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Old 08-02-2021, 01:26 PM   #191
coronatiger
 
Join Date: Apr 2018
Location: Trondheim, Norway
Default Session 61 (2021-07-28)

19th of Ratanu, year 412 (continued)

“Don’t do anything rash, or at least not violent,” Yana begged. “I’m sure they have a good reason for letting him go. We should stop by the Tivito cart to see if there is anything useful left there. I’m sure the others have taken their pick as well.” I allowed Yana to change the subject. The cart was already looted, but both Yana and I grabbed a blanket of high quality, since going into the mountains to find a lost city had been discussed, and it could get cold there, especially in the coming months of Tityra and Azura.

When we found the others digging up our buried luggage, Xipil and Wolfram were discussing whether we should hide the bodies before we left. I pointed out that we already had a hole in the ground, but they were too preoccupied with their discussion to hear. Wolfram said it was no point trying to hide what had happened, since one of the cultists had escaped. I cleared my throat and said that the cultist wouldn’t be talking to anyone; he was with Ashtar now. Admittedly, he had talked to some of the king’s soldiers, but I didn’t get the impression that he had revealed anything to them about what had happened here. The owls had escaped, though, and both Xipil and Wolfram believed that Tivito could extract some information from them, using magic. Yana urged us to get going before any soldiers arrived that we felt we had to kill. Guilt wrenched my heart, but I hid it from my companions. You had condoned the killing of the lieutenant, but I wished I hadn’t had to resort to violence.

Xipil took Grogg and Hylda to deal with the corpses, and Wolfram began to pack our stuff on the horse. He was obviously new to that task, and I nudged Yana to give him some advice. I also asked her to see if the horse was marked in any way. She held up a lantern and examined the beast. There were Larma markings on the saddle and other accoutrements, Yana reported, as well as a tattoo in the horse’s right ear. She wasn’t familiar with the tattoo; Amrosh uses burn marks, and not with that design.

Yana saw me struggling to find room for my new blanket in my backpack. She had just thrown away her old, worn blanket to make room for her new one, even though her pack was far less stuffed than mine. She transferred the tent from my backpack to hers, despite my protests about burdening her with my stuff. “I’m using this tent as much as you do, so it’s only fair that I carry it for a while,” she concluded.

Xipil, Grogg and Hylda came back, but without any corpses. They had put them all inside the stable and set fire to the building. I hoped it wouldn’t spread. Yana was desperate to leave. Fire might be the only thing that would make the locals defy the order not to go near that farm. Xipil wanted very much to go south, even though I pointed out that Byblos was to the north-west, and suggested we go west, since anyone coming from there would take the road first east and then south to the farm. Going south would just waste our time. However, Xipil didn’t look likely to budge, so I let him have it his way instead of wasting even more time arguing.

Yana and I walked in front. Yana held the packhorse with one hand and me with the other. I was the only one who could see into the night. Xipil followed the party, hiding tracks as best he could.

After a while, we came upon a crossing in the road, and Xipil agreed to turn west. We sat down to rest not long after, having walked for about an hour. Xipil asked where I found the Tivito guy. “At the inn in the village on the main road, where he was treated for a headache,” I replied. That headache had baffled both the cultist and the doctor, but I had my suspicions. “Can I taste your frog venom?” I asked. Xipil lamented that he didn’t have any left, but I had seen him dose it out on his arrow-heads, and doubted that he had shot away all those arrows. I got to lick one of the arrow-heads. I had the equipment to do a proper analysis, but I couldn’t set it up on the road, so I settled for a preliminary test. The venom had no effect on me, of course, but I found it likely to be the source of the headache. Xipil confirmed that he had hit the man with an arrow, early in the fight.

On a later rest stop, I retrieved my water skin and washed my hands. Wolfram and Grogg had water of their own, so they didn’t need mine. We got off the worst of the blood and mud, but decided we should head for the river and take a proper bath before going through the Byblos gates. Grogg found a bar of perfumed soap in his sack. It had to be Lunari’s. Or perhaps Hylda’s. Anyway, Wolfram said he shouldn’t waste it now, since we were bathing again in a couple of hours.

The sky had begun to lighten behind us when we first spotted lights ahead. It was the village on the south road from Byblos, and ships on the river, I informed the others. Farmers started to wake and came out to the fields, but they ignored our passing.

Xipil asked where we should shack up in Byblos. He was convinced that my kills would be attributed to You, if not to me directly, and didn’t want to go back to the bounty hunter guild. I had admitted to being witnessed by the doctor, but I didn’t think he got a good look at me. Xipil refused to stay at a place with someone with Tivito sympathies. He was talking about the young chapel guard, whom I had seen at the temple at the Terrace of the Evening Sun. I didn’t think we’d get in trouble for staying at the guild, but Wolfram agreed with Xipil; an inn would be best.

Coming up on the village, Wolfram told us to meet him on the other side. There were too many people up and about for him to comfortably cross through with the rest of us.

We bathed in the river, cleaning off the rest of the blood, muck and soot. A merchant’s party was having a bath nearby, but out of earshot. After we were all clean, we debated what to do with the horse. It was too fine for us, although Yana opined that it could be taken for Wolfram’s war horse. Xipil wanted to chase it away. I offered to go back to the village to see if I could find some criminal to take it off our hands for a cheap price; it would still be a considerable sum. Yana thought the harbor outside Byblos would be better suited than a village with a garrison. Someone suggested killing the horse and sinking it in the river, filled with stones, but that was a bad idea. There were too many people around for us to try something suspicious-looking like that. In the end, we decided to just leave the horse. Some of the others had run off, too, so if Tivito found their horse here, they would probably not think too much about it.

Walking towards Byblos, Grogg had to carry his own luggage, and he was slowing us down. Hylda offered to help, and was overwhelmed with emotion when he allowed her to carry his maul.

When we came closer to the city, Wolfram noticed the crowd at the gate and asked if I had another dose of the wonder medicine. “I’m sorry, I’ve used it all,” I apologized. Wolfram had to settle for liquor and a smoke of mountain mint that Grogg provided. Mountain mint is a relaxant when smoked like that, but I was uncertain how it would mix with the alcohol. Wolfram forced down half the bottle before returning it to Grogg, and he became drunk as a skunk. We had eaten a little on the way, but that was a while ago, so he was drinking on an almost empty stomach. The smoke may have contributed as well. I was more worried that Wolfram would make a scene in his drunkenness than I was that he should refuse to enter the crowd.
__________________
You don't need to spend 100 CP on Status 5 [25] and Multimillionaire [75] to feel like a princess, when Delusion [-10] will do.

Character sheet: Google Drive link (See this thread for details.)

Campaign logs: Chaotic Pioneering / Confessions of a Forked Tongue
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Old 08-02-2021, 01:36 PM   #192
coronatiger
 
Join Date: Apr 2018
Location: Trondheim, Norway
Default Session 61 (2021-07-28)

My worries were unwarranted, for we got through the gate relatively smoothly. However, Wolfram complained that the mountain mint made him sick. We darted into an alley as soon as possible, to give him privacy to empty his stomach, but he just needed to slow down and breathe.

Xipil and Wolfram wanted to find a shabby inn, somewhere we’d be anonymous, so we headed east towards the poorer part of Byblos. We paralleled the city wall until we spotted a couple of drunkards being thrown out of an establishment. Yana and I went inside to see if there was room for us. I paid three silver coins for three rooms on the third floor. We brought the others inside.

Xipil asked me to fetch food for us all, so we could eat in the privacy of our rooms. I had Yana help me carry. The inn was serving soup for breakfast, and I would have had to go down and up again three times if I was going alone. I didn’t want to carry more than one bowl in each hand, traversing the uneven stairs in this building. We delivered food for the others first, then went back downstairs and got our own food. Neither of us were in the mood for socializing in the common room, so we ate in private, too.

After the meal, I considered going out to restock on river thistle, but Yana yawned, and I realized I was just as tired. We brushed our teeth and got ready for bed.

O Ashtar! We surrender our lives to Your coils. Take us while we sleep, or grant us another day in Your service, as You will.

O Ashtar, Mother of Snakes, Keeper of Death’s Door, hear my confession!

We woke up again after a few hours. I asked Yana if she wanted to go back to sleep or if it was time to get up, then decided that we wouldn’t be able to sleep tonight if we slept more now. I overruled her desire to doze off again. I felt bad, but Yana was out of the bed as quickly as me, and she gave me a hug when she noticed my regret.

“Want to come with me to the herbalist?” I asked when we were dressed. Yana smiled and nodded. Hylda was sitting in the common room when we passed through, staring at a bottle in her hands. She seemed very intent on the bottle, so Yana and I let her be.

At the herb store, I walked up to the counter and asked the woman for river thistle extract. She recognized me from before and asked concernedly what I had done with the extract I bought earlier this week. I told her I spilled it out, which actually was the truth. I didn’t reveal that it was soaking the bed of a man I just poisoned to death, of course. I got another bottle of river thistle extract along with a warning that there would be more questions if I returned for more too soon.

Hylda had finished the bottle by the time we returned, and was staring blankly into the air. I asked if she was all right. Hylda blinked and looked around before focusing on me. She had trouble falling asleep, she admitted. She was definitely under the influence of more than alcohol. Hylda stood and said she was going up to Grogg. I wished her luck finding sleep. Not knowing what drug she had taken, I thought it was best that she wasn’t alone in public. I would have stayed in the common room with her, if she hadn’t decided to go to her room.

“I’m sorry,” I said to Yana when we were alone in our room. Yana was confused and asked what I was apologizing for. “For all the violence you had to listen to last night, for agreeing with the others that we had to fight. I still feel it was the right course of action, but I’ve had this knot in my stomach ever since.”

Yana threw her arms around me and squeezed. I thought I spotted a tear glistening in her eye, and I hugged her back. “Thank you for being so understanding, Nuur-Karif,” she whispered after a while. “I was so scared for you. I didn’t hear anything from you until that terrible scream that made my heart stop until I realized you were acting. There were no battle-cries, nor grunts of effort or cries of pain; are you always so silent? I guess you don’t want the enemies to know where you are or what you’re up to. And I’m glad you weren’t hurt. At least not seriously. Why did Grogg hit you, by the way? Was he so bloodthirsty that he simply had to be the one to kill the Tivito slave?” I stroked Yana’s back and let her frantic rant play itself out while I murmured soothingly. She didn’t need my response; she knew the answers to her own questions, or at least guessed correctly. She just needed me to be there to hold her.

Yana’s voice grew ragged and then stopped abruptly. She took a deep breath. “Pretty Nuur-Karif! You smell so nice, it’s intoxicating.” I buried my nose in her hair and drew in her scent. It affected me just like she said. Yana felt around my torso. “Do you have to wear that thing?”

“Much better,” Yana declared when I had stripped out of the cloth armor that had been hidden under my dress. “Now hug me and say that you agree!” I did as she asked, and it did indeed feel much better. Only Yana’s bodice separated her breasts from mine, and I felt her poke at me, just as I poked at her.

Yana had one hand entangled in my hair and the other on my bottom. She yanked my head back roughly and kissed my neck. A tingling sensation in my fangs brought me back to reality and I withdrew from our embrace. “I’m so sorry, Yana, but can we continue this tonight? I must meditate and restore my venom.”

Yana saw the conflict in my eyes. Had she continued her advances, I wouldn’t have been able to resist, but she accepted that I had my duties to You. “Go ahead,” she said, “but give me your dress. I’ll adjust it to your size.” I undid my belt and let the dress fall off my hips. I took the nearly empty vial out of my pouch and began rummaging in my backpack for another dress. “What are you doing?” Yana asked. “I didn’t give you permission to cover up!” We had agreed that in return for me taking charge in public and when the situation pertained to You, Yana would be in command when we were alone. “Yes, Mistress,” I replied. “May I turn my back? If I see you looking at me, I won’t be able to concentrate!”

Yana pointed to a spot on the floor and twirled her finger, indicating that I was allowed to turn. I knelt where she had pointed. Her unseen gaze turned my cheeks burning red, but I forced myself to focus on my task. I drew each throwing knife and licked off the remaining venom, bit the blades ritually and sheathed them again. Then I began to pray.
__________________
You don't need to spend 100 CP on Status 5 [25] and Multimillionaire [75] to feel like a princess, when Delusion [-10] will do.

Character sheet: Google Drive link (See this thread for details.)

Campaign logs: Chaotic Pioneering / Confessions of a Forked Tongue
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Old 08-07-2021, 09:20 AM   #193
coronatiger
 
Join Date: Apr 2018
Location: Trondheim, Norway
Default Session 62 (2021-08-04)

19th of Ratanu, year 412 (continued)

With only the faint rustling of cloth behind me, I was able to concentrate on my meditation. When I spat the third dose of venom into my vial, Yana put a hand on my shoulder. “I’m hungry, Nuur-Karif. Are you?” she asked. It was seven or eight hours since we last ate, and I was starting to feel peckish myself. I put a stopper in the vial and stood up. “I’ll just get dressed and then we can go downstairs and eat,” I said, but Yana would have none of it. “Oh no, you won’t! I’m going to fetch food so we can eat here, where I can enjoy the sight of your delectable …” A knock on the door interrupted her, and she withdrew her hands like she’d been bitten.

I opened my mouth to speak but had to swallow a couple of times before I could get a word out. “Who is it?” “It’s me,” Xipil replied. I opened the door and let him in, ignoring the look in Yana’s eyes; the asexual lizard man wouldn’t care if I was clothed or not.

Xipil informed us that Tivito had offices and possibly living spaces at the Golden Arrow Inn. He had learned from our prisoners that Elanus Larma was in charge there, and he wanted to go and spy on the place tonight, after he had eaten. A glance out the window told me sunset wasn’t far off. I sent Yana to bring food for all of us.

Now that Xipil had joined us, a romantic meal was out of the question, so I put on my white dress, the one with the blue embroidery. I took the opportunity while Yana was away to ask why Xipil and the others had decided to let the captured Tivito cultist go free. While I was chasing after the fleeing cultist, our captive had turned cooperative, and he had managed to convince my companions that he would get into trouble with his superiors if he admitted to them that he had surrendered. I groaned inwardly. Xipil hadn’t even asked Yana to confirm the captive’s truthfulness. There was nothing that could be done now, so I didn’t berate Xipil for his gullibility.

Xipil asked what I had done with the river thistle, and I told him about spiking the beer; unfortunately, events had unfolded in a way that forced me to use my knives instead.

I was more or less finished with my story when Yana came back. She caught my gaze, then looked questioningly at my dress. I cast a glance sideways at Xipil to explain. He perceived the exchange and was out of the room with his soup bowl in a flash. I couldn’t tell if he was being considerate or merely uncomfortable.

Yana put down our food and began to sing in a soft voice, gliding up to me. She caressed my hair and my cheeks while telling the story of a farm girl who went to town to sell her wares. Yana peeled off my dress and my face began to burn when I realized it wasn’t fruit or vegetables this farm girl was selling. Yana smiled innocently while she sang, but the song grew rowdier and rowdier, and her hands were all over me, emphasizing what wares the song alluded to. When the song was over, Yana licked off her finger and declared that it was time to eat. I nearly fainted from anticipation, but she sat down and picked up her bowl of soup, leaving me trembling.

It took me a minute or two to calm down enough to use the spoon without spilling soup. “I’m going to get you for this,” I threatened. Yana grinned. “I can’t wait. Are you done with your meditation?” I was not. My vial of venom was only half full. Yana sat down on the bed, resting her head against the wall, watching me resume my prayers.

Xipil knocked on our door again after a while, to ask us to look over his disguise before he went outside. I barely interrupted my meditation to ask Yana to deal with it.

When I spat the last dose of venom into my vial and stood up, I realized that Yana had extinguished the candle and gone to sleep. She was curled up in the middle of the bed, and I would have to move her to find room. It didn’t look very comfortable, lying on top of the covers, still in her dress, but she was so adorable! I brushed a stray lock of hair out of her face and bent to kiss her forehead, but Yana’s eyes popped open and despite the dark, she guided my lips to hers. “I must brush my teeth,” I stammered when she started to get frisky.

I looked out the window while I brushed. There wasn’t much of a view to speak of, but I listened to the city. Unlike certain others, I’m not good at telling the time by watching the night sky, but the city sounds made me think it wasn’t yet midnight.

Yana was waiting for me on the bed when I turned back to her, and she had removed her dress. Chocolate velvet skin beckoned at me and pulled me across the room. I reached out and touched her cheek, and she gasped. Yana withdrew from my touch but patted the bed next to her. “The walls are thin here,” she whispered. “Can you be quiet? I seem to recall giving you a promise before.” She kissed my neck, my shoulder, my breast and my stomach. I recalled her promise very clearly and clamped my mouth shut.

The ecstasy lingered for an eternity after Yana had finished me off. I couldn’t think coherently, and when I opened my mouth to speak, only a weak moan came out. Yana had to initiate our evening prayer, and it wasn’t until I felt Your soothing coils that my mind cleared.

O Ashtar! We surrender our lives to Your coils. Take us while we sleep, or grant us another day in Your service, as You will.
__________________
You don't need to spend 100 CP on Status 5 [25] and Multimillionaire [75] to feel like a princess, when Delusion [-10] will do.

Character sheet: Google Drive link (See this thread for details.)

Campaign logs: Chaotic Pioneering / Confessions of a Forked Tongue
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Old 08-07-2021, 09:34 AM   #194
coronatiger
 
Join Date: Apr 2018
Location: Trondheim, Norway
Default Session 62 (2021-08-04)

20th of Ratanu, year 412

O Ashtar, Mother of Snakes, Keeper of Death’s Door, hear my confession!

“Breakfast!” Yana’s melodious voice woke me, and I smelled soup. I sat up. “I had the most peculiar dream just now,” I told Yana, sitting up and rubbing the sleep from my eyes. “I dreamed that you put a fork in my arm, cut out a piece of flesh and ate it. You tried a piece of ear and thigh, and you broke out a rib and sucked on it, but each time you complained that it wasn’t as good as you remembered.” Yana looked me over with a gaze that made me tremble like a sheep before slaughter. She opened her mouth to speak, but a knock on the door interrupted her.

“Who is it?” I called out, voice uneven. “Wolfram!” said Wolfram. I hurried into a dress and told him to come inside. The flimsy armor bolstered my confidence. “Good morning, Wolfram. What can we do for you?” Wolfram wanted everyone to meet up and discuss what to do. I replied that Yana and I would come after we’d eaten, and it turned out he hadn’t had his breakfast yet, either. Wolfram decided to filch a travel ration from Grogg instead of braving the common room.

Yana and I ate in silence, but our eyes spoke volumes. There were some nods and gestures, too. If I wasn’t completely off the mark, I managed to promise to do to Yana what she had done to me. Yana put her spoon in her empty bowl. “I finished your new dress yesterday. You should try it on,” she said. I scooped up the last remnants of soup from my bowl and stood. A wicked glimmer in Yana’s eyes stopped me. “You know it’ll fit. You just want to see me naked,” I accused. “Can you blame me?” Yana replied. “You’re beautiful, Nuur-Karif! And I didn’t think you minded.”

I reminded myself that Yana was in charge and took off my dress. I sat down on the bed with the new dress in my lap. “It’s true that I don’t usually mind. Many are uncomfortable without clothes on, but I know that Ashtar protects me. I have given my life and my body to Her. Now that I think about it, giving myself to you makes me feel like a fraud, selling the same wares twice.”

Yana stood abruptly, angrily, toppling her stool. “No! You mustn’t say that! It isn’t true! I sensed Ashtar’s calming presence on you while we prayed last night. Would She bless you like that if we had transgressed? I won’t pretend I know the Holy Mother as well as you do, but I should think not. I know that your love for me doesn’t diminish your love for Ashtar.” Yana put her hand on my chest. “Look inside your heart, Nuur-Karif. There is room there for both Ashtar and me. I know She comes first; I’ve accepted that, but I’m here, too. And as for intimacy …” She shifted her hand to my breast. “Ashtar wouldn’t deprive her most loyal servant of a little earthly pleasure.”

I jumped up. “Yes! You’re right!” Yana’s eyes widened with surprise at my sudden movement, but she refused to back off, and we stood uncomfortably close. No, we stood delightfully close! I wrapped my arms around her and pulled her even closer. I continued, feeling the fervor shining in my eyes, “It was Ashtar who brought us together. It is by Her will that we found each other. The love I feel for you, the pleasure in your touch, these are Her gifts, my reward for faithful service!”

I fell to my knees and prayed. Yana watched in stunned silence. A big, sloppy kiss snapped her out of it. “Let’s go see Wolfram and the others,” I declared vivaciously, but Yana held me back. “Um, Nuur-Karif? I’m glad that you’ve come to this realization, but I think perhaps Wolfram would prefer if you put some clothes on?”

The new dress fit me perfectly. Yana had a good eye for these things, as well as a steady hand with her needles. We crossed the hall and knocked on Wolfram’s and Xipil’s door. Despite our delayed arrival, we weren’t the last. Grogg was. He said that Hylda wouldn’t come; she was finally sleeping.

I asked what Xipil had discovered at the Golden Arrow. It was a six-story building that took up an entire block, and Xipil believed there was an atrium in the middle, although he hadn’t climbed up on the roof to find out. The security was tight, with guards at the rear entrance and metal bars over the windows on the first three stories. City guards had delivered prostitutes at the back door, and Wolfram speculated that I could get in that way.

Wolfram had interrogated the Tivito slave and learned that the two light dagger mages, who were Elik cultists, had come to Byblos recently, but Xipil was convinced that they had been there a while; it was the alliance between Tivito and Elik that was new.

I reminded my friends that we had arranged a meeting at the Anati temple tonight and asked who was coming with me. Yana squeezed my hand in response; Xipil and Wolfram said yes. Grogg wanted to discuss it with Hylda before committing to anything. I informed Wolfram that I had acquired more river thistle, so he wouldn’t have to drink himself stupid to get through the crowds.

Xipil asked what cover name I used at the moment. “Cover name?” I wasn’t using one. Xipil believed that Tivito could read images from the owls’ memories with magic, and the birds had seen most of us. “Maybe it’s time to dye my hair again. What do you think, Yana?” She grinned. “You have beautiful hair, Nuur-Karif, but you know I would love to help you.” She would take any excuse to put her hands on me. I grinned back.

I asked if the others were well rested after our recent activities. They were, but both Xipil and Wolfram had flipped their sleeping schedule. I recommended taking a nap around midday and promised to make sure everyone was woken up before we had to leave for the Anati temple.

Wolfram wanted someone to look into the whereabouts of Elik, but nobody had any idea where to start looking. He looked at me and asked if anyone could infiltrate the Golden Arrow. I said it shouldn’t be very difficult. Xipil said Yana and I should dress up as hookers, but I thought it better to just use the main entrance, like regular customers. I agreed to go once Yana had dyed my hair, but I didn’t know what to look for and whether it was worth the trouble to just look around. I wouldn’t know how to spot magical artifacts, which we suspected Tivito kept there.

Grogg just wanted to attack the place. Yana thought that was a bad idea, and even had a sensible argument: If there were indeed magical artifacts there, there would also be powerful mages to guard them. If we were wrong, and Tivito stored their artifacts elsewhere, we would be risking our lives for nothing.

Grogg proposed giving the guards crow’s toes. I thought it might be difficult to accomplish that; Xipil had watched the guards for several hours, and they never smoked anything. A better idea was to dose a bottle of wine with river thistle. I could convince the guards to share it with me. This idea wasn’t much good, though. Tivito would surely have their own guards to protect their rooms, which was on the third floor according to our intelligence.

Yana suggested renting rooms of our own at the Golden Arrow. That way, we’d get past the outer security. This was the best idea so far in my opinion. If we attacked or poisoned someone, we would be crossing a line. I wasn’t as squeamish as Yana about that, but I don’t want to break the law for no reason. Getting a room would let us gather information, to better determine if attacking was the right thing to do.

Raiding Tivito’s presumed headquarters seems like Wolfram’s personal vendetta. Xipil has an obsession with magical artifacts, so he’s definitely in. Grogg will agree to anything, as long as he gets to hit someone. I have no love for Tivito – some of them are really bad people – but I have no need to destroy them. Unless, of course, they are behind the conflict between my brothers and sisters. Whoever’s responsible for that will pay with their blood.
__________________
You don't need to spend 100 CP on Status 5 [25] and Multimillionaire [75] to feel like a princess, when Delusion [-10] will do.

Character sheet: Google Drive link (See this thread for details.)

Campaign logs: Chaotic Pioneering / Confessions of a Forked Tongue
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Old 08-14-2021, 05:52 AM   #195
coronatiger
 
Join Date: Apr 2018
Location: Trondheim, Norway
Default Session 63 (2021-08-11)

20th of Ratanu, year 412 (continued)

I wanted to go as myself, undisguised, to the Anati temple tonight, so dyeing my hair now was out of the question. Maybe I should get a wig before going to the Golden Arrow? Xipil pointed out that it would be natural for a noble to send a servant to arrange rooms for them. I would need two disguises, then, one for checking the place out and hiring a room, and another for tonight when checking in. Yana looked up from her needlework, beaming with delight.

Xipil warned against using magic at the Golden Arrow, in case Tivito had set up wards. His warning was irrelevant to me; I wasn’t a mage. Wolfram believed Tiri’s moon magic would be harder for Tivito to detect, and he and Xipil had another discussion about the nature of magic.

Then we discussed how to infiltrate the Golden Arrow. We eventually agreed that Yana and I would check in there tonight and familiarize us with the place. Speaking to the other patrons might give us some insight into Tivito’s operations. After a day or two, we’d get Xipil to come and try to sense if there were powerful artifacts there. He had detected the magical ballista at Yori’s crypt from a long way off.

I asked Grogg if he could finance this operation, since he still carried around Lunari’s gold. The two of us went to his room to get the money, and Yana went to prepare my servant’s outfit. Yana and I had estimated that fifty gold pieces should be enough, although neither of us had any idea how much the Golden Arrow charged for their rooms. Grogg poured a pile of coins into my hands, and I counted them. “This is only thirty gold, Grogg,” I told him. Grogg scooped up another pile for me. That brought the total to forty-seven, and since I had some gold myself, I decided not to pester my friend for the last three.

I put on the clothes Yana had found. She told me to turn around slowly while she scrutinized the disguise. She made several minor changes before she was satisfied. My hair was done up and hidden in a cap, and Yana had put cotton rolls in my cheeks to make me appear plumper. She had been very careful not to touch my fangs, and I thought she was still a little afraid of me, despite the kiss she gave me afterwards.

“Are you sure you don’t want me to come along?” Yana asked. “Yes,” I replied. “It will be easier for someone to pierce our disguises if there are two of us both now and later. I would much rather have you there with me when I’m going to spend more than a few minutes at the place.” It occurred to me that Yana might not be comfortable being alone in a place like this. “Will you be all right while I’m gone? If there is trouble, you should take cover behind Hylda.” Yana raised an eyebrow questioningly, so I explained my reasoning. “Grogg won’t let anything happen to you if it means putting Hylda in danger.”

After a final look-over and a good-bye kiss, Yana let me go. I turned around at the top of the stairs and went back to our room. “My knives are at the top of my backpack. Take good care of them while I’m away. And if you must run, you can’t leave my medicine kit behind either.” I rummaged in my backpack to make it easy to pull out the leather roll. Yana assured me she knew what to do. I kissed her again and left.

The Golden Arrow didn’t look very special from the outside, but the insides could only be described with one word, opulent. I pretended there was nothing to stare at as I walked up to the two liveried servants sitting behind a desk. I informed them my master wanted to rent an apartment. I gave his name as Platycon and confided with a wink that this was an assumed name. They understood the request for anonymity and gave me some papers to look over. They let me peruse the documents in a small meeting room.

I understood very little of this “responsibility form” and admitted this to the two servants. I would need to bring the papers to my master, as he had people who comprehended such things far better than me. I had to leave three gold pieces as a deposit for the papers, a staggering amount in my opinion, but I handed over the money as if this was nothing.

I convinced the servants to let me see the apartment, so I could report on it to my master. A guard escorted me upstairs to the fifth floor. The apartment was as lavish as could be expected, with enough rooms for all of us to stay there if we chose to do so. I thanked the guard and let him bring me downstairs again, and I thanked the servants behind the desk, promising to be back shortly.

Grogg and Wolfram were in the common room when I got back to our shabby inn. I asked if the others were upstairs and explained that I needed Wolfram and Xipil to help me understand some papers I had received at the Golden Arrow.

Wolfram followed me up, and we knocked on the room he shared with Xipil. “Busy!” the lizard man exclaimed, so I invited Wolfram to my room so we could look at the strange document. We surprised Yana, who threw a cloth over her work before she scooped it all up and put it away. I didn’t want to embarrass her in front of Wolfram, so I didn’t comment. I could ask later, when we were alone.

Yana picked up her flower project and Wolfram and I studied the document. Wolfram understood even less than me and couldn’t let go of that one sentence which said that magic was dangerous. We made another attempt at reading the papers, and I gleaned that if I had visitors and they made trouble, it was my responsibility. And, if I wanted to use magic, that cost extra. In fact, it looked like the document alluded to some extra services that could be purchased, services that weren’t necessarily entirely legal, like those prostitutes the city guards had brought.

Even though I had come to the understanding that I could just sign the papers and let that be that, I wanted Xipil to read it too. The ultra-complicated language could surely hide something neither Wolfram nor I had spotted. We went out and knocked on the door across the hall again. Xipil had finished with whatever he had been doing and opened the door. I gave the papers to him and said very little, wanting him to make an unbiased interpretation.

Xipil read through the document but said he didn’t know our laws and culture well enough to understand all the intricacies. We agreed that it probably wouldn’t harm us if I signed the papers as Platycon, so I did. I reported on the layout of the Golden Arrow to Xipil and Wolfram.

Since Yana had been so jumpy earlier, I knocked and identified myself before entering our room. I told her I was going out again but promised to be back before she knew it.

I crossed town again and arrived at the Golden Arrow in about a quarter of an hour, now that I knew exactly where it was located. I went inside and placed the signed document on the desk with a smile for the two servants.
__________________
You don't need to spend 100 CP on Status 5 [25] and Multimillionaire [75] to feel like a princess, when Delusion [-10] will do.

Character sheet: Google Drive link (See this thread for details.)

Campaign logs: Chaotic Pioneering / Confessions of a Forked Tongue
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Old 09-05-2021, 02:59 AM   #196
coronatiger
 
Join Date: Apr 2018
Location: Trondheim, Norway
Default Session 64 (2021-09-02)

20th of Ratanu, year 412 (continued)

One of the Golden Arrow servants scrutinized the document. He didn’t just look at the signature as I had expected, but presumably looked for any changes “Platycon” may have made to the document. I asked for my three gold pieces back. The servant thought I was hilarious, but I said I thought the money was only a deposit for the papers. He opened a drawer and took out three coins. “I think it was these three…”

“Of course, you’ll get them right back when I pay for the apartment,” I told the servant. We tossed a couple of jokes back and forth before I turned serious again. We agreed that I should pay twenty-five gold for two weeks’ rent. I counted out the money, but he returned one of the gold coins, since he liked me. I put that coin into a pocket instead of the pouch where I kept the rest of the money.

We joked some more before I asked for keys to the apartment. Since it was me, he waived the deposit for them, and handed over two keys, which I put in the pouch. After a few last witticisms, I said goodbye. He said he’d look forward to seeing me again soon, but I revealed that my master hadn’t told me whether or not I would return to the Golden Arrow with him.

I kept an eye out for anyone following me on my walk back to the poor quarter. I couldn’t see anybody, but that could just mean that they were skilled. More likely, nobody followed me. It would be bad for business if the customers of the Golden Arrow discovered that the landlord was spying.

It was approaching lunchtime when I got back to the inn, at least for me. I was getting hungry, but there weren’t many people in the common room. None of my friends were there, so I went up to the room I shared with Yana. I knocked and let Yana hear my voice before I entered.

“Hey there, Sweetie! How did it go?” Yana looked up from her flower sewing and beamed at me when I came in. She put down her work and stood up while I crossed the room. “Hey there, yourself,” I replied and gave Yana a hug. “It went as well as could be expected. We can move in tonight as planned. Are you as hungry as I am?” “Yeah, I could eat,” Yana said. I asked if she preferred to eat in the common room, or if she’d like me to fetch food up to our room. Yana answered that my current disguise didn’t fit in at a dump like this, and decided to go herself and fetch something for us. On the way out, she asked if she should inform our friends that I had returned. “Sure,” I said. “And you can invite them to eat with us if you want.”

Wolfram came across the hall and asked what the plan was. I reminded him that we’d leave for the Anati temple so we’d arrive before sunset. After the bath, Yana and I would check in at the Golden Arrow, and tomorrow, we’d fetch Xipil so he could search for artifacts. Wolfram thought we needed to talk again before Yana and I vanished into the Golden Arrow, to decide how we were going to communicate since the others couldn’t simply walk in and ask for us. I said we could talk while Yana and I were putting on our disguises. Wolfram was fine with that. To my surprise, he left.

Yana brought lunch shortly thereafter. She only had enough for the two of us, so I asked if none of the others wanted to spend time with us. Yana replied that she hadn’t asked anyone to join us; she had just informed them that I was back and that everything was going according to plan. I didn’t take offense at Yana’s selective hearing; being alone with her was as nice as lying in a snake pit.

Yana offered to go and hire a wagon for our trip to the temple district. I said it wasn’t necessary. Wolfram needed my river thistle to get through the crowds at the gates to the temple district, as wagons weren’t allowed to drive through. If I dosed him before we left the inn, it would last more than long enough for him to walk across town and into the Anati temple. Hiring a wagon would only be a waste of money.

After we had eaten, we discussed the disguises we would use at the Golden Arrow. I would be Platycon, a young nobleman who had taken rooms there to spend some time with his mistress; Yana would play the part of the mistress, Lind. I’d reuse the Biskutello outfit, but we spent some time composing Yana’s disguise. It had to be classy.

When we were satisfied with Yana’s disguise, she started making flowers again. This seemed to be her new hobby, and unless she gave them away while I wasn’t looking, she had to have a sack full of them by now. We talked about the latest fashion, and time just flew by.

Yana did pause her flower work to take my measurements for the dress she had promised to make. I asked when she was planning to start working on it, and she said I had to be patient. “I have to get through this flower phase first. Then we’ll see. If nothing more urgent comes up, I can start on the dress.” I didn’t think it was necessary for me to be completely naked while Yana took the measurements, but she insisted. It was quite chilly in our room, but Yana’s eyes and hands warmed me right up. I put on my own clothes when Yana was done groping me; I wasn’t going to wear a disguise to see a priestess.

An hour before sunset, I alerted Grogg and Hylda, and then Wolfram and Xipil, that it was time to go. I asked Wolfram for permission to inject him with river thistle and prepared my syringe. “Sit still,” I instructed. I knew what I was doing, but piercing someone’s neck with a sharp object is never totally safe.

I took the party to the east temple district gate, believing that route would pass the fewest people. There were some people outside that gate arguing about Ratanu’s money book, of all things. It was the wrong place to have that discussion, right in front of the book and the temple guards, some of whom were surely Ratanu worshippers.

Wolfram grabbed my hand to steady himself for passing these people. I wasn’t worried that Yana would get jealous; she held my other hand and was surely aware why Wolfram acted so clingy. I was more concerned about having neither hand free to draw a weapon should danger present itself, but I couldn’t let go of either of them. I told Wolfram it would be fine; I’d get him safely through the gate. I spoke soothingly to him all the way through and didn’t let go of his hand until we were inside and had put the crowd behind us.

Xipil was concerned that we didn’t have a guide to the Anati temple as last time. I didn’t share his concern. I said we knew where we were going. I planned to stride into the temple like I owned the place, and if we were challenged, respond confidently and politely. I knew social interaction wasn’t a strength among my companions, but there was no need for them to worry while Yana and I were there to handle it. They weren’t quite on the level of incorrigible barbarians, so I was reasonably certain they wouldn’t mess things up.

I led the way inside the temple the same way we had gone before. We passed a large room where some worshippers were being washed in alcoves on the far side. The priestesses attending them paid us no mind, but Xipil’s eyes were all over the place, which caused another priestess to pick up that he didn’t think he had a right to be there. Xipil was walking behind the rest of us and held back at the door out of the big room. The priestess asked him if we knew where we were going, and he said yes, which soothed the priestess and she continued on her way. The rest of us waited outside the dressing room for Xipil to catch up.

Wolfram was as uncomfortable as always when we all took our clothes off and put them in chests. To break the awkward silence, Hylda said, “An Anati temple, Grogg? You know you won’t get anything here.” She was of course talking about sex. The priestesses here had frowned on Yana and me sitting near each other in the pool.

Yana and I sat on a bench, watching the room and waiting for the bell to ring. We showed no signs of amusement to the others, but it was funny to witness especially how Wolfram looked up at me from time to time, as if to ask how long we were going to wait, but one glance at my nudity chased his eyes back to the floor.

After ten minutes with no bell, I got up and peeked inside. On the other side of the pool, a few priestesses were doing some tidying-up. “Wait here,” I said to Yana, but I swept my eyes over the others as if to include them. I went inside and let the priestesses notice me. One of them came over and asked me to wait, so I went back to the dressing room.
__________________
You don't need to spend 100 CP on Status 5 [25] and Multimillionaire [75] to feel like a princess, when Delusion [-10] will do.

Character sheet: Google Drive link (See this thread for details.)

Campaign logs: Chaotic Pioneering / Confessions of a Forked Tongue
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Old 09-05-2021, 03:23 AM   #197
coronatiger
 
Join Date: Apr 2018
Location: Trondheim, Norway
Default Session 64 (2021-09-02)

I hadn’t yet found my seat when the door to the hallway opened and three women entered. One was the Ashtarite priestess we were here to meet and one wore the garb of an Anati priestess. When the Ashtarite saw us, she sent the third woman away. Apparently, she had only come to keep an eye out for us.

The Anati priestess asked if any of us wanted something, but nobody replied, so she left too. The Ashtarite undressed and sat down to await the bell. This wasn’t the place to have our talk, her body language said. Poor Wolfram! Her arrival added another direction he couldn’t look without blushing.

The bell rang after a few minutes, and since nobody leapt to their feet, the Ashtarite entered first. Xipil and Wolfram went inside the next times the bell rang. Grogg and Hylda hesitated, so I told them they should go before me. I was first the other time we were here, so it was only fair that I should go last this time. Hylda left, and a minute later, Grogg followed.

As soon as Yana and I were alone, I turned to her and kissed her. Yana was at first horrified that we should do this in the temple of the goddess of purity and worried about being discovered, but she soon returned my affections with as much tongue as I gave her. The bell rang all too soon, and Yana bounced to her feet. She stopped before the door to compose herself, took a deep breath, and went inside the cleansing chamber, leaving me to cool down alone. I realized I was quite flustered myself.

Knowing what I was walking into, I endured the cold shower and Anati’s rituals with more poise this time around. I still had that dichotomous feeling of being both clean and dirty afterwards. I really disliked subjecting myself to the rituals of another goddess.

I joined the others in the serenity pool, seating myself between Yana and the Ashtarite priestess, whose name I still didn’t know. We sat in silence for a minute, then the Ashtarite thanked and dismissed the Anati attendants.

I told of my meeting with Jaryn, the priest at the Terrace of the Evening Sun. The priestess seemed surprised that I had gone, but it was only four days since I told her I would. Hadn’t she believed me? I relayed Jaryn’s message, that he was willing to talk, but only through an intermediary – me – and that he would absolutely not cut off the cooperation with the other cults, those of Tivito, Elik and Kabal.

Wolfram interjected that he believed Lord Mir was behind the Ashtarite division, but I didn’t find that likely. I explained that the Evening Sun faction wanted to change the law, so that Ashtar, Elik, Tivito and Kabal got equal treatment and the privilege of monopolies on each cult’s field of interest. This was not what Lord Mir had said in his letter to the priestess, she reminded us. After talking it over, Wolfram conceded that he had probably been wrong.

The priestess and I both suspected that Jaryn wasn’t the one in charge on the other side. For my part, it was his unwillingness to concede even a little, as if he had no authority to bargain, that made me think so. I posited that someone from one of the other cults was pulling his strings, and most likely Tivito, since they had seemingly nothing to gain from relinquishing their unique status. I hated that politics had found its way into our chapels and temples, but I kept my feelings to myself.

What I said made the priestess want to accept Lord Mir’s offer that we wouldn’t be persecuted for our faith. Lord Mir wanted very little in return, and nothing specific. I opined that he was after our goodwill. The priestess didn’t know where Lord Mir was, but she informed us that his mercenary army was making its way from Sam and into Larma territory.

Xipil asked if the priestess had heard anything about us, lately. She hadn’t, and asked what he was talking about. Both Xipil and Wolfram wanted to keep what had happened at that farm from her, but I revealed that we beat up some Tivito cultists. When she prodded, I told her that we had in fact killed all of them except one, whom my companions had foolishly allowed to escape. The priestess suddenly declared that she wished I hadn’t told her this and dove under the water, presumably to think without hearing any more.

When she resurfaced, she said she couldn’t willingly meet with anyone who had attacked Tivito. Was she trying to get rid of us? Stunned by this betrayal, I asked if this meant that she wanted me to cease my attempts at dialog between the two factions. She replied that she wasn’t asking me to stop anything, but she couldn’t have any more contact with us. She couldn’t have been more inconsistent. There could be no dialog if one part refused to talk. At least, there was no way for me to continue as an intermediary. I seemed to be the only Ashtarite in Byblos who wanted to find a diplomatic solution apart from Yana, and she didn’t have the clout that would be required to make high-ranking hardheads listen. Besides, her bridge to this priestess was burned now.

The priestess left, and Wolfram said that we couldn’t solve any problems peacefully anyway, but we could hunt down the Tivito cultists behind all this. I wanted to scream at him, “Maybe you can’t, but some of us can actually talk to people!” I made my face smooth and stifled my desire; the people in this pool were the only ones I could trust in all of Byblos, maybe in the entire world, if my temple in Sam had succumbed to politics.

Hylda asked why we didn’t just ask Lord Mir for help, since we apparently knew him so well. Wolfram informed her we didn’t know where to find him, but Hylda thought the whores following his army would know. Xipil suggested reaching out to Nulius, Lord Mir’s aide.

We had to prioritize our operation at the Golden Arrow. I asked Xipil if he knew a place nearby where he, Grogg, Hylda and Wolfram could stay, so Yana or I could reach them easily if the need arose. He didn’t know of any, but Yana said the area had plenty of dining establishments where they could rent a private room and stay all day and night.

Xipil said he didn’t plan on waiting for word from us; he wanted to seek out Korro, the Tivito captive he had let go. I thought that was risky. If Korro had stayed true to his word and kept his mouth shut about things we didn’t want him to tell his superiors, that wouldn’t last long if we showed up in his life again. If he had talked, Tivito could be keeping an eye on him on the off chance that we decided to reach out. Wolfram agreed with me and pointed out that there wasn’t much more we could get out of Korro. He was just muscle and wasn’t privileged to sensitive information. Wolfram would rather that Xipil tried to find Elik’s whereabouts in Byblos.

The others were losing focus and allowed the talk drift off in several directions. I cut through the chatter and said that Yana and I had to go now, so we could grab our gear, disguise ourselves and move in at the Golden Arrow. The others could stay here and chat if they so desired.

Xipil brought up going to see Nulius again, but an Anati priestess came in and everyone had the wits to clam up. The priestess told us that while the temple wasn’t closed, other parts of the city might be soon. We thanked her for the information, and she left. In the silence while she exited the room, we could hear bells ringing faintly in the distance. I thought the sounds were coming from further west in the temple district.

Wolfram leapt out of the pool, saying it was time to get dressed. We all went quickly to the dressing room. Xipil asked Yana to help him with his makeup. Hylda assisted Grogg in putting on clothes and armor, and we were out of there in no time.

Xipil asked if the bells sounded an alarm. Yana replied that we would surely find guards soon who were bellowing what had happened. Two Anati priestesses hurried towards the temple, and Wolfram stopped them to ask if they knew why the bells were ringing. They didn’t, and hurried on. Some temple district guards were running for the gate, and Wolfram asked if we should run after them. I tried to keep my companions calm and said we would surely discover soon enough. The ringing bells spread over the entire city, but it sounded like it started in the west, possibly at the palace. I thought perhaps the bells rang to inform the populace of a fire, but I saw signs of neither smoke nor flame.

We left the temple district. Other people on the streets seemed as clueless as us as to what was going on. Two guards were running eastward, making Wolfram chase after them. Grogg joined him. Yana and I glanced knowingly at each other before legging it. Two giants in full armor chasing after a guard patrol – that would spell disaster if we weren’t there to intervene. Xipil dashed past us and tried talking sense to Wolfram; he’s much faster than Yana and me. Wolfram didn’t respond, although he slowed down a little, allowing Yana and me to catch up with the others at an intersection.

The guards had gone around the corner, but were nowhere in sight now. The guards must have gone indoors, but where was anyone’s guess. We stopped to talk, and agreed that Yana and I should return to the inn to prepare for our infiltration, Xipil should go west to see if he could discover what started all this, and Grogg and Wolfram should go east, at a more reasonable pace.
__________________
You don't need to spend 100 CP on Status 5 [25] and Multimillionaire [75] to feel like a princess, when Delusion [-10] will do.

Character sheet: Google Drive link (See this thread for details.)

Campaign logs: Chaotic Pioneering / Confessions of a Forked Tongue
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Old 09-05-2021, 04:26 AM   #198
coronatiger
 
Join Date: Apr 2018
Location: Trondheim, Norway
Default Session 64 (2021-09-02)

Hylda had headed for the inn when everyone else started running, and I spotted her in front of us. Yana and I caught up and walked with her. After a few minutes, the ringing began to die out; the silence spread from the west.

I told Hylda how grateful I was that she had joined us, and that she and Grogg had found each other; they made each other better people. Hylda said I sounded sincere and worried about why I told her now. Did I think we were going to die? “No, not at all! It’s just that we’re alone now, we girls. It’s much easier to open up and speak from the heart when it’s just us.”

Back at the inn, I invited Hylda to join Yana and me when we disguised ourselves. She appreciated that, but had to go to her own room first, to see that nobody had stolen Grogg’s things. Wolfram and Grogg arrived after a few minutes, making the room cramped. Wolfram said that the guards were enforcing a curfew, and I thanked him for the update; this was important information considering that Yana and I were planning to cross town soon.

When we had finished our disguises, guards passed the building, ringing hand-held bells and announcing that nobody was allowed outside. Xipil wasn’t back yet, so I suggested that we gave him fifteen minutes before we left. He still hadn’t returned when those minutes were up, so Yana and I said goodbye for now to Grogg, Hylda and Wolfram.

It was crucial not to be discovered by the guards, at least here in the east, where our fancy clothes stood out like a constrictor among vipers. Further west, if we were apprehended, we should be able to get them to escort us to the Golden Arrow.

It wasn’t hard to predict the pattern of the city guards’ patrols, and they weren’t trying to be stealthy, ringing their bells and shouting for people to stay inside. Yana and I avoided them easily. Outside the eastern gate to the temple district sat a squad of the king’s soldiers on horseback, so Yana and I had to backtrack a little to pass unseen. Curiosity led me to check the northern gate too, and there were indeed horsemen there as well.

The Golden Arrow was located not far from the harbor gate in the city walls, and there were lots of soldiers around, both on the walls and at the gate. None of them were outside the Golden Arrow, so Yana and I moved for the main entrance. When we got close, the door opened, and two guards waved for us to get inside. They barricaded the door behind us.

There was a new man behind the desk now, and he looked questioningly at us. I informed him that I had rented rooms here and asked to be shown upstairs. He was hesitant until I produced one of the keys I had received earlier. He studied the key, then smiled and summoned a guard.

The guard carried our packs and showed the way to the fifth floor. He unlocked the door to our apartment and asked where he should put our luggage. “Just there by the wall will be fine,” I said, pointing. I tipped a silver coin, and the guard told us that with the uncertain situation, it was recommended that we stayed on this floor. I asked how we were supposed to order food and so on, and the guard opened a small key cabinet with some ribbons we could hang outside the door to summon servants.

I thanked the guard again, and he perceived the dismissal, leaving us alone. I removed my cloak and tossed it aside. “It doesn’t look like we’ll be doing much spying tonight. Why don’t we just relax and enjoy each other’s company?” “And we forgot to dye your hair. Good thing you kept your hood up until we were alone! I can fix that in the morning. Let’s enjoy ourselves tonight.”

Yana wanted a minute alone and slipped into the bedroom. I removed my knife belt and put it in my backpack. I plopped down on the sofa, and it was as if all my energy drained away. When Yana returned, I had melted into a puddle of tears. She hurried over and scooped me up into her lap. “What’s wrong, Nuur-Karif?” I couldn’t talk; I just clung to Yana and sobbed uncontrollably.

Yana stroked my hair and sang. Her voice and her caresses soothed me, and I eventually calmed down enough to wail about how the priestess had betrayed me, how I had failed You by alienating her. I had shoved my emotions aside all evening, but when I was finally alone and didn’t have to be brave anymore, they had come crashing back with a vengeance.

It was remarkable how well meaningless platitudes worked to stop my tears. Perhaps it had to do with who uttered them, or perhaps I just didn’t have any tears left. The despondency didn’t lose its grip on me, though, and when Yana suggested we go to bed, I brushed my teeth and undressed mechanically. The evening prayer poured out of my mouth on its own, in a monotone drone.

O Ashtar! We surrender our lives to Your coils. Take us while we sleep, or grant us another day in Your service, as You will.

Yana held me tight. She had changed into the little red dress when she went into the bedroom earlier, and when I realized what she was wearing, it had reminded me of my promise to use my tongue on her. She had shown me how it was done and in my infinite gratitude, I had offered to do the same to her. Understanding how bad I was feeling at the moment, Yana hadn’t mentioned my promise at all. She just held me.

I couldn’t sleep. I clutched Yana’s arm to my chest, afraid that she’d withdraw her protection. Yana felt the tension in my body and couldn’t sleep either. “I don’t know what to say to chase the bad thoughts out of your head,” Yana whispered, awkwardly caressing my hair with the hand I didn’t hold tight, “but I can give your body pleasure. Would you like that?”

I was insulted. How could Yana think about sex at a time like this? I needed to make amends with You; all my energy should be focused on finding Your forgiveness. It was utterly surprising to find myself let go of Yana’s arm, turn around and hoarsely whisper “Yes!” I leaned in for a kiss, but Yana vanished under the blanket and initiated a kiss of her own.

O Ashtar, Lady of the final mercy! I have elevated myself above You. I am not worthy of Your mercy, but I implore You to pardon Yana for this unforgivable transgression we just committed. She meant well, but I should have known better. When You take me tonight, if I ever had Your favor, let what pitiful fragments remain of it pass to Yana and spare her.

Your presence settled on my mind, and I was at peace. When I didn’t wake up in the morning, Yana would grieve – there was no way around that – but then she would take up the good work. She would succeed where I had failed, of that I was sure. Yana would find out who the unnamed priestess was and drag her kicking and screaming to parlay with Jaryn. Wait … That was it! I hadn’t failed at all! Or rather, I had been set up to fail. The priestess had never wanted dialog, that had been my idea. She wasn’t just rude by not giving her name; she had planned from the start to cut me off!

“Yana! Yana!” I shook her shoulders and she opened her eyes, despite being blind in the darkness. “I’m not going to die after all!” Yana was confused. I told her elatedly about the revelation You had given me. “And thank you again for giving me the kick that got me started on the path out of the despondency. I’m going to repay that now, if you don’t mind.” Yana frowned while her mind caught up, then anticipation lit up her face.

I dove under the blanket, but soon came up sputtering. “Hair! Yuck!” I was mortified. Not only had I discovered that I found a part of Yana disgusting, at least on my tongue, but I had expressed it to her! Yana just laughed, though, a rippling peal of mirth. She wasn’t offended in the slightest. “I understand completely, Nuur-Karif. I’m not a big fan of hair in my food either. We’ll get a razor, and you can shave me, if you let me shave you too. For now, just use your hand.”
__________________
You don't need to spend 100 CP on Status 5 [25] and Multimillionaire [75] to feel like a princess, when Delusion [-10] will do.

Character sheet: Google Drive link (See this thread for details.)

Campaign logs: Chaotic Pioneering / Confessions of a Forked Tongue
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Old 09-14-2021, 10:56 AM   #199
coronatiger
 
Join Date: Apr 2018
Location: Trondheim, Norway
Default Session 65 (2021-09-08)

21st of Ratanu, year 412

O Ashtar, Mother of Snakes, Keeper of Death’s Door, hear my confession!

Yana was firing up the hearth when I woke up. The weather was quite warm, so I didn’t understand why at first, but one look on her face – as hard as it was not to stare at the beautiful body she flaunted – revealed all. “Should I do your hair now, or do you want me to come back to bed?” she asked coyly. It was so very tempting to stay in bed, but we had work to do. Yana would have to be satisfied with putting her hands in my hair. She could put them elsewhere another time.

We set up the hair salon and Yana began to work her magic. Then some noise from the street made her look outside. Putting her delicious fingers back in my hair, Yana reported that it was the king’s soldiers patrolling the streets. They had stopped outside a neighboring building. Not long after, a knock came on our door.

“You have to put some clothes on and answer the door,” I told Yana. “I’ll stay here, out of sight, where I won’t drip color all over the floor.” Yana washed her hands thoroughly to get the dye off and had just slipped into a dress when it knocked again.

Yana opened the door. “Oh, it’s just you,” she said. I recognized the voice of the guard from last night. He wanted to come in and was very insistent, but I raised my voice and commanded “Lind” to get him to come back later. The door closed, and Yana went back to work on my hair. She said the guard didn’t act very guard-like.

Yana picked up her sewing when I dressed, and I joined her in the sofa to talk about our plans for the day. My hair was still wet when the guard came knocking again. I grabbed one of Yana’s flowers and put my feet up on the table, the very image of a noble scion with not a care in the world.

The guard came inside and took a seat opposite me, putting his feet up on the table too. He was no ordinary guard; this behavior would get him in trouble. “Nice flower,” he commented and asked if I was the Ashtarite he was looking for. I frowned at him. “Ashtarite? No, there is no Ashtarite here.” He was obviously here for me, but who knew how he had learned that I was undercover at the Golden Arrow? My friends weren’t foolish enough to reveal our plans, were they? Actually, I could envision any of them babbling away, but I decided I should trust them. That meant someone had overheard our planning, most likely at the inn where the walls were so thin.

The guard commented that my hair had changed colors since last night, so I told him I had arrived here incognito, but had just now washed out the dye. Of course, a nobleman had no reason to explain himself to a mere guard, so I said he amused me with his impertinence. He continued prodding, and I denied everything. The guard was clearly experienced in the deception game and probably a professional spy. He had been so sure I was the one he sought, but my performance fooled him. He was a great actor himself, but Your gifts allowed me to discern his growing frustration.

“Do you know anyone named Nulius?” the guard asked, driven to desperation. I shook my head, and we agreed that this was a strange name, not from Arland. Had Nulius sent him? I couldn’t ask without breaking cover, but it seemed possible. Why would Nulius spy on us, though? Perhaps the mention of that name was just to throw suspicion away from his true masters. The guard described the inn where we had stayed since returning to Byblos and asked if I knew anyone there. Aha! I was right; they had been spying on us there! I denied knowledge of the inn and asked why a man such as myself would know anyone in “the slums”.

Standing up, the guard informed me that he was quitting his job. However, if we hung up two ribbons on the door before he left the premises, he’d return. There were three ribbons for different services; which two we picked didn’t matter. The guard offered to escort us to a place where we could meet the people from “the slums”. If he didn’t hear from us in two hours, we’d never see him again. I dismissed him with a nonchalant wave of my hand.

When he had left, I told Yana to hang up one ribbon, so we could order breakfast. Yana was concerned that someone had learned what we were doing, but I assured her I had convinced the guard that it wasn’t us he was looking for. When we were nearly finished with our meal, city guards rang their bells again outside, announcing that the curfew was lifted during the day, between sunrise and sunset. The guard returned shortly thereafter and Yana opened the door. He said he was leaving now, sooner than he’d said. I gestured to Yana to send him on his way.

I asked Yana if she wanted to take a stroll with me. I wanted to check on the king’s men, and we needed to send a message to our friends, to warn them. When we reached the first floor, we learned that the enclosed yard was open for all tenants for dining or lounging, and it was possible to buy memberships to gain access to other services. Yana and I went out on the streets instead.

People were cautiously coming out, as if after a heavy rain shower, when the dark clouds threatened another deluge. The soldiers had opened the harbor gate, but they examined carefully those who wanted to pass. Yana and I sent our message with a street urchin and returned to the Golden Arrow after our promenade through the neighborhood.

We ordered lunch in the atrium. There weren’t many others there, and they gave off the vibe that they didn’t want our company, so Yana and I ate alone. That was nice, but we didn’t get to do any intelligence gathering. We returned to our room afterwards. The hallways of the Golden Arrow were quiet.

I knelt down on the floor to pray. After an hour, a knock came upon our door. I stood up and looked for Yana. She came rushing out of the bedroom and I could tell she had been sewing; I picked a piece of thread from her bosom. I couldn’t recall her using black for any of her flowers. “Have you started on my dress?” I asked. “I’m still working on the flower project,” she replied, hurrying past. I took my position, reclining on the sofa, and nodded to Yana that she could open.

There were two men outside. One was the guard from earlier, out of uniform now, but the other was a new face. I allowed Yana to let them in. The guard seemed embarrassed that I had fooled him before. It was the new guy who did the talking, and he handed Yana something. I asked to see it, and she tossed me a copper coin which I immediately recognized from Xipil’s home country. There was no chance that this coin didn’t come from Xipil’s purse. The new guy said they could tell us where to find our friends, or they could escort us there. Realizing the gig was up, I said they could show the way. If Yana hadn’t been there, I would have asked permission to kill them, but instead, I asked for a few minutes to get ready. The new guy said he would take us where we needed to go. He would wait outside the building.

I told Yana I smelled traps and treachery. She pointed out that they could have attacked us in our room, had they wanted. I didn’t know why they hadn’t. Maybe they didn’t want to make a scene at the Golden Arrow, or maybe they needed to take us alive. They knew who our friends were and they knew at least the name of Lord Mir’s aide and that we had some connection to him. I was afraid that they had captured and interrogated our friends. It wouldn’t be difficult to get information out of them.
__________________
You don't need to spend 100 CP on Status 5 [25] and Multimillionaire [75] to feel like a princess, when Delusion [-10] will do.

Character sheet: Google Drive link (See this thread for details.)

Campaign logs: Chaotic Pioneering / Confessions of a Forked Tongue
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Old 09-14-2021, 11:10 AM   #200
coronatiger
 
Join Date: Apr 2018
Location: Trondheim, Norway
Default Session 65 (2021-09-08)

Downstairs, the ex-guard was arguing with his former colleagues; it appeared he wasn’t supposed to be there. Going out through the back wasn’t an option, so we took the main exit. Our escort stood a short distance to the left and wasn’t paying attention to the door when Yana and I peeked outside, so we slipped away to the right and around the corner. We walked quickly away from the Golden Arrow and found a restaurant where we hired a private room. Our best bet was to go back to the east side and see if there was any suspicious activity around the inn where we had stayed, but we were overdressed for that part of town, so we stopped to change clothes.

We found a restaurant with outdoor service and took a table there, watching the inn. Hylda appeared after a few minutes. She went inside the inn, and neither Yana nor I saw any signs of concern on her. She was oblivious of the trouble the others – or at least Xipil – had run into.

Yana and I continued to watch the inn. We didn’t see anyone else watching the place, at least from our vantage point at the restaurant. Since the sun would set in about an hour and curfew would be reinstated, we needed to find somewhere to stay the night. The inn was obviously jeopardized, so I brought Yana to the Cracked Kettle, the nearest holy place I knew.

As we approached the door to the chapel, a hand grabbed my shoulder. I turned around, rotating so I pulled Yana behind me protectively. It was the Ashtarite who had accompanied the priestess when we talked under the Tiri tower. She wanted to speak to us and said she knew a safe place nearby. I saw no deception in the woman’s face, but that didn’t mean she wasn’t leading us into a trap, so I suggested the nearest alley instead.

Yana kept watch while we talked. I asked what the woman wanted. She brought apologies from Audria. I didn’t know who that was, but the woman explained that it was “the one with whom you bathed”, in other words, the nameless priestess. I finally had her name. The woman relayed that Audria’s skepticism – whatever it was towards – was still standing. The apology was worthless, but I didn’t say it, for the woman was sincere.

The woman informed us that one of the king’s councilors had been murdered. The dead man was supposedly the temples’ representative on the council, despite the temples not really being allowed direct representation. Audria’s gut feeling was that someone from the other faction was behind it, but not necessarily one of us. It could easily be Tivito, Elik or Kabal who was responsible. Again, the woman relaying the message seemed truthful, but that could simply be because she trusted whoever had told her. She begged me to prevent blood being spilled among the religious.

I asked the woman’s name, and she was initially unwilling to divulge it, but after I said it wasn’t important, decided to reveal it anyway. Her name was Enani. She asked herself if it would be safe to meet us here again, but suggested I went to the temple of Tsovin and Vagan and posted a letter to her if I wanted to contact her. She recommended that we didn’t enter the chapel here, as that would put the others there at risk. She asked if we needed somewhere safe to spend the night. I thanked her for the offer, but said I had an alternative. Of course, I had planned to stay at the chapel under the Cracked Kettle, but that wasn’t an option anymore. We said goodbye, and Enani took off. My mind raced. If I couldn’t find safety in a chapel, where indeed should we go? We would have to leave town.

Just as I took Yana’s hand and began to pull her towards the city gate, Wolfram appeared on the other side of the square, and he bellowed my name. Xipil and Grogg were there, too. I withdrew into the alley with Yana while keeping eye contact with Wolfram. Could we trust them to be alone and safe? Was Wolfram’s call a warning? He knew I had gone undercover, so did he use my real name to tell me to run?

I hesitated too long, pondering if the shout had been instinctual or deliberate. Xipil, Wolfram and Grogg came into the alley and pulled us away. I could have gotten loose, but I wasn’t about to kill my friends, not without knowing for a fact that they had been corrupted. They brought us to a sleazy taverna and into a private room. A serving wench came in and congratulated Wolfram on the pretty girls he had found, before taking drink orders.

Xipil explained what he’d been up to. He had visited Nulius and revealed everything. He had seen Enani at the Tiri tower although he didn’t know her name, and he hadn’t kept his mouth shut there either. He had also spied on some random townspeople whom he thought behaved suspiciously. I agreed after hearing his observations that they were probably criminals.

Nulius had put Xipil in touch with some people who wanted to speak to all of us. I told him how untrustworthy they had appeared. They had shown enough knowledge about us to be considered a threat, but had said nothing that indicated that Xipil had sent them. They had implied plenty, but acted so suspiciously there was no way I could trust them. If Xipil and the others wanted to speak to us, they should do as we agreed yesterday and take a private room at a restaurant where they could watch the Golden Arrow for when Yana and I came out. Sending strangers to interrupt an undercover operation was just plain stupid.

I doused my displeasure and delayed their deserved dressing-down. I felt our friendships fray; flapping my tongue foolishly would just foul them further. Still, a sociable and serene solution might be seen. If only I obtained the ability to entrust opinions and ideas to anyone ever again. I put my palms on the packed dirt and prayed.
__________________
You don't need to spend 100 CP on Status 5 [25] and Multimillionaire [75] to feel like a princess, when Delusion [-10] will do.

Character sheet: Google Drive link (See this thread for details.)

Campaign logs: Chaotic Pioneering / Confessions of a Forked Tongue
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