Turn 4 Thread

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Re: Turn 4 Thread

Post by The GM on Mon Sep 19, 2016 8:03 pm

[This Turn represents something of an oddity: please see the Chat Room Thread. But yes, we will avoid another Interaction at this stage.]

After Gracious wakes, he and Laval eat once more in Imani before moving on. It is an amiable time, where the worries of their compact can be set aside - or at least enjoyed - in a competitive and engaging back-and-forth. Having finished a homely goat's-blood soup, Sten pops in and notes that everything is set up for the group to leave. Gracious turns to Laval, to confirm that she is coming with him.

*****

Ari and Hasnaa begin stalking through the Swaadi wilds, two hunters in a sea of darkness. At first they head towards Imani - on the assumption that Gracious was making his back there at some point. Yet, when the village is on the horizon, three figures are already in the distance, heading towards the Villa von Klossner. The pair smile, trekking after their unwary prey.

[Sure - it can be resolved however you like, though Hasnaa might cause trouble. Again, this Turn has been similar for everyone, so don't worry about falling behind.]

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Re: Turn 4 Thread

Post by The GM on Mon Sep 19, 2016 10:21 pm

Marina catches up with the group just outside Imani, presumably contacted via Laval's telepathic power. Laval is becoming noticeably exhausted, presumably from lack of sleep, and does not make for good conversation on the way to the Villa von Klossner. Marina has to move forward to support the wych over the long trek, and Gracious might well be concerned with Laval's current health.

The Villa von Klossner can be seen at a distance, not necessarily for its size, but for the empty space about it. What might have been planned to be gardens are instead the arid wastes of Swaadi, circled with a tall, spiked rail that meets for a central, iron gate. Nonetheless, the mansion, when compared to the huts of Imani or Kifodini, is huge. A stately manse, it rears up into the sky like a gothic beast, crafted from local sandstone, replete with gargoyles and decorative arches that give it a gloomy kind of splendour. From here, the group can make out patrols of private mercenaries. Without getting closer and risking detection, it's not possible to discover more about them, but it seems that locals cannot simply wander in to the Villa von Klossner.

*****

Hasnaa points excitedly into the distance, Ari following her finger. At first glance, it seems that her friend is simply gesturing to the Villa von Klossner: a large home that Ari has occasionally trekked out to see and be jealous of. However, Hasnaa is instead pointing at the four individuals a mile or so closer to the two assassins. It is their quarry, and they seem to have, however briefly, stopped. 

Casually, Ari looses her sniper rifle and studies them through the telescopic scope of her weapon. It is them alright. She aims at each of their heads in turn. First, she centres the crosshairs on Gracious. He seems carefree, as usual, but Ari often finds him difficult to read. Second, she aims the weapon at the wych's new friend. This one looks dangerous: lean, armoured, agile. Smiling slightly, Ari brings the scope over Sten - looking hungover, tired and bored. She ends with Laval, the wych who thinks she rules Imani, her home village. The poor thing looks exhausted.

What now?

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Re: Turn 4 Thread

Post by wren on Mon Sep 19, 2016 10:25 pm

Ari aims to shoot the "new friend", then Sten, then Laval, then Gracious. Obviously, this won't go to plan... her aim is to try and confront Gracious/Laval before they die, but being aware of safety.

Gracious will act to preserve his own safety and hide for cover. He'll try and engage some charm to gain control of the situation.

I am available for an interaction.

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Re: Turn 4 Thread

Post by The GM on Tue Sep 20, 2016 1:06 am

The first Laval or Gracious have a hint that anything is wrong is when Marina leaps into action.
 
"Get down," she hisses, pushing Laval firmly to the floor. Clumsy and mostly blind in the darkness, Laval is in no position to resist. Marina drops as well, but only briefly - she is soon back on her feet, searching for cover to push her charge behind and to make use of herself. The best (and only) cover is a baobab tree: big enough for all of them, but a tricky prospect.
 
Elsewhere, Ari fires. There is not much noise at all, but Marina curses as she twists, a las-round smacking into the grass beside her. Gracious and Laval are quickly directed to the tree, or get there of their own accord. But if there is a sniper out there, one tree can't protect them forever, and they are otherwise in the open.
 
Fuck! Gracious telepathically exclaims.
 
Marina begins bounding towards the hill from whence the group came, while Sten dithers in the open. There is another smack as a las-round strikes a target, splintering Sten's elbow into pieces and blowing off half his arm. He drops without a sound, and it is not immediately obvious whether or not he is dead. Gracious is busy panicking a bit by the tree - but when he sees Sten fall he tenses.
 
"Sten! Fuck! Fuck!"
 
Laval swears wordlessly across the link, hesitates.
 
Who the FUCK is shooting at us? Gracious demands.
 
It's dark, I can't- I don't know if-
 
It's going to be OK. Gracious tells her. Sten... I don't think he's made it. Fuck. He's not moving, he's not FUCKING moving.
 
I could check but - I'd be an easy target out there –
 
NO. The thought is clear across the link - almost pleading.
 
Marina bounds forward. She grunts as she takes a las-round to the shoulder. She had moved too slow, but it is only a parting shot, and she continues with hungry zeal. Another whips past her head, made with a more lethal aim, but she ducks under it at the last moment. She makes it to the hill, moving impressively fast as further rounds crack about her. Chancing a glance, Laval dares to dream that Marina might make it.
 
The muffled whipcracks cease for about ten seconds as Marina confidently bounds up the hill. As she nears its lip, a figure steps out - barely visible to Gracious and Laval, but to Marina a local teenage girl with dried blood on her face and tattered clothes. Hasnaa levels her stub revolver and fires, the bullet pinging off Marina's chestplate. Marina darts to the side, circling her prey slightly before she makes the final pounce. Her assailant fires again, but it goes wide, and Hasnaa draws a wickedly curved sword in grim anticipation of the fight to come. Their eyes meet: both the eyes of killers, relishing the coming bloodshed.
 
Marina leaps, her power sword crackling into life as she falls on her victim. Hasnaa is barely quick enough, but brings up her blade. It is cut into pieces, but it slows the attack, and the girl jumps back with something like fear. But then a las-round from the relocated sniper rings out, and catches Marina hard to the arm. She howls in pain, and the young girl jumps forward, spinning past her blade and getting her into a tenuous hold.
 
Marina quickly spins out of the hold, but when she swings to kill the girl, the teenager jumps back with childish glee. "YOU'RE DEAD!" Hasnaa screams happily. "YOU'RE SO DEAD!" Ari grins down her scope.
 
But Hasnaa is jumping about, and moving too quickly, getting into the way. Ari gasps in horror as her las-round slams into Hasnaa's leg. The girl screams in pain and shock, and Marina jumps forward to capitalise on the distraction. Her sword fizzes as it buries into the teenager's chest. Her victim barely has time to let loose one last howl of agony before she is completely encased in fire, melting her skin and popping her eyes like superheated eggs.
 
Ari gasps in shock as her friend collapses to the ground. With hate in her eyes, she sends a las-round towards the murderer, but Marina darts to the side. She cannot place the shot by noise alone, but Ari shines in her preysense goggles, and Marina gives chase with a savage delight. She bounds out of sight from Gracious and Laval.
 
"What now?" Gracious asks.
 
I don't know, Laval responds in thought. Pray?
 
...yeah, not a bad shot... "Let me see, I do know one..."
 
"Oh Prince, hear this supplication. / Though I am not worthy. / I do not desire this death that you set before me. / Let me live another dawn. / Let me see another horizon. / Let me taste the flesh of a new world. Oh, Prince..."
 
*****
 
Elsewhere, Marina hisses as she is struck to the leg from another of Ari's shots. It burns deep, and slows her as she makes her pursuit. Another smacks into her chest, hitting her bodily. For a few moments, it slows her down, but then Marina darts forward, dodging the next shot and finally closing on Ari. But when she gets closer, she sees Ari for what she is: an abomination, a terrifying monster. Marina drops to the ground, fainting, but catching herself almost as soon as she hits the ground. Yet Ari sends a las-round burying into her, and punches the air from her body. A lesser warrior would be downed, but Marina has the agility of a mighty huntress. She darts upwards and attacks, as Ari's next shot goes wide.
 
Marina pounces. She is slowed by her injuries, terrified almost out of her mind, but there is nothing left, nothing but the hunt and the hunted and the duel that will decide which is which. She swings out with her blade, but it is a wide arc and Ari ducks beneath. Ari reaches out with a powered blade of her own, but Marina is too quick, battering it away with a finely timed parry. Ari is quick, and Marina adapts, pouncing to one side whilst striking at the other. Ari is fooled, and Marina's blade finds its mark, severing her victim's leg and sending Ari to the ground. 
 
*****
 
Gracious and Laval wait in tense apprehension. They hear in the distance the muffled sounds of las-rounds, and the odd swing of a powered weapon, but who has the upper hand is entirely unknown to them. The combat, however dramatic, is over the lip of the hill, and concealed in darkness and shadow.
 
... Do... do you think it's over? Gracious queries.
 
Not so very long after silence falls, Marina steps out from behind the tree just a few paces from the other two, sword still in hand though the power field is deactivated. Laval stifles a cry of surprise, whilst telepathic alarm echoes through Gracious’ mind.
 
"Done!" Marina declares, then, almost thoughtfully, "Ow." She has suffered burns all over her body, pockmarked with las-rounds to the abdomen, arm and legs. It's a miracle she's still standing at all.
 
"What happened... who...?" Gracious demands. "That girl we saw, she's... she's one of the..."
 
Marina shrugs. "Problem solved."
 
Laval winces. "Do you want... uh... let me just..."
 
Gracious is looking around, still twitching. He sees Sten's body and, slowly, walks over. Laval looks nervously between Marina and Sten. "Is he...?"
 
He kneels down and pats him sadly, in the manner of someone saying goodbye to a treasured possession. There is not much blood, for the las-round left the wound cauterised. But, when Gracious touches the body, it dissolves into ash.
 
"Didn't think he'd made it. Fuck."
 
"Oh," Laval says. "I'm sorry."
 
"Fuck. I... Idiot. Fuck. FUCK."
 
Laval shakes her head sadly, turns back to Marina, lays her hands on the woman and closes her eyes. Gracious is shaking with a cold, quiet anger. He stands up and turns, and watches as Laval... does her thing.
 
Marina cries out in pain and surprise, jerks away from Laval. "What are you-?!"
 
"Oh be quiet, for gods' sakes,” Laval retorts. “You're fine." She turns back towards Gracious, leaving Marina poking her burns in puzzlement. "You said you recognised her?"
 
"I... couldn't be sure. Let's go and... she looked like one of the... my... Ari's... who was shooting at us?"
 
Marina shrugs, looking put out. "Doesn't matter. It's gone now."
 
Gracious's eyes dart to meet Laval's, a grim expression on his face. He starts to walk up the hill to where the fighting happened.
 
It? Laval registers. Bad sign... She sighs, following close at Gracious’ heels, Marina somewhat more reluctantly behind. There is not much with which to recognise corpses. The girl has been burned to a crisp, her features destroyed. Meanwhile, after a bit of searching, Gracious and Laval find a pillar of pink salt.
 
"..." Gracious offers. "Well, uh..." Gracious picks up a bit of the salt, and gets a few tubes and a couple of scraps of indicator paper out of his chym-kit - he tries to identify the salt.
 
"Marina, what happened up here?" Laval asks. Marina does not respond.
 
"Huh," Gracious notes. "This is... weird." He begins to bag up the salt as Laval stares at him expectantly. "Look, this... I've sold this. Or something like it... It's like D-dust. But I've never - I don't know how you make it. They say you make it from daemons..."
 
"Weird,” Marina responds. Laval sighs, rubs her temples with her fingers.
 
Gracious He doesn't take long, not bothering to get every last bit, but gets some chunks of salt in a bag. "Sorry. I... shock. Just want to... not think... fuck. I'll calm down in a - fuck - I just... Sten…"
 
"It's okay,” Laval tells him. Across the mind-link, she offers comfort, sadness, warmth.
 
Thank you, Gracious responds. I... it's not like... you and Vex. But we've been together a while... He was a stupid fuck, but he didn't deserve to die in violence. Always thought he'd die twitching on the floor next to his latest chym, mad grin on his face. S'how he'd have wanted to go. Just a playing piece. But a good one.
 
It looked quick, at least.
 
Yeah. What do you think...
 
"Can we go yet?” Marina complains. “You two are fish in a barrel."
 
"Sure. Yeah. Plan time."
 
"Ugh."
 
"Just...” Laval asks. “Keep an eye out for danger, please?"
 
"Fine," Marina answers.
 
I hate her, Laval remarks. What were you asking?
 
"Do you think we can get over the fence?” Gracious asks aloud. “Or are we going to have to blag it?"
 
Ari, he responds to Laval. She... do you think...?
 
It fits, but... I don't know. Would she?
 
I haven't seen her - spoken to her - since... since we left Imani the first time.
 
"I can,” Marina notes. “... maybe after a bit of rest. Grumpy-guts here? No way. You? Don't know."
 
Maybe, Gracious finishes, mostly ignoring Marina.
 
Some part of me feels like I should be cross with you, Laval notes. But honestly I'm just glad we're both alive. Not your fault, I guess, anyway.
 
I'm glad you're OK. Gracious turns to Marina. "We'll have to try and blag it, then. Worth seeing if the mercs are church, or local. If not..."
 
"I'll grab one and ask?" Marina suggests.
 
"Marina, no," Laval firmly returns.
 
Gracious pauses awkwardly. "So I was going to suggest bribing them with drugs."
 
"They're armed,” Laval continues. “You're burned half to death, and they move in groups."
 
Marina looks blankly at the pair.
 
"Depends how professional they're feeling," Gracious notes, continuing to elaborate on his bribing plan.
 
"And then get one to come with me?" Marina asks. Laval sighs.
 
We could... Gracious thinks. We could always come seeking aid for her. "There's still your..." he gestures upwards from his mouth.
 
Laval smiles slightly, weakly. "In the dark, smoke might cover it. But it's a big might."
 
"Why doesn't Marina get a little closer at least, without taking one, tell us what she sees?" Gracious offers. "Feels like we're, uh, shooting in the dark..."
 
"Can do,” Marina confirms. “Want me to find somewhere for you two to hide first?"
 
"I think that makes sense. Laval?"
 
Laval nods.
 
"Back to fetch you shortly,” Marina stalks off, the direction suggesting an intent to circle the villa.
 
Dangerous people we surround ourselves with... Gracious remarks.
 
Yeah...
 
...So what did you see, "– When you saw my –” Dreams? Gracious - perhaps deliberately, perhaps not - moves in and out of thought and speech.
 
Sitting down in the grass to wait for Marina, Laval puts her head on her knees. Honestly, I'm not entirely sure. I think dreams make more sense when you're having them.
 
I don't remember them, normally.
 
It was... odd. I can see why nobody ever recommended it to me.
 
Heh. Well, a new experience, anyway.
 
Yes, certainly that. Very... fast.
 
It was... it was good to just sit and talk of nothing and eat, actually. I haven't done that... in a while.
 
Agreement. It was good. Exhaustion rolls off her in waves, ebbing and flowing with her thoughts as if she is trying to keep it out of the link, but her concentration keeps slipping.
 
You still can't sleep? I wish... is... can I do anything?
 
Drug Marina for me? Humour. I've just got to lie down and face it, I suppose. I have to fall asleep eventually, if I get tired enough.
 
If you want, I can stay up a bit, keep watch, you know? And surely she'll sleep after her injuries.
 
I'd like that, Laval responds. I don't think she's going to betray me. She seems pretty set on this job. It's just...
 
She's a wild card.
 
It's all a game to her, you know? But her idea of fun is not mine.
 
I... it's not a million miles from my own. I get it. But I get you, too.
 
I know. Warmth. Don't let her tie you up, okay? I know you're into that, but...
 
I don't let people tie me up unless they're worth a damn, Gracious remarks.
 
Humour. Just checking. I like you in one piece.
 
Well, if you change your mind about that, you're definitely worth a damn. Heh.
 
Did I ever say I was against the idea? Laval notes.
 
It's true.
 
And I should hope so... who else knows your body like you do?
 
It's why it's appealing.
 
Gods, if I were not so tired... Amusement, an edge of satisfaction, an undercurrent of desire.

*****

The pain is intense. Her leg hacked off at the thigh, it burns with an intensity Ari has never felt before. She tries to stand, to take vengeance on the woman who killed Hasnaa, but something shifts, and it is like she is no longer physical, no longer there. The world of Swaadi disappears from her view, as if she is being pulled into a sinkhole. Ari looks over her shoulder, and sees it. The palace she saw in a maddened nightmare. That gleaming city of invisible fire. Ari screams in absolute terror, turning back to Swaadi, trying to reach out and grasp the solid ground, but it disappears before her eyes as she is dragged, slowly and torturously, back to the Dark Prince’s domain.
 
And then, the pain in the leg begins anew. But it is not the pain deadened by adrenaline, for all sensations are felt tenfold in the realm of Pleasure and Pain. It is a pain that defies all reason, a pain that renders Ari paralysed in agony that seems to last decade. It burns like her very soul is cast into the flames of hell, and she can do nothing as the handmaidens approach. Outwardly, they look like kindly nurses, smiles stretched from ear to ear. But Ari has seen the faces behind the fleshy masks. She has seen the truth behind the curtain. She screams and screams until her throat burns mute, and her torture truly starts.
 
The years that follow are not kind. The surgery is prolonged, each slice into the vein a bow’s caress against violin strings. She is fed the bloody gibbets of sugared flesh as the parts scream in Hasnaa’s voice. She smells her own cooked leg flesh once they run out of Hasnaa’s parts. Above her are the faces of those nurses, their grins having widened further and further to great jaws that could swallow their patients whole, their eyes black and radiating pure malevolence. They tell her they cannot save the leg. They tell her that she has to eat it all. They tell her to savour it. They tell her to enjoy it, because she cannot stay forever.
 
In the meantime, Ari resides in hell. After a hundred years and a day, the amputation is complete, and Ari returns to the mortal realms, screaming and fundamentally changed in her soul.

[Ari has lost 18 Infamy and gained 1 Corruption Point. She has also lost a leg, and is at 1 Wound. Feel free to specify any non-mechanical changes Ari undertakes on her return. Finally, Sten is dead and Gracious will need to replace his minion.]

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Re: Turn 4 Thread

Post by The GM on Tue Sep 20, 2016 11:29 am

Meanwhile, Marina returns to then pair and leads Gracious and Laval to a hiding place where they can camp. It seems Marina has chosen a fine place: their view of the Villa von Klossner is blocked by the corner of the railing, a small tree and long grass, and Gracious could be tempted to rest and sleep after his journey. But, as Marina disappears again for further recon, Laval asks Gracious to keep watch and settles down to sleep herself.

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Re: Turn 4 Thread

Post by The GM on Tue Sep 20, 2016 3:55 pm

A little later, Marina returns once more, bearing an apparently magical supply of pastries, sliced meats and fruits. She deposits some on a sleeping Laval, and, if Gracious asks, begrudgingly offers him some as well. The killer herself seems quite well fed, and she curls up on the grass to sleep as the dawn breaks with a warm, sunny glow. Gracious is soon left watching both of them sleep, as a new day of chaos and terror is brought to the war-torn world of Swaadi.

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Re: Turn 4 Thread

Post by wren on Tue Sep 20, 2016 10:10 pm

In the morning, Gracious seeks a way into the villa, after having a delicious breakfast. His priority is getting himself past the barrier - he is prepared to bluff or bribe his way through if required. He's not going to worry too much about Laval or Marina, although he'll keep the mental link up if Laval wants to.

His plan is to try and get the lay of the land socially within the villa, charm himself in, and then assess the situation - but he doesn't want to cause a scene yet.

---

Have you got any suggestions for putting Ari back in?

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Re: Turn 4 Thread

Post by The GM on Tue Sep 20, 2016 11:20 pm

After a lavish breakfast, Gracious makes his way to the central gate, leaving a weary and somewhat emotional Laval behind. The mercenaries - superbly equipped with carapace armour and heavy, modified lasguns - step forward to greet him. They're not wearing their helmets, and four of them are stationed on an entrance outpost to the main villa grounds. Their olive skin marks them as foreigners to Swaadi, and they speak in a heavy, but rather lovely, accent. 

"Buongiorno, signore," one of them greets the heretic. She is an attractive woman in her twenties, with dark, shoulder length hair and an easy smile. She seems friendly enough and Gracious realises, awkwardly, that it is most likely due to his skin colour. "And benvenuto to the Villa di Klossner. Are you expected, signore?"

Does Gracious bluff to the extent of telling the woman that he is expected, or does he try another approach?

[With Ari I envisioned her being spat out from hell at an appropriate location. This shouldn't be used to get her past any defences, but should be used to get her back to Gracious or near to a local village.]

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Re: Turn 4 Thread

Post by wren on Tue Sep 20, 2016 11:29 pm

Gracious will entirely attempt the bluff - "Oh, indeed... did they not: well, I guess, you know... communications, eh!" - he'll try and get a read and give some useful story.

...but if he's called on it, will attempt a sort of cheeky "oh well, you got me!" approach, and explain he's a travelling merchant of... exotic... wares - not entirely untrue! Essentially, "cheeky but harmless".

---

If Gracious gets into the villa, then, I guess Ari can't appear there with him: unless once Gracious has got past the defences, it's OK to have him appear in?

I'd prefer you to decide when/where she appears, I think - I'd rather not have that agency.

What are the reasonable ways I can deal with her lack of leg? Any skills to buy to mitigate (post on her thread, I guess, I'm just looking at XP spends for her now and happy to think of ideas).

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Re: Turn 4 Thread

Post by wren on Tue Sep 20, 2016 11:31 pm

Oh: because I'm still in this turn and yet it's almost over, I guess I may as well take Peer (Italianate Mercenaries), if I can... (that is how that Talent works, right?)

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Re: Turn 4 Thread

Post by The GM on Tue Sep 20, 2016 11:55 pm

[Gracious can take a Charm or Deceive Test to trigger Peer (Mercenaries) (2). Unfortunately, he fails that Test. He can re-roll with Infamy if you choose.]

The woman smiles. "I'm afraid la missiva did not reach us, signore, but it is nessun problema. Let me just call ahead and inform la signora that you have arrived. What is your name?"

Gracious hastens to insist that informing the lady ahead of time is hardly necessary, and that he would like to surprise them as an old friend. The mercenary nods after a thought. "Very well. Mi chiamo Fiametta Agosti, should you need anything, signore. Have a tempo meravigilioso!"

The heretic is let through the gates, unaccosted and with all his weapons still upon him. Happily, he whistles slightly as he makes his way through the grounds. A heavy, mahogany door is opened for him by a Swaadi servant as he approaches, revealing a stately entrance hallway with a winding staircase topped with an ornately crafted mezzanine. 

"Welcome to the Villa von Klossner, sir," the Swaadi servant bids him. "Shall I inform the lady of the house that you are here?"

Gracious smiles and is about to answer when there is a sudden crash about the house, preceded just before by an inhuman roar that reverberates its rage in the very depths of Gracious' soul. He sees a crack form along the floor just in front of the mezzanine balcony. It makes him jump out of his wits, but he collects himself quickly. The servant looks at him like he is insane.

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Re: Turn 4 Thread

Post by The GM on Tue Sep 20, 2016 11:59 pm

Elsewhere, Ari is returned to the world of the living. She is spat back out from the warp, screaming and tumbling, as she half falls down a shallow hill into the dirt of Swaadi. She spits out blood, and with widened eyes looks about herself, tries to get her bearings. The first thing she sees is Hasnaa's charred corpse. Ari gags slightly as she acclimatises. She has been away for so long, but she remembers this place. It is the planet where she was born, the place where she was cut down. Hasnaa looks just like when she left. Could it be that no time has passed here at all?

[I don't want Ari just appearing inside the villa because she couldn't feasibly just be in Gracious' retinue: her mutations would make her getting inside the villa a challenge.]

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Re: Turn 4 Thread

Post by wren on Wed Sep 21, 2016 12:16 am

"...Oh, yes, well, if you could - I'm afraid she may not be expecting - I've come quite a... could you tell me anything I should be aware - don't want to cause offence... how is the lady, you know?" He's fishing for gossip.

The line Gracious is going to try and take when meeting the lady - if it seems plausible - is that he's an acquaintance met at a party once, she entirely asked him to visit someone, he came, very sad, bit of a disaster, got caught in the war, you know... a line of that sort.

Obviously that plan might not survive contact with anything.

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Re: Turn 4 Thread

Post by The GM on Wed Sep 21, 2016 12:40 am

The servant bows deeply in recognition of Gracious' questions. She keeps her eyes facing the floor as she answers.

Lady Sarah Klossner is the head of the household. She is quite well, and is friends with the local Deacon. Her lover is Leonard Schneider, and the servant conspiratorially tells Gracious that this man is not her husband. Her husband is Lord Manfried Klossner, who is still on Juno. Her children (all adults), the servant confesses, encouraged by Gracious smiles and assurances, are therefore bastards. There are three of them: Markus, Patrick and Gerhild. They live here, essentially, in disgrace.

The servant fidgets, nervous by how much she has said, but Gracious encourages her further. The Lady seems what might be expected of Imperial nobility - vain and selfish - but there are sometimes strange moans of pleasure from the banquet halls when servants are confined to their quarters. They are of different voices, but there do not seem to be any further guests. The servant supposes that there must be secret guests to the villa. 

Markus is particularly hated by the servants. He is cruel to them, and violent, and has nothing but hatred for the local Swaad. Patrick and Gerhild are kinder, but they are self-centred and aloof - if very affectionate towards each other. Their father, meanwhile, is quiet and largely overshadowed by his family. The servant notes that he was once a tailor, and still not quite used to the fineries of noble life.

Finally - and only because Gracious eggs her on further, the servant confesses one curious titbit of information. The servants think that the place is haunted. Gerhild has been acting very strangely of late, talking to figures that aren't there, or having jumps of terrible fright, and sometimes servants hear crashes or voices in the darkness.  

"Oh, I have been blabbering on!" the servant apologises. By now she has made eye contact with Gracious, and blushes against his charm. "I should be escorting you to her Ladyship. Please," she adds with worry, "Please don't tell her the things that I have told you."

Gracious is led upstairs to the first floor of the mansion. The servant explains that it is still early, but that she will knock on her Ladyship's door to see what should be done. Yet, as Gracious is brought to a finely-crafted, bedroom door, there are two shrieks of terror as a middle aged man and woman bound out from the room. They are still in their bedclothes, bedraggled and afraid. The woman has impossibly sharp features, her bones threatening to slice open her cheeks, her face gaunt but noble, her hair long and black. The man is somewhat her junior, but still middle aged: with baby blue eyes, dirty blonde hair that reaches his shoulders, and a very slight frame. Both look absolutely horrified, and Gracious thinks he knows why. There is a feeling of terrible dread emanating from their bedchambers, a dread that does not quite become fear from outside the room, but a dread nonetheless.

The servant, shocked by the sudden arrival of her masters, flounders. The nobles shake and tremble, gathering their wits as the woman casts evil glances back at the room. "The deacon," she demands in a high-pitched, stuttering voice. "Call him at once!"

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Re: Turn 4 Thread

Post by wren on Wed Sep 21, 2016 12:56 am

Gracious immediately acts to soothe and calm the situation. He's not really going to explain who he is or why he's there - he just aims to talk down the situation a little bit - establish himself as "trusty" - if possible.

If that doesn't look workable, he'll try and at least have a look beyond, into the bedchamber.

---

Ari, meanwhile, sits and thinks. She cannot believe what she is feeling - that this is the place she once knew. It seemed so drab, once - now she feels almost that she never wants to leave it again... She thinks about picking up Husnaa's remains, but she cannot, and she is crying, weeping, real tears for her friend, who she lost so long ago and now somehow has lost all over again. She tried to pull herself together, but that just makes it worse. She decides to head for home, for Imani, for familiarity... and stops.

Something in her turns towards the Villa de Klossner. Slowly, painfully, she hobbles her way in that direction. By the tree that, a hundred years ago - hours ago - provided shelter from her crack shocks, she finds a short stick, and uses it as an impromptu crutch - it at least helps her move along a little easier...

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Re: Turn 4 Thread

Post by The GM on Wed Sep 21, 2016 1:21 am

Gracious, where others flounder, rises to the occasion. He springs forward, full of smiles and soothing, helping to banish away the spectre of fear that still haunts the two nobles. He gets them to a pair of antique seats in the doorway, directs the servant to fetch them both water and a glass of something stronger, and reassures them that they are alright and safe. By the time they get round to asking who he is, they are already disposed to believe him. Lady Sarah smiles, a little embarrassed.

"Oh, of course I remember you. Goodness, you came such a way, but I'm so glad you're here. What is that, girl? No, don't fetch the deacon, obviously, quiet down girl, get away with you."

The noblewoman sends the servant into the bedchambers to fetch her clothes, and, trembling and shaking in terror, the servant wanders in. Gracious sees that whatever is in the room reduces the servant to tears, but she comes out with clothes and the nobles quickly excuse themselves so that they become more presentable. Gracious is taken to a tearoom downstairs, just in time for another commotion.

"What do you mean, already eaten?" a young, handsome man demands. His features are cruel and sharp, like his mother, and he has little of his father's more rounded and docile features. One hand rests on the hilt of a superbly crafted sword. 

"I-I mean, it-it's gone..." the Swaad servant responds. He cowers in fear, obviously frightened of the young nobleman. The latter glances round as Gracious comes down the stairs.

"Who the devil are you?" he demands, his hand still on his hilt. Behind him, Gracious can see the main banquet hall: its tables of fruit, pastries and fresh meats ransacked and raided, a half-strangled, shocked-looking servant being offered water inside. 

*****

Ari still carries her power blade, and she uses it to cut off a firm but flexible branch of just the right thickness. Her mother, aeons ago, taught her how to make something like this before she died, and Ari still remembers. She whittles it swiftly, wraps around scraps of clothing around the clean amputation, and ropes together a contraption to affix the wood to her stump. It hurts terribly, but after her years of torture, it is almost a pleasant feeling. She tries putting weight on it. It is painful, awkward and clumsy, but, in time, she might be able to learn to live with it.

[For the time being, Ari is under the same penalties. However, once she has become accustomed to the peg leg, her base movement is at -2m and the negative modifier for movement based Tests is only at -10. Furthermore, she will be able to use the Dodge Skill.]

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Re: Turn 4 Thread

Post by wren on Thu Sep 22, 2016 12:21 am

Gracious acts to charm this new fellow, though he senses the same approach won't quite work - he'll explain he's a "friend and a guest of the Lady of the house, terribly sorry, um, would you... to who do I have the pleasure of... that is to say... who are you?" He senses this gentlemen might be someone who will respond well to be given space to make a scene... - I assume this is Markus.

Is the mindlink with Laval still open?

---

Ari will start to make her way towards the Villa proper, taking time to get used to what is becoming her new normal. The strange compulsion pushes her on, even as she really desires nothing but. If she works out where Marina etc. have been, she'll give them a wide berth.

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Re: Turn 4 Thread

Post by The GM on Thu Sep 22, 2016 1:35 am

The aristocrat looks Gracious up and down. Though the heretic is not exactly badly dressed, he has been camping in the wilds, and does not compare to the absurd formal-wear that the noble is sporting. 

"Mother did not inform me we had guests," he responds flatly. He turns to the servant. "Set up in the tea-room. No more excuses, or I'll cut out your tongue." He turns to Gracious with a curt smile. "All of them heathens," he says, by way of explanation. He gestures in the direction of a door. "I am Markus Klossner. You are a guest of mother. I beg your pardon, but I do not know you. Have we met before?"

Gracious is led to the tea-room, where servants are bustling about and bringing food and drink. Markus apologises for the chaos - it seems that there is an intruder, or some servant has gotten greedy. The nobleman makes small talk, waiting for his parents to arrive. He finds himself cautiously charmed by Gracious - not to the extent that he is eating out of the heretic's hand, but enough to be making polite conversation. Markus notes that since the war broke out, the heathens are more sullen than usual, so he thinks one of them might be responsible. 

Gracious is soon joined by Lady Klossner and Leonard Schneider. They are now dressed in formal clothes, and Lady Klossner comes over and takes Gracious by the hand. "Once again, my gratitude, darling. Markus, this is my good friend. We met at a party, before all this nonsense war started."

Leonard stays silent throughout. Gracious cannot tell if it is a lack of confidence, a quiet spirit, or simply a man with not much to say. When Gracious asks about the other children, Markus scoffs as Lady Klossner interjects.

"Don't make that sound, Markus, you sound like a grox. Patrick and Gerhild often skip breakfast," she tells Gracious, a little embarrassed. "The morning light isn't good for their constitution."

Gracious continues to make conversation with them. He is delightful, charming and polite, and knows that he is deeply impressing Lady Klossner and her husband. Markus, for his part, seems amiable, but not as easily wowed by Gracious' charms. The mindlink, though it paused when Laval slept, is active again, and Gracious can communicate with her if she wishes.

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Re: Turn 4 Thread

Post by wren on Thu Sep 22, 2016 1:41 am

At an opportune moment, Gracious will - politely - broach the possibility of staying the night and perhaps getting a change of clothes - the indignity of having to have been staying out in the wilderness for Emperor knows how long... and perhaps even... a bath?

Meanwhile, he'll try to gently tease out of them any loose facts about what's going on here - the answer is clearly "something or other" - and he'll be keeping a close ear out for any little threads to pull on.

He'll also send this message: These people are terribly strange, Laval. There's something weird going on here and no mistake - trying to get to the bottom... well, you know. What's happening with you?

(No need for an interaction I think - he's not trying to initiate conversation.)

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Re: Turn 4 Thread

Post by The GM on Thu Sep 22, 2016 1:49 am

Unusually for Gracious, he finds himself struggling. These people seem particularly averse to giving anything away, whether it be a place to stay or information. Lady Klossner, though grateful to Gracious and eager not to cause offence, nonetheless has no idea who the heretic is and is loathe to offer him the spare room. She obfuscates and fusses, politely explaining that the spare room is being renovated, and simply isn't "suitable," whilst directing Gracious in the direction of the Makuu. Meanwhile, she seeks to brush off her earlier fright to bad dreams, probably caused by the stress of the renovations: "the local help aren't exactly expert, you see, and ever so careless."

Markus, meanwhile, is more direct. He tells Gracious that despite a few frights, there is, "in truth, nothing going on but gossip and rumours. A heathen nonsense," he assures Gracious, "And something to be forgotten."

Gracious considers how he might proceed. United, the Klossner family are quite impenetrable, but he might find out more about what is going on in the mansion if he gets one alone. Perhaps another member of the family he hasn't met will be more open. Meanwhile, if he wants to stay the night, he had better elaborate on his cover story so that Lady Klossner trusts him more fully. Alternatively, he could do something to endear himself to them, something that is more than mere words. Perhaps then he could suavely ask again. He has many options, but these people are adept at the same games: the next play may well be a challenge.

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Re: Turn 4 Thread

Post by wren on Fri Sep 23, 2016 12:22 am

Gracious can recognize when a situation requires more tack, and prompted by the Lady's suggestion will turn the conversation to the Makuu - can she recommend someone to talk to there? Will they have space - do they have lots of... local... refugees? He will give every impression of intending to leave that evening - although before/after dinner he will be ambiguous on at least! His intent is to try and get one of them to invite him out of kindness - which he can then accept graciously - but he won't push it for fear of showing his hand.

He will idly mention in conversation that by trade he is a chymist - specializing in compound synthesis - and see if anyone bites at that. An interest in substance is his key component of leverage...

I would like to attempt to use Serpent's Tongue to gain Peer (Nobility) this turn, now that's ticked over.

After tea - assuming they are in no rush to hurry him out yet, given that he's given no impression of pushing the stay yet - he will continue making polite conversation with the Lady, especially regarding Juno. He will be attempting to cold read details that he can use to feed back to her later to construct a more solid cover story - any details of her life that he could pick up on and think about, and extrapolate upon.

He will go out onto a balcony or veranda - assuming he is left alone in some part of the house, at least? - to sip some tea and think, and look out towards the Makuu. He may attempt to find the other two Klossner children, if the opportunity arises. Perhaps at this stage he spots Ari?

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