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Scheming Princess Quest

Discussion in 'Questing' started by Guile, Jan 25, 2015.

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  1. Adyen

    Adyen Experienced.

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    No, that's not my goofing. That you forgetting what action was taken the turn before.

    You know. The one we went all friendly and try to get their loyalty thing.

    I define "overt" as anything that leaves a trail of evidence back to us. While granted a lot of actions we can get Lily to do can be overt, it can also be rather covert in that the perpetrator cannot be figured out.

    No, like I said, it's just you forgetting the actions we picked.
     
  2. Bobs Beard

    Bobs Beard Over-analyzes things - sometimes this works out

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    Ah - you're reading that prior choice as somehow meaning that we don't have to worry about a historically consistent issue with doing subterfuge stuff with servants throughout the eons just because we threw a single vote in that general direction in the past, nevermind that we've seen nothing in-update to suggest such a radical change in tone amongst the staff has taken place, or is in the process of taking place - okay, so that's another thing we disagree with.

    Well fair enough; not like it wasn't already clear we aren't going to see eye to eye.
     
  3. Adyen

    Adyen Experienced.

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    Which is why I said picking Lily will help cement their loyalty - if we are shown that we're willing to pick up people in the palace for their loyalty, it would help cement their actual loyalties.

    It's clear in the story post just before this vote that the servants weren't fanatically loyal, but we have picked up every single servant's sympathy, which is quite a feat in itself. Building on that, I believe we can actually gain their loyalty.

    Unless you wish to disprove the things written in the update were about us gaining the sympathy of the servants?
     
  4. Bobs Beard

    Bobs Beard Over-analyzes things - sometimes this works out

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    I don't think you understand the 'agree to disagree'/'don't see eye to eye' thing, if you think that it's remotely productive for either of us to try and convince the other at this juncture - we've already both made it very clear that there are a bevy of data points we each interpret in meaningfully different ways.

    Just in case that didn't get across, that means I don't see a point to continuing the exchange since there's no realistic chance of either of us achieving something here - I'm not going to convince you, you're not going to convince me - that was why I closed with:
     
  5. Guile

    Guile Clothes That Kill Virgins

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    Just chipping in – because the Princess is such a perfect wonderful sun-child who can do no wrong, your vote to acquire the allegiance (relatively speaking) of a double handful of servants also succeeded in getting the sympathy of many additional servants. By no means does this include every single servant in the castle, just the lion's share. Your servant contacts speak well of you, which causes others to form good opinions of you sight unseen. But even those who are sympathetic to you can be bribed (if the bribe is great enough), or threatened (if the threat is vile enough), or magicked (demonic magic is kind of a cheat that way) into working against you.

    An outside party trying to use the servants as an avenue against you is likely to run into enough inconvenient morals that it'd be quite a headache. They'd probably have to spend time paying people to learn about what a particular servant holds dear, then getting into a position to threaten that, THEN use that threat to finally get around to enacting their original plan... but if they're determined (and odds are good, if someone was going to try to murder a royal, they're pretty determined) it can be done.
     
    Last edited: May 2, 2016
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  6. Arkeus

    Arkeus Crazy cat guy

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    That still filters out a whole lot of the "little plays" that are less "they want to murder a Royal" and more "they want to get people reporting on every nobles of importance", as it probably crosses the threshold from something you can casually do to something that not only demand effort but also contains some real risk.
     
  7. Bobs Beard

    Bobs Beard Over-analyzes things - sometimes this works out

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    Historically, getting those lower intensity spies that just report on everything has actually been treated as fairly vital, and had not inconsiderable resources/effort pushed in its direction - so I don't know that a 'whole lot' of attempts are likely to be winnowed out, relatively speaking.

    Or to put that another way, there's oodles of real life precedent of people's lives being destroyed by 'Hey you're home you - surprise, we some scary strangers know where you live, and things will go badly if you do anything but what we say. But be happy, since all we want you to do is tell us what you see during your job - it's not even hurting anyone, is it? Why, you'd have to be a fool to not give us that, knowing that if you don't, well... perhaps you won't have a happy home to return to' sorts of scenarios. They're relatively cheap to set up in terms of turning peeps into spies, and to work their best you'd want to have a handful of informant type spies in any given place, just so your information net's thorough enough it doesn't miss important stuff.

    A benefit (to spy-types) trying to make a 'watch yourself and report on anything' sort of informer is that you often don't need to leverage as much effort or resources to subvert them. Way less resource-demanding to set up a spy that's 'just' giving you what they can rationalize as being a step up from office gossip with some hard-to-prove threats than it is to try and force someone to have the balls to poison their boss, steal a prototype or whatnot.

    But yes, it's likely that a preponderance of the fraction of spying attempts that get canceled due to 'huh the Princess is getting chummy with her servants' will be this general sort, as there's less investment to lose if you cancel plans to make low-level spies.

    Which to me is worrying rather than reassuring - that means that the ratio of attempted spying leans more towards the serious and scary sort, and that you get less 'safe' instances of spying to catch and use as a form of practice for your counterespionage forces. 'Tis rather important to preventing espionage problems, having a chance to both have your counterforces get real world practice/refresher work. Even the best trained spycatchers can lose their edge if work's slow for long enough, and in this sense reducing the 'easier/safer' types of spying's incidence could be seen as a problem for maintaining such an edge.

    tl;dr: Spying's convolutedly multi-faceted and shaped from generations of 'lessons' against people trying to make it stop, so few parts of it are actually simple in their function, impetus or rationale.
     
  8. Guile

    Guile Clothes That Kill Virgins

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    At this early stage in the game, very few people are going to be sinking excessive amounts of time into spying on the princess specifically. More likely you're facing the by-blow of 'report on everything you see' kind of spies, or some light 'Hey wouldn't it be great if this section of the university got more funding, maybe you could mention it to your uncle' kind of intrigue. When you're young and (presumably) weak and malleable, anyone that wants to use you for intrigue purposes would either have to move you into a position of power first (an ultra far-sighted gambit that probably could be accomplished easier by befriending the Prince or the Regent), hoping that you have some pull with people with actual power (your family) or using your veneer of prestige for their own ends (marriage or using you as a figurehead for their pet causes or whatever).

    People need a reason to do what they do. As you age and show your inherent value more clearly, people will be wanting to use you as a pawn more seriously, and others will feel their existing plans are threatened by you. People will assign all kinds of values to your actions, and unless you stay perfectly neutral you'll get dragged into the feuding of your nobles.
     
  9. Adyen

    Adyen Experienced.

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    Not in this case. If you disagree with an opinion, that's fine. But if you disagree with a stated fact, then you're just ignoring the situation.
     
  10. Bobs Beard

    Bobs Beard Over-analyzes things - sometimes this works out

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    I don't exactly know why I'm responding to this, given I already know there's no resolution to be found - call it a mix of optimism of mulish stubborness, I suppose.

    Anyway, I don't disagree with stated fact, I disagree with interpretations of a less than perfectly phrased bit of word-of-QM - I actually know Guile from waaaaaay before QQ, and see him nearly every day on an old IRC channel. I ask him questions, clarify stuff, even do worldbuilding spitballing. There's a more than fair chance you'll see chunks of my writing in his updates - a thing that's happened in a couple other of mister Guile-face's quests. And per that, per having real time back and forth with a dude I know and hash out the details of this or that - including asking for clarification on this very topic - I think you're overestimating the positive effect of that prior vote to get in good with the servants, in terms of how safe from spying shenanigans the servants are, as a group.

    Reduced likelihood of counterspying efforts is not the same thing as negated likelihood of counterspying efforts.
     
  11. Adyen

    Adyen Experienced.

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    So, basically you're saying that you disagree that Guile wrote that we increased... let's say affections, with the servants, despite him writing things like that in the story post as well as mentioning things like that in this post.

    I think at this point it's me that stops talking to you since you're willing to say that you'll substitute your own reality with the one you're giving. :confused:
     
  12. Guile

    Guile Clothes That Kill Virgins

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    I do feel like Bob's opening position was a little too strong in that direction, but he's got it now:
    The above is accurate. The event helps prevent servant-based intrigue against you; the easy low-maintenance stuff. Servants paid to spy on you will have sudden attacks of conscience because you're SO GREAT AND NICE, things like that. But if someone is sufficiently motivated and ruthless enough, yeah, you better believe they can turn people.
     
  13. megrisvernin

    megrisvernin Well worn.

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    [X] Jill Chaser, the groundskeeper’s daughter. She’s helps with the gardening and taking care of the falcon mews. She is more than a bit willful and nosy as well, but she is kind and loyal to her friends, and daring in the face of danger.
     
  14. Threadmarks: Year 1, update 2b
    Guile

    Guile Clothes That Kill Virgins

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    Year 1, update 2b

    You are once again attending to the portly Granny Wither in her comfy little lab with the patched armchairs and wooden tables. Your magic lessons are sometimes conducted here and sometimes on the Blackstone estate, at seemingly random times of the day or night. The times never conflict with your scheduled classes, but wherever and whatever else you might be doing, Granny will simply appear with Sophia Hill in tow and lead you to where the day’s lesson would take place.

    It is possible there is some magical or traditional significance in the times chosen, but honestly you suspect it’s just Granny showing off.

    “Finish personalizing your bones in a way that makes sense to you,” Granny is saying, snapping up her own set with a practiced flick of her hand and slipping them into the little velvet bag she carried with her. “You’ll be the only ones using them. Use a plain tarot deck, but don’t try using another mage’s carved bones. Try using them to divine the answer to a question before next class.”

    You’re not entirely sure why a mage shouldn’t use another’s set of bones, but Granny’s ghoulish grin had been clear enough.

    Sophia is staring down at her own set of bones intently and asks, “Miss Wither, how are we to know if we divine the correct answer?”

    Granny smiles toothily. “It’ll be my homework to divine that.”

    You get the feeling she was hoping someone would ask that question.
    Long before you have the skill for true scrying, Granny had lectured, the basics of Clairvoyance are seeking answers from intermediary items. Tarot and bones are common, but fire, the movements of wild animals and other things can be used.

    You sweep up your own bones. The instrument you both are practicing on is a concession to your shared classes; surprising, since trying to get Granny to compromise on anything is as graceful and effortless as squeezing blood from stones. Bones that specialize in reading spirits are especially potent in the hands of budding necromancers like Sophia and yourself, and make for a good learning tool. At some point you’ll want to get a set comprised of many different magical creatures, like Granny’s, but at the moment you’re casting with a handful of chicken bones.

    Not even magical chickens. Bolf was going to use them for soup before Granny had her way.

    You smile at Granny Wither, putting enough effort into it that it slides onto your face as smoothly as glass, and thank her for the lesson. Just because you’re a bit tired from balancing classes and your little extracurricular project is no reason to be rude. Particularly to someone who could probably make your life hellishly difficult.

    Outside Granny’s homey little bungalow, you stretch until you hear a pleasant pop. It’s still early, and though you should probably be looking up old battles in the library for Logistics in the morning, you’re considering a nice nap before dinner.

    That’s about when Sophia Hill – your opposite in height and color scheme, and to hear her tell it, your rival – grabs you and whispers into your ear, “Come to the rose garden this evening, if you dare,” before sweeping away grandly.

    You ponder going along with her wishes. Ordinarily you would – a walk through the garden is hardly a trial.

    But you really did want that nap…

    ---

    Sophia appears just as the dessert tray rolls out, almost bowling over the poor maid. You wonder briefly how she got inside without being accosted by guards, riled up as she is. Connections on her part, slacking on the part of the guard – you should look into that sometime. Amidst the myriad and ever-replenishing others in your itinerary of course.

    She slaps her hands down on the table with a bang; it’s a liberty whose origins may stem from your long – if rocky – acquaintance, or just Sophia being Sophia. You raise an eyebrow, and she huffs and removes her hands.

    “You never showed up,” she says intensely.

    Feeling refreshed from your nap, you watch her with a certain zen serenity.

    “Try one of these little cakes,” you offer. “Bolf does this thing with chocolate and Barunese caramel, it’s wonderful.”

    Sophia drops into the chair opposite you sullenly. “I don’t want cake,” she says rebelliously.

    You are almost certain that is a lie. No one could possibly dislike this cake. She’s just being difficult.

    You sigh. “What was it you wanted, Sophia?”

    She looks around in a cloak and dagger sort of way, as if you might be hiding people behind the drapery.

    “Not here,” she said tersely. “Somewhere where we can’t be overheard.”

    You gesture expansively to the room, empty save for the two of you. Not that it’s impossible that there are eavesdroppers, of course, but that is true of every aspect of your life.

    “Just come oooonnn!”

    You mournfully devour your cake in three quick bites. It’s almost a crime to bolt down one of Bolf’s creations, especially since you’re pretty sure this is going to be unimportant in the grand scheme of things. But there is a small chance Sophia is going to reveal something important or attack you or confess to you or something.

    Perhaps more crucially, she isn’t going to go away until you join her, so you might as well agree.

    ---

    A double line of ancient herbal topiaries tower like trees, some wattled and bulging with tree-fat and others as slender as blades beneath a canopy of horse-sized leaves. The light does not dapple but stripe as it passes through, a visual effect that you quite enjoy. Occasionally the topiaries move very slightly, through some enchantment or quality of their creation. That, you find a fair bit unnerving. Particularly the shrub animals, which have a bad habit of turning to look inquisitively as you walk by. Slanted between the stripes of shadow and light, orange glow birds serve as light sources in the early evening to banish shadowy nooks from existence.

    The sun would soon set enough to send a brilliant explosion of color through the ice-stone walls of the castle, but for now the vivid flowers – starflowers and dragonsbreath, and deeper in you know that a carpet of red roses await – hold pride of place.

    The frigid, white-shading-blue starflowers cluster along the winding trails down to the rock-edged pools, while the bright yellow-red dragonsbreath are scattered around comfortably sweeping blackstone benches that seem to have grown from the ground itself. Perhaps they are. Dragonsbreath also clusters around and below more green topiary, thankfully more normally sized. The gardens are largely empty at this time of evening, though you do garner a few looks from tarrying servants or visiting noblemen. You greet them and are considering how best to move them along when Sophia bluntly asks them to leave the two of you alone.

    You sigh. Really, Sophia? The whispers as you move on seem very loud in your ears.

    "What?" She asks defensively.

    "Never mind," you mumble.

    You're grateful your guard for the evening is willing to give you space, compromising by staying within sight but out of hearing range. You assume he has some magic that could cross that distance in an instant, or he wouldn’t be a very good guard. Either way, it’s convenient for you.

    Sophia eyeballs the guard in red and white balefully, but the full-faced helm just looks back at her, and crosses his arms.

    “Fine,” she says finally, spinning around and crossing her arms so that her back was to the fully armored man. She leans into your personal space insolently. “So. You think you’re pretty good, huh princess?”

    “... Yes?”

    It’s true, after all.

    “Then how about you prove it?” she challenges you with a crafty smile. “I rolled the bones to find the biggest source of necromantic energy on the grounds. I tr– it probably has a necromantic ward on it to prevent people walking in. But surely a too-talented princess would be able to break it?”

    “So, before this goes any further,” a voice says lethargically from the short rose bushes to your right. Just the right height to hide a person lying down, you realize, mentally berating yourself. “Points for originality, using the roses instead of the forest for your secret rendezvous. But you might want to check around a little more.”

    An older girl, 13 or 14, rises from among the roses to a sitting position. She looks lanky and fit, with short, light brown hair splitting the difference between your fair hair and Sophia’s dark brown curls.

    “Spy!” Sophia shouts accusingly.

    The older girl rolls her eyes. “Like I care about whatever you kids are talking about,” she says from the lofty height of two and a half years. “Might wanna to check for napping– that is, for gardeners doing their jobs first.”

    The larger girl finally makes it to her feet. “Jill Chaser,” she introduces herself in a friendly, unassuming way, holding out a hand for a handshake. “You’re the princess, right?”

    “They know! Run for it!” Sophia reacts like that slightly grubby hand is a magelight shining in her face, demanding she confess all her crimes. She grabs your hand, spinning and dragging you into an awkward clasped-hand run. It’s either keep up or suffer the indignity of being dragged. Or you suppose you could trip her and watch her faceplant into a rosebush, but she’d probably drag you in too.

    So instead you wave off your guard – who continues to trail behind you at a steady ground-eating lope – and the gardener girl Jill Chaser trotting along beside him. Sophia races through the footpaths of the garden, periodically glancing back to see if you’ve lost them.

    The pair of you leave the roses behind and stampede across the expansive grounds of the castle, through halls of precisely laid ice-stone and green gardened terraces. Sophia tugs at you insistently so you allow her to curve west and take you through the stables, upsetting the animals. Your legs are starting to hurt and breath coming shallowly from the exertion as you swing around the servant quarters and into the less-traveled areas of the grounds. Sophia is worse off, panting and blowing like a racehorse after a win.

    But you are, apparently… here?

    “‘S it,” Sophia puffs happily, slapping a hand against an arched doorway emblazoned with a heraldic seal. It’s not yours, the heron with wings outstretched; it’s a lidded eye with three rays springing from it like the dawn. Her hand rebounds off the door with a flash of pale lavender, the girl giving a muffled yelp.

    Jill and the guard have been – to all appearances – left behind. It’s a shame all your guards wear full-face helmets, making fun of him for being outrun by a pair of 10 year olds would be entertaining for at least a week. It is possible that he is just hiding out of sight somewhere, but you don’t see how that’s relevant to teasing opportunities.

    You look around. It puts you in mind of the funeral service held for your parents, a certain sharpness to the memory that still stings. A small aperture of bright red columns and benches leading the eye down a narrow path of silvery square stones, each inscribed with a complex eight-pointed design on them, to the opening in the earth. Twisting, warty vines with naturally designed interlocking thorny leaves crawl along the ground and must be stepped over. The overgrowth is excessive. You may wish to have a word with the gardeners. The vines that flow like waterfalls over the obscured stonework are growing wild above a carpet of ashen, dead undergrowth. Blackish-green lichen has crept up the walls itself in symmetrical patterns, though the door is perfectly clear. There’s a certain smell in the air… sweetness. Pleasant enough, though perhaps a bit cloying.

    “Pretty cool, right?” Sophia preens, as if taking credit for the… whatever it is. Catacombs, maybe.

    “Sure,” you agree absently, still looking around. Necromancy, huh?

    This is… probably kind of dangerous. Surely someone knows this is here? No one just puts up magic seals for no reason. You have no idea how long the seal has been up, but the difficulty your uncle had in finding a teacher for you suggests there is no royal necromancer on staff, putting seals up everywhere. You ask slowly, “Is there really some abandoned – yet extremely convenient – source of necromantic power right here in the castle? We’re a five minute jog from the gardens!”

    “I don’t see why not,” Sophia says with optimism. Which… okay, there are a lot of mages around the place, many mages are secretive by nature, there probably are a few secret labs left lying around when their owners spontaneously ascended or combusted or turned into a newt. But still.

    She cheers, “Let’s pop this thing open already!”


    Sophia is not going to let this go, is she?
    [X] A powerful source of necromantic energy, Sophia believes. It could be some powerful artifact or buried soul, a locus of energy. And you just so happen to be in the market for more power at any cost. Break the seal and enter.
    [X] Or for all you know it could be some guardian beast or spirit inside. This little jaunt could end with the flesh flensed from your bones, how embarrassing. Try to convince her that having your soul torn from your bodies by some ancient evil is a good look for neither of you.
    [X] Working on the hypothesis that it is not impossible this thing contains an ancient evil, perhaps you should check the castle’s extensive libraries for clues to its origin rather than freeing whatever might be inside. Not that you need another research option...
    [X] How much do you trust Sophia’s divinations, anyway? This could be someone’s favorite meditation nook, or where they bring girls. Break the seal to assuage her curiosity and let her go.
    [X] Do your best to convince Sophia that opening the tomb is the work of a madman! Who knows what could be in there! Then come back tomorrow and open it by yourself. Yes, two budding necromancers may be able to handle whatever is inside better than one, but one necromancer alone needn't split any profit that may be hiding inside.
     
    Last edited: May 11, 2016
  15. DarkLight140

    DarkLight140 Versed in the lewd.

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    [X] A powerful source of necromantic energy, Sophia believes. It could be some powerful artifact or buried soul, a locus of energy. And you just so happen to be in the market for more power at any cost. Break the seal and enter.

    This cannot go wrong in any way. Sophia, we are now friends and you need a nickname to show what close friends we are, so I'll call you "Canary". Also, you can walk in front.
     
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  16. RubberBandMan

    RubberBandMan I trust you know where the happy button is?

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    [X] A powerful source of necromantic energy, Sophia believes. It could be some powerful artifact or buried soul, a locus of energy. And you just so happen to be in the market for more power at any cost. Break the seal and enter.

    While I think a more cautious or sneaky approach might be warranted, these options don't allow us to nick-name this girl Canary and thus I am forced to vote with Darklight.
     
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  17. Bobs Beard

    Bobs Beard Over-analyzes things - sometimes this works out

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    [X] A powerful source of necromantic energy, Sophia believes. It could be some powerful artifact or buried soul, a locus of energy. And you just so happen to be in the market for more power at any cost. Break the seal and enter.

    Also; reaching the point of names becoming informal might mean we get to see people calling the princess Zinger X.

    I am quite looking forward to people trying to be serious using such names.
     
  18. Adyen

    Adyen Experienced.

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    While this is a possible chance to change an enemy into an ally....

    [X] Working on the hypothesis that it is not impossible this thing contains an ancient evil, perhaps you should check the castle’s extensive libraries for clues to its origin rather than freeing whatever might be inside. Not that you need another research option...
     
  19. Akritedes

    Akritedes The Flesh Is Weak.

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    [X] Working on the hypothesis that it is not impossible this thing contains an ancient evil, perhaps you should check the castle’s extensive libraries for clues to its origin rather than freeing whatever might be inside. Not that you need another research option...

    Yeah, no breaking into random necropoli. That never ends well.
     
  20. Briareus the Gardener

    Briareus the Gardener I trust you know where the happy button is?

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    [X] A powerful source of necromantic energy, Sophia believes. It could be some powerful artifact or buried soul, a locus of energy. And you just so happen to be in the market for more power at any cost. Break the seal and enter.
     
  21. Arkeus

    Arkeus Crazy cat guy

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    [X] A powerful source of necromantic energy, Sophia believes. It could be some powerful artifact or buried soul, a locus of energy. And you just so happen to be in the market for more power at any cost. Break the seal and enter.

    Canaaaary
     
  22. Blargh

    Blargh I trust you know where the happy button is?

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    [X] Working on the hypothesis that it is not impossible this thing contains an ancient evil, perhaps you should check the castle’s extensive libraries for clues to its origin rather than freeing whatever might be inside. Not that you need another research option...
     
  23. redaeth

    redaeth Stubborn pedantrist

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    [X] A powerful source of necromantic energy, Sophia believes. It could be some powerful artifact or buried soul, a locus of energy. And you just so happen to be in the market for more power at any cost. Break the seal and enter.
     
  24. Seventeen

    Seventeen 7th in primes, last in doing-things-with-my-life

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    [X] A powerful source of necromantic energy, Sophia believes. It could be some powerful artifact or buried soul, a locus of energy. And you just so happen to be in the market for more power at any cost. Break the seal and enter.
     
  25. Citizen

    Citizen Experienced.

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    Next thing you're going to tell us is that we shouldn't read any books we find laying around invitingly open on a lectern somewhere.
     
  26. Akritedes

    Akritedes The Flesh Is Weak.

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    You shouldn't. Especially if you're going to fumble the passwords to pick it up too.
     
  27. Citizen

    Citizen Experienced.

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    Oh please, no harm ever came from reading a book.
     
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  28. Threadmarks: Year 1, update 3b
    Guile

    Guile Clothes That Kill Virgins

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    Year 1, update 3b


    Since Sophia proved it safe, you touch the barrier stretched across the door yourself. It really does repel your hand like two magnetic forces, although not as violently as it did Sophia. You sink in just a little before bouncing back in a way that you don’t think you would admit aloud is pretty neat. Like pressing a finger into one of Bolf’s sugared fruit jellies.

    You activate soul sight, the standard unearthly blue tinge emanating from your eyes. A glance aside shows that Sophia has done the same, her eyes like lights through blue fog.

    “Well? You gonna put that big brain to use or just stare like a poleaxed cow?” she prods.

    Without a word – flipping her off would be satisfying but unprincessly – you turn back to study the lavender light, glowing much stronger now. Under your new sight, products of necromancy – like this thing – are more obvious than ever, but that’s more of a side effect. Where something like Enchanting might use runes you could read, necromancy is both simpler and more complex. Almost every application of necromancy is manipulation at the most basic possible level, that of the soul. It’s somewhat like training your soul to have more metaphysical weight, so that you can bully other people and the world around you at an unconscious level. There’s something of an art to it, which makes it much more personal and less rote than Enchanting or Alchemy. Or so your patrician teacher Lord Blackstone claimed, smirking at Granny in a superior sort of way all the while.

    So yes, it definitely has the feel of a necromantic ward. You agree with Sophia on that. You think it’s pushing all souls that try to pass it away, and taking your body with it. Convincing your soul to unconsciously convince your body to stop, or some kind of sympathetic body-soul connection, or something like that. Simple in function, but smooth and seamless in the way that makes your brute force applications look like one of Sophia’s tantrums. If not the work of a master, then at least the work of someone better than you.

    “So what do you think?” Sophia asks, poking the stretch of glowing magic and watching it push her back each time. “I figure if we team up and hit it at the same time, we can just bust through!”

    That is one of the accepted methods of bypassing a ward; be stronger than it. But facing this work of art, it feels so... inelegant. Like a northern barbarian smashing ancient, beautiful statuary because he worships something else.

    “Or we could smash up the walls,” Sophia rambles on, still on a distressingly ‘smash everything’ train of thought. “It’s probably anchored on something to save time and effort, if we knock it down...”

    That was another common method; anchoring a ward on nothing but air was generally harder, so people tended to anchor them to walls or the ground or something. Then you could – in theory – just tunnel around it.

    “Did you bring a hammer and the muscles to swing it for a few hours?” you grumble. “Just… give me a minute.”

    You try to get a feeling of the echoes of himself the caster left in the ward, the imprint his soul made in forming it. You slowly think out loud, “I think there’s some kind of trigger. Maybe an item that would let us pass, like a secret password. Whoever made this probably had someone else regularly coming in and out and didn’t want to be bothered every time they wanted to enter or leave.”

    The caster, of course, would be able to pass through it as though it weren’t even there, being of the same soulstuff as the ward itself.

    “Unfortunately, I left my magical password in my other skirt,” Sophia points out almost smugly. How much do you want to smash this thing, Sophia? You wonder.

    “That’s why we need to trick it,” you point out patiently. Not that molding your soul like clay is a good idea, generally, but just a LITTLE bit… should be fine. To be what the ward is looking for, just for a moment. What’s the harm?

    Your arm slips through the ward with a triumphant lack of resistance. Your smile back at Sophia Hill.

    “Don’t rub it in,” she mutters.

    You’re definitely going to rub it in.

    Of course, doing the same trick for Sophia is harder. You’re less familiar with her than yourself, for one, and also she’s being very ungrateful about it. Squirming and complaining that it ‘feels weird’ and ‘only the Prince can touch me there’ and similar nonsensical complaints.

    It’s not like you’re cutting pieces off or anything. You’re not even sure how to do that. You’re just… squishing her soul into a different shape, a little. Like dough. Or what you imagine dough to be like, anyway. You’ve never baked, but you’re familiar with the idea from Bolf’s natterings at least.

    Despite Sophia’s waffling, you eventually make it through the ward.

    Beyond the ward is a tunnel into the earth. The entire tunnel glows a gorgeous, watery blue that is almost certainly at least partly magic. Water being the most apt part of the comparison; the glow shimmers and scintillates through the entire spectrum of oceanic blues. The pure dark blues and blue-greens of deep still water, the light blues and blue-whites of the ocean on a clear day. It dazzles in the subtle way of a wet opal, but with a wider spectrum of sea colors.

    You’re struck by the difference from what you’re used to. The inner keep of the castle you grew up in is built primarily of the magical material ice-stone processed into great sheets and blocks, just like the outer walls. The effort necessary to carve ice-stone makes reliefs infeasible, but mosaics of pale alabaster and eye agate are popular for their properties to confound certain magics. You’ve heard that the Barunese think you learned the trick from them, rather than the other way round. The buildings built later – the stables, some of the servant quarters, Granny’s cottage, things like that – are of enchanted stone and greatwood harvested from the quarries and forests of Caelis Valera. Dark burgundy woods and charcoal dark stone picked specifically to compliment the icy white of the original structures.

    This is something else entirely.

    If the castle is ice, then this has the appearance of water in more than just color. It looks neither hewn nor built, even the sections that are as smooth as a quiet lake. The only decorations are waves and whirlpools and eddies that have formed on the surface of the stone. The meandering paths craze their way across the elegant walls, like labyrinths born from the sea. Thankfully such decorations are kept to a minimum on the floor of the tunnel, or you’d likely roll an ankle tripping on something.

    “Woah,” was Sophia’s awed contribution. “Kind of makes you want to hit it and see it ripple, huh?”

    “Quite,” you roll your eyes. “Now come along, we may be missed if we tarry for too long.”

    As you walk, the ambient light gets brighter, casting rainbow auroras across the strange natural-looking stone. It’s not just illumination; it’s power, drawn from you know not where. You think it’s rising up from the earth… and being drawn from the castle itself above.

    At the end of of the hall is an archway, again with the eye icon prominently displayed. And –

    “You’ve got to be kidding me!” Sophia complains.

    Another gently glowing ward.

    “I am not getting my soul squished again,” she proclaims firmly, shuddering theatrically.

    “I don’t think it would work on this one anyway,” you acknowledge, studying the ward with soul sight. Not repelling, but rather drawing in. Like a hungry void.

    “Oh yeah?” she asks you, reaching out to touch it. “Guess I can’t expect you to know everything–”

    “Yes, I think this one just kills you.”

    Sophia snatches her hand back like she’d just touched a hot oven. And then takes a few steps back, just to be sure. She turns an outraged look on you.

    You shrug innocently. “I didn’t design the thing.”

    “Right,” she sniffs, inspecting the ward again. With her hands clasped behind her back. “So what do we do?”

    You pause, hoping something will come to you in a brilliant flash of incisive insight, allowing you to cement your dominance and expertise over Sophia forever. Nothing comes to you, unfortunately. You finally admit, “I have no idea. I don’t think I even want to touch this with my magic, do you?”

    “Eehhh,” Sophia makes a nonsensical sound as she eyes the ward disappointedly. She admits, “I guess no easy ultimate power today.”

    “Probably not today,” you agree. “We may have reference books in the library. But in any case, now we need to go back out the other ward,” you add matter-of-factly. “Here, let me just adjust–”

    “Noooo,” she whines pathetically. She glances back behind her, and considers.

    “Don’t you– Sophia! Stop running! Where do you even think you’re going–”

    ---

    You did catch up to her eventually. The outer ward worked to keep things in as well as out, which she found out when she hit it at full speed and reflected with what by all rights should have been a hilarious ‘boing!’ sound. From there it was easy enough to get your hands on her soul and remold your little group like before and get out. The outside looks somewhat less overgrown. You share a look with Sophia, thinking hard. The underbrush has been pushed off the main walkway, and some of the vines have vanished from the walls. Could it be some feature of the wards, releasing necromantic energy that killed the greenery? Some esoteric power reacting to–

    “Hey,” Jill Chaser says placidly, making you feel vaguely cheated. She is busy wrestling some thorny vine off the stone with her bare hands. And not bleeding all over the place. You suspect her hands have the consistency of leather. “You guys done in there?”

    “Where did you come from?” Sophia says, puffing up in an outraged way. Like the older girl was trespassing on her find.

    “... The garden?” Jill reminds her, as if you’d forgotten where you’d seen her last. She points out, “It was just a run.”

    Right, she probably didn’t get a job as an outdoor servant solely through her father. You look around, but the guard is nowhere in sight, at least. You’d rather keep this find quiet for a while longer.

    “What are you doing here?” Sophia demands protectively, ignoring you.

    “Clearing up,” Jill points out. “Gotta do it weekly, or it still gets like this.”

    “The weeds and stuff grow really fast around here, and a lot of them have weird, interesting properties.” She shrugs. “Arch’ Wither says so, anyway. Not really my field, alchemy an’ all. Ugh, that lichen’s going to be gross, always makes my hands all wrinkly.”


    Well, she doesn’t seem particularly interested in the tomb itself, at least. How do you play this off?
    [X] Offer to assist Jill in her work, and get Sophia to join you. Jill should forget soon enough and you can convince Sophia to keep this your secret together. As long as the excitement of secrecy lasts, Sophia will be less likely to go to your brother until she has something concrete.
    [Work closely with Sophia.]
    [X] Offer her Sophia’s help instead. Look at Sophia meaningfully, and claim that you have reading to do. This has the side benefit of not having to deal with Sophia on a regular basis.
    [Work separately towards the same goal.]
    [X] Send Sophia off to get started with a meaningful look. Once she’s gone, request Jill’s assistance – quietly – with keeping an eye on the place. You don’t trust Sophia not to try to defeat the protections without you, and that would be dangerous. … In various ways.
    [Entrust the gardener with watching over Sophia.]
    [X] The best way to be sure Jill won’t talk is to bring her in. It is unlikely she has necromantic talents, but she almost certainly has her own talents and viewpoint which may be useful.
    [Work together with Jill and Sophia. … Surely you could find some way to interest her in the spooky necromancer’s tomb, you’re you!]
    [X] Leave Jill to her work. If you have a hope of figuring this out quickly and safely – ideally before anyone else is made aware of the find from either girl – it lies with Lord Blackstone. He may expect favors in return, but that is simply the nature of business.
    [Work with Sophia and Gregory Blackstone]


    This marks the end of Sophia's arc; the tomb will be a longer term project. How much longer is influenced by various factors, including what you pick for this last vote. We'll be heading into Jill's mini-arc and then the end of the year segment.
     
  29. DarkLight140

    DarkLight140 Versed in the lewd.

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    [X] The best way to be sure Jill won’t talk is to bring her in. It is unlikely she has necromantic talents, but she almost certainly has her own talents and viewpoint which may be useful.

    Does this say "found a secret magical friendship circle of adventure and discovery"? Because I think that's what it says!
     
    RubberBandMan likes this.
  30. Bobs Beard

    Bobs Beard Over-analyzes things - sometimes this works out

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    [X] The best way to be sure Jill won’t talk is to bring her in. It is unlikely she has necromantic talents, but she almost certainly has her own talents and viewpoint which may be useful.

    This is shaping up to be a fun group of oddballs.

    EDIT: Also the robustness of her hands may mean we get a newer, superior person to be our designated 'poke it, see what happens' person.

    That'd like, double our Canary capacity!
     
    Last edited: May 12, 2016
    RubberBandMan likes this.
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