Kasimir

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  1. It was said that a man could not turn a corner in the Imperial Seat without stumbling upon a teahouse. There were many such teahouses; scattered throughout the districts of the capital. Some were little more than squat shops in which a labourer could grab a cup of hot tea at the end of the day, listen to the gossip that was the lifeblood of the Imperial Seat, and dice away his coin. Others were elegant affairs: towering edifices with arched roofs, where the artists and bureaucrats gathered to comment on paintings or exchange poetry. The Frozen Moon teahouse was neither. An establishment respected for its age, the teahouse was built next to an open courtyard, with blossoming peach trees overlooking a clear, still pond. Here, in the teahouse, the Imperial Seat’s underworld diced, fought, and otherwise mixed freely with the highest-ranked bureaucrats of the Empire. Here, affairs of state had once been decided; almost five years ago, when the streets and the gutters ran thick with blood as the factions plotted and schemed in the wake of the untimely assassination of the ailing Emperor Yazad, and one of the most cunning, most dangerous men in the Rose Empire, Arbiter Kaleva. The Frozen Moon, however, was over three centuries old, and while the sloping tiles of the roof had recently been repaired—there had been a terrible storm last summer, and half the roof had been damaged when the venerable peach tree planted in the day of Empress Taizu in the courtyard collapsed—much of the outrage of the years remained. The wooden door was a little more battered, and the paint on the walls had grown thin and faded, but the Frozen Moon persisted, looking somewhat worse for the wear, but a citizen could sit in the courtyard and sip tea and know that little had changed, at least where the Frozen Moon was concerned. Arbiter Oshin would have seen the same peach trees, as she sat in the courtyard and composed the famous Peach Yard Couplets that would lead to the formation of the Heritage Faction. There were changes, however. Little stirrings and eddies that suggested that the course of the mighty river of history was—potentially—about to shift. Wenshon went from table to table, copper kettle in hand, refilling cups of tea. Steam rose from the fired-clay cups, mingling with the sweet fragrance of the herbs. Usually, he was accompanied by a taciturn MaiPon server, but today, the server was nowhere to be found. So it was that Wenshon deftly scooped up coins, scrubbed at the tables, and carried out steaming plates of dumplings and tea sweets to the customers that frequented the Frozen Moon. In summer, it was slices of iced persimmon, neatly-arranged, and how Wenshon acquired such delicacies was a matter of some speculation. “...a disgrace! I have never heard of such an absurdity in my life,” snapped a stern-looking woman, her hair fastened back with an austere wooden clip. Conversations quieted, as the patrons of the Frozen Moon realised who was speaking. Arbiter Darela of the Reform Faction was young for an arbiter, and deadly-focused. What legislation she wanted, she got. It was said that only two people had ever seen Arbiter Darela smile. She was the pride of Salshi, her home province, and kept a miniature cultivated Salsi thorn-bush in a clay pot on her desk. Right now, however, Arbiter Darela was irritated. What was more unusual, however, was the person whom she was cross with. Arbiter Huzin, who was currently the most powerful woman in the Rose Empire, sat there, arms folded across her chest, and sighed. “That’s the problem with you, Darela,” Huzin retorted. “You’re far too stubborn for your own good—it’s your way, or nothing at all, and suddenly it’s tyranny when the Emperor seeks only to pass a law for the stability of the Rose Empire—” “A law which allows Emperor Gamman to censure individuals or organisations that offend public integrity by promoting falsehoods!” Darela shot back. “Huzin, you must see this. It is extremely dangerous to allow the ruling arbiters to decide what is truth and what is falsehood, and to allow the censure and punishment of those who disagree with us. It is far, far worse for us to cede that power entirely into Gamman’s hands.” Huzin was shaking her head. “I respect your perspective, Darela. I truly do. But this was the fourth Svordish agent we’ve caught within the Imperial Seat, and the last one provoked a riot in the Hall of Memories. Thirty-one citizens dead, Darela! You cannot continue to cry tyranny the moment Gamman enacts necessary laws and allow more to join the dead.” “Lushan wasn’t Svordish.” Huzin scowled. “He took their money. He commanded the guard. He played stones with the Svordish diplomat every Tuesday.” “Hardly the basis for subversion, Huzin! Or shall we all start looking to our friends and shunning those of foreign origin?” “Enough, Darela,” Huzin said. Darela drained her cup to the dregs and slammed it back down onto the wooden table. “I think,” she said softly, “The problem is that it will never be enough. There will always be another danger, another threat. Won’t there?” “Those who seek phantoms will always find them,” Huzin replied, just as quietly. Their voices carried in the hush that descended within the Frozen Moon. “Go to your work, Darela. We will do what we must.” For the third and final time, the central room of the Frozen Moon saw Arbiter Darela smile. It was a tired smile, perhaps, touched with wariness. “You will, I presume.” She bowed her head; whether in acceptance or challenge, it was not clear. She left behind a sizable tip for Wenshon as she left the Frozen Moon, the door creaking shut behind her with the loud complaint of age. From the shadows, unseen by all except perhaps Wenshon, who was getting on in years, but was still sharper than Gixin steel, a MaiPon man padded after her. ㄢㄋㄌ QF40: Uneasy Lies “Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown.” —William Shakespeare, Henry VI Part 2, Act 3, Scene 1: 1735. It is the fifth year of Emperor Gamman’s reign. The eighty splendid suns rise and fall in turn, illuminating the sprawling expanse of Imperial Seat. In the shadows, plotting and intrigue goes on, wheels within wheels, coin exchanging hands and playing-pieces falling into place as the game of games goes on. Emperor Gamman has schemed his way into power, riding on the chaos unleashed by the power-struggle between the Heritage, Moderation, Glory, and Discovery factions, in the weeks since the previous Emperor, Yazad, had been slain by a MaiPon assassin. But some do not forget. In a modest teahouse in a corner of the capital, schemes simmer and steep like tea leaves, reaching a boil... Gamman will fall. This cause has drawn members of the various Factions together in a private tea room of the Frozen Moon, even as you eye one another warily over cups of steaming tea. But first: can you trust everyone in your midst? ㄢㄋㄌ General Rules ㄢㄋㄌ Win Conditions ㄢㄋㄌ Roles Sign-ups have opened and will remain open until 16th October, 8PM, GMT+8. (This is to give us time to get set up and to figure if we need to tweak the Embedded Operative cycles.) The IM for this game will be @Fifth Scholar . Quick Links:
  2. Aftermath Aphelion Kavela drifted through the small, self-contained world of the Frozen Moon like a ghost. Conversation was a constant murmur about her ears, but she could not quite bring herself to intrude. She hesitated, a hand going to the unmarked skin of her throat. Nothing at all. How was this possible? Things had seemed eerily familiar before: Asterion running out into the dark, Asterion’s body turning up in the pavillion, and she couldn’t remember seeing Joon or Wai ZhierSen, and yet they were here all the same, their presence indubitable. She brushed past a MaiPon server, and for a moment, saw him carrying both a large metallic sword balanced on a shoulder as if it weighed no more than a feather, and a repeating crossbow in the other hand. It felt so real. All of it. The hunger and the thirst. The Strikers waiting for them outside, in the dark. The terror, the long, slow death. Joon pressing the strangler’s wire into her throat, leaning into the movement with practised ease. His hands had brushed past her at some point, and they were callused and Kavela could not remember when he’d acquired those calluses. They should be soft, she found herself thinking. A spoiled pretty-boy’s hands. She could still leave now, couldn’t she? She flung open the door and strode out into the courtyard, with the peach tree. She’d climbed it, days ago. It felt like it had been forever. The MaiPon man was there, still, scratching at the fallen leaves with his broom. Their eyes met, and for a moment, Kavela saw him, curled up on the ground, blood oozing from a crossbow bolt that had punctured his thigh. Could she do this? Could any of them be saved? Impulsively, Kavela said, “Gamman’s coming. You must leave, get out of here, go somewhere safe.” “I know,” said Shi KwaiRan. ㄢㄋㄌ Ableah watched as Arbiter Urskevan left, ostensibly to search for more of the Frozen Moon’s excellent buns, and waited. No one noticed as first Marzia, then Somi, and then finally, Asterion himself, made various excuses and left after the arbiter of the Glory Faction. He felt his hands clench into fists by his side. No. He had no love for the Glory Faction, not when Arbiter Urskevan had championed mercilessly hunting Ableah Edr and his fellow scholars of the Discovery Faction down, five years ago in the Succession Riots. Meeting Asterion again had been a shock, the sudden jolt of thin ice giving way beneath his feet. He thought they were all dead. The Strikers had left him for dead, shooting him full of crossbow bolts after he’d killed enough of them with his halberd. Discord had been a good weapon, if chatty. Ableah wondered what had happened to it now. Without particularly appearing to do so, Ableah trailed the hidden members of the Discovery Faction, scooping up an empty platter so he looked appropriately busy. He might have felt something, once: relief, or a sense of kinship, almost. He owed Discovery nothing now. They had not come for him when he lay among the dead, and he would not come to heel now. Ableah reached for the repeating crossbow hidden within his armoured jacket, and felt the cracks in his soul and mind widen, just a little. ㄢㄋㄌ “Surrender in the name of the Emperor!” Joon Banyung smiled, and reached for his bowl of powdered tea. He’d asked for it to be shaken, not stirred, so there was a pleasant layer of froth at the very top of the drink. Actions and consequences, or if you preferred: action, and then reaction. It was eminently foreseeable that Gamman might lash out at those who had gathered to plot against him. There were several questions to be asked: how Gamman had realised this, and what Gamman’s plans were, and how the Discovery Faction had been involved in the first place. When Joon had seen the recall phrase scrawled on a tiny slip of rice paper and concealed in a jar of tea leaves, he had barely believed it. Had eaten the paper, out of sheer force of habit, even as he tried to work out the situation. It had been five years. He was certain they’d forgotten about him. Evidently, not any more. Ellira shivered. She was good, Joon Banyung thought, even as she let him put his arm around her to comfort her. She was slight, but packed with wiry muscle, and he thought he felt at least three knives and a slender garotte hidden about on her. Then there was that hairpin, which was very likely poisoned. He thought he noticed that the ornamental fan tucked into her sash was a little too heavy, which pointed to steel ribbing, perhaps. Even more concealed blades. That was part of the fun, wasn’t it? Flirting with danger. It had been five years. Joon Banyung deserved to live a little. He raised his tea bowl in an ironic salute to Gamman, and drank deep. ㄢㄋㄌ It began with a Striker’s shouted command in the cool night air. Ellira shivered, allowed her expression to show fear, and blinked until her eyes filled with tears. “I don’t want to die,” she whispered, rolling her eyes inwardly as Joon whispered sweet nothings to her. She was trying to work out what she should do next. Strikers meant a picket line with crossbows, and Ellira could take a Striker in a fight but she didn’t fancy her chances against several bolts from a repeating crossbow. Watch and report, her Master had told her. She did not know if this was what Arbiter Raishin had in mind. For all Arbiter Raishin was of the Reform Faction and Ellira worked for him, managing one or two agents in the Reform Faction’s eyes and ears, he had started putting her out into the field more and more. Ellira didn’t mind. There was a sharp mind beneath the soft-spoken exterior, and for all people spoke disparagingly of Arbiter Raishin, Ellira simply laughed. They were both playing a role, and if others could not see that, then they were fools. She did not know what game Raishin played. It did not matter to her. Last week, she’d killed a soybean merchant on his orders. The week before that, she’d infiltrated a local gang leader’s home and stolen his ledger. That kill had been hers, because it amused her. She’d forced his head down beneath the surface as they shared a heated bath with fragrant oils. There was still a whiff of jasmine on her wrists, and she had felt it, the moment he stopped thrashing about and became dead weight in the water. He hadn’t expected her to be so strong. Most men did not, especially if you’d honed smiles and tears into weapons. Raishin, at least, allowed her the occasional diversion. He did not brook disobedience but he enjoyed giving assets the creativity to interpret and follow his orders as he saw fit, and Ellira in turn would have chafed at a tight leash. She wanted, so badly, to lead Joon on a merry chase. He thought she was simple, falling for pretty words and a lovely smile, but Ellira hadn’t gotten to where she was by fluttering her lashes and falling hard the moment a pretty boy turned on the charm. Two could play at this game, but her orders were clear: watch and report. Joon would live. For now. Somi ignored the jar of dream honey and focused on the third object on the shelf: a jar of dried tea leaves. The scrawled label indicated it was Duck Vomit Oolong, aged for at least ten years. Somi raised an eyebrow. “Duck Vomit?” she wondered aloud, both impressed and taken aback. She scrabbled through the jar of tea leaves until she found a tiny slip of rice paper, which she unfolded. The message had been written in an unfamiliar hand, and displayed one or two smudges and blotches, as though the writer was not well-versed in the codes commonly employed by the agents of the Discovery Faction. Cover away, it read. Gamman spy here, which Somi supposed meant that their cover had been blown. The writer had probably swapped the code words around on accident. Kan had made no mention of a spy, though the MaiPon who had contacted them had once worked in such a capacity for the Reform Faction. But she trusted Kan. It was fair to say they all did. It was Shuos KanSeun who had brought the Discovery Faction to prominence during his brief tenure as arbiter. It was Shuos KanSeun who had led to that first fall from grace, the beginning of the gradual decline that had become an abrupt descent during the Succession Riots, five years ago. Even in failure, he was still the paragon; the proof that even the smallest of Factions could produce greatness. A chance to strike at Gamman. She thought of Urskevan. Had they thrown away this chance by leaving him to die? But how could they continue as though nothing had happened while Urskevan plotted with the conspirators? I don’t care if we’re doing Gamman’s dirty work for him, Marzia had said, slipping a short, heavy cosh into her fist. He hunted us down like animals during the Succession Riots. I’m not keeping my head down and pretending that everything’s alright. If Gamman had a spy here, though, that changed everything. The spy wouldn’t be able to reveal their identity, for fear of the conspirators turning on them. But Gamman had no love for the Discovery Faction. They were in danger as long as the spy lived. “We need to find the spy,” Marzia said, now. “We do,” agreed Somi. Asterion merely nodded. He had not spoken, since the vicious attack that had almost cost him his life, five years ago. There were several candidates for the spy. Somi scanned the crowded room of the teahouse, letting her gaze flick from person to person without particularly focusing on any one of them. There were a few outlanders who might have been coaxed into spying for Gamman—the man who named himself Stefan Trent Isle Nathan Kilkreath was one of them. There was the arbiter, Yesterday Jones. Marzia dismissed her. “She’s an arbiter,” Marzia said. “Gamman probably learns more from what she says to her fellow arbiters than anything else. She can’t be our spy.” There was the quiet and unremarkable Itiah, sitting at a corner of the table, nursing a cup of hot tea and ignoring the pastries. Asterion indicated him. Perhaps there was something more; some hidden depths to the man that were yet to be revealed. Somi considered, briefly, the legendary Wai ZhierSen, who had been seen on a few tasks for the Glory Faction before she’d vanished, presumed dead, after the incident with the glitter and the syrup and the sweetbreads. There was a story there, but Asterion would not tell it to her, and so she’d had to put it all together. Yes, Wai ZhierSen fit the profile of the spy perfectly, but Somi could not see one such as her condescending to work for Gamman. It was probably one of the others. Wasn’t it? “I bet it’s Kilkreath,” Joon murmured. He had slipped away from the girl, at long last, and was currently lounging insouciantly on the chair. “He just seems like the sort.” But when eventually they ambushed Kilkreath with a cosh to the temple and searched him, they found nothing, only a hank of twine, a ball of dried noodles, and half a bottle of rice wine. If there was a spy, they had slipped through their grasp. “We don’t have time for this,” Marzia said, at last. More bravado than deliberate course of action. “We carry on with the plan.” Somi rubbed the carved duck lucky charm in her pocket and hoped this lapse would not come back to haunt them. ㄢㄋㄌ Some of the conspirators surrendered, walking shame-facedly out of the Frozen Moon, hands held high up. They were arrested by the waiting Strikers, and taken away from everyone’s sight. The rest of the conspirators, however, argued about the next course of action. “Gamman is not known for his mercy,” Yesterday “Yes” Jones said, “And we are ill-served by giving in to him.” As an arbiter of the Heritage Faction, her words carried some measure of weight, and put some steel into the conspirators backs. Shuos KanSeun laughed. “Of course Gamman is not known for his mercy,” he said, shaking his head. “He won the Rose Throne through cunning and subterfuge and he is terrified that the day he falls behind will be the day he is deposed by someone more ambitious. Someone like Arbiter Frava, perhaps. Or Arbiter Urskevan. It has always surprised me that Gamman let them live, when he first seized power.” “You said Gamman needed to be stopped!” Roashina screamed back at him. “Of course he does,” Kan said, with a raised eyebrow. “Did you really think we would get away scot-free in the process? One does not hunt a tiger and expect all the hunters to return home safe and sound. And make no mistake about that: Gamman has the soul of a tiger.” In the end, the conspirators held firm. They would not surrender. “In fact,” DeTess murmured, “Murdering a group of peaceful citizens, among whom are the arbiters of the Glory and Heritage—and Discovery Factions,” she added, with a reluctant nod to Kan, “Might provoke popular backlash. Even Gamman can’t risk that. He will need to wait.” “Former arbiter, I’m afraid,” Kan said, with a graceful bow. “A pleasure, Arbiter DeTess. History has come and gone, and left me behind in its wake, I’m afraid.” “You are not in your grave yet, Shuos,” DeTess replied. “And neither are we. We will look for opportunities and negotiate with the Strikers. To kill so many arbiters from Factions not his own would provoke an uproar within the Theatre of Address.” ㄢㄋㄌ Days of deprivation and hunger followed. Kavela kept hold of her orange, stolen all that while ago from the marketplace, sucking at each slice for just a trickle of sweet moisture. A few more broke, and surrendered. Lawrence Scholdei, arbiter of the Glory Faction, caused a stir as he surrendered and was pinned to the door of the teahouse by a flurry of crossbow bolts. Suddenly, the Strikers weren’t so peaceful any longer. They were ready to kill. The well was poisoned, and then they began to ration their water. Shuos KanSeun was nowhere to be seen. Kavela did not remark on that. And there was Itiah, brave Itiah, crossing the picket lines to bring back water. He lay sprawled in the dust, precious water trickling out of his pocket, his eyes burned out. How he had died, Kavela could not say. She only knew he had died terribly, and wished he had said something—anything at all. The debates about whether to surrender continued. Herat lay in a corner, unresponsive, her eyes glazed over and muttering on occasion. Her skin was flushed with fever, and Kavela could not bring herself to give Herat any of their precious water. She was done for, she told herself, one way or another. Woundrot was setting in, for all they’d tended to the wounds after Kan had removed the crossbow bolts lodged in Herat’s thigh. And then Herat died, and Kavela felt a shred of guilt, deep inside. She closed Herat’s staring eyes. At least Herat was no longer suffering. Kavela was far too tired, far too dehydrated, to cry. ㄢㄋㄌ Gamman arrived on the last day, clad in full war regalia. It was the infamous paranoia at work again, Kan thought, as he made certain to keep sufficiently distant from the Emperor to soothe the worries of the Strikers. Gamman was no coward, but he would not leave an opening for the conspirators to strike at him. And it was a clever move: the Emperor of the Eighty Suns was a striking, resplendent figure in the war regalia, and clearly meant to stand in contrast with the rest of the conspirators. “I will be interested to hear more about how you unmasked the conspiracy,” Gamman murmured, smirking. “I am especially interested in how you came to hear of it, in the first place, General.” Of course, he thought Kan didn’t know he’d ordered the letters sent. All the more fool, he. “Of course, your Majesty,” Kan smiled. He had been good at it as a child, this game of keeping a straight face. Letting people think what they wanted to. “I am grateful my efforts have won your Majesty’s approval and recognition.” Gamman nodded. “Of course,” he echoed, briskly. “Where is Commander Ki?” The gaunt-faced Striker rapped a fist against his chest in salute. “Orders, your Majesty?” “Flaming bolts,” Gamman said, casually. “I want this teahouse up and in flames yesterday.” “Your Majesty!” This was Arbiter Huzin now. For all she was a staunch supporter of Gamman, it seemed that this last order was a bridge too far. Even Arbiter Raishin looked disturbed, though he said nothing. At least Kan thought he looked disturbed. It was difficult to tell, with Raishin. People often mistook a chronic lack of principle and flexibility for a chronic lack of spine, but Raishin had a finely-honed sense for where the political winds were blowing. “There are people inside!” “I know,” Gamman smiled. “That’s the idea. Flaming bolts, Commander! I want to watch the Moon burn.” ㄢㄋㄌ The Strikers dipped crossbow bolts tied with rags into oil, and then set them ablaze and launched volleys of bolts. The first few hit the stones of the pathway and soon flared out completely. But a few bolts found their mark in the wooden walls of the teahouse, and then more and more struck home. Even the countless peach trees in the courtyard were ablaze. Gamman held his hands out to the fire, dark eyes intent, as though he could feel the warmth against his skin. So perished a part of history, Kan thought, and was surprised at the pang in his heart. Some of the conspirators struggled out of the inferno, as walls began to collapse. Too few of them did. A slight girl, with striking green eyes. He caught the brief flicker of recognition from Raishin, and noticed especially when Raishin concealed it in the next moment. Gamman accepted her surrender, and had her arrested and taken away without so much as a search. There was something going on there, Kan decided. The other was a familiar face: Yesterday Jones, arbiter of the Heritage Faction. “Tsk,” said Gamman, shaking his head sorrowfully. “Another arbiter plotting treason. Take her away,” he commanded, and the Strikers wrenched Yesterday’s hands behind her and marched her off. “What are you going to do with them, your Majesty?” Arbiter Huzin asked, uneasily. “Starve them for a few days,” Gamman said, easily. “They’ll have water, but not very much of it. On the fifth day, we’ll feed them, and take their surrender, and we’ll watch them carefully but let them go. They shouldn’t cause anymore trouble.” “Your Majesty, forgive me but...people like that don’t forget,” Arbiter Huzin said, eyebrows knit together in a worried frown. “People are animals,” Gamman said. “Put them somewhere uncomfortable for days, deny them food and water, and they grow weak. The mind answers to the body. Ideals become much less palatable when you’re dying, and once they eat, they’ll surrender. The shame will never let them conspire to remove me from power again.” “Not everyone surrenders, your Majesty,” Arbiter Huzin felt compelled to point out. “Some people regard ideals as more important than their lives.” “I know,” said Gamman softly, smiling. “Who do you think the people who died in that fire were?” Kan sucked in a long, astonished breath. “They were the ones who wouldn’t surrender, no matter what,” Gamman continued. “The ones to whom ideals mattered more than their own lives.” The flames of the burning teahouse seemed to be reflected in his eyes. “For the rest of their lives, the survivors will feel ashamed of themselves when they think of rebellion. They will tell themselves they should have died in the fire. And word of the fire will spread, and others will think twice about mobilising against the Security Act that Arbiter Huzin will pass in a few weeks.” He turned his head slightly. A shadow moved. Ableah Edr leaped out of the shadow of clustered tents, cutting down with inhuman grace and speed the first two Strikers that put themselves between the Emperor and him. And then— ㄢㄋㄌ Shi KwaiRan knelt on the roof of the dwelling, steadfastly ignoring the pain in his wounded thigh. He barely dared to breathe, as he watched Kan lure the Emperor every closer towards the fires of the burning Frozen Moon. The Frozen Moon, burning down. Goodbye. Goodbye, to a chapter of his life, goodbye to Wenshon, and Kwai felt a few tears prickle in his eyes as he saw the inferno. Perhaps it was better Wenshon was dead, and Kwai would likely be dead soon. He braced himself carefully and drew back the laminated horsebow, nocking the arrow and pulling the string back with thumb and forefinger, almost past his ear. He breathed, lining up where Gamman would be in physical space with the target in his mind’s eye, and felt the strain as he held the horsebow steady. He half-exhaled, and loosed. The arrow traveled in an arc, spinning about a little as it dropped towards where Gamman would be— ㄢㄋㄌ Ableah would have said he wanted vengeance, but each kill splintered his world a little more, shoving more cracks through the tattered canyons of his mind. He was breaking apart, dying in fire, by the sword, reigning over an empire of ashes and bone, and Ableah did not care. He had hidden himself well, and chosen his moment to strike. As he burst out from the shadows of the encampment and lunged at Gamman, two Strikers tried to stop him. He cut them down with the Shardblade, barely slowing down. Metal fared badly against Shardblades. Trading for this one had cost him dearly. He pulled back for a swing that would ram the point of the Blade through Gamman’s throat, and— And there was a flicker of movement. Then the arrow took him in the eye and Ableah screamed— ㄢㄋㄌ Kwai lowered the horsebow, stunned. He’d just saved Gamman’s life. What’s more, Gamman knew: their eyes met, and the Emperor inclined his head slightly, and motioned away the Strikers that were about to surge like hunting jackals in Kwai’s direction. Unexpected. Kwai’s arms shook as he lowered the bow, as the Soul Stamp dissolved into a puff of red smoke against his skin. He had set out to assassinate another Emperor. He had not expected to save Gamman’s life by sheer accident. Had not expected Gamman to acknowledge the gesture, and to call the Strikers off. That made them quits, didn’t it? Wenshon would not be avenged, not today. The eye shot had been a one in a million chance. The arrow was meant to go through armour but Kwai didn’t feel like rolling the dice a second time, not against imperial war regalia. He had lost. He felt so tired. He unstrung the bow, coiling the string about. Below, some distance away, the Frozen Moon continued to burn. ㄢㄋㄌ Raishin didn’t come for her, but there was a symbol scratched into the dirt of the tent. Three diamonds, overlapping. Ellira knew what was expected of her. She killed the Striker standing watch over her, by crying until the Striker came over to make her be quiet, and then she drove the poisoned, sharpened hairpin into the Striker’s eye and slipped away as the woman died, choking on her own blood. Pity about the hairpin, Ellira thought. She would have to get another. The Frozen Moon burned to the ground that night. It was said that the dying conspirators had remained defiant to the end. No one had cried out. No one had asked for mercy. Word of the Frozen Moon massacre spread throughout the Imperial Seat, and then the Rose Empire. It grew more and more exaggerated in the telling, until it was said that Gamman had played a flute and the bones of the dead had walked, even as the Frozen Moon, the former jewel of the Imperial Seat, had burned. Arbiters refused to comment about the Emperor’s actions. The gathering in the Theatre of Address proved to be subdued, with Arbiter Yesterday Jones of the Heritage Faction a silent figure at the back of the room. The Security Act was passed and approved, with little fanfare. Gamman’s grip on the reigns of power tightened ever further. And in the cellar at the base of the Frozen Moon, which had sheltered them both from the devouring flames and the searching Strikers, three surviving agents of the Discovery Faction parted ways, for the moment. They would return to their lives, return to hiding. And perhaps one day, they would strike as the lightning, and their enemies would never see them coming. ㄢㄋㄌ “The Frozen Moon Massacre was a turning point in Gamman’s domestic policy. While Gamman had previously arrested dissidents and had rebellious arbiters killed or cowed, he had never acted so openly before. Some believe that the Frozen Moon Massacre was carefully planned and orchestrated as a way of removing Gamman’s enemies and sending a strong message to the rest of the Empire. Others argue that Gamman had no way of knowing that the Frozen Moon Massacre would not become a propaganda victory for his enemies: he simply chose to take the risk, and to test how much he could get away with. The true answer, I think, lies between both these views. Either way, the Frozen Moon Massacre was a significant step in Gamman accumulating unchallenged power as an absolute emperor.” —Shuos KanSeun, When the Rose Blooms: The Lives of the Emperors ㄢㄋㄌ And that's a wrap! Thanks to everyone for playing! Once again, congratulations to Team Disco [Alvron, Burnt Spaghetti, Elandera, and Arraenae] for the victory, but you have been outfoxed and hoodwinked by the Village! Bragging rights and kudos goes to the Village for a magnificent display of trolling, as STINK was not the Reform Spy! Player List Dossier
  3. Any fountain pen writers out there? I fell down the rabbit hole last year after picking up a Lamy Safari with some book vouchers, and now I'm just spending even more time writing things down than before. Favourite pens/inks?
  4. quest

    Yes, you should enjoy your birthday. Sorry to hear, hope things clear up in your favour!
  5. quest

    D'oh. Sorry, I think you've clarified it before Lower taxes on Breath Sales – Kindsmile [X] For [X] Abstain [X] Against I am actually going back and forth on this one. I feel this one is especially a position Songbearer could ethically be comfortable with, depending on our various assumptions. In interests of a simple majority though, and by metagaming Kindsmile...yeah. Against. Let's bite the bullet and make it clear who we stand with before we indicate opportunity. Create an insurance system for Dockworkers – Songbearer [X] For [X] Abstain [X] Against It would be very trollish to introduce our proposal then vote against it But okay, yes, voting for.
  6. quest

    It seems to me that you're suggesting we could be wrong in our read of the room But let's put that aside for the moment. I'm just really asking about what happens in Council if we abstain and the vote splits 50-50. A) What are the likely ways in which people might respond to that, including Kindsmile, and B ) Practically-speaking, what happens to a vote that is split 50-50? Does the proposal pass or does it not?
  7. quest

    Oooh. I like Coinspender more and more - I'd say a likeable barve, at any rate. Which is a fun way to see the character. I wonder about wrangling him with Firesoul, but we're just not that good at playing the game just yet. I also like your Susebron. I find him believable given canon parameters plus whatever position he was in by the end of Warbreaker. @Wyrmhero- a question while I consider our move. What impact would abstaining have, both practically on the votes, as well as in the eyes of the bloc? (I'm thinking we can try to weasel out a bit by saying we're not comfortable making a decision on the issue with the current information, potentially, but of course I bet we'd need charm to sell it. Then again, we have a reputation as a bookish lad...) To be clear, I'm asking specifically about Kindsmile's.
  8. quest

    Aight, then add my vote to [X] Find out where the other gods stand on the other two proposals
  9. quest

    Cheers, good to know! I'm happy to do that, my only concern is if we're splitting our actions too thin. ( @Wyrmhero, any possibility you could comment on that? Are we asking to do too much at once?) I think we could ask Hera eventually but the issue is we only have one action for the next cycle. I do agree with you the box should wait, though!
  10. quest

    Oof. Haven't been here for a bit - RL's been more of a pain than I expected, but I'm enjoying the thickening plot here I feel like we have two options and I'll vote on it later: 1. We can go canvass another likely ally - try to get more support for our proposal. [On this front: @Wyrmhero, do we also have a stats gain if we fail a challenge, or do we gain if we pass a challenge or...? I'm just trying to understand what our Charm currently is and how we can improve it beyond Augury boosts.] 2. We can also try to find out more about the mysterious box we are supposed to have, potentially by asking our priests. While I'm inclined towards #2, it feels irresponsible to go haring off after the box and abandon our proposal Also, 3. We could perhaps get a sense of where the other gods stand on the other two proposals. We don't want to offend an ally we've just solicited to vote on ours, potentially.
  11. horror

    Mm. I don't like intervening in these debates outside a philosophy classroom for many reasons that I've mentioned previously in the Discord and various docs That being said, one thing I'd point out that tends to be (but is not always so) at stake in free will debates is moral responsibility. That is to say, we don't seem to think that people could be morally responsible for their actions if they lack free will. (This likely stems from the same intuition as "if I take your money from you and donate it to charity on your behalf, you certainly shouldn't be morally credited with donating to charity.") I'll note that the classical argument we give students in Philosophy #101 is actually a dilemma argument: that is to say, whether the world is deterministic or truly random, we lack free will. Contextualised within such a maneuver, the true randomness v. effective randomness distinction in effect does become toothless - but it becomes toothless because it can't salvage free will! Either way, the disturbing problem with effective randomness is just that it's not clear that free will resulting from effective randomness is any kind of thing that can result in moral responsibility. And if it can't, then the question is: sure, we've salvaged a model of free will, but at what cost? Have we simply thrown the baby out for the sake of the bathwater? One final note is that the argument from neurology is not taken to be especially convincing at the entry level because it relies on certain problematic premises. Tim Lewens' The Meaning of Science is a great look into the limitations of the argument, though I believe Lisa Bortolotti has also written on the matter in her introductory textbook to the philosophy of science. (Of course, once we get into the actual cutting edge research, that's a different story.) Anyway, I'm not going to further engage with this topic for my own sake No one @ me please. Thanks!
  12. Oooh! What is your favourite nib size, then?
  13. Actually, not really. If Striker flipped Good, I would have read you as attempting to bluff me off the Striker vote, so I'd have been suspicious - just not suspicious/paranoid enough to flip the table and to try to get voted in >>;; The issue/context I think is that Striker was unanimously (at least among those I talked to) considered Village, so any resistance there wouldn't have seemed quite right to me. Of course, you could try to press me on the issue by reminding me that I had questioned the Rath lynch too, which I think might have made me hesitate, but ultimately I'm not sure how much ground I would have given there, since Striker had a better voting pattern than Rath did. I think for me, on that penultimate cycle, the real question was me wasn't if you were evil - your voting pattern and what Fifth was doing stood out so much to me it'd have taken a lot more to shift me to someone else. The real question in my mind was what you were trying to do by bringing the Striker thing up, and what Fifth was trying to do by asking us to talk about the semi-actives (I didn't communicate this well either, but my guess was either an attempt to smuggle a semi-active Eliminator into the lynch, or to force a hurried ill-considered "oh well we talked about the semi-actives and focused on them but sorry we gotta vote actives anyway so let's just throw hasty votes" situation.) Anyway, thanks for GMing El, and I definitely hope to see this format return, as it's more Avalon than my Avalon game I myself have some ideas for this, if time permits in the future.
  14. quest

    Cheers, Chief, all the best with the move! Looking to getting a few other votes/perspectives in this game, meanwhile! But okay: to clarify - when I say visit the Thief, I don't mean visit and leave, I mean let's try to find out what the heck they were doing and so on
  15. Good game to the Eliminators and Village Looks like inactivity was the bane (foe-hammer?) of both sides, though it's never quite that easy to balance for it beyond certain measures. Great write-up, El - I loved the anti-climatic ending, and Rath, the first Villager on the Fellowship, grabbing the Ring and saving everyone is hilariously brilliant With the Corrupted arriving late to the scene. I probably have had some strategic thoughts here and there/comments, but I think I've inflicted them enough on El and the spec doc by now Special thanks goes to @Fifth Scholar - I had rethought my position on PMs but he definitely persuaded me during Elan's MR to make better use of them, and I think I saw some of it in action across both iterations of El's MR, in terms of gaining trusts, and collecting information and just data for me to analyse and work out my suspicions. I do think the one-on-on format of the PMs really helped me convince other Villagers of my suspicions, though not always. (As I said, Bard was right - I was being paranoid ) I think what interested me was how little analysis it took to convince Bard of Wonko: I literally just shot him a one-line question asking him for his thoughts of Wonko's and Coda's vote on Fifth during Aman's election. It probably helped Bard was already suspicious of Coda, and that it's Bard I was talking to, but also, just - I find it an interesting reminder that sometimes you don't need to write long arguments to convince people. Asking an Armour Piercing Question or finding a Silver Bullet can work too
  16. [OOC: Well. Striker. So, out with it. Confirmed Villagers can be wrong. This is true. I may be wrong. But nevertheless, I will finally stop being coy, and hinting, and leaving you with my suspicions. My suspicions are not bedrock. I can make mistakes. Treat them with caution. Find the flaws in my arguments. If you cannot find them, then reason accordingly. I think the Eliminator team includes Fifth and Wonko. I am less certain about Bard and Striker, but this would be my guess. Striker is either a Villager who is doubling down, or an Eliminator who refuses to turn on a teammate. Bard is either an excessively overparanoid Villager, or an Eliminator. If Striker is not an Eliminator, then suspicion should turn to Coda. Avoid voting them unless you must. I have taken a chance on Burnt, but I acknowledge she would have behaved the same either Village or Eliminator. I am more confident of Aragorn and Peji, as they sealed a vote on Ada, against Fifth, my strongest suspect. Wonko and Coda had tied the vote 2-2 last cycle - we know Ada is a confirmed Villager, and we don't know about Fifth. Such a movement should be suspicious. Everyone was asking, "Where is the Eliminator action? Oh, they must be inactive." Why postulate that? The answer is right there: they tried to get Fifth voted. They failed because of Aragorn and Peji. As such, I have a modicum of trust in them. My strongest suspicion is Fifth. Why do I suspect Fifth? A few reasons. Then there's the Wonko issue: For Striker: The one place my theories don't account for: why did Fifth and Wonko vote me? I am not certain. I admit, this could be the flaw in my argumentation. But it could be the IKYK, or it could be just to silence me and dominate the discussion and voting, if I am right about the composition of the Eliminator team. (Bard's 30% odds at #2 doesn't work out - the obvious answer is to vote for someone who isn't any of the above-mentioned, including Striker. And as I'm Village, the Village now just has to get it right one more time. One person out of the entire game pool who isn't compromised. Please, try to manage that And as I have said, I may be wrong. I played a little coy with my suspicions. But I voiced them more explicitly to Bard and to Burnt, and later to Peji as well. ] Aranmir packed the last of his belongings and prepared for a long journey. He hardened his heart against the song of the Ring. Isildur had fallen. Centuries and centuries later, Aranmir would not fail. There was a cloth-wrapped bundle, slightly longer than his arm, resting on the bed. He hauled it up, the cloth slipping free as he did so. He looked at it for a very long time. It was time to go to war.
  17. Interesting, since Bard chose the vote. He was the literal first player to vote on Striker I just happened to agree with him for separate reasons and to support him. But thank you for your response - you have confirmed my suspicions of the Eliminator team That's because I haven't explained myself and I don't intend to, as I'm not campaigning for Striker to be voted in by everyone. I haven't campaigned since Day 1. I don't intend to spell out my reasoning as I want more discussion, and more players to explain where they stand. Doesn't seem like I'm going to get it at this stage, though. Unfortunate.
  18. Dude, I was joking - I said and that my actual vote was based off Striker's voting patterns, and the fact it would be informational It's obvious Villagers can be mistaken, or I'd have gone for the Ada lynch on Day One. I know intimately well better than to make that inference! Fair enough (Oh sorry, another ! I blame El, I'm easily-influenced >>;; ) I used to be a lot more gung-ho on gut, but right now /shrugs I'm hardly going to fight a vote on myself as I don't find myself very helpful to the Village - that being said, I am, for obvious reasons, not going to shift my vote off Striker just yet
  19. Storm it >> Sorry, I think I got you mixed up with Bard Bard is much, much more willing to vote you and Striker than me Honestly, I think his paranoia is kinda cute and I wonder if that's what it's like, being the Dread Pirate Wilson, the Cursor of Doom, the Herald of Chocolate and Deliciousness, but alas I am somewhat willing to vote Peji now, though I have been convinced by the fact Ada clearly thinks that Striker is the right choice Waits for El to twitch Or mostly because Striker has voted straight Village for three cycles in a row. I'm not entirely comfortable with him - there are in fact some things that make me uneasy about him - but I'm willing to take the chance, as I deem it an informative lynch, we do still have room for error, and if he flips Evil, I'll have my suspicions on the Eliminator team make-up moderately confirmed
  20. Pdufxvh nrqvwdwlhuw vrzrko lq ghu Zlvvhqvfkdiw dov dxfk lp öiihqwolfkhq Glvnxuv hlq „hlqglphqvlrqdohv“ xqg „srvlwlyhv'“ ecz. 友情 的溪 水慢 慢流 窝武 „srvlwlylvwlvfkhv“ Ghqnhq. Lqvehvrqghuh glh Zlvvhqvfkdiw ioüfkwhwh vlfk dxv Ixufkw yru Zhuwxuwhlohq rghu srolwlvfkhu Hlqplvfkxqj lq glh Hpslulh xqg lq txdqwlwdwlyhv Ghqnhq. Juxqgväwcolfkh, txdolwdwlyh Uhiohalrq ghu jhvhoovfkdiwolfkhq Sureohph xqg Dxijdehqvwhooxqjhq iäqghq lq glhvhu whfkqrnudwlvfkhq Khuuvfkdiwvzlvvhqvfkdiw qlfkw vwdww. 歲月 的溪 水慢 慢流 科斯 Vwdww glh Xqjohlfkkhlw lp Ndslwdolvpxv xqg glh qxnohduh Ehgurkxqj cx klqwhuiudjhq xqg cx nulwlvlhuhq, züughq glhvh Sureohph qxu yhuzdowhw xqg vrplw lpphu qhx uhsurgxclhuw. 多年 以後 又再 相逢 吧勺
  21. Whoops, sorry I was just worried you read it as "These are the people who said they'd vote Wonko", Aman...etctera. Not really - I'm saying that this calculation is too complex for me to figure out in my current state. It's one of those things that have to be mooted to the thread for everyone to talk about because trust is also situational - e.g. I might not be willing to back you, as compared to myself, but if it's a choice between you and Wonko, nope, *slams table* TAKE MY STORMING VOTE, no questions asked (Note: This is an example, as there are some reasons I can think of that Wonko would be interesting as a candidate, but at least right now, I'm more inclined to getting you lynched, or myself lynched.) Basically, I don't think it can be accurately done a priori. We just have to see what the response is. So I really don't know what the final numbers would look like, but it's enough to me to flag that these three seem to have some measure of trust from everyone - let's talk about them, and also the fact we seem to have two rather divided groups! I also dropped into the thread early as I'd rather people talk or have time to. We don't need last-minute hasty discussion prior to a lynch!
  22. I mean, if you want to get into absolute numbers... So yes, you're right that Wonko is a bit weak as a compromise candidate out of the pool of three, but I flagged him anyway as the next in line. The other issue is that this doesn't take into account strength of trusts: for instance, Wonko is more willing to vote for you and himself, given the choice, than me. You are not as high as Wonko or me on Fifth's list. And so on. So I think we can't really count on absolute vote-strength here. I don't really find the absolute numbers as informative
  23. H'okay. So I'm gonna do something I haven't done in a very, very long time, since the Desolation of Elantris and info-dump Basically, I've been sitting on this issue for a bit, but I think it's beyond me, and I also think that getting the thread to weigh in on this would be very helpful. There are two distinct clusters of 'trust' (IDK, trust? Least suspicion?) beginning to form up. I PMed a number of people since the beginning of this game, and especially since last cycle. I usually ask people to identify who they would vote for - in a particular cycle - if they had to pick the entire remaining Fellowship on the spot. Occasionally I ask about their favourite breakfast and other stuff, which is why I now know that @Burnt Spaghetti has an excellent apple-cinnamon turnover recipe, and that @Straw would rather receive $0.01 per step than $0.75 per jump (For the record, Burnt would take $0.01 per step as well.) Cluster One: I've grouped Cluster One together because our lists are more or less compatible: we agree on Bard and Wonko, with weaker agreement on Striker and myself. I put Peji last cycle as I was willing to give her the benefit of the doubt and distrusted everyone else - I also did not consider myself electable due to the amount of doubt floating around, but am fine with swapping myself back in for obvious reasons Moreover, since only three of this list needs to be Villagers, I feel that the two on which we disagree are actually negotiable. So this appears to me to be one distinct voting cluster. I have grouped @Pejidot with this cluster as she agrees in general on Bard, and has a weaker potential agreement on me (though she also says I've RPed a lot and so she'd need to read through that as well.) While she did not identify herself in her picks, she noted it was also because she didn't feel it was indicative, as everyone would select themselves. Cluster Two: This cluster is distinctive because they trust Fifth - the other cluster does not. They are also more positive (relatively) in their reads of me, Burnt, and Striker than the other cluster. This cluster also trusts Wonko less than the other clusters. I share this information for two reasons. First, because I find it unlikely that both clusters are made up entirely of Villagers, but if we somehow are, then we should be talking to each other. Discussion is how we refine our suspicions. Already, Fifth's posts mean that I have to read through them later on and potentially revise my judgements of him, or in philosopher-speak, update my priors Second, because I'm cynical, I think at least one of these clusters has been compromised by Eliminators, but really, probably both are. In which case, non-communication will allow Eliminators to play both sides and exploit our distrust against each other. So: I think that judging from these, at least, though people may certainly change their views, strong consensus candidates would be Striker, Wonko, and myself. At this point, I am willing to back Striker, though I would also welcome a lynch of myself as I feel I am not adequately helpful to the Village and am more confused than anything The next worry is that if we are in fact infiltrated, then there might be something fishy about our compromise candidates. That being said, if all three of us aren't Eliminators, we'll do just fine I can confirm that it can't be the case that we are all Eliminators but I am also aware that saying it's not true because I'm not an Eliminator is not especially rhetorically persuasive So people. Thoughts, opinions? Edited to highlight the overlaps in clusters better. Clusters do not represent strength of suspicions/trust.
  24. See, it's just that I disagree that this sets a precedent - either way, when we know what Straw's real alignment is at the end of the game, there will be a precedent. To be sure, people will be a bit less encouraged to pull a Straw because they'll say "oh, he didn't get away with it," but it doesn't stop a player from doing that and going, "Well, look at MR38 - Straw did this and he was a Villager/Eliminator," so who's to say someone isn't trying that? I think the analogy to me would be like how everyone in SE was very negative on WGGs for a while, because Cessie's attempt at one had failed so spectacularly. But it never stops people from wondering, or really trying one - it's still a precedent anyway, whether it's rewarded or not. With your new phrasing, I generally agree - I wouldn't consider his actions a reason to vote Straw, for instance, but had more people than you taken the bait, I might have then really doubled down on Straw just because I'd be seeing where everyone is falling into place on Straw. But that would be an informational vote rather than because Straw's actions lead me to think well of him - and really, in any case, as I told Wonko last cycle (or was it two cycles ago?), I'd really rather vote for stronger Villager candidates than ones I'm meh about. I didn't swap from Straw last cycle as El mentioned she was counting Aragorn's vote (despite the lack of red), and Ada was winning by a landslide so my voting last minute for Ada really wouldn't have changed anything at all That being said, I had always intended to vote with my trusts for that cycle at least. I would just add the caveat that early Jain really was this bad, until he got killed repeatedly. He was considered unanalysable precisely because he was so random, and I believe it was in part a strategy to be difficult to analyse except he kept getting Villager all the time. I think random players or players with a reputation for randomness are in fact adopting the same strategy, just to a less infuriating degree. That being said, we are agreed that while we shouldn't penalise such players, we certainly don't have to reward them! The issue I think is that by that light, I should be just as suspicious! I diverted what ended up being a building lynch cluster between Bard and Ada! And we now know Ada is a Villager, so I've been implicated in shifting a lynch off a Villager. It should look even worse for me if Bard turns out to be Village after all (I'm still unsure about him ) as I arguably turned a Village-Village lynch to an Eliminator lynch (and Eru help me if Burnt is a Villager as well because this would mean I ignored every single Village option and hit on the Eliminator! Ouch!) Anyway, bold of you to assume I'm voting him because he's a trust I definitely don't trust him that much, and he's probably the weakest of my top tiers at the moment. I am still rather suspicious of you for that single-minded focus on Burnt, but can be persuaded otherwise, and I think some of your late posts will require me to analyse and recalibrate again. Don't forget, I have over twenty-four hours to change my vote