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

  1. #21
    OPA Belta Baroness Nerak's Avatar
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    Re: Blue Rose: Cat's Cradle (Actual Play)

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

    Ashlin, Aldean Human Expert Spy

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

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


    Darcy, Roamer Night Person Expert Martial Artist

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

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

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


    Jadzia of Clan Tenniral. Rezean Human Warrior Knight

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

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

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


    Jana Totten, Kernish Vata’Sha Warrior Guardian

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

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


    Maria Highmore, Aldean Human Adept Shaper

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

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

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


    Tanith Nocturna, Aldean Vata’Sha Adept Healer

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

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

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

    Okay well we started the next story last time and will post it in one week. We love feedback comments and questions on this or anything else welcome.
    Running: Blue Rose AGE (Cat's Cradle)
    Weirdo
    "That queer Goth chick." "You are going to have to be more specific"

  2. #22
    OPA Belta Baroness Nerak's Avatar
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    Re: Blue Rose: Cat's Cradle (Actual Play)

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

    Session XIII

    Dark Tides Rising Part I

    Ashlin’s Reports

    Report from Ash, decoded by Kait, sent 6 Leonar

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    [Cloven hoof mark]


    Jadzia’s Horse Sense

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


    Jana’s Letters

    Dear Mother,

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

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

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

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

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

    Love always,
    Jana

    Dear Marcus,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Yours always,
    Jana


    Tanith’s Diary

    I find myself uniquely and utterly torn.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    End Session XIII

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

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

    I think that covers everything but as always comments and questions are welcome.
    Last edited by Baroness Nerak; 07-20-2018 at 02:28 AM.
    Running: Blue Rose AGE (Cat's Cradle)
    Weirdo
    "That queer Goth chick." "You are going to have to be more specific"

  3. #23
    OPA Belta Baroness Nerak's Avatar
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    Re: Blue Rose: Cat's Cradle (Actual Play)

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

    Session XIV

    Dark Tides Rising Part II

    Ashlin’s Report

    Report from Ash, decoded by Kait, sent 7 Leonar

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    [Cloven hoof mark]


    Jadzia’s Horse Sense

    (Whispered in Rezean on the plains north of Elkhorn)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


    Jana’s Letters

    Dear Marcus,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Yours always,
    Jana

    Dear Marcus,

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

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

    Yours always,
    Jana


    Tanith’s Diary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    End Session XIV

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

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

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

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

    And if you have comments or questions about this session, they are welcome.
    Running: Blue Rose AGE (Cat's Cradle)
    Weirdo
    "That queer Goth chick." "You are going to have to be more specific"

  4. #24
    OPA Belta Baroness Nerak's Avatar
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    Re: Blue Rose: Cat's Cradle (Actual Play)

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

    Session XV

    Dark Tides Rising Part III

    Ashlin’s Reports

    Report from Ash, decoded by Kait, sent 8 Leonar

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    [Cloven hoof mark]


    Jadzia’s Horse Sense

    Whispered in Rezean in the Nocturna family stables)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


    Jana’s Letters

    Dear Mother,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Love always,
    Jana


    Dear Marcus,

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

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

    Yours always,
    Jana


    Tanith’s Diary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    End Session XV

    Dark Tides Rising Completed

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

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

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

    I think everyone was a little sympathetic to poor Rhiannon.

    Next time we are back home, come join us for Aldis City Rhapsody. In the meantime Comments and Questions welcome.
    Running: Blue Rose AGE (Cat's Cradle)
    Weirdo
    "That queer Goth chick." "You are going to have to be more specific"

  5. #25
    OPA Belta Baroness Nerak's Avatar
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    Nov 2015
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    Re: Blue Rose: Cat's Cradle (Actual Play)

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

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

    Session XVI

    Aldis City Rhapsody Part I

    Ashlin’s Reports

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


    Jadzia’s Horse Sense

    (Whispered in Rezean in the Nocturna family stables)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


    Jana’s Letters

    Dear Mother,

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

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

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

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

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

    Love always,
    Jana

    Dear Marcus,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Yours Always,
    Jana

    Dear Marcus,

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

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

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

    Yours Always,
    Jana


    Tanith’s Diary

    My father is a source of endless frustration for me.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Yes, it has been that kind of day.

    End Session XVI

    Okay got all that?

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

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

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

    I…think…that covers everything? Comments and Questions welcome.
    Running: Blue Rose AGE (Cat's Cradle)
    Weirdo
    "That queer Goth chick." "You are going to have to be more specific"

  6. #26
    OPA Belta Baroness Nerak's Avatar
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    Re: Blue Rose: Cat's Cradle (Actual Play)

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

    Session XVII

    Aldis City Rhapsody Part II

    Ashlin’s Reports

    Report from Ash, decoded by Kait, sent 24 Leonar

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    [Cloven hoof mark]


    Jadzia’s Horse Sense

    (Whispered in Rezean in the Nocturna family stables)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    “And besides… Jana would not do it.

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

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

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

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

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


    Jana’s Letters

    Dear Mother,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


    Tanith’s Diary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    End Session XVII

    Let’s see…

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

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

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

    Next session will be played with the hurricane bearing down on us. Some sick players, so smaller cast. Will be back with an abbreviated journal list in two weeks. Comments and Questions welcome.
    Running: Blue Rose AGE (Cat's Cradle)
    Weirdo
    "That queer Goth chick." "You are going to have to be more specific"

  7. #27
    OPA Belta Baroness Nerak's Avatar
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    Re: Blue Rose: Cat's Cradle (Actual Play)

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

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

    Session XVIII

    Aldis City Rhapsody Part III

    Jadzia’s Horse Sense

    (Whispered in Rezean in the Nocturna family stables)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


    Jana’s Journal

    Dear Mother,

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

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

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

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

    Love Always,
    Jana

    Dear Marcus,

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

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

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

    Yours Always,
    Jana


    Tanith’s Diary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    End Session XVIII

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

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

    Next session should finish our story, as we deal with Pisha’s issue. Will the PCs continue to shield an admitted multiple murder and keep her from the honorable assassin, or shield her for a second chance? Join us. Comments and Questions welcome.
    Last edited by Baroness Nerak; 09-28-2018 at 02:09 PM.
    Running: Blue Rose AGE (Cat's Cradle)
    Weirdo
    "That queer Goth chick." "You are going to have to be more specific"

  8. #28
    OPA Belta Baroness Nerak's Avatar
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    Re: Blue Rose: Cat's Cradle (Actual Play)

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

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

    Session XIX

    Aldis City Rhapsody Part IV

    Ashlin’s Reports

    Report from Ash, decoded by Kait, sent 25 Leonar

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    [Cloven hoof mark]


    Jana’s Letters

    Dear Marcus,

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

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

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

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

    Yours Always,
    Jana

    Dear Marcus,

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

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

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

    Yours Always,
    Jana


    Tanith’s Diary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    End Session XIX

    Aldis City Rhapsody Completed

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

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

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

    Okay I think that covers everything. Next time we start Two Princes. Comments and Questions welcome
    Running: Blue Rose AGE (Cat's Cradle)
    Weirdo
    "That queer Goth chick." "You are going to have to be more specific"

  9. #29
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    Re: Blue Rose: Cat's Cradle (Actual Play)

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

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

  10. #30
    OPA Belta Baroness Nerak's Avatar
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    Re: Blue Rose: Cat's Cradle (Actual Play)

    Thank YOU for the feedback. We love hearing back from readers, and are all thrilled that you are reading!
    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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