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Turn 1 Thread

Post by The GM on Wed Aug 10, 2016 9:24 pm

The Makuu la Dhahabu Kiti leers and preens from its post on the hill, its smooth, sandstone rock belying its rockrete skeleton and the years of ignorance and despair that has truly given its walls strength. Its gargoyles, grotesque mimicries of toppled, tortured gods, cast long shadows about the wilds of Swaadi. Heavy weaponry lines the battlements, patrolled by young fanatics that do not realise that they rape their own country and cast their brethren into darkness and poverty. To the north, east and south are the tithe villages, broken settlements filled with slaves and beggars. To the west is the Villa von Klossner, an imported decaying, stately manse from Juno.

You have come a long way to witness this cathedral: dodged patrols and braved hunger to look upon this monument to intolerance. You will bring the established order crashing down - for the Swaad, for your warband, and for the gods. Your task is no easy one, but the compact is struck and the time is ripe. Where do you begin?

[To remind you, you can only complete one Secondary Objective this week, and should avoid working towards other Secondary Objectives (though there may be overlap). Included in your response, can you state which Objective you work towards?]


Last edited by The GM on Thu Sep 01, 2016 9:52 am; edited 1 time in total

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Re: Turn 1 Thread

Post by Jewelcast on Thu Aug 11, 2016 12:36 am

[I shall begin work towards my first Objective: local converts.]

"I'm tired."
"Me too, Vex. Not much farther now. Look, there is Imani ahead. If we walk hard we should reach it by nightfall, and we can beg shelter from the people there."

Laval and Vex are headed for Imani, intending to exploit the rumours they have heard of the Mkuu's ill health. Laval plans to beg asylum from the villagers, presenting herself as relatable and down on her luck. She will offer her services as a herbalist, claiming that she heard that their Mkuu was unwell and wishes to alleviate their (hopefully temporary) hardship by sharing her skills.

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Re: Turn 1 Thread

Post by The GM on Thu Aug 11, 2016 12:58 am

Laval and Vex make their way to the settlement of Imani, reaching the first huts by nightfall as Laval predicted. It is a small, lonely place, full of hardships and timid sorrow. The embers of a camp fire gloomily illuminate mud huts, roofed by long grasses, sickly, thin goats bleating weakly in the dark. A few villagers smile, but their eyes are tired and they do not seem to summon much enthusiasm.

It takes a bit of cajoling from Laval, but her kindly, simple demeanour soon finds the pair a friend in the form of Furuha Kibwe, the daughter of the local Mkuu. Where many of the villagers apologetically turn away to shoulder their own problems, Furuha is earnest, passionate and, at least on the face of it, good-natured. She has young, darting eyes, but her face is aged with the efforts of life, her robes thinning and worn, and her bare feet calloused and sore.

"My father is away, but is back by dawn," she tells Laval, almost ashamed, "He shall know how to help you, I'm sure, and perhaps you can help him too. Please stay in our home tonight, and eat with me. We have little, but what we have can be shared."

She leads them both towards the hut in the centre of the settlement, no grander than the others, but adorned with herbs and plants. It is quite the collection, and even Laval does not know some of their properties (but could do wonders with the rest). Before the pair can step within, a young, bare-chested Swaad man steps into your path. On a rope belt around scraggy trousers, he wears a pistol, and he leers at Vex with an unpleasant, gap-toothed smile.

"Can't be taking any more in, Furuha," he grins. "Not unless they pay their way."

"Get away with you, Kubwa," the woman returns, "I am not afraid of you, you goat's ass, and this woman can help us."

Kubwa eyes the expensive equipment that Laval and Vex carry, and it clear from the look in his eye that he intends to take such things for himself. "We will see," he declares, still smiling.


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Re: Turn 1 Thread

Post by Jewelcast on Thu Aug 11, 2016 7:24 am

Vex bristles at the youth's attitude. Concerned, Laval rests a hand on his elbow.

"Leave it," she entreats, but he shrugs her off, glowering at Kubwa.

"Lay a finger on her," he growls, "And you will regret it."

His intent is to intimidate the man into backing down, but he will go to any lengths to protect Laval. Laval, on the other hand, is deeply uncomfortable with the confrontation. She hangs back at first, but if it looks like violence is about to break out she will step in, pleading with both sides to calm down.

If Kubwa departs, one way or another, Laval will follow Furuha's lead, apologising for the unpleasantness and thanking her for the charity.

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Re: Turn 1 Thread

Post by The GM on Thu Aug 11, 2016 12:44 pm

Kubwa is taken aback by the stranger's hostility, and begins squaring off to Vex as if they were two Simbar competing for a mate. Vex holds his ground, inwardly furious, as Laval and Furuha both rush forwards to diffuse the situation.

Unfortunately, reason does not win out. Kubwa is not used to being threatened - he does the threatening - and a violent spark in his eyes blinds him to the good sense presented by the two women. He swings at Vex with a closed fist. It impacts with the chin of Vex's carapace, and Kubwa shrieks out in pain as his fingers smack against the metal. His bruised hand twitches for his gun, but Laval sees that there is hesitation - perhaps still room for the situation to be deescalated. What do the pair do?

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Re: Turn 1 Thread

Post by Jewelcast on Thu Aug 11, 2016 1:25 pm

"Listen. Listen!" Laval is not quite brave enough to interpose herself between the men, but she catches Vex's arm, dissuading him from going for his own weapons.

"I have every intention of paying my way," she insists, "I've medicine and the skills to use it. You think I'd charge for that? That's what I'm offering as payment."

Vex is willing to defer to Laval's better judgement, but only to a point. He hesitates, unwilling to take the initiative, but remains on guard. He won't resort to lethal force, but if Kubwa makes any more aggressive moves Vex is more than ready to fight back.

[If fighting breaks out, Laval will leave it to Vex. He will attempt to grapple Kubwa by preference and take his gun from him, punch him failing that, and only resort to using his neural whip if he feels like he is in real danger.]

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Re: Turn 1 Thread

Post by The GM on Thu Aug 11, 2016 2:01 pm

A shot rings out, and, distracted by Laval's arm, Vex is caught to the temple. He reels from the impact as heavy bruising forms, but his helmet has saved him from a terrible wound. Lowering the smoking revolver, a little shocked with what he did, Kubwa takes a step back.

He is not quick enough. With a snarl, Vex grabs him by the neck, catching him into a fierce headlock. Vex's other hand wrenches the gun from the thug, throwing it to the side as he squeezes tighter. Kubwa chokes slightly, before throwing off his captor and scrabbling away, fleeing the scene. Furuha frowns.

"That goat's ass is getting worse and worse," she complains, "He can't get away with this. Father will know what to do."

Laval runs to Vex, who is gingerly removing his helmet with a wince of pain. There is a deep purple spreading across his forehead, but the bullet has not broken the skin. Vex smiles slightly as Laval presses an ice solution to his head, easing the pain.

The gunshot has earned the pair the village's attention. Things are moving swiftly: a posse is being mobilised to find the attempted murderer Kubwa, villagers ashamed by their previous lack of hospitality are offering Vex water, and a woman in the robes of the Missionary Galaxia steps forward to make her acquaintance and offer medical assistance of her own. Her name is Miriam Jung, and she is originally from Juno. She is a thin, spidery woman with an easy smile and a gentle voice, but Vex and Laval cannot shake the impression that there is something off about her: that this well-mannered preacher with tiny spectacles is dangerous.

Eventually, the villagers depart and the pair have a chance to get some rest, or otherwise talk to whoever they want to talk to. Furuha insists that her father, the Mkuu, will be with them in the morning.

[Vex has not suffered any wounds, but the hit pierced his armour, leaving him with a bruise.]

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Re: Turn 1 Thread

Post by Jewelcast on Thu Aug 11, 2016 2:32 pm

"I'm sorry if our tempers are short," Laval apologises on Vex's behalf. "We've walked a long way. I must say, I'm surprised to find such hardship here, in the very shadow of the Makuu."

It's a lie, but a small one, and Laval does not mind if Furuha reads her true meaning: not surprise, but anger at the Makuu's failure to provide for the people that it supposedly protects. It's a small overture of sympathy and not one she has the energy to follow up tonight.

"We're very grateful for your kindness. It will be lovely to sleep beneath a roof again."

Laval continues to engage Furuha in small talk as they set up for the night. She would like to hear Furuha's opinion on Miriam Jung, but she won't push the issue, happy to sleep before tackling the mission proper.

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Re: Turn 1 Thread

Post by The GM on Thu Aug 11, 2016 3:27 pm

Furuha guides the pair into the hut. There are few luxuries here: a primitive stove, a few heavy rags for bedrolls and a jangle of Imperial charms and medical supplies. Laval smells sickness in the air: the stench of sweat, vomit and excrement, that hints at the debilitating condition of the elderly Mkuu.

When Laval criticises the Makuu, Furuha quietens, but it is not a judgemental silence: more one borne out of her own, personal sadness. She apologises profusely for the state of the hovel, that she could not control Kubwa, and more generally for the state of the village. She apologises so often that Laval is inclined to reassure her, and remind the poor woman that she has done the pair a great service in offering them a place to stay. It is not the time to push Furuha on the matter of Miriam Jung - the Swaad woman is too agitated - but the beginnings of a friendship begin to bloom. In the corner, Vex grumpily nurses a headache.

Their night is largely uneventful, if disrupted by the cries of villagers who have captured Kubwa. It is not until morning that the pair fully awaken, to the smell of an elderly man cooking goat's blood soup at the stove. There is a kindness in his gentle, careful movements, but the stench of disease surrounds him and his face is ashen and exhausted, a wraith in a man's body. He has laid out four bowls, and with a soft smile serves the group before accepting a warm embrace from his daughter.

"I hear that young Kubwa has made himself quite the nuisance," he notes, grimacing as he shifts his position. "He has always been wayward, but this is too far, I think."

He leans towards Vex with a crack of bones. "Quite a bruise," he remarks gently, "What should be done with him, do you think?"

"This is my father, Mkuu Tendaji," Furuha smiles, "And, father, these are Vex and Laval. They are travellers in need of our help."

"Help, indeed," the Mkuu responds. "It seems we have let you both down so far, hm? What should be done?"

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Re: Turn 1 Thread

Post by The GM on Thu Aug 11, 2016 3:37 pm

There is something of a commotion outside. The sun is rather bracing and the village of Imani is well and truly risen, and it seems that more strangers have made their way to the small settlement. Peering out, Laval cannot help but stare at a tall, misshapen brute, his movements shuffling and stilted. Beside him are two, rather more normal-looking individuals: though one is half the size of the other, and looks incredibly rough. They make for a strange group, comically standing in order of size.

[Another Heretic is in town. Do you want an Interaction, and, if so, are you available for Skype?]

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Re: Turn 1 Thread

Post by Jewelcast on Thu Aug 11, 2016 3:56 pm

Vex grumbles immediately - something about wishing curses upon Kubwa's head - but he is mollified by the food and the show of pity over his bruise. Laval speaks over his disgruntled muttering without a second thought.

"Mercy. I can understand why he'd be reluctant to accept more mouths to feed. He went too far, but he deserves a chance to reconsider his ways. If you think he's a danger to your people... well, that's in your hands. But we are strangers, after all."

Both eat hungrily of the meagre fare, glad of the hospitality. When they have finished, Laval cautiously broaches the topic of the old man's ill health.

"Forgive me, but... I'd heard of the good work you do for your people, and I'd heard that you'd taken ill, but I hadn't thought it-" she stops herself, makes an uncomfortable gesture as if not wanting to speak the obvious aloud. "I've some skill as a healer myself, and I thought I could do some good here - help you if you are struggling."

[Just saw your second message, and don't have time to respond properly because I'm heading out. Laval and Vex will hold off on interacting with the strangers for now unless a fight breaks out, hoping to cement their relationship with their hosts before engaging the unknown elements. I'm up for a Skype interaction in a couple of hours when I get back, but can't for now. Sorry, poor timing!]

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Re: Turn 1 Thread

Post by The GM on Thu Aug 11, 2016 4:38 pm

Mkuu Tendaji carefully considers Laval's words, his eyes twinkling in slight amusement at Vex's grumblings. He smiles warmly towards Laval, nodding his head in slow, tortured movements.

"Perhaps it is best if young Kubwa does not have his weapon returned, but you speak well, my dear. I can see why Furuha has taken such a shine to you."

"He's getting worse, father," Furuha interjects, smiling shyly at Laval, "He and his friends smoke herbs all night, and they do nothing but take from the village. If he -" she stutters as the Mkuu raises his wizened hand.

"My daughter is right," he sighs. "Kubwa cannot continue in the way he does. He should be punished. But neither should we teach him resentment. A few days mucking up after the goats seems right to me."

Furuha frowns, clearly dissatisfied at this lenient punishment for an attempted murderer, but says nothing. Her cheeks flash red with embarrassed anger, and she excuses herself politely before leaving the hut to speak to the new strangers. After eating, Laval broaches the topic of the old man's ill health. He smiles warmly at her compassion, his twinkling eyes almost disappearing into the wrinkles of his haggard face.

"You are kind to offer, my young friend, but I think it hopeless," he responds amiably. He does not seem disheartened by his own diagnosis. "I am an old man, and I have had no success. Physician, heal thyself! Bah."

But Laval insists, and the Mkuu is accommodating. Diagnosis suggests that he is malnourished and suffering from consumption, but this is an ancient disease that has long since been banished from the galaxy. Everything Laval suggests to help this man has already been attempted, and though Laval insists on overseeing the next round of treatment, there is something amiss here. If the Mkuu is telling the truth - and there is no reason to think that he is not - then this sickness is bizarre indeed.

"You see, my hour is late," Mkuu Tendaji sighs, "But it is good of you to try. Perhaps you will have better luck with the goats - they are the true salvation for this village, not me, and they suffer just the same."

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Re: Turn 1 Thread

Post by Jewelcast on Thu Aug 11, 2016 7:02 pm

Laval's mind goes immediately to foul play. After all, it is what she had in mind. In a way it's a relief - she had not wanted to be responsible for this man's death, but she needs his position, the leverage over this village. Better that it be someone else's fault. On the other hand, it makes her suspicious and angry. This stinks of the Plaguelord's work, that dreadful cult of disease and despair. She says nothing of her suspicions to the Mkuu.

"I'll do what I can for the goats - and the people. Perhaps I can give you some chance to rest, if nothing else."

Vex watches the door suspiciously, uninterested in Laval's medical fussing, but unwilling to abandon her. With a mutant in tow, the new arrivals are likely fellow agents of the Dark Gods, and that makes them unlikely to be friends. He considers sending a message into Laval's mind, but even he can see that this is far too soon for unexpected psychic phenomena. Eventually she finishes her faffing and fussing, and voices his thoughts.

"Vex, those strangers looked like trouble. Come with me just in case?"

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Re: Turn 1 Thread

Post by The GM on Fri Aug 12, 2016 1:48 am

The door to the Mkuu's hut opens, revealing a wizened old man with a wraith-like face. His eyes are kindly, but his movements are slow and tortured. This is Mkuu Tendaji, and he has come forth to greet the new arrivals. He is flanked by Vex and Laval. Vex is a man in his thirties, of average height but imposing in black carapace armour ornamented with studs and rivets. His face is thin and lined, creased into a heavy frown, and a dark bruise flowers across one side of his face under the helmet. His hand hovers warily near the grip of the vicious-looking whip coiled at his side. Laval hangs back a little, nervous of demeanour but light on her feet. She is a young, lean woman with braided sandy hair, her clothing simple aside from the protective flak cloak and the sword and pistol on her hips.

The group make their way over to Gracious and Trisby. Gracious is a small, lithe man. He is dressed in clothes which are... practical; but also clearly chosen for a certain look. It is obvious that he cares about appearances - but has made some adjustments to the environment. He carries a constant energy, hardly still for a minute, and is expressive in action and voice. Behind him is Trisby. They are tall, broad-shouldered, almost beast-like in their size. Their arms slightly too long, a heavy cloak covering a humped back, their face is a mass of scars and stitches. In contrast to their partner, they stay still: their eyes begin to study the old man intently.

The morning sun is starting to beam down on the streets of Imani, where villagers mill about and make their way to their daily tasks. Joining the conversation is the Preacher Miriam Jung and the Mkuu's daughter, Faruha.

"And who are these newcomers, then?" the Mkuu asks.

"This man here is Gracious, father,” Faruha responds, “He has come with his friends and given us food." She smiles shyly around the group. "You are all most welcome."

Gracious speaks first. "Hi! Good to meet you both, you're the, um, you're the people who dealt with the gent outside or something, yeah?"

The man on the pole moans slightly, having been tied there overnight. He can't hear the conversation, but seems deeply unhappy with his situation nonetheless.

Laval steps forward, visibly drawing up her courage. "It was just a minor incident. Nothing to make too much fuss about."

"I am sorry, Laval." Faruha bows her head.

"It's fine," Laval returns, smiling. "We can put it behind us, I'm sure."

"Hah!” Gracious laughs. “Well it seems it made quite the kerfuffle anyway, and all! No worries, I guess: tempers must be high, it's all rather stressful... well, nothing like it must be here, we've just come in across the plains, you know, avoided most of the - why are you here?"

"Truly we are blessed with so many visitors in such a short space of time," Preacher Jung adds wryly.

Vex bristles, as if to speak, but glances at Laval and says nothing.

"We're here to help these people,” Laval explains. “I hope that isn't going to be a problem between us."

"Oh, he's a friend, Laval, you must not worry," Faruha insists.

"You know him?" Laval asks.

"Well, we just met, but he gave us food and he seems so friendly."

“I mean there's a holy church right there, right?” Gracious quizzes Preacher Jung. “Obviously - obviously you –” he turns to Laval. “ - no, not a problem! What can you do, eh: not sure we can do much - though this gent looks a mite sick: Twisby?”

Twisby slowly turns to look at Gracious, then back at the old man. “Yes. That Much Is Clear.” They return to being deep in thought.

Mkuu Tendaji smiles. "Another new friend coming to cure my sickness. It is quite hopeless, my young friends. I am old, and I have lived -" he begins coughing from the exertion of walking to the conversation, hacking up blood.

Laval hesitates, possibly a little taken aback by the rapid-fire speech, but turns to the Mkuu with a grimace, "Please, don't strain yourself... here, lean on me."

"Thank you, my young friend."

Gracious fills the silence. “Ah, they do say death comes for us all, but it's not so bad, eh? Let's look on the bright side... I don't know, though, blood, yeah, blood seems bad, though I mean, I wouldn't know, you know.”

The preacher, Miriam Jung, seems somewhat amused. "Yes, it is typically bad," she observes.

“This Man Is Dying Of The Consumption,” Twisby informs them. “It Is A Disease Of The Lung. A Cure Is Known.”

Laval nods, frowning.

“...ookay,” Gracious cuts in, “So, sorry, Twisby's a bit like that, you know, he sort of just says things without thinking if they’re particularly SENSITIVE.” He nods to Faruha.

Somewhat abashed, Faruha smiles. "I understand."

Laval looks back and forth between Twisby and the preacher, clearly wanting to say something but struggling to vocalise it.

The Mkuu nods slowly. “Yes, consumption yes, but it seems none of those standard cures seem to do the trick. I've long since come to terms with it all, my friends."

"Perhaps a happier topic of conversation is better, hm?" the preacher advises.

Faruha sighs, making as if to leave. "I should really be tending to the goats."

“Oh – ” Gracious volunteers, “Do you, do you want a hand, or anything? Goats I can about manage I think! Ha!”

"Oh, well we're always short-handed..." Faruha admits. She visibly blushes, turning to embrace her father, who smiles and bids her along.

“Alright,” Gracious smiles. “Well: Twisby, you report back, you know, use some of that scintillating conversational wit, yeah?”

Laval looks to the Mkuu, "You mentioned that they needed treatment? Shall I take a look and spare you the trouble?"

“Ah! I suppose we could all go and look at the goats,” Gracious suggests.

"I feel like some of us might scare them." Laval looks pointedly at Twisby, and perhaps Vex.

"Oh, I'm at my wits end with them,” the old Mkuu sighs. “Nothing seems to do the trick. But if any of you can find a solution, I shall be very happy indeed."

He smiles at a joke only he can hear. "All these young people with their solutions and energy," he notes. "I get exhausted just looking at you all."

“Ah! Sorry old man! People say I exhaust them: was born with tippy toes, you know! Can't stop, won't stop, don't know the difference.” Gracious spins to Laval as if the conversation never skipped a beat. “Good point! Twisby is not good with animals - he, oh there was an incident with a cat, oh it wasn't - that was back in the city... but who knows, you know?

Faruha looks positively horrified, while Jung chuckles.

“Oh, not like that! He didn't hurt it... Just didn't like him very much.”

"Why don't the three of us go," Laval intervenes. She pats Vex affectionately on the arm as if to reassure him. His frown deepens.

"Sure, I would like that," Faruha nods.

The three make their way towards the fields. It's not a long walk, but the smell from the animals intensify as you approach. Even to an untrained individual, it is clear that the goats are sick. They are thin, unhappy and slightly green, as if stained with disease. The smell reminds the newcomers, somewhat problematically, of putrefaction.

“Oh...” Gracious exclaims, “Oh dear. Poor things!” He is actually genuinely distressed - or seems such. Laval frowns, sparing barely a glance for the goats before turning a suspicious eye over Gracious, watching closely for his reactions. After a moment she sighs and turns back to the animals, inspecting them carefully.

The herd is small, and there are workers milling about, but the movements of the villagers are slow and pained, and there are plenty of ways the three can help. Laval looks upon the animals with her third eye. There is a sickness about them, and the feeling of hopelessness and despair. Yet, her vision is clouded, as if choked by this negativity, and she cannot see the truth of the matter.

“So, um, how long have they been this way?” Gracious asks Faruha. She doesn’t respond, as if lost in thought. "That one is about to give birth." She points at one of the goats, which looks more bloated than pregnant. It bleats miserably, stumbling about ungainly. "We may have to help the kid on its way."

"I can do my best," Laval offers.

“OK. Um... hot water?” Gracious suggests. “I think you need hot water for this sort of thing, keep stuff clean, right?”

"We have no water to spare," Faruha sighs.

“Shit, of course, of course.”

"I've better," Laval notes, patting the satchel on her hip. "Though normally I'd save it for people, if these are your livelihood..."

"You must save your water,” Faruha insists “Though you are kind, Laval."

Gracious leans forward. “Well, uh: Laval, you seem the medical type, why don't you lead, and I'll follow?” He waves his fingers: slightly long, quite dextrous. “Dab hand if you need to, uh, if anything needs holding.”

Laval sets her teeth and rolls up her sleeves. She looks to be expecting the worst.

“Is something wrong?" Faruha asks.

"These animals are... not well. I fear that for all the skill in the world, this is still likely to... not end well. Still, we must keep hope." She glances at Gracious.

“Yeah, sounds good, better than assuming the worst before we start, eh?” Gracious nervously smiles.

"I pray that it is not so," Faruha murmurs. She looks genuinely afraid, but smiles softly towards Gracious. "This would be the third failed pregnancy this spring."

Laval runs her hands over the goat's flank, then shakes her head sadly. "I don't believe we can save the kid. But the mother may live, if we work hard."

"We can't lose the mother,” Faruha stutters, the fear returning to her voice. “I don't know what we'll do if that happens."

“Listen, it'll be alright,” Gracious reassures. “We'll find a way, you know?”

"We'll find a way,” Laval echoes. “Have faith." She smiles, but it's a grim one.

With your reassurances, Faruha smiles, but the pair can see in her eyes that she is smiling just for them. With nothing else left to do, the individuals get to work.

It is a grim business. The mother goat bleats in pain, and it is necessary to make an incision to deliver a bloody, half-formed foetus. It sticks in the mother's abdomen, trailing behind her like a terrible portend, and Gracious and Faruha barely stops the goat from bolting as Laval delivers the dead kid. It is touch and go, but the mother goat is saved. She looks at her foetus with what seems to the individuals present as sadness, before tottering away in obvious pain. There was something awful about the trailing kid, and Laval is a little afraid.

“Goodness...” Gracious exhales. “Will she be alright?

"For now," Laval responds. Her mouth is set tightly, her expression full of anger, disgust and fear. Faruha is noticeably pale, and excuses herself swiftly.

"I am sorry," she manages, before she goes. "Thank you for trying, thank you for saving her... thank you."

"It's alright," Laval tells her. She shakes her head. "Things will change."

Gracious waves sadly, before seizing upon Laval’s words. “Oh? You've got a plan?”

"I..." Laval looks down at her bloodied hands, shudders and tries to wipe them on the parched earth. "Things can't go on this way."

“Here, let me...” Gracious pulls a handkerchief from his wrist. “Here?”

"If it were mine, I'd burn it after... but if you don't mind... thank you."

"Oh, sure...” Gracious returns. “I've got a couple more, still! Got a thing about... I like to keep clean, you know? Hard on the road. Hah! Still, pilgrimages aren't meant to be easy, they say.”

Laval nods gratefully. After rubbing the worst of the blood from her hands, she withdraws a container of purifying gel from her satchel and uses a little of it to cleanse herself. "You're here for the cathedral, then."

“Yeah... well, I mean, I was, still am, but that was before the - I arrived six months ago, just before the war- it's all been chaos - me and my friend Sten, together - well, we decided to travel hard, you know? But... Still, we're - I'm wealthy, not that it matters much at the moment, but we came with a good bit of food, which has helped kept spirits up... little luxuries, but it makes the days go.”

There is a slight tension. Both individuals know that the Makuu is currently weak, and that a number of warbands have sent forth their infiltrators to do the work of the gods. The timing of their visits is a tad coincidental, though there is still the possibility that both are nothing more than humble travellers.

“It's more than most people here have," Laval observes.

“Yes, well, I've not been stingy.”

"Listen. You seem nice, but..." Laval tries to force a smile, but it falls a little flat. "I mean, I've no reason to think you're up to no good, but...

"...but you've no reason to think I'm up to good?"

Laval nods wearily. “I hope you don't intend to take advantage of these people."

"What's there to take advantage of?" Gracious notes. “... actually, now that I think on it, what's your story?

Labal hesitates, seeming to choose her words carefully. "I heard that these people were suffering, and I came here to... help them."

Gracious nods, unsatisfied. "... I mean, I don't mean to be funny, but where did you hear about them? Like, uh..., I mean, I'd heard there were a few villages about, didn't have much preconception, mind. You a missionary?"

"I'm a healer,” Laval responds. “People talk, you know. The poor folk work the land, they know where the healers live, where the food goes, where sickness is."

"And your friend's your bodyguard, that how it is?"

"Everyone needs friends." She seems a bit defensive. "What about yours? There's something wrong with him."

Gracious pauses. "... Yes, yes, I know, but you try getting a bodyguard to get you across the plain in a pinch when it's all going to hell."

Laval sighs. "I'm sorry. That was blunt of me."

"And he's a bit of a miracle worker with the ol' Medicae, so we don't ask too many questions about who trained a brick Stackhouse to do surgery."

Laval looks sadly at the mess left behind from the impromptu operation. "I'm a little on edge, I'm afraid. This was an unpleasant business."

"They're... really sick, aren't they," Gracious frowns. He looks down sadly.

Laval nods. "So... you're a man of faith?"

"Ha! Of sorts. Honestly, I'd be the first person to say that my attendance at sermons never used to be exactly regular, but it wasn't for want of trying: bad habits, you know. Decided to pull my finger out and try and do something good for my soul..."

"Did you speak to the local preacher, Jung?"

Gracious grins. "She's an odd one, ain't she? Very Jovian, all the way out here... I think she sees right through me to the scared boy beneath!"

"I'm not usually one to question the clergy, but she is... certainly odd,” Laval frowns.

"Can't quite place it though – ” Gracious agrees, before changing tack. “Probably nothing. Priests tend to be a little intense, in my experience. Which, you know. Understandable."

Laval takes a deep breath, studying Gracious warily. "This," she gestures curtly toward the nearest sickly goats, "If I'm quite frank, doesn't strike me as entirely natural. And it concerns me that she is not more concerned."

"...and the same with the old man?" Gracious asks, after a thought. "Twisbs seemed quite sure about their unconcernedness."

Laval shrugs. "Where there's smoke..."

"There's two mysterious diseases?"

"They're looking a little..." Laval stops, shakes her head.

"... A little what?"

"Well, green." Another hesitation, then a quick gesture as if to dismiss the notion. "I'm not very familiar with goats, but it doesn't seem like a good colour to me..."

"I mean, that's obvious enough... sorry to tell you your trade. They smell.... rotten."

Laval nods, maintaining cautious eye contact. "I'm sure there must be something that could be done for them. Maybe by a person of sufficient... faith."

Gracious is, for a second, lost for words - a rare occurrence. He seems puzzled. Laval sighs sharply, glances around to see if any of the locals are too close. They are tending to their goats, out of hearing distance.

"... Is everything OK?” Gracious asks. “I feel... just feel like there's something you're dancing around! Best to spit it out lest it cut you in two, that's what my mother used to say! Ha! Bless her heart.”

Laval reaches out with her psychic powers and subtly probes Gracious' mind. His surface thoughts suggest anticipation, but his mind is unfocused and ill-disciplined. The man is lying to Laval, concealing his true faith. This is no devout worshipper of the Emperor, and his mind is horribly corrupted by the heresies of chaos. However, he seems genuinely concerned for the welfare of the goats, and fears for their condition.

As Laval does her wychcraft, there is a long silence: a strange, stilted silence. Laval studies Gracious intently, eyes a little distant, then suddenly snaps back to the moment with an embarrassed smile.

"Ah, you're back with us....!" Gracious exclaims.

"I think some conversations are best not had in the middle of an open field, no?" she suggests.

The pair glance towards one of the mud outhouses, currently unoccupied but for a few bleary goats.

"Some of my best conversations have been in fields,” Gracious notes. “But you have a point. Let's go check on the health of those goats and you can spill your beans or whatever, you know, yeah?"

"If my suspicions are right, we may have a lot in common..." Laval nods and moves towards the building, sparing some attention for the goats but mostly checking that Gracious is following. He follows. Once fairly sure that the conversation is hidden from prying eyes and ears, Laval exhales.

"There's more powers in this world than medicine or the futile prayers of the desperate, you know?"

"Like I said: say what you really want to say." His manner is slightly sharper, as if a layer has been dropped.

"Fine,” Laval shrugs, though clearly struggles with bluntness. "This is the work of a wych or daemonologist. And it would take another such to reverse it."

"And you'd know one of those in the vicinity, eh?"

"I might. Or you might.”

"Ha! I don't, I'm afraid, keep quite that kind of company."

“Do you really want to help these people?"

"Yes, I definitely do. Of course, your next question should be...?"

"Who you are working for?" Laval shrugs. "I don't entirely care."

"As it happens, by the way, I don't keep quite that company," Gracious affirms.

"That's inconvenient,” Laval remarks, “But... maybe you can still help. I'm not quite sure myself how these things... actually work."

"Well, well. A new hand?"

"Hand?" Laval looks confused, uncomfortable.

"Whoever you're working for - and if you tell me yours - well, you seem new at this, maybe?" Gracious pauses. “Maybe I misread... You could be Inquisition, you could be Officio Assassinorum, you could be - dare I say it - some servant of a dark power whose shadows trembles the sky."

Laval chuckles at that, genuine amusement seeming to briefly lift her dark mood. Gracious presses on.

"But what you seem is briefed, but not completely. My advice: don't ever expect to know everything - it's more fun that way."

"I serve Change,” Laval relents. “There, happy?"

"Ha! Good, there it is. And me?"

"Not Plague, and I'd be surprised if it were War." Laval shrugs. "Not sure."

"I tend to sleep around - which is a double kind of answer, and that itself is the answer, you know? Seems like your sort of riddle..."

Laval smiles again, again seeming genuine.

"So the three-ring circus has pulled up in this burg..." Gracious sighs.

Laval nods. "I suspect the so-called preacher, but I confess it no more than a hunch."

"Yes, I know what you mean. But let's set that aside for a moment. Ultimately, we, here, are both opposed and working together... that's maybe not so good."

"We could be friends," Laval offers.

"We could. I'd like that. But it won't end that way."

"You want the best for these people, I want the best for these people."

"And the best for them isn't what they've got. You ought to talk to Twisby."

"Perhaps, at least, we can save any enmity for when the collateral damage would be our true enemies, not these poor folk?"

"Yes, I'd like that - better for me. Can we save the goats, too?"

"Of course. But neither of you have any skill at ritual magic."

"Twisby might know a little, you know, I don't know him that well - my contact said he's got a smart head on those shoulders. Then she laughed a lot... I'm not really sure they're his shoulders, you know? Not in any original sense - but he's not a very sticking with the original sort of person." Gracious muses for a few seconds. "Anyway, I'm circulating about "no, probably"."

"Vex knows a little,” Laval notes. “But, between you and me, I'm not sure getting him to do it would be the best idea."

"What's his deal?" Gracious asks.

"He's a little..." Laval taps her fingers against her skull and makes a hollow knocking sound. "Don't tell him I said that." She smiles.

"Ah, I see. Very brawn, and they didn't put a brain in."

"He means well."

"Heh. What happened with the gent on the pole?"

"He punched Vex. And then shot him."

"...I mean, was there a preamble...? I’m not judging, you know, some of my nicest dates have started that way, but..."

Laval shrugs, looking perplexed. "Not really... I think he sees himself as the biggest braggart in town."

"Ah, one of those,” Gracious nods sagely. “He's got mates, too. Shifty sorts - I sent Sten off to talk to them, see what he could get. He had that hangdog expression, so I imagine he fucked it..."

"Vex took offence and gave him a bit of a drubbing,” Laval continues, “Then the villagers took offence at the attempted murder and... gave him more of one, by the look of it."

"Well, can you blame them?"

"Faruha says that they smoke herbs, lay about and don't pull their weight." Laval shakes her head.

Gracious thinks for a while. "I mean, I could probably get them onto some harder stuff for a bit, if they're going to make trouble... or we need them on side."

"People are a resource we need."

"Honestly, that's what I'm best at: bit of a dab hand at narcotics, you know? Chyms just make sense. Like dancing!"

Laval nods, "It's a useful skill. I've dabbled, but I wouldn't call myself an expert."

A few seconds pass. "So, the Preacher," Gracious announces. "You reckon you could sense if she's... if she's externalising her consciousness in an unorthodox manner, and all?"

"Not really. I've a bit of a hunch for these things, but I wouldn't catch an expert, I don't think."

“It seems to help these people we need to rumble her game - one way or another."

"We could always kill her and hope it resolves everything,” Laval remarks. “Though that could backfire on us spectacularly."

"Ha! Direct. So what I'd do is get those louts we talked about before hopped up on something a bit strong and violent, get them up and active, you know?"

Laval nods.

"Cause a little, ahahah, chaos,” Gracious goes on, “Preacher dies in it, we save villagers, very sad, they stole some medical drugs, not their fault, have a little mercy, eh? … And of course, in chaos sins lie: so who knows how she died?"

"It's a solid plan."

"That's if we want to kill her, anyway: do we? Seems like that would take a couple of nights to bed in, anyway - make it seem more plausible."

"She's a problem for us whether my hunch is right or wrong," Laval notes.

“Exactly. I think we do want to kill her. But just now when we wander into town? Bad plan. Looks bad. Why don't you and Twisby put your heads together on the medical business? There's nothing to say you mayn't make progress together - or at least force her to show her hand."

"Time's short," Laval observes.

Gracious hums in agreement. "I think we do it tonight, or tomorrow night. Which'll it be?"

"The old man knows his business; I doubt we'll find a mundane solution,” Laval remarks. “But I'll try, certainly. I'm inclined to say tomorrow. Slightly less suspicious, more time for us to rig things to fit our story."

"My thoughts, your words. Sounds like a plan. I'll spend some time helping in the village - I'm good with people, you know. But say, you know, hi to the goats for me.”

"Good. Well, I've goats to see to. Oh, and Gracious?"

"Ah-ha?"

"Not to put too fine a point on it: I was here first." She smiles.

"Ah! Alas, alas; I can't turn off my charm. But duly noted."

"I hope we'll have no problems."

"No no: just, you know, don't expect me to push - what I'm saying is, I'll close it down as a line of active enquiry, but..."

Laval shrugs. "I think we understand each other."

"Good to meet you." Gracious sticks out a hand - unlike many of his gestures, it's not over-played. Laval shakes it, still smiling, but with a slightly cold undercurrent.

"And you."

The pair part ways: there is work to be done.

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Re: Turn 1 Thread

Post by Jewelcast on Fri Aug 12, 2016 10:36 am

Even as she shakes his hand, Laval is already convinced that Gracious cannot be trusted. He will go among these people and work his peculiar charm and steal them out from under her nose. It can't be tolerated. So as she moves among the goats, checking their failing health sadly and helping the villagers where she can, she begins to lay plans.

There will be a night of chaos and bloodshed. If she plays her cards right, the optimal outcome would be to ensure that the blame lands on Gracious and his companions, while the glory goes to herself. She has two days in which to sow the seeds of doubt. Of course, he will likely be trying to play exactly the same trick on her.

As she turns the pieces of the puzzle over in her mind, another disturbing revelation strikes her. The source of the sickness, that key mystery - what if it is the Mkuu himself? The old man - how old? - is ideally placed, perpetually sick, unconcerned by his own illness... the pieces fit. And the sad conclusion: Tendaji must die, and soon. It's a risky move, and she had hoped to put it off until she is better insinuated into this community. But if her suspicions are correct, then she is in danger. If Tendaji suspects that she suspects, then he could act against her at any time to protect his secret. And besides, Gracious has forced her hand.

She is, of course, well placed for the deed. The old man agreed to let her oversee his treatment, after all. She need only hope that he is not immune to poisoning. It's a shame, but sometimes sacrifices must be made for the cause.

Laval finds the scheming soothing. It is almost a form of prayer, after all. It settles her rattled nerves and eases the sense of dread that lingers in this place. Once she has done all she can for the goats, she seeks out Faruha again. There is work to be done. It is bitter, but it is worth doing.

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Re: Turn 1 Thread

Post by The GM on Fri Aug 12, 2016 11:40 am

Laval finds Faruha between the fields and the village proper, in a bad state. Faruha is trembling, and has been sick, vomit strewn on the grass and across her cheek. She looks up at Laval with terror in her eyes.

"I think I may be dying," she stutters.

Concerned, Laval looks her over. Fortunately, this seems to be nothing more than a bad fright. Though Faruha is not in a state of good health - sadly, no one in the village seems to be - she needn't fear for her imminent death just yet.

Does Laval tell Faruha that she is alright? What does she do next?

*****

Elsewhere, Vex is engaged in awkward small-talk with Preacher Miriam Jung and Trisby. The Mkuu has already gone back to his hut to prepare his medical supplies, and Trisby is hardly the most talkative, so it has fallen on Vex to offer the "hmms" and "uh huhs" to Preacher Miriam. She is currently extolling the power of suffering to bolster faith in the Imperial Creed, explaining how without hardship, faith cannot prosper. It is a familiar credo on Swaadi, but Vex frowns. The look in the preacher's spectacled eyes, the slight smile of amusement across her thin lips: she doesn't seem to believe a word she's saying.

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Re: Turn 1 Thread

Post by Jewelcast on Fri Aug 12, 2016 2:57 pm

Laval comforts Faruha, holding her and helping her clean her face.

"You're not dying. You're tired and hungry and afraid - it's natural that your body reacts this way. But listen to me - it's going to get better. I'm going to do everything I can, and we will make it better. Together. Don't give up hope."

"Let's go back to your home. A little tea would do you a world of good."

There are certain conversations that Laval needs to have with Faruha, but she needs the other woman to calm down a little first. She would like to get Faruha alone rather than engage others in conversation, but she waits for a natural opportunity.

*****

Well, this is awkward. At least she's not expecting him to say much. Hopefully Laval will be back soon.

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Re: Turn 1 Thread

Post by The GM on Fri Aug 12, 2016 5:35 pm

Faruha trusts quickly, and has experienced nothing but reassurance and kindness from Laval. When cleaned up, Laval soon elicits a smile from her, and she nods meekly and leads her back to the home. Along the way, Laval spots Gracious smiling at them both: Faruha beams back and even takes Laval's hand.

The pair reach the hut, and Laval sees Vex looking pleadingly at her from across the main thoroughfare. However, Faruha is still a little agitated, and the two of them enter the mud building alone. Laval makes her some tea from a local herb, its soothing aroma helping to mask the smell of disease within the hut.

"I feel better," Faruha tells her with a smile. "You are very kind to me, Laval. I wonder why you help me so."

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Re: Turn 1 Thread

Post by Jewelcast on Fri Aug 12, 2016 6:48 pm

"You have been kind to me. And I want to help your people. It isn't right, that you suffer so. I have a vision for a better future. And... well... with your father so sick..." She shakes her head sadly. "I fear he may not have long to live. It seemed that you could use a friend."

If this solemn news distresses Faruha further, Laval will take some time to calm her again, making small talk and discussing less tragic topics.

If Faruha inquires, Laval is willing to elaborate further on her ambitions for change, for a world where people can hope, where people have enough to eat and the power to choose their own destinies. She does not mention heresy, and merely skirts around notions like criticising the church. It's too early for that today. Besides, she has other topics she would like to bring the conversation around to:

"I'm concerned about Gracious. He seems like he means well, but... I was talking to him earlier and I'm not convinced that he's being entirely honest about why he's here. What's more, I think he deals in drugs and narcotics! I'm sure he means no harm, but... please be careful?"

[It is important to Laval that she not raise any suspicions of her ill intentions, so if it is necessary to spend an infamy point to avoid being caught in a lie, please do so.]

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Re: Turn 1 Thread

Post by The GM on Fri Aug 12, 2016 10:37 pm

It takes time to comfort Faruha after this difficult news. She is disbelieving, and Laval senses it is unwise to push the topic too far. However, her disbelief does not stand in the way of continuing to build on the friendship between the two women. Faruha is kind and proactive, but naive, and she is a fine target to seduce to the ways of heresy and chaos.

[You have begun a Seduction (see Tome of Excess for details, but note that this does not mean romantic seduction, but seduction to Chaos). You can attempt to advance the Seduction once a day, and, once you have succeeded a number of times equal to Faruha's Willpower Bonus, she will be Seduced. She will be an agent of Chaos, and Faruha will gain Infamy and Corruption. Note that to continue the Seduction, Laval must continuously up the ante where heresy is concerned.]

"It is true that the holy men of the Makuu do not come here often," she responds doubtfully, to an offhand comment, "But they send us Preacher Miriam." She pauses, biting her lip. "I do not like her, Laval. Sometimes she scares me, and she doesn't seem to care much about us."

Laval listens carefully and encourages Faruha to express herself. After all, it is better if these things emerge naturally. Any prejudices Laval might have against Preacher Miriam are enforced. Faruha notes that the preacher professes to be a healer, but that there is little evidence that she has ever helped the people of Imani. The most Miriam does is give the occasional sermon, but she lacks fervour and (Faruha confesses warily) the people are dispirited. Faruha fears for the state of the creed in the village of Imani, and asks Laval for advice.

It is clear from how Faruha confides in Laval that she has few friends in the village. She has responsibilities as the Mkuu's daughter, that are all the more pressing giving how often her father leaves the village to ply his trade elsewhere. The responsibility separates her from the village folk, and it is clear to Laval that she is desperate for friends. The topic of Gracious comes up naturally in this context, and Laval must be careful not to push things too far.

"You mustn't worry about me, Laval," Faruha insists, brushing off her concerns about Gracious. "His friends have given us food, and he has spent the whole day helping in the village. He has been a good friend to us, like you and Vex have been. He has been a good friend to me." She smiles. "You are always looking after me, Laval. But I am not a helpless babe. I have dealt with that goat's ass Kubwa for months now."

There is no bad blood between Faruha and Laval on the topic of Gracious, but Faruha is unconvinced by Laval's warnings. If Laval wants to press the point, she will need something stronger than words.

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Re: Turn 1 Thread

Post by Jewelcast on Sat Aug 13, 2016 12:49 am

Laval smiles. "I am sorry. I know that you can take care of yourself, I just can't help but worry. I see you are feeling better? We should not spend all the day on chatter. If I'm to earn my keep, I should make myself useful about the town!"

All the ideas that can be sown here for now have been, and there is more to do. Laval excuses herself from Faruha's company and moves on to the next item on her agenda - engaging with more of the people than just Faruha. She locates Vex once he has finally managed to peel himself away from the unsettling preacher, finding comfort in his company, and goes about the village attempting to make herself useful and to make a good impression of the pair. She would like to keep a distant eye on Gracious' movements, and also to identify Kubwa's delinquent friends, but she has no reason yet to approach either group.

As the day draws to a close, she leaves the village proper to gather herbs. She is looking particularly for poisons, ideally with little distinctive taste, and gathering medicinal herbs as a cover for her plan.

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Re: Turn 1 Thread

Post by The GM on Sat Aug 13, 2016 8:10 am

Laval sees that Gracious is busy helping others about town, though his thin (perhaps a little weedy) form does not seem well-suited to the kind of tasks the villagers regularly perform. On the other hand, he seems to be making the villagers laugh, and is clearly appreciated for being there. Meanwhile, it is easy enough to identify those layabouts who call Kubwa their friend: they are the ones that are sullenly waiting around, rather than doing anything to help. Gracious approaches them at one point, but is sent away by a threatening woman - and, after ten minutes, the grotesque thing they called Twisby strides up and punches that woman hard in the face. It is a horrifying blow, and though the woman is still standing, she quickly flees, nursing what seems to be a dislocated jaw.

Kubwa has been let down from his pole, and sent by the Mkuu to muck in with the goats. Laval has lost track of Gracious, and a natural assumption is that he has gone to make his acquaintance of the attempted murderer.

For Laval and Vex's part, they help around the village and create a good impression. Both are unused to the fatiguing work that the villagers must do to survive. However, Laval's good-natured presence is thoroughly appreciated, and the villages tactfully avoid mentioning how unsuited they both are to this kind of work. Moreover, Laval identifies a few people in need of medical assistance, and, offering them some easy treatments, wins praise as a miracle worker about Imani.

As the sun begins to set, Laval heads into the nearby wilds to acquire the herbs required. She finds the bitter root of wormwort, which, when properly combined with the thorns of the jumba-weed and a few other easily found ingredients, can create a deadly poison. The ingredients have something of a taste, but they are mild, and can be overpowered by the right delivery agent.

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Re: Turn 1 Thread

Post by Jewelcast on Sat Aug 13, 2016 1:43 pm

Laval takes a minute, alone where Vex cannot see her, to weep for what she must do. Part of it is regret - for the old man who seems nice, and more for the pain his death will cause Faruha. Part of it is fear - for the gamble she must take, for the risk of discovery, the risk of losing Faruha's trust, all the risks inherent in violence and death. When she has composed herself, she returns to Vex and their hosts.

The plan is to conceal the poison in a legitimate consumption treatment, preferably one with a strong flavour of its own. It's a shame to act so early, but time is short.

[Willing to spend an infamy point as needed to prevent this being a total disaster for me.]

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Re: Turn 1 Thread

Post by The GM on Sat Aug 13, 2016 7:42 pm

The tears dry, and once they have stopped flowing, Laval is filled with a new resolve. She gets to work, preparing the poison and letting it cool in the stale, daybreak air of Swaadi. What she has made is nothing less than a work of genius, far beyond what could be expected from the resources the chymist has available. The poison, entirely clear, practically tasteless and utterly deadly, will do the task that is required. Such is its potency that the only real risk is in transference to a strong drink - or another accidentally imbibing it.

The Mkuu is cooking an evening meal when Laval meets up with Vex and Faruha. Gracious is invited as well (though not his brutish Twisby nor disreputable-looking Sten) and the group makes a fine display of camaraderie and friendship. Mkuu Tendaji is leaving Imani for a few days, to help the people in Kidofini in return for a new goat, and given it has been a time of relative upheaval in the small village, it is something of a celebration. Marula spirits are served, and in this Laval sees her opportunity. She hides her nerves, and in the glow of the celebration no one else seems to notice that anything is awry. The drinks are on the small, rusting table, and all Laval has to do is pour a small vial of the poison in. And yet, Gracious is here, and, if she is noticed, all might turn to chaos.

Does Laval take her chance, or wait for another time?

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Re: Turn 1 Thread

Post by Jewelcast on Sat Aug 13, 2016 8:03 pm

At first, the news that the Mkuu is leaving town makes Laval think that she must act now, or lose her chance. Yet a second consideration tells her that his absence may be as good as his death, for now, and far less risky. She can act later, once she has better insinuated herself into the village and is hence less likely to be seen as a suspect. On then, to the next plan.

"Vex," she says quietly, at a moment when they are a little apart from the group, "I need you to do something for me. Remember I mentioned that Gracious makes drugs? I need you to sample his wares." Vex nods dubiously. It seems like a dumb risk to take, but Laval clearly has a plan, and he trusts her. She wouldn't put him in danger. At least not unless it was really important.

He approaches the chatty heretic awkwardly.

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