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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. It was a typical midsummer’s night, when the whispers of the Emperor’s impending death trickled from the corridors of the Rose Palace to the crowded tables of the Frozen Moon. Storytellers, perhaps, would later make much out of the fact that a storm was rolling in over the far horizon. Looking back, Wenshon would’ve said it had been a perfectly ordinary day. Business was good, as it had always been, and with the exception of a brawl between a stocky MaiPon woman and a few small-time local thugs that had turned ugly, there was nothing to set this day apart from the others: nothing to mark the fact that the Empire’s future now dangled on a knife-edge. Storms, after all, were common in midsummer. Wenshon went from crowded 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. He picked up coins, swabbed tables and carried out plates of small dumplings to the customers. There was a nervous energy to the clientele of the Frozen Moon that night, and even a long-time proprietor could tell that change was in the air. “…heard from one of the servants…” someone was saying. “…going to die, it’s only a matter of time…” “…gone, then, and it’ll start another faction war, and don’t tell me you think that’s good, that’s the last thing any of us wants.” Wenshon refilled the cup of that last speaker, keeping his expression carefully neutral. He recognised the man. Of course he did. This, he thought, was the most senior arbiter of the Reform Faction, and one of the most powerful men in the Rose Empire: the Arbiter Kaleva. Kaleva thanked him, a trifle absently, and turned the warmed clay over in his hands. Wenshon recognised the woman he was speaking to: the ruthless Arbiter Frava of the Heritage Faction. He refilled her cup as well, steeping the tea anew. She barely gave him a second glance. Frava said, her voice sharp and nasal, “It is past time, Kaleva. Even you must realise that your faction is on its way out and has been, for a very long time.” Kaleva murmured—oh, but that sly fox, his voice was pitched to cut through the ambient din of the teahouse—“We shall see about that, shan’t we?” His pale eyes met Wenshon’s, waiting, expectant. The clamour of the teahouse, the murmur of several conversations had died down, now, and in the lull, Wenshon knew what Kaleva was angling for. “What news?” he asked, feigning confusion. “The Emperor Yazad is gravely ill,” Kaleva said, sipping tea placidly from his cup. He gestured his appreciation and continued. “Expect a new Emperor to be elevated soon.” In the ensuing silence, Wenshon heard the rumble of distant thunder, the soft crackling of the fire, the muffled sound of the pouring rain beating against the smooth stones of the courtyard. It was broken, at last, only by the sharp crack of breaking pottery; he realised the help had accidentally knocked a tray of clean cups off the counter. It was one thing to know, he thought, and another to hear it from the mouth of Arbiter Kaleva himself. “What then?” someone asked. A low-level bureaucrat, from the looks of her. Possibly hoping for advancement, and realising the succession could dash those hopes…or reward them. “Hope,” advised Kaleva placidly, “For a smooth succession.” This time, his steady gaze met that of Arbiter Frava. She snorted, downed the last of the tea, and left, beckoning to the servants and guards who waited near the entrance. One of them opened an oiled-paper umbrella and stepped out into the storm first, spreading the umbrella to shelter the Arbiter. Kaleva watched her leave, his eyes thoughtful. He said nothing. Wenshon set down the kettle and went about locating the broom to sweep up the shards of broken clay. Emperors died, he found himself thinking, and succession crises loomed, but at the end of it all, life in the Rose Empire beneath the eighty splendid suns continued for everyone else, day after day. MR7: Eighty Splendid Suns The current Emperor of Eighty Suns, Yazad, grows weaker each day from his disease. While the resealers are working hard to stave off his impending death, it has become clear that the time has come for a new candidate to sit the Rose Throne. Already, the factions are plotting and moving against each other. Here, in the very heart of the Rose Empire, thickets of intrigue thrive and flourish; plots are executed with coin and connections, just as much as they are with crossbow bolts and knives. The factions are growing restless. Arbiters, all of them, begin meeting in secret to discuss favoured candidates, making and breaking faction alliances. A time of great change is on the horizon. Only one faction will emerge triumphant from this struggle. And the winner will shape the future of the Rose Empire. Misc Housekeeping: -This game will begin on Tuesday, 30th June, at 11PM SGT [=GMT+8]. Cycles will end at 11PM SGT as well, and expect to see the write-up soon after. -Spec doc is available upon request. Just drop me a PM. -My policy on clarificatory questions is as follows: I will do my best to address these in a timely fashion. I would prefer questions that are asked in-thread or in-doc be bolded or set off in some clear way. Ultimately, for a 90-100% chance that I’ll see it and answer it in time, please ask me your questions in the role PM. Those are my first priority to check up on and answer. *Terms and conditions apply. -As this is not Nalthis, please keep in mind that people do not Return from death. In other words, please refrain from posting in the main thread if you are dead, whatever the reason. -I would especially like to thank Gamma, Wilson, and last but definitely not least, Wyrm for their help in debugging the game. Any remaining flaws are entirely my fault. -I will confirm if this will be a 3-faction or 4-faction game (based on player numbers), so be sure to check the rules post for updates as the rules will reflect this! Edit: This game will be a 4-faction game. -I’d like to gently remind all players to take a look at the Etiquette Policy and the Fair Play rules and to remember to keep to them In addition, please explicitly follow this game’s rules. Where in doubt, check with me or the impartial mod (who will be Gamma); preferably both of us. Thank you, and have fun! Quick Links: