Welkin sets a course for Lishapa, which is about two days away at high speed, giving the party time to prepare (and time for Sam to use Revelation of Associates Hunch on the entire party). The message from the Sidereals also includes drop-off instructions for Patience of the Endless Void, and he is dumped off at the required location. Many plans are discussed at some point, including:
- Coercing pirates into attacking the ship
- Sam impersonating the target and “drowning”
- Having several of the party board the ship as merchants to be innocuously close (This option is particularly attractive once Welkin points out he can use Ship-Claiming Stance to literally own the ship and thus impede everyones’ ability to interfere with them)
Ultimately the third option is chosen to start. The party gets off on the uninhabited far side of the island and Edelweiss is commanded to keep the ship hidden in clouds (some of her own creation if necessary) while the party gets to work. Txori, Sam, Welkin and Grey come in bearing forged documentation of mercantilism and get to work selling some of their artifacts, rapidly earning back the money they had spent, while Ah Nold practices hiding from people in cloaking mode with his armor. Their cover story is they are traveling merchants who sold their horses for ferry passage to this island and intend to ply their wares in Harborhead. They spend the night at the local inn to further buttress their alibi.
The next day the ship has put in to port. It is an impressively large ship called the S.S. Anne, practically a Guild Caravan but floating in the ocean and with some magitech for a main engine. The four purchase passage and keep their crates stowed in their room to save on the price. Ah Nold finds the command deck and scans the captain, finding him not an essence user. He also searches for Neeri but does not find her.
Eventually the ship has had all its exchanges made and sets off. Welkin finds a bathroom, locks himself in, and uses Ship-Claiming Stance to claim ownership of the vessel. Old Realm runes flash in the air and lights blaze around, and then the little god of the ship itself appears before him, calling himself the S.S. Anne (very unoriginal, yes we know). Ownership of the S.S. Anne is formally ceded to Welkin. Welkin formally welcomes Txori, Ah Nold, Sam, and Grey, and when asked, tells S.S. Anne not to inform anyone else. Welkin also commands the S.S. Anne to inform Edelweiss of their position and to follow them at a safe distance. Welkin, having used his anima power to conceal the essence expenditure, now walks out like nothing happened.
The lunchtime crowd gathers in the enclosed top deck, and the party keeps watch but sees no one like who they were looking for. Time passes and concern mounts, but when dinnertime arrives, four Brides of Ahlat (one with a black panther in tow) arrive escorting four diplomats from Harborhead. They sit and eat, and the party rapidly identifies Neeri as their leader and the one with the panther friend. Soon Welkin has an idea. He uses his hearthstone to cause a gust of wind to blow in through an open window, knocking over a wineglass into Neeri’s lap. She barely flinches, considers her appearance carefully, then rises and bows to the diplomats, who nod back, dismissing her. She walks down the hallway.
Sam, Welkin and Txori each follow at a different distance, while Ah Nold attempts to track her from outside. Sam wants to hear her voice and see what languages he speaks so he gets closer. Welkin sends Jack, his monkey, ahead to begin tormenting the panther. Sam runs up and apologizes, then tries to make conversation with Neeri in High Realm, to which she replies dismissively in Flametongue. Sam then tries Riverspeak, which he has picked up a few words of, saying, “Sorry. Bad [points at monkey]!”, and she replies relatively fluently and very dismissively that he should be sorry. He introduces himself, but she does not engage in further conversation. He does take this opportunity to use Revelation of Associates Hunch and notes the first name that comes up is Altonellis, a demon of the second circle. Neeri and the panther stalk off, allowing the party to locate her room. Ah Nold has lost track of her from outside and attempts to ninja his way inside, and soon he catches up with the party. The party retires to their room to scheme.
New plans are formed to coerce Neeri off the ship. Ah Nold has heard of Ahlat, the Southern god of War and Cattle that the brides worship, and wants to try impersonating him, but the details seem to break down. Finally it’s Txori who has the winning plan, with input from the others: she can forge a written letter from Ahlat with an embedded message for her to get off the ship. Grey provides some input and there is also some debate about where to put the letter, but the inside of her door is finally chosen. They wait for everyone to fall asleep at night while Ah Nold flies ashore to collect some cow’s blood, and then Sam and Txori sneak down to her room. Sam uses Terrestrial Reinforcement of Stealth to bolster Txori’s stealth and also easily picks the lock to their room, and then Txori forges a letter written on the inside of the door in cow’s blood:
Overt message: “Neeri, Bride of Ahlat, your worth has been measured and found wanting. Return to me if you wish to not be cast aside.”
Hidden message: Go to shore and find a bull to sacrifice to Ahlat.
Sam closes and relocks the door and away they go back to their room. Txori’s clockwork raiton is keeping watch from outside and in the early morning he shares a vision of Neeri reading the letter and immediately going with her panther to secure a lifeboat and row to shore. Sam, Welkin, Txori and Grey stay behind and act casual, while Ah Nold tracks her ashore while cloaked and flying, and then ambushes both her and the panther, scoring knockout blows on both.
Ah Nold arrives at the Crimson Gale with Neeri and the panther, one over each shoulder. He asks Edelweiss where to keep them, and she proposes empty barrels in the cargo hold, within line of sight of the briefing table. Ah Nold stays with them all through the day, applying 1 bashing damage intermittently to keep them unconscious. The rest of the party plays it cool on the ship, and Welkin releases SS Anne from his service.
After nightfall, Welkin flies up using his glider and wind jewel, and Ah Nold fetches Txori, Grey and Sam one by one. Once they are all gathered on the ship, they allow Neeri to come to and begin asking who she is. She seems to genuinely believe she is Neeri, but the mention of the name Altonellis causes her to subtly flinch with recognition. Sam catches it and asks more, but she is not cooperative. Sam then has the idea to use Revelation of Associates Hunch on the panther, and the top name is not Neeri but instead Thelonious, another second circle demon. Grey has an idea to look up these demons in the Scroll of Limbs, a very large tome that Txori had recovered from Kuzush, and to speed it up they split the binding to make it a multi-volume set and then Sam, Txori and Grey all search through the book for those names. Ah Nold gets bored and patrols around while Welkin starts playing darts using spirit weapons.
Eventually Grey locates the name Altonellis and begins reading the description out loud: a second circle demon, the Messenger Soul of Naz-pherat the Collector of Fear, a third circle demon of Isidoros the Black Boar that Twists the Skies, one of the Yozis. Txori notices that as Grey is reading the description Neeri’s eyes have rolled back into her head and she is contorting, so she stops Grey and they come over to investigate. They clearly have two demons on their hands, and several disposal strategies are suggested, the more exotic ones involving the Wyld Hunt station 500 miles due north on the coast of the Blessed Isle. Welkin vehemently vetoes flying into Realm air space, and there aren’t any active volcanoes nearby, nor any easy-access gates to heaven, and the party is getting stuck.
At this point Neeri begins talking in a voice not her own, but rather the voice of Thelonious, the Expressive Soul of Naz-pherat. Thelonious suggests that their disposal strategies are all very risky and so they will offer a deal: to leave without troubling them further, in exchange for telling the party where the real Neeri and panther are located. The party is a little reluctant to take such a deal until it’s pointed out that Txori is an eclipse and can consecrate a deal. Txori’s Sagacious Reading of Intent tells her that the demon’s aim is to avoid getting slaughtered, and the deal offer seems genuine, so she makes it so with a touch of the hand and a burning of a caste mark. The deal is struck. Thelonious also mentions that the souls of Naz-pherat have been commissioned to these tasks due to Yozi politics, which would not interest the party.
As Thelonious and Altonellis begin to move around more freely, they say they can be let off anywhere and it would be safer if the party themselves recovered Neeri, since she and her panther are in crates in the cargo hold of the SS Anne, being brought along by the disguised Neeri. They mention that they were keeping them alive to keep their fate and soul intact to further buttress their disguise as they went around occasionally nudging things towards the Yozi invasion of Creation. They mention “this new hot chick” in the guild that they have been working towards corrupting, but they will have to start over now that their cover is being blown. They are let off the ship and walk away.
Ah Nold flies down in cloaking mode to the cargo hold, stopping only to frighten a little girl who was wandering the hallway late at night, and after finding the correct crates opens them up, frees the two, and walks away. The real Neeri sits up confused and calls out for answers but finds none. Ah Nold escapes the ship and ferries Sam, Txori and Grey back before dawn, while Welkin flies back. They complete their cover of staying on the ship and checking off when it lands at Harborhead.
Once docked, Welkin slips away and uses his glider to get back to the Crimson Gale. He pilots it around and docks on land outside of Kirighast. Txori, Grey and Sam sell the rest of their goods, putting Txori up to Resources 4. At the end of the day, Welkin finds them and leads them back to the ship, and away they go.
- Someone: “The czar or whatever”
- Debbie: “I want to cast Revelation of Associates Hunch on myself to learn more about my allies!”
- Debbie: “I’ll say that I specialize in antiquities, given that I am one.”
- Alejo, to Eli: “You can use manipulation plus presence, unless you want to use charisma.” Eli: “Gosh I sure don’t.”
- Louis’s proposal for Txori’s message: “Apparent Message: Ahlat, the Southern God of War and Cattle commands __, my bride to come ashore and prepare yourself for ritual defloration. Hidden message: This is totally a message from Ahlat.”
- Someone: “So if we impersonate Ahlat and he gets mad and comes for us, do you think the Sidereals will cover for us?” Alejo: “Well that would be the honorable thing to do, so who knows?”
- Alejo, in reference to Eli’s charm: “Oh god, it gives you super vision to increase your DV!” Taylor: “Oh yes and it also gives you super vision to get automatic aim dice, and if you take the three ticks they become automatic successes.” Debbie: “Well, I can tell who is feeling most guilty!…”
- Debbie: “Well it’s a multi-volume set now!”
- Alejo: “Louis wants to dual-box Exalted.”
- Ah Nold presents a very pointed analysis of the demons’ situation. Thelonious’s response: “You seem very rational for a Conan the Barbarian type.” Ah Nold: “…. I have a good advisor.”
- Someone: “Wait don’t we have an eclipse?” Eli: “Oh yeah half the reason for my character’s existence…” Alejo: “Great job Eli, you beat out two other people for the Eclipse role and you totally forgot you had that!”
- Louis: “Could a little girl survive 16 bashing damage?” Alejo: “Could YOU survive 16 bashing damage?” After some math Louis concluded that he could but he would be in the hospital for it
- Alejo: “And now for the weather report– it’s sunny and clear except for the mysterious cloud that’s been not-at-all-suspiciously following us for three days.”
- DM’s note: I was completely unprepared for Sagacious Reading of Intent. I will not be caught unprepared again.