You Only Live Twice
|You Only Live Twice|
|Casualties and losses|
The Paladin's Boys|
Zenith's life expectancy
Mara and Zenith finally make it to Tir na nÓg intending to find Zenith's father in-law, the elf with the cetheral skin and get a chance to read the mysterious 4th world book. Things quickly go off the rails, Mara sells her soul to Ohrwurm and Zenith makes bad life choices.
Zenith and Mara previously discussed bondservants and the the book, The Rites and Rituals of Challenge. After learning of the existence of the fellow with the unique skin, Zenith had asked Mara to look in to operatives that fit the description that were active about 12 years ago. Pinging some of her contacts she got a thread that eventually led them to Rian who is in the employ of Count O'Cathalàin. Since the count and the book are both to be found in Tir na nÓg, the pair meet there.
Prologue - Mara
A Friday night in Snohomish finds Mara enjoying the comforts of her small holding of land, paid for by the Trust created by her parents. She walks through the wooded area and then takes a seat to read. As she reads, her mind wanders to the questions that have been nagging her. It occurs to her that Beatrix might know a little something about the book, so she calls her up and asks in confiding tones if she knows where one could read it and how. She learns that there is certainly a copy in Dublin as well as some in private hands, all of which are required to have the utmost security.
Mara also considers the Count and why he's in Tir na nÓg. The cover is that it's business, but it's likely government related. Or possibly something else, related to the blood feud he's involved in. She also considers Stiletto - Zenith's mom - who is still working the shadows and who has left behind a lot of dead cohorts.
After enough ruminating, she decides to invite Malia over for a talk. After a simple dinner and drinks they sit down in Mara's lodge, discussing Path of the Wheel and all of it's intricacies and implications. It is revealed that Malia feel in love with someone other than an elf and that this wrenched at strict interpretations of the dogma. The conversation reminds Mara of a quote from Dunkelzahn's Will and the two of them talk about the equality in quality of different metatypes.
Eventually conversation shifts to their lack of satisfaction with the powers that be and the way in which the Paths are governed and controlled, as if it's some sort of centuries long hazing ritual. Perhaps there was reason for this or perhaps this is Elves being overly burdened by tradition. Malia points out that they both cut ties, but that Mara allowed herself to be pulled back in. Mara realizes that she needs to figure out why. That night she has the dream again.
Prologue - Zenith
Having spent the last month in Essen due to the deal that he made with Amrei Veidt during A Nest of Vipers, Zenith is struggling with not taking regular work, and having to protect his daughter from Saeder-Krupp while in the center of their power. While not watching out for Harriot and exploring the new Metroplex he finds himself in, he spends time in a small shadow bar, mostly populated by people who don't register on S-K's radar. Working with the bartender, he has taken a few smaller jobs within the Metroplex under the alias "Sherriff".
Spending his evening at the bar, Zenith is approached by Amrei, in disguise and knowing that if they are overheard his reputation will be shot, Zenith leads her to one of the quiet booths in the corner. Amrei asks what he has been doing and Zenith dodges the question, explaining that he doesn't like the city because he doesn't like being in any place that he can't break out of. Explaining that Seattle is ideal because due to the nature of intercorporate politics that surround the city, he can live in the blindspots, but S-K has a stranglehold over Essen and know everything that goes in and out of it.
The S-K Prime agent tells Zenith a proverb about a poor man who tries to feed his family by stealing gold from the king's castle, but the king's guards come and find the man, kill his family and leave him to live out the rest of his life penniless, angry and sad. The shadowrunner knows a threat when he hears one and explains that he understands that making a move against S-K while he's here will result in his death, and while his child is involved with them, he won't do anything foolish.
After Amrei leaves Zenith gets another drink and is approached by a woman he doesn't recognize. When she sits down across from him, he assenses her, and finds that it is his mother, the assassin and shadowrunner Stiletto. She castigates him for his association with S-K, and explains that she's there because she's worried about him and her granddaughter. Zenith explains that he's fine, though he had told Harriot about his wetwork over the last twenty years and Stiletto stikes him upside the head for the stupid decision he made. The two of them talk about what had happened, Zenith explaining what happened during the events of Casino Royale and finally asks if his mother got her deltaware from Black Star, rather than one of the corps. She confirms that, and asks him to be careful before she leaves the S-K metroplex.
Later on, Zenith is sitting on the roof of the apartment complex that he, Harriot and Shine are staying in, when his daughter comes up and disables one of the cameras that watch them. She asks why he kills, and why he told her about it, and why he doesn't just give it up or work for a corporation or something. Zenith explains that he kills because he's very good at it, and that if he doesn't do it, a simple assassination can turn into a massacre. He wanted to be honest with her, and not give her the illusion that what he did was redeemable. He was afraid that if she found out about it from somewhere else that he wouldn't have any chance of still being in her life. While she doesn't forgive him for everything, it's clear that she still cares about him, and that gives the jaded runner some comfort as he gets the message from Mara that it's time to go to work.
Getting to Tir na nÓg
After the pair agree to meet, they set about making travel plans. For Mara this amounts to getting on a plane flying her TNN National SIN. Of course, the pretense of this flight is a visit to her parents and a chance to bask in the hospitality off the introduction provided by Fidem to her parents and the resident sword smith.
Zenith on the other hand spends a large amount of money getting in country. Argent is able to arrange for him to be smuggled in country through Ancients contacts in Germany. For the flight he is put on Reaper and has a spooky encounter with a patrol spirit as he crosses the Veil. Finally he is deposited in Ulster and regains his faculties.
Meeting up and Keeping up (Appearances)
With them both now in country they decide to shore up their cover. For Zenith this means getting a fake ID from Freya complete with an identity as a personal assitant. For Mara this means having her new personal assistant call the Flannigans to announce her visit.
When they arrive at the estate, the plan is to make a plan. They need to figure out where the Count is and where they can get hold of a copy of the book. As luck would have it, though, being the Nobles that they are, the Flannigans happen to have a copy. Zenith and Mara spot this on their way through the estate as the butler apologizes for their accommodations and explains that there is another guest visiting. As Mara is shown to her room, Zenith bumps into Rian going into the bathroom, and it is revealed that the Count is here as well. Some might call it luck, but Mara is flying her actual SIN, and wishes that she wasn't. With the scene set, Mara is invited to dinner.
Babysitting not Included
Mara spends some time getting ready for dinner. In the middle of her preparations, a Banshee wanders into her room. The Fey apologizes and excuses itself, but Mara invites it to talk for a moment. After their conversation it's time for dinner. In order to give Zenith some reason to wander around the manor, she sends him with a list of requests. This is likely a mistake.
As Mara sits down for dinner, Zenith comes across a mostly abandoned wing of the house. The rooms remind him of a message sent by Scarlett and then gets him in a bit of a tizzy. He starts frantically searching them, eventually finding his way up a tower. As he makes his way up, he hears The Paladin making his way up. Seizing the opportunity, Zenith uses his Mystic Aptitude and body checks the Paladin down the stairs before shooting him in the crotch and running up stairs to find an empty room full of tapestries, an old piano, and no Scarlett.
Meanwhile, Mara has learned a little bit about the Count, visiting to center himself in the old ways. When she learns of Zenith's issues, she excuses herself and sends a spirit to help Zenith. However, things are mostly done by the time it arrives and Zenith is preparing to make his escape out the window. Mara now has to cover herself for bringing this scoundrel into the house and hopefully use that to gain the trust of the Count and the Flannigans.
Escaping into the Night - The Hunt for Zenith
Seeing that it's time to run, Zenith makes for the window. During a brief conversation with Mara, it is decided that he will leave his locket for her spirit to 'find' and Mara will throw him under the bus so that she isn't executed. He escapes into the night, but the search is on. Drones, spirits and other forces are on the lookout for him. He sneaks and lays low. Eventually he is detected by the Banshee that Mara spoke with and is able to convince it to not give him up. He is able to avoid being captured for the night.
Dryad Souls are Cheap - Mara Tries not to get Killed
In the manor, Mara calls up Ohrwurm and begs for her help. In exchange for 4 chips, the old spy master agrees to help her, providing corroboration of her story and a forged warrant to check the security of The Rites and Rituals of Challenge. The story she then attempts to sell Count O'Cathalàin and the Flannigans is that she came in country to visit and her usual secretary was unable to make the trip to Ulster due to travel restrictions. The assitant that came with her was recommended by a source that she cannot divulge due to her work. She offers up the locket, saying that the spirit she sent after the goon found it and returned with it. Ohrwurm calls just in time to corroborate the story and it seems to pass muster. The story and the locket get the Count to come out about the blood feud just a tad, but he takes the trinket with the picture of his daughter intending to keep it. For the moment she holds back the forged warrant.
In the middle of the night the Count pays Mara a visit at gun point. The two talk, with the count questioning her presence there and Mara playing innocent and helpful. She agrees that she will do what she can to divulge the source that connected her with PA Zenith, while also discussing with him the book and the nature of his blood feud. It is her conclusion that he knows little about it or why it is happening, simply that it is a part of the "Great Game" that Elves like to play with their and other's lives.
By morning Zenith has made his way to the ruins of a castle on the grounds. Zenith and Mara talk breifly on micro-transceiver catching each other up on the happenings of the night. Reaching out to a contact, he asks them to send a message to the Count inviting him to the woods to talk about Rian. He then carries out a divination to attempt to figure out how to not get killed during which he realizes he should simply talk to the Count as a person.
Mara then makes her way to apologize profusely to the Flannigans for bringing the brigand into their house. They appear to accept her apology and she continues to make nice with them checking on an order she placed with their swordsmith. She finally reveales the forged warrant giving her permission to exam the book and it's security, saying that she was contacted by the cultural agency when they learned of her visit and asked to do what amounts to a spot check on the books keeping. They appear to accept the warrant and story as genuine and agree to keep it quite as it won't due to have this kind of thing spread around.
Meetings and Readings
Both Zenith and Mara appear to have their dates with destiny set. At least for now and until more questions arise from those dates. While Zenith is preparing to talk to the Count alone at high noon, Mara is finishing tea with the Flannigans and then making her way to 'observe' the security of the 4th world tome.
Count O'Cathalàin arrives alone as requested armed with a gun and a sword, while Zenith has made note of several possible sniper positions. Despite the tension, they engage in a rather sincere conversation, eventually sitting down near a stream. Zenith expresses that he's only trying to find his wife and the Count is similarly concerned for his daughter. When talk turns to Rian, the Count reveals that he's employed him for 15 years and he passed a fairly extensive background check, including the fact that he was on the Path of the Steward.
Zenith goes on to explain that the Count's employee is complicit in the hiring of the kidnappers. In fact the reason that he appears to be loosing this feud is because Rian is working against him. His proposed solution is for the Count to tell him who he's feuding with or let him get the information out of Rian himself. The count reveals that the feud may have something to do with Telestrian and that he had no suspicion of Rian.
They continue to talk, but before the conversation can conclude a shot rings out. Ever the protagonist, Zenith throws himself and the count in to the water, accepting the bullet into his own body instead. The two float down the stream a bit and then Zenith contacts Amrei for help finding where the shot came from. Despite her hesitations he's able to get a location from her. When he arrives he finds a smart firing platform and a pendant with the crest for a noble house.
Sticking to her story, Mara goes with the Flanigans to their library. There she sees a spirit that bears the emblem of book binder and The Rites and Rituals of Challenge itself. The alchemist overseeing the wards and security deactivates the protections as the rest watch in somber observance. And then she is allowed to examine it.
Inside she looks for clues about blood feuds and about short cutting one's ascension of the Paths. Eventually she finds a story about the Days of Change. A warrior returns from a battle thinking they have traversed the Path of the Warrior and looking to proceed to the Western Path. The warrior has a dream wherein the gain insight into a ritual that can unlock hidden memories. These memories are of a past life when they walked a different Path.
Mara isn't able to put the ritual together completely. She wants to read more but is aware that suspicion will grow if she takes too long. Finally she closes the book and it is put back under it's magical protections. Considering the ritual, some part of her knows that the knowledge she seeks is, to some extent, hidden within herself.
By the time she's done examining the book, she receives a message through a proxy concerning the Count. She sends a spirit to make sure he isn't finished off while Zenith investigates. When Zenith returns to the Count, the Paladin is with him and they have a little stare down before Count O'Cathalàin returns Zenith's locket.
With their goals advanced Mara decides it is time to leave before her cover is blown. She returns to Dublin, assuming that Zenith is also leaving, where she boards a plane and returns to Seattle. But Zenith was not ready to go yet.
You Can Take the Rat Out of the Barrens
Frustrated by the fact that Rian escaped and that his leads once again lead dry, Zenith decides to do something foolish to make himself feel better. Tired of the haughtiness of Tir nobles and the way they look upon humans, he decides to steal one of the most valuable things in the Flannigan's library: The Rights and Rituals of Challenge.
Using his knowledge of the secret passages around the manor, Zenith sneaks into the library and waits until most of the occupants and staff are asleep, leaving only the Spirit of Man that he had seen the last time he had viewed the library. Explaining to the spirit that his desire is to spread the knowledge of the book rather than simply holding it in secret. The Spirit agrees not to stop him, and Zenith proceeds to use his abilities of the Invisible Way to not trigger the contact prep that covered the glass on the book and replacing the book with a copy of 'Sperethiel for Dummies' that he had been studying from.
Passing through the alarm ward that covered the area around the book, he sprinted through the secret passages, pursued by a Guardian Spirit and confronted by it on the same stairs where he had previously fought the Paladin. The runner shoots the spirit, and while it doesn't have a lot of effect, it does allow him to run past it and stop it's pursuit as he jumps out of the window and scales down the tower for a second time in 48 hours, getting back to Ulster and meeting with the Ancients that are smuggling him out of the country.
For Both (1.85x multiplier for time):
- 25 karma
- 20 CDP
- 1 Street Cred
- A few answers and a lot more questions
- IG4 discount (Divination)
- Optional Quality: Alibi
- Optional Quality: First Impression
- Several top-quality elf swords (paid for out of pocket)
- IG6 discount (Divination)
- Optional Quality: Barrens Rat
- Optional Quality: Perceptive
- Optional Quality: Tough as Nails (Physical)
- Wanted: 100k by the elfnostate for theft of a cultural artifact
Player After Action Reports (AARs)
I had been looking forward to a visit home for a while. Unfortunately this was a little more stressful than I might have wanted. I would have liked a year - more even - to examine the book, but it was not to be. And then Zenith... Poor troubled man, unable to even take his own advice. I would be more mad, I have been and should be, if it weren't so pitiful at the same time. In the end, I do hope he finds her, but I would be surprised if he does so before he gets himself killed.
- Zenith - There's hardly any point in making this note. He was fine until he wasn't and then we both had to scramble. As I already said, I understand what he did, from an emotional standpoint, but the results could have been disastrous for both of us. And I found myself in a very disadvantageous position made necessary by my needing to continue to live.
This trip was a good reminder that sometimes I should just listen to my instincts instead of trying to be what I think the situation needs. If I had grabbed Sparkles when I found him, beaten him to an inch of his life and gotten my answers, maybe I'd know where she is. Instead, I got a book, a hole in my side, and more questions that I need answers to. I've now saved two people who don't like me, and I doubt my stunt at the end there actually made things better, but at least I didn't do what I meant to do and just killed them in cold blood. Don't know if I could look her in the eyes after that.
Am I coming up to the end of things? Or is this just a longer journey? Mara has her own issues, but she got in and out clean. Seems like she's gonna have to make that choice that all tourists have to make eventually sooner rather than later. Living in the light and living in the shadows can't work. I may be one of the few experts in that subject. I was only ever playing at being anything other than a runner. But once this is done... what do I do then...?