Dec 03 2020

Shady’s Solo Adventure: M’Lady’s Boudoir

Posted by

Tortuga by Glazyrin https://www.deviantart.com/glazyrin/art/Tortuga-149523283

Or, “The Chat Scene, Modified.” When last we saw Shady she had picked the lock on the Lady Patrician’s door. Rolling a 1 on the Chaos die (again???) indicates an altered scene. Since the premise was that Shady was sneaking in to see the Lady Patrician, I’m gonna say that the alteration is, the L.P. isn’t there! Shady decides that this is fine, just re-locks the door and waits.

Anastasia Hone, the Lady Patrician of Everkeep, had finally reached the end of another very long day. Council meetings, trials, audiences with entirely too many self-important people… it was exhausting. All she wanted now was a little something to drink, and to slide into bed. Even fumbling with the key to her room was more than she felt like coping with, and once she actually managed to get the damn door open, she didn’t even bother to re-lock it, just flung her keys across the room and flopped down in front of her writing desk.

“Careful where you toss those, you might lose them,” said a raspy voice nearby—and instantly Anastasia was on her feet, dagger in hand, ready to strike. At the far end of the room, leaning insolently against the wall and twirling Anastasia’s keys on the end of a claw, was the tabaxi privateer.

“Shade-Of-the-Candle?” Anastasia demanded. “What the hell are you doing? How did you get in here?”

The tabaxi casually tossed the keys onto Anastasia’s desk. “I just wanted to have a little chat,” she said. “Put that poker down, you’re not in any danger.”

“No, I’m not,” said Anastasia, “but you certainly are. One shout and a dozen guards will burst through that door.”

“Aren’t you even curious what I want to chat about?” asked the privateer.

“No,” replied the Lady Patrician. “If you want to chat, you can arrange for an audience like everyone else. Now get out of my chamber.”

“Yeah, but then Cardinal Maraldo might overhear,” said Shade-Of-the-Candle.

Anastasia narrowed her eyes. “Might overhear what?” she said.

“I thought you weren’t curious,” smirked the cat.

“Don’t mess with me, Lancer,” Anastasia snarled. “I am in no mood for it. If you have something to say, spit it out, unless you want to be hauled off in chains.”

“Are you gonna put down that knife?”

“Not until you give me a good reason not to shove it in your face.”

The tabaxi shrugged. “Okay, have it your way. I’m here to talk about Captain Ainsworth’s shipment of munitions.”

Anastasia’s expression didn’t change, but her voice became more guarded. “Go on.”

Shade-Of-the-Candle stepped forward, expounding cheerfully, but always staying well out of reach of the dagger. Gods, how that tabaxi loved the sound of her own voice. “Here’s how I’ve got it figured,” she said. “Those gunrunners, out of Saltar’s Port? You haven’t sent us to go roust them out. That’s what tipped me off.”

“Tipped you off to what? Make some sense.”

“I know how power works in this town,” said the tabaxi. “And I’m just thinking about what I would do in your place. I wouldn’t tolerate an outfit like that unless I had to. The gunrunners have a powerful sponsor. A merchant prince maybe, or someone on the Council of Lords, who’s making a tidy sum and who would be more than a little annoyed to have their operation busted up. BUT I can’t just let them stay there or Cardinal “Law-On-the-Seas” Maraldo will be all over my ass. So I split the difference, by hiring some adventurers from the Golden Compass Society to go harass them, without actually being able to really hinder them in any major way. That way I can say I’m ‘doing something about it.’”

“You’re doing a lot of wild guessing about stuff you don’t know anything about,” said Anastasia. “What’s your point?”

“I’m just painting the scene right now,” said Shade-Of-the-Candle. “Telekain’s adventurers aren’t enough to roust the gunrunners, but they DO capture a big ol’ pile of alchemist’s fire. Nice for laying siege to things, but Everkeep’s not about to go to war with anybody any time soon. All it does for me is take up space. But Thessalaine? They’ve always got somebody to contend with, and they have money, lots of it. What would make more sense than to sell a useless 200 tons of alchemist’s fire to Dragonwatch Keep for big pile of gold?”

Anastasia gave a slight nod. “Reasonable,” she said.

“Your arm must be getting tired,” said Shade-Of-the-Candle.

“So must your tongue, but here we are.”

The tabaxi’s tail flicked. “Okay, I’ll come to the point,” she said. “Maraldo’s already chewing nails because the gunrunners got away, and if I make him mad enough he’ll cause me plenty of trouble. But that gold looks soooooo yummy. So what do I do? I go through with the sale anyway… on the QT. I get my money, Maraldo THINKS he’s scored a point, and everybody’s happy.”

“That sounds like a pretty good plan,” said the Lady Patrician.

“Doesn’t it?” said Shade. “I’m pretty proud of it. But it’s got one big hole in it.”

“What’s that?”

The privateer gave Anastasia a broad smirk. “There’s a big ol’ empty storehouse where that alchemist’s fire is supposed to be.” Anastasia blinked, but said nothing, and Shade-Of-the-Candle continued. “Maraldo may only have one eye, but he sees plenty. There’s always gonna be that risk hanging over my head that he’ll find out I pulled a sneak on him.” The tabaxi’s expression turned dark. “I’ve seen what happens when you pull a sneak on Maraldo. It’s not pretty.”

Something in Shade-Of-the-Candle’s tone caught Anastasia’s attention, and she finally lowered her dagger, partway. “That IS a hole,” she said.

“But it’s a hole I have a way to plug.”

Anastasia raised an eyebrow. “Oh?”

“See, I’ve got a certain ship captain I can call on. Brilliant, dangerous, and not even a little bit modest, who has a cunning plan to deal with my problem.”

“And what is this cunning plan?”

“This brilliant ship captain, who has flashing golden eyes and lustrous coppery fur by the way, is going to sneak the alchemist’s fire right back to Everkeep, where it can go into the storehouse where it belongs and nobody will be the wiser that it was even gone.”

Anastasia smirked herself, at this. “This ship captain seems to have a very high opinion of herself.”

“She’s earned it.”

That raised a dubious eyebrow. “Has she. And what is she going to want in return, for getting this valuable cargo back after the sale is completed, WITHOUT Dragonwatch Keep knowing she operates out of Everkeep and suspecting any treachery?”

“Hmm… good question. Knowing this ship captain the way I do, I’d say she’d probably be willing to undertake this venture for… hmm… forty percent of the cargo’s sale value.”

“That’s pretty steep,” said Anastasia. “If I were you, I’d only offer her fifteen percent.”

“She’d never go for that,” said Shade-Of-the-Candle. “This is a dangerous operation, and she has me over a barrel, considering she could just go to Maraldo and blab her big mouth. I’m pretty sure she wouldn’t go below twenty percent, PLUS she’d want me to send some plum jobs her way more often, instead of handing them all to Ainsworth.”

“Obviously, this would have to all be a verbal arrangement, and all denied in public,” said Anastasia. “You wouldn’t want a written contract that could be discovered.”

“Obviously,” said the tabaxi. “Purely an agreement between two ladies of quality. But mutually beneficial, and laying the groundwork for a very profitable future working relationship.”

Anastasia leaned back against her writing table. “So you broke into my room, just to tell me that’s what you’d do, if you were me.”

“Yup,” said Shade-Of-the-Candle. “And no other reason.”

Anastasia sheathed her dagger. “You’ve come up with a good plan, Captain. I think I may just adopt it.”

The tabaxi gave a satisfied grin. “I thought you’d like it,” she said.

“You never did tell me how you got in here.”

“If I told you which hole I slipped in through, you’d just plug it,” Shade replied. “Then how would we have these little conversations?”

“If I ever find you in here without my permission again, it’ll be a gun, not a knife, and I won’t be curious.”

The tabaxi shrugged. “That’s fair. I’d like to think that next time we need to talk, you’ll be a little more accessible.”

“Maybe,” said Anastasia. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I need some sleep. You know the way out.”

CHARACTER LIST:
Shady
Lady Patrician
Dragonwatch Keep
Captain Dryden Ainsworth
Wharfmaster Fean Wavecrest
Sea Lancers: Kia (Captain of the Recluse)
Sea Lancers: Sterling (Captain of the Silver Corsair)
Sea Lancers: Adric (Captain of the Blue Fin)
Telekain
Gunrunners
Cardinal Maraldo
Scullery maid
Patrician’s guards

CHAOS: 3 (by the rules it should go up or down, but there was no dice-rolling in this scene, just negotiations)

THREADS LIST:
Steal the alchemist’s fire
The privateers’ rivalry
The L.P.’s intrigues
Ainsworth’s botched security vs. Shady’s spying
Gunrunners

Dec 01 2020

Shady’s Solo Adventure Scene Four: Interrupt?

Posted by

Shade-Of-the-Candle, Like a BOSS

Continuing from where we left off

Rolling a 2 on the Chaos Die indicates that a scene pops up before Shady’s chat with the Patrician. EVENT FOCUS ROLL: 66, PC negative. What the hell, Event Focus Table? Why do you have it in for Shady? This is also a double, which means that something wild and random might happen. EVENT MEANING ROLL: 67/51, “Open of Jealousy.” So… something bad happens to Shady, presumably related to someone being jealous of her. Well, Shady’s got no shortage of rivals, enemies, or past victims; but the only even vaguely likely candidates that have been mentioned so far are Ainsworth, Maraldo, the other Sea Lancers, or these mysterious gunrunners. Rolling on Shady’s tags comes up with 6, “Crescent Moon,” her signature weapon. Rolling on Everkeep’s tags and Persons of Interest comes up with “pirates” and the Wharfmaster Fean Wavecrest.

Not gonna lie, ain’t feelin’ this one. The only idea that even suggests itself is that Ainsworth figures out that Wavecrest is where Shady learned about the shipment and causes trouble somehow, but it doesn’t seem worth pursuing. Ainsworth is too busy getting ready to leave on the evening tide. So I’m going to invoke the “I Dunno” rule here and just punt on this interruption.

Instead, let’s play out the mini-adventure of Shady sneaking into the Lady Patrician’s chambers, which I’m basically going to treat like a 4E-style skill challenge. It should be fairly difficult—the L.P. is the chief executive of this city and no doubt has guards, magical wards, and who-knows-what-else to thwart robberies and assassinations—but Shady also has some unique advantages, in the form of her natural climb speed, and being one of the Sea Lancers and therefore having an easy go-to reason why she might be in the Keep if confronted by guards. She also grew up in Everkeep and is very familiar with things like patrol schedules, where the Keep’s blind spots might be, and so on.

So I’m going to start with FATE QUESTION: Does Shady know of a secret entrance (e.g., through the dungeons or something)? Very Unlikely, Chaos 4: 69, NO. So she’s going to have to either bluff her way past the guards at the gate, or scale a wall. Shady’s Deception skill is not great unless she’s using her Distraction background ability, so straight up sneaking is a better bet. She doesn’t have to roll for climbing (thank you, claws!), but she does have to beat the guards’ passive Perception check to avoid being seen. The guards have advantage for having multiple guards with planned patrols to maximize coverage, making the DC 17, but Shady rolls a freakin’ 24 and slips by like the shadow of a ghost.

Shady knows the general layout of the Keep, but not precisely which room is the Lady Patrician’s, so she’s going to have to poke around some without drawing attention to herself. (SHADY Investigation DC 15: 16. Very slick.) The living quarters are on the upper floors of the keep, with stairs at either end of the corridor. Shady deduces that the Lady Patrician’s room is probably going to be the largest, accessed by a small sub-corridor off the main corridor.

Unfortunately, here’s where it gets tricky: this is a Dungeons and Dragons world, and the floor with the living quarters is protected by a permanent guards and wards spell! This fills the stairs with webbing, fills the hallways with fog, and magically locks and hides every door for anyone who doesn’t have the password! Shady stands there staring at the webs for a minute and tries to figure out what to do.

Her options are: find or figure out the password, or scale the wall outside and try to slip in through a window. Shady decides to attempt the first before resorting to the second, on the grounds that being able to bypass the guards and wards in the future as well could come in handy. So who would know the password? Anyone who lives on that floor, obviously, as well as the L.P.’s bodyguards, and any servants who may need to go there.

Bingo. Guards are trained to question people. Servants are trained to obey people. Servants are the way to go. Shady heads for the Keep’s kitchen, sneaking when there are guards, and just walking around like she owns the place any other time. (FATE QUESTION: Are there any servants awake in the kitchen? YES.)

Shade-Of-the-Candle strode into the kitchen; a scullery maid was there, rolling out strips of dough and placing them into a pan. “Oh! Captain, er, Of-the-Candle, ma’am,” said the maid. “Are you lost?”

“No,” said Shady. “I’m here to meet with the Lady Patrician. Unfortunately, we’ve run dry upstairs, so I’ve come to fetch a bottle of wine.”

“Come to fetch it, ma’am?” said the maid. “Why didn’t Her Ladyship just ring?”

(SHADY Deception DC 12: 20) “I volunteered,” Shady said. “You know what these after-hours conferences can be like, we’ll probably be there until dawn and still not come to an agreement. I wanted to stretch my legs.”

“Oh, well certainly, ma’am, let me just fetch you some of m’lady’s favorite port.”

“Thanks.”

The maid stepped away to the cellar, returning a few moments later with a small, dark bottle. “Here you are, ma’am. Do you need clean glasses as well?”

“No, that’s fine,” said Shady. “Oh! Hang on, I’ve forgotten the password for the wards upstairs. What is it, again? Some elvish word, isn’t it? I can never remember.” (SHADY Deception DC 15: 21! Dang, girl.)

“Draconic, ma’am,” said the maid. “Ashqualaka. I’m told it means ‘serene water.’ Ain’t it beautiful?”

“That’s some gods-damned poetry right there, you bet,” said Shady, giving the maid a lopsided grin. Bottle of port in hand, she said good-night and headed back for the stairs.

Now able to bypass the guards and wards spell, Shady bounds on up the stairs, rolling a natural 1 on her Stealth check (oops!) and being spotted by a guard, but quickly smoothing it over by telling a truthful lie: “I’m here to see the Lady Patrician.” She gets a 21 on her Deception check (dang again, girl!) and the guard, who has no reason to doubt her (especially since she clearly has the password to get past the wards), is kind enough to point out the right door. Shady rounds it all off by successfully rolling on her Thieves’ Tools proficiency to pick the conventional lock that’s also on the Lady Patrician’s door, and finally we can move on to the next scene.

CHARACTER LIST:
Shady
Lady Patrician
Dragonwatch Keep
Captain Dryden Ainsworth
Wharfmaster Fean Wavecrest
Sea Lancers: Kia (Captain of the Recluse)
Sea Lancers: Sterling (Captain of the Silver Corsair)
Sea Lancers: Adric (Captain of the Blue Fin)
Telekain
Gunrunners
Cardinal Maraldo
Scullery maid
Patrician’s guards

CHAOS: 3, Shady CRUSHED IT in that scene

THREADS LIST:
Steal the alchemist’s fire
The privateers’ rivalry
The L.P.’s intrigues
Ainsworth’s botched security vs. Shady’s spying
Gunrunners

Nov 30 2020

Shady’s Solo Adventure: Scene Three (Actual Play)

Posted by

Telekain, Guildmaster of the Golden Compass Society

Picking up where we left off…

The avian Guildmaster of the Golden Compass Society fluffed up into a happy puff of blue and orange. “Shady!” he beamed. “Shade-Of-the-Candle, it has been too long!”

“Hey, Telekain,” said Shady, tossing her tricorn hat onto his desk. “I like the new digs. Ol’ Kresthianze’s skull has never looked better.”

“I was thinking of some silver fittings to hold it in place,” said Telekain. “Too extravagant, do you think?”

“Nah, go big or go home, I say,” replied the tabaxi, with a grin.

“Maybe,” said Telekain. “But I know you better than to think you just randomly dropped into my offices. Looking for work, perhaps? ‘The Lightbringers’ may have gone their separate ways, but you know you’re always welcome here.”

“Not work exactly,” said Shady. “But you’re one of the best information brokers I know. I’m looking for some intelligence.”

“I don’t know how much of THAT you’ll find here, adventurers are not known for it,” said the bird, and made a click of a laugh in his throat.

“I’d resent that if it weren’t completely true,” Shady replied with a smirk, and sat on the corner of his desk. “But seriously tho, I’m trying to find out what’s up with a shipment of munitions going from here to Dragonwatch Keep. I thought maybe if you could put your ear to the ground—”

“Munitions? You mean like 200 tons of alchemist’s fire?”

“That’s… very specific,” said Shady. “But it sounds promising. What do you know about it?”

“My dear Shady!” said Telekain. “It was one of my teams that confiscated it!”

“Oh really!”

“You and your merry band of misfits aren’t the ONLY skilled adventurers in town, you know,” replied the Guildmaster, with no small amount of preening. “I’ve been cultivating quite the collection you know.”

“Uh huh.”

“But yes, two weeks ago now, one of the Lady Patrician’s scouts discovered a gunrunning operation out of a hidden cove near Saltar’s Port, and asked us to see if we couldn’t discreetly take care of it. It was a… mixed success. Most of the gunrunners escaped to sea with their wares, but they were forced to abandon an overladen barque. You probably saw it being brought into dock.”

“That ugly black-painted thing, looked like it would fall to pieces if the pilot sneezed?”

“The very one!”

“I’m amazed you could fit 200 tons of anything onto that deathtrap.”

“Just so,” said Telekain. “That’s why they abandoned it. Anyway, it was enough that the Keep paid us for the commission, even if we didn’t exactly dispose of the gunrunners.”

“Why isn’t there a public bounty on these guys?”

“That, you’d have to ask the Lady Patrician,” said Telekain. “I think she may be worried about reprisals if it went sour, they’re an imposing lot, with something like four ships. Well, three now, I imagine.”

“Reprisals? Phooey. Half the Sea Lancers are sitting around port bored… well except for Ainsworth. We could wipe out three ships of gunrunners in an afternoon.”

Telekain gave a shrug-like wave of a talon. “Like I said, you’d have to ask her, all I know is what I’ve heard.”

“Hmm,” said Shady. “So where’s this cargo of alchemist’s fire now?”

“In the Keep’s storehouse I would imagine,” said Telekain.

“Then why did you bring it up when I mentioned a shipment going to Dragonwatch Keep?”

“Because that’s where it was earmarked to go,” replied the Guildmaster. “Dragonwatch Keep was slated to buy it, and for a very good price, I’m told. Until Cardinal Maraldo stepped in.”

One of Shady’s ears flicked. “Maraldo? What about him?”

“Well you know his keen interest in piracy, smuggling, and the like,” said Telekain.

“Oh yes,” said Shady. “I know.”

“Well he knew about the shipment almost before we did! He must have a remarkable network of informants. Anyway, he brought the matter up to the Council of Lords and argued that the shipment was too valuable to just sell off, so they nixed the deal—much to the Lady Patrician’s annoyance. I suspect in her mind she’d already earmarked just where all that gold was going to go, only to get pipped at the post.”

Shady pondered this for a moment, as a predatory grin began to slide across her face. “Now THAT’S interesting,” she said.

“Hmm?” said Telekain. “What?”

“That’s very interesting,” she said again, staring into a corner and idly scratching the tip of her chin with a claw.

“What? What’s so interesting?” demanded Telekain. “Do you know something you’re not telling me?”

Coming back down to earth, Shady leaned forward and booped Telekain’s beak. “If I did know something I wasn’t telling you, would I tell you I knew something I wasn’t telling you?” She hopped to her feet and collected her hat.

“Shady! What IS it?” said Telekain. “After all we’ve been through, don’t I—”

Shady grinned. “If you don’t want me to lie, don’t ask me questions I can’t answer,” she said. “But I will say this: you answered my question beautifully. Thanks, Scissorbill, I owe you one!”

“If you were really grateful, you’d stop calling me ‘Scissorbill!’” Telekain shouted at her retreating back, but Shady was already gone.

CHARACTER LIST:
Shady
Lady Patrician
Dragonwatch Keep
Captain Dryden Ainsworth
Wharfmaster Fean Wavecrest
Sea Lancers: Kia (Captain of the Recluse)
Sea Lancers: Sterling (Captain of the Silver Corsair)
Sea Lancers: Adric (Captain of the Blue Fin)
Telekain
Gunrunners
Cardinal Maraldo

CHAOS: 4

THREADS LIST:
Steal the alchemist’s fire
The privateers’ rivalry
The L.P.’s intrigues
Ainsworth’s botched security vs. Shady’s spying
Gunrunners

Next Scene: A chat with the Lady Patrician

Nov 29 2020

Shady’s Solo Adventure: Scene Three Groundwork Meta

Posted by

Shady looks longingly out to sea.

Continuing where we left off…

I feel like there’s a weakness in the core premise. One shipment of munitions by itself hardly seems critical enough for all this skullduggery. Time to refine it a bit. EVENT MEANING ROLL: Focus is 56: “PC negative” (something about Shady herself? O.o), action and subject are 4/93: “Fight of weather.” Um. What? XD The L.P. doesn’t think Shady can navigate storms? That doesn’t make any sense.

Reply hazy, try again! EVENT MEANING ROLL: Focus is 19: “NPC action,” action and subject are 13/85: “Decrease of technology.” Okay, so what NPC? Characters List 4: Ainsworth, or Persons of Interest 6: Cardinal Maraldo. Well huh, what could I do with that?

Maraldo is a high official in the church of Pholtus (“The Blinding Light”), paladins and crusaders who are sworn to seek justice, law, and order. And Maraldo believes in this creed, even if in his own case he tends more to an authoritarian streak, favoring the law and order part over the justice part. Why would he pursue “decrease of technology”? He believes in “might for right,” and also conveniently believes that what he does is right, because he’s the one doing it. If there’s munitions to be had, his view is going to be “We should have it, to keep it from ‘falling into the wrong hands’, and also to better smite evil with.”

Soooo… what if the secrecy is to avoid conflict with the Cardinal? The Lady Patrician would love to have munitions for Everkeep, but she might very well love a pile of gold from Dragonwatch Keep even more. What if the munitions were captured (from pirates/smugglers/gunrunners, whatevs), but instead of confiscating and using them, the L.P. has decided to sell them to Dragonwatch Keep over Maraldo’s objections? The “Judge/Balance” result from Scene Two isn’t about the whole region—it’s about the balance of power within Everkeep itself!

That could also explain why Ainsworth actually put “munitions” on the wharfmaster’s log—maybe it wasn’t supposed to be a secret at first, but the decision was made at the last second, “The answer is ‘no,’ I am therefore going anyway?” But Ainsworth knows Shady well enough to know that she has no love for Maraldo, and isn’t likely to go stirring up trouble with him, which is why he didn’t try to take her prisoner to keep the secret.

Okay! I dig this. :) But now the big question: what actually IS the next scene? Shady’s been cut off here and doesn’t have much in the way of a path to pursue. She doesn’t care about the munitions qua themselves, she just wants to find some kind of angle to profit by, as her ship languishes on the docks. Attacking the Dragonfly to pirate the munitions is a winnable battle but iffy prospect, plus it would probably cost her Ainsworth’s friendship and definitely get her blacklisted in Everkeep. BUT, if Shady finds out about the conflict between L.P. and Maraldo, she can work that into a win/win for the L.P. by stealing the munitions back for Everkeep after they’re delivered, IF she can do it anonymously. That seems very much a Shady thing to pull, but she has to find out about the conflict first. And that means she needs to do more poking around.

The Moonlit Horizon is faster than the Dragonfly, so there’s no real time constraint in letting Ainsworth go ahead and leave town; Shady has some time to investigate. But where will she go? She knows the other privateers are also in the dark; she could try to find some kind of information broker type, or go straight to the Lady Patrician herself. Telekain?

Hmm. That’s a promising angle! So, next scene will be “Shady goes to Telekain,” assuming there is no modification or interrupt. But I’m out of time (and words) for this session, so I’ll have to start there with the next installment!

Nov 26 2020

Shady’s Solo Adventure Continues

Posted by

Picking up right where we left off

The Dragonfly was a more imposing ship than its name implied. A three-masted frigate, it dwarfed Shady’s own Moonlit Horizon and outgunned it by half. On the dock below teamsters came and went, loading the ship with stores. Shady sauntered casually among them, looking from crate to crate as any curious mariner might; but there was no sign of any munitions to be found.

“Shade-Of-the-Candle!” came a voice from above. “What are you doing poking your nose around my ship?” Shady looked up, smirking. Captain Ainsworth peered down at her with good-natured suspicion.

“Keeping an eye on the competition, what does it look like?” Shady replied. “It’s lean times for us little guys who don’t have the Lady Patrician’s ear.”

“We don’t have to be competitors,” Ainsworth said. “Come on up and sign articles, I could use an escort on this trip.”

“Ha! And have to hear you calling yourself ‘Commodore’? Not likely,” said Shady.

“More fool you,” Ainsworth replied. “Turning away easy money.”

“If it was so easy you wouldn’t want an escort,” said Shady. “What’s the journey?” (SHADY PERSUASION DC 15: 15)

“It’s not for the ears of the world to hear,” said Captain Ainsworth. “C’mon up, we’ll talk over a drink, I could use a break.”

(FATE QUESTION: Does Ainsworth intend to tell Shady the truth? NO)

A quick bound up the gangway and to the sterncastle of the Dragonfly led Shady into Ainsworth’s cabin. It was larger than Shady’s equivalent on the Moonlit Horizon, with a large table that doubled for holding large maps or hosting shipboard dinners. Currently it was covered with charts and logbooks, which Ainsworth was already covering by the time Shady stepped in. “There’s a bit of that crazy slime ale from Winnowing Reach if it suits you,” Ainsworth said. “Otherwise, help yourself to a bit of port.”

“Oh hell no,” said Shady, laughing. “Why do you even have that stuff?”

“Sometimes I want to impress visitors,” said Ainsworth. “I’ll stick with the port, myself.”

Shady chuckled as she poured the drinks; Ainsworth gestured for her to sit. “So what’s this journey of yours, then?” she said.

“Mostly precious ore and gemstones to Dragonwatch Keep,” Ainsworth said. “It’s a short trip, but if word’s got to pirates somehow…”

(SHADY INSIGHT DC 16: 17. She already knew he was lying because she saw the manifest; what she wants to figure out is why. EVENT MEANING ROLL: Why is Ainsworth (and the L.P.) keeping it secret from Shady? 23/23, “Judge/Balance”. It sounds like they’re worried that this shipment might tip the balance of power in the region. FATE QUESTION: Did the L.P. order Ainsworth to keep it secret because he was the only one she trusted? YES. That 23/23 is close enough to a double digit roll that we need a random event! Heck, what are the chances of two d100 rolls coming up the same twice? EVENT FOCUS ROLL: PC Negative. I think it’s time for Shady to open her big mouth.)

“Gemstones my ass!” Shady spat, slamming her drink glass down on the table. “Don’t LIE to me, Ainsworth! What’s really going on? Those are no gemstones you’re loading into your hold.” The Captain of the Dragonfly narrowed his eyes, but said nothing at this outburst. Shady glared at him for a long moment.

“Fine,” she finally said. “Nothing to say, huh?”

“I have my orders,” said Ainsworth. “If you want to stop being ‘one of the little guys,’ you’re going to have to learn what that means, Shade-Of-the-Candle. You’re sharp as a razor and you’ve got a good nose for the wind, but neither of those are any good without discipline. What does it matter what’s in my hold? If you wanted a piece of this job, you’d be expected to follow orders regardless of whatever it might be.”

(SHADY WISDOM SAVE DC 13: 9. She’s been goaded into saying more than she means to!)

Shady rose to her feet, coming nose-to-nose with Ainsworth. “I could deliver munitions to Dragonwatch Keep as well as anybody, and faster too. You might have more guns, but I’m way better for a chase and you know it. I don’t see why the Lady Patrician shouldn’t know it too.”

(FATE QUESTION: Will Ainsworth try to keep Shady prisoner so she doesn’t reveal the secret? EXCEPTIONAL NO.)

Ainsworth looked pained. “There’s no way you should know what’s in that shipment, Shady,” he said. “Somebody’s got loose lips.”

“And YOU should get better at covering your tracks, Dryden,” said Shady. “But I don’t give a damn about your munitions. I want to know why you’re getting jobs, and I’m not.”

“It’s not like that,” said Ainsworth. “You’re not being singled out. Even Kia, Sterling, and Adric don’t know. It was just going to be an ordinary job before… things got complicated.”

Shady’s brow furrowed. “What THINGS?”

Ainsworth shook his head. “Don’t want me to lie to you, Shady? Then don’t ask me questions I can’t answer.” He strode to the cabin door and opened it. “Go on, get out. Head back to your ship. In fact, you might want to take it to some other port for a while. Zan-Xadar maybe, or Oriab. If word gets to the Lady Patrician that you’ve been spying—”

“SPYING?”

“Well what else do you call it?”

“I call it trying to get a straight answer.”

Ainsworth looked away, pointedly holding the door open. “Go, Shady. There’s nothing more to discuss.”

“No,” said Shady. “I guess there’s not.”

CHARACTER LIST:
Shady
Lady Patrician
Dragonwatch Keep
Captain Dryden Ainsworth
Wharfmaster Fean Wavecrest
Kia (Captain of the Recluse)
Sterling (Captain of the Silver Corsair)
Adric (Captain of the Blue Fin)

CHAOS: 5

THREADS LIST:
Steal the alchemist’s fire
The privateers’ rivalry
The L.P.’s intrigues
Ainsworth’s botched security vs. Shady’s spying
What are the complications?

Next Scene: Now you’ve made Shady curious. But first, some meta-work…

Nov 26 2020

On Being Thankful

Posted by

It would be easy to be glib today. “I am thankful that 2020 is almost over!” is a joke that writes itself, while also being an objectively true statement. Yes, the numbers on a calendar are purely arbitrary designations created by a consensual shared illusion, but they have psychological power, and 2020 has been fucking awful for me personally as well as on a national and global stage. So yeah, it’s there.

But I want to be grateful. This year of all years, “thanksgiving” as a concept is one that almost feels like a radical rebellion. The world wants to go out of its way to be awful? Well I’m going to work just as hard to remember what’s good, and to look towards a tomorrow that will be better.

Mrs. Gneech and I have to move. Despite everything we’ve tried, all the hoops we’ve jumped through and how bone-grindingly hard we’ve worked, we simply cannot afford to live the way we have. To describe us as “unhappy” about this is the kind of understatement that Brits used to use when describing the Blitz as “a bit of a nuisance.” We are quite frankly devastated at seeing decades of savings wiped out, at having to lose our home again, at years-in-a-row of constant rejection and unemployment despite both being educated, experienced, hard-working, and talented. But even among this, there is room for gratitude: we are supremely fortunate to have somewhere we can go. We have friends and relatives both who have offered us places to land, somewhere to live besides “out of our car” or “on the street.” These offers aren’t made lightly—in some cases they would make someone else’s already-cramped arrangements even more so. That’s a profound act of kindness towards us, and I’m keenly aware of that and grateful for it.

A pandemic is ravaging the country. Fueled by the antirationalism of a bone-stupid nation, it’s killed hundreds of thousands and done long-term physical and psychological damage to so many more. But I’m grateful that in my own personal circle, only one person has contracted it so far. It was agonizing for her, and at one point she quite literally believed she wasn’t going to survive to the end of the day, but she pulled through. The experience has impacted her—it would be hard for it not to—but she is all right. I am grateful for that, and I am grateful to have friends and family who understand that science is real and protect themselves; I am also grateful to live in a region of the country where “science is real” is the prevailing attitude. I miss restaurants and conventions and all that jazz, but I am grateful to be among people who understand that to have those things back, we have to take precautions now.

I am grateful that the fascist is on his way out. I am grateful for seeing people dancing in the streets, for fireworks in London and bells ringing over Paris, because it shows that most people really do understand what’s been happening and what was at stake. The fight goes on, but this was an important victory and I’m grateful for it.

I’m grateful for Shade-Of-the-Candle. Life without my creative spark is gray, formless, and depressing. If I have to choose between being obsessed with something, or being dead inside, I’ll take the obsession every time. While I’m frustrated that I don’t have much ability to steer my artistic drive in directions I would prefer, I am still grateful that they exist. Around the new year or so this past year, when my despair at seeing there was no way for us to get out of our financial hole was at its worst, being able to draw Shady, to play Shady in D&D, and to come up with stories about my fuzzy problem child, was literally what enabled me to get out of bed some mornings.

Catra, eating a dumpling and being adorable.On a related note, I’m grateful for season five of She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, and Catra’s messy healing arc. I’ve written elsewhere about what I owe this series, so I won’t rehash it here. But it was important to me, and I’m grateful for it. And honestly, just look at Catra, eating a dumpling. Look! Isn’t that something to be grateful for? I’m grateful for Good Omens, I’m grateful for the Animaniacs reboot (of which I’ve only seen clips), I’m grateful the Twitterponies still exist, even if they’re quieter than they used to be.

As of the time of this writing, Mrs. Gneech and I still haven’t worked out where we’re going. We’ve dragged our feet so long that we ended up having to pay an extra month’s rent that we absolutely can’t afford in our current place, and we’ve got to get over it and move. Which means facing hard decisions where the only answers are various levels of “We don’t want that.” But at the same time, under all that, I feel a weird little flicker of hope, that I haven’t felt for a long time. I put Symphony of Science at the top of this essay because WitchieBunny reminded me of it last night. The past few years have felt like the world was collapsing in on itself (and my life was collapsing in on me), but there are bigger things and better things. I really do think things are going to start getting better soon, and I’m holding on to that thought.

I’m looking forward to a brighter tomorrow. And I’m grateful that it’s coming.

Filed under : Gneechy Talk | No Comments »