Our six week online salon (championship) saw a victory for Ussura! As his reward for victory, the salon champion, Brian (tso) was given a special story decision. Brian could choose any two characters within the the city to permanently tie together. Are they lovers? Are they scornful exes? Is their love platonic, yet stronger than steel? One of you will decide, and forever change the fate of two of our citizens.

Chapter seven of the “With Good Intentions” pre-release storyline reflects Brian’s story decision and offers exciting development leading up to our Gen Con release. Read on to find out which characters Brian chose to permanently tether to one another with a strand a fate!


By Carmel Rechnitzer

“This is, by far, the worst plan I’ve ever heard,” insisted Leja Juska. Yesterday’s riot fires had not yet been conquered, and the hanging smoke hid the midday sun. The stifling heat and choking smog were enough to contend with on their own. Was the price of three hundred guilders worth contending with Old Iron Dietrich and Fate herself? She would die three times over, if such a thing was possible.

Nazem Ibn Umur, her Maghrebi employer, offered a smile that shone as bright as the missing sun. “This plan doesn’t even count among Yevgeni and I’s bottom ten.” The deep timbre of his voice clashed with the feminine form he’d assumed for their heist. Her feminine form that he’d assumed for the heist. He was dressed in a perfect copy of her clothing and her hooded cloak. Whether with spare cloth or a brutal corset, he’d managed to copy her curves. She had no interest in how he’d become her twin sister, but the effect was uncanny.

Their third conspirator, Ravenna Destine, inspired no confidence either. She wore a bustier accompanied by lace gloves and a lace choker, all black. Crossdressing and low-cut tops marked a desperate theater troupe, not a confident conspiracy of thieves.

“Do not worry, Juska of Shadow,” Destine insisted. Her voice was raspy and willowy. She sounded like a witch even more than she looked like one. “I have not Seen, and have not Spoken, your Doom. You will live.”

Destine turned to Nazem, but he rebuked her. “Only Theus, King of King, can speak my Fate. If I’m doomed to die today, then so be it.” Juska raised a desperate eyebrow at the Strega, hoping the woman might still pronounce his safety. To her dismay, Destine respected Nazem’s wishes. Instead, she spritzed them both with cheap perfume.

“A kiss before you go, then,” Destine commanded. Shamelessly, Nazem swept the witch into his arms, dipped her, and kissed her deep. As the two pulled apart, Juska was treated to the harrowing sight of a line of spittle stretching between their mouths. No – not spittle. The little thread was too incorporeal – shone too eerily with no light to catch it. In the blink of an eye, it vanished.

Destine beckoned Juska closer. She steeled herself, leaned forward, and was swept by Destine in turn. Knowing, conceptually, that Destine had a tongue piercing was quite different than receiving confirmation. Destine set her back on her feet, and for a moment, a barely perceptible thread hung between the two of them as well.

Destine stuck out her tongue and ran her finger around the Syrneth artifact pierced through it. A tug pulled at Juska, as if Destine had wrapped a fishing line around her tonsils. Nazem stumbled forward as well. A second tug, and both of them dry heaved. Destine held the strings of their Fate between her finger and thumb. Juska couldn’t see them, exactly, but understood that the woman had tied the strings together like a pair of cherry stems.

Juska stared at Nazem. He stared back at her. With the studiousness of a practiced actor, he assumed her posture. “Ready!” he said, in a frighteningly good mimicry of her own voice.

“Your shape is one, your scent is one, your sound is one,” Destine chanted. “Your Fate is one. The Crystal Eye cannot tell you apart. It cannot sort your Futures. Daniella Dietrich is rendered blind to your coming.”

Maxime de Lafayette was a socialite to his core, and hence no stranger to gambling. The rich and useless of Montaigne were relentless card players and shameless friends to every bookie they knew. Leaving life to their natural Fate was so droll! Why not cast the dice and leave Fate breathless, hanging in the balance, forced to reconsider, recalibrate, and rejudge each and every ill-advised throw?

His bone dice had finally rolled a full set of sixes. Right here, right now, he had to go. The time had come to steal the Crystal Eye. He grabbed the anted gold at the center of the Musketeers’ table, and excused himself. Each of Odette Dubois D’Arrent’s finest men protested, urged him to stay another game, lose some more, redistribute the wealth. Considering he may never get to spend it, he relented, and tossed each man a golden coin.

“I’ve got to piss,” he announced. The crassness of his words clashed against his overwrought diction. Odette’s Musketeers laughed and let him go. The moment he’d turned the corner from their line of sight, he began to work his sorcery.

A weak-minded sorcier would bleed themselves to wield their magic, but Maxime did not care to. The world around him was weak and vulnerable. An overripe fruit begging for harvest. Why not? Why should Maxime pay a price, when he could so thoughtlessly extract it? In theory, a certain Someone would punish Maxime for behaving so. But just as Theus couldn’t be bothered to house orphans, He seemingly couldn’t be bothered with smiting Maxime. It wasn’t an endorsement, Maxime knew. But it was, de facto, permission.

Besides, this matter was less in Theus’ Hands, and more within the confines of Fortuna. Common folklore insisted that Theus’ Angel of Fortune allowed fools the freedom of the dice. His pet hypothesis, then? The Crystal Eye could not foretell his coming if he refused to plan ahead. So long as dice controlled his coming and going, poor Mrs. Dietrich would have no warning.

Maxime bled the world. Pulled, twisted, and tore at reality. With a vicious rip, the very air came apart and split. Blood – or some cosmic red substance indistinguishable from blood – smeared and congealed, cracked and ran again, at the edges of the rip. Within a moment, an incarnadine, wet maw hung open before him. Nonchalantly, gambling as he always did, Maxime stepped through it.

Just as Yevgenni’s ever watchful and always disturbing raven had promised, the conspirators found Mr. and Mrs. Dietrich’s room spartan and spare. A single candle lit in Theus’ honor illuminated bare, wooden walls with likewise utilitarian bed and armoire.  The only sign Old Iron loved his wife was the quality of the mattress, and the priceless silk sheets. Everything was exactly as Nazem expected.

Except, of course, the blood drenched fop standing in its midst, tipping the Crystal Eye out of Danielle Dietrich’s worn leather boots.

Nazem was fearless. It was not fear that caught him frozen, but pure surprise. Someone else was stealing the damned thing? Today of all days? At this exact hour? They had tried to trick Fate, and this was the obvious price to pay. He was stunned a moment too long. The stranger shrugged, and with surprising speed and ruthlessness strode forward and stabbed him with a knife. The overdressed twit was quick to strike, but mercifully unaware of actual anatomy. The human heart was two inches lower

Nazem was brash, but he was professional. Yevgenni was relying on him. With grit and determination, he made sure to mimic Juska’s voice when he yowled “Ouch! Damn!”

He stumbled backwards, chest blazing with pain. The stranger followed, trying to press the knife deeper. Thankfully, the gilded buffoon couldn’t weigh as much as half a sack of grain, and gravity afforded him no leverage.

The real Juska sprang forward from her watch post at the end of the corridor. She kicked like dancer would kick – leg flitting upwards through the air with grace and precision. The metal toe of her boot snapped the assailant’s wrist like a twig, and the man let go of the knife.

To both of their horror, the blood thirsty interloper didn’t seem hurt. He seemed mad. Insulted, even, that someone had the unmitigated gall to lay a hand… well, lay a foot… on his precious person. He looked at Juska in absolute bewilderment and hissed, “Mademoiselle! How dare you?!”

Juska’s next kick landed square in his chest, sending the man flying backwards. Kaspar had not picked a grand or spacious home to quarter in. The two-floor dwelling had a sensible layout, with stairs at each end of the residence for quick evacuation in case of fire. The sorcerer went tumbling down the west staircase, screaming insults all the while.

Nazem turned to Juska, offered a shining smile, and promised, “it is a flesh wound. I will not die today.” The mysterious lady, as sensible as Kaspar’s choice of housing, was already running down the east staircase. Twice, she’d simply ignored his smile, which cut about as deep as a knife. Maybe it was the costume? Would she like his smile better if he wasn’t wearing her clothes? Probably. He set aside his wounded pride and sprinted after her.

The world cried and screamed in anguish as a wound tore open around Juska’s boot. The sorcerer’s blood had stained it, and the incensed magician exerted all his energy to call the wine of his veins back to him. Nazem had never seen such magics, and did not comprehend exactly what occurred. But it seemed… as if a saw had cut air and stair alike, leaving a gaping pit underneath Juska. Her boot, and the foot lodged within it, were ruthlessly tugged into the blasphemous cavity.

“I’ll save you!” Nazem promised, voice still pitched an octave high. As the unseen force pulled Jaska, the wire wrapped around his tongue likewise pulled him. It wasn’t exactly a choice. Nonetheless, he’d studied Juska, learned her. The sympathy born of such theatrics would have been enough. His impending doom was second to his growing admiration.

Her foot snagged, but the rest of her remained in motion. Momentum would have smashed her face first down the east staircase. Nazem knew better than to catch her by her cloak and accidentally choke her. Instead, he leapfrogged over her like a circus performer. At the apex of his jump, he hooked his arms underneath her armpits, while attempting a heroic summersault.

He’d gone in on instinct, without much of a plan. He’d sort of assumed that Juska’s boot would come free, or the sorcerer would be forced to let go. Apparently, she was a champion shoelacer, and the sorceror had no interest in saving his last remaining wrist. Juska and Nazem landed in a pained, sprained, and bruised pile at the bottom of the east stairs. All his personal discomfort, including the stab wound in his chest, paled in comparison to the way his stomach turned at the creaking snap of Maxime’s arm.

All three of them lay in a daze, overwhelmed by pain. They could see each other through the ensorcelled hole in the stairs. Nazem’s wound and the sorcerer’s splintered arm both pumped blood, all intermingled at the edge of the accursed hole. None of them had the breath or presence of mind to shout. Someone else certainly had the inclination to.

“What deviltry is this?” came Kaspar’s accusatory question. The Eisen general stood at the western door, festooned in military dress. His right arm gauntlet sported an iron Panzerhand, equal parts shield and set of claws. Nazem and Juska watched him march forward to the sorceror, one iron-pointed finger pointed to the portal. “Seal the vile sorcery you’ve cast upon my home, demon! Or I will pluck out the jelly of your eyes and force each down your throat.”

“Sounds like a good time to leave,” Nazem wheezed, and began crawling towards the eastern exit.

“Not yet,” hissed Juksa. “The Crystal Eye!”

Before he could stop her, the consummate professional dipped her whole right arm into the portal. Nazem launched himself forward, grabbing her by the back of her belt, and bracing both feet against the bottom stair. He gave her till the count of three, and hoped to Theus that Kaspar wouldn’t stomp her wrist flat in punishment for what she’d done to the sorcerer.

He didn’t wait for her to confirm she’d yoinked their objective. At three, he pulled with all his might. Juska’s arm popped out the portal. She flashed him the smile of success. The strands of Fate between them forced his lips into a smile as well.

Without skipping a beat, Nazem leaned to the edge of the portal, which was quickly and violently collapsing on itself. He pulled back his hood, dropped his voice as low as it would go, and spoke into the portal: “A lesson to you both, vile wizard and age’d fool: None escape the claws of… EL GATO!”

He turned around to see if Juska was impressed by his clever ruse. The unflappable woman was already ten steps ahead, escaping through the nearest window. His tongue nearly leaped out of his skull as he was forced to follow.

Within moments, they were amidst the Eisen district’s back streets. The soldiers had all heard Kaspar’s raging howls, and ran to the western side of the residence to support him. Fortune favors the bold, Nazem decided. As close a call as that had been, within a moment they had vanished.

“Still doesn’t break our top ten most brainless schemes,” Nazem promised Juska once she was admitted to his hospital room. She’d dragged him to the greediest doctor either of them had ever met. A humorless coin counter called Siad. Between the two of them, they only had enough coin for him to be treated. After he’d been stitched together, and still delirious from the analgesics, Nazem had splinted and bound Juska’s sprained ankle himself.

“Surely, this is now number eleven, though?” Juska asked. The sickroom was bare. Almost as barren as the room they’d robbed a few hours ago. With nowhere else to sit, Juska had plopped down on the opposite end of the sickbed. She leaned back against the footboard, and propped her damaged ankle on his healthy shoulder.

“Number eleven for sure,” he admitted. He resisted the urge to cough with every muscle in his abdomen. The medicine was wearing off, and any sudden movement would set his stab wound to groaning again.

Juska reached into her bag and produced a heavy wineskin. She looked as exhausted as he felt.

“How do we get rid of… this?” she asked and stuck out her tongue. The silver thread remained as hard as ever to spot, but it still hung between them.

“Destine swears it is as simple as a kiss,” he explained. “She recommended one of us twirl our tongue clockwise, the other counterclockwise.”

Juska took a deep draft of the wine and passed the skin to him. “Tell me all about plan number ten, and we’ll give it a try.”

“Yes, ma’am,” he obliged. “Destine is honest. It’ll work.”

Juska cocked an eyebrow. “And if it doesn’t work, you’ve got nine more chances before we have to track Destine down.”