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The Devil's Own (Glen, Ka'Ri, Sithani, Sunrise, Thimb)

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Somber sips at his mead, turning his attention politely to Sithani as Sunrise and Ka'Ri confer. "You're not far off, no," he agrees with a smile.

"You have to understand," he says, including Glen into the wider net of this conversation with a subtle shift of his body language, "Olidammara is the 'laughing rogue', yes, but he's not just the god of tricks and theivery. He's also a god of music, of revels, of wine, and of humor. He favors bards, bartenders, and brewers as much as he does rogues and pirates. Hells, if Sunrise here weren't so attached to the luxuries of the bath-house, she might well have been one of his just for her voice alone. Olidammara is chaotic, but he's not cruel or unkind."

"As a god he teaches his followers to break out of their routines, believing that stasis is stagnation and death. His clerics urge the laity to delight in wine, to learn music, to pursue happiness and joy with determination, and to find entertanment and company they enjoy. Olidammara himself is not about temperance and solemnity," the sober young man warns, "but we mortals being, well, mortal complicates matters. Some of his priests embrace wild abandon, sure, but others work as counselors for people who have problems with addiction and over-indulgence. Once the pursuit of joy has become something that causes you pain, after all, it's time to seek help with that." He winces slightly and sips at his mead to wet his throat.

"Most of the clerics at the temple have a second occupation in addition to their holy duties. You'll find everything from vinters and entertainers, minstrels and messengers, jacks-of-all-trades, and yes, some thieves. Their priest attire is comfortable and loose-fitting, not stuffy and ceremonial like some of the other temples. Hells, even the temple itself is big and boistrous and loud; there's every kind of alcohol on offer in the worship hall--most are free to sample even if you don't have the cash to pay for a full glass--and a restaurant on-site where you can buy good food, fine wine, and pour out a blessing to the god as part of your meal. The temple is huge, is my point. We're not talking one of the little minor gods where you get a single hall and some pews to sit in."

Returning to his meal, he shakes his head. "As for obedience... it's a sticky subject. Olidammara's nature is to encourage clever politicking within the ranks, insubordination in service to a good cause or two, and the occasionally friendly stab in the back. There's a bit of an invisible line not to be crossed, though; kind of like the difference between a 'one-time' funny joke and a 'never' funny joke. Some of the priests dance up to that line a lot. Might be why Lucky has a bone to pick with Betreygis, I don't know."
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History 10:
The mention of brewers and vinters will remind you that tomorrow (Eleint the 8th) kicks off the annual week of Alefeast in Brilight. From the 8th to the 14th, the city will celebrate brewing and fermented creations of all kinds: wine, beer, ale, cider, bread, pickles, kefir, miso, and cheeses galore.

This annual celebration is celebrated by much of Brilight but is particularly holy to Olidammara. Tourists and guests will flood the temple to watch the sights and celebrations held there (and, importantly to the temple, to donate for the privilege of watching and participating in the celebrations), along with the once-a-year faithful followers who otherwise aren't strict attenders.

Celebrations at the temple will include: extensive tastings of local and imported goods for sale, contests and judging, holy communions, and reenactments for education and edification of the faithful. Many of the celebrants will attend the ceremonies masked and disguised, in honor of Olidammara's holy symbol.

History 15:
There are three major Olidammaran temple events during Alefeast.

The Great Escape (Eleint 8th), a daytime reenactment of Olidammara's capture by and escape from an evil archmage. This is educational and "child-friendly".

A Feast of the Doubling Dare (Eleint 10th), an all-day feast during which participants challenge each other to perform ever-wilder pranks and deeds, or drink a forfeit. The feast is "child-friendly" until the sixth evening bell, at which point children are removed from the premises and the feast continues in a more raucous manner.

The Taste of a Hundred Years (Eleint 12th), a wine-tasting event where a cask is opened that was vinted exactly a century before.

The Midnight Masque (Eleint 14th), an annual dance held in the worship hall at midnight. Attendees must wear masks and disguises, and it is traditional (though not required) for dancers to leave quietly in twos and threes (or more) to joyfully tryst away the remainder of the night and the end of the Alefeasting week in ecstatic honor of their drunken god.

As the temple of Olidammara does not have nearly enough rooms to accommodate the needs of the Midnight Masque, the temples of Sehanine and Lastai do a fair amount of business renting out rooms to the "overflow" at a steeper-than-usual rate for the night.
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"Well, uhm," Thimb felt herself starting to go pink as she spoke, "there is the Midnight Masque, i-if we're looking to... you know, get close to someone," she said, her ears blushing a lovely shade. "Although I suppose that brings us back to seduction, but we might be able to get close to the man himself that way. A-and if masks don't need to come off, our identities could be protected, right?"
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Glen listens carefully to Somber. The temple sounds different than he is always imagining big city temples, which he always figured were houses for quiet prayer and contemplation.

At Thimb's suggestion, he perks up. "See what I mean about smarter heads than mine?" he says to the group, smiling at her. "Thimb, what's the Midnight Masque?"

History wrote:4. Glen is vaguely aware that history happened, he just doesn't know anything about what.
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"Oh! Well, Alefeast is coming up, right? And within it there are four major events," she said, going into nerd sharing information mode as she held up four fingers. "There's the Great Escape, which is varying a play or puppet show, or, something like that. I haven't been to that one since I was a kid. Um, there's also..." she furrowed her brow, "the feast of doubling dare, which is depending who you ask an eating contest, drinking contest, or a prank off. Went to that as a kid, though the kids are sent home early and, uh, I've only been once or twice as an adult but it was a very different experience. Taste of a hundred years is just, here's a century old cask, let's party. The Midnight Masque, as the name suggests, is a masquerade. People turn up in elaborate and lavish disguises and, uhm," she started to blush again realizing the part she was getting to, "well, people often... leave? to celebrate more... intimately. I... haven't been to that one."
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CW: casual conversation about DV

Ka'Ri swallowed her ale slowly as her eyes went wide at the thought of joining in with Thimb at any of those events, but she tried to will herself to be calm. She wasn't going to let a crush distract her from her roguish roots.

"Hmm, worst case scenario, that event seem ripe for an opportunity to get him alone, especially if we find something to hold against him. It'd also give your buddy a chance to earn a much delayed promotion. The other events also look like good opportunities for 'not usual petitioners' to make their appearance."

Ka'Ri felt her eye twitch. "You said this Lucky guy didn't like this douchebag priest guy for his own reasons stretching far back. It doesn't sound like you have any idea why that would be, but do you know if there's any way to find out? We certainly already know a taste of what he has done, but I don't know how personally your friend would have taken something like say, domestic violence."
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[TW: mention of domestic violence, including children]

Somber frowns at this, looking thoughtful. "I suppose I could ask him directly, sure, though knowing Lucky he blow the question off with a light answer unless he knows a good reason to be frank. He doesn't care to bare his heart much. But, no, he's not a big fan of guys who hit girls. Or kids. Doesn't really like guys who hit guys either," he admits with a wry twist of his lips, "but slum rules are not to punch down, you know? Olidammara, too, has rules about fair play. For example: even if you're a thief, you don't steal from someone who has significantly less than you. Even if you're a cutthroat, you don't kill innocent little kids. That sort of thing."
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CW: Abuse

Ka'Ri nodded in response. "It is the same on the seas. You fire on the merchants, not the fishers. That... priest. We know he does not share those values. We have found out recently that he regularly abused his spouse and he may be involved in the mistreatment and deception of a young woman. Certainly threats have already been made against her welfare by those closely associated to him. Do you think any of that might sway Lucky to aid us in listening for idle tongues?"
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Somber considers this again, glancing at Sunrise for a long moment. "I don't know that it'll seal the deal in aiding you," he admits, trying to be honest, "but I don't believe for a minute he'd rat you out if that was what you came to him with. Even if he hates your guts, he'd tread carefully so these other girls weren't hurt because of something you did."
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Sithani again projects the following message to everyone at the table but Sombre. <This is in all likelihood not a great plan - in fact it's barely a plan at all yet - but. If we've got a masquerade coming up, how good are people here at kidnapping? Could Betreygis be traded for Gwynnestri, and is there any way it wouldn't be a terrible idea to try?>

Even the croaking buzzing undertones of her telepathy feel a bit sheepish. But it was worth suggesting, at least, right?
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Ka'Ri smiled at Somber. "Thank you. That has been our primary concern, yes, in reaching out to anyone on this."

She glanced over to Sithani. I don't know if you know how to read minds as well as speak to them, so if so, now is a good time to let us know.

In the ensuing silence, she waited and then ripped another piece of cloth and wrote another message. She was glad to have long limbs as she would have to reach all the way over Sunrise to deposit this one in Sithani's lap.

Sleight of Hand:
Unnatural 20, 12+8. It's a better place, but at a considerably higher level of difficulty. Hopefully she is not looking like a creep, feeling up the women around her.

Content of Note:
I was thinking the same. It's a solid Plan B or even Plan A if we can scoop enough dirt on the bastard to stick 'em to the wall or if we find out he's integral to their plans. We could have Thimb seduce him and a bunch of us can jump 'em when she gets him alone.
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Sithani eats another mushroom and surreptitiously unfolds the message in her lap, flicking her eyes down to read it. She projects to the party again: <So Ka'Ri agrees - thank you Ka'Ri and that's honestly a surprise - anyone else? And while he might well be interested in Thimb, he did marry a half-orc last time, so, Thimb, your brother's rather impressive: do you think he'd be up for seducing an utter prick if it meant we could put a bag over his head?>

Sleight of hand:
11; I guess maybe you could think she dropped some food in her lap?
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Somber has finished up his meal and can no longer easily pretend not to see the furtive passing of things around the table. "I think that's my cue to go," he says with a polite smile, nodding at his empty plate. "Thank you for the treat, Sunrise. Do let me know if you want me to bring Lucky around. You know where to find me."

Rising gracefully, he touches two fingers to her forehead in an old childhood gesture of affection, and moves to fade back into the crowd.
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Glen nods to Somber as he leaves. He goes to absently sip his cider and, noticing it's empty, motions for the server to come over and politely asks for some spiced tea.

Once they are alone again, his demeanor and tone of voice do not change, but there is a slight spark of alarm in his eyes.

"Okay. Let's slow down for just a second here. We're talking about infiltrating an enormous temple on surely one of the busiest nights of the year; isolating one of its highest-ranking, well-connected clerics; managing to incapacitate him; and finding a way to get him out of the building, all without being noticed." Glen's face is concerned. "It's dangerous. I know this mission is dangerous, but it sounds like well more than I'd be comfortable asking of any of you."

"It's not a bad plan, Sith. He's a valuable target and he could be used to get something we want. Would it not be similarly valuable to attempt to trade something in exchange, using him as a go-between? We know, from talking to Father Templeborn, that Betreygis desperately wants to find his spouse and missing children. We don't know where the Father's family is - but Betreygis doesn't know that. We might be able to use that to our advantage."
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"And that's not a bad idea. And it leaves our options open to kidnap him if we need to." She looks around the table. "Sunrise? Could you compose a plausible story for how someone as untrustworthy as we'd pretend to be might know the location of Betreygis' heart's desire?"
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Sunrise returns the gesture of affection, seeing Somber off with a smile and a promise to catch up for real when things calm down.

She listens to this plan with a serious expression, a faint frown on her face. "...It's audacious," she concedes. "They definitely wouldn't be expecting it, and that alone makes it a better plan than Laerdya's. And yes," she says, nodding to Sithani. "A story to lure him into a trap, that's easy."

She takes a deep breath. "But, okay. Setting aside how ludicrously dangerous it is. Setting aside that Laerdya's commission doesn't legally give us carte blanche to kidnap private citizens. Say we pull it off, we don't get caught, we send the message and propose the trade... and the Redfangs answer 'go ahead and kill him, we don't care'?" She shrugs. "Maybe the decision-makers see him as an annoyance or a liability or a rival. Maybe they have resurrection contingencies in place like we do. Any reason, really. What if they call our bluff?"

She glances around the table, looking queasy. "Because the next logical step is torturing him, and I wouldn't be okay with that."
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Glen, who had been leaning close and speaking quietly to the group, leans back away from his table in his chair, his face dark and somber. "Nor would I," he says, his voice firm but still quiet.
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Sithani frowns. "I third that, and unless we had access to a truth-compelling spell we wouldn't even be able to rely on it; it would just be cruel stress relief. But on the other hand, if they cut him loose, might he decide to cut his losses and bargain for a more lenient sentence?" She shakes her head. "Or we go with Glyn's plan, and offer to trade with him as opposed to trading him. Keep kidnap to an emergency-only contingency. He wants a Redfang council seat, we offer him the Xiloscient one. Or bullshit really hard and say the city will make one if they give Gwynnestri back."
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"Right. Or we offer him the spouse and the children, which would require a similarly crafty bluff, since we have no intention of actually trading them to him. Not to mention the small matter that we have no idea where they are, and Templeborn has told us in no uncertain terms that he doesn't want them involved."
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Sunrise blinks. "A new seat... that's actually plausible enough to work. The city could spin the creation of a new hereditary orc seat a lot more easily than it could handing a fortune to bandits; they're underrepresented on the council."

She tilts her head. "But do they want a council seat, or do they want that council seat? And do they want it more than they want whatever they think kidnapping Gwyn will get them?"

She leans in. "Which, million-gold question, what do they get out of kidnapping the girl? If they actually wanted to ransom her, they would have asked for a sum they might plausibly get. They have to know the city can't pay what they're asking without causing chaos, so... why?"
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He looks around at the assembled group. "When Jarek and I went to see my vice-captain this afternoon, Jarek asked a similar question, and it's been gnawing at me. Why the kidnapping? What's the point? You rightly point out that it's an obscene amount of money, and that actually paying would be disastrous. But maybe that's what they're going for."

"Perhaps chaos is the goal." Glen sits up closer to the table again. "Stealing the daughter of a powerful, influential wizard out of her bedroom on the same floor as the Commissioner of the Feytower is an audacious stunt. Perhaps they were feeling out whether it would be tolerated, and they have another target in mind in the ensuing chaos. Perhaps they believe they could use the chaos to cover something else, like finding the missing child of a councilman and making him disappear, and kidnapping his children."

"If the city guard is out combing the slums looking for Gwynnestri, some of them have to have been paid off by the Redfangs, or Xiloscient, or both. I'm starting to think they aren't as safe as Templeborn might think." Glen's eyes find Sunrise's, filled with concern and conflict. "I don't want to violate the Father's wishes, but I am worried about his family. Sunrise, he wouldn't listen to me. Do you think there is anything we can do? I don't want the lives of an innocent young man and his children on our hands because we were too busy wringing our hands to act."
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"Can anyone here read minds?" Sithani asks. "I know an imperialist fish god who can, but it's not in a mood to be helpful."
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"There might be another element to things," Ka'Ri added. "Thimb found out that K was stalking G and there's apparently a lot to that story including a seduction attempt and I suspect asshole priest is somehow involved."

Ka'Ri gives a short summary of what she and Thimb found out at the market stall as well as a slightly masked version of what she had found out from Qiao including the strong defenses at the Redfang compound.

"Also, Thimb's been working on the diary. I don't know what she's found so far."
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Sunrise looks around at Sithani's question, then slowly raises her hand. "Um. Surface thoughts, at least," she admits in a low voice. "Sometimes more."
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"Oh! Oh my gods you have to teach me! I mean, assuming you can; my magic might not be compatible with yours, but please, can we try? I mean," she calms down a bit, "when we're not planning a rescue, that is. Anyway." Yes, you handled that very smoothly, Sithani. "So that's an argument for having you nearby if and when we're able to talk with Betreygis about his asset. And Ka'Ri, I have some context to add to what you found out - I met an insufferable druid who lives on Gwynnestri's floor, and he insists she's too shy, sheltered, and sickly to have eloped willingly. The shy and sheltered parts I didn't see as much of an alibi, but if you say our dashing friend was stalking her... and. I didn't ask too much of the druid because I wondered, what if the Redfangs had someone on the inside? So I played the part of a gossipy flirt and didn't press him on suspicious topics, but if your story corroborates some of his, it makes it more likely he was telling the truth about her being sickly in some way. Maybe she needs medicine, or something, and if we're lucky we could track some rare foreign herb she takes on an hourly basis?"
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