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650299 No. 650299 ID: 849b2b

An Adventure Romance set in the Exalted universe

The Thing this time was a small affair, barely a dozen Green Sun Princes to welcome the new addition to the ranks. She was a tiny thing, a Dynast girl with jointed fingers like the legs of a Sesselja, chosen to be a Fiend of the Ebon Dragon. She stared at everything with wide, cautious eyes and had this air about her like she would flinch away if you got too close. Almost certainly, Mara would take interest in her and induct her into the Black Claw Style; she seemed almost too perfect for it. After the ceremonies ended, she was summoned to the side of the jouten of the Ebon Dragon. He draped an arm over her shoulder and whispered into her ear as she wilted under whatever it was He was saying. I took that as my cue to leave, and rose from my seat. As I moved towards the exit, my way was suddenly barred.

“Edge, what a pleasure to see you!” the Lintha woman grinned at me with her too-sharp teeth, fixing me with her black eyes. I inwardly cringed at her lack of fashion sense, or clothing, for that matter: all she wore was a pair of tattered shorts and boots, “I was surprised that ya could make it – last I heard, you were in the South.”

“I had some free time, so I came to welcome our new sister,” I said politely, attempting to slip around her.

A tattooed arm blocked my passage, quickly followed by the multiply-pierced face of its owner, “I was curious why yer here, since ya were s’posed ta be so busy in Gem. See, I heard a bit about that, since I was the one that got assigned to clean up yer mess.” She raised her voice loud enough to attract the attention of those nearby, “The Guild was turnin’ all of the city upside-down looking for ya on suspicions of spyin’.”

The assembly paused in their exodus, looking up at what the ruckus was about. A Scourge, his mouth stitched, glared daggers in our direction before taking his leave. A begoggled girl looked up briefly from a tablet of green jade before returning to whatever it was that was written on it. A ringing laugh came from somewhere behind the Lintha, a man clad in silk leaning back in his seat in order to be seen, “Now, now, give the man a break – he took time off from his new Bride to come see us.” I froze; how the hell did he know about that? He smiled enigmatically, but before I could question him, another voice came from behind me.

“You got married, Edge?” The bright-red-haired head peered closer to me, her confused look blossoming into a grin, “Who’s the unlucky bastard, huh?”

“Yeah, Edge, why don’t ya share the story? We’re all dyin’ ta hear.” The Lintha took a seat beside me, her eyes glinting maliciously. Those that had not left already had clustered nearby, and I could feel the Ebon Dragon’s gaze on me – it appeared that I wouldn’t be able to escape.

I took a deep breath, sinking back onto the bench. I fished around for a place to start before opening my mouth.

“After things had fallen through in Gem, my Patron put me on standby until further notice. I decided to go to Chiaroscuro to lay low until I received further orders, but I could feel the Dragon’s wrath through my connection to Lillun. I was one small mistake away from punishment. I needed to appease the Ebon Dragon before that could happen. My Unwoven Coadjutor had informed me as we left Gem that the best way to do this was to emulate Him. A marriage held in honor of His own would surely please Him and lessen the rage that He held over my failure. First, though, I had to find a Bride: surely, in such a large city, there would be one person I could convince to marry me. For the purposes of finding a mate, I crafted my appearance using Loom-snarling Deception to appear as..."

Male or Female?
Expand all images
No. 650300 ID: 88960e

No. 650304 ID: 4e8ab9

No. 650307 ID: 3f57fd

No. 650327 ID: bd8b82

No. 650330 ID: 26e769

No. 650332 ID: 2a1897

No. 650333 ID: 2a7417

No. 650334 ID: cfb12a

No. 650335 ID: 02d9ae

potato man
No. 650336 ID: 06c8e2

No. 650337 ID: fab78f

No. 650342 ID: ab7529

No. 650350 ID: 02d9ae

(Jokes aside, my actual suggestion is male.)
No. 650353 ID: 849b2b
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A sudden lurch of the sand ship jolted me from my slumber. The same unceasing sun peeked through the floorboards above me, making it impossible to place the time.

Descending Earth. The hissing voice of my Unwoven Coadjutor sounded in the corner of my mind as soon as the question formed. At least it was paying attention.

Thanks, Bulitar. Why did we stop?

Most likely because we have arrived.

Sure enough, the dereth captain nimbly descended from the deck, glancing at me as he gathered cargo, “You are up?” he asked in Riverspeak.

“Yes, thank you.” I rose to my feet, attempting futilely to stretch the cramps from my muscles, “Are we in Chiaroscuro already?”

“’Already?’” the Southerner laughed, “You have been sleeping like a babe – it is already past the heat of the day.”

“This heat is exhausting,” I complained, but the captain just laughed as he climbed the stairs, crates in hand. I hoisted by bag over my shoulder and followed him up, shielding my eyes from the glaring sun. Even that did not make things clearer; it took me a moment to realize that the glare was coming from in front of me instead of above. Tall spires of glass rose up in the distance, like trees growing from the dry plain. Past that, I could see the ocean, a familiar sight and one I welcomed after the endless expanses of sand; the South reminded me too much of the Endless Desert to ever let me relax.

“Welcome to Chiaroscuro!” The dereth swept an arm behind him as he stepped off of the dock and once more on to the ship, “Be safe and enjoy your stay.” He sketched a quick bow before disappearing once more below.

The dock was not very crowded this close to the middle of the day. Most of the workers were still lounging in the tents set up on the edge of the plain. Only a few had stirred themselves to unload the small ship. The crates were being loaded into a cart parked at the head of a dusty road. I approached the man harnessing the horse, “Excuse me. I want to go to Chiaroscuro – can I ride?”

The man eyed me curiously. I obviously did not belong here, with my pale Western skin and clumsy Riverspeak. Before he could make a hasty judgment, I pulled two silver coins from the purse at my hip, showing them to him, “Two dinar to take me?”

The man took the coins from my hands, and they quickly disappeared, “You may ride up front,” he said, gesturing with his chin.

I took my place on the wooden bench, carefully stowing my bag at my feet. What are you planning to do when you get there? Bulitar asked.

I’ll figure something out.

You can’t run the Ebon Dragon forever. You’d best find a Bride quickly.

Its words reminded me of my mission; I couldn't afford to dally long.

“Where would you like to be dropped off?”

I stirred myself from my thoughts, focusing on the man before me. I knew nothing about Chiaroscuro. “Where are you going?”

“To the New City,” He pointed to the lower buildings, clustered away from the glass towers, “We will pass through the Outskirts,” his finger traveled to the huts outside the city walls, “and near the Old City,” the digit swept to the large towers. “If you are looking for lodging, the Out-of-towners’ Section near the port has cheap inns. If you are looking for something else, go to the Undermarket.”

“Something else?” I repeated.

“Anything,” the man shrugged in response.

Where do you think we should go, Bulitar?
No. 650361 ID: 9297f4

Out of towners' section for an inn then check out the undermarket.
No. 650365 ID: bd8b82

a place to stay is important, even if you do not stay long.
No. 650369 ID: 02d9ae

Agreed, find a place to stay and then head to the undermarket. They did say you can find anything there, so maybe we can just hire a bride, as unsavory as that might be.
No. 650402 ID: 849b2b
File 143512472469.png - (108.75KB , 750x750 , 102.png )

It would be best to obtain some lodging first – let us head to the Out-of-towners’ Section, and then the Undermarket - if nothing else, perhaps you can simply buy a bride.

The idea is distasteful, if only because it feels like cheating - I'm not sure if that would gain the Dragon's favor or not.

“I want to go to the Out-of-towners’ Section,” I spoke the unfamiliar word slowly, hoping I got the intonation right, “How to get there quickly?”

The man nodded, “It’s closest to the New City. You can ride until we unload.” The conversation finished, he did one final check on the horse’s harness and climbed onto the bench beside me, spurring the cart towards the city on its ponderous journey.


The city of Chiaroscuro was a bustle of activity. Every possible scrap of ground was taken up by mud-bricked house, canvas tent, or glass lean-to. The red-glass road was similarly packed with people decked in fine silks, gauzy veils, and glittering jewelry. It was a flood of colour threatening to wash our drab cart away. I marveled at the skill of the driver, how he guided the horse where I could see no opening, how he convinced the crowd to flow around. The bazaar was a forest of brightly-coloured tents, hawkers calling out to passer-bys in Firetongue. The cart drove a circuitous route to the back of a terracotta building where the man finally stopped.

“To get to the Out-of-towners’ section, go back to the glass road and follow it east until you reach the harbour. You’ll know when you get there.” His business complete, the labourer returned to his work, unloading crates from the cart and taking them inside.

I followed the alley back to the main road, worming my way through the people. I kept a tight grip on my money purse as I wove my way back to the glass-paved road. The noise was more chaotic here, not the voices of merchants but the chatter of a hundred people in different tongues. I caught snatches of Seatongue and felt a brief wave of nostalgia before turning to the east.

The press of people was almost more oppressive than the sun beating down from above. I was welcome for the hardiness provided by the Exaltation within me, although the taint of the Ebon Dragon made the bright sun nigh unbearable. I trudged on, glancing down every now and then to make sure I was still walking on the red-glass road. The sun slowly continued its travel to the horizon.

The mass of people flowed at a hidden tempo. No matter how I tried to push my way through, I inevitably bumped into someone or stumbled on the hem of a skirt. I sought a less crowded path but was cautious of leaving the main road for fear of getting lost. Seated beggars and resting pedestrians lined the small shaded areas near the building fronts; carts navigated their way through the center of the street, shouting at those who did not move fast enough. I passed a soldier, pausing as something caught my eye. The bow on his shoulder was made of some strange wood, bright green. I lingered too long, however, and someone bumped into me with enough force to make me stumble.

“Eeyah!” Papers flew from bundled sheaves, scattering underfoot, and their previous owner soon followed. “Oh, no. I-I’m so sorry–”

“No, it’s my fault, I was the one stopped.” I quickly knelt, attempting to gather the sheets before they were trampled or swept away. Each was filled with neat penmanship in Old Realm, staffs of musical notes, or quick sketches of plants, people, and objects. My curiosity was sparked, but I had little time to observe them further. Once I had gathered the sheets, I reached a hand down to the person who had dropped them.

The girl looked young, less than twenty-five Calibrations old. Her face still held a roundness of youth that was echoed in the other curves of her body. Her ink-black hair had fallen in places from the bun in which it had been bound, leaving loose strands to fall in her face her face. Her eyes were a deep blue, accented by the kohl that ringed them. Her clothes were not the bright colours or veils of the Delzahn, but the jewel-toned silks of the Realm. The hand she reached out to me was patterned with henna and stained with ink, but the skin was soft and cool. She regained her footing atop her geta, hoisting a tube-shaped case, and accepted the papers from me.

“Thank you so much – again, I’m really very sorry.” Her words in Firetongue had a light accent to them, but one that I could not place. It was obvious that she wasn’t from around here, but I couldn’t place where she came from.

Perhaps a Northerner? Bulitar offered.

No – her skin’s not pale enough for that. “It was my mistake – I’m just glad no one was injured.”

The woman shuffled the papers back into their twine-wrapped bundle, trying futilely as she did to make sure everything was still in place, “I keep telling myself I’ll pay more attention and stop thinking while walking, but this happens every time. At least you were kind enough to help me pick everything up – thank you so much for that; most people just grunt and move on when something like this happens…”

“Well, I learned better manners where I come from, and it’s terribly rude to leave a lady in the dust of the road.”

“Oh, you’re new to the city, then?”

I nodded, “Aye. I arrived just an hour ago.”

Her eyes brightened, “Then perhaps I can help you. Is there any place you’re trying to find?”

“If you could point me in the direction of the Out-of-towners’ Section, I would be very appreciative.”

“Oh, I was just heading there myself. I’d be happy to escort you, since you’ve been so kind, mister…”

“Sky’s Edge.” I bowed as much as I could in the tight confines of the crowd.

She returned a dignified curtsey, “I am Graceful Blossom in Full Bloom. It is a pleasure to meet you.”

“A pleasure as well.” The name was vague enough that it could be from anywhere. Everything about her seemed vague, from her accent, to her name, to her clothing and papers she carried. Still, she had a modest air about her that soothed me despite the concern I had over what I had seen written on her papers.

Be careful, Edge. We’re here to stay out of trouble, remember?

I’m just following her to the Out-of-towners’ Section. You’re the one that said we needed lodging, right?

We resumed our trek, merging once more with the mass of people on our steady journey east. As we traveled, the broken stumps of towers became a rare sight, and tents took the place of shacks built from shards of glass.

“What brings you to Chiaroscuro, Sky’s Edge?”

“I’m traveling to my aunt’s in Arjuf, but I’ve run low on money, so I’m looking to find a job and lodging for a few weeks before crossing the Inland Sea,” the lie easily off of my tongue, greased with years of practice, “What brings you to the city?”

“I’m a musician,” Grace shrugged her shoulder higher, motioning to the hard leather case hanging there, “I play the flute.”

“Ah. I thought I saw music written on the sheets I picked up.”

She laughed melodiously, “Yes. I went to a friend’s place to copy some of his music and got a little carried away.”

She didn’t react strongly to the fact that I had seen her papers… Was she unconcerned that I had seen them? Or did she think there was no chance that I would recognize it? I wanted to push her for more information, but I felt that would be too obvious.

Knowing Old Realm is not that uncommon…

Yes, but writing your personal notes in it is, especially if you’re a wandering musician. It’s strange… The tongue of gods and demons wasn't exactly widely-known, and even rarer was its use. Perhaps it would be worth inquiring about...
No. 650407 ID: bd8b82

accompany her, don't press but this looks good, so far she seems suitable.
No. 650417 ID: 9297f4

She looks cute. Just make some small talk and ask for a cheap but modest inn. Also, how long do you plan to stay here?
No. 650590 ID: 849b2b
File 143520766101.png - (138.91KB , 598x750 , 103.png )

Don’t press her about it – it would be poor to mess this up so early.

Bulitar’s advice is sound, “Where were you before you found your way to Chiaroscuro?”

“Oh, I’ve been all over the place – the Lap, Hundred Kingdoms, Nexus… I’ve been travelling so long that no place really feels like home,” Blossom replied, flashing me a disarming smile.

She’s avoiding giving a direct answer, I observed silently.

Not everyone is so intentionally conniving as you.

True. “It must be difficult to not have a place you can call home.”

“Yes, but one gets used to it eventually. I’m sure you’ve felt the same, being so far from home – you’re from the West, are you not?”[/color]

I was surprised by her guess, “Yes, from Wavecrest. How did you know?”

“Your accent. I spent several months tutoring under a musician from Abalone in An-Teng.”

Gods… was there anywhere south of the Imperial Mountain that this woman hadn’t been?

“I’m curious, though,” Blossom continued, studying me with her piercing eyes, “I haven’t seen that type of facial makeup before. Where did you pick it up?”

I’m baffled for a moment before I realize what she’s speaking of – the marks of the Chrysogona left below my eyes from my time in the Chrysalis Grotesque. The black drips could easily be mistaken for makeup. I hadn’t bothered to hide them under the Loom-snarling Deception, so the Infernal marks were in plain view.

Stop hesitating – just make something up!

I scrambled for an excuse, releasing a few motes of Essence to smooth my lie, “I met a traveler from the Haslanti League once – he put ash beneath his eyes to reduce glare from the snow. I figured it might help with the desert sun.”

“Hmm…” The expression on her face was inscrutable. “Does it?”

“A bit – not as much as I would hope, though.”

She pondered a moment more before smiling, “Well, it looks quite striking. Perhaps I’ll use it for one of my performances.”

The tense moment passed, but I still felt uneasy. Do you think she did that on purpose?

It’s quite possible. Perhaps she is doing so intentionally.

“Are you headed to the Out-of-towners’ Section on business or pleasure?”

“I have some business I need to take care of before sundown, so I’m going to drop these notes off and then be on my way again.”

“Ah, so you’re staying there?”

“Yes, at an inn near the Plaza.”

“I am in need of lodging as well. Do you know of any modest inns?”

Blossom pursed her lips as she thought, “I would check closer to the docks – the closer to the Old City you get, the more expensive places are.”

I smiled warmly, “Thank you very much for your suggestion. Perhaps we will meet again, and I can repay you for your assistance.”

“Oh, you don’t need to do anything of the sort – I’m simply repaying you for your kindness after I so rudely bumped into you.”

The formality of her speech made me chuckle slightly. It was amusing how she seemed so collected one moment only to be reduced to a demure, blushing girl the next. “Well, you are the only person I know in this city…”

Blossom smiled, ”This is true – I will show you where my inn is so that you may call on me if you wish. I can’t promise that I’ll be in at any given time, since my jobs keep me quite occupied, but you may leave a note with the innkeep for me.”

That would prove a little difficult, considering I didn’t know how to write in Firetongue, but I was certain something could be worked out, ”I will do that if I find free time – thank you.”

We continued walking, the silence broken up occasionally by casual chatter. Eventually, she turned off of the red-glass road onto a smaller, less crowded path. The houses here were made of adobe bricks, neat angles standing perpendicular to the cobbled street. She stopped at a corner building, a cozy-looking place with a placard lettered in Firetongue and painted with a blue fish. “This is it. The dock is in that direction,” she pointed towards where I knew the ocean lay, ”I wish you luck in finding lodgings.”

“ Thank you very much for your guidance, Lady Blossom,” I bowed once more to her.

“It was my pleasure, Sky’s Edge. May the Dragons keep you well,” with one final smile, she disappeared within. I smirked at the irony of her farewell: if the Dragons knew of my existence, they would certainly not wish me wellness.

I continued along the path, moving away from the sprawl of the Old City and the neatly-ordered buildings of the Plaza. Closer to the shore, there were more buildings cobbled together from pieces of glass and driftwood, but the primary building material seemed to be stone and cloth. Everything had an impermanent feel to it, further intensified by the mix of languages that flooded the area.

It took some searching, but I managed to find an inn with vacancy and a reasonable price. This left me with more dinar to spend in the Undermarket, which I thought a wise destination after I settled in. The mattress was rough straw, but it seemed clean enough, and the room came with a basin in which tepid water sat. I gratefully washed myself of the dust of the road and planned my next course of action.

How long do you plan to stay here in Chiaroscuro?

I don’t know – until I find what I’m looking for or the Ebon Dragon calls me away on further duty. What should we do at the Undermarket? It’d be best to have an idea of what I want before I just go wandering about.
No. 650593 ID: 9297f4

Information I guess. I'm amazed you didn't react to when I said she looks cute. Ah well. Just try to find what's going on in the city and get a grasp on things.
No. 650621 ID: 57d76a

Maybe get some makeup to cover up those marks, or modify your disguise magic to hide them. You explained them away well enough (okay I don't think she was fooled for a second but I don't think she would have been by any explanation) but that explanation won't hold up if they stay there the whole time you're in the city.
No. 650663 ID: 37adba

You told Graceful Blossom you were looking for a job, are you much of a musician, merchant, mercenary or skilled in fields which others would desire to hire you as a consultant for? Ideally we want to find a position that makes us social with a good variety of interesting people who would want to talk to us: Working as a performer or tutor of some kind would probably be good since we don't outwardly carry much of value to work as a merchant.
Blossom is our first interesting prospect--and potentially hidden anathema herself if she survives being so widely-traveled. We would do well to find other prospects though should it not work out or she turns out to be less suitable than other prospects we turn up later.
No. 650697 ID: ab7529

>if nothing else, perhaps you can simply buy a bride.
If we're trying to impress the ebon dragon, we'll do it by being clever. That's uncreative lip service at best- it won't be enough.

>[writing a note] would prove a little difficult, considering I didn’t know how to write in Firetongue
You could always write in watertongue. Given how wide traveled she is, and that she's some kind of bard and/or scholar, it's not an unreasonable assumption to guess she might know the language.

>Maybe get some makeup to cover up those marks, or modify your disguise magic to hide them
We don't want to use mundane makeup- if someone catches us covering up makeup we should be able to easily remove, that draws suspicion, and catches us in the lie.

Better to stand out slightly, or for people to assume it's something foreign. (Or possibly to use it as a manipulation- we kept it because she liked it).
No. 650704 ID: 849b2b
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We need information – this town is too large for us to learn what we need to know by ourselves.

Bulitar was right. Luckily, I remembered a Green Sun Prince that was stationed in Chiaroscuro, a servant of She Who Lives in Her Name. I knew the shop was located in the Undermarket, and I had a name – that should be enough to find it.

Perhaps it would be wise to get a job – after all, that would certainly allow us to meet people.

I saw the value in such an arrangement, True. With my skill in bureaucracy, I could secure a job in business or politics. As a talented linguist, I could serve as a scribe or translator. Before my Exaltation, I was a sailor, so I could easily find work fishing or working on a ship. Additionally, with my gifts of socialization, I could easily pose as a dilettante. If I wish to make use of the abilities gifted to me by the Ebon Dragon, I will have to behave in ways that cheat, lie, or corrupt morals. Of course, I could simply rely on my own natural skill at any other job, which is quite considerable given my Exalted nature.

Bulitar projected caution, It is possible that she is one of the Chosen of the Gods – that would explain her knowledge of Old Realm and her wide-ranging nature.

While there are other, simpler explanations, that one does make sense; I don’t have the Sight that would allow me to detect such instantly, unfortunately. With being so well-traveled, it is possible that she is one of Luna’s Chosen, as they are known for being survivors. Alternatively, she could simply be one of the Dragon-blooded – which would make sense, as she was dressed in the fashion of the Realm. Alternatively, she could be one of the Solar Exalted, which would prove… troublesome. I know she is not one of the Green Sun Princes or one of the Akuma corrupted to the service of the Yozis. It is certainly something to keep in mind should I continue to associate with her.

She seems like a suitable mate, and she is aesthetically pleasing – she would not be a bad choice.

I agree, but perhaps it is rushing ahead to be set on the first person I meet. Still, I know where she resides, so I should be able to meet up with her again if I wish.

It might be best to remove the marks I left upon your body by altering your Loom-snarling Deception; however, it might also be wise to stand out a little.

Well, should it become an issue, I can alter them with but a second’s moment away from sight. Until then, I suppose I will keep them.

Seeing no other reason to dally, I left the inn.


Despite the Undermarket being such a vital part of Chiaroscuran trade, it was a difficult place to find. It took me several hours and a few bribes to finally find an entrance to the subterranean bazaar. The cave was dim and smoky, the air filled with the scents of spices, people, and filth. People from all over Creation were gathered here, buying and selling everything anyone could ever want: humans sold other humans, sold themselves, sold things I’d never seen. The noise was clamorous, Riverspeak dominating but all others mixed in. It was a blur of activity worse than the bustle on the streets above. At least here the sun did not beat down on me.

Amaranth’s shop was a small, cozy building constructed near one of the main thoroughfares of the Market. The door was decorated with red paper lanterns, looking more like a brothel than a shop. The inside was a close room that smelled of sandalwood and incense, lined with pillows, tapestries, and silks. Everything was dyed shades of crimson, from poppy red to deep vermillion.

The proprietor was a shapely woman, her curves straining against the fine silks that swathed them. Everything about her was red – her eyes, her hair, her lips, her dress, even her skin had a ruddy tint. She reclined at the far side of the room, nestled deeply among the tasseled pillows. She watched me with lazy eyes as she drew from a thin pipe. Green smoke curled up from the bowl, making the entire room hazy, dark, and sensual.

She took a deep breath from the pipe, exhaling the smoke in my direction, “Edge… This is a surprise. I didn’t think–”


“Wait, but isn’t Amaranth–”

“Don’t interrupt. I’m getting to that.”


“– I’d be seeing you before Calibration. What is it that brings you to me?”

I took a seat to the side of the door, sinking into the soft cushions, “I was in the area and decided to stop in to get the lay of the land,” I answered in Old Realm.

“You know my help comes at a price. What do you have for me?”

I sighed, rubbing at my eyes; whatever she was smoking was noxious, “News from Gem, and Malfeas. I don’t think you’ve been there since last Calibration, right?”

Amaranth shrugged, tapping the bowl of her pipe free of ash, “There’s always something happening in the Demon Realm, and it’s always the same stupid, bickering games. I have no interest in the latest drama of the demons. What’s the news of Gem? I heard that was where you had been assigned.”

“It ended poorly, and I’d rather not talk about it.”

Her red lips formed into a pout, “But that’s surely the most interesting thing you have to tell me. Come on, Edge – we’re close enough; I promise I won’t tell anyone.”

I knew enough about Amaranth to know whatever I said would end up in another person’s ear the second I left. I shook my head and changed the subject. “The Guild’s–”

“– raising tariffs on trade to counter the Realm’s taxes. I know already, Edge.” She took another long draw on her pipe, blowing it out slowly, “If you don’t have any good news, there’s not much I can offer you.”

My head was starting to hurt. “Listen, all I want is a general run-down of what’s going on in the city. Surely you can spare at least that for a fellow agent of the Reclamation?”

She peered at me through lidded eyes, smiling deviously, “Oh, calling on my good graces? Fine. I’ll tell you a few things, but answer me this: why are you here, Edge?”

I sighed deeply, coughing as the air left my lungs. She laughed, “It’s a unique blend, isn’t it? A distillation made from Hegra in one of her more… pleasant moods. It reminds you of home, doesn’t it?”

“It’s foul is what it is,” I remarked, shaking my head. I wanted this over as quickly as possible, “I messed up in Gem, and the Dragon’s angry. I need to get on his good side, so I’m here looking for a bride.”

Amaranth stared at me, speechless for a moment, before she burst out into laughter, “Oh, oh, that is worth it. You, hunting for a mate? Oh, this will be interesting.” She trailed off, a chuckle escaping every now and then as she set down her pipe, “Yes, I’ll tell you a few things for that laugh, but don’t expect to get off so easily again. Things have been tense in the city these past few years – prices have gone up and not come down. People are restless; they don’t know what to make of all the changes on the Blessed Isle. I’ve been urging the Principle of Hierarchy to take advantage of this, but… she keeps telling me to wait just a bit longer. Like any other city, there’s no shortage of desperate, stupid people you could trick, although I’d advise against courting one of the Delzahn; their customs are obnoxious, and marriage is so bound up in honor for them. Better for you to find a foreigner – that’ll gather less attention.”

“Anything else I should know about?”

“There are a few of the Empress’s dogs prowling about – not a Wyld Hunt, but enough Dragon-Blooded to make the Tri-Kahn pissy. The government’s pretty lax when it comes to tolerance, but with the Dynasts watching so closely…” she shrugged, “Nothing to be alarmed about, but I’d keep a low profile.”

Dynasts… I should be fine, but it would be wise to keep my charm usage to a minimum, “Thanks. There’s one more thing I wanted to ask… Have you heard of someone called Graceful Blossom in Full Bloom?”

“The name isn’t familiar, why?”

”Someone I met – I was hoping you might have some information on her.”

”Oh, already have a prospective bride? she smirked, rising from her nest and crossing the room to me, “It really is a shame that you’re here on business. If you had the free time, I could show you the city…”

I could take her up on her offer, but I’m sure she had some ulterior motive. Alternatively, I could browse the wares for something specific while I was here, go elsewhere in the time I had left, or return to the inn and get some sleep.
No. 650719 ID: bd8b82

let's try looking around on our own. get a feel for the city.

(also, try /icons/ to make it easier to tell who is talking.)
No. 650731 ID: ab7529

>jobs and skills
I'm don't thin sailor is the job you want. When you're working, it's a lot of labor without downtime you can use effectively- it'll take you away from prospective brides a lot.

The linguist and bureaucrat sound the most interesting, although we'll see what opportunities there are.

>I could take her up on her offer
I don't like letting someone else manipulate us so easily. That, and if she shows you around, that gives her the opportunity to define our identity here before we can. I don't want her to have that power.

>browse the wares for something specific
Hmm. Lore would be helpful, here.

You said before you'd have to keep the use of your more overt powers to a minimum, if you didn't want to be detected. Is there something we could use to cope with that? An additional unfair advantage or emergency option to fall back on when we might otherwise need something flashy?

Shopping also give you the chance to trade more words, see what else you can weasel out of her. She's be trying to get you too, but this is a more controlled situation than letting her lead you around.

I'm not such a fan of speech icons, myself. There's a fair amount of dialog here, breaking it up with an image every line would clutter things up unpleasantly and fast.
No. 650754 ID: 37adba

As far as jobs go, working as a bureaucrat is not my first choice for trying to make friends with people. It would, however, be ideal for cheating, lying and corrupting morals. Working as a translator might be a bit questionable if we can't handle written firetongue though.

Some sort of traveling alchemist, apothecary, diviner, magician or sage seems to me like it could be an excellent excuse for knowing old tongue, and I'm tempted to suggest working as such and writing a note to Blossom in it. Apothecary in particular could provide people with questionable substances like sedatives, aphrodisiacs, and recreational substances whose very availability corrupt morals through their possibilities of use on other people.

....Now I kinda wish that Graceful Blossom is a hidden solar, and that we could present her as our bride to the Ebon Dragon. That would be a most worthy corruption.

Back to the present: What do you think is the likelihood that Amaranth wants to play the role of our bride or nominate someone for the role? If she did want to nominate herself for the role, how suitable (or not) would she be? Figuring out what her aims might be in this invitation is the first step to determining if it's worth the effort to support them, play along, or manipulate her.
No. 650779 ID: 57d76a

What does the color of speech indicate? Language/accent?

I feel like working as a scribe would let us meet the widest variety of people. But there's an obvious problem there if you don't know the local written language... Fishing or dock work would probably be my second choice, just because it doesn't stand out.
No. 650781 ID: ab7529

>What does the color of speech indicate? Language/accent?
Yeah. >>/questdis/92283
No. 650876 ID: 849b2b
File 143533521897.gif - (1.10MB , 750x750 , 105.gif )

Image is animated!


>don’t trust her
>Amaranth as bride


Woah, Bulitar, hang on – not so fast, okay? Let’s do this step-by-step.

Getting a job sounds like a good idea, but that’ll be something we look for another day. It’s a good thing to think about, but that’s something we’ll have to devote a whole day to finding.

As for apothecary, I have no skill in making tinctures, but I could easily be a con-artist. I’m very good at making people believe what they expect to see, as long as it isn’t the truth.

I agree, I don’t trust Amaranth, but he has his uses. Taking her shopping might allow me to control the situation better, but it’d be best if I had a plan of some kind so as to not let her play me. A goal would be a good place to start – decide what I want from her and maybe what I want to look for while shopping. The Undermarket sells pretty much anything you can think ofcrafted goods, raw materials, services, and information are just some of the categories. I could just go browsing, but this place is big enough that it’d be much better to look for something specific.

You aren’t seriously considering marrying Amaranth, are you? Sure, it’d be easy, and she’d probably say yes, but, in the end, she serves She Who Lives In Her Name, not the Ebon Dragon. The Yozis are supposed to be working together to reclaim the world for themselves, but, well, that happens rarely. I’m not sure the Ebon Dragon would be pleased if I tied myself to the Principle of Hierarchy in such a way – and Amaranth would definitely take advantage of it. Maybe she would know someone who would be suitable, and I could ask her advice, but it would probably cost me. Amaranth is in this for herself and her patron – she’s just as ruthless as a Fiend when it comes to manipulating people.

I suppose that hit to the head back in Gem affected you, too, Bulitar. Let’s both go over my abilities to make sure we remember everything.

As a Chosen of the Ebon Dragon, I can call upon his powers to augment my own, but only when I stand to gain more than others, I am lying or being deceitful, I am breaking down social mores, or escaping confinement. This is a pretty covert ability – unless I use it a lot, no one will notice.

The other charms I have learned from the Ebon Dragon allow me to change my appearance. It’s immediate use is pretty obvious, but I don’t think anyone will see through it afterward. Additionally, I can see through darkness, which is passive, and thus completely covert. Finally, I have some offensive abilities that I will hopefully not have to rely upon – needless to say, they’re extremely obvious.

I’ve learned some abilities of the Silent Wind, which allow me to run with her speed. This is pretty obviously not within human limitations, but it’s very good for getting out of a bad situation. Additionally, I can perform extended tasks with her haste, but, again, moving with such speed is obviously supernatural.

Any of my obvious abilities will mark me as something supernatural, and those that are learned in demonic lore might recognize me as a Servant of the Yozis. Even if they don’t, assuming I’m an Anathema is a pretty sound conclusion, and that will call the Wyld Hunt eventually. If I’m going to use an obvious ability, it’d best be in private or in a situation that will eliminate any witnesses.

The more I call upon my abilities, whether they’re covert or obvious, the more my Anima will flare, marking me as one of the Exalted. If I continue using Essence, it will flare to its maximum level, which unmistakably marks me as something demonic. Needless to say, let’s not let that happen.

… And I think that’s everything. So, back to the situation at hand – what do we want to do?
No. 650998 ID: ab7529

>You aren’t seriously considering marrying Amaranth, are you?
I think the problem is she'd be simultaneous too easy and too hard. If she's readily agree, you're hardly proving yourself to a master of deceit, deception and corruption. So to properly impress the Ebon dragon, you'd have to corrupt or manipulate her, turning your new bride to your own ends in spite of her own scheming. That's going to be very difficult, considering she's equipped to play that game as a peer, and worse, she knows that's what you'll need to do.

One thing that might help in dealing with her- reflect on how the aims and approach of She Who Lives In Her Name differ from the Ebon Dragon. If you consider what her big picture goals are, you might be able to guess at her shorter term plans, or perhaps recognize a play when she makes it.

>decide what I want from her and maybe what I want to look for while shopping
I'd ask what resources we have to trade with, but I guess it's safe to assume you can smooze or swindle whatever you set out to shop for.

Actually deciding on what we want is the hard part, since our current plan is so open ended. My first thought would be something that supports the job we're planning on taking, but we were going to scout around and work on the job tomorrow.

...I suppose we need information more than stuff, but that's pretty broad, still.

>breaking down social mores
How exactly does a marriage fit that theme? I mean, I can see how tricking someone into it is the Ebon Dragon's game, but that's a strong affirmation of a social norm. You could argue you're inverting it- taking something that's supposed to be about love and devotion and using it to bind someone to your purpose, but marriage has been about binding since the beginning. Binding couples to the cause of survival, binding political alliances, binding a person to another who would own them.
No. 651042 ID: 37adba

Until we have a better understanding of the area we're operating in and who else is here, we probably want to keep our lies, cheating and corruptions small scale and untraceable: We don't know if the Wild Hunt is operative here and how Amaranth has to hide herself and her activities to remain in place. That would be information worth having, but I worry about her price for it.
What can we get that's worth having in the shape of information? The Undermarket may have a considerable selection, but I hesitate to imagine that magical items available will be worth their price without theft or cheating. I could also imagine us finding many uses for sedatives, aphrodisiacs, stimulants and hallucinogens but we may want to determine a plan for their use before acquiring some if they are contraband, particularly unusual to possess or notably expensive.
No. 651117 ID: 2454df

The Ebon Dragon is obsessed with marriage, unrelated to his other passions. This could be taken as a commentary on marriage.
No. 651129 ID: 2454df

Vitriol Falcon, take her up on the offer. Match her wit against yours; none can be said to be more pointed than a Quill of Hell.
No. 651354 ID: 849b2b
File 143546835397.png - (126.42KB , 750x750 , 106.png )

Amaranth wouldn’t be the ideal choice, Bulitar conceded, but we can outwit her. Let’s take her up on her offer and play her.

Bold. I like it. ”Actually, I’m free for the rest of the evening – why don’t I take you up on your offer as a show of thanks?”

Amaranth blinked her heavy lashes at me, ”That’s terribly gentlemanly of you, Edge. Give me but a moment to find some shoes and close up, and I’ll meet you outside.”

I stepped outside to wait for her; after the smoky interior, the muggy air of the Undermarket almost smelled fresh.

It’s curious that the Ebon Dragon is so obsessed with marriage when He is also so driven to break down social constructs, Bulitar commented.

You’re confused by that, too? I would have thought you’d have an answer to that.

I may be descended from the Ebon Dragon, but His mind is as much a mystery to you as it is to me, there was a beat of silence, How much money do you have left?

Enough to stay and eat for about a week, with a little extra for a few minor purchases. Not a whole lot, but we’ll get by.

”All ready,” Amaranth spoke in sing-song Firetongue as she exited the building. She took my arm in her own, pulling me in close, ”Now, escort me.”

”I thought you were going to show me around,” I said peevishly.

”I was, until you made it a part of our deal, so you’re leading now.”

”You fall far too easily into this role – it’s almost unnerving.”

She smiled coquettishly at me, batting her eyelashes, ”I would think you, of all people, wouldn’t be so surprised, hmm?”

”It’s unsettling expecting to find a man only to be greeted by a woman,” I hiss quietly, ”When did you learn Loom-snarling Deception, anyway?”

”Not important, not important,” Amaranth waved a hand as though waving the topic away, ”What is important, though, is that you put that scarf away.”

A brought a hand to the offending article, ”What’s wrong with my scarf?” Honestly, I was quite fond of it.

”Red is the color of one of the gangs in the area – and not the one that controls this part of the Undermarket. You wouldn’t want to be mistaken for one of theirs.”

Frowning, I undid the scarf and tie it around my waist, under my poncho, ”You’re wearing red, aren’t you?”

”Firstly, I am not wearing drab colors with only one single accessory dyed brightly. Secondly, I don’t look like a thug.”

I… couldn’t argue with that. I hadn’t exactly been able to retrieve my nicer clothing on my way out of Gem, ”Fine. Anything else I should know?”

She smiled, ”No, that should be it. Now lead on.”

”How about getting some food? I haven’t eaten since near midday.”

”That sounds lovely. I actually know of a good noodle shop not too far away – you can treat me there.”

”I thought I was leading.”

”This is your first day in the Undermarket – if I let you lead, you’d have us lost in minutes.


Amaranth was right; the noodles were good, but the price was higher than I would have liked to have paid. I had to concede that victory to her.

”I believe buying you a meal entitles me to a bit more information, yes?”

Amaranth artfully placed a morsel in her mouth, thinking a moment while she chewed, ”Yes – you get three questions.”

”Do you know of any powerful entities in the city that I should be aware of?”

”Yes,” she smirked, and took another bite.

Damn him, I took a breath and tried again, phrasing my question carefully, ”What powerful entities in this city should I be aware of?”

She gestured with her eating sticks, ”Well, Grandmother Bright holds dominion over the Plaza – don’t cause trouble there, or you’ll regret it. The Dynasts mostly stick to the Old City – I’d say about three of them. There have been rumors of Anathema, which is why the Dynasts are here, but no solid evidence. As for the rest, it’ll cost much more than a meal.”

I nodded, ”Who do you know of that would be a fair match for me as a Bride?”

Amaranth’s smile turned gleeful and a hint devious, ”I was wondering when you would ask my advice on that,” she laid down her sticks, ”I’ve been thinking since you mentioned it, and it just so happens that I know of a certain someone that I think you would like, and I’ve been trying and trying to get her out for weeks, but she keeps turning me down. Perhaps you’ll be more to her liking.”

I sensed a catch in all of this, but she was offering it freely, ”Fine – I’m interested.”

”Actually, we might be able to catch her at her stall – I believe she’s there until dusk, and it shouldn’t quite be nightfall yet,” she stood, pulling me up with her, ”Come on!”
No. 651355 ID: 849b2b
File 143546839102.png - (79.64KB , 750x750 , 107.png )

Amaranth navigated expertly through the narrow pathways and throngs of people. Even though it was nearing the end of the day, the crowds showed no sign of thinning in the least: It seemed that the Undermarket operated at all hours of the day and night.

She led me towards the edge of the cavern – here the traffic lessened to some extent. The stalls along the paths mostly offered small goods and services. I made note of the area so that I could return here later if I wished.

”Oh, there she is.”

I followed Amaranth’s outstretched finger and let out a small breath in surprise. The woman she indicated sat in a drab-looking stall hung with papers and littered with writing implements. Her dress was similarly plain – a simple black robe that hid much of her form. Neither of this was surprising – what was surprising was her appearance.

She was beautiful, in an otherworldly, androgynous way. Her skin was the color of porcelain, save where ink stained her fingers. Her hair was similarly colorless, hanging in a short bob about her face. Her one visible eye was a piercing ice-blue; it turned to study us as we approached. Where the other would be was a black leather patch, hidden by the fall of her hair. Along the left side of her face was the scarring of melted flesh, and the burns continued down her neck to disappear into her robe. Instead of marring her image, it further heightened her austere aesthetic.

After the initial shock passed, the point of the robe became clear – with skin that pale, she would burn in the Southern sun. She must be a Northerner, or perhaps a Ghost-blooded from Sijan – I certainly had never seen anyone in the West or South with such a complexion.

”It’s great to see you again,” Amaranth said joyfully, ”I was on my way home and decided to stop by – this is Sky’s Edge, a family member visiting from out of town. Edge, this is Myria.”

Family? We looked nothing alike – it was such an obvious lie.

Myria studied me intently before giving a nod of greeting, ”Hello,” her Firetongue held a definite accent – wherever she was from, it wasn’t here.

I inclined my head halfway to a bow, ”It’s a pleasure to meet you.”

Amaranth fell silent, looking at me expectantly with a smile. It seemed that she expected me to lead the conversation, but how should I continue?
No. 651368 ID: 37adba

"Good evening Myria, I've been told almost nothing about you. I'm curious what you would like to say of yourself, but first I should ask if you're ready for a meal, if you're open to company and discussion, and where you would like to go for either of those things. How are you?"
No. 651370 ID: bd8b82

ask what her stall's trade is. and take her hand and give her a kiss on the back of it.
No. 651400 ID: ab7529

>It’s unsettling expecting to find a man only to be greeted by a woman
Considering you entertained the notion of doing the same thing yourself, and in order to snare a bride, no less, I'm not sure you have a leg to stand on.

>Family? We looked nothing alike – it was such an obvious lie.
The aforementioned disadvantage of traveling with her- she gets to define you.

Hmm. Her name isn't a description or phrase like everyone else's. (Well, so is Amaranth, but it's also a word, and presumably part of a longer phrase-name).

>Good evening Myria, I've been told almost nothing about you
>ask what her stall's trade is
These are good. Showing interest and getting her to talk about herself is a good start. It's an easy way to start to build a rapport with someone, it gives you information to work with, and it stalls slightly so you can start coming up with the appropriate lies and story.

Don't bother with the immediate diner invitation or coming on too strong yet- if Amaranth has tried and failed past plays to get her out, Myria is going to be suspicious of anyone Amaranth introduces her too. You don't want to seem like her pawn, or be rejected for that reason.
No. 651471 ID: 2454df

A subdued woman calls for a subdued approach.
No. 651573 ID: 849b2b
File 143555773808.png - (71.80KB , 474x750 , 108.png )

I continued my inclination into a full bow, reaching across to take Myria’s hand and brushing my lips upon the back of it. Her expression didn’t change, which made me think that it likely was not a faux pas. I smiled as a rose once more to standing, ”I’m passing through on my way to Arjuf, but I thought to stay and spend some time with Amaranth while I was in Chiaroscuro. I confess, she didn’t tell me anything about you before bringing me along.”

Myria tilted her head slightly in what might have been a nod, ”I am Myria Ashborn. I offer services of scribing and translation,” it was a terribly professional introduction.

”Then it seems we have similar interests: although I did not bring my supplies with me on the journey, I am trained as a scribe as well.”

She studied me, an expression of curiosity on her face, ”So it does.”

”Your accent, I haven’t heard one like it before – where are you from?”

”The North-east, to the north of Linowan.”

Impressive, ”You’ve come a far way from home, then. I’m from the West, originally, but not nearly as far as that.”

She nodded, ”It has been a long journey, yes.”

Before I could ask another question, Amaranth spoke up from beside me, ”Oh, Crimson!”

I turned to where she was waving. Making his way through the crowd was a man who stood a full head over most others. His dark skin blended with that of the Southerners, but his was the tint of dark wood; with his shock of green hair and goatee, he did resemble a tree. He wore rough-spun clothes, an undyed tunic and pants rolled up over his knees. Both articles exhibited his well-developed musculature and the tribal-like tattoos that crossed his biceps. An old scar crossed the bridge of his nose, but his nature seemed amiable as opposed to the foreboding aura one would expect from a man of his size.

”Hello, Amaranth. Out for a stroll?”

”Yes, I’m showing around my cousin – this is Sky’s Edge, and this is Crimson,” she grinned at me, ”Doesn’t he have the most delicious name?”

Crimson chuckled at that, ”I’d lend it to you to match your outfit, if I could,” he extended a large hand to me, ”Well-met, sea-brother. It’s a dry place you find yourself.”

I brighten upon hearing Seatongue, and I return it in kind as I shake his hand, ”Much too dry for my liking. It’s refreshing to hear something of the sea, as unexpected as it is.”

”I’m not from the Western Seas, but I’ve spent enough time on the water to know how its people speak.”

Amaranth stepped to Crimson’s side, taking his arm in hers, ”It’s been so long since I saw you last; we really must catch up.”

Crimson took her affection good-naturedly, ”Sorry; it’s not often I have a chance to practice my Seatongue, even with as much time as I spend on the docks.”

”It’s fine, it’s fine. I’m sure you’ll have plenty of time to chat with Edge later; he’ll be staying a while, enjoying my company and the Southern sun.”

”I don’t think “enjoying” is how I react to the sun here,” I remarked. While we conversed, Myria had begun packing up her supplies and gathering her things, shutting the stall down for the evening. It appeared that she was preparing to leave; if I wanted to speak with her more, I’d best do it soon.
No. 651576 ID: 0ee153

Ask Myria about how large her business is, other details about it, and whether you could hire on. Might be useful to have a source of income.
No. 651657 ID: bd8b82

ask if she would like some company to wherever it is she is going.
No. 651660 ID: 88960e

Hmm. That means if we offer scribe or translation services, we're competing with her. Doubt that would earn us much favor.

I'm not so sure we want to propose works for her. It limits our options a little soon. Considering our modus operandi, I'd prefer a job we could afford to burn if need be. We can't do that here without burning a potential bride and possibly attracting the ire of another Exalt interested in her.

Easiest opening to talk a moment longer is to ask if she would accept assistance breaking down / packing.
No. 651678 ID: 6b0329

Scribes usually have interest in writing, and this one suddenly looked more interesteed in us when told we are a scribe. We could talk to her about scribing itself--languages, technique, particular physical forms of recording media, and what kind of work she does--but I think it would be better to choose a different opening topic. We should ask Myria about local collections, what particular works there are of note in the area, and what the market in scribing and written works is like around here, because that's a set of topics she likely knows a lot about and has interest in.
No. 651707 ID: 57d76a

"Family member", in this case, probably means Exalted.

So you've said you're looking for a Bride; does it have to be a girl, though? Because Crimson might be worth considering, if not. (I'm assuming you'd eventually reveal your nature to your partner, so sexual orientation wouldn't be an (insurmountable) obstacle.)
No. 651736 ID: 6b0329

Our fellow exalt who knows what we are just steered him into a private conversation with 'herself' while we are supposed to talk to Myria. Amaranth wants us to help Myria be more social (or so she claims). Even if you really think Crimson would make an exquisite bride, now is not the time.
No. 651776 ID: 2454df

This is a good idea.

Remember to "thank" our "cousin", Quill of Hell.
No. 651795 ID: 849b2b
File 143563420216.png - (166.86KB , 750x750 , 109.png )


Do you think Amaranth meant to introduce us as a fellow Exalted?

I hadn’t considered that, That would mean Myria would already know that Amaranth is an Exalt. For that to be known, either he’s a lot friendlier with her than he insinuated, or he messed up and let her find out. Still, if that’s the case, our cover’s already partly compromised. We should tread carefully.

Does our Bride have to be a woman?

”Bride” is simply the word the Ebon Dragon uses – as long as the marriage is culturally recognized in some part of Creation or under Cecelyne’s law, then it will satisfy Him. As for my own preferences, I could go either way. I don’t have the luxury of being choosy right now.


I moved to assist Myria, ”Here, let me help,” she stepped aside to allow me room enough to gather her things. As I did so, I glanced at some of the papers. Her writing was neat, with only a hint of a slant. The majority of her papers were scribed in Firetongue or Riverspeak, but I saw some of the Realm’s formal-looking characters.


”Where does the bulk of work come from for scribes in this area?”

”Trade manifests, mostly,” she answered as she packed her inkpots into a bag, ”Shipping orders are also common. Most orders are in Firetongue or Riverspeak.”

That would be an issue if I decided to find a job scribing. Of course, I could work to learn how to write in both or either, but that would take away time from my true purpose.


”Where are you going?”

”Home for the night, in the Old City,” Myria answered.

”That’s not far out of our way,” I replied, having no clue if it was actually true, ”We’ll accompany you.”

She nodded, ”That will be fine.”

We began to walk. Amaranth clung to Crimson, looking quite satisfied with herself; Crimson kept pace with Myria and me and asked, ”Where in the West are you from, Edge?”

”Wavecrest, originally, although I’ve spent more time in An-Teng recently.”

”I’ve stopped there in port before – it seemed a nice enough place, though a bit humid for my tastes.”

”Better than this arid climate, at least,” I turned to include Myria in the conversation, ”Is it very difficult for you, Myria?”

”The sun is terrible,” she remarked dryly; I smiled in shared misery.

”It wouldn’t bother you much if you spent more time outside without that hood,” Amaranth commented, ”You must be sweltering walking around in those robes.”

”It’s better than burning.”

There was an awkward beat of silence. I pointedly didn’t look at her scars.

The conversation was light as we continued; Myria didn’t contribute much, but Crimson took up the slack when she fell quiet. Finally, we arrived at one of the exits of the Undermarket – the dusk air was clean and crisp after the close confines of the cavern.

”We’ll let you be on your way – thanks for walking with us,” Crimson nodded in farewell, ”Stop by the docks sometime if you get tired of the sand – the sea here’s not so bad.”

”I’ll do that if I get homesick,” I made a small bow, ”Farewell.”

Amaranth bade goodbye to Crimson with a peck on the cheek and to Myria with a wave. The two moved and were soon lost in the crowd.

”So, not too bad, right?” Amaranth said with a predatory grin.

”She seems to be a fine woman – a bit quiet, though.”

”And Crimson?”

”How am I supposed to have an opinion about a man you were hanging all over the entire time?”

She laughed girlishly, ”What can I say? I just love red things.”


"You did a pretty terrible job introducing me - I've half a mind to insist I get an extra question for all the trouble you've caused."

"No refunds or exchanges, that's always been my policy. If you have an issue with you, you know Who to complain to," she stuck her tongue out, "Besides, you know that you'll still invite me to the wedding."

"It's not a certain thing; don't test your luck."

The day was coming to an end. I considered briefly whether there was anything else I needed to do before turning in for the night, and, if not, what my plans would be for tomorrow.
No. 651798 ID: 0ee153

So, how terrible an idea is it to get multiple brides? We could even challenge Amaranth. Something like how we'll manage to get her to request/beg to be our second or third bride. Should be a good laugh, if nothing else. Not right now, though, I don't think.
No. 651802 ID: ab7529

I don't think we need to do anything else tonight.

Tomorrow should probably be exploring our employment options, and finding some way to be sufficient and/or start scheming. I'm liking scribe less, since we have to learn one of the main tongues to do it effectively.
No. 651842 ID: 6b0329

A little bit of conversation with Amaranth seems in order: Ask, "Was, 'family member,' code, or are we now pretending to be cousins, or both? We should probably fix our story so that we don't contradict each other and potentially ruin each other's cover. Also, what would you like my help and attention for, if anything?"
No. 651886 ID: 57d76a

That won't do any good. If it was code, the one she's keeping it from is you. All asking her about it well do is let her know you suspect.

(Unless she doesn't know whether Myria knows, I guess.)

Although something to the effect of "so we're cousins now, are we?" might be good.

I wonder if that was her way of getting herself off the list of prospects...?
No. 651908 ID: 6b0329

Not certain, we were speaking in public in a busy market, perhaps the code was used to avoid other people hearing us talk about being anathema--a valid concern.
No. 651923 ID: 57d76a

Oh, I thought we were inside a shop for some reason. Yeah, you might ask her about it then, but I'd still go with a broader questioning of the "cousins" line. If she wants us to know they know, she'll take the prompt; if not it doesn't give away our suspicion.

And if she had some other motivation she'll probably tell us and we can forget this line of thinking.
No. 652061 ID: 2454df

There's no need to discuss what cousins means. Its obvious; we serve two different Yozis (metaphorical/literal siblings). We are both family of the Thing.

The dark calls us home, but we may as well flirt/needle Amaranth as a parting shot. If she likes red things, it would be easy enough to change our hair color.
No. 652083 ID: 849b2b
File 143571340185.png - (103.77KB , 750x750 , 110.png )

We began to head back to Amaranth’s shop.


How terrible an idea would it be to get multiple brides? Bulitar’s silent voice questioned.

Already planning a harem? Doesn’t surprise me, with you being a demon, there was some wordless offense at that, Let’s just worry about getting a bride first, then we can decide if there’s anyone else we’d like to pursue. Polygamy is an acceptable practice in many places in Creation, so it wouldn’t invalidate our marriage. Still, convincing our Brides of that, well, it really depends on their temperaments and cultural background.


”So, we’re cousins now, are we?”

”Yes – you’re my adorable younger cousin, visiting from An-teng,” Amaranth answered, smirking.

”You’re a terrible liar.”

”I may have learned some of His tricks, but I don’t think I’ll ever match your mastery of them – my skills lie in other arenas, such as not being a surly-looking thug.”


”If there’s any extra work you have, I wouldn’t mind taking it on in exchange for information or money.”

Amaranth studied me, her eyes gleaming, ”Oh, I’m sure I could find some use for you, yes. Give me a bit of time to see what I have, and if something suits you, I’ll be sure to mention it.”


It might be worth getting on her good side, if only to disarm her a little, Bulitar counseled, She likes red things; we could use that.

Even if we don’t seriously pursue her, it wouldn’t be a bad idea. I’m sure I could find a gift to bring her next time.

Soon enough, we were before the gaudy façade of her shop. Amaranth turned, giving what appeared to be a genuine smile, ”Thank you for escorting me, Edge. We really should do this again before you get pulled away on more business.”

I matched her expression, ”You aren’t as terrible company as I had feared, so maybe I’ll make time from my busy schedule of bride-hunting to come entertain you.”

She laughed, leaning in to put a kiss on my cheek, ”You are terribly entertaining. Keep an eye out. I’d hate to not see the end of this escapade – I’m sure it’ll be terribly amusing,” and, just like that, the mischievous spark was back in her eye. With a wave, she disappeared into the shop.


I fell gratefully onto the stiff mattress, breathing out a deep sigh. Today had been tiring, even with the long nap near midday. It was easy to allow my eyelids to sink. Sleep claimed me quickly.


Her voice was the loveliest thing about her, lovelier even than her face. The way she would raise it, and the way people listened when she did – it was beautiful. I admired her, and, truthfully, I was a little jealous. Yes, people listened when I spoke, but they seemed so much more – sincere when they heard her.

Perhaps I taught her too well, but it was too late for regrets now.


For a moment, I thought I was back in Malfeas before I realized the clamor was inside my head. Good morning, Bulitar said pleasantly.

You like doing that, don’t you?

Creation is much too quiet. Once the Reclamation is complete, music will be everywhere the Silent Wind is not, may her blessing not fall upon us.

The sun had just begun to edge above the horizon. I swung my feet to the floor, wiping the sleep from my eyes. The water in the basin was tepid, but I felt more awake after splashing my face.

With a new day ahead of me, I had many options. I could go see Grace, return to Amaranth’s shop, visit Myria’s stall, search for job prospects, or explore any of the other parts of the city I didn’t see yesterday – the docks, the Old City, or the New City.
No. 652087 ID: 0ee153

Come now, you know who we serve. Why should we tell anyone we court there's multiple brides?
No. 652088 ID: fbc59e

GRACE! first girl is best girl so far!
No. 652093 ID: 0ee153

Also, look for work and visit Grace in either order.
No. 652094 ID: 0ee153

Also, look for work and visit Grace in either order.
No. 652103 ID: 2454df

The new city, less so-called Princes of the Earth there.
No. 652109 ID: 0ee153

You realize we are a Prince of the Earth?
No. 652114 ID: 6b0329

I say we should ask after Graceful Blossom in Full Bloom if we can: We should learn performance skills like singing. Manipulating a crowd--and individual people within it--from up on the stage is something we must learn to do. Once we know, we should become skilled and experienced at it: Lying to, cheating and corrupting many would surely help put us back in His favour even if we fail to gain an exquisite bride.
No. 652122 ID: 0ee153

Actually, if I read it correctly, the mechanical explanation is that Sky's Edge is at high Torment and needs to commit an Act of Villainy to bleed it. If you want the short explanation, he fucked up and he needs to do a very specific thing to make the Dragon not angry anymore. Namely, marry.
No. 652123 ID: ab7529

>what do
Job hunting. I'd like more resources to maneuver with, and time to plan before we go back after anyone.

>Come now, you know who we serve. Why should we tell anyone we court there's multiple brides?
I think, to some extent, our success is measured by what we get our bride to agree to. If it wasn't, it would be pretty simple for an exalted to take a bride by force.
No. 652134 ID: 6b0329

We're on a tight timeline: The reason to get a job is the social benefits of a role in local society that gives us reasons to meet people, look them over, and talk with them... or gain access to particular places and objects of note. If we want money we cheat at gambling in a few different establishments as a few different people with the mortals none the wiser. We'd be fulfilling our patron's mandate to lie, cheat and corrupt others while also making money much faster than in any normal job.
Without a plan that specifically calls for money instead of cheating and theft, we don't need to.
No. 652141 ID: 0ee153

See the questdis for details, but TED prefers that the bride not be willing.
No. 652528 ID: 849b2b
File 143582441921.png - (54.81KB , 750x750 , 111.png )

Graceful Blossom continued to occupy my interests; I briefly considered looking for a job, but there would be plenty of time for that later in the day.

You’re getting attached, Bulitar chided.

No, I’m not. I’m simply pursuing the lead most likely to yield a result.

Even this early in the day, the streets were crowded; the people of Chiaroscuro started early in order to accomplish as much as possible before the heat of the day made work unbearable. It did not take me long to find the red-glass road that had been pointed out to me earlier. I followed it away from the harbor, keeping to the sides of the street to avoid the cart- and horse- traffic. As I moved away from the Out-of-towners’ quarter, I became a little lost, but the unique architecture and gold lining of the Plaza reoriented me. After that, I found the inn easily enough.

As I opened the door, I was greeted by the gentle music of a wind flute. I closed the portal quietly behind me and stepped to the side, attempting to see around the people that crowded the tavern area. Finally, I saw her – Graceful Blossom in Full Bloom, her lips placed carefully at the tip of a vertical bamboo flute. The notes that she pulled from the instrument were like carefully-woven silk, long, soft tones that stretched into the awed silence of the room only to be wrapped around the next phrase. I had heard similar instruments before, but the skill with which she played was amazing. The music evoked the green shores of a more temperate land, the spring wind rustling among long grass, and the delicate scents of tree-flowers.

The melody ended to an eruption of applause, and I was suddenly sad that I had not been present to hear it in its entirety. The song had made me suddenly long for home – it had been over two Calibrations since I had seen Abalone, and this desert was no place for me. Still, it gave me hope that I would find what I was looking for here, that I would succeed.

> Intimacy gained towards Graceful Blossom in Full Bloom

As Grace put away her flute and music, I maneuvered through the room to the makeshift stage. When she saw me, her expression brightened, ”Sky’s Edge, what a pleasure! I did not expect to see you so soon.”

”I did not expect that I would hear you perform so soon – you were excellent.”

She smiled shyly at my praise, ”Thank you – I was simply trying out some of the music I had copied yesterday. I play here during meals as part of payment for my lodging – it’s good opportunity for me to practice.”

”To think that you only first encountered that music yesterday – I am very impressed with how well you played.”

”Oh, no – I still need to work on it more before it’s fit for a proper performance. I wish the first thing you heard me play were something a little more polished –“

”Nonsense, it was remarkable.”

She bowed her head finally conceding the point, ”Thank you kindly for your praise.”

Now that I was here, what should I do?
No. 652536 ID: 6b0329

Flattery gets you many places. Critique and improve my attempt at mildly-disingenuous gushing, someone?

"Forgive me, I'm a little tongue-tied after that. If you don't have a topic you want to bring up, well, you have just inspired my interest in your skill, where this music comees from, how I might learn to sing and play."
No. 652708 ID: ab7529

Hmm. Maybe inquire after her plans?

I'm not sure how aggressively to pursue anything right now. We don't have a set plan, yet. And we don't really have a reason for being here besides stopping in to see her. Although I guess we have the ready excuse of not knowing many people in the city, yet.

I suppose we can be honest with her about our intent to search for work later, if that comes up.
No. 652713 ID: 0ee153

"Any plans to find work? Scrivening hasn't worked out so far."
No. 652718 ID: 2454df

Chasing the favor of a Being incapable of trust or good will is a fool's errand. Avoiding the Dragon's gaze is essential to leading a long life.

Ask if she wants to grab a bite.
No. 652950 ID: 7c7226
File 143599358257.png - (88.36KB , 750x750 , 112.png )


”Would you be interested in breaking your fast with me?”

”A meal sounds lovely,” Graceful Blossom confessed, ”Just let me put away my instrument.”

I only had to pay for myself, as Grace’s tab was already covered by her performance. The breakfast was simple, in the style of the Realm, with rice, fish, and soup. The flavors were new to me but not unpleasant.


”What piece was that that you played?”

”Oh, it’s part of an old collection composed by Julei Mihan, about a century after the fall of the Shogunate. That particular movement was “Spring among the Gardens.” This was during her nature phase, when she – oh, but I’m sure this is terribly boring. Forgive me.”

”No, it’s interesting – honestly. I would love to learn how to play an instrument or sing.”

”It’s not that difficult – it just requires dedication and practice. I’ve been playing the xiao for six years now. You should have heard me when I first started: I was terrible!”

”Well, your hard work has certainly paid off. You sounded lovely.”

Grace smiled bashfully, ”Thank you.”


”I admit I’m having some difficulty finding work; scrivening didn’t exactly work out. Do you have any suggestions?”

She perked up at that, ”Oh, terribly many – I work so many odd jobs that I’ve likely spent more time looking for work than actually performing any,” she laughed, ”I assume you speak Seatongue – you might be able to find work at the docks translating for the merchants that come in from the West. You said scribing didn’t work out, so I suppose that precludes administrative work in the Old City. Hmm… There’s always need for manual labor at the docks, but I admit that would likely be a waste of your talents. You’re certainly personable enough that you could probably get a job at a tavern, but I’d only bother looking in the Out-of-towners’ quarter; the New City might be worth trying as well. Any other talents you think might help?”

I shook my head, ”You’ve provided a great deal more than I thought of just by what you know so far; thank you very much for your advice.”

She smiled sincerely, ”It’s a small repayment for the kindness you showed me yesterday. If you don’t find anything, let me know; I’ll talk to some of my employers and see if they need an extra hand. I can’t promise it’ll be anything terribly exciting, but it will at least pay.”
No. 652964 ID: dd743f

Rice on her cheek: gently pick it up.
No. 652989 ID: 6b0329

Yes, do.
"You've done every kind of odd job? There must be quite a few interesting, and funny, stories in that. Our more odd, amusing, and seedy work stories is probably more of a topic for an hour of the evening when we're into cups though. Those are some fair suggestions but I must admit I've been trying to avoid falling back on experience as a fisherman. I enjoy the smell of the sea, but the smell of the catch does tend to linger and offend people."

It's difficult to breach these topics without delicacy and a bit more informality--and probably privacy--but I would like to know how open and able Graceful Blossom is for being a thief or grifter: If we pull off a scan or a heist together that would help us get to know her better, and give us an excuse to spend money on treating her to something expensive. We should really try to find out more about what and who she knows considering we did see her with pages written in Old Tongue; is there a smooth way to ask about her knowledge of old tongue?
No. 653640 ID: 5a02f7
File 143625383306.png - (90.65KB , 750x750 , 113.png )


”You have some rice on your cheek, here-“ I reached across, gently brushing the errant grain from the side of Grace’s mouth. She blushed.

”Th-thank you.”


"You've done every kind of odd job? There must be quite a few interesting, and funny, stories in that. My more odd, amusing, and seedy work stories are probably more of a topic for an hour of the evening when we're into cups, though. Those are some fair suggestions but I must admit I've been trying to avoid falling back on experience as a fisherman. I enjoy the smell of the sea, but the smell of the catch does tend to linger and offend people."

”Yes, I can see that not being as appealing here as it is in the West,” she chuckled.

”So, besides musician, what other jobs are you handling now?”

”Well, most of my income comes from my work in thaumaturgy, currently.”

”You’re a thaumaturgist?” I asked, surprised. That might explain her knowledge of Old Realm.

”I don’t do much, mostly just talismans – little charms to bring luck, long life, and fertility.”

Oh. So she was a con-artist.

There might be thaumaturgy that actually does that, Bulitar reasoned.

I know little about the art, but it sounds terribly suspicious.

I kept my expression pleasant, ”That’s far beyond anything I know; I only looked for work in scrivening because I know the letters for Seatongue.”

”I could see how that would be difficult to find work for – maybe you could look on the dock. I’m sure at least one merchant or company there would keep records in Seatongue.”

”That might be worth a try. Thank you.”

Our breakfast was nearly finished. I could continue speaking with Grace or go do something else.
No. 653655 ID: 99cfa8

Fertility doesn't sound too unreasonable. And I guess there could maybe be spells too slow down the aging process or something. But I refuse to believe in luck manipulation.
No. 653666 ID: a19cd5

Suplex her.
No. 653671 ID: bd8b82

this is exalted. manipulating luck is easy.
the fuck?

let's do something else. don't want to come on too strong now.
No. 653679 ID: 6b0329

"Another meal comes to a close, and the company helped make that lovely and enjoyable. I look forward to your future performances--and hopefully opportunities to try to entertain you in return--but I'll try to manage my impatience. You surely have work to do with your craft and your skill: Your ability with music tells me that you have spent much focus, attention and time to get this far with it and I respect your diligence.
"I should go make more inquiries while the sunlight lasts as well. But I do have an inn I am staying at now, so I can tell you where that is. I'm staying at," and fill in the blank, "and if you don't call upon me I may just have to call upon you some more."

If that's time for a scene change away from Graceful Blossom, I suggest we go cheat or scam a little easy money and check out what there is in the markets: Remember to hide our identity by assuming another while doing that.
No. 653698 ID: 0ee153

Luck manipulation is a lot easier than anti-aging. Longevity is Serious Business in Exalted.

It's possible and even somewhat plausible that it's just thaumaturgy, but... Fate manipulation is the domain of Sidereals people that don't exist.

Alternatively she really is a con artist. Might as well ask about purchasing the talismans and see if they're useful.
No. 653770 ID: 6b0329

Don't be silly; once we've really charmed her she'll be giving us something if it's really useful, as a way of marking us as hers.
No. 653819 ID: ab7529

>Oh. So she was a con-artist.
Is it really a con to sell people mostly useless nicknacks? People largely understand they're not going to get dramatic results- you're more selling vague comfort or reassurances.

I guess how much of a con it is comes down to intent, scale, and impact.

>what do
Probably time to say your goodbyes and part ways, for now. Can't rush things too much without over-complicating them. Try to do our own thing for a little bit.

There has to be something clever we can do where not being able to write a certain script isn't such an issue.
No. 653897 ID: 5a02f7
File 143633891060.png - (108.89KB , 598x750 , 114.png )


We don’t want to come on too strongly now. Let’s do our own thing for a little bit.


"Another meal comes to a close, and the company helped make that lovely and enjoyable. I look forward to your future performances – and hopefully opportunities to try to entertain you in return – but I'll try to manage my impatience. You surely have work to do with your craft and your skill: your ability with music tells me that you have spent much focus, attention and time to get this far with it and I respect your diligence.”

Grace smiled shyly, ”Really, my skills are but humble… but thank you for the compliments.”

"I should go make more inquiries while the sunlight lasts as well. But I do have an inn I am staying at now, so I can tell you where that is,” I provided directions, ”and if you don't call upon me I may just have to call upon you some more."

”Until then, Sky’s Edge. May the Dragons keep you well.”

”And you as well.”


It was a simple task to find a cranny out of sight to reassert my Loom-snarling Deception to display another face. I did not yet have the confidence to portray a native, but my face blended well enough into the crowd. I headed towards the New City, to browse the market there and familiarize myself with the legitimate businesses of the city.

The open-air market was just as crowded as the Undermarket was, but the air was blessedly clearer. The sun had already begun its climb into the sky, and I kept to the shade whenever possible. Even there, I could feel the rays burn me; an unfortunate side-effect of being a servant of the Ebon Dragon.

The offerings here had just as much variety as those below, albeit aimed towards the more mundane. Food, textiles, livestock, and crafts represented most of the stock, with a great variety of above-the-board services being offered as well. This would not be a bad place to procure items, but it was likely that my plans would go over better with the clientele under the city. I halted for a moment to orient myself.

”Ho, you – yes, you, there!”
No. 653898 ID: 5a02f7
File 143633894573.png - (100.94KB , 750x647 , 115.png )

A woman called to me from a nearby stall, her Firetongue flowing with the ease of a native accent. Her skin was as dark as stained wood, with hair the color of black coffee. It cascaded down her back in soft waves and framed her narrow face. Her high cheekbones were speckled with dark freckles, set below eyes of piercing green. She wore a chest piece of supple leather, dyed to blend with the distant forests.

Her stall displayed jewelry crafted of glass, necklaces and earrings of thin metal fastened with bright, glittering shards. They sparkled in the shaft of sunlight that pierced through a hole in the fabric of her tent; on a stack of boxes behind her counter, an orange creature lazed, some odd hybrid of a lizard and a cat. From this distance, I couldn’t tell if it was fur or scales that covered its form.

My attention caught by the shine, I stepped forward to examine her wares. The craftsmanship was rustic, but it gave each piece a unique appearance and charm. It took me a moment to pick up her voice from the chatter of the crowd.

”- to go with your lovely eyes, or as a gift to someone else. Chiaroscuran glass is a wonderful souvenir, a piece of the First Age to treasure forever!”

”How much?”

”The earrings are fifteen dinars each; necklaces are twenty.”

That was… quite a lot.
No. 653939 ID: bd8b82

how much you got? anyway, unless they already have their ear's pierced earrings can be a hassle.
No. 653944 ID: 0ee153

Get to know her better and charm a discount or an alternative payment method out of her. No, I don't necessarily mean sex. Also check if it's the real deal or just a cheap colored bauble.
No. 653954 ID: 6b0329

Is there anything genuinely special about this Chiaroscuran glass, and how would we tell the difference between that and normal glass anyway? All I know are rumours that it is supposed to be stronger than normal glass, and tends to shine dazzlingly in sunlight; the latter part is something any coloured glass might do.
Also, does the proprietress and her strange creature catch our eye? I'd say her large and lovely... eyes... catch my interest, and make me wonder how much else is interesting about her.
No. 653955 ID: 0ee153

It's damn nigh indestructible, and Chiaroscuro has survived direct hits from the Sword of Creation. Also decent for edged weapons, but not really relevant to jewelry.
No. 654033 ID: 5a02f7
File 143639479974.png - (130.33KB , 750x750 , 116.png )


”I’ll buy two necklaces.”

The shopkeep grinned brightly, taking my two selections and placing them in a bag, ”Wonderful! That will be forty dinars, miss.”

I counted out the silver coins and exchanged them for the bagged jewelry. My transaction complete, I walked away from the stall, quite satisfied with-
No. 654034 ID: 5a02f7
File 143639483417.png - (129.37KB , 750x750 , 117.png )

> Willpower spent

- what did I just do?
No. 654050 ID: 0ee153

If you don't feel like She Who Lives Within Her Name is ravaging your soul: She tried to influence your mind with a compulsion or illusion. Turn around and recheck your purchase.

If you do feel like Swillin is doing exactly that, it was some other sort of unnatural mental influence.
No. 654053 ID: ab7529

You make kind of a butch girl, Edge. I guess maintaining the androgyny makes a sort of sense.

>what did I just do?
You just met a con artist, is what.

Not one of us suggested, *cough*, I mean, you weren't even thinking of paying full price, but then you up and bought two. She did something to manipulate you, and then you shrugged it off, a little too late.

I'd guess the charm is supposed to last longer- you'd want a mark to be well away from the stall before they start questioning or regretting the purchase.

I think we've found something worth following up on. You've got a quarry to try and outfox, or suss out. A challenge in your own domain.

Good starting point would be to continue to walk away. Don't let her know her manipulation already faded.

Then double back, and surviel her. Let's see if we can witness her duping any civilians.
No. 654173 ID: 0ee153

This works. Might be best not to use Loom-Snarling Deception again, to conserve Essence and prevent anyone wondering why random people keep popping up and taking an interest in the merchant.
No. 654191 ID: 6b0329

I'm really not sure, it looked like you just paid full price 'for two' but I don't even know what exactly you bought. We advised no such action, so some sort of manipulation--magical or otherwise--seems likely.
No. 654339 ID: 2454df

I was going to say something like this. So just do this.
No. 654865 ID: 5a02f7
File 143658659481.png - (122.04KB , 750x750 , 118.png )


”You were running around as a girl, Edge? Oh, I bet you were all boyish, weren’t you? I’d like to see that!”

”Shut up, Kamai. Not everyone is as flat as ya,”

”You-! Listen, just because you have tits out to-“

I held up a hand to stop the brewing argument among the listeners, ”It doesn’t matter what I looked like; what matters is what happened next.”


You just met a con artist, is what, Bulitar answered.

Indignant rage boiled up in me at being tricked so easily. I bit back a curse and continued walking away, playing it nonchalant. Once I was a distance away from the stall, I doubled back, keeping to the shade along the side of the buildings. I found a corner near the merchant from which I could watch but not be easily seen.

She continued peddling her wares to those that passed. Some customers stopped and bought her jewelry, while others continued on. After watching for some time, I noticed a pattern. She targeted foreigners, largely – I could not hear what words she spoke to them from where I stood, but they almost always bought something. The native Delzahn did not seem as interested, and I suspected this was more than just because they did not fall so easily into a tourist trap.

Soon, it became the hour of Ascending Fire, and the sun made shadows scarce. Traffic in the market waned, and the merchant began to pack up her wares. It appeared that she would be leaving soon.
No. 654922 ID: 3f2867

>Okay, let's tail her.
No. 654925 ID: bd8b82

maximum sneak.
No. 654940 ID: 6b0329

Make an assessment: Could you take her, and her freaky pet, in a dark alleyway? Trying to get money back from another essence-user in her home turf could be really hazardous even if we have the element of surprise: She knows the local authorities and spirits better than you do, and could reasonably have family and friends that might kick our ass. Assuming you don't know or you don't like the odds, we'll just have to follow her home and ask about her return policy. The implied threat of calling on her at her home should be good enough unless she has a bruiser around to guard where she sleeps.
No. 654997 ID: ab7529

>trail her
Works for me.

We don't have to confront her now, at least. Simply discovering a more-permanent location for her than the stall could be useful. That's potentially leverage. Or if she has so store her earnings somewhere, we could hit it while she's away?

Although the question of who this essence user is is probably more interesting to us than getting our money back.
No. 655968 ID: 2454df

Tailing her seems advisable. I'm more interested in observing a fellow swindler than in recovering our money.
No. 656793 ID: 5a02f7
File 143726816179.png - (69.71KB , 750x750 , 119.png )


I waited a few seconds before slipping into the crowd after her. It was not difficult to keep track of her through the throngs of people; indeed, it was more difficult moving through the blasted heat and light. She did not depart much from the main roads, eventually entering into what appeared to be a tavern. Her pet waited outside.

I approached, studying the strange creature – it was in fact scaled, not furred. A single green eye opened to study me, but I paid it no further heed and stepped inside.

The interior was only cooler by fact that it was not under the sun’s pounding rays; through the open windows, no breath of wind blew. To me, it seemed little more than an oven, but I relaxed now that I was not in such brightness.

The tables were quite full at this time of day, allowing me to blend well enough. I espied my target, resting at a table alone. She gratefully drank from a cup of water and fanned herself futilely with one hand.


What do you make of her? came Bulitar’s quiet voice.

She could be anything from one of the Lawgivers to a simple God-blooded – I although I expect she is more towards the former than the latter, given how she overcame my defenses, I eyed her clothing and noted that it was leather, basic armor if nothing else. From my current angle, I could not see, but it was possible that she had any sort of small weaponry strapped to her belt, I don’t know enough yet to determine her power in scale to mine, but it is wise to learn more, if only to be aware of another Essence-user in this area.
No. 656808 ID: 91cfcf

Let's see. Vulnerable to high temperature, not an Abyssal or Fire-aspect DB. Probably not a Lunar, or not an usual one, no Tell and they dislike showing weakness. No aspect markings, if she's a DB she's relatively weak. So far, no signs of overwhelming arrogance, which makes being a Solar somewhat less likely.

Keep watching, I suppose.
No. 656810 ID: ab7529

Well, way I see it, if we want to learn more, we basically have two options. Either we continue spying and following her and see where that leads. That, or we sit down at her table and talk to her now.

The merit of talking to her: we're already wearing a disposable identity. We're inside a restaurant, which is a social situation that sort of constrains her possible responses. That, and she's really not expecting one of her marks to show up, casually sit down, and start talking to her. It's something she doesn't expect, that will rattle her, throw her off her game. Give you a chance to evaluate her.

Walk up, take a seat, smile. That was a nice trick, you pulled before.
No. 656945 ID: aef8a4

We don't know where she sleeps yet, this is just where she eats today, right now. If she does not stay here we would be tipping her off that one of her marks caught on; that would be bad if that's when she would normally start traveling to the next town.

I'm torn; on one hand this is a genuinely interesting individual with secrets worth learning, that we would be thanked by our patrons for bending to the will of the masters. On the other hand, how much longer do we have to keep watching, how are our finances, and what else could and should we do with that time?
No. 656969 ID: 354a82

Waiting until we know where she sleeps sounds like a good idea.
No. 656970 ID: ab7529

It's only just after noon. You wanna waste the whole day tailing her to see where she ends up?

I'd much rather social-fu this up.
No. 656971 ID: 354a82

Oh you're right, it's way too early to try and follow someone home.
No. 657019 ID: aef8a4

Assuming that this isn't where she's staying and she's not about to take a mid-day nap through the hot part of the day, we should come up with serious alternatives for what to do. One idea: We could inform Amaranth about our misadventure. She may be amused at our being conned, and martial resources we simply don't have to keep up the vigil.
No. 657027 ID: 0ee153

Be sure to compliment her on her shoes.
No. 657042 ID: 2454df

Go up and talk to her. Compliment her con. Speak with familiarity, after all we are not so different.

Make sure to order something - its irrelevant what - and stick her with the bill.
No. 657057 ID: 5a02f7
File 143737148042.png - (111.18KB , 750x750 , 120.png )

It was time to make a move.

I wove through the tables, grabbing a free chair. With no preamble, I sat down and made myself comfortable. Her body language changed instantly: gone was the slouch and half-hearted fanning, replaced with a scrutinizing gaze and crossed arms.


“That was a nice trick you pulled before,” I said casually. I yelled over the din to be heard by the barkeep and ordered a cup of water.

Recognition dawned in her eyes, ”I don’t think you should be concerned any more with it,” her voice was heavy with suggestion, but, this time, I was ready for it. Her words rolled over me with no effect.

I smiled, ”I was being sincere.”

The intensity of her gaze increased. She leaned back but kept her arms crossed, ”What’s your name, stranger?”

”Brilliant Hawk. Yours?”

”Dahlia,” I nodded like I believed her.

The silence between us was icy despite the amiable din of the tavern. I kept my face pleasantly neutral and took measured drinks from my cup.

”So, what do you want? You aren’t getting your money back; I practice a strict no-refund policy.”
No. 657059 ID: 0ee153

"I'd like to satisfy my curiosity on a few matters, naturally. But let's be polite and start with the small talk, I'll buy lunch. What're you up to in Chiaroscuro?"

If she asks, you're a scribe looking for work.
No. 657066 ID: cf8a94

We'll have to remember this line if we ever decide to get revenge by robbing her of everything she possesses.
No. 657083 ID: 88960e

Hmm. Not as shooken up as one could hope for. Still, she's on her back foot here. We might yet learn something.

>you're not getting your money back
I'll consider that the cost of admission. And the price to pay for letting down my guard.

>what do you want
A sneaky lesbian bride candidate for our female identity?

It's not every day one sees someone with your talents turning them to ripping off tourists. It's piqued my interest.

(Is she laying low- working beneath her potential? Is she new to the game, not shooting high enough yet).

>If she asks, you're a scribe looking for work.
Let's not give her a lead to the other identity we've established. We don't know what connections she has to ask around, or what she knows about magic disguises, but that could point her in the right direction. It's unlikely, but let's not give her that chance for free.

>I'll buy lunch
I think it would be more fun to play off the theft- we've already paid for her lunch. Turn her theft info our retroactive chivalry.

It sort of gives us more of an excuse to impose on her, and making a joke of / writing off the money we lost makes it easier to do... whatever we manage to play this into.
No. 657138 ID: aef8a4

>>657059 >>657083
Generalize our hypothetical response to her asking who we are and make it a reversal; "A traveler, looking for things, people and opportunities of interest. You're pretty enough and talented enough to be interesting enough for that alone, and your trick for making money is as well."
I'd like to know why she doesn't use that trick to perform outright fraud or something else more lucrative, and instead merely pushes overpriced junk.
No. 657261 ID: 2454df

Don't buy her lunch.

What's a little money between us? Feign a sort of bemused insult at the implication. After all, we're both skilled purveyors of our shared craft.

Remember to stick her with the bill for something; its a professional courtesy.

These ideas are also good. I like them.
No. 657566 ID: 5a02f7
File 143760035285.png - (115.31KB , 750x750 , 121.png )


” I'll consider that the cost of admission, and the price to pay for letting down my guard.”

Dahlia’s gaze softened an immeasurable fraction, ”You didn’t answer my question.”


”I’m a traveler, looking for things, people and opportunities of interest. You're pretty enough and talented enough to be interesting enough for that alone, and your trick for making money is as well.”

”So I’m just an interesting thing.”

”It's not every day one sees someone with your talents turning them to ripping off tourists. It's piqued my interest.”

”Well, you haven’t gone running off to the nearest guard, so I suppose that’s a good thing,” she relaxed into her chair, but her eyes remained steely: she watched me over the lip of her cup as she drank, ”What would you expect me to be doing with my talents?”

”Running frauds, large scams, targeting people with more money than foreigners browsing the market.”

”And why do you think I’m not doing that?”

”You could be lying low, or you could be new to this. People from out of town are good marks for someone with a semi-permanent base of operations. The above ground market is big enough to blend in, without the suspicion and oversight that would be garnered working down below.”

She studied me, ”You seem to know this stuff pretty well.”

I shrugged, ”Why do you think I do?”

”Either you’ve done things like this before, or you’re very good at catching people who do.”

I smiled innocently.

Dahlia let out a small sigh, leaning back in her chair, ”Fine, then. Let’s just talk plainly for a moment – we both don’t trust each other enough to actually say anything important, but we both want to know more. It’d be easy enough to say anything, but anything said could be a lie. What do you want?”
No. 657570 ID: 0ee153

"I'm looking to get married and I figured a woman who would steal half my stuff straight off would save time with the divorce."

Then once the 'joke' has been laughed off or whatever, tell her you're looking for a job and she seems to be in the market.
No. 657593 ID: ab7529

Joking that we're looking to get married and settle down like a good girl, of course, is pretty tempting.

>What do you want?
What does anyone want. You're new in town, and you're looking for an angle. (Which has the merit of both being true and sufficiently vague. Plus it doesn't compromise any scheming we might do under another identity to tell her that).
No. 657725 ID: aef8a4

We don't have to tell her the truth, let's start building a persona.
"Same thing most travelers without a specific destination want: Learn something new and useful, a nice score, interesting company to enjoy it with, new experiences and maybe a place that looks worth settling down in when it comes time to retire.
"How about you?"
No. 658051 ID: 5a02f7
File 143787749421.png - (64.83KB , 750x750 , 122.png )


”I’m looking to get married, and I figured a woman who would steal half my stuff straight off would save time with the divorce.”

Dahlia blinked and raised a brow.


”I’m kidding. I want the same thing most travelers without a specific destination want: learn something new and useful, a nice score, interesting company to enjoy it with, new experiences, and maybe a place that looks worth settling down in when it comes time to retire. In short, I’m looking for an angle.”

”Chiaroscuro’s a good enough place to do that: it has enough flow that there’s always some new mark. There are plenty of nooks and crannies to lay low in when things get too hot. The Tri-Kahn keeps most of the major powers in check, but they’re always scrambling for more. As long as you don’t break any Delzahn laws and stay out of the way of visitors with too much power, it’s easy enough to play whatever you want here.”

Dahlia tapped a finger on the table, ”But it isn’t easy to get in. I’d be willing to help out with that, for a fee. I can introduce you to the people who own the turf if you’re interested in introducing yourself, a discrete buyer if yours is the work that produces goods, or anyone else in a specific business if you’d like to make contacts or connections. Like I said, though – dinars. Two hundred for each: half up-front, half when you get there.

I mentally summed up my remaining funds. I could buy two leads from her, but that would be most of my funds. Of course, turnabout was fair play, and even if it weren’t, I’m sure the Dragon wouldn’t mind aiding this endeavor with a bit of His power.
No. 658091 ID: 0ee153

We're skilled with social situations, doubt we need someone to introduce ourselves. No need for a fence yet, maybe later. We're fast and stealthy, ask for someone who'd be interested in a discreet courier? With our Exalted charisma we shouldn't have too much trouble getting trust.
No. 658198 ID: aef8a4

Depends who we're talking about. For people paranoid, greedy and/or xenophobic enough no amount of social finesse works short of absurd situations like saving the life of someone they value. We'd need an introduction just to avoid instant attack with deadly weapons for being a suspicious stranger (potential assassin) or operating in their domain without proper introductions (threatening their turf and claim to profits from it). We'd also have to negotiate compensation agreements just to not be targeted for reprisal or outright assassination by crooks and semi-crooks in any place with established organized crime. Think 'feudal politics with lower ante and more assassination attempts' and you're not far off from how suspicious these people are of strangers.
But Edge, question for you. Apparently the Ebon Dragon is breathing down our neck something fierce, yes? Now that we have a point of entry into the criminal establishment of Chiaroscuro, let's review who else amongst the patrons might be able to convince him to let up if we did what *they* liked too as part of this marriage scheme. What do you feel up to trying? I'm guessing it'll be a bit difficult to arrange a death trap as part of our plans, but... hey... the salt-bordered zones of the hungry dead here in town could certainly qualify as a death trap if we leave someone tied up inside one.

Oh, and a response, right:
"I'm multi-talented. That means I really need to know more about the local difficulties and opportunities before I even know what I'd like to plan and whose services I'd want. If it's bad enough I might even fall back on a legitimate profession or three."
No. 658207 ID: 0ee153

Yes, I know. It doesn't matter. They're mortal, we're Exalted.
No. 658211 ID: aef8a4

Don't be too sure. Probably not too many celestial exalts, no, but there are countless other kinds of essence users that could be involved. There's dragon-bloods, god-bloods, ghosts, demons, fay and gods out there. We've apparently run into one of them involved in the local criminal hierarchy, who is to say there aren't more--or even a lot more--there besides 'Dahlia?'
No. 658214 ID: ab7529

Of those three options, I think we'd be more interested in the turf owners. We're a social manipulator, and people with resources / power are a good place for that. We're not so much a thief who needs to sell things (although we could probably con people out of things). The third option would depend on a specific idea or plan, which I don't think we have right now.

>turnabout was fair play, and even if it weren’t, I’m sure the Dragon wouldn’t mind aiding this endeavor with a bit of His power.
What exactly does using the Ebon Dragon's power in this negotiation mean? Just that we can weasel better terms out of her? Or is it going to be as blatant as the use of her powers?

I guess what I'm trying to say is I have no problem using powers at her expense, but I'd rather not have her know we were doing it. That burns any bridge we established here, and makes her less useful in the future, either as a bride candidate or a contact.

(If she doesn't know we cheated to negotiate a better deal out of her, we might earn grudging respect or interest?).

This seems a careless attitude that's going to trip us up the first time we do try something on someone who's a covert exalted.
No. 658722 ID: 5a02f7
File 143805623226.png - (101.18KB , 750x750 , 123.png )


Bulitar spoke softly in my mind, You could always seek assistance from one of the other Yozis in alleviating the Ebon Dragon’s anger.

That’s true, I replied, Let me see if I remember them all…

Of course, the Ebon Dragon favors the Exquisite Bride Obsession, which demands I find a bride of any sex and marry them.

She Who Lives in Her Name prefers the Infernal Genius Declaration. To complete this Act of Villainy, I would need to capture an opponent and thoroughly explain my plots so that they might be in awe of my cunning.

Cecelyne is a bit more practical; She only asks that I perform the Fiendish Deathtrap Compulsion, in which I leave an enemy to meet their certain doom instead of dealing the finishing blow myself.

Malfeas, for all of His hatred of everything else, hates most of all Himself. Through Insane Death-dealing Provocation, I would have to murder in a way that would leave clues as to my identity and invite pursuit from those that would stop me.

I can seek assistance from Adorjan by performing the Kindly Lunatic’s Blessing. This would require me to somehow inflict a permanent madness upon one of the Creation-born.

By the power of Kimbery, through Agony-savoring Mercy, I can spare an opponent so that I might continue to torment them in future encounters.

Although Szoreny is not a major player in the Reclamation, He would intercede on my behalf if I were to complete the Best Enemy Recognition. Through this, I would create a rivalry between myself and an opponent and obsess over the relationship, working constantly to keep my opponent just as focused on me as I am on him.

… Thinking on this, it’s quite clear how the Primordials lost the war, isn’t it?

Bulitar did not answer.
No. 658723 ID: 5a02f7
File 143805628987.png - (78.77KB , 750x750 , 124.png )


”I’m multi-talented. That means I really need to know more about the local difficulties and opportunities before I even know what I’d like to plan and whose services I’d want. If it’s bad enough, I might even fall back on a legitimate profession or three.”

”Certainly not that bad.”


”What about the local leaders? Do you think they’d be interested in hiring a discrete courier?”

Dahlia tapped a lip thoughtfully, ”Might be. I don’t talk with them much, but if you’re looking for the local lay of things, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to meet with them.”

I let slip a few motes of Essence into my words, channeling the slyness of the Ebon Dragon, ”Well, I’ve already paid forty dinars for this lesson – to add two hundred atop of that seems quite steep. How about one hundred sixty?”

”One eighty.”


Dahlia’s eyes glinted as I passed over the coins; her quick hands had them stowed away before I had even put away my purse, ”Follow me, then – and try to keep up.”


Dahlia moved quickly through the winding streets and alleys. From the architecture, I could tell she was taking us closer to the Old City, as the rare glimpses of sky afforded a view of glass towers rising to the heavens.

Our destination was a small plaza off of a private residence. Hardy trees shaded the area, offering blessed relief from the burning sun. A small group of people were gathered there.

”Sienna, a pleasure to see you again,” the man who spoke was one of the native Delzahn, as his dress obviously indicated. Covering the lower half of his face was a gauzy red veil that served to keep the dust from his mouth. His chest was bare save for a red vest, and a similarly-colored sash hung from his waist. He carried a cane that he obviously did not need, but the large chunk of red Chiaroscuran glass that glinted on its head marked it as a symbol of station, ”What business do you have for me today?”

Dahlia – Sienna, apparently – jerked a thumb back towards me, ”A newcomer in town wanted me to show her the local big-shot, so here we are.”

The man apprised me from narrowly-slit eyes, ”Greetings, Miss. I am Abel Akhar of the Akhar family. It is a pleasure to make your acquaintance.”
No. 658731 ID: aef8a4

Well, uhm, shit. We didn't bring a gift or case the town well enough to know what we want to ask him that a regular person couldn't answer. Whose plan is this and what is the rest of it?!?
If the other voices whose bright idea this was don't speak up let's introduce ourself and ask what the city has particular abundance, lack, and difficulty with which may be lucrative.
No. 658950 ID: ab7529

>20 off of 200
The power of the Ebon Dragon is only good for a 10% discount? Geeze. Meets the subtle requirement, at least. I doubt she suspects that was magical.

>red red red
Is he a leader in the gang Amaranth warned us our scarf could get us mistaken for? (Hopefully we have more leeway wearing red as a woman that we might have as "thuggish" guy).

>Dahlia – Sienna, apparently
Is it better to stick to the "Brilliant Hawk" alias, or do we introduce ourselves with another name, being more "honest" with him, and confirming to Dahlia / Sienna we were being as cautious as she was? Hmm. I don't really see an advantage to keeping the first alias. It tells her we either didn't take the precaution of lying to her, or we don't care if she knows we're lying to him.

>We didn't bring a gift or case the town well enough to know what we want to ask him that a regular person couldn't answer. Whose plan is this and what is the rest of it?
We'll have to rely on charm and wit and wing it. Worst case, we can at least try to net information that will be useful to Sky's Edge. You can learn from mistakes, and if we have to, we can afford to burn this identity.
No. 659549 ID: 5a02f7
File 143836966029.png - (76.38KB , 750x750 , 125.png )


Is this the rival gang leader Amaranth spoke of? Bulitar inquired.

Likely, I quickly surveyed the others – each sported an article dyed bright red, It seems that is indeed his mark.

I dipped into a respectful bow, ”I am Mirth, from the city of Gem. I encountered Sienna in the marketplace and realized we had similar trades, so she has agreed to introduce me to the important figures I would need to know before plying my art.”

Abel smiled at the praise, ”You chose well, as did Sienna. I suppose I have some time while the sun is still high to discuss business. What would you like to know?


”If you wouldn’t mind providing me with some basic information, what does this city have in abundance, a lack thereof, and any difficulties I should know about?”

Abel hummed thoughtfully, ”Well, many goods move through Chiaroscuro, so there is always an abundance of new people and things. Chiaroscuran glass is a local treasure, one that Sienna has chosen to take advantage of,” he nodded to her, ”The harbor is rich in sealife, and that forms one of our main exports. Currently, the slave market is a little oversaturated by Varangian traders.

”Water is always a rare commodity; more than one charismatic man has made dinars as a dowser. There is a slight shortage of dyes, sending prices up.

“There are two forces that you must be careful of – the Delzahn and the Dynasts. Delzahn guards will rarely care unless what you do impacts a noble. Dynasts are more concerned hunting heretics than thieves, and the Tri-Kahn does nothing to help nor hinder them.

“That is a general overview – is there anything in particular you wish to know more about?”

No. 659645 ID: aef8a4

I got nothing, besides asking who else is in town in terms of criminal element and what particular services and specialties he's interested in. This wasn't my idea. Help?
No. 659745 ID: ab7529

Huh. A powerful gang leader is introduced to an out of town nobody and is willing spend his time providing introductory information? And at no cost? Hmm. I think my estimation of Sienna just went up a few notches. She clearly has more respect from the bigger players than I expected.

That and/or respect itself means a lot to him. He appreciates someone new to his territory approaching him this way, and makes this kind of time investment to keep things operating smoothly.

>is there anything in particular you wish to know more about?
Curse my lack of knowledge of this setting.

Well, we're a social schemer. If Edge / Mirth was going to run a larger, more profitable con than Sienna's market stall gig (like we mentioned to her before) what kind of person would we be targeting? The kind of person or institution Edge would consider a ripe target might be who we should ask after. (Unfortunately, that's relying on the character to fill in the blanks. Somewhere we could exploit the bureaucrat / dilettante angle to get in, be trusted, corrupt some people, and make away with funds?).

Or we might ask if there are any opportunities he thinks are being... underutilized. Plays he doesn't have the pieces to move on, or is blocked from by politics of some kind. This sort of doubles as flattery, since we're asking for his idea, and audaciously reaching for the chance to impress him.

>This wasn't my idea. Help?
Okay, the way I see it, we have several angles to try and play:

*Earn trust / reputation with a powerful criminal we may be able to use later (but only in this identity)
*Pick up information / opportunities we can exploit (in any identity)
*Try to impresses or otherwise relationship build with a bride candidate (for this identity)
*Building bridges with or getting info about Sienna for non-bride purposes. (She might be a useful piece in some other plot. She's capable and has a useful ability, if we can find a means to move her).

Which all boil down to trying to learn as much as we can here, and to look good doing it.
No. 659809 ID: cf6c80

>A powerful gang leader is introduced to an out of town nobody and is willing spend his time providing introductory information? And at no cost?
I'd imagine not at no cost; the referral fee that Sienna charged probably goes mostly to this mafiosi. If not, we're likely still on the hook for giving him a gift worthy of his magnificence.

We do need to know more about the local supernaturals and what's available in terms of resources/aid for sorcery and magical items: Ability to kill mortals doesn't count for much and a lack of backup really slows us down. But how much time do we have for that, and is that something this person can reasonably help with?
It just seems premature for us to be meeting with this person; we don't have a detailed business proposal yet. In order to try and make use of him as a fence we need an idea of what to steal and where/how to get it. In order to borrow some thugs, pickpockets or other support for smuggling, counterfeiting, a con job, or what have you we need to know more about the prospective targets and local particulars. We still don't know what we intend to do with it if we get large amounts of money anyway, since most magic items and services of significance are one or more of not for sale, absurdly expensive, get us too closely watched, or are too much trouble to use, maintain and keep.
No. 659896 ID: 5a02f7
File 143855512945.png - (1.14MB , 750x750 , 126.png )


”Who else is in town that I should be aware of if I do business?”[‘/color] I asked.

A look of distaste passed over Abel’s face. He jerked a thumb towards one of the posters across the wall, [color=#FF0000]”Rashel el Harid. He controls a lot of the Undermarket, if anyone can say to have a grasp on that place.”
I scanned it: it looked like a wanted poster, and one with a sizeable reward offered, if the number of digits was any indication.

”He must be doing very well or very badly to have attracted that much attention.”

”He’s upset the Delzahn nobles, and thus the Tri-Kahn. He is an honorless dog, cursed with demon blood.”

… Well, then.


”I’ve done some scavenging before, and I’m curious – what is the market like here for magical items?”

Abel leaned back, stretching, ”That is tricky. If you look closely enough, you will find a hundred Essence-powered coolers, maybe twenty of which will actually work as intended. Anything beyond that is rare, but the Undermarket has all things, if one is willing to dedicate the time and trouble to look.”


”Are there any… underutilized opportunities that you’re aware of? I may be willing to assist.”

Abel studied me for a moment before grinning, ”How are you at dice, Lady Mirth?”

”Better than fair, and better even than that when not playing fair.”

He nodded, ”Yes, I think I might have something for you. There is a man, a Lookshyan deserter that has been plaguing one of our gamehouses as of late. He is cheating through some means, but I have not found how yet. I will give you a sum of money, and if you are able to see that he will not bother me again, there will be more to come. You can prove his guilt, take his money at the game table, kill him in a back alley for all I care – I just want him gone.

“Would this be a proper use for your talents?”

No. 659897 ID: 9297f4

Seems nice. Change your appearance go in, find this guy, flirt with him a bit, gamble, leave with him, pull him to a alleyway saying you want him now, and how good are you slitting throats?, then change back(including fingerprints, don't want anyone to pin it back to you), and report he's been taken care of.
No. 659898 ID: cf6c80

We don't know how they're cheating or why these folks haven't disposed of this person themselves yet. Usually roughing up and throwing out cheaters is a standard part of the job for security in any gambling establishment. It is done showily at times to discourage theft as well.

"Potentially. If this person has been at this for long enough that he has become a notable problem what have your people already tried?"

....Cue finding out this is one of the ways Amaranth makes money.
No. 659907 ID: ab7529

Ooh, gambling den counter-espionage? That sounds like a good environment for a social schemer. Though I'd think exposing him or beating him at his own game would be more Edge's forte than murder. (Not that that's not possible, just that it doesn't play to our strengths as well, and if it goes wrong or turns to a confrontation, that could easily play to someone else's strengths).

In the best outcome we get paid twice- we get the cheater's winnings, and our payment for services rendered.

I don't think we can use another identity for this though- if Abel controls these places, he'll be watching to see what we do. (This is at least partially a test). It will raise undue attention if 'Mirth' never appears once, a nobody deals with the problem, and Mirth shows up to collect payment. That's as good as advertising we have some means to change our appearance, or to get people to act in proxy for us. We don't want to give anyone we're working or working with reason to start thinking along those lines.

But it might be prudent to ask why he hasn't already been dealt with, yeah.
No. 660097 ID: 5a02f7
File 143862510042.png - (78.91KB , 750x750 , 127.png )


"Potentially. If this person has been at this for long enough that he has become a notable problem what have your people already tried?"

Abel let out a long breath, ”A man comes into a well-renowned gaming house and begins to win. People take notice. He attracts hangers-on, others looking to share in his wealth. Before long, he is an iconoclast. Throwing him out without proof would agitate the other players. Killing him clandestinely wouldn’t make the point that I would like – although it is progressing such that I will have to resort to it soon enough. If you do not prove adequate to take care of the issue, I will put my less – tactful employees on the task. However, I would prefer the man leave in disgrace than disappear without a trace.”

I thought for a moment – this would indeed make good use of my skills, and the information I could gain from this endeavor would be useful. After a few long beats, I nodded, ”I’ll accept, pending the payment is good.”

Abel gestured to one of his minions, who produced a bag of silver. In plain sight, he counted out five hundred pieces and placed them into a separate pouch, which he handed to Abel, ”Five hundred at the start, one thousand more if you complete the task. If you manage to disgrace him publicly by out-playing him or revealing his cheating, I will add on an additional five hundred dinars,” the boss held out the pouch towards me, smiling, ”Two thousand, all told, if you do well. I trust that would be a fitting reward for your service?”

”Indeed,” I took the heavy pouch and tied it tightly at my waist, ”I’ll need directions to this gambling house, however.”

”I will do you better than that,” Abel snapped his fingers, ”Feng.”

A young boy – no, I spotted the shaved growth of a beard on his face; he was merely small, with a young face. He rose from one of the benches and scrambled to Abel’s side, ”Yes, sir?”

”Show Lady Mirth to the establishment, and see to it that she has whatever information she requires to complete her task.”

”Yes, sir,” Feng turned to me, allowing me to study him more closely. He had the darker skin of an Easterner, albeit closer to Abel’s native Delzahn than most: likely born from the Scavenger Lands. His hair, in contrast, was a dark blonde, and it threatened to escape from the red bandana that bound it back. His clothing was very simple: a homespun gi without sleeves and rough pants of undyed hemp. He wore no shoes, instead shodding his feet in the dust of the road. His eyes matched his hair, a bright yellow that seemed constantly alight with curiosity. As he turned to me, he raised a hand in greeting, ”I’m Feng, Lady Mirth. I’ll be escorting you.” Yes, definitely from the Scavenger Lands by his accent.

”Thank you for your graciousness, Sir Akhar,” I bowed once more to Abel, ”Expect to see me again soon with reports of a favorable result.”

”I look forward to it,” Abel grinned, ”Oh, and do be sure, whatever it is you choose to do, that you wear that scarf while doing so – I’d like people to know who it is you represent.”

My hand raised to touch the garment, and I nodded, ”So I shall. Farewell.”

Sienna had apparently slipped away while I was speaking. As I turned away, Abel and his men began to disperse: from the tilt of the sun, it was the waning end of Descending Fire, which meant business would be resuming shortly. Only Feng stayed at my side, and he watched me with his wide eyes as his toes fidgeted in the dirt.

”Lady Mirth, do you have any questions for me? Or would you like me to show you to the game house right away? Oh, I guess if you have something else you need to do before that, we can go do that, too.”

The “we” in that sentence made it clear that Feng served the purpose of both assisting me and protecting Abel’s investment; I wouldn’t be able to lose him easily until the job was done.
No. 660107 ID: cf8c36

First, split the purse in two. Buy a second one if necessary; either way it's good to hide exactly how rich you are and how much you bring into the game.

Then, let's get to that gambling house I guess.
No. 660112 ID: 99cfa8

> won't be able to lose him
Hmm, that means no shapeshifting. Shame, that would have made this more fun. And opened more options. Oh well.

We definitely want to expose his cheating if possible. If we can depends on how he's doing it of course.
No. 660130 ID: cf6c80

It doesn't mean no shapeshifting, far from it. In fact, we should seriously consider changing form for this: I'd almost go so far as to plan on doing so, except that the target may like light-skinned, women with short, silver hair.

"Yes, yes, questions. First, I need to know the game or games played well enough to play conventionally and cheat conventionally. Where do I start? Then I need to know what sort of person the target finds most distracting: Is it long-legged pale redhead women? Tall, brany black men? I have... certain ability with disguise that should be used for best advantage here."
No. 660132 ID: ab7529

>Sienna left
Well so much for impressing her. Although I guess she'll hear if we impress Abel, since she'll get goodwill / credit for introducing us.

>Lady Mirth, do you have any questions for me?
What's the game (played at the gambling den)?

What can you tell me about our target? I assume he's been the subject of some scrutiny.

I would voice a strong protest against this approach. Our ability to shape-shift is our ability to wear multiple faces and identities. It's insurance to allow us to try something else (without leaving the city) if we screw up badly to burn one identity, and a means to collect information / favor from competing factions and play them against each other. It is an important element the bigger game we are playing here.

It is not worth exposing that for this smaller play. If we let someone smart and competent like Abel know what we are capable of, he may match us to other faces, and we will not be as easily able to disappear if we need to. And it also provides a clue as to what we really are we don't need to give them (We're not trying to impress She Who Lives in Her Name or Malfeas, here).

It also seemed to me Abel also seemed to have a poor view of his rival's demon-blooded heritage. He might not be so pleased to see a display of supernatural prowess, especially of the darker sort.
No. 660299 ID: 5a02f7
File 143872472673.png - (84.47KB , 750x750 , 128.png )


Before we get to the busier streets, I divide my silver between my original purse and the new one, hiding the heftier of the two on my person, ”I’m ready to go now – lead the way.”

With an enthusiastic step, Feng began to walk.


"First, I need to know the game or games played well enough to play conventionally and cheat conventionally.”

Feng tilted his head at me, ”It’s dice. You roll the dice and hope good ones show up. The house provides the dice, of course, to prevent cheating. I guess you could try to sneak another set in, but if he accuses you of cheating, too, and it’s something as simple as loaded dice, well, that doesn’t look good for your claim. I’ve played dice some with the others, it’s mostly just chance, but skill plays a little bit into it, too – knowing when to bet more, when to reroll what you have, and so on… That’s the part I’m not very good at…”


”What can you tell me about our target? I assume he’s been the subject of some scrutiny.”

Feng crossed his arms behind his head as we walked, ”Well, like the boss said, he’s a Lookshyan deserter, so he’s probably pretty good at fighting, but not so good that he would wanted to stay in the army, or maybe he had other problems besides how good he was at fighting… Anyway, um, he likes his wine and his women, although we only allow alcohol at the game houses, not whores – you have to go somewhere more private for that kind of entertainment. He lives in part of the New City, close to the Outskirts. He shows up most nights during the hours of Water and Air. He had a decent amount of money when he came here, and he’s only made more since then. Um, let’s see… He might be a Dragon Blood, since he’s from Lookshy, but, well, not everyone from there’s a Dragon Blood, right? So he probably isn’t.”

“I think that’s everything that we’ve found out, unless you want to know really specific things – I might be able to answer those questions, maybe.”

No. 660308 ID: cf6c80

"He likes his women, hmmm. How distracted is he by them, and how does he like them dressed? Is it worth putting on a wig and a short dress to distract him more?"
No. 660348 ID: ab7529

>It’s dice. You roll the dice and hope good ones show up
*Chuckle* Even a game as simple as dice have rules that vary from place to place. How many are used at once, what type, if doubles or any particular roll are special. You said rerolls are allowed under certain circumstances?

>unless you want to know really specific things
How does he conduct himself at the table- how does he behave with others present?
No. 660521 ID: 5a02f7
File 143882087354.png - (118.43KB , 750x750 , 129.png )


I let out a chuckle, ”Even a game as simple as dice have rules that vary from place to place. How many are used at once, what type, are any particular rolls special? You said rerolls are allowed?”

”I - didn’t think about that, sorry,” Feng admitted, ”Let’s see, there’re six dice used, each with four little symbols. There’s suns, moons, stars, and shadows – suns and shadows are on two sides each. You try to get a lot of one type – suns are worth one point each one you get, if you have two or more. Moons and stars get you two points each, but you have to have at least a pair of either. Shadows, though, take away one point. But if you can get a sun, moon, star, and shadow, you’ll get five points. You can reroll twice, any number of dice, but after two rerolls, that’s the final hand. Whoever has the most points wins the hand. If there’s a tie, whoever has the most shadows loses. If that’s still tied, well, the pot is split. Bets go in at the beginning; the winner takes the whole pot. You can duck out before you reroll if you have an awful hand or need to go, but once you throw the dice again, you’re in for good.”

I’m familiar with this kind of game, I silently informed Bulitar, You shouldn’t have to worry too much about the specifics, just general strategies and ideas how to best this guy.

”How does he conduct himself at the table- how does he behave with others present?”

”Let’s see, he’s real boisterous; people generally like him. He’ll sometimes buy his opponents rounds so there aren’t any hard feelings. When he’s playing, he’s really into the game, real intense – I saw him once chase off a lady who was getting a little too friendly while he was thinking. He has an awful mouth on him when he loses, but, well, it’s in Riverspeak, so most folk don’t know what he’s saying, but some of the stuff I’ve heard from him’s made even my ears burn a bit – certainly not the kind of language anyone should use around gentleladies.”


"He likes his women, hmmm,” I mused, “How distracted is he by them, and how does he like them dressed? Is it worth putting on a wig and a short dress to distract him more?"[/color]

”Well, I don’t know if it’s worth it, since that’s something up to you, Lady Mirth. All I know is he frequents the whorehouses, so I assume he likes his women like whores – n-not suggesting you should dress like that at all!” Feng stammered out, waving a hand as though to shoo away the implication, ”Just saying – well, you know what I’m saying, right? Anyway, it’s up to you.”

This seemed like an opportunity, if I wanted it – or I could spend the rest of the time it took to get to the game house coming up with strategies.
No. 660555 ID: ab7529

So... 6d6, 1/3 sun, 1/3 shadow, 1/6 star, 1/6 moon. Shadows are negative, you need at least 2 of any non-shadow to earn points with them, and you get bonus points if you get a full house.

So... max score on a single roll is ****** or cccccc is 2*6 = 12.

○●*c** or ○●*ccc. +5 full house, +(2*3) stars/moons, -1 shadow = 10.
(Ties with 5 stars / moons).

Min score is ●●●●●● = -6.
(Extremely unlikely though, you'd have to get all shadow on every roll and subsequent re-roll).

>so I assume he likes his women like whores
I'm not sure this angle is worth playing. It's too hard to predict exactly what he'll be into without reconnaissance, and the main attraction of whores is they're on demand and available. It's harder to tease or distract a man with something he can have whenever he wishes.
No. 660556 ID: cf6c80

Huh. How do the local whores dress anyway? In some places it's traditional for a lady dressing to distract while gambling to wear a shiny, thigh-length, sleeveless dress that shows off cleavage and clings to her figure. I suggest we get our minder to help us obtain such, it's obvious he isn't going to be much help with the probability chart. Asking him about mirrors for looking under the table and otherwise trying to catch him at sleight of hand would be a good idea; he may be cheating in a mundane fashion for all we know. I am unsure if we should ask about means of detecting the use of magic (essence?); we plausibly may be using a fair amount of such, and it would be embarrassing to get caught using demon magics through our own detection. Also, we should ask about intoxicating our opponent: Stronger drinks than he's expecting or additional intoxicants delivered as vapors, mixed in with his refreshments or applied through a needle would all make any method of trying to beat him work better so long as they have predictable results.

With those practical seek and fetch instructions given, it will be time to dust off our statistical mathematics skills and work up a contingent probability chart. Do you remember how or are we 'advising' you once again?
Highlights from that: A perfect roll would score either... twelve or thirteen points, consisting of the set of four and an extra moon and star to score for those pairs as well. Does the shadow in the set of four subtract from the final score despite being necessary to score the five points for such a set? Can we get extra points for having doubles of star and/or moon with that magic set of four? We need to confirm these things, because it may be that the set of four dice is just not worth going for unless it happens unexpectedly.
An alternative perfect roll would be a set of six stars or six moons, for twelve points, and depending on which you get more of in your initial roll it would be worthwhile to attempt for as many moons or stars as possible if you get at least two of either in the initial drop. I predict an average round score for attempting to roll suns of four points: That would be a conservative strategy and the way to recover from a bad initial set if you're committed to playing out the round. The expected score is lower if you don't have at least two suns in your initial drop, and it should really only be played for if you have that much.

As far as how to beat this particular opponent, we can use a probability chart to figure out the pattern of his cheating and predict it: Track how his rolling differs from the standard probability chart over successive rounds to trace either what his method of cheating is or predict his final scores before each round finishes. That proposal however would be slow at best, easily requiring dozens of rounds and possibly hundreds.
Alternatively, we can just cheat wildly ourselves using magic, the Ebon Dragon's talent for cheating is pretty much perfect for this sort of thing. This ought to be a very straightforward--and potentially quick--way to win big as long as we are a better gambler and cheater than this guy. Potentially risky, but also far quicker and showier than accusing him of cheating.
We can also screw with his head by flirtatiously teasing him through gesture, display and action at a distance while he's trying to concentrate. This is surprisingly straightforward and ought to work well since he can't chase one of his fellow gamblers away from the table while we're playing, can he? A tiny, shiny, showy dress that bares much and highlights the rest ought to be all the ammo we need to make such a scheme work.
We might be able to drug him either through a needle or adulterating his drinks. This may do nothing if he is a sufficiently powerful supernatural, but otherwise it should generally help us to accomplish any other plan of action against him.

I say we start with the first of those, playing straight at first to lull him into a false sense of security and gather data. Then we flirtatiously screw with his concentration once we've figured out something about his cheating. If and when we know he's failing it's time to break out the audacious cheating of our own to clinch the big wins that drive him to retreat in disgrace or erupt into an angry tantrum that gets him kicked out.
Any supplemental ideas, alternative proposals or criticisms?

I am tempted to combine this plan--if successful--with Infernal Genius Declaration, and Fiendish Deathtrap Compulsion, leaving him bound with chains for the undead. This is a premature thought however.
No. 660583 ID: 8adffb

This plan sounds good.
No. 660585 ID: 0ee153

>When he’s playing, he’s really into the game, real intense – I saw him once chase off a lady who was getting a little too friendly while he was thinking.

Seduction seems ossible, given our social skill, but unnecessarily difficult and moderately risky. I agree that cheating would work best, particularly given the typical Ebon Dragon talents toward such.
No. 660608 ID: 5a02f7
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Probability table? What is this Malfean nonsense? Listen, I know how to play dice, so you don’t have to tell me what to do each round. I was just looking for some general ideas, like whether we should be aggressive or play things steady.


I like this plan, though. So we’ll start out simply, try a little flirting, and then cheat our way to all of his money. In the meantime, we’ll check to see if we can figure out how he’s cheating.

As for how to recognize Essence-fueled powers, I know Amaranth can do something like that, but I don’t think anyone less than a Solar or a Deathknight could do that, too, so we shouldn’t have to worry about being found out. Now, we do need to worry about calling upon the Ebon Dragon’s power
too much – I’d say I can use it about five times safely; any more, and my anima will start to show. Using the Dragon’s power, I should be able to win the round easily – barring any unforeseen circumstances.

As for the opportunity, I was thinking more of flirting with Feng than the subject of our heist.

Is there anything else we need to get before we go? Or do we want to try talking with Feng more?

No. 660672 ID: 99cfa8

Huh. Given his general attitude... I wonder if we should consider the possibility that he's not cheating, just a really good player.

Eh, either way we've got to deal with him though I guess.
No. 660719 ID: cf6c80

We do need help with getting the right dress and figuring out how to... position for varying levels of distraction. For best effect we will need to be able to fully reveal any particular part that the opponent finds distracting, but usually the most distraction comes from something being either slightly visible or just barely not revealed. When it's difficult to see what he wants to see like that he'll end up glancing more and staring harder so he can see better. We need to be able to sit at the table managing that without obviously appearing as though we are intentionally revealing hidden anatomy. We also need to be able to appear as though we are intentionally revealing ourself, when we move on to obviously screwing with his head while cheating.
You want to flirt with Feng? Ask him to help you practice showing off and not showing off: This would get him to look at your feminine attributes while he is expected to respond about what he sees. Remember the mirrors, we'll probably need his help to watch under the table to check for those kinds of cheating methods. If Feng is interested in, and distracted by, looking at you we may need to promise a private show after as a reward: You don't want him distracted by using the mirrors to look up your dress while he's supposed to be watching for cheating.

That's not possible, he must be cheating or supernaturally lucky somehow. 'Skill' is a factor but a skilled dealer should be able to play perfectly. Heck, that's why we want a full contingent probability chart, so that we always know our odds of winning and what the best move (without cheating) will be for any arrangement of dice on the table.
"The house always wins." In gambling games of chance the game itself or the arrangement it is played in is structured so the establishment running the games always makes a profit over time. How that works varies from game to game and establishment to establishment; the two most common ones are a house-share from the pot of each round, and some kind odds favour like a tie-breaker rule that awards wins to the dealer. The fact that he is managing to win over multiple sessions despite the 'house advantage' means he has to be cheating, or someone else is cheating in his favour (I.E. supernatural luck favour granted by someone else, or a more mundane form of accomplice).
No. 660880 ID: 5a02f7
File 143898725090.png - (114.70KB , 750x750 , 131.png )


You want to flirt with Feng? Go ahead.

No, I corrected Bulitar, I’m merely taking note of an opportunity; after all, while this is a pleasant distraction, we are here for something else.

”On second thought, that might be a good idea, after all,” I mused aloud, ”After all, any edge we might have over our opponent should be taken advantage of.”

”Then should we go to your place to let you change?”

”I don’t have anything appropriate for this already; you can help me pick something out,” I flashed a smile.

”Well, I wouldn’t say I know much about women’s clothes – I could just –“

“Nonsense; you’re a man, aren’t you? You know what you like – just tell me what you like the most.”

The next hour passed in a whirlwind of bright silks and gauzy veils. I made sure to probe Feng for opinions with each new outfit, and while he was reluctant at first, he eventually opened up. I tried on a few outfits that were a little too inappropriate, if only to see his reaction – the boy blushed at the merest sight of a thigh.

I made certain that we pick up a few mirrors of varying size and magnification, and I instructed Feng quickly on how to use them. From the way he behaved, I didn’t think I had to worry too much about him peeking up my skirt during the match, but, well, depending on how well he does, I wouldn’t be adverse to giving him more of a show later.
No. 660881 ID: 5a02f7
File 143898729151.png - (68.69KB , 413x750 , 132.png )

So, what outfit do you think we should choose, Bulitar? I’m willing to let Feng hold on to my scarf for this, but remember – we need to display something prominently red to let our target know exactly who it is that’s after him. Other than that, well, the possibilities are practically endless.

If you don’t have something particular in mind, you can just describe it, and I’ll see if I can’t find something that fits.

We also need to decide if I should change my hair any; to do that, I would need to go back to the inn to have a reason to alter my disguise, but that might be a good idea, to pick up my bow. I don’t think fighting will break out, but it might be best to be safe rather than sorry.

No. 660927 ID: ab7529

>"The house always wins."
Actually, how exactly the house is winning is a good question. If it's just guests throwing dice at a table, money moves between them without any going to the house. (Unless there's a buy-in to get to the table, or per round? But if they were just taxing transactions they wouldn't be losing out if someone were consistently winning).

I guess there must be "dealers". House-bankrolled players. Of course, since there's no formal dealer position in the game, there's no built in mechanistic advantage for them. And a fair game of chance shouldn't be a net profit. I guess the house advantage is it can employ players of better than average skill, get the patrons drunk, and multiple house assets can cooperate / metagame- their goal isn't individual profit, but bleeding guests as a group.

Something to keep an eye out for, I suppose.

You're pretty quick to mess with poor Feng there, especially after your reaction to Amaranth. (She could certainly laugh at your hypocrisy now).

>changing clothes
Wait, the loom-snarling deception changed our outfit (except for the scarf). What happens to illusion-ed / shifted clothes if we leave them behind?

I'd think we'd still want a scarf (either the same one, or a slightly different style?). As for the rest of the outfit- some kind of frilly dress? Kind of old west tavern-y seems gambler appropriate.

I'd be reluctant to lead him back to your hotel. Don't want to give them a link to a different identity.
No. 660931 ID: cf6c80
File 143900342113.png - (58.22KB , 413x750 , edge-mirth-dress.png )

(This is really at the limit of my ability, I haven't done this stuff since the days of the Amiga.)

I'd say this is roughly what you're after. Maybe you want it in a different colour than purple, ideally it should be a colour that contrasts strongly with anything you're wearing underneath it, so anyone you display your underclothes to knows they are your underclothes. A shiny silver would be my second choice, red would be my first if we didn't need to wear a visible and notable red accessory. If you don't like chokers I see no reason not to just use your favourite red scarf instead. The boots are for the potential brawl or fight, and the dress is to distract pretty much everyone else at the table with your stunning, exalted attractiveness. If that doesn't work you can always flash them instead, which ought to scandalize and unsettle most people that aren't interested in staring at Mirth's form.

When dealing with Feng you don't have to give him a show. My thought was that promising him a reward 'in kind' would help him behave himself when we want his help watching our opponent. On the surface he doesn't seem to be that interesting, although if this crime boss set him to watch us perhaps he has hidden depths or surprising ability.
Do arm yourself, we don't know how big this cheating scheme is and it wouldn't do to beat him only to have him and his accomplices just outright rob the establishment and everyone in it. If you run into Graceful Blossom looking for Sky's Edge, well, you can always pretend to be your own cousin for her benefit, visiting to tell him you'd found another cousin working in town that he should say hello to. Also, I am curious what Graceful Blossom's reaction would be to you flirting and/or propositioning her as an attractive woman in such a dress.
No. 660934 ID: cf6c80

>I'd be reluctant to lead him back to your hotel. Don't want to give them a link to a different identity.
Shoot, valid point. How do we arm ourself without giving away that Mirth has a connection to Sky's Edge when dealing with the criminal element?
No. 661165 ID: 5a02f7
File 143909060440.png - (68.14KB , 432x750 , 133.png )


You were pretty quick to mess with Feng there, Bulitar noted.

I’m here for one goal, and if I don’t accomplish that, it could very well be my life. I don’t have time to play around.


I finally found a stall that sold actual clothing, none of this gauzy Southern silk or Realm knock-off fashions – an honest-to-gods corset, skirt, and boots. I got the tailor to slit the skirt a bit higher, and, with a red ribbon and a few matching unmentionables, my outfit was complete.

I saw the prudence in bringing a weapon, but the difficulty was how. My bow was back in my room. I could spend more money on another, but I would have to have Feng carry it. I could purchase throwing knives, but I was not as skilled with them as I was in archery, and the problem of where to keep them for easy access was still an issue. Finally, I could buy a simple dagger, which would fit nicely in my boot, but none of my charms would work with a weapon that wasn’t ranged.

Once the matter of arming myself was settled, if there was nothing else I needed to accomplish, I would be on my way to the gaming house.
No. 661245 ID: 8adffb

Throwing knives can fit almost anywhere, including anywhere a dagger would fit. They seem a good compromise.
No. 661273 ID: 99cfa8

Lookin' nice, although you might add some shoulder covering so you can remove it for optimal distraction value when needed.
No. 661322 ID: ab7529

I'm not sure how much range you'll have to use a ranged weapon if something goes terribly wrong at a small gambling table, surrounded by people.

Also, the gang is potentially as big a danger to you as your mark, depending on which way this goes. Having Feng carry your weapon doesn't help.
No. 661386 ID: 5a02f7
File 143916427923.png - (75.97KB , 750x750 , 134.png )


Before we leaft, I spent a bit more silver on a red capelet and a set of throwing knives, the latter which I stored in my boots.


The gambling den didn’t look like much from the outside, an adobe house with a placard featuring the same sort of dice Feng explained to me. The inside more than made up for that, with a plethora of tables both for socializing and for gaming. One entire wall of the room was sectioned off by a bar, and the selection of liquor displayed on the shelves behind impressed even me. The people populating the tables were exactly the kind of sort that one would expect to see at an establishment such as this: rough-and-tumble types, sporting all sorts of scars, muscles, and weapons. The atmosphere, though, was jolly, with a genial roar filling the small space.

The mark stood out instantly: he was one of the few non-Delzahn here, and the only one with the skin-tone of one from the Scavenger Lands. His skin was tanned and lined from many years in the sun, but his dark-blue hair showed no sign of gray. Indeed, his blue eyes were bright and attentive, focused at the moment on some other patron who is speaking. I could see why Abel pegged him as former-military; the armor he wore was shabby and not very effective, but he wore it as though he were used to more and heavier protection.

”That’s him,” Feng said needlessly.

Now that the mark was in my sights, I had some decisions to make. First, I needed to decide where to place Feng in all of this. Secondly, I had to come up with a strategy to get him to the game tables.
No. 661396 ID: ab7529

Ugh. That smug lip-piercing. He's not bride material.

>I needed to decide where to place Feng in all of this.
I'd think we'd want him out of the way. Unless we need a dope to play off of at the table.

>I had to come up with a strategy to get him to the game tables.
Huh. Didn't plan on it being challenging to get the gambler to gamble. I was hoping we'd have a chance to see him play before we started.

...I suppose we could always bait him into it. An implicit challenge if we sit down and start winning. That gives him a chance to study us instead of the other way around, though. And we start out on his radar. Don't really like that situation.
No. 661407 ID: cf6c80

He's probably waiting for a higher stakes table/game to win money at, or too busy flirting. The pause before we have to get to work is a good thing for us: We have questions to be answered before we start concentrating on the target. We need to learn more about the staff, organization and how the profit gets made, so use this opportunity. We also might want rope and chain handy for if this goes really right (or really wrong).
No. 661493 ID: 5a02f7
File 143923693648.png - (140.88KB , 750x750 , 135.png )


”I’ll want you somewhere out of the way, once we make our move. If I put my elbows on the table, though, I want you to come over and play,” I passed Feng part of my silver, ”Lose to me.”

”R-right,” he’s obviously unused to the kind of attention that’s being directed at the two of us, but he pocketed the dinars discretely enough, ”And you’ll want me to use the mirrors to check under the table, right?”

”That’s right, but first…


”… I want to know more about how this is set-up. How does Abel make a profit off of this?”

”Well, there are a few ways – each patron pays to get in at a table, people buy drinks, and there are some really good players that he has on his roll. They win and give part of the money to the boss, which is why he’s a problem.”

“Are there any here currently?”

Feng scanned the crowd, ”I see two, the short man in the far corner, and the woman off to the right. There might be more, but those are the ones I recognize.”

“And the bartender?”

“He’s one of Abel’s men, of course. The drinks are more just to keep people around; with as much as water costs right now, we don’t make a whole lot of money off of it.”

With those questions answered, I was ready to make my move.
No. 661596 ID: cf6c80

Mental note to check into getting a small stretch of the coastline to build a condenser and make money. There could be a double profit bonus if we can make it into a salt-pan and sell salt while we're at it.
What's your move, Mirth? Ideally we'd start by watching him play, but if he's not moving we gotta either wait, prepare more or make him start playing somehow. Y'know, I dare you to walk up, sit in his lap and say you've heard he's a big winner. Then ask him to show you how he wins. Playing a giggly drunk ought to be just perfect for getting yourself underestimated if you can stomach the lost pride, hah.
No. 661602 ID: ab7529

Ooh! Good call on the capelet. That's really works. It's very you. Well, this you, anyways.

Let's try establishing bait or a challenge for him. Start playing, but bellow your ability so he underestimates you. Work to start establishing a pot to temp him into trying to take it.
No. 661755 ID: 5a02f7
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I bought a cup of liquor and took a seat at one of the tables without one of Abel’s players. The entry fee was modest enough, even considering the current size of the pot. It took me a handful of rounds to drive up the stakes, which lost me more money than I would have liked, but this was all for show. I drove out the chump players, leaving me only with those that were willing to play for big stakes.

I leaned in to the dealer, making a show of asking, ”Who’s that guy over there?” I pointed blatantly.

She looked over with a sour face, ”Go ask him yourself if you’re that interested.”


”I will, then,” I rose from the table, crossing the floor to where the mark sat. Without preamble, I landed sloppily on his lap and said –


”- wait, just like that?”

“What do you mean “just like that?” It was the easiest way to get his attention, and I needed his attention.”

Kamai gestured, searching for the word, ”But don’t you got any, I dunno – womanly pride or anything?”

“If ya’ve got any pride left after what we’ve been through, it ain’t worth a single cowrie,”
Lintha remarked sourly, ”Let him tell the damn story.”

I swear I heard the Ebon Dragon chuckle at that. Kamai collapsed into a moody silence, and I continued.


”Hey there, mister. I heard you’re a big winner,” his hands instinctively grabbed on to me to keep me from toppling over. I leaned in close, ”Tell me how you do it, hm?”

A grin split the man’s face, ”Well, before I go spilling my secrets, might I know to who they go? I’m Embattled Justice, of no other name.”

What an odd way to introduce oneself, “I’m Mirth, of several other names.”

“And what might those other names be, hm?”

I giggled, leaning in further, ”Come play me, and maybe later you’ll find out,” as my vantage changed, I caught a glimpse of the bartender, with a stormy look on his face. Only a few quick words from a frazzled Feng stopped him from intervening; still, he looked unhappy with my behavior.

I shifted my position again, letting my purse bump against his leg, ”I have a table going on over here – I think it’ll be worth your time,” I stood, taking a moment to feign gathering my balance, before pulling him up with me.

“Well, I’ve never been one to refuse such a pretty lady,”
Justice rose with only enough resistance to grab his drink before I pulled him away. I could feel the jealous stares directed at us as I walked away, but he seemed to either not notice or not care.

I guided him to a chair next to my former seat, reclaiming it for myself. The dealer continued her sour glare, but I pointedly ignored it, turning to Justice instead, ”So, how do you do it?”

”Well,” he leaned in conspiratorially, ”To tell the truth, it’s all luck.”

I laughed, letting a hint of the great deal of doubt I had about that claim leak into my voice, ”Really, just luck?”

”I was born under a lucky star, and, ever since then, Lady Fortune has watched over me. Of course, her attention comes and goes, as does any woman’s, so it’s not something I can call upon as I wish, as much as I wish I could. Only when the stakes are truly dire does my blessing emerge.”

While it was probably possible that was the truth, the actual likelihood of it was far-fetched, and even if he was “blessed by a goddess,” it was more likely he was a god-blooded with spirit tricks that made him lucky. Still, if such were true, actually proving it would be difficult given I didn’t have the ability to sense Essence manipulation. I would have to be subtle if I was to catch him – or I could just try to take all of his money and forget about proving that he’s cheating.
No. 661759 ID: 068b4d

He likely thinks it's true enough. Amusingly enough, Exalts aren't always aware of their own abilities, particularly purely reflexive ones like luck. My guess is he's using Essence and just isn't aware of it.

Test it out and try a few hands with trivial stakes. See if his luck is any better than usual when it's not important.
No. 661786 ID: cf6c80

I sincerely doubt he's nearly drunk enough to tell the truth about it *here* if he were cheating or knowingly using magic. Think about it, if he were to say that it was all trick throwing they'd send the thugs to grab his purse, drag him somewhere private, rough him up, kick him out and update the banned list with a description (and maybe a picture too). His story is less than one full iota on the scale of reliable information.
We already know what the plan is; play, try not to play either too well or too badly, and start the study. If it is something that he only pulls out for big-stakes rounds that is already useful information we can use to predict his actions, which is our general goal. Remember to pretend to be drunk enough to excuse behaving inappropriately. Things we want to know include, first finding out what level of stakes he considers big stakes without either winning or losing too much, and trying to study his play habits. Our second goal is to find out if he merely cheats his own throws or other players' throws as well. Our third goal is to figure out as much as we can about when this happens and what sort of changes get made. Fourth, we want to know how it works and what his limits are.
No. 661811 ID: ab7529

>bartender stormy
Hmm. I'm guessing the gang has rules of conduct for this establishment, you're wearing their colors, and you're breaking them. (They don't allow whores here, and you're being pretty forward).

Well, that, or he's just annoyed you're macking on the cheater they all love to hate.

>could be telling the truth about luck magic
>just take him, or try to reveal how he does it?
I don't think we should immediately take him at his word.

Spend a few hands (rounds? rolls? whatever the term) studying him. Playing to maintain position, not to win or clean him, yet. See firsthand what you think- if you can catch anything that might be a cheating scheme, or it truly is beyond your ken.

Based on the results of that, we shift gears into beating the pants off of him (bonus points if he actually bets his pants) or in trying to engineer a scenario explicitly to expose said cheating.
No. 661830 ID: 99cfa8

> beating the pants off him, literally

YES. Make strip dice happen.
... after a few feeler hands, of course.
No. 661874 ID: 5a02f7
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Do you think he’s an Essence-user and just not aware of his abilities?

I don’t know how other Exalted get it, but my Exaltation came complete with a mouthy instruction manual – I kid, don’t take too much offense. It is possible that he simply is a god-, ghost-, or demon-blooded. Their charms would likely be much more natural to the wielder than the powers of the Exalted, I suppose. When I spend too much energy, I can feel it begin to overflow – that’s what the anima is. Those whose gifts come with blood don’t usually have that problem, as far as I know.


We began to play. I kept up the act throughout, continuing to pester him about his “divine heritage.” His story became more elaborate as he continued, making it obvious for the lie that it was. Once or twice I caught him in a contradiction, but I kept my comments to myself, instead staring at him raptly and nodding when appropriate. He was a great storyteller, even to ears as jaded as mine. I found myself more than once waiting for his next word before I realized it was my turn to roll – that behavior, at least, I didn’t have to fake.

Not to say I completely neglected my studies. It was obvious at the start that he was a skilled player, perhaps even more so than I; I did not have to purposefully lower my skill much in order to project the level of threat I wished to portray. The trick was losing enough to keep his interest but winning enough so that I didn’t lose all my money right away.

After a few dozen hands, patterns began to emerge.

He would pause in his story and begin to focus when the stakes got high – usually only on pots of fifty dinars or more. I left him to his concentration, taking the time to study him, myself. The lines in his face would deepen further, and his thick brows would drop down; he was more handsome when he wasn’t trying to smile, honestly. If there was any use of essence or sleight of hand, I couldn’t detect it.

We cycled through several groups of players, none staying too long once the trends became evident. They varied in skill from novice to expert, but their throws all seemed relative to their skill and whatever luck the gods saw fit to grant them.

It didn’t happen very often, but I began to take note – when the pot became really big, he would seem to win. I wouldn’t happen unless the total was over about one hundred dinars, but he always seemed to make out with the win. Sure, he lost a decent amount of the small hands, but the big ones always seemed to go to him. In all, I could see how this would be a big drain on the resources of the gang.

It was now past the hour of Resplendent Water, and the sun had slipped most of the way past the horizon. The interior of the room had cooled pleasantly. I chanced a glimpse at Feng and managed to catch his eye. The boy shrugged and shook his head – it seemed he hadn’t caught anything either.
No. 661882 ID: ab7529

If he only wins when the pot is past a certain size, you could make him look bad by gaming the pot, so every hand reaches that threshold. If it's an involuntary effect, it'll trigger every time. A man who wins every hand will be accused of cheating pretty damn quick, and they might even buy the alleged magic luck at that point.

Downside is we have to bleed money to do that, and probably can't afford to. Also, I'm not sure it meets our mission's standard of proof for finding his method, and it sure isn't taking his money. Plus, if it's not magic, or he can control it, he can simply back off.

The alternative is to start playing seriously. Start taking his money, if you can. That's one objective, and it's possible if you put him under pressure, the cheating he uses to tr and fight back will become evident to you.
No. 661888 ID: cf6c80

We don't know enough for me to recommend either continuing with the original plan or following the amended plan here. Please sort out what has been going on with more detail. How does he win those big rounds? Do his rolls get better, other people's rolls get worse, or both, or neither? Do other players' judgment calls get better or worse during the rounds with big stakes?
Hypotheses to check/test:
-He's a really skilled dynast exalt, maybe using tiny disturbances of the air to control everybody's throws.
-He's another charming supernatural blood doing something like what Sienna does to make other players perform more poorly when it counts.
-He's using supernatural boosts to skill to improve his throws, essentially making trick throws that don't look like it because he is too skilled for it to be obvious.
-There is another, supernatural presence that is adjusting throws to his benefit. (I could see an invisible demon doing this if he is a skilled sorcerer, for example.)

The original plan was to start teasing at around this point to see if we can disturb him when he is doing whatever it is that wins him rounds. We've seen the machine working without grit in the gears, it could teach us more and test how much whatever effect is under his control by distracting him.
These alternative plans of either making sure that every round triggers his cheating or just trying to out-compete his cheating with our own cheating seem risky and premature I think. We should keep them in reserve, but we shouldn't really go ahead with any final plan yet because you haven't told us exactly *how* he is winning the rounds during which he is cheating yet. Tell us how was he winning: Was it better personal rolls, other players rolling poorer, other players making poorer decisions, some combination, or something else?
No. 661899 ID: ab7529

I suppose that depends on how much time and funds we have remaining in the evening.

The other problem I see is if we let this go on too long, eventually he's going to get bored or satisfied, and want to leave with his winnings. (And/or the pretty little red-shouldered thing who's been flirting with him).

We have deadlines, and I'm unsure how close we're getting to them.

If we have margin for it, testing for specific cheating methods as you outlined seems reasonable.
No. 661923 ID: cf6c80

A lot of what I described as specific possibilities should be things we can already eliminate by having watched the previous games, so let's have Edge tell us about that. You are right that we don't want to lose more money, so that's why it's time for phase two, attempting to win semi-conventionally. This is where we start trying to win by messing him up with distracting teasing while he's 'concentrating.' In order to do that we must consistently raise the stakes to the level at which he cheats, which was the whole of one of those two outlined plans. Hopefully at this point we will either start winning, or catch him cheating while he's too distracted to pull it off with the same skill because he's distracted.
What we do from there depends on whether we manage to win or catch him cheating through distracting him while playing: If we catch him cheating that may suggest a particular plan to exploit that. If we can't catch him cheating but distracting him works to slow down his winning streak then we go for broke and combine the teasing with our own cheating. If we can't catch him cheating and distracting him doesn't work that's when we continue with the 'make everyone agree he's cheating' plan and make his wins pile up suspiciously.
The only danger with that plan I can see is that maybe he's already close to the level at which he wants to quit for the night. That would be a risk no matter which plan we choose at this point however, so I ignore it in favour of balancing against the risks of; 1) that someone else detects us cheating, and; 2) that our cheating doesn't work well enough to be worth the effort because he's a more capable cheater.
No. 661946 ID: 5a02f7
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Do you have enough money to play a large pot every time? Bulitar asked.

Not for very long, and that would likely drive others away quickly enough.


It seemed to only be his rolls that are affected; everyone else, including myself, did as well as could be expected. If there were minute manipulations of the air, they were too small for me to notice, although it did seem a little chilly in here – I hadn’t gotten used to how cold it gets at night after being so hot during the day.


Despite the chill, I loosened my capelet’s tie to reveal more of my shoulders. I changed my pose subtly to better accent my curves and reveal just a glimpse of my cleavage –


”You’re an awful bastard, Edge.”


With the trap baited, I took a long sip from my drink and continued to play.

Justice’s attention was certainly focused more on me, now. When he wasn’t rolling, his eyes were focused on some part of me or another, and only sometimes my face. I slowly pushed the pot’s value up, and another player left the table. It was just four of us, now.

Finally, the pot was at the point that I expected him to act. He rolled the dice, and… turned up three Shadows, ”Ach! Well, that’s the nature of luck, ain’t it?”

I won that pot, replenishing my purse considerably, though not as much as I would have liked. Another player rose from the table, and both my purses were lighter than they had been when I had entered; if I was going to act, I needed to do so soon.
No. 661951 ID: 99cfa8

> pot is right where you expect him to win
> he gets a terrible roll
He's on to you...

I wonder if we could bleed him out by keeping the pot under his instant win value? That might be a bad idea if he really is on to you, though, and not just taking a loss on general principle. (And he probably is, considering the gang affiliation flags we're waving about.)

Hnnngh. The problem here is this guy is a smart cheater. He knows when to take a loss to make his cheating less obvious to the layman's eye. I dunno what to do about him.
No. 661952 ID: cf6c80

Okay, so if it's strictly his throws that he's been affecting--and not anybody's mind or other throws--that suggests that we could win this unless he's got reserve powers or backup.
I can't tell if he's baiting us using a deliberately poor trick throw, you have to judge that. This comes down to your ability to read him and guess how much better he can do than this. We're as prepared as we're gonna get, you decide if you want to play it conservative and make him win versus trying to psych him out and out-cheat him. Do you think you can beat him? All else being equal, I say go for it.
No. 662116 ID: 5a02f7
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I worried for a moment that he had caught on to my scheming…


… but no matter how charming he was, I had more confidence in my skills than I did his.

It was time to stop playing around.

I nudged the pot upward again, playing conservatively to get it within the value that I would expect him to go for it. On the final throw, I let a trickle of essence flow from me into my hand, nudging the dice as I wanted them – a ten, a near-perfect hand.

He scored a twelve.

What power could best the Ebon Dragon’s cunning? For a moment, the smile fell from my face as I pondered the baffling idea. Only if there were a more specialized power being used or a similar trick of stronger essence should I have lost.

I played more aggressively, promptly betting a large sum of money. The last of the players dropped out, leaving only Justice and myself at the table. My gaze bored into his, daring him to take the bait I had placed before him.

He matched my bet.

This time, I let thrice the amount of Essence I had used before power my charm. I felt my anima on the verge of revealing itself, but I had to know.

Both of our rolls totaled to twelve.

”By the spirits,” the dealer breathed out, ”That’s… that’s a tie; the pot is split.”

Justice’s gaze fixed on me, and I caught the briefest glimpse of realization in his eyes before it was gone with a smile. He stuck out a hand to me, ”You play impeccably, Miss Mirth. It was a pleasure tossing the bones with you; maybe we’ll meet here again?”

I reached for his hand, almost flinching as I touched his skin – it was bitterly cold, ”Indeed.”

I glanced over his shoulder at Feng – he instantly gauged my mood and nodded; whatever I was about to do, he would follow my lead.
No. 662157 ID: ab7529

He beat or matched us when we burned essence to win- that leaves no other conclusion than that he was spending essence.

(That probably means he's exalted? I'm not sure what else would draw even a low-level exalt who was trying, and had charms specialized for that thing. If he is an exalt- does the cold hands mean he's a death hero too? Unless that could hint at something else?)

>the briefest glimpse of realization in his eyes
And of course you both know what the other is capable of, and you both know the other knows.

Obvious risks: the gang is a threat if we disappoint Able enough (although this can be mitigated by abandoning the Mirth identity). Justice could be a direct threat, and ditching identities might not lose him. Justice is also a more indirect threat in that he could attack us by trying to expose us, and he compromises this identity as long as he's in play.

Alright: options.

We could bug out, and not pursue Justice, either on the grounds that this is less of an unfair contest than you were prepared for, or because we think he might be more useful in and of himself than our current in with the red gang and Sienna. Obvious risk is this means Abel will be less than pleased (might have to abandon the Mirth Identity), and that leaves Justice in play and aware of us.

We could try and expose him. If he is exalted, he spent essence a lot more frequently than you did there. If we can force him to spend essence and his anima to flare up. His status as a cheating magic thing will be revealed, the enforcers here will fall on him. Problem is then he has no incentive not to try and out us, and it puts us at ground zero of a fight the gang members in this building may not be prepared to finish.

We could try and follow him and confront him elsewhere (or try and arrange we leave with him- frame it so he can't refuse with this audience). Less problems of a confrontation with the gang, but we're in a direct confrontation ourself. Not our strong suit.
No. 662183 ID: cf6c80

Guessing based on the chill touch, he's either an abyssal exalt or a water aspect dynast. The dynast possibility is much more likely. Either way, that's scary because he's apparently been either making substantial use of persistent effects or spending a lot of essence on winning, and he hasn't aura flared yet. That means that he's likely a powerful essence user and may be able to kill everyone in this bar with aplomb if he's willing to flare up.
What did his touch do to us? Odds are that he either gave us a freezing touch as a warning threat, or that it was both that and an impairment effect delivered by touch. Either way, it looks like he anticipates some sort of fight or confrontation here, and has prepared using means we are unfamiliar with. That sucks, I can't plan against that or give a detailed estimate of what he can do.
The odds of scoring twelve on two successive rounds is absurdly low, so we could theoretically accuse him of cheating. That sucks because if we accuse him of cheating he can counter-accuse us of cheating. Tactically I don't like this, going up against an unknown opponent with poor and uncertain preparation and unknown allies. What I'd ideally like to do is go tell Abel Akhar that his cheater gave us an icy handshake, probably making him a rogue water dynast. He really requires an organized attack or some other significant effort to be rid of. It's a shame we don't know how competent Feng is, if he were at least a heroic soul with skill at arms that might improve the odds in a fight a bit but... it's all so risky and we are not a potent combatant with our preferred weapon handy operating under our preferred conditions of range and visibility.
Your move Mirth, do you feel confident in your ability to get this water dynast to aura flare without us doing so? If you manage that do you think we can survive that? Are you willing to deal with the possibility this asshole will pursue us as a vendetta if we do? I doubt Abel would like it if we struck first without warning, so I don't see any *good* plan for what to do here besides chalking up a stalemate and hoping this convinces him to go gamble somewhere else. We have acquired a significant antagonist now.
No. 662203 ID: 5a02f7
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Discretion was always the smarter part of valor, and I had too much to lose without much to gain. I didn’t think he did anything to me by his touch, just that his skin was unexpectedly cold – likely the sign that he was a Deathknight or a Water-aspected Dragon-blooded. Either was far too risky to confront in a crowded bar.

Justice continued in a low voice, ”Actually, I think you might have convinced me to tell you my secret – well, more detail about it,” he leaned in closer, offering his hand again, ”How about we step outside and talk a bit, hmm – secrets of the trade and all that?”

I was inclined to follow him, if only to clear up what could potentially be a troublesome misunderstanding, but what would my story be? How much of the truth could I chance?
No. 662249 ID: 99cfa8

IT'S A TRAP! Obviously. Question is, are you confident enough to spring it?
No. 662268 ID: b20016

Sounds highly dangerous, if there's a chance he can detect use of essence.
No. 662319 ID: 88960e

Following this lead is a risk, but so is staying in the dark about this guy. Trying to follow the lead also looks better to the gang than giving up (unless they decide you're colluding).

Immediate problem is Feng will try and follow. You can't discuss being magic superhuman monsters with an audience. And ditching your tail makes you look guilty. Unless we can signal to him to stay back, and that you're trying something? Really, he just needs to be out of earshot. If he still has eyes on us, we might still get paid if Justice does anything overtly magical in our presence. (There you go. You saw how he was cheating).

Second problem. What's our context for a story? It's one thing if he made us as an essence user. But say, should we even expect Justice to know deathlords exist? (It's not common knowledge, but would might as an exalt, or one himself). Lot of fiddly in universe details as to what would make a believable background.

We admitted to using a false name before, and we teased he might get another. We can be honest about our current task, at least that's obvious.

Probably want to maneuver as much as possible to get him to talk first- he *did* invite us to hear his secret, didn't he. Reevaluate after that?
No. 662334 ID: cf6c80

You know, this looks like pretty much a textbook-perfect plan for a dynast hunting for anathema to go find one and isolate it. We need backup if we are to even consider accepting this invitation.
No. 662363 ID: 5a02f7
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My instincts screamed caution. My eyes flicked back to Feng, who was half-off of his seat, prepared to rush in should things turn out poorly – but I had no way of knowing exactly what it was he was capable of. I cursed myself for not asking earlier.

”Don’t worry,” Justice said, seeing my reluctance, ”We’re just going outside. Your friend can keep an eye on us.”

For some reason, his words calmed me. I wanted to believe him.


”Fine,” I took Justice’s hand and rose with him. Feng stared at me in askance, and I made clear signals to him – “stay,” “watch me.” He looked unhappy but nodded.

We stepped out into the night. The air wasn’t as brisk now that it wasn’t confined to a small building, but it was still enough for me to cross my arms under my capelet – not for the first time, I was thankful for having it. We stepped across the path, still in clear sight of the doorway. I could see Feng hovering discontentedly at the door, but the roar from the room behind him would likely make it impossible for him to hear our words.

Justice crossed his arms for an entirely different reason, ”Sorry for the chill – I would offer to warm you up, but I can’t right now, even if you’d accept.”

“I’m fine,”
I said, perhaps a bit more testily than I meant.

”Well, I think it’s probably pretty obvious by now what I’m doing, and what it is you’re doing, if all that red and your friend isn’t just for show,” he smiled, ”Guess I got a little too much attention from the wrong sort of people, hm? I should’ve known better than to stay in one place for too long, but the getting was good here; I got too greedy,” he sighed, ”But you’ve got me intrigued – I haven’t met many who can match me when I’m really trying to win.”

“You told me you were going to tell your secret,”
I said sternly, rubbing my arms for warmth.

Justice laughed, ”True, true. Well, it’s just what it looks like – a little bit of magic to push the odds in my favor, or to take it all when I really try,” he shrugged, ”I imagine it’s not too different from what it is that you do, really. But, still, I’m a little curious about the exact nature of your trick, if you wouldn’t mind telling me. I’d be happy to share more details in return.”
No. 662366 ID: fbc59e

exact nature?
This to me sounds waaaay to much like he's meaning to ask what essence type we have...Which...Infernal is the LAST answer we wanna give if he's one of the other groups, if I know my lore properly.
Soo...I'm thinking if we wanna be safe, we just say no to trading info and walk away.
Problem is...High chance he's not gonna let it go, and possibly he'll have the advantage in a fight, or even in just causing enough of a ruckus that the authorities get curious about us.
I think the good move here might be to lie about our type. I'd say we lie and say Sidereal but...Dunno if we even KNOW about those Sidereals.
No. 662382 ID: cf6c80

The safe answer to give is a bullshit answer: Pretend to be one of Luna's Exalted. We're far enough from The Blessed Isle that those wandering around are something an experienced Dynast would expect and know not to mess with unnecessarily. However, I am uncertain of our ability to be convincing were we to try to deliver that line.
No. 662405 ID: ab7529

>Well, I think it’s probably pretty obvious by now what I’m doing, and what it is you’re doing, if all that red and your friend isn’t just for show,” he smiled, ”Guess I got a little too much attention from the wrong sort of people, hm? I should’ve known better than to stay in one place for too long, but the getting was good here; I got too greedy
We can cop to that. We took a job to catch a certain problematic cheater. You're not going to get credit for cleaning out his winnings, but maybe you'll still be able to swing scaring him off into getting paid.

(Whether or not we get paid for discovering his method depends on what Feng witnesses, what Justice tells us, and if we think the money is worth exposing essence stuff).

>what tell him

>Infernal is the LAST answer we wanna give
Ayup. Short of making up a lie that's somehow worse. I'm a nascent titan!

Pretending to be a different kind of exalt is an option, so long as presenting as an exalt at all is something we're comfortable risking. (And so long as we're not called on to prove it by doing what we can't).

Although if he is exalted, and we matched him at an essence battle, he already knows.

The two obvious problems with a lunar guise in particular is we don't have an animal form (we're busted as soon as the situation would expect us to use one), and he'll then expect we can shapeshift. This means he'll be much more likely to make or connect other identities to us, since the thought will have occurred to him. The first we can work around, but the second is very unfortunate.

I guess that's the default choice though? We can't pass as solar, our powers aren't obviously elemental enough to be a dragon blooded, Siderals don't exist... I guess we could pass as abyssal? Advantage is there's less gotya problems than a lunar, but abyssals aren't exactly well liked. (Still better than being infernal, right?). Depends on how many rogues there have been, and how they're perceived, I guess.

(Honestly, I feel out of my depth, here. Coming up with a good lie seems like it would require knowing the lore better than I do).
No. 662487 ID: cf6c80

Here's a stupid question, would it be a worse idea to pretend to be an exalt of some lesser god, or to just be a god-blood maybe?
Here's another dubious idea. We could try to talk this guy into paying back the Akhar family and apologizing:
"Indeed, the Akhar family wants their money back, and they hired a little god-blood like me to contest an essence user cheating their establishment on their own terms. But you're either an abyssal or a skilled water element dynast, aren't you? As much for the sake of their employees who would be hurt--and the innocent bystanders--as for you I'll give you this warning: Now that I've failed they'll be sending assassins if you don't apologize directly and make a satisfactory repayment. Time to hop a ship out of town quickly if you don't have enough of your winnings left for that."
What do you think Mirth, could you sell that threat?
No. 662621 ID: 5a02f7
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Several different possibilities raced through my mind, and I studied Justice for a long moment before answering, ”I’m a Chosen of the Moon; my abilities call upon Luna’s luck as my own.”

His brows shot up at that, ”One of the Moon – well, I’m lucky indeed to have met such an elusive creature,” he bowed again, ”As you’ve surely guessed, I have the Blood of Danaa’d within my veins, from Lookshy, originally. I call no Gens my own anymore, however.”

A Water Aspect, then. That made sense – I had heard those of Danaa’d were particularly slippery, ”So, what has a former noble of Lookshy tricking locals for spending money in a gambling den?”

He shrugged, ”The same reason I suspect you’ve aligned yourself with the folks in red – it’s not easy for people like us to make it alone. We need friends, or money, or enough power to keep away those that would rather see us dead. It’s a bit easier for an outcaste like me, but not by much.”

”Well, as you’ve guessed, you’ve worn out your welcome here. If they sent me to deal with you, there’ll be less friendly ones coming soon after. You should get out while you still can.”

Justice sighed, ”Yeah, I had a feeling that was the case,” he smiled, ”There’s another place I frequent, the Laughing Mare, that I haven’t spotted any people wearing conspicuous red in. I think I’ll play there and lay low for a while until the heat dies down – you won’t see me around here anymore. But if you’d like to try your skill against me again, we can have a real contest next time,” he winked, ”Maybe I’ll even earn hearing one of those other names you have.”

I chuckled, smirking, ”Maybe. I’ll see if I can’t stop by sometime.”

Justice nodded, ”Anything else I can do to make things a little easier for our friends, so they’ll know I’m honest, now?”

“Paying the gang back some of your winnings would be a good way to show you’re earnest,”
I said.

He nodded again, ”I figured that’d be it,” he took out his heavy purse and counted out three hundred dinars, which he handed to me, ”There. That’s most of my winnings for tonight. Make sure it gets to the right people, okay?” his eyes held mine for a beat before they softened into a smile, ”It was a pleasure playing with you, Miss Mirth. I look forward to doing so again,” he bowed, taking my hand and placing a light kiss on my knuckle.

”You as well, Embattled Justice. I’m sure we’ll see each other again soon.”

With another rakish grin, Justice left.

I deposited the dinars in the more secure of my purses and turned back to the bar. Feng stood at the doorway, his eyes wide as he watched me approach – what was I going to tell him?
No. 662638 ID: ab7529

Not-Lunar quest is a go.

A lonely exalt in search of companionship / friendship / someone who can match him in a game in a potentially interesting angle to work.

The risks are I'm pretty sure he's stronger than you (the hands he won suggests he spent more essence without a flare-up), and that the more time we spend with him, the greater the risk we get caught in the lunar-lie.

>Feng stood at the doorway, his eyes wide as he watched me approach – what was I going to tell him?
Dump bag of winnings on him to keep him off guard.

Our friend had the sense to recognize what kind of game was being played tonight. You've got his winnings back. Not as satisfying as taking all of them, or exposing his cheating mid-game, but I very much doubt he'll be back. The ledgers here stop reporting losses, tonight.

I don't think it's worth outing him as dragon blooded. Justice is potentially more useful with his identity intact than the added bonus money we might get revealing the specific cheating method. Especially as we don't have hard proof, and revealing him comes too close to revealing us.
No. 662708 ID: cf6c80

I think that chill effect is his anima flare if he's truly what he says he is: Maybe he's not so powerful, and soon would be a good time to attack him if Abel Akhar wants to take this further.
As far as talking to Feng, explain that was a dangerous bluff and you're glad he didn't call it. Ask what comes next, now that the job seems to be done. Ask him if the boss will want to organize an attack or if that's probably not worth the effort.
No. 662783 ID: 5a02f7
File 143968924245.png - (72.29KB , 750x750 , 143.png )


I tossed the bag Justice had given me at Feng and spoke promptly, “Our friend had the sense to recognize what kind of game was being played tonight. You've got his winnings back; not as satisfying as taking all of them, or exposing his cheating mid-game, but I very much doubt he'll be back. The ledgers here stop reporting losses, tonight.”

Feng just barely caught the bag but quickly pocketed it, ”O-oh, that’s good. Um, here’s the dinars you gave me,” he passed my bag back.


I took it, tying it once more to my belt, ”That was a dangerous bluff; I’m glad he didn’t call it.”

“S-so you aren’t a – n-nevermind.”

I eyed Feng, ”So you overheard that, did you?”

He ducked down sheepishly, ”J-just a little bit. Sorry, my ears are just really good.”

… Suspicious.

”So, what now?”

“W-well, that’s up to the boss. He said if you finished up, you could meet with him again tonight or during the heat of the day tomorrow, if you’d rather then.”

With how late it was, I suspected I only had time for one more thing before I needed to head back to the inn. I could either check in with Abel and get my money, or pursue any of the other leads I had as Edge.
No. 662787 ID: ab7529

>So you overheard that, did you?
Well, that takes the decision of exposing Justice out of our hands. On the plus side, that means we get paid for figuring out how he did it (probably).

>Sorry, my ears are just really good.
Through a noisy crowd, and far enough away that the practiced sneak and liar, and the older more experienced dude believed it was safe to talk openly?

Hmm. That is suspicious. Especially with his ears are covered. Could it be he's a lunar himself? If his ears are his tell, that would explain the hearing, why he keeps them covered, and his interest all in one go.

>what do
I don't think we're in a rush to meet up with Abel (or explain exactly how we did that). Picking up our money later gives us an excuse to get another job, too.

Hmm. Not sure what other Mirth-leads to follow up on, though. A Justice follow-up can't happen immediately. Sienna isn't around. That really only leaves Feng, if you want to hang out, or follow up on suspicions.

As for Edge-leads? Hmm. Probably too late to see Graceful Blossom. Myria's probably open, if we wanted to investigate her further, but we don't have a pretext for needing her services. Amaranth would probably be happy to see us, but we don't have a reason. Hmm. That leaves returning to our original plan- seeking out employment. Even if we've got a line as Mirth, we should still have a front-job for Edge to survive off too, right? Or a real one, if we can play multiple angles at a time.
No. 662802 ID: cf6c80

"No hon, I'm not a Lunar. I'll have to ask you to trust me on that because I can't imagine your boss offering me enough to consider being his courtesan. Speaking of your boss though, whether I visit him now or tomorrow depends on whether you think he wants to follow up and chase that water exalt, and if he wants my help for that. I'd insist on being better armed for that than just throwing knives though.
"Also, it's interesting that you've been wearing a hat with earflaps in a town where it gets very hot. I won't ask, but I will say that if you're doing that to hide a tell it's a little conspicuous."

We have just spent time dealing with the criminal element AND a terrestrial exalt with unknown acquaintances: I think we should spend some quality time getting lost and changing appearances until there's no way someone could follow us home. I'm also curious if we made enough of an impression on Graceful Blossom that she's called on us or left a message when we were out. If worst comes to worst, we have bored auntie/uncle Amaranth to entertain with stories of our blundering incompetence: He/she did promise us help in exchange for entertaining stories.
No. 662999 ID: 5a02f7
File 143975216444.png - (79.73KB , 750x750 , 144.png )


"No, hon, I'm not a Lunar. I'll have to ask you to trust me on that because I can't imagine your boss offering me enough to consider being his courtesan. Speaking of your boss though, whether I visit him now or tomorrow depends on whether you think he wants to follow up and chase that Water Exalt, and if he wants my help for that. I'd insist on being better armed for that than just throwing knives, though.”

Feng looked surprised at “courtesan,” but he recovered enough to answer, ”I don’t know what the boss wants to do, but I don’t think he’ll want to chase after that guy. I-I mean, he said he’s not gonna come back, so it should be fine, r-right?”


I nodded; that made sense, from what I had read of Abel. A lot of the Mirth leads were dead for the moment, unless I wanted to hang around Feng. It would probably be wise to use some time to cycle through some faces to make sure I wasn’t followed back to my inn. But first…

"Also, it's interesting that you've been wearing a hat with earflaps in a town where it gets very hot. I won't ask, but I will say that if you're doing that to hide animal ears, it's a little conspicuous."

Feng freezes.

By the Yozis, I didn’t actually think I was going to be right.

”I-it’s not animal ears! I’m n-not a Moon Beast!”

“Feng, never play cards – you’re an awful liar.”

He worried at his hands, looking unhappy. It was a long moment before he reached up and removed his bandana.
No. 663000 ID: 5a02f7
File 143975219734.png - (118.20KB , 750x750 , 145.png )

What was revealed wasn’t a tell, but instead a growth of brilliant amethyst sprouting from the tips of Feng’s ears.

”I – when I was really young, my da and me lived near a place where the Dragon Lines crossed and the energy of Pasiap was really strong. He says that’s probably why I ended up being a Dragon-blooded. B-but before I Exalted, all the energies changed my ears to be like this – they aren’t Aspect Marking, I swear! I’d have to be, well, way too strong or old or something to have something like that. I-it’s just a Wyld mutation, but if Dynasts or Legionnaires saw it and found out I was a Dragon-blooded, they’d definitely snatch me up. I… I don’t want to be a soldier. I like living here in Chiaroscuro with the boss and everyone. So that’s why I hid them. S-sorry I didn’t tell you earlier – the boss said I should keep it a secret from everyone…”

… The Maidens must be laughing.
No. 663008 ID: fbc59e

Ladies and gentlemen, I propose we hold on to this tip...Almost might be worth trying to make him our bride and spiriting him away, and Definitely our-back up if something goes wrong with Graceful Blossom...
No. 663017 ID: ab7529

>I don’t think he’ll want to chase after that guy. I-I mean, he said he’s not gonna come back, so it should be fine, r-right?
Probably not. Abel struck me as more practical than vindictive, but I've only met the man once.

Man, this town is just lousy with the exalted, isn't it? I we're going to need to significantly adjust upwards our expectations and estimates of the capabilities of those around us. I'm putting much better odds on Graceful Blossom, Myria, and Sienna being exalts that previously. Heck, Crimson too.

>S-sorry I didn’t tell you earlier – the boss said I should keep it a secret from everyone
There's no need to apologize. Your boss was completely right- that is something you should keep to yourself, and not immediately share with a stranger you were set to watch.

Being more than you appear can be useful, Feng. The trick is to not let on, or bring up something you have to cover for. The easiest lie is one you never have to speak. Try not to tell people when you overhear things you're not supposed to.

Don't worry about your secret spreading. I've no wish to see the ranks of Dynasts or Legionaries swell.

...you know, the ears are kind of cute. (Yes, we scared him, now fluster him).

Yes, I think we have another possible angle to play. Though I'd feel guilty dragging him into a mess when all he wants is to stay in the life he's protecting now.
No. 663033 ID: a107fd

Blackmailing someone into marrying you so they can avoid military service seems very much like the Ebon Dragon's thing. Also, this gang defines itself as a family, and what better way to join the family than a wedding?

Crack a smile and giggle something about "what a coincidence that all three of us in this little alley were exalted by the favor of one dragon or another, and for one reason or another concealed our gifts, it must be fate that we met thus" and then pop the question.
No. 663038 ID: ab7529

Inxay on the eingbay exaltedyay.

>then pop the question.
Way, way too soon. We'd have to work him over for longer than this.

Plus, if Abel is at all protective of his people (or at least a potentially valuable dragon blooded working for him) he'll probably react badly to what looks like us Feng doing something stupid or our stealing / exploiting Feng (and/or abusing Abel's generosity). I don't think we're in a position where we want to anger or offend Abel if we want to keep using this identity.
No. 663043 ID: cf6c80

The maidens are laughing at you looking for a bride and tripping over a boy who would probably be an easy lay now that you know about his ears? They are worth considering, how much do they know about what you are and what you do?
Yeah, he should cover those ears back up in public. Unless you want to either meet with Abel now or tease Feng more it's time to leave though: We haven't given enough thought to what kind of story we'd tell Feng about who and what Mirth is yet. Here's a suggestion for a new secondary objective: Have Feng wrapped around Mirth's little finger, doing your bidding. If you like this objective, I suggest you blow him a kiss and wiggle your ass when you walk away so that he's staring with lust at your backside.
No. 663420 ID: 5a02f7
File 143984504121.png - (88.39KB , 750x750 , 146.png )

”Laughing Maidens? I haven’t heard that expression.”

Kamai answered for me, ”It’s when fate does a funny thing that’s too coincidental to be happenstance. Since the Maidens draw everyone’s fate in the stars, they must be giggling when they put that in.”

Lintha frowned, ”That’s dumb – none of us have got fate in the stars of Creation any more.”

”It’s an expression,” I said, sighing, ”Don’t dwell on it.”



This was useful information, and definitely something I could use to my advantage. I would have to keep it in mind, regardless of what my plans ultimately ended up being. While I thought of what to say in response, Feng passed me back the bag with my other clothing. I reached inside and wrapped my scarf around my neck again, feeling more secure with it close by.


”What’s the deal with that ratty old thing, anyway? I never see ya without it.”

“That’s another story – let me finish this one first.”



”There’s no need to apologize. Your boss was completely right – that is something you should keep to yourself and not immediately share with a stranger you were set to watch,” I smiled, ”Being more than you appear can be useful, Feng. The trick is to not let on, or bring up something you have to cover for; the easiest lie is one you never have to speak. Try not to tell people when you overhear things you’re not supposed to,” I put out my hand, ”Don’t worry about your secret spreading. I’ve no wish to see the ranks of Dynasts or Legionnaires swell.”

Feng’s eyes filled with something like admiration, and he nodded enthusiastically as he retied his bandana, ”You’re really good at this, Lady Mirth. Almost like – n-nevermind.”

I let it slide with enigmatic smile; let him think whatever he wanted to think, “… You know, the ears are kind of cute.”

That got him blushing. He stammered out some nonsense before finally deciding on a quiet, ”Thank you…”

”Let Mister Akhar know I’ll be by tomorrow at midday. I’ll see you again, then,” I winked and blew him a kiss, adding an extra sway to my hips as I turned away.

> Intimacy gained towards Feng


Taking the time to switch through a few faces and backroads took more time and essence than I would have liked to spend, but the surety with which I walked back towards the inn made it worth it. I was wearing my other face again, like a favorite garment returned to after a long time away.

This late, the only person still up would be Amaranth, or I could just go back to the inn and get an extra hour of sleep.
No. 663434 ID: a107fd

>Lintha frowned, ”That’s dumb – none of us have got fate in the stars of Creation any more.”

Speak f'y'rself! Loom-Snarling Deception weaves a false-but-functional thread into Fate as an intrinsic part of the disguise.
No. 663435 ID: ab7529

>That’s dumb – none of us have got fate in the stars of Creation any more.
Well, unless the maidens planned ahead for the bits they wouldn't get to oversee directly.

>What’s the deal with that ratty old thing, anyway? I never see ya without it.
I guess we're getting the scarf though this mission unless we want to cause a time paradox.

Back to Mirth pretty quickly. Although I guess we still have the morning to do Edge-stuff.

>another intimacy
Welp, we've officially got multiple irons in the fire.

>This late, the only person still up would be Amaranth, or I could just go back to the inn and get an extra hour of sleep.
Hmm. Well, I certainly don't see anything to be gained by verbally sparing with her, it would mostly be for our own amusement at this point. The only currency we have to trade she might be interested in is the personal secrets of the two dragon blooded we discovered, and I'm not so sure I want to do that right now. I'd rather find uses for them in our plans than let them become tools in hers.
No. 663457 ID: 7a6915

I have to agree there's no point in just *giving* Amaranth information about two terrestrial exalts without getting something comparably useful and valuable in exchange: We can only guess how she would make use of that information in ways that would come back to haunt us or use up our opportunities. Unless you can think of something you want from him in exchange for that information I'm more interested in the chance Graceful Blossom at least left a note for us.
No. 663472 ID: 5a02f7
File 143985901060.png - (1.41MB , 750x1010 , 147.png )


Knowing about a pair of Terrestrial Exalted was valuable information, something that I shouldn’t just pass on to Amaranth without a good idea of what I wanted in return. Since nothing came immediately to mind, I continued on my way.

Before I retired, I checked in with the innkeep, but no messages had been left for me. Pity.

Once in my room, an intense weariness overtook me. I got as far as stripping off my outer layers before the motivation left me, and I collapsed on my mattress. It was not long before sleep claimed me.


He wasn’t like the others; he might have been young, but his eyes were ancient. He remembered all of it, every blow exchanged until the last one fell who he used to be. It was too heavy a burden for such a young man. I reached out to him to welcome him as our companion, but he always stood distant. After everything ended up how it did, I wondered – did he perhaps have an inkling of what was to come?

No, certainly not. None of us thought that they would betray us.

It was nothing but blood and screaming, interspersed with bright flashes of sorcery. I saw too many familiar faces on the opposite side. Perhaps it was pity that was what truly brought us down. They thought we were monsters, but we weren’t monstrous enough to kill them all.


Something pulled me from my dark dreams. Before stood a Delzahn woman, beautiful and nude. I recognized her by her deer feet and sunk into a bow. Some small part worried that this is how it ends for me, if the rumors were true of what she does to men.

”I heard the most curious thing,” said Mara, as nonchalantly as one would discuss the weather, ”I was speaking with Fortune’s Fool, for whatever reason I decided to tolerate her presence. Gumela came, and they started talking about stars of all things – stars! We are limitless beings with infinite time, and they discuss astrology.

“Janequin had saw an interesting constellation the last time she was summoned to Creation, and Gumela quickly plotted it against the Malfean sky. He was delighted to find a wonderful snarl in the Loom where it had been. The two of them went on for some time about its particular qualities and exact degrees of tangledness. I looked up to see what all the fuss was about, and, sure enough, there was a knot. But I recognized those stars as those that belonged to my Master.

“Those stars were yours.”

No. 663474 ID: 5a02f7
File 143985904915.png - (51.79KB , 750x750 , 148.png )

“I thought it would be prudent to inform you, so that you might be ready for whatever it is this forebodes. I look forward to the result of your mission – no matter how it ends, it’s sure to be interesting.”
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