Sunday, 22 January 2017

III.23: Stealing Through Shadows

Newthrone, Q’barra
Nymm 12, 997YK

Mythic GME Chaos Rank: 7
Scene setup: d10=9 (unchanged)

Favoured in House(Vaalyun): Tell them the requirements or consequences and ask: You have to do something for your House to get it

I rolled on the Mythic GME to get ideas for the task to do. 2d100=98,41 = Overthrow Advice. Hmm, that makes me think that the victim here is Taliesin, the royal advisor. Interesting—he was a friendly NPC.

Vaalyun stood before the mirror, waiting patiently for the contact. He was in his new appartments, on the top floor of the new chapterhouse; the rooms were still rather bare, as few luxuries of the Five were available in this frontier nation. Vaalyun had little to admire but the mirror itself as he waited; made from a sheet of pure mithril, its edge was finely moulded to appear as a series of snakes, their serpentine forms forming a circle framing the mirror. The serpentine mirror was a device used by House Phiarlan’s shadows to communicate over great distances; while House Sivis provided similar services for a price, House Phiarlan did not trust its secret communications to another House.

Vaalyun was dressed in his formal house robes, the hydra’s heads embroidered in red on the robe seeming to glow slightly in the lantern light. Appearances were everything in Vaalyun’s line of work, and that applied equally to dealings within the House; while agents of House Phiarlan—the Shadows—were intended to work together to strengthen the House, they also competed for influence, and so one would often have to trade to get what one wanted.

The reflection in the mirror flickered and faded, and was replaced by the image of a clean, well-presented study, yellow painted walls contrasting with blue curtains. Standing at the centre of the image was now another young elf, perhaps sixty hears old, wearing a dark blue doublet and trousers. The room and the clothes seemed like human fashion to Vaalyun, and he supposed that Folas had gone native during his assignment to Sharn.

“Folas, it is good to see you,” said Vaalyun, though his tone was formal.

“Vaalyun,” said Folas, his image standing relaxed in the mirror. “I hope your new venture in Newthrone prospers?”

Discern Realities(Vaalyun): 2D6(6 2) +1 = 9 Partial success.
Who’s really in control here?
Tell them the requirements or consequences and ask: neither of you knows what the other wants; either of you could end up in control, depending who plays their cards better

Too relaxed, thought Vaalyun; he wants something from me. That was hardly unexpected, as Folas would only have responded to Vaalyun’s call for assistance out of curiousity or need.

Vaalyun gave some superficial details about the establishment of the guildhouse here and the situation in the city, and the conversation continued for a few minutes on this harmless topic, before turning to the true business at hand.

“As I described in my request, I require a translation of certain documents that have come into my possession. Do you have a suitable translator available?”

“I do,” said Folas. “What are these documents?”

“They come from an associate of House Tharashk; I am seeking to understand their activities in the city better.” Vaalyun saw no great harm in revealing this much to a fellow Shadow, and it was important that his associate did not use anyone associated with Tharashk to perform the translation. While Vaalyun had no problem lying to other Shadows if the situation called for it, sometimes staying close to the truth was easier.

“I see.” Folas seemed satisfied. “However, you understand that I have my own assignments to see to. If you could offer me assistance in another matter, it would allow me time to arrange this for you.”

Parley(Vaalyun): 2D6(5 3) +2+1 = 11 Success!
You make the trade, on your own terms

“I am in the middle of establishing a new chapterhouse, Folas,” said Vaalyun. “Naturally we will attend to House business as time permits.”

Folas looked away for a moment, probably to mask his frustration. But he turned back and said “Very well, you will get your translation. But I expect my business to be attended to as soon as you are able.”

“What business is that?”

“There is an official in Newthrone who has been causing difficulties for some associates of mine. He is a royal adviser I believe, an elf by the name of Taliesin. I need a local agent to plant some documents in this adviser’s office.”

Investigate(Vaalyun): 2D6(3 1) +2 = 6 Failure!
Influence a powerful institution: some group is trying to destabilize Q’barra by getting this royal adviser dismissed. And Vaalyun does not remember that this is the adviser that gave Anaya information before.

“Very well. That should be possible to arrange.”

By that evening, Vaalyun had his translation, thought it gave him more questions than answers. As he walked to the Keep that evening, refreshed by the cool sea breeze at dusk, Vaalyun was quiet and thoughtful. On other occasions he would talk, of nothing important, to his bodyguards as they escorted him through town; but, having spent his day dissecting evidence stolen from the Tharashk guildhouse, Vaalyun decided to stay quiet. The half-orc was watching him closely, as usual, and he did not want to give anything away.

Give everyone personhood

He had expected the translator to be a half-orc, but it had turned out to be a young halfling—a student from Morgrave University, Vaalyun supposed. Sharn was a such a cosmopolitan city that it should be no surprise that the university there offered such opportunities.

Past conflict, present intrigue

Vaalyun had found the book in the commander’s office in the Tharashk guildhouse; since it had been kept with the expedition maps for Tharashk’s operation, Vaalyun had supposed that it must be important. The translator revealed that the book mostly consisted of a legend from the age of monsters, telling of an invasion of outsiders from the plane of Xoriat that overthrew the ancient goblinoid empire that preceded the Five Nations. Vaalyun had heard this legend told amongst the elves, though it predated House Phiarlan’s move to Khorvaire.

Spout Lore(Vaalyun): 2D6(4 3) +2 = 9 Partial success.
Vague information

But the book’s premise was new to him—that the invasion had been defeated by an Orcish druidic cult that sealed away the Xoriat portals, trapping the aberrations in Khyber. The book was a religious text, in fact. The design on the cover—a circle of arcane runes obscured by a tangle of vines—was the sigil of this cult, the “Gatekeepers”. It was a record of their fight against the outsiders, urging followers to remain vigilant against any weakening of the seals that kept the aberrations from the surface of Eberron.

Vaalyun wanted to deduce more, but:

Investigate(Vaalyun): 2D6(2 2) +2 = 6 Failure!
Front(House Tharashk): Influence a powerful institution: Tharashk has leverage over the army commander in Q’barra

Okay, so the next scene is going to be at the Keep, where Vaalyun is sounding out the rulers of Q’barra to see where they stand on House Tharashk’s operations.

Life of the Party(Vaalyun): 2D6(2 2) +2 = 6 Failure!
You gain useful information.
Event: NPC Action(Lords of Dust): d100 (83) = Assist, d100 (1) = Goals
Front(Lords of Dust): Attack indirectly, through intermediaries

I picked a front to move randomly here, rather than an NPC, as it seemed to make more sense. As I have not worked out anything for the Lords of Dust yet, now is the time to do so; the DungeonWorld front type Demon Princes (impulse: to open the gates of hell) seems most fitting.

Random assassins are... dwarves. Okay. And I have an enemy type in mind as well.

The bodyguard leading the way suddenly stopped, breaking Vaalyun’s train of thought. They had passed the centre of the city and were climbing a street away from the bussle of the marketplace. The orc put a hand to the battleaxe at her waist, and Vaalyun saw hooded figures ahead of them. One was reaching into the sleeve of their dark cloak; Vaalyun dodged to one side instinctively as the figure made a quick motion, and a dagger flashed past, narrowly missing Vaalyun’s neck.

Defy Danger(Dex)(Vaalyu): 2D6(2 4) +1 = 7 Partial success.
Monster move(Spellthief): Use a character’s power against them

Fortunately for Vaalyun, these assassins aren’t from House Tharashk (who do not know that he is their enemy here yet), so his bodyguards actually help. Offer Aid from an Enemy, or Opposition from an Ally. Tharashk is a good name in mercenaries, so let’s give them +1 quality, Warrior, Athletic. But 0 loyalty, they are here for the money only. 2 armour, d6 damage.

Bodyguards, Do Their Thing(Vaalyun): 2D6(6 3) +1 = 10 Success!
d6 (3) +1 = 4 damage

There were three of the assailants ahead—all dwarves, Vaalyun guessed from their stature—and the other two now drew swords while the thrower drew another dagger, angling for another shot. The orc bodyguard already had her battleaxe in hand, and with one forceful upward cut cleaved the chest of the first swordsman open, blood spraying over the cobbles as he collapsed to the ground.

The other bodyguard pushed past Vaalyun to stand beside her companion, and Vaalyun hoped for a moment that they could handle the matter themselves. But then he shook violently as an itching started in the dragonmark down his side. He had never felt the mark like this except when he invoked its power—and then his horror mounted as he realised that his power was at work, as his own shadow began to move, rising from the cobbles of the street to stand beside him, reaching with one hand towards its chest: towards where Vaalyun kept his own dagger.

Defy Danger(Dex)(Vaalyun): 2D6(5 3) +1 = 9 Success!
You dodge away from the attacks, but Separate Them: not close to your bodyguards

The assassin group consists of: two regular thugs (one dead already); a nightseeker (from the DungeonWorld Codex, an assassin throwing poisoned knives); and a spellthief whose move is to use the characters spell-like abilities against themselves.

Volley(Vaalyun): 2D6(4 5) +1 = 10 Success!
Deal 2d4 (1 3)=4 damage, you kill it

Vaalyun danced backwards as the shadow lashed out, sharp-edged darkness slicing past his chest. Vaalyun silently thanked the Host that the street was not busy, and the bodyguards were keeping the other assassins occupied for now; though the shadow was fast, this was not Vaalyun’s first assassination attempt, and he could move quickly enough to evade one opponent. Sensing that it wanted to drive him towards the shadows of of the buildings on one side, where it would be less visible, he ducked under the next blow and rolled down the street, coming up behind it with wand in hand. The shadow flowed effortlessly towards him but, before it could close with him again, a searing blast from the wand struck its head, and the shadow dissolved into black motes that fell to the cobbles.

Bodyguards, Do Their Thing(Vaalyun): 2D6(2 5) +1 = 8 Partial success.
Deals d6+1 = 5 damage, Monster move(Nightseeker): poison

One of the bodyguards is down, put to sleep by some assassin’s poison. But she nearly took out the nightseeker.

Discern Realities(Vaalyun): 2D6(6 6) +1 = 13 Success!
Who is really in control here?
What happened here recently?
What here is hidden?
Volley(Vaalyun): 2D6(2 1) +1+1 = 5 Failure!
Deal damage: d6=2 damage, 1 after armour

Without thinking, Vaalyun looked back across the street to the shadowed front of the buildings where—and saw in the shadows there another cloaked dwarf staring at him. He controlled it—somehow he took my power. Vaalyun raised his wand to fire again, but the figure shifted slightly and the elf felt a stab of pain as a crossbow bolt stuck into his armour just over his heart.

Volley(Vaalyun): 2D6(4 2) +1 = 7 Partial success.
Put yourself in danger, deal 2d4=4 damage

The crossbowman was moving now to join the other dwarves. Vaalyun glanced over and saw that one of his bodyguards was down; she lay at the feet of the dagger-throwing dwarf, who was leaning now against a lamppost with an obviously severe cut to his leg. Vaalyun raised the wand again and fired; the purple bolt of energy cut through the air, catching the thrower in the side and knocking him to the ground.

Bodyguard, Do Your Thing(Vaalyun): 2D6(6 1) +1 = 8 Partial success.
Deals d6=2 damage, takes d6=5 damage (4 after armour)

The other hireling, the half-orc is at 2/6 HP; the remaining thug assassin is at 1/3 HP. The spellthief is doing fine though, and he is the one to follow up on the put-yourself-in-danger from just now. Show signs of an approaching threat

The first shadow I gave only 1 HP, the same as Vaalyun’s power would give it on a partial success. But this time, let’s give it 6 HP, the same as the bodyguard it is taken from would have. In exchange, since this shadow is tougher but slower, Vaalyun has time to back up and take another shot.

Volley(Vaalyun): 2D6(5 5) +1 = 11 Success!
Deals 2d4=5 damage

It’s at 1/6 HP.

Defy Danger(Dex)(Vaalyun): 2D6(5 1) +1 = 7 Partial success.
You dodge, but lose the wand: Use up their resources

Vaalyun felt his dragonmark itch again. As he looked on, a shadow seemed to creep up from under the fallen bodyguard, until the dark form stood seven feet high, towering over Vaalyun. As it drew a shadowy battleaxe from the side of its dark form, Vaalyun fired another shot, arcane light arcing from the wand into the centre of the darkness. The shadow seemed staggered but pressed forward, swinging its axe; Vaalyun barely managed to roll aside in time, and in his haste he dropped the wand, leaving his best weapon lying in the street.

Bodyguard, Do Your Thing(Vaalyun): 2D6(5 5) +1 = 11 Success!
Deals d6=4 damage.

That’s enough to finish the remaining thug and the spellthief.

Vaalyun glanced down at the wand, now lying between the cobbles, the orc warrior’s shadow looming over it. Grabbing for it was too dangerous, so he drew his own dagger, backing away as the apparition advanced. He was about to make a desperate lunge when the shadow, on the point of making another swing with its axe, suddenly seemed to come apart and faded away into the twilight. Vaalyun looked around and saw his other bodyguard, the half-orc, had felled the last two assassins. The shadow must have lost form the moment its controller was killed.

The street was mostly deserted; the few locals must have fled into their houses, so there were only a few passers-by standing off at a safe distance from the fight. Vaalyun ignored them, quickly retrieving his wand and slipping it back under his jacket. He had got away with hardly any injuries, despite the frantic battle: just one small puncture in his jacket marked where the crossbow bolt had tried to reach his heart. Fortunately the tailored leather jerkin that he wore underneath had stopped it from inflicting anything more than a minor cut.

Spout Lore(Vaalyun): 2D6(1 3) +2 = 6 Failure!
Reveal an unwelcome truth

The half-orc was leaning over her companion now, so Vaalyun went to join her. The orc was lying on the ground unconcious, but there was only a small cut to neck just above her armour: no blood or other cuts were apparent. Yet she did not move when the half-orc shook her.

“Poison,” said Vaalyun. “These were not regular street thugs; that one, at least”—pointing to the one that he had blasted with his wand—“had more than greed and a sword. Poisoned knives are a common enough mode of assassination in the Five Nations.” That one had thrown the first dagger, straight for Vaalyun, making the target clear enough.

The half-orc shook her head. “Borgakh would have been insulted to be felled by such a coward’s weapon.”

“We avenged her.” Vaalyn gestured towards the crumpled body of the assassin; the front of his jerkin was scorched from the blast of energy. “I will be at the Keep for the next three hours, attending the dinner there; take the time to get your friend back to the barracks. I’ll speak to the watch commander at the Keep and there should be no trouble for us.”

Discern Realities(Vaalyun): 2D6(4 1) +1 = 6 Failure!
Front(Lords of Dust): Turn an Organisation: The Lords of Dust have another agent in Newthrone, working to turn the government in favour of giving Tharashk a clear run at the jungle. Reveal an unwelcome truth

Vaalyun moved to the crossbowman, the dwarf that had somehow gained control over his mark. The assassin lay dead, blood still pooling where he had been run through by the half-orc’s sword. There was nothing to mark him out as being possessed of any unusual power, and a search of his pockets revealed nothing of interest. But Vaalyun had never heard of such a power before, and clearly an assassin posessing such a unique skill would be able to command a high price. Whoever had hired him must be powerful, or at least wealthy. Vaalyun shook his head slightly, but gave no other sign of concern; he stood up, straightened his jacket, and resumed his walk to the Keep.

Above the Law(Vaalyun): Self-defence would be a sound argument anyway, but Vaalyun has better: his extra-legal status as a member of one of the Twelve Houses means he would have to do something very bad indeed before anyone would dare arrest him. He will have no trouble at all for this.

Let’s resolve the dinner offscreen. Vaalyun gets two things that he wanted: Michnas is introduced to regime officials and, in return, is Vaalyun’s ally for now and will aid him in return. And, he gets information (Carouse gives you one thing even on a miss) about the political situation in Newthrone that will help later, and which I will fill in later.

Rest(Vaalyun): All HP back for the next day
End of Session(party): Vaalyun used his House position to help himself again, +1 XP

Vaalyun: 6 failures, alignment goal; at 11XP.

That is a lot of failures in one session. Vaalyun himself got away relatively unscathed, but we have established that Newthrone is no longer safe for him and that the party will face resistance from another rakshasa once they return here.

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