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Old 11-04-2021, 03:39 PM   #211
coronatiger
 
Join Date: Apr 2018
Location: Trondheim, Norway
Default Session 69 (2021-10-30)

Yana frowned. “What do you mean?” “Well, obviously, we’re both human,” I began, but Yana interrupted, “Except that you’re a snake!” I gave her a big smile as pride welled up inside me, before turning serious again. “When I was young, before Ashtar found me, I often wondered about my heritage, where I came from, who my parents were and so on. I have no recollection of any family, but I always knew I wasn’t related to Khordak, the man who owned the inn where I spent the first years that I can remember. He was too pale-skinned and frankly too cruel to be family. He even told me that I my parents never wanted me, and I believed him at the time, but in retrospect, I’m not so sure if he spoke truthfully. Maybe he was just being mean.” Yana reached out and wiped away the tear that ran down my cheek, but she said nothing, sensing there were more words waiting to come out.

“Anyway… Most people who frequented Khordak’s inn were just as white as him. None of the regulars were as dark as me, and certainly not like you.” I caressed Yana’s cheek. “I suspect I may have some Amrosh blood in me; among all the peoples of Arland, no group has skin like mine, and only your people have darker. I’ve seen some southerners come in with the trade caravans who had even darker skin than yours, and it’s possible one such as them left a child growing inside a local woman, but I think it less likely than the alternative. I also don’t think it’s very probable that I have orcish blood, like some Furkans are said to have. I’m much too small to be even one quarter orc.” “Isn’t Hylda about four times your size?” Yana joked and brought the smile back to my face. “But you’re far too pretty to be an orc,” she complimented. Her eyes smoldered as they stared into mine, and I knew she was going to kiss me. I smoldered right back at her and puckered my lips.

“You don’t know where Khordak’s inn was located, do you?” Yana asked when we had both caught our breath. “No,” I answered, “and I don’t even know if it still stands, or if that brute still is alive. I pray that he isn’t, for if I ever meet him, I’m not sure I can restrain myself from repaying all those years of cruelty. You know that it was Rhuk who took me away from that place, eventually? She stuffed me in her cart and drove away. I can’t say I paid much attention to the ride, alternating between crying and sleeping. It may have taken just a day or two, or it may have been a week or more from the inn and back to Sam. The inn may have been here in Byblos, for all I know. Or it may have been in a village far away from here. I was never allowed to go far from the inn, and while the place seemed very large, I was only a child back then.”

Yana pointed out that I had digressed somewhat from my original question. Neither of us thought that talk of Khordak made for a pleasant conversation, but alone in Yana’s presence, I could allow myself to be vulnerable. I could be that frightened child once more, but safe in her embrace. I had told Yana about Khordak before, in the chapel at the Evening Fort, but not in as much detail as I did today. It brought tears to my eyes again, and to hers, but that was all right. You know our hearts already, O Ashtar, and there is no shame in crying before You.

It was afternoon when we rejoined our friends downstairs and had dinner with them. Yana and I had cried ourselves out and found laughter and happiness again in each other’s company. What redness remained around our eyes was easily concealed. We were ready to take on the world.

I asked Wolfram if he wanted a shot of river thistle before we left for the Cracked Kettle. He replied that he’d prefer a wagon, but I reminded him that the chapel wasn’t more than a few minutes away and that it was probably the crowd at the soup kitchen that would cause him difficulty. A wagon couldn’t get him all the way to the door. Wolfram decided that he’d stay in a nearby alley.

Xipil asked if Audria knew how to contact me. She didn’t know where we lived, but I was certain she’d be able to locate me if necessary. I wasn’t spending all day in hiding, and I imagined she had considerable resources to apply to the task.

Grogg said he could smell dragon and bade Hylda remain at the inn when the rest of us left. We left Wolfram in his alley and were about to cross over to the throng at the Cracked Kettle when Grogg said he had changed his mind about coming. He used a derogatory term to describe the chapel, and I was tempted to take action, but Kraa’s inane chatter distracted me and managed to convince Grogg to come anyway.

Xipil asked if there were more exits from the chapel than the main entrance. I said no. He was only a Spawn, and I wasn’t comfortable divulging chapel secrets to someone like him, despite regarding him as a friend. I was thankful that Yana didn’t press the issue. That would have given me a dilemma, for I wasn’t sure I could deny her anything.

We washed before descending to the chapel. I recognized Enani across the room and we waved at each other. Nosora was there too, standing with two of her girlfriends. They waved and giggled at me like I was some world-famous musician. I waved and smiled back at them.

“Can you stay with Grogg and Xipil when I go up to speak?” I asked Yana. She squeezed my hand and nodded. She tried to let go of my hand, but I held on; the Meet had yet to commence. I waited with Yana and allowed Enani to initiate the Meet, but she soon announced that anyone was welcome to speak up, eyeing me meaningfully. I let go of Yana’s hand and approached the altar; Enani told the congregation that they would hear the word right from the original source.

The Ashtarites in this chapel received my thunder with enthusiasm, which shouldn’t have surprised me as much as it did, for while my earlier audiences may have considered themselves the elite among us, these folk certainly did not. They had been shoved aside and felt the same righteous indignation as me. They would have applauded, had it been appropriate. After my speech, I cast a glance at Enani to see if she wanted to take over, but she allowed me to continue, so I went on, leading everyone in prayer.

Throughout the Meet, I kept an eye out for anyone that didn’t look receptive to my message, and I talked to them individually afterwards to determine if I needed to worry. I wouldn’t want a Tivito spy to hear what I said, but I determined that none were present. I addressed the concerns of my brothers and sisters as best I could. Things might not suddenly be all right by tomorrow, but if we all trusted in You, were open and honest with each other and helped out where we could, all would be well in the end. Many of my brothers and sisters thanked me for my inspiring words. Many asked me to confirm that there was agreement between the two temples. I gave them the same challenge. “Trust Ashtar to see that all will be well!”

Xipil signaled that it was time to go. It was getting late and we needed to go via the alley on our way back to the inn. Sneaking around during curfew with someone as big as Wolfram and Grogg might be challenging. I thanked those around me for the opportunity to come to their chapel and talk to them, and I said I would gladly come back if circumstances allowed. “Everyone is welcome here,” they replied, quite a change of tune since my last visit, when Enani hadn’t even allowed me inside.

We picked up Wolfram in the alley and hustled towards the Lame Mule after assuring him that everything went according to plan. After a quick meal in our private meeting room, Yana and I said good night to our friends.

“I told Jaryn I would check up on Audria today, didn’t I?” I asked Yana around my toothbrush. “Should we pop out and look for her? We could drop in at the Terrace of the Evening Sun, too, and see if Jaryn got settled into his new room all right.” Yana asked if it was important enough to break the curfew and I agreed that we could visit the temples in the morning. I really believed it wasn’t urgent to see the priests; Yana’s smooth-skinned nudity wasn’t affecting my decision in the slightest.

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 11-16-2021, 06:32 AM   #212
coronatiger
 
Join Date: Apr 2018
Location: Trondheim, Norway
Default Session 70 (2021-11-10)

25th of Ratanu, year 412

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

When Yana and I went downstairs to have breakfast in our private meeting room, none of the others were there. Hylda had fetched food for them to eat in their room. I didn’t know why, but welcomed the opportunity to enjoy the meal alone with Yana. I put Hope on the table and enticed Yana to feed her, hoping Hope would help her overcome her uneasiness around snakes.

Our friends joined us after a while, and I said I wanted to visit the temples to check up on the priests, Jaryn and Audria. Wolfram asked if we had given up spying on Elanus Larma at the Golden Arrow, and I replied that while we still had a room there to use for a base of operations, we didn’t have time to infiltrate Tivito at the third floor before the Day of Judgment. Wolfram thought a frontal assault sounded like a good idea. Xipil and I tried to convince him otherwise, but he wouldn’t listen before we said straight out that we wouldn’t join such a foolish attack. Grogg would have joined him, though, and I hoped the two of them wouldn’t do anything stupid without consulting me first.

Xipil wondered what we should do if Krago showed up with the slaves while we were at the temples. Since Grogg, Wolfram and Hylda weren’t coming, I said they would have to sit on the slaves until the rest of us returned. Xipil asked Wolfram to order winter clothes from Krago, but Wolfram refused, likely because Xipil had been part of shutting down his idea of attacking Tivito. Xipil asked Grogg instead.

The nearest temple was that under the northern temple district gate, so Xipil, Yana and I went there first. There were only five people inside. Three were strangers, although I might have seen them and talked briefly to them before. The other two were Enani and the younger guard from the chapel at the bounty hunter guild. The two of them had a private conversation, so I just greeted them before sitting down to pray. Xipil joined me at the altar, but Yana remained further back to avoid the snakes.

I kept an eye on Enani and the young guard while I prayed, for I needed to speak to Enani, but it would have been rude of me to interrupt their talk. Unease oozed off the young man, a feeling of uncertainty, and it settled around my own heart too. When he got up to leave, I rose as well, and signaled to Yana to intercept him. I caught up with them at the entrance and asked if we could talk.

I eased out of the guard what troubled him so. He eventually admitted he felt guilty about spying on me, although he assured me that he hadn’t reported on me to anyone outside the cult. I tried telling him that I didn’t blame him for trying to keep his chapel safe by watching a mysterious stranger, but I couldn’t relieve his unease. He knew me now, of course, and I asked if coming to speak at his chapel tonight might be a good idea. He agreed with me on that, and we prayed together.

We said goodbye. As he left, Enani looked about to go, too, but I stopped her. I asked if she knew where Audria was. The priestess was working her day job as a temple district guard, and was probably out patrolling at the moment. Enani said her shift ended around lunch time and believed that she would come to the temple shortly afterwards.

I also asked Enani how to get my hands on information about current and past bounties, both divine and mundane. She told me to ask at the bounty hunter guild and to start with the person tending the bar. Depending on my luck, that person might not be an Ashtarite, but they should be able to point me in the right direction.

I invited Enani to come to the chapel tonight and said I would speak at the Meet. She commented that after tonight, I would have reached every Ashtarite in Byblos with my message. Enani said that our people at the Cracked Kettle in particular appreciated my words; they would never speak up against the higher-ups the way I had, and she couldn’t either. I confessed that I had been nervous myself about berating superiors.

After Enani left, I sat down to pray again, in case You wanted to enlighten me about anything I had just learned. I received no message from You, but when I stood up, there was a flash of light. Yana hurried over and asked if I was all right, reaching out to wipe my cheeks that were inexplicably covered in tears. I assured Yana I was fine, but I felt the snakes were sad. I hissed to ask why, and they informed me something dire had happened to our brothers and sisters. I was immediately concerned for the other temple and the two chapels, and asked Yana and Xipil to hurry with me to the Terrace of the Evening Sun. From there we would go to the Cracked Kettle and then to the bounty hunter guild. That would require the least amount of travel, and since I had no indication about which place was in distress, I planned to visit them all.

On a bench near the Terrace of the Evening Sun, keeping an eye on the area, sat the assassin woman. I sat down next to her with Yana on my other side. Looking at Yana, I asked, “Anything to report? Has anything happened here lately?” The woman only replied that the weather was nice.

I took Yana and Xipil inside. We cleansed ourselves and entered the temple. I asked the snakes if they knew anything, but they hadn’t sensed the same wrongness as the snakes at the other temple. I didn’t see Jaryn in the temple and thought I should check up on him now that I was at his place, but when I asked the snakes, they said he was gone. There was no need to search the building for him, in other words.

I dragged Yana and Xipil towards the Cracked Kettle after quickly explaining what the snakes had told me. Xipil asked if we should get Wolfram and Grogg if we expected trouble, so I asked him to fetch them and meet Yana and me at the chapel. Xipil picked up the pace a little, and I estimated that we’d reach the chapel around the same time. It wasn’t much of a detour via the Lame Mule.

When Yana and I rounded the last corner before the Cracked Kettle, we could see that something had happened. A whole bunch of city guards had convened on the soup kitchen and were containing a mass of people within their circle. We couldn’t see our friends anywhere.

We tried to talk our way past the guards so we could reach the chapel, but they wouldn’t have it. A cry of pain rang out from within the crowd and I asked Yana to run back to the inn and fetch my medicine kit. She gave me a quick peck on the cheek and dashed off. I asked the guards what was going on, but they ordered me to go away. I withdrew to a corner where I could intercept Yana when she returned while keeping an eye on things. The crowd wasn’t too agitated, so I thought whatever had happened was over. As I was retreating, I overheard the guards mentioning several people having died.

I still had seen no sign of Xipil, Wolfram or Grogg when Yana came panting back. She told me they were arming themselves and would arrive soon. I hoped Grogg and Wolfram didn’t run; that would raise questions from the city guards. I told Yana to wait for them and make sure our heavily armed companions didn’t approach or antagonize the guards.

I took my medicine kit and walked around the crowd so I could come at it from another angle and not encounter the same guards as before. I saw a group of Ashtarites standing outside the chapel entrance, guarding it.

“Let me through! I’m a doctor!” I told the city guards, and they brought me into the crowd to show me two people lying on the ground. I sensed the face-down man was dead, having bled out on the pavement, so I checked on the woman. The guards said they thought there were more dead, but they weren’t allowed inside to check it out. I was certain the guards would have desecrated the chapel in their ignorance, so I was pleased that the Ashtarites had barred their entrance.

The woman’s injuries weren’t fatal, and they indicated that she had been trampled by a panicked mob. I commended the city guards for calming the situation and set about bandaging the woman. While I was working, I heard Yana’s voice insisting she was my assistant, so I raised my voice to the guards and had them admit her.

Yana whispered that Xipil and the others had arrived and that Xipil said there didn’t seem to be anyone in charge among the guards. It had been my impression too that they were waiting for an officer to take command of the situation and possibly insist that they be allowed to enter the chapel.
__________________
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 11-16-2021, 06:48 AM   #213
coronatiger
 
Join Date: Apr 2018
Location: Trondheim, Norway
Default Session 70 (2021-11-10)

When I was finished with the wounded woman, I had Yana help me turn the man over so I could look at his injuries. He had been stabbed near the heart with a burning knife and his belly had been cut open; it was the lower wound that bled, but the other could very well be the fatal one. It was obviously Elik or someone pretending to be them who had attacked. The man had leaked blood all the way from the chapel entrance, and I thought it was a miracle that he had made it as far as this with such wounds. Maybe the Elik knife mage had stabbed him out on the plaza.

Yana and I walked over to the Ashtarites. I looked for a familiar face, but Nosora spotted me first. “Nuur-Karif!! Help us! Save us!” she called at the top of her lungs. I asked what she knew of the attack. “They came to take our priestess!” she explained hysterically. I tried to find out if the enemy was still below and if they succeeded in their mission, but Nosora wasn’t sure. I told her we’d get reinforcements and check it out. The city guards, having realized that I was an authority figure among the Ashtarites, pestered me to let them in. I told them sharply to let me do what I must, and promised to be helpful afterwards.

Meeting Grogg, Wolfram and Xipil in an alley across the square, I told them that it looked like Elik had attacked the chapel and that they might still be inside. I wanted to resolve the situation without further bloodshed, but if Elik wanted a fight, we would fight. Wolfram told me that Krago had visited and informed them that there was a Mitra priest named Illoro who was also a priest of Elik. Illoro could often be found at the Spiral at the university district. With the name of an Elik priest, I was hopeful that we might get Elik to see the truth about Tivito.

We began to walk back to the chapel, but Wolfram saw the crowd and halted. I had river thistle in the medicine kit, but it would take a few minutes to take effect, minutes I didn’t want to waste, so I strode on. Xipil and Grogg tried both encouragement and provocation to get Wolfram going, but he wouldn’t budge, so Grogg tried using force to pull him along. Wolfram resisted, and they began to brawl.

I told the city guards to let my friends through if they decided to stop bickering. Yana and I had entered the crowd when Xipil caught up with us. He asked if we should wait for Grogg. I said no, and told him the guards had been ordered to let him pass. Xipil asked if I could get the Ashtarites to spread out, but I knew they wouldn’t stand in our way, and I didn’t care if Wolfram followed or not. A glance back told me he wouldn’t be much use anyway; he lay on the ground and was throwing up his breakfast. Grogg still tried to pull him along, but Wolfram fought frantically, kicking and punching as best he could between vomits.

As Grogg pulled Wolfram past the ring of guards, Wolfram began spewing ashen smoke. The crowd was struck with fear and some looked like they wanted to press through to the chapel. I told the Ashtarites guarding the door to close it behind me and admit no one.

The door slammed shut behind Yana and me. I hoped Xipil had the wits to get Grogg to take Wolfram back to the Lame Mule, for he hadn’t followed us inside. We went over to the wash basins and began the ritual cleansing. Grogg shouted, “He’s possessed by a demon!” and not long after, a horrible growl penetrated the door. Wolfram had transformed into one of his bear shapes, and it wasn’t hard to guess which one. Someone just outside called my name, and I heard the Ashtarites invoke Your name in prayer.

I gestured to Yana to continue the ritual while I went to see what was going on. “Help, Nuur-Karif!” screamed a voice while moving away hurriedly. Was that Nosora? I couldn’t be sure. I opened the door and asked what was going on. Thick fog of ash prevented me from seeing far, and I was ashamed to see the Ashtarites running in terror. Someone out there called for Tivito to be fetched. One of the Ashtarites ran towards a dark shape in the fog which turned out to be Wolfram. He slashed his claws across my brother’s chest, felling him.

I noticed my hand on the door knob and saw that I had turned into some kind of shadow creature, but I felt normal and realized that it was just an illusion caused by the evil outside. I shut the door and Yana wailed that I needed to wash. She even took a step back from me.

I strode towards the wash basins, but a loud crash made me turn around. Wolfram had charged through the door. “Get out!” I commanded angrily. Yana took cover behind me. Wolfram seemed to think about my command for a second, but looked longingly at the stairs behind me. “OUT!!!” I bellowed, pointing at the broken door.

Wolfram took a cautious step towards the stairs. I went back to the wash basins while keeping an eye on him. I supposed it was acceptable – barely – if he lingered up here while waiting for the crowd to disperse outside. However, Wolfram’s body language made it clear he wanted to enter the chapel. “If you want to go downstairs, you must wash first,” I instructed. Wolfram didn’t listen and tried to squeeze past. I was under no delusion that I could hold the giant bear back in a contest of strength, so I couldn’t keep him out of the chapel without killing him, and I couldn’t bring myself to do that, not in front of Yana. I pressed myself against the wall, but Yana was too slow to get out of the way, and Wolfram knocked her to the ground and stepped on her as he fled down the stairs. I fell to my knees, unrolling the medicine kit. Yana tried to get up, but I told her not to strain herself.

Xipil came inside to alert us Tivito was on the way. He knew first aid, so I ordered him to take over. I got up and resumed washing, and saw the shadows retreat from my body, purged by Your holy cleansing. I removed my clothes and went over every inch of skin so I wouldn’t bring the filth with me onto holy ground. It was bad enough that Wolfram brought the demonic ashes with him.

Xipil warned me that someone outside needed medical attention, but I could feel the snakes’ distress from below. I had to go down to them first. Wolfram roared, which scared the snakes even more. I wasn’t sure I could ever forgive him. He had attacked my brothers and sisters without the slightest provocation, Yana among them. He had defiled Your holy chapel with demonic ashes, despite my clear instructions that he needed to wash. He had scared the snakes in their nest. The last offense might be justified, had Wolfram been defending the chapel from Elik intruders, but I heard no sounds of fighting. When I finished washing, I would ask Xipil to take Yana to safety. I would coat my knives with venom, and I would descend into the desecrated darkness of the chapel.
__________________
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 11-30-2021, 08:55 AM   #214
coronatiger
 
Join Date: Apr 2018
Location: Trondheim, Norway
Default Session 71 (2021-11-24)

25th of Ratanu, year 412 (continued)

I paid close attention as Xipil gave first aid to Yana, but he did a good job, so I managed not to comment. Xipil asked what I was planning to do when I finished washing; I replied I was going to go downstairs and salvage as much of the situation as possible. Xipil told me to get the snakes out of there before Tivito showed up, as if I hadn’t already thought of it. He added that it might be wise to remove Wolfram from the premises too, but I said I wasn’t certain I could do that, for Wolfram hadn’t listened to me at all just now. Xipil said if I couldn’t get Wolfram out, it might be better if he died than if Tivito caught him.

Since he had finished with Yana, I told Xipil to take her to safety, and Grogg too. Xipil helped Yana to her feet and took her outside. There, he tried to get Grogg to carry her back to the Lame Mule, but Grogg was unwilling, and Yana wasn’t too keen on the idea either. She decided to walk back on her own. Grogg and Xipil remained. I fought down the urge to go outside and stab Xipil until he complied with my instructions. I had more important things to do and no time to go through the cleansing ritual again.

I dressed and got my knives out, applying venom to one after the other. Now I was ready to face whatever waited in the chapel. I descended the stairs and realized the snakes had calmed down somewhat from their earlier agitation and distress. Most of them had gathered around the altar, as usual. Wolfram had trailed ashes all over the place, and I could faintly hear the clink of his armor off to the right, for he wasn’t sitting completely still. The fact that I could hear his armor implied that he had changed back into his human shape. Maybe he was more receptive now.

I could see no corpses in the main chamber, nor any signs of violence except a blood trail going out from one of the side passages on the left. The dead man outside must have been stabbed there before crawling out. I knelt before the altar and asked You and the snakes what had happened. The snakes told me the priestess had died in a manner she had wanted. They also asked me to remove that unwelcome … thing. You added that if Wolfram were to die, the demon inside him must not be released inside the chapel. In other words, You forbade me from killing him in the chapel.

Wanting to give Wolfram as much time to find his senses as possible, I searched the side passages on the left first. I found four corpses there, two Ashtarites and two intruders. The priestess had sunk her fangs into the shoulder of one of the intruders before succumbing to the wounds from the burning daggers. Your essence had suffused the two intruders, and they couldn’t bear it, for they had transgressed against You. I could tell by the bursts of color around their wounds. Others might say that their skin was discolored from the injected venom, but that implied a wrongness; nothing was wrong here, except what the intruders had done themselves. Since there had been no signs of fighting elsewhere, I reasoned that the intruders had entered the chapel peacefully. The priestess must have taken them into the side passage to talk to them, and she couldn’t have been suspecting foul play, having brought only two brothers as protection.

I picked up the four knives. Two clearly belonged to Ashtarites; I could feel the holiness in them. The other two were prettier-looking, but felt foul – heavy and itching, almost burning against my palm. There was no fire anymore, no light, but these were Elik knives. There was no doubt in my mind.

Continuing the search on the other side of the chapel, I soon discovered Wolfram. The ashes he had deposited was fading, destroyed by You holy presence. I asked Wolfram if he was willing to listen to me now. He said his mind had been clouded, but it was clearing up. He asked what had happened, and I said Elik had been here, killing at least three people. I dropped the Elik knives on the ground and asked Wolfram to take care of them. He hesitated, and I ordered him to bring them when we were leaving.

Xipil came and said we had to hurry, asking if I had control over the snakes. “Of course,” I replied. I reentered the main chamber and hissed in Shamara to the snakes. I said we were all going to leave and that I would carry them. Some of the snakes hissed back that if they all left, this place couldn’t be used anymore. That wasn’t what I had been taught, so I knelt before the altar, one last time, and asked You directly. You said to treat the snakes like my other brothers and sisters, whom I knew didn’t have to stay at home all the time. I repeated the instruction to the snakes. They slithered all over me and settled under my clothes. Looking down at my dress, I could barely see the snakes moving under it. Nobody would suspect I was concealing fifteen of my brothers and sisters.

Xipil said he wanted to burn down the chapel as a distraction and to cover up the demonic ashes, but I said the chapel itself wouldn’t burn, being made of stone and earth, and a fire in the upstairs soup kitchen would most likely spread to other buildings nearby. Xipil said the city would burn in a few days anyway, but I told him nothing was certain, and if a dragon did appear, Grogg could fight it. He had done so before.

When we passed the wash basins, Xipil called for Grogg and said he wanted to cast a disguising illusion over Grogg and Wolfram. Wolfram countered that he wanted to wait here for Tivito and beat them up. I told him he was welcome to try, but the rest of us were leaving. Also, if he wanted to fight, he was forbidden from doing it inside this building. Wolfram didn’t want to fight alone, so he agreed to come with us back to the inn. Xipil cast his spells, making Wolfram look like a small troll and Grogg like a small, hairy boy. Grogg reached his hand towards Wolfram, but Xipil told him to stop. He could experiment back at the Lame Mule.

We hurried towards the inn and Yana. Passing the common room, we overheard someone talking about what had just happened outside the Cracked Kettle. Grogg pulled a copper piece from his pocket, smelled it, and put it into his mouth. The strangers in the common room didn’t seem to know anything they shouldn’t, so I said I was going upstairs to check on Yana. Then I would join the rest of them in the meeting room so we could discuss what to do.

We all heard Hylda complaining, presumably to Yana, that she was concerned for Grogg, so both Grogg and I headed for his room. Yana was lying on the big bed and asked me if she should prick herself with the needle before Grogg returned. A quick glance to the side told me Xipil’s spell had worn off; how could Yana not recognize the troll? I didn’t understand how a few broken ribs would cause such delirium and hoped Yana hadn’t tried self-medicating. She put herself to sleep with the needle before I could ask her if she had filched crows toes from Grogg’s supply. Xipil and Wolfram entered the room too, and Xipil locked the door. I stroked Yana’s hair. Maybe she could feel it through the magical slumber.

I told the others I wanted to go to the bounty hunter guild. I needed to see if anything had happened there, and if the place was secure, deposit the snakes that still hid under my dress. Xipil had an appointment to interrogate the slaves no later than one hour before sunset. I proposed we split up, but he wanted me along. Since Grogg and Wolfram had proved to be liabilities, I asked them to hold the fort until Xipil and I returned.

As Xipil and I were leaving, Grogg put a hand on Xipil’s shoulder and said that Hylda believed he was Wolfram. Xipil had to fix it. Grogg thought his illusion spells were at fault. They had seemed to work well enough to me, but I’m no expert on magic, so I couldn’t tell if anything had gone wrong. Xipil said the effect would pass by itself, given time.

Hylda had gone to get lunch, and Xipil and I met her in the hallway. A few quick questions confirmed what Grogg suspected, and I no longer had reason to believe Yana had helped herself to unsavory drugs. Xipil and I picked up some food to eat while we walked.

I asked Xipil why he didn’t keep the Ashtarites together when they began to panic. If they had all stayed at the door, Wolfram wouldn’t have come near. Xipil claimed that if was my fault they fled, that I scared them with my shadow form. “Stupid Grogg! He should never have dragged Wolfram into the crowd!” I exclaimed. That was true enough, but I knew I wasn’t the reason for the Ashtarites’ flight. I only went outside because I heard some of them flee. I began to suspect Xipil for having a prominent role in the debacle, but I didn’t want to accuse him when I had no idea what he had done. I wanted to think on it and confer with Yana.
__________________
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 11-30-2021, 09:06 AM   #215
coronatiger
 
Join Date: Apr 2018
Location: Trondheim, Norway
Default Session 71 (2021-11-24)

When we arrived at the bounty hunter guild, the two bartenders were packing stuff onto a wagon. I asked what was happening and they asked if we were owed money back for our rooms. I repeated my question and learned that the people who used to stay here had gone to ground. The Ashtarite bartender wanted to stop me from entering, but I insisted, and he came with us as far as the wash basins outside the chapel. When he saw we just wanted to visit the chapel, he decided to wait outside. Xipil and I washed, and I let the snakes out of my clothes so they could wash too, if they felt like it.

The chapel was abandoned, and someone had left enough food for the snakes living there for several weeks. Some of my snakes were hungry, so I fed them, but I changed my mind about leaving them there. Doubling the number of snakes would halve the time until food ran out, and I wouldn’t do that without telling the chapel’s caretaker, whom I couldn’t reach at the moment.

As I gathered up my snakes again, I told Xipil why we had to find another home for them. We agreed to interrogate the slaves before visiting a temple. Xipil wanted to take a strategy where one of us was friendly and the other was hostile, and since he wanted to play the bad part, I offered to let him carry the snakes before we entered the interrogation room. He didn’t have the same bond with the snakes as me, so I would carry the snakes across town. They were more likely to stay concealed under my clothes than his. He had proposed carrying them in a sack before, and I thought that was disrespectful.

Xipil led the way to the place he had agreed with the man he met earlier. The man wasn’t there when we arrived, but I thought perhaps he had the place watched. We decided to wait for a quarter of an hour, and just as we had given up waiting and began to walk away, a man came running. He pulled off his hood and put on a green hat with a red-brown feather. This hat was the signal Xipil was looking for, but he said this man was not the one he had met before. Xipil wondered if someone had found out the codes.

We walked past the man and Xipil told me casually that we had to find a table at another place than the Cracked Kettle. The man coughed “Xipil!” Xipil asked if he was ill and told him I was a doctor; I asked him to gape wide so I could see his throat. The man asked if either of us knew someone called Xipil. I glanced at Xipil, as if asking if he knew that name.

The man must have misunderstood my glance, for he took Xipil’s hand and said we were important people, and if we wanted extraction, we had to be at the inn in half an hour. The man gave Xipil a gold coin and ran. Xipil and I agreed to return to the inn to see what happened. I felt an extraction from the city was too early; there were still things we needed to do.

Hylda was packing when we got back, and Yana was still slumbering. I quickly gathered up our belongings before returning to the other room. I removed the needle from Yana, waking her. She groaned. She still felt poorly, but acknowledged that the needle had helped a little.

A knock came on the door and Xipil opened. It was the bartender; he said the transportation we had ordered waited outside. The bartender seemed a little confused, but we largely ignored him as we trooped out.

There was a large, sturdy wagon outside the Lame Mule. Nulius’s spy sat inside it. I gave Yana a hand and we all entered the wagon. The spy said the wagon would drive around so as not to draw attention, but we could get out anytime. He said we were both skillful and important, and he told us the events outside the Cracked Kettle had piqued Tivito’s interest. He suspected that Tivito had connected this incident to our earlier attack on them. They had requisitioned enough city guards to lock down an entire district. Xipil asked which district, but the spy couldn’t say. I supposed the spy hadn’t meant it literally, but rather as a means to impart the magnitude of the operation.

The spy offered transportation to Nulius’s fleet, without mentioning the elf’s name. After being asked, he added that a trip to the fleet didn’t include a return trip. I said we still had things to do in Byblos and reminded my companions about the law proposal we wanted to stop. Xipil thought the king’s law was irrelevant when there was no king, but I assured him that was not how our society worked.

Yana and I were sitting quite close, and I suddenly wondered why she hadn’t reacted to the snakes slithering around under my dress. She had to have felt them. I didn’t understand why Your blessing would conceal them from another Ashtarite. “I’ve brought the snakes from the Cracked Kettle,” I whispered in Yana’s ear. “I know, and I’m strangely comfortable with it,” she replied. “Can I perhaps greet one of them?” she whispered back. I didn’t want to reveal the snakes to the spy, so I asked one of them to uncoil from my leg and wrap itself around Yana’s instead.

We drove to an inn near the northern temple district gate, for the spy could park the wagon in their shed. I got the snake back from Yana, who would stay in the wagon with the others while Xipil and I attended to business in the temple district. Yana asked if she should sleep, so I gave her a hug and a blessing, using the movement to camouflage pricking her with the needle.

Xipil asked if I should disguise myself, but I didn’t think it necessary. We got in line and waited to be admitted to the temple district. I gave Your greeting to the guard outside the gate tower. He replied in kind, but looked somber. While washing my feet and hands, I wondered if something had happened here, too.

There were six people in the temple already, and they looked up at us when Xipil and I entered in a sea of snakes. I explained why I brought the snakes from the Cracked Kettle, that the place had been attacked and that the priestess and at least two more had been slain. A woman wearing the uniform of a temple guard informed us that the king’s guards had approached the patrol that she and Audria was part of, and they had arrested the priestess on conspiracy charges. There had been a Mitra priest with the patrol, and he had allowed the king’s guards to enter the temple district. That priest turned out to be Illoro. I told what I knew of him and said that Xipil and I were going to talk to him. I assured the despairing Ashtarites that I had no intention of allowing anyone to disappear me.

We all prayed together. You told me that Audria knew that someone would go to You if she resisted arrest, and she didn’t want bloodshed. I asked the local Ashtarites to take care of the snakes I had brought, and I handed over the two knives that had belonged to our fallen brother and sister at the Cracked Kettle; they knew what to do with them. Xipil and I headed for the Mitra temple to track down Illoro.
__________________
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 12-14-2021, 08:25 AM   #216
coronatiger
 
Join Date: Apr 2018
Location: Trondheim, Norway
Default Session 72 (2021-12-08)

25th of Ratanu, year 412 (continued)

The Mitra temple lay at the center of the temple district and was easily the grandest temple. Worshippers drilled with weapons on the plaza, contrasting with adherents of other gods, who were warned not to carry arms in the temple district.

A trio of guards oversaw the orderliness of the queue waiting to be admitted to the temple, and since one was an officer, Xipil and I approached them. I explained to the officer that we needed to talk to Illoro urgently. He asked what it concerned, but I replied that it was a private matter and that Illoro wouldn’t appreciate me babbling about his affairs, not even to someone as important as him.

The officer suggested I wrote a note that he could bring to Illoro, so Xipil and I sat down on a nearby bench and composed a short text. “I know what Elik did today, but I bear no grudge, for their action was based on a lie they had been told. Meet me at the bench on the west front of the Mitra temple as soon as possible, and I will tell the truth. I won’t wait long.” Xipil took the note and folded it in a complicated manner and then we brought it to the officer.

The officer promised to deliver the note personally, but wanted to know who I was. I didn’t give my name, but admitted I was an Ashtarite. The officer frowned at that, but I said he was welcome to convey the information, should Illoro ask who had sent the note. He replied that it was good that I came during the light of day, and I claimed to respect Mitra, the sun god, despite worshipping another divinity. I was glad Grogg wasn’t there, for he’d choke on the lie and give it away.

Xipil and I returned to the bench. The officer remained at his post, talking to his men and doing his job. After five minutes I walked over to him and asked what was delaying him from delivering my very important message. He said he was on duty for another three hours and was insulted when I asked for someone else to deliver my note. I went back to the bench to vent my irritation to Xipil.

While we were talking, the officer grabbed a runner and gave him the note. I asked Xipil to hide and watch to make sure I wasn’t surrounded by Tivito goons while I waited for a reply. He cleverly chose to blend in with the crowd instead, moving about the area as one among many.

The runner didn’t go far; he entered a nearby building. After about twenty minutes, a soldier emerged from there and came over to the benches. He was clearly looking for me, and while he looked rather grim, I didn’t consider him a threat. Xipil would have warned me if he wasn’t alone. I smiled and nodded to him and stood up to make it clear it was me he sought. He instructed me to come along and not to draw any weapons, and he threatened me with “something worse than him”. Xipil signaled to ask if everything was all right, and I responded by telling the soldier I was coming with him.

The soldier led me inside the building and showed me to a gilded door. It was obvious I was on my own from there, so I opened the door. Momentarily, I felt that the light within seemed odd. Was this the power of Mitra? I shook off the feeling and saw the light for what it truly was, torches burning despite the sun shining in through the windows.

The door closed behind me. Behind a desk sat a Mitra priest, robed as extravagantly in gold and white as I had ever seen. I felt contempt, but also sad on Mitra’s behalf, that his priests needed to make a spectacle of themselves to feel respected.

“I am Nuur-Karif,” I announced. I detected a glimmer of recognition on the priest’s face, but while he hid any fear or surprise well, my name shocked him into the same rudeness I had witnessed elsewhere in the Byblos clergy, for he did not give his name. When I challenged him, he responded, “You know who I am.”

I presented my case about Tivito’s lie, keeping it brief and concise. Illoro let me finish, then asked if I had come to surrender myself, if I was the one “they” were looking for. “No. Why should anyone be looking for me?” I countered. Illoro hadn’t yet made a move to have me arrested, and I thought he wouldn’t, not until our interview had concluded. Illoro showed me a document wherein I was named as sought for questioning.

Illoro wanted me to repeat my message in the light of some holy flame. Quite un-Mitra-like, he covered the windows before retrieving an egg-shaped, gray stone. “This will help both of us by showing if either of us is trying to pull some trickery,” he explained. He traced his finger over the stone, and it caught fire.

While I repeated what I had just said, Illoro paid close attention to the burning stone. I couldn’t see anything special about it apart from the fact that stones don’t usually burn, but I understood that the flame would somehow reveal if I lied. Perhaps I had seen something had I actually spoken an untruth, but I was careful not to do that. Most of what I said was simply true, like not wanting any more bloodshed between Elik and us. The rest of my message I wrapped in technical truths, as deftly as I had ever done before.

Illoro asked who could be held accountable for what the Ashtarite leaders had been charged with. He seemed to believe that our cult colluded with demons, but I pointed the finger at Tivito instead and told him about the demonic attack on Madan Aldera. I assured him that whatever demonic happened today had nothing to do with the chapel at the Cracked Kettle, and only occurred after Elik’s attack was over. Further, I explained that the incident outside Ossei was caused by Tivito – and two Elik mages – responding to rumors of a demon; there was no actual demon there.

I also told Illoro about the Azura priestess’s prophecy. He was surprised to learn she was still alive and active. I said I couldn’t testify to her current status, as much could have happened since I saw her, but he asked if I could arrange a peaceful meeting between the two of them. Illoro wanted this to be a sacred deal between us, one favor for another, but there was nothing I could ask of him. He had already made it clear he couldn’t have the arrested Ashtarites released, not unless I could appease Ratanu with someone else to judge. I finally decided to ask of Illoro that he investigated my claims against Tivito and reported to me what he learned. The flame told him I had spoken truthfully, but he had to know that there were ways to trick his little toy; it would probably allow me to lie as long as I believed I was telling the truth. This investigation would be for his benefit, or rather to convince him that Tivito was truly bad for business. Illoro conceded that there were likely bad seeds among Tivito’s ranks, but he was reluctant to write them off completely. Hopefully, his investigation would reveal the truth about them.

I promised to make my best efforts to locate the Azura priestess and set up the meeting he wanted, and then I was off. I met Xipil outside and told him what had been said inside, sating his curiosity. Obviously, I didn’t report our dialog verbatim, and I may have skipped some things, conveying in a few minutes what transpired in over an hour, but I told him the important bits.

We walked towards Your temple at the northern gate to look for Enani, who might be our best lead to find the Azura priestess. Xipil thought the priestess might be sitting in the Tiri tower. I didn’t think it likely, particularly not during the day, but it might be worth checking out if we got nothing from Enani.

I suggested that Xipil went to inform our friends about what had happened and warn them there’d be more waiting in store. I wanted to pray at the altar, so I wouldn’t go anywhere until he returned, but Xipil decided to join me.

Only three of the Ashtarites from before remained when we entered the temple, and they saw we were headed for the altar and didn’t interrupt us. I knelt and asked You if I should surrender to the Ratanu authorities, but You replied that I wouldn’t find what I was searching for there. However, if I could free myself and thus continue on my quest, my surrender would save the others. I didn’t immediately see how I could get myself unarrested, so I interpreted that Your will was for me to leave the others to their fate. I briefly considered discussing the topic with my companions, but quickly discarded the idea. They’d be too biased to offer useful advice.

Praying done, I asked the others there if they knew where Enani might be found. She had gone to the Cracked Kettle, they said, but she would surely return to the temple afterwards. Xipil asked if we should check out the Tiri tower and I agreed. It was only a few minutes away through the tunnel Xipil had found.
__________________
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 12-14-2021, 08:34 AM   #217
coronatiger
 
Join Date: Apr 2018
Location: Trondheim, Norway
Default Session 72 (2021-12-08)

Xipil retrieved his faintly glowing coin from his pouch so he could see in the pitch-black tunnel. He has decent night vision, but can’t see at all when there is no light. The coin would be glaringly obvious for someone waiting in the dark, but we encountered no-one, and Your blessing allowed me to see beyond the light of the coin, and I didn’t see anyone hiding in the dark either.

After the long tunnel, we went through some doors and up some stairs before I recognized the basement under the Tiri tower. There weren’t any guards there either, so Xipil and I ascended to the top of the tower. The Azura priestess sat in her chair, staring blindly up at the sky.

I explained that I had spoken to Illoro and that he wanted to meet the priestess. She didn’t understand why, but she didn’t refuse either, so Xipil and I said goodbye so we could fetch the Elik leader. We went back through the tunnel, and I entered the temple to pray again. I sent Xipil to fetch Grogg, but warned him not to bring Wolfram, for I feared Illoro might detect the demonic influence over him.

My plan was to bring Illoro to the temple, blindfold him and have Grogg carry him through the tunnel. If Grogg spun around occasionally, Illoro would have no idea where we went. You didn’t express any opinions about this meeting, so I assumed my plan was acceptable.

It took quite a while before anyone came, and it was Grogg, not Xipil, who called my name from the wash basins. At least he had sense enough not to barge in without cleansing himself. Xipil was nowhere to be seen, so I asked Grogg, who said something vague about a hole in a hedge. I believed he tried to say that Xipil was at the Tiri tower. Grogg also informed me that the spy had said I was wanted, but he was disappointed that there was no bounty. I explained my plan to Grogg, or at least the part that concerned him, and bade him await my return with Illoro.

I had no difficulty gaining access to the Elik priest. I informed him I had set up a peaceful meeting with the Azura priestess as requested. Illoro wanted to change out of his priestly robes before we left, so I waited for him outside.

Illoro looked nothing like himself when he emerged, but Your blessing allowed me to penetrate his disguise. I showed the way to the northern gate and down to the wash basins where I demonstrated how to cleanse oneself, feet first, then hands. Although he allowed me to instruct him, I could tell that Illoro knew the ritual already.

Illoro was skeptical to go deeply into Your temple, he admitted when I told him I would blindfold him and bring him to the meeting place. I think he feared the comforting darkness of Your realm, but that was of course not where I would take him. I assured him that I would guide him back the same way after the meeting, and Illoro allowed me to put on the blindfold. I told him my friend would carry him, and that he shouldn’t worry when a troll grabbed him. Grogg, having only one functioning arm, heaved Illoro over his shoulder, barely avoiding the armor spikes.

I got Grogg to spin on command to confuse Illoro about where we went. Everything went according to the plan, and I had Grogg put down Illoro before the last climb to the hatch in the priestess’s tower room. I removed the blindfold and we entered.

Xipil can obviously not be trusted even with the simplest instructions, for he had brought Wolfram with him. I caught Xipil’s eyes, glanced at Wolfram and then back at the lizard man. Nothing. Illoro gave no reaction to Wolfram’s presence, and only asked if we intended to let them have a private meeting. I said I wanted to be there, just in case, but Illoro insisted.

In that case, I wanted to check that neither priest nor priestess bore arms, so I searched them. Illoro had two purses with him, one of them hidden, and he had a necklace. I pulled out the necklace, making a show of studying it, but I allowed Xipil to see it too, and he pointed at Wolfram, so I moved slightly, so Wolfram could have a look without being too obvious. Neither of them alerted me that the necklace was magical, so I assumed it was safe. The priestess had nothing but her clothes on, and she impatiently dismissed my search. I felt the search had been thorough enough, and if she had a weapon, it was small enough that she could sit on it and hide it completely. I didn’t bother to check under her, for she was so old and frail that if she did have a small knife, it would only even out the fight.

I motioned for my friends to leave, but Xipil said he wouldn’t go before the priestess explicitly agreed to be alone with Illoro. The priestess said she hadn’t asked for any visitors and clearly didn’t want us there either, although she told us the bird could stay. Grogg left after telling Kraa to get us if anything happened. I asked Xipil and Wolfram to leave as well, but they hesitated.

When they finally came, I signaled to Xipil that he and I should stay just under the hatch and listen. I had never planned to let the two clerics be completely alone, and as I had said, I wanted to be nearby if either of them attempted treachery. I trusted neither of them.

Wolfram stomped down the steps. It was dreadfully silent up above. After a couple of minutes, Illoro asked, “Tell me, is this where you’ve been hiding all this time?” If the priestess replied, neither Xipil nor I heard it. Illoro spoke again, and he seemed truly impressed that she had managed to stay hidden as long as she had. He wasn’t stingy with the flattery, and he revealed that he knew where he was. Being a Mitra priest, the sun probably told him, in the same way the stars apparently tell Xipil where he is.

The first we heard out of the priestess was that if Illoro wanted to talk, the stars must appear first. I estimated that it would take three hours, so I whispered to Xipil that he should alert Grogg and Wolfram that this would take some time. Xipil reminded me that the wagon was only available until sunset, so I told him to extend the “contract”.

Xipil came back after a quarter of an hour, bringing a sun bun for me. The two clerics had said nothing while he was gone, although I had heard movement, as if someone shifted in their seat. Xipil signaled that he needed to rest and climbed down the stairs again. I frowned after him. I didn’t know how he had exerted himself so; even a fifteen-minute run after the wagon shouldn’t take that much out of him. But he did look tired. Come to think of it, he had seemed haggard since I brought Illoro to the tower.
__________________
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 01-19-2022, 02:35 AM   #218
coronatiger
 
Join Date: Apr 2018
Location: Trondheim, Norway
Default Session 73 (2022-01-08)

25th of Ratanu, year 412 (continued)

I listened to Illoro’s impatient pacing above the hatch for a while before knocking and popping my head up. I asked if everything was all right and Illoro reminded me that they wanted privacy, but the Azura priestess commented that I’d been there all along. That made Illoro change his mind, and he said he’d rather I was in the room where he could see me. I climbed up and sat down leaning against the wall, trying to sink into the shadows and be as unobtrusive as possible. Illoro sat down too, but he didn’t find comfort.

After a couple of minutes, he stood up again and walked over to one of the boarded-up windows, squinting between the planks. I opened my pouch and let Hope get out to play; the blue-bellied river striker nestled between my fingers. When Illoro noticed her, Hope didn’t unsettle him any more than he already was. He had to know that she was venomous, but I assumed he thought she was tame and wouldn’t attack without my orders.

Instead of commenting my pregnant companion, Illoro asked if my “carrier” was still nearby. He was obviously referring to Grogg, and I replied that of course he wasn’t far away; I meant to keep my promise to bring Illoro back the way we came. Illoro said he hoped my friends had the security of this place under control. I didn’t care to share the details of how offhandedly we guarded the tower, so I said nothing.

Illoro continued his pacing for another ten minutes before making another comment, that it was odd how lax the security was. As he had been blindfolded until we were just outside this room, I wondered how he came to his conclusion. Was he scanning the area with magic? If he was, he was far more circumspect than Xipil and Wolfram; when they do magic, it’s usually obvious what they’re doing. I saw no signs that Illoro was doing anything other than walking back and forth and complaining.

After another few minutes of silence, the Azura priestess answered by saying that she had asked to be left alone. Illoro pounced, insisting to get the talk done before the sun had set. The priestess responded that she wasn’t stopping him from talking, she just wouldn’t speak herself before the stars emerged. Illoro glared at me for some reason, but I pretended to be part of the wall. He said he’d had a suspicion that had grown stronger after we’d talked: The division in Byblos was serious, and he feared that only one of the two clerics would get through it alive. Therefore, he wanted to share knowledge, so that it would be preserved no matter which of them died. Illoro asked the priestess if she could comment on this before sunset. He was frustrated by the way she moved her head, as it was impossible to tell if she shook it or nodded, so he asked again. She said that if this was bound to happen anyway, why the rush? Illoro walked over to me and asked if she was always like this. I just shrugged.

Illoro declared that they both could see things that others couldn’t and that they both wanted to preserve their knowledge, but the priestess replied that they weren’t the only ones. Illoro asked himself if it was a bad idea to come here. He admitted to feeling unsafe, and that this was an unusual emotion for him. Receiving no response, he went back to pacing.

Suddenly, Kraa took wings and flew up through the hole in the domed ceiling. It sat down on the roof and kraaed loudly. I could vaguely hear running footsteps down below, but the noise wasn’t approaching, so I knew Wolfram and Grogg remained below. Perhaps they ran outside to look for Kraa. As far as I know, I’m the only one in our party who can see the spirit raven. Grogg seems to think he can, but he has shown that he actually can’t. He does have some ability to sense its presence, though, beyond listening for the inane chatter it makes.

Illoro, trying to peer through the boarded-up window, asked if it was my people that were outside. I said yes, but Illoro wanted me to check it. I stood up and returned Hope to her nest in my pouch. Hearing another bird scream, I looked up, but the angle through the hole was wrong, and I only saw Kraa.

The floor hatch opened. When I saw Xipil’s face, I removed my hands from the hilts they had instinctively gripped. I asked my companion if anything noteworthy had happened, and he said they heard a bird screech. For some reason and despite seeing proof otherwise, Xipil asked if anyone had killed each other up in the tower. I said no and repeated my question, emphasizing the word “noteworthy”. Xipil had nothing more to say on the matter, but the priestess commented that she hoped nobody killed each other downstairs either.

Illoro asked me to handle the situation. I hadn’t realized there was a situation to be handled at all, but the priestess’s statement made me think some of her friends could be approaching. When prompted, she admitted that someone was coming to check up on her. I asked Xipil to go downstairs and make sure there was no killing, but he decided to climb up after Kraa instead and soon vanished from view.

I positioned myself near the hatch so I could watch for someone coming up from below. Something shattered on the ground outside the tower, but I didn’t think it was Xipil who had fallen off the roof. That would make a softer and wetter sound. This sounded more like someone had broken a clay pot. Kraa leaped off the roof and flew down, presumably to Grogg.

A few seconds later, I could hear running again and another crash as someone burst through the outer door following my companions. Maybe her friends weren’t as friendly as the priestess had made out. I drew each of my knives and applied poison to them, expertly hiding the motions under my cloak so the clerics wouldn’t see.

Grogg, Wolfram and Xipil rushed inside and Grogg stopped in front of the seated priestess and turned to face the hatch. A boy my age emerged in the room below. He wore soldier’s garb and had a hand on his sword hilt as he looked up at me and asked who I was. “A friend,” I said. A man with a falcon on his shoulder followed the boy. He was calmer than his companion, who shouted to the priestess to ask if she was all right. “I’m sorry for the visit. Everything is fine,” she replied. The boy asked again who I was, and I repeated my earlier answer.

The boy asked me to take a step back, which I did, and he vaulted up through the hatch, studying the room while his friend climbed up after him. His gaze locked on to Illoro, who glanced at me. I radiated composure and calm to the best of my ability.

The boy confronted Illoro about who invited him, and got a stern reply that where Illoro went was none of his concern. The boy said that he knew who Illoro was out there, but that didn’t count here. Illoro threatened me, saying he hoped I would deal with this without him having to mention my name. I didn’t respond vocally, but my hands were holding throwing knives, one for each intruder’s neck.

The priestess said again that everything was fine, and the boy seemed disappointed. His companion just nodded, but the boy insisted that they were staying until the rest of us had left. The priestess said that wasn’t necessary, and after the boy had scowled at everyone, especially Wolfram and Xipil, the two of them left. I got a hunch they were Varatga worshippers, and while an outsider would have no obvious reason to trust my hunch, I knew it was You telling me what I needed to know.

Grogg and Wolfram went back downstairs after a couple of minutes, but Xipil remained. I sat down by the hatch again to keep an eye on the stairs below and Xipil sat down next to me. Illoro sat down too, eventually, muttering to himself about having to wait for sunset.
__________________
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 01-19-2022, 02:47 AM   #219
coronatiger
 
Join Date: Apr 2018
Location: Trondheim, Norway
Default Session 73 (2022-01-08)

After a while, Illoro came closer and asked if I mentioned a dragon earlier. “Yes, it was part of the prophecy,” I reminded him. Illoro asked if the dragon was my main concern, but I told him the demon was worrying too. Xipil added that two dragons would come, not just one. Illoro said he was more uncertain now than when we spoke before; he didn’t know if it was this place that unsettled him, or if it was us.

Xipil and Illoro spoke about the sun showing the truth as well as the importance of the sun god in Xipil’s homeland. Illoro eventually declared that he believed we could affect what happened in Byblos. Neither Xipil nor I commented, and we sat in silence until the sun started its descent.

Illoro prayed a short prayer and I saluted the dying day. Illoro asked me if it was all right if he lit a candle. “Are you afraid of the dark,” I taunted, but Illoro responded cryptically that he preferred darkness in which he could see. I reminded him that the moon was nearly full and that the stars would shine too, but if that wasn’t enough, he could by all means light his candle. Illoro promised that he’d blow it out when the moon and stars shone. He pulled a tallow candle from his pocket, lit it, and placed it on the floor.

It didn’t take long before Illoro declared, “The Hunter is up.” He picked up his candle and looked through its light at Xipil, me and then the Azura priestess, before blowing it out. He paced the room until the first stars were visible through the hole in the roof. Then he sat down in front of the priestess, looking expectantly at her. She gave a deep sigh and shifted in her seat, as if the starlight allowed her to be more comfortable. She still stared up at the sky with her blind eyes, though.

Illoro asked Xipil and me if we intended to remain. We said yes, and amazingly, Illoro didn’t protest. Xipil moved closer to the priestess to get a better look directly up. Illoro asked when I thought the priestess was ready to speak. I said she would tell him herself.

The priestess turned her face towards Illoro and said he was right. She could secure her way forward, perhaps unlike him. Illoro gave me a look before turning back to the priestess. “Are you saying I must destroy you to protect myself?” he asked. The priestess didn’t reply; she just looked up at the stars.

“Can’t we all just be friends?” I asked. Illoro nodded at me, but there was something critical in his gaze. We had a short discussion about what being friends meant. I explained that there was no need to go out drinking together, or start a knitting circle or a book club, but if we all stopped thinking of each other as enemies and started treating each other with respect, that would go a long way. Illoro told me he could make arrangements that my surrender would release the imprisoned Ashtarites, but I informed him of Your instructions not to give myself up.

Xipil and Illoro spoke of the coming winter, of how it was predicted to be colder than usual and how that would affect the land. Illoro hoped the cold would stop hostilities, but Xipil believed in Lord Mir’s superior ability to move his army.

Illoro asked what we intended to do when the dragons arrived. Xipil said we were going to hunt them, but I thought for myself that I would like to snuggle up with Yana in a safe basement somewhere. Illoro seemed to detect my sentiment, for he said he believed only Xipil and the troll would hunt. Xipil claimed we all would take part, though. Illoro thought he was arrogant.

Grogg and Wolfram came sneaking up the stairs. How they expected to reach us undetected was a mystery to me, for Wolfram carried a lantern. Xipil told Illoro to ask Grogg to confirm his statement. Grogg said they came because they heard us talking about dragons, and he warned us that everyone was going to die when the dragons arrived, before closing the hatch and taking Wolfram back downstairs.

Illoro asked if Grogg meant to have the dragon kill people, but Xipil said no. It was more like the other way around. From the way Xipil and Grogg had spoken, Illoro began to believe we could actually interact with the dragons, and that made things worse. Xipil called Grogg’s name, and our big friends returned. Illoro asked Grogg if he was the troll that could catch the attention of dragons, and Grogg said that if you grabbed their tail, they looked at you. Illoro asked if he knew how dangerous that was, but Grogg said it was more dangerous to let them follow their plan. Illoro opined that the best thing to do when they arrived was to hide in one’s basement. Grogg illustrated that danger was a part of life: It was dangerous to sit on my knife or get in the way of Wolfram’s club.

Illoro wondered if we would ally with those from the north or those from the south, but he didn’t get a reply from any of us. “Do you mean to stay here and let the city burn around you?” he continued. Grogg shrugged and said there was a demon that needed handling too.

Grogg asked Xipil if Illoro only wanted to talk about how dangerous dragons are, just as Wolfram asked me why I brought him to the tower in the first place. “Because he asked for it,” I said. “In return, he will investigate Tivito and discover how evil they truly are.” Wolfram thought having Illoro present was a bad idea, for he didn’t trust him, and he accused me of displaying poor judgment. Grogg shot in, “To think there is an Ashtarite with poor judgment!” I told Wolfram I didn’t want to discuss people in their presence. For instance, it would be silly of me to say that I brought Illoro to kill him in a remote location, far from his friends. Wolfram wanted me to join him downstairs so we could talk, but I told him I wasn’t going to leave the clerics; we could talk later.

Wolfram sat down and stared up through the hole like everyone else. Even Grogg looked at the stars. I kept my wits about me, though, and remained alert. The others were so distracted by the stars that I could have killed each and every one of them, had You requested it. Wolfram snapped out of it soon enough and began playing with his knives.

Nothing happened until around midnight, when Illoro gave a big gasp. The Azura priestess looked around and said we could leave. Illoro knelt before her and thanked her sincerely for everything she showed him.

Illoro climbed down to the floor below and I followed. He picked up and gave me the lantern that Wolfram left there, and I gave him the blindfold. Illoro wanted to tell us something before putting it on. When Grogg, Xipil and Wolfram joined us, Illoro said he wanted to speak where we wouldn’t disturb the priestess, and allowed himself to be blindfolded and carried to a suitable location. I brought everyone to one of the rooms in the basement and removed the blindfold once the door was closed.

Illoro said that what would happen next seemed to be up to us, and all he could do was to offer his help. He said he could help us kill one person in Byblos. I thought he sounded sincere, but something was nagging at me. Wolfram asked what had motivated him to help us. Illoro replied that he had been shown things. I asked if we could find him in his office, but Illoro said we could just as well name the person now.

We wanted to discuss this privately, so we left Illoro in the room and went outside. I asked Wolfram if he had a name to put forth. “Elanus Larma must have many evil schemes planned, and if we killed him now, we will foil them.” I knelt down and asked You if killing the Tivito leader was acceptable. Being in someone else’s temple, I couldn’t establish a full connection to You, but You still got across that You didn’t oppose this. Xipil and Grogg agreed too.

“We have a name for you,” I said when we were back in the meeting room with Illoro. “Elanus Larma.” Illoro startled at the name, but he said he could get it done. It would be hard, for Elanus had grown paranoid recently. I hoped we could get it done soon, for we were approaching that time of the month when I wasn’t as functioning as I normally am. I asked Illoro if we should meet up in his office, but he gave Wolfram a small stone and said it would show the way. He warned us it would only work in places where the sun had shone and that Wolfram should check on the stone every hour.

Illoro said he wanted to leave this place above the ground and I accepted, commenting that it was no secret to anyone that he knew where we were. He wanted me to show him to the hole in the hedge, though. The others waited in the basement. When I got back, Grogg was just spitting a copper coin out of his mouth and giving it to Xipil. Disgusted, I chose not to ask what that was about.

We followed the tunnel to Your temple and ascended into the gate tower. I explained to a sleepy guard that we were leaving the temple district, and he unlocked the back door for us. We hurried to the wagon shed. One of our drivers was asleep, but the awake one recognized us and nodded. I entered the wagon to check up on Yana. She was still sleeping with the healing needle in her neck.

Hylda, Grogg and Wolfram decided that the earlier confusion of who was who had passed. I listened to Yana’s heartbeat and examined where Wolfram had stomped on her. She seemed in much better shape than she had been before I left her. Xipil thought she could do with some food, so I removed the needle and slipped it into my pouch. “That’s not yours!” growled Grogg, so I gave him the needle. Yana thanked him for the loan.
__________________
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 01-19-2022, 03:00 AM   #220
coronatiger
 
Join Date: Apr 2018
Location: Trondheim, Norway
Default Session 73 (2022-01-08)

While we ate, I filled Yana in on what had happened during her sleep. She was grateful that I didn’t want her along for the assassination of Elanus Larma. Xipil asked if my poison could be applied to an arrow. I told him that some of it was too valuable to be wasted on arrows, but I would consider his request. If I had to risk my precious drops on his marksmanship, I would, but not without serious consideration.

Xipil left to find the spy, and I asked Yana if I could borrow her shoulder. I didn’t think anything would happen until morning, and I was starting to feel tired. I had only just finished my evening prayer when Xipil returned, informing us he had fixed rooms for us at the adjacent inn. Wolfram asked if we should bring our packs inside, but Xipil thought we should leave most of it in the wagon in case we had to leave in a hurry. Yana and I volunteered to stay in the wagon and watch over it.

Alone at last, I gave Yana a long goodnight kiss. As tempting as her lap seemed, I lay down on the vacated bench instead. I didn’t expect Yana to get any sleep after using the needle, so I wanted to give her space to move about if she wished. Xipil popped his head in to tell us their room numbers.

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.


26th of Ratanu, year 412

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

It was still the middle of the night when someone knocked on the wagon door. As I opened my eyes, Yana was stretching her hand towards me to wake me, but I nodded towards the door, sitting up and straightening my dress. It was the spy who was standing outside, and he was relieved to see me, he said. There had been a development regarding my wanted status. The spy believed Tivito was involved somehow, and he understood that my friends and I were to be exchanged for the imprisoned Ashtarites. I asked where he got his information and learned that its source was either in the palace or in the temple district. I thanked the spy for informing us and tried to convey a dismissal, but he had more to add. The fact that Tivito was involved made him and his organization stay away from it all, for they had instructions not to have anything to do with the supernatural, and when Tivito was involved, such things were likely. Still, he could help us out of Byblos, either via the fleet or by some other means. If we needed to get hold of him, we could show one of the western coins in the bar.

Once the spy had departed, I told Yana I suspected Illoro was up to no good. We agreed to discuss it with our friends when they woke up. I would try to get some more sleep until then, I told Yana and lay back down on the bench, but she set aside her needlework and knelt before me. She locked lips with me and let her hands roam freely. When she had me thoroughly worked up, she pulled back. “Be safe tomorrow and make sure to come back for the finish,” she teased and picked up the needle and thread to shield herself from the lunge we both knew I was dying to make. I shut my eyes and listened to the thunder in my chest; it was a wonder the innkeeper didn’t come out to check on the noise.

Wolfram came inside the wagon, perhaps an hour later, to dig around in the packs for some travel rations. I moved over to share Yana’s bench, and we had breakfast together. I supposed Grogg, Hylda and Xipil were eating at the inn, but that the common room was too crowded for Wolfram’s tastes. I explained to Wolfram that I didn’t trust Illoro despite believing that our agreement would be honored. That was why I didn’t want to leave him alone with the Azura priestess.

When the others joined us, I informed them about what the spy had said and that I suspected Illoro of masterminding some scheme. I believed he would have us arrested after we’d killed Elanus Larma. Yana opined that it might be wise to bring as few weapons as possible, but Wolfram disagreed. I love Yana dearly and would trust her opinion over anyone else’s in all matters except this. We needed to bring everything that could gain us an advantage today.

I suggested that Illoro or someone else might be able to track us through the stone he gave to Wolfram, and Wolfram asked if Xipil could analyze the magic in the stone. Xipil warned us it would take some time, but he took the stone. Then he asked Wolfram if he was supernaturally conscious of the stone, which he had been, but the feeling passed once he gave the stone to Xipil. The two of them left to analyze the stone. Grogg and Hylda left as well, and I borrowed Yana’s shoulder; I was still tired.

The spy returned about an hour later with more intel. Or rather meta-intel. His information came from intercepted letters between Larma and an unnamed individual outside the palace, planning a prisoner exchange. Since written letters were involved, I suspected this conversation had gone on for at least a few days, but the spy said it started around midnight. The aristocracy can be expedient when they want, apparently.

The spy said we might not see each other again and that only one person could make him come look for us. He said we knew who; it was Nulius, of course. Inexplicably, the spy decided to share his name at this time. I don’t know if it is his true name, but he said it was the name he used in his home country, and not here: Nynos.

Yana had been working on those flowers of hers until Nynos interrupted and she wanted to get back into the flow. She suggested that I might want to rest a bit longer and offered to sing for me. I curled up on the bench and dozed off to the melodious sound of her voice.

I woke again when Wolfram climbed back into the wagon, rocking it with his not inconsiderable weight. He brought his lantern and had put Illoro’s stone inside it, where it would do no harm when it caught fire; he explained that a flame would erupt from the stone and point us in the direction we needed to go. Wolfram wanted to get his daily exercise and asked Yana and me to keep an eye on the lantern.

Yana and I heard Wolfram’s heavy breathing outside. “I can make you huff and puff,” I whispered in Yana’s ear, but Yana refused my advance. “Not until you survive the day,” she reminded me. Yana had this idea of a hair-do built up as a tower and she wanted to try it on me one day. We spent some time discussing it while Yana sewed and I fed Hope. Outside, we heard Grogg and Hylda join Wolfram; Hylda wanted Grogg to strip off his shirt and join the exercise while she drew him.

Then, Yana prodded my shoulder and alerted me that the stone had caught on fire inside the lantern. I raised my voice a little. “Wolfram, your lantern’s burning!” Wolfram opened the wagon door, glanced at the lantern, and said that it was time to get moving. He went to fetch Xipil, who was resting in his room after the spellcasting.

The magical flame bent to the side, pointing in the direction it wanted us to go. We didn’t know what would await us there, so I proposed we drove in that general direction and looked around. Xipil watched the flame and gave instructions to the drivers.

The flame wanted us to go to a restaurant near the Golden Arrow. Two obvious mercenaries guarded the door and it was clear the restaurant had been shut down for the occasion. Xipil asked the drivers if there was anywhere nearby where they could park and wait. They explained about a nearby bar and said we should show the western coin if we needed anything.

Wolfram, Grogg, Xipil and I descended from the wagon outside the restaurant. Wolfram brought the lantern in case the flame had further instructions. The mercenaries recognized us and knocked on the door. Another of their company opened and nodded, gesturing for us to enter. I realized I had forgotten to bring my poison and rushed to catch up with the wagon. I gave Yana a quick peck on the cheek. “Be safe,” she admonished while I transferred my vials to my pouch.
__________________
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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