Turn 6 Thread

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Re: Turn 6 Thread

Post by The GM on Sun Oct 02, 2016 8:52 pm

To her delight, Laval moves directly through a wall, as if it were nothing but a film of solid-looking fog. She can hover off the ground, and there is no obstacle to her, but for the soldiers of the Makuu that she should take some care to avoid. Or perhaps not. Perhaps it would do them good to see a ghost about, to help shatter further their battered nerves. Does Laval attempt to stealth around them?

It occurs to Laval that astral projection is affected in a place like this. There may be holy binds that prevent her disembodied soul, and she can intuitively feel the presence of wards keeping her within the confines of the Grand Makuu. The sandstone walls, or, more accurately, their rockcrete skeleton, are inscribed with prayers and appeals to the Corpse Emperor, designed, no doubt, to keep spirits out. It may even help protect Laval's soul while it wanders freely off the body's protection, but it will prevent her from leaving the cathedral. Not that it matters.

The layout of the cathedral follows a logical pattern, and though Laval never went for the memory games that Vex was so fond of, she quickly gets a sense of the place. The central nave - a place that Laval's soul intuitively fears to go -takes up approximately half of the cathedral, there to receive pilgrims and the faithful. The rest, kept within a vast dome, is built for the priests and soldiers that live there. Laval is confident she can find her way about the place with little trouble - from the deacon's bedchambers at the top of the dome, surrounded by his direct underlings, through the soldiers quarters and barracks in the middle, to the servant quarters near the wine cellar at the bottom of the structure. Where, then, does she want to go?

[Just so you know, you can use Unnatural Healing while Incorporeal, but you cannot use Medicae.]

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Re: Turn 6 Thread

Post by Jewelcast on Sun Oct 02, 2016 9:26 pm

Laval makes an effort to avoid the soldiers, purely to avoid tipping her hand too soon. There is a ritualist, most likely, in the deacon's body, and there may be other priests who know tricks to make her life unpleasant. She does not panic if spotted, but she is not keen for reports of a ghost to start being made in substantive numbers.

Where would Gracious go? Servants' quarters, perhaps...? She makes a brief search, not taking any egregious risks, but she is not willing to waste much time on it. She listens out for any conversations that might clue her in to the soldiers' current orders, casting her mind to where the Lieutenant might be - barracks probably. There next then, if she cannot easily find Gracious.

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Re: Turn 6 Thread

Post by The GM on Sun Oct 02, 2016 9:36 pm

In her current incorporeal state, Laval is more than difficult to spot. She glides by the patrols, evading them through walls or in areas of bright light, where she is nigh impossible to spot. 

A brief search of the servants' quarters does not reveal Gracious. Laval is not willing to spend too much time on the problem, and it occurs to her that Gracious might not have had much choice where he ended up anyway. It is better than her focus is on the compact. She instead floats towards the barracks, trying to pick up on titbits of information about the lieutenant. Across various patrols, she learns that the lieutenant has been detained, awaiting the deacon's judgement. He is being kept in the Makuu dungeons, ironically not so far from where Laval first began her journey, but on the other side of the dome. 

The dungeons themselves are well-protected by stone and lock, but these things are of little consequence in Laval's state. She floats like a breeze past the defences, trivially avoiding the guards that only watch on the corridor leading to their door. Inside, she finds a row of cells, filled with broken souls, Swaad who have been found wanting, but are hated enough to be denied a swift death. At the end waits the lieutenant, stripped of his armour, weapons and clothes, cowering naked and beaten on the floor. What does Laval do?

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Re: Turn 6 Thread

Post by Jewelcast on Sun Oct 02, 2016 10:02 pm

Can you hear me? she asks telepathically of the man. Tingeing the thought with empathy is second nature. If you speak now, I will hear you, though I could not before.

She reaches out cautiously to soothe his mind, aware that he is unlikely to think kindly of her without some manipulation.

[Delude, Fettered please.]

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Re: Turn 6 Thread

Post by The GM on Sun Oct 02, 2016 10:17 pm

I think I'll be seriously injured by the next shot I take, Gracious' thought echoes in her mind. Laval feels a tremor of fear, as his voice echoes across the void, no doubt bringing her more attention from beyond the veil. I've lost a lot of blood. Don't want to risk moving around too much in case a stray shot finishes me off... I don't know. Paranoia, I guess. I don't know what the enemy here are capable of. How are things with you?

Laval focuses her attention on Lieutenant Mwenye, daring to use her powers again. His mind is weak, shattered by betrayal and fear, and Laval soon manipulates and communicates with him. He turns as white as a sheet, screaming for help, but, when none comes after a minute, he falls silent, gathering his nerves. "... yes, wych," he stutters, broken and alone. "I hear you. You are hear to bewitch me, or taunt me, right?"

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Re: Turn 6 Thread

Post by Jewelcast on Sun Oct 02, 2016 10:29 pm

Marina and I are well, if not safe, she tells Gracious. I may be able to come to you and heal you if you tell me where you are, but that is a risk itself.

To the soldier, she wonders if she can speak aloud. She is unclear on whether she has the capacity to create sound, or if she will be forced to keep manifesting. Either way, she has a message to communicate:

Certainly not to taunt you. I truly regret what happened. I was fighting for my life. Regret heals nothing, I know. I understand your hatred. But perhaps I can still help you, if you will help me in return...


Last edited by Jewelcast on Sun Oct 02, 2016 10:45 pm; edited 1 time in total

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Re: Turn 6 Thread

Post by The GM on Sun Oct 02, 2016 10:40 pm

Without lungs, Laval cannot summon the breath to speak, nor can she vibrate voice-chords she does not have. She must rely on the power of the warp to communicate, despite the risks. 

The lieutenant lets out a half-laugh, half-sob. "You have cursed me," he tells her. "I thought I had faith, but I am just a sinner. Please... release me from this curse, so that my soul can enter the Kingdom of God. I will pay any bargain for my eternal soul."

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Re: Turn 6 Thread

Post by Jewelcast on Mon Oct 03, 2016 12:06 am

It is a tragedy that tugs at Laval's heart, that this man should believe such naïve things. The only way she knows for a soul to be saved in death is at the mercy of the Dark Gods, and even that is a peculiar kind of "saved". But she has no time to convert him, so she will play the part he has set out for her - the wych - capricious, but perhaps she can at least not be cruel.

That I can do, she lies. I will need to go deep into your mind to unknot the curse. Let me take what secrets I will while I am at it, and I will release you.

From here, mad, wounded, imprisoned and still clinging to his faith, Laval realises there is little he can give her beyond information. And whilst she can likely plunder his mind without his cooperation, it will at least be a little easier if he tries not to resist.

She wants more detail on Hasek and Forst - and the deacon, for that matter. She knows the basics of their identities, but she is looking for more she can work with, for the relationships between them, for any flaws or vices she can exploit, for any other holes in the power structure that she can pull at. While she is at it, if she can get that deep, she wants general information on the condition of the remaining forces, on their numbers, on how they have reacted to the sabotage enacted and on their fears for the future.

Time is of the essence, and though she regrets this poor man's fate, she will take what she can from his mind and move on.

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Re: Turn 6 Thread

Post by The GM on Mon Oct 03, 2016 12:37 am

The man is ready to believe, and nods weakly, as if accepting he has no choice in the matter. Laval reaches out and enters into the lieutenant's mind, unrestricted and free to plunder his secrets at will.

His name is Lieutenant Naasir Mwenye, and he is in a state of denial, desperation and fear. He is badly beaten and in terrible pain, and his mind is broken by a magical toxin, the horrors he has seen, and the complete collapse of his life. He now has only one thing left - his immortal soul - and he is terrified for its safety, even as his compliance stains his faith. There is ambition, pride and cruelty on his soul, and he is stained, but still faithful - of sorts - to the Imperial Creed.

Laval pushes deeper as he starts to weep in blubbering horror at the psychic intrusion. He was sent by Deacon Alfred Brauer to gather his men and kill the guests in the day room. He did not question the instructions, and frankly seemed glad, almost relieved... it is a strange emotion, and Laval delves deeper. The lieutenant's day before the violence was interspersed with horrors of their own. Suicide is rife among the soldiers of the Makuu, men killing each other and acting violently, accusing one another of heresy and treachery. It has been getting worse and worse, and the lieutenant is tired and similarly afflicted by paranoia. And so, he was relieved: to have simple instructions, and to vent his confusion and sense of betrayal through violence.

Laval pushes deeper, into the man's subconscious. She sees memories of his parents, soldiers of the Swaadi Army who have died on another planet, far from home. She sees the face of Colonel Zuberi, a woman Mwenye despises, for he covets her position and has been trying to undermine her since she left for Makuu with the majority of the company. She sees a man, Sergeant Chuma, who Mwenye adores, even perhaps loves, and knows that he often thinks of the sergeant in the lonely hours. But ultimately, Laval is not here to understand Lieutenant Mwenye, or learn of his life and dreams. She focuses on the Ecclesiastical members of the Makuu.

Mwenye thinks very lowly of Preacher Hasek, but also recognises him as someone to work with. The preacher is arrogant, ambitious and, in Mwenye's eyes, cowardly. The man talks of fire and violence, but the lieutenant has noticed that when it comes to action, the preacher hides behind the crowds. And yet, Elias Hasek may well one day become deacon of the cathedral - he certainly wants to be, and perhaps could be manipulated if he thought he had a chance in the near future. 

Meanwhile, Drill Abbot Forst is a woman Mwenye has some respect for: an old soldier, with many tales of war. He does not know the Drill Abbot very well - whenever they have met, Forst seems to actively despise him - and this has left the lieutenant bewildered and intimidated. On the other hand, she does not seem particularly active in the running of the Makuu.

Finally, there is Deacon Brauer. Similarly to the Drill Abbot, he is aloof and distant in the Makuu, and the lieutenant has focused his ambitions for promotion on Preacher Hasek. Mwenye thinks of Brauer as a scholarly man, respecting him as a man of faith and learning. He has no great insight otherwise.

And yet, how these individuals have reacted to the curse of paranoia may yet be instructive. Elias Hasek has largely kept to himself, delivering fewer sermons and allowing lesser adepts to perform them in his place. He has holed himself up in his quarters, but does not ask for a guard. The deacon has done very little, seeming to not notice what is going on, or choosing not to care. He has, until recently, been at the Villa von Klossner. Finally, the Drill Abbot has stirred from her aloof distance and even spoken to Lieutenant Mwenye about what is going on. She has told a concerned Mwenye that there are unholy magics working here, but that the lieutenant should not fear: that the Emperor will usurp this curse and use it to "Weed out those too useless to serve."

The soldiery have suffered a decline in numbers. When Colonel Zuberi left, she left behind around a hundred men. Some have died on operations around the villages, where heretical activity has been on the rise. Some have killed one another since the madness, or killed themselves. Some are injured, or too locked up within themselves to follow even basic commands. All in all, their effective numbers are around fifty: not inconsequential, but significantly weakened. Of this fifty, a squad of ten has been sent out under the command of Sergeant Macha, to acquire another round of rations from the town of Kifodini. They should be back within the day.

Unbidden, Mwenye's hopes and dreams, now in pieces, filter through Laval's consciousness. He wanted to be a Colonel, a General, perhaps then something even greater. He was so very ambitious, but now he is disgraced and it will all come to nought. Laval sees the moment he made Lieutenant, having worked up from a mere private, the pride in his eyes as he accepted his stripes. It is enough to make Laval pity this man, but she sees more than just the happy moments. She sees the cruelties this man has inflicted without mercy upon the tithed villages. She sees the betrayals he has wrought against those in his way. She sees a selfish, violent man, who most likely belongs in the cage he is in. 

As she leaves the psyche of Lieutenant Mwenye, Gracious' voice reverberates in her mind. He has made his way to the servants' quarters, and repeats the request for assistance. 

Laval shudders suddenly as she feels a shimmer in the veil. Things have noticed her, noticed her movements, the powers she has used, the telepathic messages she has received. If it were not for the wards of the cathedral, she would already be assailed. And yet, that is not entirely good news. For, if she continues, the entity that does break through the holy bindings will be all the more powerful.

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Re: Turn 6 Thread

Post by Jewelcast on Mon Oct 03, 2016 1:06 am

Laval finds it hard to hate once she has seen a person from their own perspective. Even Marina she feels a certain pity for, beneath the fear and disgust. Though she knows he does not deserve it, she feels a powerful urge to soothe the lieutenant's pain before she leaves him. But all she has at her disposal is magic, and she knows that if he is seen to have received magical healing, his situation will only grow worse. All she can give him is to leave him alone, perhaps with the hope that the "curse" is lifted, and trouble him no further with her powers.

Fear tells Laval that she should flee back to her body. But her work is not done. There is so much she could achieve like this... but there is no time, she knows she cannot defend herself against a sufficiently powerful daemon. But she must at least help Gracious. He is close to her body now, perhaps with her unnatural capacity to scout ahead, she could guide him into the cellar and then be in a position to help both him and herself. Yes, that seems like a plan.

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Re: Turn 6 Thread

Post by Jewelcast on Mon Oct 03, 2016 10:37 am

[I've also just realised that I shouldn't have mutated, whoops. Next threshold isn't until 60.]

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Re: Turn 6 Thread

Post by The GM on Mon Oct 03, 2016 1:15 pm

[Ah well. You won't mutate at 60 Corruption Points.]

Laval leaves Lieutenant Mwenye, sobbing and confused on the floor. He does not notice her leave, but seems just relieved that the probing of his mind is over. He falls to his knees, blubbering prayers to the God Emperor of Mankind. 

The wych makes her way to the servant's quarters. It is a wide area to search, but Gracious is the active recipient of a psychic power, and Laval uses her psyniscience to track him down. When she finds the heretic, he does not seem to be hiding, having made his way down a corridor in the direction of the kitchens. Laval is just about to do something, to alert Gracious to her presence, but a wiry, Swaad man turns the corner and she shrinks back half into the wall to avoid detection.

"Who are you?" the man asks Gracious, a little aggressively.

[Are you free for an Interaction?]

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Re: Turn 6 Thread

Post by Jewelcast on Mon Oct 03, 2016 4:48 pm

[I am about]

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Re: Turn 6 Thread

Post by The GM on Mon Oct 03, 2016 10:28 pm

"Whoah...” Gracious replies, “Hey... no need for that. I'm lost, is what I am. And who are you?"
 
The man halts, still eying Gracious suspiciously, but with a little less hostility. "My name is Kuvunjwa. Are you one of them that they are looking for?"
 
"There's certainly been some dreadful misunderstanding," Gracious responds. "The soliders here seem... oh it's horrible, sir. I saw one of them kill himself right in front of me! Are you OK? Have.... have any of them hurt you? Yes, I think they're looking for me."
 
Kuvunjwa's mouth twitches slightly. "No, they have not hurt me. I am no threat to them, so they do not hassle me. They do not hassle any of us without power, without guns." He steps forward. "I think it the food," he declares, "They do not feed us well. Maybe in time I will go mad like them. In the meantime, they pay for their greed, perhaps."
 
Gracious frowns.
 
"You should not be here,” Kuvunjwa continues, “In the corridor."
 
"Where should I be, do you think?"
 
"I don't know what you want," the Swaad man replies steadily. "But if you do not want to die, you should not be seen."
 
I'm in the cellar, Laval tells Gracious.
 
Nearby?
 
Yes.

 
"Can you recommend me anywhere to hide?" Gracious asks Kuvunjwa.
 
"The Makuu has many places to hide," Kuvunjwa responds. "But in an hour or so this place will be very busy."
 
Don't let him poke around down there though, if you're headed that way, Laval warns. She glides away from the scene, fearful for her unprotected soul and hurrying back to her body.
 
You can hear me? Gracious asks.
 
Not any more, you seemed fine.
 
Laval reaches her body, illuminated in her wych-sight, even if the cellar is wreathed in darkness. With the desperation of nerves, she plunges into her flesh, only now conscious of just how much she has missed it. To Marina’s perspective, it is like she is gasping back into life. The killer watches in distaste, but is glad that the ritualistic nonsense is over.
 
 You were below me? Gracious asks Laval.
 
It's complicated. If you get down here though, I can treat your injuries.
 
Do you know a way? I'm talking to this nice madman.

 
Laval gives directions, a mix of semi-verbal impressions and images indicating the route.
 
Alright, Gracious tells Laval, after a short time. I'm going to follow this lead for a bit, I think; but I may try and join you shortly. Keep me up to date? Do you know if they caught Leonard?
 
No, I'd thought he was with you until just now.
 
He couldn't hide. Too slow, too clunky, was going to get us both killed. I gave him some satrophine and a good luck and told him to climb for it.
Gracious expresses regret.
 
Laval returns the feeling. I've some news, at least, she tells him.
 
I have to say, I do sort of care for him, Gracious admits. That dress... he has beauty in his soul.
 
We nearly have this place, Gracious, Laval urges. Their fighting force is only abut fifty strong now.
 
Wow.
Fear echoes through Gracious’ mind. I… I saw a man stab himself in the eye, in front of me.
 
Drill Abbot Forst has been taking the lead,
Laval continues, And Hasek has withdrawn somewhat since the poisoning.
 
We've done a number on this place. Any news on the Deacon?


Not since we left him shouting behind us. There is a glimmer of defensiveness in Laval’s response. I told you what the poison was. Madness, despair, betrayal.
 
No, I know.
His thoughts writhe in pleasure. When it happens in front of you, it shakes you.
 
Yes.
 
But you are marvellous.
 
Thank you. I think. This ordering us killed is probably out of character for the deacon. Maybe Forst could be convinced to look into his possession...
 
I've been trying to find Forst, vaguely. No luck so far.
 
I think Forst lodges near the top, near the Deacon.
 
I somehow think she'll be hard to charm,
Gracious muses. You don't live to ovesee the subjugsation of world and 300 years of tyranny without being tough stuff.
 
Mm. Fair.
Laval pauses. As for Hasek - perhaps not as fiery as the people outside - Lieutenant Mwenye thought him a coward, behind all the talk. We also still have the option of parleying with our enemy, though I can't say I'm keen.
 
Fundamentally this third factor is still present,
Gracious remarks.
 
Probably helpful to our goals here, Laval suggests. If hazardous to our lives.
 
This man I am talking to has reason to hate the church. And he's the organist. The organ...
 
Mm.
 
Well, I'll see where this goes.
 
Quite tempted to just start killing,
Laval admits. She waits as Gracious falls silent for a while, presumably caught up in his conversation with the strange Kuvunjwa. Marina prowls in the background, still feeling somewhat uncomfortable and unwilling to make conversation.
 
 Ah, here's the madness, Gracious suddenly remarks to Laval. I may have to run fast. He feels Laval’s worry. On satrophine again.
 
Call if you need a hand. We're not far away.

 
There is a silence for some minutes. Gracious? Laval queries. Still alive?
 
Yes. Busy, sorry.
 
Just checking.
There is warmth in Laval’s thoughts.
 
After a short time, Gracious contacts Laval with joy in his heart. I am so very good at my job.
 
So I'm going to need a face mask, then? Laval asks.
 
How do you mean?
 
You're not getting drugs everywhere, then?
 
I am doing holy work, for once,
Gracious objects.
 
Ah, carry on then, Laval responds with humour.
 
And it is done. On my way.
 
After a short while, there is a sharp rap on the door in a whimsical rhythm. Room service.
 
There is a pause, then Marina opens the door onto total darkness, glaring suspiciously through her goggles. Gracious nods. "Marina."
 
"Hi,” Marina returns, “Don't just stand there, get in here."
 
He gets in. Marina shuts the door, cutting off the light. "So, you got a plan?"
 
"The Deacon will, shortly, no longer be a problem," Gracious responds. "I mean, I think so. I just gave a desperate man a pile of drugs, including one to give him daemonic nature, for a bit. Events will occur as a result, I am sure."
 
"Ooh."
 
"Certainly," Laval adds.
 
"...I don't suppose you'd like to be a demon, Marina?" Gracious asks.
 
"Yes,” Marina admits, “But I don't do drugs."
 
"Fair."
 
"Also I'm still mad at you."
 
"I thought maybe an offering for - well, yes."
 
"But we're busy, so..." Marina pats his shoulder in what might be meant to be a friendly way.
 
"I fucked up!” Gracious exclaims. “I'm pleased you're alive, and I apologise for my erstwhile associate. It may please you to know that the demon dust is made from what she left behind. If we can get to the Drill Abbot, break her, corrupt her, that's it, the game is over."
 
"I like breaking people," Marina agrees.
 
 "Mm,” Laval muses. “I can see some logistic issues."
 
There are two kinds of people in this world, Gracious observes with a smile. Laval chuckles. "Yes,” Gracious responds. “But if we could do it..."
 
"And Hasek?" Laval asks.
 
"What would be good is if we could draw out the rebellion in Kifodini," Gracious suggests. "Hardly a source of spiritual strength, it sounds like. But yes,” Gracious answers. “We should probably do for him too.
 
"There are soldiers there now,” Laval notes, “Looking for another tithe."
 
“Maybe that'll work. Maybe not..."
 
"I don't know what he'll do when cornered. But he's ambitious, there might be an in there... Also, our 'friend' the ghost might survive being evicted from the deacon."
 
"Yes,” Gracious accepts, “And of course, he has backup."
 
".... how much like a daemon does this miracle substance make someone?" Laval queries.
 
"Ah...” Gracious stutters, distracted by pain. “Could you have a look at my wounds...?"
 
"Yes, of course. Ugh, I almost forgot.." There is a quiet thud, then Laval lights a candle. Gracious sits down, heart still racing from the satrophine. The flickering light reveals what looks suspiciously like a ritual circle on the floor behind Laval as she steps forwards to look Gracious over.
 
"..." Gracious wordlessly points, and raises an eyebrow.
 
"Well, how did you think I know what's going on?” Laval chides.
 
"Yes, fair enough."
 
"Give me your hand. This might hurt anywhere from a lot to not at all."
 
"Sounds good to me." He puts forward his hand. She takes it, closes her eyes briefly in concentration. His hand has a jagged cut upon it, but as soon as Laval places her palm upon it, it heals in a strange, tickling sensation. Gracious winces as his wounds close up his side, still injured, but feeling much better.
 
"The drug will, uh...” Gracious begins, “It'll make you tough, like a daemon is, you know. It could let you walk through walls, even. Could even make it so that your knives are like knives from the warp itself. Or it might do none of these things. It's like... it takes a strong kind of mind, you know? You'd be fine, I'm sure."
 
Marina makes a sound of disgust, still concealed in the darkness outside the candlelight. Laval opens her eyes and gets to more conventional medical work, holding a candle to help her work. She stitches the gash together where it is still slightly open, considers giving Gracious something for the pain before seeing his eyes are already bloodshot on some self-medication, and concludes her work, satisfied.
 
[Gracious is fully healed.]
 
"Well," Gracious manages, "That feels... gods. Much better! Ah, thank you..."
 
"Wouldn't want you dying on me," Laval smiles.
 
"Yes ma'am." He sticks out his tongue. Marina makes exaggerated gagging noises. "Marina, your pain gives me strength. Let's chat. Any other plans or ideas?"
 
Laval answers. "In terms of other desperate souls, there's some in the dungeon, but I doubt any of them are in good enough condition to be of any use."
 
"Can we have a plan that doesn't have more magic in it?" Marina complains.
 
"I'm... not keen to do that again any time soon, so sure."
 
"So you want no magic and no drugs?" Gracious asks, a little bewildered.
 
"Other people can have drugs," Marina notes.
 
"Right."
 
"But I've seen where that goes," she finishes.
 
Gracious pauses in acknowledgement. "...We could give all the people in the cellar drugs? Yes, I don't normally partake much myself, but needs must. A problem for later."
 
"We could, I suppose... how much do you have?" Laval asks.
 
"I have a LOT of satrophine. I think."
 
"So we just need to get into this lady's room and ambush her, right?" Marina asks impatiently.
 
"'Just' that, yes..." Laval murmurs.
 
"I suppose we could send in a bunch of wacked-out prisoners on combat drugs in first,” Gracious suggests, “That seems like a flawless plan with no downsides. Wait, no..."
 
Laval chuckles.
 
"It does have a certain appeal, I will say," Gracious remarks. "But, as you say, logistics."
 
"I prefer sneaking,” Marina interrupts. “Are you any good at that?"
 
"I'm pretty good when I'm on this."
 
"Well then. We get in a box with her, barricade the door, get to work?"
 
"... box?" Laval queries.
 
Marina sighs. "Box, room, whatever."
 
"Mighten it not be best for you to do that alone?” Gracious remarks. “It's not like I'm good in a fight."
 
"I thought you'd want in on the fun,” Marina shrugs. "'Sides, I might need a healer..."
 
"It's going to take time to corrupt her, surely, even if all you're going for is to drive her insane..." Laval objects.
 
"Yes,” Gracious notes, but he still considers the notion. “If you could kidnap her and bring her here, without bringing the Makuu down on us. Another possibility: the organ. When that plays, everyone hears. Any of you two got a musical bent? Nothing like a good hymnal, eh. And I don't know any good hymnals."
 
"Nope," Marina shakes her head. "Not me..." Laval seconds.
 
"Damn. Feels like we should be able to use it somehow..."
 
Laval shrugs.
 
"Trouble with kidnapping,” Marina continues, “Is it's way hard to sneak when you're carrying an unconscious person."
 
"Yes, I can see that." Gracious thinks. "...now, I know you said you didn't want any more plans involving magic. … but surely there must be daemons who can play..."
 
"Not sure I could get one in here," Laval notes. "It's warded."
 
"Hmm. Sanctified?"
 
"Yes,” Laval tells him. “Inscriptions on the rockrete, inside the walls. Only reason I haven't been eaten, if I'm honest."
 
"Damn. So hard to subvert?" Gracious queries.
 
"Something powerful enough could break through,” Laval responds. “But it would need to be thoroughly motivated, or take a great deal of power from our end to pull through. And I don't fancy playing bait because you want an organist, so...."
 
"I mean, that's fair," Gracious admits.
 
"Although I am, apparently, delicious," Laval flirts.
 
Gracious studiedly looks at the wall. He has the knowledge to corrupt and break wardings, but he would need to get to the rockrete. With a lascutter it would be a fairly quick – if loud – job. With his power blade, and still high on satrophine, it could be much quieter, and perhaps not much longer.
 
"So. No daemons?" Marina asks.
 
"No daemons, hopefully," Laval sighs.
 
"I mean, that's good," Gracious remarks.
 
"You'd better not run off as soon as we're done here though," Marina warns.
 
"Me?" Gracious asks.
 
"Yeah."
 
"Marina, mind on the job, please?" Laval pleads. "We can sort this out if and when we survive?"
 
"Yes,” Gracious accepts, “I imagine you'll want some stern words, or worse. I agree we should table that discussion for now."
 
"Ugh, fine," Marina huffs. "But if you run away I will kill you. Just wanna make that clear. Anyway."
 
"Crystal!" Gracious tells her. "So where are their forces, exactly? Mostly up top with the Abbot?"
 
“Right now, I'm not sure,” Laval responds. “The soldiers are quartered below their leaders. But they are presumably on some sort of alert. Most of what I got, I got from Lieutenant Mwenye, who is no longer involved in that sort of decision making."
 
"Indeed, he looked...” Gracious trails off. “Out of the loop."
 
"He's been thrown in the dungeon." Laval sounds a little uncomfortable.
 
"You know, I still do quite like the plan of "give all the prisoners drugs and run away",” Gracious observes. “Might draw out the solidery.”
 
"And then we're trying to move around through a cathedral full of fighting and drugged up prisoners," Laval objects. "I'm not dismissing it out of hand, I just think it has some issues."
 
"It doesn't last that long," Gracious returns. "We need to reduce their fighting force, right?"
 
"Sounds like a good distraction to me," Marina chips in.
 
"Yeah, exactly,” Gracious agrees. “And I'm sure you could do a great job of picking off soldiers in all that, Marina."
 
"Sure could."
 
"It's also distressingly easy to...” Laval trails off. “Well, you saw what I did earlier."
 
"Take control?" Gracious queries.
 
"Provoke murder and suicide,” Laval finishes. “I only touched a couple of their minds directly, the rest was all on the poison."
 
"Right, yeah." Gracious smiles. "Throw more chaos in the mix..."
 
"So,” Marina takes stock. “Distraction, then...? You still want me to try and grab the lady?"
 
"Do you think you can?" Laval asks.
 
"I think we'll try and do that after, maybe?" Gracious suggests. "Or in the peak of the chaos...?"
 
"Well she's old, but if she's trained in fighting it might be hard to get her down without killing her..." Marina admits. "I like having a distraction, less risk of me getting shot and horribly burned. Don't like getting burned, hurts like crazy. Maybe even worse than drilling into bone." Her tone remains cheerful, as if making small talk.
 
"You can't be kidnapping and killing as many as possible at the same time..." Laval comments.
 
"True."
 
Meanwhile, Gracious is staring at a wall. Are you alright? Laval asks him.
 
"We're on the inside, here, right?" he replies aloud.
 
"Inside of what?" Laval asks.
 
"The Makuu. That's not an outer wall." He stares at his power blade. "If you gave me an hour next to an outside wall, I think I could break through to the wards. And bring them down. Not saying we then do anything..."
 
"Hm..." Laval thinks.
 
"But we should deconsecrate this place, right?” Gracious suggests. “It's the principle of the thing."
 
"Yes, fair,” Laval responds. “I'm certainly not going wandering again if we do that, though."
 
"Don't do that anyway,” Marina tells her. “It's creepy."
 
"The traditional way to deconsecrate is with sacrifice," Laval advises.
 
"Hmm," Gracious muses.
 
"It occurs to me that if we're corrupting anyone, Hasek will probably break faster and easier than Forst," Laval notes.
 
"I think I know enough to just change a few symbols and words, corrupt the meaning,” Gracious announces, referring to the ward. “Use the binding against it."
 
"Mm,” Laval nods. “I'll trust your judgement."
 
Gracious sits on the floor and gets out his chym kit, moving unnaturally fast, twitching under the Satrophine. "I have an idea."
 
"Mm?"
 
"The walls are made of sandstone. I don't know how much you know about chymistry..."
 
"Acid. Yes, of course."
 
Gracious' fingers, long and slender, get to work as the chymist puts his considerable intellect to work. Vials are mixed, hissing and bubbling under a low heat produced by a Bunsen burner. Sometimes, chemicals seem to move in the air, manipulated by an arm that no one can easily see. By the end, Gracious has four plastic tubes of a transparent, heavy liquid.
 
"Let's find a wall, get this done,” Gracious suggests. “Then let's move to the dungeon, sow that chaos - perhaps Marina doesn't need to be there for that, she can be up top? - and then regroup. This will take minutes, I think." Joy and pride radiates through the mindlink.
 
Laval looks impressed, the mind link echoing that impression. "What do you keep in that kit? Remind me never to be careless with it..."
 
"A lot of stuff. Mostly non-active reagents. It's getting a little low. The trick with chymistry is that heat and pressure produce wonders."

Laval chuckles. "Let's do this."

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Re: Turn 6 Thread

Post by The GM on Tue Oct 04, 2016 1:19 am

The group creeps out from the wine cellar, finding the corridor at the top of the stairs empty. The hour is getting late, past dinner, and the servants are making their way to their quarters under an imposed curfew. There are still patrols, but they are diminishing as it becomes apparent that they are not going to find anyone any time soon. Soon, perhaps, the grand organ will ring out to welcome pilgrims for the after-dinner service. Or maybe the organ will stay silent, the devil having done his work…
 
Staying on the lower levels, the group make their way to an external wall, evading paranoid soldiers and bustling servants when they come across them. Finding themselves in a secluded outer corridor, slit windows letting in the light of a falling sun, Gracious gets to work with professional speed. He funnels the acid into the sandstone wall, burning away at the surface with chemical precision. Beneath is revealed a small patch of rockcrete, covered in gilded letters of prayer and protection. Gracious reads the passage with a small smile of concentration, and gets to work, subtly changing the words to speak heresies and corrupt the faith that keeps the Makuu strong. To both Marina and Laval’s wych-sight, they see coils of dark energies spooling from the words, settling in Gracious’ ungodly soul as the Emperor’s Word is undone.
 
"Haha!" Gracious exclaims.
 
Maybe this will even cause our 'friend' some trouble if evicted from his host... Laval communicates, Though I imagine he's already solved that problem.
 
Do you think...

 
Marina goes as if to rub her eyes, knocks her metal knuckles against the goggles, seems put out.
 
Laval, Gracious continues, Ff we could get a demon to play unholy music... I think that would be it. Is it even possible?
 
Last time I proposed summoning a daemon, you were against it.
 
Last time, victory wasn't in grasp,
Gracious points out.
 
I don't even know if daemons can play the organ, Laval returns. I mean, probably some can, but...
 
There will be a servant of my prince who could do it,
Gracious assures her.
 
Definitely requires sacrifice. At least one, preferably the appropriate number.
 
Would you consider it?
 
Being the sacrifice?
Laval responds humorously, No. Performing the ritual... I... would consider it, but it's not something we can just do without preparation.
 
Not being the sacrifice, of course.
There is concern in his thoughts. I wouldn't...
 
Laval responds with humour. I know.
 
Heh. Well, I think we should proceed as planned for now, perhaps we can pick up six sacrifices in the dungeon?

 
"Shall we?"
 
"What are you two chatting about?” Marina complains. “Actually, scratch that, I'm fine not knowing..."
 
"Marina, do you think you could find a way to the dungeon from here?” Gracious asks. “You're pretty good at getting around."
 
"I know the way. ... more or less,” Laval notes. We would also need quite a lot of other stuff. Possibly including a party. But we can bear it in mind. "I was in there earlier."
 
The first task done, the group makes their way to the dungeons. Laval remembers from her travels that the place is defended: two soldiers standing on guard before an iron wrought gate. One of them probably holds the keys, though, and the defences are far from impenetrable. After all, the people rotting in these dungeons are abandoned by the world, and no one is coming to rescue them. At least, no one with their interests genuinely at heart…
 
Once they are close Laval whispers, "Want to talk to the guards Gracious, or should Marina and I try and shut them up?"
 
"Ah, use a bit of violence, eh?" Gracious suggests. "I want to save my good words for now..."
 
"Can do," Marina grins.
 
"Hold that thought…" Laval cautions. She listens. Ahead of her, in the dungeon, there is a strange chanting: not in a high volume, but in a daemontongue not known to many. "You two hear that?"
 
"No," Gracious responds.
 
"Someone's beat us to the punch on ritual magic."
 
"Where?"
 
"Dungeon." A peculiarly enthusiastic grin spreads across Laval’s face. "Let's go mess it up!"
 
"… on the one hand, yes,” Marina replies. “On the other hand, I don't want to explode."
 
Gracious considers the situation for a moment. "Well, nothing ventured..."
 
"C'mon Marina,” Laval encourages, “Have a peek round the corner, see if the guards are still there."
 
Marina advances, her form concealed by her chameleoline cloak. She sees the two soldiers, as Laval predicted, shifting uneasily from foot to foot. Here, Marina can hear the sound of a low chanting, and the hairs on the back of her neck prickle with the touch of the warp.
 
We can totally get the guards on side, Laval urges. Everyone hates unexpected ritual magic. I'm going to try it.
 
Go for it,
Gracious returns.
 
*****
 
Behind the iron wrought gates of the dungeons, the deacon of the Grand Makuu has set out his weighty Imperial Tomes. The prisoners of the cathedral have been brought out in chains, Lieutenant Mwenye foremost among them, and a nervous-looking soldier stands by the deacon's side, flamer in hand. The deacon chants in a tongue not known to many, a daemontongue that stings at the tongue from which it is uttered. Two further guards wait outside the gates, shifting nervously from foot to foot.
 
Laval steps out, seemingly frightened, calling out to the guards in a hushed but frantic tone. "What are you doing!? Can't you hear the daemontongue? They're doing magic in there!"
 
The guards falter for a moment, confused and distracted as Marina begins dashing around the corridor, power sword in hand and the eyes of a killer. She sweeps at one of the soldiers, but he ducks just in time and there is are sparks as the sword clashes against the gate. The soldier responds by smashing the butt of his gun into his attacker, but it bangs off Marina’s carapace with little impact. The other soldier, reacting swiftly despite her confusion, opens fire with her lasgun, but in her panic strikes her friend, injuring him badly.
 
The deacon continues to murmur in daemontonuge, but at the end of a sentence turns to the commotion. "Do not listen to her lies," he commands, with an iron will. "She is a plant, installed by local forces to destabilize the Imperial Creed's hold on this place. Seize her!" The soldier next to him shifts his flamer nervously, waiting for the instruction to shoot on his own fellows.
 
As the scrum develops, Gracious joins the fray, wielding a beautiful sword. He engages with the other guard, keeping him occupied as the first woman stands in the middle of the corridor, apparently in thought.
 
Marina hisses as her sword scrapes across the gates, causing sparks but slowing her blade and missing her target. Her enemy slips past her with acrobatic grace, shooting at point blank range, but the killer is too fast, diving to the side.
 
"Set her ablaze!" the deacon roars, with powerful authority. "The Holy Cleansing cannot be interrupted!" He frowns as one of the soldiers, exposing his back to the well-dressed man, opens fire on the deacon, but the shots go wide as he continues to chant.
 
Meanwhile, the lieutenant has risen to his feet, a fire in his eyes. But when he sees the point of a flamer, he staggers backwards, defiant, but still afraid.
 
"Friends of the Makuu," Gracious calls out, with impassioned words. "I have seen one of your number - the loyal organist of the Deacon - make dread pacts with the forces of evil. The very prayers inscribed in the words have turned against you. Feel the air? Chaos is come to this place... this is no longer a place of the Emperor's Light!"
 
The air almost shimmers as the two personalities clash, the veil responding in anticipation of the serpent tongues duelling for power. The soldiers are confused and distracted, though they are still loyal to their deacon.
 
"The Deacon is not himself!" Laval adds, "Has he not been acting oddly? Surely your souls can feel that this is not right?" Please try for non-lethal? she asks Marina and Gracious. They might yet turn.
 
Yet the deacon's power is unquestionable, his robes of office bolstered with the personality of a man who must be obeyed. And all soldiers do obey him, but one. Lieutenant Mwenye, broken, beaten and intimidated, is emboldened by the words he hears. He runs at the man with a flamer with a shriek of desperation, restricted by his chains, but doing an able job at distracting.
 
Meanwhile, Marina switches strategy, trying to smash the hilt of her weapon into her enemy's face, but he proves annoyingly quick. He wriggles out of her reach again, firing at semi-automatic, but his target ably jumps out of the way of the shots. The other soldier distractedly attempts to throw the butt of her weapon into the swordsman's face, but he deftly parries with a grimace of concentration.
 
"You speak of Chaos and Dark Pacts!" the deacon continues, whilst muttering dark chants between sentences. "The wolves of dissent are at our doorstep and you seek to divide us!? You seek to undermine Holy Authority!? Loyal sisters and brothers, do not give in to these divisive words! Stand all in service to Him on Terra and bring them to Justice!" Beside him, the man holding the flamer smacks it into the lieutenant's face, knocking him down and stunning him as his nose breaks.
 
I could throw acid at the one with the flamer? Gracious asks. Or this one here? At what point do we give up on diplomacy? The words of the Deacon - or what's inside him - seem potent.
 
Laval's thoughts are barely words, a jumble of thrill and terror and the potent desire to win this battle of wills. There's little of tactical commentary, but a sense simultaneously of trust in Gracious' judgement, and still having tricks up her sleeves.
 
Gracious struggles past his opponent, ducking beneath a clumsy swing, and tries to throw something through the bars. It lands on the man with the flamer, hissing as foul fumes burn through his back. He screams as it burns through his armour and peels back the skin. Meanwhile, the lieutenant catches some to his bare chest, groaning in agony as a large patch of skin rips free. Blood pours from the terrible wound.
 
Laval has not moved from her position in the corridor, muttering something under her breath as she channels great power. The lasguns of the soldiers crackle and burn out to the power of the warp, the breath of all choked out and leaving everyone wheezing. Marina hisses in annoyance as she finally smashes her hilt into the forehead of her enemy, stunning him and knocking him back. He groans, sliding against the wall, as the other soldier swings clumsily at Gracious. And then, quite the unexpected occurs.
 
"Blacker than black," the deacon chants, compelled to switch to Low Gothic,
"Darker than Dark,
Four great hearts burn in the recesses of hell,
and by their will horrors shall manifest this day,
let the shackles be broken and those in bondage be set free."
 
The soldier with the flamer staggers forwards, consumed by pain but still hearing the words. He looks at the scene with terror and hatred, steps back, and covers all in flame, figuring the Emperor can sort sinner from saint. But he is confused, and the flames from his weapon spread in too high a sweep. Everyone but one of the soldiers dives out of the way, who, caught alight, starts screaming in agony.
 
Gracious reaches for another vial of acid, but this time pours it on the door looks, burning it open with a hiss as he is ignored by the burning soldier beside him. Meanwhile, Laval remains focused, channelling terrible energies of the warp.
 
Marina, bored with her stunned prey, dives through the open door and makes for the deacon. She drives her sword through his shoulder, sending him staggering back, shrieking in pain, but very much alive. The burning soldier falls to the ground, the acrid smell of molten flesh, as the deacon falls entirely silent, at a crucial moment of ritual. But he has said many of the words, and the warp cannot be held back by a final hesitation. Whether or not he can control the powers, meanwhile, is another matter...
 
The deacon staggers back, mute, but his arms reach up as the warp answers his unholy call. The cackling of daemons fills the air, finding weakness through the holy wardings of the Grand Makuu. Four embodiments of the fury of the gods come forth, cackling harpies of tooth and claw. With a smile, the deacon simply points at his enemies, and the daemons run forth. The earth protests at the intrusion, knocking the two guards, Gracious and Marina down.
 
The soldier with the flamer screams in hatred and fear, nonetheless remaining courageous in face of damnation. He angles his flamer more accurately, burning the deacon as the killer dodges out of the way. He casts a wide spread of flame, catching Gracious and setting him alight, burning two of the daemons at lighting them up in a whoosh of holy fire.
 
Gracious screams, burning on the floor as he desperately tries to put himself out. The daemons, snarling, fall upon the group, two flying forth to Laval. She desperately dodges their swings of claw and fang, trying to reach her friend, but Gracious is set upon by another daemon. It picks it up in his claws, tearing into his flesh with abandon, and tossing his apparently lifeless body against the wall. Another swipes at Marina, but she ducks under the blow.
 
Laval’s eyes widen as she sees her friend fall. Calling upon the powers of the warp, she lets out a terrible psychic scream. It is directed at one individual - the source of her pain - but the vestiges of the sound echo throughout reality. The deacon's head explodes, in an unspeakably appalling manner, shattering the skull and sending gore flying in all directions. His headless body staggers for a few moments, before hitting the ground. In response to the shattering of the mind and veil, the warp is exposed twicefold to those still alive to witness it.
 
Marina blinks in surprise, before turning and burying her blade into her daemonic foe. It is aflame, and when her sword drives into its chest, it explodes into hellfire, banished back to the warp. She ducks underneath the man with a flamer, irked by his constant stream, but turns. Her charge is still in terrible danger. Laval ducks, barely dodging the last swipe, as one of her attackers reels from psychic attack. The final daemon, done with Gracious, goes for Marina. She dispatches it with a single swipe of her power sword.
 
Marina advances, striking another, already injured beast and sending it back to hell. The other swipes at Laval, but she jumps back with determination. After a brief exchange of blade, claw and psychic will, the daemon is finally felled down by a mighty strike of the killer, Marina channelling her zealous hatred through the blow. It staggers back, before Laval reaches out, and destroys what is left.
 
The scene is one of devastation. When Laval and Marina look back to the man with the flamer, they see he has spawned, tentacles sprouting from his weeping eyes. There are rows of terrified prisoners, Lieutenant Mwenye among them. Gracious lies, apparently dead, on the floor. The deacon is gone, the other soldiers burned alive. In the near distance, there are sounds of shouting - the inevitable response of so much gunfire, even so far down in the Makuu.
 
Laval runs straight to Gracious to check for any sign of life. In her panic, she rushes to her lover, appraising his injuries. He is clearly dead. No one can survive this. She... she can see his heart, and it isn't beating. Numb, she goes through the motions anyway, applying medical techniques that clearly cannot help, hands working almost without connection to rational thought. She covers her hands in Gracious' blood, desperately trying to close a wound that she could bury her arms in.
 
Marina puts her power sword through the hopelessly mutated man, then sweeps a suspicious glare over the other survivors in case any of them are about to do anything stupid. They will do nothing. They are chained, terrified and cowed. "Right," she declares, "Well. Lucky break for you lot. Kinda. C'mon, boss, we need to move."
 
Ignoring Marina, failed by her knowledge, Laval manifests desperately.
 
Something... shifts. An unseen hand reaches out, and closes around Laval's wrist. As she watches, the flesh before her begins to knit itself together, skin forming out of the very void. It is not as it once was - a great scar is left on the torso, over the place where she saw his heart beat. But it closes. His eyes open. "..."
 
Laval falls backwards to sitting, starts crying. Gracious moves over to embrace her. She leans into it, but she is too busy shaking and crying to hold on.
 
"Great,” Marina observes. “Now stop doing the wychy thing and let's not be here?"
 
[Overall, Laval gains 5 Corruption Points, and Marina gains 4 Corruption Points. Laval also gains 4 Infamy, and Marina 2 Infamy. Laval has 1 Infamy Spend left this Turn.]

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Re: Turn 6 Thread

Post by The GM on Tue Oct 04, 2016 11:50 am

Gracious, Laval and Marina leave the dungeons, heading back to the wine cellar where they can plan their next movements, away from the incoming soldiers. They do not have difficulty getting back, and indeed the military response is smaller than might be supposed. Could some of their forces have left the cathedral for elsewhere?

[Laval and Marina have gained 2 Infamy for Completing their Secondary Objective to compromise the Makuu's leadership.]

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Re: Turn 6 Thread

Post by The GM on Wed Oct 05, 2016 11:40 am

The group make their way to the wine cellar safely, prisoners in tow. It is dark, but Laval quickly lights a candle, guarding the light so it does not illuminate the ritual site. The prisoners are entirely broken, terrified and subservient, and the group need not fear them.
 
Marina is twitchy and on edge, listening at the door for danger. Laval is still subdued and tear streaked, but seems to have recovered from the worst of the shock.
 
So, she manages. That didn't go quite as planned. Does that change what we do next?
 
Gracious has not really said anything in the dash upstairs, but turns to her. Thank you.
 
Laval projects confusion, a sense of loyalty, a little anger.
 
I don't... Gracious attempts. I saw... The void. And then your face. I...
 
Warmth and support floods back. I'm here.
 
I... we need to finish this.
 
Yes.
 
I think... look.
Gracious shows her his chest, where not an hour before she saw his chest cavity wide open. On it, plain now he has revealed it, is a shimmering Mark - the Mark of Slaanesh.
 
Laval nods, seeming unsurprised. You deserve it.
 
Now, Gracious continues. I've always believed that the gods help those who help themselves. But this... it's a sign, surely. Look around. We have everything we need to summon one of the Prince's servants. Wine. Sacrifice. Everything has... the strands of fate! Sound and fury. It's just so perfect.
 
Laval responds with resignation, layered over a certain disgust. You think truths. I can't deny it.
 
But you don't like it.

 
There is dismissiveness from Laval. Only parts of me which don't matter don't like it. Some day I'll rid myself of it.
 
… sure. I even think I can get Marina on side, if we let her do the killing...
 
I don't think she'll participate willingly,
Laval worries. But you are very good.
 
"Marina," Gracious begins.
 
"Mm?"
 
They are right here, Laval warns.
 
I know, Gracious assures her, smiling at the apologetic feelings the wych sends in return. He looks up at Marina. "Could we have a quick word, quiet-like?
 
"Sure..." Marina puts her ear to the door again briefly, then saunters over to Gracious, standing a little closer than is socially acceptable.
 
He speaks in a quiet tone. "So I have a proposal. You're not going to like it, but you might like part of it. And it gets this done."
 
Marina cocks her head, the lenses of her goggles providing an unblinking stare.
 
"So if we summon a daemon of the Prince to play that organ, I think it's over,” Gracious tells her. “Have you ever heard a master at work, playing the sounds of hell? It's quite an experience. Now... this requires deaths, deaths in agony and delirium. I was thinking you might quite enjoy those."
 
Marina’s upper lip curls in a snarl of disgust at the mention of daemons. Her fingers flex, flicking her claws out and back in again.
 
“And I can sweeten the deal further, if you need it?" Gracious suggests.
 
"You're gonna do things for me, regardless," Marina promises.
 
"Afterwards, you mean?"
 
"Yeah."
 
"Well, I suppose that's up for discussion,” Gracious hopes. “Why don't we discuss it a little now?"
 
"Okay."
 
"It seems like then we're just discussing terms," Gracious adds.
 
Marina pauses. "... I don't like daemons."
 
"No-one's asking you too," Gracious assures her. "I don't even think daemons like daemons."
 
"Good, they shouldn't."
 
"But you can't deny they have power we can use. What do you want from me?"
 
Marina smiles. "I'm gonna take what I want, and I'm pretty sure you can't stop me."
 
"Are you sure?" Gracious asks. "What if I could make it better?"
 
"Sure enough. I mean, I like you, but you don't get to get away with crossing me,” Marina responds. "That's not the rules."
 
"Hey, I really am sorry about that," Gracious apologises.
 
"Not as sorry as you're gonna be," Marina warns.
 
"But the rules don't say you can do what you like. That's just simply not an equitable transaction, no?"
 
Marina seems to think about this notion. "What's ekitable mean?"
 
"It means it wouldn't be a good trade," Gracious explains.
 
Marina frowns. "Well, no, that's the point."
 
"Ah, but one cannot take too much, Marina. Look at Ari," Gracious urges. "What exactly do you want to do to me, and why?"
 
"She fucked up and paid the price," Marina shrugs. "I wanna hurt you, make you scream and want out. You can pay most prices in pain, one way or another."
 
"Exactly, paid the price,” Gracious continues steadily, “Now, I didn't hurt you - I was trying to save myself, after you put me in a sticky situation. If I'd only known you were there, I could have steered the servants away..."
 
"Nuh uh,” Marina objects, “You crossed me and got me burned."
 
"But I didn't know what I was doing,” Gracious adds, “And I'm sorry for that."
 
"Yeah, and I appreciate that,” Marina notes, “But, see, I still gotta take my piece. That's the rules. I'm not gonna kill you or anything unless you try and get out of it."
 
"Sure. I'm just trying to understand what your piece is, because then I can offer you a little more. What if I was on rose, so it hurt more? For instance, you see."
 
Marina shrugs. "I'd like that, yeah."
 
Gracious gestures to the fourth finger of his right hand. Marina cocks her head again, as Gracious continues to negotiate. "Have you ever taken the skin off a finger, layer by layer? I haven't. But I've seen it done. It looks like it hurts."
 
"Yeah, fucked it up though,” Marina remarks. “Fingers are fiddly."
 
"Ah, a shame you're not into drugs, that's very easily fixable."
 
"I've had more practice since. Might get it right,” Marina offers. "Don't really wanna slice a joint by mistake though. You seem like you need those."
 
"Ha. Yes, I suppose I do."
 
"You don't need to worry though,” Marina assures him. “I've got all kinds of fun toys."
 
"Listen, have you thought about Laval?" Gracious asks, taking a different tack. "Won't she try and stop you?"
 
"I was gonna knock her out first,” Marina explains.
 
"Even if you think you can get the jump on her,” Gracious objects, “It won't be neat."
 
"She's clumsy like a child," Marina returns.
 
Gracious pauses. "You're a strange one, Marina. I almost think if we hadn't gotten off on the wrong foot, we could be friends, of a kind."
 
"We aren't friends?"
 
"Ah, I had assumed... but I suppose, yes." Gracious blinks. "Transactions. Price."
 
"Rules don't work for you if you don't follow them," Marina observes.
 
"Who gave you your rules?" Gracious asks.
 
"Me. This is a really weird kinda bartering." Marina shakes her head. "What is it, exactly, you want me to do?"
 
"Help us out with this demon business. Not start a ruckus, make it go smooth."
 
"I... can probably not start a ruckus. What does 'help' mean, exactly?"
 
"Like I said. The people who die, need to die slowly, in pain, drugged up. You have expertise."
 
"How wychy is it gonna get?" Marina asks carefully.
 
"I'm not going to lie: it's going to get a bit wychy."
 
"..."
 
"If you can't handle it...?" Gracious slyly suggests.
 
Marina’s eyes narrow. "I don't like wychy. But I do like the notion of you trying to cooperate..."
 
"I was worried you're going to kill me or maim me, in some way that my body won't heal. The right to cripple my flesh rests with the gods alone. But it doesn't sound like that's your intent."
 
"Nah, I like you,” Marina smiles. “Just wanna get you proper miserable. If you try and wriggle out, I will kill you though."
 
"You mean, try to get away?"
 
"Yeah."
 
"No fear. But can we at least not do it while we can still see the Makuu?” Gracious requests. “I'm journeying back with Laval. Will you be joining us?"
 
Marina considers the proposal for a moment. "Mm, yeah, I can agree with that."
 
"If we're someone among, you know, friends, or friends-ish, then yes, fine," Gracious accepts. "I will be miserable, and you will see me in pain, and I'll want it to stop, and it won't end until you say so. And then we'll be square?"
 
"Yes,” Marina promises. “That's how it goes."
 
"And you'll help, right here and now?" Gracious asks.
 
"That's what I'm taking, though. You don't get to sell me that. But if you're gonna cooperate and help me out... I'll try and help you with this thing."
 
"But I'll cooperate, yeah," Gracious answers. "I will make it easy for you to take it."
 
Marina nods. "I'm backing out if it gets too wychy though. There's a limit."
 
"Well, I guess we'll see. If I think you've done a good job, then fair enough. No backing out at the first frisson of warp energy."
 
"Yeah, seems fair."
 
"Deal?"
 
"Deal." Marina offers a hand, realises her claws are still out, retracts them before offering again. Gracious takes her hand. Marina shakes vigorously, a little oddly, but not aggressively.

[Marina gains 5 Corruption Points.]
 
Are my eyes deceiving me, or did you convince her to help? Laval asks in wonder.
 
The important thing is that the problems I've created are problems for me in the future, Gracious returns.
 
Laval responds with worry. What did you offer her?
 
I agreed to help her extract the debt she owes from me. It's not going to be pleasant. I owe her, I mean.

 
Laval seems angry. You're lying to her, I hope?
 
Obviously,
Gracious assures her. I'm going to find a way out of it. Worst comes to worst, perhaps I could make a drug to numb the senses, and then I could just put on a convincing show.
 
Well,
Laval sighs. As you said. Future problems.
 
I was sort of hoping you might have my back a little too,
Gracious notes. She says she'll knock you out first, as a warning.
 
Of course I do.

 
Gracious smiles slightly. "Right, then." He speaks at normal voice. He walks towards the prisoners. "Hello! I'm Gracious. How do you do?"
 
Laval's side of the link fills with disgust and misery again briefly, but she cuts it off short.
 
Steady, Gracious warns.
 
Sorry. Sometimes projecting is easier than keeping my thoughts to myself.
 
Gracious turns for a second, and smiles at her - it is a genuine smile. Project away. He looks back at the prisoners. Laval does not return the smile, but there's a hint of gratitude from her mind. "Now, what are your names?" Gracious requests.
 
A few of them mumble, afraid but emboldened by Gracious' kind demeanour. The lieutenant is the boldest. "My name is Mwenye," he murmurs.
 
"Ah yes, we met," Gracious returns conversationally, "So tell me a little about yourself."
 
The lieutenant's eyes widen for a moment in recognition, before he lowers his head in shame. "I am... was... a lieutenant..." he begins, but he doesn't really know what to say.
 
"My name is Tumaa," another speaks. "I was a prisoner here, because I complained about the tithe."
 
"Mmm? Sad, I'm really sorry that happened to... you know, it's hardly... well, yes."
 
"I asked for mercy when I was starving," another chips in, her voice a whisper. She looks emaciated, close to death.
 
"Save your breaths," the lieutenant murmurs. "You are not freed."
 
The mind link is utterly silent, the usual background hum from Laval's thoughts completely stifled.
 
Gracious smiles. It is very unlike the smile he gave Laval.
 
Another spits on the ground at the lieutenant's words, barely managing a modicum of moisture. "We don't care what the panya says. Are you here to free us?"
 
"Freedom, I tend to find, is a funny thing,” Gracious grins. “But I have no intention of leaving you in your chains."
 
The prisoners push towards Gracious, too weak to stand. Their desperate faces are filled with the glimmer of hope, for they have no strength left for cynicism. Only the lieutenant stays where he is, his face towards the ground.
 
Do you know what we need, Gracious? Laval asks. The thought is flat and empty of emotion.
 
Six, yes?
 
Yes. The others can be offered to the daemon on arrival, but it is important not to misuse numbers.
 
Oh, I was going to let some of them go.
 
That also works.
Laval pauses. I assume you can make a burnable hallucinogen.
 
Yes.
 
The location is not quite right though, unless this cellar has a richer history than we know.
 
I thought we might have to create our own debauchery,
Gracious smiles. Or get them into it.
 
Yes. Not ideal, but yes.
 
It is, however, a wine cellar, so there's no shortage of intoxicating liquids.
 
I should probably inscribe the circle before I get drunk,
Laval observes.
 
I have some old ritual tomes, Gracious notes. There might be some material in there you could use. That often helps, right?
 
Mm. Am I to lead this, Gracious, or will you?
 
I think the Mark wants to lead it,
Gracious returns.
 
Laval inwardly nods. That is the only reason I would contemplate letting you lead, yes.
 
I don't know the ins and outs like you,
Gracious admits.
 
I am less worried about that than the battle of wills, Laval notes.
 
Is that what is required?
 
Daemons do not easily confine themselves to a single task,
Laval explains. If you call it successfully, it will test its bounds, for it desires to follow its nature in a more immediate sense. Your will is what will turn it to the matter at hand.
 
I understand. At that time, could you step in if my will failed?
 
Only in that I could try to kill it before it killed us. If still conscious at the time.

 
Gracious pauses. Understood. I assume your will is stronger than mine...
 
Experimentation suggests that that is the case.
 
Ha!
 
The Mark is a potent advantage,
Laval tells him, So I am not certain that you would not find it easier. I merely wish you to be fully aware of what is involved.
 
Yes,
Gracious acknowledges. I think it would only help a little if I assisted... In any case: are we set on this course, then?
 
A daemon is a potent force. This would appear to be an efficient route of achieving our goal.

 
There is concern in Gracious’ mind. Ah, Laval...
 
This will be intensely unpleasant for me,
Laval tells him, But I will cope. Misery is just as potent as joy, no?
 
And yet somehow I am pained to see it on you. Hope, eh? We need to choose the six. Should I, or...?
 
Go ahead,
Laval responds. She pauses. It is ultimately your decision: will you lead, or must I?
 
I will lead,
Gracious answers. I will not ask that of you. Thank you.

The heretics begin to gather what they need. Laval watches as Gracious gets to work, hoping that he has had experience of ritual before. She breathes, eyes closed. The compact is almost complete: all she has to do is find a way to open the gates of the Grand Makuu. The defences are weak. It could be done in less than an hour, with the right plan. But here she is, assisting Gracious claim glory for another warband. It is a confusing notion, for though she realises she probably should object, she finds it hard to summon the corresponding emotions.

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Re: Turn 6 Thread

Post by Jewelcast on Wed Oct 05, 2016 4:27 pm

Laval pushes thoughts of compacts out of her head. They will do their part for the war, the thing she came here to do will be done, and there is no room for thoughts of who gets the glory. There's little room for anything at all in her head besides the sick dread of what is to come, and the iron will that lets her continue functioning anyway.

She assists Gracious in his preparations, lending her experience and knowledge.

Marina paces, anxious, drawn back to the door repeatedly to check for danger. Eventually she tries to wedge it shut, despairing of hiding all these people and their mad schemes if someone tries to get in. And then she paces some more. Laval goes to her, offers meaningless comforts. There is still tension between them, and mistrust, but they have common ground in their current distress. Marina lets Laval catch her arm to stop her pacing, sits abruptly at the wych's feet and leans against her for the comfort of physical contact. Unsure of how to take this, Laval pats her shoulder gently.

But the moment can't last. There's work to do. Marina steels herself against what's to come, reminding herself of Gracious' promises, drawing some small comfort from Laval's acceptance.

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Re: Turn 6 Thread

Post by The GM on Wed Oct 05, 2016 4:45 pm

Gracious and Laval work efficiently to set up the ritual circle, marking out the summoning space with invocations and symbols sacred to the Dark Prince. Even in these initial stages, Gracious notes that the newly formed scar across his chest is tweaking. He reports a sensation between pleasure and pain.
 
As Laval begins selecting fine vintages for the decadence to come, Gracious sits down with his chem-kit and begins crafting hallucinogenic incense. He has been asked to provide such things many times before in his dark career, and he follows a tried and tested recipe. The heretic sets up the braziers just as Laval is finished selecting the amasec, and Marina brings forth six prisoners into the summoning circle. The rest linger nearby, handed bottles of expensive amasec and needles containing the finest obscura. With that, the ritual to summon Slaanesh’s handmaiden can begin.
 
If the ritualists have any fear or trepidation of what is to come, it is soon soothed by the debauchery that precedes the main event. Gracious self-medicates himself heavily with satrophine and nootropics, the former to withstand the punishment of heavy amasec and obscura abuse, the latter to grant the means to battle a daemon in a contest of wills. The prisoners, desperately thirsty and starving, drink the amasec at a rapid pace, accepting the obscura needles gently teased into their veins. They tell their tales of woe, but happy tales as well, drinking stories of times long past, a life they once knew, that can never be returned. In their haste to consume, a couple of the prisoners almost die, vomiting their guts out or spasming as they overdose on the potent chems. Laval, who has wisely avoided the obscura, assists them, saving their lives, and others laugh in debauched hysteria at the excess and the danger. But the good times cannot last forever, and Gracious, his mind dream-like but relatively clear, begins the great ritual to the Dark Prince Slaanesh. His mark burns against his chest, almost glowing through his clothes, as Marina leads six prisoners into the ritual circle to face their doom.
 
Gracious begins to chant, his head swimming but mind focussed on the task at hand. He feels the energies of Laval, swirling about the circle, and throws his soul into them, strengthened by her presence. He sighs in sweet ecstasy as he hears the slow, tortured screams of Marina’s victims, their pain burning against his mark. When they die, he intuitively feels it, and speaks the words of power that will summon one of Slaanesh’s servants.
 
The earth protests as there is a sudden, melodic pulse that booms across the cellar. It reverberates through the ritualists’ minds, stunning Gracious and Marina as oily, pink smoke drifts upwards from the empty bottles of amasec on the floor. They half-form in the air, a cloud of beautiful, pastel colours. It is entrancing to look upon, and barely visible are its baleful eyes and terrible crab-like claws. Taking advantage of Gracious’ overwhelmed mind, it pounces, the cloud descending on the ritualist who summoned it. Tearing, razor sharp claws carve deeply into Gracious’ leg, bringing him back to reality with a scream of delicious agony as the wounds knit back together again by Laval’s iron will. Looking into the cloud, Gracious sees dozens of long, slender fingers, a barbed, evil tongue and eyes of pure malice. His mark begins to bleed, shining forth from his clothes in agonising pain, but he reaches out with a hand and commands the daemon away.
 
The cloud hisses, recoiling and spinning as it is forced back to the edge of the ritual circle. Stepping forwards with confidence, Gracious bids it in the name of the Dark Prince to do as he commands. It thrashes, screams of discordant notes barraging the ears, but Gracious’ will has the favour of Slaanesh. Channelling the absolute authority of his dark god, Gracious disperses the cloud into nothingness, sending it towards the organ where it shall do its unholy work. Seconds later, they hear the booming, ominous tones of the Grand Makuu’s organ, played so loudly that it shakes the very foundations of the cathedral.
 
It is beautiful, haunting, but furious and fast, a piece composed in pleasure halls of the Dark Prince Himself. Screams of terrified ecstasy, dark abandon and excess are ripped from the throats of the lost and the damned, a clarion call for the destruction of all that is pure and holy. Gracious and Marina find themselves weeping, weeping at its beauty and sheer power. The remaining prisoners howl as their souls are forever damned, and Laval watches it all, a fulfilment of a compact that is not hers. The soldiery of the Makuu are devastated. The tithed villages, stoked to hatred and freedom, are not coming to help. The Villa von Klossner is in the hands of the treacherous, and the great guns of the cathedral – the last means by which it could be defended, are tampered with and useless. The Grand Makuu la Dhahabu Kiti has fallen.
 
*****
 
At the town of Kifodini, the people stare and stop their daily tasks as they look out in the direction of the Grand Makuu. Its organ is booming forth, but with a melody the likes of which they have never heard before, or will again. It speaks to their darkest desires, the mob mentality that has turned them against the Church and the Imperial presence. Savage and frenzied by their basest impulses, they gather. They pick up their improvised weapons, and march on the Makuu, to tear apart limb from limb those that are inside.
 
Meanwhile, in the village of Imani, its broken people try to reclaim what is left of their lives. Their Mkuu, the daemon Faruha, has been banished in a burst of warpflame, and their huts burn as the village counts their dead. So much has been lost since Laval and Gracious first made their way to the village. Barely any of them are left, slaughtered by the Nurgle priestess, brutally enslaved by daemonic masters, and cut down by mercenaries of the Villa von Klossner. Their homes burning, they beat their chests and wail as the organ music echoes across the Swaadi wilds.
 
And finally, at Sadaka, the cursed village, its streets remain empty, claimed by a darkness that none dare speak its name. Its buildings have been levelled by fires and exorcism, but the curse remains, and can never be undone. Sometimes, in the years that follow, visitors whisper that they still hear the moans of the dead, soulless ghosts calling desperately for life and salvation.
 
*****
 
When the organ peals out across the wastes, the Villa von Klossner is quiet and undefended. Its family is all but destroyed by possession and madness, its survivors broken and devastated. The mansion is a mere shadow of its former glories.
 
Leonard Schneider and Patrick Klossner stagger back to their home, pausing when they hear the daemonic music. They are badly injured, beaten and torn, and they smile at the sound, a soothing beauty in a day of ugliness and battle. The four remaining mercenaries pause with them, staring as one in the direction of the Grand Makuu. The last figure among them, a large, heavily armoured man with an ancient weapon, watches also, his search for Gracious Obscura finally over.
 
*****
 
Inside the Grand Makuu, there is chaos and desperation. A murderous madman, crazed by his lost chance at revenge, plunges his knife again and again into the corpse of the ancient Drill Abbot Forst. Elsewhere, a young preacher, Elias Hasek, cowers in terror, hiding beneath a table as soldiers fight about him. The soldiers of the Makuu, tempted for days to kill and act on their paranoia and fear, give in to their dark desires and begin the slaughter. Some kill themselves, throwing themselves from the battlements to plummet to the ground below. Others bathe in the blood of their former comrades, laughing madly as their faith abandons them completely. Soon, Elias Hasek is found, and he is dragged out, screaming, to face his horrifying end.
 
Elsewhere in the cathedral, the servants huddle and cower before a power greater than the God-Emperor of Mankind. Abused by the Ecclesiarchy for so long, the darkness has collected long in their souls. Some go forth with knives, to find the adepts of the Church who have starved and beaten them. Others whisper desperate prayers, keeping faith with the Emperor, doomed souls that cannot last long in the days to come.
 
In the next few days, it comes to Colonel Zuberi’s attention that the Grand Makuu has fallen to the predations of Chaos. She frowns deeply at the reports of maddened soldiers, the tithe villages in full revolt, and a daemonic music that drives men insane. Swallowing hard, the Colonel gives the order for her company to change course, abandoning the lost cathedral. Once done, she draws a pistol, places it in her mouth, and pulls the trigger.
 
*****
 
It has been only a few weeks since Gracious Obscura and the wych Laval came to the tithed villages of the Grand Makuu. Since then, they have wrought chaos through daemoncraft and honeyed words, their methods subtle, but leaving behind them a string of bodies. The village of Imani is devastated. The town of Kifodini is horribly culled by vicious conflicts. The Villa von Klossner is barely occupied. And as for the Grand Makuu itself: its soldiers slaughtered, its priests driven mad, its wards destroyed. The pair promised salvation to those they could convince, but, in truth, they offered only damnation and death. Such is the nature of Chaos.
 
Though Gracious Obscura and the warband who hired him, The Weapon is the War, claim glory in this savage blow against Imperial morale, the ritualist Laval will not be forgotten in the days that follow. The deeds of both, and those that died alongside them, are the stuff of legend, and they return to the fold of Chaos as heroes and liberators against the Imperial Creed. The great war for Swaadi continues, but it goes well. Thousands die in arid fields, cities burn to the flames of daemons, herds sicken and perish, holy men abandon their oaths of piety to dark temptations. The fanatical Swaad could withstand all this, and more, by the strength of their faith. Now, the Grand Makuu falls, and their faith is proved to be as impotent as their God-Emperor. In the months that follow, Chaos will claim this world, and millions upon millions will die.
 
[Laval gains 2 Infamy for assisting another Heretic in the completion of a Secondary Objective. She also gains 5 Infamy for Completing her Tertiary Objective this Turn. She therefore gains 7 Infamy. She also gains 4 Corruption Points for assisting in a ritual.
 
Marina gains 2 Infamy for assisting another Heretic in the completion of a Secondary Objective. She also gains 4 Infamy for Completing her Tertiary Objective this Turn. She therefore gains 6 Infamy. She also gains 1 Corruption Point for assisting in a ritual. She also passed her Willpower Test to keep her cool.
 
I think it might be nice to have an Interaction once the dust has settled. Your thoughts?]

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Re: Turn 6 Thread

Post by Jewelcast on Wed Oct 05, 2016 5:05 pm

[Woah. What a ride.

I believe we may have some final treacheries to resolve.]

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Re: Turn 6 Thread

Post by The GM on Thu Oct 06, 2016 10:24 pm

Laval, Gracious and Marina make their way from the Grand Makuu, having waited in the safety of the cellar for some time. The organ music is dying down, rendering the screams of agony and despair more easily perceivable as the heretics pick their way through the remains of the cathedral. The soldiery and the priests, who took the lion's share of the food and thus the poison, have destroyed themselves at each other. There is no resistance left, no obstacle to simply walking up to the gates.
 
The group finds the gates broken open by the fanatics of Kifodini, but the mob has fortunately already ventured inside the Grand Makuu to satisfy their bloodlust. Instead, the heretics face a familiar figure. Leonard Schneider, looking bruised, torn, exhausted and bloodied, smiles weakly beside a tall, bulky figure in heavy carapace.

"He-hello, Gracious," Leonard ventures, still a little in shock at what he sees.

Gracious smiles weakly, feeling horribly hungover. "Leonard. You made it."

Laval and Marina are both covered in blood not their own and look drained. Laval hangs back a little, content to follow Gracious for now. Marina looks the stranger up and down warily, clearly suspicious. The tall figure stares. He has ginger hair and plain features - his most notable feature, perhaps, is his height: he is easily more than 6 foot.

Leonard similarly hovers, not particularly trustful of Laval or her strange accomplice. After a few moments, he steps forward to embrace Gracious. Gracious returns the embrace.

"I am so very pleased you survived," Gracious tells his friend, "How is the villa? How is Patrick? ...and who is this?"

Remembering, tactlessly, Marina grins at the mention of Patrick. Leonard frowns as he holds Gracious. "What have you been doing in there? You reek of amesec..." he collects his thoughts, looking a little put out. "The villa is fine, Patrick is injured but recovering, there's - there's just... I was in a battle, Gracious! We were trying to draw the soldiers away so you could escape... have you... have you just been drinking?"

"Yeah," Marina responds unhelpfully, "I think I'm still drunk!"

"...Leonard, it's a long story," Gracious pleads. He smiles. "Thank you."

Leonard frowns at Marina, but nods, slightly mollified, by Gracious' gratitude. "This man is called Titebite, Gracious. He said he knew you, and wanted to help you. Haven't you met one another?" He is somewhat anxious at the prospect that he has just taken Titebite's word at face value.

Gracious stares at him.

Titebite stares back. "I believe you knew my friend, Twisby?"

Is this going to be trouble? Laval asks.

Gracious looks blank for a moment, and then a look crosses his face - fear? elation? - something, anyway. "Ah. Yes, I... right. I'm afraid Twisby - um - a travelling companion of mine, Leonard - was caught in an... incursion."

Titebite raises an eyebrow. Leonard looks entirely blank at the strange wording. For her part, Marina yawns widely, not bothering to cover her mouth.

"Say, should we, perhaps, move away from the screams?" Leonard suggests.

"Oh!" Gracious exclaims. "Yes, yes, of course... I had - oh, it's awful, but you know I had almost gotten used to them... it was truly awful in there."

"Aw. But I kinda wanted to..." Marina sighs. "Fine."

"I imagine I would have taken to drinking," Leonard returns forgivingly, before leading the group in the direction of the bottom of the hill.

"The creature that wore the Deacon is dead, Leonard," Gracious tells him. "Your family is avenged. Thought... thought you ought to know."

Laval shivers a little at the mention, but says nothing. The movement catches Gracious' eye, and so he reaches out to her. How are you holding up?

I'm alive.

Are you... how are...

I'm alive.

Gracious expresses concern, sadness, but no emotion is returned. Meanwhile, Leonard nods. He is silent for a few seconds. "Thank you, Gracious," he responds, very quietly.

Marina inspects Titebite as they walk. "So what's your deal?" she asks.

Titebite looks at her and shrugs. "Not sure I have to tell you."

Marina thinks a moment. "True, that."

This man is part of the warband that hired me, Gracious explains to Laval. Though I guess you may have picked up on that.

I... yes. Is it going to be trouble?

I don't think so.

Okay.

I was meant to be acting as support for their agent... Gracious continues. Well, you know how that went.

Yes, Laval acknowledges.

There is the matter of payment to discuss, I suppose, Gracious remarks. I just can't work out if... So this warband follows a mixture of Change and Blood.

Okay.

I... am trying to work out which one he favours.

Oh, Laval returns.

"So, Gracious, do you have a place to stay?" Leonard asks, still a little dazed. "I'm not quite sure what my plans are, but I know I would like to see my son again as soon as possible."

Gracious turns. "Well... not as such. I had thought perhaps - well, I made some friends in Imani when we passed through - it would be good to see them again."

At this, Titebite grimaces. Leonard goes white. "Gracious... our battle was there. Imani... it fell to daemonic powers..." he bows his head. "I'm sorry."

Gracious shakes his head. "Well, thank you."

"I want to go home," Laval says quietly.

Is home on this world, for you? Gracious asks.

At the moment.


... do you... could I...?

Yes, comes the instant response. Please.

Relief flows from Gracious' mind. Good. I would... I would like that very much. He smiles at Leonard. "I think for now, Leonard, let's certainly get to the villa, and then we can discuss things?"

Leonard nods. He turns to the others. "I suppose you can all stay too," he says. To Gracious' eyes, he seems more confident, more assertive. The tailor turns to Laval. "But you mustn't steal any more of my daughter's clothes."

"Do you still have ham?" Marina queries, "I'm hungry."
 
Leonard pauses in confusion. "Hm?" It is very clear that Leonard does not recognise Marina. Whether it was because Marina was too badly burned, or because Leonard did not have much interest in viewing a blackened pseudo-corpse, he does not know her to be the intruder on his household. After all, that individual is dead, in his mind.

Laval looks between Marina and Leonard, expression blank. "Okay." She digs in her pocket, retrieves a very sad-looking bread roll and passes it to Marina.

"Thank you, Leonard," Gracious notes, "That's very generous. And thank you for coordinating with Titebite here. It sounds like you were invaluable!"

"Yes," Laval seconds, "Thank you."
 
Marina loses interest in the conversation, starts eating the bread with gusto. Leonard smiles modestly. "Well, I did my part. I was mostly running on instinct, really, and I saw that dear Patrick was in danger, and then..." he pales again, "Well, I suppose I did what the situation demanded."

"You stepped up!" Gracious insists, "I'm impressed."

"I very much hope I never get used to the business of killing," Leonard returns, by way of half-reply.
 
The group reach towards the bottom of the hill. It is early evening, and the sun is starting to fall, casting brilliant, orange waves across the Swaadi plains.

It occurs to me that Titebite may represent a solution to my Marina problem, Gracious remarks to Laval.

Yes? Would he help?

There is the matter of his warband's payment to me...

You deserve something more than that. I should kill her myself, Laval insists. I could do it now.

Um... Gracious thinks. He registers Laval's mute request to clarify. I'm worried for you.

Laval does not respond.

Should I not be? Gracious asks.

No, you're probably right, Laval acknowledges.

*****

The group trek their way over the Villa von Klossner, night having just broken by the time they reach the mansion gates. It is noticeably empty, to those that have been here before. There are no guards on the gates, and Leonard pushes it open himself, explaining that Fiametti Agosti thought it best, given diminished numbers, to focus their forces inside the building itself. The group makes their way up the garden path, before using the ornate knocker to have them let in. 

The front door is opened by Fiametti Agosti. She appraises each of the guests. She nods to Titebite, smiles towards Gracious and Laval, before her gaze settles on Marina. "Sig Schneider," she announces, "This appears to be the woman who tortured tuo figlio."

Marina looks put out. Her hand goes to her sword. Agosti immediately reacts with violent intent, but Marina is quicker. She darts forward with a blaze of energy, but Agosti is quick on her feet, darting back. Gracious, drawing his sword, joins the fray, swiping ineffectively at Marina: who finds her worst suspicions about the heretic confirmed.
 
Titebite heaves his great axe and swings, but Marina spins to parry, sparks flying off the hilt but the axe holding firm. With an anguished scream of hatred, Leonard stabs at her with his sword, but she beats the blade away, cutting the weapon in two. But she is overwhelmed, and distracted. Agosti draws her chainsword, and buries it into Marina's shoulder. It thirsts deeply, and the killer hisses in pain.
 
Superbly trained, the rapid reaction of the rest of the mercenaries sees them appear almost instantly on the scene. They emerge into the entrance hall, weapons ready. Laval, taken aback by the sudden violence, tries to comprehend the reality of what is happening.

Marina darts wildly, realising that she is outmatched by the sheer numbers against her. She makes to run, but she must first run the gauntlet. Gracious swings at her, but catches his blade on the doorway. Titebite cuts downwards with a mighty blow, but, at the last second, Marina turns and parries the weapon in two. She dodges nimbly from Leonard's grapple, and howls as Agosti's blade finds her again, painfully twisting her leg. Nonetheless, she makes it out of the combat and begins to run.
 
Gracious fires after her, but she is too hard a target, ducking and weaving across the gardens. Titebite, however, takes more time over his shot, an ancient, Swaadi gun soon in his hands. He aims, and fires, an arc of lightning rushing out and striking Marina's body. It cooks her flesh badly, but doesn't slow her down much, and Leonard screams in frustration as he gives a slow pursuit. Agosti brings out her gun and fires, but the hell-round whips past Marina by a whisker as the rest of the mercenaries reach the door, getting ready to fire.
 
Laval steps in the direction of Marina, her face contorted into fear, anger and distress. The gargoyles on the Villa von Klossner walls begin to weep tears, a cosmic force gathering as a scream rent from the veil strikes Marina's mind. Marina howls like a rabid beast, blood pouring from her orifices and she staggers forwards to a walking pace. She steps forward, afraid and betrayed, a growing pain bursting outwards at the back of her mind. When she places a gauntleted hand on the gate, her skull explodes outwards in all directions, and she totters, ungainly, to the floor.
 
But the warp is not done. Laval's mind is thrown out of her body and into Gracious' flesh, and vice versa. They blink, shocked and confused, as they feel what it is like to command each other's bodies. Though it is not quite telepathy, finally Gracious has a chance to see what it is like inside Laval's head.
 
It does not last long, and the immaterium returns both back to their bodies in a few seconds. They reel, fundamentally changed by their experiences, as the rest stare dumbly at the corpse of Marina.
 
[Gracious gains 5 Corruption Points. Laval gains 2 Infamy and 8 Corruption Points. Titebite gains 1 Infamy and 3 Corruption Points.]

Gracious screams horror through the mind-link. Laval briefly echoes numb surprise.

Gracious turns to Leonard. "I'm sorry for bringing her here. She's been with us for some time - friendly but... with the promise of violence underneath. I didn't think... I didn't think we could get away from her."

Leonard has not moved from where he gave short pursuit. "But I..." he stutters. "I don't understand."
 
"Una strega..." Agosti mutters, "But we shall not hold it against them, si? She pauses. "This time, I think, I will confirm the death," she announces, before stepping out towards Marina's body.

"She's dead, Leonard," Gracious urges, "It's over, it's finally over. We... you can't hold on to all this. It will just play inside you, for ever..."

"'Strega' means wych," Leonard responds, uneasy.

Laval looks between Leonard and the soldiers, still visibly frightened but slowly beginning to relax as nobody immediately attacks her.

"Yes," Gracious admits. "Laval... I trust her, Leonard, I trust her implicitly. But... yes." He pauses. "Leonard, I want you to leave here- not now, but soon. I think - I hope - that my friend here can see to it that you and Patrick are safe and well..."

Leonard sighs, but does not press the point. "You had best all come inside," he suggests.

Laval nods mutely, hesitates, then says quietly "Thank you."

"You will be happier if you never see or here of me again, I think," Gracious continues. "But I will miss your friendship, your...." Gracious shrugs, his face upset.

"You're not staying?" Leonard returns.

"Leonard, I..." Gracious's voice chokes a little. "We can talk more inside. But I can't, I don't... you don't want me to stay." I... he begins, to Laval. A rush of emotions pours uncapped from the mindlink. Gracious's mind is racing, the normal careful reservation replaced with a whirlwind. Laval offers comfort in response, but the feeling is hollow, unconvincing.

"No, no, of course," the tailor manages, gathering his poise. "I understand." He pauses at Gracious' words, smiling slightly. "But whatever do you mean, I don't want you to stay?" he asks. "I dare say I cannot stay here either. Lord Klossner: he'll hear about this soon enough. He'll send his men, or pay Agosti, and I will be dead, along with my son, to join the rest of my family."
 
He rests a hand on Gracious' shoulder. "Without your presence, my dearest friend, I think I would have accepted that terrible fate. I would dearly like you to stay beside me, whatever you say. But I understand, too, the enormity of what we have done the last few days. I understand that we must part." He smiles again, a tear running down his cheek. "I just - thank you, Gracious."
 
He chokes slightly, nodding. "You should all stay the night, at least, and take food and water for your journeys ahead. No doubt we've all got long walks ahead of us."

"Thank you," Laval repeats, but finds nothing else to say.

"You have my gratitude too, Laval," Leonard responds, if a little awkwardly. She shakes her head in response, tears welling in her eyes.

Can we sit and talk, alone for a little while? Gracious asks her.

Of course.

Gracious briefly speaks to Titebite - asking him to talk to him later. The tall man nods, face expressionless. They make their way into the Villa von Klossner. It is instantly apparent that the servants have long since left the mansion. It is deathly quiet, once a bustling house of servants and socialites, a brooding ghost of its former glories. Nonetheless, the mercenaries have been brewing a pot of something warm, and Leonard is more than adept at providing the tea. He hurries to find his son after playing host, whilst the mercenaries and Titebite leave Gracious and Laval alone in the tearoom.

Laval is crying again, quietly, holding her teacup tightly as if it could provide comfort. Gracious turns to her and moves a little closer, arms open, but hesitant. "Laval?"

She puts the tea down and goes to Gracious. She too is hesitant at first, then abruptly clings tightly to his clothes and starts sobbing. He holds her close, and begins to quietly cry himself. After a moment's hesitation, the mind link opens as well, Laval finally letting her emotions spill forth. Grief, misery, self-loathing, and a fear so deep that it feels like it will never go away. Gracious responds with wordless thoughts of comfort, as if he cannot find the words to see as he feels.

I am so very glad I met you, he tells her. The notion produces simultaneous spikes of warmth and guilt. All that you did, all that we have done, together... We... you were incredible. And I know... I understand your guilt. I... yes. But... oh! Oh I can "barely find the" words.

Words... Laval mutters. I'd read your mind, but my soul's flayed raw and I'm not sure I could take it. Her tears slow, and she reluctantly disengages one hand from Gracious to wipe her nose with a sniffle, before holding on tight again.

Talk to me? Gracious begs.

What... what about? Laval asks.

What you are feeling, I suppose?

There is confusion. You already know.

Ah, I... Gracious thinks. Why are you so afraid? We're... we're safe. Whatever else...

I'm not sure I remember how not to be, Laval admits. I've been afraid since... since I set out, I suppose. I can't believe it's over.

Yes. I... how long has it been? It seems... do you remember when we met, all that time ago?

Yes, clear as day. I was going to try and drive you out of town, but... well, now look at us.

Ha! I can't remember what I thought. I think I hoped to find a diplomatic solution.

I suppose now I never will have an excuse to poison you.

Ha! Gracious mentally laughs. It's strange. If Twisby hadn't died... Well, he would have been there, every step of the way, keeping me on track. I doubt things would have... they would have been different. Fate.

It's many-stranded, Laval agrees. I make poisons, you know? I'm not sure why I've been holding that back...

Ah, hence the... Gracious twigs, Yes.

I guess I thought you'd appreciate the joke if it came to it, Laval remarks.

So you know chymistry too? Gracious exclaims. You never said!

There is tentative humour echoing from Laval's mind. It never seemed like a good time.

No.

I'm not as good as you by a long shot, though.

Oh, it was non-stop, wasn't it... 

Laval shudders, rests her head against Gracious shoulder. At least Marina's dealt with.

Yes. It happened so fast, and then... Gracious pauses. Did you feel it too, did you... I thought I had gone mad.

Maybe we did? Laval darkly notes.

I saw the world behind your eyes. And you?

Vice versa. It was... certainly the weirdest side effect I've ever had. I shouldn't have drawn so much power, but she was so far away...

Emotions of warmth flow from Gracious to Laval. You ended it. Imagine our fear now if she had lived. She was a strange one. I don't know... she lived her life by a weird code.

Another thing I never wanted to know I could do, but... Laval trails off. At least I can defend myself a bit.

One puts down dogs when the frothing mouth takes them, Gracious tells her. I think... oh, I don't know. I never quite understood her.

How do you mean?

I understand the need to hurt, to control - I recognise... yes. But she was so... why did she come here? Gracious wonders. She seemed so unable to see the possibility of her... She's gone, I suppose. That's what matters. Will your own people care? She wasn't part of them, no?

I don't know, Laval thinks. Maybe she thought she could take them on? I.. don't think she expected us to betray her. No, they won't care. She's not one of us. There is weary resignation in her mind. Sometimes when people break they just never put themselves back together again.

Did you look inside her mind, deeply? Gracious queries.

Yes. Regret echoes through Laval's mind.

Gracious pauses. ...when we leave, do you want to... I can't even remember what happened to Vex's remains. I thought you might want to... say goodbye.

Bodies are just vessels, Laval returns.

Yeah, somehow I thought you might say that, Gracious remarks. I suppose I saw that first hand today.

Laval shivers again. I'm glad that didn't stick. Not that there's anything wrong with your body, she adds, But I prefer mine.

No, Gracious assures her. I know the feeling. I'm used to this one, even if it's rather more worn than it was. I'm not sure the wounds that demon left will ever heal completely. I still... it still hurts a little, under the mark.

If I practice, I might be able to figure something out, Laval offers.

Well, you know... Gracious responds. It's a reminder of you saving my life.

Vex was... Laval continues. Vex was convinced it's possible to regrow limbs. Loosening a little scar tissue shouldn't be too hard...

Huh.

He had a mad plan involving standing half in the warp to make time go faster.

Perhaps I'm done with rituals for the moment, Gracious returns.

Agreement readily returns.

*****

The hour late, the weary heretics rest in the beds of the Villa von Klossner for the last time, guarded by the Aventine mercenaries. They sleep soundly. In the months that follow, perhaps the nightmares and dreams will come, of the exploits they pursued to destroy the Grand Makuu. But, tonight, they are simply too exhausted.

In the morning, the various parties prepare to be going forth. Leonard and Patrick are travelling with the Aventine mercenaries, Agosti having promised to see them on a shuttle before she checks for instructions from Lord Klossner. They plan to head for one of the distant Imperial cities, where they can sell some of the mansion valuables to secure safe transport out. Titebite, meanwhile, plans to return to his warband, the task done.

Gracious makes his way to Titebite, pausing to ask if Laval wants to join him.

"I don't know the man... unless you want me there, I... I don't care."

"Sure. I'm not sure I mind that much! I'll... I'll see you in a bit, I guess."

"Mm," the wych responds groggily.

Gracious find Titebite, and brings him into a small sitting-room. "So," he begins.

Titebite pauses. "My brother's death. What happened?"

"He... uh... so... he tried to do a ritual, in... in Imani, when we first arrived. He died, but not before... it wasn't pretty".

Titebite grimaces, and suddenly draws his axe at high speed, stopping it inches from the floor, letting out a frustrated grunt. Gracious sees a thin scar across its handle, where the armourer has welded his weapon back together after Marina's assault. "Foolish boy!" Titebite exclaims. "Magic... He always failed to respect the law of the weapon. It claimed him." He turns to face Gracious. "Why did you fail to report this immediately?"

"I had no means to... and it was hardly..."

"And by then you had made different allies," Titebite scolds, "Perhaps you even thought to betray our compact?"

Gracious cocks his head. "Ah... you wound me. Look what I have wrought! You brought me onboard - you brought me to this gods-damned rock! - because you wanted someone with my skills. Well, I delivered."

The silver-tongued heretic continues. "There were other warbands with other agents here. In one case, I... allied... with them - and it was your plan, your goals, that succeeded. In the other case, we defeated them. When the people of the gods tell the story of this place - and they will - The Weapon is the War will be the warband they speak of." He nods. "Oh, they'll know me. And Laval, I think. And that strange soul who walked as a ghost, I suppose... But it's all in how you tell it. And the winners get to tell the story."

Titebite sits and waits for Gracious to finish his mini-tirade. "Are you done?" he asks.

"I've said it as I called it," Gracious returns.

Titebite smiles. "I can't really deny it, I suppose, filthy little Slaaneshi that you are."

"Which brings us on to the delicate matter of payment," Gracious ventures.

"...go on."

"I think our initial talk was of some large-figure sum?" Gracious remarks. "But you said you'd reward based on success... Given that, here's what I want. I want a way off this world myself, when I decide to leave. I'm going with my... I'm going with Laval, for now, and she's based here. But when I need to - and I'm sure I will, one way or another - you'll help me leave, just as you got me here. Before things go totally to hell."

"Secondly, I want..." Gracious tells Titebite, "It's Leonard. I want you to swear on the Star of Eight: you will find what resources you can give him, what wealth you can set him up with, you will get him off this world, and you will use every contact you have to find him and Patrick somewhere safe. He... the Prince will call to him, one day, I think. He has beauty in his soul. But he... he's not ready yet."

"Finally," Gracious smiles, "Please, you know, recommend my services. I solve problems. Well... problems change, around me."

Titebite sits back, thinking. Slowly, he nods. "I will do these things, I suppose. You're getting soft: I heard you didn't care about anyone at all."

"...well, you know, I suppose there's a first time for every experience. But I'd thank you not to spread that sort of... I have a reputation to maintain. Consciences are bad for, you know, reputation."

Titebite smiles, and laughs a deep, booming laugh. "What a strange sort of weasel you are, Gracious Obscura! Weasels die, you know, they get skinned by hunters. The weapon is the war, and the war is all there is. You can't run forever from it."

Gracious shrugs. "Perhaps. You haven't seen me run." He leaves, whistling, leaving Titebite still chortling to himself.

"Gracious? Laval? ... Mr Titebite?" Leonard calls from the entrance hall. When the heretics gather, they find hiking bags waiting for them, stocked with supplies of food, drink and clothes.

"Leonard! Oh... thank you."

The tailor smiles in response. "Patrick! We're going soon!" he calls up the stairs. The mercenaries make their way out from the banquet hall, lazily checking their weapons.

"You are kind." Laval is wearing her own clothes again, tattered as they are.

Leonard frowns in response. "I've thought about it, and... I'm not taking Gerhild's clothes with me. It shouldn't be left for that brutish man. Take what you like, but remember who wore them, please." He chokes up slightly, producing a handkerchief and wiping at his eyes.

"I..." Gracious begins, "Leonard. Mr. Titebite has agreed - I am owed some favours from him. Long story. He will help you leave, help you find a shuttle, give you enough money, a place to go... I can't guarantee you'll be safe, you know. It's a big world."

"You think I should go with him, then?" Leonard asks, with some trepidation.

"I have a feeling that... well, perhaps he'll find you some place on the edges. A new sky. New stars." Gracious nods. "I think he still has some business on this world. But for now... yes. I... perhaps one day, we will meet again. Who knows, you know? Fate is a funny thing."

"We are to go our separate ways, then, Sig Schneider?" Agosti queries with a slight smile.

"It appears so..." Leonard responds distractedly, his attention mostly on Gracious. He steps forward towards the heretic. "I believe in my heart we will," he tells Gracious, with such certainty that it is hard to disbelieve him.

Gracious embraces him. Inside, he wills the mark that lies beneath the shirt and coat he wears to speak to Leonard, for the path of excess to call to him... in the fullness and rightness of time. The hairs on the back of Leonard's neck rise slightly, but he embraces Gracious tightly.

"Well," Agosti remarks, gathering her things and signalling to the soldiers. "Arrivederci! You are all strange. Perhaps it is best we never met, if anyone asks, no?"

"My lips are sealed," Laval assures her.

Gracious grins. "Well, it was good to have never met you."

"And you, Sig Obscura."

The Aventine mercenaries file out. They number five in all, one carried on a makeshift stretcher, groaning from savage burn wounds. They make their way to the gate, and begin their long journey back to the Imperial lines.

Titebite easily lifts the rucksack, and turns to Leonard. "Well, Leonard, it seems we shall be together a little longer. You... well, who chooses their friends, I suppose. Where is there peace, in this universe? But perhaps you can find some respite, for a time."

"I have left everything behind for my family once before," Leonard responds. "What is a second time?" He smiles fondly at his son as Patrick makes his way down the stairs. He is bruised, and looks exceptionally tired, but some light has returned to his baby-blue eyes and he takes his bag with a slight smile to his father. 

Titebite appraises him. "And young Patrick! Perhaps we can teach him a little of how to defend himself. A young person should know the weapon that calls to them." 

Patrick grimaces at Titebite's remark, grunting slightly.

"Well, I suppose this is farewell, for now," Leonard announces. He reaches out to shake Laval's hand.

She shakes, looking a little surprised. "I wish you the best of luck."

Leonard nods. "And you." He turns to Gracious. "We'll meet again," he promises, holding back tears. He nods to Titebite, and they begin making their way in the direction of a brighter future, his son close behind.

Laval picks up her bag after a few minutes, grimacing a little at the effort. "So. Sure you don't want to lose our minds, hole up in this house and declare ourselves rulers of this little patch of arid dirt?"

"I think that's the goal of every two-bit cult leader in about a hundred-mile radius," Gracious admits. "I say, leave them to it."

"I suppose we'd better start walking then."

He nods, smiling. "Well... you know the way."

*****

It is a very long walk, back past faltering Imperial forces and burned out villages into the territory firmly claimed by Chaos. Laval's mood improves as the days pass, though she frequently wakes screaming from nightmares. By the time they draw near to the town claimed by the Lightbringers, she is animated and jittery, enthusiasm mixing with fear that something may have gone wrong in her absence.

Within a few miles, she suddenly relaxes, smiling as she establishes telepathic contact. By the time Laval and Gracious reach the town proper, a small crowd has gathered to see them arrive - both wary locals and armoured off-worlders. A small cheer goes up as Laval waves, but it is only a few voices. The mood seems mixed, a little tense. Gracious stands close to Laval, slightly wary.

"It's okay," Laval tells him. A woman steps out from the crowd, arms open, and suddenly forgetting her weariness, Laval runs forwards to embrace her, starts crying. Gracious stands, relaxing a little, looking out across the crowd. He realises he is relieved to see people again - an inherently social person, he has missed the possibilities of a crowd.

"Who is your new friend?" the woman asks. "Come closer."

"Sajin, this is Gracious," Laval introduces him. "A good friend. Gracious, Sajin. My tutor."

Gracious approaches, offering his hand in polite greeting. "Lovely to meet you."

The heretics gather closer around Laval, while the locals shrink back. It is obvious that these are Laval's people, she knows them all and is returning to friends. Sajin shakes Gracious' hand with a warm smile.

"You've grown stronger," someone comments, and then suddenly everyone is talking at once, demanding to know what happened, asking about Vex, asking about Gracious. Gracious looks at Laval, smiling. She smiles back, tears in her eyes as she tries to answer a dozen questions at once. 

After a minute, the hubbub is cut through by the quiet sound of someone clearing their throat. The crowd quiets down in deference to the newcomer, a scarred and robed woman wearing the sign of Tzeentch prominently about her neck. "Laval," she acknowledges, then beckons. "With me."

"Of course," Laval responds, suddenly nervous. "And... Gracious?"

"Yes, bring him."

Gracious follows, trying to get a read on the woman. The woman carries herself with obvious confidence, and does not seem well pleased. The air shimmers about her, and as she turns to lead them into one of the buildings, the tip of a barbed tail is visible moving beneath her robes.

Laval follows obediently, through a guarded entrance-way into a room decorated with blue curtains and many lanterns. The woman seats herself in a chair at the head of a low table. "Sit," she instructs, and Laval does so. Gracious sits also, projecting an air of careful respect.

"My lady," Laval acknowledges, her tone deferential but with an edge of defiance. "Is there a problem?"

"Don't play coy with me, Laval. This, I presume, is Gracious Obscura?"

"I am," Gracious answers.

"Brave, coming here," the woman responds.

"I prefer to think of it as stupid," Gracious smiles. She does not look impressed in response, but perhaps unimpressed is her resting state. "I came with Laval," Gracious adds.

"I noticed."

"Perhaps you're better asking her, then, why I am here?" Gracious responds, a little defensively.

"I'm not a slave, Azine," Laval speaks up. "I'm free to choose what I need over your glory."

The two make eye contact, and hold it. After a few seconds, Laval starts to flinch with discomfort, but she does not look away. Less than a minute after that, the moment passes. Laval makes a small noise of pain, looks down. Gracious tenses. He looks from Laval to Azine, his face distrustful.

"It's fine," Laval tells him. "Just... making my report." Gracious relaxes a little in response.

"And what do you have to say for yourself, hm?" Azine addresses Gracious.

"I'm really quite excellent at what I do, and I was wondering if you had any jobs avaliable?" he responds cheekily.

Gracious feels the pressure of her mind against his defences, sharper and colder than Laval's approach, yet not a wholly unfamiliar sensation. He pushes back, perhaps not expecting to win, but all the same... 

Azine delicately peels back Gracious' defences, but pauses at the surface thoughts. His name is Gracious Obscura. He is wary, masking a level of contentment threatened by this exchange. He carries a permanent wound from the dungeons of the Makuu, tiring more easily than before. Resounding through his mind is the fear that everything is going to go horribly wrong, and that he and Laval will have to part.

"You will fly with us when we leave, then?" Azine asks aloud.

"That was my plan," Gracious acknowledges, "Though I suppose I would like to know where you're going."

A flicker of communication passes between the wyches, only subtle shifts of expression betraying the silent conversation.
"Neither of you need to know that yet," Azine tells them.

"So that's a yes on the job, then?" Gracious asks.

"I have no intention of paying you beyond feeding and sheltering you, if that is what you are asking."

"That I'll accept," Gracious shrugs.

Azine sighs, her expression softening some. "Children." She pauses. "Go then, celebrate. I will concede you have done well." 

Something Azine says silently makes Laval wince, but it is followed by a smile, if perhaps a slightly embarrassed one.

"You are dismissed," Azine clarifies.

Gracious nods, smiling, relaxing properly, and walks towards the door, waiting for Laval. Laval goes to him, takes his hand, and smiles as she returns, with Gracious, to her waiting friends.

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