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The Terris people were dwindling. Half the Synod had been slaughtered, between the Spiked killings and the justice meted out by poison at night, or a mob by day. Those that remained had retreated, seeking to manoeuvre their way into controlling the political influences of the Synod, fearful and distrustful of their own number. Initial confidence that ousting Valwyn had purified the Synod had dropped, and Citona Vinid, who had been helping Olaf administrate the legislative body, frantically defended herself against accusations from Ethin Hallil and Tee Mai, who were convinced that Vinid had unsavoury ties to Zihel. For his part, Olaf mainly sat back and watched the proceedings with a grim expression. Sitting and whispering with Marne, whose advice he valued above all the other members, Olaf assessed the men in front of him. He recognised the flaws in each, but upon a more thorough examination, he found himself agreeing with Marne about the people within the Synod. They were misguided, and made mistakes. They had been mistaken to oust Marne from his old position. They had been mistaken to entrust Olaf, a newcomer, with the survival of the last free Feruchemists in the Dominances. And their squabbling, now, was certainly not ideal. However, Olaf now felt, as he stood next to Marne, that the man had been right about his fellow Synod members; despite their infighting, each truly wanted what was best for the Terris, and as Olaf saw it, his confidence and belief in the Synod began to reform itself. These were, truly, the greatest men and women in the Terris community. Olaf simply had to unite them, and refocus them on those outside their council. As Olaf sat in thought, he saw Tee Mai on the edges of his vision, who was approaching Vinid, hand raised to strike at the Ferring. “That’s enough!” bellowed Olaf from the swivel chair atop the raised platform on which he sat. Tee Mai lowered his hand sheepishly, looking up at Olaf with guilt, yet a little bit of resentment, within his eyes. Resentment will not do, thought Olaf. Raising his voice, he addressed the small Synod. “Your bickering is tiring me,” he announced, “and sitting here arguing amongst ourselves will accomplish little. You are each leaders of this community, and are responsible for its survival; projecting an image of doubt and paranoia will not help the Terris, especially with our numbers as dangerously low as they are. You have each questioned the merits of your fellow Synod members a hundred times; is it not likely that they are merely exhausted and worn out, as each of us are, as opposed to being secret Infiltrators?” Olaf let the question hang in the air. Marne, however, spoke from beside him. “You have known each of the people in this room for your entire lives, with the exception of Olaf,” he told the Synod. “I would be inclined to trust them after that time. Perhaps there are Spiked in this chamber; however, it is far better to look elsewhere first, and give the Terris leadership in these chaotic times.” The three Synod members on the ground glanced at each other. Olaf could tell that relations had not been fully restored, not yet. But the three would help him and Marne to find the last Spiked, despite their mistrust. And right now, that was all Olaf cared about. Each of its members uncertain of what the day held, yet determined to face it, the Terris Synod emerged from their meeting-house in Tathingdwen for what would be the last time, a unified front presented to the body of Terris gathered below them. The body of Terris gathered below them had cornered Ehereman Tresni. The last Spiked attempted to defend himself against the accusations of a Stick, which was unhappy after the burning of the Tautological Society, but his pleas fell on deaf ears. The Terris had found out too much about him; his associations with Zihel and Valwyn had proven too strong to ignore. His only hope, now, was to convince the crowd that the Synod member Citona Vinid was guilty, and not he. That hope was dashed as the Synod walked down the steps from the meeting-house, almost marching as a single group. The message of unity was impossible to ignore, and from the looks of the members, they too were focused on destroying him. Tresni cursed the Lord Ruler, who had brought him to this barren northern wasteland to die. He cursed Olaf, for abandoning the entire mission, and Leidene, for ignoring it. He cursed the Spiked who had died before him, who had failed at their mission, leaving him to carry out the destruction of a sect of highly dangerous people on his own. Most of all, however, Tresni cursed himself. Cursed himself for his inability to kill Ethin Hallil the night before, with poison. Cursed himself for his failure to put his spying to good use when he had attempted to investigate the Steel squid. And cursed himself for cracking under the withering pressure of an examination by the remaining Terris. Tresni was not like the other Spiked sent in the mission. Valwyn worked in Pewter, making him the muscle of the group. HanTor was a sly talker, able to talk a crowd into almost anything. Zihel could potentially do anything, and had been made to counter Full Feruchemists. Of course, they had failed, too. Valwyn had been killed with strength, a sword passing through his neck; HanTor had not talked his way out of his death; and Zihel had ultimately been slaughtered by Marne. Tresni was made to be something else: a spy. Tin-enhanced senses allowing him to see the world around him, he was to gather information and use it to bring down the Synod. However, he, too, had now failed. As Olaf walked down the staircase, Tresni felt a deep resentment for the man build inside him. He had betrayed his fellows, worked to undermine the people with whom he had been sent, and had even talked his way into becoming the head of the organisation that was leading the efforts to find and kill the Lord Ruler’s chosen. Resentment steadily increased, fueling the fires of hatred. It was time to act. The startled Terris jumped aside as Tresni parted the crowd by laying about with the scabbard of his sword. Striding over to Olaf, the Windwhisperer slapped the man across the face with a metal gauntlet, who recoiled in surprise and pain. Recovering quickly, Olaf whipped the thin sword he carried out of its sheath, facing Tresni, who smiled. The challenge accepted, the remaining Terris hurriedly scrambled aside, creating a rough ring for the duel. Marne looked at Olaf, astonishment etched into every line of his face. Through persistent effort, the last Spiked had been cornered, and Olaf accepted a duel from him? Was the man insane, or did he have a death wish? He had seen Olaf fence, and while the man was certainly competent, Tresni had been Tathingdwen’s swordmaster for as long as he had been in the village, and was extremely skilled with the blade. Add to that the heightened senses and perceptions that Tin Feruchemy granted him… The duel began its course as a quick pattern of thrusts from Tresni that Olaf turned away with his blade, stepping aside to take a sweep at Tresni’s unprotected back. Anticipating this, Tresni pivoted, suddenly bringing his lightweight rapier down, whistling towards Olaf’s head. Clang! Olaf moved his sword into place just in time, parrying the attack and barely maintaining his footing. He stumbled and lowered his sword slightly, which was nicked from the impact. Tresni pressed his brief advantage, raining blows from every direction on his dazed opponent. Olaf parried them all, but he was at a nominal disadvantage, and had begun to tire, wilting under Tresni’s relentless assault. It was time to intervene here. Marne signaled to Ethin Hallil and Tee Mai, who nodded and drew their own swords, prepared to aid Olaf in his foolish endeavor. As they approached Olaf’s ragged form, however, the man snarled, lashing out with his rapier at the two men. “Leave Tresni to me!” he commanded, as the two frantically scurried away from his circling blade. Marne again shook his head at his friend’s stubbornness, watching Hallil and Mai retreat. It seemed as though Marne had only one course remaining: to intervene himself. Slipping between two of the Terris who were gazing at the match with intent eyes, Marne worked his way to the front of the small ring that had formed to act as a perimeter for the duel. The move perhaps took him five seconds, and those five seconds had clearly not gone well for Olaf. The enhanced physical senses of Tresni had clearly aided him, as the Windwhisperer seemed to see attacks before they even came. Viciously parrying an overhead slash from Olaf, which caused his arms to shake, Tresni quickly turned his blade and slammed the flat of it into Olaf’s face. Already kneeling, Olaf now collapsed completely onto the ground, the collective groans of the Terris rising from behind Marne to accompany Olaf’s fall. As Tresni raised his rapier one last time, grinning, Marne shuddered, fracturing himself into two parts. In a decision that took a split second, but had all the backing of a week of working with the man now lying prone and helpless, Marne tapped his steel instead of his pewter, rushing into the ring and throwing himself on top of Olaf. Straight into the path of the descending blade. Olaf’s face burned from the impact of a rapier. Crouched on the ground, he gingerly moved his right hand to his cheek, feeling the wet blood pooling there. Of all the ways he could have died, Olaf would not have thought that this would be it—a simple duel with a servant of the Lord Ruler in the most far-flung location in the Final Empire. Olaf cursed himself for his folly as Tresni’s blade ascended. He was no chivalrous knight of olden days, to fix the world with arranged duels and glorious feats of strength on the battlefield. He was an arsonist, a plotter, a man who specialised in the execution of unscrupulous deeds in the dark. And in a fair duel, there were no means with which to use those skills. As Tresni’s blade began to lower, Olaf only hoped that Marne could avenge his death. Little did he know the opposite would have to occur. Olaf saw Marne dart into the ring from the right, moving with the superhuman speed of a Steelrunner, and throw himself on top of Olaf. Olaf drew in a breath to scream at him for his idiocy, that he should be the one leading the Terris after this mess, when that air was driven from his lungs by the hard lump of one of Marne’s metalminds as the Full Feruchemist slammed into him, pinning him to the ground. Tresni’s sword completed its arc, slicing through Marne’s unprotected back. Olaf screamed as Tresni drew his sword away and Marne went limp, his friend’s death so sudden that he had not even been able to speak. Marne’s dead eyes gazed up at Olaf tenderly yet firmly, as if to say, You know what you must do. Olaf indeed did. Feeling the flames of fury feed his strength, Olaf snatched his rapier from the cobblestones, swinging it at Tresni with a powerful two-handed blow. The man parried, backpedaling and recovering swiftly with a thrust at Olaf’s side, which the Count was forced to block. Exchanging a series of quick blows with Tresni, Olaf came to the realisation that raw fury alone would not enable him to defeat such a skilled opponent. Tresni was too good a swordmaster to be bested by an untrained Count, especially an exhausted and wounded one. A new plan began to form in Olaf’s head, amidst his frantic attacks and desperate defenses. As Tresni made a slice at Olaf’s midsection, sword held in a two-handled grip, Olaf decided that now was the time to attempt his gambit. Dancing past the blade, Olaf switched his sword to his right hand alone, extending his body fully in a lengthened thrust. It was a terribly impractical move, leaving his left side completely defenceless. Tresni saw this, sidestepping Olaf’s thrust and returning it with one of his own, straight at Olaf’s arm. Prepared as he was for the impact, the pain of it made Olaf howl, the cold steel biting into his arm with the heat of a thousand fires. Twisting his arm, Olaf allowed the sword to pierce deeper into him despite every fibre of him telling him to let Tresni extract it, which the Spiked, seeing the trap that had been laid for him, was frantically attempting to do. Olaf clung on, gritting his teeth, and slammed his sword into Tresni’s undefended heart, even as the man yanked his sword out of Olaf’s arm with his last effort. As both collapsed onto the pavement, Olaf with pain and exhaustion, and Tresni with death, a ragged cheer went up from the Synod, which instantly subsided as the memory of Marne’s death and Olaf’s wounds hit them. As Olaf began to drift out of consciousness, the Synod members rushed forward, bathing Olaf’s head in cold water to keep him awake, and binding his wounds with the cloth available. The count’s fury began to return to him as he looked around Tathingdwen, with its pristine buildings and cheery storefronts, and remembered that corruption and rot had lived and thrived in those same buildings. He turned to Hallil. “How quickly can you give Marne a decent burial?” Hallil frowned. “Fairly quickly. Why? Is there something that needs to be done?” Olaf stood up, instantly feeling lightheaded. Tee Mai protested, attempting to sit him back down, but Olaf merely slapped his hand away, leaning on his rapier for support. “Yes. There is. The Spiked are gone, but this city is now vulnerable to the Lord Ruler. Moreover, it has sheltered evil for far too long. Gather enough supplies, find Leidene, and get every man in this city out of here.” “Where?” Hallil asked, with mounting trepidation. “Anywhere, as long as it’s sufficiently hidden from the Lord Ruler,” Olaf replied irritably. “Leidene can sort out the details, and you can send Citona with her. He’s the new Synod head, by the way. Regardless, once Marne is buried, we are razing this city.” Two hours later, with Marne buried and the Synod evacuated, Olaf stood outside his friend’s old house, where it had all begun. He had nearly burnt the structure down that time. Now, he would complete the job. Raising his lit torch, he ran its flames along the edge of the wooden structure, watching as they took hold and spread. Olaf felt a tear well in his eye as he thought of his friend, but he quickly blinked it away. He could not afford to be sentimental. Casting one last look at the burning building, he moved on to the next with renewed fury, setting it alight. And the next, and the next. With each flame kindled, Olaf felt a little more of his frustration and anger burn away, releasing it in a great show of fire. He continued his work ceaselessly, for hours, ignoring his dizziness and wounds, focusing on purging his anger. Soon, between his work and that of the Synod, all the main buildings of Tathingdwen were ablaze. The natural spread of the flames, which were fanned and buffeted by the light afternoon breeze, would soon consume the whole city. Signaling for the Synod to rejoin the other refugees, Olaf took the longer road, moving back towards Luthadel and Keep Ffnord. A letter slipped to Jest, who had joined up with the Synod in the general confusion, should be enough to ensure that Citona Vinid took ascendancy over the Synod, and that the Terris people would live to fight the Lord Ruler another day. As for his own part, Olaf could no longer be with the Synod. Passing down the lonely northern road, he spared a single glance back at the city, and its refugees, then slipped quietly away, his flight masked by the long shadows of a setting sun. For their part, the Terris only saw a lone, dark figure, weeping as he wheezed, walk away towards the Central Dominance, his tall and foreboding frame passing slowly into the distance. Marne’s death opened up some intriguing options for Leidene. As the killer of two Spiked infiltrators, including a Full Feruchemist, he had acquired quite a collection of spikes which were now left unguarded. Leidene currently only possessed two spikes: a bronze one through her ribcage and a pewter spike between her shoulder blades. If she gained ownership of Marne’s trove, she too could have most of the powers of a Full Feruchemist, though she would have to search elsewhere for spikes granting Feruchemical atium. That would be enough for now, she reassured herself, as she began to pile up her nonessential belongings in the middle of her house. Furniture, incriminating documents, the discarded bones of the Sparker HanTor had replaced, and all the corpses she had managed to collect. Setting the pyre alight, she smiled. Helping the Spiked infiltrate the city would soon prove to have been very profitable. Leidene stepped out of her burning home to find the remainder of Tathingdwen similarly engulfed in flames. Count Olaf venting his sorrow, she assumed. With displeasure, she noted that the fire had already reached Marne’s house. She hobbled as fast as she could towards the doomed dwelling, wishing Olaf had waited a little bit longer before putting on his pyromaniacal display. Arriving inside the circular house with the fire raging within, Leidene began rummaging through Marne’s trinkets. He had only killed Zihel the previous night, so surely the spikes would be somewhere obvious. No such luck. They weren’t on his desk, or his wardrobe, or underneath his bed. The blaze began to thoroughly lick the walls of the house, which groaned, and the interior temperature rose precipitously. Leidene ignored this; the compulsion to claim her prize was too strong. She would not leave while the spikes had yet to be found, even as the fire burned through the walls and began to consume the entire house. The decorative rug, courtesy of Valwyn, that covered the entire floor began to smoke as a burning ember landed on it. Soon, the rug was nothing but food for the inferno, and as the flames began to devour her, the pain broke through her spike-fueled desire. She screamed, tapping gold to heal herself as she made for an exit. It took almost her entire goldmind, but she was able to escape the conflagration before she could be reduced to a skeleton. The house was not so lucky. Leidene stared numbly at the wreckage. She had been so close, but Count Olaf’s rampant arson had cost her everything. Desperately, she stumbled towards the flaming wreckage. Deprived of fuel, the bonfire had moved on, leaving utter devastation in its wake. The rug had burned to a crisp, and the wood had been severely charred. Leidene began to brush aside the debris, vaguely hoping she would encounter the spikes now that the obstruction had been cleared away. To her surprise, she found something; the outline of a stone door previously hidden under the rug. She tried to open it, but it was much to heavy for an ordinary person to lift, especially one who could only put her weight on one leg. She was about to give up for a second time when she heard a voice calling her name. She turned to see Ethan Hallil, the SCUBA instructor and one of her fellow Synod members. “What do we do?” he cried out. “Count Olaf has gone mad!” “Gather the remaining villagers,” Leidene responded. “Have them head down the river towards Torinost, we’ll be safe from the Lord Ruler and his minions there while we build ourselves a new homeland. Before you go though, could you open this door for me?” “Door?” asked Ethan, confused. He walked closer to Leidene, and his gaze found the stone door. “Ah yes, hold on,” he said as he tapped pewter. With his enlarged muscles, he was able to wedge his fingers in the slit at the end of the door and throw it open. Underneath was a pit holding all thirteen spikes Marne had claimed for his own. “That’s good, now hurry! See to your people,” Leidene commanded. “Are you sure it’s safe to leave those spikes out there in the open?” Ethan inquired. “I’ll take care of it, just go. I’ll catch up with you soon,” Leidene replied, Soothing Ethan’s fear and suspicion. Ethan took off. Once he was no longer looking, Leidene gathered the thirteen spikes. Hurriedly, she impaled herself with the relevant ones, gaining new Feruchemical powers with each thrust. Iron, steel, tin, pewter, zinc, brass, copper, and bronze became hers to command, though most of those abilities would be useless without the corresponding metalminds and time spent storing. The two spikes making up the Kandra blessing, along with the duplicate spikes granting gold, zinc, and iron Feruchemy, went into her bag. Her task complete, Leidene moved on, trailing after Ethan’s retreating form. Xinoehp512 was lynched! He was a Spiked Tin Ferring (Windwhisperer)! Marne was killed! He was a Village Full Feruchemist, and was a member of the Synod! Count Olaf has withdrawn! He was an Arsonist, and a member of the Synod! Citona Vinid (phattemer) is now head of the Synod! Leidene has broken from the Lord Ruler, and is carving her own path! She was a Spiked Full Feruchemist! All Spiked are dead or fled! That means the village has won! Congratulations to the villagers, and well played to the Spiked. It was a pretty close game. I will have more thoughts coming later (likely about three essay’s worth) but for now I’d just like to thank everyone who signed up to play. This game wouldn’t have been so enjoyable to run without each of you involved. On that note, I’ll praise Devotary more effusively later, but she was an amazing co-GM, and a great help with all parts of the game. Finally, I’d like to apologise for the delay in the posting of this cycle, which as stated before was due to technical difficulties. Hopefully it didn’t affect anyone too adversely. Docs/Spreadsheets: The Lord Ruler’s Chosen The Terris Synod The Citizenry of Tathingdwen Final Player List: 1. Rathmaskal as Laksam, an ash sweeper from the Eastern streets Village Steel Ferring 2. Xinoehp512 as Ereheman Tresni, a man with his priorities backwards Spiked Tin Ferring 3. Steeldancer as Steel, the fastest sculpture of a squid wrought entirely in steel in all of Tathingdwen Village Brass Ferring 4. Randuir as Zihel, a worldhopper looking for his twin brother Spiked Full Feruchemist 5. I think I am here as Itiah VI, a missionary on a mission Village Steel Ferring 6. Bort as Tee Mai, a tailor specialising in offensive clothing: Village Bronze Ferring 7. Cadmium Compounder as Ethin Hallil, a cadmium Feruchemist and SCUBA diver: Village Pewter Ferring 8. _Stick_ as Stick, President of the Tathingdwen Tautological Society of Tautology: Village Brass Ferring 9. Jondesu as Remart, a man back from vacation armed with vaguely ominous statements: Village Bronze Ferring 10. Kidpen as HanTor, a lonely Kandra that’s definitely not Spiked, nope Spiked Zinc Ferring 11. Elandera as Era, an old woman who claims to have been alive before the reign of the Lord Ruler Village Pewter Ferring 12. Snipexe as Snip, a fabric cutter in the local quilt shop Village Iron Ferring 13. Worldhopper from Yolen as Tarin, a Sparker with a wonderful, awful idea Village Zinc Ferring 14. Alvron as Izzy Dedyet, who is not dead, feels happy, and thinks she'll go for a walk Village Full Feruchemist 15. Phatterner as Citona Vinid, a seemingly faithful follower of the Lord Ruler: Village Zinc Ferring 16. Ark1002 as Kardik, a Full Feruchemist: Village Iron Ferring 17. Araris Valerian as Valwyn, an honest rug merchant Spiked Pewter Ferring; Rug Merchant 18. Coop772 as Irion, a Full Feruchemist with hidden potential Village Copper Ferring 19. Sart, a stuttering Nameless Village Iron Ferring Synod Members: Bort, Cadmium Compounder, phattemer, Araris Valerian, Coop772, Alvron