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 No.705176[View All]

Post your sheets!
1024 posts and 6 image replies omitted. Click reply to view.


Vine waves goodbye and leaves through the door in the yew tree, shutting it behind herself. It locks, and a rune manifests over it, sealing the gateway once more to keep the two worlds safe and separate.

William grinds his teeth. "Perhaps, but I can't forgive it. Forget all that stuff about keeping the balance between nature and society, or the spirit world and the mortal world. I can't forgive something so brutish as an abuse of power, like what they did to those people. It's rotten to the core… it makes me wonder why the people at the top haven't been more attentive to your world."

As you make your way back to the road, you find a small coin purse with a partly torn strap, hanging from some bramble son a nearby bush, which some unfortunate traveler left behind. The cracks and weather-worn appearance indicate that this bag was lost quite some time ago, years likely. A brief inspection shows that it's not trapped or anything like that, and inside you find 80 Bits to split as you please.

Once you're back on the road, you follow it a good while, and after about an hour, you emerge from the mushroom forest, finding that it is now late afternoon. Slight exhaustion wears over you from the day's travel, and you're also feeling somewhat hungry. A checkpoint awaits ahead, consisting of a large gate that intersects with the road perpendicularly, and has a small guard station, manned by a team of four guards. The guards briefly look up.

"Papers?" the head guard asks. He and the other guards glare at the Branded, who only smiles as he and the others in your party get out their passports.


brambles on*


(I'm assuming my crit is what found that lmao)
Siro will gladly show her little discovery to everyone, and split it between all seven of them. So, 10 each! And she'll give the extra 10 to whoever wants it.

Once they reach the guard post, though, she'll give the guards a friendly wave, and pull out her little passport, just like before. They're making progress, at the least! "We're not too far off from town now, I presume? I'm getting a bit peckish myself, so I could do with a meal."


"Thank you." I nod my head down in a show of thanks as I pocket the coins in my own bag.


"Come now, Siro. The extra is the finder's fee." he remarks, pushing the hoof offering the extra money back into her snout. "I think we're pretty close though, yeah." he remarks, before looking to the guard.

"Right here. I hope everything's been well today." he offers, smiling a little bit as he hands the passport over.


Communion absorbs her bits from Sirocco gratefully. "Thanks! Good eye, seeing it from all the way over there." She smiles at the painted pegasus.

As they walk, the goo-pony starts to look like she feels better. Her exterior is more pronounced, she no longer droops at the ends of things and there is even a slight spring in her step. It's obvious that she takes solace from being on the trail.

When they reach the guard post, Communion produces her passport from her watery interior. It is dry as she pulls it out, however. She notices the guards eyeing the Branded, and she can't blame them. He is a fearsome sight, and a prisoner to boot. Defensively, she makes sure to stand right by him and smile winningly at each of the guards in turn.


Suncatcher nods appreciatively for the cash. "Nice, that should cover tonight's dinner handily."
The spirit-kitten meows from atop Communion's back, looking at the money, clearly understanding it.
Candelabrum gives it a nasty look. "You need to earn your keep before you get any of our money."
The kitten hisses at him.

The guards check your passports with bored expressions, handing them back just as quickly. "It's only a short walk from here," the head guard confirms.
"Why'd they have to build this checkpoint this far out of town, I'll never know," another guard grumbles.
"When you become Sage, you can do something about it!" the head guard jokes. "Quit grumbling in front of the nice pilgrims. Speaking of which, you folks can go on ahead, enjoy your day."


After another period of walking, you come to the stone gates of a cozy town, much bigger than the first little outpost that you encountered along the pilgrimage route; it's more comparable to the busy port town where you first arrived aboard the Generous Fates. A sign at the entrance introduces it as Gladiolus, a haven for pilgrims and all of Albion's guests. Even in the late afternoon sun, many townspeople are out and about, taking care of business. There are quite a few people about, of various races, and you even see some driders and hippogriffs, a rare sight, walking around as well.

The leader of the Troupe of Very Large Ponies gestures first to a cozy little shop with a roof designed like a wizard's hat, and then to an inn down the road from it.

"That's the rune shop, and the inn's right there if you're planning to spend the night. The Sage's castle is in the center of town, which is a few streets down to the east, and Sage Peat takes walk-ins until about eight," he explains. He checks a pocket-watch. "It's five now, so we've plenty of time. We're going to go see her this evening to report what those Druids did under her watch. It'd be good to have you there, since you're eyewitnesses, but if you're really eager to get going, the gate out of town is on the other side."

"I think we ought to talk to the Sage," Suncatcher agrees. "What do you all think?"



Communion chuckles at the kitten, hardly daring imagine what vile curses went untranslated.

As they arrive, the goo-pony stretches a bit. It's been a long day, and she's carrying a bit of extra weight now. Feeling it acutely, she nods to the leader of the ToVLP as he suggests their presence. She pipes up after Suncatcher.
"Agreed. But maybe it'd be a good idea to keep the you-know-what somewhere safe, just in case." It's clear she doesn't think it's safe to talk about the artifact in the open, and she hopes the others catch her cue.


The mare scrunches up her nose as Pip pushes his hoof, and her money, against it. She sticks out her tongue, before grabbing the bits in her mouth, and dropping them into her own purse. "Thanks, sweetie, but I'm just going to end up spending it on you~"

Sirocco can't help but raise an eyebrow as Communion slurps up the coins. That sure is one way to keep them safe.

Before they move on, the painted pegasus gives a dismissive wave to the guards. "Hey, no worries, I think it's a bit silly that they built it so far out myself. Regardless of weird placements, I hope you all have a good day as well."

Once they actually get into town, though, Sirocco takes a few minutes to prace through the air, and peek around at a few of the buildings. It's an impressive little town, for sure, and if they weren't tasked with a delivery, she wouldn't mind sticking around for a week or two. However, she has a package to deliver, and a druid problem to fix, so, once she touches back down and hears Suncatcher's suggestion, she'll nod along. "Definitely, especially since it'll give us a chance to see what's going on with the sage. Though, for now, perhaps try not to uh…" She lowers her voice a little, and makes sure no one is listening. "If we're going to keep the bell safe with us, we might not want to mention that to her."


"Agreed," Candelabrum says. "Until we know how those 'Scourge' Druids got it, and whether we can trust Sage Peat, we shouldn't bring it up. For all we know, she's the one who passed it their way."
"It won't do to let suspicion affect our judgment of the Sage," the Branded says. "Let's save the speculation until we get her side of the story."


Pippali sticks his tongue out, and pats at the mare's head again before booping her snout.

"Sounds like a solid idea to me- we should take care of it sooner rather than later, so we don't deal with the last minute rush of audiences, yeah? Then we can get some food, after." he suggests.


As Pippali suggests they go see the Sage sooner rather than later, the others in your group look to each other. "That sounds fine to me," Candelabrum says. "How about you? Sage first or Runes first?"


Communion looks around. She shrugs. "Sage first?"

She looks around for the town well.


"Hey, I've got no preference. The runes can wait, because I'm fairly certain we won't need them to talk to the sage, aye?"


"I do agree with such. The runes can wait."


With a nod, your party goes with the Troupe, heading down a few of the winding streets to the east. The town, built partly into a hill, is full of tightly-compact streets, with shrines and statues every few houses, giving you a good amount of waypoints to remember the path through the town. The scenery depicts heroes of yore, venerable old sages, and religious icons, which fixate upon noble heroes driving back vicious, nightmarish spirits.

In short order, you come to the center of town, where a small castle lies, with an inner courtyard and some office buildings, surrounded by a wall. The town well sits a few meters before it. The gardens are well-kept, and the walls are decorated with stained glass, a decoration style borrowed from Equestria. The Troupe asks for some directions from passing scribes, who direct them to the castle's foremost building, at the center.

Upon entering the castle, you find yourselves in a long hallway, with modest stone walls. The whole castle smells pleasantly of moss and flowers, and you find that the floor is covered with soft grass. At the end of the hall is a large desk, where an elderly scribe and his assistant sit. Upon seeing you, the old scribe beckons you forward. "Good evening, folks. What is your business here?"


"I sure hope we won't." he says, chuckling a little bit. The chuckling dies down, and he lets out a soft cough.
"Ehm… with how things are, that might be… n-no, no. It'll be fine."


Communion hopes there won't be any more fighting today. She's about had it with violence. Still, just in case, she crafts a quick plan B and sets about preparing herself.

As they wander through town, Communion spots a small nook behind an artful shrine. While pretending to take a closer look at the iconography, she surreptitiously splits off a bit of herself with the bell inside. The tiny pseudo-pony drags the bell off into a hole in the back of the shrine and covers itself cleverly. Satisfied, a slightly-smaller goo pony takes a moment to finish her study of the shrine before rushing to catch up with the rest of the party.


As we walk into the shrine, I get an urge, and decided to pat communion on the head as we walk into the shrine.


Siro gives Pippali some aggressively loving pats to hush him up. "Shhhh. Sh."

As they wander through town, the mare takes notes of the interesting architecture, and the overabundance of religious fixtures. Though, it did make sense, considering the fact that they were on, well, a religious path. Once they arrive at the weird castle, she's finds immediate intrigue in the grassy floor. That had to be absolute hell to upkeep. Though, maybe it's just magically grown. Yeah, probably. "Hm? Oh, right, we're here to speak to the Sage. We've got something to report about a few druids out in the woods."


"Well, this might be a tad cramped, but it's really nice here. I think if we didn't keep running into trouble, this'd make for a great place to sightsee." he remarks, giving her a soft pat on the withers in response to her own aggressive patting.

Pippali bows his head in greeting, and says "Yeah, we came to speak with the sage. We've had a run-in with some druids that was rather… interesting, to say the least."


Communion, wrapped up in her own thoughts, doesn't see the pat coming, and it splashes right into her head. Startled, she looks up at the griffon, and then smiles warmly. "Oh hi."

Communion lets the others do the talking. She is actually fascinated by the art and architecture of the castle. She busies herself kneeling and studying the grass floor as the others talk, though always has one ear perked toward the conversation.


"Would you kindly indulge my curiosity about what you are looking at?" I tilt my head at her.


You hide the artifact securely before anyone can suspect that something's up.

The Troupe, realizing what you're up to, just nod in confirmation of your vague descriptions.
The scribe sees nothing amiss, scribbling down a few notes onto a sheet of paperwork. He checks a rather large, tattered schedule-book, muttering to himself in the way old people tend to do. "You're in luck. There was a cancellation of an appointment for this hour not long ago."

He makes a note in the schedule-book, and then passes off the paperwork to the assistant. "Follow her, please. The Sage shall be with you in a moment."

The assistant, an elderly mare about the scribe's age, leads you down a hallway. "Right this way."

You proceed down a few corridors, making twists and turns that allow you to see more of the vast castle, decorated not with statues, but living murals upon the walls, constructed of flowers deliberately woven into illustrations of history, much like tapestries, only truly alive. A beautiful sight, but not for those tragically weak to pollen.

The assistant eventually unlocks a large waiting room, with many chairs on the sides, and another doorway at the other end, flanked by two guards. "Please wait here until you are called. You don't have to surrender your weapons, but we ask that you keep them holstered until you have left the premises. The same goes for magic and magic items."


After a few minutes of waiting, you are called into the next room. The two guards accompany you into a large, rounded chamber, like the sanctuary of a church. It is well lit and full of flowers. Several pews are lined up in the front half of the room, while on the other half, there is a magnificent chair that is raised on an elevated platform, with a desk before it. As you enter, another figure, enters, from the other side of the chamber.

The figure is a middle-aged crystal pony mare, with a light brown body and light brown eyes, her mane green and full of flowers. She wears a similarly green robe, and bifocal glasses. She wears a sour frown, obviously in a bad mood, and from her mouth dangles a long cigarette. Taking a seat in the chair, she smiles at you, forcing herself to put on a friendly demeanor. "Good evening, travelers. I am Sage Peat of the Marsh, Matriarch of the Druids and custodian of the Land of the Marsh. You are…?"


Sirocco just sorta looks at her hooves when the guards talk about not unholstering any weapons. Hm.
Regardless, she spends her time in the waiting room harassing Pip with affectionate nuzzles, and flapping around, looking at all the interesting plants and murals.

She reigns in her playful, loose demeanor once they get called inside, and after the sage's introduction, she bows, and tells her exactly who she is. She's not exactly keen on annoying this sage any more than she already appears to be. "My name is Swirling Sirocco, and I'm a traveling monk. I'll leave my friends to introduce themselves, but we're here to discuss a few druids we met out in the woods, who attacked us, and some travelers."


Pippali is more than happy to accept the nuzzles, letting the mare get away with as many as she wants.

Pippali pulls away from Sirocco, and offers another bow to the Sage. "Greetings, Sage. My name is Pippali, and I'm a traveling warrior. We've come with some rather disturbing news about a group of druids in the woods, who we encountered on the way here."


Communion blinks up at him. "Well, to be honest, I was just wondering who cuts the grass here. I know some goats that would jump at the chance for the job!" She laughs, putting a curved appendage to the back of her head.
"But seriously, a lot of this art is really cool, too. I'll point out what I know if you like!" She looks excited at the prospect of a captive audience.

Communion's gooey eyeballs are bloated and on a swivel as they walk through the castle. There are some historical figures and scenes she recognizes, and she makes sure to point them out to Soft. "This one's the first Sage of the Marsh." "This one's Saint Orore." She even hazards some guesses at the pieces she doesn't actually know. "Here you can see some… er, well, bad guys, I guess." She seems pretty happy to have an audience to blather on to.

When they finally come before Peat, Communion is all respect. She offers a watery curtsy. "Sage Peat. My name is Communion." She allows the others to explain the initial situation, and pipes up a bit when it seems pertinent to mention certain details. "We believe they were in possession of a powerful artifact which allowed them to summon spirits and open rifts in the Sidhe."


"I believe the phrase is, "I am all ears." my humorous friend." I stand attentive.


"I'm Candelabrum, and this is Suncatcher, and there's… the Branded one," Candelabrum says. Suncatcher and the Branded offer smiles as greeting.
"And I'm Eigh, and this is my wife Bea," the Troupe leader says. "Then there's Sea, Deeh, Ii, Ef, and Jee."
Peat blinks at the many introductions, a bit overwhelmed at first. She then blinks at Pippali, Soft and Sirocco. "Oh? Oh, you're the ones Haggis wrote about. Some of you are, anyway. I should thank you for your work with those Gobbeetles, and give you my condolences for the one who died. Nasty business. We're still looking for the ones responsible for taking them from their natural habitat, north of here. Normally, our trappers are good at culling excess monster populations and chasing off poachers and collectors. I'm not sure how these monster-thieves managed to sneak off with carts full of Gobbeetles, but we have a few leads."

After the introductions, Communion offers a key detail to the story. Peat's eye twitches, and the cigarette nearly drops from her mouth as her face turns white. With a deep inhale, she grimaces, her blood pressure probably rising by the second. "Please, continue," she strains, rubbing her forehead. She takes out a tiny dragon from her pocket and holds it up to the cigarette. It lights it with a burp of fire, and the cigarette flares blue smoke, spewing forth fizzy fireworks.


Communion decides to take the lead. "We have an idea that these druids acquired the artifact through an extensive network of corruption. Have you ever heard of any such thing, Matriarch?" She sounds aghast at her own suggestion.


She continues on unabated. "Now, if wind of such a scale of corruption were to reach certain ears, it could be bad for other certain someones. That could make a leader sound weak, or worse, complacent in the corruption itself. I have heard that there are certain parties that would not want that kind of information to get out." Communion licks her already watery lips. "Now, I have a feeling that we can all reach an understanding that doesn't have to leave this room. All we ask is some information." She seems confident.


"Yes. As our companion here said, they were in posession of a Bell. They intended to use it in some sort of ritual, involving Eigh's family here as sacrifices." the zebra explains.



I stand idly behind twiddling my own thumbs


"Ah, well, to go more in depth, they appear to have used the artifact to open a door to Sidhe and call spirits over to our side. They were attempting to make them possess these poor folks, and they confirmed as much before we knocked them out. Before that, we also found a large gem that was covering a huge section of the path in fog, and, when shattered, released a great deal of spirits back into the world. I believe those were spirits called from Sidhe and trapped here by those same druids."

She gives Communion an incredulous look as she tries to… threaten the sage? "Communion, please, show a little patience, and maybe some common sense. Goodness, just tone it back for a few minutes. I-I'm sorry about that, Peat. I'm not going to make any accusations without further knowledge."


Communion hears the words of the pegasus. She nods and defers to her teammates. If they want to play along, she will play nice. For now. She eyes the sage with mistrust, absentmindedly petting the kitten with an impossibly bending foreleg.


"Son of a BITCH!" Sage Peat suddenly exclaims, biting down on her cigarette so hard it nearly flies into the ceiling. The troupe family appears rather disturbed.
One of the guards clears his throat, producing a jar from his coat pocket. Peat groans and tosses a coin into it.
With a long sigh, Peat settles down into her chair. "Pardon my Prench. Your report is disappointing, but not surprising in the least. This is just another of a long line of alleged incidents blamed on Druids in some way. There's…"
Another guard brings a stack of papers to Peat's table, and she looks over it. "Burglary, disruption of monster habitats with intent to cause a monster rampage, robbery of merchant caravans, destruction of property belonging to foreign business investors, including arson, sabotage of factory machinery, and vandalism, threatening letters, and…"
She squints. "…Tax evasion. Had to get everything in there, didn't they?"
Setting aside the papers, she fixes her gaze squarely on Communion. "You're half-right. The rest of these events can be dismissed as isolated incidents, and with the 'cooperation' of the newspapers and some general statements about how we're going to put an end to this rash of completely-unrelated-freak-crimes, we can keep the public relatively calm.

"The theft of the Bell, on the other hand, is going to be a disaster for PR. The Four Treasures are powerful relics, passed down from the Watchers to aid in the protection of the land against any conceivable threats: foreign invasion, civil war, monster attacks, disease outbreaks, mass starvation, natural disaster, so on and so forth. You know of them?"


"Hm… I know the folks we ran into were intent on "forcing foreigners out of Albion", but some of those crimes just seem like… well, crimes. I'm not sure what tax evasion has to do with getting back at foreigners, so that's perplexing." The pegasus taps at her chin a bit, and tilts her head from side to side as she thinks. "Mmmmmmm, so, would you happen to know anypony by the name of "Lugh"? That was the leader of the little band we trashed. Oh, and, yes, we do know of the four treasures, of course. Have you heard any news of any of the other treasures being stolen?"


Communion can hardly believe her ears. "A disaster for… PR??" She manages to bite her tongue.
In an aside to William: "This is exactly what I'm talking about."

"Matriarch, begging your pardon, but weren't the Four Treasures meant to help deal with 'situations' such as these? Why haven't you used the power of the Bell yourself?"


"Be… because it was stolen?"


"I imagine she couldn't, seeing as it was taken."

"It was Lugh, yeah. He seemed pretty sure of having allies, but I think he was bluffing. I know the Sages don't always get along, but have any of the others said something about missing artifacts? Or, have any been near here recently?"


"I guess tax evasion is fighting against the establishment?" I shrug.


"Oh yeah." She deflates a bit.


"The majority of the crimes are directed at known foreigners," Peat explains. "The most common victims have been foreign business owners who've bought land and started expanding their businesses here, or are harvesting natural resources. The profile of the most common victim, to be specific, are factory owners. Magitech is really getting a good start here. Some Europony investors are bringing technology over to Equestria and other places, and the market's rapidly growing, especially in places like Albion that were slow to adopt technology like the phone and the train.

"Anyway, almost none of the known victims were native-born Albionites. My guess is that while the majority of the crimes are targeted against foreigners, a few Druids – or people claiming to be Druids – are taking advantage of the chaos to get in their own sick fantasies of consequence-free crime. I mean for goodness' sake, we don't even tax the Druids that much! Damn cheapskates."

"Lugh, hrm? That makes sense…" the Sage muses for a moment. "Allow me to explain. I and the other Sages have known for a while about the existence of an extremist faction among the lower ranks of the Druids: they reject any industrial technology, pointing to pollution, environmental destruction and species extinction in other countries as a sure sign of its ills. Essentially, they're luddites. That undercurrent has always existed in Albion, to be fair. We've always been isolated, apart from our involvement with Equestria's Celestian cult. Things could've gone better, but when Albion started to open its doors to foreign travelers a few hundred years back, the first wave of travelers ended up consisting of poachers, treasure-hunters, thieves and bandits, who saw the shrines to the Aos Si, and the Sidhe itself, as nothing more than riches for the taking.

"It's people like that that have become boogeymen for this extremist faction, and stories from Equestria only serve to aid in bringing over impressionable minds to their cause – such as everything that the buffalo in Equestria have suffered. Lugh was one of the more vocal members of the extremists, at least in the land of the Marsh. I don't know the names of the other Sages' Druids, but in discussing this previously, I've heard two names, Buide and Derg, come up a lot. Those two, like Lugh, started off as orphans adopted by the Druids. Ironically, they themselves are from Equestria, not Albion."

She takes a long drag on her cigarette. "I haven't heard of the other Sages missing their artifacts, but if the extremists stole the Bell, there's a chance they could and would steal the other artifacts. Not that the Sages would ever admit it. But, if I were to write to them of this incident, there's a chance they'll redouble the security around their vaults. I don't think any of the Sages, even Reforged, as traditional and tree-hugging as he is, would ever help the extremist faction like that."


The concept of technology and equestrian hating druids isn't exactly new to Sirocco, especially considering that Lugh was kind enough to explain the reasons he was doing what he was, though she wished she'd known that he was from equestria so she could've rubbed it in his smug face. "So, a bunch of crazy fools who are trying to stir up trouble and trying to blame all misfortune on outsiders? Not a new concept, but concerning nonetheless. Have you or the other sages ever tried stopping them, or have they been mostly harmless before recently?"

"And, as nice as it would be to trust every Sage, if Reforged is a "traditional treehugger", like you say, we'll make sure to be a little cautious if we end up visiting. As for the bell, if we find it in our travels, who should we give it to in order to assure it makes it back safely? If it'd be safe to come by again, we could always deliver it on the way back, since I believe we'll be headed back down this way after we finish the path."


Communions sour face softens as she listens to Peat speak. Perhaps she was hasty to imagine that the druids had such influence as Lugh implied. For now, again, she would have to put her trust in the unknown.
"What are your personal feelings on the expansion of technology and foreign influence in your realm?" This time there is no bite to the question. Communion is genuinely curious.


"I don't think he mentioned either of those. He did say he got the bell via Dead Drop, so maybe he's working with one of them here… or, someone here is working with him. Regardless, sending that letter sounds like the best bet."

"Magitech? I think Sirocco's told me about that a few times… it never really stuck, so to speak. Anywho, yeah- has anything ever been done about these Druids?"


"I do love the convenience of new technologies."


"Until this year, there was hardly a need to even acknowledge the issue," Peat continues. "The Druids did their work, and we Sages did ours. Only recently have there been any reports of violence by Druids against foreigners and their property. All these so-called 'extremists' ever did was grumble and mull over their grievances, so I at least never saw much point in trying to police their attitudes. I would imagine that there had to be some kind of inciting incident for them to go from griping and whining to actually acting on their views and terrorizing foreigners. Based on what they're so concerned about, perhaps some kind of environmental disaster?"

As Sirocco brings up where the Bell ought to go, Peat takes another drag on her cigarette, nearly burning it out. "…Here wouldn't be the best option. Ordinarily, the Bell is kept in a special vault in this castle. I may as well tell you, since it's clearly been compromised. The vault has physical and magical locking mechanisms that involve extensive knowledge of manipulating and releasing powerful Runes. It's also sturdy enough to withstand brute force attacks, and enchanted to prevent someone just teleporting in and out. That narrows down the list of potential thieves greatly, but that's still about 50 people. And, without knowing how they got in without alerting anyone, it's possible that they could just break into the Vault again and steal the Bell once more.

"We have another, backup hiding spot, one that I can't tell you about. If you were to find it, I can give my word that I will turn over all other duties to my assistants and spend as much time as needed guarding it personally. That's how severe this problem is."

>You can roll to gauge her intentions if she seems suspicious.

"What do I care?" Peat asks bluntly. "Technological progress can't be stopped – especially that which provides convenience. He's got the right idea," she says, gesturing to Soft. "Let the people have what they want; you certainly won't be able to turn them away from it by warning about the danger to the environment. In the end, the people won't care, and there's a tidy profit to be made by bringing it in – not just to the investors, but to us, the Sages."

"As for these extremists, they need to be stopped. Doesn't matter by whom, foreigner or no. As I said, I'll write to the other Sages. Maybe word of the Bell getting stolen will actually knock some sense into them and get them to crack down on their people. In exchange, however, this information about the Bell is not to be let loose to the general public. We Sages will deal with this quietly. We have an image to think about, you know."




I grin and my feathers puff up a bit as I raise my head up proudly from the compliment that was given to me.

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