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The Slave and Her Sovereign


CHANVATI observes the Empress and her oblivious disregard for the veritable army of slaves and servants working around her. What distracts her attention so?

Ah, it is excitement for the coming evening, her looking forward to events in the future in favor of the immediacy of the present moment! There is a double lesson here, should she prove amenable to his counsel.

"Your Imperial Majesty," the Merchant-Prince leans in close during a free moment between wardrobe changes. "I imagine you must be deeply consumed with your official duties this evening, as is both sensible and seemly. A sovereign must ever be mindful of her role and duties, for on her every word a world's balance hangs. To be so preoccupied with the future is to dishonor the present moment, and a sovereign must be ever attentive to Her immediate situation, lest some vital detail slip her by.

"In this vein, have you also noticed how Sovelis orchestrates and commands this host of craftspeople and attendants? Each has a vital role to play. The designer anticipates Her Imperial Majesty's desires and uses this to set the current fashion. The clothier deploys the best practices in weaving and dyeing to produce fabrics worthy of Her Majesty's attention. The seamstress deploys her impressive skill to turn the designer's abstraction into a material reality. Her Majesty's handmaidens employ their familiarity with Her Majesty's preferences and private sensibilities to ease the burden of such a process. And so on. And so on. Each performs a vital function here. Without each given autonomy in their role, the whole would collapse like a faulty edifice. And yet the role of Sovelis, your chamberlain, in holding this all together might be likened to that which Her Imperial Majesty fills in governing the Empire: the vital force of oversight, allowing each their autonomy but reigning it in to the collective endeavor.

"Would that all the world could function so smoothly, with a strong but permissive overseer who knew that the full strength of a group can only be achieved by the full trust placed in all its individual members."

Chanvati makes a Secondary Skill Insight check to realize the Empress is distracted from seeing the lesson in action before her, +17 vs 15 Easy DC = +2 forward to

Chanvati's Primary Skill Diplomacy check (training refreshed by deploying one of those remaining Advantages) to teach Scheherezade about (1) the importance of keeping one's attention on the present (as well as any additional focus) and (2) how delegating responsibilities allows a leader to bring out the best in group endeavor, surpassing what any single person could achieve alone, r4 TRIGGERS Choker of Eloquence Daily Power, (Use this power when you roll a Bluff or Diplomacy check. Reroll that check, using the second result even if it’s lower.), r6+16+2 SS=24 vs 31 Hard DC. Fails.

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7/10 Successes (1 Hard DC available)/1 Failures/1 Secondary Skill Available/1 Advantages available)
Goal: ...and convince her to establish a new political order in Bantouk with a counterbalancing Senate (last 4 successes).


The old steward rests his tired bones under an olive tree and stargazes. The last few months, busy as they may have been, were a welcome reprieve from the horrors of the preceding year when invasion ever-loomed on the doorstep of Chomrok.

A shiver takes the old man's spine.

A cold desert night is nothing out of the ordinary.

The sand to his left shifts. The sand to his right does likewise.

The hardened, water-choked earth beneath him gives way to shadow.

Before Raathya can utter "...what" in full, he is swallowed by darkness...supernatural predator sponsored by the dark deity of Time and Death claiming him from below.

The stone appears unhindered. The sands unshifted. The man has vanished. Over the millennia, the desert has claimed many a life without a whisper.

Nothing out of the ordinary.


A finger traces her furrowed brow and a wince of pain spreads across the Empress' face as the sound and fury of preparation and dress cascades around her like a crashing ocean around her. But its her internal workings where the distress emanates.

"You feel it too" she projects in Chanvati's mind...or he into hers...its impossible to tell which. Regardless, they share the same moment.

"Be still" she mouths, meaning to speak it.

"Be still" she whispers, meaning to utter it.

"BE STILL" she shouts with the power of a peal of thunder and the gale of a hurricane...and she means to.

Gasps abound. The proverbial "deck" is cleared as the help scrambles for cover.

The Empress is suddenly levitating, storm-imbued, eyes a ghostly white. Mist takes the chamber in full and balls of lightning spread.


What do you do? HARD DC. If you don't resolve this manifestation, ish is about to get real and we go to an SC-nested combat.


CHANVATI winces and recoils as energy both kinetic and psionic spirals out from Scheherezade in a vortex of power. He anticipated the Empress was close to manifesting her destiny. But he had no idea of its sheer power and scale.

Nevertheless, he feels himself well prepared for this moment. In some ways, all his training to this point has been for instantiations of power such as this, no stranger to displays of overwhelming might, he, be they Id Fiends in mountain redoubts, Caiphonian emanations in this realm, or Astral powers perplexing and profound.

With a gathering of all his psionic might, the Psion projects his Ego Fortress outward, as a containment tank for Scheherezade's out-of-control manifestation. He need but hold her for a moment or two, time enough for her to regain control of her developing energy. Or so he hopes.

I'm leveraging an Advantage here, for Chanvati is at his best unleashing the full force of his ki energy in this manner. Should I succeed, that's 2 Successes vs Hard DC.

Chanvati uses Adept's Insight AUG1, r4+1=+5 to augment his Primary Skill Arcana roll, to contain the Empress's manifestation of her draconic heritage, r14+16+5=35 vs 31 Hard DC. 2 Successes for the price of one! Put that in your pipe and smoke it!

9/10 Successes (0 Hard DC available)/1 Failures/1 Secondary Skill Available/0 Advantages available)
Goal: ...and convince her to establish a new political order in Bantouk with a counterbalancing Senate (last 4 successes).

Outside of the Empress' chambers, Chanvati and Pa'avu linger for a moment the next day. The door is shut and Sovelis and Scheherezade's communicate privately. The former listens mostly and provides tender, quiet counsel when he feels its his place to speak. The latter is an absolute wreck. Pa'avu's keen senses make it possible to hear and Canvati's powerful psionics give him trivial access to the conversation and thoughts within.

Scheherezade: "Its happening. We've prepared for so long to ensure it wouldn't happen. You did the best you can to protect me from this moment, but its come nonetheless. One ancestor in a hundred inherit this plague. This curse. Why did it have to land squarely on me?"

<Many moments of quiet>

"I have to go into self-exile. That is all there is to it. I must leave this place to protect my people from the uncontrollable wrath of the terrible beast within. Chanvati cannot be near me every moment. And if I cannot control it myself, then what use am I to my people as a ruler? How can anyone depend on my executive decrees, even my forfeiture of power, when a monster lurks inside of me? WHAT USE AM I, I SAY?!"

Sovelis: "My dear, sweet..."

<A servant comes in via an alternative entrance...awkwardness ensues>

When you come into her chambers, how do you arrest the situation? Her spiral? Or do you wait until she flees and catch her in mid-flight?

Sovelis clearly knew. How do you feel about this and does it play a role?

Do you take her to a place to have it manifest fully so she can attempt to control it (like a perilous combat with her as manifested or something else)?

Ultimately, how do you convince her of her own capabilities while simultaneously parlaying that to convince her fully to establish a new political order in Bantouk with a counterbalancing Senate?

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When CHANVATI and Pa'avu enter the Empress's chambers, Sovelis makes as if to depart with the handful of servants, handmaidens, and slaves. But the Merchant-Prince stays him.

"No, Sovelis, I wish you to bear witness to what I have to say about our Empress's ... so-called curse," he finishes when the named participants are alone. "Your Imperial Majesty, it should come as no surprise to you that as a telepath of my magnitude--to say nothing of my scholarship in history, the Imperial lineage, transformations magical, and a host of related subjects--I have been aware of your ... potential ... for quite some time. Indeed, I positioned myself and Pa'avu for Your Majesty's instruction in anticipation of this very moment!

"Believe me, having faced horrors natural and alien to this world, from the dizzying peaks of Stoneroot's Perch to the eternal expanse of the Astral Sea itself, I understand your fear, your self-loathing. And though your family's manifestation is rare, the historical record makes clear the devastation wrought when your ancestors--Emperors Yasmine, Amar, Sokhem--lost control of their incarnation and laid waste on the Empire.

"But what is lost to the historical record--though, crucially, not to the akashic memory, accessible by rare Psions such as myself--is that during the Fourth Dynasty Emperor Zalthomet, sometimes called Zalthomet the Cruel, was himself a dragon-made-manifest. Yet Zalthomet was wise and so devised a check on his potential for destruction: the establishment of a Senate, a body of wise and respresentative figures, well versed in the needs and workings of Empire to share rule, in a way, with him, to serve as a team, if you will, and one that could help him develop into the virtuoso that he was and also provide oversight so that the inherent destruction-within would not be made manifest in the world, except upon Hageri's enemies, which were legion at that time, if Your Majesty recalls her history.

"For though there is danger in Your Majesty's manifestation, oh, the glory of it as a blessing when properly unleashed! Your people need never fear the kind of alien incursion which we just fought off! With the simplest display of power, the Legion of Ruth will recognize how far it over-reaches, what folly it pursues in occupying Bantouk 'for safety!' How much safer Bantouk, and all Hageri, with a dragon on the Imperial throne!

"But I must offer one word of caution, a reminder that there was a reason Zalthomet's experiment in checking his own power for the good of all His people failed: the church! When you establish a Senate to help contain and nurture your blessing into its full potential, you must avoid Zalthomet's pitfall of ceding power to the Church of Omthala, or any other powerful organization, for that matter. Let a Senate be formed from individual representatives of Hageri's finest; let it be drawn from those who make the Empire thrive, its top merchants, its most knowledgeable tradespeople, its noblest scholars and princes!

"You see how you have thrived with counselors such as myself and Pa'avu beside you. You have regreted your ill-treatment of the barrister, who once might have steered you away from those false tongues who almost brought ruin upon our Empire! Establish a body that is not subject to whim and vagaries but which can stably help you with the massive undertaking that is ruling an Empire. And help you provide a check on yourself."

Chanvati pauses, breathless. He looks to the chamberlain for the first time.

"Sovelis, you see the truth in my words. The Empress Scheherezade can be the greatest of any age should she both harness her potential and contain the destruction-within ... when she establishes a Senate for the good of all Her subjects!"

We know Chanvati is lying here. Zalthomet was no dragon; there is no akashic memory. Zalthomet cowered in fear at The First Flame, and the establishment of a Senate had nothing to do with his nature as dragon (see previous). Nonethless, Chanvati proceeds with this line of persuasion, sure he has found a way to sprinkle in enough half-truths and historical facts with his grand lie to make is seem possible, at the very least. Primary Skill Bluff check, r14+16=30 vs 22 Moderate DC. Success.

Complexity 4, Level 15 SC Complete. Goals (below) achieved:

Goal: Elevate and maximize the young Empress' capacity of rulership (first 6 successes) resolved. Remaining...
Goal: ...and convince her to establish a new political order in Bantouk with a counterbalancing Senate (last 4 successes).


* 4800/2 = 2400 apiece.

* 1900 coin.

* Single-use (Consumable):

By Decree of the Empress!
You put out word on the streets of Bantouk with the force of the Empress backstopping it!
Trigger: You make a Streetwise Primary Skill Check.
Effect: It automatically succeeds and you earn 1 additional Success in the challenge.

* Extended Rest was earned at Success 6, so Refresh All.

"Sovelis, have the Imperial Mummer come to my chambers. I need a grand disguise created immediately; one that will make it impossible for the public to recognize me. Oh, and you need one as well as you're coming with. We go to The Black Stage, but in costume so no one knows it is you or I. The public need their opinions neutrally solicited on these matters...they need convincing that a new order is necessary, and a Senate must be formed to that end..."

Complexity 1 SC, Level 12 (DCs 14/20)
Goal: Go to The Black Stage (Easy), where pantomime actors perform for the city's elite (and, occasionally, its underclasses), to sway public opinion on the matters of societal reordering in some grand way.
0/4 Successes/0 Failures/1 Secondary Skill Available

The old stone of the intimate, outdoors facade is pocked by age but defiant to the ruination that has tried to claim it so many times. The persimmon tree hardwood that makes up the actors' stage is beautiful and exquisitely novel; black, buckled, greying around the seams.

Standing room only, packed-in like sardines, the motley crowd cheer and playfully jeer as they partake of drink and street-vendor offerings. Upon stage presently is a silent play about a simple and certainly uncontroversial matter; "while the cat is away, the mice will play." These mice in particular, dressed up as they are, appear to be possessed of the subtle bearing of bladelings...and the mice are absolutely wrecking the home!

A young, drunken female member of the crowd dressed in absolutely ostentatious get-up, clearly part of the upper-crust, falls into the costumed Empress in an inebriated stumble. Liquor is spilled all over the ruler-girl. Sovelis', also costumed, eyes flash through his mask and he inhales sharply.

A common laborer of average stature, hands worn by the toil of years, catches the noblewoman by the crook of her arm, righting her before she stumbles hard to the ground. He is also young, but is advanced beyond the age of his "catch" by a good few years (or at least the hardship of his labor has weathered him to appear as such).

"Apologize to her," he says flatly as he nods to the disguised Empress.

The young noblewoman's medley of bodyguards and suitors turn on the man, pressing in, and the situation turns to implicit and immediate threat.

The laborer does not back down. He doesn't even acknowledge them, his eyes locked upon the offending noblewoman.

Do you guys address the content of the stage to the crowd?

Do you handle the situation before you; Sovelis stewing, brewing outrage or the immediate and growing conflict?

Whatever, typical rules, and MEDIUM DC both.
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PA'AVU has been watching the stage with a mildly bored look on her face. It was certainly entertaining--at first--to see the bladeling warriors laying waste to the "civilization" of the city of Bantouk, but now the performers are just pandering. She has seen it all before, in her time as the merchant prince's bodyguard: keep the plain folk--the not-fancy, not-pampered, not-rich folk--entertained and there would be fewer complaints, fewer insurrections. This performance is not even inventive or original: it reminds the goliath of slapstick jokes of her fellow younglings in the long-ago times, not the more nuanced entertainment of adults--both goliath and others.

When one of the overly pampered audience members stumbles and spills her sticky, fruity beverage all over J'zadah, Pa'avu is initially amused. A good example for her erstwhile pupil on the not-so-niceties of hanging with the common folk, and something in keeping with the silly burlesque on stage. The goliath is even pleased at the young laborer defending one he clearly claims as one of his own, evidence that the costume the empress has donned is doing its work. She is being taken as one of her own people, but not one with any power. Hence this defense.

But the situation changes, threatens to darken as her equally pampered companions and their guards begin to press in and protect their elevated station from what they are perceiving as an insult to their foolish and inept friend and protectee. So, they use not only their station and their power but their sheer number as well? Not on her watch: someone as brave as this young man deserves her strength behind him. And so the goliath, towering over them all, probably recognizable despite her wearing common and plain clothing (in the style of her people), steps up behind the young human, lays her hand on his shoulder in support, and glowers down at the courtesans and their bodyguards, hoping they will thus realize the foolishness of daring to even make a move against the righteous laborer.

* Pa'avu makes a Primary Skill Intimidate check to show the woman's friends and defenders that the righteous young man is not unprotected and thus forestall a brawl: r13+13= 26 vs. 20 Medium DC. Success!!

Complexity 1 SC, Level 12 (DCs 14/20)
Goal: Go to The Black Stage (Easy), where pantomime actors perform for the city's elite (and, occasionally, its underclasses), to sway public opinion on the matters of societal reordering in some grand way.
1/4 Successes/0 Failures/1 Secondary Skill Available

As the posse of elites and bodyguards shepherd the inebriated girl and beat a strategic retreat to another section of the crowd, the young laborer casts a glance over his shoulder to Pa'avu and then to the disguised Empress. With a slight nod and tight lips that silently signify something like "thank you for your help...I'm glad that is over with...I'll take my leave," he shuffles on, but actually leaving the scene entirely instead. Probably just too much excitement for the night.

The "while the cats away, the mice will play" pantomime ends and an emcee scrambles onstage to do the typical "emcee shtick." The actors bow and wave kisses while the crowd applauds (and jeers).

What the emcee announces next spreads a pall across the crowd. Unfortunately, the famous street jester and street magician "The Veil," named so for their stage attire and penchant for amazing tricks of illusion, performed an act that offended a host of Bladeling legionnaires. They will be convalescing for many months before they perform again...if they ever do.

Boos cascade across the crowd and some kind of chant like "kick them out" starts up.

The clever emcee rebrands the situation as an opportunity for any aspiring jester or street magician to come up on stage and take a crack at becoming famous.

No one accepts, but the boos and chants continue...and grow in magnitude...sufficient that some Bladeling troops stationed not far from here certainly can register the uproar.

Of the above, what do you seize upon. Whatever you do, MEDIUM DC.


Though the chants and jeers of the crowd grow, and though he knows the pending entrance of Bladeling Legionnaires will harbinge ill for this evening, and perhaps for all his desires and schemes, CHANVATI cannot help but think there was something familiar, and foreboding, about the young worker that intervened on behalf of the disguised Empress. Yes, that's it! A night of fire and smoke and fearful bodies huddled together. The night of the mad dash from Ruffly Gelded into the subcity beneath Bantouk and ultimately to Chomrok: he was amidst the conspirators of the Second Nation! A serious fellow, with die-hard revolutionary dreams!

"Come, Pa'avu! The stage can wait," he calls over his shoulder and hustles through the crowd to reach the man before he departs completely.

"Kosal! Wait!" the Psion commands and grabs the man by the back of the arm. "It is I, Chanvati, from, er, the night of the kennel fire, yes? I do not know what you intend here, but I ask that you refrain from it until you hear what I have to say."

Chanvati is making a Primary Skill Streetwise check here. The intent is to establish that the revolutionaries he recognizes from his past are up to ... something, but that his recognition of and history with Kosal will, at the least, provide him with an opportunity to forestall whatever action(s) he or they intend! r9+12=21 vs 20 Moderate DC. Success!

Complexity 1 SC, Level 12 (DCs 14/20)
Goal: Go to The Black Stage (Easy), where pantomime actors perform for the city's elite (and, occasionally, its underclasses), to sway public opinion on the matters of societal reordering in some grand way.
2/4 Successes/0 Failures/1 Secondary Skill Available

Kosal does not look Chanvati in the eye. He considers the arm grasping his own and simply says:

"Do you remember the words of that night?

* The horde will wash over Bantouk. A bloodless coup. We must ally with them.

* The corrupt order of society will be undon...inverted. The low will be brought high...the laborers elevated...the slaves freed...society flattened."

He looks around, offering you to take inventory of the situation with him. The bladelings occupy, but those that suffer the brunt of this arrangement are still the low. While The Legions delivered them from Caiphon, little has changed for the meek in this post-conquered world.

"Well, as is the case with revolutions, only some aspirations are met. Only some prophecies born out. And...again, as is the case with so many revolutions, the leadership ascend in status and become unreachable, untouchable...corrupted by position. (invoking Bita-Bahlin)"

He pulls away to face you and now looks you in the eye.

"Tonight's festivities are bloodless on our end. We just stoked the fire. Tonight's brand of entertainment is ours. The missing Illusionist-mummer is also ours. Hells, tonight's sense-numbing swill was distilled by us. Now, we just wait and watch while the high-society fools galvanize themselves into a fury and bring Vezzuvu's wrath and the wrath of his/her/its horde upon them...at long last."

While the jeering of The Legion's occupation continues, grows, crescendos, the sounds of two things erupt:

* The march of the nearby Bladeling troops which will no doubt engage in "crowd-dispersing measures" here against the high-society folks herein...

suddenly...from below...

* A slow rumble...a shifting earth...a massive magma chamber in minor upheaval. The stone facade of The Black Stage features a huge overhang, protecting the actors and the audience from the rare rain that might intermittently douse Bantouk. If that were to fail, the death toll would be...dramatic.

The angry earth cracks the stone facade at its foundation...the fissure snakes up and spreads throughout...

The crowd, none-the-wiser of the calamities that await them, continue their drunken chants as the highborn and high status do their typical act of pretending to suffer like the low:

"Kick them out! Kick them out! Kick them out!"

You have 2 x big problems? What do you do?

EDIT - Darkbard and I were having a conversation as to the dynamics of the situation and the situation reframe after he made the Streetwise action declaration that pretty fundamentally rewired the nameless young laborer's nature as an element of the scene. Figured I'd include some GM notes as to how I arrived at the situation-reframing above:

My brain was thinking like this:

* Ok, I had just established the Bladeling-maimed mummer/street magician that was enormously popular. This + the booze are a perfect recipe for an operation whereby The Second Nation (2N) stokes the fires of a huge confrontation between the upper-class attendees at The Black Stage and the Bladeling Legion (LoR).

Maybe The Veil (the mummer/street magician I introduced) is actually a member of the 2N and their own maiming at the hands of the LoR was intentional. And, of course, the distillery supplying the booze were 2N. Now we have the recipe for a riot + riot police conflagration without even the tiniest signature of the 2N being in play. Post-massacre/beat-down, the upper-class becomes full-fledged member of the opposition to the LoR occupation.

Basically 4d chess by the post Bita-Bahlin remnants/reformation of the 2N to secretly align the upper-class with the desperate needs of the proletariat...and generate a nice "loss" to the bourgeoise in the doing!

That was the course of my brain's path after you brought in the 2N. The pivot started by reorienting and further fleshing out that mummer/street magician (The Veil) maiming that I had just introduced. Initially, this was just a "win hearts and minds conflict" and I was generating threats and opportunities in accords with that premise. When you generated this twist with your action declaration, I pivoted and my mind started at the above and went from there.

* The introduction of the fragile nature of the old stage with the stone-facade failing and the earthquakes was something I put in there as just a secondary point of duress/urgency that thematically engaged with stone (Stoneroot) vs the volatility and power of (primary and secondary effects) of volcanism/earth movement (The Burning Mountain). Another pressure point generally + thematic touchstone + if this turns to a combat with multiple win-cons, it makes for an awesome feature for the battlefield. We've got the threat of the Duchess and Vezzuvu lurking in the background and this is homage to that and interacting with the equivalent of the "soft move" I made with them well earlier.
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