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From Out of a Dream [Quest]

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  • Originally posted by L'het'esh View Post
    Anybody besides me think the Grand Magister had his place searched?
    The Magister had his place searched. Probably looking for the stone.

    I write things.


    • Eh business is business. It's Himitsu's problem. They didn't take Cleaver, that's what matters.

      "Chicanery-No: If a player uses this Charm in an abusive or exploitative manner, the ST may punch him right in the goddamn face." --TheDementedOne

      "Happiness is very brittle and short-lived in the Exalted community, because ressentiment is our cultural touchstone." --Gayo


      • After last night, you decide what you really need is some exercise.

        You step out of the house, put down another hair line to be on the safe side, and begin the six-mile run to your training grounds. As usual, you draw some odd looks trotting down Nexus North with your weapons and armor clanking all the way. No one is curious enough to stop or chase you, however. The traffic in the streets is light - you find you are able keep your speed up for long stretches without having to maneuver through crowds and arrive at the old tree in less than an hour.

        The old tree is a giant, ancient elm lying on top of a low hill within spitting distance of the town. Its great height and breadth make it an easy landmark. Grass and farmland stretch for miles out beyond it - you don't know why this one tree hasn't been cut down. You settled on this spot as "your training grounds" only a few days after you started living in Eight Roads. In some ways, the elm reminds you of yourself.

        After your run, the next step of your training is to climb this tree. No great jumps, this time - you try to use your Blessing as little as you can while practicing. Instead, you clamber up the trunk and pull yourself into the branches in the normal way, going as high as you can before the branches become too thin to support your weight. Then you circle around the trunk, climb back down the other side, and start your weapon drills.

        This part of your routine is the longest and has many stages. It starts and ends with Cleaver, moving from stance to stance, executing wide sweeps and sudden chops. Your other weapons take their turns - jabbing and slicing with the short swords, spinning and twirling with the staff, throwing and catching with the kusarigama. Sometimes you throw a knife or shoot an arrow at the tree, trying to strike down individual leaves. Most of these exercises are familiar enough to you that you can do them without thought, and so your mind wanders...

        At first, it seemed like you were winning. Promises of victory are the most seductive kind you know, as well as the most easily broken.

        "[They are coming in behind us!]" screams Tömörbaatar*.

        "[Push ahead!]" you scream back. "[Break through! Do not let them trap us!]"

        The Crow clan seemed like a reasonable choice for a first target, or victim, of the Many Horse's expansionist ambitions. They had few warriors or horses and avoided conflict with the other clans. Crows preferred to move about and scavenge the steps, much like their namesake, rather than struggle to hold territory. But now that they were backed into a corner, they showed a skill at war that no one had expected.

        Your father chose you and Tömörbaatar to lead thirty horsemen to break the Crows. You were to kill or scatter their warriors, invade their village, and take hostages. The leaders of the Crows would swear to follow Ganzorig, or their loved ones would die.

        At first, the plan seemed to go flawlessly. You met ten or so horsemen guarding the Crows' tents, and they fled when your larger band charged at them. The tents they protected turned out to be empty. For a while you thought perhaps the whole clan had left, leaving behind a token guard and some canvas as a decoy. Instead, it turned out to be an ambush. A few dozen bowmen hiding in the long grasses rose and attacked as you left the empty settlement. When you tried to charge through their hail of arrows to ride them down, more men with long spears stood up to attack both horses and riders.

        You were outnumbered, and your warband was shrinking fast. You ordered a retreat, but found that the horsemen you thought you had routed before had returned to cut off your escape.

        Arrows flew past you while you rushed the enemy line. Their fighters kept backing up their mounts, fighting defensively to slow you down. The spearmen ran up behind you, and someone knocked you off your horse with a wild swing. You landed on your back, stunned and winded. All around you were the screams of men and horses. Your own war stallion, directionless, began kicking out in all directions and stamped on your chest.

        You were certain you were going to die, and all you could feel was anger. You could not believe your life could end this way, with all your hopes - all your family's hopes - all your clan's hopes - all your people's hopes - broken and ruined by a simple trap. You could not allow this to happen. You would not allow this to happen.

        You cannot remember too many details from that fight. Somewhere, you found the strength to stand up. The next man who thrust a spear at you had his weapon torn from his hands, and you broke it through his body. First many arrows struck you, then many more simply bounced off. You pulled several men from their mounts and stomped them to death. At some point, you think you threw a horse and its rider at someone. You felt like you were on fire.

        When you came to your senses, you were surrounded by dead Crows. You saw the rest running in all directions. About half of your band, including Tömörbaatar, and a third of your horses stood in a loose group some distance behind you. Strangely, the ground where you stood was brighter than the neighboring space.

        "[Brother... You are glowing,]" said Tömörbaatar as you approached. He stared at you with dread and awe. "[Light flows from your mouth, your eyes, your head. What power is this?]"

        You had no answer. You did not understand, then, what had happened, but you believed your first responsibility was to guide what was left of your warriors home. The journey was slow and painful in more ways than one. You believed that Ganzorig would condemn your failure and the loss of your clansmen, and you would never be able to regain his trust.

        Father was unhappy to see only half of those he sent out returning with no hostages. But when he heard the stories of your brother and the other survivors, his eyes shined the way they did when he spoke of his dreams. At last, his faith had been validated - the gods had seen his piety and his struggles, and given him an invincible champion. The Many Horse clan would never know defeat again.

        "Iron Hero." Your fifth older brother, the youngest in the family after you. Never ambitious for himself, but always eager to help you or your other siblings. Gradually, you came to understand that his sense of self-worth depended on what other people thought of him. You pitied him even as you took advantage of his giving nature.

        You see Nuo coming up the hill as you start the second round of drills with Cleaver. Rather than call out to her or approach her, you decide to finish what you have started and see what she does. You go through the entire sequence of strikes and strokes while she waits by the old elm with her arms behind her back.

        When you have completed your last move - a lunging chop - you sheath your sword and take a moment to breath. Only then do you come closer to talk.

        "Back so soon?" you say. "I already told you what the magus paid me to do. Go see for yourself."

        Nuo shakes her head. "I've already seen it. I went before I first spoke to you, actually."

        There is a brief silence while you process that. Unless Nuo can run like the wind, she'd had to have visited the castle very shortly after you left it... which could mean that she has been following you for some time.

        "What do you want?" you ask, cautiously.

        "The Grand Magister wants to speak with you. I can take you to him now, if you wish."

        "What for? I'm not changing my story."

        "Even so, Ayumu would like to meet you himself."

        "Did Ayumu have my place searched?"

        Nuo does not answer, and her expression does not change.

        "What happens if I say no?" you ask, feeling defensive.

        Nuo shrugs. "I have... seen what you can do. I can't force you to come if you don't want to. However, I can have you blacklisted." Her voice and expression harden. "The Grand Magister has a lot of pull. If he orders it, no reputable merchant will deal with you and no noble house will hire you. You will never work in Eight Roads again, or anywhere within a hundred miles of it."

        What do you do?
        • Agree to go along now. She's obviously not going to leave you alone, and you're not ready to leave Eight Roads. You want to get to the bottom of this.
        • Agree to go along later. You want to get to the bottom of this, but your workout has made you hungry... and thirsty. Make an appointment now to see the Grand Magister at your leisure, and you can do more to prepare.
        • Don't go along at all. You want no part of... whatever this is. Let the Grand Masturbator do what he likes - you have no ties to this place and can easily start anew somewhere else. You've done it before.
        • Kill Nuo. Maybe you take threats to your livelihood as seriously as threats to your life. Maybe you think you can get more of a head start on leaving the country if Nuo doesn't report back. Maybe you're just pissed. Whatever the reason…
        • Something else?
        Last edited by semicasual; 08-03-2015, 11:13 AM.

        On the frontier of the Wild South, there's only one woman with the grit to take on its most dangerous outlaws and bring them Back Alive, or Maybe Dead.

        Avatar by K.S. Brenowitz


        • Agree to go along later. Maybe the Grand Magister has work for you to do.

          ((I considered "Don't go along at all", but decided that Nergui is too curious not to at least talk to this Grand Magister. ))

          I write things.


          • >Agree to go later. This is really annoying but you're also not going to be pushed into submitting at his whim like some beaten dog.

            "Chicanery-No: If a player uses this Charm in an abusive or exploitative manner, the ST may punch him right in the goddamn face." --TheDementedOne

            "Happiness is very brittle and short-lived in the Exalted community, because ressentiment is our cultural touchstone." --Gayo


            • Agree to go along later. Get yourself a drink, first... and have this chick pay. Just because, you know?


              • Agree to go along later. Being forced out of Eight Roads would be almost as annoying as letting this Magister think he has us on a leash. We'll see him, but he'll have to wait.

                Share your wonders in The Artifact and Evocation Workshop


                • Go Now.
                  While you are armed and ready to cut your way out, if necessary.
                  (Just remember to shank GM when the trouble starts, leaving loose ends behind is sloppy work.)

                  Like my Avatar? Courtesy of Jen! : Anybody want their characters to be experimented on ? post 98
                  An Exalt is never unarmed.


                  • Agree to go later... and +1 the MC's idea of making Nuo buy us lunch and a drink first.
                    (we can go later armed as well).
                    And make it clear that we aren't getting involved in this for free.


                    • Originally posted by L'het'esh View Post
                      Go Now.
                      While you are armed and ready to cut your way out, if necessary.
                      (Just remember to shank GM when the trouble starts, leaving loose ends behind is sloppy work.)

                      I read "Shank GM" as "Shank Game Master" and was wondering what Semi Casual did to deserve such treatment!

                      I write things.


                      • Originally posted by Mushroom King View Post
                        Agree to go later... and +1 the MC's idea of making Nuo buy us lunch and a drink first.
                        (we can go later armed as well).
                        And make it clear that we aren't getting involved in this for free.
                        Agreed. Go later, armed, after she buys us food and drink.


                        • It's funny how Second Breath has people debating the most moral course of action to take while this one has such discussions as "did that water spirit piss us off enough to kill her or just rough her up" and "should we delay just to make a point or delay just to make a point and also make the messenger pay for our food".


                          • I like being an upright hero as much as anyone else... but sometimes, playing an amoral jerk can be fun too!


                            • Originally posted by wonderandawe View Post

                              I read "Shank GM" as "Shank Game Master" and was wondering what Semi Casual did to deserve such treatment!
                              ASK THE TIBIAS!!


                              • “Fine, I’ll go see your boss,” you say, “but not now.”

                                Nuo’s expression sours. “When, then?”

                                You fight the urge to say ‘When I damn well feel like it.’ “Later today. I have some business to take care of.”

                                Nuo nods. “As you will. The Grand Magister is staying at the Ryuunosuke estate. Do you know where that is?”

                                “It’s a ways down Riverside, on the actual river. The path leading down to the house is marked with a pair of dragon statues.1

                                “Good. I’ll meet you there.”

                                You shrug and walk down the hill. Nuo stays where she is, idly staring up at the elm tree. “Well?” you call to her. “Are you coming?”

                                “I said I’d meet you there!” she shouts back.

                                “If you want to pretend you’re not following me, I don’t care. But if you’re supposed to keep eyes on me anyway, you might as well make it easy.”

                                A subtle shift in her posture makes you think you made her angry, but soon enough she jogs down the hill after you, and together you walk back to Eight Roads.

                                You’ve been there before, twice. Once to pick up the Ryuunosuke’s youngest son for an escort job, and once to deal with a river dragon that had savaged a few peasants. That dragon made a great pair of boots…

                                Your ‘business’ takes you to the Good Fortune noodle shop2. A faded red awning covers an open roadside stall where customers sit at a long bar, order, eat, pay, and walk away at a steady clip.

                                You have a few bowls and a few drinks. Nuo sits next to you, nursing a cup of tea and looking more irate all the time. She’s been stewing since you told the bartender she was paying for you.

                                “You’re a mystery to me,” she says, after some time. “You can kill more than twenty people by yourself. You are paid very well for your talents. But you live only a little better than a beggar.”

                                You answer by way of slurping more noodles.

                                “You spend much of your time drunk and act like you can do whatever you please, but you show great skill in many fighting arts and practice rigorously.”

                                You belch and wipe your mouth on your sleeve. “Is this going somewhere?”

                                “You behave like you were born in a barn,” she snaps, “but you style your hair like a king’s. What is that fashion, anyway? I’ve never seen anything like it.”

                                Abruptly, you stop eating. You slowly set the bowl down and shift in your seat to face Nuo. You are about to tell her to mind her own business when you see Joy of Metamorphosis walking up the street. She looks much as she did yesterday, only now she is wearing a long, light blue gown instead of the white. A child walks behind her, holding her trailing dress and hair away from the dirt. Nuo notices your rapid change in expression and turns to look where you are looking.

                                “Do you know who that is?” you ask as softly as you can over the noise of the shop and the town around it.

                                “Yes,” she answers just as softly. Nuo turns back to her tea and tilts her hat down.

                                “Does she know who you are?”

                                “I don’t know. Don’t talk to me while she’s here.”

                                Joy seems to glide over the ground, drifting slowly from one side of the street to the other while she looks over the people and places she passes. Her face changes expressions rapidly with every new thing she sees, shifting from childlike glee to dismay to teeth-clenching rage for no obvious reason. When she finally spots you, she takes on a quizzical look.

                                “Greetings to you, hero,” she says, floating closer. “What brings you to this place?”

                                You blink at her, unsure how to respond. “I like the noodles here,” you reply, falling back on the trivial and obvious.

                                “Do you now? Well then… noodlemaker!” she calls to the cook behind the bar. “Bring me one of everything!”

                                The man laboring over the boiling pots looks back at Joy with confusion. “Everything, lady?”

                                “Yes, yes, quickly, quickly!” Joy does not sit down. Instead, she stands in front of the bar, shifting her weight from one leg to the other, swaying continuously. The boy carrier mimics her motions, his eyes always on her. The cook brings her a bowl of soup – she dips her thin fingers into the broth and then into her mouth, softly sucking. Her expression turns stormy. “No!” she barks, and shoves the bowl away, throwing its contents to the shop floor. “Bring me another!”

                                To your and several waiting customers’ surprise, the cook does bring her another bowl, then another, and another. Joy rejects each one just like the first, but her reaction to the fifth bowl is completely different. Her eyes sparkle and her lips spread into the most unsettling smile you have ever seen. “Yes! This one is the best!” she declares. “Determination and anger, pain and passion. A tiny bit of panic. Wonderful! Wonderful…”

                                Apparently satisfied, she turns around and moves on down the road. The cook does not seem to realize that Joy made a terrible mess and left without paying. He is leaning over the counter with his eyes closed, breathing slowly with a look of pure joy on his face. To you, it’s as if he drank a whole bucket of poppy tea.

                                Curious, you pull the last bowl closer to you and dip your spoon in it. It’s a sweet broth, not the savory kind you usually order. You sniff and then taste a bit. “Seems normal enough to me,” you think out loud.

                                “We should get going,” says Nuo.

                                “Why? So you can skip the bill before he wakes up?” You point at the senseless cook with your spoon.

                                “No!” she answers roughly. As if you prove you wrong, she pulls a few coins out of a bag and stacks them on the bar almost on top of the cook’s hands. “I just think we’ve wasted enough time. Do you really have ‘business’ to take care of that doesn’t involve galling me?”

                                You consider what to do next.
                                • You’re done preparing. You have all your weapons already – honestly, food was all you needed. More to drink would be good, but if you have to answer any hard questions you probably want to be at least a little sober.
                                • You’re not done preparing. There’s still something you want to do before you visit Grand Magister Ayumu. (Players, feel free to suggest whatever you think is appropriate – as long as it is something that can be done in a relatively short period of time.)
                                You have eaten at almost every noodle shop in Eight Roads. You are sure this one is the best – the meat isn’t dry, the noodles aren’t mushy or doughy, and the broth isn’t over-salted. Now if only they had fish…

                                On the frontier of the Wild South, there's only one woman with the grit to take on its most dangerous outlaws and bring them Back Alive, or Maybe Dead.

                                Avatar by K.S. Brenowitz