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Jun 02, 2023 5:53 PM
Deskari's demons needed competent administration
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"An opportunity to turn Deskari's nature and preferred agents against him.

"An infiltration operation to preemptively strike against Deskari's cults and cultists, carried out by an independent agent under Lastwall's aegis, received what I can only call divine intervention in that a summoning ritual that this agent had intended to interrupt, reaching into the Dark Tapestry to summon a fearsome general of apocalyptic import for his forces, instead summoned someone with the extraordinary ability to Dominate and seamlessly control - to the point of coordinating such to make specific complex sounds - all insect life in a mile.  Including, for example, coloxus demons, as evidenced by the agent's report that the demon in question, who had arranged for the summoning, simply froze after the summoning was completed."

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"...Well, that is quite an interesting ability," the shabti murmurs, her voice a resonating hum that manages to convey significant intrigue.  "So what's the catch such that you need professional adventurers to support its deployment?"

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"The bearer has no other magics to her knowledge, not even enchanted equipment, and would be reliant upon only the local fauna to protect herself from, for example, a balor deciding it was done letting her march around.  And Iomedae's war-standard is still in Drezen, despite our best efforts otherwise.  We need to reclaim that; attempts to create a new locus of the effect that, as I understand it, disrupts the teleportation of anything suffused with non-negligible Abyssal essence, have been ongoing for decades, and we still can't figure out why Summoning Shield resonated so much further when the standard was ours to use as a keystone, let alone why it could jam only Abyss-denizens.  Most suspect it's a miracle."

Lastwall hates relying on miracles.  It means they failed in their duties.  But this miracle...

They've tried raising Summoning Shields off of wardstones, with metamagic to target demons, repeatedly.  It's not working the way using the Sword of Valor did, and it disrupted allies' summonings almost as fiercely as enemies'.  They're failing, and need this.

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"...I'll get in touch with Ciara and see if she can rustle up someone or something better-suited to high-intensity combat than myself on very short notice, but you'll need someone with my sort of healing throughput and output going along if we're actually going to be tending to an army.  And it sounds like we are, if we're going to be relying on an ability to dominate demons as the key portion of an offensive into one of their cities.  If they don't pull out everything vulnerable to whatever method of control as quick as they can the moment they realize they have this problem, then I don't know why Drezen's still in their hands."

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"You mirror my thoughts, Ms. Costanza.  Are you volunteering, perchance?"

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"...Though, before you answer that - I should make something clear: This mission will only be accepting volunteers freely and uncoercedly.  I will pay for the Truthtellings to ensure that if I feel that that is necessary.  It's going to be dangerous, and while I'll pay for the resurrections myself if I have to, I can't guarantee that anyone that goes on this mission will face remotely survivable odds.  This is a gamble we are taking, because the rewards are worth it - forcing demons to suffer logistics alone is positively incalculable, strategically - but the costs are also high, if it fails.  And it's very possible this will fail.  There are too many things that are still unknown, about what is even possible with this new ability, although I trust the source of what we do know and have had Mira confirm that I am not compromised by enchantments just in case."

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This is Mira's cue to turn to the Abadaran, hand him several coins, and watch him cast Abadar's Truthtelling, holding a finger up to Genevieve before she can interrupt to answer Diana's question.  Once Abadar's sigil springs into existence, she stands before the room and says the following: "I am Inquisitor Mira Quirin, made so by the power duly invested in me by Iomedae and Her Church, as well as the nation of Lastwall.  Today, I observed the following: Watch-Commander Diana Pallas, or a person successfully impersonating her, seemed to receive a message via magical means while we waited in the ready room, and dictated the following response, which I believe to have been to a Sending: 'Report with all due haste.  Will look for spare adventurers.  Don't see any response yet; day's been quiet.  Elaborate on mechanism.  Iomedae guide your strikes.'  As is protocol when shadowing a ranking official who receives a Sending, I confirmed with enchantment sight that she was not affected by charms or compulsions.  I promptly proceeded to the secure briefing room, and was witness to the source's report.  The source also did not show signs of having been enchanted to my enchantment sight.  That is all I have been asked to testify to at this time, and while I believe it is persuasive evidence, given the information known to me at the present moment I cannot unequivocally state it is probative.  This sentence is false."

The scales exasperatedly wink out.  She promptly sits back down.

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"As context for the latter comment, the source, who is an arcanist, observed no magic to be involved with the domination effect she observed, as is consistent with the outsider's claim of not having magic.  This is unfortunate for the amount of paranoia internal affairs requires, but potentially tactically useful."

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"...Potentially tactically useful?  Try 'holy shit does that mean it would work in the Mana Wastes, that it's possible at all to create such a wide-ranging effect without creating characteristic thaumic resonance whatsoever is absurd and overturns so many theories about how reality works that I might give coauthor credit to Kalara just so she can tell me how many'.  If we had any idea how it was being accomplished, at least.  Which we don't.  And it's probably just masked.  But it would be...interesting, if whatever effect this is was being accomplished without magic.  Not that that's immediately relevant."

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"Myself, I'm wondering about their travel times and likely targets for acquisition, not that we have much field intelligence in the region by ourselves.  Demonic vermin are horrible enough even when they're swarming blindly; if there was proper intelligence put behind them..."

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"Well, I'm going.  I've got to see this."

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"...I can think of no greater calling than to chronicle this, and shall venture under the standard terms, if you'd care to witness it," she says, as she turns to the Abadaran.  "I'll call in a couple trustworthy partners who aren't entomophobes, if we have time for that."

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"...I assume you're sending me, or you wouldn't have called me in.  Is there anyone in this room who isn't going?"

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"Lena," who's probably a cleric, she's got Iomedae's domain spells, "and I are going to be holding our lines, in your absence, but even so I expect I'm going to end up either reinforcing you or needing your help once we start pulling the lines in.  It depends on what happens when we retake Drezen, and whether the banner still works.  Kalara, you're hired; you have about an hour before the teleport to the principal of this protection mission becomes risky, and I'll front pay for two other adventurers you hire; I can pay veteran rates, and probably sweeter in items promised, but not archmage money.  Get people with insurance, that aren't afraid of balors."

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"...Tough order, that, just because of the time, but I'll see what I can do."

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Meanwhile, at the armory...

...That is a lot of items.  And even knowing that Lastwall gets them pretty much at cost, she thinks they might have just put all of their reserve in on this gambit.

No pressure.

(Yes pressure.  Rather a lot of pressure.  She can feel it building up in her already.  But she's not going to let it show.  To show weakness now would be to signal that Lastwall is wrong to do this - and when she runs the numbers, she's pretty sure they're right to.  And she, if anyone, simply must contemplate the value of image and morale.  She was born a noble, after all.)

(Fuck.)

 

(...Not that she doesn't want to be important for something she did, rather than her circumstances of birth, but could it have waited until she had honed herself a bit more than this?  (No.  It could not have, and she knows that.  She was already rather stagnant.  But even so, she is allowed to kvetch inside her head.  Thoughtcrime isn't illegal, especially when it's only against her own ambitions.  And really, an occasional heresy there is essential, to make sure you actually want what you think you want.))

But she digresses.  There are people she must vet, for what's only not a suicide mission because Lastwall will probably raise anyone who dies during its commission.

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Well, that's why she's stacking the deck as hard as she can to prevent the necessity.

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When she returns to the briefing room, she is expecting to see perhaps the Watch-Commander and definitely one other Lastwaller.  She instead finds an entire party, and barely restrains herself from flipping out at what could easily be a murder attempt.

 

...She's spent too long in Mendev, if friemdly territory is this unsafe to her.

 

"So.  There's rather more people here than I was expecting."

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"Well.  About that.  It so happens that when the broad circumstances of the change in strategy were explained to the people who needed to know I hadn't been subverted into ordering a pointless suicide mission, Chronicler Kalara Sunaph of the Pathfinder Society and Mx. Genevieve Costanza of an associate logistics group both felt like they should attend to this matter themselves.  I do apologize for the surprise, but while Inquisitor Quirin is approaching our freelancers, and will most likely find some trustworthy recruits, if you do not trust my judgement on who I trust, it was not a good idea to ask me for reinforcements, or, indeed, tell me anything."

Insofar as it is possible for someone in imposing full-plate to radiate a bit of sheepishness, she does seem to be so doing.  She legitimately hadn't expected to recruit anyone by proxy in explaining the situation to the people who needed to take action if she was subverted.

 

...Now that she thinks about it, that that happened at all is kind of concerning in the way it rhymes with subversion...but she's immune to charms.  Even weird invisible-to-magic charms.  Not compulsions, but she's pretty sure she's not compelled, either.  The actions to take to do not-this are readily available to her, still, and she's immune to charms, which means that she can be reasonably confident nothing supernatural is messing with her consideration of priorities.

 

Reclaiming Iomedae's war-banner is just that important, that it results in this gamble for a chance.

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"Ah.  I see.  Well.  Far be it from me to turn down such experienced and trusted hands.  Ah, I'm aware of the broad strokes of a chronicler's abilities, but, Madam Genevieve, what do you do?"

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"Alchemicals, mostly.  With a specialty in designing potions to sublimate such that they become inhalable gases, though that's not all I have on me."

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"I see.  ...How, across the planes entire, do you make that viable?  Most potions I've seen were frankly a waste of money compared to even wands, and we've more than enough casters!"

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She grins.  "There's an enchantment that - catches on - to things that are not supposed to be weapons, being wielded as weapons, that allows you to apply the usual weapon enhancements.  And potion bottles most certainly aren't meant to be used as weapons.  Have you ever seen a sharding weapon?  Because I have, and given that I had something that was meant to break - well, I promptly decided that I could make use of that, given that I can throw these pretty dang well. And it worked. Praise be to knowledge-sharing."

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"That is genuinely impressive.  And if it works mostly only on potions, which you've seemed to imply, also hard to weaponize, which is even more impressive, really.  Both that you've made it work in combat and that it will be hard for others to make your same steps their plan to take over the world."

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"There's some alchemicals the pattern'll cling to, but it's certainly not a lot of them.  Can't usefully re-throw most grenades, f'rex.  And most fireworks - don't end well, used like that.  The holy candle's surprisingly good, though."

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