5852/War in the West-Vermilion

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War in the West-Vermilion
Date of Scene: 15 May 2018
Location: Contaminated Flatlands
Synopsis: Pending
Cast of Characters: 1124, Staren, Wandering Dog, 1150, Starbound Flotilla

Bloody Revelations (1124) has posed:
The brave, the few, the morally flexible, the downright kind of strange, receive a very specific kind of invitation. For reasons unknown to all but one, they receive printed invites by couriers of ghostly crows, bearing an exact time, date, and set of Warpgate coordinates. It doesn't take a total genius to guess the approximate idea of where they're going.

    That still doesn't prepare anyone for the sight.

    Stepping out of a massive Warpgate framed with exquisitely sculpted black jade, arrivals wind up in one of the inner districts of Stygia, a city mentioned several times by now, but never really elaborated on. It seems that no form of description could possibly do it justice anyways. They're immediately cast onto wide streets paved in translucent onyx, surrounded on all sides by towering buildings of white and black that soar miles up into the sky, seeming to curl inwards as their preposterous height renders vertical straightness impossible, and supported by incredible, intricate laceworks of jade and silver walkways high up in the air. The night sky is barely visible above them, crowded out by rises of soaring cathedrals, flying buttresses, baroque towers, and compounded churches on apartments on shrines on workplaces on places of ritual and prayer, so massive that most of the city is clearly only possible to visit by flight.

    The sheer verticality is still almost nothing when looking further ahead, where the construction of the gleaming, monochrome cityscape slopes upwards in progressively higher and more gothically ornate tiers, clustering and rising together in the shape and size of an impossibly steep mountain of solid architecture, going higher and higher until it joins with a tower so tall that it'd break the clouds if there were any. The very tip of it isn't even the end, because it joins with the very bottom of a machine that defies description; a city-sized colossus of black gears, turning clockworks, and blazing lanterns and building-sized jewels unto itself, glittering like a midnight sun in the sky, seeming almost attached to the roof of the heavens, rotating slowly and methodically in a million different places.

    The streets are decorated beyond compare. Every corner is lit by ghostly iron beacons, every front is wrought with impeccably skilled facades and ornamentation, the tiniest living quarters appear to be the standard of a modern day suite, and even the street stalls sell only exotic imports and items of exquisite craftsmanship. There is no sign of dirt nor refuse nor structural decay anywhere, as if the urban landscape had never aged a day.

    Of course, the entire population is dead, and in the heart of the Underworld, they're more real than anywhere else. There are very distinct social classes to be seen, mostly identified by their wildly different manner of dress, from every corner of Creation, and spanning what must be centuries of time periods, cultures, and fashions, but the fact that there are clearly farmer peasants and gilded nobles at all seems almost affected. Most of them bear the usual symbolic marks of what had claimed their lives in the end, but they go about their business as any cosmopolitan would, acting out the bustling livelihood of an active metropolis as anyone would. All that really gives them away is the almost eerie, reverent silence with which they act, and the faded pallor of their visages, as if slightly washed out and 'sketched out'.

Bloody Revelations (1124) has posed:
    The 'noise' of the city, as it were, is even more insubstantial. The atmosphere is the barely-heard hum of raw, material prayer, silently crashing against the walls of the city like an invisible ocean tide. The air has a constant texture of thurible incense and funeral perfumes, and tingles with an electric charge at every breath, so charged with spiritual energy that it almost feels ready to ignite. Following the directions involves a great deal of walking, down claustrophobic, zig-zagging streets, and breathtaking plazas and aerial walkways alike, where the living fail to draw no shortage of attention from both the lower pedestrians and the upper class carried on velvet palanquins and flying artifacts. They eventually develop a sort of entourage, following at an eager but non-threatening distance behind them, where ghosts abandon their shopping or commutes to tail the still-breathing arrivals, whispering amongst themselves, and gradually swelling in number as some kind of rumour spreads amongst the crowd, anticipating something with great expectation and energy; almost a sort of desperate one.

    The only thing that mars the journey are the subtle signs of less wholesome occupation. The odd standard of a Deathlord can be seen outside a church or embassy, and occasionally, ghosts with hollow, burning eyes and maddened expressions are heard preaching unsettling speeches on street corners, where the populace try to ignore them, passing with a hint of tension and fear. Those signs gradually clear out as they approach their destination, but the length of the walk, and their relation to the central towers, seems like an utter drop in the bucket. The distant view is what makes the size of Stygia, crown jewel and capital of the Underworld, make itself felt. Trying to get to the other end of the city would take /days/ like this. Even in an aerial vehicle, it'd be a matter of hours to get where one wants. It must be the size of a small country, and going over a bridge that spans a huge, ink-black river, they can even see full-sized trade ships and distant farmlands that suggest the same thing.

    The place where they're going is marked by a sort of district boundary, where soft blue lanterns of bone mark the transition from baroque skyscrapers and onyx streets to open boulevards, dark and lush gardens and parks, and local businesses such as teahouses, theatres, inns, casinos, restaurants, and what are quite probably fancy drug dens, constantly bathed in a soft snow of white cherry blossom petals, like some sort of incredibly pretty and sophisticated red light district. It's questionable if it's even possible to get drunk or stoned or even full of food here, given the clientele of ghosts and all, and there are no signs of anyone more than slightly inebriated, but clearly there must be some kind of more subtle, perhaps immaterial draw to these activities from life if it's so expansive and rich.

    The gathering the Elites have drawn runs into another, even bigger gathering, practically swamping the front gates of an establishment that can only be called a mansion, if not a small palace, styled in lacquered red tiles like a Japanese castle and surrounded by zen gardens and flower fields. It's clearly the most upscale place they've seen so far, by an absolute mile, but the crowd doesn't seem entirely so distinguished, and is easily as mixed as their own. Their own entourage seems elated at the sight, as if they've suddenly had something confirmed by the Elites' presence, and rush ahead to join the mob.

Bloody Revelations (1124) has posed:
    At the head of the crowd, just on the other side of the threshold and inside the garden, is Bloody Revelations. Her usual, esoteric, half-unraveled outfit of obsidian thread is cloth of utter blackness, twinkling with cold stars, which mirror the ostentatious wings of night that surround her like some kind of dark seraph. Legions of ghosts fight to get to the front in order to get near her, and the one currently in that fortunate position is a ghost who had clearly died of extremely advanced age judging by his hideously wizened appearance, who prostrates himself before her. Bloody Revelations holds a hand to his head, and his form rapidly un-ages in the space of seconds, returning to the prime figure of a twenty-something man to the crowd's general elation.

    She of course notices when her invitees arrive, and that seems to call for an end to the time-killing. The crowd erupts into waves of giddy whispers when she takes some certain pose, apparently something they've seen her do before, where she withdraws a clear crystal of sharp edges, gleaming with inner white fire, from her sash. She deftly slits her thumb on the edge, coating it shallowly in blood, and with a showy twirl, hurls it skyward, where it shatters high in the air and bursts into a rain of glittering white and scarlet sparks, which swirl back down over the crowd.

    Where they fall, ghosts climb over each other to try and touch them, and where they succeed, colour, solidity, and warmth spread through them, and breath returns to their chests, making them appear fully alive and real. Clamouring and cheering, they fight for the sparks like bridesmaids at a wedding, even though there are enough to drown the whole crowd, and when they get what they want, they shower the garden area with jewels and coins and flowers and talismans like a stage, before running off in groups off to the many establishments that fill the district, excited beyond description to make the most of whatever their gift is.

    Eventually, the crowd mostly clears out, and the Elites are left with a straight shot to the front gardens, now mostly quiet save for the sounds of zither music and new festivities from inside, coming from the wealthier ghosts who had rushed the doors immediately. That leaves them alone with Bloody Revelations, who seems as relaxed as they've ever seen her.

    "Oh, you're actually on time?" she says. "How thoughtful~ That's good too, since I decided I'd treat you still-loyal types to some of Stygia's best. Of course, it really depends on how degenerate you want to get. Tell me your favourite time-waster, and I'll pick the right place and we can get down to business."

Staren has posed:
    Staren steps out of the warpgate. He's armored, because he was going to an unknown place even if he kind of suspects it's to meet Bloody Revelations. It COULD be a trap by Silver Prince or something, after all.

    Somehow, he didn't imagine that any place in Creation might look like this. Although perhaps, technically, it isn't IN Creation. Essence sensors suggest that he's probably in the Underworld, if the aesthetic didn't already. He has to stare at that distant mountain-building and the heaven-machine for a moment, wondering at its purpose.

    He can only hope an inertial navigation system is enough to find his way back to the gate if anything goes wrong. He occasionally looks back at the throng of ghosts following them. He'd offer to talk, but he DOES have somewhere to be...

    As he passes the drug dens, he mouths the words 'how does that even work?' with a confused expression. The ghosts' biology is gone -- BR said as much before, and she clearly knows her stuff in this area. So what can the drugs possibly interact with? Is it some sort of placebo effect?

    ...Is Bloody Revelations playing some sort of messiah to the dead? He's suspicious, given how he heard her talk before -- she didn't seem to care about anyone else, 'fixing' ghosts only so they could better serve her employer. So what's with this big dramatic show?

    Still, for whatever reason, she IS helping people. That elderly ghost's unlife has certainly been improved. And then...

    Clearly this is an improved version of the ritual she mentioned. But is it permanent, or temporary? He wants to stop a ghost to ask them, but they all leave in such a hurry.

    He's still suspicious, but if anyone else had tricked him into helping kill a city he'd be shooting them on sight. Staren crosses his arms at Revel's offer. "I don't want to waste time. I want to know what you just did... and what the deal is with the city of Bodhisattva Anointed In Dark Waters."

Wandering Dog has posed:
Wandering Dog hates ghosts. He hates the undead. He hates the Underworld, all of it. Bloody Revelations is the type of person he'd hate with a passion, and who he's shown disgust with before. He hasn't kept his feelings about the dead private, and yet he's still here. He still accepted the invitation. Normally, he wouldn't, but with this situation...

The martial artist is in his silk tunic, and is, unusually for himself, bearing a stone-cold expression as they cross through Stygia. He keeps both hands at his side and at his ready, clearly not trusting where he is even slightly, though the traveller inside him still finds it...exciting, beautiful. Somewhere he'd like to visit more, if it wasn't what it was.

As the ghosts start entouraging behind the group, Wandering Dog picks up his pace, moving to the front of the living. "Ugh." He ends up muttering, and once they reach the bridge, he looks down at the ink-black rivers briefly, before they finally reach the mansion, and even more ghosts. He stares at Bloody Revelations, quirking an eyebrow in surprise as she de-ages a ghost, and then stares up at the sparks she throws over the crowd, made from her blood. If any even seem to approach the party, Wandering Dog takes a step backwards to avoid them. Once the crowd has dispersed, though, he sighs in relief.

And then, he approaches towards Bloody Revelations, quirking a head at her response. "If you're offering, booze. Need it to deal with the sheer idea of being in this place. Pretty impressive, though. Not a bad respite for them for /now/." A shake of his head, a glance towards Staren, and then a dark laugh. "You mean the Silver Prince? Skullstone Archipelago? The deal with it is that the city's probably a sham when it comes to paradise. It was centuries ago, and based on the report, with him having always been pulling the strings, it's always been a shithole. Only cares about these ghosts instead of anyone else." The way he talks about them is pretty much full of disgust, and Wandering Dog shows no fear of saying this sort of stuff in Stygia.

"Now, Bloody Revelations. I don't like you or agree with what you do. But I bet it's clear why I came here anyways, right?"

Azure Armature (1150) has posed:
Stygia is city of strange sights and baroque, alien experiences. The dead - fresh and otherwise - move in a reverent mockery to their old lives, but the fool of this motley may be the life prior, not the un-death that pervades.

'Blue' is dressed in a vaguely tactical-casual fatigues in complimentary monotones of black and grey, as if someone had looked at Soulsteel and oil and decided to model camouflage on it. Parts shimmer and reflect the bone lantern light, and others absorb it like a singularity, breaking up her body profile (as all good camouflage does).

The moving through the city part of the trip has her seeming almost bored, eyes tracking across 'storefronts' and embassies of culture with a detached scan of her head, most of her attention paid to the massive clockwork structure deeper within the city. Her surveilance of Skullstone had seen, Civically, some similar or desired results, but Stygia is impressive again in it's grandiosity.

But then they are at the 'court' of Bloody Revelations, punctual as noted. "I don't have any condusive to getting work done - or talking." She admits. "Drinking dulls useful senses. Smoking is... fine." She continues. "Instead, tell me of the metro-, or patropolis here. The mechanical structure? I thought there were none in Creation." Blue wonders, arms crossed idly before her.

Starbound Flotilla has posed:
    The wandering Flotilla regard the city of Stygia with varying mixtures of awe, unease, fascination, and curiosity, but none of them, not even Seft, express disgust with this one particular example of fine Underworld mechanics and creation.

"Hoh-lee shit."
"Awestruck. It certainly is... terribly impressive."
"I'm not sure Earth cities got this hardcore."
"Or so clean, and well-maintained. So carefully balanced, so..."
"You hearing that? That sound of prayer. I love it."
"...Hmph. I can see why they think this is worth fighting for."
"Everything sssince ssstart of Underworld... ssso much hissstory. Wow!"

    They chatter among themselves, seeming to find no particular aversion to the crowd gathering. At least, Albert keeps his own problems with it to himself. Pavo revels in it, imagining herself as the center of that attention, even though she's not. The whole group arrives to watch the show passively, though Moonfin's seemingly struck most intensely by the /grandeur/ of the display; something about the theatricality of what Bloody Revelations is doing gives him a quite positive feeling to start off with for this discussion. And she asks them their favorite timewasting.

"A good drink's enough for me."
"I would see and judge the art of Stygia."
"How isss food? Got any good meat?"
"So long as it's a wealthy district, I'll be having a good time."
"..." Seft seems uncomfortable answering.
"No preference."

    Each of the Flotilla have given their answers. Moonfin's a little more direct though. "I've little doubt you've heard of our recent meeting. And I've little doubt you have some quite compelling reasons to not take up offers made, which I shall gladly hear -- yet more gladly, now that I have seen what I have seen of Stygia. Points and counterpoints make an elegant dance, and I am ever interested in observing their rhythm."

    "Need to know your martial response." Albert grunts. "Plans. Options. Doesn't matter how much we celebrate, we'll have to fight eventually. Need to know how and where." He says, making that heavy "huff" noise an ape makes. After Thorns and Lookshy, he's a lot more understanding of her, but that doesn't make him suddenly talkative any more than he is around the Flotilla.

Bloody Revelations (1124) has posed:
    What a way to be greeted. Bloody Revelations can't help but roll her eyes at Staren, folding her arms with a little bit of goodwill leeched away already. "Necromancy. Because I'm the best at it. I told you about the Five Gifts. It's a derivative upgrade I invented myself, of the Shadowlands Circle of Onyx. Yes, it's still temporary, but it works on hundreds of subjects at once, instead of one at a time. A permanent solution is theoretical at the moment, and almost definitely the Void Circle of Obsidian. Don't be a nag. All those people are going to have the time of their unlives for a day or two; is that a bad thing? Besides, it's kind of my ritual whenever I visit Stygia, like my hallmark. The people love it, and it's great business for the district, which means high favour from the district ruler."

    Arms folded, she rests one hand on her chin at Wandering Dog. "You really are peculiar. Frankly, I hadn't expected you to show up. No wonder you're an outcaste, even as a Golden Janissary. Of course I know why you're here though~ It's hate, and that's a powerful motivation~ After all, more people bond over things they mutually hate than things they mutually appreciate." A bunch of people give boring answers, so she snaps her fingers and says "Liquor it is." then a pause for the Alchemical. "And smokes." then she motions for them to follow as she turns on her heels, her starry visage dissipating off her in wisps of alien stars.

    "I'm not discussing it in the street, and neither are you." she says fairly emphatically to Staren as she approaches the doors. "Don't you know why people talk secrets in crowded bars? That's common knowledge for any socially adept agent. Besides, the Lady with White Hands owns this place, and she owes me a lot. Being a chairman on the Council of Thirteen, she has a lot of ability to keep snoops out and gossip locked down, so it's only sensible I pay her a visit." She stops only briefly to look up at the tiny moon of black clockworks and tiny, colourless suns that orbit it at Azure's prompting.

    "That'd be the Calendar of Setesh, otherwise known as the greatest thing ever built by once-mortal hands. Most prayers to the dead as a whole end up in Stygia, and the city's geomantic design focuses and directs them into the Calendar to use them as power. Because of that thing, the Underworld has time; days, nights, seasons, stable reality as you know it. Think of it as sort of like the Loom of Fate, albeit a constant, monolithic effort to diligently maintain, and you can actually visit it if you're privileged. There's /one/ other thing that contributes to the insane level of power here, but it's a bit of a secret~"

    Entering through the front doors, the Elites follow into a lavishly appointed, oriental-ish parlour of the most perfect possible design, replete with extensive wall to wall artworks, zen-buddhist-like water and sand features, an interior garden, and various creature comforts, all within the bounds of an architecturally magnificent grand hall. Sliding doors to every side lead into dark but warmly lit rooms, where silhouettes of ghosts can be seen playing games with tiles and cards which are certainly gambling, as well as gathered around low tables for genuine feasts. Within moments of entering, extraordinarily beautiful servants practically swarm around Bloody Revelations like some kind of princess had just entered their establishment by surprise, cooing over her and her guests and asking them if there is anything, absolutely anything, they can get for them. Tranquil, staccato music pervades the interior, and the air smells more of flowers, water, fine food, and scented candles than the grand funeral atmosphere outside, being altogether inviting even to the living.

Bloody Revelations (1124) has posed:
    Within minutes, the Abyssal has them being guided to a place on the second floor, ushered into a private lounge full of thick red cushions around a large, black teak table, and without anyone even asking, huge amounts of savoury food is being brought in that the group cannot possibly eat all of between them, all of which is quite obviously real and actually fresh, which is /really impressive/ considering it'd have to be very recently imported from a /different plane of reality/, especially so in the case of massive slabs of fresh meats and delicate fruits which would probably age badly in less than a day. At Bloody Revelations' beckoning, trays of exotic teas, huge bottles of vintage wines and liquors, and gilded smoking implements full of packed herbs arrive in earnest, with the staff going so far as to offer to take items, bring additional amenities, set aside rooms for overnight stays or visits to spas, and basically everything up to and including the tiers of grapes and fans. The Deathknight, contrary to her usually harsh, manipulative, canny, and frequently sadistic air, indulges immediately, with a bottle of bright violet wine in one hand, fiddling with a silver case of something or other in the other, and with the prettiest and most well dressed and made-up young lady and man in the place clinging to each arm.

    When all requests are satisfied, the door is finally closed, and Bloody Revelations puts another, sharp, glassy crystal on the table, insisting someone else do it because she's busy drinking straight from the bottle. Apparently, all it involves is slitting a finger for a bit of blood and then crushing it in hand after it becomes as brittle as sugar glass, according to her instructions. When that's done, an uncanny sort of mutedness falls over the room, diminishing all sound from the outside, probably being some sort of privacy spell.

    "Now, if you're all settled in, let's get to it. The Bodhisattva Anointed by Dark Waters wasn't my planned target, but now that I've heard that he intends to try and challenge me first, he damn well is now. This is where the big leagues start, I'm afraid. Eye and Seven Despairs was a joke. The Mask of Winters was powerful, but a blithering idiot. The Bodhisattva isn't as martially strong, Necromantically powerful, or well-equipped militarily, but he's pragmatic, influential, convincing, underhanded, and dare I say even mildly competent. He has an annoying number of allies, and unfortunately a large population under his personal sway that I couldn't launch an attack on."

    "Worst of all, he bases himself in possibly the most annoying place there could be. My naval resources are approximately . . ." she stops briefly to count on her fingers, but then just says "Zero. Most of you turned out to be simpering infants who ran off when they had to pay a strategic cost, so you're undermanned too. What we need to establish first are naval resources, and further pawns and allies. If you have questions, now is the time to ask them." She immediately follows that with an alarming amount of wine, and then popping what look suspiciously like pills from the case, settling in comfortably.

Staren has posed:
    Will Bloody Revelations and Staren ever be able to get along? It seems they're constantly on eachothers' nerves. He quietly follows her to the meeting room though, asking the servants for 'Just some sweet iced tea is fine' when prompted... And then they're presented with a feast. They MUST have farms or some kind of food-creation magic down here, right? It'd be a shame to let it go to waste. Staren's reasonably sure at this point that BR isn't trying to trick them into a Persephone situation here. "Yes, you told me about the five gifts. But it doesn't seem like it adds up -- How could ghosts who are missing so much build this place, or Skullstone? I don't think I understand exactly what ghosts are missing. Which," he gestures with a forkful of food, "Could be important if we're going to rely partially on ghostly soldiers."

    He chews a bite of meat and gathers his thoughts. "I admit, that making a /navy/ is a little outside of my expertise." He turns to the Captains. "What about you? If you have designs and ways to make military boats, submarines, and aircraft, I'm sure I can help you make and equip them."

Starbound Flotilla has posed:
    George tries a wide variety of requests for drinks, from a Pan-Galactic Gargle Blaster, to a Beepsky Smash, to a Doctor's Delight, to Lizard Wine, to "Port, but the teleporty kind", to a Singulo, to eventually settling on something far more sane that's actually /available/. Moonfin takes a tea, Albert a simple water, Pavo a fancier rum (for old time's sake), Seft goes for a lighter wine, and Biteblade tries to describe something elaborate that may take some decoding to figure out what she's trying to order: A drink involving substantial herbicide, the Floran equivalent of alcohol.

    And they sit at their spot at the table, all six shimmering eyes gleaming over their chosen drinks and food. "So," George says. "Problem is savvy. Someone who knows who he is and what he's got and how to use it, worse than someone who's got everything." He still uses his own special blend of cigarettes, much as he likes what there is on display here for smoking, so he adds a subtle hospital scent to the room as he speaks. "How's the naval loot off Lookshy? I didn't really care about the geography of the Scavenger Lands, so I don't even know if they'd have anything to work with."

    "Assuming I can get crews," Pavo says, perking her own head up at Staren's question. "You've got a good couple of shipwrights on your hands, from air to sea. I could have naval production facilities topside in days. That doesn't solve our undermanning problem. I might be able to -- if what I have to say when it comes to divinity starts appealing to anyone." Her own modest cult is offworld, but she's always looking to expand.

    "What holdings of yours is he planning to attack at all?" Albert says, frowning. "Had the impression that your biggest advantage was mobility, flexibility, detachment. How is he planning on striking you with a force like his? We need to know what's in need of defending."

    "Mmmhpphpmph. Mphpphm mhmm hmphmm hmphmhm hmhmhp hmhmp hm hpmhpm h hpmh!" Biteblade is face-deep in a piece of meat. "Mmmh mh mphmhm hmphmhm hmmmhpm hmph hpmppmh mhp hphpmhm hmpm hpm." She elaborates, helpfully, seeming unable to tear herself away from the slab of meat, or having bitten in so deep that there's no way to extricate herself.

    "Anxious. Well, that is a good point." Seft says, her eye-visor flickering to a look of concern. "And I suppose some of the more militaristic factions of Creation wouldn't be... Too awful to target. Stealing and using their resources as temporary military material would offset a lot of cost. And it would... Let us do a little more good, if we picked factions that others would feel less compelled to defend." She fidgets anxiously, already regretting piping up with her /moral/ feelings.

Wandering Dog has posed:
Bloody Revelations gets a good laugh out of Wandering Dog as she calls out why he's there. "That's not the word I was thinking, exactly, but it's good. Hate. Yeah, hate's a unifier, alright." As Bloody Revelations explains the Calendar of Setesh, it gets another look from Dog, before they move inside.

When they sit down and are brought so much food and beverage, Wandering Dog's eyes widen a little...but it's real. And, well, it's free, and temperance is definitely not one of his virtues, even if he can restrain himself a little. He pours himself a cup of liquor, grabs himself a meat, and starts indulging a little, his mood risen. It helps that Bloody Revelations is actually alive, so his problem with her isn't as bad as it would be if she was a ghost or a Deathlord.

As Bloody Revelations talks about the Bodhisattva, as well as her complete lack of naval resources, Wandering Dog takes a drink of his booze and speaks up. "I know people who have boats, and while that's not much to go off, it's a start for getting around the West. Some of them still trust me, too." Another bite of meat. "I want this Boddhisattva dead. My family line's had to deal with the bullshit over there for who knows how long, and I myself got the worst of it. No idea what happened to my family after I left. He wasn't around as the Silver Prince, but I hear he was around in some regard pulling the strings, and that's enough for me. If we don't have naval resources to deal with him, we can get them. The West is waiting for war, and those bastards hate the Dragonblooded, so the Realm might be a good tool. But, I have something better to pitch."

Wandering Dog stretches his arms out real big, and grins briefly, before shaking it off as he realizes he doesn't entirely trust everyone here. The good food's getting to him. "There's a massive city operating under the sea called Luthe. Had to have been fortified, it was armed to the gills with weapons. It's being used by an old Lunar Anathema and his big bunch of beastmen. We managed to kill two of his allies, but there's a problem, and that's that he has the Brass Leviathan working with him, somehow, for some reason."

Wandering Dog takes a drink, waits a few moments, and then realizes some people here might not have heard of the Brass Leviathan. "It's the terror of the seas. Destroys entire merchant fleets. Horrifying thing. Don't know much else except that it's a giant metal serpent thing. I want to know what it is. And you've probably got some weird connections, seeing where the hell we are. So I propose a trade, if you're willing. If you can see about getting any information at all, I'm willing to destroy the snake, take the city, clean it of degeneracy, and use it against Skullstone. Was already going to do most of that, but this way we can help each other, yeah?"

Staren has posed:
    Staren nods to Pavo. "Combined with automation and availability of undead, I doubt crewing the navy will be as big an issue as it seems."

    He looks at Wandering Dog, then back to Bloody Revelations: "Let me guess: The Brass Leviathan is some First Age autonomous war machine that's still fighting some ancient, long forgotten conflict, or even some First Age wargame, and nobody bothered to turn it off before they were overthrown?"

Bloody Revelations (1124) has posed:
    Staren gets his iced tea. It is the best iced tea he's ever had. It's some oddly blue concoction, but it's perfectly chilled, soothing in the throat, and tastes like spring, sweet citrus, ripe fruit, and smells faintly of fresh rain. It only kind of unfortunately turns his lips a little blue from drinking it. The meat is equally as good, being so rich and savoury that it makes saliva glands ache slightly, just melting in the mouth and leaving a lingering taste of summer seasonings behind. This would cost a small fortune on Earth; the kind of sit down meal that comes out to hundreds of dollars a head.

    Bloody Revelations takes a break from emptying her wine at an alarming rate, being snuggled on both sides with eyecandy whom she doesn't at all seem concerned about them listening in. "Ghosts are the higher souls of dead humans; the seat of the intelligent mind and the ego. They leave behind their lower souls when they die, which are what you'd call the 'animal soul'. Basic instinct and 'chemical' emotion. That means they lose the capacity for a great deal of basic emotion, visceral sensation, and aesthetic experience in the transition. Eating and drinking and relaxing like you are now holds little real appeal, and after a while, it really wears on you psychologically and emotionally, and you miss life."

    "Ghosts have to get their reason to exist from stimulating deep passions, connections to things they treasure, and intellectual excitement, to the point it frequently gets . . . eccentric. Restoring the feeling of being alive, even for a little while, is /existentially/ reaffirming for them, reminding them of why they stick around instead of passing into Lethe. Stygia especially is a special case. It has no mirror in Creation. None of the dead here have any ties to their living descendents or unfinished business. It's the furthest one can get from the land of the living, and so the dead here exist sheerly for the will to exist, and to pursue their passions. It's a place built by the dead, for the dead, and utterly unique in every way."

    The gradually relaxed pose she starts to take in her seat means there are probably some narcotics involved, and pretty damn strong ones to affect someone half-dead (someone who would have a fatally damaged liver by now if she were mortal), but her wits still seem to remain uncannily sharp. "It's more than a fair trade though, in my opinion. Ghosts can exist theoretically indefinitely, if they don't grow so tired of existing they surrender to Lethe --that is, reincarnation."

    "There are ghosts so old that they predate the First Age in some places. Without a real body, they can learn to shape their forms. Without mortal limits, /all/ ghosts have the potential to learn Essence arts and become enlightened beings of magic, and some are significantly powerful. They resurrect after death. They draw power from those who pray or sacrifice to them. Items from Creation that are ritually sacrificed in just the right way become Grave Goods too; ghostly mirrors of the real thing that last forever; tools that repair themselves, food that comes back, animals that are immortal. Even useless things are valuable luxuries, to recreate life and reaffirm the will to linger on, and they're traded in the currency of Essence. It's pretty fascinating, if you're into economics."

Bloody Revelations (1124) has posed:
    That primer on ghosts out of the way, Bloody Revelations continues, putting down the drugs and utterly shamelessly copping a feel of the ghosts who are almost definitely high-class escorts, increasingly coming off as the the 'work hard party harder' type, which may or may not be unsurprising for someone who spends most of their time communing with madness in a realm of material nightmares. That might be stressful. Or she might just be incredibly entitled and have no desire to exercise self-restrain whatsoever. That's possible too. Someone or other might forgive her a little. The amenities here are /fantastic/, and the servants legitimately try to comply with George's dumbest requests by asking him to describe them, apparently having a bewildering variety of ingredients on hand (legit including actual herbicide). Everything the flotilla gets is of the highest quality, and the more refined tastes such as Moonfin's tea and Pavo's rum exceed even the quality of what Staren gets. Even if Biteblade asks for her meat raw, that's exactly what she gets.

    "Lookshy's navy is all airships." Bloody Revelations states to George. "Well, not /all/ airships, but their tangible military assets are. They're incredibly expensive, and in half-repair. The Dragon-Blooded don't know how to fix them fully. Of course, my liege was one of the most accomplished artificers of the First Age once, especially in weaponry, but it'll take a great deal of time to fully restore them. Besides, getting their /ship/ ships to the western ocean would entail going through Realm waters, and even on the brink of civil war, they'll sortie the Wood fleet immediately."

    She waves a hand broadly at Albert. "You're correct~ I love the fact that I piss all of my enemies off~ I live for the Neverborn. I breathe the whispers of the Labyrinth. The dark, twisted world beneath even the Underworld is my garden. My kin are the things of the Primodials themselves. No need for bases and empires and trading, no human allies and contacts and suppliers to depend on, and I have no real need to scavenge such base and gauche things as artifacts of the magical materials. Few could ever hope to follow me on my home ground, so I enjoy the luxury of few to no spies and total unpredictability. Even attempting to attack my Manse is a ridiculous prospect, for Sorath, the Bone Carver, builds his hold there, and to anger him is not only suicide but a Sin of Death."

    "That means he'll have to attack me directly. Most likely, he'll try to destroy, cripple, or subvert any factions that might be sympathetic or helpful, until I have little recourse to actually launch against him, since I can't wage war on him directly without provoking the Perfected Principle of Consumption. After that, he'll probably try to convince agents of Yu-Shan into opportunistically tracking me down. He might convince the Fair Folk to have a go. Perhaps tip off the Realm. Maybe even bribe the degenerates of the Silver Pact, or find a Demon to bind. No ghost would have a chance at me, his Deathknights can't attack me, and no Hekatonkhire would side with him over me. Of course, he has /no idea/ how powerful I really am, but he'd have no shortage of puppets, and fighting them off all the time would totally stonewall any options I would have to counterattack, and he could keep it up indefinitely, I'm sure."

Bloody Revelations (1124) has posed:
    She poses a very simple point to Seft though, sensing her moralistic angle. "Militarism is the small of it. Would you like to know why I mistrust and detest the so-called Silver Prince, despite his proclaimed 'reasonable attitude'?" She leaves a pause, but doesn't expect an answer. "You've been there, haven't you? You know the very bare basics of his 'New Order Philosophy'. It champions the 'righteous dead', who are chosen to linger after death as worthy figures to aid the living and usher in the new age. Don't you think it's strange that only /certain/ ghosts linger, however? It's something like one in eight, as far as I've heard. Based in a dense shadowland, ruled by a Deathlord, it'd be strange if at least half, if not almost everyone, given their penchant for ritual suicide as cultural zeitgeist, wouldn't become a ghost. Where are the rest of them? Wouldn't Deathlord want as vast a ghostly host as possible? What is he doing with them? Where do they go?" A reaffirmed point. As viciously callous as she is to the living, there is that faint, buried flicker of something close to concern or compassion for the dead. Maybe. That might be wishful thinking.

    When Wandering Dog starts up, she actually really starts to pay attention, resting her elbows on the table and linking her fingers, despite looking a little flushed. "You're pretty old, aren't you?" Kinda rude, but not necessarily so if it's to be believed that age corresponds to power for the Exalted. "Then you get the idea too, don't you? He's up to something, and if you and I don't like it, surely we can manage for a little while. I can tolerate one of the Dragon Blooded who is quick to disavow the Realm, at least." She starts to look /very intensely/ interested at the description of Luthe, with figurative gears as complex as the Calendar of Setesh above turning and clicking behind her luridly red eyes. "I like the way you think. The Lunar Exalted are my fourth least favourite thing in existence, and I've always wanted to kill one or one hundred. I admit, my liege has rubbed off on me a little too; I have some interest and fair knowledge in magitechnology, so I'm sure I could give you a second opinion on what you find. Barring that, I can always consult my love~ If she's in a good mood. She knows everything, after all."

    There is a brief, iron pause, and then Bloody Revelations repeats in a strange, resonant, clockwork tone of voice. "Everything."

    "An asset like that would be invaluable. Soldiers would be ideal as well. Armed to the best of our collective ability. I can't use any of my darlings against the Bodhisattva directly, but I might be able to deprive him of one: Orcinus Rex, the First Whale. He's sort of his version of Juggernaut, and comes with an entire fleet separate of his own Black Fleet, which complicates matters considerably. There are also further matters of the Lintha, which I don't like, but are his hated enemies, and outnumber his fleets ten to one, as well as being a cruel and lethal warrior society. The local sea gods loathe him, though they'd refuse to cooperate directly. The Realm's Water fleet too, but getting them to engage would be tricky, seeing as they're gearing up to murder each other for the throne in little more than a year, tops. The Fair Folk won't set foot in a shadowland, so they're out. Celestial Exalted are easy to dupe into these kinds of crusades, if you find the right one. Unfortunately, I think the agents of Heaven have it out for me more than the Deathlords at the moment~ It's flattering, really."

Staren has posed:
    Staren can't see his own lips, so he doesn't realize they've been turned blue. He makes a mental note to bring a bunch of tupperware containers to all future underworld meetings. Heck, he's got some sample containers and open slots in the matter manipulator, maybe he'll leave here today with some leftovers... Could this food become addictive? Perhaps, if one grew used to it. Right now, it's a treat, not an addiction. He wonders if he should ask for seafood. Would it be /too good/, though?

    Staren nods as Bloody Revelations lays out what it means to be a ghost. Agreeing with her assessment that, while existing only as a higher soul is imperfect, it sure beats death and while it might be weird, it doesn't sound /horrible/ as some might say.

    And if someone ever decides they have unlived enough, they're free to jump into Lethe at any time.

    This also explains how Dark Waters's city could work. He expected ghosts to be more listless and unable to accomplish much productive. Clearly that is not the case.

    Still, giving them back what they're missing is a good thing, and Bloody Revelations clearly is earnestly working towards it -- she's shown actual progress with the new ritual. On top of that, it sounds like for the mortals of Creation, existence as a ghost has the potential to be better than existence in life, especially with Bloody Revelations's help. So really, what happened to Lookshy wasn't nearly as bad as it seemed.

    "Could I... try some seafood?" he asks of the staff trying to sort out the Flotilla's drink order. Better to not be left wondering how it would have tasted.

    Staren looks a bit incredulous at the suggestion that the deathlord would bring fey into this. And "What's a hekatonchire?" he asks. He's heard of the hundred-handed ones in Multiversal myth, of course, but who knows what that means in Creation?

    He listens curiously to the exchange about the underwater city and Dark Waters's enemies. It seems noone else has any theories or knowledge about the purpose of the Brass Leviathan.

    "We may be able to get some resources from Luthe. But I suspect our own manufactured navy will play a large part in this. Do you have any idea where it might be strategically viable to build such a shipyard? Also, given your obvious wealth... Do we have a war chest to work with? The captains and I can do a lot, but we still need the raw materials to work with, and on this scale, we'll need a lot."

    Staren leans back in his chair a bit, stroking his chin. He removes his helmet for comfort. "Perhaps we should consider looking for a place to mine or ruins to loot, that would be unusable by most but easily exploited by undead and machines."

Wandering Dog has posed:
During the explanation of ghosts, Wandering Dog continues to indulge in food, so that he can further talk afterwards. When she mentions the New Order Philosophy and the fact only some ghosts are brought back, the martial artist speaks up. He's in a better mood in general, though he's definitely not forgotten where they are. He's just bonding over hate. "Man, it's probably to keep the idea that just because you're a mortal doesn't mean you're inferior, so that everyone doesn't just off themselves immediately and take away their worship. Got to keep people striving to be good and honor their ancestors and all that crap, yeah?"

"I'm old enough to start worrying about natural causes." Wandering Dog takes another drink, as he gazes back at her. "We know their goal, which is to fuck up the Realm. And as much as I hate the Realm, I hate bastards like that getting their way. So where to strike will be easy on our front, because they're aiming for Wavecrest. They'll probably be favorable if they don't get blown to smithereens, yeah? Less likely to side against us, atleast."

Bloody Revelations spills things out, and possible factions. As she names them, he considers. "And I doubt Coral would want to start a war with Skullstone unless they were sure they'd win, so without something to show they're a no-go. And while the Lintha hate him, they're a bunch of disgusting bastards. Hm. Looks like we're mostly going it on our own, eh? That's going to be fun." He actually sounds...a bit excited at the prospect. "Building up from scratch, like the stories of old heroes and warrior-kings, to topple a tyrant. I live for this sort of thing!" A nod to Staren. "Luthe's gotta have stuff. It's huge. Probably not enough, but a start, and that's what we need, isn't it?"

Starbound Flotilla has posed:
    "So it's a matter of proxy warfare." Moonfin says, doing a precisely practiced Hylotl knowing-tea-sip to look as smugly politically savvy as possible. "We need only approach this in just such a way as to strike in defense of those factions who would be favorable to your efforts, in a way that preserves both ethic and power. The advantage of our loyally mercenary reputation is that it will not seem out of line to simply defend factions who provide us a sensibly modest compensation, no matter the circumstances. That it furthers a particular agenda is surely something that could not provoke such a Principle."

    "..." Seft freezes in place, even her little robotic motions of "natural" movement stiffening. "Tense. So Silver Prince may be performing some kind of... specrtral eugenics?" She says, through a vocal filter that sounds like it must mean "gritted teeth". "Strained. I had thought... I had hoped..." She unfreezes and rubs her face. "Anxious. I'll hope it's not that awful."

    "Hmmph. A false flag operation against the Black Fleet or Orcinus Rex would be too risky. Can't imitate ghosts well enough to mount one against the Realm. Maybe..." Albert looks pensive. "Find a sea god who'd be willing to pay enough to justify making sorties into his territory, slip in and back at Realm areas since border defenses wouldn't be high in case of internal strife, wait until pursuers of one provoke the other?" He continues muttering ideas like this under his breath, trying our different naval exchanges in his head.

Bloody Revelations (1124) has posed:
    Staren's question is answered with an immediate, fawning approval, and his requested dishes are provided in literal minutes. The ghosts could not possibly be more eager for the privilege to serve a living person, never mind an esteemed guest of someone who is apparently incredibly popular. This may have something to do why Eye and Seven Despairs had dropped the sobriquet 'Angel of the Abyss' at one point. Revelations seems more interested in answering his current questions, which is good, because it involves less tension between them.

    "I'm sure the sorceress has regaled you at some point with the tedious minutiae of the Yozis and their souls which have souls which have souls. The Neverborn were Primordials that died instead of surrendering, and so most of their souls, and their created races, died with them. Many of them were broken and mangled beyond repair, but others persist as inverted versions of what they were. Those are the most powerful of Hekatonkhire; second and third circle Demon equivalents in ghostly form. The more common variety are slain Behemoths from the First Age incarnated as ghosts, or some spawned whole cloth from the Labyrinth itself. They range greatly in power and nature, so the term is a catchall for 'extremely powerful, non-human quasi-ghosts'. Orcinus Rex, Floating Head Scavenger, Vodak, Loras the Death Sun, those kinds of things. Only a Void Circle Necromancer can summon and bind one, and the effort is tremendous. I consider them my specialty, more than anything else. Orcinus Rex in particular is a problem. The template for all whales, three miles long and host to an entire navy inside of him. Not a war beast I'd like to contend with, even with Luthe."

    "A shipyard would have to be in the Underworld. Anywhere in Creation and Yu-Shan would detect it long before any real headway would be made, and screw with the project. The western Sea of Shadows isn't viable, since the Bodhisattva basically owns it and the Lintha maraud it. The Styx isn't either, since the Stygian monarchy patrols it, and are largely puppets of the Deathlords. It'd have to be the Sea of Endless Night, on the eight bolgia of the Labyrinth. Secret, extremely hard to find, and as part of the Labyrinth, it's possible to sail out of it to anywhere in the ocean. The population there is nominally loyal to the Bodhisattva however, and would have to be converted or destroyed."

    She stops to take a long swig of wine, emptying the dangerously sized bottle as the business drags on. "War chest? No. I don't use armies, and my liege wouldn't back this. My materials come from the Labyrinth itself, which has riches untold for those who know how to find, summon, or shape them, but I do so on a small scale. Sorath, the Bone Carver, is my dutiful and genius artisan --a factory cathedral unto himself-- and working with him, I could have the finest of Warstriders churned out in a month instead of years, but that's still too slow for a war. Most of what we can use will need to be recruited, and I will save my personal crafting for the most powerful weapons. I will have to rely on you to provide the bulk of weapons and craft, as well as how to use them, to what 'troops' we can . . . persuade. I should certainly be able to divine how to operate the Brass Dragon, if we can capture it, and I could instruct and tutor you on how to repair whatever you find in Luthe. The Whispers know every detail of the artifice of the First Age, after all~ Anything the Solars have ever done, the Whispers tell all~"

Azure Armature (1150) has posed:
When everyone sets down at the long table and the cushions, Blue quickly settles into a reclining pillowfort, arranging them like an impromptu reclining throne around her and settling in with her tray of various dried leaves and herbs. She spends her time carefully packing one of the pipes with thumb and forefinger. A snap of her fingers produces a small flame, which she holds near the tip as she pulls the heat into the herbs and creates a cherry of smouldering leaf in the center.


Emerging from the thick nimbus of smoke, Azure sits up and forward, leaning her left elbow on the tabletop and balances the pipe on the side of her middle finger and the crook of her thumb. "Your nonexposure to the area creates a valuable situation - we can presume most if not all intelligence agents in the area being the enemy's or potential third parties. Through information control - denial to the Bodhisattva's and positive misinformation to the third paries - we can conceiveably do with less what would normally take many, many more."

She gestures towards the Flotilla members. "They are adept engineers, and the Lookshy fields and air are littered with raw materials - wrecks filled with magical materials and your 'First Age' resources that are still useful. Converting these into more useful forms would be a priority that cannot be meaningfully taken advantage of by your enemy. With your resources, even assisted by procurement during the campaign, a protracted conflict upon any given field would not be in your favor. But the enemy must hold territory and muster great armies over open land and sea - It should be easy to begin wearing down the naval forces through strategic and logistic attrition. This could interest third parties - your Lintha, and the Wood or Water navies - in enticing engagements of opportunity against hated enemies."

Blue's expression is casually smug, as she blows a thick cloud of smoke out of her nose. "A combined gureilla sabotage - information war would be exactly how I'd open the door to this field of warfare."

Bloody Revelations (1124) has posed:
    She turns to Wandering Dog. "You're likely correct that Coral is a no-go, as is Wavecrest. Frankly, it'd be convenient to simply turn the Lintha against the Bodhisattva and watch them destroy each other, rather than try to coordinate or cooperate with them. They can call upon the limited aid of Malfeas, who is no friend to the Neverborn, pitiful coward and traitor as he is. They have almost a thousand ships, all towed by Demons, so the damage they could do would be considerable." A slow smile spreads across her lips. "If you start feeling the pains of age, don't forget to call~ I have a fix for that~" Then she looks to Moonfin. "You're exactly right. Just because the Neverborn forbid fighting each other doesn't mean the Deathlords don't sabotage and war amongst themselves via proxy all the damn time. Of course, you outworlders function just fine for me, but a sad number of you were pathetically wood over by his honeyed words, so we no longer have the advantage on that front; at least not without my direct, heavy-handed combat involvement, and doing so would unfortunately trip half the alarms in Yu-Shan."

    She shrugs, a little smugly at Seft. "You can hope if you want~ I won't deny anyone who wants to accuse me of being evil, but then so are most people with any power~.If I were to defend myself, I'd say that /I/ haven't yet been betrayed and assassinated for being so insane and degenerate that the entire world I was given to rule detested me to the point of suicidal mutiny~ The Bodhisattva can't claim that, no matter how reasonable he presents himself in the modern age." To Albert. "A false flag could certainly come in handy, but shouldn't be necessary every step of the way. Even if you do something that is obviously in my interests, there are limited avenues of reprisal against you in certain cases, and there are ways I can provide you convenient outs and countermeasures against what can be brought to bear against you. Besides, it's easier to imitate an agent of death if you just cover yourselves up in Soulsteel."

    Bloody Revelations, starting on another bottle, nevertheless seems genuinely impressed with Azure Armature. "I must admit, I hadn't taken you for that kind of clever. Well done~ It's true, Lookshy and Thorns' battlefields are full of materials I could certainly requisition, and which you could most likely repurpose. The Labyrinth itself can be a lucrative mine if sufficiently designed and safeguarded, as even Stygia does a brisk business plumbing its safer depths. The idea is overall sound. We collect a powerful and highly mobile battlegroup with heavy weaponry, launch precision strikes to pick off the fleets he has to spread out to defend all of his territory, and wear him thin until the circling vultures decide to take advantage of his weakness. I like it~ Of course, false information about myself with be /hilariously/ easy to propagate, if we pretend you're my 'confidants', and I've told you some deep secrets you can make up completely."

Staren has posed:
    Oh gosh this is delicious. Staren leans over the provided dish, smells it, and then digs in. He forgets to thank the servants -- his attention is divided between the incredible flavor -- how do they MAKE this? It must be magic or something. -- and Bloody Revelations's words. He doesn't even think about it, but it's just so much better to be working together like this instead of her being an obtuse jerk and him having to be suspicious of everything she says.

    "We don't need a warstrider in a month. We need construction materials. Explosives. Trace amounts of precious metals -- gold, I guess. I don't think Creation has uranium, so we'll need magical power sources of some kind. I wonder how hard it'd be to mass-produce essence crystal computers to run the ships instead? That might be a better idea..." He nods at Azure's suggestion. "Ooh, good idea. If we can have some of those materials, that'll surely help..."

    Staren scratches his chin and sits up straighter instead of hunching over the delicious food. "I guess that's academic until we can establish our base, though. What do we know about this bolgia? What /is/ a bolgia? How will we and our forces get there? What's even there, is it a city like this or what? Do you have any ideas how we might go about swaying the loyalty of the populace? I have no idea what their society or values are like."

    He scratches his chin again. Man, this food is good. Maybe he should get something vegetarian to go for... hmm. On second thought, she would probably have some problems with the food's provenance. Then again, after a discussion of how ghosts work in Creation, she'd probably come around. And he has other friends, too. He taps one of the servants on the shoulder. "Could I get a vegetarian meal of some sort to go? And... is fermented blood a thing? If so, a bottle of it. It's for some friends." He doesn't forget FOREVER, though. Even Staren has learned some social graces! "And thanks, by the way, my compliments to the chef. This is all delicious!"

Wandering Dog has posed:
"Lintha and Skullstone in one blow would be a miracle." Wandering Dog says with a thoughtful look. "Though not sure how easy that'd be. Got to get them to actually declare war on each other. I don't consider myself a strategist, not my kind of thing. I'm a guy who punches things and does hero stuff. Throw me to do an inspiring speech and bam, that's my jam. I'll leave the rest of the planning to people like her." A thumb to Azure Armature.

Wandering Dog sits up in his chair, leaning over the table. "Though it does sound like we have both loud and sneaky covered, yeah? Get ourselves Luthe as a big base and mobile weapon, and get ourselves a strike team to send everything into chaos, as well as maybe false flag with some soulsteel armor, as horrible as that stuff is. Get stuff to suit both types of missions. Probably going to face some problems along the way, no plan is perfect, but that's all part of the fun, isn't it? It's a great place to start, though."

And then, a final consideration, as he finishes his drink and his own portion of food. "Am I missing anything?"

Azure Armature (1150) has posed:
"If the two sides were strategically equals, then gaining allies, magnitudes of soldiers, mustering bases, creating supply lines - these would all matter. But since the enemy is has so much more war capital, in land and in battlegroups, the priority is thus making those advantages mean nothing."

She gestures to Wandering Dog. "With a mobile battle-carrier, we can retain a momentum advantage. First, probing and raiding to gain supplies and force committal of forces. Then, when those stockpiles are committed to defending, tactical-scale strikes to remove them from the board. When the Bodhisattva has a choice between losing his supplies to us, to his enemies, or to the void, something will have to give. Breaking his logistical lines means his army will starve or break down, unless something grants them a blessed upkeep. Choking, strangling, and bleeding - size is not always an advantage."

Leaning back to recline in her smokey throne, Armature thoughtfully puffs. "Draw the Bodhisattva away from Luthe, and then strike in the opening."

Staren has posed:
    "Starve?" Staren comments at Blue's words. "Can ghosts and zombies starve?"

Starbound Flotilla has posed:
    "Less about what we do, and more about what causes bigger factions to start fighting." Albert says, grunting and huffing a bit. "May not need any false flags to start that in the first place though. Proxy war. That's right. We just need to find the most war-hawk faction near them and help them. Find any gunpowder and start a fire." He mutters, nodding a few times. "Abyssal. What are the most war-prone factions near that? Anything that could draw itself into a war once it has access to mercenaries like us? We need to multiply his fronts."

    "Lookshy was the biggest looter of Denandsor, right? With them gone, we can pick up everything there too." Pavo says, nodding to Azure. "Not a shortage of materials, just a shortage of use. We know how to craft with your 'magical metals', done our fair share of the stuff. Let's use the advantage we got, a first step on every relevant source. Hit them with more weight than they can manage. If we can soften them up, it'll make the people who hate 'em more warlike, then we swoop in and take a merc job for it..."

    "Classic regional destabilization. Except /with/ the valuable resource, not /over it. Easy peasy." George says, putting out his cigarette. "Sounds like an angle that would sure fuck up his day, at least."

Bloody Revelations (1124) has posed:
    Despite the servant girl getting increasingly cuddly in Bloody Revelations' lap, apparently trying to make an impression, she (mostly) focuses on strategy, aside from absently stroking her hair. "Hah. Explosives? You /trip/ over them here. Firedust in the south, Pyreflame all over, Soulfire crystals from underground. Every metal imaginable can be found deep enough as well, where reality ceases to have a firm grasp on what /should/ ne there. Aforementioned Soulfire crystals are ready-made power sources, charged from the latent Essence lines of the Underworld. I have no idea what uranium is."

    "As for the bolgias, they're the different 'layers' of the Labyrinth. There are nine in total, but the ninth is level with the Mouth of the Void itself, and host to the very Tombs of the Neverborn, so few ever venture there. The upper bolgias are the most consistent and 'safe', but the lower bolgias are the most lucrative and present the most opportunity for fast travel. The bolgias can be whatever they want to be. Caves. Fortresses. Grottos. Mazes. Clockworks. Jungles. Even flesh and blood. They change all the time with the death-dreams of the Neverborn, save where great numbers of ghosts congregate, and stabilize areas with their collective perceptions, and collective madness. Those places are formally termed 'amphiskopoloi', and have a variety of 'colourful' names. The Ocean of Endless Night is one, and the population is predominantly mad and diehard Nephwrack ghosts who ally with the Bodhisattva largely because their leader does."

    As seems to be typical, Staren gets exactly what he wants. It all goes on Bloody Revelations' seemingly limitless tab, but one might get the impression she isn't paying with money. The sheer number of avidly paying customers she'd just introduced to the place might be part of that. Vegetarian food is so easy that the servants called then bother him to nail down something specific. Blood wine is also easy enough, though the only variety not on the menu is 'human', quite possibly because human blood might be too valuable to squander on wine.

    "The Bodhisattva is already at war with the Lintha in everything but name." she assures Wandering Dog. "They do a number on his ships where they can, but even they try to avoid heavily armed warships crewed by war ghosts and Abyssal Exalted, as well as the Realm's warships full of Dragon-Blooded, sorcerers, and some First Age weapons. They're not stupid. They do what's profitable. When it becomes a viable prospect to take advantage of Skullstone and pillage it utterly, they'll do so. Of course, they'll die in the attempt~ I've been meaning to pay a visit to their revolting Yozi bretheren. If your 'ethical' concerns about soulsteel are so strong, I can dredge some 'natural' soulsteel out of the Labyrinth, but then I expect you to treat what I make out of it with some fucking respect." She insists, a little unnecessarily harshly, and slightly tipsy. She nods along with Azure Armature, glad to have a real strategist on board. "I'm happy you're good at this. My genius is all tied up in artifice and schemes and intelligence and master plans~ I don't war so much as I kill. My biggest asset for a real, military action is . . . well let's say I keep him in 'reserve' for a reason."

Bloody Revelations (1124) has posed:
    She keeps going for Albert asking direct questions. "The Lintha are one I've frequently mentioned. Demonspawn. Bastard halfblood children of the Yozi Kimbery. Pirates, slavers, warriors, cannibals, weird about castration. Ruthless, cruel, and everyone hates them, as well as aided by Demons. The Realm is by far the most overwhelmingly powerful military in the region, with hundreds of real, dedicated /warships/ and the most Dragon-Blooded by far; easily enough Exalted, even low grade ones, to overwhelm even a crack army of the dead, if they can be somehow lured into committing. There are scattered Lunars who ply the oceans as petty warlords, if you can tolerate their degeneracy and appeal to their barbarism. The Terrestrial Courts of Water might be amenable to lending more warlike elementals to the cause, as the Storm Mothers of the seas /loathe/ the Bodhisattva after he humiliated and bound some of their number around Skullstone to serve his fleet. The Stygian fleet is impressive, but wrapped around his finger, so the only challenge to him in the Underworld is the /dead/ Lintha, who are possibly more powerful than the living."

    "The most important thing is that you are both prepared to do what I say, and prepared to fight your former allies over it. I have /some/ idea of where some of you start hesitating, but if you fuck something up with an attack of the conscience, you're going to regret it, and I probably won't even have to make you. Your friends are idiots, duped and seduced by a Deathlord who's been manipulating people like this for millennia. They're misguided at best, actively dangerous at worst, and shouldn't be trusted or compromised with here --not over this. If you don't have the confidence to stand against them, at least have pity for them being so deluded, and patch things up with them after the Deathlord is destroyed, and whatever his scheme is has been shattered to pieces."

Wandering Dog has posed:
Wandering Dog frowns a little at the harshness, but nods. "Alright, alright, that's fair enough. If natural's not the same, then sure, you'll get my respect." He folds his hands together, considering the plan. It's a good plan to him, and it has a good team to it, even if they're undermanned. He knows most of the stuff she's mentioning to Albert, primarily about the Realm and the Lintha. The last part gets a reply from Wandering Dog, who sounds more amused than he does angry.

"Hell, I may not have been working with you before, but either way, if I was going to get into a twist about conscience, I wouldn't have accepted this invitation. Knew I was walking into some dirty deeds here." He might not have specifically been addressed there, but he's in enough of a mood to reply anyways. When the group eventually leaves, Wandering Dog will see if they take tips, tip pretty well if they do, not if they don't, and then head off. Not going to get a souvenir here. The memory's enough for the rest of his lifetime, and also he wouldn't trust anything made in the Underworld.

Staren has posed:
    Staren isn't sure if he's already being greedy, or not being greedy enough, but for now he doesn't make further demands, aside from drink refills. His mouth is really blue. He says to take the chef's reccomendation on the specifics of what he's taking home for friends.

    "What's a Nephwrack?"

    "It sounds like I'll be of more use working on control systems and weapons for our fleet than on diplomacy duty, though I'd like to see this underwater city. As for limits with my 'friends', I won't kill them unless I'm sure I can bring them back. As much as I love what we're doing here, the Multiverse is bigger than Creation, and I may need them in the future. But after what you did to Lookshy against our wishes, I'm sure together we can come up with a way to, if it comes down to it, strike the final blow to Skullstone in a way they'll never see coming."

Starbound Flotilla has posed:
    Albert makes a pressing clarification that forces itself up from the depths of his mind. "We're prepared to do what needs to be done." He says. "And what needs to be done was what you said." Bloody Revelations may have locked her Loyalty Mission for a few of them, but they do still have their own individual interests. "Still. These need to be dealt with. Mess of a world." He says, uneasily settling back, agreeing. He just has that dumb sticking point.

    "We don't make a habit of having our /conscience/ hold us back." Pavo says, cawing a little laugh. "Septette's got a good opinion on that. The point of an ethic is getting more advanced than your gut, and that means going against it plenty. That, and we don't make friends with types who die easy or need holding back against. Not much worth it, hmm?" She takes a big swig of her drink and laughs.

    "Floran thinksss, isss good then. We weaken naval forcesss that hold back people who wanna fight Sssilver Prince, then we offer helping. Ssset big fire in entire region. Can work well with ssstarting off of Denandsor and Lookshy, then fuel and sssuply region plenty. Isss not war chessst, but, ehh. Will work." Biteblade says, mapping this out in her head. "We work with cat friend, get ship production and transssit to topssside, then dessstabilize with Luthe, meet new market demand, ssspark biiig fight. Even with Black Fleet and Orcinusss Rex, should open new opportunity for whoooole region. Worksss fine, right? Any gapsss?"

Azure Armature (1150) has posed:
Armature drags on the pipe a few more times, having re-packed a fresh wad of whatever passes for primo smoking herb in the Underworld and gotten back to applying fire. Her lips curl with a lingering breath of smoke, before she snorts it forcefully out of her nose to finish, two jets billowing either way around her body.

"It won't be a problem." She notes, to the issue of consciences. "There's one or two who need to be educated on a properly executed operation anyway. As for holes..."

She nods. "There probably will be. We can't operate without expecting the opposition to adapt or move. We can update our expectations when we're farther along."

She looks to each of the group - Bloody Revelation, Wandering Dog, the Flotilla members, Staren. "Are there any needs, any uncrossable lines, any demands of the group? Our objective is kill the enemy leader, the Silver Prince. Not capture, not delay, not support his enemies - the Realm or the Lintha or whoever else. If there's a city to liberate, or a place to wipe off the map, some broad goal or rule of engagement, say it now."

Armature taps her pipe. "Luthe given over to some group after, for example. It changes how we can act, what resources we can use. I want to make sure we're /all/ planning around the same expectations."

Wandering Dog has posed:
"I have plans for Luthe when we're done with it, if it survives." Wandering Dog says in response to Azure Armature. "Going to make it the testbed for some ideas I've been cooking up. But if we have to sacrifice it to get all of this done, so be it. Silver Prince is a bigger fish to fry."

Bloody Revelations (1124) has posed:
    "A ghost who heard the Whispers, and instead of going completely insane or hurling themselves into Oblivion, became powerful servants of the Neverborn instead." Bloody Revelations says offhandedly to Staren. "They're diehard supporters of the cause. Pretty crazy sometimes. A lot of the time. A step above normal ghosts by far. Most of them love me though~ I've spent a lot of time mingling. Don't worry. Just don't get stabbed." She actually laughs as he mentions that last part. "Indeed~"

    She more or less just nods along with the Flotilla, starting to seem like she judges the matter settled and is eager to start partying it up for the rest of the night, if her double company and bottomless tab is any indication. "Natural' in the sense that it just kind of appears. No ghosts get folded into ore to make it. Nobody knoooows~" she says to the Terrestrial martial artist. "Good, good~ This is all good to hear~ I'm glad we're on the same page~" She stops to consider Azure Armature's salient requests for a moment.

    "It'd be ideal if Skullstone were largely intact by the end, considering it represents a pile of useful resources. With the holdings --even partial ones-- of three Deathlords, and most of their Knights, my liege can't be attacked easily. The others will band together quickly enough, so it's important to to squander potential spoils. Don't let that stop you from killing those you need to though; they can always be made ghosts. No artifact or spell any involved faction does not already possess is to be given over to them, including if the Realm or Lintha were to pillage necrotech or more important things from Skullstone, since it would only give them tactical insight and intelligence we don't want them having."

    "Overt disrespect towards myself by proxy is not to be tolerated. The Brass Dragon shouldn't leave our hands, but we'll cross the other bridges when we get to them. An agents of Heaven you encounter in any capacity other than unlikely full support, destroy them. Any Lunars who don't bend knee immediately, I'll see to myself. Keep our cards close to our chest, if you will; don't let people sail around spreading remotely accurate tales of it. And don't sail the Sea of Shadows carelessly. It isn't like Creation's ocean. Otherwise, I . . . ugh, trust your judgement, for the most part."

    From there, even the slightest intention to stay longer is met with open arms, where any Elite would have the free run of parlours, bars, lounges, casinos, brothels, or inn rooms, at seemingly no additional charge, which means Bloody Revelations probably arranged some of this while waiting here beforehand. Of course they'll accept generous donations from Wandering Dog, but otherwise, the staff is admirably courteous and unobtrusive. It seems the Abyssal herself intends to stay and fully indulge in Black Temperance shenanigans.