DM Brainiac's War for the Crown: Table 1

Game Master Brainiac

Current Date: 21 Kuthona, 4718 AR

Maps on Google Slides


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"Baron Araig Telus rules the southwest portion of Meratt county. Stachys is technically within his domain. Lady Allis Betony was the baron's only attending lord before her passing. He seems to have become a recluse in recent years, locking himself away in his estate and abandoning his duties to the people of Jambis and the surrounding communities. Most of the citizens of Jambis moved to Moost or Voinaris. Some set off on their own to form a community called New Towne."

---

"Farewell, Lady Mai. Until next we meet," Nicolaus says, perhaps a bit too formally.

Selli gives Zhi a big hug. "You bet! Don't be a stranger, okay?"

Pensaris recedes in the distance behind the Tian woman as she rides off back to Stachys. She arrives at the Bering estate around noon, Melodie and Zileska hard at work in the fields gathering the harvest.

Happy 2,000 posts!


Female Half-Elf Cleric 17 | HP 105/105 | AC 21 T 14 FF 19 | Fort +12 Ref +9 Will +17 | Initiative +2 | Perception +8 | Channel Energy 6/6 | Dazing Touch 8/8 | Bit of Luck 8/8 | Good Fortune 2/2

Before enlightenment
Chopping wood and carrying water
After enlightenment
Chopping wood and carrying water


The second day of the harvest passes, Melodie and Zileska once again worn out from the hard work of bringing in the crops. In Lotheedar, the trio of women spend their afternoon sightseeing and take in a comedic performance at the local theater.

The next morning, the citizens of both Stachys and Lotheedar are talking about a fireball that streaked through the night sky in the middle of the night. Everybody wonders what it might portend for Meratt or even all of Taldor!

Maria's enchanted coat and Sara's magical stilettos are ready for pick-up, so they claim their goods and journey back to Stachys. The third day of harvest proceeds apace, and in the afternoon, Count Lotheed's tax collector rides into town with his wagon and four armed guards. Giado Eta brandishes his official license.

"The tax man cometh," he says cockily. "It seems like you've had a fine harvest, indeed. Let me see, let me see..."

He makes a show of counting the bundles of rye while the citizens look on grumpily. In the end, Eta declares an exorbitant sum—half of the entire harvest!


Female NG Changeling Mesmerist (Vox) 17 | HP:93/93 | AC: 25 (17 Tch, 21 Fl) | CMB: 11, CMD: 25 | F: +8, R: +17, W: +17 | Init: +8 | Perc/SM +23, Bluff +43(48), Dip +38, I +34, Dis +34, UMD +22, Spcft + 18, KnwA +16| Speed 30ft | Spells: 1: 8/8, 2: 7/7, 3: 7/7, 4: 6/6, 5: 6/6, 6: 3/3 | Tricks: Alac, Curse (M), Free (M), Gift, Visions (M) 18/17+1; Words: 12/12 | Mask: DT (DC20) 9/9, TS 1/1 | Active: See Invisbility, Echolocation

"I'm sure you can spare some time for refreshments before you ride on Mr Eta." Melodie says, gracious hostess to the last. She escorts the tax man to one side, where a table for two has been set up with drinks and a small plate of cakes.

She pours for the man and lets him sit for a few moments before opening the conversation. "So how did you become a tax collector for the Count, Mr Eta? It must be a very important and responsible job!"

Compelling Voice and Charm Person :), DC17 with -2 on the save.

Let's... negotiate!


Will: 1d20 + 2 - 2 ⇒ (18) + 2 - 2 = 18

Wow, didn't think he'd make that one.

"Don't mind if I do," Eta says, chugging his drink and stuffing a cake in his mouth. When Melodie tries her charm on him, though, his expression quickly sours.

"Hey! I felt that tingle of magic. What trickery are you trying to pull?" he asks angrily. "I'll have you know I have extraordinary magic at my command, and the count frowns upon upstart refugees messing with his licensed tax collectors!" He gestures, and one of the cakes wobbles before rising from the table ominously!

Spellcraft DC 15:
Eta is using prestidigitation to manipulate the cake.


Female NG Changeling Mesmerist (Vox) 17 | HP:93/93 | AC: 25 (17 Tch, 21 Fl) | CMB: 11, CMD: 25 | F: +8, R: +17, W: +17 | Init: +8 | Perc/SM +23, Bluff +43(48), Dip +38, I +34, Dis +34, UMD +22, Spcft + 18, KnwA +16| Speed 30ft | Spells: 1: 8/8, 2: 7/7, 3: 7/7, 4: 6/6, 5: 6/6, 6: 3/3 | Tricks: Alac, Curse (M), Free (M), Gift, Visions (M) 18/17+1; Words: 12/12 | Mask: DT (DC20) 9/9, TS 1/1 | Active: See Invisbility, Echolocation

Take 10 on the Spellcraft

"A minor magic at best Mr Eta!" Melodie snaps, her patience suddenly exhausted. "If this is the best you can do then do not count me impressed!"

Intimidate: 1d20 + 13 ⇒ (1) + 13 = 14 Oh for petes sake!

As suddenly as it came the anger is gone, she picks up the jug and refills Eta's glass. "I'm so sorry, I've worked hard here and I'm more protective than I should be."

Bluff: 1d20 + 21 ⇒ (1) + 21 = 22

As she speaks she quietly pours another colorless liquid into Eta's glass before handing it to him.

Sleight: 1d20 + 2 ⇒ (15) + 2 = 17

"Again sir, my apologies. I will not detain you much longer."

Let's hope the stryx oil Martella gave us works...

If It Does:
Melodie smiles, turning on the charm once again. "Are you sure that the Count ordered things this way, he and I are very close. If you could do me a favor I could do one for you in return."

Charm Person again...

If not: Melodie lets the man leave, and mutters something coarse and harsh behind his back, waving the villagers away as she does so. "Let him take his taxes - but we don't have to help him do it!"

The dice roller hates Melodie right now!


Sense Motive: 1d20 + 8 ⇒ (10) + 8 = 18

"Hmph. Just don't make it a habit, or Count Lotheed will hear about your disobedience," Eta says with a huff.

Melodie, you can't make Sleight of Hand checks with a DC higher than 10 untrained, but I will assume you subtly signal for Zhi administer the poison. Her modifier is +15, much higher than +2, so a total of 30 with your roll. Also, the poison is injury, not ingested, so she will have to subtly inject it in Eta.

Perception: 1d20 + 8 ⇒ (15) + 8 = 23
Fortitude: 1d20 + 1 ⇒ (16) + 1 = 17
Secondary Fortitude: 1d20 + 1 ⇒ (17) + 1 = 18

Damn, bad luck!

As Eta downs the offered drink, Zhi subtly injects him with a dose of Styx oil. Unfortunately, after several minutes it becomes clear that the tax collector has resisted the poison's effects!

"Now then, I'll be on my way!" Unless anybody else takes action to stop him, Eta will direct his guards to load up half of the rye harvest on the wagon before leaving the town behind.

You can still try to cast charm person on him again if you want, but he'll get a +5 bonus on the save.


Female Rakshasa-spawn Tiefling Investigator 16 | HP 91/99 | AC 35 T 18 FF 29 | Fort +10 Ref +20 Will +15 | Initiative +5 | Perception +19 (free Insp) | Sense Motive +22 (free Insp)

While in Lotheedar, and where possible on her return home, Maria made enquiries about the taxman, Eta. She had a hunch that anyone as unpleasant as he sounded, he might have been on the wrong side of the law in the past.

Diplomacy, Gather info on Eta: 1d20 + 1d6 + 10 ⇒ (8) + (1) + 10 = 19

I'm hoping there's something here Maria can use against him somehow.

EDIT: Okay, I think this guy reached out of the game and rigged our dice.


Unfortunately, Maria isn't able to find anything more about Giado Eta than she already knows.


Female Rakshasa-spawn Tiefling Investigator 16 | HP 91/99 | AC 35 T 18 FF 29 | Fort +10 Ref +20 Will +15 | Initiative +5 | Perception +19 (free Insp) | Sense Motive +22 (free Insp)

Did the agents she sent out to find out how taxes are supposed to be calculated ever get back to her?


Yes, I thought I had posted about that. Basically it's up to the whims of the individual tax collectors. As long as the count gets his fair share of what they take, he leaves them to their own devices.


Female Rakshasa-spawn Tiefling Investigator 16 | HP 91/99 | AC 35 T 18 FF 29 | Fort +10 Ref +20 Will +15 | Initiative +5 | Perception +19 (free Insp) | Sense Motive +22 (free Insp)

Well crap. Blackmailing him with either a clear breach of tax law or prior crimes was really my only idea. Unless there's something about him currently that might be of use to us.

Perception, Sherlock Scanning Eta: 1d20 + 1d6 + 8 ⇒ (10) + (2) + 8 = 20


Maria notices all sorts of knickknacks among Eta's gear--scrolls, potions, wands, a wizard's spellbook, even a holy symbol of Abadar. She doesn't notice any spell component pouch, though, seeming to indicate that Eta's only mastery of magic comes from trickery. It would appear that he makes his living as a con man and charlatan when he's not bullying small towns into handing over their hard-earned harvested crops.


Female Rakshasa-spawn Tiefling Investigator 16 | HP 91/99 | AC 35 T 18 FF 29 | Fort +10 Ref +20 Will +15 | Initiative +5 | Perception +19 (free Insp) | Sense Motive +22 (free Insp)

"Mister Eta? Might I have a word?" Maria asked. "Sorry, I just need to go over a couple of things with you; won't take a moment. Just making sure our accounting is all in order. Over here, if you wouldn't mind." She gestured to a nearby side street, one already discreetly cleared by her agents when she'd laid out her contingency plan if they couldn't do anything about the excessive tax by this stage.

She had also discreetly downed one of her extracts prior to approaching him, in-case she needed a little extra force.

Downed Bull's Strength

Once they had a degree of privacy, Maria shoved him against the wall of one building before pressing a coin pouch into his stomach with the other.

"That is precisely one hundred platinum - high denomination coins to make it easier for you to hide them," she hissed into his face, not wanting what she was saying to be overheard. "You will take just one quarter of our harvest, rather than the half you have been loading up, you will take this payment and you will leave. I don't care what sort of excuse you make to the Count about our low yield but you will not mention this money to him. If not because the Count would take the entire sum from you then because he may punish you for accepting a bribe.

"I'm sure you can find some way to convince him - a prolific con-man like you. You're no mage and while I doubt the Count ever bought that story for a second, that would only be because he knows what to look for when it comes to magic. Oh don't look so surprised; you're hardly the first hustler I've met passing themselves off as a mage or the like - positively average in comparison, not incompetent but hardly a master of the craft. Take the money - one thousand gold - and just one quarter of the harvest, convince the Count our efforts to revitalise the harvest hadn't borne fruit yet. And, as a bonus, I will not breathe a word to anyone that you've been conning people for a living."

If the dice kick me in the nads after I spent that much time on this post...

Diplomacy: 1d20 + 1d6 + 10 ⇒ (18) + (1) + 10 = 29


Eta's eyes widen, first in shock as Maria shoves him, then with undisguised avarice as he looks at the hefty sum of coins she gives to him.

"Wow! Yeah, you bet, no problem! For this much platinum, you can keep the whole harvest if you want! I'll put on a show for the townsfolk, but I'll ditch the rye a little ways out of town so you can pick it up again. I'll tell the count I got nicked by the Night Swan, and both ends of our little business deal here can stay on the hush-hush. What do you say?"


Female Rakshasa-spawn Tiefling Investigator 16 | HP 91/99 | AC 35 T 18 FF 29 | Fort +10 Ref +20 Will +15 | Initiative +5 | Perception +19 (free Insp) | Sense Motive +22 (free Insp)

"Fine, but if the Count is not convinced then I'll be having some pointed words with the law enforcement in the region. And I may come looking for a refund."


Female Rakshasa-spawn Tiefling Investigator 16 | HP 91/99 | AC 35 T 18 FF 29 | Fort +10 Ref +20 Will +15 | Initiative +5 | Perception +19 (free Insp) | Sense Motive +22 (free Insp)

Forgot to mention; Maria'll make sure to know where he plans to say the "ambush" happened so she can arrange to fake the crime scene, just in-case the count sends people to check.


"You got it, lady. Digging the horns, by the way," Eta adds with a wink.

The tax collector makes a show of recounting the rye and adjusting his figures so that he only takes a quarter of the harvest. Soon, his wagon departs for Lotheedar.

Maria follows shortly thereafter and finds the charlatan has been true to his word. Only a few miles up the road, the crops have been stashed behind some bushes along the roadside, ready to be taken back to Stachys. The tiefling spends some time staging a fake crime scene before returning to Stachys with the rye.

"Well, I ain't sure exactly what just happened, and I ain't sure I really want to know," says Sheriff Piscum. "But we're mighty happy to have the harvest all to ourselves this year!"

You have gained 1 Loyalty Point!

You now have a few days to your own devices. During this time, you may all take another Persona Phase. :)


Female Rakshasa-spawn Tiefling Investigator 16 | HP 91/99 | AC 35 T 18 FF 29 | Fort +10 Ref +20 Will +15 | Initiative +5 | Perception +19 (free Insp) | Sense Motive +22 (free Insp)

Her glower at the man only grew worse as he remarked on her horns.

**************************************************************************

At the drop site, Maria and a few of her agents worked to make sure it looked convincing and fit the Night Swan's modus operandi, even going so far as to fake things like stray arrows digging into the dirt or that glanced off the wagon (courtesy of firing a bow at half-draw at a sturdy piece of timber they'd brought to create the appropriate scratches on the arrow heads). Every detail Maria would expect to see at the site of an ambush by the Night Swan was replicated with the exacting precision of a forger replicating the work of a master painter.

If the Night Swan doesn't use arrows or crossbow bolts, then just replace that bit with forging whatever other details would be appropriate - I don't think his MO has come up yet, but I'm sure it's something Maria, the others, or her agents would've looked into even before he robbed the manor. I'll do the persona phase in the morning because I just realised it's nearly midnight.


Pre-Marriage Alias

Upon returning to the estate and finding out that the Night Swan has infiltrated the manor, Zhi is amused.

"What an amateur. He got in and that's all he took?"

Melodie:

When Melodie returns to her room after the second day of harvest, she finds on her bed a white rose with a note attached.

Zhi wrote:

Melodie,

Thank you for your advice and for putting up with my thick-headedness. I know what I need to do now. Please be patient with me.
Zhi

Persona:

Zhi is going to try to arrange a meeting between the Raven and the Night Swan.

Secret Identity Critical Mass! :) I realize that this may do nothing mechanically, but it really fits.

Arrange Secret Meeting (Disguise): 1d20 + 18 ⇒ (12) + 18 = 30 DC 23


Female Human Fighter (Cad) 13, Brawler 2 | HP: 55/185| AC: 19/17 (11 T, 17 F)| CMB: +19/+28, CMD: 28| F: +19, R: +12, W: +7| Init: +7| Perc: +17, SM +12, Dip +45, Intim +39| Speed 35ft| Martial Flexibility 3/4, Serpentine Tattoo 3/3, Beast Form 2 (Lion) 1/1, Terrible Cost 5/5| Active Conditions: N/A

Not knowing the amount of money exchanged, Sara is both impressed with Maria and disappointed that there would be no bloodshed, something she has taken quite a liking to. She approaches Zhi around midday, alone.

"Hey darling, how have you been? Can we talk privately? I've missed you, and I want to catch up on missed time. Not sex, probably, just, us."


To Zhi's surprise, the agent that she tasked with trying to make contact with the Night Swan brings her a letter that he found at the foot of his bed.

Raven,

I've heard tales of your recent activities in the region. If you have come to Meratt to bring down the SWINE that dare to call themselves "nobles," then perhaps we have a common cause. Meet me tomorrow at midnight on the roof of the Grand Bank of Abadar in Lotheedar, that we might make formal introductions.

The letter is signed with a familiar drawing of a swan.


Female Human Fighter (Cad) 13, Brawler 2 | HP: 55/185| AC: 19/17 (11 T, 17 F)| CMB: +19/+28, CMD: 28| F: +19, R: +12, W: +7| Init: +7| Perc: +17, SM +12, Dip +45, Intim +39| Speed 35ft| Martial Flexibility 3/4, Serpentine Tattoo 3/3, Beast Form 2 (Lion) 1/1, Terrible Cost 5/5| Active Conditions: N/A

Sara would LOVE this person omg


Pre-Marriage Alias
Sara Burke wrote:
"Hey darling, how have you been? Can we talk privately? I've missed you, and I want to catch up on missed time. Not sex, probably, just, us."

Zhi seems nervous.

"Yeah, we can do that. We probably should, actually. There's something that ... yes, we should talk."


Female NG Changeling Mesmerist (Vox) 17 | HP:93/93 | AC: 25 (17 Tch, 21 Fl) | CMB: 11, CMD: 25 | F: +8, R: +17, W: +17 | Init: +8 | Perc/SM +23, Bluff +43(48), Dip +38, I +34, Dis +34, UMD +22, Spcft + 18, KnwA +16| Speed 30ft | Spells: 1: 8/8, 2: 7/7, 3: 7/7, 4: 6/6, 5: 6/6, 6: 3/3 | Tricks: Alac, Curse (M), Free (M), Gift, Visions (M) 18/17+1; Words: 12/12 | Mask: DT (DC20) 9/9, TS 1/1 | Active: See Invisbility, Echolocation

That afternoon Melodie summons a council in the sitting room. With tea (both of the Cayden variety and normal) and cake it is a pleasant one of its sort but Melodie clearly means business none the less.

"First of all, thank you Maria for your excellent job in dealing with the harvest and Mr Eta! Hopefully we will not be seeing him here again any time soon!"

She leads actual applause to Maria. "Secondly, the Night Swan. I know we're all concerned about this vigilante who broke in here and I think we need to stop her as soon as we can. Does anyone have any leads, anything we can investigate to try and track this woman down?"

Upon hearing about the legend of the Maiden in the Lake Melodie appears intrigued. "Really? Well that's a possibility for sure - some sort of vengeful spirit... we should definitely look into that as soon as possible."

Presumably we can all pool our rumors here and find out all the other plot hooks we've picked up!

As the meeting breaks up Melodie catches Zhi's hand and gives it a gentle squeeze as she smiles. "You're welcome."


Pre-Marriage Alias

Once they reach somewhere private ...

Sara:

"I've got something I need to say and ... and please, just let me say all of it."

"I've been thinking a lot lately about ... about what people want and ... and about what you want and ... and about what I want ... and about us."

She pulls something from her thigh pouch and looks at it for a moment before continuing.

"I believe that for every one of us Shelyn has chosen someone for that person. And when they meet them, they'll fill that person's life like the dawn rising."

She smiles sadly, looking down. "You've done that for me, Sara. I wake up in the morning thinking of you. When I go to bed sometimes I ... " She blushes. "Well, I'm thinking of you then as well."

Her brows furrow.

"I didn't realize that the gods were so fickle. It took me some time and some pain to realize that no matter how much I may want it and no matter how much I may try ... "

She looks up at Sara, her eyes glistening.

"I'm not that one for you, Sara. I know you've said that you'll never tie yourself down to just one woman, but I believe, with all of my heart, that you will find her someday, and she'll fill your skies like you've filled mine."

Zhi wipes her eyes and looks back down at her hand and Sara can see that she's holding a ring - silver with a green stone.

"When my mother left, she left a dress and some ... "

She holds out the ring.

"I want you to have this."


Pre-Marriage Alias

I'm going to assume that this meeting is before the persona phase...

Melodie d'Valois wrote:
She leads actual applause to Maria. "Secondly, the Night Swan. I know we're all concerned about this vigilante who broke in here and I think we need to stop her as soon as we can. Does anyone have any leads, anything we can investigate to try and track this woman down?"

"I'm going to have some of my people see if we can arrange a meeting and come to some sort of terms," Zhi says.

"I think it might be more important, though, to find out what happened to Baron Telus."

Melodie d'Valois wrote:
As the meeting breaks up Melodie catches Zhi's hand and gives it a gentle squeeze as she smiles. "You're welcome."

Zhi blushes in surprise.


Female Human Fighter (Cad) 13, Brawler 2 | HP: 55/185| AC: 19/17 (11 T, 17 F)| CMB: +19/+28, CMD: 28| F: +19, R: +12, W: +7| Init: +7| Perc: +17, SM +12, Dip +45, Intim +39| Speed 35ft| Martial Flexibility 3/4, Serpentine Tattoo 3/3, Beast Form 2 (Lion) 1/1, Terrible Cost 5/5| Active Conditions: N/A

At the house meeting

"I don't think we should stop the Night Swan so much as recruit them. An established anti Lotheed presence, doubling as a folk hero for the common folk? Whatever the case, I think we should at least try proper negotiation first."

Sara divulges the rumors she's heard, claiming the missing Abadaran acolytes as the most pressing concern, but admitting how excited she would be to go fishing for the General.

Persona phase/break up

Charm Rank 3 (DC 21), Arrange Secret Meeting with The Night Swan via The Raven, Bluff: 1d20 + 7 ⇒ (14) + 7 = 21

Following Zhi into her room, Sara sits on the edge of the bed, hands in her lap. "Hey, do you remember that night in the Palace where you asked me what I thought of you? If this was just f$%$ing or if we were something?" she kisses Zhi's cheek, grabbing her hand. "Zhi I like you a lot, I like us a lot, and I'm worried that I'm not spending enough time acknowledging that, acknowledging you and your needs. You, you're," she stops, interrupted by Zhi, and allows the woman to speaks.

---

She is in tears by the end of it, hurt, angry, despondent. "You really don't understand, do you?" Upon receiving the ring she gulps, head in hands, weeping openly and not accepting it. She shakes her head and wipes away her tears, placing her other hand down on the bed, atop an open letter.

Perception: 1d20 + 5 ⇒ (12) + 5 = 17

"What is this," she murmurs, grabbing it and pulling it forward.

Without being able to help herself, Sara immediately sees the drawing of the swan. "This pompous ass send us another letter?" she asks, reading on despite Zhi's protestations.

Her eyes grow wide, and she turns, shellshocked. "You're The Raven? Oh Zhi, you HAVE to take me with you, we NEED The Swan as our ally, and I can make you much, much more intimidating, get my ravens to swarm around you, sit on your arms and shoulders, and I'll just be your muscle. Isn't there a word for that? A sidearm?"

She stands up to pace back and forth, wiping her face and sniffing, seemingly emotionless, and before Zhi can form a reply, she continues. "It's done, I'm going with you. You simply have no choice in the matter; I'm calling in my trucco favor, lady's choice. We're meeting with this person together and we are going to get them on our side."

Commentary:
I initially planned on using Sara's trucco favor to ask Zhi to try and get to know Malphene from a neutral place, emphasizing that they are both very important to Sara and that, while Sara understands that there is no need to LIKE your partner's partner, it pains her to see Zhi persist with zero desire to get to know or form a relationship of any kind with Malphene past their initial interactions. I also had hope it would help amend the damage done between Zhi and Sara, but stressing the relationship in pursuit of her new ideals is more true to character.

Also of note, because of Sara's former ignorance in re the identity of The Raven, I planned to visit the Night Swan this persona phase disguised as The Raven, arms full of my birds and wearing my servant's mask, but if both Zhi and myself show up to the meeting as Zhi's alter ego, it's a little sit commy and likely ruins our chances of diplomacy.


Pre-Marriage Alias

Zhi attempts to hide the pain she feels as Sara refuses the ring.

As Sara picks up the letter, Zhi's eyes open wide. She looks with shock at her backpack where she keeps anything of any real value.

"Damn it!" she shouts to the house in general. "Stop messing with my stuff you little weasels!"

Sara Burke wrote:
She stands up to pace back and forth, wiping her face and sniffing, seemingly emotionless, and before Zhi can form a reply, she continues. "It's done, I'm going with you. You simply have no choice in the matter; I'm calling in my trucco favor, lady's choice. We're meeting with this person together and we are going to get them on our side."

"But ... if there's more than one of us there ... he's gonna spook," she finally stammers out.

"Fine," she says finally. "But you need to let me do the talking. He's there to talk to the Raven. We'll need to leave tomorrow morning early because I've something I need to do in Lotheedar first."

Zhi wants to pick up her new rapier before the meeting


Pre-Marriage Alias

Personal Fluff:
Zhi sits down at what passes for a bar in the Wolf's Whisker.

"We really need to get you a proper tavern," she says to Onara. "What would you recommend if someone wants to get numb?"

As she's working on her second drink, Kaito sits down next to her.

"You've got to kidding me," she mutters to herself. Louder, she says, "Kaito, I don't think you could even comprehend how much you don't want to bother me right now."

"I know you better then that, Zhi," the young man says. "What kind of game is going on here? I told you I wanted to talk to the Raven."

"Yes, and I passed along the message. She met you, right?"

"Someone was in my cabin, but I don't think she was the Raven."

"Of course it was," Zhi responds defensively as her hands grip her glass tightly. "I mean, why would you think it wasn't."

"I don't know. Something just seemed ... It felt too ... I don't know. But I think something fishy is going on and I'm going to find out what it is."

"Just do your job, Kaito," the rogue says in a pleading tone.

"Oh I'm going to avoid raising her suspicions, but I'm going to see what I can dig up. I'll let you know if I find anything."

The man gets up and leaves.

Zhi pulls out a well-used dagger and pokes her hand.

"I'm not numb yet, Onara. Give me another."


Female Human Fighter (Cad) 13, Brawler 2 | HP: 55/185| AC: 19/17 (11 T, 17 F)| CMB: +19/+28, CMD: 28| F: +19, R: +12, W: +7| Init: +7| Perc: +17, SM +12, Dip +45, Intim +39| Speed 35ft| Martial Flexibility 3/4, Serpentine Tattoo 3/3, Beast Form 2 (Lion) 1/1, Terrible Cost 5/5| Active Conditions: N/A

Sara nods, "That's fine. I'll leave you to it, then. I'm going to put together my sidearm outfit."

Sara informs Malphene of her business responsibilities, but doesn't go further into detail, simply that her and Zhi are heading into Lotheedar to investigate something important the following day. She chats idly with the woman while putting together a strange outfit, including the bird mask she'd bought from a servant at the gala.

After everything's packed, she just sits on the bed holding Malphene and crying. "Zhi broke up with me," is all she says about it.

Later

Sara drinks away her pain at the tavern, ignoring it for now, pushing it down.

Dip, Gather Info: 1d20 + 15 ⇒ (3) + 15 = 181d4 ⇒ 1

Sufficiently drunk, Sara spends an hour longer at the tavern, asking around about the missing acolytes, but ducking out when she sees Zhi arrive, trying to not be noticed.

She wanders back home, knocking on Maria's door. "Hey there lady," she slurs. "could I like, borrow that uh, wig from the underground for like, a day? I'd owe you a big favor."


Pre-Marriage Alias

Yeah, alcohol cures everything. ;P

Melodie:

Sometime around midnight Melodie awakes to a muffled sound. Sitting in a chair across the room sits Zhi. She's got her knees folded underneath her and she's wiping her nose with her sleeve.

"Sorry," she slurs. "I didn't mean to wake you. You're just so beautiful when you're sleeping."

She wipes her eyes and gazes at the floor.

"Sara hates it when I sneak into her room," she says quietly. "Hated it, I mean. We broke up."

She looks out one of the darkened windows.

"She still doesn't ... " her voice breaks. She shakes her head and clears her throat.

After a moment to collect her composure, she giggles. "Onara needs better booze. We should build her a tavern."

She takes out a dagger and pokes her left hand with it. Even in the darkness, Melodie can see multiple small marks where she's done this before. "See? Don't feel it, it's numb,"

She reaches down and opens the front of her tunic. She taps her fist against her bare chest. "But this still hurts," she says as the tears begin pouring again. "It should be numb too. I drank enough. It should be numb." She curls herself into a ball. "It still hurts."


Pre-Marriage Alias

The meeting with the Black Swan

The next morning, the young rogue is surprised that Sara looks about as well as Zhi feels.

"This place needs better booze," is all she says as they mount up.

In Lotheedar, Zhi would like to pick up some silk rope as well as her new sword.

Zhi spends some time during the day disguised as a small boy casing the bank. She's looking for the best avenues of escape as well as the easiest means of reaching the roof.


Malphene holds Sara as she mourns Zhi's departure. "I'm sorry, love. But it's her loss, really. She'll be missing out in spending time with the beautiful, wonderful, tough woman that you are."

---

Asking about the acolytes in Stachys reveals only that they stopped overnight at Onora's tavern, delivering their books and paying for two meals before traveling west toward the old bridge at Gold Canyon.

---

Zhi finds several easy ways up to the roof as well as escape routes should things go south. It seems the Night Swan picked this building for good reasons, so that they might take advantage of the same things.


Pre-Marriage Alias

The meeting with the Black Swan

At approximately a half hour before midnight, Zhi casts Mage Armor on herself and on Sara if desired and takes what she determines to be the second easiest method to the top of the bank, checking for traps along the way.

Sara gets to see her in her Raven guise for the first time. Both her breeches and tunic are of a mottled gray cloth and her face is covered in a simple black mask. Loose strands of white hair escape from under the hood of her cloak. Behind the mask, her eyes gleam yellow. In contrast to her normal boyish physique, she fills out the clothes with round, feminine curves.

Perception: 1d20 + 8 + 4 + 1 ⇒ (19) + 8 + 4 + 1 = 32

She then proceeds to wait.


Zhi and Sara wait atop the temple's roof, the town of Lotheedar all but asleep below them. Just after midnight, the sound of a swan's call comes from the shadows of the temple's eaves, and then a figure steps out into the moonlight. A masked woman garbed in gold, silver, and white regards the pair of women, moving deliberately and gracefully. She looks equally likely to suddenly take flight or leap to the attack. She is lithe and agile, and her long, platinum-blonde hair is tightly bound in a braid. She idly holds a coiled chain spear at her side.

"I am the terror that stalks the night. I am the winged shadow that haunts the dreams of aristocratic pigs across the nation. I am the Night Swan. You are the Raven?" Her gaze shifts to Sara. "And is this another member of your flock?"


You're a loony. Oh gods, is Sara going to go gaga over you.

"I'm the Raven," Zhi says, stepping forward. "My companion is Miss Adams."

"I won't claim to be any kind of terror, but I've stalked a time or two and it's usually at night. We have similar goals so I'm glad you chose to meet with me."

She glances back at Sara and then turns back to the Night Swan

"In the interest of brevity, I think we can help each other. You'd like to eliminate aristocratic pigs and I'd like to eliminate pigs that are aristocrats."

She holds up one hand with two fingers that are a scant distance apart.

"As you may surmise, there's just a smidgen of a difference there. I've risen from very muddy roots and I've learned that there are a**$!$@s in all walks of life. I won't call them pigs because that's pretty insulting to pigs. Pigs are smart and loyal and ... and I'm digressing. Granted, the higher you go on the power ladder, the percentage of people that fall into the a@&!$++ side of the scale tends to increase ..."

She turns and looks out over the city.

"There are some good people as well. People that I ... people that take their responsibilities with seriousness and humility."

She returns to look at the Night Swan.

"Lotheed most definitely tips toward the a~$*++# side of the scale and I'm working on removing him from power. But I plan to do it without resorting to crossbow traps. Have you visited Stachys? Their lives are improving because of the new Lady at the Betony estate. I have an agent in the household. They're working very hard for the benefit of the people of the village. I would appreciate it if you would avoid any more nocturnal visits."

Zhi is very aware of Sara behind her.

"Although it wouldn't surprise me a bit to find that you have an admirer there. If you proffered the means, I'm sure they would love to offer you an invitation to dinner."

She waves the subject away.

"But again, I digress. My goal here is to find out if we can coexist without being at cross purposes."

Diplomacy: 1d20 + 10 ⇒ (14) + 10 = 24


Female Human Fighter (Cad) 13, Brawler 2 | HP: 55/185| AC: 19/17 (11 T, 17 F)| CMB: +19/+28, CMD: 28| F: +19, R: +12, W: +7| Init: +7| Perc: +17, SM +12, Dip +45, Intim +39| Speed 35ft| Martial Flexibility 3/4, Serpentine Tattoo 3/3, Beast Form 2 (Lion) 1/1, Terrible Cost 5/5| Active Conditions: N/A

Upon having her identity shunted onto her, Sara's face flares red, before correcting Zhi. "My name is the Mockingbird, Ms. Swan. My companion does not speak for me."

Sara allows a chance for Zhi to speak before snapping her fingers twice, coating the two of them in ravens, three of the large birds perched delicately on Zhi and four of them on herself. They stare out at the Night Swan, keen eyed and unblinking.

Dip, Aid Another: 1d20 + 15 ⇒ (7) + 15 = 22

"Each of us has our own goals, but as the Raven says, all of us want to see Lotheed removed from his position. While The Raven here prefers a bloodless coup of some sort, I think you and I would both like to see him gutted. We can work out the details later, but," Sara moves forward and offers her hand in a show of solidarity, "can we count on each other? Allies?

If her hand is grabbed

Sara beams, tilting her head back and forth, saying aloud in a sing song voice, "Birds of a feather, flock togeth-er."


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The Night Swan lets out an acerbic laugh. "Ah, I see you have swallowed the tripe the newly arrived Betony heir is feeding to the masses. I've seen it before. Put on a pretty public face, enact some civic projects to engender goodwill, all to lull the sheep into a false sense of security. Then the stirge reveals its beak and sucks the town dry, all while its people smile and sing her praises."

She turns her back on the Raven, braid whipping dramatically over her shoulder. "Authority is corruption and ownership is theft. And the most corrupt thieves in Taldor are its decadent aristocrats, who feast and hold jubilees while others starve. You know what I call the Exaltation Massacre?" She turns back around, cape fluttering behind her. "A good start."

The Night Swan smiles at Mockingbird's words. "Aye, gutted and bled like the fat pig he is! But why stop with the count? So too for all the nobles of this county! The people deserve better than being yoked to the same system of authority that has kept them oppressed for centuries. What Taldor needs is a fresh start, a slate wiped clean of the stain of the aristocracy. Total self-rule."

She glances at the offered hand dubiously. "We have only just met. I know of you, Raven, by reputation, but actions speak louder than words. Prove to me that our goals align by striking a blow against the swine who rule this land. Perhaps then we can speak further of alliance."

You have gained 1 success towards influencing the Night Swan.


Sara's jaw drops.

"I think I'm in love with this woman," she whispers to Zhi.

When the Night Swan speaks of proof, Sara volunteers herself. "We will find out what happened to Baron Teleus and ensure actions are taken to correct his neglect, even if by violent means."

Upon the Night Swan's departure, Sara lets a long low whistle, inadvertently sending her birds squawking and flocking around her.

"What a woman!"


Sara Burke wrote:

Upon the Night Swan's departure, Sara lets a long low whistle, inadvertently sending her birds squawking and flocking around her.

"What a woman!"

Nailed it.

"Dammit, Sara, what happened to letting me do the talking?" Zhi snaps. She shakes her head in annoyance as she walks over to the edge of the roof and begins navigating her way down.

"That woman is crazier then a outhouse rat."

Once they reach the street, Zhi's appearance returns to her normal clothes and face.

"I haven't the energy to try to ride back tonight so can we stay here and ride out in the morning?"


"Your message and hers weren't connecting, so I," she pokes her index fingers together, "filled in the gaps."

Sara nods at the retooled schedule, making one note. "Last night, I found out that the Grand Banker's missing acolytes went to the Grand Bridge for one reason or another. If you wanted, we could stop by on our way back, ride in in disguise and claim that the Betony heirs led us there, cementing our reputation with both the Night Swan and the well to do."

Not tryna split the party in re combat, hoping Zhi will say no


Pre-Marriage Alias

"No, let's head back to the estate. I don't want to head off somewhere without the others at least knowing where we're at. And I don't know if we're going to get on that maniac's good side without painting the streets red, which I have no intention of doing."

She looks at Sara.

"I think you know that I'll kill someone if I have to. But there's no way I'm just going to kill people because they have a title - That's just Galten insanity. That woman has a screw loose. Check that - multiple loose screws."


"I mean if we're comparing colonies, Galt had it better in hand than Andoran- at least at first. Most of the people on the list were noble families allied with the House of Thrune, whereas nobles not on the list were offered the chance at exile or to have their wealth redistributed. 'Tweren't really til they killed Courage Heart that they lost the plot. In Andoran, the wealthy and loyal stayed in power after the revolution, continuing to control and bankroll and shape the nation to serve them, offering the lower class a mere image and idea of freedom and success."

Sara yawns and stretches.

"I know that if I were to make a list of my own," she says between stretches, "Lotheed would be on it. The Count," she clarifies, "not Martella."


Female Half-Elf Cleric 17 | HP 105/105 | AC 21 T 14 FF 19 | Fort +12 Ref +9 Will +17 | Initiative +2 | Perception +8 | Channel Energy 6/6 | Dazing Touch 8/8 | Bit of Luck 8/8 | Good Fortune 2/2

Persona roll: 1d20 + 13 ⇒ (12) + 13 = 25

Zileska is tired the second day. And the third. Working in the fields is not really her idea of fun. Nevertheless, she's there; who knows why? A Calistrian would rather lounge around in comfort in a boudoir, yet for her own mercurial reasons she decides to pitch in this time.

After the biggest part of the harvest is over she gets a lot of sleep... but then the next day she is out moving through the town knocking on doors.

"Hello," she says by way of introduction at each tiny hovel in the village. "You may have seen me at the harvest! I'm here to see if there are any lingering pains, injuries, issues... things that need a bit of care. Small as a splinter or serious as a torn muscle. I just wanted to drop by and make sure everyone is still well."

Quietly, on the side, when nobody is listening, as she performs her examinations and routines and minor healing, she also whispers to the ladies of the various households. "I can also help you with issues such as cramps, or itches, or ladies' business," she whispers.

Why? Still, nobody knows. Yet she seems quite persistent.

Gained 1 rank in Heroism by serving as the women's health clinic.


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Female NG Changeling Mesmerist (Vox) 17 | HP:93/93 | AC: 25 (17 Tch, 21 Fl) | CMB: 11, CMD: 25 | F: +8, R: +17, W: +17 | Init: +8 | Perc/SM +23, Bluff +43(48), Dip +38, I +34, Dis +34, UMD +22, Spcft + 18, KnwA +16| Speed 30ft | Spells: 1: 8/8, 2: 7/7, 3: 7/7, 4: 6/6, 5: 6/6, 6: 3/3 | Tricks: Alac, Curse (M), Free (M), Gift, Visions (M) 18/17+1; Words: 12/12 | Mask: DT (DC20) 9/9, TS 1/1 | Active: See Invisbility, Echolocation

Zhi:
Melodie sits up in her, very large, bed and pulls the covers aside - patting the space next to her. Her gaze remains fixed on Zhi until the smaller woman puts her knife down and crawls under the blankets with her. Once there Melodie twines her arm around Zhi and begins to hum a lullaby before breaking into soft, sleepy words.

"Hush now my darling,
Be still now, don't cry.
For I have a prayer just for you.

Sleep now my darling,
Sleep deep and dream,
All will be healed in the morning."

As she sings Melodie reaches out with her mind and gently touches Zhi's - an easy task with the younger woman tired and drunk. Slowly she begins to soothe Zhi's hurt, not removing it but drawing the ache and pain away.

As she sings and works her own kind of magic Zhi's face smoothes out and as she falls asleep Melodie feels a surge of protectiveness for the younger woman.

How did you do it Mai? How did you worm your way into my heart like this?

Eventually Melodie returns to sleep, confused thoughts swimming in her brain.


Melodie:
As you drift off to sleep, you can't help but feel an odd sensation, like a tingle in the back of your mind or a whisper at the edge of hearing. It's almost as if something is calling to you, but you're not sure what it might be.

Maria and Melodie may still take their persona phases, but I'll keep things moving in the meantime.

Sara and Zhi return to Stachys the next morning, arriving in the midst of the weekly market day. The marketplace is even more bustling than ever, with the new store attracting high quality goods from across Meratt. The surrounding swamp is noticeably lower now that the advanced repairs at the pump house have been completed.

That afternoon, another delegation arrives from Lotheedar--Sir Gul Gusairne and a patrol of three soldiers. Sheriff Piscum whispers a warning as they ride up to the Betony estate. "Careful what you say to that one. They say he can smell an untruth a mile away."

Gusairne dismounts and surveys the town before turning back towards you. "Good day. I'm not sure if you're aware, but the man who was supposed to collect your town's taxes had a little run-in with the Night Swan on his way back to Lotheedar. Allegedly. You wouldn't mind answering a few questions about the events if that day, would you? And while I'm here, I thought I'd check in to see if you've noticed any other suspicious activity among your populace. Seditious agents might be lurking anywhere, but by Abadar's grace, we will root them out."


Pre-Marriage Alias
Mockingbird Adams wrote:

Sara yawns and stretches.

"I know that if I were to make a list of my own," she says between stretches, "Lotheed would be on it. The Count," she clarifies, "not Martella."

"Don't you see? That's the problem," Zhi says tiredly. "Crazy Chain Lady there's list would include Martella. It would include Eutropia, it would include Dame Crabbe, Sepsinia, Baron Okerra ... Hell, I'll bet it would even include Selli."

A surge of protective adrenaline surprises Zhi as she mentions the possibility of the Black Swan intending any ill towards the young girl.


Pre-Marriage Alias

"Does this happen a lot?" Zhi asks. "Attacks from the Night Swan, I mean. Because he was here as well a few days ago, at the estate. He took some things that we've grown quite attached to - including a gift from Dame Crabbe."

She shows Gusairne the note the Night Swan left.

"If you capture him, we hope you recover the items that were taken."

Look at that, no Bluff roll needed.


"They have grown more common in the last several months. He is becoming more brazen by the day." Gusairne studies the note intently. "I'll need to have a look through your estate to see if there's anything we can use to help track him down and bring him to justice."

You may make three opposed skill checks of your choice to try to get on Gusairne's good side or distract him during his investigation. You will take a cumulative –2 penalty on each subsequent use of the same skill, so a variety of different tactics will work best.

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