|Vex, Lyr's familiar|
"I know, I.. was I too far gone to be raised?" Zoso asks with grief in his eyes. Her answerThe fact that the Shin'Rakorath decided not to bring him back stings. He doesn't blame them, but he doesn't forgive them either.
"Indeed, Saphren. I do feel oddly more robust.. it kind of creeps me out if I think about it thought.. Could you imagine being in something else's skin?"
Arriving at the Camp
"Thank you, Kaerishiel. I'm resolved to not let this be the end." Then turning to Eviana, "I do have some needs, I can no longer use this bow. Or sword." He says looking at the longbow and elven curved blade. "These hands are too stubby for the mandolin as well. If I may have some of my old possessions exchanged or altered, that would be great aid."
Zoso consumes himself in studies of Ploymorph magic, intent on finding a way to retake his Elven form. While he doesn't find something perfect, Zoso stumbles upon Ancestral Regression. The possibility is inticing and oddly close. He gathers a few scrolls to test out on Drow during their next mission.
As the pitch is revealed Zoso's jaw hits the floor. "You gotta be f$$@ing kidding me! You skimp out on raising me and NOW you're dressing me in Drow skin?! I'll show you a poor mangled once-Elf you proud bastard..." Zoso paces a little, looking at the others to see how sold they were to this. He didn't expect his bitterness for the Shin'Rakorath to be this sharp. After some moment of thought, he starts again in a calmer voice. "Three months? Three months.. " He then gets a chuckle and a slight smile, "Do you think you could make it permanent?"
Giseil blinks as he listens to the two questions. "Well I wouldn't need much of Razorhorn, you are very tiny. That sohuldn't be too much of a problem. as for you..."
He blows out his cheeks as Zoso has a tantrum. "Quite right to be upset, but I don't work for Kyonin and they're the ones who you want to be mad at. I'm just here to plaster some dead drow on you. A permanency spell would do the trick I imagine, but it has never been done. That said, you will detect as undead - and you will permanently look like the most hated race on Golarion. Think about what you are asking for."
Kaerishiel looks to all of you. "Before we get on with this madness, ask your questions now. We're sending yhou to a city no surface dweller has seen, possibly ever. But we can tell you what we know so far. Lyr is your best source of information on drow custom and society as well. All I do know is that they are matriarchal, and thoroughly evil. What I can say is do not let your morality ruin the mission. You may be forced to do cruel things."
"Will. Not may." Lyr corrected. "My former... captor... poisoned me daily. Practiced experimental tortures and surgeries on me, then healed me and started again. Often, he would make me administer toxins to myself or aid him in my own vivisection. He allowed assistants and students to practice on me as well. He did not consider these things cruel. They were my purpose for existing. When I would misbehave, then he would be cruel. His usual punishments included the amputation of unnecessary parts of my body."
"He was widely considered to be compassionate to a fault. The low rate of death among his slaves was the butt of many jokes. The matriarch he served frequently humiliated for his kindness."
"That is the society we will be trying to emulate."
"And I thought people considered holmgang savage," muses Brenna.
So, we will wear these bodies. And we will detect as undead. What else will this mean. Will we have the drow senses or our own? Will we have light sensitivity? Will the physical abilities of these drow affect our own? Will we smell like corpses? Will we have any resistances of the undead? You have told us very little about the transformation, and less about the actual mission.
Glancing sidelong up at Saphren, Besh mutters: "I'm not sure he really knows what's going to happen..."
Turning to Kaerishiel, ze exclaims: "Saphren makes a good point - what exactly are you expecting us to do? Is this an espionage mission? Assassination? Sabotage?"
"The corpses will not decay they are uh - sustained by your own bodily processes as it were. An integration, if temporary. Although you will detect as undead - a very rare form of detection I may add - you will not actually be undead. Healing magic will work as normal and so forth. To your perspective, you will loko and feel like a regular drow."
He holds out his amulets. "As for the abilities of a drow, takes these. These are bloodlinks. They are crafted to precisely recreate the powers of the drow. Darkvision, those little spells they cast, they will disguise your morality, you will speak and understand undercommon correctly and yes - will be sensitive to daylight."
Kaerishiel speaks up ont he mission specifics. "Infiltration and reconnaissance. Considering the chaos and losses of the war for the drow, it is likely there will be a great need for talented people and you can use that to join a great house or similar organization. Ingratiate yourselves, work your way up, and find out what the drow are planning next regarding their plans for earthfall."
You get darkvision 120' with these ones.
Giseil sighs and snaps at Saphren. Pay attention! You have 91 days precisely. At that point the spell will fail an the flesh will unravel from you. It's painless but... messy. You'll want a bath."
Kaerishiel speaks up. "This is the first opportunity any surface-dweller has had to view a drow city. Your specific goal is to discover the drow's next steps regarding their plan to recreate Earthfall. All of this that we stopped were -tests-, not the actual attack on the surface. Therefore, we want to know when and where that will happen, or if they have enough to do it at all."
He moves over to squat by you. "Look. This is ludicrous. This is the strangest thing I've ever asked somebody to do and it is a lot. However, you are the finest combatants we have, as well as unusually versatile. We have a unique opportunity to do this. Now..."
He sighs. "The gate is going to close when you go through, and it is fully intended that its link to Zirnakaynin will be severed. We will be using clerics to contact you with sending spells for updates. Your extraction will require some improvisation. But you have three months to sort this out. Now as for fitting in."
He points at Brenna and then Beshtori. "Females are in charge in the drow world. It is a cruel matriarchy and your word will carry more. Besh I know you aren't female, but you are going to have to choose, or have Giseil choose for you. And female is the better choice for this mission."
He steps back. "Further questions, or can we get on with this insanity?"
Brenna barks, "Male! Fetch me some wine!"
Intimidate: 1d20 + 12 ⇒ (1) + 12 = 13
Then she says in a more conversational tone, "Was that convincing? I don't think it was very convincing. Maybe I need a whip and a bustier."
"That would fit." Lyr said. "Sexuality is a weapon to the Drow. Females wield it as mercilessly as any other." He sounded a bit uncomfortable about the subject, but obviously felt like it was an important thing to mention that he was willing to feel awkward for it.
"I like my weapon better," says Brenna with a skeptical look as she hefts her axe demonstratively. "Wait, am I gonna have to seduce some drow? Ewww! I guess it would make it easy to break 'em over my knee."
Then she pauses and says, "That reminds me, though. Do we know anything about how they're organized? Do we need to go in and say 'I'm Dominatrix so-and-so from the Bleak Duchy of Horse Crops and Assless Chaps'?"
"Most females with any station would not lower themselves to speak with anyone below their station, especially males, unless it was to be insulting or leverage power in some way. Female Drow with any kind of station or wealth tend to travel with an entourage, one of which speaks for her as an envoy."
"Okay, so, I guess Zoso does the talking and I just pick my nails and look vaguely bored and threatening?"
"Picking your nails would imply there is something wrong with them. Displaying such a thing in public would be giving your rivals ammunition." Lyr said with a small shake of his head.
"So I'm mostly supposed to look bored and pretend that everything is perfect, but fly off the handle in a screaming fit at the first sign of anything going remotely wrong?"
"I knew a girl like that while I was growing up."
"Yes. And do not be afraid to harm anyone who displeases you. Killing people in public, outside of duels, sanctioned assassinations or ambushes is considered undignified, but usually forgivable in the throws of extreme passion. You will just develop a reputation for emotional instability. That can be leveraged against you, but can also be leveraged in your favor if handled right."
"Keep in mind that slaves, thin-bloods, the rest of the lower classes are not considered "people." Harming them will not be noticed beyond the demand of payment if you kill someone else's slave."
Kaerishiel sort of waves, indicating Lyr probably knows what he's talking about better than others. "I'd pretend to be nobodies. War veterans who are looking for a house to call their own. Seize what opportunities you can - considering you lot are dragonslayers who just saved the world, you should advance quickly enough in any hierarchy through sheer merit. If uh, that's how drow work."
Brenna says to Saphren, "Pssh. You don't even know my size! A bustier is not something you measure like a breastplate." She pauses a moment, then says, "I think. Actually I don't know how they're made. With a needle and thread and cloth, I guess, but... yeah."
To Lyr she says uncomfortably, "I'd... prefer to avoid killing random people if I can help it. I mean, yeah, I am kind of an experienced mercenary, and I do sometimes flip out and kill people, but generally because they're really bad people. So drow... I guess, sure, but slaves and helpless captives, that kinda... makes me awkward."
Lyr squints his good eye in thought. "Honor is not a completely foreign thing to the Drow. It is just... twisted. If you were to claim that killing commoners was beneath your dignity, or somehow suggest that to be killed by you is some kind of privilege that you only grant to the strong, that would probably be accepted. You may still have to hurt people you would not otherwise wish to, or have one of us do it for you, but having some kind of code would give you an excuse not to commit murder. You would be considered an eccentric, but among the Drow, warrior females often are."
Brenna nods slowly. "Okay. I'm not sure I can sell it, so I hope Zoso can get the idea across. I'll just try to look tough and dangerous."
|Vex, Lyr's familiar|
It takes a few moments for Brenna to parse that sentence.
"Technically they'll be some drow's mammal glands pasted over mine," says Brenna dryly.
The few patchwork sections of Lyr's face that weren't scarred or burned turned red.
|Vex, Lyr's familiar|
"I doubt it would still fit when your drow skin wear off. Elves don't have much in the way of mammal glands. It's why they have better balance than you weird shaped humans." the little dragon said sagely.
"For starters, I need this armor," Brenna says, and bangs her breastplate with a gauntleted hand. "A 'mammal gland' is about three inches away from 'stabbed through the heart and lungs'."
"Now if we're doing this without armor for some crazy reason, then fine, I'll wear a sling halter if Saphren has to wear a banana hammock."
"And as much as I'm sure you'd find that hilarious on both counts, I don't think it will contribute to our practical survival in the Darklands."
"Wearing armor in public is common for males. With females, it's considered a sign of fear. That said, glamoured armor that looks like clothing is common for both men and women, and is considered a sign of wealth and cunning." Lyr said.
"It is also fairly common for servants and attendants not to be allowed to wear anything but decoration."
"Females are in charge in the drow world. It is a cruel matriarchy and your word will carry more. Besh I know you aren't female, but you are going to have to choose, or have Giseil choose for you. And female is the better choice for this mission."
Beshtori quails at the thought, both at having to choose and at having gender forced upon zir. "I... I'm not very intimidating. And also I don't understand - if you can alter my gender to appear as male or female, why can't you do the same for the others? Saphren or Lyr would make much better female drow than me."
Approaching Lyr gently: "I'm sorry that all of this will make you relive a horrible time in your life. Do you think that we'll be able to stick together? Or are we going to be auctioned off to different families?"
Lyr was pensive for a moment. "I... want to believe I am different now than I was. Stronger. I guess I will find out."
"We should be able to stay together if we present ourselves as an already established mercenary group. Unless we are enslaved, we have the choice of who to serve."
"So, what, pasties and a thong? I don't think I'd be as formidable a fighter like that," says Brenna.
She turns to Besh and kneels down and says, "Besh, I can't know what this means to you. I'm about to wear dead drow skin for three months, but at the end I get to take it off. I guess we're just asking you to pretend, too. All I know is, you're clever, and unstoppable, and cute, and my friend, and that's good enough for me. You think you can do this?"
Besh squeaks out mightily: "Well, maybe it's just not that easy for some of us!"
Besh tries to emphasize zir point by poking Brenna in the chest with a finger
Intimidate: 1d20 + 2 - 4 ⇒ (7) + 2 - 4 = 5
but misses and taps her on a 'mammal gland.' Quirking a smile, trying desperately not to burst into laughter, Besh asks: "How... how was that?"
Is Besh going to end up as a medium-sized drow after this?
Brenna seems bemused as Besh's finger deflects off her armor. "See?" she says, craning her neck back around toward Vex. "I need this armor to protect against vicious gnome attacks!"
Looking back to Besh, she says, "Yeah, it's not easy asking you to pretend to be something you're not. Especially when it's so central to who you are. Gods know I'm pretty scared about just how gross this whole thing is going to be - I'm not exactly a great actress, and having dead drow meat draped all over my body like a form-fitting dress sounds pretty awful. If I can help you with this somehow, I'll do whatever I can. If this is asking too much... I dunno, I guess we find a different way."
Brenna goes from her half-kneeling position to rolling back and sitting, with her arms resting on her knees.
"So, what if Besh doesn't have to pick? We're playing ourselves off as outsiders and unusual folks. Could uh, could zhe be an androgynous drow of indeterminate appearance? Heck, that would probably make them squirm, because of their gender-based power structures."
Meh. I'll play a drow female if ya need me to. Gender is way less important ta me than race, in this case. I already have ta be somethin I hate. The gender part is no big deal ta me.
Do we know that many drow leaders are female clerics? We might need Lyr to gender bend more than Saphren or Besh... Plus he seems to know the role quite well. :)
Taking a seat on Brenna's knee, Besh sighs: "It's ok, I'll try my best. Based on their society structure, I suspect people like me either don't exist or are killed at birth. I'm not sure I can bully my way through being a female in drow society, but I still don't understand why Giseil can choose a gender for me and not the rest of you. I mean, as long as Zoso is going to be an elf in a dwarf's body in a drow's body, why not make him female too? Or Lyr, who already understand's the ways of the drow? Or Saphren, who's actually intimidating? "
Brenna perks up when Besh says people like me either don't exist or are killed at birth as if she just had a notion that struck her like a lightning bolt, and says, "Not if we pretend you're my child and I kill anyone who has a problem with it!"
"Let's not make this more complicated than it has to be. It's gonna be hard enough to pretend to be drow. Pretending to have different genders all over the place is just gonna make it harder. So let's take that out of the whole problem. We'll make up our relationships - I guess I'm nominally the matriarch and everyone else is either related or working for me, but Zoso and Lyr can do the talking and Saph and I can shank anyone who causes trouble for us. Besh can pretend to be my androgynous offspring who is magically talented and gets a pass because I, in my eccentric and horrible anger, kill anyone who touches my special child. Would that do the trick?"
"If it is possible for me to play the part of a female Drow, I will do it." Lyr said, sounding a bit unsure.
Giseil looks curiously at the group. "Well... we'd secured bodies according to your presumed gender, but more drow bodies aren't exactly hard to come by right now. I will warn you that although this spell has been tested it hasn't been tested to... that extent. Integrating a female drow's anatomy with your own may be a strange experience."
He looks over to Behstori. "You will be useless to the plan as a drow child. We just simply put more drow over top of you. You will experience life as someone of proper height for once, if fleeting."
@BEsh - it will absolutely make you medium sized for the duration fo the spell.
Brenna rolls her eyes with exasperation. "I wasn't saying zhe should look like a drow child. Zhe could still be an adult but also happen to be my offspring; with a long elven lifespan, it wouldn't be strange at all for both of us to be adults of indeterminate age."
|Zoso the Forlorn|
"Would it be best for me to be a female? With doing the talking and all? I suppose being Brenna's slave and speaking for her under her order could work, but I get the feeling that a male speaking for a woman would not pass as normal."
"Males often speak for females. Diplomacy is often considered a male art form. To females, diplomacy is undignified because it means that a person does not have the power to simply take what they want. Seeking compromise presupposes a position of weakness, so by having male negotiators, females can sidestep the indignity. They can blame any supposed weakness on the fact that it comes from a male speaker."
"Being a mouthpiece for a powerful female is about the highest a male can hope to climb in drow society." Lyr said.
Last chance to pick genders.
Giseil sighs and starts scribbling down a shopping list for corpses, ignoring Beshtori's complaints. "Look gnome, you all look the same to me. I took a guess. So an extra female body for this ghoulish bastard. Shouldn't be hard to find. We can use some of the meat from the spare male to pad things out where necessary."
Once the final body is found, Giseil grins, and hands out your bloodlinks. "I've been looking forward to this, let's begin. Take off your clothes."
Giseil stalks over to Lyr and grips the elf's arm. "Hold very, very still." The body is that of an attractive female drow, run through with an elven longsword. He lays out a scroll in front of him, and grabs the female drow's face with his other hand. Slowly, he begins to chant as the scroll burns up in front of him.
The ten minutes it takes to cast the spell feels like an eternity. Slowly, flesh begins to melt away from the drow corpse and travel along Giseil before it settles onto Lyr. Lyr is overwhelmed by the painless, but incredibly strange sensation of dead flesh knitting into his own, granting it new life. He feels his own body shrinking slightly to accommodate the drow. Muscles flow over his body and knit before settling into his own skin, filling out his destroyed face, and reshaping not just the flesh, but the bones beneath.
The last sliver of purple-skinned flesh travels along Giseil's form, and slaps into Lyr's side. She is now drow.
Giseil repeats the spell for each of you. For Zoso it is a little painful as he feels the sensation of his dwarven body being compressed and stretched. To Beshtori, at first the sensation is like being drowned as not just flesh but the bones of the drow knit into his own, granting him height and mass unlike that he ever had before.
It is nearly an hour for all of the spells to finish. When they are done, where there was a human, elf, dwarf, half-orc, and gnome there are now five drow. Your faces are unrecognizable, but there is a sense of your original build. Brenna makes for an almost awkwardly large drow. Saphren is powerful and muscular. Zoso is stout. Beshtori is short and slight of build. Lyr is the only exception, his close build entirely subsumed by the drow body.
"You are now drow."
Before the ritual
Lyr trembled a bit, but did as he was asked, his clothes falling away. Suddenly the reasons for his awkwardness regarding the discussion of gender and the innuendo charged jokes about Brenna's chest were very clear.
The "unnecessary parts" that had been amputated by his drow captor included everything between his legs.
He stood as stoically as possible as the full extent of his damage and deformity was revealed, but he was clearly uncomfortable and embarrassed.
Later, when the ritual was finished, Lyr looked down at herself with a strange combination of emotions on her face. She ran her hands over her smooth skin and gave a wistful smile.
"Not so bad." she said in a smooth, attractive alto voice.
Despite being fit and well-formed, Brenna is clearly nervous and uncomfortable about the whole process. She closes her eyes and grits her teeth as the putty-like tide of flesh washes over her. Finally, when Giseil pronounces her transformation complete, she slowly opens her eyes and looks down at her hands and her body. She turns her hands over, examining the smooth, featureless skin, the oddly-colored fingernails, and the long, thin fingers. She covers herself with her arms, uncomfortable with her own appearance.
Finally, after she gets her gambeson back on, she grins sheepishly - an odd sight, with her white teeth standing out against gray-black skin and purple lips - and says, "I guess I make an ugly elf. Everything looks and feels weird."
She closes her eyes again, gulps several deep breaths, and opens them. "This is gonna take a while to get used to." At last she seems to get a bit of her equilibrium as she quips with a lopsided grin, "This is so unfair. I kept my broad shoulders but the stupid spell made my 'mammal glands' smaller."