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“Tvath,” the Dragon says to Madalena, his tone touched with a hint of fondness. “You’ve been spinning your cards again, haven’t you? But you tell lies when you say the cards are always ambiguous. They’ve never been ambiguous for me. They told you the exact truth of me when we first met — and again, later, they repeated their truth. Sometimes the cards are more honest than any of the Wise.”

Caleb looks around and sees Mads and then Pho and his lips lift into a tiny smile but one look at the dragon and he moves quickly to Pho’s side. He slides onto the cushion and frowns darkly. He grips his bag tightly and leans against Phoenix. He pulls out his little white board.

Phoenix puts his arm around Caleb, looking over to the other two. “The cards can also lie to you, as easily as you can lie to yourself. The cards never speak clearly. They only whisper. What you hear depends largely on what you want to hear. Sometimes it’s accurate, and you’ve approached it openly. Sometimes, you can’t put yourself aside enough to be honest with yourself. The cards speak in half-truths, arcane images, and riddles. It’s the skill of the interpreter that determines how much ‘truth’ or ‘deception’ is in it, because the terms are subjective and open to interpretation.”

The smile’s fey, almost feral in a way. Madalena murmurs laughingly, “I know, Dragon. I know. I’ve yet to figure out exactly how that came to be, but yes, the message was clear both times. Just… not all inclusive.” Phoenix’s discourse on the nature of the cards gets a slight nod, but she doesn’t seem inclined to pursue the discussion of what the Tarot is and isn’t, at least not tonight. Caleb’s reaction to the present company bemuses, but again, she doesn’t comment on it, simply asks Jürg, “Brandy?”

“Arrogance and hubris, Phoenix,” the Dragon warns. “Unless you’ve personally inspected not just all the cards that have ever been turned but all cards that will ever be turned, you’re in no position to say the cards never speak clearly. That sort of arrogance and hubris will be the death of you. Leave it to those who are more qualified to wield deadly sins — such as, for instance, my own august self.”

He looks over towards Madalena for a moment, sharing some kind of entre-nous smile with her, some bit of shared history — a memory of cards being correct and true, perhaps. “And, as always, Tvath, my skills at sin are always at your disposal. I keep on offering. Someday you’re going to take me up on them, if only out of curiosity.”

<OOC> Madalena laughs.

Caleb scoffs quietly at the dragon and brings his knees up to hold to his chest. He’s got the board between his chest and thighs. His eyes slide closed and he shivers as he turns his eyes to Pho. He lifts a single eye brow and then shrugs. He goes back to silence.

Phoenix looks over at Caleb and smiles, reassuringly, before turning to the Dragon with a polite nod, though there’s a veiled tension in his voice. “Of course, Magister. Thank you for pointing out my error in disregarding the Adamant Way, having a preferred opinion on the subject. By offering your conflicting point of view, you’ve served to enlighten your servant.” There’s a dark humor behind his eyes, ice and fire at the same time, a subtle dance between the two extremes playing out in his mind as he speaks. “I’m sure I’ll learn much from you.” He picks up his wine glass from earlier, barely touched, taking a sip and offering some to Caleb. “Try it,” he says with a smile. “It’s rather good. Our hostess was kind enough to let me sample her father’s vintage.”

Phoenix pages: Phoenix, Pride vice. *shrug* :)

Ah yes, tension. It makes Tvath’s smile get more sharply edged, but still stay in place. She fetches a bottle of brandy, pours some into a glass, and offers it to Jürg without bringing it close enough for him to grasp it easily. Phoenix gets a raised brow, the stare rather assessing, held for a moment or two, then she steps slightly closer to the Dragon and says, lightly, “If I were to take you up on it, caro, you’d never offer it again. What’s the fun in that?”

“Duel Arcane,” the Dragon says flatly. “I would tell you about what, but really, you already know and I’m not going to waste time on explaining it to you. It’s a shame, really: I object to the Duel Arcane on general principle, it being a poor imitation of real battle. But you’re a spoiled prideful brat, and I’m going to look forward to showing the Consilium your weakness. And if you ever indulge that prideful streak around me again, then you will be violating the terms of the Duel and I will fucking end you.” He smiles quite pleasantly, then turns towards Madalena. “Ah, well, you’d just have to invent some sins of your own to tempt me back with. I have no doubt you could write entirely new chapters on lust.” And, of course, the Dragon accepts the offered glass of brandy.

Phoenix pages: Wow. Didn’t see that one coming, lol.

You paged Phoenix with ‘You lipped off to a Councilor in front of others, and tried to hide behind ‘well, gee, nothing I’m saying is technically insubordinate.’ This is what we call a bad idea with bad consequences.’.

Phoenix pages: That’s fair. I wasn’t trying to hide behind anything, though. :) I admitted I was wrong, and pointed out where. But sure. :) Wanna do it here, or elsewhere?

You paged Phoenix with ‘No, the Herald has to announce it to the Consi first.’.

Caleb shakes his head and writes something down on his white board to show Phoenix. He shakes his head and then erases the board to put it against his chest again. He’s clearly not all that happy sitting here. His hands wrap around the glass and he takes a sip. His lips up turn and he gags a little. He clearly does not like.

Phoenix pages: That would be… Chana?

Long distance to Phoenix: Jürg nods. I’ve already informed her.

Phoenix looks to the Dragon with some surprise, raising a curious eyebrow. “No, I don’t think I follow, Magister. But if you feel it deserves such a challenge, then I accept. I’ll learn from it either way, I suppose.” He gives Caleb a reassuring hug, signing something to him gently. “When and where does the Magister choose to engage in the Duel?” he asks when he turns around.

<OOC> Caleb realizes that he totally mis-read Jürg’s pose and his pc wouldn’t have done that…

“Would you like a second challenge for your boring pretense of not knowing what I’m talking about? Because I have to tell you, I’m looking forward to entering Double Jeopardy, where the scores can really change,” the Dragon answers flatly. “Your mouth. It’s running. You might want to stop that before it talks you into another Duel Arcane. If you don’t understand, then I suggest asking someone who’s of a mind to indulge you. I’m not.”

Clearly not a matter for a baby mage to involve herself in. Madalena glides away a few steps, not resettling herself, but simply standing in a relaxed, at ease position. Her hands fold in on each other, and one finger pushes the large ring she wears round and round her finger in an absent motion. And so, the banter of the evening dissipates, leaving just a cool breeze of tension behind.

Caleb stands up quickly and moves in front of Phoenix. His eyes full of rage. The tiny moros starts signing angrily at Jürg before offering the universal sign. He gives him the finger. He removes his jacket and cracks his knuckles. He starts signing some more to the man, angrily.

Phoenix pages: Ok. So, this got very out of hand, very quickly.

You paged Phoenix with ‘Pride is a stupid vice to indulge in, in front of a Councilor and to his face.’.

Phoenix pages: Did I do something to piss you off OOCly? Cuz that seems a bit of an over-reaction, when he was addressing you as a magister and quoted where he was wrong in the Adamant Way. Bit overkill for being irritated at being corrected on something regarding his watchtower.

“And there’s another challenge, I think,” the Dragon observes when Caleb gives him the finger. “Clearly, Phoenix is an awful influence on you. It’s not your fault. So, the terms of this Duel Arcane are simple: to determine whether Phoenix is a bad influence on you and whether you’re going to break up with him as a result. And you know I’m going to win. So: you get to choose. You can either sit down and shut up… right now… or you can know that I’m going to fuck over your life. Don’t call up that which you can’t put down. That sign calls up a lot you can’t put down.”

Phoenix pages: I mean, don’t get me wrong. I’m fine with the D.A as a game mechanic, but… man. Kind of harsh. :/

<OOC> Caleb didn’t realize his relationship with Pho was common knowledge.

You paged Phoenix with ‘It was grossly insubordinate, and that was even put there in your pose. You said, quite straightforwardly, how there was ‘veiled tension in his voice’. And the ‘I’m sure I’ll learn much from you’ was clearly, obviously, meant to be sarcasm that you could deny later. Jürg knows these games very well. As a Mastigos, he wrote the book on those games. And his reaction to some rank amateur trying to play those games on him is simple: he refuses to play.’.

Phoenix pages: Oookkk. I think you read more into that than was intended to be there. He was just irritated at being corrected.

<OOC> Jürg shrugs. I didn’t know. It was an obvious guess. Caleb shows up, he’s scared of everyone, can’t enter the room, has no problem cozying up to Phoenix, writes private messages back and forth to him, and as soon as Jürg calls for a DA Caleb completely loses it? The question isn’t whether they’re involved, the only question is how involved.

<OOC> Caleb says, “Ah! Good observations. :D”

You paged Phoenix with ‘And, of course, you paged with a remark about how Phoenix’s vice is Pride. Which leads me to believe that you were intending to indulge it. Okay, fine. This is what happens when you indulge Pride around a Councilor.’.

<+dice> Phoenix rolled Resolve + Composure for 0 successes.

<OOC> Phoenix says, “Really?”

<OOC> Madalena says, “Oh oh.”

<OOC> Phoenix says, “That’s a 7-dice pool. Intresting.”

Caleb hisses at the man as he continues signing. He shakes his head as he continues. It’s hard for the mute to make his point when no one can see what the heck he’s saying. He moves to his board and then walks back. He finally stops then moves over to the Dragon. He looks up at the man and writes. When he shows the board, he shows only Jürg.

Caleb pages: If you declare the challenge it’s in my right to choose the terms. Also you are missing the key. Service is Mastery. You are trying to lead by domination. That is against your own order.

<OOC> Phoenix sighs.

Phoenix moves in front of Caleb, trying to calm him down. “It’s alright, hey. It’s alright. Just sit down, breath, take it easy. Actually,” he says, looking over his shoulder at the Dragon when he makes his remark about another challenger, “just go home. Take a hot bath. I’ll be there in a little while.” He gives Caleb a reassuring smile, kissing him lightly on the forehead. “I’ll see you soon, ok?” He tries to seem calm about the whole affair, but fails to pull it off, clearly worried about the interaction between Caleb and Jürg. “Go on, get out of here.”

Phoenix pages: Alright, then. Lesson learned. I’m sure public humiliation will teach him not to make that mistake in the future.

There are things she’s been taught. One of them is respect for those more senior, and to follow the observed customs. The Duel Arcane is one such custom. Madalena’s attention hasn’t wavered from the building potential of disaster, but she’s not moving either. No expression to be seen now, just a stoic chilled composure. Even her hands are frozen in place, nothing moving.

“I’m a reasonable man, Phoenix,” the Dragon answers, calmly, with great composure. “I always have been. I’m willing to consider receiving your envoy to negotiate an outcome to this that doesn’t involve you being publicly humiliated and your relationship torn asunder. Let the Herald know who you wish to serve as a negotiator, should you desire to go down this route. Until then, or until your life is torn asunder, I wish you well.”

<OOC> Phoenix says, “See, now there’s a problem.”

<OOC> Phoenix says, “If Phoenix goes the route of negotiation, then he’s refused to learn through warfare, making him a pathetic excuse for an Arrow. And if he accepts, you’ve effectively just overextended your hand into matters that the Councilors have no right to pry into, and his only recourse is to either fight you and have you effectively bully him into whatever you want, or appeal to the Hierarch and his own Councilor, thus doing the same thing as if he refused the challenge. The terms of that challenge are, OOCly and ICly, kind of BS, dude. That’s kind of not cool.”

<OOC> Jürg says, “There’s nothing in the Adamant Way about learning through warfare.”

<OOC> Jürg says, “Nothing.”

<OOC> Jürg says, “Learning through conflict. And Jürg’s dropping quite a lot of conflict on him.”

<OOC> Jürg says, “The Adamant Way is found in politics as much as it is on the battlefield.”

<OOC> Jürg says, “Also, one of the most important skills for an Arrow isn’t just how to prevail in an open conflict, but how to keep things from becoming open conflicts. The Adamant Way is fundamentally about using the wisdom derived from conflict to advance the cause of peace. It really has little to do with punching and kicking and knives.”

Caleb pages: I’d like to work something out with you OOCly, if you don’t mind.

You paged Caleb with ‘I’m listening.’.

Caleb pages: Caleb is still a young twit. He’s 23 and full of piss and wind. If he was to attempt to physically attack Jürg, though the chances of him hitting are zero, what would Jürg do?

<OOC> Madalena apologizes, sorry to bail in the middle of the conflict, but it’s getting late and I have to be up early tomorrow. I hope things get resolved.

<OOC> Caleb nods.

<OOC> Phoenix says, “Goodnight Mada.”

<OOC> Phoenix says, “Caleb, it’s your pose.”

<OOC> Caleb nods. “Give me a second…”

You paged Caleb with ‘Have Cytosine exile him, probably.’.

You paged Caleb with ‘Taking a swing at a Councilor, especially one that Caleb’s Councilor likes, trusts and respects, is a great way to get Caleb’s Councilor to invite him to leave town.’.

Caleb eyes narrow as he’s ignored. He shakes his head at Pho and glares at Jürg. He moves in front of Pho and looks up at Jürg. He frowns as he listens and stands there silently for a moment. He erases his board and writes something down. How can you call yourself a leader? How can you call yourself a man? He shows Jürg. I know the Adamant way. I challenge you here, now. No magics. Just us. I probably wont win but that’s not the point of my challenge. My point is to prove that even with all your enlightenment, you’re just a bully.

“My God,” the Dragon muses. “You must think I just fell off the turnip truck. If I say ‘yes’ to this, then if I pound you into hamburger you’re going to claim a moral victory in your suffering. If I say ‘no’ to this, then you’re going to denounce me as a coward for being unwilling to beat you into hamburger. You really need to learn better plays: your current playbook is one I outgrew when I was thirteen. No. And since you haven’t sat down and shut up, you just talked yourself into a Duel Arcane. And with that, gentlemen, I now remember two very salient points. First, Tvath was the only interesting person in this room after Calliope left: and second, my legs work. The Herald will be announcing my challenges and their causes to the Consilium shortly. I wish you pleasant days.”

Caleb shakes his head. No. He writes down on his board. You will not be challenging either of us, since we’ve done nothing wrong and we’ve not agreed. Now walk away before you embarrass yourself. He shows the Dragon and shakes his head.

The Dragon raises an eloquent eyebrow. “So, after I tell you my intent to leave … you command me to leave? Why, I hear and obey, O Dread Lord. Au revoir.”

<OOC> Phoenix says, “Ok, srsly, this is just stupid. What the hell is going on here?”

<OOC> Phoenix says, “I’m totally lost.”

<OOC> Caleb says, “It’s a pathetic pissing contest.”

<OOC> Caleb says, “One that isn’t needed by someone decided he needed it.”

<OOC> Jürg says, “Phoenix was insubordinate and tried to hide sarcasm behind double meanings. Jürg refuses to play that game. Jürg challenged Phoenix. Caleb then decided to get involved. Jürg gave Caleb a clear choice: back out of it, or else it was going to escalate. Caleb chose to not back out. That’s what led us here.”

<OOC> Phoenix says, “This is a no-win situation over something that was read way too far into on way too many levels. Is this really necessary? This does not promote fun for any involved.”

<OOC> Phoenix says, “This is just… drama.”

<OOC> Caleb nods.

<OOC> Jürg says, “With respect to Caleb, I gave a very clear way to avoid drama: Caleb chose not to pursue it.”

<OOC> Jürg says, “With respect to Phoenix, Jürg has declared he’ll consider receiving an envoy to negotiate a settlement.”

<OOC> Jürg says, “IC actions have IC consequences.”

<OOC> Jürg says, “Lip off to a Councilor, or give one the finger, especially if you’re a new PC on the grid, and you’re going to be in a very bad spot.”

<OOC> Caleb says, “With all due respect, when has shut up and sit down ever had any good results?”

<OOC> Phoenix says, “I didn’t lip off to him. I conceded the point.”

<OOC> Phoenix says, “I conceded the point along the Adamant Way. Which is what a Talon should do. Was he happy about it? No. But he wasn’t insubordinate in the least.”

<OOC> Jürg says, “Caleb: it would have, here, had the good result of Caleb avoiding a fight that you knew he cannot win.”

<OOC> Caleb says, “Obviously you do not understand the question.”

<OOC> Jürg says, “Insubordination can also be implicit. Veiled hostility, dark humor in the words, etc., etc. — if you talk like that to a drill instructor you’re going to get wall-to-wall counseling.”

<OOC> Caleb says, “You read layers where there wasn’t any. He conceded the point.”

<OOC> Jürg says, “Take it IC, guys.”

<OOC> Caleb says, “I’m going to talk to staff about it. It’s not your way or the highway. Have a good night.”

<OOC> Phoenix says, “Why? No matter what’s said, you have the almighty Councilor trump card, and no matter what he says abotu the Adamant Way, clearly, is going to be hostile.”

Caleb goes home.

Caleb has left.

<OOC> Phoenix sighs. “This is no win. I’ll talk to the Herald, see what the options are, and I’ll get back to you. This was in no way fun, and entirely unnecessary. Thank you for the RP.”

Phoenix goes home.

Phoenix has left.