Seken

A Short History of Two Kalbs, A Bard, and a Concerned Prostitute: Part 26

So we return to the Temple of Caillech with the Builder’s grisly gift. Apparently, a construct’s head can be used to trace back where the rest of the soul was… so after some odd discussion we followed that magic back. I think we should have known it would be the Builder’s domicile where such a place could be held.

Of course we entered. The timid headservant tried to fend our inquisitive natures off unsuccessfully. After breaking the laws of hospitality a dozen times over, we managed to convince her to leave a key behind in the Builder’s workshop.

Entering into this place was like a Toymaker’s Nightmare. Or perhaps a paradise for a psychopath. We did find Byron’s friend trapped in a newly made golem with several creepy monkeys all around her. It seemed like the Builder used his spare time looking for ways to deal with the Skinthieves. The place was a macabre grotesquery.

We scrambled out towards the exit, only to find that the Builder knew we were here the entire time. With portals to hold us here, it was apparent we never really had a chance of coming through unscathed.

After a brief discussion of moral choices, we decided not to hurt the headservant who helped us. The consequences of which seemed to be made of many snaggletoothed clockwork sharks…

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Cinnamon's Journal: In Which I Am a Sucker for Lost Causes

Stray cats. That’s the thought that popped into my head. It was probably the catmoot earlier with Chip, Not-Chip, and Aisling-kitty-whose-name-I-can’t-pronounce that got me in that frame of mind. But that’s what I was thinking when I was standing there in the Builder’s mansion, looking at poor Andrea, trying convince her to do the right thing by the other trapped and broken captive. And I got to thinking about what the mirror-Ivraham said, about how I was drawn to miserable people and situations. Whether it’s Ivraham or Andrea, I always want to rescue the wounded stray, the broken toy. Because if there’s only one thing I’m capable of feeling for in this world, it’s a lost cause. Make of that what you will, I guess.

(And poor Byron. What a shock to see him something other than his usual detached self.)

For what it’s worth, Andrea seemed to come around, and we were able to find what Virginia had become. We grabbed her and tried to get out. I desperately wanted to free that porcelain doll thing as well…more broken toys…but with no information and no time it was too dangerous.

But of course it all went wrong when Andrea tried to lead us out of there. There he was, smarmy and grandfatherly with a face that desperately needed punching. He tries to dismiss Andrea, I won’t let her go. He tries to get us to maim her on his behalf. No. So the only other option is to face the land sharks.
“How fast can you run?” I whisper to Andrea.
She looks shocked, like such a thing was unthinkable. But then she realizes who Virginia is, what the Builder has done. That he lured her here under the pretense of hospitality and killed her. What that means for her as a hostess. For the terms of her contract. And even as I slashed her dress so she could run, she crushes the serving tray in one hand and clobbers him with it.
“I can run very fast indeed,” she says. Let’s hope we’re all fast enough…

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Byron's View: A gift, recieved.

We were thankfully free to go from the Party, and did so with alacrity once we had established that the young Anton was as restored as we could make him. Nothing unexpected happened to us on our departure. We gave Anton over to the care of Vikon, and went about to our various contacts and friends to spread the word/make sure as much was prepared for the End Of The Party as possible. I went to see the Lady C, who was most interested in assisting when told of the nature of the problem and provided with an hors d’oeuvre from the party as a sample. Upon finally returning home to clean up and take care of chip, I came to find a package waiting for me, as well as a large number of hambones scattered about. After cleaning up most of Chip’s debris, I decided to see what was in the package. It was a head. The head of the young architect whom I had commisioned to make the puzzle box we had used to attract the builder’s attention. With whom I was going to go on a date, before she was too disturbed by the builder’s interference in her work. And there was a note. from the builder. Taking credit, saying how he wouldn’t forget how we had interfered, but that we had helped him. frankly, i didn’t read it as closely as I likely should have. I packed the head back in the box, and took it to Lillian, because that seemed like the right thing to do. I spoke with her and the red one about what happened. and was escorted back to the gates to the cemetary by the red one because it was very very late at this point. She offered to let me stay there, but I had to check on Chip. It wouldn’t do to let something happen to him while I was away. Then I walked back across the city, and went home and then when morning came, I went to the Big House. I told the others about the gift, and then i realized that the carving on the face were another form of the capstone. This caused Varys to come up with another terrible plan where Cinnamon showed hiim her memory of the symbols, and she saw something she didn’t like in his head something about Aisling spying on him all the time. I think we need to tell Lillian about the symbol. We should go to the temple of Caillech.

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A Short History of Two Kalbs, A Bard, and a Concerned Prostitute: Part 25

So we managed to finally leave the Party. Outside, finally able to breathe non-questionable air, we saw that things were in motion to receive the fallout. I’m glad that at least one of our plans seems to go smoothly. Once we got a few blocks out, all of us split up for the night.

I made my report to the Church of Aisling. After an extensive session of recollection and information, I promptly went to bed. In the morning I made my rendezvous at the Big House and saw that Byron had a box. I offered to share what I could see from this- and we began to understand what the Builder has been doing.

We need to stop the Builder before “he” ascends.

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A Short History of Two Kalbs, A Bard, and a Concerned Prostitute: Part 24

“Unfinished business” seems to be the phrase of the day. Essentially after a bit of a conversation with the group, we left to go find the pieces of Anton to put together again. Strangely neither Cinnamon or Ivraham could put him back together, but that’s getting ahead of ourselves.

We went to the quarters of the Self-Unchained and as we expected, things went from bad to terrible very quickly. I suppose some psychotic might enjoy getting Axe Dwarves throwing said axes at them or a Cannibalistic Regenerating Naked Woman. Not me. I’m a pacifist.

I largely spend my time summoning balls of light and Nonlethal Boars to incapacitate them. Somehow in this mosh pit we managed to bring all of the Self-Unchained (except for the man who slit the throat of the Cannibalistic Regenerating Naked Woman). In the stillness here, we are now definitely in an awkward place.

Aisling, please let me leave this godforsaken place.

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Cinnamon's Journal: In Which We Hug It Out

I don’t know exactly how Anton got himself into this situation, but boy is he fucked. So his…self? memories? have been sold off in…parts to the Self Unchained. Not a group we feel like confronting. We got into quite the conversation looking for alternatives, but it looks like neither my limited memory transfer juju nor Ivraham’s vision quest abilities are relevant here. (On the other hand, I did finally get a first-hand sense of how memory transfer is different for Shadows, courtesy of Shae, so I learned something today. Woo.)

So that’s how I ended up in a huge fracas dodging Axe-Dwarf’s Dwarven Axes and whiffing on every punch I threw at this one guy. Fell back on what I always do in these situations – hug it out. Turns out even the speedy ones don’t take well to being clotheslined and choked out. Least I didn’t have to fight crazy nude biting lady.

An aside: when did Jinko get so sassy, and what the fuck is up with the uber-elemental who’s apparently driving him around? The reaction of the elementals Varus offered up suggests perhaps a less innocent, symbiotic arrangement than we originally suspected, though considering the Builder’s involved I guess I shouldn’t be surprised.

Nngh. I’m pretty sure Leo owes me all the drinks when this is over.

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Leo's View: A Crippled Ally

Byron and Dr Ashwall and Jinko and I went down to talk with Martin about our “we don’t want it to get out that you’re doing Wizardry” angle. His people brought us to a receiving library and kept us waiting a good long time, just to prove that they could.

When he came in, he brought several guards, an assistant, and a servant. The servant was Anton, whom they’d clearly crippled so that he couldn’t fight. And he’s clearly had all of his memories torn out. Martin mentioned buying some of them back again, but Anton’s not… himself.

Byron did a brilliant job explaining the wizardry angle, and Martin had little solid ground to stand on when he said they had a committee to study the problem. He had to go check in with his boss-in-the-box.

We were left in the library again. They left Anton with us, probably just to unnerve me. Through a series of questions I figured that he’s basically brainwashed to obey as a servant – that is, he wouldn’t sit down unless commanded to, although clearly it was hell for him to be standing.

Martin came back, eventually, and while quite irate with us personally, did concede that the cost/benefit analysis of moving the market versus having the black mark of wizardry (because someone else might think of it too) against them yielded the result that both outcomes were bad, but moving the market would be the lesser evil. He said that the Balanced Scale would not hold this against us, but that he personally had lost face, and would be seeking to harm us in any way he could. (This later led to detailed discussions regarding an embargo against us.)

We had some important clarifications and adjustments to the contracts they wanted us to sign, (ie, removing the part where we were responsible for covering all of their financial losses incurred by moving) and time was running short before our dead-man’s switch went off and our companions started hollering about the wizardry to all who would listen. We went downstairs to find them. Martin gave me Anton’s contract as a freebie – either to bother me, or because he wasn’t useful enough to justify his upkeep, or possibly both. I still don’t know if it will be possible to fix him – Martin said something insincere about asking around after who had purchased his memories – but at least it’s good to have him out of their hands. He was clearly exhausted and sleep deprived, in addition to mentally and physically crippled.

We rounded up the group from downstairs and went up to wait for the updated contracts. I told Anton he could sit or stand as he pleased, and that it was okay to go to sleep if he wanted, and he sat and fell asleep right away. We caught up with what everyone else had been doing.

Cinnamon, Ivraham, and Jinko decided to try to get out of the estate, and were all stopped by Kumori, the shadow-spirit who terrifies Big Brother Chip and who had come by to say hi awhile back after she’d been told, you know, not to destroy us. Cinnamon had a dream-hallucination where she was able to get out of the estate and warn all of the temples what was happening. I’d told her about my false-full-day’s-experience-in-an-hour’s-dream, but it was still equally upsetting for her to wake up and find she hadn’t been out of the estate at all.

Eventually we made our way back up to the waiting library. Martin came in with updated contracts, with provisions for later updates to be made. Initially he’d just had them for me, Byron, and Cinnamon, but other party members were able to sign their own if they wished rather than being counted under our banners. The eventual punishment we negotiated was an embargo against us of 3 years, with exceptions to Golden Eye, Silkies, Myagami, and Ssama.

Then I led everyone down to the servants’ quarters where Ashwall had stocked some untainted edibles. We finally were able to get something to eat, and get a good night’s sleep.

I’m worried about Anton. Martin mentioned that he’d gotten him for a song from the Self, Unchained. I wonder if they still have the rest of him, and if there’s any way to find it or get it back.

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Cinnamon's Journal: In Which Varus Mann Has No Game At All

It’s not the first job I’ve left in a dumbwaiter, but usually I was worried about meeting a disapproving householder or jealous lover on the way out. I would have preferred that to the head chef who looked as if he would as soon boil me in the soup and use my hair as a garnish. One thing I learned in the big house: Do Not Fuck With The Chefs. Seriously.

Somehow we survived that kitchen encounter, and went out to try to blend in on the dance floor. It was there I discovered that for all his talents and noble bearing, my dear cousin dances with the grace of a drunk bear falling out of a tree. I intend to use this as blackmail for the rest of my life. (Kidding, I know full well no one will give a shit. But the image amuses me.)

Anyway, we managed to get our meeting with the Balanced Scale. And there’s contracts. Not like the easy to understand ones Herrik gives us. And apparently, I’m personally embargoed. Goddammit. You see? You see, this is why I let the noble kids handle all the social shit. The one time I actually make a concerted effort to blend in rather than being somebody’s flunky or the disfigured ginger elephant in the room and this is what fucking happens.

I can’t wait to get the fuck out of this House Party of Horrors and back to the Big House, where hopefully I will still have a job and be allowed to eat in spite of this embargo shit.

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A Short History of Two Kalbs, A Bard, and a Concerned Prostitute: Part 23

After Byron, Leo, and Jinko left, we awaited for the appointed time. The plan seemed to be to give them enough time to setup a deal while we tried to scry on their location. We saw some inconclusive images from Alice’s scrying and opted to leave before they could find our location.

The kitchen… perhaps the less said the better? The head chef was well on his way towards putting an end to us meddlers in the kitchen. Good thing his staff seems to understand how he works.

We ran out of the chef’s eminent domain to the only safe place: the dance floor. There we danced, either acquitting or being fools as the shadows creeped down along the walls. Thankfully, it seems an initial deal had been struck with the Balanced Scale.

After that, we met with the Shadow thing that had been hunting us (which seems to have an affinity for Alice) and attempted to leave, which ended with Cinnamon, Jinko, and Cinnamon’s boyfriend all in different states of health.

After that failed attempt, we settled down for a few hours before going to the final trade meeting. And in a sudden reversal of yesterday, things seemed to go from untenable to barely dealable. Now, time to eat and sleep copiously.

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Cinnamon's Journal: In Which I Realize I am a Miserable Asshole

So after meeting up with the Super Secret Shadow Club, it was time to go back out through the labyrinth of the mind. I thought maybe because I’d done it once, I’d be able to handle it this time. Ha. Of course I ran into a false Ivraham. Telling me that I was a miserable asshole who’s always looking to make herself more miserable and drag people down with me.

I knew it wasn’t real – but that didn’t mean it wasn’t true. Why do I keep trying to make myself miserable? I guess because I don’t really know how to be happy. If you asked me what I really wanted, what my big dream was, it would be to get out of this fucking city. But what would I do if I actually managed to get out? Some of the girls in the house talk about what they’re going to do when they get enough money to quit (ha), and it’s always stuff like opening a bar on a beach somewhere, or something cutesy like learning to paint, or opening their own house if they favor realism over imagination. They were all things they wanted to have. And there was nothing that I wanted have the way I wanted to not have to be in this city. Getting out of this city isn’t a dream – it’s the absence of a nightmare, the way cold is the absence of heat.

“But Cinnamon,” you say (and by you, I mean Byron), “what about what you have with Ivraham? Surely that’s something you want to have. Surely that’s something that can make you happy.” I mean – yes, I do want that, and when thinking about it doesn’t make me insane, it does make me happy. But you can’t hang your happiness on someone else. That’s not fair to them. And like false-Ivraham said – I can’t possess him. A person isn’t something you can have, like a beach bar. (And yes, I see the irony of a hooker saying this, but there’s a big difference between rental and ownership.)

But let’s put that aside for the moment. And let’s say this does work, and assume it does make us happy. Then what? We stay here in a city we hate, and eventually it kills him? Or we take to the road and…what? I follow him wherever? No. I’m done doing what I’m told just because someone’s kind to me (thanks, false Ivraham), and I’m not putting him in the position of having to give me purpose. Again, not fair to him.

And everybody wondered why I was so conflicted about getting with him. Oh gee, it’s only that it could only end in resentment or death.

Not to mention there’s always something in this city that seems to need doing, and it keeps dragging me back in. No, that’s not it. I tried leaving once and I came limping back, but it was my own damn fault. I had no plan because there was nothing I wanted other than to get out. I had nothing to work towards, so I didn’t know what to do.

It’s making me realize why Raisa and Varus drive me so insane. I envy them. They’re insufferable, but they have things they really want and believe in. Guiding aspirations and principles. Goals. Raisa just desperately wanted to be the best little evil wolf god shaman this world has ever seen, and by god she’s going to do it. Varus has goddamn divine visions – even if it’s not always clear why he gets them, it’s hard to feel like you lack purpose when your god smacks you in the face with it.

So that’s what I was thinking about while we were stumbling back through the manor, through the puddle of darkness (unpleasant, but we recovered our not-cat and Alice manages to make all-over purple look good, so there’s that) and into the Duchess’s chambers, so you’ll have to forgive me for being a little fuzzy on the details. When people said that the arrangement with the balanced scale was sucking the life out of her, I was unprepared for the….literalness of how that would look. Holy shit.

Subsequently the shadow tentacles attempted to bust in the door, and we had a really interesting argument with the Duchess’s guards over the details of lockdown protocol. We finally manage to get them to open the damn door and we’re off for the dumbwaiter when Varus’s eyes roll back in his head – can’t he ever pick a convenient time to get a divine vision? – and he tells me he’s looking out through the bars of my crib, listening to two men and a woman talk about what they’re going to do with me, the fucking elf. The woman’s clearly my mother. The other two guys – the duke and my father? Maybe one of them’s a rep from Ssama? Daleena says not to kill me, that “we can make her useful.” And then they start talking about money. Huge sums of money. Someone says “I’ll pay for eight years. She has to break even by then.”

So I punched Varus in the face. Then I thought about what this might have meant. (The vision, not the punching.) Why would house Mann want to make me “useful” at the Big House? Sure, it might be useful to have someone to gather information about Ssama – but it’s not like I can do that if they pretend I don’t exist, and just what was I supposed to accomplish by age eight, anyway? As for “breaking even,” all I did as a kid was bus tables and stuff – not exactly the kind of money House Mann would be interested in. Whatever it was I was supposed to be doing, apparently I did it, because the money for my upkeep is still coming into the house – Herrik told me that.

None of this makes any sense. In conclusion, I am a miserable bastard who poisons everything I touch and I need a drink. Possibly ten.

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