Location: Outside Old Vasselheim, Othanzia, Issylra
Date: 3 Sydenstar 845 PD (calendar of Exandria: https://criticalrole.fandom.com/wiki/Calendar_of_Exandria)
Rinn – half-elf sorcerer/rogue
Stubby – half-elf artificer
Tāmerai – gnome bard
Fisch – bear fighter
3 Sydenstar, 845 PD — Post-session 22
Viktor has now just scampered back into his basement carrying both his purple crystal, that was in the remains of his dragon, as well as the pouch carrying the Flynn stone. After being carefully warned not to touch it multiple times he remains possibly more cautious than any of us have seen. But in the wake of his departure and the flickering darkness of the massive sending stone, the trio is gathered. Stubby waves (a happily oblivious) goodbye to her father. “I love you too, dad!”
As the communication stone stills and goes dark, Tāmarai waits politely to make sure a smile is the last thing Lord Percy sees. Then she quickly bends down to pick up her notebook and start writing rapidly, murmuring the words aloud so that the others will know what she’s doing. “One… Stubby and Viktor will create the magically charged liquid from their two gems.
“Two… Rinn will use his gloves to absorb excess energy, to be stored for later use, while Tāmarai uses her graviturgical spell to momentarily dampen and ‘squash’ the power flow. This should put out the spire.
“Three… Go inside. Theoretically, find the Beacon and bring it out again.
“Four… Go back to the Birth Heart. Fire one of Viktor’s fireworks about every hour until Vanya sees it and opens a tree into the Birth Heart. This should give enough time for the group to get back to the Birth Heart and step through into their own garden, and join the rebellion (unless warned off by fireworks from the city).
“The firework colors…” she goes on, this time silent, figuring the others will know she’s doing something important and not ask for her attention till she’s done. When she is, she looks up and smiles. “There. Now, if anything happens to cause us to forget this, we will be able to be reminded. And if we die, at least others will know what we tried, and can focus their efforts on things we did not attempt.” Tāmarai sounds just a little too cheerful, but putting on a brave face is one of the skills she can always count on, and darned if she’s not going to use it.
Stubby raises her eyebrows at that last remark. “We’ll succeed. Don’t worry.”
Rinn would like to share Stubby’s optimism, but its a good thing that Tāmarai is writing things down, since he hasn’t been paying attention to much during a lot of the planning. It’s not quite the same shell-shocked look as when he took off from Clocks and Cogs, but it’s close, coming up each time Vanya and her plans — whatever they are! — are mentioned.
Once finished writing, Tāmarai puts her notebook away and, after a glance towards Viktor who’s packing up some useful things for his trip into the city, turns her attention back to her friends. To Rinn, specifically. “You are disturbed from what we have learned,” she says, and it’s not really a guess.
Rinn blinks, looking at Tāmarai a bit wide-eyed, then he shakes his head suddenly. “Do you think so?” He mutters, frowning. “I do not know-” He motions towards where Victor headed off to, presumably the cabin, “any of this! How-” At a loss for words, Rinn just drops his hands down, muttering- well, swearing- under his breath.
Stubby walks towords him. “Today has been wild. We’ve seen and heard so much! But we have a path to safety and to answers. Not only about the Empress and Old Vasselheim but also for you.”
“Answers? There were no answers in that, only more questions about my own life.” Rinn scowls, and looks ready to take after Victor and start digging for those answers.
Stubby steps into his line of sight -drat!- and in the way of the house. “Yes! More questions from answers! We know who brought you! And that they are likely one of our biggest allies! You can meet her and ask her questions. Thats like the best we could hope for!”
Ignoring the head shake, as it is clearly a clumsy form of concealment, Tāmarai gives Rinn a placating smile. “No? Ah, good. Perhaps I am projecting my own feelings.” She knows she is not. “Even so, if you would like to speak about anything in particular, I think you know that either of us, or both of us, would listen with kind ears. Perhaps over some bread and cheese?” she suggests, gesturing towards the Bag of Holding.
“A Volstrucker.” He nearly spits the word. “Neither of you know those. And she was- ” Rinn motions with his hands before dropping them again, trying to sort things out. “Looking for me, finding me, for what? And doing what? Manipulating things to get me over here- and again, for what?”
Tāmarai leans towards Stubby to ask what a Volstrucker is, but Stubby is equally clueless; it’s not a Tal’Dorei thing, any more than it’s a Xhorhas thing. “Is this a word for something I should not say?”
Stubby leans towards Tam and says “It’s seems like it’s a profession?”
Tāmarai considers it, and then asks Rinn, “What manner of profession is a Volstrucker? And why do you speak of them with such– What is the word? ‘Hate’ is very strong, but…”
“Vehemence?” suggests Stubby.
“Ah. Yes, thank you. Why such vehemence?”
He looks back at them, taking a deep breath and letting it out slowly, closing his eyes for a few moments. “Outside of the cities, they are boogeyman, things you would frighten children with. And that is all they are, because why would they go to any small towns and places in the middle of nowhere? But inside the cities, you hear of them more, and learn they are not just stories.” Rinn frowns, crossing his arms tightly. “They are wizards, magic users, all that sort. But spies, agents for the kingdom. They are dangerous, best to always be avoided- it was not said, but if you were targeting someone and learned a volstrucker was focused on them? You cut the job, dropped it. Nothing more to be said.” “Even just regular people were afraid of them.”
Tāmarai takes this as seriously as Rinn says it. “Goodness. That sounds terrifying, if you have done anything that could be misconstrued as acting against your nation. And one of these Volstrückern is focused on you.” She uses the correct ending to form the plural in Zemnian, so either she’s been taking note when Rinn speaks, or she’s had a tiny snippet of knowledge of the language before. “We will have to be even more careful. But Viktor seemed to suggest that she left that training without completing it. If that is true, then perhaps we can rely on her to assist our resistance. If it is not… Well, we have few other choices but to rely on her anyway.”
“Soooo she left being a magical spy in Rexxentrum to take you to Isslyra to then become a spy here?” Her head tilts to the side in puzzlement. “That’s weird. I wonder what she knows.”
“But why bring me here? Why arrange it? What else has she arranged?” Rinn gestures angrily. “The ship I picked out because it was the first one leaving? Or even me leaving Zadash- what, did she hire Anslem to try to kill me, and it wasn’t just because he wanted to be rid of me however he could? And who knows even further back on things? And then here- what has she done to my life here? Everything I’ve done, or thought I’ve done, is it all just false, a lie?”
“It is possible that this Vanya is exactly what her grandfather thinks she is. Someone who works on the side of the Creator Gods, or at least on the side of their creations. Someone who learned the skills of a spy purely so that she could save lives and protect this remnant of Vasselheim’s citizens and denizens. It is possible,” Tāmarai repeats as she idly picks up some object to clean it as something to do with her hands, “but is it likely? That, I do not know.”
After a pause, Stubby speaks confidently. “I’m going trust her. And Victor. Guidance, even if it’s unseen isn’t always malicious. And she led you to us! That’s good!”
Tāmarai’s expression clears somewhat. “That is true. It does not withstand scrutiny, the idea that she would pluck a stranger out of his environment and bring him here on purpose to do evil. Evil is lazy, seeking to acquire what it wishes while doing as little as possible to earn it, and arranging transport on a ship for someone in case he should happen to get on it seems like too much for evil to bother with. Only good makes the hard choices and then works to see the results are as good as possible.”
“Maybe she knows you’re gifted and that you were brought here because she trusts you to make the right decisions? That your abilities could save people.”
“Then why didn’t she ever say anything to me! She had time, plenty of time.” Rinn pulls out the drawing he ‘borrowed’ from Victor, motioning to it. “We were on board that ship for long enough, and nothing.” With a frown, he crumbles up the paper, tossing it aside. “You talk and plan with friends and allies. You manipulate and maneuver tools. How am I to trust anything that happened since I arrived here, that it isn’t some set up by her and them to get me to do what they want? Me working at the Take, meeting the both of you- ” He gestures at the two of them. “How am I know that wasn’t just to get me to start using my magics, to care, so they can then use me for whatever it is they have planned?”
“Be logical, Rinn,” Tāmarai chides, albeit gently. “No one could have possibly known that we would be caught in a magical accident. No one could have predicted that when we escaped, we would end up here, now. No one could have predicted that you would have been the one sent to collect us, though they could certainly have sent for you after we had been introduced. And Vanya… Ryo… Vanya, she would not have been the one to give the orders or you to be the one to accompany us. We were simply a happenstance. Things have happened because the stance happened, that is all.” The language is slightly mangled, but at least it’s discernible what she means. Probably. “We were not expected. But if it truly upsets you and you do not feel we can move forward with any plan at all, you could ask the Stormlord your question about Vanya.”
“Also, telling anyone would have jeopardized the safety of thousands of people. Even her family doesn’t know she’s here. You can’t plan and talk about everything always. Sometimes you have to trust. But I agree with Tam. If you really do think you can’t trust where you stand, you should ask.” Them more hesitantly. “Also, I guess we could have been expected since we’re from the past? But it doesn’t really change what we have to do.”
Seeing Rinn’s continuing distress, Tāmarai pitches her voice to a soothing, slightly lower range and quiets further. Not quite small, frightened animal, please trust me, but not far off, either. “It would be very natural to mistrust everything and everyone, seeing something like that and learning that one has been watched. But mistrust all the time makes one very tired and stressed. One must pick someone to trust, and hope one is making the right choice, because trusting no one is just as dangerous as trusting everyone.”
“Trusting just usually leads you to getting hurt.” Quietly. “I- this-” Rinn motions with his hands, then drops them to his sides as his voice catches. “I don’t know. I am tired of feeling like I am getting tossed around, but it doesn’t seem to end.”
Stubby speaks a bit hesitantly. “But Rinn, you haven’t trusted in the past and things were very hard. People you trust can be your anchors. Like us!” She gives him a small smile as she looks up at him, knowing she’s out of her depth but can only try to help as all this is figured out.
“Ask your question,” Tāmarai encourages once again, “if you decide that you would rather have the Stormlord’s reassurances than ours. But I will remind you that you have spent nearly three weeks in our company, not his. And you have seen our faces as we sleep.” This is a guess, but it’s a reasonable one: the doors slide quietly, and Rinn was contracted to look after them, and he isn’t a trusting man, so surely he’s had a look at some point, right? “It is easy to put on a face while awake, but while we sleep, the truth is known. What did you see in us then?”
He’s quiet for a long moment, just looking down. “People who trusted too easily, because they could. I worry for you, you both, and-” Rinn bites his lip. “I envy that, so much.”
“We worry for you to! we can learn from each other. And… The envy is fair. You’ve had a hard life where you’ve had to be guarded.”
“It is rational. You have had many reasons given to you,why you should be wary.” Tāmarai can’t really take offense at Rinn acting on the years of experience he’s had before he ever met them. “But no. What you saw was not trust. It was exhaustion. We could do nothing but hope, so we did. It proved to be a safe choice, but we did not know that when we went to sleep that first night in New Vasselheim, and we did not know it the first time you stayed in the house with us. We simply had no other viable options. And we are in that place again — but this time we have you with us, and we have more experience of you and feel a little more secure in the choice to trust you, now.”
“I still can’t believe that you would trust me, and here-” He shakes his head, closing his eyes.
“What is our other choice?” Tāmarai asks rhetorically.
Stubby mutters. “My experiment… It worked. That’s why. And that you’ve helped us, over and over.”
The best answer he can give Tāmarai is a shrug, because Rinn has no idea what other choice or option there even could be. Stubby gets eyed for a moment, before he finally sighs and just sits down, elbows on knees, head in hands.
“You have proven your trustworthiness to us,” Tāmarai goes on. “You have had opportunities to betray us, and you did not take those opportunities. You have acted as a friend, and so that is what you are. “Now, about Vanya Vonn. You have not had opportunity to test her trustworthiness. However, we do know that she has contacted Viktor, so she knows that he is likely still alive; and she has not sent anyone to find and capture him, so likely she is still working on the side of the Creator Gods. But if this is not enough to settle your unease, you have a way of having that question answered.”
Stubby just plops down next to him in the grass. “There also might be a way to test her. An experiment?”
Rinn looks up to give Tāmarai a humorless smile. “I trust the both of you more than I would trust any answer from someone else, god or no. I’ve known the two of you for longer.” He glances at Stubby, raising an eyebrow.
Stubby smiles at his words but seems to be thinking hard. You could practically see the cogs working.
He just shakes his head, and looks off at Victor’s cabin, then at the pillar of fire rising up into the sky.
“If you trust us to a point,” starts Tāmarai with the slow tone of speculation, “and especially if you trust Stubby, would you be willing to let that be enough, if Stubby finds reason to trust Vanya? And then deal with her manipulation of you afterward?”
“Unless either one of you have met Vanya- and not as Ryo- then how can you say anything about her for sure? None of us ever heard that name until today.” Rinn continues to fret.
“We have not, of course, but when we do, I will likely form an assessment, as will you, as will Stubby.”
“But! There is both evidence for and against her. Even if it’s secondhand, it’s still data. Even if we don’t like the evidence- No! Especially if we don’t like the evidence we have to consider it.”
Rinn raises an eyebrow at Stubby. “Like what, exactly?”
Stubby thinks for a minute before sitting up and counting off each thing she says. “Vonya is related to Victor who my family trusts and I was named after. The Vons have helped us and actively sheltered us from the Empress. According to Victor she has faked her own death as well as his and given up her life to spy on and stall the empress. Evidence to support this is that the Empress hasn’t succeeded in poisoning people with gunpowder or the blue sick. The Empress has also not been able to kill me, my family or Victor. She killed Ryo when he was revealed to be a traitor.
“She also gave Victor that magical ring along with updates on the city. She is a powerful mage who could have also taken power or abused it and has not…. I think she may have also been the one to organize our placement in the embassy. I’m also going to say that bringing you counts as a positive and a negative as we wouldn’t have met you without it, but it was massively unfair.
“More information is needed. I think we all acknowledge our personal bias. Against her. According to Rinn, being or having been a volt striker is a bad thing. She also manipulated Rinn and has continued to keep her identity secret despite our obvious opposition. She also has tried to hire at least one spy to track us. Although this may just be her keeping to the persona? We need more insight there as well. Perhaps it was her own experiment to test your allegiance? She has manipulated, and by default lied to everyone in her deceptions, irregardless of their motives. She pauses for a moment and takes a breath, seeming to settle to digest her thoughts.
At least now he’s listening, rather than panicking, though Rinn is frowning as Stubby goes over those points. (But he lets her, only muttering ‘Volstrucker’ to correct her pronunciation.) His fingers are tapping on his legs as he thinks, then he shakes his head. “Just because someone is related to someone else does not mean they are they same. A good family does not mean a person is good, or vice versa. And we do not know if the Empress has tried to kill you- from all we have heard, she wants you alive to see you suffer, so…” Rinn shrugs. “Though-” He rolls his eyes. “She has been in power here for… five years? And has not managed to hurt Whitestone, Tal’Dorei, or your family. But who knows if that has been Vanya working against her plans, or just that they have not worked?” Rinn’s fingers keep tapping against his legs, and finally he sighs. “And yes, Ryo did put you into the Embassy. And gave all that gold to be used for all of you, to get what you need, and as far as I know no one else arriving in New Vasselheim got that sort of treatment. I certainly didn’t.” He mutters the last part, then looks at Stubby, puzzled. “Wait, what spy did Vanya try to hire?”
Stubby looks up at him cocking her head to the side. “You.”
“-Oh. Ja.” Rinn blinks, and then nods. “… I wonder what she would have thought or done if I had agreed and signed that part.”
“Well, I would have known.” Stubby smirks slightly, still proud of her spying.
Rinn sighs and rubs the bridge of his nose, muttering. “Du und deine verdammten Experimente.”
Stubby tries — not well — to parrot back what he says, making it a question.
Tāmarai mouths the phrase in Zemnian, a mnemonic for asking for exact translations later, just in case there are nuances. For now, she does remember each of the words “you” “and” “your,” and experiment and damned are fairly clear. “The experiments are effective,” she reminds herself and Rinn, “though inconvenient at times, and risky. I am hesitant to say it, but I think testing Vanya Vonn is a good way to move forward. Not the only way, of course. We could simply rely on what her grandfather knows of her, and our prior few experiences of her as Mr. Yelmoira. Either way, though, we must make a plan and then act on it. Fluttering about like drunken moths on a Sun Day will only result in… What did she call it… Analysis paralysis?” A phrase she’s heard Lord Percy utter in passing.
“Oh yeah, my dad says that.”
Rinn shakes his head. “And that is?”
Tāmarai supplies, “I think the idea is that one must think and plan, but one must not only think and plan. At some point, one must pull up one’s stockings and enact the plan.”
“Ah. Not over-thinking something so that you freeze and do not act.” A quick nod.
“Just so,” Tāmarai confirms. “So. We must curtail our musings, finalize a plan, and carry it out. No more dithering! What must we do?” She starts ticking off on her fingers. “Stubby and Viktor will create the liquid compound to extinguish the magical power source beneath the Platinum Sanctuary. “Then you and I, Rinn, will complete the liquid with your lightning and my gra– the skill of my homeland. “I will enter the Sanctuary and search for the artifact of my people — and I hope that you will all come with me, as Madame Osysa assures me I cannot accomplish the task alone. “Finally, we will return to the Birth Heart and light Viktor’s flares until Local Viktorya opens the tree to bring us back to the embassy. That is, assuming she can do that. We ought perhaps to also organize a symbol whereby she can inform us if she is unable to do so, but if she is, I am not sure what else could be done, since it will take days to get back there the usual way.”
Stubby looks thoughtful.* “I thought Victor was taking the flares to let us know how things were going and we have-” She turns and points to the massive pillar of flame.“that as our signal to be picked up. Though I do agree others could be helpful.”
“It is nearly enough,” agrees Tāmarai, “but if Local Viktorya has a signal that she can send us if things are toes-up,” a phrase she heard in passing, back in Whitestone, “we won’t sit here waiting for the tree to open. We will simply go back, and not waste more time waiting. However, that is a small detail and can be handled easily. Let us concentrate on matters that are not so easily accomplished.” She takes a breath, because this is a momentous, er, moment. “How will we defeat this shadow from another time? How will we end her rule?”
“Even aside from what ever magic and power that gives her-” Rinn motions to the pillar of flames- “She still has plenty. She is the Empress, with plenty of people under her commend. Even just the regular people of the city seen to like her. That all us what we need to deal with as well, but it may be easy.” He smiles humorlessly. “Everyone there lost people when Old Vasselheim blew up. Everyone. So what if they now knew that she knew it was going to happen, to the day, maybe the hour- and she did nothing? No-” He shakes his head. “She did not do nothing. She used it for the revolt, and let people die for her goals. How many hundreds of people? If they all knew this-” Rinn jerks his head in the direction of New Vasselheim. “She would lose that. The regular people, and maybe even the guards and soldiers.”
“Assuming she has their good opinion,” responds Tāmarai. “So far, while we have heard from her that she was elected by the people, we have not yet heard from anyone who is willing to claim that they voted for her. I think she is not as beloved as she would like us to believe. She wants us to feel powerless to resist her. I do not, and I will not.”
“Well, the Take does not care for her. Neither dies the Thieves Guild, as we have seen.” Wryly. “Then there are the Vons, and it sounded as if they knew others. The Xhorhasian ambassador, from what she has said, I think would help. Then from what some of the people from the various temples, from your discussions with them. “That is more than enough areas spread information about her, if we need.” He gives Tāmarai a faint, (maybe slightly smug), reassuring smile. “We are not powerless.”
“Vanya probably also has her own information and influence.” Stubby frowns as she considers how vast that network must be.
Rinn snorts a bit at that.
“Very likely,” Tāmarai agrees. “Mind you, it is interesting to think about whether she is still on the side of the resistance, but it is not useful. We have no choice but to hope and believe that she will be with us when the time comes. I do not care for the possibility that we will be wrong to believe this,” says Tāmarai with a little wistfulness; it surely would be nice to feel absolutely sure. “However, we need to believe that we can rely on her when the time comes. I think that we will be able to know, but not soon enough to change our plans. Only soon enough to see the blow coming, if it comes for us instead of for this pretender to the throne. And maybe soon enough to duck.”
Stubby rolls her eyes at Rinn’s snort. “No I agree we can’t base our plans off her help. But I think that there is a strong possibility we’ll have allies within the city. They might be enough to fight her allies giving us the chance to go to her directly. With the fire out her magic won’t be as limited, But conversely it might also weaken her since she’s been drawing from it…” She pauses and then smiles widely. “We could always march in and just say that I’m in charge now. I mean I am older… Auntie Victoria.” She giggles.
Rinn just raises an eyebrow and looks at Stubby for a long moment. “… You wouldn’t have time to design and build things. No time for your experiments when you’re trying to run a city, much less an empire.” He points out dryly, then bites his lip as he thinks. “We do not want people to know how she is connected to you, right?” Another careful look to Stubby. “Mostly- well, what is most important, is we do not want your mother and the rest of your family to know what happens, or did almost happen, or whatever-” He waves a hand vaguely “-in the future, with what happened with you missing. So that connection with the Empress and you, we don’t really want that information to get out. I know that we here wouldn’t tell any of this to your family, but if the information was known to others who would-” Rinn shakes his head and sighs quietly.
“So yes, she is from the future, she has a vendetta against you and your family and the whole group, and all of what she’s done are plans to hurt them and anyone connected to them, which included Vasselheim, and includes others- but not that she is a decendant, and from a time where…. where certain things happened.” He looks between Stubby and Tāmarai. “Yes?”
Stubby thinks and nods slowly. I think they know she’s related though? Just not the rest of the situation. Also I’d make a wonderful figurehead for a new government!” She gives them a stoic/dramatic look. ” Though, I doubt succession works backwards…”
Rinn just gives Stubby a pained look. “On that part I think you are right, Fräulein Victoria.” He rolls his eyes slightly. “And they had been talking about setting up a council, before. The Vons mentioned it, I think? That might be better, overall.”
“This is a good thing to consider, and I am glad you thought of it, as I did not. A vacuum of power is a terrible thing, as only those who seek power will rush to fill it.” Tāmarai ponders the situation, worrying at the chain of the tiny Beacon charm she wears around her neck. “Lady Victoria would rule well, I believe, but this throne is not for you. There is no people that would not prefer their own government, even a bad one, over a government by another people, even a good one. A Vasselheimer should rule Vasselheim.”
Stubby sighs dramatically. ” I suppose…. And it would take time away from my work. Which I really should get back to! So much to do before tomorrow…..”
“So, we do what we can, and trust that others do their part.” Rinn shrugs, and sighs, looking in the direction of New Vasselheim. “For however it goes.”
“They will, we’ve chosen good people that helped the city before we ever dreamed of being here.”