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Trial By Fire - Exalted 2e IC Thread

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Annika was sat in the front row during the ceremony - another first for her - and watched it with a smile of contentment, as she could see the love between the bride and groom. Her thieves had been moved onto the temple's roof, and anywhere else someone might try to sneak in. After the attack of the Wyld Hunt yesterday, she wasn't going to take any chances. Fortunately the wedding went off without a hitch - aside from the fact that Aredin and Darian were now hitched to one another - and Annika sought them both out at the reception.

"I haven't exactly been one for these kinds of relationships, where you formalize the fact that you're together, but congratulations to the two of you." Annika had said to them. "As for my wedding gift, I doubt it compares to Viktor's handiwork, but I think it suits the occasion just as well."

She handed the two of them a small bottle, and remembering that Darian could hardly read the label, gave a short explanation of what it was. "It's Maiden's Tea. For the wedding night...or the honeymoon...or any other time the two of you are in the same bed but don't want to start a family." Her grin was teasing, almost malevolent, as she said this. If both of them were to end up embarrassed, Annika would make sure to tell Darian of Aredin's reaction, in order to even the score between the couple.

The hours after the party had wound down would find Annika still in her dress, and sitting on the roof of the temple as she looked up at the stars, and down at the eastern horizon.

"Well...now we start planning to go to Rathess." Annika said to herself quietly.
 
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Viktor enjoyed the ceremony, glad for his friends when the sun reached its zenith and their marriage was sealed. He also felt a small bit of relief, seeing as the rings appeared to be working in the manner expected of them. No horrible mistakes, thank goodness!

He danced and partook in the delights of the party, enjoying the countless variety of foods laid out for the revelers to consume. "Nothing like well spiced food to set a man at ease," Viktor quipped to nearby party-goers as he shoveled food onto his plate. At separate times Viktor could be found dancing with different women of the town. He especially enjoyed twirling his partners around to the alcohol-induced tunes that flowed after Aredin swiped a lute and joined in with the players. He offered to dance with Koharu a couple of times throughout the night, but she reminded him that she was keeping watch during the reception, and thus could not assent to his request.

He was also careful to keep a steady eye on the bottles of wine stored within the Winterbreath Jars. The blacksmith lent a hand by constantly swapping bottles out as they were emptied to ensure constantly chilled libations were readily available.

As the evening wrapped Viktor sat upon the floor, having missed his chair when he last attempted to sit, and wondered aloud about the days to come. Koharu made her way over to him, and helped him into the chair. "You are quite inebriated."

Viktor looked down at the bottle in his hand, a small ounce of liquid still swishing about inside. He turned to Koharu and shook his head in false-innocence. "No," he slurred, "this isn't even mine. I think Durke told me to hold this before wandering off." He looked around groggily. "Where did that big shield-saint get off to anyways?"

Koharu gently pried the bottle out of his hand before he could drop it, and sat it on a nearby table. "Annika and her thieves are sitting atop the building, watching for intruders. And I think Luna relieved Sol of his celestial duty hours ago. If an attack hasn't come by now, it isn't coming tonight." She smiled, the moonlight reflecting across her face and adding a sparkle to her eyes. "I'm ready for that dance, if the offer still stands."

He gave her a drunk grin in response, so she lifted Viktor's large frame from the chair and let him lean on her for support. His hands clumsily draped over her shoulders, while her lithe arms wrapped gently but firmly around his midsection to keep him upright. They danced in place for a few moments, enjoying the silence that followed in the aftermath of passed-out revelers. "Viktor," she whispered, "we need to discuss the risks associated with the ancient city of Rathess before you leave."

He was quiet, and after a couple seconds she spoke again. "Viktor, did you hear me?"

She pulled away slightly and felt his head slump down, accompanied by a chorus of snores. "So much for that."

Koharu shifted his weight so that she could position him for side-by-side guided walking. She smiled and shook her head. "I think its past time that someone get to bed."
 
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Sherwood

Luna's Concubine
Supporter
Over the next several days, the celebration of the wedding fills the town. It is a time for only the most critical chores to be done as everyone partakes in games and feasting. But it is not a time for relaxation for everyone as the Circle begins to interrogate the captured Exalts from the fight the day before the wedding, and plans are being made to head down the river to Rathess.

OOC I know that @Psychie is planning on trying to alter their memories with her Charm, but you will need to know that this is going to be a long, convoluted effort in order to alter their memories enough to be trustworthy. It will take several days of hard work. For each of the Dragon-Blooded, you will need to get 30 successes on your rolls to have them under your control. The Sidereal will take 40 successes. Use of any Excellencies, Willpower and Virtue Channeling is allowed. You can make up to 4 rolls per day, using Performance + Manipulation. You have a total of 3 Dragon-Bloods and one Sidereal under wraps right now. Who do you start with?
 
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Rykon

One Thousand Club
Aredin had hoped to have three full days off to spend with his wife, but takes the evening of the first to address his chained guests. Publically, Apple, Ram, and Dunbar are running the show of Gwynnin, giving their Sidereal a break from Yu Shan legal systems to work with a single law code the size of a short story, complete with exhaustive citations.

In the prisons there sits Aredin, Darian, and those concerned among the circle. The room is a well sunlit breakfast area, draped in cleaned silk tapestries with a long table laden with cups and a single steaming teapot. All four prisoners are brought in for the first address, with Aredin making sure to note the status of the wounded terrestrials. Once everyone took their seats and guards to their posts at the corners of the room, Aredin spoke up deliberately in High Realm.

"Well, now that we've passed the wedding I want to rip this bandage off now. You four have violated the sovereign laws of Gwynnin and its people. There is no denying your guilt. Were it not for the grace of my wife, I'd have the lot of you as mince-meat for the hog troughs for the murder of innocents. So in exchange for your lives, I want answers to simple questions, honest ones. If you will swear to answer my inquiries honestly, we can have a cordial conversation, enjoy some tea, and we'll consider getting you lot less chafing accommodations. We can even start by answering some of your own questions. Do I make myself perfectly clear?"
 
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Annika is positioned near to Aredin, and she uses her Gemstone of Surface Thoughts on each of the Dynasts, eager to find out what's going through their minds right now. When she's finished, and the Dynasts have had a chance to speak, she will whisper what she heard into Aredin's ear. Since she doesn't understand High Realm, this will include thoughts the Dynasts have already made clear.
 

Sherwood

Luna's Concubine
Supporter
The minds of the three Dragon-Blooded are simple enough to get surface thoughts from. Rage at the Circle. Rage at the nobles that told them that there were only three Exalts for them to face. Rage for their fallen comrades. Rage at the indignity of being held captive, and the overwhelming desire to see you all dead. The Sidereal is much harder to read. His mind is very disciplined, and his thoughts keep wandering to curiosity as to what the Exalts of Gwynnin will do to him, and how long it will take for him to be able to escape.

When Aredin speaks, Ragara Hax leans forward with a penetrating glare. "We understand that you will hold us up for some kind of sham trial and have us killed! Why should we even bother with this 'interrogation'? We will share nothing; death is our only prize." His eyes narrow as he continues to spew hate. "Understand this, Anathama! Given the chance, I would burn this entire town to the ground, and watch every man, woman and child die in the purifying flames of Hesish! Heretics like these here deserve the death they have earned for following demons like you!" He sits back in his seat, looking quite satisfied for getting his rant out.
 

Psychie

Princess Psychie
Darian sits quietly towards the back of the room, listening to the hate-filled rant of the one Exalt. There were still several options open to them right now, and she is torn as to which path to take when dealing with these Dragon-Bloods. We can ransom them still, or, I could implant the memory of a successful Hunt into their minds and let them go. They would then report back that we are all dead, and it would buy us some time. She continues to ponder. But, it would be good to begin the process of swaying these fools to the true path, to join our ranks and work to protect the innocents of Gwynnin from other Hunters. Besides, Rathess is going to be a hard struggle; having more firepower on our side couldn't hurt.

She slowly stands, her robes swaying around her as she steps forward. "Such anger in your voice. It makes me sad that anyone would feel so about me and my friends. We are not your enemy. In fact, we have more in common than you might realize. We all want to make Creation a safer place, a better place for all that reside in it. I'm sure that if you were to think about it, we might be able to find some things that we can all relate to."
Spending 5m from Personal Essence on my Form Charm, and 10m 1wp on Memory-Reweaving Discipline, and 5m on First Performance Excellency. Trying to remove some negative Intimacies from the Exalts in front of us.

8 Successes

Health Levels
-0 [ ]
-1 [ ][ ][ ][ ][ ]
-2 [ ][ ][ ][ ][ ] - [ ][ ][ ]
-4 [ ]
I [ ]
Dying [ ][ ]

Soak: 1L/2B - +5L/+5B from Infinite Resplendence Amulet, +3L/+6B from Pearlescent Filigree Defense (One Scene), +4A/+8L+8B from Iron Kettle Body (One Scene), +4A/+8L/+8B from Iron Skin Concentration (Instant)

Willpower: 8 / 7

Essence: 4
Personal: 20 / 4
Peripheral: 45
Committed: 14

Dodge DV: 7
Parry DV with War Fans: 8 (10)
Parry DV with Chain Daiklave: 8 (10)

Dodge MDV: 5

Join Battle: 7
 
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Rykon

One Thousand Club
Aredin glared, speaking with sharpened malice at the foolhardy display of ignorance. "Allow me to clarify some things while we're at it... First off, illegal entrants have no right to trial. Second, given how many demons your kin summon for all sorts of endeavors, it seems odd to me that such a word would have any real significance to any of you. Third, you openly speak of genociding a peaceful agrarian village and have the audacity to call us the demons? Perhaps all the inbreeding has corrupted your better judgement. Maybe the star child here has too many worms in your ear for you to think for yourself. So how about you take a moment to reconsider who or what it is you're really fighting for before you threaten my people who seek naught but to care for their own. Go on star child, tell me the truth of why you seek to destroy innocents, corrupt the workings of the earth through deceit, murder, and subjugation, and even betray your own order."

Aredin uses the full force of intimidating presence to break the group of their arrogance and self-righteousness. Hopefully, the shock will coerce them to ask themselves the hard questions.

26 Successes on intimidation. (11m 1w spent anima 0)
 
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Sherwood

Luna's Concubine
Supporter
The one-two punch of Aredin's anger as the Bad Cop and Darian playing her mind control efforts as the Good Cop seem to be making some headway. In fact, Ragara Hax's face blanches as the memories suddenly implanted of how he wants to help Creation and not watch it burn hits him hard. Over the next several minutes, the three Dragon-Blooded tell you tales of how they have all worked to make the lives of the people around them better, but they are all still quite focused on the fact that you are all demons and must be wiped out.

@Psychie you may make another roll.
 

Psychie

Princess Psychie
Darian listens to the stories provided, nodding in agreement with the good points that they made, and frowning as other tales come up of them 'cleansing' out nests of Sun worshipers. "I do hope you can see how that does't make any sense, to kill innocents in order to save them. We are here to rebuild from the ashes of a fallen civilization, with our goal to be the betterment of all lives, even ones that don't agree with our teachings. We are not going to purge any lives except in defense of our own lives or those that would willingly follow us."
I'm going to go full bore on these guys. Spending another 10m 1wp on the Memory Charm, and 8m to double my Manipulation + Socialize, and another wp to get the extra Success.

8 Successes on roll 1
13 successes on roll 2

Health Levels
-0 [ ]
-1 [ ][ ][ ][ ][ ]
-2 [ ][ ][ ][ ][ ] - [ ][ ][ ]
-4 [ ]
I [ ]
Dying [ ][ ]

Soak: 1L/2B - +5L/+5B from Infinite Resplendence Amulet, +3L/+6B from Pearlescent Filigree Defense (One Scene), +4A/+8L+8B from Iron Kettle Body (One Scene), +4A/+8L/+8B from Iron Skin Concentration (Instant)

Willpower: 8 / 5

Essence: 4
Personal: 20 / 0
Peripheral: 45 / 31 / 19
Committed: 14

Dodge DV: 7
Parry DV with War Fans: 8 (10)
Parry DV with Chain Daiklave: 8 (10)

Dodge MDV: 5

Join Battle: 7
 

Sherwood

Luna's Concubine
Supporter
When Darian lashes out with her Charm this time, you can see that you are actually making solid progress in swaying their thoughts to your side. With each point that Aredin brings up, you can feel that your arguments are actually taking root in their minds and are starting to grow. The three Dragon-Bloods are starting to look troubled as a new way of thinking begins for the first time of their lives.

By now, Darian's mind control has affected the Dragon-Bloods as much as you can as a group, and your next set of rolls are going to have to be one-on-one to tweak the exact details in their minds.
 
After whispering to Aredin that the Dynasts are full of hate over the whole situation, and that the Sidereal seems to be curious about what'll happen next and how he can escape, Annika remains in her seat and tries to follow the general tone of the conversation.
 

Psychie

Princess Psychie
Focusing her attention on Hax as the most vocal of the bunch, Darian lets her Essence wash its way over him like a gentle tide. "Ragara Hax, you are a proud man, I can see that. You are also a very loyal follower of the Immaculate Order's teachings. But can't you see that there are many things that the Order has said that do not ring true? Look at the people here in Gwynnin. They are happy, healthy, and enjoying a new level of prosperity thanks to our leadership here."
8 Successes on roll 1
13 successes on roll 2
14 successes on roll 3
 

Sherwood

Luna's Concubine
Supporter
Hax looks troubled. At this point, he is nearly convinced that your argument is on point and is willing to renounce his old ways. You have been successful in implanting new memories and editing his current ones to be more accepting to work with you. But at this point, you'll need to recover your Essence and Willpower before you can make the final push on him.
 
Viktor did not see a useful reason to be present while his colleagues interrogated the captive assassins. He possessed no special skills concerning persuasion, nor a tongue for eloquent speeches or decisive ultimatums. Aredin seemed hand-picked for any kind of conversational needs that Darian required, and though he had only just met Annika, the way she represented herself suggested that she could handle any other complications that unexpectedly arose. His presence would simply put an extra body in the way of any poorly thought-out Dynast escape attempt. Though with the Soulsteel manacles, even this seemed unlikely.

Coming to such a conclusion, Viktor decided that the best use of his time would instead be achieved through assembling a light pack of equipment to take on the journey to Rathess. He had instructed both Sahlaynah and his trainees that they were to enjoy Calibration with the rest of the town in whatever way they saw fit, and that he had no expectation of work on their behalf while they were gone. As such, he had the workshop and forge all to himself in blessed silence. He shook his head as he looked over the equipment, slowly pulling more and more items out of the 'keep' pile. One of these days, I'm gonna have to take a look at Aredin's infinitely deep pockets. There's gotta be a way to replicate that effect, somehow.

He set the bag of equipment down, and wandered over to his workbench. After the fight with the Dynasts days earlier, he had been tinkering with the Essence Pulse Grenade. It sat now upon the table, faintly glowing with the contained Essence just waiting to be triggered. It would be useful to have a few of these to go around, in case we get in trouble when we reach the ancient city. The craftsman picked up the fist-sized chunk of metal and Black Jade, manipulating it between his hands and looking over its exterior facets at the continual glow. After a moment, he sat the item down and jotted a few notes into a manuscript lying beside it. Essence flows in, like with a Daiklave, amulet, or similar item. In those artifacts though, it seems to become somewhat quiet as it seeps into and bonds with the spirit of the item. Here, the essence appears to sit in a perpetual state of excitement, as though constantly in flux. But why?

He heard the bell chime at the front of the shop, signaling that someone had entered. "Koharu, could you see to that?"

[Reverse Engineer Roll: 5 Intelligence + 5 Occult = 8 Successes - 2 Difficulty = 6 Threshold Successes]
 
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Rykon

One Thousand Club
Between Annika's counsel and Darian's exertion, Aredin decided to call the day's conference done. "That's all for today. Annika, can you see them back to their bunks?" trusting she could manage the guard rotation necessary to foil any plots by the old zealot. If he thinks he has a chance of escape, I'm willing to bet it's when he's being moved. As long as Annika is there, word of the chaos will reach back to us in time to apprehend him I think. Assuming she doesn't knock him out at the first sign of struggling. Once the prisoners were out of earshot, Aredin visibly relaxed, taking Darian by the hand with a soft squeeze. "You were fantastic today love. Well done. As Annika said, Mellar is trying to find a way to escape. I think the Dragon-Blooded are sufficiently conflicted to have enough distractions. So, how about we start with him alone tomorrow? In the meantime, let's get some food, drink, and rest."
 
Annika nods at Aredin, and turns to the prisoners. "Come on you lot. Time to go." She says, as she and several guards escort them back into their cells. As she does so, she carries out another check of them with her Gemstone of Surface Thoughts, in case any of them are considering trying to make a break for it. If the escort goes successfully, she plans to remain in the same building as the prisoners, and perhaps question them herself later on.

@Sherwood
 
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Psychie

Princess Psychie
Darian feels quite drained from her work trying to convince the Dynasts that what they have been taught over the years is false. Before the prisoners are taken away to think about the various arguments made to change their minds, she makes sure that Hax is kept away from the others; she feels that he is close to a breakthrough and doesn't want the others to poison the work she has already done.
 

Sherwood

Luna's Concubine
Supporter
Annika can tell that Darian's and Aredin's arguments are beginning to sway the opinions of the three Dragon-Bloods, but the Sidereal is still holding firm to his belief that the Bronze Faction has the right of things, and is still waiting for his chance to try and escape; or perhaps be broken out of the prison he's being held in. Hax is especially vulnerable to more promptings, and you can hear real doubts in his mind about the course he's taken in his life.

For Darian, Aredin, and Aysik, it has been a long day of listening to hate-filled speech and trying to keep a level head as you are being screamed at. By the end, you have good hopes for the end result; you'll just have to be patient. Especially Darian, since the Charm she wants to use is so costly on her Willpower.
 

Rykon

One Thousand Club
Aredin seems bothered at dinner time, having invited Aysik to get his take on progress. "I noticed Mellar wouldn't answer about why the Bronze Faction acts the way it does. Can you help us out with this one? I don't know much about how Darian works her magic, but any clue for what we can speak to would at least help me out a ton."
 

Sherwood

Luna's Concubine
Supporter
The old Sidereal lets out a sigh. "That, my friend, is a story many thousands of years in the making. But, let me try and give you the short version of it. You have heard all the old stories of how the Solars of the First Age went crazy, haven't you? Well, I hate to say, many of those stories are true. If anything, they fall short of just how badly the Solars of the First Age were corrupted by their power, drunk on arrogance. Now, let me explain that we Sidereals have a limited ability to see potential fates of people and places. As such, the leaders of the Order were locked onto one such fate, showing how the Solars would destroy all Creation if they were not stopped. In one way, I can understand what was done. But, the purge of the Solars didn't end there. It continued over the years, hunting down the newly Exalted and killing them before they have a chance to master their powers."

He pauses for a long moment, then looks at Aredin. "I think that the Bronze Elders are under the influence of their own arrogance, a corruption that has eaten them from the inside out. Of course, they disagree, but that is no surprise. A part of their arrogance is the refusal to consider that they might be wrong, and that Creation might actually need the Solars in the not too distant future. I wish that there was some way to show them the reflection in the mirror so they can see the truth."
 

Rykon

One Thousand Club
Aredin made a thoughtful gesture as the cogs began to turn in his mind. Your current skills should suffice, but you...we?... I once knew a method specifically for such derangements. Awakening this memory will have to wait though. Your swordsmanship is still far too lacking for the task ahead of you. Aredin heard his past-phantom advise. The more he trained and fought with him, the more personality he seemed to adopt. Though its question of which one of them was the true self still seemed to dig at his confidence in secret. "Yes... I can work with this. I can be that mirror, if only for show. I'll have to concoct a more sure way of dealing with the mentally affected soon though. For now, being the example of his folly could be enough to leave him vulnerable for you dearest. I hope it helps."
 
@Sherwood
Having had her dinner at her gang's headquarters, Annika returned to the cells, making her way towards the one where Mellar was imprisoned and dragging a chair behind her.

"Annika! What brings you here?" One of the two guards stationed outside the cell asked.

"I wish to question this prisoner." Annika said. "Unlock the door for me, then lock it once I'm inside."

"You sure that's a good idea?" The guard asked, a tad nervous.

"I have my daiklaves, my hearthstone bracers and access to my essence. The Sidereal on the other hand is not only bound at the wrists and disarmed, but those soulsteel manacles have him unable to use his magic. If he tries to attack me, I should be able to handle him. And if not, he won't be able to get out." Annika answered. The guard nodded and turned towards the cell door, ordering Mellar to sit on his bunk.

Annika entered the cell, and listened as it was locked behind her. Dragging her chair into the center of the room, she straddled it backwards and rested her elbows on the top of it, so that she could lean towards the Sidereal.

"I get why the Dynasts wanted to attack us. They've been hopelessly indoctrinated into the ways of the Immaculate Order since they started to walk." Annika said to him in a pleasant-sounding tone. "But you on the other hand...I can't help but feel you have a more complex reason than us supposedly being demons. I know a bit about how you Sidereals operate. You see into the future, and try and influence it behind the scenes to put it on a course that you approve of. So tell me, did you lead this attack because you saw what we would become? Did you fear that we would become capable of ruling the East, or even the whole of Creation?"

Asking these questions, she again used her Gemstone of Surface Thoughts to peer into his mind, wanting to see if her words had triggered anything within it.
 
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Sherwood

Luna's Concubine
Supporter
Mellar acts bored as you come in, but he is on high alert as you pull up your chair. His thoughts go straight to, She is alone. This may be my one chance to escape before anyone come to rescue me. Must play my cards carefully. He watches as Annika sets herself down in the chair across from him as he leans back on his bunk, waiting for you to make the first move.

When Annika asks about his motives, he simply says, "You can't help but to become the monsters that we have seen before. Its nothing you can control; it is in your nature as Solars. Now, I'm not saying that you'll become an evil bunch of tyrants right out of the gate, but time has shown us all what we can expect from you given time. We are just trying to cut out the middleman."
 
Annika remains on alert as she reads Mellar's thoughts about wanting to escape, but remains calm, listening to his words.

"I get what you're saying. I know a bit about how the First Age went to Malfeas, in no small part due to us. And I can't blame you for thinking history might repeat itself." She says. "But can you honestly say that the Usurpation made things better? True, the Shogunate could have been a lot worse, but then there was the Great Contagion, and then the invasion of the Fair Folk. More than half of Creation dead and lost to the Wyld. And now the Scarlet Empress is gone, and the Realm's becoming a tyranny that's just as bad as ours was, and a lot weaker."

Her tone throughout this has been completely neutral, like a scholar of Great Forks debating the reason for the destruction of the Tepet legions in the north, but now it takes on a look of mocking amusement. "All in all, I'd say that those ideas of yours are nothing but foolishness."

Having spoken, she does another check with her Gemstone of Surface Thoughts, but this time fails to gain anything.
 
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