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O Brave New World - IC

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jaydude

Four Thousand Club
With Sirocco's words, Atusa was able to avoid being swayed by Acekara once again. There was still the matter of the poison in her veins, and she knew that she really had to end the fight soon.

Wobbling only a little on her feet, she rushed forward and slashed at the Raksha with both daiklaves once again.

[Withering attack, no essence being spent, claiming one-point stunt to give me 16 dice. 10 successes.

4 threshold successes + 12 raw damage - 10 soak gives me 6 damage dice. No successes, so only one initiative.]

Health Levels: X, X, X, X, X, -2, -2, -2, -2, -4, Incapacitated
Initiative: 5
Anima: Bonfire/Iconic
Wound Penalty: -1

Personal Essence: 0/13
Peripheral Essence: 5/33
Committed Essence: 12
Willpower: 3/5
Offhand Charge: 2/7

Evasion 4, Parry 5
Armor: Buff Jacket (Soak 3, Mobility Penalty 0)
Natural Soak: 2
Armored Soak: 3
Hardness: 0
 
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jaydude

Four Thousand Club
Acekara would be taken off-guard by the ferocity of Atusa's attack. The Zenith didn't let up, even with the poison coursing through her veins, slashing at the Raksha in a relentless and unending series of attacks. It didn't matter that this wasn't officially a fight to the death; her sole concern was to bring down Acekara before the poison bought her down.

One blow got through, then another. They were superficial cuts, but they were enough to hurt and stagger Acekara. Two more blows knocked her knives away, and then a third blow was on point to strike the Raksha at the ankles. At the last moment, Atusa gave a twist of her wrists so that she hit Acekara with the flats of her blades, with the result that her opponent's feet were knocked out from underneath her rather than cut off, causing Acekara to crash down hard on her back.

The next second, she was mounted by the Zenith - a panting, glaring Zenith whose entire body was surrounded by brightly glowing golden light - pinning her down against the deck and allowing Atusa to press the edge of one of her daiklaves to the Raksha's throat, while aiming the point of the other at her opponent's head.

"Yield." whispered Atusa, somehow making it sound like a command.
 
The Bintanath 1 & Hasani Fayum

Random Word

Two Thousand Club
Atusa:

Acekara smiles and sheathes her knives, "I yield. Well done, little bird. I haven't been challenged like that in cccentriess." As you turn your sword aside she rises and bows deeply, then materializes a horn from the chaos flowing from her wounds and sounds a retreat. A great cheer goes up from the crew at your victory, hard fought and witnessed by all. "Until we meet again," Acekara says with a sigh before leaping down to join the the naga filing back across the stone serpents. Slowly but surely you can see the same happening on other ships. There appears to be a brief altercation between Acekara and the other cataphract when they meet on the deck of the flagship, but it is resolved swiftly, and both are watching you and discussing something as the Fae vessels disentangle themselves and fall behind.

The void left by the retreating din of battle is filled with the plaintive cries of the wounded and the deeper silence of the dead. Now is left only the gruesome and difficult work of tending to each. Each died the way a warrior should, shoulder to shoulder with their clan against a fearsome enemy. As painful as any loss your people suffer is, you can take solace in seeing how blessedly light Merecheas' harvest was given the foe, entirely thanks to your quick wit and skill at arms. None present will soon forget that.

Thanks to Merecheas' blessing the dead will not rise as hungry ghosts, but funerary arrangements will be made all the same. The bodies will be bled into bloodstone to produce pure drinking water, then the first steps in the embalming rites will be performed to ensure they do not decay while they await the attentions of a full team of morticians. This is a lengthy process, and in the meantime, once Gyasi is done fussing over your wounds and worrying about you, the business at hand demands your attention.

Essence 1; Willpower 5

Appearance 2
Guile 4
Resolve 3

Aspects:
Explorer
Daring
Manipulative
Ambitious
Essence 5; Willpower 6

Appearance 5
Guile 3
Resolve 3

Aspects:
Possessive
Haughty
Wanderlust
Scholar
Essence 1; Willpower 5

Appearance 4
Guile 2
Resolve 2

Aspects:
Scavenger Lord
Troublemaker
Brash
Roguish

The Mandjet is brought alongside Khaemwaset's flagship, the Ursudi, and you are invited over with the laying of an ironwood bridge. The damage here is more severe, both to vessel and crew. Khaemwaset sits on a small but richly embroidered floating carpet of reds and golds with golden tassels. An injury while young, exploring a dangerously unstable ruin, cost him the use of his legs, but few clans can claim such a proclivity for finding the treasures of ages lost as the Bintanath, and so a solution was found. He is clothed in loose fitting white robes and kufiyah with only a collection of curious looking rings for ornamentation. He wears his graying beard long, his face weathered by half a century's exposure to the desert, but his grey eyes are still sharp and cunning.

Arrayed around him are various servants in finery and soldiers who have done their best to make themselves presentable after days of sailing and the recent pitched battle. Beside him sits a materialized Djinn with skin black as night, decorated with an intricate tracery of luminescent golden tattoos. Flames lick the skin around her numerous wounds, but these cause her no visible discomfort as Kheru Hasani, a young man with Fayum beads in his black braids, tends to them with a thick black paste. She has a wild mane of white hair, blood red eyes that have seen ages come and go, and generously apportioned hips. Perhaps it's something in the glint of her knowing eyes or the quirk of her golden lips, but she has the countenance of a skilled storyteller, the sort of person who you can't help but think could hold an audience spellbound with tales from far and wide for days. In one hand she holds a cold iron khopesh, in the other a cylinder of Black Jade inlaid with a complex - and perhaps almost imperceptibly shifting? - pattern in shining Moonsilver. The young prince has clever black eyes, full lips that were made for a mischievous grin, a strong jaw for a narrow face, and a good physique well framed by his open vest and loose pants of pale blue cotton tied with a silk sash bearing his clan insignia.

Gahiji is badly wounded, so Sirocco has the honour of announcing you as you board the Ursudi. "I present Her Radiance Atusa, Nomarch of the Hematti, Chosen of White-Fire Judgement, Slayer of Subahar, Warden of the Seventh Great Duneway, and now the Blade Who Turned a Hundred Ships." [You can claim the Sobriquet Merit for that one, and reword it as you please.]

The captain of Khaemwaset's personal guard salutes, "Wisdom Khaemwaset, Nomarch of the Bintanath, Caretaker of the Great Library of Wadjet, Guardian of the Lost City of Ensa, Warden of the Eighth Great Duneway, bids you be welcome aboard the Ursudi, Nomarch Atusa. I present Hasani, Kheru of the Fayum, Heritor of the Sixth Great Duneway, and Aajej of Ten Thousand Tales."

Hasani bows, "Nomarch Atusa. The stories did not do you justice. For one, they omitted the great aura of golden light, which I personally find to be one of your most striking features."

Aajej smiles languidly, "Nomarch Atusa, you honour us. Fortune shines on the Hematti, and all Faqari."

Khaemwaset's face lights up with a wide smile and he addresses you with a raspy voice, "Well I'll be. Sun-chosen, just like the stories said. I see the winds of change have been kind to both our clans, and I have chosen my allies well, for to have you as an enemy would be a worrisome prospect indeed. The Bintanath owe you a debt not easily repaid. Your timely and valourous intervention saved more than merely our lives," Aajej admires the black and silver cylinder with satisfaction, "for we still tightly grasp the Index they sought to deny us. I understand my sons would be of no interest to you, but it would be my honour to grant you your choice of my lovely daughters."

He stares at the symbol glowing on your forehead for a moment, then meets your eyes again, "There is no longer any point in secrecy or evasion, for the fates could not proclaim their support for my choice to align our peoples any louder if they carved our names into the firmament itself. Soon we will see what lies beyond the door the Index opens, and why the Raksha fought so fiercely to keep it buried, and we would be honoured should you wish to join us."
 
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jaydude

Four Thousand Club
"The next time we see each other, it'll be on my terms." Atusa warned Acekara, before watching as the Raksha departed with her fleet. When it was clear that there would be no further battle, she let out a sigh of relief.

Rather than immediately meet with Khaemwaset, the Zenith took a half hour to both allow her body to recover from Acekara's venom, and let her anima fade to a faint golden glow around her form. She used the time to change into a new, cleaner buff jacket, and briefly check in on where her wounded - including Gahiji - and her dead were being treated. She gave them a sad look, before approaching the Clan Treasurer.

"Make sure the families of those who died receive two dinars for each of their losses." she instructed him quietly. It was the least she could do for those who lost their lives in her service, especially when it was indirectly due to a choice she had made as Nomarch. And while two dinars would never be enough to compensate for the loss of a loved one, it would at least make clear that the Nomarch appreciated the sacrifices of her followers, as well as help ease any financial burdens that might be caused by such sacrifices.

---

As Atusa stepped onto the deck of the Usurdi, she found herself the subject of many cheers from the Bintanath who'd either witnessed her duel with Acekara, or heard about it from their comrades. Adulation from a clan besides her own was an unusual thing, but she bore it with a smile, as she did the words of Khaemwaset, Hasani and Aejej. It helped that, while she still wasn't the biggest fan of flattery, here at least she could sense a hint of genuine gratitude behind what was being said, not least because she currently had no idea of anything the Bintanath might want to butter her up for.

She let her eyes focus on Aejaj for a good few seconds, not just because of the djinn's beauty - which was certainly divine - but because she knew that it was the other female's preoccupation with Hasani that had led to this entire situation coming to pass in the first place. Yet by that same token, Atusa considered, it had led to her and the Hematti being in a position to save these people from the Poison Fangs. It was funny how fate could work sometimes.

After Aejaj, Atusa looked at Hasani. Even though she had no sexual interest in the man, the Zenith could tell that he was as beautiful as the rumors said, and she understood a little of both why the djinn wanted to make him hers, and why Dakarai was angry to have lost him. Nevertheless, she had assured Sebua that she would try and put a stop to the relationship, and she glanced between the two, looking for any signs that might indicate how strongly they felt towards each other. Already though she was wary. For a man who had allegedly been kidnapped, Hasani seemed too at ease here

The thought of getting to take her pick of Khaemwaset's daughters excited Atusa to no end, but for now she had other priorities. Hence, she directed her attention back to Khaemwaset, as well as the Index. "You have my thanks for the kind words and generous offer, Nomarch Khaemwaset. You may rest assured that I will most certainly take you up on it." she said, giving him a pleasant smile. "You say that the Index opens a door, yes? How long do you believe it will it be before we arrive at it?"

[Hold. Would like to use this opportunity to try and persuade Aejaj to give up her claim on Hasani, ideally during a private audience with the two of them at some point before we reach the door unlocked by the Index. For the time being though, attempting a Read Intentions action on each of the two, in an attempt to gauge the strength of their feelings for each other. Five base dice, and claiming a one point stunt for each one.

4 successes for Aejaj, 5 for Hasani.]

Health Levels: X, X, X, X, X, -2, -2, -2, -2, -4, Incapacitated
Initiative: 5
Anima: Glowing
Wound Penalty: -1

Personal Essence: 0/13
Peripheral Essence: 5/33
Committed Essence: 12
Willpower: 3/5
Offhand Charge: 2/7

Evasion 4, Parry 5
Armor: Buff Jacket (Soak 3, Mobility Penalty 0)
Natural Soak: 2
Armored Soak: 3
Hardness: 0
 
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The Library of Budding Truths (Hazel & John) + Atusa Chooses an Ally

Random Word

Two Thousand Club
Hazel & John:

The Labyrinth of Budding Truths is a vast warren of hollowed capillaries in the lower trunk of the Heartwood of Javurwa, the immense tree throughout which the city is built. A small legion of shrublike elementals with amber leaves and bushy bullrush stalks dust the halls and sort the endless stacks of scrolls according to some ineffable design. Technically only those granted special dispensation by the Council can visit the Labyrinth, but Quiet Reverie is on duty this afternoon and one piping hot bowl of noodle soup from John's famous kitchen is all it takes to convince her to look the other way.

"You're lucky your noodle soup is so good. That's the only reason I'm even considering this," she says, blushing slightly as she glowers at John, as if daring him to disagree. The 'again' is silent. She glances at Hazel, "And who is this? No, wait, maybe it's better I don't know. Alright, what are you looking for?" She takes the drawing and holds it close to her face, clearly nearsighted. "A scroll cap? And you want to find related material? And you don't know anything about it? From the Shogunate or earlier, okay, that narrows it down to a few wings. Do you have the scroll? No? I don't recognize this. Could take centuries to find it." She sighs, "I can't promise you'll get anything useful, but I'll give it to a Keeper and ask it to add it to the collection. Follow it and don't lose sight of it. You know the rules: Don't touch anything you don't absolutely need to. Take nothing. If you're caught, I never met you. If you get lost, ask a Keeper to lead you out."

She slurps a mouthful of noodles and sighs contentedly, " 'ank 'ou," then hands the drawing to a passing amber bush. It grasps the drawing in a tendril and runs one of its bullrush heads over the surface, pauses for the better part of a minute in contemplation, long enough that you begin to wonder whether it will ever move, then without warning sets off at a surprisingly brisk shamble down one of the hundreds of narrow tunnels that radiate out from the ten storey central atrium capped with amber windows, thick dust swirling through pale shafts of orange sunlight. Some noble would have long since claimed the site for a palace were it not for the thorny temperament of the occupants and the daunting prospect of removing them.

John can't help but notice how Hazel carefully avoids the shafts of light wherever possible as she crosses the hall, nor how when it becomes unavoidable her shadow shifts and writhes unsettlingly when cast by sunlight.

The elemental is no sprinter, but its endurance is impressive, and jogging along behind it is enough to leave John winded while merely getting Hazel's blood pumping. It stops in an alcove surrounded by honeycomb shelves stuffed to capacity with scrolls on all sides, so thick with dust you suspect no one has been here in centuries. It rolls the drawing up, suffuses it with amber light, and seals it with secreted wax before sliding it neatly into one of the alcoves and scurrying away on some new errand. You start by randomly pulling scrolls from the shelves and fortune clearly smiles upon you for you are graced with a deluge of information that will take days to sort through. There are hundreds of scrolls with a similar cap and thousands of related works, detailing everything from material requisition orders for manse construction to plans for agricultural product distribution from Ushan and Bizra to surrounding settlements, clear evidence that this is pre-Collapse material from when the desert was lush and green. Today Ushan and Bizra can't even produce enough food to feed themselves, let alone produce these absurd agricultural surpluses. You've never even heard of some of these plants.

After several hours poring over dry texts you manage to piece together a few things. The pre-Collapse population of Achaea was likely somewhere in the neighbourhood of a hundred times what it is today. That's sobering. The organization whose symbol brought you here was primarily based out of a spectacular Manse called the Alcazar of Twelve Ewers somewhere in the Locuran jungle. John has heard fanciful stories about the Alcazar, a legendary garden of the gods with herbs that can cure any disease, peaches that grant immortality, and even creeping vines that can bring life back to the dead.

The only mentions of where it might be located are in reference to places you've never heard of, but you do have some records of goods being transhipped there from the river through Javurwa, so it stands to reason it's somewhere relatively close. Given all the references to Manses, geomantic projects, and agricultural products in the more recent documents, their pre-Collapse mandate seems to have been the construction and maintenance of a network of essence-fuelled agricultural infrastructure that spanned the desert. If they could be repaired and brought back to life they could feed countless millions. Centuries prior to this the requisitions are smaller in scale, entirely focused on deliveries to facilities in Locura, and decidedly stranger. Some of these manifests are almost certainly coded, and it's difficult to decipher what was really being transshipped, but Hazel can recognize sorcerous reagents and ritual components when she sees them. The manifests seem to detail regular deliveries of very large quantities of livestock, but nowhere near enough foodstuffs to feed them, and no outgoing goods of any kind. Either these locations produced quite a lot of food on their own, or they didn't expect the animals to survive.

Quiet Reverie's unexpected and unusually loud voice shatters her namesake as it echoes in the distance, "So, what do you need to find these documents for, anyway?"

Faintly you hear the pained reply, "Is it entirely necessary to be so loud? I need not remind you this is a library."

"Don't worry, there's no one down here."

Closer now, "Are you quite alright?"

"Oh yes, I'm fine, thank you."

Thamina Al-A'zam and Quiet Reverie are approaching your location. You have time to grab one or two promising documents before they arrive. What useful information do you find, and deny to the Sorcerer-Prince in the process?
  1. Plans detailing the design of the Alcazar itself, including its defenses. Best to know what dangers might await a curious cat.
  2. Research notes on the design and development of a new kind of agricultural Manse, never delivered to the Alcazar. It looks like it was at least partially completed, and these notes would be invaluable in repairing it.
  3. Very old research notes from something called Project Vitruvius, still sealed and coded, long forgotten even before the Collapse. Gain a glimpse at what darkness sleeps buried beneath Achaea.
  4. Nothing - you promised not to steal anything from the library, after all.
What do you do next?
  1. Play it cool and pretend you're allowed to be here.
  2. There's a small space carved out behind the shelving in this alcove, possibly a new tunnel soon aborted. It would be a very tight squeeze, but both of you could fit inside to remain out of sight.
  3. Flee down the hallway.
  4. Something else entirely.
[ D. Rex D. Rex how's that? ]



Atusa:

[Oh, the daughters are literally right here! Okay, I can roll with that. That says something about who they must be, that they would be brought on an expedition like this. So Atusa has a thing for pale blondes (the average local skin tone this deep into the Burning Sands is dark enough it doesn't need to tan). That implies she's got some foreign blood in her, possibly Northern. Her other parent must have been exotic, and likely the source for her supernatural elements if you opt for that.]

Is Atusa getting married, or taking a concubine?
  1. Marriage. This is a significant political union between the Hematti and Bintanath, and your children will be in the line of succession for both. [We'll say polyamory is legitimized in case you want to start a Khera collection as part of your plan to unite the clans. Absolute Primogeniture and Djinn choice if inheritance can't be easily resolved.]
  2. Concubine. This is a temporary arrangement (probably 2-4 years or so), a generous gift, and a sign of strong mutual trust.
Which of Khaemwaset's daughters is blonde and feisty?
  1. The Tomb Raider - She's a skilled archer, fit, lean, and a master of avoiding or disabling traps and locks both mechanical and arcane.
  2. The Scholar - She's widely learned in history and natural philosophy, reads and writes many languages including archaic dialects, and is adept at solving riddles, puzzles, and ciphers.
  3. The Occultist - She trafficks in the strange and otherworldly, with a more than passing familiarity with the spirits. She is skilled in at least one school of esoteric arts.
  4. Something Else - Make a case for how it might align with the Bintanath's strengths.
She is:
  1. Mortal. (1 dot Ally)
  2. Supernatural. (+6 XP Debt, 3 dot Ally)
  3. Not supernatural yet, but she will be. (Option to later upgrade her to a 3 dot Ally for 6 XP)
    • Very supernatural (Option to later upgrade her to a 5 dot Ally for 12 XP)
Aajej looks at Kheru Hasani with the self-assurance of one who is very rarely spurned by their heart's desire, and a depth of possessive affection typical of Djinn. They do not love in half-measures. Luckily they are by nature flighty and new preoccupations tend to entirely eclipse the old. [Defining Tie of Love, but if she falls in love with someone new it will replace this one.] Kheru Hasani looks at Aajej with love, yes, for who could look on a visage like that and remain unmoved, but this is overshadowed by a deep and abiding respect for her abilities bordering on hero worship. He has a reputation for ruin delving and treasure hunting that has placed him at odds with his family, and Aajej is something of a legend. [Minor Tie of Love, but a Major Tie of Respect] For a man of his rank and stature, to be relaxed in the custody of a hostile clan is not unusual. Honour demands he be afforded the comforts of his rank, and he would have every expectation of being ransomed back to his family in good health and short order.

You hadn't thought it possible, but Khaemwaset's smile widens as you declare your interest in binding yourself to one of his daughters, and by proxy his clan. "Truly Inkharus smiles upon me. The winds of change brought tribulation, as always, but also fortune the likes of which I could have scarcely imagined. We should reach our destination well before the sun has reached its zenith. Please, take the time to get to know them, there is no hurry to make your selection." All three sit on divans under a shaded awning, and look at you with a mixture of surprise, awe, and curiosity. You get the feeling this arrangement is as much a surprise to them as you.

[Pass - Once you pick your new concubine/wife and resolve your hold we can jump to exploring ruins.]
 
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Sherwood

Luna's Concubine
Supporter
Renna & Morrolan:

A ragged cheer is taken up on the walls as you approach the gates now opening for you, though many simply stare in awe at the light show that is your still burning animas.

Broad shouldered and swathed head to toe in roughspun red wool, the City God of Kabir, Adjo, stands a full four metres tall, though he doesn't look it at the moment, leaning exhausted against the haft of his hammer. His dented bronze wide brimmed helm shines in the reflected light of your animas of silver and gold, softly glowing blue eyes barely visible in the darkness beneath. Behind him you see wounded being tended to, as well as some curious looking animate clay constructs with runic inscriptions. The low stout buildings you can see behind him have few windows if any and their entrances are barricaded - whether against ash or intrusion is unclear. The domes dwarf the structures around them, and presumably the entrance to the bulk of the city is concealed beneath.

He says something in the language of gods and spirits, but when you shake your head he switches to heavily accented but comprehensible Flametongue. "Seneschal," he nods to Morrolan, his voice gravelly. He looks at Renna, "Lawgiver. It's been a looong time since I've seen your kind round these parts." He pauses, considering. "You're with a Seneschal, so I'm gonna assume you're allowed to be here, and in fact I think I'll find your presence so unremarkable it ain't worth mentioning to no one. I don't want no trouble. Can't say the same for everyone, though. Goin' round making displays like that, I hope you know what you're doin'. I don't wanna sound ungrateful. You did a mighty fine thing for us, stickin' your neck out like that on our account. You may have lost the Mandate, so I don't have to do what you say no more, but I'll see you're done right by all the same. Guest custom only goes so far though, in a harsh land like this."

He descends into a brief coughing fit before recovering, looking between Renna and Morrolan, uncertain which of you is in charge. "What brings you to my little jewel in the wastes?" You can't see his mouth beneath the cloth wrapping, and can only barely make out his eyes, but you think he might be smiling slightly. "I'm Adjo, by the way. Pleasure to meet you."
Renna gives Asha a slight touch on the neck to signal a step forward. "Well met, Adjo. I am Renna Taeger, Captain of the Red Arms. We were tasked by Saeiqa Al-Sayf of the Sassarin Principate to come to your aid and stop the insurrection of this mountain god. This is Morrolan, my second. I don't know what you mean about the Mandate, but it would be good to have some aid for my wounded and a place to rest the men and animals. Once they have been tended to, we can discuss some more about just why this god has been acting this way, and with any luck, we can stop this war before it gets any more people killed."
 

Psychie

Princess Psychie
By this time, Morrolan will resume his human form, taking a moment to wipe off some of the blood from his hands on a somewhat clean cloth. Keeping a keen eye out on Renna, he will step forward next to her and her unicorn. "Greetings, Adjo. I am Morrolan, and I claim no other name or title than Chosen of Luna. We are here to stop the fighting and help preserve the peace. Anything you can tell us about what happened is going to go a long way to make that happen."
 

Random Word

Two Thousand Club
Renna & Morrolan:

"Wiped you clean as a babe, huh?" mutters Adjo to himself. "Kinda thought he wouldn't after... well, don't matter. Well met Morrolan and Captain Renna. So the Sassarin got their heads out of their asses long enough to send help, huh? Sent word we should expect some mercenaries led by Exalted, but I didn't expect a Lawgiver and a Seneschal! They musta paid a hefty chunk of silver to sign on the likes of you. Didn't think they gave a rat's ass about us. Mite touched if'm honest. Might shed a tear. But where are my manners, makin you stand out here. Come in, come in. Walk with me. We'll find somewhere for you and yours to bed down out of the ash."

He leads you through a winding maze of buildings seemingly placed at random, massive hammer slung casually over his shoulder, weaving around trains of dead and wounded soldiers being carried back towards the nearest dome and teams of labourers overseen by engineers carrying materials out to the walls to begin repairs, almost all wearing some kind of cloth covering over nose and mouth and a heavy brimmed cap to protect the eyes with cloth skirt to protect the ears and neck. Busy as the passersby are, you still bring traffic to a standstill between Asha's eerie beauty and both of your still glowing animas. Most stare in naked awe, and move quickly to get out of your way. Some even bow or offer prayer.

Adjo speaks as he walks, "Right, so, why's the old son of a bitch actin up. Yeah. Used to be a favourite back in the day. Real big shot in the old empire. He was always ornery, and stewing up there alone in his mountain for millenia hasn't done his personality no favours. You ain't here for no history lesson, though, so why's he mad now. The clan Overseers each sacrifice their firstborn son to the mountain when he sees his sixteenth calibration. Cruel to let em see the tykes grow up only to snatch em, but that's how it's been. Only when the Lualhati Overseer sent up his son, this kid didn't die like he was supposed to. Eloped with the King's daughter and made a break for it," Adjo lets out a deep belly laugh that you can feel through the earth. "Kid's got balls, gotta give him that. Naturally ol' Metalhead wants em both back somethin fierce, and has let us know in no uncertain terms how much we'll regret it if we don't return em right quick. The kid's in hiding, and the Lualhati have decided now's the time to grow a spine and refuse the tribute. Conveniently when it's their kid. The other Overseers are divided and bickerin over what to do, as usual. In the meantime my city's under siege and all the mines are quiet, cause the King's got his Din out ransackin the settlements lookin for em."

He stops in front of a large low structure close to a dome, opening a heavy bronze door to peer inside. "Yeah, this'll do. Mostly empty without new shipments." He leads you into a large stone warehouse, "The chimneys have ash filters so you can keep em open and keep your fires goin. Can't dig latrines, but I'll send someone round with chamber pots, some medicine folk, a bit of wood, and some pressed firedust. Got some nicer quarters below for you and your officers, if you like. Don't have much, but as I said, we owe you and we'll try to do right by you. What else can I do for you?"
 
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Psychie

Princess Psychie
Morrolan looks at the proffered housing and nods. "That will work, and you have our thanks. I am wondering if you can answer a question for me. Do you know what that strange pyramid was that the Din were guarding on the battlefield? It seemed important to the enemy."
 

Random Word

Two Thousand Club
He frowns, "Surprised me to see it, t'be honest. They aren't supposed to be gettin' themselves into... well, never mind. It's the Heavens-Humbling Thunder of the Earth. Haven't seen it for... well... when was Hasta born? And her great great great grandfather was... or was it four greats?" He starts counting on his fingers but gives up after a few seconds, "A good long time. Last I recall the Silverwright used it to bring down the titan Gaia's Lament, and it was old then. If the Din knew how to use it proper there wouldn't be a thing left standin' in the city right now. Small blessins." Despite not being able to see his mouth, the twinkle of fond remembrance in his sunken eyes makes you think he's smiling wistfully, "You know, we thought about usin' it for minin' once back in the day. Gaia's tits, we got an earful for that one. Shame, think of the ore we coulda moved."
 
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jaydude

Four Thousand Club
Long before the sun reaches its zenith, huh? Well, seeing as this battle took place in the morning, that gives us a couple of hours at most before we arrive.

Atusa gave a little chuckle at Khaemwaset's reply. "I was referring to your offer to show me what lies behind the door." she replied, before deliberately letting her smile widen. "But I am certainly no less interested in your daughters."

She'd looked at them earlier, noticing that they were indeed all lovely, and one of them had responded to her apparent interest with a bold, confident grin. For the time being though, she turned to look at Aejaj and Hasani.

"Kheru." she said to Hasani, bowing to him as she did so. "I am glad to see you well. A number of people among your clan and mine have been most concerned for you after what happened."

She referred of course to his capture, while also giving a subtle hint about the possible ramifications of such a deed to the other three.

"And Aejaj. It's good to meet with you as well." she said to the djinn in a friendly manner, opting to take on a less formal tone than she had with Hasani, but also deciding to not immediately press the matter of the Kheru. Still, she imagined that with the earlier look the Zenith had given her, Aejaj would almost certainly know that Atusa knew that she was the one exacerbating the situation by trying to keep Hasani for herself.

"How long have you been in service to the Bintanath clan, if I may inquire?" she then asked Aejaj, watching to see how exactly the djinn answered the question, while trying to ignore the lingering ache where Acekara had bitten her.

[Another Read Intentions action, this time aimed at Aejaj's feelings towards her clan. Four base dice with the wound penalty, and claiming a one-point stunt. Only two successes.]

Health Levels: X, X, X, X, X, -2, -2, -2, -2, -4, Incapacitated
Initiative: 5
Anima: Glowing
Wound Penalty: -1

Personal Essence: 0/13
Peripheral Essence: 5/33
Committed Essence: 12
Willpower: 3/5
Offhand Charge: 2/7

Evasion 4, Parry 5
Armor: Buff Jacket (Soak 3, Mobility Penalty 0)
Natural Soak: 2
Armored Soak: 3
Hardness: 0
 
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Random Word

Two Thousand Club
Atusa:

Khaemwaset laughs and bows slightly by way of apology, "I beg your forgiveness for an old man's misapprehension. I often lament to my children that my mind is half sand at this point."

Hasani laughs in turn, a beautiful sound you miss almost as soon as it fades from your ears. "'Concerned' is a most excellent euphemism for 'father is livid', Radiance," he says with no small amount of schadenfreude.

[RI against Aajej fails. She'll roll one back with 8 dice. She's able to guess the thrust of your line of questioning, and your ultimate goal of seeing her relinquish her handsome prince.]

Aajej arches one perfect white eyebrow, "This circumlocution is beneath you, Atusa. Any need to choose your words like steps in a sand viper nest has been burned away. I am not old enough to have met one of the Sun-Touched before you, but I gather stories. The established order will crumble before you like so much sand in the wind. I need not convince the Fayum my handsome Kheru belongs with me," she cups his face with one hand and looks at him adoringly, making him blush slightly, "only you."

"He does not belong with his family. They do not appreciate his talents like I do."

Khaemwaset watches this exchange with rapt attention.
 

jaydude

Four Thousand Club
Atusa had to admit that Aejaj had a point. She hadn't considered it before, but between her Exaltation and the skills she'd displayed in the recent battle, there seemed little need for her to kowtow to the old order anymore. And while she could perhaps bring up Dakarai, she was mindful about disrupting what appeared to be the formation of a promising alliance.

She decided to drop the matter for the time being, giving the djinn a little smile and nod in acknowledgement of her point, before turning back to the other Nomarch. "Again, you have my thanks, Khaemwaset." she said, still keeping up her polite demeanor. "If there is nothing else that needs talking about, I think I will take my leave and return to my ship. I need to rest up a bit, and see to my own people. Please send word to me once we have arrived at our destination."

The Zenith knew that she'd miss out on the chance to talk with Khaemwaset's daughters before the ships arrived, but she didn't mind. Let the other Nomarch see that Atusa of the Hematti was led by her head, rather than the organs between her legs. With that said, she returned to her ship and her cabin, lay her daiklaves against the wall, and sat down in a meditative posture.

Closing her eyes, she allowed herself to relax, calming her mind and letting her body replenish its Essence more easily. After half an hour, the golden aura around her had faded entirely. After another half-hour, she focused her regained Essence back into her body, her anima returning in a blazing aura as she felt the bite wound in her shoulder start to heal more quickly.

[Pass. If possible, would like to spend the rest of the trip in meditation, in order to speed up Essence recovery (10m per hour). No way I'm going to take on that Defining Tie while I'm running on Essence fumes. Would also like to use Body-Mending Meditation once I've regained enough Essence.

Rolling Stamina + Resistance for BMM, and claiming one-point stunt, giving me six dice. Five successes, boosting my healing rate by a factor of five (2 hours and 24 minutes to recover a single -1 health level).]

Health Levels: X, X, X, X, X, -2, -2, -2, -2, -4, Incapacitated
Initiative: 5
Anima:
Wound Penalty: -1

Personal Essence: 0/13
Peripheral Essence: 5/33
Committed Essence: 12
Willpower: 3/5
Offhand Charge: 2/7

Evasion 4, Parry 5
Armor: Buff Jacket (Soak 3, Mobility Penalty 0)
Natural Soak: 2
Armored Soak: 3
Hardness: 0
 

Psychie

Princess Psychie
Once they reach the building that the city god is letting the Red Arms use, Morrolan looks over at Renna. "Let me take care of things while you get the doctor to wrap you up. You may be Exalted, but even you can bleed out if you don't get treatment. Leave the men in my care for now and just rest. We need our Captain in one piece if the Din come calling once more."
 
Moswen & The Palace of Justice

Random Word

Two Thousand Club
Atusa:

Atusa regains 40 motes and we'll round up to recover two -1 HLs.

I'll also introduce the notion of 'clocks' here by revealing the The Principate Learns Atusa is a Solar clock, currently at 1/4. When it reaches 4, the Sorcerer-Princes will piece together Atusa's nature. Atusa flaring iconic in front of new people pushed it up, but because she only flared in front of a group of Bintanath (plus Raksha) already predisposed to keeping secrets it only increases by 1.

Renna and Morrolan had a similar clock, but they blew straight through it immediately when they both flared iconic in front of a large city with Principate informants in it.
Renna & Morrolan have an ongoing clock for The Lady of the Forest discovering their nature that's at 2/4. She's paying less attention than the Sorcerer-Princes, but she's not blind. The rumours will reach her.
John has a clock for the Lady of the Forest discovering him, and it's at 1/4 from when he drew his second breath in her jungle.

Time passes swiftly in meditation, and soon enough Gyasi brings you back to reality with the clinking of jewellery, swishing of linen, scent of her rosewater perfume, and the soft press of her lips on yours. "We approach our destination, Radiance," she whispers before she steps behind you and kneels to quickly but gently remove the bandages to inspect your wound, shaking her head in wonder, "Only bruising left. I can barely tell you were seriously hurt. It will be sore, but you don't even need wrappings anymore." She looks nervous as you both rise, but there's a good chance she's just worried about you. "Stay safe," she whispers.

---

As you step out onto the deck for the second time today a marine sergeant, having taken Gahiji's position by your door, announces "Nomarch on deck!" To which the crew echo back the familiar, "May she reign eternal!" Sirocco materializes and falls into step beside you. The tops of weather worn stone edifices wrapped around shattered skeletons of jadesteel tower over you as the Mandjet sails through their shadow. The features of those gods and worthies who stand vigil over the ruins have been long since lost to the shifting sands, and when the chant of the crew fades the only sound that disturbs this immense mausoleum is the whistle of wind between artificial canyons and the creak of the ship's rigging. First Officer Mudada bows, "Nomarch. The Bintanath report we are minutes from our destination. I have kept the fleet at arms in case this is a trap. The Bintanath are cunning, and I think you have demonstrated they can't hope to defeat us head on."

The Ursudi plots its course between the silent monoliths deftly and soon descends a ramp of sand into a wide bay in an immense octahedral structure one third buried in the sands, clad in brilliant White Jade with a set of tarnished brass scales emblazoned on the side. The scales weigh a shining silver heart against the golden Old Realm character for justice. It's difficult to estimate how far above original ground level you are, but as the Mandjet follows the Ursudi down you see smaller versions of the Blue and Black Jade obelisks that dot the duneways run along the sides of this large chamber, with what appears to be elaborate docks for mooring vessels to both your left and right. The swift winds running in opposite directions on each side seem to have kept this chamber from filling completely with sand.

Essence 1; Willpower 6
Picking Locks 7; Defeating Arcane Security Measures 6; Spotting Traps 7; Stealth 6; Acrobatics 7; Sailing Sandships 5; Dance 6

Appearance 3; Resolve 3; Guile 2

Feisty
Proud
Lone Wolf
Thrillseeker
Ice in the Veins

The Ursudi and Mandjet moor on opposite sides of one large pier while the rest of the fleet pitches stakes in the sand to hold themselves steady further out. Khaemwaset watches wistfully from the deck of his ship as his daughter, the Khera Moswen Bintanath, oversees the transfer of goods and personnel for the expedition into the depths. Her lithe figure and short stature make her difficult to pick out amongst the sailors and slaves carrying packs full of supplies onto the pier, but her unbraided shoulder length blonde hair, pale sun kissed skin, and intense blue eyes make her stand out when you catch a glimpse. She wears an outfit of loose white linen; harem pants cinched with bronze anklets, chest wrapping, hood, and cloth mask over the lower half of her face. The only concession to colour in her clothing is a blue cape with her clan crest in white - a stylized Ibis amongst reeds - draped over her right shoulder and pinned to a sash of the same colour around her waist. A servant beside her carries her bow and khopesh while her climbing tools and lockpicks hang from her sash. Her sandals appear to be made of White and Blue Jade, with cloth-of-Blue-Jade bindings criss-crossing up her ankles.

She glances at you with curiosity when you disembark. "Nomarch Atusa," she bows with a graceful flourish. "This is my expedition. I have a speech for this. It's a good one, all about following my instructions precisely if you don't want to die and not touching things you aren't supposed to, but I'd feel silly giving it to you. I don't even know if you can die." Her eyes smile, "So, let's see what you can do, Sun-touched. Don't slow me down."

Khera Matsimela Bintanath, Aajej, and Kheru Hasani Fayum descend the gangplank to join the expedition as it forms up and slaves begin hauling open the huge bronze doors emblazoned with a set of scales, an inscription in Old Realm above them, "May this edifice stand as an eternal monument to our universal aspiration for justice and peace; The wicked shall be separated from the righteous like chaff from wheat, and interred in a prison of their sins so that all may prosper."
 
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jaydude

Four Thousand Club
Time passes swiftly in meditation, and soon enough Gyasi brings you back to reality with the clinking of jewellery, swishing of linen, scent of her rosewater perfume, and the soft press of her lips on yours. "We approach our destination, Radiance," she whispers before she steps behind you and kneels to quickly but gently remove the bandages to inspect your wound, shaking her head in wonder, "Only bruising left. I can barely tell you were seriously hurt. It will be sore, but you don't even need wrappings anymore." She looks nervous as you both rise, but there's a good chance she's just worried about you. "Stay safe," she whispers.

"I'll certainly try." Atusa replied with a smile as she buckled her daiklaves back on, before approaching Gyasi and giving her a quick kiss on the lips.

"You should enjoy your private moments with me while you can. We may be sharing with one of Khaemwaset's daughters soon." she joked.

The tops of weather worn stone edifices wrapped around shattered skeletons of jadesteel tower over you as the Mandjet sails through their shadow. The features of those gods and worthies who stand vigil over the ruins have been long since lost to the shifting sands, and when the chant of the crew fades the only sound that disturbs this immense mausoleum is the whistle of wind between artificial canyons and the creak of the ship's rigging. First Officer Mudada bows, "Nomarch. The Bintanath report we are minutes from our destination. I have kept the fleet at arms in case this is a trap. The Bintanath are cunning, and I think you have demonstrated they can't hope to defeat us head on."

The Ursudi plots its course between the silent monoliths deftly and soon descends a ramp of sand into a wide bay in an immense octahedral structure one third buried in the sands, clad in brilliant White Jade with a set of tarnished brass scales emblazoned on the side. The scales weigh a shining silver heart against the golden Old Realm character for justice. It's difficult to estimate how far above original ground level you are, but as the Mandjet follows the Ursudi down you see smaller versions of the Blue and Black Jade obelisks that dot the duneways run along the sides of this large chamber, with what appears to be elaborate docks for mooring vessels to both your left and right. The swift winds running in opposite directions on each side seem to have kept this chamber from filling completely with sand.

"What on earth could this place have once been?" Atusa asked Sirocco in a whisper as she looked at the great octahedral structure and then at the obelisks and docks. She took particular note of all the jade - a great source of fortune in of itself - and the emblazoned scales, often a symbol of justice. A prison or a courthouse, maybe?

The Ursudi and Mandjet moor on opposite sides of one large pier while the rest of the fleet pitches stakes in the sand to hold themselves steady further out. Khaemwaset watches wistfully from the deck of his ship as his daughter, the Khera Moswen Bintanath, oversees the transfer of goods and personnel for the expedition into the depths. Her lithe figure and short stature make her difficult to pick out amongst the sailors and slaves carrying packs full of supplies onto the pier, but her unbraided shoulder length blonde hair, pale sun kissed skin, and intense blue eyes make her stand out when you catch a glimpse. She wears an outfit of loose white linen; harem pants cinched with bronze anklets, chest wrapping, hood, and cloth mask over the lower half of her face. The only concession to colour in her clothing is a blue cape with her clan crest in white - a stylized Ibis amongst reeds - draped over her right shoulder and pinned to a sash of the same colour around her waist. A servant beside her carries her bow and khopesh while her climbing tools and lockpicks hang from her sash. Her sandals appear to be made of White and Blue Jade, with cloth-of-Blue-Jade bindings criss-crossing up her ankles.

She glances at you with curiosity when you disembark. "Nomarch Atusa," she bows with a graceful flourish. "This is my expedition. I have a speech for this. It's a good one, all about following my instructions precisely if you don't want to die and not touching things you aren't supposed to, but I'd feel silly giving it to you. I don't even know if you can die." Her eyes smile, "So, let's see what you can do, Sun-touched. Don't slow me down."
Atusa raised an amused eyebrow at Moswen. "Aren't you a witty one?" she teased, grinning at the other woman. "Let us hope that your reflexes are as fine as your tongue quite clearly is. I would most certainly not like to see you get hurt inside this place."

[Going to try and Instill a Minor Tie of Attraction within Moswen, using Charisma + Socialize + one point stunt (10 dice). Six successes.]

She mentally praised herself for the double entendre. In truth, the Zenith had found her eyes drawn to the Khera ever since seeing her on the Usurdi. This was in no small part due to her skin and hair, both of which were colors that were very rare in this part of the world, and more often than not a sign of at least one "exotic" parent. Atusa had no particular preferences when it came to her bedmates - aside from them at least being more attractive than the average woman - but even she saw the value in rarity.

Khera Matsimela Bintanath, Aajej, and Kheru Hasani Fayum descend the gangplank to join the expedition as it forms up and slaves begin hauling open the huge bronze doors emblazoned with a set of scales, an inscription in Old Realm above them, "May this edifice stand as an eternal monument to our universal aspiration for justice and peace; The wicked shall be separated from the righteous like chaff from wheat, and interred in a prison of their sins so that all may prosper."

It seemed that Atusa's hunch about this place being related to judiciary matters was correct, judging from the inscription above the entryway. With little else to do, she would wait with the others until Moswen was ready to lead them inside.

Health Levels: X, X, X, -1, -1, -2, -2, -2, -2, -4, Incapacitated
Initiative: 5
Anima: Dim
Wound Penalty: -1

Personal Essence: 2/13
Peripheral Essence: 33/33
Committed Essence: 12
Willpower: 3/5
Offhand Charge: 2/7

Evasion 4, Parry 5
Armor: Buff Jacket (Soak 3, Mobility Penalty 0)
Natural Soak: 2
Armored Soak: 3
Hardness: 0
 

Rykon

Four Thousand Club
John gravitates to the notes on a new agricultural manse, already having it in hand when voices echoed down the corridors. He grunted in frustration, glancing at the space behind the shelving. He made his way to take cover, neglecting to drop the notes out of urgency. Whoever this person was to so conveniently disrupt his study, they had to be a little more 'official' to be escorted like this. If they were connected to this little curiosity, all the better to catch her face or name.

[John will lean towards options 2 and 2. Given his nature, he can't depart from the library without returning his prize or accruing limit. Hold for D. Rex D. Rex ]
 
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D. Rex

Magic Eight Ball
Random Word Random Word

This... what was this. Hazels eyes were immediately drawn to the old documents. This project that was spoken. It was so unfair, everything here interested her and she could spend hours pouring over all of these documents. But this project... and in the back of her mind she thought about Zahur. And the inscription on the scroll cap. A vague mention of something truly malfean. Could this project be related? She didn't know and she hoped it wasn't... but if there was any chance a demon of the third circle was hiding under the sands, she had to take it seriously.

But... now we had an intruder. Yes, intruder. Stupid people interrupting her study. Taking the old papers, she quickly hid in the alcove with Jean. Pressing up against him as closely as possible.

Hopefully these documents wouldn't be missed, though she did not have as much qualms about stealing as her mate did. And if this project was dangerous she couldn't let it fall into others hands. However she wasn't without thinking ahead... if a noise gave them away. She would pop out the crevice as a cat. That should protect Jean, as they would assume it was just a cat instead of a trespasser. Hopefully. But hopefully... even more hopefully... the loss of documents wouldn't go noticed.


Going with options 3 and 2!
 
Thamina Al-A'zam 1

Random Word

Two Thousand Club
Hazel & John:

You didn't forget how handsome John was, any more than you forgot the sky was blue, but some days the elements conspire to remind you just how blue it can be. When he's pressed against you like this in the shadows it's hard to remember what it felt like to think about anything else.

In the depths of your soul Erembour stirs languidly, "My, listen to that heart race." Her voice is like nails running down your back, sending shivers down your spine. If this is the tiniest fraction of her power it's unsettling to contemplate what she's like unbound. "Do you need help, kitten? I think you need help." Your shadow forms a hand that gently slips under his shirt to rest at his hip.

You're spared the immediate consequences of Erembour's 'assistance' when footsteps approach the alcove and the hand dissolves as quickly as it appeared. Quiet Reverie clears her throat, "Here it is, Magister. Everything we have related to the Alcazar of Twelve Ewers. Please let me know if you require anything else."

The Magister hums, pleased, "I'll take it all."

Quiet Reverie, clearly nonplussed, attempts to politely demur, "Magister, I'm afraid no one is permitted to remove works from - Oh, I see. Yes, of course you are. I'll have the elementals fetch them." Footsteps can be heard departing down the hall.

A new voice, like a soft wind through reeds, speaks in Old Realm, "Thamina! Don't do that to mortals."

Thamina sighs, replying in Old Realm, "It's fine, Taza. They're our scrolls, the Javurwans were merely minding them for us. Now I'm taking them back so that Necromancer," she all but spits the word, "doesn't get her dirty hands on them."

You hear the sounds of scrolls being unrolled, and Thamina clicking her tongue in disapproval, "It could take days to cross reference all of this and pinpoint the Alcazar. She'll be long gone by then." She grits her teeth, "All the accumulated knowledge in the Alcazar is ours. We made it. How does she have a map?"

Tazadahar replies, reproachful, "You know who she was in life. She could have drawn that map from memory. You're trying and failing to distract me from your transgression."

"Come on! If Ea-Abzu makes the desert bloom we're all doomed! The Lady isn't doing anything!"

"The ends justify the means, Thamina? I know you didn't fail your ethics examination, or you wouldn't be standing here."

Thamina sighs in exasperation, "The thing about ethics examinations is you don't need to believe the answer to write it." Ten seconds of tense silence follows this outburst until she reluctantly, sulkily continues, "Fine! I'll be more ethical. When I was creating you I didn't think I was making my Hanama-damned conscience."

"You're welcome," replies Tazadahar dryly.

Several minutes of silence punctuated by the rustle of papyrus follows before Tazadahar breaks it, "What will happen to the Faqari?"

"You mean the loyalists? Well, I imagine once they aren't always on the edge of starvation they'll lose much of their savagery in time. I'd say, 'Imagine what they could accomplish if they didn't spend all their time killing each other', but we've all learned that already, haven't we?" she observes dryly. "We'll have to exert a civilizing influence over those that remain free to prevent a repeat of that disaster. I understand they were invaluable in the war, but that sort of barbarism is a double edged sword. Perhaps we'll keep those beautiful ships around for sporting events."

Footsteps and the rustle of a small army of bushes heralds the return of Quiet Reverie. "Collect everything on the shelves of this alcove," she commands. "Where shall I have the scrolls delivered, Magister?"

"My carriage, please."

In a flurry of motion the shelves of the alcove are emptied and their contents carted off.

"One last look around, then it's time to get moving. We need to be ready to go when she leaves. I won't lose her."

[Thamina is rolling 6 dice to spot you. Stealth + [Dexterity or Stamina] to remain hidden, if you want to remain hidden at all.]
 
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The Golden Tablets of Law (Atusa)

Random Word

Two Thousand Club
Atusa:

Gyasi's breath catches at your offhand joke, "Wait. Maybe I should wrap it, just to be safe. It isn't completely healed."

---

Sirocco shrugs, "It is what it once was, and has always been. What is the purpose of a mountain? You built so many. How did you find a purpose for them all?"

---

[6 hits definitely exceeds her Resolve.]

Moswen puffs up her chest slightly as she looks up at you defiantly, "I'll have you know I could snatch a viper in mid-strike and my tongue could run circles around -" At this point she catches on and blushes prettily, the colour accented by her pale skin. "That's not - I didn't mean -" she gives you a flat look, "Don't say it." She looks away quickly, seeking any available distraction, and her eyes settle on Hasani.

"Must Hasani be here?" she snaps, exasperated.

Aajej laughs, "He found the Index. He deserves to be here when we use it."

"One day! He was there one day before me and he 'found it'!" exclaims Matsimela. "He was just lucky. I determined what it was for."

"Ladies, please, you can fight over me after we use my Index to see what's through that door."

Matsimela gives Aajej a long-suffering look, "I cannot fathom what you see in him."

Aajej grasps Hasani's chin and gestures towards his face, as if this is evidence enough.

"Besides that."

"Well, there's my charming personality, razor sharp wit, and while my tongue may not be quite as adept at circling things as Khera Moswen, I like to think it's -" Aajej silences him by pulling him into a kiss.

Moswen groans and storms off through the now open set of heavy bronze doors, "Fine! He can come. He has a better chance of dying this way."

---

The long colonnaded hall beyond is choked with dust, the air musty and stagnant. Aajej summons tiny but surprisingly bright flames to follow each of you. Through the patina of grime that coats the walls you can barely make out the mosaics beneath. In the gloom you can make out inscriptions on the columns and see long since dried up decorative pools at intervals along the walls. "This hall is safe, as best we can tell. This is a court of some kind, and the building is still structurally sound," calls Moswen over her shoulder, "Matsi, show her the mosaics while we open the door."

Matsimela nods, then bows to you. "Nomarch. Please, allow me." She leads you passed side passages that lead into darkened audience chambers to a mosaic - the dust cleaned off so the tiles shine brightly in the light of your accompanying flames - that depicts a horde of terrifying creatures descending upon a city before being halted by the rise of a jackal headed silver champion with the symbol of the moon above its head. "The Silverwright. Middle Shogunate, early Abzean." Great and terrible behemoths stride forth from the horde, and the Silverwright is depicted commanding the skies to scourge them and the earth itself to swallow them all, wielding a white stepped pyramid in one hand and a silver staff being struck by a lightning bolt in the other. "Here's where things get interesting." The Silverwright is depicted holding two golden spheres, one floating above each palm, as a collection of regal but monstrous figures kneel before her and their armies cower and flee. "Those spheres are what we're here for." The next scene depicts the Silverwright and her acolytes binding the regal figures to golden tablets with silver chains and in the process transforming them. The scene after that depicts the judgement of two prisoners by a procession of figures all overseen by an immense serpent who is in turn overseen by a white diamond containing the two golden orbs over a set of brass scales. One of the figures in the procession immediately catches your eye. The blindfolded figure weighs each of the prisoner's hearts on a set of brass scales against a feather, but your attention is drawn to the emeralds that run up the side of her neck to her cheeks and her long violet hair. In the next scene one prisoner's chains are broken while the other is swallowed by the immense serpent. In the belly of the serpent the unfortunate prisoner's spirit is subjected to a terrible fate while their body works in the mines. "We think they keep both of the golden orbs here, and the Maelstrom was once some kind of dungeon for the enemies of the old empire. This isn't the first time we've seen the orbs depicted, and it's always in the context of defeating Raksha."

---

While you're examining the mosaics you notice Moswen sneaking frequent surreptitious glances at you any time she thinks you won't see. Even with this distraction she soon causes the stone doors at the end of the hallway to dissolve into sand and flow aside, revealing a large vertical sandstone shaft that both descends and ascends into darkness. You rejoin the others in time to see Aajej send small flames in both directions, revealing heavy stone doors on each floor but no visible end to the shaft.

"What in the sands is this?" mutters Moswen.

"Perhaps everyone in the old empire could fly like a Djinn?" suggests Hasani, clearly no less confused. "Or this building was only for Sorcerers."

"The mosaic depicted executing prisoners. Perhaps they threw them down this shaft? It looks terrifying enough," offers Matsimela.

Moswen leans out into the shaft, then smiles. "Handholds!" she declares happily as she grabs onto a series of clefts carved into the stone to the right of the door and tests them. "Come on, Sun-touched. We can free climb this while the slaves chisel some belaying lines."

"Oh no, you aren't leaving me behind," declares Hasani with a grin as he starts to climb behind you.

When you catch up to Moswen she's paused before the first of the doors with the Index in one hand. By the light of the flame hovering over her shoulder she reads aloud a set of characters off the side of the stone door. The silver writing on the Index rearranges itself into a sequence of characters which she reads in an authoritative voice, causing the door to dissolve into sand and flow away to the sides. Moswen listens to the ensuing silence for ten seconds before making a hand sign to signal Aajej, dematerialized behind you, to peer through the doorway. Her winds still as she lays eyes on the contents of the room. "Be cautious," she whispers.

Moswen nods and leans out to the right until one eye can see into the room, then pulls back sharply. She gestures for everyone below her to wait, looks one more time, then very slowly puts her hands on the ledge and pulls herself up to lie flat on her belly crawling forward. She waits for thirty seconds, perfectly still, before she gestures upwards with one of her feet and shuffles to the side, indicating you can follow her.

The scene before you is surreal, the entire chamber suffused with an almost palpable feeling of grief and loss. The flickering light of the flame that follows you reveals suits of Jadesteel armour, shattered and rent, scattered across the hall like toys and dashed against sandstone pillars, the warriors who wore them long since reduced to dust. At the far end of the hall is a dais before which lies the armour of a figure pierced with what must be almost fourty spears. Its outstretched right gauntlet is shattered, pieces of finger scattered over metres. Above the dais hangs a tablet of shining Orichalcum suspended in a shaft of light. Hundreds more like it hang suspended in their own shafts of light in the otherwise lightless void beyond, the size of the chamber completely impossible given the dimensions of the building. It's difficult to read from here, but the tablet above the dais seems to be listing heinous crimes chiselled in fine Old Realm calligraphy: Murder; Rape; Kidnapping; Unlawful trafficking with Demons; Unlawfully speaking the language of the Labyrinth; Attempting Resurrection; Unlawful trafficking with Solar Exalted or their Spirits; The list goes on. The final entry, barely legible in crude script chiselled by a rushed hand, is a single character that simply reads: 'Drawing breath'. The bottom half of the golden tablet glistens with fresh blood, perfectly preserved as if spattered only seconds ago.

Moswen whispers, voice ragged with emotion, "I... I don't know what I'm looking at, but I don't see any obvious danger."
 

jaydude

Four Thousand Club
"That's not - I didn't mean -" she gives you a flat look, "Don't say it."

As requested, Atusa said nothing. She did however give Moswen a smirk and a raised eyebrow, making clear that the innuendo - accidental or otherwise - had not gone unnoticed. She then spared an amused chuckle at the banter between Hasani, Aejej and the Bintanath sisters, though privately she hoped that Hasani wouldn't get himself killed inside this place. It might make things awkward with Dakarai and the Fayum.

"Matsi, show her the mosaics while we open the door."

Atusa's expression became one of fascination when she saw the silver jackal-headed figure on the mosaic. Was this one of those "Lunars" she'd heard about? The jackal-head, the silver and the moon-oriented symbology couldn't point to much else in her view, although it didn't seem likely that a Lunar could have held much prominence during the time of the Shogunate.

She examined the rest of the mosaic, shuddering a little when she saw the violet-haired Raksha. Had Acekara truly been around during this time? She tried to dismiss the thought, but at the same time, something started to poke at her. It was like there was a new way of looking at things, a solution to a recently appeared puzzle that was within reach, if she could just figure something out.

It was only when she had entered the lower chamber with the golden tablets that things clicked into place. Maybe it was her remembering that Acekara was known as "The Scales of Justice" at that moment. Maybe it was seeing the list of offenses on the golden tablet, and being reminded of the apparent purpose of this place. Whatever the reason, Atusa would say one word in a voice that was equal parts amazed and disbelieving.

"Acekara..."

Health Levels: X, X, X, -1, -1, -2, -2, -2, -2, -4, Incapacitated
Initiative: 5
Anima: Dim
Wound Penalty: -1

Personal Essence: 2/13
Peripheral Essence: 33/33
Committed Essence: 12
Willpower: 3/5
Offhand Charge: 2/7

Evasion 4, Parry 5
Armor: Buff Jacket (Soak 3, Mobility Penalty 0)
Natural Soak: 2
Armored Soak: 3
Hardness: 0
 

Random Word

Two Thousand Club
Atusa:

Moswen glances at you out of the corner of her eye and whispers, "Of course. Acekara. That's..." she scans the room again, clearly not wanting to appear ignorant and so embarrass herself in front of you, "what the golden tablets are called, right?"

"What's all the fuss about?" demands Hasani in a loud whisper as he descends the rungs. He leans out to the side to peer into the chamber. "Oh." He's quiet for a little while. "Well, that just seems excessive. Those big hunks of gold certainly look valuable, though."

"I would not recommend touching them," Aajej whispers.

"No? Well, we're here for floating golden orbs, and I suppose two out of three won't cut it."

[Pass. Moswen is unsettled by this chamber, so she will suggest finding another chamber to investigate instead, but certainly not because this one freaks her out.]
 

jaydude

Four Thousand Club
Atusa was surprised at first, but then she deduced that, being an important mortal, Moswen would have been kept safely hidden during the earlier battle. While Hasani and the others were looking at the tablets, the Zenith approached the pale woman.

"I'm talking about the Raksha I fought on the way here." she said in a whisper, so that the others wouldn't be able to hear. "She called herself Acekara, the Scales of Justice. And on the mosaic in the chamber above, I saw a figure that greatly resembled her involved in the judicial process being depicted. With all that being said, I have a very strong feeling that she's connected to this place somehow."

[Pass.]

Health Levels: X, X, X, -1, -1, -2, -2, -2, -2, -4, Incapacitated
Initiative: 5
Anima: Dim
Wound Penalty: -1

Personal Essence: 2/13
Peripheral Essence: 33/33
Committed Essence: 12
Willpower: 3/5
Offhand Charge: 2/7

Evasion 4, Parry 5
Armor: Buff Jacket (Soak 3, Mobility Penalty 0)
Natural Soak: 2
Armored Soak: 3
Hardness: 0
 

Random Word

Two Thousand Club
Atusa:

Your proximity when you lean in has a pronounced effect on Moswen, who can't seem to take her eyes off your lips until the significance of your words jars her back to reality and her eyes again meet yours, "Oh, the cataphract. Well, the mosaic shows us she didn't destroy them, right? Even great heroes make stupid mistakes. Unless some other great hero has come along since then and destroyed them, they should still exist. I guess that makes the next great hero you. Your cataphract clearly isn't literally chained to these tablets, so at least some of the mosaic was allegorical." She looks back at the bloodspattered golden tablet and rises to a crouch, whispering louder so everyone can hear, "We aren't going to find the orbs here. This is important, and weird, but we have to stay focused. We keep looking. Up this time."

Two floors up and through another heavy stone door you find a floor mostly occupied by large halls with stone desks for clerks. A floor above that, small rooms that might have been living quarters. Moswen stops dead when she opens the door to the third floor, and immediately signals for everyone to freeze. She whispers, "Someone has been here recently." She stares intently at the floor for several seconds, "Perhaps a few weeks ago, and that wasn't the first time."

"If they aren't blind they'll know we were here if they return, but it can't be helped," she mutters as she ties her sandals to her sash, then hangs from the stone ledge above the doorway and shimmies over to drop down silently on top of the trail that cuts through the dust, gesturing for you to do the same. She walks carefully in the footsteps of whoever went before through a large hall that's almost entirely empty except for waist high stone counters arranged in aisles. The trail leads into a circular chamber with eight adjoining chambers arranged radially around it, each containing a circular vertical formation large enough for half a dozen people to walk through abreast. The remains of more armoured warriors can be seen scattered outwards from a chamber containing a damaged circular gate of obsidian, but the trail of footsteps ignores this and instead makes a sharp right turn. Moswen crouches where the trail ends, a chamber almost entirely filled with a dark pool of water except for a small island containing a circular gate of white limestone carved with softly glowing arcane sigils and hung with a white linen curtain. The curtain drifts in a gentle breeze despite the refreshingly cool and moist air in the room being perfectly still. Moswen points to the way the dust is disturbed, "They walk through the pool, not over it or around it. You can see the way the droplets fall. The water probably isn't cursed, but it's also clearly not natural or it would have long since dried up."

She tosses a pebble into it, waiting until the ripples settle. When nothing happens she pokes it with a long rod, noting the water is surprisingly shallow, less than ankle deep, and then, apparently satisfied, she dips her fingertip into the water. "So cold!"

She rises and turns to you with a sigh. "The bad news is someone who knows a lot more about this place than we do has been here before us. The good news is they seem to come here regularly, and have done so for a long time, which suggests to me they're not looting. They may not have already taken the orbs. As much as I want to see what's through that gate, it doesn't seem like we're going to find them here."
 
Last edited:

jaydude

Four Thousand Club
Atusa kept her expression neutral. If they were unable to find the orbs, it would set back the plans to defy the Fayum and Yafeu clans, but it was not like anyone here would be doomed as a result.

"Unless there are other ways into this place besides the one we all used, I'd be surprised if these interlopers weren't expecting new intruders once they lost the Index." she said.

She looked at Moswen. "My instinct would be to place a watch on this place, and see if we can spot whoever these other visitors are, assuming we care to find out." she said. "That aside, any suggestions on where else we can search for these orbs?"

Health Levels: X, X, X, -1, -1, -2, -2, -2, -2, -4, Incapacitated
Initiative: 5
Anima: Dim
Wound Penalty: -1

Personal Essence: 2/13
Peripheral Essence: 33/33
Committed Essence: 12
Willpower: 3/5
Offhand Charge: 2/7

Evasion 4, Parry 5
Armor: Buff Jacket (Soak 3, Mobility Penalty 0)
Natural Soak: 2
Armored Soak: 3
Hardness: 0
 

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