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/qst/ - Mitsuba Archive


You are an Infiltrator, an agent of the Grand Design of the subterranean Serpent Priests. Though born a degenerate half-human, you have proven yourself a worthy heir to your mother’s Reptilian bloodline.

Tasked with infiltrating the cosmopolitan mammalian metropolis of Hawksong, you have established a complex dual cover identity: Ismena Rosgard the clever social-climber by day, Kamunu the exotic dancer and high-class escort by night! Both halves of this fictitious persona are useful.

‘Rosgard’ has won the favour of amateur magician Edwin of Engel, and through Edwin you have secured insinuate yourself with his storehouse mogul father Fynn, of the Engelson Storehouse Company. Edwin has offered to take you to the Hawksong Mages’ Tower Gala, a key opportunity to investigate the mysterious city defence project the mages and the city’s Paladin protectors are working on, and provides you much-needed housing, funding, and even some magical tutoring which has awoken your latent talents. Edwin’s father has agreed to take you on as a negotiator of sorts, and his business has provided the perfect excuse to seek access to the ancient dwarven ruins which seem key to that same defensive enterprise.

It was sensual and seductive ‘Kamunu’, however, who utilized arts both magical and sexual to secure to gain access to the young merchant’s son (and whoremonger) Janus Zika. It is the Zika Expeditionary Company which has been exploring the dwarven ruins, bringing back heaps of architecture, masonry, and other carved and worked goods that were considered too plain and ordinary for orc and human raiders who already picked the ancient ruin over. You have finagled a three-way meeting between Kohei Zika, the company’s owner, Fynn, and a representative of the Mages’ Tower; this could present a prime opportunity to learn what, exactly, is so valuable as to warrant the costly excavation and transport of old archaeological detritus.

Of course, both Rosgard and Kumunu are mere masks to wear, hiding your true nature. You fell so deeply into the role, into the unaccustomed freedom and pleasure of human life, that you’d nearly lost yourself in the role. However, the threat of occult adversaries and double-crossing wererat mobsters brought you to violent conflict in the sewers beneath Hawksong, and there you found your true self in bloodshed and betrayal. Awakening a thrilling lust for such brutality, you now know without a doubt that you are above and beyond petty mammalian emotion and attachment. You have found TRUE pleasure, and it is in the Grand Design!
>>
>>4821393
[LEVEL UP: You have become better still at politesse, stealth, illusion, and at swordsmanship.

When facing a matter where success is not guaranteed or terribly likely, failure has notable consequences, and I’d feel railroad making you fail or cheap forcing a success, I will roll dice. Currently, that is 1d20 for most tasks. You get to roll 2d20 (taking the highest) for tasks involving: intimidation, swordsmanship, or arcane knowledge and the occult. You roll 3d20 for matters related to dance, stealth, seduction or politesse, or illusion magic. Combining aptitudes, such as seduction and politesse or emotion-affecting illusion, can secure you the coveted 4d20. This is based on choices you’ve made.

You also have an inherent bonus to disguise attempts when relevant, can use human magic items without your Reptilian race’s usual penalty, and you have a decreased difficulty to rolls wherein you fight an untrained opponent hand-to-hand due to martial arts training. As a general rule, DCs are 15, but disguise, magic item use, and favourable melees as discussed have DC 10, Rolls will be used somewhat sparingly.]

[ Previous volumes, for those of you just joining us, are at http://suptg.thisisnotatrueending.com/qstarchive.html?tags=reptoidqm ]
>>
>>4821394
You awake in the Engels’ guest bedroom, a rather stuffy and manicured room with a too-soft mattress and too many pillows, seemingly rarely used. It has been a week since you purged the sewers of adversaries with ‘Roth’, your Reptilian contact, and celebrated the slaughter and immolation of your hated rivals with a dose of his draconic dick. The memory still warms your coldblooded heart… And the sex wasn’t bad either. Despite this happy ending, however, the hard-fought battle necessitated downtime to recover even for one such as you.

Of course, the forces of the occult—while quiet since then—have been known to threaten you from beyond the veil of death. Boss Leo, the leader of the wererats, still yet lives, and likely plots against you in some sordid sewer sanctum… Albeit with a much weaker force, without magic, and the knowledge that you are his better. You wear your silver-chained moonstone-and-herb amulet to protect you against the former. Only vigilance can protect against the latter.

There’s also the small matter of the Tower Mages investigating the deaths or disappearance of the occultists you vanquished, and of the too-knowledgeable-for-his-own-good Lord Isaac Yosef (AKA V. Rilney, author of ‘Protocols of the Learned Elders of the Coming Race’). Until both of those investigations are ended, and the spurious-but-trusted publications of The Grey Press silences on such matters, your cover and your race’s mission here remains in jeopardy.

The Engel-Zika-Tower meeting is tonight, but tonight is a long ways away. The Tower Gala, meanwhile, is not for another two weeks.

What do you do?
>Sleep in a little later and fantasize (about who or what?)
>Catch up with Edwin, and get in some breakfast and magic practice
>Go visit your friend Agatha Johan, the seamstress, to get some proper attire for upper-class events
>Check in with Madam Mina at The Pretty Kitty; she’s been a bit strange ever since the night of the sewer fight
>Head to The Grey Press publishing house to further misdirect their investigation into the occultists’ murders
>Write-in
>>
>>4821396
>Check in with Madam Mina at The Pretty Kitty; she’s been a bit strange ever since the night of the sewer fight
>>
>>4821396
>Check in with Madam Mina at The Pretty Kitty; she’s been a bit strange ever since the night of the sewer fight

Fellow two players, do you have any ideas how should we go about eliminating Lord Yosef?
I was thinking that securing a top-shelf poison (and antidote for us in case things go south) and giving the old man a heart-attack coffee/tea would be in our best interest.
Seduction and murder in town is how his son died and why he became obsessed with reptilians. Wouldn't want the same story to happen again because someone could notice the similarities and who knows what would follow.
>>
>>4821396
>a dose of his draconic dick
I find alliteration to be an unsung hero in the literary/poetic world.

Let's
>Head to The Grey Press publishing house to further misdirect their investigation into the occultists’ murders
>>
>>4821476
I was gonna say we should move on with other matters as well, but apparently we haven't seen Mina for a week now and don't know what happened in The Pretty Kitty meanwhile.

>>4821393
Also QM, could you tell us whether Fynn Engel knows about the meeting we arranged for him. What should we do about that matter?
>>
>>4821396
>Check in with Madam Mina at The Pretty Kitty; she’s been a bit strange ever since the night of the sewer fight

We'll visit the Grey Press after we sorted this out first.
>>
>>4821396
>>Check in with Madam Mina at The Pretty Kitty; she’s been a bit strange ever since the night of the sewer fight
>>
>>4821396
>Check in with MM
>>
>>4821847
>>4821715
>>4821519
>>4821496
>>4821476
>>4821470
>>4821404

The unresolved matter of Lord Yosef and The Grey press weighs heavily on your mind, but not so heavy as the matter of madam Mina.

The cat-woman who runs The Pretty Kitty lounge and brothel—the workplace of your ‘Kamunu’ identity—has been acting a bit strangely. Part of what precipitated your descent into the sewers to fight a gang of wererats was the apparent failure of her efforts to negotiate with them, and your concern for the cat-madam’s status. Though you found your missing coworker Estellia in those stinking tunnels, you never did find Mina. It troubled you at the time. She was apparently alive, though… But odd.

You return to The Pretty Kitty in your simple, green peasant dress. Mina is still asleep per Felia at the front desk, but your request for a meeting does not go unheeded; the madam is available to her girls at all times of day. Perhaps she makes it up with cat-naps through the day?

As she has been over the course of the last week, Mina is quieter than usual when you enter her office. Always stoic, and without humanoid facial muscles to reveal her mood, she has lately been even less communicative, and she has been especially hesitant to discuss the events of that night or her meeting with Boss Leo. She has also changed the wallpaper, you note, to something a bit darker and smokier. It lends the room a different ambience.

“Kamunu,” she says.

“Mina,” you greet her.

It can’t help matters that you haven’t worked a shift or pleased a wealthy client for days. In fact, you’ve never served a single day as a private-party ‘entertainer’, for every time such was scheduled, circumstances demanded that you be elsewhere or do otherwise. Luckily…

>You explained that you had been settling the wererat problem yourself, and a seemingly-grateful Mina was understanding
>You have the gold of your spendthrift human ‘boyfriend’, Edwin, to appease the Madam’s greed and retain your position here
>You have agreed to a SPECIAL job, of an unspecified sort, which the other escorts have all declined or hesitated to perform
>You don’t intend to work here any longer, anyway—you don’t NEED to, and Kamunu has outlived her usefulness as a cover identity
>>
>>4821496
>Also QM, could you tell us whether Fynn Engel knows about the meeting we arranged for him. What should we do about that matter?

In the last week, you have had ample time to chit-chat with both the men of the House of Engel, including discussing the meeting tonight. he is, to say the least, impressed, though he seems to be making the assumption that your role in the negotiation is at an end, apart from sitting quietly at the table tonight. That may or may not be all you get up to.
>>
>>4821894
>You explained that you had been settling the wererat problem yourself, and a seemingly-grateful Mina was understanding
>You have the gold of your spendthrift human ‘boyfriend’, Edwin, to appease the Madam’s greed and retain your position here
Both if possible - she knows we somewhat dealt with rats and Tokunbo, then we compensated her for this week to recover and sort out the Engel/Zika business.

Also what the hell. If she's acting as if there was a personality shift after we never found her ib the sewers, then I say we visit library and find Bianchi ASAP to learn more about demonic possessions and doppelgangers.

>>4821897
Thanks for the answer.
So if the meeting is tonight, will we have time to get proper clothes to make ourselves look like a good representative for Engel?
>>
>>4821894
>>You explained that you had been settling the wererat problem yourself, and a seemingly-grateful Mina was understanding
>>
>>4821918
+1.

Is there any way that we could check Mina for demonic possession over the last week, or as soon as possible starting now?

If checking her for possession turns out unfeasible in the short run, I vote we assassinate her. A shitty solution, but our MC totally had it with Zivic's plots.
>>
>>4822093
If it turns out to be possession, then hopefully it's something like Estellia's, where removing the "parasite" will free the host. She could also just be traumatized, but idk about it. The whole thing sounds like B horror movie foreshadowing.
We really gotta visit Bianchi more often. Zivic is still out there somewhere.

Do you also +1 getting a good business attire, anon?
>>
>>4821894
>You have agreed to a SPECIAL job, of an unspecified sort, which the other escorts have all declined or hesitated to perform
>>
>>4821894
>>You explained that you had been settling the wererat problem yourself, and a seemingly-grateful Mina was understanding
>>You have agreed to a SPECIAL job, of an unspecified sort, which the other escorts have all declined or hesitated to perform
>>
>>4821894
>You have agreed to a SPECIAL job, of an unspecified sort, which the other escorts have all declined or hesitated to perform

Adventurous!
>>
>>4822879
>>4822693
>>4822153
>>4822093
>>4821941
>>4821918
Luckily, Mina was seemingly overcome by gratitude—or at least, relief—when you explained that the reason you couldn't work was because you’d incurred further damage in the more permanent resolution of the ‘rat problem’. It probably didn't hurt that you agreed to take on a ‘special ‘job for her as well… But, as ominous as the vagueness was, you remain optimistic, even adventurous. What could it possibly entail that you, of all beings, cannot handle?

This meeting is at least in part, ostensibly, to get more details on the special duty in question. However, for you the goal is entirely different: you spend much of the discussion attempting to steal glances at Mina's back, skirt-swathed legs, or other hidden places where a rat might clamp its jaws to enable some form of demonic possession. You saw this tactic with the late Estellia in the sewers, and Mina's eerie change in demeanor has worrying timing.

“Kamunu, is there something the matter?” Mina askd, eyes narrowing and ears going backwards slightly. You recognize irritation in her body language, and you settle in your seat and cease craving your neck.

“Did you get a new chair with your new wallpaper? It'ss a little… Uncomfortable..”

“Chair's the same,” she says.

“Then I mussst jusst be ssore from… The matter lasst week.”

Mina's demeanor softens slightly. “Are you feeling ready to work again? If you can't…”

“No, no, I’ll be fine,” you say. This job is still useful, and every Reptilian knows what happens to one who is no longer useful to their superiors. While death is less likely in this setting, you can't imagine continued employment would be the result. And anyway, you see no attached rat… Though who's to say what other vectors a demon might use to possess a person?

“I'm relieved to hear that,” she says. “Our out-of-town guests will be in Hawksong for a couple weeks, but I’d hate for their visit to start off on a bad foot.”

“Out-of-town guestss?” you ask.

“Yes, a contingent from the east, here to trade some exotic items from their caravan. Some of them are quite old friends of mine. I hope I can count on you to put on as good a show as you do for our regulars?”

You nod. “Of coursse. When…?”

“Tomorrow,” she says.

You breathe a quiet sigh of relief—it won't interfere with your storehouse negotiations tonight. Still, Mina is strangely cagey about her ‘friends'. You can get little else out of her over the course of the meeting, which comes to focus on your recovery.
>>
>>4822982

She asks you nothing about how you resolved the wererat problem, and you in turn ask her nothing of her own efforts to put an end to them. Neither of you speaks of Estellia. Eventually, you part.

Where to next?
>The Grey Press. You still have an interview to give on how wererats are to blame for the missing and murdered people who could be otherwise tied to you!
>The Hawksong Royal Library, where a more friendly occult enthusiast might be able to help you prepare for mystical menaces
>Agatha Johan's workplace, to see about getting some upscale attire for tonight
>Roth’s, to report your suspicions and check in on his recovery
>A delicatessen, to stuff your hungry face and relax for a bit
>Write-in
>>
>>4822984
>The Grey Press. You still have an interview to give on how wererats are to blame for the missing and murdered people who could be otherwise tied to you!
>>
>>4822984
>The Grey Press. You still have an interview to give on how wererats are to blame for the missing and murdered people who could be otherwise tied to you!

Some are still out there too! In case they find more dead people that look like they were killed by us!
>>
>>4822984
>The Grey Press. You still have an interview to give on how wererats are to blame for the missing and murdered people who could be otherwise tied to you!

Then Agatha and the library!
>>
>>4822984
>The Hawksong Royal Library, where a more friendly occult enthusiast might be able to help you prepare for mystical menaces

Fuck Gray Press, we can't be everywhere. Today, and still have meeting at night.
>>
>>4822984
>>Agatha Johan's workplace, to see about getting some upscale attire for tonight
>>
>>4822984
>>Agatha Johan's workplace, to see about getting some upscale attire for tonight
>>
>>4822984
Changing >>4823487 (different id) to:
>Agatha Johan's workplace, to see about getting some upscale attire for tonight
at least we'll get good clothes
>>
Rolled 2 (1d2)

>>4823081
>>4823124
>>4823473
>>4823508
>>4823586
>>4823604

Tie-game. 1 for Grey Press, 2 for Agatha.
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>>4823928
You decide your recent victories have earned you a shopping excursion. While The Grey Press matter is an important one, do you really want to sit for a disposition in such a blasé dress when you COULD be cutting a much more elegant figure instead? And anyway, the big meeting—culmination of your scheming, sexing, and ‘sorcering—is tonight! If you don’t prioritize your dress now, will you even have time to get proper clothes to make yourself look like a good representative for the Engelson Storehouse Company?

“Ismena!” Agatha greets you when you enter The Lacewing Boutique. “It’s been a little while! How are you?”

“Good,” you say.

“Oh?”

“Busy,” you add, and you look around the boutique. “You have been busy too, I sssee!

You recognize in many of the dresses and skirt-and-shirt combinations around the store a few signature touches that were not there before. Despite the boutique’s name, lace and especially the layers of gauzy material and silks used to make Kamunu’s stage-costume were never in such abundance as now. You can see how early experience making dancing attire for you has really informed Agatha Johan’s design sensibilities, even as the burgeoning seamstress adapts it to a more modern, local, and conservative sort of cut. It really lends her portfolio an air of the exotique.

Agatha laughs nervously. “Oh, most of those are just… practice, really. Refining my craft. Miss Weber says I’ll need a lot more experience and to ‘branch out’ a little more before anything I’m making is quite up to Lacewing standards to sell at full price…”

You glance over at Miss Weber, Agatha’s employer and the proprietress of the business, whose dour expression of stern judgement warps into an unconvincing customer-service smile when you meet her yes. She knows that, loaded with Edwin’s gold, you are a good source of income AND a friend of her young apprentice.

She is also standing next to a svelte, sleek satin number with a low back in rich, emerald green and with elegant black gloves—not Agatha’s style at all, but absolutely gorgeous.

What do you do?
>Buy one of Agatha’s discounted, avant-garde ‘semi-exotic’ practice pieces
>Splurge and get yourself Miss Weber’s satin evening-dress [will spend over half the coin on your person right now]
>Get a custom piece made from scratch [will not be ready for tonight, but will for the Tower Gala]
>Write-in
>>
>>4823960
>Buy the expensive dress

Sssorry Agatha, looking for something a little more traditional today.
>>
>>4823960
>Tell Agatha we like her designs, but need something absolutely top-shelf this time
Gotta groom our human a bit.
>Splurge and get yourself Miss Weber’s satin evening-dress [will spend over half the coin on your person right now]
>Put on our best pokerface and ask whether it can be removed easily for bussiness purpossess
>>
>>4823960
>Get a custom piece made from scratch [will not be ready for tonight, but will for the Tower Gala]
>>
>>4824121
+1. If we put the money to work, we'll be able to make a lot more.
>>
>>4823960
>>Get a custom piece made from scratch [will not be ready for tonight, but will for the Tower Gala]
>>
>>4825039
>>4824430
>>4824250
>>4824121
>>4823972

You make a show of appraising the many unique dresses tailored by the young Miss Johan, feeling fabric and mumbling about interesting design choice. It's important to groom your human pets' egos, after all! However, you have eyes for only one outfit: Weber's satin evening-dress.

“I'm ssorry,” you tell Agatha, “Your work iss coming along niccely, but I need sssomething truly sspectacular for tonight. Ssomething… Top-shelf.”

“Ah… Yeah. Yeah, no, I get it.” Agatha seems a bit surprised, after all your patronage, but she takes it in stride. “Is it for a date, or…”

You smirk slightly, and turn away from her to Weber. “Excuse me ma’am, but I'd like to purchasse that dressss there.”

“Yes, of course—a good eye! And… The payment?”

You set a trio of gold coins from your pouch of the table, and the woman greedily reaches our for them… Only for you to snatch them away.

“One quick quessstion, though,” you say, throwing a quick glance Agatha's way. “Iss it eassily removed?”

Agatha flushes, and you think Weber might be about to have a heart attack.

“P-pardon me?” Weber asks, as if she doesn't trust her ears, or perhaps mouth to form an inoffensive reply of any substance.

“I need to know for… Bussssinesss purpossesss.”

Agatha snorts, and hurriedly covers her mouth to stifle a laugh. This earns her a glare from her employer, which both mortified your friend and makes it even harder for the now-nervous Agatha to maintain her composure.

You smirk, and slide the coins back across the counter. “Nevermind, I'll find out sssoon enough. Shall I let you know?”

“I… I… I'd rather you not, no!” Miss Weber says, somewhat haughtily.

“Ssuit yourself.”

She accepts your coin gladly enough, though, and you gladly take the dress, which Agatha brings in just slightly at the waist and out in the hops, then neatly folds into a little box. You throw the two seamstresses a wink; only Agatha, while still embarrassed, seems to appreciate the display.

The day is half-done, but there’s still time to kill before the big meeting. What do you do?
>Head to The Grey Press to give your statement
>Perform some corporate espionage on Zika’s headquarters
>Visit the library in hopes of studying the dangers of the occult with Lord Bianchi
>Report back to Roth on your developing schemes
>Grab some food at a local delicatessen
>Field-test your new dress at a drinking parlour
>Write-in
>>
>>4825445
>Perform some corporate espionage on Zika’s headquarters
>>
>>4825445
>Head to The Grey Press to give your statement
>>
>>4825445
>Visit the library in hopes of studying the dangers of the occult with Lord Bianchi
We shouldn't keep stalling Bianchi forever until we have no time like last thread. Gay Press Studios journalist can wait one more day, if he already waited a week with no word.
>>
>>4825865
+1
>>
>>4825865
Fine. +1

We will head to the Grey Press the next available moment though, yea?
>>
>>4826096
Definitely, we need to deal with that press reporter after all.
I just thought it's more important to learn more about demons and arcane first, otherwise we might miss on important signs and/or opportunities.
>>
>>4826096
>>4826051
>>4825865
>>4825585
>>4825457

You head for The library. The obligation to sort out the spread of Zivic's story via The Grey Press nags at you, but with Rilney's story restricted at least… Well, it’s not as urgent as the matter of your demonic adversaries, is it? Zivic's death may be a troubling tale, but the Devil-Zivic's danger is currently events.

You head to the library in hooe sof finding Lord Bianchi, and you're not disappointed. The young nobleman, dark of garb and demeanor, has commandeered a number of chairs to stack books, pushed two tables together to spread out a panoply of charts and notes, and has stationed one of his bodyguards to keep the riffraff away while he works. Some things never change.

Upon your approach, the bodyguard moves to intercept you. You clear your throat, and Bianchi looks up, calling his attack guard of a manservant off.

“You're back,” he says simply.

“Yess,” you reply. “Ssurprissed?”

“Slightly. When you insinuated yourself into my research long enough to acquire some mystical protections, then didn't return even with Edwin of Engel for a week's time, I assumed you'd gotten what you needed from I, and from he, and that this library held no further interest for you.”
What do you do?
>Tell him that you are interested in learning more about the occult
>Tell him (the non-compromising version) of your troubles with the occult, which kept you away
>Explain that your interest is with Lord Bianchi, not the library [seduction]
>Take an interest in whatever it is he’s studying
>Write-in
>>
>>4826615
>Take an interest in whatever it is he’s studying
Let's treat this as a transaction of sort - he gets our legit attention and help in his study and in exchange we get a piece of his impresssive knowledge.
>Tell him (the non-compromising version) of your troubles with the occult, which kept you away
Give him the idea of what happened, but without identifying details like names, places, etc. Just the important parts of our interactions and troubles with Zivic, Tokunbo, Estellia's rat possession and (possibly) Mina, who started acting odd after she might've been exposed to their magic.
>>
>>4826615
>>Take an interest in whatever it is he’s studying
>>
>>4826615
>>Tell him that you are interested in learning more about the occult
>>Tell him (the non-compromising version) of your troubles with the occult, which kept you away
>>
>>4826615
>Tell him that you are interested in learning more about the occult
>>
>>4826615
>Explain that your interest is with Lord Bianchi, not the library [seduction]
>>
>>4826615
>Explain that your interest is with Lord Bianchi, not the library [seduction]
>>
>>4826730
+1
>>
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>>4826991
>>4826981
>>4826979
>>4826965
>>4826943
>>4826891
>>4826730

“It’ss not that. It hass been a… Bussy week.”

You tell Bianchi that which you are comfortable telling without risking compromise of your true identity and mission: that you have been dealing with a dangerous pair of mystics. Who have been hounding your dreams and waking life alike. You tell him of how they seemingly brainwashed or possessed your friend with a magically-affected rat (though not how you killed her afterwards, of course), and how you fear that something similar may be befalling your employer.

“Curious,” Lord Bianchi says, taking renewed interest in you, as if you were a curio or trinket he had discovered a new use for. “What did you do to earn such attention and ire from these occultists?”

“I refused to join them in their work,” you reply, thinking quickly and telling a sort of half-truth.

“But why?” he asks, seriously. “They seem… Reckless. Dangerous, yes. Foolish even, if I may say. But… Talented.”

“You ssound as if you admire them, and what they’ve done” you say.

“Could you make introductions, Ismena?” he asks. “It would help immensely with my work.”

You look down at the papers strewn about: a pile of fragmentary notes, some in code, and of sigils and symbols. Some you recognize from earlier reading; others you don’t. The spines of the gathered books have interesting titles as well: ‘A Tragedy of Obsession’, ‘The Experiential Evidence of Tulpa’, ‘The True Nature of Dreams’, ‘The Thin Veil & Theories of Conjuration’.

“What ARE you working on?” you ask him, leaning close.

Bianchi huffs as you enter his bubble, but he doesn’t really move away; you sense the lord doth protest too much. He clearly has no aversion to being nearer your body, which you use to your advantage to read the page he is currently copying notes from: a page all about the summoning of succubi.

You smirk slyly and nudge him. “I didn’t take you for one sso enamoured with ssuch carnal matterss as to rissk yourself, Lord Bianchi!”
>>
>>4827406
He huffs again, and reddens only slightly. “It’s nothing so absurd! While the summoning of succubi and incubi is… SOMETIMES performed for such purposes, by main interest is in the way in which they manifest: as objects of desire, in forms and with personalities drawn from the summoner’s own mind and heart. Some theorize that a so-called ‘succubi’ or ‘incubi’ is what the Eastern traditions call ‘tulpa’: demons, or spirits of some sort anyway, drawn TO and shaped BY a host, feeding off of their mental and spiritual energies and becoming that which they love, or fear, or believe… Visiting in dreams, but potentially summoned from those dreams and into the physical world, by an adept in the arts!”

Realizing that he has grown loud enough in his enthusiasm to draw a few stares, Banchi quiets his voice, and speaks again in hushed tones: “Imagine! Anything you want, anything you dream of… You could make it real, make it manifest as you woke…”

Yes, you suppose you could see the profit in that… And the possible utility for you, in a number of ways. Many potential dangers, too: what if you something like the Devil-Zivic were to approach Bianchi, or someone like him, and be made manifest?

What do you do?
>Ask to help with his studies and his ritual, to learn this power
>Tell Bianchi that he should beware of what being come in dreams, and cease this line or research
>Ask Bianchi how he means to avoid possession, parasitism, or other hazards of such work
>Steal a couple of the books which you can tell came from his private collection rather than the library, to study up on your own [stealth roll required]
>Leave Bianchi to his work; this eccentricity is of no interest, and it makes you uncomfortable
>Write-in
>>
>>4827413
>Ask to help with his studies and his ritual, to learn this power
>Ask Bianchi how he means to avoid possession, parasitism, or other hazards of such work
>>
>>4827413
>Ask to help with his studies and his ritual, to learn this power
>>Ask Bianchi how he means to avoid possession, parasitism, or other hazards of such work
>>
>>4827413
>Ask Bianchi how he means to avoid possession, parasitism, or other hazards of such work
>Tell Bianchi that he should beware of what being come in dreams
What came in our dreams wasn't a fucking succubus, he should make sure there aren't any misconceptions.
>Ask to help with his studies
>>
>>4827413
>Leave Bianchi to his work; this eccentricity is of no interest, and it makes you uncomfortable
I've read enough /x/ screenshots to know where this bus' going.
>>
>>4827912
+1
>>
>>4827635
>>4827683
>>4827912
>>4828002
>>4828108

“What came into my dreamss wass not sssuccubuss, Lord Bianchi,” you warn the ambitious young eccentric.

“I’m aware,” Bianchi says sharply. “But… It WAS our conversation about dream-spirits which awoke me—ha—to the possibilities here. The veil between the physical and spiritual is thinnest in sleep, when a man is half-dead and his mind adrift. Perhaps that is why this… Devil-figure approached you that way. If I wish to seize the powers and opportunities beyond that veil and make them my own…”

He looks up at you darkly, as if reappraising you once again. “But if you are too fearful… Well, that’s fine. Most are. That’s why this world belong to those who are not afraid to do what must be doen, and to take what—"

You interrupt the esoteric rambling thusly: “Woah, woah, I jusst wanted to enssure there were no misssconcceptionss. I’m in.”

Bianchi blinks a couple times. “Pardon?”

“I’m in,” you say with a smile, nudging him with your hip. “I’m not inexxxperiencced in these mattersss mysself, remember? But… Hwo to you mean to avoid the dangers inherent to the project?”

“Miss Rosgard,” he eventually says, “I never know quiet what to make of you.”
>>
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>>4828413
It seems Bianchi means to perform a particular ritual which can shield the mind and body from demonic forces, and then to draw a minor demon forth from beyond the veil and into a physical form. Once trapped in the physical realm, and within a summoning circle—hence the graphs and sigils—his plan is to force it into a deal whereby it will be allowed to return ‘home’ in exchange for periodically returning with ‘succubus-like manifestations of inert ectoplasmic material’ in the form of items from Bianchi’s own dreamscape, bringing them forth on subsequent summonings.

“And thiss will work? You’ll be able to get actual valuables this way?” you ask.

“Obviously!” he scoffs. And then, “Well… It’s the theory. Much of the literature on this matter is HEINOUSLY locked up in that literal ivory tower of the Mages. I have had to cross-reference allusions that the powers-that-be OH so gracious DEIGN for one such as I to access, with tomes I have acquired for my private collection. But the theory is sound, yes. It will work.”

You and Bianchi spend some time reading through the works, further discussing his theories on the matter and (for your part) acquiring a better understanding of that which your enemies have been using against you. It takes the better part of the afternoon, when your growling stomach and the march of time forces you to depart. The two of you make plans for two nights hence—the ritual won’t be ready tonight, and you’re busy for the next two nights anyway. Bianchi is no stranger to late nights, so you calculate that you could do a bit of work on the dance-floor for The Pretty Kitty and still attend the ritual without issue.

Where do you go next?
>That half-orc’s meat cart which ahs served your appetite so well
>Somewhere a bit more upscale, for a proper sit-in luncheon; you can afford it now!
>A drinking establishment where you can mingle and gain intel
>Back to Edwin’s home, to dine in with your ‘boyfriend’ before the business meeting
>Write-in
>>
>>4828414
>Back to Edwin’s home, to dine in with your ‘boyfriend’ before the business meeting
>Show our new dress to Edwin and Fynn
>See if it can be removed easily

Bianchi is a schizo and he will either regret fiddling with demons one day or become too powerful for our liking. I say we get on his good side, but don't hook him up with the Tower of Mages' books on the topic, should we ever get our hands on them. At least not until we make sure that he can be trusted and won't backstab us.

Feels like a good time to mention that Ismena hates alcohol and getting shitfaced will eventually compromise our mission. Also we lose opportunity to control drunk mammals if we can't think straight ourselves.
>>
>>4828414
Backing >>4828475
>>
>>4828414
>A drinking establishment where you can mingle and gain intel
>>
>>4828414
>A drinking establishment where you can mingle and gain intel
>>
>>4828414
>>Back to Edwin’s home, to dine in with your ‘boyfriend’ before the business meeting
>>
[May not do a post tonight--chilling out after Covid shot and having a relaxing evening with the fiance. It will be late, or tomorrow.]
>>
>>4829739
>>4829157
>>4829087
>>4828576
>>4828475

As tempting as it is to take your dress for a spin at a speakeasy, and to thus gauge its effectiveness, you know that practicality and obligation demand that you return to the House of Engel. That isn’t to say the new ensemble won’t get its day to shine, though: you find an opportune time and place on the way, and when you arrive, it is in your new satin dress and fine silk gloves. Your appearances visibly wows the guard who meets you at the door, but it is Edwin’s reaction which truly gratifies you.

“Woah,” it begins, and then with just as much intelligibility and with a hand behind his head, jaw slackened by the stupor of your appearance: “Wow.”

“That good, hm?” you tease, lightly tapping his chin and kissing him on the cheek.

“As someone who’s seen you naked, I can sincerely say that I think this might be even better.”

“Shamelessss flatterer,” you chide him.

“I hope that’s not for the meeting,” Edwin’s father, Fynn, says from the top of the stairs.

You glance up the high stairwell at him, arching an eyebrow questioningly. “Why? What’ss wrong with it?”

“How are any of the men at the table meant to focus on matters of business?” Fynn says.

You smirk. Fynn is only this forward when he’s dipped into the brandy. You suspect the older Engel must be nervosu about this meeting. If only he knew how little he had to fear.

“I think I can manage to keep their attention focussed where it belongs,” you reassure. “I can be quite perssuassive.”

Edwin, who better understands the magic you wield, gives you a questioning look. You shush him with a quick finger gesture.

“I don’t doubt it,” Fynn says. “Still... Don’t lay it on too thick, okay?”

“Ssuch a worrier,” you say. “I ssecured the meeting, did I not?”

“Now to seal the deal… With a Tower representative who is probably going to be more annoyed that we’ve discovered the contract than eager to involve us.”

Fynn looks concerned, and perhaps with good reason. Still, you have a couple hours to kill before the meeting, and one more function of this dress to test out…

What do you do?
>Go see how quickly you can slip out of this dress with Edwin
>Relieve Fynn’s tension and test out the dress at the same time
>Stymie that libido and keep your head in the game; you could stand to study up on the Zika Excavation Company
>Take Edwin aside, but practice magic, not physical intimacy—your glamour is your best asset in this negotiation!
>Write-in
>>
>>4830100
>Stymie that libido and keep your head in the game; you could stand to study up on the Zika Excavation Company

I guess Fynn is right about the mages' representative. Let's not act like a hoe until it's required and try our best to make sure the meeting goes well.
>>
>>4830100
>>Stymie that libido and keep your head in the game; you could stand to study up on the Zika Excavation Company

Haven't we collectively decided against ever bedding Fynn (as long as we're an item with Edwin, that is) in the last thread?
>>
>>4830186
I think so, yeah.
>>
>>4830100
>Go see how quickly you can slip out of this dress with Edwin
>>
>>4830100
>practice majyck
>>
>>4830378
>>4830186
[I wouldn't say 'collectively', since people voted to flirt with him a bit and at least a couple anons seemed to think he was a better partner than his son. Plus, then The Infiltrator continued to sleep around, so I took that to mean that she isn't especially dedicated to him. I could be wrong, though: maybe she's warming up to him? The seduction option will always be open unless the route gets closed by a very clear vote at some point. Anyway, posting!]
>>
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>>4830750
>>4830711
>>4830186
>>4830157

You shake off your fiery desires and force your blood to run cold once more. You need to keep your mind in the game.

“Alright, alright,” you say with a sigh. “I’ll focuss. Have you got any information on the Zikas and their excavation comapny?”

Fynn chuckles. “More like a mercenary company. Bunch of glorified adventurers and bandits, looting anywhere that orcs or lizardfolk drive off the claimants to a load of valuables.”

That would explain the sheer… Girth… of Kohei Zika, and the company he kept. You’ll have to keep on your toes with such men, as well as with the Tower representative…

“You have documentation on their operationss, though, Master Engel?”

He nods. “Meet me in the office after dinner.”

You and Edwin have a pleasant little meal. The oblivious young man has nevertheless seemingly picked up on your dietary preferences: there is substantially less veg than meat, and virtually no carbohydrates.

“I take it your mum never insisted on you eating your evgetabels before you left the table?” he jokes.

You shrug. “It’ss a diet that keeps me trim and fit,” you lie, and then flutter your eyelashes and slide a foot up his leg under the table. “I notice you don’t complain about the resssults.”

Edwin nearly chokes on his food, and flushes, but he can only nod slightly and match your sly smile. You finish your food, and give his arm a gentle squeeze.

“Later,” you tell him. “Duty callsss.”
>>
>>4831087
In his office, Fynn takes out a few scrolls and sheafs of paper, detailing manifests of human, halfling, dwarven, and elven goods brought into Hawksong by the Zika Excavation Company, and stored by Engelson for a time. The manifests include all manner of trade goods and personal belongings, as well as orcish weapons. It certainly reads like a loot-list an adventurer might bring to shop after a battle against bandits on the road, or looting some ‘dungeon’ or keep. You also see that they’ve had their fair share of items redacted.

“Magic,” Fynn explains when you ask, sipping his brandy. “Magic items go to the Tower security, or specialist firms. This will be the first time we’ve even been allowed to be involved in that. That they’re even humouring us probably means this is quite the haul…”

What do you do?
>Request some brandy to loosen up
>Discuss using a glamour to steer the negotiators to your way of thinking
>Make a suggestion as to how to handle negotiations [suggest and approach or stratagem]
>Ask Fynn about something else [what do you ask?]
>Just skip to the meeting—you feel confident enough as is
>Write-in
>>
>>4831092
>Tell him we won't be using glamour with the mage around. We're a capable illusionist, but trying to trick a Tower representative like we did with Zika is too risky or even dangerous.
>Make a suggestion as to how to handle negotiations
How about he offers them a drink and relaxes the atmosphere somewhat? It will surely make negotiations much easier.
We can stay perfectly sober since alcohol isn't our thing and make sure things go well for Engels.
And pay close attention to anything interesting that the mage might say.
>Ask if there's anything he wants from us during the meeting (not sexual, real question)
>>
>>4831053
Personally I treat it kind of like an open relationship since Edwin knows we're a hoe, but fucking his father is a different story. It would be a horrible dick move pun not intended unless we know he's cool with it.

I suggested flashing them both in (>>4828475) more as a joke to see the reactions and would've stopped on that if Fynn didn't bring us back to earth immediately.
>>
>>4831092
>Request some brandy to loosen up
>>
>>4831125
+1
>>
>>4831178
>>4831153
>>4831125

Fynn agrees with you on both counts: you shouldn’t utilize any illusion magic, and you should absolutely not drink.

“No offence,” he says, “but you do NOT hold your liquor well.”

You laugh, and admit (in a bit of understatement): “I don’t drink often. In addition to keeping me ssenssible, though, it could be to out advantage to have the only ssober party present on our sside. How about you offers them a drink to relax the atmossphere ssomewhat?”

Fynn agrees that this seems sensible enough, but also seems to take this as a hint to slow down on his current glass for you.

“Is there anything elsse you require from me, in particular?”

Fynn gives you a look, and you put up your hands in a show of innocence. “That’ss not a double-entendre!”

“Right,” he says. “Well… Keep an eye on the Tower representative. Just because you’re not using magic…”

You nod, and note the man’s mistrust for Tower mages. Especially interesting, perhaps, given his history with his late wife, and his son. You’d already panned to pay particular attention to the Tower mage for your own reasons, though, so it’s no big ask.
>>
>>4831630
An hour later, the others arrive: first, punctual and proper, a bespectacled and dour woman with a characteristic pointed hat and a blue cloak of a fine-looking, shiny material. She introduces herself as Leonore, Procurement Secretary to the Hawksong Mages’ Tower. You note that she eyes you with particular scrutiny… Or else that your nerves are getting the best of you and you’re imagining it.

The Engels make a bit of small-talk, Edwin in particular eagerly gushing over his interest in the mystic arts, and asking after several rumoured recent procurements by the tower. The tight-lipped Leonore lets little loose, and seem a little perturbed by the younger Engel’s mage-like attire and obsessive interest.

“Edwin,” Fynn eventually growls. “Please, give our guest some space.”

“A-ah.” Edwin vocalizes, startled from his enthusiasm. “Yes, father. Apologies, Secretary.”

“No harm done,” Leonore says stuffily, but makes no eye contact with any of you. An awkward silence falls, but it only lasts a few minutes before Kohei Zika arrives… And to your surprise, has brought two others: a lightly-built, pointy-eared half-elf in exotic-looking leather and silk attire befitting an adventurer, and JANUS, his air-headed whoremongering dilettante son.

“Hello, Kohei. A bigger entourage than expected,” Fynn of Engel notes aloud, saying what you were thinking.

“Vanfyr has been my boots-on-the-ground as far as business-savvy men go, on this whole dwarven matter,” Kohei Zika says. “Janus here is my son. Needs to learn the business somehow. Plus, he knows YOUR assistant there.”

You meet Janus’ eyes (when they finally rise from scanning your body with a hungry look). He grins… Nervously? Apologetically? Perhaps just awkwardly, as he’s clearly out of his depth here. Given that he has recently had several raunchy rounds of group sex with you in your capacity as Kamunu the prostitute, he presents a complication to the image you now seek to cultivate in this meeting…

Besides which, you can see Edwin glancing between the two of you. Janus is not especially subtle.

Fynn beckons the group to the meeting proper, not in his office but in the entertainment room where you first met the man a little over a week ago. Servants have prepared the place, shifting furniture around to make it appear less like a showroom for furniture and more like an actual space to relax and enjoy oneself. Certainly, the offer of brandy helps, at least with Kohei, Janus, and their half-elf. The Tower mage politely declines.
>>
>>4831633
Edwin steps in to pour himself a glass, but his father places a hand on his shoulder. He whispers something to him, and from the look on Edwin’s face, you can tell the father is telling son to find somewhere else to be for the time being.

What do you do?
>Say nothing—Edwin shouldn’t be in attendance of this meeting
>Suggest that Edwin watch and learn, but stay out of negotiations
>Suggest that Edwin’s knowledge of magic could be an asset here
>Take the opportunity of the distraction to speak privately with one of the other attendants [who? About what?]
>Write-in
>>
>>4831634
>Say nothing—Edwin shouldn’t be in attendance of this meeting
This may call for a round of apology sex; later.
>>
>>4831634
>Say nothing—Edwin shouldn’t be in attendance of this meeting
>>
>>4831634
>Say nothing—Edwin shouldn’t be in attendance of this meeting
>>
>>4831634
>>Say nothing—Edwin shouldn’t be in attendance of this meeting
>>
>>4832592
>>4832240
>>4832029
>>4831865
Luckily for you, and to his potential credit, Edwin doesn’t seek your intervention. He casts a quick glance your way, but it is with a degree of concern, and not a plea to leap to his defence. More’s the better—you don’t plan to. Edwin of Engel has his… Charms… But he doesn’t belong at a negotiating table.

When your boytoy has been sent on his way for the evening, Fynn starts schmoozing.

“Right. God brandy, is it not? Well, we’ll see about getting some tea on the brew for your, Secrtary, and for Miss Rosgard here...”

But it doesn’t take long for him to get to business. Despite related fields of business, the personalities on display between the three leaders is very different. Fynn of Engel is a hardnosed man, a social climber with little time for the overly ‘social’ aspect. Kohei Zika is brusque and direct, a man of action for whom finances and status seem to be secondary considerations at times—activities participated in grudgingly, out of obligation. Secretary Leonore is studiously formal, polite to the exact degree required of her and no more, and demonstrably disengaged from negotiations; she was assigned to be here, you gather, but has little interest in these negotiations.

Leonore is also remaining sober, as with you. Before long, servants arrive and provide you both a cup of tea, setting a pot and tray down so you may refresh it. This is troubling, for while the brandy flowing helps ease some tensions between Zika and Engel, Leonore lets nothing slip.

“Right,” Fynn gets int it at last, his patience for social frivolity wearing thin, “You know why you’re here. The Tower has undergone some sort of project with the crown, and you have a load of materials in need of storage. I’d like to offer the storehouses and security of Engelson.”

“The storehouses, sure,” Zika says, before glancing at Secretary Leonore. “If I’m not speaking out-of-turn. Anyway, yes, sure. But I’d wager my men are better security than your city-boys, Engel.”

Both men look to Leonore, who sips her tea silently for a time.

“Frankly,” she finally says, “I don’t see why we should need either. Mister Zika has made a case to my superiors for a cost savings and an expediency, but the ruins aren’t going anywhere, and the cost is… Immaterial.”

“Cost is NEVER immaterial, Secretary,” says Fynn of Engel.

“And more coin freed up from acquiring sites is more coin to hire and assign more Zika men to excavate and protect the finds,” Zika says, earning a quick glare from Engel.
>>
>>4831634
>Suggest that Edwin’s knowledge of magic could be an asset here
>>
>>4832851
The debate rages on for a time: Engel wants in for as big a contract as he can get, and seems hesitant to allow Zika guards to take over for his own men at his storehouses. Zika is seemingly on your side about the sue of the storehouses… But in addition to whatever financial considerations or blow to Engel’s pride this might affect, this could provide an additional obstacle to your investigation of the excavated materials.

“Very well,” Secretary Leonore eventually concedes. “If we consider this… Some combination of whatever it is you two decide, I must insist that all sensitive and potentially-magical materials be excluded, and brought to the Tower directly, under our guardianship.”

…And then there’s that, which both the men seem willing to agree to, but which is a real wrench in your plans.

What do you do?
>Stay out of it—you enabled the meeting, and you’re listening in so you can plan your next move, but you have no intentions to manipulate negotiations
>Petition for the Engelson Storehouse Company’s complete responsibility for storage, so Zika’s entire force may focus on excavation and on other jobs
>Offer your assistance as a hedge-mage to help identify the magical items more efficiently
>Side with Zika’s position, but suggest that some Engel observers (yourself?) be allowed access and vetting duties for storehouse security
>Join Janus and Vanfyr, who have been eyeing you and quietly discussing amongst themselves; perhaps you can get some advantage out of plying them? [specify what you wish to ask them]
>Write-in
>>
>>4832852
[Sorry, just missed it! But you were pretty outvoted on that one, anyway.]
>>
>>4832854
>Join Janus and Vanfyr, who have been eyeing you and quietly discussing amongst themselves; perhaps you can get some advantage out of plying them? Try to casually get them to tell us how are the excavations going. Maybe we can get some leverage to support Engel's side or maybe even let us put our hands on the artifacts.
>Petition for the Engelson Storehouse Company’s complete responsibility for storage, so Zika’s entire force may focus on excavation and on other jobs

We really can't do much here with no additional knowledge. We should ask to assist with artifacts, but let's first finish the deal.
>>
>>4832854
>>Stay out of it—you enabled the meeting, and you’re listening in so you can plan your next move, but you have no intentions to manipulate negotiations
>>
>>4832891
>>4833514
[I will wait a few hours for a tiebreaker and too chill out from work. If all else fails, I'll roll and post before bed!]
>>
>>4832854
backing >>4832891
>>
>>4834071
>>4833514
>>4832891

You allow the three leaders to debate around in circles for a few moments. You eye up the younger men, and saunter their way. A rival force is, after all, only as strong as its weakest link, and for all his… Physical robustness and abundant energy… A weak-minded and easily-cowed clod. Vanfyr is an unknown quantity, seemingly a bit cooler or more stoic in outward demeanour and of the uncertain age that comes with elven blood… But the opportunity to flirt or finagle your way into putting your hot little hands on a genuine artefact is too good to pass up.

“Hey Janusss,” you hiss scintillatingly. “It’ss nicce to see you again. And your frien.”

“Yeah?” Janus says, sniggering. “I bet you’d like to see a lot more of both of us, huh? Vanfyr, you’ve gotta’ get a load of this one.”

Vanfyr glances his way with a certain amount of bemused disdain, and then back to you with a small bow. “Miss Rosgard. A pleasure.”

Hrm. Elves. You bet this half-blood’s chivalrous display and high cheekbones play well with human females, but you’re no foolish mammalian biddy. Still, you have a roll to play: you titter anyway.

After a bit of banter and smalltalk—or blatant attempts to segue his way into your ass again, in Janus’ case—you manage to steer the conversation to the excavation. To this end, Vanfyr is by far the more useful rube, but also less manipulable.

“It’s going well enough,” he answers simply. “I can’t honestly say for certain what it is the Tower and the Paladins are so interested in, but there have been a few items with faint auras aout them.”

“Magical aurasss, I assume?” you say.

Vanfyr nods.

“What do they do?” you ask, feigning innocent curiosity.

Vanfyr scrunches his face up slightly. At first, you think he’s annoyed—or worse, suspicious. Did you push too obviously? But no: the brandy ahs loosened his tongue up just enough to wag.

“The Tower never gives our magic adepts time to examine them adequately,” the half-elf says. “During inventory, I got the impression hat the items we found are in some way related to the rest of the architecture and statuary we brought with us in some fashion… Tied to it through arcana of earth. Interlocked.”

Janus slaps him on the back. “You’re boring the woman, you pointy-eared chatterbox! Who cares about that—it’s worth money, and that’s what matters.”

“Ah, perhaps I did say too much,” Vanfyr mutters, suddenly self-aware once more.

“Now,” Janus says, grinning broadly and slurring slightly, “why don’t we three go find a coatroom to do some interlocking of our own?”

You could strangle Janus, but you affect a smile anyway, and excuse yourself to interject into the main discussion. You know, at very least, you are more intrigued than ever to gain access to those artifacts.
>>
>>4834144

“You know, if the Engelsson Sstorehousse Company took complete ressponssibility for sstorage,” you suggest casually, “the Zika Company’ss entire forcce could focuss on excavation… And on other jobss.”

Kohei Zika strokes his beard, and glances at the Tower’s Secretary. “Hrm. That’s a point. But do you comfortable urban folk have someone who can look after the most… Valuable items?”

“They do not, and neither do you, to be frank.” Secretary Leonore seems unimpressed by the suggestion. “You two may divvy up the other duties as you see fit, but the magical items are Tower property by contract and by right. It is a matter for mages!”

What do you do?
>Volunteer your own services as a hedge-mage
>Let the Tower Mages take precedence with the magic items… For now
>Try to turn Kohei against the Tower by insinuating they are unfairly underpaying him by denying his men access to appraise the items properly
>Suggest “innocently” that Janus and Vanfyr take you to someone private to ogle artefacts and have some fun with a bottle of brandy [seduction]
>Write-in
>>
>>4834146
>Try to turn Kohei against the Tower by insinuation
>>
>>4834146
>Try to turn Kohei against the Tower by insinuating they are unfairly underpaying him by denying his men access to appraise the items properly
The pot won't stir itself.
>>
>>4834146
>>4834453
+1 for stirrin the pot
Let Kohei do our job for us.
>>
>>4834146
>Suggest “innocently” that Janus and Vanfyr take you to someone private to ogle artefacts and have some fun with a bottle of brandy [seduction]
>>
>>4834915
>>4834460
>>4834453
>>4834383

“Yess, Vanfyr had mentioned that you were very ressisstant to allowing Mister Zika’s men examine the enchanted materials themsslevess,” you say.

Kohei Zika shoots his half-elven assistant a glare, which Vanfyr seems to pick up… But, with the quietness pf your intimation, and the distraction of Janus’ company, he doesn’t seem to understand that his brandy-loosened lips have been revealed to his employer.

“I’m curiouss, Mister Zika… How do you decccide what to charge the Tower for materialss?”

“Hrm?” Zika turns back to you.

“Well, it can’t be all by the day, or by tonnage, surely?” you ask, smiling innocently. “I assssumed there wass ssome ssort of finder’ss fee for magical items of such value.”

“There is,” Kohei harrumphs. “Obviously.”

“A fair one,” Secretary Leonore chimes in. “A quite HIGH one.”

“How do you know it’s not too high?” you ask Leonore, affecting genuine fascination with the process. “You wouldn’t want to overcharge, oof course. Not undercharge, I’m sure! What ssort of magic do these items carry?”

“That is a matter of state secrets,” Leonore huffs. “really, I don’t see how this is—”

But Zika will have no one of it.

“The waif is right!” he bellows, tossing back his brandy and angrily, spashingly pouring another (to Fynn’s obvious dismay at the waste). “You set the fixed fee quite high for what often seems like so much rubble. But why would you do that, if there wasn’t something TRULY valuable in there?”

You bring a black-gloved hand to your lips in surprise—or to hide your serpentine smugness. “Oh, I’m certain they’d never—”

“Vanfyr!” Kohei Zika bellows. “get over here! I need logistical support!”

Vanfyr meets your eyes questioningly as he passes you, and you shrug helplessly and slip into place beside Fynn.

“Brilliant,” Fynn says, low of tone and close enough to your ear to make you tingle.

Unexpectedly, you think of Edwin, and casually shift a step to the side. How… odd.

“I think this is just about done for the evening,” Fynn says, pouring himself another glass of brandy and using a kerchief to disapprovingly wipe down the tabletop of Zika’s sloppy pour. “Once the shouting and accusations start, not to mention drunken mathematics… Well, the night rarely lasts long after that.”

“But when morning comess,” you whisper, “I ssusspect we’ll find Zika very open to our partnership. To our guards, our warehousssing… All of it.”

“’Our’, you say?” Fynn of Engel says, eyebrow arched.

“Well…” you hesitate.

What do you do?
>“I misspoke.”
>“I was hoping to make this a more permanent position.”
>“I feel very strongly for your son, as I said…”
>“I was wondering if you wanted a… Partner.” [seduction]
>Write-in
>>
>>4835062
>“I feel very strongly for your son, as I said…”
>“I was hoping to make this a more permanent position.”
Mix of both, we don't need to be his partner, just gain access to the goods if necessary.
Plus we DO represent him for Zika already.
>>
>>4835062
Can back
>>4835507
>>
>>4835507
>>4835516
“I feel very sstrongly for your sson, as I ssaid,” you begin, “and wass hoping to make thiss a more permanent possition.”

Fynn of Engel narrows his eyes slightly, meeting your own. Taking your mettle. It seems he doesn’t find you wanting.

“Alright,” he says. “Moroth and Marese above, I know I could use the help, and Edwin could use someone to keep his feet on the ground and his head on his shoulders.”

Fynn rests a hand on your shoulder, and grins. “Welcome aboard, Ismena. Welcome home.”

The words stick with you as the other mammals depart this mansion. It’s tough to shake the peculiar feeling in your gut, like… A roiling, uncoiling serpent of some sort. It’s uncomfortable but also… Warm? You shake it off as best you can, and you and Fynn bid the guests farewell. You cast a quick glance around, and see no sign of Edwin; a part of you wodners why you bother to look.

“Pssst! PSSST!”

Janus is ‘whispering’ in the manner of a fool who, having fallen prey to liquor, thinks he is subtler than he is. His companion—babysitter—Vanfyr has something of a flush about his face, indicating his own more subtle brand of inebriation. The former is beckoning you follow them, presumably for some sort of night on the town that the libidinous lummox thinks will end raunchily.

Of course, whether or not it does, it could end advantageously…

What do you do?
>Go find Edwin, to spend the reminder of the evening with him
>Follow Janus and Vanfyr out for a night of possibly-profitable revelry
>Go report your new discoveries and progress to Roth
>Go have a debriefing session with Fynn, and talk about your role in the Engelson Company
>Retire to your room to decompress in private
>Write-in
[Specify if there’s any specific task or topic you wish to perform with the person, or broach; magic lessons, a suggested venue, sexual intercourse—whatever! If you don’t, I’ll make some assumptions and present some options next post]
>>
>>4836294
>Go find Edwin, to spend the reminder of the evening with him

We did just talk about our feelings for him to his dad
>>
>>4836294
>Follow Janus and Vanfyr out for a night of possibly-profitable revelry

Don't think we can pass this opportunity up lads.
>>
>>4836294
>Go find Edwin, to spend the reminder of the evening with him
>Ask if he'd ever thought of a threesome
We didn't "play" with Edwin in a long time, might just as well succumb to our oh-so-wrong mammal desires tonight.
>>
>>4836294
>Go find Edwin, to spend the reminder of the evening with him
>>
>>4836294
>Go have a debriefing session with Fynn, and talk about your role in the Engelson Company
>>
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>>4836970
>>4836938
>>4836673
>>4836538
>>4836527

You make a show of stretching, drawing both Janus’ and Vanfyr’s eyes across your body as easily as if you had them on marionette strings.

“Ssorry,” you say unapologetically. “It’ss been a long one. I’ll catch you boyss next time.”

And maybe you will… But you have other plans tonight. You can’t imagine gallivanting around town with two strapping young men will do much to reinforce your reliability to your meal-tickets in the House of Engel, after all. And it is strange that you haven’t seen hide nor hair of Edwin; you half-expected him to ambush the Tower Secretary with another round of questions on the way out. You bid Fynn goodnight as well, and go hunting for his son.

In time, you find Edwin not in his room, or your room, or the kitchen, or the room with his mother’s portrait (a good place to brood if you’d ever guessed on), but on the rooftop balcony. He has brought a single lantern up with him, and a small stack of books: ‘Alternatif Magicfs’, ‘How Man Became Arcane’, and ‘A Catalogue of Beast-Men of the South and East’. In his hands… A copy of ‘Protocols of the Learned Elders of the Coming Race’. Not your copy, so you can rest assured he hasn’t rifled through your things… But it does mean he went out to find and purchase his own.

“Hey there,” you say, slipping in behind him and sliding arm around and down his shoulders and chest. “What are you doing?”

“Oh!” he says with a start, apparently so absorbed in his reading he didn’t notice you. “Sorry, Izzy. Sometimes I just come up here to think, and read. The servants never really come up here except to clean once a week. Father never did realize this is where I go, either… If he ever looked.”

He seems a little forlorn, a titch troubled.

“What’ss with the books?” you ask, changing the subject.

“I’ve just been thinking lately. Your magic awoke through some sort of… Elven tutelage, or at least affinity, right? And they say that the first human mages learned the fundamentals from elves. Well, maybe that doesn’t work for me, but if those… Those rat-men who hurt you have magic, and if there’s anything to these other types of magic that they say beast-men have… Well, maybe I just need to draw on a different tradition?”

He looks at you hopefully, awaiting your input like a dog waiting for a ‘good boy’.

What do you do?
>Suggest you practice some magic together as usual instead
>Ask him about his theories, and how ‘Protocols of the Learned Elders’ fits in
>Distract him with seduction and sex
>Ask him about threesomes
>Have a deep conversation with him about his feelings and ambitions
>Drag him to bed to get some rest
>Write-in
>>
>>4837070
>Ask about his theories
>>
>>4837070
>Ask him about his theories, and how ‘Protocols of the Learned Elders’ fits in
We should stay informed. One of those days he might connect the dots all the way to us if we don't pay enough attention.
>Suggest you practice some magic together as usual
We can do both, right? Make small and simple illusions to visualize what we're talking about, make it a part of conversation.
>To bed.
>>
>>4837317
+1
>>
>>4837070
>Have a deep conversation with him about his feelings and ambitions
>>
Rolled 10, 9 = 19 (2d20)

>>4838068
>>4837973
>>4837317
>>4837289
>>
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>>4838086
“How doess thiss one fit in?” you ask, tapping the spine of ‘Protocols of the Learned Elders'.

“I'm not really sure it does,” he admits, looking embarrassed. “Rilney talks a lot about the hypnotic power of the eyes, though. It kind of… Reminded me of you.”

Panic. You've been found out! You scramble internally, never breaking your façade.

“You think I'm a lizard?” you say with a bemused laugh.

“What? Oh! No. No, that's crazy. I meant… Your eyes are just so captivating, and you have such a way with people. It's an elf thing, right? It made me think… There are a lot of paths to magic. So many more than the Tower… Than we may even know about.”

Edwin falls quiet for moment, looking up at the stars.

“Maybe one will work for me.”

You touch his cheek gently. “You’re ssweet… But practicce makes perfect. Why don't you and I exxxplore what worked for me?”

Edwin looks a little skeptical—a little dejected in general—but hope springs eternal. He joins you in some lessons, reading passages to you describing the illusions ascribed to various non-human mammalian races in distant lands. As he does so, you attempt to replicate or approximate the feats: to shape mystic energies into solid shapes, to change your appearance in some substantive fashion.

However, try as you might, you can't do it. You can make Edwin fixated on you, on the light and shadow you produce… You can change his perception so that he is fawning, unable to resist you or your requests… But after some trial and error, you deduce that even if you attempt with all your might to turn change its colour to blue, and ensorcelled thrall will only agree with whatever you ask him to agree with—even if you ask him to agree that the green dress, now ideally blue, is red. Nevermind attempting to alter your physical features so as to appear as a person you are not: with your glamour on, Edwin can't mistake you. Attempts to alter the appearance of other objects or environs fall just as flat.

However, all the application of glamour—and requests to examine and describe your body--provokes a distinct physiological reaction in your study partner. You note a tent in his robes, despite his efforts to hide it and remain focused.

“Alright,” you say, licking your lips. “Let's call it a night, shall we?”
>>
>>4838137
You awake from a properly-dreamless torpor the next morning and, for the second time in your entire life, you do not wake alone. Unlike Roth, Edwin holds you close; unlike Roth again, he is a source of heat for you, rather than the other way around.

You rise and stretch. His room is more or less as you imagined it, to be honest: disorganized piles of books, charts, a few decorative wall-hangings and painted frescoes that seem more obligatory than a part of his over-all style. The bed is a titch small, clearly originally intended for a boy rather than a man… But here he is, cradling you, his reproductive organ pressed into the crevices of your rear end in an oddly-comfortable fashion.

Still, it can’t last—can it? After all, you estimate he’ll be sleeping for another four hours, while you have things to do!

What DO you do?
>Search Edwin’s room for valuables or useful information
>’Disappear’ his copy of Rilney’s book before it can cause further trouble
>Go explore the manor by dawnlight, before the servants can trouble you
>leave to attend to matters in Hawksong
>Read some of Edwin’s books on beast-folk
>Screw it, the day can wait, and Edwin is warm—cuddle in [will affect future options, as I will take this as a sign of actual romance]
>Write-in
>>
>>4838143
>Go explore the manor by dawnlight, before the servants can trouble you

He's dedicated enough that if we disappear his copy he'll just get another one, driving up demand for the book and attracting interest
>>
>>4838143
>Search Edwin’s room for valuables or useful information
>’Disappear’ his copy of Rilney’s book before it can cause further trouble
>Go explore the manor by dawnlight, before the servants can trouble you

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=yRYFKcMa_Ek
>>
>>4838143
>leave to attend to matters in Hawksong
>>
>>4838143
>>Screw it, the day can wait, and Edwin is warm—cuddle in [will affect future options, as I will take this as a sign of actual romance]
>>
>>4838143
>Screw it, the day can wait, and Edwin is warm—cuddle in [will affect future options, as I will take this as a sign of actual romance]
>>
>>4838143
>Screw it, the day can wait, and Edwin is warm—cuddle in [will affect future options, as I will take this as a sign of actual romance]
>>
Rolled 87 (1d100)

>>4838226
>>4838253
>>4838332
Three votes to be a MAAAANEEEAATER

>>4839175
>>4838916
>>4838645
Three votes for romance.

Result: conflicted feelings, leaning one way or the other. I'll keep this in mind.

Posting up shortly!
>>
>>4839320
Gods Below and Beyond, it is a difficult thing to leave the snuggled confines of this blanketed bed. It’s twice as plush as Roth’s, but firmer than the one you’ve been sleeping in, and it’s even on stilted legs! It definitely, absolutely has nothing to do with the surprisingly-strong arms of the human male who now embraces you… Who mumbles your name in his sleep when you shift…

You over your shoulder, appraising his sleeping face appreciatively. Without his glasses, with a better haircut, the male could probably be a real looker… But then, he wouldn’t be Edwin, you think with a smirk… A smirk which gradually turns to a sickening dread.

[Genuine Affection: 87%]

That’s it—you’re up and out of here! The thought hits you like a lightning bolt, and you slip from Edwin’s grasp and off the bed. Your eyes dart about the room until you find your dress, which you shimmy into, and then you are out of the room before you can even consider the opportunities for espionage and manipulation within. Only then does your heart stop hammering in your ribcage.

You take no time to explore these feelings—which are certainly, ABSOLUTELY not romantic, because that would be absurd—and you instead decide to go from a stroll around the manor in the light of dawn to clear your head.

Without servants tidying up everywhere, it really is a quiet, almost serene place… But it is the serenity for a warehouse. Though your stay and last night’s meeting ahs livened up the place, most rooms have that distinct quality about them of a storage area. Even those with furniture have the aura of a showroom, a display model. Aside from the kitchen, Edwin’s room, and Fynn’s office, nowhere in the great home feels lived in.

Eventually, though, you come to a room that you hadn’t seen before: what looks like a scantly-use studio of some sort. It, too, is mostly filled with boxes, but at the back of that room is a cabinet filled with distinctly arcane-looking curios and with a rumpled, pointy-topped cap inside. Belongings of Edwin’s late mother, from her time as a Tower student?

What do you do?
>Take the hat and robes for a convenient Tower-infiltration disguise
>Check out the strangely-fascinating badge
>Carry on to servants’ quarters
>Make yourself breakfast in the kitchen
>Explore the grounds outside the manor
>Head into Hawksong
>Wake for Edwin to wake
>Write-in
>>
>>4839337
>Head into Hawksong
>>
>>4839337
>Check out the strangely-fascinating badge

would the disguise work? I thought we looked pretty distinctive.
>>
>>4839337
>Check out the strangely-fascinating badge
>Head into Hawksong
As agreed with other anon previously, let's visit The Gray Press and fabricate a story about wererats burning Zivic's house. Nobody else was there, especially not reptilians!
>>
>>4839475
[Nobody who knows you would mistake you for another, but you essentially remember remember attractive and athletic woman in her mid twenties, with tan skin... As long as you keep applying oil to your scaly patches.]
>>
>>4839337
>Head into Hawksong
>>
>>4839337
>Check out the strangely-fascinating badge
>>
>>4839337
>Check out the strangely-fascinating badge

It's the dead of night, so I doubt anything will be open in Hawksong. The best use of our time would be in exploring our hunting grounds.
>>
>>4840031
>>4839713
>>4839700
>>4839475
>>4839467

You open the locked cabinet and extract the badge. It’s nothing especially intriguing on the face of it: a simple, embossed pewter emblem. It depicts the symbol of The Hawksong Mages' Tower: a pentagon resembling a stubby obelisk with a fire burning within, hovering g above an open book. The Engel men no doubt kept it as a keepsake of their lost wife and mother, as she before them simply kept it because either was a part of her school uniform.

To a mage like yourself, though, it has another purpose: it radiates a sensation that you, unlike Fynn or poor unmagical Edwin, know is arcane.

A few possibilities jump out at you. It could be a means to track students, to identify and seek them out. Alternatively, it could be enchanted BY Edwin's mother for some childish purpose. The most delicious potentiality, however, is that it is a means to identify students and to allow them access to those areas of the Tower off-limits to mere guests and visitors.

What do you do?
>Pocket the badge
>Leave it where you found it
>Attempt to attune to it, and to replicate the effects with your own magic [2d20, DC 20, to be rolled on the next post]

What do you do AFTER that?
>Head into Hawksong
>Get some brekkie
>Visit the servants' quarters
>Root around in Fynn's office
>Explore the grounds
>Write-in
>>
>>4840251
>Attempt to attune to it, and to replicate the effects with your own magic [2d20, DC 20, to be rolled on the next post]

I believe in us

>Get some brekkie
>>
>>4840251
>Attempt to attune to it, and to replicate the effects with your own magic [2d20, DC 20, to be rolled on the next post]
>Root around in Fynn's office
>>
>>4840251
>Pocket the badge
>Explore the grounds
>>
>>4840251
>>Pocket the badge
>Get some brekkie
>>
>>4840251
>Attempt to attune to it, and to replicate the effects with your own magic [2d20, DC 20, to be rolled on the next post]
If we succeed, let's leave the badge. We sure af don't want Edwin/Fynn to find it missing and think we stole their dead family member's things.
>Get some brekkie
>>
Rolled 4, 19 = 23 (2d20)

>>4841087
>>4840393
>>4840283
>>
>>4841387
Well, fuck.
>>
>>4841087
>>4840949
>>4840518
>>4840393
>>4840283

You focus on this curious medallion, closing your eyes and humming quietly to yourself—one of Laskar’s tunes. You try to get into the same frame of mind that you were in when you unlocked your latent potential for magic. You’re so close—you can feel the thrumming power within the badge vibrating just out-of-tune with you, getting ever closer. You can ‘see’, in some indefinable way which reminds you of a dream from a couple weeks ago, the architecture of its enchantment. You can almost grasp the true form when it…

It’s gone. You open your eyes, and find the badge is just… A badge. You somehow know now that it is, indeed, a sort of talisman which ca grant passage through a barrier. It’s invaluable! But you can’t seem to mesh your magic with it…

And it is the possession of Edwin’s mother, Fynn’s wife… Now passed.

Do you take the amulet?
>Yes
>No


Either way, the effort leaves you famished. You head to the kitchen—still empty of serving staff—and help yourself. Aw yessss—pure protein breakfast! There are fresh eggs, slabs and strips of pork, beef, mutton, and whole rabbits… Plus a bunch of vegetables and fruit and other such herbivorous, mammalian nonsense you casually disregard. They keep the good stuff in a small, thick-walled room filled with blocks of ice. You wonder where they get the frigid material—another region? The mountain? Or is it a cottage magic industry for human spellcasters? At any rate, you exit the room quickly with your haul, before the cold gets into your bones and plunges you into torpor once more.

Only then do you realize a terrible truth: you don’t actually know how to cook any of this.

What do you do?
>Try anyway
>Eat it raw—your constitution is hardier than a human’s
>Wake a servant to do it for you
>Just wait for the others to awake
>Forget this plan and head into town for takeout
>Write-in
>>
>>4841415
>No
I doubt Tower just gives these things out without making sure they only work for specific people or something. Otherwise any thief could just snatch one and break into protected areas.
>Forget this plan and head into town for takeout
Lmao. Let's just find a restaurant.
>>
>>4841415
>No

>Try anyway

>>4841445
I think the amulet would work, but we shouldn't take it until we're ready to use it
>>
>>4841415
>Yes
>Eat it raw—your constitution is hardier than a human’s
>>
>>4841415
>No
>Forget this plan and head into town for takeout
>>
>>4841415
>No

I don't love disrespecting the dead or grave robbing from a family in mourning. If need be, we can always come back to pocket it to use later, but I would want it returned to them immediately after the deed is done.

>Try anyway

It'll give me a good Kek.
>>
[Will post tomorrow or later. Footy of a day and I've dipped into the sake.]
>>
[Will post tomorrow or later. Doozy of a day and I've dipped into the sake.]
>>
Rolled 2 (1d20)

>>4842355
>>4842183
>>4841758
>>4841698
>>4841445
>>
>>4841415
>No
>Wake a servant to do it for you
>>
Oops am I in after the deciding roll? Either way, eager to see where our sexy, slithering protagonist goes
>>
>>4842948
>>4842951
>>4842952

You’re not sure what’s come over you. First you left a valuable strategic asset be rather than seizing it, and now you are in the kitchen, trying to cook. You struggle to disregard the feelings of… Connection? Obligation?... Which seem to have sprung up overnight. If you were bad at cooking before all this, though, the distraction only worsens it.

It is lucky for you that your sense of taste is dulled, and your constitution mighty. You cook the eggs and meat thoroughly—too thoroughly—to a full burn. You wave the smoke of your efforts out a window, and settle down for a crunchy, blackened meal of protein-rich animal byproducts.

“Miss Rosgard?” asks a serving girl, rubbing sleep out of her eyes. “I thought I heard someone in the kitchen. What on this green Earth do you think you’re doing?”

“Cooking,” you answer the mammal succinctly between crunchy chomp, making direct and assertive eye contact.

“I… See.” She stares for a moment at your plate, then at you. “Would you like me to… Re-make that…?”

“Yes,” you say, eyes watering. It is truly awful. It’s a miracle you aren’t physically sick.

Only after a proper meal is eaten and consumed do you feel ready to carry on with the day. By this time, it shouldn’t be long before the Engel men are up and about.

What do you do?
>Wait for Edwin to awaken, and talk magic
>Wait for Fynn to wake, and talk business
>Slip out to handle The Gray press matter, or other Hawksong issues you’d rather they not be involved in
>Write-in
>>
>>4842956
>>Wait for Edwin to awaken, and talk magic
>>
>>4842956
>Slip out to handle The Gray press matter
>>
>>4842956
>Slip out to handle The Gray press matter, you’d rather Engels not be involved in
>>
>>4842956
>Slip out to handle The Gray press matter, or other Hawksong issues you’d rather they not be involved in

We'll do some home espionage some other time then.
>>
>>4842956
>>Slip out to handle The Gray press matter, or other Hawksong issues you’d rather they not be involved in
>>
>>4842956
>Wait for Fynn to wake, and talk business
>>
>>4842956
>Slip out to handle The Gray press matter, or other Hawksong issues you’d rather they not be involved in

later virgins
>>
>>4843793
>>4843585
>>4843275
>>4843245
>>4843114
>>4843043
>>4842967

With your gut happily digesting a properly-prepared meal, you have higher priorities than micromanaging the Engels today. Slipping into something more comfortable—your green peasant dress—you hoist your backpack and head into town.

Hawksong’s busiest part of the morning is just starting, with caravaners beginning their steady march from gate to marketplace and lantern-lighters snuffing out the night’s illumination to save fuel. Businesses are being tidied up by the early-morning staff, ready to open at the peak of business. It really is a well-oiled machine sometimes, this mammalian surface world. It would be a shame if some cunning, beautiful Infiltrator were to… RUIN it.

You have the whole day ahead of your before your ‘special job’ for Madam Mina. Where do you go?

>The Gray Press, to help divert suspicion from your race and to implicate the wererats in Zivic’s murder
>The Royal Library, to study something [Occultism? Beastfolk magic? Basic Tower security? Other?]
>The Lacewing Boutique, to see Agatha and buy more clothes
>The Pretty Kitty, to get more intel on this ‘special job’
>Write-in
>>
>>4843816
>The Gray Press, to help divert suspicion from your race and to implicate the wererats in Zivic’s murder

fuck wererats
>>
>>4843816
>The Gray Press, to help divert suspicion from your race and to implicate the wererats in Zivic’s murder
Need to look into feeding some disinformation to how the Reptiles work too.
>>
>>4843816
>The Pretty Kitty, to get more intel on this ‘special job’
>>
>>4843816
>The Gray Press, to help divert suspicion from your race and to implicate the wererats in Zivic’s murder

>>4843882
Hooman population doesn't believe in reptilians, and that idiot Yosef made up most of shit he wrote, so it's as inaccurate as it gets. Additionally we can't mention reptilians without showing our interest in the topic, let alone claim they're real.
>>
>>4843930
>>4843885
>>4843882
>>4843824

You head towards The Gray Press. Those yellow journalists are still a possible danger, in need of neutralization. Better you, they present a possible option to deal with the loose ends presented by your conflict with Zivic and the wererats, all in one fell swoop!

When you arrive, the office is just emptying out. Journalists and staffers of various sorts seem to be departing on their varied missions—some to tail high-profile individuals, some to walk the cobblestones in search of human interest stories, and still others to check in with authors and broker deals to publish their tall tales. Among those departing is the human woman who you met before—the left hand of Siddug Underhead, the paper’s dwarven owner. She meets your eyes, and narrows her own, but says nothing as she passes on by. She’s as busy as any of the others, one assumes.

Anton and Underhead himself are discussing something with a small pack of cub journalists in the back. Each of the young men—predominantly human, with a halfling or two among them—is laden heavily with bundles of pulp paper, bearing the scrawled screed of the copiers and the prints of illustrators tawdry, eye-catching artwork. Today’s bundle seems to prominently feature a charred looking limb sticking out of a sewer grate. The headline? “BURNED BODY OF NAMELESS INGENUE FOUND IN HAWKSONG CITY SEWERS! WHO IS SHE? WHO IS HER MURDERER??”

Well then. That’s awkward. You know the answer to both those questions.

You flag down Anton, who takes a moment to recognize you before hurriedly beckoning you over.

“Siddug, you remember this, uh, nice young lady?” Anton asks his dwarven paymaster.

“Hrrm. Yes, I remember the censorious little busy-body social crusader who threatened our reputations over a harmless theory,” replies the dwarf, eyeing you critically.

“But she’s ALSO the one who got attacked by rat-men,” Anton reminds him. “Rat men in, you know, the SEWERS?”

Underhead’s eyes flit between you and his own headline, and he beckons you into his office. He shuts the door behind you, leaving you, Anton, and the dwarven publisher alone.
>>
>>4844149
The office is cramped, full of piles of paper and illustrated prints, the walls plastered with previous issues or cover art for the novellas and screeds they publish. At the back is a tiny, oil-painted portrait of the owner and two bearded figures you take to be his father and, by her chestiness, a surprisingly hirsute mother. You’d assumed bearded dwarfmaids to be a myth after meeting Helga at work, but perhaps there’s some truth to the tale after all.

“Rats,” Siddug Underhead says simply. “Giant humanoid rats.”

You pause, waiting for the question. None really seems forthcoming, so you say: “Yess. Iss it less believable than lizardss?”

“No,” Underhead admits. “But it wasn’t something we could publish without more detail, without your story. You took your sweet time coming back here.”

“I wass… Injured. Attacked again,” you explain. It’s not a lie, after all. “I’m ready to tell my sstory now.”

You spin a tale of terrible wererats beneath the city streets, fomenting crime and terror, setting fires to cover their tracks as they engage in a campaign of murder, theft, and rapine violations of innocent young women.

“That what this is?” Underhead asks, tapping the depicting of Estellia’s arm on the cover of his paper, burnt by Roth beyond recognition. “Do you have any idea who this is?”

“And how does the Zivic Manor fire fit in?” Anton asks, taking notes on a small scroll with a charcoal pencil. “Why did they burn it? How did you learn they were responsible?”

>WRITE-IN: Spin your tale, anons—what will you tell them?
>>
>>4844152
[If suggestions are helpful:

Estellia's Corpse:
>Deny knowledge
>Spin a story further damning the wererats
>Admit she is your coworker at The Pretty Kitty

Zivic Manor Fire:
>Claim the wererats bragged about causing the fire while assaulting you
>Claim the wererats forced you to case the joint for their home invasion and arson
>Claim Zivic and Tokunbo were working with the rats, but ran afoul of them

Straight write-ins are fine, too, of course.]
>>
>>4844152
>>4844606
I was honestly waiting for anons who were better informed about these events to speak up, but if they have nothing to offer...

>Spin a story further damning the wererats
>Claim the wererats bragged about causing the fire while assaulting you
>Claim Zivic and Tokunbo were working with the rats, but ran afoul of them

From my uninformed perspective, this does the most PR damage while making us out as the victim instead of an accomplice.
>>
>>4844606
>Deny knowledge
>Claim Zivic and Tokunbo were working with the rats, but ran afoul of them
>>
>>4845163
>>4844718
“I don’t know anything about thiss poor ssoul,” you say of Estellia, turning away from the paper. “But the rat-monssterss were… Chatty. They bragged about a great many thingss. About the other innoccent young human women they had… Attacked.”

“About the Zivic fire?” Anton asks, morbidly eager for answers.

You nod. “Yess, and that. It ssounded as if they had been working with them in ssome capacccity, and then had exxperiencced a falling out of ssome fashion. The rat-monsterss sspoke of… Payback.”

The two males exchange glances. They don’t seem afraid; rather, they seem eager.

“Get an illustrator in here,” Underhead says. “We’re doing a sketch. Is that okay, Miss…?”

“Rosssgard,” you reply. “And yess, it’ss fine.”

Anton leaves the room, leaving you alone with the dwarf, who strokes his moustache and looks at the wall in dep thought, before turning to you.

“You know that if you put your name on this… Well, there’s a reason Rilney sued a pseudonym. You could be in danger. But without one… Wel, nobody really seems to take Rilney seriously, rightly or wrongly.”

You nod, understanding.

Do you attribute this tale to Ismena Rosgard?
>Yes
>No, you wish to keep it anonymous
>No, you wish to sue a pseudonym [suggest one]

Anton returns with a Grey Press sketch artist returns a short while later, and the two of you work together on a reasonably-accurate sketch of Boss Leo… Well, in his rat form. You have to imagine that he and his surviving rats will be in human form a lot more frequently once this story breaks.

“is there anything else you can tell us?” Anton asks, leaning over your shoulder as you and the sketch artist are at work on the last few details.
What do you do?
>Tell them about the wererats’ human forms
>Tell them that there is another body in the sewers
>Implicate someone as a possible wererat [specify who]
>Write-in
>>
>>4845274
>No, you wish to keep it anonymous
I mean those wererats are killing and raping, we don't want them coming after us for revenge.

Nothing I can think of for the additional option, we don't wanna reveal too much or the rats will find a way to leak our snakyness.
>>
>>4845274
>Yes
>Tell them that there is another body in the sewers
>>
>>4845274
>No, you wish to sue a pseudonym [Isabelle Romanov]

I don't really know what would be an appropriate choice here, so feel free to discard my vote if there's a tie.

>Tell them that there is another body in the sewers
>>
>>4845274
>No, you wish to use a pseudonym Lisandra Hrothgar
Infiltrator's real name shouldn't be linked to any sketchy publications or events. Especially not paranormal ones. Especially when we claim they're true.

>Tell them about the wererats’ human forms
Don't tell em about the other body. The more information they have, the more questions they can ask us which leads to even more information for them and makes any future lies we want to sell harder to conceal.
Acting like we never noticed some things will help us build the narrative of a traumatized victim who didn't have time and mental capacity to look around the sewers.

>>4844718
I'm sorry, anon. I might be good at managing our half-truths and remember stuff, but making shit up without any foundation beats me.
>>
>>4845396
+1 to both points.
>>
>>4845716
>>4845451
>>4845396
>>4845294
>>4845312
It was Isabelle Romanov who told them the tale, you conclude, just as it was Isabelle Romanov who saw them decapitated and burn the body of a dark-skinned human man in the sewers!

Anton and his employer exchange a knowing glance.

“Didn't you say that Zivic had a Southern manservant?” Underhead asks Anton.

The journalist nods to his employer, and links his lips. The terrier of a man can smell the story on the air, can practically taste the juicy implications. They have something here.

You hide a smirk, and ask if they need anything else of you.

“That will be all, ‘Romanov’,” says the dwarf.

“Just… Stay safe. Keep your head down. Tell us if anything else comes back to you,” says the human.

Anton does a good job of portraying concern for the damsel in distress you pretend to be, even while subtly requesting more grisly details. You pretend to be grateful for the former, and not to notice the latter. You leave no address or workplace to reach you at—you have no desire to embroiled your other identities any deeper into this than necessary—and you depart.

Hawksong is in full bustle now, though traffic in and out of the metropolis has given way to the cross-borough rush for lunch and inter-workplace errands. Your own employment is still hours away, however.

What’s your next course of business?
>To the library [to study what?]
>To Roth [to report back? Booty call?]
>To The Pretty Kitty [To talk to Mina about your job tonight? About her odd behaviour?]
>To the markets [To buy what?]
>To the sewers [To hunt rats? Cover up evidence?]
>Write-in
>>
>>4846453
>To Roth [to report back? Booty call?]

Booty call.
>>
>>4846453
>To the sewers [To hunt rats]
>>
>>4846453
>To The Pretty Kitty [To talk to Mina about your job tonight? About her odd behaviour?]
y not both?
>>
>>4846453
>To Roth
It's been a week so let's see how our ssuperior reacts to us and forget the Edwin-induced confusion for a moment.

Seduction is fine and all, but let's not forget we must prepare for the demon shit with Bianchi if there's time left.
>>
>>4846687
Supporting this
>>
>>4846687
>>4846978
>y not
because of this:
>She asks you nothing about how you resolved the wererat problem, and you in turn ask her nothing of her own efforts to put an end to them.
>>
Rolled 2 (1d2)

>>4846978
>>4846930
>>4846687
>>4846661
>>4846503
Tie between Roth and Mina. Rolling!
>>
>>4847468
You consider paying Roth a visit next. You fantasize a little bit about how your genetic superior might react to seeing you after a week apart, with only the memory of your hot little body to keep him warm. You shiver a little at the thought. Maybe it would even purge your… Confusion… Involving Edwin?

But no. It will have to wait. You know that duty comes before booty. As both Kamunu and an Infiltrator, your duty beckons you to the red lantern district and to The Pretty Kitty.

You arrive in the late afternoon, a little warm from your trek across town. The weather has begun to noticeably warm over the last week. Summer is coming! You have rarely felt such warmth, and it makes you want to strip down and sprawl out to bask. It must be noticeable, for even Felia remarks on your glowing complexion on your way in.

“Hey, if you have time later or tomorrow, you should come grab drinks with me and the new girls, hun!” she shouts after you as you head up the stairs to Madam Mina’s room. It seems that your girls’ day out has inspired a workplace tradition.

You knock respectfully at your employer’s door, and eventually the rumbling, throaty voice of the cat-faced female beckons you in. You greet Mina, who seems somewhat discomfited if youa re any judge, and take a seat.

“Are you alright, madam?” you ask formally. Her twitching her and fidgetiness give you all the excuse you require to inquire after her changed demeanour as of late.

“Yes,” she snaps. “I’m perfectly fine.”

“I ssee,” you reply skeptically.

“I take it you’re here about tonight’s job?” Mina asks, straight to business. “Am I right, Kamunu?”

Among other things, you are, so you tell her “Yess, that’ss right.”

“How do you feel about beastmen?”

It’s a sudden segue, and not one you really expected.

“Well… As you know, I’m a half-breed of a reptilian racce. I have no placce to judge any other,” you say. It’s a lie, of course: your mother’s race is supreme, and even a half-blood such as yourself is a worthy judge, jury, and executioner of any mammal.

“Good,” Mina says. “You’ll be entertaining for some tonight.”

Ah. It’s all coming together. This is why the job was ‘special’, and declined by the other girls.

“Am I exxxpected to…?”

“To be a professional, yes,” Mina says. “Their trade caravan came into town tonight: The Eastern Standard Silk & Spice Company. They’re beastman owned and operated, and there aren’t a lot of establishments that will put them up for any length of time… Let alone entertain for them. Not even I can, not without putting off some of the regulars.”

“Sso I’m to attend to the entertainment alone, at ssome second location?”

“You and Grendelia,” Mina replies. “That a problem?”
>>
>>4847486
What do you do?
>Accept the job; you already did, after all
>Ask for more details—who are these beast-people to Mina?
>Ask for more details about the ‘enetrtainment’, and what exactly is expect of you
>Segue into a conversation about how Mina is holding up, and whether she has read the stories about the body found in the sewer
>Refuse the job—you’re no furry!
>Write-in
>>
>>4847487
>Ask for more details about the ‘entertainment’, and what exactly is expect of you
>>
>>4847487
>Accept the job; you already did, after all
>Ask for more details—who are these beast-people to Mina?
>>
>>4847487
>Ask for more details—who are these beast-people to Mina?
>Ask for more details about the ‘enetrtainment’, and what exactly is expect of you
>Accept the job; you already did, after all
Ask her for full rundown and ask why did she even offer those beasts the service.

>>Ismena no furry
Yeah, sure.
>>
>>4847487
>>Ask for more details—who are these beast-people to Mina?
>>Ask for more details about the ‘enetrtainment’, and what exactly is expect of you
>>
>>4847487
>Ask for more details about the ‘enetrtainment’, and what exactly is expect of you
>>
>>4847969
>>4847845
>>4847593
>>4847538
>>4847508
“No problem, Mina,” you say with due deference. “But who are these beasstmen? And what exactly are we ssuppossed to do to… Amussse them?”

“The usual,” she says bluntly. “You're a working girl, and I know you know what that means—they pay fare market value, you give them their money's worth. But otherwise… You dance.”

“How well do you know them?” you ask. “What if they try to take libertiess without paying?”

“You're a mage, ain't you?” Mina asks, fail flitting in a show of irritation.

Something has really got your normally-calm cat-boss agitated. She seems to realize it, though, taking a moment to pack and light her pipe before continuing:

“Grendelia is also coming with you, and you've seen how she handles herself. Laskar too, for music… And enforcement.”

You can't help but raise an eyebrow at the notion. Grendelia the quarter-orc dancer, with her considerable height and build…. Well, there's a reason her routine plays up the ‘savage beauty’ angle. But Laskar Endingray, elven bard? His fingers, though fine, look spindly enough to break with a poorly-plucked string. Still, Mina doesn't elaborate, and you don't ask.

“Besides,” Mina says after a moment, “I used to travel with them. Some of them. That's how I came to be here in Hawksong.”

“I ssee,” you say. “Why did you leave?”

‘What made you want to be a prostitute instead?’ is the question which hovers silently below your spoken one.

“Someone paid the right price,” she says. “For my brother. We came as a set.”

Her tone—with which you are by now familiar—makes it clear that there will be no further elaboration. You thank Mina for the briefing, and for the opportunity to earn your keep, and you see yourself out.

Well-spent, that was… Oddly tense. What do you do? There’s not much time to attend to any major matters or cross-town jaunts before your shift.
>Grab a drink with Felia and the girls, to loosen up a bit and get caught up on work gossip
>Go speak with Laskar about tonight's jo, and Mina's history
>Practice magic a little to stay sharp and get the mana flowing
>Limber up for dancing and… Whatever else
>Write-in
>>
>>4848664
>Go speak with Laskar about tonight's jo, and Mina's history
>>
>>4848664
>Limber up for dancing and… Whatever else
>>
>>4848664
>Practice magic a little to stay sharp and get the mana flowing

we ARE a mage
woohoo
>>
>>4848664
>Practice magic a little to stay sharp and get the mana flowing
I don't like where this is going.
>>
Rolled 2, 5 = 7 (2d20)

>>4848775
>>4848787
>>4848834
>>4849285
>>
>>4849641
You do some light aerobic stretching, but after the wererat ‘group negotiations’, and the subsequent sewer battle, you are confident in your physical ability to handle whatever may come. Instead, you decide it is best to focus on your mystical preparedness.

You squint your eyes shut as you shift from exercises meant to stretch muscles and tendons to the slow, easy movements meant to help focus your mind on the flow of mana. No longer do you faff about with poses meant to evoke a chill touch or fireball, but the basics found in the books you and Edwin have studied together at the library are still useful. At the very least, the calm they engender makes the magic flow more easily.

Alas, you experience no major breakthroughs or revelations, but you have to admit you feel better for the meditations.

“Kamunu?”

You look up to see slim, taut Laskar—sans his signature instrumental kit, but loaded with a more conventional string instrument and with a rather ornate wooden flute tucked into his belt—and Grendelia in the doorway of the room you staked for this enterprise. The elf looks amused, clearly savvy enough in the ways of spellcraft to understand what you’re up to. Grendelia just looks confused, and a bit nervous.

You greet the pair of them, and ask for a moment longer to prepare yourself. When you emerge, you are in your show attire: the signature coin-festooned silks of Kamunu’s ‘desert princess’ dancing garb.

“Let’ss go,” you say.
>>
>>4849660

The two other performers lead you not through city streets on foot as you are used to, but into a carriage led by two peculiar-looking horned, horse-like beasts with long, tufted tails. Laskar describes them as ‘easterly unicorns, sometimes call dragon-horses’, though you see nothing of the draconic in the large mammals. Whatever their nature, they pull the cart steadily and smoothly, and you can’t help but envy the speed at which you travel in this fashion after all your back-and-forth journeys through Hawksong. Could you convince Edwin and his father to supply you such a conveyance? How much productive time do you lose to walking everywhere each day?

Your musings are interrupted by your arrival in the very fringes of Hawksong, near the bayside ports which empty out via wide, slow-flowing river into the seas. You’ve never been on this part of town, and even after dark you find the atmosphere very different. There is less hustle, less bustle. There are no patches of rat-approved ambush-enabling darkness—the entire area is dark, with only small patches of strategic light granting the illusion of safety. There are no noble carriages, save perhaps yours if it counts as such, and the foot-traffic is all downscale, dodgy, dingy and dirty. You pass, to your intrigued amusement, several storehouses, and even spy an Engelson coat of arms on one.

Amidst the squalor of this slum, you find your destination: a semi-circle of tent-topped carriages forming a caravan, a great dark tent thrown up in their midst like a gloomy carnival. The heavy cloth parts or lifts with a foul, fishy seaside breeze to reveal mutterings in foreign tongues, chortling laughter, and bursts of torchlight. Only when your carriage stops does your driver—previously unseen—reveal himself as a goat-headed, hoof-footed satyr-like creature with weird, oblong pupils set in large eyes. He opens the carriage door, bows low, and beckons you ladies out, while lascar hops down with a sort of giddy enthusiasm at the novelty of this place and its alien inhabitants.

Guided into the tent, you find that first impressions were only partly incorrect: most of the Eastern Standard Silk & Spice Company seem to be humans, and not even especially exotic varieties. There are a few more of beige-brown skin or almond eye than is typical of Hawksong, but a fair few burly, pink-skinned sailor and adventurer types as well. Interspersed among them, however, are the more unusual mammals: minotaur, such as you have seen carry heavy loads, here strapped with swords. Raccoon-like mustelid-men with baggy trousers and feathered headdress, skewered shrimp (or bugs?). A curious-looking human woman who, upon second glance, you see is not wearing a fur coat but wrapped and wreathed in multiple flowing orange fox-tails—a fox-woman, alleged masters of illusion from the far east!
>>
>>4849674
And of course, there are the catfolk. Several beings like Mina seem to be broadly in charge of this freakshow, donning heavy wrapped turbans and the finest, shiniest attire as they order more food from attendants, pour drinks, or share in the exchanges stories and planning sessions going on concurrently in several quarters. Among them, sitting high atop a stool, you catch sight of an unmistakable fur pattern and the whiff of a familiar smoking-herb: there, seated cross-legged, is what can only be Mina's brother.

What do you do?
>Lay low and listen in
>Introduce yourself to Mina's brother
>Mingle with the riffraff a bit to learn more about this company
>Visit the fox-woman to see if what you've heard about their magic is true
>Write-in
>>
File: FB_IMG_1622143382110.jpg (127 KB, 960x960)
127 KB
127 KB .jpg
>>4849674
And of course, there are the catfolk. Several beings like Mina seem to be broadly in charge of this freakshow, donning heavy wrapped turbans and the finest, shiniest attire as they order more food from attendants, pour drinks, or share in the exchanges stories and planning sessions going on concurrently in several quarters. Among them, sitting high atop a stool, you catch sight of an unmistakable fur pattern and the whiff of a familiar smoking-herb: there, seated cross-legged, is what can only be Mina's brother.

What do you do?
>Lay low and listen in
>Introduce yourself to Mina's brother
>Mingle with the riffraff a bit to learn more about this company
>Visit the fox-woman to see if what you've heard about their magic is true
>Talk to Laskar or Grendelia bout the job
>Flirt with the minotaur and see if the rumors are true
>Write-in
>>
>>4849678
>Visit the fox-woman to see if what you've heard about their magic is true
>>
>>4849678
>Lay low and listen in
>>
>>4849834
>>4849733
You were trained to deal with common races of the northerly surface-world, such as humans, elves, and maybe the occasional orc. Beastmen were a known issue, but hardly considered relevant to your infiltration lessons, since they are such an insignificant minority, and since you could never pass for one yourself. Yet… Here you are. The smart play, you decide, is to lay low and passively gather intel…

But damned if that fox-woman isn't an enticing target. You know from your readings that she is far less human in appearance than you—barely a biped!—but looking at her now, you would never know she wasn’t a human if it weren’t for your studies. You bet Edwin would love to be here with his silly little notepad. You can't resist—you break away from your fellow Pretty Kitty employees an approach her.

“Exxcusse me,” you say, “but I couldn't help but noticce the tailss.”

The fox-woman is immediately wary. She smiles demurely, but you pick up the razor teeth behind the closed lips as surely as you noticed the fox behind the magic mask of womanhood. You may not have her gift of disguise, but one infiltrator recognizes another, and you are certain that you are the more professionally-trained.

“You are… One of the entertainers?” she asks diplomatically, her accent subtle and unplaceable.

You nod. “Kamunu, of The Pretty Kitty. I believe your employer may by the brother of my own?”

The fox-woman titters girlishly, hiding her mouth behind a hand. “My employer? I travel with them as a free agent.”

“Oh?” Your curiosity is piqued. “I'm ssomething of a hedge-mage, and I've found my talentss are usseful for diplomaccy. Iss that alsso your role?”

Another laugh, and a flash of a grin that you swear could swallow you whole in a single jaw-snap.

“Security,” she answers.

You resist the urge to step back. You suddenly feel the same way you did when you encountered the Paladins' gryphons on the road to Hawksong, well over a month ago: like you have encountered a natural predator.

“Ssurely the minotaurss are ssufficcient ?” you nod towards the two burly bull-boys with the big scimitars.

“Surely a mage, even a little one like you, knows that not all threats are so straightforward?” she asks. She pulls out a fan, snaps it open between the two of you with a loud clap, and then folds it shut… And to your shock, her face is now the twin to your own, albeit paler.

“Danger wears many disguises,” she says, then giggles again.

What do you do?
>Bid her adieu—this creature is too dangerous for you
>Request magic-lessons from the fox-woman after the shift
>Invite her back to the Engelson house after the job; Edwin would love this shit
>Invite her to Bianchi’s summoning tomorrow evening; she could be useful
>Attempt to seduce the fox-woman
>Write-in
>>
>>4849678
>Visit the fox-woman to see if what you've heard about their magic is true

teach us fox sempai
>>
>>4850578
[Missed that vote, but I think you got what you wanted]
>>
>>4850577
>Request magic-lessons from the fox-woman after the shift
>>
>>4850577
>Request magic-lessons from the fox-woman after the shift

Because I'm intrigued, but most importantly...

>Attempt to seduce the fox-woman

I love a challenge.
>>
>>4850577
>Invite her to Bianchi’s summoning tomorrow evening; she could be useful
>>
>>4851564
We need to test her out before we invite her elsewhere. But I'm not entirely opposed to it either.
>>
>>4850577
>Bid her adieu—this creature is too dangerous for you
>>
>>4851564
>>4851452
>>4850806

“Sso the rumourss are true,” you say. “You really are an exxxpert in your craft, Missss…?”

The fox-woman simply smiles, offering up no name. You find it as unnerving as it is intriguing.

“As I ssaid, I have ssome magic, myself,” you say, and you demonstrate some with a quickly flickering flourish of light and dark between your hands, twisting shadows and light around them. The nervousness doesn’t help, nor does your need to keep it subtle, but you achieve a minor demonstration of power. “Do you think you could perhapss teach me how to create more… Complexxx effectsss?”

The fox-woman nods slightly, smile unchanging but eyes glimmering with… Mirth? Hunger? It’s difficult to know.

“I could certainly offer instruction,” she says. “But I must ask: what is my payment to be?”

You root around in your backpack, but her characteristic titter stops you.

“If it’s an amount of coin which you can carry, it is surely not enough for what you request, little mage.”

“What would you like, then?” you ask.

The fox-woman’s face is her own—or her first disguise at least—once more. She says nothing, merely smiling in silence.

What do you offer?
>Edwin’s gold, in bulk
>Magical artefacts from the excavation
>The heart of a human male, like in some of the grimmer tales [whose?]
>A place in a Reptilian new world order
>An opportunity to participate in Bianchi’s ritual
>A job for Engelson Storehouse Company
>Yourself [seduction attempt, DC ???]
>Write-in
>>
>>4851656
[I didn't include it among the options, but bailing out of this transaction is also still an option. Sorry for missing the vote--was mid-post!]
>>
>>4851667
>Yourself [seduction attempt, DC ???]
Lesgo, if we fail let's offer gold.

>>4851669
Nah, it's all good! I'm not gonna try to desperately change where the story is going after choice has been made. That's what fucked up the first thread iirc.
>>
>>4851667
>Yourself [seduction attempt, DC ???]

If not, then

>An opportunity to participate in Bianchi’s ritual

Is probably the best backup plan we can get.
>>
>>4851667
>A job for Engelson Storehouse Company
>>
>>4851667
>An opportunity to participate in Bianchi’s ritual
3 birds 8 stones
>>
>>4851667
>Yourself [seduction attempt, DC ???]
>>
Rolled 7, 12, 20 = 39 (3d20)

>>4851884
>>4851697
>>4851673
DC 19, posting soon.
>>
>>4852461
By the skin of our tits.
>>
>>4851884
>>4851713
>>4851702
>>4851697
>>4851673
Even the amount of gold you have could buy a great many things, you reason… But true, probably no magic item, let alone a comprehensive lesson with an expert in an exotic magical discipline… But perhaps year’s not the point. This is no reptile before you, nor some cloying and coin-clasping ape-woman. This is a fox-woman, a natural predator, a beast of the wilderness playing at civilization.

“That makess ssensse,” you say, closing your bag back up. “With your abilities, you probably don't need to buy anything you want. And what could you truly want? Ssuch a being as yoursself iss already complete, comfortable in her own ssskin.”

The fox-woman tilts her head. “You think I desire… Flattery? It flows like water, little mage.”

“I think you dessire exxxperiencce,” you suggest meeting her eyes levelly with your most sultry look. “more than material things.”

“As you wish to experience me? To use me?” she asks.

You step closer, biting back your urge to maintain a safe escape route from those lips, those teeth behind them. “Or perhaps vice versssa?”

She laughs, a keeping bark of laughter this time, drawing a few looks before she muffles it. “You seek to seduce me, mage? It normally goes the other way around… And normally a man is involved.”

“That’ss what makes it novel,” you suggest. You see you're losing her, though—her eyes carry interest, but not necessarily LUST. Even if your offer intrigues her, she is no easily-wooed ingénue… But you have her attention, and you know how to seal the deal.

“And imagine: even as I learn from you, you could learn alsso,” you say.

“What could a little young one teach me?” she asks, but she doesn’t expect your answer.

“Not from me,” you say, quiet but conversational of tone, perfectly casual as you drop the hook, “but from my ssuccubusssss.”

THAT has the creature’s full notice, and her eyes widen. “What?”

You just nod. “Tomorrow night. And imagine what you could so with such power over the hearts of men… And women. How you could USE and CONSUME with impunity. Anyone, however you wished… All yours.”

You pick up the dilation of her pupils, the slight change in posture… But before she can say anything, Laskar and Grendelia are beckoning you. It’s time for work.

You smile your own predatory little grin, and turn abruptly to leave. You already know you have the fox-woman where you want her; you’ll come collect her later.
>>
>>4852575
Tonight, you have no stage. Rather, a minotaur draws his great cleaver, nearly as wide and tall as you, and draws a circle in the dirt which serves as your dance floor. You, grindelia, and Laskar take up post in the centre of the circle, as others gather round. Not everyone in the tent is paying you attention—many continue their conversations, their gambling, their drinking and boasting, their little trade and exchanges—but those who do include the majority of the cat-men.

The leader in his wrapped silk headdress—Mina’s probable brother—speaks up in a raspy, rumbling roar of a voice:

“Dance!”

Laskar glances towards you and Grendelia, and you in particular. Grendelia, too, seems to seek your guidance.

What do you do?
>A skillful dance showcasing yours and Grendelia’s skill
>A sapphic sensual performance to arouse and titillate
>Showboat with magic, using glamour and illusion to draw all eyes to you and you alone
>Half-ass this obligatory performance, and let the others do what they want
>Write-in
>>
>>4852576
>A skillful dance showcasing yours and Grendelia’s skill
>A sapphic sensual performance to arouse and titillate

If this is as much of a test for Grendelia as it is a genuine performance, I see no reason to not pull out all the stops here.
>>
>>4852576
>A sapphic sensual performance to arouse and titillate
lmao titillate
>>
>>4852576
>Showboat with magic, using glamour and illusion to draw all eyes to you and you alone
>>
>>4852576
>>Showboat with magic, using glamour and illusion to draw all eyes to you and you alone
>>
>>4852576
>A skillful dance showcasing yours and Grendelia’s skill

I hope those cat-men don't have spiked cat-dicks or we'll get absolutely massacred here.
>>
>>4853071
lol
>>4852576
>A skillful dance showcasing yours and Grendelia’s skill
>>
Rolled 13, 13, 3 = 29 (3d20)

>>4853098
>>4853071
>>4852854
>>4852649
>>4852624
>>4852617
>>
You nod to Laskar and Grendelia both.

“Let’ss show them what we can do,” you say.

Grendelia looks uncertain, her orcish features hiding her nervousness well to a lay-mammal but not from a trained operator like yourself. Well, nevermind that and nevermind that you’ve never practiced any routine like this—you’d scarcely danced at all before you started at The Pretty Kitty, yet here you are! You’d never done magic, never slew a foe, but be it as Kamunu or Ismena or Isabella now, you have always risen to meet any challenge.

Laskar picks up your vibe, and wordlessly begins to play his curious elven string-instrument. It adds an extra layer of uncertainty to the performance for you all, as he has long since gotten sued to his rig of complication ad interconnected instruments in his tailor-made little nest in the brothel’s rafters. His playing is skillful enough, but it’s the first time you can remember seeing the elf look less than fully confident. The magic flows unevenly, uneasily.

You and Grendelia begin to sway and step, shifting into a slinky sort of synchronized walk around the edge of the circle. You twirl about, rolling your body and stepping towards Grendelia, who in turn belatedly takes a few long strides towards you to catch up so you may meet in the middle and begin a sensuous, sinuous waltz…

That’s when you feel the shooting pain which accompanies a six-foot-five quarter-orc built like a bullock stepping on your toes in soft dancing moccasins.

Grendelia looks mortified, but you play through. You realize what’s happening, perhaps before she does: Grendelia’s usual routine is that of the savage, wild beauty. It is a stage-spanning cacophony of non-denominational tribal beats and leaping, twirling, butt-bouncing rhythm and discordant moments of Laskar ‘jamming’. This pace is too artful, too slow. Very well then—you know how to pick up the pace!

You nod to lascar, and the elf nods back and, with flashing eye and furious fingers, begins to pick up the pace. The twanging of humming of the strings speeds up, and immediately grindelia falls into step more readily as she even sees fit to lift and spin you before twirling away. You steady yourself from the dizziness thus induced, stopping shott just at the edge of circle to a few chuckles and muted applause.

You try to keep up with the statuesque amazon’s hair-twirling, headbanging routine, but the music is too arrhythmic for you to ever truly get your bearings; still, the Eastern Standard mammals paid for bouncing and booty-popping and, if you fail to wow them, your attempt to match Grendelia’s energy at least gives them that. For the first time in a long time, you feel what it’s like to not be the star of a performance.

You resist the urge to pout.
>>
>>4853470
After the show, Grendelia is an immediate hit with the males here, especially the minotaurs. At first she sems delighted, flattered at the attention—she rarely gets human men readily approaching her with the same overconfident swager that the minotaurs do, as she stands a head above most common Hawksong mammals. Laskar plays the flute you brought for those interested in more music, and the few females in the company seem to swoon at the edge of his circle with the same fascination with elven bodily architecture that is typical of humans the world over. You frown. You just don’t get it, even if Laskar’s talents musical and magical make him a better elf than most.

You entertain some of the typically-vapid chatter and compliments of the more conventional humans, and catch the eyes of Mina’s brother—who seems at least amused by your performance—and of the fox-woman from her position closer to the door. The raccoon men, too, seem to have an interest in you, their chattering voices heaping praise upon your ‘shiny’ clothes and your dancing skill. The other cat-men stand back, appraising approvingly in the way of their apparent leader, spiritual father of this pride.

Eventually, you glance back Grendelia’s way, and the situation has changed. Her body language is stiff, tusked jaw jut forward and shoulders low. The minotaurs have her wedged between them, and are getting handsier than might be deemed appropriate outside of the confines of a room, were this The Pretty Kitty. The quarter-orc dancer shakes her head gently, says something you can’t quite hear, and tries in vain to step out of their flanking maneuver without creating a scene. No cat-man seems poised to move assist, nor anyone else. Even Laskar is busy with his new groupies, paying no attention.

Of course, by this point you have your own admirers, offering you coin for much what the minotaurs seem to desire of Grendelia.

What do you do?
>Intervene on Grendelia’s behalf, to save your coworker from her pushy clients
>Take up one of the humans in the crowd on his request, and go service him
>Step out with one of the raccoon-men, and see what all the fuss is about with beastmen
>Skip the chaff for the cream: go chat up Mina's probable brother, apparent leader of the cat-men
>This seems like a good opportunity to get some alone-tine with fox-sempai
>Write-in
>>
>>4853472
>Intervene on Grendelia’s behalf, to save your coworker from her pushy clients

If they ain't paying, they ain't getting anything. Prop up Grendelia, as I'll be damned to see her overwhelmed by the attention of a couple of overzealous minotaurs.
>>
>>4853472
>Intervene on Grendelia’s behalf, to save your coworker from her pushy clients
>Use magic if necessary to get these faggots in line

Let's not get too emotionally involved in this, tho. It's simply bad for business, for other girls' spirit and we might entirely lose a coworker if she ends up traumatized.

Did you name the brothel "TPK" on purpose? I need to know this.
>>
>>4853472
>Skip the chaff for the cream: go chat up Mina's probable brother, apparent leader of the cat-men
>>
>>4853472
>Intervene on Grendelia’s behalf, to save your coworker from her pushy clients
>>
>>4853472
>Intervene on Grendelia’s behalf, to save your coworker from her pushy clients
>>
>>4853472
>Intervene
>>
>>4854192
>>4854059
>>4853973
>>4853812
>>4853794
>>4853540
You have no personal stake in Grendelia’s well-being, but a professional stake? Absolutely. The Pretty Kitty is critically understaffed already, relying on unreliable newbies to shore up your ranks. You can't lose an exotic attraction like that tall glass of water to trauma and disillusionment!

You approach the raunchy bulls bustling-in on your coworker. Grendelia looks to you with desperate gratitude, but the minotaurs pay you no heed even after you clear your throat.

“You have to pay to play, ssirss,” you say.

“Hurrhurhur, look at these udders bounce,” the one in front of her says, giving one of Grendelia's breasts a flick of his thick-nailed, hoof-like finger.

“Huh! Nice!” his fellow laughs.

Bow you're getting annoyed. “Hey! Your earss too high to hear little old me, boyss?”

“Heard you,” the minotayr behind Grendelia replies, not even looking at you. “Not a problem. We have coin.”

You raise an eyebrow, glancing at Grendelia. She cringes a little, annoyed or embarrassed or… Scared?

“I haven't… Ever…”

The orc-blooded woman trails off, but you understand almost immediately. As a huge, terrifying beefcake of a female surrounded by small males, she never got as many offers for ‘wetwork'; you're not even sure you've ever seen her do any prostitution. If she did, surely it was never anything involving two much larger, stronger males. No wonder she's overwhelmed. Still, it’s not as if you didn't acclimate quickly, and in worse scrapes if you count the rats.

What do you do?
>Chastise Grendelia to suck it up
>Give her a peptalk and some practical advice
>Step in on her behalf, or to join her
>Use your magic to send these fools packing
>Advocate with Mina'a brother on Grendelia'a behalf
>Write-in
>>
>>4854278
>Step in on her behalf, or to join her
>Use your magic to send these fools packing

Whatever Grendelia's more comfortable with. If it doesn't happen now, I'm sure Edwin would appreciate a threesome just to warm her up to this side of the job.
>>
>>4854278
>Give her a peptalk and some practical advice
>>
>>4854278
>>Chastise Grendelia
>>
>>4854278
>peptalk
>>
>>4854278
>Give her a peptalk and some practical advice
>Cast illusion on Grendelia to make her appear stronger and formidable. Not literal appearance change, more like an aura.
Hopefully this will make them calm down a little.

We should find Mina's brother to get some information about her. It's a one-of-a-kind opportunity.
>>
>>4854851
>>4854753
>>4854373
>>4854349
>>4854290
“Pardon me, but I’m cutting in,” you tell the minotaurs, pulling Grendelia aside to give her a peptalk.

“Hey, we weren’t done with her yet!” one bellows. You shoot him a look that could wither a human man, but due to size or strength or sheer bullheadedness, he barely seems to notice.

He snorts, and stamps a hoof, and he and his friend mutter something to each other. They hover back a moment, though. You can’t imagine that will last long, but it gives you a hance to give Grendelia some advice in confidence.

“You musst have known when you ssigned up for thiss job that Mina intended for uss to do more than dancce?” you say.

“I did. Yeah. Just didn’t expect there to be… Two. Or how… Big they are.” Grendelia’s eyes flit back towards the minoaturs. “And men aren’t normally so pushy. I get to…”

Oh hell, she’s blushing now.

“I normally get to set the pace,” she whispers, finishing the sentence.

“You still can,” you tell her reassuringly. “It’ss not a matter of ssize. Remember: the rest of uss are used to thiss ssort of thing—to clientss who are larger than uss, and at leasst as pushy as these two. It’ss a matter of attitude, of making sure they know who’ss bossss.”

Grendelia looks uncertain, nervous. You offer her a knowing smile and a wink.

“And remember: there’ss no man or beasst sso tough that you don’t have the advantage when you have accessss to hiss tesssticless. If they try anything, an escape route is jusst one hard ssqueeze away.”

Grendelia chuckles quietly, but you can tell it’s more out of politeness. You have no more time to talk her up, though—her clients are back, and one of them gives you a shove that’s more like a gentle swat one would use to brush away a bug.

“Enough talk,” one says. “You here to do business, or not?”

Grendelia looks back at your encouraging face, takes a deep breath, squares herself slightly, and nods. The minotaurs are pleased, to say the least. One grabs a handful of your fellow exotic dancer’s ass as she leads them out of the tent and to somewhere more private.

“What was all that?” Laskar asks, having moved into place beside you with speed and stealth to make even an Infiltrator envious.

“Jusst some professional development,” you tell him.

What now?
>Go do some wetwork yourself [who for?]
>Steal a moment with the fox-woman
>Go learn more about Mina from her brother
>Talk to Laskar if he knows anything about this traveling company or these beast-races
>Write-in
>>
>>4855143
>Ask Laskar if he knows anything about this traveling company or Mina's brother
>Go learn more about Mina from her brother
>>
>>4855143
>talk to Mina's brother
>>
>>4855143
>Go learn more about Mina from her brother

We'll leave the best for last, (and by best I do mean the fox).
>>
>>4855297
>>4855209
>>4855149
With immediate obligations thus addressed, you are free to sate your curiosity. This may be your only opportunity to gain more isnight into the cat-faced madam who dictates at least one facet of your double/triple life. You’ll be damned if you let it slip through your fingers.

“Lasskar,” you ask the elf, “iss that one cat-man…?”

“Mina’s brother? They are rather alike, aren’t they.”

“Have you met him before?” you ask,. “What iss hiss possition here?”

“As I understand it, he’s one of the principal investors and part-owners of the Eastern Standard company. He got the seed money during their youth in Hawksong, as I understand it, but while Mina settled he returned to his homeland.”

You eye the subtly-patterned patriarch with renewed curiosity. “Wass he in our field, then?”

Laskar shrugs helplessly. “Mina doesn’t talk about it much. I only gleaned what little I know from rumour and inference. Why not ask him yourself?”

You nod, and head off to do just that. Your approach deosn’t go unnoticed by the turbaned cat-man. He doesn’t seem terribly wary, his tail curling calmly where he sprawls in his seat. Neither do any guards move to intercept, though of course at least two are occupied with Grendelia.

“Your performance earlier was quiet engaging,” he says, his accent thick and choppy like an eastern scimitar shredding rough fabric. He has the same poker-face as his sister, too, but clearly less of her skill for emulating Northern common-tongue’s idiosyncrasies.

“I’m glad you enjoyed it,” you say, smiling.

“Yes, quite a comedy. You two have never attempted such before, have you?”

You keep your smile in place despite the dig. “Not asss ssuch, no.”

“It shows. And you two are all that Zumyno could find who would attend to us?”

“Zumyno?” you ask. “You mean Madam Mina?”

He waves the question away. “Whatever the woman named sister, she is Zumyno. I do not remember this city being so shy to mingle with we shaggy ones in the old days…”

Perfect—he’s segueing the conversation FOR you. You love it when that happens!

“You mean when you and Mina were young?” you ask.

He nods.

“What brought you to Hawkssong?” you ask. “Mina—Zumyno—never really talks about how she went about founding The Pretty Kitty.”

“Failed adventurism,” her brother says. “The chance of a better life. We both found it, after a fashion.”

He doesn’t seem upset at the question, but nor does he carry on. Rather, he looks you up and down appraisingly.
>>
>>4856413
“Your name?” he asks.

“Yourss firsst,” you counter.

This gets a growling laugh and a swoosh of his tail. “Cuggi. I see sister sends young women whose personality can rival her own youthful attitude towards males. I hope you’ve not had need to emulate her ferocity?”

You shrug your shoulders and flash an innocent grin, but the cat-man Cuggi sees through it and laughs again.

What do you do?
>Seduce him into letting down his guard
>Talk to Cuggi about Mina’s agitation lately; maybe he can help determine what’s causing it?
>Ask Cuggi about his past
>Ask Cuggi about his company’s business in Hawksong
>Write-in
>>
>>4853794
[The brothel's name was a coincidence that I got a lot of amusement out of when I realized what I'd done later, when I started setting up an attack there.]
>>
>>4856415
>Seduce him into letting down his guard

Loosen his tounge, then go in for the information.
>>
>>4856415
>Talk to Cuggi about Mina’s agitation lately; maybe he can help determine what’s causing it?
>Ask Cuggi about his past
>Ask Cuggi about his company’s business in Hawksong
Maybe we could do business, who knows.
Let's not risk seducing this smartass, he sounds like he will just screw us over. Seems okay with talking to us though, so why not just do that?

>>4856419
The stars were right. The Grand Design is slowly but surely coming together.
Also I love Cuggi's khajiit vibe. This update was probably my new favorite conversation of this quest.
>>
[Doing a big grocery shop and decompressing from familial bullshit, so I will wait for a tiebreaker or until later today to post. May only do one today!]
>>
[Doing a big grocery shop and decompressing from familial bullshit, so I will wait for a tiebreaker or until later today to post. May only do one today!]
>>
>>4856415
>Talk about Mina's agitation
>>
>>4856415
>Ask Cuggi about his past
>Ask Cuggi about his company’s business in Hawksong
>>
>>4856415
>Talk to Cuggi about Mina’s agitation lately; maybe he can help determine what’s causing it?
>>
>>4857413
>>4857371
>>4857280
>>4856600
>>4856471

“Misster Cuggi, perhaps you might be able to help me with a matter.”

One ear twitches, a sign he’s heard you but is not yet committed to acknowledging (let alone answering) the question. Laskar is right: he and Mina re quite alike.

“Madam Zumyno sseemss… Troubled lately. Agitated. You know how ssecretive and private she likess to be, but sstill… We worry. Me and the other girlss.”

Cuggi nods slowly. “Yes, I see. She can… be like this, when I am around.”

Oh? Perhaps it isn’t the events of the sewer that precipitated this change in demeanour, then, but a familial strain of some sort? It’s a good thing you asked.

“Sso she’s alright, then. I’m glad! But…” But your curiosity won’t let it lie. “But why, if I may assk?”

“We were not close, truly, before we came to Hawksong. We traveled together because it would be dangerous, perhaps… Improper? Is that the word?... It is not done for a young female to travel alone, or with an unrelated male.”

Cuggi laughs, and shakes his head. “If only those who made such rules could see how and where our Zumyno is now. They need not have worried.”

“But you grew closser in Hawkssong?” you ask. “Why should your arrival upsset her, ssorry?”

Cuggi’s tail flits in annoyance or upset, though his face belies nothing. He becomes a human male to him, who provides a jar of powder. Cuggi reaches in, fishing around with a paw-padded finger and bringing it out thinly caked with a whitish powder, which he licks from his paw in exaggerated motions. His pupils oscillate slightly, settling a tad wider than they did before. You recognize the habit—it is as his sister does in her office with her pipe, a brief break to relieve or mask stress with ritual and intoxicant.

“We grew closer out of necessity,” Cuggi continues. “The circumstances were… Not good. Bad. Unpleasant. That we stayed in such circumstances, well… One could blame me. I was older, had valuable knowledge. Mina was a plaything, an… Accessory. No, remembering that, being in service to our oh-so-generous mistress…”

Cuggi shakes his head and says no more. It’s clear enough: the context of their shared trauma as young catfolk in Hawksong is brought to the surface whenever Mina sees or hears of her brother.

“Who did you sserve?” you ask quietly.

“A young noblewoman, human,” Cuggi says. “A collector of ‘exotics’, and foreign knowledge. She sought to know the secret of our people’s fabled nine lives, as if she wanted more for herself.”

Cuggi laughs.
>>
>>4857579
“I had no such knowledge, but I knew legends enough to tell her, to keep us housed and fed and with funding to start us on our way. And Zumyno had… Other things which the noblewoman desired.”

A noblewoman seeking to escape or cheat death… Who collects exotics… Who lusts for other women. How many such nobles can match such a profile? It must be her—Zivic!

What do you do?
>Reassure Cuggi that Zivic will bother neither of them any longer
>Ask if Cuggi knows of any connection between Mina and the wererats; is it possible they were all connected, in some fashion?
>Let the matter drop and discuss matters of business [such as?]
>Excuse yourself from the disturbing conversation to attend to other matters [what?]
>>
>>4857582
>Ask if Cuggi knows of any connection between Mina and the wererats; is it possible they were all connected, in some fashion?

We can bring it up as another possible source of stress
>>
>>4857582
>Reassure Cuggi that Zivic will bother neither of them any longer
>Ask if he knows anything about her origin or abilities
>Ask if Cuggi knows of any connection between Mina and the wererats; is it possible they were all connected, in some fashion?
>Ask what is the powder he licked called, we might or might not decide to buy some off of him before they depart. If he's willing to ssell of course

Fuck we should tell Mina that we actually faced Zivic. She will likely sympathize with us as a fellow "exotic" non-human who was also a victim of that witch. Could know more about Zivic than Cuggi.
>>
>>4857889
Sure, this sounds fine to me.
>>
>>4858189
>>4857889
>>4857622

“Zivic will not bother your ssisster any longer,” you tell the cat-man.

Hi tail immediately stops twitching. “What do you mean by that?”

“Her home burned down,” you explain. “She wass found, dead.”

Cuggi’s tail flits a couple times, ears going back. “I see.”

“You don’t sseem pleassed,” you note. “Do you fear she found a way to cheat death after all?”

Cuggi looks at you in a new light, and asks, “Do you fear this, also?”

Two can play at the game of dodging direct questioning. “Do you know how Zivic became… The way she wass? How she became a witch, with abilitiess that might make a persson reasonably fear ssuch thingss?”

The cat-man shrugs, beckoning his man over for a bit more powder. “A woman can learn many things, with many teachers to learn from. I told her little but myth and legend, but with her determination and her money, she followed each trail I set before her. I do not know that all were dead ends. Even if they were… She may have found another path to that same destination, with a better teacher.”

You recall Tokunbo, and shudder.

“Do you know if the ratss are involved?” you ask in hushed tones.

Cuggi reacts only with confusion, and with another lick of powder from his paw. It seems he has no inkling of the wererats. Whatever association Mina has with them must be more recent. You change topics.

“What iss that powder?” you ask, giving you both a graceful escape from the tension.

“Shirin,” he says. “It is from the south-east. Popular along the roads to and from there, where business is done. Another spice, from The Eastern Standard Silk & Spice Company!”

The cat-man laughs a little at this.

“I might or might not decide to buy ssome of that before you depart,” you muse. “If you’re willing to ssell, of course.”

He tilts his head slightly. “And here I thought I was buying and you were selling. You are very, very like sister Zumyno.”

He gestures to his man to offer you some of the powder from the jar.

“Taste, taste,” Cuggi says. “It is a silly thing to buy a spice one knows nothing of. Who is to say if you will like it?”

What do you do?
>Accept, and taste the shirin
>Politely refuse, since you’re still working
>Ask for more details before you ingest this powder
>Use illusion to try to steal some without anyone noticing
>Write-in
>>
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>>4858526
>Ask for more details before you ingest this powder
>Accept, and taste the shirin
>Ask how long will they stay in Hawksong
>(If it makes sense) Ask if he needs a place to store his goods

Yeah, we are *working*. As long as we don't take too much, we should be fine.
>>
>>4858526
>Accept, and taste the shirin

cool kids do drugs
just a little tho
>>
>>4858583
Seems good.
>>
>>4858526
>Politely refuse, since you’re still working
>>
>>4858526
>>Accept, and taste the shirin
Hint: Always take drugs
>>
>>4858583
>>4858892
>>4858526
>>4858909
Oh yeah, I guess ask about the drugs before you take them, though

>Ask for more details before you ingest this powder
>>
>>4858611
>>4858909
Fictional drugs are cool, especially when used for performance boost.
Dragon of Wall Street.

>>4858526
I have a question. What exactly is our goal with Tower again? What are we trying to achieve there?
I could look up the archives, but think it's a better idea to remind all players here.
>>
>>4858926
>What exactly is our goal with Tower again? What are we trying to achieve there?
The Paladin King Archos and the Archmage of the Hawksong Mages Tower have been pooling considerable time and money into having Zika's adventurers excavate a seemingly-worthless dwarven ruin, which Roth's other contacts tell him is related to a serious defensive upgrade. Your mission is to infiltrate the Tower--something no magically-disguised full-blooded Reptilian could do--to uncover the nature of this defence project and to subvert it if possible, or at least get information on it to Reptilian agents who CAN subvert it.
>>
>>4858926
>>4858910
>>4858895
>>4858892
>>4858611
>>4858583
“What is ‘shirin’?” you ask, even as you dip your fingers and scoop some into your palm.

“Makess you feel fast, calm. Smooth!” Cuggi practically purrs. At first you take it for a sales pitch, or an attempt at seduction even, but then you realize he is simply savouring the feeling coursing through him. “Like a rushing stream after spring melt, fluid, channeled, but always moving.”

Well shit, that sounds good. How are you supposed to say no to that? You lick your palm and fingers clean, setting your tongue a tingle with a strange sensation.

"How long are you sstaying?" you ask. "If you new ssomewhere to sstore yours goodss, I have connectionss which may prove--"

You flinch a little as the tingle turns to a cold fire, a deep burning, but you clamp down your mouth before you shame yourself with a yelp…

And then, quite quickly, it hits. Euphoria washes over you, spreading like an irrepressible giggle in reverse—from lips and tongue-tips, down through your jaw and into your vibrating throat and vocal chords, into your lungs, and through your bloodstream. You have no idea how long it takes, but FEELS rapid. You feel… fast. But still in -control. You feel ready for… Something.

You’re sure that whatever you do now, you will do it with utmost efficiency, with great proficiency, with elegance and pose and precision. Even the sniggers of the human and cat-man watching you don’t disabuse you of this notion.

What do you do?
>Negotiate a deal to distribute this ‘shirin’ through Engelson channels, confident that your haggling skills are now unbeatable
>Attempt another dance, augmented with every mystical and gymnastic art you have thus mastered
>Find the fox-woman, knowing that now you are the most mystical you have ever been, and she will never find a more naturally-gifted student
>Get your fuck on—you can only imagine how good it will feel for you AND your lucky, lucky client(s), who will probably pay you a small fortune
>Blow this popsicle stand and go check out the storehouses around here—there’s no reason to waste this raw, unbridled POWER on silly human nonsense when you could be expending it on matters more reptilian
>Write-in
[Please note, by taking the shirin you have locked yourself out of an write-in involving prudence, stillness, or inaction right now]
>>
>>4859319
>Negotiate a deal to distribute this ‘shirin’ through Engelson channels, confident that your haggling skills are now unbeatable

drug dealing quest is a go
>>
>>4859319
>Write in
Overcome the effects of the shirin through sheer force of will. This was a bad idea guys.

Just kidding, we're HARDCORE. Attempt another dance. If possible, negotiate a distro deal afterward.
>>
>>4859319
>Blow this popsicle stand and go check out the storehouses around here—there’s no reason to waste this raw, unbridled POWER on silly human nonsense when you could be expending it on matters more reptilian
>>
>>4859899
>>4859546
>>4859358
“Thisss ssstuff isss amazing!” you say, though you detect a slight slur to your voice, and an increased prominence of your accent.

Cuggi just nods.

“You didn’t ask what the appropriate dose was,” he notes.

“Ha! Asss if I couldn’t figure it out myssself. I am an…” You almost announce ‘infiltrator’, but quickly recover. “I am an exxxxpert in sssuch matterss!”

“Narcotics?” Cuggi asks.

“Trade goodssss,” you reply, leaning forward with a wide grin. “And cat-man, do I have a deal for YOU!”

The conversation goes quickly, but nothing it too quick for you right now. You toss figures back and forth—numbers of shipment, weights of shipments, payment amounts and schedules. In sobriety, you might hedge your bets, acknowledging that you have no idea how much coin the Engelson Storehouse Company has at its disposal, or even their willingness to participate in such an enterprise. On shirin, you KNOW that your estimates must be at least fairly accurate, that you can bend both Engel men to your will as easy as a typhoon bends blades of grass, and that any discrepancies can be smoothed out by your unparalleled silver tongue.

Cuggi, for his part, summons a couple other cat-men to participate in this back and forth. They proffer their own opinions, chiming in with addendums to his counteroffers. You entertain each like an auctioneer—or like a prostitute practiced at group intercourse, which is perhaps more relevant to your experience—but your attention remains focused on the top cat. His tail swishing broadly with amusement and ears swiveled to focus on your display—of amazing merchantile prowess, obviously—Cuggi agrees to meet with Engelson in two days’ time.

Just as planned!

What do you do next?
>Celebrate with a dance
>Celebrate with some sex [with whom?]
>Celebrate with more shirin
>Go check on Grendelia
>Go check out the storehouses for your reptilian mission
>Write-in
>>
>>4859997
>>Celebrate with more shirin
>>
>>4859997
>Take some shirin with you
>Go check out the storehouses for your reptilian mission

Let's save a pouch for the next time we have to do business or shiv a bunch of rats if it's THIS good. Controlled usage is the way, not addiction.
We might even try to offer some to our Dragonblood Roth to improve his combat skills.
Shirin-fueled Fire Breath
>>
>>4859997
>Celebrate with a dance
>>
>>4859997
>Go check on Grendelia
>>
>>4860206
>>4860259
>>4860334
>>4860366

[What brave soul will break this tie?]
>>
>>4859997
>Go check on Grendelia

Gotta make sure our gal is doing well. Take some more shirin if it's free.
>>
>>4859997
>Celebrate with a dance

what have we done
>>
Rolled 17, 6, 18 = 41 (3d20)

>>4860944

[DC 17]
>>
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>>4861004
>>4860944
>>4860913
>>4860366
>>4860334
>>4860259
>>4860206
You would bet good money that you could dance circles around the Kamunu who was NOT empowered by shirin, and you decide to take yourself up on that purely-hypothetical internal bet. Though standing up from where you have settled in comes with a certain amount of centrifugal sensation, you spin this stumble into a whirling pirouette that carries you back into the centre of the circle stage.

Where Cuggi’s attention goes, so too does that of at least a few of his lackeys, and he seems interested to see what you will do. No—fascinated! You’re sure of it. How could it be otherwise. Certainly, Laskar’s solicitous attention can only be deepest infatuation.

“Are you alright, Kamunu?” the elf asks. “You seem… Tired.”

“The opposite,” you assure him with a pinch of his cheek and a broad grin. “Let’s show these beats what elven music and magic can really do!”

Laskar looks at you quizzically but, no doubt seeing the superior logic of your Reptilian leadership without even consciously realizing it, he politely shuffles his groupies away and pulls out his instrument to begin a strumming.

At first, your movements are sloppy, uncertain. To your frustration, though you know exactly where your feet and hands should be at any given moment, they seem to have their own ideas. Eventually, though, Laskar’s music steadies you, and you fall into a familiar rhythm. If anything, you dancing is more fluid, more seamless and even, than it ahs ever been! Certainly, the crowd starts to take appreciative notice, throwing some coin into the circle as you jingle and jiggle, leap and twirl. It’s a far better performance ethan your fumbled foray with Grendelia earlier.

Thinking of Grendelia, though, where is she? You finish your set, take a bow, and leave your elven lackey to collect the coinage with a blown kiss as his reward. You sweep by Cuggi’s man to collect another hit of shirin—he looks at you strangely and seems hesitant, but no man can resist your charms or deny you what you want, OBVIOUSLY—and you carry on. He has provided you the second hit in a small silk pouch, tied off with a plant stem, and you pocket it. Better to save it for when you need it!
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>>4861015
You find Grendelia only after some searching, amongst the adjunct tents and the surrounding, more permanent and locally-staffed structures, hidden on the border of boisterous light and quiet, private shadow. She’s alone, and looks… Troubled.

“Hey friend, looking ACCOMPLISHED. How did it go? Were my pointersss jusst perfect?”

Grendelia gives you a strange look, similar to Laskar’s earlier. You’re coming down a little by this point, and you recognize the concern for what it is… But even with your limbs getting a little heavier, your perception slowing and the edges of your vision losing their pleasant blur to take on harder, darker edges, you still can’t share in their concern. This shirin shit was GREAT, and it sure didn’t hurt your dancing or haggling!

“I’m fine,” you assure the quarter-orc. “You look… Lesss sso, though.”

“I don’t think I’m getting paid,” she says quietly.

It seems Grendelia made the effort to service both of the minotaurs—even did so orally—but panicked when they made to attempt a double-penetration. Her backing out on this seems to have infuriated the brutes, who were in some state of rutting frenzy. The evidence of this is a swelling bruise—which the orcblooded woman had been hiding behind her long, shaggy hair until now—and her clothes, which are upon closer inspection shredded more than her usual gimmick would require, and revealing quite indecent amounts of her anatomy. Injured in body and pride, she has been lurking where you found her ever since.

What do you do?
>Make a formal complaint with Cuggi
>Go find those minotaurs and handle this the way you handled Janus or the rats [violence]
>Go find these minotaurs and handle them the way you handled Jansu or the rats [sex]
>Reprimand Grendelia for her lack of professionalism
>Take Grendelia back to The Pretty Kitty, and let this al blow over

Whichever option you pick, do you:
>Take the shirin in preparation
>Offer the shirin to Grendelia to dull the pain
>Keep the shirin for later
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>>4861027
>Make a formal complaint with Cuggi
>Keep the shirin for later
We might wanna take less next time lmao
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>>4861027
>Go find those minotaurs and handle this the way you handled Janus or the rats [violence]
>Offer the shirin to Grendelia to dull the pain
>>
>>4861027
>Go find these minotaurs and handle them the way you handled Jansu or the rats [sex]
>Keep the shirin for later
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>>4861027
>>Take Grendelia back to The Pretty Kitty, and let this al blow over
Shit happens, champ.

And

>Keep Shirin for later
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>>4861027
>Take Grendelia back to The Pretty Kitty, and let this al blow over
>Keep the shirin for later
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>>4861027
>>Go find these minotaurs and handle them the way you handled Jansu or the rats [sex]
>>Keep the shirin for later
Minotaurs heh
>>
Rolled 18 (1d20)

>>4862267
>>4862111
DC 10 to resist the confident impulsively of sharing high
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>>4862282
>>4862267
>>4862111
>>4861727
>>4861624
>>4861403
>>4861125
A part of you is screaming to ingest the pouch of shirin on your person and to head out into the darkness to inflict some combination of sex and violence on the bullheaded bastards, just on general principle. However, the far more sober part of you reminds you that each of them is at least seven feet tall, and any proportionate genitalia would make sex just violence—against you—with extra steps.

“Come on, champ,” you say to Grendelia, , shielding her modesty with your body. “Shit happenss.”

You stop in at the main tent just long enough to ‘borrow’ some fabric to better shield your companion, and to let Laskar and Cuggi both know that you must regrettably depart,. The cat-man—and your many lascivious fans—seems disappointed, and Laskar worried, but neither forces a discussion. Laskar, for his part, seems to intently notice Grendelia’s absence. He returns to his flautery and begins a dance, drawing attention to him so the two of you may make a graceful escape.

All the way back, Grendelia is downcast; you think you even hear a few sniffles. You roll your eyes--you've been through worse than this, and she's a big woman who should be able to handle herself! But perhaps this is the weakness of mammals, even those such as orcs. You rub her back reassuringly. You feel an irritability set in despite your façade of caring, and your normal detachment. You chalk this, and the aching in your tired joints, to the hangover of the shirin.

By the time you arrive at The Pretty Kitty in the wee hours and are debriefed by Felia, you are eager to retire for some torpor. However, there is still the matter of Mina, and of the business deal you are attempting to arrange between your boyfriend's company and Eastern Standard.

What do you do?
>Speak to Mina before you sleep
>Crash at The Pretty Kitty tonight
>Head back to the Engel manor to discuss matters
>Head to Roth's to crash, debrief, and maybe get some nookie
>Write-in
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>>4862327
>Speak to Mina before you sleep
>Head back to the Engel manor to discuss matters

We should bring Grendelia along for a threesome, just to put her head on straight and get some brownie points with Edwin.

Also, I noticed we didn't cash in on fox gal's magical expertise (and subduction). I assume we'll get on that first thing in the morning (especially the seduction bit).
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>>4862538
>Also, I noticed we didn't cash in on fox gal's magical expertise (and subduction). I assume we'll get on that first thing in the morning (especially the seduction bit).

[You invited her to participate in Bianchi's succubus-summoning tomorrow night.]
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>>4862327
>Speak to Mina before you sleep
>Crash at The Pretty Kitty tonight
>>
>>4862327
>Head to Roth's to crash, debrief, and maybe get some nookie
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>>4862760
>>4862719
>>4862538

Tired as you are, you feel that the revelations you’ve uncovered about your employer warrant a meeting to clear the air. You let Felia take over nursemaid duty for Grendelia, while you head up the stairs to the cat-woman’s office. You know that she’ll still be awake—the madam keeps appropriately feline hours.

You knock, and are admitted. Inside, you wave away clouds of smoke. Mina ahs clearly been puffing away in here for some time, and still is wghile busying herself in some financial scribblings. You can tell she hasn’t gotten far, and she’s happy enough to dogear a page and shut the booklet when you settle into your seat.

“I trust it went well?” she asks solicitously.

“It wass… Proftable,” you reply.

No point in keeping it from her: you tell her what happened to Grendelia. Mina’s claws unsheathe, leaving tiny indents in her wooden table.

“They what?!” she hisses.

You nod. “I essscorted her away before it became an incident.”

“It already IS one!” Mina practically roars. “And with our dancers already so understaffed, it’s not merely a personal one. Let me speak with her, and get a look at that face…”

She starts to get up, but before she can get far, you feel there’s one other important matter to address: “Your brother told me about Lady Zivic.”

Mina stops cold, hand on the door handle, and lets it fall from her fingers.

“And how did that subject arise?” she asks, not fully turning. Her tone is dangerous, tail still, ears pivoted to face you even as her head does not.

“We were discussing how you came to Hawkssong, and your shared history,” you say. “It… arossse.”

What do you tell her?
>Explain that Zivic is no danger to her any longer, thanks to you
>Intimate that Zivic has played at similar games with you
>Offer your condolences for what she did to get where she is today
>Ask for her aid in ending the occult threat Zivic could yet present
>Write-in

Where do you spend the night?
>Here
>Roth’s
>Edwin’s
>>
[Heading to bed and wanted to get two posts in today, so I split the difference, took majority vote for talking to Mina, and left lodgings open. Cheers!]
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>>4862970
>Explain that Zivic tried to lure you in as well and that she poses no danger to Mina, thanks to you
>Ask for her aid in ending the occult threat Zivic demon could yet present
>Offer your condolences for what she did to get where she is today
We should ask for aid from all the people involved. Not everyone will be useful, but this way we have more options.
>Here
We can talk with Mina for longer at night, help with paperwork, etc. She knows we're not a human so there's no need to hide that we also need much less sleep.
I'd honestly prefer Roth, but this is more appropriate for the situation.
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>>4862970
>Intimate that Zivic has played at similar games with you
>Roth’s
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>>4862970
Offer condolences + ask for aid
Here
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>>4862970
>Explain that Zivic is no danger to her any longer, thanks to you
>Here
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>>4863925
>>4863631
>>4863526
>>4863246
“I wass ssorry to hear what that woman had made you do to earn your sstay…” you begin, casting your eyes down in a calculated gesture of shamed empathy. “Not leasst of which becausse she made ssuch overturess to me, alsso.”

You can see the tension relax from the spring-like muscles of the cat-woman. Mina, is at her core, a predator. She has also experienced the weakness and vulnerability of being prey. You can appreciate that--you've been there.

“She was down there in the sewers…” she says, barely a whisper. “She was inside of… She was possessing Estellia. And now she's dead.”

Shit. Zivic must have spoken to Mina after all. How much did she tell her—abour your plans, about you, about Roth? How much did Mina believe?

“Zivic isssn't a threat any longer,” you say.

Mina laughs, a raspy sound that turns to a wheeze cough. “You think so? She was IN Estellia! And now…”

You guide the cat-woman back toward her desk, but she pulls away from you and seats herself. She meets your eyes, expression inscrutable but ears and tail indicating unease, unhappiness.

“I have work to attend to,” she says after a moment, leaning down and flipping open the ledger. She takes up a quill and dips it.

“I'll be here, in my old room, if you need anything,” you offer.

“Your room's being used,” she snaps. Then, more gently: “Have Felia set you up. We always have beds somewhere.”
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>>4864310
Indeed, Felia does find you a place to spend the night. You retrieve your bag and are led by the brothel-manager to a sort of barracks full of bunk-beds. Not all are occupied, but those that are host ! Motley assortment of human women , young and old but mostly… Homely. There are scabs, and scrapes, and signs of rough living. Their attire screams ‘street prostitute’, in the way your tattered burlap Kamunu-clothes and fuzzy jacket must once have done. Is this some heretofore hidden aspect of Mina's business? A kindly resting-place for wayward souls in the mammal world’s oldest profession? It's certainly a step down from the frilly and silken accommodations of even your thin-walled suite as a prized dancer and prostitute.

Ultimately, you can't bring yourself to care even in an academic sense right now. You're exhausted. The parts of your mind still able to speculate and strategies despite the shirin comedown and the stresses of the day are focused on Mina, and her exchange with the possessed Estellia. Does she know that you were instrumental in Zivic'a death? In Estellia's? Does she know why?

When you fall into torpor, in is not in a restive state.

What do you dream of?
>Fire and darkness
>Sex and violence
>Terror and isolation
>Music and revelry [???]
>The Gods
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>>4864321
>Fire and darkness
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>>4864321
>Music and revelry [???]
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>>4864321
>The Gods
Grand Dessign
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>>4864686
>>4864476
>>4864347
First the first time since you dreamt of your mother, your slumber is interrupted by one of the hallucinogenic slivers to which your father’s lesser race is prone: a dream.

In it, you are in the Eastern Standard Silk & Spice tent once more, in that circle. You are surrounded by a crowd—larger and more attentive than they were in real life, and containing far more familiar faces. You see fewer yellow-brown humans, and almost no beastmen, save Cuggi and Mina. Agatha and Oxford Johan are there, instead, and Grendelia and Manuela, Felia and Red Annie and even the twins. Roth is there, his face hidden by his human disguise, and both Engels watch hungrily. Janus is there, and his father Kohei, and his air-headed mother whose name you can scarcely recall. Anton is there, and Siddug Underhead of the Gray Press. You even see that half-orc who you got lunch from. Lord Yosef is strangely absent, but you see both Royal Librarians are present.

You twirl and whirl, you bounce and twist. You dance the circle’s border with grace, and leap and bound in ways far more elegant and artistic than your usual exotic-dancer fare—perhaps more acrobatic than you are actually capable of, but now you feel like you can fly! It’s almost like being on shirin again, and as the crowd of your paties, pawns, lovers and playthings oohs, aahs, and applauds, you grow bolder and more dynamic. You summon forth your magic in great waves of illusory light and shadow, swirling about you and expanding outward…

But when those waves of magic find the crowd, something happens. The mammals reel back as the light flcikers aross their face, and the darkness whorls about them. When it clears, they are all… RATS. Wererats, each and every one! You stop dancing almost immediately and reach to your thigh, but you find no dagger. Pity that, because revealed for the filthy monsters they all are, the rat-creatures advance on you. You grab a lantern and, in desperation, hurl it at them… but you miscalculate. You are cast into darkness as your sole light source sails over their heads and shatters. This abruptly giving way to a new, crimson light as the tent behind them explodes into flame, the smashed lantern finding a less than ideal mark.

The rats creep ever closer, and you can find no exit. You step this way and that, but you are bxoe din my stinking therianthropes and smoke. You curl up in a ball and wail to the darkness beyond the stars…

And you are answered.

The rats stop their advance. Silently, they step back, and they begin to part like waters before a raft. The burning flaps of the tent open wide, and a single silhouette stands there. Through the smoke, you can make out vaguely female features on a humanoid body plan…

And then black dragon-wings, like two jagged shards of night, unfurl from its back to block out that sliver of escape.
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>>4864960
“Tonight,” a voice says from all sides. It is not unlike the all-encompassing vibration of the great, divine voice which you heard in dreams previous.

Your eyes flutter open and fill with dawnlight, the roar of fire giving way to the snores of your fellow whores. You are in the bunk in your temporary lodgings at The Pretty Kitty once more, and it is tomorrow. Well, today you suppose. You’re still discombobulated, and deeply unnerved?

“Tonight?” you mutter quietly. What does it mean?

What do you do?
>Find Mina—there is yet more to discuss with her
>Head back to the Engel manor to get changed and check in
>Check in on Grendelia, to make certain she is holding up okay
>Head straight for the library—that dream can only be related to tonight’s ritual, and you need to consult with Bianchi
>Write-in
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>>4864963
>Write-in
Point and say "You."
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>>4864963
>Head straight for the library—that dream can only be related to tonight’s ritual, and you need to consult with Bianchi

spooky
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>>4864963
>Head straight for the library—that dream can only be related to tonight’s ritual, and you need to consult with Bianchi
We should check on Yosef to see if his absence has any meaning.
I can't fully understand this dream for shit.
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>>4864963
>Find Mina—there is yet more to discuss with her
>Check in on Grendelia, to make certain she is holding up okay

We can afford a couple of minutes before we go off adventuring. Plus, we're going to need a large breakfast in order to deal with this shit.
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>>4865039
>>4864991
>>4864990
>>4864982

You consider meeting with Mina, checking on grindelia—anything to take your mind off of this eerie, unintelligible omen of a dream. It’s a fruitless effort, however: all you can do is replay it in your head, refreshing it before fine details can fade away with wakefulness. One figure, one moment, you could not forget if you tried: that winged woman, staring out you wreathed in fire; the single word spoken aloud, ‘TONIGHT’.

“You,” you hiss quietly to yourself. “Tonight will be a reckoning for YOU.”

You abandon any plans to stay here, or even to get changed. You get changed into the clothes your first wore into Sparrowton—a drab affair, white shirt and loose grey-brown skirt, but it’s all you have on you—and head straight for the library. The weight of this spookery weighs heavy on you, and you can focus on nothing else—not even breakfast!—until it is addressed.

When you reach the Hawksong Royal Library, it is closed. Anticlimactic but, if you’d been able to focus for a moment, predictable. You are up earlier than most denizens of the city, and well before librarians are ready to start opening their vaults of knowledge. Impatiently, you pace the entrance. You grab a stick of skewered meat from the half-orc the moment one becomes available, sating that need at least. It gives you an oral fixation to focus on while you wait, too. This is especially useful now that, having sen the ahlf-orc vendor and recalled him from the crowd in your dream, you are even more anxious.

When the vaulted doors swing open, you practically bullrush Librarian Fesliel, the slight-framed elven woman who opens the door to you. You only barely remember yourself long enough to apologize. When you tell her you are eager to expand your horizons with further learning, it is only half a lie. To smooth things over you return your copy of “A Jester in the Faerie Court", and compliment her on her recommendation; in actuality, it was of only passing use, but the words serve their purpose.

You are the first patron inside, and you do not see Lord Bianchi among the first few entrants. What do you do?

>Await the young lord; you are here to speak to Lord Bianchi, and have no time for distractions
>Read some torrid romantic fiction to take your mind off of things
>Research matters of city fortification and defence; you have a more overarching mission to think about, and this is as good a time as any to do so
>Read up on narcotics, in the hopes of learning more about shirin and similar intoxicants
>Read up on dream interpretations and lucid dreaming; you can make neither heads nor tails of last night’s nightmare, and you fear it is of grave importance
>Write-in
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>>4865676
>Research matters of city fortification and defence; you have a more overarching mission to think about, and this is as good a time as any to do so

THE MISSION
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>>4865676
>Read up on dream interpretations and lucid dreaming; you can make neither heads nor tails of last night’s nightmare, and you fear it is of grave importance
What do you think she means, "Tonight"? Like she's threatening us or something.
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>>4865676
>Research matters of city fortification and defence; you have a more overarching mission to think about, and this is as good a time as any to do so
Mission.
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>>4865741
+1
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>>4865951
>>4865943
>>4865888
>>4865741

Why waste time with the publically-available drek on demons and dreams? If it isn't good enough to keep Locked up in the Tower, it's probably not useful enough to be of real assistance… At least not without the insight and cross-referencing of someone more learned in the subject, like Bianchi. No, better to read up on your REAL mission: the undermining of Hawksong's city defences.

Ever since Roth set you on this path, it had been slow-going and constant occult distractions. And what has that got you? Well… Magic powers, a blood-pumping sewer fight, a big-dicked boyfriend with a heap of gold, and whatever tonight’s rendezvous brings. But it HASN'T got you any closer to destroying Hawksong's greatest advantages: the Tower and The Paladins of King Archos. Both of THOSE forces are mustered to the effort of that dwarven excavation, and until you can get a look at the rubble from those ruins, reading up on surface-worlders' typical defensive structures and strategems is the next best thing.

“On Defenfe: The Protection of Citief and Garrifonf” seems as good a place as any t start, and so you do. Tou've become a skilled speed-reader in your time on the surface, adept at scanning through dense material for familiar terms and expanding your knowledge outward from there. You catch snippets and excerpts which seem interesting, but beyond your current ken, and dig-ear the pages; extrapolating the meaning of the term from a later chapter or another book, you then return ad read it. As more and more books accumulate at your table--"The Ancient Sieges", “Orks at the Gates", “Famouf Laft Ftandf”—an understanding blossoms.

The three major ideas you latch onto are as follows: defensive warfare on the surface is no matter of cavern chokepoints and secret tunnels, but erecting and maintaining walls, or breaching them; tunnels into the walls ARE still a factor, though, for supplies must flow in and waste must flow out, and enemies may use these same routes to break a siege; to maintain walls and patrol weak points, a garrison of well-fed and well-motivated defenders is paramount.

And dwarves of old were famed for all of this.
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>>4866470

Though dwarves delves deep, their surface trade was often extremely valuable to acquire foodstuffs, necessitating large openings to the upper realms. These, they protected with “mighty walls of exotic materials from inner earth”, which opens into “vast, cavernous gates, which moved open and closed each day by means unseen". Moreover, in Sieges the Gates would “seem almost without entry-point, where once was obvious seam", and other holes which attackers opened would “by the twenty-four hour mark, without fail, be sealed unless every dwarf of that area was slain".

To your frustration, the only references you find to this fabled dwarven defence is a truly-old travelogue by a human male who traveled to great cities in antiquity to lend colour to histories of great battles, and he touches on dwarves but briefly; all the battles at such places were long past when he trod the ground, primarily offering insight into human kingdoms which built themselves upon the leavings of the dwarves empire.

By the time you accumulate this knowledge, the sundials have indicated that morning is mearing its end. Finally, Bianchi and one of his bodyguards arrive!

You greet him, and the darkly-clad young lord likewise deigns to acknowledge you.

“Are you ready for tonight?” you asks, once you have settled in.

“About that…” you begin

>Tell Bianchi of the dream
>Tell Bianchi about the eastern fox-woman you invited
>Ask Bianchi about his studies into Eastern magic more broadly
>Divert the discussion to talk of dwarven magic and defences
>Tell Bianchi you’re having second thoughts—this is getting too spooky (or distant from your priorities) for you
>Write-in
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>>4866471
>Tell Bianchi of the dream
>Talk about preparations for tonight and defenses against the demon
Goal is for Ismena to be as demonproof and prepared for demonplomacy (and avoiding selling her soul or something) as possible.

I am having second thoughts about the demon summoning shit, but we should just power through it, because Bianchi helps us with the Zivic stuff and if we aren't there to see how the ritual goes, it might evolve into more sinister problems down the line without us even knowing.
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>>4866471
>Tell Bianchi of the dream
>Tell Bianchi about the eastern fox-woman you invited
>Divert the discussion to talk of dwarven magic and defences

Shit's gonna get wack.
>>
[Oof, sorry for the typos btw. Was writing on-the-go while hefting a fifty pound bag of kitty litter. Ask me if anything requires clarification.]
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>>4866471
>Tell Bianchi about the eastern fox-woman you invited

yeah so if this kitsune shows up don't be too surprised homie
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>>4866471
>Tell Bianchi you’re having second thoughts—this is getting too spooky (or distant from your priorities) for you
>>
>>4867426
>>4866797
>>4866643
>>4866564
“I… Invited a friend.”

“You what?!” Bianchi demands. “Who on earth told you that you could do such a thing? This whole operation was MY idea, not yours, you scheming—”

“A foxxx-woman and myssstic from the far easst,” you interrupt, pointedly. It shuts him up.

“Really?” he asks, stroking his thin beard. He’s clearly intrigued.

You just nod. “I figured she and her knowledge may prove ussseful.”

“It just might… Tulpa theory originates in that region, and fox-women are a step from the demon realm themselves—that interstitial space between dreams and wakefulness. You know, the easterners call them ‘yokai’, which means—”

“There’s ssomething elsse,” you interrupt again. Lord Bianchi DOES like to carry on, after all, and this is important. “I had a dream last night.”

You explain the contents of your dream last night, at least insofar as you can and as would make sense to him: a crowd of friends admiring you, a sudden turn towards horror and betrayal, and a fiery ring parting to reveal a winged woman, speaking that ominous word.

“A succubus from beyond the veil?” Bainchi wodners. “But how would she know we are coming?”

He glares at you, and his eyes drift down to your chest. You scowl at the sudden lustfulness, only to realize he’s eyeing your charm.

“Yess,” you say, with some irritation at the human’s condescension. “I wore it as I sslept.”

“So not your foe, then,” he muses. “Well, all the better to have your foreign friend along, then.”

Bianchi takes this all quite well, all things considered. You join him for some studies, subtly turning the subject towards dwarven matters as best you can.

“Dwarven defences?” he replies, quizzical. “Almost entirely physical. They were dogmatically against the occult, the superstitious little fools, but also hardened against it. Their minds were protected by ignorance and lack of imagination.”

“What of the physsical defenccess, then?” you ask. “We’re to ssummon thiss thing to the physsical realm after all.”

“Irrelevant,” Bianchi says dismissively. “A succubus could easily bypass any dwarven armour.”

“How reasssssuring,” you hiss under your breath.

The afternoon passes slowly. The two of you do some general occult studying, on defences against demonic possession and assault and on the nature of demonic hierarchies, but all of it is vague and censored to the point of uselessness… or so Bianchi says. You have little frame of reference. Before long, evening is nearing.

Your memory returns to that winegd woman in your dream, and you remember:

“Tonight.”

Whatever it means, it is almost upon you.

[THREAD END]
>>
bases
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>>4867565
Blue balled, goddamn.
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>>4867930
[Don't worry--we'll be continuing Monday most likely. I just have a dinner tonight with a friend, and this honestly seemed like a good place to pick up with a new thread--better than ending in the middle of the summoning.

Input and discussion is appreciated, if you're in the mood!]
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>>4867565
if only we could empty head no thoughts our way to magical immunity just like the dwarves.
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>>4868132
I was joking, breaks are never a problem. Thanks for running and enjoy your dinner!

>>4868272
Would be genius, except we literally use magic ourselves and are surrounded by it constantly.
But hear me out, what if dwarven willpower is so strong that their denial manifests itself as antimagic? If it works this way, then maybe it's possible to find a talented alchemist to create a focus/willpower brew that would let Ismena break enemy magic or strengthen her illusion?
Just a weirdly specific thought I had, feel free to poke holes in it.
Or let's start research on dwarven psychology and alchemy.
>>
[Little hungover, and I have work, so expect the update this evening with a new thread! also need a header image, so I'll do up one of those first. Good news, though: you'll go into this occult nonsense with a level-up. better chance to not... have unspecified bad things happen.]