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Old 05-21-2021, 09:11 AM   #171
coronatiger
 
Join Date: Apr 2018
Location: Trondheim, Norway
Default Session 53 (2021-05-19)

Yana had picked up her sewing again when I found her in our room. She was worried about me and said I reeked of beer, but I assured her I was fine. I brushed my teeth and washed my face and hands to remove the smell before I joined her. It was still quite some time before we could expect Xipil’s return, so we talked about how Yana was going to disguise me when we ventured out. She was still practicing her leaf-making, even though the first one had been perfect. She had finished several by the time Xipil and Wolfram came knocking. We could hear what Grogg and Hylda were doing in their room, and Xipil commented upon it.

Xipil informed us that Lord Mir’s ships had arrived, but not the lord himself, only Nulius, his advisor and companion. Then we heard Kraa making a ruckus under us; the spirit raven was back with Grogg. I reminded Xipil why he had gone out in the first place, and asked if he had learned anything at the temple district’s northern gate. He replied that the guards were mostly outside the walls, and that he thought there were extensive cellars with room for many prisoners under the guard towers.

We went down one floor to speak with Grogg and Hylda. Wolfram was worried they might have had too much to drink to come out with us tonight. Xipil asked if I looked like a slave driver. I wasn’t entirely sure what he was alluding to, but I told him I planned to disguise myself before going out.

Grogg opened the door, unashamed of his nakedness. Behind him, Hylda lay passed out on their bed. I expressed joy to have Kraa back, and asked if it brought a message. Kraa made mumbling noises, and it sounded like it was parroting Queen Isa. While it was impossible to discern words, it sounded like her voice when she petted the spirit raven. Grogg asked it if it could parrot Wolfram, but Kraa only repeated the Isa noises. Xipil asked Kraa if he could look at its aura, and Grogg translated that he could, if he was careful. Xipil informed us that Kraa’s aura looked like it had before.

I proposed we all got dressed and met up outside in ten minutes. “Yeah, a naked troll will draw attention before we even get close to the temple district,” Yana added. Xipil asked if Yana or I had any preferences when it came to his disguise. We hadn’t; he could dress up as he wished. Yana changed into another dress while I put on the Larma outfit, then she put on my make-up, giving me the appearance of an elven man.

Hylda wasn’t coming, Grogg informed us when we joined the others on the street, fifteen or twenty minutes later. She was too drunk. But, Grogg said, he could do indecent things on his own. Xipil showed the way around the temple district, on the east side. Yana commented on Wolfram’s excessive armament, and said that if he was to cause trouble, the guards could get violent. I promised that we’d keep him back, and allow Grogg to make a scene alone.

There were a few people around, but not so many that Wolfram began to panic. We found a corner to hide behind while Xipil went down the street towards the gate, for a last reconnoiter. He came back and reported a few minutes later. There were six guards at the gate, and there were two men sitting on a bench pretending they didn’t watch the gate. Xipil suspected they were agents for the king, and asked Yana about it, but she said they could be anybody’s people. Everyone with respect for themselves had people who could do such things.

Grogg walked up to the gate plaza, and Xipil sneaked after him, keeping to the shadows. Grogg stopped in the middle of the street, right in front of the gate, dropped his trousers and began to make a puddle. The guards were too far away for us to hear what they said, but they were clearly protesting, and two of them approached Grogg, who turned to face them. They talked for a bit, and then Grogg tried to pull up his pants, but he failed, being ham-fisted and having only one working arm. The guards tried to put handcuffs on him, but he held up his good arm so they couldn’t reach it. After some more talk, Grogg lowered his arm and allowed the guards to cuff him. They brought him inside one of the towers.

This had all seemed peaceful enough, so we waited for a couple of minutes before heading towards the gate. I looked down side streets as we passed them, to make it seem I was searching. I had Yana on my arm and Wolfram towering behind us like a proper bodyguard. When we were ten meters away from the guards, I patted Yana’s hand. “Lind, you should stay with Black while I talk to these good men.”

I addressed the apparent leader of the guards and asked if he and his men had seen a troll coming this way. He didn’t take my silver coin, but answered my question anyway. He said that they had taken the troll into custody when he urinated on the street. I wrinkled my nose at the puddle. The sergeant said that the troll would be released in the morning. I asked when I could have my servants fetch him, but noticed that one of the guards had retreated into the shadows and was making Your sign. I returned the gesture, as covertly as possible. The sergeant glanced back at the one who had signaled, and got a nod in return. Then he said we should go inside to do the paperwork, so everything would be right and proper.

The sergeant and I entered the other tower than the one they had brought Grogg inside, and went into an office. The sergeant asked in a low voice, “Do you want to go inside?” I said yes, and he asked if there was anyone who could vouch for me, and if I had been there before. I said no to that, and he began scribbling something on a sheet of paper. “Here’s the fine for the troll’s unruly behavior,” he said, loudly enough to be heard outside. I glanced at the note. It said, “The Cracked Kettle, two hours before sunset.”

Having “paid the fine”, I got to retrieve my troll immediately, and the guards fetched him from the cells. Grogg gave a coin to one of them, and I thought he might have squirted a little on him. The guard was very forgiving after receiving the coin.

I took Yana’s arm again, and we headed for the guildhall. Xipil caught up with us on the way. The two chapel guards were in the common room when we arrived. The young one was sleeping on a bench, but the older looked up at us and asked if we had “been outside in the night”. I said yes, was there anything wrong with that, but got no reply. The old man didn’t recognize me in my disguise.

We went upstairs to Grogg’s and Hylda’s room to talk. Hylda was asleep, and we spoke softly so we wouldn’t wake her. Xipil asked if I had to pay a big fine to get Grogg out, and I showed him the note. None of us knew what the Cracked Kettle was, but it sounded like an inn. Xipil mentioned that the two men on the bench outside the gate had communicated non-verbally with the guards, as if giving permission to take Grogg into custody. The two groups didn’t have much respect for each other, though, Xipil believed.

I told the others I had been asked if I wanted to come inside and if there was someone who could vouch for me. Xipil repeated that the cellar under the towers seemed large, and asked Grogg what it looked like down there, but Grogg had only seen the cells. Xipil wondered why the guards had said these things to me, and I gave him Your sign.

From the plaza outside the gate there was a parade street going west, and it struck me that this place had to be the furthest inside Byblos one could be on street level and still see the sunset. Xipil confirmed this, as he had been there not long before it happened.

I asked Grogg his opinion on the carrying contraption that Yana, Xipil and I had discussed this morning. He was skeptical about it until Xipil reminded him that they had already talked about it at lunch, and that he had been amenable at the time. “Oh, that!” Grogg said. I asked if he wanted to make it himself, or if Yana should do it, since she was a professional. Grogg wanted to think about that.

Xipil asked what we thought Lord Mir and Nulius were planning. Would there be an invasion? Yana excused herself, and I followed not long after. We had said what needed to be said today. The others could stay up and speculate about Lord Mir if they wanted to, but I was going to bed.

I didn’t get farther than the door, for Yana returned and gave me a note, whispering that it had been slipped under our door and that she believed the old chapel guard had done it. I stuffed the note in my pouch, unread, but Xipil asked what it said. I retrieved the note and unfolded it. “I see your friends are hitting the town. I hope you’re aware that there are some places one shouldn’t go,” it said, and someone had drawn a simple sketch of Byblos with the temple district excessively crossed out. I also spotted Your symbol hidden in the text. I showed the note to Xipil, who immediately became curious about what was happening in the temple district. I said I didn’t know, but I intended to find out tomorrow. I saw that he itched to go there tonight, and told him he could if he absolutely had to, but I recommended that he stayed away.
__________________
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 05-21-2021, 09:23 AM   #172
coronatiger
 
Join Date: Apr 2018
Location: Trondheim, Norway
Default Session 53 (2021-05-19)

Yana bade me wait outside our room when we got upstairs. I didn’t understand why, but retrieved the note again and studied it. It didn’t reveal any more secrets before Yana called that I could enter. I went inside, but stopped dead in my tracks. Yana had put on my little red dress. I tried to work moisture back into my mouth while Yana crossed the room, sashaying sensuously. She knelt before me and looked up, begging. “Let me please you, my lord!”

“W-wait,” I stammered, and Yana got back on her feet. “You’re right. There’s something we’ve forgotten,” she said, and moved behind me to pull off my jacket, before tossing it aside. Then she tightened the lower straps on the waistcoat and finally cupped my breasts in her hands. “There we go!” she declared, and returned to her kneeling position in front of me. “Much better!” she appraised. “You may want to steady yourself against the wall,” she advised, and pushed me back while she scooted after.

Before I could react, Yana had pulled down my trousers and was sliding her hands up along my legs. She grabbed my buttocks and leaned closer. I tried to dodge, jumping over her, but forgot that my trousers were sitting around my ankles, so I crashed into Yana and brought us both tumbling to the floor.

I scrambled off her and pulled up my trousers. Yana sat up and rubbed the back of her head. “I’m so sorry,” I exclaimed. “Did I hurt you badly?” “No, it’s fine,” Yana said. “It’s my pride that was wounded. Look: If you don’t want us to make love, just say so. I can live with it, but I need to know what to expect.” “No, I do want it,” I replied sincerely. “I don’t know why I’m so skittish about it.”

Yana suggested that we brushed our teeth. That should help me relax. “Now,” Yana said when we had finished, “how to make you comfortable? I’m going out on a limb here, but would it help if we did this in the chapel? Would that even be acceptable?” “It’s late enough that we should be alone with the snakes and Ashtar. I think this is a good idea. The snakes won’t mind us, and the Holy Mother will bless our union!” I smiled and put an arm around Yana’s waist, heading for the door.

Yana reached for the handle, but her hand began trembling so violently that she couldn’t open the door. “Is it the snakes?” I asked, and Yana nodded, opening the floodgates. I held her close and let her cry on my shoulder while I stroked her back.

When the sobbing subsided, I stopped the stroking and stood still. “Thank you,” Yana whispered. “For what?” “For being so understanding, for being here, for just being you.” We embraced in silence for a while, then Yana whispered again. “Can we just go to bed? Can you hold me, like you used to?” “Of course!”

We undressed, and I regarded Yana as she crawled into bed. She really was beautiful. And now that she wasn’t threatening to make love to me, I felt no fear, only warm, cuddly love. I lay down behind her, pulled up the blanket and wrapped my arms protectively around her.

I felt Yana’s chest rise and fall steadily under my arm, and thought she had fallen asleep when she turned around and kissed me. It was no more than a soft, salty whisper against my lips, but it triggered an explosion inside me. I retaliated. Gone was the soft whisper; this was a frenzied scream. My hands darted across Yana’s body, caressing, fumbling, and hers were no less active, although they focused on my breasts and hips. Yana broke off our kiss so she could speak. “Like this,” she instructed. My legs sprang apart on their own when her fingers pushed gently against the inside of my thigh. I copied her move hesitantly and felt her open up to me. Her next move made me explode again.

Yana was a conductor. Her fingers directed crescendos to surge through my body, again and again. Bells and whistles were going off in my head, and I lost all sense of time. Afterwards, I thought I had managed well enough to follow her example, at least if the smile on her face was anything to go by. “That was awesome!” I exclaimed once I had caught my breath. “That was nothing,” Yana boasted. “Next time, I’ll show you how to use your tongue!” Her words sent an aftershock blasting through my body. It took another couple of minutes before I was calm enough to speak the evening prayer, but once those words had passed my lips, I was almost back to my normal self, and I felt like I could sleep.

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

Last edited by coronatiger; 05-24-2021 at 04:25 AM.
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Old 05-31-2021, 09:07 AM   #173
coronatiger
 
Join Date: Apr 2018
Location: Trondheim, Norway
Default Session 54 (2021-05-24)

15th of Ratanu, year 412

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

Yana had one arm and one leg wrapped over me when I woke up. Her breath tickled my shoulder. I reveled in her proximity and decided not to wake her. We had been out late last night. Just lying like this, feeling her skin against mine, was bliss. I closed my eyes and enjoyed the sensation, while reliving the memories of yesterday’s passion.

The sounds from the building seeped into our room and eventually woke Yana. I watched her face go from drowsy to beaming, while she recalled what we’d done. Her hand moved to pull my head closer to hers, but there was no need. I slithered into position and pressed my lips gently against hers.

“We have to go to the chapel,” I declared after catching my breath. “You had a strong reaction to the snakes, yesterday; will you be all right?” “Yes, I think so. You know I’m uncomfortable near snakes, but I should be fine as long as I can keep my wits about me and watch them. I think I reacted the way I did because I knew I would be preoccupied with … other things. I don’t know what I was thinking, suggesting we made love in a snake pit!”

Xipil was already in the chapel when we got there. He was busy meditating, holding “his” snake. Lero was there, too, and he greeted us welcome. I knelt by the altar to pray, and felt Yana’s presence behind me, despite the snakes that crawled all over me, attracted to my communion.

Lero had been doing chores around the chapel when Yana and I arrived, but he sat down to pray when he was done. I thought it strange that one of his rank would take care of the daily maintenance of the chapel, but then again, there didn’t seem to be many people around to do it for him either.

We stayed for half an hour, and then I suggested we went up to the common room for breakfast. Wolfram, Grogg and Hylda were there before us, and we joined them at the bar, but Xipil suggested we found a private room. The bartender said to help ourselves to one of the booths.

Xipil met a woman in the chapel this morning, one who was present at the Meet the night we first arrived in Byblos. I nodded, understanding whom he meant. This woman had wanted to speak to us, and in particular Grogg, so Xipil had set up a rendez-vous on the other side of the caravan market, in Handweaver Alley, this morning. She didn’t specify why she wanted to speak with us, and Xipil thought she had been nervous. Grogg made a comment about dragon spawn, and I explained again that snakes and dragons aren’t related.

Grogg grew annoyed at my explanation and glared at me while scratching at his dead arm. In a clumsy attempt to draw attention, Xipil asked if Biskutello was going to the market with his slaves. He could have phrased more diplomatically the question of what everyone was going to wear for their disguises. Grogg’s good hand twitched as if he wanted to strangle someone, but Hylda caressed his arm and made him relax.

Yana asked if we had decided what to do, and I said we were going to meet this woman. Xipil added that he thought Lero and the woman had a strained relationship, but I had observed them together and hadn’t seen anything of the sort, so either something had happened recently, or Xipil was mistaking “apeoid” emotions again. He’s exceptionally observant, but not always empathetic. Xipil predicted weeks ago that Yana and I were going to mate, and while I don’t see how two females can accomplish that, I suppose that one might give allowances for a foreigner’s vocabulary and concede that what we did last night counts. I grinned uncontrollably at the memory until Yana poked me and I snapped out of it.

Wolfram refused to come to the crowded market, and Yana thought it strange that we couldn’t meet at the chapel. I reminded her that Lero had said not to bring our investigation into the chapel, and Yana concluded that this woman knew something that the priest didn’t want to get involved in.

I reminded the others it was time to dress up and go, if we wanted to have some time to walk around the market before the meeting. Xipil asked Yana what would be appropriate apparel for a troll slave, oblivious to Grogg’s homicidal feelings about putting those two words together in a sentence.

Before Grogg could erupt, though, Xipil warned us all to be quiet, and signaled that I should check who was approaching. I stood and peeked out the opening to the hallway. The old chapel guard was looking inside the booth next to ours and asked if I had seen a bird. “We don’t want lying vermin in here,” he said. Realizing that not everyone was as accustomed to Kraa’s noises as I am, I told him we were just having some fun, making animal noises. He didn’t think there was anything funny about birds. Not at all. He repeated that there were places and people one shouldn’t mix with, and stomped off.

Wolfram asked if this was a bounty hunter establishment, or one belonging to the Ashtarites. I told him it was the bounty hunter guild who owned this place, but we have a presence as well, seeing as many bounty hunters are also believers. Wolfram asked if many people joined the cult because they enjoyed killing. I assured him this was certainly not the case. Sure, the occasional maniac might join, but he wouldn’t rise through the ranks unless he learned to rein himself in. I became a bounty hunter because that’s how You wanted me to serve. Xipil reminded us again that we should go, and Yana begged Grogg not to arm himself to the teeth.

Upstairs in our room, I stripped hurriedly to put on the Biskutello disguise while Yana slapped on her face. At least I tried to. Yana decided to drop everything, including her clothes, to help me transform my corset back into a waistcoat. She gave me a good view of everything before disappearing behind my back. I was terribly tempted to turn around, but we were kind of in a rush, so I let her adjust the straps undisturbed.

When she was done, Yana pushed me down onto a stool and straddled me. I was worried that we might be late for the market, but Yana began putting on my makeup. “Don’t just sit there,” Yana admonished, and my eyes glanced about for something to do, keeping my face still. Yana’s makeup was miraculously as complete as it needed to be, and in my position, I had to be a wizard to put on her dress. My jacket was the last piece of my own outfit, and it lay on the floor, out of reach and untouched since Yana tossed it aside last night. Without pausing her work, Yana placed my hands on her breasts. “Don’t pinch, or I’ll mess you up,” she threatened, wielding the brush like a dagger in front of my left eye.

For all of Yana’s teasing and playfulness, we were quite efficient getting ready, and neither Xipil nor Grogg complained that we were late. Hylda wasn’t there, so I asked if she wasn’t coming. Grogg said she would remain behind to take care of Wolfram. Yana’s recent behavior had put my mind in the gutter, and I decided not to comment. If my suspicions were right, I didn’t want to know.

Xipil wanted to look for books at the market, and I agreed that Biskutello could be interested in books today. In my fancy outfit, I was the one that all the sellers assumed had money, and they directed their sales pitches at me. The first one tried to flog stories of heroic adventures, and I judged the truth content to be about the same as that of meat in a street vendor’s pies. I asked if he knew that elves were called “star people” and if he had any books about stars. He didn’t, but decided I might be looking for smut books. I politely refused the offer, and he only followed us a short distance trying to convince me to buy something.

We discovered a fellow who sold parchment and writing implements, as well as books of statistics – crop yields, censuses and so on. Xipil flipped through some of the books, but decided only to restock his scribe’s kit.

We didn’t find books about stars anywhere, although we didn’t have time to do a proper search. Right in the middle of the marketplace stood a group of what I presumed to be Ratanu priests, selling law books. I didn’t think that was very interesting either. Xipil ended up buying a book of stories like the ones the first guy had, and a ball of string.

The noise and bustle of the marketplace subsided when we got to the western side and entered Handweaver Alley. We looked for the woman from the chapel in the small shops, but she was hiding around a corner, occasionally peeking out from deeper inside the alley. Xipil spotted her and led us towards her.

I got the impression that she was surprised to see me, for she looked around nervously and backed away after laying eyes on me. When we rounded the corner, I gave her Your sign and she blew a sigh of relief and waved us over. She addressed Grogg and me and said someone were looking for us. Someone we should stay away from. I asked her to tell us more about these people, but she only said, “You shouldn’t trust anyone! Do you even have to stay in town?” I got out of her that she had heard our descriptions this morning, so it had to be related to what we’d done at the temple district gate, for that was the only public appearance Biskutello had made, and it was his description she had been given.
__________________
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 05-31-2021, 09:23 AM   #174
coronatiger
 
Join Date: Apr 2018
Location: Trondheim, Norway
Default Session 54 (2021-05-24)

Suddenly suspicious, she pointed at me and asked Xipil how they knew “him”. She raved about me being someone from the other side, that “they” were trying to be clever by asking about one of their own. I told her who I was, that I was in disguise, and she praised You. She was worried for us, that we were getting mixed up in something dangerous. I asked who told her about us this morning, but she didn’t provide an actual answer, although I understood that this was related to a conflict between different of Your communities here in Byblos. I said it was my holy duty to clear up this mess. The woman didn’t think it possible; the troubles had links to the royal court. “Trust in Ashtar,” I commanded. We let her run.

Yana was worried. The intrigues she had thought of so light-heartedly yesterday weren’t as fun anymore. Grogg said it sounded like we were going to ally with one group of Ashtarites and kill all the others; I told him we were going to find a diplomatic solution. We headed back to discuss with Wolfram and Hylda.

Wolfram’s immediate reaction was that I should discard the Biskutello disguise, but I said I wanted to continue wearing it. I wasn’t afraid of anyone, and didn’t want to hide from my fellow Ashtarites. I put on the disguise because I didn’t want outsiders to associate me with certain events in the past. Keeping the disguise would allow people to recognize me.

Wolfram thought we should back out of the entire affair. He didn’t think the rewards were worth the risk. I agreed that he wouldn’t swim in money because of this, but if everything went as I hoped, we would resolve the conflict between Ashtarites. Thinking about the schism made my stomach knot. Wolfram didn’t care much about Ashtarites, but I told him I would certainly help if the tables were turned and he asked for my involvement in healing his order. Yana said she didn’t think this problem only affected our cult; the entire temple district had been crossed out on that note we received yesterday.

We discussed who might be looking for us. We agreed that it was most likely not the same people as those who asked us to come to The Cracked Kettle, since they would know where to find us. I conceded that the inviters might not want attention from that other group, and chose not to go as Biskutello. The idea of acting covertly when it involved matters of the faith left a sour taste in my mouth, and I decided that I would go as myself, when we went out this evening.

Yana mentioned that we might be able to find information at the bounty hunter guild, and I said I was going to speak to the old chapel guard, since he had shown great interest in me, and my friends. Xipil said we couldn’t trust him, but I believed it could be informative to hear him out, even though he wasn’t necessarily speaking truthfully the whole time. I was confident I could spot most of his lies, even though I might not glean the truth behind them. Yana would accompany Xipil to locate The Cracked Kettle, and figure out how to get Wolfram there without cracking his mind. Between them, they were well equipped to achieve this goal. Xipil could spot things without anyone noticing, and Yana could talk to people.

First, we had to change. Wearing a disguise to speak to someone who had met me without one might be awkward, and Xipil and Yana were going to bring disguises to be put on after they had slipped away.

When we were alone in our room, I gathered up the courage to warn Yana about her behavior. We shouldn’t engage in … romantic activities … when we have a task set before us. Just being near her tempted me to shirk my duties, which was an abhorrent idea that I found it hard to fathom I had even considered, so I told Yana not to make my life even more difficult. “I need you not to lead me into temptation,” I said. “Can you promise me that?”

“No!” Yana’s response was a blow so strong I had to sit down. She moderated her voice. “You need to learn how to relax, Nuur-Karif. You’re going to burn yourself out if you don’t. I trust you’ll continue to keep me abreast of your duties. I won’t lead you astray, but you must let me be the judge of when we can take a few moments away from the world. If it was up to you, you’d just plow on until you dropped. I’m here to tell you to stop for a breath, once in a while. And it isn’t only about you. You’re in a relationship now, and that means you have to consider my needs too. I need affection. I need to feel loved. I need to see that smoldering desire in your eyes again. And so, I tease you and I tempt you, to draw out that gaze that makes me feel, deep in my soul, that you love me. Words are dross. You are eloquent and can speak with passion. We both know how easy it is to sway someone’s mind with lies. You can say that you care nothing for me, and anyone would believe it. But I can see the truth in your eyes. If the day should come that I can’t draw out the truth anymore, that would be the day my heart dies.”

Something about how Yana delivered her message so flawlessly made me think she had rehearsed those words, and despite that small voice that said I should be offended, I didn’t care. In fact, I felt my heart swell with love. Yana knew me so well! She had looked into my soul and found the words that would convince me of what was right. I hugged her, touching my cheek lightly against hers while squishing our bodies against each other. Yana hugged me back, and squirmed so delectably that I just had to step back and allow her to regard my eyes.

I found the old chapel guard in the bar, along with his young companion. As usual, the old-timer was fiddling with his knife. I quite understood. I would have fondled my blades, too, if it hadn’t been a social faux-pas for a girl like me. I was fine with the trade-off. A man might brandish a knife, but he’d never suspect me to be armed.

I invited the guard up to my room for a talk. He thought the proposition was unseemly, but I assured him it wasn’t meant that way. Still, people would think so, he believed. I managed to convince him to join me in one of the booths along the hallway. The bartender watched us go, but I didn’t return his look. I didn’t want to know whether it was envy or scorn he exuded.

The guard kept muttering about the indecency, even though I insisted he should consider me a Slitherer in this situation, not a woman. I asked him to tell me more about the note he had left, and he countered by asking who I belonged to here in Byblos. I told him I belonged to You, and that I needed to know what was going on here, for it sounded bad. He looked outside the booth nervously, and replied, “Not everyone has found the right way, but we have.” I asked him to tell me about the right way. He just gave me a name, the Terrace of the Evening Sun. I got the impression that there might be a temple there, but still asked what this place was. The old guard just brushed me off. “Just ask a guard near the old harbor.” He wouldn’t say more, and returned to the bar so no-one could say that anything improper had transpired between us.

I went to the chapel to pray. I nodded to Lero before kneeling at the altar. The snakes crawled up my arms and infused me with Your calm, but You remained silent. I took that to mean You trusted me to figure this out on my own. If I was going to mend the relationships between my brothers and sisters, I needed to speak with them, to hear out each side. Did they have grievances against each other, or hadn’t it gone beyond disagreements yet? I suspected the first; the hostility in Byblos was tangible.

Meanwhile, Yana and Xipil had found an establishment that rented out carriages nearby. Drivers were included in the rent, and the establishment was very discreet. They paid the deposit for a closed wagon, so it would be ready for us tonight. Yana also discovered the location of The Cracked Kettle, in the eastern part of town. The drivers knew where it was, and could take us there.

I told what I had learned as well. Yana knew that the Terrace of the Evening Sun was a high-end restaurant. She could show the way if we decided to check it out. However, our first priority was The Cracked Kettle. Yana appealed to Wolfram, and explained how to bring him along, using the closed wagon so he didn’t have to watch the people on the streets. We didn’t want the wagon to pick us up at the guildhall, as that might look suspicious. Instead, we would walk out, shake off any followers, and meet the wagon at the location Yana had decided with the wagon company. Xipil mentioned finding an alley to put on a disguise after leaving the guild, but I said I was going as myself, and I had no objections to Wolfram and Grogg following my example. They might not look very diplomatically inclined bedecked with weapons and armor, but if either of them wanted to step forward to lead the discussion, it would be over my dead body. And then, the weapons could be useful. We agreed that Grogg should cover over the shiny bits of his skin with paint.

When Grogg pulled out and displayed the collection of his molted skin particles, I took my cue to leave. That was just plain gross. I asked Yana to help me wash out the hair dye. She would love to, but said I could just put on a cap or a hood if I wanted to hide my hair color. “No, I want my brothers and sisters to know that it’s me. The best way to clear suspicion and distrust is to be open and honest.”
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Campaign logs: Chaotic Pioneering / Confessions of a Forked Tongue
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Old 05-31-2021, 09:43 AM   #175
coronatiger
 
Join Date: Apr 2018
Location: Trondheim, Norway
Default Session 54 (2021-05-24)

It was about time to have dinner, so Yana and I went downstairs to pick up food for our friends. It would be best for everyone if they ate in their rooms. Xipil can socialize as long as his false beard tricks people into thinking he’s human, but I believe he’s more comfortable when he doesn’t have to pretend. Hylda can come across as rowdy or soliciting, and while that should be fine in a place like this, I don’t think Grogg would like her to leave him. Grogg, of course, can’t open his mouth without putting his foot in it, and Wolfram has his issues with crowds.

The two chapel guards sat at the bar when we came to order food. The older man was dozing, and the younger looked concernedly at me, so I approached him to ask why. He didn’t want to talk about it, however, and denied outright being concerned. “If you were naked, you wouldn’t have to worry about pickpockets,” he said in a feeble attempt to laugh it all away. “Enjoy Byblos!”

Yana and I ate our meal in our own room, and then she ordered me to strip, claiming I wouldn’t want to stain my dress when she washed out the dye from my hair. I pulled the dress down to my waist, but Yana insisted I take it all off. We put a blanket down, and I lay across the bed with my head over the edge, where Yana had a bucket of water. It felt wonderful to have Yana’s hands in my hair, massaging away stress and dyes. Her eyes didn’t focus on my hair at all, and I told her, “If you’re going to ogle me while I’m lying here, I want something to look at, too. Not that your face isn’t pretty enough, but fair is fair.”

Yana undressed and sat back down on her stool. I think I got the better side of the bargain. Whenever she lowered my head to soak my hair, I got a good look right up her alley, since she had one leg on either side of the bucket. I blushed every time, and Yana stifled a smile. She got something out of it, too.

Getting all the color out of my hair took quite a while, and removing all my makeup wasn’t done in a handwave either, and Yana sighed with regret and picked up her dress when she was done. “We’ll have time for that later,” I said. I felt regret, too, seeing her cover up her litheness, but I was excited about getting back to work, as well. With Yana’s help, I had achieved the first task, reacquiring my true, honest appearance.

Leaving the bounty hunter guild, everyone kept an eye out for anyone watching, but we got away unseen, or at least unchallenged. Grogg and Wolfram put on cloaks and Xipil fussed with his disguise before we continued to where we would pick up the wagon.

The meeting place was a bar in a cellar. Yana was recognized, and they asked her if we were in a hurry. Xipil answered that we had some time to spare, and the wagon people sent out a decoy wagon while we climbed into the one we were going to use. I can’t imagine that these services were cheap, but Yana had said that Xipil had paid for it, and that we’d get most of the deposit back unless we ruined the wagon or got the drivers injured.

The wagon drove towards the northeast and stopped a short distance away from The Cracked Kettle, as we had requested. Xipil criticized Wolfram’s armament again, and warned him to keep his cloak shut, while one of the drivers gave directions to The Cracked Kettle to Yana and me.

This part of Byblos looked rather poor. The Cracked Kettle had a name that fit right in, but I thought it was a little strange that someone would send Biskutello to a place like this. We left Grogg and Wolfram in an alley, and Yana, Xipil and I continued the last stretch to The Cracked Kettle. It had a bunch of seats packed together under a wooden awning. There was an old kettle hanging from the awning, and when we got closer, we could see that it was indeed cracked. The place was crowded, and I imagined Wolfram was glad we had left him behind to observe from a safe distance.

Your symbol adorned the restaurant covertly, so I found it probable that a chapel was nearby. Yana estimated that we were about a quarter of an hour early for our appointment, which was two hours before sunset. Without Grogg and Wolfram looming over us, we didn’t get much attention from the patrons.

We walked up to the bar, and I gave Your sign to the bartender. I asked if anything was happening tonight. The bartender returned Your sign, but said that this was the place to be, if one wanted good soup. I told him I was new in town, and wondered what was going on. He poured three bowls of soup for us and recommended we should be here at sunset.

I noticed two men near the door next to the bar. They didn’t mind the few people going in or out, and watched the crowd instead; it was obvious that they were guards. I didn’t recognize anyone from last night. Yana made me aware that a woman currently speaking with the guards was in disguise. From her glances and body language, I concluded she was asking them about the crowd. She went inside after a minute, and I asked Yana and Xipil if we should follow her, and if we should get Wolfram and Grogg to come. Xipil said it would be best if we left them in their alley.

We went over to the door. I opened it and went inside, unchallenged, followed by Xipil and Yana. There was a staircase leading down, and basins where a man was doing the ritual of cleansing. We washed, too, and went downstairs.

There were ten people here, all dressed as if they belonged in this neighborhood. I sat down in the center of the chapel and studied the snakes. They were all indigenous to this region. There was one creek constrictor, but the rest were venomous; two grass snakes, a midnight asp and at least four croaking vipers – named for how its venom affects your speech. I closed my eyes and prayed, letting the snakes cover me.

I didn’t find the same calm here as I had in the other chapel, but that didn’t mean anything was wrong. Different chapels have different feels to them. I listened to the voices. The mood in the room was casual, more like a muted common room than anything else. I opened my eyes and saw that the disguised woman was speaking to an even older lady. This one had her hood pulled up, and from the few glances I got inside it, I thought something was strange about her eyes. Xipil noticed it too, and I nodded when he mentioned it. I asked if we should go over and talk to her.

The younger woman – that is to say she was probably around forty – stood up and said a few more words to the older one before she headed upstairs again. I got up and walked over to the ancient one. I said hi, but got no response, so I sat down and peered, quite rudely, into her hood. She was blind. Now that she noticed my presence, she held out her hands in greeting and signaled that we should sit.

I told the old woman I had been sent here, and asked if she knew anything about it. She said she knew we were the ones who had come to find her. I asked who she was, but she just asked what we sought. I said something was wrong in Byblos, and I intended to fix it. “In that case, you must live to an older age than mine,” she told me. I asked if it was really that bad, and she replied that she was afraid this was how it had always been.

I took the woman’s hand and drew in her palm with my finger. She couldn’t have seen if I gave Your sign to identify myself and my rank in the normal fashion, so I had to get creative. If she had been of the faith for a while, she would recognize the symbol I drew, even if she couldn’t see it. She seemed to understand, but didn’t reply in kind, which I found a bit rude.

Xipil alerted me that the other woman was coming, and I turned my head towards the entrance. The woman hurried over and asked if there was anything she could do for us. I introduced myself with Your sign, this time in the air between us. The woman answered with an experienced flicker of motion, but she didn’t give her rank. She was very confused when the older woman said that we were the ones they had been waiting for.

The younger woman suggested we meet somewhere else, and bade us walk in through the eastern temple district gate in one hour. I replied that we would see her there. She held out a hand to the older woman, but she didn’t need it to get up. The younger led the way outside, but the older took my hand before she followed, and said to bring all those who “dance to the stars”.

One of the snakes had disappeared under my skirt and was coiling itself around my ankle. Yana didn’t want whatever she imagined was going on under my skirt to happen to her, and was eager to get away. Xipil told us that the old woman’s dress was infused with star energy. I found that highly suspicious and instinctively patted my hidden knives.

We went outside and returned to Grogg and Wolfram. We informed them that we had a new meeting in less than an hour, and told them briefly what had happened. Wolfram was as suspicious as me. Xipil thought the old woman belonged to Azura. That didn’t exactly improve her trustworthiness in my opinion. After a brief discussion, we agreed that “those who dance to the stars” must be Wolfram and Xipil, and possibly Kraa.

Returning to the wagon, Yana reminded us that bringing weapons inside the temple district was a big no-no. However, we could leave the weapons in the wagon. Grogg asked about armor, and Yana thought that wasn’t as bad. Some priests wore armor, in fact.

Wolfram opened the hatch and asked the drivers if they could drive inside the temple district. They said it would be expensive, and we had to convince the guards ourselves to let us pass with the wagon. Wolfram closed the hatch again, thinking the business was sorted.

However, the woman at the chapel had said we should walk in through the gate. That could be difficult for Wolfram to pull off, so Xipil and Grogg discussed what sedatives Grogg had remaining after Lunari. Nothing useful, it turned out, since we didn’t want Wolfram to fall asleep.
__________________
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 05-31-2021, 10:15 AM   #176
coronatiger
 
Join Date: Apr 2018
Location: Trondheim, Norway
Default Session 54 (2021-05-24)

I asked the drivers to take us to the closest herb shop with a decent selection. We were soon parked outside The Far-Traveled Alchemist. Before I could think, Grogg dropped his weapons on the floor and exited the wagon. I hurried after him inside the shop, and witnessed his awesome social skills. He dumped the contents of his purse on the counter and asked for something to make a bear see spirits. The woman behind the counter snapped up a copper piece that was about to roll off. I groaned inside and tried to specify which herb we wanted, but Grogg shoved me aside.

The shopkeeper showed Grogg a glass jar with purple powder. He recognized it as the incense we had used before to make spirits visible, which surprised her. Grogg muttered that he wanted to see spirit ravens, which made the woman think he was asking for crow’s toes, a hallucinogenic drug that coincidentally, Grogg had used several times in the past. It invariably made him see, hear or smell horses. I don’t think Grogg likes them very much. Fortunately, he hasn’t attacked any real horses yet.

I got through to the woman that what we actually wanted was river thistle, despite her fascination with Grogg’s surprising knowledge of her trade. Grogg got his crow’s toes, and I got a vial of river thistle concentrate. It would be much easier to give Wolfram the correct dose of that, than if I had to make a tea with leaves from the plant. The vial contained twenty times the dose that would be needed for a regular person, but I estimated that Wolfram would need double doses, being so big. I didn’t have my equipment with me, but another time, I could inject the liquid right into his veins, for a quicker effect with less juice. Xipil split the bill with me, and I joked that we should make Wolfram pay, since it was his problem we were solving.

We returned to the wagon and showed Wolfram what we had purchased. I told him I’d keep the vial and make sure he got the right dose. This was strong stuff; the contents of this tiny vial could kill at least two full-grown men – or one Wolfram-sized one, I suppose.

We got the drivers to set the course for the temple district. I had Wolfram hold out his hand, and I poured a few drops into his palm. I held up the vial after each drop to see how much I had poured. When I was satisfied, I told him to lick it up and swallow. I knew that river thistle tea could be quite bitter, but properly extracted juice should be almost tasteless, unlike what one might believe. It certainly looked like water, and I had heard a story about an herbalist who had drunk an entire vial before realizing their mistake. I had always disliked that story. That herbalist couldn’t be very skilled, to mistake a vial of poison for a glass of water.

Wolfram soon had a dull look on his face. He opened a window to see if the crowds outside made him panic, but the river thistle had done its job. He stared at the townsfolk and forgot to be afraid.

The wagon stopped across the plaza from the eastern temple district gate, and we got out. Wolfram left some of his weapons in the wagon, and warned the drivers to take good care of them.

We crossed the plaza, and Wolfram had no problem with all the people. Xipil pointed at the big book at the gate, where most folk left some money. I chose not to pay. The chance that any of the money reached Your chapels was non-existent.

Once we had passed the gate, there was a food court and some sales booths on our left and facilities for bathing on our right. The middle-aged woman from the chapel sat on a bench, but got up when she spotted us, and disappeared into the bathing facilities, walking quite fast. We followed her.

Inside the bathing facilities, which were part of the temple of Anati, Wolfram stopped to gawk at the fountains, where statues of the goddess poured water for washing. Anati wasn’t wearing any clothes in Byblos either, and with the drug dulling his inhibitions, nothing stopped Wolfram from staring openly. Except Xipil, who dragged him along.

We followed the woman through the baths, and then through a park. There were altars spread throughout the park, and Xipil dashed over to look at some. After a few minutes, the woman sat down on a bench to see if we were keeping up, and once we got near, she rose and disappeared through a hedge. We followed.

This area used to have temple buildings, but those had been taken down and removed. The only standing buildings were a tower next to the district’s outer wall and an adjoining one-story house. The woman entered. Dust and cobwebs greeted us, and the woman lit an oil lamp and handed it to Wolfram. I looked around and adjusted my vision, realizing that it was nearly pitch-black inside. One of the drawbacks to my dark vision is that I have to focus to notice when it’s too dark for others to see anything. Maybe I get over that in time; it’s only a couple of weeks since You bestowed this gift upon me. Wolfram mumbled that this used to be a Tiri temple. I thought he should feel right at home, then. Not that the river thistle allowed him to feel very much at the moment.

The woman stopped inside the tower, at a staircase going both up and down. In a low voice, she instructed us to go upstairs. She seemed a little nervous, but not so much that I was concerned. She went down when we went up.

The windows in the tower were blocked with wooden boards. We went all the way up. The old woman waited there, sitting in a rocking chair with her head tilted back so she could “look” up at the darkening sky through an opening in the ceiling. The opening looked intentional, not a sign of decay. It should obviously be there, this being a temple to the moon goddess.

There was no moon now, in the middle of the month, and Wolfram lamented that fact, since the weather was fine, with no clouds in the sky to obscure the moon. The old woman nodded. Grogg smelled the air, and I was surprised that he didn’t begin to sneeze, what with all the dust floating around. Xipil sat down next to the rocking chair and began to meditate. The old woman thought we were early, but both Wolfram and I said we came just on time, according to their instructions.

The woman asked “you with the dark voice” – meaning Wolfram – if he was one of those who danced to the stars. Wolfram replied that this was something he learned recently, and asked if the woman had heard of The Nine. She chuckled and nodded. “Imagine that the animals learned that dance!” she said. Wolfram asked about the significance of their dance. The old woman told him that if there had been more of them, they might have gone after us for heresy. Xipil countered, “shouldn’t you be hunted for putting The Nine underground?” The woman turned towards him and said there was much he didn’t know. “The men have already received their punishment.” I thought she was speaking of the men of Azura’s temple, those who had sold themselves out to Odon’s brothers.

I heard footsteps in the stairs, and interposed myself between Yana and the sound, placing my hands on my knife hilts under my cloak. The woman from before entered the tower room with another about the same age. The new woman gave Your sign, and I replied in kind. She didn’t give her rank – what’s with these people! – but I got the impression that she was experienced.

I asked if anyone would tell us what we were doing here. The new arrival asked if we had found what we were looking for. Wolfram replied that we were waiting for them. I asked right out who they were, and they asked back. “I am Nuur-Karif,” I said, and they wished me welcome, but without giving their names. Grogg also introduced himself.

Since they were so secretive, I asked what relationship they had to You. The new woman answered that they belonged to the oldest temple in Byblos, and that she led the ceremonies there. The other two remained silent. “What are we doing here? This looks more like a temple to a god of the moon or the stars, than an Ashtar temple.” The women didn’t answer, so I continued. “I’ve learned there is a conflict between our brothers and sisters here in Byblos.”

I was really growing frustrated with these women. The way they acted, I understood why some might take offense. The lack of communication made things escalate, and now we were in this situation. They seemed misinformed, too, asking why we had asked to see them. I said we were here by coincidence, following leads to get to the bottom of the difficulties; we didn’t know them, and had certainly not sought them out. Wolfram said he wasn’t interested in helping with our obviously internal struggle, and would rather go after his own enemies.

The two middle-aged women suggested we went downstairs to talk. That was a good idea. We’re more at home the deeper we go. Xipil and Grogg remained with the old Azura priestess, but Wolfram – despite what he had just said – accompanied the rest of us to the basement.
__________________
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 05-31-2021, 10:20 AM   #177
coronatiger
 
Join Date: Apr 2018
Location: Trondheim, Norway
Default Session 54 (2021-05-24)

In the cellar was a simply furbished meeting room, and we seated ourselves. The women asked Wolfram his name. “Black, at least for the moment,” he replied. In his dulled state, I was astounded that he remembered his assumed name. Grogg could never have accomplished that. Wolfram went on to say that he wanted to save the world, but he could help You along the way.

The two anonymous women said that this struggle was far greater than squabbling between Ashtarites. They claimed that this wasn’t even Your fight. They had also found it necessary to ally with one of the factions in Byblos. It sounded like they were talking about nobles and politics. Wolfram even asked right out if they had aligned with Lord Mir. I interjected that Lord Mir didn’t have anything to do with this, and the women confirmed it.

The women explained that they wanted the priesthood in Byblos to take after that of the Prince’s Cities. I said that if this meant that we were against the nobility running the temples, then we were in agreement. There is nothing wrong with nobles having positions of power in the clergy, but they shouldn’t assume that they have a right to those positions just because they were born into a certain family.

Wolfram said he was happy as long as he got to kill Tivito people. The river thistle had really loosened his tongue. The women asked who he followed, and he admitted to following Tiri. That surprised them, for they were under the impression that Tiri’s order wasn’t active anymore, not even in the Prince’s Cities.

The women asked if our friends upstairs only had come here to meet the high priestess. For Ashtarites, the two of them acted uncannily reverent towards her. I caught myself thinking that they might not be true Ashtarites, but I quickly discarded that idea. Or at least, I tried to. Something was still nagging at me about them, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. The women said that if the high priestess wanted to meet us, they wouldn’t stand in the way.

Since they asked, I told them what I wanted. I said I was worried about the conflict among our brothers and sisters, and while I had another quest, that was on hold for the moment, so I thought I could sort out their mess while I waited for the other mission to progress. I wanted to see their temple, but the women warned us that we could get into trouble if we were observed going there. They could meet us here, tomorrow, and bring those of us who wanted to come. I assumed some of my friends would want to speak with the high priestess, and that might take some time.

Yana, Wolfram and I said goodbye to the Ashtarites, and rejoined Xipil and Grogg upstairs. Kraa was sitting on the high priestess’s hand, squawking away. I put on the spirit-seeing ring and observed that Grogg’s familiar seemed quite enthusiastic. Without seeing the bird, Grogg tried to pet it, but his hand didn’t quite hit the mark.

Xipil warned us not to speak. Information should be shared both ways, he thought. From what I’d heard, Azura’s priestesses were tight as clams when it came to handing out information. They gladly listened when people were talking to them, but they gave nothing back. Wolfram thought Xipil had the wrong attitude, but I agreed with the lizard man. Clams were never part of my diet, but I knew how to get out the good stuff. With a knife.
__________________
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 06-08-2021, 09:21 AM   #178
coronatiger
 
Join Date: Apr 2018
Location: Trondheim, Norway
Default Session 55 (2021-06-02)

15th of Ratanu, year 412 (continued)

No. I shouldn’t resort to violence unless I absolutely have no other choice. I determined to stay as tight-lipped as the Azura high priestess. If she volunteered information, or offered a trade, I might speak, but otherwise, I’d remain silent.

Grogg said he only had good experiences with Azura people. He went as far as relating a story about him and Lunari breaking into an Azura library, and they had been kind even then. I could tell the priestess was amused by Grogg’s story, but she kept her face neutral enough that I don’t think the others caught on. Xipil might have spotted the minute shift in her expression, but I don’t think he recognized the emotion for what it was.

Xipil argued that Azura has a secretive cult in the Prince’s Cities, and that they were to blame for major catastrophes in the world. The priestess didn’t react at all. Grogg asked me to look at the priestess through the spirit-seeing ring. I already did, but now I allowed my body language to convey it.

Wolfram asked if it was all right with the rest of us if he told the priestess about demons. The priestess nodded at that word. Xipil said we should leave; we wouldn’t find out anything of interest here. Wolfram wanted to stay, and tried to convince the rest of us. Xipil asked me if I had found what I was looking for here, and I admitted I was a little curious about what – if anything – was going to happen here tonight. Although, if the others didn’t think they’d be able to keep their mouths shut, they should leave.

Xipil has turned very hostile towards Azura, and argued that we didn’t want to stay close to these people. Wolfram disagreed heartily and vocally. He contended that the men had been thrown out of the cult for what they did; now, only women remained, and they were honorable. Wolfram was certain they wouldn’t destroy the world.

The menfolk didn’t realize that the longer they argued, the more information they gave away to the priestess. When they started fighting about the Night Mirror, I told them to take the discussion elsewhere. They all stared at me. “You’re tattling!” I exclaimed exasperatedly. They ignored my warning and threw themselves back into the debate, even Xipil, whose point of view was that we shouldn’t reveal anything to the priestess.

“It’s happening soon!” the priestess exclaimed excitedly. She pulled off her hood and tilted her head even further back, facing the darkening sky. I glanced up at the hole in the ceiling, but I couldn’t see anything, at least not yet.

Xipil began meditating. Having lost his vociferous opponent, Wolfram turned to me and threatened to withdraw his aid for the Ashtarite conflict unless I allowed him to speak to the priestess. I decided not to pick up the fight, and told him he could speak to her if he was still interested in doing so after the drugs had worn off. He said he felt just fine, but I told him I’d be the judge of that. He should wait a couple of hours. Wolfram asked the high priestess politely if that was all right. She turned towards him and replied that nobody would come for her before morning.

Pausing his meditation for a few seconds, Xipil asked if he could sit on Grogg in order to have a better view towards the north. Wolfram decided to transform into a bear, making me groan inside. He looked at me and growled, but his bear mouth wasn’t made for human speech.

Since everyone else was focused on the window to the sky, I pulled Yana with me to the top of the stairs, where I could an eye out for anyone approaching, and one eye on the Azura priestess. I didn’t trust her. Yana whispered that the others had said so much already, that it couldn’t hurt to tell the rest. I whispered back that anything we could withhold from the priestess would be a victory. On the other hand, I did give Wolfram permission to speak. Hopefully, he came to his senses when the river thistle had run its course.

Yana asked if it was all right if she took out her sewing, so she had something to do while we were waiting. I replied that was just fine. I felt I had to listen to the other side or sides of the conflict before taking action, but I began to prepare a speech, for when I have to convince my brothers and sisters to take the right path, which might not be the one the old chapel guard had mentioned. I felt didn’t get very far, for there was much I needed to know. If I held my speech now, I wouldn’t say much of note.

The stars arrived above us, and the priestess focused upwards. It seemed to me like she received information from them. Occasionally, her face twitched in a brief grimace before returning to normal. Whatever messages she received, some of them affected her emotions deeply. Grogg and Kraa started to sing, and I wanted to go and hide. Grogg actually has a good singing voice, but the spirit raved distorted everything with its inane kraaing.

Wolfram transformed back into a human after a good while, and I rose and walked over to him. He was behind the priestess, and when I approached her, I drew one of my knives, just to see if she noticed. I made sure to do it silently so the noise wouldn’t alert her, but more importantly, I didn’t want Yana to see. It felt like such a betrayal, my gut twisted. The priestess didn’t react, so I put the knife away, just as stealthily as I had drawn it.

“That was unnecessary,” Wolfram protested. I ignored his comment and told him to bend down so I could study his eyes. The river thistle was still working its way though his system, so I asked him to wait another half-hour. He said that was all right, and transformed back into a bear, and I returned to Yana.

Yana had progressed from leaves to flowers, and showed me her work when I sat down. In a low voice, she asked if everything was fine with Wolfram. I replied that he was still a little affected by the drug. I touched the flower and raised my voice a little. “This flower is coming along just fine!”

After half an hour, Wolfram transformed back and looked meaningfully at me. I nodded. Wolfram cleared his throat and began to reveal everything. He spoke about how he had a call to come to Arland from the Prince’s Cities, and went on about what we had done together since we met at the Evening Fort. He focused on the supernatural.

When Wolfram mentioned the dragon Palo, Grogg interrupted and put forth his view on the ancient enemy of his god. I watched the priestess. She still faced the sky, but I could tell she paid close attention to what my friends said.

Since Grogg became so agitated, he woke Xipil from his meditation. Grogg revealed why he was so hostile towards snakes; he had heard stories of dragons dressing up as snakes to fool people. The priestess’s mouth formed a pleased smile. Xipil’s eyes began to glow again, for he had returned to his meditation.

After a few minutes, the priestess turned towards Grogg and thanked him. Wolfram kept talking, and Xipil woke up again. The priestess let Wolfram speak for another few minutes, and then she said he didn’t have to tell her all this. Wolfram replied that since he didn’t know what she was interested in hearing, he chose to tell everything.
__________________
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 06-08-2021, 09:35 AM   #179
coronatiger
 
Join Date: Apr 2018
Location: Trondheim, Norway
Default Session 55 (2021-06-02)

The priestess asked if we knew how dangerous we were. Grogg looked around, as if expecting enemies in the shadows. “Did nobody really tell you how dangerous you are?” she repeated. She said that what the followers of Tiri learn in the Prince’s Cities was very limited. She and her fellows could see things in the sky, things that have happened and things that are yet to come. The future was flighty, however, but there were some things that would happen despite all efforts to prevent them. The priestess said that we had the power to affect destinies, even those that were locked in. We could create chaos, she claimed. By dancing, apparently. She warned us that dancing with The Nine could have much bigger consequences than we could imagine.

The Azura priestess said she could share what was locked in for Byblos. There were three events, and she thought they would happen regardless of our interference, but if anyone could affect them, it was us. She paused, and Wolfram asked if this was something we could discuss with the other two ladies, meaning the Ashtarites who had left a couple of hours ago.

The priestess sighed deeply, “Yes.” Then she asked if we were sure we wanted to hear this. Xipil said yes immediately, and Wolfram qualified, “If this can stabilize the world, then yes.” The priestess told us what she believed, that the forces involved here could materialize elsewhere, too, regardless if we escaped what was going to happen here. She wanted everyone present to agree before she continued. I replied yes, as did Grogg and Kraa – translated by Grogg. Yana looked at me before answering, and I nodded.

The three things that worried the priestess would happen in Byblos before the moon started waning again. That would give us nearly a month, I thought. Depending on Pak and Groman, we might not be here then. The priestess prophesized, “The floor in one of Ashtar’s holy places will be covered in blood! A dragon will attack and bring disorder to the organized! A cowed demon will end lives!”

Xipil, now in a divulging mood, told the priestess that we met a grey man who opposed his brothers and asked us to contact Azura on his behalf. Something must have happened during his meditation for him to switch stances so suddenly. The priestess said we could show him here, but she indicated that she wouldn’t welcome him with open arms.

Wolfram considered the prophecies, and thought Tivito had something to do with the demon. Perhaps the demon in the prophecy was one they had captured from a crypt. The priestess told us that Tivito limited her movement. There was an alliance between some of the temples, the old faith, she called it, and without that, she wouldn’t be here today.

Grogg was obsessed with dragons, and said that Tivito had to be dragon worshippers. He scowled at me, but I didn’t take the bait. Not in front of an Azura priestess. Grogg continued by claiming that Tivito was messing with the Ashtarites. The priestess reacted to that, shaking her head and saying, “Not my Ashtarites!”

Wolfram had some misconceptions about Tivito and Ashtarites, so offensive that I couldn’t help myself. I corrected him. I wished the priestess would expound on the important prophecy, but after berating Wolfram, I refocused and clammed up again.

Wolfram wished all the demons went to the Night Mirror and up to the stars, but Xipil disagreed. The demons didn’t belong there, he said. I feared the two of them would get into another revealing argument, but the priestess said she had heard enough. She gave Wolfram a small pouch with three silver coins inside. “As long as nobody has resorted to violence, they’ll let you pass.” Wolfram asked if it was some kinds of guards she was referring to, but she only repeated, “They’ll let you pass.” She had fallen back into her old, annoying, cryptic ways.

Kraa turned hysterical and flew from Grogg’s shoulder to the priestess. She appeared to squint at the spirit raven, and picked something up from it. I couldn’t see what, not even through the ring, but she showed it to Grogg, who apparently could. She said he should attach whatever it was, by sewing, if he didn’t want to lose Kraa. Grogg mused that he had to do this under the moon, which pleased the priestess, and Wolfram offered to use his powers to strengthen the moonlight for him.

The priestess turned towards Xipil and said that he could see what she saw, and that she believed he could do something with it. Then she addressed me, as another woman who can see things that others can’t. I didn’t feel that this description fit me very well. The powers that the spirit seeing ring bestowed weren’t inherently mine, and if she was talking about my dark vision, anyone could see what I saw if they brought a lamp. The priestess had expected me to have more questions, but she said she wouldn’t have many answers for me. “I assumed as much. That’s why I didn’t ask,” I lied, seeing no reason to offend her with the truth. The priestess instructed me to look to Yana. If I lost my humanity, I would fail, she claimed.

Having given us these instructions, the priestess withdrew into herself. It was obvious – at least to anyone used to human interaction – that she wanted us to leave her now. Yana and I stood, and Yana slipped her work into her bag, preparing to go. Xipil asked the priestess about the spirit priests that were bound to the stone circles, but she didn’t want to answer him. Instead, she admonished, “The easiest way to change what will happen is to change how it will happen, but it might be possible to change whether it happens at all. Tread carefully!”

I took Yana’s hand and led the way downstairs into the darkness. Had my friends had any aptitude for social skills, they would know my actions screamed, “We’re leaving. Bring the light!” I put my arm around Yana’s waist for safety, but it turned out not to be necessary. Wolfram brought Grogg, Xipil and the oil lamp.

Outside, Wolfram studied the three silver coins. They were several decades old, but hadn’t seen much use. Neither he nor Xipil reacted to any magic, and I didn’t see anything special about them through the ring. Wolfram put out the lamp and returned it to its hiding place, just inside the door.

Xipil wanted to climb out over the wall, since the gates might be closed and guarded. I told him we wouldn’t have any problem getting past the guards. We could also spend the night here, in the cellar, and leave after the sun had come up. Grogg asked suspiciously if this was Your temple, but I repeated what had been said several times tonight, that this was a Tiri temple. Wolfram had to confirm my words for Grogg to accept them. Grogg said it would be fine to sleep here, then. Xipil reminded him about Hylda and the money she was guarding. I thought she would be fine.

Considering the matter resolved, I took Yana inside and led the way downstairs. Once we were out of earshot, she opined that it would be relatively safe to test the silver coins on the guards at the temple district gate. I didn’t think experimentation was necessary. She and I could talk our way past anyone, although we might have to bribe the guards to allow us to bring someone as menacing as Grogg and Wolfram, and we could use the silver for that.
__________________
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
coronatiger is online now   Reply With Quote
Old 06-08-2021, 09:52 AM   #180
coronatiger
 
Join Date: Apr 2018
Location: Trondheim, Norway
Default Session 55 (2021-06-02)

There were three doors in the cellar. One led to the meeting room, but I ignored it. Grogg, Wolfram and Xipil could sleep there if they wished, but I wanted to find somewhere I could be private with Yana. The second door was locked, but the third led to a small, empty closet. The closet was big enough for Yana and me to lie on the floor, but we couldn’t stretch without hitting the walls.

The stone floor was hard, but that didn’t bother me much. I had slept on chapel floors more often than I can count. They were seldom stone, though, but packed dirt wasn’t much softer than stone. We made ourselves as comfortable as possible. I guided Yana to her sleeping place along the inner wall. I would lay beside her, facing the door. I didn’t trust the safety of this place, not completely. I removed my belt and laid it on the floor so I could reach my knives easily. They were not hard to conceal under my cloak, but they were an insurmountable barrier when I wanted Yana to snuggle up to me.

I hadn’t brought my toothbrush, and that annoyed me. We didn’t have water either, so I couldn’t even rinse. I forgot all about brushing my teeth when Yana put her arm around me and pressed herself against my back. She felt so nice and soft and warm. “You’re so tense,” Yana whispered. “I sense you’re not in a romantic mood. Why do you insist on wearing this?” She groped at my breasts through the cloth armor I wore under my dress. “I can’t even feel the good stuff,” she complained. I could certainly feel her hand, and it was tantalizing. “I need to be ready in case we’re surprised by someone who doesn’t want us here,” I explained, trying to keep my voice level while fighting the urge to turn around, to rip off my clothes, her clothes. “We should pray before sleeping.” We both placed a palm against the stone floor, but after the prayer, Yana’s hand returned to where it had been. I smiled, knowing that she couldn’t see. “I love you,” I said. “Good night, girlfriend!” Yana purred against my back. “Say it again!” I complied. “I love you!”

My eyes popped open when someone knocked on the door. No, it was another door, I concluded when I had gathered my senses. There was no other noise, so I could hear Yana’s slow breath behind me. The knock hadn’t woken her. In fact, it was so quiet that I almost began to think I had imagined it. I still drew blades, one throwing knife and one for close combat. Then I heard a faint rustle outside, and metal tapping almost inaudibly against metal. Someone was out there, but I couldn’t identify what they were doing.

I would have heard if my friends had come down here to sleep, so I wasn’t afraid for them. There was no need for me to do anything. If this was an assassin, they had either killed or bypassed my friends. If they came in here, I was going to disappoint Yana sorely. I aimed my throwing knife in the approximate direction of an intruder’s throat.

Nobody entered. I think whoever it was went away, for it was quiet for several minutes. Then heavy footsteps approached, and again, someone knocked on a door. Getting no reply, they knocked on the other two doors as well. Then Wolfram’s voice asked after Xipil and me. I hushed on him, whispering that Yana was asleep.

Wolfram lowered his voice a little, but not enough. Yana began to stir while Wolfram explained that the others were planning to leave. Xipil had checked that nobody was watching the gate. It annoyed me that Wolfram had woken Yana, but she said we might as well get up again. I could tell she wanted a proper bed. I slipped my knives back into their sheaths and stood up while putting the belt around my waist.

I opened the door just as Wolfram looked inside the previously locked door. He bellowed for Xipil to come, and went inside when Xipil replied from far away. It had to have been Xipil who woke me, and for some reason decided that exploring behind a locked door was more important than fetching Yana and me. Wolfram had brought the lamp, but he left Yana and me in the dark again now. I helped Yana gather up her things from the floor, and we went outside. The night air was quite cool, so Yana and I hugged to share body heat while we waited for Xipil and Wolfram. Grogg was preoccupied with Kraa, and didn’t bother us.

We walked towards the eastern gate at a brisk speed. The others seemed eager to get away. Xipil suggested that if the guards challenged us, I should say that we forgot the time in the Anati bath. I agreed, but while the guards certainly followed us with their eyes, they stepped aside to let us through. The gate was still open, but they closed it after we had passed. I suspected the two Ashtarites of arranging this for us.

I soon discovered why the others were in a hurry. The wagon stood where we had left it, and the drivers said there only was half an hour left of our contract. We hadn’t slept very long, then. Xipil or Wolfram would have been able to tell the time by looking at the sky, but I’ve always ignored the stars in the hope that they would ignore me too. I told the wagoneers to drive us back to where they picked us up. They reminded us that we could retrieve our deposit after lunch tomorrow. From the wagon place, it was just a short walk back to the bounty hunter guild. I asked if Yana would join me for a short visit to the chapel, and she agreed.

The young chapel guard was sleeping on a bench, and the only other person in the common room was the bartender. He was wiping the counter, more out of habit, I thought, than because it was needed, but he gave me a covert signal indicating that he wanted to speak with me. Xipil asked if we should barricade our doors tonight. I said it couldn’t hurt, and wished him, Grogg and Wolfram good night. I dragged Yana over to the bar, but she let me speak privately with the bartender. He said, more loudly than strictly necessary, that he had my drink ready for me. Then he whispered that someone wanted to speak to me in the third booth. I chucked down the drink without bothering to taste it. You know I don’t care much for alcohol, and if there was poison in it, the bartender should know how little it would affect me.

Yana hadn’t heard the whisper, and looked questioningly at me when I pulled her along to the indicated booth. The old chapel guard was sleeping there, but he snapped awake when we entered. He signaled that we should sit. “Out late?” he asked. Yana and I remained quiet, and the old guard continued. There had been some people here to “check us out,” but he had taken care of them. He warned us again to keep to the narrow path. We nodded, and he offered wine. I thanked him for what he had done, but declined the wine.

Yana and I went to the chapel, and Yana picked up a lamp at the washing basins. She asked if we should pray together. That was exactly what I had been intending. Yana wanted to get something off her chest first, though. She started to air her concerns about this mission we had undertaken, but I reminded her that we shouldn’t speak of that here. It was only us and the snakes, and she wasn’t speaking in Shamara, the snake language, but it was best to be on the safe side. Snakes are wonderful creatures. They could perceive the meaning of what we said, especially here, and I wasn’t comfortable commanding them to keep quiet. After we had prayed in silence for a few minutes, I took the round, wishing each snake good night, and then we went up to our room.

Yana yawned and looked longingly at the soft bed, so it came as a complete surprise when she launched a kissing assault as soon as I had put down my toothbrush. It was the hardest thing I had ever done, but I pushed her away when she began to fumble with my dress. “You’re tired,” I said. “I don’t want you to do this because you think you should. We can have as much fun as you want, but only when you want it. And obviously not when we have duties to perform. Or …” Yana threw her arms around me and put her cheek against mine. And promptly fell asleep on my shoulder.

She woke when I laid her down on the bed and took off her clothes. “Well now! Are you trying to take advantage of me!?” she slurred drowsily. “No, I’m making you comfortable for sleep,” I explained hurriedly. “I’m too tired to be witty,” Yana lamented around another yawn.

I folded up our clothes as fast as I could, thinking about how much Yana loved to feel my bare skin against hers, almost as much as I did. This feeling arose long before we fell in love, or at least long before I realized we were in love. I had thought of sleeping together like we did as a declaration of mutual trust between friends, as if we were saying, “Around you, I can drop all defenses, all pretenses.” I looked lovingly at Yana. She had fallen asleep again. I did my best not to wake her, climbing into bed, but if she did wake, she would feel the comfort of my embrace.

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
coronatiger is online now   Reply With Quote
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