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File: 1545015454796.png (1.23 MB, 2750x1885, The Drifters.png)

 No.706639[Last 50 Posts]

The Drifters have made their escape from the town of Braildorn, having been made outlaws by their new nemesis Lysander. Once an adventurer like themselves, Lysander has fallen victim to his own hubris and greed, desperate to be seen as a true dragon. The party's first encounter with him led to him becoming crippled, and the party taking his ship for themselves. To make things more complex, the egg they discovered in the vault deep in the Shifting Sands is a seal preventing an entity known as the Cuckoo from awakening, an event which would result in the decimation of the Echoes as they know it.

Not only has Lysander joined forces with a mysterious being named only the Oneiromancer, but he has also discovered the location of the Cuckoo's egg. He, the Oneiromancer, and several others seem to be part of a collective that seek the egg, though for what purpose is unclear; indeed, Lysander seems blind to the egg's true nature, coveting it as a rare and valuable treasure. Seeking to oppose Lysander are a blind wanderer called Dawn, her partner Carabas, and their missing friend Etrigan.

The long term goal the party have made is clear from this: stop Lysander from getting to the egg, however possible. This is an even more pressing matter due to what the party discovered when they visited the vault: not only is the Cuckoo's egg there, but Discord, the primordial god of chaos, is sealed away there, turned to stone but still able to speak. If Lysander were to reach the vault, he would surely make an alliance with the Draconequus, making him an even greater threat. However, Lysander's whereabouts are unknown, for now; until the party can gain some insight into this, they cannot do much to stop him.

For now, the party's goals are twofold:

They have heard of a place to the north called the Dreaming Spring, where Hermodur got some of his Dreamwater from. Lilies from this spring are one of three components needed to liberate a spirit held captive by the swamp druid Black Pudding. Visiting this spring would not only help them in liberating the spirit, but also in acquiring more of the water, which has the unique quality of showing whoever the user thinks of when drinking it.

They have also caught wind of an upcoming event in the Echoes called the Swap Meet, a gathering for drifters from all over the land to come and buy, sell and trade all manner of goods. This event is unique in that while it is held, it is forbidden (by whom it is unknown) to harm anyone. Essentially, this means that everyone who attends a Swap Meet is under truce. This time around, the Swap Meet is being held in a distant place called the Weeping City, so called because it never stops raining on the abandoned metropolis.


A red sun rises in the morning. One by one, you awaken to the sound of birds and insects far below you as your ship flies idly above the Broad River. It is quite early right now, about 5 or 6am. Braildorn is but a speck on the horizon by now. The entirety of this strange land lies before you.

Violet hasn't stirred yet, exhausted from last night's ordeal, and is sleeping soundly on her mattress face down, snoring slightly. Meanwhile, Aurora seems to have taken a liking to the crow's nest, and has made it into a more literal nest, already awake and keeping a lookout up above. It is her that wakes you at this early hour, calling out from above. Her voice carries on the wind. "Portal! Portal on the starboard bow!"


The Visionary:

It was supposed to be a simple task: pay a visit to Magister Sevenstreams, retrieve the Trapezohedron, and carry it to the coordinates specified. Only, there was no one to greet you when you arrived, save for grim faced authorities. The one thing that gnaws at the back of your mind is that very few would have known about your rendezvous; as with all Junsei contracts, the only ones that would have known are the contractor and the leaders of House Junsei themselves. Someone set you up. Perhaps one of the rival families bought out Sevenstreams, or there's a snitch inside House Junsei itself. You may never know.

It is under these treacherous circumstances that you found yourself trapped in an iron cage, facing a jeering crowd as you awaited the plunge into a rainbow pool. Eventually, it came; the hangman cut the rope suspending your cage, and you fell into the multicolored abyss below. The colors churned and roiled around you, spinning madly like a psychedelic top. Eventually, your vision blurs, and you know no more.

When you come to, you find yourself in an unfamiliar area. You are still inside the iron cage for now, but it slowly and loudly creaks open, throwing you out into the Echoes. When you get your bearings, you see that you have landed in a dense woodland area, although the trees and the birds are alien to you. You find you are alone here; as far as you can see, there's no signs of civilization anywhere. Nearby, you can see a clearing, while behind you, the woodlands seem to grow thinner, from which you could get a good view of what lies beyond the woods. You can also hear a faint noise coming seemingly from above the canopy. It sounds like a idle droning hum, as of some strange machine.
>roll Perception


File: 1545015585039-0.png (46.11 KB, 935x1145, Violet Moon.png)

File: 1545015585039-1.png (67.47 KB, 735x1451, Aurora d'Arbanville.png)

Bonus arts



Groaning, Aegi lifted herself and hopped off the cage. She took a look at her surroundings until her gaze settled on herself, admiring the shield, the only real belonging she was allowed to bring with her along with extra clothes and whatever she could fit in a small bag
As she looked over her items in thought, her ears picked up the faint sound, and she quickly set foward to investigate it


Roll #1 7 = 7



Having since fixed the bedroom with Rabi's help, i awake to his familiar presence warming the bed next to me. Intent on cuddling for a time more, i'm interrupted by Aurora's shouts from the crow's nest.

Slipping into my Armor's underdress, i rush up to the deck, mane still askew.

"A portal? Are we close enough to reach it? What do you see up there?"



I press my hands against my back and stretch. It cracks, and I let out a mixture of a pained groan and a pleased moan. These beds ain't much, but they beat a cold, hard cell any day. I glance down at Violet sloppily snoozing, smile, and let out a warm chuckle. Especially sharing it with my strong, beautiful marefriend.

As I'm taking the time to tug on my new suit I hear Aurora above. Petal? Are those two back? Surprised they can even port to a moving position. After buttoning up my suit jacket, I pull out my lucky charm, flip it, and tuck it into my wide brimmed hat band shamrock side out. I briefly consider waking Violet but decide to let her rest. Without rushing too much I head to the deck.


File: 1545018248847.png (236.25 KB, 1360x1404, Zor.png)

Zunden bolts awake as she hears shouting right next to her, coming to slightly bewildered as she again sees more than just the vision in front of her, instead the whole ship. She finds Aurora shouting in the crow's nest, and almost instinctively influences the ship to start turning right. She marvels for a moment at how quickly her reaction was, deciding she must be getting more used to controlling these strange artifacts.

>Two Enlightenment Points Spent, Custom Talent unlocked

>Antiquarian; passive: Zunden's repeated exposure to magical artifacts has lead her to become more familiar with identifying and using them effectively. Zunden can roll to identify magic artifacts with greater success than someone with an untrained eye, and can use most any artifact without restriction or detriment.

She starts raise out of her bed, beckoning the Servitor which had been watching over her all night to help her to the deck.


Rabi flicks his eyes open and groans a little as he hears Aurora call out, giving Silver a soft squeeze before doing much else. While he'd prefer to stick in bed for a little while longer, nice and cozy, but a portal sounds important!

He follows after Silver, leaving his cloak off for now to look around for the portal!


You look around, but are unable to get a good view of whatever the sound is from where you are, blocked as you are by the thick foliage above. You move into the nearby clearing to get a better view. A strange sight comes into view: something resembling a sailing ship is flying overhead, made of ebony wood with a long spike on the front. It sports three large fan-like sails, and two additional sails on the sides, almost like the fins of a fish. It must have some sort of magic to be able to fly like that. Behind you, the portal that dropped you here spirals and vanishes.

As you observe the odd ship, you pick the sound of snapping branches behind you. Looking around, you see an eerie red glow on one of the tree trunks, like a single piece of burning coal. Two more of these red glows appear nearby, almost like eyes watching you keenly.

The area around the eyes begins to shift and obscure, revealing rippling ropy black shapes camouflaged in the foliage. They are creatures of some sort, seemingly composed of squirming pitch black tendrils. The first one you noticed has seven arms arranged around its central eye, like spokes on a wheel. The second monster appears in a vaguely canine form, with two tentacles bursting from its back. The third is a formless ooze with a single powerful limb bursting from the center, ending in a many fingered groping claw. The three monsters surround you, moving slowly but deliberately, like wolves stalking their prey. They make no sound whatsoever as they move through the bushes, eerily silent.

"See for yourself," she calls back, pointing out at the treetops.

The Servitor obeys, silently hoisting your arm over its shoulder and walking you in a dreamlike stupor to the deck.

As Aurora points, you see a whirling rainbow portal above the canopy. You've seen them only once before; it feels like a lifetime ago, but the same style of portal dropped you into the Echoes. "New arrival," says Aurora, flying down to the deck. "We should go help them, don't you think? Might be friendly."


Aegis bent her legs in a battle stance, like the oozes, maintaining absolute silence as her head and eyes moved from one to another, trying to keep track of them
Her shield began to glow and silvery ribbows of frosty wind exhaled from it, she was channeling a spell
[1d10] Homing Magic

Roll #1 4 = 4


Oh. That kind of portal. I swallow as Aurora mentions helping them. What if it's a serial killer? I guess that's still no reason not to try, though. I nod. "Yeah. We should go check it out."


Zunden leans against the servitor as she orients her body to be looking at Aurora from her third-person perspective, head staring just past the bat pony with rolled-back eyes, not able to fully simulate looking at her.

"We zhould, yez. Zhey did not have ze benefit of having been exziled among ozherz. Let uz atleazt orient zhem on zhier pazh."

Her third person view shifts back to looking down at the canopy, though her body doesn't move,

"It waz bewildering firzt coming to zhiz land, I am zure it will be ze zame for zhem."


"Mh, i suppose we could help, though we should at least exercise some caution. While exile for petty reasons is quite common, we are in a world of criminals, after all."

while zunden moves the ship, i head back below deck to fully dress myself, adding the armor plates to the underdress and grabbing my shivs.


"Oh! If we can, we should help them out. No one deserves to be in a nasty place alone."


Aurora nods in agreement. Violet emerges from below deck, looking a little disheveled and sleepy, overhearing the conversation. She rubs her eyes and nods. "Let's do it. Least we can do is show mercy to a newcomer. If they try anything, well, they're pretty outnumbered."

Zunden moves the ship towards the rapidly fading portal, hovering above a clearing in the woods. You can see a crystal pony of some sort surrounded by a trio of Prowlers. Looks like she's in trouble.

Without warning, the canine one leaps at you, forcing you to break your spell focus and dodge out of the way. You're not quite fast enough, however, and it grazes your arm.
>Aegis takes 1 hit

You see the strange ship from before come floating overhead.

The canine one leaps at you again, jaws snapping.

The ooze-like monster claws at you with its single appendage.

The spoked wheel creature shifts form, extending into a form vaguely resembling some sort of cephalopod. It lashes out at you with two tentacles.

Roll #1 9 = 9 / Roll #2 2 = 2 / Roll #3 9 = 9


Aegis hisses and backs away, her cold expression growing slightly more furious as she tries a faster, simpler spell
[2d10] Magic bolt, Elementalist Ice

Roll #1 10, 8 = 18


"Dang. Prowlers. Haven't had to fight one of those in a while." I kneel and rest a hand on my cage. Concentrating, I try to summon three rats.

[1d10] improvise

Roll #1 3 = 3


Fully dressed, i lean over the ship's railing, finally getting a close enough look to see the newcomer.

"Oh my, Prowlers! Rabi dear, you may want to find that rifle of yours!"

taking flight, i move off the deck, aiming for the cover of some trees to prepare

[1d10] Stealth

Roll #1 3 = 3


"Yeah, on it!" he shouts, quickly retrieving it from where he'd leaned it the night before. He returns to the surface of the deck and loads a round, before spinning a little bit of his magic into the rifle and pulling the trigger.
>Rifle: [1d10+2] (Split: Canine, Cephalopod)

Roll #1 2 + 2 = 4


Zunden brings the ship down as low as it can go, charing her magic as she sends a rope down below.

>Bask: Flash


You fire off a glowing white and blue bolt of crystalline magic at the ooze. It bursts in a brilliant display, making it spasm and writhe. Its movements are slowed by the spell, its armlike appendage cracking and twitching as it is covered in a coating of ice.

Your rats are feeling moody today, and refuse to emerge.

You fly into the canopy, hovering above the scene. The Prowlers haven't noticed you yet, focused on their new plaything.

Your shot misses, hitting a tree instead. The Prowlers are alerted to your presence, twisting upwards to face you.

The ship lowers, and a rope snakes down for the newcomer to grab. You charge up a burst of light.

You see the ship above lower, and a rope falls down for you to grab. You are distracted momentarily, and the monsters take the advantage. The canine one slams into you headfirst, knocking you into a nearby tree, while the squid-like one grabs you and throws you about like a dog toy.
>Aegis takes 8 hits, helpless

Distracted by Rabi's shot, Prowler A (the canine) extends its foreleg out and swipes at him.

Aurora casts a strengthening spell on the newcomer.
>Aegis is bolstered

Prowler B (squid) keeps attacking Aegis while she's down.

Prowler C tries to recover from the blast of ice magic.

Roll #1 3 = 3 / Roll #2 1 = 1 / Roll #3 1 = 1


Aegis cried out in pain as the creatures had their way with her, but despite the pain she maintained enough composure to get up, somehow finding the strengh to avoid the Ooze's continued attacks

Roll #1 10 = 10


I sigh. Yeah, after losing two friends this week I don't blame them. Pulling out my tonfa I anxiously stand by.


Zunden lets out a burst of light from her ring, casting it down on the scene below.

>Flash: spell, recharge 3; Emit a burst of magical energy, attuned to Light. Affects enemies all around you, but does not deal damage unless on crit, instead debuffing them with the effects of the Light element. (The target is momentarily blinded, suffering +1 DC to all rolls on its next turn, or +2 on a crit. This damage type deals twice as many hits versus undead enemies. Radiant spells can be used to illuminate the environment, providing a dazzling light source.)



"Pony, take ze rope and climb up! Zhoze Prowlerz will zertainly eat you alive if you linger!"

A voice shouts down with a thick accent.

Roll #1 5 + 2 = 7


within the canopy, i try to find a shadowy area to set down, intent on approaching the Prowlers to help.
[1d10] Stealth

Roll #1 5 = 5


"Gah, cripes." The stallion says, ejecting the spent casing and lining up another shot. This time he funnels his magic into the chamber, and 'fires' a bolt of flame at it!
>Magic Bolt (Fire) [1d10+2] [1d10+2]

Roll #1 4 + 2 = 6 / Roll #2 2 + 2 = 4


>Correction: Rabi aimed at the canine prowler.


Aegis tilted her head in the direction of the ship as the voice called to her, and for a moment the crystal mare was hesitant. She seemed to be analyizing the ship, but ultimately turned away to face the creatures again ''And you claim to be any better than them? I was told this was a place of thieves and criminals''
Aegis was briefly cut off at the sudden flash of light, and she had no doubt it was from a magic source
''First help me finish these things, I wont embark your ship until I know your intent''
[1d10] Spellcatcher on Zunden's Flash

Roll #1 9 = 9


"Fair enough! Just watch out for now!"


"I can't really blame her. I wouldn't trust us either." I don't really want to have to climb back up the rope, though. I'll wait to see if things get a little harrier.


You feel magical energy coursing through you as you pull yourself up. You aren't giving up so early. You fire a magic missile at Prowler B, staggering it and preventing its assault.

Violet stands by your side, watching worriedly. There's not much either of you can do right now.

A flash of light engulfs the clearing, and the Prowlers cower at the radiance. They are momentarily disoriented.

You hide up on a branch, waiting for the right moment to strike.

You take aim and fire, the muzzle roaring with flame. The Prowler flails as it is engulfed, a horrific stench filling the air.

Your body courses with a pulse of energy as you absorb the magic spell. It is a simple one, you find, but quite effective.

The Prowlers, weakened by the burst of light, begin to slink into the shadows, but not before coming together for a final attack. Two of them attack Aegis, and the other Rabi.
[1d10] vs Rabi
[2d10] vs Aegis
DC+2 to these rolls

Aurora reaches out and sends a healing spell towards Aegis.

Roll #1 5 = 5 / Roll #2 7, 10 = 17 / Roll #3 5 = 5


Running a shiv through some midnight oil, i strike at the nearest Prowler as it begins it's retreat!
[1d10] Sleep serum

Roll #1 2 = 2


I rub the back of my neck and dumbly watch. "Should, uh… Should we go down there?"


Aegis, seeing the oozing monsters preparing a powerful attack, decided to take a page out of the book of the mysterious entity on the ship and quickly coated her shield with a layer of reflective ice over its surface and held it up in front of her to protect herself from the attack, but more importantly, to reflect the sunlight on the incoming prowlers
[1d10] Flash, Ice elementalist

Roll #1 7 = 7


Seeing as the one going after him isn't that much of a threat, the stallion focuses on one of the two going after Aegies, instead. He loads another round int his gun and takes aim, firing off a dark-enhanced round at the Cephalopod.
>Magic Gun [1d10+2] (Dark Element)

Roll #1 6 + 2 = 8


Zunden's body shakes a little as she takes off her rings, her knees buckling as she gains full control of her body again. She looks around at the others, first person view suddenly alien to her, disorienting her.


Zunden shouts down at the rope, to Norv,
" I'm coming down, we zhould help her whether zhe wantz it or not. Zhe doezn't know ze dangerz of ze land."

Zunden waits for the rope to clear and heads down herself.


>Light, wark


The squid Prowler flails a tentacle at you as you fly in, forcing you to dodge to avoid getting struck down.

"Looks like they're retreating," says Violet, stifling a yawn. She's still half asleep from the looks of it.

You raise your shield, funneling magic into it as light breaks through a cloud above. It begins to glow, and shoots out a beam of white light in the direction of the monsters, leaving a trail of snowflakes in its wake. They recoil and squirm, scrambling away from you, losing their shape. One of the Prowlers lashes out, striking you across the face with a black pseudopod. The scratch stings and smokes unnaturally. Your head feels light.
>Aegis takes 5 hits

You pull the bolt back with a satisfying click, firing a white and yellow shot at the Prowler. It scuttles away from you, the shot fizzing and bubbling on the monster's surface. They seem to hate it.

You take a moment to readjust yourself to having full control of your body. The instant you remove the rings, the Servitor vanishes, and the ship lurches dangerously. It does not fall, however, remaining in midair idly for now. You head down as the Prowlers retreat, landing in the clearing.

In a panic from the flashes of light, the Prowlers camouflage into the undergrowth, retreating into the woods. "You okay down there?" Violet calls to Aegis, leaning over the railing of the ship. "Looked like those Prowlers were giving you a hard time. Come aboard, we'll get you fixed up. Doesn't do to be wandering about on your own in these parts." Aurora flies down from her vantage point, joining Zunden as she gets a closer look at the newcomer. "Hold still," she instructs, her lapis lazuli necklace glowing as she attempts to heal Aegis again.

Roll #1 7 = 7


"Careful though," I call down, chuckling. "That first step is a doozy."



"Welcome to ze Echoez, wanderer."

The thorny lizard says, offering a claw to help stabilize the crystal pony,

"I am Zunden, reader of ze Arcane. We zaw your portal and only wizhed to help."


Aegis felt the fierce slap on the face from the Prowler as she peeked her head from behind her shield and nearly fell back on the ground, barely able to keep herself up until Aurora healed her with magic
Looking a bit more stable, she turned to the party, her face showing no emotion
''I'm fine. thank you for your help but I have some questions before I take your offer''
Aegis didn't take the Lizard's helping hand, whatever the reason was her pokerface didn't hint on it
''And only help? Hard to believe I would find mercy at this forsaken realm of Outlaws, especially from complete strangers. My name is Aegis Glaze, a reader of the arcane as well''


Rabi lets out a sigh of relief and reloads his rifle, slinging it back on to his back and offering a wave to the newcomer.
"We don't bite, promise! Save for Norv's rats."


The prowlers melting into the treeline, i sheath my shivs flying down to the others.

"Ooh, we've scared them off! and i was so close to finishing the necklace." i pout, kicking at the dirt with a hoof, before brushing off my dress and clearing my throat.

"A Pleasure to meet you as well, Miss Aegis Glaze. I am Silver Song, Daughter of Brass Tacks and heiress to Dominion Rails." i reply, extending my wings in a bow.

"I'm certainly glad we found you as we did, the wilds are quite dangerous in this land, especially when left alone."

"while there are certainly many who would take advantage, there are as many sent here on false charges or minor crimes. It seems the Dominion has no room for petty crime, opting to leave us here instead, sadly."


Zunden's brow raises, returning her claw,

"Anozher reader? I've yet met anozher who uzez ze Tarot zinze I left my Tribe. What a rare occazion."

Zhe frowns, but nods,

"A fair conzern. If you are conzerned we might rob you or ozherwize harm you, let me azzure you we have no zuch intenzionz, but you are free to go on your way."

Zunden says, beginning to return to the ship,

"We were in your zituation zome.. two weekz ago? We've made it zhiz far.."

"Come, don't zcare ze girl. Zhe haz only juzt been exiled. Let uz park ze zhip for now and give her her zpace. I need breakfazt."


"Oh it's quite alright, Zunden! It's important to have one's first meeting complete the formalities of titles." i reply, waving off your concern with a hoof.

"You and i, and the others are another matter, close friends as we are."


*Zome… one, two monzh ago? We've made it zhiz far.."


"Sorry, sorry." the stallion says, leaning against the railing.

"I'm Rabi. I don't really have any special titles, so… hey. Sorry you ended up here."


Aegis's only reply was an unamused nod and a quick examination of the stallion
''I see, its disencouraging to know that I would have been killed if I fate has not brought you here to assist me. It is a pleasure to meet you, Silver Song.''
''Not that kind of Arcane, my specialization leans more on casting, not Divination''
She glances up at the ship ''No, I understand now, its fine. If you really intended to harm or rob me, you could have easily done so by now with numbers, I doubt I would be able to take you all on. Instead I would like to ask if you could help me any further, only a few directions to the nearest town, if there's any''


I give a small mock salute. Guess we're introducing ourselves. "Norvegicus Black. Extermination and pest control. I'd give you one of my cards but I only actually have one left."


The blue earth pony on the ship frowns a little. "Hey now. The least we can do is get along. No one's looking to make enemies. It doesn't matter why you were sent here." She shimmies down the rope from the ship to greet you properly. She has a scarred face, mismatched eyes and a long white braid of hair. "I'm Violet. Violet Moon. Like Z said, you can come with us if you want. If not, there's a city called Braildorn about half a day's walk from here. We'd take you there, but, er… we're not really welcome. Long story."

You feel your aches and pains ebbing as the svelte, stony faced bat pony heals you. "Aurora d'Arbanville," she answers as you give your name, with a tiny smile. The surname is vaguely familiar to you, though can't quite recall why.


''Dont be sorry for me'' Aegis said without a hint of emotion
Aegis nodded in acknowledgement ''Not a fighter then, that explains why you have not joined the fight''
''Thats reasonably far. I wont press you for the reason you were banished, but could you tell me more about this Braildorn… And perhaps about this realm as well?''
She turns to Aurora, and her eyes linger on the batpony's form a second too long


I let out an awkward chuckle and glance away. "Well… Yeah, I guess not really. Also don't really have any way to fight from a distance right now either."



"Of course, we'd be happy to fill you in, perhaps over breakfast? It's quite early at the moment, at least for here, and i'd imagine the guards weren't particularly forthcoming with food."


"Braildorn… Well, there's quite a bit to it. It's pretty much the only real city around here. There's other small towns and what have you, but really, if you're looking for civilization that's the place to go. It's not the most pleasant place, but it's homely enough, I suppose. We've been there for the past week or so, but circumstances changed. So now we're here."

"As for the Echoes, well, they're a lot like the world you know. Everything is slightly different though. You won't find many familiar sights here. It's like this is some sort of reflection of the Dominion. Hence the name, I suppose. The wildlife can get pretty dangerous, so it's best to stick in groups. Like us!" She smiles cheerily at the gathered group of adventurers.

"You won't find many traveling alone," Aurora adds. "There's all sorts of monsters out and about, like those Prowlers. Then there's the bandit gangs, cultists, the Oneiromancer to the south, some bigheaded dragon that wants us dead… You get the idea. It's not fun here. But you look like you can take care of yourself, so I think you'll be okay."


Rabi shrugs a little bit, before continuing "This realm's a little… difficult to describe. It's pretty wide and varied, but it's mostly unpleasant. Time's rather convoluted here, so someone that got exiled a week before you might have popped up ten years ago, or fifteen from now. You've already met Prowlers, which are about as varied and unpleasant as The Echoes."


Zunden giggles,

"I meant ze Arcana, ze Tarot deck. I am a 'Fortune Teller' Az zey zay."

She frowns at the mention of wanting to seek Civilization,

"Az Violet zays, if you wizh to go to civlization, Braildorn iz ze location. It iz a zity wiz multiple powerz zecretly vying for power behind ze viel of dezeption and zubterfuge."


''Don't worry about it'' She states ''The battle went well enough without you''
''I'd be flattered if you'd let me join, but I have my own rations so dont worry about sharing your provisions with me''
Aegis listened to everyone's warnings and descriptions, and by the end had her gaze low, thoughfully
''No, those creatures from earlier were proof enough of what you said, this realm is dangerous and I am just a mere scholar…'' She looks up at Aurora ''How much would it take for you to let me conjoin your group, at least until I can find a safe place?''
''I understood what you meant'' Aegis raised a hoof, motioning to Zunden's waist ''I noticed your deck, and you didn't struck me as the gambler type, so I assumed you were the kind to foresee things''


''I have some money I have brought with me that I could wage'' She adds


My shoulders sag and my ears droop. "Right," I say. Maybe I should have pitched in. "Well, wed be glad to have you aboard."


Aurora blinks, looking confused. Violet looks puzzled as well, then laughs. "Hahaha! You don't have to PAY us. This isn't a protection racket. Just come aboard, make yourself at home. We've got plenty of room for more crew on board."


"It won't really 'take anything', I imagine. We're not going to take things from someone who just got here."

"Hey, don't take it too hard. If you feel bad about it, I could always teach you a bit of archery."


Aegis seemed just slightly dazed ''I see… Such hospitality was unexpected'' she turned to the rope to see if she could climb it, hopefully without help


"I don't know. Maybe. Hopefully my new toy helps patch up that problem."


introductions sorted, i take flight and land back onto the ships's deck, beckoning the others down to the galley.

"Right then, once we've something to eat, we can continue our sailing to the springs."


Zunden closes the box, not aware it was open,

"Oh, did not notize it waz open. What iz a gambling type zhen? Hold on, we will talk on ze zhip I zuppoze."

Zunden kneels and sticks on her rings again, eyes rolling back as she summons a servitor to bring her back aboard the ship.


Aegis watched, fascinated as the lizard did the strange ritual with the rings


"Yeah," I ask, suddenly curious. "What is a gambling type?"


You head back on the ship along with everyone else. You think you hear something off in the distance, a faint sputtering sound on the wind, but it passes.
>roll Perception

It seems easy enough to hoist yourself up onto the flying ship. It is large and spacious, and appears to have several decks below the main one. Overall, it's a perfectly viable mobile home and base of operations. Violet climbs up after you. "Make yourself at home!" she says cheerfully. "The cabins are on the second level. They're not much to look at, but we've spruced ours up a bit. Let me know if you need a hand with anything." "I'll be around if you need something as well," says Aurora with a simple nod, flying up onto the deck. "We're here to help, I guess."

You call on a Servitor to carry you up. It does so obediently, laying you to rest against the ship's railing and hovering silently waiting for further instructions.

You see Zunden put on a set of golden rings, falling into a trance. On the ground next to her, a blue and white phantasm materializes, taking the form of a faceless biped with a trail of aether from the waist down. It takes the saurian gently and floats up to the ship without a sound, placing her on board and staying by her side.


pausing in my descent into the deck, i twitch an ear as i try to pick up what i had heard.
[1d10] Perception

Roll #1 2 = 2


The crystal mare nods, looking for a place to seat herself ''A cup of tea would be lovely''

''So'' She speaks up ''You have all been here for how long? Were you all thrown in this place together?''


I sigh and rub my hands together. "I hate this part," I mumble, grabbing ahold of the rope. A sharp pain shoots through my bad arm as I do, but I try to will it away and climb. [1d10-1]

Roll #1 3 - 1 = 2


'Light the hearth and stick a pot of water in it to boil. Don't let it boil over.'

Zunden commands mentally, standing up on her own slowly,

"I'll get ztarted on breakfazt. Oatmeal alright? I haven't ztudied Ze larder yet."

Zunden says, looking at the foodstocks in the ship as she speaks to the group.


The pain swells before I even get a foot off the ground and I cry out, dropping back to the dirt. "Hey!" I call up, more than a little embarrassed. "Can someone help me?"


"A good idea, I'll get ztarted wizh zhat too."

Zunden says, her eyes rolled back as she turns her head in Aegis' general direction
'Start a pot of tea as well, while you are there. Don't let it overboil either.'



Rabi winces a little, and slides down the rope to offer a helping hoof. "No problem at all."

Roll #1 2 = 2


Aegis stares at the spiky lizard
''What exactly are you doing when your eyes roll back like that? It looks a bit unsettling''


"Directing the ship or her little servitor, most likely."


''Oh, that means there is no one handling some kind of wheel to pilot the ship? She does it all by her mind?''


"What my friend Rabi zaid, while I wear zheze ringz I control ze zhip we ztand on, and my vizion becomez zhat of ze entire zhip inztead of my own eyez. It iz very dizorienting and I have trouble walking around like zhiz. Not blind, but imagine zeeing yourzelf from above moving around, inztead of looking zhrough your own eyez."

She smiles, trying to orient herself to face Aegis properly,

"Ze zpirit zhere iz a zervant of ze zhip. Magic entity, not a ghozt. I had to azk it myzelf when it firzt manifezted."


"Yeah, no one at the helm physically. It's some form of magic, I believe… I don't quite understand it myself, but she's gotten the hang of it over time."


It sounds almost like… an engine? You can't tell where it's coming from. Aurora seems to hear it too, her long bat ears twitching. She flies up to the crow's nest and stands at alert, perking up and staring like a cat suddenly distracted by some small animal.

You slip and fall. Looking concerned, Rabi and Violet hoist you up together, the weight easened between the two of them. You sprawl awkwardly over the railing, having to pull yourself up like a seal getting out of the pool. Violet can't help but stifle a giggle.

The Servitor silently vanishes. Through your heightened vision, you see it reappear in the kitchen, following your instructions to the letter. The foodstocks consist of bread, fruits, and vegetables, but no meat. The latter two are all common household ingredients: apples, lettuce, oranges, corn, bananas, cherimoya…

Norv is surprisingly heavy, but Violet steps in and gives you a hoof hoisting him up. She breaks a bit of a sweat herself, but pulls through.

"Right this way!" Violet leads you to the mess hall, an unassuming wooden building adjacent to the kitchen, with a plain undecorated wooden table and about a dozen chairs. Aurora moves to the crow's nest, seemingly distracted by something.

"I've been here… Well, I can't remember now," says Violet. "Maybe about eight years or so? Might be more. Time's a bit odd around here. I don't know about Aurora, but I think she's only been here two years. The rest of them, they only landed about a month or so ago. Found them lost and confused, offered to help them out, one thing led to the other and, well, here we are." She smiles fondly, thinking back on their adventures together.

>anyone else that wants to be part of this scene
The Servitor comes out in due time with several bowls in a neat little stack, as well as one large bowl full of steaming oatmeal, with a large spoon for self servece. It also brings out a boiling kettle, some teacups, and teabags, along with milk and sugar for those who need it. Violet looks positively delighted by the service, serving herself some oatmeal and spicing it up with a couple of cinnamon sticks.


climbing fully up the stairs, i look out into the distance to try and spot whatever is making that noise.

"Aurora, you hear it too, don't you?"
[1d10] perception

Roll #1 10 = 10


''Fascinating. its a shame how it works, however. Not all species can wear rings''
''Eight years…'' Aegis repeated, like that was the only part she caught ''Have you tried escaping this realm at all before?''
Aegis went ahead and served herself a humble cup of tea with one a small bit of milk and no sugar, coupled with a bowl of the oatmeal


"Hear what?" he asks, cocking his head to the side.

Rabi is happy to settle in for a bowl of oatmeal, adding a little sugar and milk to his along with the cinnamon. He'll take a cup of tea, too!

"We've heard of people trying, but so far we haven't found any signs of it being possible ourselves.


Zunden sits herself down, having the Servitor stay at attention as they eat. She takes the time to practice doing fine motor skills as she stays in her ship's view, eating her oatmeal slowly.

"I azzume zhey could be worn in ozher wayz, but yez I zeem to be one of ze only candidatez here able to uze zhem."


She nods slightly. Flying up to a vantage point on the sails, you look around. At first, you can't see anything, but then you spot something odd in the distance. It looks like some sort of airship, resembling a small boat for about 5 or 6 people, suspended by a dark red hot air balloon. It seems to be heading in your direction. Aurora doesn't seem to know what to think, looking to you with a perplexed frown. "What do you make of it, Silver?"

"Hrrih hrvnhrrth…" Violet swallows her spoonful of oatmeal before speaking. "I haven't myself. Far as we know, it isn't possible. Everyone's stuck down here for life. Although, we may have found a way, but it's unpredictable, risky, and it'll probably cause a world scale disaster. So no, we don't know a way out."

With some practice, you find it fairly easy to move around and speak while controlling the ship. Perhaps not enough to be able to defend yourself properly in a fight, but you can walk and talk at least.

The tea and oatmeal are surprisingly rich and homely. It's a perfectly suitable, comfortable breakfast meal, and a fine first meal in the Echoes for Aegis. Violet seems famished, reaching for seconds.



File: 1545361203171.png (434.6 KB, 2057x1697, Hermodur Aput, the Herald.png)

The Herald:

You dream an old dream, the same dream you had not four nights before. It is still fresh in your mind as you slip once again into the memories of Ailuros. She and her left and right hooves stand again at the foot of a snowy hill, overlooking Sir Relen as he guards a lonely tower with his faithful six.

Everything about this place is as you remember it; Ailuros wears her usual alicorn regalia, unaffected by the cold, while Hanuman and Minerva wear furred gear to protect them in the cold weather. They await Ailuros' signal, then move down the hill. The scene plays out for you again. Sir Relen watches them from afar, sharpening Dusk, plunging the famous sword into the snow in silent defiance as the three approach. "Lady Ailuros," he says again, making unflinching eye contact with the alicorn princess. "Caitiff," spits one of his retinue at the sight of Hanuman. Minerva begins her proselytizing speech towards the eight warriors. Or were they seven?

Everything is just as you remember it; only, one thing is different. Where before you had been a passive observer, a fly on the wall, this time, you find you can move about the area freely, just as if you were there yourself. However, you soon notice you make no sound, leave no footprints, and no one even spares you a glance. You are, for all intents, a ghost. You feel like you're being watched.



At first, Hermodur realizes nothing wrong. He merely stands with his comrades as if nothing is wrong. "Bow, mortals," he preaches to the warriors in front of him. "You stand in the presence of a living goddess. But, weep not. For, this goddess is a forgiving one. Kneel to her and pledge your loyalty to the perfect world she will create and no harm will come to you."

However, as the scene plays out, he realizes he's seen it all before. Slowly, he becomes frustrated, then confused. He starts to question why he is here. How is it he got here?

Then, the crushing reality of his situation returns to his mind. He becomes disheartened. He looks around the scene and ponders why he is dreaming about this now. In fact, he doesn't even remember when he went to bed.

"What is this?" he asks out loud. He finds himself looking to Ailuros for answers. Though, he knows she won't answer.


I blush as Rabi and Violet struggle a little to hoist me up, telling myself that I'd have been able to climb the rope just fine if it wasn't for my arm. I know that's not true, but it does make me feel a little better.

Following everyone else to the mes hall, I quietly dip out some oats, a little disappointed we don't have any meat. When in think nobody else is looking I add some sugar and tilt my flask into my tea, also telling myself it's for the pain in my arm. I wonder how much whiskey I even have left. [1d10] stealth spike

It tastes worse than I imagined, but I still sip it, nearly choking as I try to keep from laughing when Violet talks with her mouth full. "Didn't Sil' and Rabi have a lead on something?"

Roll #1 6 = 6



Roll #1 10 = 10


"Given the rarity of air travel here, i suspect nothing good will come of this.."

unfurling my wings, i lift off the deck and fly up to the crows nest.

"I'll try to fly closer, if you see something is amiss rush to tell the others."

With that, i start my flight towards the ship, keeping above the flight path to try and get a better look.

[1d10] Perception

Roll #1 8 = 8


You must have fallen asleep while meditating the night of the party's escape from Braildorn. Why you are having the same vision, you do not know. You did not drink any Dreamwater, after all.

You watch the scene progress much the same way as it was before. First Minerva tries to intimidate them into surrendering, then Hanuman tries to bargain. Both attempts are fruitless. "We swore a vow," says Sir Relen. "Then and now." As you watch, however, you start to notice certain details that are… wrong. You recall there being seven against Ailuros' three, not eight, though which of them was not there before, you cannot tell. The wording of certain lines is slightly different, too. When it comes Ailuros' turn to speak, she does not ask what is in the tower, instead telling the group to stand aside. They do not comply.

Something is wrong. Terribly wrong. You see Ailuros' eyes flicker and turn black for a moment, as if possessed by some terrible entity. The wind is still, where once it howled. You also notice that you are bereft of Mjolnir.

As the fight begins once more, you see that it is going quite differently. While at first it plays out much as it did before, this time it is Minerva that is slain, and Hanuman who fights off Sir Relen at the end. It is like you are watching a recreation of the scene from someone who has not seen it before. The flapping of wings calls your attention; looking up at the skeleton of a nearby tree, you see a single white and grey striped bird perched on a dead branch. It is a cuckoo.



"What is this!?" Hermodur shouts again, this time more angrily. The site of anything being wrong with Ailuros causes him to visibly shake.

Then, Hermodur sees the cuckoo in the tree. "Foul fowl!" he shouts as he points an angry finger at it. He begins to march toward the bird with a slow but furious step. "What have you done to them - to me!?"


Nothing happens. The cuckoo continues to sit on its perch, looking out towards the continuing fight. After a moment, though, it turns its attention to you, staring directly at you. You feel frozen in place for a moment as something in this odd dream acknowledges your existence. You hear several soft thumping sounds. Looking behind you, you see everyone else, including Ailuros, has fallen down into the snow, motionless as a corpse. Everything goes deafeningly silent. You can't hear anything at all.

The cuckoo shifts its gaze to the slew of bodies in the snow. Perking up, it begins to call. It sounds like an ordinary cuckoo song, but it pierces through your head as if someone had fired off a gun by your head. Your ears ring as it begins to sing, faster and more frantically. As it does so, Ailuros' body stirs, and she gets up as if nothing had happened. She looks to you, no sign of recognition in her eyes. A shadow ripples across her body, her horn becoming obscured by shadows. A ropy black whip lashes out from it at you. All the while, the cuckoo keeps singing, ceaselessly.
>roll to dodge, instant action



Hermodur dodges the attack. [1d10]

"If you seek to shake my faith, you will not succeed! This is naught but fake imagery! This is not Ailuros."

Roll #1 5 = 5


You try to dodge, but you are disoriented by the piercing, painful effects of the Cuckoo's song. As the whip touches you, wrapping around your torso, your fur and skin begin to change color, darkening to pitch black, then, somehow, growing darker and darker still. You see something you couldn't before: the false Ailuros' movements are controlled by thin black strands, like a marionette, reaching all the way up into the sky, where they are held by an enormous black hand.

The Cuckoo goes silent once again. One of the bodies on the ground rises, floating a few feet above the ground, floating towards you with arms outstretched. It is clad entirely in black, with a pointed hood and a void for a face. Black paint seems to drip from its hands constantly. The world begins to darken as the Oneiromancer arises.

Eons of energy being consumed. Just to be here in front of you. Yet you see that which does not exist.

The Oneiromancer floats ever closer, eventually moving straight through you, yet somehow still in front of you. Gazing into the black nothingness of its hood, your head reels, and you feel nauseous. It is as if you are looking on something inherently wrong, that doesn't belong here, or anywhere else. Looking to the side, Ailuros stands there blankly, binding you with black void eyes and a dead expression.



"What do you want!?" Hermodur shouts in a combination of terror, hate, and pain as his vision is filled with blackness.


I want the child yet to be born. The Cuckoo must fly. I must fly.

The cuckoo flutters down and lands on your tormentor's shoulder. The black hand in the sky closes its fist and disappears. The strings holding Ailuros in place snap, and she crumples like a doll, falling in an unnatural way, as if she had no bones at all.

The strands binding you release, and the world transforms. You are standing on what you soon realize is a chess board, along with your friends, all lined up in a neat little row. You are the pawns. Looking behind you, you can see Dawn and Carabas standing in the place of the Bishop and Knight. When you try to look to the Queen or King, however, you see a jumbled mess, and your head hurts even more, like your brain can't make sense of what it sees. The rook is missing.

On the opposite side, the pawns are all jumbled and indecipherable, forcing you to look away. The Cuckoo stands in the place of the king on your side, while Lysander and the Oneiromancer represent the Bishop and the Knight. Against your will, you find yourself being grabbed by another black hand and moved forward, while the Oneiromancer is moved into a square where he could take you. But he does not.

Do not intervene. The egg will be hatched. The lonely will have his will carried out. Pawn. It is your turn now to make the next move. Choose wisely. Step aside. Like so.

The hand moves you again, into the next square forward. Now the Oneiromancer cannot claim you, as per the rules. The black hands disappear, and an orb of black ichor forms in the Oneiromancer's hands. For a moment, you think you see a glint of dark red crystal deep within the orb.

Tell the other pawns all I have told you. I, the Knight, will be watching very, very closely. We are connected.



Hermodur listens and watches what the Oneiromancer says and does with a stern expression. At first, he is fearful, but as he continues, the fear subsides and is replaced with anger.

"Why me?" he asks sternly. "If you think me a leader, you are sorely mistaken. I am a servant. I am an enforcer. I do not decide. I carry out the will of my goddess and my comrades."

"And YOU," Hermodur continues with more anger in his tone. "YOU defame her image with your blasphemous illusions. If you wish to entreat any cooperation from me, then you will cease your slander to her beautiful image at once."

"I don't know anything about you or your plots. Nor do I care about them. But, if you wish to make an enemy of me, you are on the right path!"

[1d10+2] intimidate

Roll #1 7 + 2 = 9


The shadowy figure shows no emotions at being threatened. Everything melts away. It is just you and… it. Whatever the Oneiromancer is.

Curious. You are wracked with sentimentality towards what you cannot have. Even after all this time. I cannot comprehend these perversions anymore. But. I feel obliged to suggest this. If you wish to see your immortal beloved in the flesh again, you will not stand in our way. This pointless cage of a world will be undone. It is an absolute.



All of Hermodur's animosity immediately melts away. He says and does nothing for a moment, merely staring at the Oneiromancer with a newfound hope.

"You… can do that? Are you sure we'll go back safely where we should be?"


The Cuckoo will erase this world. As is its nature. He will fly the nest. All of you will be free to leave. Return to your home. If this is your wish, then you will allow the egg to be broken.

The black orb melts into the Oneiromancer's left hand, and it extends its right to you almost mechanically, as if offering a handshake. You see grey and white feathers falling gently from its fingertips.



Hermodur stares at the Oneiromancer in disbelief. Could it really be this easy? There had to be some sort of price to this. But, he didn't care. A million people could die if it meant he could be at Ailuros' side again.

"If you need an egg to be broken, then broken it shall be," Hermodur says with a grin as he shakes the Oneiromancer's hand.


Then. It is done.

You shake his hand. A shock of icy cold rushes down your arm. You see your hand start to darken, turning pitch black. The blackness starts crawling up your arm, slowly drowning you in the void. It is as if the Oneiromancer himself grows to an impossible size, or the world shrinks in the palm of his hand.

This session is concluded. Herald of Dark. I am with you, until the end of this pointless world.

You wake up in your bed, back aboard the ship. It is early morning, and you can feel the ship chugging along slowly. You can hear the rest of the party chatting nearby, along with a voice you don't recognize. Looking down at yourself, you see something has changed. The fur on your right hand is stained completely black.


''Can you tell me about this way?'' Aegis asks curtly''
''What about Mister Norvegicus? Would he not be able to pilot the ship in your absence?''


You approach the ship. It's moving at a slow, deliberate pace in your direction. It bears no identifying markings. At the helm is a serpentine saurian, though you can't see him very well. He spots you flying towards him, and pauses to give a friendly wave, veering around you. Seems he doesn't mean ill.

Violet looks apprehensive, looking at the rest of the group for approval. "Well, I don't know if we should talk about it, honestly. It's extremely dangerous, and, well, we don't know you too well. No offense." She rubs the back of her neck awkwardly.

"The sword, wasn't it?" says Violet. "Something about reverse engineering the enchantment on it. Should look into that more. Maybe we'll find something at the Swap Meet that can help."

You take a quick swig of whiskey when no one's looking. Your arm aches just a little less, but not by much. As you choke, Violet looks at you with slight alarm, ready to give you a thwack on the back if need be. "You okay there, hun?"

Aurora enters the room. "Airship off the port bow," she reports, nodding stiffly in greeting to Aegis. "Looks like an airship. Potentially hostile. What should we do about it?" Violet frowns, unsure of how to proceed, and looks to the rest of the group for ideas.


''I understand'' Aegis replied without a hint of a change in expression or tone of voice
''Forgive me for my imposition, I only ask because I want to leave this place as soon as I can. I have many duties in my home that I must attend to''

As Aurora entered and reported, Aegis stayed quiet


"Hmm." There is a slightly uncomfortable silence between the two of you for a moment. Violet tries to break the ice a little. "…What kind of duties would those be? Were you a scholar back home, or a sellsword of some sort? You're obviously quite the magician. …Er, if you don't mind sharing, that is. You don't have to if you don't want to."


''I dont mind''
Aegis took another sip of her tea
''Your assumptions were right, I was a scholar and a sellsword of some kind, working under my family's name. In addition I also am tasked with becoming a Mage worthy enough to be a teacher myself, something I am still working on''

Aegis glanced at her bag she set on the corner ''Unfortunately I couldn't bring any of my books and personal studies to this place, it bothers me so''
She didn't look at all bothered


Violet seems a little offput by your lack of emotion, but gives you a warm smile nonetheless. "I knew it. The way you handled yourself against those Prowlers, you're no ordinary mage. Where are you from? Never seen magic like yours before."

She looks down at your empty bag. "If it's old books you're after, we're heading to a big Swap Meet that's on in a week or so. Everyone in the Echoes will be there. I'm sure you'll be able to find something worth your time if you stick with us. How's about it?"


''I'm from the north of Japone, in the mountains where my family lived for generations'' She nods ''I thank you for your compliments, but that was nothing much. I noticed those creatures didn't seem fond of harsh lights when I saw that flash coming from the ship and tried to capitalize on that flaw''
*Sips* ''Everyone in the Echoes? I never heard of this Swap Meet before, please tell me about it''


"Japone, huh. Never really got to go there myself, but I heard all sorts of stories about it. I'd have liked to see it before I ended up here." She shrugs a little and pours some more tea.

"Well, it's a pretty big event. They have it every four years or so. I'm… not sure who actually organizes it, but word just spreads, you know? Someone hears about it, and they tell someone, and they tell someone… Eventually, everyone and their mum shows up to the big meeting. Since you find all sorts of artifacts in this land, it's a good gathering point to buy, sell, and trade treasures. Plus, everyone that shows up is under truce. No one's allowed to fight anyone, no matter what. I don't know who enforces it, but it's the oldest rule. The only rule, really."


''That's very interesting, I didn't think this world would have some kind of culture of its own, at least enough to organize an event like this. But the matter of this rule is what drew my attention the most, that means there must be someone who controls this plane, a deity, a powerful mage, or…''
The Crystal mare suddenly stops, and pours herself a new cup of tea ''Please excuse my idle musings, I am yet to develop a concept of this world to start assuming things. Tell me, what does your group seek to find in the Swap Meet''


"Well…" She taps her hoof as she thinks. "Personally, I'll need a new weapon. Lost my spear in a monster hunt a few days ago. Had to make do with this ever since." She points out a kukri tucked into her waistband. "We might also see about hiring a hand or two on board. Not that we need a proper crew to work the ship, but if we run into trouble, we could always use more friends. Right?"

"Plus, we really need information. We're looking for someone. Lysander. He's planning something big and dangerous, and also he probably wants to kill us. We need to know where he is so we can try and intercept him before he gets to our next stop. He's a greedy bastard, and quite well known in these lands, so it's a safe bet that if he's not at the Swap Meet, someone there will know where he is."


''I see. This Lysander, what have you done to him or he done to you that made you so bitter towards eachother? Does he wants to get something your group is looking for? That also reminds me, you never told me what are you after, this party of yours, if you're together it must be for a goal in particular, am I correct?''


She hesitates, but seems to trust you enough to spill the beans. "Him and I go back a while," she explains. "Before I met the rest of these guys, him and I were adventuring partners for a long time. On one trip, he got wounded, and I carried him as far as I could, but…" Her expression darkens. "I had to leave him for dead, otherwise we would've both frozen out there in the cold. I… I took the loot he'd grabbed and left him." It seems to hurt her to say it out loud. She just stares blankly into her tea for a moment.

"…Well, it turned out he survived, and he wasn't happy about it. He kidnapped me ib revenge, abd to try and get me to talk about the treasure, but these guys came and rescued me." She looks to Norv fondly, leaning into him for a moment before catching herself. "Er. Anyway. They fought him, won, and stole his ship from right under his nose. So he ran us out of Braildorn, put a bounty on us and, well, here we are." She smiles again and shrugs.

"Well, our goal right now is to stop Lysander. He's tryingvto get his mitts on this artifact, an egg. He just thinks it's treasure, but what's down there with the egg is the Draconequus himself. Discord. If Lysander gets to the egg, doubtless Discord's going to try and finagle his way into getting Lysander to break the egg. And if the egg breaks, then… Well, we'll all have a bad time. Let's leave it at that."


Aegis listened to the story, watching Violet with an empty stare
''So Discord was cast away to this place as well. Curious how he is sealed away in an egg though, perhaps even the Echoes and its inhabitants had the pity of the Dominion, at least enough to not allow the God of Chaos to roam the world freely'' Aegis remarks
''How foolish must he be to seek it, does he not know that is where Discord is held, or is he simply that heinous?''


I clear my throat and take another sip of my tea. "Yeah," I say, giving her a warm smile. Not sure what's up with me thinking her acting like a slob is cute, but it is. I lean back into her briefly. "And yeah. Somethin' about a sword anyway. Never actually got to talk to Fumblemore like I'd meant to, now that I think about it."

I turn to Aegis. "Hah. He wouldn't if one of us knew how to keep our yap shut," I say, clearly more than a little annoyed. "I don't remember if anyone mentioned the egg, but someone -not to mention any feline names- did let it slip about Discord." I cock an eyebrow and glance at Violet. "He called himself Persolus, though. Feel like maybe I should use that name instead. I was at first. Not sure when I stopped."

I finish off my oats and tea. "Anyway," I say. "That's what we're doin' now. Take and protect the egg and Discord. Thought about if we should bring it aboard the ship, or just keep the key to where it's hidden, but-" I shrug. "That's something to decide then I guess. Talk it out with everyone."


"Also Lysander is a real jerk," I add, suddenly feeling an unprecedented pang of jealousy.


Aegis turned to face the dog ''The egg requires a key to open? I assumed it would require a great deal of magical power, enough to match the princesses's, to be able to 'crack' it open like one would with an actual egg. In this case it sounds more like a containment spell or seal''
''Do you think this Lysander character could have what it takes to open the egg without its key? If not then I'm certain simply finding said key before he does would solve your problem, at least until some Arch Mage appears with the same vile intent''


It takes me a second to understand what she means. Maybe I misspoke? "Oh," I say. "No. Apparently you just have to break the egg. From what I understand at least. The key is to the actual place it's being kept. Risky to have it on board, so I was thinking maybe we just leave it there and take the key that opens the… well, I guess its a tomb."


Aegis stared at the dog for a moment too long
''…I see. I feel foolish now for the nonsense I spouted, I should have been more patient before I started assuming things, how embarassing''
The crystal mare shook her head and finished her second cup of tea, already pouring third with extra milk this time…


Wait, does she actually feel bad about that? I awkwardly glance to Violet, not sure what to say. Clearing my throat again, I say, "Oh, no, I think I'm the one who wasn't clear. Sorry."

I swallow and knit my brow. "Did it seem hostile? Maybe we just change our course a little to avoid engaging them at all? I really don't feel up to a fight if we can avoid it."


''Think nothing of it, was nothing more than a misunderstanding''
Aegis briefly glanced at the breakfast table, then turned to Norv again
''Tell me, Mister Norvegicus, do you seek a way out of the Echoes as well, or have you come to accept your new life here?'' She asks bluntly


My floppy ears flatten against my head a little more, and I roll the question over in my head. I already know the answer, so why does saying it make me uncomfortable? "Well," I say. "I, uh… I don't know. I don't like how hostile everything here is, but I don't have a whole lot I'm missing back home anymore. I'd like to see my brother again, I guess, but I'd be a fugitive, and if I'm being completely honest I'm kind of scared how the guy who got me sent here would react if he knew I broke out." I lean forward, suddenly really interested in my paws. "Actually I'm not sure how I'd react if I ran into him again."


Aegis tilted her head, her eye focused on the dog ''I deeply apologize if my question caused you any discomfort, I was only trying to make small talk, not press you for your personal life issues… Unless this is what you'd like to talk about, in that case I could share my own as well''


I mull it over for a second. It's not like it's a secret. I wonder if this is what it's like for Violet. Telling your story a bunch. Its probably more likely most folks keep it to themselves though. I give her a halfhearted shrug. "Well, I'd be interested in hearing."


Aegis patiently took another sip and lt her mug down
''I was hired to do a service in my family's name, an easy task, hardly worth of my time if not for the big payment that was compensated, but it was all a trap prepared for me, no doubt by the enemies of my House. I was set up and framed as a thief and sent to this place without as much as a trial''
The crystal mare paused, idly sloshing the warm liquid of her mug
''The closest thing I had to mercy was being sent here with my clothes and what little I was allowed to carry with me, brought to the trial by my family''

''I wonder, was it the same for you as well, Mister Norvegicus?''


Norv sighed. "Well… sorta. I'll try to keep it short, because it seems like every time I tell this story it just gets longer." He pulled out his flask and took a nip, leaving about a quarter left. "I lost a poker game. Took out a loan from the guy I lost to. When he came to collect, my rats mauled him and he had me charged with enough stuff to have me sent here." I let out a mirthless chuckle. "Heck, that didn't take as long as I expected at all."


''Your… Rats? That's an odd choice of pet, but hardly the most important part of this story, it only seemed to be the most curious one for me. That said you summed it up pretty well''

''I'm sure that must be rather upsetting from your view though, sent away to the Echoes, possibly forever simply because a short-lived stroke of bad luck''
Aegis finished her third mug ''Indeed, in your place I would be extremely frustrated''


A light blush blooms on my face and I twiddle my thumbs a little. "That's what I was telling myself when I first got dropped here. Just a run of bad luck. Been wondering about that recently, though." I shrug. "Anyway, it wasn't a setup like yours. That much is sure enough. And yeah. Always had a thing with animals, but I always liked rats specifically. Guess as dangerous as it is here at least I'm safe from him, though."


''Couldn't you just have your rats keep him away again? I thought that if you manage to make your way out of the echoes, you were free to go with a clean slate''


She blinks. "Oh no no, Discord's a statue in the vault. He can't do much but talk. A lot. No, the egg is… something else. Dawn says it's a seal for the Cuckoo. We don't really know what it is, but supposedly if the egg is broken, the Cuckoo will hatch and consume this dimension. Discord wants that more than anything, so he'll probably try to get Lysander to break it. I don't think Lysander knows about the Cuckoo too much, just that it's a valuable piece of treasure. He's a dragon, you see, but he's stuck in the weak bipedal form. That's why he's so greedy. He wants to hoard treasure in the hopes he'll achieve his real form that way."

"Seems like anyone can just up and break the egg. It wants to be broken, after all. The key is something else. Those rainbow portals, the ones that drop us all in here, the sword is part of the ritual to open one back in the Dominion. Something like that."

As the conversation topic shifts to Discord, Violet looks a bit apprehensive for a moment, but it soon passes. "Yeah. I'm not sure what the deal is with the name change. Maybe that skull of yours will have some answers? Or we should ask Zunden to do some card readings. Seems a bit more reliable."

Violet looks over to you, grabbing your hand reassuringly. "He was just some small time shark, right? Not like he could do anything to hurt you now, even if he did end up here. If he shows his mug around here, I'll kick his ass." She grins.

"Well, no one's ever done it, so that's pretty moot, really. Let's face it, this place is a prison. If someone gets out, they'll probably just get captured and sent back here again. And that's assuming they would even be back in their own time period. Like Rabi said, time works a little differently here."


I give violet a small smile as she reassures me before continuing. "Yeah. Seems to me they wouldn't actually stick with that." I turn back to Violet. "Yeah. I ask that guy a lot of questions though. And it's honestly hard to get the one who actually answers." I realize people might have questions about that statement a moment too late and slowly glance around the table.


"I don't fully know if he's aware of Discord- just the egg. Discord was interested in getting the seal broken, though. I didn't really know who he was, so… I'm glad our Felid friend was knowledgeable about him."


''I see, I assumed that Discord and the entity in the egg were the same, again, pardon my assumption, I have only been here for less than an hour, so I'm grasping for aswers''

''I was never told about the differences in the flow of time in the Echoes, please tell me more. Also, who is this Dawn you speak of?''
''I see, what a shame then. I suppose it would be a waste of time to try and return until I could prove my innocence''


"Hey, no need to apologize. I know this must be a lot to take in at once. Lemme know if you need me to slow down. Just wasn't really expecting to have any new allies on board."

"Well, while you're here time seems normal, but back home it's… different. You meet people from all these different moments in time, but it all seems to be one big constant. Norv for example found a ghost trapped in a bottle claiming to be a lost queen of Equestria from before the time of Luna and Celestia, and she had no idea where she was or what was going on. It was like a thousand years had passed in the blink of an eye for her. And, a bit less dramatic a difference: our friend Hermodur met someone from his past who had been here like 50 years, even though for Hermodur it had been 20. …Where is the big guy anyway?"

She shakes her head. "Anyway, so you see, it's like the Echoes are one long never-ending constant. Kind of a weird concept to wrap your head around, but I hope it made sense." She trails off, looking a bit more serious. "Look. Even if we do get to go free, there's no guarantee we'll even be in our own time. You might not even recognize your home if you see it again. It's not an easy thing to come to grips with, but you're here for good. I'm sorry it had to be this way. We've all been there."

"Dawn? She's a… friend of ours, I guess. More Z's friend really. She's tied up in all this business with Lysander and the Cuckoo. Knows more about it than we do. We were going to be traveling together a while, but, you know, circumstances changed. Hope she's okay, wherever she is."


Aegis kept her eyes focused on Violet as she talked, entirely focused on the mare
''Very strange, I suppose I understand from your explanation but if not, I'll see it for myself as the days pass, and even if what you say ends up being true, I still have to return, a few years of difference will be an inconvenience but not unendurable, and a few decades, well… The Junsei clan has already been around for nearly 500 years, it will endure without me''

''If we meet Dawn, then I hope she can tell me more about this Cuckoo entity, she sounds like a knowledgeable one''


Violet looks a little disturbed at how well you take the news you'll never see your friends or family again. There is another loud silence in the room. "…W-Well, that's good! It might be a while before we find a way home though, so until then, you're welcome to stay with us as long as you need to. We have plenty of cabins available. If there's ever anything you need, just say the word."

"We don't know her too well yo be honest. She and her partner just showed up one day and… asserted themselves. She seems to be quite powerful though. She's got strong teleportation magic at least. Stronger than any I've ever seen. She definitely knows a thing or two about spellcasting. Here's hoping we run into her again soon!"


''Your hospitality is a blessing in this world, I thank you from the bottom of my heart''
''A powerful mage as well… I look foward to seeing her too, as long as I am here, I might as well learn as much as I can''
Aegis pushed her mug a bit away, showing she was finished with breakfast


"I think he was still in his room last I checked. Haven't seen him since this morning." I chuckle and relax in my chair. "Well, that's more optimistic than most of us, I guess. 'I'll just adapt'." I shrug. "I don't know. So I guess that means you'll be sticking with us then?"


"No need to offer thanks- the last thing someone needs is to be alone here." the stallion says, leaning back in his chair and stretching a little.

"Speaking of which, what exactly can you do? We've got a decent mix of talent here."

"Meditating, I think… or sleeping. It was quiet when I passed by."


''Yes, for as long as you'd have me. I know that you told me you wouldn't charge any payment from me, but if there is anything I can do to help during my stay, I will gladly do it, and if you ever need anyone to train spellcrafting with, I would be happy to offer my knowledge the best I can, and would appreciate it if you found it in your heart to lecture me as well''
Aegis turned to the party at the table ''That goes for all of you''
''I'm a mage, however in training, on my way to become a master so I can pass on my learnings to the children of my family, and their children and children of their children. I have a grasp on most forms of magic and spellcasting, but my specialty is ice and water-based spells''
The Crystal mare points to the shield she set besides her bag in the corner ''I am not a unicorn however, so I need a medium to cast my spells from''


"Heh, yeah. It gets a little inconvenient sometimes, huh? I only actually know one spell, and the situation I learned it in was a little weird. Still, a shield is more convenient than some big, bulky animal trap. I swear, carrying that thing around gets old sometimes, but-" I give a half shrug. "The magic is in the cage itself, so switching isn't much of an option. I guess if it'd help I could lay out what I can do, but it ain't much."

"Well, hope he's alright. I haven't actually even heard him say much since the breakout."


"Oh, I see. I'm a bit of a mage myself, but most of what I've learned was self-taught. As far as Catalysts go, I've normally got my bow to help me focus magic." he says, gesturing to the Norv-bitten, curved piece of carved wood "It sounds like magic is almost a family business, or a tradition for you though."

"We can only hope. Black Pudding gave him some sort of… item, that let him contact the mare he followed, right? Maybe it's some sort of extended conversation."


There was a hint of a glint in Aegis eyes as they focused on Norv ''I would be pleased if you could give me a demonstration sometime''
''Interesting. I am not particularly experienced with the school of Enchanting for magical items myself, that shield was a gift, comissioned from Master-Artisan.''
Aegis inspected Rabi's bow, her eyes fixated on it for an extended time, suggesting an interest that didn't show on her face
''I dont recognize those runes, but it must be an interesting weapon to see in action. You imbue magic to the arrows before loosing them I assume?''


"I can channel magic into an arrow before firing it, but most of the time I'll just form the magic into an arrow. It gives me a little more freedom in what I can get the 'arrow' to do. As far as the carving… again, a chunk of it is self-taught. I picked up the basics from another traveler, and sort of worked my way to this one. I doubt it's anything spectacular, but it was the first one I made that worked consistently."


I rub the back of my head and blush again, not really used to the interest or attention. "Well, sure. It's honestly just a little summoning spell. Calling my rats from a little pocket dimension. And I guess I've learned to fight a little since I've been here. Plus there's my poison sprayer. Just got it, but back home it was one of my indispensable go-tos."


''That sounds very impressive, especially being able to execute it consistently. Shooting the spell like you would an arrow must allow you to have much greater control of the projectile's direction while increasing its speed, a combination impossible for most casters as they have to sacrifice precision over speed and vice-versa when launching a projectile-based attack'' Aegis states, still analyizing the bow ''I doubt I could replicate this feat without a bow of my own but I am interested in those runes, even though I cannot discern their meaning as runes, they seem rather simple, enough at least that I could learn them with a couple nights of study, maybe''

Aegis turns to face Rabi again ''I apologize if my musings bore you, it is just that I have recently picked up an interest in the School of Enchanting, more specifically the possibility of crafting magic weapons. A power like this would be a tremendous boon to my family''
''Summoning, or Conjuration, is one of the mot difficult schools of magic to master, in my onw opinion. I have not even got past the basics of summoning a short-lived wisp of light. I'm fascinated that you have such skill, diamond dogs never seemed to me like the types that would ever resort to magic''


"Well, it's more of a convenience than anything. A while back I cleared a group of small elemental slimes out of this wizard's… well, I guess sewer? Or maybe it was more of a dungeon. I don't know. I just know he didn't want to pay actual adventurers to do it so he hired an exterminator. Me. Once I finished the job he saw me loading my rats back into the cage and just kinda offered to enchant it instead of paying me. I took the offer because it really did make it easier to lug 'em around, and that was that. Really weird guy. Had some freaky stuff down there besides the slimes, but the slimes were all he wanted me to get rid of. That must have been-" I think for a moment. "I don't know. Like, five years ago?"


''Curious story. But I am more interested in how the cage functions. Does it actually summons rats from your home back in the Dominion? Or is it a simple summoning spell that calls forth Aetherical beings in the shape of rats?''


"That-" Wait. They are the same rats, right? I never did anything to check it, but they seemed the same. And I was able to summon the spider again after it disappeared, so- I shrug. "I'm not actually sure. I never thought about it. The story was just me saying that it ain't that impressive, though." I really hope that they're not just some kind of imitation of my rats. If they are then every single one of them… I shiver and bite back tears, managing to barely keep my composure. "Anyway, you'll probably end up seeing it at some point."


"Sure, you can look it over if you wish. Most of them are just to help focus the magic a little better. I can give them a bit of a homing affect on their target too, which is a definite plus. I've been meaning to learn other types of magic to see what I can do with it, but lately most of the magic I've been getting a feel for's less… direct stuff, I suppose? Astral Projection was the last thing I picked up, and I've been trying for a bit more enchantment in general- things like imbuing a magic bolt with elemental magic, for instance. I can already do a little bit of it, but I want to see if I can stretch it further. Speaking of which… if you happen to be able to use any variety of Light Magic, you'll find that incredibly useful here. Prowler's aren't terribly fond of it." he says, before shaking his head and offering a smile.
"Not boring at all, really. I'm afraid some of my learnings are less… ehm, codefied, but I'd be happy to help explain what I do."


''I hope so, maybe together we can learn more about it''
Rabi had all of Aegis's attention as he spoke ''I see, Astral Projection is a more obscure kind of magic, I dont even know much about it aside from name and use. And I'm afraid I dont know any spells of light element, but yes, I noticed those dark creatures are susceptible to light. Tell me, Mister Rabi, will you be looking for books on magic when the Swap Meet?''


"It's… jarring, to be sure. It takes some getting used to- and apparently, watching your body slump over is unnerving for bystanders- but, it's been quite useful so far." Rabisays, before humming at the mention of the Swap Meet.

"I hadn't even thought of that- I probably should, actually. I've seen a few places where we could buy scrolls, and even those would be useful."


"As one of those bystanders I can say that, yes, it's unsettling. And I didn't really think about it either. I still got a couple of them wands I got from R and G. One charge left on Haste and two on Bolster. Haste ran me I think 75 bits. Don't remember what bolster costed. Plus Zs got that bracelet. Wouldn't be surprised if you could find spells attached to other stuff too, especially if the Swap Meet is all it's cracked up to be." I adjust myself in my chair. "I don't know what I'm gonna have an eye out for either. After seein Z with that lute it got me thinkin I wanna try my hand at somethin too. So maybe an instrument. Past that-" I shrug. "Well, I guess I'll just figure it out when we get there, if we end up going and ain't too caught up somewhere else."


"I-I really wish I could find a way to make it less like that. S-Sorry, friend." the stallion offers, chuckling a tad and rubbing at the back of his neck.


Aegis nods ''What kind of scrolls do you mean? The ones that come prepared with easy-to-cast spells or the kind that holds methods and teachings?''


"Eh. Not like it's unmanageable, and it's not the most uncomfortable thing I've seen by a long shot. Not that big of a deal."


"Easy-to-cast and disposable. Though, you can still gleam something from them. I was able to wrap my head around Astral Projection after getting a scroll of it- I had the idea of what I wanted to do, and what it was supposed to feel like, so it was trial and error mostly. Though… actual scrolls of teaching might be a good idea. I could even look for some sort of tool to try and get back into carving." he says, gesturing to his bow.


''Good, that is a good idea. I will keep that in mind. By the way, what kind of currency do people use here in the Echoes? Is it bits as well like how it is in the Dominion?''


"Bits- some of them look a little out of date, but it all works here."


"How do you mean potenzially hoztile? Are zhey pointing cannonz at uz, or are zhey juzt nearby?"

"Even zhiz much control requirez a great deal of concentration I only got zhrough training, ze firzt time I uzed it I waz on ze floor zpazming in pain."

Zunden shrugs,

"Bezidez, pawz are not ze bezt zuited for ringz eizher. Zhat and I don't have az much of a penchanze for drinking."
"-no offenze."

Zunden says, having not looked Norv's way as he drank but turning as she mentions drinking.

"I mean, I hardly know her enough to conzider her a friend. Zhe waz injured, I had the capability to help wizh zhat, zo I did. Zhe feelz zhe owez me now - We don't know where zhe went after ze eventz of ze lazt zhree days."

Zunden picks up her staff from the ground, showing the carvings to Aegis,

"I too cazt zhrough a foci, my magic iz ztrictly healing. Zhat being zaid, I have found many artifactz here zhat allow me to cazt zpellz zrhough zhem."

"Truzt me, I know."

Zunden nods, her eyes still rolled back,

"It feelz odd looking down at yourzelf like zhat. I imagine it'z a bit eazier on ze mind if you don't have to worry about moving your body az well."

"I'd love to hear you play!"

Zunden grins, her attention fully on Norv once he mentioned getting an instrument,

"Do you know how to play zhen? I'm really enjoying learning how to play. I zhould get lezzonz but I can do zome zimple tunez now! I get noztalgic zhinking of my old tribe and ze muzic zhey'd play…"

Zunden sighs wistfully.

"Gold iz gold, yez. Ztill holdz ze zame value az it doez back hom- err… back in ze Dominion."


Aegis had her focus on the lizard as she spoke, but occasionally glanced around, as if searching for Zunden's eyes
''If what you say is true, then it must be rather straining on your mind to keep this up while talking, I mean no offense but are you certain this is safe? You are the one piloting the ship now''

As Zunden displayed her staff to Aegis her eyes lit up without a change in expression except for a hint of interest
''The runes in this look much more complex than Rabi's bow, it must be a rather strong focus. Did you etch these runes upon it yourself?''


"Ze zhip pilotz itzelf to a degree, zhough I'm currently ztill controlling it az to practize."

She hands Aegis the staff to look over,

"No, like many of my pozezzionz, zhey are of my tribe'z creazion. I may be one of ze only who ztill carry zhem, az far az I know."


Aegis appraised the object carefully in its hooves, examining the runes
''You mean one of the only that carry it in this realm?'' she asks, not taking her eyes off the staff


I give her a dismissive wave. "None taken." I don't think. Wait. Was she implying I'd get drunk at the wheel? I decide to let it slide. "I'm not really sure," I say. "I like music, and I've tried a couple of times, but I've never really been able to afford or get ahold of any kind of instrument. Still, it's a fun thought."


"Realm or ozherwize, I know zome had fled my tribe when plague took it, but zhey were not ze warrior type. Moztly zcroungerz and ze outcaztz who didn't wizh to die amongzt family."

Zunden says,

"I hadn't planned to leave eizher, but I waz commanded to by my elder."

"You do not mind if I accompany you zhen at ze Zwap Meet proper, zhen? I'd want to see what zort of inztrument intereztz you."


"Don't see why that'd be a problem. Looking forward to it. "


Aegis handed the staff back ''I cannot discern these runes, but thank you for showing them to me''

''I'm sorry about your tribe. Does that mean you were not sent here for a crime like all others?''


"What happened to my tribe waz yearz before zhiz. I am an enemy of ze Dominion az ze law will zay. I offered zhelter to poor, zick, and criminalz alike. When ze guard came azking for one, I refuzed, and ztruck one over ze head. It barely lead him bleed, but zhey torched my home all ze zame. Zhoze I zheltered rioted in ze ztreetz and zuddenly I became a terrorizt leader."


The Herald:
See >>707163

The Scion:
See your reply in >>707165

The Wayfarer:
See the group reply in >>707165

"I'd just assume anyone with business with us is hostile, at this point." She looks uncomfortable, clearly on edge from the events of last night.

Violet looks quiet for a moment before speaking her mind. "To be honest, there's something about those two that seemed… wrong to me. It's not that I don't trust them, but I feel like they might be hiding something. If we run into them again, we ought to be extra careful. They know more than we do, and the blind mare, Dawn, she seems quite powerful with her portals."

"They're a fair distance away from us," Aurora reports, "but slowly heading in our direction from what I could tell. Like I said, I'm assuming they're not friendly. They're not attacking, but I feel like we should avoid them."


Surprised to see a friendly face, i catch back up to the mystery ship, landing on the deck before clearing my throat.

"Greetings, good saurian, might i ask what your business is today? It's quite rare to see a flying ship at all, let alone a second. Coming from Braildorn?"


I look at Violet and nod. "Yeah. I know what you mean. They seem nice, and seem like they have a noble cause or whatever, but they made me a little… well, uncomfortable I guess?"

I stand up and push my chair back, wobbling a little. "But I guess for now we should probably see what's going on on deck. Just to be safe."


"Zhen I will direct ze zhip around zhem. If zhey perzue, zhen we will make more planz."

Zunden nods to Aurora, taking the moment to pull starboard a fair bit. After the moment of concentration, she turns to Violet,

"I do not like getting into ze affairz of politicz and factionz. I waz fine wizh zheltering her for zome time, but I want nozhing to do wizh zhe Egg exzept confirming it doezn't fall into ze handz of zomeone like Lyzander."



Hermodur climbs out of bed, looking at his right hand with concern. The first thing he does is change out of the horrendous sewer-stained clothes that he's been stuck in for days now and changes back into his three-piece suit.

He grabs Mjolnir and follows the sounds of the voices.


"What… happened?" he asks in confusion.


Aegis stared at the rolled eyes of Zunden for a moment after she spoke
''Goodness… That must have been heavy on you, from what I hear they must have all thought very highly of you, and you of them as friends, my humble condolenses for your loss, Zunden''


A mare with pitch black hair and a contrasting snow-white coat was sitting at the table, she raised her gaze to the Large Felid and stared at him in silence


"Another ship? Well… do we have any sort of spyglass? A better look'd be nice before anything else."

"A little, yeah."


I smile at Hermodur. "Oh, hey. You're up. Was starting to get a little worried, big guy." Looking away, I clear my throat. "So, everything, uh… everything alright?"


"Portal, anozher banizhed to zhiz realm juzt az we were. We zcooped her up az to protect her from ze Prowlerz until zhe can find her bearingz and find her own pazh amongzt ze Echoez. For now, eat your breakfazt."

"Zhey are likely dead or were zent here az well."

Zunden says, her smile fading to a more forced neutral expression,

"Ze wheel of fortune turnz, and it iz not like I could return zhere even if I waz to ezcape Ze Echoez."


He seems a bit surprised at you approaching like that, but deftly ties a rope around the wheel with a flick of the wrist to make it stay the course. You get a better look at him; he is a very tall, snake-like saurian with mottled scales and grey eyes. Instead of legs, he has one long, powerful tail, ending in a rattle. He's wearing a dark coat with a bandolier with what look like bombs and ammunition. Strapped to his back is a sawn off shotgun.

"I am," he answers. He has a deep voice with a long, slow drawl. "Unfortunately, we've got business together. You're with those drifters on the ship back there, right?"

She nods. "I mean, they just came in, took a bunch of Lysander's documents, then left. That's more than a little suspicious to me."

You move the ship away. Through your enhanced vision, you can see the airship she is talking about. Silver seems to be on it speaking to whoever's aboard.

"Unfortunately," says Violet, "it seems we've been dragged into this mess, just like them. At the very least, we should go to the Egg and try to keep it safe. Maybe just hide it somewhere no one will find it." She doesn't say it out loud, but you sense that she feels more than a little guilty about having brought Lysander on you all.

"Oh hey, you're up." Violet smiles warmly at you, nodding at the unfamiliar face at the table. "We made a new friend. She just popped into existence, like us. Figured we should offer her shelter."

Aurora nods at you in greeting slightly. "There's someone coming our way as well. Seem to have their own airship. …Something wrong? You look troubled."

Violet nods in agreement. "If they're not attacking, maybe they just want to talk it out. Maybe we should just let them come to us."



"Well that… didn't answer my question," Hermodur says awkwardly. "But, greetings to you," he says, noding to Aegis.

"Hermodur Aput, Messenger of the Goddess Ailuros," he says, extending his hand to shake.

Then, he sees his hand and remembers it is black now. "I- ah, well. Here," he says, switching to his left hand.


"Well, that's my confusion," Hermodur responds once the formalities are out of the way. "The last thing I remember was being half-way out of a jail-break. Then, I had a dream. I met the Oneiromancer. Now, I'm back here… So, what happened?"


"Oh?" Hermodur raises an eyebrow at the mention of the egg. "We're headed back there? Well, that explains… a few things…"


''I can see you are strong of will to not only have moved on after that but also for the achievements you made in this place, allies, a ship, a goal, you are a natural born leader'' Aegis compliments with a monotone tone in her voice
Aegis gave the cat a deep bow in respect
''Aegis Glaze, Mage apprentice of the Junsei Familiy, its a pleasure''
She extends a hoof and shakes his hand, albeit a bit awkwardly, but her face shows no signs of distress


"You met wizh ze Oneiromanzer? I zuppoze… ze name doez imply having domain over dreamz and fantazy. Are you alright?"

Zunden asks, orienting her body to face Hermodur.

"I made oatmeal zhough, eat and zhen we may talk, unlezz it would change ze courze of ze zhip immediately."


"Yeah, I, uh-" I clear my throat again, not looking back at him. Why does my mouth suddenly feel really dry? "So I think we should go back for the egg and take Discord's head with us. Or leave the egg there and take the key to the tomb. Haven't really decided which yet."


I pause and glance back at him, cocking an eyebrow. "Wait," I say. "I don't think I heard that right. You met the oneiromancer?"


Zunden giggles, her solemnity broken somewhat,

"I am no leader, my goalz are only to zupport ozherz zo zhey might zhrive and realize zheir potentialz. If zhat meanz cooking, zewing, piloting a zhip, or whatnot, I zuppoze it iz worzh it."



"Mage apprentice? Unless the Junsei Family is some sort of organized crime ring, it seems there's more people here imprisoned wrongly than there are criminals. What were you arrested for?"


"Well, I still think having any amount of interaction with that false god is the greatest mistake anyone could ever make. So, you'd definitely need a good reason to do that… What is happening?"


Hermodur nods in thanks and sits down to eat some food. "He's not as bad as I expected. Though, he's certainly very… unsettling. Though, I get the sense that's not by choice. He seems to struggle with… getting his point across."

"He insisted that we were in the wrong for trying to stop him from hatching the egg. To which I was very confused because I did not know we were involved in that at all. Now, I see why he reached out to me. Though, the timing feels… odd."


"I am only conzerned becauze Lyzander, a man who haz zworn revenge on uz, waz bozh zeverly under ze influenze of ze Cuckoo, and would be very prone to releazing bozh it and Dizcord if zhey promized him power. In fact, if I uzed ze compazz to zeek out Lyzander and inzure zuch a zhing never happened, we'd not ever need to conzern ourzelvez wizh Dizcord or ze Egg again."

Zunden says, sipping on tea,

"Az Lyzander and the Oneiromanzer were working together given ze coffin we found on ze zhip, we could only azzume zhey zhared goalz. The abzenze of ze coffin iz ze zhing zhat concernz me mozt."


Violet's eyes widen at the sight of your hand, and Aurora hisses and backs away slightly. "Wh… what happened to you?" Violet asks, unable to take her eyes away from it. "Are you alright?"

"You met him? The dream mage?" Aurora asks. "That's… unsettling. You should know, the coffin you found is gone. I don't doubt there's a connection there."

"What did he say?" Aurora seems both trepid and highly curious. "And what's with the hand?"

"Whatever he said," Violet adds, "we can't listen to him. If the Cuckoo hatches, it'll erase everything, won't it? Everyone will go free. That includes all the evil entities you can't go two steps without being up to your armpits in."


Doesn't seem as bad? "That's reassuring I guess?" I sit back down. "And because we're pretty sure that's where Lysander is headed now. It'd be safer if we could protect Discord ourselves, because Lysander is exactly the type whod easily end up manipulated into freeing him."


''I see… If that is how you see it then I wont argue with your views, just know that if I can help with your cause in any way I'd be pleased to repay your kindness''
''That is not far from the truth, The Junsei is a family of Mercenaries in Japone, while not illegal, some of our work is far from being concidered Lawful. I was thrown in this realm for a crime I did not commit, possibly set up by one of the enemies of my family''


What's with his what? I cock an eyebrow and glance at his hand, recoiling. "Geeze. When did that happen? And yeah, I really don't think actually breaking the egg is a good idea. Discord almost convinced Vi to do it before we talked her out of it, remember? That itself means we should probably give it a whole hell of a lot of thought."


"You alright there, Hermodur? You look a little… off."

"So! Do we have a spyglass of sorts? We might be able to get a good gauge of who they are from that."



"What a familiar story," Hermodur comments somewhat sarcastically.


"The coffin is gone? That's… disconcerting."


"Having missed an unknown period of time due to having an entity in your head will do that to you," Hermodur says, rubbing his temple with his blackened hand.


"That may end up being a moot point."


"So, you KNOW the Cuckoo can free us and you DON'T want to free it?"


"I am indeed." i cautiously reply. "My companions and i were preparing breakfast when we spotted your ship approaching, and i had decided to see the situation."

"Given you've sailed from Braildorn, i'd imagine your business involves the breakout from the other night, correct?"


"Do I really have to explain to you that if you sink a ship you don't magically end up on land? It's a very real possibility that if this place ends up destroyed everyone in it does too. On the flip side, I'm sure there are beings who have a very real reason for being here that you're saying you plan to release back into the dominion. That's insane."


"And we know zhere are ozher wayz, why would we rizk zetting free countlezz evilz into ze Dominion wizh uz. Who'z promize do we have that it'd keep it'z word az well, by all accountz I have heard zo far it iz a creature of chaoz and deztruction, not one of bargaining and reazon."

Zunden starts with slight annoyance, then taking notice of Hermodur's hand, eyes suddenly softening,

"Are you alright? Your fur has changed color on your arm completely- I uh, I azzume you're aware- are you in pain?"


"Yeah, I'm sure it can- I'd rather stay here, or find another way."



"Well, for your first concern, the Oneiromancer seems convinced he can help with that. Otherwise, I would not have entertained the notion."

"Your second concern does not concern me. The Dominion is more than capable of handling it. In fact, it would be good to take away their ability to just wantonly toss away anything they disagree with. They've abused the privilege The Remnants has given them and it's high time it was taken away. Maybe a large influx of dangerous criminals could be the kick in the pants they need to get real change started. Ally themselves with Ailuros and really get things moving."


"Well this…" Hermodur looks down at his hand in genuine disappointment. "Complicates things…"


When you bring that moment up, Violet looks a bit reserved, shooting you a glance before suddenly becoming very interested in her oats.

"Not that I know of, no," says Violet. "Sorry. I really should pack something like that. Might be able to pick up a pair of binoculars at the Swap Meet."

"I think Silver flew over to check it out," Aurora adds. "Seemed like there was only one person on board, so she should be alright. You could use your astral magic to fly over there and make sure she's okay, if you're worried. Could help scout out their ship too, see what we're dealing with."

"…Are you saying you want to free it?" Violet looks confused. "Along with Discord and who knows what else is locked up here? That sounds like an awful idea."

"Isn't there an old legend about a girl who opened a box full of evil?" Aurora muses, still staring at your black hand.

He nods, digging in his pocket and showing you several of the wanted posters you saw earlier. "Name's Clawson," he says. "Don't worry, I'm not here to sink your ship or anything. Lysander hired me to try, though. But, you know, I don't really agree with him, or his little clique of friends. Unfortunately, I'm meant to be killing you all and capturing the mare you have on board, after all. And I do have a reputation to uphold. I'm just giving you a heads up, and a head start. We can fight now, or later, but we're gonna have to. You tell your friends that. Hoped we'd meet under different circumstances, but, well, you know how it goes."


File: 1545971970946.png (151.5 KB, 889x1705, Clawson the Manhunter.png)

Forgot pic


''Yes, I'm certain you must have heard this kind of story several times, it does not bother me if you believe in it or not. Know that I am here for the time being, as Zunden said, if my stay bothers you, I apologize but know that it will likely be brief. If there is anything I can do to ensure your comfort is not bothered please tell me''



"Well, presumably, Discord would still be made of stone. Even I wouldn't wish to unleash that monster."



"Brief?" Hermodur raises and eyrbrow. "You say that as if you have some sort of plans for what to do in this foreign world."


"I don't just mean dangerous criminals, you oaf. I also mean beings like Discord." I furiously scratch the top of my head in frustration. "What makes you even sort of think it's a good idea? The fact that someone you don't know you can trust invaded your dreams told you it'll set you free?"

I deadpan. "That's a pretty lofty presumption to be placing a bet on, H."


"You really want to take that risk?" Aurora asks with genuine concern. "You're trusting the word of some creepy dream walker that everything will be alright? What makes you think you can trust a word that comes out of that guy's mouth?" She looks back to your arm. "You still haven't told us what happened to your hand…"


"I want to help you return to your Ailuroz, but I zhink zetting free an ancient evil iz not ze way to do zo. If zhat iz what happened to your arm iz from juzt dreaming of ze Oneiromanzer, I don't want to loze you to zome fel corruption."

She looks at her own black spot on her arm, notably smaller than the area that Hermodur has affected,

"I have read your fatez, and I wizh for you to live out your deztiny. I'm naturally conzerned when you come to uz mulling over ze idea of potentially aiding a great evil and letting it run rampant in ze zame realm az your Ailuroz."


"Ah, so Lysander continues to pursue us, then? I had expected a response, though not quite as fast."

"How long of a 'head start' would we have, might i ask?"


''Indeed, you are right'' Aegis glances out the window ''I have no clear idea of what my goals will be here aside from one: Leaving''


"He hired me a couple days ago, actually. Back before you escaped. Good job on that, by the way. Made a hell of a ruckus back in town. Came to town to see if I could hunt you, and just tailed behind once you flew off like that."

"I'll park my ship down there." He points out the edge of a cliff in the distance. "You've got 24 hours to get outta here, but after that, I'll be coming for you, and your friends. Let's hope I lose the trail. It'd be a first."

You notice that next to the steering wheel is a small wooden plinth with a compass needle planted in it, with no cardinal directions. It seems to be pointing towards your ship right now. Odds are it's the same type of compass you have.

"By the way, I don't think I got your name, miss…?"



"Unless you have proof that something different will happen, then there's no reason to think otherwise."


"I… can't explain it," Hermodur says, staring at his hand. "But, your wording is a good place to start."

"Words like 'said' and 'mouth' don't apply here. It doesn't have a mouth. Nor does it 'say' anything. It was more as if the Oneiromancer… conveyed meaning. Like what it said was truth. Like it couldn't be a lie. It said it was there to have me send a message. It said this would happen and if we tried to interfere, we would be hurt."

"It also said that the Cuckoo simply wants to leave. Whether or not it is evil I can't say. It's here, so I don't deny it is likely evil. But, based on the message conveyed to me, I don't think the Cuckoo can do to the Dominion what it can do here. As the Oneiromancer put it, the Cuckoo will 'fly the coop, as all birds are meant to do'. This world will be destroyed because this is its origin. But, the Dominion would be safe."

"At least, at first, I suppose. But then, we could just stop it after that."


"In that case, you should agree with me."


Rabi hums a little bit, before sighing and pulling his out. "I-It's been aheck of a time, ehehe…" the stallion says, pulling it out and looking down it.

"Complicates things?"



"I… agreed to break the egg," Hermodur says slowly, still staring at his hand. "I shook the Oneiromancer's hand. I thought this would be what everyone wanted…"


I continue to stare at him, deadpan. "Yeah. That sounds like the words and actions of someone we can trust."


My expression softens and I sigh. "If it was what everyone wanted we would have just listened to Discord in the first place. Personally this Oneiromancer is on the same rung as him for me right now as far as 'trustworthy inventions' go. Still, I guess I can see where you feel that way.
How many "good" entities deform you after making a deal, though?"


"What about when it lays eggs?" says Violet. "If it's anything like a real cuckoo it'll probably lay eggs in the Dominion. Then we're all doomed. And didn't Discord want us to break the egg?" She folds her arms defensively. "I just can't agree with you on this one, big guy. We should get to the egg before Lysander, and hide it away where it can never be found again. There has to be a better way of getting out of here."

You look over to the airship with your spyglass, peering through one of the portholes at it. It's a small boat suspended by a hot air balloon. Silver is talking to what seems to be its lone occupant, a towering snake saurian. He seems armed, but not hostile for now.

Aurora shakes her head in dismay. "I knew it," she mutters. Violet looks stunned, not knowing what to say or do. "This is bad," she says under her breath. "Very bad…"


Upon hearing Hermodur's words, Aegis glanced at the table and everyone
''I have little to no knowledge of this issue yet, all that I have been told is that this Cuckoo entity and Discord are potentially dangerous. I have no opinion towards the inhabitants of this plane aside from you who helped me. But…''
Aegis pauses
''My opinion on this matter is not important, this is a matter your group must agree on, just know that whichever you choose, I am staying with you for the time being''


"Silver Song, daughter of Brass Tacks and heiress to Dominion Rails." i reply, curtsying with my wings.

"I'll be certain to pass along the information, Clawson. You've been far more courteous than most who have come for us, though i'm sure you'll hold nothing back, as will we."

trotting to the end of the deck, i extend my wings and take off, flying back towards our ship.


"The Onieromanzer'z domain iz dreamz and fantazy, did he not come to meet you az you zlumbered, inztead if in reality? If he haz accezz to your ze medium of your wantz and dezirez, would he not appeal to zhoze az bezt az we can? Zhiz iz a matter of reality, not fantazy."

Zunden cuts herself off and rolled back eyes suddenly turning to Hermodur as she devotes her full attention to Hermodur, the ship shuddering as she ceases her current bond with it.

"I care for you Hermodur, ze arm, I worry what elze your pact wizh ze Oneiromanzer will take from you if you continue down zhiz pazh. I refuze to return you broken and corrupted. Would Zhe aczept you, having zworn yourzelf to evil and tainting yourzelf in order to return to Her?"



"We didn't know what the egg would do last time we were there!" Hermodur says defensively.

"I won't pretend as if that thing is good at heart. That doesn't mean it lies. We can use it to get what we want then kill it."


"Discord just wants to see chaos," Hermodur looks to Violet. "There's no reason to believe that it will free him from his stone."

"And, much like the Oneiromancer, we can kill the Cuckoo after we escape."


"If you have no opinions on the inhabitants of this plane, then you have no reason to care if they go free."


"Exactly! 'As best as he can!' As I said, it did not feel as if his message COULD be false! Its realm is the MIND. The realm of FACTS."

"I did not SWEAR myself to evil!" he shouts angrily. "I simply agreed to break an egg. If anything, this mark is… insurance," he says, convincing himself. "I'm sure it will go away as soon as our business is completed."


''Correct, my priority is to leave, and I have little regards for the cost as long as I can return to my family''


"Can you just… back out of it? Not do it, maybe?" he offers, a tad distressed.

"Hrm… it seems okay so far."


Clawson raises his eyebrows in surprise; he'd blink, but he's a snake. "Dominion Rails? That's a hefty name. You must be from my time, then. Always a pleasure." He bows his head to you. "Be seeing you, miss Song."

You fly back onto the deck. It seems the party are having a round table discussion below.

"I… I don't think this is something we can just kill," says Violet. "The Oneiromancer's reality extends beyond ours, from the sound of it. I'd assume the Cuckoo is the same, as is Discord. You can't solve all your problems with your hammer."

At your outburst, Aurora flinches, frowning with a mixture of alarm and what you think is disgust. She refuses to take any more part in this discussion, giving you a withering look before leaving the table and heading to her room without another word.


"I'm just going to go on the record and say this is a bad idea and I'm pretty sure none of us will agree to it besides you."


slightly out of breath from the flight, i head down the stairs, flagging the party down with a wing.

"Everypony, it seems we've quite the situation ahead of us! Our 'fame' has brought the attention of a bounty hunter, a Saurian named Clawson."

"He's quite polite, shockingly, and has given us twenty four hours of a head start before he follows."


"You claim your dreamz are more fact zhan what you zee now? Ze ground you ztand on lezz real zhen your imaginazion?"

Zunden says, standing up, not able to meet Hermodur's height but the closest out of the party,

"Zhiz iz not az zimple az taking ze yoke from a chicken'z egg and cooking it. You'd like for zhere to be no conzequenzez to your actionz. Ze firzt night we met you acted on what you zhought moral and cauzed greater harm to everyone in zhat town zhen if you had not acted at all. Zhat barmaid in a beztcaze zcenario fled zhat town zafely before word zpread to ze rezt of zhoze banditz. You didn't clean up after ze mezz you made zhat night, I did. I am a reader of fatez, I am no primordial entity of deztruction, but by ze Arcane, I want you to be able to return az well, az yourzelf."

Zunden grips her jewelry in worry,

"I have done everyzhing I can to try and keep you all zafe. I have made my zacrificez to do zo."

She shows her own mark of corruption on her arm,

"Zhiz iz permament, I know zhiz much. I would bear it a hundred timez more to know you could return wizhout harm. But zhiz me zacrificing myzelf and only myzelf for ze group, not zacrificing an entire world for one'z own gain."


I nod along in agreement with Z. Should've just let her handle it from the beginning. Better than I could have said it.



"I severely doubt that," Hermodur says testily. "And besides, I still think it's the right thing to do."


"I'm not saying I'd do it alone. If we were back in the Dominion, we'd have an entire world of resources at our disposal. Not to mention the exceedingly capable powers of Ailuros. What fear should we have of a mind-mage and an interdimensional chicken when we have a living goddess on our side?"


"At this point, what else do you expect me to do!?" Hermodur says in a sort of frantic anger, holding up his blackened hand.


"Fair enough," Hermodur says in response to the first point. "The word 'fact' is an unfortunately vague hole in our language. In this case, I meant it as the antithesis of 'false', not the antithesis of fiction."

Then, Hermodur listens to Zunden with a grim expression as she speaks.

"You are generous," Hermodur says as if he's come to a conclusion as he looks at the mark on Zunden's arm. "I don't mean that as a compliment. You wield generosity in the same way you accuse me of wielding my hammer. As if every problem can be solved by giving and giving and giving until you have nothing less to give. As childish as you claim I am, I submit to you that you are infinitely moreso."

"The Dominion is groaning from its own corruption. It is already set to fall apart. The very fact that you are here speaks volumes to the negative influence on the world. If you continue to feed a beast, then it will keep coming back for more. It will never be satisfied. It will keep taking until you have nothing left. Then, it will take more than you can live without."

"I left you to clean the mess on that day because I did not wish to see more that would make me lose faith in you. We should have stayed we should have protected that town. We should have killed every one of those bandits. And the world would have been better for it. I have devoted my life to a goddess who kills and destroys. Because that is what the world needs to survive. Better that chaos be set upon it by a common enemy than it continue to collapse from within."

"The world will rise from its own ashes better for the struggle. You would instead have the world grow fat and complacent with its own debauchery. You know this about me. So, why is it that your attempt at deterring me involves an appeal to my sense of morality? As if I would consider the lives lost a sacrifice that would not better the world?"


Violet looks over to you, her face lined with worry, though seemingly not from your news. "Is that so? Hm. Well, I don't think we'll have much to fret over. He's just one guy against eight of us. We've got other things we should be worried about right now." She looks aside to Hermodur. Seems you're interrupting something.


I knit my brow and clench my jaw. "H," I say. Letting out a breath, I correct myself. "Hermodur. Please. We can hold onto it for a bit and find more information on it, but please. If you try to do it right now I don't want to have to fight you."


"Ah, it seems i've come in at a bad moment.."

slinking past the arguing lizord and kot, i grab a bowl of oatmeal while trying to stay out of the way, setting it up with fruit before taking a seat.


"And what if you're wrong?" Violet contests. "What if we can't stop the Cuckoo? What if your goddess can't raise a hoof against it? These are forces way beyond our concerns. We're playing with fire, don't you see? And it's our reality that will get burned. What does it matter whose skeleton sits on the throne back home if there's no home to go back to? Please. Let it go. We'll find another way home. The Oneiromancer's using you, can't you see? He's put this idea in your head, this fantasy that breaking the egg will make everything alright again. To him… it… whatever they are, you're only a pawn on the board." She blinks for a moment, seemingly realizing the weight of the chess board metaphor they've been caught up in.

"Bottom line is, we're not standing with you on this one. We have to get the egg away from Lysander so he doesn't break it. Norv had the idea of taking Discord's head with us so he can't talk Lysander into doing something stupid either. Like it or not, Hermodur, we're a team. A family, even. If you choose to do this, you'll tear us apart. That's what the Oneiromancer probably wants. It's what Discord certainly wants. You're going down a dark path here. Come back. Please. No good will come of this." She looks at you pleadingly.


Rabi looks to Silver, and offers a half-smile. A slight distraction is nice. "Ah. How… nice of him, I suppose. Was there any way to talk him out of it, or was a 24-hour head start the most you could manage?"

"I don't feel confident enough about this cuckoo to risk setting it free and dealing with it later. If you do this, you're going on your own."


Aegis stared for a bit at the unfolding argument without a hint of expression on her face, and decided a more reinforced breakfast would be a good idea. She reached for an apple, and, after looking over it for a moment, took a bite, remaining quiet


"Ze Dominion iz greatly flawed, and corrupted. Zhat iz zomezhing I have agreed wizh ever zinze I left my tribe. I fear for zhoze who live zhere for what you would bring to zhem, yez. You wizh to return to zheir and burn it to azhez, I zee why you would. But never have I zaid wizh to return myzelf."

Zunden leans on her staff

"Zhiz plaze, ze Echoez, iz a freedom from ze zycle of tyranny zhat occurz zhere- at ze very leazt, it can be. I worry for zhoze I've zeen here, ze group here, ze covenant of ze moon we vizited. We are ALL zcorned by ze corrupzion zhat the Dominion holdz. But… I never intended to return. Yez, we zhould've ztayed and killed zhoze banditz, I want zhiz plaze not to be a purgatory for zhoze who'ze have had zheir livez ruined onze."

Zunden leans herself against the side of the ship, quivering,

"You are zet on returning to ze Dominion, and I've never nor will ever want to ztop you from doing zo. You know zhat iz your plaze, at ze zide of your Goddezz. But you muzt recognize zhat every town here, every perzon who'z finally been allowed ezcape from zhat corruption in order for a new chanze at life - Ze cuckoo intendz to zend zhem all back to ze tyranny of ze Dominion."


taking a seat near you, i shake my head, covering my muzzle with a wing as i chew.

"Sadly, no. He may be polite, but he has a job to do, and refuses to risk his reputation."


You eat your breakfast as the discussion keeps unfolding. It tastes considerably more bitter than it should, though perhaps it's just the tense situation.



"Well, you are wrong about that," Hermodur responds flatly.


"Just as it was wrong to leave that town to fend for itself when we knew we could do more, it's wrong to leave The Dominion as it is when we know we can do more. Once the dust clears, there will be no tyranny to return to. The ones who survive would be free."


Hermodur lets out a long sigh. "Fair enough. I suppose there is no time limit on this. At least, not one that I can see. There is no need to rush headlong into anything. The egg will be in our possession. If we can find more information on its nature, then we can revisit this subject."

"However, know that my hands may quite literally be tied. So, it SHOULD be our top priority."


Apples are naturally a bit bitter, Aegis manages to maintain a good composure despite that
''What do you plan to do about this Bounty Hunter?'' She asks, overhearing the conversation


"Well, we can start by having Z do a reading. I have my own potential source I'll try to check with too, but-" I rub the back of my neck. "Well, he ain't as easy to get answers out of."


Violet breathes a sigh of relief as you stand down. "Well… We need to find out where Lysander is first. We could use the compass, but who knows where it'd lead us. He could be anywhere right now. So, what I was proposing is we head to the Weeping City, to the big Swap Meet that's coming up. Anyone who's anyone in the Echoes will be there. Perfect for asking around about him. From there, we either try to stop him or hoof it to the Sands to recover the egg. Just a pity we won't be able to do anything to him at the Swap Meet if he's there. The truce, you see."

"Hey, there's an idea. Z, why don't you read the cards for us? Been a while since you did. Might help tell of what's going to happen from hereon out with the Cuckoo situation."

"Maybe we could question him?" Violet suggests. "If he's giving us 24 hours head start, that means he's not going to be attacking us til tomorrow. Maybe he knows something about Lysander's whereabouts. Should try talking it out with him."


"Well.. he was quite well equipped, though it looks as if he was traveling alone. Given his determination, we've little choice but to face him, though if we work together we should be able to handle this situation."

"..Provided we don't tear each other apart before then, of course."

"I suppose that may work, he's chosen a spot nearby to park his ship after all, though i'm not sure how helpful he would be, given Lysander hired him."


''A good idea. If you decide to fight, I'll assist you if I can, just know in advance that I will step away if things get too dire, I rather not put my life in the line for now''




Zunden goes silent at the idea of culling two dimensions as a solution. She continues to quiver, her resolve mostly broken as Hermodur makes clear his intentions.

"I-I need to conzult zhem.. alone. My heart achez and I fear zleep, if zhiz iz how I may wake."

She makes to leave for her room, looking back in case the others have any more to say.



"Why not head immediately to the desert?"


"Your guidance WOULD be useful here," Hermodur says hopefully.


"Not sure… he seems so nice, I'd hate to kill him- maybe we can get some information out of him, and, I dunno… just knock him out and leave? Make it to the Swap Meet, and shake him there?"



Roll #1 6 = 6


''If he's a good bounty hunter that has a bit of sense in him, he won't risk his life for a bounty, If you scare him off by besting him in battle, he wont bother you again, unless he is a stubborn kind, so in this case you could threaten to take his life if he crosses you again''


"That's what I assumed we were doing, but i guess the swap meet is pretty soon. Don't wanna miss it. I'll go talk to my guy too. I guess if you want you can come with me, just, uh-" I stand up and stretch. "Well, be prepared. He's an enchanted skull that can tell the future, but also an asshole who will pretty much just insult you. It's a weird situation."


"An excellent idea, though i'm afraid it may end be fruitless. As i was speaking with him, i had noticed his ship was using a compass much like our own, the needle aimed right at us."

"I've no way to tell for sure, but if it really is a copy of our own, he would certainly be able to track us anywhere."


I nod to everyone else and head back to my room.


"I've tried, now I need my own guidanze."

Zunden says weakly, turning.


"I like that idea, yeah…"

"If you can, maybe try to find out how tied your hands are? As far as learning more, maybe we should look at the swap Meet for some sort of scroll or book?"

"If we get a chance, we could board and steal it- rough him up a little, and maybe he'll give up on it?"


"I mean, The fact he's even decided to hold off for a while shows he's not 100% in Lysander's pocket. It's worth a try, at least, right? Still, we should be careful. He's got guts going up 1v8. He probably has something up his sleeve."

"Understandable. No need to get violent right now though. This bounty hunter seems a reasonable sort."

Violet nods, clearly not 100% relaxed given the circumstances. "Do what you have to."

You leave the room and head to your dormitory. As you do so, you notice Aurora's door closed, and you hear her sniffling quietly.

"The desert's about a week's worth of travel from here. The Swap Meet is only a few days, and it's on the way to boot. We could just stop there to gather info before moving on. Plus, the Meet is only once every 1000 days. Hate to miss it."

"I'll, er… I'll just stay here a bit," says Violet. "Need to plan our next move. Good luck talking to the weird skull. I'll join you later, actually."

You head back to your room and pull out the Oracle. Mercutio greets you enthusiastically, chattering his plated teeth. "Myeh! Back for more, are we? We knew you couldn't resist our roguish charms. What can we do for you today, O great and wrinkly faced master?"


''You could also take his ship, you already took one, whats stopping you from taking another?''


I smile as I hear Mercutio greet me without me even saying anything. Setting him on the bed, I climb up in front of him. "I was hopin you could let Purdue take the wheel for a sec, chrome dome. Answer a question for me. If Hermodur breaks the Cuckoo's egg like the wants, oneiromancer wants, what will happen?"


Roll #1 3 = 3


"I'll give your teeth back to spit at unsuspecting victims. Or more likely me, I guess," I try to haggle.


Roll #1 3 = 3


"Once Zunden is ready, we can bring the ship around to talk with Clawson. After all, he would catch us long before we arrive at the swap meet, given the travel time required to reach it."

"Besides this rather nasty business with the bounty hunter, have you decided to stay after all? we are still heading to a grand trading expo, and i'm sure there's bound to be something that could interest you."


Zunden begins to make for her room, her quivering worsening as she hears Aurora herself sniffling. Her need for isolation and to hide her emotions is bested by her need for someone to confide in, however. Misery loves company.

She opens the door without knocking, looking to Aurora, biting the bottom of her lip and her body shaking. She says nothing.


''I will, I certainly would enjoy this rare trading meet, it might help us all find the aswers we seek as well''



"I suppose it will be the best place to look. And, we have the compass to see if any such thing exists and where to find it."


"Oh yeah, what is this about bounty hunters?"



"We've one hunter after us, a saurian named Clawson. Polite fellow, but clearly dedicated to his work. He's given us twenty four hours of a head start to avoid him, parking his ship near a cliff while he waits."





''With that being said, please excuse me, I was interested in this talk about a magical fortune-telling skull'' Aegis says without a hint of sarcasm in her voice, pulling away and following after where Norv went''


"Well, this isn't really a ship," Violet explains. "It's a magical construct called a Sanctuary. They're kind of rare throughout the Echoes. Very valuable, very sought after. But also, very hard to control. Usually they're bound by a magic seal to whoever the Sanctuary's master is. Breaking the seal on this one so Z could use it was an absolute nightmare." She plays with her braid absent-mindedly, clearly stressed from the argument. "Sounds like this Clawson guy has a Sanctuary as well. Even if we take it from him, it'll almost certainly have a seal as a failsafe."

"What, that old stick in the mud? No way Jose! He's so boring. Always complains and keeps using my toothbrush. Nyeh heh heh!"

At the mention of getting his teeth back, you think he perks up, or as much as it's possible for a skull to perk up. "Now you're speaking my language, boss man. But, you didn't say the magic word, did you? Humor me, fleabag!"

She nods. "Let's… er, let's just give her a moment." She looks worriedly in Zunden's direction.

Aurora has her face buried in her hooves, shaking slightly. She looks up as you enter. She's been crying; that much is obvious. She doesn't try to hide it either. For a moment, she doesn't say anything, then she opens her mouth to speak. "I don't want to go back," she says hoarsely, looking at you with watery eyes.

You tail Norv as he goes to his room. You hear a high, nasal wheedling voice coming from behind the door. He seems to be talking to someone you haven't met yet.


"Business, it seems. He had spotted the wanted posters while in Braildorn and came to collect, hired by lysander to kill us, burn the ship and capture Violet, in whichever order he can manage."

"He's alone, as far as i could see, but very well-equipped."


''Aha I see, so its not as easy as I imagined, still, the efforts certainly are worth it no doubt''
With that Aegis took her leave

There was a knock on the door
''Mister Norvegius, may I enter''


I roll my eyes. "Oh- what was it, Marty? Marty the great and powerful, if you would please be so kind as to allow me to speak with Purdue, I would be ever so grateful."


Roll #1 9 = 9


I jump at the sound of the knock and glance over my shoulder. "Yeah. Sure. Come on in."


Aegis gently pushed the door open and walked in, examining the room
''I heard a voice, is this the mentioned enchanted skull?''



"No, I mean why is he giving us a head start?"


"I'm not sure enchanted is the right word, but yeah. That was Mercutio." I nod toward the skull on the bed.


''Enchanted items are a particular interest of my family, as no one there has talent for magic, aside from me, but most appreciate its uses. What are you asking it?''


"Hmm… Hmmmmmmm….. HMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM……………………….. No. Nyehehehehehe!!"

There is a silver pony skull on the bed with emerald eyes, missing a few teeth. They glint as you enter, and the skull hops about to face you. "Hello, what have we here?" it chatters, putting on a deep, "suave" voice as best it can. "Welcome to our kingdom, madame!"


"Oh.. Well, i suppose it's only the sporting thing to do. Perhaps he's as interested in the chase as the kill." i reply, shrugging my wings.

"Zunden can bring us to him later, you may be able to ask him yourself. We do have the day to prepare, after all."



Zunden goes to Aurora and hugs her, crying as well. The hug is initially more for Zunden's sake as she forgets her thorny nature, pulling away somewhat only after remembering and instead handling the pony gently.

"I'm zcared. I want to be brave but I'm zcared. Everyone lookz up to me but I'm juzt normal. All I've ever wanted to do iz help but I can't even do zhat."


I sigh. Yeah, this is about how I expected it to go. "I can go all night if I have to. This is important. Or do I have to actually want to talk to you to end up talking to him? Alright. How has your day been, Mercutio? Would you like to go meet everyone with me?"


Roll #1 5 = 5


Aegis didnt seem amused by the skull's antics, but bowed her head nonetheless
''It's a pleasure, Sir Mercutio''
She sat down and watched Norv attempts


"No trouble at all. We can talk later if you'd like to know more about any of my magic." he says, giving her a friendly smile.

"Speaking of preparing… what all did he have on him? Any idea of how he operates?"


"Actally that's probably not the best idea. I still don't entirely trust Hermodur not to throw you overboard." I tense up and blush a little as Aegis sits down, scooting over to give her room. "Careful," I tell her. "Hes a biter."



"Hmm.. He was wearing a bandoleer of ammunition and bombs at the time." i begin, tapping my muzzle with a wing.

"He was also carrying a short-barreled gun of sorts. It looked quite heavy, no doubt it would cause quite the injury if a shot connects."

"Beyond that i'm not sure. He was quite confident, giving us a warning before, as well as a head start, and given the list of posters he had he's quite aware he's outnumbered yet presses on."


I didn't expect it to have sentience, or personality at all, this certainly makes it more interesting''


"Yeah. I'm pretty sure 'posessed' is more accurate than enchanted."


You feel Aurora wince, but she returns the hug, crying silently into your shoulder. You just hold each other for a moment. "You're… You're doing a great job, okay? That's… that's all we can do… That's all we're good for, isn't it…" She sounds bitter.

"Our day? Let's see… We stared at the inside of a bag for most of the morning, then I got Purdue with the old water bucket over the door trick. It's ALWAYS funny." It seems the Oracle lives in a whole little world of his own when no one's around.

"New toys? Just for little old moi? Aww! You're too kind! I guess I'll spare you my next tooth. Maybe."

"Ohoho! A tough nut, are we. Hey Purdue, we have ourselves a stiff here. LEAVE ME ALONE. Okay, okay, geez. Guess I'll just have to do it myself. Hey, snow poff, it's going to rain soon. You know how we know?" He waits for your response eagerly.

"Well, he's got a Sanctuary, so he must have some tricks aboard," Violet muses. "Was there anyone else there, or was it just him?"

"It? IT?!" he screeches. He sounds genuinely offended. "We're still alive and kicking, thank you very much! At least we would be if we still had legs!"


"Right. So, maybe we take care of his gun, first?"


I chuckle. "Hey, I offered to leave you out. What, get bored of my journal?" Instead of continuing I sit back, eagerly awaiting the punchline.

[1d10] did he get bored?

Roll #1 7 = 7


''I see, I apologize, I didn't mean to treat you like less of a person'' Aegis leaned a bit closer to the skull, inspecting it with interest ''Should I refer to you as a 'he' instead? Oh but it sounds like you are possesed by more than one entity, curious…''
The crystal mare tilts her head without averting her eyes ''My name is Aegis Glaze. And no, I do not know how you know, but I was told that you would know about things, so I dont doubt you know''


"It looked as though he was alone, though if he can summon phantoms as lysander and Zunden could that's hardly reassuring."


She continues to hold Aurora,

"I'm helplezz if not to Fate. I can't ztop anyone from doing anyzhing. All I'm good for iz trying to mend ze woundz of ze pazt. Ze future iz out of my handz.."

She sniffles,

"I don't know ze right wordz."


"Right- even if the ship's on the small side, it'd still make sense."


"Well… If we absolutely MUST be left out, I suppose it would be a good change of scenery…" Despite playing hard to get, you feel as if he secretly really wants a change of view. Perhaps you could bargain with him.

The skull quivers with anticipation as you fall for it. "I can feel it… in my BONES!!"

You could hear a pin drop.

"Nyeh. Worth a try. I don't really have the guts for more bone puns anyhow. I'll get to you eventually, my pretty, you mark my words!"

"To answer your question, WE are the Oracle! I'm Mercutio, and the other sook you haven't met yet is Purdue. Horrified to meet you. What is WITH that poker face, snow poff? You know fun is legal here in the Echoes, right?"

"Yeah. That's what I was afraid of. Those Servitors can be pretty nasty. I wonder if they're different depending on the Sanctuary?"

She keeps holding you, eventually slowly breaking away, resting her hoof on your shoulder. She can't seem to find the right words either. "I… Well, that's not true," she says. "We've all been making choices for our future this whole time, haven't we? We made the choice not to listen to Discord back then, we also chose to fight Lysander, take this ship, save Aegis today… Things can always go differently. I think it's all up to us. Fate be damned. I don't think there is a manifest destiny. I think we make it ourselves." She offers you a small smile, rubbing your shoulderblade reassuringly. "I… I don't know what's going to happen with Hermodur, but we'll have to see it through. We can't let him pull us apart. We need to keep him on the straight and narrow."


I try to hold it in, but after a second I actually snort and burst out laughing. "Alright. Well, then I'll leave you out. If I can talk to Purdue for a bit. Maybe even take you topside. The view to the ground is pretty crazy, but it's definitely a hell of a view."


Roll #1 5 = 5


I cock an eyebrow. "Unless there was something else you wanted?"


Roll #1 8 = 8


Aegis simply stared at the skull in silence, still as a statue
''The second pun was much better than the first'' She raises a hoof, hovering it over her face ''This is the only face I have. Dont worry, your joke was funny, but you could never make me laugh if that's what you were trying to do… Unless you mean its just my face that bothers you''


"Oh, I'll NEVER give up. I've been here for 200 years, I've cracked tougher nuts than you. That being said… You're a bit of a freak, aren't you?" The skull eyeballs you warily. "Are you even alive, or are you a corpse like me? Or are you just one of those royal guards outside the Canterlot palace? I wish I had arms to put silly things on you. Say. You should play poker with the mutt here. Bet you'd be great at it. Or you could get a day job as one of those giant stone heads on that island…"

The emeralds in his sockets quiver as he mulls it over. One of his teeth falls out of its socket. "I… Well… P… Oh, fine. If it means not having to look at moldy canvas anymore then so be it, talk to the old codger But only for a bit! He doesn't deserve the spotlight. You really should clean your bag every once in a while, by the way. Ahem…"

His voice changes to be lower and more snide. "Ugh. Finally. Hello again, worm. What do you want from me? Make it quick."


I let out a sigh of relief. Finally. "I'll get right to it. What will happen if we let Hermodur break the egg in the tomb of The Dragon? The Cuckoo's egg."


Zunden chuckles softly, wiping her face with a claw as to prevent the tears from leading to her mouth, the unique trait about lizard proving not to be as useful in a time like this.

"Heh heh.. Zhat iz what ze Arcana teachez too. Zhere iz the Major and Minor- Ze Major are ze zhingz zhat are predeztined, big pointz in our life zhat we muzt work around inztead of trying to change. Ze Minor arcana are ze zhingz we can change, make our own deztiny az you zay."

She lets an odd rumbling noise from her throat as Aurora rubs her shoulder, nodding lightly,

"I will never forze anyone to do anyzhing, it iz not my plaze- but you are right, even if I do not know ze wordz now, zhey do exzizt. I want to continue try and help everyone, be here when zhey need advize."

She takes one of Aurora's hooves in her claws,

"I don't plan on going anywhere anytime zoon, 'matter what happenz. Care for everyone here, you included. Hermodur waz right zhough, likely too much for my own good."


''I'm very much alive'' She replies to the skull with seriousness ''I am an ice mage from Japone, I have never set hoof in canterlot before''

''You are free to try as you want but you'd be wasting your time, but I suppose you're ageless as you are now right?''
Aegis looks at the skull from another angle ''Card games are a fine suggestion, but I'd rather spend my time experimenting with you before Norvegicus shows me his cage. Tell me, Sir Mercutio and Purdue, can you aswer my questions as well?''


"Hrm. Processing… Oh. Oh my. That won't do. That won't do at all." There's a tinge of genuine fear in Purdue's voice. "If the Cuckoo flies, it'll destroy the Echoes. Everything in it will be freed from whatever bonds they have and sent to Hermodur's time. And I do mean EVERYTHING. Kairon's out. The Beldam's out. Discord's out. Tirek, curse him, is out. Not to mention the Cuckoo will lay an egg in your world, and the whole bloody affair will repeat, over and over and over. It's happened before. Many times. In more realities than you can count. And it'll happen again. Do me a favor and slap him for me."

"I'm short on time, so say it quickly. Aegis, is it? What do you want? Chop chop."

She nods pensively. "It's the best we can do, isn't it? Stick together, look out for one another, and hope for the best." She sniffs a little. "If we're torn away from our own families, only thing we can do now is, well, build our own." She looks to you and smiles weakly, hugging you gently again. "Thanks, Zunden. For everything. You're a saint."


I pale. "Tirek. I guess I can't be surprised he's here. Yeah, we can't let that happen. I'll have to go over it with the big guy and let him know. Knowing him he'll have some kind of stupid 'we'll just fight them' attitude, though." I nod. "Thank you, Purdue."


Aegis waited a minute after the skull spoke to Norv
''Do you really know the future, is that the only thing you can tell? or do you have knowledge of things future and past?''
She inches closer to the skull ''Did you knew I would be here?''


"Oh, I don't doubt he'll just want to crush them with his little fairy princess. Heh. Good luck talking him out of it. You're going to need it. There's only so many outcomes where you win."

"I figured you'd show up eventually. I can see a lot of futures. I'm not omniscient, but quite close." He pauses for a moment."And before you ask, I'm not telling you who framed you. You're better off not knowing."

"Time's running out. Mercutio's getting antsy. If there's anything else you want to ask, spit it out. Come on."


"Oh. Beldam. Before I forget. What happens if I help the Beldam? Is she dangerous? Or does she just want revenge because Black Pudding trapped her?"


Aegis glared at the skull, for a moment there was a twitch in her muzzle and her eyes squinted briefly
''I have major thing I need to know. Will I find a way to leave the Echoes?''

''Alive'' She adds


"Pleaze don't zhink of me az zhat, I won't live up to zhoze exzpectationz. We're equalz, companionz, zhat zort of zhing."

She returns the hug nonetheless, being careful not to give her the full cactus treatment again and instead being as gentle as she can, resting a claw around her back daintily.

"Zhank you for what you do too Aurora, I get too much of ze zhankz around her az it iz. You dezerve juzt az much."


"Her? She just wants to be left alone. You let her out, no one will be able to enter those swamps anymore. Except maybe you lot."

He hesitates to answer. "Sometimes you do. Sometimes not. But you won't be the same if you return."

"Ugh. I don't know why you like that guy so much." The voice changes to be the high, wheedling tone you know and love. "What a bore! Anyway, are we getting out of this room or what? You said you would. And give me back my teeth! I don't have a stomach, but I do have standards!"

"I'm just glad I got to meet you," she answers meekly. "I… I don't really deserve your company, not after what I did. And… I feel like I get a little carried away, when we have to fight something. I don't like it. It's like it's not me. But then again, who am I, really." She seems bitter.


Aegis held her gaze on the skull for a moment longer before turning to Norv
''They are done talking are they not? If I understand right only Purdue can or chooses to give aswers''


That'd also mean we'd betray Black Pudding. I was almost hoping she was dangerous to make the choice easier. I sigh. "Alright. You deserve it. Thanks, buddy." I gather up his teeth and bring them back over to him. "So you wanna go above deck and check out the view?" I chuckle and glance go Aegis. "Also you mentioned poker with Ms.Glaze earlier. Would you wanna play some cards some time?"


"Mercutio is in control most of the time. But yeah, Purdue is the only one who either will or can give answers. Pretty sure Mercutio can't, but I doubt he would anyway. And no. Trust me when I say he isn't done talking. Just done letting Purdue talk."


''He still seemed to prove his… Their worth, I suppose it just took some convincing. You have a very powerful, if unpredictable artifact with you, Mister Norvegicus''


"You zaid it yourzelf, we make our own deztiniez. You are who you make yourzelf. Ze pazt iz ze pazt, you can change ze prezent."

Zunden chuckles lowly again, patting her back slowly,

"Right now? You're a friend I feel cloze enough to come to in zhiz ztate. Countz for zomezhing right?"


"Yeah. But-" I try to think about how to word it. "I'm gonna be completely honest. You're making me a little uncomfortable referring to him as an object, and I don't know why." I glance at Mercutio. "I mean do you even care?"


Aegis was silent, scrutinizing Norv's face
''I wasn't aware it was bothering you, I will refer to them as a person from now on'' She said in a lifeless, automated tone


He counts each tooth in a goofy accent as he somehow finagles them back into position. "One tooth, ah ah ah! Two teeth, ah ah ah! Three teeth, ah ah ah!"

"You said you would. You'd be a dirty liar to go back on your word now! I'll never talk to you again if you don't! …Er, not that I CARE or anything. …Nyeh."

The skull rattles from side to side. "I'm a bit… arm-impaired. Plus, cards are for losers. Real men play backgammon."

"Oh no I can. I just don't because it's fun watching you nerds beg. Say. What's that in your coat pocket? That's weird."

"Me? Pfft. Of course not! I'm just a humble talking skull. Nyeh!"

Aurora smiles and nods, a larger and warmer smile than you've seen from her yet. "Yes. Yes it does." She just sits comfortably by your side for a moment, reflecting quietly and staring through the bedroom window at the morning canopy outside.


She breaks the comfy silence after a while. "Say. Not that I hold much stock in them - no offense meant - but how about that reading I asked about before? I've… er… I've been wanting to hear what they say for a while."


I shrug. "I mean if he doesn't mind no reason it should bother me. Forget I said anything. Sorry."

"Only asking because I didn't know if you wanted to go up into the air or meet the rest of the group. Not because I wasn't gonna do it. And I could just show you the cards and lay em face down in front of you. Wouldn't be the first time I did it. Never played backgammon before, though." Almost on impulse I check my pocket.


''Think nothing of it. Thank you for introducing me to them though, its certainly going to be one of the highlights of my stay in the Echoes''


I chuckle. "Yeah. No problem. You were bound to meet 'em sooner or later anyway. You're actually only the second who has so far."


''What an honor'' She stands up
''Now then, I dont mean to be hasty, but were you still planning to show me your cage?''


"Nyeh. Maybe. I don't think I'll be able to resist sneaking a peek at the others though. I don't need to see them to know. Fair warning!"

There's something soft and thin in there. You pull it out. It's the same cuckoo feather Carabas burned before.


I glance from Aegis to Mercutio, and back to Aegis. "Well, uh… I sorta have another promise to fulfill. I'll show you when I'm done, though." I slip a hand under the skull. "You ready, then?"


"Yeah. I zhould break out ze Tarot about now. Did you want to make our way back to my room to do zo, or do you mind if I juzt do ze zpread where we are. I don't feel zuper inclined to move too far right now."


My stomach sinks as I see the feather is back. Slowly, I slip it back into my pocket. "Anyway," I say. "Yeah, that's fine. Let's go." I step out of my room and head for the deck.


''Of course, another time. I'll see if the dishes need washing then''
With that, Aegis left back to the kitchen


As you pick up the skull, it wriggles and jiggles to fit comfily onto your hand, almost like a ventriloquist dummy. "Take it away, wrinkle man!" he crows.

You head upstairs to the deck. The ship is floating above a canopy, suspended in midair. Mercutio gazes out at the sea of green, the winding Broad River, the distant mountains, and beyond. For the first time since you met him, he's quiet as he takes in the scenery. Then:


"If you're more comfortable here, then go ahead," she says. "Sorry it's a bit of a mess." She makes a half hearted attempt to clean her room, putting away her little poetry book and kicking some clothes under the bed, but then gives up and just slumps against the back wall and sits on the ground, watching you curiously.


I stare at the scenery as it unfolds in front of me. "Something about seeing everything from this high up, like it's all part of a landscape painting -something that is there but isn't actually real-… it's breathtaking." I give Mercutio a sidelong glance and chuckle. "Or maybe that's the altitude."


"Aurora, I practically lived in a pig zty back in ze Dominion, you know how hard it waz to keep my boarding houze clean? Ze poor and zick are not ze cleanezt folk, even when zhey try."

Zunden says, smiling back,

"What do you want out of ze reading, by ze way? Do you have any queztionz zpecifically? Your ztrengzhz or weaknezzez, zpiritual guidanze, potential hindranzez, your career…"

Zunden rambles, taking the deck out and shuffling it.

"It can be az indepzh or zimple az you want it to be. Juzt dependz on how much patienze you have to hear me talk about ze meaning of cardz."


"Nyeh. It's just a bunch of trees and rocks. What's the big deal? Everybody's seen a rock. I don't get it. I don't… I don't get it…"

She thinks for a while as you prepare yourself for the reading. "Tell me about my future," she answers eventually, sounding more than a little uncertain. "What do the cards say will happen next?"


File: 1545994306399.png (6.14 KB, 306x457, numbers2.png)

"I zhink…"

Zunden rubs her chin,

"We'll try a five card zpread."

She lays five cards out on the floor as she beckons Aurora closer again, pointing to each one in turn,

"One for will signify what your future and what it holdz, ze next for challengez and complicationz, zhiz far one will be hidden factorz you'll need to know zhat will affect you, zhe top one for ze new ideaz, people, or general zhingz zhat can help you grow, and finally below what you need to do to be zuccezful, or avoid to fail."

Zunden looks to Aurora,

"I'll go by each one-by-one zo you can azk queztionz along ze way, alright?"


She watches curiously, scooting over as you lay out the cards. She listens intently as you explain it all and nods without a word, ready for the reading when you are.


File: 1545995597601.jpg (124.04 KB, 350x600, pents13.jpg)

"Your future in general, az zignified by ze tarot…"

She flips over the center card, showing a
beautiful milk snake saurian resting on a throne decorated with animals of various types, holding a large pentacle rune in her hands. Besides her rests a desert hare, which sits comfortably in prairie grass.

"Interezting, and good fortune no lezz. Difficult to interpret zhough. Zhiz iz ze Queen of Pentaclez. Pentaclez relate to one'z work and prozperity. It iz… an interezting card to note, moztly az it reprezentz…"

She giggles,

"Fertility. Now now, before you ztart- it needn't be zhat zort. It juzt az eazily reprezentz your ambitionz bearing much fruit. You are at ze point in life where you have an abundanze of energy and life, and are capable of nurturing zuccezz."

She says, pointing to how the snake cradles the round pentacled rune,

"You're practical, you juzt need to know where to leap, it ztrivez for zecurity and family, whezher zhat be literal family or a group much like our own."


She purses her lips at all the talk of family and fertility, but nods politely. "I… I see. I don't really know if I have any ambitions or goals right now, other than making sure the cat doesn't doom us all, but that's comforting to know." She waits for you to continue.


File: 1545996674233.jpg (68.54 KB, 350x600, 2prx.jpg)

"Az I zaid, you want to know where to put zhat energy, find zomewhere you feel comfortable."

Zunden nods, offering one more grin before continuing,

"A complicazion or challenge you faze or will faze iz ze next card. What hinderz your future…"

She flips the second card, the one at the intersection of the T shape. The card is upside down, depicting a bobtail skink saurian juggling two more coin-like pentacles, an infinity symbol binding the two. Behind him two ships brave high waves, rising up and down.

"Ah, very fitting."

Zunden says, looking around the messy room,

"Anozher Pentaclez, and inverzed which only makez zenze given it iz an obztacle. Zhiz iz ze Two of Pentaclez, normally reprezenting multiple prioritiez and being able to adapt. Inverzed, however, it reprezentz dizorganizazion, being committed to too many profezzionz. You may prove to be good at numerouz zhingz, but by doing zhem all you find yourzelf dropping ze ball or feeling overloaded. I am very familiar wizh ze feeling."

She winks,

"Ideally, you'd want to commit to ze one zhing you want to mazter, and put azide diztractionz. Disorganizazion is your crux."


She smirks at the card. "Okay, okay, I get it, I'll clean my room, mom." She laughs quietly and waits for the next card, looking satisfied with the results so far.


She smiles back, placing her claw on the card furthest to the right,

"A hidden meaning or factor zhat affectz your zituation - zomezhing you need to know az you make your choizez."

She reveals another upright card, depicting a ground agama saurian sunbathing with his eyes closed as some misty celestial being tries to offer him a golden goblet. Three other goblets rest at the ground, ignored by the saurian.

"Ah, again quite interezting, I feel like ze Tarot is honing in on your future. Ze Four of Cupz - your hidden factor is zhat of apazhy and contemplazion. Now, zheze are not bad zhingz, perhapz you will be offered opportunitiez in ze future, but unknown to you ze better anzwer iz zimply to zay 'not now'. Take ze time to contemplate and fully zhink over a choize before you make it, perhapz you will find an inner truzh zhat waz hidden to you before. I do not know if you were taught to meditate in ze temple, but it may prove uzeful moving foward."


File: 1545997684871.jpg (29.17 KB, 233x400, four-of-cups-meaning-rider….jpg)


"'Not now', she parrots, storing that for later. "I did do meditation. I'll try and get back to it, when I'm not doing haikus." She thinks for a moment. "…Would… Would you like to hear one? After this? I mean, they're not very good, but… I feel like I should be giving something back. For you doing this, I mean." She seems a bit flustered. "I mean, you don't have to."


File: 1545999312491.jpg (18.56 KB, 233x400, four-of-pentacles-meaning-….jpg)

Zunden nods understandingly,

"Poetry too iz a good way to find yourzelf and contemplate what iz going on around you. If you truzt me wizh your poetry, zhen of courze I'd be more zhan graciouz to be prezent to hear it."

She rocks her self back and forth a little to stretch, before moving on to the card above the Two of Pentacles. Like that of the 2 and Queen, the card also bears Pentacles, a gold tengu saurian in silk robes holding one close to his body, his feet claiming two more, and a final one balanced on his head. Zunden looks bemused at the continued theming of the cards,

"I know not the zignificanze, but zhere is great relazion to eazh ozher. Zhiz iz ze Four of Pentaclez."

She catches herself,

"Ah, before I get to ahead of myzelf. Zhiz card iz zhat which reprezentz new ideaz, people, or zhingz zhat will help you grow-"

she continues,

"-Four of Pentaclez, right. Again, zecurity playz a key roll. Ze idea zhat may prove uzeful iz zhat of zaving and conzervazion. Again like ze card previouz, it callz for playing zhingz zafe, change can be dangerouz and it iz better to grow more firzt zhan to 'zpend' and make zhoze choizez now."

She scratches her chin,

"While I had hoped I could offer you a zet choize in which to take for your future, ze cardz repeat taking ze time to grow, zave, and mull zhingz over before taking actzion. Ztill, one more card remainz - zhat which you zhould zeek or avoid in order to be zuccezzful or avoid failure."


*Gold Tegu


"Well, okay then. Haikus are short though, so don't get your hopes up or anything."

She frowns as pentacles keep coming up again and again. "Is… is this normal?" she asks, her brow furrowed. "To keep getting cards from the same suit like this?"

"Saving, conservation, hesitation… that's what Temperance is about, right? I think that's what one of the major cards is."


File: 1546000477670.jpg (74.89 KB, 350x600, swords07.jpg)

Zunden beams as she mentions the Major Arcana,

"Very good, if we were to draw Temperanze now I'd zhink it to be ze mozt auzpiziouz of drawingz. Az for it being normal, zhey are cardz. It iz ze zame as drawing a hand all of ze zame zuite. Unlikely, but not impozzible. Let uz zee what it iz you zhould eizher zeek out or avoid, zhen."

Zunden smiles as she flips the final card, however as the card is revealed she audibly gasps and bites her tongue. The card is familiar to Aurora, being the last card, representing the future, from the first reading Zunden gave her. The card's main feature is an indistinguishable saurian dressed in white, face hidden behind a masked turban. He walks away from a blacksmith, clutching six swords under his cloak. A last sword is left behind in the sand, dropped by the rogue as he slinks away.

"By ze Fatez… Of courze you'd zhow yourzelf again az we ztruggle wizh you right now… Ze Zeven of Zwordz, as you may be aware Aurora, iz zhat of betrayal, deczepzion…"

She starts to quiver again, obviously getting more nervous as she explains,

"-Not acting onezelf."

Zhe pauses for a long moment, biting her lip pensively and distress returning to her face.

"P-perhapz we move on to poetry? I don't want to linger on zhiz lazt card."


File: 1546000908524.png (1.82 MB, 1228x2036, final spread.png)

>final spread for Aurora


Aurora hesitates before taking the card and examining it. She looks a little unsettled by your reaction. You feel like the same person is on both your minds right now. "…Do you really think he's going to do it?" she asks, breaking the uncomfortable silence.

As you mention poetry, she goes a bit red, but nods and rummages around for her little black book, flipping through it. "It's just an exercise I do," she explains. "I find it helps me unwind. It's a bit of a release. I… I write them about some people I've met, and about the places we visit. Which one would you like to hear?"

She has written haikus about the following:
>Her exile
>The Shifting Sands
>Silver and Rabi
>The ship
>Norv and Violet
>The breaking of the Fulcrum seal
>The beast hunt
>Your time imprisoned
>Black Pudding


"It iz not zet in ztone, az it iz ze Minor Arcana. Zomezhing to avoid, not zomezhing to brace for. Zhere iz alwayz hope."

Zunden says, though still unsure of her own words. She takes solace in hearing the writings of her friend,

"What of ze loverz, bozh pairz? Zhey are bozh equally interezting."


She nods silently. She seems comforted by that fact, though you still sense some unease from her.

"I got taught these little poems by a drifter who visited the monastery once. Odd fellow from the east, like our new friend Aegis. Ought to write one about here, once I know her a bit better."

She seems very self conscious reading them out loud, but nods and clears her throat.

>Heiress and Ranger

>City mare and desert rogue

>Opposites attract

Of Norv and Violet, she recites the following:

>Frightened, furtive, frail

>Mendicant soon finds a friend

>Two strands in a braid

"Not very good, I know. I'm trying to improve." She rubs the back of her neck awkwardly.


Zunden nods appreciatively,

"I have a deep appreziazion for poetry, juzt like muzic. I am not well educated to know zome of zhoze wordz, but zhey come off… poetic."

Zunden blushes as well,

"Have I not zaid before I zhouldn't be a poet myzelf? I lack the tact for arranging wordz az zuch."


She chuckles again. It's a little strange seeing her like this when she's normally so aloof and introverted. "Well thanks. I'm glad you like them. I've… well, I've never really shared them with many people. No one back at the monastery really listened to them." She smiles warmly.


"Yeah. I think it's more of a change of scenery. Some landscapes are more peaceful than others. Like, this?" I wave my hand to gesture at the trees and rocks. "It's a lot different than the slums in a city. Or inside some old, shitty house." I smirk. "Or the inside of a bag. But yeah, I guess once you've seen basically the same thing for, what was it, 200 years? I could see how it'd start to lose its charm."


The skull doesn't answer. For the first time since you met him, Mercutio is quiet. No quips, japes or terrible puns. It's hard to tell, but it's like something is weighing on him.

"Hey mutt. Norv. Lend me your ear. Since I don't have any. Nyehe." It's Mercutio talking, but he sounds deflated; he's lost his usual playfulness and is being quite serious. "We've seen what can come next. For all of us. To be blunt, your kitty cat friend, he's… he's going down a dangerous path. Well, not that I'd normally CARE, but… he is your friend, isn't he? He needs guidance. Someone needs to keep him on the right road. I think everyone can be a great person if they try. And why, me, I hardly have to try at all! Nyehehehe! Heh."

"Just… Try to keep him from doing something horrible, will you? He has a heart of gold. He means well. He's just not in a good state of mind right now. Watch over him for me. …Please."


"Honeztly, I've been zo accuztomed to ze zhantyzpeak of ze zlumz I called home, any type of 'poetry' zhere waz… crude, and often waz only written to zolicit err.. ladiez of ze night. Zhiz on ze ozher hand- it'z zimple and elegant, much more pleazant on ze earz."

She snickers,

"Well, for zhoze who have earz anyhow. Atleazt zhey knew muzic zhough. I have zuch an appreziazion for zhoze gifted by ze muzez."


I sigh and set him on the guardrail, freeing my hands up to lean on my elbows. "Yeah. That's what I was afraid of. To be honest the only reason I even asked was to confirm it, but everyone else was pretty much positive it was a bad idea." I rub the back of my head. "Man, this is a shitty situation for everyone, huh? Just always assumed we'd at least sort of be on the same page. I'll do whatever I can to stop him from going down that path, and I'm sure everyone else feels the same way."

I fall silent for a moment. Finally, I say, "Everyone can be a great person if they try… that's what I've been telling myself for most of my life, and I've pretty much doubled down on it since getting here. It's an ideal I hold almost above anything else, but this place-" I shake my head. "It tries you." I think back to the people who have risked their own skin to help us and can't help a small smile. "Then again I guess there's proof of it too. I don't know. Sorry. Didn't mean to just sit here and wax poetic like this." I cock an eyebrow and glance sidelong at him. "Especially not with you. This is probably a dumb question all things considered, but you alright?"


She smiles again and nods. "Yeah. I had to learn a bit of shantyspeak myself when I was living on my own, after I ran away and all. You kind of have to when you're living around those people. I never really got the hang of it, but I can at least understand what they're saying, you know?"

At the mention of music, she nods. "I heard you practicing the other day. It'd be nice if you learned properly. I can't play, but I can sing well. At least I like to think so."

The Oracle listens quietly as you talk. He's being awfully aloof.

"Why wouldn't I be? I'm the Oracle!" he crows. "WE'RE the Oracle! The greatest seer in all ten kingdoms! Come one, come all! Ask us your questions, if you dare! Nyehehehe!" He falls silent again. When he speaks, you're not sure which of them is talking. "…I just don't understand," he chatters, looking out at the landscape. "I was locked away in those two's caravan for so long, and before that, I was just lying in the sand. I never realized until now… I can see so much, but I can't study, use, or even… appreciate it all. …It all just ends. I think that's the absolute. The murder of the universe. It's all just one sick joke." He sounds bitter.


I quietly listen. A soothsayer having an existential crisis. Well, don't that beat all? I never actually thought about it, but I guess it makes sense. Even if you see multiple futures, it all ends up going to the same place in the end. I continue to watch the landscape, not looking at him as I speak. "Yeah, it all ends. But I don't think that's a reason not to enjoy it while it's there, y'know? I'm not exactly any kind of philosopher or anything, but the way I see it as long as you can find things you enjoy and people you want to spend that limited time with-" I shrug. "Then you can just enjoy what you can while you can. Nothing matters, and everything ends, but I think that's exactly the reason you should be happy. Nothing matters, and it's all a joke in the end anyway, so why sweat it? I don't know. Maybe that's dumb or naive or something. Especially since I don't know remotely as much as you." I laugh and look down at my crossed paws. "Maybe saying that makes me a hypocrite, though. Doesn't seem like I've been letting myself do too much 'being happy' lately. Seems like everything's falling apart around me. Even worse than it already was. It's like in order to get by without hurting anyone too bad I gotta either be a demi-god or be sneaky and conniving. Which apparently I'm good at. Honestly surprised me. Being sneaky, I mean. Not being a demi-god. I don't hate it or anything, but it feels… I don't know. Weird I guess?"

Realizing I've gotten off topic, I clear my throat. "Anyway, I think I understand what you mean. So how'd you even get like that anyway? If you don't mind me asking. You don't actually have to answer this one. You probably already know my boring, no-name story. What's yours?"


Roll #1 6 = 6


"I can… zpeak it pretty well. Comez from having to treat the injuriez of people zhat only know how to zpeak it."

She sighs wistfully,

"Zometimez I worry I'm going to forget my native language. My tribe had it'z own, or atleazt I've never heard anozher zpeak it, so I've had no one to talk to it in for yearz. Zometimez when I try to zhink on what a word would tranzlate to in our tongue, I can't for ze life of me zhink of it."

She frowns,

"It'z zad, being witnezz to my own culture die in my own memoriez."


"Hmph. Yes, that's HIS philosophy talking. Mercutio." He spits the name out with no small amount of bile. "He's a child. Toying with all the different things we can see. I was like that myself once. But now… Well. We've had this conversation before, haven't we. Many times. Trillions upon trillions of different iterations of the same words. You can't understand how this feels."

"I've read every book there is. I've burned every book there is. I've seen kingdoms rise and fall. I've seen things you wouldn't believe, Norvegicus Black. I know how your story began, and how it ends. I know just who's listening in right now. If you knew the truth about the multiverse…"

Purdue cackles. It's a chilling sound, not at all the mirthful laugh of Mercutio. There is a long silence. "I don't think I want to know anymore," he says after a while. "…Please. If you get the chance, destroy us. I can't bear this anymore."

"Oh, that's a looooooong story." Mercutio's bouncy charm is back. "A web of mystery and deception. A tale as old as time itself. How much time you got, friendo?"


She pats your shoulder reassuringly. "But there must be someone out there from your tribe. Right? They can't all have died off. Traveled far, sure, but I don't think they're all dead. Call it a hunch. Maybe you'll meet someone from your tribe someday. A nice handsome saurian with a… thick tail… Saurians like big tails, right? I don't know. Sorry." She laughs a little again and blushes.


Destroy them? I don't know if I could bring myself to do that, but at the same time maybe leaving them trapped in the skull with knowledge of literally everything would be even more cruel. "Well," I say. "Unless something comes up I have until we make it to the swap meet."


Zunden snorts, blushing at the unflattering noise,

"At zhiz point I wouldn't know if zhey were a zibling or not. Deefinitely not worzh ze rizk zhere."

She shudders, but nods,

"No, I do not zhink zhem all dead, I know zome fled wizh from ze plague or followed ze Dominion'z zettlerz and abandoned ze tribe zhat way. I juzt doubt any of our traditzionz zurvived. I am zertain onze I die, all ze Readerz of my tribe will be dead."

She leans back,

"Idea of having kidz iz too weird for me. I mean I've taken care of zhem, but-"

She stops herself.

"Zorry, weird tangent."

She stays quiet for a good bit after that, before giggling from nothing,

"Hehe, big tailz."


Aurora nods understandingly. "…Have you ever heard the legend about the king who wanted immortality? He went on a long journey to the ends of the earth, looking for the one that could grant him eternal life, only to discover at the end that he already had it. His city, his people, his legacy, that was the true secret to living forever. The point is, the way I see it, as long as you're alive, and by extension all of us, your people aren't dead. Their memory will live on as long as someone's left to speak of them. You should pass on your knowledge of the cards. As long as someone knows of it, there'll always be a Reader. Right?"


"Well then. …I may have played it up a little. It's not too long. it does involve a certain queen you've met already. Funny how coincidences work, isn't it?"

"'Twas a long time ago that Purdue had a body. He was a noble. A renowned scholar of the arcane. One of the greatest seers in Kairon's Kingdom. I, Mercutio, was his jester in those days. They paid me to make fun of everyone. Purdue, though, he was pretty awful. He'd do awful things just to make his friends laugh. Beat me, throw knives at me, threaten my family.. I DID NOT. You did, milord. You know it's true. You hated me. I did everything to amuse you and you hated me. YOU WERE A SWINE. UGLY, STUNTED, MALFORMED LITTLE IMP. YOU MADE ME SICK JUST LOOKING AT YOU. I SHOULD HAVE HAD YOU KILLED. …Yes. You should have."

There is a long silence before Mercutio speaks again. "Where were we? Oh yes, Purdue. He wasn't content with just being an ordinary oracle. Oh no. You weren't were you? You had to see more. To know more. To know everything. Well, he kept tapping into the fabric of fate itself, and, well, he got what he wanted. Didn't you, my liege?"

"Of course, having an omniscient sage around attracted the Queen's attention. Kairon Irse. So lovely and fair. She wanted to know, didn't she? What loom fate had spun for her? And of course, Purdue, being ever the humble servant, obliged. He told her everything. Everything that would happen. That her nieces would overthrow her, reform the 10 kingdoms, ascend to godhood… Well, as you can imagine, the good lady Kairon wasn't happy about that. She had everyone in Lord Purdue's court murdered - myself included. Fun for the whole family!"

"But she had other plans in store for the good Lord Purdue. Didn't she, milord? She took his severed head, prettied it up a little, as you can see - we look quite dashing, don't we? - and brought him back. So he could offer her consult forever."

"Of course, that didn't last. We told her, didn't we? About how she'd be overthrown? Once Luna and Celestia took over, they tossed her out here with, oh, too many artifacts to count. Ourselves included. So we sat around in a sand dune for a good century or two, then some awful lizards picked us up, then they sold us to you. And, well, here we are. Tada!" The skull bounces up and does a 360, the sunlight glinting blindingly off its chrome dome.


"Of courze, zhat iz what my elder told me when zhe gave me ze deck in ze firzt plaze."

She smiles,

"I am glad you zhink ze zame way. Az for teaching zomeone, I do plan to- I juzt zhink I'd want to zettle down firzt. Lot on my plate already, teaching zomeone ze meaning of every zingle card, and ze importanze of zpreadz, and-"

She laughs,

"You get ze point. I'll ztick to piloting, cooking, healing, identifying, learning an inztrument, and trying to stop catz from deztroying ze world for now."

She slinks back further, still upset about the situation, but not nearly as before.

"I'll figure zomezhing out. We're not near ze zhing, and I ztill control ze zhip. I'll find ze right wordz."


"You're stressed, I get it. Got a lot on your plate. Why not let someone else take over duties for a while? I can cook. And heal. If you want some time off, why not try giving Norv or Hermodur a go with the rings? They could wear them, I'm sure. Now I think of it, it'd be much more convenient if the enchantment were tied to something else. An amulet, maybe. Something more of us can use. Maybe we can find a way to do that at the Meet."


"Well you know ze reazon I wouldn't want to give Hermodur ze ringz now… atleazt until zhiz zhing blowz over. Az for ozherz… I don't know, it'z juzt ze fact zhey have zheir partnerz and zuch, I know zhey zpend a lot of time togezher on ze zhip-"

She blushes,

"Well, to ze degree I have to block zhem out while piloting. I don't want to wrezt zhem away from eachozher when I waz not doing anyzhing az important anywayz. Az for yourzelf, young lady-"

She waggles a claw in mock scolding,

"You had a reading not 10 minutez ago, and you're zaying you want more rezponzibilitiez?"

She smiles wearily,

"It iz ztrezzful, yez, but it iz what I want to do. Ze ozherz have zheir own tazkz and zheir own livez to live, I am contented to making zhat eazier for zhem. Az I have zaid, what I want mozt iz to help zhem realize zheir potential, you realize your potential too."

She pokes Aurora with the claw she was waggling playfully.

"Zhough changing it'z form would be good regardlezz. If an ally of Lyzander waz to zneak aboard and try to zteal ze Fulcrum back, zhey'd have a much harder time doing zo if it waz not ze zhape Lyzander had zhem in."


She doesn't get the implication at first, but when it hits her, she makes a face like she's been force fed the world's biggest lemon.

"I'm just trying to help!" she retorts, throwing her hooves up defensively, though she knows you're just joking. She listens to you quietly, nodding. "You do so much for us, and I feel like it goes over everyone's heads. Don't you think for a second I don't notice all you do. Where would we all be without you, Zunden?" She gives you a quick hug of gratitude again.

"What about you though? Is that really what you want? To help others? Don't you want some time for yourself? I see those rings taking their toll on you. You should really take some me time, I think. …Or don't, if I'm intruding…"


"Aurora don't queztion yourzelf queztioning me, I need zomeone to keep me in check too you know. I don't find you intruzive at all."

She returns the quick hug, pulling away and deciding to pick up the cards that were arranged on the ground, idly shuffling them back into the deck as she talks,

"When I left my tribe, over a decade ago now. I wazn't zure what I wanted to do. I conzulted ze Tarot a lot, back zhen I wazn't zo zure of zheir uzefulnezz at ze time even wizh my training. Juzt felt like zhey were wrong- Part of ze well of emozionz zhat came from leaving home I guezz. Did a lot of zoul zearching, and when I came to the Dominion it all zort of clicked. I zaw people who had no guidanze, and az a rezult zociety took advantage of zhem: ze poor, ze zick, zhoze who did not conform to how 'proper zivilization' wanted zhem to act. I knew zhat'z what I waz meant to do, help ozherz out."

She muses to herself,

"I do take time for myzelf, when we're not traveling. I went zhopping a few timez, bozh for relicz and for furniture. I've been learning ze inztrument like I zaid- I'm juzt buzy now. It doez not mean I will be buzy forever."


She listens politely. "You're what I should have been," she says, more speaking to herself. She plays with her amulet absent mindedly. "I was never really happy in the monastery. I don't mean to sound ungrateful, mind you. Before them, I had nothing, no one. They took me in, offered me clothes, food, shelter, and even studies. I trained under the two healer brothers for a few years - it's where I learned my skills - but it never really felt like I was where I was meant to be. I mean, I like helping people, but… well, this is going to sound gross, but… I don't feel it's where I'm meant to be, you know? I just… I just don't know what 'where I'm meant to be' is. Kind of feel like a third wheel sometimes. Everyone else gets along like carrots and peas and I'm just… there." She shrugs. "I want to do what I want to do, but I don't really feel like I have any ambition, or purpose even. I used to, but ever since… well, what happened when you met me, I've just kind of felt empty inside. Where do I go from here? What am I doing with my life? You know?" She stares down at the floor as she talks.

"I dunno. Just feeling ennui I guess. I really just want everyone in the group to get along, but… well, you saw what happened with Hermodur."


Zunden smiles warmly, even as she mentions it not being what she's meant to be,

"You only repeat ze zentimentz we talked of earlier, Aurora. You are a good healer, compazzionate, you care about ozherz. But juzt becauze you can do zomezhing doez not mean it iz your calling. I can cook, it doez not mean I zhould be a zhef."

Zunden pats Aurora's hooves, holding one in her two claws,

"I am not what you zhould have been. You are like I yearz ago. I waz wandering Abyzzinia finding myzelf, you are wandering Ze Echoez finding yourzelf. You have not found zhat 'click' yet. Not now, right?"

She chuckles again,

"Zhat reading.. Four of Cupz really doez zuit you. It'z timez like zhoze when I feel zhere iz more to ze cardz zhan juzt cardz. I will never try to convinze anyone elze of it, mind you. Zometimez all people need from zhem iz zomeone to talk to and a vague zemblanze of it relating to zheir life. A zhallow view of it, but zherapeutic none ze lezz."


"'Not now'," she echoes, and smiles. "I guess there is something to the cards. It really does reflect me. I guess I'll just have to wait and see what the world has in store for me, won't I. I'll know my calling when I see it. Right?"

"Say. Have you thought about doing one for us? Our group, I mean. What the future has in store. It feels like we're at a turning point, with the situation with Hermodur, and this new girl we picked up. Maybe the cards will point us in the right direction. …What do you make of her, by the way?"


Zunden nods.

"I have, it iz what I had zet out to do after breakfazt before my emotionz got ze better of me. I need guidanze too, juzt az much az you."

She rubs her chin,

"Az for ze uh… Glaze? Zhe actz very reztricted. I know not if zhiz iz juzt her being on guard or ozherwize. Ze cardz, again, will help me get a better read of her. Zhey did for ze ozherz az well."


She nods understandingly. "I've, er, got some writing to do myself. Feel like I should get my thoughts down, after all this. Sorry, I'm not brushing you off or anything, it's just something I feel like I need to do."

She seems to agree with you about Aegis. "She seems very distant. I think she might just have been raised that way. She seemed very determined to get home out the get go. Understandable, I guess. Feel a bit bad that she was kind of forced into this ugly business the way she did. …Also she's kind of pretty.[/size6]"


Zunden nods again, smiling warmly, hugging Aurora one last before getting up off the floor.

"I entered wizhout azking, zo I zhank you giving me zhiz much of your time. Fatez know I needed zomeone I could call a real friend. I'll leave to your writing, but pleaze feel free to vizit me anytime. Not juzt for ze cardz and az a Reader, but y'know, az me, Zunden."

She chuckles, making for the door, she lingers outside it, looking at Aurora,

"I uh, hope I can hear you zing zometime. Don't have to, juzt got me curiouz when you mentioned it."


Aurora returns the hug, breaking away reluctantly as you go to leave.

"Of course, of course. Was good to catch up a little. Been busy enough the last few days really. I'd love to start singing again sometime, but I can't remember any songs off the top of my head. Sorry."

"Thanks for… well, for everything really. I really can't thank you enough for all you do for me. For all of us. It's a brighter world with you in it." She gives you another soft smile. You can feel her eyes on you as you leave her room and retreat to your own. After a while, you hear her moving about, cleaning her room properly this time.


Damn. That's pretty heavy. I guess most situations where you're reanimated and trapped in a skull would be, though. "I'd offer you a drink if you could actually drink it," I say, chuckling quietly. "Guess it must have felt sorta weird hearing that I actually wanted to help the mare who did this to you. You probably already know this, but I honestly don't think I'd be able to bring myself to destroy you if given the chance." Even though it'd be helping him more than anything, and he's already lived a lifetime anyway. "But… well, what if there was some way to take the knowledge away? A kind of selective memory repression or something?"


Zunden sighs with relief as she enters her room alone, much calmer having spent the time with Aurora. As she sits down at her table, she notices the gift Carnifex gave her laying on the red tablecloth. Having set it aside without much inspection the previous night, she inspects the make of the card, giving close inspection to both the design of the back of the card and the art itself.


[1d10] lore check

Roll #1 8 = 8


[1d10] checks on checks (perception)

Roll #1 7 = 7


You examine the tarot card. The design of it is familiar to you; it is the seventh of the Major Arcana, the Chariot. The figure depicted is a determined looking white unicorn with a blue mane, clad in resplendent battle armor and levitating a burning lance. He rides a golden chariot, pulled by two earth ponies clad from head to toe in gold. You recognize the figure as a lesser saint in the faith of the Alicorn Empress: Saint Shining, patron saint of warriors.

At first, you think the other side has no markings, save for an elaborate golden motif, but then you notice something odd: three alicorn mares of disparate ages have been imprinted extremely faintly onto the flipside of the card, almost as if they weren't meant to be there initially.

The leftmost mare is facing left. She is the youngest of the three, clad in a long, flowing white gown, and is holding a white dove in one hand and a bouquet of flowers in the other, covering her face with the latter.

The middle mare faces the front, and wears homely, earthy brown clothes, and a prominent grey apron over them. Her hooves are held at her front, making a sort of cup gesture about her womb. Her head is bowed, making it impossible to see her face, but you can see that she is wearing some sort of tiara or diadem with a leaf pattern. An owl is flying over her head.

The rightmost mare faces the right, and is a hunched old crone in a tattered black robe, her face obscured by a long hood. She firmly clutches a gnarled, twisted tree branch, the leaves falling off and scattering at her hooves. A crow is perched on her shoulder.

This triple goddess motif is familiar to you, as objects of worship in some religions.


Making little noise investigating the card, she eventually feels satisfied in looking it over, flipping it back to its face, closing her eyes and trying to get a read of it's magical aura.

[1d10] Identify (Antiquarian)

Roll #1 5 = 5


"We may not be able to drink," says Mercutio, "but we REMEMBER. Wine… Ahh, wine… FTFTFTFTFTFT" He somehow makes a horrible slurping sound.

"Ooh, I can't blame you! Who'd want to get rid of us? You wouldn't get anywhere without our insight. And razor sharp wit! Nyehehe!"

"It's a possibility. Just like getting out of this place is a possibility! It might happen. Or it might not. The future isn't certain, you know. There's so many futures, it makes our head spin just trying to keep track of them all. If you do, our kindly and gracious lord Purdue will be ever so grateful. …But I hope that doesn't happen. Because… well, I kind of like it here. All these japers and capers, hijinks and lojinks, it's all too much fun!"


You sense a powerful aura of strength coming from the card, as if it could change the course of your near future by invoking its energy. You feel as if you should handle it with extreme caution, however. You haven't felt a power quite like it before.


Zunden sets the card down back on the table, only keeping a single claw on it as she continues to try and make sense of the powerful aura.

[1d10] identify (antiquarian)

Roll #1 2 = 2


You keep trying to tap into it, focusing your magical attunement on the card. As you focus, the card flashes for a moment, and a jolt runs down your arm, forcing you to pull away from the artifact for a moment.


Zunden gasps and pulls her claw back, harrumphing. Drumming her claws on the table, she lets out a breath, closing her eyes and reaching out once more.

'Reveal to me your secrets.'

Roll #1 8 = 8


"Yeah. I like it here more, too. With everyone else, especially. I haven't experienced anything this close to family since pop died. Almost makes me wish I'd gone into the adventuring biz sooner." I rest my head in my palm. "And yeah, that might acually be true. Even if it wasn't you've been almost as helpful as you've been a pain in my ass so far. Whis is to say, pretty darn helpful. Seems like most of what I've asked could get me into some pretty big trouble if I wasn't careful."


You extend your claw, focusing even harder on trying to glean the nature of this strange card. After a while, you think you have it. It's a powerful enchantment indeed; this card, representing determination, contains the will to keep going and the resolve to change your own fate.
>The Chariot
>automatic instant, once per session
>When invoked, this card fills you with determination from beyond. Your next roll, or that of one of your allies, counts as a critical success, no matter what the result. Further attempts to invoke the power of the Chariot will result in your next roll counting as a critical fail instead.


"You're very welcome! I only live to serve my master!" Mercutio's voice is dripping with sarcasm. He goes quiet for a moment. "Er, the boss man says to warn you: be careful what you ask of us. We're here to help, but you might not always like the answers you get. Of course, you'd probably guessed that already, hadn't you? You're such a smart cookie!"


Aegis, after leaving Norv's room, headed to the kitchen see if she could make herself useful


You enter the kitchen. It consists of a big, dome shaped hearth for baking bread, a stove powered by fire magic, and a long bench with all the essentials for cooking a nice meal. Of note is an empty room adjacent that seems to have a magical frost enchantment on it. Essentially, any food that would be placed here would be preserved by the cold, meaning it won't spoil unless it's taken out and left to rot. Truly a marvel of magical ingenuity. It's a freezer. The food available consists of only basics you'd find in any pony's kitchen; oats, bread, fruits and veg, and all the other essentials besides. There's no meat, however. Strange, considering the race of the ship's former owner.


Aegis didn't seemed all that interested in the foods, and, surprisingly, in the magic freezer or stove, instead her attention was dedicated to finding Violet again, last she saw the mare she was at the kitchen/dining area


"Yeah. Never expexted that'd be the case. Actually, from what R and G said I was only half expecting any kind of anwers at all. Mostly expected to end up spending my hard earned bits on a skull that just flung insults at me. Looks like I was half right." I stand up and stretch. "Anyway. I think I'm probably actually going to end up helping the Beldam under the condition she doesn't try to get revenge on Pudding." I snicker. "It'd be nice if I had sime kind of pact magic power or something. It'd make things like that so much easier." I rub my hands together and twiddle my thumbs. "Honestly part of me is starting to think wanting to help out so much is a little… I don't know… midguided? After hearing about Kairon, I mean. Still, I dont know." I groan. "Well, it's less lonely and more interesting than it was back home, but it's so much more complicated."


You find Violet discussing the current plan of action with Silver, Rabi, and Hermodur, back in the main dining room, her hooves cupped around a mug of tea. She looks rather earnest, but perks up as you enter the room, looking over to you cheerily. "Hey there. What's on your mind?"


Aegis spoke up in her usual lifeless voice
''I was thinking of where to put away my belongings, and where I would be sleeping, since I will be staying for the time being, that is if there is a vacant bed for me to use. Your band is numerous so I wont be surprised if there is none, I dont mind sleeping on on a bench or the floor''


"More complicated, yes, but so much more fun! Don't you think? Let's face it, you were a loser back home, weren't you. Absolute bottom of the barrel gutter trash. No one wanted you." He's laying it on a bit thick. "Why, compared to your situation back there, this must be paradise. Eh?You've got good friends, a comfy home, cheap laughs, a smoking hot girlfriend…" His emerald eye glints in what you assume is his way of winking. "If I were you, I'd do everything I can to stay here. What's the Dominion have that here doesn't anyway?"


Zunden's eyes open, having come to a greater understanding of the aura of the magic. She goes to put it away, but realizes she doesn't have anywhere like her own Tarot deck to put them in. She muses over the thought getting a second deck box for the card, incase she finds another one.


File: 1546148508735.png (23.14 KB, 949x921, cabin layout.png)

"Sure thing!" She excuses herself and leads you to the dorms, which it turns out are pretty barebones. A single double decker bed sits aside from a window offering a view of the outside, with a dresser next to it. Seems like the bed can be split into two with enough elbow grease. On the opposite side of the room is a wardrobe and a bathroom, for all your needs. Other than that, there's not much to it. You see plenty of opportunity to customize the room as you see fit. Just about all the rooms seem to have the same layout. "You can take one of these," says Violet, "or you can set yourself up in the captain's quarters. We're not exactly a crew, we don't have a leader managing everyone. Knock yourself out!"


''This is much more than I could ask for, thank you Miss Violet''
Aegis set down her bag and took away her things, the extra clothing, and her shield, placing them on top of the bed before she undressed herself off her fancy red and white dress, neatly folding it with the others on the bed before undoing her hair bun, letting her long black hair cascade down her shoulders and nearly touch the floor.
Now nude, she headed to the bathroom and stepped into the bathtub for a nice long bath


"I mean, I don't know if I was that bad, but yeah. You're not wrong." As much as it pains me to admit it. "As for what's there and not here? A relative constant comfort, an actual idea of what the next day will be like, and-" I nod to my hand. "Well, I was bitten a few times but I've never actually lost a limb before. Still, between us being sent here was probably the best thing to ever happen to me. I never would have met Violet and everyone else, and I never would have had the kick in the rear to at least try to do some actual good. Hell, if what had happen didn't happen I'd probably be at someone's house right now spraying poison that was probably killing me for pocket change. I mean thinking back on it now I was doing minor adventurer level jobs for pocket change. You know how many dire rats I've killed? And I got I think twenty bits for most of the jobs. And I was basically self employed, so no guarentees and no benifits, making pocket change." I try and think. "Actually, I think some time next week would have been poker night, now that I think about it."


You go to bathe, only to find that there's no hot water system on board the ship. Until the group can find a way to fit the ship with one, the most you can do is take a quick cold shower, army style. It's extremely uncomfortable, but not impractical. Better than nothing.


If it bothered Aegis, it certainly didnt show, and for a good few minutes she simply soaked in the water, deep in thought. Eventually she scrubed herself some and got off the water, draining it and drying herself
She looked for a comb to brush her mane with, if there was any


Mercutio rolls his eyes, or maybe it's just the light reflecting off the emeralds. "Piss and moan, piss and moan. Don't be a baby. Limbs grow back! Nyehehe! …At least you appreciate the life you have now, I guess. More than I can say for some of the other Norvs. If you saw what would have happened if you and Violet hadn't hooked up, you'd probably want to slap yourself across the face with your severed arm." He waggles his eyebrows.


There's no comb, unfortunately. Seems these rooms are barely used at all. Considering the crew consist of magical spirits summoned by the ship's master, it's not too surprising. After a while, you feel quite refreshed, despite the cold shower. You can hear Zunden and Aurora nearby in their rooms, and Violet's still planning the next course of action with the others. Norv, from what you can tell, is on the deck having a chat with Mercutio still.


"Heh. Yeah. Sorry. Guess I got a little carried away whining. Honestly it's going to be hard not abusing your power. I think the fact that you only sometimes have to answer questions is the only thing keeping me from bombarding you with a bunch of 'what if's. Like, what if I confronted Twelve that day? What if I'd never taken the loan at all? What if I didn't tell Vi how I felt when I did? What if I'd actually killed that griffon back in the sands? I know they don't actually matter now, but it doesn't stop it from eating away at a guy."


If she could hear the activity in other rooms that must mean there wasnt a lot of sound-proofing in these quarters. She kept that in mind as she dried herself and let her moist hair loose to dry while putting on a much simpler, humble blue casual dress
Now dressed, she wandered out of her room, checking the nearest door where she heard noise coming from


"As much as we like a good chinwag, it's like Purdue said. Sometimes it's better not to know. Purdue knows everything, and look at the state he's in. Not that he doesn't deserve it. I could answer all those what-ifs, but if we spent all day asking what ifs and wherefores, we'd be here till the cows come home. Not that we don't have all the time in the world! I do, at least! Quite literally!"

You get dressed and, for lack of having anything better to do, head out towards the nearest door; in this case, Aurora's. The door is slightly ajar, and you can see her moving about. Seems like she's cleaning her room up to be a bit more presentable. She hasn't noticed you yet, seemingly having other things on her mind.


For a few seconds Aegis just watched before speaking up
''Miss Aurora''


She jumps a little and looks up, looking a little surprised at having another visitor. She hastily puts away the blue robe she's carrying and nods in greeting rather stiffly. "Aegis, isn't it? What can I do for you?"


''I apologize, I didn't mean to startle you'' Aegis stood on the doorway, briefly scanning Aurora's room ''I heard some noise coming from here and thought to take a look, if you are not too busy I was thinking if we could talk, but if you are I understand''


Her room seems to be under renovations. She has a pile of unused clothes in one corner which she is in the middle of sorting, a small black book lying on an unmade bed, and a silver sword rests on the nearby clothes pegs, propped up as a trophy of sorts. "I was just cleaning," she says. "Not too busy. I can talk, I guess." She stands aside to let you in and looks at you expectantly. There is a bit of an awkward silence. You sense she may not really have good social skills.


"Yeah. Probably best I didn't even ask. I'd probably just end up letting it bother me and distract me anyway. Gotta live in the now, right?" I pull out my flask and drain the last nip of it before replacing it in my jacket. I thought I just filled this thing up last night. Huh. Must have forgotten to. "Anyway," I say. My words are a little slurred, but I ignore it. "I feel a little bad. I kind of wanted to help Discord anyway, but Hermodur not being able to keep his yap shut and Lysander making a deal with him is a really good excuse. It almost feels like I'm lying to everyone, even though I'm saying basically exactly what I'm thinking." I scratch the back of my head. "But hey. Listen to me, sitting here whining again. I think I'm gonna head back down to the room if you don't mind. I won't put you back in-" I pause, having just realized something. He was right there in my bag not ten feet away when me and Violet- I swallow. "I think I might start putting you in a different room at night, though."


Aegis didn't speak up for a few seconds, extending the silence even further as she walked in, and sat down near the bed
''I saw how distressed you were at the discussion earlier, are you feeling well? Arguments like that can be very upsetting''


As you start venting about your problems again, Mercutio starts loudly whistling a sad violin tune, interrupting your train of thought.

"Oh that won't help," Mercutio says smugly. "We see all and know all." He hops uncomfortably close to you and makes horrible squishing noises before cackling mockingly again.


I flush and gulp. That's more than a little embarassing. "Well, I'm going to do it anyway. I'm sure you have better things to tune into than-" I clear the lump in my throat. "Me and Vi." I slip my hand under him and hold him under my arm. "And were the noises really necesarry?" A little wobbly, I turn and make my way back to the cabins.


"I'm… fine. I guess." She seems reticent at sharing her thoughts with a stranger. "…It's just a bad situation we're in right now because of Hermodur. I'm just hoping it doesn't cause a split between our group. I don't want to lose them, you know? …Sorry you had to sit through it as well. You're brand new here, you deserve better. It's just awful for everyone involved." She shrugs.


''I dont mind, I spent most of my upbringing withnessing arguments much more heated than those, I only hope that you can all sort this out among yourselves, not for my sake but for yours, but I doubt you want to linger on a subject so bitter so how about we talk about something else more… Swell?'' The crystal mare motions to the black book on the bad ''Like that book for example, I noticed you had cast a spell earlier, a healing one, is that where you learned it from?''


"One hundred and one percent. Nyehehehehehe!"

You return to the cabins. Violet, Hermodur, Silver and Rabi still seem to be debating the next plan of action, while Zunden and Aurora seem to be in their rooms. Sounds like Aegis is saying hi to the latter.

"Hm? Oh no, tha'ts just my, er… my poetry book." She clears her throat awkwardly and gestures at the little lapis lazuli amulet around her neck. "I cast my spells from this. I got it from the monastery I was in before all this. I'm a healer. And I'm quite good at it too. At least I'd like to think I am. …I mean, I do what I can, I guess."


I stop and knock on the door to Aurora's room. May as well let Aegis know I'm free to show her my cage when she's ready.


Aegis inspectioned the amulet with some interest ''Its pretty, you did good fixing the little bruises I had. I know this might not be the most comfortable of subjects for you, but I'd be quite happy to hear about thsi monastery and the magical culture surrounding it. I'm assuming that is where you were taught your spells as well, right?''


"It's a refuge here in the Echoes. I'm… actually not sure how to get to it anymore. The monks there are part of the covenant of Luna, though they worship Celestia and the Alicorn Empress as well. They let any travelers stay as long as they need to. They have food, shelter, everything. They took me in after I landed here, and I lived with them for a few years. Trained as a physician and picked up some healing spells along the way. Though, I'm not really welcome there anymore… I…"

"KNOCK KNOCK!" Mercutio screeches. Aurora jumps at the sudden sound, hopping onto the bed in fright. "Who the hell is that?" she hisses, indignant at the sudden interruption. She seems wary of answering the door, her eyes darting from Aegis to the door then to the sword hanging by the wardrobe, mentally preparing herself for a fight.


I wince as Mercutio loudly declares our presence. "It's Norv," I say, raising my voice enough to be heard from the other side of the door. "Sorry to interrupt."


''I believe it is Norvegicus's talking skull. I'll get it'' Aegis stood up and walked to the door, opening it to greet Norv
''Hello again, Mister Norvegicus''


"Hey. Uh, sorry again. I just heard you in here and wanted to let you know I'm free to show you my cage when you're ready." I glance over her shoulder and give Aurora an apologetic smile. "Sorry."


"That doesn't sound like you…"

"His what?" She looks confused.

"Oho! Mrs d'Arbanville, I presume?" Mercutio eyeballs Aurora, giving her a "sexy" side look. "My, what big ears, you have, granny! Even bigger in person! You sure you're not one of those flesh eating rabbit folk of the far south?" Aurora just looks catatonic, blinking in confusion and slight indignation. "They're… they're not big…" she mutters, backing away from the skull slightly.


''I understand, thank you for the warning beforehand, once I am finished talking with Aurora I will come to you''
''The rabbit comparison isnt so far off'' She comments ''They are cute and fluffy-looking, I'm sure Mercutio meant that as a compliment''


I rub the back of my head and glance away, suddenly feeling bad for some reason. "Maybe I should explain. I'll keep it short. Aurora, this is Mercutio. One half of The Oracle. A posessed skull that can tell the future. I bought him from Rosen and Glider and now he's sorta part of the team. Mercutio. I'm guessing I don't have to introduce Aurora."


"Yeah. No rush. I guess I'll just head back to my cabin and let you two get back to your thing."


"Well… thanks, I guess." She seems self conscious, shying away a little and falling silent.

"Oh, no, I didn't," Mercutio responds as an aside.

She looks at Mercutio with no small amount of trepidation, not quite sure what to think. Mercutio responds by spitting a tooth at her. It sails right between her ears and plinks against the cabin wall. "Goooooooooooooaaaaaaaaaaaaaal!! Nyehehehe." "He's… lovely," says Aurora through gritted teeth. "Real stand up guy." She looks extremely uncomfortable in his presence.


"Yeah. I'm just gonna go now. Could you hang on to that tooth for me so I can pick it up later?" I turn and head back to my room. "Nice first impression." I sigh. "Can't say it isn't exactly what I expected, I guess."


"Daww, did we huwt ickle Nowvy's fee fees?" he says mockingly. "Besides, you can't deny, those things are HUGE. We're all thinking it, someone just had to say it. I'm providing a valuable service to society!"

You get back to your room, putting Mercutio on the dresser for now. "So, what's next, N-doggy-dog?" Mercutio asks excitedly. "I mean, I know what's next, of course, I just want to see what you'll say. …Hey, you should set up a dartboard on that wall there. I want to practice my aim."


"Well, yeah. But I think Aegis is right. It's kind of cute. Rabbits are cute, y'know? And I'm not really sure. My bag is getting pretty heavy. I was thinking of sorting through it and pulling stuff out that I won't need on trips away from the ship. Organize it a little better. And maybe clean it. Not sure how clean I'll be able to get it with the cold water we have, though. And the lindseed oil I used to waterproof it ages ago is long gone, so I'd have to let it dry a bit, which means my things are just kinda going to be strewn out everywhere." I realize I'm more thinking out loud than actually talking to him and glance at the empty wall. "Huh. Yeah, a dart board isn't a bad idea. I've never played, myself, but all the poker tournies I joined were in the back rooms of bars, and most of them had folks standing around playing darts somewhere. It could be neat."


Aegis waited until they both left before turning back to Aurora
''They are rather obnoxious, I agree''


Mercutio yawns loudly, interrupting your train of thought again. "Yadda yadda. Get to the point. What are you going to do now? We're going to be sitting pretty for a good while. Might as well pass the time SOMEhow. Unless you just wanted to sit and entertain me?" He chatters his teeth unpleasantly.

She looks to you utterly perplexed. "Did… did all that just happen? You saw the talking skull too, right?" She looks utterly nonplussed at what just transpired, but eventually shrugs it off. "Anyway. What were we talking about?"


''Aegis tilts her head ''For someone who lived in the Echoes for so long, I expected you'd be more inured to these sort of strange happenings. Its merely a pair of souls bound to an enchanted item, unusual, but not too bizarre'' she states, sitting herself down on the same previous spot


"Honestly right now I'd say you're the one entertaining me. I'll wait until everyone meets together again to tell them what you said about the egg, so for now I'm just wasting time." I start pulling things out of my bag and lining them up on the ground, slowly questioning more and more how I've managed to carry all of this stuff on my shoulder. I even completely forgot I even had the sleeper fruit from before.

"For now," I say. "I think I'm actually going to go ahead and wash this out." I flip my journal open to the last page and tear it out, poking my tongue out of the side of my mouth in concentration as I dip my quill in my dwindling inkwell. The ink is almost out, too. Have I written that much in my journal? I had some to begin with and got more with my adventuring gear. Slowly I draw three concentric circles, scribbling in the smallest at the very center. They're shakey and uneven, but I'm sure they'll do.

I take the page and one of the remaining spikes from the trap kit, walk over to the wall, and pin the admittedly poorly drawn target on the wall.

"There. How's that? While I'm reorganizing and washing my stuff you can practice your aim."


"So neat, so tidy," Mercutio comments as he watches you take inventory. "Back in ye oldene dayse, this would be the part where you get your own musical number."

He notices your arm trembling. "Still a bit stiff, are we? Don't worry, it'll heal soon. Just drink the pain away!"

He quivers in anticipation as you set up the target. "You know, I can predict everything, but I can never guess things like this properly." He jiggles over to the side a little, then proceeds to take careful aim…

Roll #1 9 = 9


…and spits out a stray molar with surprising force. It lands just askew of the bullseye, ripping the paper and plonking to the ground. Nyehehe! I've still got it. Now go get it for me, tooth slave. That's the good thing about not having arms anymore. You can bully people until they do everthing for you!"


"True. It was just… unexpected, I guess. I didn't really get to get out much when I was in the monastery, but I did get to meet quite a few travelers and such staying to rest. Didn't get to travel much when I was in the Dominion either, mostly just stayed to the one city. And you? Have you been around the world where you come from?"


"Well, it could be worse I guess. If Zunden failed to mend my arm, if the balur ate it, or if Z wasn't even there then it wouldn't even be there to hurt." I glance over at my whiskey bottle on reflex, and to the almost untouched bottle of vermouth and bitters next to it. I haven't even bothered trying to make myself a propper Manehattan since that first night on the ship a couole days ago and the whiskey is almost gone. No more than 7 oz left, probably. "Looks like that won't be possible for much longer. The vermouth won't hit quite like the rye." Taking the last of the whiskey, I uncap my flask and funnel it in, not quite enough to fill it up. After slipping my flask back into my pocket, I set the empty bottle to the side.

Looking the rest of my stuff over, I try to consider what objects would be good to keep on me and what would be overpacking. "You have more teeth," I say, picking up the ashbrandy and voal of sleeper poison in each hand, turning them each over. "I'll pick them up and bring them back after you use four or five." I give a cursory glance to the target before doing a double take. "Damn. Nice shot, though."

Setting the Ashbrandy and my last vial of sleeper poison, I add the Doomshine to the pile. "Actually, that makes me wonder. If you can't predict around randomness would you actually even be able to cheat at cards? Since you can predict more than one future you'd still only be predicting one possible hand of two thousand something, right? Assuming we're talking two card hands, I mean. Since we mentioned it earlier."


"Well, I can safely say, the alternative to losing your arm would have been way, way cooler. Ah well. Too late now. Unless you want me to gnaw your arm off!"

"I can't speak for Purdue, but my favorite poison was always red wine," Mercutio muses, watching you sort out your liquors. "I would murder an infant for a drop of wine…"

"Of course it was a nice shot. I did it. Wanna see another one?" As you refuse to grab his missing tooth, he pegs an incisor at you.



Roll #1 2 = 2


You duck just in time, and the gleaming incisor clatters to the ground and gets wedged between two wooden planks. "Curses! Foiled again! I'll get you next time, just you wait."

"Oh, it depends. We can see others' outcomes. Just… not really our own. We know it's worth absolutely nothing, but you have our word we would try not to cheat. It'd spoil the fun, wouldn't it?"


"Manehattan on the rocks is mine. But you aleady knew that. Can't say I'm all that surprised. You seem like the red wine type. Who knows, maybe there's a way we can share a drink one day? Preferably one that doesn't involve killing a kid."

I brush off the blatant assault and add the two wands to the 'light enough to keep' pile. I was going to give Hermodur the haste wand to replace the scroll I had him use, but I think I'll hold off on that for now. "That it would," I say. "If there's one thing I can say about myself so far it's that I haven't cheated anyone not trying to cheat me." I pause. "Actually, just to be sure, that zebra was cheating, right? He no joke took a five nine off suit past flop and won with it. That's not skill." I set my adventuring and trapping kits both to the side to go through later. Deciding I probably won't need to change on a whim, I put my old tattered suit and sewer smelling desert garb to the side, planning on leaving them here. "Still, I'd feel bad if he wasn't cheating and I still grifted him that hard. Then again out of how much he won 200 bits was probably chump change. Hopefully he stops before the Swains catch wind and decide to cut off his hands. Er… hooves, I guess."


"Well where's the fun in that? Kidding, kidding. There might be a way. Or there might not. You'll just have to find out for yourself! I won't spoil anything!"

"Oh, most definitely," he says, nodding vigorously at the mention of Zulf cheating. "If you meet him again - and you just might, wink wink nudge nudge - you should know. He has a card holder strapped to his wrist, hidden under his sleeve. Simple trick. Child's play, really. But quite effective. Oh, if only the Clan knew, they'd have strangled him with his own guts by now!… I'm not joking. They have done that. There's some bad eggs in the Clan, let me tell you. Old man Godric's practically fielded an entire army out of his breeches. Charming fellow, I'm sure you'll agree. A shining example of griffonkind."


"Yeah. He seemed like kind of an ass. Honstly, for all that went down with Twelve, I kind of liked him. Godric… well, Godric was just scary." I heft my bits in my hand and set them to the side. That's right. It's not something I've thought about since I was sent here, but Twelve and I might have even been acquaintances after a couple more games. That's something that's weird to think about.

"Anyway, yeah. I'll definitely look into it. Especially since you and Purdue are helping me help everyone else." I shake my head and toss the deck of cards to the side, making sure to leave them out. "Bastard. I knew it." Setting everything else to the side, I slip the trick coin and the good luck charm back into my hat band, make sure the amulet is around my neck, and move everything else to the side. Looks like pretty much everyting besides the potions, poison, my tonfa, and the few pieces of equipment I'll keep from my two kits are okay to stay here. I stand up, pick up my bag, and walk into the bathroom, leaving the door open to talk to him from inside. "Honestly surprised it was something that simple and I didn't catch it. I guess I was drinking, though. What about Twelve? I always suspected he might have cheated on that last hand. His hand actually was playable, though, so I never would have had the stones to call him on it." Before giving him a chance to really answer I lift the bag to the spigot, open it, and turn the water on just long enough to fill the very bottom.


"You should be scared." He sounds dead serious. "He's one of the nastiest pieces of work in the Echoes right now. And that's saying a lot. If you want to survive, you'll either stay away from him or stay on his good side. Not that I care what happens to you, of course! But… just try not to get too involved. Trust me. If you get in too deep with the Tiger Clan,
you really won't like what happens next."

"Oh no, Hard Twelve could have won," you hear him say while you clean your bag. There's a bit of black mold at the bottom of it, but nothing too bad. "If he had you wouldn't be here now. …You'd probably be dead by now, in most scenarios. Try not to think about that too hard. But no, Twelve just got very, very lucky. And then not so lucky, courtesy of your fine self. Shame, that."


"No kidding? Dead?" Well. I guess it's good to know I dodged a few hypothetical bullets. I rub out what mold and dirt I can and turn the bag over to drain it. Leaving it in the bathroom upside down to dry, I walk back into the main room. "Yeah. I guess it is. I won't ask about it any more. Just wanted to know all this didn't happen because I was cheated." I look around the room, planning on separating my stuff. Man. I really need to pick up a table.

A few pieces at a time I separate my inventory into three piles. One of stuff I can put away here, one of stuff I plan to put back into the bag, and one of stuff I'm leaving out to use.

"That's both unsurprising and disappointing. I was thinking maybe I could convince him to help protect the monestary. Guess it's back to the drawing board there."


"Godric only really cares about two things: money, and power. The monastery are a bunch of moon loving hippies. Not exactly much point in him investing there. You'd be best off letting them rot. They're too good for this world."

You can hear someone heading towards the room, presumably Violet. "Oh boy, here we go!" Mercutio crows. "Go get 'er, stud."


I finish piling my things up, setting the empty whiskey bottle with the stuff I plan on leaving out. If I had to I guess I could fill it with water like a canteen. Could still be useful. "If they're too good for the world the wouldn't it make sense to try harder to make sure they're safe? Moon loving hippies or not, they're a shining example of what we -of what this place- could be."

My ears twitch as I hear someone approaching. I give Mercutio a half annoyed, half amused smile and return to the bed. "Nothing is going to happen as long as you're here," I assure him. "Guess she doesn't have a thing for annoying animated skulls. Who would've guessed?"


"Yeah, I guess. Sooner or later, good folks like them meet a sticky end here in the Echoes. Unless they don't. It's not always up to you, I've seen others that'll be there to stand up for them in… well, you don't need to know about THAT. It may not even happen, come to think of it. Not everything's fallen into place just yet. Eh. Forget I said anything."

"Why not?" he screeches with mock indignance. "Is it our hair? Or our bad skin?"

You hear a knock on the door. "Norv?" It's Violet. She sounds like something's bothering her. "Can we talk? Or are you still consulting the skull? I can wait…"


I stand up and brush my suit off. "Well, that's not going to stop me from trying." I walk to the door, chuckling and shaking my head at Mercutio's antics. "No," I say, opening the door. "I already got the answer I needed." My smile falls away when I see her, replaced by a look of concern. "Yeah. That's fine. Want to go to a different room?"


She looks at Mercutio uncomfortably. "…Yeah. Probably for the best." "It won't help if you do!" says the Oracle, making the squelching sounds again. Violet looks shocked, blushing as she rather forcefully takes you by the hand and leaves to one of the spare rooms. You can hear Mercutio sniggering in the background still.

Violet decides to pretend that didn't just happen, looking you in the eyes with worry. "I… I was just thinking. About the situation with Hermodur. What… what do you think we should do about him? I mean, I'm not going to fight him, but if he has his way, he'll tear us all apart… I don't want to lose you, not… not again… Not for real…"


A deep blush blooms on my own cheeks, and I roll my eyes. It's even more embarassing when Vi is right there. I shut the door behind me and follow her out.

I fugured this was what it'd be about. I sigh and rub the back of my neck. "I don't know," I say. "I asked The Oracle. Turns out yeah. We're right to be afraid and it is an incredibly bad idea. Maybe he'll listen to reason? I don't want to have to fight him either, but if he forces my hand?" I trail off, leaving the last part unsaid. "Hopefully it doesn't come to that. Even so, I doubt the Oneiromancer will be alright with him welshing on a deal. Still, I'll do whatever it takes to help resolve things with him without it coming to a brawl. You have my word on that."


"Yeah. It feels like the poor guy has his hands tied by… whatever the Oneiromancer is. If he goes through with it, we're all screwed. If he doesn't, he'll have an angry dream spirit haunting him. I'll help him fight it, however I can, but either way it's bad news for us, isn't it." She sighs quietly and takes your hands. "Whatever happens, whatever you decide, I just wanted you to know, I'll support you every step of the way. Okay? Even if it… comes to blows with him, or if he leaves us all behind. I'll be with you."

"Sorry. Just had to get that off my chest. This whole situation is just awful for everyone. Especially the new girl. Just fell out of the sky and into a family argument." She smirks. "What do you think of her, by the way? She seems… interesting."


"Well, hopefully we can figure something out when the time comes." I tilt my head a little. "Aegis? Yeah, I feel kind of bad for her. Guess there are worse folks here she could've run into than a band of adventurers during a little spat. I guess interesting is one word for it. She makes me a little bit uncomfortable. Seems nice enough, thoigh."


"Yeah. Lucky we showed up when we did. Those Prowlers would have torn her to bits otherwise. I wonder if we'll get to help any more newcomers around here. Would be nice to build up a proper crew to run the ship actually, instead of relying on those creepy ghosts."

She nods at your sentiments. "Yeah. She's had some training, I guess. I wonder if she's in a similar boat to Hermodur, where she's kind of been indoctrinated into thinking the way she does. Poor girl. We should look out for her."

There's a comfortable silence between the two of you where you just sit there for a bit, enjoying each other's company. Violet hesitates before giving you a small affectionate kiss on the head. "Hey," she asks eventually, "how's your arm doing? Any better?"


I close my eyes as she kisses my head, leaning into her just a little. "Better," I say. "Still have the whole pins and needles thing, and it's a little shaky, but it doesn't hurt as bad." Whether that's from the alcohol or it actually healing I'm not sure, but I don't mention that. "What about you? Even before the Hermodur thing you've seemed a little on edge. You alright?"


Violet gets more comfortable, wrapping one arm around your shoulder and resting that way for a bit. Her braid falls into your face, and she quickly brushes it away with a mumbled apology.

"That's good. If it gets worse you should ask Z or Aurora to see if they know a spell for pain relief. I'm sure they can patch you up."

"Yeah. I'm fine I guess. Just… I kind of feel bad about it all, you know? The situation with Lysander, the desert expedition… all this business started with me taking you guys along, and now look where we've ended up since. Call it stupid, but I kind of feel like I dragged you all into this, when you should have just stayed away, maybe settled down in Braildorn, lived a simple life. Now we're outlaws in a land of outlaws, there's a bounty hunter coming after us and our stolen ship, and the fate of the Echoes may or may not be on us. I should've kept my head down more. You know?"


I didn't even consider they might have magic like that. "Huh. Yeah, I'll probably ask them.

I chuckle. "Well, I can start off by saying yeah. That's stupid. I was in Braildorn a week and I was almost mugged twice all without your help. There's a very real possibility I'd be dead right now. Mugged, pissed off the wrong person, or got myself killed trying to earn a couple bits. Maybe worse."

I give a half shrug with my free shoulder. "The fact that I've been pulled into this crazy garbage isn't on you. It's Lysander's fault." I wrap my arm around her waist. "So yeah. Things could be way worse. Still, I understand. I also think about how things would be if I'd just kept to myself and not made too many waves. Best not to dwell on the 'what if's and let it ruin your now, though, right?"


''Occasionally, but not too often. There was only so many mages, teachers and schools that you could find in Japone, even the more obscure ones were limited. But most of times I left Japone it was done so for a job, and not in the search of knowledge''
''Our family grew so popular its name was reaching even the ears from outside the country'' She adds


She nods pensively. "Yeah. It's all in the past now, right? Just have to keep moving, don't we. Besides, if I hadn't dragged you all along, I wouldn't have met you." She smiles warmly and holds you tighter, comforted by your presence.

"Hey. Um, there's something else. Back in the Sands, when we were talking with Dis… Persolus, you remember that moment where… where I almost went for it? It's a good thing you and Z managed to talk some sense into me. Hehe. …But… I should've told you before, but… I felt like… like that wasn't really me. Like… something was clouding my mind. I thought back then it was just me being dumb, but now I think back on it… there was something there. In my head. I don't know who or what it was. Maybe Persolus is more powerful than he was letting on. But something took a hold of me in that moment. It was weak, since you two manage to pull me away, but… there was something messing with me there. I don't even want to go back to the Dominion. I've got everything here."

"Ugh, I'm sorry. I should've said something about it before, but I thought maybe I was just imagining things. Or that you or Z wouldn't believe me. Make of it all what you will, but something happened back there. Something I can't really explain. And… I can't help but feel like… like it might come back. That cloudy feeling. I mean, it hasn't. Not yet. But I keep getting the sense it'll come around eventually."


"Job? You were an adventurer back there?"

"Oh?" She perks up, interested at the mention of your family. "What family would that be? My lineage is quite well known in the capital, and I remember knowing all the major families and houses of the Dominion back then. We might just come from the same time period."


''Nay, a mercenary, from the Junsei Family. We have quite the history and have had an estabilished name for a few centuries now, as one of the biggest houses of hired blades in the North''
Aegis looked at Aurora, waiting for an aswer


So something was influencing her back there? "Oh. Wow. I didn't even think that it could've been something like that. I don't know about Persolus. Apparently he doesn't have any power like he is now. Maybe it was the egg itself?" I swallow and sit up a little. "Actually, that reminds me." I pull the feather out. "I found this in my pocket."


"Junsei.. It does ring a bell, but not from home…" She taps her chin as she tries to remember where she's heard it. [1d10] Knowledge check

Roll #1 2 = 2


She looks frustrated. "Agh. I know I've heard it before. It's just not coming to me right now. Sorry. I think it might have been from a traveler passing by the monastery, but I can't be sure. Can't exactly ask the monks there either, they don't want anything to do with me anymore. If our travels take us back there, you should ask around. Someone's bound to know something."


''Perhaps, but it would not do much good to ask about my family here, so I wont go out of my way to do so, that said, what happened between you and the monastery that got you banished from there?''


"Maybe." Her brow furrows at the sight of the feather, and she recoils a little. "It's back," she says, dumbfoundedly stating the obvious. "That… that doesn't sound good. Didn't Dawn say something about the Cuckoo being weak as long as it can't manifest physically?" She pulls away from you, and there is an ominous feeling in the air for a moment, but it soon passes.

"That reminds me. There was something niggling at me when we met those two. I think I know what it is now. That knight. Carabas. I think I've run into him before. Way back in Ironbrook, where I was asking around for companions on my way to the Sands. I… I think that might've been him I was considering hiring, instead of you guys. I didn't know for sure, because we was wearing armor, but the more I think about it, the more I'm sure that was him." She shrugs. "Make of that what you will."


Aurora looks through you as she weighs her words carefully. "A stranger came to the monastery," she says grimly. "A ghost of my past. I… I had a score to settle, and…" She goes quiet for a while. "S-Sorry. I don't really want to get into it." Her voice wavers a little, and she stares emptily down at the ground. "Kind of a personal thing…"


''I understand. Would you rather tell me about your poetry instead?'' Aegis motions to the black book ''Or perhaps more about your abilities as a healer, if you're comfortable with sharing that''


"Yeah. That's what I was thinking, but I don't know what to do with it if I can't just burn it." A chill creeps down my spine as the feeling wafts over me. "It seems like the more I think about things the more the answer is 'I'll figure something out.'"

I tilt my head. "Huh. All the way back in Ironbrook? Something seems a little strange about that but I don't really know what."

I let out a nostalgic sigh. "Dang. A lot has happened since then, and really it hasn't even been that long." I look at her. "So I think you answered this already, but there anything you're gonna have your eye out for at the Swap Meet?"


It takes her a moment to acknowledge you, but eventually perks up. "Er, they're just little haikus I write. Nothing special really. Not particularly good either… I learned them from an old stallion that stayed at the monastery once. Was traveling with his grandson, I think. I just think they're nice."

"Well, my healing spells aren't really anything special. I learned them at the monastery as well. I'm more of a physician if anything else, though. I know about all sorts of injuries and diseases. Pretty useful for when we get in a scrape."

"What about you though?" You sense she doesn't really like talking about herself too much. "I'm guessing your ice magic is unique to your kin? I've never seen someone replicate a spell like that before. And so quickly too. It's very impressive."


Aegis eyes lit up for a moment ''What a coicidence, I too am an enthusiast for haikus, it is one of the few things aside from magic and study that I enjoy doing in my spare time, sadly my own works are back in my home, but if you would like to sit down and share some with me, I would be honored''


Only six or seven weeks, and we're already off to save the world." She laughs forcedly.

"Well, I need a new weapon," she shrugs. "Not that the kukri isn't good. It's a fine blade. I just miss my spear, you know? I paid a lot of money for it, and it was great while it lasted. Maybe I could get it reforged or something. Other than that, a change oc armor would be nice. These duds are starting to lose their pizzazz." She gestures at what she's wearing now; the same brown hooded coat with metal plating reinforced that she's always worn. "Don't you think?"

"Oh you are?" She sits up straighter and smiles a little. "Wow. I've… never really gotten to share my writing until today. First Zunden asked before, now you. Er, if you're interested, I'd love to share some with you! Like I said though, I'm, er, not an expert on writing them, so, uh, don't get your hopes up for anything spectacular."

She offers you her black book to read through, waiting eagerly for your reaction. Flicking through it, you see haikus with the following titles:

>Leaving home

>The desert
>Our ship
>Violet and Norv
>Breaking the seal
>Black Pudding


Aegis eyed the book and its titles with a slightly more curious expression than usual, after a moment she decided to start from the beginning, Leaving Home


This haiku seems to have been partway through the book, but the pages before it have been ripped out, and the page itself seems to be stained with drops of water.

>Old scars reopened

>Sentence rendered, past life dead
>So empty inside

The margins of the page have the words "WHAT IS NEXT?" scrawled shakily in them repeatedly, along with a single messy sketch of a face with empty black eyes.

Seeing which page you're reading, Aurora looks extremely uncomfortable, reaching for a moment to take away the book, but hesitating. She doesn't seem to want to make eye contact.


Aegis's eyes went over the page a few times in a cold, analytical gaze
''This one… This is powerful, not only the haiku but the page itself'' Aegis raised her head to face Aurora ''I can see all the angst and dread you poured into this page, its charming''


"…Thanks." She only briefly glances at you before suddenly becoming fascinated with the floor. "I… I wasn't in the best place, writing that one… It was when I got thrown out of the monastery. …Can I have my book back? Please?" She sounds very distant.


Aegis hesitated for a second, but handed the mare her book
''I'm sorry'' she said simply ''My words were uncalled for''


I look her over and nod. She has had the same thing since I've kown her. "Yeah," I say. "Still, they look good. And they're practical, too. Not really one to talk, myself." I spread my arms and gesture down to my new clothes, stringly similar to my old. "I've had a similar style for a while. Always been a zoot suit kinda guy. I don't know. Maybe I should invest in some armor."


She looks up to grab the book, staring at it with a glazed sort of look. "…I'm sorry. Just bad memories is all. Best left dead." Her voice cracks a little, but she brushes it off with a weak smile. "I-I don't mean to brush you off, but I feel like… like I should write something. If you don't mind."

She smiles and nods in approval. "It's a fine look. You have good taste. …You know what I think? You should get yourself one of those big long overcoats, like the ones you see detectives wear. You know? I think you'd look very handsome in it."

"As for me… hmmm… I don't know what sort of clothes I'm looking for. I'm not much for fashion, I prefer something a bit more practical, and useful if we get into trouble. Like what Hermodur got himself. What do you think I should get though, love?"


Aegis stood up ''I dont, I understand perfectly. If you ever feel like sharing your haikus with me again, I would be happy to read. Perhaps I should find a book of my own to write so we may share among ourselves, if you think its appropriate''


"Huh. Yeah. I could actually see myself in one of those. A friend of mine had one. Had the inside lined with counterfeit watches. Could be useful." I blush a little as she calls me 'love'. Still not used to hearing that. "Well, I could see sticking with practicality over appearence. Maybe have something casual and something else if you're ececting trouble?" I twiddle my thumbs as I consider it. "Probably not really your style, and really more of a special occsion thing, but I wouldn't mind seeing you in one of those black slitted dresses. I think you'd be really pretty. Not really something you'd just wear around, though."


She smiles again and nods. "…I'd like that," she says simply. "I'm sure you're better at it than I am. I just need a moment. Sorry." She rubs her eyes and shuffles about, eventually producing a pen. She's about to start writing, but suddenly feels very self conscious about having an audience.

She ponders it. "Well, I could do with something more casual, then something for adventuring. This works for both, but the grubby wanderer chic isn't really in vogue this season, is it." She chuckles at her own bad joke.

At the mention of the dress, she blinks, looking slightly stunned. "You… think I'd look good in a dress? Really? I… can't even remember the last time I wore one. It must've been before I ever came to the Echoes, come to think of it. Wow. …But hey, if it'll make you happy, then sure, I could go for a dress like that. Who knows, I might actually like it! Only, don't expect me to do makeup or high heels or any of that crap. I don't do fancy. That's Silver's thing."


Aegis didn't linger, and instead chose to leave Aurora's room without further words


I can't help but snort and let out a loud laugh at her joke. When she mentions high heels and makeup I give her a short, dismissive wave. "Pfff, nah. I wouldn't ecpect you to do the whole thing anyway. Just think the dress itself could look nice. Up to you in the end, though, obviously." A tug on my sleeve. "How do you feel about this color, anyway? I've always liked this kind of scarlet, but Glider said the colors seemed kinda off when I bought it. Has me questioning it."


You leave Aurora to her thoughts and keep exploring the ship. You can hear Zunden in her room, seemingly poring over a magical artifact.

As you mull over the powerful tarot card, you hear footsteps outside your room. Seems like someone's milling about outside.

"Well what does he know," says Violet dismissively. "I think it looks good on you. Very striking. And the hat is cute too." Her attention's drawn to it. "Hey, what's with the coin? Think someone left their spare change there."


With a moment of hesitation, Aegis raised her hoof and knocked on the door


I slip the coin out of my hat band. "Oh, this?" I ask. My lips quirk into a sly smile as I balance it on my left thumb, flick it into the air, and catch it. "It's a little something I picked up a while back." I hold it closer to her and flip it around a couple of times to show her it has a heads and tails. "I'm going to flip it six times. Tell me how many you think will be heads and how many you think will be tails."


Her eyes narrow with mock suspicion, arching an eyebrow as she watches the coin like a hawk. "Well, it's 50/50, so 3/3, I guess. …What is this?"


I flip the coin six times, and every time it lands on heads. "It's a trick coin," I say. "I have no idea how it works, but it always lands on heads. I've only actually gotten to use it once, to cheat this zebra that was trying to cheat me, but it was pretty satisfying."


She looks confused, then takes the coin herself, flipping it several more times. As it keeps coming up heads, she smirks. "Hah. That's a pretty good party trick. Can see it being useful for gambling for sure. Just try not to get caught though, will you?" She flips it back to you and rubs her chin. "…What if it did land tails one day though? That's how you know the world's going to end, huh." She chuckles slightly and gives you a peck on the cheek.


"Don't plan to use it in many situations I could get caught, but yeah. Gotta be careful." I chuckle. "Maybe. Or maybe it just runs out of juice or something. Like I said. Not really sure how it works." I smile and kiss her on her snoot. Standing up, I stretch my back. "Anyway, I wanted to go ahead and get something out of the way. Gotta talk to that ghost again. The one from the bottle. Did you want to come with me, or just hang here for now?"


She rubs her snout with an uncharacteristically girly smile on her face, seemingly not hearing you the first time. "Hm? Oh, sure actually. I don't know too much about her. Interested to see what's going on there. …She is harmless, right?"


Seeing that silly smile on her face nearly melts my heart, and I can't help smiling myself. I turn around and head out the door and back to our room. "Yeah. She's supposed to be. She won't be happy with what I have to say, though. So prepare for yelling."


"Oh boy. Well, if anything goes wrong I've got your back."

You go back to your room, finding Mercutio on top of the dresser. He's entertaining himself by having flipped upside down, balancing on his crown. "Norv and Violet sitting in a tree!" he squawks in a sing song voice as soon as you walk in. "K-I-S-S-I-"

Violet, having had just about enough of him, grabs her nearby boot and lobs it at him at full force. Mercutio, having foreseen it, rolls to the side and dodges with surprising dexterity for a magic skull. "Alright, alright. Sheesh. You REALLY know now to pick 'em, Norvy-poo. I get it though, I'll keep my trap shut. For now. Nyehehehehehe!" He plops to the ground and bounces happily over to the wardrobe, pulling the handle with his teeth and jumping inside, where he remains sulking.

Violet, still fuming a little, brushes some stray hairs out of her face. "Felt good," she says to you as an aside. "So, let's see about this ghost of yours." She crosses her arms and waits eagerly for you to release her.


I softy laugh as I watch the somewhat violent engagement, shaking my head. Walking over to the 'leave here' pile of things, I pull out the bottle of ghost, walk to the middle of the room, and uncork it.


A tongue of light green smoke belches from the bottle, blanketing the room in roiling fog. Violet sticks close to you, back to back, peering in the dense pea-green mist. "Is… is this normal?"

As the fogscape settles, engulfing the entire room, Kairon's voice rings out, coming from everywhere at once, and somehow, simultaneously from nowhere at all.

"My anointed champion returns! And… he is not alone. Is this one of Celestia's spies you have apprehended for me, serf?"

"Spy? What?" Violet goes from wary to confused.

"Who are you that dares present herself before Kairon Irse, deposed yet RIGHTFUL Queen of Equestria?"

"I'm… Violet. Violet Moon," she says, sounding somewhat defensive.

"Violet Moon. Of course you are. And tell me, Violet Moon, who are you to my champion? His servant?"

"His girlfriend."

The fog churns. "How very degenerate. But I shall allow it." Her attention turns to you. "So tell me, serf. How goes your conquest of these "Echoes"? Have you secured an exit for your queen yet? Speak!" You see Violet look around and relax a little, no longer looking perturbed but more rather miffed.


"Yeah," I tell Vi. "It's normal. You get used to it surprisingly quick."

I suddenly become very interested in the my fingertips as Kairon asks me abour a way out. "Well, yes and no. There is a way we're working on with a magical sword, but we're not exaxtly there yet." I clear my throat in an attempt to push the lump out, but it persists. When I speak again my voice cracks. "I needed to talk to you about that. I don't really know a better way to put it, so I'll just come right out and say it." I stand up a little straighter. "I've decided that I am going to help return your body to you, but I'm not going to help you regain power in The Dominion. The place is bad enough as it is right now. It wouldn't be right." I glance back down. "Besides. I'm pretty sure it'd be next to impossible to install another queen. If you tried they'd just laugh at you."

I don't lift my head up, but I glance back up at the mist. "I just thought I would tell you that. You deserve a chance to regain your body again, and I'll do everything in my power to do that for you, but I'm not going to take you back to The Dominion to cause a coup. I'm sorry, but you'll just have to take it as is or stay a bottled spirit."


You hear a rumbling like distant thunder as the mist turns a sickly dark green and froths like a bubbling stew, coiling around you like an octopus' tentacle. "You DARE… You DARE go against me!" You see the silhouette of Violet rushing to you, but she's seemingly unable to get to you. "Norv! Norv, are you alright?"

"INSOLENT cur!" Kairon rumbles. "Traitor! Knave! I offer you riches and glory, and you DARE turn your back on ME! Your recovery of my body is all that will prevent me from annihilating you, and your perverted consort."

"If it is as you say, then I will find a way myself. No matter. …Yes, this will serve nicely. Find a way to restore my true form, and I will strive for returning home in my own way, and you shall both be spared. I am a merciful Queen, after all. And I do reward those that prove their loyalty. Yes. Are we agreed then, pup? Restore my body, and your lives will be spared."


I take a step back as the world around me rumbles. "I'm fine!" I shout, assuring myself as much as I am Vi. She's supposed to be harmless, I have to remind myself. She can't do anything without my help. Taking a deep breath, I stand my ground. "You're not in a position to make threata," I tell her. "Any subjects you had that were loyal to you died centuries ago." I wag my finger through the air. "Now, I'm trying to help you. The least you can do is treat me and my girl with some darn respect." Not that it'd matter if she did find a way to get out on her own. Unless she was someone super powerful she's going to be in for a rude awakening when she tries to take back over.

I sigh at the thought. "You'll be tried for treason and killed," I tell her. "I'd hoped I could find a way to put it a little softer, but maybe it's better to just tear it off. Your reign is probably over. But I'm still offering you a chance. A chance to live. A chance at a new life."


You hear a deafening thunderclap. "You wretched little worm. You would impede a living goddess from retaking her rightful throne? PERISH."

Nothing more happens for a moment. The smoke wavers and distorts. You feel the true reality of Kairon's predicament starting to weigh on her. "No… NO… My powers… My subjects… My home…!" The fog turns dark green again, almost black. Another dramatic peal of thunder. "CELESTIAAAAA!!!" she roars, the smoky tendrils shaking with rage. "YOU CANNOT ESCAPE ME! I WILL HAVE MY REVENGE!!!"

With that, the fog begins to subside, the crackling fading away, shrinking to the edges of the room. A concerned looking Violet rushes to your side. "Did she hurt you?" she asks concernedly, looking to the smoke once she makes sure you're unharmed. "Geez. What a drama queen."

After a good long while of her sulking, occasionally rumbling, the smoke coils gently around you both. "Hearken to me, serfs. It appears… it appears I have misjudged my… predicament. No matter. I cannot harm you and you cannot harm me. We are stuck here, are we not. Equal nothings, as 'twere. …Perhaps… Perhaps my reclamation of my homeland shall have to be postponed. But it is inevitable, make no mistake. But. For now, let us focus on the first goal: releasing me from this heinous form. What have you heard of the local mages in this land? I demand you take me to one at once!"

Violet strikes a rather sassy pose and stares down the fog with an irritated look. "All due respect, 'Your Grace', you really don't get to make demands. We found you in a flea market. You're barely a blip on our radar. We have better things to do than bend over backwards for an angry cloud. So cut the attitude. We're trying to do you a favor."

Kairon refuses to acknowledge Violet directly. "You let this chattering deviant speak for you, Dog?" she asks imperiously. "Tell it we will not associate with lowly mudborn, and that it should mind its tongue when speaking to me. Defiled am I, but still an alicorn queen." Vi gasps slightly, looking both indignant and hurt.


Zunden jump a little from her seat, placing the car aside on one of her drawers before sitting back down at her table,

"Door iz open, come in."



After being given permission, Aegis slowly opened the door and walked in, closing it behind her
''Miss Zunden, excuse me'' she spoke up as she checked out the Lizard's room


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The room is much more decorated than Aegis', featuring a low, round table surrounded by mismatched pouffes. A large red curtain, made from the same fabric of the tablecloth, blocks off part of the room from view. Partially melted candles rest on two drawers to the side, where an old wooden lute rests, bearing a striking lunar motif on its surface. On the wall hangs a poster that reads "WANTED: ZUNDEN THE READER" on top, a poorly drawn version of the lizard before you in the center of the poster, with "HAVE YOU SEEN THIS WOMAN?" printed below. It claims a 3000 bit bounty for information leading to her capture.

Zunden smiles, beckoning Aegis to sit at the table on one of the cushioned seats. She sits on the other side, a strange object wrapped in cloth and tied to her body.

"Ah, mizz Glaze! Pleaze do zit down."


After quickly taking in all those details, Aegis walked over and sat on the seat opposite to Zunden ''I hope I am not interrupting anything''


Zunden waves a claw dismissively, casting out a orb of magical light above the table to light the room better. It resembles a miniature supernova, and casts out bright light about 20 feet out, easily illuminating the whole room.

"Nonzenze, I juzt left breakfazt to clear my head and conzult ze Tarot az to what ze future holdz. I apologize you had to be prezent for zhat zquabble, I azzure you we are normally in better temperament. We have juzt been… thruzt into an challenging zituation rezently."

She chuckles nervously, pointing to the wanted poster with her thumb,

"Atleazt ze drawing iz terribly done, ehe…"


Aegis's eyes lit up with the light from the orb
''Again, its completely understandable, any group with more than one member is bound to have disagreements at one point or another, especially in such a dire position like yours. Exhiled from the Dominion and now being hunted down in the Echoes as well… Calling it a challenging situation is accurate''


"No matter, no matter… Did you wizh to talk zhen? Or perhapz a reading? I am willing to anzwer any queztionz you might have about ze Echoez, ze party, or myzelf."

She says, smiling softly.


''Still, if I can offer my assistance for anything, don't hesitate to ask me. I will whole-heartedly pay you back for your hospitality and kindness''
Aegis bowed curtly
''That said, some aswers would be appreciated. Just tell me if I touch a subject you are not comfortable with so I can stop''


"Of courze, I am an open book, azk until you are zated."

Zunden nods.


''Then let me ask something that might come off as rude''
Aegis paused for a moment to figure out the right words
''How accurate are your readings? Because I want to know if your divination might hold the aswer of how soon I will leave this place, and I have been growing anxious about it ever since my arrival''


Zunden laughs,

"I claim no divine power nor maztery over Fate and ze deck hold no enchantment. My craft iz only interpretation, making zenze of ze cardz. It iz not myzelf you zhould hold belief in if you wizh to take anyzhing from a Reading, but belief in ze Arcana and Fate itzelf."

Zunden says taking out her tarot deck and shuffling it.


''I see… I have never been one to put faith in cards and non-magical divination, I mean no offense''
She says as she watches Zunden shuffle
''…But I still want to attempt it, now mostly out of curiosity, perhaps there will be something to learn from it''


"And I do not azk you put your faizh in zhem eizher. Take whatever you want from ze reading, it iz a zervicze I provide freely and wizh no intentionz of perzuading you or ze like."

Zunden lays the deck on the table,

"Zo you do want a reading, zhen?"


''Yes, but allow me another question. Why do this then? Why work towards this craft if there's seemingly nothing to gain from it? Or are you simply amused by the reactions your clients?''


Zunden smiles,

"Becauze I believe ze Arcana holdz a power higher zhan magic. Juzt becauze I do not azk you to believe in zheir power doez not mean I do not believe in it myzelf. Ze Tarot haz brought revealed inzight to me numerouz timez zhat I would not be wary too ozherwize, and by ozher'z accountz have done ze zame."

Zunden says seriously, eyes locked directly with Aegis,

"I make no promizez, but in truzting in ze Arcana, I feel one can make zenze of ze chaoz around zhem and better underztand zheir Fate. I found my calling helping ozherz find zheirz."

She drums a finger on the table, breaking the silence in the air after speaking so gravely,

"Ztill, even if one holdz no belief in zhem, I ztill find a reading can be zherapeutic- it iz good to talk out one'z worriez and open zhemzelf up for reflection."


''Your reasons are noble, as I expected''
Aegis returned the stare with her own cold, emotionless gaze
''Well, how does this work then? I have never taken fortune reading before'' She said, eyeing the cards


"Zhere are many zpreadz in which I can arrange ze cardz, each wizh different meaningz and wayz of interpreting one'z Fate. Zhere are complex onez and zimple onez; onez zhat offer insight on your relatzionzhipz, career, your ztrengthz and weaknezzez. Zhey are multifazeted and verzatile."

Zunden says, drawing three cards from the deck and placing them in front of her face down.

"Zhiz iz one of ze mozt zimple, and mozt potent arrangementz I know. Pazt, Prezent, Future."

She points to each one in turn,

"It will offer inzight on your hiztory, on your current zituation, and of a glimpze into what your future may hold."


''How very interesting'' Aegis muttered, her voice lacking interest ''Now what?''


Mudborn? Jeeze. I clench my jaw and step forward, pointing at the fog like I'm about to jam her in the chest. "Hey," I say. "Watch it, smokey. I'll say it again. I'm helping you because I want to. Because I think that just maybe you deserve a chance to not be a terrible despot after being imprisoned for the saints know how long. I don't have to do anything, and I'm not doing it because you offered me anything in return. I'd thought maybe you were wrongfully imprisoned and betrayed, but after hearing more about you and how you're acting now I know that you're here for the same reason as any of us. You're being punished. Vi is right. I found you at a flea market and bought you for literally 100 bits. That's how much you're worth right now. So either you work with me, or you never get your body back. That's up to you."


File: 1546466569852.jpg (104.04 KB, 350x600, maj07.jpg)

"We begin wizh ze Pazt. What eventz have lead to zhiz day, and what inzight may be take from zhem to uze in ze dayz to come."

Zunden's face cools to almost match Aegis in expression, taking the reading with utmost seriousness. She places a claw on the first card in the set, pausing for the briefest of moments before revealing the first card.

The first card features an armored triceratop-esque saurian standing stalwart in a two-wheeled chariot. The chariot bears a crest of a shield with two wings, and is pulled by two crocodiles - one albino and the other with dark scales. It is oriented the correct way.

"Ah, Major Arcana. My memoriez harken back to when I and ze ozherz firzt arrived here and I told zhem zheir fortunez. Perhapz it iz arriving in ze Echoez Fate holdz ze mozt dominion."

She stops herself from rambling,

"I digrezz, I have not even explained to you ze different cardz of ze Tarot. In a Tarot deck, zhere iz four zuitz of 14 cardz, much like a ztandard playing card deck. Zheze are ze Minor Arcana, and ze reprezent ze lezzer zecretz of our world, ze Fatez in which we can have zway over. Ze deck alzo featurez twenty two ozher cardz, ze Major Arcana. Zheze are powerful cardz, reprezenting major archetypez of one'z life. Zhey are unchanging unlike ze Minor Arcana - we muzt plan around zhem, not plan to change zhem."

She says, tapping on the table to return attention to the card,

"Zhiz iz one of zuch Major Arcana. Ze Chariot, a card zignifying control, willpower, action, and zuccezz. Perhapz your pazt waz one of dizcipline and honing yourzelf, preparing you not zpecifically for an event zuch az banizhment to ze Echoez, but allowing you to ztand firm and make decizionz dezpite ze oddity of your zituation. Zheze practizez will help you on your journey, azzert yourzelf and brave ze unknown."


"Lies! Deception!" Now she's the one sounding offended, the smoke beginning to simmer again like butter in a frying pan. "Afraid not," Violet replies, looking at her snarkily. "No one's left to remember you. Your powers are gone and your name means nothing to anyone. Face it, you're nothing to anyone."

"…Ah…" Kairon seems to weigh her options. "…Well, have you an idea of how to help me? I would very much like to speak with one of the local mages in this land. Doubtless someone must know how to restore my true form."


Aegis heeded the lizard with her undisputed attention before speaking up
''Exceptionally accurate, in all regards as well, I only hope that I am prepared enough for what lies ahead in this realm, but your band seems to be doing well so as long as I'm with you, I probably have nothing to fear''
She nods
''Now, the next one, the card that represents the present, what does it tell you about me?''


I nod as she suddenly seems to realize the position she's in. I feel bad, but I'm not going to help her if she gives me every reason not to. "Not yet, but I'm going to keep looking. There are a couple of mages I plan on talking to about it, for you and for someone else. I'll let you out when we get there. Does that sound alright to you? I swear, as long as you work with me I'm doing everything I can."


"Your proposal is… acceptable," she answers begrudgingly. "Whatever you feel would be best for me to recover my body. Tell me what you require me to do, and I will do it, to the best of my limited abilities." Violet looks at Kairon with no small amount of disapproval.


Good. Now we're getting somewhere. "Alright," I say. "First off, do you want to stay out or go back into the bottle? If you want to stay out I'll have to take you to a different room and ask that you reign in the fog as much as you can manage."


"I… enjoy the freedom," she admits. "I am still growing accustomed to this form, so it will be good to practice with it some more. If I must leave the room, I shall. I assume I shall have free reign to go as I please." It was not a question.

The fog begins to seep towards the center of the room, compacting into a large formless green cloud. "Will this form suffice, serf?"


I shrug. "Free reign to go anywhere within reason. Don't just go barging into anyone's room without announcing yourself, and at least for now when we dock you should probably stay on the ship. Just keep in mind most of the others aren't as patient as I am." I smile as she drags herself to the much smaller cloud. "Yes. Definitely. Thank you."


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"Correct, ze Prezent next. However, do not miztake ze reading for telling me your zecretz, zhiz iz your reading. Ze knowledge zhat can be gleaned from it iz yourz to make uze of, not my own."

She says, smiling a little as Aegis catches on quickly to how a reading plays out. She taps the second card, pausing before flipping it over. The card itself is upside down, featuring two asian water monitors look up at the sky towards a large full moon, a shadowy visage of a dragon's head imprinted on it. Below them a crustacean pokes its head out from the waters of an oasis.

"Ze Moon, inverted. Az you can zee, a card can eizher be oriented upzide down or right zide up. When a card iz inverted like ze one juzt revealed, it'z meaning iz the inverze of ze card'z actual meaning."

Zunden pauses for a long time, trying to make sense of Aegis' face, searching for any semblance of emotion whatsoever,

"Ze Moon reprezentz ze realm of ze zubconciouz, illuzionz and ze intuition you uze to dizband zhem. While inverted, ze card zignifiez zhat intuition zubdued - an inner confuzion, emotzionz zhat are reprezzed deep wizhen. While I know not your own emozionz, I can imagine atleazt ze former could be true, az it waz ze zame for my own. Perhapz you are confuzed about ze ztrange new land, and what will happen to you next. Whatever you may do to deal wizh zheze problemz temporarily, but you may find greater hurt will occur by holding in ze negative."

All the while, Zunden continues to try and read Aegis' expression, the card interesting the saurian in the crystal pony much more.


Zunden's eyes were met with the same, soulless gaze, the crystal mare's face still devoid of any intrigue, coupled with piercing, slightly squinted blue eyes tinted by the candlelight

There was a long moment of silence from Aegis as she aimed the card, then back to Zunden, if not for the subtle movement from her breathing, one could nearly mistake the crystal mare's for a statue, glaring st Zunden from across the table
"Yes" She spoke up, shattering the oppressive silence "I suppose that too, is accurate. I am filled with confusion and questions that I seek answers for, this place, my trial… A way out"
There was another brief pause

"Please, the next card"


"Good. Very good. I find it rather to my fancy. I shall have to see what else this form is capable of…"

"No funny business," Violet says sharply. "Do as we say or it's back in the bottle for you." Kairon continues to pretend she doesn't exist. "Lead on, pup. Show your deposed goddess to her new quarters."


"Alright, then," I say, turning toward the door. "Just follow me. We have plenty of unused rooms, but they are vacant rooms on a ship, so don't expect much. Come on. Just down the hall." I step outside the room and lead her to the closest empty room to mine not right on the other side of the wall. "And yeah. I don't want to have to. It has to be nice to get out and stretch your legs-" I catch myself and clear my throat. "So to speak. But if there are any problems I'll do what I have to, including forcing you back into the bottle. In spite of that I hope we can all get along."


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Zunden lets out a sigh, closing her eyes,

"I zee."

She taps the final card with her claw, opening her eyes to gaze only at it, not Aegis,

"Ze final card of ze zpread, what inzight might it bring to your future here in ze Echoez..?"

She asks herself, mostly, flipping the final card and raising her eyebrows as a grim-looking card is revealed. The card depicts a skeletal crocodile saurian wearing dark armor and bearing a black banner. He rides a white-scaled raptor past the remnants of a battlefield, hewn body parts of saurians scattered about.

"Deazh. Zhree Major Arcana too, az well. Your Fate is weighty, zignificant."

She says taking a deep breath,

"Az I zaid, Deazh. Zhiz iz, ironically, one of ze mozt pozitive of ze Major Arcana. Deazh reprezentz endingz, zhingz in your life coming to zheir concluzionz."

She drums her claws on the table,

"From deazh comez change, a tranzformation. Ze cardz zay your future will be one of tranzition - an azpect of your life will come to it'z rezolution, and from zhat a new one will emerge. Your exile iz not ze greatezt zhing to happen to you, be wary of a great change."

She looks back at those cold, uncaring eyes, her own steeled and resolute,

"When zhat time comez, embraze it. Alzhough ze time of upheaval may painful, it iz zhrough Deazh you can find greater meaning."


may prove painful*



She follows you both to an empty room. "Is this not the same room?" she remarks, her mist quickly spreading to every corner. "The architect of this vessel must have been quite lazy. Still. It shall suffice." She seems comfortable for now.

"Now then. Was there anything else you would have me do, serf? Or anything you would ask of me? I suppose time is not wasting, is it."


"Not really. We're on our way somewhere now, so killing time is all we even can do." I rub the back of my neck. I do want to talk, but I'm not sure I want to just bombard you with questions right off the blue. Honestly I mainly want to learn more about you, and the best way to do that is probably just to be around each other."


There was a change so faint in Aegis's eyes one could think they were just a trick from the light. As she tilted her head to look closer at the card, a shadow was cast over her eyes, giving the mare a somber, heavy look, which faded away as she looked up at Zunden again, eyes lit up by the miniature sun above
Aegis was silent, seemingly at a lack of words as she glanced back to the card and mulled over the Saurian's words
"If your reading is true, I won't deny it makes me afraid, repulsed."
She pauses, raising her head up to the light "But, it is not the first time have undergone a massive change, I was raised in a family built upon tradition, and my very existence was a deviance from it, a major change with the promise of good things… Perhaps now I understand how they felt"

Her eyes fall back upon Zunden "And from this understanding, I know to accept those changes. if such time ever comes, I hope they bring me something I can learn from, that will make me better"

Aegis closed her eyes and sighed, as if trying to calm herself down despite a lack of any change in her behavior
"Is that the end of it?"


"Around each other? How… droll. If I didn't know better, I would even say you have feelings for me. Hahahahaha!" Violet seethes silently.

"Ahh, you must oblige me my little indulgences, pup. It is the only way I can entertain myself in this form. If you ever feel like stopping by for a chat, I shall be around. Maybe."


I chuckle. "Yeah. Sure. That's what it is," I say. I wave my hand. "It's fine. I imagine being trapped in a bottle for centuries in an incorporeal body is really dull, so you do what you can to keep yourself entertained. I probably will some time." I sigh. "If you do end up wanting to leave I won't stop you, but you should probably know that you were lucky enough to run into some of the few in this dimension that both are willing to help you and aren't going to try to enslave you for themselves." I turn to Violet. "Wanna head back to our room? I know Z's ghost thing already made breakfast but I want to see what the deal with something else I bought from R and G. These weird chef utensils that are apparently enchanted or something."


I think for a moment. "Actually I might hold off on that until tonight. No sense in wasting out limited food just to test something out. I'll just ask Z if I can cook dinner or something."


"Take what you will of ze reading. If you are afraid, remind yourzelf zhey are juzt cardz. I will be watching ze horizon, for I am interezted in ze Future holdz for you, and ze ozherz."

Zunden continues to meet Aurora's eyes, trying to instill comfort in the crystal pony,

"Ze world iz made up of zyclez. Az wizh ze zpread before you, zey all have a beginning, middle, and end. But az wizh a zircle, ze end only meanz returning to a new beginning."

She takes a moment to readjust the cloth wrap on her chest, being careful not to jostle the object held within.

"It iz your choize if zhat iz 'ze end of it'. I am here for any queztionz you might have, ze bezt way to combat confuzion iz finding anzwerz."


>damnit, all these A-names in campaigns, meant Aegis


Aegis relaxed back on her seat, pulling away from staring at the spread "Just cards, yes, but the accuracy of the descriptions for the first two are notable considering I have never met you in my life, so it is either one major coincidence that your predictions match my life, or there is a real power in these cards" she glanced one last time at the table

"I only have one major question. What would the Card of Death mean were it upside down? A period of sameness, unchanging constancy?"


"Then they are fools!" Kairon crows. "How can they enslave that which they cannot touch? I am incorporeal!" To prove her point, her cloud-like form passes through you. You feel a sudden shock of cold as she does so, the sort of cold that chills you down to the bone and that no amount of warmth can mend. "None may harm me in this state!" she proclaims, doing a little midair pirouette. "Muhahahaha!"

"Yeah. Let's get out of here." Violet leaves the room, waiting to see if you follow. She seems uncomfortable with Kairon, shooting her a troubled glance as the latter continues to float aimlessly around the room, humming idly to herself.


I sigh. I wouldn't be surprised if someone who had the power to give her her body back could also enslave her without too much trouble. My whole body shivers as she passes through me. Yeah. That was creepy.

Giving Kairon one last wave, I follow Vi out of the room and shut the door behind me. "Yeah, sorry about that," I say. "But hey. It went better than I expected."


"Farewell, pup. We shall explore this strange vessel of yours. There was never anything quite like this at home…"

The door frame of her room has an eerie green light coming from it permanently now.

Violet just snorts in disapproval. "What is her problem?" she fumes. "She seems to like you well enough, but immediately starts making fun of me and ignoring me? Why? What did I ever do to her?" She looks hurt.


I gently rest my hand on her shouder. "I wouldn't take it too personally just yet. She wasn't as heavy handed as she was with you, but she treated me like trash the first time I met her too. Wasn't until I offered to help that she started being at least a little more respectful."

I sigh. "Still. Yeah. That was pretty bad. It'd be pretty messed up, but it's possible she doesn't like earth ponies. If that were the case it seems like she,'d hate diamond dogs even more, though."


"You azk ze zame queztionz of me ze felid did when he had hiz reading. Bozh interezted ze naturez of ze cardz zhemzelvez."

Zunden says quietly, before clearing her throat and speaking a bit louder again,

"Cloze, Deazh inverze iz reziztanze to change, ze change being internalized, reprezzed. Much like ze Moon inverted, I zuppoze. It iz a ztate of Limbo - at an end, but refuzing to ztart a new beginning."


"You mean Hermordur, right? Unless there are other Felids here that I am yet to meet. Regardless being curious about the nature of this craft is natural, as it is to wonder what could have been if the cards were different, or facing the other way"

"I'm sure you must have done a reading on your own future as well, am I right?"


"Maybe she just doesn't like us being a thing," she suggests, leaning into your hand a little. "I dunno. I think I'm gonna stay away from her."

Violet heads back into your room, slumping on the bed face down. "Ugh. I dunno. Feels like Kairon is just going to be a problem for us. I think we should put her back in the bottle, really. We have enough to deal with already, we don't need her going around trying to get people to join her crusade. Don't you think?"


"Yez, one in the zame."

Zunden shuffles a bit in her chair as Aegis talks of her own fortune,

"I have… yez, in private. Ze night I arrived wizh ze ozherz."


"If you are not comfortable with sharing it with me you don't have to, It's not something I should care about, I was only slightly curious"


"I don't know why that'd be a problem unless it's a race thing. I've barely spoken to her twice. But yeah, I don't blame you. She's a little creepy, huh? And mean, too. Not funny mean like Mercutio, but more like how I expected Pudding to act when I first met him." I sit down on the bed beside her. "I don't know. I think I'm going to leave her out unless she ends up a problem, for the same reason I'm leaving The Oracle out. Being isolated like that with nobody around… nobody that wants to be around-" I lie flat on the bed. "It gets to you. I know. I've been there, y'know? Maybe it's different for a disposed queen or all knowing soothsayer, but I just know that I wouldn't go back to that if given the chance. Especially if I can give them the chance to not have to." I fold my arms over my stomach and stare at the roof. "That's not to say I won't lock her back up. If she makes me I will, but she hasn't really done anything yet."


"It iz fine, zey are cardz you are not yet aware of ze meaning anywayz."

Zunden shrugs,

"My Future alzo zpoke of change albeit zhrough zhat of a different card. I've ztill yet to dizcern it'z full meaning, juzt az I could not tell you exzactly what your future iz eizher."


"A shame, but I suppose you are still on the road of mastering your craft, as am I. Perhaps once such change comes, if it comes, I will be able to meet you again for another reading"


"Ah, but you have many futurez."

Zunden wiggles a claw back and forth,

"Tommorow iz a future, but zo iz next week, next monzh, next year. We know not when zey will occur, zo juzt becauze I draw a card reprezenting your future twize doezn't mean one would canzel ze ozher out."

She goes to shuffle the cards back into her deck, unless stopped by Aegis,

"Bezidez, az I zaid, zhere are many arrangementz of cardz, not juzt for one'z Pazt, Prezent, and Future. If you ever wizh to conzult ze Tarot, I am available."


"The bag isn't so bad, really," a muffled voice says from the closet. "Found some lovely filth in it yesterday." Violet chucks another boot at it, shutting Mercutio up again.

"Yeah, I'm just worried about what might happen if she gets out and finds someone that'll listen to her. Not that there's anyone around right now, but what if she escapes during the Swap Meet or something? It only takes one person for her to start building her own little faction of her own." She rolls over and starts staring out at the trees through the porthole window. "I wonder if that's how Hermodur's goddess started, just going around convincing people she had the right idea. To be honest, I find it kind of creepy how much devotion one person can inspire that way. All you need is the right words and a lot of charisma."


"I see, I didn't expect this art to be so complex… I am satisfied the with readings for now, thank you. But I still had more questions, if you have me"
Aegis pointed a hoof at the floating ball of light
"This sorcery. You were the one who released that flash of light earlier against those creatures, weren't you?"


"I did, but it zhat zpell zpecifically waz borrowed."

Zunden says, taking off one of her rings, designed like interwoven leaves.

"A magical artifact which holdz ze zpell in it for cazterz to uze. Ze orb, however, iz my own doing."


Aegis focuses on the lizards's hand, as well as scanning her for other interesting little details
"Another magical artifact… Do you have more of those? I hope they are not all rings, you only have so many fingers"


Unfortunately, the saurian is absolutely covered in different jewelry, making it difficult to determine which could be enchanted.

"Many, I conzider myzelf a collector of zuch trinketz. I even have given zome away to my alliez. Ze lute zhere iz a catalyzt-"

She motions to the lute on the drawer,

"-zhat I'm trying to learn to uze. I know little of playing inztrumentz, unfortunately."


I chuckle. "Is the drawer nice too, or are you just hiding from Vi's wrath?" I ask Mercutio.

I focus my attention back on Vi. "Yeah. And those types seem to prey on folks who are in a rough spot. That's what happened with Hermodur if I understand right." I face her and trace my claw up her leg, from her hock to her stifle. "I guess maybe I'll put her back up during the meet. Otherwise the only real option is to keep her with me, and I don't really like the sound of that."


"I'm impressed. I would say it might be dangerous to wear so many of them like that at once but what danger can reach you when you are prepared for everything with so many spells and effects at your fingertips"


"Zome of zhem have had… adverze effectz on my body- namely one. But zertainly not dangerouz."

She smirks,

"It'z bezt I do not point out every valuable located in my room or on my perzon, zhough."


''Indeed. Dont worry I would not steal from those who took me in. I'll be happy finding my own magical items, which I dont doubt are many in the timeless Echoes''


"Oh, it's pretty comfy. There's a great big house centipede in here. Quite a nice fellow when you get to know him." Violet rolls her eyes. "Swear I'm going to throw him overboard when you're not looking." You get the feeling she's not serious.

"Yeah. Poor guy. I hope we can break him out of his mold. He's pretty convinced that his Ailuros can do anything." She flinches as you start stroking her leg all of a sudden, but she eventually scoots a bit closer, nuzzling up beside you and petting your head lazily.

"Heh. You'd better not. I might get jealous," she says teasingly. "But… I don't really think it's a good idea to have her around. At the very least, we should tell the others about her. And the Oracle as well. I don't really think we should be keeping secrets from each other. We're all in this together, aren't we?" You sense some doubt in her voice; the recent talk of Hermodur seems to have put him on her mind again.


"If you need zuch an item identified, I have found myzelf becoming more and more proficient in dizcerning zheir enchantmentz. A zide-effect of uzing zo many, I zuppoze."

She chuckles,

"Iz zhere any ozher queztionz I could anzwer, zhough?"


I chuckle as she says she might get jealous. Of a cloud. "Yeah. I've actually been meaning to, but there hasn't really been a good time. I picked both The Oracle and Kairon up before the hunt, so there've kinda not really been a chance. I plan to tell them before the swap meet. Probably later today."


"Yeah. Today would be a good time. We still need to figure out what we're going to do about that bounty hunter. I was talking about it with the others before, and they reckon we should go talk to him while we can, see if he can give us any info on Lysander, since he's been laying low. Plus, we might be able to see what sorts of tricks he has up his sleeve. He's fighting us 1v8, so he must be planning something. This guy seems like he means business."


Aegis was silent for a few seconds
''None that are significant, no. Only a request if you have a book or some other interesting reading material for me to pass the time while on board''


Zunden blushes,

"I am… able to read mozt common wordz.. but I am not wholly literate. I regretfully have no zuch bookz. My apologiez."


''Understandable. If you are interested in learning however, we could buy you some notebooks and pencils on the next store we find and I could teach you what I know, even some neighposese, if you'd like''


Zunden smiles again,

"If I could find ze time, maybe. I do a lot."


I knit my brow. "They think we should go talk to the guy who's confident enough he can catch us that he gave us a 24 hour head start? That doesn't seem like a good idea. If he could give us some info it could be worth it, but do you think he'd sell out Lysander like that?"


Aegis nods
''Its decided. Until then, Do you have any questions for me?''


"From what Silver said, it sounds like he doesn't like Lysander very much," she muses, curling up and resting her head on your shoulder. Her mane smells of dirt, but not unpleasantly so. "Seems like he's only hunting us because of his reputation, and maybe for the thrill of it as well. I don't think they're really friends. Still, you're right. We shouldn't really waste any time putting distance between us and him. I have a bad feeling about him. But hey, we'll pull through, right? Like we always do."


"Az for ze moment? Nozhing prezzing. I moztly need time to perform anozher reading, and to practize attuning wizh artifactz."

Zunden says getting up from her seat,

"Don't be a ztranger, zhough."


I close my eyes and take in her earthy scent. "Yeah. We'll make it. If the others think we should turn back maybe we should, but it sounds like even if he doesn't like him he probably has too much integrity to sell out his employer."


Aegis got up from her seat as well
''Understood. Thank you for your time''
With that, the crystal mare turned around and left


"Hm. Maybe. We'd have to see what Z thinks we should do. She's the pilot after all." She takes a deep sigh and gives you a sleepy little kiss on the neck. "You know, I was thinking, why don't you talk to her and see if you can give piloting the ship a go? If you want to that is. I feel like she'd appreciate not having so much to do all the time. I'd offer to pilot it myself, but, well…" She waggles her hoof, pointing out her lack of fingers.


"Yeah. Maybe. I'm not nearly as strong as she is and you saw what happened when it didn't work out for her, so best not try it until we're back on the ground. But yeah, it could help ease some of her load."


"Hey. I think you'd make a great pilot," she says with a smile. "Get yourself a cool coat, some big goggles, you'd look the part." "Oh boy," Mercutio chimes in. "We're in THAT timeline." Violet just ignores him at this point, save for a withering glance shot at the wardrobe.

There's a comfy silence where you just cuddle for a while, Violet putting her arm around you and resting her hoof on your chest gently. Not even Mercutio has it in him to spoil the moment. It's as if for a fleeting instance, neither of you have anything to worry about anymore.

Eventually, Violet speaks up again. "So what are you planning on using that thing for anyway?" She nods at the sprayer. "Still keen on working as an exterminator? Seems like it'd be useful for more than that."


"Well, I was thinking it was something I was comfortable using. I could still do some exterminator work, but the real reason I bought it was because I thought it could be useful as a nonlethal weapon. Something like pepper gas or another kind of irritant comes to mind, but I'm sure there's more stuff it could be used for. Maybe the sleeper poison in aerosol form. Something that won't kill someone but could still take them out of a fight long enough for them not to matter."


She nods. "Nonlethal. I like that," she muses. "That's what I've always admired about you. Even when faced with the worst of the worst, you still refuse to kill, huh. Even when it's kill or be killed, you find a way. The Echoes need more like you." She pulls herself in, giving you a side hug and kissing you again. "I love you," she says softly, holding you close.


"I don't know. Maybe. Or maybe I'm just a coward who can't face reality. Either way, it's something I'm going to try not to change." I gently kiss her, wrapping my arm around her waist. I hesitate for a moment, but whisper, barely audibly, "I love you too, Violet."


"Mm…" Another long, comfortable moment where time seems to stand still as you embrace. You feel, despite the current state of things, as if everything is going to work out for all of you.

The moment passes, and Violet gives you another kiss on the head, brushing back her mane. Her braid's slowly come undone. She looks almost like a different pony with her hair down like this. She has a dreamy look in her eye as she looks at you. She breaks the silence with more questions. "Hey, uh, I don't think I ever asked this before, but if you don't mind talking about it, that's okay. …Um, what do your parents do? They still around? Just curious."


"Oh, no. I don't mind." I lean on my elbow a little. "Well, the only family I really still have around is Mason. My mom died when I was still really young. Too young to remember her, really. Not really surprising because I was pretty young then, too, and he never really liked to talk about it. Mason said he told him once when he was drinking, but I'm not sure I believe him. My dad died when I was pretty young too, but I was definitely old enough to remember that." I shudder. "He, uh… he got sick." My voice catches in my throat and I clear it. I linger on that for a moment before continuing. "Anyway. He was a hard worker. A really hard worker, and he did everything he could for me and Mason. I was younger and smaller, so I'm embarassed to admit he sort of coddled me some. At least as much as he could with how little time and money we had. As for what he did, he was a miner." I chuckle. "Always remember him coming home covered in black dust, but you couldn't really tell that easily because his coat was even darker than mine. Big guy. Mason took more after him than me. Apparently I'm more like my mom." I try to think of what else to say but nothing really comes to mind. I sit up. "I guess that's a little more than you asked for though. Sorry."


She listens politely, a sympathetic look on her face. Seeing you get a little choked up, she puts a comforting arm around your shoulder. "Aw, Norv…" She ponders what you've told her, rubbing your shoulderblade, which eventually turns into a full on back massage. "So how'd you end up on the streets?" she asks curiously. "Didn't your brother have room for you?"


I let out a long half-moan exhale as she starts rubbing my back. "Well, after pop died I was sent to an orphanage for a while. Mason was old enough to make it on his own, but there was no way he could have raised a kid too. I got old enough to live on my own and they kicked me out. Me and Mason had stopped talking. I resented him for leaving me behind, even though I know now there wasn't much he could actually do. Plus by then he'd fallen in with a pretty bad crowd. I never got actual details, but it was a mixture of underground fights and bodyguard work. So anyway, with nowhere to go I ended up where everyone with nowhere to go ends up. I didn't really have any skills to speak of. By then I already knew I was pretty good with animals but I was never actually smart or schooled enough to make anything out of it, y'know? It was actually thinking about my dad that led to me trying extermination work. That, and desperation. I trained some of the rats I unwillingly shared an alleyway with without even realizing I was doing it. They sorta just started doing stuff for me because I shared my food with them. What little I could manage from the beggar's market. That is to say, trash heaps. Believe it or not you can make a pretty darn good stew out of old veggies and scraps. Nobody ever uses bones or leftover carcasses to make broth, but-" I whistle. "More for me back then. So anyway, it was winter. A damn fierce winter, too. Five or six years ago. The way I saw it, it was either find a place inside or freeze to death. So I'm sitting there moping, thinking about my dad, when it hits me. Maybe I can try taking care of other people's problems. Kind of a rat catcher type deal. I thought maybe there would be job postings, and I guess there sort of were. It was all adventuring jobs, though. Go here, slay this, bring this item, escort this important stallion. Stuff like that."

I chuckle. "I must have looked like hell, because the receptionist at the time -an old unicorn mare. Worn Ledger- actually put out a job herself when she heard what I was looking for. A nest of giant rats in the sewers. There was a reason I'd never hunted anything for food, and never took on any adventurer jobs. It was because I was weak. Like, even weaker than I am now. I would have gotten myself killed. Then she offered me three bits per rat and I couldn't back down. So, I took my rats and went hunting in the sewer. I'm sure I nearly died a few times, but I came out of the whole thing thirty bits richer, and she even comped me a room for the next month. Under the condition that I did smaller jobs like that twice a week. So, a month passes and word gets around about what I'm doing. I start getting offers for jobs in ponies homes more like what I'd been looking for to start with, especially over the winter. I didn't know it at the time but rats, mice, and other warm blooded pests get worse in the winter because they're trying to find a warm place to stay. By the end of that month I had five jobs lined up taking care of different kinds of infestations, and by the end of the next I had enough saved for a deposit on this crappy little shanty owned by someone Ledger knew. Bought myself a suit later, and by the time the warmer months came I'd had enough to invest in a poison sprayer for more severe infestations. The rest is pretty much the same day to day. Wake up. Kill or relocate vermin or varmints. Go home. Play with and feed my rats. Go to bed. At least until Freck introduced me to poker. Then I started hitting bars a few times a month."


Violet listens intently, nodding pensively as you talk about Mason. "Yeah. I remember you mentioned him before. Wonder how he's doing nowadays?"

She cringes at the part about eating dumpster food. "Gross. Sounds like you would've fit right in at Z's old place, huh. Shame you never ran into her. If you're even from the same time."

She nods and smiles as you explain how you discovered your affinity with rats. "You know, until I met you, I never really thought twice about rats or mice. Just considered them pests, or weird pets. But they're actually pretty cute, huh. And clever. I don't know how you managed to train them to understand you like that." She looks over to the cage. "Do you name them at all? Feel like they deserve names."

She smiles warmly again as you wrap up. "And then you met that guy you told me about, ended up here, and the rest is history, huh. Sounds like it was pretty rough back home. Not as rough as here, but still." She gives you another little peck on the head. You feel much better already, even more relaxed than before.


"Last time I heard from Mason was Hearth's Warming last year. Had a little get together with him. He'd cleaned up and was working in construction now. It was nice." I chuckle. "And yeah. they really are. Way smarter and way cuter than I ever gave them credit for. I tried to keep giving them all names, but I had so many I started running out of ideas. The fifteen-" I pause and my smile falls. I have to make an active effort not to reach for my flask as I push back tears. "Thirteen. The thirteen I have left are all named after different kinds of cheese. Stilton and Grav died in the battle with the balurs. Something is weird about the magic that summons them, though. Sometimes they come out an unusual size and I can barely even recognize them. But yeah. They didn't used to have names until I was sent here. I must have had… I don't know. At least a hundred? They breed fast, so if you're not careful it gets out of hand. Good thing they can survive off oils and flour, beceause these little biscuit things were all I could afford to feed them. In hindsight it was pretty irresponsible letting it get out of hand like that, but-" I shrug. "It wasn't like I didn't take care of them."

I lean back and close my eyes, easing my body into hers. "Thanks, Vi. That was nice." I look up at her from where I sit and laugh. "What about you? You have a life story you want to ramble about like I just did?"


Seeing you get upset as you think about the dead rats, she reaches out to you, giving you a gentle hug.

"Maybe you should get that cage looked at," she suggests. "Might be it's making the rats sick. Fumblemore might know, or… or Black Pudding." There's a bit of an uncomfortable silence whenever she brings him up. "…Er, could I see one of them? The rats, I mean. I've never really gotten to play with them."

"Well, it was kind of lonely growing up," she answers. "I mean, I had a lot of siblings, but I never… connected with them? I guess that'd be the word. I mean, I was close to my mum, and my sister as well, Crescent. Think I've told you about her. My brothers though, I never really saw eye to eye with them, or my big sister Blue. …I was the youngest of the bunch, and my dad took off soon after I was born. None of them really knew him well, me least of all. Mum always said he was no good."

"We weren't that well off financially, my mum's flower shop didn't really do too well. Some of us lived with my aunt and uncle nearby instead. Most of the time it was just us girls at home and the boys lived nearby. …Then uncle Razzle's mind started going, and my aunt was getting on in years. Couldn't take care of him and three kids on top of my cousins, and my mum couldn't have us all in the same house. So it was the orphanage for them. Wonder where they ended up…"

"Anyway, my mum started going as well around ten years ago now. Guess it was a hereditary thing Crescent kept saying it was a family curse. Blue was long gone at this point. Went off with some deadbeat from Andraxis and never wrote back. Crescent and I supported mum as long as we could, but…" She goes quiet for a while. "…Well, Crescent wanted to move out, and she landed a job in Levin. I was always more outdoorsy, so I managed to land an apprenticeship at a wildlife preserve, then that got me into a job as a park ranger. And… well, I think I've told you what happened next, haven't I. Hm." She looks a bit bitter about how she ended up here. "In any case. There's not much left for me back home. My brothers are who knows where, my dad's probably dead somewhere, Blue abandoned us, and Crescent and I parted ways. So, I'd rather be here than up there again."


Zunden watches the door the crystal pony left for a few minutes, trying to make sense of the mare.

'What are you holding in…?'

She shakes her head, looking back to the tarot deck on the table. Her memory harkens back to the request of the others to do a reading on the situation at hand. She walks back to the table, staring down at the cards.

'I haven't doubted you for a long time. Even now, you're what I come to for guidance…'

She sits back down in the pouffe, shuffling the cards for a long period of time.

'What will come of Hermodur's dealings with the Oneiromancer? How do I parse this situation?'

>Draw from the Arcana; passive/'automatic instant; once per day': Zunden utilizes the tarot deck to tell the fortune of an individual. As a passive, can do a reading for an individual or group, using the cards as guidance. Once per in-game day, however, she may seek more clairvoyant guidance by using the arcana to offer guidance, gaining a vague hint or brief vision from the past, present, or future that applies to their current situation.


I grin as she asks for me to get one of my rats out. "Sure," I say, setting my hand on my cage to summon one of them at random.

Before I do, I quietly listen to her story. Wonder what it was like having more than one sibling. And she only really had one parent around too. I turn toward her a bit more and rest my paw on her foreleg when she talks about how her mom started going too. "It's rough watching someone you care about just sort of… fall apart. I'm sorry," I say.

So that's at least two of us that don't even actually want to go home. "I guess in that way we're kind of the same. I think I've already mentioned that, though."

Focusing on the cage, I summon one of my rats and open it up. "You know," I say. "I've never even actually considered the fact that because of how stuff works here we might not even all be from the same time. That's kind of weird."


You put your faith in the cards' wisdom once again, pensively shuffling the cards before letting fate speak. As you read the cards, you find they tell of misguided ambition, and of seeking further information before continuing on. You sense that unless Hermodur is fully aware of the consequences of his actions, his road will lead to an unfavorable result for all parties.



You summon a healthy looking brown female rat. She sniffs about curiously before scurrying up Violet's outstretched hoof. She recoils a little instinctively at the feeling of the tiny scrabbling claws, but soon gets used to it. As the rat lifts herhead up to meet her, Violet tentatively starts petting her, skritching her behind the ears like a cat. She smiles as the rat leans the full weight of her head on the tips of her hooves. "What do you call this one?" she asks, suppressing a giggle as the rat flops over onto its belly, demanding attention.

"It's okay," she answers absent-mindedly. "It was a long time ago now. It was… it was rough. Yeah. But that's life, isn't it. Just got to make do with the hand we've been dealt, don't we?" She puts the rat down and holds your hand gently for a moment.

She nods. "I don't really know how it works, but yeah. It's likely that if we go back home, we'll never see each other ever again…" She looks you in the eye and holds your hand a bit tighter, as if gripping a lifeline. "I… I can't go back," she says resolutely. "This is my home now. I have everything here. I… I have you. …I love you," she says again, as if to reinforce it. "More than anything."


I look the rat over. "That's Brie. One of the females. I guess that much is obvious, though, because trust me when I say you'll know if it's male. Usually males are cuddlier and more social, but she's really sweet. There's one of them I have -Cammie- who's pretty territorial. She's had a few litters, so that's pretty normal."

There isn't even any telling if we'd go back to our own time, let alone if we'd all go back to the same time if we did go back. "Well, I think Z feels the same way. I don't know about the others. Aegis seems pretty set on finding a way back right now, at least. And Silver."

I gently squeeze her leg. I'm sure I'll get used to saying it, but I can't help but hesitate again, almost forcing it out. "I love you too," I say quietly, hoping she understands that it isn't her.


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Zunden prepares to lays three cards out in front of her two crossed and one below it.

'Haven't done crossed three spread in a while… Situation, Obstacle, and Advice..'

She thinks to herself revealing the cards and putting them in position one by one.

The first card laid down depicts a sandstone tower crumbling and aflame as it's hit by lightning, a rhinoceros iguana plummeting in the night sky towards the ground, a crown falling opposite of him. Zunden recoils and breathes heavily, well acquainted with the card revealed.

'The Tower… Great cataclysm and disaster. This won't just hurt him, it will hurt all of us. Everyone. Fates above…'
She slows her breathing down, trying to still her trembling hand.
'…The same card I drew for my future when I arrived here. Please let this not be inevitable…'

She quickly goes for the next card, not wanting to linger on it. The card laid ontop of the Tower is oriented the wrong way, depicting a heavily armored crocodile skink lizard holding a sword out, charging into battle riding a velociraptor.

'The Knight of Swords… that's action and ambition. But it's reversed so that means… Lack of direction and disregard for consequence. Yeah, that's fair. The Oneiromancer offered Hermodur direction, and he followed. We haven't done anything to convince him otherwise. Ack…'

Zunden lays her elbows on the table and tugs her horns in stress,

"But what can I zay! I don't know ze right wordz, zhere izn't anyzhing printed on zheze cardz zhat could tell me what exzactly to zay!"

She exclaims out loud, not sure if she's talking to deck or herself. Zunden's throat emits a quiet rumble, a noise of mostly of helplessness and discontentment.

'Fine, what solace do you have for me, what advice could possibly help.'
She takes the last card, laying it below the two. Depicting a king much like The Emperor, the garter snake saurian is dressed in lighter cloth and looks much younger, sitting outside on a stone throne and sword rested on his shoulder. Zunden chuckles.

'Fair, the King of Swords would prove to control the likes of the Knight of Swords. The truth and it's authority… Okay, so Hermodur needs to know the truth about what will happen if I'm to get through to him. But how do I find out what that truth is? I'm a reader, not clairvoyant.'

Zunden huffs again, standing up from her chair and grabbing her lute, noodling on it as she goes deep in thought.
[1d10] practice
'So that's what I need to do I suppose. Find the truth about what releasing the Cuckoo will do. Hermodur listens to what he thinks is true, so I need to find something that he'd likewise view as true.'

Roll #1 4 = 4


"She's adorable!" Violet grins and puts Brie down after giving her a little belly rub. She starts scampering around the room, sniffing at everything in sight, slightly overwhelmed by her newfound freedom. Violet happily watches her go, her pensive mood lightened by the little rodent.

She looks down and smiles. "…I'm sorry, I'm probably sounding like a broken record, aren't I. I've just… well, I told you, didn't I. Dammit. There I go again. I've never really been in a proper relationship before. I don't know what I'm doing. Hehe."

"Well, that's the thing," she says, looking wide eyed. "If we get out of here, anything could happen. No one's ever done it before, remember. I'm just assuming we'll all go back to our times, but it might work out. What if we all end up in the same place at the same time? …Course, that'd be a problem, considering all the evil that's locked up here. Imagine centuries of wickedness all in the same place at once. Wouldn't be fun."


Your stormy mood affects your practicing, if you can even call it that. You get a few melodious notes in, but hit a particularly sour note. It rings out with a discordant TWANG.


Zunden cringes as the sour note cuts out across the otherwise silent room, her ruminations similarly interrupted. She goes to her bed, drawing back the curtain and laying in it, taking the lute with her as she orients herself to play laying down.

"I have time. Zame zhing I zaid to Aurora I guezz. Doezn't have to come to me now."

She says under her breath, calming down slightly. She plucks slower at the strings this time, keeping her eyes closed.

[1d10] practice

Roll #1 2 = 2


"Yeah, neither have I. Just some flings here and there. It's just-" I pause to think of how to put it. "It's not something I've ever really said to or heard from anyone before, so I guess it's just weird. Kind of heavy, you know? Hearing it isn't a problem. Say it as much as you want. I love hearing it. It's just that it's not so easy saying it."

I ease myself back onto the bed. "Yeah. I guess there isn't really a way to know unless it happens." I look up at her. "So where'd you learn to be so sneaky, anyway? It makes sense for Silver. She was basically an assassin. But what about you? Was it part of your job some how?"


You start using your nails as picks as you strum slowly, but accidentally pluck a string too hard. It starts to fray, threatening to snap if too much pressure is applied, forcing you to play much more gently from now on.

She nods. "Well, got to start somewhere, right?" She kisses you again.

"I was a forest ranger," she explains. "It was my job to basically live out in the woods a lot of the time with the rest of the team. We were the ones keeping an eye out for poachers, vandals and the like, guiding visitors, rescuing lost wanderers, helping in emergencies, all that sort of thing. When you're living out in the middle of nowhere, it helps to learn to blend in with your surroundings, you know? It's not that hard to go unseen. You'd be surprised how inattentive most folks are. Sneaking is easy once you get the hang of it. I could show you a trick or two if you want, next time we're out in the wilds." She glances at your rat box and sprayer. "Er, might be a bit tougher for you though."


Zunden hisses, setting the instrument down on the floor of the room, turning on to her belly, and clutching one of her pillows close. The low, defeated rumbling noise from before returns, the saurian having given up on attempting anything at the moment.

'They'll knock if they want to get moving…'

She pulls the window curtain closed, sulking and burying her head in a second pillow.


I return the kiss and relax again. "Ah, yeah. I guess I hadn't thought about that. Just imagined you as some kind of park ranger that was supposed to report stuff to higher authorities or something. I didn't realize you were basically some cool woodland security guard." I follow her gaze to my sprayer and cage. "Yeah. They weren't really designed with stealth in mind. The cage was just a normal animal trap that happened to be enchanted, and the sprayer is built to hold a lot of poison so I didn't have to go back home for refills between jobs. Did't have to sneak around so it isn't something I ever got good at."


You just sit there for a while stewing in your own thoughts, feeling only marginally less miserable than before.

"Nah, I was the forest cop," she says with a smirk. "Had the cool hat and everything. It was kind of uneventful though. Apart from, you know, the creepy stuff. …Lots of creepy stuff in the woods. I don't think I'd ever do it again." She looks a bit uncomfortable, but brushes it off.

"How'd you get a magic cage anyway?" she asks. "The rats and all I get, but apart from that I've never seen you do any other magic stuff. Was it a present or did you make it yourself?"


"Hah, I haven't talked about it in ages but this'll be the second time today. Aegis was in here with me earlier and asked. Actually it's kind of a funny story. So, I end up taking this job for a guy to clean some "pests out of his basement", right? It turns out this guy is a mage or alchemist or something, and he's actually created or attracted a bunch of little slimes. I'm not sure which. Turns out he couldn't afford to post an actual quest, and he heard about me, so he got in touch. It was a pain, but I ended up taking care of it. He offered to enchant my cage for me since he saw me carrying a bunch of my rats around in it. Some kind of little basic pocket dimension spell. Ended up way more convenient than needing to be careful not to rattle them too much. This way I could just poof them away for a bit, walk to a job, and poof them back in."


She nods. "That's pretty handy. Still, must be a bit of a nuisance carrying that thing around everywhere. Wouldn't it be better as, I dunno, a bag or something?" She shrugs. "Wonder where they go when they get poofed like that…"

Seeing Brie still out and about, Violet calls her over. The little rat looks up from gnawing on one of Mercutio's teeth, and hesitates for a bit before scurrying over, rearing up on both legs to meet Violet's outstretched hoof. Violet smiles with delight as she pets the rat again. "Would… would you mind if I held on to her for a while? Instead of putting her back, I mean. She's the best!"


"Yeah. I haven't actually thought about where they go much, which in hindsight is pretty irresponsible on my part. Aegis kind of has me worried that they might not even be the same rats. Just magical copies or something." I chuckle. "She seems like she likes you. Sure. You can hang onto her for a while." I reach out and lightly scratch her behind her ear. "Seeing them like this makes it seem weird that folks look down on them and hate them, huh?"


"Thanks!" Brie gives your hand an aggressive sort of headbutt as you go to pet her, eager for affection. She silently chitters as she revels in the pettings.

"Yeah. They're so smart and cuddly! Shame they get such a bad rep, really." She tries holding Brie for a moment, but the rat freaks out a little and digs her claws into Violet's hoof before scrambling up onto her shoulder. She sucks her hoof and winces. "Aaa! Bit antsy though."

After Brie's calmed down a bit, Violet continues to play with her, picking her up a bit more gently and perching her snugly on top of the wardrobe. "Ooooh, found a new friend, have you?" Mercutio sneers from inside. "Vermin mingles with vermin, I suppose!" "Shut it, head," Violet snaps. "That was weak anyway." "Nyeh. Still a work in progress." She watches with amusement as Brie's mind is expanded by her new vantage point, queen of the cabin.


I can't help but smile as I watch Brie. "Yeah, she's sweet but she can be a little energetic. You alright? Just get scratched a little?"

My smile falls a bit as Mercutio speaks. Yeah. Vermin with vermin. That's how it's always been. "Anyway. I can't really blame anyone for not liking them. They're smart and cute, but pfew they can do a lot of damage. Seen cases where they chewed through concrete and lead pipes to get to food stores."


She holds up her hoof; there's only a few scratches. "It's nothing, it'll heal. Learning the hard way I guess."

She nods. "Yeah. I've seen how they work when you send them out. It's crazy. They can really mess someone up if they get riled up. Hard to hit too, I imagine." She takes Brie off of the wardrobe, seeing her starting to look for a way down, and holds her in the frog of her hoof, just stroking Brie for a while. The little rat seems to have almost completely calmed down, giving you an unbelievably smug squinty eyed look.


I raise my brows and nod. "Oh yeah they can do damage. I've seen it first hand twice." I look at the scratches on her leg. "That's not too bad, though. That's the sorta thing you get used to." I reach up and pet under Brie's chin with my knuckle, the little mischeif maker.

"So everyone was pretty messed up at breakfast this morning, but Z seemed like she was about to lose it. I was mad, but she seemed… I don't know. Hurt maybe? You know if she's alright?" I let out an uncomfortable laugh. "Though given the situation that's a pretty relative word, huh?"


Brie takes a curious nibble of your finger, then draws away when she realizes you're not edible yet.

Violet nods as she plays with the rat. "Yeah. Aurora too. I haven't really talked to them yet, but they seemed really torn up about it. Especially Z. Never really seen her worked up like that before… I was going to go talk to her after this, but, um, I feel like Aurora might need someone to talk to, as well. I mean, I've never really talked to her much. Feel like we could be better friends with her, don't you? She must be lonely. She's always so quiet, and… well, I feel like there's a lot weighing on her. On both of them. We're a team, after all. We need to talk to one another about these things. Otherwise, who can we really trust?…"

Violet tenses up as Brie scampers up her foreleg all of a sudden, perching on her shoulder, then doing a little hop onto of Violet's head, to the latter's chagrin. Brie makes herself comfortable amid Violet's mane. "Er… do they normally do that?" she asks.


"Yeah. I keep meaning to talk to Aurora more, especially since I was one of the ones who insisted she join us, but I feel so awkward when I do. Like I just don't know what to say. I get the same thing with Hermodur most of the time, but I don't have to worry about that because he fills in the silence all on his own, but Aurora? She's just as quiet as me. Maybe more. I do want to be better friends with her, though."

I snort as Brie makes herself comfy in Violet's mane and she lets out a happy chittering noise. "Yeah. they really like hair. They're nesting animals, so it makes sense. You hear that noise? That's called bruxing. It's when they exhale and grind their teeth together like they're chewing something. It could mean a few different things, but in this situation I'm almost positive it means she's comfy. That's surprising. They don't usually take to new folks that quickly."


"Yeah. I've talked to her a couple of times, but she's just…" She shoots a glance at the door to make sure Aurora isn't around. "She's kind of hard to talk to. She listens a lot, but doesn't really talk about herself too much. Even when I ask her something, she doesn't give much of a response at all. Guess it's understandable, considering what she's gone through. Just feel like we could be there for her more. I dunno. Just rambling again."

Violet stays quiet for a moment, listening to her brux for a while. "Daww, that's so cute! She's such a sweetie!" She giggles and very gently plucks Brie out of her hair, wincing a little as the rat tries to cling on. "Ow! Come on now. Can't sleep there, sorry." Eventually, Brie relents, snout held high as Violet lowers her onto the bed again. She gets curious and grabs a small loose splinter, flicking it close to Brie to see what she does. She giggles again as Brie scurries over, sniffing at the new object curiously.


"Maybe I just don't try enough, or maybe I don't try hard enough. I don't know. I can't really blame her for wanting to keep that sort of thing close to the vest, y'know? Maybe I'll stop waiting for a chance and just do it." I rub my hands together. "It doesn't help that I've kind of been lost in my own head a lot lately."


She nods thoughtfully, patting you on the back reassuringly. "Never hurts to try. Sure she'll appreciate having someone to listen to her for a change."

She stands up. "Actually, think I might go see her now. I don't think I've even spoken to her since we got locked up." She shoots a glance at Brie. "Er, is it okay to leave her out? She could get lost…"


I stand and readjust my suit. "I think I'll go with you if that wouldn't be too weird." I hold my hand out to Brie and click my tongue. "Should probably put her bavk up. For now at least. Until I can get them acquainted with the ship."


"Yeah, good point. Best to have her back with the others. She could get lonely, anyway."

"Sure, you can come. She might like the company. Though, um, you know how quiet she can get. Might be a bit overwhelming if we all go in at once. You know? But, on the other hand, she might just want to vent a little. Up to you if you want to tag along."

"Aww, you're going to leave me all on my own? You're so mean!" Violet rolls her eyes. "You, er, can take him too if you want, I guess. Don't know if Aurora would like him though." "Oh no, she doesn't like me, not at all. The old sourpuss. Better to leave me here, in this dank and dusty wardrobe, slowly rotting away…" He sighs dramatically, and you hear him roll backwards in a mock faint.


Brie hopd into my hand and I put her back in the cage and unsummon her. "Yeah," I say, looking over to the drawer. "Probably best he stays here. And don't act like you're stuck in there, Mercutio. You got in, you can get out." I turn back to Violet. "I'll still come though."


"Good point. Be right back then!" Before you can stop him, he plops out of the closet, rolls towards your cage and pops out of existence. "Freeeeeedooooooooooom!!"

Violet just stares at the cage for a moment, stunned, then just shakes it off. "…Anyway. Let's get going."

You both head over to Aurora's room. Violet knocks on the door. "Hey, Aurora? You alright?"

It takes her a while, but she eventually answers. She looks as distant as ever, looking through both of you. "Yeah. I'm fine. I was just meditating. Need to think things over, I guess."


I lock up, not sure what to say. Again. As casually as I can manage I say, "Yeah. Don't sweat it too hard, though. Hermodur may have his own set of problems, but he's not an idiot. I know what happens if we break the egg now. If I explain it to him I'm sure he'll come around." I give her a small smile, and an attempt at a reassuring nod, hoping to sound confident that that's actually how I feel.

[1d10]reassure the poor girl everything will be okay

Roll #1 10 = 10


I can't help but stare in shock as the skull rolls into the cage and dissapears. Just… just what the heck is he doing? Can he even make it back out? Do I have to try to summon him? Deciding that's probably something best left for later, since he seemed to know what he was doing, I shake my head and follow Violet.




"Yeah," Violet chimes in. "We've managed to get some answers out of the skull. We just have to convince him of how bad of an idea it is, I guess." She leaves out the part about Hermodur being caught between a rock and a hard place.

Aurora nods a little, seeming marginally less tense. "I talked it out with Zunden before. I'm… I'm fine," she says again. "Just frustrated. Everything was going so well until this morning, you know?"

"Yeah," says Violet. "But, you know, sometimes things like this happen between friends. One day everything's going smoothly, the next you're trying to convince them not to destroy the world." She chuckles at her own joke, but Aurora doesn't seem amused. "…Right. If you don't mind," she says to you both bluntly, "I'd rather be on my own right now. I'm trying to practice my meditating. Feel like it's helping."


I nod. "Sorry for interrupting. Just wanted to make sure you were alright. We'll leave you to it."


Violet nods. "If you ever need to talk, you can count on us. Just call me if you need anything, alright?"

Aurora nods and gives you a little smile. "Alright. Thanks, you two. Really, I appreciate it."

"Any time!" Violet leaves Aurora to her own devices, and the latter closes the door gently as you leave. "That went well," she comments. "She seems to be doing alright, don't you think?"

"Say, I was thinking. Maybe Z would like a second opinion on her whole card reading thing. She might like to meet that skull of yours. You ought to introduce her, I reckon. If you haven't already that is. Though… where he went is anyone's guess. Let's hope you can get him to come out of the cage, huh. Weirdo."


"That's assuming I can get him out. I have no idea what that was about. I guess if anyone should meet him it should be Z, though. Probably one of the more likely of us to get along with him well enough. Or at least tolerate him. Sure. Let's go grab him and head to her room."


She nods and follows you back.

"Oh, you're back already!" Mercutio's disembodied voice rings out from inside the cage. "I was overwhelmed with curiosity and simply HAD to see the inside for myself. It's like another world in here. A world full of shed hairs and rat dung. Be a good slave and pull me out, would you." Violet doesn't seem very amused.


"Right. Just-" I crouch down by the cage and set my hand on it. "Just give me a second." I make an attempt to summon him from the rat plane.


Roll #1 1 = 1


You pull him out of the cage with a soft pop. A very grubby looking Mercutio rolls out, accompanied by about half a dozen of your rats. They immediately start running all over the place, sniffing and nibbling on everything in sight and generally making a mess of things. Violet gives a little frustrated grunt. "Ah, Norv… Why don't you go on ahead and talk to her. I'll try and clean up this mess." She starts somewhat futilely trying to herd the rats, pulling them away from her clothes before they can start boring holes in them. "What a nightmare!" Mercutio chatters. "Remind me never to go in there again. It's like nothing you can imagine. And polish my chrome dome, would you. I want to look my Sunday best for when we meet our dear Reader! Or at least my Tuesday pretty good!"


I wince as my rats and filth scatters everywhere. Carefully, I pick up the skull and hold it a bit away from myself. "Are you sure you have it covered here, Vi? I could help you clean up really quick." Part of cleaning up is cleaning the skull, so I head into the bathroom, move my bag aside, and turn the shower on. After setting The Oracle right beneath the cold water, i go back into the main room to grab my old torn up white shirt, now just barely more than discolored pinkish rags.


After I get him cleaned up I spit right on top of his dome, giving him a spit shine.


"Well, if you insist," she grins, sheepishly carrying an armful of squirming rats. She awkwardly dumps them back into the cage, where they run to the very back and poof out of existence. "It could've been a lot worse, I guess."

Mercutio starts singing in the shower, if you can call it that. It's more like loud, obnoxious screeching in a vaguely musical cadence. You clean him off when he's done. "Hey, hey, hey! Careful with the coronal suture! It's very sensitive!" As you finish making him look nice and shiny, he bounces over to the mirror to admire himself. "Ferpect. Now do my hair. Nyehehehehe!"

Violet, looking a bit more bedraggled than before, pokes her head in the bathroom. "Well, good news. They didn't really do much damage. Ready to go when you are!"


I toss the now filthy rags to the side and pick Mercutio up under my arm. "Yeah, yeah. Next time don't do something that's going to leave you a mess if you don't like how I'm going to clean you. You're like a dang foal."

I roll my left arm around to try and stretch it out. "Alright," I say. "Should be good to go."


I make my way to Zunden's room and knock on the door.


"Hey!" he says with a mock irritated tone. "…You're right."

Mercutio stays completely still and silent as you walk over to Zunden's room. "Hey Z?" Violet calls. "You got a minute?"


zunden rolls over in her bed, grumbling as her time of self-pity is interrupted. She nearly sets her foot down to get off the bed, but recoils as she nearly steps on the lute. She snatches up the instrument from the floor.

"Err.. One moment pleaze!"

She wraps the balaur egg back up in it's cloth harness around her, moving to set the lute back on the drawer.

"Let yourzelf in I zuppoze."

Zunden heads back to the window to let the light back in, making her bed.


I glance to Violet, unsure of what to do. She doesn't sound like she's doing too good. Hesitantly, I open the door and walk in. "Hey," I say. "How'd the reading go?"


Zunden turns around from her bed, finishing making it look presentable. Her tarot spread still lays on the table >>708065 , untouched from earlier.

Zunden sighs, beckoning the two to sit down on a pouffe. "Well, zhingz are dire, but azzumedly Hermodur can be zwayed to back down, provided he'z zhown ze conzequenzez ze action would cauze."

Zunden sits herself down, looking at the cards arranged in front of her pensively,

"Yet I don't know what zhat iz."


Violet exchanges an uncomfortable glance with Norv and enters behind him, blinking as she sees Zunden down in the dumps. "Hey, Z. You feeling alright? Can I get you anything?"


"Well. I do know. And it isn't good." I clear my throat. "I think I have someone you should meet." I lift the skull out from under my arm and hold it out a little bit. "Zunden. This is Mercutio. One half of the nearly omniscient Oracle. He and Purdue, the other half, told me what would happen if the egg was broken."


The silver coated skull continues to lie inert, his jaw hanging open as Norv presents him to Zunden. A tooth plops out of it dramatically. Violet looks uncomfortable. "It's, er, usually a bit more talkative." She knocks it with its hoof. "Come on, do something."


with her hoof*


"I zhink I zhould be fine. Better zhan I waz at breakfazt, at leazt."

Zunden replies, offering a small smile,

"Been a bit exzauzting. Fazting in a zell yezterday and a bit emozional today. Body and mind have zeen better days."


"I have zeen zhiz zkull before, ze firzt time we met ze traveling traderz. I waz not interezted in ze portent of anozher artifact az I rely on ze Tarot, but you zay you have learned of ze eventz zhat will occur zhould ze Cuckoo be freed?"

The saurian beckons them to sit again, waving them over.

"Don't ztand in ze doorway now, ze zeatz are quite comfortable."


"And he's really going to do this. Really funny, Mercutio." I look up at Zunden apologetically, crouching down to pick the tooth up. "Try asking him a question."


I walk in and sit down on one of the fuzzy chair things. "Yeah. I had the bits to spare and thought maybe he could be useful. He's how I learned what would happen if we helped Persolus and The Beldam, too."


"Yeah. We've been in better shape, huh." She reaches over and gives you a reassuring pat on the shoulder before seating herself on a pouffe. "It'll be fine though. Hermodur's not a complete idiot. He just doesn't know what he's doing. Right? We can talk him out of it, I'm sure."

Nothing else happens. He just keeps being a dick and playing dead.


"He needz guidanze, he'z a follower. I juzt don't know how to be a leader."

Zunden sighs, she turns to look over the skull,

"Would you pazz it here Norvegicuz? I'll zee what I can't dizcern of ze artifact."



"Yeah, sure." I hold the skull out to her, careful not to drop it.


Zunden takes the skull, resting in on the table, looking at it.

"How doez it dizpenze it'z portentz, zhen?"

She tries to figure it out herself, in the meantime, observing it from a distance.

[1d10] Antiquarian

Roll #1 3 = 3


"Well, normally you ask a question and have a small chance that he'll have to let Purdue -the actual soothsayer of the two- answer it for you. Otherwise he just kinda does his thing. Mercutio, I mean. Which, right now, is apparently trying to make me look like a madman."


You look into the skull's glittering emerald eyes, passing it over in your hands. You feel a truly immense amount of magical power radiating from it; you haven't felt anything like this since you were in the vault back in the Sands. It's almost intoxicating…

You are broken out of your slight reverie by a sudden sharp twinge on your forehead. The skull appears to have spat a tooth at you, hitting you right between the eyes. "Boo! Nyehehehehe!" It bounces up and down on the spot eagerly, eyeing you mockingly. "Yes, yes, everything the little doggy said is true. I am indeed the Oracle! Mercutio, at your service. Pay no attention to my grump of a colleague. Ask us a question, if you dare!" Violet has an annoyed, almost catlike look, unfazed by the skull's shenanigans.



Zunden blinks a few times, the sting lessened thanks to her saurian scales. She stares at the skull for a moment.

"I zee why it waz for zale, for ze prize it waz."

She continues to look it over interestedly.

"Zo a zpirit trapped in an object? Like Perzoluz?"


"Wow, lady. You're even more clueless than we thought. No, we're not a spirit, and neither is Discord. You're quite literally holding a severed head right now. Charming, isn't it?" It chatters its teeth like a windup toy.


"Wait, you're not a ressurrected ghost bound to a skull?"


"No, what did you think? This is Purdue's skull. The good queen wanted to keep him alive, even after his gruesome demise, so they dolled it up and woke us. At an ungodly hour, I might add. And now we haven't been able to sleep in centuries. Explains why he's so grouchy."


Zunden closes her eyes for a moment, exhaling through her nose.

"You, zomezhing zhat waz onze alive. Bound to a phyzical form zhat izn't it'z body, like Dizcord. "

She clarifies, looking to Norvegicus, her patience for the skull low given the situation and her exhaustion.


"Zo zhiz izn't ze oracle zhen?"


"Still sounds like Perdue and Mercutio's ghosts trapped in Perdue's decorated skull."


"Bah. Semantics, semantics." Violet looks confused, maybe even a little suspicious, but doesn't question it.

"So, O great and powerful reptilian one. What can we do for you? Shall we interpret the clouds? Read your palm? Maybe cut open a chicken and read its entrails for you? He used to do that you know. It wasn't pretty."



Zunden looks to Norvegicus, raising an eyebrow.


"Lost for words? Frightened? Confused, perhaps? Come on, don't be shy!"

Violet chimes in. "Er, usually you ask him a question, and sometimes he's helpful. Can't hurt to try, I guess."

"Usually we just say something great instead! Nyehehehe!"


"What iz ze zcope of your prophezy, zhen? What will happen, or what can happen?" [1d10]

She asks, rubbing her chin.

Roll #1 10 = 10


"Well, I can't just go spilling the beans like that, can I? You didn't even say the magic word!" He bounces up and down impatiently, sneering at you. "This is gonna take a while," Violet comments. "He's… difficult."


I deadpan. "I don't know what the problem is. He already told me. If anyone breaks the egg, it destroys this world and flings everything in it back into The Dominion. Including Persolus, The Beldam, and apparently Tirek. Also, another egg appears in that dimension, doing basically the same thing."


"Spoilsport. I wanted to tell her!" He does a 180 to face away from you, sulking in his own way.


I sigh. "Yeah. Normally I would have appreciated the buildup, but this isn't really something to play around with."


"Myeh. For you maybe. Hmph!" He still refuses to look at you.


Zunden cocks her head.

Zunden grimaces, but tries to keep a cool head as she continues to deal with this odd artifact,

"Zhat is terrible, but haz it zhown accurazy in ze pazt? We could tell Hermodur zhiz, but he'd want proof whatever zeer forezaw zhiz tellz ze truth."

She shuffles in her chair, taking the King of Swords from it's place on the table.

"Zhat'z what ze Tarot advized on zhiz zituation. Ze truzh and it'z auzhority. I won't prezent zhiz to him wizhout zomezhing to back it up."


Mercutio cocks his head as well to mirror you, but loses his balance and rolls on his side. He struggles like a flipped beetle, but eventually hops back up and pretends nothing happened.

"Aha, I see how it is. You don't trust me, do you? How rude. Understandable. Fine then. Just this once. Ask us a question only you know the answer to, and we'll get it right first go. Go on then! Try us! No japes or bamboozles this time and this time only! Limited offer while stocks last!" He hops around on the table excitedly.


I bury my head into my hands. I've just been taking it at face value, assuming Hermodur would do the same like an idiot. "I… I guess I don't exactly have any proof." I look up at her. "But I'm sure proof wouldn't be that hard to get. What happens with Persolus would be one example."


I blink, caught off guard. "Oh. Or that. That works."



"Zhat would be reading one'z memoriez, not foretelling a future event. It knowing my favorite color would not prove anyzhing to Hermodur."

Zunden says, returning to Norvegicus.

"What, you'd let Dizcord free az an experiment?"

Zunden says, at her nerve's end. She takes a moment to calm herself,

"I've been diztraught by Hermodur'z pact and it'z implicationz all morning, I'm zorry if I'm quick to azzume ze worzt. To be fair, ze zkull haz great magic tied to it, but zhat could mean anyzhing."


I lock my jaw and feel my heartrate spike at the accusation. "Not an experiment. I've already told you why I want to bring his head. It isn't letting him free. He's still trapped. He's just a little more mobile than the whole statue."


"But what would it prove? Zhat'z what I'm azking."


I take a deep breath, hold it for a moment, and let it out, flexing my hand a little. I need to calm down, I tell myself. Things are just really tense.


"That he wasn't lying? That he actually does know what he's talking about? I'm really not seeing the problem here."


"What did it zay zhough? Zhat iz what I'm mizzing. All you zaid iz it knowz zomezhing about Dizcord. I waz not privy to zhat converzation."


"That he is cursed to always tell the truth and taking his head won't actually release him, but that he's still manipulative and conniving even if he can't lie, so to watch my back. I think that sums it up."


He clacks and rattles impatiently. "Welly welly well. That's… quite astute, actually. Shame. We thought you'd want to know how to beat the Oneiromancer, or what happened to your remaining tribesmen, or, oh, the path to be free from the Echoes… But if you're going to be rude, our nonexistent lips are sealed. Good day, madam!" Mercutio rolls off the table and starts slowly hopping towards the door. Violet is quick to stand, blocking his exit. "Oh no you don't. We're getting answers from you whether you want to or not." "We said good DAY!" He's just doing a bit, though, and doesn't actually try to get past her, just lying on the ground now, occasionally chattering annoyingly.

"Z, please." Violet looks to you pleadingly. "Have a little faith. I know he's hard to talk to, but… really, he's the best source of information we have. We thought you… you might have some peace of mind, knowing what he knows."


"But again, zhat iz a fact about one'z character, not ze future! Bezidez, would you zhink Hermodur would allow zhat head on ze zhip?"

Zunden rolls her eyes at the skull looking to Violet,

"I don't doubt ze zkull iz powerful and haz zome zort of powerful magical effect, I juzt need zome way to convinze Hermodur of zhiz. Even zomezhing like predicting a dize roll would be more uzeful zhan knowing character traitz."

She squats down, looking at the skull, before going to pick up the tooth flung at her earlier and placing it back on the table.


I snatch the tooth and put it into my pocket. "If it meant keeping him from actually getting free, yes. I do. And I have no doubt that he could predict something like that." I shake my, pull out my flask, and move to take what probably would have equated to my fourth or fifth shot that morning, but manage to stop myself. I sigh, slip it back into my pocket, and stand. "Maybe this was a bad idea. I'm sorry, but I'm with him. If you don't want to listen -and if Hermodur does the same- then that's on you. But my guess is all Hermodur has to do is get an answer about something to do with his weird cult leader and he'll be happy."


"He's predictable." It's the same voice coming from the skull, but it sounds much more snide now, slightly insidious. "If he's as deluded as I've seen him be, then all I'll have to do is spoonfeed him news of his immortal beloved, wouldn't I. He will be easy to convince, I think. In most realities, he is. You, however. Zunden. You're much harder to predict. What do you really make of me? Of us? Do you doubt our sight?" Violet looks slightly uneasy. "Come on, make it quick. I won't be in control for long. Speak."


Zunden tries to calm herself more, she looks to Norvegicus, and then to the skull.

"Zhere iz nozhing more I want zhan I'd want for you-" she addresses the skull directly, "-to have ze power bozh of you claim, but at ze zame time my greatezt faizh iz in ze Arcana, which haz told me zhat Truzh iz what iz needed mozt at ze moment. Az I have explained, everyzhing zo prezented to me zo far. Even zomezhing az zimple az predicting ze rezultz of a few dize rollz would azzuage my hezitation much more zhan knowing of my tribe."

She stands, looking down at the skull,

"Ze enemy right now holdz dominion over dreamz, ze mind, ficzion. What I zeek right now iz knowledge of reality."

She turns back to Norvegicus,

"If you have dize or anyzhing like zhat, I'd like to zee a zituation like ze one I prezented inztead. Not zomezhing zhat can be gleaned from ze mind, an event occuring in ze future."


*Az I have exzplained, everyzhing prezented to me zo far could be done wizh anozher great power, zuch az awarenezz of one'z zhoughtz.


I relax a little more and study her for a moment. "I have a coin," I say, reaching into the band around my hat and slipping out a small gold bit. "Does that work? I also have a deck of cards back in my room if you want me to grab those instead."


"I'm not here to amuse you, worm. You're lucky to even be speaking to me. But if it'll get you on everyone else's side, then fine. Pull out your card deck. Major or Minor Arcana, same difference. Take out a random card. I know what it'll be, if we're in the timeline I think we are. Seven of Cups. Either that or it's the Page of Pentacles." He looks at you expectantly, almost bored.

"Fake," Purdue sneers. "It doesn't even exist anymore." He doesn't elaborate. Violet looks intrigued.


File: 1546763184288.jpg (26.83 KB, 233x400, seven-of-cups-meaning-ride….jpg)

Zunden nods, taking the deck and shuffling it.

"I apologize for reduzing a tezt of your ability down to a parlor trick. I zhuffle firzt, only to rule out ze chanze your magic alzo haz knowledge of ze zurrounding. Wizh ze Fulcrum I could look at ze top card of my deck too."

She eventually stops shuffling taking the third card out.

"You've made your claim before I have zhuffled, ruling zhat out. Ze rezult iz purely of clairvoyanze."

She flips the card over, revealing the back of a Carolina Anole saurian, his gaze looking up at a cloud holding seven cups. In each of these cups holds a seemingly random item, one a bust of a crocodile, another a snake hissing out of one, and another filled with a castle on a hill.

Zunden chuckles, shoulders slumping and sitting back down in her chair, a long sigh of relief.

"Zhank you for humoring me. Very well."

She nods at the skull,

"And you've anzwered my original queztion az well."


I ease myself back into the chair. "Good. That was easy enough." I slip the coin into my pocket with the tooth. "I'm not sure I'd count on him humoring Hermodur too, though. I'm honestly surprised he went through with this so easily."


The light reflects off of his emerald eyes, in what you assume is his way of rolling his eyes. "Mm, yes, lovely. Now, is there anything else you want from me? Quickly now. You talk too much for your own good."

"I suppose I'll have to, won't I. Otherwise you'll never let me hear the end of it. That or you'll all be dead."



"I do not know if he knowz ze zignificanze of ze card he had chozen eizher. Zeven of Cupz, reprezenting making a choize and dizcerning illuzion from reality. I will azzume it iz ze Arcana'z work yet again."

Zunden nods, trying to focus on what would be most useful to the situation right now.

"Ze Oneiromanzer, he haz marked Hermodur wizh a black brand. How much zway doez he have over ze felid, and can we break ze bond between zhem."

Zunden says sternly, before muttering to herself,

"Anzwer iz likely dizpatching ze dreamweaver, if zhat'z pozzible."


He snorts. "The Arcana. Heh."

"The Oneiromancer… Hmmm…" He goes quiet for a bit, presumably searching for the answers. "An interesting character, that one. He doesn't have direct influence over the cat's mind. Yet. He's free to make his own choices. If he goes against his new master's wishes, he'll be haunted. Cursed. General nastiness will follow him. It won't be fun, not for him, not for any of you. You could break it, but…"

"Well. In the meantime. Don't you find it strange that this otherworldly being is concerned with something as petty as rotting a few crops and enslaving a few villagers? Quite an odd choice of action, don't you think. It might be worthwhile looking into it. Or… Well, I shouldn't gossip, should I. It's not polite to talk about someone who's listening."

"Urgh!" Mercutio's back all of a sudden. "What do you all see in that old codger? Always so stern and glum. No fun at all!"


Having her got the truth she wanted, her humor is restored somewhat, giving time to the skull. She gives a small smile,

"He can count cardz. Unlezz you can go take out an eye wizh one of zhoze teezh, he waz more uzeful."


"Well. That's not good, but not unexpexted." I rub the bridge of my snout and shake my head. "Damn it, Hermodur. What did you get us into?" Without looking up, I say, "Don't worry, Mercutio. I think I'm starting to like you more."


"Nyeah, but can he do this?" He spits several consecutive teeth up into the air, catching each one as it comes back down perfectly, effectively juggling them. Even Violet cracks a grin at his antics.

"What did he get you into? Something horrible, we'd wager! Something with lots of death and blood and gore! How marvelous!"

"Well of course you are! I'm the greatest friend anyone could ever ask for! Mercutio! He smells like the moon!"


The Drifters:

You are currently aboard your as of yet unnamed ship, currently en route to the Swap Meet, held at the Weeping City to the north. As the ship moves on, you all go about your business exploring the ship.

The Reader and the Whisperer:
"Anyway," says Violet, tearing her eyes away from Mercutio's admittedly impressive display. "I was telling Norv before, but I don't really like keeping secrets. We should introduce this guy to the rest of the group, don't you think?"

"Ooh, how fun!" Mercutio rights himself and bounces on the spot. "Are we going to make new friends? Or new enemies? The possibilities are endless! Quite literally!"

Violet gives him an annoyed glance. "Also, what do you think we should do about that bounty hunter?" she asks Zunden. "Silver says there's someone on our tail, and he's giving us a head start. The others were thinking of trying to talk it out with him, maybe have Rabi ghost into his ship and see what we're up against. Whatever we do, we should move at full speed, if you can handle that. I have a bad feeling about him. He's probably planning something, to be chasing us 1v8."

The Visionary:
You continue to explore the ship, heading down into its lower levels. You pass through what looks like the brig, a narrow room lined with holding cells. This room seems to have seen better days. Looks like there was a fight here at some point. There's not much else to see here, though, and you go into the cargo hold.

This room is by far more interesting, a large, dimly lit space full of opened, empty crates. The sides of the airship have panels for releasing the lifeboats, which look much like tinier versions of the ship itself. It also has what look like cannons, with several crates full of cast iron cannonballs. In one corner is a conspicuous black stain which seems to bubble and smoke on occasion. Looking at it fills you with a vague sense of dread. At the back of the hold is something else that intrigues you: a huge blue crystal, about the size of a pony, held in a brass structure built into the wall, almost like an extremely large torch sconce. It glows brightly, pulsing with magical energy, and is the primary light source for the cargo hold. It seems to be the core of the ship itself.

The Scion, the Herald and the Wayfarer:
You are still debating your next course of action, given the current situation. Silver has learned of a bounty hunter named Clawson, who is giving you 24 hours before he starts chasing you. Before she left the conversation, Violet suggested Rabi sneaking around his ship with Astral Projection, and/or trying to talk to Clawson and seeing if he has any info he'd be willing to share about Lysander. The latter seems unlikely to work.


Zunden grimaces, hearing about the bounty hunter.

"Wherever it iz, we will have ze zhip landed by zhen. I have nowhere near ze flying zkillz to have an air battle. Perhapz we azk ze compazz to find uz a choke point zo we can zet the rulez of engagement, atleazt in termz of ze battlefield."


"Yeah. I guess if she hasn't already I should introduce Kairon too." I roll my eyes, cross my arms, and sit back a little, careful not to fall from the lack of back. "That'll be fun."


Aegis's eyes shone with the light from the crystal, intrigued by it until she pried her eyes away towards the stain, walking over to investigate it better



"If we're able to get to the swap meet before he gets to us, we'll be safe. So, we should just get there as fast as we can," Hermodur suggest with a shrug.



"I imagine if we stayed close, I could scout his ship out relatively easily; granted, I'd want to make sure he wasn't moving around too much. If he closes a door in front of me, I can't pass through."



"I suppose that could work, though it would certainly raise suspicion if we simply hover nearby while you search."

"What if we were to confront him while you search? I doubt speaking with him would change his mind, but you would have some time to look."



"I don't see a point to this when we can just get to the Swap Meet first."


"True, we do outnumber him severely.. I suppose we could also leave the choice to Zunden, whichever option is easiest for her.." i muse, scratching my muzzle with a wing in thought.



"Yes, it depends on how much we care about killing someone just trying to do their job," Hermodur nods.


"Fair enough- we might as well wait it out."


"Yeah. I'm hoping it doesn't come to an air fight. We may have a bigger ship, but he's been at it way longer than we have. Probably. The compass might be the key to this, although Silver said he had one of his own…" She looks troubled.

"Yeah, her too. I feel like Mercutio here will be more important right now though, especially with the, er, Hermodur situation." "Nyehehe! I'm important!"

"So, should we go talk to them? Need to sort this out before we move on, don't we." Violet stands up, looking at the two of you expectantly. She seems to be getting a bit impatient, presumably from the overhanging threat of this bounty hunter.

You examine the crystal. It's difficult to look at close up, as the light is almost blinding. As you get near it, you sense a huge amount of magical energy coming from it, more than just about anything you'd seen back in the Dominion. You have to squint to look at it close range, but you can make out what look like ghostly forms moving inside the crystal. They resemble the blue ghostly figures you saw Zunden conjure before.


"I think all of us are hoping to avoid a fight. Him included, from the sound of things. If he has one of those compasses too, that kind of means we can't get away from him, so sooner or later there' going to be some kind of confrontation at least."

I stand and nod, picking Mercutio back up and tucking him under my arm. "Anyway. Yeah. Better go ahead and get this out of the way."


I make my way back to the dining hall and most of the rest of the group. Walking over to one of the chairs, I sit down and set the skull on the table in front of me. "Alright. Courtesy of this guy here-" I nod to The Oracle. "I know what'll happen if the egg is broken."


"Really? Is it the 'end of the world' scenario one would imagine from something like this?"


Zunden follows, holding up a hand.

"Eazy Norvegicuz. Context firzt."


You examine the stain. It covers a large portion of the floor, roughly shaped like a coffin or a sarcophagus. What draws your attention most about it is just how dark it is; darker than any black you've ever seen. It's almost like having your eyes closed. It makes your skin crawl, but at the same time, watching the darkness stir is almost hypnotic.


Aegist spent considerable more time watching the stain than the crystal, but eventually left the place as it held her interest no longer
She headed back upstairs to explore more places of the ship she hasnt seen yet, if there was any



"What do you expect to say to him? If you're correct and he wishes to avoid a fight, then shouldn't we honor his wish and flee? He's clearly bound to keep chasing us, either by duty or something even more pressing."


I sigh. "I got this skull from Rosen and glider. The ghost of an oracle that can tell the future is trapped in it, but he can or will only actually talk about it under certain circumstances."

"Pretty much. This world is destroyed like we were told. Everything here gets sent back, including all of the beings that are armageddon level threats on their own all at once, including releasing Persolous, Tirek, and the goddesses know what else. Then a new egg that would destroy that world would be created. Looks like I wasn't entirely off with my brood parasite theory."


Zunden nods,

"Likewize, my reading haz azzured me zhat harm to all partiez involved if ze egg iz to be broken."

She looks to the others,

When Norvegicuz prezented me wizh ze Oracle, I waz zceptical, az it'z claimz were dire. It haz proven it'z clairvoyanze to me zhough, having predicted ze future in front of me."


"Huh… so it's some sort of bizarre cycle?" the stallion asks, a tad confused by the whole ordeal.

"Well, that's two sources then- I think that's enough to go off of."


Mercutio idly hums to himself as you pick him up. "This is gonna be fun on a bun!"

You can hear what sounds like a group meeting being held in the dining room. The door to the captain's quarters is open, but from what you can see, no one seems to be using it at all.

Violet nods in greeting to the rest of the group. "Forget about the manhunter for a moment. This is big." She points out the skull Norv's carrying, a silver coated pony skull with emeralds for eyes.

It rolls out of Norv's hands and onto the table, chattering in a shrill, vaguely irritating voice. "Welly welly well!" "It's high time I got to meet you all! Mercutio, at your beck and call! Except not really." It looks from one to the other. "Now, let's see… Hermodur! You little troublemaker, you! You're the talk of the town! We're going to be fast friends, aren't we? And you must be Silver Song, daughter of Brass Tacks and heiress to Dominion Rails. We've heard it all a jillion times. No need for introductions! And you're, er…Rick? I forget who you are. Do something so you're relevant!!" Violet looks annoyed. "Yeah. He's like this. All the time."

"Anyway! It's like Norvy said, we are indeed an oracle! Or at least the other guy is. Purdue. Dull as dishwater, he is. Still! Ask us a question! Go on, anything! If you dare! Nyehehehe!"



"We already have an oracle," Hermodur says flatly.


My eye twitches and I slam my hand on the table. "I think you're missing the point," I say, raising my voice a little more than I mean to. "Were you not listening to any of that?"




"He didn't… say anything…" Hermodur says, genuinely confused.


"No. I did. I told you what he said."


"Oh dear.. so it really is a release, but we would essentially doom the dominion in the process." i reply, wide-eyed at the prospect.

"Perhaps we should find an alternate escape path, one that doesn't ruin the realm we're escaping to."

"In the meantime, shall we continue along to the swap meet? This talk of a potential end to things is quite important, but with the head hunter close behind it would behoove us to move quickly."

"Oh.. so this talk of a skull was correct, then."

having had the wind taken out of my introduction, I clear my throat.

"Yes, well, I'd imagine an oracle would be quite handy, given the events unfolding."

"How far ahead can you see? Could you, perhaps, see what the future holds for Rabi and I? I'd hope we had found a means to escape at some point, correct?"

Roll #1 2 = 2



"And, I still haven't heard anything that changes my mind. If anything, it's removed my only concern as a concern. It's confirmed that we WILL go back if we release the Cuckoo."


Aegis stood near the doorway of the meeting at the dining room for a moment, if one were to look, they could see her standing there briefly before she moved away from the doorway, heading to the captain's quarters


I blink. "You… you're joking, right? You'd release every being trapped here for trying to take over and destroy the dominion, as well as create an object capable of destroying it if it's so much as cracked, just to go back? And doom the entitire world, including yourself, us, and your cult?"


"C-Come on now, that's not very nice. And, it's Rabi." he says, huffing a little. He looks to Violet, and shrugs a little bit "At least he's useful."



"They've all been defeated once, they can be defeated again."


I shoot out of my chair, knocking it over in the process. "All at once?" I yell. "I knew you were tactless and short sighted, but I didn't realize you were a complete, brainless, obsessed idiot! If you really think you stand remotely of a chance then you have to be the absolute dumbest person I've ever met."



"Define 'harm'."


The skull deflates a little. "…You know, this is usually the part where you ask me something that's on your mind. And I say something great in return! Go on, ask me about your schmoopsy-poo Ailuros. Or anything else you might be thinking of! mind! Not that there ever is, am I right? Anyway, try to be a normal person and play along. Go on, try me! Try me!" The skull rolls towards you and bounces up and down like an excited puppy.

"Sounds like SOMEbody's got a case of the Mondays!" he says in a sing song voice.

"Oh, we see AAAAAAALLLLL," he says dramatically. "No really, we do. As for you and Ranger Rick, hm… You didn't say please. Reply hazy, try again!"

"Hi, snow poff!" Mercutio calls out without looking at you.

You examine the captain's quarters. There isn't much to look at here; the whole place seems to have been stripped clean. What is left makes for an exceedingly comfortable living space though, with a proper bed, a whole wall dedicated to a nice view of the outside, and several bookshelves, now almost entirely emptied. It seems the place was cleared out in a hurry. There's barely anything left.

"Rabi. Right. Of course you are! And yes, I am useful. Very, very much so. Sometimes."

Violet just stares at you aghast, at a complete loss for words. Mercutio bursts into laughter. "AHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAAHAHAAA! You're really going to do it, aren't you? You're going to end it all! You absolute madman, you! This is just too good! I didn't realize we were in THIS timeline! Hahahahahahahahaaaaa!" He rolls off the table and onto the floor laughing.


"Zhiz creature iz deztined to deztroy not only zhiz world, but it'z kin are to deztroy all worldz zhey enter. Zhere iz no zolution to it'z releaze, it will not grow any weaker. Onze awakened, ze world is fated for deztruction, and zo too ze world it enterz."

She faces the felid,

"Zhere iz reazon ze creature haz only been banizhed, and not zlain by ze Alicorn long ago."


My face is turning red, and I can feel my claws inadvertantly digging into the wood on the table. "I'll put my foot up your ass. There's your harm defined for you." Pain spikes through my arm, and I wince. My heart feels like it's going to slam out of my chest, and I think I feel a little dizzy, but that could be from the whiskey. "So that's it then," I say a little quieter. "You're just going to doom everything because you think you can just go home and smash all the bad things with a hammer." I study him and my vision blurs as tears well up in my eyes. "You're going to turn us into enemies."

"Shut up."


Aegis pretended to not hear Mercutio and left for the quarters, examining the bookshelf immediately, looking very neutral once she found it empty of anything meaningful
The Crystal mare moved to the wall to watch the outside, was it a beautiful day?



"What force do you use to move?" Hermodur asks, with a raised eyebrow.


Hermodur looks from Zunden to Norv with his arms crossed in contemplation. "Very well, then. What if we devoted our time to finding a way to kill it? As I said before, we'll have the egg. There's no time limit on WHEN we smash it. We are already searching for other methods of breaking out of this world. But, this one is far more certain. If we can find a method of eliminating the only concern, then we have our way out."

"This is still a good thing. We now have a far more concrete goal. And a compass by which we may find such goals."


I relax a little bit but don't sit back down. "I'd say every powerful, evil creature that's ever existed and -if the time here is as weird as it's supposed to be- potentially ever will exist makes it a lot more than one concern."


"Oh fine, perhaps some other time then." i reply with a huff, getting up from my seat momentarily to grab some water.

"We've several days of travel, i'm bound to drag an answer out of you by then, Mercutio."



"Yes, but based on what we've seen so far, we'd also be releasing a large number of benevolent creatures and people who are strong enough to help. Also, the world has only gotten stronger since their times. And, as I argued before, it could use some destruction to remove the corrupt element it has now. Maybe if it got to see the evil that will exist in the… future…"

Hermodur trails off. "Wait… if we did break the egg… WHEN would they go? Would they go to our time? Or, back to their time? If so, would that mean the ones from before our time would go back to before our time? In that case, wouldn't that mean that they'd already be defeated and would therefore not be a problem at all?"


"Ranger Rick?" he says, somewhat annoyed by the comment.


"From what I understand we're all sent to the same time. I actually only just thought about the fact that we all might not even share a time. And name one benevolent creature you've met since getting here." I hold up a single finger on my left hand. "Just one. Plus you're riding on a lot of 'could's that aren't reassuring me of anything."


"Well, the spirit within the swamp was relatively kind." I chime in "Though whether or not it was only to convince us to help her remains to be seen."


Violet places a hoof on your shoulder. "Norv, please. Stand down. We don't have to do this." Her voice wavers.

"Are you… frustrated?" Mercutio rolls over to you, nudging your foot. "Angry? Fuming? A mite pertuuuuuurbed? Nyehehehehehehe!!"

The bookshelf does have some books that might be of use: there is a guide to certain landmarks in the Echoes, as well as a book on the nature of dragons. The third book you notice appears to be a stage play about two men waiting for a third to arrive, while the fourth is a tome on the history of witchcraft in the Dominion. Curiously, there are a couple of chess pieces on the bookshelves as well, although they're all the same piece: a black bishop.

You look outside. The view of the treetops is breathtaking. You are in the middle of a valley, with the forest continuing up on either side of you, so no matter where you look, it's an endless sea of green, and beyond, you can just make out the silhouette of a volcano, obscured by the clouds. You notice that the sun is abnormally large compared to that back in the Dominion.

"An excellent question! …I have no idea. But I'm a smart cookie! I'm sure I'll figure it out! Nyehehe!"

"Well…" Violet rubs the back of her head. "Why don't we just look for another way out? Secure the egg, keep it safe, and try to find another way out. I just… I don't know if we can kill this thing. It's far beyond anything we're equipped to deal with."

"My lips are sealed!" Mercutio comments. "For now. Try me tomorrow, maybe. Or the day after that! Or the day after that! It's all the same to me!"

"Mayhaps," he answers smugly. "Oh fine, fine, I'll throw you a bone. The way things are going now with this genius-" he nods towards Hermodur- "well… you should probably cherish what you have. Live in the moment! Carpe diem!"

"You should take that as a compliment! Nyehehehe!" He bounces up and lands on your lap. "Go on, pull my finger. Ask me a question, why don't you!"


"The Beldam is a neutral party. Territorial and only interested in looking out for herself and her home. That's not bad enough to be trapped inside a corrupted beast, and that's why I wanted to help her, but that isn't benevolence."

I wipe my eyes and look down at Violet. Gently, I lower myself back into my chair, but still don't really feel any better about the whole situation. "We have to if we're forced to," I calmly say.


Aegis picked up one of the black bishops and inspected it from the top to the bottom of the piece before putting it back on its place and, after admiring the outside for a couple seconds, she moved back to the shelves and took only the two books with any real value, the Guide to the landmarks and the History of Witchcraft, bringing them with her to the dining room, she wordlessly takes a seat to listen in to the discussion


"I, will… I will, I guess. And, for a question… how are my siblings? Are they well?"



"When you find out, do tell me," Hermodur responds to Mercutio with a nod.

Then, Hermodur looks to Violet. "If you can find another way out, then by all means. But, there's no reason we shouldn't do both at once. Escaping a dimension is also something we're not equipped to deal with, but here we are trying."


"I'm sorry," Hermodur says, sounding a little upset and offended. "What ONE are you referring to? Violet? Aurora? The others in the church of Luna? All the peaceful people living in the various settlements who cooperate and work together?"


"And you think they're strong enough to take on creatures that can literally end thr world?" I close my eyes, take a deep breath, and shoot out of my chair again. Spinning on my toes, I snatch The Oracle off the table and storm back to my room.



"They can at least TRY to do SOMETHING," Hermodur calls out angrily as Norv leaves.


"And die trying!" I yell back. When I get back to my quarters I slam the door behind me, toss The Oracle on the bed, and flop facedown.



Hermodur inhales to shout something in response, but then says nothing. He slowly exhales and looks down at the ground, defeated. He storms out of the room as well to go to the deck.

Once he is there, he begins untying a lifeboat, unsure of how to actually… get off the ship with it. He stands there momentarily as the thought occurs to him. He stares at it, scratching his head. Then, he looks over the side of the ship, presumably to see them still way off the ground.


The lifeboats look like smaller, airborne versions of the main ship. They're essentially like wooden dinghies, with fan-like sails on the side, like the fins of a fish. Ethereal blue mist gathers on its hull as you untie it, allowing it to float about a foot off of the ground. The sails seem controllable much like oars, allowing one to fly on the wind; a rudder on the back controls your direction as well, having a third axis of movement, unlike a normal boat. It seems intuitive enough.



"Well…" Hermodur comments out loud to himself half-heartedly. "I certainly hopes this thing will work without the ring…"


"Zhat'z not what I waz zaying, if you'd onl-"

Zunden says, struggling to think on her feet fast enough as both Norvegicus and Hermodur become more heated,

"Norv please, I need uz all to keep calm! Zhere'z nozhing zhat's gonna come- Norvigicuz! Pleaze don't"

She goes to chase after him, but turns back to see Hermodur missing from the scene. She frantically looks around the deck, her lip quivering as she cries out to the felid,

"Hermodur! Pleaze, we can talk. I'm trying my hardezt, I want uz all to work zhiz out!"

She chokes, biting her own lip as she makes to grasp Hermodur's arm,

"By ze Fatez I juzt want to help. All I want iz to help you, help everyone on zhiz zhip."

The saurian repeats the same sentiments like a broken record, her scaly eyelids puffy with irritation and distress.



Hermodur doesn't listen until she grabs his arm. Once she does, he stops in his tracks. He looks down at the hand on his arm with a confused expression, then looks at Zunden's face.

He lets out a long sigh and squeezes the bridge of his nose in frustration. Then, he opens his eyes and sees that he's using his black hand. He stares at it with a pensive expression. "I simply do not fit here," he says finally, still staring at his hand.

"I ALSO just wanted to help. But, now in everyone's eyes I'm either an idiot or a monster. I THOUGHT I was helping!" Hermodur throws his hand down and looks to Zunden's puffy eyes.

Hermodur sighs. "Clearly, I'm just not meant to be here. We are too different. I can't help anyone here as I am. If I can't help, I have no reason to be here."

Hermodur looks down at his black hand again. "I just hope I'm not forced to fight you…"


"Hermodur pleaze, don't be razh. I've been trying to make it zo you do fit here! I know you want to help, you zaid zhat lazt time. Leaving izn't helping."

Zunden again moves to take Hermodur's arm in her claw, but releases her grasp on the other so she can take his blackened arm,

"We can figure zhiz out, you're not an idiot, and zhiz doezn't make you a monzter. We all want different zhingz, we can find a comprimize. I can find a way to make everyone happy, I juzt… I need more time, I need you to ztay."

She sniffles,

"I won't fight you. I care about you too much. You zaid it yourzelf. You and ze ozherz are all I have. I want you to be zafe, we can figure zhiz* out!"

The saurian squeezes Hermodur's blackened hand as she mentions figuring things out, looking up at his gaze pleadingly.

"You've kept uz zafe, you're helping, Hermodur. Everybody here iz different, none of uz are zhat alike."



"But, leaving IS helping. Leaving IS protecting you. I don't even know how in control of my actions I'll be when the time comes. For all I know, he's in my head now. I could just lost control and attack everyone. Then, how am I helping?"

"If we're planning for everyone possible eventuality, every possible 'could' - which evidently, we are - then I have to do this. I'm not being rash. This is a calculated decision based on the conversation we've just had. Compromise has already failed. Even those infuriate the others and cause them to storm out of the room."

Hermodur tears up before rubbing his eyes. "I don't know what's right anymore. But, I know I can't find it here. I've had Ailuros for so long guiding my every action. I thought I'd be able to handle being without her. I thought I could just follow and protect you. But, all I ended up doing was what I thought SHE would want. What would get me to her sooner. I don't know if any of it was right. I want to say it all was. I want her to be proud of my actions when I see her again. I don't know how to do that. And with every second without that insurance, I endanger everyone around me. It is as I said, I do not belong here. Not now, anyway."

Then, Hermodur lets out a low laugh.

"But, as I put my first foot on this boat, I beat my chest with pride and say this to you. Do not worry about my safety. Verily, I am Hermodur Aput! Messenger to Ailuros Bastet! Until I return to her side, there is no force in this dimension or any other that can keep me down!"

"So, I take this sail now and I go off to a new future! Pray, we shall me again some day, Zunden, The Reader! Until then, farewell!"

And, with that, Hermodur is gone.


>using two Enlightenment Points to gain the crossclass skill Heart of Iron

>Heart of Iron: passive, once per combat; When you first go down to 1 wound or less, you are instantly restored to 3 wounds.


Zunden stands stunned as Hermodur breaks away,

"He's n-not in control yet zhough, I know zhat!"

She clutches the side of the Fortune, reaching an arm out as Hermodur cuts the boat from the ship proper. Her tears run freely, yelling out to him,

"I c-can't… I can't help you if you're not zhere. I can't make zure you're healed- make zure nobody t-takez advantage of you!"

She sobs, her outstretched arm coming to grip the railing of the boat till her knuckles are white,

"H-Hermodur, I juzt w-wanted zertainty! I c-can't have zhat wizh you gone."



"Really?" Hermodur responds, sounding disappointed. "Doubt? From you? Zunden, The Reader?"

Hermodur grins and pulls out Zunden's sun from his pocket. "If you doubt me, then what about this? Do you doubt the power of your magic?"

"You wish for certainty? Ask your cards! Don't tell me you haven't truly believed in them this whole time! I could not bear to hear it!"

Then, Hermodur sighs and speaks in a softer tone. "If we see each other again, I'd like for you to do a reading. Not just for my future, but to see if I've embarked on the right path."


"I don't w-want to keep t-track of you wizh my cardz, I want to zee zhat y-you're zafe!"

As he holds up the orb, she chokes on her tears again, eyes wide,

"Don't you go uzing zhat, I can't give you anozher!"

Her voice trails off, Zunden both realizing that her voice is giving out from shouting and that Hermodur's mind is zet.

"C-come back Hermodur…"

Zunden wipes her cheeks as she tastes her own tears flowing down to her mouth, cursing her physiology. Voice giving out from shouting, she strains to get out more than a hoarse whisper,

"C-come b-back zoon.."



"Understood!" Hermodur shouts (now a fair distance away) and gives Zunden a salute.


Zunden slumps against the railings, curled up nearly fetal position, weeping and clutching her necklaces.


You lie there for a while, sobbing on the cold hardwood floor, until you hear footsteps descending down the stairs to the hold. "Zunden…" It's Aurora. She seems at a loss for words seeing you like this, and hesitates before giving you a gentle hug, just holding you for a while.


There's nothing special about the bishops. Perhaps the previous owner just liked collecting them.


Zunden shudders and stiffens up as she's first touched, but slowly starts lessen up in tenseness, blubbering all the while.

"I-I c-couldn't.. c-couldn't.. I can't.." she sniffles, "I-I f-failed…"


"Your who now?" Mercutio does little hops on and around the table. He seems extremely excited to be meeting new people. "Oh, that's right, they exist. They're… well, 'right now' is relative here, but they've been in an orphanage for a while now. They're doing quite well there! Although, they keep getting passed over. Maybe because they're completely irrelevant! Nyehehe!"


Violet doesn't follow right now, seemingly in shock at what just transpired.

"That went well!" Mercutio chirps, breaking a long and tense silence. "Your friends are lovely, they really are. Think you could get me a hot date with that pegasus? I know you two had a thing going!"


Aurora starts patting your shoulder, comforting you as best she can. "You didn't fail him," she says, as reassuringly as she can. "He's tough. Probably tougher than anyone else here. He can take care of himself, you know he can. He's… Well, I won't lie, he's a stubborn shit." She smirks. "But that's what'll keep him alive, won't it. He's determined. He'll survive. If anyone can live in the Echoes on their own, it's him. We'll see him again. You know we will! Just… 'not now'. Hm?"



The saurian responds weakly, still shuddering as she's at her weakest,

"I c-couldn't.. couldn't avoid i-it…" she continues to blubber, for the most part inconsolable, "I t-tried.."


"You can't save everyone," Aurora says solemnly, continuing to pat your shoulder. "You're not a goddess. You're only you. He's the only one that can save himself. Now come on. You can't stay here, this place is awful. Let's get you cleaned up." She leans over you and offers you her hoof.


Zunden sobs again as Aurora mentions not being able to save everyone, harkening back to the boarding house. Any words from her mouth is too muddled by crying to make out,but she eventually takes Aurora's hoof, only just barely using her own force, leaning against the pony despite her size.


Aurora strains to pull you up, barely able to support your bulk. She throws your arm over her shoulder and awkwardly hobbles you back to your room.

"Saints above, Z!" Violet sees the two of you walking through the corridor, her voice fraught with worry. "What… what happened?"

"Hermodur's gone," Aurora answers. She sounds grim. Violet pales, unable to think of anything to say.

You eventually get back to your room. Aurora walks you into the bathroom and sits you down beforegetting a cold shower running. She motions for you to lift your arms, intending to help you remove your many layers of clothing. "Don't worry, I won't look."


Zunden mopes, but helps with the arduous process of de-clothing a heavily jewelery-ed, heavily clothed lizard. As the layers come off, she looks less the Zunden most are used to seeing. With three layers of clothes gone and her posture hunched with defeat, she looks much smaller in stature, despite now being the tallest member aboard the Fortune. She continues to sniffle, but makes an effort to push past blubbering to make conversation,

"R-reptile. Don't have a-anyzhing underneazh to look at anywayz. Juzt more zpinez."


Aurora politely averts her gaze, lying out your clothes and jewelry for you in a neat little row in the bathroom, along with a primly folded towel. "Take your time. I'll go get you something to drink. Tea, right?"

Regardless of your answer, she leaves you to shower in private, leaving and eventually returning. You can hear her leave some things on the table for you before sitting down. After a while more, you hear her idly looking around your room, curiously plucking a few strings on the lute. Eventually, she starts to hum a melancholy little tune while she waits for you.


As Zunden lingers under the shower, she feels more and more lethargic, a side effect of the cold water and her poikilothermic nature. The sleepiness does calm her down much more, though, and she eventually slowly reaches out for her towel, wrapping it tightly as she tries to get the most warmth out of it as possible. By impulse she thinks of curling up next to one of the windowsills and getting some sun, but goes to see what's been happening in her room in the good 10-20 minutes she's been in the bathroom.


You pull yourself out of the shower and step out after drying yourself off. Aurora looks over from admiring your pet blob, doing a slight double take at seeing you in a towel. "Feeling better? You were in there for ages, your tea's probably gone cold." On the table is a little tea kettle and a full mug poured for you. On Aurora's side is a mug of an odd brownish liquid you don't recognize. Both seem warm still. Aurora opens the curtains to let a bit more sun in for you, and looks away again when you (presumably) get changed.


"Zzzorryy.. Cold mmakezz me feeel tireeedd."

She says with a bit of a slur, slowly putting on her desert outfit from her drawers. She smiles wearily as she sees Aurora playing with the contents of her satchel and other things in her room, making her way to the table and wrapping her hands around cup to warm them up. She looks over at Aurora's cup with a small bit of confusion,

"Ddid you mmake zztew?"

She sips her tea, looking around for the balaur egg in the mean time.


Aurora saw fit to tuck the egg into bed, for lack of anywhere else to put it. You can see the top of it poking out under the blankets, resting on your pillow. Sleep tight, eggo.

The tea is quite nice. It's the same type you had for breakfast, so it's really just more of the same. It's not hot, but it's not what you'd call warm either. It's just pleasantly heated.

Aurora looks confused, putting down her mug as she's about to take a sip herself. "What? Stew? No, it's hot chocolate. Haven't you tried it before?" She passes her mug for you to try some, curiously waiting to hear your opinion.


"I zhought a chocolate waz zome zort of baked good, like a pie or cake. It iz a liquid?"

Zunden says, tentatively trying the warm brown liquid.


"…No, it's a bean. I think. You grind it up as an ingredient for lots of things. It's like coffee. Kind of."

The hot chocolate tastes like nothing you've ever tried before, a rich, sweet mixture with a slightly bitter twingy, but not unpleasantly so. It's quite warm, warmer than your tea, and you feel newfound energy bringing your limbs out of their shower induced torpor.


I roll over onto my back and groan. "I just don't understand why he thinks he can just take on every godlike evil being that's ever existed. I've sympathized with pretty much all the ones we've met, but never once did I consider releasing them without hedging my bet. Because that would be idiotic."

I blush a little as Mercutio mentions Silver and I give him an annoyed sidelong look. He's the future seer "I don't know," I say. "Can I?"


Energy returning to her and the new, foreign taste hitting the saurians taste buds, Zunden starts to well up with tears again. She whimpers, pushing the cocoa back to Aurora before resting her head in her hands.

"Zorry… izn't ze chocolate, z-zhat waz good."


"If you haven't caught on by now, he's not right in the head! Who knows though, a good solo arc might put him back on the straight and narrow!"

"I don't know. Can you?" You feel like he's just trying to annoy you at this point, a feeling reinforced by him hopping around your head with an occasional 'nyeh'.

You hear shouting and sobbing from Zunden downstairs in the cargo hold. "And there it is. Exit Hermodur, stage left! This is gonna get good."

"Of course it's good," she says with a soft smile. "It's chocolate." She takes a sip and just keeps you company for a while, silently contemplating the current state of things.


Zunden neglects her own tea, it growing cold as she looks down at the dregs, every once and a while the surface being displaced by a tear. The same low churr rumbles from her throat as it has had the last few hours.

"It'z d-done, anyhow. Could chaze but zhat'd make zhingz worze."

She pushes her cup away, laying her arms on the table and burying her head in them.

"Z-ztupid of me to zhink I could rezizt Fate. Never haz worked in ze pazt.."


"Well… it might be for the better if he's gone, really. Some time alone will give him a chance to really clear his head. And like I said before, he's pretty freaking tough. He'll survive out there. You're not his mother, Zunden. You have to let him go." She gives you an earnest look.


She stays silent for a while, whimpering and sniffling in the long pause. Good couple minutes pass before she makes another remark, barely audible,

"I'm terrified of lozz. I lozt ze boarding houze and brought ruin to everyone living zhere… I failed Hermodur and now he leavez to make a dark pact to deztroy ze Echoez. Everyzhing I touch I bring to ruin. Ze Tower…"

She shudders and lets out a soft wail, closing her eyes.


I sit up and knit my brow. Exit stage- "Wait, what? What happened?" I fight with whether I should go check that out or if it's best to just leave her alone.


"Well that's not very fair. What are we, chopped liver?" She cracks a wry smile, but it passes. "Really though. You're being too hard on yourself. He may be stubborn, and yeah, he's dumb, but let's face it. We're weeks away from the Sands, he has nothing except the clothes on his back, and he just turned his back on us. Then there's the problem of actually finding the place. Do you really think he'll make it all that way on his own?" She realizes that doesn't really help much and her expression darkens. "..I'm sorry. I'm terrible with this, aren't I. Dammit…"

"He's gone. As in gone gone. Perhaps he doesn't agree with the company on board! Let's face it, it's probably your fault." He leers at you from the side. "You were pretty hard on him. Now he's off to destroy the world, and you're to blame!"


She whimpers again, avoiding Aurora's gaze.

"Ze card haz been following me.. it iz my fate. I c-can't do anyzhing.""


"Oh forget the bloody cards and listen," she snaps. "Hermodur's gone. There's nothing we can do about that now. The best we can do is continue as a team. As a family, even. Pull yourself together already, Zunden."

"Sitting around moping isn't going to get us anywhere. We lost hi, yeah, but what happened, happened. You can't let it weigh you down like this. All we can do is make the best of what we have, right here, right now. We have to get to the egg before him or Lysander or whoever else wants a piece of it. Otherwise we're all going to die. You want to change that fate so badly? Then do it. Lead us to victory."

"The Zunden I know wouldn't sit around and cry. I know you. You're tough! You're brave! You're dependable! You know you are! So stad up and stop wallowing in self pity, goddammit!" She actually grabs you by the shoulders and shakes you a little.. "Look me in the eye. Look me in the eye right now and tell me who you are."


My eyes widen and my heart sinks to the pit of my stomach. A sudden icy chill ripples through my body. "Gone gone? As in he left?" I work my mouth, unsure of what to say. After considering that, yeah, I may be partially to blame I start to get a little defensive. "How? Too hard on him for literally wanting to destroy the world? He was being insane! Someone needed to tell him!"


Zunden cringes at the contact, puffy eyes looking up to Aurora's face, "I'm not a leader Aurora, I tell fortunez, I do not make zhem! What iz tough and brave about a healer who can't even do zhat effectively. Norvegicuz died in ze Fulcrum, only alive right now becauze zhat waz not reality."

She breaks away, pulling back and wrapping her arms around herself. "I azked you before Aurora, don't treat me like I'm zome zaint. I'm not a hero, I juzt wanted to help ozherz become zhem. If i'm ze bezt we have, zhen ze Echoez iz doomed."


Regardless she put the bishop down and, once the discussion was settled down and Norv and Hermodur left, she approached Violet
''May I read this?'' Aegis motioned to the two books she got


"Gone. Exited. Vamoosed! Absconded! Departed! Egressed! Flaked! Er… What else is there… Oh never mind. But yes, he's left your little group. And yes, he might be delusional to the point of madness. But… Well, just between us, leaving is probably the best result. A little birdie told me things might go better this way! Look on the bright side! There won't be as many hairs to clean up around the ship anymore! Nyehehehe!"

Aurora doesn't back down. "But you are," she pressures. "You're the heart and soul of our group. Look at what you've accomplished! None of us would be here right now if it weren't for you! We wouldn't have this ship, we wouldn't have ever met, we wouldn't even be alive! Doesn't… doesn't that mean anything to you? Don't we matter anymore?…"

Violet takes a moment to acknowledge you, just sitting there in shock at what transpired. "Hm? What? Oh, y-yes, of course, take what you like. Our home is yours after all!" She gives you a weak smile. "Where'd you get those anyway? Are they Z's?"


''I dont know. I found them in a old bookcase in the captain's quarters near a few black bishops'' Aegis held up the book of the Echoes ''These two were the only real interesting ones I found so it gives me something to do while you all come to an agreement''


"Black… black bishops?" Violet looks troubled. Something about that seems to have vexed her. "Well… I… Alright then. Y-yeah, go ahead, hold on to the books. And, if you're more comfortable there, you can use the captain's quarters as your own. No one else is using that room after all. Knock yourself out!"


''It does have a nice view…'' Aegis comments, glancing toward the doorway
''Very well, I'l occupy it until someone else decides to take it over, thank you again Violet''
With that, Aegis opened up the book of the Echoes Landmarks right there on the dinner table
''I assume you must have been to most of these places already'' She spoke up examining its contents


"Y-you're welcome! Any time!" You sense that the current situation has shaken her thoroughly, and that she is glad to have something to distract her right now.

You crack open the book, a hefty, leather bound tome titled "THE FAR LANDS OF THE ECHOES, AND WHAT I FOUND THERE", by Larrikin Longstrider. "We've been here and there, yes," says Violet, still sounding rather distant. "I'd say I know this place better than the rest though. I've been here, oh, far too long now. While the rest, they've only been here about a month and a half. I know the land quite well, but truth be told, I'm by no means an expert."

You page through the book. Every few pages or so seem to be dedicated to different major locations in the Echoes, with long winded descriptions of them along with hints and tips on how to survive there. They all have rich full page illustrations of the landmarks to go with them, sometimes including depictions of the creatures and other hazards one may encounter. "Good find," Violet comments. "Should have grabbed this one before!"

Several of the entries pique your interest. Which one will you read?
>The Shifting Sands
>The Weeping City
>Ostvengr's Gullet
>Durenwol Fen
>The Broad River
>The Blasted Heath
>The Barrens
>The Lands of Always Winter
>The Forests of Silence


''Are you telling me you have never found this book? How long has it been since you stole this ship?'' Aegis glanced at Violet before going back to the book, going to the page on the Weeping City


"Well, we've had it for just under a week," she answers, "but, er, ost of that was spent in jail. Hehe. This is the first time we've really just been able to explore it at our leisure."

You read the passage. The left hand page has an overview of the place, while the opposite page has an elaborate, skilfuly drawn and colored depiction of the City itself, a truly vast expanse of elegant white and black stone structures. The main entrance appears to be a yawning marble tunnel. The drawing depcits the city on a rainy day.

>"To call the Weeping City a wonder would be a gross underestimation. No words can truly capture the hypnotic allure of this mysterious and ancient metropolis, with its towering marble pillars and striated obsidian patterns, given its namesake by the eternal rain that pours from the heavens onto this marvel of the Echoes. Rest assured, dear Reader, if you ever lay eyes on it yourself, you may think it to be all a mere good dream.

>"Yet the City is all too real, as are the dangers within. It seems as if the City itself is alive, constantly shifting and changing its layout almost as of some malign will. Drifters who enter it are seldom seen again; if they are not lost to fatigue and starvation from their long wandering, the terrible vengeful phantoms that prowl the City will shred them to ribbons.

>"If, dear Reader, your travels take you to this place, heed my advice and enter not the City itself. A prudent drifter would instead remain in the Haventunnel, the one main entrance to this domain. Exceedingly long and spacious enough to fit a small village, the Haventunnel is a popular gathering spot for like minded drifters. You will be protected from the rain here, it will not move to vex you like the rest of the city, and even the phantoms are repelled by it, by forces unknown.

>"As I have mentioned, the Weeping City was named so due to the unique property it has: it, and the lands surrounding it, are subject to neverending inclement weather, shrouding this region of the Echoes in eternal rain. If your travels should take you to this land, do yourself a favor, dear Reader, and prepare for the cold and wet. Fire will do you no good here. My mind boggles at the small sprinkling of communes and hamlets that have sprung up around the City. How they can stand the rain is something that will vex me to the end of my days.

>"One last note on this eldritch place: While my description may have dissuaded you from approaching the Weeping City (save perhaps from a distance), it is not outright impossible to gain aught from exploring it. Whispers have reached me of the once famed house of Ostvengr having ruled over this city, and their mysteries and treasures are sealed away within the ever shifting walls…"

Violet reads over your shoulder. "He's right you know. Only someone with a death wish would go into the City proper. I've been to the Haventunnel though. It's quite nice, really. I'd bet my bottom dollar on the Swap Meet being held there."


''So this is where we will be going then?'' Aegis briefly glanced at Violet again before taking in the well-drawn picture of the city
''It seems like an interesting place to visit, at least to the Haventunnel'' She points to a specific line ''But at least it says Drifters are Seldom seen again, that must mean some few have found a way out of it. I'm assuming Drifters is the name given to the inhabitants of the Echoes, yes?''


"Mhm. That's our stop. It really is quite a sight. He's not just playing it up for the tourism value. Shouldn't linger longer than we have to."

"Drifter is just a common name for wanderers like us," she explains. "Those with no real home to settle down into, that just travel from here to there seeking our fortune that way, they're called drifters."


''I see'' Aegis aswered simply, moving back to the glossary to find the page for the Lands of Always Winter


The artwork on this page is almost spine chilling in how bleak it is, depicting a stark landscape of whites and blues, all snow, rock and frozen ice. You can almost feel the bitter, knife-sharp wind howling from this image. It takes you a while to notice, but there's a tiny pony-shaped figure standing in the snow, giving the piece an even greater sense of scale. The entry appears shorter than others:

>"Not since the Blasted Heath have I encountered a land as bleak as the ones of the far, far south of the Echoes. These lands, which I will henceforth refer to as the Lands of Always Winter, are a cruel, endless, unforgiving expanse of death and dark. Neither animal nor plant can grow here, the only true enemy being the weather itself, which will easily break even the most hardened of drifters. Listen well, dear Reader. There is nothing for anyone here. Do not throw your life away in pursuit of the unknown. Turn back."

That's all that's written for the main entry, but there's a second body of text that seems to have been added some time later:

>"Since writing this entry, I have contacted my close friend and ally, the wise and mighty Archdragon Erath, who agreed to assist me in charting the cold waste. He returned today after what he claimed to have been 40 days of nonstop flight at full force, w