The Wall of Thorns
The time of his Great Working draws nigh, and he anticipates forces attempting to stop him, so he has raised a gigantic wall of thorns around his ruined fortress. A hedge of thorns, hundreds of feet high and miles deep. A barrier that the past skeptics in the Compact would never doubt was unnatural.
Time grows short. The barrier must be dealt with.
Time the Compact will not grant him if it can help it.
Great hosts march on Harrow Hall. Highlord Liara Grayson calls forth the armies of the Crownlands, and Grandmaster of the Templars Sir Preston leads the armies of the Faith of the Pantheon, marching to Harrow Hall and surrounding it while many work on solutions to the hedge.
There's alchemical mixtures and Arvani fire. There's massive groups of armed men trying to cleave a tunnel through the hedge. There's attempts to dig under it. And there's no small number of those with unmistakably magical abilities, using their newfound talents to try to destroy it in a multitude of ways. These are all disappointments, with the hedge extending deeply underground, and though powerful effects do destroy chunks of it, it regrows all but immediately. And through it all, the dark whispers of the Horned God echo for miles, and his work continues, with precious time slipping away.
But then scouts of the Compact discover something. There's a small section of the hedge cast in darkness, where the tall towers of Harrow Hall block the moonlight from shining down upon it. And in that section, the Hedge is vulnerable. In that section, it does not regrow.
At that point, there's a massive attack upon it.
The hedge breaks and rends, and before long, a narrow path to the fortress is open. Gargantuans of the Nameless move down to block the way, and thousands of horned god minions are moving from the hedge and castle to form a defense. And the Horned God's work continues. Sometimes the options are complicated and all but impossible to decide. And sometimes there's painful simplicity. It's time to attack.
But sometimes the simplest things can be very, very difficult.
Action by Fealty Volitant for The Wall of Thorns(Public Action, OOC Date: Dec. 6, 2023, 4:07 a.m.)
While the rest of Arx is engaged in figuring out this thorn business, Fealty Volitant engages in a counterespionage program.
Knowing that some past attempts to deal with thornweave were thwarted by a certain abyssal agent, it's necessary to identify any other potential enemy agents of the abyss who are among the compact and its allies. Nothing will be done with this information, yet.
The goal is to use Fealty Volitant's expansive network of spies and informants to identify actual or potential enemy spies, informants and saboteurs.
The information gathered will be used in a future action.
(OOC NOTE: This is not meant for rooting out PCs who are on 'team bad'. The intent is to gather a large list of NPC identities like 'Joe Blow the cultist' or 'Harry Buts the sabotaging scholar' or 'the book club down the street that's really a satellite cell consisting of a bunch of Horned God loving lunatics' who can be targeted in a future action. This action will lean on Clue #2846 as well as the story action contributions of Fealty Volitant members.)
Quenia is no stranger to working with a network of spies and informants, having been a spy master herself back in Granato, sometimes doing the dirty work herself to get the information she needed. She puts her considerable charm and social skills and treks out into the world, asking questions, taking names, and making use of the Fealty's network to pass information along where she can. She's careful to apply make up, change her appearance, and make sure she's not followed home, using more private areas in public buildings in the city to make subtle changes here and there before beating feet back out into the world once more to get the job done.
It helps to be involved in many different ... organizations. On the surface level, here's a neo-noble who earned his Knighthood and has gained some respect on numerous accounts through various dangerous trials and tribulations. Here's also a man who dazzled everyone with his Spectacular Spectacular, becoming well known enough for his death-defying escapism that certainly people would LOVE to talk to him. On the underbelly of it all, well, he'll use what connections (ie. secret orgs) he has to pull on a few more strings, to get a few more jingles of information to play with. Low hanging fruit is obvious the best to fill the basket with.
One way or another, Mirari always finds a solution to every problem. There are different ways to get an answer, and the woman is skilled in the ones that work. As head of the Corsetina family, Mirari has a vast network of connections in many parts of the Compact. Let's be honest, some might be questionable sorts, but those are the kinds that get the best information. And so, she will smile and she will tempt people into telling her their secrets.
Well you do not become a Minister of a Duchy without having a few aces up your sleeve and Mabelle has plenty. Aside from the spy network controlled by her alleged cookie girl, she has something else now: people she broke free from the control of the traitor that were once hive minds to his cause and are so grateful, they want to bend the knee to Laurent. Certainly she can learn from them about missions they carried out for him, especially to handle threats to him or allies he gathered.
People just seem to trust Medeia. A lot. It's almost effortless for her to meet someone and understand them deeply, providing a foundation for that trust. Which is likely why Duarte brought her in to review collected profiles and see what information she can glean from them. He promised her the comfort of an office, and so she nestles away in his - for easy access to whiskey - with several stacks of information over a few nights. Her focus is particularly upon the possible motivations of each person profiled. Are they desperate, ambitious, bored? This is all compared against what she already knows of various Abyssal cults to try to find connections between them.
Celine has been obsessively working with Occultists for years (Clue #4183 'Celine's Secret') and has therefore built up a tightly-knit network of people (NPCs) whom she implicitly trusts. She'll meet and speak with those that she's able to reach out to at such short notice in order to gather names of interest that may pop up, not only in connection with the current Thornweave crisis, but others that are known to sympathise and work with the Horned God's followers.
Never one to maintain something quite so formal as an organized network of contacts (or, to be fair, an organized much of anything), Ferrando's ubiquitous gregariousness and access to every social strata from the Whisper House down to the Murder of Crows nonetheless provides him access to a fairly comprehensive set of people of all shades, stripes, and walks of life. And he's a good listener, which everyone really appreciates! Over the years in Arx his habit of stacking up contacts from guys who know a guy and informally fixing person who has this with person who needs that has built up to a semi-chaotic web of unconventional access, and combined with the finely tuned nose for the street he had ever since his young days as a cadet guard back in Lenosia, any diligent effort he puts into ferreting out something out-of-the-way tends to scare up some results more often than not. Put simply, few people know the city top to bottom as comprehensively as Arx's favorite (semi-retired-from-bouncing) bouncer. Combined with the typical Artiglio trait of over-and-above tenacity, it's a very useful thing to leverage for contributions to a little list-building project.
There's an awful lot that indicate a half dozen nobles and prominent individuals are working in the Horned God's service, having been promised power or positions of authority when he takes over the world. Some are fairly certain, with individuals making admissions or trying to sway others to the Horned God in private. But the trouble is there's nothing that could really be presented as evidence, such as writings or objects, and all would just be testimony at any trial. So they can definitely pinpoint individuals, but public trials might not go their way.
Action by Saik for The Wall of Thorns(Public Action, OOC Date: Dec. 6, 2023, 6:58 p.m.)
At the war council held by High Lady Liara Grayson, the problem of the thorn barrier was brought up. As a surprise to no one, Archduke Patrizio Pravus suggested fire. With both Arvani Fire and the thornweave poisons being alchemical works, an idea popped into Medeia's head in the moment, and she suggested that she and other trusted alchemists should work together to create a poison-fire hybrid that would be formulated specifically to burn away the thorns. The Voices of the realm who were present supported this plan.
In the time since that meeting, Medeia has been hard at work getting everything organized for undertaking the experimentation that will be needed. An expedition of brave souls was sent to the barony of Gilthern in the Crownlands to collect samples of the thorn vines. No one died! Approximately 35 feet of vine was recovered - in seven five-foot lengths. Additional conversations have been had regarding gaining access to supplies of both Thraxian Fire and Arvani Fire - in case one is more suited to the hybridization than the other, and determining the best way to deliver the resulting concoction. Further, she has reached out to some of the best and brightest alchemical minds in the city to assist with the work.
When the time comes and supplies are at hand, Medeia offers Seawatch Sanctuary as a workspace and staging ground. She has cleared the estate of anything and anyone valuable - if anything goes wrong with the Arvani Fire, she has prepared to lose the building. Of course, she hopes it does not come to that. Before she begins, she lifts prayers to several of the gods: Petrichor to help them destroy the tainted thornweave, Lagoma to support the cleansing power of fire, Skald for the freedom of choice that defeating the Traitor will secure... She encourages others to join her and lift their own prayers to the gods, as well.
Then? It is time to work. Within the limited time and resources available, every possible combination of thornweave poison and Thraxian or Arvani Fire is tested. It is hard enough to make the thornweave poison. She pours the whole of her concentration into achieving this, single-mindedly concentrating on success and pouring all of her energy into the final outcome.
Chemicals and items to produce the earlier version, Goop, that was helpful in killing smaller thorny vines was expensive. Saik has offered 3000 economic resources, 1000 military and 200,000 silver should it be needed to help this effort be successful. (ooc it is in Lucita's inventory)
On a personal level, as a singer, she plans to wait till samples of thorny vines are available, seedlings, clippings or seeds, then assist the Alchemist effort by spell-singing to help stimulate vine growth to both harvest the sap and later to have samples to test effects.
Patrizio Pravus, indeed, was the one who suggested the use of fire against the thorns - it is effective as a deterrent against the abyssal trees that besiege the southern city of Pieros in the Saffron, along with the earthworks erected to the south of the city. Given his suggestion to build a palisade about the thorn field and ignite the plants beyond, he's present to consider how best to apply the result and to ensure that it does not backfire to harm the forces of the Compact.
In order to help the alchemists, many of whom are part of her very own Auxiliary branch of the Physicians, Giada makes sure that all non-thorn supplies are ample and immediately at hand. She also shares a couple of momentos with Medeia, handing over a piece of withered vine and a hardened nub of sap that she had collected from the Whisper House vines. This is to allow the alchemists to find similarities (if they exist) that might help inform the process.
Mirari is well versed in alchemy, specifically poisons, so she will bring these skills to the table. Here to assist in the creation of a substance combine poisons and fire, she will help with the development and testing of the concoction working together with the other alchemists. Mirari will contribute her staff at Of Works Obscura to help as well, as she does have a few alchemists under her employ as well.
Fatima has put herself in charge of obtaining the Thraxian Fire, since she is after all a Thrax. She has obtained permission from Alarissa to take as much Thrax Fire as needed, and House Thrax will provide however many resources are necessary for this. Siege weapons are also available for the delivery method, should the experiments prove successful. If the experiment is successful, she'll ensure that enough Thrax Fire is provided for a large operation against the Wall of Thorns. She will use the Isles Canines ships to ferry the stuff wherever it needs to go.
Thea took part in the expedition, so naturally she would want to help contribute to the alchemy part as well. With the knowledge she's gained regarding alchemy, magic, herbalism, and a few other things, she begins getting to work.
Mabelle has had her share of experimenting with alchemy lately and once again she lends her talents to the aide of the city. She leaves her valuables at home, including her pets, wears her armor and set out. A vial of her previously concucted elixir against the minions of the Traitor at hand, she helps out with all the dreadfully dangerous mixing.
Isolde isn't exactly an expert or even a novice when it comes to alchemy or even magical plantlife. She does have some experience in gathering and organising supplies, however. She will offer whatever logistical support is needed and ensure there's always money available.
Galatea's alchemical creations have in fact been used before to destroy magical trees--more or less melting one of them down through the roots, some years previously. This was originally a mixture created for the Iron Guard to separate base metals from noble metals. It had the side benefit of also being entirely lethal to organic matter. Thus, it's the 'poison' side of the equation that she focuses on, more than the fire. In the spirit of cooperation, Galatea shares everything about this past creation, in order to better create a foundation for subtances that would quickly dissolve bark and vine. The presence of sample vines likewise provides an excellent opportunity for any pre-modern scientist's favorite activity: experimentation. There was perhaps a touch of manic excitement about Galatea as she poured one highly poisonous mixture after another on these samples to figure out just what would be most lethal. Perhaps she even managed to avoid inhaling toxic fumes herself. (Safety protocols sometimes fall slightly by the wayside when she gets like this.) She is prepared to spend a truly considerable amount of economic resources to get the job done, if need be.
Jaenelle is assisting in a more leadership role than actually assisting in the creating of the poisons. She makes sure people have what they need when they need it, and brings people together to make sure support is at hand. She has connections, she has the resources, and people tend to do what she says when she wants something done.
Eirene is one of the originators of the Thornweave poison, so it's only sensible she's on board for this. She uses her arcane and alchemical knowledge to try to weave together herbalism, alchemy, and magic because this seems like the occasion for all three.
Lianne's new to this project, but not to these concepts. Mostly, she'll follow others' leads, acknowledging their expertise on this subject matter. When appropriate, she shares her own expertise, familiar with the occult, with Blight, with the way magic works and how unpredictable it can be, how unlike science. Thematic narrative might not usually have a role in alchemy, but it may help here.
It takes a tremendous amount of work and experimentation to create the hybrid substance, as Arvani fire really is not keen to be mixed with quite nearly anything. But eventually, after much effort, they are able to merge it with the solvent, and no plant growth sands much of a chance against it. They launch it at the hedge, and vast swaths are immediately destroyed, to much cheering by the troops gathered there. Only it immediately grows back with extremely disconcerting speed.
But then the scouts inform Medeia of a discovery- that the Hedge is powered by the Horned God's magic tied with the moon, of the dead god he seeks to raise. And the tall towers of Harrow Hall block one particular segment from being touched by moonlight. Medeia goes there.
Action by Proscipi for The Wall of Thorns(Public Action, OOC Date: Dec. 5, 2023, 11:49 p.m.)
As rumours spread of Malach the Second hiding out in the Saffron Wilds. Cassiopeia has brought together family and friends to learn more as this is in their backyard. They want to scout the area and talk to any inhabitants to learn more. They are hoping to confirm whether or not Malach the Second has been seen and what has he been doing there. They intend to take this information and share it with the Faith or those that may want to apprehend him. While they are exploring the Wilds, they will try to map and build relationships at the same time.
The wilds are dangerous, and Savio will be there to protect the group from dangerous animals (or dangerous people) as they venture in search of answers.
While not much of a fighter, Nazmir is going along on the basis of assisting with building relationships. He'll use his skills as a diplomat in order to forge bonds or help gather information.
When it comes to hunting people down... caspian isn't the greatest. He loves sticking his nose where its not needed, but that usually just gets him punched, bitten, or otherwise. Still, he is more than happy to join in on the search, providing muscle and force for the rulers of tremorus.
While it may not be the most glorious thing, Rufio decides that he will grabs a squad of bushwhacking scouts and head out into the jungle to see what he can find. He'll act as a forward operating squad leader, using his knowledge of command and jungle survival to see what might be found. Tracks, signs of inhabitation, etc.
Turns out... Orland has a little history with The Real Malach thanks to Prince Sebastian. So he at least knows what to look out for when spotting this Malach the Second guy!! But mostly, he's going to be there for any LOCKS that need to be broken into. Or traps. Or things that need a quick sleight of hand to get them out of a sticky situation. You never know when you need a document stolen or keys snatched. It's always good to have the Legerdemain guy there. Besides, it's an excuse to go out on another outing with Savio and Family. Sounds fun!
The last time Arman ventured into the Chain to help with diplomatic ties the presence of the interloping Velenosa Prince was not well received. This time he shall avoid any direct contact, instead staying back at camp to offer his advice on diplomatic tacks to take or which avenues of investigation might prove more fruitful in tracking down this so-called Marach the Second.
Rosa loves people. She loves scouting. But in this case, she will be scouting the warm lands of the Saffron Iles. Which..it’s fine. She’ll make due.Rosalind will check the places that the inhabitants say they saw Malach the Second. She will look for signs that he was really there, hopefully be able to bring back proof.
Well, they are pretty sure they know where Marach is. The Saffron Chain is covered in old ruins, once inhabitated places that were decimated during the Reckoning. Many have dark rumors, being infested by demons, and abyssally twisted snake people. Word is that Marach the Second is hiding with many cultist followers in one such ruin on another island away from Tremorus, called by locals the completely reassuring, 'Forsaken Temple of the Dark Mirror' that no one has ever returned from. People traveling in the area frequently vanish.
Action by Corsetina for The Wall of Thorns(Public Action, OOC Date: Dec. 6, 2023, 7:26 p.m.)
There's a need for Arvani Fire to assist in the efforts with Harrow Hall and the development of poisonous substances to clear the thorns. The Corsetina Family is connected. While other Houses are using legitimate means to acquire it, Mirari wants to find out what they can get on the black market. They will offer to pay of course, but if those negotiations are not fruitful, The Corsetina's will resort to more intimidating means to get it.
Mirari will lead with her charm, of course, trying to encourage people to do the right thing and put it in their hands.
Caspian is a bit of a firebug, so when the chance to get ahold of arvani fire came up, he jumped at it. While he doesn't have any black market connections, he is a charming face and a solid arm for when things go to shit.
Of course Megara will help her family acquire what they need on the black market. She'll try, of course. She's not the best at sweet talking and haggling, therefore she /might/ use less savory methods to acquire what she needs. Who knows. She's a bit unpredictable on a good day.
It's not easy, but they get it. There's an awful lot on the black market, particularly of the highly illegal trade with shavs, but House Corsetina is able to pull more than a few strings anf get a significant supply of it. It's definitely used to attack the hedge.
Action by Mirrorguard for The Wall of Thorns(Public Action, OOC Date: Dec. 7, 2023, 9:51 a.m.)
Under the direction and suggestion of Archducess Jaenelle Velenosa, and under the leadership of Marquessa Quenia Igniseri, the Mirrorguard are going to scout around the hedges to look for any sign of cultists or dangers that they can deal with head on, within reason. They will be making certain to stay away from the danger of the hedges itself, having been informed about the dangers that lurk when people get too close from those with past experience.
The Mirrorguard have been instructed to make smart choices about handling any dangerous cultists or monsters they come in contact with. If it is something that's too big for them to handle as a group, they are instructed to make a note, then move on and keep scouting. If the group determines they can handle the lurking dangers, they will attempt to do so to the best of their ability.
Quenia will be staying behind at the Mirrorguard Headquarters to help organize the efforts, working as a researcher and tactician in the background, but making sure the group is well coordinated to get the job done. If any question comes up with regards as to how to defeat a certain type of monster, she'll do her best to find any answers she can about weaknesses they can exploit to help get the job done. She'll also make certain the members of the Mirrorguard that are going out scouting are outfitted and have enough supplies to see their efforts through. She will make certain that Jaenelle is kept abreast of any activity as soon she is aware of it herself.
Jaenelle will go with the Mirrorguard to assist Quenia in any issues that might arrise. She will be there to command or direct as needed while also working with other groups to make sure that the Mirrorguard can be used where needed.
Caspian has already been to the thorns once.. so what is once more. And even better now that this time he isn't hacking his way into the heart of it. He has seen a good deal of cult activity, and knows some of the signs to look for. More over, he is experienced with surviving int he wilds and knows what to look for to identify oddities and potential areas of attack.
Duarte is not likely to leave Arx, but he is sending out some hired help he thinks are just perfect for this job! "Researchers and cartographers!" he claims, with his winning smile. Certain to only better document the scouting effort, while he stays behind and helps Quenia sort through the reports that come back in. Why is there a bowl grapes and a bottle of wine? Well - that's necessary to help keep Quenia well motivated, Duarte claims!
Thea is pretty familiar with the vines. So very familiar. The bright side is she at least knows what to look for at this point. So she’ll go and scope out the area, going as close as she can without disturbing the maneaters. The Countess will record whatever it is she finds and report it back to headquarters, likely in great detail.
Alexio will focus on preparing supplies, documents, maps, and ensuring messages are getting conveyed discretely from different groups. Alexio also will clearly play favorites and make sure as many mirrorguards make it into the Mirrormask blessings when and wherever they are. Alexio will also support Quenia's efforts to make sure Mirorrguard have optimal equipment for their work.
Jan is not one for subtly or stealth but she has the legendary Glinting Gale which apparently has it out for the abyss and a mind to help. Thusly armed she will use her knowledge and experience of war tactics to stage areas near where the scouts will be scouting so if the sneaking encounters trouble she and others there to help provide protection. She will assist in providing cover and assist those there to offer protection to the scouters can quickly join any trouble and try to keep scouters safe.
Most of the Mirrorguard experiments are very frustrating. The hedge grows back. Most of it can't be burned, or even chopped. It is dangerous to approach. And on and on. But one small shadowed stretch of the hedge doesn't seem to grow back at all, and can be chopped or burned. A very dark part of it, where the towers of Harrow Hall block the moonlight from shining upon it.