Under the Thirteenth Revolutionary Council
Wealday, Oathday, and Fireday, 29th-31st Desnus, 4719
This is it. The end of the beginning -- the real start of the Conspiracy. You head off into the streets of Isarn, half an hour before curfew, needing to get home before some brainless brute of a city guardsman -- or perhaps worse, a gang member -- spots you and decides to hassle you. Sœur Argent -- 'Sister Silver', as it were, with silver being a sort of gray -- is supposed to make a decision about you by next Wealday. 'Very chatty' -- but for three years it's been difficult at times to tell which voices were from physical people and which were from those condemned to the final blades.
Androk proposed a baseline rule: to check if you could see the person speaking, and if you weren't sure if someone you could see next to you, or behind you, may have said something, make an 'Mmm?' sound. And if they said they didn't say anything, make some sort of apology, that you were thinking. Something that would set them at their ease.
The question is, how well can you do that, for the next week and some?
Dolorès begins the relatively short walk back to the Spire of Strife, the crumbling Iomedaen temple that she calls home. She lifts her gray scarf over her hair and pulls her clothes a little tighter around herself, keeping out the cool breeze that comes off the river. She walks slowly, confident that she can easily make it home in the half-hour before curfew, but with purpose, aware that cutting it close is never a good idea.
As always, the wind is filled with whispers that emanate from Madame Margaery.
Soon she promises them. She's never really sure if they can hear her, but the thought is as much to comfort herself as it is to placate them. Our plans are in motion; soon, the Gardeners will believe me to be one of their own.
First, though, she must gain Sister Silver's favor; she must impress the woman enough that she returns to the Grey Gardeners with a glowing recommendation, while at the same time ensuring nothing looks out of the ordinary. The oracle mulls it over as she walks, and supposes it can't be vastly different from the preaching and proselytizing that she does for the church; but instead of convincing people to open their hearts and minds to l'Héritier, Dolorès must convince Sœur Argent of her own value as a candidate, and apparently, as a conversationalist. No small task for the serious young woman, but an achievable one, so long as she heeds Jeggare's advice and keeps her wits about her.
"Heey, what's this??" It isn't far to the Spire of Strife; if you turn the corner you can see just a few dozen feet past the three bully-boys, you'd be able to see the temple itself. But there are three bully-boys in the way, and in the lowering torchlight from the tavern nearby you can see them sizing you up. Like a trio of wolves examining a lone doe, the three young men wearing Vice colors are clearly pondering whether or not to drag you back into the tavern's side-alley from which they came.
"Out looking for a bed, gray girl?" asks the leader -- or at least speaker. "Looks like you have a few curves underneath that robe that'd keep a fellow or three warm at night. C'mon, give us a kiss and a squeeze." He approaches, to the amused titillation of his two fellows, one arm lifted to the side as if to wrap around your shoulders.
Perception, DC 13:
Dolorès is shaken from her reverie by the appearance of the men, but she keeps moving, not altering her pace in the slightest. Stopping to engage these types is likely exactly what they want.
"Best not. The streets are out for blood tonight," she says gravely, her voice dripping with subtle manipulations that urge the speaker to listen to her, and she gestures over her shoulder nervously as she walks. "I had to take the long way round to avoid Council's dogs. Stay safe out there, camarade."
Perception, DC 13: 1d20 + 7 ⇒ (3) + 7 = 10
Sense Motive, DC 12: 1d20 + 7 ⇒ (8) + 7 = 15
Bluff: 1d20 + 20 ⇒ (17) + 20 = 37
Diplomacy: 1d20 + 15 ⇒ (19) + 15 = 34
Readying an action to distract them with Ghost Sound (as a concealed spell) if they continue to approach, but we'll cross that bridge if we get to it.
The man accosting you hesitates as he hears your voice, but then blinks a couple of times and looks past you, his attitude gone nervous and uncertain instead of roughly amorous. "They wouldn't cross the bridges tonight," he mutters, then turns back towards the other pair. "Would they?" he asks them.
One of the other two looks blank, as if he doesn't understand the implications of the words that have been said; the other glances at him, then looks towards the leader. "Maybe we should go take a look ... ?" he offers tentatively, by which point you've walked right past them.
A few steps more, and you turn the corner and the Spire is in sight; from behind you (you think) comes the sound of movement from the three men as they trot away from you, towards the river and the closest bridge, the one that connects La Scène to the north bank directly in front of the Plunging Blade. Your own way is clear to return home ... and try to figure out how to be more bubbly, more conversational, more ... normal.
Dolorès breathes a sigh of relief as she turns the corner and is greeted by the Spire's crumbling stones. Despite the loose bricks that make the stairs difficult to walk on, and the wall that's threatening to collapse, and the slight lean that the steeple has taken on, the temple is a welcome sight to all of Iomedae's faithful; even more so to Dolorès, who has called it home for most of her life.
She doesn't slow her steps until she has slipped inside the temple and pulled the door shut behind her. From there, she quietly makes her way to the small section of rooms that pass for a priory, careful not to wake any fellow clergy who are already asleep, and into her own simple quarters.
Kneeling on the hard floor beside her bed, eyes closed and hands clasped loosely together, the young woman says a prayer to Iomedae, her lips moving silently in time with her thoughts. The other voices in her head are never quiet, but it seems to Dolorès that they become more in harmony when she prays, giving her a momentary respite, however small.
Iomedae, let my heart guide my actions. I will have faith in my fellows and guard their honor, both in thought and action; the coming days will no doubt be dark and full of sacrifice, but I will never abandon the innocents of this city, living or dead.
After a moment, her eyes flutter open, and she casts a glance around the empty room, looking hesitant and almost guilty.
Pharasma... I will complete the task you have given me. Please let me rest tonight, that I might serve you better tomorrow.
She lifts a hand nervously to her chest and swiftly moves it in the shape of a spiral, sealing her oath, before climbing into bed for yet another night of fitful sleep.
1d20 ⇒ 17
1d20 ⇒ 15
1d6 ⇒ 3
1d6 ⇒ 6
1d6 ⇒ 2
The dreams this night are similar to many you've had over the past years, walking down tunnels like those in the Catacombs but lined here and there with bars holding prisoners in cells that have no doors, where the prisoners reach out to you with grasping hands, pleading for their release. Walking down hallways of infinite height and mazelike turns and iron walls, the silence growing heavier with every silent step, more and more oppressive, until the mind begins to imagine muffled cries behind the walls ... or perhaps not imagine, but finally hear ...
Nothing rips you out of your sleep, but even at the moment of waking up it is as though you had no sleep at all. Though the voices are a low murmur and muttering, like neighbors behind a thin apartment wall, the disquiet of the evening reverberates within you, a deep psychic weariness that continues to cloud your ability to think.
29th Desnus, 4719
Heavy-eyed and weary, but unable to submit to restless sleep any longer, Dolorès rises in the pale grey light of dawn. She begins her morning by washing slowly with a basin and a bit of soap, letting the cool water refresh her senses and lift the sleep from her eyes. After combing her hair thoroughly and covering it loosely with her usual gray scarf, she clothes herself in a simple white dress and red sash befitting of an Iomedaen priest.
By the time the sun has crept just above the horizon, she has made her way to the common area, where she breaks her fast and sips a fragrant tea as the rest of the temple awakens around her. She remains seated and silent as the rest of the clergy begins to perform their morning chores and help themselves to breakfast, but eventually rises from her corner and makes her way to a table nearer the center, placing herself among the few priests she works with most closely. After murmuring some words of greeting, she leans in and begins to discuss their activities for the next few days; they involve the usual plans to walk the streets, speaking to the people and helping those in need, all in the name of the Inheritor.
”While you go about your day, be mindful of those who show a particular interest in the temple or our people. Take their information, if possible, but no need to push any further.”
”And you, Joséphine,” she says at last, turning to the acolyte beside her. ”Will you join me in the city today?” Such a request is a bit out of the ordinary, as Dolorès does not often work with a partner and prefers spending most days off on her own, but it seems an appropriate first step toward appearing more outwardly open.
The so-called 'Spire of Strife' -- not the church's real name, but only Iomedae's clergy know it any more, and even that gets passed over even in personal conversation simply because of being in the habit of using what the commons call it -- has so far avoided the fate of many such crumbling buildings, raided for its very building blocks to be used in putting together something else somewhere else. Not from any particular vigilance or fear, but from a certain respect that lingers even this full-century after Aroden's disappearance, and Iomedae's 'inheritance'. The few other full-priests in the church consult with their own under-priests and acolytes during breakfast, but there aren't many more than forty or fifty of you in a space that should hold four or five times that number.
The acolytes nod their agreement, unaware of the reason behind the request, with Joséphine looking somewhat startled at your offer. "I, ah ..." She seems a little flummoxed, used to Dolorès's more typical standoffishness (or reticence, if you prefer), but after a glance flicked across the table, she replies, "Sure. Is there anywhere in particular we'll be going, ma'am?"
"Yes," Dolorès answers simply, softly. She adjusts her posture and clasps her hands on the table to keep from fidgeting, forcing her oft wandering mind to remain focused on the matter at hand. ”We have plenty to do right here in Nord Rivière; we’ll visit our neighbors and invite them to visit the temple. Nothing out of the ordinary.”
She looks around to field any questions, and then nods once. ”Well,“ she concludes, and begins to get up to leave, but thinks better of it and sits back down. If she cannot stay and be sociable with her own brothers and sisters, what hope does she have of impressing the Grey Gardener? ”Well... Whenever you’re ready,” she says instead, looking at Josèphine. ”Take your time.”
As the other priests chat over breakfast, Dolorès does her best to sit still and listen. Occasionally, she adds an unobtrusive comment of her own, but this many voices speaking at a time make it difficult for her to be sure which are real, and for the most part she stays quiet and simply observes. More than once, her mind drifts out of the temple and across the Kantele, and she must make an effort to return her attention to the table.
I figure most of Dolorès’ downtime actions for the church will fall under the ‘Promoting a Business’ activity. The goal is both to attract people to the temple and of course to be seen interacting with people.
Also, here’s a Bluff role for acting normal and casual while conversing with the other priests. Not sure if it’s necessary but I wanted to include it for flavor, feel free to use it or not at your discretion.
Bluff: 1d20 + 20 ⇒ (19) + 20 = 39
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The hardest part of talking with others -- 'being sociable' -- is figuring out who is actually speaking, the spirits in your head or the people in front of you. Well, no doubt it'll get easier with practice. Or you'll get better.
... well, you can hope.
Once the morning repast is had, and the acolytes whose duty it is this week go to clean the dishes and begin what maintenance on the slowly-crumbling church they can, you and your own circle of attendants move out into the neighborhoods around the Spire of Strife. While normally the others would seperate into pairs or trios and start doing what they do -- which is, simply put, try to help the mass of people who have gravitated to Isarn because, well ... it's the city. When the farm fails, when you lose the mill to taxes, you go to the city. It makes for a lot of hunger, unrest, despair, all of which the Iomedaeans have been trying to stave off, by going out into the neighborhoods just like you are today.
Today, though, the acolytes include you in their pairs and trios, and though none of them seperate from each other more than the usual dozen or so yards, there is a greater sort of watchfulness coming from them as they witness your attempt to reach out to people.
I hadn't even thought of a Bluff roll. Nice one, though. :D Go ahead and give me a Diplomacy roll with your next post, though; we'll see how the people in the street, who are seeing this up close, react. :)
Dolorès remains somewhat reserved alongside Josèphine, unsure how to enliven a relationship that has been nothing but cool professionalism for so long, but does make some attempts at friendly conversation, inquiring about recent events and her goals within the church. When the streets become wider and noisier, she links arms with the younger priestess, using her familiar presence as an anchor to keep her mind from straying.
Uncomfortably aware of the many sets of eyes on her, perhaps including those of the Gardener, Dolorès attempts to lose herself entirely in her work. She greets people she recognizes from the neighborhood, gently reminding them to make time to visit the temple, and steadily eases into approaching small groups of strangers on the streets. When she and Josèphine come upon an ailing beggar or a child with a skinned knee, Dolorès calms and reassures them while the other priestess heals them with Iomedae’s blessing.
Her smile begins to come more naturally as she is reminded of the rewards of charitable work, and she soon finds herself settling into the routine, but the ache behind her eyes grows worse with each passing hour as she makes a continuous effort to ignore the unrelenting noise of her thoughts and appear entirely present in the moment.
Downtime activity, 29th of Desnus: Promoting a Business (Spending 1 point of Magic)
Days of Activity: 1d6 ⇒ 5
Diplomacy, Magic: 1d20 + 15 + 5 ⇒ (7) + 15 + 5 = 27
Both of my acolytes are 1st level Clerics, so that point of Magic represents healing services and the like.
Also forgot to mention that unless stated otherwise, Dolorès will implant Mesmeric Mirror on herself most mornings.
You know of people afflicted like yourself -- most of them without the blessings of power that go with this curse -- who have difficulty relating with the people around them. With you, it's the constant distractions of the souls calling to you; with them, well ... who can say? The way they are unable to meet others' gaze, the very exact way they need things (sometimes just one specific thing), it in many ways mirrors your own difficulties.
There is one such, a girl on the cusp of becoming a young woman, who is sometimes about, sometimes not, but who has lived in the area for many years. You do not think she is an orphan, though she never speaks (nor have you ever asked) of her parents; she simply is too neat and taken-care-of to not have someone looking out for her. In much the same way, perhaps, as Androk looked out for you. But the sort of burden the two of you seem to share is a silent, understood bond; when you and she are about, there are a few minutes the two of you simply sit near each other, taking an obscure sort of comfort in being about 'your own kind' without the petty conversations which ordinary people seem to find so necessary, but which the two of you find to be a hassle.
About midafternoon, you are comforting a youth with a crooked leg that magical healing can do nothing about but which some amount of slow-and-steady (and, unfortunately, painful) physical straightening might perhaps work when you see her -- Léa -- approaching. It takes a moment to suppress the urge to simply up and walk away from the young man who grits his teeth and groans as the physician carefully tightens the screws on the boards with which he's trying to guide the young man's leg into straightening out. (You'd found the physician, and he took the boy on less as a 'charity case' and more as 'an experiment' to see if he couldn't correct the issue.)
Léa ... it's clear that whether wandering or searching, she is glad to see you, but your unusual activity makes her, well, uncertain. After a minute or so of standing and swaying in place, at least she doesn't walk away; instead, she crosses the street and sits abruptly down on the outside edge of a door-sill, hugging her knees to her. As is her habit, she does not look directly at the subject of her interest ... meaning you.
The sight of Lèa’s apparent distress causes Dolorès to falter, and her grip on the poor boy’s hand slackens for just a moment. Catching herself, she takes the youth’s hand back up and leans closer to whisper a prayer over him while the doctor finishes the work. Every so often, she glances behind to see if her young friend remains at the door.
When the boy’s adjustment is completed, she straightens up and nervously smooths her dress over her hips. With a light touch on Josèphine’s shoulder, she pulls her just aside. ”See that he’s comfortable. I’ll be back... momentarily.”
Whether or not she should join Lèa for a precious few minutes of silence does not even occur to her until she is already crossing the street. Any time they spend together is unlikely to be lively, talkative, outgoing, or anything else Dolorès is supposed to appear to be, but that very facade seems to have unsettled a friend, and this simple act might rectify that. Not to mention, as she assures herself, it would appear quite out of the ordinary for her to ignore the girl entirely.
Approaching the door where Lèa has curled up, Dolorès leans against the wall a few feet away and clasps her hands loosely in front, letting her eyes wander freely. She does not offer any apologies or explanation; to do so would break a promise left purposely unspoken, a bond built on mutual understanding with no need of words; and she waits.
Perception: 1d20 + 7 ⇒ (20) + 7 = 27
Lèa does, in fact, stick around, sitting there and staring at nothing in particular in several different spots, gently and subtly rocking back and forth. That rocking is almost always a sign of her trying to comfort herself, in a situation where she's uncertain, or where the world around her is something she has yet to be able to handle, but that rocking subsides once Dolorès comes over and settles down near to her.
The two share the space in companionable silence for several minutes, the boy across the street with his head turned into his mother's lap; you know the boy sheds tears of pain, even as his mother cries in helpless anguish at her child's distress. But perhaps the physician's experiment will work, and the boy will heal and grow stronger. For those souls whose cries you hear, cries which are subdued with the nearness of someone who perhaps hears them as well, there is work to do to free them. Work which will no doubt intensify those voices, push you to the edge of madness ... beyond, even.
Abruptly, Lèa stands and, crossing in front of you, walks away; there is less than an instant's pause when she reaches out to put her hand upon the top of your loosely-clasped pair. The feel of a pebble-sized stone falling through a gap between your hands and landing in the nest of your laced fingers is subtle but definite.
Dolorès glances after Lèa, closing her fingers slowly around the small object in her hands. She remains still and seated for a moment longer, the feeling of quietude fading as her friend walks away, before cupping her palms discreetly in front of her to see what treasure she's been given. Whatever it is, it feels private somehow, and she does her best to shield it from the bustle of the street.
Glancing carefully downwards -- perhaps in an attitude of prayer, or even just a tired woman needing a moment to collect herself -- you peek at the gift given you by the afflicted girl. Nestled in your hands is ... a pebble. Just a small pebble about the size of your thumbnail, vaguely egg-shaped, smooth to the touch, warm from being held by the tidy girl. While an oddity of sorts -- you haven't the knowledge base to recognize the type of stone, but its particularly dark grey tone doesn't fit with those used in the city architecture -- it simply might be a security object, something she'd held onto to try to help control her distress at the strange mayhem of city life, a bit of rock picked up or given her that's been worn smooth and round by incessant use.
'... or it may be something different,' whisper the spirits inside you. 'Dangerous. Helpful. Useless. A good sling stone ...'
... well, it's certainly far too small to be a good sling stone, so that advice might be taken with a grain of salt.
Dolorès slips the stone into her pocket and stands. If there is more to this gift than meets the eye, as some of the spirits in her head seem to suggest, it will have to wait until later.
Returning to the other side of the street, she kneels beside the boy and his weeping mother and smooths the damp hair away from his forehead. Pressing the symbol of Iomedae that hangs from her neck, she whispers a prayer for both of their sakes. "Strength is not only in the body, but in the heart. Have faith in the Inheritor. She will lend you her vigor and lead you to victory in this war."
As she and Josèphine continue about their day, Dolorès finds some comfort in slipping her hand in her pocket and rolling the smooth little stone between her fingers. It eases the tension in her body, and gives her something subtle but substantial to focus on when her mind begins to wander.