The Slave and Her Sovereign

4 Successes (1 Hard DC Available)/1 Failures/1 Secondary Skills Available/2 Advantages Available)

4 Success and she tips her hand. 8 Successes and you form an alliance with Bita-Bousseh the barrister on your terms. If you get 3 failures at any point, you fail to reach whatever goal hasn't been reached and things escalate.




<darkbard and Nephis > Panting in labored breaths above the shattered corpse of their foe, Pa’avu turns her head very slowly to the barrister. “This … time … the … … … ven … om … wins ..." she forces out, resignedly, as her already-thick skin hardens further, taking on the quality of a finely-chiseled statue.

From a short distance away, Bita-Bousseh produces a small vial of acid from her magisterial robes. “This antidote should restore her,” the barrister proclaims.

The goliath raises an arm in slow motion. "Wait," she manages, "blood ... triumphs ... over venom!"

And she is correct. The poison in her blood dissipates and she shakes off the petrifying effect of the Stonefang Spider's venom.





The crowd gathers slowly with trepidation and an increasing murmur. When they realize that crisis has been narrowly averted, there is a collective cheer and coin thrown the heroes way!

Unfortunately, two of the Minotaur Stalwarts have succumbed to spider's attacks. Bita-Bouseh and the Minotaurs greave and the patrons carry the bodies overhead. After a brief exchange between Bita-Bouseh and Chanvati, its decided that the group will meet at Chanvati's estate after burial, memorializing, and grieving for the fallen.





XP AND LOOT

* 600 xp - 150 (Minions) xp = 450 xp. Each of you take 225 xp.

* Take 70 Gold Coins.

* @darkbard picks a level 2-4 Staff Implement to power staff up with from this conflict. Picks:

Staff of the War Mage
Level 3+ Uncommon
This staff, topped with a red crystal, enhances the size of your blast and burst spells.
Lvl 3 +1 680 gp
Implement: Staff
Enhancement Bonus: attack rolls and damage rolls
Critical: +1d8 damage per plus
Power ✦ Daily (Free Action) Use this power when using a power that has a blast or a burst effect. Increase the size of the blast or the burst by 1.




Later at the Chanvati estate, the Minotaurs exchange the post-battle warrior-servant rituals with Pa'avu that signify respect and exaltation in purpose. Both sides served their masters well so the custom must be observed. Blood is let, physical contests of prowess engaged, and ancient, fraternal words are spoken where entities of great power are invoked (1).

Meanwhile, Bita-Bouseh reveals the following about her law practice:

"I formerly served our Empress and advised her to make various reforms...until her inner circle closed in and cast me out. Something has happened with her and I don't have the resources to uncover it...and I doubt that I will for some time. I only hope it isn't too late by then."

She leans in close and whispers:

"I am in league with a group of dissidents, The 2nd Nation. We are performing reconnaissance on the lower castes, starting with the upper crust; the merchants. Who is with us? Who serves the Empress' inner circle that has a vested interest in...well, whatever it is they have a vested interest in...its presently unclear!

What do you know of your cousin, Amna? What do you know of your uncle? What master do they serve and is it the same? By now, you must possess the answer to these questions, yes? Know this, neither myself nor The 2nd Nation will brook incapable agents. If you wish to throw in with us, you must prove you are more than just tea-swillers and capable warriors. I can find those in any fighting coliseum of the Empire! (2)"





Deal with (1) or (2) or both (though if you choose both and the 1st Primary Check fails, stop there so I can change the fiction). Prove yourself. Medium DC regardless.
 
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Nephis

Adventurer
* spend 3 Surges to heal: 21 HP
Pa'avu: 30/31 HP; 6/10 Surges


The three minotaurs form a ring, crouched with arms at the ready, eyes alertly watching the goliath. At the center of this ring, Pa'avu slowly paces a tight circle, eyes softly focused downward. She suddenly rushes the brawniest of the three and tackles him to the ground, holding her forearm to its neck and choking it out to unconsciousness (an honorable defeat of a worthy opponent). She leaps up and howls a potent and victorious war cry, the sound of which awakens the fallen opponent and sends the others stumbling backward.



  • Athletics check vs Moderate DC 12: Roll 15 + 10 = 25 Success!
  • War Cry (encounter, trigger: Your attack reduces an enemy to 0 hit points): my intent is to assert my dominance as Alpha in the warrior pack.
 
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darkbard

Hero
Inter-scene Short Rest: Chanvati spends 1 Surge, Heals 6 HP to 24/24 HP, 4/7 Surges remaining.




Chanvati and the barrister sit together in the lavish apartments he occupies in his father’s estate. Several slaves scurry in activity in the background, serving thimbleful glasses of sweet liqueur and fowl roasted with fruits, nuts, and candied tubers.

“Neari,” he orders one of the slaves, “attend us.” A young girl barely into puberty jumps to his side. “You were with me this morning at the meeting of Guild Lords. Did you do as I instructed? Did you follow Amna back to my uncle’s estate? Did she meet with Tarquin? What else did you see there?”




I am trying to establish that Chanvati has already had suspicions about his relatives and their loyalties, even before this morning’s assassination attempt. And, further, that he is not without his own network of informants. I’m invoking Neari as an Advantage in the Skill Challenge, stepping down the DC from Moderate to Easy.

Streetwise Roll 12 +2 (using an untrained skill in an SC! Take that, doubters!) = 14 vs. 8 Easy DC. Success.

I think the most logical outcome is that Neari is able to confirm that Amna met with Tarquin, perhaps overhearing some details about his foreknowledge of the assassination attempt and their continued loyalty to the Empress’s inner circle, their attempt to prevent a schism within the family and root out potential dissident voices. Feel free to ignore or expand upon that vague outline as you see fit!
 

6 Successes (0 Hard DC Available)/1 Failures/1 Secondary Skills Available/1 Advantages Available)

The ritual between Pa'aavu and the minotaurs, consummated in a series of howls, ends abruptly. Accepting her as a peer and deferring to her in the household of her master, when the horn of the priesthood blows and the drums beat out in the family courtyard, they take up arms next to her with Pa'avu as the point of phalanx. Chanvati's wing of the family estate is well-insulated from the exterior walls, but the mood of the minotaur stalwarts on the sandy floor of the exercise suite betrays that they expect to be assailed at any moment.

In the apartments one floor above, Neari is regaling her master of what she has learned. As was feared, Amna has seduced her father into taking sides against his brother. The thinking between Tarquin and his daughter is clearly aligned and its been so longer than suspected. The assassination on Chavanti was to coincide with the priesthood and its military attachment arresting Chanvati's father for treason against the Empress!

"Master...there is more I'm afraid..."

That is when the horn blows, the drums bellow, and the steward comes rushing into room "...sir(?)" as a herald's booming voice demands the master of the hou
se (Chanvati's father) present himself!

Bita-Bousseh's eyes go from narrowed and interested to widened and progressively dismayed as they move from the girl and her intel to the steward and to finally settle upon Chanvati.





What' it going to be? A stealthy escape? A deceptive parley? A rebuke? A confrontation?

Whatever it is, its at the High DC.
 
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darkbard

Hero
At the steward’s intrusion, Chavanti swallows hard and collects himself. “Rith,” he addresses the steward calmly, “inform the leader of this delegation that I will meet them in the antechamber to the Great Hall presently.” He turns back to his companion. “Won’t you join me in a moment of meditation to clear our minds of externalities that may interfere with our purpose here?”

Chanvati produces two sets of zills from a pouch at his sash and sweetly hums a tuneless chant in his pure tenor to the rhythmic tinkling of the cymbals. He feels whatever scruples he may have held melt away, a thousand lies flooding his imagination with the force of will to deliver them!

The two stride into the antechamber, where the leader of the delegation looking to arrest Chanvati’s father paces impatiently before their guards. Chanvati takes in the Inquisitor’s mood and the vibe of the small chamber in a nonce.

“Inquisitor,” Chanvati begins confidently, “would that my father and I could receive you properly, as befitting your station! But, alas, you know full well that our household has pledged itself to the Sect of Omthala and so our home is beyond even the Empress’s jurisdiction. It is a breach of the Accords even to meet with you here in the antechamber. Surely, the Honorable Inquisitor does not wish to incite another Holy War! With respect, I insist you leave the premises immediately, for whatever business you have can wait for the appropriate judicial chambers another time.”





Chanvati performs the Glib Limerick Ritual (free once/day with Bardic Ritualist Feat, Roll twice for Bluff checks for 10 minutes) in the minute he has before meeting with the Inquisitor. Utilizing a Ritual in a Skill Challenge, in this case, yields 2x Successes since it is particularly fitting to the fiction.

Secondary Skill Insight Roll 9 +10 =19 vs 8 Easy DC = +2 buff to

Primary Skill Bluff Roll b[2, 14] +7 +2 =23 vs 19 Hard DC. 2 Successes. Skill Challenge completed.
 

SKILL CHALLENGE COMPLETE

1) 300 xp. Both of you take 150 xp.

2) You form an alliance with Bita-Bousseh the barrister on your terms.

3) You can take an Extended Rest at your estate and gain an Action Point.

4) You both complete your Minor Quests; C = Recruit Bita-Bousseh the barrister as my asset and P = Assert her dominance over Minotaurs without alienating them. 200 xp. Both of you take 100 xp.

5) Write net Minor Quests for both characters (from which we'll sort out the framing for next scene) and if you've derived enough material for a Major Quest, write that now, please.

6) Treasure: Bita-Bousseh gifts you with a small piece of art as a token of appreciation for this past day and your alliance (something portable like an elaborate hair pin or belt buckle); 250 Gold Coins worth. @darkbard , take a Ritual Scroll of your choice levels 1 or 2. @Nephis , take a level 1 or 2 Consumable of your choice.




The Dragonborn Inquisitor (Eyo-urth-shala by name), the herald, and the guard leave the estate without further remark. The Inquisitor does, however, embed an official Imperial Standard off the premises but at the convergence point where the estate drive meets the roadway. This standard looms as an Imperial brand for investigation of heresy and treason. Its presence will warn off those who wish to do business with your father and will cause travelers to keep a wide birth (Removing this is illegal and it is imbued with magics so would be a Skill Challenge - 1).

Bita-Bousseh thanks you for the work done today, affords you her legal services and her stalwarts protections on retainer, invites you to covertly join The 2nd Nation, and grants you one request of her. She laments that, given today's affairs, unless there is intervention (2), she is likely to not be your Uncle's barrister for much longer. Surveiling your extended family will become nearly impossible for The 2nd Nation after that loss.

The Minotaur Stalwarts commemorate the day's victories with one final clash with Pa'avu and accept her as their alpha when engaging in physical conflict (given that BB has afforded you their service!).





If you're going to do something with either 1 or 2 that is fine. We'll frame a conflict. Otherwise, pick alternative Minor Quests and we'll frame a new scene accordingly.

Further, you gain Bita-Bousseh and her 3 x Minotaur Stalwarts (Minions all) as Companion Characters worth 1 total character of xp. Rewrite BB's primary At-Will as that was an artifact of the encounter you guys were in. Make it some kind of Controller or Leader rider to 2 or 3 damage base (depending on how powerful you want the rider to be).
 
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darkbard

Hero
Once Eyo-urth-shala and her entourage depart the estate, Chanvati wastes no time bringing Bita-Bousseh along to his father to inform him of the present predicament and the day’s extraordinary events (excepting any mention of the 2nd Nation and the barrister’s connections thereto). If Chanvati’s apartments are decadent, extravagant, Quwaenthi’s are their opposite: spartan, austere even. His father belies the impression of his living space, however, a fat, jovial man, unflappable in his good humor, even with this dire news.

“It’s a good thing you had with you that slave I bought as bodyguard!” and “Heresy and treason! What quaint charges!” stand out among his jokes. Nevertheless, the sincerity of his appreciation for Chanvati’s cleverness in bringing the Scrolls of Xanthar to him instead of his brother (“a capital start in magnifying our fortunes a hundredfold!”) and deep grief at his brother’s betrayal (“Amna has always been a scorpion, but my own brother!”) are evident.

After a brief session of vague plan-making to deal with the Imperial Brand and the official investigation it represents, aided, when appropriate, by the barrister’s legal advice, Chanvati and Bita-Bousseh repair to the former’s chambers, where the intensity of the day’s events spills over into a kiss and passionate embrace… <<fade to black>>





Minor Quest: End the Imperial Investigation upon his family. (This addresses (1) above directly and immediately.)

Major Quest: Depose Tarquin as Prince of the family and bring rightful vengeance down upon Tarquin and Amna. (This seems a natural outgrowth of the developing fiction and a way to address (2) above, as Chanvati throws in his lot with the 2nd Nation—at least for now—serving as an Embedded Spy (one of my Background flags) within his own family (treacherous though they be).)

Current XP 800/1000. Extended Rest: all Daily and Encounter Powers and HP/Surges reset to full value. Reset to 1 AP. Chanvati will also take 8 hours to master the Hold Portal ritual he recovered with the Scrolls of Xanthar.

Among the extraneous papers Chanvati retrieved when stealing the Scrolls of Xanthar is a Ritual Scroll of Silent Image (L1 Deception Ritual).

The art piece Bita-Bousseh gifts Chanvati/Pa’avu is an intricately-carved jade hairpin, as much a token of her affection as appreciation.

Bita-Bousseh’s revised AW Power

Infernal Glower (At-Will), Fear
Ranged 5, Target: one creature
Attack: +5 vs Will
Hit: 3 damage, and Bita-Bousseh slides the target 1 square




Because of the extra time (Extended Rest + Mastering the Hold Portal Ritual), I assume the next scene begins no earlier than mid-morning the next day.
 

Nephis

Adventurer
Pa’avu begins her nightly chthonic ritual sitting cross-legged on the floor of the antechamber of Chanvati’s rooms (she would prefer to be outside where her hands could connect more directly with the earth but knows she must be closer at hand, particularly now). She breathes the cleansing night air deeply into her gut to replenish her strength, her calm, and releases the staleness of the finished day in her exhale. She travels with her blood throughout her body, feeling that cherished connection to l’pahb’gin. Tonight that connection feels stronger than usual, perhaps a consequence of the earlier battle between the blood of goliaths flowing through her veins and that spider’s poison invading those veins.



The poison remaining in Pa'avu's blood has been transformed into one dose of Antivenom (L1 Consumable). She can either activate the blood to heal herself or cut her palm to heal another.

Minor Quest: Seek out the older goliath Gae’al who fights in the gladiator rings to learn more about Pa'avu's (possibly mythical) goliath blood.

Current XP 800/1000. Extended Rest: all Daily and Encounter Powers and HP/Surges reset to full value. Reset to 1 AP.
 
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darkbard

Hero
Our goal for the upcoming challenge is to plant the stolen Scrolls of Xanthar on Tarquin or Amna and have them arrested by a redirected Inquisition.

Because the Imperial Standard limits our mobility, puts strain on our business ventures, and threatens Chanvati’s father (and possibly Chanvati, himself!) with charges of heresy and treason, Chanvati feels it imperative to meet with the Dragonborn Inquistor directly. And with the aid of a professional intermediary, so the first order of business is to hire on Lucent Messenger Ibhea (a former urchin who “found the way”) from the Sanctuary of Light, Omthala’s cathedral in the city.




Streetwise Roll 8 +2 =10 vs. Easy DC 8 and spend 72 gp for their aid throughout the present conflict; our goal here is to get another expert with trained skills for the upcoming challenge: likely Religion, Stealth, Thievery, possibly Streetwise—not sure how many of these you have in mind--three seems to be standard for Henchmen--but that would be the priority.




Then, we will proceed to parley with Inquisitor Eyo-urth-shala with a plea bargain: remove the Imperial Brand and investigation into Chanvati’s father and direct them instead to Tarquin and Amna, whom we "know" to have stolen Imperial property and murdered a citizen in the Undervault of the Dome of Illumination.

If Chanvati can have the effect of Glib Limerick (for roll 2x with Bluff) for one check throughout the challenge, he will perform this ritual in advance of the meeting with Eyo-urth-shala (free once/day); else he will reserve this for later use.




Chanvati, Pa’avu, Bita-Bousseh and her charge of Minotaurs, and Lucent Messenger Ibhea make their way to the Hanging Gardens, a public park that is testament to the great wealth of Empire, however many are trodden or exterminated in its getting.

When they greet Eyo-urth-shala beside the Great Urn in the center of the park, Ibhea, a nervous but resourceful fellow, invokes the Rites of Armistice on behalf of Chanvati’s entourage in the parley, in hopes of suspending any hostilities.





I don’t know what Ibhea’s training is (+9?), but the Religion Roll is 12 vs Moderate DC 13, so I assume we pass.
 
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COMPANION UPDATES

Stalwart Minotaur x 3

Medium natural humanoid
Level 1 Minion Soldier
HP 1; a missed attack never damages a minion Initiative +2
AC 17, Fortitude 14, Reflex 12, Will 12 Perception+7
Speed 5 Low-light vision

Traits
Phalanx for Master
Whenever Bita-Bousseh is adjacent to a minotaur she gains a +2 Power Bonus to all defenses.

Standard Actions
(⚔) Axe ✦ At-Will
Attack: Melee 1 (one creature); +6 vs. AC
Hit: 3 damage, and the target is marked until the end of the minotaur's next turn.

Triggered Actions
Subduing Gore ✦ At-Will
Trigger: An adjacent enemy that is marked by the minotaur makes an attack that does not include the minotaur.
Attack (Immediate Reaction): Melee 1 (one creature); +4 vs. Reflex
Hit: 3 damage and the minotaur takes the attack instead.

Athletics + 9, Perception +7




Bita-Bouseh
Medium natural humanoid, tiefling
Level 1 Minion
HP 1; a missed attack never damages a minion. Initiative Minotaurs
AC 15, Fortitude 12, Reflex 13, Will 15 Perception+5 Speed 6

Infernal Glower (At-Will), Fear
Ranged 5, Target: one creature
Attack: +4 vs Will
Hit: 3 damage, and Bita-Bousseh slides the target 1 square

There Will Be Order
Immediate Reaction (Encounter)
Trigger: Bita-Bouseh or an ally within 3 squares of Bita-Bouseh is knocked unconscious.
Effect: Bita-Bouseh or the ally heals 1d6 HP and saves against 1 ongoing effect.

Lawyer's Dodge
Move Action (Encounter)
Effect: Bita-Bouseh shifts 3 squares and can shift through difficult terrain until the end of her next turn.

Acrobatics +2 (Escape), Bluff +9, Insight +7




Lucent Messenger Ibhea (Rented for SC. If we need combat stats for nested challenge, we'll derive then)

Religion +9 and pick another at +7 (2 x Trained Skills for Companion Characters)




Alright, so this looks like 2 different conflicts to me, but we'll handle it as a multi-staged conflict just like the prior one above. Also, this is extremely difficult what you're attempting to do (the Inquisition doesn't want to be redirected and planting those scrolls will be a harrowing effort..you'll have to arrange an audience with a lot of eyes and they don't want an audience or you near them...or you'll have to sneak into their estate!), so its going to be Level +2, Complexity 5 (DCs will be for level 3 so 9, 13, 21 while ATK vs AC is 17/19 and vs NAD is 15/16):

4 Successes and you redirect the Inquisition to Amna and Tarquin. 8 Successes and you plant the Scrolls of Xanthar onto Amna or Tarquin or somewhere prominent on their estate (depending on how this resolves, some of this might be a Flashback). 12 Successes and you sever the Sect of Omthala’s religious accord with Tarquin and Amna. If you get 3 failures at any point, you fail to reach whatever goal hasn't been reached and things escalate (if you redirect the Inquisitor -<8> but can’t break the accord <12>, you’ll cause the Inquisitor a lot of grief as she deals with beaurocratic and ideological pushback which will cause her to fail. You’ll have bought yourself time with 8 successes but not permanent reprieve. When her efforts fail, she’ll come for you and you’ll have a confrontation).

Only 1 Minute Prep + 10 Minute Duration, so you can have Glib Limerick for this.




On the framing. You can absolutely have that framing (and a Success against Medium DC to go with it), but you're going to have to pay for it. Ibhea can arrange for a formal (there will be no informal parley) with the Inquisitor, their herald, and their retinue of guards at the Hanging Gardens no problem. But it will cost you an Offering to the Holy Order; 1/10 Gold of your Level Magic Item = 36 GP. Ibhea will see to the logistics of the offering when you hire them to help you in these affairs. Assuming you're good with this, I'm going to pick up at 2 Successes (1 for the Offering of 36 Gold and 1 for Ibhea's opening Religion move) and your situation framing in the Hanging Gardens:

2 Successes (4 Hard DC Available)/0 Failures/5 Secondary Skills Available/6 Advantages Available)




As the herald is about to resolve her part of The Rites of Armistice, Eyo-urth-shala places a scaly draconic hand on the shoulder of her herald and shakes her head slowly while her eyes never leave the troupe before her. She rolls her hand downward in offering (demand really) that those parleying with her sit on the stone benches or lip of the stone fountain near by so she may too sit. Her retinue of 4 (not 2!) guards will stay standing behind her, polearm butts firmly on the ground.

Draconic lips part.

"Your offering to the order this morning was unexpected. While the coins reek of desperation, this Officer of Inquisition will hear your plea.

But first. Rites of Armistice, Ibhea? You always have been a clever urchin. Very well. You will have your armistice. But know that I do not trust your fellows. As such (turns to Chanvati and Bita-Bousseh), your men-at-arms will clash with my own. One pass. No blood so no violation of the rites. If I do not feel comfortable with our present security situation after this pass, I will adjourn this meeting and meet you in an hour from now in the great transept of our cathedral's nave.

The four halberdiers raise the butts of their weapons off the ground, move in formation away from the spectators, and level those beautifully emblazoned polearms.




Hard DC for this obstacle. Pa'avu and the Minotaurs are going to have to either (1) Group Move clash (vs AC 19 or NAD 15) against the 4 halberdiers (2 Successes out of 4 required) to prove that you aren't a significant threat on her life (and do so without clearly pulling punches in the clash...some serious coreographed control of arms) or you're going to have to (2) somehow convince the inquisitor that this non-violent test of her security apparatus truly isn't necessary.

The cost of failure here will be significant; 1 Failure for the SC and I'm replacing 1 Medium DC of the Challenge with a Hard DC (for a total of 3).
 
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Nephis

Adventurer
Hearing the inquisitor’s words, Pa’avu turns her gaze inquiringly to her gosb’tar for instruction. Chanvati, smiling slightly, says to her, “show your puissance, just as you did against that mul in Olivander’s cage.” She continues to gaze at him a moment as his subtle emphasis sinks in. Then she turns to her companions-at-arms for a brief discourse, after which the four warriors turn to face their halberd-bearing opponents. Suddenly Pa’avu lets out a blood-curdling howl and rushes forward, immediately followed by the three minotaurs. The closest to her, Aesterion, seems especially roused by her cry and mirrors it with one of his own, the sonic force of these cries visibly shaking the halbediers. Happily for Pa’avu’s plan, the two minotaurs following behind are able to be more convincing in “failing”: Minerion is able to stumble slightly against his brother, turning his howl into more of a yip, while their cousin Bjorkus successfully allows one of the halberds to tear at his clothing while his axe “misses” the other warrior.

When next Pa’avu’s eyes meet Chanvati’s now stern ones, she blushes slightly in shame, for it was her own too-inspiring berserker cry that had almost brought disaster to the plan.



Group Check: Attack vs. AC 19 (2+/4 = Success)
Aesterion: Roll 6 + 6 + 1 (charging) = 13 fail
Bjorkus: Roll 18 + 6 + 1 (charging) = 25 SUCCESS
Minerion: Roll 19 + 6 + 1 (charging) = 26 SUCCESS
Pa'avu: Roll 1 = auto miss

2 success "hits" = SUCCESS
 

3 Successes (3 Hard DC Available)/0 Failures/5 Secondary Skills Available/6 Advantages Available)




After the clash, the halberdiers break their hedge formation, turn to their inquisitor master to walk back and fall in line. The captain of the guard, unable to register the grift, signifies that they have little fear that they could handle affairs if the parley turns to an actual test of arms.

Eyo-urth-shala, watching a beautiful flock of birds migrating and a collection of children playing a ball game of some kind on the park grasses, lets the moment wind down for a fair amount of time before speaking.

"I planted the standard at your family estate within the last day. You invoked this parley fairly quickly so either you have wisely come to participate against your family, or you have hatched some foolish plan and think you are cunning. You strike me as neither a coward nor a bloodline-turncoat so I suspect the latter...hmmm...and you have a an "Infernal-Touched" among your inner circle. Oh, yes...definitely a 'cunning' (mockingly) plan.

Go ahead <hand gesture>. Convince me otherwise."





Medium DC for whatever your approach is.
 
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darkbard

Hero
Chanvati appears to pale visibly at his bodyguards’ “loss” to the Inquisitor’s forces and the Dragonborn’s direct confrontation. Yet the lingering magic of the ritual belies this: he maintains an exquisite inner equanimity and a thousand rhetorical tacks race through his mind at once.

“Inquisitor,” he lies, “you have me at a loss. You are correct that I am no turncoat. And I had thought to meet here in an attempt to outwit you. But I see now that that was hubris.

You leave me with no alternative but to come clean. This woman, the ‘Infernal-Touched’ is a barrister who was recently employed by my Uncle Tarquin to protect certain family material interests in this new dispensation of Inquisatorial Oversight. No sooner had she begun drafting legal motions and scrutinizing transactional practices than she realized my uncle was involved in criminal and, dare I say, heretical schemes against the Empire.

The Honorable Barrister Bita-Bousseh came to me yesterday to reveal that my uncle’s scheming would even stoop so low as to make scapegoats of his family, for she learned that I was sent to the Dome of Illumination yesterday, where you and I met, by what is clear now was not chance, to serve as a distraction so that my cousin Amna could enter the library and steal Imperial texts for their own benefit. Their recklessness and, yes, cunning would bring ruin to our family!

So now I must do what I must, to save my family and our trading consortium from my uncle’s excesses by turning on him now, for there is no family greater than Empire! I can be your pawn and send word to you once I have learned where the evidence of their crimes is stored, so that the Empire’s justice can be served and cooler, loyal heads can once again work to the Empire’s benefit in our trade endeavors. But I cannot do this while my family is under Imperial Brand. Will you offer us respite in return for serving loyally and truly?”





Still under the effect of Glib Limerick, I am using Bluff to convince Eyo-urth-shala (the spelling of whose name I didn’t even need to look up this time!) to remove the Brand and redirect the Imperial gaze to Tarquin and Amna. Roll b[16, 11] +7 = 23 vs moderate DC 13. Success.




With the respite provided by the Inquisitor, Chanvati will spend some time in the intervening days hunting down (Roll Streetwise 18 +2 =20 vs Easy DC 8. Success. 50 gp + 10 gp rare herbs component.) and copying into his Ritual Book a the Animal Messenger Ritual for use in communicating with Eyo-urth-shala (or others) when the time comes.

We intend for the next scene to involve a break in to Tarquin’s estate under the cover of darkness (cliché for the win!) to plant the original Scrolls of Xanthar with Ibhea’s aid (Thievery as his second trained skill). Meanwhile, Bita-Bousseh will report back to the 2nd Nation what she has learned about Chanvati’s family, while also researching legal precedents for a family member assuming control of a business and assets when another family member is tried and found guilty by the Inquisition.
 
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4 Successes (3 Hard DC Available)/0 Failures/5 Secondary Skills Available/6 Advantages Available)

4 Successes
and you redirect the Inquisition to Amna and Tarquin.




"The Standard will be removed...temporarily. You have until the coming dawn to prove your case and notify me of the location of these imperial texts. Understand that I remain incredulous. If what you are saying does not bear out <leans in with fire wreathing her fangs>, you will have worse than an Inquisition to deal with."

The Inquisitor, her herald, and her guard leave The Hanging Gardens abruptly.





8 Successes and you plant the Scrolls of Xanthar onto Amna or Tarquin or somewhere prominent on their estate (depending on how this resolves, some of this might be a Flashback). 12 Successes and you sever the Sect of Omthala’s religious accord with Tarquin and Amna




Tarquin's Estate.

Enough hours past dusk that the sky is all agloom with stray twinkles and a pair of half-moons cutting the lonely dark.

Amna's Wing, little more than a vast Master Suite, is a spoke from a central hub, accessed only via an arching breezeway, its apex some 40 feet off the ground, and the ancient petrified treant it resides in. The white bark of the dead tree is a small plume of poisonous granule, murderous to the lungs, the moment it is disturbed by anything more significant than a mild breeze. The living space sits upon a hexagonal platform that serves as a 360 degree balcony, a guard posted at each of the points (6 in total). One can never be too careful when you're in this business...and that business...and that one over there as well.

The double doors to the main hub are guarded by a pair of horse-sized mastiffs, creatures with sniffers as stout as their loyalty to their master. Tarquin's steward, Hakhaman, is feeding them...and its a grizzly affair of sound, blood, growl, and pawing. As a Warlock of a strange power, Hakhaman has been in the employ of the family for too many generations to assume he is a normal..."living" thing. The dogs, frightened of him as they should be, easily come to heel when he commands.
 
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Nephis

Adventurer
We forgot to consider the safe haven that protects our House via the alliance with the sect of Omthala (which restricts Imperial Authority on estate grounds). This means we need to sever ties between Chanvati's uncle Tarquin and cousin Amna and the sect in order to fully implement our plan. This in turns leads to the greater Complexity and Win Condition for the SC (which you earlier edited above).


On the threshold of Tarquin's estate:

Standing in the shadows with Chanvati and Ibhea, Pa’avu considers their options for entry into Amna’s rooms. Climb the poisonous tree? Somehow slip past the voracious hounds? As usual she can feel her senses heightened by proximity to her gosb’tar, the lines become ever so slightly more distinct, the sounds even sharper. Tonight, however, the twitchy-ness of their Lucent companion causes the goliath’s perception to grow even stronger: she senses the nearly soundless bats flitting around them, the voles skittering softly in the grasses at their feet. And then she knows their approach. But how will she get the others up the tree?




  • Use Advantage to turn Moderate DC 13 to Easy DC 9.
  • Primary Skill Perception Check vs. Easy DC: Roll 19 + 6 + 2 (w/in 10 sq of Chanvati) = 27 Success
 

5 Successes (3 Hard DC Available)/0 Failures/5 Secondary Skills Available/5 Advantages Available)




The treant trunk's petrified plumes are a terrible condition waiting to infect those foolish enough to attempt to climb its well-gnarled trunk:



Petrified Treant Lung Level 1 Disease

Those infected by this disease find their lungs turned against them, their focus and attention robbed.

Stage 0: The target recovers from the disease.
Stage 1: While affected by stage 1, the target loses a healing surge.
Stage 2: While affected by stage 2, the target loses a healing surge and takes a -2 penalty to AC, Fortitude, and Reflex.
Stage 3: While affected by stage 3, the target loses all healing surges and cannot regain hit points. The target also takes a -2 penalty to AC, Fortitude, and Reflex.
Check: At the end of each extended rest, the target makes an Endurance check if it is at stage 1 or 2.
7 or lower: The stage of the disease increases by one.
8-11: No Change
12 or higher: The stage of the disease decreases by one.




The balcony sentries, as sure as themselves as one might expect when guarding a seemingly impenetrable entry point, aren't much of an issue until you actually get on the balcony. They're each deep in thought or testing their javelins (Artillery) for trueness of curing or humming a tune or playing solitary card games.

Climbing the actual tree is a relatively straight-forward affair (and will be at the 1 - Medium DC for Group Move for all going up) given its ample, jug-like handholds and easy course for the climb. However, all who climb risks exposure to the plumes (everyone going up this route that fails their roll on the Group Check must make a +4 Atk vs their Fort; success = affliction at Stage 1). Measures can be taken to assist against this exposure (Secondary Skill success grants +2 Fort Defense vs the Petrified Treant Lung Atk).

The alternative route is a grapnel/rope > clamber up > navigate the large branches some 30 feet above as only the trunk is so afflicted by the granular disease. However, this would be a 2 - High DC Group Check. The consequences of being caught out in such an effort would be...dire (nested combat and in a pinch).
 

darkbard

Hero
Having assessed the petrified trunk for hand- and foot-holds to aid the climb, Pa’avu indicates to her master how they must make the ascent. But she warns him, too, of the thin plume of poisonous spores emanating from the once-living treant.

“Here,” Chanvati whispers, as he tears strips of cloth from the bottom of one of his robes. “Wrap these around your nose and mouth to keep from inhaling their foul spirits.”

Now, he stares up the trunk, daunted by its height. His spindly arms are evidence of his lack of routine exercise—slaves are for performing difficult physical tasks, after all—but at least he has nothing resembling the goliath’s bulk to haul up the tree. He centers the ki energy flowing through his body and begins to clamber up like a monkey behind his slave, Ibhea close behind.





Chanvati will make a Secondary Skill Heal check vs Easy DC 9 to ward himself and his companions against the dangerous plume spores of the Petrified Treant Lung Disease. Dunno if this is a single roll (in which case, use the first) or three; if an order of results is necessary in the case of 3 separate rolls, that order is Chanvati, Pa’avu, Ibhea: Roll(s) 14 +1 = 15 (C), 3 +1 = 4 (P), 2+1= 3 (I). At the very least, it looks like Chanvati will get a +2 bonus to his Fortitude defense against the spores’ attack should he fail the subsequent Athletics check.

Then he is going to use his Encounter Power Adept’s Insight (augmented) (he, himself, though, is the sole recipient of its check bonus) to invoke an Advantage and lower the DC for this Group Athletics check to climb the trunk from Moderate DC 13 to Easy DC 9.

Chanvati Athletics Roll 6 -1 +4 (r3+1) = 9 vs Easy DC 9. Success. (Whew!)

Pa’avu Athletics Roll +10 Trained Skill (climb = b[roll 2x]), so auto-success. Success.

Ibhea Athletics Roll 10 +1 = 11 vs Easy DC 9. Success.

Group Athletics Check 3/3 = Success. Looks like those Heal rolls weren’t necessary after all! (And it’s a good thing, too, if all three rolls were to be used!)

Think I have all that correct, though there are many moving parts here, so if something needs adjustment, just let us know.
 

6 Successes (3 Hard DC Available)/0 Failures/4 Secondary Skills Available/4 Advantages Available)




As the trio prepares to light down as quietly as possible on the hexagonal platform/balcony, a few things become quite clear:

1) The fully glass-faced facade of the wing reveals its innards. Amna's Study is dimly lit by a hanging light fixture (most candles snuffed) and has a double-door exterior access.

2) Getting there unnoticed will be rather difficult. The sentries aren't on full-alert, but the balcony space between them and the railing and the exterior walls of the wings isn't large. Going to have to be collectively quite slippery to access the interior; (1) Hard DC.

3) The alternative route is more "simple." A spindly branch reaches out over the top of the structure, terminating on the mildly graded tile roof near a simple detachable skylight. Tight-roping that branch to the skylight is precarious but doesn't have the eyes on it; (2) Medium DC. However, the consequences of the limb breaking mid-transit would be significant (1d10 damage to whomever fails the Group Check + they start Prone > nested combat).
 
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darkbard

Hero
We're engaging your (1) above.




Noticing the laxity of Amna's guards stationed around the periphery of the platform, Chanvati is certain he can exploit their lack of vigilance and sneak the trio past the guards and into the interior of Amna's wing.

He unfetters the tendrils of his mind beyond the confines of his physical form, ki energy surging in waves across the balcony like faint shimmering off the desert floor at midday but instead invisible here in darkness. The minds of each guard open to him, and he reads their shifting moods, inner desires, and the fringe of exchange between the conscious and unconscious components of their sensoria, waiting till the precise moment when none focuses on the approach to Amna's study.

"Now!" he hisses to his companions.





Chanvati makes a Secondary Skill Arcana check Roll +9 vs 9 Easy DC = autosuccess, +2 buff to

Primary Skill Insight check Roll 12 +10 +2 = 23 vs 21 Hard DC = Success.

My intent here is bolded in the fiction above.
 

7 Successes (2 Hard DC Available)/0 Failures/1 Secondary Skills Available/4 Advantages Available)




The glass doors are well-constructed, fit the framing like a glove, and hinges are oiled to perfection. They open with a hushed sigh and allow your trio to trivially ingress to Amna's Study after you bypass the guards. The door to her bedroom proper is slightly ajar and light from it spills through that slit into the far side of the room. The sound of a hummed tune can be heard.

The flickering candles above provide minor, but sufficient, succor against the gloom of the room. Amna's desk features prominently as it is centrally-located and with a massive collection of decorative hutches. Varying sheafs of dry-inked papyrus and rolled scrolls and writing implements are neatly arrayed and binned.

Seated on her mama's chair, Pari has a collection of toys and figurines splayed out across the desk. In her tiny hands is an equally small harp. She asks her toys what tune they would like to "hear." "They make a request" of which she quickly indulges them. The sounds of her slight fingers plucking the strings rings out in the large room. The pleasant, sweet song of a child.

Her twin brother, Farzin, pipes up from a large, cushy chair with its back to your door. Seated in front of the ample fireplace, he hops down and begins to play noisily with the iron stokers. Their caretaker in the next room arrests their tune long enough to chastise the boy, threatening to come in the room and wrap his knuckles.

One wonders what will happen to them when The Empire's Inquisition comes down on her house?





Medium DC. If you successfully resolve this obstacle, then please do the following:

1) Briefly vignette the end of the scene, including your egress from the site.

2) Give us an initial locale for the next directive (so I can frame an obstacle) and please make it be one that is near to Pa'avu's Minor Quest locale so we can integrate it/segue to it.

Appreciate it. Obviously, if you hit a failure, leave it there for a turn for the worse!
 

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