Head; Compelled: None
  • Mo Invoked: Rural Revolutionary x2, The Nobles Shall Pay; Compelled: The Nobles Shall Pay
  • Piah Invoked: It’s Not Easy Being Good, Rasine’s in My Pi; Compelled: So Very Gay!, Rasine’s in My Pi
  • Rasine Invoked: Shadow Stalker, Don’t Look at Me!, Overprepared in Fear of Failure, Piah’s Former Lover; Compelled: Don’t Look at Me!, Piah’s Former Lover x2
  • Syler Invoked: Always the Underdog x2, Defusing the Situation, Syler to the Situation x2 Compelled: My One and Only: Erillia

Have Not Yet Been Compelled or Invoked:

  • Erillia: Low Among the High… For Now, I Will Not Be a Pawn, You Are Useful. I Like You.
  • Gatcha: I Have Followed the Wind, In on the Take, Latchkey Kid, Raised By the Road
  • Mo: Redistributor of Life, Liberator…or Terrorist?, In the Right Hands, Anything is a Weapon, Can’t Win the Revolution on My Own, Propaganda Can Be Useful
  • Piah: What You Don’t Know Can Hurt You, So Many Secrets, Sweet as Pi
  • Rasine: Ugly Duckling “Forced” into the Shadows, Gaius Values My Opinion
  • Syler: Crime Lord Buying People’s Love and Respect, I Just Want to be Loved

[Erillia: you need to finish up your aspects. It’s hard to find stuff to compel]

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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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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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