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Exalted 3E - Tale of a Falling Empire IC

Dice System
Exalted 3e
OOC
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Lore
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Psychie

Princess Psychie
Xandra gives out a loud sigh, then gives Takhai a grin. "I suppose you are right. I have a feeling that in the next week, I will get my fill of fighting these Anathema, giving my sword arm a good workout." She gives the fellow a playful punch to the shoulder, saying, "I could use a good drink. Care to join me for that?"

OOC I will not resist the effort to add the Minor Tie, and I'll add it to my sheet.
 

jaydude

Three Thousand Club
"You got it." replies Tahaki. "You want to head back to the gala? Or find a good local tavern?"

OOC: Unless anyone has anything else they want to do here, I'm gonna do a skip.
 

jaydude

Three Thousand Club
With the search for the speaker having proven fruitless, the eight of you return to Satori's Palace to find the gala winding down, no doubt thanks to the figurative Soulbreaker Orb Manato dropped earlier. You observe many Dynasts making plans to leave the city; hopefully they intend to return to their respective satrapies and gather support, rather than leave Kandara to its apparent fate. Satori, Kirito, Javald, Voruna and Boroma are gathered in the same room where the discussion took place earlier, with the satrap having changed into a more simple white and gold robe now that appearances are no longer as large a concern.

Satori, Kirito and Voruna are all frustrated at the group's failure, but also not too surprised by it. "We've captured other members of the Cult of the Illuminated before, but that speaker's always been too elusive for us. He could give mist a lesson in not being captured." says Voruna.

"Still, we did learn one thing." Sengon says. "The leader of the Anathema host making its way to Kandara is apparently named Jinlong."

Satori, Javald, Voruna and Boruma's eyes all widen in surprise at this news, while Kirito lets out a small frustrated groan. Sengon raises his eyebrows at these reactions.

"Is something the matter?" he asks. "I mean, the name Jinlong is not familiar to me, but it doesn't appear that I can say the same for you four..."

The Satrap sighs. "Jinlong was one of my handmaidens." she explains, somewhat hesitantly. "But about five years ago...she revealed herself as an Anathema."

"Jinlong spilled a glass of wine on the Satrap - ruining her newest dress in the process - after being jostled by an envious servant. Satori responded by sentencing Jinlong to be publicly flogged to death in the city arena." explains Boruma. From his smug tone of voice, the young king clearly has no trouble revealing what he considers to be a massive screwup on the Satrap's part.

"I didn't attend the execution myself, but apparently there was a great flash of light centered around Jinlong." continues Boroma. "After it dissipated, she had no reaction to the next few lashes the executioner dealt her. Then all of a sudden, she broke free of her restraints, tore both of the executioner's arms off with her bare hands, and escaped into the city."

Kirito exhales. "We never heard any more about her after that." he says.
 
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Psychie

Princess Psychie
Xandra snorts. "Well, that helps to explain why this Solar has a grudge against you. To be honest, I'd be a bit pissed if I were ordered to be executed by the lash, too. Now, how can we use this in formation to help us?"
 

Rykon

Three Thousand Club
The frustration of coming back empty-handed was a sentiment the fire aspect certainly shared. Any snide remarks as to their capabilities would be met with an unimpressed glare. Again, his kinship was cooperating out of goodwill, not duty. Lording guilt over them for something that should have been handled before their arrival was not something he had the patience for at the moment. He was profoundly grateful that tempers and attitudes were mostly absent.

News of Jinlong's origins did provide a story of sweet irony in contrast. Manato gives Satori an apologetic shrug. Not everyone saw things his way before, though perhaps this situation could be used to broaden perspectives a bit later on. Now wasn't the time to test the grace and cooperation he'd been given though. He clears his throat and proceeds to redirect the conversation. "Rather than dwell on past decisions, I think we can move forward by examining what we know of her expertise prior to her defilement. She was a handmaiden, so we know she has some privileged knowledge of how this place operates. That could be used to lead her into a trap." He turns to Satori and her entourage with wine in hand, held as close as an old friend. "What else can you tell us about her duties in your service? Skillset, performance, acquaintances... anything at all."

He braced himself as they responded, fully expecting an answer that amounted to them not paying enough attention to their mortal employees to have substantive details. Much as he could understand Satori's tendency to gravitate toward peers over mortals, the devil's always in the details. Exalted often take servants for granted. Moments like this could spell a negligent socialite's downfall within the span of heartbeats. Yet, in all this turmoil there was still a glimmer of hope this ambitious business woman kept detailed enough accounts of her court to think of something more about this Jinlong.
 

Random Word

One Thousand Club
Asuna excuses herself to her quarters to change back into something more comfortable. She places the mask carefully, reverentially back in its satin bed. She soaks her feet in a basin of hot water as her servants dress her in a black yukata that depicts a raging fire meeting the ocean and erupting in a cloud of steam in bright primary colours. Rivulets of water run up her leg in defiance of gravity as she takes slow deep breaths and lets the hot water unwind the knots in her muscles.

A few quick hand gestures confirm that yes, her staff really does remember reporting the preacher departed the city earlier this afternoon. If the Anathema created the memory of his early departure, he would have had to alter the memories of a very large number of people all at once, while being nowhere near them. Perhaps he had no need to be anywhere near them to alter their memories with some form of fel sorcery? If so all hope seemed lost. She should flee while she still had the wits to do so. How do you win a war against an enemy that can reweave your memories before your eyes?

Her racing thoughts quickly undo all the lovely work the hot water has been doing on her tension, and her mood swiftly darkens. She's studied how to assassinate sorcerers, and how to fight them on the battlefield, but nothing in school covered this. Perhaps Larissa could do something to ward their minds against intrusion, because if not... well, how much worse could their odds get, really, when they had started so low?

As her servants finish putting up her hair the water obediently refills the basin and she floats to stand on the surface before stepping out into a pair of waiting sandals, perfectly dry. As she storms towards the door the mask comes back together and by the time she's walking down the hallway she's the very picture of convivial geniality.

She steps into the office quietly, "My apologies for being late. I hope I didn't miss anything?"

[Pass - Asuna doesn't have anything she wants to accomplish here, she's just going to listen quietly.]

[Taking a Minor Tie of Fear (Anathema Mental Manipulation) cause it scary]
 

Sherwood

Luna's Concubine
Supporter
Larissa listens quietly to the information about the leader of the Anathema army, trying to wrap her mind around what is going on.

[Pass]
 

jaydude

Three Thousand Club
"She was only in my service for a few months, waiting upon me, before...what happened. Though I did take a bit of a liking to her in that time, I'll admit. She was beautiful, and good at what she did." Satori answers with a shrug. "She and the rest of my handmaidens came from the wealthier patrician families in Kandara, so she would have been decently educated. Still, there were no signs of her possessing anything that would be of use in overthrowing me back then, aside from her general proximity to me."

"As for people she knew, aside from the one who sabotaged her, she got along well with the rest of the handmaidens, though of course they denounced her after she was revealed as an Anathema. With regards to her family, they were driven out of Kandara following the attempted execution. Being parent to an Anathema is punished by being made dispossessed here."

"In terms of potential weaknesses, I did have the opportunity to observe her once or twice." says Voruna. "I noticed that throughout her tenure in this palace, she disapproved of many of the harsh actions taken against mortals here, whether they were for punishing defiance, or ensuring Kandara could pay its tributes. Not that she was open in her disapproval, of course."

"You're suggesting that she cares for the mortals of Kandara?" Sengon asks skeptically.

"Perhaps. In some small part of her mind that has yet to be corrupted." replies Voruna. "My guess is that, while she does have her army, she is also banking upon the support of the populace here with regards to taking Kandara. If we could somehow deprive her of that, at the very least we'd be denying her an advantage..."

[Pass]
 

Rykon

Three Thousand Club
Manato tapped at his chin in thought while he took in the new information. "So her nature was revealed at her punishment. That is interesting. I wonder how long she concealed it before anyone here knew. Also, what might've become of the person who set her up to take the fall." Manato drained what was left in his cup before continuing to speak. "Either way, I'm content to let the matter rest for the night after dealing with that slippery speaker."

He turned his eyes to Satori to address her rather than the small assembly as a whole. "If you'd like, why not join me for morning tea? I don't want to impose upon you or your business more than I have. Yet, I'd like to discuss what I can do to help all the same."

[I think we've learned enough to serve the scene unless there are further questions. Pass]
 

jaydude

Three Thousand Club
Satori smiles and nods. "Of course, Manato."

With that, everyone settles in to sleep after a very long and chaotic day.

The next morning...
As Manato enjoys a cup of tea, he finds himself approached by Satori, the Satrap giving him a polite and friendly nod as she spots him.

"Good morning, Manato." she says. "Does the invitation to join you still stand? I understand that you wished to discuss a few things with me."

By now, the rest of Satori's council are all up and about, as are the vast majority of Dragon-blooded guests still in the city. Sengon has returned to the Immaculate Temple, while Tahaki has booked himself a room at one of the Dragon District's inns. If any of you wish to speak to any of them, the palace staff will be more than happy to provide directions.

[OOC: I have one somewhat-major event coming up soon, which will take up Satori's attention, but I'm fine with delaying it until Manato has resolved his business with her.]
 

Rykon

Three Thousand Club
"Ah! Good morning Satori! Of course it still stands." Manato replied with a welcoming gesture, politely offering her a seat. He sat by the table in a black hakama, dressed in comfortable attire to start the day. "I was hoping to level the playing field a bit. You've put up with my opinions and advice in our last meetings. I wanted to hear your thoughts on how things were going, and if all goes as planned what your plans for the future might be."

He paused to take a sip of his tea and gave a playful smile before continuing without as much formality as in previous engagements. With recent reminders of past decisions beginning to haunt the Satrap, Manato thought it best to draw her gaze forward on a better path than on dark days and darker deeds. Perhaps it was a selfish whim, to test one with such a course nature to see how it would play out. Regardless of how the dice fell on his cruel game, it wasn't fair for her to bear the consequences alone. Surely house Ragara wouldn't forget his role in events should the plan fall short of the mark.

"Your advisors probably take issue with me and more than a few suggested policy changes, yet you were brave enough to act. You're a stronger person than I first gave you credit for and it's only right I repay your trust. So when this is all over and we can focus on making shiploads of money together, I'd prefer if we could stay close." His smile warmed slightly, examining her reaction in light of his suggestive turn of phrase. "You needn't suffer alone after all. So, if there's anything I can do for you, consider it done. No strings attached."

[Manato is going to try and instill Affection in Satori as well as Read Intentions to assess the nature and intensity of her ambitions. Spending a total of 8 motes to add 2 successes to both the Instill and Read Intentions rolls. 7 total successes on Instill, and 8 on Read Intentions.]
 

Random Word

One Thousand Club
tl;dr Asuna wakes up with a hangover and Manato is annoyingly good at hospitality.
Asuna opens her eyes ever so slightly and immediately regrets it, moaning piteously. She quails under the unrelenting assault of the treacherous sun and makes a tactical withdrawal beneath the covers, harried all the while by the pain of a singularly determined attempt to drive a nail through her temple with a goremaul. She remains there, marshalling her strength for an eventual breakout, when the aroma of coffee, chocolate, fish, rice, and eggs wafting under the covers heralds the unexpected arrival of reinforcements.

She gingerly lifts the edge of the covers to conduct reconnaissance and is delighted to discover a handsome servant proffering a hot tray of - is that? It is another drinking flask of chocolate-coffee. She reaches out to snatch it before again retreating under the covers.

"Honoured one. Salmon, tamago gohan, miso, drinking chocolate, tincture of poppy, and a letter, compliments of Cynis Manato." She reaches one hand out from under the covers and beckons with two fingers. Opium? The Dragons provide. One Dragon in particular. He thinks of everything. She sighs with relief. The servant obligingly reads her mind and places the thimble sized container of tincture of poppy in her palm - just enough to take the edge off the pain without making her useless for hours, whereupon she draws it in and downs it in a single gulp, washing down the bitter aftertaste with the drinking chocolate. She reaches out and gives what might be a vaguely dismissive wave of her hand, and the servant immediately places the tray down, bows, and silently departs, "Of course your eminence. Merely ring if you desire anything."

She collapses back onto the bed until the opium can dull her headache before sitting up, covers still draped over her head, and ruminating on whether breakfast is perhaps a bridge too far. Cynis servants are so good. How did they even know I was awake? She gingerly picks up a piece of grilled salmon in her chopsticks and savours the mouthwatering scent. This is freshly prepared. When did I even wake up? How many times did they have to make this? Her appetite whet she pops it in her mouth experimentally. "Fuck, that's really good." She inhales the rest of the food, suddenly voraciously hungry.

If this is a cunning plan to make me want to spend more time in his bed, it's working. I could get used to this. As she eats she scans the letter - "Sorry couldn't, tea with Satrap, mmhmm," - before examining the bed in question with a self-satisfied grin, tracing with her fingertips the scorch marks where clawed hands burned through the bedding. Well, maybe not this bed, but if you're sleeping in the same bed twice you're not having nearly enough fun.

She rises to leave, expecting the servants to dress her in her robes from yesterday and send her on her way, only to instead find herself whisked into a hot bath with flower petals, scented candles, and a masseuse who must have been god-blooded because their hands were divine. Just a touch of essence and the bath became an incredibly comfortable massage table. Okay, this is a proper vacation. When she was done a trio of charming and witty handmaidens - Varang by their accents, Laisa, Anise, and Eshkar by name - did an impressive job oiling, braiding, styling, and decorating her hair with gems while keeping up an entertaining conversation - where does he find these people? Can I keep them? - before slipping her into a beautiful dragonscale qipao in black and deep ocean blue fitted snugly but comfortably to every curve. "This is tailored! How did he..." she shakes her head, bemused.

Eshkar speaks up demurely, "Honoured one, Laisa ascertained your measurements last night when you walked by, and she finished tailoring the dress last night. We hope it pleases you."

She turns each way to admire herself in the mirror. "I am very pleased. How much would it cost to buy all of you away from Manato?"

The handmaidens look at each other and smile, happily sharing some inside joke, before one speaks, "His Eminence Cynis Manato said that if you asked we were his gift to you, Eminence." Asuna rubs the bridge of her nose, You should have seen that coming. What use does Manato have for women's hairstylists and tailors?

"Lord Cynis had one final gift for you before you depart, Eminence," says Anise as she proffers a silver tray with four small but decadently rich desserts.

"Are those Haltan truffles?" exclaims Asuna, incredulous. She suddenly turns away and addresses an invisible Manato, personified in the wall of his quarters, "Oh, no you don't! Absolutely not. I see through your transparent ploy. If I accept all of this it's going to take forever to figure out how to pay you back, and you're just going to keep this up! You're worse than Ragara. I'm not falling for it!"

The handmaidens look aghast and more than a little afraid at her outburst, escalating to a shared look of dismay as Asuna storms out of the dressing chamber towards the exit.

"Please! Eminence. I know it isn't this humble servant place to question your enlightened words, but..." Anise cries, clearly torn at her impropriety but desperate, "Cynis Manato rented us from Cynis Harun, with the promise to buy out our indenture for you if we pleased you. We're so sorry we've upset you. We'll do anything to make it right." Asuna can see the unspoken words on their faces, 'We don't want to go back.' Asuna feels her heart melt. They really were sweet, and between the opium and the massage it's very difficult to stay angry. She smiles wryly. Well played. Of course he wasn't actually going to give them back to Harun. He was Manato. If she didn't take them he was probably going to set them up as a business somewhere. The little deception served to make her feel guilty for not taking them, and they were so very good at their jobs.

Asuna sighs, resigned. "You are right. This is a personal dispute between Manato and I. There's no need for me to take it out on you. It would be my pleasure to employ you. Leave the truffles, though." It was going to take months to train them up to family standards for counterespionage. It was a good thing she was probably going to die in a week. She admired herself in the mirror, and I'll leave such a stylish corpse. What more can you ask for, really?

"At once Eminence! Thank you so much. We won't disappoint you," exclaims Anise as she places the tray down and falls in behind Asuna as she departs.

About thirty seconds later there's a muffled scream of frustration from the hallway before Asuna storms back in, picks up the tray, and her expression becomes one of absolute bliss as she tries the sublime confection. She pauses beside a footman on her way out, tray in hand, "Please inform Cynis Manato that I hate him, and also that I had a lovely time and that I'd like to inquire as to when we can do this again."

The footman nods stoically, "Yes, Lady Sesus."

"Did he tell you I was going to say that?"

"Yes, Lady Sesus."

"I'm not predictable," she says, accusatorially.

"No, Lady Sesus."

Asuna nods, satisfied, takes another bite, and sets off for her quarters.

Apologies for any liberties taken with Manato's character. This idea just struck me as very funny, and very the-Manato-in-my-head.
 
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jaydude

Three Thousand Club
With Manato...
"Thank you." replies Satori, taking the offered seat and returning his affectionate smile. She listens patiently as he talks, her own smile widening a little at his words.

[Satori gains a Minor Tie of Affection towards Manato.]

"Last night was a wake-up call." she says quietly. "I always knew that our policies would antagonize the people of Kandara, but I also always believed that, no matter what was thrown at us, the forces of the Realm would be able to resist it. And while I knew that the Anathema were appearing in greater numbers than before, the thought that one would try and attack this place never occurred to me. I've lived most of my life in a world where the Anathema were rendered little more than a nuisance thanks to the Wyld Hunt, so suddenly having to see them as a threat is a little hard to comprehend."

She then takes a sip from her own cup of tea. "As for the future, I doubt that we can continue doing things the way we've done in the past while Jinlong remains a threat. And I can't imagine you and your friends would be happy with that either." she says. "I think that if we all work together, we could accomplish great things here, and give the mortals fresh reason to appreciate the Realm. But do you really think our Houses would allow that? I think we both know what's coming on the Blessed Isle now that the Empress is gone. Sooner or later, our respective matriarchs will recall us back there, along with all our resources, talents, and attention."

[In terms of ambition nature and intensity, Manato gets the impression that Satori wants to turn things back to when Dynasts and the Realm were respected in Kandara, and is willing to work towards that goal, but is unsure how much emotional investment she should put in with the Realm Civil War on the horizon.]

Once Manato has given his response to Satori's words, the footman Asuna spoke to earlier approaches the pair, bowing low when at the table.

"Lady Satori. Lord Manato." he says in greeting, before looking at the Fire Aspect. "Lady Asuna asked me to tell you that she hates you, but also that she had a lovely time, and would like to inquire as to when the two of you can do it again. It was exactly as you predicted."

From her chair, Satori raises an eyebrow and gives Manato a curious smirk.
 

Rykon

Three Thousand Club
"I make no secret of my stance politically, Satori. As much as some actors on the grand stage have coveted the red chair their whole lives, the fact is that there are many and more people who are vying for power and yet more that fear for the future of their families in the aftermath of another house taking power. They may not voice such things aloud, but I think you are aware enough to comprehend what all of our kin feel in their hearts."

Manato paused to take a sip, speaking calmly in an even tone. "If anyone outside their house takes that seat, what place will they have in the future? It's a real and valid question. One you may have asked yourself at some point. No one wants to watch their house fall from grace at the whims of a new Empress after all. Long story short, I fully expect that whoever is foolish enough to take the seat will be warding off multitudes of assassination plots until the day one succeeds."

Unless they hold the sword, maybe. Manato thought to himself. Even then, not a position I'd want to be in if I could avoid it. The poor fools don't appreciate what they're asking for.

He sighed as his thoughts dwelled on the home front. "You are probably right that even more Dynasts will be recalled in the coming days. Such short-sighted decisions have been disappointing me each day that I've had my eyes open to see it. Don't get me wrong, I love the Blessed Isle but out here is where our power grows. Out here is where we still have room to develop new ventures and extend our influence. If we don't hold our ground in places like this, we will stagnate and our nation die in an ugly, miserable process. Neither of us wants that."

"So, I intend to flaunt the stupidity of the deliberative in front of their very faces until the legions return to the Threshold. If we fully retreat to the isle, we give the surging Anathema the room to recover their old wretched powers. Taking the wrong path here is too dangerous to be permitted in silence. If I have to make enemies at home, so be it. Times aren't such that we can suffer the weight of weak leaders. Matriarchs' will or no, I will fight as hard as I can for the Realm to survive, even in the Threshold." Manato added with resolve in his voice.

His tone now softened, ready to move on to less depressing subjects. "As for your goals, I couldn't agree more. You have my wholehearted support as your friend in this effort. I want us to be the ones to set the example for how good things can be under Realm administration. You've got many demands on your role here that you have to work around, and I get that. Still, there has to be a way to work around all this..." Manato makes a vague gesture with his hands. "...mess."

"On that note, I'd like to inform the people of the tax reforms, the refund, and distribute food under the auspices of your policy and authority. They need to know who this comes from, and they need to be made to understand that even we have burdens placed upon us. The one you are choosing to take upon yourself is something I would have history remember in a positive light. I pray the growth eliminates the expense very soon. Until then, there's plenty of money to be made investing in equity rather than merely harvesting taxes. I think you'll find that more fun and fulfilling in the long run anyway. If I have your blessing, I'll get to work today on shifting public opinion to your favor."

***

When the footman arrives to deliver his message, Manato had to resist the urge to fall out of his seat in hysterical laughter. The sheer audacity in the timing of this man. That's truly priceless. Hardly a story anyone would believe if not for that bothersome philosopher Murphy speaking such a painful law into existence. What Satori saw was Manato raise a hand to his mouth, tears welling in his eyes as he stifled the reflex to laugh harder than he had all year. When he finally regained his composure he spoke.

"Good man... for the sake of your new employer... Don't deliver your reports aloud in the future, just hand them a note and a lighter to save her the stress. Message received, I'll deliver my response in person. You are dismissed." He managed to say as he wiped his eyes clear for witnessing an event that may live on in infamy.

He knew this was a salacious secret if it spread, but it was rather late for that. Satori didn't hold either of them in malice for now either. What was the worst that could happen? That the Ragara machine try and use them against each other? If they touch her, the Ragaras will dine with the Iselsi in jealousy. Manato thought privately. So far, there's no immediate cause for concern, but sadly it does still pose a potential risk. Fuck, not like there wasn't enough to keep an eye out for already.

Turning back to Satori, her expression showed the kind of curiosity that expected answers. His own smirk implied that it was exactly what it sounded like. Not like she'd believe some off the cuff excuse if he tried. After a moment of silence and the footman departed he finally replied to her inquiring glance. "Alright, yes, I had a good time too if you must know." He said in good humor, laugh still in his voice, and a red tint to his face. "I've got it bad for her. No rings on either of our hands yet. As a greedy schemer, we all know where this path leads. Do we not? Not quite sure why I let her do this to me, but I have no regrets." His smirk changed to a warm, peaceful smile now that he conceded her victory over him.

"Anything else you wish to know?"
[Edit: Pass by the way. Manato's gained enough insight to know their goals are fully aligned. Though, if she wants to poke fun at him in light of the situation, I'm fine with that too.]
 
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jaydude

Three Thousand Club
[Okay. Proceeding onto the next beat.]

Satori gives a shake of the head at Manato's question.

Later on in the morning, the five of you are suddenly called to a meeting of Satori's council. Those who decide to go to the meeting room see Satori, Boroma, Kirito, Javald, Sengon and Voruna gathered there, along with another female Dynast who introduces herself as Ragara Zadari, the court sorcerer for Kandara, in charge of handling all sorcery-based matters. She's a young woman with pure white hair that reaches down to her neck, along with pale blue eyes, and she wearing a set of form-fitting light blue sorcerer's robes (Appearance 4). Curiously, Al-Sakhawi and Nellens Mabuka are also in the room, and from their expressions they're unsure as to why they were invited.

"This was just delivered to the city gates." says Satori, looking uncharacteristically serious as she holds up a scroll. "It's a message, supposedly from Jinlong."

"That's the Anathema we suspect to be leading the invasion of the city." Kirito explains to Al-Sakhawi and Mabuka, neither of whom show any signs of recognizing the name. Satori meanwhile opens up the scroll and begins to read:

To the tyrant Ragara Satori

You probably don't remember me, but my name is Jinlong. I am the handmaiden you once ordered flogged to death for nothing more than spilling a drink on you, in an incident that was not my fault. I would have died that day, a victim of a horrific injustice, were it not for the intervention of the Unconquered Sun, my savior and patron. Now I return with his grace, at the head of your reckoning.

By now, the survivors of Yin-Shizi's attack will have made it back to you with news of my approach and the strength of my army, and you and your council will no doubt have made a rough guess of my intentions. If you believe I plan to seize Kandara from you, then you are correct. If you believe I have ill intentions towards its people however, you are very much mistaken. My goal is nothing more than the liberation of Kandara from your despotism, and its restoration to how it was before the disappearance of the Scarlet Empress, after which greed and corruption was allowed to plague the Realm and its territories.

I imagine that you will be skeptical about these claims of mine, and I will understand if so. But much of what you have been told about our kind - the Anathema, as you call us - is wrong. We are not hosts of dark powers, but the Solar and Lunar Exalted. We are men and women given power by the two greatest of the Incarnae, and charged with the protection of this world against the malevolent forces of the Wyld, the Underworld and Malfeas. And while some of us do abuse that power, we are not all predestined towards evil. If you do not believe me, just look to the city of Yangofu, and the satrapy it is capital of. No longer having to pay extortionate tribute to the Realm, it and its people are once again on the path to prosperity following my takeover. The Ledaal Dynasts there who recognized the truth and surrendered to me have been spared, and many chose to join my service, having seen that I am an ally of their Shadow Crusade, not a justified target of it.

You and your council however will not be shown the same mercy. Rest assured that I am not interested in revenge against you, but I will be obliged to provide justice for Kandara's people after the countless abuses and cruelties you have inflicted upon them. If you decide to flee before I arrive with my army, I will happily leave you in peace. But if you stay and resist me, or attempt to retake Kandara after I have liberated it, I will cut open your chest, rip out your heart, and crush it before your eyes.

I warn you now that you cannot resist what is coming for you. I have the support of thousands; soldiers who have served me faithfully in the years since I was chosen by the Unconquered Sun, peasants driven into my ranks by your misrule, Dragon-blooded from within and outside of the Realm, as well as fellow Celestial Exalted. You, by contrast, have nothing. What remains of your Realm garrison has been decimated, and from what I know of your ilk on the Blessed Isle and the neighboring satrapies, they will not lift a finger to help you if doing so would hinder their House's fight for the Scarlet Throne.

We arrive in a week, under the banner of the sun. For the sake of you and your council, I advise you all to be long gone by then, and to leave Kandara to me and its king.

Signed
Jinlong
I did think of including an influence roll with this post, but I wanted to let you all decide for yourselves how your characters would react to the letter's content, without any impact from me.
 
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Random Word

One Thousand Club
" 'You have nothing'! What are we, so much Southern snow?" Asuna sighs, "Still, how dreadfully embarrassing for House Ledaal. Praised by Anathema! Enlightenment just isn't what it used to be."

"There seems little novelty in this missive, dire though it is. I am no expert on Anathema, but something simply must drive them to attempt to clarify that no, they are not possessed by the stolen power of the Incarna, they're blessed with the borrowed power of the Incarna, so often do they seem to attempt it. If only Heaven agreed," she observes dryly. "On a more positive note, it's so nice to see our young King making friends in foreign courts. They grow up so fast."

Asuna looks to Satori, "Again you find yourself presented with the same choice. The terms have not changed, and nor has our answer. Has yours?"

The letter primarily presents facts Asuna already knew, so it doesn't do very much to shatter her worldview. Her only surprise is that Jinlong intends to tear out Satori's heart instead of having her flogged to death in the public square. Missed opportunity for poetic justice. Asuna will be sure to suggest it if they ever meet.

She's concerned that the fanatics in House Ledaal were swayed. The Anathema must be of the dangerously bewitching variety. The fact that Jinlong herself admits in her missive that the problems she fights against started with the disappearance of the Scarlet Empress only cements Asuna's certainty that this is a problem the Realm can solve itself with the right impetus. Clearly Asuna and Jinlong are united in their distaste for this civil war nonsense.

In her mind Jinlong conquering Kandara is unlikely to help the cause of reform - Manato's victory just might.


Pass - Asuna has a few things she should do today, but they can't be achieved in this scene. She'll want to send a message to her House, acquire some tutors in how to pass for a local minor noble as preparation for the fallback plan of infiltrating the enemy camp in person, and possibly review defensive plans/drill the defenders/refine the plans for baiting the Lunar host to peel off into an ambush depending on what Satori assigns her to do. Asuna has no official authority here, and her rank is meaningless without a position in the chain of command, so until she's granted a position and the duties that come with it she'll quietly focus on spy things.
 
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D. Rex

Magic Eight Ball
Asuna's words rang in Fel's ears, like the shrill ting of of a metal spike driving through stone. Her words hitting too close to home for the pilot to stomach.

Fel slammed his fist down on the corner of the table in heated frustration. And with strength greater than his lithe frame suggested it had, the corner splintered apart, with waves of heated air coming off of him whipping at his robes and hair hinting at the storm he was feeling inside.

He wanted to snap at Asuna. To bite at her for the offense he felt. But no... that would be wrong. In her own way, she was right, and he knew that his sworn kin most certainly didn't mean to offend Fel specifically. Asuna would never do that, but it hurt just the same.

Yet he remains seething, but did his best to contain himself. "They take our most stalwart kin, Asuna, and turn them into toys and puppets. They sink their hooks into their minds and infest them. Corrupting them with poisons and sweet words. Their blasphemy knows no bounds, and not even the most stubborn can resist their manipulation. Their lies would make your best tapestry of words look as crude as a thatch rug."

"This is why we try to get to them so quick... because their greatest danger is their lies and twisted words.... the Ledaal mentioned... any of us would have chosen death before capture. That they have been turned means they were so overwhelmed that plunging a dagger into their own bellies was no longer an option."


"Cousin..." Fel said looking over at Sengon. "Do we know which of our family was stationed there? If they come... we can at least give them the release of death. They deserve that mercy than to be trapped in solar ensorcelment."




"There is another thing to point out... she says we have nothing. And she is very close to being right... if the fate are with us, then she may also not be aware of anything else we have." He said, giving Satori a knowing look. The warstrider. "Would she know? How many people do?"

Random Word Random Word
 
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jaydude

Three Thousand Club
"My intentions are the same. If there's a chance that we can win this, I'm not running." Satori replies, giving Asuna a determined look as she sets Jinlong's message down on the table.

Everyone in the room winces as Fel strikes the table, but no-one comments on it. As far as they're concerned, he can hardly be blamed for having such a reaction, and they don't need to add fuel to the sundowner. When he makes his inquiry about the warstrider, Satori shakes her head, quietly assuring him that Jinlong is very unlikely to know about it.

"The satrap in Yangofu was Ledaal Sarak. Ledaal Szeto was also stationed there, but he was more of a bureaucrat than a fighter." says Sengon. Both names are unfamiliar to Fel. "I can't recall who else was there off the top of my head, but I'll let you know if I remember."

---

"There is some good news." says Kirito. "Zadari and I were in communication with various people last night and this morning. Between everyone's efforts, we're not alone, and we have reinforcements on the way. By my estimate, we'll have a further five thousand troops in the city before Jinlong's army arrives, which combined with the watch's forces should be enough numbers to hold this city for a while, as well as keep the population in check."

"Hmm. I don't know if that's going to be enough to fend off an Anathema horde on the scale that we're facing, though." says Javald, scratching his chin.

"We have Dragon-blooded as well. A number of Dynasts and outcastes who were at the gala have agreed to stay in the city and fight, and some members of House Ledaal who could be spared from Jiara are on their way to our location as we speak. It seems the Flashing Tempest Council were alerted to our situation thanks to Fel here." replies Kirito, giving the Air Aspect an approving nod. "There were also other areas that were willing to contribute to our defense, but were too far away for their forces to make it here within the week. Instead they're going to assemble separately, and once their force is large enough to make a difference, they'll come to our aid. I don't know when exactly that'll be, but it shouldn't take any longer than a few months."

[Hmm. I can't think of any other exposition to give at the moment, but I'll hold to allow the other players to respond and add their character's voices to the situation.]
 

Rykon

Three Thousand Club
Manato listened patiently as the contents of the letter were read aloud. He had expected some attempts at intimidation and was not disappointed. He was surprised to hear that Ledaals were outed as collaborators though. No doubt Fel would likely see them as held against their will until Anathema magics broke them. Still, this was painful news to receive regarding one's friends or kin. Seeing his outburst merely verified his expectation. What we are about to do, we do for all their sakes brother. We're with you still.

In response to the message, the fire aspect merely had this to say. "That's an awfully convenient story for her. She forgets that whether or not that's true, she's still declaring war at best and committing mass terrorism at worst. This is still a sovereign nation, Empress or no. Her justice is a child's fantasy."

Seeing the group at large decide to stand together lifted his spirit. Though there were still several challenges to address. Namely, numbers and timing were still vastly favoring the Solar forces. "A few months is quite a bit longer than I hoped for, I admit. With that kind of timeline, I'll have to do some research to see if there's anyone else we can call upon to help us overcome this tide of devils. If memory serves, I think we have a few options." Manato taps his chin in thought. "As for our military experts here, how confident are you in the fortifications of Kandara against Lunar Anathema? We are well acquainted with the limits of man but a possible menagerie of beasts pose a bit of a wild card for our defense."
 

D. Rex

Magic Eight Ball
Fel took a deep breath, trying to calm down his anger. He fought the urge to slump down into a chair, instead holding himself tall as he nodded to Satori then Sengon.

"Sarak. Szeto." He said softly. Committing their names to memory. "If you would, Sengon, I would appreciate it. I wish to see their suffering ended, and pennance paid a thousand fold for each offense." No, Fel did not know them. And no, Fel did not weep for every time one of his blood died in their duty against the anathema. But this was something else. She twisted their very purpose. Their very ambition. Turned them inside out and made them stand for what they were against. That was a fate worse than death. Especially for something as vital as the Shadow Crusade.



As Kirito spoke, Fel nodded back in acknowledgement at the acknowledgment.




Thankfully Manato provided some measure to allow Fel to refocus his mind. And while Fel did not have a mind for war, he did know anathema, and could inform them of a few vulnerabilities they could exploit. He sure could use some of that tobacco right now.

"A wild card, that is to put it lightly. The Lunars in particular are probably a more immediate threat than we would like. Because a menagerie of beasts is exactly what they are. When they mask themselves, they are most difficult to spot. Dogs, cats, cattle, fish, anything. They can take its form. Some of the worst can even steal the faces of people, of dynasts. This makes them unparalleled when it comes to infiltration and sabotage."

"Let me put it into perspective.... We are bringing countless people into this city, and they bring their livestock and pets. This would be very easy for them to take advantage of. Because we don't often think about looking there. They could lie in wait to upon the gates from within, or become a fly on a wall in our meetings, quite literally. We must take great care in what we say, for there could be one in this room with us right now. As this city would be a prime spot for any forward lunar scouts. To make matters worse... any one of us could be one too."

"The only way to counter this is with vigilance, and when dealing with sensitive information we need to discuss a way to prove we are not anathema with a stolen face. The people of Kendara would be good for this task, it will keep their minds busy and make them feel that they are helping. To look for animals or people that exhibit strange behavior. Put a bounty on birds and vermin, pay a child with a treat or morsel for every head he brings in, children love a good hunt. It will keep their spirits up and keep them out of trouble."

"But just as some can grow small... there are also those that can grow giant. Facing an anathema tyrant lizard is a fearsome thing... but even more fearsome is those that take their hideous war forms to monstrous sizes. Even the sturdiest walls will have trouble holding up to such titans. I may be able to help there at least, but it would not be unwise to see about reinforcing the walls if at all possible or have a plan on standby should a wall be breached."



Fel looked over to Satoro again,"While it is good news we have forces to our aid, we also need to see that those we have currently are equipped as well as possible. Do you have a store of artifacts to arm and armor any Dragon-blooded who is lacking? I do not mean to take advantage of your generosity, but if there was any time to dust off ones collection, it would be now."
 
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Random Word

One Thousand Club
As Fel slams his fist into the desk Asuna's eyes flick toward him, then away, ashamed. "I apologize. That was inappropriate. I should not make light of the lives of your cousins."

She carefully does not allow the small smile reach her face when Fel disparages her ability to dissemble and deceive before the Anathema, and says nothing. We shall see.

---

Asuna listens to Fel expound upon the dangers of an Anathema siege attentively, nodding at the end. "I defer to the experts on the subject of hunting monsters. As to defending walls against living siege engines, the tried and true solutions of the Thousand Correct Actions, as ever, provide. Even the largest of creatures has difficulty maintaining a charge over a sufficiently large and deep ditch, and without momentum has a much more difficult time destroying fortifications. Walls can be reinforced with sharpened wooden stakes, capped with metal if time permits, to make any attempt to swiftly demolish them fraught with peril. Boiling oil can make even the hardiest of monsters reconsider tarrying for the time required to dismantle the stakes."
 

Sherwood

Luna's Concubine
Supporter
Larissa says, "The spell Death of Obsidian Butterflies is very effective in causing great harm to battle groups. Combine that with my Wings of the Raptor, and I can strike from multiple different locations to great effect."
 

Rykon

Three Thousand Club
Manato closes his eyes as he listens, painting the picture of the battlefield in his mind and simulating its course with what limited experience he had. "Hmm... Just thinking out loud here. There are still a few factors I think we can and should quickly address. First, we've made no effort to commune with the spirit court yet, to my knowledge anyhow. In light of our insurrectionist encounter claiming what fate has in store for this place... I think it wise to accrue added insurance against divinely permitted disruptions. Wouldn't be the first time the gods have intervened in the wars against Anathema if memory serves."

"Second, we strongly suspect our opponent has access to at least one sorcerer. We've no idea what kind of conjured servants they may or may not have access to. Whatever plan we devise should consider whatever war is waged on the immaterial front. Sapping, ambushes, sabotage, the potential here is endless. Even if it's just one servant tainting the enemy's supply, it can have a massive ripple effect. All the more reason placating the divinities may aid our cause."

"Third, other than a couple of high powered assets, our defense arsenal is a bit limited. I'd like to see if we can find a way to acquire more implosion bows, artifacts, hearthstones, or heaven forbid, more allies. Any high profile acquisitions would also boost morale. As confident as our opponent portrays herself, we know that she's expecting little to no opposition. To merely waltz in and take over with minimal sacrifices. They will lose that sweet delusion quickly but being prepared to take advantage of their folly would be nice too."

"Of course, I'm probably still a few steps behind some of you." Manato opens his eyes to read the state of the room. "Satori, Kirito, Asuna, is there anything else you would have me do to help our cause?"
 
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