2.4 - Cygna Gathers the Vintners' Vis

After Amos, Viscaria and Cygna have finished exploring the sancta and laboratories, Cygna will seek out Margeurita Vintner. She will hopefully find her at the same place she did before, so she will go to that building, look at what she thinks is Margeurita, and greet her in Russian.

[color=red]"Hello, Margeurita. Do you have a few minutes that we can talk, maybe you can help me with a bit of a problem that we have?

"One of the maga Cersei's duties here was to gather the vis, the essence of magic, that you Vintners have within you...obviously without damaging you or, hopefully, causing you any discomfort. Unfortunately, when she was killed, she didn't seem to leave any notes behind on how she did that. Do you happen to know how she did it, can you explain it, and would you mind terribly if I gathered the vis from you as she did?

"Obviously I would like to do so with the other Vintners as well, but I would like to ask their permission first, and I thought I would start with you since we got along so famously the other day."

Why, hello again, dearie! How sweet of you to be so thoughtful. Oh, dear. Is it that time again already? I swear, I was pruned just a few days ago. I can certainly explain the process Cersei uses from my perspective, but you won't be wanting to harvest any from me. My poor arms just couldn't survive another culling, I'm telling you....

"Let's see, how did she do it now? First, she always came at high midnight, dressed in a thin black lace outfit that tied at the waist." Cygna blushes deeply as she recalls finding that robe in Cersei's sanctum the day before. "Then you carefully disrobe, and hang your dress on this branch here, and walk down that path over there, do you see it? The one that is rather heavily overgrown? Yes, you walk back and forth down that path a few times, very slowly, sometimes stopping and just turning in circles, then you come back over here, and take your knife...oh, you'll need a knife for this, did I mention? You say, 'Tell me again, tell me of the day we first met," and then you lay down, usually about there, in the moonlight, and then you take the knife and..."

Margeurita proceeds to describe a set of actions which, while apparently ritualized, probably have very little to do with gathering vis. Cygna is probably glad she didn't ask Viscaria to join her for this part.

"...and then you lay there panting for a bit. You wipe up the blood, then get up and say [the incantation for Rego Vim / Gather The Essence], and lop off my arm. While I'm screaming in pain, you push the bloody stump into the ground, kick some dirt over it, and do it four or five more times, sometimes without the incantations. Then you walk over there and do the same thing to Vivica, who, if you don't mind me saying so, doesn't take it nearly as well as I do --"

A second voice, also feminine and directionless, agrees. "Oh, no, you're quiet right, Marge, I've never been as brave as you are."

"and then, I guess you cut off a bunch of other people's arms off," Margeurita continues. "Because about an hour later, you come back here, with a giant sack of limbs, grab mine and add them to the pile, put back on your dress, and leave. Simple, really."

As Cygna listens intently to Margeurita's description of the vis-gathering..."ritual," she finds herself torn in two. Part of her is paying strict attention to what Margeurita's saying, cataloging, trying to memorize what she's to do; the other part is revulsed by what Cersei had been doing. Wondering how much of it she's going to have to...and wondering if she'd be able to.

[color=red]"Was she always alone when she came to...'prune' you, ladies? If so...do you know who she would have been talking to?"

She pauses awkwardly, then proceeds. [color=red]"And are you sure that it was blood that she wiped up, and not...something else?" She's glad that the Vintners apparently can't see her blush at the thought of what Cersei'd been doing.

After a brief moment, another question occurs to her. [color=red]"You said she always came at high midnight. Do you know if she came on the same day, the same time of month, same time of the season or year? Or was she able to do the pruning at any time, aside from being high midnight?"

She thinks for a couple of minutes, analyzing what Margeurita had told her. And using her knowledge of Magic Theory to try to winnow out what is necessary for the pruning and what was merely done for Cersei's pleasure. Int 4 + MT 3 + the die comes up 0...wonderful. So checking for botch comes up an 8, so no botch. Still, 4+3+0=7. Hopefully getting more than a "Yep...seems legit," but I doubt it :smiley:

She's hoping that casting (or sponting) Gather the Essence of the Beast won't be required, as she has a long shot of doing so successfully. Perhaps the vis is naturally focused in a leaf or a tendril that she can take without causing the Vintners too much discomfort.

[color=red]"If you don't mind, Margeurita, I would like to start pruning you all tonight. And I pray that I don't cause you any more pain or discomfort than I have to. Do you mind spreading the word, seeing if there are any Vintners who will refuse to let me prune them, and let me know who I can and can't gather the Vis from?"

"Oh, yes. Always alone for that ritual."

"Well, if it came out of me, I'd be more like to call it sap, but yes, it seemed like blood to me, dearie. She'd scrap herself up something awful. Little cuts all over herself with that blade. Mind you, now that I think about it, she'd sometimes come out here and perform that part of the gathering ritual without actually gathering any vis. But always with the knife and making us tell her the story again."

"Hrm....yes, I believe it was always at high midnight, but she came whenever she wanted more parts for her experiments, or to make another one of us."

"Except that one time, just before she left," comments another vine from nearby. "That time, she came at mid-morning, and skipped the ritual altogether. Seemed grumpy about it, though."

Yes, it sounds perfectly plausible. Cygna can't quite figure out how one would learn to do that in the first place, but....it seems like she's going to have to go through the entire ritual, in the nude, every time she wants to gather Vintner vis. Although, she suspects the knife won't be needed for the first part of the ritual. It sounds like Cersei had just had that knife designed to be useful, um, at both ends of the ritual, as it were.

(Ret'con: Part of the reason Cygna blushes when she sees Cersei's studio in the other thread, is that she realizes she could use any of those glass wands for the first part of the ritual)

(Ret'con the 2nd: If players would prefer to keep this game PG-13, I can cut all this innuendo-laden stuff out)

On the other hand, if she doesn't cast it herself, and they don't naturally gather in certain parts, then she's going to have to explain what the ritual is to somebody else.

[color=red]"If you don't mind, Margeurita, I would like to start pruning you all tonight. And I pray that I don't cause you any more pain or discomfort than I have to. Do you mind spreading the word, seeing if there are any Vintners who will refuse to let me prune them, and let me know who I can and can't gather the Vis from?"
"Will do, dearie."

"Ha! You think any of us would go through that if we had a choice, do you?" comments the other, male-sounding Vintner.

Cygna is not feeling any less uncomfortable with what she's gotten herself into, but it must be done. [color=red]"Every time she gathered your vis, she would have you tell her again how you met?" She thinks for a minute as she awaits Marguerita's reply. [color=red]"Do you think you would have to tell me how you met Cersei when I prune you, or would you be telling me again how you and I met? And does she ask this of every Vintner? Or just the once, to get the ritual started?"

[color=red]"Why, what happened? Did she say anything about why she was there doing the...erm...'ritual' in the middle of the day instead of at midnight as usual? Or give any indication as to what was going on to make her change her routine?"

Cygna is positively mortified just thinking about it. She sincerely hopes that Terrence will obey when she orders him not to follow her when she comes out to gather the vis that night...she doesn't think she would ever be able to live it down if she knew he was watching her...or anyone else was, for that matter. And she really hopes word of this never gets back to her parents.

Yep...and she's going to have to go back to Cersei's chambers to get one of the...um...'wands' and the black lace outfit before that night. She just hopes it fits...she is rather tall, after all.

Nope...in fact, I'm planning on checking out my F.A.T.A.L. pdf to check a couple of things before the thread closes :laughing:

[color=red]"Marguerita, if you don't mind, I would like to check something right quick." Cygna will try to cast a spontaneous InVi, searching for where in the vintners any vis might be gathered/focused. The base appears to be probably Level 1 ("Detect the presence of vis"), although it might be Level 4 ("Judge the amount of vis present"), but doubtful it's that high. If it's not 1, then likely 2, not more than 3 imo. So...base 1, R: Personal, D: Conc (+1), and T: Touch (+1), for a total target level of 3.

In 6 + Vi 3 + Sta 0 + Aura 5 + a roll of 5 = 19÷2=9, which should be good enough (with any overage applied to Penetration, in case the vintners have MR).

[color=red]"Well, if you'd rather face the Restless without our help," Cygna says archly as she looks in the direction of the new voice, [color=red]"then by all means withhold your vis. I would think that you would want to do what you could to protect us, and yourselves as well, as best you could. The choice is yours."

"Well, I'm not a wizard, dearie, but our meeting certainly felt less mystical than when we all met Cersei. She asks to hear that story every time she lies in the moonlight for some ritual or other."

"They were going off to war, dearie. So they let us grow for as long as they could before harvesting. Cersei was quite upset about it."

FATAL? What is?

[color=red]"Marguerita, if you don't mind, I would like to check something right quick." Cygna will try to cast a spontaneous InVi, searching for where in the vintners any vis might be gathered/focused. The base appears to be probably Level 1 ("Detect the presence of vis"), although it might be Level 4 ("Judge the amount of vis present"), but doubtful it's that high. If it's not 1, then likely 2, not more than 3 imo. So...base 1, R: Personal, D: Conc (+1), and T: Touch (+1), for a total target level of 3.

In 6 + Vi 3 + Sta 0 + Aura 5 + a roll of 5 = 19÷2=9, which should be good enough (with any overage applied to Penetration, in case the vintners have MR).
The vis is more or less evenly distributed through the bodies of the Vintners, though they do seem slightly stronger where the grape flowers are just beginning to show. (Int 4 + MT 3 + roll 7 = 14 ) Cygna realizes that vis could be harvested without the use of spells by waiting for the fruit of the vine to ripen, and then just pluck the bunches off.

This new vintner (whom Cygna later learns is Thomas Vintner) begins to laugh madly. "Without your help? Oh, for the naivety of youth! Do you think we've always existed here? That we sprung up naturally? No, child. We were made to fight the Restless, and keep them from your doors. Oh, it's fine to be so polite and sweet with your May I This and Do You Mind If I That, but let's be perfectly clear about this: we were made by wizards, and we were bound to serve wizards. We are your slaves. We could no more resist your commands than we could feed off living flesh."

Marguerita starts arguing with Thomas loudly, telling him not to speak so to "the delightful child," and suddenly the entire grounds are alive with the sounds of Vintners arguing with Vintners. The noise is cacophonous and Cygna can hear very little.

Cygna makes a thoughful noise as she mulls this over. [color=red]"Remind me to have you tell me that story tonight, Marguerite...I've a feeling it might be very interesting."

It's a game I'm ashamed to admit I even know about :smiley: F.A.T.A.L. stands for "Fantasy Adventure To Adult Lechery" (got as a free download from someone on RPGNet years ago)...among it's "features" in Character Creation is charts for determining the size of various body parts and orifices. Yeah...pretty tacky, but I'm a packrat and don't ever delete anything on purpose if I can help it.

[color=red]"Now, isn't this interesting?" she says to herself, and thinks about taking up viniculture.

Cygna puts up with this for a scant minute or two before she yells for silence as loudly as she can. If that gets their attention, she will turn to Thomas. [color=red]"In case you'd forgotten, I've only been here a day, and have no idea what you're talking about. I do intend to find out, and do what I can to help. So...if you've no plans for this weekend, I will be back, we can talk, you can tell me how you were made and how you were bound to our service. Hopefully we can come to some kind of understanding."

I'm trying to come up with a "forest for the trees" pun here, but it just isn't coming to me. Cygna cannot get the attention of all the Vintners that are now arguing with each other, and none of them are willing to let anyone else get the last word just yet (which may be a clue to something). Presumably, she tries to call for their attention, fails to get their silence, and then adds her words to the din.

[color=red]"Well, so much for being unable to resist our commands," Cygna mutters.

She cups her hands to her mouth and yells, [color=red]"Be quiet!". If that works, then she will say as above. If not...she will simply throw her hands in the air, go [color=red]"Gaaaaah!" and storm away.

Cygna storms off, then.

The argument lasts deep into the night, and ends up keeping many of the serving staff awake.

:unamused: Wonderful...one more reason for the staff to be cheesed off at Cygna. :wink:

If they're still at it when it gets close to midnight, then she'll put off the pruning until the next night.

Naw, I'm not heartiless. Cygna can prune tonight. Though, she won't be able to obtain any of Cersei's objects d'artes for the first half of the ritual until she goes into her sanctum the next morning.

Isn't this the same day as Cygna, Amos and Viscaria exploring Cersei's lab/sanctum/stuff?

Ah, my bad. You can have a magic glass wand, if you want.

That evening, after dinner but before sundown, Cygna will make her way back to Cersei's studio. Looking around to be sure she isn't being watched, she will skulk in and head toward where the glass wands are kept. She will examine them for a couple of minutes, but has no idea what she's looking for or how to make an educated choice for which one is best suited. Finally, she picks one more or less at random, then heads to the wardrobe where the black lace...thing is, folds it carefully, and tucks it inside her robe before skulking back to her own room.

Not too long before midnight, she will don the robe, distaste evident on her face, put her normal robe on over it, then tuck the wand in her robe (I'm assuming a maga's robes has pockets or some such). She will head out to look for Marguerite after ordering Terrence to stay behind. ([color=red]"You will stay here and not come with me...and you will never tell a living soul what you see") She knows he won't obey...but she still has to go through the motions.

Anyone who chances to spy her that night can tell that she's visibly nervous, and she is praying for forgiveness for what she is soon to do the whole way.

When she reaches her destination, she will take off her outer robe, place it carefully over a nearby bush.

[color=red]"Marguerite? she calls out softly. [color=red]"It's time. You might want to walk me through it tonight, just to make sure I don't do anything wrong."

She then removes the lace robe, hangs it on the branch that Marguerite had indicated, walks up and down the path a few times very slowly (knife in one hand, wand in the other), occasionally stopping and turning in a circle. As she does, she makes sure that no one is watching: Per 0 + Awareness (Sight) 3 + die roll of 7 = 10.

She then returns to Marguerite's clearing and mutters, [color=red]"Might as well get this over with," her heart racing in her chest. She places the knife on the ground, says [color=red]"Tell me again, tell me of the day we first met," lays where the vintner had indicated, and...erm...starts to do the first part of the ritual (determined not to enjoy it). If she doesn't feel like she's done by the time Marguerite finishes her tale, she will ask to hear of the day Marguerite and Cersei first met.

When she's done the first part, she will wipe up whatever needs wiping up, take the knife, and approach Marguerite. Then something appalling occurs to her.

[color=red]"Um...Marguerite? Do I need to do that part of the ritual for each Vintner I prune, or just the once?"

She then takes the knife and carefully slices off some of the buds, placing them in her sack. She will then go from one Vintner to the other and slice off some of the buds...not all, not even most...maybe one in three or four. Hoping and praying that nobody sees her.

When she's done, she will put on the lace robe again, then her normal robes, then return to her quarters where she will go to bed and have a restless night.

Looking at her with an arched eyebrow, "Why did you seek me out, if not to come with you. I do sleep you know."
After a long pause, with a smirk on his face and a mocking tone he asks, "How would I be in a position to tell anyone about something if you wont permit me to be in your august presence?"

From the magic items cabinet, or one of the non-magical ones?

This part feels wrong to Cygna. Not just the discomfort she's been feeling about the entire thing, but like she's not really clear on what's supposed to be happening here.

The first part also feels wrong, inappropriate and non-mystical. Marguerite tells the story without much enthusiasm or flair.

However, the story of when the Vintners "met" Cersei is much more...mystical. Vines begin to creep forward, slithering and squeezing, inching ever closer to Cygna. Tendrils wrap themselves together into shapes approximating the glass object in her hand, and then fling themselves with sudden force....into her knife. Lengths of vine fall across her naked body, quivering and twitching in their death throes.

As the story reaches its conclusion, the cuttings begin to curl and wither, until they collect into three small orbs of wood, resting between her feet.

Cygna barely remembers the story, except for a few cogent details:

  • Much of Cersei's ritual magic occurs after....um, lying down for a bit by herself. It somehow fueled her magic.
  • Cersei was having an incestuous love affair with Jaime, but some life-shattering event had caused them to stop consummating it, at least for a long period before the she "met" the vines.
  • Cersei didn't meet the vines, she made them: they were the result of an experimental accident. They are a magical manifestation of her love for her brother, and as well as her love for two other men who were somehow lost to her.

I'm pretty sure I answered this before. Even if I didn't, the presence and number of the vines during the ritual gathering suggest that you don't. This doesn't explain her post-gathering work with the knife though.

This seems to feel right, like part of the ritual she experienced while laying on the ground, but nobody is screaming in pain.

Later, Viscaria will confirm that the three dried vine-orbs, plus the grapevine flower buds, form the three pawns of Mentem vis mentioned in Amos's research regarding vis sources, and matches some of the trash she observed in Hiems Tower.

"I thought Jaime said there'd be more, though the Amos says there should only be three. And didn't Jaime say something about pruning?"

Cygna, please update the wiki's Mentem, Spring entry. Be clear about what is public knowledge and what isn't.

Hmm...since this is supposed to be a magical ritual/process, probably the magic items cabinet.

She suspected that it was superfluous, but didn't want to accidentally omit anything vital until she got a better feel for what's supposed to be happening.

Okay, that part can probably be omitted in future vis-gatherings, it seems.

Cygna feels a little disgusted and sick to her stomach about what she's learned of Cersei and Jaime, and doesn't know if she'll be able to look at Jaime the same again...or at all...after this. The part about how the Vintners were created (even if accidentally) is interesting, and something that she will try to research and investigate further.

[color=red]"I'm not entirely sure that the pruning and the gathering of the Vintner's Vis are the same thing...and the gathering is something that I think should be kept to the one involved." She will try to keep a look of revulsion from crossing her face (Com 1 + Guile 0 + die roll of 9 = 10...so she may have been successful. Colour me surprised.

Trying to remember if there was a set schedule for the vis gathering, or if it was just done whenever Cersei thought she needed more Mentem.

Ah, well, in that case, Cygna definitely enjoyed the part where she was using it, in the same way that people enjoy dancing around mushroom rings, or attending faerie masquerades.

....unless you want me to calculate your Resistance vs the "wand's" Penetration.


Viscaria doesn't notice Cygna's revulsion, as she is too occupied with problems of her own. "Did I tell you? There are worms in my sanctum. They eat silver." Viscaria shudders and clutches her silver-wrapped arms around herself in a hug. "And this morning, when I went to check on a process that I had left to simmer overnight, I discovered that the burner lamp had been put away. Not just blown out. Someone had put a lid back on and put it back on the shelf."

Cygna is obviously surprised at this. [color=red]"It wouldn't be your shield grog...he should know by now not to interfere with anything your doing, even if he thinks he's cleaning up after you. That was one of the first things I instructed Terrence and Celestria not to do...ever."

She frowns thoughtfully. [color=red]"Who could it be, then?"