You are Irue Valen, blood heir to House Valen, and currently on a rather strict deadline to accomplish not one, but three different things that would take entire teams of trained professionals at least a week to accomplish. This was just another in a long series of unreasonable expectations that had been forced upon you lately, and it's something that you've reluctantly accepted as the norm for you. Admittedly, things could have been more difficult if you hadn't managed to obtain the frosted face-changing Relic that had let you move about undetected for the most part, but you hesitate to call 'falling into an Atelier' a stroke of luck - Even if you survived.
You had also managed to procure local assistance in your schemes. And by procure you mean you tried time and time again to not involve her, only for some annoying woman to come along and open her thrice cursed mouth and ruin all your efforts to do that. So, for better or worse, Jill was now attempting to help you find Asche and Kara in her own ways! This took a little pressure off of you to do everything yourself, and simultaneously put more pressure on you because you found yourself not particularly trusting that the enthusiastic serving girl wasn't about to get herself in trouble trying to 'help'. Luna knows trouble was all you seemed to find lately.
For the moment however, you had chosen to get the meeting with the Shrine out of the way as quickly as possible. From the moment the sun had started to rise, your face had already shifted into that of the braided persona you used in your previous information brokering deals as you made your way across town.
Your early arrival at the Shrine had been met as if it had been expected, but you still had some time before the meeting started. How should you spend your time?
>Head to the meeting room early and wait.
>Spend time in a section of Mana. (which?)
>Check on someone you know. (Priat/Roderick/Mim)
Where things are said:
Where things are asked:
Current Abilities - http://pastebin.com/PchcdWpw
Basics of Mana - http://pastebin.com/V9b1DMrS
A List of Forgotten Things - http://pastebin.com/kPEscJ3h
Kara's Day Out - http://pastebin.com/8ZbiSKLs
Adventures with Asche - http://pastebin.com/RNviCBJu
The Reclaimed Doll - http://pastebin.com/n6miP1qT
In Your Shadow - http://pastebin.com/EfeeHFAE
Artemis is kind of inspiring to me as a QM. Or maybe as a person? His determination is really impressive.
You look over the Shrine briefly. While you had some time to spend, you didn't precisely feel like dipping into any particular section of Mana this morning. Perhaps another time, when you weren't so pressed for time, you would be more leisure... But for now, you decide to take the suggestion of the attendant who had greeted you and let yourself be directed back towards the meeting room.
It doesn't take you long to be led away from the open central hall of the Shrine and back into the familiar walls of scrolls and texts denoting Luna's cozy domain within the Shrine. You suppose it wasn't unusual that large meetings would be held in this particular section, given both Luna's role and the Shrine's typical deference to her attendants regarding matters of decisions. You keep your head held high as you pass some of the more curious attendants, slipping away into a backroom far more spacious than the cramped personal office you had entered yesterday.
A large table seemingly carved and refined from the stump of a tree stood proudly in the center, where you recognized the bookish attendant of Luna from yesterday already seated and excitedly chattering with a less than enthusiastic acquaintance you didn't know. Her eyes cut to you as you entered the room, a smile growing more expansive across her face. "Here they are now." She stage-whispered to her companion, turning to face you with traces of the lingering excitement you had seen from her the day before. It seemed the prospect of the Atelier was something that still left her giddy.
"Welcome back! You're right on time!" She spread her arms out in greeting, "This is Mark, the representative of Shade. We were just talking about you!"
"Marchovic." The man corrected with what you unfortunately feel to be a long-suffering ease. Mim hadn't batted an eyelash at it, even as the two of you briefly exchanged sentiments through your expressions. "As Mim says, I am the attendant who chose to represent Shade in this matter. I was particularly interested in meeting you after I heard what was at stake."
"At stake?" You bow your head briefly in acknowledgement, but the wording left you off-balance. Things WERE, of course, at stake... But nothing so dire that they should have taken an interest in it.
"Of course. Knowledge of an Atelier implies a fair amount of... Thrills, shall we say?" We gave off a sharkish grin, "That it remains unconquered is something quite a few of my friends would love to-"
"-Do nothing about." Another voice broke in fluidly from behind you, prompting you to glance back at the slender man who had slipped in behind you. "Ateliers are not playgrounds to be tromped through by your merry band of daredevils, Marchovic." The owner of the voice came to a stop next to you, his vestments marking him an Attendant of Undine as he turned to reservedly greet you. "Pay the man little heed, he will jump at the chance to have... 'fun'." Yet another stagewhisper is performed in the meeting room, and Marchovic's smile only widens as he holds his hands up.
While the exchanged barbs seemed normal amongst the Attendants, you suppose it was obvious that the interests of each individual Mana didn't necessarily line up on every matter presented to them.
"I appreciate your interest in sharing this secret you've found." The Undine attendant continued genially as he moved to take a seat, "While I can't say I particularly approve of the mercantile mechanics behind this trade, I can't fault a person for wanting something in return."
After some time, the other attendants filed in. Jinn and Wisp's entered together, followed by a woman more comparable to a mountain than a person. You idly note her vestment's signs of belonging to Gnome and offer a small mental sigh of relief that Roderick wasn't the representative for Gnome. While he wouldn't have been able to recognize you, the meeting would have left a bitter taste in your mouth all the same.
"Ah, finally decide to show up?"
Mim's teasing voice clued you in to the final arrival, the attendant chosen to represent Salamander.
"My apologies for being late. I've been having a disagreement with some messengers from town." Your ears perk up at the familiar voice as Priat wanders tiredly into view and takes his seat with a nod towards you and the rest of the room. He was the representative for Salamander...? "I feel they're trying to push a certain outcome, regardless of my opinion on the matter..." He sighs, shaking his head with pursed lips as he leans towards the table.
His shoulders had been tense since he entered, and even though he had made a deliberate effort to act as if he was putting the matter behind him, you knew enough of reading people to see through that half-hearted effort. The way his hands came together upon the table, one thumb rubbing against the other lightly meant he was still thinking about what was troubling him. Tense shoulders were similarly an unconscious sign of someone preparing for conflict or confrontation. A nervous response that was far more difficult to will away, or even particularly notice, than more common symptoms such as heavy breathing and clenched fists.
He looked around the room, eager to move on to the business at hand. You caught the eye of the Wisp representative as they thinned their lips at Priat's state, and realized that you weren't the only one who had noticed his current exasperation. Granted his plight didn't necessarily concern you, but there was some lingering concern from the last time you had been here. Priat had been the only one willing to give you the time of day, much less tolerate Kara's presence...
You put the matter out of your mind for now as Mim called the meeting to a start. You admit you were curious about what those messengers from town had been bothering him about, though. Messengers from town who had business with Priat... If he was the representative of Salamander, then perhaps it wasn't Priat they had business with, but the Salamander section of the Shrine in general. Following that logic... Salamander... Fire. The Tiers?
You feel like the mayor had mentioned something about this during your meeting. If it was related to that, what kind of outcome were they trying to push..?
"Now that we've all assembled, I'd like to formally start the meeting of deliberation. Everyone has been made aware of what the other party is willing to offer, but we still lack rather prominent details regarding what it entails." Mim's voice broke your reverie, forcing you to shelve your thoughts for the time being as you refocused on the task at hand. "The location has been understandably left undisclosed, but so has exact nature of the Atelier in question. There is a communal interest from us all as to exactly which Mana this Atelier is aligned with."
>Why would it matter?
"Would the particular Mana it's aligned to matter?" you pose a counter question while leaning back in your chair. "I'm to understand that information is its own currency, so what do I gain by telling you this?"
The Undine representative sighs silently and glances off to the side as Mim nods understandingly. "An Atelier is an amazing discovery to be sure, but you must understand that the Shrine is... Not precisely a single entity. We work as one, in accordance to the Mana and how we handle ourselves as an organization, but each of us have our own vested interests which admittedly will vary from section to section."
You nod, having known this much. You had planned to approach them as an organization, since that was specifically what you needed at your back right now - A political ally with enough influence to give you a foothold in your movements.
"As an organization, we are fully prepared to discuss the offer of our friendship and, depending on your cause and means, our official support and backing." Mim held out one hand to indicate the offer, and continued after a moment as she extended her second hand in turn. "However, each of us, as I mentioned, have our own... Interests. As individuals within the entity, the details of the Atelier may change who is interested in your offer, and they may be interested in making... Particular demands or requests of you, in exchange for additional... Shall we say, 'local rewards' within the Shrine."
You listen closely. While you had a rather educated knowledge of Mana, the inner political workings of the Shrine had been a mystery to you; Albeit one you never thought you'd need to know. The clarification was welcome, and left you wondering about how to proceed.
You knew who the Atelier was aligned with, beyond a shadow of a doubt... But you also knew who history believed it to be aligned with. You could also play ignorant to which Mana the Atelier fell under and maintain a lukewarm interest from everyone, but... Doing that would probably fail to provoke any fervent interest from anyone.
You could play it up as historically Jinn's, but make implications regarding Undine. It may be enough to rouse their interests, and you couldn't go wrong creating potential competition or ingratiation between two sections. Or... You could simply go all in with a single section and see what could come of a dedicated relationship, instead of passing acquaintances.
"And if I'm not willing to give in to these demands, or can't answer their requests?" You tilt your head slightly, a sign of curiosity rather than deference, and let your mind run wild as Mim answers your questions. "You may negotiate as you wish with the sections, however the Shrine as a whole will still be willing to deal with you regardless of the outcome."
>Historically, it's Jinn, but...
>I'm not certain enough to say.
"Then if I had to answer, historically it would be an Atelier of Jinn." You decide to give your answer without preamble, deliberately restraining your expression to a slightly raised quirk of your lips as Mim's eyes practically sparkled. There was the expected array of disappointment to indifference from the other attendants - with the exception of Jinn's representative, who seemed to have perked up visibly at the realization that this involved him more than just another political meeting.
He leaned forward, but you continued unabashedly before his question could be asked. "And certainly it has some... Interesting features of Jinn within it, but it was a rather icy place." You shrugged lightly, remembering the deathly chill that had nearly frozen you in place as you tried to move through the Atelier. Your implication is enough to catch the taciturn Undine representative's attention, his expression a reluctant mixture of genuine curiosity and... Disappointment? Irritation? The signs were fleeting, leaving you little time to identify them beyond a general sense of unease.
Why would someone be upset over potentially learning a new Atelier of their Mana had been found?
He's made it clear that he doesn't approve of the auctioning off of secrets.
...Yes. He did do that, didn't he.
At the very least, we're fortunate that the other representative is Jinn's. He, at least, seems unconcerned with sharing.
You sigh internally, your light smile tightening as you keep your dismay at your slight misstep from showing. You've little doubt the Undine representative didn't wasn't a fan of being put into a position of competition with Jinn, but for an Atelier, he was willing to put his foot in regardless.
"Hey, hey, you said it's Jinn's right? Is it close by?" Said whimsically smiling representative finally took the opportunity to speak up, a head of wavy, shoulder length sandy hair rustling in an invisible breeze as the lithe young man smiled with a childish delight. "Is it in the sky? Like the Heaven's Nest they found in Ephlesia?"
"They said it was icy." Undine's slender, near androgynous representative corrected cooly, "It's more likely to have been found near water of some sort. Perhaps the ocean?"
"I hope it's the ocean." Jinn's representative nodded immediately, "I haven't had a chance to head out there in a long time."
"...Regardless." Undine's representative breathed after a moment, "You say it was historically Jinn's Atelier. Should I take this to mean that you already know who the Aeon that created this Atelier was?" Their attention focused in on you, as well as Mim's. Regardless of whose Atelier it was, Mim's excitement over the whole ordeal seemed arguably more consuming than anyone else's. Still, you confirmed their question briefly, since trying to hide it now would only raise further questions. "I've confirmed who it is, and it's actually part of the reason for my... Wariness in parting with this information." You admit, "Because the answer will bring quite a change."
"Well, who did it belong to?" Mim cut in eagerly, "You said it was Jinn historically, but discerning the identity of an Aeon... It's unheard of for an Aeon to make more than one Atelier as well, so it must be one we don't have on record? Another for the list? Or..." You hold your hand up to stop her as the sparkle in Mim's eyes starts to become increasingly worrying. If you gave the Lunar attendant time to get going, you wouldn't put it past her to just discern the answer herself in short order.
"The princess of a certain royal family." You answer vaguely, "But that's all I'll say about it for now. I presume that is enough of an answer for you all?"
"Hey, you hear that Lium? We get a princess."
You magnanimously ignore the Jinn representative's attempt to heckle the Wisp ever patient Wisp representative as you wait for them to settle back down. Even though said representative of Wisp - Lium - had taken a similar course of action in ignoring the teasing, it didn't seem as if it was actually dissuading the sandy haired troublemaker any.
"Forgive my misunderstanding, but I was told the Atelier had been unconquered." Priat spoke up mildly, "Yet you know the identity of the Aeon? Something like that is often a topic of speculation, even years after an Atelier has been inspected thoroughly, but to have divined it before even exploring the place..." He seems apologetic to have brought it up, "I do not mean to accuse, but either a detail has been omitted, or I am perhaps misunderstanding something?"
>Provide no answer, if Luna's attendant hadn't called it into question, then it's fine.
>Your methods are private, but suffice to say you are more... Empathetic than most.
>Explain the Atelier's memories. It was simple enough to figure it out.
>Admit that you Solved the Atelier, rather than Conquered it.
You let the question hang for a moment as you think about your answer. The truth was... Multifaceted. You had Solved the Atelier, so of course you knew who the Aeon was. The Atelier itself held memories you used to piece it together, but before any of that, you- Both the Doppleganger and the real Irue Valen- Were...
"While my methods are private, I will say that I am confident in my declaration." You finally speak up, looking across the table to meet each of the Representatives in turn, finally landing on Marchovic. "Suffice to say, I'm far more... Empathetic than most. I was able to discern at least that much just from spending some time inside." You nod at the Shade representative, whose lips had steadily been peeling back into a fiercer grin.
"Figures it'd be one of yours who finds an Atelier." the Wisp representative sighed, prompting Marchovic to finally break his silence with a raucous guffaw as he slammed his fist onto the table. "If there's adventure, Shade'll find it! Gahahaha, well done! Well done!"
Your own smile is less enthusiastic, but you nod in acknowledgement to Marchovic. Unlike Rinnier, this was a man you felt you could get along with any day, and you'd be lying if you hadn't felt pride at finally being able to identify your Shade nature, even if it was a mere implication.
Priat nodded, accepting your explanation with a wane smile as he sat back, allowing Mim to once more take center stage.
"Now then! We've heard what there is to offer. I know we're all excited-" The Gnome representative did not seem excited in the least. "-Now let's hear the request. Previously you had asked for influence. A support from the Shrine. While this is within our power as a committee to provide, there is curiosity as to why you would ask for that specifically." Mim moved the meeting along as she caught you in her ever inquisitive gaze.
"Most people who want a reward, want it in cash." The mountainous woman that served as Gnome's representative rumbled neutrally, drawing a derisive scoff from Marchovic. "No one worth Shade's favour would trade a thrill for something so worthless."
"No one of yours would have the intelligence to ask for influence, either." Both you and Marchovic visibly prickled at Wisp's casual discounting, though you kept yourself restrained as Marchovic growled "Got something to say, Lium? Look how many people favoured by Wisp are bringing us nice things. Oh, wait, you can't!"
Mim's timely intervention kept the calm between them rather adroitly, as the meeting continued its rounds. "To put it simply, your request is suspect. There was nothing material in it, and we cannot promise our full support to you without knowing what you plan to do with it." The bookish attendant explained, "Our name is not something to be thrown about lightly, after all. We do represent the pillars of this world."
So here was the question. You didn't think it'd be so easy as to just get a blank-check from the Shrine to do with their name as you pleased, but here was where you had to give your reasoning and purpose to them. What WERE you planning to do with this influence? What would sound best as an answer?
>Uncover the truth behind the fire at the Tier estate.
>Perform a favor for a friend from Teranford.
>Find your missing companions.
>Overthrow the Royal Family.
>Pass a personal trial.
>I just want a closer relationship with the Shrine.
I'm conflicted between
>Pass a personal trial.
>I just want a closer relationship with the Shrine.
since neither would give away too much information, but the vagueness might also lead them to refuse.
What you wanted from this... "Ideally, I'm interested in a closer relationship with the Shrine." You answer after some consideration. "As you say, the Shrine is an organization revolving around the Mana, the pillars of our world. Ever since I was a child, I had taken great lengths to learn as much about the Mana as I could, and am intimately aware of their importance in the world." You closed your eyes, letting Irue's memories play out before you like an empty book as you continued to speak.
In truth, a closer relationship with the Shrine was something your shadow had wanted at one time. An official position, fellow disciples and attendants... Though it was all a pretence. What Irue had really wanted was to become an Adept. To find favour from a Mana. That had never happened, and to this day, the only thing even approaching 'favour' that Irue had managed to accrue was the slavery which bound you as their stand-in. "There are a number of trials ahead of me that I could make use of this influence for, but don't plan to ask for help regarding them specifically. They are my trials, and I will pass them with what I have. They are my trials to succeed or fail under my own merit, thus, my only request is a chance to build a friendship of sorts with the Shrine."
You finally open your eyes and nod to Mim, signalling the end of your decision.
She nods after a moment, and you briefly scan the other six representatives for a reaction, only to find a similar state of sober inexpression shared between them. That... That wasn't a good sign, was it?
"When you ask for a closer relationship, do you refer to yourself, or with your family?" Mim called your attention back to her, and you think over the question. You weren't really here to negotiate something nice for the Valen family. This was a personal call, after all, and one you had hoped to use to garner some manner of support to handle your issues in Carona. Then again... You were the heir to House Valen. A better relationship with you directly translated to be a better relationship with your family.
Whenever this Rite ended.
...Assuming you passed.
"I am my family, so the question is moot." You announce finally. "Ultimately I'm here for myself."
"..So you're here for your family." Mim murmured understandingly. "I see, I see."
"Mim, they just said they were here for themselves."
"But they are their family, so they're here for themselves, who are their family, meaning they're here for their family!"
The Undine representative sighed as Mim and Priat began to squabble, "My apologies, as Luna is aught to do, she often over thinks things. I understand and accept your sentiment."
"BUT IT'S CLEARLY FOR THE FAMILY-"
"Mim it's a figure of-"
"WORDS MEAN THINGS. THEY SAY THEM IN CERTAIN WAYS FOR REASONS."
"We've heard your side of the story, and your requests. The Shrine is willing to oblige your wishes in exchange for information regarding the Atelier. If there is nothing further you would like to add, or stipulate, from us as an organization, then perhaps we can adjourn and proceed to a more personal negotiation?" The Undine attendant continued to duly ignore Mim's cries of protest as Priat tried to convince her she had misunderstood.
>That's fine, let's move on.
>I'd like help with the gates. I have people I want inside.
>I'd like help with a suspicion of mine regarding the Mayor.
While I appreciate it, I've got to admit that I'm not Artemis when it comes to this kinda stuff. I just don't have that kind of determination. I'll do what I can, though.
You stop for a moment, realizing you actually did have a stipulation you wanted to add to this exchange. "I've got some suspicions I'd like help with." The Undine attendant inclined their head in curiosity. "Something you want to request from the Shrine as an organization, or personally?"
"...Both, preferably." You think it over, and this was help you could absolutely rely on. No chance of being backstabbed for petty political motives, or good-intentioned worrying. No concerns over their inexperience getting them wrapped up in something terrible. This was your chance to actually get help you could trust, and you were going to take it for all it was worth.
It takes a moment for the Undine representative to get the meeting's attention once more, but when it's gathered, you decide to lay your suspicions on the table directly, and those suspicions were simply...
"The Mayor of Carona is attempting to frame someone innocent for the fire at the Tier estate."
You let the metaphorical bomb drop and watch as the table immediately stills. There is a murmured conversation between Jinn and Wisp, and Gnome crosses her muscled arms with a stern expression as she stares you down. "That is a bold accusation."
"It's not my only accusation either, but it's the concern I feel is relevant to what I wanted help with." You answer back casually, unwilling to clam up at the expected resistance to the idea.
"Assuming what you say is true." Priat spoke up before the Gnome representative could respond again, "What grounds do you have to base this on? And what, exactly, are you asking us to do in regards to it?"
"Empathy?" You offer with a half smile, not bothering to see if your pseudo-joke would be well received or not. "I happen to know the person he is going to try and frame for the fire. I also happen to know that he plans on... 'Extracting' a confession from her after tomorrow."
"The plot thickens...!" Mim's quiet squeal was left duly ignored by the gathering as Jinn's representative scratched his head. "I can't say I'm particularly happy about someone being stuck in chains, but this sounds like a law problem. We can't really interfere with that without causing a fuss, y'know?"
"You're already involved though." You bring your fingers together and look out across the gathered attendants. "In the matter of Mana, the Shrine must be involved; Especially in regards to the actions of an Adept. A ranking member of this organization will be accompanying the Mayor to his interrogation."
"...I've received no word of this." Priat muttered as his brows knit. "If it's the Tier fire, then he should have come to me about..." Whatever he was about to say was lost as the unusually placid representative of Salamander trailed off quietly. Left in the wake, with eyes focused on Priat, Mim took the opportunity to chime in the helpful correction that it wasn't REQUIRED the person attending the interrogation be of the relevant Mana. It was, as you had said, only required it be a ranking member of the Shrine.
"But if it's about a fire, then naturally you'd want an attendant of Salamander there.. to..." Priat's mumbled rejection came to a halt as his body stilled. He closed his eyes then, and all at once the tension in his body seemed to leave. "I understand." You blinked at the calm acceptance, feeling your skin start to prickle. "If it is as you say, then he isn't trying to verify his findings, he just wants them to be certified."
"...Yes." You nod slowly, reluctantly moving your eyes off of Priat as he sat back in his chair and looked as if he had started idly contemplate something. "In this way, it concerns this Shrine as well. If the Mayor gets away with this, it'll be the Shrine's name dragged through the mud should it ever be discovered it was fraud."
"Unacceptable." The Gnome representative gave her two-cents alongside a flat scowl, "However, you have yet to say how you wish to involve us in this."
>I know who the mayor plans to use.
>I want you to help me force me arrest him.
>I plan to infiltrate the interrogation, and I want back up.
"Like I said, you're already involved." You repeat, this time glancing over to the solidly built, mountainous woman who served as the representative of Gnome. She was... Uncompromising. Much like Roderick, which you suppose is a trait that most of Gnome shared in common, but it seemed to make you especially incompatible in dealing with them. "I already know who the Mayor plans to use, and, unfortunately it actually has more to do with you than anyone else here."
You hold your arms to the side and shrug innocently, "Weren't you aware that Roderick had an appointment with the Mayor the day after tomorrow?" You don't even let the question hang as you see the Gnome representative's eyes widen marginally. Or, more specifically, no matter how you tried to hide it, when your muscles were that large, it became simple to see when your body tenses. "Coincidentally, I mentioned that the Mayor planned to extract the confession around the same time, did I not?"
"How do you know this? On what grounds do you accuse one of Gnome's attendants of this?" The tight response was enough to let you know to tread lightly. This was a woman who wouldn't forgive idle gossip or baseless running of one's mouth... Unfortunately...
"I happened to be there when the appointment was made." You answer honestly, turning your head towards Mim as you did so. "And what's more, I get the feeling that Roderick and the Mayor have quite the history with each other."
"On what grounds? You expect us to simply take you at your word when-"
"On what grounds-" You interrupt her pointedly, taking your eyes off Mim once you had confirmed what you needed to. She wasn't planning to interrupt, which meant your little lie of omission had been accepted. "-Do you keep questioning me? I told you exactly what you wanted to know, and you've refused to even entertain the idea that it's true."
"Not one of my fellow attendants would stoop so low as to be part of this." She replied evenly, "None even in Shade would do such a thing, and certainly none in Gnome. Your claim is false."
"Penelope, if they were lying, Mim would have said something." Priat intervened calmly, simultaneously revealing the mountainous woman's name to be... Off-puttingly feminine. Who named this woman 'Penelope'? Had she been small and cute as a child? You almost can't believe she wasn't simply born as a sack of bricks.
"Their claim is false." She maintained stubbornly, biting out their repetition. "I do not care what fancy presents they bring, I will not hear of this slander."
You directed a half-lidded deadpan towards the stubborn woman, realizing that you would probably never actually get along with people favoured by Gnome. You were two-for-two on hating them. This time, at the very least, you weren't going to just bite her.
That was justified.
No matter how justified, you weren't going to bite the representative of Gnome. If you wound up biting her, then you may as well just pencil in a life goal of biting every Gnome attendant you come across.
I won't... Disapprove of this idea.
"Well, there is one way to tell if it's the truth though, isn't there?" Marchovic spoke up lazily, "Why not just ask the guy?"
"Because if it is as our guest says, that may lead to something... Unfortunate." The Undine representative sighed, "I would suggest tailing them, but... By then it may be too late, if we make a mistake."
"You believe them!" Penelope turned her ire towards her fellow attendants, "You would cannibalize your own on the suggestion of some outsider's harping?!"
"Calm down, Penelope." Mim interjected as the muscled woman began to rise, her bookish stature paling in comparison to the moving mountain. "Your personal feelings take second place to the Shrine as an organization. There is no reason to mistrust what has been said here."
"You expect me to take your fanciful intuition as a reason to hand over a man, who has devoted his life to Gnome since childhood, to the dogs of politics and schemes?!"
"I expect you to acknowledge Luna's Dominion." Mim replied flatly, jerking the rug out from beneath Penelope's sails as the larger woman's jaw snapped shut. "Or do you not trust an Adept of Luna's ability to tell Fact from Fiction?"
"I am finished here." Penelope finally grunted, storming away with angry steps heavy enough to shake the ground as she strode past. Moments later, Jinn's representative let out an audible breathe as they scratched their sandy hair. "Yeah, yeah, I'll talk to her. Don't worry 'bout it." He shook his head, sliding up to his feet, "I, for one, don't have any objections if Mim says it's legit. I'll support whatever decision gets made."
He made after the departed Gnome representative, stopping to pat you on the shoulder as he did so. "Hey, let's talk some more after this, kay? Figure Kylo over there'll keep you busy for a bit." He jerked his thumb to the androgynous Undine representative with a smile, then wandered on past.
With that, only six - including yourself - remained.
"Well... That was an unexpected way to spend my morning." Marchovic snarked as he tilted his chair back idly, much of the formality of the meeting having now passed. "So we know who the Mayor's using, we know the schedule, we know it's a set up. Why not just sting 'em now and get it over with, eh?"
"Not everything works as simply as your mind does." Lium, the Wisp representative, intoned half-heartedly. "We do not know where this victim to be framed is being held, nor why the Mayor intends to frame them. If we act rashly, it will only make things worse."
"Yeah, and if we DON'T act, things'll get worse anyway you blind prick."
"I wish to be involved." Priat spoke up calmly, as he looked between the remaining members and yourself. "If our guest does not object, I volunteer to personally accompany them."
"...Then perhaps we can replace Roderick with Priat? Or Mim? It would make sense that we send an attendant of Luna to an interrogation, or Salamander in regards to the arson." Kylo suggested conservatively, "That should not arouse suspicion, correct?"
"There is always sanctuary." Mim suggested idly, "We do have the ability to provide a measure of clemency in some regards, provided we have the reason."
Attention once again fell on your shoulders. It had been your request for their help, after all.
>Take the Mayor head-on. You can sort things out after he's neutralized.
>Follow Roderick and infiltrate, then make your move.
>Send someone else in place of Roderick (Who?)
>Demand the Mayor free the 'suspect' under sanctuary of the Shrine.
"My original plan wasn't dissimilar to the Wisp representative's." You finally begin, catching the simultaneous smirk on Lium's face as Marchovic clicked his tongue. "I had little support, and even less standing. My only hope was to tail them when they went and make my move once I had found my friend."
"...Which would have certainly landed you in jail, or worse." Lium observed dispassionately. "What you're describing is the unlawful removal of a suspected criminal from official custody. In front of a member of the Shrine, at that."
"Yes." You tilt your head, turning to face Lium blankly, "The petty laws of Carona come second to my friend being okay. I'd burn this town to the ground if it came down to it." Honestly 'came down to it' could just as well mean 'given the opportunity and excuse', but that was a topic for another time. While your honest declaration caused Kylo and Lium both to frown to varying degrees, you did manage to score a sharkish grin from Marchovic just before he broke out into body-shaking guffaws.
At least someone approved... Though you're fairly certain he mistook your dedication to seeing this town in ashes for some misguided loyalty to your friend.
"This town has seen enough tragic fires, for now." Priat smiled unperturbed, "So it's fortunate we had this meeting before that came about."
"Still, as it stands, I think that would be the best idea going forward. It'll ensure we know exactly where my friend is, and we might find out more about why she's being framed in the first place." You lay out your intentions going forward, "As you say, it would have been troublesome for me had I gone alone... But, with your help, then this can be resolved without it being quietly swept under the rug as another criminal act."
"And you plan to be one of the people following Roderick?" Kylo muttered, "If infiltration is your plan still, we can't afford to move a great deal of people in order to back you up. Do you have a preference for who you would prefer to come with you?"
You blink, glancing around the table. "Any of the representatives from day will already be aware of what is going on, and you are quite capable of trusting us." Kylo continued in a monotone reassurance, "Though some of us are perhaps more suited to some things than others... If you have a request, certainly one of us would be glad to accompany you."
"I believe I volunteered for this already, Kylo." Priat interjected politely, "I will be the one to accompany our guest."
"That is for them to decide." Kylo shrugged.
Having one of them with you would certainly be an asset. Your own combat strength is... Well, at any rate, who should you take?
>The Jinn Representative (What even his name)
>No one. You work best alone.
You habitually open your mouth to reject help, you work best alone after all, but...
"I'd like for Priat to come with me." You change your mind after a moment's thought, nodding at the familiar Salamander attendant as he offers his thanks. It might limit some of your capabilities, but you have to admit that if a fight broke out then you would be hard pressed to handle it on your own. Your memories of Irue's first time in Carona still rang quite clear in your head. Further, he seemed to have his own reasons to come along, and it would be helpful to have a Salamander adept on the scene to verify Rinnier's innocence.
"I promise you, you won't regret this." Priat nodded, "But, if you'll excuse me, I still have some things I must take care of." You accepted his farewell as the placid Salamander representative made his way out of the room, leaving you alone with Kylo, Lium, Marchovic, and Mim.
"Well, that's our side handled it seems." Marchovic stretches, "I'd have liked to come have some fun with ya, but I guess it's only fair that Priat called dibs. I'll leave the rest to you, Mim."
Correction, alone with-
"Similarly, I have duties I must attend to."
-Kylo and Mim.
"This is shaping up to be a great story!" Mim smiled, seemingly unconcerned with the serious atmosphere that had just choked the conference room. "Buuut, you promised us a different story. About time you held up on that end, isn't it?"
You sigh, you figured you'd have to do this eventually, after all. A deal is a deal, after all...
You settle back and tell Mim your last story - The one about the Ice Queen's Atelier.
You don't know how long you spent in there, but you're finally done with your story. The location and rough description of the Ice Queen's Atelier has been relayed to Mim, as well as a pointed warning regarding the potential dangers along the way. With that finally over with, you stretched your legs to ward away the cramps you could feel already trying to set in. You hadn't expected the meeting to be quite so... Stressful, but you can't say you don't approve of what came of it.
"It seems Hres is busy, so we'll handle our discussion another time." Kylo waved off your concerns, "Besides, we've got another meeting scheduled for today. I'm afraid there isn't enough time for a proper negotiation between Dominions."
You nodded at the Undine representative as the two of you left the conference room. "Two meetings in one day?" You wonder aloud, "It must be busy being a representative for the Shrine."
"It is not often we have meetings, much less ones like today." Mim hummed happily, "But a curious person came in yesterday, not long after you, and said they had something they wanted to sell us. Something really interesting, you know? A great new story."
"Looks like we'll be finding two new Ateliers in a single day." Kylo mused quietly, "What was that old curse... 'May you have an interesting life'?"
You blink at that, being led back out into the center of the Shrine as Mim waves at someone who had been reading one of the many tomes within Luna's section. "Maran, you're right time!" And uttered an unfortunate name which you quickly confirmed to not be a mistake. The noble woman who had ran her mouth last night and left you saddled with Jill had inexplicably shown up again... Well, to be fair you had known she had business with the Shrine today.
"Oh, Mim." Maran turned to greet her, bowing to you amiably in turn. It takes you a second, but there's no scathing greeting or snarky remark which accompanies her polite introduction. "And you must be..." Her eyes squinted as if she was just now really seeing you. "...I'm sorry, I don't believe we've met?"
That's right. You had swapped faces through the Diary of Reflections before coming, so of course she wasn't going to recognize you. You offer a smile in return, your schedule weighing too heavily on your mind to bother with Maran for long. "Sorry for making you wait, Maran. This person had quite the story to tell as well." Mim interjected casually, drawing a look of surprise from the annoying friend of your cousin's.
"It must have been quite the story for you to put off hearing about an Atelier." Maran whistled appreciatively, "Here I was starting to wonder if I had been forgotten."
Two Ateliers in one day...
"It was a similar story, actually!" Mim laughed, "But let's not waste anymore time, come in, come in!"
You wave briefly to Maran and Mim as they vanish back into conference room, and were left to your own devices in the middle of the Shrine.
Maran had found an Atelier...?
You shake your head. This wasn't the time to get hung up on unimportant things. You've still got... Half a day left, and more goals to accomplish.
And we are archived.
I'll lurk the thread for a bit to try and answer some questions if I can.
Apologies to all anons who participated in Valen Quest but died at their keyboards wondering when QM would finally stop.
To those who did not make it to the end, we will never forget your sacrifice.
As of right now, I plan to continue Valen Quest at least until the final result of Irue's Rite. That was planned to be the end of the first 'arc' of the quest, after which a slightly more expansive plot involving the country of La'Fiel would open up - And after that, it would expand to the continent in the third arc. As it stands though, I'm having serious doubts of being able to carry on that far. I enjoy writing the quest, and I'm grateful to everyone who enjoys playing, but I don't think I can keep doing 10-14 hour sessions when there seems to be less and less interest, and regrettably I write too slow to make any progress with mini-threads. For everyone whose stuck with it this far, and plans to stick it out to the end, you guys are great. I appreciate every sleepless night you've spent following along, and I'll try to make my next quest better.
I think part of the problem is it feels like the difficulty curve peaked really early and never went down. Everything is tense all the time, which kills player interest. When every single decision is do it perfectly or you fuck yourself over, anons start burning out. Even Ouro and Auri have threads where players can take a breather.
Yes. Well, that's understandable considering anons chose hard mode initially. Everything since then has been a desperate scramble to stay afloat while the world tried to drag you down.
Isn't there some conventional wisdom about /tg/, anons, hardmode, and how they're all for it initially and then they bail? I swear I've read this somewhere before...
That said, I probably could have made more time for... Slice of life, I guess? I don't feel like I'm terribly adept at writing it, and I figured the players would actually feel disappointed if I had a thread where no progress was made. Another lesson I'll try to keep in mind, but I don't expect much 'free time' to occur in Valen at least until after the Rite ends.
Though given the aforementioned life expectancy of the quest, that's like saying 'I can sleep when I'm dead'.
The good news is that you're coming up on that fairly soon, actually. So you can at least expect to see more of your choices up to this point coming together!
Agreed. I don't think anons were ever informed that choosing all testaments instead of one would be hardmode. However, I also think that hardmode should be difficult, yet have some leniency, rather than requiring absolutely perfect play, especially when open-ended write-ins seem to be incredibly important in achieving goals.
>Rather than requiring absolutely perfect play
You've actually got more leeway than you think, but I suppose it's less obvious as most victories aren't as clear cut. It's easier to notice places you failed, than where you succeeded.
>Just chatting without super important stuff.
Duly noted. I had some of this occasionally with Kara and Ari, but Rinnier was never quite the type for that. At least not in the circumstances we found ourselves in.
I am keeping note of all these things by the way. I appreciate your feedback, as I try to use it to make a better quest for everyone to enjoy. I kind of wish I had it earlier, though.
I slept well past the Q and usually or was busy. Part of the problem is al the important business supersedes anything else. Irue needs rest and a friend and despite having her super competent Aide she has no one to talk too really. Snakecatcher at any given point had 2-3 people to talk too about anything early on for example.
Technically you didn't even have the aide.
I've gotten a bit more feedback regarding the lack of downtime and Irue's lack of friendly chatting resources - Neither of which I can fix immediately, but will keep in mind going forward.
I continue saying that I can't fix things immediately because this bit in Carona is actually the ending of the Rite arc. It's effectively the final dungeon of the first stretch of the quest, which means any of this kind of stuff would necessarily have to occur afterwards. I figured a bit more of an explanation would be appreciated rather than just continued 'can't do it right now' answers.
Also the timeslot I run in has been mentioned before as kind of fatal for non-europeans.