I figured but it doesn't hurt to chime in!
I hope Derek's not without a computer for too long.
I've been around. I just didn't have anything to add.
Xerath seems disinterested in the man's story. He seems anxious to meet/slay the Lord of Shadows.
Yahirma fishes around for a spare set of clothing — as much for her own peace of mind as Oberigo's sense of decency. She produces a set of hot weather clothing complete with a keffiyeh from her passage through Thuvia. As she hands it to him and turns slightly to offer him token privacy, she asks, "You seem surprised that Chammady participated in the coup. If she is complicit or even helpful to the schism's cause, does that make her absolutely loyal? Do you feel that she is beyond reason or redemption?"
Eirtein gratefully accepts Yahirma's spare set of clothing, and quickly puts it on while answering her question. "Thank you. Chammady always came across as ambitious, but not reckless. I would have expected her to work subtly if she were to grasp power before her time, not with sudden violence. This coup must be her brother's brainchild, and she aids his cause because of her devotion to him. Perhaps her loyalty to him would end if that devotion is shattered."
"Creating a rift between brother and sister is no small task. We will do what we can to show Chammady the full extent of her brother's ambitions but if she stands in my way she will fall like the others."
Once the man is dressed, Maddok offers some parting words.
"The surface should be safe. All of the human guards are dead or have been captured."
After Eirtein has made his exit, Maddok leads the group through the southernmost set of double doors.
The archon has vanished, along with the aid spells.
The doors lead to a short hallway, quickly ending at another set of doors. Through the doors, a woman's voice is heard, sensually orating words all but Xerath recognize as coming from The Six Trials of Larazod. The voice seems to focus particularly on the passages involving Larazod and Ilsandra, speaking those lines with more passion than the rest.
"Face of hazy dream-like bliss, kiss like fire. I burn for you, princess. Cling to me, dig your talons into my chest and touch my heart with white-hot caress."
"I am yours for one thousand blissful years. Drink my sizzling blood from my wrist, or anywhere else you like - let us seal this sinful compact and consummate our love in the heat of battle."
Intelligence check to remember lines: 1d20 + 2 ⇒ (17) + 2 = 19
"You're next, Tybain. It's something about yelling at Dentris and calling him a dog but loyal nonetheless. Then I speak about, well classically Ilsandran lines."
As she tries to remember the others' lines to help them, she grants Appario a moment's guidance.
Guidance on Appario
The wonderful, the memorable, The Six Trials of Larazod. I believe we're in Act Six.
Maddok looks to Appario expectantly and opens the door.
"Now is not the time for reminiscing." Xerath mutters. "No one who loves theater could possibly be bad? Really?"
"But whoever she is, she is passionate in her lines."
The doors open to a rather surreal scene. An alluring, raven-haired beauty, clearly a vampire, sits casually on a sofa while reading from a large, leatherbound book. Four shadows appear to try as best they can (although that's not particularly well) to act out the parts from the play she's reading from, while four other shadows closer to the doors seem to function as an "audience" of sorts.
Behind the vampire's sofa, numerous wooden coffins are stacked next to and on top of eachother against the far wall.
The vampire breaks out in a smile when the doors open. "Come in! Do you know this play?"
Knowledge (religion): 1d20 + 10 ⇒ (7) + 10 = 17
Oooooh my...that's a vampire. Stage face?
Yahirma mirrors the vampires smile perfectly but for her gracile canines. "Not only do we know it, but we have starred in it," she responds excitedly. "Before you stand most of the notoriously talented troupe that starred in The Six Trials of Larazod, and if my ear for talent has not deceived me (and I pride myself in my judgment of theatrical talent), we have an extraordinarily talented woman who might fill the open role!" extols the female lead with twin-hued eyes.
Channel Robahl Nonon!
She sweeps an arm across the room in a dramatic gesture as she makes her way into the room, grandiosely proclaiming, "Imagine what we could turn this room into! Why, with the right decorations, acoustics, and cast, you could transcend this toying with shadow puppets and create a true masterpiece! Don't settle for rabble, my dear, when you have stars? Come, let us make history with histrionics, realize dreams with drama, and inspire ovations with oratory!" She strides about the room waving her wand in hand as though it were a field commander's riding crop during her speech before turning once more to the vampire. "Ah, but speak again those lines! The cacophonous garbage of Westcrown's streets has grated at my ears for too long, and with your voice wafts the first hints of melodiousness I have the fortune to hear in a week! Oh, to have you recite — no, recreate — the lines of Dentris (that is, unless you would prefer to be Haanderthan) alongside my companions and me...we would be humbled and awestruck by your charisma, talent, and most of all your obvious love for the text," she concludes with a stage bow and a flourish of her cloak.
I would not have thought that Semenya's departure would provide us so natural an opening for so random a performer!
Perform (oratory) to be bombastic and dramatic: 1d20 + 12 ⇒ (11) + 12 = 23
Diplomacy with Natural Divination to persuade her to play along: 1d20 + 25 ⇒ (17) + 25 = 42
Yahirma does her best to keep a nagging concern from spoiling her performance. Doesn't Act 6 end with a fight against... She furtively glances at the shadows. ...a legion of devils?
Appario smiles as he makes his entrance, playing off the cues left, and trying to remember his lines.
"Dentist, you old dog, cur curled by your master’s feet. I can’t call you friend, but a truer savant I’ve never known. Loyalty is the mark of greatness. Know that my sword is yours even as your spells bend to Larazot’s cause. We stand Azlant, and we always shall."
1d20 ⇒ 14 +4 Bluff, +9 Diplomacy, +3 Perform
Appario will say his lines as he moves to I45.
The beautiful vampire follows Yahirma's every move with blood-red eyes as the dramatic former actress sweeps across the room. She gracefully, although excitedly, gets to her feet, still holding the book open.
"Truly? You have starred in it? How exciting! I thought all those who attempted it sacrificed their lives for the cause of art! Oh, to have been present at such a performance.." Her eyes gleam with excitement, as well as desire to once be a part of something like it. She jumps at the chance of reciting the last two lines once more, doing so with perhaps even greater intensity than before now that she has an audience that might truly appreciate it.
Perform (oratory): 1d20 + 19 ⇒ (10) + 19 = 29
"These past two months have been so dull and boring!" She speaks the two words with fervor. "These creatures know nothing about art." A gesture indicates the shadows. "So frustrating.. And now you come, and you have been in this wonderful play, and you want to help me recreate it!" She fuzzes over an imagined crease on her dress, while quickly chastising and waving away the shadows from their beginning convergence upon the entering group. "No! You had your chance! The fight is later!"
The vampire returns her attention to Yahirma. "I will be Haanderthan - if Ilsandra and Larazod are already spoken for." Her minor disappointment at losing out on the two main roles is clearly overshadowed by the prospect of actually being a part of the play. "Should I start where I was? Or at the beginning of the act?"
Maddok eyes the shadows in concern but follows close to the others and simply nods at Yahirma's suggestion.
"Yes, in fact we were just discussing repeating our performance earlier today."
"A fine suggestion, oh songbird of the stage," Yahirma acknowledges. "Now to find a Dentris... Ah!" She spots Xerath (no doubt scowling at these bizarre proceedings) and beckons for him to join the entourage. "Yes, here we have a good Dentris. You know the play, yes? No? Well, perhaps our extraordinary protege would be so generous as to allow you to read from her copy of the text," she assures the arcanist. "It's a wonderful part that calls upon the actor to be a bit gruff and rough around the edges — the result of dealing with magic for so long, I suppose. I know it will be a bit difficult to handle, but I'm sure you'll find some way to step into character. Let me know if this will work for you."
Yahirma scans the room with a critical eye and begins ushering shadows into a crowd to act as an audience. "Come on, come on...make yourselves behave," she chides while taking care not to actually touch any of them. "Honestly, I'm impressed that you are able to deal with this rabble," she remarks to the vampire. Clapping her hands together, Yahirma shouts out, "Alright you inky snits, listen up! A fantastic show is about to be put on in part for your benefit, and you'd best pay attention. None of you will play speaking roles, and perhaps that's because I wouldn't trust you to cast a stage performance half as well as I'd imagine you might cast a shadow in broad daylight!" Anticipating a gasp from the vampire, she adds, "Just a figure of speech, ma'am. No need to worry. Sometimes these folks can be a bit dim, if you catch my drift. I find that sometimes you just need-" she states, simultaneously turning to the shadows and fake-lunges at them, "-to SHOUT, SHOUT, and SHOUT some more!"
"Right, get yourselves into audience formation," she directs. "A lucky few of you will be called upon to act as extras in the upcoming scenes I trust that by now you're familiar with how things go, yes?" Without waiting for a response, she turns away and addresses the true actors. "Great, how about we pick up from Act V? We don't have the right props for the Belly of the Beast just yet, so we can start from right after that."
"By the way," she adds almost as an afterthought. "By what name shall we list the actress playing Haanderthan?"
Xerath's scowling is interrupted by Yahirma's proactiveness. "I'm sure I can handle getting into character at least." He is weary about this bizarre situation. Though he is a little surprised by her attitude as she starts browbeating the shadows into submission.
The bard is back! all hail the bard!
"Nay!" A voice that had previously been strangely silent called out suddenly.
"For shame I say, for shame!" Derek declared as he moved forward, looking strangely old compared to his normal form.
[b]"Such usurpation cannot be I declare, to aspire to such hallowed titles, to reach for such lofty heights one must first walk amongst the plebeians, to tread the streets in sackcloth and ash."
Pausing dramatically, Derek continues in a voice soft and low, carrying all the better for not being raised.
"If we reach beyond our grasp we soon find our talents outdistance our ability or ambition.
We must all take stock of our souls lest we put them in mortal peril by trying to be gods when we are but men."
Smilingly slightly, Derek bows deeply
"Forgive me rather dramatic speech just then, it was a free rendition of King Ottkars speech before his queen in Beauty sits most closely."
"My point, that may have not been too clear is that we cannot in all good conscience steal the lead role from our new friend, we are but guests here, and as the one who previously played Larazod, I would not dream of doing so.
allow me please to play Haanderthan, it will do my thespian skils good to see the play from the other side as it were."
Would it be ok to stick in a question or two during the previous interrogation?
The vampire laughs at the prospective Dentris's scowling and weariness. "He's perfect! Look! He's already in character!" She beckons Xerath to come join her, while quickly turning pages to reach Act V. Once he comes forward, she points to the relevant bits of text. "See? Here you accept the devilish egg, and there you mock the paladin Tybain."
She defends herself to Yahirma as she speaks of the shadows. "They were all Ilnerik would let me have! He would be so cross with me if he came here and found all of you!" Her half-nervous, half-excited laugh is cut short as Yahirma mentions sunlight, but her gasp quickly turns to theatrics as she clasps a hand over her heart. "You mustn't scare me so!"
Her gaze turns skyward as she reminisces. "It's been so long since I last laid my eyes upon the sun.. It was a beautiful thing, yet now it brings terror to my heart." She casually conjures a translucent hand to hold the book open for Xerath as he learns his lines, then moves closer to Yahirma. "I'm Silana."
The shadows look rather bewildered by the whole thing as they drift into a half-circular audience-formation between the group and the doors.
Derek: Absolutely! Ask away :)
Silana smiles even wider than before as Derek strides forward, revealing her fangs in all their glory. "You would do that for me? Oh, this is a wonderful day! Yes! Yes, take my place as Haanderthan, and I will be Larazod to your Ilsandra!" She gazes passionately at Yahirma as she finishes the sentence.
"But wait! I don't know your names yet. Please, tell me what they are, so I can know who I have the pleasure, nay, exultance to share this moment with!"
Xerath calmly steps forward to read the script. "This is pure dribble. The things I have to do save my city. A group of monkeys could write better than this." "Mocking a paladin? I'm not sure I can do that convincingly."
Out of the corner of his eye, he watches the shadows trap the group in. "This Silana is going to play Yahirma's love interest? At the least, this should be entertaining. Like something written by a fanboy if this were some work of fiction."
"I am called Xerath in this play we call life. Or un-life in your case. How long has it been since you've seen the sun?"
Maddok nods at the dark-haired beauty, "I am Maddok Shiikirri-Quah. I will be playing your Drovalid. I apologize for our lack of... the proper costumes."
"So, how many of the old leadership that was destroyed can you identify for us, as they are dead you need not worry about betraying any confidence now.
Also, who was the treasurer?
Do you know anything about a man called Saldor the strange?"
A long shot, but if he was in a position of power...he might be willing to do us a solid back.
"But of course my lady, I know almost all the lines of the play, it comes naturally for someone who has made the stage his life.
If you would allow me a quick look at your play book to make sure I remember them right perhaps?
You needn’t worry about my portrayal of the man in question however; I got just the inspiration in mind for the cruel and cunning Haanderthan."
Thesing, if you could only see me now...but your vain arrogance wouldn't recognise a parody of your character if it bit you on the arse.
He shakes his head in reply to Derek's first question. "They may be dead, but their wives and husbands, and children and grand-children still live. You understand? But I don't think you need to worry about the Council returning to prominence in its old form. The scars from these events will be slow to heal, if they ever will."
"The treasurer was a priest of Abadar, by name of Vuiper Ghivel. Always desiring profit wherever such could be found, or conjured into existence through more sinister means."
"Sandor the Strange? Yes, he has been spellmaster for the Council for several years, and in charge of Walcourt's defenses as well. I don't know what became of him during this power struggle."
The vampire looks away from her opposing lead for a moment. "Certainly! Once Xerath there is finished learning his lines, you may peruse the book as you wish."
Derek finds the volume exquisite; it's a rare, beautifully illustrated edition, bound in fine leather. He finds something else, as well - the inside cover bears an inscription: "Property of Thesing Umbero Ulvauno."
Appario introduces himself.
"I get to play Tybald again, eh? It's a fair stride from who I usually aim, but at least I have the right costume."
Appario commands his glamored armor to be appear more Arodinian and more Tybainian.
"There we go. Just let me know what and where you want me start. I'm a natural thespian, so Derek has said."
"Before we begin, I'd like to wish all of you the best of luck on stage!"
"Before we begin, I'd like to wish all of you the best of luck on stage!"
And a thousand stage actors cried out as one...
Yahirma idly massages her neck as Silana joins her. The former introduces herself, saying "I am Yahirma, and today I have the pleasure of being your femininely infernal foil. I hope you don't mind, but sometimes I fall deeply into character and begin speaking in devil-tongue."
If someone wants to take hostile action against the vampire at some point during the enactment of the play: Unless you succeed on a Bluff check vs her Sense Motive check (which would grant a surprise round for those who succeed), she will notice something is up and there will be ordinary initiative.
"Vuiper...do you know him Appario? He doesn't sound like the honest of the merchant friends brood."
"Spellmaster? Does that mean he had a voice in the council at all?"
Might just be that my hunch can pay of here...
"Could you describe this guardian as well as you can, six armed and from Vudra does not narrow things down as much as you would think unfortunately..."
Any knowledge one can use for this?
By Asmodeus hairy arse!
Only by a true effort of will does Derek manage to contain his shock to his mind rather than blurting our his profanity.
"This is quite a beautiful copy, and the inscription points to it being owned by the last actor of this particular rendition of the play.
Do you know Thesing?"
Thesings book appears seconds after I think about him just as I am about to play his part...the gods do love to make jest at the expense of mortals.
As another thought strikes Derek, his eye widen for a moment.
She is a vampire...obsessed with acting...please Cayden Caelian...please, by all that is good and holy in the world, do NOT tell me that Thesing is a vampire now.
You just KNOW he will seek us out for "revenge" for outclassing him on stage.
Amaya was in the play as well, I’m NOT leaving her unguarded until I know Thesing is no threat, I will NOT let this become another Jalki debacle.
Appario recognizes the name Vuiper Ghivel as someone working at the Bank/Church of Abadar in Westcrown, but he can't come up with any further knowledge about the man.
"Sandor mostly kept to himself; he wasn't fond of politics. He was invited to Council meetings, but I can't recall him attending one."
Eirtein shakes his head apologetically. "I'm sorry. It was near upon thirty years ago, and I paid little attention to the creature even then. It was alive, not created by men, that's the only thing I can remember."
In this case, knowledge (nature) would be the skill of choice to see if you can recall anything like what has been described.
The beautiful vampire shakes her head, dark hair whipping from side to side. "No, I don't know him. I only know the name, from the inscription. Ilnerik gave me the book a couple of months ago. It was a very nice gift, don't you think?"
"I believe I am proficient with the writing in the script." "If you could call it that. Stomaching this will be my greatest challenge to date, even more so than any 10 foot chute or 20 foot pit even."
Maddok casts Derek a knowing glance. Could Thesing be involved in all of this? He seemed a fool but not a dangerous one.
"Shall we begin?" the big Shoanti asks.
Hmmm, sounds like my hunch was correct. Sandor may be able to pay us back pretty swiftly then...if we have some way of contacting him that is.
I'll broach the subject when we are alone later.
"Well, we may need more information later, and I think by helping us you will be helping yourself, but I've pressed you enough for now. Leave this place and start the process of retrieving what you can of your life. We'll find you later."
Knowledge Nature: 1d20 + 6 ⇒ (7) + 6 = 13
Hmmm, so Thesing most likely ran afoul of Ilnerik...and a few months ago. That was AFTER we destroyed some of his minions and retrieved the Morrowfall, so he might have needed new henchmen.
Thesing probably IS a vampire then...damn it all.
I almost want to find him at the masters side then, just to tie up loose ends.
"Yes, let us start the play, from the beginning as is the wont of the theatre.
In lieu of having master Robhal himself here to narrate, I shall fulfil that role as well."
Derek clears his throat and begins to narrate, setting up the state of mind and the stage in the minds of the actors.
Perform: Oratory: 1d20 + 14 ⇒ (15) + 14 = 29
The abjuration about Appario will not last so long as that, Yahirma thinks as she considers how to steer the group away from a considerable time commitment. "Ah, cruel Haanderthan may wish to exact all many of trials and vengeance upon Larazod and her companions, but consider that he does not have a Beast, much less the Belly into which to throw the heroes. No, far better to pick up at Act V, in which the heroes must birth devil-children," she proposes. "The audience has already witnessed the earlier acts, so let us indulge them as well. With a play this good, certainly there will be interest in a second round once the proper equipment is procured."
Pulled back from reveries of one day performing on a real stage, Silana comments "The shadows will play the devil-children, of course."
Perform (act): 1d20 + 12 ⇒ (19) + 12 = 31
Perform (oratory): 1d20 + 19 ⇒ (7) + 19 = 26
Once the play begins Silana performs her role well, far better than one would expect from someone inexperienced with the actual stage-performance of plays. Her interactions with Yahirma are suitably passionate, but it's clear that the vampiress is unused to showing passion towards another woman, leading to the occasional awkward moment.
Maddok pours his growing restlessness into his performance, once again becoming the noble torturer Drovalid. He tries to remember the lessons imparted on him by Robhal as he delivers his lines and then pantomimes ingesting a devil-egg.
Perform: 1d20 + 5 ⇒ (14) + 5 = 19
The big Shoanti does his best to not be too distracted by the two beautiful women playing the roles of star-crossed lovers.
Derek pauses as he is interrupted by Yahirmas suggestion and directs a VERY dirty look at her for suggesting they skip ahead like that. But eventually he sighs and narrates from act five instead.
Perform act: 1d20 + 16 ⇒ (9) + 16 = 25
His performance as Haanderthan is based exclusively on Thesing, but not Thesings interpretation of Haanderthan but of Thesing himself.
The oozing arrogance, the too handsome for his own good mentality, the hidden insecurities, the womanizing ways...
In short, Dereks Haanderthan is if anything even more despicable than the one written into the play.
Perform: 1d20 - 1 ⇒ (19) - 1 = 18
Xerath seems to be a natural Dentris as he overcomes his lack of experience in any non-hostile form of communication. Even he is surprised by how well he is performing his lines.
Yahirma withers slightly under Derek's unspoken rebuke, but she gradually comes to assume that he's just getting into character.
Perform (acting): 1d20 + 7 ⇒ (6) + 7 = 13
Perform (oratory): 1d20 + 12 ⇒ (4) + 12 = 16
Yahirma proves a little unsettled by the "creative reinterpretation" of character gender, and her attempts to modify the delivery of her lines to accommodate this are stymied by an imperfect index of idioms and her accidental upstaging of a few of the characters at one point. She moves over to smirk at Tybain, prod him in the chest, and quip a rather nonsensical remark while Drovalid bemoans the effects of the eggs.
Bluff to hide wand activation?: 1d20 + 19 ⇒ (11) + 19 = 30
If the opportunity presents itself, she also works her way over to flirt with Drovalid, running the wand up and down his chest playfully and whispering sweet nothings as Dentris and Tybain banter.
Bluff to hide wand activation?: 1d20 + 19 ⇒ (10) + 19 = 29
If it's possible to use Misfortune on someone without tipping her off to its effect, I'll use that for covering myself against Sense Motive. Perhaps Silana's interest in the play grants some sort of modifier.
Sense Motive #1: 1d20 + 17 - 2 ⇒ (8) + 17 - 2 = 23 (-2: circumstance modifier for immersion)
Sense Motive #2: 1d20 + 17 - 2 ⇒ (12) + 17 - 2 = 27 (-2: circumstance modifier for immersion)
Silana doesn't appear to have noticed anything out of the ordinary during Yahirma's acts of hidden wanding, although Yahirma feels the vampire's eyes upon her during the second activation.
The shadows oblige, five of them functioning very well as devilish spawn clawing their way forth from the characters' wombs as they float through their respective parent.
Silana is well into character, producing her lines clearly before one shadow claws its way incorporeally through her.
"Ha! Give me your egg, you lickspittle. If Asmodeus wishes it, I shall choke the life of my own devilish child with glee. I gulp this egg down before this court and our dark lord's very eyes."
Initiative (Appario): 1d20 + 5 ⇒ (14) + 5 = 19
Initiative (Derek): 1d20 + 3 ⇒ (17) + 3 = 20
Initiative (Maddok): 1d20 + 2 ⇒ (5) + 2 = 7
Initiative (Xerath): 1d20 + 2 ⇒ (20) + 2 = 22
Initiative (Yahirma): 1d20 + 1 ⇒ (16) + 1 = 17
Initiative (Silana): 1d20 + 10 ⇒ (3) + 10 = 13
Initiative (Shadows): 1d20 + 9 ⇒ (6) + 9 = 15
Current Initiative order:
22 - Xerath
20 - Derek
19 - Appario
17 - Yahirma
15 - Shadows
13 - Silana
7 - Maddok
Maddok reacts slowest to the incorporeal intrusion, but everyone else among the party gets to act before the shadows following their "birthing".
Shadows #6, #7, and #8 are the remaining "audience".
It would seem odd if Haanderthan/Derek acts to aid the group, considering he's the one administering the trials :)
Up first: Xerath, Derek, Appario, Yahirma.
"Ilsandra" recoils as the shadowy devil spawn writhe up to the actors. She calls out her lines (now in Infernal), backs away from her "child" in acted revulsion, and exudes palpable menace and hellish authority.
Move to H-46 and Channel to command. This will hit all shadows but #1 and #2, but Command priority goes to Shadows 4, 5, and 3. The burst should just avoid tickling Silana, which is fine by Yahirma; she'd rather not tip off the vampire to the nature of the oracle's 'stage presence.' Misfortune anything you care to re-reroll.
with your heart’s blood, and with every shred of your soul."
Inspirational acting would work (and Derek gets to choose whether Silana is his ally or not) :)
Will vs undead servitude (Shadow #3): 1d20 + 4 + 2 ⇒ (16) + 4 + 2 = 22 (+2: channel resistance)
Will vs undead servitude (Shadow #4): 1d20 + 4 + 2 ⇒ (4) + 4 + 2 = 10 (+2: channel resistance)
Will vs undead servitude (Shadow #5): 1d20 + 4 + 2 ⇒ (7) + 4 + 2 = 13 (+2: channel resistance)
Will vs undead servitude (Shadow #6): 1d20 + 4 + 2 ⇒ (11) + 4 + 2 = 17 (+2: channel resistance)
Will vs undead servitude (Shadow #7): 1d20 + 4 + 2 ⇒ (3) + 4 + 2 = 9 (+2: channel resistance)
Will vs undead servitude (Shadow #8): 1d20 + 4 + 2 ⇒ (20) + 4 + 2 = 26 (+2: channel resistance)
Misfortune reroll (Shadow #3): 1d20 + 4 + 2 ⇒ (2) + 4 + 2 = 8
All of the shadows Yahirma desired to assume control of fall under her spell, even though one initially seemed to resist her mental commands.
The blue-squared shadows are under Yahirma's control.
Up next: Xerath, Derek, Appario.