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Thread: Blue Rose: Cat's Cradle (Actual Play)

  1. #41
    OPA Belta Baroness Nerak's Avatar
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    Re: Blue Rose: Cat's Cradle (Actual Play)

    It’s an off week, but I wanted to give you a glimpse into the next story. As I often do, I sent out handouts to the players with info on the story. Because some had personal background there, some were ranking spies and this was enemy territory, and other reasons they accounts were a bit more…varied this time. Rather than telling you who got what, I will post a subject then at the end of each paragraph who got it with A for Ashlin, D for Darcy, J for Jadzia, N for Jana, M for Maria and T for Tanith. Jana’s initials being J and T made this a bit more complicated, but this should work out. If several paragraphs have a letter at the end, the player got a longer entry. You get the idea.

    This time I am only posting stuff that came up in session 1. It could constitute mild spoilers but it is info the players got so I would not worry too much. Still, you can skip it if you wish, as always. Anyway, enjoy.
    --

    Auchindoun

    A fortress just inside the Icebinder Mountains on the Aldis side, carved by Shapers from the mountain itself. It’s so old and large much of it is no longer even used. It is easily accommodating Aldis’s forces and their Jarzoni guests. Commander D’Val has recently been recalled to Aldis City and the Knights of the Blue Rose have taken command, indicating something may be happening soon. (A)

    A fortress just inside the Icebinder Mountains on the Aldis side, carved by Shapers from the mountain itself. It’s so old and large much of it is no longer even used. Romer legend has it there may be artifacts and even magical experiments trapped in the unused portions. (D)

    A fortress just inside the Icebinder Mountains on the Aldis side, carved by Shapers from the mountain itself. It’s so old and large much of it is no longer even used. It is easily accommodating Aldis’s forces and their Jarzoni guests. Alexis is there. (J, M, T)

    A fortress on the Aldis/Kern border where Trebizond, Laodice, Saoirse and Alexis are at present. (N)


    Trebizond and Laodice

    Trebizond and Laodice have been moved to Auchindoun due to increased activity from Kern. Worries that some of the Shadowed Seven may have allied and seek to spread some of their claim into Aldis are apparently significant enough to have the strategist up there. Trebizond was summoned up by the veteran Commander D’Val. As Saoirse was also recently called up there, you can but assume there is no awkwardness whatsoever. (D, J, N, M, T)


    Alexis Winter

    Jadzia and Alexis have been doing well. Alexis “calls” once a day and talks about activities. It is dull, mostly, and paranoia inducing. She has killed several undead there. She gets along with her old friend Zacchaeus the Silver Lion, not so much his counterpart Amaiala Arrora, who is as much a stick in the mud as most Knights of Purity are. They have had at least one argument that has nearly turned to blows, broken up by Saoirse.

    Saoirse has been doing well, though she and Laodice have some serious UST going on and been snapping at each other. They are likely going to kill each other or fuck sometime. Or both.

    Captain D’Val has been pulled back and command given over to Trebizond and the Knights. Something must be happening. (J)


    Saoirse

    Saoirse is doing well. She gets along better than expected with Zacchaeus the Silver Lion and poorly with his counterpart Amaiala Arrora, who Saoirse regards as prudish. She notes she has been clashing with Laodice, which makes her sad. She also notes Captain D’Val has been pulled back and the Knights and Trebizond given control, which means something is going on but she is concerned about D’Val not being present as he has been doing an excellent job. (M)


    Lastlight

    A trading city on the Kern side of the Icebinder Mountain passes, Lastlight is the closest major town to Aldis. The Burgermeister’s name is Lovinia Staunton. (A, D)

    A trading city on the Kern side of the Icebinder Mountain passes, Lastlight shows signs of once being large and prosperous. The large, impressive buildings are decaying, now, and the population stays in whatever building they can keep up. Lastlight was one of the places you have bad memories of, as you were present for the death of the Burgermeister Torrance Staunton. (N)

    A trading city on the Kern side of the Icebinder Mountain passes, Lastlight shows signs of once being large and prosperous. The large, impressive buildings are decaying, now, and the population stays in whatever building they can keep up. Lastlight once had a prominent role in moving adepts out of Kern, but that was ended a few years ago and you were forced to abandon the city after Melisandre Nocturna found out and came down on the town. Since then it has been a spot to avoid due to occasional checks. (M)


    Torrance Staunton

    Torrance was the Burgermeister of Lastlight. He was executed by Melisandre for helping to smuggle Adepts out of Kern with the Travelers of the Sunlit Path. You and Marcus were present for the execution. He was turned into a Shadow serving Melisandre. (N)

    Torrance was the Burgermeister of Lastlight, who was an ally to the Travelers of the Sunlit Path in helping smuggle Adepts out of the city. He was killed and turned into an undead by Melisandre. (M)


    Lovinia Staunton

    The Burgermeister of Lastlight who took over when her husband Torrance was killed for helping adepts and Vata escape Kern. Unlike her husband she was less inclined to work with Aldean agents, but then, can you blame her? She is carrying on a secret relationship with Isabel Renier, who is in charge of security in the area. It would be mildly embarrassing if this came out and could cost Isabel her job but not life unless someone was having a bad day. (A)

    The Burgermeister of Lastlight and Torrance’s widow. You and Marcus were present when Melisandre killed her husband Torrance in front of her. She seemed suitably cowed. (N)

    The Burgermeister of Lastlight and Torrance’s widow. She refused to have anything to do with the Travelers of the Sunlit Path after the murder of her husband. You suspect much of this is fear rather than loyalty. (M)


    Harkon Timothy

    The new guardian of Lastlight after the last was…forgiven…by Melisandre for looking the other way when the Travelers of the Sunlit Path used the town as a stopover (thus was allowed to return to the cycle). Pretty much the entire town ships Harkon with Lovinia, but Harkon is more easily swayed by pretty men, the bishier the better. (A)

    The guardian of Lastlight after his predecessor was killed by Melisandre. You don’t know much about him except he is apparently very loyal to Lovinia. (M)


    Isabel Renier

    Isabel Renier is responsible for security in the general area of Lastlight, outside military operations, of course. She is carrying on a secret affair with Lovinia which means her ability to monitor Lastlight, and it’s Burgermeister, for sedition is compromised. Also, she had a Vata’An sister who was hidden as long as they could but was discovered and murdered, so between these things you may be able to leverage her one way or another. She has a soft spot for blondes. (A)

    Isabel Renier is responsible for security in the general area of Lastlight, outside military operations, of course. She is loyal to the Seven so far as you know. (N)

    Isabel Renier is responsible for security in the general area of Lastlight, outside military operations, of course. Her friendship with Lovinia Staunton was enough that she never apparently investigated Travelers of the Sunlit Path passing through Lastlight. She was never specifically an ally, however. (M)

    --
    Hopefully that has piqued your interest. Next week we start Dark Tides Cresting, and then in two weeks anyone who came up in next Friday’s game and we have intelligence for gets posted.

    Just as a note, Auchindoun is a castle in Scotland. There is a Child Ballad about the burning of it. Yes, I know there was a castle in WoW named that. Yes, I am tired of it being brought up. (I should have just called it Mel Senshir)

    Hope you enjoyed and see you next week. Of course, Comments and Questions are welcome.
    Last edited by Baroness Nerak; 01-25-2019 at 05:53 PM.
    Running: Blue Rose AGE (Cat's Cradle)
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  2. #42
    OPA Belta Baroness Nerak's Avatar
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    Re: Blue Rose: Cat's Cradle (Actual Play)

    The icy wastes of Kern represent the greatest threat to all life in Aldea, or so they say. And the Cradle are going to walk into it.

    As a reminder, any information the PCs got on handouts about what they already knew about the backstory is in the post above. Feel free to consult it.

    Session XXVII

    Dark Tides Cresting Part I

    Ashlin’s Reports

    Report from Ash, decoded by Kait, sent 5 Gravihain

    I mean, I know this is like my test for master spy and everything, but I always imagined it a bit a daring do with me out on my lonesome, and only me to take the fall if I screwed up… Not that lives aren’t on the line whenever a spy is sent out, it’s just a little more, hmm, visceral? Personal. Something like that. However, we have, collectively, come up with an excellent cover, and the fact that we are over the border and solidly in Kernish territory is only completely nerve-wracking.

    You know the situation of course, but to lay it all out - Trebizond asked for a very particular team of Sovereign’s Finest to infiltrate Kern to look into the movements going on just across from Auchindoun, movements Trebizond thinks are precursors to trying to take the fortress and possibly have the backing of 3 of the Seven. So, serious stuff. As it turns out, Melisandre (one of the key orchestrators) has a leak, someone working for her that’s been feeding us info, and wants out. Our task, now that we’re here, is to wait for an unspecified ‘package’ to show up in an abandoned barn on the other side of Lastlight, which will provide us with information on the next stage of the operation, which will likely involve, at some point, extricating our contact.

    There’s some political stuff going on at Auchindoun too, thankfully nothing we have to do with, yet. The Knights of Purity are not the most easy going of individuals to deal with (except for Zacchaeus, who is easy going enough for all of them, so it balances out, I suppose – they definitely should give him that wenching allowance, he’s shouldering so much of their easygoing burden), and our Knights of the Blue Rose are making showboat-y style political moves to show up the regular army here, getting Commander D’Val recalled and all that. Tensions that are either going to be really exciting once the fireworks start, or sort themselves out immediately in the heat of battle. Amaiala did want direct reports, but Trebizond’ll be deciding about that – clearly the most reasonable psychic contact target, and probably the first person who’ll be told when we get back in person.

    Anyway, our job was to get into Kern. Now, thanks to Maria’s work smuggling people out, and Jana having been smuggled out at some point, folks in Lastlight would probably have recognized them. Poor Maria, in particular, by the way – a lot of the intel we’ve gotten and/or been over has been a list of people she once knew who are dead or undead at the point. She has not been the happiest of folks, though Darcy and Saoirse did their best to distract her, and she has enjoyed getting into character.

    The original inspiration was largely hers, in fact. Well, we had decided to go in as ‘traders’/smugglers – an easy explanation for whatever suspicious behavior we might get caught at, easy to explain our, let’s say, less concealable traits, easy to cover at least a slightly extended stay. When Maria was getting her face changed by Tanith, she asked to be made into a canny old woman, ‘smuggler grandmom’ I believe was the wording. So we became ‘Momma’s Family’. I, Oskar, am clearly her favorite, because I am the prettiest. Not a thought in my head, but who needs those when you have exactly the kind of androgynous pretty boy look that Sheriff Harkon likes so much? Darcy is Enzo, the surly disgraced Roamer, ejected from his caravan after stealing from his own family, can you believe it? He’s our teamster, naturally. Jadzia is Gan, a Rezean mercenary we’ve hired. Jana also had her face done by Tanith, and is Sara, the oldest daughter, a plain woman who works metal, doing the odd tinkering job, sharpening knives, that kind of thing. And Tanith herself is Imke, clearly the obvious heir to Momma’s canniness and sharp wit, and the lead barker. She very firmly chose not to go for any Shaping alterations, just some good old fashioned costuming – could be risky, but I can’t say I disapprove, even if we have very different reasoning. She’s got a history of Shaping, apparently, so it wouldn’t be easily reversible, if it went beyond basic cosmetic stuff.

    Any road, we got good and set in our personas in the roughly day and a half it took us to go the long way ‘round to Lastlight. We ran under a couple of wyvern patrols, but passed muster, apparently, so no worries there. We did have a bit of excitement after we camped. Something with, just, entirely too many appendages (I think Maria called it a chaos beast?) attacked in the night, but Darcy and Maria dealt with it handily by the time the rest of us finished shaking off sleep.

    Here in town things have gone swimmingly. We fiddled with the cart that we borrowed from Auchindoun (as well as enough doodads and geegaws to pass as ‘traders’) so that it looked damaged enough to require some repairs, thus giving us our cover for sticking around for awhile that would allow us to leave as soon as we got our next steps – if we’ve been delayed by a broken wheel, we’ll be behind schedule for… whatever it is we’re planning on doing. It was a sleepy town, much bigger than it needed to be these days. It was full of mansions, many of which were unoccupied, and those that were clearly only were partially occupied. It was an odd feeling, as odd as all the general ‘feelings’ of things had been since we got into Kern. It’s not a super great place, in case you were wondering.

    Anyhow, we caught the eye of the guardian Harkon, as well as Isobel, the head of the region’s militia. I mean, we caught the eye of everyone in town, s’kinda the point, but they are who we were fishing for. I had let Tanith in on the dirt I had on Isobel, so her goal was to play up both the blonde and the vata angle, and see what she could get on that front. Best case scenario, she and her militia would defect and help out in whatever fight broke out. Well, let’s be real, that’s not actually the best case, cause it would likely mean at least one town would get slaughtered off the map, if not all of them out of spite. But having her at least sympathetic to our side would be nice however.

    Harkon was my mark. We didn’t have anything in particular on him, other than his tastes, but I was hoping to keep tabs on him, or at least help him have a better view of us itinerant folk. It worked like a charm. He mostly bragged about how awesome a job the guardian of the town had done recently (leaving out that he had become guardian even more recently than all that), and warning me to be careful around Isobel, since she had ambitions and an excess of control of the local burgermeisters. Poking around his room (I got him good and drunk first , don’t worry, and since he can obviously out-drink lil old me, I couldn’t have gotten up to anything while he was passed out) revealed more about Isobel again than him, as he had stolen the letters she’d written to Burgermeister Lovinia, love letters that also laid out a plan to have her militia take advantage of the fighting to loot the area, take a cut of the profits, and run away with Lovinia to somewhere they could be together openly. The burgermeister seemed to have not be entirely sold on it, as the letters kept pressing it.

    I also found some musings of his about how he’d really like to kill the particular Skull Knights that killed the former guardian, who had been his lover. Can’t say I blame him – more power to him really. Who knows, maybe we’ll wind up helping him out too. Hopefully it won’t come to out and out combat, but I don’t know why we’d hold back from taking out a Skull Knight if we needed to. I’m sure Jadzia would enjoy it.

    Tanith had similar luck. Isobel seemed a little less steeped in the propaganda of the area, or maybe was just playing it up less for the benefit of her audience. Tanith found less direct evidence of Isobel’s plans, but was pretty sure that she was preparing to flee the area even before I reported in. There’s definitely not a whole lot of strong loyalty to country there (the box of bones of a vata teenager probably has something to do with that) and on the whole, that’s looking like it has solid possibilities.

    Sara and Momma made some new friends too, as people gradually were drawn by the pull of the well-made sharpening tools, and the prospect of something new and interesting to look at. We apparently dodged a bullet in camping – we’d briefly considered pending the night on a rise near Ice Finger Lake, trusting in the mist and high ground to protect us, but there is, it seems, a monster in the lake, one that the Skull Knights are interested in bagging. Of course, it avoids the Skull Knights, somehow, but that doesn’t mean we’d have been safe. Momma asked after ‘those people who took my favorite son and my daughter’ (I’m definitely the favorite) and got mostly good news about our marks. Harkon is not as bad about abusing his position as the people had come to expect, though they were all pretty sure he was sleeping with the burgermeister. People were afraid of Isobel (as one might be expected to be, in their situation) but seemed to legitimately not have anything bad to say, even in a sideways way.

    So, we’re all set up, and got here before the package (I checked last night). Now all that remains is to wait it out, and I am cautiously optimistic on that front. There was apparently even talk of Imke getting together with Isobel and Lovinia in the near future, so maybe she can send a little encouragement the burgermeister’s way about getting out of here. And, really, anything that destabilizes the organizational structure of the area is a boon, on the large scale… though, we’re going to have to be careful to not get the countryside slaughtered for it. Gods, this place is wretched.

    [Cloven hoof mark]


    Jadzia’s Horse-Sense

    (Whispered in Rezean in the stables of Lastlight)

    “There, Dear One… calm yourself. No, I do not like this place much either, nor do I care for the necessity of hiding our identities while we remain here. I hope that our stay in Kern will be brief… yet I very much fear that we shall need to venture further into this vile country before we shall be allowed to leave it.

    “Believe me, I would like nothing more than to return to Auchindoun and the arms of my newest love. The castle was impressive, was it not? I suppose they made it so very tall due to the lack of flat ground upon which to expand. Though I found the view of the castle – and from the castle – somewhat vertiginous, I had no choice but to admire its strategic value. No army can traverse that pass without first taking the castle, and that would be… problematic to say the least.

    “Our all too brief stay in Auchindoun was punctuated by alternating periods of joy and frustration. My Snowfall was glad to see me again, and greeted our party personally as we entered the fortress, though the two of us spent much of this meeting displaying admirable restraint in front of the others present. Her good friend Zacchaeus was also a delight; as light-hearted and boastful as anyone I have ever met, belying the stereotypical image of his Jarzoni countrymen. The two of us got along instantly and made tentative plans to share drinks together in happier times.

    “His fellow knight Amaiala Arrora, however, was as priggish and self-righteous as you might please. I was already prepared to dislike her, based upon Alexis’ accounts of their recent dealings, and yet I was not prepared for the sheer immensity of her ego and her audacity. As Tanith had previously warned me against ‘making waves’ by upsetting any of our nominal allies, I was able to restrain myself – barely – and refrained from punching her in her smug face. And this was following one brief meeting with the woman. Truly, my Snowfall must have the patience of a saint.

    “It was nice to see Trebizond and Laodice again. We all thought so, though Maria had eyes only for Saoirse. Trebizond believes that Kernish forces – likely led by that bitch Melisandre – intend to move on Auchindoun shortly, and thereby gain a foothold in Aldin territory. This play has the support of at least three of the Seven, according to Trebizond. We do not know how they intend to take the fortress, but they must have some viable plan or they would not dare to begin the attack. That they are going to attack is not in question; Trebizond has a source within Melisandre’s household.

    “Our task was to penetrate the Kernish borders and reach a small hamlet about a day’s journey away known as Lastlight. There we would receive a message at a prearranged drop point. This message would not only illuminate Melisandre’s plans, but would provide us the information we need to extract Trebizond’s source safely. Trebizond allowed us to look over some of the missives from his informant. Jana did not say anything, but I saw her face when she read the unsigned missive. She recognized the hand and the cadence of the words. Trebizond’s source is Marcus.

    “Jana was quiet as we took our evening meal and prepared to bed down for the night, though the mood among the rest of us was jubilant. I boasted at one point, as I am sometimes wont to do when in high spirits, and Jana snapped that I should not underestimate the challenges which awaited us in Kern. I felt myself… chastened. Under other circumstances I might have been angry, but… the look in my Starlight’s eyes was most sobering. She faces the darkest pieces of her past, and she is afraid. Kern has taken much from her, and she does not want it to take the new life she has found as well.

    “Before Alexis and I retired for the evening, I stepped up to Jana and slipped my arms around her from behind. I told her in hushed tones that I had not meant to make light of her concerns, and that I would stand by her no matter the obstacles in our path. I kissed the top of her head – only possible for me because she was seated – and then allowed myself to be led away.

    “The evening was most pleasant, even if most of it was spent in actual slumber, following a brief but passionate reaffirmation of our affections. Our prolonged separation has not dimmed our feelings for each other, and we fell asleep in each other’s arms, still caressing and mumbling sweet endearments to each other.

    “We rose early the next morning. The Cat’s Cradle intended to disguise ourselves as a family of traveling peddlers. Maria and Jana, both of whom are known in this area, opted to change their appearances with Flesh Shaping arcana. Jana merely looks older and plainer, but Maria has undergone a full transformation, becoming a toothless, wrinkled old crone. Tanith, Jana, and Ashlin will be posing as her children, whether naturally or by adoption was left vague. Darcy is posing as a drover and teamster, while I am playing the role of a Rezean mercenary guard. This character’s name is Gan, so if you hear the others refer to me so, do not let it concern you.

    “We rode out early after saying our farewells, taking a somewhat circuitous path to Lastlight so that we might avoid the ghoul-infested battleground which lay astride the most direct route. Consequently, traveling as we were by wagon, it took us more than a day to reach the settlement. We spotted one wyvern patrol from far off, but they did little more than mark our presence and move on. We camped one evening, setting three watches as usual. Nothing of note occurred on my watch, though Maria and Darcy were forced to lay waste to a creature known as a ‘chaos beast.’ The battle was over before the rest of us were even roused from our slumber, so it can’t have been much of an opponent. I take some solace in that fact for missing the battle.

    “This country is a miserable place, and we all felt it as soon as we rode past its borders. Lastlight itself is a fairly dismal, oppressed village… though I suppose that is not the fault of its inhabitants. We immediately took rooms and set ourselves up as traveling merchants (or possibly smugglers). Jana employed herself as a tinker, sharpening knives and mending kettles. Darcy and I kept a wary eye upon her and Maria, while Tanith and Ashlin set about gathering information.

    “Ashlin allowed himself to be seduced by Harkon, the town’s ‘guardian.’ He seems an earnest if none too bright fellow, and Ashlin learned much about the inner workings of the town’s politics from him. Chief among these revelations was the fact that Isabel, the leader of the town’s militia, is engaged in an illicit affair with Lovinia, the town’s ‘burgermeister,’ which is I think a sort of mayor or chieftain. Isabel has written her lover letters urging her to run away with her, and outlining plans to utilize the coming battle as a distraction so the two of them can loot the area and escape together.

    “Tanith, in the meanwhile, had seduced Isabel herself. As the leader of the local militia, she is of key strategic import in any battle which might occur in the coming days. If we can convince her to withhold her militia – or perhaps even to turn them against the Kernish forces – then we will have struck a powerful blow for Aldis. On the other hand, if Lastlight acts against the Seven in this matter, we shall need to evacuate the town. None of us wants to leave these people to their tender mercies… especially not for the crime of helping us. But in any case, Tanith is in Isabel’s good graces at the moment, and might have the opportunity to extend her influence to Lovinia in the near future.

    “Ashlin also crept out to an abandoned barn on the outskirts of town to check on the package from Trebizond’s contact. It had not yet arrived as of last night. And so we must wait.

    “I hate waiting.

    “I hate this country.

    “The idea of waiting for something to happen in this country is intolerable. Perhaps we should take a ride together.”


    Jana’s Letters

    Dear Mother,

    I’m coming home. I didn’t particularly want to, but our assistance was asked for specifically by Trebizond in Auchindoun. He said that he needed our services for a very important mission. When we arrived in Auchindoun we talked with him, Laodice, Saoirse, Alexis, and two Knights of Purity, Zacchaeus and Amaiala Arrora. Trebizond wanted us to go to the town of Lastlight and meet up with an agent of his and extract said agent, who was a member of Melisandre’s staff. This agent had sent missives to Trebizond explaining what was going on. It seems that three of the Seven are planning an attack on Auchindoun so they can get a foothold in Aldis. That would be bad. It’s especially bad that three of the Regents are actually working together to accomplish this. I wonder which of the Seven are involved? The thing that startled me a bit was when Trebizond showed us the letters from his spy. It was Marcus’ handwriting. It was his words. I’d know them anywhere. I was both overjoyed and scared beyond reason that Marcus is the spy within Melisandre’s staff. If he is found out then he is facing a fate worse than death. Melisandre is a vindictive bitch and would delight in turning him into a Shadow or some other undead to serve her. That’s of course if things go wrong. I can only hope that they go right. I don’t know how much weight my words have with the gods, but I can only hope that Marcus will be safe.

    After we had made our plans about going to Kern I took Maria aside and talked to her about some things that I’ve wanted to tell her for a long time. I admitted to her that I had been in Lastlight when Torrance Staunton had been killed and turned into a Shadow for being a part of the resistance that helped adepts get out of Kern. He was then forced to serve Melisandre. I admitted to Maria that I’d been there as a Skull Knight. I told her that I had been forced into their service and made to watch the execution. She was visibly upset by the news that I had to tell her and I decided that I would tell her that I’d been a part of the destruction of her lab at a later time. I figured that what I had told her was enough for a single day. She told me that we were still friends but that she would need to think about what I’d told her. She left our meeting visibly cowed and I felt bad that I had been the reason for that. I had wanted to tell her the truth for so long but was never sure when the right time was. I thought that since we were going to Kern and I might be killed I better tell her what I wanted her to know before such a thing could happen. She was definitely upset by my words, but promised that we were still friends. I could only hope that was true.

    Tonight we finalized our plans for going to Kern. I helped everyone pick through their gear and decide what they should take with them and what would be recognized right away. Immediately we put aside our Sovereign’s finest gear and Jadzia put aside the flaming mace that she’d gotten from the magma elemental. It would be too distinctive for her to carry. Kern has its spies in Aldis and they know what our group has achieved. They likely know who we are. So we had to put aside anything that identified us as us. At one point after we had gone through our gear we were talking around a fire and Jadzia was especially excited about our upcoming trip. She was not acting out of turn per se, but she was excited about the things that she would do and how she would beat back the forces of Kern. I was not especially happy with her showing and made no secret that I was not in a celebratory mood. She later came by and apologized for making light of my concerns and said that she would be there for me no matter the obstacles in our path. I nodded my appreciation to her for her words. I wanted to be able to tell them that Kern was like a living hell on earth, but I could not make the words come out. The best I could do was advise people about the gear they should carry and warn them about patrols and the secret police. I told them that the secret police could be anywhere, but I don’t think they fully grasped the idea of how terrifying that is. They can be anyone, a friend, a neighbor, a trusted confidant, anyone. We are going to Lastlight, which has already drawn the Seven’s attention for its role in the underground activities of the people that came before. The Sunlit Path. We are going to a place that has drawn attention before. I know that we are there because of Marcus and his intel, but I need my friends to understand just how careful we need to be. We’re supposed to pick up a package left in a barn. I don’t know if that package is supposed to be Marcus himself or something or someone else. I wish I knew. I wish I could talk to Marcus right now and find out exactly what’s going on, but I have to make do with quick reports and suggestions that he has passed along to the Aldin forces. I can only assume that Richter got him in contact with the Aldin forces and Marcus, being the man that he is, agreed to be their eyes and ears. I can only pray for his safety. I pray for all of our safety, for we are going into hell and so few of us really understand that, but they will soon enough.

    Love always,

    Jana


    Dear Mother,

    Today went better than I was expecting it to. We had planned out our cover story last night and agreed that we would take the longer, but safer path through the mountains, and that we’d be disguised as traders/smugglers. Because Maria and I had been to Lastlight before and may be recognized we had Tanith use flesh shaping to alter our appearance. I chose to look older, plainer and more careworn. Maria really got into it and decided to look like an older, yet spry, woman. Maria would be the matriarch of the group while the rest of us would be children or employees. Ash took the name Oskar, Maria was Mama, Darcy was Enzo, Tanith was Imke and Jadzia was Gan. I took the name Sarah. I looked in a mirror after Tanith finished and was impressed by how different I looked. I don’t know if Tanith noticed or not, but I was terrified by the idea of her using flesh shaping on me. It has been used so many times in Kern as a method of punishment or torture that it was hard to see it as a good thing. I knew I couldn’t go looking like myself though. Granted the last time I was in Lastlight I wore my helmet for a good bit of the time, but I couldn’t take the chance that someone in town might recognize me or someone might be secret police and report my presence. We are infiltrating Kern to prevent the Regents from succeeding at their plans and to get Marcus out. I wasn’t about to take any chances. Tanith herself adamantly did not want to be flesh shaped, and eventually explained to Darcy why. Well, partly why. She said that she’d been flesh shaped in the past and couldn’t risk doing it again because removing the arcanum from her might revert her back to her original features. So, instead Ashlin disguised her with make-up and different clothes. He really is very good at that.

    So, traveling along the path we chose worked out as well as it could have. We passed a few other travelers but not many. We also saw a couple of wyvern patrols overhead. One slowed down and circled us for a brief time but then moved on to continue their patrol. They have made note of our presence and will likely have someone keeping an eye on us as we travel through Kern, and probably once we get to Lastlight. I would be surprised if they didn’t.

    We camped in the lee of a hill and set watches throughout the night. The night passed mostly uneventfully. There was a brief scuffle between Maria, Darcy and a chaos beast. The chaos beast was quickly taken care of and everyone went back to sleep after being woken briefly. I should probably do the same. Tomorrow is going to be a trying day and I need my rest. I miss you.

    Love always,

    Jana


    Dear Mother,

    We arrived in Lastlight today. It looks a lot like it did the last time I was here. The only difference is how people are looking at me. Before they looked at me in fear and probably more than a little bit of hatred, but mostly fear. This time they looked on in curiosity and suspicion. Tanith immediately set to work trying to sell our wares and I set up shop as a tinker offering to mend pans or sharpen knives. I had a number of customers and struck up conversation with a few of them. Those that seemed predisposed towards talking anyway. I asked about their town and the surrounding area feigning ignorance. They told me that in the Ice Finger lake nearby there is a monster that lives beneath the surface. It is dangerous, though it seems to dislike Skull Knights and hides from them whenever they come to town. That led to me asking how often the Skull Knights come to Lastlight and they said sometimes. Apparently they don’t come by as much as they used to, but that was due to “mistakes” in the past. I’m assuming that was referring to Torrance Staunton and his execution and possibly some fallout from that day. I didn’t press for too much more. I didn’t want to seem overly interested. Expressing an interest in the town and nearby monsters is normal. Anyone would do that, but expressing too much interest in the Skull Knights could bring the wrong kind of attention. Especially if the person you’re talking to is secret police.

    I also found out that there was a mysterious stranger in town recently who talked to the Burgermeister and then left. No one was sure if the stranger was a man or woman either. There is also the general fear among the townsfolk that Aldis is planning to launch an attack on Lastllight. I couldn’t tell them the truth, but I expressed my doubt as far as those suspicions went.

    While I was talking to the townsfolk and putting my still new skills as a blacksmith to use Ash/Oskar chatted up Harkon, the town’s defender. Ash was playing the pretty boy who wasn’t too bright though beloved by “Mama.” He managed to get Harkon to seduce him and they went to the inn to get drinks. After Harkon had passed out Ash went through his stuff and found letters between Isabel (the leader of the town’s militia) and Lovinia (the Burgermeister). Isabel, in the letters, is trying to get Lovinia to leave town with her after they amass enough wealth to get by. Ash also discovered that Harkon has a secret dream to kill the Skull Knights that killed his predecessor, who he was secretly lovers with. The problem is that Knights always wear their helmets so he couldn’t identify them if he wanted to. Before he got too drunk Harkon did warn Ash/Oskar that his family (us) shouldn’t speak too loudly in front of Isabel because she has her own ambitions and has the Burgermeister in her hands.

    Tanith on the other hand was spending time with Isabel, who she also allowed to seduce her. She too allowed her mark to drink too much and went through her things. Tanith discovered that Isabel is in fact planning a trip. She has maps to several places hidden in her room. She also has the remains of a vata teenager among her belongings. I can only assume that she is hiding them so they cannot be used to raise the poor girl from the dead as something evil.

    Maria found out much the same information that the rest of us did when she asked the townsfolk about the two locals who’d seduced her “children.” Those people that she talked to said that Harkon was not a bad man and generally had good things to say about him. They said that Mama would likely get Oskar back okay. When it came to Isabel though the people were very careful about what they said. No one said anything bad about her, nor overly good either. They were just cautious in their phrasing. It turns out that Isabel is part of the militia and can press anyone she wants into service whenever she wants. Hence the locals being really careful about what they said and trying not to anger her. I know the feeling. I tried very hard not to attract the attention of the local militia, but I think my father had other plans. I got recruited to be a guard but only after it became clear that besides a little healing I was not going to be doing much with arcanum. Once in the guard I still tried to keep my head down. I didn’t want to draw too much attention, but somehow I did. Or my father pushed someone, and I got recruited to be a Skull Knight. And it’s not like I could say no. You don’t refuse such a vaunted position without repercussions. I really didn’t want to find out what those repercussions would be either.

    So, there we are. We made it to Kern unharmed and have spent our first day here with nothing untoward happening. Ash even checked that barn that the package was supposed to be left at and found it empty. It seems that we will have more time here than I was hoping for. Thankfully we had planned for that. Darcy grumbled when we arrived that one of the wheels would need to be repaired before we could leave and immediately set about to doing just that. I think he had done some damage to it himself, being careful to make it look like it was just regular wear and tear. So, we have our excuse to stay in town for longer than the townsfolk would expect us to. They’re not going to complain that we are staying. We bring in outside money and trade; it’s all good for them. I doubt that they’ll trust us all that much being strangers and all, but the fact that most of us don’t sound like we’re from Kern will lend credence to the idea that we’re foreigners. I can’t hide my accent, nor can Maria, but having one or two locals among the trader’s group also makes sense.

    I don’t know if Kern is what my friends expected it to be. Jadzia seems more subdued than she had before, as does Tanith. Those were the two that seemed the most excited to be coming here. I think though that their mood dampened when we crossed the border. Kern has an undeniably oppressive feeling. It’s almost palpable when you cross the border. You know that you’re no longer safe. Not even death is a guarantee of peace. So many sorcerers wouldn’t think twice about raising someone from the dead to do their bidding. Either that or they get changed into a vampire. Neither way is good. Though not long ago Tanith mentioned that she can raise someone from the dead if she can get to them within an hour or two of death. At first I was horrified, and a look must have come across my face because my lover was quick to reassure me that she can restore someone to life, not un-life, and that is a big difference. To be able to bring someone back to the land of the living is a wonderful thing. I’m sure it must take a pure heart to be able to do such a thing. The people I know in Kern, like Melisandre and others, would never consider bringing someone back to life. They would just raise them as undead and gain a servant. I don’t even know if that woman is capable of doing what Tanith can do. Sometimes I forget, but today it seemed plain to me that Melisandre and Tanith are related. I could see my lover beneath the makeup. I know her face so well, and her looks and mannerisms remind me of that evil woman. I hate to think such things, but they are family. There are bound to be similarities. Though I wish there weren’t. Tanith and Melisandre are like opposite sides of arcana. Tanith is pure and light while Melisandre is evil and dark. I can only hope that my Tanith is not tarnished by being so close to her grandmother and this place. She is my bright flower amongst the grey surroundings and I want her to stay that way.

    Love always,

    Jana


    Tanith’s Diary

    I am in Kern in one the most dangerous missions of my life.

    Auchindoun was lovely. I had heard of it, and seen images from mental connections, but never stood at the foot of the mountain fortress before. It is awe inspiring, it really reminds you of your role in the eternal dance. That you are part of something greater. Inside, we were greeted by lovely knights, old friends. Also Zacchaeus, a Knight of Purity who was…remarkably laid back. Former tomb robber, his rough and tumble upbringing shows, especially compared to his counterpart Amaiala Arrora. Alexis Winter and Saoirse, as well as Trebizond and Laodice were friendly faces to see. Trebizond wants us to go to the town of Lastlight, which both Maria and Jana have been to, and get a communique from an agent on the inside. We need to extract this agent and follow any instructions they give. It’s exciting and dangerous.

    Ashlin, cunning fennec as they are, came up with a cover story for us, with Maria’s enthusiastic help. She was “Mamma” and the rest of us were family, blood or otherwise, as traveling merchants and smugglers. I was to be Imke. Ashlin had me (consensually) change Maria and Jana. They wanted me to change too, but while I love Flesh Shaping, and am happy to make changes to people; given my own history and path to womanhood, I value it, and periodically have had my hair color changed (though I have pretty well stayed blonde most of the time, which feels very right). But a full-face change is going to need a full reset, and that cannot happen. So I had Ash disguise me. It seemed the only way.

    We spoke to a scout named Lakshmi and following her advice took the long route to Lastlight. We were smugglers/merchants, so not being too sneaky. We saw some Wyverns overhead but they paid us little mind. We camped that night in the lee of a hill; apparently we were attacked by a Chaos Beast overnight, but Darcy and Maria killed it before we fully woke.

    We arrived in Lastlight late morning. Ash, who was playing the soft, handsome son of “Mamma” she loved most, had directed me toward Isabel Renier, the leader of the local militia. Ash themselves pursued Harkon Timothy, the town guardian. Neither were the mayor, or Burgermeister; that was Lovinia Staunton, who was the widow of the previous Burgermeister. Apparently, he was killed breaking up Maria’s Sunlight Path, and Jana was involved but did not kill him herself (that I know of.) Isabel was not prepared for a sophisticate such as myself; she was in the palm of my hand very quickly. I lead her up the path but stopped her at the gate, so she would be all riled up that evening. Ash seemed to pick a similar tactic. That night Isabel picked me up, got me dinner, and we spent a wild night. I did not go all out, but enough to make her go to sleep before I was too tired.

    Ash similarly worked over Harkon, and we both searched the respective houses. As far as we found out, Isabel (who has been carrying on an affair with Lovinia, and I am not going to ask how Ash already knew) was trying to convince Lovinia to have her use the militia to do some looting of bodies (and towns…) so they could run off together. We only had it from her side, but Lovinia was apparently a hard sell. Isabel is apparently devoted; she wanted to either share me with Lovinia or have me spend a night with just Lovinia without her.

    This puts me in an ugly place. I want to, of course, help Lovinia and Isabel…but not at the expense of their neighbors. And especially given history of the town it will likely be put to the sword. We can’t move the whole population out…can we?

    I was looking forward to finally visiting Kern, the head of my bloodline. Now I can’t wait to get out.

    End Session XXVII

    Nothing ominous there, yeah?

    So for those curious, Alexis is a Knight, Zacchaeus is a Shapeshifter, and Amaiala is a Sacred Warrior.

    The PCs had to leave their Sovereign’s Finest gear and artifact from the Elemental behind, limiting their combat abilities, though they still made short work of the Chaos Beast, Darcy and Maria killed it before anyone else woke up.

    Next week will be any places or people who pop up in the session tomorrow and were in the handout will have that info up, and in two weeks we continue the story. Comments and Questions welcome.
    Running: Blue Rose AGE (Cat's Cradle)
    Weirdo
    "That queer Goth chick." "You are going to have to be more specific"

  3. #43
    OPA Belta Baroness Nerak's Avatar
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    Re: Blue Rose: Cat's Cradle (Actual Play)

    It’s time to look ahead to see what the group is heading toward. The same abbreviations apply to this list as before. Enjoy.

    --
    Marrowgarde

    A large city a ways north of Lastlight. Several wealthy citizens are there, several of the Seven have homes there but none spend most of their time there. (A, D, N, M, T)


    Ivania Ducas

    Ivana Ducas is one of the owners of Scarletglass, a home in Marrowgarde with her wife Nostalia. A sorceress and thoroughly unpleasant woman, she bullies anyone, man or woman, who her wife (who is also in her 70s but still looks young being Vata) seems to take a shine to, which makes her so ridiculously easy to manipulate Jadzia could do it. (A)

    Ivania Ducas is one of the owners of Scarletglass, a home in Marrowgarde with her wife Nostalia. A sorceress and thoroughly unpleasant woman, she bullies anyone, man or woman, who her wife (who is also in her 70s but still looks young being Vata) seems to take a shine to, which has included Marcus in the past. Fortunately, she retains a healthy respect for Skull Knights. (N)


    Nostalia Ducas

    A Vata’Sha and other owner of Scarletglass. Nostalia is flirty, charming and a Domme. She loves extravagant parties and she and Melisandre get along like a house on fire. Many in Marrowgarde look ahead to when her wife finally kicks off. If you don’t have ideas already change specializations. (A)

    A Vata’Sha and other owner of Scarletglass. Nostalia is flirty, charming and a Domme. She loves extravagant parties and she and Melisandre get along like a house on fire. She is also a good friend of Irena. Many in Marrowgarde look ahead to when her wife finally kicks off. (N)


    Camille Monette

    An activatable agent in Marrowgarde, Camille is a noble who has lost too much to the Jarek and the Seven to forgive them. She is considered reliable if you bring her into your plans. On the downside she is stabby when angered and most vampires would sort of suggest she dial back her fascination with blood. Neighbors regard her as a friendly psychobitch. (A)

    A noble in Marrowgarde. Rumor has it she is a psychopath who loves killing people. She has always seemed quite pleasant around you, does not seem fond of Melisandre, so no sign of it but then it is Kern, you would not be surprised. (N)


    Romaine Foxglove

    A daring rogue operating in southern Kern. She occasionally does favors for varies parties before Jarek’s fall, now she is taking advantage of the chaos. (A, N, M)

    --
    Intrigued? I hope so. Next session is next week, and that was the last of the handout information. See you then. Comments and Questions welcome.
    Last edited by Baroness Nerak; 02-08-2019 at 12:14 AM.
    Running: Blue Rose AGE (Cat's Cradle)
    Weirdo
    "That queer Goth chick." "You are going to have to be more specific"

  4. #44
    OPA Belta Baroness Nerak's Avatar
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    Re: Blue Rose: Cat's Cradle (Actual Play)

    A mysterious ball is held in the depths of Kern, with ghosts and other undead. The Cradle must infiltrate and come face to face with a long time foe.

    Jana’s entry starts with a short story taking place after the end of the session. Also, note some characters are discussed above.

    Session XXVIII

    Dark Tides Cresting Part II

    Ashlin’s Reports

    Report from Ash, decoded by Kait, sent 9 Gravihain

    For the record (cause I know you were wondering) writing in code on a trader’s wagon racing down the road with potential sorcerous pursuit on your trail and definitely sorcerous artifacts (yes, it’s plural) in your parties possession is… less than fun, we’ll say. Gotta get this out there though – no better activity to spend your last hour alive than finishing up the paperwork, am I right? To be serious though, for a moment at least, the mission has been a success so far – all that’s left is the running the fuck away part.

    So, the package showed up the next day, too all appearances dropped off by the only raven I saw in the entire town, our entire stay. It was a letter, from one Marcus Wynn, a map detailing the route to Marrowgarde, and three elaborate masquerade outfits. As it turns out, this Marcus was a good friend of Jana’s, from her previous life in Kern – Skull Knights are frightening friends to have, I presume, but she insisted he was a good man, and he did defect, so there’s that.

    His letter detailed Melisandre’s plan. She had forged a soul gem, created from a Sorcerer Queen’s soul. It would enable her to control large masses of undead, making them focused and of one mind. It would also allow her to control darkfiends, regardless of their summoner, and gave her some sort of scrying ability. That would, of course, be a devastating attack on Auchindoun, and couldn’t be allowed to go forward. She was planning to attend a masquerade party at Marrowgarde, hosted by the Ducas family. Marcus was to be one of her bodyguards, and Irina (Melisandre’s lover, who Maria pulled down out of the sky) was the other. The gem would also be there, a strange choice, unless, of course, you wanted to lure your granddaughter into a position where she could be corrupted to follow your path…

    So, yeah, it seemed like a big trap. Only three people can use the soul gem, Melisandre, Tavia, and (drumroll please)… Tanith. It has a horribly corrupting influence on everything around it, and is extremely powerful besides. Darcy hasn’t reported any problems (he’s been holding onto it) but I, for one, look forward to locking the thing in a deep, deep vault, far out of the reach of anyone who might want to use it. And don’t worry, we didn’t just assume trap and go from there – I figured it was more of a win-win-win for Melisandre: either she has an extremely powerful soulgem to take Auchindoun with, or she lures her granddaughter in and captures her, or her granddaughter gets a hold of a terribly tempting evil artifact, specifically attuned to her. All bad options, but I believe the one we chose was the best of them.

    Once we got the package, we left – as soon as our wagon was ‘fixed’ of course. Isabel’s mood had changed significantly the second day, obsequious in a ‘please don’t kill me’ kind of way. It seemed fairly clear that she had recognized a family resemblance between Tanith and Melisandre, so that was worrying. Lovinia also had a paranoid aspect to her – it seemed like a bit of jealousy at first, but after Isabel’s mood change, it seemed more likely Isabel had shared something. It seemed best to get on the road, and lean on the Lastlight crew only if it seemed like it was going to be helpful.

    I filled the others in on what I knew about Ivania Ducas’ jealousy issues, and Nostalia’s flirtations with Melisandre. I also maybe spilled a bit about Camille Monette – we didn’t wind up having to activate her (I wasn’t looking forward to managing the whole stabby thing anyway), but since they were going to be in a position to call upon her help, and I wasn’t, I thought it would be good if they knew who to look for. We did wind up getting help from Romaine Foxglove. She’s scarpered off on her own, but we may be needing to give someone asylum soon.

    See, she was rescued as a child by a rhy-raven named Lucifer – the very same raven that delivered Marcus’ package to Lastlight. He’s a damn good spy/informant, apparently, since nobody notices a raven sitting on a tree, at least most of the time. He got spotted at least once, or else he’d still have both eyes. He’s getting on in years though, and Romaine’s worried about him, trying to get him to retire to Aldis. He’s worried about her as well, since she’s like a daughter to him. We’ll see how that goes once the immediate problem has been solved.

    So our plan was that Tanith, Jana, and Maria all go to the masquerade, in mask, of course. Apparently it is custom in Kern, or at least in Marrowgarde, to attend such things in threes. Darcy, Jadzia, and I would be joining Romaine in her pilfering of the house – when we approached her (Darcy did a spectacular bit of showmanship at the inn when we arrived to get her attention, and thus an invitation to a meeting), she had already been planning on stealing from Nostalia, a ring that bound a young woman named Tatiana away from the Cycle as a ghostly presence under the Ducas’ control. She had no problems with joining our purposes, as the only reason she hadn’t considered stealing the soul gem in a serious way was that she had no way of dealing with it once she had it.

    Things started off well (and I’ll be honest, went fairly well throughout). Romaine knew a good way in (leaping down from the nearby city wall into a side courtyard) and out (jumping from the highest part of the obsidian glass mansion onto the walls again, then down a rope ladder Lucifer had left for us). She also had handy vials of highly flammable oil, perfect for immolating your own head if things turned bad, which at least prevented necromancers from raising you as anything but a ghost. Bran’s heart, but Kern is a wretched place.

    There were a couple of shades guarding the door in, but we took them out immediately in an ambush. It took us some time to rifle through the rooms that Romaine thought were most likely to contain something like the soul gem. We found a couple of nice-looking knives – I took one cause you never know when you need a good knife, Jadzia took one as a trophy, I’m pretty sure – but thankfully it wasn’t too long before we found a room with a large black vault. It was being guarded by a hell of a spectre, so we figured it for our eventual target. Just in case, we left it be until we found the ring.

    That was right where Romaine expected it, hidden in Nostalia’s jewelry box. Tatiana was set to guard it, but I managed to distract her with some kind conversation long enough for Romaine to grab hold of it, and put her to sleep. She was hired to steal it by the girl’s parents – hopefully they, or someone they know, knows how to help her find true peace.

    As it turns out, we needn’t have worried quite so much about the spectre. I held myself ready, and dived into the room as soon as Darcy and Romaine engaged. I rolled to my feet, ready to multitask, and dodge while I picked, to find that there was nothing in the room but the afterimages of Darcy’s blasts of holy light. So I only have to single-task, which got me in in a lickety-split. It was in fact the hiding place of the soul gem, as well as a small skull that seemed to be made of ruby. Darcy grabbed that, tucking it into a pouch, while putting the soul gem in a small box Maria had created just for that purpose, a sturdy wooden box lined with a thin layer of very hard stone, which she thought might help shield whoever was holding it. Four shades popped up as soon as he had taken it from the vault, but they were just as easily dealt with.

    So we snuck on down to a balcony overlooking the ballroom. It was an absolutely striking place, filled with a twisted version of the most grandiose balls I’ve ever seen in Aldis. The lighting was ghostfire, as opposed to sha crystals, and the servers wandering the room were skeletal, and I am, of course, not being euphemistic. The masks seemed all the more sinister for their surroundings. Especially Melisandre’s. She seemed to be wearing an oddly distorted vata woman’s face as her mask. I wouldn’t have made the connection, considering how distorted it was, but with how much Tanith was muttering over the mind link at the beginning of the event, I managed to piece together that it was Tanith’s mother’s face.

    When us sneaky folks got around to the balcony, Jana was dancing with a Skull Knight, who I presumed (correctly) was Marcus. Maria was whispering a few subtle words to Ivania, who immediately strode off towards Nostalia, who had been dancing with Melisandre. Unfortunately, that was not enough to pull Melisandre’s attention from Tanith, so while everyone else was able to slip away and join us, she was still on the dance floor when we decided to perform our final non-running away act of the mission. Oh, did I mention? We deciding to leave by (metaphorically) setting the place on fire, by which I mean take the opportunity to return Maria’s friend Torrance to the Cycle. He was a shade, part of Melisandre’s entourage, and there was no way we were leaving him as he was.

    So, we all attacked (well, those of us with the range for it), releasing Torrance’s spirit with a single volley. Melisandre swung around immediately, a red psychic blade slicing towards Tanith. She got her own yellow light-blade up just in time, deflecting the blow so that it was only a scratch. Even as she struck back, Maria was reaching out, and grabbed and pulled Tanith to join us using her magics. Jadzia released another arrow, burying it deep in Melisandre’s shoulder with a glare and a promise to see her again. Then, since Irina was well on her way up the decorative banners and almost in swinging range of our perch, we ran.

    Tanith guarded our back with a ward, and Darcy shone with holy light, keeping most of the undead away. A few shades tried to slow us down, but we powered through without even properly stopping. We made it out before Moroes, the insanely dangerous undead butler, caught up with us, there were no accidents jumping down to the wall, and the ladder was there, just as Lucifer promised, though Maria chose to walk down on the air, which is still just the coolest trick. Lucifer was waiting with our cart and horses too, and once we were off, he and Romaine disappeared into the night. I’m sure she has a safe place to lie low for awhile – she did mention that she had been looking forward to getting almost caught by Nostalia, again.

    We’re on our way home now. Leave the light on?

    [Cloven hoof mark]


    Jadzia’s Horse Sense

    (Whispered in Rezean on the road from Marrowgarde)

    “This is better, is it not, Dear One? Even this pestilential country seems bearable when we are given leave to run free… though all the forces of our enemies might be in pursuit. And victory always increases the savor of the day.

    “As you know, we did not spend much more time in Lastlight following our last conversation. In part this was due to the fact that we received the promised intelligence from Trebizond’s source… a rhy-raven named Lucifer delivered it to the abandoned barn, though we did not know his precise identity until later. The parcel contained three elaborate costumes and valuable information about our goals.

    “Marcus Wynn was indeed Trebizond’s informant, and he identified himself as such in his missive to us. He mentioned that he wished to defect, and that he had a loved one in Aldis. What? Yes Salkhi, of course he was referring to Jana… who else? He also told us that Melisandre had managed to create a powerful sorcerous artifact called a Soul Gem… one which would allow her to control large numbers of undead at once, and even darkfiends summoned by other sorcerers. With such a large and powerful force assaulting, even such an impressive fortress as Auchindoun could not long stand unconquered.

    “Marcus warned us that the gem would attempt to corrupt its bearer unless they were possessed of a potent psychic shield. With this in mind, Maria set about creating a strongbox in which we could transport the vile thing… a box of shaped wood lined with a thin layer of stone. She hoped that this might provide some measure of protection from the artifact’s influence, but confessed that she was uncertain of its efficacy.

    “Marcus also told us that Melisandre and a cadre of her bodyguards – himself included – would be attending a fancy-dress party at the home of the Ducas family in the nearby city of Marrowgarde, and that she would be bringing the vile gem with her on this occasion. Why she should do so was unclear… it seemed a foolish and reckless thing to do, unless she was hoping to draw us out with the prospect of an easy raid. Some of my friends brought up a more disturbing possibility… that Melisandre might want Tanith to gain possession of the stone in the hopes that it might corrupt her.

    “Obviously, we cannot allow this to come to pass.

    “We had another reason to effect a hasty exit from Lastlight as well… the attentions of Tanith’s would-be admirer Isabel had changed subtly overnight. Their interactions had gained a fawning, obsequious cast… possibly indicating that Isabel had noted the family resemblance between Tanith and Melisandre. It was clear that we had outstayed our welcome, and thus left at first light the following morning.

    “The two-day journey was uneventful, though we frequently sighted wyvern-riders from afar. I found Marrowgarde more impressive than Lastlight, with its tall walls and towering architecture… though it shared the smaller hamlet’s oppressive air. We took rooms in a less reputable – and therefore more interesting – boarding house, and Darcy and I set about teaching this town the true meaning of humility. We each subdued many foes in the common room, and then bought a round of drinks for the house. For me this was just a way to let loose some of my pent-up frustrations upon this vile country… but Darcy used his winning ways and flair for the dramatic to attract the attention of a potential ally.

    “This ally was one Romaine Foxglove, a thief who has been working tirelessly against the regime of the Seven from behind the scenes… and a close friend of Lucifer, the very same rhy-raven who had delivered Marcus’ message to us in Lastlight. Darcy and Ashlin met with her the following evening and enlisted her aid in our imminent raid on the Ducas manor.

    “Our plans were as follows. Tanith, Jana, and Maria would infiltrate the party itself while wearing the costumes Marcus had provided and help to extricate Marcus from his current employment. Meanwhile, Darcy, Ashlin, Romaine and I would slip into the unoccupied portions of the manor and seek out Melisandre’s Soul Gem. Romaine had her own reasons for infiltrating the manor; the ghost of a young woman named Tatiana was enslaved to the Ducas manor, and her family wanted Romaine to free her. To do this she needed to find and take possession of the ring to which Tatiana’s soul was bound. We agreed to help her in this endeavor in exchange for her assistance with our own goals. Once we had the gem and the ring firmly in hand, we would cause a distraction (by killing Torrance Staunton, a shade whom Maria had known when he was alive) and then flee to the tallest tower of the estate, leap to the city walls, and make our escape via a rope ladder left by Lucifer… who also promised to have our mounts and cart waiting for us.

    “In the end, it went almost exactly as we had planned. Tanith, Jana, and Maria successfully infiltrated the ballroom and made contact with Marcus. Unfortunately, Melisandre recognized her granddaughter almost immediately and swooped in to dance with her. Maria did her best to sow dissent and jealousy among the ballroom’s denizens, but in the end it did not matter much.

    “For our part, we cut through the Ducas mansion’s defenders like a scythe through grass. Shades fell before us in groups of four; we barely slowed our advance when we fought them. A spectre provided a marginally greater challenge, but it too failed to stand before us. We located the vault in which the Soul Gem was kept in short order, but decided to forgo obtaining it until after we had freed Tatiana and were ready to affect our exit.

    “Luckily the ring was not far away. Tatiana attempted to stop us from pilfering her master’s possessions, but went to sleep at Romaine’s command once she held the ring. With that out of the way we returned to the vault in which the Soul Gem was held and Ashlin picked the lock. Inside we found not just the Soul Gem, but another artifact as well… a small skull carved from a single ruby. We could all feel the palpable evil emanating from both of the objects, and hastened to put the Gem in the box Maria had created.

    “With the objects of our quest in hand – plus an unlooked-for bonus – we made our way to the balcony surrounding the mansion’s grand ballroom, letting our companions know that the time of our escape was nigh. Jana, Marcus, and Maria managed to extricate themselves from the dance floor and meet us on the balcony, but Tanith was unable to slip away from the watchful eyes of her grandmother.

    “The game was up once we loosed our attacks upon Staunton, of course. The shade fell quickly before our combined might, but Melisandre reacted instantly, summoning up a glowing red blade and leveling a strike at Tanith. My lover drew forth her own blade of light and deflected the worst of the attack, but she was still hurt by her grandmother’s assault. I saw red, and vowed that I would not let such an affront go unpunished. I bent my bow, took careful aim, and let a shaft fly straight and true toward the bitch’s heart. Alas, she turned to regard me at the last moment, and the arrow found purchase only in her shoulder. Maria used her arcana to scoop Tanith up to join us on the balcony, and I quietly vowed to Melisandre that we would finish our battle at another time.

    “Prior to this meeting, Melisandre’s grudges were against my two lovers. Now she knows who I am as well, and has cause to hate me.

    “Good. I prefer it that way. Anything that draws her ire away from those dearest to me can only be a good thing.

    “Our enemies sent their servants after us, and more shades moved in to bar our escape, but these challenges failed to even slow our exit, let alone stop us. We fled into the upper reaches of the manse, then quickly hopped to the city’s outer wall and found the rope ladder just where Lucifer had promised it would be. And of course you and the other horses were waiting for us below, tireless as always and ready to see us swiftly away from our pursuers. I thank you once again for your aid, Salkhi… I know that I can always depend upon you.

    “And now we ride for the border, and for Auchindoun… and of course, for Alexis, though it occurs to me now that I might need to put off the pleasure of that particular reunion for a time. My Sunflower is restless. She has suffered a number of significant shocks over the past few days. The reunion with her grandmother was… not pleasant. I am told that Melisandre’s disguise for the masquerade resembled the rotting face of Tanith’s mother, which can only have been deliberate.

    “She is also angry with Darcy for keeping the Soul Gem. And to be fair, her argument has merit. We know that the Soul Gem will try to corrupt any person who holds it for an extended time, and that only a psychic shield is capable of guarding against this corruption. Darcy possesses no such shield, and for this reason, Tanith believes that she would be better suited to carry the vile thing. And I might agree with her… were we not also certain that Melisandre intended the Gem as a trap to tempt Tanith into darkness. Perhaps I will have a quiet word with Maria about taking over as custodian of the stone.

    “And then there is the matter with Jana and Marcus. They ride together in the wagon a short distance behind us, closeted away from any who might overhear them. My Starlight has been reunited with one she cares for deeply; one for whose safety she has feared for many months. I cannot fault her for being a little blind to the rest of us at the moment, and I do not begrudge her the time she would spend with Marcus. But my Sunflower… I see something else in her eyes. It is not jealousy, or resentment, or even fear. She loves Jana dearly, and would not stand in the way of her happiness. But I think she is… lonely, perhaps? She will need my presence in the days to come… at least until her heart has made a space for Marcus in Jana’s life.

    “Tanith needs me. Alexis will understand if I explain the situation to her. And if our theft of the Soul Gem signifies the end of the threat to Auchindoun, then the Rose Knights should send my Snowfall back to Aldis City soon, and we shall be able to make up for lost time.

    “Still and all, Dear One… despite this wretched country, and the depredations of Melisandre, and the turmoil in my love’s heart… it is a fine night to run, is it not?”


    Jana’s Journal

    Escape from Kern


    The wheels of the wagon clattered on the rough paving stones of the old Kernish road. The desperate group huddled in the wagon as they fled the mansion house behind them and the city of Marrowgarde. A young dark-skinned woman looked behind them to make sure that they were not being followed.

    “There’s no one there yet Jana.” A careworn man said, his lined face smiling.

    “I know, I just want to be prepared for when they follow. I’m expecting at least Irina to chase us. There were other Skull Knights at the party too. They might be ordered to follow us.” Jana replied.

    “We might need to go off road soon, but we’ll travel on the road as long as we can.”

    Jana nodded. “I’m just anxious. Things at the house went far easier than I thought they would. Granted I’m pretty sure that Melisandre was planning a trap for us, or at least Tanith, but I still expected it to be harder to get the gem and get out.”

    “I have to agree with you on that. It was rather easy to just walk out of the house. You guys had a good plan, and some helpful allies. You’ll need to tell me about those allies sometime soon.”

    “I’ll tell you once we’re safe. I don’t want to risk them finding out who helped us just in case we get caught.” Jana said.

    “Fair enough.” Marcus smiled again and raised his right hand to trace it along Jana’s jawline. “You look different. I take it you had someone disguise you?”

    “Yeah. Tanith used flesh shaping to disguise me and Maria since our faces might have been recognized. It feels wrong when I talk or touch my face. I’ll have to ask Tanith to change me back to normal as soon as we’re able.” Jana reached up and held Marcus’ hand against her face where he’d stopped. “I missed you.”

    “I missed you too.” Marcus said quietly. “Ever since you got out I’ve been wondering what you’ve been up to and if you were safe. I hoped that you had made it to Aldis and that you hadn’t gotten caught in the mountains. They never brought you back so I had hope. They will do horrible things to us if they catch us”

    “I know.” Jana pulled Marcus’ hand to her lap and she held it tight. “Anyway, I found Maria in the mountains when I was running and together we made our way out. She knew the way. She’d been smuggling people out of Kern for a little while at least and knew a secret way out.” Jana nodded in Maria’s direction. The adept looked over when she saw Jana and Marcus watching and smiled. There were subtle signs of strain on her face like she wasn’t sure about the people she was looking at.

    Marcus smiled back and then turned back to Jana. “It’s going to take a while for them to trust me, isn’t it?”

    “Possibly. They know that you have been passing information to Trebizond and that it has been really helpful.”

    “Who’s Trebizond?”

    “He’s the man who’s been getting your intelligence reports. He’s a brilliant tactician and has been working against Kern for awhile now.” Jana replied.

    “Okay, that’s good…as long as I wasn’t risking my life for nothing. Things started to get a little tense and I knew that I had to get out if I could.”

    “So, how did you meet Lucifer?” Jana asked curiously.

    “He just showed up one day when I was alone. I didn’t know if he was working with anyone else or not. I assumed that he was, because he seemed to know so much, but I never met anyone else. It was only ever Lucifer, which was fine. He delivered the package that you guys got.”

    “Yeah, Ashlin spotted him.” Jana smiled. “But then he’s good at that.”

    “You have an interesting group of friends.”

    “Yeah, they have been good to me.” Jana leaned against Marcus’ shoulder and lowered her voice. “Some of them know about my past but not all of them do. I slipped up in front of Tanith and Jadzia one night. I admitted who I had guarded in the past. Maria, I confessed to before we made this trip. She deserved to know.”

    “Why her?” Marcus asked with a furrowed brow.

    “Do you remember that lab we found in the mountains?”

    “Yeah.”

    “That was hers.” Jana frowned at the memory.

    “Oh, I see.” Marcus squeezed Jana’s hand. “So, what about the night person in your group? Is he okay?”

    “Yeah, he’s okay. I was wary of him at first too, but he’s a good friend and a fierce fighter against the Shadow. He really doesn’t like vampires or the undead. He sees them as an affront to the gods.”

    “Good thing he didn’t grow up in Kern.” Marcus smiled wryly.

    “Yeah.”

    “So, what about Tanith and Jadzia? I’ve noticed the three of you exchanging glances and subtle touches…” the older man asked with a smirk.

    Jana blushed slightly. “They are lovers of mine.”

    “I see. Does that mean you’ve moved on?” Marcus’ voice was suddenly tight.

    “No, of course not. I can’t lose you, you know that. I wouldn’t be sane without you. I just don’t want to lose them either.”

    Marcus’ smile returned. “Okay… I just wanted to make sure. I want you to be happy.”

    “You’re here, that makes me happy. Now we just need to all get out of this place and I’ll be even happier.” Jana squeezed his hand again.

    “Me too.” Marcus squeezed back. “To be honest I was hoping for a more subtle getaway, but I can’t fault your friends for what they did. Killing Torrance and sending him back to the cycle was a good thing. I wish I could have done something more.”

    “You did something at the end when we were getting out that helped. I felt more confident in what we were doing, and that was all you.”

    Marcus smiled. “It was the least I could do. Your group was getting me out of Kern, I figured any help I could lend would be good. That and I love you of course. I would do anything for you.”

    “I love you too. I’m glad that we were able to get you this far at least. I don’t know what the future holds, but I know that I want you to be in it.”

    Marcus placed a gentle kiss on Jana’s forehead. “Likewise.”

    Jana leaned against Marcus’ shoulder and just held his hand. She was still scanning the skies for any pursuers but kept part of her attention on her lover. Marcus kicked over his helmet and squeezed Jana’s hand in return. He gently stroked her hair with his free hand and watched the skies with her, all too aware of the eyes watching him.


    **** **** ****

    Dear Mother,

    Well things have definitely gotten interesting. I don’t have time to write this down, so I’ll send it to you as a prayer and hope that you get it. I know it’s been a few days since I’ve written, but we’ve been traveling. So, we spent the next day, after the one I mentioned before, laying low. I kept up the tinker act while Darcy was “fixing” the wagon. Tanith and Ashlin kept a lower profile than the day before, though Harkon did pick up Ash for a short while later in the evening. Isabel did not pick up Tanith again, and acted in a strangely cautious way. She was perfectly polite and nice to her, but it was more in a “don’t kill me” kind of way. Our guess is that Isabel figured out that Tanith is related to Melisandre. There is a family resemblance there, so I suppose it was only a matter of time. We were hoping to be able to leave soon and got our wish that night. Ashlin went to the barn to check and found that a package had been left and a raven was perched nearby. The bird flew off as soon as Ashlin entered the barn, but we believed that it had been the one to drop off the package. It had talon marks on the outside. So, Ashlin dropped the package off with Darcy and we all opened it later that evening when there was no one around to see us. In the package was a map, a letter and three masquerade costumes. The letter was from Marcus. It was even signed by him. In the letter he introduced himself and very concisely laid out what was going on. He also explained that he wanted to defect. It turned out that Melisandre forged a soul gem that can control vast numbers of undead and dark fiends no matter who summoned them. They would all be connected to a sort of hive mind where Melisandre, Tavia or Tanith could command them. Yes, Melisandre gave control over the gem to her granddaughter. This made us believe that this whole situation was a trap. The masquerade party, Melisandre just happening to bring the gem with her to the party, all of it. It was not a trap of Marcus’ doing, he just reported the situation to us. We decided to take the risk and go to Marrowgarde, where the party is being held. The Ducas family hosted the party. Marcus said he would be at the party as a guard for Melisandre. He also warned us that there would likely be undead guarding the house, and that they would probably not be mind-reading the guests due to the social position of many of them.

    On the way to Marrowgarde Maria used earth and wood shaping to make a stone-lined box to put the soul gem in. Marcus had warned us that the gem would probably try to corrupt whoever held it and we wanted to try and make sure that we could protect the bearer as much as possible. Once in the town we stayed at the Angry Swine Inn. Jadzia and Darcy got into a bar fight after playing a ring toss game around a skull. They then bought drinks for the other combatants. Darcy even showed off enough to get the attention of Romaine Foxglove. I had heard of her as a daring rogue, but Ashlin it seemed to know her closer than I did. He had mentioned that it might be a good idea to get her aid in helping to rob the Ducas’ house. During this trip I mentioned to the others that I knew Marcus and said that he was a good man. I couldn’t say more and part of me didn’t want to. I didn’t want them to doubt me when we were about to do something really dangerous in my native land against my old comrades and employers.

    The next day Darcy found a piece of foxglove in his pocket with a note that just had a time and location. It was for that evening at the Tower of the Exarchs. So, he and Ashlin went to the tower to meet the elusive rogue. Ash crept up first and caught Romaine talking to a Rhy-Raven with one eye. The same raven that had dropped off the package at the barn. Ash introduced himself and thanked the raven for dropping off the package. They exchanged pleasantries and Ashlin found the that raven’s name is Lucifer. Darcy arrived a moment later and the four of them started talking. Ashlin explained what our plans were and asked if Romaine might like to help. Romaine said that she was going to go anyway so she agreed to give us a hand. She had been planning on going and retrieving a ring that the Ducas’ had that controlled the ghost of a young woman named Tatiana. Romaine then explained the best way to get in and out of the mansion and said she would even provide a rope ladder to help us get out after our mission was done. The last bit of advice that Lucifer and Romaine gave was that the butler was far more dangerous than he appeared. Ashlin then offered Lucifer a place with us if he wanted to retire from life in Kern. It is extremely dangerous for a Rhy animal to operate in the country. If he gets caught they would kill him, and he admitted that he is getting on in years. It seems that he found Romaine when she was a young child and helped raise her. I have not yet met the raven in question but I find myself hoping that he takes up Ashlin’s offer. After the planning was done Ash and Darcy returned and we exchanged news. Tanith also communicated with Trebizond to let him know what was going on so far and what we were planning to do and with whom.

    I’ll skip ahead to the masquerade. In the end it was Tanith, Maria and myself that went to the masquerade. The dance was a mockery of anything that could be conceived of in Aldis. There were undead guarding doors that the hosts didn’t want visitors going into, and there were ghosts creating spectral light near the ceiling. It wasn’t anything that I hadn’t seen before while guarding Melisandre. Most of the guests wore masks of one of the exarchs though the hostesses did not. They wore little half masks. Harkon, Isabel and Lavinia were also there wearing animal masks. They did not do much, but we still avoided them just in case they recognized us in costume. Melisandre was wearing a strange mask. It was the distended visage of a vata woman. I did not know at first who it was supposed to be until Tanith started swearing in our minds that the mask was a mockery of her mother’s face. Melisandre was taunting her granddaughter with her own daughter-in-law’s face as a mask. Talk about sick. But then I knew she was capable of that.

    Jadzia, Darcy and Ashlin snuck into the building with Romaine Foxglove to do what they had set out to do. I heard later that they encountered some resistance in getting the ring and the objects that we came for, but they managed to get them and get out without the main population of the dance even knowing what was going on. I also saw a couple of trophies that Jadzia and Ashlin had taken. A couple of nice-looking knives. Before they even started their plan Romaine gave all three of my friends a highly flammable oil for use in case of emergencies. I thought that was rather nice of Romaine. I’ll have to thank her sometime if I ever get to meet her. If they got caught and used the oil to burn themselves, or at least their heads, then the worst that could have been done to them was to have them raised as ghosts. That’s better than being raised as a shadow or some other undead thing. I think my friends were a little taken aback by Romaine’s gift, but they took it in the spirit that it was given. I’m glad that they didn’t have to use it on their way out. I would hate to lose a friend and not be able to go back for the body. But if we were fleeing and someone got caught or killed then there’d be little we’d have been able to do about it save pray that they were able to use the oil before it was too late. I don’t think precautions like this have ever crossed my friends’ minds. Well, save Maria. She knows what Melisandre and her type do to people.

    As for those of us attending the dance in the open, we had some challenges of our own. I had forgotten Tagart was going to be there until he approached and asked me to dance. He has a fairly decent standing in society so it would seem strange for me to decline, so I had to dance with him. We did not talk much while we danced, which was just fine by me. The only thing I really wanted to do was to punch him in his smug face, but that would have drawn unwanted attention on me. While I danced with Tagart, Tanith approached Marcus and asked him to dance. She then asked me what I wanted her to tell him once she confirmed it was him. I asked that she tell him that I was there and that we were going to get him out. She did so. She also managed to block the influence from the helmet while she talked to him so nothing of their conversation could be picked up on. That was a very good idea, as it would have been very odd for Marcus to take off his helmet for any reason while on duty.

    Then there was Irena walking through the dancing couples sniffing everyone. Well, almost everyone. She sniffed me and Tanith as well as several other guests but she did not sniff Tagart or Marcus. I’m assuming that she was getting the scents of anyone that she didn’t know for future reference. You know that could be problematic. She likely knows my scent since we worked together, so I thought it would be likely that Melisandre would know who was attending the dance. It was a trap anyway, so I figured that she knew we were probably coming. This just confirmed it. It was also confirmed when Tanith and I attempted to trade dance partners. Tagart, predictably did not want anything to do with his brother so he went back to the sidelines to watch. I then got to dance with Marcus. Tanith unfortunately got swooped up by Melisandre herself. Maria was doing her best to sow discord between the hosts and Melisandre, but it didn’t get the chance to work very well before things came to a head. We got a mental message to go upstairs, so Marcus, Maria and I started heading that way. The others then appeared on the upstairs railing and did their best to distract Melisandre and the others at the party by killing Torrance. Melisandre pulled a sword of light on Tanith and tried to hit her but Tanith blocked with her own sword. It was kind of scary how alike those two were in that moment. Then Maria used arcanum to lift Tanith up and over the railing so we could all get away. Jadzia let loose a parting arrow at Melisandre and it hit her in the shoulder. We then all ran, and I borrowed a knife from Ashlin in case I needed a weapon. The downside to being in the masquerade dress is that I couldn’t hide a sword in it. We encountered some resistance in the form of four shadows. They were no match for Darcy’s holy light or my friends’ weapons though. And now we’re running for our lives.

    I know this trip can not have been very pleasant for my friends. Kern is not a nice place, and it’s hard to get across just how messed up it can be. I grew up here. This was normal for me until I escaped to Aldis. Being in Aldis and around its people showed me what society and life was supposed to be like. Not this mockery of society that I used to live in. I couldn’t fully explain the paranoia that people live with constantly. The fear of those with more power than themselves. The fear of the Seven and their servants. I know full well how much people fear the Skull Knights. We fostered that feeling wherever we went. We wanted people to fear us so they would be less likely to rise up against us. The past showed the Seven what can happen when the people get the chance to rebel and they’ve worked hard to keep that from happening again. I don’t want to be the cause of that fear anymore. I don’t want to live that life anymore. I like my new life in Aldis, as soft and ignorant as that can be. I don’t think I can ever change my view on life, but I can at least do right by the people instead of terrorizing them. And I want to help Marcus achieve that as well. He deserves a better life.

    On the plus side to all of this I’m sure that my friends are not going to take their lives and their privileges for granted after this. I just pray that we all get out of here to be able to have thoughts like those.

    Love

    Jana


    Tanith’s Diary

    I am incredibly, balefully frustrated.

    Our mission, short of getting out of Kern in one piece which is far from certain, is complete.

    We got word we are looking for a gem forged from the soul of a Sorcerer Queen. It can be used to control masses of undead and try to bind Darkfiends, letting them work as a hive mind. But it can try to take over the user, and it even can infiltrate the thoughts of its possessor if they are without a shield. Darcy apparently was reminiscing about plowing the maid during that part. It turned out there was to be a costume party, and the mole, Jana’s lover Marcus Wynn, was helping us. We got three costumes and invitations, apparently tying us to some godsforsaken town on the margins. The locals of Lastlight were going, but we decided to avoid going with them. Isabel was suspicious. The trip, on the main road, was uneventful, save nerve wracking Wyverns flying overhead.

    We infiltrated Marrowgarde, a terrible, downtrodden place overlooked by the huge castle mansion of the Ducases. In accordance with the plan, Jana, Maria and I entered via the front door, in costume, while Ash, Jadzia and Darcy entered via the roof, accompanied by local ne’er do well Romaine Foxglove, entered via the roof, while Romaine’s Rhy companion Lucifer brought the cart and horses around, presumably by talking to the horses though a Raven driving a cart is an amusing picture.

    It was an interesting time. Enslaved Ghosts, Spectres, and Vampires were everywhere; I swear I saw a Lich tarrying by the cheese. The room was lit by ghost-flame, translucent musicians played translucent instruments, and the many Human and Vata guests comported themselves in a grim mockery of Aldean social life. Jana (whose Vata extraction was visible due to her horned half mask) immediately got whisked onto the floor by a Sorcerer. Maria danced with Camille, a potential agent, then spent the rest of the time devouring canapes, and keeping an eye on Irena, stalking through the crowd sniffing people. I approached the stately male Skull Knight, who was indeed Marcus Wynn, and took him across the floor, using Psychic Communication to be sure he knew who we were and that Jana had come for him. I may not like her being involved with a man, but I am not going to oppose this chance at happiness for her. To do so would not be love, it would be selfishness. I just hope there is room in her heart for Jadzia and I after he is rescued.

    Jana and I attempted to change partners, but the Sorcerer stepped away, apparently having some dislike for Skull Knights and wanting to get away from him. Jana took Marcus, and I started to move from the floor until I was cornered by Melisandre, in a mask made to look like mother’s face all rotten. Despite having to stare down that monstrosity, we waltzed the score, red eyes glaring at amber. In our competitiveness, some other dancers had to pause to watch us. I am a damn good dancer, and it was all Melisandre could do to keep up.

    She made it clear she knew who I was and asked me to become her apprentice effective immediately. She is a Healer herself, and promised techniques far beyond anything I could do. She whispered secrets of raising the dead, and taunted me we would never escape alive. I barely noted Jana, Marcus and Maria moving for the balcony, but I kept Melisandre’s attention completely on me.

    Next thing I knew, my lover Jadzia had let ring an arrow into the poor Shade Torrance Staunton and ended his misery. Darcy also fired a holy bolt over the heads of the Kernish nobility, causing panic. Melisandre demanded I join her right then, and when I refused swung her crimson Psychic Sword at me, which I blocked with mine. Then I had the most disconcerting sensation as Maria pulled me up onto the balcony with the power of her will, a neat trick I am going to try to learn. A few Shadows got in our way, but we cut through them like the shadows they were. The butler I could hear complaining as he tried to come after us, but the chaos Darcy had begun meant he had to get through currents of panicking nobles.

    Lucifer had helpfully left us a rope ladder, and we parted ways with Romaine, escaping down the wall (or walking calmly in Maria’s case) concealed behind the mansions high tower from the watchers on the wall.

    So why am I peeved? Darcy, in his infinite wisdom, is carrying two sorcerous artifacts, one of which we were warned could easily influence anyone without Psychic Shield. Darcy, by his own admission, has no psychic shield, so he is allowing it to subtly alter his thinking and weaken his defenses while we have days of travel ahead through Kern. He refuses to give it to me, despite me being trained at the Academy for handling such artifacts. The witless fool thinks he knows best, and he is putting us all in grave danger with his arrogance. I am watching him, best I can, but it is difficult. I swear if Jarzon would take Night People he would be there. He is just like them.

    And we don’t even know what this ruby skull does.

    Now, I am one of the three that can actually make use of it (along with Melisandre and Tavia) but Darcy does not trust me. He feels that I, who has training in handling dangerous artifacts, a psychic shield, and the fortitude to almost never tire from magic is a far worse person to carry it than him, who has no training I know of, no magical mind shields, and has been worn out before by magic. The only thing that separates him from the Jarzoni is not letting him in their creepy cult, I swear.

    So while we wait for that time bomb to go off, and I pass the time deflecting Melisandre’s taunts from my shield, I watch Jana and Marcus lean on each other, and Jadzia look ahead to returning to Auchindoun and to Alexis. I just huddle in my cloak. It does not matter. I do not need anyone. And as Darcy proves, the uneducated fools are almost as dangerous as the sorcerers.

    End Session XXVIII

    It was my intention to keep Lucifer in the shadows as a secretive helper, but Ashlin actually managed to get the drop on him. So Lucifer, and his connection to Romaine came out sooner then planned.

    Isabel actually made a really good roll to recognize Tanith when she woke, realizing she was somehow related to Melisandre. Tanith has not been fleshcrafted, as she feared someone would just undo it and ruin her gender correction.

    Irena is the Skull Knight Maria yanked from her wyvern in Dark Tides Rising. She fell over a thousand feet, but survived due to being a vampire even as her armor was crushed to the point of taking a long time to fully separate from her body. She really really really really really really really really really really really does not like Maria, and was searching for her at the party.

    I think that covers everything. I do not have any more handout material, so short of answering questions and such I won’t be posting until two weeks from now. Comments and Questions of course welcome.
    Running: Blue Rose AGE (Cat's Cradle)
    Weirdo
    "That queer Goth chick." "You are going to have to be more specific"

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