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Blue Rose: Cat's Cradle (Actual Play)

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  • #16
    Re: Blue Rose: Cat's Cradle (Actual Play)

    The story continues. Jadzia meets a familiar face, but not soul. Darcy meets the woman he was destined to meet. Maria and Ash meet a new kind of Darkfiend. Jana is saved by a beautiful stranger, and Tanith saves perhaps many lives with telepathic flirting. Read on.

    Shadow Show Part II

    Session VIII

    Ashlin’s Reports

    They found it to be your usual rough and tumble bar in the Lake Ward, mostly full of sailors waiting for the ships to be ready to depart again. A couple of people there stood out, a Rezean Adept who was very familiar looking and a leatherclad seafolk woman, watching the room with a careful eye. They decided to split, as one might have expected – there's benefits to unpredictability, but they don't always outweigh the sure thing of playing up cultural ties. Besides, it would be much less easy to tease Jadzia if she weren't so predictable.

    They did discuss things ahead of time, determining that the Adept was not in fact familiar, but rather the twin to a woman they had encountered before, back during the celebration after our first successful case, the one Darcy had so cruelly spurned in favor of a burglary plus assignation combination. Apparently that made her a twin, from a clan that was betrayed by a pair of twins, from a cultural that considered twins unlucky to begin with. Lucky her. Jadzia found her quite personable, going so far as to taking a job from her. To be fair, it was a job to find a person that seemed highly likely to be the person we were already looking for, for Lord High Imperator Thaddeus Aurelius Castillanus Fuzzykins III's sake, so that was an easy decision.

    You see, the Adept, Lao Wei, had a friend, with whom she had shared news of a particular object of interest to both of them, and that very night, it was stolen. Of course, our dear darling Jadzia asked if it was a crystal monkey that had been stolen. Had she not spilled those particular beans, we might not have been given our next clue, so I don't hold it against her too much. Not that I would anyway. Her bluntness is adorable. Anyway, Lao was quite displeased with this friend of hers, and asked Jadzia to find her for her. “And if you have to kill her, in self defense of course, I wouldn't be too sad.” And one would think that black-silk clad Adepts sitting in a shadowy corner of a shady bar wouldn't get more sinister...

    Darcy had much more innocent fun, it seems (enough fun he went back for much less innocent seconds this evening!) with the mercenary in leather, one Dulcinea. Less specific information about potential leads, though she had seen a group of 5 suspicious people meeting regularly in the bar, stopping a few nights ago, which coincided both with Lao beginning to show up at the bar – looking for her friend, mind you, according to her – and with the theft of the artifact. They weren't from around the area, so the smell of the Lake Ward on them might have fulfilled its usefulness in finding the bar.

    Once we had that address I mentioned before, Maria and I made for it, being closest – Jana and Tanith followed along behind. Callista, the 'friend', lived in a single floor, middle class house. From the looks of things, no one had been in or out in a couple of days, though a note in Rezean was tucked in the door. From Maria's widened eyes, the threats in it must have been imaginative. It also spoke of some sort of deal, which Lao had not mentioned to Jadzia...

    Anyway, I picked the lock with but a moment's thought, and we got to ransacking the place. It was definitely an Adept's house, though I can safely say sorcerer, as one of the first thing's I noticed walking into the office was a watcher dark-fiend, one of those dog-headed, snake bodied, winged things. They are creepy. Thankfully, we caught it in a small room with only one exit, so it wasn't able to sneak out.

    It did try though, after Maria got in a few solid blasts – her owl and I were mostly useless at first. It went invisible after that, though again, the owl and I (clearly the best team around) could still see her. We each got in a hit before Maria managed to make it out, then she finished it off, right as Jana burst in the door! Maria, the poor dear, was exhausted, so she sat out the search, waiting out the headache its psychic blasts had given her. I got hit a little harder, so Tanith gave me a hit of that good healing magic.

    So I was bright and fresh for the search, which was good, because whoever stashed their fall back hideout was good at secreting away papers. But I did find an address, and a name, Matthias, to look into. What with night coming on hard, and Maria being warn out, we left it at that, having a bit of a sit down about our plans re: the statue (I will pocket it during the fight, when it comes to that, so that we can return it to its rightful owner, after assuring it is actually as non-tainted as Lord High Imperator Thaddeus Aurelius Castillanus Fuzzykins III claimed) and about our next steps. Jadzia was all for charging forward and clearing out a nest of at least 5 sorcerers – you'd think seeing our Maria in action and multiplying it by five might give her the slightest pause – but I pointed out that we couldn't help Aneshka out before we used her to help Sapphire out, so she at least agreed to wait, and to give Aneshka some of the glory as well.

    We did check out the address though, Jadzia in stealth and me as a streetwalker. I do believe that she didn't ID me. To be fair, I didn't look for her. I did find the invisible watcher darkfiend in the window of the shop at the address we'd found, so I was able to report back fairly quickly that there certainly seemed to be something there.

    Tomorrow we poke at a Silence dominion! Wish us luck!

    [Cloven hoof mark]


    Report from Ash, decoded by Kait, sent 3rd Athalon

    Have I mentioned how much I love swashbuckling antihero dark past shady types? Not to make you jealous or anything, you are perfectly lovely yourself; it's just that you didn't somersault off the roof like an avenging angel to rescue me lately. Not that I was technically the one rescued. Jana was far less swept off her feet than I would have been, so it was probably for the best that it wasn't me. I'll always have my imagination, at least.

    It was quiet day, for the most part, not the kind one might expect to end with being rescued and seduced by a lovely swashbuckling adventurer. My day started rather late actually. Not so Darcy's, but then, he had spent the night with Dulcinea after winning her heart with a game of mumblety-peg (I shall have to ask him how he managed that one). She had an unexpected date with a dawn-departing ship and a famous Roamer that Tanith's visions said Darcy would someday find himself fighting back to back with. Callisto was impressed by his claims, at least once he made it clear he was serious, but had important and timely pirate gang business to take care of with Dulcinea, so whatever the vision was about is held off at least a little longer.

    Still and all, there was not much to do until the shipment was to be picked up. I perfected my costume of a poor lost Lar'tyan tourist, doomed to wander unfamiliar streets until he somehow found his way home, or at least until the shipment found its own way. Jadzia was to be there too, skulldudging about, and the others would be nearby but a few streets over, in psychic contact.

    The first bit of excitement came before we even got there, when we found Lao and Shang Wei, the Rezean twins, arguing in an alley. Shang certainly seems to disapprove of her twin, throwing around a lot of 'liar's and 'deceiver’s, according to Jadzia. Lao had mentioned something of this, the clever minx, telling Jadzia the sad story of having gone to a witch for training and lying about being a twin, then being cast out for it once it had been discovered. However, nothing in the story screamed 'doublecrosser' the way Shang was. Jadzia intervened, keeping the circling pair from coming to blows, and getting a plethora of warnings from Shang. It's definitely something to keep in mind. It's almost like no one in this whole crystal monkey situation is being completely honest with us. I bet even Lord High Imperator Thaddeus Aurelius Castillanus Fuzzykins III is holding something back. I bet it is that Tiberius isn't as much an idiot as he says he is.

    The second bit of excitement came when Jadzia noticed Justine watching similarly from hiding. Apparently, she'd intended to follow the cart to “find the Baron and take him hostage”, a spectacularly daring plan that would probably get Sapphire killed. We got that through Tanith, who managed to start up a psychic thread with her based on the picture that Jadzia sent. Thankfully, the irrepressible Justine immediately started flirting, so I encouraged Tanith to distract her enough so that she would lose the cart right off. It worked, thank Braniel. Not only would that have probably gotten Sapphire killed, but Justine versus even just the two enforcers of the Silence that were hiding in the cart would have been a tough fight for her to even get away from.

    The cart itself was easy enough to follow to a small house in the High Ward, one that housed a painter's studio. It unloaded there and continued on, so Jadzia and I split off – she to stay and watched the studio, and I to continue following. It didn't make much sense, after all, for a lost Lar'tyan to loiter in front of a studio for hours. My path didn't lead too much. After a while they attempted to maneuver so that no one was nearby. When they 'lost' me, I manage to arrange to get a glimpse of the enforcers leaving the cart and taking off over the roof, while the cart continued on to wherever it had been rented from.

    Jadzia similarly didn't learn much more, nor did Jana and Tanith when they went in to get a portrait commissioned, except that there didn't seem to be anything suspicious going on inside. Which, of course, meant it was time for a stakeout. Jadzia and Tanith took first watch, since Jadzia was already watching, and Maria and I took second watch. Which I definitely set up so that Jana and Darcy, with their night vision, would be the night watch, and not so that I could get my shift over with. Definitely.

    Anyway, it was night shift that the fun happened. Another cart came by, this time with a cadre of 4 enforcers. Unfortunately, a couple of them made Jana, and she had to bolt. They are quick little bastards, apparently, so they caught up with her, but she did manage to get far enough away to round a corner, so that only the two in pursuit were in the fight, and their brethren didn't know they needed back up. And boy did they. Jana made short work of one, and almost finished off the other, though he did manage to get away. Which is where Annette DeVeers, the new love of my life, came in.

    As I intimated earlier, she had been watching from a rooftop nearby, and managed to swoop in to finish off the second enforcer before they could relay Jana's description to their friends, or call for back up. This was crucial for multiple reasons, not the least of which was to allow Darcy to follow the cart to a toy store in the Middle Ward, a much more suspicious storefront without even any hours on the door. Also, the lapse in security will be much harder to trace to Sapphire directly. Plus, we learned more about our mysterious beauty, including that she used to work for the Silence. All in all, a quite successful encounter after all.

    But now the excitement is over, and plans shall be made on the morrow. Probably we shall inform the guard of this toy store's involvement with the smuggling ring, but details remain to be seen. Until then I remain

    [Cloven hoof mark]


    Jadzia’s Horse Sense

    (Whispered in Rezean in the Nocturna estate stables)

    “There, yes… I am back. It was but a minor request from my paramour, nothing to worry about. Now, where was I? Ah, yes… we were recalling our journey to the Lady’s Last Choice tavern. I did not have high hopes for this venture, but it turned out to be most profitable… in more ways than one.

    “The tavern was not crowded when we arrived; and only two of its denizens seemed noteworthy. One was a seafolk woman named Dulcinea; she had the look of a mercenary about her. Darcy spoke with her at length, employing his considerable charms to put her at her ease. She told him much about our quarry… it seems that a group of people meeting the description of our cultists frequented that establishment until but a few days before. They disappeared at approximately the same time that the bar’s other inhabitant began appearing.

    “I thought for a moment that I knew the other woman… I had seen someone very much like her before. Following our company’s first successful endeavor, we went to a tavern to celebrate. At the time, I noted a countrywoman of mine; a Rezean woman dressed in armor bearing the sigils of Clan Kamala. The woman we encountered in the Lady’s Last Choice looked very much like her, but there were subtle differences. Rather than armor, she was dressed in posh black silks, and she carried herself very differently.

    “I greeted her in Rezean, and she introduced herself as Lao of Clan Kamala. We spoke about home for a while, and I mentioned encountering her doppelganger a few months previous. She informed me that I must have met her twin sister Shang, and cautioned me that the two of them were not on speaking terms. Lao said with some regret that long ago she had lied to her mentor about being a twin, because that was the only way she could receive training as a witch.

    “I… do not approve of dishonesty as a general rule, but I shall try not to judge Lao too harshly. It cannot be easy to be born a twin in the Kamala Clan… to bear the stigma of those who caused her family’s downfall so long ago. In any case, her sister now views her as a liar and a double-crosser, and they do not get along.

    “We spoke for a bit longer, and she told me that she was in the tavern to meet a friend; one who was supposed to provide her with a talismanic item of some power… but her compatriot had failed to appear for the last few days. Using my keen deductive abilities, I reasoned that she must have been looking for the crystal monkey, and quickly inquired as to whether this was the case. She admitted that it was, and I told her that my friends and I had also been searching for it.

    “She offered me a small sum of money to find her acquaintance and report upon her present location. As it seemed likely that this ‘Callista’ was our quarry as well, I accepted her offer. She told me where I could find her in the future, and made it quite clear that she was not paying me to kill Callista… though she would of course understand if violence against her quarry was to occur in self-defense. She even paid me a small amount in advance.

    “Lao had given me an address for Callista. It was across town, so I sent the information to Tanith through our psychic link. She passed the information along to Ashlin and Maria, who were nearer to the domicile in question, and offered to investigate it. On the door they found a note written in Aldin characters, but emulating the language of Rezea. Maria was able to puzzle out the meaning; it turned out to be a threat from Lao to Callista accusing her of stealing the monkey. Inside they fought a darkfiend, but proved more than a match for it (I believe they finished it off just before Tanith and Jana arrived to offer their assistance). Upon searching the house, they found a note containing instructions for Callista’s gang to meet at another location.

    “Ashlin and I met at this other location; Ashlin in disguise and I attempting to remain unseen altogether. It was a nondescript shop with a domicile above it. We spotted another darkfiend of the same type keeping watch from one of the windows on the second story. I initially wanted to press the attack, but Ashlin reasonably suggested that if we intended to direct the guards to investigate Sapphire’s troubles without incriminating her, we needed to keep our other case open for a while longer. So we left the premises for the time being. I confess that I dislike this complicated skullduggery, and long for a simpler battle.

    “We retired for the evening after that, and I bathed and found myself resting in the arms of my l… my ladies. Maria was already asleep when I arrived back at the manor; the strain of using so much magic in the fight against the darkfiend had proven quite taxing. In the morning, the lot of us rode across town to see what we could do for Miss Sapphire. Along the way, I found myself distracted by the sound of two women arguing in an alleyway… arguing in Rezean. When I looked for the source of these sounds, of course I found Lao and her sister Shang in the middle of a shouting match.

    “Lao attempted to bring me into the argument on her side, stating that I was her new friend and had offered to do her a favor which would soon improve her fortunes in Aldis City. I acknowledged that I was making progress with finding Callista, and Lao seemed to take this as tacit agreement that I was taking her side. She walked away pleased with herself, leaving me the opportunity to speak with her sister.

    “Shang is more like me than Lao… plain-spoken and direct. She greeted me pleasantly despite her sister’s attitude, and warned me that Lao would most certainly betray me if my trust in her allowed her to do so. I thanked her for her warning, and introduced myself by name and clan. We parted on good terms, and I hurried to rejoin my friends.

    “We stationed ourselves near the Old River Shipping Company warehouse. Ashlin and I once again took point, keeping our eyes on the suspicious crates at all times from disguise and stealth respectively, while the others waited some distance away, in psychic contact through Tanith.

    “Later that day, a carriage did arrive for the crate, manned by people who had the look of seasoned killers about them… almost certainly employees of the shadowy criminal organization known as the Silence. At this point, another observer made her presence known. Justine, hoping to protect Sapphire from the Silence’s men, prepared to strike them down then and there. While an understandable and honorable course of action, this would have made it impossible for us to trace these hirelings back to their master and so put an end to the danger itself. She had to be stopped.

    “I sent Tanith an image of Justine, and she extended her psychic abilities to include the rash young woman. She kept Justine distracted until the carriage had departed… mostly by flirting shamelessly with the impetuous bravo.

    “I assure you that I was not jealous of Justine in any way.

    “In any case, both Ashlin and I succeeded in following the carriage to a portrait studio in the High Ward. The dangerous-looking men unloaded the crate there and proceeded to drive away. I remained watching the studio while Ashlin continued following the carriage (the men left it at a relatively neutral location which seemed more like a transportation depot than a Silence headquarters). I relayed this information back to Tanith, and the others joined me at the studio.

    “Tanith and Jana went into the studio on the pretense of having a portrait done so that they could look around. They spotted the questionable crate, but nothing else seemed out of the ordinary about the studio. I… wish I could have been included in that portrait as well; it was quite beautiful. But then, how could it not be, with two such lovely subjects? I remained hidden so that I could continue watching the studio from the street, and inform the others if anything occurred.

    “Tanith joined me in my surveillance after the artists had all they needed. It was pleasant, though Tanith is not well-versed in the art of stealth. We did not know when the Silence would return for their crate, so we decided to take turns watching their drop-off point. Tanith and I remained for the rest of the afternoon. When dusk had settled, Maria and Ashlin relieved us, and we returned to the estate to join Jana for dinner.

    “Jana and Darcy took up their duties shortly after midnight… and they were the ones lucky enough to spot the Silence at work. Once more, a group of dangerous-looking men arrived and loaded the crate into another carriage. My l… my friends intended to follow the carriage to its destination, and I believe Darcy did follow up on that plan. Unfortunately, the criminals spotted Jana before they disembarked, and two of them remained behind to investigate her presence.

    “Of course, my lady was magnificent in her response to those scoundrels. She killed one outright with her blade and forced the other to flee. Unfortunately this posed a bit of a problem, as the vanished foe would most certainly report the incident to his superiors within the Silence and alert them to our interest in their illicit activities. Though she realized this, without a horse and weighed down by her heavy armor Jana was unable to pursue her foe effectively.

    “Fortunately we had an unexpected ally. I believe Ashlin knows the mysterious woman who calls herself Annette DeVeers. She struck from a rooftop, smiting Jana’s quarry – who was already on his last legs – with a single blow from her daggers. I do not know yet if we can trust Ms. DeVeers… but I will not deny that her presence was helpful in that instance.

    “In any event, Darcy followed the carriage to another store in the Middle Ward, and… ah, but once again my lady calls me. I beg your patience… I shall only be a moment, Salkhi.”


    Jana’s Letters

    Dear Mother,

    So, the evening continued. Darcy and Jadzia went to the “Lady’s Last Choice” bar to follow up on that lead. There were a couple of interesting people there that caught their attention. There was a Rezean woman named Lao, who it turns out has a sister in town named Shang, that Jadzia has already met. Lao is an adept while her sister is a fighter. So, Jadzia went to talk to her kinswoman while Darcy chatted with a seafolk woman named Dulcinea. It turns out that Lao is looking for a woman named Callista. They were in town for an auction that got robbed. Jadzia was direct and asked if she was there for the monkey statue. Turns out that she is. Lao was supposed to meet with this Callista, but the other woman has not shown up and Lao was getting frustrated. Jadzia offered to help locate Callista. Lao accepted the offer and hired my friend to find this other woman. Lao gave her the address that she had for her friend. They then planned to meet up again at the “Covered Lantern” in the Middle Ward. Lao also admitted when asked that she had a twin in town, Shang, but that they didn’t get along well. Ever since Lao had lied about being a twin so that she could receive training as a witch their relationship suffered. Apparently in Rezea, or maybe just in her clan, twins are thought to be bad luck, and Lao had lied about that.

    Meanwhile Darcy got some information from the Seafolk woman about a group of people that had been coming in to the bar regularly but they stopped coming a day or so ago… about the time that Lao showed up. Since Darcy was specifically asking about smugglers, the thought is that those men were smugglers and had completed their work already.

    Jadzia told Tanith about what she had found out through the mind link that Tanith had established earlier. Tanith told Maria and Ashlin – also via the link – and they started heading toward that house. Tanith and I followed but we arrived after our other two friends since we were further away to start with. When Maria and Ashlin arrived they found a note tucked into the door written in Aldin characters but the language was Rezean. It was a letter from Lao threatening Callista that she should show up at the bar that Lao was waiting at. Ashlin then picked the lock to get a look inside. They investigated and found a Watcher fiend. Ashlin literally tripped over it in the dark. A fight ensued. This creature had the ability to turn invisible, which made it difficult for me to even see it when I arrived. Thankfully Ashlin and Maria were more than a match for it and they dispatched it just after I arrived. Tanith arrived shortly after I did. Unfortunately Maria exhausted herself during the fight using her magic. I’ve seen how taxing some spells can be so I was a little surprised that I hadn’t seen her so tired after a fight before now. Ashlin and I searched the house to see what we could find. We discovered that the house had been left empty for a few days and that there was a fairly well-hidden note with another address on it associated with a man named Matthias. It seemed like it was a fall back location.

    We decided to go back to the office so Maria could rest and recover her strength. After that Ashlin and Jadzia decided to go back out and check out the address that we had found at the house. Ashlin disguised himself as a “woman of the evening,” at least that’s how he described it, and took a stroll down the street. He managed to get a look at the shop and saw a darkfiend watching out the window. The fiend didn’t notice either one of my friends and eventually let the curtain fall shut and went back to doing whatever it was doing. I am glad that my friends are so proficient in remaining hidden or unnoticed. It is a skill that comes in handy for a variety of situations. As a Skull Knight I was not taught to be unobtrusive. We were there to be noticed. We were there to scare the populace into complying with the Regent’s wishes. So, I do not have as much practice in not being noticed as I’d like. Though to be honest it really hasn’t come up much for me since I got to Aldis.

    Tanith just recently learned the spell that allows her to communicate with those close to her and it has come in rather handy. She didn’t have to use it with me today since I was with her, but she has spoken in my mind since she learned that spell. I will admit that initially I was a little uncomfortable with the whole idea. It was just a little too close to what Lady Talis had used with the helmet I used to wear as a Knight. Not that I want to compare Tanith with Lady Talis. I do not. Lady Talis was an evil and cruel woman, if you could even call her that. Tanith is compassionate and good. And the power has come in handy. It has made coordinating with others in our group easy and efficient. We don’t need to leave notes for people. We can just relay a message to Tanith who will then send it along to who it’s going to. Like I said, very handy. I just didn’t tell Tanith about my initial discomfort with the whole process.

    Tanith and Jadzia will be up soon so I should bring this to an end for now. I miss you and hope that you are happy where you are.

    Love always,
    Jana

    Dear Mother,

    Today could have gone better, but things all worked out so I suppose it’s not all bad. We started out meeting up at the office and exchanging information. Darcy it seems had gone back out last night to game with Dulcinea and he ended up spending the night with her at the inn. This morning though, someone knocked on their door. It turned out to be Callisto, the legendary Roamer that Tanith saw in her vision a while back. Dulcinea quickly got dressed at Callisto’s insistence. Meanwhile, Darcy talked to Callisto and told her about the vision. After reiterating that it was true she believed him and said that she’d see him later. Then Callisto and Dulcinea left to go hunt pirates.

    After Darcy told us all that we sat down to discuss our plans for the day. It was suggested that we send one or two people that can hide or blend in with the crowd to watch Sapphire’s shop and see when the crate gets picked up. Ashlin said that he could dress as a lost Lar’tyan, and Jadzia would just plain hide. The rest of us are too distinct and would stand out in a crowd. So we said that we’d be a few blocks over in case there was trouble. While they were following the cart Jadzia noticed Justine making ready to jump the cart driver. Jadzia sent a mental image of the woman to Tanith who immediately opened up a line of psychic communication with her and started distracting her from her intended goal. If Justine had managed to attack the cart then it would look bad for Sapphire and our new friend might end up dead. So Tanith kept Justine enthralled while the cart got away. Jadzia and Ashlin continued to follow it to a portrait studio, where the men unloaded the crate. Jadzia watched the studio while Ashlin followed the cart to its final destination, which was just to return it to the place it was rented from.

    To get a closer look Tanith and I went to the studio to get a portrait of us painted. We managed to unobtrusively get a look around and find that there was nothing suspicious in the shop. So, it was likely that the shop was just a way station for the crate. We decided after we met up again to post a watch on the studio and see where the crate goes from there. Tanith and Jadzia took first watch, Ashlin and Maria took second, and I took third watch with Darcy. We both did our best to hide, with varying degrees of success. Well after nightfall we saw a carriage pull up with at least four guards on it. One went into the studio to open it up and get the crate out. The others looked around and three of them spotted me. I guess my ability to hide, even at night, needs practice. I tried to run to get away, but they were faster than me. Two of the Silence guards caught up to me and we fought. After badly wounding one man he started to run away. There was no way that I could catch him so I stayed where I was to deal with the second guard. I knew that there was nothing I could do to stop the Silence from finding out that we were investigating their activities.

    After I defeated the second guard I started to head back to where the majority of our group was. I could not risk exposing Darcy by going back that way. While I was walking I was surprised to see the guard that had fled fall from the rooftop with a knife in his back. A moment later a rather striking woman jumped down after the body. She introduced herself as Anette DeVeers. She said that I owed her one and I readily acknowledged that and thanked her for her assistance. She then asked if I might be interested in guarding her at some future point and I said that would be fair. She flirted with me and I could have gone with her for the evening, but my friends were still waiting for me and I didn’t want them to worry. So, I declined her offer and met back up with the rest of the group. Well, the group minus Darcy. He was following the crate to its final destination which turned out to be a toy shop in the Middle Ward. It will take further investigation to find out what happens with the items that find their way to the toy shop, and even what was in the crate to begin with.

    Here’s hoping that we can further this investigation and get Sapphire out of harm’s way. She is a nice person and doesn’t deserve what has happened to her. What the Silence did to her was too close to what the Skull Knights would do to people back in Kern. We would kill family members of suspected rebels in order to get information out of them. We didn’t make it look like accidents though. We usually made the suspect watch while we executed their loved ones. I am not proud of that, but it happened. It happened many times. I couldn’t disobey an order or I would be the one on the other end of the sword. If I was lucky. Usually those punished, those that betrayed Lady Talis were killed and brought back in some manner to continue serving the regents for the rest of time. I would not have just been allowed to die if I’d been caught, so I made sure that they had no reason to suspect me. I will admit that during practice and sparring I would not put all that much effort into it. I didn’t want to become a good fighter. I didn’t want to be a more effective killer. Ironically now that I’m free I’ve been practicing with my sword more and honing my skills. I guess I just need to work on stealth.

    Love always,
    Jana

    End Session VIII

    As a note, just in case, Callisto and Callista are not the same person. That’s my bad. Callisto is a Romer Expert of repute from the vision Tanith had. Callista is an Aldin Sorcerer they are hunting. Sorry about that.

    Okay so Shang last appeared in the third act of The Beginning of a Beautiful Friendship in a minor role as one of the two women interested in Darcy (he went with the bolder Vata’Sha Dawn Lux instead.) Annette appeared last session as the ex of Justine, remember?

    Tanith had to make a fairly hard roll to use Psychic Communication with Justine, a total stranger. Fortunately Communication is her strongest suit. She also trounced Justine in a Communication (Romance) vs. Willpower (Self-Discipline) roll to distract her.

    I think that covers it but comments and questions are welcome.
    Running: Blue Rose AGE (Cat's Cradle) Blue Rose AGE (Big Damn Heroes)
    HAPPY PRIDE MONTH!

    Comment


    • #17
      Re: Blue Rose: Cat's Cradle (Actual Play)

      After all that careful skulking and information gathering, the time had come to kick some ass. Plans made, the Cat’s Cradle swoops in to top a crime lord and recover a monkey. In that order.

      Session IX

      Shadow Show Part III

      Ashlin’s Reports

      Report from Ash, decoded by Kait, sent 4th Athalon

      A busy day, yesterday was, a busy day indeed. And not another word from the lovely Annette, I'm sure you were dying to know. It's good thing we were so busy, else I might perish of the pining. Now it is left to Athne that I be in the office in a recognizable guise whenever she comes to call in Jana's debt.

      But, I'll have you know, I was not wallowing in my loneliness, selfish and dead to the world. Despite my suffering, I found it in myself to advocate for the swashbuckling Justine, telling Sapphire of her attempts at derring-do (though not of how she was dissuaded), all on behalf of the young merchant. It is not as if I was lying with my compliments – no-one would accuse Justine of being either dispassionate or cautious.

      This was, of course, after our stunningly successful raid on the Silence. We wound up having to do a minimal amount of lying, with Tanith merely telling Aneshka of the mysterious contraband looking package she and Jana saw while getting their portraits made, and the shadowy figures Darcy saw while staking out the studio. No mention made at all of Sapphire or the crate's prior location, and Aneshka made the Silence connection all on her own.

      She met us at the toy store Darcy had followed them to, gathering up a handful of trusted guardsfolk quickly. She and they busted in the front door while we came in the back moments later. Well, the others did – I climbed a trellis so that I could ambush any trying to flee out the second floor window. I'll admit, hearing voices inside led my curiosity to get the better of me, so I peeked in only to see the Baron Ravenheart! Of course, I didn't know his name at the time, but the accoutrements on his cap, cloak and person gave some indication of his proclivities towards the bird right off.

      Naturally, being the soul of discretion and caution, I signaled to Jadzia, who had hung back to shoot through the door, that 5 more lay in wait upstairs. After that, being myself, I ducked into the window, rolled under a desk, zigged when their gaze zagged, and popped up behind the Baron, my knife at his throat. I apparently cut an intimidating figure, as he carelessly dropped an absolutely lovely pair of knives (with raven-headed pommels, of course) that may have found their way onto my belt later. Just after that the rest of the team barged in the room, and Aneshka took over the boring details, like placing them all under arrest.

      I'm sure some of what we found made its way towards your office, as we couldn't make heads nor tails of it on the scene. Not that it was particularly our concern – Sapphire was safe, and the rest was a matter for the Crown's professionals more than our humble selves. Though naturally, if you need more utterly professional assistance in further black the Silence's eye...

      Anyway, in order to obfuscate the face that we, blackguards that we are, brazenly appropriated Guard resources by duplicitously withholding our lead on the sorcerers, we gave it a few hours before having Tanith mindspeak Aneshka and tell her about the sorcerer’s fall back house. She met us nearby, with a trio of Rose Knights, including the lovely Saoirse. There was only one entrance, so no repeat performances, but the front door was flanked by oversized windows – Jana and Aneshka, being in some of the heaviest armor, were designated window smashers, and Saoirse got the front door. Her compatriots climbed to go after the Watcher Darkfiend in the second floor window and the rest of the Guards followed behind us.

      We met heavy resistance, right off, four sorcerers and a Soldier Darkfiend. I stayed out of the fight, focusing on searching for the monkey. Ostensibly I was searching for escape routes and hiding sorcerers, but I am ostensibly many things. The others were just finishing up the fight, and I was about to move on, when Lao came flying in, her fists wreathed in flames and yelling about Callista.

      She flew into the upstairs window, scorching the Watcher as she did so, and I followed, as I would have much rather had Saoirse or Aneshka beat me to the monkey than Lao. Jana, Maria, and Aneshka came with, which was good, as the leader (no obvious animal imagery to guess at his code name with) had summoned another of the Soldiers. They split off to deal with that. I, on the other hand, saw a leather-clad woman carrying an approximately monkey statue sized bag sneak off downstairs, and figured my search was over. Lao got distracted when the head sorcerer attacked her (a fair response, I feel, to having one's clothes set on fire) so my fellows did at least have some back up.

      When I got back downstairs, it was clear that the others had gotten into a fight of their own, one that finished as I ran past with one of Darcy's roundhouse kicks to right where a Watcher's wing attached to its snake body. Jadzia noticed us running by, and yelled for Callista to stop, punctuating it with an arrow to the thigh. I stumbled over the suddenly prone woman, accidentally trading bags with her. That came in handy later, when Lao floated down, all afire still, and demanding 'what was hers'. None of us had any problem with her taking possession of a novelty sized chess pawn, and Aneshka and Saoirse were more concerned with arresting the sorcerers still alive, and Callista herself.

      We looked over the artifact and found it wasn't Shadow tainted, though it has a nice bit of mischief baked into it. I felt something of a kinship with it. Still, we took it to Lord High Imperator Thaddeus Aurelius Castillanus Fuzzykins III, who was pleased as punch, and even offered a reward. I had advised against taking one – no need to get more tied up in it than necessary on the illegal magical artifact auction end, and it wasn't as if we weren't getting plenty of more legitimate rewards. Including Lao's, whom Jadzia managed to not clue in to our part in her frustration. We'll make a diplomat of her yet, much to her own chagrin...

      [Cloven hoof mark]


      Jadzia’s Horse Sense

      (Whispered in Rezean in the Nocturna estate stables)

      “Enough, Salkhi! I have returned; there shall be no further interruptions. Besides, I was just coming to the exciting part of my tale.

      “Yes, after several days of skulking around in empty houses, following our quarry at a discreet distance, and interrogating people in taverns, both of our investigations finally came to their fruition. We had uncovered the bolt-holes of both the Silence cell which had been threatening Sapphire and the sorcerers who had made off with Whiskers’ stolen property.

      “Once we had dispensed with the routine of breakfast at the office, we contacted Aneshka of the guards. After much discussion, it had been decided that we would inform her of the Silence’s hideaway first, attributing its ‘accidental’ discovery to our investigation of the sorcerer-thieves. That way Sapphire’s name would be left out of all official reports, and the rest of the Silence would have no reason to seek vengeance against her.

      “At Aneshka’s suggestion, the guards attacked the front of the defunct toy store where the Silence had their lair, while the rest of us blocked the rear exit to prevent their escape. Jana destroyed the rear door and rushed into the interior hallway with Darcy, Maria, and Tanith close on her heels. One unfortunate man attempted to block their progress while another strove to block the door leading to the front of the store. Two more took cover on a stairway leading to an upper floor.

      “I remained outside at first and fired arrows down the long hallway, occasionally shooting past my companions. Ashlin climbed up to a second-story window and signaled down to me that five more villains awaited my friends upstairs. I passed this information along to Tanith via our psychic link, and she acknowledged the message.

      “Between the group of us we quickly dealt with the four men on the ground floor. Yes, I took one of them down myself, despite the close quarters and crowded environment. The guards bashed their way through the door shortly thereafter, and we made our way upstairs… where we found that the remaining thieves had surrendered, as Ashlin had their leader (who was wearing an ostentatious crow mask) captive, with one of his knives to the man’s throat.

      “The men were quickly and efficiently taken into custody, and the storehouse searched. Many illegally obtained goods were seized on that day, and my friends and I were commended for the part we played in the raid. It was a good feeling, and the day was only to get better.

      “I should mention that Lao arrived on the scene shortly after we did. She pretended that she had happened across us by luck, but that seems unlikely to me. She asked whether those we detained were the ones who had stolen ‘her’ statue, and I informed her that they were not guilty of that particular crime. She was disappointed.

      “She is watching me, which implies she does not trust me. I do not like that. Perhaps her sister is correct about her.

      “We returned to the office for a late lunch, promising Aneshka that we were going to follow up on another lead regarding the sorcerous thieves, and that we would contact her as soon as we had further information. Once we deemed a plausible enough time had passed, we once more contacted Aneshka and this time gave her the true location of the monkey thieves.

      “As she knew that we would be facing sorcerers and darkfiends, Aneshka requested special aid from the Rose Knights. That august body sent a small squadron led by one Saoirse, an acquaintance of Darcy and Maria’s. She was attractive and capable, and it was clear that she understood glory and honor… I liked her instantly.

      “This time there was only one entrance to the building, though it was flanked by large display windows. Our heavily armored knights went through these windows while the rest of us used the central door, so that we would not be channeled into a single killing zone. The front room contained a few sorcerers and a single darkfiend… one of the large beetle-like soldiers such as we have fought before. The darkfiend proved resilient, but the sorcerers quickly fell to our blows.

      “We eventually dispatched the darkfiend, though Darcy took heavy wounds during the struggle. It was deemed best that we split our efforts after that, with Darcy, Tanith, Saoirse and I continuing to search downstairs while Ashlin, Jana, Maria and Aneshka went upstairs to see about the watcher darkfiend we had previously spotted in the window.

      “My friends upstairs had to contend with the leader of the cult, a few of his followers, and another soldier darkfiend. Though the battle was difficult, there were mitigating factors. Firstly, the leader of the cult was drained and exhausted from the effort of summoning another protector. Secondly, Lao arrived mysteriously at that moment – flying in through the upstairs window – and joined the fight on our side. I now know that she was following me, and we shall have words about that at some point. Finally, one of the cultist’s followers took the opportunity to flee downstairs at that point… one who turned out to be none other than Lao’s ‘friend’ Callista.

      “Meanwhile, those of us downstairs faced a watcher darkfiend and several more cultists. One of them – I am not certain which, but as they are all dead it hardly matters – did something to my head as the battle raged on. For the briefest of moments, it felt as though my skull was filled with molten lead. As unpleasant as that sensation was, I managed to rally my determination and continue the fight.

      “As the battle began to wane, I heard a subtle disturbance behind me, and turned to see Callista fleeing down the stairs with Ashlin close on her heels. ‘Halt where you are!’ I shouted, and when she did not, I fired a warning shot into her left thigh, knocking her down. Ashlin tumbled into her, but fell into a graceful roll and sprang nimbly to his feet a moment later. As Darcy and Tanith had our foes well in hand by that point, I moved forward to make certain that Callista could not flee.

      “Lao descended a few seconds later, fury in her eyes and flames flickering about her hands. ‘That pouch,’ she said, demanding attention from all present, ‘contains my property. It was stolen several days ago, and I will have it back now.’

      “I was inclined to argue with her, but much to my surprise Ashlin allowed as how that was fair, and said she could claim anything which belonged to her from Callista’s person. Aneshka nodded curtly, stating that it was only fair after the aid Lao had provided during the fight… though I could tell it galled her to do so.

      “Lao was gracious enough to thank me for my efforts on her behalf, though it was clear that she wished to vacate the premises with all due haste. She asked me to stop by her rented room later that evening so that she could see to the remainder of my payment, and I agreed. Aneshka and Saoirse were more ebullient in their thanks; we were told that we would receive commendations from the Rose Knights for the good work we had done.

      “Saoirse and I struck up a conversation as the others were wrapping things up, actually. She noticed how well cared for you were, dear one, and complimented your form and appearance. When I returned the praise in regard to her own mount – which was indeed better outfitted and healthier than most horses in this strange country – she began speaking of the Rose Knights and their training in mounted combat. And then she told me of something called jousting.

      “It is a sort of game, I believe… but one which I find very intriguing. Two mounted warriors spur their steeds toward each other, wielding sturdy spears called ‘lances.’ When they meet at a designated point, the object is for each rider to attempt to unhorse the other rather than to do actual damage. I think I would like this game very much! It seems to be an opportunity to prove one’s prowess with weapon and horse without resorting to possibly deadly force. Is this something which might interest you, dear one? I thought it might. The two of us have been invited to join the Rose Knights someday soon in their equestrian training, so perhaps we shall see how this game suits us.

      “But back to the point. Once we were safely away from the guards, the Rose Knights, and Lao, Ashlin revealed that he had engaged in a bit of nefarious skullduggery… he had in fact switched Callista’s bag for his own when the two of them collided at the base of the stairway. She had been attempting to slip away with the crystal monkey, and we now had the coveted object in our possession. Though it seemed to provoke the mischievous sides of everyone in its presence, Tanith examined it and assured the rest of us that it was not of itself evil.

      “This sparked a bit of a debate regarding what we should do with the monkey. Since it was not of sorcerous origin, we were not obliged to give it over to the Rose Knights for study and possible destruction. Most of us – myself included – agreed that the monkey should not go to Lao, who at the very least had not paid for it. In the end we decided to return it to Whiskers… but to accept no payment for its delivery. That way, if it turns out that his auction is not entirely legal, we shall not have incriminated ourselves by accepting payment for stolen goods.

      “Once that business was taken care of, my companions returned to their various homes, and I sought out Lao in the Upper City. She was obviously still upset about the way the day’s events had played out, but she was good enough not to direct her ire at me, and she paid me the rest of what she had promised with not one word of complaint. As she handed me the coin, she looked me up and down with (I believe) some interest, but in the end gave a heavy sigh. ‘Under other circumstances, I would ask if you would care to stay for a while,’ she said, ‘but I fear that I would not be very good company tonight.’

      “I indicated my understanding, and we parted as… well, if not as friends, at least we parted amiably. I felt it would not be politic to bring up her private espionage against my person given her current mood, so I have left that matter for another day. As for her apparent interest in me… who can say what the future may bring? She is lovely… but I fear that I would never be able to trust her fully, and I confess that at that moment I had eyes only for the two beauties who already awaited me at home. And it is possible that I have misinterpreted her intentions entirely… that has been known to happen from time to time.

      “There now, you see? No further interruptions. I apologize for the length of my account, dear one… and for my frequent absences from your side of late. I hope that now that we have found others in this city who share our dedication to mounted combat, we shall have more opportunities to stretch our legs in the near future.”


      Jana’s Letters

      Dear Mother,

      Like most days this one started with us meeting up at the office. We discussed our options as we saw them and came to the conclusion that we needed the city’s guards to “discover” the connection between the smuggled crate and the Silence. It has to be a coincidence so the Silence don’t think that Sapphire hired anyone to solve this issue. So, Tanith and Darcy contacted Aneshka and reported that they had seen something suspicious. They said that they had seen a crate at the portrait studio that looked out of place. Curious, they followed it as it was moved under cover of darkness to a toy store. The toy store itself was a suspicious location as there are no hours of operation posted and it appeared to be closed. Aneshka’s curiosity was stirred and she gathered up some guards and said that she was heading to the toy store. Tanith then told Jadzia, by way of telepathic communication, that it was time for the rest of us to go to the toy store. We met up with the guards and made a plan. The guards would go in the front door while the rest of us would go in the back door.

      And things went according to plan. I kicked in the back door and charged in. There were a few men in the hallway and on the stairs nearby. I alerted my friends to the presence of the men on the stairs and attacked one of the men in the hallway. It looked like they had just left the front of the store and were blocking the door with a heavy barrel. I suppose they didn’t want anyone following them. Regardless, we engaged the men we could see. Jadzia and I took care of the men on the ground floor while Tanith and Darcy fought the men on the stairs. Maria stood back and took shots at different people as the opportunity presented itself. The fight was over pretty quickly and no one was hurt too badly. Jadzia got a scratch on her cheek from a thrown blade, but that was about it. Ashlin meanwhile had taken a different approach. He climbed up the side of the building and looked through the upstairs window to see what was going on up there. He spotted five more men up there. So, he snuck in quietly and came up behind the leader of the group and put a blade to the man’s throat. The man went rigid, and realizing that Ashlin was a real threat, dropped his knives. I do not know if Ashlin would have actually cut the man’s throat if he hadn’t dropped his blades or not. I didn’t ask him. I didn’t want him to think that I was second guessing his morality by asking if he would have killed that man. I myself learned rather quickly that it is not wise to bluff if you won’t or can’t do what you are threatening to do. You have to follow through or people will take advantage of you later.

      Around that time Aneshka burst through the door that was blocked by the barrel. We told her that we had the situation under control and she went upstairs to where Ashlin was keeping an eye on the leader and his men. Aneshka arrested the lot and put the men in irons. When we searched the place, we found some documentation that gave the name of Baron Ravenheart as the leader of this cell of Silence… the man that Ashlin had captured in fact. There were no other names or addresses on any of the documents that we found. So, we managed to stop this one cell of the Silence from operating in the city, but there are many more. Apparently, they intentionally stay separate and compartmentalized so if one cell is compromised then the rest of them are still safe. Clever but annoying. In the end it all worked out. It was the guards that stumbled upon the smuggling ring and stopped it. Sapphire’s name was left out entirely, so she should be safe from here on out. Ashlin changed clothes to that of his merchant guise and went to visit Sapphire and let her know that the trouble has been dealt with. All in all a good day.

      Love always,
      Jana

      Dear Mother,

      And the day was not over yet. Several hours later we contacted the guards again and let them know that we had discovered an address that we believed was related to the theft of the statue from the auction. We had this information already of course but made it look to the guards like we were taking the time to uncover this information. It would not do to appear like we were using the guards.

      So, we met the guards at the address we found around twilight. There was only one entrance to the building so they could not escape. The front door was flanked on both sides by decent sized windows, so I went through one window while Aneshka went through the other. Saoirse, who joined us for this endeavor, went through the front door. The others followed behind us. As we entered the front room we discovered that there were several sorcerers and a Soldier darkfiend. Darcy and I attacked the darkfiend while the others dealt with the sorcerers. Initially the fiend thought Darcy to be the bigger threat and attacked him viciously. Darcy was hurt pretty badly, but luckily Tanith was there to help ease some of the wounds. The fiend attacked Darcy again despite the fact that I’d been attacking it, and I’d had enough. I focused on one good strike and managed to take the darkfiend down.

      When I looked around I saw that the sorcerers had been taken care of. We split up to search the house for the stolen statue or any other evidence we could find. I went upstairs with Ashlin, Maria and Aneshka. The rest stayed downstairs. When we got to the second floor we found the Watcher darkfiend that we knew was there as well as another Soldier darkfiend. There was also a sorcerer that I believe was the leader of this group. Needless to say there was a fight. Though there was a surprise during this one. Lao, the Rezean woman that Jadzia met, came literally flying through the upstairs window and attacked the Watcher darkfiend. She was also there looking for the monkey statue, which she believed to be hers.

      The fight was not all that long. There was a lot of fire, courtesy of Lao. She managed to defeated the sorcerer while the rest of us took out the Solider and Watcher darkfiends. Apparently while all this was going on someone slipped downstairs carrying a bag. Ashlin spotted them and gave chase. Once the fiends were down I went downstairs just in time to see Ashlin chasing after a woman in a hood. Jadzia shot the woman in the leg with an arrow and Ashlin collided with her as she fell. He rolled away and the woman, who we discovered to be Callista, surrendered. Lao had also come downstairs and demanded that the bag that Callista had be given to her; that it was her property. Ashlin agreed and the guards acquiesced as well. They arrested Callista since she is a wanted thief and let Lao take her property.

      While all of that was going on Maria and Darcy put out the fires that had been set by Lao as she went after the Watcher darkfiend and the sorcerer. There were a number of them. Once they were all out we gathered back at the office. Ashlin smiled and pulled the monkey statue out of his own bag. Apparently, he had swapped bags when he “tripped” over Callista. Tanith took a look at it with Second Sight and discovered that it is not Shadow tainted. It does give off an aura of mischief, which all of us felt, but it is not evil in and of itself. We agreed that we should take it back to Thaddeus, who Jadzia insists on calling Whiskers. He was the last legal (as far as we know) owner of the statue. So, the lot of us went to visit him and return the statue, while Jadzia went to see Lao about the remainder of the payment that she was due for finding Callista.

      Overall things went well. We found the missing statue and returned it to its owner. We were offered a reward for having found the statue, but we turned it down. Just in case the item was stolen, we couldn’t get in trouble for selling stolen goods. We helped a young woman be free of the Silence and we put down three darkfiends. I’m happy with how things went. I find that I like living in Aldis. I still don’t understand why some things are done the way they are, but other than that I have been doing good work here. I have helped people instead of hurting them. I’ve helped bring peace instead of sowing seeds of despair. It lightens my heart to do such good work. I know the others realize that the work that we are doing is helpful and good, but I wonder if they know just how extraordinary they are? It is so easy to look the other way or let someone else deal with things. It is easy to be cruel or indifferent instead of kind. But these people all do the right thing and never ask for anything in return. We of course are paid for the negotiating jobs that we do, but we did not get paid to help Sapphire or kill the darkfiends employed by sorcerers. We didn’t get paid to take on the Silence and yet they did it anyway. It wasn’t a question of whether or not we’d help. Ashlin brought us the information and we acted on it. These people make me a better person, and for that I am eternally grateful.

      Love always,
      Jana.

      End Session IX

      Shadow Show Completed

      Okay, comments

      Saoirse is Laodice’s Ex, the Sea Folk Rose Night from the first story and beginning of this one.

      The battles were pretty good. The Silence Agents were beefed-up Rogues (I found a fairly intimidating picture for them) The Baron was sort of a boss but there was some clever work on Ashlin’s part that got him neutralized without a fight, and basically skipped the boss battle. The battle with the sorcerers, I had a couple Soldiers and a Watcher (the fight in the window was not covered, really). I made the Sorcerers low hit point and high damage, and the PCs tore them apart. I mean all but the boss fell like a house of cards. Granted the Darkfiends were more challenging, so it evened out. The first one got really lucky with Darcy and did an insane amount of damage. Fortunately they kept him alive. Lao was a kind of wild card. She used Fire Shaping a lot, and had a potion to stave off fatigue.

      In the top group Ashlin and Maria saw Callista escaping, and Ashlin followed. Jadzia managed to spot her sneaking out and used a stunt to knock her down with an arrow. Ashlin used a skillful slight of hand to get the monkey.

      Lao was not really flirting with Jadzia, but who know she did seem to like her.

      The group hit level 4 and got specializations

      Ashlin Expert Spy
      Darcy Expert Martial Artist
      Jadzia Warrior Knight
      Jana Warrior Guardian
      Maria Adept Shaper
      Tanith Adept Healer

      Join us next time as our heroes work to resolve a dispute between two islands in the Scatterstar Archipelago, but the true threat comes from forces who do not want to see the conflict end. Join us for Black Sails in two weeks. Comments and Questions welcome.
      Last edited by Baroness Nerak; 05-25-2018, 12:50 AM.
      Running: Blue Rose AGE (Cat's Cradle) Blue Rose AGE (Big Damn Heroes)
      HAPPY PRIDE MONTH!

      Comment


      • #18
        Re: Blue Rose: Cat's Cradle (Actual Play)

        We are off to the Scatterstar Archipelago, as the Cradle goes to resolve a dispute between two islands, well and island and a small set of islands. But pirates threaten, and don’t pirates make everything better?

        Session X

        Black Sails Part I

        Ashlin’s Reports

        Report from Ash, decoded by Kait, sent 15 Maurenel

        Well, oh minder of mine, it's off to another job we are. I know, I know what you are saying – you work so hard, Ash, surely there is some other hero who can spell you in such strenuous labor, but no. It's important work we do. If I must make the sacrifice of taking a cruise on a sleek pirate-hunting vessel, crewed by roguishly beautiful people (and the purple rhy-croc bosun), to the Scatterstar Islands' premier resort island, well, that is a sacrifice I am willing to make. You may begin preparing the ceremony for the recognition of my selflessness now.

        The weather was fair, for our journey, thanks to our newest resident weather witch. Apparently Maria's work with the winds and the currents cut our travel time in half. A mixed blessing, to be sure, for poor Jadzia. I am certain, however, that she would have chosen more peril (the choppier seas) over prolonged suffering (a longer trip), had she been willing to admit she spent the entire trip attempting to not be sick over the railing. Thankfully, a long ride once we got to shore settled her stomach and returned her good spirits.

        The rest of us never lost them. Tanith was in fine fettle, flirting up a storm with the captain, traveling noble Devon Darling. Darcy and I played dice with the Blackbird siblings (the first mate and heavy weapons expert), Darcy doing his own fair share of flirting. Jana got crossbow tips from the captain's bodyguard Marza and Maria had the bosun Lucian tell her stories of his most exciting tea parties.

        The crew is an interesting one, above and beyond an incredibly bombastic crocodilian bosun. Devon is half-Lar'tyan, on her father's side if I've understood correctly, the same side of her family that earned her the title 'ex-pirate' since he brought her along with him when she was a little one. She got captured along with him when she was about 10 and reformed under the good Aldean influences that took her in, a familiar story I'm pretty sure I've heard before. Probably just some conman making things up for sympathy.

        There's something weird there though, tied up with Marza, Devon's 'bodyguard'. Assassin seems more accurate, though she seems to be on our side – a good thing, since she's one of the ones guarding the diplomats. She herself is Lar'tyan as well, though she takes pains to hide her accent from Devon. I'd wager she and Devon's father were of the same caste. I prodded while trying not to pry too much, though I wound up not gaining much either. She's sharp too. Despite all appearances of being asleep on watch, she still spotted me as I skulked around.

        The siblings, Markus and Dahlia Blackbird, are more straightforward, not that they are any less fun for it. Excellent luck at dice, though I did manage to win a few rounds and get a few authentic pieces of sailor's accoutrements for my disguise kit. It made me feel better. It wasn't that I didn't bring my regular kit, but introducing new characters to a closed system is hard. Sailor types are about the only expected strangers here on the island, so I gotta be prepared.

        Anyway, to our mission. The Rainward Isles, a rough and tumble collection of ex-pirates and other rascally sorts, and Azure Paradise, and upper class assortment of civilized sophisticates, have oft been at odds, to the detriment of trade and the defense of the region in general – an alliance of The Rainward Isles' street smarts and Azure Paradise's sophistication will cause significant problems to the pirates of the region.

        The two groups each sent a representative, Huang and Golden Slipper respectively. Huang was one of the ex-pirates, a flamboyant and irreverent one at that, decked out in bells and ink, with a brilliant shock of blond hair. Golden Slipper was also the very embodiment of her people, unfailingly polite, exceedingly well put together and intricately tattooed – see, common ground already! Darcy is working on fostering even more common ground by making himself someone they've both slept with. He's halfway there, and judging by the slight hint of red on Golden Slipper's cheeks this morning, she has at least entertained the idea privately.

        The talks have gone very well, well enough that Yrtalian, the infamous pirate lord himself, has taken to the seas. Though, to be fair, based on the timing, he probably started out as the negotiations began, so our success probably wasn't the trigger. Lucian has been monitoring the situation with the help of his rhyfin friends and they are definitely coming for us, passing right by The Rainward Isles, their other likely target.

        We've got some plans – largely fireboats plus Maria's adeptly powers plus lots of ballistae. We've also got a handy little bit of a leg up, or at least a potential leg up, in the form of one Blackstar, a mercenary sent by Yrtalian to “send a message” to the diplomats. Thankfully, I caught her sneaking up on the place and after she very straightforwardly told me all that and I called for Darcy, she rightfully pointed out that two versus one wasn't precisely fair, so I let them duke it out. Good thing too – she would have sliced me open a couple of new ones. Darcy, on the other hand, danced through her strikes, keeping up a running banter as well. He was victorious, so Blackstar is now in the brig of The Queen's Secret Crush, with Markus and I on guard. We'll see what she has to say when she wakes up tomorrow.

        [Cloven hoof mark]


        Jadzia’s Horse Sense

        (Whispered in Rezean on the shore of Sea of Glass island)

        “Ahhh, is that not much better, Salkhi? The salt breeze against our faces, the bond between us as we ride, and the feeling of firm earth beneath our feet… relatively firm, in any case. This sand will take some getting used to…

        “I apologize for our time on the ship, dear one… and I assure you that I enjoyed it no more than you did. While my friends and loved ones roamed the deck, chatting with the crew, I positioned myself at the front of the ship – what the sailors called the ‘bow,’ though I noticed no particular signs of deference in regards to it – so that I could feel the wind upon my face and focus upon the waves. I found that view soothing, as it reminded me of a wind blowing over the long grass of the plains. If nothing else, it distracted me from the constant swaying of the deck, which would not allow my stomach a moment of peace…

        “Ugh. I must beg your indulgence once more, dear one. I apologize for this most undignified display. It appears that even the mere memory of the time I spent aboard that damned boat is enough to unsettle me. To make matters even worse, I developed a blinding headache, such that I had to unbind my braid to release a bit of the tension.

        “In any case, while I was fighting off nausea and vertigo, my companions mingled among the crew in an effort to get to know them better. The captain of the Queen’s Secret Crush is one Devon Darling, a charming if somewhat irreverent woman with an easy way about her. Had I not been so focused upon my own discomfort, I might have taken note of how she shamelessly flirted with my lady Tanith for the bulk of the journey.

        “The First Mate and Weapons Master were a pair of siblings named Markus and Dahlia Blackbird, respectively. They are friendly enough, with a healthy sibling rivalry which reminded me of the competitions between braves back in Rezea. I look forward to getting to know them better now that we are on dry land as the Primordials intended.

        “My dear Jana enjoyed a certain camaraderie with Marza, the captain’s bodyguard. The two of them exchanged stories of their exploits ensuring the safety of others… though Jana later confided in me that Marza seems more ‘proactive’ in her approach to the position. It seems that she is most effective when she identifies threats and eliminates them before they have the chance to attack.

        “The final noteworthy member of the crew was their boatswain, a garrulous and effete rhy-crocodile named Lucian. Maria struck up a friendship with him almost immediately, and spent much of the voyage allowing him to regale her with stories of swashbuckling derring-do and heroic nautical exploits. His favorite witticism involves how fond he is of pirates… implying that he devours them whole at every opportunity.

        “Our chief objective on this journey was to repair the rift between two rival islands in the Scatterstar Archipelago. While their rivalry persists, both islands remain open to the predations of the area’s many pirate bands, so it is in everybody’s best interests to work together.

        “We arrived at the island called the ‘Sea of Glass’ somewhat ahead of schedule thanks to Maria’s manipulation of wind and current, and as such had a few hours to relax before duty called us once more. Most of my companions chose to avail themselves of the local spa facilities, as we were given vouchers so that we might have access to those facilities free of charge at our convenience. My lady Tanith, who knows me well, turned a sympathetic eye toward my somewhat green countenance. ‘Will you join us after your ride, my dear?’ she asked kindly. I gratefully indicated that I would do so.

        “After I had regained my composure by riding the island end to end, I did indeed join my friends at the spa. I confess to enjoying the cleansing and relaxation… but my continued refusal to allow small fish to devour portions of my feet still provides my companions with boundless mirth. Is this humorous to you, Salkhi? Do you relish the thought of being a meal for lesser beings? I thought not.

        “In any case, Ashlin had chosen to eschew the pleasures of the spa in favor of learning more about our current surroundings, and had gifted his day pass to Dahlia Blackbird, who had opted to visit the local Flesh Sculptor. I understand that she employed the adept artist in order to temporarily gain a male member, with which she… ‘entertained’ the captain that night. Tanith confided during the day that she possesses the magic which makes such things possible. The idea is… well, I would be lying if I said I felt no curiosity about such magic, and yet… I would prefer to be who I am with those I… become close to.

        “As the day wore on, we were introduced to the representatives from each of the feuding islands. First, an elegant if somewhat stiff woman by the name of Golden Slipper represents the leadership of Azure Paradise. She was most gracious and complimentary of our efforts on her behalf, but seemed overly concerned with matters of etiquette and protocol.

        “The second representative was one Huang of Rainward Islands. He was a boisterous, good-looking man, plain-spoken and not overly concerned with the opinions of others. He seemed to believe that Golden Slipper desired him carnally, and made several loud and off-color remarks to that effect. All that I can say on that subject is that I saw no indication that this was the case.

        “I will note that Marza attended this meeting in her capacity as bodyguard as well, but she seemed… different somehow. She affected the manners of an innocent young girl, perhaps a bit scattered and inane… when I know for a fact that she is an astute and vigilant sentinel. Upon reflection, I believe she was attempting to conceal her gifts to put others off their guard.

        “Following the initial meeting, we separated to take our rest for the evening. As Captain Darling’s attentions were otherwise engaged on that first evening, Tanith could not continue her flirtations, and so chose to lodge with the rest of us. Rather than crowd three into a small room, Jana allowed Tanith and I to stay together while she took her rest in another room. Darcy and Marza chose to stay with the visiting delegates, in case outside forces took the opportunity to attack them to further destabilize the archipelago. Most of the rest of the crew stayed aboard the Queen’s Secret Crush. I do not know where Ashlin lodged.

        “The negotiations seemed to go well during the next day, though it is clear that the differences of character between Golden Slipper and Huang will always be something of an obstacle to understanding. Tanith charmed both a bit, hoping to put them in a more receptive mood, and it appeared to work well, though their attitudes toward each other remained stony. Still, both seem to be committed to seeing the arbitration through and strengthening their positions in respect to the pirate threat.

        “And speaking of pirates… we had word later that day that an infamous band of the scoundrels was fast approaching, hoping to deprive both islands of their leadership in a single stroke. I do not know why the pirate Captain Yrtalian wishes specifically to target Huang and Golden Slipper. It may be simple greed; the desire to plunder their islands in a weakened state. Or perhaps he has some personal grudge against Huang, who used to be a pirate in his own right before retiring to lead the community of Rainward.

        “When the day’s parlay had been completed, we once again separated to spend our evenings as we would. Tanith decided to continue her seduction of Captain Darling, as Dahlia had once again visited the Flesh Sculptor at the spa to restore her anatomy to its previous condition. As I find sleeping alone a curiously unappealing prospect of late, I asked Jana if she would care for my company. She replied that she would be delighted with it, and the evening’s course was set.

        “Upon waking I found that others had experienced a very different sort of satisfaction during the night. Ashlin, keeping watch upon the guest house where Huang, Golden Slipper, Darcy, and Marza were staying, discovered an unsavory character skulking about. He confronted this individual, who gave her name as Blackstar, and discovered that she intended to do harm to our charges within. When asked why she sought such a conflict, she replied that she had been sent by Captain Yrtalian ‘to teach a lesson,’ but declined to elaborate any further.

        “Ashlin did not wish to combat Blackstar by himself, and Blackstar had no specific quarrel with him in any case. Luckily, the noise of their encounter attracted Darcy from the nearby house, and he had no qualms about fighting the pirate. Though it was a long and difficult battle, my friend emerged victorious, and Blackstar was taken into custody. Ashlin did what he could for Darcy’s injuries, and a night’s rest took care of the lion’s share of what remained.

        “And so now we wait… continuing the negotiations between Golden Slipper and Huang, of course, but mostly preparing for the inevitable reprisals from Yrtalian and his small pirate fleet. We are doing what we can to ensure that the people of this island are ready for the onslaught… Captain Darling and her crew have enlisted Maria in preparing a small fleet of fire ships, and Lucian has delighted in instructing the rest of us on the basics of ship-to-ship combat. I fear that there will be little call for the two of us to ride into battle together, dear one… and yet one never knows. Perhaps some of these pirates will come ashore, and if so, we shall teach them the error of their ways in no uncertain terms.

        “But for now, as I said, we wait.

        “I hate waiting…”


        Jana’s Letters

        Dear Mother,

        For the first time I rode on a ship. Or sailed on a ship. Whatever the proper term is, I was on a ship. I’d never seen the ocean before. It is huge. I’ve seen the lakes back in Kern, but never this much water. The waves were amazing. It did take some getting used to though. The deck of the ship rolled back and forth with the waves and it was troublesome to walk anywhere. It was made a bit rockier by the fact that Maria used her wind and water shaping to encourage the wind and waves to move the ship through the water faster. Still it was amazing. Jadzia, poor thing, felt sick to her stomach though she tried not to show it. I could tell though. She had the same look on her face that new Skull Knights do when they’ve ridden their wyvern for the first time. They always want to look like they’re perfectly fine, even if they are trying their hardest not to throw up. Not everyone gets sick, though a lot do. I never had problems with my stomach when riding my wyvern though. I always found it to be exhilarating.

        So, we were heading to an island called Sea of Glass to settle a dispute between two groups. One group is led by a man named Huang, and the other by a woman named Golden Slipper. And yes, she is as pretentious as her name sounds. Huang on the other hand is more than a little laid back. Though before we got to the island we got to meet some of the crew of the Queens Secret Crush. Interesting name for a ship. The Captain was a woman named Devon Darling. She is a traveling noble. Her first mate is a man named Markus Blackbird, and his sister Dahlia is In charge of the ships ballista. Marza is Devon’s bodyguard and a very interesting person. Then there was Lucien, the bosun. He is a Rhy-Crocodile. I’ve never seen a Crocodile before, so his appearance took me off guard. He is very much a dandy, but has an intimidating visage.

        While we were sailing I talked to Marza about her work as a bodyguard and asked if she had any advice for a novice bodyguard. She admitted that she doesn’t use a shield. She prefers to take care of threats before they get too close to Devon. I can understand that. If you can definitively identify a target then it’s best to make sure that it doesn’t have the opportunity to become dangerous. I guess people outside of Kern take the preemptive approach as well. Whatever the case may be, she is a good fighter. At least she is good with a crossbow. She showed me how to fire a crossbow on the deck of the s hip. I will warrant that it is an easier task on dry land. It was still fun though. I wonder if Jadzia has ever fired a crossbow? She is exceptionally good with a long bow. I’m curious to see if she’d be good with different kinds of bows. The principle is the same, but you aim differently for each one.

        Also while we were on the ship Ashlin gamed and generally socialized with the sailors. He won several small items like an earring and a bandana. I think he is putting together an outfit to wear if he ever needs to blend in as a sailor. He is remarkably good with his disguises. He puts a lot of work into them. It’s not just the clothes though. He picks up the mannerisms and habits of the type of person he is trying to imitate. He has different names and personalities for most of them. And each one has their own story so they can be played at any time. Ashlin is remarkably good at remembering which personality goes with each character. Some have names and are established in town. Others are just general, blend in the background kind of characters. I don’t know how he keeps it all straight in his head.

        So, we met with the delegates from Rainward Islands and Azure Paradise. You can guess who comes from each island. Devon came with us since I think she is known by both parties, so they will each have a familiar face in the negotiations. When we walked in Huang was throwing a knife in the air and catching it. He was also flirting with pretty much everyone, but especially his counterpart. Golden Slipper on the other hand was daintily sipping at her tea and blushing slightly at Huang’s words. Marza came with Devon, though she was acting very differently from her normal taciturn self. She was positively perky. Bouncing and dancing in place and keeping a happy smile on her face as soon as we walked into the room with the delegates. I’m assuming that she’s doing that so people will underestimate her. If they think that she is a ditzy girl then they will not realize how dangerous she is until it’s too late. I have to give her credit for the act. It was good. I’ve never had to act like anything other than what I a̶m̶ was. Granted I didn’t have to do much to intimidate people when I was a Skull Knight. The armor did it for me. Or it did most of it for me. Demeanor plays a part too.

        This was just the initial meeting to introduce everyone, since it was starting to get late. Devon volunteered Marza to help keep an eye on the delegates and keep them safe. Darcy also volunteered his own time to help with that. There are elements in the area that want to keep these two from coming to an agreement. If the diplomacy works then it will be harder for pirates to make a living in the area, and they don’t want that. The pirates like the separation of Rainward and Azure Paradise. So, it is our job to bring these two islands together to make the area more stable and safe for trade.

        After introductions were over some of us elected to go to the spa that was on the island. Second spa I’ve ever been to. Ashlin elected not to go and gave his pass to Dahlia so she could enjoy the amenities. So it was myself, Maria, Tanith, and Jadzia. Jadzia avoided the “doctor fish” again this time and I kept her company while the others had the little fishes nibble the dead skin from their feet. Overall the massage was quite nice. I was indifferent to the facial, though the other ladies enjoyed themselves. I just don’t see the point in getting a facial, at least not for me. I’m not here to look pretty, I’m here to guard Tanith and her interests. The only disturbing thing about the spa was the flesh shaper. I know that art can be used for benign purposes, but I can’t help but think of all the rumors I heard in Kern. At home flesh shaping was not used for pleasure, but for torture. Can you imagine all the ways that art could be used to torture people? I even heard that Lord Jarek had ongoing flesh shaping experiments going on in his tower. I never asked my superiors if those rumors were true though. I was afraid that they would confirm that they were. So, no flesh shaping for me. Though I think Dahlia used their services. I have a guess as to her purpose.

        Love always,
        Jana

        Dear Marcus,

        You would love my current assignment. I’m on an island called Sea of Glass as part of a diplomatic mission. Our goal is to bring two islands together in trade and cooperation. And on the plus side the two delegates seem well disposed towards one another. We did get a warning at breakfast that there are some concerning ships nearby. Those familiar with this area are worried that they might be pirates. This is concerning because the pirates do not want the two islands that the delegates represent to get along. If they remain separate the pirates will have an easier time plying their trade in the area. If the two islands band together for common safety and commerce then they will be a force to be reckoned with. So, there are concerning ships in the waters nearby.

        But like I said you would enjoy this place. It is like nothing that I have ever seen before. The whole point of the place seems to be to make the people feel good. To pamper them with massages and other physical acts as well as plying them with extraordinary food. And lots of it. I will admit that I have gotten used to eating better since I left Kern. We always did eat better than the regular populace, but it still wasn’t the best of food. That was always allotted for the elite and the Seven.

        Sometime later in the afternoon while Tanith and Darcy were in the middle of negotiations the bosun of the ship we came here on, a Rhy-Crocodile if you can believe that, contacted Maria to inform her that there are indeed pirate ships in the area. It is one Yrtalian, captain of a pirate fleet and a dangerous man. Maria informed those of us not involved directly with the negotiations and we told Tanith and Darcy at the lunch break. Devon, a wandering noble who is aiding us with these talks was also there. She took Maria aside and I went with them out of curiosity. She was just asking Maria if she could manipulate the tides and winds to send what she called “fire ships” towards the enemy pirate ships. Maria has expanded her skills and is quite able to do that now and said that she would help however she could. So Devon put out an order for “fire ships” to be brought in. Apparently they are ships with the sole purpose of being set on fire and sent towards an enemy ship. Dangerous on the open water.

        The afternoon negotiations went well as far as I could tell. Huang and Golden Slipper, the two delegates, both seemed to be on friendly terms with Tanith. That is not a surprise. Tanith is really good at making friends or seducing people. She uses the fact that she is Vata’sha to add to her allure. The fact that her eyes shine in the dark is another feature that people, including myself, find interesting.

        That evening we all separated. Devon’s bodyguard Marza took up her post watching Huang, while my friend Darcy took up his watching Golden Slipper. I spent a nice quiet evening with Jadzia. She really is a lovely woman. I like taking her hair out of it’s braid. It is usually tied back and out of the way, which makes sense, but I like to see her hair free and cascading over her shoulders. You would find her lovely too. Her skin is tanned a rich reddish-brown and her hair is black like the night sky. Her eyes are the color of ebony wood. She stands in contrast to me with my white hair and dark skin. She means a great deal to me and yet I am afraid to get too close to her. If or when she finds out what I am, or what I was, she will probably turn away from me. I would not blame her. A few months of being a bodyguard to a diplomat do not make up for years of being a Skull Knight. I don’t know that anything will.

        While I was spending a pleasant evening with my lovely Jadzia Darcy and Ashlin were having a more interesting time of it. Ashlin spent the night outside the houses occupied by the delegates and intercepted someone heading for them. He interposed and called them out. The messenger, who said her name was Blackstar, said that she was hired by Yrtalian to teach Huang and Golden Slipper a lesson. I assumed that it was a rather permanent lesson. Ashlin called Darcy out, who faced off against Blackstar. Apparently it was an exciting fight, each trading blows, but Darcy was victorious in the end. After confirming that she was there to mess up the negotiations they knocked Blackstar out and put her in the brig of the ship we arrived on.

        We will deal with the pirates today. I don’t know if this is the situation that Tanith had a vision about a while back or not. It would seem to be likely. I don’t know if the islands will be a frequent place for us to visit or not. I will keep you appraised of what happens here though. I know you’ll never read this, but I have hopes one day that I can tell you these stories in person. I wish you all the luck in the world in getting out of Kern.

        Yours always,
        Jana

        End Session X

        Seriously, Lucian is awesome

        Okay what to add. Blackstar showed up at the end, a female warrior who strode forward and challenged Ashlin, then Darcy, and while she was a level ahead of Darcy she had a LOT of trouble hitting him. Darcy had no such issue and won handily.

        Marza is the Assassin Specialization. The rest of Devon’s team, including Devon, have Pirate, yes including Lucian. (Huang and Golden Slipper have Pirate and Noble respectively)

        Lucian does not actually eat pirates, but it did not stop many a quip from the Rhy-Crocodile.

        Okay I think that covers everything. Next session the Cradle meets Commander Yrtalian…and the trick up his sleeve. Comments and Questions welcome
        Last edited by Baroness Nerak; 06-08-2018, 02:29 AM.
        Running: Blue Rose AGE (Cat's Cradle) Blue Rose AGE (Big Damn Heroes)
        HAPPY PRIDE MONTH!

        Comment


        • #19
          Re: Blue Rose: Cat's Cradle (Actual Play)

          With the negotiations under way, the Pirate commander Yrtalian makes his move. Devon sets her plan into motion, and everything falls on Maria. But a ghost from Captain Darling’s past is about to rise.

          Session XI

          Black Sails Part II

          Ashlin’s Reports

          Report from Ash, decoded by Kait, sent 16 Maurenel

          I hope you'll excuse any transcription errors, as it's rather dark here in the belly of a kraken. I'm kidding, of course – a kraken is hardly the ocean monster you hop into for a ride between islands; not enough room. At least as I figure, making educated guesses based on its body shape and some assumptions about internal organs.

          Anyway, it is still dark here, but that's because I'm on watch again, this time officially. Lucian has joined us as well, for, you see, we have met the enemy and beaten him soundly, though not soundly enough to have nipped his mischief in the bud. And, being the tricksy sort, we're concerned that his next move will be of the underhanded kind. Thus, more guards.

          But I'm sure you are anxious to hear about the undead kraken. I did mention it was undead, right? Only way to ride in a monster's stomach anyway. Otherwise the whole pesky digestive juices really gum up the works. Before we get to that though, I gotta tell you about the lich.

          As it turns out, Yrtalian is pretty dead set against the whole alliance thing. Not enough to send assassins right off, at least if Blackstar is to be believed, and I feel pretty comfortable doing so. She is possibly the most straightforward nighttime-skulking hired sword I have ever met, and I love her for it. Her esteemed personage is still in the brig, but at her request now – turns out she's another ex of Justine's, who just happened to be on the island, and after Justine interceded on her behalf, she asked to stay in the lock up so as not to owe the other woman anything.

          Back to Yrtalian. His first play was to raise a fleet of Death Hulks from the ocean floor, led by the once pirate queen, now pirate lich, Aisling Windshear, who made the fireboat plan more exciting. We still went for it, just with a little more stealth – a fog bank to cover the boats, a swift current to get them as close as possible, and a sharp wind as soon as they were noticed. A lot rested on Maria – thankfully she was more than capable. And well hidden – a stray arrow wouldn't be interrupting her spells, and they'd have been hard put to pick her out of the crew, if I do say so myself.

          The first hitch in the plan came when the flagship of the Death Hulk fleet came into view – Castebreaker, captained by the same man as she had been in life, one Indra Darling. Captain Devon Darling... did not take this well. She fled belowdecks, and Darcy followed to make sure she was alright. That left the banter that was to distract the pirates from the fireboats to fall to me. I have been told, on occasion, that my mouth is quite intelligent, and my meager amount of sass did, in fact, suffice.

          And so, the ships were on fire – the lich as well, thanks to a well placed arrow from Jadzia after she lit the fireboats – though only the Death Hulks. Yrtalian kept his ships well back, hoping we at least break our teeth on the undead, I suppose? It certainly was not an advantageous position for those of our foes that did come against us – Dahlia and I worked the ballista to rain fire on the Castebreaker, Maria used the winds to send it and its excessively raging fires into the other Death Hulks, and Jana, Jadzia, and Darcy rained arrows and bolts over at Aisling, keeping her from countering any of Maria's magics.

          She eventually dived overboard to escape. Indra Darling had already dived, we'd presumed to come board. That probably was his original plan, but after things went so poorly so quickly, he fled with Aisling and Yrtalian. The rank and file had no such considerations (lacking free well, you see) so we did have to (Easily) repel their boarding party, as well as to (less easily) finish off the undead kraken they called up to cover their retreat.

          It did that thing very well, but only that – no lasting damage, smashed masts, anything of the sort. Everyone acquitted themselves well – I hit once! - with Jadzia attacking like lightning with her swords, Darcy wielding his chain whip as if it were an extension of himself, Maria freezing the thing in place, Tanith lighting into it with a blade of psychic energy, and Jana managing to strike the killing blow even as she defended the by far the most vulnerable of us Adept.

          We talked Jadzia out of immediately pursuing the still more numerous (even with Justine commandeered ship) pirate fleet through the fog bank, and the need to return to shore quickly. Yrtalian's shouted imprecations as he fled, this had been the lich's plan, and his plan would be next – thus, more guards. We interrupted the diplomats playing Go (which was a one-sided round of Strip Go, so I think Golden Slipper was at least slightly grateful for the interruption) and had a talk about the situation, leading to a very interesting plan.

          We'll have to run it by the celebrating threesome, Maria, and Captain Darling, but Huang pointed out that Yrtalian, in addition to having wind magic, an abnormally fast ship, and an ancestral set of Faenari armor, has an overabundance of caution and a long developed knowledge of Huang himself (they mutually sunk each other’s ship at least once before). If Huang was on the board, not only would it be a bold statement of intent with regards to the peace talks (not to mention get him in on the action) but it might be just the bait to lead even the oh-so-cautious Yrtalian in a trap. I do have to say, it's my kind of plan. Now we just have to sell it to the others...


          [Cloven hoof mark]


          Jadzia’s Horse Sense


          (Whispered in Rezean on the shore of Sea of Glass island)

          “Yes, I can tell that you are cross with me, Dear One. I must apologize. It was not my intention to seek battle without you, and yet… aboard a ship, there is very little that the two of us could do effectively. I am confident that our time on this island draws to its close, however… so we should not need to endure separation for much longer.

          “The morning came too soon following my night with my oddyn. Jana and I were awake with the sun, so of course we were ready when the knock came at our door. Each of us, I believe, felt some anxiety over Tanith’s well-being, as she had opted to spend the previous evening aboard the ship with Captain Darling. And yet there was a certain peace in the air as we lazily prepared to meet the day. I offered to brush her hair as we prepared, and she accepted (with I believe a measure of surprise, as I do not often engage in such activities with my paramours). She nearly purred as I pulled the brush through her long satiny locks, trying to clear the snarls and tangles as gently as possible.

          “Unfortunately we spent more time on this activity than was necessary, and we were summoned to our duties before she could reciprocate. “Next time,” she promised softly with a smile and a tender kiss as I tied my hair back in a loose horse-tail.

          “Jana, Maria and I stationed ourselves outside of the meeting-hall, while our companions continued with their efforts to hammer out some sort of peaceful accord between the denizens of Azure Paradise and the Rainward Isles. Apparently things went quite well during the day, though the talks were cut short by circumstance.

          “The first interruption came from a most unexpected source. Justine, would-be paramour of Sapphire Steelheart, arrived to bargain for the freedom of Blackstar, the mercenary who had tussled with Darcy the previous evening. Apparently Blackstar and Justine used to be involved, and Justine believed that it would be to her advantage to have her ex ‘owe her a favor.’ We consulted with Ashlin, who had interrogated Blackstar earlier that morning, and he believed that she would pose no further threat to our clients if released. It was his opinion that she was a simple mercenary and felt no particular loyalty to those who had hired her to ‘send a message.’

          “We were inclined to release her into Justine’s custody, but our opinions on the subject turned out to be moot. Blackstar opted to remain in confinement rather than accept the favor from Justine. Though I have only met Justine briefly, I can… understand that sentiment.

          “The next interruption was less amusing, though it set into motion the glorious battle which was to come. With no explanation, all of us received a telepathic communication from Lucian, urging us to attend a council of war aboard the Queen’s Secret Crush in half an hour. We learned a moment later that the request was also extended to those within the meeting room, as they quickly adjourned and joined us outside.

          “The news was not good. Lucian’s rhy-fin friends had reported that morning that Yrtalian’s fleet had been joined by several Death Hulks… massive ships crewed by the undead and captained by a powerful sorcerous lich named Aisling…

          “What is that? Oh, I understand your confusion now, dear one. No, though the names ‘Aisling’ and ‘Ashlin’ are pronounced almost exactly the same way, they are in no way related. In fact, I am told that the marks made to write their names in the Aldin language are different.

          “Though we now faced a much larger force, our strategies remained unchanged: Maria would manipulate the wind and water to create a fog bank and favorable currents to carry our fire-ships close to the enemy’s vessels undetected. At the last possible moment, I would fire a flaming arrow, setting our secret weapons ablaze and giving our floes little opportunity to react. Tanith suggested that I spend the rest of the fight harassing Aisling with a hail of projectiles, which she hoped would keep the lich from employing her own powerful magic against us. Ashlin would help the crew man the ballistae. Tanith would use her magic to support the rest of us. Darcy and Jana would support me with their own bows, and stand ready to repel boarders if necessary. Justine – whose own ship had been commandeered by Captain Darling to aid in the island’s defense – would provide covering fire and support our efforts as necessary.

          “Thus fortified, we sailed forth to meet our enemies. I fared much better aboard the ship this time, Salkhi. Tanith provided me with an herbal remedy she discovered during our time upon the Sea of Glass… a marvelous concoction which settled my stomach and kept me in top fighting condition. It was very thoughtful of her… and most fortuitous for us, as the early portions of our plan relied partially upon my accuracy with the bow.

          “The encounter went very much according to plan at first. Maria summoned a fog – thick enough to hide our small fire ships, but not a ‘pea-souper’ as Tanith put it – and the enemy fleet approached. Unfortunately, they had a few surprises in store for us. The first became evident as the Death Hulks drew nearer. One of them was revealed to be the Castebreaker, captained by one Indra Darling… Devon Darling’s father. He called out to his daughter, his sibilant voice carrying even across the waves, and her spirit broke. She ran for the hatch with tears in her eyes.

          “I cannot fault her for this breach of discipline, Salkhi. On the contrary, the fact that our enemies would use her love of her lost family against her in such a way only hardened my resolve to see them pay for their audacity. The thought of coming face to face with a loved one from my past, of seeing them twisted into something evil and shadow-tainted… it is almost too much to bear. I can but hope that the Primordials will spare me such pain in the future. Tuya-mama. Savar-mama. Iyara…

          “Darcy went below to attempt to bolster our Captain’s flagging resolve, and Tanith took command, summoning up her magical glowing sword and drawing our foes’ attention to her. The usual banter ensued, with Yrtalian blustering and Ashlin responding with jibes and bravado. All the while, Maria concentrated on controlling the currents, and our fire-ships drew ever nearer to their quarry. Unfortunately, Yrtalian held his flagship back and allowed the Death Hulks to shield him.

          “Tanith gave the signal, one of the crew lit the arrow I had nocked, and I let it fly. My aim was true, of course, and the fire ships went up in linked blazes when they were but a few feet from their quarry. Maria shifted her focus, and a great wind blew them into the hull of the Castebreaker, and further pushed that vessel into the other Death Hulk. Not one to rest upon my laurels, I quickly nocked a second fire arrow (prepared in the unlikely eventuality that the first might miss its mark) and fired upon Aisling. Once again I struck true, and the pitch from my arrow spattered her and stuck to her clothing, setting her alight.

          “The battle proceeded much as we expected. Though outnumbered, our superior strategies won the day in the end. Jana, Darcy and I continued to pepper Aisling with arrows while the Death Hulks burned and the ballistae continued the barrage. After a few minutes of this, Yrtalian opted to withdraw, leaving the slowly sinking Death Hulks to cover his retreat. Most of the undead crew leaped into the water at this point. A wave of skeletons scaled the hull of our ship, though Indra and Aisling were not among them… we assume they joined Yrtalian in his cowardly retreat.

          “Then a massive beast rose from the waves… a creature I have never imagined. It had many long boneless arms which it used to wrap around the ship and pull at the mast, all joined to a body that wobbled and slid about like curdled milk. It stank of the ocean floor, but underlying that was the cloying scent of decay. My friends called this creature a ‘kraken,’ but all that I knew at the time was that it was both undead and unnatural.

          “Arrows would have had as much effect upon the creature as the stinging of gnats, so I drew my swords. My friends did likewise – Tanith still employing her magical glowing blade – and we set upon the beast with gusto. Though it was a most formidable foe, it could not long withstand our combined assault, and after a few moments of frantic combat it released the boat and slid senseless into the depths. The skeletons proved no more difficult to deal with in the long run, though it took longer to free the ship of their numbers.

          “Jana scolded Tanith as we returned to the shore. During the fight, our lady had made something of a spectacle of herself, drawing attention to herself with ostentatious uses of magic and colorful banter. Jana argued that she could not protect Tanith from herself under such circumstances. Though she did not seem contrite, Tanith apologized for making us worry.

          “I am of two minds about this situation. On the first hand, Jana and I have been hired specifically to protect our employer and clients. It is therefore our duty to see that Tanith remains safe at all times… or at least as safe as our circumstances allow. In this respect, Jana and I are of an accord. On the other hand, I know only too well the excitement of battle, and how easy it is to become lost in that exhilaration. It therefore seems hypocritical of me to berate my lady for exhibiting those same traits.

          “And on that subject… Tanith made it clear as we sailed into port that she wished to spend the evening with both Jana and myself. My shar tsetseg was in rare form last night… her passions had obviously been aroused by the thrill of battle and the glory of victory.

          “We therefore took care of planning and preparation as quickly as possible. Huang has offered to bring one of his ships into the fight. I am wary of this offer, as he is one of the people most at risk from Yrtalian, but on the other hand… his presence is likely to draw our enemy out of hiding, and I am not one to deny a comrade-in-arms the glory of battle. We shall see what the others think.

          “Once everything was in order, the three of us retreated to Tanith’s room and enjoyed each other’s company until we fell asleep. The bed was… not truly large enough for all three of us, but somehow we made do, with Jana and I flanking Tanith, who lay between us purring contentedly. We lay that way until morning was well underway, and then… well, then I ventured to the stables to make certain that you have been well cared for.

          “A pleasant night, with a pleasant morning to follow, and a glorious victory to celebrate. Truly life does not get better than this. Yet we must not become complacent… Yrtalian still lurks, and until he is dealt with, we cannot call our mission a success.”


          Jana’s Letters

          Dear Mother,

          Today started off a little unexpectedly. Not badly, just not the way I thought it would. Before we were summoned for negotiations Jadzia and I spent a lazy morning in bed. And at one point Jadzia asked if she could brush my hair. I agreed and she did so. It reminded me of when I was a little girl and you would brush my hair. She was perhaps not as gentle as you used to be, but it was still nice. I haven’t had anyone do that for me since I was a child. It brought back pleasant memories. One of the few I have from home.

          So, after that we all met up and discussed what happened last night and what our prisoner, Blackstar had to say. Apparently it wasn’t much. She admitted that she’d been hired by Yrtallian to “send a message” to the delegates. I believe it was implied that she would have assaulted the delegates if she’d been given the chance but wouldn’t have killed them. During negotiations Justine showed up. She was in the area and wanted to sue for Blackstar’s release. We debated on it for a bit and agreed that she could go free since she was not a threat to anyone else on the island and her message was delivered, if not in the way she was hired to send it. When the idea was presented to Blackstar she elected to stay in the brig rather than owe Justine anything. Rather telling if you ask me.

          Negotiations continued apace until we were interrupted by Lucien. He contacted everyone using his telepathy to let us know that we needed to meet on the ship in half an hour. So, we put the talks on hold and all went to the ship to see what was going on. It turns out that a lich named Aisling Windshear was on her way and she had summoned essentially undead ships to sail with her. Lucien called them Death Hulks. They are ships raised from the bottom of the ocean to sail once more, but under Aisling’s banner this time.

          Our plan was to have Maria summon a fog to cover the advance of our fire ships before we lit them. She would also use her magic to influence the currents to push the ships toward the enemy ships. At the last possible moment, right was they were discovered, Jadzia was going to fire a fire arrow and set the center fire ship alight. And all this went according to plan. Maria performed admirably, and Jadzia’s aim was excellent as always. During this time Maria was disguised a sailor so that she could not easily be picked out of the crew. I believe that this deception helped save her life. No one targeted her directly so it seems that they did not pick her out of the crew as the adept. Ashlin is excellent with disguises.

          The ships we ended up facing were led by the Ebon Prince, which is Yrtalian’s ship. Another turned out to be the Castebreaker which we found out was captained by Indra Darling, Devon’s father. We all heard Indra call out across the waves to his daughter. He said, “Come to me little gull.” Devon froze in horror and fled below desk. Darcy followed her to make sure that she was okay. I can understand the horror of the situation but not the surprise that flashed across her face. In Kern if you were being punished for something more than what the local Speaker would handle then a common punishment would be to have a relative killed and raised to serve the Regents. Sometimes the person at fault was the one raised as undead so they could serve the Regents forever. It is far from unheard of for that type of punishment to occur. You know this. I assume that punishments are handled differently in Aldis, but I don’t know for sure. We have run across several Sorcerers since I escaped and they have no problems summoning darkfiends. I assumed that they would not have any trouble raising the dead to fight for them as well. Especially in a situation where there are family on the other side of the fight. It works to weaken morale. If I had been Devon I probably would have expected something like this to happen. He was a Captain and apparently had an easily accessible resting place. I understand the horror of it. I do. But I was not surprised by it. It is an effective tactic to use to unsettle your opponent, and in this case it worked really well. Tanith had to get the crew’s attention on her by summoning her sword of light and boasting to the enemy. She very much made a spectacle of herself in an effort to negate the loss of morale that the crew suffered when their Captain fled the deck.

          All the while this was going on Maria was slowly moving the ships into place. Then just as they’d been spotted Tanith gave the signal and Maria changed the wind to blow the ships directly at the Death Hulks. Jadzia lit the first one on fire and the flames spread quickly to the other ships, just as they were designed to do. It was a clever idea. The fire ships hit the Death Hulks and started at least two of them on fire, including the Castebreaker. Jadzia then nocked another arrow and set alight the lich Aisling. She really is an excellent archer.

          After that things were total chaos. I know eventually that Darcy convinced Devon to come back on the deck. The Castebreaker was burning rather well so Maria pushed it using the current into the other ships to aid in lighting them on fire as well. Some folks focused their fire on Aisling since she was one of the big threats. Jadzia and Darcy fired arrows at Aisling and Lucien apparently intensified the flames on the lich a moment later. At least he was whistling right as it happened. Ashlin and Dahlia were firing the ballista at the Castebreaker and doing a good bit of damage. I think due to the continued assault Indra dove overboard. We assumed that he would show up at our ship to pay us back but he never arrived. We then guessed that he fled to Yrtalian’s ship. Aisling put out the fire on herself, but could not affect the fire that was engulfing the ship that she was on so she also jumped overboard. Yrtalian’s ship started to pull away from the fight, and because he was behind all the burning ships we could not reach him with our ballista. Though Maria did manage to hit him once with her frost magic. After that though we had to let him go.

          As a parting blow Yrtalian, I’m assuming, summoned an undead kraken to attack our ship, followed by a handful of undead pirates. Tanith continued to make a target of herself even after the need for morale boosting was done so I moved closer to her to protect her from the undead and herself. Lucien, Maria, Devon and Marcus were attacking the pirates while pretty much the rest of us all focused our attacks on the kraken. Everyone did exceptionally well in the fight and there were very few injuries on our side. The kraken was defeated by my last attack and sunk below the waves. Hopefully it will not be back.

          After the battle we went back to shore. While we sailed Devon went back below desks with some of her crew to make sure that she was okay. I will admit that I was a bit surprised that she decided to retreat to her cabin once again. I thought the shock of seeing her father had run its course, but apparently it hadn’t. It was not my place to say anything so I didn’t, but if she is going to fight against Sorcerers that summon undead she must harden her heart to the faces she might see. Death is not necessarily the end. There is always the possibility of being brought back as an undead monstrosity to serve some twisted individual. I can only hope that you have remained on the other side and are at peace. I pray every day for that.

          Love always,
          Jana

          Dear Marcus,

          I fought a kraken today! Imagine that. A real live – or in this case undead – kraken. It was huge and monstrous just as the stories tell. It was ridiculously easy to hit, but it could withstand a lot of punishment before I finally brought it down. I did not fight it alone by any means. I had a good deal of people helping me, but the killing blow was mine. I believe Jadzia would have taken some sort of trophy from this kill, but I’m not honestly sure what you could retrieve from it. It fairly quickly sunk back below the waves and we headed back to shore. The fight with the pirates themselves was almost one-sided. We employed our fire ships to set the risen pirate ships aflame. Sometimes I have to remind myself that I’m not in Kern anymore. One of the enemy raised someone from the dead to fight on their side. Unfortunately it was the father of the captain of our own ship. Devon was quite shaken and fled below the deck to get away from the sight of her father. It was unfortunate but not really surprising that the enemy sorcerers would employ such a tactic. It was very effective, which was bad for us. I guess that is just something that is not as common in Aldis as it is in Kern.

          Anyway, after the battle we sailed back to the shore and gathered together to talk about our next plans. Huang said that he was familiar with how Yrtalian fights, having battled him in the past. Apparently Yrtalian will flee if there are overwhelming odds against him, like he did today, but he will come back later with a vengeance. Huang also suggested that we use him as bait against the pirate. It seems that Yrtalian and Huang have a history with one another and the pirate would be more than happy to come after our delegate. We haven’t decided on anything yet. I think we’re going to do that later this morning. It is rather early right now and my lovely Tanith and Jadzia are still asleep.

          Last night was pleasant as always but it was also a little disturbing. After we got off the ship it wasn’t long before Tanith was dragging Jadzia and I off to her room. This is not the first time this has happened either. After the battle at Rosette Tanith was also quite amorous. It seems to be a pattern with her. The more violent the battle, the more excited Tanith gets. She was laughing and smiling during the fight with the pirates. She revels in it, which is a little scary. I don’t know if it’s the adrenaline or what, but she reminds me of several of the Skull Knights we served with in Kern. The bigger the fight the hornier they would get afterwards. That’s a comparison that I don’t like to make. I want to know why my lover likes battles so much. People die in battles. A lot of times it’s the innocent that die in them. This time it was mostly undead pirates and the kraken. I wonder if it’s the fact that she survived the fight that makes her so excited? I’m not so sure about that though. She was reveling in the fight itself. I wonder if she’d be so excited in a battle if we were the ones losing? It hasn’t happened often, but I have lost a fight. We lost a fight. I remember getting overwhelmed by a group of rebels that time. It was only supposed to be a small group, but it wasn’t. They outnumbered us and had quite a few adepts with them. I know you remember the fight. We almost died. If we hadn’t been able to call for assistance we probably would have. As it was I almost died anyway.

          I may need to talk to Tanith about this. Especially if it happens again. She seems so confident that we’ll win because we’re the good guys. But the thing she doesn’t think about, the thing that she doesn’t know is that I fought plenty of battles in my time and came out the victor. I was not the good guy in those fights. Far from it. Maybe the good guys always win in Aldis, but I’m not from her shining city. I learned some hard truths growing up, and one of those is that the good guys rarely win. My dear Tanith may be worldly in some ways. She is very good with people in all kinds of situations, but she doesn’t know the hard truths that I do. I don’t know if I want her to, but I do want her to use that wonderful brain of hers, and those gorgeous eyes and truly see things as they are. At least when it comes to battles. I don’t want to look at her and see lust in her eyes after killing people. But how do I tell her that? How do I even broach the conversation? I’m not sure, but I know that will probably have to. I promised her father that I would look after her, and it wasn’t just her physical safety that Richter was looking to keep intact. I somehow need to keep her from falling to Shadow as well. I know the allure; how easy it is to just give in and accept the path of least resistance. I came back from it once. I will never go down that road again, and I will not let my love fall to the dark either.

          I hope that you will be able to get away from Kern soon. Despite my concerns I want you to meet Jadzia and Tanith. I want you to meet all of my new friends. I think that you would like them.

          Yours Always,
          Jana

          End Session XI

          So yeah, super late. Sorry about that. Busy weekend then yesterday I was exhausted.

          So, I will summarize. Maria used Water Shaping and Wind Shaping there. The ships damage and combat was handled abstractly, though I was having Ashlin make rolls to attack while they were on the ballista.

          Ironically, while I tend to have a grasp of Irish language names, it never occurred to me to say Aisling out loud. This did lead to some talk of “Good Ash and Bad Ash”

          Next Session is the climax and a major sea battle. Look for heroes leaping and swinging ship to ship battling undead pirates, Adept vs. Adept magic, and Maria and Ash confronting an enemy from the first story. In the meantime Comments and Questions welcome
          Running: Blue Rose AGE (Cat's Cradle) Blue Rose AGE (Big Damn Heroes)
          HAPPY PRIDE MONTH!

          Comment


          • #20
            Re: Blue Rose: Cat's Cradle (Actual Play)

            Yrtalian presents the PCs with a difficult choice: Spread their forces, or save one port easily and doom the other. Indra seeks a showdown with his daughter to plunge her into the icy waters of undeath with him. But the Cradle and Captain Darling stand ready to face the darkness in a dangerous showdown.

            Session XII

            Black Sails Part III

            Ashlin’s Reports

            Report from Ash, decoded by Kait, sent 17 Maurenel

            Well, so much for the trap plan – turns out we waited a little too long and Yrtalien had a trap of his own. Quite the Rose Knight Lovers dilemma for us. I think we worked it out well enough – crisis averted, ports mostly saved, treaty ratified, islanders slept with, all the marks of a good week's work.

            You see, while Tanith and Darcy were getting some i's dotted and t's crossed, Yrtalien had arranged a two front assault – a fleet of unknown size, led by Lenore, that old friend of Maria's, was attacking the Rainward Isles port Rainsong under the cover of a properly pea-soup fog bank that they could somehow see through, and the remainder (plus some) of the Death Hulks, led by Aisling and Captain Indra Darling, were attacking Lavender Mist, the capital of Azure Paradise. Now, we had 4 ships to respond with, and had to do it very carefully.

            I did say four – we picked up another ship this morning, Mebo II, captained by the seafolk Marina, who had managed to escape Rainsong with the news of the attack. In the end, we wound up sending her to Azure Paradise, a decision she was rather grumbly about it, as I understand. I wasn't there – I went with Maria on the Golden Horn (Huang's ship) to Rainsong. The Queen's Secret Crush and Justine's Ex also went with Mebo II to Azure Paradise. It was tricky – Justine certainly didn't like the breakdown – but it did seem to be our best option.

            See, Rainsong could defend itself, if the fog bank weren't there. So Maria, on our fastest ship (made even faster by her magic), raced for the Rainward Isles to dispel it. Lavender Mist was largely defended by its positioning, nestled in a U-shaped harbor lined with cliffs. It was in the worst shape overall, considering that positioning didn't do too much with the might arrayed against it. So all our big battleships went there, with the understanding that, yes, Yrtalien was missing, and yes, that almost assuredly meant he would go in for a flank on whichever battle we joined in force, and yes, that would mean they were trapped. They largely had to hope they could take out Aisling, disintegrating their undead horde, and hope that was enough to turn the tide, even so.

            It apparently worked that way. I have heard (so so many times – Jadzia has discovered rum) about their epic dash across the entirety of the undead fleet's ships, dashing through hordes of undead, swinging or leaping across from deck to deck, to make it to Aisling's position. And also how Jadzia and Tanith dived into the water after the lich, who was fleeing from their combined might (especially after Darcy crushed her arm after a particularly brutal strike with his chain). Like avenging angels from heaven, they fell upon her and ended her wretched existence, or something like that. It was Jadzia, of course, with the killing blow – the trophy she took proves it (somehow).

            Unfortunately, while they did that, the ships were getting swarmed by undead. Golden Slipper, who rode in on the Queen's Secret Crush, was safe, locked in the cabin as she was, but the others fared poorly. Indra was a formidable foe. The others got back just in time to rescue Devon for the knife he held to her neck- she was apparently what he was supposed to get out of the deal. Tanith stunned him with her words, distracting him, and Jadzia knocked him down and away with a well aimed arrow. They finished him off – well, Devon finished him off, with a bloodcurdling scream (Jadzia was very impressed with her battle cry). Jana and Tanith got to healing everyone, and Darcy made sure no one was too traumatized. That is, after getting saluted by Yrtalien – he and his apparently cursed armor, according to Tanith's dreams, gave Darcy congratulations on a successful play and got right the hell out of there, after both undead leaders were taken out. It was a Roamer thing, apparently. Yrtalien didn't care for the words Darcy gave back.

            Meanwhile, Maria blew the fog away just as planned, she and Dulcinea and Callisto and me, knocking a good two third of their fleet into the docks as well. Lenore's ship, and a couple of others, were only saved with a quick counterspell. Maria then tried going toe to toe with the sorceress, exhausting herself in the process. From what Tanith said about it after, Lenore apparently has some way to draw vitality from the pirates around her, and so attrition was not really a winning strategy. After Maria dispelled the whirlpool from under the boat, she looked peaked.

            I suggested she go below and not wear herself completely out – I've only heard horror stories of what happens to an Adept that pushes themselves too hard, and I kinda wanna keep it that way. She went a different route though, lowering her mask (I helped out with the disguise again, trying to keep her off the priority target list) so that Lenore could see the face of her old friend. This did get us a reprieve, as Lenore tried to convince Maria to her way of thinking. Something about how enforced goodness makes people afraid of their own bad side. Pretty familiar stuff, though I hadn't heard anything quite like Dad's old lines in a bit. Dunno how that plays into attacking a bunch of voluntarily (as far as I know) ex-pirates in an attempt to make sure they don't ally with another isle nation... other than we – meaning Aldis – got involved and that's a big no-no.

            Anyhow, with that disguise, Huang brought us close enough for me to get a shot in, and Dulcinea and Callisto managed to sneak aboard, and we pounced on the opportunity to get our cheap shots in. So much for enforced goodness? That tore it for her, and she, you know, walked up into the air. Like, straight up. Into the air. It was pretty fancy. I managed to tease Maria a little bit, asking when she'd be able to do that. I tried another couple of throws, but the wind threw me off. I felt a little bad, tossing at Maria's friend like that. Yeah, yeah, she's bad and all, but... she was running away, and I have been conditioned to be ashamed of anything but the culturally agreed upon standards of goodness in our society. And she was Maria's friend.

            The privateer ladies, and Huang's crew, finished off the pirates in pretty short order, and we made our way to the rendezvous, all unknowing what was going on, except that Lucian hadn't been able to relay messages for a bit. It was a tense time until we all met up again. Since then, it has been party o'clock! Maria has been coaxing stories of his bravery from Lucian, Jana has been consulting more with Marza, and I do believe I saw Tanith leave with Devon and Marina. As for Darcy, well, I didn't see anything, but I started not seeing Darcy about the same time I started not seeing Golden Slipper. Like I said, another successful job. We'll be back home soon.

            [Cloven hoof mark]


            Jadzia’s Horse Sense

            (Whispered in Rezean on the shore of Sea of Glass Island)

            “Ahh! Not so loudly, Salkhi, I beg of you! There, dear heart… that is better.
            “This local spirit known as ‘rum’ is sweet upon the tongue and like fire in the belly, but overindulging in its pleasures leaves one ill-suited to face the morning sunlight. I apologize for snapping at you… my condition is no fault of yours.

            “And yet one can hardly blame me for celebrating our good fortune and our glorious victory, can one? A fight against impossible odds, a terrifyingly powerful adversary, friends falling about us as we made one final push… it was truly a battle worthy of a song! I regret only that you could not join us for this fight, dear one. Had I known how the fight would go, I would have insisted upon your presence.

            “The day did not begin so auspiciously, however. Tanith’s sleep was disturbed the other night by troublesome dreams. She awoke gasping and sweating, which in turn woke Jana and me. She quickly took stock of her surroundings, and then fervently drew Jana close to her in a fierce embrace. ‘Do not put on Yrtalian’s armor,’ she whispered urgently. ‘In my dream you were wearing his armor, and speaking as he did. Do not put it on, it will consume you.’ Or something of the sort, I confess that in my rush to comfort her I did not mark her exact words. In any case, Jana solemnly promised that she would leave his armor be, and Tanith took her at her word.

            “Shortly thereafter we were ensuring the safety of the final hours of the peace conference when Lucian contacted us, urgently insisting that we all meet aboard the Queen’s Secret Crush. The news was not good. Yrtalian’s forces were attacking the homelands of both delegates. Rainsong was blanketed in a thick fog which prevented the ex-pirates from defending themselves, yet seemed not to inconvenience the attacking pirate vessels in the least. Meanwhile, a number of Death Hulks menaced the sheltered harbor of Lavender Mist, the chief settlement of Azure Paradise. Yrtalian’s ship, the Ebon Prince, was nowhere to be found.

            “After a quick deliberation, we decided to split our forces. Maria and Ashlin sailed to Rainsong with the Golden Horn (Huang’s ship, which he assured us was the fastest anywhere in the Scatterstar Archipelago). The rest of us boarded the remaining three ships in our small fleet and made for Azure Paradise. We reasoned that Maria could disperse the unnatural fog with her magic, and then the rough-and-ready denizens of Rainward would be better able to defend themselves. Golden Slipper’s people, on the other hand, are not warriors, and would be more likely to require our assistance against their foes.

            “As I understand it, Maria and Ashlin’s battle went quite well. The only surprise came when they discovered the identity of the adept who had summoned the fog in the first place… it was none other than Lenore Silverstream, Maria’s old friend and the sorceress who opposed us during our first job in Aldis City. Though she was a difficult opponent, eventually Maria’s superior magic won the day, and Lenore withdrew in ignominious defeat.

            “Meanwhile, the rest of our fleet raced to the aid of Azure Paradise. The harbor at Lavender Mist is narrow, with steep cliffs to either side. Five Death Hulks choked the entrance to the harbor, which did not leave much room to maneuver ships. Luckily, we came up with a plan to use this to our advantage. Our reports of the attack had mentioned that these foes were led by the lich Aisling, and based upon our knowledge of how the Shadow operates, it seemed logical to assume that she was animating the ships’ crews with her dark magic. Therefore, if we could kill her, the undead would all fall, and the threat would be neutralized.

            “One of Huang’s people – an attractive and outspoken sea-folk woman named Marina – carried us as close to the Death Hulks as possible while the battle raged. Darcy, Tanith, Jana and I leaped from the deck of the Mebo II onto the nearest of the hulks and the battle was joined. I could tell that my ladies were nervous about this part of things – Tanith is unused to such athletic displays while Jana was caparisoned head to toe in her heavy armor – but neither hesitated in the slightest. I am proud to spend time in the company of two such brave souls. Darcy, of course, had little difficulty in making the leap, and in fact managed to land near the other ship’s wheel and turn it sharply, so that it crashed into the hull of the next ship in line.

            “In this way we made progress across the decks of no less than five ships, with each leap bringing us closer to our quarry. Unfortunately, Yrtalian appeared with a few more ships from the bay, trapping our forces between his two fleets. Though we had expected this trap, it proved no less dire for all of that. We determined that we could not afford to fight our way across the ships, so we dashed past the slow and clumsy corpses in the hopes of ending the conflict before Yrtalian’s ships could do too much damage. Our foes were all crudely animated rotting corpses; Indra had already leaped into the waves, intent upon boarding the Crush and seeking out his daughter.

            “When we reached the lead Death Hulk, all four of us rushed to confront Aisling. She was a worthy opponent, strong with shadow magic… but she could not withstand the four of us at once. When she realized that she had no chance of success, she withdrew and ran for the gunwales, leaping over the rails and into the frothing surf far below. Darcy raced after her, aware that our friends were doomed unless we could remove the Death Hulks from the battle quickly. We had already heard that many of the Queen’s Secret Crush’s crew had fallen to boarding parties… and we had lost psychic contact with Lucian as well.

            “Perhaps that explains Tanith’s zeal at that moment. In a fit of battle-rage, she followed Darcy’s example and hurled herself into the water below, coming down atop Aisling and dealing a mighty blow with her glowing psychic weapon. As Jana’s armor made following our paramour impractical, I saw it as my duty to protect my shar tsetseg. I dove into the briny water, my blades biting deep into Aisling’s torso as all of my weight fell upon her. She fell before my wrath, as have so many others, and as she sank beneath the waves I snatched a piece of jewelry out of one of her ears to keep as a trophy.

            “What is that? No, dear one, of course not. How could I know if I was able to swim when I had never tried to do so before? Not to worry… it turns out that I can.

            “We made our way back to the Mebo II and then to the Queen’s Secret Crush. The Death Hulks began to sink, and their zombie crews collapsed into inanimate corpses once more. Unfortunately, Indra did not fall prone when his foul mistress perished, and he greeted us upon our return with a blade to his daughter’s throat. He demanded that we allow him to leave with Captain Darling, stating that if we resisted he would kill her. I glanced at Tanith, who took my meaning and attempted to distract Indra with a taunt about how he could treat so callously one whom he had held as an infant. I said a silent prayer for good fortune, and fired.

            “My arrow struck Indra in the forehead, knocking him onto his back and forcing him to relinquish his hold upon his daughter. We fell upon him before he could rise, with Captain Darling attacking him with especial zeal. It… did not feel proper to deny her that kill. Her father has been laid to rest now. May he never rise again.

            “Yrtalian took this opportunity to withdraw, and he and Darcy exchanged words in the Roamer language as he left. I do not know what the scoundrel said, but I know it was addressed to my friend, and that his reply was less than complimentary.

            “For a time, we moved from ship to ship tending to the wounded. There were… many wounded. The crews of the Queen’s Secret Crush, the Justine’s Ex, and the Mebo II were in poor shape indeed. Even I was forced to minister to the wounded, if only to assure that they would not succumb to their injuries. Of course, I have neither the knowledge nor the arcane abilities required to properly heal others, but I could do as instructed, binding wounds and splinting broken bones as necessary.

            “We limped back to port as soon as we were able, and the celebrations began. Though we were battered and bruised by the conflict, all of us were pleased to be alive, and victory has its own thrill. As I may have mentioned earlier, these islands have a strong liquor known as rum. It is distilled from sugarcane, and as such it is as sweet as any liquid I have ever tasted. It is perhaps not as strong as airag, but it is strong enough, and soon enough my head was swimming.

            “Tanith was engaged in flirtatious banter with both Captain Darling and Marina, and she seemed eager to include Jana and me in her frolics. I might have done so – the combination of the alcohol, the thrill of victory, and the festive air reminded me sharply of sweltering nights spent among my fellow braves of the Tenniral clan – had it not been for Jana.

            “She seemed discomfited by the invitation, and in a sedate – almost shy – fashion, she declined Tanith’s invitation. My shar tsetseg turned her brilliant golden eyes upon me and asked if I would care to join them… and I found that I could not. Though I do not share Jana’s aversion to cavorting in larger groups, I did not want her to be alone last night. I declined Tanith’s offer, and she departed with the other two, all three giggling like young girls.

            “Jana and I settled in for a much quieter evening, though of course passion played its part. I was content, and I believe she was as well… and though we both felt Tanith’s absence, it stung less as we lay in each other’s arms.

            “My affection for these women is… troubling, on some levels. I feel things for them that I have not allowed myself to feel in nearly three years. And though Jana holds much of herself back from me, I am convinced that these feelings are reciprocated. I do not know why my oddyn feels that she must remain aloof, and I confess that it stings. She refuses to allow herself to love me… or Tanith. What is more, she refuses to allow us to love her, and that should not be her decision to make. I will bestow my affection upon whomever I choose, whether it is requited or not. She must come to realize this.

            “Until she does, my life is incomplete. Tanith and I could begin a proper relationship; I suppose… she even offered to do so some months ago. But this seems cruel to me, as though the two of us would be excluding Jana from something beautiful, and this I cannot do. So I must content myself with this half-state for now, until the day I finally wear down her defenses and discover what prevents her from taking that step.

            “She is a formidable opponent, but she has never faced the like of me before, has she Salkhi? I shall win her heart soon, and on that day the three of us shall redefine the word joy.”


            Jana’s Letters

            Dear Mother,

            Tanith had another vision this morning and it wasn’t a pleasant one from her reaction. She awoke with a start and grabbed my shoulders. She pleaded with me to not wear his armor, that it would change me. Jadzia asked specifically what she saw and Tanith replied that she had seen me wearing Yrtalian’s armor. She saw me moving like him and displaying his mannerisms. Like it had possessed me or something. I told Tanith that I would wear no armor but my own. I know what it is to wear cursed armor and I will not do so again. I don’t think the Skull Knight armor controlled my actions per se, but I know the helmet had some sort of power in it. We could communicate with Lady Talis and she could issue orders to us through it. I don’t know what other effects it had. I wasn’t about to tell Tanith that I had already had experience with tainted armor, but I did my best to reassure her that I will not touch that man’s armor.

            When we got together as a group Tanith described her vision to the rest of the group and Jadzia brought up the idea that if the armor is tainted then it might be controlling Yrtalian’s actions or at least influencing them. He could be an innocent in all of this. If the armor is shadow tainted then I’m not sure if just touching it would bestow the curse or if it must be worn. Darcy offered to be the one to strip Yrtalian of his armor when and if we catch the man. He is a slippery target though so we might not be able to get our hands on him. We will see what the future brings.

            Negotiations continued apace until Lucien interrupted everyone with a psychic call and said that we needed to meet on the Queen’s Secret Crush right away. That included the diplomats. So the lot of us dropped what we were doing and made our way quickly to Devon’s ship. Once there Lucien filled us all in on what was going on. Apparently both the Rainward Islands and Azure Paradise were under attack by Yrtalian and his undead minions. We were also introduced to a new person named Marina. She is a seafolk. I’m still getting used to seeing seafolk at all let alone so many of them all in one place. Though I suppose that this would be the logical place to see them. Anyway, the Rainward Islands were being fired upon by Yrtalian’s people. Somehow they managed to cover the islands and surrounding sea by a very thick layer of fog. The Rainward islanders couldn’t see through it to fire back at the enemy, but the enemy had no trouble seeing through it to fire on the islanders’ ships in dock. There was no question, there was magic at work.

            Azure Paradise was also under attack though there was no fog there. The enemy had bottled the few ships that Golden Slipper’s people had into their bay so they couldn’t’ escape. After a bit of discussion, we decided on a plan. Maria and Ashlin would go to the Rainward Isles in Huang’s ship, the Golden Horn, to take care of that situation. Their idea was that Maria would dispel the fog and the islanders could then start defending themselves. The rest of us would board different ships and head for Azure Paradise. Tanith, Jadzia, Darcy and myself boarded the Mebo IIand headed for the death hulk, the Star of Elsport. Our plan was to board the ship then make our way ship to ship until we reached the Star and dealt with the lich.

            Both plans worked out well. Maria was able to dispel the fog with a heavy wind and in the process push the enemy ships into running aground in the harbor of Rainsong, the Rainward Islands’ capital. Maria then attacked the enemy’s sorcerer, which turned out to be her old friend Lenore. She was the woman that summoned the shadowspawn in Aldis a while ago. Lenore retaliated by creating a whirlpool under the Golden Horn. Maria easily stopped the magic and the whirlpool, though it was costing her to do so. She was planning on going below desk, but when she then realized that the enemy sorcerer was Lenore she revealed herself and tried to get her old friend to stop attacking. On the plus side Lenore stopped casting spells and instead talked to Maria. Lenore explained that she was trying to get people to embrace their full potential even if that meant delving into the Shadow arts. She seemed aggrieved that Maria was working for the Rainward Islands. She wanted Maria to join her in her quest to perfect herself but my friend turned her down. While they were talking, Dulcinea swam to the ship Lenore was on, the New Sickness, and started attacking the sorceress. Ashlin also threw knives at Lenore. Given the combined assault Lenore decided that discretion was the better part of valor and fled using windwalking.

            While all of that was going on and we were jumping ship to ship Indra and a large group of zombies jumped into the water and started swimming towards the Queen’s Secret Crush. We heard what was going on and Tanith sent the Mebo II back to aid Devon’s crew in fighting off the zombies. We were too far along in our plan to turn around and help so we kept going for the lich’s ship. We ended up jumping to and crossing four ships before we reached the Star of Elsport, zombies following us the whole way. We fought a couple of the zombies and I managed to keep their attention on me, but our main focus was to get to the Star as quickly as possible so we ran. Some of the zombies kept up with us, some fell into the water. It was a real danger and I’m glad that my friends helped every now and again by throwing me a rope so I could more easily cross to the next ship. I knew that if I fell into the water I would drown. I would sink before I could get out of my armor.

            We eventually made it to the Star of Elsport and found Aisling. She was initially surrounded by zombies but Darcy quickly made a hole in the line of enemies and I rushed in and attacked the lich. Darcy, Jadzia and Tanith quickly joined the fray. With all of us attacking her it wasn’t going to be long before she fell, and she knew it. After we’d hurt her pretty badly she jumped overboard. Unfortunately for her Tanith, Darcy and Jadzia followed her. I was not surprised by Jadzia doing that, but was a little surprised by Tanith’s actions. She yelled a battle cry and followed the lich into the water. Jadzia followed a moment later. Between the three of them they made short work of Aisling. After Aisling fell her undead minions all started falling over. This was a little too late in the case of the Queen’s Secret Crush and those aboard. The undead and Indra had done a good bit of damage and took down almost everyone on board. After we fished our friends out of the water we made our way to the Queen’s Secret Crush as fast as we could. We had felt Lucien fall and knew that they were in trouble. When we arrived at the Crush it was to a deck littered with our fallen allies. Then Indra stepped out holding his daughter in front of him and brandishing a blade at her throat. He said that he had gotten all that he came for and if we moved any closer he would kill Devon. Tanith called him out for threatening his own daughter and Jadzia used the moment of distraction to shoot Indra in the head and knocked him down. As he fell Devon quickly moved away from her undead father and pulled her own weapon. The rest of us jumped or swung on a rope to get to the deck of the Queen’s Secret Crush and attacked Indra. We all managed to hurt him a good bit and together staggered him from the sudden attacks. Devon used that opportunity to rush at her father and plunge her sword into his face. He fell motionless to the deck, really dead this time. Then Yrtalian, who was high up in the rigging of the ship called down to Darcy in Roamer and said something. Darcy said something in return that the pirate did not like. Then the man fled to his own ship and sailed away.

            Once the threat was dealt with Tanith and I rushed from fallen friend to fallen friend and did our best to stabilize them with our healing magic. Jadzia did her best to bind their wounds the mundane way and prevent them from bleeding out. Between us we managed to save everyone that had fallen. They were still injured as we could not heal them completely, but they were no longer knocking on death’s door. While we were seeing to the wounded Darcy was seeing to the living. He coaxed Golden Slipper out from where she had been hiding and did his best to calm her down.

            Once we got back to the Sea of Glass there was a mass celebration. Everyone was drinking and dancing and making merry with friends. It was interesting to watch everyone celebrate our victory. We managed to repel the attacking forces and kill off or scare away the biggest threats. And all of that was done without a significant loss of life. I don’t think I’ve seen such a victory since Rosette, though this battle was larger. It is still a novelty to me to see the good guys win and be victorious. At home the good people are almost always the victims and they never win the fight. The enemy. Me and the other servants of the Regents are too many and too strong. Because of that. Because there is always danger from the Shadow I did not overindulge in alcohol like most people did. I did drink some and like Jadzia found the rum good, but did not take it to excess. I also talked to Marza during the celebration. Not about anything important, but just pleasant chit chat. She too did not over indulge in drink and food so I was not the only sober person there.

            At the end of the evening people started splitting off in pairs and some larger groups to go to bed. Tanith, Marina and Devon started to go off when Tanith stopped and asked if I wanted to join them. I can understand that desire to be with someone after a fight, but I do not really know the other two women and was not ready to reveal that side of myself to them. I apologized and declined the offer. Jadzia, to my surprise, also declined the offer and said that she would spend the night with me. I smiled at my lover and silently thanked her. I was fully prepared to spend the evening alone but am glad that I didn’t have to. I know that Jadzia senses that I am holding back in my relationship with her and Tanith. She sees things too clearly for her not to notice. I am not ready to tell her why I hold myself back though. I am afraid that it will hurt her. That it will hurt them both badly if they get too close to me and then find out the truth. I care too much about them to do that to them. I suppose I’m also being selfish. I am not looking forward to the look of betrayal in their eyes when they find out what I’ve done. What I did for years. If I allow myself to get too close to them then it will hurt me more too when the inevitable rejection comes. I find that I want to live the lie for a little while longer. I only hope that I can.

            Love always,
            Jana

            End Session XII

            Black Sails Completed

            Okay let’s see what needs explaining

            I had Darcy, Jadzia, Jana and Tanith make Dex checks to jump ship to ship. They could either roll vs. a 5 if they had a rope, or 11 if they did not. They attacked a few undead pirates for stunt points and spent those on adding ropes to the scene, especially for Jana and Tanith for whom the roll was a bit more iffy. Mostly, though, they elected to run ship to ship, engaging as lightly as possible and building up an ever growing army of undead pirates behind them as they charged for the Lich Aisling. Many undead pirates did fail to make the jump, but there was still a fair amount when they reached the ship, but the four laid into the Lich without mercy and her health dropped like a stone. By the time she got her second action her only option was to flee, and she still got run down by Darcy, Tanith and Jadzia.

            The battle between Maria and Lenore was very much spell vs. spell, and the two women had similar areas of expertise. Maria did get a devastating Cold Shaping attack in, but overall they were at an impasse as Lenore had a Ward and was shifting Fatigue onto the pirates on her ship. She was unprepared for Maria, however, and when she recognized her they had a confrontation, which delayed her long enough for Dulcinea and Callisto (who were last seen in Shadow Show having left to go fight pirates after Dulcinea spent the night with Darcy, remember?) to attack her from behind, forcing her to flee.

            The battles happened at once, with one huge initiative track.

            Tanith used a stunned silence stunt to distract Indra (mocking him over whether this was what he wanted when he held Devon as a baby) and allow Jadzia to get a shot. Jadzia managed to Stunt and knocked him prone. Indra was pretty powerful and a level ahead of the PCs, but not able to hold out against Darcy, Devon, Jadzia, Jana, Marina and Tanith alone. Especially since he was down some health already.

            The cast on the various ships survived. Medicine rolls were made and Cure spells cast. Most NPCs were the PCs level…Indra and Aisling were ahead a bit, Yrtailian and Lenore more.

            Mebo II is a recurring ship name in my games. One of those little tells or watermarks I like to slip in, like references to the Greek Comedy The Frogs. The Mebo II was the ship where Radio Northsea was broadcast back in the 70s, and I myself enjoy old radio/shortwave curiosities and such. Ask me about Numbers Stations when you have an hour or two to kill.

            But we are off subject. Hope you enjoyed. Comments and Questions welcome, we will see you in two weeks with a new story.
            Last edited by Baroness Nerak; 07-06-2018, 12:34 AM.
            Running: Blue Rose AGE (Cat's Cradle) Blue Rose AGE (Big Damn Heroes)
            HAPPY PRIDE MONTH!

            Comment


            • #21
              Re: Blue Rose: Cat's Cradle (Actual Play)

              It’s an off week but while between storylines it seems a good time to list of everyone’s current relationships. Note I did not require everyone to choose any immediately, and did not require it at 4 either. They can add them as they come up in game, so people have varying numbers. Enjoy.

              Ashlin, Aldean Human Expert Spy

              "I'm here to do the dirty work and slip into the cracks where the others don't fit." 1

              "I owe my life and my soul to those who took me in and made me something better. I will live up to their expectations and do what I can to further their causes." 2


              Darcy, Roamer Night Person Expert Martial Artist

              "Jadzia is a steadfast and noble warrior despite a tragedy that would have broken most. I trust her more than any other Domnar and am honored to fight alongside her and call her friend." 1

              "Sarena embodies what a true Sel-Shann should be. I am fortunate to be her pupil and shall always uphold and defend the honor of her and her teaching." 2

              " Yrtalian dishonors the Aspaenari with his wickedness and evil. I will see his villainy brought to an end." 1


              Jadzia of Clan Tenniral. Rezean Human Warrior Knight

              "Darcy is the greatest friend I have left in this world, and I owe him my life." 1

              "Tanith and Jana are dear to me in ways I no longer thought possible. I will not see them hurt or disparaged in any way." 2

              "Those who destroyed my family will suffer as I have suffered" 1.


              Jana Totten, Kernish Vata’Sha Warrior Guardian

              "Tanith and Jadzia mean more to me than I thought possible and I will not see them harmed if I can prevent it." 2

              "Marcus is the only person I could trust for a long time. I owe him my life and my soul." 1


              Maria Highmore, Aldean Human Adept Shaper

              "I am a light in the Darkness, I will do what I can to guide people out of the Darkness, to save their life or soul." 2

              "I will protect my team. I have worked alone and now that I have them I will not see them come to harm." 1

              "Lenore Silverstream was my best friend in school. She needs me more than ever now and I will bring her back to herself." 1


              Tanith Nocturna, Aldean Vata’Sha Adept Healer

              "I have a duty of care for my team. I will keep them healthy and make them strong." 3

              "My father aggravates me, but he is a good man. I don't always follow his wishes but I will protect him, irritating or not." 1

              "Jadzia and Jana mean more to me than any other lovers ever have. I will make them stronger, support their needs, and protect them with my life" 1

              Okay well we started the next story last time and will post it in one week. We love feedback comments and questions on this or anything else welcome.
              Running: Blue Rose AGE (Cat's Cradle) Blue Rose AGE (Big Damn Heroes)
              HAPPY PRIDE MONTH!

              Comment


              • #22
                Re: Blue Rose: Cat's Cradle (Actual Play)

                It’s time to check in on our team. They face an old foe, and draw the attention of a much more dangerous one.

                Session XIII

                Dark Tides Rising Part I

                Ashlin’s Reports

                Report from Ash, decoded by Kait, sent 6 Leonar

                Well we have certainly found ourselves in the middle of an interesting situation. I mean, when Trebizond himself starts off his explanation of what he'd like you to come visit for with 'ostensibly' and proceeds to explain about how he needs your military advice against that ogre warlord you stomped one time, you do have to expect something exciting. That's right – Gnaag's back and raring for a rematch.

                That, as mentioned above, was our supposed main objective here. Jadzia's handling it mostly, at least so far, though they've made more use of her excellence as a scout than of whatever tactics she might have picked up fending him off back in Rosette. She apparently had a nice ride-around of the two enemy camps – flying different colors, interestingly enough, though not seemingly at odds – with minimal arrows, none of which hit their mark, naturally (she wasn't shooting them, after all). She did figure out that one of the camps was having problems with harpies, and that the woods were crawling with shadow hounds, so a good days work, I suppose.

                The rest of us dealt with the other, non-ostensible reason Trebizond called us in, which is that something in town was making Laodice's intuition suspicious. Now, it might have been the crazy Kernish half-naked sorceress in the old tomb that contains a sacrificial altar. Or the fact that the priestess, Rhiannon, was concerned about our arrival, and somehow her concern was tied into the old tomb. Or that Melisandre, Tanith's grandmother, will possibly in the future try to take over Tanith and Jana's minds due to something here – another interesting bit there, is some kind of past tie between Jana and Melisandre. Then again though, that could just be tied into the lost half-naked sorceress.

                I'm more concerned about the Captain of the fort, honestly. Not that I have any reason to doubt his loyalties, and by all accounts he follows Trebizond's orders to the letter (Laodice mentioned something about pissing upside down if Trebizond said the word), but his heart certainly seems far from it. Much more like a man who was humoring a child who was wanting him to look under his sleeping bag for monsters. He certainly didn't seem to be taking Trebizond's concern seriously, and interrupted at every chance to point out that we didn't know anything was wrong, or even that it was Gnaag involved.

                He's not the best leader either – his lieutenant, Lea, clearly got her lack of concern direct from him, but he felt the need to chew her out for not reporting a most likely inactive sacrificial altar. Though not for not noticing the invisible half-naked sorceress, which is fair and I don't think Jadzia relayed that bit either. On the other hand - and I almost forgot – our little Hegick is all grown up and has gone for a soldier! Which is pertinent here because he has only found a good home here under Captain Rygar, who takes up for him and makes sure no one looks at him sideways because of where he comes from. So I guess I can't be too hard on the guy. He also has that spectacular mustache.

                Oh, did I mention an insane half-naked sorceress? I guess I did. You're probably not interested though, so I will mention that according to Tanith and Jana, the temple checks out, no secret defacings or magical effects. There's another temple, a Jarzoni one. There are apparently a lot of Jarzoni exiles here, which is just excellent news to me, whose father was one of the very same, and who always enjoys the company of my fellows of Jarzoni descent. My Jarzoni accent is passing, especially since as the child of an exile and a non-exile, it doesn't have to be strong. Some time tomorrow I'll have to visit the Jarzoni temple – it's even Hearth Day, I believe.

                I can't do it tonight (hush, hush, I'll get to the half-naked president of “Not supposed to be in the tomb” club in a second) because I have to be Lilyan Midwater, young Trebutain merchant from a town of them a short ride to the west. An excellent idea, suggested by Trebizond. Unfortunately suggested in front of the captain, which again, less concerned about him in particular, more that he himself does not possess the necessary concern to keep his mouth shut at the appropriate times. Anyway, tonight I'll try to talk to Rhiannon, young, religious, self possessed woman to young, religious, self possessed woman. As I mentioned earlier, she's the religious leader of the town, daughter of the mayor, and while her mother was completely transparently glad to see the Heroes of Rosette, she was concerned, and Darcy noted that she looked towards the tombs as we approached.

                Ah yes, the tombs. That was Darcy and Maria's job, as they are the two sneakiest, with Jadzia and I otherwise occupied. I keep calling it the tombs, but really it's a biggish cemetery, tucked into large mountain cave. It really seemed like the best bet as to whatever was giving Laodice an uneasy feeling, and so far certainly has offered the most unanswered questions, and the most questionably answered ones. See, inside, amongst the mausoleums, their inscriptions and labels broken off and defaced down to the last letter, those two found Tavia, a Kernish sorceress of Jana's... acquaintance? Very broadly defined there, but Tavia was something of a plaything of Melisandre's, who was an acquaintance of Jana's. According to Jana, she was actually frequently at odds with Melisandre, at least in the sense of foiling her plans for funsies. Thus, some further explanation as to why Tanith's grandmother might be interfering.

                This Tavia has a strange outlook on life, and a strange way of interacting with the world. I look forward to meeting her. She interacted with Darcy and Maria largely through an illusion, inducting both of them into the “Not supposed to be in the tomb” club as well. She did say she was from Kern, so no hiding that, but claimed she'd gotten lost and just showed up there. She didn't seem to have a good track of time as to how long she had been there, though she did know about the soldiers showing up, which was about a week prior. Darcy didn't seem to think it had been longer than a few days however.

                She didn't seem eager to hide anything, though her illusion powers could have done that, and Maria just didn't notice the other ones like she had noticed the one hiding Tavia herself. But that is why we asked Lea about what she and the soldiers had seen, and it seemed to have matched up, even if Lea was considerably less concerned than I would have been about the aforementioned sacrificial altar. Maria did say it had never been used, so there was that. Other than its newest occupant, and her depredations of the stored food, they didn't find anything out of the ordinary.

                So, we've got a strange sorceress hiding in a graveyard, a priestess with a secret, a bodyguard with a twitchy intuition, a captain with no respect to the gravity of the situation, an allied army of bandits and brigands from the badlands amassing at our doorstep, and I've got two covers to maintain; I think this could be our most fun job yet.

                [Cloven hoof mark]


                Jadzia’s Horse Sense

                (Whispered in Rezean in the stables of the Elkhorn Guest House)

                “Yes, yes, Salkhi… I am as excited as you are about this mission, but you must hold still if I am to rub you down for the evening! So pray calm yourself and let me finish here while we talk.

                “It is no wonder that Trebizond called for our assistance in this matter… like you, when I heard that Gnaag had resurfaced I was eager to finish the fight he so gutlessly abandoned back in Rosette. As my friends and I had already soundly defeated the ogre warlord once, Trebizond thought it might be prudent to request our aid in his current endeavor. I suppose one might consider us ‘consulting experts.’

                “Of course once we arrived, Trebizond realized that my efforts alone would likely be enough to turn the tide against the likes of Gnaag. He therefore requested that the rest of my friends look into another trifling matter. His bodyguard Laodice had experienced a foreboding feeling in regards to the local town of Elkhorn. As Trebizond is not one to ignore the intuitions of those he trusts, he felt that it would be prudent to investigate the town for any evidence of wrongdoing. As he is quite occupied with the matter of Gnaag, he asked Tanith and the others to look into this matter for him. Of course they agreed.

                “What is that? No, I do not know the specifics of their investigation, Salkhi… though Aztai, Saikhan, or Khar might know more if you wish to speak with them. I know only that Tanith contacted me telepathically and asked me to inform Captain Rygar that they had discovered some sort of sorcerous shrine in the town’s graveyard. The Captain immediately reprimanded his lieutenant, Lea, for failing to uncover this information during her own investigation. I do not find this entirely fair… Lea seems like a good soldier to me. I feel that her lackluster inquiry most likely reflects her Captain’s obvious disdain for Laodice’s intuition rather than any lack of skill on her part.

                “What is that? You wish me to recount our exploits on the field of battle to your friends? Hah! They will begin to think of you as a braggart if you do not take care, Salkhi. Still and all, it was a good day, and I suppose it is only right that you would wish to share it.

                “There are two local bandit camps; one to the northeast and another to the northwest. We could see them both from the pass north of the military encampment. They were flying different banners, though the army’s scouts assure me that the two bands are closely allied. We rode a broad, looping circuit past both camps, drawing close enough to gauge their numbers. There were some thin pine woods covering the slopes… not thick enough to slow us down, but enough to provide a modicum of cover from the scattered volleys they fired in a parody of retaliation.

                “The true danger came from the packs of shadow-hounds which roamed the woods, though even they could not hope to match your speed, Dear One. We also discovered that the northeastern camp encroaches upon the territory of a clan of harpies… they have found it necessary to redeploy their forces to fend off occasional attacks from the hideous creatures.

                “We returned from the scouting expedition flushed and laughing, winded from the exertion and yet feeling truly alive. Captain Rygar and Lieutenant Lea were appropriately grateful for our endeavors, and Trebizond thanked me for validating his faith in my abilities. And oh! I should also mention that several other old friends have made their way to this camp… or are likely to do so shortly. Hegick, the night person we captured during Gnaag’s previous attack, has taken up an official position with the Aldean army! He met the group of us upon our arrival and conveyed his sincere thanks for the second chance he had been given, and his assurance that he would not see it go to waste. In addition, I am told that Wren Harding is also en route to the camp… and unless I miss my guess, Lieutenant Lea is awaiting her return particularly avidly.

                “So there you have it… our adventure thus far in brief. As Elkhorn is but a quarter-hour’s ride from the encampment, we have all been staying in a cottage on its outskirts reserved for Rose Knight’s and Queen’s Finest envoys. The others have attempted to explain the nuances of their investigations to me, though I confess that my attention has mostly been focused upon my own duties. Mostly.

                “The events of this morning trouble me for more reasons than one. When we arrived at this cottage, Tanith quickly claimed the master bedroom for herself, Jana, and me. After seeing you into these most excellent stables, I joined the two of them there, and we rutted, and we held each other, and we slept.

                “My shar tsetseg had another of her visions last night, and it shook her to her core. When we awoke this morning, she was trembling. She drew Jana into her arms… not to show preference, but because her vision concerned the two of them. She claimed that in her vision, her grandmother – a powerful Kernish sorceress named Melisandre – was attempting to exert mental control over the two of them. Though their familial bond made it logical for Melisandre to use her powers against Tanith, we could not fathom why she should take an interest in Jana.

                “My oddyn provided the answer to that question, though she was reluctant to do so. She admitted that when she had lived in Kern, she had acted as a bodyguard for Melisandre on several occasions. I do not know why she had not revealed her connection to Tanith’s grandmother sooner… nor why she is so reluctant to speak of that time now.

                “Something pains her, and I do not like it. I wish that she would speak with me. I believe that Tanith knows more about this than I do… or at least that she suspects something. I do not blame her for keeping her knowledge from me; if Jana has a secret then it must be Jana who decides whether or not to reveal it. I respect that. And yet it saddens me.

                “Perhaps I am making too much of this. Though I have not kept my own past a secret from my lovers, I admit that there are some things about which I rarely speak. There are some memories that still pain me too deeply to discuss. Tuya-mama. Savar-mama. Iyara… oh, Iyara, my sister, my love, my dearest friend. If I had been there for you, if I had not run off in pique that night…

                “It will not happen again. It will never happen again. Jana will speak to me when she is ready, and perhaps purging this darkness will allow her to giver herself more fully to Tanith and me. Perhaps the three of us will finally admit that secret truth we have all been ignoring for months now. Perhaps my heart will finally feel whole again; reforged with gold and silver and midnight jet.

                “I… I am sorry, Salkhi. A warrior should not behave so when foes yet stand across the field of battle. Rest well, Dear Heart. Tomorrow we ride to war.”


                Jana’s Letters

                Dear Mother,

                We have been asked for by Trebizond to help him deal with an issue near the Ice Binder mountains. Maria was happy to be going closer to the snow and ice that she likes so much, even though it is summer. The rest of the group was intrigued by his summons as was I. So, we made the trip. We passed through Rosette on our way north and talked to the townsfolk for a little while before we continued on our way to Fort Kharas. Trebizond asked us to come because we were familiar with the enemy that he will be facing, Gnaag. He thought that we might be able to lend him some aid in determining what Gnaag will do and help fight him if needs be. This is the official reason that we are going North. There is some underlying reason that we are going, but we don’t know what it is yet. He did not mention it in his letter and I got the impression that it was something important. Something that could not be committed to paper for fear that it would fall into the wrong hands.

                When we arrived at the fort we were ushered into a meeting room with Trebizond, the Captain of the guards at the fort and his Lieutenant. The Captain’s name is Rygar and his Lieutenant is Lea. She is apparently an accomplished shadowspawn hunter. Which is good. It looks like Gnaag and his forces will be heading this way soon. Meanwhile Laodice is convinced that there is something strange going on in the town of Elkhorn. Trebizond says that her intuition is usually right, so that is the hidden agenda that he had for us. Figure out what was going on in Elkhorn while maintaining our cover of helping deal with Gnaag. We also got a surprise during our talk with Captain Rygar. Hegick, the Night Person that we captured near Rosette, enlisted with Rygar’s troops. His confidence has a come a long way and he seems to have truly turned over a new leaf. Captain Rygar has stood up for Hegick in the past and seems confident that his new recruit will serve in the coming battle with distinction.

                Our plans right now are to have Jadzia scout the area and find where Gnaag and his forces are hiding out. Ashlin will actually take on two disguises this time. He will be a female Trebutain trader in order to get the outsiders’ perspective on what’s going on in town. He will also play himself, but as a Jazoni exile’s son. There are a number of Jarzoni in the town of Elkhorn and I think he is hoping to get in good with them or at least gain their confidence in a way that the rest of us can’t. Ashlin truly is gifted at disguise.

                After meeting with the Captain at the fort we made our way to the nearby town of Elkhorn where we would be staying for the time being. I think we were recognized as the group that helped defend Rosette, because they refused to put us up at the inn and instead offered a cottage that they have specifically for soldiers of the crown to use when they come to this town. It was not a fancy cottage, but it was comfortable and well-appointed. Tanith, Jadzia and I claimed the biggest bedroom while the others divided the other two rooms between them. I believe Maria and Darcy are sharing a room and Ashlin has the other one.

                We also met the Mayor of the town, Selune, and her daughter Rhiannon. They were both very welcoming, but Darcy noticed that the daughter was also a little wary of us and glanced toward the town’s graveyard, which is partly outdoors and partly in a big cave. Selune did not seem to share her daughter’s concerns and welcomed us with open arms. The inn, The Road to Glory, was a friendly and open place and we all got something to drink there, though none of us drank to excess this time. We needed to stay on our guard given the circumstances. Tanith reassured people that we were there to help stop Gnaag, and Darcy got everyone singing and dancing. It was an interesting evening.

                Love always,
                Jana

                Dear Marcus,

                I have ruined everything. I opened my mouth and without thinking said something that I shouldn’t have. I can’t take it back. I can’t change what I said and now everything will change. Tanith had a vision this morning about Melisandre trying to take over her mind and mine. She said that because she is Melisandre’s granddaughter the sorceress might target her for that reason but had no idea why she would target me. I should have left it a mystery, or just said that I had met her in passing. But no, I said that I had been her bodyguard on a couple of occasions. Without thinking about who I was talking to I just blurted that out. Jadzia was in the room too when I made that confession but she didn’t understand the significance, thankfully. Tanith immediately paled for a moment before her skin tone went back to normal. Her eyes also went from that gold color they turn when she looks at Jadzia or me to the amber color I see during battles. It was an immediate change which startled me. It’s normally gradual. Jadzia’s expression never changed so I don’t think she knows what my words really meant. That I was a Skull Knight. That only someone placed higher up in the service of the Regents would be given such a job. To keep safe such a respected sorceress. Tanith knows. Her expression told me everything. She did not tell the others though. A small blessing on my part. When we met with the others that morning to go over our mission at Fort Kharas she mentioned her vision but said only that I knew Melisandre. She did not elaborate. We split up after that for our individual assignments. Jadzia and Ashlin headed toward the fort. I think Ashlin was going to hop off outside of town so he could sneak back into town in his Trebutain disquise. Darcy and Maria were going to sneak into the cave graveyard and see if they could find out what Rhiannon is so concerned about.

                After that Tanith gave me a look and nodded towards the bedroom and I followed her in. There she flat-out confronted me about being a Skull Knight. I did not deny it. She already knew so there was no point. I didn’t know what to say though. My throat closed up and I just stared dumbly at the floor. Tanith raised my chin up and looked me in the eyes. She admitted that the truth about my past does bother her, but that she still loves me. I wanted to cry. I don’t deserve her and I told her as much. I said that she shouldn’t love me. Tanith waved that off. I admitted that I was not proud of my past but that I cannot change it. Tanith agreed to keep my secret for now but did say that she hopes that I will tell Jadzia about it soon. I don’t know if I can do that. I don’t want to see the same anger in her eyes that I saw in Tanith’s. I don’t want to lose her. It’s only been a little over four months since I arrived in Aldis. I don’t want to lose her or Tanith. I don’t want to lose the friends that I have made here, but I am afraid that I will if this comes out.

                So after we had our chat Tanith said that we should go check out the temple, which had been our task, so we left. When we got there Tanith turned to check out the altars to the different gods and make sure that nothing had been tampered with or corrupted. It wasn’t as casual as usual, but Tanith did turn her back to me while she was checking the altars. I think she wanted to show me that she still trusted me enough to not stab her in the back. It was probably meant to be comforting but it just made it hurt a little worse. That she had to make herself do that. To give me a message and probably to test me.

                While we were checking out the temple Maria and Darcy checked out the graveyard. They snuck in and soon discovered that they were not alone. There was a scantily clad woman also in the cave. After a brief conversation Maria and Darcy found out that the woman in question was named Tavia and she said that she was from Kern but got lost and ended up here. I know Tavia. I have seen her with Melisandre on numerous occasions. They are lovers and when together can’t keep their hands to themselves, but I don’t think they like each other. I have known Tavia to actively mess with Melisandre’s plans just because she can. She’s the one that I told you about that seems to be immune to the cold and able to see in darkness. She’s not a vampire, but I’m not sure what she is. Her being here is not a good thing and I told the others what I could of her. I mentioned that she is Melisandre’s lover and what she is like. I didn’t get into specifics. It’s enough to know that she is bad news and if she is here then that might be why Melisandre’s attention might be turned to this small town, and to Tanith and me.

                Jadzia meanwhile was taking a ride through the hills to determine where Gnaag’s forces are holing up. She located a couple of groups. Each was flying a different standard but they seemed to be working together. The groups are large enough to be of concern to the town and fort. I think she also discovered that one of these groups is encroaching on the home of some local harpies. Not pleasant creatures. There were also several shadow hounds in the woods, but Jadzia made it back safe and sound and reported all that she had seen.

                Now I just need to find a time and a way to tell Jadzia about my past. I’m not sure how that will go. She is a warrior and tends to think along those lines. She may understand that we all do things that we may not be proud of in a fight, but I have a feeling that will not be the case. She is an honorable person. It is important to her, and the fact that I have knowingly hurt people, innocent people, may not sit well with her. I should probably make sure that Tanith is there too to act as something of a buffer. If Jadzia knows that Tanith is already aware of what I have to say then it might go over better. I just don’t know. Gods, I don’t know what to do. After I talk to them, when evening comes, I will offer to sleep elsewhere if they want me to. It would look suspicious if I did, but I will not make them uncomfortable if I can help it. I do not want them to feel that they must stay awake and watch out for what I might do. I would never hurt them, and hopefully Tanith has some idea of that now, but Jadzia won’t. She may not feel safe with me around anymore. I will not know until I tell her though, so I suppose I must do that sometime soon. I know Tanith is watching for me to tell Jadzia. I can tell that she wants this to be known, at least to the three of us.

                I would ask how my life got so complicated, but I know the answer to that. I said something that I shouldn’t have. I should have been more careful with what I said, especially when it comes to Kern. I suppose that they deserve to know who and what they are sleeping with. It’s only fair for them. It’s just not fair for me, but then life isn’t fair. I know that all too well. It has been ingrained in me since I was a child. Gods give me strength. I wish you were here.

                Yours always,
                Jana


                Tanith’s Diary

                I find myself uniquely and utterly torn.

                My Jana, one of the two women who mean the world to me and share my life was in fact a Skull Knight.

                She did not confess it, precisely, so much as mention it indirectly when my grandmother Melisandre, came up. Jana had been a bodyguard for her. My Father had told me about her a fair amount, he hated and feared her, and we are both fairly sure she engineered my Mother’s death. Now, I don’t blame Jana for any of that. That falls squarely on Melisandre’s shoulders. But if she were a bodyguard for an important woman like that she must have been a Skull Knight.

                Perhaps I should have suspected. Jana came from Kern and spoke little of her background. Of course I did not pry. In battle she shrugs off hits that would send me to the ground, and tears a swath through enemies like she is reaping bloody wheat. I suppose I simply presumed she got her prowess through hard living in the craggy lands.

                I confronted her in private, away from any of the others, even my sweet Jadzia. She did not deny it, but said nothing in her own defense, remaining mostly silent. I put on my cape and bid her follow me to the temple. I hope going in there alone with her showed I still trust her. Mostly.

                She could have killed me in bed and slipped out before I was found in the morning a few times before. I doubt she is enacting any great plot. It’s more a question of what she would do now that I knew. I believed she would not try to silence me, and I was proven right.

                I have told her she must tell Jadzia. I wish to keep no secrets from my deadly Rezean lover. But it is not my place to tell her. So I simply hope Jana tells her, and I hope she does it soon.

                Am I being too accepting of this? Should I hate her for what she has done? Perhaps I should. But it would be so easy not to. It’s so much easier to just…forget what crimes she has committed, to try and forget this. Hope Jadzia accepts her and keep all this our secret.

                It was my Vision that started this. I saw a vision of Melisandre trying to seize control of Jana and me from her base in Kern. I recognized her from my Father as a warning putting her image in my mind. I need to contact him and tell him. And see what he knows about Tavia. I know nothing about her, but Jana recognized her from Maria and Darcy’s description. Jana said she was Melisandre’s…creature…but a rebellious one. I have no doubt she is the key to what is going on. Laodice sensed something in town, ultimately the real reason we are here, and while I believe Rhiannon, the priestess, is tied to it, my instincts tell me Tavia is at the core. But is she working for or against Melisandre? Does she even know herself?

                But I am sure Jana is not tied to any scheme. Melisandre was acting to try to seize her mind as much as mine. If Jana were her minion there would be no need to reach out magically to do that…unless Jana was supposed to be working for her and rebelled? Jana is the reason we know who Tavia is after all. No, I don’t think Jana was planted. I believe her that she fled. I believe her when she says she has no agenda, even if she left out being a Skull Knight.

                But there remains a sliver of doubt in my mind. I know I am not objective with Jana. But who to ask? Ash? No that might be the most dangerous thing for her I could do. I want to believe her and I do, mostly. But my mind keeps going back to it. She could allow me to probe her memories I suppose, but I hesitate to even ask that. Darcy is spiritual and may know. No. For now I do nothing and hope it does not backfire.

                Ash should have a report soon. They have infiltrated town in two disguises. Maybe we will find out what Rhiannon knows, and if she is connected to Tavia or anyone else. Then it comes down to investigating our two leads…Tavia and Jana. I hope Jana is not connected.

                And I hope Jadzia kills Gnaag before he distracts too much from the problem at hand.

                End Session XIII

                Oh let’s see. Tavia is a name a few NPCs have had and they have always been both mad and memorable. It was funny as nearly everyone reacted immediately. Melisandre was in Jana’s background. Tanith’s Visions spell went off to start the whole mess.

                I had way, way too much fun playing Tavia talking to Maria and Darcy. She established herself as the leader of the “Not Supposed to be in the Tomb club” which she used as justification or an excuse to veto whatever crosses her mind, moving on top of the mausoleums in an almost Gollumlike way.

                I think that covers everything but as always comments and questions are welcome.
                Last edited by Baroness Nerak; 07-20-2018, 01:28 AM.
                Running: Blue Rose AGE (Cat's Cradle) Blue Rose AGE (Big Damn Heroes)
                HAPPY PRIDE MONTH!

                Comment


                • #23
                  Re: Blue Rose: Cat's Cradle (Actual Play)

                  The investigation deepens. Jana reveals her secret to Jadzia. Tanith crosses a moral event horizon. Melisandre makes her presence known.

                  Session XIV

                  Dark Tides Rising Part II

                  Ashlin’s Report

                  Report from Ash, decoded by Kait, sent 7 Leonar

                  I'm going to feel bad leaving here when the time comes – Rhiannon, the poor dear, has grown fond of Lilyan, and she her. I don't believe the town's respected and well considered High Priestess has many friends. Which is perhaps why she is so taken in by the lovely, charismatic... well, let's say waifish interloper. A guardian who forfeits intimacy to guard will do so ferociously, it's true, but it does leave them open to certain manipulations. Especially if they acquire a new charge that offers such closeness as well...

                  Of course that is but base assumption. We do now know, however, that Rhiannon does know of, and is protecting Tavia, a refugee from Kern, to hear the priestess tell it. It came up rather dramatically, as Rhiannon was escorting Lilyan, Tanith, Darcy and Maria around the cave. Not to brag, but Lilyan had run of the place, while Rhiannon grew rather cross at the others for wandering. I work fast. Anyway, Tanith's smile went... odd, and when Rhiannon got shirty with her for lingering behind, she suddenly attacked the priestess, nearly killing her. Darcy managed to drive Melisandre (as that is in fact who it was) out of Tanith's mind with his own bright Light as soon as he realized what was going on, while Lilyan stabilized her new friend well enough to revive her somewhat.

                  This did not help in getting the investigation off on a good foot. When it was pointed out that someone likely told Melisandre that Tanith was here, Rhiannon got particularly defensive. I managed to spot the lie in her voice when she said no one else was there, and I was able to pass it along via Tanith (a wonderfully useful bit of Adeptry), which allowed Darcy to press. Rather more forcefully that he intended, if I read his later downcast expression correctly.

                  Still, his pressing was able to reveal the 'refugee' claim (not to mention cementing Lilyan's place as a new yet staunch ally). And she seemed to hold no grudges, so no lasting harm, hopefully. Lilyan did talk with her about speaking to her refugee friend – after all, it was likely just a simple mistake, a message sent back to someone she though to be a friend, of course. Even better if I happen to be there while the conversation is held... Unfortunately, Rhiannon doesn't know where Tavia's gone to ground, so that could be exciting.

                  Ash has been busy as well. Hearth Day came and went – it was the fairly usual Jarzoni immigrant service, less harsh than what I'm assured a home grown ceremony would be like. No signs of tampering or discontent, other than some slight unease at the spike in Night People/Vata-sha/Trebutaine population with our arrival. Still, like all good people, they were ashamed that they felt that way, so nothing truly sinister there. They had nothing negative to say about their leadership or the nearby fort other than racy rumors about Rhiannon and Captain Rygar (she's been disappearing for noticeable periods of time, you see, thus my earlier suspicions) but even those had a hint of affection.

                  Ash was tied up last night as well, though with more of a personal bent. Something happened between Jana and Jadzia (I assume – Tanith seemed worried-upset, but not in-the-middle-of-something-upset) that prompted Jadzia to go start a bar fight. A quick change in Lilyan's room meant I could sneak out and back in as Ash. I managed to channel her aggression somewhat, and at least get her outside and away from the townsfolk. I will say – being lifted bodily and thrown through a door is definitely an experience. Her whatever-it-was not quite being assuaged, she started talking about going for a ride into unknown, enemy ridden territory, and in her mood, may have very well tried to find a bear to challenge to a fist fight, so I may have propositioned her.

                  Which is not to say, in the slightest, that I was making any sort of sacrifice. Jadzia is an incredibly striking figure and I was more than a tiny bit disappointed when she fell so immediately into a relationship. The Road has wandered precisely how it should, of course – opposites may attract but they make for an unstable long term situation. The balance that her triad provides is much more beneficial to their health and the health of the group. But it was a wonderful night. I should have a similarly romantic lakeside campsite near Aldis – it would be a wonderful backdrop for all sorts of scenes.

                  Anyway, the group is split at the moment. I alone remain in town, largely so Lilyan can keep an eye on Rhiannon. The others are up at the fort, awaiting nightfall to sneak out to set up camp behind enemy lines. Apparently Gnaag has mobilized his forces, and Trebizond hopes to bait him into an assault that will put them in a position where my crew can make a surgical strike for the ogre warlord himself. The multiple bands that have united under his banner will probably not stay so, if he falls, not will they have quite the same motivation. Here's hoping the day goes to stealth, fast hooves, and above all, good strategy.

                  [Cloven hoof mark]


                  Jadzia’s Horse Sense

                  (Whispered in Rezean on the plains north of Elkhorn)

                  “Yes, Salkhi, I know that you dislike the hobbles. Believe me, Dear One, I would like nothing more than to give you your rein and allow you to run free over these plains tonight… nothing except perhaps to do so with you. But with Gnaag massing his forces to the north, and his spies and shadow-hounds prowling the woods and fields, it would be far too dangerous for me to allow you to run alone, and my friends have need of me to keep them safe here.

                  “Yes, my dear, you sense my heart correctly… I am troubled. Matters have progressed, and our enemies have moved against us, and I am… I am afraid, Salkhi. You must tell no one.

                  “What? No, of course not. Why should I fear Gnaag and his ilk? He has already fallen to my bow once, and I have no doubt that he shall do so again. No, our true enemy has revealed herself and acted against those I hold dear… and she is a far more devious and dangerous foe than any we have ever faced before.

                  “My former good humor began to break after we left the tavern last night and returned to the house where we had been billeted. I was the last to enter the master bedroom, and arrived to find both of my lovers favoring me with very serious looks. After a moment, Jana sighed, beckoned, and told me that she needed to speak with me.

                  “I did not know what to expect, but what she revealed was… disturbing in the extreme. My Starlight told me that before she left Kern, she used to be a Skull Knight. I could not speak for a moment. My Jana, my quiet, considerate, selfless Starlight… a member of the most evil and oppressive military force in all of the world? Part of a death squad, dedicated to furthering the aims of the dark and sorcerous rulers of Kern? It simply could not be!

                  “I did not trust myself to speak. My emotions were in turmoil; I needed to vent them before my heart exploded. You know how it can be, do you not Salkhi? When you are agitated, when you are full of so much restless energy that you simply must run or you will strike out against any creature which comes within your reach?

                  “I could not allow my emotions free reign at that moment. Despite my pain, my anger, my sorrow, and my confusion, I… I still felt love for Jana. I did not wish to hurt her through either my words or my actions, so I did the only thing I could… I left. I walked away from the two of them and closed the door behind me. I needed to let everything trapped within my breast out. I needed to drink. I needed to scream. I needed to fight. I needed to fuck. And I knew that there was one place where I might be able to engage in all of those activities.

                  “The tavern was still abuzz when I returned. Elkhorn is a small town, but its denizens enjoy their revelry. I strode toward the bar and ordered strong liquor. I bade Salvadore, the bartender, to leave the bottle, and made my way through a large percentage of it, feeling my emotions simmer, hiss, and finally reach the boiling point as I drank. Eventually someone brushed up against me, or said something off-color… or possibly just met my gaze at the wrong moment. I do not remember which.

                  “I threw the first punch, and many of those which followed. Bottles and furniture were shattered. At one point the leg of a chair connected with my temple, and I briefly saw stars, but returned the insult with a knee to the offender’s legacy. He dropped like a stone and did not rise while I remained.

                  “Ashlin burst through the door a few moments later and attempted to calm me as I hurled insults my foes had no hope of understanding. I told Ashlin that I had no wish to hurt him, and he thanked me for the sentiment before punching me in the face. I was stunned for a moment, but absurdly proud of him as well. We shall make a warrior of him yet!

                  “The fight ranged across the length of the bar. Most of the other participants had either fled, been rendered unconscious, or were hiding behind upturned tables. Eventually, Ash found himself between me and the open door. Of course I know that he engineered those circumstances… though he is not as strong as I am, he is very nimble, and quite adept at manipulating the environment in his favor. I tossed him bodily from the room, and made as though to follow. Before leaving, however, I left the majority of my meager savings with Salvadore and bade him give everyone remaining in the bar a drink at my expense.

                  “Ash asked me what was wrong when I joined him outside. I could not tell him. Jana’s secrets are her own, and are not mine to spread. He nevertheless saw to my few minor wounds, accepting my statement that I merely needed to ‘blow off steam’ as they say in this strange country. When he asked about my intentions for the rest of the night, I told him that I needed to ride. When he turned my words against me, asking if I meant the term as a euphemism for sex, I searched his eyes, found that his offer was serious, and pulled him into a kiss.

                  “The two of us made our way swiftly by foot to a lake in a secluded valley outside of town. There we removed each other’s clothing, lay upon the cloak which he spread across the sweet-smelling grass, and enjoyed each other’s bodies for an hour or more before falling asleep in each other’s arms.

                  “Ashlin is laevvel… neither fully male nor female. I did not know this before our dalliance last night, and will keep his confidence. If he wished for others to know this about him, he would have told them himself by now. In any case, it matters little to me… he is a valiant ally and a true friend, and the specifics of his anatomy have little bearing upon either of those facts. I have never lain with such a person before, and the experience was… different, and yet undoubtedly pleasant. I can but hope that he derived a similar amount of pleasure from my own somewhat more mundane body.

                  “We woke with the sun this morning, and dressed in quiet comfort. Before we made our way back to Elkhorn, I drew him into an embrace and gave him a soft kiss upon his left cheek. I felt purged; more capable of dealing with my problems in a calm and rational manner, and I thanked him sincerely for being the friend I had so desperately needed. He took this unaccustomed display of emotion with good grace, and told me that I may rely upon him for such again in the future should it become necessary.

                  “Ashlin returned to his room in the inn, while I slipped into the house we had been given on the outskirts of town. I knocked upon the door to the master bedroom, and was invited to enter by Tanith’s voice. She sounded tired.

                  “It was plain to me that Tanith had slept very little, and Jana most likely had not slept at all. I felt guilty for causing her such turmoil, and yet I know of no other way I could have acted. I strode to where she sat upon the bed, and took her chin in my hands, forcing her to look at me. ‘I am sorry if my behavior has upset you,’ I said softly, ‘that was not my intent. I needed time to consider my feelings. I needed to decipher my emotions before I said something I could not retract.’

                  “She told me that she would not blame me if I no longer wished to associate with her. ‘I do not know the woman you used to be,’ I told her in a ragged whisper, ‘but I know who you are now, my Starlight, and that is the woman I love.’ She wept a bit at that, and Tanith wept a bit, and I suppose it is just possible that I might have wept as well. That is not information you are to share, Salkhi.

                  “Once we had composed ourselves, we discussed how we might proceed with our investigation. Jana brought up the very real danger that Tavia, the madwoman hiding in the town’s cemetery, might recognize her and reveal her secret past to the rest of our party… or even the town at large. We cannot allow this, obviously. We discussed several possible methods of circumventing this problem. Tanith claimed that she could use her magic to remove Tavia’s memories of Jana entirely… but Jana said that this would be dark magic akin to Sorcery, and she did not want Tanith starting down that dark road on her account. I quite agreed, and assured my Sunflower that we would find another way.

                  “In the end, Jana decided to accompany me up to the military encampment. This would remove her from Tavia’s sight, and yet not require Tanith to risk her soul with dark magic. So after breakfast (provided by a smiling Mayor Selune) the two of us made our way to the stable to ready our mounts. I confess that I was grateful for the opportunity to spend more time with her… I wanted to assure her that my feelings for her were still strong.

                  “First, however, I had to deflect Darcy’s well-meaning inquiries regarding my state of mind. He had spent the evening guarding the town’s graveyard with Hegick – much to High Priestess Rhiannon’s chagrin – and had heard about the ‘incident’ in the tavern last night. I assured him that I was feeling much better, and told him that I was not at liberty to discuss the reasons for my earlier distress. He took these revelations with good grace. He is a true friend.

                  “Jana and I rode together to the camp. I noted Wren Harding’s return when I spotted her horse tethered outside of the command tent. We met her within, and exchanged pleasant greetings as the rest of the camp’s command staff assembled. Trebizond wished me to ride out again today, and approach Gnaag’s camps from stealth while the sun was at its highest and his shadowspawn lookouts would be most disadvantaged. Once there, I was to search for weaknesses in the camps’ perimeter defenses, which we might be able to exploit during the inevitable battle to follow.

                  “As I was not to ride out for several hours more, Jana and I were offered a room within the camp’s barracks. We helped to remove each other’s armor, and lay together on a small bed in our linen underclothes. I knew that she had not slept in more than a day, so I pulled her close to me and held her and kissed her silver hair until her breathing became deep and regular.

                  “I must have drifted off after a time as well, because the next thing I remember is awakening to the sounds of Lea and Wren’s passionate reunion in the room next to ours. Those two seem to fit each other well; though they argued good-naturedly from time to time, it was clear to me that their true feelings run much deeper.

                  “The situation had changed by the time I roused Jana. Gnaag seems to be massing his forces for an assault. Trebizond believes that he intends to try to flank the Aldin forces… uncommonly cunning for an ogre, but Gnaag has proven to be nothing if not resourceful. To counter this stroke, Trebizond wants us to be seen camping upon the plains north of the pass, to draw Gnaag’s forces out into the open. The army will engage the main bulk of Gnaag’s horde upon the open fields, while we slip around behind Gnaag’s encampment and cut the head from the snake.

                  “I sent these plans to Tanith through our psychic link, and she replied that they would soon be on their way. The others had encountered Tavia once more in Elkhorn’s graveyard – where well-meaning Rhiannon had been hiding her as a refugee – and the meeting had not gone well. Melisandre seized control of Tanith’s body and assaulted Rhiannon magically, and it took everything Tanith had (with a bit of mystical help from Darcy) to drive the sorcerous bitch out of her mind once more.

                  “When the others (all save Ashlin) arrived at the camp, we delivered a surprise. Ranger Harding had given me a store of letters… one addressed to each of us. These letters bore the Queen’s seal, and informed us that we had been invited to join the ranks of the Sovereign’s Finest, a sort of elite society within Aldis. If we should accept, we would carry the Queen’s authority with us wherever we should ride. It would greatly increase our capacity to do good in this country. The others were pleased.

                  “Then the unthinkable occurred. Melisandre struck once more… at Jana this time. She must have seen her former bodyguard through Tanith’s eyes and seized the opportunity to surprise us. Once again, Jana’s own force of will coupled with mystical assistance from both Tanith and Darcy – who radiated a burst of holy light – was enough to drive Melisandre out of my lover… barely.

                  “I asked if either Tanith or Jana knew Melisandre’s current location, as I fully intend to cut her throat myself at the earliest opportunity. Jana took my hand and thanked me, but told me that I would be killed long before I was allowed to approach her former employer. She may well be right; the tales of Kern’s dark defenders are many and frightening… and yet they have never had to face me before. And our current circumstances are not acceptable. That this arrogant bitch feels that she can make free with the minds and bodies of two whom I…

                  “Very well, Salkhi, I will stop hedging around the word. I said it to Jana earlier, after all, and I should not fear to say it to you. I love them. I love them both, my Sunflower and my Starlight. The idea that the mind of a filthy sorceress might defile them at any moment, with no warning… it is abhorrent to me. And so I will set myself against her, as I would against any monster who threatens those who are close to me. I have lost one family to unseen foes already. I will not lose another.

                  “She knows who and where we are, and it seems likely that she is in some way involved with Gnaag’s intrigues as well… which might explain his superior tactical abilities. As we left the military encampment, we spotted a lone woman riding a wyvern high above us. A Skull Knight. She did not harass us at that point, but she definitely marked our presence and our movements.

                  “I do not know, Salkhi. My ladies await within our tent. We have an immediate foe to face in the morning. And yet I cannot help but dwell upon the greater enemy who lurks in the shadows hundreds of miles away. What am I to do, Dear Heart? Last night, Jana told me of the darkness in her past, and it shook my feelings for her, and yet I could not bear to stay away. My feelings for her are true and undeniable. My feelings for Tanith are no less intense, and I am convinced that they both feel the same for me, and for each other, though most of these loves have yet to be spoken aloud.

                  “And less than a day after I came to this realization, a foe I cannot understand and have no hope of besting has arisen to threaten them… to threaten my loves specifically. How am I to pursue this love when I know that Jana’s powerful attacks or Tanith’s formidable magics could be turned against me without warning? I will do them no harm under any circumstances… and yet this may be Melisandre’s greatest weapon against us. Either of them could wake one morning to find that they had slit my throat in the night… purely out of spite.

                  “Bah. This is pointless speculation. I have no choice in the matter; I could no more leave them now than I could leave you, Dear One. All great loves come with risk, do they not? And yet that does not stop us from loving. I will not leave them. I will love them. And if it be my destiny to die for that love, then so be it.”


                  Jana’s Letters

                  Dear Marcus,

                  The rest of the day passed by without incident, even dinner was fine. Mostly fine. Hegick had a little bit of trouble when he explained to Rhiannon that he would have to go into the cave during his patrol that night. He was telling her as a courtesy but she vehemently said that he shouldn’t go there. He kept explaining that it was his orders to do a complete sweep of the town and that included the cave. She tried appealing to him by saying that there were private things in there for the town. Valuables and such like. In the end Darcy came over and tried to intercede on Hegick’s behalf, but he got shut down too. Darcy suggested that Rhiannon go to the fort and talk things over with the Captain if she had issues with his orders. She finally agreed to that and left.

                  Hegick and Darcy patrolled the cave and found nothing out of the ordinary. At least they did not raise any alarms during the night. My night however was long. After dinner Tanith, Jadzia and I went back to our room. After I closed the door I told Jadzia that I had to tell her something. She sat down on the bed and I explained to her what I had revealed to Tanith. I admitted to being a Skull Knight. Tanith was quick to defend me and tell Jadzia that I had turned my back on my old life and was starting fresh. Jadzia looked angry and without saying anything stood up and left the room. I found out later that she had gone back to the inn and had several drinks and started a fight with some of the locals. Ashlin, fortunately, was there and redirected Jadzia outside. I ended up staying up all night with Tanith snuggled in my arms. She fell asleep pretty quickly, but my mind was too restless to sleep. I didn’t think that Jadzia had left for good but wasn’t sure where she had been until morning.

                  Fairly early in the morning Jadzia came back. She smelled faintly of leaves and dirt, so I assumed that she had camped outside last night. She seemed much calmer than she had been last night, which I counted as a good thing. She apologized for leaving last night and explained that she needed to work out her feelings. She told me that she didn’t know who I was in the past but she knew who I was now and that was the woman that she loved. I will admit I was taken a bit by surprise. Jadzia doesn’t normally make declarations like that, but she did this morning. I didn’t answer her back because I was unsure how to. I don’t know if I love her like that. I care a great deal for her, but is that love? I think I love you, but we didn’t really get a chance to explore that. What we had was different than what I have with Tanith and Jadzia. Maybe it is love with them. I’m not sure though, so until I do know I won’t say it. I don’t want to be a liar to those two in particular.

                  We also talked some more about the situation and I admitted that Tavia would be a problem. I didn’t necessarily mean that she would reveal my past, but that was part of it. She is bad news in general and would cause problems. Jadzia asked if she needed to die. I wasn’t opposed to the idea, but didn’t commit one way or the other to that idea. I don’t know how Melisandre would react if she was killed anyway. Tanith came up with the idea of going into Tavia’s mind and removing the memories of me from her head. I said that was a bad idea. Not because Tavia forgetting would be a bad thing, but the act of doing it would be bad for Tanith. She would have to forcibly remove the memories which is delving into sorcery. And that is a slippery slope. It is possible to perform sorcery and come out of it fine, but it is deceptive. It gets easier and easier to do it the more times you try. And that is something that should never be easy to do. Tanith actually got a little petulant when I was telling her not to do that. She tried to cover up her reaction, but I saw it anyway. She then flat out asked me if I was forbidding her to wipe Tavia’s memories. After some thought I said yes. I don’t like forcing anyone to do anything. It reminds me too much of my past actions as a Skull Knight but I really don’t want Tanith to start down that path. I don’t want her to become like her grandmother. They are similar enough as it is.

                  On the way to eat Jadzia also admitted, somewhat shyly, that she had kind of slept with Ash last night. I did feel a little hurt about that, but I don’t know if we’ve ever said out loud that our relationship was monogamous. I guess I hope that he was able to give her what she needed last night. Then after breakfast Jadzia and Darcy went out to get ready to go up to the fort. Well, I knew Jadzia was going up there. I think Darcy just wanted to talk to her. After I found out that Maria and Tanith were planning on going to the cave to take a look at the altar I decided to go up to the fort with Jadzia. I was curious what was going on with regards to Gnaag, and I didn’t fancy meeting up with Tavia this morning. The less I see of that woman the better. There is something wrong with her. With her mind. She’s unpredictable and I just didn’t feel like dealing with that today. So, after I was done talking to Tanith about my plans I joined Jadzia outside and asked if she’d mind my company today. She said that would be fine and we got our horses saddled and ready to go. The trip didn’t take long and we spent it mostly in silence. It wasn’t an uncomfortable silence though. It was amicable. After we got to the fort however we found out some disturbing news. Tanith contacted Jadzia and I through our link. It seems that Melisandre has made her move. While Tanith and the others were investigating the cave Melisandre reached out with her power and took control of Tanith’s mind! For a brief moment my lover was possessed by her own grandmother. Melisandre used Tanith’s power to hurt Rhiannon and throw her to the side. Tanith was still fighting her when Darcy stepped in and used a new ability to cast a spiritually pure light that forced Melisandre out of Tanith’s body. I am uncomfortable with this turn of events. Melisandre got a hold of someone that I care about a great deal. I was reminded of just how far that woman has fallen. She took control of her own granddaughter and made her hurt someone. Tanith assured us that between Ashlin, disguised as Lilyann the Trebutain merchant, and herself they got Rhiannon back on her feet and feeling better. They then questioned Rhiannon about what she was hiding in the cave. Darcy was particularly pointed. Rhiannon eventually admitted that she was hiding a Kernish refugee in the cave. She never named her ward but did admit her presence. Tanith then reached out to Tavia’s mind and asked her about Melisandre. Tavia didn’t reveal much but did ask Tanith if she would kill her grandmother. It seems that she likes Rhiannon and was upset when her friend was hurt by the sorceress.

                  Once all of that was over they continued to investigate the altar. Maria found that it had been defaced at some point in the past and was not usable. It would take the skilled hands of a stone mason to fix the damage and make it functional once again. This information was not shared out loud since they knew that Tavia was likely listening. We have no idea what Tavia is really doing in town, so it was assumed that it was something bad or at the very least mischievous. Probably right on both counts actually.

                  Also after arriving at the fort we were approached by Wren, the ranger we met near Rosette. She had letters to give to our whole group. It seems that we have been invited to join the Sovereign’s Finest! I was floored. I was once a part of the darkest military organization there is and now I’m being invited to join the lightest. Talk about irony. I don’t know if I should accept the offer. I know I’m not worthy of the title. The others are. They are pure. Me, I’ve had to crawl my way back from the darkness. I’m me again, but it wasn’t easy. I started down that path. We all did in the Skull Knights. But I found my way back and so did you. I will never forget what you’ve done for me over the years. You helped keep me sane.

                  When we reported to the fort Rygar gave the lot of us, including Wren and Lea, some time to rest and unpack. At least Wren needed to unpack. Since I hadn’t slept last night Jadzia and I went to an open room and lay down for a while. I think I actually got some sleep. Jadzia held me in her arms the whole time. We woke to Wren and Lea making noise in the next room over. You can guess what they were up to. We got up and went to the command center when someone knocked on our door. Trebizond explained his plan, which was to have our group hiding in the hills waiting to ambush Gnaag’s forces while the main bulk of the military would launch a frontal assault. After this was revealed we shared the details with Tanith and she, Darcy and Maria headed up to the fort. Ashlin stayed behind as Lilyann to make sure Rhiannon was okay and to keep an eye on the town. We showed them the letters from the Sovereign’s Finest soon after they arrived.

                  After the meeting we were just standing around when suddenly there was a malicious presence in my head. It was Melisandre and she was angry. I don’t blame her for being angry with me. I did leave her to a group of rebels on the day that I left Kern. I had a meeting to get to so I could get out and I wasn’t going to let her stop me. So, when the rebels approached I just stood back and said that they could have her. So, Melisandre is not happy with me and tried to take over my mind. Tanith reacted instantaneously and started pushing her back out of my head. It went back and forth for what seemed like forever but was likely only a minute to two. Eventually Tanith got her out of my mind, but she then turned around and attacked Tanith’s mind. She succeeded too it looked like. I then got to see Darcy’s ability that allowed him to push Melisandre out the first time. He succeeded this time too, thankfully. As soon as she was out Tanith contacted her father to let him know what Melisandre had been up to. Jadzia was rather vocal about wanting to kill Melisandre and talked of going to Kern by herself and doing just that. I told her that she wouldn’t make it, but I’m not sure if she heard me or not. Thinking about it now makes the blood in my veins run cold. If Melisandre had succeeded in taking over my mind, and I think she had done just that before Tanith intervened, I could have done a lot of damage to the people that I care about. I may not know any offensive spells, but my sword is dangerous enough and I’m not sure that the others would be willing to kill me to make me stop. I would hope that they would do it, but I’m not sure they’d be able to bring themselves to do it. I’ve had to do many things that I really didn’t want to, but I did them anyway. I had to do them or I would have been killed. At least if I die outside of Kern I’m not likely to be brought back as an undead monstrosity. Small favors.

                  I am still holding out hope that I will see you again. I miss your wry sense of humor. I miss being able to talk to you plainly about things. You know all that I’ve done. You were there for most of it, so I don’t have to hide anything. Please come back to me.

                  Yours always,
                  Jana

                  Dear Marcus,

                  We got an unexpected surprise on the way to the campsite tonight. I saw someone flying overhead on a wyvern and after a closer look I realized that it was Irene. I don’t think that her being there was a coincidence. I think we were being followed. I just don’t know if it is because we are going up against Gnaag and he’s getting support from Kern, or if we’re just close to the border and she was doing a sweep. When she noticed that we had spotted her she flew off to tell her superiors what she’d found out. I have a feeling that my past is about to be made more public than I’d like. I should probably at least tell Darcy and Maria. We can fill Ashlin in when we get back together with him. I know Maria won’t be happy with me. After all it was the Skull Knights, me included, that destroyed her lab in the mountains. I can reveal that little bit at a later date though. I will talk to Tanith and Jadzia and see what they think about telling the others. If we are in fact being watched by the Skull Knights it may come out anyway, and in that instance the choice will have been taken out of my hands.

                  I wish I had you around to give me advice. I am in sore need of it right now. You always can see right to the heart of a matter. That is a gift I do not possess. I miss you.

                  Yours always,
                  Jana


                  Tanith’s Diary

                  Things threaten to spiral out of control, but I keep an iron grip on it.

                  After dinner, Jana and I went back with Jadzia, and Jana told her the truth. I really admire her for that. Jadzia unfortunately was very upset. I do not hold that against her; I perhaps should have been more upset. I mean I was unhappy, but my immediate feeling was how to overcome it. I was, perhaps, blinded by love. Jadzia needed to be away from Jana, and she told us in her own inimitable way: She walked out wordlessly. I held my Jana through the night, but I do not think she slept.

                  I did, nothing like a warm, soft still body next to me and steady breathing to put me under.

                  Jadzia returned the next day, calmer. Turns out she started a bar fight, ran into Ashlin, and was seduced by them. So at least she got to work out the stress. Thankfully, she and Jana seemed better in the morning. They wound up traveling to the base together, and when I ran into them that evening they seemed very at ease again.

                  I hope this secret never comes up again. But circumstances contrive.

                  Maria, Darcy, and I met Rhiannon to visit the cave with some of the tombs. Ashlin came along disguised as a Trebutane girl. Soon after entering, Melisandre entered my mind, catching me by surprise. She had me stop walking and looking around. When Rhiannon stepped in to demand that I continue forward, I simply watched in horror as Melisandre reached out and crushed Rhiannon with her mind, casting her to the side where Ash moved to her defense, using their medical skills to help her. Darcy cut the Gordian knot by sending out a blinding flash of light that took Melisandre off guard and banished her from my mind. I immediately healed Rhiannon but she became belligerent. Darcy challenged her, and they got each other riled up. I think Darcy and Hegick clashed with her the night before.

                  I meanwhile searched for Tavia’s mind, and found it. She was…mad. Flirty. Mercurial. She admitted she told Melisandre I was there, but was apparently bragging she was with me rather than trying to clue her in. She seemed to want to sleep with me, which is creepy for my grandmother’s girlfriend. While she was prattling insanely, I decided to ac t to protect Jana. I knew she did not want me to, but I will do what I must to protect my love. I erased Tavia’s memory of her. I know it is Sorcery, but it is for a good cause. She did not seem to notice. I felt the corruption try to creep into my mind but I fought it off. Purged it. I am not proud of what I did, but I did what I had to to protect the woman I love.

                  Eventually Maria and I moved the production to the tomb, where I confirmed my allies’ hypothesis, my arcana and Maria’s knowledge. Tavia had investigated it but used no arcana beyond object reading. Maria and I determined it would take a stonemason some time to repair the stone. That determined, we slipped out.

                  Jadzia reported in from the base, and told us to come along and meet her there. Darcy, to his credit, stepped away and apologized to Rhiannon before we left. Ashlin stayed behind to keep an eye on things in town.

                  It was good to get back with Jana and Jadzia, who as I say seemed better. Jadzia had good news; Wren had brought our official invitations to become Sovereign’s Finest. So we were all pleased about that. Our happiness was interrupted, however, by Melisandre, this time attacking Jana. Her tendency to keep her underlings at arms length served us well, as her lack of familiarity with Jana worked against her. I also dove into Jana’s psyche to defend her, and when Melisandre seized her mind, I removed her from it, forcing her to attack Jana again to get back in her mind. This went back and forth till she attacked me. I was more prepared this time. Even so, she spoke of being proud of me, that I was “coming along nicely” and would make an excellent lieutenant for her. As if I would ever fall to shadow!

                  She was mostly trying to bind my will to stop me from preventing her command over Jana. But I could detect in her voice she was getting tired…it was a struggle to overcome her lack of overall familiarity with Jana. I was getting tired too, but I was stronger than her at that point. Darcy put an end to the struggle himself, using his holy light again, and Melisandre, weakened, was driven out.

                  Jadzia was intensely upset. Jana and I had to convince her not to ride to Sarn to face Melisandre. I know full well she would not come back. We managed to calm her. Well, we and Trebizond’s promise she would soon face Gnaag again.

                  Tension was kept high by a Skull Knight buzzing us on a Wyvern. Jana apparently recognized her. Of course.

                  But we are camping now, and my mind comes back to my assault on Tavia. I doubt she even noticed. But bravado aside, I had never done Sorcery before. It did feel disquieting and cold, but it also felt good. I think something deep inside rejoiced. But I only did it to protect Jana, not for evil. I would of course never use Sorcery to cause harm. That can’t be so bad, can it? The Queen would not allow study otherwise. It is a tool like anything else, but a dangerous one. No different than her using the shadowgate to do what must be done.

                  Sleeping in a tent is less comfortable than I am accustomed to, and Jadzia is all keyed up. Jana is quiet, that odd, almost scary quiet she gets when her mind is full. I suppose my mind is too. But for now I should focus on trying to get some sleep. We have a very dangerous mission on the morrow. I should be well rested.

                  Melisandre, Tavia, they haunt my dreams that should be full of Jana and Jadzia, and despite the summer’s night, I am oddly cold, and the moon feels a little farther. I hope this does not have implications for what lies ahead.

                  End Session XIV

                  So, let me be direct with some right off. No one OOC thinks Tanith did the right thing. Tanith used Sorcery out of fear, to protect Jana, but there is no good uses of Sorcery. So I want it to be clear no player sees that as an OOC justified thing. Not treating Sorcery as a shade of grey, it is Tanith’s struggle with herself. She gained no Corruption, the ending of her journal reflects the close call.

                  The scene with Hegick and Rhiannan was funny, with Hegick trying to be polite but both refusing to budge. Darcy and Ash intervened as they could.

                  There was a whole flurry of rolls with Melisandre attacking Jana and Tanith. While she has some familiarity with Jana it is far from easy for her, and the familiarity penalty worked against her several times. Tanith, being a blood reletive, is easier but she has much higher willpower.

                  Next session round two of the Battle with Gnaag! Mounted combat! Ash’s interrogation of Tavia! See Trebizond’s genius at work! Be there!

                  And if you have comments or questions about this session, they are welcome.
                  Running: Blue Rose AGE (Cat's Cradle) Blue Rose AGE (Big Damn Heroes)
                  HAPPY PRIDE MONTH!

                  Comment


                  • #24
                    Re: Blue Rose: Cat's Cradle (Actual Play)

                    Tanith leads the charge as the members of the Cat’s Cradle meet Gnaag’s forces on the field of battle for the second time. However it is Maria who holds the key to Trebizond’s strategy for this confrontation. But even as they battle the Ogre Warlord, a more dangerous enemy waits in the wings. Meanwhile Rhiannon, and Ashlin in disguise, confront Tavia about her true intentions in Elkhorn.

                    Session XV

                    Dark Tides Rising Part III

                    Ashlin’s Reports

                    Report from Ash, decoded by Kait, sent 8 Leonar

                    Well, it is time for the crew to be returning home, victorious once again. Ogres decapitated, Skull Knights dismounted, conspiracies discovered, sorceress... rescued? (Yes, the naked one.) All in all, quite the success. And coming back to a Sovereign's Finest induction no less. It's almost like we're some kind of heroes or something. At least I picked a decent cover to be the one that gets all officially recognized.

                    First off, Gnaag – totally dealt with. I assume. The others have no reason to lie to me, and their descriptions of what a wall of tornado does to a line of infantry are remarkably consistent and detailed to be a story. Apparently when it came time for the team to do its thing, Maria grabbed Gnaag with gust of icy wind, pushing one of his bodyguards away with the same blast. Then she threw up the aforementioned wall of tornado, tossing night people and ogres all willy nilly.

                    With him having been delivered like that, our people were triumphant fairly quickly, though not without getting hurt themselves. Then Melisandre attacked, using something sorcerous I presume. She sent a message along with it, through Tanith, something about never getting in her way again, and making like it would be Tanith's fault if the sorceress hurt anyone. Standard evil sorceress queen fare. Oh, and somewhere in there Maria found time to knock a Skull Knight off her wyvern.

                    To be fair, we did get in the way of a significant move on her part. One of those 'great victory for Kern' if she had won, 'madcap sorceress antics' if she got caught and failed, and 'crazy bandits' if she didn't. As it is, nothing official can tie it to her. We have Tavia's word, and she's insane, and we had a hovering Skull Knight who was never found on the ground. Oh, and Melisandre’s message to Tanith, I suppose, but I don't know if we could work that into a political sticking point.

                    But, I mentioned Tavia's word earlier. We might be able to get more from her, but that remains to be seen. Lilyan convinced Rhiannon to let her have a chat with Tavia, since her family had been Kernish refugees, and might be able to help. We found her at the lake, watching the sky where the 'evil star' (the Skull Knight) had been so recently. According to her, she had been sent to the town, to provide a second army for Melisandre’s attack plans, Gnaag providing the first. But when Tavia got to the crypts, despite the dead there, again, according to Tavia, wanting to rise and conquer again, she decided not to, and hid instead. Keeping in mind her damaged state, it really seemed like she believed what she said.

                    She also sounded like she believed what she said when she described her childhood, having been sealed into a crypt as a child for 15 years, growing up with no company but the dead. When she got out, she 'knew things'. Between her gift, and the things she knows about Melisandre in particular, and Kern in general, she is pretty sure she is too valuable to allow to escape. Which is why she is running south, to Rhiannon's great sadness. The priestess hadn't shared the closeness I oh so crudely implied with my last report, but has now, at least if I interpret the contorted face Tanith made that time she tried to get in contact with Tavia. And good for her. Though possibly for the best that Tavia is moving on.

                    She's disappeared for now – disappeared as soon as she heard us talking about taking her to Aldis City. I do think she would benefit from speaking to the folks at the Temple of the Eternal Dance. It might give her some peace, and help her cling to the whatever it was that stayed her hand there in the crypts. Tanith has been speaking to her psychically, so she still might be coming back with them.

                    And it will be with them. Ash will be leaving with the group, but then I'll swing around and Lilyan will be staying a few more days. By then she will have told Rhiannon about a Trebutaine tradition, where when one wants to make a new start, they go on something of a pilgrimage, taking their time as they travel to their new home. Lilyan might not become a long term cover, but she can be a pen-pal to a lonely Priestess with a good heart. So anyway, don't get worried if I don't come back with the others, but I will see you soon.

                    [Cloven hoof mark]


                    Jadzia’s Horse Sense

                    Whispered in Rezean in the Nocturna family stables)

                    “Oh, hush Salkhi! I am not being moody. I am not! I am not! Very well, have it your own way.

                    “In case you were wondering, I have been deep in thought lately, pondering a variety of weighty issues… which is not the same thing as sulking. Though the two of us shared a great victory a few days ago, I have had pressing concerns as well. My… my new family is in terrible danger, and I shall not be able to rest easily until I am certain that they are safe.

                    “It all began early in the morning on the day of the great battle. As I had rested well the previous day, I offered to take both the first and third watches during the night, sleeping for only a few hours between the two. Jana and I sat quietly as the velvety darkness took on the first deep hues of the morning, not speaking but hardly needing to, when a rider approached quietly through the gloom.

                    “It was Ranger Harding, whom Trebizond had dispatched on another guerilla errand. She was meant to don the armor of our foes and attack the harpies’ nest with flaming arrows. In this way, Trebizond hoped to raise the ire of the foul beasts and bring their wrath down upon Gnaag’s forces. Of course Wren agreed to this bold strategy… but she confessed that she was troubled by some aspects of her choice.

                    “For the most part, her concerns were for her relationship with Lieutenant Lea, who had not taken her eagerness to put herself at risk well. Both Wren and Lea feel that they should become closer, and perhaps enter into a committed relationship. However, Lea feels that if they do so, Wren must take greater care for her own wellbeing, as she would have someone back at camp ardently awaiting her return. Wren sees the sense in this attitude, but it grates against her sensibilities as a bold warrior.

                    “I am… ill-equipped to advise others in matters of the heart, but I did my best to ease her worries. I told her that she must do as her heart directs, and that attempting to suppress that impulse for the sake of another will merely diminish who she is. Taking away that boldness will likely suppress the greater part of what Lea sees in Wren in any case. A valiant spirit will not be denied.

                    “And yet I was troubled by my own words. I still feel all too keenly the loss of my family, though it occurred almost three years ago. The pain of it nearly destroyed me, and only Darcy’s intervention brought me back from the brink of despair. I would not wish such feelings upon a friend such as Wren, nor even a valiant acquaintance like Lea. I certainly will do all in my power to protect those I love from ever experiencing such a devastating blow.

                    “Having said that, how can I so cavalierly rush into perilous circumstances, knowing how my death would affect those who care for me? Though neither Tanith nor Jana has yet told me in so many words that they love me, I know well the intensity of their feelings from their actions. It hurts my heart to think of them grieving so… and yet I cannot stand aside and do nothing while foes still stand across the field of battle.

                    “I cannot sit idly in comfort while that murderous bitch lives.

                    “Ah, I have skipped ahead. Wren rode out with the dawn, and we continued to circle Gnaag’s bandit army, riding along the uttermost outskirts of his defenses. I know you remember that ride well, Dear One… evading their patrols, ducking in and out of the sparse copses that cover that part of the valley, and giving a wide berth to his infernal shadow hounds. Though I know that we both longed to join the battle, we held ourselves in check, for we knew a greater prey lay ahead.

                    “We were spotted once… by the wyvern-riding Skull Knight we had espied upon entering the valley. Tanith – possibly mentally prompted by Trebizond – decided that enough was enough, and communicated this to Maria with a glance. The quiet, unassuming adept closed her eyes in concentration, swept her hands upward in a complicated gesture, and ripped the vampire from her mount, causing her to plummet to the ground below. Her point of impact was distant enough that we could not confirm the kill, more’s the pity… we later learned that she had survived her fall. I am certain that we have not heard the last of her.

                    “An hour or so later we had circled Gnaag’s forces and located his command bivouac. We spied on him from a nearby copse and discovered that he was deep in counsel with several other ogres. A large force of Night People was gathered nearby, preparing to rush forward and reinforce the front lines where necessary.

                    “Maria once again proved her worth upon the battlefield… this time by effecting three disparate magical actions nearly simultaneously! Gnaag flew thirty yards through the air, straight into the midst of our ambush. One of his lieutenants was flung bodily half again as far in the opposite direction. And before any of his subordinates could rush to Gnaag’s aid, Maria summoned a wall of cyclone-force wind between them and us.

                    “Though obviously no match for us, Gnaag still put up a good fight. I’m certain you remember; though he never managed to touch us as we darted here and there, striking at him with lance and hoof, he served Darcy and Tanith with heavy blows… and Jana took some incidental damage while protecting our Lady. In fact, it was Jana who struck the final blow… though all of us save Maria – who was concentrating on maintaining her wall of wind –injured him in some way before the end.

                    “As expected, Gnaag’s forces broke with the news of his death. We beheaded his corpse as proof that he had fallen, and burned the rest of his remains so that our enemies could not raise him as undead. Oh, yes, I forgot to mention that, didn’t I? Ashlin had remained in Elkhorn to investigate Tavia further, and had discovered that she had been sent there by Melisandre and ordered to raise an undead army to supplement Gnaag’s forces. So the entire conflict had been engineered by Kern. Luckily, Tavia had either decided to defy Melisandre or had discovered that she did not have the ability to carry out her mistress’ orders. Whatever the case, Gnaag was left outnumbered and without hope of reinforcements, which was fortunate for us.

                    “It was very unfortunate, however, that Melisandre chose the moment of our victory to strike against us once more. She attempted to gain control of my Starlight’s mind, and when that failed, she tried to choke the life out of her. I stood there, hands upon the hilts of my swords, staring helplessly as Jana clutched at her own throat, suspended several feet above the ground. I knew that I could do nothing, and I knew that Tanith might well be the next to suffer her grandmother’s ire. I wanted to scream. I wanted to cry. Above all, I wanted to kill the one who would take everything from me… again.

                    “Jana was not killed, nor was Tanith. Melisandre has plans for Tanith, and wished to leave Jana alive as insurance. She says that if Tanith does not come to her to begin her training in the sorcerous arts, all that she loves will be taken from her and destroyed. The evil old bitch had the gall to tell my Sunflower that these deaths would be on her conscience.

                    “Tanith and the others began seeing to their injuries, and again I could do nothing. I wandered here and there around the camp, attempting to make myself useful and failing dismally. With the battle over I had nothing to offer my friends and lovers. After cleaning Gnaag’s blood from my arms and hands, I embraced Tanith and Jana to show them that I was pleased they were well. Following my behavior in the wake of Jana’s confession two days previous, I did not wish them to misinterpret my silence as disdain or disapproval.

                    “Gnaag’s forces broke and scattered as expected. Wren Harding returned to Lea’s tender embrace no worse for wear, and the group of us returned to Elkhorn. We spoke with Mayor Selune and her daughter, the Priestess Rhiannon. The rest of the group had decided to try to convince Tavia to return to Aldis City with us, in the hopes that she could be rehabilitated. Though I had my doubts, the advantages of keeping one of Melisandre’s confidantes close to us were inarguable.

                    “Unfortunately it was not to be. Tavia had recently dallied with Rhiannon, and when she heard us discussing this matter, she slipped out the back and made her escape. I sought to track her down, but Ashlin opined that this was not the proper way to gain her confidence, and I trust him when it comes to such matters.

                    “So here we are, nearly a week later, safely ensconced within the Nocturna family estate once more. The others busy themselves however they can. Maria sequesters herself in study. Darcy trains with his mentor. Ashlin remained in Elkhorn for a few days to maintain one of his disguises; I do not believe he has returned to Aldis City yet. People speak proudly of the battle, or eagerly of our upcoming induction into the Sovereign’s Finest society. And me…

                    “Last night I bared my soul to the two women nearest to my heart. I told them what happened to my family. I told them what happened to Iyara. I told them of my culpability in their fate, as I was out riding in the hills when the attack occurred… riding with a boy of whom my family disapproved, following an argument. How I had screamed at them…

                    “I told them what it felt like to feel myself burning alive through my bond with Iyara, and to know that I was too far away to be of any help to her. To feel truly helpless while everything I loved suffered and died… and I felt it all.

                    “I wept, and made no attempt to stop myself. I allowed Tanith to hold me to her chest as I sobbed. I allowed Jana to comb the tangles out of my hair and kiss the tears from my cheeks. They said very little, but I took comfort in their presence. When it was done and I could weep no more, they held me, and I fell asleep between them, breathing in the scent of their hair and hearing their breaths become deep and even.

                    “I hope they understand now. I hope they understand why I cannot sit idly by while an enemy threatens them. Melisandre is too dangerous to ignore. I cannot stand aside and do nothing while she poses such a dire danger to those I love. If she cannot be forced to leave the three of us in peace, then she must die.

                    “She must die, Salkhi. And we shall see it done, whatever the risk.”


                    Jana’s Letters

                    Dear Mother,

                    I need to catch you up on what has been going on, but I don’t have a lot of time to write so I will be brief. My friends and I have been called North to deal with an ogre warlord that we’ve defeated in the past. It was thought that our expertise in fighting him might come in handy. In the process of getting to the town and investigating other things it was revealed to Tanith and Jadzia that I had been a Skull Knight. Tanith had a vision about Melisandre trying to take over her mind and mine. She was afraid of this and told Jadzia and I about it in the morning. Without thinking I admitted that I knew Melisandre and had been her bodyguard on occasion. Tanith picked up right away what that meant, and I could have hit myself for the admission. I had not meant it to come out like that. I have no idea how I was planning on telling my lovers about my past but it wasn’t like that. Jadzia didn’t pick up on the meaning behind that admission right away, so I told her in private later. She didn’t take it too well initially, but after she had calmed down she came back and was just as supportive of me as she has been all along. Tanith immediately understood the implications of what I said and I could see anger flash on her face, but it passed quickly. She was also quick to defend me to Jadzia later that day when I told her. They have both been so good to me. I do not deserve those two.

                    Anyway, we headed up to the fort where the ogre Gnaag and his troops were amassing. Well, they were moving towards the fort, so we moved out last night so we’d be able to come around behind his troops in the morning. Last night we divided into three watches. I was on third with Jadzia. We had a surprise visitor too. It was Wren, the ranger that we met in Rosette. She was sent out by Trebizond to dress as a Night Person the next day and shoot arrows at a nest of angry harpies that was nearby. His hope was that this would incite the harpies to attack the enemy’s troops. I admitted that it sounded like an interesting tactic, but apparently it brought up some hard feelings between Wren and her lover Lea. Lea, the lieutenant of the local militia was upset that Wren was out taking such risks. Wren replied that it was fine because they were not in a committed relationship so she would not be missed if she died. Or something along those lines. I tried reasoning with her that people would still miss her even if they were not in a committed relationship with her, but I’m not sure if she agreed with me. I was never in a committed relationship with Marcus but I would miss him greatly if he were to die. He is probably someone that I should tell Tanith and Jadzia about. We were lovers, as you know, but we never pledged ourselves to each other. I don’t think either of us really realized that we had deeper feelings for each other until it was time for me to leave Kern. Bad timing that.

                    That was last night. Today was when all the excitement happened. Trebizond was up on a wheeled tower with colored flags signaling orders to our troops. He had an adept surrounding him with a wall of wind to keep him safe from archers. If he hadn’t had that wall he’d have been a prime target. When we looked up at the sky we noticed that Irena was back in the sky flying her wyvern. We noticed her watching us yesterday and I assumed that she had passed our location along to Gnaag and his troops. My theory that Kern was involved in the fight was proven later, but I’ll get to that. First thing we had to do was take care of the menace in the sky, so Tanith asked Maria if she could use her magic to knock Irena off her wyvern. Maria gestured at the flying Skull Knight and sent a gust of strong wind to knock her off. It worked. Her wyvern tried to catch her but was not able to before she hit the ground somewhere in the badlands.

                    We continued to ride to where we were sent and discussed our options as we did so. Maria offered to imbue our weapons with magic so that they would be more effective in the upcoming fight. We readily agreed since magic of that level would not tire her out. We also came up with the plan to have Maria pull Gnaag towards us so we could attack him. She would then put up a wall of wind between us and his troops to keep them off our backs while we dealt with Gnaag. Not the most honorable thing to do, but then when it comes to fighting I was never trained to be honorable. So Maria ended up pulling him towards us while at the same time sending another of his ogres far off in the other direction. She then summoned a tornado down on the enemy troops. That was a little stronger than we’d planned but it worked rather well to thin out Gnaag’s men while we took care of him.

                    Right before the fight started Tanith used her own magic to boost the strength of myself, Darcy and Jadzia. It was effective. Darcy, the ever quick one, attacked Gnaag first and became the ogre’s first target after that. Jadzia who was on horseback charged Gnaag and both she and her mount attacked the ogre. It was a sight to see. I lent my own sword to taking down the ogre and in fact actually managed to land the killing blow on him. After he was down the concern that the enemy would raise him as an undead was brought up. It would not be a good thing if he was raised to fight again, and we knew that Kern was involved in this whole endeavor. So, Jadzia offered to cut off his head. She did so with some difficulty, but we had our proof that the ogre warlord was dead to show his troops.

                    While all of this was going on Melisandre tried to take over my mind again. This time I managed to push her out, but she was not content with that. After Gnaag fell I only had a moment to enjoy the rush that comes with defeating an enemy that deserves to die before Melisandre used her magics to pull me up into the air and try and choke the life out of me. I will admit that I do not know how I came to be released. I believe that it was Tanith, but at the time the only thing that I was concentrating on was the pain. It was rather unpleasant. Apparently Tanith did something to get the sorceress to let me go and I dropped to the ground. Melisandre spoke to her granddaughter in her head, yeah her own granddaughter, and tried to imply that if Tanith did not submit herself to her grandmother’s teaching then any future injuries or fatalities would be her fault. I told Tanith in no uncertain terms that she was not going to do that, and that nothing that happened would be her fault. Jadzia was quick to join in and tell Tanith that Melisandre was responsible for her own actions. Jadzia was really mad at Melisandre and repeated her threat that she wanted to go to Kern and kill the sorceress herself. I reminded her again of the futility of such an act and that it would just lead to her own death. I’m not sure how much of what I said she took to heart, but I really hope she did. I do not want to lose Jadzia when I can prevent it. I don’t want to lose her regardless.

                    The fight was quickly wrapped up after Gnaag fell. The tornado that Maria summoned continued to either kill the enemy troops or push them back toward the Aldin army. And the Harpies that Wren had been shooting earlier got angry at Gnaag’s troops and started attacking them as well. All around it was a fairly short fight with us clearly the victors. We rested for a while before heading back to town to meet up with Ashlin. He was in disguise as a Trebutain merchant keeping an eye on Tavia. Yeah, Tavia was in town, hiding apparently. We talked about what we should do with her. It seems to Ashlin that Tavia has genuinely fled Kern and is trying to get away. She was sent to this town to raise the dead and aid Gnaag’s men with back up troops, but she never did it. I’m not positive is she could have or not, but she does have a knack with the dead and undead. But she seems to be honestly trying to get away from her former masters. Tanith suggested that we take her back to Aldis City with us and bring her to a temple there to get her help. Ashlin told us about Tavia’s past. I knew bits of it before but hearing confirmation of the rumors was kind of horrifying all over again. The rumors were true. She was locked in a crypt for her formative years and left alone with the dead. I don’t know what the purpose of this was, but it served to unhinge her rather well. I almost feel sorry for her, but I still can’t trust her. I’ve known her long enough to know that she is mercurial and untrustworthy. I don’t even think that Melisandre trusts her, and she is her lover.

                    Later that day we as a group, Ashlin still dressed as his Trebutain persona, had a talk with Selune and Rhiannon. We came in after Ashlin so his disguise would not be compromised. We talked to the two ladies about Tavia and what we’d discussed. While we were talking we heard something from the back of the house. Without having to look we knew that it was Tavia escaping through the back window. Jadzia was all for chasing her down, but Ashlin suggested that we let her go and try and contact her later. Chasing her will only make her run further and faster. Right now she is very skittish. She had been preparing to leave before we got back and only Rhiannon and Ashlin talking to her managed to keep her in town as long she was here. So we let her go. Tanith said that she would reach out to Tavia later and see if the escapee would be willing to come to Aldis City for a while. I think the others were hoping to rehabilitate her. If that’s possible. I’m not holding out hope for that myself.

                    That evening Trebizond invited the lot of us to celebrate at the bar. Ashlin came dressed as himself this time since the party was for us. While we were there Tanith was lamenting the idea of telling her father about her upcoming induction into the Sovereign’s Finest. She was afraid that he would show up and embarrass her in front of everyone. I myself would be thrilled if you were able to come to the ceremony. I do not want to see father there, of course. He would ruin the event with just his presence. But I doubt that Richter would do anything that would truly embarrass his daughter in front of everyone. She possesses such a self-reliant spirt that it’s hard to remember sometimes that she is at least ten years younger than I am. Such a time is not a lot in our lifespans, but sometimes it seems like a lot. She has had so much just given to her that I envy her at times. But then I wonder if I’d be the same person that I am now if I’d been afforded such luxuries as a child. But I cannot change the past. I can only thank the man that helped me get out of Kern and do my utmost to keep his daughter safe.

                    Love always,
                    Jana


                    Dear Marcus,

                    The fight is over. We have made it back to Aldis yet not all is right. My lover Jadzia just confessed that she had been bonded to a Rhy-Horse. The key words of that sentence being that she had been. It was two and a half years ago, give or take, that her bonded and her mothers had been slaughtered and burned alive. Jadzia had been out riding when this happened and felt it through her bond. She came back to find all that she loved dead and burned. I can understand how she felt. I once came home to find that my mother was gone and my father was in a pleasant mood. He said that mother had been taken away for preaching heretical things to the townsfolk and executed. As much as it made me sick I had to appear pleased that her heretical behavior had been ceased. I never said anything against my mother, but it would have been bad for me and anyone I associated with if I appeared to be grieved by her loss. I had to mourn for my mother in private.

                    I believe that Jadzia was afraid that she would lose one or both of us during our last trip to the north and was concerned. She flat out said before that she did not know who I’d been but she loved the woman that I was now. I almost felt hollow at her words when she said that just days ago. I don’t know if I can allow myself to love them even now. Even now that they know my secret. What I love gets taken from me. It has happened time and again. How do I trust the universe to leave me just a bit of happiness? If I ask for it to stay it will be taken from me. If I expect it to be there, then I will be taking them for granted. So, I hold them at arm’s reach for time being. I have not said the words that I want to for fear that if I do then they will be taken from me. I may live in a paradise now, but that does not change the nature of the world. It seeks to destroy that which is good. All falls to shadow eventually. I just don’t want to fall just yet.

                    Yours always,
                    Jana


                    Tanith’s Diary

                    We have defeated Gnaag successfully and he is slain. Trebizond’s strategies came through and Maria unleashed terrifying power, as she is wont to do. It was exhilarating leading a charge against the commander of enemy forces atop Shadow Runner, even if nature of our ambush pulling him away from his guards seems to take a bit of the epic heroism out of it. That’s the pragmatism of military strategy for you.

                    The reason I am not happier is while we did indeed take down a powerful Ogre Warlord who had been a threat to Northeastern Aldis for some time, it turned out the puppetmaster behind him was my Grandmother, Melisandre. She appeared as an image in the battle to torment Jana and tried to take over her mind, petulantly torturing her when she failed. She demanded I come and continue the family traditions of serving the Shadow, and told me any deaths as a result of my not doing so were on my head. She taunted me that I could no more save Jana or Jadzia than I could my Mother when I was a child and she psychically tortured Jana in front of me, demanding I break. I did not. Eventually she cast her off like a petulant child whose parent was unwilling to play and ceased observing us, her gambit having failed, her master plan a ruin.

                    It’s still frightening. Melisandre was a sort of bogyman all my life, but now I have been in mind contact with her and she knows who I am and wants to recruit me. And is willing to use Jana against me. I suspect she does not know about Jadzia. I will keep this the case as long as I can. I only regret she managed to sense my closeness to Jana.

                    Tavia is a dangerous X-factor here. She is in contact with Melisandre and the Skull Knight we saw (Irena). We spoke to Selune and Rhiannon (the latter of whom apparently gave into her…charms…at some point) and got their agreement to take Tavia back to Aldis City and the Temple of the Eternal Dance to be healed. If that is possible. Apparently she heard this and fled. There could be a dozen reasons why, and tenfold that with no basis in reality.

                    She did, however, reveal information to Ashlin (in disguise) and Rhiannon while we were in the Golgan Badlands. It turns out she is a gifted Necromancer with an utterly twisted upbringing, and was sent by Melisandre to unleash an undead army, currently sleeping in the graveyard and cave, to meet and assist Gnaag’s, crushing the Aldean army in a pincer attack. However, she went AWOL, due either to deciding not to for moral reasons, capriciously trying to anger Melisandre for attention, being unable to use the main tomb due to a lack of stonemasonry skills, or simply because she is mad. Regardless Melisandre sent Irena, but before the Vampire could turn her attention there, we caught her attention and when her surveillance became problematic, Maria blew her off her steed to crash in Golgan far below. She is apparently still undead, according to Tavia, though Tavia mostly just taunts her and by last account was still grievously injured and reduced to taking blood from the dead on the battlefield.

                    I feel a little sorry for Rhiannon, her two best friends seeming to be Tavia and Ashlin’s Trebutane disguise. Still, she is a good hearted, bold, and willful young woman. I am sure she will not be in want of friendship, or companionship, for long when she sets her mind to it, and maybe she will now. Also unrelated but Lea and Wren are in a relationship of some sort, though I only caught snippets of conversation about that.

                    When we got back I think it all hit Jadzia hard, and she talked about the deaths of her parents and her Rhy-horse she was bonded with. It was terrible; she rarely cries, but she wept hard, and I held her best I could. Jana, Jadzia and I are there for each other now; we love and safeguard each other. Maybe soon I can even get everyone to say it out loud.

                    I am glad this is over. This was a great success, and charging together, I on Shadow Runner, the enemy commander was exhilarating. I remain a woman of peace but I see the allure of the battlefield. I remain disquieted by events of the trip, however, especially my own closeness to Corruption. It left a chill in me that has taken time to fade. I know I must continue to be strong, and resist it when it tries to take hold of my soul in the future.

                    End Session XV

                    Dark Tides Rising Completed

                    So tactics I did not expect to work as well as they did: Using Move Object to yank Gnaag and Wind Shaping to drop a cyclone between us (and Gnaag) and his forces. But Maria managed to roll extremely well and, using her relationship to the group (and Tanith’s passive bonus) not only pull Gnaag to us but drop the cyclone in a single action. Considering this was an ambush strike, this meant the Cradle were taking him on alone. It also meant Maria basically sat out the battle because she hit two levels of Fatigue immediately, but the damage was done. My plan was to have the PCs fight on horseback so they could maneuver around and force them to adapt to fighting mounted (which Jadzia would excel at.) I had Trebizond suggest the Arcanum to give them a better chance, but they exceeded all expectations.

                    Granted, Jadzia will kicked ass, weaving in and then retreating before Gnaag could even try to take a swing. Darcy and Tanith got hammered but he could not quite manage to hit Jadzia, or even really try. We are looking at options for our walking tank to better hold aggro.

                    I will note from the GM side Melisandre was…somewhat less menacing. Due to the Familiarity penalty, she bounced off Jana’s Psychic Shield a couple times before going after Tanith, and utterly failed to impact the battle despite trying to influence Jana from the start.

                    I think everyone was a little sympathetic to poor Rhiannon.

                    Next time we are back home, come join us for Aldis City Rhapsody. In the meantime Comments and Questions welcome.
                    Running: Blue Rose AGE (Cat's Cradle) Blue Rose AGE (Big Damn Heroes)
                    HAPPY PRIDE MONTH!

                    Comment


                    • #25
                      Re: Blue Rose: Cat's Cradle (Actual Play)

                      Our heroes return to Aldis City, victorious. However even as they get their honors, threats begin to rise to those close to them. Tanith’s school BFF has threatening dreams, which portend a dangerous family secret coming to the fore. Also, their neighbor Pisha’s past seems to catch up with her.

                      Note Ashlin’s entry is in a different format than usual for them.

                      Session XVI

                      Aldis City Rhapsody Part I

                      Ashlin’s Reports

                      “Hey there soldier. You have someone to go home to tonight?”

                      Kait glanced over at the deep-voiced inamorata before looking back out over the crowd. “No, I'm w...” She stopped before she finished and looked back at the inamorata, really looking at her. A very Ash-like grin looked back at her. “No, and I think I'm done waiting.” She signaled to the waitress that she'd be up in her room and not alone, which earned her a waggled eyebrow. She rolled her eyes and strode up the stairs.

                      Once in her room, she shook her head. “Isn't that a little rough and tumble for this place?” She tried to keep the hint of a scold out of her voice, crossing her arms.

                      Ash shrugged, unrepentant. “But just rough enough for Eventide Friend. What's the word, boss? Don't tell me it's a third job...”

                      “A third?” She shook her head again. “We'll get to your report later. First though... I know you picked your Sovereign's Gift to be something appropriate to receive in public, even if it wasn't going to be all that useful to you. So I took the liberty of changing it up a bit.”

                      Kait moved over to the closet, Ash watching her with interest. Their eyes played over the black fabric outfit, quickly taking in its purpose. “This is...” They looked up at Kait, eyes lit with excitement.

                      “Concealable,” Kait said quickly, professionally. “Not all that reinforced, but better than the plain clothes you usually wear to a fight. And...” She took a step closer, presenting one of the sleeves. “Quick draw sheathes. I know you've been shirking your knife training,” she didn't bother hiding the scolding this time, “but these should at least make it easier for you to have a moment to aim.”

                      “Shall I try it on?” Ash smirked at her as they reached around behind themselves to start undoing their dress.

                      “No!” Kait bit her lip. She took a deep breath, not able to meet Ash's eye. “It fits. I promise. And I believe you have a report to make?”

                      Ash reclined on the bed. They took off the full wig of long blonde hair, setting it on the bedside table. Without it framing their face, the makeup that had been just this side of too much, and not quite matching the look and feel of the hair, settled into a sharply androgynous masterpiece. If the look on their face wasn't quite a come hither one – they had far too much of a smirk for that – their pose was definitely a mockery of one. Kait's breath caught and she cleared her throat. “Well?”

                      Ash's smirk faltered a bit, though they didn't shift their position. They watched her with shadowed eyes as they began their report. “Well, there was the party. Wish you coulda been there.”

                      Kait shuddered. “I'd rather be dragged over hot coals and a pit of glass.”

                      “But we could have danced!” Kait pinned them with a stare, her discomfort at the idea of dancing at a big fancy dress party making it easier to hide her interest in the idea of dancing with Ash. “Fine, fine. Not that I would have wanted to compete with Jadzia and Lao, or Darcy and anybody, or Tanith and Cassilda, or Richter and Vano... there was a lot of dancing, s'what I'm saying. We coulda showed 'em up though.” They looked her up and down, prompting rolled eyes.

                      “Anything happen that wasn't a part of every bit of gossip today?” Kait tried to keep them on a topic that wasn't her.

                      Ash nodded. “Tanith got a hint of the job we've got going now, though the particulars didn't get shared out until today. Cassilda Hyades is a visionary,” Ash paused, and Kait nodded to confirm that wasn't a surprise, “and she's been having a vision of disaster falling during the wedding of her cousin Cordelia d'Ys to Thale Hali. Darkfiend, rivers of blood, that kinda thing.” They sighed, blowing hair up off their face. It fell back down in an even more rakish pattern.

                      “For some reason, she hadn't told her cousin yet, but had told the family bodyguard, Alar Ythill, who counseled her to ask Tanith for help. So that's our first job. Excitingly, when they went to go talk to the family – and let the cousin and her fiancee in on things – Cordelia almost spilled the beans about some deep dark family secret, something about a Well of Blood. Couldn't possibly have anything to do with visions of rivers of blood, right?” Ash flipped over to their back, arms splayed as if knocked out by the idiocy of it all. “Or so Cassilda said, and Cordelia believed. Oh, and she didn't actually say that in front of us – Jadzia overheard them after Cassilda pulled her cousin aside.”

                      Kait nodded seriously, wracking her brain for any familiarity in the reference. “I don't know anything about a Well of Blood.”

                      Ash pulled their hands behind their head, eyes still on the ceiling. “Yeah. Maria's on it, searching the library for any references to it. Tomorrow, I'm gonna be playing the servant at the Hyades, to see if the family library has anything to say about it.” They shook their head. “To be fair, I can't say I blame them for wanting to keep it away from Thale. By all accounts, she is the insanely chivalrous type, and would probably volunteer to throw herself in whatever the Well of Blood turns out to be, as a sacrifice to save her love and the hope of the d'Ys family line. She's big on preserving those sorts of things.”

                      “Any chance the 'bloodline' thing is the relation to the vision?” Kait asked, looking for any angles.

                      “Sure.” Ash shrugged awkwardly. “And we're looking into it. She did some work as the assistant to a number of traveling nobles, including a few who went up against sorcerers while she was helping them. We're looking into it, or we will be – no need to abandon lines of investigation just because they're the least possible, not until we really wanna place a bet. Tanith seems pretty certain thiough, so maybe I can sneak her dad onto that. It would let him be helpful, and, to her point of view, keep him out of anything important. I dunno though. I never was good at talking to 13 year old girls, which is what she reverts to anytime he's involved.”

                      Kait crinkled her nose in amusement at the image of Ash talking to a 13 year old Tanith. “That bad?”

                      Ash paused, and Kait looked over at them, frowning at the distant look in their eyes. “Maybe dads are all more trouble than they're worth, one way or another.” They shook their head and brushed the hair out of their eyes. “Anyway, it's not so bad, more amusing. And I do think it'll be busy work, but busy work he has ideal connections for. I'll have to decide whether it's worth the discussion though. We do have plenty on our plate.”

                      “That's right. You mentioned a second job?”

                      “No, I implied the existence of one.” Kait whacked them on stomach, and they curled up into a ball, still grinning at her. They sat up, scooting back to rest against the head of the bed. “I deserved that. Yeah. This one's unofficial, though tomorrow might make it more official. Pisha had her bakery broken into last night. We were going to help out as we could, of course, good neighbors and all, especially since it'd let me scratch my incurable curiosity – you know she intrigues me. As it turns out, I was already able to figure out her identity papers are forged, just by stopping by and offering our help. She also smells really good.” They had a dreamy smile on their face, and her heart fell into her boots.

                      They didn't seem to notice any change and continued. “But the big thing came this evening. Annette DeVeers, the love of my life, sent Jana a message asking for a meeting. As it turns out, she had been at Pisha's bakery as it was being broken into. She came upon someone who had been doing... something behind the counter, who was startled at her approach, but covered it well, claiming to be Pisha's sister and even putting on a good performance as a merchant, taking her money and putting it in the appropriate place and everything. Her performance was rudely interrupted by another Lar'tyan showing up and immediately shooting her.”

                      “Annette?” Kait wasn't proud of the jealous pleasure that immediately popped up, but the criminal clearly hadn't been hurt too badly and it was important to be honest. With one's self at least.

                      “No, Pisha's 'sister'. Annette got out of there quick, probably with the grace of the eastern wind.” It sounded like they put a hand over their heart, but put it down quickly. Kait watched the wall by the door. In case anyone came in. “Anyway, Annette recognized the attacker. It was Jhanvi, the...”

                      Kait interrupted. “The assassin? The incredibly expensive, doesn't take contracts on Aldians, sometimes works for the government assassin?”

                      Ash gave her a brilliant smile and her heart flipped. “That's the one! Meshes nicely with the intel about Pisha's papers, at least if she was after Pisha and just thought the intruder was her. Alternately, she could have been tailing the intruder, and took advantage of the lo... the distraction. Annette's tracking her down, and when she finds Jhanvi, we get to have a sitdown. In the meantime, I think we pretty well came to consensus that we need to tell Pisha, and hope that our promising to protect her if she sticks around will win out versus the flight option of 'fight or flight'. She does deserve to know though, and make the decision for herself.”

                      “That does sound like a full plate. Anything else I need to know about?” Kait raised an eyebrow, finally looking over at them.

                      “Presuming you don't want to hear about the deer heart Annette sent to her ex-wife Evangeline with a knife stuck in it? Or all the flirting she did with Jana?” Kait gave them a dry look. “Guess not then.”

                      Ash hopped to their feet, and Kait moved to mirror them, stepping towards the door. Ash moved suddenly closer to her, however. “So about that having someone to go home to?” Their voice had dropped to their husky one and they tilted their head to catch the light just right over their eyes, shadows from the hair crossing and mixing with the slashes of color from their makeup.

                      Kait stepped away, taking deep breaths to slow the sudden pounding of her heart. She opened the door, and held it, offering up a wry smile and a raised eyebrow. “Good night Ash.”

                      They walked out the door, a strange expression on their face as they kept eye contact even out in the hall until Kait shut the door. On the other side, she heard a soft voice say “Good night Kait.” She leaned her forehead against the door and listened to them walk away.


                      Jadzia’s Horse Sense

                      (Whispered in Rezean in the Nocturna family stables)

                      “Good morning, Salkhi. And to think I had believed that our lives might become boring following our induction into the Sovereign’s Finest…

                      “No, quite the contrary! On the day following the ceremony, we found ourselves investigating not one but two new cases, one of which involves an old friend of Tanith’s, and the other our neighbor Pisha. You remember Pisha, do you not, Salkhi? She with the sweet fruit and nut breads? Yes, I thought you might.

                      “The ceremony itself was… incomprehensible to me. There were so many strange rules and rites to observe that I found it more tedious than inspiring. Still, this is not my culture, and I have been here long enough that these people – strange as they may be – have earned my respect, and I would not wish to offend them by disrupting their observances. So I held my tongue and sat quietly through the entire event.

                      “The Queen herself was there, albeit only briefly. She spoke a few words of praise and congratulations regarding our exploits to the crowd at large, and briefly congratulated each of us in turn directly, and then she departed. Tanith’s father Richter jested with her about the possibility of seducing the Queen, but Tanith demurred on this occasion.

                      “In addition to the recognition of our peers, each of us received a gift to signify the Queen’s gratitude. In general, this was a very well-constructed item which played to our particular strengths. Darcy received a pair of wrist-guards, for example, while Ashlin was given a set of small knives, and Maria a pendant designed to help her focus her magical energy. Each of these gifts had the color blue and the image of a rose worked into them in some way.

                      “Tanith’s gift was a beautiful cloak, mostly in shades of black and purple, but with blue roses twining along its edges. It is not a garment that one would find among the Clans on the warm plains of Rezea, and though I know little of their construction, I have no doubt that this one is extremely well-made. My Sunflower looks exquisite in it, and knows how to use it to its best advantage.

                      “Jana’s gift was a shield. It was metal, as is the style in Aldis, and embossed with the image of the blue Rose. Jana says that it is very sturdy and exceptionally well-balanced. It seems a very appropriate gift to me… regardless of what my Starlight may have been in the past, in the here and now she has dedicated her life to protecting others. Therefore, rather than a weapon which would allow her to seek the glory of the kill, she has taken on something which will help her to shoulder the burden of that responsibility.

                      “My own gift might have seemed a bit strange to my friends… and yet I myself can think of nothing more appropriate. I am known within our group – and rightly so – as a consummate archer, and yet… I already have a very fine bow; a gift from the people of Rosette in thanks for defending them against Gnaag’s raiders. I have also been training recently with the Rose Knights, as they are some of the only warriors in this strange land who seem to understand how effective cavalry can be.

                      “I was therefore delighted when they presented me with a lance… not a short wooden cavalry lance such as one might encounter on the plains of Rezea, but a full Aldean lance… somewhat longer, and made of a bright silvery metal from tip to haft. The broad head of the lance bears an etching of a rose, and a streamer of blue silk dangles from the hilt of the weapon like a lady’s favor. It is exceptionally well-balanced, and honed to the sharpness of a razor. Though I have yet to test it in actual combat, I do not doubt that it is indeed a formidable weapon.

                      “After the ceremony, one of Tanith’s friends named Cassilda Hyades had prepared a party in our honor. Yes, these Aldins do love their parties, do they not Salkhi? Though I do not care for the trappings of so-called high society, it would have been rude not to attend the celebration, and I did not wish to offend one of my Sunflower’s old friends. Each of us was also given leave to invite any friends or family who might be in town for the ceremony.

                      “I… I have no remaining family, of course, and most of those I consider friends are either part of the Cat’s Cradle company or had already been invited to the fete (like Rose Knight Saoirse and City Guard Aneshka). I did extend an invitation to both Lao and Shang of Clan Kamala… though of course I told neither that I was inviting the other. I hope someday to heal the rift between the two of them, but I know them well enough already to realize that this will be a long and difficult process; not something that can be accomplished during a single night. The two of them stayed upon opposite sides of the room throughout the evening, occasionally circling each other like birds of prey. I danced with each of them, hoping to show no favoritism toward either.

                      “I met many people that night. I was introduced to Maria’s aunt Martha and her mentor, Doctor Herbert Godfreed, though I had little to say to either beyond a few words of well-deserved praise for Maria’s fighting spirit and magical abilities. I also met Darcy’s family, including his mother Sabine, his father Vano, and his cousin Saffron. I spoke with them at some length, making certain to tell them in general terms how Darcy had saved my life back in Rezea… largely by convincing me that my life was still worth living. I hope they understand how special and supportive their son truly is.

                      “Richter Nocturna was there as well, of course, and as usual he managed to become the center of attention (in part by performing a magnificently entertaining dance with Darcy’s father Vano). As always, Tanith interpreted his actions as a deliberate attempt to embarrass her. I do not know why she feels that her father would wish to do such a thing, but she will not be swayed from this opinion. Combined with the fact that she has vocally disapproved of her father’s new paramour Franz, this has led to a tense few days.

                      “Tanith had actually spoken about this matter with Jana and I as the three of us made our way between the ceremony and the Hyades Estate. She had started and stopped a few times, as though working up her courage, and then had gone quiet for a time. As neither Jana nor I are particularly talkative – do not snicker so, Salkhi, it is unbecoming – we rode on in silence for some minutes. When Tanith broke the silence, her voice was barely above a whisper. She told us… she told us a secret she had never told anyone else, and I would not speak of it even with you, Salkhi, if I did not trust you with my life.

                      “Tanith Nocturna was born Franz Nocturna, and remained such until her second birthday, at which point the family hired a Flesh Crafter to correct nature’s error. She tearfully told us that her mother died shortly thereafter, and so she never had the chance to be the daughter she felt her mother should have had. This is why the name of Richter’s new paramour upsets her so. Neither Jana nor I said anything in response to this revelation, but we each took one of her hands, and rode on in quiet silence for the rest of our journey, and endeavored to reassure her that this new information did not change our feelings for her in the slightest.

                      “Silly woman… she need not have fretted so. She is my Sunflower. I would love her even if she was still Franz. She is a good person. The specifics of her anatomy matter far less than the details of her soul.

                      “In any event, Tanith opted to spend the evening with Miss Hyades rather than returning to the Nocturna Estate. She asked quietly if either Jana or I would care to join her in this exploit. Though Miss Hyades is a lovely young lady, Jana demurred. As has become my custom, I also refused the invitation as politely as I could… I did not want my Starlight to be alone that night.

                      “And so the two of us rode back to the Nocturna estate sharing a few words of quiet conversation, and then retired to Tanith’s bedroom. She does not mind if we use her room when she is not present, and if I am honest, I am starting to feel as though it is my room as well. I took my hair out of its braid – I am so glad that it is long enough to braid once more! – and we brushed each other’s hair, and lay in each other’s arms, and kissed, and eventually fell asleep.

                      “We met at the business headquarters the next morning as usual… but found much to our distress that our neighbor Pisha had suffered a robbery during the previous night! That is correct; some scurrilous rogue has done the unthinkable and violated both her privacy and her property. As Pisha is both a neighbor and a friend – and coincidentally creates the most delectable baked goods in the entire world – we took it upon ourselves to look into her troubles.

                      “The City Guard was already looking into the matter, of course, but they did not object to Ashlin taking a look around the shop. He reported back that things were much as we had heard; there was evidence that someone had intruded upon her privacy, though it looked as though no lasting harm had been done. What struck Ashlin as peculiar was the fact that Pisha herself seemed nervous about the scrutiny her place of business was receiving from the guards. Perhaps she has secrets she does not wish the rest of Aldis City to know? If so, one can hardly blame her… the same could be said of nearly anyone, I suppose.

                      “Before the party ventured back to the Hyades Manor, we received a strange visitor… a somewhat unkempt Sea Folk lady. She strode boldly into the shop, and then asked Tanith if she was Jana. Upon receiving a negative answer, she turned toward the real Jana and handed her a letter, and then quickly vacated the premises.

                      “The letter was from Annette DeVeers; the underworld figure who had previously assisted Jana in dispatching a few agents of the Silence. She requested a meeting with Jana that evening. Though she stated a preference for a private meeting, she said that she would not object if Jana chose to bring one or two friends along. I quickly volunteered to join her at this questionable rendezvous, and Darcy opted to come with us as well.

                      “With that settled the lot of us made the brief journey to Cassilda Hyades’ estate. Her issue was possibly quite dire, though it could turn out to be little more than a case of nerves. Cassilda has been known upon occasion to experience prophetic dreams… usually in times of turmoil or impending doom. Recently, she has begun having such dreams regarding the wedding of her cousin Cordelia d’Ys to one Thale Hali. These dreams reputedly involved a ‘River of Blood,’ so you can see why she was concerned. She asked us to look into the matter and ensure that the wedding occurs without undue stress to any of its participants.

                      “Cordelia and Thale are taking the threat seriously, which is something at least. Thale is very earnest and forthright, to the degree that she wishes to protect her fiancée herself, which could be troublesome if the ceremony is disrupted as we fear it may be. Still, I cannot fault her sense of responsibility or her love for her intended; it is only right and proper that she should behave in that way.

                      “At one point Cassilda and Cordelia went off to discuss something privately, leaving us in the company of Cassilda’s sister Camilla, Thale, and the family’s bodyguard… a woman named Alar. Tanith gave me a meaningful glance and engaged the women in a spirited discussion, fully captivating their attention. I slipped out of the room and down the hallway to a place from which I could listen in on the ladies unobserved.

                      “I heard them speak urgently but quietly about some dark family secret… something they referred to as the ‘Well of Blood.’ Cassilda was adamant that this legend had nothing to do with whatever troubles might be coming at the wedding, and that there was consequently no reason to bring it up to those investigating the situation. I wish I shared her confidence on the subject.

                      “I reported my findings back to the others after we left the estate. Maria has gone to pore through the University libraries, hoping to find some information on this ‘Well of Blood,’ but as of the last time I spoke with her she had found nothing. The rest of us returned to the office to discuss these cases, and to prepare for our impending meeting with Annette.

                      “The meeting itself was amicable… almost too amicable for my taste. Miss DeVeers obviously holds some affection for my Starlight, though I noticed no indication that her feelings were requited. The purpose of the meeting was that she wished to convey some information to Jana… information which turned out to be pertinent to one of our current investigations.

                      “Miss DeVeers had stopped by Pisha’s shop on the previous evening, hoping to purchase some bread. However, the Lar’tyan woman she found behind the counter was not Pisha. This woman was behaving suspiciously, and seemed to be searching for something, but when Miss DeVeers entered the establishment, she changed her attitude immediately. The woman claimed to be Pisha’s sister, and in fact sold Miss DeVeers the bread she requested and placed the money in Pisha’s till.

                      “If that had been all that happened, there would have been no reason for Miss DeVeers to contact us. However, before she left the shop, yet another Lar’tyan woman entered. This woman attacked the woman claiming to be Pisha’s sister, but retreated from the scene when the initial attack was repelled. The other woman also fled the scene, leaving Miss DeVeers with more questions than answers.

                      “Miss DeVeers opted to contact Jana with this information for several reasons. First, it seemed likely that Pisha has some personal business in which she may not wish the City Guard to become involved. Second, Miss DeVeers knew the mysterious assailant… by reputation if not personally. She claims that this woman was an upscale assassin named Jhanvi; the sort who would be hired to dispose of heads of state or important political rivals. And third, the City Guard know something of Miss DeVeers and her activities in Aldis City, and they would be unlikely to take any information coming from her seriously.

                      “As I implied earlier, Miss DeVeers was flirting heavily with my Starlight throughout this meeting, and indicated that she would appreciate the opportunity to enjoy Jana’s company later in a more private setting. I seethed at this… yes, Salkhi, I am not ashamed to admit I was a bit jealous. While Tanith is free with her physical affections, we know that she will always return to us… that we hold a place in her heart unoccupied by any of her other lovers. Jana is different. She holds back her affections from all save those who truly win her heart. The thought of her with another… it twists my guts into knots. It seems to cheapen what the three of us have.

                      “I need not have worried. If Jana was indeed intrigued by Annette DeVeers’ amorous advances, the end of our meeting put paid to that notion. One of Miss DeVeers’ associates delivered a package from one of her former lovers… a package which contained a bloody heart with a dagger embedded within it. I will note that the heart was too small to have come from an adult human; I assume it was procured from an animal. Miss DeVeers sighed, and told her associate to return the message in kind.

                      “We left the meeting and returned to the Nocturna Estate, discussing what this new information might mean. When it grew late, Jana, Tanith, and I retired to Tanith’s bedchamber and prepared for bed. We slipped into each other’s arms and drifted off to sleep after a short period of shared tenderness. I have… I have never had that with a lover before. In all of my previous dalliances, everything has been about passion, and there is passion here as well… but there is also so much more. There are soft words, and soft touches, and soft… feelings, I suppose. And I find that I like things this way.

                      “Bah, you care nothing for such talk, I know. And I have tarried here too long already. Maria has already ventured back to the Library, confident that she will learn more about the ‘Well of Blood’ shortly. We should make ready to join the others at the office, as not one but two of our friends now require our aid.”


                      Jana’s Letters

                      Dear Mother,

                      I believe that you would have been proud of me today. I was inducted into the Sovereign’s Finest! Me of all people. I imagine father would be livid. He’s probably upset with me for betraying Melisandre and leaving Kern in the first place. I did just kind of leave her to those rebels. That’s probably part of the reason why she was so angry with me recently. I don’t know why she wanted to target Tanith though. I supposed it was what Tanith said. Melisandre just wanted to convince Tanith to come and train under her. Not that I think Tanith would ever take her up on that offer. Melisandre is a manipulative and selfish woman. I hope we don’t have to deal with her too much in the future, though realistically I know that we likely will. She knows where we are now. She can mess with us whenever she wants to. I’m not looking forward to that. Speaking of that day, I wonder how Irene fared? I know that she fell into the Badlands but a body was never found so I know that she’s not dead. I hope that she doesn’t hold grudges because I don’t think Maria hid the fact that she was the one that knocked her off her wyvern.

                      Anyway, I should probably start from the beginning. Most of us had people come into town to attend the induction ceremony. I didn’t and Jadzia didn’t, but Maria had an aunt and her mentor come, Darcy had his mother, father, cousin and mentor come, and I think Ashlin had someone come as well though they stayed in the background. Some of them even stayed at the Nocturna estate. Maria’s aunt stayed with us. She was something of a busybody but nice enough. Darcy’s family stayed with him or with the other Roamer tents on the outskirts of the city. Richter was home as well. Tanith was not happy about this, but she couldn’t deny him his own home, or the chance to see his only daughter be given such a great honor. They obviously love each other, but Tanith seems to grow younger whenever he is around. I know her to be twenty-one, almost twenty-two, but she acts like a petulant teen in his presence. I of course was never disrespectful of my father. I couldn’t afford to be. He informed on my mother, if I showed any disloyalty he would have informed on me as well. So, every time I see Tanith act like a child I have to stop myself from correcting her. She is free to act in such a way here in Aldis. To be fair though, Richter does still call Tanith “Duckling.” That probably doesn’t help matters.
                      The ceremony itself was held at the castle. It was a pretty quick event all things considered. The Queen actually came out and presided over the ceremony for a part of it before she stepped away and left. She was there long enough for us to each receive a gift. I got a very nicely constructed shield. Jadzia got a lance, Darcy was given a pair of bracers, Tanith got a cape, Maria got a necklace and Ashlin received knives. All of these items had the color blue worked in somewhere and had the image of a rose incorporated into the design. I thought the gifts were all in all pretty utilitarian as well as pleasant to look at. My shield is rather nice I think. It’s a medium round shield with curved lines coming out from the center and a rose in the middle. The color blue is worked in as a highlight color along the outside edge.

                      After the ceremony Tanith’s friend Cassilda hosted a party at her house. On the way to the house Tanith said that she wanted to tell Jadzia and I something. She paused and was actually nervous about what she was going to say. When she finally could talk she admitted to us that until she was two years old she had actually been Franz Nocturna. The error was corrected at that age by a Flesh Crafter. She said that she does not like the name Franz to this day, which would explain the animosity that she holds for her father’s lover, who is also named Franz. Neither Jadzia or I said anything, but we did lend her our support with gestures and looks.

                      Anyway, like the Nocturna estate, it is a good size house. Much bigger than I’m used to, though I am starting to get used to the sheer amount of room in Tanith’s house. In my own room I still take up a very small portion of the furniture with my things. I’m not used to extravagance. Anyway, the party at Cassilda’s house was pretty big and well attended. Tanith had asked us who we would like to be invited to the party before but the one person that I had thought to invite was already on the guest list. I was going to ask Laodice. She is important enough I guess to have warranted an invitation in general. Other people invited friends, relatives or teachers. Jadzia invited both of the Rezean twins that we met in the past. I think she wanted at least one of them to come but didn’t want to show favoritism. Overall, it was an interesting time. I stayed mainly by the wall and watched people dance, which was fine by me. I’m not used to making a spectacle of myself. One of those that got up to dance was Darcy’s father Vano and Richter. Vano started dancing, incorporating knives into his act and Richter joined in. Soon they were cutting quite the duo across the dance floor. At the end of the evening Tanith was going to go off with Cassilda and wanted to know if I wanted to join them. I bowed out saying that I didn’t want to intrude. Jadzia in what has become her usual, also bowed out and spent the night with me. It was sweet. We brushed each other’s hair and snuggled. I didn’t feel excluded by Tanith tonight, I just didn’t want to engage in anything intimate with someone I don’t know. Tanith and Jadzia were out of the ordinary for me in the beginning, but I do not regret our relationship.

                      And that is how a former Skull Knight spent her day. Getting inducted into an elite military-like force by the Queen of Aldis and partying with rich upper-class folks that evening. Not something that I ever in a million years thought would happen to me. I wish that you were here to see it.

                      Love always,
                      Jana

                      Dear Marcus,

                      Today has been an interesting day. Yesterday was up there as well. I was inducted into the Sovereign’s Finest yesterday by the Queen of Aldis herself. If she only knew who she was letting into her ranks. I’m sure that she would have been less cordial. But she did not know. The only people that know of my past are Tanith and Jadzia and they won’t betray me. Hell, Tanith even offered to practice sorcery on my behalf. I specifically told her not to though. I’ll not have her go down that road. Even if her father hadn’t asked me to look out for her I would do it anyway. She has become important to me and I don’t want to see her fall. It’s easy to go down that road. It’s easy to justify your actions. To make excuses that make sense at the time. I’ve done it. I just don’t want her to do it. It was hard to come back from that. I’ll not have one of my lovers go down that same path.

                      Anyway, yesterday I was given a great honor and I intend to live up to the reputation of the Sovereign’s Finest. I will not blacken their good name. They are known far and wide as the protectors of Aldis. Even in Kern we heard stories about them. Usually it was about how they would invade our country and take everything away from us. Of course that was what Lord Jarek said would happen. Turns our that he was right in a way. The Aldin queen did come to Kern, but her people did not take things away from us. I guess the only thing that they removed from the country was the Lich King, and I can tell you that I didn’t miss him one bit. Those words of course never left my mouth until now. Sometimes I am still worried that what I say will come back to haunt me. That I will incur the wrath of the secret police and those I care for will disappear in the night. That I will disappear in the night and be made to serve the regents forever. Sometimes I wake up in the night convinced that I’m still in Kern and I have to forcibly remind myself that I am not. That I am safe. I pray that Tanith and Jadzia never have that same fear.

                      Today though was not so bad a day. There is something of a mystery going on with our next-door neighbor Pisha. It appears that her shop was robbed last night. Ashlin went next door to get an idea of what happened and to offer his assistance should she need it. He also got a good look around. He noticed that the guards were looking through her papers and that said papers appeared to be very good forgeries. The guards didn’t notice that, but Ashlin being the clever one that he is, did notice. Before that though I should mention that we had a meeting in the office about something that happened at the party last night. Apparently Tanith’s friend Cassilda has visions too and had one about her cousin’s wedding. She dreamt that darkfiends attacked it and there was something about a ‘river of blood.’ She was upset by what she’d seen and brought it to Tanith’s attention. We discussed as a group what to do and decided that we should talk to the intended couple around lunch time. While we were talking a seafolk woman came in and approached Tanith. She looked her in the eye for a moment before deciding that she was not the right person. Then she came over to me and scrutinized me for a bit before handing me a letter. The missive was from Anette DeVeers, the roguish woman that helped me out from the rooftops that night that I lost my quarry. It seems that she wants to meet tonight after dinner at the “Eventine Friend” tavern. She allowed that I could bring one or two people with me, and so we decided that Jadzia and Darcy would accompany me to the tavern tonight. Jadzia wouldn’t take no for answer and Darcy said that he would not feel out of place in such an environment. While the conversation was going on Richter came by to see how we were doing and Tanith immediately got defensive. Saying things like “we have everything under control” and such. It seems that she is afraid that her father will see what we are up to and decide that he should be the one in control. I do not see Richter doing this. He does not seem the type, and I was proven right today. He just reminded us that he will be in town for a few more days should we need any assistance. After that is when Ashlin went next door to check on Pisha.

                      Lunchtime came, and we made arrangements with Cassilda to meet her cousin and her cousin’s intended Thale for lunch at Cassilda’s house. When we arrived introductions were made all over again despite having met them yesterday. So, Thale and Cordelia are getting married. Thale is concerned for her intended and flat out stated that Cordelia should be protected no matter what happens. It was kind of sweet. Foolish, but sweet. Cordelia it turns out is the last of her line so that might be why someone is after them. To end her family line. It might also be because Thale has worked for people in the past that fought sorcerers and she was involved in those fights. While we were talking Cordelia started to mention something but Cassilda quieted her pretty quickly. I will admit that I was curious what Cordelia had meant to say. The two women went off to have a private conversation before we were getting ushered into the dining room. Jadzia took the opportunity and snuck off to go listen in on what the two women were discussing. She rejoined us a short while before Cordelia and Cassilda did and we all had an enjoyable lunch. One thing that we decided on before leaving the house was that we would visit the location where the wedding was to take place and see if there was anything that the place could tell us. I am planning on looking for defensible places for the brides to hide in case of attack. Taking cover is never a bad idea. The last thing that we talked about was mainly Tanith very cleverly asking the two soon to be brides for their family’s histories, saying that it might help in identifying any potential threats. Both women agreed.

                      Once we got back to the office Jadzia told the rest of us what she had overheard before lunch. It seems that Cordelia’s family has an unfortunately dark past. There is something about a Well of Blood and how history will not repeat itself. Not sure of the specifics but sounds like something happened in the past that Cassilda doesn’t want anyone else to know about. As we discussed options Ashlin volunteered to dress up as a servant for the Hyades household and see if he can get a look in the family’s library. Meanwhile, Maria would go to the city’s library and look there for any references to this Well of Blood.

                      After dinner Darcy, Jadzia and I all went to the Eventine Friend tavern. Ashlin went to the tavern a little while earlier than we did dressed as a prostitute. He was getting the lay of the land before we went in. Presumably he would have found a way to warn us of any impending danger. Plus he was there in case any fighting or anything broke out. I was not expecting violence from Annette. She was flirty with me that night months ago. I did not imagine that her demeanor had changed, nor was I wrong. We were ushered up to Annette’s room after a pair of women left. Annette was just as flirty and friendly as she was when I first met her. She said that she can help us with the robbery at Pisha’s place if we were planning on looking into it. She has information about it but cannot go directly to the guards. They would suspect her of wrongdoing and she said that she only wanted to help.

                      Annette told us that she had gone to Pisha’s shop last night to buy bread and found a stranger Lar’tyan woman behind the counter looking around. When Annette walked in she stopped and proceeded to sell her bread. She even took the money and put it in the till. While this was going on another woman came up outside of the shop and fired an arrow inside right at the Lar’tyan woman behind the counter. Our assumption is that the archer thought that the stranger was Pisha. The good thing was that the archer missed. The interesting thing was that the archer was a woman named Jhanvi. Jhanvi is apparently a well-known assassin who works in Aldis, sometimes for the crown. She is known to not kill Aldins, so it seems that she believes that Pisha is not here legally. I wonder what that says for me. I think I got my paperwork all taken care of when I fled to Aldis, but I’m not sure. Everything happened so fast.

                      We discussed options and decided that we would need to talk to Jhanvi in person and find out what’s going on and perhaps see if we can get her to stop trying to kill Pisha. We also decided that we should talk to Pisha herself and let her know what we’d found out so far. I was afraid that if we talked to Pisha then she would flee the town before we could stop her. Without resolving the issue with Jhanvi the assassin would just hunt her down no matter where she goes and kill her. I tried arguing that we should at least talk to the assassin first and see what the story is before we go and tell Pisha what we found out. Talking to Jhanvi might change our mind about whether or not we should inform Pisha of our findings. I can see the point the others were making. They wanted to be honest with the Lar’tyan woman up front and I can respect that. I was just afraid that she would run before we could do anything to resolve the issue at hand, and then we would lose a friend.

                      Things are getting complicated again, which I suppose is the life that I agreed to when I took up with Tanith and her group. They seem to seek out trouble and try and resolve it if they can. I will admit that I do not know what I would do with my life if I tried to live a quiet life. I have no real skills besides martial ones. I suppose I could have hired myself out as a bodyguard or mercenary. I was lucky though to find such good friends so quickly. Getting in contact with Richter’s man in Kern changed my life. I will never forget that. That seems to be a side that Tanith just doesn’t see about her father. She knows that he helps people get out of Kern, but I don’t think she really realizes what that means. If he was found out. If his people were found out then Kern would send assassins after them. If they found out that he was helping people get away from Kern, away from that hell, then there would be repercussions. And yet he continues to help people get away from there. Here’s hoping that he can help you too. I miss you.

                      Yours Always,
                      Jana

                      Dear Marcus,

                      After spending a good bit of yesterday evening and this morning in the Library Maria found out what the Well of Blood means. It is apparently the tale of Cassilda and Cordelia’s ancestors. Back in the time of the Sorcerer Kings there was a powerful noble family. Not like today’s wandering nobles, but like in Kern. Rich, powerful people with too much time on their hands and sometimes not enough sense. Anyway, the matriarch of this family had a sister who was killed and actually removed from the cycle of reincarnation altogether. The matriarch of the family was so angry and upset that she channeled her rage into a song that destroyed herself and most of her family all at once. The blood from her family, and herself, pooled into a well in the basement of the house. The magic that she cast was obviously sorcery since it killed everyone it touched. Cordelia is proof that it didn’t kill the whole family, but still, it happened. I wonder why Cassilda wanted to keep this secret. I understand that it’s not a pleasant story but it happened. A lot of dark things happened during those years. A lot of dark things still happen in the world, so I don’t understand why she was so adamant about hiding it from us. We’d keep the secret for her if she asked. But it would have been good to know what happened back then since Cassilda is seeing rivers of blood in her dreams now. It can’t be a coincidence. If something like that is going to happen now then it would be good to be able to prepare for it. I just think that she’s in denial. Aldis City is such a utopia that people don’t seem to want to acknowledge that the dark side of things still exists. It will always exist. We can never get rid of it, we can just learn from it. But burying their heads in the sand isn’t going to help. I don’t care if the story of her family is embarrassing to her. It is important to know if we’re going to deal with whatever threat that is coming now.

                      Sometimes I don’t understand people. This city is so white-washed and clean. No one admits that they have a bad side. No one admits that bad things happen. It’s only when we go to the outer rims of the country that people are pragmatic enough to admit when something is wrong. I think I like those people better than the pampered people of Aldis City. Some people in the city do understand though. Richter and his people understand the reality of things. I think that Tanith understands to some extent. Not to the extent that her father or I do though. Jadzia gets it. She’s suffered first hand at the whim of those that meant nothing but harm and death. I’m not sure about the others though. Ashlin seems to be so carefree most of the time, but I think he has seen some things that have darkened his perspective. Darcy I’m not so sure of. He is so cheerful most of the time, it’s hard to know what kinds of things have shaped his perspective. Sometimes I envy him that.

                      I guess we’ll find out more when we check out the wedding site. I will let you know what we find and what those of the noble class deign to tell us. In the meantime though I hope that you are doing well and being safe. I will pray for your safe delivery to Aldis. Please take care!

                      Yours Always,
                      Jana


                      Tanith’s Diary

                      My father is a source of endless frustration for me.

                      It’s bad enough he calls me a childhood pet name in front of my friends…my team, even my lovers. It’s bad enough he is involved with a man named Franz. It is bad enough that he slept with Darcy’s father. He is just so endlessly utterly frustrating. And he has this affectionate, knowing look he always gets when I am upset, and it is just impossible to argue with him. He is the wise adult, with all the answers and all the power, and even at almost twenty-two I am the child and time and time again I find myself trapped in that role. I am empathic enough to know it frustrates him too sometimes, but especially with him in the house and Maria’s busybody aunt in the house and Dr. Godfreed in the house it is just too much. Which reminds me why is Dr. Godfreed in the house anyway? I realize Maria’s Aunt came from outside the city.

                      It’s much easier when just Jadzia, Jana and I are in Onyx. I mean sure Maria is there, but she is a little templemouse you would never know she is around. I mean sure there was the one time I started getting frisky with Jana in the parlor and we did not know she was there till she got up to get a different book. It’s almost creepy. Except she was as startled as we were, she got so involved in reading. She may move out when she reads all the books in the house. At least ravishment in different rooms becomes a safer option then.

                      I’d like to get on better terms with my father. It’s painful when we don’t get along. But the feelings of frustration and helplessness are hard to fight.

                      But I cannot let this distract me. Cassilda Hyades needs me. My oldest, closest friend in the world and dedicated school chum is, I believe, in mortal danger. I feel it in my bones. It looks like a dark secret; a mad ancestor is casting a shadow over her and dear Camilla. The central moment is the wedding of Cousin Cordelia with Thale, a brave, bold and good hearted if uncreative soul. The sort of match the more artistic Cordelia needs to keep her grounded, so I approve. Maria has found a strange and incomplete story of a matriarch who damns her family. Ash, ever the cunning scout and spy, will infiltrate the Hyades household and get their secrets. I wish I could get it from Cassilda, but to extract that information from her may forever threaten our friendship.

                      I would end our friendship to save her, of course. I love her. Not the same way as Jadzia or Jana but not completely different. I think she may have hoped for more, and it is not impossible; we have great sex. But not the chemistry I have with Jana or Jadzia. Just like I have great chemistry with Devon Darling, but I don’t care for her like Jana or Jadzia or Cassilda. Jadzia and Jana find that special balance.

                      Not that it matters or will stop me. We will help the Hyades family. Even if we must save them from themselves.

                      Also the lovely Pisha (who I have not seduced yet. Note to self: get on that) has had an assassin come after her. I have heard back from Jana and Jadzia that the meeting with Annette (who has a clear thing for Jana) who let us know Jhanvi, the infamous assassin, was the one looking for Pisha. I know very little about her, honestly. Assassins are not my favorite people.

                      So there is a lot going on. My team can handle all of it, of course. But it is really hitting home this time. I am glad I was not away when Cassilda had this threat. I am glad we had a formal induction so Pisha was not in her shop when Jhanvi attacked.

                      Oh yes I almost forgot. We became Sovereign’s Finest

                      Yes, it has been that kind of day.

                      End Session XVI

                      Okay got all that?

                      A lot of names were dropped. Of major characters, Cassilda Hyades was in the beginning of Shadow Show while Pisha appeared there and The Beginning of a Beautiful Friendship. Neither in a major role.

                      Each player got to design an item with the item creation stats that had three bonuses of choice. Some went traditional weapons or armor, some more unusual. For the record, the armor in his story was the real gift for Ashlin, the daggers they were given was a ruse to hide their actual capabilities.

                      Let’s see, Tanith is effectively a cis woman at this point thanks to the magic changes, rather than a Laevvel. Just a colorful note in her backstory.

                      I…think…that covers everything? Comments and Questions welcome.
                      Running: Blue Rose AGE (Cat's Cradle) Blue Rose AGE (Big Damn Heroes)
                      HAPPY PRIDE MONTH!

                      Comment


                      • #26
                        Re: Blue Rose: Cat's Cradle (Actual Play)

                        The investigation continues, and there is definitely something afoot in the Hyades house. Meanwhile, Pisha’s dark secret comes to the fore.

                        Session XVII

                        Aldis City Rhapsody Part II

                        Ashlin’s Reports

                        Report from Ash, decoded by Kait, sent 24 Leonar

                        Well, well, well, and now I can say that I have met the famous assassin Jhanvi. And lived to tell the tale, which is the most important part, of course. To be honest, it wasn’t the most impressive of first impressions on her part. I mean, she’s strong and graceful and patient and honorable, but she did get trapped in a room by a down-caste moonlighting bounty hunter and her cat, and spent the first few moments out being disarmed all unknowingly by the same… I’ll put the blame for that on her arrogance re: the whole caste thing, so there’s no reason to doubt her competence on a more usual job for her.

                        But that was all the way at dinner time – there’s a whole day to report on yet. For me, it started, as I mentioned last night, pretending to be a servant, and Maria’s day started in the library. As far as the Well of Blood goes, we both found references to the Well of Blood. Hers were a more complete collection of the potentially apocryphal tale and its variants. Mine was an heirloom style recording of a familial cautionary tale, with a few more personal details. Both of them went like this:

                        Back in the days before the Sorcerer Kings showed their true colors, when they were frowned upon but not considered evil, a woman named Cassilda Hyades (according to my findings – apparently they had a tradition of naming daughters that, to keep the family’s secret shame close to their hearts and remember their mistakes), matriarch of her family, was an up and coming Sorcerer Queen. Her sister was killed, on her wedding day, in such a way as to remove her from the cycle of reincarnation entirely. The Matriarch’s spirit was destroyed by this event, and she channeled her overpoweringly dark rage into a song that would destroy not only her existence, but most of the family’s, sending them into the void. The blood from their corpses pooled into a great well under their house, and it was said that sorcerers from that bloodline could call upon its power (according to Maria’s findings).

                        Now to be fair, there was nothing in any of the stories we found that indicated any sort of prophesied return. And perhaps Cassilda is so used to metaphorical visions that the literal answer of an ancient collection of blood and dangerous sorcery seems remote. And there was a lot of the ‘if you have to tell them, kill them’ kind of familial code of silence, but still…

                        Also to be fair, Maria and I being in the libraries we were got us a lot of other information too, probably important clues as to what is plaguing the family so. Maria found that she was not the first to have used the library in the way she had, finding evidence that someone had looked into the books that contained the stories of the Well of Blood and that whoever it was had been looking at those stories in particular. A number of other books put up nearby had been taken down and looked through at about the same time, books concerning ancient battle dancing, and a book of genealogies, among whose content did lie the Hyades family trees. Of course.

                        I was not so lucky as to have to go searching through even more books – Maria’s eyes light up so when she discusses them, it is quite adorable – but I was interrupted in my dusting of Hyades family library by the arrival of Camilla Hyades and Polaris Fairlight. I managed to duck somewhat precariously behind a desk and overhear Polaris handing over an item hidden in a dark black cloth while warning that I anything went wrong, she would disavow any knowledge of it or her and that no magic would be able to prove otherwise. Always a good starter to a clean and aboveboard business deal. Camilla assured her that she had ’read up on it’ and ‘wasn’t going to be doing anything evil with it’ which is a great second step to a well-thought out and incorruptible plan.

                        They went their separate ways without Polaris offering much more than a muttered warning that everyone said they weren’t going to do anything evil with it the first time, and if you think for a moment I was going to let a 17 year old stash a sorcerous artifact in her bedroom ‘to keep things from going wrong’ I’m going to have to ask whoever you are to stop decoding this and give it back to Kait. Polaris, it seems, had the same idea. After I trailed Camilla back to her bedroom and waited a few moments to make sure that she was gone, before I could get to the door to start trying to pick it, someone began doing it invisibly. I grabbed the hands in the midst of their clever work, and it was Polaris’ voice who spoke out of it. She didn’t seem to recognize me, and in fact tried to bribe me into leaving. When I didn’t, I got hit with a little bit of a whammy, and apparently fell asleep for a few minutes.

                        And yes, I did double check the room after I woke up, to make sure that Polaris had taken the thing, and to confirm that the large boots I saw beside Camilla’s bed were in fact Alar’s. What do you take me for?

                        All that gave the others plenty of ammunition when they had to go talk to Cassilda about the fact that Thale was gonna cut a bitch if she was not allowed to speak to her fiancée (or at least challenge them to a duel). Apparently she and Alar went so far as to draw on each other, but dropping the Well of Blood into conversation cut that short. Cassilda called them back for a more private conversation, letting Thale go talk to Cordelia.

                        The current matriarch of the Hyades family continued to insist that what her namesake had done with sorcery at the death of her younger sister at a wedding had no bearing on her visions of blood and sorcery at her cousin’s wedding. Things got more exciting than an exchange of ‘nuh-uh’s and ‘seriously’s when Tanith mentioned the sorcerous artifact that had been stolen (though Camilla had reported the theft – guards were doubled apparently). To be fair to Camilla, she had missed the part of the vision about darkfiends, so her thought to protect the wedding by acquiring a sorcerous artifact that would summon darkfiends to fight for her was only monstrously stupid and misguided, not unbelievably idiotic or sabotage. She had apparently used an artifact like it before, working with Darcy’s cousin Saffron to figure out how. Darcy was… less than pleased. I’m sure Saffron has some words coming to her.

                        As important as all that was why she had done it. Alar had encountered a pair of vampiric shadow dancers, trying to get into Cordelia’s room. Alar had told Camilla first, and she had ordered her not to tell anyone for… reasons, I guess? I think because Cassilda had brought us in to things, exhibiting a clear lack of thinking rationally, to the teenager’s mind. Maria had some harsh (for her) words about the rationality of sorcery, regardless of the need one might think they are fulfilling. In prime teenager fashion, she stormed out, taking Alar with her.

                        When Thale and Cordelia let them know that they’d also stormed out of the house altogether, Tanith scryed them, letting me know where they were going. Me, because I was closest, so I went for an interception. I found them planning on running away to the coast, making a new life as fisherfolk. Well, Camilla was making those plans, and Alar was looking at her reluctant but in love. They were remarkably calm about a potentially murderous stranger approaching them with advice, but thankfully Alar’s assurance that she could take me (and boy could she) and presumably Camilla’s trust in Alar meant they at least heard me out. I had to flash my Sovereign’s Finest badge before they’d actually follow my advice. I convinced them to hide out, somewhere near town, until the wedding – she’d probably be safer than if she were at the house, there’d be less contention for whoever was making the moves here to capitalize on, and it’s always better to make plans to throw away your old life when it’s not in danger. Alar has cousins in the Outer Ward that she plans on stashing Camilla with, so that she can go back to her duties, as well as protecting her love. I have the address there, so one of us will be checking in periodically, I’m sure.

                        Speaking of family excitement, I did convince Tanith to let her dad help with the checking on the travelling nobles that Thale has worked with. He worked quickly too, though Tanith didn’t have a chance to let us know what he found. Presumably nothing immediately pertinent. He did also manage to ID a lurker outside our building, though she wouldn’t have been lurking had he not been there – it was Annis Saltmarsh, the message runner from Annette, who had found Jhanvi.

                        She came at a good time, as we were actually talking with Pisha when Tanith got the call. We heard an interesting story there, once she let us in to the bakery. She was festooned with knives, clearly quite nervous – her home had been boobytrapped, apparently. Once we shared what we knew, about Jhanvi, and convinced her that we knew enough that we might ought turn her in and weren’t, she shared a story about Lar’tya.

                        Once upon a time, there were three siblings of the Lar caste. The youngest, Aisha, was the only girl, and so the one who inherited. We knew her as the Blood Princess, and she was utterly ruthless, carving her way towards the throne. Her brothers shared that trait, and the story truly began with an assassination attempt. She killed her older brother in response, and tried to kill the younger, Arjin, but failed. Meanwhile, Aisha gathered support, attending illegal inter-caste salons to make Hagen contacts. There she found Pisha of the Bleyan caste, and they became lovers. She was of a family of bakers and slowly but surely taught Aisha to be better, taught her that the power she craved was not worth the costs, costs she had never even seen before Pisha showed them to her.

                        Her lessons were not always easy, and Aisha was not used to being challenged in that way. Arguments happened, and one such had her storming out of her bedroom, leaving Pisha there alone. That was the night her brother Arjin made his next move, sending assassins into Aisha’s bedroom. They found Pisha there but mistook her for the Blood Princess, killing her in such a way that obliterated her face. But as her last act, Pisha found a necklace, and others bits and pieces of wardrobe that would indicate that she was Aisha and donned them, taking the place of her lover in the eyes of world.

                        Aisha, discovering the body of her lover, and seeing what she had done for her with her last breath, fled so that it wouldn’t be in vain. She killed all those involved with the murder of her love, down to their families, and then, finally was left with only herself and her brother to blame. As a last act of devotion, believing wholeheartedly that the world would be better off if Pisha had been the one to live, and Aisha had been the one to die, she made it so, taking refuge in a foreign country and stepping into her lover’s life. As it turns out, Pisha had even taught Aisha some of her family’s famous recipes, so her bakery thrived.

                        The Blood Princess is dead, Kait. Pisha is the one who lives. She is fragile, and I fear this stress may reverse the situation but I have been trying to do what I can to reinforce her Pisha persona. I was hoping to keep her identity hush-hush (though of course I was always planning on reporting it to you), though plans have forced our hand into involving Richter. Hopefully he will agree with our ideals of redemption. Anyway, Darcy and I have been guarding her, when I’m not haring off to intercept runaways, or talk to Jhanvi.

                        Jhanvi was an interesting conversation. The lovely Annette had sent Annis with the address of an inn, and a room number, so away Jana, Jadzia and I went when there was a free moment. When we got there, the place was filled guards milling about. I sent Jana and Jadzia in to distract the guards. Thankfully, their first distraction was just to ask what was going on, so we figured out that the floor her room was on was trapped and a woman was trapped in her room, before I wandered in.

                        So instead I went around back and found the window to her room. It was also trapped, but as it was designed to go off when the window opened, and positioned on the outside, it was fairly easy to disarm. She was reasonably grateful, and even gave me a moment of her time. I had somewhat meant outside of the apparently trapped inn, with the others, but when she offered me a strong arm in, it seemed easier to not push.

                        She cleared up the situation pretty thoroughly. The other Lar’tyan that Annette had encoutered was named Tanvi, a Bleyan caste should-be-metalworker (Jhanvi had a lot to say about that – assassination/bounty hunting is reserved for the Hagen caste, you see). But Tanvi had been sent by Pisha’s family, who had somehow learned that all was not as it had seemed with the Blood Princess’ death. Her contract was to bring our Pisha back alive, to answer the remaining questions the Bleyan family has. She is tricksy, resorting often to ‘dishonorable traps’ and consorting with a ‘vicious cat’ (to be fair, that cat did look pretty vicious…).

                        Jhanvi had been hired by Arjin. Her contract is just to kill our Pisha. Unfortunately (though not unexpectedly) there was no convincing her to back off – it’s not a matter of conviction, just a job. So about the only recourse we have, considering that I’m not too pleased with the idea of killing Jhanvi unless it becomes entirely necessary, is to have Pisha’s citizenship made official and not forged. There’s caveats in Jhanvi’s contracts about things like that. I did ask her to maybe focus on getting Tanvi off her back for the next little bit, as thanks for getting her out of there early.

                        So everything’s much clearer now. Next order of business for that is to see if we can talk to Tanvi – might need to send someone not me or Jana or Jadzia, as we might have had a little conflict that involved some drawing of bows, and a little taunting. No actual fight though, and if we can start the conversation, maybe we can explain ourselves. We’d have to do a good job of it anyways, considering we need to talk her into bringing an explanation back without a woman. Because, let’s be honest, if she does succeed, and takes her back all unharmed, there is no way she is getting out of that country again, alive. Next after that, we have to do something to deal with Arjin. Jhanvi was his best bet, but I doubt he’s just going to give up if she gets foiled. And the manner of her foiling will be a big indication of where precisely she is, if he didn’t know before. But that’s a problem for later down the road...

                        There we go. All caught up and not a single scratch. I wonder if we could convince Cordelia and Thale to get married a few days earlier, while we’re going around convincing people to do crazy things...

                        [Cloven hoof mark]


                        Jadzia’s Horse Sense

                        (Whispered in Rezean in the Nocturna family stables)

                        “Yes, Salkhi, I know it is getting late… but it has been an eventful day – for some of us, at least – and the days to come promise to be even more interesting.

                        “Maria and Ashlin conducted their own investigations this morning while the rest of us were sleeping in. Maria returned to the library, while Ashlin disguised himself as a servant of the Hyades household and combed their estate for clues. Both of my friends discovered valuable information, as well as a few puzzling details.

                        “Maria’s search eventually uncovered a formalized account of the legend of the Well of Blood. At some point in the distant past, another Cassilda Hyades (though the books Maria found were not specific as to the family name) was a burgeoning sorceress of some renown. When her younger sister was killed, she flew into a mad rage, and cast a powerful magical ritual. This ritual took the form of a song which destroyed the rest of her family, spilling enough blood to fill a well. Ever since, each generation of the family has named one prominent female child Cassilda so that they might never forget this tragedy.

                        “Yes, this practice seems strange to me as well, Salkhi. Why not name your children after ancestors who have accomplished great things instead? That would give them something to which they can aspire…

                        “In any case, Maria also uncovered evidence that another party had recently investigated the same matter. Something about the way the books opened, or the amount of dust on them or something of that sort. I do not fully understand it… but it seems clear to me that had Maria been born into a different life she would have made an excellent tracker. She has the mind and the eye for it. She also uncovered evidence that someone had recently looked into ancient texts about the art of Battle Dancing. Most curious…

                        “Ashlin, meanwhile, was learning a bit more about the Hyades family of the present. He overheard a meeting between Camilla Hyades and our old acquaintance Polaris Fairlight, in which the latter seemed to be selling the former some manner of sorcerous artifact. Though Camilla swore that she only wanted the item in question for defensive purposes, and that she would never use it toward evil ends, Polaris was skeptical (and rightly so). Still, Camilla left the meeting with the artifact in hand.

                        “Ashlin attempted to acquire the artifact so as to remove the temptation from Camilla’s hands… but discovered much to his surprise that Polaris had beaten him to it. The Fairlight matriarch, rendered invisible by magic, crept into Camilla’s room to retrieve the artifact she had lately sold to the younger Hyades sister. Ashlin attempted to stop her, but Polaris put him to sleep with more magic… though Ash assures us that she did not recognize him through his disguise.

                        “Ashlin also noted that Camilla’s bedchamber hosted a pair of boots which assuredly did not belong to her… they seemed to belong to Alar, a servant and bodyguard of the Hyades family.

                        “Shortly thereafter we all met at the office to compare notes. We were planning to meet with the Hyades family later that afternoon, after looking into our neighbor Pisha’s situation. Tanith managed to placate her father Richter by asking him to look into Thale’s history (she is Miss Cordelia d’Ys’s fiancée)… an unnecessary task which nevertheless allowed Richter to feel that he was contributing to his daughter’s success. I think that might have been Ashlin’s idea.

                        “Pisha’s story was… disconcerting. She told it with much embellishment and florid language, which is not my style, so I will simply present the facts. She was once known as Aisha, a princess of the Lar’tyan people and by most accounts a vicious tyrant known for mass murder and draconic practices. At some point she fell in love with the true Pisha, a baker of some renown. As Pisha was not a member of her social order, the population of Lar’tya would not allow the two of them to be together, or even to associate publicly. Some time later, someone – presumably Aisha’s younger brother Arjin, in a bid for power – paid assassins to murder her. The assassins made a mistake and killed Pisha instead of Aisha… in such a way that her face was rendered unrecognizable. With her dying breath, Pisha put on certain adornments which would identify her as Aisha to any who might investigate the scene of the crime. Aisha took the opportunity to escape from her homeland, and has since dedicated her life to simple pursuits, believing (quite correctly) that the world would be a better place if it contained a baker rather than a tyrant.

                        “Most of us believe that redemption is a noble pursuit, and we have decided to aid Aisha in whatever way we can. Ashlin’s response is a bit extreme in my opinion… he seems to truly believe that Aisha is Pisha now, when it is clear to all that she is not, she has merely taken the other woman’s name and identity. Still and all, Ash insists that Aisha died back in Lar’tya while Pisha was the one who escaped, despite the fact that we have the truth from the woman’s own mouth.

                        “In any case, we had a few visitors at this point. First, Richter arrived back at the Cat’s Cradle offices with none other than Thale herself in tow. Thale was rightfully upset because the Hyades family was not allowing her to speak privately with her fiancée Cordelia. She was threatening violence against the family if they did not change this policy immediately. Richter had managed to convince her to let us speak with the Hyades before she took any rash actions.

                        “Annette DeVeers’ Sea Folk lackey also arrived at around this time, though she hesitated to approach the office after Richter menaced her briefly. She must be easily intimidated. Regardless of her character, she had important information for us… namely the location of the assassin Jhanvi. Jana and I thought about following up on this information immediately, but decided upon reflection that our skills might be required at the Hyades estate… particularly if Thale made good upon her promises of violence.

                        “In the end things were more amicable than that, if only just. When we arrived, Thale persisted in her attempts to see Cordelia. Alar continued to prevent that meeting, in keeping with her orders. Steel was drawn, but Cassilda arrived and put a stop to the fight before it began. When we revealed what we knew, she summoned Camilla and questioned her about her recent activities. It turns out that the artifact Camilla had purchased from Polaris Fairlight would have allowed her to summon darkfiends to protect the family should something go wrong at the wedding… apparently it never occurred to her that these darkfiends might be the cause of the trouble in the first place.

                        “And how did Camilla know about such an artifact in the first place? She had used one before, in the company of none other than Darcy’s young cousin Saffron. This is… troubling news, to say the least, but I feel that it is Darcy’s issue, and should be resolved in the manner of his choosing. I will of course stand ready to render assistance should he so desire.

                        “Camilla fled the estate, followed closely by Alar. She affected a very put-upon air, as though the rest of us were being unreasonable in regards to her actions. Ashlin followed the two of them and shortly returned to let the rest of us know that Camilla intended to stay with friends just outside of the city until after the wedding… which of course fit in nicely with our own goals. Tanith, meanwhile, discussed the matter with Cassilda, who eventually allowed Cordelia and Thale to be together (Thale had been present throughout the discussion, so the veil of secrecy was a bit superfluous at that point).

                        “Tanith… my Sunflower has a wealth of fine qualities. Her beauty, her intelligence, her way with people, her talent as an adept, and her steadfast insistence upon doing what is right all set her apart from the common masses. Still, like so many of us, she is blind in some ways. She regards Cassilda as a dear friend… perhaps her best friend. But until my Starlight and I spoke with her, she did not realize that Cassilda is in love with her.

                        “I am not jealous of her, Salkhi; you must not think that of me. If anything, I feel pity for Cassilda, as I know all too well what it is to love Tanith, and can imagine easily enough the pain of having that love go unrequited. Throughout the day, Tanith spoke casually of her ability to ‘convince’ Cassilda to ‘go along with’ just about anything. I knew that my Sunflower did not wish to hurt her closest friend unwittingly, so I took it upon myself to educate her as gently as possible regarding Cassilda’s feelings.

                        “Yes, I can speak delicately of matters of the heart, Dear One… do not act so surprised. I saw that it was necessary and took Tanith aside to let her know that her good friend wished to be… more to her. I used gentle terms to let her know that I was not angry or jealous about this… that I merely wished her to be aware of the situation. I was clearly the right person for this task.

                        “And besides… Jana would not do it.

                        “In any case, Jana, Ashlin and I took it upon ourselves to go and speak with Jhanvi, to… ‘persuade’ her to give up her contract on the woman currently calling herself Pisha. When we arrived at the inn where she had taken rooms, however, we found it surrounded by the City Guard. Apparently someone had set up a series of elaborate traps around one of the rooms… the room occupied by Jhanvi, naturally. We assumed that this was an attempt by the other Lar’tyan whom Annette had seen in Pisha’s shop to eliminate the assassin.

                        “While the guards were explaining the situation to Jana and me, Ashlin scaled the building and disarmed the trap on Jhanvi’s window, allowing the two of them to escape the room. As we surreptitiously left the scene, Jhanvi explained that she had been hired by Arjin to kill Aisha, while the other Lar’tyan woman – whose name was apparently Tanvi – had been hired by Pisha’s family to bring Aisha back to Lar’tya alive so that she can answer for her crimes. Frankly, it seems as though allowing either woman to succeed at their endeavor would result in a death sentence for our neighbor.

                        “Jhanvi had no quarrel with us, and in fact expressed her gratitude for getting her out of her room at the inn. She had much to say about Tanvi, who was apparently born into a family whose members are not allowed by Lar’tyan custom to become assassins. I do not understand these ‘castes’ which seem so important to the Lar’tyans… if a person has the ability to do a job well, then the circumstances of their birth should not prevent them from taking up that particular occupation. That is how things are done among the Clans of Rezea, and – so far as I can tell – among the free people of Aldis as well.

                        “Tanvi is certainly a skilled warrior… as the four of us traversed the city attempting to come to an accord, the other assassin was able to disarm Jhanvi from a nearby rooftop using nothing more than a nearly-invisible length of wire to pull the weapon from her hand. Of course, I quickly identified the source of the attack and trained an arrow upon her. She made some snide comment about how Jhanvi could only best her if she had three allies with her, but her attempt at ridicule was pathetic… she herself chose the timing and venue of the conflict when she let her arrow fly. A small show of force and a few harsh words were enough to send her scuttling back to her hiding place, wherever it might be.

                        “And now we come to the end of my tale, Salkhi… we parted from Jhanvi on amiable terms. Ashlin is attempting to use his contacts to grant Pisha official citizenship, for it is known that Jhanvi does not kill Aldin citizens. If he is successful, that will remove one of the mercenaries from our concern. Then we shall simply have to deal with Tanvi and whatever darkness lurks behind the curtains of the Hyades estate, and things can go back to normal.”


                        Jana’s Letters

                        Dear Mother,

                        Things have gotten complicated. More than just a little bit too. Maria discovered all that stuff about the Hyades family and D’Ys family. They have more than enough intermingled blood to merge the two families over the years. I think the merge goes back some 150 years or so. While Maria was studying the family lines of those two families she also discovered a couple other books that had been looked at recently, based on wear and levels of dust. She found that books about battle dancing had also been looked at around the same time as the books about the Hyades family history. This only adds to the questions. Who else is looking into the family history of the Hyades and D’Ys? Who else would be interested in all of this? It seems to me that someone might be trying to use the family’s history against them. If there was a history of bloodshed and sorcery, perhaps this new person is trying to get the past to repeat itself. In the blood aspect anyway. Maybe not the sorcery. I guess we’ll find about that as time goes.

                        Meanwhile Ashlin was disguised as a servant in the Hyades family house. He managed to get into the library and look around for a bit before two other people came in. It was Polaris Fairlight and Camilla. Ashlin managed to hide and listen in to the conversation. It seems that Polaris was delivering a box to Camilla. Polaris seemed to think that Camilla really didn’t need the object within, but Camilla insisted that she wouldn’t do anything evil with it. That raised some alarms in Ashlin’s mind as it should have. Ashlin then managed to follow Camilla to her bedroom where the younger woman locked up the object in her room. Ashlin was about to go check it out when he discovered that someone else was trying to pick the lock while invisible. Ashlin managed to grab a hold of the invisible hand. The owner then said “let me go” in Polaris’s voice. Ashlin resisted for as long as he could before Polaris cast a sleep spell on him and he woke up a few minutes later in a room down the hall. He continued his search of Camilla’s room a moment later and found the box and its contents missing and Alar’s boots at the foot of the bed. Apparently those two are an item. While that was interesting it wasn’t really connected to anything so Ashlin moved back to the library and continued his investigation. He discovered that in the family history the woman that sang the song that ended the lives of so many was also named Cassilda. Apparently they pass that name down to remind those that follow of what happened on that day. They also don’t encourage their family members to become adepts after that incident. I guess I can understand the latter. I don’t really understand the former. It is a good lesson to learn, to not use sorcery, but to name one’s child after someone that did something like that doesn’t sound very encouraging to me.

                        After all of that we met back in the office and went over what we had learned. Ashlin also took Tanith to the side and encouraged her to ask her father to investigate the other traveling nobles that Thale had worked for. It would give him something to do and it would free us up to do more investigation into Cassilda’s vision. She agreed to his idea and asked her father if he could do that for us. He agreed readily enough. I think he was just happy to be doing something to help his daughter. After she did that Jadzia and I took Tanith aside to talk to her in private. I should say that Jadzia did most of the talking. I had no idea how to even bring up the topic. It turns out that Cassilda is in love with Tanith and Tanith doesn’t know it. She thinks that Cassilda is just a good friend that she sometimes shares a bed with. We wanted to make Tanith aware that Cassilda has feelings for her so going forward Tanith doesn’t do anything that might hurt that relationship.

                        Once that was done we talked some more with the group and decided to do what we could for Pisha next door. Ashlin went next door first and explained that we wanted to help. We came over a moment later and discovered Pisha absolutely armed to the teeth with blades. She said that someone had placed a trap in her home so she came to her shop. We told her that we knew that Jhanvi was after her and about the attempted murder of her “sister.” Her response was unexpected. She told us a tale of a woman named Aisha. A princess in Lar’tya who was destined to rule because she was the only girl in the family and they follow the woman’s line. Apparently Aisha was not a good person and tried to have her brothers killed and succeeded at killing the older brother. The younger brother survived with a grudge. She had others killed to ensure her succession to the throne too. Then she went to an inter-caste party, which are apparently highly frowned upon by the traditionalists, and she met a girl of another caste. Aisha fell in love with the skilled baker named Pisha. They saw each other in private since their relationship was not approved. Pisha even taught Aisha how to bake. Unfortunately the brother with the grudge came after Aisha and accidentally killed Pisha. Pisha’s final actions were to put on something that would identify her as Aisha. She had been hit in the face by something that ruined her features. Her hope was to make people believe that Aisha was dead. The real Aisha discovered this and fled the city and did just what her lover had intended. She left her name behind and fled to Aldis, taking the name Pisha and continued her lover’s craft. She also did what her lover had not intended and killed the people involved and their families.

                        Aisha really does seem to want to leave her old life behind and be Pisha. She seemed a little conflicted and Ashlin encouraged her to believe that Aisha was dead and she really was Pisha. I think some people were confused why he would do this, but it is important to keep her believing that she is Pisha and that she wants to live the peaceful life. If she decides to go back to being Aisha she might take up old habits and try and kill her remaining brother and others that get in her way. It is in everyone’s best interests if Pisha stays. I can understand wanting to be a new person. Wanting to leave her old life behind and pretend that person is dead. I wish I could live that lie, but I can’t. I didn’t take a new name when I fled Kern. I know that I’m still that person. I’m still the Skull Knight that burned Maria’s home to the ground. I’m still the person that killed an innocent child because I was ordered to. I don’t have the identity of an innocent person to slip into. I’m just me. But Pisha, while not innocent, is a good person now. She deserves our help and I intend to help her live out her life as a baker. If she ever goes back to being the “Blood Princess,” as she was called in Lar’tya, then I’ll be less than forgiving. She has an opportunity now to live a good life. I hope she is able to.

                        After our chat with Pisha Jadzia, Tanith and I went back to our office and discovered Richter there with Thale. We were just about to ask what brought Thale to our door when suddenly Richter jumped forward and drew a blade of light. Someone, that had been hiding in the shadows, jumped back at his advance. I understand why too. Richter made an imposing sight with his eyes glowing like Tanith’s do when she’s angry and wielding a light blade in mere moments. The person that had been hiding turned out to be Annis, Annette’s messenger. We calmed Richter down and told him who Annis was and he stood down. Annis handed me the note that she was sent to deliver and left in a hurry. It turned out that Annette knew where to find Jhanvi and gave me her address.

                        Before we could act on that information though Thale told us what brought her to our door. She said that the Hyades family was keeping Cordelia from her, and she was convinced that her intended needed to tell her something. So, Jadzia, Tanith, Maria and myself went to confront Cassilda and find out what was going on. We made it to the front door where Alar stopped us and explained that we could not come in the house now because they just had something stolen from them. Tanith, not taking no for an answer, mentally called Cassilda who came to the front door. Swords were momentarily drawn when Thale pointed her sword at Cassilda. We eventually got things calmed down and told Cassilda that we needed to talk to her in private after mentioning the Well of Blood, while Thale was allowed to talk to Cordelia. She agreed and we explained what we knew about the Well of Blood and her family’s history. Tanith also mentioned our theory that something was happening with that story in the present. Cassilda admitted that Camilla had got an artifact that would summon darkfiends to protect her cousin’s wedding. This is the same artifact that Ashlin had seen Camilla receive and subsequently have stolen. They said that Camilla had obtained the artifact because some shadow dancers had gotten into Cordelia’s room. I don’t think the irony was lost on any of my friends. That this artifact was likely the cause of some of Cassilda’s vision of darkfiends attacking the wedding. I’m not sure why Camilla thought that this would be a good idea. She did mention that she had used a similar device with her friend Saffron. Yes, this is the same young lady that is Darcy’s cousin. I’m thinking that an adult needs to sit these two teenagers down and explain some things to them. If I had ever played with such a device when I was younger my father would have been so pleased with me. He was never happy that my only real talent with magic is healing. I think he would have preferred if I could do something more flashy or dangerous. But that was in Kern. These two young ladies don’t live in Kern, they live in Aldis and the rules are different here.

                        After our talk we discovered that Camilla and Alar had fled the house and were planning on leaving the city. Tanith mentally contacted Ashlin, who was closer, and asked him to follow the pair of lovers and see if he could prevent them from leaving. He caught up with them and convinced them to just hide out at the outskirts of town but to not leave. I think he had to flash his official Sovereign’s Finest insignia to get them to listen. Leave it to a child to run off when her plans don’t work out. At least Camilla is acting like a child. She is rather young all things considered. Alar followed because she loves Camilla. At I’m assuming that’s what made Camilla leave. I don’t understand how someone so privileged thinks. If I had run away as a child it would have been to escape my father, but I never did. I knew what they would do to me if I tried. Even if I was a child, they would have killed me if I was lucky. No one leaves Kern. No one gets a way with a slap on the wrist if they’re caught. That’s why those that do make it out are lucky. They lived. And if they made it out with family they are even luckier. Now, if I could have only made it out with Marcus that would have been great. I wonder sometimes what my life in Aldis would have been like if Marcus had made it out with me. But I know that those are foolish thoughts. He hasn’t made it out yet.

                        Before we left the house Tanith asked permission of Cassilda, Cordelia and Thale if she could check their minds for mind influencing magics. They all gave permission and thankfully Tanith didn’t find anything. I’ve seen that ability used in Kern before. Not often but once or twice. It was never done with anyone’s permission. I think it must be a more pleasant experience for everyone if it’s not forced. Usually the adepts were employed to take secrets or memories out of someone’s mind. They were used by the Secret Police to get information on any traitors or rebels. It was so common place in Kern that sometimes I have to remind myself that it’s not allowed here in Aldis. The person must give permission. What a novelty.

                        Once we were done at the house Ashlin met up with me and Jadzia and we went to the hotel to meet with Jhanvi. We arrived to find the place surrounded by city guards. Jadzia and I questioned the guards to find out what was going on while Ashlin snuck on ahead and did his own reconnaissance. It seems that there is someone trapped inside their room on an upper floor. All exits are boobytrapped and the person can’t get out without setting them off. Luckily for us Ashlin went up the outside of the building and found the room that was trapped. And just like we’d begun to suspect it was Jhanvi that was trapped in her room. Ashlin was able to disarm the trap on the window since it was designed to keep someone in and not the other way around. After the trap was gone Jhanvi joined Ashlin out the window and they climbed down to the ground and surreptitiously motioned for us to join them, which we did. We got a bit of information from Jhanvi, who was thankful to us for letting her out of the room. She said that she was hired by Arjin, the younger brother of Aisha, to kill his sister and ensure that she never came back to try and do anything to him. I don’t think he really needed to worry about that. Sending an assassin is probably causing more strife in Pisha’s mind right now than anything else is. We also found out that the other Lar’tyan woman is another assassin by the name of Tanvi. She was sent by the dead Pisha’s family to retrieve Aisha and bring her back to pay for her crimes. There was some complaining about Tanvi being the wrong caste to be an assassin or bounty hunter, but that was over pretty quickly.
                        Not long after we had gotten Jhanvi out of her room we were confronted on the street by Tanvi herself who shouted “Halt Assassin!” Tanvi then used an invisible wire to pull the other woman’s weapon’s out of her hands. Not sure how she did that but it was a really neat trick. Jhanvi was not happy with the whole encounter, and I can understand that. If I’d been disarmed like that I would have been annoyed too. After the encounter was over Ashlin suggested that we send other folks from our company to talk to Tanvi since we are obviously supporting Jhanvi. Tanvi may be more receptive to those she doesn’t associate with the other assassin.

                        Ashlin had another good idea as well. He suggested that we use our connections, or he can use his, to get Pisha legitimate documentation to become an Aldin citizen. This would forestall Jhanvi from going after Pisha since she only goes after non-Aldin citizens. Plus Jhanvi is not personally invested in this whole situation. It is just a job to her, one that she would like to complete. If circumstances change and Pisha becomes untouchable then she will drop the contract. We will still have to deal with Tanvi, but that is another issue altogether. I do not know if I’m cut out for all of this intrigue. I’m not really good with the finer points of things. I am good with the carrying out of murders or fighting an enemy that is attacking us. I guess I will need to get used to dealing with the details of things more. It has become increasingly clear to me that the details are important. I think I knew that before but didn’t have the luxury of looking into them. Maybe now I will. Maybe now I should.


                        Tanith’s Diary

                        Only time enough for a quick entry. It feels like the Hyades family are going mad. My faithful best friend Cassilda we knew was guarding a secret. But what I did not suspect was how terrible it was, nor how far her adorable sister Camilla would go to protect it. I remember Camilla as a giggling youth with her hair in pigtails always cajoling her more serious older sister to relax and enjoy life. So much has changed it seems since I last saw her.

                        Now? She has subverted Alar Ythill, the tough guardian of the family, and tried to bring in what was probably a sorcerous artifact. She is totally in control of the relationship. The artifact was dangerous enough to make even Polaris Fairlight decide to do the right thing, and she is as crooked as you get and stay in the light. I wish Ashlin had gotten it instead, but I can’t really blame them for being unable to stand up to Polaris’s Arcana. I doubt I would be either.

                        Camilla as a seductress, though? I honestly do not understand. It does not seem right. She was just…walking sunshine. I need to check her, and Alar, for undue mental influence. I already investigated Cassilda, Cordelia, and Thale and found none, but it is Camilla and Alar who are acting most outside their usual character. Well, I don’t actually know Thale but apparently she is not acting unusual all things considered. But this feels wrong for Alar or Camilla.

                        I guess it makes more sense this is a historical secret than the Hyades currently. They are good people. And it is a shame most of the group is meeting them for the first time under these circumstances, though Jana and Jadzia met Cassilda at Lady Summerset’s party earlier in the year.

                        Speaking of those two in relation to Cassilda, they approached me together before we went to check in on Pisha to tell me that Cassilda was clearly in love with me. This is complicated and awkward. Cassilda and I have been close friends for over a decade. Most of our teen years we were not strangers to each other’s beds, but there was never a profession of love. Both of us took other lovers; indeed I encouraged her to have her first time with a certain strapping young family bodyguard years ago. Ah they must think Alar is some sort of seductress now but it is not like that. It’s frustrating. If only they knew them like I do.

                        Which, admittedly, is apparently not quite as well as I thought. I could not contest what my loves were saying about Cassilda. She says she is clearly in love with me, and yearns for her feelings to be returned. It makes sense. I just wished she talked to me. Cassilda is a wonderful friend but for anything serious I like my women a bit more…adventurous? I need to talk to her. Badly.

                        And speaking of that awkward conversation, it happened as we were going to talk to Pisha, who is apparently not the original Pisha but the infamous Blood Princess whose assassination lead to a lot of diplomats and royals breathing a bit easier. But she is alive, apparently, and has decided she is her late lover Pisha. You know, as long as she stays with that I am fine with it. Would be assassins and bounty hunters are not helping, of course.

                        Fortunately I have the ability to only freak completely out about one thing at a time. Lucky me.

                        End Session XVII

                        Let’s see…

                        Not a lot to explain further. Ashlin got hit with a Sleep spell. Polaris (like Richter and Melisandre) is notably higher level than the PCs, and such resistances are not Ash’s strong suit, so they were not able to.

                        Maria has the Lore Talents to be able to finish researching faster, so she was able to do a complicated research job relatively easily.

                        All the drama with the Hyades family was fun. And the players seemed to think Pisha’s backstory was cool. They knew something was up…

                        Next session will be played with the hurricane bearing down on us. Some sick players, so smaller cast. Will be back with an abbreviated journal list in two weeks. Comments and Questions welcome.
                        Running: Blue Rose AGE (Cat's Cradle) Blue Rose AGE (Big Damn Heroes)
                        HAPPY PRIDE MONTH!

                        Comment


                        • #27
                          Re: Blue Rose: Cat's Cradle (Actual Play)

                          The Cradle closes in on those manipulating the Hyades family. The build up turns violent as they have their first clash with vampires.

                          Jadzia’s player expects to miss this and the next two sessions. This session however due to the arrival of the hurricane, they got out early and was merely late. However, Darcy and Ashlin’s players had to miss, so no Ashlin journal. Anyway, enjoy.

                          Session XVIII

                          Aldis City Rhapsody Part III

                          Jadzia’s Horse Sense

                          (Whispered in Rezean in the Nocturna family stables)

                          “Good evening, Salkhi. Yes, I am well, thank you for your concern. It seems as though we have resolved one of our current cases, but the other is proving stubborn. Still, one mustn’t complain… any progress is good, I suppose.

                          “As you well know, Tanith, Jana, Maria and I paid a visit to Alar yesterday. Considering that she alone had supposedly encountered the vampires who seemed to be deeply involved in the Hyades’ family’s troubles, Tanith wished to check her mind for foreign influences. Before we arrived, Tanith suggested that I remain outside, guarding the domicile against intrusion and potentially pursuing any assailants who might flee the scene.

                          “It turned out to be a good suggestion. I had only been on guard for a few minutes when I heard a commotion from inside the house. I do not know the specifics of what happened within, though I know that Richter arrived at some point to lend his aid (much to my Sunflower’s chagrin), and that Maria once again impressed the others with her extensive battle-magic skills.

                          “Knowing that my companions would have things well in hand I resisted the urge to leap to their defense. Sure enough, after a few moments of combat, one of their foes leaped through the window and began to hasten away.

                          “As I’m certain you recall, we gave chase immediately, albeit in a somewhat more subtle way than that to which we are accustomed. We wended through the foot and cart traffic on the crowded streets of Aldis City, always keeping the fleeing vampire in sight yet not approaching closely enough for her to determine that she was being followed.

                          “All was well until she entered the Lake District… and then the lake itself. That is why I felt it necessary to leave you upon the shore, Dear One. I know that you wished to see our hunt through to its end, but it would have been extremely difficult for you to join me on that stage of the pursuit. Though I am not the strongest of swimmers, I was able to slip into the water in time to see my quarry enter one of the many Sea Folk dwellings located there.

                          “I returned to the shore, and together we reported the vampire’s location to Tanith via our psychic link. In the meantime, Tanith had examined the mind of Camilla Hyades, who had also been manipulated by the vampires (albeit more extensively and intricately). Tanith was able to remove the conditioning and restore Miss Camilla’s mind to its previous state.

                          “It was dark by this point, of course… and though the urge within me to see this matter done was strong, I conceded that it would be wiser to wait to confront the vampire the following morning, when the sun was high and Maria could recover the strength she had expended in the fight. For much of the night, I believe she was the only person resting in that house…

                          “In any case, we returned to the shore of the lake as soon as the sun was high the following morning. We met Anechka of the city guard there; we wished to inform her of our plan so that the guard would not concern itself with the… ‘unusual activities’ in the area. Richter was also present, and even Tanith had to grudgingly admit that his skills would prove most useful in the fight to come.

                          “Maria once again proved herself to be an unstoppable force where magic is concerned. She drew the waters of the lake apart, creating a wide passageway from the shore to the Sea Folk dwelling I indicated, and leaving said dwelling open to the sky. The lot of us marched down… yes, I know you wished to participate in the fight, Salkhi, but I could not place you at such risk. If Maria’s concentration had slipped at any point, we would all have found ourselves submerged in the lake, and I would have been hard-pressed to save you in such a situation.

                          “In any case, the lot of us marched down and announced ourselves. We found ourselves facing five vampires and a sorceress, though the latter quickly fled the scene once the combat started. Richter and I began the fight by rushing into the house and assaulting two of the vampires, throwing them bodily through the windows and out into the sunlight. This set the stage for the rest of the combat. Though of course the blood-sucking fiends attempted to retreat to the shadowy safety of the house, we continually pushed them back into the open air, allowing the sun to do much of our work for us. After most of our foes had been defeated, one clever vampire attempted to flee into the water to one side of our corridor… but Maria once again foiled its plans, freezing it in place. Tanith quickly finished it off with that glowing sword of hers while it was immobilized.

                          “Investigating the house uncovered several interesting documents which shed much light upon the travails of the Hyades family. The sorceress, one Hadal Abyssia, was working for an elder vampire named Nyassa Hyades. Though her reasoning was unclear, Nyassa wanted to manipulate events in order to drive her descendent Cassilda Hyades mad, presumably in the hopes of recreating the events of the Well of Blood. She could not do so by manipulating Cassilda directly; Cassilda’s actions had to be the honest result of external events.

                          “Naturally, now that all of this has come to light, it seems as though the Hyades family’s current troubles are over. Now that they are aware of the problem, they can be on guard against future plots of this nature. It would be most unwise for Abyssia or Nyassa to make another attempt before the wedding; everyone will be expecting it and we have already proven to be more than a match for their machinations.

                          “Now we have only to deal with the matter of Pisha and her two assassins. I wonder if Darcy and Ashlin have made any progress along those lines…”


                          Jana’s Journal

                          Dear Mother,

                          As you know we have a couple of different issues to deal with and decided today that we were just going to deal with one of them. At least most of us where going to deal with one of them. Tanith, Maria, Jadzia and I went to the Library to take a look at the books that Maria had read the other night. We were going to have Tanith use a arcanum called “object reading” to look at them and see if we could tell who else had used those books recently. Tanith did her thing and got a look at the woman that had been so interested in the Hyades family history. She shared that image with me via our mind link. Tanith also tried to scry on that woman and see what she was up to now. She was unable to do so. The woman is a complete stranger and it is very difficult to scry on people you don’t know. But we know what she looks like so we can deal with her if we see her in the future. Meanwhile Darcy and Ashlin were guarding Pisha at her shop. I’m not sure if they encountered any trouble. I’ll be honest. Today was kind of exciting and I forgot to ask them.

                          After leaving the Library we went to Cassilda’s house to talk to Alar. We needed to have Tanith take a look at her and see if the woman had been exposed to any mind altering arcana. Jadzia waited outside to guard the door just in case. We were expecting trouble. Once we got to talk to her Alar was fine with being “read” and Tanith did her thing. She found out that Alar had been influenced in such a way that her willpower was weakened and she was more susceptible to suggestions from others. We were concerned that Camilla had been affected as well by whoever did it. But first things first. Tanith had to remove the arcana that was affecting Alar. When she looked closer at the arcana used Tanith suspected that it had been a Vampire that had weakened Alar’s will. Our expectation was that as soon as Tanith removed the arcana then the vampire that cast the arcanum would come back and find out what happened. This is why we were expecting trouble. We figured that the Haydes’ family guard had been messed with. So Tanith removed the influence and we let Jadzia know to expect some vampires. We needed to engage whoever came and have Jadzia follow any that fled back to their hideout. Our intention was to let at least one survive.

                          We didn’t have to wait long before three vampiric shadowdancers showed up. They came through the windows and we attacked them. I set myself in front of Tanith and Alar did the same with Maria. We knew that Maria would be vulnerable after she had been casting arcana so Alar protected her. I always protect Tanith when I can. She can be reckless sometimes in a fight and seems to enjoy the adrenaline rush overly much. So I protected her. The fight was interesting. We were doing pretty good against the vampires but apparently Richter came by and got a view of what was happening and jumped through one of the windows and attacked the vampire that had been going after his daughter. Tanith was less than pleased by his interruption of the fight and they bickered out loud for a little bit before going silent. They continued to exchange looks so I assumed that they had taken the conversation to their heads. It’s handy being able to speak directly into someone’s mind.

                          In the end we killed two of the vampires and let the third flee. I didn’t want the last one to get away unscathed, so even though I knew I couldn’t kill her I attacked the last one as she was making her way to the nearest window. She was not happy by my sword strike but knew that she had no hope of surviving if she stayed. So she fled, and Jadzia followed her to the Lake district. The shadowdancer made her way to the lake itself and swam to an underwater house that was likely owned or rented by a seafolk. Jadzia followed the vampire under the water and close enough to get a look at the house that she went into. She then sent an image of the house back to Tanith and headed back to meet up with us. We agreed that attacking in the night was probably not a good idea since our opponents are vampires. We decided that we would go after them in the daytime when we had the advantage. I’ll let you know how that goes.

                          Love Always,
                          Jana

                          Dear Marcus,

                          We are still dealing with the troubles of rich folk. Their troubles can’t be like anyone else’s either. They have to be more complicated. Anyway, we discovered that Camilla and the family body guard had been affected by mind influencing arcana. We found out about Alar last night and Camilla today. We dealt with the vampires that came to investigate when we removed the influence from Alar’s mind last night. Today Tanith sent Richter to talk to the city guard, especially the seafolk city guard about our plans for the day. We were going to raid a vampire nest in the Lake district. But first, while Richter was talking to the guards, Alar took Tanith to talk to Camilla. It turns out that Camilla was also affected by the same sort of arcana, but the effect on her was stronger. She had been specifically influenced to obtain a device that would summon darkfiends at the wedding. Interesting, right? So Tanith removed the arcana that was affecting her friend’s sister and headed back to meet up with the rest of us at the lake. Richter joined us with Aneshka from the guards.

                          After we’d all assembled on the shore Maria worked her own shaping arcana to part the water, creating a path that led straight to the house that Jadzia had seen last night. That woman is powerful! So, we all walked down to the house to confront those inside. Tanith and Richter both started off with the same foot, the same tilt of their head and the same weapon. It was uncanny how well they mirrored one another. Tanith denies that she is like her father, but I have seen proof and today was just one instance. So, it was an eerie feeling being surrounded by so much water and not have it cover us. I would have been in serious trouble if Maria’s concentration had failed since I was wearing my heavy armor. I don’t float very well. Anyway, Aneshka ordered those inside the house to come out. No one did. So, we had Richter kick the door in. He did so. Then he and Jadzia go into the house and start attacking vampires and kicking them outside into the sun. Those of us outside did our best to aid the sun in it’s work of killing the abominations. Eventually there were no vampires outside so I went into the house to see if I could find another one. I did and “convinced” her to jump through a window. I got into the house just in time to see the sorceress in the back corner disappear into the shadows and escape. I couldn’t stop her so I helped deal with the remaining vampires. The last one that got kicked through a window got clever and jumped into the wall of water and tried to swim away. Maria stopped them in their tracks by freezing the water around them. Tanith then used her light sword to stab through the ice and decapitate the vampire.

                          After we were done with the vampires we searched the house to see what we could find. We discovered correspondences between the sorceress, Hadal Abyssia and an elder vampire named Nyassa Hyades. Yup, she’s related to Cassilda way back. Apparently, it seems like this elder vampire wants to recreate the whole Well of Blood thing and was doing her best to drive Cassilda to madness on the day of the wedding. Things would be fueled by the actions of her family and of the attack of darkfiends on the big day. And things might have worked if we hadn’t started investigating this whole thing and uncovered the plot. If Jadzia hadn’t overheard that conversation about the Well of Blood in the first place we would still likely be in the dark on what was going on. As it was, we knew what to look for and managed to foil Nyassa’s plot. It would have been nice for Cassilda to tell us what the river of blood in her vision could have been linked to but we had to eavesdrop to find out that story. I guess we’ll find out what she has to say for herself when we confront her about this whole thing. And then we just need to deal with the problem that is Pisha. And that is a story for a whole other time. I will try and catch you up on that later. Right now we have people to talk to.

                          Yours Always,
                          Jana


                          Tanith’s Diary

                          The immediate threat to the Hyades family is dealt with. However, the mastermind waits in the wings. We discussed the matter and decided we needed some recon. I decided I would Object Read the books and get a face for our interloper, then check the minds of Alar and Camilla. Maria showed me the books she noticed, but while I got an image of a sinister Sea Folk woman studying them, it was not enough of a connection to be able to Scry.

                          I found that Alar had had her passions inflamed by vampiric mind manipulation, so removed the effect. I suspected the vampires might investigate this, so after dinner Alar, Jana, Maria and I lay in wait while Jadzia waited outside to pursue. Darcy and Ash watched out for Pisha. I telepathically told Father what we were doing in case things went south. That proved something of a mistake.

                          The ambush went off well. They were three battle-dancing vampires, and while we did not precisely get the drop on them they were surprised to see us there. The fight was going our way (though Maria was getting exhausted fast) when Father came bursting in, attacking the vampire I was fighting. We argued out loud at first then telepathically. Everyone did well however, and we would have succeeded with or without him. One vampire retreated, and Jadzia shadowed her to the Lake Ward and into the lake. Very brave of her swimming down there. Apparently a small home below the waterline was their headquarters.

                          The following day, I had father speak to the guard while I went with Jana and Jadzia to talk to Camilla. She was even further addled than Alar, with some more specific programming. Apparently she was the key to the plan they had, to act out to bring an artifact to the wedding and summon Darkfiends with it.

                          From there we (including Father, while Darcy and Ashlin watched out for Pisha) assembled at the lake, where Aneshka Snowdown reluctantly allowed Maria to part a path to the house. This did get some…negative attention. However parting the water gave us a real advantage because we were attacking a vampire lair during the day. They were alert enough, but Jana, Jadzia, and Father charged inside, seeking to knock the vampires outside. Maria contributed some magic but her main job was holding back the water. I remained outside with Maria and Aneshka. We honestly made short work of the five vampires inside, but the Sea Folk Sorceress overseeing them managed to escape. I did not see if she was a vampire or not. One vampire almost escaped as well, but swimming in the water is a bad idea with a master of Frost magic nearby, let’s say.

                          The sorceress’s name was Hadal Abyssia, and she was reporting to one Nyassa Hyades, a Master vampire and battle dancer to use her minions to try to drive Cassilda to madness at the wedding. This actually fits a theory Maria had. Anyway, I am unsure why, specifically…I know Cassilda inside and out and she is no Adept, much less Sorceress. She has visions, sure, but she cannot really control them, and no talent for anything else. I realize I did not notice she was in love with me, but she was not precisely concealing that. That was my problem. But she seems to have no Psychic Shield and never showed any talent for it in school. Perhaps she is hoping history will be nudged into repeating itself. Or perhaps she had some other plan. It is troubling, regardless, and we will be alert when Cordelia and Thale’s wedding happens.

                          But before then, we need to deal with Pisha, and her stalkers. Let’s see what, if anything, Ashlin scared up in terms of information.

                          End Session XVIII

                          Tanith attempted to Scry on Hadal Abyssia, but the penalty due to lack of familiarity meant she was unable to; her Perception is notably lower than Communication, Intelligence or Willpower (which are her main high stats). She did not succeed either after the Object Reading nor when she tried to see where Hadal went after the main battle.

                          Being down half the team in a session expecting combat, I added Richter Nocturna to the group since he was local. Richter is a Commander Warrior notably higher level than the PCs, but the idea was I would not have to tinker with the battle too much. It worked, and I got to play up how similar his style is to Tanith (as much as she takes after some of the evil members of her family like her evil grandmother, so too does she take after her heroic father). Jadzia came in during the nighttime battle.

                          Next session should finish our story, as we deal with Pisha’s issue. Will the PCs continue to shield an admitted multiple murder and keep her from the honorable assassin, or shield her for a second chance? Join us. Comments and Questions welcome.
                          Last edited by Baroness Nerak; 09-28-2018, 01:09 PM.
                          Running: Blue Rose AGE (Cat's Cradle) Blue Rose AGE (Big Damn Heroes)
                          HAPPY PRIDE MONTH!

                          Comment


                          • #28
                            Re: Blue Rose: Cat's Cradle (Actual Play)

                            Our heroes intervene to protect Pisha, as nonviolently as possible. That’s the first half. The second half of the session is a variety of individual scenes, Darcy and Saffron, Jana and Richter, Jadzia and Richter, Darcy and Tanith, and Tanith, Jadzia and Jana. Jadzia’s player could not make it so we have no journal for her, but we do for the rest of the crew. Enjoy the conclusion of the arc.

                            Note Ash summarizes the last session a bit they did not have a journal for

                            Session XIX

                            Aldis City Rhapsody Part IV

                            Ashlin’s Reports

                            Report from Ash, decoded by Kait, sent 25 Leonar

                            Yet again, the illustrious Cat’s Cradle has saved the day. No nests of vampires, or bevies of bounty hunters, or assassination-happy exes could keep this crew down! I mean, it was barely even exciting, right? Nothing to report on really, with all that stuff. So, see you next week at the usual spot?

                            OK, OK, I guess vampires aren’t your run of the mill, everyday antagonist, huh? Unfortunately, I can’t go into too much detail there – I was guarding Pisha, along with Darcy. But I am given to understand that the Hyades situation was resolved by taking the fight to the vampires who were putting the mind-whammy on everybody they could get their hands on. They had holed up under the Lake Ward, so Maria did a fancy part-the-waters trick, and exposed the nest to the others, and the sun. Apparently the whole crew, including the sorceress leading them, Hadal Abyssia, were put up to it by Nyassa Hyades, a vampire lord herself. Maria posits that she’s a contemporary of the Cassilda Hyades who was the star of the Well of Blood story. She was trying to recreate the story, with the assuredly not arbitrary rule that Cassilda herself couldn’t be mind-whammied, but that she could be pushed to it by outside forces. She’ll probably back off for now, but we will, of course, be attending the wedding, just in case.

                            In the meantime, me and Darcy got crepes. Pretty swanky deal, right? Of course, after that I was simply obliged to go tracking down Tanvi – if anything could be more inspiring to save our next-door baker than her fruit breads, it would be her crepes. I tracked her down to one of two inns. Thankfully, the other two who had been sniffing around hadn’t found her. Well, it wouldn’t have been so bad if Annis had found her – I’m sure Annette would have had her tell us. Which is why I drafted her help.

                            She came along with a tower of a woman, one Minerva, 7 foot tall if she was one. She was clearly very protective of little Annis, calling her Puddleduck (I’m Chestnut now, if you were wondering). It’s good Annis has someone like that, and perhaps a little surprising that she is still so jumpy. She is pretty adorable though. Anyway, Annis had called her in because the other one looking for Tanvi was one Zillah, Evangeline’s right hand woman. You remember her, Annette’s ex, the one with the heart in the box? The really, really jealous one? Yeah…

                            Well, with Annis and Minerva’s help, we found Tanvi first, at The Fare and Fowl Inn. To make it clear, the clerks were the very model of discretion. I’m just better than them. So when they lied and said no one looking like Tanvi was at the inn, I just got a room. The first room I happened to wander into, completely by mistake, turned out to have a strawberry blonde with a lovely voice taking a bath. Thankfully she mistook me for her manservant and I was able to slip out. Everybody caught up with us about then – I think it was love at first sight when Darcy met Minerva. It isn’t everyday he has to look up to anybody.

                            Next room I played it carefully. It doesn’t do to blithely wander into the room of someone known for trap-building, after all. She agreed to talk pretty easily, just wanting a promise that we wouldn’t attack her, which I gave her after asking for one in return. I did most of the talking, considering how bitter Tanvi was about the Hagan caste. Tanith wouldn’t have made quite as good an impression, I think.

                            Long story short, Tanvi agreed with our plan, which I should probably lay out for you. We took Pisha and Tanvi to a Heartreader whose discretion Tanith trusted, and had her confirm Pisha’s account of what happened, specifically that she did not kill Pisha and had every intention of continuing on with Pisha’s legacy of goodness. Tanvi will take that back to Pisha’s family, hopefully putting their minds at ease. She will have succeeded where Jhanvi failed – points! - and successfully negotiated with a well-known and considered group of Sovereign’s Finest – points! - but she won’t be bringing the Blood Princess back for justice – no points. Not her ideal victory, but she did recognize that at least it was a victory, while going against us was unlikely to be any kind of victory.

                            Even more to her credit, the other concern she had was whether the Blood Princess would rise again and begin killing people. That is a concern, though one we hope to help mitigate by removing any need of hers to kill again. She herself said that she had no intention of killing again, unless Arjin happened to show up at her doorstep, but her tense and very warlike response to Jhanvi showing up is nervous making. Oh right. Did I mention? Jhanvi showed up on our roof. Annette was there with her, having what was assuredly a polite conversation that just so happened to involved drawn weapons. No violence had taken place, probably helped by the presence of Minerva and Annis backing Annette up. We managed to convince her to leave peaceably, and by tomorrow morning, Pisha will be a citizen, so that’s all set.

                            Oh, I almost forgot! Zillah was not just an impetus to move quickly. She did actually show up, at a very dramatic moment as we were talking to Tanvi in her room, announcing her presence with a crossbow bolt. I managed to see her moving into position right in time, and slam the window shut resulting in (1) damaged window pane and (0) damaged Lar’tyans. Darcy charged after her, climbing through the window of the lady next door to try to cut her off. Maria iced up the window ledge too, which resulted in a short fall – it was only the second floor. Darcy kept up the chase until she was no longer a threat. Apparently he made friends while he was out too, a fellow and his rhy-raccoon friend. Evangeline met us at the Heartreader (also on the roof. Apparently it’s a thing), wanting to reassure us that it wasn’t a gesture aimed towards us, or even at Tanvi for anything personal, just to get back at Annette for… something. Her jealous once-over of Jana was not reassuring as to her actual feelings towards us, but she definitely didn’t want a group of Sovereign’s Finest to think she was an enemy.

                            Anyway, that’s our current caseload cleared up, at least once the wedding goes off without a hitch. To be fair, the deal with Pisha is going to be somewhat of an ongoing thing now, but I’m sure we’ll always be able to find a reason to check up on our favorite baker quite regularly.

                            [Cloven hoof mark]


                            Jana’s Letters

                            Dear Marcus,

                            Okay…now’s the time to explain what happened with Pisha. After we were done taking care of the vampires we met up with the rest of the group, who’d been guarding Pisha. Someone came up with the idea of going to a Heart Reader and have them “look” into Pisha’s heart and determine the truth of what happened. We thought that this might convince Tanvi to stop hunting Pisha. So, Ashlin went off to find out where Tanvi was staying so we could have a conversation with her. A little while later Ashlin contacted Tanith to say that he had found out where Tanvi was, so we all started heading towards a hotel in the lower ward called the Fare and Fowl. We got there and found our way blocked by a very tall Vata’sha woman on the stairs. Annis appeared and told Minerva, as we discovered her name to be, that we were friends and to let us pass. This came after Minerva literally pulled the carpet out from under Darcy’s feet when he attempted to climb the stairs. He managed to maintain his balance and still flirted with the tall woman. That guy is quite the lady’s man.

                            So, we got upstairs to find that Ashlin had found out which room was Tanvi’s by checking both the occupied ones. Tanvi’s was the second one. He then made a deal with Tanvi, promising not to hurt her if she promised the same, to sit down and talk. Tanvi became wary of us when we approached, but Ashlin smoothed things over. We let him take the lead on conversation since he seemed to have developed a rapport with her already. He explained our idea of going to a Heart Reader to have them discover the truth of what happened that night when Pisha died. He couched it in terms that would appeal to her. She would be able to bring back news of what actually happened that night, and would have negotiated with some of the Sovereign’s Finest attesting that Aisha has reformed and that she intends to carry on a life of peace in Pisha’s name. Tanvi agreed to this, especially since she would be succeeding where Jhanvi failed.

                            While we were talking Ashlin heard someone loading a crossbow and quickly told Tanvi to get down and slammed shut the window. The bolt hit the window doing damage, but did not hit Tanvi. Turns out that Zillah, one of Evangeline’s people, was trying her best to foil our plans. I guess because we were there helping because her ex-wife asked us to she decided to send someone to mess with us. Zillah started to retreat but Maria and Darcy were ready for her. Darcy ran to the other occupied room and started to slip out the window so he could join Zillah on the ledge. The occupant of the room was not too pleased, but Darcy was too focused on catching the would-be killer to notice. Maria for her part iced the ledge that Zillah was on and the other woman slipped and fell when she tried to take a step back. Darcy jumped down after her and there was a chase. Darcy ran after Zillah for a good while before deciding to let her go. He determined that she was no longer a threat and ceased chasing her. He also stopped to help a lost Roamer and his Rhy-Raccoon companion find their way. I think he made some new friends.

                            After that we all agreed to meet up at the shop of a Heart Reader that Tanith knew. Jadzia escorted the baker, who she’d been guarding, to the shop. The rest of us met them there. Evangeline herself was standing on the roof of the shop. She apparently wanted to make sure that there were no hard feelings between us and her. We told her that we had no quarrel with her and she went on her way. Once inside the Heart Reader did her thing after Pisha/Aisha explained what happened the night Pisha died. The Heart Reader confirmed that Aisha was telling the truth and that she had nothing to do with Pisha’s death. She also confirmed that Aisha, now Pisha, had no intentions of continuing the violence. She just wants to continue her peaceful life in Aldis City, unless her brother Arjin shows up. She might get violent if he comes around, but hopefully that is not all that likely to happen. I know, I know, I just jinxed us didn’t I? Hopefully nothing bad will come of it. Anyway, Tanvi took the written report from the Heart Reader and went on her way. The rest of us headed back to the office to talk. When we got there we found, much to our surprise, that Annette was there on the rooftop facing off against Jhanvi. Annette was backed up by Annis and Minerva as well. Darcy and Minerva both stood in front of Pisha and blocked Jhanvi’s line of sight. We explained to Jhanvi that Pisha was soon to be a citizen of Aldis City and that her contract would be null and void starting tomorrow morning. Jhanvi eventually agreed to leave but not before exchanging dirty looks with Pisha. If I didn’t know better I’d say that those two women know each other and are not on the best of terms. Once Jhanvi had left Annette, Annis and Minerva said their good-nights and also left. After that we all went to our respective homes. All in all it was an exciting and productive day. I felt like I helped make a difference, and that was a nice feeling to have.

                            Yours Always,
                            Jana

                            Dear Marcus,

                            It’s been an interesting couple of days since our last adventure. Darcy went to talk to his cousin Saffron about the device that she found and used with Camilla. Apparently they were underneath the school in some sort of catacombs and found it there. Tanith said that she had never come across anything like that when she was a student there, but it was likely left there since she graduated. The question is who left it there? Was it meant for Camilla to find or for just anyone? Saffron insists that it was an accident that they managed to release a darkfiend at the school, but they did the right thing and reported the incident to the teachers, who took care of it. They didn’t explain how the darkfiend managed to find its way to the school from what I understand, they just alerted those in charge to its whereabouts. I think Darcy is going to keep a closer eye on his cousin. I think he’s still concerned about her and her proclivities for getting into trouble.

                            The other interesting thing that happened was Richter invited me out to dinner. Apparently he wanted to talk to me about my relationship with his daughter. Turns out that he approves of it and is happy for us. What he mentioned next was a little odd I guess. He said that I reminded him of his late wife Mariana. At least in my demeanor, not necessarily my looks. He said that my seriousness was one of the things that made him think of Mariana. I guess I should be flattered. The little I know of her is complimentary. She was a good woman. She helped a lot of people. Unfortunately Melisandre didn’t like this and killed her, making it look like an accident. Those that knew her knew the truth though. I only bodyguarded that woman a few times, but even I could tell that she had completely embraced the Shadow and had no regrets about her actions. She managed to kill Mariana after her and Richter had gotten out of Kern and started a family, Tanith. Unfortunately Tanith lost her mother at the tender age of three.

                            Then Richter asked if there was anything that he could do for me. I asked him if he could check on you, but to be careful. He knows that you are a Skull Knight. He knew that I was too and yet he helped me get out of Kern. I’m sure that he can help you get out too. I look forward to the day I can see you again. I look forward to kissing you without having to look around and make sure that we’re not being watched. We didn’t really have much of a real relationship. We couldn’t. They didn’t care if their Knights had sex, but they frowned on any real attachments. I couldn’t let them see that I had feelings for you, and I know that you had feelings for me. If we can get you out of Kern I would love for you to be able to meet Tanith and Jadzia. I think that you would like them. Tanith is so much like her father, and he is a good man. Tanith is a good person too. You would like her. And Jadzia is so fierce and so straightforward. I know you would find her approach to life refreshing. Everyone is so open here. Even those that have criminal connections are so much freer in their actions. They don’t have to watch out for secret police or anything. There are no informants. You don’t have to sleep with a dagger under your bedroll. I want you to be able to have this life too. I want to see you again. I miss you.

                            Yours Always,
                            Jana


                            Tanith’s Diary

                            The matter with Pisha has been dealt with, at least for now. She is safe. Tanvi is being sent back to Lar’tya not exactly smarting, but without her quarry, but with the answers Pisha’s family needed. Really, Annette DeVeers’ involvement proved more a liability than advantage when her ex wife Evangeline sent her agent Zillah to stop Tanvi from being found. Fortunately we, Annis the jumpy Sea Folk, and a very tall Vata’Sha named Minerva managed to get matters squared away and chased Zillah off. As Evangeline is a dangerous woman, I am glad that is all that happened, as our brief meeting was cordial and she assured us there were no further issues. We also had a brief run in with Jhanvi, who was facing Annette, Annis and Minerva. She also chose to withdraw. Especially when informed Pisha’s citizenship was all being done. So hopefully we can let down our guard on that front.

                            Darcy had a word with his cousin Saffron. I admit I still start a bit when I see his human family and I shouldn’t. I am not proud of that. Anyway, Saffron is his lovely and well aware of it cousin that he speaks highly of. She was involved along with Camilla in the incident with the artifact that could summon a Darkfiend at the school. This concerned Darcy, so he went to investigate. Apparently Saffron and Camilla found it in the Underwell area, a part that used to be some sort of underground animal pen. I was there a few times. Apparently someone was doing dark experiments there. That was never what I went there for. The place is quiet and unused, which makes it attractive for certain endeavors where one would hope for privacy and to not have to worry about a roommate entering. However, enough amorous couples and triples would slip down there it makes a poor place to do something requiring that level of isolation. At least when I was there, which was not long ago at all.

                            Darcy mostly wanted to make sure I knew, and see if Saffron’s story checked out. It’s strange it would be there, but that is not the least believable part of the school to have something like that in by a long shot. One could easily expect to be there alone for hours if the timing was right. It’s just most visitors would be inclined to avoid the giggles and moans but few would not be concerned by dark chanting. Fortunately Saffron and Camilla brought it to the staff’s attention, so they did the right thing at least.

                            When I was there, the interesting stuff was all hidden away due to stuff involving Maria’s friend Lenore Silverstream. Which was disappointing, I could have handled it better than her.

                            I am observing the fallout of all this with the Hyades family. All are fairly shell-shocked. We will be attending the wedding of Cordelia and Thale, though I expect no trouble. Still, this has created something of a rift between Cassilda and I. We have always been really open with each other, and would go out of our way to help each other, but with this it has gotten somewhat strained. We had lunch and said little. It hurts.

                            In better news, Jadzia and Jana have more fully moved in. That makes me happy. Even Father is making an effort to be more agreeable. He has an interest in the girls, taking Jadzia and Jana out individually.

                            Time moves on. But I don’t think any of us will forget our first week as Sovereign’s Finest.

                            End Session XIX

                            Aldis City Rhapsody Completed

                            So Minerva’s pet names were fun. Mostly as listed. Puddleduck and Chestnut are amusing.

                            The chase with Darcy and Zillah was done such that after a few rolls I used the fine Aldis random encounters table to see what they ran into. Alas, Darcy stopped to help his fellow Roamer. His player OOC noted he had the dog problem; if he caught the “car” he was unsure what to do with it

                            Richter’s conversation with Jadzia was much like his chat with Jana, minus the Mom thing.

                            Okay I think that covers everything. Next time we start Two Princes. Comments and Questions welcome
                            Running: Blue Rose AGE (Cat's Cradle) Blue Rose AGE (Big Damn Heroes)
                            HAPPY PRIDE MONTH!

                            Comment


                            • #29
                              Re: Blue Rose: Cat's Cradle (Actual Play)

                              Originally posted by Baroness Nerak View Post
                              ...after a few rolls I used the fine Aldis random encounters table to see what they ran into.
                              Hooray! That's marvelous to hear.

                              Thanks for keeping us up to date. Very much enjoying it.

                              Comment


                              • #30
                                Re: Blue Rose: Cat's Cradle (Actual Play)

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                                Running: Blue Rose AGE (Cat's Cradle) Blue Rose AGE (Big Damn Heroes)
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