Seken

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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A Short History of Two Kalbs, A Bard, and a Concerned Prostitute: Part 22

Actually getting to the Duchess has been tricky. We managed to make our way through the maze again without losing our minds. In fact, I think each of us saw a vision. My vision was a glimpse of the true nature of Aisling and being utterly terrified of what I saw. More than that, of who and what she actually was.

The one who saved me tugged at the edge of my mind. An old man with a long beard… It came to me in another fugue state- Benjiro. I don’t know what to think. Why would the maze return something useful? Was it truly Aisling and Benjiro? Or simply a trick to test my faith?

I banished these questions from my mind as we made our way to the Duchess. We wandered awkwardly through some political tete-a-tetes and came to a hallway made of shadows.

After attempting a number of methods to remove this trap, we simply ran through it after collecting Big Brother Chip. We finally got to the Duchesses chamber and her retinue of ‘host guards’. We left most of the speaking points to Leo and Byron, but it seems we managed to arrange a meeting with the higher ups in the Balanced Scale.

Oh, and a giant shadow tentacle thing almost came through the bottom of the door, but I had my Archon create enough light to drive it off. After some protocol bureaucracy, we managed to get the plan underway.

At this point we are waiting for Leo, Byron, and Jenko to make their way down the dumbbell while we wait here…

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Byron's View: Who knows what darkness...

It turns out that some people are just terribly uncouth. Having been pointed in the correct direction we decamped, and made our way to the current place of our erstwhile companion Ivrahim. We found that the antechamber to his place of captivity was taken up by the “Self Unchained” fellows. They were quite churlish, and seemed to want to take Varys’ name or something. I stared the speaker down, and they demoted him and decamped. We then rescued Varys from a flood of tiny shadows, and proceeded to the area of broken minds.

Here we experienced a number of strange events, people disappearing going into odd places, that kind of thing, but we all made it to the end relatively intact. Upon arrival we were greeted by one of the shadows wearing a grinning mask, and after some introduction by my dear brother, allowed to enter. What followed was a long discussion of the political situation, and how things could be solved until I came up with a brilliant observation about the contract: Wizardry. It was essentially Wizardry, drawing upon the power of a god to power magics is wizardry, and that is what was happening here. No one likes wizardry, and even the Balanced Scale would not wish to be associated with such a thing, now, would they?

So we’ve turned it into a matter of blackmail. Perhaps not the safest route, but perhaps less dangerous than a frontal assault.

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Leo's View: Shadows of the Mind

Thanks to Big Brother Chip’s pointing the way, we had a good idea of where to find Ivraham. Knowing the Manor, Alice got us there in good time. There was a greeting party of smug-assed Self Unchained in the front room, blocking our way, but I basically just walked past them while Byron made scary faces at them. Seems they backed off and the rest of the party followed on towards Ivraham’s room.

It was FULL of shadows, excepting the bubble he’d made around himself. Varus did something to calm the shadows down, and we were able to get Ivraham out. The Self Unchained guys were decamping, leaving a hanging piece of meat that was clearly once a partygoer as a sign they’d been there. Charming.

We started through the section of the house that we’d been warned about, that would have psychic resonances from people having memories forcibly pulled out of them. Truth be told, I’m not sure even knowing that prepared any of us for how it manifested, which was a series of this-is-a-bad-dream rooms that hinged one to the next and randomly seemed to suck us in and spit us out. Eventually we made our way through to the Sequestered on the far side.

Shay was there, along with several others. She gathered who she called the most influential of the ones there – Car’Alam, with a fixed smile on his mask and an almost-constant sense of anger about him; Cecelie, who seemed to be made up of tattered shadow-twigs; Tedorum, big and buff in armor, and Maesk, who was childlike. Thelassia, Shay’s mother, was not present, thankfully.

I presented our pitch – that the party should end before it claims the Duchess’ life. They confirmed that the Messengers and Unbound might be able to convinced to help with this, and also mentioned the Shattered as possible allies. One approach suggested was to break the magic voice-box that link Martin (second-in-command, on site) with Harton (in charge of the Balanced Scale, but not on the premesis.)

In pondering through different angles, arguments, and possibilities, Byron started doing that talking-to-himself thing, and eventually I tuned in to what he was muttering about. Wizardry. That the Balanced Scale’s Contract with the Duchess creates a direct routing of power to them through the Duchess’ connection with Demias. Stealing Divine power would be an unpopular schtick if word got around.

Some of the group wanted to just lay this out in the open for all the Market to consider, but I think it would be more politic to allow Martin and Harton to make the wise business decision without word getting out. It would allow them to save face, rather than publicly shaming them and putting them on the defensive. Of course, this conversation will need to be delicately worded so that they don’t get their hackles up right off the bat. And we definitely will have a contingency plan of “tell everyone” if they decide to dispose of me and Byron. Alice has said she will scry on us from the Duchess’ rooms so that the rest of the party has a real-time connection to what is happening.

I admit, I’m still creeped out that she scryed on me at the party twice, but knowing she’s doing it as I go into a Situation feels a lot better than the surprise peekaboo game.

And… hey, is that JINKO that just walked in???

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Cinnamon's Journal: Fuck the landscapes of the mind and also everything else

Once again I find myself doing what I do best: blundering around some complex situation involving magic, the divine, and/or noble politics and trying to give the impression that I’m not totally incompetent. Thanks to Alice’s know-how, we made it upstairs towards where Ivraham supposedly was. Unfortunately, to get there we had to get through the Dismemberment Welcome Wagon. Fucking terrifying. Fortunately, Byron can be just as fucking terrifying with a bit of a nudge (who knew)? Varus was then able to dispel the shadows – bless him, and I genuinely mean that. Thus having recovered him, that meant it was time to head into the Labyrinth of the Mind. Great. Of course I fell into some kind of thought pitfall in a room of mirrors – eventually Ivraham got stuck in there as well, and he couldn’t hear me. We both managed to get out of there eventually, and ran smack into shadow-politics. Oh god, it is just the worst. How do we blackmail/squeeze out the Balanced Scale? How the fuck should I know? Do I look like a guy who has a plan? There’s a reason Herrik handles all the business stuff. I know how the house works, but I don’t understand how it runs any more than I understand why the moon waxes and wanes or why gravity is a thing.

In the midst of this Varus (that fucking guy) noticed Ivraham’s eyes were fixed and basically asked him why he was Xeph, and oh my god, Varus, you can’t just ask people why they’re Xeph!

Fortunately, just when I thought I would be entirely consumed by awkwardness and a convergence of metaphysical politics that is absolutlely above my paygrade, something came crashing into the room. JINKO! THANK FUCKING GOD. Turns out the Labyrinth of the Mind isn’t that hard to traverse when you don’t have a mind per se. No worries. Awesome to see him.

No sign of not-cat, though. Sad. I wonder if he and Chip will ever meet. That should be

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A Short History of Two Kalbs, A Bard, and a Concerned Prostitute: Part 21

Well, an assortment of strange things happened on our path through. To retrieve Ivraham, we had to make our way through the Duchal Labyrinth. Alice seemed to know her way through the chambers, perhaps from her earlier days as a supplier.

That is when we met the men in devil masks. Oh dear gods. They seemed to have taken complete personal freedom into a strange new world. Full of “I want your eyeballs” and “You’ve got a pretty name”. Byron thankfully drove them off with a solid frown.

Ivraham’s room was filled with darkness. We could have fought a battle here, but I extended my magic to calm the emotions of the shadows here. We skedaddled out.

After this I saw a maze-like creature that seeks to devour our experiences and hates the Gods. Being a seer can be problematic like that. We managed to stumble through these illusions. Success by blind luck, but I don’t think this place understands us well enough that we’d be stubborn enough to move forward.

We managed to make our way through the maze, whereupon we met Leo’s friends. And began making the plan to blackmail the Balanced Scale. Making it unprofitable to stay is the best course of action… but how?

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Leo’s View: Thanks, Shadow-Brother

It took asking around, but I caught up with Shay eventually. She brought me into a small room on the second floor to talk. One of the shadows twitched — should’ve marked that at the time, but I was intent on trying to pitch my end-the-party-and-free-yourselves plan to her. She said there was a group of Sequestered of her particular faction that I should speak with, but that they’re hard to get to, through a section of the third floor that’s painful for people who dream to travel through.

(Later on, once we’d all put our heads together, the group consensus is that the area probably has magical echoes of pieces of people being ripped out, and that hollow something-missing feeling ever afterward.)

Shay took her leave, and I started down the hall, but saw Cinnamon, tall in her half-mask, surrounded by some of the others, Byron notably missing. I got them into the small room and we got some information exchanged. Byron eventually wandered in, and we were all mostly up-to-speed, I think, when we realized that there was a shadow in the corner listening.

It was still pretty new to this plane, it seemed. It said that it reported to Shae’s mother, and that she would give it Wants. We offered to share some of our memories with it in exchange for not going right away to rat out our conversation. Of course, we wanted to share memories with it that would inspire loyalty to us, so Cinnamon shared the memory of Chip running toward her; I shared a memory of looking up to Byron when I was little, and Alice shared a memory of performing with her first love. The shadow manifested itself into a little cat at first, and then ran and clung around Byron’s face for awhile.

Good thing is, it sort of seemed to want to help us after this. Bad thing was, it still felt like it had to report to its lady, but was willing to try to not go back right away to report.

Varus had a vision where he saw Ivrahim cornered by a number of shadows coming at him. Ivrahim seemed to be holding his own, but apparently noticed Varus looking in, and asked for a bit of assistance, if we could get around to it.

“Big Brother Chip”, as the shadow-cat named itself, said that he’d be able to see where Ivrahim was if he went back to the shadow-realm, but that he wasn’t sure whether he’d be able to come back as himself afterwards. He was strangely adorable — maybe I’m just saying that because I put a piece of my memory into him, but I think he actually was — and I think we were all sorry to see him go, but the chances of us finding Ivrahim in time without some kind of idea of where to look seemed vanishingly small.

And so the shadow-cat melted into shadow, and pointed diagonally upwards, looked like towards the next floor. We need to go through the 3rd floor anyway to get to the creepy ripped-memories place to hopefully win through to the Sequestered beyond, so… sort of on our way, right?

Thanks, Shadow Brother.

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