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The Slave and Her Sovereign


Whether this is a bit of a coded message...perhaps of an impending doom or specific threat to the crown...is unclear.

He's a bit inscrutable here and certainly stubborn. Any Insight check will be at the HIGH DC.
I would like to wager another Advantage for 2 Successes should I succeed against the Hard DC here.

"beware the molten vessel, Infernal-blood...its offerings will soon increase beyond what even you can stand."
He looks unnerved. There is a tremor in his voice when he begins, but he immediately cleans it up. [...] His unseeing eyes scan and fall upon the proximity of his sister.
Gone <he makes a "poof" gesture>...like a puff of brimstone.
He grimaces at the growing heat of the cauldron beside them. "Wow. She wasn't kidding!"

[...] Perhaps she just needs a good forage trip out into the wild...a change of venue...a change of life trajectory."

From the very beginning of his tale, Bita-Bahlin's behavior seems off to CHANVATI. And so he projects his senses psionically into the ki energy underlying all matter and the space between. A nexus, broiling with arcane potential. Growing stronger. The crucible left behind by the Duchess of Cinders.

And that's when the Merchant-Prince realizes that Bita-Bahlin's tale is, indeed, a coded message. Something holds his tongue from speaking freely and directly, but he hopes to save his sister from this impending doom. There can be no mistaking the message in the imagery: the cauldron is about to explode in arcane conflagration!

"Move, everyone, now!" Chanvati shouts.

Chanvati makes a Secondary Skill Arcana check to detect whatever unseen, magical threat has Bita-Bahlin shaken, +16 vs 14 Easy DC = autosuccess for +2 to

his Primary Skill Insight check to decipher the message/mood before it's too late, r19+17+2=38 vs 29 Hard DC. 2 Successes due to Wagered Advantage.

I'll leave it right there for now.

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6/8 Successes (0 Hard DC available)/0 Failures/2 Secondary Skill Available/1 Advantages available

Instant combustion of flammables; tent coverings, clothes, wooden crates.

Pyroclastic fragments accelerated at staggering speed.

The heroes and Bita-Bahlin escape the worst of it with Chanvati's interpretation of the coded message and his evac cry.

As the proverbial "dust settles" amidst the spreading conflagration and cries within the tents of the command and control center, Bita-Bahlin is clearly not unscathed. Physically, he bears some injuries. Mentally, the look on his face is staggered shock. The moans of the injured, stricken, trapped in the adjacent tent of support personnel seem to (perhaps oddly?) capture his attention. Clothes aflame, covered in debris and soot, he crawls to the mess of what once was the tent entrance.

He tries desperately, impotently to pull debris, wooden stanchions with steel cross-members or anchors shrouded by tangled heaps of canvas or animal skin...all ruined and aflame, apart to get to the mixed company of Bantoukians and Bladelings inside.

"Help me..." he barely musters over his shoulder



Feeling her beloved Stoneroot still working within her body, PA'AVU immediately responds to Bita-Bahlin's plea for help. No one should die on a Vezzuvian pyre, if she can do anything to stop it.

The goliath rushes over and begins to pull the heavier pieces of burning debris out of his hands and the tangled heaps. As soon as she sees a moving body within the mess of canvas and animal skin, she holds up several tons of the smoldering supports made from steel and wood and verbally instructs the tiefling where to grab his hand and pull someone out of the rubble: on your left ... near your right foot ... five steps ahead, but watch your head: the clearance is low here. For the moment she can be his strength and his sight.

At one point, she notices something odd: Bita-Bahlin seems to know where she is sending him ... almost before she speaks a location. Can he see? But his eyes still seem sightless? Does he have a new sense of some sort? Is the smoke causing some sort of mirage? Is he more like her gosb'tar than she realized?

Then another cry of pain from within the burning mass catches her attention, and she returns to the task at hand, throwing off a pile of pieces that had once supported the now wrecked command center. She reaches in with both of her Stoneblessed hands and pulls out two figures, a bladeling grasped in one hand, a Bantoukian in the other, both barely able to hold breath, coughing desperately.

* Pa'avu makes a Primary Skill Athletics check to lift debris, throw debris, and pull out the wounded: r16+16=32 vs. 20 Moderate DC. Success.

7/8 Successes (0 Hard DC available)/0 Failures/2 Secondary Skill Available/1 Advantages available

Hours later, the wreckage has been mostly cleared and inventoried. Triage is awash with people and abuzz with activity.

A tremor momentarily shakes Bantouk, eliciting cries. A buttress fails and a large piece of stone splinters, falling earthward in a great crash.
Bita-Bahlin sits on a backpack, knees pulled into his chest; looking a bit like a child. Though injured, he rebuffs several attempts at medics to dress his wounds. His eyes don't see but his gaze is affixed on the distance as if they do.

"She has been speaking to me since I was a child. It was always her voice...counselling <he subtly huffs> on behalf of The Burning Mountain. And, like the volcano, she lies dormant and then responds with apocalypse; quiescence isn't real...its just prelude to something terrible...and you're forever trapped in that state of understanding."

He pats the now-marred cobblestones of the road beneath him.

"There is a reservoir of magma beneath Bantouk large enough to trivially destroy the region with its flow alone."

He turns to face your general position and gravely asks; "will politics or tutelage of the Empress stave that off...hmmm?"



The Half-giant winces briefly, as if in pain at the memory of how shaken is Gae'al, how once the ancient force of fire destroyed The Primal Stone. But she sets aside that crestfallen mood in recollection of the vision Stoneroot imparted to her, His rising from the ashes and smothering Vezzuvu's flames, the final vengeance of the death spirit. "No, not politics or tutelage alone. But Stoneroot triumphs over Primordial destruction," Pa'avu growls.

"Your focus, as always, servant of many masters" observes CHANVATI, "is on the material in all too literal a sense, Bita-Bahlin. I have never been one for divine pieties or arcane prognostications. The Chronotope is too fluid, ephermeral, susceptible to perturbation for such supposed certainties. But one thing I have learned from the ancient wisdom carried in the blood of my ... friend, Pa'avu is the certainty of the earth. The primal substrate that endures, perseveres, despite our depredations. Or that of the roiling, primordial chaos.

"You see, our plan is simple. Once placed within the Empress's retinue, Pa'avu will teach her not only of her own, her singular and individual strength. Her force of character, her autonomy. She will teach her also of the strength of earth, the power of collective action, whereby competing individual goals are set aside for group endeavor in a common cause to achieve heights undreamed of by individuals alone ... even Empresses or architects of the Chronotope.

"The people are primed for our leadership. You know how our compromise with the Legion saved the city and bittersweet tales recount that. Now, too, stories circulate throughout Bantouk of how we have intervened on the behalf of the citizenry to defend them from the worst of the excesses of our occupiers. Once the Empress grows into her own, embraces the idea of a reordering of Bantoukian power structures to advance a common agenda, we can bring this message to the populace at large. We shall stand as a united front, capable of not merely expelling the Legion from our city but combatting such Primordial threats as those you fear, buttressed by the strength of stone! Stone and a common spirit, beyond the philosophy of your dreams, Bita-Bahlin."

Pa'avu smiles.

We're leveraging that last Advantage to drop the DC of this final check from Moderate to Easy. (Why not? Use it or lose it!)

Pa'avu makes a Secondary Skill Nature check to bring knowledge of and hope for a final victory of the Primal Spirits over Primordial threats, r3+13-2 (Wisdom check as consequence of previously failed check in Gae'al SC)=14 vs 14 Easy DC for +2 bonus to

Chanvati's Primary Skill Diplomacy check, r4+16+2=22 vs 14 Easy DC. Success. (Would have also succeeded against 20 Moderate DC.)

Our loose thoughts going forward are that once the desiderata of our plan for the Empress are achieved (the Hard of our remaining challenges), we will proceed to taking our message (of unity, of primal powers, of a republican reordering of the Empire's political structure) to the Black Stage to win the hearts and minds of the citizenry (for that Easy challenge remaining).

Bita-Bahlin digests your words without response as he looks off in the distance...distracted...forlorn? He calls his scrivener over and dictates in a vacant monotone.

"Hand the letter to the wardens."

The boy does as asked.

"The words therein will see Pa'avu through the stewardship of the monarchy's chamberlain and place her as Empress Scheherezade's guard and tutor until the child reaches ruling age and full exemption from stewardship; six months. Use your time well."

His head drops as he ponders quietly. His sister casts multiple looks back as you leave the scene.


Complexity 3 SC, Level 13 SC.
Goal: Convince Bita-Bahlin to position Pa'avu in the Empress's service so she can build up Scheherezade's confidence, prowess, and fitness to rule.


* 2400/2 = 1200 apiece.


* 1700 coin.

* 1 magic item level 13 or less. Maybe it was a piece of the exploderated arcane crucible? Maybe it was a gift from a survivor of the calamity? Maybe Bita-Bahlin secretly handed it to his scrivener to give to you with the letter?

Complexity 4 SC, Level 15 SC.
Goal: Elevate and maximize the young Empress' capacity of rulership (first 6 successes) and convince her to establish a new political order in Bantouk with a counterbalancing Senate (last 4 successes)
DCs 15/22/31
0/10 Successes (3 Hard DC available)/0 Failures/4 Secondary Skill Available/3 Advantages available)

Alright @darkbard @Nephis . This is going to be a montage of scenes over the next several weeks to months. Will smash cut and elide time as we like here. At 6 Successes in the challenge, you'll get the option of an Extended Rest (we're going to treat this at the meta level; not an actual "rest & recover/convalesce" in the imagined space) but not before then.

@darkbard , I'm going to ask you to frame this initial scene where Pa'avu meets the young Empress for the first time. This is nephis' move to make for Pa'avu's. Here are the ingredients to include, please:

* Briefly introduce us to the monarchy's chamberlain.

* A supernatural visitation abruptly ends.

* A roaring fire in the massive hearth bites back an oddly cold room.

* A child reluctant to trust.

* A view from the balcony that oversees the entire city and its unrest.

* You can introduce multiple avenues of moves, but all are HARD DC.

Ready, GO!


Okay, getting mechanical details out of the way first. The PCs are now at 28,000/32,000 needed for L12.

@Nephis and I talked over possible rewards, what would be most fictionally interesting/fitting that builds out of what just transpired. With that in mind, @Nephis has chosen the Elemental Gift Alternative Reward Gift of Chaos, with the rationale being that the magical detonation set off by the Duchess of Cinders's crucible has left an enduring transformation in Pa'avu, "infecting" her with some of the roiling elemental chaos caused by the explosion as Pa'avu shielded others from harm with her body. The Elemental Gift even comes with some deleterious outcomes in its random roll, so that seems to capture the flavor of being so "touched" by Primordial power.

Now, on to the framing...

The Empress's chambers are a vast and sprawling affair, some dozens of discrete rooms feeding into and off of one another in mazelike confusion: bedchambers for Her Imperial Majesty and her handmaidens, meeting chambers, dining chambers, libraries, parlors, a music hall, the list goes on. It is an open question as to whether the Empress would ever have need to leave her chambers at all ... or if she ever has.

First to meet the heroes is Sovelis, chamberlain to Her Majesty Scheherezade, an aloof but mercurial Eladrin with long silver hair and opalescent eyes of vibrant blue, devoid of pupils.

He sniffs as he reads over Bita-Bahlin's letter. "I have served the Imperial family for three centuries. It breaks with all tradition for any newcomer to Her Imperial Splendour's court to skip the ... extensive ... vetting process by the chamberlain and his staff. But I suppose even the chamberlain must be fluid under the new dispensation..." his voice trails off wearily.

"Follow me to the Hall of Ancestors. Her Imperial Magnificence is communing."

The chamber to which Sovelis leads them is staggering in its opulence. Thick, woven carpets on tiled floor. Intricately carved wooden furnishings. A hanging chandelier with hundreds of candles. A roaring fire in a hearth so large Pa'avu could fit inside without bending. But what overshadows it all is the walls and ceiling, for they are set with dazzling gemstone mosaics, covering all surfaces from floor to vaulted apex and twinkling like a thousand thousand stars descending from the sky.

The Empress seems so much smaller in person, especially in this grand space, a gangly young woman not quite ripened to adulthood, her bronze skin unblemished, her elaborately braided hair topped by a surely-priceless tiara. She kneels before an altar-like structure, a ghostly translucent figure hovering briefly in view above it before the figure winks out at your entrance.

"Goodbye for now, father," she sighs.

A shiver crosses your bodies, but the Empress seems unaffected, clad even as she is in thin silks. The fire and candlelight do nothing to warm the space, literally or aesthetically. Instead, the high chamber twinkles with reflected light everywhere, cold and blue.

"You are to be my new tutor," Scheherezade says quietly, maintaining a safe distance between the imposing form of Pa'avu and herself. "Come," she says and leads the Half-giant through glass-paneled doors and out onto a balcony looking out over the city.

"Look at my city," she commands and sweeps her arm. What you have no doubt experienced on the ground is even more evident from this bird's eye view: the usual hustle and bustle of activity of a metropolis has crawled to a halt. Caravans of commerce do not wait impatiently at the gates. The markets and bazaars no longer teem with people. All are fearful now in the aftermath of the Madness and now during the occupation. Bands of Legionnaires are visible patrolling the streets. An occasional fight breaks out, instantiating your earlier discussions and observations.

"What hope is there? What could you teach me that will change anything? Anything at all?"

What do you do? Is there something you say or do to alleviate Scheherezade's hopelessness? Something you perceive in this chamber or in the distant horizon that offers hope? Is there someplace you take her that provides a needed lesson? As @Manbearcat noted, this is at the Hard DC 31.


"You are to be my new tutor," Scheherezade says quietly, maintaining a safe distance between the imposing form of Pa'avu and herself. "Come," she says and leads the Half-giant through glass-paneled doors and out onto a balcony looking out over the city.

"Look at my city," she commands and sweeps her arm. What you have no doubt experienced on the ground is even more evident from this bird's eye view: the usual hustle and bustle of activity of a metropolis has crawled to a halt.....

"What hope is there? What could you teach me that will change anything? Anything at all?"
From her great height - more than two feet taller than the young princess - PA'AVU takes a moment to observe her and to assess how best to approach this task. As she does so, she can feel the pull of a string of connection from her l'pahb'gin to her gosb'tar, a connection that seems never quite to close these days, particularly after their sojourn in what he refers to as the Astral Sea. In fact, the connection is so strong these days that the goliath believes she has seen evidence of him being influenced by her l'pahb'gin, as well as it being sensitized by his influence: an unexpected but mutual benefit.

This heightening of her focus allows Pa'avu to see something familiar in the princess's demeanor, in her stance, in her expressions, that sweeps the goliath back along the tide of memory to earlier moments in her own life. In those times just after the beforetimes, she remembers the helplessness of a young and badly wounded goliath child, "given" to strangers, unsure of her present and her future: hopeless, overwhelmed, not in control of her own terrible situation and unsure how to proceed or even how to live in this strange new world.

Her past and Scheherezade's present are also reflected in the memory of the circumstances that young Pari and Farzin, Chanvati's cousin's children, have found themselves in, caught up in the currents of political machinations of others (just as Pa'avu's own actions then were caught up in the machinations of her gosb'tar and their mother), all floating like flotsam and jetsam in the stream of others' control and power. The lives of all four children were forever changed from without. However, Pa'avu has learned to access her power; hopefully the siblings are doing so now; and the goliath needs to empower the princess to be able to take hold of the reins of her own destiny as well.

For, eventually, that young goliath child learned to accept her plight and live within and without it, until she was able to find her own path within servitude, her own power and strength within it ... and out of it. She is now - more or less - in control of her own destiny and, most importantly, her own choices.

"Greetings, young j'zadah*," she now says to the princess. "Yes, I am here to teach and protect you, for to teach is to protect. Come, sit with me." Pa'avu neatly sits on the floor of the balcony, and - following her signal - Hazard lies down next to her and close to the feet of the young woman still standing, still staring at the goliath. After a moment, Scheherezade acquiesces, and the hound wiggles his body so that his head can rest in her lap.

The goliath continues in a quiet voice: "Here is the first lesson: close your eyes and take some deep breaths. Don't say anything: just breath and take in what is."

"What ... is?" asks the confused young woman.

"Yes: what is," is the answer given.

The two sit in silence except for the sound of breathing. Eventually other sounds begin to filter in: the sound of the occasional fights, of course, but also ... the sound of the wind, the sound of ... birds? How are there still birds in this place of sorrow, warfare, confusion?

Scheherezade hears the rumbling of the goliath's voice: "without the distraction of your sense of sight, what do you sense? With your ears, your nose, your skin? Tell me, what do you perceive?"

The princess relates what she hears in a hesitant voice.

"Good, those are all good things, but do you also hear your own heartbeat? Listen carefully now."

The princess listens deeply as she continues to breath in silence, her hands idly stroking the soft furry head of the enormous hound.

Pa'avu continues: "Listening and hearing are but two of your senses. Now follow your other senses and think about what else you can perceive. You don't have to tell me now: just follow their paths and breath it all in. Your hands on the floor of the balcony: how does that floor feel? Is it cold? Can you sense sound and movement through vibration in the stone? How about the air around you? It sends you the sound and the sight, but there is also the heat of the sun, the thinness of dry air, the pulse of the earth that touches everything: this building, those streets below and beyond the balcony, that wind we hear, and through the air and wind those birds you mention.

"Still blinded, you can follow the coolness back to the altar where I found you. By the scent of incense and your memory of where the censers are to the doorway exiting that room. When you learn to access these other senses more fully within you, you will find there is - with them - a wealth of strength within you, waiting to be tapped. That is what I will be teaching you: how to access your inner strength, your true self, your l'pahb'gin."

* giantish word for "princess," only coincidentally close to the sound of Scheherezade's own name

* Pa'avu makes a Secondary Skill Insight check to read Scheherezade's mood and recognize it as something she herself has experienced: r15+11=26 vs. 15 Easy DC for a +2 bonus to

* a Primary Skill Perception check to teaching Scheherezade by example how to access her own perceptions: r9+20+2 SS = 31 vs 31 Hard DC. Success.
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1/10 Successes (2 Hard DC available)/0 Failures/3 Secondary Skill Available/3 Advantages available)

<Empress Scheherezade's Journal>

Day 3

We had yet to practice my letters or oration in two days, so I figured today was the day. Yet Pa'avu told me to outfit myself with comfortable slops and laborer's gloves and meet her at the Fire Brigade Headquarters in The Hatchery district...and left abruptly before I could question her further. I guess adjusting on the fly while in an unprepared state is the course of the day?

The carriage pulled up next to the main firehouse and out comes Pa'avu on the back of a behemoth of a winged creature. I believe they're called "wyverns." I had seen them from afar and thought them perhaps the size of a horse? Oh no, no; manifold larger. Terrifying beasts. It took all of an hour to calm my nerves and take to the saddle in front of her riding position.

I must say...this first part was quite pleasant. The wind on my face. My bound hair still blown wildly. The feel of Sunblot's, named for its size surely (fitting, I think), wings pummeling the air in great whooshing beats, the huge chest expanding and contracting beneath me. We were aloft forever it seemed, taking in the city while gliding and banking (I believe that is what it was called).

Pa'avu's companion pulled up next to us on a smaller aerial steed. I think he shouted "you're doing well"...or something. I couldn't hear him for the sound of the wind. Anyway, he smiled and seemed excited enough. Apparently he is a mind-talker. I half-expected an intrusion, but perhaps he thought it would frighten me off the saddle and I'd go from ruler-to-be to "stuff on a rock!"

We were well beyond the northern gates when it happened; Pa'avu handed me the reins and said "take over" as she held onto my forearms for comfort. I was terrified...but I did it. Suddenly I heard an audible gasp behind me. We could see a mountaineering expedition from Bantouk high up; breaking down their last camp before they make the final push to ascend the deadly Khutang Lhatso (Last Snow). The peak is snow covered and the camp is next to a beautiful glacial lake. Something terrible was happening. We initially couldn't tell from afar whether an avalanche was occurring or something else...it was something else.

A terrible White Dragon had laired atop Khutang Lhatso and the expedition had mistakenly disturbed its den!

MEDIUM DC if you ignored the unfortunate event on Khutang Lhatso and it was just a mundane lesson in animal handling, courage, riding.

HIGH DC if you took over the reins, spurred Sunblot into full throttle, and attempted to save the expeditioners from their terrible peril.

If its some other action declaration archetype, we'll figure out whether I go with a HARD DC or not.
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Suddenly I understood the helplessness that my mother must have felt, so many, many years ago, watching her soldiers go forth to defend her throne, knowing most would die, and the case was hopeless. There were my people, and I could do nothing to defend them: only watch.

As my whole body began to shake in nerves and fright, I heard a gravelly voice murmur, "Remember to breathe, and to breathe deeply. Listen to your breath and let go. And do not be afraid of what happens next."

Pa'avu's hands gently but very firmly took the reins from my hands, and I could feel the animal carrying us bank sharply towards the mountain. Before I could stammer out a query or command, the most astonishing howl broke forth above and behind me, so much like one of the desert wolves, a sound that always causes a yearning within me, confusing and disconcerting.

But today, I listened to that yearning and felt it open a space within, a space into which my breath flooded in. My skin itched and felt hot. The hair on my neck stood on end. There was a well of strength inside, if only I could access it and ... what was it the goliath said? ... "get out of my own way." Yes, I kept doing the deep breathing exercise to bring me down into that open space, that well of strength.

About this time I also felt a slight touch in my mind, exploring, seeking, something. Me, I think. I recognized the touch, for the psion has assisted in several of my lessons, more to reveal what I haven't yet recognized or accessed. He isn't the teacher: my teacher is this magnificent, terrifying, but quiet giant. I felt a nudge now, as if to remind me of who I am and what I need to learn to do. And I was amazed.

He took the kernel of my inner strength and from it created a psionic projection of my psyche: strong, winged, blue-silver scales, gleaming orange eyes. Without thinking, I spread out my arms, and the Shaped wings followed, wingspan enormous. I flapped them and cried out a great challenge to the White Dragon, already distracted by Pa'avu's Alpha howl. I flared my nostrils and screamed again, louder this time.

To my astonishment and great relief, the beast looked at both of us, pausing and ignoring my people. But that look: it felt as if it could see through the illusion and that it recognized me somehow. I cannot explain why, but I feel this to be true.

Exhausted (and honestly more than a little exhilarated), I looked down and could not see my people below us. I turned to my riding companion in a panic, but she was smiling ... I think. At least, it looked as if her face was smiling. Do half-giants smile? Can they? Anyway, she nodded her chin forward, a gesture for me to look in that direction (I am learning much about silent communication ... from her, at least, the opposite from the psion!). There they were, running pell-mell down the slope, a few of them stumbling over each other. Nothing seemed to be following them anymore.

* Pa'avu uses her encounter power Howl of the Alpha Wolf to challenge the White Dragon (essentially marking it) and distract it momentarily, gaining a +2 Power Bonus to the Primary Skill Check.

* Chanvati uses a Secondary Skill Arcana check to shape a psionic projection of Scheherezade's inner strength: +16 = Autosuccess vs. 15 Easy DC; for a +2 SS bonus to

* Pa'avu makes a Primary Skill Intimidate check to empower Scheherezade to access her inner strength so that she can show the White Dragon that her people are not unprotected: r19+13+2 Power Bonus +2 SS = 36 vs. 31 Hard DC. Phew!

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