Spring 1221 Chapter 1A: Death and Taxes

A concerned look from Hiems

Lady cygna... No, it ain't against the code. Not as I understand it. The code forbids interference, not scrying mundanes (Code of Hermes 1, specialty in mundane interactions).
Thing is, I don't care if he's right or wrong, and you shouldn't either. What should matter is this: Do you think this is legit? Do you think you need to do it? Do you think you should do it? If any of these answers comes as a no, then you should refrain, and tell him to go to hell. In fact, I don't think he'll always lie. Sometimes, he'll tell truths, or close enough, in order for you to trust his less-than-fine advices. You should not listen to him, ever, just yourself and your god-given soul.
Overwhelmed by concern, he'll put his cooold hand on cygna's without thinking about it, trying to create a connection, to draw her attention to his words, to reach her.
Now, I am incomfortable with Mentem Magics. I... I am too similar to him to trust me to use these wisely. And I think that one should refrain from imposing his will on others, or peering in their minds. Yet, sometimes, I believe it may be the best choice, the one who leads to less suffering and avoids conflicts and pain. Because the same magics that let you invade someone's mind can help you to understand him and to find a peaceful resolution, or to subdue someone without killing him.
And then? You are not I, nor him. You are wiser, better than us. I don't know if this is wise. But should you choose to use magic to get the answer from his mind, I trust it'll be. And that this will be to find a way to avoid conflict between him and us. And I trust, too, that you'll only seek the answer to what you need.

If he was able to blush, he surely would.
He'll turn around, feeling very embarrassed and conscious. It has been years since he was alone and so close to... No. He mustn't think about it. Nothing. Never. No one.

Awww, this is so nice!

Well, this isn't great, but it is peaceful, and appropriate, and, for once, hiems will enter sleep peacefully, a light half-smile on his lips.

The four of you are awoken well before dawn, by the sounds of a pitched battle raging about.

Cygna smiles at him, trying to hide her glee at such a simple gesture ((Com 1 + Guile 0 + 6= 7)), even though inside she's like omigaw omigaw omigaw squeeee swoon

Cygna looks at Hiems with dismay. It's not the first time that he's compared himself to that monster, or used that word to describe himself. If only he knew the depths of depravity that Adorjan had lowered himself to in life, or that she herself had...

[color=red]"No...no, you're nothing like him, amicus. You are the finest and most noble man I know, not a...not like him at all.

"I do have to remember that he was just a man, though. Although he was despicable, I must remember that not everything he did or said was heinous. I just have to be careful about which words of his heed, lest I..." Cygna catches herself and blinks quickly.

[color=red]"I was hoping to get this resolved quickly and return home. But...subtlety isn't always my forte, and I doubt that de Montfort will be forthright with us about what he's doing with all our money. I should be able to use my magic on him to at least get us pointed in the right direction."

Cygna will watch him as he sleeps, content, happy, and beautiful, and will try to fix the image in her mind, creating a locus in her Memory Palace. ((Int 4 + Art of Memory 1 + die roll of 0 (botch check comes up a 6) = 5. Not sure if she'd realize that the locus didn't take until she tries to access it, so I won't roll another check unless someone wants me to.))

The next morning, barring a middle-of-the-night interruption or something, she will again do the create-a-shoji thing and get dressed. ((15 + die roll of 4 = 19 ÷ 2 = 9½))

((edit, since Arya posted while I was composing.))

Cygna flap-waddles to the window and looks out to see what's going on, after taking a quick glance at Hiems to see if he's getting up and around.

Bannerless, black-tabarded men are dragging bodies out of the manor gates and heaping them up in piles; there seems to have been little to no resistance there (likely due to surprise or outright sabotage). There are men dragging peasants out of their huts and interrogating them.

The battle sounds are coming from the common room of the inn, where the old innkeep seems to be using the confined space to his advantage, as he wields a rusty saber to fend off three armed and armoured men. The crumpled bodies of two assailants lie on the floor-- if they're not dead, they will wish they were, once tetanus sets in :stuck_out_tongue:

That can't be good.

As soon as she's dressed, she will sing Doublet of Impenetrable Silk upon herself. ((Mu 6 + An 3 + Sta 0 + die roll of 9 = 18 – easily cast))

Once that's done, she will go down to the common room and look around the corner to get a look at what's going on. Assuming that one of the crumpled bodies is close-ish to her, she will try to drag him out of the scrum and try to awaken him.

((My first though was to spont a version of Snap of Awakening, but the spell description specifically says that it doesn't work if it's caused by Fatigue loss, wounds, or magic, and I'm not sure if that's due to the spell being invented the way it was or if it's endemic to all awakening spells – the guideline doesn't say. If I'm not able to magick him awake, then I'll slap him awake, dump water on him, or something.))

If she's able to get him awake enough to make eye contact with her (since I think you have to be conscious/awake for Eye range to work), she will sing Posing the Silent Question: "Who sent you?" and "What was your mission here?"

((First casting: In 6 + Me 18 + Sta 0 + Aura 0 + die roll of 2 = 26, vs. spell level of 20. So, made it by 6, + Penetration (Mentem) 2 = Penetration of 8 (just in case). Second casting: 24 + die roll of 3 = 27, and a Penetration of 9. Obviously, casting in a battlefield has her a little rattled :slight_smile: ))

This would make Hiems laugh with irony if he wasn't trying to take care of cygna. So there's just a self-loathing snicker from him.
She doesn't understand, she doesn't know what he could have done. Not that he won't try to do the right thing, but he so easily could have become like him. She sees... She sees what he'd like to be, what he tries to be, not what he could have been, and what ugly truth reside within him. He doesn't know if this is her being very wise, or very deceived.

Sigh... I don't think either. It would sure be useful, and could probably help us, but you don't have to do it if you don't want to. We aren't here to learn this, but to get him to ease up on the taxes. But I trust you, and will help you as best as I can.

Hiems wakes up, and first searches cygna, worried about her security. Once he sees she's there and alright, he'll try to have a look outside.

Something inside Hiems welcomes this.
The harshest, coldest side of him, the fierce winter that blankets and kills all life.
Something a little self-loathing, too, although he ain't clearly conscious of this, showing cygna what he is, a glimpse of the monster. She can't believe his human side could have turned to diabolism, so he'll show her his inhuman side cares for no one and isn't to be trusted or loved.
Yet, even though he wouldn't recognize this either, there is something better, too. The knight in him being infuriated by these 3 armed coward attacking a single man. The man in him wanting to make sure these won't hurt cygna, too.

He shouldn't reveal him to be a wizard, but, for all these reasons, he doesn't care at the moment

Impassible, uncaring, he'll gesture and speak a few words, ice crystals forming in the air around him, as he casts Freezing Dust on the most agressive of the attackers, a freezing wind rushing from his hand to the warrior:
+32 + useless 1d10=1, 1d10=3 = 38 - aura ? => Penetration 18 - aura.

One is dead and the other is incapacitated. It'll probably be easier to Whisper Through the Black Gate the dead one, than to revive the incapacitated one (CrCo ritual, or non-ritual CrCo and a lot of time to heal) and Pose the Silent Question.

Frost forms on the man, who takes a Medium wound, and he turns the attention from the innkeep to Hiems. One of the other two assailants panics, and runs from the room shouting something in a language neither Hiems nor Cygna recognizes. (Cygna changed back to human form and I assumed she put on a robe for her Doublet casting, but as she was moving quickly I assume she did not put on Lamentus' necklace.) The last assailant looks between Hiems and the innkeep, and moves back-to-back with his compatriot so that he is facing the innkeep, while his frosty friend faces Hiems.

The wounded soldier swings his axe at Hiems, for 10 points of advantage (16atk - 6def). That gives him 17 damage vs 2 soak, which is a Heavy wound. The other soldier hacks at the innkeep, but misses. The old red-haired man ripostes, his rusted sword glancing off the soldier's shield but quickly flicks upward to flick against the space between the soldier's gorget and helm; the strike is good but the blade is rusted, and inflicts only a light wound. (Aaah, named NPCs. :p)

Okay, let's do a quick Whisper Through the Black Gate on the poor guy. ((In 6 + Co 5 + Sta 0 + Aura 0 + die roll of 1 (followed by die roll of 3, which per house roll is a minimum of 5?) which makes it 10 = 21, vs. a spell level of 15.))

She would need a Concentration roll of 15 (which means at least a 10 total on the dice), so she's not going to try to cast Posing the Silent Question, so she will have to settle for asking him the above questions out loud.

I think she would have, considering she sees some soldiers and doesn't know where they're from or what language they might speak – it would be easier to understand what they're yelling about with the necklace.

[color=red]"Noooooooo! Hiems!"

Tell you what-- make an Int check and on a 9 or better you grabbed it on your way out the door.

...And a Concentration check on your Whispers Through the Black Gate :slight_smile: (Does Cygna truly love Hiems? Or is it just physical attraction complicating their friendship at this point?)

Fair enough. Int 4 + die roll of 9 = 13.

Uff. Let's see...Int 4 + Concentration 1 + die roll of 5 = 10.

And it occurs to me that I might want to put this under a spoiler tag, in case The Fixer doesn't want to know yet :smiling_imp:

[spoiler]Yes, she does. At first, it was just flirting, trying to get noticed by the hawt fae-blood with the Venus's Blessing. But over the years, as he kept treating her like a Lady, as someone better than she sees herself a lot of the time, it became something more. Not the True Love Flaw, but more than just a crush. And she sees that he's hurting, and believes that there's something in his past that he doesn't talk about, something that keeps him from acknowledging that he might feel the same about her. And when he offered to move with her to Stonehenge...that's when she realized that, deep down inside, he just might feel the same, even if whatever happened to him won't let him see it for himself (after all, do you move halfway across the world to be with just a friend?).

And yet (much like Hiems), she's afraid to tell him about what's been done to her...what she did when she was younger, for fear of driving him away, but knows that she will have to tell him the truth about herself probably within the next year. Definitely before Tribunal.[/spoiler]

Hmm, I'm going to say concentrating would be Hard, then, and Cygna loses her Whispers spell before the corpse can answer any questions.

The third attacker who ran outside shouted, "Captain! Captain! The rumours are true, the innkeep IS a sorcerer! He FROZE Aeron!" She hears a second voice reply, "I will go personally. WYN! SERJEANT! TRAHEARN! With me!"

[color=red]"I'm sorry, Hiems, I should have thought of this earlier," Cygna says, a catch in her voice, before she sings Doublet of Impenetrable Silk on Hiems's garments (I'm assuming she's within range). ((9 + die roll 6 = 15.))

[color=red]"Four more are coming...apparently they think the innkeep is a sorceror"

Oh, and totally forgot about me shield grog. Does he have time to do much more than grab his sword before seeing what the hubbub's about? (I'm assuming armouring up is right out).

(Shouldn't I have had a chance for a fast-cast defense? Oh, let's roll with it)

Grievely wounded, hiems staggers back, blood all over his body, the sudden shock so intense that no cry of pain escape his lips.
Barely counscious, he looks at the blood on his hands, thoughts dizzy, head spinning, all caught up into a great silence, all sounds smothered by his body shutting down.
Is this... Death? How fitting, at last.(italic is for thoughts)

Cygna's cry appears muffled, but it is enough to cut through the fog.
Hiems will look at her and get back on his feet, his previous thoughts and confusion gone.
Everything is clear now, his purpose evident.
He was suicidal back then, he should have used his protective spells. Too late now, but he will wait a few moments before dying, as he must first ensure she is okay..

As the pain flares back, Hiems will position himself between the man and cygna.

Clenched teeth due to the pain Flee, will he say to the maga.

I don't remember if you can cast while wounded.
If you can't, he'll block the way for her to flee, burning Confidence if needed. He doesn't care if he dies, so long as he buys Cygna enough time.
If you can... It doesn't change much, save that he can do more, by casting the following:
•Cloak of Darkness (PeIg 10)
R: Touch, Duration: Diameter, Target: Individual
Greatly reduce the amount of light in an area of size equal to a single fire*100. This is rougly equivalent to a townplace.
Base 2, +1 Diam, +1 Touch, +2 Increased area

Perdo 11, Ignem 9, Sta 2, Wound -5, Aura -? = 17 - Aura + 1d10=7 = (24 - Aura)/2
If dominion 1 or less, this goes. If Dominion 2, he'll burn a Confidence point to make this work.

(OOC: I don't want him to die, but this situation? He just can't have cygna risking bodily harm, whatever the risks to him)

[color=red]"Not without you!" Cygna hisses as she looks around. She's no chirurgeon, but she can tell that he's grievously wounded, and to leave him behind would mean his death...and hers, in a way.

((If I'm reading the rules right (p.178-179), you take your total Wound Penalties on everything – in this case, a -5 for the one Heavy Wound – but don't make any recovery rolls for worsening wounds until after the combat, and then only if you try to do more than your Wound Penalty allows.))

((Don't know if/when we're going to go into official Combat Time with initiative and stuff or if we're just going to continue winging it. But if we're declaring for next round:

I'd need at least an 8 to get the soldier facing Hiems to flee in terror, I think: ReMe base 5 to "incline a person to a particular sort of response" or "control a natural emotion" to make him overcome with fear. So, if that's right, then...wait. Hiems has a pretty heinous Parma, so her spont ReCo to keep his wound from worsening won't work. So, if there's not a mug or ewer or something handy she can chuck at Frosty the Dead Man over there, she will try that ReMe on him.))

Michiel's still busy, but I suppose Timothy would see it as his responsibility to defend the Magi. He'll head down to participate, I suspect he probably had to turn over his weaponsat the gate so he'll be looking for anything that might make a handy bludgeon (pokers ,et al)...

The inn is outside the manor house, so he still has his weapons.

We are in initiative, I make all those rolls for combat to try and make it less painfully slow. Of course, the necessity for looking things up in my books and the fact that I'm usually only posting from my phone while on the bus or when waiting for reactions to incubate at work, means it's slow anyway :stuck_out_tongue: You can pick out the initiative order from my combat post, with the exception that the innkeep goes first, so his attack at the end is, as far as mechanics are concerned, at the top of round 2.

Cygna casts Doublet on Hiems before his Darkness spell goes off (which is successful, without need for Confidence). The description of "Gloom of Evening" doesn't seem to indicate that the darkness is enough to cause any direct penalties to most physical actions (though, of course, reading should be very difficult); it adds to botch dice for sure, but I don't think it will cause any other penalty to melee within the area.

Frosty hacks his axe at Hiems again, again with 10 points of advantage (14 atk vs 4 def). 17 damage vs. a soak of 5, 12 damage is still enough for a Heavy Wound. Thanks to the Doublet, if Hiems spends a point of Confidence on his defense, this will mitigate the attacker's advantage to drop the damage down to a Medium wound. Care to spend a point, Fixer?

I totally forgot about Cygna's shield grog, too. He can grab his sword and come to the main room along with Timothy. They burst in almost simultaneously with four new attackers, one of whom is wearing very shiny, finely crafted chainmail and wielding a sword, the other three of whom are wielding axes (because all the standard grog templates have axes. whatever).

Charles moves to protect Cygna and Timothy interposes himself between the attacker and the wounded Hiems-- who, by the way, is spilling blue blood all over the common room.

Timothy swings his hatchet at Frosty, who somehow manages not to botch despite having 5 botch dice (!). Timothy has a 19 atk vs a defense of 7, for 12 points of advantage, which is insufficient to deal damage (13 soak). The axe clinks harmlessly against the man's full scale armour.

The three newcomers surround the innkeep but do not attack. The man in chainmail speaks: "Come quietly, Kote, and we'll leave your wife in peace-" he gestures toward Cygna- "here with your brothers."

Hiems is the only one who sees well enough in the darkness to notice that the innkeep's wife and children are all huddled underneath an overturned table. The little girl is crying silently, and the two little boys look terrified, kept silent only by their mother's hands clasped firmly over their mouths.

(Top of round 3.)

"That wench?" The innkeep flicks his gaze to Cygna, and laughs. "You can have her, with my compliments. I'll never take up arms against my Prince." He then leaps to attack the captain (23 atk vs. 2 botches on defense), and Kote decapitates the captain in a single mighty swing of his saber. The liberated head flies off and knocks one of his men in the face (there's the double botch).

The guy who just took his captain's head to the face is stunned for the round. The other two launch into a frenzied attack against Kote.

The original two attackers show intent to try and surround "the innkeep's wife" (Cygna) this round. "You come with us and your man will live through the night," Frosty tells Cygna.

(As a reminder, the men are speaking Welsh, which currently only Cygna understands, I think. The necklace has charges of Thoughts Within the Babble-- it does not allow her to speak in foreign languages, only to discern the meaning behind spoken words, mentally.)

So Hiems has either two Heavy Wounds or a Heavy and a Medium? uff

[color=red]"I'm not his wife!" Cygna yells in English at the chainmailed soldier (the leader?).

Oh, I'm not good enough for you? Not pretty enough? Cygna fumes...even though she doesn't want him, she still feels insulted.

Cygna looks at Frosty, then down at Hiems...how bad does he look? ((She has no Chirurgeon or any medical-type skills, so maybe just an Awareness with a penalty of some kind? Per 0 + Awareness (Sight) 3 + die roll of 2 = 5.))

For some reason I was thinking it worked both ways. shrug

Charles will stay in front of Cygna, keeping himself between himself and the attackers as best he can. Holding his action until one or the other makes a move toward her, then counter-attacking if need be.

If Hiems looks as bad off as I think he does (like, in desperate need of chirurgy, and likely to die without it), she will look at him, then back at Frosty. She will then place a tender hand on Hiems's shoulder, tears in her eyes, and softly say, [color=red]"I'm sorry...I'm going to go with them. They promise that you will live through the night if I do. With luck, they will take me to de Montfort." She will then hug him (hopefully not too hard) and whisper [color=red]"I will see you soon, my love," in English.

Well, I'd prefer to try to use my fast-cast masteted Leap of Homecoming this time... To go near cygna. Doing nothing the first time was okay, since it was so dramatic, but twice is a bit much :laughing:
I don't know his init, though.

+27 - 05 (wound) -10 (fast cast) = +12 + 1d10=9 = 21 -aura vs lvl 15. Based on the precedent, this shoudl work fine.
Finesse 2 + Qik 1 + 1d10=1! Gonna roll a 2... 1d10=6 = 3+2*6= 15 :smiley:. Hum... Are wounds deduced? Hum... Since wound penalties apply to all rolls IIRC, this should make it a 10 :frowning:

Oh shit, awful lot of things I missed up there... Or not so much, finally.

This is so dramatic it almost makes me hope for Hiems to be not Qik enough :-/

So if his fast-cast teleport is not fast enough, AND he looks wounded enough to cygna's eyes (IMO, he surely will), we'll have this scene.
Kof Kof Gritting teeth No! I don't care if I die, don't choke on his blood, cygna hugs him...
Hiems doesn't speak one word of english, which cygna probably knows :-/ But the sight of her tears breaks his heart. He doesn't want anyone to suffer, lets of all those he loves.

If he is fast enough... He isn't in much better shape anyway, so they can have almost the same scene, with hiems telling her to go and her wanting the 2 of them to flee together.