The Slave and Her Sovereign


PA'AVU continues to observe the young githyanki, noting the color belying any illness of health or any other physical discomfort. Narrowing her eyes, the goliath notes the lack of subservient behavior that should be present in a servant so young. All is obviously not as it appears. Did it just stop to listen? Is that contempt she witnesses on its face?

Glancing back at Chanvati, Pa'avu observes the frown of concentration on the face of her gosb'tar as he stares hard at his steward. She decides to follow her instincts by stalking - with extreme caution - the otherworld servant ... or warrior. Gently leaning her hand against the wall as she moves forward and trusting the stone to mask her passage, the goliath wonders what - exactly - is going on here?

Pa'avu makes a Primary Skill Stealth check to follow Ishka into the sundries chamber: r(9) + 6 = 15. Failure.
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3/4 Successes (1 Failure/0 Secondary Skills Available

The young githyanki male, clearly hardened by a life of brutal instruction and martial inculcation, quickly steps to the back of the large chamber and to the hewn stairwell that spirals down into the dark at the aft end. When the earth yaws wildly from a temporal or spatial distortion, he barely misses a beat in neatly navigating those steps and disappearing from sight.

Pa'avu, on the other hand, her deep connection to the stone being what it is, feels the weight of that very stone's cry. Like a babe or a victim of a terrible, life-altering fall, it wails with a deepness of emotion that only she can hear...only she can feel. The rock beneath her feet and that she leans into with her hand seems to begs her for succor and the stalling of the event buys the otherworldly agent time to escape her tail.

Though she does not know the words of his alien tongue, she can hear the echo down in the deep dark:

"Kushka-varra rocca imeh, draa'zvir."

Though she speaks none of the tongue, her time working in and around the forge has exposed her to a universal word of "smelt" that many languages roughly share. She catches that word in the reverberating voice below.

Immediately thereafter a luminescence of extreme proportions followed by ambient heat transferring all the way up to her in the sundries chamber.

Though cave-in shutting off the lower chamber from the upper appears imminent, the stone's protests cease as heat, unlike magical distortion, is a familiar friend...

Take a Healing Surge worth of HP loss which will require a Short Rest or a moment of respite and an encounter/daily expenditure of a healing power @Nephis .


As PA'AVU touches the wall and hears its pain, a visceral memory returns of the sandstorm's winds cutting her skin while also healing her wounds and leading her to safety. Somehow she is more at one with Earth and Stone than ever before.

As the goliath leans more fully against the wall, Pa'avu can sense some of her vitality leaving her body as her l'pahb'gin instinctively sends healing and protective energy back into the firmament.

* Pa'avu makes a Primary Skill Heal check to strengthen the wall to withstand the threat of a cave-in: r(11) + 10= 21 vs. 16 Moderate DC. Success.

Pa'avu's HP are now 54/73.

Skill Challenge resolved: Uncover what haunts Red Rock.

XP: 350/2 = 175 apiece.

Through the stone-blessed goliath's primal blessings, the earthen stone resists the call to become shapeless by the fire. The ceiling of the hewn, spiral stair holds strong.

From her vantage in the entry to the spiral stair, Pa'avu can see only stone, but it is as a mirror. The young githyanki is in the center of the vast chamber beneath, knee-deep in the middle of a pool of astral waters some ten paces across. Where he stands, this world and another fluctuate back and forth between being present. His eyes closed and his hands on the hilt of his Silver Sword, the blade bathed in the astral "waters", a ritual is being undertaken.

The earthen substrate shakes wildly; walls, ceiling, floors, all of it. Cries from the enclave ring out.

As the alien youngling performs his ritual to bring his kin streaming into this world, his steed creeps forward like a stalking hunting cat. Now she understands why the smell of sulfur and pumice assailed her senses so intensively. Swept horns in frill, the beginnings of a horn protruding from the point of the snout, a Red Dragon the size of a bull elephant stalks in front of its rider and companion, smoke venting from its flaring nostrils...

If the githyanki youngling completes his ritual (3 combat rounds equivalent of both (a) being in the pool and (b) having no successful move made to disrupt his ritual), then githyanki waves will begin pouring into this world to (without any due diligence) slay those who have threatened their domain by their summoning of The Dread Star Caiphon!

If you've got some kind of move here to make before we go to combat, make it. Otherwise...

EDIT: Alright, discussed with the players. Below is there goal, how this is going to get mechanized, and the situation:

GOAL: We're going to attempt a parley here to stave off combat. I think we've established enough fiction that we can assume Chanvati's psionic reach can read Pa'avu's psychic emanations and that he is well apprised of the situation. Chanvati will make some kind of Diplomacy (or similar) check attempting to leverage their shared opposition to Caiphon to woo Ishka into an allegiance and march upon whatever upstart in Bantouk dares ally itself with the Dread Star!

MECHANICS: Parley is going to be difficult here. Full-on zealout with serious cause and instruction to rebuff your overtures. So right in the teeth of early paragon tier enemy and conflict ask. DCs jump up pretty quickly right there.

We'll go C1, Level +4 (12), so quite a difficult ask here. DCs of 12 for Secondary Skill and 20 for Primary Skills. Failures and I'm going to either (a) bring in a Hard DC or (2) activate the Red Dragon in a nested challenge. On (2), we'll treat that like DW where I'll (1) make a soft move and then (2) you guys will make a move in response. If you beat the of-level, hard DC (24), you get what you want outright, the beast is momentarily cowed, and we're back to the Parley conflict. If you only the beat medium DC (16), then same as prior except you suffer a consequence.

SITUATION: The Young Red Dragon is warding that hewn stair down into the chamber. Its spring-loaded to "be a problem" and is interceding between anyone trying to get to the young Githyanki. The young Githyanki is hip deep in its ritual in the astral pool, the nexus that is temporally and spatially distorting things locally and will serve as the means for his people to stream into this world. It fully expects to fulfill its duties here in the next few moments and exalt in victory as his people arrive to execute their crusade.
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The space where Pa'avu stands, peering downward atop the circular stair, suddenly fills with the rhythmic clang of finger cymbals, and CHANVATI appears beside the Goliath; the manic look in his eye signals that he has borne psychic witness to her travails--and communication--with the earth below, and the ensuing threat. Forewarned of the githyanki's ritual of doom, the Psicrafter has super-charged his neuronal pathways with ki energy, a thousand lies, embellishments, wild exaggerations, and deceits formulating in his brain at once.

Chanvati calls out loudly in his sweet tenor, "Ishkar, brave marine in the vanguard of your people's war! What admiration we have for you, the risks you have taken in service to your people!

"Alas, I fear you are mistaken about the nature of the great threat to the gith. Caiphon, the Dread Star, the Purple Menace from Beyond, Insanityclad, is great foe to us, too, and most people of this plane. We are not your enemy but your ally in this war! We too seek the betrayers in our midst. And I, Chanvati Audaseie, am The Madnessbreaker, bearer of Ikzivl, the Byeshk Blade, also known as Caiphon's Doom. Will you command your noble guardian to stand down so as to allow us to enter into parley, and avoid needless bloodshed?"

Okay, I'm assuming that Chanvati has the time to prepare Glib Limerick before he enters the scene (largely because I haven't used it in forever, miss using rituals, and wish to build more upon the Bluff descriptor of "mak[ing] what seems outrageous plausible" over a straight Diplomacy check) and so am taking benefit of that double roll (which lasts 10 minutes and accrues no component cost once per day due to Bardic Training). I think the intent behind the action is clear.

Chanvati makes a Primary Skill Bluff check, augmented by Glib Limerick, r(13,10) +14 =27 vs 20 Moderate DC. Success.
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1/4 Successes (0 Failure/1 Secondary Skill Available

The youngling’s words echo from the bowels of the chamber below and resound off the walls of the stone stair:

"Kushka-varra and I are as you and your slave, merchant. The instruction I give her is more performative dance than decree. Every utterance from my mouth was mulled and accepted by her before my lips bore it into the world. Only those who you seduce to buy your wares are thralls. Only those who she reduces to cinders and ash with her flame are thralls.

If she smells the stink of fear on you that rides the winds of betrayal, then you will find yourself such a thrall. If you are may speak your candied words. They are of no threat to us."

<He waits for you to appear at the stone stair's elongated archway to this large chamber>

Kushka-varra is as you would imagine her. Though young for her kind, she is a specimen most magnificent and terrible. The nostrils flare as the air is sniffed so subtly that it barely registers. No gout of flame comes forth...yet...(1)

The boy is in the astral waters, head down, eyes closed, seemingly praying to the half-submerged Silver Sword he holds.

"Insanityclad. First Lancer Khosvith'uk recounted unto my class the tale of this namesake. It is sacred to our people. You are given no right to use it without demonstrating you understand its fullness, mortal-dweller. Tell me, from where does this name come? (2)"

You're going to have to deal with both (1) (deal with Kushka'varra's discernment of your merit and mettle) and (2) (prove you understand the fullness of the tale of "Insanityclad"). I'll let you guys sort out who deals with which and how! It will be simultaneous, so go ahead and make them both.

I'll change the fiction/mete out consequences after both moves are made.
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PA'AVU listens to Ishka's words and calmly considers the dragon for a moment. Then, the goliath calls out a single word in giantish in a deep, gravelly growl: "DAN'SM'Q!"

It is a word learned early in her life, a word with a prism of visceral meaning: while literally meaning "Speak!," the word also connotes speaking to an equal. It asserts Truth in Words or Telling, as well as an assertion of power. The listener to whom this Warcry is spoken understands intuitively these things, and the resolve of an enemy is shattered, but the word and its multiplicity of meaning resonate in the bones and heart of one who would be an ally.

* Pa'avu uses War Cry (Enc) to modify her Primary Skill Intimidate check to get Kushka-varra to back down: r(20) + 12 + 2 = 34 vs 20 Moderate DC!!! Success!
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As Pa'avu bellows and flexes, alpha to alpha, CHANVATI assumes a different tack, that of learned riposte to an intellectual challenge. "Bold and noble Ishka, the tenderness of your years incarnates truly the temerity and steadfastness of your people. Yet it also reveals an overly reductive view of the historical arc of the complex web of interplanar power dynamics. This is a tradeoff easily excused, for the boldness of youth is often required when the deliberation of age would squander opportunity and weaken resolve.

"Nevertheless, know you that when I studied at Xerxes's School for Gifted Psicrafters, Venerable Ixipult, that renowned nonagenarian githyanki sage, served as guest lecturer for a full semester. In her course 'Extraplanar Threats and Interstitial Minds,' we learned the complex and fraught history of planar incursions throughout the aeons. Though astrological projections differ based upon vantage and dimensional perspective, we learned of the threat Caiphon, Insanityclad, poses to multiple worlds, indeed the Multiverse at large, and how a spearhead of doom would manifest to challenge its ruination. Myriad possibilities for this challenge to Caiphon's destruction have been prophesied, but Wise Ixipult foretold that 'the bearer of Ikzivl, the Byeshk Blade, would be the one to annihilate the Insanityclad.' Thus, it is from your kinswoman that I learned the term for our enemy. And herein I demonstrate my claim to the title of Madnessbreaker."

With these words, the Merchant-Prince draws forth his byeshk dagger, holding it aloft in proof of his testimony.

Chanvati makes a Primary Skill History check to demonstrate his claim to the epithet "Insanityclad" is sound and based on teachings of the githyanki themselves, r(14) +15=29 vs 20 Moderate DC. Success.

3/4 Successes (0 Failure/1 Secondary Skill Available

The young githyanki, no more than a boy by the measure of a prime-world-dweller, disrupts his rote channeling and ritual-craft in the pool to rise. Transfixed on the sight before him of Kuskha-varra own transfixed state by the earth-mender goliath. The dragon's teeth part slightly and a low rumble emanates from the engine of her burning flames. Her eyes stare unflinching at the warrior-slave.

Unable to peel his eyes from the sight before him, he takes in the merchant-psion's correct telling of the tale. Only when the human bears the Byeshk Blade skyward are ishka's eyes peeled from the compelling standoff before him. Abruptly he follows Chanvati's movements with his eyes.

After a pause for consideration later, he offers:

"My Kith'rak will circumnavigate my findings here. Every angle will be covered in detail. Why we are presently not in full-throated crusade will be highly contested. Githyanki spit on prevarication and embellishment, but he would see into my mind even if that were not true. We are a people of hard-earned prowess. Your world would flinch at our culture, at our methods, calling us cruel. For instance; now, my blade will try to kill you. My Kith'rak will see these events through my eyes and know the truth of it; if you are as capable as claimed...or if you are dead..."

The silver blade rises from the mercurial, Astral Pool, viscous, radiant "waters" dripping from it. It darts from his hand, taking flight with menace, insofar as it has a "mind," mortality is on it. It flashes with incredible speed toward Chanvati.

Defend against the blade. If Pa'avu breaks off with Kushka-varra to intercede and fails, the dragon will be offended and I'm bringing her in as the consequence. If Chanvati defends himself and fails, I'm bringing in a Hard DC and escalating the duel. Though the overall conflict is level 12, we'll use the AC/NAD of level 8 here. Medium AC is 22 if ATK vs AC is the route you go. Fort/Ref is 20.
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As the silver blade hurtles towards him, CHANVATI reaches out with his mind to telekinetically halt its flight. Then he draws out the flow of time in a shimmering haze, clouding his presence from the githyanki and dragon both as he steps, in slow motion, to the side. The gith's blade passes harmlessly through where he had just been standing a split second ago.

When his form is no longer clouded in their minds, the Merchant-Prince speaks, "Madnessbreaker may be my destiny, Ishka. That is foretold. But such is not the limit of my power or accomplishments. Space and time are mine to command! Come, let us make treaty now and calculate our next steps together against our common foe."

Chanvati makes a Primary Skill Arcana check to pause telekinetically the flight of Ishka's blade while he, Chanvati, uses Mind Shroud to hide his presence and move out of the path of the blade, r(5) +15 +2 bonus from Mind Shroud =22 vs 20 Moderate DC. Success.

Having staved off immediate combat or the beginning of the ritual resulting in a githyanki invasion of our world (!), Chanvati intends that the next step be to ally with Ishka and Kushka-varra against their mutual foe in Caiphon. I can see that alliance taking multiple possible forms: joining forces here in the material world and continuing to Bantouk to confront whatever power behind the Empress's throne (perhaps she, herself!) has become corrupted by Caiphonian taint; or agreeing to bring the fight to Caiphon in our separate realms (we, here in the Material, the githyankis on the Astral Plane), knowing that the Insanityclad is weakened in fighting potent foes across multiple fronts. Or maybe something else, if you think Ishka may have other designs?

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